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Virtue of a Warrior

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Summary: Faith faces her greatest test; and she faces it alone. No Buffy to love/hate, no Mayor to take care of her, no vampires to slay. In a city awash with blood, Faith must finally face her greatest enemy: herself

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Dark > Faith-Centered(Current Donor)DreamSmithFR1856235,317305733,45328 Sep 0725 Oct 07Yes

Chapter Thirty-Two

See Chapter One for Disclaimer



The Dark Child shall destroy the Holy Knights, slaying the righteous and casting down the mighty.
With hands red-stained with the Last Slayer's blood she shall smite the Champions of Light and bring about the beginning of the final age.
From that moment forward, the world shall be her world, it will remain her time until the end of time, and the Slayer, the defender of mankind, shall be no more.

--Prophecies of Ki-Riell
From the Book of Endings



Faith staggered back, more surprised than hurt. Still, she was bleeding from where her lip had been cut by being rammed back into her teeth.

"What the fuck?! He stepped forward and tried to hit her again, but she caught his fist easily. "What do you think you're doing?"

Alex was right in her face, his normally calm features twisted into a mask of rage.

"Why!" He shouted at her. "Tell me why, Faith!"

"Why what?" She pointed off to the side, at the Yakuza soldier she'd gutted on first entering the room. "This? Because you wanted me to, idiot!"

The young man shook his head violently, the motion flinging droplets of blood from his head onto her arm.

"No, not this. Why her!" His eyes were blazing with accusation, with something that very much resembled hate. He pointed to Kelly. "Why did you have to send her out where they'd find her?"

She paused, trying to shift mental gears. Again, she had thought it was the killing that had angered him. Up until now, it had always been what she did that made people pull away; that had made people… hate her. Most of them weren't interested in why, and it caught her a little off guard.

"I didn't have anything to do with what they did. If she wanted to go for a walk, I don't see how you can blame me." She had trouble looking at him as she said it, and there was a queasy feeling in her belly that she got when she said something that was mostly true. Sometimes even she didn't quite know when she was lying, anymore. She had gotten too good at hiding things, even from herself, this last year. Alex, however, wasn't buying anything she said.

"I can blame you because she didn't just decide. You had something to do with it, didn't you?" He took a second to get a better handle on himself. When he continued, he was no longer shouting, but his voice still battered her with its grim intensity. "You think she hasn't heard it before? The things you said to her are things she's been hearing all her life. From her parents, from her 'friends', from total fucking strangers. She's used to it by now. But you, you say it, and all of a sudden she doesn't believe me when I say I care about her, that I love her. She never once doubted that until you talked to her." Holding her gaze with his own, he all but snarled the words. "What did you do to her?"

This was not happening. Some little nobody that she could break over her knee thought he could play tough-guy with her? Nope, it wasn't going to happen.

"I don't know what your problem is, but a 'thank you' might have been a better way to go, here." She tried not to think about what she'd done in the lobby downstairs, or on the other floors on the way up here. She'd tried to do a good thing, and help him rescue his little princess, and yet again she'd ended up drowning in blood. She took a step back from him, sheathing her knife and carefully not looking at the dead men scattered around the room. They were there, though. She could feel them. "Now, I've really gotta leave. Gonna take a trip to the great white north, play in the woods, that kinda thing. See you around, or not."

Alex stepped between her and the doorway, blocking her path.

"No. you're not getting off that easy."

She stood and looked at him, wondering if he was suddenly the one who was missing a few marbles.

"You are deeply crazy if you think I'm going to let you push me into anything else today."

He shook his head slowly, never looking away from her.

"I'm not going to let you pretend it didn't happen. Have you looked at her?" Faith knew who he meant; the little girl he had been so anxious to find. The one lying on the floor over there and blubbering softly to herself because it had been oh-so-traumatic. He lifted an arm to point. "Well, have you? I mean, really looked at her? Go ahead."

Faith swallowed; her mouth was really dry, all of a sudden.

What does he want from me? I already told him I was leaving, and I wiped out all of these goons for him.

"No thanks, I already know what she looks like, and she's not my type."

He blew up at her, screaming into her face at point-blank range.

"Look! I want you to see what you did!"

Enough of this crap. I'm outta here.

She stepped past him, on her way to the door, but he wasn't willing to let it go. Unbelievably, he grabbed at her with both hands, trying to drag her back towards where his girl was laying. She brushed one of his arms away, and he used it to shove at her.

