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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Meant To Be
One: The New World

By Hellmouthguy




Use your enemy's size and strength against him. Unify with his rhythm and intent, find the right position, find the right timing. Redirect his energy. Make it work for you.

Keep your guard up, watch his feet, stick and move. Always on the balls of your feet, always shuffling, always moving.

Fight dirty. Get inside his guard and hit the weak spots. A finger to the eye, an elbow to the neck, a kick in the balls. Quick, efficient, brutal.

Hour after hour, day after day, drill after drill until Faith got it right...

Three months passed. Faith became a terror.

With Rebecca's guidance, Faith swept through Boston like a hurricane, stalking and destroying vampires with ruthless, brutal tactics. Every day she grew a little more skilled, a little more confident, until finally her name was whispered in fear in old crypts and boarded-up tenements, in crack houses and sewers, anywhere vampires hid from the light. Word spread quickly that a strong new Slayer was marking her territory in Boston, that it was no longer a place where the vampires could hunt as they pleased. Faith's name spread throughout the city...

And far beyond...

The three vampires had Faith surrounded.

It was August, and scorching hot in Boston. But Faith liked the heat; it loosened her up. She was in her work clothes: broken-in jeans, a tee-shirt and steel-toed Doc Marten boots, excellent for kicking vampires across cemeteries. The vampires were nowhere near as fab: like most vampires Faith had fought, they looked like eighties rejects. One of these nights Faith just knew she'd be taking on REO Speedwagon in some cemetery somewhere. She wondered if vampires were different on the West Coast...she wondered about Buffy, and how things were for her. She wanted to see her. She knew they could be friends.

What the vampires lacked in style they made up for with lots and lots of muscle. They were big and mean and by the way they moved, Faith could tell they knew how to fight. She smiled.

Faith reached out with all her senses: the old cemetery in the rich part of West Roxbury with its beautifully preserved statues and ivy-grown mausoleums was quiet; the only sound was the chirping of crickets. It was late, and there was no moon to see by; the elm trees cast long shadows in the glow of the streetlights outside. The night was humid and the vampires' scents were strong. Rebecca was twenty yards behind her. One of the vampires wore a gold chain with an Italian horn on it. Faith's stake felt smooth in her hand. A cat hid in the bushes to her right; she was a yellow tabby with black stripes and white paws and green, staring eyes. Rebecca's perfume smelled nice, kind of flowery. The vampires ran at Faith, their boots pounding the soft earth like drums.

"Go ahead," Faith said. "Make my day."

They were big but they were slow and Faith ran rings around them. The one with the long ratty gray hair and the droopy moustache tried to grab her. She ducked under him, spun around, and staked him through the back. The other two leaped at her from her left, but she wasn't there anymore. She somersaulted away and came up facing them as the vampires hit the dirt. They got up, growling.

The cat growled back at them. So did Faith.

"So what's up? You guys talked real big before. Gonna show me something before I dust you?" Faith said.

"Got a fuckin' mouth on you girl, I'll give you that," the bald one with the beard and the earring said. "I'll shut you the fuck up though. You come into my house? Gonna get smacked down."

"Wow, baldy," Faith said. "Gotta tell ya, I'm positively shaking in my fabulous boots after that speech. Damn, guess I should probably just run, huh?"

The bald vampire pulled out a switchblade. The other one, a guy with a moustache and a crew cut who looked like he used to be a motorcycle cop, had a big, shit-eating grin on his face. But not for much longer.

"Aw, you brought me a present," Faith said, as they both came at her. "That was really thoughtful."

Baldy came first, with Motorcycle Cop behind him. To Faith they were moving in slow motion. She stepped to her right, grabbed Baldy's arm, took his knife away and flipped him over her shoulder. She stuck the knife in Motorcycle Cop's eye, spun and kicked Baldy in the face. He slammed into a tree and went down. She staked Motorcycle Cop as he screamed and tried to pull the knife from his eye, then she spun and faced Baldy as he got up. He threw a big roundhouse punch; Faith blocked it. It sent her flying, but she rolled right back up to her feet.

Baldy ran at her, throwing wild punches which Faith dodged easily. Then he leaned in too close with another roundhouse punch and Faith ducked it, got under his guard and hit him with a right uppercut and a beauty of a left hook. He wasn't ready and he went down. He got back up, a little wobbly now. Faith planted her left leg, whipped around, and kicked him with her right. It sent him flying and he landed hard on the ground. He managed to get himself up again, but Faith could see he was almost done. She walked toward him, anticipating the kill.

"It's my house," Faith said. "This whole city's my house."

He took one last run at her and threw another big punch, but it was slow and Faith slipped it with ease, kneeing him in the balls for good measure. He lowered his hands to protect the area, and Faith hit him with two quick jabs and the sledgehammer of a right cross she had and he was out cold on the ground.

Faith stood over the unconscious vampire, and looked down at him, predator to prey.

Boston was hers.

"Hasta la vista, baby," she said.

She staked the vampire, and walked back to Rebecca.

"Wonderful, Faith!" Rebecca said with a big smile. "You're getting better every day."

"Couldn't have done it without you, Becca," Faith said, and hugged her. She liked hugging Rebecca. She liked leaning in against Rebecca, and she liked how warm Rebecca always felt, and the way she smelled. Faith had trouble letting go of her sometimes.

"And I see you managed to work your catchphrases in again," Rebecca said, with a raised eyebrow.

"Come on Becca, don't tell me you don't think they're just a little bit cool," Faith said, and grinned.

"Yes, they're very clever, darling."

"Got another one I'm getting ready to try out. How about, whenever I pull out my stake from now on? I say, 'Say hello to my little friend!' Al Pacino said it in Scarface when he was all like, playing this psycho drug kingpin guy."

"Who's his little friend?"

"A gun with a grenade launcher. He has it in the house along with like, eighty-two pounds of cocaine."

"I see. I suppose you couldn't just say 'God save the Queen' instead?"

"I'll try to work it in," Faith said, and laughed.

Faith was a jeans and leather kind of girl; she owned dresses and skirts because Rebecca insisted on it, but she rarely wore them. Faith dressed up when they ate at a restaurant with a dress code, or when they went to a museum, but that was about it. So when Rebecca walked by Faith's room and saw her wearing high heeled shoes and a black dress and checking herself out in the mirror a few nights later, she raised her eyebrow and said, "Well. This is a change."

"What do you think?" Faith said. Rebecca walked in and looked in the mirror with her.

"I think you look beautiful," Rebecca said. "I've always said you should dress up more often. Aren't you glad we bought you the dresses now?"

Rebecca's birthday had just passed, and Faith's present to her was two tickets to Les Misérables, a musical which Rebecca had mentioned was a particular favorite of hers and which Faith found out was just starting an engagement in Boston. They had gone to the show together, and Faith was surprised to find herself liking it. She hadn't understood what a musical was, and she'd been prepared for a long, boring night, but once she acclimated herself to the fact that people would just start singing in the middle of the story, she had a great time. And she liked the singing too.

And she'd had to wear a dress, and that hadn't been so bad either. She had decided she'd try wearing dresses and skirts more often. She knew she had the legs for it...why not show them off? Tonight would be the perfect opportunity.

"Still feels a little weird," Faith said. "Kinda like...exposed a little. You sure I look okay?"

Rebecca smiled. "Ask Evan," she said. "You're seeing him tonight."

Somehow, Rebecca always knew everything.

"We're going to the Feast in the North End," Faith said. "Evan says the food's great and it's like a big party in the street."

"If you see those nice Italian gentlemen, tell them I said hi," Rebecca said.

"Hello, Evan," Rebecca said, fifteen minutes later, answering the door with a big smile when Evan arrived to pick Faith up. "Don't you look handsome."

And he did. But he didn't look as good as Faith. She stood at the top of the stairs, looking down at him. Evan looked up at her, and said, "Oh my God."

"Hey, Ev," Faith said, fussing with her hair.

"That's...wow," Evan said, his eyes glued to her.

"Yes, I'm sure, but why don't you come in?" Rebecca said, as Evan was still standing on the step.

