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[Parallels]: Heroes and Villains

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Summary: It's Buffy's first week in Sunnydale, and EVERYONE at her new school is a Mutant. Also, Buffy is a Bitca, Faith is smitten, and the student body needs to give up already and start with the grovelling. An A/U done X-men style. Faith/Buffy pairing

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Marvel Universe > X-Men > Buffy-Centered(Past Donor)DreamSmithFR18851,260148215,84629 Dec 0816 Apr 11No

'Alpha Bitches'

Author's Note: So hey, I'm having a fair bit of fun writing this one. Throw some feedback my way and I'll keep going with it. Unfortunately, Cordelia's entrance got pushed back to next chapter, but we do get to meet one of her Cordettes in this one.
A/N II: For those who don't know, Xavier's school, which this is based on, is sort of a middle/high school combined with a private college/boarding school sort of thing. So the student body ranges in age from thirteen to twenty-one or so, and the students DO live on campus. Only a handful of these kids are going to live close enough, like Buffy, to go home on most weekends.






There were a few other students wandering around the third floor of the dorm, all female, all somewhere in their teens. Since there didn't seem to be fixed room assignments, most of the girls seemed to be trying to find someone they liked well enough to live with, and then the pair would pick a room to call home. Even though Buffy knew basically nothing about Faith, she decided to go ahead and stand by her promise to partner up with her. Certainly the other girl was well able to protect herself, which was great because Buffy was sick and tired of fighting monsters on behalf of stupid, defenseless, and ungrateful strangers.

Plus there's the thing where she inflicted a mind-boggling amount of smackdown on that moron Xander to protect me--gotta love that!

A pleased little half-smile tugged at her mouth for an instant, then vanished when she found the room number they'd been looking for.

"Here, this looks like it." At the last room on the left she paused, set down a suitcase for a moment to free her hand, and opened the door. Faith followed her inside, and they both stopped to take it in.

"Nice," was the taller girl's comment, and Buffy could only nod in agreement.

It was big, for starters, an L-shaped room with pairs of large windows in the opposite and right-hand walls. The two beds were both ornate affairs with headboards of some dark, richly-carved wood that looked very expensive. There were two desks of the same design against the left wall, separated by a massive bookcase which came pre-stocked with a couple hundred impressively thick books. The vanity and mirror in the corner looked like antiques; even the wallpaper had an old-fashioned appearance, though the building itself still smelled of newly sawn wood and freshly-applied paint. The light fixtures were of polished brass and crystal, the carpet soft and almost deep enough to get lost in.

Honestly, the rich elegance of the room wouldn't have looked out of place in some centuries-old European palace, though of course Buffy wasn't going to let her pleased surprise show.

"It's not bad, I suppose... for someplace I'm being forced to stay against my will." Faith gave her a disbelieving look even as she moved to investigate one of the huge, overstuffed chairs. Dropping her backpack and Buffy's duffel bag on the floor, she plopped down, then leaned back with a sigh.

"I don't know about you, but sleeping in this thing would be an upgrade over anyplace I've ever crashed before." The blonde girl's reply was an elaborately disinterested shrug, though she couldn't help taking a look around the place. There were two fair-sized closets, a massive dresser with a dozen drawers for yet more clothes storage, a mini-fridge, and a nice stereo system. On each desk there stood a state-of-the-art personal computer complete with an oversized flat screen monitor. Parked beside each of those was a sleek, lightweight laptop.

The room's other door opened onto a large bathroom, and her exclamation at what she found in there was enough to get Faith out of her comfy chair to come and see what was the matter.

"Okay, it's a bathroom. So what?"

Buffy looked at her indignantly, and pulled the other girl into the room.

"It's not just a bathroom, it's amazing! Look, double sinks! Marble counters and tile!" She walked to the far end, and nearly squealed with joy at what she found there.

"There's a shower and a bathtub, and it's huge!" Being a smallish person had few advantages, but one of them was being able to float comfortably in an average-sized tub. This one was longer, twice as deep, and twice as wide as the one at home, and would almost serve her as a hot tub. "Ohmigod! A built-in Jacuzzi!" Now it was Faith's turn to shrug, and Buffy shook her head sadly. "You poor, uncivilized person. Where horrible place are you from, anyway; some forgotten forest where you were raised by wolves?"

