Six days in Memphis was more than enough for Faith.
There were plenty of vampires and demons in the city and it was definitely getting her back into slaying shape. During the night there seemed to be absolutely zero downtime and it made each night feel like it passed in a manner of minutes and not hours. She had to agree with Buffy that vampires seemed to flock to the city.
What was different about Memphis was that vamps seemed to travel in groups. She had run across that before but during the nights in the city that was almost all she dealt with were vampire gangs. It was strange but at least it had given her a good workout, especially since it wasn't like she trained during the day.
She had taken at least one gang each night while she was there not including the group she'd staked with Kennedy the first night. All of them roamed around the poorer areas of Memphis, sticking to terrorizing the people who couldn't afford to live in the nicer parts or have better protection. They also seemed to know where the police were and stayed away, not drawing any unneeded attention to themselves.
Faith wasn't used to smart vampires but she was getting there. Most of them were smug about the fact they were able to outsmart officials and most people but Faith used their smugness to her advantage. It made them easier to kill.
The demons in the city were also organized but they weren't as smart as the vampires and Faith had a better time in getting them to flee certain areas of the city. She also encountered some that weren't half bad. A vengeance demon even gave her a few tips in getting rid of a particular nasty group of vamps that kidnapped and kept humans until they got bored of them.
Of course, the demon kept trying to get her to wish for something. That kept her on her toes the entire night since she didn't want to have to deal with the consequences of a wish as well as getting rid of a vamp problem.
"Good morning, Faith," the woman in the motel office said as Faith walked in. "Late night again?"
Faith smiled more out of politeness than anything else. Word spread quickly that she was trying to get rid of the vamps in the area and now she had fans. It made her slightly uncomfortable. "Always."
"What can we do for you today?"
"Uh, was just checking out," Faith said, sliding her key across the counter.
It was easy to see the sadness on the woman's face. "Going to a different area of the city?"
She shook her head. "Gotta move on."
"Hey, there's a lot of chicks like me," Faith said, trying to make her exit a little less awkward. "They pass through here all the time. There was even one here when I first showed up."
"I guess what you did is better than nothing."
Faith smiled again. "I'm sure I'll be around again at some point."
"Okay," she said, looking a little defeated but smiling anyway. "Take care, honey."
All Faith did was nod and walk out of the office. All her gear was already in the Explorer so she jumped in and turned the key, the engine roaring to life a moment later. She had to make one stop before she could begin her drive to the next city.
That was something she hadn't decided on yet, the next place she would stay for a bit. All she knew was that she needed someplace knew. She thought she might like going a little further south. Maybe she would be able to get some sun if she got to a place that had a beach. She'd been looking over the maps earlier that morning and figured someplace in Florida or even somewhere along the Gulf Coast might be nice.
She didn't drive very far before stopping though. Faith found a parking spot along the street and pulled in, looking toward the bar down the block.
After helping him out the first night, Faith had gone back to the bar the next day to check in on the bartender/owner, Clint. The place was a mess and Faith offered to help him clean up enough to get the place back open. He even paid her for helping and that definitely helped with cash for the next city. She didn't want to have to rely on what Buffy had given her unless it was absolutely necessary.
The bar was quiet when she walked in but saw Clint walk in from the back room a moment later. "Hey, Clint."
"Faith, good morning," he said, a smile on his face. "I think the place is finally back to how it was before . . . you know, everything."
"Looks good." Faith paused and ran her fingers through her hair. "Just stopped by to tell you I'm leaving town. Got some other places to go."
He nodded, his face blank. "Well, thanks for the help. Will I see ya around at some point?"
She turned to go but Clint walked toward and put a hand on her arm. "Wait a second," he said quickly and put a few crumbled twenties in her hand. "I know I paid you yesterday but you made my bar feel like a safe place for people again. I figure that's worth a little extra."
Faith thought about declining but didn't want to insult him since he seemed intent on giving her the money. She could see that just by looking into his eyes. "Thanks, man. I can make a call, have other slayers check in if they pass through."
"I'd appreciate it," Clint said. "You take care."
She handed him a slip of paper. "Here's my number in case you need it."
