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Life is a Road...

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This story is No. 4 in the series "Oh, the people she knows...". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Looking into her birth records takes Faith not to Boston, but to Philly, of all places. A chance encounter leads to more mystery and deadly dangers... (Update to add cover art)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Supernatural > Faith-Centered
Marvel Universe > Blade
Television > Night Heat
(Current Donor)IronbearFR1833190,3063016865,75629 Sep 0718 Oct 13Yes

"Some of them like to hunt us back... "

Chapter 10: "Some of them like to hunt us back"

Some time later, Faith was picking aimlessly at the remnants of her dessert in O'Brien's Italian place and considering the man sitting across the table from her. She glanced up to see O'Brien studying her with a decidedly... odd expression.

"What?!"

"What?" He gave her a puzzled look.

"What? You're looking at me like I have lettuce in my hair or something."

"Oh, that. No." He gestured at the wreckage of the meal sitting in front of her. "I was wondering if I should ask our waitress if they serve stomach pumps."

Faith looked at him, then burst out laughing, "No. It's ok, really. I usually eat like a starving wolf." His disbelieving expression set her laughing harder. "Really. It's when I don't pack away at least this amount of food once a day that you need to call an ambulance - it means I'm dying type sick." She made a face. "Kind of surprised I still have an appetite after... " Her voice trailed off and she shook her head. They'd come to an unspoken agreement to avoid the topic of the horror show in that warehouse for the moment. Both wanting to put some distance between themselves and it before going back to the subject.

Faith was pretty sure it wasn't possible to put enough distance there. She was afraid she'd be seeing that blood factory every time she closed her eyes for years to come. And she was no stranger to horrific images by now...

"I can see now why you insisted on buying dinner," he remarked. "If you were my daughter on a cops salary, I'd have to take out a second mortgage just for groceries."

"Yeah, and then you'd never get that Mercedes, O'Brien," she agreed, laughing.

"Kevin. I thought we agreed on 'Kevin'."

"No. You agreed on Kevin." She gave him an impish look, "I haven't decided on a nickname for you yet."

"I can hardly wait," He accepted a coffee refill from the waitress with a murmured thanks, and leaned back in his chair.

"Be glad I'm not a Star Wars fan," she nodded. "Ok... you seem to have a pretty good amount of knowledge. Rain of fire, Jasmine, Sunnydale, my imprisonment and escape... Just not... complete."

"So, fill in the gaps for me," O'Brien suggested.

She gave him a long look, "I'm wondering how much of the gaps I can fill in for you, now that it's my turn. A lot of these aren't my secrets to share." O'Brien raised an eyebrow and gave her a hard look back. She shrugged, "You wouldn't tell an outsider your partner's secrets, details of ongoing investigations, or departmental secrets."

He considered that, said finally, "I'm going to suggest that we've come to a point where I have a right to know it."

"You have a right to know what's going on in your city. And a right to ask for help in dealing with it, and anything that can help with that." Faith regarded him carefully and shook her head, "Other than that... your job gives you a perception that you have a right to know a lot of things that really aren't police business, Detective. These secrets can hurt a lot of people who weren't involved if they got out, and not do you or your squad any good. Hurt people who really don't need to be hurt any more. Not my right to do that." She considered, and he waited. Finally... "I'll tell you what I think I can. I'm going to leave out some things. It'll have to be good enough."

"And if it isn't?" He asked.

"Then we get to have lots of fun deciding what to do about that," she gave him a sober look. "Because I won't bend, and I can't be broken on it."

"We'll see, then," he agreed.

Faith gave him a serious look, "Still unofficial, right?"

