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AUTHOR'S NOTE: my story archive can be found at: www.thehellmouthrevisited.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Meant To Be
One: The New World
It was April eleventh.
After her workout with Rebecca, Faith spent the night at the Boston Garden, watching the Celtics thrash the Lakers. Rebecca had gotten them the same seats right above the Celtics bench as before, but at the last minute she said she wasn't feeling well, and encouraged Faith to go on alone.
"I'll be fine in the morning, I expect," Rebecca had said. "I'm just...feeling rather fatigued. It's not easy at my age, you know, keeping up with a potential Slayer all day," she added, with a smile.
Faith knew there was something Rebecca wasn't telling her. Rebecca was in better shape than she was, barely broke a sweat in their workouts and kicked Faith's butt all over the mat. But Faith could tell she needed to be alone, so she went by herself to watch the Celtics kick the Lakers' butts all over the Garden that night. The Celtics were as unstoppable as ever, and Faith had a great time watching Len Bias and Reggie Lewis and Shaquille O'Neal kick the hell out of the Lakers and the amazing new guard they had drafted out of high school the year before, while eating hot dogs and booing refs and giving Nicholson the finger on the other side of the court. She was sure he smiled back at her once.
When Faith got home Rebecca was sitting in the dining room in her bathrobe drinking scotch.
"Hey, Becca," Faith said.
"Oh! Faith...how was your game?" Rebecca said, getting up clumsily. There was a small framed photograph on the table in front of her. It was the one Faith had seen in Rebecca's room. A pretty little blonde girl. Faith knew who she must be. But Rebecca never talked about her, and Faith didn't want to pry. There were plenty of things Faith didn't like talking about either.
Rebecca picked up the photo and held it down by her side, as if to hide it. She swayed a little.
"Celts kicked butt as usual," Faith said, watching her.
Rebecca walked toward her, and nearly fell. Faith rushed forward and grabbed her arm.
Rebecca reeked of scotch. Her eyes were puffy and red.
"Come on, Becca...how about we go sit on the couch for awhile, huh?" Faith said.
"Yes...that's..." Rebecca said, trying to stand up straight, and dropped the photo. The glass broke.
"I...dropped it..." Rebecca said, looking down at it in shock. "It's broken."
Faith knelt down and picked it up. "Just the glass," she said. "We'll get a new frame."
"I broke it," Rebecca said. "I broke it."
She dropped to her knees beside Faith on the floor, and tried to pick up the pieces. She nearly fell over. Faith steadied her.
"Hey. Becca? It's okay," Faith said. "I got it. We'll buy another frame for it, okay?"
Faith put her arm around her. "Okay, Becca?" she said.
Rebecca nodded. Faith hugged her.
"Come on, Becca," Faith said. "I'll put on some coffee and we'll go in the parlor, okay? Come on, here we go..."
Faith got her up, brought her into the living room, sat her on the couch, and put the coffee on.
They sat silently together the rest of the night, drinking coffee. Rebecca's deep blue eyes were looking at something very far away.
A little before midnight Rebecca said, "My ex-husband had my daughter Gwendolyn for the weekend and a vampire killed them both at the carnival in Glastonbury. She was six. She would have turned sixteen today."
Faith stayed with her, and held her hand, until Rebecca fell asleep.
Faith went upstairs, put the photo back on the little antique table beside Rebecca's bed, and came back to the living room with blankets and pillows. She made sure Rebecca was comfortable on the couch, put one of the blankets over her, and set a pillow beneath her head. Then she took the other pillow and blanket to the recliner next to the couch, and went to sleep.
Faith woke up in the recliner the next morning to the smell of bacon. Rebecca walked in and smiled at her, all showered and fresh and pretty and not a hair out of place, looking like a million bucks even when she was hung over.
"Good morning," Rebecca said. "I made breakfast. Shall we see how badly I botched the bacon and eggs?"
The bacon and eggs weren't that bad. Faith thought the eggs were maybe a little runny and the bacon was a little undercooked. With ketchup and orange juice it all worked out okay.
"Well. We certainly had an eventful night, didn't we?" Rebecca said. "Thank you, Faith, for staying with me last night. April eleventh is...a hard day for me. I had hoped it would be easier this year."
"Becca...no one's strong all the time, y'know?" Faith said. "We all hit snags."
Rebecca nodded, and drank her coffee and ate a tiny bite of her toast.
"Your daughter was a beautiful girl," Faith said.
"Thank you," Rebecca said.
"Is she why you became a Watcher?"
"My great-grandfather was a Watcher. I knew about them, they even tried to recruit me, but I always resisted joining...in those days, the only girl I wanted to watch over was Gwendolyn." Rebecca smiled. "After her funeral, I applied for membership and was accepted. Since then I've trained potential Slayers."
"She'd be proud of you."
"I...like to think so."
"Any of the potentials you trained actually become Slayers?"
"No. There are about two-thousand potentials in the world at any one time. So actually becoming the Slayer is rather like winning a lottery. But someone will. And they'll survive longer if they're trained. Some potentials go on to become Watchers themselves."
"Hey, you had me thinking I was all cool and stuff and now you're telling me I'm like, one in two-thousand. So not fair," Faith said.
"There's magic in you, Faith," Rebecca said. "How do you think we find potentials? And vampires seek out potentials especially. Your blood is potent to them. There are also those who have targeted potentials in attempts to destroy the Slayer bloodline. No one has come close to succeeding yet, but someone may try again someday. It's imperative we find and protect as many potentials as we can. But even if you never become a Slayer, you'll be important. You needed to open your eyes to the world...to the ongoing battle. You'll be part of that battle, Slayer or not. Some people while away their lives on the couch. That isn't for you."
"I kinda like hanging on the couch."
"I notice you also like fighting."
"Yeah, that too."
"Evil touches all of our lives. It touched yours..."
Faith looked down at her eggs. She wasn't sure how, but Rebecca knew about her mother.
"And it touched mine," Rebecca said. "And we can't blame ourselves."
Rebecca took Faith's hand. "Faith," she said. "We can't blame ourselves."
Faith nodded, still looking down at her eggs.
"What matters is how you deal with it," Rebecca said. "What you do next. Evil is like a plague. Some people become infected with it, and inflict it on others. Some weather it, but never really recover...they're broken inside. But some people decide to rise above it, and fight. That's what I decided to do. And it's what you're going to do."
Rebecca finished eating and stood up. "But in any event, the morning is dragging on and we haven't even had our run yet," she said. "Let's get to it."
"Hey, just throwing this out there?" Faith said, as she finished her eggs. "But since you're sorta hung over and we both got like four hours of sleep I was thinking it'd be cool if we gave ourselves a day off. Y'know, we could shop, maybe get our nails done..."
Rebecca raised her eyebrow. "It's cold out there this morning, and we'll be doing an extra long run today to shake off the cobwebs, so wear something warm," she said.
"Worth a shot," Faith said with a smile.
Faith found out she was the Slayer one Tuesday night in May when she threw a guy named Brendan over the bar at The Roxy.
