Written for the sg_btvs challenge community on LJ.
Disclaimer: I don't own either show, they belong to their respective production companies and creators. I'm just playing in their sandbox.
Note: This has slightly more angst that I was intending, so I hope no one minds too badly. Thanks to for the quick read through.
Faith looked at the ring of people surrounding her, and had to bite back her instinctive reaction to lash out. They were all watching her with various levels of anticipation, and more than one had a suspicious gleam in their eyes that she'd become familiar with over the months. Clenching her jaw in an effort to control her reactions, Faith idly wondered when she'd developed this level of patience, because at any other time in her life, she would have thrown it all away just for one good throw down.
Then again, that's all her life was now – one fight after another. It was the only time she ever allowed herself to lose that thin layer of calm with which she lived now. The only time she ever really felt like herself.
Another look around the circle of people, and Faith had to force down the anger again. She was the Slayer, not a bargaining tool or cheap entertainment. Her destiny was to fight the bad guys and save the world, not be a prize to be won or an object to with which to gain the upper hand.
The Powers That Be had better have a damn good reason for sending her to this backwards, archaic, shithole of a world.'A greater fight needs you,'
was what they'd said.
If something didn't happen soon, she'd show them 'a greater fight'. When she'd agreed to be sent on to another place that needed a slayer to help win a war against 'unthinkable evil', being trapped in the village that time forgot was not what she'd had in mind. A simple warning would have been helpful, too. If TPTB had only added 'don't go into the first village you find, as you'll end up becoming a prize fighter for sleazy old men to drool over and leer at', Faith would be in such a better place right now. In fact, a simple 'don't go into the village' would have been nice.
Instead, she'd walked right into the centre of her current hell without a thought, garnering her an annoying shock collar and three slimey men who called themselves her owners.
Her current thoughts these days ran along the lines of 'when I get out of here...'. There were a lot of options she'd come up with for exactly what she'd do when she was able to leave, but they generally involved ripping the balls off several of her 'owners', and showing them what a Slayer was all about. Especially Malinus, one of her 'owners' sons. He was extra leery and grabby, and if the punishment for pounding him into the ground wasn't immediate death, she'd have done it months ago. Though if she was going to be killed for something, at least she'd make sure he was going with her. She was already on her last chance, the next infraction guaranteed her death as she'd used up all her 'graces' the first month she'd been here.
The crowd opposite her opened up, allowing four people through. The same four people who had wandered casually into town earlier that day, causing a stir among the locals who were bristling for entertainment. Three men and one woman, and Faith found herself glad that there was a female in the group, because she had a feeling her other option would be to fight the big behemoth pulling up the rear. Not that it would be much effort – she still had her Slayer strength and reflexes, but the natives always started looking at her funny when she took down an opponent bigger and stronger than she looked; the look that said she was two wrong words away from becoming either Wraith-chow or the next to be burnt at the stake. (Some things transcended dimensions and worlds, apparently.)
Still, a woman in the group meant that Faith would be fighting another woman, because the laws stated that women were the tools of trade, and all negotiations must be made through the combat of the tools. A male was permitted to 'negotiate', but only if there was no female in the trading party.
By negotiate, they actually meant 'fight to the death, and the winner chooses the forfeit'. It was actually first blood, but she'd discovered early on that no one else seemed to care.
This stupid, archaic, sexist, backwaters of a craphole planet.
And she wasn't the only one who thought so, judging by the looks on the new group's faces. There was the Big Guy, who looked dangerous, but also seriously uncomfortable, like he'd rather be taking the fight than standing around watching. Faith understood that, because she'd never asked one of the younger slayers to do what she wasn't willing to do first. Then there was the good-looking one, who she decided to call Hair for obvious reasons. He looked like he didn't have a care in the world, smiling and oozing charm with every breath, but it was all an act, because a single comment from the woman had a muscle twitching in his jaw. The third man Faith decided to call Geek Boy, simply because he didn't look like a warrior despite the outfit, and he kept looking at a white-ish PDA, jabbing it with his finger and scrunching his face up.
