When the door of the cage they keep her in rattles open, Buffy is ready. Two vamps come in, both brandishing cattle prods -- an addition made to the containment protocol after her third escape. Behind them is another, carrying the metal tray containing her meagre meal for the day. Just enough nutrients to keep her alive, though her Slayer metabolism yearns for much, much more.
If she ate the meal, she'd be stronger for the fight. But this is the only opportunity. She springs forward, tackling the third vamp to the ground and taking the tray off him, swings it round as an improvised shield as the other two plunge their cattle prods towards her. Then she drops it, and she's running.
Running past the demons on guard before they've even realised what the shouting behind her is all about. Climbing up onto the roof of the building that was once the Bronze but is now her prison, leaping off it and heading out under the glowering sky, frozen at the moment of the eclipse and then curdled into a blood-red hellscape by extradimensional forces. She can feel rather than hear or see the Mayor's lackeys running after her. But she is faster than them, even in her weakened state.
She allows herself one glance, not behind but off to the side, at the enormous crater where the school once was: the partially opened Hellmouth. Around it is coiled the enormous body of the Mayor in his snake form, much larger than when he first ascended, grown fat on the offerings from the minor demons behind the portal that he allows to enter. He keeps the most powerful back, with enchantments and wards, terrified that they're going to ruin things for him, ruin his perfect all-American helltown.
There are many, many terrible things about the situation Sunnydale is in, that Buffy is in. Many terrible things that have been done to her, that's she been made to do. But sometimes Buffy thinks that the truly monstrous thing is that the snake demon running the town still thinks of himself as the Mayor, still enjoins everyone to maintain a sense of civic pride.
The terrified citizenry -- the ones who haven't been eaten, turned, or killed for attempting to escape into the normal world, beyond the portal between Earth and hell that Sunnydale has become -- dare not do anything else. So she runs past perfectly mowed lawns and picket fences on her way to the boundary.
The last half-mile or so leads her through one of the many cemeteries on the outskirts of town. Somewhere she used to patrol on a regular basis: she runs through it, knowing exactly which paths lead somewhere useful and which just loop round on themselves, which graves have to be taken at speed, like hurdles.
Finally, though, she has reached the edge: beyond the edge of this cemetery, she can see darkness, the real starlit darkness of the normal world. She can even see the Moon out, showing that time has continued to progress in the outside world, despite the claims the Mayor has made to the contrary. Nighttime out there is bad, in that the vamps would be able to follow her through the shimmering haze without instantly burning up. If she can even figure out how to get through the barrier in the first place. But if she can escape, the cover of night will help her, give her the slightest chance of being able to get far enough away to make contact with somebody.
Her plan doesn't really include exactly who that might be. It's too much to hope that any of her friends or family escaped.
But in that moment of longing, her worst fears come true instead: the door of the nearby crypt swings open, and there she is, her hair swept back away from her face, her leather jacket still slightly too big on her frame.
"Hey, B," she says. "Long time, no see."
They both drop into a readiness stance and stare at each other for a long moment.
And then, they're at it again: the old, familiar pattern. They fly at each other, and the world becomes nothing but a blur of motion and action: punch, parry, kick, block, spin, jump, fight. They are perfectly matched: Slayer against Slayer, drawing on the same primordial power. Everything about it feels right; the power flowing through them expressing itself in its purest form. Everything about it feels wrong; the power is divided against itself, its purity corrupted.
But in the more mundane kind of power, Faith has the advantage. They've kept Buffy on the verge of starvation for months, and she can't sustain defending herself against Faith's onslaught indefinitely.
Not that there's any chance of escape now. The Mayor's henchmen have caught up to them, have only not intervened already because they don't want to get in trouble with the second in command.
But still Buffy refuses to go down without a fight, carrying on struggling against Faith until finally she's thrown against the wall of the crypt. Faith nods to the crowd of vampires and a quartet of them come forward with heavy chains, shackling Buffy to the railings on the side of the crypt.
And then he's there: the snake towering above them all. "Now, now, now, what's all this?" He leans down towards them. "Has someone been a bad girl?"
"It's OK, boss," Faith says. "It's taken care of."
"Yes, I can see that. But she nearly got away." He propels himself into the barrier, bouncing off it again. "It's a good thing you were back, Faith," he goes on. "Well done."
"So do I get a reward, huh?"
"I can imagine the sort of reward you mean, young lady, and I'm not sure--"
The Mayor leans down. "Oh, you know I can't refuse you when you ask so nicely, Faith. Be good, though."
Faith makes a little equivocating gesture. "I might be a little bit bad."
"You know what I mean, Faith," the Mayor says as he slinks away. "No killing."
That's interesting. Buffy has surmised before now that she's supposed to be kept alive, but this is the first direct confirmation.
Faith gestures to the vamps who tied her up. "You heard him, boys, take her back to my apartment."
* * *
The vamps rearrange her bonds, the heavy chains biting into her arms and legs in stark contrast to the softness of Faith's bed beneath her. One of them accidentally-on-purpose paws at her breast, but recoils at Faith's glare. "Get out of here," she says. "She's mine."
"No, I'm not," Buffy spits.
Faith slaps her across the face, a single hard stinging blow. "Oh, yes, you are." Then she leans down, whispering in her ear, in a parody of sweetness. "Let's be honest, we both know you did all this -- all this 'escaping' -- just for my attention."
Buffy shakes her head mutely, not trusting herself to speak right now.
"You know there's no way out of Sunnydale. Not for you, anyway. The boss trusts me though, gave me this." She pulls a necklace out of her vest top, and Buffy sees a softly glowing purple amulet hanging off it. "He sent me out into the big wide. Sorry I haven't been around much lately," she goes on, "but that's why. I know you've missed me, know how much you enjoy our time together." She stops, does a studiedly slow-motion doubletake. "Oh, no, wait, that's me, isn't it? I've missed this. But I guess now we have to make up for lost time."
