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It blew her to Anytown, USA and that's my middle name

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There's not much use for it now, with everything so quiet on the evil front, but in Faith's head there's still a "the" before her title. Faith. The Vampire Slayer. She figures Buffy can have one too, for old time's sake. But this kid who's been hanging off Faith since the Hellmouth imploded, this girl with her constant "how do you?" and her wide-eyed "can I come?", this baby fucking slayer's not "the" anything. She's also toes up, thanks to a stupid move and a half dozen more vamps in an alley than Faith had anticipated.

The sky is a solid blue and the desert air makes her eyes ache. She chews on her lips as she reads "Amy Joanne Hale" and "1992 – 2007". Across the six-foot hole in the ground the father is sobbing like he'll never stop. And really, Faith figures it's time to get gone. She doesn't care if they notice her leaving, doesn't care that the priest or whatever is still speaking over one more handful of dirt. People always die in her field of work. Good people always die. And mourning has never been her bag.

Still, she kicks back the stand and rolls the bike a block away before she starts the engine.

As she rides she thinks: So here's how it went down, like she's talking to a panel of judges. I saw this one vamp heading in to the alley. I figured we'd be in and out and I'd show the kid, Amy, what being The Slayer is all about-

Instead Faith was around the corner before she noticed two more bloodsuckers on the fire escape above their heads, and as she turned to stake the vamps coming from above another one separated herself from the shadows behind a dumpster and two more closed in from behind. A startled Amy got herself thrown hard against a brick wall. Faith can stake a lot of things, but not a wall.

So there it was and Faith had another dead fifteen-year-old on her hands. Of course she dusted the vamps about six seconds later. It seems like even little 'e' evil went bust with the overthrow of the First Evil.

Faith runs through it in her head from the beginning. Then she runs through it again. And again. She rides until the skin on her face stings and it's dark before she gets back to town.

Her home, for now, is another hotel. In room 18 there's a rust red comforter and curtains that almost match; there's maid service every day. Faith's put her clothes in the closet and a mug Dawn gave her for her birthday by the coffee pot.

Faith sits on the edge of the bed. She has one boot untied before she realises someone's in there with her.

"Hey B." She aims for casual. "Tired of the old country?"

Buffy smiles. "You know how many times I could've killed you while you were struggling with those goth-girl shoelaces?"

"You got me; my mom was too drunk to teach me to tie my shoes." Faith stands up anyway, one set of laces dangling. "Lucky you're the good guy. What can I do you for?"

Buffy says, "Tell me what happened with Amy."

Faith thinks, who the fuck died and made you queen of the world? but she looks at her own reflection in the window and runs through it aloud – lone vamp, dark alley, the kid's pretty sandy head bruised and angled on her spine. Buffy listens with her head to one side.

Then, "You shouldn't have gone in there."

Faith turns, "I was doing my job. Last I checked I'm the Slayer too. And I'm killing more vamps than ever, more vamps than you, princess."

Buffy doesn't waver, she sounds like someone's older sister. "That doesn't matter. These girls… you drag them into danger to show them party tricks. They're unprepared and-"

"I was training her."

"You were showing off," Buffy says quickly, pinning Faith with her eyes. Faith's fists are clenched as Buffy continues, "You're bored, you're taking stupid risks. And that's fine, do what you like if it's just your body on the line, but not when you're getting people killed. That's the third girl dead this year on your watch-"

"You patronising cunt," Faith is already moving and her fist connects hard with Buffy's jaw. She watches as Buffy's head whips backwards.

Then Buffy looks back at Faith and smiles. There's blood on her teeth. And Faith remembers that she and Buffy were cast from the same mold. Two girls built to battle Evil and now there's nothing to play with. Faith leans in and punches Buffy again before she backs around the bed.

"You came here to pick a fight." Faith says, and feels like grinning to know it. "You're bored too."

"I came to talk to you," Buffy says, and delivers a flying roundhouse, landing on her feet with grace even Faith has to appreciate.

"Acrobatics," Faith mutters. Then, "Circus freak," and flies at Buffy.

Five minutes and one lamp shade later it ends as it was always going to, with Faith's arms trapped above her head and her thighs pinned under Buffy's pointy knees. They were cast from the same mold, but Buffy's always been the perfect one.

Faith struggles, but she's not putting in the effort. There's a charge running underneath her skin. "You're gonna leave a mark, B," she says, and lets her tongue flicker between her lips. Buffy takes a shaky breath and then bends in to kiss Faith.

