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Just standing there on the street in front of her building, waiting for the car in full view of anyone who happened by, would have been pretty stupid. Yeah, it was late, and Buffy was likely at home right now, grabbing a couple of hours’ sleep in between patrolling and school. Even so, it was still worth going to a little trouble, just in case. Which put Faith inside an abandoned florist’s shop, across the street and a few doors down, watching through the filthy window and waiting for her ride. She’d found the convenient lookout spot soon after moving into the new apartment; because when people really were out to get you, a little paranoia was a good
Standing in the shadows as she smoked a cigarette, Faith did her best to cultivate patience. I wonder what we’re going after, today?
she wondered, watching closely as a car drove past on the street outside. For a moment she thought it might be the Mayor, but it kept going and turned at the next light. At this hour, of course, there were no pedestrians. Hunting, he said; that could be anything. Maybe he needs some Demon nose hairs for one of his rituals, or that team of mercenaries that the Vatican is supposed to be sending to kill us might have finally gotten here.
She couldn’t help but grin in anticipation of that encounter; the first Holy Warrior who waved a cross in her face or tried to spray her with some priest-blessed tap water was going to be very surprised at the result. Scanning the street again showed it to be utterly deserted. Faith took a final drag off her cigarette, dropped it to the floor, ground it out beneath her boot, and exhaled the smoke in a long sigh. At least these little waits were a bit more bearable, now that she had managed to regain that small pleasure.
It had taken her a while to figure out how to adjust her body’s supercharged immunities in such a way as to allow something as puny as mere nicotine to have any significant effect on her. Now, finally, she could get back to enjoying her bad habits; smoking felt good again, and it no longer took a gallon of alcohol to get her a little buzzed. Neither sensation lasted very long, though; that was just the price she paid for being what she was. On the other hand, not having to worry about lung cancer or hangovers pretty much balanced things out.
Tiring of standing still, she turned and wandered slowly around the remains of the tiny florists shop. Glass display shelves were thickly-coated with dust; those that had not been reduced to heaps of broken shards littering the filthy floor. Here and there, the desiccated remains of actual flowers still remained; most she didn’t recognize, though that was definitely a withered orchid in the pink ceramic vase. A basket-arrangement held what was still recognizable as Lilies and Monk’s Hood, which prompted her to smile faintly as she reached out to touch the dusty purple flowers. I wonder if Red and her little puppy-wolf know about this stuff?
Mildly poisonous to normal humans, the herb would suppress the symptoms of lycanthropy if injected into an infected person. If Oz really didn’t want to transform during the full moon, all he need do was brew up a batch and medicate himself. They probably don’t know,
she decided. Even with their small mountain of old books, and those endless all-night research sessions, there were some things you only picked up if you spent a lot of time around a hands-on, world-class Sorcerer.
Walking across to what had been the sales counter, she propped one elbow on the glass and looked again at the roses. She’d gathered them up during her previous visits; seven mummified yet still mostly intact red-black blooms, carefully placed into the best remaining vase in the shop. Sniffing carefully, her nose practically touching the paper-dry petals, she could still detect just the faintest hint of their scent. Wasn’t there something in the old stories about roses being poison to vamps?
Faith frowned, trying to remember if that were actually the case, or if it was just something she’d seen in an old movie. Hm, it would explain why none of them have tried to lair in here, though, when every other abandoned building in town seems to attract a few, sooner or later.
Back when she and Buffy had been a team, they would routinely check every house and structure with a ‘for sale or lease’ sign in the front; most of the time it had been as good as a ‘Vampires are here!’ sign. Faith’s frown deepened, and she turned to stare at the front window again. Maybe it wasn’t so smart, setting up in here. If she
did come down this street, she’d check it out, find the back door I rigged up to let me get inside, and see that stuff’s been moved around. She might even spend a few nights watching the place, to see if it was me who was using it. Then all she’d need to do was wait till I showed up, give me time to get bored and careless, and then she could come up behind me with a knife, or even just a stake….
The tiny hairs on the back of her neck slowly stood on end, and she felt her throat try to close up. Despite her suddenly hammering heart, she took a long, deep breath before looking behind her. There was no one there.Well,
duh! Of course she’s not there.
Faith closed her eyes and shook her head angrily. Okay, that’s me going over the line and being
too paranoid. Buffy isn’t going to find me so long as I’m careful; fuck, I don’t even know for sure if she’s
looking for me!
Sure, she’d assumed that the blonde Slayer would be searching the town for her rival, that only made sense. But what if…. The girl opened her eyes and stared at the dried roses without truly seeing them. What if she’s not looking for me at all? What if she’s not even worried about me?
