See Chapter Nine for Disclaimer As terrifying as Faith is, as vast as her potential for violence may be, I don't believe her to be completely evil. There is more to her than a simple killing machine; of that I am certain.
Of course, I was never really that close to her; not even when I was her Watcher and she was my responsibility. Indeed, I can't recall a single instance where I helped her train, or counseled her on a personal problem; for some reason I could never warm to her.
But I did see glimpses of the girl she could have been; hints of what lay behind that carefully-maintained façade that she presented to the world. I believe Buffy could have helped Faith, nurtured her until the girl had no need of masks and self-deception, but it was not to be. Ultimately, being near Buffy only made matters worse.
--from the journal of Rupert Giles
May 14, 1999
Alex wasn't sure how to take all of this. The monsters, okay, he had seen them. But the part about some unknown magical force choosing girls to fight evil, that was way out there. Faith seemed to believe it though, and she really was superhuman, so that was a powerful reason to suspend his instinctive disbelief. That still left the question of what this supernaturally empowered champion of humanity was doing living on the street. She was running from something, that much he was still sure of. It wasn't the monsters, either. She'd proven that last night. She hadn't especially wanted to fight them, but once she did, it had taken her only minutes to destroy the creatures. So what then?
And what had she meant when she mentioned 'the other one'?
"-What do you mean, 'Better'?"
Kelly sounded indignant about something, and Alex returned his attention to the conversation.
"I'm faster than a human being. I'm more than ten times stronger." Faith paused to take another huge bite of her cinnamon-twist donut before continuing. "I can laugh off stuff that would kill you, and heal back good as new, in next to no time. I see things, and hear things, that you never notice. Sometimes I dream the future." She gave the other girl a smug smile. "And I'm better looking than you, too. Wouldn't you say that's 'better'?"
Kelly gave her a fierce glare. They were in a corner booth, and Alex was glad that both he and the table lay between the two. If she'd been able to reach the other girl, Kelly might have done something foolish. Well, more foolish, anyway.
"Oh yeah, well for someone that's so perfect and powerful, you seem kind of down on your luck. What happened? Did fate, or whoever hands out Slayer badges decide you were too skanky and full of yourself, and kick you out of the club?" She narrowed her eyes at the dark-haired girl. "Maybe they did get fed up with you. Maybe they were even going to take away all that stuff you're so proud of, huh? That would serve you-"
"They can't." Faith leaned forward, all but snarling the words, and both Alex and Kelly pulled back at the sullen fury that burned in look she gave them. "Nobody can take away what I am. Nobody!"
Alex gripped Kelly's hand beneath the table, giving it a warning squeeze. She looked at him questioningly and he shook his head slightly, hoping she would get the message and stop. Faith didn't seem to notice, looking down at the pastry she was methodically tearing into tiny pieces on her tray.
"That's how I know this destiny thing is a crock." Her voice was quieter now, barely audible. "I mean, why am I still here? And if you're god, or fate, or whoever… why the hell would you pick me in the first place? There are little angels out there just waitin' for it. Little Willow; oh, she'd make a great Slayer. The whole two-at-once thing, how do you explain that, if there's someone running everything? What, were they asleep when Buffy died and came back; were they not payin' attention? If there were meant to be two, then why not Willow? B woulda just loved that. And-and, if I was supposed to be here, then why didn't things work out between me an-"
She broke off, only then seeming to become aware of them sitting and listening.
"Anyway… I don't believe in that fate crap. It's random chance. I was born this way, and here I am." They sat in silence for a minute after that. Nobody seemed to know what to say. Eventually Faith stirred, and gave Kelly a level look. "By the way, I bought you that donut, so you'd better eat it. You're even skinnier than Buf-" She paused, obviously rewording what she had been about to say. "You're too skinny not to eat."
Kelly opened her mouth to speak, doubtless something that would provoke Faith's ire again, but before Alex could act to stop her, the Slayer took matters into her own hands, literally. Raising a small piece of donut, she flicked it with her finger, firing it across the width of the table and neatly into Kelly's mouth. The girl choked and coughed, more in surprise than anything else. Alex patted her between her shoulder blades, and she leaned forward to spit out the projectile onto her tray.
"Blech! That's disgusting!"
Faith smiled faintly.
"Hey, I washed my hands. You're the one spitting up onto the table here. Which I have to say is a pretty gross sight this early in the morning."
Kelly's glare was fierce enough to make Alex turn his head in order to try and hide his grin. Whatever melancholy mood Faith had fallen into had at least blunted her hair-trigger temper. Or maybe she was still… sated, from the fight with Itai? He pondered that as Kelly pointed across the table.
"Gross? You are the one who's gone through sixteen donuts since we sat down. Just because I'm not eating everything in sight-gak!"
Faith had inconspicuously picked up another bit of pastry and waited for her chance. Like the first, this one flew straight and true into the other girl's open mouth. She made as if to spit it out, then reconsidered, chewing and then swallowing with as much dignity as she could muster. Into this momentary quiet, Faith spoke.
"Listen, Alex. Can I change the subject here and ask you a question?"
