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It was eleven o’clock on a night that was just starting to hint at the coming of fall, and Eliot was willing to bet that this lonely little motel somewhere in the ass-end of Kansas - or maybe he was actually in Colorado by this point, who the hell knew? - was just about the only outpost of civilization for fifty miles. It had appeared out of nowhere, on the side of the little back highway he was taking his time traveling down, because sometimes you just needed to stay out of sight while people forgot about you. Right now, a little anonymity was the exact thing he needed.

Well, that, and a beer.

He eased his truck into the cracked asphalt parking lot, got out, and surveyed the terrain. The place was obviously a holdover from the fifties...maybe even the forties, at that...small bungalows clustered around a sad looking patch of grass and a flagpole with no flag, just a metal clamp that clanged against the pole relentlessly in the chilly wind. And hey, lucky for him, the owner was smart enough to know that he wasn’t going to make much money off of tourist traffic, and had turned one of the bungalows into a bar, judging by the neon sign that blinked Beer Beer Beer at him in glowing red letters. He checked into the motel, got his key, tossed his bag in without even looking twice around the tiny room, and went straight over to see what was on offer. It turned out to be a little juke-joint sort of place, unsurprisingly. All wood-paneling, neon, and peanut shells on the floor, with a pool table in the corner and a jukebox blaring something that sounded like one of Elvis’s B-sides.

Eliot had been surveyed by the twelve or so patrons of the establishment when he pushed open the flimsy wooden door - not in a hostile way, but in a curious one. Figured that they didn’t get much new blood around these parts. Two older women in jeans and frilly blouses sat idly chatting with three men, all wearing hats with feed store logos. In the corner, a half-hearted game of pool was underway. Eliot headed towards the bar, skirting a table holding a quartet of bikers telling road stories, with an impressive number of empty mugs on their table. All four sent flat glances in his direction, made an assessment, and apparently decided he wasn’t interesting enough to divert them from a story involving an engine hoist, three bottles of tequila, and a man named Fat Jake.

The barmaid, a grandmotherly woman who looked like she should have been running a church picnic instead of tending a roadhouse bar, gave him a big smile as he approached the bar. “Help you, hon?”

“Beer, please. And a burger, if possible.”

“Nothing easier. I’ll get you some fries, too, You look hungry.” She drew him a beer in a giant, slightly chipped mug, slung it in front of him, and disappeared through a swinging door, presumably to the kitchen.

Eliot was about halfway through his beer when she reappeared, sliding a plate with a burger, fries, and the largest pickle spear he’d ever seen in front of him. He dug into the food gratefully. It had been hours since his last stop and all he had eaten for most of the day were a couple of candy bars from a truck stop in Nebraska. He had just polished off the last of the fries, with a generous dousing of ketchup, when the door to the bar banged open again, and a girl walked in.

The men in the feed hats stared. The bikers stared. Hell, Eliot himself was staring. The newcomer was a gorgeous brunette, all smokey eyes and pout, and she walked into the bar like she knew everyone there had been waiting for her arrival. She wore jeans and a t-shirt, topped with a brown leather jacket, none of which was remarkable at all...but the way they clung, showing off a set of remarkable curves...that was remarkable. Quite remarkable. Damn.

She strode in without any hesitation and with just a hint of challenge in her walk, her long legs carrying her past the gawking men, one of whom got a purse in the chest from his lady friend. Ambling up to the bar, she smiled at the barmaid. “Beer, please. Been a long night and I could use one.”

“Bet you could, at that, hon. Anything else? Dinner? Man over there will vouch for the hamburgers.” She gestured at Eliot, who did his best to look like he hadn’t been gawking.

“Uh. Yeah. Good burgers.”

The girl flashed him a smile that was all mischief. “Glad to hear it. Sure, burger me.” Her accent wasn’t from around here. Boston, maybe - but a long ways back. He couldn’t place her age, either. Late twenties, perhaps? She moved well, too. He was reminded of racehorses, that same combination of power and beauty that top athletes have, but he was having a lot of trouble putting her in any sort of context. He knew why he was in this lonely little bar, but why the hell was she?

The barmaid sent a beer skimming down the bar and she caught it, tipping it up to swig a healthy gulp. Eliot did his best to turn his attention back towards his own drink, but he remained acutely aware of the girl’s presence just next to him, like standing too close to a live wire. He looked at her sidelong, watching her without making it too obvious. She wasn’t giving anything away, however, and was calmly sipping her beer like she wasn’t the current center of attention of the entire place. A lot of poise on this one. For a while, the bar was quiet, save for the jukebox, which had switched over to Patsy Cline, and the quiet clack coming from the pool table.