"Yeah...thanks..." Evan said, and came in.

"Uh...you like my outfit?" Faith said, and walked down the stairs to him. She moved her arms around in front of her, as if she wanted to hide herself.

Rebecca gently lowered Faith's arms to her side.

"Can you wear that dress every day forever?" Evan said, finally recovering his wits, and smiling his wolfish smile.

Faith laughed, and started to relax a little. "Okay, gonna call that a yes on the outfit," she said.

"I think I'm gonna need a baseball bat to keep the guys away from her, Rebecca," Evan said.

"Oh, I'm sure Faith can take care of herself," Rebecca said.

"Besides, maybe I don't want you to keep the guys away," Faith said, with a sexy smile of her own that went up against Evan's and gave as good as it got.

Rebecca watched their banter, watched the way Faith looked at Evan. Evan would have to be a complete idiot not to know how Faith felt about him. And though Rebecca didn't know Evan very well--she had only met him a few times--she knew he wasn't an idiot. Evan could hurt Faith, very badly. It was the one thing Rebecca couldn't protect her from.

"Have fun tonight," Rebecca said, and kissed Faith's cheek.

After a week of deceptively cool weather August returned to form and Boston got sucker-punched with another heat wave that held the city in its grip like a dog gnawing a bone. It was after sunset and it was ninety-two degrees. Even the vampires had been laying low, trying to stay cool. Perversely, Rebecca and Trevor had decided to go dancing. Faith had much more sensibly decided to stay inside curled up in front of the VCR, which was strategically located next to the air conditioner. Evan would be coming over with rented movies and they were going to pop popcorn and order pizza and have a cool, relaxing night.

Faith had staked a couple of vampires the night before, so she wasn't feeling restless. She lay stretched out on the couch in front of the television like a cat: indolent, satisfied, comfortable...but always ready to pounce.

Rebecca watched her from the dining room, while she waited for Trevor to arrive. Faith was relaxed, her whole body slack. Rebecca knew that was an illusion. Faith could spring into action, fully alert and ready to fight, in a split-second; Rebecca had seen her do it before. Faith seemed to be concentrating on the television. But Rebecca knew Faith's senses were aware of everything around her. If a single sight, sound or smell was out of place Faith would instantly be ready to fight. And she knew that Faith knew she was watching.

Rebecca came into the living room and sat next to her on the couch.

"Hey, Becca," Faith said, and stretched, and yawned, and smiled.

"Any good movies lined up?" Rebecca said.

"Pulp Fiction, and a Clint Eastwood western. Plus Evan got some Burt Reynolds movie where they all like, race cars and chew bubble gum and laugh over the credits at the end. Evan's a guy so of course he thinks that's hilarious."

"So how are you and Evan? You've been seeing a lot of each other lately."

"You know. We're five by five."

"Faith...will you promise me that you'll...be careful with him?"

"What do you mean? Becca...Ev and I are just friends. We're not... y'know...like that."

Rebecca was torn. Faith had a right to her privacy. Rebecca had very quickly taken over nearly every part of Faith's life since that November night when they first met; she understood what that meant, and the responsibility she had to Faith. But that made it even more important that Faith have something--anything--that was hers, and hers alone. Evan was hers.

"Okay," Rebecca said, and smiled. "Have a good time."

She hugged Faith, and walked away.

When Rebecca got home a little after two, she went to check on Faith on her way up to bed.

Faith's bedroom door was open. When Rebecca peeked her head inside, she saw Faith and Evan in bed together.

They were asleep. Faith was wearing her nightgown, and Evan was still fully dressed. Faith was curled up against him with her head on his chest. Evan had his arms around her.

Faith woke up, and opened her eyes. The little clock said 2:16 a.m. She was confused. Someone was in bed with her...Evan. She recognized his scent.

She remembered. They had come back to her room to listen to music...

There was another scent. Rebecca's. Faith turned over, and looked up.

Rebecca was standing beside the bed.

"Let's talk," Rebecca said.

Faith sat at the kitchen table, and Rebecca made coffee.

"Uh...okay, Becca, look...seriously? Nothing happened. I mean...I don't know, I think we just kinda like, fell asleep and..." Faith stammered.

Rebecca turned around. Something in Faith's voice wasn't right. She was nervous...verging on scared.

"I...you know I'd never...I'd never lie to you right?" Faith said. "I mean... you know that, right? We, we didn't do anything, Becca, I swear..."

As Rebecca watched her she could see that Faith was shaking now, and was nearly in tears. What the devil was wrong with her?

And then, Rebecca understood.

She knelt down in front of Faith, and took her hand.

"It's all right, Faith," Rebecca said.

"We didn't, we didn't..." Faith whimpered, shaking her head back and forth, with tears in her eyes.

Rebecca hugged her.

"Sshhh. It's all right," Rebecca said again. "I'm not angry. I know you wouldn't lie to me. I trust you. I always have. Okay?"

Faith nodded, holding on tight to her.

"Faith," Rebecca said. "I'm not..."

I'm not your mother, Rebecca was about to say. But somehow, she couldn't make herself say it...

"I won't...I won't do what your mother did," Rebecca said.

She could feel Faith crying now.

"I'm just...sorry and...we weren't supposed to and...I won't do it again, I promise..." Faith said, sniffling and sobbing, her tears falling on Rebecca's shoulder, and in Rebecca's hair.

"You have nothing to be sorry for, Faith," Rebecca said. "You didn't do anything wrong."

She looked Faith in the eyes. "Faith," she said, softly. "You didn't do anything wrong."

Rebecca wiped Faith's tears away, and stroked her hair. "Listen to me," she said. "You'll always have a place with me. You'll always be my girl. I won't stop caring about you. I won't. Do you understand?"

Faith nodded, still shaking a little.

"You don't have to be on your best behavior all the time," Rebecca said. "You don't have to be perfect all the time. That's not what I want, Faith. I don't care if you make a mistake...I make mistakes too. Everybody does. All I want is for you to be happy. Okay?"

"Okay," Faith whispered.

"I trust you," Rebecca said. "And I'm proud of you. If you make a mistake, if you do something you think you shouldn't have, you can always come to me, no matter what it is, no matter how bad you think it is. I'll always be here for you. And I don't ever...ever...want you to be afraid of me. All right?"

Faith nodded again, and smiled.

"That's my girl," Rebecca said, and kissed her cheek, and hugged her again. "That's my girl."

Eventually, Faith stopped shaking.

"Are you okay?" Rebecca said after awhile, still holding her.

"I guess I get...kinda goofy sometimes, huh?" Faith said, sniffling, her eyes red.

"It's one of the things I like about you," Rebecca said, and smiled. Faith giggled, and nodded.

Rebecca took a napkin from the table. Faith's nose was running. Rebecca held the napkin against it.

"Blow," Rebecca said.

Faith blew her nose. Rebecca wiped it, and smiled again.

Then she got up, and poured some coffee. The thought occurred to her that caffeine might not be the best thing for Faith right now--the poor girl would probably do better with a good stiff shot of scotch at the moment--so Rebecca went to the refrigerator and poured Faith a glass of milk instead. Faith drank it.

"Now," Rebecca said. "Let's have our little talk...about safe sex."

"Oh...crap," Faith said.

"Can we please stop talking about penises now?" Evan heard Faith saying as he walked downstairs in his socks fifteen minutes later.

"I just want to be sure we've covered all the bases," Rebecca said.

"We grand slammed the bases," Faith said.

"And you'll be certain to use protection."

"I will, Becca, I promise. And I already told you, Evan and I aren't--"

"Uh...hi," Evan said, walking into the kitchen.

"Hello, Evan," Rebecca said, and looked at him with her arms folded across her chest, and waited. It wasn't an unfriendly look, but it wasn't welcoming, either. If Faith was going to give her heart to this boy, Rebecca wanted to see what he was made of. It was time for him to show his quality. Her stern blue eyes fixed on him, and she waited.

"So, uh..." Faith said, looking from Rebecca to Evan.

