Disclaimer: Buffy and Faith were created by Joss Whedon, his very talented lackeys, and the amazingly amazing (and stunningly stunning) Sarah and Eliza. My mission here is not to profit, merely to entertain. Hopefully I'll succeed.
Author's Note: This story takes place in my 'Faithverse', which branches off from cannon in Buffy Season Four, just after 'This year's girl' and 'Who are you'. Faith leaves Sunnydale, changes, learns and grows, but does not go to L.A., never tries to kill Angel, never goes to prison. In the course of her adventures she meets, and sort of unoffically adopts a young girl named Kira. A year or two pass, and then you get to this.
None of that is critical to this story, by the way; don't worry about it (unless you really want to).
This is a 'story within a story', and 98% of what you'll read here is completely self-explanatory. The rest of it will be dealt with in other stories which fill in the background, for those who are interested (I'm hopeful you'll be interested! ^_^ )Book One: 'A For-Real Kiss'
February 19, 2001
The pain didn't particularly bother her; not the physical pain, anyway. By now Faith had been hurt so many times, had experienced so many different varieties of agony, that it had pretty much stopped being about the physical sensation. All she really noticed these days was the inconvenience of it, the bothersome loss of function she had to deal with until her body got around to repairing the damage she'd suffered during her latest 'job'.
Like now, for instance. The injury to her face actually wasn't very bad. Sure, it looked
awful; the spray of bullets from the Uzi had come up from below, carving bloody grooves along her left cheek, fracturing her jaw on that side, and tearing away the upper tip of her ear. It looked horrible, but it would heal; and without even a scar to remind her to be more careful next time. Fortunately the damage to the bone wasn't bad; just a couple of hours after being shot and she could already speak without much difficulty at all. So long as she avoided being punched in the jaw for the rest of the night there shouldn't be any lasting problem.
In contrast, the wounds in her upper arm were still bothering her. Those had been rifle bullets, not puny sub-machine gun rounds, and they had blown big nasty holes right through normal flesh and abnormally-dense muscle alike. There hadn't been any bone damage from those, which was good, but even with the prompt and competent medical attention she'd received, it would be a couple of days before she would be able to take her arm out of the sling. That's okay; we did what we set out to do tonight, and this kind of thing is just the price of doing business.
The girl leaned against the wall in the hallway, idly tasting the faint pulses of pain that made it past her well-practiced mental barriers. And it's not too bad, really; not for me, anyway. It's better that I take the lumps than one of the others; they don't bounce back as fast as I do.
"-Suppose you're all happy with yourselves?!"
Faith winced, ducking her head in a futile attempt to not hear Buffy's shrill voice coming from behind her; from the room she'd fled just moments ago.
"I mean, I know she can't help it; she
is completely insane! Going out and killing a bunch of people, then coming home soaked in their blood, that's her idea of a good time. But you! You people don't have to do this! Your helping her isn't… helping her. You treat her like she's some kind of hero, but she's worse than any of the monsters I ever fought!" There were protests at that, several other voices speaking in quiet tones, trying to come to Faith's defense, but Buffy's strident words drowned them out. "I know, I know; she tries to do good. Of course
she tries to do good. And of course
the only way she can do that is to commit a few murders every week! The way you people fawn over her and cheer her on, it's no wonder she's still deluded!" The murmurs were angry now, not that it made any difference to the Slayer. "Sure, I'm wrong and she's right; somehow I knew you would say that. After all, you're the scooby gang she always wanted, aren't you? Well, all your encouragement is doing is making sure she leaves a bigger body count behind when someone finally manages to take her out!"
The girl in the hall closed her eyes and sighed. Thanks, B. Nice to know you're so concerned.
It had been bad enough, having to listen to the blonde's scathing commentary while lying in the house's infirmary. Being unable to shut out that venomous voice had been more painful than the probing and cleaning of her wounds. As soon as the last of the stitches were in place, she'd gotten up and all but run from the room. Hell of a thing, not having the guts to stand up to someone in your own house.
