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Alone Together

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I think I’m gonna like this town.  Faith smirked as she danced between two random guys, enjoying the way the music pulsed through her body.  She still hadn’t gotten tired of the way everything felt just a little amplified since she had been chosen.  Who fucking talks like that anyway?  Chosen?  But it was always most present when she could lose herself in a crowd.  She could feel the ebb and flow of the bodies around her, everything all sweat and desire and movement.

She could also sense the lack of movement.  Nah, that wasn’t quite right.  There was a pulsing to the bodies around her.  The human ones anyway.  The beating of hearts.  The in and out of breath.  These things marked the living as such—everything with life was about the in and the out.  Breathing.  Eating.  Fucking.  But not vamps.  Even as this guy moved through the crowd, there was that little sense of offness about him.  He moved, but he wasn’t moving.  Not like everyone else.  She might be new to this slayer thing, but this aspect of it just worked for her.  It was all instinct, and that was something Faith understood, in her gut.

She flashed a grin at the one guy who was looking at her, hip checking the other away from her so she’d have the space to make her way back to the bar.  It was amazing what a fine ass and a flirty look could get her.  She ordered another shot of whiskey as she waved at the guy whose tab it was on.  But her attention was firmly on tall, dark, and deadsome moving from the edge of the dance floor towards the exit, a young woman under his arm.  She was feeling just enough of a buzz at this point that the vamp might actually give her a bit of a fight.  The thrill of the chase shot through her.

Faith loved the danger of it all.  There was nothing like it.  The world was all pain and bullshit, but this—this was simple.  Straightforward.  Kill or be killed.  Good vs. evil.  Slayer vs. vampire.  If she wasn’t good enough it wouldn’t matter.  Be good enough, or be dead. 

Simple.

She dropped by the guy on the dance floor just long enough to grab his ass and assure him she’d be right back, before making a beeline after the vamp and horror movie victim #2.  She grabbed a pool cue on her way out the side door and into the alley.  At this point, she had worked up a decent amount of muscle memory when it came to the slayage.  These vamps were all the same.  Dark club or bar, separate a girl from the crowd, find an empty alley.  So cliché.  But hell, the violence was predictable too.  Only this violence was on Faith’s terms.  She was the one who brought the pain, and then the death.

“Hey buddy, I don’t think they’re supposed to whimper like that—not exactly a reliable sign a girl’s into your moves, ya know?”  The vamp’s face jerked towards her, and it was clear he expected her to recoil in fear.  She guessed it could be a gruesome sight if a person wasn’t so used to it.  Brows all ridged and bumpy, pulled into a permanent scowl over animalistic yellow eyes.  Gleaming fangs already dripping with a bit of blood.  Blah. Blah. Blah.  

Faith had the pool cue behind her head, draping her arms over it in a pose of feigned boredom.  “Let’s see ya bring that ugly scowl over here, see if you can make me whimper, big boy.”  The vampire grimaced, taking the bait.  He pulled away from the girl, who was smart enough to immediately run away.  He stalked towards her.

“Think you’re pretty tough, huh, little girl?” 

“I think it’d be pretty funny if I shoved this pool cue all the way up your ass,” Faith retorted.  That got him.  He lunged at her, and she dodged.  Her footwork was a little off, thanks to the booze, but she still managed to slide past him, clumsily bringing the cue down and around, swinging it to crack over the back of his head.  “But as fun as that sounds, that wouldn’t be the most effective use of a long, pointy piece of wood, huh vamp face?”

She kicked him in the chest as hard as she could, forcing him to the ground, and she was on top of him immediately.  Her thighs held him against the ground, and wow, I guess violence turns him on as much as it does me.  “Aww buddy, that’s too bad,” she smirked before bringing the sharp end of the cue down, fast and hard, into his chest.   Probably his erection wasn’t the first thing to turn to dust, but it sorta felt that way.  Oh well.

Faith pushed herself off the ground, brushing the remains of the demon off her pants. She checked the side door she had exited through, but it was, of course, locked.  Figures.  She walked back around the corner towards the entrance.  Don’t feel like sleeping in the car tonight, and I’m too lazy to go looking for a motel.  Surely one of these boys is looking for a bedmate.  Then movement in the street caught her attention.

Some crazy old dude had walked out into the street, and a truck was bearing down on him.  Out of nowhere, this tiny blonde shot out after him, knocking out of the way and taking the full force of the truck herself.  Yikes.  Faith understood the impulse for the heroics.  She had entertained thoughts like that herself when she had first gotten her powers.  But she knew better now.  Knew what was out there.  You can’t stick your neck out for people like that, because all it’ll get you is a broken neck.  As this girl had just found out.

Then, incredibly, she stood up.  There was a crowd around her, and someone called for an ambulance.  But the blonde shook off all the attention, before taking off at a dead sprint, as if nothing had happened.  Concerns about the nightclub, the pliant boys, and the possibly of a warm bed for the night were gone from Faith’s mind.  She had eyes only for this blonde girl, and she took off down the sidewalk after her.

Maybe I’ll get in two slayings tonight.  But why would a vamp or a demon or whatever save some old fuddy duddy from becoming roadkill?  Faith couldn’t help but also wonder when they started making demons that looked that sexy.

                                                  

Faith didn’t get a chance to confront the mysterious blonde that night.  Or rather, elected not to force a confrontation.  Not yet.  Just before she had caught up to the girl (vamp girl?), she had bumped into someone.  Faith kept her distance.  Turned out it was one of those creepy middle-aged white evangelist type dudes, trying to sell the girl on the healing power of god or whatever.  Faith had seen a lot of evil in the last few months, but it was still humans who most often gave her the genuine willies.  Being manipulative and abusive without a soul, that’s just nature.  Being manipulative and abusive with a soul, now that’s evil.

She went out of her way to avoid the guy, and just her luck, she nearly lost track of the blonde in the process.  Fortunately, tracking was another one of those Slayer instincts that she had taken a shining to.  Faith picked up her scent just in time to see her enter what looked like a shitty apartment building.  The surroundings had gotten rattier as she followed the girl to her destination (home?), but she guessed that shouldn’t be a big surprise.  Vamps aren’t usually with the living large, now were they?  Honestly, the place reminded her a lot of the dingy south Boston building she had lived in with her mom for a couple of years.

Now it was the next morning, and Faith was posted up on the roof of a building across the street.  She guessed this was home sweet home for the girl, seeing as how she hadn’t left the building that night.  The front door opened just fine, so she did a quick sweep of the place to see if maybe the blonde was here to inflict some violence on someone.  No such luck, as far as Faith could tell.  She couldn’t figure out which apartment blondie had gone into, leaving Faith to debate how she wanted to play this.  Nothing about this girl set off her Slayer sense in terms of big bad danger.  But she had some serious power about her, that much was sure.  She decided that she’d just go ahead and stake out the building, see when the girl came back out.

