Faith ended up having another relaxing night and she was thrilled about it.
After the short talk she had with Buffy she'd turned off the lights and the next thing she knew the alarm on the nightstand next to her was going off. As she got out of bed she was relieved she set it. The last thing she wanted was to have to deal with checking out late.
The hotel lobby had some complimentary breakfast items so Faith helped herself to a couple donuts and a cup of coffee before getting her things back in the car and checking out. The hotel staff was nice, wishing her to have a good day, and for the first time since she got out of prison she wondered what they'd say if they knew she was an ex-con.
Not that what they thought mattered though and Faith shook her head clear of the thought as she turned the key to the Explorer, causing it to rumble to life. She gave everything a final check, making sure she had all her money, documents and phone before leaving and once again heading south.
She couldn't help but smile at the fact she had things she had to keep track of now. In prison nothing was really hers even if she bought it. The books, her uniform, everything had belonged to the prison whether directly or indirectly. Even when she had taken classes and the test to get her GED she had to rely on the prison for everything. For awhile she felt she had even let her own identity go while she was there.
Now Faith didn't have to worry about that. For the first time she could remember, even before she was called, she felt that she could actually go wherever she wanted. Hell, Buffy had even arranged for her to have a passport, something that made her think that if she ever worked for the Council officially she might be working in other countries, too. It was something that made working with Buffy and Giles appealing, though not enough to actually do it.
When she stopped at a gas station after less than an hour on the road she got a little more food and drinks for the drive and decided to see if there were any better maps than the one she had. Once thing that didn't sound appealing was getting lost in some backwoods area.
"Whatcha looking for?"
Faith turned from the stand that held a variety of local, state and national maps and looked at the clerk. He was probably in his twenties and had what Faith could only think of as a greasy demeanor, like he'd worked over a fryer too long. She looked at his nametag and saw it was Bobby. "I'm doing some traveling. Probably all over the country."
He reached over her shoulder and pointed to what Faith thought was probably the most expensive set of maps there. "You'll want that one."
"Thanks," Faith said and decided to take him at his word. She flipped through it quickly and noticed it had maps for every state, something she definitely needed.
She walked back over to the counter with it and a few other snacks as the clerk smiled. "Where ya going?"
"Probably gonna head to Memphis first."
He smiled and leaned toward her. "If you're sticking around tonight, I could show ya around. One of my friend's got a party going on. Should be worth checking out."
Faith raised an eyebrow, noticing that half the time he had been asking her chest out. "Gonna have to pass on that, Bobby."
"Your loss," he said before taking the map from her and flipping to a couple different pages. "Here's the route you should take to Memphis."
"That the fastest way?"
There was a part of her that thought he might be trying to mess with her since she turned him down. But when she at the route she saw it was mostly major highways so all she did was thank him, pay for everything and then went on her way.
The morning went by fast even though she was alone. During the shopping trip the day before she'd picked up a couple CDs listened to them as she drove, occasionally singing along. After that she listened to the radio, often opting for something older than listening to whatever new music fad was on the top 40 stations.
Faith was also very attentive to her surroundings. Since she had no intent of settling down in one area right away, if not for the foreseeable future, she made a point to pay attention to the little towns as she passed. By noon she paying attention to the restaurants were just off an exit.
The stop for lunch was only a brief one. Even though she didn't have a set time to be at any location she wanted to do some slaying that night no matter where she was. Since Buffy had mentioned that Memphis always seemed to have a vamp problem, she wanted to start slaying there. It would be easy than stopping in a small town for the night and having to find the local cemetery in hopes of staking just one.
It wasn't until late in the day that she arrived in Memphis, leaving little time to get a hotel room and eat prior to going out on patrol. It made her almost kick herself for taking more time than she thought she should during the day.
Even though she wanted to keep a good pace during the day, she couldn't resist being able to slow down and actually look at her surroundings while she traveled. Before she had always gone by bus or she'd been hiding out so there wasn't time to look at each town's little quirks. She was sure that most people found doing something like that completely boring but most people hadn't just gotten out of prison either.
She'd stopped a couple times after lunch, probably taking more time than she thought she should have. Faith wanted to make sure she took time to stop for gas and stretch her legs when she needed to and there was also a need stop once to give the Explorer a once over since she was sure no one had since Robin's death.
Her mind always seemed to dwell on Robin's death when a situation seemed to reference it and she didn't care for it much. During her last stop for gas the service station employee that checked everything over with her said whoever had it before her took excellent care of it and she could swear she felt herself starting to tear up. It was something she stopped quickly though. She didn't want to seem vulnerable, especially to a stranger.
That was something she found strange, the emotions she had for someone she barely knew. Sure, they had the one night but even after Faith knew they wouldn't have anything further than that. It didn't change the fact that she was sad he was dead though and didn't change the relief she felt when Buffy told her who was still alive.
