"Faith... Cordelia... Faith and Cordelia..." rambled Xander as he stared at the two girls who had been kissing only moments ago.
Only slightly better off than Xander was Willow who was staring at Cordelia as if she'd grown another head. The tall brunette was still mortified at being caught and more than a bit confused at what she had been caught doing. All too soon the familiar anger rose in Cordelia once again and meeting Faith's eyes she glared at the shorter brunette.
In a lightning quick movement, Cordelia jerked away from Faith to give her a harsh slap on the cheek. Remaining completely still, Faith bore her steady gaze into the taller girl who was trembling.
"Bitch," Cordelia hissed before she whirled around to stomp out of the alley.
Watching Cordelia's exit with lidded eyes, Faith formed a small quirky smile as she said, "That went well." Heaving a deep sigh, she looked to her friends. "You guys think she likes me or what?"
After a moment of silence, Willow's green eyes softened in a smile and she said, "What."
"Maybe," said Faith as her eyes returned to the direction Cordelia disappeared in. "But I think I can change that if I get that chance, y'know?" She bore her dark brown gaze into the pair and continued, "You two gonna give me the chance by keeping this on the down low?"
"If that's what you want," said Willow. She had an almost wary expression on her face. "I think I should warn you that slap might just be the start of things. Cordelia can really make your life miserable if she wants to."
"She won't," Faith murmured. Locking eyes with Willow she said, "I know her better than she thinks. She won't do anything because she'll be too confused."
"If you say so," said Willow skeptically.
"I say so," replied Faith with a lopsided grin. "Don't worry about me. I'm five by five." Tilting her head to one side she looked at the baffled Xander and said, "I think it's him that we should be worried about. You alive, X?"
His eyes slowly coming back into focus, Xander looked from Willow to Faith then back again. Scratching the back of his head he said, "Did I just see what I thought I saw? Or was it just another fantasy that got way out of hand?"
Before either of them could reply a scream sounded and whirling around Faith said, "Cordelia."
With that, she took off down the alley leaving a dumbfounded Willow and Xander alone.
* * * * * *
"Dammit," Faith hissed as she bent down to pick up Cordelia's abandoned purse. "Where the hell could she be?"
"Faith!" called Willow. She and Xander jogged to stop at the slayer's side. "What's going on?"
"Willow," said Faith with certain desperation. She grabbed the smaller girl by the shoulders as she said, "I've got to find Cordelia. Did you see where she went?"
"No," said Willow as she shook her head. "I wasn't even paying any attention to her. Besides, the kiss I mean. I paid attention to that. But after? Nothing. I don't tend to look after her."
Rubbing her forehead Faith muttered, "If I was an undead loser where would I take a hottie like her? Think, Faith, think!" Tipping her head back to stare at the sky she clenched her jaw and said, "Screw it. I'm gonna go find her."
"Uhm, news flash," said Xander hesitantly. "You don't know where she went. So how are you going to find her? It's not like you know her hangouts."
"No," Faith said in quiet thoughtful tones. "But I know all of theirs." Whirling around to face the pair she demanded, "Where's the cemetery?"
"The cemetery?" Xander repeated. "You're kidding, right? Why would Cordelia be in the cemetery?"
"Dammit, X!" exclaimed Faith irately as she grabbed him by the collar. "If you don't tell me where the cemetery is Cordelia's gonna end up in it! Where the hell is it?!"
"It's on the north side of town," said Xander with wide eyes.
Releasing her hold on Xander hastily Faith moved into a fast run to leave a shocked Willow and Xander in her wake. After a moment, they met their eyes then went after her.
* * * * * *
"This is a good one you've found," murmured Luke in approval as he looked the girl that Darla held up and down.
"Thank you, Luke," said Darla who formed her somehow girlish smile that he loved to see. "I saw her and thought that she'd make the perfect meal for the Master."
"Mmm," Luke wore a lazy smile. "I can see why you'd think that. She does look so... delectable."
At this Darla licked her lips only to divert her eyes as a low moan filled the air. Looking down at the girl she'd just captured she said, "Sleeping beauty awakes."
* * * * * *
Cordelia groggily opened her eyes to the sight of yet another of those weird creatures who'd attacked her earlier. Once she realized just what she was dealing with again, she did what came naturally for an extroverted person like her.
She screamed very, very, very, loudly.
Seconds later her mouth was covered by a cold and clammy hand and she was looking into the eyes of a muscular man who wore the strangest smile.
"Darla," the man purred. "It seems that your sleeping beauty has a healthy pair of lungs on her."
Hazel eyes shifted to the blonde girl who Cordelia vaguely remembered attacking her. The blonde, Darla, gave an almost maidenly giggle as she said, "The Master enjoys to feed on screamers, doesn't he Luke?"
"That he does," the man named Luke smiled. "He enjoys it greatly so lets bring her before him."
"I don't think so, twinkie."
Slowly removing his hand from Cordelia's mouth Luke turned around to face a stocky brunette wearing an arrogant smirk on her pretty features.
"Killing my date is a definite no no," said Faith.
"Date?!" exclaimed Cordelia in huffy tones. "I don't know what drugs you're on but--"
"Cordelia, sweetie?" Faith interrupted in sugary tones.
"Yes?" Cordelia blinked.
"Shut up," retorted Faith.
Before Cordelia could reply Faith crouched low to deliver a hard kick to Luke's midsection causing the large vampire to go flying into a nearby wall. A nearby wall that was right next to the entrance that Willow and Xander had just appeared standing in.
