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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 > Faith-Centered
Television > Night Heat
(Current Donor)IronbearFR1833190,3063016967,27029 Sep 0718 Oct 13Yes

Only shooting stars...

Chapter 20: "Only shooting stars... "

(Day 12; Tuesday, December 16, 2003)

You always get dressed from the skin out. Leather, natch, including the under stuff. First the panties, then the pants. Soft, supple black calfskin that hug like a second skin and a coat of paint. In all the right places, too - and all the wrong ones. These aren't the el cheapo leathers that were all she can afford before and after she hit Sunnydale. These are the real thing: tailored, butter soft and as smooth as fresh cream. They've got zipper calves and kevlar reinforcement over the knees. They don't bind when you move even though there's probably not room for a random molecule between them and the skin, because real leather stretches and slides with you.

Boston to New York to Baltimore to... damn. Too many places to remember. Always on the run, always scared, never daring to stop because Khakistos was always right behind her with Trick and those maenads of his. Never quite daring to turn around and fight. And never able to get rid of the mind's eye images of Khakistos ripping Diana in half after he was done with her. At least he didn't turn her...

There were people along the way, yeah. Like that Winchester guy who bought her a dinner when she tried to pick him up. And that younger couple in Kentucky who fed her and wanted her to stay. She'd wanted to stay, too... but no. Not gonna happen. You don't dare get too close, stay too long, because they'll die too, just like Diana did.

Working a few jobs here and there, stealing when she couldn't avoid it because she had to have bus fare. Hated the stealing, but whatcha gonna do? That last long ride to Sunnydale through California from Nevada, sitting next to that idiot college guy who kept trying to grope her. Not like she couldn't do something about it, but breaking his arm and gettin' tossed off of the bus somewhere in the Sierras didn't appeal, y'know? Grit your teeth and put up with it til the Sunnydale terminal. Heh. Wouldn't that have rocked Willow's world, knowing the 'skanky ho' broke the guys wrist when he tried to 'help' her get her bag out of the overhead with a hand on her ass. Not that Wills would've believed it.

No makey. She's here now, and pretty soon she's going to hook up with B and her Watcher and find some help. Buds. Allies. And maybe, just maybe, not be alone any more.

Yeah. Right.

"Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kinda dumb with her fingers and her thumb
In the shape of an "L" on her forehead... "

That sure the fuck worked, din't it?

The boots go on next, over thick, black, calf high athletic socks. None of that high heeled crap: B may think it's high slayer fashion to take advantage of slayer balance and dance with the deadlies in high heels, and yeah, it looks hot - but no thanks. She likes solid soles that grip and steel caps that'll crush bone, not toes, when you smash a kneecap or skull with them. Black, buckle up, steel toed Harley-Davidson Furies. HD may not make the best bikes in the world, but their boots are hard to beat. Stylin'. She bounced lightly, testing the fit. Yup. Dancin' shoes for the dance of death.

Her vision blurs as she's slammed hard into the fence, pulled off it and then slammed into it again by the Sisterhood of Jhe member. The demon yanks her off of it again but she shakes off the impact and backhands her across the face, snapping the bitch's head to one side. Follows it up with a fist to the gut that's blocked and the demoness laughs and hurls her to the ground by the arms, one of her shoulders dislocating. Faith rolls to her feet and kicks it in the head and knee as it lunges in. The follow up kick is blocked and she's thrown into the fence again, and blackness closes in at the edges of her vision. She manages to grab the fence with both hands, pulling herself up to slam a double footed kick into the demoness' gut and throw it off... but she knows as she does that it's a temporary save. She's going to die here, finally, and some new slayer'll get called. Not that anyone will give a shit...

A car slams into the Jhe demon and tosses it off far to one side. It backs out into the street again as the Sister gets up and Xander yells out the window, "Faith! Get in!" She dives into through the window and dives into the back seat as Xander guns it and hauls ass out of there.

Back at her motel, Xander asks if she thinks the Demon Mama followed them, and then she tells him her shoulder's dislocated and asks him to hold her while she pops it back in. What followed after was... pretty damned nice. Huh.

She never was able to explain, even to herself, why she threw him back out into the street in his underwear shortly after. Get some, get gone. They can't get close, can't dump you first, if you grab and roll and toss them away before they do. Problem was... she didn't think 'toss her away' was in Xander's play book - and she didn't know how to deal with anything else. A pity, that.

"Well the years start coming and they don't stop coming
Break all the rules and you hit the ground running
Doesn't make sense not to live for fun
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb... "

Just a guy, anyway. No big.

Leather top over the sports bra. Black, of course, k? Just assume 'black' for everything to make the descriptions shorter, and you'll be cool. Ok, black and red for the top, happy now? Just a few hints of red so dark it's damned near black, in the side panels and trim, and black-red laces down the sides. No kevlar, nothing special on this: anything she fights is going to cut through kevlar like butter anyway, so this is for show, not go. It packages the goodies and shows off the midriff nicely, and that's what counts. Live hard, die young, and leave a stylin' corpse, y'know?

