Gifts & Curses

Faith was glad she hadn't had to use her knives yet and that Dana hadn't decided to use them on her while she was out, but they weren't going to do Faith any good hanging across the room with her vest from a nail on the wall. It was the first thing she noticed when her vision refocused. The second thing she noticed was that she was still in the same basement and was tied to a metal support beam not far from where Dana had knocked her out. Her head felt like she'd tried to chug a bottle of Jack and then passed out, but the rest of her seemed remarkably okay. No broken bones or missing limbs and that was a plus when you were in the hands of a psycho baby slayer only interested on killing and maiming.

Speaking of the psycho baby slayer, where was Dana?

Faith sat up and pulled at her restraints, but the electrical cords used to bind her hands and feet together had been tied too tight to simply pull out of.

Great, Lehane. Just fucking great. Maybe next time I go to take down a rogue, I'll stand still and let her use me as a punching bag first, give the bitch a running start. How fucking stupid can you get? Faith chided herself.

Not only had she failed to stop Dana, she had let her guard down long enough for the girl to bash her head in, tie her up, and leave her to die. Now was definitely not one of her best moments. Faith fucked up, she fucked up bad. She didn't even know where Dana was right now and who she was killing. Man, she could be out of the city already. This was bad, wicked bad of the motherfucking variety. Faith had no idea how long she'd been out. There were no windows in the basement and no way to tell if the sun was up yet or not. She couldn't really turn to see up the stairs. She was too far away.

Faith pulled against the cord around her wrists again, feeling the seamed rubber coating cut into her skin instead of busting like she wanted it to.

"Fuck!" Faith yelled out in frustration, "Shit, damn, bitch, cunt, hell, motherfucking fuckwaddage!"

Faith stopped venting her anger and tried to center herself. She could swear at the abandoned building all day (or night, whichever) and it wouldn't get her anywhere. Faith needed to think.

Alright, count backwards: 10…9…8…7…6…5…fuck this, shit! It so wasn't calming her down and she was getting more pissed as the seconds ticked by. Faith sighed and tried her restraints again, not having any more luck than the first two times. She was about to lose it again when out of the corner of her eye she noticed a piece of rusted metal—what might have been part of the hinge for the broken door up the stairs—off to her side. Slowly, she scooted her body in that direction. Her tied feet closed in on it and she pulled it close enough so she could turn around the pole and grasp it with her fingers. She knew she had to use it to cut the cords, but the awkward angle of her wrists made it a difficult thing to maneuver even with slayer strength and dexterity.

Before she could attempt it though, the metal was removed forcefully from her grasp.

"Head and heart, no hands."

Faith let out a deep breath as Dana faced her. The blood markings on her face had dried completely and were more black now than red. Her dark eyes stared straight through Faith, unseeing; haunted. It reminded Faith that she was dealing with a particular breed of crazy that could come and go as it pleased.

"You keep saying that, but I don't think it means what you think it means right now." Faith ventured. She had always been ballsy. Why stop now? "I'm human. You don't want my head or heart. Vamps and demons are the ones you do that to. It's our way once we're chosen. You and me, it's what we have to do am I right?"

"You and me. What we do," Dana repeated hollowly.

"But only to demons and vampires. Not to humans like us." Faith clarified, hoping like fuck she was making some sort of headway.

"Not to humans," Dana repeated, raising the piece of metal she'd taken from Faith so that it was eye level between them, "To monsters and killers. You are a killer, Faith the human slayer."

Faith didn't say anything, surprised more than she should've been that this girl knew about the downsides of her occupation and was using them against her. Unhindered, Dana went on.

"You can't make me do shit! You think just because you're this super bitch from hell you can command me to do whatever you want me to—live how you think I should—but you're wrong," Dana spouted in a new voice.

A voice Faith had heard before.