Faith opened her eyes again, staring at the rich grain of the real wood paneling of the wall, her fingers playing with the soft fabric of the terry cloth robe that was all she was wearing. As soon as they'd made it safely back, her friends had helped her out of her body armor and boots; they'd taken her weapons and gear to the armory where Alex would clean and repair them. They had done everything they could for her, but they couldn't deal with the blonde Slayer; and they shouldn't have to. That was Faith's job… and she just couldn't find the strength to do it. I've got all of this; loyal friends, a huge, beautiful house, tons of money, all of it…. And so of course she had to come back into my life, and do her best to turn it all to shit.
"Buffy, I know you and Faith have a history, I know that's something that none of us were part of, or could ever understand." A man's voice, deep and powerful came from the room behind where she stood, and the girl cocked her head to listen. "But there's one thing which you have to understand too. This is her life; not yours. We're her friends; not yours. So on behalf of everyone here, I am telling you to shut the fuck up." Faith's eyes widened; she could just imagine the look on the blonde girl's face. "We've been waiting for her to tell you that, or to just throw your ass out, but she won't. Whatever it was that went on between you two before, she thinks she owes it to you to let you stay here; which is fine. But if you don't stop harassing her, if you don't stop abusing her hospitality and throwing every act of kindness back in her face-"
"You'll what? Beat me up?" Buffy's voice was defiant, and no doubt she was staring up at him with a gleam of anticipation in her eyes. "I'm sure she'd love that; having you do it so that for once she doesn't have to get her own hands dirty. But do you really think that anything you do can cause me a tenth of the suffering that your wonderful little Faith has managed to inflict? Do you really think that any 'kindness' she oh-so-contritely offers me now can ever
erase all of the-"
Faith had heard enough; she'd heard more than enough. If both of her arms had been working she would have clamped her hands to her ears. As it was, the best she could do was hurry away, out of the hall and into the vast greatroom, with the huge stone fireplace and the softly gleaming arrays of swords and knives hanging on the walls. Ignoring the wide doorways that opened into the home theatre and game room, she ran up the broad staircase, taking it five steps at a time. Her own suite of rooms was on the third and highest level of the house, and all she wanted was to lock herself in there and down an entire bottle of Irish Whiskey. She could afford the good stuff these days; it had cost her six hundred dollars a bottle for the fifty-year-old spirits… and the only thing that mattered to her at his moment was the thought of gulping it like water and waiting for it to blur what Buffy had said to her when Faith and the others had gotten back to the house tonight. "So; they didn't manage to kill you this time either, huh?" The blonde girl had looked the wounded, rain-soaked Faith up and down, and then she'd shaken her head in disgust. "But it looks like you got what you were after, didn't you? You killed some people, you earned your blood money, and now you'll pick a couple of your little friends to go up to your room with you so you can fuck their brains out." Faith had stood there, tired, cold, and still bleeding from the worst of her injuries, and none of it had hurt nearly as much as the way Buffy was looking at her. "Why don't you just die?" The girl had said, and for a moment her voice had been soft and confused, her own pain showing all too clearly. "Why is it that you always manage to live, when so many other people, good, decent people, end up dying?" Buffy's eyes were bright with unshed tears, and for the thousandth time since that past November Faith had ached to take the smaller girl in her arms and cradle her like a child. Until, that is, Buffy's voice had hardened once more. "Tell me! Tell me why a psychotic, murdering whore like you is still around, and living like a queen? Why?!"
Faith paused at the second floor landing, discovering that she was trembling with tension she didn't dare release. You little blonde bitch. If I was half as crazy as you say I am, I would have twisted your head off of your shoulders weeks ago, and mailed it back to Sunnydale in a box!
She had a powerful urge to put her fist through the nearest wall, but she curbed the impulse. Not only because this was her
house, and she didn't want to punch it full of holes, but also because if she did, Buffy would see the damage, and that would give her undeniable proof that she'd managed to get past the younger girl's defenses. Faith refused to give her that satisfaction. Why does she do this to me?