Cordelia smacked her on the arm, frowning. "Rule Number One, Faith: Don't Die." She gave her a fierce look. "Don't you *dare* fucking die."

"ow!" Faith stepped back, startled. That *hurt*, dammit.

"You listen to me, dammit." Cordelia stepped nose to nose with the Slayer, glaring. "You are NOT the 'Fuckup Slayer', damn you. You are the fucking Chosen One. You *will* not fucking die on me: I've lost too damned many people I care about already, and I'm going to lose more. You are not going to be one of them. I will resurrect both of us and beat the living crap out of you if you do. You have everything you need to do this, everyone around you you need. Just draw on them, dammit. They're good people you've fallen in with. They can help you, if you let them in. Lose that damned 'I'm a screwup' shtick you're so fond of and grow out of it - it doesn't fit you so well any more. You didn't let Angel down, you didn't let Wesley down, and you didn't screw up in Sunnyhell when it counted the last time. You're not that beaten, terrified fifteen year old any more."

Faith stepped back again. Wow. "Damn. Let me guess: that's not a Power talking, that's the pure QueenC, huh?" She nodded.

Cordelia met her eyes evenly, gaze smoking. "Damn straight, Faith."

"So much to do so much to see
So what's wrong with taking the back streets?
You'll never know if you don't go -
You'll never shine if you don't glow..."

Never saw that one coming. Faith and the QueenC - all buds beyond the veil and shit. Huh. Too bad the idiot gal had to go all coma on her before that happened.

Chaps go on next, always. Shotgun chaps, with a row of silver conchos down the outer edge. Heavier leather than the pants, natch, and these are also reinforced - a layer of kevlar under the top surface and nygord over the kneecaps and ankles. Buttery smooth like the pants, so even though they're heavier, they're still as supple as silk and they bend and flow with you like air over your skin. Zipper calf in the lining, like the pants, to allow access to whatever is stashed in the boots...

They never looked at her like that, only B. Like a hero - some kinda Golden Girl all with the trust and the likin' an' shit. Her... her they always looked at like Southie trash, even the ones that wouldn't know what 'Southie' meant if they fell in it and had to live there. Like something dangerous and exotic that wandered up out of nowhere. Stray cat that you pet and throw food to when it gets your attention, call out when there's vermin in the Hellmouth, and shove to one side when the killin' is done. A big cat, yeah, more stray lioness than alley cat. But you don't get close, and you don't trust it, because you never know for sure if the bars are gonna hold...

Ok, that's not really fair. Not that fair's got jack-all to do with it. Xander tried, twice. Second time, she tried to kill him, first time she tossed him out in the street in his underwear. But he didn't try too hard, did he? Never said a word to the Watcher about that dump he and B found her in. Never really tried to bring her in for more than just the killing. No 'hang out and go watch movies' or 'let's go grab a bite to eat with the gang' or 'hey - wanna help figure this out?' Happy enough to just snag her when there was something to kill, and then wander off with the rest of the Scoobs and let her wander back to whatever. See ya. Just don't wanna be seen with ya, y'know?

Blew all of her money on that dress. Worth it almost... damned sweet dress. This Girl looked real hot in it. B was all up for doin' the Homecoming thing together, go grab some guys and shake it and get past that awful look she had over that idiot Scott jerkoff and the Homecoming Queen comp with C. Yeah... that lasted up until the Scoobs decided that what was needed was to get B and C together to iron out their feud and braced her over it. "Hey, Faith - mind givin' up your place in the limo for Cordelia along with the rest of us so they can work this out?" Oh yeah. "Hey - don't mind at all. Not like I had plans, or nuthin', y'know?" Don't mind me.

Never even asked what she did instead. Probably didn't even notice when she skated out early. She didn't even find out that Trick had some guys go all assassin on Cordy and B until later.... and that by accident.

No big. Just a dress. And just a stupid dance. Don't mean nuthin', babe.

At least she fixed that Scott asshole pretty damned good. Didn't even need any violence. You don't fuck over my friends, boy. Even if they're not really friends. Just ain't done.

A pair of stakes go in the loops at the back of the chaps, just for old times sake, even though she's gone way beyond the need for them in the past year. S'tradition, y'know? Vampire Slayer and a stake go together like New England and chowdah. Not your average hand carved stakes: Xander made these on a lathe and they're hand turned lignum vitae, hard as hell and sharp as the devil with knurled grips that won't slip in dust nor blood, and balanced just they way she likes 'em. Just a touch heavy in the point.

She didn't know where he'd found a lathe or a wood working shop near the Hyperion, but he had. She found him in the lobby looking grimly pleased with himself and taking sharp wooden things out of a bag and laying them out in sets on the counter, and wandered over to see what was up.