The last rogue she'd put down—Claudia—had said that to her in Philly just before Faith had subdued her. That night still stuck firm in Faith's memory. The defiant look on the young blonde's face as they stood across from one another; a look that said she'd rather die than be made a prisoner to a lifestyle she didn't buy into just because the Powers that Screw You had saddled her with this gift she'd never asked for—and she had indeed died rather than submit. The smell of rust in the air from the old steelyard Faith had finally cornered her in and the glazed look in the girl's hazel eyes as Faith had dug a hole for her and laid her stiffening body in the ground after the fight was over. Nights like those peppered her nightmares. She thought of herself as reformed now. As batting for the good team, but Dana in her madness had seen through that thin veneer to what she really did. Faith was a killer. A paid killer no less. It wasn't in her actual job description, but Giles had made it absolutely clear that it was required of her because of her "unique talents" as he so fondly put it. Basically translated that meant she had taken a life and because no one else in the Scoobies was in the murderer's club (except Willow and everyone overlooked that because she was Willow), it was automatically Faith's job to continue doing what everyone had turned on her for doing in the first place.

They still didn't completely accept her. Whenever Xander or Dawn or Willow and Kennedy crossed the country and stopped off in Chicago to see how she and Giles were managing, they always looked at Faith with this awkward expression of pity. Like she was still that scared fuck up who broke out of prison to save the world and no one knew what to do with her because she could switch teams at any moment. They couldn't see past what she'd done—not completely.

Out of all of them, Willow seemed to be trying the hardest. Maybe it was because she had filleted a man alive and almost taken down the world, but she seemed the most at ease around Faith. Probably because even though she was good now she was still this wicked powerful witch who had the ability to take Faith down if she turned again and Faith knew that. Still, no one else could look at her without pain. Not even Buffy. Especially not Buffy. Every time she looked at Faith it was like she was a wounded puppy or something. Her smiles seemed forced and she never looked Faith in the eyes unless Faith wasn't looking at her directly. Even after everything Faith had done to prove that she was sorry and that she could be trusted, Buffy still looked at her with the same amount of distrust and uncertainty that Faith had approached Dana with—like she was a wild animal, not a human being.

"Dana, listen to me. Girls like us, we're so powerful that we have to do good or all hell breaks loose, you know? The slayers I killed were bad girls. They—" Faith couldn't even continue with her flimsy reasoning.

She didn't honestly believe that. Those girls had been just like she used to be—not bad, not evil—just screwed up. How could she make excuses for killing them just so Dana would see her in a better light when Faith couldn't even feel good about it herself? Killing them might have saved others from being killed by them, but the list of those hypothetical lives saved didn't make what Faith did right. Dana stared at her in silence, dark eyes boring into her again, seeming to be willing her to admit the truth out loud without the platitudes; without the lies.

Faith swallowed loudly, afraid.

"I'm a killer, Dana. It's true. I kill girls like us who kill other humans instead of demons. I'm a murderer."

Nothing came after the admission but silence. Faith was still surprised she had said those words. Still surprised she had admitted it to herself. Back in murder rehab, that was one of the first steps to healing—acknowledging what you had done and what that made you—and Faith had been able to do it. It had taken her a couple sessions to take that first step, but she had succeeded. But doing it the second time around seemed harder even than the first. After leaving prison, she'd done her best to start fresh, to erase the perceptions other people had of her by giving them a whole new woman to look at and perceive, but the slate wasn't supposed to be clean. She couldn't get away from what she'd done—the people she'd killed in cold blood—and this new person she claimed to be was just a shadow covering up the truth. A truth she had just popped a hole in because Faith couldn't stand to lie anymore, not even to this mad girl who was probably going to be wearing her guts for garters by the end of the evening. Faith didn't care. She probably deserved it.

As in reading her guilt riddled mind, Dana raised the piece of metal she was holding so that the jagged end pressed lightly into Faith's cheek.

"Doesn't hurt if you hold still…" She said. "Don't cry. They can't hear you. No one to help. The other slayers, you killed them."

Faith cringed, wishing she could move away from the metal about to cut into her, but she didn't.

"Yes," she said, quietly.

"You killed them both, both girls," Dana whispered as if trying to understand, letting the triangle of metal in her hand lower slightly from Faith's skin.

