Dark gray clouds filled the afternoon sky and every ten minutes a small cloudburst of rain would downpour from the heavens. Smoke billowed over his head as he puffed on his cigarette and lounged on a dry spot near the front doors of Sunnydale High. He was waiting for Faith to get out of detention, something he found himself doing quite often. He watched with no particular interest, the cars passing by on the street ahead. It almost reminded him of a shooting gallery. He wished he had a paintball gun. Flicking his cigarette onto the wave pavement he sat up and sighed. He was bored, and smoking to kill time wasn't working as well as he would have liked it to. He thought about what Faith had done this time to warrant some more enforced extracurricular activity. Of course, in all fairness, with Faith's reputation for fighting anyone, anywhere, anytime. Harmony should have known to keep her mouth shut. But no, the little blonde haired bimbo must have taken her vitamins this morning. Because when Faith accidentally bumped into her in the lunch line, she thought she could pull her 'Queen of the world' act with no retaliation. A black eye and a fat lip should be a nice little reminder that in the future she couldn't.

The sound of the front doors slamming open caused him to perk his head up. Faith came barreling out of the school so fast she barely noticed him perched on the sidewalk. She stopped abruptly and looked down at him.

"Tell me you have a cigarette," she said.

"Detention didn't go so well I take it?" He asked as he reached into his pocket, pulling out his pack of smokes.

She took one from the pack and pulled her Zippo out of her bag, flicked open the top and set the end of the cigarette aflame. She inhaled loudly, making a big show of enjoying the feel of noxious smoke enter her lungs.

"Mr. Walls and his wife had their baby," She said grabbing his hand and pulling him up. "A girl."

He smirked to himself. She'd been in detention enough times to actually become good friends with the teacher who always found himself assigned to after school duty.

"What's her name?" He asked.

"Didn't ask," she replied. "Let's get out of here. I think I've had enough of this place for today."

He waved his hand to lead the way and they casually began to stroll home. A few blocks away from the school a car full of their classmates raced down the street and shouted insults at them. Faith flipped them all off and Xander just let it roll of his back. He didn't care.

High school, to both of them, was a constant state of mockery and ridicule. They didn't fit in, and the world made sure that they were constantly reminded of it. Though, looking at them walking down the street anyone could have seen why. Both dressed oddly, preferring darker shades of clothing died their hair any color they felt like. She wore a pair of tight blue jeans and a ripped t-shirt with Charged GBH and a picture of a Molotov cocktail on the front, and on the back it said "Give me fire." He wore a skintight black t-shirt and his trusty leather jacket. Leather pants that seemed more like a second skin covered his legs and a chain hung from his belt to his wallet. His hair was a short bed of spikes and looked like it hadn't been washed in days. Both wore steel-toed boots affectionately called "shitkickers."

They both took turns bitching about their days. Faith's of course, was all about Harmony. While Xander just bitched about his science teacher who flat out told him he wouldn't pass if he kept dressing the way he did. She picked up a rock and chucked it at a dog that wouldn't stop barking at them.

"That kegger Benny was planning," Faith began, raising her fist in the air when the rock hit home. "Is it still going on?"
"As far as I know," Xander replied. "Are we gonna go?"

"Do we have anything else better to do?"


"Then we're going."


They stopped when they reached the front of Faith's house. She tossed the butt of her third cigarette into the puddle in the gutter. She playfully socked Xander in the arm and walked across the lawn.

"Come around at Six," she hollered from the doorway. "It should be dark by then."

She slammed the door closed and he stood watching it for a few minutes before moving on to his own house.


"Where the hell was it supposed to be?" Faith grumbled as they walked through the trees of Breaker Woods. They hadn't expected a giant keg party to be that hard to find and came unprepared. They had no flashlights, and all the surrounding trees blocked out the moonlight shining from the sky. It was practically pitch black.

"They said in a big clearing in the woods," Xander shrugged. "Look for a big bonfire."