"Still unofficial," he nodded. "Like I said: we don't have 'oral exsanguination serial killers' in Philly. We don't have places like that 'blood extraction facility' in that warehouse. We don't have bodies that disappear from the morgue and later are seen wandering around. We don't have an unreasonably high number of murder victims that get quietly cremated within a short period of time after they hit the coroners office. We don't have a 'special' section of the city coroners office where victims from certain types of crimes or certain types of bodies get sent for thorough examination. Any police officers or medical examiners or reporters who suggest that we do, find their careers quietly dead ended." He frowned. "One way or another, that's a singularly apt choice of terms."

"Right." She took a deep breath, "Ok. You know most of the background from files, I'm pretty sure. But there's a lot that doesn't show up there, even reading between the lines. I was Chosen at the age of fifteen, end result of something a bunch of long dead ancient shamans did in prehistory to the first Chosen. The first person I can remember who actually gave a real shit about me was murdered in front of me, fairly horribly, by one of your 'oral exsanguination serial killers'... "

Even giving the abbreviated version, and leaving out details that might cause problems for other people, it took awhile. She was aware of O'Brien watching her carefully as she laid things out, apparently paying as much attention to her tone and inflections and body language as her words, asking questions only when he thought something needed elaboration upon. Didn't blame him really... even the short version was fairly incredible, and he wasn't exactly coming in on it cold, apparently.

"So... " Faith shrugged, "Not exactly what you signed up for, is it? A hidden world behind the one everyone wants to see. A hidden war that's been going on for eons, mostly out of sight of regular people. Vampires, demons, and worse. Complete with hidden warriors fighting and dying in it."

"If it weren't for a number of things over the last ten years or so, not even considering that warehouse, I'd be looking at you suggesting that you find a good psychiatrist," O'Brien nodded. "Even with all of that, I'm skeptical about more than a bit of it. But... "

"But you just watched two twitching not-quite-corpses burst into flaming ash when their heads were removed. And examined a place full of bodies encased in mylar with tubes running out of them into refrigerated blood holding tanks." Faith gave him a sympathetic look. "At least you're not deep in denial and coming up with a zillion alternate 'explanations' for all of this."

"You should have seen me ten years ago the first time a body disappeared from the morgue and was later spotted walking through an industrial area." He gave her an absolutely mirthless grin.

"I'll bet." Faith finally gave up on the remains of her dessert and took out one of her slim cigars. The third time her hand was shaking too bad to get it lit she slammed the lighter down on the table with a muttered, "Fuck!" and glared through her dinner companion.

"Here," O'Brien picked up the lighter and struck it, holding it to the end of the cigar. He gave her a curious look. "You know... Tommy's mouth was running ahead of his brain tonight, but he did have a bit of a point." She wrenched her glare back around to him and lifted an eyebrow, and he continued, "The way you handled that mess in the warehouse you come across almost as one of us. Detached, professional, a bit remote... you did a damned good job of reconstructing a plausible scenario for that mess in that blood factory. And your history doesn't exactly show you as being a stranger to violence and death, either."

"Thanks ever so much for reminding me," Faith remarked in a dry tone, then grinned to take the sting out. "Your background may not have mentioned just how badly I came apart when I finally burned out."

"If it helps any, I spoke to Detective Locksley over the phone a couple of years back when you were big news. And to Angel of what was then Angel Investigations, and Wesley Wyndham Price."

"Heh. Really?" Faith grinned, "I'll bet those were interesting conversations. First I've heard of it." She gave him a curious look, leaning back in her seat, "Why?"

"A full law enforcement alert went out, nationwide, when you woke up from your coma there and disappeared. Full nine yards: national manhunt, Federal US Marshall's Office, bulletins to all of the major and minor departments. It made me curious - that's why I recognized the name. And made me remember the 'unofficial details' from your escape."

"Curious?" Faith asked, eyebrow raised.

O'Brien snorted, "I think that currently, we have something over a hundred active serial killers operating in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Several hundred nationwide murderous bank robbers and spree killers of various types. It wasn't that much different four or five years ago. With rare exceptions, none of them rate full publicity and nationwide alerts with press coverage. The occasional terrorist alert doesn't rate that usually, not even after 9/11."