"Yes, to keep them from killing," Faith replied honestly.

Dana slumped back on her knees, eyeing Faith blankly. She still held her rusty weapon in the same hand outstretched in front of her, but she looked not mentally inclined to use it. The lights were on upstairs, but nobody seemed to be home.

"I've killed. Will you kill me?" She asked, surprisingly straightforward for all of the roundabout bullshit she'd been talking all night.

"No," Faith answered honestly.

"Why not?"

"Because I can teach you to kill only demons—I want to teach you. You remind me of me when I was your age."

"That's comforting," came a voice from the stairway.

Dana and Faith both nearly jumped a foot in the air. They'd both been so caught up in their own conversation with one another—Dana trying to understand and Faith trying like hell not to become mincemeat—that they'd failed to notice anyone approaching. Faith knew now who it was, the slayer inside of her quieting at the recognition of the one who had come before her. Her predecessor. The rival. The little blonde woman who was so much more than she appeared and so much more to Faith than a friend.

"B," Faith groaned. "What in the hell are you doing here?"

"Hello to you too, Faith," Buffy replied, jumping over the remaining stairs and landing on her feet expertly. "Looks like you've really gotten yourself into a bind."

"Nah, I had it all under control. Just got a little tied up getting to know one another you know?" Faith grumbled, miffed that they were falling back into their comfortable pattern of banter when Buffy had made it clear she hadn't wanted anything to do with her for months. Why was it always so easy to gravitate towards the blonde? To forgive her even?

"Who the fuck called you?" Faith sighed, feeling defeated.

"Giles," Buffy answered, crossing her arms across her chest as Dana backed away and sized up this new threat. "Said you hadn't checked in for a few hours and he was worried, given the circumstances. I was visiting Angel anyway so I thought I would swing by and see how you were doing."

"Figures," Faith grunted.

Always checking up on me, B, is that it? Can't let me fuck up on my own. Just can't leave well enough alone.

She pulled at her restraints again, this time more wildly, using all of her muscles. She might've been willing to let this headcase cut her into a couple hundred bloody ribbons because of her guilt, but Faith sure as hell wasn't going to let Buffy show her up at her own fucking job! Honestly, Faith didn't know what she was more pissed at—Buffy swooping in to save the fucking day or Giles for questioning her ability to do what he told her she had to do or the fact that Buffy was in town to visit Angel when she hadn't once bothered to visit Faith since the destruction of Sunnydale. Self-loathing and jealousy warred for dominance in her chest, loathing that she had let herself get into the mess she was in enough that Buffy had to come in and save her and jealousy that Buffy was in the same exact city, but not seeing Faith. Both were juvenile reactions to the situation, but Faith couldn't fucking help what she felt. She'd given up trying to steer that boat a long time ago.

Buffy—like always—was clearheaded and focused on the problem at hand. She moved her hands from her chest to her side and advanced slowly on Dana, cornering the girl like the trapped animal she probably already felt like.

"Hi Dana. My name is Buffy." There was a cold, no nonsense tone to the older slayer's voice that left no room for negotiation. "I'm not here to hurt you, but I'm not going to let you hurt anyone else either. That includes Faith. We both want to help you and the way I see it, you have two choices. You can either come with us for training and let us care for you or fight me and I can tell from the look of fear on your face that you're not ready for the world of pain that would open up for you. What'll it be then, Dana?"

Damn, Faith cringed at the dark look in Buffy's eyes.

Dana seemed to recognize it too—the complete lack of compassion, the edge of hardness that Faith thought Buffy had only really reserved for her when they were fighting to the death back in their glory days. She knew from experience what Buffy's reserve face meant and Faith didn't want to see this kid have to go through that. Above all, what she really, really didn't want to see was what would happen to Buffy if she ended up killing Dana. Buffy wasn't a killer. Out of all of them, she was the hero, the golden girl. The one to avert the apocalypse and maintain a level and moral head all the way through and if she ended up killing Dana—either on purpose or by accident—it would destroy the person she was inside. Faith couldn't let that happen.