She wondered, the well-worn track in her brain repeating the same questions that had dogged her for weeks. I'm not the same person she knew back in Sunnydale; I'm stronger now, I'm more of a real person, now. And still, whenever she's around, none of that matters. She opens her mouth, she lays into me with all that hate she's stored up for me, and I can feel myself falling back into being what I was. Or at least, what she always thought I was, which is probably worse than the real me, even back then.
Buffy wouldn't listen to her, not when Faith tried to explain how she had felt, back then, not when she tried to explain what her actions in the here and now were meant to accomplish. The Slayer simply didn't want to know; she looked for herself, listened for herself, and then tore the younger girl to shreds over every aspect of her life. And the worst part was, there was just enough truth in what she said to make Faith unwilling to even argue the point. She's not wrong, not exactly, anyway, but she's not right either, and she won't let me show her the difference.
The ever-increasing spiral of frustration with regards to the blonde girl was sadly familiar, but that didn't make it (or her) any easier to take. I can't kill her, and I can't kick her out, either; not after I promised she could stay as long as she needed.
So that left Faith stuck; doing what she had to do, what she was meant to do… and having to endure the Slayer's rants and bile. She sighed, her shoulders slumping. I can handle her insulting me; cutting me down, telling me I'm stupid, and crazy, and bloodthirsty. After all, that's nothing new, coming from her. And the others can cope with it too; better than I can, probably. None of them let her get to them like I do, and all of them except Alex and Kelly are older than I am. They can handle a little name-calling.
Faith stood at the base of the stairs that led up to the third floor; to her safe, quiet rooms and that waiting bottle, but still she hesitated. She glanced down the hallway, and guiltily recalled the one person in the house who was not old enough, or experienced enough to shrug off the poisonous words Buffy had spewed downstairs. Kira. She was so glad when I got home tonight, and then so scared when she saw all the blood on me. She tried to hug me without hurting me anywhere, and I was so happy to see her that I didn't even tell her about all the bruises underneath my body armor, or how much it hurt when she squeezed me. She's such a sweet little girl, and she loves me… and she was standing right there when the holier-than-thou Buffy called me a crazy killer, and a whore.
If there was one thing Faith would never forgive the blonde Slayer, it would be causing Kira pain. Taking care of the child, protecting her; that was the one thing she was absolutely sure of, the one thing about which there was no ambiguity at all. The little girl had been hurt enough; she'd suffered enough, and so long as Faith had a say in things, Kira would never know any more pain. Not if she lived to be a hundred.
Which was something else the dark-haired girl was determined to see happen.
So now, when it came to a choice of continuing upstairs and doing her level best to get mind-numbingly drunk, or walking down the hall and talking with her de-facto daughter (or kid sister; she wasn't quite sure which label applied), there really wasn't a choice involved at all. Faith turned away from the stairs, and headed for Kira's room.* * * * *
Kira was staring at the television without really seeing it when the quiet knock came. Hastily picking up the game controller she started her character on the screen charging recklessly through the next dungeon level, hacking and chopping at everything in his way.
The door opened just a little, and Faith poked her head inside the room.
"Hey there," She said, the words coming out just slightly funny-sounding. Kira turned to look at her, again feeling a twinge of shock upon seeing the terrible damage the older girl's face had suffered. It wasn't as bad now as it had been before; when Faith had first gotten home there had been blood all over her, and a white gleam of bone visible from inside a couple of the awful grooves in her cheek. Now everything was stitched up; the skin there was pulled strangely tight, but with the blood washed away and her damp hair pulled forward and half-covering the marks it wasn't too hard to look at her.
Not that Kira would care if Faith was going to be ugly now; she knew very well that just being beautiful didn't make you a good person. Her stepmother had been very pretty… and also pretty close to being downright evil.
"Hi." Force of habit made her look back at the television screen, where her character was now surrounded by fiery skeletons. Things didn't look good for him, but she paused the game, and sat the controller down by her knee. Turning to look at where Faith stood, still half out in the hall, Kira did her best to put on a cheerful expression.