"People usually just call it 'Boston'," Faith answered, turning to walk back into the room. "And I was raised by wolves, only these were the kind that have guns and knives instead of big, sharp teeth." Buffy looked after her, wondering at the story behind that cryptic remark, then shook her head and went back to inspecting the amazing bathroom. Each sink had its own mirror, both framed by rows of large-bulbed stage lights, which would be wonderfully helpful when putting on makeup. She was trying to decide which side she wanted to claim as her own when her enhanced hearing caught Faith's quiet voice from out in the main room.

"Well, damn, Chuck; why don'tcha go ahead and fuck me sideways while you're at it?"

Buffy blinked, frowned, and walked back out.

"I'm sorry, who do what to you?" When she saw what Faith was holding she stopped short, and felt a sinking sensation in her stomach. "Oh."

Faith was beside the further of the two beds, and was holding up a brilliantly pink suitcase adorned with 'Hello Kitty!' decals. With a growing sense of dread, Buffy moved to check beside the nearer bed. Sure enough, there was a small pile of luggage on the floor there also that they hadn't noticed when they came in.

"Darn," Buffy sighed. "Okay, we'll just have to settle for one of the other rooms is all." To say that Faith looked unhappy would have been an understatement. Even so, she gathered up her pack and the smaller girl's duffel with only a few muttered obscenities. Buffy herself would miss those huge windows, but figured that every room would otherwise be set up pretty much exactly the same, so at least the downgrade would be bearable.

* * * * *

"Um...." She was actually dazed by what they'd found, and it took her several seconds to find her voice after that first involuntary word. "Okay, they're kidding, right?"

The room next door might as well have been on another continent, given how different it was from the first one. Barely half the size of the corner room, it featured low, metal-framed beds, plain white walls, and a pair of desks that looked like they'd been bought at Office Depot. The computers looked to be the same, though with smaller, cheaper monitors... and there were no laptops. The door of the one small closet was only a couple of feet from the bathroom, and when Buffy peered cautiously inside she felt physically ill. A single sink, small mirror, toilet and shower; no bathtub at all... and the room was barely big enough for her to turn around in without bumping into something. She spared a single glance for the florescent light overhead, and then she stalked angrily back into the larger room.

Such as it was.

Faith turned to look at her, and Buffy saw her own opinion of the place mirrored in that starkly beautiful face.

"Screw this," the tall girl growled. Buffy nodded in agreement.

"Fifty different kinds of 'no'," she said emphatically, then paused and peered around uncertainly. "I wonder why they did this; did the construction company pocket most of the cash for these other rooms and think nobody would ever notice, or...?"

Faith shrugged, looking down and dragging the toe of her boot across the thin, commercial-grade carpeting.

"Do you really want to stand around and worry about that right now?" she asked. Buffy gave her a tight, mirthless smile.

"When you put it that way, not so much, no." She marched towards the door. "C'mon, let's readjust our housing situation while we have the chance." Faith was right behind her as she re-entered the corner room and dropped her belongings. Moving like they'd practiced it, each girl went to a bed, gathered up the luggage there, and carried it out into the hall. In unison they tossed it all into an untidy pile. Buffy did an about-face, and walked back inside. Faith closed the door behind them, and they both took a moment to look around at their wonderful room.

"Glad we got here before anybody else," she said, pushing her long, purple hair back from her face. "'Cause those other rooms really suck." Buffy smiled as she strolled over and folded her arms, considering the layout of the furniture, especially as it pertained to the sleeping situation.

"That's what I hear," she said absently, then looked over her shoulder at the other girl. "So. Who gets which bed?"

* * * * *

Not long after the two of them had claimed their room, Faith found a small stack of papers sitting beside each of the computers. Included there was a copy of the day's schedule, and a mandatory assembly was scheduled to begin in a little less than two hours.

"That gives us time to look around a little beforehand, if you want," Buffy said, looking up when she finished reading through her handout. Faith, having skipped the reading part, was now busy jumping up and down on her bed (the bed that Buffy had wanted, only she'd lost the coin toss). In answer to the other girl's comment she made a neutral sound that could have been either positive or negative, and kept going with the bouncing. Something odd was going on there, and Buffy had to watch for several seconds before she realized what was bothering her. At the top of each bounce, Faith was hanging in midair for maybe a half-second longer than she should have. It wasn't levitation; it wasn't even blatantly obvious.