"Damn, X-man. Those are sweet," she said, picking one of the stakes up and giving it a careful once over. Didn't cost nuthin' to make the guy feel appreciated, not after everything he'd done and been through, and besides... those were nice, dammit.

That lopsided grin came back for just a second and flashed away. It never stayed for long, not since Anya died. "Yeah, are aren't they?" He nodded. "Balanced," he said, flipping one in his hand. "They have a steel shaft through the center so they won't break. And a checkered grip to make sure they don't slip when you have sweat or blood on you... Will did something to 'em she said she'd been looking up to make them last longer. Some preservation thing."

"Yeah, nice." Faith sighed inside and laid the stake back down on the counter, reluctantly. Nice: for Vi, and B, and Rona, and all the rest. Maybe even for Kennedy. Faith stuck her hands in her pockets and started to wander off to see what Angel was up to.

"Hey!" She turned around, a half irritated crease between her eyebrows. "Aren't you going to take those with you?" Xander slid four of the stakes over to her and she looked down at them blankly. "I was going to wait until everyone was together to pass them out, but since you're already here... " he shrugged.

She never knew that the look that flashed over her face just then was the same one a kid has on Christmas, and he never said. Just stood there and smirked as she shoved the stakes into her belt, and went off grinning.

"The ice we skate is getting pretty thin
The waters getting warm so you might as well swim
My world's on fire how about yours
That's the way I like it and I never get bored."

Ok, so maybe he's not 'just a guy'. Whoda thunk it?

Next come the knives. The big Moeller made boot knife goes on the right through the buckle straps on the Furies. Seven and a half inch folded steel blade that looks like damascus but isn't quite, over a folded core of soft, cold iron and layered with silver. No need for enchantment on this one: magic of the maker went into every fold and she'd never seen a need to get it mojo'd. Ebony grip and a brass alloy half guard that curls down over the knuckles, with silver pins holding the slad grips to the full tang. The big dagger goes on the left. Looks like a Hibben double shadow, but it ain't. Gots a wicked, closed point instead of that odd split that the double shadow has, and the skeletonized slots in the heavy part of the blade are inlaid with ironwood. Silver alloyed folded steel like the Moeller, but this one is mojo'd - Willow did them for her along with the throwing spikes and the rest of the steel.

"I don't understand." Faith shot the red headed witch a suspicious glare, cutting across the tail end of the mystical babble.

"Oh! I'm sorry! I can slow down and try to make it simpler?" Red gave her a startled look and Faith waved it away.

"Not stupid, Wills. I got the gist of the mojo stuff. Preservation and anti-decay and ever-sharpness and extra dimensional pocket spaces and anti-evil an' all," Faith looked at her. "What I don't understand is why you're offering to do all of this. For me. Even if we got along ok after you put Angel's soul back, we ain't never been each other's favorite people - hey: skank, killer, psycho-slayer? Any of this ring bells yet?"

"oh." Damn, Will's very-small-voice. Wide eyes. "Oh. Right. Hey... that was back then and you were making all with bad girl image and the evil and stuff. And I hadn't done that yet, you know?" Willow shook her head, "I understand a little better now. I skinned a man alive, tried to end the world, and almost killed all of my friends, too." Willow didn't grin, and a good thing, or Faith might have killed her for it. Instead, she just shook her head and turned her eyes away and said softly, "We're not different in that. I know what it's like to get that darkness way down deep in your soul now, and to have to fight it every second. I can't make it 'ok'," she said, "But I can do something to try and make up for it?"

"Yeah." Faith just looked at her, and then did one of the hardest things she'd ever done - reached over and put her hand on the other woman's arm and let go of all of the times she'd watched the insecure younger Willow do her best to push out the threat she saw Faith as being back then. Not to their lives - the threat to what she had with Buffy and Xander... "S'allright, Wills. I know." She reached up and put her fingers on the chin of the 'most powerful witch in the world' and pulled her face around to look Willow in the eyes, "Doan' know if it's ok. What I know is that it's done and did. Let's go on from now, hey?"

She waited until Willow nodded, then let go and looked down at the pile of steel and leather, "So. Explain this mojo again. Use small words for the short bus students this time, huh?" Willow laughed, shaking her head, and they moved on...

"It's a cool place and they say it gets colder
You're bundled up now but wait 'til you get older
But the media men beg to differ
Judging by the hole in the satellite picture"

And all it took was a major apocalypse or two. Go figger.

A pair of wooden knives go into the sheaths set in on the outside of the calves of the chaps. No stakes, these, knives: handmade from African blackwood and special. There's four of them: two for the coat in addition to this pair...