It seemed bizarre, even impossible, and yet…. She knows where it’s going to end up; at Graduation. Maybe she’s just planning to take me out there; kill me and then the Mayor, and she doesn’t even care what I do in the meantime. She’s beaten me before, or at least turned it into a tie; she must think that her and the rest of them can take me and the boss during the big show, especially with all the time they have to plan their shit out.
Even though it was completely at odds with every assumption Faith had made to this point, it was also completely in character for Buffy.‘Cause she never spent a lot of time and energy thinking about me before, did she?
Faith thought bitterly. Why should she change that now, just because I teamed up with her latest big bad?
She paced a full lap of the shop, staring at her feet and trying to decide if she believed it. Buffy had
to be looking for her… didn’t she? On the other hand, Sunnydale wasn’t that big a town. No matter how careful Faith was being, how smart she was playing it, wasn’t it a bit odd that the two of them hadn’t run into each other by now? Or, was that very fact proof that the other Slayer was somehow tracking Faith, keeping tabs on her and staying out of her way until she was ready to make her move?
That last bit was nearly enough to make her start banging her head against the counter; if she kept trying to overthink things without more to go on, her brain would start leaking out through her ears. Resolving to put all further speculation on hold for now, she checked across the street again even as she reached for another cigarette. Her hand fell away from her pocket, though, when she saw the car pulling up in front of her building. It wasn’t the limo, just a very stylish Lexus. Again, better not to advertise where she lived for everyone with eyes to see; Buffy wasn’t her only enemy in this town. Pausing only to pop a piece of breath-scrubbing gum into her mouth, she gathered up her gear and headed back to the shop’s rear entrance. From there it was only a few seconds to jog down the alley and across the street to reach the waiting car. The driver, one of the more reliable vamps she’d recruited for the Mayor, saw her coming and started to climb out, but she waved him back inside; she could manage opening and closing her own door. The back seat of the car turned out to be empty, which surprised her a little. She’d thought Wilkins would be taking her straight to whatever it was he wanted killed.
“Where is he?” she asked, taking a moment to properly settle her bow before climbing in herself. There was room for it, if she positioned it carefully. The driver looked at her in the rear view mirror, though of course she could not see his reflection in it.
“The ranch. He drove out a couple of hours ago, said you’ll start from there.”
That was interesting; in her experience the Mayor seldom visited his old residence unless it was absolutely necessary. She leaned back, let the comfy leather seat cradle her, and waited to see just what this was all about.
* * * * *
Richard Wilkins didn’t live on the sprawling expanse of land beyond Sunnydale’s Southeastern edge; he lived in a modern, semi-upscale home on one of the low hills that overlooked the town. No, the ranch, with it’s several hundred acres of untended weeds and brush, had not been active for nearly a century. In fact, as far as anyone knew (or would ever be able to find records to indicate, if they were inclined to look), it belonged to no one at all. Of course, back in the day, before the little settlement on the coast had even officially been handed over by the Spanish founders, the property had been bought by a young man with red hair, a brilliant smile and some very unsavory ambitions.
Staring out at the predawn darkness, Faith watched as the car turned off the road and onto the long, long drive that led to the compound at the center of the place. There were several outbuildings, most long-since fallen into ruin, though the smaller of the two barns was mostly intact. Some of the sheds had been built with deep, stone-lined cellars, and those were proving useful even now as a place to house the vampires that Cheyanne was stealthily creating. Come graduation, even a half-disciplined mob of two or three dozen vamps would help to tip the scales even further in the Mayor’s favor… provided they could be kept safely under wraps until then. Although Faith and 'Shy' had done their best to make sure the fledglings they created were of the calmer, saner sort, it still took a bit of coaxing to keep them here, and out of Sunnydale. The ranch was far enough away from town to be just outside the Hellmouth zone, and the demons were naturally drawn to that upwelling of other-dimensional energy.
To be honest, Faith could feel its pull too, if she let herself; the mystical nature of her own power responding in much the same way as that of the lesser beings she used to hunt. Given that, it really wasn’t surprising, then, that when Buffy had split town last summer, she had headed straight for Los Angeles, which was reportedly home to a weaker, less sharply-focused Hellmouth of its own.
The car pulled into the broad circle that fronted the main house, and came to a stop. Faith opened the door, hopped out into the chill darkness—and grunted as something plowed into her from behind with enough force to drive her forward into a sprawl among the gravel and weeds. She got her arms up in time to save her face, suddenly glad that she was wearing a jacket she really hadn’t needed, as the soft suede kept the sharp little rocks from gouging her too badly.
