Between Season 3-4, a spinoff set in the Offers You Can't Refuse AU. (Please read that first.) A woman broken enough to believe she can't be saved. A man who knows he has nothing left to lose. Desperation, fear, and some hidden strengths throw these two together, stubbornly determined to show the world who they really are, who they can be- if they can just figure it out for themselves.
Author's First Note: Did you see the book cover? Omslagspapper designed it herself, and I think it's simply smashing. Give her some love guys, so she'll think about making some more cover art. She's obviously got the knack for it.
Author's Second Note: Credit to David Essex for the incredibly sultry, languidly seductive song "Rock On", which still manages to have a little funky, unexpected edge (kind of like our characters). If you have not heard this piece, I entreat you to try. Especially towards the end of the chapter. If you're familiar with my work, you'll sense when you should be reaching for a site to bring up the song.
Dedicated to: Ginar369, Omslagspapper( Artistic Consultant), Cavemenftw, Jewel74, Illusera, The-Darkness-Befalls, AGriffinWriter, Austexfan, Jinxgirl, and Alkeni.
Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.
"We need to start packing, I'm afraid."
"Already?" Faith looked up from the television.
"It does take a few days. And I don't want to be obvious about carrying out a great deal at once. Didn't you say we'd have to sneak out quietly, dead of night, etc.?"
A few more days had passed. They all went so quickly now that she was actively tracking and working on occasion, and he was struggling to meet a deadline for his series of manuals.
But she was holding back from taking the plunge, fighting the good fight, or whatever you called it when you went out to kill actual evil. Although diving into the fray had been temporarily delayed. Losing your shit and almost murdering three guys with a shotgun'll give you pause for thought- at least these days.
Want, take, have- right?
Faith realized she used to like the fighting and the winning, the power, the rush, and yes, the cool factor. Being "chosen". Going from always being the reject outcast to suddenly being an outcast with some seriously wicked awesome skills. She liked that. She had never really stopped and done the whole soul-searching, "Yes, I like this because I bring good to the world, I kill the evil, I stop the monsters, and save the innocents."
Screw all that. Save it for St. Buffy and her Bleeding Hearts Club Band. Slaying was just a different kind of drug, different buzz.
Until you crashed off the high, nearly fell to your demise, and started thinking as you clawed your way back up.
"I said, I really need to finish this last manual today so I can proofread it once more tomorrow and transmit it to the company."
"Okay. Do your thing, I'll do mine." She replied automatically.
Her thing. Slaying. He had been thoughtlessly eager for her to begin again, but after the warehouse incident, he wondered if he'd been pushing too hard. "I wouldn't mind if you contented yourself with packing and recuperating a bit more. Perhaps you'd care to join me at the library? Do a bit of research, pick a town for our next stop? Something in the southern states where it's warmer, I believe you mentioned. Maybe one with some unusual deaths or disappearances that -" You utter bloody fool. You were supposed to steer her away from slaying for a little while longer, you were going to suggest peaceful alternatives! How did that last ill conceived thought come out of your mouth?
"You want me to get back on the slay-train?" She smiled roguishly.
"You think I'm not ready? I'll get massacred? Or I'll make a massacre of my own?" The smile was gone, challenge replacing the momentary laughter in her eyes.
"I- I don't want to push. I have been pushing and not pushing by turns, I know that. I know you've been tracking. I assumed you'd be- gearing up. Preparing to Slay. Soon. Not necessarily now." He stammered, paused, and then pushed on when she didn't fire back any retorts. "Who knows how the fall and the coma may have impacted your abilities to sense the demonic? I've been looking for ways to-"
"My abilities are fine. I think sometimes I can sense them. Mainly around this one place- totally trapped in the seventies. Vamps probably feel right at home. Not being the only thing that's dead in the place." She snorted. "They never really learn to go with the flow and the new spring fashions." She cut him off with a sarcastic explanation.
He looked over his rims. "Seventies bar? Not the bar you've been working at?"
"No, this place is south. Toward Broad. Corner bar, on that block where they're renovating the whole string of row houses." She fought down a strange shiver, part fear, part desire, part adrenaline. "Probably got a nest in one of the condemned houses."
"Nest? More than one vampire you think?"
"In a city this size? Probably. Not like I can smell them or something. Just figuring." She shrugged and tossed on a little more tough girl. "I can always go wander into the houses today, take a look in the daylight."
Only to get herself cornered by multiple angry, hungry vampires while she's possibly acting irrationally. He imagined she'd slaughter them "with extreme prejudice", he believed the phrase went. It was what she might do while the adrenaline was still soaring that concerned him. "Wait until I come with you?"
The stupid warm thing in her chest again. "If you want. It's a lot of houses. Twelve or fifteen. I thought maybe I'd start hunting them while they're on the hunt. Take one at a time, not a whole pack, until I pick a mark and get led to the nest- if there is one. I could be wrong." Maybe I wanna be wrong.
"I'm sure you're not. I have confidence in your abilities. I've seen what you can do."
"Yeah, well- I've seen what you can do too." That damn warmth was getting into her head now, in her cheeks, where smiles started to come ungrudgingly and even eagerly. Happy.
God. He was right. Happy isn't the place, sometimes it's just a person.
And I don't want to lose the person- even if he is annoying and seriously needs to tone down the big fancy word speak.
Wesley took her remark as a compliment. "Well, thank you. I'm sure I have a long way to go until I-"
"You have miles to go. Maybe lightyears." Faith snapped harshly. She ignored the stunned look on his face that settled into a resigned nod. Like he's used to people trash talking him, right to his face. And now I'm doing it. "Slaying isn't easy. It can - mess you up in a lot of ways if you think about it. Which I didn't used to do-"
"You do now?" He inquired, always the curious one, always trying to learn her.
