Faith ran her finger along the sharp axe blade in her hand as the truck carrying her and most of the other slayers bumped them along the winding country roads. She watched as a small trickle of blood dripped to the floor. She brought her finger to her mouth and sucked before inspecting the tiny slither of a cut. It would heal before they’d be jumping out of the truck; it was good to be a slayer.
They were making their way to an old stone mansion that lay nestled in amongst forest-covered hills not too far from the castle, prepared to retrieve the scythe for Buffy. Faith never questioned the fact it was Buffy’s scythe and not hers, despite the fact she was the rightful owner. She wasn’t about to take it from Buffy. . .the girl had earned it.
She was also happy to go along with Buffy’s plans, agreeing to stay outside the mansion and its layers of mystical barriers in order to fight the expected vampire army protecting the scythe. It felt a little grim to have Satsu going in her rightful place, but Satsu had never tried to kill Buffy, or had fucked her boyfriends, or generally tried to make her life hell at any point in the past so Faith couldn’t really complain. As much as Buffy had put the past to rest when they’d been in LA, Faith knew that kind of scarring didn’t fade easy. It was always there, reminding them both of who they could become.
“You’ll be there in a minute or two so get ready girls. . .it’s time to put the animals back in the cage,” Xander said over the headset.
Faith wiggled it on her ear, not feeling too comfortable listening to any other voices inside her head other than her own. It was necessary though, and she was playing by Buffy’s rules. She’d have Xander talking to her and giving her updates; they all would. Faith had used her charms on Xander to add a little extra something to her running commentary, however. Telling him that she needed to know if she was required to help further, Faith also now had Buffy’s headset wired to direct her conversation to her. She’d be listening in once Buffy and Satsu were inside the mansion.
Buffy wasn’t aware of that fact, and Faith was grateful Xander understood why it was necessary not to say anything. He wanted Buffy safe as much as Faith did.
The truck came to an abrupt stop and the girls got to their feet and started jumping from the back. They were close to the large house, but far enough away from the clearly visible, glowing red magical shield around it. Willow had done some reconnaissance and discovered the house had several barriers, the toughest one being directly around the scythe itself. Willow devised a series of spells to take down the barriers one at a time so as not to destabilise the surrounding area and cause all kinds of chaos. She had a few trainee witches to help her, and the slayers were ready to protect them as best they could.
As they all readied their weapons and formed up they saw the big doors to the mansion open up. A horde of vampires filtered out, clearly not affected by their own force field.
“Take ‘em out quick an’ easy, girls,” Faith shouted. “It’s party time.”
They advanced on the quick moving vampires and Faith heard a crackle in her ear; Xander had routed her into Buffy already.
“Ok, guys,” Xander said over the headset, “time to get the scythe back. Far as I can tell there’s only a handful of vamps in the room with it, and Will’s working on the barrier around it right now. Good luck, we’ll be teleporting you in any second now.”
Buffy confirmed they were ready. “Lets hope Will got the spells right and we don’t end up turning into icky flies when we go through,” Buffy said, commenting on the new teleportation spell Willow had to concoct due to the barriers. “Stick with me, Satsu, we’ve done this a hundred times and will do it a hundred more.”
Faith heard Satsu agree, her voice muffled but just audible over Buffy’s headset microphone. She then heard the distinct sound of a kiss, and though it didn’t linger she couldn’t help but clench her jaw and feel her insides boil.
“Fuck,” Faith said to herself, knowing Buffy wouldn’t be able to hear her.
Aiming her axe at the first vampire in her way, Faith swung and sliced his head clean off. The momentum took her forward, she leapt into the middle of the pack, swinging and thrusting as the other slayers answered her resounding battle cry. The fight was on.
The vampires were all Japanese or Chinese as far as Faith could tell, and they were all dressed smartly, in black suits and ties. They were a well-organised bunch, but weren’t really a match for the slayers, especially as Willow’s apprentice witches were stopping them being able to transform into anything that wasn’t quite so damageable. It was amazing what a few days research could do.
“What is this. . .a training camp for Japanese waiters?” Buffy said down the line as Faith listened in, her grunting clearly indicating they were now fighting the vamps inside.
Outside, the slayers kept the vampires from getting to the back line of witches, dust flying everywhere as heads rolled and stakes whizzed through the air. Faith was having fun as more vampires rushed from the building, giving her more to take out her frustrations on. Engrossed in the battle, Faith almost missed Buffy calling out Satsu’s name as she breathed hard and fast.
“Crap,” Buffy said wildly, “get up, Satsu.”