"Let Evan talk," Rebecca said, in that tone that meant now.

"Okay, look, this was my fault," Evan said. "We went to Faith's room to listen to music, and it was late, and I really should have gone home, Faith told me I should be getting home before I fell asleep. But I thought we could stay up a little longer. I was stupid and I apologize. We fell asleep in the bed but I swear, Rebecca, nothing happened. So if, you know, you're angry? Take it out on me, not Faith. If you don't want me coming over anymore I'll understand."

He was trying to cover for Faith, Rebecca could tell. But he had showed his quality. Rebecca's eyes softened. Evan didn't know her well enough to notice, but Faith did, and she sighed with relief.

"Would you like some coffee, Evan?" Rebecca said.

"That'd be great," Evan said, and smiled.

"How do you take it?"

"Light, two sugars?"

Rebecca poured him a cup of coffee, added milk, cream and sugar, and handed it to him with a smile.

"Take your coffee in the dining room, and we'll talk there," she said.

"Uh...okay," Evan said.

"Evan and I are going to talk," Rebecca said, before Faith could interject. "We won't be long."

"Y'know, I'm pretty sure he already knows about..." Faith began to say.

"I should hope so, but we won't be talking about that," Rebecca said, and put her arm on Evan's shoulder and walked him out of the kitchen.

Just before they left the kitchen she glanced back at Faith, and winked.

"Faith is important to me, Evan."

They sat at the dining room table together, and drank coffee. Rebecca looked straight at Evan, her dark blue eyes unwavering. Evan didn't blink.

Rebecca liked that in a man. She almost smiled.

"I don't want to see her hurt," she said.

"Neither do I, Rebecca," Evan said.

"Do you...care about her?"

"I'd jump in front of a truck for her."

"An interesting way of putting it. She cares about you, very much."

"Yeah. I know."

"Faith says you two are...just friends."

"Best friends."

"Evan...if that's all you want...you may not be able to avoid hurting her."

Evan got up and walked to the window, and looked out into the darkness.

"Have you ever met someone, and knew...really knew...that you were meant to be with them?" he said.

He turned to her.

"That the world brought you together with that person for a reason," he said. "That no matter what you did, what path your life went down, no matter what mistakes you made, you were meant to be with that person in the end?"

Rebecca thought about the night she first met Faith...in the alley.

I don't want it to be like this anymore, Faith had said. I don't want this to be my life. Rebecca saved her...

And she knew that if she had gotten there even a minute later, Faith would have been dead.

"I met someone like that once," Evan said. "We were best friends all through high school in Chicago. Her name was Maggie. I loved her."

He smiled.

"We hung out all the time," he said. "We were in the Drama Club together. She always made me laugh."

Then he turned back to the window.

"I don't know when it happened, when I stopped seeing her as a friend and started seeing her as...something more," he said. "I was dating this girl named Samantha. And we were getting serious...and then I suddenly just realized one day I was in love with Maggie. I broke up with Samantha, told her I was in love with someone else. A few days later I told Maggie I loved her. She was worried...she didn't think it would work. We tried...but she was right. It didn't work."

He looked at Rebecca, and she could see he was close to tears.

"A month later...Samantha...she killed herself," Evan said. "She left a note...it turns out she had been in love with me, and never told me."

"Oh...oh God, Evan. I'm...so sorry..." Rebecca said.

"Yeah. She deserved better than that. She deserved better than me."

He sat down, and looked down at the table.

"I took off," he said. "Maggie was planning on going to school overseas... partly to get away from me, I guess. I was planning on going to Northwestern but I had to get the hell out of there. I applied only to out of state colleges after that and ended up here at Tufts. So these days, yeah, you could say I'm a little gun shy about mixing friendship and romance. It's too much of a risk. If I'd been smart enough to figure that out a few years ago I'd still have my friend and Samantha wouldn't be in the fucking ground somewhere."

He looked up at Rebecca.

"Sorry," he said. "That was rude. I didn't mean to swear."

"It's all right," Rebecca said, and smiled.

"Every day, all the time, you know what I think about? Faith. You think I don't know how she feels? That I don't feel it too? That I wouldn't love it if she was my girlfriend? But...take that chance? You can ruin a friendship. Or a life."

"I know Faith. She's going to put you to a decision soon, Evan."

Evan nodded, looking down at the table again.

"I can't guarantee that if you and Faith dated, it wouldn't end badly, and you wouldn't lose her," Rebecca said. "That could happen. You're both young, and not so alike as you think. Faith...has had a hard life. It isn't easy for her to trust...to let new people in. But once she does, she's the most loyal friend you'll ever have."

"Yeah, I know," Evan said. "I was adopted too."


"My parents couldn't have kids, so they adopted me. They didn't tell me until I was thirteen. For a long time I was really desperate to find out about my birth parents, but the records were sealed. I got over it though. I know my Mom and Dad love me. It doesn't matter if they gave birth to me or not."

"Faith told you...?"

"Well, yeah. I told her about my parents. I guess that made her want to open up about you. She told me how you adopted her when she was really little... she said she doesn't remember her birth parents at all. Faith's a great girl, Rebecca. You did a great job with her. She loves you a lot."

Rebecca was silent for a moment.

"Yes," Rebecca said. "She's a great girl."

Rebecca and Faith drove Evan home an hour later. It was a clear night, with a big yellow crescent moon that hung low in the sky and shone very bright on the water as they drove back home along the Massachusetts Avenue bridge that crossed the Charles River, connecting Cambridge to Boston.
"So...you and Ev have a good talk?" Faith said.

"Mmm-hmm," Rebecca said. "He's a good young man. I like him."

"He asks questions sometimes. I'm not in school and I don't have a job and everything and he asks questions so...I told him I'm going to Boston Latin."

"At least you picked a good school. But be careful with lying, Faith. Don't let it become a habit. Someday, you may want to tell Evan the truth."

"With the Slayer thing...my life's so weird. It's just I had to tell him something, y'know?"

"Faith, I want you to get your high school diploma. I can teach you things, and you're doing a good job with your reading, but it's still important to have a high school diploma."

"Do I have to? I mean, if you really want me to I will but...going to classes will be a drag."

"I've looked into it. They have something called a GED. It's a test you can take to prove you know what you need to know to be a high school graduate. Pass the test and you get a diploma. Fair enough?"

"So like, I won't have to go to school? Just pass the test?"

"Yes. But the test isn't easy. When you're ready I'll start tutoring you. I've already bought all the textbooks."

"He keeps asking me where I want to go for college."

"Do you want to go to college?"

"Maybe. Sounds better than high school."

"If you want to go, Trevor will make some calls."

Faith looked away from Rebecca, staring out the window at the sky as they turned onto Commonwealth Avenue. "Just in case Evan brings it up? I sorta told him you adopted me when I was a little kid," she said.

Faith watched Rebecca out of the corner of her eye.

"It'll be our secret," Rebecca said, and smiled.

It was September and autumn was a few days away; Boston didn't feel like an oven anymore. The weather was holding steady at cool and comfortable for the moment and Rebecca had pronounced it excellent for antique shopping. She and Trevor had gone to Salem to "have a look about" the antique shops the day before, and had come back convinced that there was a vampire lairing somewhere in the little amusement park by the beach out there.

"There's something rotten in Denmark," Trevor said to Faith, after he and Rebecca told her about it.

"I thought the vamp was in Salem?" Faith said.

And so, after Rebecca explained to her about Hamlet, she and Faith had made plans to take their own little trip to Salem to have a look about.

It was a pleasant drive a half hour north of Boston, along the ocean. Faith had never been to Salem before and she was curious. So she looked out the window at everything as they drove along the little winding streets of the old port town that Sunday morning: the colonial houses, square-built, with sloping gambrel roofs and columns on either side of the doors; the famous House of Seven Gables, sullen and gray and foreboding even in the sun, its sharp-angled gables making it seem more like a sprawling assortment of geometric shapes than a house; the cobblestone streets in the upscale shopping district; the girls playing at being Wiccans who hung around all the new-age "magic shops" downtown. It all seemed defined by the ocean: the big sweep of the Harbor was always there in the corner of Faith's eye, and there were yachts, glinting in the sun; the air smelled like the sea.