One of the bikers, after a whispered consultation with his buddies, climbed awkwardly to his feet. Ah, somebody had decided to make a play. He was a tall, skinny man with a sleeve of really badly done tats and an adam’s apple like a python that had swallowed a pig. He eased his way up to the girl, cleared his throat, and said, “Par’n me, miss. I thought I’d introduce myself. I’m Bug. Can I buy you a drink?”

The woman grinned at him, completely unflustered. “Hi, Bug. I’m Faith. And I would be happy to have a drink with you. In fact, I think some shots are called for, and as I’ve had an especially good day - first round’s on me. Let the lady do the buying.”

Eliot hid his smile behind a hasty gulp of beer. She had just turned things around on the man in a way guaranteed not to offend, and which didn’t trap her into any sort of closer involvement with the guy than she might want. Clever. And observant, too - she noticed Eliot noticing, and shot him a sideways glance that was full of what his momma used to call “devilment.” Well, what the fuck. Let’s see where the night led. He picked up the shot that the barmaid was distributing, and tipped it back, saluting Faith with the glass. “Next round’s on me.” The guys around the pool table cheered.

It turned out that, after many, many, many, many more shots, the night led to a stompy, enthusiastic, but not especially synchronized country line dance, homemade karaoke (Walter, one of the feed store guys, insisted on singing along to every “tear in my beer” ballad he could find on the jukebox), a few good-natured rounds of pool, which ended in Faith ruthlessly whipping the asses of every challenger, a long confessional from Bug about...something (Eliot missed the start of the story, and by the time he tuned in, it seemed to involve a pet rabbit and somebody’s kid sister), and a spirited round of arguing about whether or not the Packers were going to the Super Bowl. In between, Faith had started making certain things very clear to Eliot, starting with a lot of eye-contact and moving quickly into the “lingering touches along the forearm” kind of territory. Eliot was starting to feel a bit swimmy from the focused attention - surely it wasn’t the whiskey, he had stopped tossing back shots a while ago, now - and wondering if the bed back at his bungalow would fit two. When the jukebox launched into a slower song, Faith grabbed Eliot’s wrist in an unexpectedly strong grip, and dragged him out onto the dance floor.

“Let’s dance.”

“I don’t know,” he said, laughing. “You’re such a shy, retiring lassie that I’m afraid of being too forward.”

“I know. I’m a delicate flower. And you’ve got a cute ass. Are we dancing, here?”

He put his arms around her and she swayed against him, her body radiating heat. The contact made his pulse kick up, and suddenly all his clothing felt too tight. She was wearing something spicy that still clung to her, underneath the smells of cigarette smoke and booze, and he pulled her more tightly against him, his nose in her hair so he could inhale it deeply. And then...he froze.

“Faith? Should I ask why you have a fucking big knife strapped to yourself?”

Faith leaned back and squinted at him. “You’re not supposed to ask a lady personal questions, Eliot. Especially when you’ve got two knives on you, plus one in your boot, and thus might be considered just a teensy bit hypocritical with said personal questions. Plus” - she thumped one of Eliot’s biceps - “I’d bet dollars to frosted doughnuts with jelly inside that you’re pretty handy in a fight.”


She smiled sweetly at him. “What, I wasn’t supposed to notice? Dearie me, shall I ever be a proper girl?”

Eliot let out a short bark of laughter and Faith laughed along with him. “Yeah, I thought so.” She slid her hand up his neck, fingernails scratching lightly, and he shuddered. “Feel like some company for the night, stranger-I’m-picking-up-in-a-bar?” Her breath was warm against his cheek.

Eliot leaned in for a long, deep kiss that flashed heat through him. “I would really enjoy it, mystery-lady-with-the-big-knife.”

The bang of the bar’s front door startled them both. The feed store men and their ladies had apparently decided to call it a night. In fact, the bar was empty, save for the bikers and themselves, and two of the bikers were just now slinging a third between them and stumbling out the door as well, presumably to their own bungalow. Bug had passed out, face down on the table. The song on the jukebox faded out, and suddenly the place was quiet. And...darker, for some reason? Had some of the lights dimmed? There seemed to be more shadows in the room, hiding the corners, dimming the neon signs.

He was suddenly on alert, and next to him, Faith had tensed, just as aware of the sudden wrongness of the place.

The barmaid, Elva, reappeared from the kitchen. Hands on hips, she looked at the near-empty room, and suddenly Eliot was certain that things were about to go very bad, but he couldn’t figure out why or how. Elva kept smiling, but her eyes had changed somehow, holding a cold malice that made him shudder.

Faith mumbled something under her breath that seemed oddly...exasperated? That couldn’t be right. Meanwhile, Elva had taken a couple more steps into the room, her motion oily.

“What, is the party over?” And what a fun night it was, too.” Elva sidled over to Bug’s unconscious form. “And this poor young man has had so much to drink. Lucky that I like the taste...”

