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“Do you think you can do it?”

Faith eyed the glow of the cigarette in the darkness of the limo and then turned half of her attention (almost as an afterthought) to the vampire club out the window. The other half, she kept on the men in the car with her.

All self-proclaimed vampire hunters.

Which for them was apparently an all-boys club kind of deal. Faith kept her hand on the seat of the limo, noticing the texture of wealth for once. Taking her time. The blonde besides her kept his leg against hers.

Marlboro Man across the way kept his eyes on her, cigarette in hand.

“I said, do you think you can do it?”

Faith looked over at him and smiled slowly. “Depends.”

“I won’t ask again.”

The threat was hanging in the air. If she made them beg, they’d try for the other vampire slayer. Only she knew they asked her because she was on her own.

Buffy, well, she had her own exclusive club.

“You guys aren’t giving me the whole story,” Faith said. “It’s not as if you’re shy,” she looked down at the leg next to hers, “about certain things.”

“These vampires compel their victims rather than the usual…”

“Massacre in an alley,” Faith said. She didn’t want to show weakness but she was sure she wasn’t immune to compulsion by slayer privilege. That was how she had stepped into these shoes. The other girl hadn’t handled it. She was quiet, though, debating in her head whether she could turn this down.

It wasn’t as if these men meant a thing to her. She just didn’t want to step back.

“We have vervain for your protection,” came a voice to her left. “We’ll put in a small capsule and no matter what, it will keep you safe.”

“And they haven’t caught on to that trick yet?” Faith asked.

The silence in the air was palpable. These guys were a class act: how many people had they thrown into the deep end?

They were throwing her in the deep end.

“I can get around them,” she said. “I can slay the main vampire.”

“You have to kill the leader, it’s impertinent that you-.”

Faith reached over and plucked the cigarette out of his hand with lightning speed. She put it in her mouth with them watching and took a drag.

“Give me the capsule and a week.”
They didn’t ask any more questions. They dropped her off with a capsule in her hand.

Right on the sidewalk, right out of a limo, and she laughed at the look she got from a couple nearby. She began to walk where home was nowadays, cigarette in her mouth.

She didn’t take another drag.

It was only for the look.

***

“Are you sure this is the one you want?”

The chair in the tattoo pallor was uncomfortable but she lounged in it, showing him her back. She looked at the wall with the hearts and cupids but what caught her eye was the design with the knife in the heart.

She had gone for the crucifix tattoo.

Vampires would be into it and it would cover the scar tissue in the back of her leg. The capsule would be there, under her skin, and she’d be safe.

“Yeah,” Faith said. For all her good planning, she didn’t feel smug. She wanted this to be over with.

“Are you really sure?”

“I said yes,” she said, a sharpness edging into her voice.

“Because I think it’s fucking ugly,” the man said bluntly.

“And I have to live with it the rest of my life,” she said and she grinned. “Got it.”

***

Faith wasn’t ashamed to admit it.

The music in this place was incredible. Full of undead things—something she’d fix right up. But at the moment, the music was pulsing with more life than most clubs she had gotten lost in.

Now to find a vampire to take her in.

She pushed and shoved her way through the crowd of people jumping up and down. Never really dancing. No one really danced, not like she could. Not like she wanted to.

Faith chose a spot on the floor and began to dance, her heart speeding up with anticipation. She made sure her dress rode up, and in her mind, she thought about the power in her body right now.

Her smile was sharp and bright as she scanned the room, dancing close to other girls, shoving how alive she was right down their throats.

A blonde vampire stared at her from over the bar but Faith recognized the look of someone who just wanted to eat and run. She needed much more long term.

Faith continued to move and then—she felt eyes on her.
He lifted his glass in a toast to her, a dark intensity cloaking his features, and somehow Faith knew this was the one she wanted.

So she turned her back on him, pushing through the crowd. The snub was in, the bait was thrown.

She started to go towards the exit, pushing and shoving, her poker face on, and suddenly he was near the exit, waiting for her.

If she was a normal girl, she’d be more than a little unnerved.

So she played unnerved, her eyes widening at the sight of him.

“Hey,” he said. “Have a drink with me.”

“Is that all you got?” Faith mocked.

“All I need,” was the response. His eyes were very bright, as if through all that constructed darkness, something even worse came through—an actual sincere want. “You’ve got big eyes, you know that?”