Some sort of New York African Pride Day or something. Maybe African Heritage Day... whatever. Faith wandered through the streets and areas devoted to the cultural fair just browsing various displays and vendor stalls, just killing time. She didn't feel out of place even if she was one of the very few pale faces in the throngs crowding the fair. She didn't notice and wouldn't have given a shit if she had - the occasional hostile glance directed at her bounced right off.

"We were supposed to go to this thing together when I got back, dammit," she muttered to herself. "Instead, Robin decided he just had to take off for London for a Council meeting. Crap."

A display caught her eye from across the street and she wandered over for a closer look. Weapons, cool. Wooden weapons, and not touristy crap like those ebony 'lion spears' that other guy had been selling. Wicked, even. There was an ancient, slightly built man with a grizzled white beard behind the counter. He looked her over curiously just as she was giving him the once over. A surprisingly youthful grin split the white beard and he said, "Habari, Warrior."

"Habari?" Faith raised a eyebrow.

"Greetings," the old man nodded.

"Ah." Faith stuck her hands in her pockets and smiled, looking over the weapons display. "Habari, old man." A row of demonic looking ebony figures on a shelf along the back stall caught her eye and she shivered slightly. Bulging eyes, tusks, froglike things, and things with too many legs... all of them carved from ebony, and all of them so lifelike it looked as if any moment they could get up and walk, crawl, or slither away. "Wicked," she breathed.

The old man's gaze followed hers and that grin split his beard again. "You like?"

"No. But man - that's nice work." Faith grinned back at him, "Grotesque, but sweet, you know?"

"Shetani," he said. "No one carves the Shetani like the Makombe," he added, and there was obvious satisfaction in his words. Deserved satisfaction, Faith thought, nodding.

"Makombe, that'd be you?"

He nodded, "My people. We carve."

"I'll say," Faith went back to looking over the blades. The Shetani sculptures were sweet, but with one of those in her room, slayer or no, she'd never be able to sleep again. There was such a thing as too lifelike, y'know?

"You don't want any of those, Warrior." The old man shook his head, and drew an ebony box from under the counter and set it in a clear space. "Those are made for sale to to the appreciative. These are made for use... " He opened the box and Faith's breath caught in her throat, driving away the 'Look ok to me,' she'd begun.

"wow." She put out her hand slowly, and stopped suddenly with it hovering just over one of the four dark wooden blades, two long, two short, looking up at the old man. He nodded and made a permissive gesture.

"Ji hadri. Do not touch the blades. They cut."

Faith nodded and carefully lifted one of the knives out of its recess in the box. Heavier than it looked. She held it up to the light, running an appreciative eye along the blade, and then frowned. A very faint rippling clung to the edge of the blade, and she couldn't see where the edge ended and the air began. It looked like the shimmer of heat distortion one sees over the road on a hot day. No feel of magic to it, but she knew instinctively there had to be more than mere craftsmanship there. She gave the old man a wondering look.

"Blackwood," he said, "plus skill. They are blackwood plus all of the weapons that have ever been and never shall be. Blackwood plus history. Blackwood, plus all of that, plus all of the skills of the Makombe. Weapons of worth. They cut very well."

"How much?" Faith asked, but she was already laying the knife back into its recess, shaking her head. No matter that she had a nice bank account now, and income, there was no way she could afford whatever he wanted for those. And no way she could offer him less than they were worth...

"They are not for sale," the old man said. Faith nodded, biting her lip. Nothing else on the table held any interest for her any longer, not after seeing those. The old man closed the lid over the knives and the matching sheaths, and she began to turn it away. He picked up the box and handed it to her, and she gave him a shocked look.

"They are weapons made for a Warrior. Use them." Ancient eyes bore into hers, "They will take care of you as long as you care for them."

She almost cried, later, for the first time since she'd broken down on Angel, when her hand had been ripped off of one of those blades just after she'd stuck it through the heart of a vampire. She'd turned on the vampire that had grabbed her from behind in a fury, all thought and all skill lost in rage and beat him to a mushy pulp with her hands. Knowing that that knife was going to dust along with her previous kill and not being able to stand it. She was growling when she ripped his head off of his body and found herself standing alone in a cloud of dust - the other vamps had taken one look at the berserk slayer and fled. She found the knife lying on the concrete beneath the dust of her first kill, no worse for wear...

She never took a chance with them again, though, making certain she drew them back before the dust cloud. Coulda been a fluke, and she wasn't going to take any chances.