What am I even doing here?  Faith hadn’t slept, except for a couple of accidental power naps when the boredom got to her.  She was feeling cramped and tight, her body in desperate need of some serious action.  But she couldn’t bring herself to leave.  Something about this girl intrigued her in a way Faith couldn’t really describe.  Something about her body language.  She seemed … off.  All that strength, but she walked as if she wanted to take up as little space as possible.  Seemed like she wanted to avoid people.  Skittish almost.  Girl seemed like she could use a hug.  

Faith frowned.  Her thought surprised her.  She wasn’t exactly the hugging type.  Dancing, fighting, fucking—those were the ways she was used to getting physical.  Hugging—that usually came with emotional stakes that inevitably led down a bad path.  Besides, that kinda power had to mean demon.  Unless …

There was another Slayer.  Diana had told her that much early on, when she’d first taken her in off the streets.  Buffy.  But Ms. ‘I Died and Then I Got Better’ was supposed to be in some small town somewhere, not the mean streets of LA.  Something about a Hellmouth or whatever.  Nothing about the girl Faith had tracked to this shithole screamed ‘Slayer.’  Strength, sure.  But the blonde was timid and avoidy in a way that Faith couldn’t imagine being—not since she’d gotten these wicked powers and all.  But Faith had never heard of a good demon, so what other explanation was there?  If there were other super-powered folks out there doing good, other than the Slayer (Slayers, Faith reminded herself), surely Diana would’ve told her about them.  That was Watcher 101, right? 

The sun had been out for a while now, and the girl hadn’t showed her face outside.  So either she was staying put for the day, or she would come out and prove she wasn’t a vampire.  Faith’s stomach growled at her angrily.  Oh right, growing girl’s gotta eat.  She should probably check on her car, too.  Half her stash was hidden in the passenger side door panel, probably wasn’t a good idea to leave it abandoned for too much longer. 

Still, she didn’t move.  She’d been sitting here on her ass all night, bored out of her mind, and yet part of her wanted nothing more than to stick around and wait on the mystery blonde.  Geez, stalker much?  Faith couldn’t explain why she was so captivated, so she told herself it was just the Slayer instinct.  Chick could be dangerous, and she was duty bound to take her out before she could hurt anyone.  But why did she save that guy?

Faith shook off the questions piling up in her brain, deciding that she needed food.  Stop indulging this … whatever this is.  But of course, that’s the exact moment she noticed the blonde step out of the building, into the bright morning sunlight.

Definitely not a vamp.  Hunger forgotten for the moment, she took off down the fire escape of the building, making her way to the street before she could lose sight of Blondie.  She didn’t go too far, and not quite in the same direction she had come from that night.  After a ten-minute walk, she entered a run down looking diner called Helen’s Kitchen.  Faith may have dropped out of high school, but even she knew that the crappy pun was wrong, geographically speaking.  The girl took off her coat as she entered, revealing an overly cheesy diner waitress outfit, a bland white dress with red plaid at the collar and sleeves.  She hung her coat up on a rack behind the counter, then tied a matching red apron around her waist.  Her hair was even in pigtails, completing the embarrassingly cliché look.  She’s a cute, all-American looking blonde … demon? … who works day shifts at a shitty diner?

None of this was adding up, and it only made the girl that much more intriguing.  But Faith was done playing wait and see.  Patience and spywork weren’t exactly her style, and she had an empty stomach and sore ass to show for it.  Time for a more direct approach.  Faith was starving, and she could scope this chick out, talk to her a little, while she ate. 

She hung back long enough to get a look at which part of the diner was the blonde’s section, then she entered the diner and took a seat at a booth where she knew she’d get the girl as a waitress.  It took less than a minute for her to notice Faith and walk over.  She had a name tag on that read ‘Anne.’  Huh.  Faith was underwhelmed.  The girl definitely didn’t look like an Anne.  But then again, there wasn’t much about the girl’s current appearance that didn’t strike Faith as ill-fitting. 

“Welcome to Helen’s,” the girl murmured, refusing to meet Faith’s eyes except for a brief initial glance.  “Here’s a menu.  Can I grab you some coffee or orange juice?”

Faith made a split second decision and went with it.  “Hey there, Blondie,” she practically sang, putting on her nice girl voice.  The nickname was enough to make the girl’s eyes widen in surprise, and she looked at Faith in time to catch the confident grin she was flashing the girl.  “Coffee sounds great, black’s fine.  I’m starvin’ though.  Feel like I could eat a horse.  But like a … breakfast horse, ya know?  Got any recommendations?”

Blondie—I’m not calling her Anne—flashed her a nervous smile, before going back to frowning down at her tiny pad of paper.  “If you’re actually that hungry, I’d grab the big country breakfast.  Two strips of bacon, two sausages, hash browns, a biscuit, and a whole mess of eggs.”  She glanced up to check Faith’s reaction, but Faith hadn’t stopped grinning at the girl.  Fun and flirty was the way she had decided to play this, and the fact that the blonde was a stone cold fox, even in that silly outfit, meant that Faith didn’t even really have to put on an act.

 “Yeah, that sounds killer.  What’s a girl gotta do to get a couple extra slices of bacon on the side?”

“Wow, you weren’t kidding about being able to eat a horse, huh?” Anne asked, and Faith could tell it was on impulse when she caught the briefest flash of an emotion on the girl’s face before she shifted back into her whole quiet stoicism schtick.   The way her eyebrows and nose had crinkled just a little had been beyond adorable.

“Hell yeah, Blondie.  I know what you’re thinking, mega hottie like me must not eat much, what with this bangin’ bod and all.  But I got a feisty metabolism, ya feel?  Keep myself pretty active, too.”  She winked but couldn’t quite tell if the girl noticed.  “Don’t you worry about me, I know what I’m getting myself into here.” 

Blondie nodded, making a note before turning on a dime.  She added softly, “I’ll grab you that coffee,” as she walked away.  Faith wasn’t used to having her charms fall on deaf ears like this.  Blondie really doesn’t like interacting with people.  That seemed pretty damn odd for someone working a service job, since that’s basically all she did all day.  Maybe she didn’t have any other options.  Questions continued to pile up.

There was definitely something off about this girl, but Faith wasn’t getting demon vibes.  Or any kinda dangerous vibes.  But that didn’t mean anything.  People were rarely what they seemed.

When Blondie came back with her coffee, Faith grabbed her wrist before she could walk off again.  That caught the blonde’s attention, and her whole body tensed as if preparing to physically break the contact.  Then she visibly forced herself to relax, but her eyes were firmly fixed on Faith now.  She could see a fire in those deep green orbs, which was something that this Anne was clearly trying to keep hidden. 