She shrugged. Dammit. "Yeah, whatever, I think more. But you think too much. You're gonna get yourself bit if you try to help on the front lines, okay, 'cause you'll be trying to classify something, or remember what attack position they taught you at Watcher Camp. I just- want you to-" She didn't know what to tell him. She'd never really done the whole team slay deal. She'd hunted with Buffy. Briefly. This "Slayers are loners" thing had really been working for her. Until she ended up in a coma almost getting lethal injected by some psycho.
"What would you like me to do?" He asked gently, rather afraid to hear the answer. Stay home and be a good little ex-Watcher? Knit you a pouch for your stakes, lay out the bandages and aspirin? Ready the bail money?
"What you do best." She suddenly saw the scenario clicking into place.
He deflated slightly. Look up information. Research. Pay the bills. "I see, I should-"
"Be ready to ride in and save my ass- but only if I totally screw up. Better bring that crossbow." She got up abruptly.
"Are we going now?" He asked, rising so quickly he knocked over a chair.
"Duh. To the library? Remember?"
"Oh. I thought-"
"Easy, Rebel. I'm thinking Friday night. That place is packed then. Peak chow time, lots of bodies, lots of noise cover."
"Friday night? That only leaves us a few days after to take out a whole nest and still leave before the thirtieth day." I just mentioned myself in conjunction to taking out a nest of vampires. Me. Nest of vampires. Oh dear. He went to sit down. The chair wasn't there.
Faith snagged him as he attempted to sit on air, laughing as she pulled him upright. "C'mon, Wes. Aren't you like patron saint of the impossible fix?"
"I don't think so. I'm surely not saint-like." He muttered dryly, pretending he hadn't almost done a bit of slapstick worth a month of ridicule.
"Good. Saints stand around and pray. We're going to kick vamp-butt. Well- I'm going to kick vamp-butt, and you get ready to rescue mine."
He gathered his things, she put on her shoes and her scarred denim jacket, still stained, but clean at least.
She realized what she'd said, not just implied, told him flat out. He's the rescuer now? I mean, yeah before, but still? What are you thinking that for? Her angry inner bitch shouted as she got ready to leave. You don't need rescuing anymore, you don't admit you might be beat. You sure as hell don't tell the guy that you might need his help, even if the thought crosses your mind, because then you just showed him you're weak. That you need saving. If you need your ass saved, you'd better do it yourself.
Faith hurried out of the apartment and went to wait in the car while he was still puttering about, grabbing this and that, humming his wordless rich people music.
You know why it's okay? Faith argued with herself. I got a couple reasons. One-it's Wes. He knows I'm half-joking. So he went on the attack the other night. So he took out Nurse Ratchett. All that means is that even a cocker spaniel can bite once in a while.
The second reason. Faith smiled to herself as she saw him appear in the parking lot. I figure it's okay to say he can ride to the rescue if it's actually true. Guy does that. For real. I have needed his help, and he gives it.
"You're certain you want to come with me?" Wesley asked as he got in the driver's side.
"For a couple hours anyway. I can always walk back. Or take the bus."
He started the car. "I'm feeling quite proud of us."
"That usually doesn't end well for me, you know that, right?"
He continued. "You've asked me to assist you in slaying affairs, and you're coming to the library to do some research with me. It's quite a step." We're a team. A Watcher- Slayer team! The kind of team I want, not that previous delusion of "I order, she obeys", or her method, the "I work alone, and you're dirt."
"Dude!" Faith elbowed him and he yelped. "Put your foot on the pedal and move the big circle around, okay?"
"Oh. Right." Wesley hastily shook off his daydream and put the vehicle in motion.
"Thinking too much again." Faith groaned as she ignored him and that sweet, sappy look on his face, cranking up the radio on the all metal station.
"Wes. Hey, Wes!" She reached to the side and slapped him.
"Keep your voice down!" He shushed her, for the dozenth time.
"Do you know how cheap things are in northern Atlanta?" She hissed back and leaned over to him.
"Georgia?" He queried distractedly.
"Yeah, work our way south, right? I was thinking Florida'd be better around Christmas. Or maybe February when the rest of the country is getting that nasty sleet stuff pissed on them. Really love being warm when all the other saps are freezing their di-"
"Shhh!" He looked apologetically at the patrons across the computer bay.
"Listen to this- not like I'm getting into it or anything, but Atlanta's not all peace and happy if you look at the things popping up in the search window. We could do some hunting." Faith waved off his shushing.
"Hunting. Yes. Lovely." Wesley smiled nervously as other patrons began looking pointedly in their direction.
"Libraries. Fancy ass buildings. Civil War stuff." She shrugged and popped her gum loudly. "They have lots of stuff for you bookworms."
"I'm sure they do. Have you noticed I haven't had much time to enjoy the historical sites of any of the lovely places we've visited?" He asked through clenched teeth. "Now, I really must concentrate. Dash it, I've just told these poor factory workers to insert rod B of the press into Georgia!" He hurriedly began deleting a line.
"Lucky Georgia. I could use some rods inserted." Faith muttered and squirmed, getting a little bored with sitting still.
"There are children in here!" Wesley heard her little remark and flushed.
"Why aren't the little bastards in school?" She grumbled and sat back in the chair, arm extended lazily clicking through rentals. Suddenly she sat up. "You can rent a whole house for what we paid for two weeks up here!"
"Keep. Your. Voice. Down!" Wesley's right eye twitched and his whisper rose. "You're going to get us-"
"Sir? Ma'am? I'm going to have to ask you to leave. You're disturbing other patrons."
"Hey, I -" Faith was up on her feet in an instant.
"Hey, I don't care. Just go." The librarian crossed her arms. Faith got the distinct impression she'd gotten used to removing people from the building. Never removed a Slayer, I'll bet. She started pushing up her sleeves.
"Make a move, you-"
"We're leaving." Wesley used an authoritative tone that sounded completely foreign to her. Not the bossy boots voice, or the courteous, reasonable one. Got us kicked out. Right on schedule. Can I sink any lower? A Watcher about to be forcibly ejected from the hallowed halls of a library? "If you would just give me one moment to save my data, please?"