Rebecca had a visitor that day. His name was Trevor and he was British, and he was going to take Rebecca out dancing, "and perhaps we'll eat at that wonderfully crude steak house on Route One." Faith thought Trevor was a pretty good cut of meat himself...six feet tall, good build, his slacks nicely accentuating his butt and his sweater showing off his broad shoulders; he rowed in his spare time and it showed. Dark hair brushed back, a big toothy British smile and blue eyes with a playful twinkle. Way to go, Rebecca, Faith thought. Apparently he and Rebecca had been dating off and on for a year or so and he had just arrived in town as a visiting lecturer at Harvard. Trevor shook Faith's hand and said, "So this is our Slayer in waiting. Absolutely stupendous to meet you, my dear girl."
"Be home promptly by one a.m., and don't test me," Faith said, in an English accent that was a very good approximation of Rebecca's. Trevor laughed. "Oh, I like this girl, Becky, I really do," he said.
Rebecca smiled at Faith, and raised that eyebrow of hers. "I like impertinence, Faith," she said. "But only up to a point."
"What's impertinence?" Faith said.
"Being inappropriately presumptuous," Rebecca said. "Now run along and have a nice night with Evan."
"Got a joke for you," Evan said, with that sly wolf's smile he had, as he and Faith sat on wobbly stools at the bar in The Roxy after his first set, Evan drinking his usual margarita, Faith drinking her usual Coke. Faith could've found ways to sneak a drink here and there, but Rebecca didn't want her drinking until she was eighteen...and Faith didn't miss booze anyway. Memories came with it.
"Oh, no," Faith said, and smiled. She couldn't help smiling around him. Evan was a big goof. A big, gorgeous goof.
"Okay, so these three like, English explorer guys are exploring this deserted island, right? And they get captured by this evil pygmy cannibal tribe."
"Why are they English?"
"Fine. They're not English. What do you want them to be?"
"I don't know. Swedish?"
"Why English?" Faith said, and they both started giggling. Faith liked trying to screw up Evan's jokes.
"Fine," Evan said. "Three Swedish explorer guys get like, captured by this evil cannibal tribe. Okay?"
"So they're captured, and tied up. And the leader of the evil cannibal tribe says, 'You have two choices, white man. Death, or ki-ki.'"
"Death, or ki-ki?" Faith said.
"Death, or ki-ki," Evan said. He finished his margarita. "Dan, need another round over here, bro!"
"How bombed are you on a scale of one to ten?" Faith said.
"Four," Evan said. "I'm in the giggly phase but I haven't started slurring words yet. So the first explorer guy says, okay, I'll take ki-ki. And then..."
Dan brought them another round.
"That was fast," Faith said.
"Had it ready to go," Dan said. "When Ev gets in margarita mode you just keep 'em coming. But this is it for now, dude, you have another set later."
Faith reached for her purse, but Dan waved her off. "Your money's no good here, Faith," he said. "Ki-ki joke?"
"Yeah. Should I be worried?" Faith said.
"You be quiet," Evan said, waving his finger at Faith's face, and missing.
"You sure he's gonna be okay to DJ?" Faith said.
"I have a routine with him," Dan said. "His second set's in an hour, after this I'll get him onto ginger ale. He'll be fine. He likes being a little tipsy for his second set anyway. 'Course, he did play 'Rhinestone Cowboy' that time..."
"It's a good song!" Evan protested.
"It's not a good song, and you sang along with it," Dan said. "And yeah, the cowboy hat? 'Nuff said."
"That was just that one time," Evan grumbled, apparently talking to his margarita now.
"Okay, well, as long as you're taking good care of my man," Faith said.
"Don't worry, hon, I got it covered," Dan said, and walked away.
"Okay, so back to the joke. The first explorer says, 'I'll take ki-ki', and then all of a sudden like thirty of the cannibals tear his clothes off, and start fucking him in the ass..." Evan said, and gulped down half of his margarita.
"Oh, my God," Faith said, closing her eyes and giggling.
"And fucking him in the mouth and doing all these horrible things to him," Evan continued, undeterred. "So the second explorer guy sees this, and he figures being fucked by pygmy cannibals is better than being killed. So when the tribe leader says 'You have two choices, white man. Death, or ki-ki'..." Evan was doing a very bad impression of a pygmy cannibal that sounded like he was trying to imitate Mr. T after breathing helium. It made Faith burst out laughing. Evan rubbed her shoulder until she stopped. "So the second explorer's like, fine, whatever, I guess being fucked by thirty pygmies is better than being killed, and he says 'I'll take ki-ki,' and braces himself, and the pygmy guys grab him, tear his clothes off, and fuck him in the ass and the mouth. So anyway..."
Dan passed by on his way to the other end of the bar. "You're in the home stretch," he said.
"So anyway," Evan said, grabbing Faith's hand to make sure she was still listening. "The tribe leader says to the third explorer guy, 'You have two choices, white man...'"
"Death, or ki-ki!" Faith said, and did her own impression of a pygmy cannibal that sounded like Darth Vader would sound if he was high. They both started giggling again.
"And so the third explorer guy says, 'Screw you! I'm not doing this ki-ki stuff. No way any man's fucking me in the ass!'"
Evan said that last part a little too loud, and with a raised fist for emphasis. People at the bar started staring, and Faith put her hand over Evan's mouth, laughing so hard her cheeks were hurting.
"Ev...? Honey, baby, darling?" Faith said. "I think you're up to maybe a six now."
"Five," Evan said, his voice muffled beneath Faith's hand. Faith took her hand away, and Evan said, "I'm only at five because I'm still not slurring my words." He took another big gulp of his margarita. "So like, the third guy says, 'I choose death, you bastards!' And the tribal leader looks at him, and then he says, 'You are very brave, white man...'" Again Evan did his Mister T impression, and again Faith burst out laughing. "And then the tribal leader says to the third guy..."
Evan was grinning at Faith, or at least in her general direction, his eyes apparently focused on a point just above her left shoulder.
"And then the tribal leader says to the third explorer guy, 'Very well! Death...by ki-ki!" Evan shouted, and banged his fist on the bar, and spilled what was left of his margarita, and laughed like it was the funniest joke in the history of the universe. Faith laughed too, and grabbed some napkins and cleaned up the mess Evan had made.
"Whoa," Evan said. "Think I jush shit six."
"Ginger ale time," Faith said.
"Ginger ale time," Evan said, his eyes wandering to Faith's legs. She was wearing a short skirt and knee-high boots. Faith didn't usually wear skirts; she wanted to see if Evan would notice her legs. "Jesus Christ, you're beautiful," he said. He put his arm around Faith and leaned his head on her shoulder. "Tired all of a sudden. Just...wanna snuggle up with my girl."
"Okay, Ev," Faith said. "Time to sober up. You just let me and Dan take care of you, okay?"
"My girl," Evan said softly, and dozed off with his arm around her.
He was drunk. Faith knew he didn't really mean it.
"Yeah. That's me," Faith said.