Backwards, Faith thought. Or it should be backwards, if he was the only one who was going to eat her up. He didn’t know what he was dealing with. No one did.

Sure, he was smoldering and dangerous as hell. But it was the kind of danger Faith had, in many ways, grown up with. It was familiar.

“Cut to the chase. You want to fuck me,” Faith said.

He lifted up one shoulder as a shrug but he kept his eyes on hers.

“Don’t be afraid. I don’t bite…much,” he said.

“Really,” Faith said, stepping so much closer, the beat of the music still pulsing behind her. She lowered her eyes to his neck and then nipped at his neck, the surface of her teeth just grazing his skin. “Too bad. I do.”

Then she walked out into the night, his eyes boring a hole into her back. She held back a strange shudder at the vulnerability.

The scene just around the corner shook her right out of it. A group of vampires huddled around a body on the ground, just covered in the shadows.

Faith instinctively reached the stake she didn’t have.

It was too late anyway. The boy was dead. By the looks of it, he’d be on his feet again before the night was over. She knew because of how they were all gathered around him, waiting. The quiet whispering of casual conversation as the body lay at their feet. Then two of them looked at her, and they were so casual about it, with the red streaks across their mouths.

Her heart was pounding and that old energy was growing inside of her. She wanted to fight them but that wasn’t the game. She’d wait and it’d make their reactions oh so much better.

Faith felt a hand wrap itself around in her hair and a shadow steal in front of her. There he was, going for the bait. He tilted her head up forcefully.

“Forget about them. You’re mine and you’re coming home with me tonight,” he said, just like that, his eyes changing. This was the trick, she could feel it in the bones. She was in a staring contest with a snake.

“Hey, you know what,” she murmured, mimicking the weird tones she had heard all night. “You’re going to take me home tonight.”

She grabbed his shirt, jerking him forward just so (barely any real strength in her touch) and the smile on his face—she had him.

That was just how it was, and with that alone, she smiled back. He mistook it for lust. Maybe it was. He was so good-looking for a monster. Beautiful even.

“And that means I want you to be honest with me at all times. You have any friends? Family?” His eyes were still burning into hers.

She hesitated and she couldn’t hesitate. She opened her mouth to say yes.

“No.”

Made sense to make this uncomplicated as possible.

He didn’t question it: she could see that in his eyes and something twisted sharply inside of her.

“I’m all yours,” she finished. “If you can handle me.”

“Sure I can, you’re all alone,” he said, and something twisted sharply inside of her. She stared up at him. “Now I have to take you,” he said, as if her life was some sad pathetic thing. He put his arm around her and guided her out of the alley.

All the while, she thought of the power running underneath her skin and how good it would feel to thrust a stake into his heart.

***
“Don’t be afraid.”

This vampire had his arms draped around her as a woman popped her fangs as she approached. Faith knew that this vamp was their taste-tester.

Faith wasn’t afraid. No way.

“You’re shaking,” he said.

“Not from fear,” she said. That seemed to delight both vampires.

“When you’re done with her?” the girl asked, and Faith saw that she had dimples.

“When I’m done with her, she’s done.” He paused. “Hey, then you can have her.”

The girl frowned and grabbed Faith’s hand, sinking her teeth sharply into the wrist. Faith hissed because this pouty shithead dug into her wrist in a tantrum.

“She’s good.”

Faith was pulled along and she glared at her hand. Put that face to memory. She felt like she was a kid again and she had just been sent into a corner somehow. The monster now walked in front of her, confident that she’d follow.

She watched the dip of his back. As they passed one door, Faith heard a thump against it, the raking of fingernails, and then the sliding of a body.

What would Buffy do? Faith didn’t have an answer in the empty silence that followed.

“The joys of communal living, huh,” she commented to him. She was going to make him turn around.

He paused at his door, looking over at her underneath his bangs. Then his eyes fell to her wrist.

“Looks like I’m going to be the one bitched at,” he said and moved in a blink of an eye, cradling her wrist. “Does this hurt?”

Honesty was the best policy here. She had to remind herself. “Yeah,” Faith said. “She dug her teeth,” she added.

“That’s what you get when you walk into Never-Never land,” he said, with this smile on his face that made her do a double take. “I’ll catch her later. For now—I’ll make you feel good, how’s that?”