"Is everything okay? I mean, with your--?" She put her fingers to her own face, and the older girl mirrored her, gingerly touching her damaged cheek.
"Yeah, I'm good." She started to grin, then winced when the smile tugged at the stitches. "Ow, fuck. I mean, well, no; I'm not good, but it's nothin' that won't heal."
Kira nodded, relaxing a little as she recalled the other times she'd seen Faith get better from really terrible wounds, and with near-magical speed. That's right; she's been shot before, and by the time it got better there wasn't even a mark.
She smiled back at the tall girl. I'm glad. I wouldn't care if she was ugly, but Faith likes being pretty; it makes her feel better about stuff. And she is really pretty; way prettier than Buffy.
That last part was thought in as defiant a mental voice as she could manage, and the image of the blonde girl that came with it made her smile go away.
Faith, who was watching her closely, came the rest of the way into the room, closing the door behind her.
"Listen, I just wanted to let you know that I'll be fine; okay?" She reached up, pulling a little more of her dark, curly mane forward to help conceal the side of her face. That would have worked better if her hair hadn't still been damp from being rained on, and from having blood rinsed out of it. Faith's fingers got caught in the tangled strands, and finally she gave up and dropped her hand. "I didn't mean for you to see me all torn up like that; and you shouldn't have had to…." She looked down, playing idly with the material of the sling supporting her wounded arm. "You shouldn't have had to hear some of the stuff people were saying, down there, either." She finished softly.
Kira scowled, her confusion and unease very quickly shifting to anger. It isn't right. Faith is magic; she's strong and nice and she always has time for me, and her friends are good too, and they go out and kill bad guys and rescue people just like I do in my PlayStation games.
Looking at the older girl's slumped shoulders and weary, pensive expression, she wanted to ask why Faith let the blonde Slayer treat her like that. Buffy's so mean; she says things and does things that are just horrible, but Faith never says a word. She just gets real quiet and leaves the room, and then Buffy acts like
she's the one who just got mistreated. How come the two of them are like that?
"It's okay," She answered, finally. "I know you're not any of the things she said you were."
Faith raised her head, and the pain in her dark eyes was much, much harder to look at than her stitched-up face.
"Thanks." The girl whispered, her already scratchy voice even rougher than usual. "You're…." She shrugged, the movement jerky and uneven because of her hurt arm. "You're more than I deserve, y'know that?"
That made it Kira's turn to shrug, but any happiness she felt at her friend's words was lost in her confusion about what was going on between the adults.
"I wish she would just go away." Faith's eyes hardened with instant anger when she heard that, and Kira found herself suddenly wanting to hide under the covers. "I'm sorry, that just came out of my mouth." She apologized. The girl knew what her friend could do when she got mad; she'd seen it happen a couple of times to bad people. And while she knew in her heart that Faith would never, ever hurt her, it was still scary to see that other side peeking out from behind those usually kind, soft-brown eyes.
After a few moments, and after taking a slow breath, the older girl nodded her acceptance of the apology, and her eyes lost that hot, dangerous gleam.
"Sokay, babe," Faith said, softly. "Sometimes my mouth gets away from me too. And I know what you mean about B…."
Kira watched her warily. You know, but you still take her side whenever somebody else starts talking about what a terrible, nasty person Buffy is,
She thought to herself. It was confusing; she knew Faith would rather die than let any harm come to any of her friends, Kira included, and that made sense, since she was
a hero. Buffy, on the other hand, wasn't a friend at all, and still
Faith defended her, even against the same friends she cared about so much.
The little girl didn't know what to think about that, but it hurt every time she had to listen to the blonde Slayer start into one of her vicious rants.
"Please, just tell her to leave! If she hates everyone here so much, and she's always mad when you and the others go and do stuff-"
Faith just shook her head. Her face wasn't that twisted mask of rage that was so scary to see, but it was still firm with resolve.
"She can't leave, Kira. She just can't."
The little girl slumped a little, looking down at the controller she held in her hands. No, I guess not. But she should still be nicer to everybody, especially you.