Gunbelt goes on next over the chaps. First time for this one, and she holds the Duke rig in her hands for a long moment, looking at it, before buckling it around the hips. Feels natural in her hands, like a part of herself, and she makes a note to ask Wesley to check and see if there was ever a Slayer called in the old west. Or in Hollywood, maybe... she wasn't quite sure this was exactly authentic, y'know? No makey. It feels right and it looks right, and even with her skills at where they are right now, anything she draws it on in a demon or vampire bar's going to be damned near at muzzle range. Forty-two .45 caliber cartridge loops. Sundog rounds on the left, silver on the right, with the long .45-70 round in the center as a divider like Hannibal had suggested. She does a quick set of gunfighter spins with the big Keith revolver and flips open the loading gate to run it down her arm, checking the loads. Alternating: sundogs and silver, the brass cartridge heads gleaming in the room light. Another fast spin and it drops into the holster like an eager wolf. Down, killer. You'll get blooded tonight, no worries... We gots places to go and things to kill

Hannibal continued: "A firearm is a launching platform, right? All a gun does is load and fire a projectile. Like a crossbow, bow, or rocket launcher. It's the projectile that really does the work. A firearm without ammo isn't even a good club. With me so far?"

She smirked. "Five-by-five."

Grin. "That's important. Means that as long as you can figure out what you need to do the job, if you can make it fire, you can load whatever the hell you need. Firearm is a launcher, firearms load cartridges, cartridges contain propellant and bullets. Bullets hit target."

"Give tarmangani battle yell, party much after." She snickered. He laughed. "Makes perfect sense... but not if you'd never been shown any of it."

He nodded. "Ok. So." He brought up a manual page on the computer screen, showed it to her, picked up an example of it off the table and handed it to her. "A mag-safe bullet. Used for shooting things where you don't want the projectile going through them and killing a bystander three blocks away. Jacket, filled with a jell, which is filled with small shot. Goes in, jacket breaks up, shot chews up the innards. Not much penetration." He picked up a thicker plastic cylinder. "Sabot slug. Plastic casing with a shotgun slug in the center. Used for firing small things through a larger bore size." He twisted the cylinder apart and showed her the wasp-waisted slug inside, then gestured around the bench. "Manuals, components, tools, moulds, reloading presses, measures, propellants, lathes, swaging dies, computer with database and ballistics programs: everything you need to make one of these do whatever you want within reason." He picked up a cartridge and waved it.

She leaned on the counter with an elbow, fascinated. Studied him for a moment, then widened her eyes slightly. "You're a Geek!" she said, accusingly. "Abby's a tech geek, you're a Gun Geek! Cool!" She grinned.

"Hey! Am not!"

"S'cool," she said. "I *like* geeks. Geeks are cool. Geeks make the world work. Wesley's a book Geek. Watchers are Geeks: feed Slayers 'how to seek, find, kill' info. Knowledge is Power. What you don't know Kills. Don't Die." She nodded decisively, "I just never knew there was geek-shit involved with firearms. Or an entire world of geeks and geek lore associated with them. Cool."

"Heh. If you only knew." He laughed. "But we won't get in that deep for now. We're interested in how to kill shit." Grinning.

"Heya, don't stop now. Take me all the way, baby," she smirked...

Just gotta love a man who knows his weapon...

Sword and knife harness comes after that. She draws the short sword from the scabbard and lays it across a forearm to run a practiced eye along the edges. 25 inches of something that's not quite steel - not any metal that she's ever seen nor that Giles could ever identify. Shiva-ki mark just ahead of the guard, but if Shiva-ki made this one, it was done in whatever dimension the demon she took it off of had visited before he suddenly found himself with no earthly use for a sword or anything else. Black metal, black as enamel, and layered with some silvery alloy. Stainless looking engraved guard and pommel, but not any sort of stainless from this world. No need for enchantments on this one either: Already magicked up before she ever took it from the dead grasp of the Van Tals demon that'd been trying to gut Vi with it. All Giles had been able to find on it was a name in some demonic language she wasn't even going to hurt her throat trying to pronounce, but that translated loosely to 'Soul of Darkness'. Rockin' - Dark Sword for the Dark Slayer. Suits. Slide it into the scabbard and snap the keeper over it. Goes on like a shoulder harness, grips and pommel down, point up, diagonal acrost the back so that the grip falls naturally to the right hand when you reach back under the coat...

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. And that's a stupid thing to have running through your head when you're about to die. Stupid brain. Backed up against the cold stone wall with a corner on one side and no way to dodge in time as the demon brought the wicked looking sword across, up and in. Vi kept her eyes open in spite of the urge to close and turn them away. If she was going to die, she'd do it looking into the eyes of her killer.

And then the sword was gone and so was the demon, flying across to hit the wall twenty feet away with a crunch, and Faith was between them, somehow, snarling and narrow eyed. The last time she'd seen the Dark Slayer, Faith had been twenty feet away locked in combat with another Van Tals... Faith shook her head and brought that gleaming double headed axe of hers up, that rapt lover's smile spreading slowly across her lips. "Wanna dance? Try me... "

It tried. It died. So very sad. Not.