The librarian gave them a long look. "Two minutes. Not a sound." She stalked off.
Faith sat down and promptly ignored the librarian's orders, addressing Wesley in a pissed voice. "Are you just gonna let them throw us out?"
"Yes. Because of how you acted. I'm surprised they didn't do it sooner." Wesley didn't look at her, frantically typing. "I need to finish this paragraph..."
"Yo, Wes, look-"
"Faith, sometimes that chip on your shoulder is too big for even Atlas to manage!" Wesley hit save and slammed the laptop closed, fixing her with burning eyes.
"I was doing internet searches so we didn't need the stupid atlas!" Faith bridled.
Stupid. All of them mocking me for sounding educated, when all they were was stupid. A flash of usually repressed anger burst out in his frustration. "You really are a twit sometimes." He mumbled angrily.
The words were out before he could stop them.
Her eyes could have been classified as radioactive. They seared him, they flayed him. "Shut your face, college boy."
"This has nothing to do with college and all about how you treat -" He stopped. Horrified with himself, still angry at her. "It doesn't matter now, we need to leave. I'll figure something out to get the manual finished in time."
He began hastily gathering his notes and jamming them into his satchel, mind whizzing about, anger settling. I shouldn't have called her a twit. She's not one. Sometimes she might act like one, but... No. She was excited about something, she was too loud because for once, she was interested in what happens next, shaken out of that stoic "I don't give a damn" attitude. And what do I do? Insult her and mock her knowledge. I know she's never spent much time in libraries, or learning Greek mythology. I could have said "You need to curb the attitude", I could have said a dozen things more straightforward and simple, but no, not me. Raised to sound like I know everything, to talk down to others. But when you insult someone for what you know they haven't learned- you're the ignorant one.
We were spending time as a team, and I couldn't make it past the two hour mark. Humbled by his self-chastisement, he sighed and shook his head. "Faith, I spoke out of-" He raised his head- to nothing. "Faith?"
She still could move like the stalker in the shadows- even through the middle of the day in a library. She left his side, ran on her toes, hellbent on making a fast and furious exit. Almost without her awareness, the running feet changed direction, dark brown eyes flashing around, searching, finding- ah ha. "Hey, librarian lady!"
"Oh. You." The librarian who'd asked them to leave turned from the cart of reference books she was re-shelving, hands on her hips.
"Yeah. Me." Faith's arms crossed, her hair flounced on drawn back shoulders, and then- in spite of the proud front, she said, "Look, I know I screwed up. I'm not really the library type."
"This library is for everyone. We pride ourselves on-"
"Yeah, mission statement, yippee." Faith cut her off, looking back towards the computer section. "Point being- I'm sorry." The woman blinked. Faith swallowed. She hated those words. Said them as little as possible, never really meant it, never felt like she owed anyone any kind of apology. "Throw me out, but don't throw the guy out. That guy next to me. He was working really hard, and I was bugging him just as much as anyone else. He's the library type. Majorly. He brought me in, but that's all. Please. Can he stay?"
The librarian blinked. "That's quite a speech."
"He's- quite a guy. Annoying and crap, but brains like - wow. Mega brains. Loves his books. Kinda think books were his only friends for a long time." Better than having nothing at all, I guess.
"I'll let him know he can stay. You- you get your second chance after my shift ends at four." The librarian gave her a tiny smile and Faith nodded, quickly marching away.
He was hurrying to the car, hoping she was fuming inside, when he saw her exiting the building. And not in the grip of security guards. "Oh, thank God." He muttered fervently. "Faith!" Wesley turned and rushed back towards the doors. I thought you'd run from me. I thought I drove you away. Failed. "Faith, thank God, there you are! Don't you ever-"
"Hey, wait a minute, she told me you could stay! Why are you out here?" She didn't give him a chance to speak further, now turning about, preparing to stomp back in and shove someone under a shelf full of encyclopedias. "That bitch lied to my face- I - after I even apologized and told her you were like library god material and it was all my fault!" Faith figured it was okay to shout outside the building. "She said you could stay!"
"I didn't stop to find out! I saw you weren't there, and I thought you'd- stormed off. As you should do. Because I insulted you, and I didn't mean to say that- hrm- what I said. There's a difference in being ready throttle someone-"
"Throttling?" Faith gave him an appraising look. How 'bout that? Always the quiet ones.
He coughed and continued. "Because you're bloody annoyed with something they did. Not that you think less of the person themselves." Faith raised one eyebrow slowly. "I'm sorry I called you a name. You're not a twit. You just apparently have no volume control."
She snickered. "I kinda do stuff to piss people off on purpose, so..."
"Heavens, no." He said dryly.
"I was being a jerk." She tossed her head carelessly. Not apologizing again. Not twice in ten minutes. It'll break my tongue.
"Well- perhaps slightly overenthusiastic and indecorous."
"Maybe you were. At the end."
"But then I told Iron Panties in there that it was all me, and I was driving you nuts, too. She said you can stay. So- go. Get your translating on."
"What about you?"
"I'll bum around. Do my recon. Pack up a little."
"Next time things will go more smoothly."
There's a next time? "Next time?"
"We are still a- a team, of sorts. Aren't we?"
The loner screamed no, never. Faith herself, the person she wanted to become, nodded slowly, smiled, and walked away. "See you when you get home."
She was proud of him. In a weird way. He shouldn't take shit from people. Even me.
Also- when he's angry, he's kinda intense. In a good way... Hm. Always the quiet ones.
He was moved. She apologized. She pled my case. Not just because my work pays the rent, but because, even in his head he blushed, she says I'm library god material, and it wasn't fair I was to be kicked out with her. Even though, truly, I would take any trouble she brings, no matter whose fault it is. It's just what we do.
The both came to realize it more and more, painful day by painful day.