Still, needless to say, she was very, very pissed. Flipping back to her feet, she whirled, snarling.
“Who the fuck--?!
He was already coming at her again, but this time she wasn’t being blindsided, and a snap kick to the stomach folded him over, giving her plenty of time to line up a nice, hard uppercut to the chin that lifted him off the ground and sent him flying back against the side of the car. Faith took that opportunity to spit out the dust she’d eaten a moment ago, wipe her mouth on the sleeve of her jacket, and stifle a powerful urge to sneeze. She recognized her attacker now; one of the vamps she’d been thinking of earlier, a new recruit who wasn’t especially happy about being stuck out here in the boonies.
“Okay, Nick,” she growled, stalking towards him slowly. “You’ve got ten seconds to convince me you’re not better off as dust, starting right now.”
Nick, who’d been just another punk-ass kid working the night shift at the local superstore before a certain blonde babe of a vampire had found him, seemed unsure of whether he should stand up to her, or fall to his knees and beg for mercy. Unfortunately for him, he chose the first option.
“How much longer?” he growled, pushing away from the now-dented door of the Lexus and shaking a fist at her as she came slowly closer. “How much longer are we going to be stuck out here, living on scraps and bags of cold blood, when there’s a whole town just waiting
to be taken?!” Faith saw that the nine other newly made vamps that were quartered here were standing in a loose group behind him, waiting to see what happened. Nick saw it too, and it pushed him even further into dumbass bravado mode.
“I say we go in there and find this Slayer you keep talking about,” he declared, as much to his audience as to her. “No matter how tough she is, there’s no way she can stop all of—“
Faith had heard enough, and she had more important things to do this morning anyway. She was close enough now, and she cut off his rant with a backhand slap that spun him to the ground. Fledgling or no, he was still a vampire, and he came right back up—just in time to meet a left cross that sent him reeling back towards the others.
“Listen, fucktard,” she said, still continuing her relentless advance. “You’re staying here until it’s time to wipe out the good guys all at once.” He lunged at her, hands reaching for her throat. Faith effortlessly blocked them wide, then pistoned her fist into his sternum; blurringly fast, and with enough force that the crack of bone was clearly audible. Nick didn’t have to breathe any more, of course, but his mouth formed a little ‘O’ of shock as he stumbled back a few more steps. “If you losers went into town now, you wouldn’t last a night. The Slayer and her bloodsucker boytoy would run through you like were nothing.” She’d reached him again, and he threw a weak, slow punch, more as an attempt to keep her away than to actually do any damage. She caught his fist in one hand, wrenched him around, then used her fist to sledgehammer him to the ground, face-first. The two of them were in the midst of the others, now, and Faith spent a moment looking each of them in the eyes. They were all newly turned, so much so that they’d gone all vamp-faced just from being this close to a fight, and there was no mistaking them for anything remotely human.
Which was perfectly all right, since Faith wasn’t any kind of human herself.
“You guys are impatient, right? Itching for a fight, and ready to spill some blood?” She gave them a small smile, though her eyes remained hard. “Well, folks; I hear ya, I get it. And I feel the same way.” Another figure caught her eye, moving past the others, and the Slayer’s smile grew a little wider, a little more heartfelt. Her lovely little Cheyanne; petite, blonde, and—as always—not
in vamp face, moved up to her, stopped, and held out both hands, offering her the object lying across her palms.
Faith’s short sword, which she’d left in the car. Nick, still on the ground at her feet, tried to scramble up, fought to get away, but she planted her boot in his fractured chest and pinned him to the ground.
“You’re going to stay here,” she continued, addressing them all as she accepted the weapon from the beautiful vampire. “Because we’re going to play this smart, and hit them when the time is right, when they’re trying to deal with everything at once. Believe me, there’s going to be plenty of blood, and killing, and evil shit like that for every one of you.” She unsheathed the weapon, weighing it in her hand while she swept her eyes across those faces once more. What she was saying to them was only common sense, she knew. Problem was, vampires didn’t always recognize common sense; for most of them that kind of thinking just didn’t come naturally.
And so she raised the blade she held, swung it down with a sharp, swift motion, and took Nick’s head off with one clean cut. His struggles ended instantly, his body collapsing into dust and ashes, allowing the foot she’d been pressing into his chest to hit the ground with a thump
that seemed loud in the suddenly quiet night. The head lasted a couple of seconds longer, enough time for his horrified expression to register very clearly to all present, and then it was gone too. Faith lifted the sword, considered the sharp, gleaming blade, and then cocked her head at the others.