The big Moeller made bowie goes on the left side of the shoulder rig for a right hand draw, all folded mojo'd steel, ivory grips, and the heavy knuckle duster style guard. 12" of sudden death in the fist, damned near more short sword than knife. The Hibben Jackal pattern knife the Mayor'd given her way back when is next, right side of the rig and set up for a left hand draw. Looks like.... but Gil Hibben never made that blade. She pauses, holding it for a time but not looking at it, looking inside at memories that she can't let go of and that won't let go of her. There's a lot of memories between that knife and her, and not all of them physical... Sigh and put it away and snap the keeper over it. Not just a tool, never just a tool, but no time to be standing here communing with old friends, even steel ones. So what if there was a lot of history in that thing, and not all of it good? Girl likes a sharp knife, y'know? Wanna make something of it?

There'd been a half a dozen times in that fight that she could have killed the blonde slayer. Not that B'd ever believe it with her all 'I'm better than you, Faith' crap, but hey - real's real, and one thing Faith knew about was fighting. Like Diana had said, she was a natural. Ok, not good chances, because hey - B's pretty damned good herself, but chances, and all it takes is one that you take advantage of. Or one that you don't... See, that's the thing, the thing they never understood. She didn't want to kill B, not ever. Even made Wilkins promise that no matter what, he wouldn't do it or have it done. Not that he'd liked it, but he'd did it. Or not done it. For her. She didn't want to see Buffy dead, by her own hand or anyone else's. What she had wanted was... was... never mind. Don't go there. It's all blood under the bridges now, and it don't matter none.

And then all the chances were gone, and B'd stuck her own knife in her gut, those green eyes wide and shocked and then suddenly going all narrow and cold and all of the pretenses of Buffy being 'better an' all' just dust in the wind 'cause B was a killer too. Slayers are human too, Buffy, like it or not, just like Alan Finch. But I'll bet the Council doesn't send an execution team to drag you back to jolly old England to stand trial for killin' me, wot?

"Damn, B - you did it," came out, weak but still smiling. "You killed me." She threw Buffy away from her, surprised she still had the strength, and climbed onto the low roof parapet. "Still won't help your boy any, though. Shoulda been there, B - quite a ride." No way. You're not getting my blood, B. Gonna have to deal with bein' a killer and knowing it was for nuthin' but nuthin'. Knowin' you're just like me inside.

Just one last thing to hit with, see the shock in Buffy's face before Faith died, 'cause she was gonna die, no doubt - that was no natural knife. Saw the shock in those green eyes and felt that half-grin slide across her lips as she threw herself back and down into the bed of the passing truck below. Sucker. I don't fuck corpses, Buff. That's your thing. But now you'll never know... free falling and then she hit and the darkness took her...

Woulda been nice if B'd figured it out. Ain't that the sum total of fuck all. Top o' the fucking world, ma.

Bracers on the forearms, with the spring-snap 8" ironwood inlaid blades. She flexes her wrists just so, checking, and watches as the blades pop out and then back in. Silvered steel: good for all sorts of baddies...

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...

I don't fuck corpses and ain't gots no longing for 'The Kiss'. In your eye, bitch. Suck on that.

There's an art to concealing almost sixteen pounds of cold steel and wood inside a coat, even a long one. She hasn't quite mastered it yet, always refining the process... but she's getting there. Throwing spikes go in here. Silvered steel, cold iron, and silvered-steel with ironwood shafts, all of them into various slots designed into the long coat. Eight inches of spike and five inches of knurled and checkered grip, perfectly balanced. Nothing special about these except for the anti-decay spell that Willow had worked up as a variant of some preservation spell she'd discovered and wanted to try out. She'd tuned out about two minutes into the excited babbling explanation, keeping nothing from it except that the 'anti-decay' meant that they didn't dust when you stuck one in the heart of a vampire from thirty feet away. Cool - meant one hell of a lot less expense in constantly replacing custom made throwing spikes.

Her and Robin are moving furniture around in the basement of good ole SunnyD High. Blocking vents and exits and stuff, just in case the Turok-Han get past them, so they won't have as easy a way gettin' out. Robin's thinking they will get past. Faith scoffs at the idea out loud - but down in her gut, she agrees with him. No point in saying it though. Even back then she knows that you create your own realities - admitting they might lose might not be a jinx, but hey, why chance it when it's just as easy to believe you'll win?

Somehow the discussion turns to their short hot encounter session and the stuff around it - *not* somethin' she wants to discuss with a guy after. Get some, get gone. Grab 'N roll. Usual crap, banter an' all, saying how it was good an' all but she really didn't rock his world. She's ready to go for round two right then - wanna be rocked, baby? *snicker* Not like that 'I'm prettier than you' crap is gonna fly.

And then things take a turn she hadn't expected: he turns her down. And right after, says real serious like that if she'll give him a chance when all this is done, he'll show her that not all guys are like she claims. He'll surprise her.

He did that thing, all right. Not. Surprise, babe: you're just another smooth talkin' piece of male-tail.

Well fuck me. Din't see that one coming, no way. Huh.