Faith quickly released her wrist.  “Hey hey, sorry ‘bout that.  Not trying to get personal or anything.  It’s just that I’m new in town and looking to see some sights, have some fun, ya know?  You live around here?  Know any fun hangs?”  She didn’t exactly know how to go digging for information—she was a Slayer, not a spy—but she figured this was as good a start as any.

Blondie softened just a little after Faith let go of her and apologized.  Faith wondered how much harassment she got in a job like this, and she bristled a little at the thought.  Men are the fucking worst.  Faith decided then and there she could never be a waitress.  She’d probably break some pervy dude’s wrist the first day.

“Uhh, I’m not exactly much with the fun having, really.  Kinda keep to myself.  Work and home, that’s about it.”  There was a flash of a wistful, almost sorrowful look that was just as quickly buried beneath her skittish closed-off disguise again.  “Sorry I can’t really help.”

“Hey yeah, no prob.  Sounds like a boring existence is all.  Hot chicks like you and me should be out and about, getting our jollies on while we’re still young, yeah?  We could totally hang, do some exploring together if ya like.”  Anne’s eyes flitted around nervously, her brow furrowing in suspicion.

“Uhh, sorry, but no thanks.  I mean, you seem nice enough—”

“I can be, unless you’re looking for a different sorta vibe.  I’m a girl of many talents.”  Faith turned on the charm even further, if only to get a read on the girl.  So far it was like flirting with a brick wall.

Blondie blushed, taking a small step back.  Her whole body radiated nervous energy, and Faith finally felt like she was getting a real response.  The blonde shot her a quick, but authentic, smile, then responded, “Wow, you’re a charmer huh?”  Faith shrugged, maintaining her confident grin.  “Well, don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but I’m just not really looking to make friends right now.  I just … I don’t know, I just need to be alone right now.”

That feeling of wishing she could hug this girl bloomed in Faith’s chest again, catching her completely off guard.  What’s with the sappy, dude? she asked herself sardonically.  Faith locked eyes with the girl.  “Hey, believe me, I get that.  Been there myself.  Still, maybe I’ll drop by for a meal again sometime soon, see if you’ve changed your mind?”

Blondie pursed her lips, clearly thinking about her response.  “Yeah, maybe.”  Then she smiled again, before turning to leave.  And wow, that smile could make a girl get all week at the knees.

It wasn’t long before Blondie brought her the food, and Faith let her retreat from the table without any additional hassle this time.  Apparently, that earned her a smile, then a brief glance back as Blondie walked away, and Faith got a whole warm, tingly feeling all of the sudden.

As Faith was chowing down, a tall blonde chick with terrible bangs walked in and made a beeline for Blondie.  Faith was chomping on a crunchy piece of bacon, so she missed the first thing the girl said, but Faith was careful to listen in on the rest.  There was a slight familiarity in the way the tall one addressed the so-called Anne, and she was buzzing with a worried kinda energy.

“This really isn’t a good time; can it wait?” Anne muttered, keeping her attention on the sugar containers she was refilling.

“Rickie's gone.  I haven't seen him for more than a day.  I… he's never left for that long.  I think something's … happened.  Maybe something's happened.”  What’s this Ricky person mean to Blondie?  If she’s the loner type she paints herself as, why is Bangs coming to her for help?

Anne answered without looking up.  “Did you call the police?”  Bangs sighed before explaining that this Rickie guy skipped out on his parole.  Anne seemed to get a little put off by that news, and snapped, “I don't know, did you, did you ask around?”

Bangs was really bad at taking a hint.  “Can you help me?”  Anne immediately responded that she couldn’t, trying to walk away from the conversation but still keeping her eyes down.  Bangs just followed her.

“But … but that's who you are and stuff, right?  I mean, you help people, and, you know—”

This time Anne did look at the taller girl, if only for a second.  “I can't get into this. I'm sorry, Lily.”  So, Anne was some sort of a helper type, or at least, she had been.  Before this whole loner act.

Bangs—Lily—looked around, almost in desperation, before trying again.  “You, you know how to do stuff.”  Stuff, huh?

“I don't.”  Anne took a breath that almost looked pained in a way.  “Not anymore.”

“But … I don't know what to do.”  Finally, Anne stopped what she was doing and actually met the taller girl’s gaze.  They stood there for a good fifteen seconds or so before Anne came to some sort of decision.

“Fine.  Look, my shift is over at three.”

“I can meet you then,” Lily was quick to respond, clearly feeling hopeful all of the sudden.

“Fine, just … you can follow me back to my place so I can change, then we’ll see what we can do.  Think about the usual places where Ricky might hang.  I’ll see you later, okay?”  Anne’s voice made it abundantly clear that she was done with the conversation.  Lily smiled brightly, offered a cheery thanks, and then left.

The exchange had given her a bit more information at least.  And now Faith had a timeline for where this Anne would be for the rest of the day, so she didn’t have to keep following her around everywhere.  Faith was quick about finishing up her meal, and Anne didn’t say anything else to her except to tell her that she could pay at the counter.  She made sure to leave Blondie a big tip, along with a quickly jotted ‘Thanks, B” on a napkin, drawing a heart beside the note on impulse.

                                                  

Faith didn’t make it back to Blondie’s apartment until after dark.  She had found her car, moved it closer to the part of town where Blondie lived, then set about looking around for some fun.  She tracked down a liquor store, but otherwise didn’t really find anything of note.  Unfortunately, she also got a little turned around and missed her opportunity to jump on the trail of Blondie and Lily around 3:00.  She elected instead to go grab some dinner, before grabbing a book out of her car and heading back to the roof across the street from Blondie’s place.

As she posted up there, she allowed her mind to wander, unable to focus on the book in her hands.  By now, she had finally left the fear behind—mostly.  Everything she left behind in Boston---well, it was behind her.  She was pretty sure of that.  Faith had cut a random path across the entire country the past two months.  She’d seen a bunch of different sights, towns, and cities.  Met different sorts of folks.  Partied it up everywhere, from big city nightclubs to small town dyke bars, even hitting a couple of house parties when she’d hit it off with someone.  Once in Kansas City, and once in some town an hour west of Phoenix.

Part of her hated herself for being such a coward.  But what else could she have done?  Some part of her—the angry, violent part—burned for revenge.  And she knew that she owed Diana that much.  But the other part of her—the desperate, staying alive at any cost survivor part—knew that she did what she had to do.  She got the fuck outta Dodge and didn’t look back until there was a whole continent between her and the Big Bad that wanted her dead.

Faith could feel her chest tightening, and she appreciated that she was out in the open, under the wide open night sky.  Fucking bad idea to dwell on this shit.  She glanced down at the street.  There wasn’t much happening.  Couple of hopeless guys, but not a lot of traffic here, foot or otherwise.  Then the tall girl with the bangs tore outta Blondie’s building in a hurry.  Lily looked beyond upset, and Faith guessed maybe she and Anne had found Rickie’s body.  How long had she been there?  Was I so lost in thought that I missed her and Blondie show up? 