She only nodded before walking out of the bar and back to her car. It was hard to believe that she'd made such an impression on anyone in just the five days she'd been in Memphis but she had. Maybe that was what happened when someone did something good for others.
Faith wouldn't know about that but it felt good to have someone thank her for helping out or for doing her job. Part of her wanted to stay in Memphis just to keep getting praise like some of what she had over the last five days but deep down she knew this wasn't the place for her. She wanted to keep moving and hoped she'd find someplace where settling down was an option.
Once she got in the Explorer, she looked over her map quickly to check which highways she needed to take to get out of Memphis and toward the more southern areas of the country. After that she put on her sunglasses and pulled out onto the street, looking over the places she'd been in over the last few days. She hoped the vamps stayed away at least for a little while.
The radio stations seemed to play nothing but country so she put in one of her CDs instead, trying to relax and concentrate on where she would stop for the night. She decided against going to Mississippi right away, thinking that maybe Alabama and Florida might be better destinations. Once she took the exit to Highway 78, she smiled, already feeling she was making the correct decision.
Then her phone started to ring.
"Good, you're okay." Buffy's voice seemed relieved and that only confused Faith.
"Why wouldn't I be?" There was a pause but Buffy didn't say anything when Faith thought she would. "B, why wouldn't I be okay?"
"Well . . ." Buffy didn't seem to know what say. "I guess since I didn't hear from you for a few days I thought something might be wrong."
Faith's first reaction was to get defensive and make a comment on how she couldn't be trusted to be on her own and had to report in but she stopped herself. She decided to take Buffy's concern in a positive way instead. If they were going to put aside their past struggles she knew part of that would be not jumping to conclusions.
"Nah, nothing's wrong," Faith answered. "Just been a busy few days."
"Oh, okay." She paused again. "What have you been up to?"
"Took your advice and was in Memphis. You were right. There were vamp gangs all over." Faith thought for a moment. "Did you know Kennedy was there?"
Buffy seemed to take a breath before answering. "I didn't. Did the two of you team up?"
"Only for a night," Faith said. "I didn't exactly want company."
"Yeah, I guess that would defeat the purpose of going out on your own." There was another pause. "Did you get a chance to do anything else besides slaying?"
"Not really. Memphis is too packed with vamps. I'll try to do something in the next city."
"You're not staying?" Buffy's voice sounded confused, like she thought she wouldn't have left the city so soon.
"I never wanted to stay in one place, B," Faith said easily. "I don't wanna settle down in a city or anything. Feels kinda suffocating right now." She decided to change the subject instead of only answering Buffy's questions. "How's things there?"
"Hectic," Buffy answered. "Whoever thought having a bunch of teenage girls living together in one building was not a smart person."
"Blaming Giles for that one?"
They laughed quietly and Faith realized it felt good to talk to the other slayer now that any of the initial awkwardness was gone. There wasn't any pressure since Buffy had agreed to give Faith space and she in turn had kept herself open to having these conversations. It seemed like it was a good start to them mending or even creating a friendship between them.
"I'm heading south."
"Trying to get some time at a beach?" Buffy asked.
"If there's time," Faith admitted. "Anything I should be aware of?"
"Let me check." There was some shuffling of papers in the background. "I take by the encounter with Kennedy that you don't want to have another slayer in the area?"
Faith thought about it for a moment. "Doesn't matter, I guess. If the city's big enough I might not even run into whoever you have stationed there."
"The only slayer who's actually in a city in your direction is in Miami and she doesn't stay there all the time. She's the one that normally visits Memphis . . . but I didn't know Kennedy was there so who know what's going on. Giles keeps track of that better than I do."
She chuckled quietly before thinking of something. "You gonna tell Red I ran into Kennedy?"
"Probably not," Buffy admitted. "Maybe it's better for her not to know."
Faith nodded before realizing the other girl couldn't see her. "I get that. Were you able to ever have a vacation in the last couple years?"
"Who has time for that?" Buffy said, laughing. "Take a picture of the beach for me, okay?"
"Will do," Faith said and remembered why Buffy had called to begin with: because she hadn't called to check in earlier. "I'll try to remember to keep ya in the loop, B. Don't want ya worrying about me or anything."