Faith got hit on most nights at The Roxy, usually when she was at the bar, getting her wind back after a long stretch of dancing. Guys (and a few girls) would try to buy her drinks, and she'd drink the non-alcoholic ones and smile politely, and not give her phone number out because it was Rebecca's number. But she had a large and growing collection of phone numbers from guys that she hadn't called back. Faith didn't trust guys. One after another, they had treated her like she could be bought. Like something to be used and discarded.
She had been ignoring guys that night, hanging with Evan and getting him ready for his second set, and then getting back onto the dance floor once he got back in his booth. She didn't know how he did it but you wouldn't have been able to tell he had been half drunk an hour before. As Faith danced, a hot blonde guy sitting at a table in the corner caught her eye. He was watching her too, his eyes all over her while she did her thing, dancing to her favorite tunes, the fast ones that really got her engine running. He smiled at her, ignoring the three giggling preppy girls who kept making excuses to walk by his table.
He finished his drink and came over to Faith, with his nice body and his little diamond earring and his killer smile, and got up in her space and danced back at her. He knew how to move, and Faith liked the way he did it in those pants. This one might just be a little too hot to pass up, she decided, so she let him into her space and danced around him, tailoring her moves to his, and they stepped around each other like they'd practiced it all their lives, and then they were right up close and it was a slow song, and his arms were around her.
He whispered something in her ear, but the room was too noisy.
"What?" Faith said.
The whisper again, though he wasn't whispering, he was actually talking pretty loud, to no avail. "I'm..." he said, and Faith missed the rest.
"What?" she said again, giggling.
"I'm Brendan!" he shouted, just as the music suddenly cut out, and his voice carried across the room like the announcer at a wrestling match. Everyone in the club laughed. "Let's hear it for Brendan, folks," Evan said into his microphone, and everyone applauded. Faith looked up at Evan in his booth and giggled. He smiled back at her. He didn't look jealous. Damn, Faith thought.
Then Faith looked back at Brendan, and she couldn't resist: "Hey, no reason to shout, Brendan," she said, and burst out laughing.
He kissed her. Faith thought it was a little too soon, but he had worked for it. It was a pretty good kiss, too.
When the music came up again, Faith felt strange. At first it felt like a wave of nausea. But then it passed...and she suddenly felt better than she had ever felt before. She was full of energy. She needed to dance. Evan was playing a good, fast song, and Faith started moving. Brendan matched her move for move, and kissed her again, with some tongue this time. Faith smiled, and pushed him away. "Hey, cowboy, let's take it easy, okay?" she said in his ear.
"What?" he said, grinning, and kissed her again, forcing his tongue into her mouth. She pulled away.
"Seriously, dude, come on. Let's just dance, okay?"
He smiled and nodded apologetically. They danced. But now his hands were getting a little too friendly, groping her butt. Faith moved them back to neutral territory. "Brendan, come on. Please?" she said.
"Can't hear you," he said, and moved his hands back down onto her butt. Faith yanked them back off.
"Dude. Stop it, okay?" Faith said. "I'm not like that."
"C'mon, don't be a tease," he said.
He yanked her toward him, and shoved his tongue in her mouth again.
"I said stop!" she shouted, and pushed him away. "What the hell? I thought we were having fun here! What the hell are you doing?"
"What's your problem?" he said.
"My problem? My problem is you're treating me like crap. What the hell do you think I am?"
"Whatever," he said, and threw up his hands. "I thought you were fun."
"You mean you thought I was a slut," Faith said.
"Get over yourself. I can have any girl here anyway. You're not all that."
"Know what? I thought you were a cool guy. Turns out you were just another dick," Faith said, and walked off the dance floor. But she still felt like she had energy to burn.
Brendan pulled her back toward him. "Know what I thought you were?" he said. "My fucking cum dumpster." And he laughed at her, and walked away.
Faith stood there, speechless, and almost started to cry...
Then she grabbed his arm and threw him twenty feet across the room.
People scattered away as he crashed into the bar, smashing bottles and sending drinks flying everywhere...
Faith wasn't sure what had just happened. She looked around the room. Everyone was staring at her.
"Faith!" Evan shouted, and jumped over the booth and ran to her, and threw his arms around her. "Are you okay? Are you okay, baby?"
"Ev?" Faith said. "I don't..." She saw herself in the mirror behind the bar.
"Oh, my God," she whispered.
It wasn't her. It looked like her, but, somehow...it wasn't her...
And then she knew what had happened.
"Ev, I'll...call you tomorrow, okay? I just...I don't feel...I gotta...I gotta go..." Faith stammered.
And she tore herself away from Evan, and ran...
She ran straight back to Rebecca's house at a full sprint. She never felt tired, never had to take even one deep breath. It would have been a ten-minute walk; she made the run in less than sixty seconds.
She noticed the full moon looking down at her as she ran, a perfect circle of pure white.
She charged into the house and bounded up the stairs three at a time and ran into Rebecca's bedroom on the third floor. It was past midnight. Rebecca was sleeping. Faith switched on the little antique lamp on the bureau.
"Becca!" she shouted. "Becca!"
Rebecca leaped out of bed. "Faith! What's wrong?" she said.
"I'm the Slayer," Faith said.
They were in the gym. Rebecca stood by the weight bench in a blue terrycloth bathrobe, piling a hell of a lot of weight on the barbell. Faith thought she looked beautiful, as always. Twelve-thirty at night, just rolled out of bed, and not one blonde hair out of place. That's how she looked every morning too, even before she put her makeup on. Faith always wondered how she did that.
"Bench press this," Rebecca said.
"Bench press that?" Faith said. Then she remembered running back to the house...how she never felt out of breath. She remembered the energy she felt...
"Bench press it," Rebecca said, in that tone she had, the one Faith knew meant now.
The energy was still there. It pulsed through Faith like a sugar rush...but it was constant. It would always be there. She would always feel like this...
Faith giggled, said "sure," and got on the bench.
She looked up at the barbell. It looked heavy.
She lifted the barbell off the rack, lowered it to her chest, lifted it straight back up again with hardly an effort, and set it back on the rack. It amazed her, how easy it was. She could have sworn she was lifting, at most, thirty pounds.
Rebecca put two more big plates on the barbell. "Again," she said.
Faith lifted it again. It was still easy; she still barely felt the weight.
Faith set the barbell back on the rack. Rebecca went around the room picking up plates, and loading the barbell up with as many as could fit.
"Now," Rebecca said. "Again."
Faith felt it a little bit, this time; she could tell she was lifting something heavy. But it was still easy, and she got the weight up without any real effort. She kept benching it, two reps, three, four, her arms still not tired...how much could she lift now? Just how strong was she?
"That's enough," Rebecca said. "You can stop now." Faith set the barbell back on the rack and sat up.
"How much was I just benching?" Faith said. They had done their chest and triceps routine the day before. Faith could just barely eke out three sets of bench presses at one-hundred pounds, with a lot of help from Rebecca on the last set; she could get one-hundred and thirty up once, with Rebecca spotting her. "Eight-hundred and forty pounds," Rebecca said.
