Author notes: Takes place directly before canon fourth season, when Faith goes to confront Joyce. Spins off from the Buffy/Faith battle into my own take.

Disclaimer: I sadly own nothing. All dialogue taken from the show belongs to Doug Petrie/ Joss Whedon.

Eight months, eight fuckin' months, and the entire world had changed…all she could do was take the chance now to make a new start and to change her life along with it…only this time she would make it work out the way it should have been all along. Hopefully this device thing would do that…whatever it was and whatever it did. That, she wasn't sure about… but what did she have to lose at this point?

Nothing. She had lost everything more than eight months ago, thanks to B's wicked quick reflexes and unblinkingly thrusting into her stomach of Faith's own knife. And if Faith was totally honest, she'd been losing everything she ever managed to grab hold of ever since she could remember. Family, friends, home, money, virginity…not that she minded that last one being gone, it would be pretty pathetic to be seventeen and still snow white pure like B tried to make herself out to be. Faith was glad she'd gotten the whole virginity thing outta the way early so she wouldn't have the stress over it later like all the other lamebrains had to do now. She was.

More than that shit though, the list kept going. Education- not that she gave a shit about that either- her Watcher, freedom, respect, security… okay, so she'd never had the last few in the first place. There was a hell of a lot more she'd never had…appreciation, acceptance, innocence, safety, love… but those weren't a big thing, she didn't even need them to be happy. All she needed was to be free, to be able to go off anywhere and do anything without anyone to answer to or slap her back down. It was all she'd ever needed. But first she had to take out some people before they tried to take her out- again. And somehow, in some way she guessed she was gonna find out real soon, the little metal gadget in her hand was gonna do that for her. Somehow it was gonna make things like they should be…

Or at least as close to being as they should be as was possible anymore. Nothing was going to be right without him… the last person in her life to ever try to do right by her, to care for her, one of the few who'd ever even attempted. Somehow, even in a pure demon state, Mayor Richard Wilkins III had been taken from her, murdered… by Buffy. Everything Faith had ever tried to hold onto, to have for herself, Buffy had judged and strove to take away. Her boss… the man who had once implied to her that he regarded her as his daughter, a daughter he was deeply proud of- had been no exception.

As it was now, Faith would never be able to hold onto anything or anyone. If she didn't somehow fuck it up, then Buffy and her band of losers would be sure to take it away, to take her away to some place that could hold her better than the Council clowns. Maybe even finish off the one job B had ever failed at… the task of ending her life.

No way was that gonna happen. She had to move up and on, go with the flow and make a new change of plans in accordance… and then she'd be alright again, she could take off and lead the rogue life alone like she'd wanted in the first place. No rules, no responsibilities, no one on her ass… it wasn't like she needed no one, no one but herself.

But still… even as she knew this, repeated this to herself as she continued her stride down the shadow-darkened street, Faith couldn't seem to stop her mind from drifting back to the video of the Mayor, the one she'd found in the remains of his old office. Unwillingly she found herself envisioning his face…the wide, guileless grin that was so corny, but that she had somehow grown so accustomed to it almost made her smile herself… the devilish twinkle in his eyes… his impeccably groomed appearance and his quirky, incessantly cheerful way of talking… the way he had said her name with such fondness and respect, in a way she had never heard anyone address her in before…

But along with his usual buoyancy had been a new worry at the corners of his lips, a sadness and concern in his tone… not only for his own predicted fate, but for hers. Watching him had been watching a ghost, and one all too aware of his ceased existence… watching him had only slammed home to Faith the truth that he was dead.

As she had watched, her heart had been pounding, stomach dropping with sickened grief and dread…but she had not taken her eyes off of him, had soaked up all of his words with an intensity she had never shown him before. Now those same words were echoing inside her mind persistently, conjuring his face and his gestures along with them, and even as Faith sped up in her pace, her features tightening, she could not block it out.