“And finally, and most important: If you don’t stay where I tell you and do exactly as you’re told, I will fuckin’ end
you. Anybody who doesn’t believe that, feel free to step up like our boy here did, and I’ll be happy to send you right on your way.”
Where reason and common sense didn’t work, a nice clear threat usually did. Sure enough, the vamps quickly backed away, heading towards whatever cellar or crawlspace they were camping out in for the moment. Faith sheathed the blade, and hooked it to the loop on her belt that held it ready at her right hip.
“I’m sorry,” Cheyanne said quietly from where she stood a few steps away. The Slayer glanced over at her.
“For what?” she asked. The vampire gestured down at the dusty remains.
“Him. What just happened.” She shook her head, sending ripples down the length of her long blonde hair. “I should have chosen better, and not turned him. Or else I should have tried harder to explain why we need them all to—“
The Slayer reached out, took hold of the girl’s jeans at the waistband, and smoothly pulled her close. Shy was a good six inches shorter than Faith, more delicately built, and of course she only had vampire strength with which to resist. Not that she ever tried to resist.
“Don’t waste any more time worrying about that,” she told the blonde. “We’ve still got a couple of months to find some who have enough brains to do what they’re told.” She flashed a cocky grin. “Besides, this whole ‘vamp brigade’ thing is just overkill anyway, since I’ll
be there for the big finish.” Cheyanne obediently smiled back, though she was clearly still bothered by what she perceived as her failure to properly control her charges. It really wasn’t in any way her fault of course; maybe one in five new-made vamps held on to their full personality and intelligence after the change, and of those maybe half ended up being too wild or full of themselves to be of any use. Plus, it’s just a fact that she’s not strong enough, or scary enough to keep them in line
, she mused, using the back of her index finger to stroke the girl's smooth cheek. She’s gorgeous, and bright, too, but she’s also the weakest vamp I’ve ever seen. Just the luck of the draw, I guess. Could be bad genes, or defective vamp-mojo, or whatever the hell makes it work; fact is, she would have trouble beating up most humans, much less a gang of rowdy fledglings. Which is okay, since I’m here to do the ass-kicking, when it needs doing.
Shy’s eyes closed, the better to concentrate on Faith's caress, then her nostrils flared slightly and she opened them again, revealing irises of deep, deep blue.
“You’re hurt,” she said, not a question but a statement of fact, and she reached out, her slim, graceful fingers touching the Slayer’s wrist. Faith turned her hand over, and sure enough, there was a small, bloody scrape on the inside of her wrist from where she’s sprawled in the gravel earlier.
“It’s nothing,” she said. She didn’t even feel it now, and it would be completely healed within the hour. The other girl gave her a questioning look, even as she slowly lifted Faith’s wrist to her lips. The Slayer allowed it, and uttered a little ‘mmmmm’ of pleasure as the other laid a feather-light kiss upon the wound, then cleaned the blood away with tiny, delicate strokes of her tongue. The vampire’s eyes went yellow-gold at the first taste of that rich, powerful blood, but her face didn’t transform; Faith had trained her early on to never, ever do that within her sight.
When the last of the crimson was gone, Cheyanne let out a little whine of disappointment and gave the wrist the very lightest of questioning nips with the tips of her fangs.
“No,” Faith said, pulling it away and putting her hand beneath the girl’s chin, raising it so that their eyes met. “Later for that, I don’t have time right now.”
She paused, and threw a look over her shoulder at the eastern horizon. Dawn wasn’t going to happen in the next minute, but it wasn’t that far away, either. Looking back at the blonde vampire she inclined her head towards the half-dozen or so cars parked nearby, Shy's blue mustang among them. “You don’t have time either; drive back to my place before the sun gets here. When I get home you can try and make it up to me for dust boy here.” The other girl nodded once, need and heat both visible in her eyes even as they slowly shifted back from yellow to blue, and she pressed her small, soft body against the Slayer's, chin lifting higher and lips parting as she silently begged for a goodbye kiss. Faith obliged, kissing her passionately, and just like always her probing tongue soon found its way to the other girl's delicate, needle-sharp fangs. Just like a cat
, she thought, not for the first time. Not that I’ve ever put my tongue in a cat’s mouth or anything, but I think this is what it would feel like, if I did.
They spent more time on that quick kiss than Faith had intended; a good minute must have passed while they tasted and explored each other, and the Slayer’s hands moved possessively over the girl’s slim waist and hourglass curves. Mmmm. A weak vampire, but wicked-hot, a
fantastic lay, and... she loves me, I guess… at least as much as anybody can love anybody.