Unaware of her friends presence, Faith locked her eyes on Darla who still held Cordelia in her grasp. "C'mon," Faith said casual tones. "You don't really wanna suck her blood. It's nothing but tofu. That's not tasty."
"Who are you?" Darla hissed with narrowed eyes.
"Who? Me?" asked Faith in feigned innocence. "I'm nobody special. Just the chosen one. Y'know, the vampire slayer? Or should I just say I'm the you slayer since you do appear to be a vampire?"
While Darla was contemplating the ramifications of having a slayer in town Faith suddenly jerked forward to pull Cordelia out of her grasp. She released her hold on Cordelia which caused the leggy brunette to crash into Willow and Xander. Faith flew at Darla who agilely avoided her attacks but soon ended up trapped in a corner.
Yanking a stake from her jacket Faith grinned and said, "Adios, undead girl. You're about to be dusted."
Faith raised the stake up and prepared to bury it in Darla's heart when cold and clammy hands grabbed her wrist then began to squeeze tightly. The stake fell to the ground to cause an echoing nose and wrenching around in a painful turn Faith came face to face with a recovered Luke.
"A slayer," Luke purred. "I've always wanted to kill a slayer. It's the only thing missing from my collection."
"Really?" said Faith in choked tones as Luke moved his hands to grip her neck. "I always knew that I was valuable."
"Very valuable," murmured Luke as he tilted his head to one side. "Your blood will taste especially sweet to the Master. Nothing will stop the Harvest from coming now."
Luke was about to say something more but that was when a brick hit him in the back of the head. Turning around he looked at a shaking Cordelia who paled at his attention.
"What?" Luke asked as he smiled at her. "You want to join your slayer girlfriend? Darla," he looked to the other vampire. "Take her. We'll give them all to the Master."
"All?" squeaked Xander. "What's all? There is no all? There's none. We'll take none to the Master, right?"
Narrowing her dark brown eyes Faith shifted her body to swing her right leg back and deliver a swift and very strong kick to Luke's groin. The large vampire immediately dropped her and gave her an incredulous look.
"That was dirty," Luke groaned as he fell to his knees.
"Hey, what can you do?" said Faith with a shrug. She then picked her stake up off the ground and quickly buried it into his chest with a strong thrust. Seconds later there was a pile of dust where Luke had been and Faith said, "Loser."
"You killed Luke," said Darla in numb tones as she slowly backed away from the slayer. "You killed Luke."
"Repetitive much?" Faith remarked as she flipped the stake that she held into the air and caught it. "And you're next on my vamp hit list, blondie."
Faith was about to lunge for Darla when in an act of desperation the blonde vampire broke through one of the mausoleum's locked doors and vanished from sight.
"Coward," muttered Faith as she stared at the broken door. Turning around she walked over to Cordelia and knelt in front of her. "You have a thing for trouble, huh?"
"No," said Cordelia with a slight groan as Faith helped her to her feet. "You have a thing for trouble. I just have a thing for getting unwittingly pulled into your trouble."
Forming a slow smile Faith said, "Close enough."
"Uh, excuse me?" said Xander as he slowly raised his hand. "What just happened here?"
Faith looked at Cordelia then at Xander then at Willow then back at Cordelia again.
After a long pause Faith offered haplessly, "I can explain?"
And just like the time before everyone in the group wore the same expression of sardonic disbelief and Faith knew that she definitely had to find a new line.
* * * * * *
"The Harvest!" Giles exclaimed as he burst into the bathroom, scaring Faith half out of her wits.
It was the early morning and Faith had just gotten up. She was in the middle of brushing her teeth when Giles burst into the bathroom looking harried. The bags under his eyes told Faith better than he could that he had been up all night doing research. She decided to hold back on commenting on this since he looked so excited. After all, if Giles felt that four hours of sleep a day was for him then it was his business.
"Is in the fall," mumbled Faith. She continued to brush her teeth as she stared blankly at her Watcher.
"Very funny," said Giles. "I've finally found some information on this Harvest that one of the vampires talked about. Its emergence could mean only one thing."
"Yeah? What?" asked Faith as she took a drink of water and swirled it around in her mouth.
"That our enemy is the Master Vampire," Giles said in solemn tones. He paused to adjust his glasses. "Only he could orchestrate such an old ceremony."
"Master Vampire?" repeated Faith. She leaned over the sink to spit out the water before wiping her mouth. "And who is he supposed to be? Sounds like a real bad ass."
"Yes," murmured Giles as he flipped through the book that he held. "If it is a he. I haven't determined that though. But the Master Vampire is essentially a title given to a vampire whose powers are so great that it grants them a following. Normally vampires are solitary creatures but when a Master Vampire emerges, the other vampires are drawn to the power they present. This forms a dangerous alliance."
Faith hopped up to sit on the sink and considered his words before she said, "Damn."
"Yes," Giles continued in distracted tones. He was too distracted with his discovery to scold Faith about her cursing habit. "It only gets worse because the Harvest is the name of the ceremony in which the Master Vampire regains their full powers. And this can only be accomplished by them feeding on several hundred human beings."
"What?" said Faith sharply as her head jerked up. "Are you serious?"
"Absolutely," said Giles with a nod.
Clenching her jaw, Faith asked in low dangerous tones, "When's this Harvest supposed to go down?"
