See Chapter One for Disclaimer
Today saw the departure of young Wyndam-Pryce for America. In all honesty, the man is a far cry from the Watchers of old; worse even than Giles, if such a thing is possible. He does, however, understand his duty to the Council, and with some seasoning he may mature into someone worthwhile.
In the meantime, he has two Slayers to deal with. Summers may well already be beyond saving. Giles's coddling of her has likely left her too spoiled for anyone, even an experienced Watcher to make into a proper Slayer. Faith, on the other hand, for all her reportedly wild ways, may be a different matter altogether. She obviously craves discipline; why else would she have fallen so easily for Ms. Post's ruse? I've instructed Wesley to spare nothing in his efforts. Both of those young women need reminding of just who is in charge, and who exists merely to obey.
Lord William Robert Hayden
Earl of Stapleford
First Seat of the Council
February 8, 1999
Taryuu stumbled as he hurried quickly down the final flight of stairs. It was surprisingly difficult to move normally when you were invisible. He could feel Nagasu beside him, as he had been since casting the spell, completing it just moments before the girl had burst into the room.
That had been an experience the chief enforcer did not wish to soon repeat. Faith was everything his underlings had said, and more. The two men had been forced to stand perfectly still, just a few feet away from her, as she killed their men. However, it wasn't just her ability to inflict death that made Taryuu's blood run cold. Rather, it was the way she had played with her victims, prolonging their suffering for her own amusement, that made him glad they had been able to slip away when she began the argument with the young man. He wondered if that boy had survived their altercation.
The lobby was a charnel house, and he crossed it as quickly as possible. The door opened before he reached it, showing him that Nagasu was even more anxious than he to escape that place. Once out in the morning sun, he suddenly found himself fully visible once more. Glancing around, he found the Storm's master Sorcerer watching him with bright eyes.
"Magnificent creature, is she not?" The older man sounded positively gleeful. Taryuu gave him a dark look before turning to lead the way to where his car waited.
"She seems little more than a rabid beast; not at all what I was expecting."
The other man kept pace with him as he strode down the sidewalk and around to the rear of the building, despite the heavy robes he wore.
"Ah, but this is a most excellent discovery we've made!"
Perhaps dealing with demons and the like had addled the man's mind.
"I find it strange that you are taking this so well. You did lose your best student, after all."
Nagasu dismissed that with a perfunctory wave of his hand.
"Bah! I have others. What matters is that I have seen this girl up close. I have surveyed her aura, her essence." His eyes narrowed as he contemplated something only he could see. "She is all but defenseless on the higher planes; her spirit is in tatters, her very being fragmented and weak. It will be child's play to construct a working to gain control of her, even at a distance."
They had reached his car, and Taryuu paused even as he reached for the door.
"So… this elaborate scheme, with the captured girl, and the demon to grant you power… this was never necessary?"
The sorcerer moved to the far side of the car and pulled open the door.
"In hindsight, no. But without it we never would have learned this, so I consider it time well spent." He laughed at the expression on Taryuu's face. "Come now! Be of good cheer. Tonight, when the spirit warrior closes her eyes for sleep, I will strike her with a working that will make her our obedient slave! Her allies will be so very surprised when their 'savior' turns and tears them to bloody shreds!"
Taryuu glanced upwards at the building where the girl crouched amidst her handiwork.
"Perhaps not so very surprised, unless they are truly blind to what that… thing is."
* * * * *
She opened her eyes, blinking away the tears that continued to flow from them in a seemingly endless stream. It was Scott, kneeling on the floor beside her.
"What do you want?" Her voice was full of rust, hardly recognizable as her own. He looked worried, and maybe a little afraid of her. That wasn't the pleasurable sensation it had once been.
"I'm sorry, I didn't want to bother you, but we need to get out of here. More of these guys could show up any time."
Strange; that hadn't occurred to her. She'd killed so many of them already….
"How many more are there?"
He smiled uncertainly, as if he wasn't sure if he were allowed to smile at her.
"Lots more. They've got a couple of hundred hard-core members, and maybe a thousand who are going along with them for now, since they seem to be the winning side." Oh.
"Did…." She cleared her throat and tried again. "Did Alex and… Kelly, leave?"
He nodded slowly.
"Yeah. I think they went back to Sylvia's place. I told him they could use my car, I can call somebody to meet me a couple of blocks over." He looked like he wanted to reach out and touch her shoulder, but he didn't. "Come on, get up and come with me."
She stayed where she was, looking up at him from where she lay on the floor.
"No. I think I'll stay here."
He stared at her in dismay.
"Why?" Everyone seems to be asking me that, today.
"Because I'm no better than these people are. What happened to… her." It hurt too much to say her name again. "It was my fault."
He did put his hand on her arm now, shaking her gently in counterpoint to his words.
"I don't think you were here, raping her along with them. You helped us find her."
She closed her eyes, so she wouldn't have to see his concern. She didn't deserve it.
"I only helped because Alex made me. I didn't want to find her. I didn't really care what happened to her."
She heard him shift uneasily.
"Maybe not. But you were here anyway. It's only because of you that we were able to save her."
He was silent for a minute, and she just lay there, with the tears running down her face, wishing that he would leave.
"Faith…. Do you hate killing people?"
She frowned slightly, her eyes still closed. That's a pretty strange thing to ask somebody.
