See Chapter One for disclaimer
Author's Note: I'll be posting the remainder of the story in largish chunks, in an effort to keep from losing the momentum of the scene for the reader. Oh, and if you've noticed that I have a fondness for rambling internal dialogue, excessive violence, and over-the-top action scenes... well, this is the part where I get really
"I am not a Slayer". As soon as Faith spoke those words, the fabric of our world was forever altered. Oh, not in any physical sense; the skies did not turn to fire, the earth did not shake. But in every corner of the globe, psychics and sensitives felt those words echoing through the ether. From that moment forth, our doom was sealed. It would not become evident to us for months, even years. The avalanche that would eventually bury the world we once knew was barely perceptible, in the beginning.
But begin it had; there, that night, on that darkened street. It moved slowly at first, but with every drop of blood Faith shed from that moment forth, that inexorable force grew ever stronger.
--From the journal of Rupert Giles
August 25, 2004
Well, not much longer now.
The streets here were even emptier of people than she'd grown to expect. Obviously everyone knew better than to trespass here, in the very center of the Storm's turf. Faith ignored the emptiness, strolling forward without concern. Her lack of fear was a little surprising, even to her. Somehow, in making the decision to go through with the attack, she'd moved past being concerned about her own survival. It would be nice to live through what was about to happen, but if she didn't; well, that would be okay too. So long as her enemy was destroyed, nothing else really mattered.
Three blocks to go. Too bad Buffy's not here, instead of me. She's got the brains. Hell, she'd have come up with a plan inside of five minutes, run down here to take out the bad guys, and been back home flirting with the stud-of-the-week and acting all girly-girl again before dinnertime.
Faith sighed faintly, seeing the other girl in her mind's eye again. The familiar surge of bitter resentment accompanied the image, surprising her a little. Even with her newfound perspective, the mere thought of Buffy had the power to twist her into knots. C'mon, it's not her fault that she makes everyone fall in love with her; it's just the way she is.
That didn't make it any less overpowering, being around her. Even now, in spite of everything, she could feel the older girl looming over her, making her best efforts seem pathetic and childlike. If it had been her, then these friends of Scott's would be lining up for blocks, just for the chance to follow her into the fight.
The old rage tried to take hold, but she shook her head impatiently and pushed it away. No, I'm not going there again. Time to focus on what I'm going to do.
That was easy enough; she was going to kill them, plain and simple. She felt a grim little smile steal across her lips. Faith might not have Buffy's brains, or her ability to charm her way through life, but one thing she could most certainly do, and do well, was kill. Not even the golden Slayer could match her dark sister when it came to pure, unmitigated carnage.
Buffy fought, and she killed when she had to, but still she was a being of light, and love, and laughter. Faith couldn't do any of that, and had finally realized the futility of trying. All she had to offer was death, and the best she could do was make certain that the right people ended up on the receiving end of it. If she could pull this off, if she could eliminate the evil that the Yakuza represented, then maybe she would find some measure of self-respect on the other side of the bloodshed.
Two blocks to go, now, and the Citadel was finally visible, looming in the thick, hazy air of evening. Faith stopped, standing motionless as she gazed at what was likely the final destination in the journey of her life. Seventeen years to reach this point, but was there anything of her life beyond that brooding structure? She didn't know. All she could do was try and prepare for whatever was waiting.
She breathed deeply, tasting the ozone-heavy air. Turning away from the far end of the street, she twisted her upper body from side to side, rotating her shoulders to make sure the joints were loose. Without warning, she executed a series of lightning-fast kicks against the empty air, her foot striking an imaginary foe first in the knee, then the groin, chest, and finally the face.Feels pretty much like a hundred percent.
Spinning around, she repeated the same attack series with her other leg, and was forced to admit that it felt as fast and strong as ever. Coming back to a static position, she leaned over a bit to inspect the inseam of her jeans. Good thing this is stretch denim. I hate it when I rip out a pair of pants, and end up flashing the people I'm killing.
Satisfied with the condition of her apparel and the responsiveness of her body, she crouched down on the sidewalk and untied the laces on her boots. Retying them, she used a double knot on each one, yanking it tight. She had almost gotten killed one night, when a shoe had come off during a fight with a pair of scaly, three-eyed demons. Can't afford to have anything like that happen now. This has to go perfect, or I'll never get them all.
Tugging gently at the laces, she satisfied herself that they were snug. That'll work. I can always cut them off later. If there is a later.
Speaking of cutting…. As she stood, she brushed her hand across the knife that hung from the sheath on her belt. With everything else as ready as she could make it, only the weapon remained to be dealt with. I'm going to need you to behave,
She thought, looking down at it. There isn't going to be time to mess around with you fighting me in there, so let's have this out right now.