Again Faith found herself getting fed up with the slow and patient approach.  Setting the book down on the ground, up against the ledge of the roof, she stretched thoroughly, trying to work all the tension out of her stiff body.    Without a second glance back at the building, Faith made her way over to the fire escape and back down to the street.  She figured she’d go door to door until she found this girl’s apartment and then she’d confront her.  She’d much rather have been invited, but she had been in LA for three days now and hadn’t done much at all other than stalk this Anne.  She was beginning to feel like a creeper, and maybe it was time to be done with this.  Either she was a supernatural threat or she wasn’t.  If she was, Faith would end her with the large knife in her bag, and if not, she was sure that Blondie would be sufficiently creeped out by Faith’s spying that she’d tell the brunette to get the fuck away from her.  Either way, Faith could move on to the next thing.

Except that just then, Blondie walked out of the building.  Faith ducked back against the wall, hiding in the shadows of the alley.  The girl had her hair down now, and she was wearing sweats and a zip-up hoodie.  It was a much better look for her.  Plus, she had this look of purpose about her, and it was a starkly different picture than the small, timid girl she had pretended to be the night before.  Blondie looked powerful and yeah, maybe a little dangerous.  It was pretty hot, and Faith found herself hoping that she didn’t turn out to be some sort of evil demon pretending to be a troubled blonde girl.  Even then, Blondie don’t want any friends, remember?  Don’t get your hopes up, dummy.

She followed, keeping up with the blonde’s brisk pace fairly easily thanks to her Slayer stamina, but she was cautious.  Her heart was in her throat the whole time.  Blondie had seen her face, and Faith was sure she had made an impression.  So, it was a good idea not to get noticed.  Fortunately, the two of them made their way to a nearby blood bank without Anne ever really giving much thought to whether someone might be following her.  Maybe there’s a downside to being focused, Faith thought wryly.

A feeling of unease began to spread in her gut.  She’d seen Blondie step out into the bright Los Angeles sunlight, but a blood bank is exactly the sort of place an anti-social, isolated vampire might break into late at night.  And the girl had definitely broken in, having the strength to rip the doorknob cleanly out of the door.  Faith pulled the knife from her bag, sliding the holster clip into place on the back of her jeans.  Then she snuck in, slowly edging the door open just enough to slide into the room.  She kept to the shadows, inching along silently as she looked to see what Anne was up to here.

The blonde hadn’t bothered turning on any lights, and she was currently in the middle of the room, rifling through a filing cabinet.  Faith froze as she pulled a file out and turned back towards the door.  Fortunately, Blondie’s eyes were locked firmly on the folder, which she set down a nearby table before turning on the desk lamp there.  Faith imagined this was as good a time as any to have a confrontation, so before she could second-guess herself, she stepped out of the shadows and cleared her throat dramatically.

“Whatcha got there, B?”

                                                  

Buffy jumped back from the table, shifting immediately into a defensive stance as her eyes shot up towards the voice.  Her eyes narrowed, analyzing the situation.  It was the overly friendly brunette from the diner this morning.  What the hell?  Has she been following me?  And if so, why?  Is she involved in whatever got Rickie killed?

“Why are you following me?”  Buffy kept her eyes focused on the other girl’s.  Her soft brown eyes were cautious but amused.  They glittered with hidden depths that Buffy couldn’t begin to guess at.  Nothing about her posture screamed threat, not yet at least.

“Wells, I happened to see you take getting hit by a truck in stride, then sprint away like it was nothing.  That gets a girl curious.”  She paused, a slight grin on her lips.  “If we’re trading questions, what’s a girl who is most definitely not a vampire doing breaking into a blood bank at this hour?”

Crap, she knows about vampires.  Who is this girl?  Buffy tilted her head slightly to the side, without taking her eyes off the mysterious brunette.  And why is she calling me B?  She had done it in that silly note she left with a (very nice) tip, too.  Does she know who I am?  Have we met before?  The girl made an impression—Buffy couldn’t fathom the idea that they would’ve met previously.  She would’ve remembered.  Buffy played into the confused expression she was sure she had written across her features already and shot this girl an exasperated expression.

“Ummm, I’m sorry, did you say vampires?” Buffy asked, turning up the SoCal valley girl in her voice. 

“Yeah I did,” the girl responded, like it was nothing.  Like everyone just knew that vampires were a thing.  She looked at Buffy as if she could see through the façade.  Buffy had gotten the same vibe from the girl back at the diner, too.  It had unnerved her at first, but after that, it almost made her feel at ease.  Or at ease as Buffy did these days.  “But go ahead,” the girl added, smirking, “pretend like you have no idea what I’m talking about.”  She took a couple of steps forward, then leaned herself casually against the nearby wall.  Her eyes never left Buffy’s.  “So, seriously, whatcha doin’?”

Buffy shook her head.  Something about this girl just put her at ease, even now.  She supposed she should be creeped out by being tracked like this, but actually she was kinda impressed.  The girl had skills, and she didn’t look much older than Buffy herself.  A thought struck Buffy.  Young girl, skilled tracker, knows about vampires.  Kendra died a few months ago.  Could she be the next Slayer?  Buffy pursed her lips, pondering that.  It’d be a hell of a coincidence running into her like this, randomly while Buffy was on the run in LA.  But her life as a Slayer had been full of random crap like this.  Could be it was destiny.  Which Buffy was so not looking for right now, even if she had finally given into her instincts and agreed to help Lily.

“That’s none of your business, to be perfectly honest.”  Buffy took a step to her side, keeping the table between them.  “So, questions, right?  My turn.  Did you come here lookin’ for a fight?”

“Well see now, B, that depends on you answering my question.  Way I see it, you’re a bundle of fascinating, confusing questions.  But you survivin’ that truck, that takes some strength.  Some power.  Me, I got this calling, you might say—yeah okay, definitely a Slayer, “—and if you were planning on using that power for evil shenanigans, then yeah, you and me are gonna have a problem.“

Buffy relaxed, just a little.  Why do I always end up at odds with the new girl?  “Look, this banter is a lot of fun, believe me, but maybe we should cut to the chase.  I’m gonna go out on a limb here—you’re a Slayer?”  The brunette’s mouth fell open, her cool girl routine replaced by genuine surprise.

“Fuck me, you’re Buffy, aren’t you?”

Now it was Buffy’s turn to be surprised.  Kendra hadn’t heard of her when they first met, but this girl knows her name.  And had a mouth on her, apparently.  Buffy sighed.  She should’ve known she couldn’t avoid the Slayer stuff forever.  “Yeah,” she admitted, her voice soft.  “You know my name?”  She felt shy all of the sudden, but she had no clue why that would be the case.  Am I like … a legend or something?  Has no other Slayer in history come back to life?