"A clearing in the woods," Faith muttered sarcastically. "Do you know how many clearings there probably are in these fucking woods? And I sure as hell don't see a big bonfire. I don't see shit. Don't even have a flashlight."

She kicked a small log next to her foot into a tree and threw her hands up to the sky.

"This fucking sucks!" She shouted.

Xander chuckled to himself and threw a twig aimlessly. "You're wound kind of tight today," he commented.

She put her arms down and turned to face him. "Don't take it to heart," she sighed. "I'm on the rag."

"That was a little too much information thank you."

"You can take it."

They moved to start making their way back to civilization when a bloodcurdling howl irrupted from the surrounding trees. They both froze and looked around swiftly.

"I'm thinking that anywhere but here is a good place to be right about now," Xander said.

Faith nodded her agreement and began walking faster. The howl sounded again, sending chills up their backs. They heard the sounds of something crushing dead leaves and sticks behind them but didn't dare to turn to look. A shadow of something brushed passed them and darted into a nearby bush. Xander turned to Faith with wide eyes to find hers just the same.

"What the hell was that?" She asked.

"I don't want to know," he replied.

"Oh fuck this," she muttered. "Run!"

She grabbed his hand and took off in the direction they had come from. They heard whatever was following them run alongside, loud footsteps giving chase. Trees and bushes flew passed them passed them as they ran, each one's legs and lungs burning with exhilaration. Faith turned her head back to catch a glimpse of whatever it was swiftly catching up.

"Shit!" She yelled. "What the hell is that thing!"

"Who cares?" Xander shouted in reply. "Just keep running!"

The edge of the woods came into view in the distance and each poured on an extra bit of energy. The kind of terrified nervous energy one suddenly possesses when they think they're going to die. They ran faster, and were almost out when Xander felt Faith's hand pulled from his. He looked over his shoulder to see that she was no longer there. He tripped over a rock while his head was turned and crashed into the ground. He jumped to his feet as fast as he could and looked around frantically.

"Faith!" He shouted. "Faith!"

He heard a muffled scream off to his right and sprinted toward it. His arms and legs ached from so much activity, but he pushed back the pain and kept going. He saw his best friend being dragged on the ground her hair into some bushes behind a large group of pine trees.

"Faith!" He shouted again. "Hold on I'm coming!"

The thing that was dragging her turned back to growl at him, it's eyes flashing yellow, teeth glistening in the faint light. He felt his heart skip a beat inside of his chest but didn't let it stop him from reaching her. He lunged at the creature only to be backhanded away. He landed flat onto his back and felt the wind knocked out of him. Rolling onto his side and gasping for air, he heard Faith screaming again and grabbed a big rock lying next to him. He got to his feet and charged the creature, bashing it on the head with the rock and knocking it off of Faith. He bent down to help her up when the creature jumped at him and tackled him the ground. He struggled to keep its snapping jaws from ripping his face off. It was so strong and it looked like he was going to loose the fight when he heard the familiar snap of Faith's switchblade. The beast cried out and turned on her, jumping off of Xander and pinning Faith to the ground. She screamed and tried to push it off her. Her switchblade jutted from its neck and each snap of its jaw was weaker than the next. The blood poured in rivers from the wound, covering Faith's face, dripping into her mouth. She couldn't help swallowing some of it and it nearly made her sick.

The beast's ferociousness finally faded into nothing and it collapsed dead atop her. She screamed for Xander to get it of and ran to her side and kicked it in the side, knocking it away. He dropped to his knees next to her and threw his arms around her shoulders.

"Are you okay?" He asked. "I thought you were going to die."

"Five by five," she said weakly. "Let me go. We need to get out here."

He slowly withdrew and stood, clasping his hand in hers to help her up. She stood on shaky feet and seemed to have trouble standing upright. He threw his arm around her shoulder and acted as a crutch, helping support her weight enough to walk.

"My knife," she said wearily.

"What about it?"

"It's stuck in the thing's neck."


"So I want it back."