Billboards all over town proclaimed Salem "The Witch City", and the police cars all had witch insignia on the doors. As they explored the town they drove down a street called Witch Way and passed a school called Witchcraft Heights Elementary.

"Witchcraft Heights Elementary?" Faith said.

"They've gone somewhat overboard, haven't they?" Rebecca said. "And the high school football team is called 'The Witches'. It's a tourism thing."

"They should stick with the boats and the ocean and the old houses. The witch stuff all seems fake. They really burned witches in this place?"

"Yes, in the seventeenth century, though I believe the actual site is closer to modern Danvers, which borders Salem. Not a good idea to mess about with Puritans, they were quick with the torches. They were stupid, joyless people; they'd burn their own daughter for looking at them the wrong way. With idiots like them starting it off it's a miracle your country amounted to anything at all."

"They burn any real witches? You told me witches really exist, right?"

"No, they never managed to burn any witches. And oh yes, there are witches. My aunt Jane on my mother's side was a witch. Horrible old woman."

"Was she like, evil?"

"No, but she insisted I go to bed by eight sharp whenever she babysat and she never let me have dessert. Said it would rot my teeth. As for the actual witchcraft, she mostly minced about in the woods having one-sided conversations with Dionysus and creating noxious potions for various ailments. Though she did turn one of her neighbors into a warthog when he called her an ugly old sow, or so the rumor goes."

They visited the Salem Witch Museum ("When in Rome, I suppose," Rebecca said) and to Faith's surprise she found herself enjoying it.

"They tried to burn a Slayer once," Rebecca said, speaking softly in the dark room with its creaky wood floor and little windows and peeling paint that reminded Faith of her classroom in elementary school, as they looked up at the painting of Reverend Samuel Parris's slave Tituba, telling tales of the devil to a group of rapt girls sitting by the fire. "She was an Indian girl of the Pennacook tribe whom some of the townspeople saw killing a vampire, and of course they were frightened, and reacted the way they always did when faced with the unknown: they tried to burn her. Let's just say it didn't go too well for them."

Looking at the paintings and wax statues of those poor girls, Faith felt a kinship with them. They were caught up in something bigger than themselves, something they couldn't control. On the way out of the Museum, she bought a book about the Salem Witch Trials from the gift shop.

"I see you enjoyed yourself," Rebecca said, looking at Faith's book, as they walked out into the sunlight. "I told you history can be interesting."

"It's all about the presentation," Faith said. "I like when you talk about it. You make it sound all cool, y'know? Like you're telling stories. Wasn't liking it so much when my high school history teacher talked about it though. Maybe there should be like a hotness requirement for guy history teachers. You know, like 'you must be at least this hot to teach history to high school girls'. Then we'd all pay attention. Maybe Brad Pitt should teach history."

"Maybe Mel Gibson should," Rebecca said.

Faith stopped and grinned at her. "Becca!" she said. "You naughty girl! What would Trevor say?"

"But Mel's so pretty," Rebecca said. "It's just not fair, how he toys with my heart."

"Mel sure can wear leather pants," Faith said.

"Oh my, yes," Rebecca said.

They walked down Essex Street, laughing and looking in the windows of all the little shops and restaurants, scouting out likely places for dinner.

"That looks like an interesting book," Rebecca said. "I'd like to read it, when you're done."

"There's just something about those girls," Faith said. "It's like...they didn't ask for what they got."

They had lunch, a clam plate for Rebecca and a burger for Faith, at a little place on the beach, and then they hit the shopping district, poking around in the antique stores, all of which seemed to specialize in things from the sea. Rebecca bought an antique rocking chair for the living room, and a scrimshaw carving for Faith. They took a look around the little shops in the "Witch District", all jammed full of crystals and magic wands and books about Tantric healing and discovering your past lives ("Not one witch among 'em", Rebecca said, eyeing the wide-eyed goth girls and shaking her head), and after dinner at an Indian restaurant on Essex Street, they were ready to hunt when the sun set.

Salem Willows, the park was called, because of the old willow trees that dotted the grounds, and in summer people flocked there to picnic under those trees and look out at the sea, and teenagers smoked joints under the pier and made out in their cars. There was a little amusement park and arcade there too, and in summer the smell of the ocean and the sounds of seagulls mingled with the smell of barbecues and the laughing screams of children playing Skee-Ball and video games and running along the beach. But the park was closed for the season now, and the only smell was the smell of the ocean, the only sound a cold wind raking through the trees.

And as Faith walked through the park with Rebecca that night, all her senses alert, she thought about the fact that it had been a few days since she had killed a vampire and she was restless. She needed this, she had come to realize. Something happened to her that night in May, when she took that first vampire. It felt as if a switch had been thrown in her head...as if she used to be one thing, but now she was something else. Like she had gained something...or lost something. She was the Slayer now, for the rest of her life. She wasn't complaining.

It was a big park, with lots of potential hiding places among the closed shops and arcades and one large area of pretty thick trees that would take a long time to search through if it came to that. But Faith knew they wouldn't have to look around for long. Two women, walking through a park alone at night? If there was a vampire here, he'd find them.

And he did, a minute later. He came out of the arcade and crossed the street toward them with a jaunty stride, smiling, as if he were meeting friends...or women who couldn't fight back. Faith could see him clearly now under the little black antique streetlamp as he entered the park. He looked about twenty-five, tall and thin, wearing a black trenchcoat and combat boots. He had long black hair combed in front of his eyes and he was wearing makeup. A former boyfriend of one of the goth girls in the magic shops, maybe. Faith smiled back at him.

That knocked the jaunt right out of him. They weren't supposed to smile.

He stopped and stared at Faith, confused. Rebecca was behind Faith now, giving her room to work. Rebecca always stayed close, in case Faith needed help. But she hadn't ever needed help yet.

Faith walked toward the vampire with a jaunty stride of her own. A few yards away from him, she pulled out her stake...and the vampire finally realized just who she was.

"Say hello to my little friend," Faith said.

The vampire didn't want to meet Faith's friend. He turned and ran.

He didn't get far. Faith leaped after him with a laugh that echoed through the park, and tackled him a few feet away from the arcade.

He tried to throw her off, but she didn't move. His face changed to vampire form and he tried to tear into her throat with his fangs, but she cracked his head against the pavement with her forearm. She had him pinned, one knee on his left arm, his right arm in a wrist lock. Her stake hovering above him.

"All you got?" she said.

Their eyes met. She saw him surrender, saw it there in his eyes. He was hers and they both knew it.

"Hasta la vista, baby," she said, and staked him.

She stood up, and dusted what was left of him off of her clothes.

"All this way for that?" she said. "Now I'm gonna be all frustrated the whole way home..."

"Faith!" Rebecca shouted, her voice echoing through the park. At the same moment, Faith sensed something above her and instinctively back-flipped out of the way, before Rebecca's voice even registered.

A vampire landed where she had just been. A female, one of the goth girls who hung around the magic shops, her face twisted and deformed, her long fangs dripping saliva, her eyes narrowed to angry yellow slits. And unlike the boyfriend, she looked tough. Faith could tell by the way she positioned her feet that she knew how to fight.

"Think your mascara's running, honey," Faith said.

"Shut up!" the vampire screamed, and raked at Faith's neck with her claws. Faith dodged barely in time. An instant later and her throat would have been torn out. The vampire leaped at Faith and Faith went with her rhythm, didn't try to take the charge or meet it with force but instead redirected it, taking hold of the vampire's arm and using her momentum to flip her over her head. The vampire landed on her feet.

"What's up with the dye job? You lose a bet?" Faith said. She'd have to concentrate. Focus. This girl could fight. Faith threw out talk to throw the vampire off her game, but in her head she was all business. The vampire came at her again, getting in range, moving into her fighting stance and eyeing Faith warily. And that rage, that boiling rage that made her eyes two cat slits, was still there.

Forget her eyes, Faith thought. Watch her feet.