That was enough to make her lose control. Before he knew what was happening she was gripping both of his upper arms and half-dragging him, half carrying him back across the room. When they reached the wall she threw him into it, and not gently. He bounced off, looking slightly stunned, but she caught his throat with one hand. Baring her teeth at him in a not-smile, she used one arm to lift him off of the floor, holding him pinned against the wall. She wasn't squeezing his throat very hard, so he could still breathe, after a fashion. It couldn't have been very pleasant, though. That was just fine with her. Now it was his turn to squirm.

"I warned you not to push me, piss-ant." She said, her voice rough and unsteady.

I don't want to hurt him, I just want to leave. Why do they always make me hurt them?

He flailed at her arm with both fists, trying to force her to let go. He might as well have been throwing marshmallows at her. She leaned in slightly.

"Are we done, now? Have we all learned our lesson about picking on the big kid?"

It couldn't have been easy for him to speak, hanging there like that, but he managed it.

"Look at her, god dammit."

Faith stared at him blankly for a long minute.

I don't want to. I don't know why I don't want to, but I know that I don't want to see.

His eyes were boring into her, and she was too tired to go through much more of this. She hadn't slept at all, last night, and only for that fifteen minutes total, since the coma. All she wanted to do was get away from all of this, and what would it hurt to look at the scrawny, ugly girl? She sighed, and turned her head, and looked.

A human being would only have seen a girl lying there on the floor, drawn up in a little ball like a sulking baby. The wide, staring eyes staring off into space hinted at some bad things, but they were just eyes; they couldn't really tell you all that much.

Faith wasn't a human being, and when she looked at the girl she saw more than she'd ever wanted. It wasn't just her vision, or hearing, or sense of smell… it was all those and more. It was the sense that let her feel an attack the instant before it happened, that sometimes told her if what looked like a man was actually a soulless shell, the ability to dream her way into what-might-be.… All her channels of perception chose that moment to swing wide, and she saw.

The need for the heroin, burning through every nerve, freezing the blood in her veins. The endless, gnawing despair, the knowledge that a little more of her was worn away with each passing day, that soon there would be nothing left of her, not even a memory. A girl, tall and strong and beautiful, careless of her strength and cruel to anyone she thought was weaker than she; and then the fear that the one thing that had gotten her this far, the one person who knew she was alive and who loved her, might be taken away by this dangerous stranger. There was no way to fight against it; all she could do was hope… but hope was something that had been fading long before this, and all it took was a little push to tear it from her clumsy hands. So she runs away, out into the street, and then the bad men find her, and take her away, and that's when the pain really begins. Endless, indescribable agony, as they take away the only thing she still has left; her body itself. They hurt her, and use her, and it goes on for what seems like forever, and she wants so much to die but she can't, and in the end the only thing she can remember, the only thing she can cling to, is that someone named Alex loved her, once….

The arm that had been holding Alex up against the wall, the one that had been as strong and rigid as an iron bar, began to shake. She turned away from what she was seeing, she looked back at the young man and tried to hold him in place, but her foundations, already cracked from what she'd seen in herself last night, were now shattered beyond all repair. Everything that made Faith who she was, was now crumbling, and all her strength seemed to leak away. Alex slid downwards until his feet touched the floor, though he made no move to push her arm away. It was hard, meeting his eyes, but anything was better than seeing the girl again.

"I didn't do that to her. That's not my fault."

It sounded like a lie, even to her. He thought so too.

"What did you do?"

Oh god. I didn't even think it worked, I'd almost forgotten about it….

"I-I…. I sort of… pushed her, a little."

He looked a little confused, at that.

"What?"

"I wanted to hurt her, a little. Maybe I was hoping that she'd leave too…." I got my wish, didn't I? She did leave, and she did hurt… or get hurt… more than a little. A lot more than a little. How many people could live through that, on top of everything else? The shame that filled her was so intense that it became pain, but she forced herself to go on. "So I reached in with a little… trick I can do, and I made her believe…." I tried to make her feel like I do. I made her believe what I believe. "But I'm not the one who hurt her! I didn't send these guys after her, or make them do what they did!" The fury had been building on his face while she spoke, and now he pushed her strengthless arm aside and slammed his fist into her jaw. It didn't even occur to her to block or duck, and it rocked her head back. Gasping for breath, she tried to continue. "I didn't know this was gonna-"

He struck her again, and this time she reeled back a step.