She was benching eight-hundred and forty freaking pounds.
She was the Slayer! The Slayer!
Faith looked up at Rebecca, expecting her to be happy, expecting her to be proud...
Rebecca forced a small smile. "Come on," she said. "Let's..."
She turned away from Faith, as if she didn't want her to see her face.
"Let's celebrate," Rebecca said.
Faith sat in the big first floor dining room, at the long table with candles on it under the fancy chandelier. The room was dark, but the street lamp outside bathed her in a little pool of light as she looked out the window at Commonwealth Avenue. It had started to rain, and the colors from the street lamps and the traffic lights mixed and melted together on the slick wet street, red and green and yellow on black, making everything seem a little unreal, like a dream. Rebecca came back from the liquor cabinet with a bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil champagne and two champagne glasses, sat down beside Faith, and lit the candles.
"Have you ever had champagne, Faith?" she asked.
"Nope," Faith said.
"I think you'll like it."
Their shadows flickered on the walls. Faith felt like she was in church.
Rebecca poured two glasses, and raised her glass to her.
"To the new Slayer. To Faith Lehane. To my girl," Rebecca said, and smiled. They touched glasses, and drank.
Faith knew Rebecca; she knew something was wrong. She'd figure it out eventually.
Faith liked the champagne. "Why do I get the feeling this stuff is really expensive?" she said.
"Because you're a smart girl with a discerning palate," Rebecca said.
"What's a discerning palate?"
"A keen sense of taste."
They finished their champagne, and Rebecca poured two more glasses.
"And now...one more toast," Rebecca said, and raised her glass again.
"To Buffy, and Kendra," Rebecca said.
It hit Faith all at once. If she was the Slayer now...
Someone else was dead.
"Buffy, and Kendra," Faith said, and understood, for the first time, what exactly being a Slayer meant. She hadn't felt the weight before, in the gym. Now she did. She felt the weight on her shoulders, now...the weight she would carry the rest of her life.
They touched glasses, and drank.
Rebecca had decided to get good and scuppered. She wasn't quite there yet, but she was feeling quite relaxed. Good show, Mr. Krug, she thought. You make a capital champagne. She stood in the doorway of Faith's bedroom on the second floor, the champagne bottle and her glass in her hand, watching Faith sleep. Faith was seventeen. Still a girl.
On the wall above the stereo system and the stack of hip-hop CD's that Faith had insisted she needed there hung the painting that Rebecca had bought for her in one of the galleries on Newbury Street. Faith had chosen it. It was an abstract, all swirling curves of deep, dark blue. "That one," Faith had said, pointing right at it.
Faith's leather coat was on the floor again; she always threw it on the floor no matter how many times Rebecca told her to hang it up. Rebecca picked it up--quietly, careful not to disturb Faith's sleep--and hung it in the closet.
Faith slept, curled up on her side by the open window. Faith always slept with the window open. A cool breeze was coming in.
Rebecca draped the blanket over Faith, and kissed her cheek.
She shut the door and walked up the stairs to her own room on the third floor--she was a bit wobbly, but not nearly enough, she would definitely need more champagne shortly--and sat down on the frilly four-poster bed, looking in the antique mirror with its gilt baroque frame. On the little table next to the bed, Gwendolyn looked up at her, frozen in that one smiling moment, forever. Rebecca and Faith had bought a new frame for the photo the day after Rebecca dropped it.
Rebecca stood up, and walked to the big mahogany bureau. Standing up suddenly like that told her she was closer to scuppered than she thought. Perhaps just one more glass, Mr. Krug, then we'll call it a night. She leaned on the bureau, looking in the mirror. She would be forty-two in August, though most people thought she looked ten years younger. But there were crow's feet at the corners of her eyes now, and laugh lines by her lips too, that most people didn't notice. Her hands rested on a silver tray on the bureau, which held brushes and combs and makeup and perfume. There was an antique porcelain vase next to it, which Faith had bought her the day before from an antique shop on Charles Street, because she knew Rebecca loved flowers. Faith had put tulips in the vase today.
Faith could have used the allowance Rebecca gave her to buy it. But Rebecca had found out from Evan that Faith had worked shifts at The Roxy--sweeping floors, helping behind the bar, checking ID's at the door, whatever needed to be done--to save up for it herself. Faith gave it to her on Mother's Day.
"Damn it Damn it DAMN IT!" Rebecca screamed, and smashed her fists down on the silver tray, and started to cry.
She wasn't sure how long she cried, leaning on the bureau with her eyes squeezed shut, the bottle of expensive perfume Trevor had bought her broken on the floor, spilling out at her feet. When she looked up at the mirror again, she saw Faith there, standing in the doorway behind her, in her nightgown.
"Tell me what's wrong," Faith said. She came into the room, and took Rebecca's hand.
"Do you know...do you know how long a Slayer lives?" Rebecca said. "Nineteen. Nineteen is the average life-expectancy of a Slayer."
When Rebecca looked at Faith, Faith saw something she had never seen before in those eyes, in that ocean of peaceful, calm blue that had been her constant source of strength, that Faith had taken for granted would always be there. She saw something desperate.
"This isn't what I wanted for you, Faith," Rebecca whispered.
Faith hugged her, and now she was crying too...
"I wanted you to live," Rebecca said. "I wanted you to be strong and happy. That's all I ever wanted for you. Not...not this. Not this..."
Faith felt the weight on her shoulders. The weight that would always be there...
They stood like that, crying, a little longer.
Then Rebecca straightened up, and wiped her tears away. And she wiped Faith's tears away too.
Faith looked up at Rebecca, and she saw that the desperation was gone, the ocean in Rebecca's blue eyes placid and strong again.
"So I guess you and I are just going to have to beat the odds," Rebecca said, in that tone she sometimes used, the one that Faith knew meant now. And she smiled. And Faith smiled too.
"Well, we're a frightful mess, aren't we?" Rebecca said, as they looked in the mirror together, and laughed. "Run along and get some sleep, Faith. Tomorrow your training begins."
"Begins?" Faith said. "Then what have we been up to for the past like, six months?"
"The past six months were a nice vacation on a tropical island somewhere, sipping Mai Tais," Rebecca said. "The past six months were training wheels. We're going to beat the goddamned odds. And to do that, we're going to have to do the work. I'm going to work you, Faith. Harder than you've ever worked before. Your combat training? Double it. Then double that."
Rebecca looked at Faith, just the way she did that night in November under the full moon.
"You're going to live to a ripe old age, Faith," Rebecca said. "Because I'm going to make you the greatest Slayer that's ever been."
They spent the rest of that week doing combat drills. Aikido, boxing, Krav Maga, and weapons training, just like before, except now there was a lot more of it. Rebecca wasn't kidding; Faith's combat training time was quadrupled. The good news was Faith would no longer have to run or lift weights; Slayer strength was magical, according to Rebecca, and, short of starving herself, a Slayer couldn't get out of shape or lose muscle even if she wanted to. So Faith spent eight grueling hours a day with Rebecca, working on her fighting technique, getting used to her new body; to her new strength, her new speed, her new reflexes. Everything was strange to her. Just picking things up was different: everything felt lighter. She had nearly perfect aim now, with any weapon that came to hand. She could punch through solid wood. When she walked she felt almost weightless, like she was walking on air. She could sprint at thirty miles an hour for ten minutes before beginning to tire. She could do a thousand pushups.