There was a silence and Faith wasn't sure Buffy was still on the line. She was about to say something else when she finally spoke up. "I hope we can work together eventually."
Faith smiled. "I do, too." She paused. "Maybe you can even meet up with me."
It felt like Buffy might even be smiling and that made Faith smile. "Talk to you later, B."
Since she had grown up in the poorer areas of Boston prior to being called and that upbringing didn't include any family vacations, Faith had never been to the southeastern area of the country. That being the case she looked around at her surroundings a little more and made a couple extra stops to check if the place she stopped had any signs of having a vamp problem.
A lot of the towns were small but while some people gave her the all too familiar "you're an outsider" look, many people were nice, if not a little overly curious. Faith had even struck up a longer-than-she-should-have conversation with a waitress in one small town in Mississippi. The woman was nice and Faith had a thought that maybe she could even stay for a couple days but nothing she heard sounded like there was a vamp or demon presence so she knew she should move on.
Soon Mississippi turned into Alabama and Faith felt good about the direction she chose. Traveling south, toward the ocean, was hopefully a good opportunity to both stake some vampires and to think more about what she wanted to do. She definitely wanted to continue to travel but she also wanted to make sure she was observant everywhere she went and make a note if it was somewhere she'd want to settle down in.
In the back of her mind, there was the thought that she could always go back to Cleveland and work with everyone. She knew she would be accepted there, more or less, and it seemed like there was plenty of work to do with the younger, newer slayers. The only problem was that if she went back now it would feel like she failed in some way. It would feel like she was settling.
With the extra stops she'd made during the day by the time she hit the city limits of Mobile, Alabama the daylight was already threatening to fade. Faith hoped that she would be able to get a decent hotel but it happened to be the weekend and the weather was nice so the first two she tried were completely booked.
She finally found a room at a rundown motel not far from the ocean. Faith figured the place had rooms because it wasn't in the best condition and didn't exactly look family friendly but the room was clean and everything worked. Sure, her only view was of the parking lot but that didn't bother her in the way it would others.
After checking in and unloading the Explorer, Faith walked back to the front desk, smiling politely at the middle-aged woman behind it.
"Is there any night life in the area?"
The woman smiled. "There's some lovely restaurants once you drive toward downtown," she said in a sweet southern accent then paused. "That the kind of thing you're looking for, honey?"
"I'm more of a bar and club kind of girl," Faith said easily. "Kind of wanna get to know the area, you know?"
"I see." She took out a map, the kind that would normally be given to tourists, and circled an area with a finger. "Try this area of the city. There's some great food and the drinks are cheap but . . . well, I usually tell people not to stay there too late at night. It's the easiest place to find trouble."
Faith smiled. "Oh, I can handle trouble."
"I bet you can," she replied, chuckling lightly. "Better be up tomorrow bright and early though. I'll bring in some homemade muffins." Faith raised an eyebrow at that which only made her laugh more. "Sugar, this place may not look like much but I try to make it nice and keep the riff-raff out."
"I'm sure you do."
Faith walked out without saying anything else, walking to get out and see the city. Her whole body was buzzing and she wasn't sure if that was because there were vampires in the area or if she was simply eager to patrol.
Either way, she was about to find out.
Seafood seemed to be everywhere, with being so close to the ocean and all, and it was cheap so Faith decided to try what seemed to be so popular. She ended up trying some crab that she had to admit wasn't bad but it wasn't much of a life-changer either. Tomorrow she would probably try to track down a burger. It was more her style.
After eating she walked around, taking in the night life. It was entertaining to simply watch people as they walked past her, going about their lives. Most people weren't paying attention to much around them and Faith noticed it was easy to see which were tourists and which were locals. The tourists stopped and looked around much more.
Faith also took notice of which groups of people were doing the watching, much like she was. Some of them were innocent, pointing out a clueless tourist here and there and simply taking in the sights around them, but others were not. There was at least one group of young men, probably not a single one over twenty, that were looking for marks, people to steal from. She even noticed a pair of women walking out of a store with items they had obviously stolen.