“Hell yeah I do, B!”  Faith paused, grinning.  “I knew you weren’t an Anne!  Look at me, getting the letter right and everything.”

“So, you didn’t know who I was when you came into Helen’s this morning?”

“Nah,” the brunette assured her, “I was just following my instincts, trying to figure out your deal.  I knew Anne felt wrong, so I was callin’ you Blondie in my head.  So that’s how I got to B, right?”  She stepped forward excitedly, and this time Buffy didn’t move away from her.  She hopped onto the table and leaned in towards Buffy.  “You saved that guy, and you didn’t ring any alarm bells with the Slayer sense.  Then you walked out into the sun and all, so I knew you weren’t a vamp.  For the record, I did think for a second that you could be her, the other Slayer, but you’re supposed to be Miss Valley Girl or whatever in some small town, right?  Didn’t expect you being all mopey and lonesome in the big city.”

Buffy’s face dropped a little, and the girl looked like she immediately regretted the phrasing.  “Hell, I didn’t mean it like that!  Sorry!” she apologized.  “I’m Faith.  Been doing the Slayer thing for a few months now.  Maybe we’ll get into sad backstory’s later, braid each other’s hair while we’re at it, but for now, what are you working on?  And how can I help?”

She definitely didn’t want to go anywhere near her own tragic backstory; after all, she had come here to get away from sending Angel to hell, slaying, the Scoobies, Mom, everything.  So, she jumped on the girl—Faith’s question.  She moved closer, and as she reached for the file, her hand brushed against Faith’s very firm, but soft, thigh.  Buffy’s eyes grew wide, but she recovered quickly, opening the folder and flipping through to find Rickie’s paperwork.  She could feel the other girl’s grinning eyes burning into the back of her head, but thankfully, she didn’t say anything.

“So this guy, Rickie, had gone missing, and then tonight I found a body.  His body, but he was like 80 or whatever.”

“Guessing he wasn’t 80 before?” Faith asked.

“More like 20,” Buffy confirmed.  “But it was definitely him.  So, clearly some supernatural evil going on.  And earlier, I was in here with Rickie’s girlfriend Lily, because they like to give blood together or something.”

“Ah, young love.  Makes you do such weird things,” Faith said, her tone odd in a way that Buffy couldn’t place.

“Yeah, I guess.”  Buffy wasn’t touching the love topic with a ten—no, 100—foot pole.  “Anyways, the lady here, who knew Rickie and Lily, gave me the total wiggins, in that Slayer way.  So, I figured I would come back.”  She glanced up at Faith, who seemed to be following just fine.  “And then look here at his file.  Says he is a candidate, but a candidate for what?”

They were both startled by a noise from behind Buffy.  Speak of the devil.  “What are you doing?” the lab-coat wearing woman asked.  Her tone was threatening.

“Breaking into your office and going through your private files,” Buffy answered drolly, refusing to look back at the woman.  She did steal a glance towards Faith, who grinned playfully at her.  “Candidate for what?”

The woman (a nurse maybe?) responded with a threat to call the police.  To which Faith responded by emphatically ripping the phone out of the wall.  “Ain’t happenin’ Nurse Ratchet.”  Buffy grinned, but tried to hide it as soon as she realized she was doing it.  She kept her eyes on the file, flipping through some of the pages.

“Now, you’ve got a whole bunch of candidates here.  I wonder if any of them are missing like Rickie.”  Buffy turned to face the nurse.  “Gosh, I bet they are.”  She put a hand on her hip, and did her best not to flinch at all when she accidentally bumped against Faith again as she did it.

The nurse was unmoved.  “You’re getting yourself in a lot of trouble.”

Buffy felt herself shifting subtly into Slayer mode, her anger and frustration bubbling up.  “I don’t want any trouble.  I just want to be alone and quiet in a room with a chair and a fireplace and a tea cozy.”  Tea cozy?  Sometimes she just said things—words sorta flowed out of her when she got into full quipping mode.  “I don’t even know what a tea cozy is, but I want one.  Instead, I keep getting trouble—” she glanced sideways at Faith, though not exactly intentionally, “—which I am more than willing to share.”  She fixed her sternest Slayer glare on the nurse.  “What are you doing with these kids?”

Nurse Ratchet (dammit, Faith!) answered calmly, “Nothing.  I just … I give him the names of the healthy ones.”

“Who’s him?” Faith chimed in.  The nurse finally looked uneasy.  She glanced back and forth, as if calculating her chances at making a run for it.  “Look, lady, don’t even think about it.  Trust me, you don’t wanna cross us.  Give us a name, and we’ll be five by five.  But hold out on us, and I’m not sure what my friend here might do.”

Good cop, bad cop?  Buffy hadn’t expected this, but she was kinda into it.  She’d never had this kind of dynamic with Kendra.  The girl had been nice enough, but never quite got the stick out of her butt.  Being raised by a Watcher sounded like a special kind of nightmare, if you asked Buffy.  But here was Faith, just rolling in here, and not five minutes later, they’ve already got a dynamic or whatever.  It was interesting.

Nurse Ratchet caved.  “His name is Ken.  I don’t know his last name, but he runs a shelter nearby.  One of those vaguely religious things.”

“I know who you’re talking about,” Buffy cut her off.  Ken was the guy she had run into last night.  He’d set off all kinds of creepy alarm bells for Buffy, but she had ignored them.  She was trying to lay low and stay away from the creepy.  And now someone had died because of that choice.  Buffy felt a sharp pang of guilt and frustration in her chest.  That’s the thing about destiny, I guess.  You can’t escape it.  Ever.

Buffy turned to leave, without another word.  Faith got off a quick, “You’re gonna wanna forget you saw us here, lady.  It’s for your own good, believe me,” before hurrying after Buffy.  She guessed she had a partner now, at least for tonight.

“That was fun, B.  Now, where are we gonna find this Ken and which one of us gets to kick his ass?”

                                                  

Faith certainly didn’t lack for spunk.  No, spunk was the wrong word.  Energy?  Enthusiasm?  They had sprinted back to Buffy’s apartment, where she still had the flier Ken gave her.  It was … exhilarating.  She was glad she had worn some sensible shoes, but it was incredible to go at full speed and have Faith able to keep up with her.  When they made it to the center, Buffy wasn’t even tired.  She felt energized, and she could tell Faith was feeling it too.  Maybe this was what she needed to get back into her life as a Slayer.  A partner.  Maybe even a friend.  At least, someone who might actually be able to understand all the crap she was going through.

This the place, huh?”

“Yuup, this would be it.”  Buffy caught Faith’s eyes.  “So, you’re a hell of a runner.  How are your acting skills?”