The Slayer had even had arguments with the other girl about Kira herself; she'd only heard them because they both thought she was out playing, and they were screaming so loud at each other that even their incredible hearing hadn't detected her as she crouched outside the window. Buffy thinks living with Faith is bad for me; she says that I'll get killed because of what Faith does, or that I'll want to grow up and be like her. That's silly; I can't grow up to be like Faith. She's magic, and I'm just a girl.
No, it was too bad, but she would never be able to do what Faith did. So she would just have to do what the others did, and help Faith. So far she hadn't decided if she wanted to use mostly swords and stuff, or concentrate on guns. There were certainly people around here who could teach her everything she would ever need to know about either subject…. I still want to know why Faith won't smack Buffy silly when she's acting like that. I could ask her right now, but it wouldn't do any good. Whenever anybody asks her about Buffy, she just shrugs and mumbles stuff like 'It's what I deserve from her', or 'I did B worse, back then. Just let it go.'
Kira bit her lip for a moment, trying to figure out what to do. She's so sad. She's sad a lot, lately, and everybody says it wasn't like that before Buffy came to stay here. But the weird thing is, they say that the two of them used to be friends; that Faith might even have loved Buffy, back when they first knew each other.
The idea of that didn't bother her; there were both men and women in the house right now who loved Faith, and Kira saw them kissing her all the time, even if the older girl made sure nothing else happened anyplace where Kira might see. That was okay; she didn't really care about kissing, and the rest of that yucky stuff, though she'd been told she would change her mind about it someday.
No, what really bothered her was that her friend was being hurt, over and over, by someone who was supposed to be a good guy. Buffy, though, didn't act like much of a good guy. She didn't seem to care about Faith at all, and that was what was so hard to understand. How could anyone who knew her not love Faith? And, equally as strange, how could anyone have ever loved Buffy when she was so angry and mean all the time?
Faith, fidgeting awkwardly where she stood, finally stepped closer to the bed.
"Listen, kiddo. I'm not much in the way of company tonight; I'll see you in the morning, 'kay?" She leaned down to press a kiss into Kira's forehead, then straightened and turned towards the door. "Goodnight. Don't stay up too late." She's gonna go to her room and drink a lot of booze.
Kira thought worriedly. She's doing that all the time now; even for someone who's magic that can't be good.
"Faith, wait." She blurted. The tall girl paused, half-turning to look back at where Kira sat on her bed. Thinking fast, she scooted to one side, making room. "Could you stay and tell me a story? Maybe… something with fighting in it?"
Her friend smiled again, winced again as it hurt her face. She obviously wasn't in the mood to stay and tell stories, but still she obediently moved to sit on the bed beside Kira.
"Hey, by now you know that all
my stories have fighting in them." Faith settled herself back against the headboard, then waited while Kira took her favorite listening spot; snuggled up against the older girl's side, her head resting on Faith's shoulder. Of course, before she did that Kira made sure that it wasn't the shoulder that had been all messed up.
"Yep." The child answered. This was her absolute most favorite thing in the world. There had been such a long time in the hospital when nobody would talk to her, or get close to her, because they were afraid they would catch something from her. Faith had been the only one who hadn't been afraid, and even though nobody knew for sure, Kira was sure that it was because of Faith that she was still alive now, and so healthy. Somehow, some part of the girl's magic had rubbed off on her, and let her get well. She didn't know how, but it had happened.
Faith cared about her, loved her. Kira would have to do her best to make Faith not so sad about the way Buffy treated her.
"Okay, lemme see…." As the girl thought about which story to tell, Kira closed her eyes. "How about the time last year when me and the guys ran into Angel in Los Angeles, and him and his bunch of losers kidnapped and tortured me? Well, they tried, anyway, but of course they screwed it up and the cops got into it."
Kira shook her head.
"No, I don't want to hear that one. Buffy talks about Angel a lot when you're not around; she said you hated him just 'cause the two of them loved each other so much."