He opened the door to his room and waved her inside with false courtesy. She walked in, showing him her back.

Faith’s Watcher had said a few things before he left. Vampires always seem to have the most wooden furniture. That it was an odd tick of theirs. It was true for him as well.

A make-shift stake could be in her hand in a second. The door shut behind him, and she took the time to take in all her surroundings.

“So, you’re Peter Pan in the flesh,” Faith said, looking out the window. Fire escape nearby. “How sexy.”

“Hey, it’s without the tights,” he said. “And the flying thing. And…most of it except for one thing. He doesn’t remember them after he kills them.”

Faith looked at him. He shrugged. “His words, not mine. I just happen to agree.”

She looked away and something caught her eye.

A woman's shoe had been casually tossed into the corner of his room. She looked a beat longer before turning away to face him and realized it was a girl's shoe. It was frilly blue with all these straps. She had already gotten a good picture of the room and it wasn't as if he had left out their bras and panties.

Just forgot about the damn shoe. Soulless fuck. There was a shiver of revulsion that ran up her spine.

She heard a clink of a glass and he zoomed up from behind her. She couldn’t help but tense up.

“Relax,” Damon said and followed her line of sight. “She meant nothing to me, promise.”

“I should leave. Get the hell out of here.”

“You should.”

She smirked and turned to him. “You aren’t going to give me a reason to stay?”

“Don’t need to,” he said.

“Why did you pick me?” she asked. She thought she knew why (blow to the ego). It was so easy to get aroused when she had pictured all the violence to him, that feeling... if she had to sleep with him to get into the inner circle of vampires, then she’d use him.

She’d use him as much as she liked.

“You’re a girl who runs. And that reminded me of someone.”

Faith stared hard at him, clenching her fists. “I don’t run. I’m here.”

And she guessed he did remember them after all.

“Exactly. But it doesn’t matter. You love me. By the way,” he said, looking into her eyes and putting his glass down. He had to be kidding but now his eyes were changing again, veins spreading, and she had to figure out something fast.

“You aren’t going to kill me right now,” she said.

He shook his head. “Not tonight.”

“Fair enough for me,” she said. She held out her arms to her side, inviting him. Faith had seen vampires move fast (had always reacted with this instinct) but she had never let one knock her down. He knocked her down so fast it took every fucking ounce of air right out of her body.

She hit the bed, thinking ‘I’m dead’ and a sound was forced out of her throat as she realized she was still alive. It sounded like a miserable weak sound. She laid there with her legs spread open, and he slipped his knee right between her legs.

She opened his eyes and he was there, his body pressing against hers and holding her down. Somehow it was gentle, the way he touched her face.

“…oh yeah. What’s your name?”

“Faith,” she said.

He scoffed. “Who names their kid Faith?”

“My mom,” Faith said. He stopped then.

“Damon,” he said. She laughed in his face. He got this look on his face as if he was going to eat her alive, and then that was exactly what he did.

His teeth were in her neck, and her first instinct was to fight—she struggled but he was prying her legs apart, and then—she felt her life begin to rush out and she groaned, her throat moving with his teeth going along with the motion.

Her strength was fading, as if it was nothing, as if it hadn’t been earned at all. She heard her heartbeat in her ears.

He pulled out of her neck, and just as she was trying to catch one breath, just one, he bit her inner thigh and then licked her.

She gripped the covers as much as she could manage.

“You like this.”

Now she was being thrown on a wall, and he was inside of her, thrusting too fast, way too fast, and she was halfway gone. She looked into his eyes and saw blackness. Deeply she saw a snake, deeply she wanted to kill him.

Have to keep up the act, she told herself.

“You—told me,” she tried, keeping her eyes on those fangs. She put her hand on his neck, feeling some sign of life. If this wasn’t a sign of life, she didn’t know what was.

“Don’t know what is,” she said, and he nodded at her, and her hand held nothing, his skin human and fleeting under her grip. He had his teeth lower but still draining her, keeping up the momentum, and suddenly she had no grip.

Darkness danced in her eyes as she focused on the ebbs of spiked pleasure and the renewed frantic beating of her heart.

She came too, wrapped in the covers. She felt like she couldn’t do anything ever again. Her eyes flickered to stare at Damon besides her.