Actually, except for Big Guy, they were all wearing similar grey uniforms that looked an awful lot like military fatigues. That's when Faith noticed the weapons, and internally berated herself for not paying closer attention. Her time on this dirtball planet had obviously made her soft, because it had taken her too long to realize they were carrying guns. And not the Genii variety, either. In fact, Hair was wearing sunglasses, and they all had tiny headsets on, attached to radios. The flash of a Canadian flag on Geek Boy's shoulder settled it for her – they were from Earth.
And if they were from Earth, then she wasn't in a different dimension after all. Maybe an alternate reality? She'd already figured out TPTB had landed her on another planet – once she'd figured out what exactly the Ring of the Ancestors was and what it did. Either way, these people were from Earth, and obviously knew about the Ring, or had space travel capabilities.
Suddenly her future made sense. She'd been sent here to help out in a 'greater fight', and once she'd found out about the Wraith she'd been all for the slayage. That's where everything went sort of haywire. The people in this town, on this planet and on most planets they'd had visitors from, all feared the Wraith and didn't even think of fighting them, because the stories carried from the places that did fight scared everyone enough to lay down like lambs at a slaughter. But if there was one thing she knew about humans from her own planet, was that if they were travelling through the Ring, then they were at war with the Wraith.
“Colonel Sheppard,” called out a voice Faith recognized as that of Malinus' father, Torrin. “Is your Negotiator ready?”
Hair replied back, sending the woman a long look, and that's when Faith made a decision, because a military boy from Earth would not be letting the Wraith suck the lives out of people without a fight. Even if by some twist of fate they weren't fighting the Wraith, they were still her best hope of getting off this planet alive and without the shock collar.
One of the younger women ran up to Faith and handed her a pair of fighting sticks, while a second one handed some to her opponent. Faith twirled the sticks to judge their weight and balance, and began to mentally prepare herself. The challenger chose the weapons to fight with, which meant that her opponent was confident in her ability to wield them.
Faith focussed her attention on the other woman, trying to gauge her level of skill, sizing her up as she did any other opponent, be it human or not. She had long hair tied away from her face, caramel coloured skin and a determined glint in her eyes. That was never very different from opponent to opponent, but the way she held herself and the way in which she handled the fighting sticks told Faith more than anything else. This woman knew how to take care of herself.
It was more than she usually faced, as over the months her reputation had grown so much that these 'negotiations' were becoming fewer and fewer, and her opponents were becoming either bigger and meaner, or smaller and greener.
“Ready!” shouted the referee. Faith felt calm and clear-headedness wash over her as it did before every fight, and saw the same thing happening to her opponent. They were both skilled warriors, and knew how to discipline themselves. “Begin!”
And Faith smiled. She twirled the sticks again, getting a comfortable grip on them, and began to advance on her opponent. No smile crossed the other woman's face as they began to circle each other, sticks held out and ready to both strike and defend.
In a fight, Faith's newly developed patience was always absent. She never saw the point of waiting for the other person to strike first, and she hated to be on the defensive. So she struck first, easy blows that were just as easily set aside. Her grin grew even wider as she saw the other woman watching her carefully, as if she knew Faith was testing her, giving her easy shots to avoid.
“Teyla,” the woman answered back with a slight nod before striking back just as delicately as Faith had done.
“Nice to meet you, Teyla.”
That was all the talk they did for the next while, instead concentrating on the fight at hand. They attacked, defended, swirled, hit, ducked and swung for several long minutes. Teyla had a grace about her that Faith had only ever seen in slayers before, and an instinct for the fight that had Faith's blood pumping.
Their sticks met with a loud crack, crossed between them like two pairs of swords, allowing for a few seconds of stillness as they held the other off.
“What's so important that you need to negotiate with these people for it?” Faith asked her in those moments of stillness. A raised eyebrow was all Faith got in return, but still she pushed more. “What could this dust bowl planet have that you bunch would need? Run out of popcorn?”
A flash of surprise flitted across Teyla's face at the mention of popcorn, cementing in Faith's mind that some of these people were from Earth.