We make a decent team.
Now let's see how we do in the big leagues.
"When was the last time you guys crawled out of the time warp?" Faith did a little happy hour browsing/drinking/flirting. "I've seen more chest hair and ugly gold chains in here than in a bad porn movie."
"Nice girls don't watch that stuff."
"I'm not a nice girl." Faith chuckled. "Seriously though. A Pac-Man machine?"
"No one's forcing you to drink here."
"Can't a girl be curious?"
"Not unless you're buying more than a beer." The bartender shuffled off.
"Jerk." Faith launched off the stool and strolled around the perimeter. Bad lighting. Bad funky artsy lighting with weirdly shaped globes hanging off the ceiling and popping up over booths on random poles. Cracked mirrors in swirls and odd shapes between smoke stained Warhol knock offs. Pac-Man. Hair band posters. Glam band posters. Purple and pink neon lights flickering inside a dying Rock-ola jukebox.
And one very puzzled drunk guy. "Anybody seen Morrie?"
"Morrie! He left on Friday night. Didn't say goodbye. Didn't come back. Always comes Fridays and Tuesdays. And Wednesdays and Thursdays." He added in a slightly slurred voice.
Faith's ears perked up. One of the regulars suddenly stops coming for a week?
"Maybe he's away."
"He's not. I found his hat by the back last night. He never goes anywhere without that hat. Papelli signed the front of it..."
Missing regular, suddenly gone, favorite things left behind. Do I hear a third sign of fang banging or at least some kind of back alley nastiness?
"Well, if you find him, ask him if he's seen Sue. She hasn't been here in a couple weeks, either. And I know she's in town, her car's still parked a few blocks up."
We have a winner. Faith shook her head. A strange feeling ran up her spine. Two people missing in two weeks, a dark, surrealistic, "out of time" atmosphere.
"Stupid college kids coming in here. If we wanted college kids we'd serve those damn flavored vodkas."
"We'd get live music again."
"Stop bitchin' about the kids, they keep the prices down!"
The bar chatter didn't matter anymore, so she ignored it as she drained her bottle of Bud. She left a couple bucks out for her drink and left, heading around to the back alleyway. Bending down where it was darkest, hands lightly brushing the pavement, wincing at the filth.
So she couldn't smell a vampire. She knew the odor of blood. Her nostrils wrinkled as the familiar scent turned her stomach. She knew it was human. She knew no one was supposed to spill it, take it.
They don't care what they're doing. That's why I stop them. That's why I hunt them. Because if I don't... Faith rubbed rust red streaks along the edge of dumpster with a tentative finger. Someone else's blood ends up on my hands.
Wesley picked up the phone and juggled it with one hand while he juggled the keys and a roll of tape to reseal their boxes in the other. He finally trapped the phone under his chin and let out a muffled, "Hello?"
He swallowed. The tape dropped and he took the phone in hand. "You're sure?"
"Gotta happen." She swallowed as well, downing a sick kind of hunger and new kind of fear. "Tonight's the night."
"They have a lot of mirrors in there, but they're old, the bubbly kind."
"Everything gets distorted. Like a fun house." She put on a last dab of mascara, and shifted her cleavage around in a cropped, ripped tee shirt. She looked like a gothic misfit, huge black lined eyes with deep red-black lips, all blacks and whites, visibly torn with unseen scars.
"Or a house of horrors." Wesley wore his jacket and jeans, laden with stakes, holy water, crossbows, crosses.
"Way more on the nose." Faith slid a stake into each pocket, a knife in each boot, and shook off the cross he offered. "I wanna get close to them, not keep them away." She smiled evilly.
"Be careful." Wesley said tersely, unable to say more than a few words at a time over the constriction in his throat.
"I will be. Gonna make it easy. Lure 'im. Get him close, then- well, I make him explode. Same with all guys, just different kinds of explosions."
"What if it's a female?" Wesley asked worriedly, wondering if she had a contingency plan.
Faith considered. "I don't swing that way, but I sure can dance like I do."
Wesley winced. "Faith, this is serious!"
"Which is why I'm seriously going to dust some vamps, Wes. Before they hurt someone else. Like I was saying -between the bad light job, the smoke, and the funhouse effects, you need to watch yourself. Stay where we can see each other, but not too close."
"Not too close? But surely-"
"Vampires like the loners. Why do you think Slayers have no social lives?" She tossed him a bitter smile. "We're the perfect target, we're the bait and switch. Poor, helpless little girl, all alone, just giving off the lonely vibe, and they come close. Preying on the ones that don't move with the rest of the herd."
"That have gone rogue." He whispered to himself.
She continued, eyes watching a stock film in her head, one she'd seen and lived a hundred times. "They take us outside, or upstairs, wherever they want to go so no one hears us scream. They move in, playing with their food- and then, we're the ones who pounce." The pounding in her veins was increasing. That sweet, sensory satisfaction, the surprise and the victory, one more little victimization erased as the hunter turned to prey.
She loves it. She loves this. It's her thrill. No wonder she can't feel it's a sacred duty. Anything sacred doesn't evoke that kind of raw wanting. Anything that's a duty doesn't give that much enjoyment.
Well, except being her Watcher. This is terrifying. This is... glorious. "Lead the way?"
"Watch my back."
It didn't take him long to see why this was the place the local vampires chose. On this Friday night, the place was packed, the music blared from the jukebox, stuck on a single song until it received fresh quarters, and the lights were flickering and hazy. Between the smoke, the alcohol, the looped music, and the floaty vision, one felt as if one were drugged, in some sort of half-aware state.
You need preternatural senses just to keep your wits about you. Wesley anxiously watched her move around, looking for her target.
She found him. It was a him this time. Pale, big eyes, shirt cut to the waist, and long hair pulled back in a ponytail. Fell out of a seventies rock poster and into my lap. Son of a bitch is showing the neck scar and everything.