It was amazing what she could pick out by simply observing people but as it became later at night and the tourists started to retreat back to their hotels, she started to feel that all too familiar feeling. Faith knew that there were vamps in the area because of it. The odds that it was another slayer would be practically nonexistent given what Buffy had told her.
She started to notice why the woman at the motel warned about the area. There were dark corners and alleys everywhere, perfect places for dangerous elements to pull their unsuspecting victims into. Faith smiled grimly when she saw a couple women, both possibly in their early twenties, with a group of three men that looked to be ready to test out her dark corner theory. Especially since it was easy for her to tell the men were vampires.
When the group ducked into a nearby alley Faith quickly crossed the street and made her way toward it without causing any suspicion from anyone nearby. If there was one thing she didn't need it was an audience.
Faith could see the girls giggling as she neared the entrance and she suspected they were either drunk or high. In her mind, that would make it easier for the vamps to get them into a suggestive state if they were. She hoped that was the case anyway. Otherwise, they were just stupid.
It wasn't the time to think about that though and Faith shook the thoughts away as she entered the alley. The group had moved into the darkest part and she could see the vamps had their unknowing victims cornered. Their stances were predatory and though it was dark, she thought the one closest to one of the women had his vamp face on.
She decided a distraction was needed. Faith kicked a rock against a dumpster that was no more than ten feet from her. The sound echoed loudly, causing the group to turn in her direction.
Faith took a few casual footsteps toward them. "What's going on, boys?"
"Beat it, bitch," the one closest to her said, his face changing and his teeth showing. "This is a private party."
She took a couple more steps. "I don't know about you but this is a pretty shitty place for a party."
One of the vamps had an arm around one of the girls' waist, keeping her close and slightly in front of him. "It's not really a party and more of dinner."
His face changed immediately and he sunk his fangs into the girl's neck, causing her to cry out loudly. The other girl tried to run but one of the other vampires held onto her, keeping her trapped. The third one went for Faith and moved to punch her but she ducked out of the way, pulling her stake out of her jacket when she did.
It was obvious all they didn't think much of her but the one who came after her never got the chance to change his opinion. By the time he turned to try and take another swing at her Faith had her stake ready and it was in his chest before he knew what hit him. It all happened in a matter of seconds.
"Shit," one of the vamps muttered as he dropped the bitten girl to the ground. "Slayer."
The two remaining vamps ran toward her, both reaching for her but neither were armed. Faith noticed that right away and her confidence grew that she wasn't in for much of a fight.
The first one to reach her missed when he tried to punch her and she pushed him away, catching him off balance and causing him to fall. Faith turned her attention to the other one, delivering a kicking to his stomach that sent him flying to the opposite wall of the alley. She closed the new distance in a second, staking him before he had a chance to realize it.
"You bitch!" the last vamp said as he spit at her. "Do you know how hard it is to find someone decent to hang with in this city?"
"Decent?" Faith laughed. "Don't think that word really describes a vampire."
"Whatever." He shrugged and moved toward her, trying to get the upper hand.
Faith took a quick glance at the girls, noticing the one that hadn't been bitten was helping the other, before looking back at the vamp. She made a step toward him, moving just enough to get him to throw the first punch. He was easy to read and Faith anticipated what he'd do enough to catch his fist with her left hand and punch him hard in the nose with the hand that held her stake. His nose was broken, blood instantly covering his face, and that was all the distraction she needed to thrust a stake into his heart.
"Too easy," she muttered and wiped any vamp dust off her before pocketing her stake. She looked over at the two girls who were still hovering against the wall, the one to was bitten looked to be barely conscious.
"Please . . . don't hurt us," one of them said as she attempted to protect the other and attempted to get them on their feet.
"Ain't gonna hurt you," Faith said and offered her a hand. "Didn't I just take out a group that was literally going to eat you?"
The girl nervously took her hand and they both helped the other girl to her feet. "What were they?"
"Doesn't matter," Faith said. "Just get out of here and get her checked out by a doctor, okay?"
She nodded and walked out of the alley as fast as she could, the other girl leaning on her for support. Faith watched them go before exiting the alley herself. She knew she could help them to a hospital but figured they make it without her and there were more vamps in the area.
She could feel it and was more than ready to find them.
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