It was, however, pretty neat to watch.

"Um, anyway," she said eventually, blinking and looking back down at the schedule. "We have time, so why stay in here when we can go check things out?"

Faith made that same, indecipherable sound, and ended her last bounce with a boneless flop backwards that left her sprawled atop the ornate comforter.

"Whatever," the girl added after a moment. "It's not like we're gonna miss out on seeing the whole place later, since we'll be here for days and weeks and months." Buffy, moving to retrieve several items from her luggage, smiled faintly.

"This is true. What I really want to do is meet some of the other students. Since we'll be here for 'days and weeks and months', it's probably a good idea to start figuring out which ones are worth getting to know, and which ones we want to avoid, right?" Faith propped herself up on her elbows and regarded Buffy through a veil of mussed purple hair.

"After what I did to that Xander guy, I'd think the assholes would know enough to steer clear. But hey; if you wanna go scope things out anyway it's cool with me. Maybe I'll find somebody else who needs cutting down to size." She looked genuinely hopeful when she said that, and the blonde almost regretted her earlier decision.

Ack! I really hope this girl isn't as far out there as she seems. One minute she's all mysterious and hyper-deadly, the next she's bouncing around like a ten-year-old who's never seen a nice bed before, then she's right back into bloodthirsty mode. I'm starting to think this is not the world's most stable person I'm dealing with here.

Still, she had to admit that having someone like Faith on her side would be to her advantage. Also there was the thing where kicking the girl to the curb now would mean having an angry Faith lurking in random hallways, looking to even the score....

"Okay then!" Buffy exclaimed brightly. "Give me ten minutes to repair this damage and then we're good to go." Faith waved a hand in what was apparently agreement, then dropped back to lie on the bed, raking the hair back from her face and staring at the ceiling. Carrying an awkward armload of supplies, Buffy made her way into the bathroom, deposited it all on the counter, and started figuring out where everything was going to go.

Curling iron here, hair dryer beside it--nice that there's plenty of outlets in here--moisturizing crèmes here, facial scrubs, the make-up is going to have to have a whole area all to itself, somewhere....

Since Faith had gotten the better bed--in the far corner, where the one girl going back and forth to the bathroom wouldn't constantly be waking the other as she tried to sleep--Buffy felt no guilt in claiming the larger portion of the available counter for herself. After she had the basics arranged to her satisfaction, she looked in the mirror, sighed, and started working on her hair. The two collisions outside had loosened the clips holding part of the arrangement in place, so she had to take it all down and do it again from the beginning.

"Hope I didn't freak you out too much, out there," Faith said from the other room. "With the knives and stuff, I mean." Buffy, busy brushing the minor snags out of her silky blonde mane, paused for a moment at the genuine concern she heard lurking in the other girl's voice.

"No, you didn't...." she said, slowly. "I mean, you did freak me out, yes, but I've seen things like that before. Violent things, I mean." Looking into her reflection's eyes, she grimaced, and went back to her brushing.

"That deal at your high school?" Faith asked. Buffy nodded, realized the girl couldn't see her, and answered out loud.

"Yeah, the deal at my high school. Those were--" Monsters. They'd been monsters; horrible, deformed, and bloodthirsty. "--They were really, really bad guys," she finished, reaching out to turn on the faucet. Her makeup was smudged too, of course, and she scrubbed it away with a damp washcloth so she could redo that as well.

"So...." the other girl said after a minute's silence. "This whole deal with you being sent here to the super-special school for muties is because of that?" Buffy frowned into the mirror, a little irritated by Faith's relentless curiosity. It wasn't an unreasonable question, though, and she could certainly understand wanting to know more about the new girl.

"Basically, yes," she said as she resumed scrubbing. "Mom was worried about my 'violent behavior'; I think she's scared I'm going to turn into one of those crazy people with the costumes and the bank robberies and the FBI wanted posters." She heard a laugh out in the other room.

"Dude. With the shit I can do, robbing a bank would be so fucking easy. How long to you think it'd take me to carve through one of those big vaults? Like, two minutes?" Buffy laughed right back.

"Yeah, and how many times do you think you'd get shot during those two minutes? Can you knock down bullets as easy as you blocked that bar Xander threw at you?" A sort of sullen silence was her answer, and she grinned to herself at the minor victory.