Faith brushed past him, felt her spine tingle. The way he looked at her, she knew he felt the same awareness.
Hers said, "monster."
His screamed, "Ripe for the picking."
"Buy you a drink?"
I am the drink, you bastard. Faith smiled, "I'm more of a dancer."
"Mmm. You look like you can really move, Baby." His hands found her hips.
In a booth, nursing a whiskey and soda that was nearly all soda, Wesley's hand found a stake when the creature touched her. Get your hands off of her...
Faith moved away from him, senses on fire. The bad kind, the kind so cold it burns, or so hot you're stung and you're suddenly numb. "Oh, I do. I move all kinds of good. Wanna see?" She offered shamelessly. Her stomach was tense. Get it over with. Get him outside, plunge through the heart, dust off your hands, and you're a real Slayer again.
"Mmhm, yeah, baby." He flipped her a quarter. "Show me. Pick a song and show me."
"I meant-" If she rushed him, he'd get suspicious. He was already giving her a quizzical look as she hesitated. Faith gave an extra flirtatious laugh, deep and throaty, one that made his eyes close as he inhaled longingly. "I meant other kinds of moves, but I could give you a preview, Tiger."
"I like the way you think." He followed her to the jukebox.
Discreetly, Wesley followed them, watching Faith to see if she was giving him any warning signs. She seemed completely confident, laughing as that undead lout hung around her, practically licking her neck under the guise of whispering in her ear. His fingers tightened, then loosened. Steady, old man. She's used this ploy many times, and she's been successful. Watch her. Just keeping watching her.
She rolled the quarter down the slot, ran her fingers over the little black buttons. "All these are so old."
"In my day, these were the brand new hits." The vampire laughed softly against her skin.
"Your day?" She turned, smile a little darker. "How old are you?"
He got a sudden, twitchy look in his eyes, and shrugged. " Let's just say I look good for my age."
Just bet you do. Well, let's rock on. Let's do this thing. Her fingertip pushed a button of a song she didn't really know, but had some vague recollection of hearing. Plus the title- just so perfect for her tonight.
"Great choice." The vampire purred and pulled her away from the machine, into one of the many odd pockets of space in the crowded bar. "I knew I was gonna be lucky tonight."
"You have no idea." Faith purred in turn. Stupid, stupid vamp. Geez, dude, you'd never make it on a Hellmouth. He'd pulled them into one of the nooks with a mirror. His back to it, she couldn't see the back of his head. She couldn't see him in the mirror at all. Any idiot would realize something was wrong when their partner suddenly turned into the invisible man. She could literally see nothing but herself, looking through him and his lack of reflection. And what's more- she could see Wesley was now directly behind them, leaning on one of the random light poles, trying to look disinterested as his eyes bored holes into her.
Wesley sat up straighter as the two moved into a corner, focusing all his energy on being a subtle observer, yet staying poised to rush in if needed. He tried to ignore the nagging question of "What exactly will I do if I needed to rush in?" Just keep watch for now.
The vampire was clearly in front of her, yet if he moved his head just a bit- it looked as if Faith were dancing alone, seducing her reflection. She winked.
He gulped. Or someone else's reflection. She licked her lips. He hastily looked away, but that didn't help once the last song died, and Faith's selection came on.
Hey kid, rock and roll
Rock on, ooh, my soul
Her hips swung, slowly, but pointedly. Hands in her hair, eyes glowing up at her smiling conquest.
Or at least that's who he thought she was smiling at, though- with those mirrors... That suspension of reality feeling suddenly surged.
Hey kid, boogey too, did you...
Hey, shout, summertime blues
Jump up and down in my blue suede shoes
Hey kid, rock and roll, rock on
She rolled, she moved, hips to his in a slow, rhythmic grind, shifting on the downbeats. She lazily draped her hands around his neck, wet lips shining.
The tempo changed, and so did she. Pushing back from her suddenly groping partner who was itching for a taste now, she turned her back to him, face to face with another man, sitting a few feet away.
And where do we go from here
Which is the way that's clear?
Wesley downed his drink. Her eyes gave him no peace. He knew that it was all part of her play, that she was enjoying her hunt, and- and he was enjoying it too. The fact that...His mind wouldn't readily admit it, but it became more and more clear as the song progressed. The fact that she's dancing for me. She can't be. He looked away. Well, he tried to look away. She riveted him, her gaze seemed to capture his eyes every time he moved.
Still looking for that blue jean, baby queen
Prettiest girl I ever seen
Wesley blinked as her eyes seemed to swallow him up. She isn't what I'd call pretty. She's absolutely, violently, uniquely, dangerously... beautiful. He gave up and drank her in.
See her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean
Their heads snapped up as one. She mouthed the words and he thought he could hear them.
A deeper bass echo, James Dean, gave way to pulsing strings and pulling chords, and he was pulled with them.
She writhed, she rolled, and she forgot about the man behind her, until he rasped, "Time to show me your other moves. Wanna go out back?"
"Sure. Let's go." Her hands slid down her hips provocatively, but this time they lingered, and one hand remained in her pocket.
And where do we go from here
Which is the way that's clear?
Wesley followed them out at a safe distance, heading round the front, losing her for a nerve wracking few seconds that seemed like hours.
When he had a visual again, it confirmed his previous opinion. She had the vampire up against the wall, about to cuddle up against him when her hand flew up, and her hair whipped around. The siren drops the alluring facade and reveals the dangerous woman within.
She's really is stunning. Both the mask and underneath. He felt an unfamiliar thud in his chest, and things seemed to move a little faster inside him, seeking out her tempo.
Still looking for that blue jean, baby queen
Prettiest girl I ever seen
See her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean
"Bitch!" The vampire caught the wrist that was flying toward him, stake raised, and slid into game face with a snarl of shock.