Monster she was to kill, monster that was always waiting for her. She still wasn’t afraid. He noticed her awake and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close against his chest. Warmly, and this whole sinking feeling hit her again at the motion of being held.

He wasn’t wearing a shirt. She was disturbed to feel more skin, more—and was that a heartbeat?

“Still with me,” he asked. She tried to move her lips, thinking of tonight, what could have happened tonight, about how she had killed someone too. “Got a little carried away there. Sorry.”

He kissed her forehead and put her right on top of him.

“Sorry, sorry.”

Faith couldn’t keep her eyes open.

***

Faith knew this vampire was in for the long term when she came to with him still in the bed with her, one arm covering his eyes.

She stretched and though she was tired, her strength was back. And he had been good in the sack. Inside she was still thrumming deeply, and she was sore as hell. It hurt in a way she couldn’t fully identify, and when she saw him pretending to sleep, waiting to see what she’d do…

Faith straddled him and touched her hands to his chest. She drew a heart there again and nudged him.

“Don’t play possum.”

“I don’t really have a choice, there, do I?”

“Hey, you could always go to a tanning bed.”

Damon moved his arm and looked up her lazily. Then his eyes lowered to her breast. Faith grinned and moved just so. He groaned and grabbed her, shifted, getting out of the bed and leaving her in it.

“I’m going to take a shower first. And while I’m gone, you can take all the time you’d like.”

Where was he going? The big bad vampire meeting?

Faith would wait to investigate until she was perfectly accepted.

“Why take turns? Are you that bad at sharing?” Faith asked, stepping out of the bed fully naked.

Damon looked at her appreciatively and he reached out to touch the wound of her neck. (Faith had forgotten it was there and there in the mirror, was something that should seem dark but to her it was a battle wound.

As if Buffy could ever do this. There was something sharp there.) But Damon pulled her along.

He was good in shower too.

***

Faith brushed her hair and Damon watched her.

“Do you like this place?” he asked. Paused. “I think it’s damp.”

“I’ve been in worse,” she said.

“Me too,” he mocked.

“A coffin, right.”

Hope you liked it since you’ll be back there soon enough.

Damon moved past her, “Civil war, sweetheart,” he said. “A coffin is dry. A trench in the rain? Not so much.”

Faith didn’t acknowledge it. For a moment.

“I’ve been on the side of the road,” she said. “I didn’t have a war. Just a bunch of shitty cars keeping me up.”

It was competitive and stupid but she thought she had one on him. She might not be The Slayer, but she was a damn good killer, a damn good soldier.

She was.

Damon had moved past her. “You didn’t have that homeless smell when I met you. Or the homeless taste.”

“Fuck--,” Faith stepped away. “You’re blocking the mirror.”

Damon opened the drawer, keeping his eyes on her. “Look. Goodies.”

She looked. Piles of lipstick. “Find a nice color,” he said. “I suggest blue.”

“Do I want to know why?”

He held up a scarf. “It’s blue,” Damon said. “Hey. How long have you been homeless?”

“It’s none of your damn business…and it doesn’t matter,” she said. He wrapped the scarf around her throat lightly and Faith got ready to hit him if he decided to tug, to pull it tight.

“Touchy,” he said. “I can buy you some new lipstick while we’re out.”

Faith said, “Tonight?” in …common sense assumption.

Damon went with ‘in an hour’.

***

Faith didn’t want to talk.

Damon did enough talking for the both of them. The only thing Faith said that was of substance was ‘why aren’t you a crispy crème right now?”

“We aren’t far enough into our relationship yet,” Damon said.

Faith narrowed her eyes, shaking her head. Obviously the other vampires had zero clue since they had exited out the fire-escape, past all those closed windows.

This felt like the end of the world, right? The dead walk the day. Deep shit. He looked right into the sun, and Faith felt like she’d write a letter to Sunnydale about this…

Only she wouldn’t.

She’d think about it but she wouldn’t.

He guided her into a store and told her to pick out whatever she wanted. She picked the richest, most expensive fabrics she could.

It didn’t exactly fit her. As in suit her, she guessed. But things didn’t matter to her as much now. Things left at a second’s notice.

Just like the money in a thieving vamp’s wallet.