Faith's senses reached out. She felt Rebecca without seeing her. The wind kicked up. Somewhere, a dog barked. The vampire smelled foul to Faith, like all vampires did; she smelled like rotten meat. Faith catalogued her surroundings. Arcade. Plate glass window. Trees. Pavement. Hydrant. Fire escape.

The vampire threw a flurry of punches. Faith dodged the first two and blocked the third, but the fourth one got by her and staggered her. The vampire spun and kicked Faith in the face, sending her flying. Faith hit the sidewalk and rolled, anticipating the vampire's next move without seeing it. The vampire pounced where Faith had been a second before.

Faith kicked her in the face and leaped to her feet; the vampire stumbled and her guard dropped for a second and Faith was able to shuffle inside and hit her with a jab and her big right cross and put her down. But before she could follow up the vampire flipped herself away from her. Then she surprised Faith, leaping at her instead of regrouping for another attack, and knocked her down. She punched Faith in the face, cracking her head against the sidewalk.

They rolled on the sidewalk, the vampire slashing at her, and Faith desperately blocking, trying to keep those claws away from her face. With a roar, the vampire punched Faith in the face again and again, cracking her head against the sidewalk repeatedly. Faith nearly lost consciousness. She felt Rebecca, a few feet away, about to jump in. Faith didn't want that; she didn't want to chance Rebecca getting hurt. The vampire went for her throat, giving Faith just enough of an opening to ram two fingers in her eyes. The vampire screamed and released her grip; Faith head-butted her in the nose and kicked her off.

Faith jumped back up, and again the vampire was back on her feet almost instantly. Faith could see out of the corner of her eye that Rebecca had backed away, but she was staying closer now. Faith could feel blood dripping from her nose down her chin. The vampire's nose was bleeding too, and she was squinting in order to see. Faith looked down at her denim jacket. The vampire's claws had slashed it to ribbons.

"Wait, I got it. The outfit, the makeup, the hairdo...you're running away to join the circus, right?" Faith said. Her tough talk was bullshit and she knew it. She had gotten lucky with that last move. She couldn't afford another mistake with this girl.

"You killed my boyfriend! You killed David! You killed him!" the vampire screamed.

A Slayer catalogues her opponent as well, both physically and psychologically...

She's angry. Use it.

"Hate to break it to ya Elvira, but Dave fought like my Grandma," Faith said. "Thinkin' I did you a favor, y'know? You can do better."

Still half blind and squinting, the vampire sprang at Faith, snarling. Faith dodged her, grabbed her right arm as she passed, spun around, twisted the arm up high behind the vampire's back and broke it. The vampire screamed and turned for one last run at Faith, but Faith spun again and kicked her in the face. The vampire flew through the air, smashed through the window of the arcade, and landed flat on the floor. Faith leaped into the dark arcade after her, jumped on her back and got her in a headlock, twisting the vampire's one good arm behind her back. She broke that arm too, with a crack that echoed through the room. The vampire screamed again.

"Give?" Faith said.

The vampire was crying.

"He's dead. He's dead...you killed him..." she said.

She twisted her head around to look at Faith, with tears in her eyes. "Get it over with," she said.

The girl went limp. She lay completely still on the floor under Faith, waiting to die. Faith took out her stake.

"What's...what's your name?" Faith said.

"Why do you care?" the girl said.

Faith held her stake poised above the girl's back. But she hesitated.

"Tell me your name," Faith said.

"Emily," the girl said.

"I'm Faith."

"I know who you are, Slayer."

"You put up a good fight. Best anyone's ever given me. Almost had me."

Emily looked back at Faith again. Her face changed to human form. She was pretty.

"Just do it. I don't have any reason to live anymore anyway," Emily said.

Faith still hesitated. She felt Rebecca behind her. She felt the whole room around her. One of the video games in the arcade was turned on. Faith recognized the sound. Space Invaders. A cold wind blew through the broken glass. Somewhere a dog barked again. The vampire's eyes were blue. A cockroach skittered across the floor a few yards away. The vampire's breath smelled like cotton candy.

"David..." Emily whispered, and closed her eyes.

Faith staked her, and she turned to dust.

Faith didn't move. She knelt there, in the pile of dust, with the Space Invaders sounds and the cold wind through the broken glass. After a moment she felt Rebecca's hand stroking her hair.

"Are you all right?" Rebecca said.

Faith got up. "I just...I just want to go home," she said.

Rebecca took a handkerchief from her pocket, and gently dabbed the blood away from Faith's nose.

Then she put her hand on Faith's shoulder, and walked her out of the arcade, back to the car.

"Would you like to stop somewhere and grab a bite to eat?" Rebecca said, as they drove away.

Faith shook her head.

"It happens sometimes," Rebecca said. "One of them manages to hold onto a bit of their humanity. That doesn't mean she had a soul. It doesn't mean she wouldn't have killed you if you let her. It doesn't mean they wouldn't have murdered us both if we were the two helpless women we were pretending to be."

Faith nodded.

They were quiet, after that...

Two days later the weather did what it had a tendency to do in Boston: surprised you. It was the last day of summer and it was bright and sunny without a cloud in the sky, but the sun was all talk and it somehow managed to be on the wrong side of forty degrees. The day just got colder as it went on, and a raw east wind off the water joined the party, cutting right through whatever you were wearing. The low temperature broke the record in Boston that day, and "dress in layers" was the mantra mothers around the city repeated to their children.

"Dress in layers," Rebecca said to Faith, after their workout. "It's cold."

Rebecca knew the previous night had been hard on Faith. Soulless things that they were, vampires nevertheless were as complex as the people whose bodies they walked in and being a Slayer wasn't all black and white. Good people did bad things and bad people--even vampires--could have friendships, could care about someone, could choose sometimes to do good things. Faith would work it out for herself, as every Slayer did eventually. But it would take time. Faith hadn't talked much since yesterday.

"Okay," Faith said.

"Trevor's picking me up to take me to that restaurant in that horrible skyscraper tonight..." Rebecca said.

"The Pru," Faith said.

"Yes, the Prudential building. Horrible eyesore, but Trevor says the view from the restaurant on top is fantastic. We'd really like it if you could join us."

"Well, uh, I got a thing with Ev and Dan and his girlfriend. We're going to a movie, then The Roxy."

"Oh," Rebecca said, and smiled. "Another time then. And don't forget to bundle up tonight."

Faith nodded, and walked away. Then she turned. Rebecca was putting their equipment back on the shelves. Faith wanted to tell her she wasn't angry with her, that she just needed time to think. But Faith wasn't sure that was true. Maybe she was angry with Rebecca, a little.

But she knew they could have that talk later. They had plenty of time.

Faith walked out the door.

Faith wasn't very good company for Evan and Dan and his girl that night, and she begged off right after the movie. She told them she had a headache, and she knew Evan saw right through her. But he respected her space; he always had. So they dropped her back home, and Faith went up to her room, and flung her leather coat on the floor.

She hadn't dressed in layers. She'd felt cold all night.

She sat on her bed, looking around her room. The only thing that was really hers was the leather coat on the floor. Everything else, Rebecca had given her. She looked up at the painting Rebecca had bought for her, the one she herself had picked out, with all the swirling, liquid blue. Deep, dark blue, like the ocean on a summer day.

She glanced at the alarm clock. Almost ten.

She put on a sweater and a winter coat, and ran out the door.

Someone once called Boston's Prudential building "a textbook example of urban character assassination". It shot up fifty-two stories into the sky a few blocks ahead of Faith now, towering above everything around it with all the warmth and charm of an electric razor as Faith sprinted down Boylston Street past Copley Square, with the sleek, lofty, fragile-looking Hancock Building looming over it, all silver glass reflecting the night sky, past the grand old Trinity Church looking ornate and palatial and somehow out of place on her right, and the Public Library on her left with its carved stone lions at the doors and the monumental inscriptions that proclaimed, "Built by the people and dedicated to the advancement of learning". A beautiful relic from a more optimistic time.

