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Don't Die

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"Rule one of Slaying: don't die,"

Buffy's words echo through my ears as I turn to face the demonic bastard that'd haunted my thoughts – both sleeping and waking – for so long. Every time I'd closed my eyes for the last three months I'd seen his axe-marked face and now he's right here, right now, staring at me. Mocking me.

I'm the Slayer an' he…he's just a vamp. I've killed hundreds of 'em before an' I…I can do it again. Resolve grips my heart and I fall into a fighting stance purely on instinct.

This's different; he's different. A second voice says, this one louder than the first. He's Kakistos, the Father; he's more'n just a killer…he's a god. He's so much stronger, so much older. The Prof…God, he ripped her apart. I falter, my arms falling limply to my sides as the memory presses against the edges of my consciousness.

But, beyond that, I can feel the fear. It takes only seconds for it to overwhelm me, for the adrenaline pumping in my veins to make my muscles tense and, suddenly, all the voices are screaming at me to run. To go as far as I can and hide so well that he won't ever find me.

I manage to take only one step before I catch a glimpse of blonde hair from the corner of my eye and I freeze. Buffy…she'll die. He'll kill her…just like-

"Faith!"

I hear someone call my name but I don't know who it is anymore. Is it Buffy? Or Diana? Is this the past? Or the present?

I feel myself falling into the memory and, without warning, it's happening all over again; the warehouse disappears and I'm alone underground and it's dark and dirty, the stench of blood and death nearly overwhelming my senses as I stumble into the central chamber. The first thing I see besides the hoard of vamps is the Prof seated on his lap and the fanged smile on his face.

With demonic delight he punches through her, ripping her in half, and her body falls on either side of the bone-altar as I scream her name. Before I can think to move, dozens of hands grab me, stripping me of my weapons even as they push me forwar-

"Don't die!"

I blink, crashing back into the present as Buffy's yell slices through the haze. But it's so hard to focus. She sounds far away, like I'm underwater or she is or we both are; I don't really know anymore.

My body lurches forward of its own accord and the feel of cold metal seeps into my hand long before I realize I'm clutching a tire iron hard enough to turn my knuckles white. I turn my head and see her, see the determination in her eyes, and grip the metal with renewed purpose.

He's gonna kill me. The words whisper through my mind even as the accompanying panic makes my limbs stiff and unwieldy. He's gonna kill me just like he did her.

Then Buffy's there, stake in hand, and I can't do anything but stand frozen as she dives towards him. He catches her with a cloven hand, laughing cruelly as he hurls her away from him and towards the wall.

The sight of her flying makes my heart catch and I step forward, ready to strike, but he stops me just as easily, yanking the tire iron from my grasp even as he punches me, and the next thing I know I'm the one that's flying.

I slice through a support beam like a knife through butter, the wood splintering beneath me, and when I hit the ground, I'm thankful for it, even though it hurts like hell. Forcing all the air from my lungs, it leaves me breathing like I'm eighty for long minutes, unable to tell which way is up.

When I finally manage to raise my head all I see is him, his features twisted into a demonic sneer as he moves towards me. I try to run but, unable to stand, only manage to scramble backwards as the tears make tracks through the dust that's turned my face gray. But he's faster than me, so much faster, and as his hand wraps around my neck and lifts me from the ground I barely feel the pain through the fear.

Just kill me. I think as he pulls his arm back to hit me. Just…god, just make it stop. Like a coward, I close my eyes and wait for that final blow.

He doesn't keep me waiting long.

His cloven-fist connects with my chest and I feel at least two of my ribs shatter even as the rippling aftereffect takes my breath away. I gasp, the pain hitting me like a ton of bricks, before he lets go and I slump to the ground in unconsciousness.

I don't know how long I'm out before I reconnect with my senses, first hearing, then feeling – which almost knocks me out again – and, when I finally manage to open my eyes, all I see is Buffy; the spritely blonde's everywhere, fighting like a one woman army. It strikes me suddenly I didn't know she could move so fast, so fluidly.

She's like water. I think, my gaze blurring as I continue to watch. In one place, then another, each move flowing perfectly into the next. It's like she's dancing to music only she can hear and I find myself suddenly desperate to hear the melody.

Actually, I find myself desperate for a lot of things.

But she's losin'. I think, wincing as Kakistos' cloven-fist slams into her shoulder and forces her to the ground. He's gonna kill her.

I can't blink in the time it takes for her to stand and I watch in both horror and awe as she surges forward with stake in hand. Her aim is true but it does nothing; despite her best efforts the wood doesn't penetrate more than a few centimeters into his ancient hide. It's not enough. I think, flinching as she's knocked to the ground once more, this time taking longer to rise. It'll never be enough.