Holy water dispensers go into small slots inside of the lapels. Squirt pens, not vials - vials break too easily. She'd found these at a novelty shop in New York, and immediately latched onto a half a dozen of them and stuck them on her card. Didn't hold much, natch - but they made for a nasty surprise for a normal vamp. Getting juiced in the eyes or mouth with a jet of HW unexpectedly kinda took the bite out of one in a hurry. Loops for the other two stakes inside. UV-grenades in the pockets.

Down in the tunnels where the deadly are rising. The dead, anyway. Turok-fucking-han everwhere. Beat, rend, kill. Turn, duck, kick. Slash and cut, and dust in the wind. She's 115% alive, moving in living Technicolor, and so what if it might not last past the next second? Way it's meant to be, baby. Live fast, die hard, and go out kicking and screaming and sending one hell of a lot of the bastards to hell ahead of you. Slayer.

And then 'the way it's meant to be' changes... Willow's mojo goes off and there's a wave of pure fucking power that shoots through everything and everyone and like thunder in the distance, she can hear B's voice in her head rolling out just as it had in the living room earlier...

"So here's the part where you make a choice: what if you could have that Power, now? In every generation, one Slayer is born... because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that Rule. They were powerful men. This woman (B points at Wills) is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the Rule. I say that my Power, should be our Power." *pause* "Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of the Scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer... will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the Power... will have the Power. Every girl who can stand up... will stand up. Slayers... every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be Strong?"

She feels the Power flow through her, cutting like a clean blast of arctic wind and shivers as that power ripples up and down her spine like a snake and flows out into the Potentials, making them Slayers one and all - and then flows outward from there...

Can she really be the only one who had that tiny voice in the back of her mind wondering 'What about the ones out there who weren't just given a choice?' Only one who wondered if they weren't demonraping hundreds, maybe thousands of girls at once, rather than one at a tme?

And then B goes down, stabbed from behind, and passes her off the Scythe sayin' "Hold the line" and Faith takes it and whirls back to doing what she does best, a sudden thunderclap of violence. Dancin' in the dark. Dancing at the Dark. Slayer.

The Thing the Darkness Fears. And what do you know about rights and wrongs, anyway, Killer? Sum total of fuck all, hey? Faith throws herself in, giving over completely to the killing frenzy...

The other two blackwood knives go into the sleeve sheaths. Angel had always had those stake rigs in his coat where they drop down into the hands... but she'd never cared for them. These were just simple sheaths, over the forearm and under, and you draw with a simple cross pass of the hands and voila - armed and ready to stake. No fuss, no muss, and no mechanicals to break.

Her arms moved and silver and wood spikes stood out from their hearts, briefly, then they both dusted and the loudest sound in the place was the clatter of the wood and steel hitting the floor. A slow smile slid across her lips, unnoticed. She'd never even looked at the minions gliding up on her; her eyes never leaving the master vamp - slayer instinct and feel guiding the throw.

"What the fuck are you, anyway?" he breathed, staring back as the rest of the minions froze around her.

"I am the terror that flaps in the night," she replies, casually. He stared at her, boggling, and she laughed. "The Thing the Darkness Fears. Slayer." She cocked her head, smiling. "Bored now. Ready to dance?"

The sword and the wicked Hibben style knife came out from under the coat as they closed in, and she blurred into movement and dust fell around her...

Dancing in the dark, baby. Bite me. If you can.

The other sword went into the scabbard snapped to the inside of the back of the coat, grip protruding above her left shoulder for an easy left-hand draw. "Faithkeeper", Wesley had called it when he looked it up in his books, finally finding a match for it. Suits. Twenty inches of wicked sharp steel with a leather and silver wire wrapped grip. Yet another blade that came out of the hand of something that didn't need it any longer.

"Suits," she laughed. "What's it do?"

"That, I am afraid the references don't tell us," Wesley remarked. He turned the book so that she could see it. No text, only a drawing showing the blade with an inset showing it in the hand of a demon very like the one she'd taken it from. "Only the name and a visual depiction."

"Oh well," she tossed her head, grinning. "Since it's named after me, makes it spoils of war, huh?"

The last time he'd mentioned the bit of 'hot, blunt, sharp, and loud' was when they went after Angelus. He never mentioned it again until after the Pit, and that was when he made sure she knew he forgave her... but it was always in the back of her eyes when she saw him, and she never forgot it. And she never could figure out how to say "I'm sorry" so that it came out right...

"Somebody once asked, 'could you spare some change for gas
I need to get myself away from this place'
I said 'yep, what a concept
I could use a little fuel myself
And we could all use a little change'. "

Maybe finding the right way isn't needed. Just finding a way. Huh. Never thought about it like that...