Faith knows the things she's not. She's not romantic. She's not good with fancy dictionary words. Still, she knows what works. When she's got Buffy naked, face down on the sheets, she says, "You want this, baby. You came for this. You're tight and wet and begging for it."

Buffy gasps as Faith's fingers slide inside her, "Yes."

Faith leans in and presses one palm between Buffy's shoulder blades as she fucks her with the other hand. "You couldn't stop yourself if you wanted to," she says.

Buffy starts saying, "Oh my god" as Faith slips a fourth finger inside her. Buffy says "Oh my god" over and over until she's right at the edge of an orgasm.

"That's it, B, I want to feel you come."

Afterwards Buffy's all huge glistening eyes and Faith wraps her arms around Buffy's narrow shoulders. "I got you," she says, "I got you." Though she's never looked after anyone in her life and doesn't imagine she's going to start now.

*

When Faith arrives at Buffy's apartment door it's usually three or four in the morning. They're in New York so the streets are still crowded with light and sound. Faith rides the shiny elevator, her head spinning from alcohol and drugs and other people's sweat. She's always surprised that Buffy doesn't shut the door in her face.

The living room is full of charts and maps for facing the next in a dull line of evil they know they can beat with a hand tied behind each slayer's back. Buffy's got a long list of girls laid out on the kitchen table.

Months ago they all agreed to some kind of system: for the Americans it's distance education from Giles and Willow and hands-on combat training from the more experienced slayers. Faith teaches classes in advanced ass-kicking, four to six girls at a time. When she tells them to fight her they laugh uncomfortably at first but when she's got them flat on a mat or pinned against the wall there's respect and maybe even fear in their baby faces. Sometimes she takes them all on at once. At least it's exercise.

Still, the classes are enough so when she gets home and Buffy says, "There's this kid, Jess, who could use your kind of direction," Faith says, "No," and heads for the bedroom. Buffy doesn't come to bed until Faith has counted all the ceiling tiles, all her teeth, all the fighting combinations she knows.

In bed Buffy speaks to the ceiling. "You're doing a good job with the new lot. They're like synchronised swimmers on crack, the way they fight. Now, I'm sending your team in through the sewers, right. I've got Kennedy with some others at back and I'll be at the front and there's a little skylight thing we'll be smashing out."

Buffy takes a breath and Faith uses it to interrupt. "You work too hard. You're days early and you know you've got it all done and dusted." She turns to Buffy. "I'll bet I can make you take a break."

Buffy grins and rolls over, pressing Faith to the mattress. "I was counting on it," she says and shifts until she's straddling Faith's face. Faith buries her tongue and stops smiling only when her jaw starts to hurt.

The next day they get word of a vampire gang in North Carolina.

"Goody. Field trip," says Faith.

"And you won't take Jess or -"

"Sorry, B, I do my best work solo. I'll be back for the sewer run." She's packed and on the bike in twenty minutes.

Two days later Faith arrives home. "Easy," she says. "Eight vamps, no trouble," and doesn't bother with detail. They fuck in the shower, Faith pressed against the tiles, and Buffy's eyes are that fierce blue. Buffy says, through her teeth, "I'm glad you're back."

They've planned the attack for midday, sun high in the sky. One of the girls on the roof smashes out the skylight and slayers flood in from top and bottom. It's quick and clean, the demon and minions are dispatched tidily by the onslaught.

Afterwards they celebrate at some all-age establishment Faith would ordinarily avoid at all costs. The girls are glowing like this mattered. Faith watches Buffy go from person to person with a good word for each, watches the shining faces and pleased nods.

Jess says, "You're on gin?" in Faith's ear and Faith turns and takes the drink with thanks. Jess has a pierced lip and a butterfly tattoo and thinks that Faith is cool. "Can we sit with you?" Jess asks. Faith nods and promptly Lara's faux-hawk and Kam's pink hair are sitting too.

Jess takes a gulp of whatever she's drinking. "I could do without the team spirit fingers."

Faith says, with a short laugh, "It's kind of the Buffy special these days. But the team thing seems pretty smooth."

"It's not how it's done. A slayer is a loner."

"It's historic," says Lara.

"Things change," says Faith.

"Nah. You used to do it alone. Every Slayer used to do this alone."

Kam adds, "You can't tell me you don't think you could sort things out better without all this lot."

"Yeah. I like to work alone," says Faith slowly, "but doing that I'd have been dead years ago. Every slayer before us is six feet under. Gotta say I prefer myself above ground."

Jess sips her drink thoughtfully and Lara says, "Yeah, okay."

"You three are fuckin' good," says Faith. "You'll get your chance to do solo work."