"No. I just hate people." It was the truth, in a way. The act of killing was what she'd been made for, reborn into the life of a Slayer. It was the thought of who she had killed, that tormented her afterwards, that made her seek out the thrill of killing again and again, in an effort to blot out the guilt that haunted her. She'd already realized that it didn't quite work that way.
"Maybe you've just been going about things the wrong way."
She opened her eyes, thoroughly confused. He saw her look, and went on.
"I know you've got some… problems." Well, that's putting it delicately.
She thought, her inner voice wry despite herself. "I didn't catch all of what you and Alex were talking about; it's none of my business. But I do know that it bothers you, when you kill someone who doesn't deserve it."
"No, what bothers me is that most of the time, I walk around thinking that everyone
He shrugged, but his eyes never left hers.
"Okay, that is a little off, true. But it doesn't change that fact that some people do deserve to die."
She shook her head weakly.
"The cops wouldn't think so." Buffy wouldn't think so.
Except of course, there had been one time, one person, that Buffy had thought deserved death. Faith still had the scar to prove it.
"You know that the people who raped Kelly deserved to die. You know it."
She couldn't deny that.
He leaned forward, every line of his body intent.
"Well, if they deserved it, and you know that they did, then what about the men who ordered them to do it?"
She looked at him blankly, trying to process that, but he went on, relentlessly.
"Killing people is wrong, but killing a killer, someone who is going to kill again, is something that's necessary." She knew that there were a lot of people out there who would disagree, but they were people who had never been in a room like this one. Scott sat back and ran his hand back through his hair as he contemplated her. "I don't know everything about you, but Alex told me a little. What are you guys, people like you, supposed to do?"
That was pretty easy, for a change.
"We're supposed to protect people. We're supposed to fight the monsters that they don't see, or that they can't defend themselves against. We fight the battles they can't, kill the things that they can't kill." Seeing his look, she realized what she'd said. "That's not the same thing! A Slayer kills monsters, not human beings!"
Whistler had said it to her last night; A Slayer did not kill humans.
Scott had a lost look on his face.
"Faith; some people are human beings only through an accident of birth. I've seen these men -and women-do things to my friends, to my family, that no human being would ever do to another. I know you've seen it happen too; I know you've done things like that yourself. That's why you know I'm telling the truth. No one else in this city can stop the Thousand Year Storm. They've bought the cops, they've got everyone else scared and running. This is a battle we can't fight, a thing we can't kill." He looked her in the eye, and the desperation in his face penetrated the haze of agony that surrounded her. "We need someone to protect us. We need you."
What he was telling her, what he was asking her… it was crazy. He was trying to make her into some kind of avenging knight, and at the same time he was asking her to kill even more people. Her eyes lost focus, seeing things that would have been better forgotten.
"No. That isn't any different from…." From what
He had me do. Kill for him; murder for him. That felt good while I was doing it; I was shoving it back in their faces, everything I owed Buffy and the rest with every corpse I made. But some of them are still with me; some of them cried while I was killing them, and I just laughed….
She cleared her throat.
"That's the same as what I already do, and it's not right." She wiped away the humiliating moisture at the corners of her eyes and tried to look him in the face. "They're human beings, Scott."
He stared back at her, unblinking.
"So are we. And they're killing us." Yeah, they are, aren't they?
She'd seen their handywork; it wasn't the kind of thing people did to people, either.No, people don't do that; not the kind you'd call human, anyway. But monsters do. That's what they are, and I ought to know; because I'm one too.
She closed her eyes, and tried to think it through. True, she'd sent Kelly out into the street, but it had been the Storm who had grabbed her and brought her here, and done what they'd done. Faith might not be innocent, no, she was anything but that, but neither was she solely to blame. I think…. I think he might be right. It took both of us, me and the Storm, to make things this bad. Take away either one of us, and this would be a better place.
Her hands clenched tight; hands covered in blood, forever stained with what she'd done. She could kill herself now, but her hands would be just as dirty. She could find Buffy, or maybe Angel, and let them kill her as they no doubt longed to do, or go give herself up to the police and spend the rest of her life in prison… and the blood would still be there.
So. If nothing would ever make her clean, why not go and put an end to some monsters who actually deserved what she was capable of giving them?
With red-streaked fingers she pushed away a final tear. Sitting here and crying isn't going to change anything. I have…. I have a responsibility to take care of things here.
She could barely believe what she was thinking; maybe when Faith had been put back in her own body, some of Buffy's brain cells had come along for the ride. Of course, she mused to herself, they'd quickly been corrupted by the company they were keeping, but their effect was still being felt.
She opened her eyes again, and she barely noticed that the tears had stopped. Slowly, she pulled herself upright. Scott was watching her hopefully, but she ignored him. There, against the far wall, was the one she'd left alive. Crawling over to him on her hands and knees, she reached out and shook him roughly.
His eyes fluttered open, and she managed a ghost of her vicious smile.
"Hi there. I need you to take a message for me. For your boss." He looked scared, but coherent. That was good; she wanted this to reach the right ears. "Tell whoever it is that runs your show that I'm coming to see them. Tonight, just after dark, I'm coming to meet them. You got that?" He nodded, and she slapped him lightly on the cheek. "Good."
She got to her feet and took a long, last look around. She needed to remember this, and what had happened her. She needed to remember why.
Faith was done with lying, done with hiding. Tonight she was going to face her monsters. With a glance at Scott, she walked from the room. He followed after her, and as she looked for the stairs she looked back over her shoulder.
"How many of these monsters did you say there were?"
"Couple of hundred."
She shook her head, deep in thought.
* * * * *