“You are holding back,” said Teyla, and Faith couldn't help but grin at that change of subject.
“So are you.”
They pushed off from each other and resumed the fight, trading blows fast and furious. She felt Teyla putting strength behind each blow, saw her move lightning fast as she avoided Faith's sticks, her reflexes almost too fast to see. And Faith loved it, matching her strength for strength, move for move. She hadn't had a fight like this since before coming here, and that had been with three vampires.
The outside world faded from her mind, her perception narrowed down to Teyla and the sticks she was avoiding. It was exhilarating and exciting, and Faith felt the moves flow through her limbs by instinct, her body moving before her brain had a chance to choreograph the next movement.
A sudden flaring pain across her thigh threw her out of her zone, causing her to twirl away from her opponent to the other side of the ring. It was a moment for both of them to catch their breath, Faith shaking her leg to relieve some of the pain still throbbing there.
“How do you know about popcorn?” Teyla asked from across the circle, her gaze curious and suspicious. The question cause Hair and Geek Boy to look at her sharply, and Faith guessed these were the Earth boys.
“Just a treat from home,” Faith said, her gaze never leaving Teyla. “But God, I'd give my left kidney for a steaming pizza and a cold beer.”
Hair seemed to have caught the message, as Faith could see him out of the corner of her eye, giving her an intense look she could feel through his sunglasses.
“Resume!” came a shout from the referee. Faith didn't even bother sending him a dirty look before advancing towards Teyla again. As much as she was enjoying the fight, she needed to put her plan into action. Well, maybe 'plan' was too strong of a word. Faith had a preferred outcome, and a general idea of how to get there, but that was it.
They began circling one another again, and once she was close enough, Faith pitched her voice low, hoping that only Teyla would hear her.
“You don't want to trade with these people.” she told her,
“They seem like good and decent people,” Teyla argued, and Faith wondered if the other woman actually understood what was going on.
“You do realize these 'good and decent people' are here to watch one of us die, right?” Faith asked her harshly, and by the surprised look on her face, Teyla hadn't caught that fact until just then.
“They negotiate in this way?”
“That's the tradition
,” Faith hissed at her, emphasizing the last word. It was a bitter remembrance for her, because even though she'd had innocent blood on her hands before being sent to this planet, that was nothing compared to what she had now. Dozens of fights with ordinary humans had left their taint on her, and Faith knew that when she stopped to think about it, it would really hit her. All those deaths, all those people, and they were her fault.
“You fight the Wraith?” Faith asked suddenly, twirling the sticks again.
A confused look crossed the other woman's face before she gave a reluctant nod. Faith began to attack again, using half-strength as she had earlier. Teyla was quick enough to pick up on the sudden shift, and matched her moves. Faith manoeuvred them through a series of parries and blows, until she had them both in the position she needed.
Sticks crossed between them, faces inches apart, Faith dropped her bombshell.
“I have a weapon to fight the Wraith,” she said in a low voice. Teyla's eyes widened at that, and Faith knew she had her attention. “Take me with you.”
Pushing away from her, Faith gave her a few seconds to gather herself, then began the attack again, still at half-strength and half-speed. She rarely used her full potential any more, and so going back and forth between half-strength and almost-full strength was tiring her out more than she'd been prepared for. With no decent sparring partners, her training was taking a beating on this planet.
Minutes passed as they traded blow after blow, ducking and twisting away from each other's sticks. Faith felt like she was dancing rather than fighting, like when she and Buffy would spar for the baby slayers to show them how it was done.
Only this dance had far more deadlier consequences.
A quick twist of her arms, a shifting of her body weight, and Faith had Teyla flipped to the ground in a loose hold she knew the other woman could get out of, but it brought their faces close enough to speak.
“First blood,” Faith told her, pressing her stick down across Teyla's neck.
“First blood,” was all she said, putting more pressure on the stick. Teyla took that as her cue, and Faith felt the world roll as Teyla kicked her over from behind. Both of them used the movement to right themselves, and suddenly Teyla was on the offensive. Faith really hoped the other woman had gotten the message, and this wasn't just a ploy.
