See Chapter One for Disclaimer If only we had known.
When Faith first arrived in Sunnydale, it was so easy, so natural for us to dismiss her as 'the other Slayer', 'the new Slayer'… 'The lesser Slayer'.
Perhaps there was even some truth to those words. Buffy was so beautiful, so passionate and courageous…. Everyone around her was diminished, when held against that measure.
Faith, though, had greater depths than any of us realized. If in the beginning she seemed somehow less than her sister Slayer, it was because her life to that point had left her damaged and uncertain. In our blindness, we failed to see that Faith was struggling against inner demons far more terrible than the ones which Buffy had faced.
And unlike the older girl, Faith faced her trials alone.
If only someone besides Richard Wilkins had seen how desperately she needed someone, anyone, to reach out to her…. But such regrets are pointless. The darkness within her was nurtured by the events which took place in Sunnydale that spring, then tempered by the ordeal she faced later in that other, nameless place. She strove to be the villain when she fought against us here, and later she struggled equally hard to be a hero.
Perhaps it was that very combination, that alloy of shadow and light, good and evil, that resulted in such a powerful individual finally emerging. If so, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for the current sad state of the world, for we have participated in the creation of our own doom.
If only we had known….
From the journal of Rupert Giles
May 2, 2004
I shouldn't be doing this.
Faith thought as she walked slowly towards the two men guarding the house. I almost lost it a little while ago, with those other guys I found. Hell, I guess I did lose it; they did end up getting tortured to death, while I giggled over them like they were a couple of toys I got to play with until they were broken.
She was across the street now, three buildings down from her destination. There wasn't anyone else out at this hour, not in this neighborhood, anyway. She wouldn't have an audience, at least.
The darkness lurking at the edges of her mind was growing bolder, pressing inwards with a slowly building force that was growing harder and harder to resist. She couldn't give in, though; not unless she wanted to end up in prison, or dead. Thanks to her adventures last night, there were already more cops than usual patrolling the area. If she lost it and ran wild through the streets again, there would probably be a small army of them in position to take her down. She had to keep control of herself while she fought. Yeah, right. I'm not sure I can fight at all, unless I get at least a little crazy. That's how it's always worked, for me.
Here it was. Faith turned up the short sidewalk towards the old hotel, walking past the withered skeletons of small trees and shrubs that had once shaded the front entrance. Now they stood brown and forsaken in their granite planters, mute testament of better days.
The two men standing watch looked at her curiously as she walked up to them, not at all concerned about any threat one girl might pose. They must not be up on current events.
She thought grimly.
"What do you want?"
This from the one on the left, a tall, rangy guy with his blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. Faith paused to consider the question.
"Um, let me see…." The two men grinned at each other as she made a show of thinking it over. If they'd been able to see the struggle inside her, they wouldn't have been so amused. "I really want to kill you." She said, and it was true. The instinct to kill, to smash them into something unrecognizable, had surged up within her as soon as she'd gotten within striking distance. Her breath came faster as she fought to hold it back. "That's what I want to do, but I'm not going to do it. I'm just going to beat the crap outta you."
The two of them stood there for a few moments, staring at her with blank expressions as they tried to find the joke. Goon number two, an older black man built like a football player, gave her an indulgent smile.
"You can't be serious. C'mon, what are you here for?"
She was trembling with the effort of not lashing out; she needed to act before she wasted them out of reflex. Exercising all the restraint she was capable of, she delivered a short, sharp jab to the big man's jaw. It wasn't flashy, but it happened so fast that he barely had time to see it coming, and it pitched him over backwards, to end up sprawled on the concrete steps. Faith deliberately unclenched her fist, and eyed her shaking hand. The man groaned, and she smiled tremulously in relief. He was still alive. Turning to face the one with the ponytail, she caught the stock of his sub machinegun in the side of her face. He'd put all the power of his upper body into the blow, and it spun her half around, and down to one knee before she caught her balance. The pain of it washed through her and was gone, but it left a red haze of fury behind it. Why you little--!
She wiped at the trickle of blood running down her cheek, and there was a sense of outrage and disbelief within her as she stared up at him. I'm trying to let you live, moron!
He didn't seem to understand that she was being gentle. Seeing her still conscious, he held the gun out to one side and launched a kick at her midsection. She reached out and caught his foot even as she came to her feet, holding it and forcing him to hop awkwardly on one leg to keep his balance. Panic flashed across his face, and he swung the sub machinegun towards her. She caught that too, tearing it from his grasp and letting go of his foot.
Faith examined the gun for a moment, part of her enjoying the look of terror on his face as he watched her turn the weapon over in her hands.
"You're her, aren't you?" He looked like he was torn between running away and dropping to his knees. "That girl they've been talking about."
"Guess I am." Tossing the gun off to the side, she gestured him closer. "Now come here and take your medicine." He took a step back, towards the front door, and she felt something dark and bitter flush through her veins. Bounding forward, she grabbed him by the front of his shirt. "I said, come here!" Yanking him forward, she pulled him into her other hand, striking him just below the base of his neck, taking him off his feet and slamming him down on his back. He hit the concrete with a grunt, which turned into an agonized wheeze an instant later as she struck him with her fist, high on one side of his chest. Ribs cracked, and droplets of blood flew as he erupted in a fit of coughing.