As though I'd spoken the words aloud Kakistos laughs, the grating quality of the sound making me shudder. "Guess you need a bigger stake, Slayer,"

Slayer. The word makes my pulse quicken. There isn't just one Slayer. There's two; there's me. Imma Slayer. An' I'm…I'm gonna slay. I force myself to stand, though the effort makes my head spin, and lift the largest piece of the support beam I can to my shoulder. I lunge forward, throwing all of my weight and remaining strength into the motion, and, after a brief moment of resistance, I'm rewarded with the sight of the wood protruding from his back.

At first, nothing happens, and a rush of fear nearly makes me fall, but the Slayer in me knows she's succeeded and she doesn't let my knees give way, though they quake beneath me like Jello.

I force myself to meet his eyes and, though I can't bring myself to speak, I know he knows I've won. I can nearly feel his anger and shock just like I could the moment I stuck the tanto between his legs and, as he crumples, coating the warehouse floor in thick, black dust, it hits me soundly, suddenly, like an uppercut to the jaw, that I'm free.

It's over…he's dead. An' I'm…I'm not. I'm…alive.

I hear something then, harsh breathing intermixed with sobs, and I look to Buffy but her face is dry; it's only then I realize the sound's coming from me.

Barely a moment passes before her arms are around me and my face is buried in the crook of her neck as the tears pour down my cheeks, coating her shoulder in torrents of salty water and dust. She doesn't say anything; she just holds me tight and makes soothing sounds into my hair, and I can't help but wonder if she knows she's the first person besides the Prof to ever comfort me, the only one who's ever cared enough to try.

I pull away slightly and when I look up I'm more than fast enough to catch sight of a host of emotions I never thought I'd see warring for dominance on her face. I lick my lips unconsciously, the pain in my chest forgotten as I lose myself in the green of her eyes.

She's beautiful, I'd noticed it the moment I saw her. It hadn't been the most important thing on my mind at the time but it had been there. And, though she wasn't the kind of girl that I'd call 'my type', the goody-two shoes thing and all, she…there was, is, something about her. Something that makes me…ache. And right now, with the post-slayage making my blood burn, I want her more than my next breath.

My eye catches on a cut oozing lazily on her cheekbone and, with a shaking hand, I reach to wipe the blood away, momentarily losing myself in the creaminess of her skin. She gasps as I make contact and I hear myself murmur sorry though my mind is focused totally on the heat I feel pouring off her.

With my fingers still hovering at the edge of her cheek I have a moment, just a moment, to wonder if she really doesn't know about the whole H&H thing before her lips are on mine and I forget how to breathe.

She tastes good, like all girls do, but there's something…different. There's an edge to her, a fire I wanna burn up in. I wonder fleetingly if it's because she's a Slayer or if it's just because she's Buffy.

Somehow, I think it's a little of both.

I moan into her mouth as she presses her body flush against mine, the sound stemming from both pleasure and pain as my wounds flare briefly into focus before fading beneath her fingertips.

Suddenly she pulls away, her lips hovering over mine as we both struggle to catch our breaths. "You're hurt," she says huskily, her voice strained in a way I hope I'm responsible for.

"I don't care," I whisper as I try – and fail – to recapture her lips with my own.

She pushes me back gently, like I'm made of glass, and leaves her hands on my shoulders to keep me still. "I do," she says, meeting my eyes before looking away. I watch in fascination as a blush rises to her cheeks and I feel my own color to match as that flutter in the pit of my stomach flares up again.

There's a moment of silence, one that says far more than I care to think about, before she meets my eyes once more and smiles that same Buffy smile. "You hungry?" she asks gently and I feel my lips curve upwards in a traitorous grin.

"Starved,"

She nods and starts away, a jaunty bounce in her step that nearly makes my mouth water.

I try to follow but moving proves to be far more challenging than I'm used to and I make it less than a half-dozen steps before my legs give way. I hear myself cry out and begin to flail wildly in attempt to stop myself from face-planting, though I know I'm fighting a losing battle with the quickly approaching cement floor. But she's there long before that happens, pulling me to my feet, and cradling me against her chest for a long moment before lifting me into her arms and carrying me towards the door.

I open my mouth to protest but she stops me with a look and, despite the hit my prides taking, I find myself grateful; I hurt too much to be stubborn, at least right now. Just have ta add it ta my list of things ta do tomorrow. I think as I let myself lean into her, my eyes fluttering closed.

An' I think I'll start with 'don't die'.