And Eliot saw, to his great horror, her face change even further. Her human features twisted, great ridges appearing over her brow and between her eyes. Her eyes, a milky blue, turned yellow. And, most terrifyingly of all, a pair of fangs sprouted between her lips as she pulled Bug’s head back by the hair, exposing his neck. He stood, frozen, for the first time in his life completely shocked into stillness. She was...what was...what the fuck...

In that moment, Faith struck. With a crazy, inhuman leap, she was across the room, hurling the transformed Elva into a wall with shattering force. Elva’s body splintered the wall and she slid to the floor, and, unbelievably, grunted, clambered to her feet, and lunged at Faith, moving faster than anything Eliot had ever seen. She grabbed Faith’s arms from behind, twisting them back and up, her fingers clawing bloody gashes into Faith’s skin. For a moment, Faith struggled to free herself, caught at an awkward angle where she couldn’t get leverage.

Eliot shook himself out of his paralysis at the sight. Grabbing a pool cue, he whipped it in a wide, flat arc, sending it cracking along Elva’s back. The thing yowled like a scalded cat and twisted away, her grip on Faith’s arms loosening. Faith planted her feet and bucked, and Elva staggered, falling sideways and right into the way of a hammering blow Faith sent rocketing into her face. With another unearthly yowl, Elva flew backwards to the floor. In a blur of movement, Faith grabbed the pool cue from Eliot, cracked it over her knee, and with no hesitation whatsoever, jammed the splintered end into Elva’s chest. Elva screamed, shuddered, and...

Nothingness. Dust. For a second, the outline of her body hung in the air, and then her body vanished entirely. A fine ash now coated the floor, but no body, which was...which was not possible. There had been a woman there, and then a crazy nightmare thing, and now, a handful of minutes later, nobody at all. Eliot stumbled backwards a few paces, staring at Faith, who was not nearly as upset as she should have been about what had just happened.

“What. The fuck. Is going on.”

Faith sighed, and dropped the broken pieces of the pool cue. “God, sometimes you just can’t get a day to yourself without work interfering. C’mon. Let’s go to your room. I’m sick of the smell of booze.”


“So. I’m going to tell you some things that aren’t really common knowledge. It’s not exactly a secret, it’s just that the human brain doesn’t do so well with them, you know? So it gets chalked up to kids on PCP, or gas leaks, or something, But I figure you’ll be able to handle it.”

Faith had settled him on his own bed, and gone into the bathroom. He sat there, trying to center his breathing and calm the fuck down as she showered quickly and came out with damp hair and a t-shirt that read “Sunnydale High” on the front. It hung down to her knees, and made her look like the girl next door instead of the sensual bad girl that had walked into the bar so many hours ago.

“Go get a shower, dude. We’ll talk after you settle down some. Most people don’t get to walk away from that kind of shit, so I get that you’re shaken up.” He had noticed, as he walked past her to step into the bathroom, that the scratches on her arms looked much more shallow than he swore they had been before. As if they had begun healing already.

Eliot had blankly scrubbed at himself, pulled on some gym shorts, and emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam.

“All right. I’m calm. And I really, really want to know what in the hell that was that you just...killed? back there. Because I’ve never seen anything like that and I’m pretty sure I never want to again.”

Faith looked at him, nodded, and pulled him down next to her on the bed where she sat cross-legged against the headboard. He wrapped an arm around her waist, and although he’d never have admitted it, her solid presence was comforting.

“So, um. That was a vampire. Your first question, right? And yeah, they’re creatures of myth and legend, not real things, yadda yadda. Except they’re totally real, and I’m one of the things that gets to kill them.”

Eliot’s voice was a croak. “You’re a...thing that kills them? What kind of thing, exactly?”

“Damn, I guess I should have phrased that better. Might indicate a teensy bit of self-loathing on my part. I’m mostly human, I guess. But I have a few more options installed than the regular package has. I can bench-press a Buick, for one. And I’ve been trained up to do the job.” She looked over onto the dresser, where the knife he had noticed on her was now sitting. “I got shown all the fun ways to kill a vamp.Knives are useful, and all, but it’s harder to get a clean beheading without a sword, and those are a bitch to conceal. So we usually resort to staking them. Take off the head, or stake them through the heart. Bodies go poof no matter how you kill them. Makes cleanup a snap.”

“I don’t want to believe any of this, Faith. This is some high-grade crazy shit you’re spouting right here.”

She nodded. “I get that. And if you want, you’re totally free to turn this into the night that loony chick dropped LSD in your beer and you tripped your balls off.”

Eliot shook his head. “It’s crazy shit, but I know what I saw. She had fangs. And you staked her, and her body turned to dust. I can’t spin that into some sort of hallucination. What the hell is a vampire doing out here in the ass-end of nowhere?”

“When you think about it, she had a pretty sweet setup. Transient traffic, easy to pick off people who move around a lot, maybe people nobody will miss. Vamps work on the same principles as your average human serial killer, really.”