"Again," Rebecca said. Faith was pretty sure it was Rebecca's favorite word in the whole English language.
It was Saturday, and Faith was in her sweats, in the gym. On her ass on the mat, where she'd been most of the day. Rebecca stood over her, all business.
Trevor was there too, cheering Faith on, saying completely unhelpful things like "You can do it!" and "Oh, you almost had her that time!" whenever Rebecca threw her, which was a lot. It turned out that Trevor was a former special forces commando with a British outfit called the S.A.S., and he liked watching Rebecca and Faith's training routines. When Faith asked what the S.A.S. was, Trevor smiled and said, "We're the people you don't see until it's too late."
Faith groaned, got up, and ran at Rebecca. Faith was sneakier this time: she anticipated Rebecca's move and tried to sweep her legs. It didn't work, and Faith ended up back on the mat, back on her ass.
"Ow," Faith said.
"Oh, so close, Faith, so very, very close," Trevor said.
"You're getting better," Rebecca said. "Still not good enough, but better."
She offered Faith her hand, and pulled her up.
"A Slayer always thinks tactically, Faith," Rebecca said. "She instinctively catalogues her surroundings, noting any terrain or object that can be used for offensive or defensive advantage. A Slayer catalogues her opponent as well, both physically and psychologically, and you did that: you knew I prefer to go to my left and tried to use it against me. Bravo, but I don't really prefer going to my left. I just wanted to see if you'd notice."
They had been doing aikido throws all afternoon and Faith's ass ached. So she smiled with relief when Rebecca called it a day.
"Have mercy on your poor Slayer," Trevor said. "Or we'll be late for our dinner reservation."
"Yes, that's enough for today," Rebecca said, looking at the clock. "We have to drop Faith off at her party too."
She smiled at Faith, and put her arm around her.
"You're doing well, Faith," she said. "You're a natural at boxing, your footwork is excellent and your aikido is coming along nicely. Don't feel discouraged because I can throw you. Aikido is geared toward defeating a superior foe. It's an effective counter to your Slayer strength. That's why you have to learn it."
"Hope Uncle Bob shows up before my butt falls off," Faith said. Rebecca laughed.
"Uncle Bob?" Trevor said.
"Faith likes to poke fun at our quaint British expressions," Rebecca said.
"Ah," Trevor said. "Yes, someone probably should."
"Don't worry, Faith," Rebecca said. "You're learning fast; you'll be throwing me in no time."
"And dear Becky is a fifth degree black belt, don't you know," Trevor said. "Amazing you were even able to lay a hand on her today at all. Not only will Bob be your uncle in no time, but I'm sure Fanny will be your aunt."
Faith raised her eyebrow. Every time she thought there weren't any more weird British sayings, up popped a new one. She made a mental note to poke fun at Rebecca about it later.
"Now run along and get dressed. You don't want to be late for your party," Rebecca said.
After getting her ass handed to her all day Faith thought at first she might not be up for the party at Evan's place that night, but that magic Slayer mojo kept on pumping in her veins and after a shower and a quick bite to eat (Faith's famous grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon and tomato which Trevor called "delightfully primitive") Faith was ready to dance.
Evan's parents were, in his words, "ridiculously rich; really, Faith, it's just ridiculous," so Evan's condo in Cambridge was a breathtaking sight, a huge duplex with a glorious view of the Charles River. The large, sunken living room with its three big blue couches and the rug that felt a foot deep looked like something from the Playboy Mansion, and a giant sound system took up the entirety of one wall, blasting Evan's Roxy playlist through the room, out the windows and across the entire neighborhood. The place even had a terrace, and Evan was out there with the grill going, passing back hot dogs and burgers (Faith ate three hot dogs and two cheeseburgers; being a Slayer was hungry business). There was a fully stocked bar running along the wall separating the sunken living room from the kitchen and it was bigger than the one at The Roxy; if Evan's place had a dance floor, it would have been a better club than The Roxy. Dan was behind the bar, slinging drinks, his blue hair done up in a special new spiked 'do tonight, because his girlfriend was back from vacation.
The place was packed, wall-to-wall, and the music was so loud it sounded like artillery, and everyone was dancing and laughing and drinking and having so much fun that Faith was becoming seriously worried about the cops breaking it up. Then Dan informed her that his Dad was the Cambridge Chief of Police, and Faith relaxed, grabbed a Coke, and kicked back on one of the couches. Someone offered her a joint, which she politely declined.
Once he'd handed the grill off to someone else and finished making the polite host rounds, Evan sat next to her, looked back at Dan and said, "Barkeep, one margarita and don't skimp on the salt, and a Coke for my date, chop-chop."
"Yes, your fabulousness," Dan said.
"I'm glad you came," Evan said to Faith.
"Thanks for the invite," Faith said.
"Don't be silly. How could I not invite my girl? It wouldn't be the same without you. And don't worry, we'll make sure you get a ride home. Dan's doing his designated driver thing tonight, so he can drop you if I get too ridiculous with the margaritas, which, yeah, I'm thinking I might."
"Yeah, I'm thinking you might too. But it's cool, I can always have Becca come get me. What's Dan's girl like? He told me she was coming."
"Name's Terry, she's supposed to be by a little later. She's a drama queen, and she orders Dan around like she's Margaret Thatcher. But then I order him around like I'm Margaret Thatcher too."
Faith thought about how strange her life had become since she'd met Rebecca. She actually knew who Margaret Thatcher was now.
"And she loves him, so there's that," Evan continued. "She's fairly hot. Not Faith hot. She's this petite little blonde thing. They're happy, that's the main thing. He's my bud...I'm glad he's happy."
"You sound a little worried," Faith said. "She monopolizing him a little maybe?"
"Yeah. He loves her. We don't hang out as much. But he's my bud. I'll work with it."
He put his arm around her. It caught Faith off guard.
"I'm putting my arm around you," he said. "Deal with it."
"Sure," she said, and laughed, and leaned against him. It was nice.
"That guy at The Roxy was a prick," Evan said.
"Yeah," Faith said. The memory still cut.
"Yeah. I'm good. But see? Told you I was a loser magnet. It's like I got a sign on my back. 'Hey guys, come dump on me'."
"Not forever. You'll find the right guy. Give it time."
Faith nodded, and wondered how much time she had.
"So are you ready to tell me how you managed to toss him across the room yet?" Evan said. "You were like Wonder Woman. Except without the red white and blue panties."
"It's...just...y'know...like I said. I uh, do some martial arts, here and there," Faith said.
"Don't ask, don't tell. I get it," Evan said, seeing right through her like he always did. "But listen, if you ever need a shoulder? Or a place to crash? You know I'll always be here for you. Don't ever forget that."