"I know you're a smart and capable young woman in charge of her own life…"

No one had ever said that to her before… it had never occurred to Faith as a possibility that someone might think she was. She could handle herself, yeah, she could think on her feet and manipulate things to going her way- or at least try to before it fell apart like usual. But no one else had ever told Faith that she was smart… in fact, all she'd heard most of her life was how dumb she was, how thoughtless and reckless and stupid…

"But the problem is, Faith, that there won't be a place in the world for you anymore…"

He had that right… there was nowhere for her to go, nowhere and nobody who wanted her. Everyone who had known her would only want her to go right back into the nothing, nightmare state they'd put her into…

Everyone had moved on and left Faith behind to rot… she had seen them, through the window, seen how their Scooby numbers had grown. They had accepted others, strangers, in a way they had never accepted her, obviously made them a part of the group… and BUFFY….Buffy had moved on more than anyone. Buffy was with some new guy now, some dorky-looking Boy Scout as different looking from Angel and his broody darkness as a person could get. Faith had seen the way she touched him… it had been in thew ay of someone who had been with someone long enough for it to be unthinking.

She wasn't with Angel… after all that, all Buffy had done and said to proclaim how much she loved him and they were forever and always fucking SOULMATES, she wasn't with him. After stabbing Faith with her own knife, trying to KILL her, putting her into an eight month COMA for Christ's sake, over Angel…SHE WASN'T EVEN WITH HIM ANYMORE.

Betrayal, rage, and vengeance had stormed through Faith, filling up her chest and torso hotly…but with it had been a deep hurt she could not quite ignore. This was only rubbing in her face how very little she had meant to Buffy… that Buffy would be willing to kill her over a man- no, not even a man, a VAMPIRE- she wasn't even in love with anymore…

And why the hell did she care? Why the hell did anything matter to her except that Buffy Summers had tried to kill her? Why did it matter why or whether or not she'd ever cared about her?

"Right now, I bet you're feeling very much alone," the Mayor's televised image had speculated, and again, despite all attempts to do so, Faith could not deny the truth of his words. She was alone… she always had been when it came down to it, even more so now that the Mayor too had been taken from her. Time had full rejuvenated her, ridding her of the temporary disorientation and slightly decreased coordination and strength upon her awakening, but it had done nothing to lessen the persistent aching inside her. It was an aching that seemed to have always been present in her life, but only seemed to have grown stronger and more persistent in the past several hours…

She didn't NEED anyone- she wanted to be alone. But why did she have to keep reminding herself?

"But you're never alone," the Mayor had assured her, smiling softly. "You'll always have me… and you'll always have this. Just because it's over for you now doesn't mean you can't go out with a bang."

Her finger lightly stroking the odd silver device in her pocket, the contraption that was his last gift to her, Faith smiled with anticipant grim pleasure. She didn't know exactly what this thing would do, but his words had made it sound like it was exactly what she needed. Whatever it did, it involved close, mutual contact, he had instructed her, preferably through hands. Faith didn't know how she'd manage that one, but she would… Buffy Anne Summers was never gonna know what hit her.

And with a vicious grin, Faith thought that she couldn't wait to know too.

As she reached the front lawn of Buffy's home, she paused, a sudden indecision striking her that she did not understand. But she pushed herself forward, continued on to the front door… and with the device in pocket, rang the doorbell.

It was not Buffy who answered the door, but Joyce, her mother. But that was okay… it was what Faith expected, all part of her plan. Buffy never could resist a tempting bait, and Joyce was perfect.

Watching as Joyce's eyes widened, her mouth opening slightly, Faith grinned, raising an eyebrow in greeting. It was weird, but she didn't really feel too enthused…whatever.

"Hi, Joyce."

As she punched the older woman in the face, sending her sprawling and unconscious to the floor, she stared down at her, still smiling casually as she felt nothing inside.

"Mind if I come in?"