Faith looked at her curiously.  “Uhhh, that wasn’t exactly part of my Watcher-approved curriculum, B.”

Buffy nodded.  “Cool.  Not really mine either, but let’s try stealth, at least at first.  Follow my lead?”  Faith gestured with her hand, motioning for Buffy to lead on.  “Great!  So uh, so far we don’t know whether they’re human or not.  Just err on the side of not killing them, okay?  At least until you see horns or yellow eyes or whatever.”  Faith agreed, and they entered the building, following a grimy looking hallway down to the end.  There there was a big ‘Welcome’ sign over the door to the left.  Buffy pointed at the wall next to the door, silently directing Faith to hide against it.  She winked, which threw Buffy off for a hot second, then took her place against the door, out of sight from those inside.

Buffy knocked, and a dark-haired man in the ugliest polo and sweater vest combo answered the door, looking at her expectantly.  She smiled brightly at the man, trying to play the part of repentant sinner girl.  “Hi!  I uhhh… you see, this guy, Ken.  Well, I ran into him, and he told me about this place.  Gave me a flier and everything, told me I should come check it out if I needed hope.”  She glanced sideways at Faith again, just for a second.  The brunette gave her a goofy thumbs up, and Buffy had to work not to smile.  What is up with this girl?

“You know, I just … I woke up, and I looked in the mirror, and I thought, ‘hey, what's with all the sin?  I need to change.  I'm—‘” Buffy made a face, “’—I'm dirty.  I'm, I'm bad with the ... sex and the envy and that … that loud music us kids listen to nowadays.  W—'”  Crap, this guy isn’t buying any of this.  She looked at Faith again and shrugged.  “Oh, I just suck at undercover.  Where's Ken?”  The guy tried to close the door on her, and she responded by calmly kicking the door in, the strength of it sending the guy flying backwards.  She entered, with Faith hot on her heels. 

Buffy knocked out the guy on the floor with a blow to the head, while Faith handled the guy who had come up behind him.  Beyond the foyer, there was another hallway, this one with several doors down it’s length.  But Buffy was sure their destination was at the end of the hallway.  “I’m guessing it’s the big scary black door all the way down, what do you think?”

“Seems like a good guess to me, B.  Ladies first.”  Buffy gave her a confused look, but she couldn’t keep the slight grin off her face.  Then she remembered why they were here, and she booked it the rest of the way down the hall before kicking that door in too.  Ken was inside, and he immediately faced them with a slight look of frustration on his otherwise disturbingly cheery face.  Behind him, however, was Lily, kneeling in front of a small rectangular pool of some sort, filled with a dark, oozy liquid.  Not a good sign.

“This is a private moment,” Ken insisted, as if they didn’t know some weirdo demonic ritual was going on behind him.  “If you could just—”

Buffy cut him off.  “How do you make 'em old, Ken?  Do you feed on youth?  What's the deal?”

He raised an eyebrow.  “Do you really wanna know?”  That’s a good question, actually.

Just then, Lily looked back at them, her upper body still bent over the surface of the … goo.  “What's going on?” she asked, a little fearfully.  Then she shrieked as something in the goo reached out and yanked her in.

She and Faith both reacted immediately.  Faith ran at Ken, knife drawn, shouting at Buffy, “I got creepy Ken over here; you grab the girl, B.”  Buffy didn’t have to be told twice.  In fact, her first instinct had been to leap after Lily anyway.  The goo felt like it was pressing down on her from all sides, like gravity was stronger inside of it or something, and it writhed against her in a way that gave her all the willies.  She didn’t feel like she was falling, but rather being pushed forward, and after several highly uncomfortable seconds, she was dropped painfully onto the concrete floor, maybe ten feet below where the goo stopped.

Buffy caught sight of Lily being dragged around the corner by … something.  She shook her head, trying to catch the breath that was knocked out of her in the fall.  Then she pressed herself up to her feet and took off after Lilly.  She turned one corner, then another.  In front of her, the room opened up dramatically, and she skidded to a sudden stop at the horror in front of her.  She was on a balcony over a massive concrete warehouse, but one that featured multiple vats of what she could’ve sworn was molten lava or molten … something.  It was hot and yellow and fiery was all Buffy could say for sure.  Everywhere she looked there were these yellow-skinned demon guys in what looked horrifyingly close to Nazi uniforms, carrying whips and herding around hordes of human workers dressed in burlap sacks.  She was surrounded by the clanking sounds of metal work and hard labor.  The warehouse was dimly lit by large torches and a few spotlights.  She couldn’t tell if she was still on Earth, but she had the sinking feeling she had found herself in some sort of hell dimension.

She was so horrified that she didn’t hear the guards coming up behind her.  Just as she noticed the footsteps immediately behind her, she felt a sharp pain in the back of her head, and everything went dark.

When she woke up, her head still groggy and painful, she was in a large … pen was really the only word for it, with maybe twenty other people.  They were all in their late teens or early twenties, by the looks of it.  In front of the group was a large demon with a very disturbing face situation.  It was like the head of a deci…, decik…, of a very dried out, gross, shriveled up corpse, but without any lips.  Just exposed gums and dirty teeth.  But then there were like two yellow fleshy patches over the top of his head, separated in the middle but sewn unevenly together.  He didn’t seem to have any eyes, just empty holes where they should be.  Just as she was coming to, he started with the evil villain speechifying as he continued to pace.

“Welcome to the rest of your lives.  This is your new reality.  You work, and you live.  That is all.”  His voice had the cadence of a drill sergeant, but without any of the energy.  She stood, to match the stance of those around her.  Then she pushed her hair back out of her face, and as her head continued to clear, she realized they hadn’t bothered to bind her arms or chain her up at all.  Oh right, cuz they don’t know I’m the Slayer.  Well, they’re about to find out.  She looked around, and she found Lily a few people over.

Mr. Nasty Face droned on.  “You do not complain or laugh or do anything besides work.  Whatever you thought, whatever you were, does not matter.  You are no one now.  You mean nothing.”  He stopped in front of a boy a few people to Buffy’s left, with long, dark hair.  “Who are you?”  Oh god, don’t take the bait, she thought, hoping the boy had more sense than that.

He didn’t.  “Aaron?” he answered, voice quavering in fear and confusion.  Mr. Nasty Face slammed his club down on the boy’s head, leaving him bloody and unconscious on the floor.  Then he paced a few spots over to Lily.  The girl looked way out of it.

“Who are you?”  She avoided his gaze, if he could be said to have one, keeping her eyes firmly on the floor.

“No one,” she squeaked, trying to keep herself from hyperventilating.  The demon moved to another boy, who gave the same response as Lily.  And then, just her luck, he came to a stop in front of Buffy.