"Ah," Faith nodded. "So why does a sixteen, seventeen year old girl, even one suspected of two murders and several assaults, get all that?"

"Yep," O'Brien nodded. "If you'd attempted to assassinate the president, sure. But just suspicion of involvement in two homicides that weren't even proven? Give me a break."

"So your curiosity got all aroused and you started poking around behind the euphemisms," Faith shook her head, fixing him with a curious expression. "And found a lot of 'BBQ fork incidents'."

"And a lot of doctored police reports. Lazy cops finding convenient solutions to close cases. And even more doctored news reports," O'Brien had a sour look. "Tommy took one look at several of those and said his editors would fire him if he wrote that crap. Based on what I'm going to laughingly call 'the evidence', if you hadn't confessed, I probably wouldn't have arrested you on the Deputy Mayor's death. I would have looked at you real hard for it, yeah."

"Guilty on that, but there was more to it. Alan Finch wandered into a place where he shouldn't have been, in the middle of a fight, and practically threw himself in my way. Hopped up on adrenaline, and my reactions and reflexes are fast, even when I'm not wired for sound. Not an excuse, just a reason." Faith shrugged, "Doesn't matter anyway. He did something idiotic, but I was the one who reacted and killed him."

"Matters, and it doesn't matter. Manslaughter, at best. A cop in a shooting incident like that would probably get administrative leave, and then fired after IAD finished with him. Not imprisoned," O'Brien remarked. "A fifteen year old kid shouldn't be in that situation, making those decisions."

"Fifteen year old girls have been in those situations, making those decisions, for millenia, O'Brien." She shook her head, "And the other one was murder. One I paid for, but still murder."

"Are you trying to convince me to look at you as a criminal and a suspect?" O'Brien raised an eyebrow, and Faith gave him a startled look. "Pretty odd behavior for a con artist," he remarked. "You should be trying to convince me that none of it was your responsibility."

"Right. I keep forgetting my script," she gave him another rueful look. "Everyone I met in prison was innocent," Faith's tone was matter of fact. "I'm not going to do that."

"Right. Everything I dug up on that mess shows that you never did when you gave yourself up. That buys you a lot of points with someone like me," O'Brien nodded. "Tommy doesn't have all that background, or if he did he didn't pay thorough enough attention to it. I did, and even then after encountering you at the hospital, watching you on the security vids with that blonde, and watching you at that... crime scene, I was coming to expect someone... " O'Brien shrugged.

"Harder? Colder maybe?" O'Brien nodded and she shrugged. "Tough girl. Hard case. Faith makes people react to her and nuthin' but nuthin' ever touches her. I seem to have lost that somewhere along the way... " She blew a smoke ring and looked through it while it disintegrated, lost in her thoughts.

"We're supposed protect people from that type of thing," Faith drew herself back to the table and met O'Brien's eyes. "I kinda lost track of that for awhile, but I managed to get back to it. Something like that blood factory slaps me in the face with a big bloody hand print and reminds me that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, the monsters are winning and we can't protect everyone from the dark." He jerked his head in a quick nod and she grinned, "Yeah. You got it too, don't you? Just buried deeper. Maybe if I'm at this for twenty years... there'll come a point where I'm resigned to that. I'm not there yet."

"I'm not sure you ever get there, not really," O'Brien remarked. "Or if you do... you become the kind of cop - or hunter - that quits giving a shit and gets into it for the graft and the perks, or eats a gun."

"Yeah, been there, done that. Didn't work for me," Faith blew another smoke ring and studied it. "You're not really seeing the 'softer side of Faith', though, even if it looks like it maybe." Her eyes came back to his and suddenly there was something ancient looking out of them: something remote and still. "I'm not shaky because I'm shook, if that makes any sense. I'm shaky because I'm so freaking pissed that it's taking every ounce of control I have to not scream and smash everything and everyone in reach - and then tear out and start tearing up every vampire haunt in a thirty mile radius and leaving a trail of ashed and dusted bodies behind me until every single fucking one of them is dead dead final dead." The smile she gave him had nothing even remotely humorous in it. "That's what I do, usually, when something like this happens: break shit and kill things until whatever did it shakes out in the open where I can target it. And I can't do that right now, and it's driving me nuts. Nutser."