"I'm not sure," admitted Giles reluctantly. "I plan on spending all of today researching the Harvest further. But it's very likely that it will be happening soon."
"Then we better get ready, huh?" Faith said as she hopped off the bathroom sink. "Want me to help you out by going through the books here?"
Forming a small smile Giles said, "You won't get out school that easily, young lady."
"G-man," whined Faith. "This is serious shit. I should be helping you not doing the nerd thing."
"Education is not the nerd thing," said Giles as he walked out of the bathroom and to his bedroom. "It's the basis for improving our station in life."
"But I already have a station," Faith called to his exiting form. "I'm the slayer!"
"True," Giles voice floated out to her. "But there may come the day when you won't have to slay. What will you do then? Life is full of choices, Faith. Remember that."
From the doorway to the bathroom, Faith wore a thoughtful expression as she contemplated this.
* * * * * *
When she wandered into the halls of Sunnydale High that morning Faith was still thinking about the Harvest. It was bad news; no doubt about that. And Faith wondered if she'd be able to handle it. Giles thought that she could just because she was the slayer. But was that really enough?
She was the chosen one for her generation and because of that, she had weird powers that normal people didn't have. She could sense vampires presence, had above average strength, and the ability to heal quickly. But what if those abilities were taken away? Would she still have the strength to destroy evil like she was meant to do?
Caught up in these thoughts, Faith didn't notice when Cordelia walked past with her usual group of friends talking at the top of their lungs. She didn't even notice when the tall brunette shot an speculative look in her direction.
Adjusting her backpack, Faith sighed quietly as she walked into her advanced English class to sit next to Willow. The redhead wore a charming smile which Faith couldn't help but return as she looked at her. She was already feeling light hearted just from being in Willow's company.
"So," said Willow. She looked around quickly before ducking her head to continue in a hushed tone of voice, "Are you finally going to tell me what happened last night?"
Blinking at this, Faith she set her backpack down on the floor. "Yeah," she said with a sigh. "I'm going to tell you. Just not right now. How about we all meet after school in the library? You, X, Cordelia, and me. Then I'll try to explain this whole crazy thing to you. Okay?"
"Cordelia?" asked Willow in skeptical tones. "Why do you want her there?"
"She's a part of this, Will," said Faith. She paused to form a slow smile as she added, "Plus she's a hottie."
"Great," Willow rolled her eyes. "Thinking with the hormones not with the brain. That's just great."
"What?" Faith drawled. "She's not that bad."
"That's what you say now," said Willow. "But Cordelia is the Mistress of Evil. You haven't seen her in action yet. That thing with Xander was only the start of it. She can be really mean when she wants to be."
"Mistress of Evil?" repeated Faith with a chuckle.
"Yes," said Willow as she nodded her head. "She's the Mistress of Evil. No doubt about it."
"So you keep saying," murmured Faith. The teacher had just walked in and was starting to take role call. Looking back at Willow, she offered a reassuring smile. "Don't worry on my account. I can handle Cordelia easy."
"If you say so," replied Willow skeptically.
"Gee whiz," Faith said sardonically. "Where have I heard that before? Was it just last night?"
"Silly," said Willow as she giggled.
"You call me silly but I'm going to prove that Cordelia Chase is in fact human," said Faith as she wore an confident smile.
"If you--" began Willow.
"Say so," finished Faith.
By the time the teacher got to Willow on the role call list, both of the girls were laughing uncontrollably.
* * * * * *
Cordelia Chase was angry.
She'd been angry ever since she got attacked and nearly killed last night. Nearly killed twice to be exact. Before yesterday night she had never been attacked but since meeting Faith she'd been attacked twice. And nearly killed. She wasn't about to forget about the nearly killed part.
None of this was a good thing to her. And coming to this conclusion, Cordelia was angry at Faith. Angry at Faith for nearly getting her killed twice and for kissing her.
Kissing her. Yes. That's how it had been. Faith had kissed her. Faith was the aggressor, not Cordelia. She had been the innocent in all of this. It was entirely Faith's fault.
Dimly replying to whatever her friends were chatting about now Cordelia ran that through her mind again. Faith's fault. The kiss had been Faith's fault.
Somehow that didn't sound right. As much as she wanted to believe that, Cordelia knew deep down that she had responded to Faith's kiss.
And that was what really made her angry. It was fear that caused the anger though. The fear of what the kiss meant about herself and her life.
Certainly she didn't think that she was a lesbian. That would be impossible. Cordelia loved men. She loved the way that they looked, the way that they felt... hell. She even loved the stinky way that they sometimes smelled.
Yes, Cordelia loved men. But now she was beginning to think that it was possible for her to love women as well.
This was not a good thing in her mind. It could only lead to problems in her life and in her group of friends. She knew all too well her companions views on anything that they deemed different or strange. It meant instant humiliation. And this treatment was definitely extended to the gay community.
The real question was what to do about Faith? She couldn't talk to her friends about what had happened. And what if those two geeks Faith hung out with blabbed? What would she do then? Her social life as she knew it would be ruined and she'd become one of the ostracized.
There was also the matter of how her mind kept drifting back to the kiss and the moments before it. Faith had called those guys vampires. She was never one to believe in the supernatural but in a strange way it made sense. But how had Faith known they were vampires? And how had she been able to kill them so easily? Who was she really?
Heaving a deep sigh, Cordelia slowly came to a stop in front of her locked and opened it. Looking inside of it she noticed a small note folded on top of her books. Opening it with certain curiosity she read the note quickly.