He looked at her, and Buffy was sure now that even without actual eyeballs, he could definitely see her.  “Who are you?” came the repeated question.

She smiled as she answered cheerfully, “I’m Buffy.  The Vampire Slayer.  And you are?”  She asked it with all the mocking friendliness she could muster, as if she was introducing herself to a cute boy instead of a horrifying faceless demon thing.  This time, he was the one to take the bait, as he immediately lifted his arm to bring his club down on her.  But she was way too fast for him.

Buffy grabbed his arm before he could swing the club, sidestepping to use the momentum of his swing to force him down to his knees.  She held his arm tight, however, before bringing her own down to snap it at the elbow.  Then she had his club in hand and made quick work of the three remaining guards, clubbing them into unconsciousness or death.  She didn’t care to find out which.  She turned to the other would-be slaves.  “Anyone who’s not having fun here, follow me.”

She turned and took off down a nearby hallway, unsure of exactly which way she had been brought in, what with the painful unconsciousness and what not.  Who am I, Giles?  As she found her way back to the large open warehouse area, she put her hands out to stop the prisoners following her.  There would be guards, and they needed to be careful.  Plus, she had to rescue as many people as she could. 

Try as hard as she might, she was the Slayer.  She could never escape her destiny, and it had been stupid to try.  Even if it had been nice to get away from everything and just wallow in her misery.  She saw now what actual misery looked like, and it really put things into perspective.  Killing your boyfriend sucks, but it’s nothing compared to a lifetime of slavery in a demon Nazi labor camp.  She still hadn’t figured out what exactly Ken had done to Ricky, but now wasn’t the time to ponder that particular mystery.

Buffy peered around the corner carefully.  To their immediate right was a staircase, leading back up to the balcony where she had started.  She was pretty sure that was the same balcony, anyway.  She turned to Lily next to her, whispering, “There’s no way we’re getting back up their without meeting more guards.  When I give you the signal, I want you to lead these people up the stairs to our right and back out to the portal.  Fast and quiet.  I’ll be the distraction and see if I can free some more of these people.”

Lily seemed taken aback.  “You’re leaving me?  I—”

“Lily, you can handle this,” Buffy assured her, trying not to get exasperated at the girl, for the fifth time today.  “Cuz I say so.”  But because Buffy never got lucky, not even once in her entire Slayer career, it was at that exact moment that a blaring siren began to wail.  Buffy cursed silently.  “We’ve gone public,” she shouted at the group, then turned back to Lily.  “Okay, quick, get them up.  Go!  And be quiet!”

The prisoners began to move towards the staircase, but Lily hesitated.  “I’m sorry I said this was your fault before.”  Buffy’s eyes went wide.  Is she fucking serious right now?  “Lily this can wait!”

“Well, in case we die—”

“Go!”  Buffy shoved her, barely constraining her Slayer strength.  “Go!”  Then Buffy took off into the warehouse.  Immediately, two guards were hot on her tail.  As she ran, she shouted at the workers, “We’re making a break for it!  Everybody run!  Get out of here!”  Buffy spun around a pole to deliver a kick to the head of one of the guards following her, then continued to sprint.  Some of the slaves looked at her, but none were even trying to run.  Really?  I guess they have lost all hope.  She couldn’t just leave them.

She pulled herself up onto a large raised platform, where she would have the high ground.  Tactics 101.  Giles would be so proud.  The second guard was on her in an instant, with a large mallet in hand.  He knocked her to the ground, but she blocked his blow and flipped him over her body.  As she did that, she pulled the mallet from his grip in one fluid motion, leaping to her feet and swinging it across his face as he moved to get up.  He fell, completely still, to the ground below. 

Buffy checked the balcony, and Lily’s group were making their way out.  She gestured wildly to the remaining slaves on the warehouse floor.  ”Come on guys!  This is the only chance you’re going to get!  I don’t know if I can take them all, but I promise, the world is still out there.  You can still make a life for yourself!”  Her words were finally getting through to some of them, who threw down their tools and began to make for the exits.  They were immediately slapped down by guards, so Buffy taunted them.  “Hey, big uglies, why don’t you pick on someone your own size!”  She winced.  “So to speak.  Unless you’re scared!”

It worked, and no fewer than seven guards began to make their way towards her.  She took out one with a roundhouse kick that sent him flying, then blocked the attack of another, knocking his club out of his hand before bringing the mallet up in a powerful uppercut that snapped his head back and flung him off the platform.  Another guard grabbed her around the shoulders, and she had to struggle with him, eventually getting an elbow into his jaw.  That created enough space that she could sweep his legs, causing him to fall backwards.  Two more were felled as they ran face first into a wild swing of her mallet.  She grabbed the next one and tossed him up with all her strength, slamming him into a low hanging concrete corner nearby. 

She turned just in time to narrowly sidestep the slash of an ax, and the momentum of the guard carried him past her.  She caught her breath, readying herself for his next attack.  She ducked under the swing, then brought the mallet up longways to catch the downward arc of his next swing on the mallet’s long handle.  Then she kicked as high as she could, catching the ax on the base of its handle and sending it spinning into the air.  Dropping into a crouch, she swung the mallet at his shins, knocking him off his feet so that she would have time to catch the ax.  She followed that up by kicking him forcefully under his chin, sending him flying off the platform.

As she stood, she realized there were no more immediate challengers, and the room was noticeably much less full of people in burlap sacks.  She looked down at the curved blade of the battle ax in her hand, and a stray thought almost made her laugh.  The ax and mallet combo she was double wielding looked very much like the whole hammer and sickle motif they had in communist Russia or whatever.  Smirking, she issued a challenge to the remaining guards.  “Alright comrades, come and get it!”

And they did.  This time, they challenged her two or three at a time, and Buffy went into full Slayer mode.  She never stopped moving, just a constant flurry of slicing ax, bashing mallet, and spinning kicks to the head for everyone.  A couple of times a guard or two managed to grab hold of her, but she found ways to break out of it, often using one guard’s action or momentum against another.  Somewhere along the way, she lost the mallet, but she was really enjoying this ax.  It was very sharp, and she didn’t get much resistance, even though these guys felt like they had pretty crusty skin. 

It looked like everyone who was going to escape had done so, and Buffy made the decision to cut her losses and make a run for it.  She did a front flip off the platform, catching sight of a nearby chain that she could climb up to the balcony.  Except there was Mr. Nasty Face again, trying to block her path.  One arm hung limp and useless by his side, but the other held a very large mace.  Her immediate reaction was to snark at him, but the other guards were hot on her tail.  No time.  Instead, she tossed the ax in front of her.  It’s spin was almost pretty, and then it lodged itself deep in Mr. Nasty Face’s skull.  She yanked it free as she ran past his dead body, then leapt onto the chain, scaling the wall as quickly as she could with one hand still firmly hefting the ax.  The remaining guards either couldn’t or wouldn’t follow her up the chain, and she didn’t look back to see if they tried the stairs instead.