"Oh yeah, baby, say my name!" Faith laughed, even as she saw fangs flashing inches from her eyes, felt him pushing her arm back. The vamp wasn't going down without a fight, but it would be short lived. She'd caught him totally off guard, pulling this change up at the last second. "Actually- don't bother." Faith kneed him in the gut, and brought her foot down on his as he yanked her hair back.
There was pain, and fear, life or death, and it was a rush. An addict suddenly finding their stash after months off the sauce. She laughed again, an exhilarated sound. "Yeah!"
"What are you, one of those freaks who wants to get turned?" The vampire didn't understand the laughter, nor the attack after such a sweet, sensual temptation, one where the arteries were practically begging to feed him, sluicing juice and pumping blood.
"God, no. Just a freak." Faith grunted, punched him, and pulled her second stake as the first one clattered away.
"You're high on something..." The vampire seemed winded as he fended off blows but was unable to land any. "Humans aren't this-" His yellow eyes widened as nightmare rumors revealed the truth. She is real, and she'll hunt you down... "Are you a Slayer?"
"We'll see in a minute." She hit him hard enough to make the ridges and fangs disappear. "After I kill you."
Rock and roll
"Not gonna die!" He waited until one arm was raised and then moved like a blur, head butting her hard in the chest, enough to make her topple back.
Wesley leveled the crossbow on the edge of the dumpster, praying, reciting things in Latin inside his head, sweating blood. I have to let her do it herself.
If she's badly injured because I waited too long, I will never forgive myself.
I mustn't get in the way.
What chance would I have against a vampire? Oh, heavens. What if I shoot her?
He couldn't risk distracting her, so he stayed silent with an effort, praying doubled.
She clutched her ribs, and rolled as he attempted to pin her. "Kinda wanted to be on top." She spat, making her way to her knees, and both bounded up, facing off anew.
Knees over, straddling torso,keeping him down as he struggled, both hands over her head, the stake clasped above. She found herself letting out a single, victorious yell as she plunged. "Yes!"
Rock and roll
Bathed in dust, shaking, laughing, stake rolling away as she slumped forward, then reared back, hands high, face to the moon. She howled into the night, "I'm back!"
"You did it!" Wesley emerged at a run, falling to his knees in front of her. "You were magnificent!"
"I knew you were there!" She gasped, nodding, agreeing. "I knew you'd come riding in if I didn't do it right, so I did. I did!"
"I know you did!" He was jubilant. Impressed. Stunned. How did I ever think slaying was simply a dangerous methodical exercise, a combination of factors and knowledge? It's an art. It's a dance. Sometimes literally...
"I did it- right. I mean, it was- I- oh God, that felt all kinds of wicked good." She shuddered blissfully. "I didn't know I missed it so much, and yeah, it freaked me out, but I- man, I still got the moves!" She gave a half slither, closer to him, laughing still.
"You assuredly do. He was putty in your hands. I admit there were moments I was worried, but I can see first hand that you know what you're doing."
"This time. They aren't all that stupid. He was right in front of a mirror! Hello, big tip off." She wiped her hands off with a look of disgust.
"Honestly! I could see right through him and-" See you.
"Good song, huh, Wes?" Faith asked, licking her lips again. Her pupils were dilated, hair wild and free, and the adrenaline was taking her places no drug could ever get her to.
"I- had a particular affinity for it." He was breathing hard, but she'd done all the exertion. He suddenly noticed their knees were touching. She- oh my. She's breathing quite hard as well. "Faith, are you all right?" He moved back slightly, preparing to get her out of this dirty alley and someplace where she could rest.
"Brand spanking new, Mr. Dean." He helped her up, rising from his knees, and pulling her with him.
He must've pulled too hard. That was his first thought when she fell into him, slamming his back against the wall.
A split second pause. Dark black-brown eyes that were like trap doors, and questioning blue ones that were unknowingly waiting to fall into that unexpected heat.
There was a needy, insistent noise, and her mouth crashed onto his. He was shocked. She was not.
Want it. Need it. Have it. It's part of the blood rush. My come down. My come on. My cum, period, the thing I need to make it complete. God, I needed this, and I want him to have it. I don't owe it to him, he's not asking for it, it's just- just 'cause I wanna.
Won't hurt us. He'd never hurt me. I won't hurt him. Just a simple little post-slay finish. Her fingers locked onto his shoulders hard enough to bruise, and her teeth grazed his lips.
She was hungry. Devouring him. He could feel the heat, the urges, the pure primal-ness of her actions. Completely foreign to him. He was a deliberate, considerate, if somewhat limited partner the few times he'd had a female companion. It was a harsh kiss, she was biting his lip, her tongue raked across his, and he sizzled inside. His fingers tightened on her arms, and he suddenly, clumsily kissed back, some gut reaction. She moaned and let out her trademark deep, evocative laugh as she moved from his mouth, nipping her way across his lips and down his chin. He blinked up at the dark cloudy sky a few times, trying to get his breath back and think through the fog.
"Faith?" He dared interrupt as her mouth worked over his jawline, retracing the trail she'd made with an ice cube a few short weeks ago.
"I think we-"
"Don't think. Feel." She pressed her chest into his pointedly.
Feel? He felt- no, it wasn't romantic, and it wasn't loving, but it was- admiring. Liking. More than liking. Things stirred. And not just because she was pressing to him, eyes risking to meet his every few seconds with a playful, questioning look. It made things spark to life in him, things he wanted, and denied himself. Something wild and passionate, and she's showing it to me... I do absolutely feel honored to be by her side. She makes me feel that same rush. Heat. Spiraling... Risk and the rush and all the edges feel so wonderful when wrapped in the curve of her lips. He grunted and gave in once more.
He cupped her face with one hand. Let the fingers sink into her hair, and kissed her back. Longingly, deeply, slowly, as his hands tangled in her mane, sighing happily. "Faith."
The firestorm inside her abruptly clicked down a few notches to the confusing warmth she sometimes associated with him. This is wrong. She hadn't been kissed like this in- never. There was never happy and sweet. There was "get your rocks off and get out."