She felt Faith stiffen beside her, and wished she could take the words back.
"Yeah, well. B always did know how to pick 'em. And they did love each other, I guess, which of course makes perfect sense." Her voice had gotten lower, with a bitter half-snarl echoing behind it. "Because fuck, if there was one person on the planet who was worse for her than I would have been-" Faith broke off, clearing her throat. "All right," She said, starting again and in a more normal tone. "How about the time I went into the woods on this vision-quest sort of thing, and ended up fighting this freaky dragon-spirit that was going to kill every person it could find, just so everything would go back to just being plants and animals like in the good old days?"
That actually sounded kind of neat, but Kira shook her head.
"I want to hear a story about you and Buffy."
Faith hesitated for a second or two.
"Okay. Um…. There was this time the two of us…." She trailed off, and Kira opened her eyes, though she didn't move her head. She couldn't see the older girl's face like that, but she was certain that Faith looked very sad just then. "Oh, there was this thing where I switched bodies with her, and spent a night fooling all of her lame friends and making them think that I was her; even her boyfriend didn't catch on, and then the next day…." She stopped again, and this time Kira did twist her head around enough to look up at her face. Darn, I made her all sad again. I just wanted to know why she used to like Buffy so much, but there's not anything with Buffy in it that doesn't make Faith hurt to talk about. Or is there?
"Faith?" The older girl looked down at her, her good hand coming up to stroke Kira's hair in an automatic gesture.
"What is it, sweet girl?"
"Tell me a happy story about you and Buffy. Not one where the two of you fight each other, or where you trick her or she tricks you." There had to be something that could cheer Faith up. Something that would make her not want to go upstairs and get drunk and stuff. And maybe, if she heard about a good time the two of them had had together, Kira would be able to tell it to Buffy, and remind her of when she used to like Faith. Then the blonde girl wouldn't be so mean and hateful all the time. Looking up into those sad, dark eyes, she knew for certain that it was exactly what was needed.
"I want a Faith and Buffy story with a happy ending," She stated firmly, in a tone that left no room for argument.
The older girl blinked, looking a little bit lost.
"Uh, Kira…." She stopped, her mouth just hanging open for a second before she noticed and closed it. "I'm not real sure there are
any stories about the two of us that have a happy ending."
Now it was Kira's turn to feel all blank and unsure.
"Oh." Oh. Well, darn. I was ready if she tried to say she didn't
want to, but if she can't tell me one…. She still needs cheering up, though.
The little girl thought it over for a moment, then brightened. The answer to that problem was easy enough.
"Then make something up."
Faith frowned; at least that was one expression that didn't seem to hurt her face.
"Make one up? Like a fairy tale or somethin'?" She shifted a little where she sat, wincing as something, somewhere pained her. "I'm really a lot better at tellin' stuff where I was there. Remembering's a lot easier than just coming up with it out of nothing."
Kira did her best to look all pleading and hopeful.
"Come on, you can do it. You tell great stories. Please?"
Faith looked at her, then looked away and sighed.
"Okay then. Me. Buffy. And a… happy ending."
Kira grinned, and she would have bounced up and down except that would have hurt Faith's shoulder.
"And I want it to be a really super-happy ending!" She clarified, just to make sure of things. The older girl raised her eyebrows in disbelief, but nodded resignedly.
"Okay, I got it now. A 'Super-Happy Ending', no problem." Actually, it seemed to be a little bit of a problem, because after that she didn't say anything for what seemed like a long time. Finally, when Kira looked up again, she saw that Faith was staring off at nothing, with a really weird look on her face. Not exactly sad, but not happy either.
She jerked a little, looking down.
"You don't have to, if you don't want-"
The older girl shook her head.
"No, it's okay." Another pause, shorter this time. "I was just thinking. There's some stuff that I made up a while back, kind of a daydream thing I used to wish had happened, instead of everything that really
happened." Faith stroked Kira's hair again, and the little girl lay her head back on her shoulder. "All right, where should I start?"
"With 'Once upon a time'…."