They sat for awhile, leaning against each other, and looked at the crowd. Faith noticed two girls watching her like hawks.
"I think those two blondes are gonna put a hit out on me," Faith said.
"Those two," Evan said. "Yeah, they've been up my ass all night. They grabbed my ass, actually. I had to hide in the bathroom for awhile to get away from them. For real. Actually hid in the fucking bathroom at my own party."
"They're kinda hot, you know. Maybe a little on the slutty side..."
"They look good but their brains are on standby. I don't do dumb. Besides, they're not as hot as you. You've kind of spoiled me with your hotness."
"Well, duh," she said, and looked at him. Their faces were very close to each other...their lips were very close to each other. They both acknowledged the moment, and let it pass.
It was nice. Faith liked having a guy who was just a friend. She liked not having to deal with that pressure. Not having to figure out how far to let a guy go this time, where to draw the line. You gave an inch and guys wanted to take a mile. If you let them go too far they thought you were a slut. Not far enough, and they lost interest. She was tired of that game. It was nice, not having to play it...
If only Evan wasn't so damn hot, Faith thought. Damn, damn, damn.
"What?" Evan said, giving her that smile he gave her sometimes, the one that made him look like a fox in a chicken coop. Faith knew that Evan knew he was gorgeous, and she knew that he knew that she liked him, and she knew he was being insufferable about it like he always was because he liked getting her all hot and bothered. Faith wasn't sure, but she thought he might even have been acting impertinent too. But that was okay. Faith liked when Evan was insufferable and possibly even impertinent, and she liked being all hot and bothered for him. So she giggled, and put her head on his shoulder.
"You know," Faith said.
"I wasn't able to make you blush this time," Evan said. "Gave it my best shot too. Did the smile and everything."
"I blushed a little," Faith said.
"You're pretty when you blush."
"You think I'm pretty?"
"Duh. The tip-off was all those millions of times I've called you pretty."
"You've never called me pretty before."
"What are you talking about? I call you pretty all the time. I called you pretty like two minutes ago."
"You called me hot."
"Yeah, well, hot, pretty...same thing."
"They're not the same. I'd rather be pretty than hot."
"Well, you're both. You and me, you know what we're like? We're like Bruce Willis and whatshername in Moonlighting. We can never get together, or the show will become lame. Except we're both so much prettier than they are."
"I don't know, Ev, Bruce Willis is fine. I'd need to see the whole package to make an informed judgment on that one."
"Maybe for your birthday I'll jump out of a cake. Hey, those two blondes remind me of a joke."
"Okay, so there are these three fifth grade girls, a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. Which one has the biggest tits?"
"I know it's gonna be the blonde, but I don't know why."
"The blonde, because she's eighteen. Why did the blonde stare at the orange juice?"
"Because it said 'concentrate' on the carton."
Faith giggled. "You are such a goof," she said.
Across the room, the two blondes walked off in a huff.
"Think they heard the jokes?" Evan said.
"What are they complaining about?" Faith said. "They got to grab your ass. I didn't get to grab your ass."
"You can grab my ass if you want."
"You know I'm gonna hold you to that, right?" Faith said.
The next day Faith and Rebecca had dinner in Boston's North End, a tiny neighborhood of Italian restaurants and shops and old redbrick houses built on narrow, crooked streets that weren't really maneuverable by car, but that didn't stop people from trying anyway. The double-parked cars, the traffic jams, the insistent beeping of horns and the hurling of expletives in both English and Italian was a traditional part of the neighborhood's ambience. It was a warm day, and old women sat on their front steps, and men sat in the espresso cafes arguing about soccer teams, and Rebecca and Faith explored the neighborhood, peeking in the windows of all the restaurants and cafes, before settling on a place to eat. They were about to walk into a promising little restaurant called Lucca when they bumped into three handsome Italian men coming out of a cafe next door.
"No, no, Lucca has gone down, it's only for tourists now," one of them, a gorgeous man with slicked-back black hair, beard stubble and a big smile, said. "Could we let two beautiful girls eat second-rate food?" he said to his buddies, who were laughing. One of them, whom Faith thought was even more gorgeous than the first, took Rebecca's hand and gently turned her around. "Signorina, try Taranta," he said, pointing down the block. "For you, only the best."
"Well...thank you very much," Rebecca said. "I believe we will."
The man holding Rebecca's hand kissed it, and bowed. The third one, a tall man with a ponytail and dark eyes whom Faith would seriously have considered marrying if he asked, took Faith's hand and kissed it. "Watch out for this one," he said. "A heartbreaker. She's gonna be a heartbreaker!" Faith giggled. "If I was only just a little younger man," he said. "Just a little younger man..."
"Enjoy, ladies," the first man said with a smile, and the three of them waved and walked away, resuming their argument about soccer.
"Well. This is one part of Boston I think I can appreciate," Rebecca said.
"I'd say those guys were being pretty damn impertinent," Faith said.
"Yes, but I like impertinence."
"Y'know, Becca, if I didn't know you better I would've sworn you were blushing for a sec there."
"Certainly not," Rebecca said.
The three impertinent Italian men were right about the restaurant, but when Rebecca and Faith got back to the car after dinner, Rebecca didn't drive them home. She headed away from downtown instead.
"Where are we going?" Faith said. They were driving through the tunnel, toward the other side of the city. The sun was low; it would be setting soon.
"Hunting," Rebecca said. "You're ready. You're used to your new abilities now. You're strong, smart and skilled. It's time to begin."
Faith knew this day was coming. This was what all her training had been for. What her whole life, in a way, had been for. She felt the way she did back in school, when some girl called her out and she knew she'd have to either fight or run. You're dead after school. But her whole life up to now, every fight she'd ever been in, every tough project chick she had to smack down to protect what was hers...it was all minor league ball. Now she was in the majors. And getting sent back down meant six feet under. Faith nodded her head, and tried to hide her fear.
"I told you that you'll be able to sense vampires at a distance," Rebecca said. "Mostly because you'll smell them--you'll find all your senses are sharper now but your sense of smell is much sharper than any of the others. You'll find that all vampires have a particular scent that you'll instinctively recognize. In fact you'll be able to recognize anyone, not just vampires, by their scent now. But a vampire's sense of smell is even better than yours. They're like bloodhounds. Once a vampire has your scent he can track you for miles. Remember that."
"Will they know I'm the Slayer?" Faith said. "I mean, like, how you said vamps are gonna smell a certain way to me. Does the Slayer smell a certain way to them? Will vamps be able to tell I'm the Slayer just by how I smell to them?"
"That's a very smart question," Rebecca said, and smiled. "You're a perceptive girl. Luckily the answer is no. To a vampire you simply smell like a teenaged girl; Slayers don't have a specific scent in common. But vampires remember every scent they've ever encountered, just like you will from now on. You have advantages over vampires, Faith; you'll find you're much stronger than the average vampire, and usually faster too, and another very important advantage you have is surprise. You'll immediately know if someone is a vampire simply by how they smell, but a vampire won't know you're the Slayer until you show your strength. It gives you the first move in a fight. That's why it's important that you never let a vampire escape from you. If a vampire runs into you and manages to escape, he'll know your scent after that and when he smells it, he'll know the Slayer is nearby. Even worse, he'll be able to track you. You can only take a vampire by surprise once. Make it count."