It was from Faith. She wanted to explain.
* * * * * *
"Where's my lucky charms?" asked Faith through her mouth full of fried chicken.
She was currently camped out at the large wooden table in the library that was covered with various ancient texts and the huge assembly of food that consisted of her lunch. On hearing her question, Giles favored Faith with a wry look.
"I don't see why you insist on eating food at the improper time and at improper meal," Giles began. "It seems to me that breakfast food should be eaten at breakfast and lunch food at lunch. Or is that simply too mundane?"
"Ha," said Faith in droll tones. "I'm impressed. You made a funny. Now where are my lucky charms?"
Shaking his head Giles went back to reading one of his many books and said, "In my office on the top shelf."
"Thank ya much!" said Faith. She bounded to her feet and ran into his office but on the way there she tossed what little remained of her chicken wing into the garbage.
When Faith emerged only a few minutes later she was stuffing handfuls of the cereal into her mouth. Giles looked up to tell her something only to frown at this display.
"Utensils," said Giles with careful enunciation.
"Wuzzat?" Faith mumbled through her lucky charms.
"Utensils," repeated Giles. "Use utensils."
Shrugging at this Faith stuffed another handful of cereal into her mouth and said, "I don't like 'em."
"I should have known," Giles said with a sigh. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and directed his gaze back to the book. "The sleeper will awaken," he said solemnly. "And the world will bleed."
"Nice haiku, G-man," commented Faith as she sat down on the top of the table.
Faith began to methodically search through the cereal box for the marshmallows inside. More than anything she hated accidentally eating the granola-ish parts of the cereal. They tended to taste too much like... well. Granola.
"It's a prophecy," said Giles as he lifted his head to look into her eyes. "The one which details what will happen once the Harvest has taken place."
Munching on the marshmallows Faith said, "So you found the prophecy for it. That's pretty peachy. I guess that bleeding part is talking about the Harvest death toll, huh?"
"We'll stop them before it comes to that," Giles said as he continued reading. "We must. It's our duty."
"Yeah," said Faith quietly. "I know." She was silent for a moment before she said, "I invited the others to come here after school so we can explain it to them. I figured that was the best thing to do since they did see me slay."
"Indeed," murmured Giles. He met her eyes and wore a reassuring smile. "That was very smart of you, Faith. If we explain the gravity of the situation it's more likely that they'll remain silent about our duties. Good job."
"Thanks," said Faith as she tinged slightly.
"You're welcome," replied Giles.
He then went back to his reading while Faith munched on her lucky charms with a thoughtful look on her features.
How would they take it?
* * * * * *
"Luke is dead," the Master said very slowly as if he was trying to imprint the reality of the situation into his head. He paused for a moment then shrugged and said, "It had to happen eventually. Tell me," he looked to Darla. "Who was the person that killed him?"
Darla averted her eyes from his and said, "She called herself the slayer."
The Master's eyes widened slightly and forming a twisted smile he repeated, "The slayer." A low and throaty chuckle rose from him as he looked up at the ceiling. "Why does this always happen?" He sharply turned his gaze then said, "We'll just have to take care of this little problem, won't we?"
"Master," began Darla with vicious eagerness. "Please allow me to be the one to take care of her. She--"
"Killed Luke. Yes, I know," the Master interrupted with a wave of his hand. He slowly walked over to Darla and cupped her chin. "And we will now kill her. But you are my vessel, Darla. I won't place you in danger."
"Master..." Darla trailed off with wide eyes.
"We'll send John and others," said the Master. He released her chin and walked away from her. Chuckling softly he said, "I'm sure that they can handle things. I need you here with me. The Harvest approaches and we have much to do."
Giving a low bow, Darla said, "Yes Master."
* * * * * *
"And with my help, it is her sacred duty to destroy all evil which exists on the earthly plane," finished Giles calmly.
There was a moment of complete silence before Xander raised his hand. Looking to him, Giles said, "Yes?"
"Destroying evil is all well and good but does she get benefits?" asked Xander. "Because right now I'm thinking Red Cross, Blue Shield big time. You know?"
At this comment Giles formed a small frown while Faith chuckled quietly. School was now over and she had brought them to the library so they could be told the whole story. Faith had enlisted Giles help in explaining her exact duties and origins as the slayer. It was an easy decision for her to make because she still wasn't all that comfortable divulging her part time job to people.
It wasn't that she was ashamed of being the slayer. No, Faith was proud of being the slayer. It's just that she didn't quite know how to explain it to people. But as soon as she figured out a way to tell people that she was the chosen one who was destined to destroy all evil without sounding crazy she planned to be on Oprah.
"So what evil are you destroying now?" Willow piped up as she wore a curious expression.
"This Master Vampire guy," said Faith. She leaned her chair back to rest on its back legs as she looked to Giles. "He's next on our hit list of the undead."
"Well, I'm out of here," Cordelia's voice cut through the air and everyone turned to look at the tall brunette. She had her purse slung over her shoulder as she turned her hazel gaze to Faith. "As much as this has been incredibly weird for me, I want you to stay away from me, Faith. Because I have this problem. I like my social life and I like living. Twice is lucky and three times is dead."
With that, Cordelia smoothly turned and walked out of the library with the others observing her departure. Faith was quiet before she smirked and said, "She'll be back."
"So says the Terminator slayer," quipped Xander. When everyone gave him a strange look he said, "What? I have limited material to work with here."