Maybe I can keep her from doing anything too stupid, and in return she can watch my back for me. Having someone to do that would have been really handy while I was fighting those vampire guys in L.A.

A few sounds of movement came to her while she finished wiping her face and started on pinning up her hair, though she didn't think anything of it until Faith spoke up again.

"Okay, maybe you're not robbing banks, but you musta made some kind of score. Because this is a lot of loot!" That brought her up short, and she stopped what she was doing and walked to the doorway so she could look out into the room.

Faith was sitting cross-legged on the bed; on Buffy's bed, with both of the girl's smaller suitcases open in front of her. Piles of clothing, cases, boxes and bags were all around her, and she looked up with an innocent expression on her face.

"What?"

Buffy tried for a look of thunderous fury, and had to settle for a bemused scowl.

"'What'? How about 'What do you think you're doing'?" Faith, completely unfazed by the scowl, just smirked her little smirk.

"I guess I'm either helping you unpack, or snooping through your shit; whichever one ends up with you not booting me through the window." Buffy's lips twitched, though she managed to keep from smiling.

"That would definitely be the unpacking one," she said. Faith nodded.

"Exactly. Like I said: I'm helping you unpack." She leaned over and poked one pile with a slender finger. "Did you know you have nineteen different kinds of stuff to put on your hair? Look, here's shampoo and conditioner, which I'm totally cool with, but then you go crazy with the hair glaze, spray-on hair glitter, intensive conditioning treatment, anti-frizz serum, split-ends repair, hair spray, mousse to keep your hair straight, mousse to keep your hair curly, mousse that says it works better than either of the other two, hair volumizer, spray that protects your hair from the sun, spray that makes your hair look like it's been in the sun, some 'shimmer & shine for blondes', a kit for 'honey-gold highlights', and something called 'intensive restructuring formula' that I don't even know what it's supposed to do...." She sorted through the multicolored array of cans, bottles and tubes, an increasingly awestruck expression on her face. "You even have more than one brand of some of them; there's three kinds of shampoo and five kinds of conditioner...." Buffy watched the other girl going through her things and wondered why her usual indignant anger hadn't shown up on cue. If she'd caught anyone else invading her privacy like this, the ambulance would already be on its way to retrieve the wounded. Now, however, she only shook her head as she leaned over, picked a fresh blouse out of one pile, and went back into the bathroom.

"It's not that bad," she said, pulling off the blouse with the torn and bloodied sleeve. Standing there in her bra and skirt she checked her arm; the scrapes on the elbow were completely scabbed-over, though it would be another couple of hours before the new skin finished growing in. "I mean, you're a girl too. You spend time on makeup and everything, and obviously that hair didn't get to be purple all on it's own." Busy cleaning dried blood off of her arm, she paused, considered that last bit, and then called out again.

"That hair didn't get to be purple all on its own, did it?" Because if being a mutant could let people fly, and heal, and bend steel bars with their bare hands, then some unusual hair probably wasn't such a big deal....

"No, that was me," she heard the other girl say. "I thought it would look pretty bad-ass if I dyed it to match my knives." More sounds of rummaging reached her, then the snapclick of her second, larger makeup kit being opened. "Gee, what a surprise; a metric shitload of moisturizer and body lotion and revitalizing crème... and what looks like basically the whole cosmetics aisle of your average trendy boutique." Buffy sighed as she pulled the clean blouse over her head, and checked in the mirror to make sure her hair was still in place.

"Okay, okay; I'll admit it. I spend lots of time in girly-girl mode. I like dressing up, and I like looking nice."

The water in the sink was still running, and Faith dropped her voice to a whispered mumble, but Buffy's ears still caught her reply.

"Well, mission accomplished there, miss girly-girl, 'cause you're definitely lookin' wicked nice from where I'm standing...."

Buffy stopped her artful arrangement of a few dangly tendrils of hair, grinned at her reflection, then cleared her throat loudly.

"Hey, Faith?"

"Yeah?"

She leaned around the corner of the doorway and gave the girl her best attempt at helpful, wide-eyed innocence.

"Remember when I told you I have super-sensitive hearing? Well, I wasn't kidding." Faith looked at her for a long moment, motionless as a deer staring into headlights, and then blinked, turned her head, and seemed to see the contents of the second open suitcase for the first time.