They came out of the tunnel onto a highway. Faith looked out the window. They were on the other side of the Harbor, now; the familiar Boston skyline was behind them and receding, the skyscrapers reflecting the light of the setting sun, blood red.
"You're the Slayer now, Faith, and that makes you a target," Rebecca said. "Once you begin destroying vampires word will get around; you'll develop a reputation and some vampires will even seek you out. You must be alert and ready for battle at all times from now on, not just when you're out hunting. You can be attacked anywhere, at any time. Madeleine Lambert once had to fight off seven vampires while she was watching a figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics in a crowd of twenty-thousand people."
"In the vamps' defense, figure skating makes me want to kill people sometimes too," Faith said.
"Don't joke," Rebecca said. "There are vampires who take Slayers like trophies. You're not going to be one of them."
The Lexus parked outside a cemetery in East Boston as the sun set and evening came on. East Boston was a working class neighborhood separated from Boston by the Harbor, its streets lined with ugly tripledecker houses rammed together with hardly any space between them. All surrounded by Boston's Logan Airport, which defined the neighborhood's boundaries and gave it its shape. Planes took off and landed right over their heads, and Faith wondered how the people living there, mostly Hispanic and poor, ever got used to it. Rebecca turned off the motor, and looked at Faith in the dark.
"Remember that nature special that was on last week?" Rebecca said. "The one about lions?"
"Yeah?" Faith said.
"You're the lion."
They got out of the car, and walked toward the cemetery. It was big, with lots of trees, and a black wrought-iron gate all around. There was a playground in a field next to it. The area was residential; there were houses across the street.
"Vamps hang out here? Right in sight of people? Right near a playground?" Faith said.
"Remember they can look human when they want to," Rebecca said. "I've been exploring Boston for months now; I've been to every cemetery in the city. I know where the vampires are. I found evidence two nights ago that a small group, perhaps two or three vampires, is nesting here. The playground just makes it prime real estate for them. That's why I picked this group first. You're going to make an example out of them."
The cemetery's gate was locked, with a heavy chain.
"Don't feel much like a lion," Faith said.
"That's because you haven't caught their scent yet," Rebecca said.
"Locked. We can climb over, I guess."
"No. Break the lock. Let's make a proper entrance."
"Break the lock?"
Rebecca looked at her. "Break it," she said.
"Uh, okay," Faith said, and took the heavy padlock in her hands...and effortlessly pulled it apart.
"Wow," Faith said. "I keep forgetting how strong I am now."
"Feel like a lion yet?" Rebecca said, and pushed the gate open, and marched into the cemetery the way Napoleon marched back into Paris. There was a man at the far end, a few hundred yards away, sitting on a tombstone and smoking a cigarette. He wasn't looking in their direction yet.
"Is that man a vampire?" Rebecca said.
Faith looked at him, trying to decide.
"Don't think about it," Rebecca said. "It isn't a riddle. You're the Slayer. You know this. Look at him and tell me if he's a vampire."
Faith looked at him...and suddenly, somehow...she knew.
"Yeah," she said. "He's a vamp."
"Excellent," Rebecca said. "Now go kill him."
"Uh...yeah. Okay," Faith said, afraid, and trying not to be. She started walking toward the man.
"Faith," Rebecca said, softly.
"I know you're afraid," Rebecca said. "It's natural."
Rebecca put her hands on Faith's shoulders, and ran her fingers through her hair.
"Don't try to impress me tonight. You don't have to. I'm already impressed. I'm already proud of you," Rebecca said, and hugged her.
"Thanks," Faith said, and looked up at Rebecca, who always seemed so tall and strong and beautiful. "That...really means a lot to me, y'know?"
It was a goodbye hug, Rebecca knew. The girl she met that cold, starry November night wouldn't be coming back...she would be gone forever soon. Rebecca didn't want to let her go.
But she knew she had to. Rebecca broke the embrace.
"Remember what he is," Rebecca said. "He looks human but he's not. He's a demon in human shape and he doesn't have a soul. He murders and rapes and butchers people. He's your prey; nothing more. Kill him."
Faith nodded, and walked away.
The night was coming on quickly now, and the moon, a thick crescent, was on the rise through the clouds, sometimes hiding behind them, sometimes revealing itself; it lit the sky with silver. There were street lights outside the cemetery, bathing part of it in hard white light. Faith walked in the dark part, past little weathered tombstones, leaning at angles, some decorated with faded death's heads: skulls with wings. A white Ford Thunderbird drove too fast down the street, blasting an Aerosmith song she knew.
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away, the song said...
And then, suddenly, Faith was aware.
She was aware of all the little leaning tombstones. She was aware of the crunch of twigs beneath her feet. The smell of the grass. The slight, warm wind rustling the leaves. The moon like an eye staring down at her. She was aware of all of it, all at once.
It was as if all her senses had...reached out, somehow...
She was aware of the swing set in the little playground on the other side of the cemetery squeaking in the wind and Rebecca watching her from far away and the feel of the stake in her pocket and the smell of the vampire's cigarette smoke and the Aerosmith song fading away down the street...
Her skin tingled, caressed by the wind. It was as if she was feeling the wind for the first time in her life. Everything she was sensing came at her like a wave, like a riptide carrying her out to sea. She almost lost her balance, lost herself. She had to steady herself against a tree, center herself again. The bark felt sensuous under her fingers. In the tree's coarse, craggy skin, in all its sharp, knobby protrusions and its little shallow valleys, Faith could discern a whole new world of intricate patterns...like the tree went on forever.
Everything was so much more, now. So much deeper.
After a moment she found she could sift through the sense data...sort it, catalogue it. She realized Rebecca was right: the vampire smelled like rotten meat. Like a carcass. And Faith instinctively knew that all vampires smelled the same way. But the vampire also had a specific scent underneath that one, specific to him alone. The rotten meat smell overwhelmed it but it was still there. Faith guessed the other scent must be how the vampire smelled when he was still alive. Rebecca had a specific scent too, and Faith catalogued it, and knew she would always remember it. It was a pretty scent. Faith liked it.
Faith felt like she was waking up, for the first time in her life...that her life before this moment had only been a dream. She felt brand new.
She wasn't afraid of the vampire anymore. She had the scent.
The vampire became aware of her. He turned and dropped his cigarette. Faith heard him growl.
He loped toward her, seeming to Faith a half-animal thing, still growling, but smiling now too. He smelled like rotten meat.
They met, by a stand of trees, and regarded each other.
"You lost, girl?" he said. He was a tall Puerto Rican man with dark hair, earrings, and a goatee.
"Nope," Faith said...and something happened.
She felt her heart beating and felt a rush... like she needed to move, like she needed to dance, like she needed to fuck. Like she needed to kill.