Faith expected she’d have a visitation in three, two, one—Damon threw open the curtain of the dressing room. She had taken her time.

“I saw the bite on the hip,” Faith said. “I’m really feeling the love.”

“I’m not,” he said, and when she glanced up, he was watching her closely.

“This is the best I can do,” Faith said.

He stepped in and she wondered…he wrapped an arm around her.

“You can do better. Love is just…” He smiled. “I’m making it easy for you.”

“Ask me anything else,” Faith said. As if she’d really do it. She could look death in the eye and fuck it. Anything else would be cake.

Damon took her face in his hands, looked into her eyes. “Be happy,” he challenged.

And he studied her.

***

Faith was dragged from bar to bar, and finally she ended up at the bar where the older vamp had to live.

She had cribbed the happiness test by again imagining—well, the feeling of slaying but ironically it had put Faith in a bad mood. She had imagined slaying with someone else besides her.

It had just hit her.

She was in a bad mood and had tried to dance it out with him, grabbing him and pulling him close. He went with it, like he did every time.

She was in a bad mood now but she kept a stupid smile on her face, a light in her eyes. She still had the cigarettes she pretended to like and when she went to pull one out, he took it from her.

“Don’t try it. I know you don’t smoke,” he said. She had to do something about it. She smiled at him.

“Can an older vamp compel you or something?”

Faith had heard that before from Giles. Not that she had really been listening but it made sense.

Damon nodded. “Never happened to me.”

“Could they compel you to be happy guy?”

He tensed his jaw.

“I just want to share the love,” Faith said. “Since you’ve made me so happy.”

He looked at her and she imagined so hard she thought she’d fucking burn up in the chair.

“Fuck you, Faith,” he said.

And she smiled at him, so brightly and put her hand on his, and it was cruel. She felt like a shit a second after and took a drink.

But his smirk fell and then he seemed to be determined about something. “You see that guy? High above us?”

Faith glanced up, keeping as casual as she could. There were two vampires leaning against the banister.

“The one with the retro hair-cut.”

“Can he see us?”

“He never looks down here.” There was a long pause. “He’s my brother.”

Vampires don’t have brothers.

But she looked at him. “Brothers as in brothers-in-fang?”

“Blood brothers,” he said. Then he rolled his eyes. “I mean, literally. Grew up together. All that…stuff.”

Faith was instantly pissed because…she didn’t know why. Oh yeah she did. Mr. Civil War had had a brother. She had won the competition.

She was pissed.

“Why don’t we go up and say hello?”

So she could memorize the face. There was a long silence and Faith knew she had to be mistaken about the look on Damon’s face now.

“Bad blood,” he said.

“So you come here to stare up at him?”

“To fuck with him,” he said. “To keep him on his toes. He thinks I’m a bad influence.”

Faith took another long look. Not a hair out of place.

“Some people need a bad influence to be the other kind.”

Damon looked at her. He was irritated, his eyes growing darker but he shrugged again.

“Don’t you hate people like that?”

Yes. Was the answer.

“Well?” he pushed.

“You wish you could hate him,” Faith said.

“Have me all figured out?”

“Yeah. You’re the guy who wants me to be soo happy…before I die.”

He stared straight ahead. No reaction, no smirk, and she knew she was in for a rough night.

She smiled into her drink.

***

Faith would say all she knew was all she didn’t know.

Her body didn’t know it’d wake up in the morning. Her mind knew but the body—didn’t have a fucking clue.

He held her hand.

During the whole damn thing, the in-between place where nothing really counted for or against you. She didn’t imagine this: she thought it’d be a rough and wild ride all the way down for her, you know, when her ‘time’ came.

But Damon would wrap himself around her, watching—searching for something. Sometimes he’d whisper words of love, want her to whisper it back (she never could, not built that way—remember.) Or he’ll say something rambling (mostly about his brother and if she was really, really out of it, he’d talk about his family).

In that restful time after so much violence staining the covers, his fingers tracing the shape of his teeth in her shoulder…it was just like they say. Men are the most vulnerable and honest after an orgasm, even dead ones.

“He blamed me for her.”

Faith knew a lot about him now. How a soulless thing remembered so much, she didn’t know. She didn’t ask him to say who ‘him and her’ of these stories were. It didn’t matter. It was every him and every here.

Most of the time: he said nothing while she hurt.