O'Brien's eyes were sympathetic. "Know the feeling." He raised his eyebrows, "Why can't you?"

"Ha. You mean aside from running a risk of getting de po-lice all over me now that I seem to have gotten myself mixed up with you?" Faith snickered, then sobered. "Our blonde friendy made it pretty clear to me in our little ER encounter that she targeted the Winchesters to get to me." She noticed that there wasn't any surprise at that in O'Brien's face, not even hidden, and she wondered about that but let it go. "Second encounter - yes there was a second, I'll tell you about it later, ok? - I wasn't 'playing by the rules'. Her rules. Then this..." Faith's eyes narrowed. "She knows my style. Going out on the prowl tearin' shit up looking for her is exactly what she wants me to do, and I'm not playing. I'm going to bring her to me on my terms."

"Ah. Not bad tactics. Playing the bad guy's game can get you killed on their terms," O'Brien said. "You said 'and then this'?"

"Blood factory. Anonymous tip to Giambione. I could be reading it wrong and the message was to you guys, but if I'm not... she's upping the stakes," Faith's eyes were cold. "Letting us know that she'll keep upping them until I decide to play and quit moving in daylight and sticking to the hospital at night where there's crowds and cameras. Secrecy is a big thing to her breed of vamp, I'm told. If she goes too far over the edge and draws attention, she can get her own kind after her."

O'Brien looked skeptical, but nodded. Faith continued, "You're the only other target here she might use as leverage, and I'm not sure she'd make that leap, based on my history if she's researched me. I can't do anything to protect you guys, and that's not my business anyway. I can protect the Winchesters... but only if I cover them at nights when she can move around. Which means I can't be going out and tearing up vampire haunts in the usual hours."

"All right," O'Brien's gave on her eyes was level. "Is there anything that we can do to help with that?" He must have seen the sudden surprised narrowing of her eyes, because he added, "You're helping us, right? Even if we could make a case that some of this is because our blonde is targeting you, I'm not going to hold you responsible for someone - something - else trying to murder you. So is there anything that can be done to free you up from covering the Winchesters twelve hours a night?"

"Sorry. I'm not used to the police being all helpful and shit. Part of me is still wondering when you're going to quit playing games and slap the cuffs on me," Faith remarked, inclining her head slightly.

"No games."

"You keep surprising me, Detective." She took a deep breath, "There's some things I can do to help protect both Winchesters until they're up and around on their own feet. And some things that can be done to help hurry that along, a bit. But I can't do any of them as long as Sam's in ICU. It's too open, too public, and too heavily trafficked." She cocked her head slightly, "If you can use whatever influence you have to convince the hospital to move Sam up to Dean's room, now that Dean's in a private one... it'd make that possible."

"Hrrmm... " He thought a minute, then nodded. "Material witnesses in an assault, we have the best suspect for their assailant on tape in the ER, and we have reason to believe that their assailant may try again. Plausible enough that I can probably lean on the hospital staff to put them both in the same room, with a bit of argument." He shrugged, "I don't want to make too huge a splash on it - last thing we need is for some enterprising crime reporter to notice that a Major Cases Squad detective is putting someone who's the victim of what should be a simple assault under special protection and start digging - and they do check ER on slow nights for leads."

"Yeah. Still... that'd be cool. Thanks." Faith glanced over and suddenly realized it had gotten darker outside at some point.

O'Brien followed her gaze, checked his watch, and said, "Yeah. Bit over an hour after dark - time slipped away from me too. If you want to get up to the hospital before too much later, we'd better go. We can finish this discussion later."