"Okay," said Willow as she smiled at Faith. "How can we help? I mean, because, we should help, right? Or else the great big evil could destroy us too. Help we must!"
"Forget it," Faith said in quick stern tones. "This is work for me and G-man. We're caught up in this crap because it's our job but you guys..." She shook her head and said, "It's just not safe."
"But--" Willow began haplessly.
"Ixnay, Will!" said Faith as she let her chair fall forward before she jumped out of it. Crossing to face Willow she said, "This isn't your problem. It's mine and I can deal perfectly fine on my lonesome."
"That's stupid," said Xander as he stepped forward. "We're a part of this too. Unlike Cordelia, I don't think that this is just going to go away by me not hanging out with you. There's some crazy stuff happening around here and we want to help you stop it. C'mon," he said quietly. "Let us help."
Looking into Xander's eyes Faith was quiet before she sighed and said, "All right. But no following after me. If you want to help, you stay here and help G-man with research."
"Research?" Xander made a face. "No way."
"X..." began Faith in dangerous tones.
"Research is fine!" said Xander quickly as he waved his hands in a defenseless gesture. "I agree with whatever you say! Just don't put a stake through me!"
Chuckling softly, Faith looked to Willow and said, "How about you work your computer magic, Will? If you can teach me to surf the net you're bound to be able to scrounge up some stuff for us on the Harvest. It'd be a big help."
"I can do that," said Willow with a smile.
"Cool," Faith said before she looked to Giles. "I'm going to head home and get more weapons ready for when the Harvest hits. I gotta bad feeling it'll be soon."
"And I as well," replied Giles.
With a nod Faith, turned around to dash out of the library. She knew that she had to get ready and that she had to get ready soon. Because there wasn't much time left.
* * * * * *
"Come on, Cordy," Harmony's voice floated through the telephone. "You have to come with us to the Bronze. It's the thing. Anyway, you have to make up for ditching us this afternoon. Who goes to the library instead of shopping? That's just freaky."
Releasing a deep sigh Cordelia looked out her window at the setting sun and said, "I told you that I have this stupid report due for English. I just went there to get help from the librarian. He practically did the report for me."
"I suppose that's cool," Harmony allowed. "But you still have to go out with us. You don't want to seem all nerd like and antisocial do you? It has been a whole month since you and Ryan broke up. If you don't snag a new guy and fast people are going to say you're losing your touch."
"All right, all right!" said Cordelia in tones laced with annoyance. "I'll meet you there in an hour. I'm not staying long though. I need my beauty sleep."
"Totally," agreed Harmony cheerfully. "I'll catch you there Cordy! It's good to have you back."
Hanging the phone up Cordelia looked at it for a long moment before she echoed, "It's good to be back."
She stared at the phone for another few seconds before she shook her oak brown head and rose to her feet. Crossing to her closet, Cordelia drew it open and inspected her outfits. She closed her eyes in a painful movement then walked back to her bed and sat down in a numb state of mind.
"What am I doing?" Cordelia asked herself. "I don't even want to go out. Not when there are those monsters running around."
Looking down at her hands that were folded in her lap Cordelia's mind drifted towards Faith. She was out there right now. She was out there fighting the monsters. The vampires.
All because she was Faith, the vampire slayer.
Cordelia formed a small smile at this. That had the funniest ring to it. Like it was the perfect title for the stocky brunette. Faith was obviously made for this kind of work. Somehow it made a difference, to know that Faith was out there fighting the vampires. It made Cordelia feel safe.
Faith made Cordelia feel safe.
Shaking her head to lose these disturbing thoughts Cordelia rose to her feet and walked to her closet again. She peered at her wardrobe and mused, "What to wear?"
* * * * * *
Buckling the belt that Giles had made for her, Faith looked at her reflection in the full length mirror. "Give me a whip and call me Indiana Jones," she said with a chuckle.
The belt had been one of Giles stranger ideas when it came to slaying. When Faith had mentioned the number of stakes that she tended to lose he worked on making a leather belt with loops in it to store her stakes in. It made for easy access in the heat of battle and kept her from losing them.
It was both clever and dorky in its inventiveness. In other words, it was totally Giles.
Shrugging her jacket on in a quick movement Faith snagged a tootsie pop out of the bowl set on the table in the front hall before she exited the apartment with a loud slam of the door. And seconds later, she returned to rather sheepishly lock the apartment door.
You could never be safe enough in this town.
* * * * * *
"Go," the Master ordered. "Go and kill the slayer. Do not fail me in this mission, John."
The tall vampire lowered his blonde head in subservience before rising to his full height. John offered a sharp smile and said, "I won't fail, Master. She will die this night."
"Good," said the Master with a chuckle. "Very good. Now, go. The sooner that she dies, the better."
Nodding solemnly, John turned on his heel with several of his followers going after him. When he left Darla approached the Master and said, "He's reckless and likes to toy with his food. Are you sure that he can take the slayer?"
"He's young," said the Master with a shrug. "John will learn better habits once he's aged over a hundred years. In the meantime let him has his fun. I'm sure he'll succeed." Forming a slow smile he met her eyes and said, "We have other things to consider. Don't we?"
"Yes," said Darla in a low whisper as she neared him.
"You are my vessel," the Master murmured. "And as such, it is time for you to feed."
With that, the Master flipped his wrist over and pulled up the sleeve of his shirt to give Darla the most intimate of offerings.