Maybe it was a sign she was truly changing.
Thoughts like that had been roaming in her head all day but the itch of wanting something to slay had also been getting stronger as well. She hadn't gone out at all the first two nights and Faith knew she couldn't ignore it for a third given how long she'd been away.
Hell, she didn't want to ignore it. It was what she was meant to do.
Faith drove for an hour and a half or so and found some more rundown areas that she knew would have more vamp activity. As much as she wanted to stay in someplace nice, or at least nicer than someplace with dirty sheets and bugs, she also knew she was more likely to find activity in places where people normally turned their heads the other way.
She found a motel that at least looked like management made an effort to keep everything clean and checked in for the night. The person at the front desk didn't seem to care if she wanted to stay more than just the night and Faith couldn't help but smile at the difference between the hotel she stayed at the previous night and the one she was at now.
The anonymity was something Faith definitely liked though. It meant if she caused some trouble no one would remember her.
The room she got was the furthest away from the motel office and Faith thought that probably meant they didn't want to hear from her, which was fine. She hoped that meant she'd be left alone, too. She parked in front of her room and unloaded quickly, checking the locks as she closed the door.
Faith looked around the room and sighed at the noticeable downgrade from where she stayed the previous night. The bed was made but only half-heartedly though the sheets looked clean. The bathroom was tiny and the hot water only worked in bursts. There was both a microwave and a TV but the microwave was broken and the TV only got five channels.
None of that mattered at the moment as she grabbed a stake and a knife, hiding them in her jacket as she walked out of the room and out to the street. The neighborhood reminded her a lot of the area vamps used to hang out in Sunnydale and even LA so she figured if she walked around she could easily come across one.
A few blocks from the motel she came across a bar that served food and she remembered that she needed to eat something. It wasn't like it had been in the past where she didn't have money for three meals a day.
She quickly scanned the bar when she entered and couldn't see any immediate threat. It wasn't yet dark enough for vamps to really be out in force so she didn't sense any. Instead, she took a seat at the bar and ordered a burger and a beer.
After about five minutes she heard something she wasn't sure she liked. "Never expected to see you here."
Faith turned her head as Kennedy sat on the stool next to her. "Didn't expect to be seen."
It looked as though Kennedy expected Faith to say something more than that but Faith didn't think there was anything else to say. She didn't know the other girl well at all and hadn't expected to run into anyone. Buffy had said she wasn't sure there was a slayer in Memphis and even if there was, Faith didn't expect to run into one on the first night.
"Are you on assignment?"
"I'm not working for anyone," Faith said simply, taking a sip of beer.
The only thing Faith really wanted was to eat a meal and maybe talk up the bartender, who only brought her food and walked away now that she wasn't sitting by herself. In her experience the bartenders in bars that were in the worst neighborhoods knew more about what went down than any cop would. It's how she managed to scam her way through childhood and across the country when she needed.
She didn't want to have a conversation with a slayer she didn't know or work with her. For a second she thought maybe Buffy had told her to go to Memphis in order to check up on Kennedy but knew that wasn't what happened. The other slayer would probably have pushed a little harder on the issue and Faith never told her that she would end up in the city.
"This place will change in about an hour or so," Kennedy said quietly, leaning in as if she didn't want anyone else to hear. It felt as though she was trying to be covert about being there but Faith didn't think she was very good at it.
Faith took a bite before finally turning her head to look at the other girl, not sure if she wanted to know what she meant. "What do you mean?"
"All these people in here," Kennedy motioned to the dozen or so people scattered around, "will be gone soon or they're at risk. Or they want to be here which I still can't wrap my head around." She paused. "You ran into that once in LA, right?"
"Not the same," Faith stated simply.
Kennedy was referring to when she was in LA and had found vamps who would feed off drug addicts. What Faith found insane when she saw it was that the humans wanted to be there, the high from using apparently being much better while being bitten. She didn't see any signs that this bar had anything like that happening though.
Faith looked from her food and eyed the bartender. The man definitely wasn't a vampire and nothing about him screamed demon. Either he was someone like Willy was back in Sunnydale, making a buck however he could, or he had no choice in the matter. "You've been here before."
"Saw a teaser of it last night. I got a couple of vamps out of it but didn't walk in 'cause I didn't know what to expect. Other than that, all I heard was rumors."
"What did you get from the rumors?"
"Been happening for a couple weeks," Kennedy said. "Kinda like a group of vamps just took over."
From her first look around the bar and what she had noticed since she had been sitting at the bar, she knew there was a back room. That would be the only place any vampires would be at the moment since she was sure none were where she could see. She quickly finished her beer and motioned to the bartender for another, wanting a conversation and hoped Kennedy wouldn't screw it up.