They started to fight again, this time with a seriousness that hadn't been there before. Teyla seemed intent on winning, and Faith was just as happy to hold her off, throwing easy blows her way for Teyla to dodge.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the right circumstances presented themselves and Faith let one of Teyla's sticks through her defences. The wooden stick caught her across the jaw with more force than she was expecting, and Faith rolled with the blow, out of the way of the next hit.
She tasted blood in her mouth, and would have smiled if it hadn't hurt too much. Dropping on of her sticks, she put a hand to her bleeding lips, then held it up in the air for everyone to see. She caught Teyla's eyes, and saw relief there as the fight was finally over, and they were both still alive.
Well, for now. Faith had no illusions as to her fate if Teyla's group didn't take her with them.
“First blood,” called out Teyla, stepping back.
“I yield,” Faith answered, knowing that those words were a death sentence.
The crowd rumbled with discontent, being denied a bloody, deadly fight. The referee also seemed to be at a loss, as it had been years since a negotiation had ended with less than death for one of the parties.
“So win the off-worlders,” he called after a minute of confusion, causing the crowds rumblings to grow louder.
Faith saw Teyla head back to her group, but didn't have the time to spare to watch. Her 'owners' were walking towards her with a furious look on their faces, a golden device in Torrin's hand.
The remote for her shock collar. The instrument of her death in a few short minutes if Teyla didn't do her job, and do it quickly.
“You have your bezeal roots, Colonel Sheppard,” said Torrin, the boiling rage spilling out with every word.
Faith turned away from him, her eyes searching out Teyla's as her group approached.
“Yeah, well, change in the deal, Torrin,” Hair – Sheppard – said. “We'll take her,” he added, nodding in Faith's direction.
“A new deal requires a new negotiation,” Torrin announced, and Faith felt sick as the look of perverted anticipation in his face.
“No, we're just changing the old one,” Sheppard said, the charm still oozing from his smile.
“It is his right as winner,” announced the referee, who had been listening the entire time.
“The deal was for the bezeal root, not the negotiator,” protested Torrin, his face going red.
“I think we'll take her instead of the be-thing root.” Sheppard insisted, his tone icy and his hands resting threateningly on his gun. Big Guy behind him shifted in a similar threatening manner, and Faith finally felt her blood begin to unfreeze. She may finally get off this planet alive.
Faith made eye contact with Teyla while they threatened and counter-threatened, but the calming look in Teyla's eyes reassured Faith in a way nothing had since she'd lost her first Watcher.
“Good. We're out of here,” Sheppard's voice brought her back to the present, and she saw he had the remote device in his hands. Motioning for the rest of them to follow, Sheppard turned and started walking back towards the Ring without a backwards glance.
Faith cast one thought to turning and decking Malinus for all his unauthorized grabbing and leering, but thought better of it. She just wanted to leave this town and this life. Malinus could go screw himself for all she cared. Though, if it happened to fall off while doing so, Faith wouldn't mind.
“Do you need to get anything?” asked a low voice as they left the town limits, and it took Faith a minute to realize that it was Sheppard who had spoken.
“Any possessions or anything you want to take with you?” he asked her, turning very slightly as he continued his overly casual walk away from the village.
Silence reigned until they were far enough away from the village to risk taking a break, and Faith knew the interrogation was about to start.
“Teyla said you had a weapon against the Wraith?” Sheppard said, the first to break the silence.
“Before we start with the Q&A, do you think you could get this thing off me?” she asked, pointing to the band of metal around her neck. She saw Sheppard start to fiddle with the remote control in his hands, and had to stop herself from grabbing it from his hands. “Please don't play with that.”
He must have heard the wobble in her voice, because he immediately froze. By the look on his face, she knew he'd figured it out.
“McKay, get that thing off her,” he said, and Faith felt relief at the anger in his voice. He was as unhappy as she was about the damn thing.
“Can I see the remote-thing?” Geek Boy – McKay – asked, reaching for the remote.