With the blood in the air (how much blood did she have in her), she had time to know that she was keeping him alive. It was a weird feeling.

Faith knew something else.

Something was wrong with him.

It didn’t click for her when she was just watching him watch her die. It was the time when he pressed his wrist to her lips (You’re looking a little woozy there’) and Faith had a split second to (get over the urge to take him up on it, take his blood)…

To think about herself as a vampire. Forever. Like she was.

She wouldn’t change because vampires didn’t change. From what he had said about his earlier life, of what things something inside of him caused (that was how it felt sometimes, wasn’t it)—it would be written in stone for him on the inside. Even if you wanted to change, could you? Did you have the choice to, the ability to?

In the moment, she wanted to (almost) but she pushed his hand away in fear. Real fear.

Damon shrugged and laid back, staring at the ceiling with his mouth stained. Her neck was still wet and everything hurt like a bitch.

She looked at her blood on his mouth and after a minute, put her hand on his arm again.

“I killed someone,” she said. “Wanted you to know that before this was over.”

This got his attention. He didn’t try to hide his attention either, and something about that made Faith feel warm surprise cover her.

Damn it. She felt truly naked for once, and she expected questions. He pulled her into his arms and that was it.

That was it. Faith had been prepared for—she had wanted to say she wasn’t sorry if he, whatever he was, offered condolences or damnation. Either way, she had been ready to explain that was what had made her be alone. What was inside of her.

It didn’t need to be explained.

That was what she had wanted to say. Now the moment was gone. Melted away. The silence should make her want to scream out anything, hit anything.

“I thought it was somebody else,” she admitted.

The silence stretched.

Then he began to laugh. To her own surprise, she did too, a mixture of laughter and tears. She laughed so hard she cried.

“Hate it when that happens,” he choked out, holding her close.

She guessed knowing what the future would bring this time, what she’d chose to do, made her voice loose.

“Sometimes I scare the shit out of me,” she muttered into his arm, and she thought—she knew—his eyes had gone dark again.

She felt him look down at her but she was already fading. If he was about to fuck her again, then—

How long had she been here?

***

Two weeks.

Faith had been ‘undercover’ and under the covers for two weeks. She had to make a move on the oldest vampire and break up their group. Before the week was over.

Or at least have a plan before the week was over.

Maybe two more weeks. However long it took. She had something to accomplish here, a goal. Things were simple, too. Being told what to do and being praised for it while getting away with something.

It was simple. Uncomplicated.

“What’s on your mind?” Damon whispered into her ear as they danced together, never letting her stray too far from him.

He was getting more violent.

Faith looked at him in the glow of the lights, with all this movement around him, and his shirt collar was slightly flipped up to the side.

He was sweating. She saw the sheen on his neck.

“You never take me out anymore,” she said, finding her voice, that mocking tone that came even easier here.

“What do you call this?”

“Take me back to the big place,” Faith said. “I want to visit your brother.”

And his very old friend.

It was just her luck that he agreed.

***

The girl wasn’t her problem.

Ducking into the bathroom for a minute was the problem. The vampire held the girl’s head over the sink. Apparently a neat-freak, he was draining the blood into the sink while he caught what he wanted with his tongue.

Faith was going to walk out, go back to her own—but something about the way he was pushing her was what made her stop.

It was familiar. It was no big thing. The fucking idiot girl was weak and stupid with her mascara dribbling down her face with her tears and snot.

“You’re not supposed to be in here.”

He didn’t pay her any attention. “Shhh, be a good girl, and I’ll let you sleep tonight, how’s that.”

It was stupid.

Faith still kicked him in the side of the head. The girl scrambled away on her knees while Faith stood there.

She’d have to kill this one.

Not a lot of wood in here. The vampire rushed at her, and she grabbed him, swung him into the glass.

He got a foot underneath her but she leapt back, ready—

And then the vampire dropped.

Damon had a heart in his hands. Faith looked at him. He looked at the splintered mirror.

He smiled at her sardonically, looking her in the eye. She felt like a liar.

“We’re going home.”

She grabbed her purse off the ground.

***

Faith kept her arms crossed as she remained standing.

Damon lounged near the window, right near the sun. She knew he was blocking the window so she couldn’t escape. “You have some explaining to do,” he said, smiling at her.