When he sent the bottle in front of her, Faith quickly spoke up. "Hey, got a question for you."
He raised an eyebrow. "Yeah?"
"You the owner?" When he nodded, Faith smiled. "What happens in the backroom?"
The question seemed to catch him off guard but he kept his face from showing any obvious surprise. "What do you mean? That's the storeroom and office."
Faith shrugged. "Saw a couple of your regulars slip back there. I figure you got something going back there. What is it? High stakes gambling? Drugs? What?"
The bartender looked a little startled at the questions and Faith almost smiled at the fact he hadn't called her bluff. She hadn't seen anyone walk through the back door. "I can't even begin to know how to answer a question like that. It's crazy."
"What about the vamps?" Kennedy asked quickly and much too loud for Faith's liking. She had tried to keep it quiet, knowing the bartender might be more inclined to be honest if he knew for certain only she could hear. "We know they come here."
The man's eyes got wide and Faith noticed the actions of a couple people close to them had stilled, as if they were trying to hear the response. She wanted nothing more than punch Kennedy for blowing it.
"You need to leave," he said as he leaned in, looking Faith in the eye. "Now."
Faith had hoped he was someone like Willy, a human who worked with vamps and demons to make some money, but she knew now that wasn't the situation. Though he was masking it well with some fake toughness, it was easy for her to see the fear he had. It made her wonder how long he'd be kept around since he wasn't willing.
Before she could say anything, a group started walking out of the backroom. Her slayer senses went off but she stopped herself from instantly grabbing her stake. Faith wanted to be fully aware of the situation first and moved off the stool, noticing the two people near her had already made a quick exit. From the looks on some other nervous faces other people in the bar wished they could do the same.
"I knew tonight was going to be special," the leader said, a prominent smirk on his face. He was well over six feet tall, built like some who had lifted weights consistently throughout his life and dressed in dark jeans and a leather jacket. Faith looked over the rest of the group, eight total, and noticed the allegiance right away. "When Clint buzzed I wasn't sure it'd be worth our time but I was wrong."
Kennedy stood next to Faith, her hand noticeably hovering over where her stake was. "Buzzed?"
"We've been hanging out in back but whenever someone's outside we might have an interest in Clint hits a buzzer and we come out to collect," he said, grinning. "Just a little agreement that stops us from draining him dry."
The sentence ended in a scowl and when Faith turned her head she could see Clint was genuinely scared. She looked at Kennedy and hoped she would follow her lead as she took a step forward. "I don't think we've been introduced. Name's Faith . . . a vampire slayer."
"And I'm Kennedy, also a vampire slayer."
Two of the vampires toward the back looked a little nervous now that they knew what they were facing but it didn't seem to faze the leader any. "There are so many of you now. Have to think all that power has been diluted, even cheapened in a way."
"Lucky for you then 'cause I'm an original slayer," Faith said, staring him down while staying aware of any other movement in the bar. "No diluted power running through these veins."
"Can't wait to test it."
Faith figured he was smart enough not to rush at her right away and she was right. He made a couple quick signals with his hand and suddenly the seven vamps he led were rushing across the room with amazing speed. Any other humans in the place were suddenly moving as fast as they could toward any exit they could find, not wanting any part of the fight about to happen.
Giving Kennedy a quick nod, Faith grabbed the stake she had hidden in her jacket and moved to a better position, trying to ready herself for the onslaught of vamps. Kennedy did the same and took a few steps away from Faith so they each had some room to work with. Faith didn't want to have to think about anything else outside of staking the vamps in front of her and that included having to think about where Kennedy was.
The first vampire to reach Faith almost was able to get a hit in but she managed to block his fist before it connected with her face. She used the block to her advantage and pushed him away as another was on her only a second later. He was luckier than the first and kicked her in the stomach but she was able to mostly avoid it too so she was able to recover quickly.
Faith realized quickly that the vamps she was up against had at least some training but then something else entered her mind. Seven vampires had rushed at them but she was only fighting two. She dared to turn her head and noticed Kennedy was struggling to fight off five of them.
She cursed herself as she continued to fight off the pair, realizing that it was her fault more of the vamps went after the younger slayer. The fact that she had admitted she was an original slayer probably made the group think that it would be easier to take out Kennedy and then go after her. It wasn't a method she could remember seeing but it was the only explanation that made sense.
"Faith, looks like I'm getting all the love here," Kennedy muttered as she staked one of the vamps.
"Be there in a second," Faith remarked.
The leader of the group continued to watch as if he was trying to gage whether or not the group he had surrounded himself with was a good fighter. He also didn't seem to care if anyone of them were dusted since Faith didn't notice any reaction on his face as she staked one of the vamps fighting her.