Buffy ran at a full sprint through the back hallway, around the two corners and into the room where she had first fallen out of the goo.  She shuddered as she remembered the sensation of crossing through that portal, but it wasn’t like there was a pleasant yellow-brick tunnel option instead.  She hefted herself up the two large metal containers the escapees had pushed together so they could reach the oozy portal in the ceiling and leapt up into it.  She had the same unpleasant sensation, the sickening writhing goo pressing all around her, until suddenly her hands were met with cool air, then hard stone.  Tossing the ax forward before grabbing onto the lip of the pool, she pulled herself forcefully out of the goo. 

Above, Lily and Faith were waiting for her.  Faith had Ken up against the wall, demon face exposed.  Looked like she had been beating him pretty viciously, and she currently had a knife at his throat.  “Nice ax you got there, B.”  Buffy grinned at the other Slayer, the energy still pulsing through her with the rhythm of her heartbeat. 

“I know, right?  Killed a bunch of demon Nazis with it.”

“Damn, I missed out on all the fun.  But you were only down there for like thirty seconds.”  Buffy gaped.  She was sure it had been at least an hour, maybe longer depending on how long she had been passed out. 

“No way, I was down there way longer.”  They both looked at Ken in confusion, and Faith twitched like she was about to punch him again.

He winced, then explained.  “Oh, did I not mention that?  Down there, a hundred years can pass and up here, it’ll have only been a day.”  So that explained Rickie.

“So you just work us till we’re old and spit us back out?”  Buffy was beyond pissed at this point.  Ken was so going to die.

“That's the plan.  Folks like Lily over here die of old age before anyone wonders where they went.  Not that anyone would, that's why we chose them.”  Ken grimaced.  “Though it looks like you’ve really made a mess of things now.”

“Yeah well, maybe you should check to be sure a person isn’t the Slayer before you go trying to enslave them in some freaky hellhole of a labor camp,” Buffy sneered.  “Now how do we close it?”

“I was just getting to that part, B.  Go ahead, Ken, tell us.  And no lies, or I go back to whaling on your face.”

“There’s a panel on the far wall.  Hit it and the portal freezes over.”  Faith shot him a threatening look.  “Shatter it after that, and it’s closed forever.  I promise.”  Buffy stepped over to the panel warily and gave it a firm once-over before pushing down on it.  Instantly, icy blocks began to form over the goo, hardening into a flat sheet of dark ice.  She drove the haft of her new ax down against it, and the whole thing shattered, leaving behind only a shallow indentation in the floor, filled with quickly dissolving chucks of ice. 

“Hey look at that, Kenny boy was telling the truth.”

“Good for him,” Faith quipped, then stabbed him through the throat.  Ken died quickly, and Faith met her on the other side of the pool.  “You got to kill a buncha demon Nazis, I figured it was only fair I got to take out that creep.  We square?”

“You bet,” Buffy confirmed.  The suddenness and viciousness with which Faith had ended Ken caught her off guard, but she didn’t have any regrets about the no more Ken situation.  “Let’s get out of here.  It’s late, you can crash at my place.”

                                                  

Faith met her outside.  Buffy had a bag in each hand, plus her backpack.  Her LA life neatly packed up, with Lily—now Anne—all set to take over the life she had made for herself here.  The other Slayer eyed her up and down.

“You’re really gonna do it, huh?  Leave the big city behind and head back to uh…”

“Sunnydale,” Buffy clarified.  “Yeah.  That’s me.  That’s … home, I mean.  It’s where I belong.  Hellmouth and all.  Speaking of …”  She looked at Faith shyly, not sure how the brunette would react to Buffy’s proposition.  “You know, two Slayers are better than one.  I think we just proved that.  It’d be pretty great if you wanted to come with.  I mean … if you’re not busy here.  We never really got around to why you were here in the first place.”

“Easy there, B.  We just met, and you’re already trying to bring me home to mama?  Slow it down with the U-haul.”  Buffy had not a single clue what that meant, but Faith’s tone was playful and joking so she just laughed nervously. 

“Is that a … no?  Look, Faith, I get it.  I don’t wanna like cramp your style or whatever.  But we had fun, right?”  Faith’s face broke into a wide grin.

“Oh hell yeah we did.  No doubt about that.  Just not sure I’m finished with the big city yet.  Boston girl like me, gotta get a little more of a feel for this whole West Coast scene.  But we should definitely hook up again soon.”  Buffy could tell there was more to it than that; Faith was being careful not to give too much away.  For someone so seemingly wild and free, the brunette had a withdrawn hideyness about her.  But that was just all the more reason to get to know her better—Buffy just hoped for Faith’s sake that her baggage wasn’t nearly as traumatic as Buffy’s.  Then, shyly, the other Slayer added, “I had always planned on finding my way to you eventually.”

That was another surprise.  It seemed like Faith was full of them.  “Really?” Buffy cooed, grinning.  “Just jonesing for a good team up?”

“Hah.  Something like that.  Just uh … not ready to talk about it yet, ya know?”  Buffy nodded understandingly. 

“Alright, well—” Buffy set down both of her bags, then reached around to pull a notepad and a pen from her backpack.  “Let me give you my home phone number.  You can give me a call when you’re in the mood for a good old fashioned college town of the demon-infested variety.  We’ve got twelve different cemeteries!”  She wrote down her number and ripped out the paper, handing it to Faith.  There was a look of something in the girl’s eyes that Buffy couldn’t quite place.  If she was a boy, Buffy would’ve sworn it was something like desire.  But that was definitely crazy talk.  “Anyway, me and my mom, we’ve got a guest room in our house, and you’re welcome to it.  Just say the word.  I hope you will.”

“Damn B, you sure know how to make a girl feel wanted.” She grabbed one of Buffy’s bags.  “I’ll hang around here for a bit longer, then I promise, I’ll take you up on that offer.  Better be sure you clear it with your moms before you go offering room and board, though.”  Buffy felt a little guilty.  She didn’t even know if she was welcome in that house, much less with a permanent house guest.  She and Joyce hadn’t exactly parted on good terms.  ‘If you walk out of this house, don’t even think about coming back,’ were her exact words, as Buffy recalled.  “Anyways, we’ll live it up, B.  The demons and that Hellmouth better watch out!  Now, lemme give you a ride to the bus station.”  She started walking.  “My car is right around the corner.”

Buffy smiled softly as she followed the brunette.  She couldn’t really say why, but she had a good feeling about this girl.  Maybe with this new partner, she could finally have a nice, drama-free year of slaying.  Either way, she was finally ready to face all the trauma she’d left behind in Sunnydale.  Or … she would be after the two-hour bus ride.  Hopefully.