"Right," Faith put her credit card on the tray with the bill and motioned their waiter over. "Been real, been fun, but it's time to go."

.................................................................................

Half way across the side lot where she and O'Brien had parked their respective vehicles Faith's vampire sense screamed in her mind, and she stopped dead, turning slowly to scan the area.

"What?" O'Brien had stopped as well, hand partway under his coat.

"Not sure... " Faith made a 'don't distract me' motion.

She wasn't caught leaning, this time. Even so, the blonde woman's speed damned near caught her flat footed. She had barely enough time to grab O'Brien by the shoulder and throw him behind her before the blonde vampiress was almost on top of her, tearing at a hellish speed from the direction of the front of the restaurant.

Faith didn't even want to think about what that meant for anyone back there, and she shut down that part of her mind ruthlessly as the slayer essence came boiling out to the surface in her.

Blurring, near invisible speed or not, the vampire woman didn't have her that out classed. Faith could blur like that when she was in full overdrive, and her senses and reflexes were used to dealing with things that moved far beyond the speed of human perceptions. She swept an arm and reaching claws aside with a circular block of her right arm, caught a handful of shoulder and bodysuit with her left hand, and threw the blonde fifteen feet to land with a crunch that dented in the side of an SUV. Glass shattered and the car alarm went whooping futilely under the impact.

The blonde peeled out of the dent, already in motion, and crossed the distance in a leap. Too fast for Faith to draw a main weapon - but that wasn't the only thing she had at her disposal. If she'd gotten the heart it might have ended there: Faith ducked under a grasping strike and buried the eight inches of wood inlaid steel of the blade in her right bracer to the knuckles in the blonde's chest and twisted. The vampiress gasped, then snarled, her face twisted into something that would do a 'normal' demonic vamp proud - or scare the hell out of one. Faith crowded into the vampire woman, fists hammering in a blur of motion - forearm blades biting deep with every strike and twisting. Never once hitting the heart or anything else that would be vital on a vampire, but doing savage damage.

'Damage them enough and they'll go into a frenzied berzerkergang,' she heard Wesley's remembered voice in her mind. 'Or, as Sensei Kanno put it: stop the mind, stop the brain: stop the fighter. Take the Art out of them, hurt them bad enough fast enough, make them stop thinking while keeping your head - then take them out.' She tried to forget that she'd never done too well at the 'keep your own head' part of that. She clamped down on the part of her that wanted to give herself over to the savage exultation of the battle lust and concentrated on doing mayhem with her hands. She moved with her target, drove the blonde back up against the same SUV she'd thrown her into before, slammed her shoulder into the vampiress' chest and tucked her head down and her chin into her collarbone to protect it from the blonde's flailing return swings and continued slamming into her.

The blonde twisted aside, impossibly, so that Faith's right fist and forearm blade sliced glancingly across her midsection, shoved her out and away - and grabbed her by the jacket collars and threw her across the parking lot.

'Christ!' was all that went through her mind before she slammed into one of the parking lot lamp posts with a crunch. The back of her head hit the metal post with a crack and everything went black around the edges as she slid down to the asphalt. 'Not even Angelus was that strong,' she thought dizzily. 'The Beast barely threw me that hard.' She shook her head groggily to force the blackness away from the edges of her vision before realizing that was a mistake, and struggled to get to her feet. She was vaguely aware of hearing flat, sharp popping sounds from across the parking lot. They sounded as though they came from a long distance away...

.................................................................................

Detective O'Brien had ended up sprawled over six feet away from the small brunette, not completely certain how he'd gotten there. He'd struggled back up to his feet in time to see LeHane throw the blonde woman into the side of a sport utility and then meet and drive her back to it when she launched herself back at her, a blur of motion. Both of them moving almost too fast for the eyes to follow. He stood holding the useless revolver he'd drawn as LeHane slammed the bigger woman fifteen feet back into the same SUV and pounded her midsection into bloody mush. O'Brien watched almost in disbelief as the woman twisted aside and then threw LeHane into a parking lot light, the thick metal post bending to lean crazily over the impact point.