What was even stranger was the fact the vamps didn't talk at all while they were fighting. Faith was so used to having vampires attempt to taunt her while they fought, mostly for the same reasons she did. If she could catch a vamp off guard with a little naming-calling, she'd do it in a second and she knew that went both ways. These vamps were silent.
For that reason the only sounds in the bar were hits being blocked or landed or of Faith and Kennedy breathing. The vamps were silent and it seemed like all the humans in the bar had managed to get out of the establishment. She had no idea where the bartender had gone.
It left like forever before Faith staked the other vamp that had originally gone after her, though it was probably only a couple minutes. Kennedy hadn't managed to stake any of the other four vamps attacking her but Faith was impressed that none of them had gotten the better of her yet. Then again, the other slayer had broken a couple of stools over a couple of them in the process, causing them to be less active in the fight.
Kennedy seemed to know that Faith was coming toward her because she spun and kicked one of the vamps directly into Faith. She grabbed him and he was dust probably before he even realized she was near him. The action allowed Kennedy to stake another one so she was only left with two and Faith figured she could take care of those herself.
Faith turned and ran to the leader, who's face actually showed some shock that three of his group were dust in such a short amount of time. She rushed him, stake in hand, and figured since he actually showed some leadership skills he would meet her halfway.
That wasn't the case. Instead, he turned and ran to the backroom, definitely not showing he was ready to take on a slayer. Faith chased after him, knowing instinctively the vamp would try to escape through the backdoor that led out to the alley.
Once she entered the backroom she ducked immediately as a keg flew towards her head, missing it by only a couple inches. Faith saw him laugh before he disappeared out the back, causing more distance from her. She cursed under her breath and ran after him, not wanting him to get away. A vampire that had the ability to get others to follow him wasn't one she wanted around.
When she got out to the alley she could see him making his way toward the street and knew that if he made it out to the street it would be much harder to find him. She looked around quickly before finding a crate and hurling it toward the vamp. It hit him square in the back, causing him to stumble and giving Faith the time she needed to catch up to him.
She pulled him to his feet and pulled him back into the darkness of the alley. Faith could see a few people walking around and even though she had a feeling no one would report any fight they saw, she wasn't about to take the chance. Instead, she pulled him up against the building glared at him.
"I didn't realize you'd be such a coward," Faith snarled at him.
He smirked. "I've had to replace people before. That's how things work around here."
"Maybe when it did when there was one slayer but that's not the case anymore." Faith kept him against the wall with one hand while she gripped her stake. "There's so many of us you'll lose every time."
As a response, he tried to pull her closer and head butt her in an effort to get away. Faith used the move to push him hard against the wall before thrusting her stake deep into his chest. She moved away as he exploded into a cloud of dust.
"Fucking hell, Faith," Kennedy said as she walked out the bar and toward her. "Why the hell did they go after me?"
"They thought you were weaker," Faith said calmly as she walked past her and back into the bar.
The bar was a disaster. They'd broken most of the stools and it looked like every glass had been broken during Kennedy's fight. Faith saw some movement behind the bar and she walked around it to see the bartender cowering behind it.
"Get up," Faith said strongly. "They're all dusted."
"Thank you," the bartender said quietly, his eyes looking over the bar.
"This happen a lot?"
"I heard rumors it happened to other bars but wasn't sure I believed them," he said. "They showed up two weeks ago when I was getting ready to close up and said they were taking over." He scowled. "They killed my other bartender. I didn't know what to do." He sighed. "I didn't want to die."
Faith nodded. She wanted to be angry at the fact that he let vampires feed on his customers for two weeks but she understood his need for self-preservation. "Anyone else here?"
He shook his head. "I fired my staff the morning after they showed up."
Kennedy walked in from the back and Faith could tell she was wired. She had to admit that she was, too. "That was a rush."
Faith looked from her back to the bartender. "Guess you can hire your staff back now."
Faith just nodded and started to walk out of the bar, knowing that Kennedy was close behind. She hoped she didn't expect for them to team up for the rest of the night, or any night really. Even though she was happy to have the help with eight vampires, especially since this was the first night she'd been slaying since Sunnydale, she didn't want the company.
"So where to next?"
"I'm gonna see if there's any other vamps roaming around," Faith said, "and then I'm getting some sleep."
"Look, Faith . . ."
"Listen," Faith started, "if I wanted to be around people I would've stayed in Cleveland. If you want someone to help you, there's plenty of slayers there."
"Not gonna happen," Kennedy huffed.
"Then thanks but no thanks, kid," Faith said and walked back toward the motel. She thought she heard Kennedy say something else but she wasn't following her so she knew the younger slayer had gotten the message.
She walked around until the early hours, managing to take out another three vamps before returning to the motel. When she walked in and sat down, Faith had a smile on her face. She'd helped people and it felt good.
Now she just needed to keep doing it.
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