"Sure, that'll work. Once upon a time… there was a Slayer named Buffy. She was strong, and beautiful, and even though most of the time she went around thinking that she was better than everyone else, nobody minded very much. Mostly because she was
better, and they knew it, but there was more to it than that. Just being around her made you feel like you were special too, even if you were really just a bunch of high-school losers that never would have mattered otherwise. So she did her Slayer thing, and they helped her, and for a couple of years that was it. Nothing much really changed (except for when B finally wised up and sent her dumb-ass vampire boyfriend Angel to hell for awhile), until one day another Slayer showed up."
Kira couldn't help bouncing a little at that.
"And her name was Faith!"
The older girl gave Kira's shoulder a little squeeze.
"Yeah, her name was Faith. She wasn't the first Slayer besides Buffy to come to Sunnydale, but she wasn't like the other one; she wasn't like anyone these people had ever seen. The club of morons were okay with this girl at first; they even pretended to like her, but they could never quite figure her out, and it wasn't long before they stopped pretending. After that, they never talked to her unless they had to, they made fun of her behind her back, and they never wasted any of their time trying to make her feel like she was part of what was going on. What they didn't get, though, was that Faith didn't care about that part at all. She didn't need them; she didn't need to be part of what they were doing to be special, 'cause she was special all on her own. And she didn't need Buffy, either; at least not after the two of them teamed up to kill the really big, really ugly vampire that had chased Faith to Sunnydale."
She got quiet then, and for a minute there was just her hand stroking Kira's hair.
"But that changed things, for Faith," She continued, her voice softer now. "She started to think that …. Well, she wondered about that, about why Buffy had bothered to help her with that fight, even though it was pretty obvious that she didn't like this new girl very much. For weeks and weeks Faith wondered about that, while B and the gang ignored her, and made fun of her, and shut her out of everything except the monster fighting. Faith could have left then, you know. She probably should
have left, and found somewhere else to live, and fight… but she didn't. And because she stayed, bad things happened to her, one after another. There was some good stuff that happened too, I guess, but even that just made the bad things seem worse, somehow, because every time things got a little better, every time it seemed like Faith might get something she really wanted, it would all crash down on her, and she would be so mad, she'd be so pissed off and hating everyone and everything…."
Kira had seen Faith get mad; had seen her get really
upset. When she was only a little bit mad she went to the gym that filled a big room at the other end of the house, and she hit things so hard that the walls shook and the extra-tough punching bags and pads got torn and ripped up, and the workout machines stopped working 'cause the metal bars were all twisty and bent. But when she was really
upset, she didn't do that; instead she got on her motorcycle and just left, for hours or even days, because she was afraid that she would hurt the people she loved if she was around them and feeling that way. It made Kira sad to think of Faith feeling that way back in Sunnydale, not because she was mad at someone, but because someone had hurt her, and she didn't have any way to fight back.
Faith, though, was still speaking.
"Then finally, when things got bad, and I mean really bad, Buffy betrayed Faith. There was an accident, and B and her Watcher friends got all righteous and stuff. They blamed Faith for everything that had happened, but of course their girl was as pure an' innocent as could be. Hearing that crap from Buffy was bad enough, but when one of the losers showed up and started up the old routine of being Faith's 'friend', just like they'd all pretended to be her friend at first, she didn't handle it too good. She got a little crazy with him, and…."
Kira looked up, and Faith's face was a little paler than normal, though maybe that was because of being shot earlier.
"What happened?" The girl asked. "Did she beat him up?"
Faith nodded slowly, though she didn't meet Kira's eyes.
"Yeah. Yeah, she beat him up. And maybe she would have killed him; we'll never know. 'Cause first there was Angel, and then Wesley and those Watcher pricks, and all of 'em had their own ideas on how to handle their little Faith problem." She took a slow breath, and Kira could feel the tension in the arm that was curled around her shoulders. "And it was weird, but for some reason all of those ideas involved lots of chains, and baseball bats to the head, and all this for one mistake that wasn't even her fault in the first place."