The Pru was in the Back Bay, about a fifteen minute walk from Rebecca's house. Faith sprinted there in less than ninety seconds.

She walked into the big, quiet foyer, her boots echoing on the polished marble floor, and entered the chrome and glass elevator. As she slowly made her way up to the fifty-second floor, she had a funny feeling in her stomach. She wished the elevator was faster.

She got out of the elevator and her stake was suddenly in her hand, and she found herself stalking toward the restaurant at the end of the carpeted hallway, past the framed prints of the Boston skyline, past the vases on little tables, being careful to make as little noise as possible.

She smelled vampires...

...and blood.

When Faith walked into the restaurant, thirteen vampires were looking right at her. The most she had ever taken on at one time before was three.

"For Kakistos we live," they snarled, in unison. "For Kakistos you die."




Blood was everywhere.

It was splattered all over the walls, and sprayed on the windows; the magnificent view of Boston was tinted red. It collected in pools on the rug and on the white linen tablecloths. People were dead in their chairs, their throats torn out. People were dead on the floor. The restaurant was silent, in that specific way a place is silent after death has been through it.

Faith saw Trevor, lying dead in a pool of blood, his throat slit. She felt a wave of panic and looked around for Rebecca. She couldn't see her. A neat black man in an expensive suit sitting at one of the tables checked his watch.

"Faith Lehane. Been waiting on you. You can call me Mr. Trick," he said.

He took a sip of wine, and patted his mouth with his napkin. "Southie girl," he said. "Bet you don't see too many look like me around the old neighborhood, do you? You should've been there during the busing thing in the seventies. Now those were some times."

He turned and looked at her, and his face changed, his forehead becoming deformed, the eyes protruding, the teeth growing to fangs. "Know what I love about this century?" he said. "How everything's so connected. How you can find anyone anywhere. Back in the day, you ate the daughter of the guy next door, you just left town, started over. It was simpler then. Of course, I'm older than I look." He smiled, showing Faith his teeth. Like a wolf that smelled blood.

"These days, everyone's got a social security number, phone, driver's license," Trick said. "Makes it hard for a man to turn over a new leaf, but it does make it easy to find someone. You were a tough nut to crack though. You got practically no records anywhere. License, nope; phone, nope; hospital records, none since age ten; school records stop after ninth grade. Frustrating. But your Watcher was easier. Rebecca Greer. Born August 11th, 1956. Moved from Newcastle, England, to Boston about a year ago, looking for you, I guess. Current address, 48 Commonwealth Avenue. Drives a Lexus. Plate number, 421-GG7. Yes indeed, I do love computers."

He finished his wine. "We had everything set to go today, all the guys in place, but we couldn't find you," he said. "So we were gonna just send some guys to watch your house until you got back, when we spotted Becky heading here. We assumed she'd tell us where you were. We can be very persuasive. But I gotta give old Becky her props: lady's tough. When she wouldn't talk to us, well...the guys then felt the need to relieve their tension by eating the patrons of this fine dining establishment."

He stood up, and the thirteen vampires began to spread out, surrounding Faith and snarling.

"But hey, now you're here," Trick said. "So it all worked out. But the problem with you taking your sweet time and all is, we don't like to keep Kakistos waiting. No, we surely do not. He gets bored, y'see..."

He gestured to the other side of the room, and as the thirteen vampires spread out in a circle around Faith, she could see...

"And then, well...he gets impatient," Trick said. "And he has to find a way to, how shall we put it...occupy himself? And someone to occupy himself with."

She could see...

...Rebecca. She was on the floor, on her stomach. She was...

Faith felt her stomach tighten, become a hard, cold thing.

Kakistos was an ancient vampire, tall and powerfully built, with a bald head and a face like a pit bull. He had cloven hooves for hands and feet. Faith remembered Rebecca telling her about him...how he was so ancient and powerful that he could no longer assume human form...how he killed Madeleine Lambert, the girl who was the Slayer before Buffy Summers...

There are vampires who take Slayers like trophies.

He was lying on top of Rebecca. Moving on top of her, and grunting...his pants were down.

Rebecca was naked and unconscious beneath him...

Faith felt the scream tear from her mouth and before she knew what she was doing she was in motion, leaping over tables, running for Rebecca. A voice in her head told her to be careful, to remember her training, but the scream that kept on tearing out of her drowned it out and she sprang at Kakistos like a lion...

She almost made it to him. At the last second some of the vampires managed to get in front of her. Screaming, she staked the nearest one, spun around, ducked under the outstretched arms of another and staked that one too. Then she felt arms dragging her down; the others had reached her.

As they dragged her to the floor, she heard a voice somewhere say, "Hurt her, but save the kill for me. I'm almost through riding this bitch."

Faith felt her rage filling her up; she felt it coursing through her arms and her legs. It was fuel and she was going to use it. Her legs kicked out and three vampires went flying across the room. She screamed, kicking the air, squirming and twisting, fighting to move her arms, her screams growing louder and louder and the blood pounding in her ears; at first she could hear voices screaming "Hold her down!" but the pounding in her ears and her own screams were all she could hear now. One of the vampires got too close and she tore into his face with her teeth, getting her mouth around his nose and tearing his nose off of his face.

He ran away screaming, but her screams were louder than his. His blood was in her mouth. She spit the vampire's nose out and kicked her legs and threw her arms forward with all her might. She heard one of the vampires say "Oh no" and four more vampires went flying and suddenly she was free...

Faith stood up and roared, her mouth dripping blood.

The vampires regrouped and ran at her again. Faith leaped at them, covering five yards in one bound, knocking the vampires over like bowling pins and screaming and clawing at the eyes of the closest one she could get her hands on. She landed on top of that one and tore his eyes out of his head with her fingernails. He screamed but her screams were still louder, and she staked him. The others tried to grab her, but she dropped to her stomach, rolled onto her side and kicked out with her legs and two of them went flying. She rolled away from the rest, flipped herself back up to her feet, planted her left leg, whipped herself around and kicked with her right, harder than she ever had before. Two more went flying fifty feet across the room and over the bar.

She waded into the other five and threw a punch at one of them that could have put a hole in concrete; it knocked half his teeth out. He landed on the floor and Faith stomped on his face with her boot over and over again, an insane light in her eyes. She felt the bone give beneath her feet and she felt her rage building inside her like a rocket as the other four grabbed her from behind and tried to pull her away. She screamed and flipped them all over her head and kept on stomping. Faith crushed the vampire's skull like an egg, until his brains were a piece of bloody meat on the floor. She kicked them across the room and the vampire turned to dust.

Everything was in slow motion. The only sound Faith could hear was herself, screaming. All she felt was rage, exploding through her and compelling her forward, and that cold thing at the bottom of her stomach when she thought about Rebecca on the floor. She tasted the blood from the vampire's nose in her mouth. It tasted metallic, like a penny. Her lips trembled a little; she wasn't sure, but she thought she might be crying.

More of them were behind her, trying to drag her down again. She leaped backwards, going with their motion, and headbutted one of them. She twisted around and staked another and heard Trick somewhere saying, "Waste of manpower, waste of resources..." They all piled on her now, dragging her down with their numbers. One of them kicked her in the face and she fell, and then they were all trying to hold her down and kicking her. One of them started kicking her in her right side. She felt fire lance through her side and thought she felt some of her ribs go as she covered up and tried to roll and avoid their kicks.

The vampire without a nose was suddenly standing above her, and he kicked her in the head. Everything went red for a second like fireworks exploding behind her eyes. Faith knew if she didn't get up in the next few seconds she never would.

She caught a glimpse of Kakistos...he was on top of Rebecca, thrusting into her and yanking her hair like a jockey pulling the reins of a horse. Faith heard Rebecca whimper, half-conscious, and then she saw Kakistos shudder, and heard him moan and chuckle. "Best piece I've had in decades," he said.

Faith closed her eyes, and now she knew she was crying. She felt the tears running down her face. She tasted them on her lips.

The vampire without a nose kicked her in the head again, and the other vampire kicked her again in the ribs. She almost lost consciousness. The vampire without a nose aimed another kick at her head...