'She's dead,' he thought as the blonde shook herself before stalking over to where LeHane had slumped down to the base of the light fixture. 'No - we're dead, both of us'.

It gave him a clear field of fire, though. He raised the revolver and put five .44 Special soft points into the blonde woman's chest from twelve feet away as she walked past ignoring him. Five rounds, with not a single bit of visible effect except that she turned slowly, smiling, to face him with eyebrow raised and an amused smirk on her lips. 'Well, at least I got her attention'.

Lucky him. She crossed the twelve feet of space almost as fast as she had the fifteen separating her from Faith that first time, slapping the gun from his hands almost lazily as he backpedaled trying to reload.

"Nice grouping." She smiled and he could see the enlarged teeth and long incisors like the two 'corpses' in the blood factory had had as her mouth distorted. "A pity that I'm immune to bullets. Sucks to be you." She stalked forward smiling as he backed away.

A dark haired blur hit her from the side, sending both of them flying. He heard a cracking sound and a choked scream as the blonde and LeHane struck the ground rolling ten feet back down the parking lane. The hair on the back of his neck crawled as they both came back to their feet, the blonde rising slower this time, and he heard the inhuman growl coming from deep in LeHane's chest.

Faith rolled onto her feet first, still dizzy and pushing it back with everything she had. She took advantage of the moment to gather herself as the blonde pulled herself up a piece at a time with a snarl, left arm hanging twisted at her side from where that flying kick had struck her.

"He's mine. You can't have him," Faith matched her snarl for snarl.

"Oh, I'm going to enjoy turning you." The blonde's eyes lit up. "He'll keep. He can be your first childer."

Faith's eyes flickered to O'Brien, then back to the blonde by way of the cross street behind her. Busy, for a side street. She noted that in passing and gave blondie a critical look over. "Nice sunburn." The blonde had burn marks on one side of her face still from their previous encounter, and her abdomen was a bloody ruin. She'd done a lot of damage in their first exchange, but not enough, obviously. Faith figured that blondie was ahead on points so far. Time to even that up.

An amused smile twisted her lips as her eyes lit up, "Didn't they tell you that vamps don't tan well?"

Blondie's face twisted and she shook herself, snapping her shoulder back into place with a horrid sound. She slid forward, not quite as fast as she had the first time she'd attacked. Faith sidestepped and spun a jump kick into the back of the blonde's head as she went past, but not before an elbow strike caught her under the arm and high in the ribs. She landed poised from the kick, fighting back the blackness that threatened to crowd in at the edges of her mind again.

"Klutz," Faith snickered and the blonde lunged at her again. Faith grinned, lunging forward to meet her, and they came together in a blur of fists, feet, and elbows.

.................................................................................

O'Brien threw a fast glance around as the two fought, not seeing where his pistol went. It hadn't done much good the first time, anyway... except that the distraction had very possibly saved LeHane's life and bought her enough time to recover and save his own ass. He thought about his backup piece and reconsidered. His radio was in the car... he pulled out his cellphone instead. 'Call for backup, with shotguns,' he thought. 'If they get here in time, maybe they can do enough damage to at least slow her down to where LeHane can take her out... '

.................................................................................

'Hope vampy didn't watch the same movies I did growing up.' Faith fell backwards as the blonde vampiress charged again, hands reaching up to grab collar and a handful of body suit. She brought her foot up into the vampire's abdomen, hard, straightening her knee as her back hit the ground and using both of their momentum to hurl the dead woman over and past her. The blonde hit the asphalt with a crunching noise and Faith rolled up to her feet, grinning. There was a name for that maneuver that she'd never been able to remember. When she'd taught it to mini-slayers in training she always called it the 'Indian Rifle Throw' - it worked wonderfully for dealing with heavier and stronger opponents who were stupid enough to charge in.