Buffy sounded like she was having a harder time of it, the clunking of fists and ringing of blades filling Faith’s head. Buffy called Satsu’s name again and it didn’t seem like she was answering. Faith wanted in there. . .before things went from bad to worse.
“Xander,” she said down the mic, “get me in there, now!”
There was a moment’s pause, then he answered, “We can’t, they’ve blocked us out. You’ll have to wait for Will to. . .”
“We can’t wait, Xand, she needs help,” Faith made clear.
“I’ll talk to Will,” was his reply.
Faith cut a path through the vampires to the swirling red barrier that engulfed the house. She was ready to hack her way through no matter what, hoping Willow could do something to get her inside, and quick.
“Faith, if we bring down the barriers all at once the place is gonna get very unstable. It’ll be like running through an earthquake, and that old house isn’t gonna bend and sway with it. . .it’s gonna crack and fall,” Xander explained. “You’ve got minutes to do your thing before all three of you get buried alive.”
Faith took a deep breath and told him to do it. She wasn’t about to leave Buffy in there alone against God knows how many vamps.
As she waited, listening to the fight going on around her as well as the fight inside, she heard a distinct crackling sound. The barrier in front of her ripped open and then burst, sending a shower of sparks over her head.
Xander yelled, “Go! I’ll tell you where.”
Faith hopped up the steps and burst through the front doors, swiftly taking out the few vampires who dashed towards her. She held her axe aloft and charged forward under Xander’s instructions, twisting down the corridor until she met the large wooden doors of the room Buffy was trapped in. The building was shaking, chunks of the wall slithering to the floor as cracks appeared. Faith heard the floors above starting to shatter and split, the creaking and grinding making it almost impossible to hear Buffy down the headset. She was sure she was still holding on; Buffy had never gone down easily in any fight, Faith knew that first hand.
Running the last of the distance towards the room, Faith launched herself into the air and struck the doors with her foot, sending them crashing inwards. She came to a rest on top of one, pining two vampires beneath. Quickly scanning the room and assessing the situation, she front-flipped from the fallen door, spinning a well-aimed kick at the vampire advancing her way. He flew backwards, bursting into pieces as he became impaled on a splintering beam in the center of the room. Faith had time to throw the heavy door from the vamps on the floor, staking them before they had time to recover.
Satsu was at one side of the room, laying in a puddle of her own blood, partially conscious. Buffy had three huge vampires beating her down to her knees, her face and clothes spattered red.
Faith had to make a choice. . .help Buffy, get the scythe, or save Satsu. Time was limited as the ceiling began to crack, the ground beneath their feet crunching and moaning as it shook.
“Buffy, get the scythe,” Faith yelled, throwing her last stake towards the largest vampire. He was dust before he had time to complete his plan to bring his blade down on Buffy.
Buffy looked past the cloud of dust and her eyes locked with Faith’s. She felt charged again, the fight springing back inside her as she shook off the two vampires holding her down on her knees. Leaping forwards, Buffy sprang towards the scythe, gripping it firmly before tumbling backwards and swiping it through the air. She struck both vampires at once, their heads rolling free, bodies exploding into particles.
As a chunk of the ceiling collapsed, sending dust and brick everywhere, Faith ran towards Satsu. She scooped her up, lifting her to her feet as she moaned in protest.
“Come on, Slayer, wake up. . .you’re gonna walk outta here,” Faith told her. “Clear a path, B,” she shouted to Buffy as she noticed more vampires running down the corridor.
Buffy nodded and met the new arrivals head on, taking out the now confused vampires as they did their best to get back the scythe. The building rocked and shifted, the floor no longer level as the air became thick with dust. An explosion above them caused more panic amongst the vampires and they began to scatter.
Buffy dusted as many as she could as she jumped over fallen bricks and furniture, heading towards the chink of light ahead. More explosions rocked her almost from her feet as she looked back to make sure Faith and Satsu were following. She could faintly see them both running towards her with Satsu leaning heavily on Faith.
“Go!” Faith yelled.
Buffy turned back towards the light and ran. She felt the ground beneath her feet give way and jumped through the crumbling stone archway of the door. Rolling on the gravel drive until she was upright she spun back towards the mansion, watching as Satsu flung herself free of the splintering building. She tumbled to a stop beside Buffy and a handful of the other slayers picked her up and carried her away to safety. Buffy didn’t budge as Willow yelled for her to get back. Faith was still in there.
“Faith!” Buffy called out, stepping forwards.
She winced and shielded her eyes as a booming explosion ripped through the remains of the mansion. A ball of flame shot upwards, showering the area around with debris.
“Come on, Faith,” Buffy pleaded quietly. “I can’t lose you again.”