She grabbed his boot, inches away from her. She looked at the vampires, and everything seemed to slow down again...to freeze.

"I swear to God, I swear to God. I'm gonna kill every last one of you," someone said.

The voice sounded strange. It took Faith a second to realize she was the one who had said it.

Then she flung the vampire without a nose away by his boot, quickly sat up, and grabbed the next closest vampire by the neck and twisted his head around. His neck snapped like a twig and she kicked her legs out and rolled, managing to trip a couple of the others. It gave her enough room to grab her stake and jump back up. Her side felt like it was on fire and her vision was blurred. She forced it to come into focus.

Her rage was still there, but she needed to control it now, to use it. If she was going to get Rebecca out of this she'd have to play it smart.

A Slayer always thinks tactically.

She let all her senses reach out. Trick was sitting at the bar, drinking wine. Kakistos was standing beside him now, watching. Seven vampires surrounded her. One was on the floor with a broken neck. He'd recover eventually, vampires couldn't be killed that way, but he was out of the fight. The vampire without a nose was running back at her. He'd be on her in two seconds. But he was angry; that would make him sloppy.

Rebecca was naked and bleeding and very still on the floor.

A flaming pan sat on a cart at the other end of the room. There were knives on the tables. They were on the fifty-second floor. A vampire would survive the fall but he'd be badly hurt. It was night; she couldn't grab Rebecca and run, the vampires would chase them down outside. She'd have to make her stand here. She didn't hear sirens. Anyone who could've called the police was dead; people down on the street wouldn't have noticed anything happening this far up. Police would help...

Faith was the Slayer. She was only just beginning to understand it, but the magic that was a part of her now had changed more than just her physical prowess, her strength and speed. She had become a predator. A perfect hunter, in both body and mind. She had just tactically evaluated the situation and everything and everyone in the room and then devised a plan of action all in the space of one second. The vampire without a nose hadn't yet reached her.

She grabbed a couple of steak knives from a nearby table and started moving. One knife went straight through the eye of the vampire without a nose. He wasn't expecting the knife and Faith threw it with such force that it knocked him to the floor, and he rolled around screaming. The other six were running after Faith now, but Faith was faster. As she ran she shoved one of the tables through a window. When pieces of the Pru fell fifty-two stories someone down there would notice. It would bring police. Maybe too late to help but it was worth a shot. She stopped short and doubled back, hopping over tables like a jackrabbit, keeping just out of reach. She leaped off a table, grabbed a wooden bar stool from the floor and shoved one of the legs through the heart of the vampire without a nose as she ran past him again. He turned to dust and she kept running. The restaurant was long and wide and it gave her plenty of room to maneuver...

Stick and move.

Just as the vampires were about to reach her again she jumped up onto a table, pushed off it with her legs as hard as she could and backflipped, somersaulting back over all six of them. She landed behind them and staked one, but the backflip sent pain lancing through her side; her ribs were definitely broken there. She ignored it. Another vampire got a knife through the eye and fell to the floor and Faith was running again as the other four vampires howled with rage and chased her. She grabbed the flaming pan from the cart as they closed the distance, turned, and threw it in their faces. Two of them caught fire and started running around, panicking.

She heard Trick say, "I think you're gonna need to see to this." She heard Kakistos say, "And of course, you don't want to get your hands dirty." Faith noticed another knife on the floor; it was a butcher knife. Faith noted its location and kept running. She knew what she was going to do with that knife. The two vampires who were on fire had managed to start fires in various parts of the restaurant while trying to put themselves out; the other two were chasing her again. Two she could deal with. She was tired of running. She passed the vampire with a broken neck and knocked a burning table over on top of him. He turned to dust, and Faith faced the two vampires chasing her. They stopped short, just out of Faith's reach. One of them leaped at her...

Redirect his energy. Make it work for you.

Faith twisted his arm, flipped him over onto his knees with his arm up high behind his back in a wrist lock and staked him while the other one watched.

She was getting tired. Her eyes drifted out of focus again. She forced them back in focus. Her adrenalin and her hate had carried her this far but she couldn't keep this up forever. The vampire in front of her wasn't sure what to do so she took a moment to catch her breath.

The two vampires who were on fire were hitting themselves with tablecloths and throwing water on themselves to douse the flames, but they didn't look good. The one with the knife in his eye was rolling around on the floor. Trick said, "Will someone please kill that girl? Pretty please? Cherry on top?" The fire was starting to spread. The vampire with the knife in his eye looked done. That left Faith three vampires to deal with, along with Trick and Kakistos. "Oh, and just in case no one noticed? This frigging place is on fire," Trick said.

Kakistos would be the toughest and it was fine with Faith if he wanted to stay out of the fight while she dealt with the goons. Trick was a mystery. She'd solve him later. The vampire in front of her was circling warily. Faith knew he was afraid. His scent told her that. He had seen Faith make a lot of fancy moves and seemed to have decided to just be ready for anything. But Faith wasn't feeling fancy just then, so she grabbed a bar stool and smashed him across the face with it. He went down and she staked him as the other two came at her.

The fire alarm went off, a repeated, high-pitched whine that blasted through the room like a siren. It would bring help. The restaurant apparently didn't have a sprinkler system, or if it did it wasn't working. That was good. The flames would keep the vampires cautious.

Faith's side felt like needles now. She blocked it out. The two vampires circled her, looking for an opening. Not so damn eager when there aren't thirteen of them, Faith thought. She had to get Rebecca out of there. The flames were at the opposite end of the room from Rebecca but the whole place would go up eventually. She had to end this fight.

The vampires finally came at her. One aimed a good kick at her and Faith had to twist to protect her broken ribs and take the kick on the shoulder. It knocked her down but she was fine with that. The vampire jumped on top of her to try to capitalize like she predicted he would and she flipped him over her head with her legs into the fire and he turned to dust. As she got up the other one punched her in the face before she could get her guard up, a good punch that made the whole right side of her head feel numb. She rolled with the punch and flipped herself back to her feet. She saw Trick standing on a chair in a corner of the room pulling a speaker out of the wall. The fire alarm stopped. "Can't hear myself think with this frigging thing," Trick said. It didn't matter. The fire department would have picked up the alarm. They'd send help. Faith knew she just had to hold on.

The ribs were a continuous white-hot pain now and the punch in the face took more out of Faith than she thought. She should've been able to dodge the kick the vampire sent at her just then but her vision doubled again and he tagged her in the chest. She stumbled backwards and he punched her in the face again. It sent her flying and she smashed into a table. The vampire with the knife in his eye chose that moment to finally get the balls to get back into the fight, but Faith tore a leg from the table and threw it straight through his heart as he got up and ran at her. He turned to dust, and Faith jumped up and ran at the last one. She suddenly stopped, catching him off guard, and spun and kicked. Spinning set her ribs on fire again, but the kick put the vampire down. Faith pounced on him and staked him with a scream of triumph that echoed through the restaurant.

All thirteen were dead now.

Faith walked to the butcher knife and picked it up.

Then she faced Kakistos.

A good chunk of the room was burning. Faith felt shaky and tired and her right side hurt, but her vision was okay for the moment and she was alive. She heard sirens in the distance. Finally.

"And what are you going to do with that, little girl?" Kakistos said.

"Gonna cut your dick off with it," Faith said. "Been saving it special, just for that."

"We'll see," he said.

"Girl does have a certain flamboyant style, doesn't she?" Trick said. "But, just to reiterate? This place is on fire. So I'll catch y'all later."

"Why do I even keep you around?" Kakistos said.

"Who else you gonna call when you need to recruit eighteen new flunkies?" Trick said, and headed for the exit. "And I am of course the epitome of style, sophistication, and wit."

"What makes you think I'm letting you leave?" Faith said.

"Aw, honey," Trick said, and laughed. "Honey, honey...come on. Use that pretty brain of yours. You really think those slabs of beef you took down were, in any little microscopic way, indicative of what you're facing next? Girl, your life can be measured in seconds. And you surely don't need old Mr. Trick adding to your troubles. Tell you what, Southie. You survive this? We'll do lunch."