"We can get you another one Faith," he said grunting with the effort of helping her.

"I want that one," she said. "You gave it to me for my birthday remember? It was the only present I gave a damn about and I want it back."

"Fine," he caved.

He helped her to sit on the ground and cautiously made his way to the beast's carcass resting a few feet away. His whole body was tense as he moved near it. He half expected it to jump right back up and start chomping away again. But when he saw all the blood pooled around it, he relaxed a little. The thing wasn't going anywhere. He bent over and quickly pulled the knife from its neck, getting one last squirt of blood for his troubles. He flipped the blade back down and put it in his pocket. He looked at the beast carefully and noticed that the lower half of its body seemed very human. It had two legs much like his own, and a torso that looked normal. He nudged it with the end of his boot to roll it over and saw that it's face also looked human. The only thing that was different were the sharp fang-like teeth. He shuddered and walked away from the body.

"How I hate this town," he mumbled.

Faith had managed to pass out when he bent down to pick her up. It was then that he noticed to amount of blood covering her. He assumed that most of it was from when she stabbed whatever it was, but saw a giant bite mark on the side of her neck.

"Oh shit," he cursed. "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit."

He gently slapped the sides of her face trying to snap her back into consciousness.

"Faith," he shouted. "Come on wake up!"

"Blood in my mouth," she replied groggily. "I think that thing bit me..."

"You think right," he said throwing her arm over his shoulder. "Come on Faith work with me here. We got to get out of these woods. Who knows if there's another one out there?"

She weakly got back to her feet, and Xander tried his best to keep her upright. They moved slowly toward the end of the woods.


"Mom?" Xander yelled, kicking open his front door and stepping into the house. "Dad?"

No reply.

"They're not here," Xander said, his voice full of relief. "Good. Hold on Faith, we're going to get you fixed up okay? Just don't pass out on me again."

He pulled Faith into the kitchen and plopped her onto a chair. Her head bobbed down to her chest, her fight to stay awake fading away. Xander ran into the bathroom and pulled out the first-aid kit. Once back in the kitchen, he threw it on the table and ripped part of Faith's shirt to get better access to the cuts. In the better light of his house he could finally see that her jeans were torn as well and bright red gashes shown through the denim. He was freaking out. There was so much blood all over her. His hands shook as he tore off the plastic wrapper on the bottle of hydrogen peroxide and dabbed some onto a cotton ball. His eyes widened when he saw that the antiseptic wasn't needed.

"No way," he muttered, his eyes not believing what they saw.

"What?" Faith asked, suddenly alert.

"The wounds," Xander whispered running his fingers over them. "They've already closed."


She lifted her head to look at the scratches on her shoulders and legs already pink and healing. Her fingers moved to run along the bite mark on her neck, already closed, the blood dried and crusted along her skin.

"We need to get you to a hospital," he said.


"What? Why not?"

"What are we going to tell them Xand?" She asked. "A wild dog attacked me three days ago? The wounds are closed. That's a little weird, yeah, but I'm not complaining."

"Faith, you were *attacked* for fuck's sake. That thing could have ripped you to shreds. Hell, it nearly did. You need a doctor."

"I'm telling you I don't," she said sternly. "Look, I'm not even bleeding anymore and the pain is gone."

She stood on her feet to prove it to him, but clutched her side her eyes pinching shut.

"See? It's not gone."

"It's just a little achy," she assured. "It's probably from the running."

She still seemed a little weak to him, so much so that he wasn't going to let her go home.

"Okay fine," he said. "But you're staying here tonight."



He slammed his locker closed and turned to lean against it. Faith was already gone by the time he'd woken up and after last night he couldn't help but be a little worried. He sighed and tapped his head against the metal. Vicious man-dog thing attacks best friend and the wounds heal within an hour. He wondered if anyone else had something like this hanging over his or her head. His eyes closed and he wished he knew where she was.