“It only has one button, McKay, and somehow I don't think it's the release mechanism.”
McKay's mouth formed a silent 'oh' before recovering and moving towards her. She sat down on a nearby rock, and felt her legs start to shake. She'd been running on adrenaline for the last few months, never able to let her guard down, and it was starting to take its toll.
“What does it do?” asked the Big Guy, speaking for the first time.
“Some sort of shock-thing – I'm not sure – but it hurts like hell,” she told them, her eyes locked on the ground as McKay fiddled around with the collar from behind. She could feel the shaking start to travel through the rest of her body, and clenched her fists, trying desperately to control it. She was the Slayer; she could handle anything. This would not
get her down, not matter what. She'd lived through prison, for crying out loud, she could get through this.
“How long have you been fighting?” asked Teyla. Faith could see her feet and knees, and guessed she was crouched next to her.
“Walked into the village a couple of months ago, made the mistake of saying the wrong thing, next thing I know I've got this stupid collar and told I have to 'negotiate' for Torrin and his bunch.” The hate she felt for Torrin and his buddies came through in her words, but Faith didn't have the heart to care. They were bastards and she hated them.
“How many 'negotiations'?” Teyla prodded gently.
“Too many,” was all she said, though she knew the exact number. Each death was burned into her memory, the blood permanently stained on her hands. She was suppose to protect human life, not take it.
“But why kill?” asked Big Guy. Faith could feel him looming over her. “If they fight until first blood, why do they kill the opponent?”
“Whoever wins, sets the terms. They have the upper hand, and get the better deal,” Faith told them. “If you lose, your 'owners' get screwed and they take it out on the negotiator. Over the years, it just became easier to die in the fight than to deal with your bosses when they get hosed.”
“But you yielded,” queried Teyla, and by her voice, Faith was fairly sure she'd figured it out.
“And if you hadn't taken me with you, I'd be dead by sunset,” Faith told her.
The hands on her collar stilled in their busy work as silence filled the group. Quiet cursing let her know that Sheppard wasn't happy, as did the low growl from the Big Guy.
“Why?” asked Teyla, pulling Faith head up to face her.
“You fight the Wraith,” she told her. “That's more important than some traders on a backwater planet.”
“On that note...you told Teyla you had a weapon against the Wraith,” interrupted Sheppard, pulling her attention back to him.
At that moment, McKay made a happy little noise and the collar fell off into her lap.
She was finally free. She'd tried to rip the thing off before – several times – but however the collar was set up, it just shocked you into unconsciousness for your efforts. But now it was dead and inert, lying in her hands, and she felt almost like herself again. She was strong, she had survived the sinking of Sunnydale and an LA women's prison. She could easily live with the memory of these past few months.
Holding the length of metal away from her body, she grabbed hold of it and pulled with all her strength, feeling satisfaction as it ripped to shreds in her palms.
Looking up into the slightly stunned face of Colonel Sheppard, Faith smirked for the first time since she'd left Buffy and the others.
“I am the weapon.”
More silence greeted that.
“Well, I think it's time to head on home,” announced Sheppard, and Faith swore he sounded just a little happier as he got them all moving.
“We must fight each other again, Faith,” said Teyla, moving up beside her as they walked in the direction of the Ring.
“Oh, yeah,” agreed Faith, smiling with delight. She could already tell Teyla was going to be a good friend.
“Maybe next time you won't pull your punches,” said the Big Guy, but Faith didn't know who he was talking to, her or Teyla.
“What-Ronon- you mean they were...” said Sheppard, incredulous sounding.
“Nah. That was practically dancing,” said Faith, sharing a secret smile with Teyla.
“Dear, God. You're going to kill each other,” complained McKay, earning a fond smile from Teyla.
Faith knew that there would be questions to answer and trust to be earned, but she already felt like she belonged, so she wasn't too worried. This place they were going to – wherever it was – was where she was meant to be. For the first time since TPTBs had dropped her off here, she felt like she was on the right road.
Fate was awaiting her.