* * * * * *
Faith paused in her walk towards Sunnydale High to scan the darkened street with careful eyes. Someone was following her and she didn't have to think twice to know that it was probably a member of her undead fan club.
Pulling one of the stakes from her belt Faith kept scanning the area as she called out, "I always thought that the reason for having a sneak attack was to catch your target by surprise. But I guess I'm wrong. You're doing a sneak attack right now and I know that you're here. So either I'm wrong or you're just morons." Faith then tilted her head to one side and smirked as she continued, "Personally, I think it's just that all you vamps are fucking morons."
It was then that the vampires descended in front of her and the one leading the bunch stepped forward, a wide smile playing on his features.
"Slayer," the blonde vampire hissed. "The Master orders your death and so it shall be."
"Really?" said Faith thoughtfully. "That's news to me. I didn't even know the guy was a fan of mine."
"Oh, he's a big fan," the blonde vampire's smile widened to show off his sharp fangs. "Of your death."
Nodding her head at this Faith cocked her head to one side then said, "I feel the same way, guy."
With that, Faith flew at the lead vampire who quickly avoided her attack and as he did this several of his minions pounced on Faith simultaneously. Now Faith was a good fighter. You had to be a good fighter to be the slayer. It just went along with the job. She was even a good fighter before she knew she was the slayer. Hell, once she'd beat up an entire group of girls from a rival neighborhood in Boston.
The thing of it was, these weren't human opponents. The vampires had Faith's strength and some of them even had her skill. And they outnumbered her by about ten to one.
Faith knew that the odds weren't looking all that good in her favor and could say only one thing about the situation.
* * * * * *
"I hate this," Cordelia muttered to herself. "I hate that I let Harmony talk me into this. I don't even want to go out."
She was in her Range Rover and about ten minutes away from reaching the Bronze. If there was one thing that she realized in during her musings of the past hour it was that she really hated peer pressure. Why should she care what her friends think about her? Wasn't it better to be alive and a social outcast than dead and popular?
Frankly, neither option sounded all that good to her.
Cordelia came to a halt at the stop light and feeling bored began to look around the area. That was when she caught sight of something all too familiar.
The sight of Faith fighting a group of vampires.
A fight that wasn't looking like it was going to turn in her favor. Quickly scanning the street and finding it empty of other cars and cops Cordelia hit the gas to send her Range Rover speeding forward. She was going to help Faith.
She didn't know exactly why she was doing it but in that split second Cordelia would change her life forever.
* * * * * *
Three vampires dusted and seven to go. That included the blonde leader that went by the name of John. All in all, Faith thought she was doing pretty well. Too bad she knew that this was all a set up to delay her from stopping the Harvest. These vampires were good fighters and they did have the advantage of numbers but Faith knew they lacked the skills to kill her. Yes, it was definitely a set up.
She had just dusted her fourth vampire when she heard the sound of screeching tires and looking up Faith's eyes went wide at the sight of a Range Rover headed right towards them. Pushing back on her toes Faith bounded into the air to land on the fire escape to a nearby building.
From her perch on the fire escape Faith watched as the Range Rover plowed into the group of vampires and put on the brakes just in time to keep from crashing. Faith soon focused on the drivers side of the vehicle and couldn't help but smile when she saw the culprit.
"Cordelia," she said with a chuckle. Twisting under the metal fencing of the fire escape Faith leapt down to land in front of the slowly recovering vampires. "That's my girl."
The passenger door to the Range Rover flew open and Cordelia shouted, "Are you nuts?! Stop fooling around and get in! They could wake up soon!"
Faith looked at Cordelia then at the group of slowly recovering vampires then back at Cordelia again.
With a shrug and a smirk she hopped into the Range Rover and closed the door with a slam. In seconds, Cordelia was screeching away from the scene of the crime and leaving several traumatized hit and run vampires behind.
"Nice save," said Faith after a moment of silence. "I never thought that I'd end up getting rescued by you, sweet cheeks. It must be my lucky day."
"Whatever," Cordelia sniffed. She gave Faith a hard look and said, "You do know that you're crazy, right? Why else would you just stand there like that? Did you want to fight them again?"
Moving her gaze to stare out of the window, Faith said, "That's sorta what my job requires, y'know. And in some ways it's fun. Plus I'm good at it."
"You could get killed," stated Cordelia as she focused on the road. "That's not on the high list in my book of fun."
"Everybody dies," Faith murmured softly. "I think what really matters is how you live when you're alive."
With a groan, Cordelia said, "Please. Don't get all mystical religious on me. I think that being a slayer in life is way better than a slayer in death."
"I suppose," said Faith as she formed a slow smile.
There was a moment of silence before Cordelia looked her way and asked, "Where are we going?"
"Sunnydale High," Faith promptly replied. "I've got to meet up with the others. We have to stop the Harvest."
"The Harvest," repeated Cordelia. She heaved a deep sigh then said, "I guess I might as well help all of you. I mean, without me you would've been lunchables."
Turning her dark brown eyes to focus on Cordelia's sharp profile Faith smiled again and said, "Thanks."
Blinking in surprise, Cordelia nervously glanced in Faith's direction. "For what?" she asked.
"For hit and running those vamps," began Faith. "For helping us out now. For keeping my secret." She paused to look back out of the window and said, "Just thanks. I knew that you were a nice person."
Focusing on the road Cordelia swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat and tried to calm the fast beat of her heart. That had literally been the first time that anyone had thanked her for anything. That someone had shown an appreciation for her that didn't include her looks.
