See Chapter Nine for Disclaimer I've never for an instant been afraid of Buffy. Isn't that strange?
I mean, I've seen Xander possessed by a hyena spirit, and he wouldn't have thought twice about killing and eating me. Angel's always balanced on a knife-edge between his soul and his demon. I was once only three steps away from him killing me. Anya's a former demon; Riley has all these X-Filey 'black-op' things lurking in the background. Even Giles has 'Ripper', his repressed, semi-violent side.
But Buffy, the most powerful, most physically dangerous person I know, has never worried me… and I think I know why.
It's not that Buffy doesn't have a dark aspect, it isn't that she lacks those violent, destructive parts of her soul. If everyone has a bit of madness lurking behind their conscience, then she has that too.
No; those parts of her definitely exist, and they're powerful too. It's just that somehow they've gotten themselves a body of their own. Buffy's darkness has a face, and a walk, and an attitude all its own. It has a name, too.
And that name is Faith.
Faith ran as only a Slayer could. Arms and legs pumping, breath coming deep and steady, she hurtled herself through the deepening twilight. On the sidewalks she threaded her way through pedestrians as if they were stationary obstacles. At intersections, she darted between the cars and trucks, occasionally vaulting one if there was no easy way around it. More than one driver blinked at the dark-clad blur that passed in front of his eyes, and a few were left staring at a single boot print in the center of their vehicle's hood. Not that any of them mattered, her entire being was focused on what lay a few blocks away.
She had meant to leave; she'd been on her way out of town, and literally before she'd taken ten steps, something had happened to prevent her escape. That was exactly what it had been, too; an attempt to flee. She wasn't sure when the balance had shifted, but it most certainly had.
It all had to do with how she perceived the world, and it was really very simple. There were three kinds of beings in Faith's universe. Firstly, there were the monsters; you didn't have to do anything around them except what came naturally. That is; you were free to kill them pretty much anytime you wanted, and as a rule they weren't bright enough to do anything about it. Secondly, there were powers. A power was anyone who looked human, but was actually more. They had something going for them, some edge that meant you had to be careful of how you handled yourself around them. Buffy was the strongest, of course, and before he had died, Mayor Wilkens had been pretty much on the same level, though on the opposite side of the arena. Angel was in there too, hell; even Willow and Xander counted, if only because of their connection with Buffy. These were the ones you had to treat like equals, though of course most of them weren't even close. Lastly came the humans, the victims. There were billions of them, but numbers were the only thing they had going for them. Clueless, powerless, they were just part of the scenery. Sometimes you had to save them from the monsters; sometimes you had to sneak around so that they didn't notice you saving them from the monsters. It was more a game than anything else. It had always amazed her how Buffy seemed content to let the nobodies run her life; always worrying about 'fitting in', making it to class on time, being all scared of that principal Snyder freak. She didn't seem to understand how things worked. Who cared what the norms thought? So long as they were there to make the pizza, keep the lights on, and provide the occasional roll in the hay, what difference did they make at all?
That's what had made them so easy for her to kill, when it came to that. As far as she was concerned, they were more like cardboard cutouts than real people. If they didn't have power, if they couldn't make her at least work up a sweat when she came at them with her knife, then they had barely existed in the first place.
In Sunnydale, the only people in the entire town that mattered were the handful with power. They had been the players in the big game; everyone else had been a combination of obstacle and prize. She and the others had known that; they'd all understood the unspoken rules, and when things had played out, Faith had ended up losing. Not fun, but that was the risk you took when you played the game.
When she had arrived here, it was pretty much the same thing. She and the Thousand Year Storm people were the ones with power, and everyone else was basically there to provide the backdrop for the game between them. The thing was, Faith wasn't so sure she wanted to play anymore. Unless you were some kind of masochist, there were only so many times you could end up a loser without wanting to give something else a try. If only she could figure out something else she was equipped to do….
Which is where Alex and Kelly came in. She'd saved them from those two thugs; that should have been the end of their part, they should have faded back into the scenery like the bit players always did. Yet somehow, they'd stayed in the game. Even worse; they had dragged her into it too. That was what bothered her the most, what she still couldn't understand.
Neither of them were powers, and they weren't monsters, either. So how had they been able to make her do something she'd decided not to do? Cardboard cutouts didn't make a Slayer do anything; they couldn't. It simply wasn't possible, but in spite of that it was happening anyway. What was worse, she had the distinct feeling that the two of them were somehow more real, more important than Faith herself.