"Great shoes there, B," she said, her careless tone doing nothing to hide the flush that momentarily tinted her pale face pink. Buffy nodded amiably, pretending that she hadn't seen.

"Yep. Dad lets me do all kinds of damage to his credit card when it's his turn for a weekend with me." She leaned over to snag the kit holding her makeup, itself as large as some people's overnight bags. Carrying it into the bathroom, she sorted through until she found what she needed for a quick once-over. It wasn't like she was going on a date or anything, of course. Still, there was no way she was going to meet a small crowd of high-school girls with a shiny nose, or any hint of even a tiny pimple showing. While her hands worked at that, her mind was replaying all the looks Faith had been giving her since that first moment out in front of the school. Added to what she'd just heard, it was pretty obvious what was going on.

Faith has a girl-crush, Faith has a girrrrl-cruuuush! she sang silently, carefully keeping her amusement within the privacy of her own thoughts. God, I love it when people get all smitten with me.

It was, after all, far from the first time it had happened. Being one of the prettiest and most popular girls at her old school had some great benefits: free rides to school, home, or almost anywhere else she wanted to go, nerdy types eager to do her homework for her, and a nearly endless supply of jocks lining up for the privilege of dating her. She'd restricted herself to a select few, of course; nobody respected someone with a reputation as a slut.

"I can't help noticin' that all seven pairs are high-heels."

Buffy, brushing powder across her nose with a soft brush, made a sound of protest.

"All seven pairs are very expensive high heels, thank you very much," she huffed theatrically. "And when you're basically five-foot nothing, like me, heels are a necessity, not an accessory." More movement out on the bed, and more sounds of the other girl sorting through the luggage.

"Seriously, B; you didn't bring one pair of tennis shoes?"

Buffy turned her head from side to side, inspecting her reflection critically, decided it would have to do, and then started with the eyeliner.

"I don't play tennis," she said absently, concentrating on her task.

"Yeah, but what if you want to jog, or have to run away from someone?"

She switched to the other eye, and for the thousandth time thanked whatever genetic quirk had given her enhanced coordination as one of her mutant gifts; it really saved her time with this sort of thing.

"Why in the world would I want to go jogging? And I don't run away from things, either. They either leave me alone or I bludgeon them until they fall down and stop moving." A quick pass over her lips with her favorite cherry-flavored lip-gloss, and she was all set. Strolling out into the room, she found Faith looking down at the contents of the huge duffel she'd lugged upstairs earlier. Those dark eyes raised to her own, and they were wide with disbelief.

"You didn't bring any normal shoes, but you packed a set of sheets, a blanket, and your own pillow?"

Buffy tilted her head in puzzlement.

"Sure, doesn't everybody?"

Faith laughed, and in that unguarded moment she looked years younger than the blonde had first placed her.

"Only crazy people, far as I know." She reached behind her and pulled down the exquisitely made comforter. There were two pillows there, in satin slipcases, and she tossed one to Buffy. "See? I'm guessin' most places give those to you as part of the whole 'bed' thing, you know?" The smaller girl examined the pillow, and her lip curled in distaste.

"Ew. This has feathers in it. If I sleep on this, my face will break out like crazy--I'll look like a plague victim by morning." Faith looked at her searchingly for a minute, apparently trying to decide if she was being serious.

"Okay, and the sheets? No feathers there."

Buffy shook her head, putting out a hand to touch the finely-made sheets.

"Too rough; I'd toss and turn all night and never get any sleep. Mine are Egyptian cotton. You wouldn't believe how big a difference there is."

Faith half-grinned, and looked at her sidelong.

"You're totally screwing with me here, right?"

"Not at all. My skin is very sensitive." Buffy looked at the pillow she was still holding, and looked for something to do with it. Just holding the feather-filled thing was starting to make her itch. Before she could spot a suitable place to toss it, they were both startled by the door to the room suddenly swinging open.

"Hey!" A girl she'd never seen before was standing there, glaring at both of them in a very unfriendly fashion.

"Can I help you?" Buffy asked politely.

"Don't you know how to fucking knock?" Faith said, somewhat less politely.

The girl looked from one to the other, and made a curt gesture at the pile of stuff in the hallway behind her.

"Why are all my things out here? What are you two doing in my room?!"

Buffy gave her a friendly, entirely fake smile.