“It was just an adrenaline rush,” she said.

“You’re not afraid, remember.”

“I remember,” Faith bristled.

Damon looked at her again. “Come on.” He tilted his head, listening down the hall. “Witch?” he mouthed at her.

“Of all the things people have called me, that’s tame. You can do better.”

He zoomed right into her personal space and leaned to whisper in her ear.

“Slayer.”

Faith didn’t say a word at first. That was what she was. What she was supposed to be.

“I thought that was a myth, an urban legend.”

“I guess the old sayin’ ‘takes one to know one’ didn’t work this time.”

Damon crossed his arms.

“So where do we go from here, big boy?” Faith asked. “Wanna try for it? Try to kill me?” She wanted him to—she had to.

“No,” Damon said. “Kill me.”

Faith stared at him and laughed. “And then the plan is that you’ll snap my neck if I try. Don’t kid yourself. I’d kill you first.”

“I know,” he said and she quieted. “But you have no choice. Kill me.”

Faith hesitated. He grabbed the nearest chair and broke it into pieces. He handed her the sharpest piece.

She took it, looked at it in her hand.

“You-.”

She lunged. He knocked her hand away just barely, but when he did that, he left himself wide open to the power that had returned. Her foot made contact with his jaw, and Damon went sliding across the room.

He spit out blood and teeth. Can fangs regrow? He wiped his mouth and glared up at her.

“You pick off people who are alone,” Faith said.

He had to know—what that meant. He knew like Faith knew. His eyes darkened, somehow her words had wounded him.

Then she went for him.

Damon stood up quickly—more quickly than her eyes could follow—but he was in a corner, exactly where she wanted him.

She had to box him in, jam up his legs from moving and getting the advantage. He was growling at her. Literally growling.

He lunged forward, but she tossed him over her shoulder. Then it was just pure movement. She hung on to him for dear life and when they crashed into the bed, breaking the fragile supports, she realized that the violence in his face was turning her on.

Honestly, she was not surprised.

Damon struggled to stay upright, and the bed was thrown against the wall, ruined. He twisted and his hand caught her right under the ribs.

Faith used the motion to push herself away from him. They circled each other. Footsteps strolled down the hall and knocked.

“Everything okay in there?”

The question, in this place…seemed hilarious. Faith grinned at Damon though it felt more like she was bearing her teeth.

He didn’t even glance at the door. His eyes were on her, and there was some awe there. He didn’t say a word.

“Foreplay,” Faith said bluntly.

“Gotcha,” came the reply. Faith was weighing her options. There was that window if she needed an out. But Damon kept his eyes on hers.

“Did you choose this uh, lifestyle?” he asked with a smirk.

“It chose me.”

“I chose this one,” he said. She stared at him. “Even practiced a few times before.”

“The power?” she asked.

“A girl who liked to be chased.”

Faith’s eyes widened and her rage peaked.

“Just like me,” she spat.

“I was wrong before, it happens. You’re the other kind.” He laughed.

Faith got the reference. The other kind. “So the fuck up…that lives to make everyone else look good. Pass.”

Damon’s eyes went black and if Faith was thinking, she would know she had to act now. Instead she just acted in rage at his confession, because he had fucked up. She threw the stake at him and while he dodged, she kneed him perfectly in the chest. Wished she had gone lower.

She pushed him onto what was left of the bed, a new piece of wood ready for her in the remnants.

He grew still, his color hectic despite his vampirism. She must have scared him now. Still he grinned.

“Is your immunity to my charms a natural talent?” he asked and he touched the back of her leg, right on the cross—right on the capsule protecting her.

Faith kept her hand on the stake. Damon pressed down on the capsule and then patted that place behind her knee twice before placing his hand back on the bed.

She swallowed hard.

“So, this might be telling you a little late but,” he said. “I can help you.”

Faith narrowed her eyes and then it clicked.

“Your brother. You don’t want him around that other guy.”

It was the ugly, unexplainable feeling that Faith could understand. She had thought she felt that once.

Damon leaned his head back, looking tired. “I can’t stand it. I won’t let it happen again to him. If you want to kill me, kill me but only after I’ve fixed things.”

But first, she thought, you can’t stand it. This was her opportunity.

“I can’t leave without fixing this.”