Which was also impossible. That confusing turn of events had been what she was running from, when she'd left the shop. Why then, was she on her way to fight for them yet again? Friendship? Don't make me laugh. They say that they want me to stay, but it's only so I can fight their war for them.
An image flashed into her mind's eye, of Alex and the others, all staring imploringly at her, explaining how much they needed her, how much they cared about her. Sure they do. She thought bitterly, as she sprinted full-speed across the next street. A dingy taxi, coming from her right at nearly fifty miles an hour missed her by less than two feet, but Faith barely noticed. Funny how the only time anyone seems to care about me is when they need something killed.
A dense knot of people out for an evening stroll blocked her path, but she never hesitated. Picking her spot, she drove into them, bowling people over, barely loosing any of her momentum. A last pair of obstructions, in the form of some older men eating ice-cream cones, and then she was past them. The shrieks and cries didn't start till she was a fair distance away; they were still trying to make sense of what had happened. Faith didn't care; even the distinct sound and feel of cracking bones that had resulted from some of those collisions didn't really hold any importance for her. Tough luck, and it doesn't matter anyway.
She blinked repeatedly, trying to forget the glimpse she'd caught of the old men lying sprawled on the sidewalk where they'd been thrown. You're not real, no more than any of the rest of them.
She thought of Alex again, and the sight of Kelly clinging to him like a leech. Her lips twisted even as she ran. Neither of you are real, either, and you're for damn sure not more real than me!
Why she was even thinking of them now, when the blood and violence were calling her from just up ahead? She wasn't built to be around people, to drink tea with them and talk with them like she cared what they thought. She was made to fight, to kill. She was tired of pretending differently, of pretending that she could ever be like a normal person. With difficulty she banished the image of the two from her mind. I'm not doing this for you, it's for me. I like to fight, and these guys are pissing me off, thinking they can scare me. They can't even touch me!
Halfway there now, the smoke from the burning building merging with the darkening sky. No flames were visible from her current position, the fire must not be raging very high as of yet. She just hoped that whoever had started it was still around when she got there. If she was going to fight, then she was through holding back.These people think they know me, know what I can do? They haven't seen anything, yet.
It was time to show the people in this town just what they were dealing with.
* * * * *
"What the hell is this girl?"
Scott sounded a little awed, and Alex silently echoed the sentiment. With the accelerator floored, catching most of the lights and running the rest, it had still taken them most of six blocks to even get close enough to catch sight of Faith. She was only occasionally visible now, just as the limits of their vision. The street lamps were flickering to life as full darkness fell over the city, but the girl was a quicksilver shadow, blurring through the intermittent pools of light like an apparition.
Alex wasn't a practiced driver, but he managed to slalom through a series of slower cars, then nip through an intersection whose signal light had only just turned to red. Blaring horns followed after them, but he kept his eyes on the road ahead.
Well, mostly on the road. Risking their lives, he shot another glance down at the speedometer. They were making up ground on Faith each time they hit a stretch of mostly empty street, but she tended to pull away again at each intersection. She was somehow able to thread her way between the oncoming cars, but Alex had to slow drastically when the light was against him, to keep from ramming another vehicle. Averaging out their speed, his best guess was that the girl was running at something like forty miles an hour, maybe a little faster. All this, in street clothes and heavy boots, with a backpack still slung over one shoulder, and while dodging people and cars. Incongruously, he speculated for a moment on what kind of time she could turn in if she ever decided to crash a track meet.
Kelly, huddled low in the passenger seat beside him, suddenly spoke.
"What's she going to do when she gets there?"
Alex shook his head slightly, peering frantically left and right as they barreled through another cross street.
"I don't know. I think she's expecting them to still be there."
Kelly flinched at the blast of a horn as he was forced to cut in front of a car he'd just passed. He stole a quick look at her, and felt a quick stab of guilt at endangering her like this.
"You think she'll kill them?" She asked, barely audible over the roar of the car's engine.
Alex couldn't answer that. He had asked the girl to help them; was he willing to accept that it might lead to someone dying? Very probably a lot of someones dying? Even if she herself survived, what would doing something like that do to Faith's already precarious emotional balance? Scott, however, seemed to have no doubts in the matter.
"I hope she does kill them." He pulled himself up and braced his arms against both of their seats. Staring out at the girl ahead of them, he sounded as if he were offering up a prayer.
"I hope she kills them all."
* * * * *