He thought about it, and as he did, she squirmed under his arm, tucking herself against him so her head rested on his shoulder. “Thanks for the assist, by the way. You handled yourself pretty well. Most people lock up completely, which adds evidence to my theory that you’ve got some skills of your own.”

Eliot pondered how to reply to that. Finally, he said simply, “I used to work for Uncle Sam. Got myself trained in a few strange things here and there myself. I work on my own now. But, I have to say...vampires never really entered the picture.”

“Ah, the old government-trained assassin thing.” When Eliot stiffened, she poked him. “Hey, I’m not judging, here. We all have our own paths to walk. I’m a mystical killing machine, who am I to say anything? Anyway, Buf- a girl I know dated a supersoldier type. Mondo freaky, but what can you do?.”

Eliot laughed, startled. “I don’t...I can’ just have a different outlook on life, don’t you?”

Faith shrugged, and nestled more closely against him, which caused her shirt to slide up and exposing a span of thigh. She was, it was quite clear, not wearing any undies at all under the tent-like shirt. “Right now, Eliot, I’m just happy to have gotten through another day. And I’d like to end it in a way that’s more fun than how it began.”

“Point made.” He pulled her upwards and she purred with delight, straddling his lap so he could lean forward and kiss her, his tongue playing along her lower lip as she slid her arms along his chest and around his neck. He was hard, abruptly - hard to aching, and she moved her hips in a slow figure eight on top of him, chuckling as he let out a strangled moan and slid his hands over her ass to pull her against him more tightly.

“See, the thing is,” she whispered, her cheek pressed to his, “I used to be the type to burn quick and hot, slam, bam, we’re done here. But as I’ve gotten older and wiser” - she licked the rim of his ear and then bit down on his earlobe, making him swear and laugh at the same time, “- I’ve learned to appreciate taking my own sweet time.”

She slid down the length of his body, taking his gym shorts with her as she went. Her mouth was cool, and as her lips slid over his cock he shuddered, tangling his hands in her hair. She teased him for what seemed like hours, her tongue shaping an exquisite torture everywhere it went. She seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of when he was too close, and would pull back, laughing heartlessly as he groaned underneath her. Then she would begin again, taking him deeply into her mouth until he was panting, his hips making small jerking motions. When she lifted her head away, the absence of sensation was a physical ache.

She started licking her way back up his chest until they were kissing again, her body pressed tightly against his. He pulled away long enough to yank off her t-shirt, revealing a pair of breasts that were everything the snug shirt from earlier had promised. He got a little revenge by tugging at her nipples, first gently and then with a little more force as she squirmed on top of him. They were both slick with sweat, her body gleaming in the dim light of the room.

He tried to roll, to tuck her underneath him, but she put her hands on his shoulder and leaned, pinning him to the bed without seeming to exert any effort at all.

“You weren’t...kidding about the strength thing, were you?” The last few words came out in a strangled croak as he felt her wetness slide over his cock. So close...but still she continued to tease until he thought he’d scream, rubbing herself against him, leaning forward to kiss him, her breasts pressing against his chest.

"Nope. Kind of a turn-on, isn’t it?" She slid her hands down his arms to his wrists, and in a quick movement drew them up over his head, holding him down while she tortured him ruthlessly.

He was finally reduced to begging.

“I can’t...Faith, god. Fuck me, woman.” She laughed, and finally relented, lowering herself onto his cock, her thighs clasping tightly against his. She rode him like a cowboy on a bronco, her hips doing things that were almost certainly impossible. Eventually, she freed his wrists, and he reached forwards to hold her waist and then brush his thumb over her clit, rubbing as she gasped. "Oh, god, fuck. Fuck, that's good. Fuck me, Eliot."

He growled and rolled, finally trapping her underneath him so he could thrust into her ferociously, their bodies slamming together. She wound her legs around his waist, and again he was struck by her strength - all that power contained inside her, all focused on him. His thrusts were met by her body arching up to meet him, fucking him just as intently as he fucked her, the two of them finding their rhythm and losing themselves in it completely. The world went white, and he came, hands making fists in the sheet on either side of her body, feeling her shudder underneath him. Her lips moved against his shoulder as she said something, but he couldn’t hear it over the roaring in his ears.

She let him rest, briefly. The sun came up before they finally slept, intertwined in a sticky tangle of limbs and sheets. And when he woke, hours...eons...later, he was alone.

The note on the table read,

Sorry to continue the woman of mystery thing, but sometimes the shoe fits. Doubtful I’ll ever see you again, but the world’s smaller than we realize. If you ever need assistance along the lines of last night, give a ring to the phone number on this card. And no, not THAT kind of assistance, Giles would be so shocked.


He tucked the card away in a hidden pocket. An hour later, he was back on the highway.