No, Buffy thought grimly as she made her way hurriedly up the sidewalk of her neighborhood, her eyes fixated on her house as it rapidly grew in size in her visual field the closer she drew to it. Faith had never been one for subtlety… one thing eight months of a little R&R hadn't done for her was change her.

She had felt guilty before, when she even admitted to thinking about Faith's former comatose state, to her responsibility in causing it. Had Faith been permanently brain damaged or physically disabled, had she eventually died, Buffy's guilt would have increased a little, even if Faith had deserved what she gave her- which she had. But of course, now she seemed to be perfectly fine, revved up and ready to go. Couldn't keep a good Slayer and her remarkable healing powers down…

Of course, there was the tiny flaw of Faith not being a good Slayer anymore- if she had ever been one in the first place. And then there was the part about her also being a selfish, raging homicidal psycho…

Buffy had to get to her mother, and fast. After their conversation earlier, she was very aware that Faith not only was unchanged in mind, memory, and kill-goals, but also was strong and mentally together enough to carry them out with no problem. Faith had never been the brightest crayon in the box, but it didn't take genius to kill people when you had superhuman strength, speed, and stamina. No doubt she would start with the people Buffy loved, the ones most vulnerable and least protected against her- the ones who weren't even aware of her new consciousness. And that, Buffy had only recently realized, meant her mother.

She knew that Faith was with her mother now, holding her captive, doing who knew what to her, just to draw Buffy out, make her face off to her once more. The closer she came to her house, the more strongly she could sense her. Even as badly as Faith had misused her Slayer powers, Buffy could still feel her through them, shared a strong, if very strained and mostly unwilling, bond with her through them. Yes, Faith was near, all right… and the very thought made Buffy's chest tighten in anger and anxiety. If she had hurt her mother…

Upon reaching her house, Buffy didn't go to the front door, but instead looped around to the side, where her mother's bedroom was located. She could sense Faith there, knew she must have trapped her mother inside it. And sure enough, as she came alongside the window, she could see the two women inside. Faith was pacing, talking rapidly with anger tensing her features- no doubt more of her jealous, homicidal ravings, like usual. And Joyce…Joyce was sitting on her bed, fear in her eyes, even as she tried to keep a calm exterior, to not give Faith the satisfaction of knowing how she was affected by her. She wasn't tied up or being held at knifepoint, and other than a lump high on her cheek, she didn't seem injured badly… but then, that would have been hardly necessary. She could never have outrun Faith, and the younger woman could kill her with her bare hands.

Seeing the mark on her mother's face, Buffy's rage grew sharply, increasing with such heatedness that she reacted instinctively. Diving through the window, not feeling the glass that shattered around her, or hearing the loud cracking noise it made, Buffy crashed into her mother's bedroom and collided into the still-aggressively-speaking Faith, knocking her to the floor. Before Faith could recover, Buffy scrambled to her feet, putting considerable strength into punching her in the face.

Feeling a hardly unpleasant rush of adrenaline from watching Faith's head snap around, knowing the pain it must have given her, Buffy took a satisfied moment to turn to Joyce, greeting her with deliberate casualness aimed to infuriate Faith further.

"Hi Mom."

"Hi honey," Joyce replied with warmth and clear relief, her grateful smile relaxing her previously tensed features.

There was no time for more conversation. Faith punched her back, her expression dark, feral, eyes glittering with fury as she too put significant force into the blow. Buffy staggered back, feeling the pain shooting hotly up her jaw, but ignored it, diving at her once more. This was going to end, and soon… she was going to make the bitch pay for even thinking of hurting those she loved, for even thinking she could actually conquer her…

Regaining her balance and focus quickly, Buffy grabbed Faith roughly, flinging her into Joyce's vanity table. As wood cracked and the mirror shattered, Joyce was watching, transfixed by her daughter's aggressive display with the other girl. Or maybe she was simply frozen with horror…judging from the wideness of her eyes and the paleness of her coloring, this seemed the more likely choice.