"B," Faith called, feeling the cord around her wrists give a little as she yanked at it again and again with everything she was worth. "She doesn't understand. She's not all there upstairs, you know? It's not her fault."

Buffy glanced at Faith briefly out of the corner of her eyes as Faith struggled and arched against the pillar behind her, then shifted her eyes back to Dana as the baby slayer snarled something at her in another language. The predator in the girl was returning and she was eyeing Buffy now like she was prey, but for all intents and purposes now, Buffy was the slayer among slayers and she wasn't going to be easy to take down. And if Faith had her way, Buffy wasn't going to be taken down at all. However, it was clear that Dana felt threatened not only by Buffy's presence, but also by her words. Her muscles had tensed, her posture had turned more defensive, and Dana was eyeing Buffy warily. For a moment, it looked like Dana might give in and submit, but just as quickly she changed her mind and charged Buffy full on.

Buffy easily sidestepped the Dana's first attempt, but was harder pressed to block the rain of well-aimed punches and kicks that followed. Just as wildly as she had gone after Faith, Dana zeroed in on the older blonde. Buffy fought by the book, blocking blows and redistributing them with a flare that was uniquely her own. Dana didn't have any sort of martial training, but she more than made up for it in her ruthlessness. Dana held nothing back and Buffy stumbled a bit as the girl landed a punch to her jaw, then another to her sternum. Buffy was a great fighter, but it was clear now that Dana had the upper hand after landing a kick to the older slayer's abdomen that sent her reeling to the floor. Dana's craziness made her unpredictable and creative with her attacks, which more than made up for her lack of any sort of training.

Faith heard a loud ripping sound as the cords around her wrists finally broke and she began to untie the ones around her feet as Dana advanced on Buffy, landing a hard kick to her side as the blonde struggled to stand.

Come on, B. You're better than this.

"Buffy! Get up!" Faith shouted as Dana landed another kick, sending Buffy flying into the opposite concrete wall so hard that plaster rained down from the ceiling upon impact.

Dana turned towards Faith and snarled when she realized the other woman's hands were free. Faith had her feet free in another minute and stood.

"Hey psycho bitch, why don't you leave blondie alone and focus on me. I'm the killer remember. I'm the one you wanted to carve up so let's give it another whirl."

Dana yelled as she rushed Faith head on, her first few punches easily deflected like before. Faith jumped over a kick designed to trip her up and flipped backwards in the air using one foot to catch Dana painfully in the chin while righting herself. It was clear to Faith that Dana was tiring again. Her breathing had quickened and her face shone with sweat. Her punches and kicks were becoming more wild, more clumsy and easy to block. Dana was fading fast and she sprung back from Faith, trying to catch her breath, but the attempts turned into a series of painful yelps as three tranquilizer darts shot into the Dana's back. One would usually be enough to take down a slayer for a few hours, but Dana was unusually strong for someone so young and Buffy hadn't wanted to take any chances of her waking up before they were ready for her too.

Dana slid down to the floor, her dark eyes rolling back into her head before closing. Faith looked up and met Buffy's victorious eyes.

"Nicely diverted, Faith," Buffy said walking up to Faith and invading her personal space, slipping the gun she'd borrowed from Wesley back into the seat of her jeans where she'd pulled it from and smiling like she'd just won a prize or something.

Maybe Buffy had loosened up since they'd last seen one another. She seemed to have less of a stick up her ass about this whole situation than Faith had anticipated.

As they stood there just staring at one another, Faith felt the warmness directed at her from the only person she'd ever wanted to have it from and felt her insides melt and a wide shit eating grin spread across her face. Maybe it really wasn't so bad to have her ass handed to her by the blonde every once in a while. It kept Faith from giving into her dark side and reminded her that Buffy—though she would never admit to it—did actually give a shit about her. And that made all the difference in the world.

"Anytime, B. Anytime."

Thanks for reading! Hope everyone enjoyed it. Leave a review on your way out. Reviews inspire me to write more. ;)