Kira couldn't help cringing a little at the hurt and frustration in Faith's voice, but despite that she took advantage of the pause to speak up.
"Um, Faith? You were going to tell me a happy story, remember? With you and Buffy?"
The older girl looked down at her for an instant, her face blank, then suddenly burst out laughing.
"Damn, you're absolutely right; I'm sorry." She shifted a little, enough to rub at her eyes with the hand of her working arm. "Wow; I start thinking about those people, and that place, and it sort of just washes over me like a flood, y'know?" Taking her hand away from her eyes, Faith looked around the room; like she was having to reassure herself that she really was here, in her house, and not in another, smaller, dingier room someplace else. "All right, let me just skip over a couple of parts and get to what you need to know about this. Faith was really mad at everyone there; they treated her like she was nothing even though she was the only one there besides Buffy who mattered at all. They wanted her to help them, but none of them would help her. They wanted her to fight for them, but only so long as she went away afterwards, and didn't spend too much time around their golden girl; after all, some of her might rub off on Buffy. So after a ton of this garbage, Faith had had enough, and she went to work for the Mayor, who everybody pretty much thought was a bad guy."
"Was he?" Kira asked.
"Well, maybe he was, some. Mostly, though, he just wanted something so bad that nothing else really mattered to him. He was good to me, though. He did everything he could to help me, and take care of me. Sure, he wanted me to fight things for him and stuff, just like they had, but he liked me, too. We did fun things together, miniature golf and shit; and when I felt bad he actually noticed, and gave a damn, and tried to make me feel better. Not because he had to; just because he wanted to." She gave Kira another one-armed hug. "I try and treat you like he treated me; does it seem evil?" The little girl shook her head, and Faith kissed her on the top of her head. "There you go; I didn't think so either. I still don't."
Faith took in a breath, held it a moment, then blew it out.
"So. For a while Faith fooled everybody; she worked for the Mayor and still walked around just like one of their gang. I guess it was probably easier for her to fool them because nobody cared about what she was up to when she wasn't getting the crap beaten out of her for them. But one day Faith screwed up somehow, and since Buffy was smarter than all the rest of her friends put together, she caught on and figured out that something was up. Buffy tricked Faith, with Angel's help, and found out she was working with the Mayor. There was a fight, and Faith maybe could have killed Buffy, but she didn't, because…. Well, because she didn't really want to. And Buffy maybe could have killed Faith, too, but she didn't do it either. And that was something that Faith wondered about afterwards; she wondered about it a lot."
Another pause, a short one this time before she went on.
"That's just so you know sort of what was going on. Faith stayed away from Buffy and the rest after that, doing stuff for the Mayor, and the little gang of heroes went on with their adventures and shit like she'd never been there. Except for wondering if she was going to come back one night and kill them all, I guess. And then a week or so later, Buffy got in a fight with a certain kind of demon, and there was this whole thing where she could read people's minds for a couple of days."
Kira had been trying to be quiet and listen, but she just had to know.
"Did she read your mind?"
She felt the older girl shake her head.
"No. I was out of town then. The boss had sent me to Phoenix, to…." A brief pause. "Well, he sent me to Phoenix to take care of something. By the time I got back, Buffy wasn't getting inside people's heads anymore."
Kira thought that over. That's too bad. 'Cause if she had read your mind, she would have known how you felt about her.
Then, remembering the blonde girl's vicious words from earlier that night, she had to wonder. She's so mean, though; maybe it wouldn't have mattered to her even if she knew.
Faith, unaware of her thoughts, was warming to her story.
"It wasn't long after I got back, and just a few days after Buffy got cured of her 'demon part', that the Mayor had something else come up that he needed my help with. Now, the two of us were pretty good at managing all of our stuff in town without B ever catching on, but for this story I'm gonna say that for once she managed to get lucky.
"So one day, Buffy's just walking along, feelin' all angsty as usual because her and Angel still can't screw, when for some reason she turns left instead of right, and what do you know, there's something going on down this alley…."* * * * *