She drew the knife from its sheath. Instantly, bitter cold seemed to spike through her palm and up the bones of her arm. Her hand spasmed, half-paralyzed by the assault, but she couldn't have dropped the weapon even if she'd wanted to.
She didn't try. Instead, she tightened her grip, straining until the tendons in her hand and arm creaked audibly.
"Stop it." Her voice shook from the strain of not crying out; the pain was incredible, and getting worse with each passing moment. It hadn't been anything like this bad, before. Must be all the energy it's been absorbing from the people I've killed, making it stronger. Or maybe it just thinks that it can push me around.
"No way. You're mine." The pain didn't stop growing, and she couldn't hold back a faint whimper as it reached her shoulder. Damn it, not good enough, I'm never good enough. Somebody else could probably do it, but not me, not Faith.
The traitorous thoughts slipped through her mind, emerging from the dark, damaged parts of her soul, the places that had come to rule her life. Another failure, just like all the others, why even pretend that I'm going to accomplish anything tonight except get myself killed? I might as well cut my own throat here and now, and save them the trouble-
"No!" No. I'm more than that. I can be more than what they thought of me, more than what I thought of myself. All I have to do is try.
The cold and pain from the knife in her hand were no worse, no more hurtful than the hate she'd been directing at herself for most of her life, and she'd already made a start at dealing with that. Maybe she could do the same with what was happening now. Her arm was nearly numb, now, but she managed to raise her hand and look at the softly shining blade. This was made for me; given to me. I've killed with it, and been nearly killed by it. We're linked; connected somehow. I need to stop acting like it's something to fight.
Despite being designed for a sure grip, the hilt felt slick in her hand, almost as if it were struggling to twist in her hand. The dual edges gleamed, and she knew that they made mere razors seem dull and clumsy by comparison. This thing hurting me is like me hurting myself, it can only happen if I let it happen, if I want it to happen.
Her resolve firmed, and she closed her eyes. Stop. I don't need to do this, don't need to hurt myself, anymore. I can learn to control myself, and you're a part of me. So stop.
She didn't know exactly what it was she did, only that somehow she knew how to do it. Faith reached out with a part of her spirit, and with a simple act of will she finished forging the connection that had been started the first time she'd ever taken the knife into her hand, but that had never properly been completed. She stopped trying to control the mystic weapon; that was as unnecessary as trying to control her arm. She simply did it, and between one heartbeat and the next, the pain stopped.
Her eyes still closed, she felt a shudder pass through her body as the torment suddenly ceased, then she relaxed. The knife she held was quiet, a finely balanced tool waiting for her to decide how to use it. Well, duh.
She thought to herself, a little irritated at her own stupidity. Now that I've done it, it's all really obvious.
She felt a like someone who'd kept trying to hold onto the wrong end of a chainsaw, and then being shocked when they ended up getting hurt. It wasn't like the chainsaw had been trying to hurt anybody, that was just the way it worked.
Feeling out the workings of the weapon, much like she would test one of her own limbs after an injury healed, she quickly learned its true nature.
It wasn't alive, for one thing. At least, there wasn't a demon or a human soul trapped in the metal. On the other hand, a creation of magic was much closer to being a living thing than any device science could create. Magic was a kind of life-energy, after all, and it had a degree of awareness. She'd heard that kind of stuff from Willow, and later from the Mayor, but only now did she understand it fully.
It wasn't evil, either, despite a certain ruthlessness where the energy-draining part was involved. It didn't' steal souls, it just soaked up life energy that wasn't being used anymore, like a thirsty sponge, and then stored it. That 'battery' was thrumming with power right now, which would certainly come in handy very shortly.
The extent of the shielding ability was suddenly obvious to her, which cheered her up a little, and she could even see a way to use it to use the artifact as a sort of magical transformer, to let her channel….
Faith opened her eyes and looked at the graceful, gleaming shape. It truly was a thing of beauty, and she couldn't help but be impressed by its elegant simplicity. Like any knife, it was as much a tool as it was a weapon, and if she lived through the night, a fair bit of the reason why was resting in her hand right now. With a suspicious tightness in her throat, she ran caressing fingers along the double blades.
"Thanks boss. It's exactly what I needed."Okay, enough fooling around; I'm almost out of time.
Reaching out with the knife, she made a little twisting motion, while at the same time issuing a mental order.Go.
With a silent shimmer of gold and scarlet light, the weapon vanished, leaving her hand empty. She rubbed her palms together briskly, making certain that she was fully recovered from the little… misunderstanding. Everything seemed fine, so there was no reason for any more delays.
Faith started walking again, towards the grim fortress where her enemies awaited her, and she wasn't afraid.
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