As the walls buckled in, booms and crashes ringing out into the night, it seemed there was no hope of Faith coming out alive. Buffy wiped at her eyes, dust and tears marring her face as she watched the front portion of the building finally collapse with the rest. Just before the stone arch of the doorway gave out, a dark figure shot forwards, arms outstretched as it headed towards Buffy.
Faith barrelled into Buffy, sending them both rolling towards the grass a little way from where the others were huddled for safety. Behind them the last of the building caved inwards, sinking in to a deep hole as the disrupted magic left its mark.
Breathing heavy, Faith looked down on Buffy as she lay on top of her, her dark eyes searching as she noticed the tears.
“You never lost me,” Faith whispered, having heard Buffy over the headset.
Buffy didn’t answer as they gazed at one another, their hearts pounding together as neither of them moved. Faith was about to lift her hand to wipe away the fresh tear from Buffy’s cheek, but their little bubble was soon penetrated as Willow came hurrying towards them, with Satsu limping behind.
“Are you ok?” Willow asked promptly, directing her question at Buffy.
“I’m ok,” Buffy said softly as Faith removed herself from her body.
Faith stood and brushed herself down, wondering how the hell she’d gotten out in one piece.
“Are you ok?” Buffy asked, repeating Willow’s question.
Faith wasn’t sure the question was directed at her until Buffy reached out and touched her arm, holding her there gently. Her eyes flicked from Satsu and back to Buffy, noticing the slight slump of Satsu’s shoulders, uncomfortable with how it made her feel. She liked that Buffy was concerned, liked that her question hadn’t gone to Satsu first. . .but that was wrong, and unfair.
“I’m five by five, B,” Faith answered finally. “Nothin’ but a few scrapes. Your girl there’s got a nasty cut to the side, though. You should go get her patched up.”
Buffy dropped her hand from Faith’s arm, a flicker of sadness briefly flitting across her eyes before she turned towards Satsu.
“Let’s get you checked over, Satsu,” Buffy said as she moved towards her and away from Faith. “You gave me a hell of a scare in there.”
They walked slowly away as Faith watched, Willow remaining beside her.
“I don’t know how you got out, but I’m glad you did,” Willow said with a soft smile to Faith. “And I don’t think they’re serious,” she added, indicating Buffy and Satsu before making her way towards the truck to join them.
Faith breathed deeply and coughed as the dust in her lungs shifted. She didn’t know if they were serious; she couldn’t really tell. She knew Buffy said they weren’t, but Satsu was in love with her and it wasn’t like Buffy to screw around with just anybody. There had to be something more. Even if there wasn’t, Faith didn’t intend to go breaking a young girl’s heart by making a move on Buffy. She’d somehow been able to see in Buffy’s eyes - unguarded as tears flowed and worry lingered as they’d laid in the cold grass together - that Buffy saw her as more than a friend. Faith felt that they could have more, but their chance had passed; there was no way she was going to fuck up Buffy’s life again by pushing things further.
It was over. She had to let go.
The truck carried Faith back to the castle as Buffy went with Satsu and a few of the other slayers to the nearest hospital. They had a contact there that never asked questions; he would patch the girls up and send them off without issue.
Faith showered and coughed up a few buckets of dust before tending to the handful of cuts and bruises she’d sustained. Her hair finally dry and stomach grumbling, she made her way down towards the kitchen. It was creeping into the early hours of the morning now, but Faith had never been able to ignore the need to eat.
As she scuffed her boots on the hard stone floor, walking slowly down the corridor to where she hoped she’d find some easy food, Faith rounded a corner and crashed into Satsu. She’d been deep in her thoughts and hadn’t heard anybody coming her way.
“Whoa, Slayer,” Faith said, noticing that Satsu was out of breath from walking fast. “We’re makin’ this kind of a habit. What’s the mad rush?”
“Nothing, I’m just. . .” Satsu tried to calm herself, her eyes boring into Faith, “going to my room.”
Faith looked Satsu over, noticing the large bandage under her shirt as she held her side. She wondered where Buffy was, expecting her to have been with Satsu for the rest of the night.
“Where’s Buffy?” Faith asked, trying not to sound strange.
Satsu glanced away, her eyes sad, looking ready to shed tears. “She went for a walk outside. Said she needed air.”
Faith furrowed her brow, tilting her head as she heard the distinct rumble of thunder from outside.
“It’s shitting it down out there. . .shouldn’t she be with you, playing nurse?” Faith asked.
There was an awkward silence as Satsu studied Faith for a moment. She clearly wanted to say something and Faith wasn’t sure she really wanted to hang around to hear it. She didn’t want to be pulled into any dramas.
“She’ll never love me, yunno,” Satsu finally said.