Everything sorted and carefully stowed in place, she swirled the coat around and shrugged into it, settling it into place. No MP3 player - she never could figure out how Abby could wear that thing into combat. Her, now... she wanted all of her senses unimpeded when she fights. Nothin' in the way of hearing. She slipped the chain and the small cross around her neck, and put in the cross earrings. Helmet? Naw - we doan need no stinking helmets. 'Bout to get up close and personal with death in the economy sized package: kinda makes worrying about a bike spill redundant. Hat, not helmet to top everything off. Flat brimmed, leather Aussie hat. Or at least it started out flat brimmed... now it's nicely rolled and properly creased. Row of small silver conchos around the band, and a leather thong to hang behind the back on when she's on the bike and moving.

She wasn't sure just what the hell that thing was, and there wasn't anyone to ask. Big, nasty, sinuous - and all coiling scales and teeth like a wingless dragon on speed was all she could tell. That... and it was going to have those two idiot kids for a snack if she didn't do something about it...

And that just wasn't going to happen. You don't leave people to be food for things, not any more. She gunned the big BMW and ran it straight in, around the two teenagers, and under the thing as it reared up in preparation for coming down with open maw on top of them. The battle axe sliced a bloody gash across its chest and its blood smoked where it fell. There was an unearthly scream behind her as she wheeled the bike around again and charged back...

Axe wasn't doing much except pissing it off. The next pass took her off the road and as she wheeled around again, the long neck lay stretched out along the road where it'd evidently dazed itself smacking into the asphalt behind her. She grinned, gunned the engine, popped the clutch and stood on the pegs as she came up over the slight hump where the shoulder met the road, the big 1200 lifting off and weightless for just a moment as it roared over the edge, airborne.

There was a horrid crunching noise as her full weight and the mass of the bike with all her gear came down hard on top of that long jawed skull, and then there were death throes and frenzied coilings in the road. Death on a steel horse, yup. Yipee ki yay, motherfucker. Take that.

Here there be dragons, baby. And dragon slayers. Out here where nothing really rocks, and nothing really rolls - and nothing's ever worth the cost.

Fuck that noise. Always worth the cost. It's all about the costs, babe. She pulled the long, long tooth out of her pocket and rubbed it between her fingers before putting it away again. They stand in the way and fight and die so normals don't have to. The Pit taught her that and showed her the why.

She slid the sunglasses into place, and paused at the full length mirror for a glance over. Yup. Ice cold, deadly as sin, and smokin' hot. Tight, taut, coiled and wired - nerve endings way out past the end of her skin. Bigger than life, twice as mean, and done up in living fucking Technicolor and basic black. She grinned. Faith, Slayer. Not all that she is... but it'll damned well do. Fuck you, Beast. Been off the game too long here, but the game is back now. Time to get ahead of the curve and stay there.

One foot in the past, and one in the future, all you can do with the present is piss on it. Time to live in the now for awhile.

Old wreckage yard outside, cluttered with scrap cars and piles of junk and deceptively ramshackle concrete and tin buildings. Tempting to ask the B-man if they owned salvage yards and warehouse property in every city in the US - but what's the point, hey? Probably come back with a microscopic eyebrow lift and one of those ghost smiles and say, "Of course."

Blade and King were leaning up against the side of Blade's car when she came out, armed to the teeth and kinda smokin' hot themselves. She grinned at them and mimed tipping the hat brim. Who the fuck needs Scoobies when you have War and Rage at your right and left hand, and Stalking Death trailing behind you like an old friend, hey?

King looked her up and down and gave her a low wolf whistle. She tossed him a wink behind the shades, stuck a slim cigar stub in the corner of her mouth and lit it.

"Ready for it?" Blade gave one of those microscopic eyebrow raises that encompassed 'back up to speed?' and 'you look fine, girl' all in one expression.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, drawing her aspect around her like a cloak. Green flames crackled around her hands and the Valdris blades came into her fists, power, capital-P rippling up and down her spine. She sent it out into the night and darkness, a wave of pure predator, and things in the shadows froze suddenly. Ripples came back to her like pebbles in a stream, an infinite variety of 'what the fuck?' and 'unholy fuck!' as the things that stalked the night suddenly made themselves very small and very still. A wolf grin flickered across her face and the blades went away as quickly as they came. She threw back her head and laughed at the 'big bads' out there that suddenly got all small when something bigger and badder reared up on its hind legs and snarled...

"Back in black and five by five, babe," Faith said, nodding.

She threw a leg across the bike, took it off the stands, hit the starter and kicked it to life, feeling the rumble between her legs and up her spine. She tipped the hat with a finger to hang on the cord down her back and slipped the double headed axe into its holder under her knee. "What say we go rattle some cages, huh?"


"Hey now you're an All Star get your game on, go play
Hey now you're a Rock Star get the show on, get paid
(And all that glitters is gold)
Only shooting stars break the mold... "

- Lyrics from "All Star" by Smashmouth

- Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode dialogue quotes from "Homecoming", "The Zeppo", "Graduation Day", and "Chosen".
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