Cordelia thought that it had to be the nicest feeling she had ever experienced so far.
"You're welcome," Cordelia replied softly.
Her hazel eyes staying on the road, Cordelia failed to notice when Faith turned to look at her then form the softest of smiles on her pretty features.
But she did notice when minutes later, Faith pulled a tootsie pop out of her pocket then opened it and threw the wrapper into the back of her Range Rover. She noticed it and proceeded to give Faith a very loud lecture on the benefits of using trash cans.
If there was one thing that Cordelia hated it was loose trash floating around in her very expensive car.
* * * * * *
"You were hit by a car?" the Master asked with both disdain and disbelief.
"Yes," said John as he knelt before the Master. He had never been this embarrassed in all his ninety nine years of living. What sort of defeat was being hit by a car? "I'm sorry. I'll take any punishment that you--"
John was swiftly cut off by the Master snapping his neck in one quick and painful gesture. With a sigh he looked to Darla who wore the star like insignia of his vessel on her forehead. "How disappointing," he murmured. "I was so sure that John wouldn't fail."
"He was young," Darla hissed. "You should have sent me, Master. I would have finished the slayer for you."
"Tut, tut, Darla," the Master clucked. "We have more important things to consider. The Harvest is upon us. You must leave to gather souls for my release."
"Yes, Master," said Darla as she gave a low bow.
"And Darla?" the Master called to her exiting form. Darla paused in her walk to look back at him and when she did he said to her, "Don't fail me."
Wearing a slow smile Darla nodded her head then turned on her heel to leave the Master alone. With a low chuckle he entwined his fingers and said, "Freedom."
* * * * * *
"What's she doing here?" asked Willow.
"Hello to you too," Faith said. She pulled her tootsie pop from her mouth and stopped in front of the table with Cordelia at her side.
Instead of answering Willow simply bore what could be construed as a glare from the normally meek redhead. At this Faith quirked an eyebrow and said, "Cordelia played the dashing heroine and saved me from a gang of vamps. After which she gave me a ride here. All questions answered?"
"For now," Willow allowed as she stared at Cordelia who gave her a definite smirk at this study.
"Cordelia doing good deeds," Xander mused. "This proves that the world is being taken over by demons."
Shooting Xander a warning look, Faith walked over to Giles side and said, "What'd you guys find out?"
"The Harvest will lead to the end of the world as we know it," Giles supplied in grim tones.
"Never would've guessed," said Faith in droll tones.
"Sixty years ago a very old and powerful vampire came to Sunnydale because of the Hellmouth. He wanted to open it and allow the demons from the trapped dimension to return," said Giles.
"But he blew it!" exclaimed Willow suddenly. She flushed slightly when everyone looked her way. "I mean, he couldn't do it. This big earthquake hit the town when he was doing the ceremony and he got swallowed up."
"Yes," Giles continued as he removed his wire rim glasses and began to clean them. "Opening dimensional portals can be tricky business. No doubt he got stuck in between dimensions. Rather like a cork in a wine bottle."
"And this Harvest thing is to get him out," finished Xander in cheerful tones as he smiled at Faith.
"It comes once in a century on this night," said Giles as he rose to his feet and crossed to a small plastic board they had been taking notes on. "The Master draws power from one of his minions while it feeds. He draws enough power to break free and open the portal. The minion is called the vessel," Giles paused to draw a star like insignia on the board. "And wears this mark on their forehead."
Studying the mark closely, Faith said, "No problem. I just dust anyone with that on their forehead and we're cool."
Blinking at this quick and rather simple logic, Giles said slowly, "Yes... essentially that's what--"
"So where would this Harvest be?" interrupted Faith.
"I'm not exactly sure," said Giles, who wore an almost embarrassed expression on his refined features.
"The Bronze," said Cordelia and Xander together.
While everyone gaped at the two mortal enemies having the same thought, Cordelia and Xander were staring at each other like they were alien creatures.
Watching them, Faith smirked and said, "Why?"
Cordelia and Xander were now staring rather suspiciously at each other. After a moment, Xander shrugged and said, "Semi-ladies can go first."
Scowling at this comment, Cordelia looked to Faith and her scowl disappeared as she said, "Duh. It's the only place to go. Where else are happening vampires going to feed? Denny's? Hello! That's so not with it."
"Good reasoning," said Faith as her dark brown eyes twinkled. She looked to Xander and said, "And what about you, X? Why would the vamps hit the Bronze?"
"Tasty young morsels," Xander quipped. "What else?"
"Makes sense," Faith smiled. She looked to Giles and said, "What do you say G-man? Off to the Bronze?"
"Indeed," said Giles with a nod.
"I'm driving!" Cordelia suddenly exclaimed.
While everyone gaped at her, Cordelia flung her purse over her shoulder and flounced out of the library. Faith watched this with certain interest before turning to the others. Wearing a sly smile she said, "She's something, huh?"
With that, Faith took off after Cordelia to leave a rather baffled Giles with the frozen Willow and Xander. The latter of which, for the life of them, couldn't figure out just what was going on with Faith and Cordelia.
They remained in silence for a moment, until Xander finally spoke what was on all of their minds.
"Unbelievable," Xander said.
* * * * * *
The bouncer for the Bronze narrowed his eyes at the large group of people headed towards him. Falling into his usual routine he asked, "You guys got ID?"