"I think I saw the bellhop person put your luggage there; terrible service in this place, really. You should complain to the manager."

Faith twisted around on the bed till she was propped on one elbow, with the fingers of the other hand moving idly over the tight leather covering her hip.

"And we're not in your room, you're in our room. I think the only one still open is next door... which is a shame because that place is a real shithole." The girl's face was perfectly composed as she said it; it was her dark eyes that sparkled with glee. The stranger in the doorway sputtered, her voice rising in both pitch and volume.

"I am going to complain! About both of you! If you think for one second that you can steal my room out from under--Oooph!"

Even though the feather pillow was soft, it still had some weight to it. So when Buffy flicked it across the room, and straight into the girl's belly with a flicker-swift sideways snap of her arm, it folded her over with a pained wheeze. She stumbled backwards three steps, gasping for breath, and Faith made a little gesture with her hand that slammed the door in her face. The two girls looked at each other for several seconds. Then:

"Seriously?" Faith said from her position sprawled on the bed. "You really have some kind of princess and the pea thing where you have to sleep on sheets of Nigerian silk--"

"They're Egyptian cotton! Jeez, what is it that's so hard to believe? Some of us are more refined than you ruffians, you know, with your motorcycles and your tattoos and all the... street lingo...." Faith snorted.

"Yeah, you're a delicate flower all right. If I look through those bags some more am I gonna find a box of those disposable toilet seat covers, to protect your oh-so-pure backside from all the nasty-bad germs and stuff that are out to get you?"

Buffy folded her hands primly and raised her nose a precise fraction higher.

"My personal hygiene... precautions... are none of your business young lady!" She couldn't keep the smile from stealing over her lips as she said it, and Faith grinned back at her. Then Buffy went mock-serious, and marched over to the other bed. "And it occurs to me that if it's okay for you to 'help' me with unpacking, I can do the same for you." A coy glance over her shoulder showed Faith bolting upright with a look of genuine alarm. The girl was on her feet in an instant, and across the room in seconds--too late to prevent Buffy from snatching up the backpack.

"Hey!" Faith said, loudly, trying to grab it out of the smaller girl's hands. "You don't need to look in there. I'm sorry about getting in your shit--c'mon!" Buffy danced back, ducked under an outstretched arm, and skipped nimbly around the end of the bed and up the other side, always managing to keep the backpack out of Faith's reach.

"Looky there, the big girl can't get her bag away from the little girl," she said, her voice smug. "And all with me in high heels, too; imagine that."

Faith stopped, and stood there glowering at her.

"Fine. Okay, go ahead and look. Fair's fair, like you said." Buffy, suspecting a trick, slowly pulled the top flap open, still keeping her eyes on the other girl. Feeling around inside with one hand, she pursed her lips in disapproval.

"Ha, cigarettes. What a shock."

"Yeah, yeah; so I'm a cliche. Gimme," Faith said, reaching out to take the little package the blonde had held up. She withdrew one of the cigarettes from the package and put it to her lips, lighting it with a small lighter she'd somehow managed to jam into her pants pocket. Buffy shook her head, though her only comment was: "My clothes and sheets had better not end up smelling like smoke."

Faith rolled her eyes, but moved back around the bed to the window. Sliding it up to let in the outside air, she perched one hip on the sill and sat there, watching Buffy. The blonde girl nodded, satisfied, and peered down into the depths of the pack.

"Hmm. A blouse, in an odd shade of purple-slash-cranberry--"

"Matches the--" Faith started to say.

"--the knives," Buffy finished for her. "Okay, alright, I get the color scheme thing you've got going on here." She set the wadded up garment on the bed and reached in again. "A pair of jeans, of the hip-hugger variety," she set those aside as well, firmly suppressing a faintly naughty thought which involved Faith changing into those jeans while Buffy watched. "Um, chewing gum, tropical fruit flavored... running shoes, Adidas... a bag of suckers--looks like someone has an oral fixation, hmm?" Nearly at the bottom of the pack, she'd nearly given up on finding anything interesting when--

"...And then a little something belonging to John Rambo...." She pulled the object out and held it up. It was a knife--a real one, made of steel, in a black leather sheath. Glancing at Faith, she pulled it free and looked at the blade. It was a familiar shape: a wickedly-barbed thing with gleaming edges and a double point. "This is...?"