Faith knew he was right. Kakistos was the one Faith wanted and he looked plenty hard enough without having to fight Trick at the same time. But Faith wasn't going to forget about old Mr. Trick. Everyone who had anything to do with what happened to Rebecca was going to die. Faith was going to see to that.

"Some day, some way," Faith said. "We'll see each other again, Trick. And when we do I'm gonna stick you like a fucking pig."

"Uncalled for," Trick said. "Now that was just uncalled for." And he walked out the door.

Faith and Kakistos watched each other.

"Well?" Kakistos said.

Faith ran at him. He threw a punch that Faith should have been able to dodge, but her ribs still felt like hot needles and she had to settle for blocking it with her shoulder. The punch hit her left shoulder like a cannonball and her whole left arm went numb. She flew the entire length of the room, slammed into the far wall and fell to the floor.

Kakistos opened a bottle of beer and took a swig.

"I'll give your Watcher credit," he said. "We asked her nicely where you were and she wouldn't tell us. Not after we beat her and threatened to kill her, not even when we had a knife to her boyfriend's throat. Bitch and her boyfriend killed five of my boys too. That pissed me off."

Faith got up, picked her butcher knife and her stake up off the floor and ran at him again. She couldn't move her left arm. Kakistos put his beer down and faced her. She stopped just out of his reach and waited for him to make a move. She'd find an opening.

He came at her. He was very fast for his size, but tired and hurt as Faith was she was still faster. He tried to grab her and she sliced his cloven hand with the butcher knife, spun around, and kicked him in the back. It was like kicking a boulder. Kakistos stumbled forward but didn't fall, and spun around and threw a backhand that Faith ducked. It cut through the air like a baseball bat.

You're faster than he is. Stick and move, stick and move...

She circled him, looking for an opening. He threw another punch that Faith ducked; it put him slightly out of position and Faith was able to get in under his guard and hit him two good right hooks in the face. He tried to grab her but she shuffled back out. She couldn't keep her guard up without her left so she had to keep her distance. He lunged at her and she shuffled to the side and kicked him in the balls. He was smarter than most men: he took the pain and didn't double up and drop his guard. Faith backed up some more, got some distance, tried to lead him closer to the fire where he'd be less confident. He had a long reach and he was too strong; she couldn't afford to let him hit her even one more time. Some feeling was returning to her left arm, but she still couldn't move it.

Kakistos lunged at her again and slammed his fist down like a hammer. Faith dodged, twisting out of the way, and the blow cracked the wood-topped bar in half from one end to the other. When Faith twisted her ribs felt like she'd been kicked by a horse. She stumbled, and before she could get out of range again Kakistos caught her with an elbow to the back of the neck...and then everything went black.

When Faith opened her eyes she was on her back on the floor and he was on top of her. His breath stank of blood and beer. He had Rebecca's scent on him.

"I kill Slayers," he said, leering at her. "I've been around a long time. A man needs hobbies. After you I'll do that bitch in California."

His knee was on her stomach. He had one cloven hand around her neck, choking her; the other pinned her right arm down. The room was spinning, Faith's vision was blurred, and the pain in her side was spiking; his knee was digging into one of her ribs. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. Her knife and her stake were out of reach a few feet away. Her left arm was underneath him, but she still couldn't move it. She tried to throw him off but he was too heavy. He smiled as Faith labored to breathe, slowly tightening his grip on her neck, stretching the moment out. He was too strong...he had her.

A part of Faith thought about closing her eyes, and letting oblivion come.

Then Kakistos made a mistake.

"Your Watcher was one hell of a great lay," he said, and laughed. "Nice tight pussy, the way I like 'em. If this place wasn't falling apart around us I'd go take another ride before I kill her."

That was the moment Faith decided she was going to live.

He squeezed her neck harder. Faith had no air left now. She didn't need it.

She concentrated on her left hand. She was going to move her left hand.

Kakistos moved his fangs toward her neck...

She was going to move her left hand. She was going to move her left hand. She was going to move her left hand...

He had an erection. She could see it...

Slowly, underneath him, her left hand moved.

She felt his fangs on her neck...

Faith grabbed his balls with her left hand, and squeezed.

Kakistos suddenly sucked in air like he was suffocating, let go of Faith's neck, sat up and screamed. Faith could breathe again, gasping and coughing. Kakistos clawed at her left hand, prying at her fingers. They wouldn't budge. Her hand was like a chunk of stone. He punched her in the face. Faith's head cracked against the floor, but she forced herself to stay conscious...and to squeeze with all her might, as Kakistos screamed.

She felt his balls explode.

He flopped around like a fish on a hook and fell to the floor, screaming. Faith crawled to her knife and her stake, coughing. She picked up the knife and the stake and tried to stand, but the room was still spinning a little and she couldn't keep her balance. So she crawled back to Kakistos and crouched down in front of him instead.

"Think...I was kidding...?" she whispered breathlessly, and stabbed the butcher knife into his crotch. Kakistos screamed and flung a wild punch at her, but she avoided it, slashed the knife at his face and sliced his eye open. He screamed again, blood spurting all over his face.

Then Faith tore his pants down, grabbed his penis and balls, and sliced them off with the butcher knife.

Kakistos screamed again, and didn't stop screaming...

Faith liked that scream. She could listen to that scream all day long. She could dance to it.

His blood and fluids spurted out. They smelled foul. That was good. Kakistos didn't smell like Rebecca anymore. Faith didn't want him to have any part of Rebecca.

She held his penis and balls in her hand, and showed them to him.

"Took your last ride," Faith said, in a voice that wasn't human, and that she didn't recognize as her own. Then she tossed his ugly meat, the grotesque, putrid things he had used to violate Rebecca, into the fire to burn.

The fire had more than a quarter of the restaurant now and smoke was filling the room. Faith started coughing. The sirens were outside the building.

Faith plunged her stake into Kakistos' heart...

Nothing happened.

The stake snapped Kakistos back from wherever he was and he clubbed Faith across the face with a backhand that sent her flying into a wall. She landed inches from the fire and rolled away just in time. She tried to stand, and fell back down. She got up again, holding onto a table to steady herself. She could see him coming toward her. The stake was still in his chest. He pulled it out, and threw it into the fire.

He ran at her, screaming incoherently. Faith couldn't dodge him in time, she could hardly even stand. He brutally clubbed her in the face and sent her flying again. When she opened her eyes she thought she might have blacked out for a second; she was on the floor and the rug smelled funny. It smelled like blood. She looked down, and saw a little puddle of blood beneath her, and knew it was hers. She tried to get up, but everything was spinning again and she didn't know where Kakistos was...

She felt an exploding pain in her stomach, like someone had just hit her there, and then she slammed through something brittle, and there was cold air rushing by...

The cold air woke her up. He had kicked her out the window. She was falling...from the fifty-second floor of the Prudential building. Seven-hundred and fifty feet above the ground.

She didn't scream. She was too surprised.

She thought about roller coasters. She had never been on one before. She had never been to an amusement park. She wondered if this was what the roller coaster felt like...

Faith saw the ground rushing toward her, and knew she was going to die.

Her life came into her thoughts. It didn't flash in front of her eyes like some great revelation. It just...occurred to her. She could think about it, in this last moment, or not. The memories were all there, waiting for her. She held on tight to them...cherished them, in these few seconds she had left.

"Wonderful, Faith!" Rebecca said with a big smile. "You're getting better every day."

"Couldn't have done it without you, Becca," Faith said, and hugged her. She liked hugging Rebecca. She liked leaning in against Rebecca, and she liked how warm Rebecca always felt, and the way she smelled. Faith had trouble letting go of her sometimes.

"And I see you managed to work your catchphrases in again," Rebecca said, with a raised eyebrow.

"Come on Becca, don't tell me you don't think they're just a little bit cool," Faith said, and grinned.

"Yes, they're very clever, darling."

Faith smashed into the roof of a police car, bounced off of it and hit the ground...

She rolled to a stop, and lay still.

Part 7

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