She stood there, in the shadows, watching the blonde. She followed her enthusiastic hand gestures with intense brown eyes, measuring her against the hero that her Watcher had told stories of late at night. The short girl seemed lacking, yet she oddly exceeded Faith's expectations. Her weakness, her faults and quirks, made her so much stronger. So much more than just a Slayer. Unlike her own.
The Boston bar was filled with inebriated customers and smoke that was at least second or third-hand. Her nose wrinkled at the stench of unwashed bodies that smelled no better than the walking and talking corpses that she disposed of every night.
She was tired, so tired, and desperately needed a drink. Her father had asked for money again, coming by the apartment she shared with her Watcher and embarrassing her something terrible with his desperate, pathetic pleading and slurred speech.
Faith made her way to the bar, barely acknowledging the bartender's short nod, and asked for the first drink that came to her mind. She needed to relax, and even slaying had not managed to do the trick, instead only working her up further.
They were sitting there, laughing and joking, looking remarkably normal and carefree. She wondered how they did it. How Buffy did it. But then, she knew that Buffy didn't get the same pressing need for release Faith did. Faith had always seemed just a little more susceptible to the Slayer, to the urges that would take control of her from the inside, growing and clawing their way to the surface. Her emotions, already significant driving forces of her actions, were easily exacerbated, and they always, always, led to trouble.
She had been sitting there, gazing blankly around the dingy room, for only a few minutes before she felt someone sidle up next to her. She could smell him clearly; smell his pungent aftershave, dried sweat, and the reek of cheap alcohol. Her heightened senses reeled from the unpleasantness, leaving her slightly disorientated.
When she told the tale to her Watcher, she stood by the story that it was this disorientation, her momentary lack of control and awareness, which caused her to break his arm when he went in for a grope.
Privately, she admitted to herself that she really, really just wanted to hurt something, someone. That would probably explain why she also broke his nose and stood on his fingers.
That wasn't the first time that her Watcher had compared her to Buffy Summers, and, as she watched the streetlights reflect off disappointed eyes on the drive back from the police station, she knew it wouldn't be the last.
It always came down to not being as effectively unorthodox as Buffy. Faith was unorthodox, undoubtedly, but all saw her as being too much trouble for her worth. Too much fighting, too little training, too much booze and sex and cigarettes and pain. The constant comparisons stung, because despite the fact that they were both Slayers, they were completely different people. It was unfair, so unfair, to place them side-by-side and expect a perfect copy. Oddly enough, Buffy actually seemed the only person to not want a replica. In fact, she seemed to rejoice in all the differences that Faith exhibited, all the faults that were revealed, if only for something to dislike, some reason to resent Faith's out-of-place popularity with her friends and family. Buffy didn't expect Faith to be anybody but her own messed up self, and for that Faith was grateful.
"You know, I went to school with Rupert Giles."
She stared hard at the wooden coffee table, internally pleading for her Watcher not to continue. Faith had heard this before. Faith had heard it all before. How Giles and her always had an academic rivalry going, and how they used to spar each other during training, and how, even now, that competitive spark was still burning.
"I had always known that he would be able to train the actual Slayer, not a potential, but to be the Watcher of Buffy Summers! Neither of us could have predicted how accomplished she would become."
Faith laced her fingers together, and tried to swallow past the lump in her throat. Even now, after hearing it countless times, being judged and found wanting against someone neither her Watcher nor herself had ever met hurt. She refused to raise her gaze, and refused to allow the woman to see the tears standing stubbornly in her eyes. She would not cry.
"I still remember when we all heard about her death, it was amazing…"
Faith jumped slightly when a small hand fell on her shoulder. She opened her eyes, and gazed at the object of her thoughts. She raised a single eyebrow in question.
"What are you doing standing all the way over here? In the shadows, no less. Wow, Faith, you're really trying for the Creepy Loiterer of the Year Award, aren't you? Are you going to come and join us, or are you going to stand here staring at me for a while longer?"
It always came down to Buffy.