The girl leading the group moved forward to bask in the artificial light of the street lamp and the bouncer gasped as he looked at her face. She wore a large and rather wicked smile as she said, "We don't need ID. Do we?"
"N-N-No," the bouncer stammered as he shook his head back and forth in a rapid movement.
"That's what I thought," the blonde girl purred as she ran her hand along his jaw. Striding towards the front door she pulled it open and called to her followers, "Bring him. He'll make for a nice meal."
"Meal?" the bouncer whispered before the blonde's followers dragged him into the club.
He was getting the worst feeling that these weren't the usual punks that he was used to dealing with. No, they were something entirely different.
They were something utterly frightening.
* * * * * *
Cordelia brought the Range Rover to a sudden stop and sent everyone but Faith, who was sitting in the front seat, flying forward. This was despite the fact that they had worn their seat belts. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she'd been going ninety in a fifty- five traffic zone.
Biting into her tootsie pop, Faith took off her seat belt and leapt out of the car to go running down the alley. As she did this Cordelia noted that the stocky girl threw her finished sucker down on the ground of alley.
Now she was littering. Cordelia made up her mind to give Faith a more stern lecture on the environment. Throwing trash on the ground was just so tacky. Even for Faith.
"It's locked," Faith said as she pulled at the front door to the Bronze. She turned back to the others who had finally caught up with her and said, "Why you don't you guys take the back door while I unlock it?"
"Right," said Giles with a nod.
They started to run towards the back entrance when Faith called out, "And don't go heroic on me! Especially you Cordelia! Don't do anything risky, got it?"
"Yes, sir!" Xander replied as he gave a salute.
Rolling her eyes at this Faith stepped away from the front door and gave it a hard kick that sent it crashing in. At this action Cordelia murmured, "That was efficient."
"That was destructive," corrected Xander.
"That was totally Faith," remarked Willow.
The group paused at Willow's comment then nodded their heads in agreement before they continued on their way towards the back entrance of the Bronze.
* * * * * *
Faith noted that as soon as she entered the club all eyes were on her. Of course, she was used to all eyes being on her. She was a very noticeable girl. But arguably, she was being noticed for different reasons in this situation.
The blonde vampire from the mausoleum, the one that had captured Cordelia, was on the stage to the Bronze with a pile of bodies lying around her. Faith's dark brown eyes narrowed when she saw what was on her forehead.
It was the mark of the vessel. That meant one thing and one thing only to Faith.
Blondie had to die.
Too bad there was a gang of vampires heading towards her with deadly intentions. Pulling two stakes from her belt Faith leapt into the fray with careless abandon and proceeded to stake any vampire that got close to her.
When she finally reached the stage Faith gave the blonde a harsh smile and said, "Remember me, blondie? You can't go running off this time. You're gonna be dust for the vacuum cleaner."
"I don't think so," Darla hissed as she pounced on Faith who quickly averted the attack from the vampire.
The blonde was faster than the last time. Maybe it was from being the vessel, Faith reasoned. Maybe it gave her a boost in power. Sort of like vampire steroids, she thought with a smirk as she ducked another attack from Darla.
Crouching low on the floor Faith extended her leg to sweep Darla to the ground. The blonde landed on her back with a loud crash and Faith leapt on her stomach to straddle the other girl. Yanking a stake from her belt she prepared to bury it in Darla's heart when the blonde bumped her upwards with a strong motion of her hips. This distracted Faith and allowed the vampire to grab her wrists and switch their positions which put Darla on top.
"So slayer," purred Darla as she lowered her lips towards Faith's neck and bared her fangs. "Who was going to be dust again? Was it me or you?"
For a response Faith looked into Darla's eyes that were dancing with amusement and spit right in between them.
To say that Darla didn't appreciate this would be a gross understatement. In fact, to say that Darla was seething with rage would be a gross understatement. The only thing that wouldn't be a gross understatement would be to say that Darla was feeling extremely homicidal at this point.
Yes, extremely homicidal. That would do nicely.
And in this extremely homicidal state of mind Darla wasn't paying all that much attention to Faith. Which was a definite mistake for a vampire in the presence of a slayer. With a strong kick Faith propelled Darla off her body and regained her old position. Before the blonde vampire could realize what happened to her Faith yanked yet another stake from her belt and quickly buried it in Darla's heart.
In seconds Darla was dust and Faith was sitting in her dust. Staring at the dust and the stake that sat in it Faith took slow breaths and calmed the quick beat of her heart. After a moment she turned to look at Giles and the others.
Forming a slow smile Faith drawled, "Was I good or was I good? That was Olympic standard slaying, huh?"
"Very good," said Giles proudly as he walked to her.
"Good?" Xander said in feigned shock. "She was excellent! I'm talking tip top slaying here folks."
"Definitely," agreed Willow as she beamed.
Everyone was quiet for a moment and almost against their will they turned to Cordelia who hadn't commented on Faith's slaying abilities yet.
On receiving this attention, Cordelia shrugged and said, "She was okay, I guess."
That night there were two outraged screams echoing throughout Sunnydale. The first belonged to the Master when he found that his escape had been stopped. And the other scream?
That scream belonged to Faith and it went something like this... "Okay?! What do you mean I was okay?!"
It seems that some slayers are more sensitive than others when it comes to critiques on their job performance.
* * * * * *
RANDOM QUOTE FROM XENA: "I hear that there's a showing of Buffus the Bacchae Slayer across the street." -Criticus; The Play Is The Thing-
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