She really didn’t buy into ‘love’ as anything more than a pretty fairy-tale and a nice topic for song lyrics. Experience had taught her too well that people took what they wanted, did what they could get away with, and used everyone around them to help make those things happen; too much emotion only made you more vulnerable, and more likely to end up as a victim. It was enough for her that Shy was gorgeous, and submissive, and likely to stay loyal. Being so physically weak, especially in a town patrolled by vampire hunters, meant that she needed a strong protector, and there was no one stronger than Faith. Add to that the fact that she was smart enough to see which side was likely to end up winning the ultimate showdown and there was little danger of betrayal from the blonde.
Besides, having a small, delicate, beautiful blonde girl around, one that was basically powerless against her physically, and eager to obey and satisfy her every desire, no matter what? That
was worth a little risk of betrayal, and the occasional nagging concern about being knifed while she was sleeping. Sure, the subtext of that
particular dominance kink was crystal clear, even to her, but she worked hard to convince herself that it didn't mean anything... and mostly she succeeded.
All those reveries happened while she kissed the vampire, and she found that while her thoughts had wandered, her hands had moved with a mind of their own, pulling aside clothing and doing things to Cheyanne that had the blonde girl making needy little noises and melting into Faith even as she climbed the taller Slayer, so that her slender arms were now resting atop Faith's shoulders, her wrists crossed behind that dark head, pulling her into that searing kiss, even as her legs encircled Faith's hard-muscled waist, her ankles hooking together and her designer heels digging into the small of the brunette's back.
For her part, Faith, not being made of stone, was pretty damn close to total mental shutdown, at which point she would throw the little vampire sex-kitten down and have her way with her right then and there... which was, unfortunately, not
something she could really afford to do. Not with Wilkins waiting.
She pulled her head back slightly, and Cheyanne just moved hers forward a bit, her need too great to let the kiss end. Faith actually wavered for a moment; the other girl was that good
. Still, the Mayor would not be amused if he came looking for her and found the two of them rolling around in the tall grass somewhere.
Shy's blonde hair was silky, thick, and fell six inches or so past her hips; Faith reached back now, wound her fingers into that mass of pale, pampered gold, and tugged.
Not violently, but not all that gently, either.
Cheyanne's head was pulled back, in the same slow, inexorable way it would if it were hooked to the winch on a tow truck. The kiss broken, her eyes flew open, and the look she gave Faith was suddenly fearful.
“Oh! I-I'm sorry, didn't you want to--?”
Faith took a breath, spent a few seconds trying to get her raging hormones under control, and gave the girl a rueful little grin.
“Christ, you have no idea
how much I 'want to'... but I can't. Gotta go do work stuff.”
That earned her a little smile in return, something that would have looked positively angelic on that lovely face, if not for the lust in those blue eyes, and the needle-like fangs that made tiny little indentations as she delicately nibbled at her pouting lower lip.
“Oh.” Shy said again, much softer this time, and Faith's heart tripped over a beat or two before steadying. Holy shit, she's so much like B when she pouts like that, and talks in that quiet, little-girl voice. Does she do that on purpose? Is she learning which buttons to push with me, or is it just a thing where two cute girls just happen to have some of the same tricks?
She didn't know, and it probably didn't matter anyway. For now, she contented herself with one last, brief kiss (which just as sweet, insatiable, and deep-down-tickle inducing as the first), then she put her hands on the girl's waist and lifted her up and away.
Cheyanne obediently unwrapped her arms from around Faith's head and her legs from around Faith's hips, and the taller girl gently set her back onto the ground.
“My place,” she told the little vampire. “I don't know how long this thing is going to take, but I'll be there as soon as I can.”
Shy smiled softly up at her, languidly winding strands of pale gold around and around her fingers.
“I'll be waiting.”
With that she turned and headed for her car, the long, sleek fall of her hair moving side to side with her walk in perfect counterpoint to her gracefully swaying hips. The hypnotic combination effortlessly held Faith’s eyes all the way there. Fuck yeah,
She thought to herself, feeling very much as she had earlier, when admiring her new bow. Beautiful, just a tiny bit dangerous, and all
As Cheyanne drove away, Faith went to retrieve the rest of her gear from the Lexus before heading off to find her employer. Breathing deeply of the crisp, pre-dawn air, she found herself smiling happily.
She’d dusted a vamp before dawn, was looking forward to a day of doing something productive and violent, and when she got home tonight there would be a gorgeous-hot blonde waiting for her.
It really wasn’t a question of whether or not she was glad she’d ditched the white hats and joined up with team evil. What she felt most bitterly was regret that she hadn’t made the jump sooner.
* * * * *
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