Faith picks up her knife, the one that Mayor gave her, the one that Buffy had brought with her to that fateful fight here in this very apartment. If she had hesitated over using it just a little less, might things have gone differently? With Faith out of the way, might they have been able to prevent the Mayor's ascension, somehow?
Irrelevant, now. The knife is Faith's, and she's turning it in her hands, before using it to slice off Buffy's clothes. Buffy feels a sudden chill at far more than the air against her bare skin. "I should have got them to dress you up in something prettier for me to ruin," Faith says regretfully. "I'm sure we could have found a good costume back at your old house." She runs the blade of the knife along Buffy's breastbone, not quite enough pressure to break the skin. "You know I love despoiling Buffy the goody-two-shoes high school student almost as much as I love dominating Buffy the vampire slayer."
"Take me on in a fair fight and we'll see who dominates," Buffy said.
"I think there are better things for your mouth to be doing that talking such trash," Faith says. And without further ado she climbs onto the bed and straddles Buffy's face. Even still wearing her leather pants, the stench of her arousal fills Buffy's nostrils. Faith grinds down into Buffy's mouth and Buffy unwillingly begins to try to lick her through the thick material, knowing that the only way out of this situation is to satisfy her captor. It's an almost impossible task, but she suspects that that's the point. Faith wants her to realise how powerless she is.
She loses track of time. There is nothing except the chains and the chill and weight of Faith on her and the desperate, fruitless struggle to make it stop by making her come. And then, a pause, as Faith pulls her pants down just a fraction, and Buffy realises that Faith has become aroused enough that she wants to finish it too, now. When Faith lowers herself back down onto Buffy's mouth, she hates that she is thinking in terms of how best to turn her on. But she knows what to do: how to alternate between licking Faith's clit and fucking her with her tongue. Sure enough, soon Faith is grabbing hold of her hair, pulling her in closer still.
And then, it's over, and she feels a gush of Faith's juices running into her mouth. Perhaps, perhaps it will be enough. But no, as Faith stands up she reaches for the drawer and pulls out a gag, pushing it into Buffy's mouth and fastening it around her head with quick, precise movements.
Faith smiles, the sort of smile she used to give Buffy when trying to persuade her to go along with some scheme. "Your turn," she says. And her fingers run down Buffy's side, pinching her nipple roughly on the way -- Buffy feels her eyes going wide involuntarily, loathes the idea that Faith will take that as a sign of her being secretly aroused -- before arriving at her pussy. Faith puts her hand against Buffy's mound, pressing gently for a moment and then forcing two fingers inside her. Buffy is slicker than she realised, and she's not even sure if her body has betrayed her or is protecting her from it being even worse. Faith's smile widens, and Buffy wants to scream at her but all she can do is make muffled noises around the gag that only seem to delight her more.
Soon, Faith slides another finger inside, then another, then her thumb, and then she's fisting Buffy roughly, sliding her entire hand in and out with increasing speed. "I know you can take it," Faith says. "Because I know what I can take. And we're the same."
We're nothing alike, Buffy wants to spit, even as she knows there's a germ of truth in Faith's words. They are both Slayers, both called from the same line. Something just went wrong with Faith, somewhere along the line. Maybe in some other world, it would have been Buffy who went bad, and she would be the one doing this to Faith. Except in that other world, would Faith have ever been called? Or Kendra before her?
And then Faith's hand accelerates even further, to a pace beyond that a normal human could achieve, let alone put up with, wresting an orgasm from Buffy against her will, and somewhere in the blinding sensation that Buffy is desperate to read as nothing more than pain, is revelation too.
And then it's over, and Faith is removing the gag. Buffy gasps, taking in huge breaths. Her mouth is filled with a mixture of her own drool and Faith's juices; she wants to hawk it up and spit it into Faith's face but tied down like this the angles are wrong, so she lets it run thickly down her throat instead. She'll have to settle for words being her weapon. "I figured it out," she says. "It took me too long, but now I know why you're keeping me alive."
"Good," Faith says, leaning down to kiss her on the forehead. "It's good that you're starting to accept it. That you're nothing but my plaything." She runs her hand down Buffy's side.
Buffy shudders, but grits her teeth and says, "No. You're not in charge. Never have been, never will be. The big snake, he doesn't want me dead either."
Faith sits back up on her haunches and affects insouciance by picking up the knife and using it to dig out the dirt from under her nails. "He likes me. Even now he's a ... whatever he is. I asked him if I could keep you, and he said yes. Simple as that." She puts the knife down to grab hold of Buffy's face. "So you're mine now, forever."
Buffy shakes her head. "That's not it. He's terrified that if you kill me, another Slayer will be called. Someone who'll be able to break into this bubble of yours and end all this. Close the hellmouth."
"Nuh uh, line of succession goes through me now," Faith says, gesturing to herself with her thumbs, as though she's Fonzie in Happy Days. "At least, I'm pretty sure that's what Giles said before we--"
She breaks off when Buffy starts struggling against the bonds. "Settle down, now, B," she says, picking up the knife again, but this time resting it against her throat. "I don't think you actually want me to test your theory right her and right now, do you?" She heads to the door and knocks on it; four vamps come in immediately, cattle prods at the ready.
"Take her back," she says.
Chained up as she is, Buffy is no threat, but still the vamps are wary, circling her with their cattle prods outstretched as more of their compatriots come in to unchain her from the bed for transport.
"Don't worry, B. I'm back for a while now. We'll see each other again soon. Right now, though, I need a shower."
The last Buffy sees of Faith is her taking off the amulet and putting it on the nightstand.
Buffy keeps her smile to herself as the vamps lead her out.