Wes won't do that. He won't be in and out, breaking the bed, bruising me good... He won't even do more than one frantic, "I'm sharing your high" kiss tonight, I can tell without even asking him.
She kissed him in the same way he was kissing her, or at least she tried to. She'd said to feel, but she'd never done the feelings kind of feel. She tried to now, instead of a simple physical reaction.
What's it like to kiss the person because they give you that happy crap, that stupid fantasy that maybe nice guys exist on the endangered species list?
Tentative. Slowing down. Fire going out as they kissed more gently, once, twice, easing to a mutual halt, as she tried to learn what it was like when you wanted a person, not the action.
There was a sadness, no, a bittersweetness, as she stopped the fevered kisses. He's not someone I use.
If she'd wound him up, if he wanted to continue, Faith already knew she wouldn't mind. It would be something they both wanted, a "feels too good to stop", simple, joint release.
I already know he's not going to act like that. I should stop, unless he wants to keep going... But he won't want that. I mean, it's Wes. There's respect and trust and stuff like that.
A large part of her, larger than she recognized, hoped that he'd surprise her, not stop at kissing. It would be more comfortable, more familiar, to end up having sex for the hell of it, than to stop for the sake of something - deeper? Nobler? She didn't know. She pulled back completely, eyes suddenly almost shy.
Wesley stopped as well, no further pressing. Shocked. What did I do? What did she do? He touched his lips, blinking. "I do apologize, I-"
"Hey, Wes?" She acted like she'd been in the middle of explaining something complicated. In a way, she had been, but in her head and to herself, not aloud to an audience. It was better not to think too hard, wasn't that what she'd been telling him lately? Now she provided an easy, if only half truthful, answer. "You ever seen that picture where the sailor comes home from some war, and he grabs this nurse, and he kisses her like he's gonna break her in half?"
He adjusted his askew glasses and nodded. He supposed he could see a small comparison. Not broken, though perhaps slightly bruised. Her kisses were forceful, or at least, they had been at first. "Yes, I know the picture. But-"
"I just got back to where I belong. Kind of like that sailor dude?" She licked her lips nervously, and looked at him. "So, I -"
"I refuse to be the girl in this scenario." He cut her off with a gentle smile and jest when she seemed to be struggling.
"Right. You're the hunky British soldier guy and I'm the hottie American GI Jane then. I'd still be all over you. That was - that was welcome home and mission accomplished." She nodded firmly.
Welcome home and mission accomplished. Yes. Yes, she's started to come into her own once again, and I was here to share it as a- wait a moment. "You think I'm 'hunky'?" He asked in surprise.
"I think you're kinda sexy. In a reserved, boring way." Faith realized this was true as she said it. Shit! Shitshitshit.
"I feel both flattered and insulted." Wesley blushed. He got a serious look on his face. "That aside, congratulations and welcome home indeed. A moment of celebration, well deserved." He coughed. "I didn't expect that to-"
"Wasn't planning on it, so you can stop the guilt train." She began walking ahead of him.
He caught up. "Still. I hope you don't think that - a- a momentary aberration changes-"
"You didn't like it, did you?" Faith went from placid to suddenly hurt sounding.
"Are you mad? That was incredible." Wesley cried. Never been kissed like that. I could never even conceive of her being the one to... He shook his head and his thoughts escaped, incomplete. "Truly incredible."
Faith beamed. "So... are we good?"
Puzzled but pleased. It had been a wonderful moment of pure exuberance and fire. It made him tingle. It made him feel things he hadn't experienced before. Best of all, after the sudden gust of desire and adrenaline that swooped them and put them back down, they seemed to have returned to a companionable relationship. Maybe he was making mistakes. He should be more careful. Yet, with Faith, he'd always been reckless. That rebel.
"I'm very good indeed." He peered at her, asking with a mixture of hope and hesitancy, "As long as you're okay with - everything?"
For the first time in months, she felt her words were totally true, "Dude, I am totally rockin' the five by five."
The next morning, they watched the houses an hour before sunrise, parked along the sketchy street. As the light began to grow, three figures scurried into one house, second from the end.
"There could be more inside!"
"Okay. Still easy." She shrugged. "Are you coming?"
"We're going inside?"
"Don't be a wimp. I can't kill them from out here."
"Well- wait!" She was out of the car, and he was trotting after her. "Shouldn't we have a plan?"
"I kill them. That's the plan."
He counted to ten inside his mind. "Excellent. How?"
He only made it to six before he sharply hissed, "Get back in the car."
"I can't leave them in there! We leave tomorrow, I can't leave if I- I haven't finished the job. I can't leave if I know there are vamps and I- didn't finish the job." It had nothing to do with getting her bloodlust out. It was some higher calling crap, some urge to keep innocent blood from spilling, from landing on her already soiled hands. Slaying was so much more fun when you didn't have to think past "Fangs. Stake." Damn. I never looked good in white hats...
Wesley concealed his proud smile. "I don't want you to leave them. I want you to wait an hour until they've gone to sleep. You'll alert them if you storm in there now."
"I'm kinda gonna alert them anyway, what with my killing them and all." She pointed out sarcastically.
He sighed. "Stealth was never your strong point, was it?"
"Um. No." She rolled her eyes.
"I think if you take a minute to examine the-"
"I'm going to replace sexy with pain in my ass." Faith threatened.
"Then I shall be a sexy pain in your ass, and you'll be less injured as you mock me." He gave a smirking smile.
Damn. Still sexy. And still Wes. "Fine. Talk."
They were on the second floor. A sprawling pile of them, males and females, some in game face, others in human. Maybe ten. They must really spread out not to get caught, Faith thought as she silently crossed from the narrow stairs into the hall. She placed a finger to her lips, and he nodded, his eyes alert, wide in the dark. She saw him silently fumble at his hip and then he nodded again.