"You bitch! You did know it would happen!" He hit her again, and again, and even though his strength was a small fraction of hers, she was helpless to stop him. "You wanted to hurt her? Well you did! They were looking for you and you sent Kelly right into their hands! Are you satisfied!"

"I helped you find her! I tried to make it right!"

"Bullshit! You were looking for another chance for a fight, you were hungry for some more people to kill!" He wasn't hitting her anymore; he just looked at her with all that hurt and bewilderment on his face. "But why her? Why did you have to hurt her?!" There was a note of pleading there; he really couldn't understand why.

"It's not just her, it's all of you!" She yelled back, and even as she spoke she found herself wondering what she meant by that.

Alex regarded her steadily, curiosity momentarily eclipsing the anger.

"Why?"

"Because." She didn't even know the answer when she opened her mouth, but when she started talking, it all started spilling out from somewhere deep inside her. "Because…. Do you know what it's like to have nothing? I mean, not just being poor, but to have absolutely nothing at all that's yours? You might not have any money, but you have this… girl, who says she's in love with you. She's nothing but a junkie, most of the way to being a corpse, but she has you to take care of her. You ever wonder what it would be like to not have that?"

He didn't respond, and she rubbed her palms across her thighs uneasily, bowing her head as she continued.

"Well, I don't have to wonder; I know. I never had anything, until two years ago. That's when I got this power, and someone who took care of me, something important that only I could do. Sounds great, huh?" His eyes showed her nothing, and she looked away. "Well it didn't last. She got killed, right in front of me, and it was my fault. I wasn't strong enough to save her. I ran, and when I found someone to help me, I thought everything would be okay again. But it wasn't. She was better than me; stronger, smarter, prettier… everything. She didn't need me, nobody there did.

"After a while I found someone who did need me. He cared about me, and gave me things. Maybe he even loved me; I kind of think he did. But he died too, and it was my fault again. I wasn't strong enough to save him, either." Talking about that raised a lump in her throat, even now. "And the whole time, there was this girl there, who was the one person in the whole damn world who knows what it's like to be what I am. There was something between us, I know there was… but it wasn't enough. When she had to choose between me and her boyfriend, she chose him. She came to where I lived and tried to kill me, for him.

"Try, hell; she did kill me."

That part came out almost as a whisper, and she raised a hand to rake her hair back from her face, meeting his eyes defiantly.

"I came back though. I thought she'd already done the worst she could do to me, but I was wrong."

The memory of that awoke the anger, sent it coiling through her like a fiery snake. She stood straight and glared at the boy in front of her. She didn't know where all of this was coming from, but now that it was coming she was powerless to stop it.

"You want to know why I hate you? Why I hate her?!" She pointed at where Kelly lay, and if her arm trembled it was because of her fury, not her weakness. "Because you have something I've never had. Sure, I see it on television, and when I go to the movies. I see it when I go to the freaking mall; Love." Bitterness made her voice even rougher than normal, and she made herself sneer in derision. "Everywhere I look, people are in love with each other, holding hands, hugging and kissing. Not just screwing each other, that's anywhere you want to look. No, these are people with that magic 'thing' for each other.

"I've never had that, not for real. You want to feel really worthless, spend all your time wishing for something like that, but never, ever even catching a glimpse of it coming for you. Everything you see tells you that there's somebody out there for everybody, but it never happens to you. So you start wondering what's wrong with you. I mean, if it's supposed to be that way, somebody for everybody, where's mine?"

A vision passed in front of her eyes, of green eyes and blonde hair, and a small, slender body that could match hers move for move. She felt a fresh stab of surprise at how much it hurt, even now.

"I thought for a while that it was her, but she proved me wrong. Then, when I go back, I find out that her steady, the one she killed me for, is long gone; she's got a new boy toy that worships the ground she walks on." She'd been forgotten, just like that. Had Faith really been such a trivial part of Buffy's life, that she'd been dismissed that easily, that quickly? "She had what I always wanted, she tried to kill me for it, and then she just throws it away? Is that all I was worth? I'm not even garbage, to her."

Alex was looking at her in total confusion.

"I don't know what you're talking about. Nothing those people did has anything to do with us"

Huh? Why can't he see it?