"My old one," Faith said, pausing to blow a stream of smoke towards the open window. "That's the one I used before the mutant power thing showed up. I guess that's why my blades look the way they do; my mind made 'em something I was comfortable with. Or something like that." She turned her head and looked outside as she took another drag on her cigarette. For her part, Buffy looked at the knife more closely. This wasn't a showpiece, good for nothing besides being hung on some wall. The thing was a functional, deadly weapon, and even though it was carefully cared for, there were scratches and nicks that hadn't happened while it was sitting somewhere gathering dust.

"'The one you used'?" Buffy repeated questioningly. That got her nothing except some really good ignorage from the other girl, so she put the knife down on the bed. There was only one thing left in the bottom of the pack, a cloth-covered bundle about as big as a child's lunchbox. She lifted it with both hands, almost afraid to look inside. Carefully unwrapping it, she found it held... money. A startled sound escaped her, and several bundles of bills dropped back inside the backpack.

"What is this? Faith?" The other girl shrugged, avoiding her gaze.

"About four thousand dollars, last time I counted it." Buffy stared at the purple-haired stranger, and wondered again just what she'd gotten into because of one hasty decision.

"And you got four thousand dollars how?" Faith finally met her eyes, shifted her cigarette to her right hand, and held up the left. Violet light flared, and a twin to the metal knife appeared in her hand, this one made of that strange energy. A moment later it faded and was gone. Buffy blinked, and took a slow breath. "Oh."

"Yeah."

They sat there for several minutes, neither one speaking. When Faith's cigarette burned low she tossed the butt out the window and lit another. Buffy stood looking at the money. It was mostly small bills, fives, tens and twenties, with the occasional hundred. The kind of thing most any corner market or liquor store might have in its register. A few of the bills on top of the stacks were speckled with rust-brown spots that could have been dried blood. She knew what dried blood looked like because vampires bled when she fought them. They bled a lot when she fought them... and then they didn't do much of anything at all.

Buffy tried to pin down what she was feeling, and couldn't. Things weren't always black and white, she knew that from her experiences over the last few months, after her mutant powers had manifested themselves. Whatever Faith had done, did anyone else have the right to judge her? More specifically, did Buffy have the right to judge her?

And what do I do about it, anyway? Call the police? Report her to the Principal? What if somebody at my old school had turned me in? Would that have been fair? Would it have made things better? She knew the answer to that one. Without her, even more of the students would have been killed, especially the night of the dance. So maybe I should just keep my mouth shut, keep my head down, and concentrate on not getting involved with the police for awhile, right? Nodding to herself, Buffy looked up at the other girl, opened her mouth--and whipped her head around to look at the door.

"Whoops!" Moving with more-than-human speed, she dropped the rest of the cash into the backpack, threw the knife after it, and stuffed Faith's clothes in on top. Dropping the pack to the floor by her feet, she looked up, pasted a bored expression on her face, and--

--The door slammed open, revealing their little friend from before, and another girl of about the same age. Faith, who'd been watching Buffy's frantic movements in confusion, shifted easily into a look of annoyance.

"Okay, what did I tell you about knocking?"

The first girl, the one with the red hair from before, stepped boldly into the room. Jabbing her finger towards Buffy, she spoke in a loud, determined voice.

"My name is Cassandra Vandeveer, and this is my room!" Her friend stepped forward to take up a position at the other's shoulder.

"We were here first!" she declared in a somewhat higher voice. "Our things were in here, and you threw them out in the hall!"

Buffy turned with studied deliberation to look at Faith.

"Her name is Cassandra Vandeveer."

"I heard. That supposed to mean something?"

Buffy frowned.

"I think so, or she wouldn't have announced it like that."

Cassandra, watching this exchange, grew visibly more agitated by the second.

"We were here! We put our things in here, so it's ours!" She pointed again, this time at Faith. "And you can't be smoking in here, either! Not in our room, not even inside the building!" The tall girl's eyebrows rose, and she took a long, deliberate inhale, then blew it in the direction of the ranting redhead.

"Wanna come over here and do something about it?"

The second intruder, the one with short black hair, put her hand on Cassandra's arm to hold her back.

"Let's just get our things, and put them back in here." She glared at them both. "We'll stay in here and call one of the staff; they'll straighten these two out for us."