The sounds of the entire basketball team making catcalls made him open his eyes and turn to look down the hall. His jaw nearly fell when he saw the object of their attentions. Faith, strutting down the hallway in a pair of vinyl pants that looked painted on. He'd seen them before; she bought them months ago but had only worn them once. She also wore a dark red halter-top, fitting snugly against her chest. The head of practically every guy in the hallway turned to watch her as she passed. He saw a little smirk on her lips and he blinked. She looked like she was enjoying all of the attention.

She slid next to him and opened her locker. He stared at her strangely, completely unsure of what to make of it all. She smiled as she turned to face him, her eyes moving slowly up and down his body.

"Hey," she greeted.

"Someone ate their wheaties this morning," he commented dryly. "What's up with the huntress outfit?"

She looked down at her outfit briefly and looked back up to him, the smirk returning.

"You don't like?" She pouted.

He blinked again. Was she flirting with him?

"Uh, no that's not it. You just look like the wolf in sheep's clothing that's all."

She smiled at him, a certain strange fire behind her eyes he'd never seen before.

"Where'd you go this morning?" He asked.

"Home," she replied. "I couldn't come to school in your old sleepwear now could I? And we threw those shredded rags away."

"How are the cuts?"



"When I woke up they were gone. And I felt great, so I guess we can write off last night as a fucked up little accident that had minimal consequences."

"Faith," he said. "You were mauled. Hell I was almost mauled. Whatever that thing was could have killed us both. I think you're acting a little too nonchalant about all of it.

"I'm fine," she replied.

He didn't know if he should believe her. She was acting radically different and he wasn't sure why.

"Are you sure you're okay?" He asked sincerely.

"Xander," she purred, sliding her hand up his chest. "I'm five by five."

"Okay, you see. That's what I'm talking about."


"We're buds Faith. Since when does that include mild groping on your part?"

"Since I felt like it," she grumbled. "What's with you?"

"What's with you?"

"Nothing," she said slamming her locker. "Later."

He watched as she stormed off down the hall, wondering what was going on.


Music pounded into his eardrums as he watched her from a table near the stairs. She'd been dancing nearly an hour straight without stopping, switching partners whenever one got too tired. She'd begged him to come and dance with her, but he politely refused. The Bronze was hopping on Friday night, as it usually was. Nearly every teen in Sunnydale milled about like wandering dogs. Playing, flirting, dancing. It was the ultimate party atmosphere.

He sipped at his coffee absently and let his eyes wander around the club. He was itching for a cigarette, but didn't feel like going outside to smoke one. He felt an odd compulsion to keep an eye on Faith. The way she'd acted in the morning had translated to last all day. Anything with a Y chromosome paid her the utmost attention when she passed and she soaked it up like a sponge. He went to take another sip of his coffee to find it empty. Without caffeine to subsidize the nicotine craving, it reared its ugly head and he got up from his chair to tell Faith he was stepping outside.

Once he reached her on the dance floor a big smile stretched across her lips and she threw her arms around his neck began shaking her hips to the rhythm. He tried to yell in her ear that he was going outside to smoke but she couldn't hear him over the music. He pulled her arms from around him and tugged her away from the dance floor. He was surprised when she didn't resist and they both walked outside. He lit up and inhaled deeply, the smooth flavored smoke soothing the jitters away. He offered Faith a cigarette, she never seemed to have her own, and she took it and lit up as well.

"You're a machine in there tonight," he joked.

"Have a lot of energy," she said. "I just feel like dancing."

"How do you really feel?" He asked.

She threw her cigarette down on the ground and whirled on him, her hand on her hip, showing her impatience with his concern.

"How many times do I have to tell you I'm fine?" She asked bitterly. "Jeez, even my mother doesn't baby me this much."

"Well I'm sorry for caring," he bit out. "Excuse me if I'm still a little wigged that we were attacked and that my best friend in the world was mauled and doesn't have a mark to show for it. You should be in the hospital Faith. You should have dozens of cuts all over you and be in intensive care or something. Instead you're here at the Bronze dancing like a robot with full batteries. I'm just not sure what to make out of all of this."