"Of course it does. I see the two of you together, and you're just like her and Angel, rubbing my face in what I can't have. And this isn't even her Royal Highness Buffy we're talking about, here, beating me out. It's the most pathetic piece of street-trash I've ever seen."

His face could have been carved from stone.

"Don't talk about her that way."

"But it's true! You know it, I know it, she even knows it."

He shook his head, giving her a look of disgust.

"You don't know anything."

She didn't have much to say to that, so she used the only response she could find.

"Yeah, well. I knew enough to get your girl to leave."

He raised a fist, and she thought for a second that he was going to hit her again. He didn't though. Letting his hand fall, he deliberately took a step back.

"Why did you do that? Did you really think that you and I would fall in love if Kelly were gone? Are you that deluded?"

Of course not; nobody could ever love me, I've known that for a while, now.

"No, not quite." She only now realized just how wrung out she felt. No sleep and a fight was one thing, but all of this…. It hurt so much to dig up all of these things she'd been hiding inside. Pieces of her that had been locked away for so long she'd forgotten they were there were now exposed and bleeding.

"I didn't think you would… love, me, but-" I could hope, yeah, but mostly I just-- "--I just couldn't stand…."

"What?"

With an inner wrench, the simple truth was ripped out of its hiding place and brought into the light.

"I couldn't stand seeing the two of you together, like that. Not after what happened… there."

There were several seconds of silence, with Alex staring at her incredulously.

"Are you serious? All of this, just because you were jealous? Wait, not even that. Jealousy is one thing. This is just… spite." Faith looked down at the bloodstained floor. "And what about all the killing? The way you… torture people?"

She felt dizzy, and nauseous. If someone had asked her name at that point, she might not have been able to tell them.

"I don't know. It's inside me all the time, this… rage. I see people and I hate them. I hate them because… they have things. Money, happiness… love. Things I can never have, things they won't let me have… so I take it all away from them."

It was only as she said it that she realized that it was true. Oh, she'd sort of known, in a hazy sort of way, but it was something she had never let herself see in its entirety. She glanced up, only to see Alex staring at her with an expression of loathing.

"So, because you're hurting, you hurt other people. You kill other people. Does that make you feel better?"

Yeah. For a little while. Then the pain comes back again, worse than before, and it stays until I hurt someone else, and when it comes back after that it's worse again. Little by little it's been building, feeding on itself, until now it's strong enough to eat me alive. I don't know what to do.

He was shaking his head in sheer disbelief.

"My god. All of this, everything you've done, and that's your excuse?"

Faith couldn't face him. She turned away, her eyes flinching away from Kelly's huddled form.

"I don't know…." She had the feeling that she was going to cry. "I never thought about it, before. I never let myself…." I never let myself see it, because I knew that if I did, I'd realize how empty I am. If this is all there is of me, then why am I even alive?

"I was wrong." His voice was flat, cold, and she knew she didn't want to see the face that went with those words. "When I first met you, I saw how violent you were, but I was sure I saw something else in there too, something… noble. You were one of the heroes that people dream about, the ones that show up and do things that nobody else can do, that save you when you didn't have any more hope left."

She shook her head wordlessly, and her hair obediently fell forward over her shoulders, hiding her from him.

"But I was wrong, Faith. You're not noble; you're an animal. No, not even animals do the things you've done. I don't know what to call you."

"Try monster." She whispered, and under her concealing hair she was weeping. Silent tears streamed down her cheeks as her legs gave way and she fell to her knees.

"Monster, then. I guess that sums it up." She heard him walking away from her, and then he gave a soft grunt of effort. When he spoke again, it was with a dreadful finality. "I'm taking Kelly out of here, and I don't want you to come near us, ever again."

"I won't." She whispered, and the words were almost lost in the echoing emptiness inside her.

After they left the room was empty of any living thing, except her and the unconscious Yakuza soldier she'd been torturing before Alex had stopped her. Faith wrapped her arms around herself, trying to hold it in, but the sobs began to come. She slowly rolled over until she lay on her side, curled up in as small a ball as she could manage. There was nothing left inside her now, not even the lies.

"Alex, I'm sorry. Kelly…." Even though the girl wasn't here to hear the words, it hurt to speak them. "Kelly, I'm so sorry."

It hurt so very much, and it went on and on….

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