It had been a long time since she'd fought something that was both faster and stronger than she was. Damaged, almost blacking out still from her impact with the light pole... Faith suddenly realized she was enjoying the hell out of this.

She met the blonde as the vampiress was coming onto her feet with a spinning kick that rocked the blonde vamp's head back and followed it with snap kick that staggered her backwards again. A back fist seemed to flow naturally out of that combo, and it caught the vampire across the cheek, bone shattering under her fist. The side kick that flowed out of that caught blondie under the chin and sent her back and over to land in a heap six feet away.

Six feet closer to the line of cars at the edge of the parking lot and the early evening traffic beyond...

The blonde rolled up out of the fall moving back in, eyes blazing. But she wasn't moving quite as fast as she had been only a short bit earlier. Unfortunately... neither was Faith. Faith's hand came out from under her jacket with a pair of wood-and-steel throwing spikes and her arm blurred, both spikes embedded in the blonde's chest a split second later. Neither of them hit the heart. A pity, that. In the back of her mind, Faith was dimly aware that she could hear screams coming from the direction of the restaurant, and she felt sick inside, the savage battle joy suddenly going out of her.

She doubted that she could concentrate for the half moment it would take to draw her Valdris blades to her hands, with her head the way it was. Not something that she really wanted to do, anyway: she'd rather keep those in reserve and a secret for now. No matter. Faith's hands came away from her jacket the second time with a knife in each fist: the big Moeller bowie in her right and her knife, the knife the Mayor had given her and that she'd repossessed for herself finally, in her left.

They'd never been able to find out exactly what that knife was. Not even Willow had been able to analyze it completely, nor had Giles ever found anything reliable on it in his books. All Faith knew for certain was that it would cut damned near anything, and it dealt wounds that would kill almost anything she'd ever struck with it.

Blondie checked her rush at the sight of that blade. Faith didn't slow - she was already moving to meet the vampiress half way, and she came in low and fast with the big bowie coming across in a left/right arc and the wicked looking Hibben style knife coming in low and upwards to gut her opponent. An opponent that wasn't quite there: the blonde backpedaled and twisted aside, taking a cut across the collarbone and upper breast from the big bowie in order to avoid the second blade.

Faith snarled and reversed the left hand knife as she went past and spun to bring it across the vampire's throat. The blonde leaned away from it again, and struck, nailing Faith in the right side with a knee, hard. Faith grunted and continued the move to bury the blade backhand in the vampire's gut, only to have her arm blocked and then locked in some sort of aikido hold as she was spun around. She wrenched away, and there was a nasty popping sound as her shoulder separated followed by the Mayor's knife clattering to the asphalt.

She didn't scream, nor did she pass out from the sudden shock... but it was a very near thing.

She almost blacked out again as her left arm was caught in a viselike grip once more and wrenched around behind her, her shoulder dislocating in addition to the separation. An arm snaked around her neck, drawing her backwards against the blonde vampire's body, holding her immobile for a moment as much from the pain as from the grip. A moment was all it took: the big bowie hit the pavement as she felt teeth in her neck and her back arched into the ecstasy of the bite...

There was a reason that vampire groupies called it 'The Kiss', she knew. She'd felt it before. She knew that she had only seconds, if that, before the ecstasy of the draining sucked her in and drove all thought of resistance from her mind, losing herself in the pleasure.

And this time, she didn't have veins full of Orpheus and a deliberate plan to poison the bitch as they had Angelus. When she woke up from this embrace, she'd be a vampire's childer, if she woke up at all.

"No!" Faith wasn't sure if she screamed that out loud or only in her mind. It didn't matter. There was an advantage to wearing enough steel that you glitter when you walk, even if she was lightly armed compared to the way she normally went about.