Buffy, who had idly pulled the covers on Faith's bed back so that she could pick up a pillow, looked across at her friend.

"They're going to get their things. The ones we threw out in the hall."

Faith nodded sagely.

"Throwing things out into the hall is wrong. We should never do that again."

"Never ever," Buffy agreed. Then she looked at the two girls standing there, looking back at them, and smiled.

"Look out--" the black-haired one yelled, and then she split. Her outline blurred, and it was like another of her, a perfect copy, stepped forward while the original stayed where she'd been standing. An instant later, and another copy stepped into existence too, leaving the first version slightly behind the two new ones. Beside her, Cassandra Vandeveer's eyes were glowing with pale light, and Buffy's head suddenly felt like it was going to explode.

"Whoaokayohcrapohwhatisahhhh--" She grabbed at the bed to keep herself upright as the entire room seemed to flip completely upside down, flip again, and then keep right on flipping, faster and faster while her head hurt so badly she thought her ears might start bleeding. It was nearly impossible to pick out any details of what was happening around her, but she thought she heard Cassandra give a mocking laugh, just as Faith called out:

Hey! Whiny girl! You want some of her you gotta take me, too. So have some!"

Buffy heard a grunt, then another, and suddenly the room righted itself and her head began to clear. She saw Faith, still standing across the bed from her, make a motion like she was slapping someone hard across the face. Across the room, Cassandra's whole body was slammed sideways, right into the doorframe. Apparently she'd been knocked backwards several steps before the sideways thing started, and now she was bouncing back and forth, from side to side, her head smacking hard into the door jamb each time as Faith telekinetically bitchslapped her, first one way and then the other. The second girl was still standing stock-still, while her two duplicates stalked towards the intently-concentrating Faith. One picked up a chair along the way, and the other grabbed a heavy lamp from the table beside the door. Buffy hefted her pillow, gauged the distance and angle, and let fly. This time it wasn't a quick little flick of her arm, either; this time she wound up like a pitcher in the major leagues. The fluffy projectile flashed across the room with a rush of displaced air, and took the motionless girl full in the face and chest. Whatever sound she made was lost in the impact, and muffled by the pillow itself. She went hurtling backwards, her feet actually leaving the ground in the process, and collided with her friend in the doorway--hard. Together the two of them tumbled out into the hall, came up against the far wall, and ended up in a tangled, groaning heap. The duplicates flickered and vanished in mid-step the instant the pillow hit, their improvised weapons dropping to the thick carpet.

Buffy sighed, took a quick look around to make sure the floor and ceiling were staying where they belonged, then looked over at Faith.

"Like I was saying, we need to know which people are okay to hang out with." Faith nodded in understanding.

"And which ones are the losers, that aren't worth our time. Got it."

Buffy looked down at the backpack on the floor beside her, and used one stylishly-outfitted foot to nudge it underneath the bed.

"So," she said, "Wanna go and meet some people?"

Faith shrugged, took a last drag on her cigarette, and flicked it out through the window.

"Might as well. We still have lots of time to kill before that orientation thing, right?"

They walked across the room, spent a few seconds putting the chair and lamp back in their proper places, then exited their room. Faith closed the door behind them, and Buffy stepped daintily over the tangled limbs of the two semi-conscious girls. Behind her, she heard Faith stop just long enough to deliver a few parting words.

"You guys are lucky, aren't you? Not even unpacked yet, and you're already learning things at your new school. Like, for example, our room! Got that? Ours!" She waited till she got a woozy nod from each of them before standing up straight again and catching up to Buffy. The blonde girl gave her companion a little smile, and got a smirk back. They headed down the hall, looking for someone interesting enough to talk to, and then something occurred to her.

"Wait a second. You can move things with your mind!" Faith, busy peeking into rooms as they passed open doors, spared her the sort of look usually reserved for idiots and small children.

"B, I think the only word I can use in response here is 'Duh'." Buffy shook her head violently, then stopped and felt her hair to make sure she hadn't loosened her updo again.

"No, I mean, you can move things with your mind, and we flipped a coin to decide who got the better bed!"

"Uh huh. So?"

Buffy shoved the taller girl on the shoulder with one hand, hard enough to bounce her lightly off the wall of the hallway.

"So?! Did you cheat?!"

Faith, rubbing at her shoulder and grinning, didn't say a word.

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