"You know what I am? You know what this is?" the vampire said. "You're gonna die tonight, honey."
Faith showed him her stake. "Know what this is?" she said.
She could see he didn't like the stake one bit.
"Who the fuck are you?" he said, his smile gone.
"I'm the Slayer," she said.
"Slayer's out in Cali."
"Didn't you hear? There are two of us now. Double your pleasure..." and she smiled, and bared her teeth at him.
"'Cuz I can go all night," Faith snarled, and ran at him like a lion charging an antelope.
She threw a punch that sent him flying twenty feet across the cemetery before he even had a chance to move and he slammed into a tombstone, breaking it in two. He got up and sprang at her, his face changing to vampire form as he did, becoming a grotesque thing with long animal fangs, but Faith grabbed him by the arm and flipped him over her head into a tree. Before he could get up she rained down punches on him, cracking his head against the tree over and over again. She picked him up by the throat and held him in the air in a grip like steel. He was barely conscious. She held the stake up so he could see it. She smiled.
"Bye, honey," she said, and staked him. The whole fight had taken less than ten seconds.
Faith felt like a lion. Boston was her territory now. She'd defend it.
A moment passed, and then Rebecca was standing behind her. Faith recognized her scent.
"How does it feel?" Rebecca said.
"Feels like more," Faith said.
"Their crypt is down that way," Rebecca said. "Shall we pop in and say hello?"
The crypt was a small mausoleum, made from granite, with stone steps leading to the arch-shaped door in front, and a peaked roof topped with a cross. The stone looked centuries old and was overgrown with leaves. The door was shut tight. Faith kicked it open with a boom that echoed through the cemetery. The crypt smelled like blood and booze inside, and it was dark, lit only by a solitary torch. A large stone crucifix was broken in pieces on the floor.
Two vampires sitting on a sarcophagus looked up from their card game and their whiskey.
Faith's eyes lit up when she saw the vampires. They were like Christmas presents. She wanted to rip them open, and see what was inside.
"Knock knock," Faith said.
The fight lasted almost a minute this time; the short, wiry Mexican kid was quick and got a good hit in on Faith that sent her flying. In a strange way, that made Faith like it even better. She staked him after flipping him with an aikido throw that sent him into a wall, and a knee to the head that put him down.
Now Faith had the other one, a pretty black girl with bleached blonde hair in corn rows and nervous, darting eyes, on the floor, with her knee on the girl's stomach and the girl's right arm in a wrist lock. The girl's bloody earlobe was on the floor beside her. Faith had torn it off, a nasty and very effective little move Rebecca had taught her that had taken the girl out of the fight in the first three seconds. The girl had cowered on the floor, crying, while Faith killed her friend.
The vampire looked up at Faith in terror. Faith looked down at her like she was a piece of meat.
"See ya," Faith said, and staked her.
"Excellent," Rebecca said, walking into the crypt. "The aikido throw, the wrist lock...and I especially liked the bit with the ear."
"Bob's your uncle," Faith said, as she got up and dusted herself off.
Rebecca laughed. It was a strange sound, in the crypt; it echoed through that dark place and filled it up, like the sun shining in. "Yes, dear, we'll make a right English girl of you yet," she said.
"Think I gotta get some cool lines for when I dust vamps though," Faith said. "Like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I can be all, 'hasta la vista, baby'."
"You realize I haven't the slightest idea what you're referring to, of course," Rebecca said.
"Do all vamps live like this?" Faith said, looking around. The crypt was a dump and it stank. Beer cans and whiskey bottles were strewn about everywhere, there was a pile of dirty old clothes heaped in a corner that smelled like urine, and there were blood stains on the floor.
"Most do," Rebecca said. "Some, mostly the ones that have been around for awhile, have a sense of taste. But most vampires live like transients, finding protection from the sun where they can. They have complete freedom: they kill as they please, and they feel no sense of remorse or even hesitation about it. There's a purity to vampires, the purity that comes from being soulless. Having a soul is a complicated, messy thing; being a good person is hard. But evil is easy."
"I'm hungry," Faith said, when they got back to the car. "Weird. Just ate like an hour ago."
"Most Slayers are hungry after a good kill," Rebecca said. "And your body will be different now: you'll be eating more in general. Don't worry, it will never go to fat. We can find a restaurant somewhere, or there's that leftover hummus in the fridge."
"I need something with some good meat in it. But a restaurant will take too long, I need meat like, right now. Evan says there's this take-out place called Kelly's over on Revere Beach."
"You should have Evan over to the house for dinner sometime. I'd like to get to know him better."
"Sure. Anyway he says they have great roast beef sandwiches. I think it's around here somewhere."
"Roast beef sandwiches. How charming," Rebecca said.
Slaying made Faith hungry, and she had a big sloppy roast beef sandwich with sauce and cheese that was the most roast beef she had ever seen in one place in her life, a bucket of french fries as big as her head and a super-sized Coke. Slaying also made her horny, but she didn't tell Rebecca that. Rebecca looked relieved when she saw the menu was more varied than just roast beef, and ordered onion rings and coffee, both of which she pronounced "capital". And they sat on the beach wall, eating and looking out at the moon on the ocean. It was a beautiful spring night, with summer on the way and the ocean smell strong on the gentle breeze, and the beach was packed with parked cars, and a lot of limos. It was prom season, and the kids in the limos preened and posed and laughed in their rented tuxes and fancy dresses. Faith turned and watched them as they drove by.
"Do you want to go back to school?" Rebecca said, watching the limousines. "Do you miss school?"
"Nah," Faith said. "Southie High was a pit."
"There are better schools. Private schools. I could enroll you for September. Anywhere you want. Trevor could make some calls."
"Never was much for, y'know, homework and all that. Might've been nice to go to prom though."
"You have a destiny, Faith. A grand one. It will be better than any prom." Rebecca looked at Faith with that eyebrow of hers raised. "That's not to say a good man wouldn't help you pass the time though. How's Evan been lately?"
"He's...a really good friend."
"Mmm-hmm. Well, hope springs eternal. And there'll be others."
"No big. Never had any luck with guys anyway. I'm good just, being with you and doing our Slayer stuff, y'know? I don't need anything else. Are we gonna be going to Sunnydale?"
"Yes. But not now. We've lost Kendra, but Angelus has been destroyed and Spike and Drusilla are gone. They don't need us there just now and you need more training. The Hellmouth is calm for the moment, so we'll let you put the fear of God into Boston for awhile before we unleash you on California."
"I want to meet Buffy," Faith said.
"You will," Rebecca said. "And I'm sure you'll be good friends. We'll go out there. But not just yet."
"Taking down Angelus...Buffy's really something. Plus The Master last year too. Becca...tell me honestly. Be upfront with me. Do you think...I can ever be as good a Slayer as Buffy is?"
Rebecca put her arm around her.
"Yes, Faith," Rebecca said. "I know you can. And I know you will."
"Okay," Faith said.
"So how do you feel after your first night as the Slayer?" Rebecca said.
"Five by five," Faith said, and smiled.
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