Trying to kick-start her brain so she wouldn’t say something insensitive or dumb, Faith rubbed at her forehead with her fingers.
“What makes you think that?” she asked, not sounding like she fully believed Buffy would ever love Satsu. “Buffy’s a complex kinda girl, you dunno if. . .”
“She won’t,” Satsu interrupted. “She loves you. I can’t compete with that.”
Faith opened her mouth, trying not to let her jaw drop to the floor. She didn’t know why Satsu had said what she had, but deep inside. . .she had a spark of recognition. Still, it was too crazy to even contemplate.
“Think you got your wires crossed, kid,” Faith pointed out. “Buffy doesn’t love me.”
Satsu chuckled sadly and shook her head. “You’re wrong.”
She said no more as she passed by and made her way up the corridor, a sombre smile making Faith feel for her. Another heart crushed under Buffy’s step, as she walked through life without thinking about how easily she broke into people’s lives and stole every ounce of sense from them.
Faith stood for a minute or two, trying to understand what Satsu had said. She knew Buffy had always had a little thing for her, a very much buried and ignored thing but a thing no less. Not once had Faith thought it went beyond the physical, however much she’d grasped at the little signs way back.
She knew nothing of love, had never really had it or wanted it. . .but despite that, and despite knowing Buffy would and could never feel the same, Faith’d had feelings for Buffy that went beyond just wanting to get horizontal with her. It’d taken years trying to wrangle with the feelings so she didn’t feel strangled by them, but Faith had never been able to kick them to the curb entirely. Buffy was scorched into her, Faith’s heart unable to push her out.
A loud crack of thunder broke Faith from her thoughts and she instantly headed for the door out. She knew it wasn’t her place to go and search for Buffy, or even dare to offer her a shoulder to lean on or a friendly ear to talk off, but that didn’t stop her.
The rain struck Faith hard in the face as she pulled open the heavy door at the back of the castle. It was the tradesman entrance, with steps leading up to the stone covered path that ran round most of the castle. She squinted into the inky black of the night, her clothes already growing wet as she strode out along the path. There was a portion of the castle up ahead that jutted outwards, like a turret or tower, the path winding round it out of view from anybody that might glance through the windows. That’s where Faith found Buffy. . .huddled with her arms around her legs, back against the cold wall, completely naked.
Faith blinked, noticing Buffy’s clothes strewn around her. She almost turned to walk away, not wanting to startle or embarrass her, but she decided against it as Buffy clearly shivered from the rain dripping over her.
Walking slowly, pushing her now damp hair out of her eyes, Faith approached Buffy.
“Gotta be a dumb question but. . .watcha doin’, B?” Faith asked quietly.
“Feeling the rain,” Buffy answered, not looking Faith’s way.
“How’s it feel?” Faith asked, droplets of water dripping from her nose, just as it was from Buffy’s.
She tried not to stare at Buffy, but it was pretty damn hard considering she was naked. Even though Faith couldn’t see anything of importance due to how Buffy was hugging her legs to her chest, there was a lot of skin on show. Perfect, flawless, temptingly touchable Buffy-skin that Faith had always wanted to explore.
“Wet,” Buffy replied, shivering once more.
“Yeah.” Buffy hugged herself tighter as the wind swept the rain over both of them.
Faith thanked herself for bringing her jacket and promptly took it off. She stepped closer to Buffy and draped the jacket over her shoulders. Buffy didn’t try to shrink away from it, nor did she ask Faith to leave as she sat beside her on the wet stone, resting back against the wall.
They sat for a moment in silence, the only sounds littering the peace being the splash of rain and rumble of thunder. It was almost nice, but the cold and rain wouldn’t be ignored.
“Well it’s definitely wet,” Faith said, agreeing with Buffy as her clothes began to stick to her.
She glanced over to see a small smile lift Buffy’s lips, noticing how she pulled the jacket tighter around herself, her nose disappearing into the collar. She looked beautiful, despite her wet hair and goosebump covered skin. Faith had never been able to see Buffy as anything but beautiful, even in their darkest hour.
As nice as it was to finally see a little more of the girl she wanted so much, Faith knew she had to get them inside, or at least try to figure out why Buffy was really outside in the rain. It didn’t seem like the kind of thing Buffy did normally. . .if ever. Something was definitely wrong, and Faith couldn’t ignore the fact she cared enough to want to find out about it, and help. There was no escaping her feelings for Buffy, and no escaping the fact she’d always be ready to get slapped back for trying to bridge the gap between them.
She hoped this time – as Buffy laid herself bare for the elements – that there was a chance they could finally make some kind of connection that didn’t end with their fists.