She lifted the ornate, never used crossbow with its long, sturdy arrows, and aimed. This was a pro's weapon, taken from Wes's stash and stored in their handy-dandy car contraption. It let out three rounds before you had to reload, the arrows rotating into place automatically so all you had to do was aim and fire.
She hated to admit it, but Mr. Caution was right.
In the dark, she gave him the sign, and he nodded, breathing soundlessly. He hurled the loosely capped bottle through the air, aiming for the bare wooden boards at the feet of the sleeping demons.
The bottle shattered, there were gasps and snarls, curses. Five were on fire, burning from the feet up, rapidly turning to ash as Faith took out three in quick succession, without ever leaving the doorway.
Wesley swallowed as two unscathed vamps, murderous in their fury, ran for them. He winced and fired.
Faith spared him a glance. So the bottle was in one hand, his crossbow must have been in the other. And damn- another shower of ash- he's not too bad.
"And then there was one." Faith told the remaining vampire. "There any other nests around here?"
"Like I'd tell you." He snarled, backing away.
"Wrong answer." She turned and picked up one of the arrows from the floor. By the sudden roar and creaking of boards, she knew he was lunging for her.
"Faith!" Wesley screamed, horrified she would act so foolishly, dropping her defenses , even with one vampire, even-
"Fooled you." Faith gasped as he knocked her down- and splattered into dust inches above her. Wesley could now see the thick, polished stake jutting from her hand as she rested on the floor. "Guys keep underestimating me." She said with a sigh and then a cough. "Damn. I hate when I inhale ex-vamp." She twirled the stake, then stuck it back in her pocket.
"Foolish people." Wesley murmured, and bent to help her retrieve the arrows.
"Your plan was good."
"It is terribly disconcerting to wake up on fire." He grinned.
"Yeah, keeps 'em busy, that whole burning to death thing."
"I believe I'm getting a terribly macabre sense of humor." Wesley sighed.
" 'Bout time." She tossed her hair. She rose, broad smile in place. "Eleven in twenty four hours. And you - technically took out half."
Wesley looked both humbled and stunned. "I threw a bottle onto a pile of sleeping demons. I hardly think it counts."
"They're just as dead. It counts. Plus, you're a real sharp shooter. Nice one, Mr. Wayne." She tipped an invisible cowboy hat.
"This may be the best day of my life. I've been compared to two childhood idols, killed a vampire, and kissed by a beautiful woman."
"Dear Diary..." She laughed and nudged him along. "Come on. We have to finish packing."
"And I must see if I can find an occult shop or a parish store that sells holy water."
"Oh yeah, I need to grab something too."
"Faith, we cannot possibly pack a box of popsicles, and we're leaving tonight or early tomorrow. They'll melt."
"It's a six pack. Eat a couple today, I'll take care of the rest. Just save me one."
"Why in the world-"
"Wes. Don't ruin the best day of your life, okay?" She pressed close to his side as they passed through the store, brushing against him with a laugh. He gave her a quizzical look. Suddenly self-conscious, she pushed some hair off her shoulder and asked, "I can't do that now?"
"I - think you surely can. If you want to. I mean, if you'd like to, I-"
"I wanted to. And before you strain your cranium, I did like." Weirdness. "Unless it freaks you out?"
"No." It's closeness. I wanted that. It's far more pleasant than her stalking off and insulting me at every turn. Last night was beyond pleasant. "Not at all."
"Not a big deal?" Don't you make it a big deal. So I found out it's nice to be near someone. No. Big. Deal.
"Not a big deal. No pushing. No pushing away, or pushing -at all. For anything." He assured. "Not that there is anything further." He hastily clarified.
"Totally." She put her item in the little red basket swinging over his arm. "Now shut up and let me get what I want."
"You're not planning to do something that requires icing us down, are you?" He half-joked. She smacked his arm.
"Not anything more than that."
"Hey. Rent's due tomorrow." The manager hailed them as they entered the apartment lobby.
"I know." Faith pushed Wesley ahead of her, and with a questioning look, he went up the stairs. Faith sauntered up to the pervert and whispered. "Come after ten. He's usually at work by then."
He salivated. "See you then. Paid in full?"
"You'll get exactly what I said I'd give you."
"I feel I should warn you that having me navigate I-95 South on only four hours of sleep may be hazardous to your health." It was shortly after three in the morning, and there was a chill autumn rain spattering the windshield.
"I think if we stayed any longer it might be worse for it." Faith laughed.
"Are you ever going to tell me ?"
"You're not ready yet."
"Is it terrible?"
"You didn't- do anything, did you?"
"Wes, I swear, I'm actually being good. We're leaving after a month we paid for, not stiffing the guy. He's even getting a bonus. I'm actually increasing my honesty level. Before I- well- I would have left anyway. I just wouldn't have been so thoughtful."
"I'm suddenly very interested in the roads." Wesley's self-preservation topped curiosity. "Any advice on how we get to Atlanta?"
"Don't stress. Once we get out of the state, I'll drive, you nap. After that, head south, and stop worrying about what you leave behind."
Wesley smiled crookedly at her. "What very good advice."
"I'm just full of surprises." She returned the smile with a smirk of her own.
He used his key after he knocked for the fifth time. Maybe she's waiting in the bedroom.
She wasn't. The place was stripped to the essentials it came with. "Bitch!" He slammed the door behind him, and marched through the place, looking for damages.
None. Considerate bastards, but still bastards. Except for leaving the freezer door half open.
He went to shut it. Something jammed the door.
Single popsicle. Half sheet of paper, funny foreign words written on one side, a hasty, sprawling scrawl on the other.
I said this is what you'd get on day thirty. So here it is, as promised. Punctuated with a winking smiley- with fangs?
"Freaks." He spat.
Underneath it, in much smaller, lighter letters, as if written in an even greater hurry, someone had written,
See you around, Sunshine.
To be continued...