“How can you help?” she asked. There was still a shitload of vampires against them.

“Your friends sent you right,” he said, knowingly. “They have supplies.”

“What kind of surprise?”

Damon mouthed something. It shouldn’t have surprised her. They had said the small capsule was something precious that they had parted with on her behalf.

“They held out on me,” Faith said. He grimaced.

She lowered her stake, and Damon raised his hand. He touched her shoulder in a bracing gesture.

“I know where the supply is,” he said.

She met his eyes.

“I’m not, you know.” She mouthed, ‘The Slayer.’

“You’re good enough,” he said. She moved off of him. He let her go.

They laid besides each other. Watchful.

She didn’t know who fell asleep first.

***

Faith cussed under her breath.

They had really been holding out on her. Once they flew past the guards who had not been expecting a vampire during the day, it was easy to see the rows and rows of supplies.

“So what’s the plan? Fire?” Faith asked.

Damon considered. “Too messy,” he said, pulling plants left and right and throwing them in a bag. He was moving so quickly he was like a machine. She couldn’t help but smiling. He caught her look and smiled a little himself.

“Then what?” Faith asked.

“Vervain in the water sprinkler system,” Damon said. “You’ll just go slaying in the rain.”

Faith groaned but she had to admit, that idea wasn’t bad. It made a fire inside of her light up as she pictured it.

She sighed, running a hand through her hair as she gathered the plants.

“They’re goin’ to regret underestimating me,” Faith said. “When I waste them all, they’ll know I’m the best, I am the real deal.”

“You’re not talking about vampires, are you?”

Faith threw a playful look over her shoulder, and the heat from the glare she got in return surprised her.

“Are you going to crawl back to them?” he asked in a hard voice. “You need them to use you even if they say you’re second best.”

“I’m not crawling,” Faith said, angry as hell at his words. “I’m going to prove to them that I’m the better Slayer.”

“You’re only going to prove that you’re alive. Faith, they left you for dead. It’s been weeks.”

“What do you care?” she asked.

“You survived me.” As if that explained everything. Then he scoffed. “I don’t care if you don’t.”

He walked away from her, leaving her to stare at the storehouse full of vervain.

***

Standing on top of the table with a zippo in her hand, watching vervain rain down on their heads, Faith felt a pulse of primal power run through her.

Then her smile faded as they withered on the ground. It just seemed cheap somehow, in a way she didn’t get.

But so? She kept her stake in her hand. She had come this far. Faith began, her hands sure. She picked them off easily. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Damon walked through the room of screaming vampires.

With a freakishly large umbrella covering him.

He strode up the banister and grabbed his brother by the back of his shirt, dragging him out. The rest were hers. She watched as they disappeared, Damon’s arm supporting his brother.

The violence exploded within her. Faith cornered the oldest vampire of them all and wasted him in a second.

A whole week and in a second, gone. She stood there being drenched in a magical herb until the system finally clicked off.

She was staring down at a dead vampire girl’s mouth when she heard someone step up behind her.

“Faith.”

The vamp girl’s lipstick smeared with her blood. For a moment, it hurt, what she was about to do—it hurt so fucking much that she could barely accept it. But she steadied herself.

It was what she was.

“Damon.”

Faith turned with the stake in her hand—and made contact. Then he was across the room. Before she had acted, he had known and he was already across room.

He touched at the deep wound in his shoulder with a put-on wince that wasn’t put-on at all. She couldn’t hide the expression on her face.

Wouldn’t. She didn’t even understand it.

He looked up and saw it and looked back at her for a beat, his expression unguarded. Somehow he had understood it. Then Damon gave her a little nod like he had the first time he’d seen her, as if he’d see her around, and just like that--

He was gone.

***

Faith was halfway out the club door when the limo pulled up along the sidewalk.

“Fantastic!” the vampire hunter said, jumping out of the car. His eyes lingered on the bite mark on her neck for a split second too long—then he smiled. “Miss Lehane, I-we-never lost…well, if I may…faith in you. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we will love to work with you on a more permanent basis. If you will,” he said, motioning to the open door.

Faith stared at the plush warm interior. She pulled on her jacket and then walked the other way.

“Miss Lehane?”

She didn’t listen to anything else he said, going steadily into the dark, and the further away she got, the more she held her head up high.

It was dark.

She was still here.