DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all the slayerettes belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Originally posted to my fanfiction.net account under the same title.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To howlingturtle[at]hotmail.com

Hard Lesson
By SilverTurtle


"It doesn't have to be this way, Faith!" Kendra cried out as Faith took another wild swing at her with her dagger and Kendra slid out of the way and put some space between the two of them.

"Yes, it does!" Faith growled back, "There can't be two of us, K. Especially not since I've gone bad!"

'Gone bad' Kendra mused. She'd not gone bad. She'd been backed into a corner. Made desperate by grief, her need for someone to care, a burden of destiny she hadn't been trained for, and lack of support from those meant to guide her. She had taken the only path she'd seen out. She'd accepted a position from the Mayor, a man behaving like a father to her, to help the demons but as yet hadn't committed anything irreversible.

Faith stood back and rolled her head on her shoulders, obviously limbering up. "Now are we gonna dance or are we gonna fight? 'Cause I got to tell ya, K, this pussy footin' you're doin' is really startin' to get on my nerves." Faith lunged, her dagger tearing through Kendra's shirt but not making contact with skin.

Kendra batted the dagger away and brought her elbow up into Faith's face landing a solid blow on her cheekbone and making the taller brunette rock back on her heels. It didn't stop Faith who came back swinging, her left fist making a bid for Kendra's nose while her right jabbed for her waist. Both blows failed to land as Kendra leapt backwards, flipping out of the way. "Why are you doing this Faith? It serves no purpose!"

Kendra had never seen Faith fight like this. She was more controlled and vicious than Kendra had ever seen her, trying to goad Kendra, and yet she was still taking hits that shouldn't have landed and failing to follow up on weaknesses Kendra had trained her to exploit. This wasn't the reckless abandon Kendra was used to seeing from Faith in a fight, there was no joy in Faith, no sense of the usual invigoration the younger girl held when engaged in battle. It was almost as though Faith had no desire to win at all. As though she were only going through the motions. Like she'd been defeated already and was just waiting on Kendra to make the final strike. But that was a move Kendra was unwilling to make. She saw there was good in Faith, she just needed to make her believe it.

"Don't need a purpose. I got my orders and I'm followin' 'em. It's what bad guys do." Faith charged again, spinning to attempt a roundhouse kick Kendra could have avoided in her sleep.

"You've made mistakes, Faith. But we can fix them. Together." Kendra dodged Faith's kick and came up right in Faith's face to deliver a series of punishing jabs to the other girl's ribs and one devastating blow across her jaw.

Faith staggered and laughed. It was a humorless and defeated sound. "No, we can't." Faith panted, her voice cracking with emotion, "Don't you see, K? I'm trash. Always been trash, always will be trash. An' now I'm doin' what I was born to do: fuck things up. There wasn't ever supposed to be two Slayers. So you stop me here, or I stop you," she pointed at Kendra with her dagger, "Because there's no turnin' back now, lover."

And Kendra suddenly realized what Faith wanted, why she was behaving this way. Her voice was cold and small as she asked, "You want me to kill you, don't you?"

Faith smirked, "Gotta admit, it would solve both our problems. You kill me an' the big guy hasn't got his pet Slayer anymore. You won't have to worry about waking up with a knife in your gut and I won't have to worry about putting it there. I die and a new girl gets Called to help you out. It's a win-win, K."

"Selfish bitch," Kendra shook her head as a sick smile pulled at her lips. She loved Faith, and she knew that killing Faith would effectively kill her too. She'd become a monster, a killing machine. Like she'd been before Faith had come into her life and made everything brighter. She looked up into Faith's confused but wary brown eyes and asked in a hard voice, "And if I don't kill you?"

Faith's face lost all expression, her voice mockingly triumphant as she said, "Then I kill you, the Mayor wins, and I'll be sittin' in tall cotton when the world turns to Hell. I still win." She paused, her lips twisted into a wicked little smirk, "I kill you and I make something of myself. Won't be trash anymore. I'll be special. Evil, but special. The Dark Slayer. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?" But Faith didn't move to attack, she just stood with that smirk and blank eyes and watched Kendra.

"But that's not what you want," Kendra said, thinking aloud, "You don't want to kill me any more than I want to kill you. You know this isn't right. You know we're meant to help each other, to fight evil together."

"Yeah, well, I'm evil. So help me out and put me out of my misery." Faith spread her hands, the dagger still fitted in her palm.

"No. We can still work this out. We can go back and fix everything!" Kendra let slip her usual stoic mask and looked pleadingly into Faith's eyes, "No one has to die."

Faith snarled and moved towards Kendra, "Told you already, K. There is no turnin' back!"

With a wordless cry of rage and despair Kendra threw herself at Faith and beat on her mercilessly, feeling her heart break with each landed blow. "We could, if you weren't such a coward!"

Faith rallied, catching Kendra's next punch and delivering one of her own, "I'm no coward, K."

Kendra broke away and stepped back, "Then why are you taking the easy way out?"

"Easy?" Faith asked, incredulous, "You think this is easy for me? Shit, K. You don't know a damn thing. I tried to be better. I tried to help people, tried to be all noble an' shit an' look what happened! I get my Watcher killed and fall for the first pretty words I hear 'cause I want a daddy so badly it hurts. He bought me, K. An' if I can be bought by a shiny knife I ain't a hero. I'm not like you, I'm a bad guy."

"Idiot," Kendra said bluntly. "You made a mistake. Instead of wallowing in self pity you could get your head out of your ass and make things right. We're the Chosen Two, Faith. You told me that. Two girls in all the world to stop the monsters and the demons from destroying our world. We belong together. You believed it once, can't you believe again? I don't want to give up on you, Faith. And I won't. I know that together we could stop him if you'd just let me help you."

She stretched her hand out to Faith wanting nothing more than for the younger girl to take it, to accept that their bond was stronger than any perceived evil within her, to believe that Kendra would help her through this. That she could be put on the right path. That Kendra loved her more than the Mayor, for all his lies and sweet words and expensive weaponry, ever could.

"I've done a lot of stupid stuff, K." Faith's voice held a note of regret.

"We will fix it." Kendra voice was sure.

"I turned my back on you." Faith reminded her.

Kendra acknowledged that truth with a nod. "And you know now that it was a poor choice. You will not do it again."

Faith let slip a tear, "I don't know how to be strong."

Kendra stepped close and pulled the dagger, that gift from a devil, from Faith and threw it away.

She took Faith's hand in her own.

She said simply, "I will teach you."

The End

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