Faith smiled with delight, and drove her fist down again, hitting him on the other side. His eyes grew wide and staring as the pain of his other lung being pierced by the broken bones crackled through him. She sat on his belly, leaning forward to watch his face as his breathing quickly grew labored. With both lungs filling with blood, his death was coming quickly. Warm red fluid began trickling from his lips, and she dipped her fingertips in it, tracing lines across his face, looking into his eyes as they began to glaze over. His struggles grew weaker, and she frowned at the conflicting feelings within her. The sweet pleasure that came with demonstrating her power so clearly was tainted by the equally strong sense of revulsion at what she'd just done. Just like that, I killed him. I swore I wouldn't kill either of them, but when it came down to it, I couldn't stop myself; I didn't really want to stop myself.
If she'd needed proof, she had it now. It was true; she was just like Kelly, only when Faith needed a fix, someone died.
The man under her gave a shudder, then lay still. She looked down into his staring, sightless eyes, and wondered if there was any way out for her, except to follow after him.
* * * * *
Alex and Scott hurried up to the front entrance. They'd seen the struggle between Faith and the two men, now that she had them both down it was time to head inside. The two of them got to where she still sat atop the second guard, and it was obvious that he wouldn't be getting up, ever again. The girl looked up at Alex, and he had to look away from the despair that filled those dark eyes. No, I'm not falling for the 'tortured bad-girl with a good heart' act again. I'll use her to get Kelly back, and then I never want to see her again.
"There have to be more inside. Let's go." His voice was harsher than usual; the strain was wearing on him. Scott had scooped up the man's gun, and looked disturbingly eager to use it. "Careful with that." The other man shot him a nervous grin.
"Don't worry, man. Now that I have some firepower, these bastards are in for a world of hurt."
Faith came to her feet, her eyes locked on the entrance.
"I don't want to go in there. I'll do… bad things, if I go." She looked at him, wiping her bloodied hands together in an unconscious effort to wipe them clean. "Please Alex," She pleaded. "Don't make me." No. It's her fault this is happening. She's twisted, no matter how hurt she seems, sometimes.
He pointed at the door.
Ducking her head, she went.
* * * * *
She didn't want to go in there.
She couldn't wait to get in there.
She didn't want to kill.
She lived to kill.
If she did this, she would hurt people.
She loved to hurt people; she had to hurt them, all of them.
Alex couldn't make her do it, not if she really didn't want to.
He couldn't make her, but he was right. This was her fault, and she couldn't run away from it. Running away didn't help; this time she would try and make it right. Besides… there were people in here, and she needed to hurt them.
* * * * *
Faith walked in ahead of them, gliding through the entranceway like a great cat. Alex held Scott back with him, giving her several moments before they followed her. Even as they passed through the double doors, the first sounds of combat reached their ears.
Inside was the lobby, wide and high, with a switchback staircase on either side leading up to a balcony overlooking the room. At the rear were several doors behind a long counter, and a set of elevator doors visible back in a shadowed hallway.
The room itself held a scattering of old couches and overstuffed chairs, and an old television in the corner that was showing highlights from a soccer match. At the moment, the room also held a fair-sized brawl.
Faith was in the process of wrecking the place, using five more of the Storm's soldiers as her assistants. Alex and Scott both ducked as one of the men unleashed a spray of bullets from his submachine gun, but the Slayer leapt right at the man, three shimmering planes of pale gold light flickering into view to deflect the projectiles into the ceiling, then vanishing as she landed in front of him. The knife in her hand flashed as she drove it through his sternum, then used it to hold him upright as she glanced back over her shoulder and fired a kick into the face of the man trying to smash a chair over her head. Looking back at the one she was holding upright, she leaned in close and kissed him hard, devouring his mouth even as she gave the knife a vicious twist. The crack of splitting bone sounded through the room, and Alex turned away, his stomach churning at the look of ecstasy he'd seen on Faith's face.
"Come on, she's probably upstairs somewhere."
Scott nodded, and together they circled around the conflict in the center of the room, ducking low to provide a smaller target if someone else started shooting. They reached the right-hand stairway, but the sight of three more of the Yakuza soldiers descending from above sent them running for the far side of the room. The pair of elevators there were unguarded, and Alex hastily pressed both of the 'up' buttons on the panels. An agonized scream from the lobby made him turn despite his resolve not to look.
A wiry Japanese man was staggering towards the front entrance, sobbing like a child as he stared at the blood pumping from the stumps where his hands had once been. He collapsed before he made it outside. Another was on the floor, convulsing in agony and clutching at the ruin of his face, which was a barely-recognizable mass of blood and tissue. Faith was laughing out loud, a smile of delight making her look chillingly beautiful even as she caught up to a man who was trying to run away. That knife took him across the backs of his knees, sending him crashing face-first to the floor. As he screamed in denial, she rammed the blade downwards, stabbing him through first one shoulder and then the other. His shrieks came even louder, and she laughed again, ruffling his hair playfully before looking up at the men on the stairs. Her eyes gleamed with anticipation as she stood up.
"God damn…." Scott breathed.
Alex nodded in agreement. She wasn't even doing them the mercy of killing them quickly. It looked like she was actually going out of her way to cause them as much pain as possible.
"Bitch." He muttered. Causing people pain seemed to be what she was best at. Kelly knew that better than anyone. He had to find her, then get both of them as far away from the Slayer as possible. The elevator behind them made a dinging sound, and he turned to face it. When the doors parted, he and Scott found themselves facing two more of the Storm's foot soldiers, and they were both large, tough-looking men. The four of them looked at each other blankly for a long moment, then Alex and Scott both took a step back and shouted in unison.
* * * * *