As Faith got herself to her feet, staggering slightly, Buffy moved to take hold of her again. But quickly regaining her bearings, Faith grabbed her by the shoulders first, slamming Buffy into the wall and holding her there. With brutal reflexes Buffy twisted from her grasp, knocking her to the floor and straddling her, intending to pin her down. Faith's reflexes were sharp as well as she brought her knee up into Buffy's solar plexus, bringing her enough pain to knock her off of her…

Both girls were breathing faster, if not yet in a winded or panting measure, their pulses going hard and rapidly with their vigorous movement and high adrenaline and emotion. Their equal strength, speed, and motivation had always made them an evenly matched pair before, for where Faith had an advantage in size and brutality, Buffy made up for in her training with Giles and extra two years of experience. Battles such as this between them could literally be fought to the death…

But Faith didn't want or intend that now. At least, not at the moment- not without trying out the Mayor's gift to her. Who knows- maybe it would do the rest of her work for her. Bu the time was right now- she might get no better opportunity than in that moment.

As Buffy rolled over, painfully getting her breath back and preparing to attack again, Faith was ready. Reaching hurriedly into her back pocket, she withdrew the device that had become her greatest hope. Slipping her fingers inside it like a fingerless glove, as the Mayor had demonstrated, she didn't hesitate before snatching Buffy's hand and holding it tightly, the device pressed between them. In her hurry she didn't notice that one of the metallic loops had broken loose in the course of her battling. Even had she noticed, it was unlikely that she would have cared.

As Faith grabbed hold of Buffy's hand, the odd "glove" pressed tightly to both of their palms and fingers, something strange began to happen. Both girls stiffened, faces tensing as a rapid buzzing sensation ran through their bodies, starting in their fingers and spreading up arms and shoulders before continuing through the rest of them. Faith heard Buffy gasp, saw the wideness of her shocked hazel eyes, saw a golden glow illuminating their hands joined with the device as a warmth flicked through their fingers… and this was the last thing she was aware of.

All at once it began to change… there was a scream, a shrill shriek that was coming from Faith, a scream that seemed to be one of pain rather than triumph or aggression. As Buffy stared, flabbergasted, she saw that Faith was changing before her eyes…shrinking…pulling in on herself…

And then quite suddenly everything stopped. The glow, the sensations, the warmth… even the very gadget held between their hands was gone, seeming to have evaporated into nothingness in less than a seconds' time. But more astonishing than any of this was that FAITH was gone… at least, Faith as Buffy had ever known her.

There was no Slayer before her now, no homicidal teenager in tight jeans with impressive cleavage visible from her cropped low-cut top. There was no cleavage, period, and those jeans were no longer snug in the least on the person they were adorning. In fact, they had fallen down around her ankles, revealing underwear that was also so baggy it too quickly dropped around her ankles. Not that anything was revealed as a result of this, for the once skin-tight shirt Faith had been wearing now covered its owner to mid thigh, loose and ill fitting, and her jacket was large, heavy, and long enough that its wearer now seemed to be almost staggering beneath its weight…

The person before her had Faith's dark eyes, Faith's long, wavy hair, her facial features and skin tone…but she was much smaller, much thinner and less nourished, her body and face slightly different, even with the obvious resemblance. She was the same person, wearing the same clothing…but somehow she was younger. Looking at her, Buffy realized with no small amount of shock that she was looking at Faith…but that Faith was now around seven years old.

As Buffy stared, her mouth open, the little girl- Faith, Buffy told herself quickly, even if somehow she looked like a little girl, she was still Faith- stared back, her small features rigid, dark eyes round and shiny with wary alertness… and what strangely seemed to be fear.

When she spoke, her tone was slightly deep for a child, but much higher than the husky one Buffy was accustomed to… and her voice was small, shaky despite her effort for it not to be.

"Who are you?"