"Listen," she said in a softer tone. "I know last night was freaky, and I'm dealing with it the way I know how okay? I..."

She winced and grabbed her side. Xander moved closer and put his hand on her shoulder, trying to steady her.

"Still feel okay?" He asked.

"I'm fine," she insisted. "Must be cramps or something."

A bottle flew through the air and crashed into the wall just above their heads. Xander pushed Faith away from the shards of falling glass and looked toward the end of the alley where the thrower stood with his arms crossed against his chest. He was huge, as least 6'5 and had muscles bulging on top of muscles. He wore a satisfied grin in his face.

"Now that I've got your attention," he said casually. "I'd also like to demand any cash and jewelry you have. Cell phones and pagers too."

"You've got to be kidding me," Faith said still holding her side. "You're mugging us?"

"There's no room to argue here sweet thing," he said. "I don't think either one of you two little punks can stop me."

Xander glared at the man and moved to step in front of Faith.

"Yeah big man," the mugger taunted. "Move in front of your girl. She's looking pretty good; maybe when I'm done beating you and taking your money she and I will have a little fun."

He ran his tongue across his teeth and grabbed his crotch. Xander rolled his eyes and flicked his cigarette away, stepping farther in front of Faith.

"You're not going to touch her," he stated simply.

"See that kid," the mugger smiled. "You got moxy, I like that. Still gonna beat you senseless but you at least got guts."

He took a step forward and Xander looked back to Faith who was still clutching her side in pain.

"Xander," she moaned. "It hurts now. It really fucking hurts now."

"Get inside!" He yelled. "Now!"

He turned to look at the mugger, who was strolling serenely, like he was walking a dog toward them. It was then that he heard the feral growl emerge from behind him. He felt a chill shoot up his back; similar to the one he'd felt in the presence of the creature. He looked over his shoulder just in time to see Faith leap at the mugger. He moved to grab her leg to stop her but wasn't quick enough. For a second the mugger looked surprised that she was actually attacking him, but unfolded his arms and moved to swing his bulky fists as her. She easily leapt between his arms and tackled him to the ground, much to the shock of Xander. She growled again and began swiping her hands back and forth across his face. The mugger screamed in agony and bucked his hips upward, trying to fend her off.

"Faith!" Xander yelled running to them. "What are you doing?!"

She made no notion of hearing him, and continued clawing at the mugger's face and chest. The man still screamed and tried to throw her off.

"Help!" He screamed. "Get this crazy bitch off me!"

Xander grabbed Faith around the waist and tried to pull her off but she struck him in the temple with her elbow, sending him reeling to the ground. He could hear the mugger's screams start again and tried to move to his feet, only to stumble dazed back onto the ground. He heard the violent sounds of flesh being torn from bone; the mugger's cries drowning away. His eyes closed and he let the blackness come.

When he opened his eyes again, Faith was hunched over and turned away from him. He moved to sit up slowly and shook his head trying to shake the cobwebs out. He crawled to her on his knees and placed a hand on her shoulder. He felt her body stiffen and she shrugged his hand away.

"What happened?" He asked, still groggy.

"I don't know," she replied quietly.

He looked passed her shoulder to see the body of the mugger laying stock still on the ground. Blood was in puddles everywhere around his massive form. His face was completely torn from the skull, his bulging muscles were ripped to meaty shreds and lying in pieces on the ground next to him. Xander felt the bile rise in his stomach and turned his eyes away from the corpse. He put his hand to his mouth the fight the urge to puke. He coughed a few times and hunched over to keep his stomach in check.

"Faith," he said spitting onto the ground. "Oh god Faith..."

She turned to him then; blood and gore caked around her mouth and hands, covering the entire front half of her body. She wasn't holding her side anymore. She sniffled softly and he saw tear tracts dripping down her cheeks.

"What did I do?" She said weakly. "What did I do?"