She flexed her right wrist, the free one, and eight inches of silvered steel, inlaid with ironwood snapped out of her forearm bracer. She'd paid a custom maker a lot of money for that set of blades - worth every penny of it if this saved her life. Faith brought her right hand up and over her shoulder and the blonde vampiress' arm, driving the blade deep into her face and eye as she jackknifed forward at the hips. There was an inhuman shriek from behind her and the teeth ripped out of her neck tearing flesh and skin away with them.

"Not gonna happen," came out from between her clenched teeth as she turned and drove the wrist blade into blondie's chest just under the 'V' of the breastbone and up into the diaphragm.

Faith spat blood into the blonde's face as she raised her arm, lifting the still impaled vampire up on the end of her fist, and turned and threw her the rest of the way down the parking aisle to crash onto the window and hood of a car parked at the end of the lot. She bent over slightly, holding her injured arm and gasping for breath as she watched the blonde slowly gather herself together. She became aware that she could hear sirens approaching fast. Evidently O'Brien had managed to call for backup, or else the owner of that wrecked SUV had called the cops.

The blonde pulled herself up, finally coming to her feet on top of the roof of the car she'd landed on, eyes blazing. Faith cut her eyes to one side, measuring, and as the blonde came fully erect, she took two running steps forward and leaped and drop-kicked the blonde woman in the chest and off the top of the car.

Off the top of the car, out into the street, and directly into the path of an oncoming pickup truck speeding up to make the yellow light at the intersection...

There was a screech of brakes, far too late, and a meaty crunch as the grill and bumper caught the blonde at forty miles an hour and flipped her up and into the windshield of the pickup and then over the roof into the bed. Faith rolled off of the hood of the car, slowly, and came to her feet as O'Brien came running up to her. The driver of the pickup finished standing on his brakes, bringing the truck to a halt and throwing the blonde forward against the back of the cab. Suddenly there were red and blue lights everywhere as a squad car slid to a stop a dozen yards ahead of the pickup truck.

Faith and O'Brien watched as a hand came up out of the bed, latched onto the truck bed's side, and the blonde vampire pulled herself slowly to her feet again.

"Tough old bitch, ain't she?" Faith observed, left arm dangling awkwardly at her side. O'Brien's only reply was to bring his revolver up, badge folder open in his other hand, and empty another five rounds into the blonde's chest as a pair of cops piled out of the cruiser holding pump shotguns.

"Freeze, bitch," O'Brien said. The two uniformed cops cursed and took up positions by their car aiming their shotguns at the blonde and yelling at her to put her hands on her head and stand down. The driver of the pickup had an 'Oh shit!' look on his wide-eyed face as he dove for his floorboards that would have been comical in another situation.

Faith snickered, "Timing is everything, they say." If looks could kill, both she and O'Brien would be moldering dust from the glare the blonde woman gave them. She swept a disdainful look over the patrol cops, her eyes settling on Faith to lock gazes with her.

"Next time, Slayer." The blonde turned and jumped to the roof of another car, then another. She hit the ground on the other side of the cross street running flat out to disappear between the buildings there.

"Fuck you," Faith remarked. She spit again. There was more blood in it, she noticed absently.

She raised her head slightly to meet O'Brien's eyes. "What those like me were designed to hunt, O'Brien," Faith's eyes were dark. The blackness kept fading in and out at the edges of her vision, and she wasn't sure if what she was saying made much sense. "Evidently, some of them like to hunt us back."

"So I see."

"All in all though, I think I'm ahead on points, finally," Faith stated, grinning. Then her eyes rolled up into her head and her knees buckled. O'Brien managed to catch her under the arms before she pitched face forward onto the asphalt - barely.

"Christ," he said, softly. Then he whipped his head around to the two patrol officers running up, "Get an ambulance. NOW!" Two more squad cars and Giambione's unmarked pulled up as he stooped and slid his other arm under Faith's knees and straightened up with her.



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