The girls blush and smile and Faith figures she's done. Buffy's grinning at her from across the room. She gets up and sidles over to Buffy's booth.

"Nice job with those girls," says Buffy and Faith feels herself blush a little.

"Bit early for you to be drinking B."

"It's a special occasion."

"Sure." Buffy's still beaming and as Faith slides in next to her she can't stop herself smiling back. The sudden flash is blinding and then some kid with a shiny blue Polaroid camera waves a photograph at them.

"Fuck," says Faith, "what is this, camp?"

Buffy puts her hand on Faith's arm. Her fingers are damp from holding her drink.

"Thanks Charlotte," she says to the girl, who looks terrified. She takes the photo and Charlotte skitters off to her friends. Buffy shakes the picture. While she's peering at it she says, "I know. We can't afford to be noticed. I'll talk to her tomorrow."

When they get home Faith sticks the photo to the fridge with a magnet advertising pet grooming. Their faces look overexposed but there they are all shiny and happy.

The next afternoon Buffy and Faith are cross legged on the carpet in the slanted light. Buffy's counting troops again. Faith watches the tiny pulses in Buffy's shoulders. Buffy says, warningly, "I'm working."

"You're over it," says Faith, and knows she's right when Buffy's lips twitch.

Faith licks her lips, leans forward and before Buffy moves Faith's teeth are buried in Buffy's neck. Buffy arches and gasps.

"Feel that," Faith growls softly as she breaks contact. "You're losing blood. You're getting weak." She rocks forward on her knees and puts her arm behind Buffy's back, wraps her other hand behind Buffy's neck. "Just lie back. Just let go."

Buffy looks at her with wide eyes and her pupils shift and dilate. Faith lowers Buffy to the carpet. There are dark marks on Buffy's neck.

"Lift your arms a little, there you go." Faith undresses Buffy quietly and runs her fingers down Buffy's naked limbs. Buffy shivers.

"You're weak as a kitten…," Faith murmurs. She pins Buffy's arms above her head and licks the bruising on Buffy's neck. "Hold still," she says. "You're helpless; there's nothing you can do."

Buffy fixes her eyes on Faith's. Faith lets her fingers fill Buffy, pushes hard against the wetness and keeps Buffy's gaze until Buffy comes, gasping for air. Faith wraps her body around Buffy's and feels Buffy's heart thudding fast against hers.

Later, when Faith's pacified Buffy with some kind of lesson plan for the advanced girls, she gets up and pulls on her leather pants.

"You're off?" says Buffy, and she sounds both careful and unconcerned.

"I've gotta let off some steam."

"Right," says Buffy and then, "how about I come with you?"

Faith grins and thinks, damn B. That's brave.

There are times here when Faith feels out of place, a dark smudge against all the blonde and perfect, but the sex is great and anyway Buffy's bored when Faith's not around. She figures she may as well stay.

Buffy's coming out of the shower when there's a call. Faith can read people, and Buffy's face spells disaster.

"It's Giles," she says and falls apart around the bit where Willow's hurt and maybe dying but Giles says it'll all be okay. Faith looks at Buffy in her wet towel and wet hair and then takes two strides across the room toward her, puts her hand on Buffy's shoulder the way people do in movies when bad things happen.

"She'll be fine," she says, like it's a promise and Buffy looks up.

"I have to go," says Buffy.

"Of course you do, B."

"Dawn's back tonight and there's training tomorrow and those newest girls-"

"Right."

"I can't just-"

"It's fine, B, easy. I got it." Faith takes a deep breath.

Buffy looks at her. "Thank you," she says, finally.

Faith's expecting more explanations and a list and maybe post-it notes and diagrams, but two hours later Buffy's got a flight plan and a suitcase and all Buffy says is, "Thank you," again. Faith grins like she knows what she's doing. She follows Buffy into the hall.

"I'll be back soon," says Buffy quietly She opens the door.

Ordinarily Faith would maybe nod carelessly, but Buffy is pretty and brave and maybe worth a proper goodbye. "Take care," Faith says awkwardly. Buffy leans back to kiss her as she leaves.

When the door's closed Faith stands against it and looks across the room. Less than an hour and there'll be a million teenagers buzzing to come in, a hundred decisions to make, Dawn will be calling for a ride from the station. But for now Faith's alone among the planning and paper and the perfect pale carpet. This is Buffy's world but Faith's no stranger, she can hold it together for a few days.

She heads to the kitchen for something to drink. The photo of them on the fridge is gone, packed into Buffy's tidy suitcase. Cute, Faith thinks and tries not to smile too much.