He'd been nibbling at his fourth donut, and feeling a bit guilty, since Faith had bought it for him. Putting it down he looked at her and nodded.
She hesitated, finally draining half her glass of orange juice before turning her gaze to him.
"I keep hearing about this… job, this thing you're going to do tonight. The one that'll make you so much money?" He didn't say anything. Kelly must have mentioned it, and it was not difficult to come up with a reason why. He wasn't angry, even though it was a foolish thing to have said to a complete stranger. That was just the way Kelly was. "Anyway, I was wondering just what kind of job this was."
He considered that, staring down at the bits of powdered sugar that littered his tray.
"I'm not sure I should say." He spoke slowly, uncertain about where this was headed. "Did you want to be… involved… with it?"
She sighed, and when she met his eyes he was startled anew by how deep those dark brown pools were, and by how much they held. She wasn't any older than he was, he was certain of that much. But the way she looked at him now… he could feel almost feel the pain she'd suffered, the loss. Not just the loss of loved ones, or of treasured things, but the loss of herself. He knew all about that. Living the way he did, they way they all did…. It cost you pieces of yourself, pieces you never thought you'd be willing to give up, until the time came, and you faced that choice. Kelly had eyes like that, and he supposed that he did to, but he'd never seen such desolation inside another person as he did in that instant.
Of course Faith had no way of knowing what he'd just had a glimpse of.
"I don't know. I've done a lot of-" She looked away, staring out through the window beside her. "Let's just say that I've probably done more things, and… worse things, than you've ever dreamed of." She was looking outside, but she was seeing something else. Whatever that something was, it wasn't pretty. "So I was wondering what you were getting into." She looked back at him. "Because if you get caught, or killed, I don't want to get stuck babysitting your little girl here."
Kelly opened her mouth, the picture of indignation, but Faith raised a hand, fanning her fingers. Through some sort of sleight-of-hand, there was suddenly a sizable chunk of donut nestled in the gap between each finger and the next. She raised an eyebrow, and Kelly ducked her head and quickly took a bite of her own danish. Alex barely noticed. He glanced around carefully, but there was no one nearby, and the background noise would keep their words from carrying for more than a few feet.
"It's nothing too dangerous. I know these guys, and they find houses that are off the beaten path, with cheap alarm systems. The kind you shouldn't put much confidence in, but people still do. They bring me along to disable the alarm, then we rob the place." She nodded, and he went on. "Nothing big, just jewelry, vcr's… sometimes a stereo. And we make sure the people aren't home, so nobody risks getting hurt."
Faith set down her last donut only half-eaten. Taking a moment to lick her fingers clean, she gave him a sideways look.
"And you get an equal share of what these guys take?"
She propped her chin on her fist and looked thoughtful.
Kelly had finally, reluctantly finished her single donut, and now nestled against his side. He bent his head and kissed her lightly on the lips, and she smiled as she returned it, with interest. A thump from Faith's side of the booth made him look up. The dark-haired girl had let herself fall back against the padded seat, hard enough to make it creak in protest. He caught a flash of something on her face, some expression he couldn't quite make out, and then her features became a pale mask. She folded her arms across her middle and stared at him.
"That doesn't sound like a bad deal, but I think I can do better for you."
He wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean, so he spoke cautiously.
A faint smile stole across her full lips.
"Like I said, I've done things; lots of things. We could go out today, just the two of us, and bring back more than you'd make on this job tonight. And without counting on a bunch of goons you barely know, hoping they won't screw things up." I know those guys better than I know you.
He thought in reply. But still…. This kind of offer was certainly not something he'd been expecting.
"Why would you want to do that?" The way she was looking at him made Alex a little uneasy. That particular kind of… speculation, didn't fit the topic.
She shrugged his question off.
"No big deal, I just need a little more money myself, if I'm going to get on with my road trip, and before I leave you guys I'd like to know that you'll be okay. That means more than just getting these gangers off your back; you need to have some cash in your pockets too. To take care of things."
He sat there, considering.
"I appreciate that, really. It's more than you owe us. But all the same, I hate to bail on these guys. They won't be happy about my dropping out at the last minute."
Faith waved one hand in dismissal.
"Screw 'em. You've gotta look out for yourself first, and everybody else second. I can do more for you than they can. Besides, you know the territory here." She reached into a pocket of her coat, touching something, reassuring herself that it was still there. "I need you to introduce me to somebody who can take this junk off my hands. Along with everything we score today." She sounded utterly confident, but it was more than that. She practically radiated self-assurance, as if her belief in something was enough in itself to make her plans succeed. Despite his reservations, Alex found himself agreeing, caught up in her certainty that everything would work out for the best. Whatever else she brought with her, one thing was absolutely certain; Faith brought change. He and Kelly had been balancing on the edge of disaster for so long, he found himself welcoming anything that disrupted that awful, endless tension. Since the moment of her arrival, this girl had thrown everything into flux. Nothing was what it had been, and maybe, just maybe, their luck would take a turn for the better. Deep inside himself he still felt that to be unlikely, but for now, just to have that feeling, that slim chance was enough. It had been a long, long time since he had felt anything like it, and he couldn't bring himself to turn away.
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