Drain Brameged Inc. Proudly Presents
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Ashes, Ashes, They All Fell Down
The windows were clean and offered, despite only being on the third floor, a fair view of the rest of the city. In the darkness, with everybody else's lights on, it looked like an accomplishment. A triumph of mankind over the world and a safe haven from the elements where they, as a species, could grow and learn so as to better itself and one day take its place among the stars.
Of course the city, in brutal reality, wasn't anything of the sort. A haven yes, but a place where small, scuttling things did gather in the gloom to feed and be fed upon. Black corners, hidden rooms, and obscured nests where the inhabitants did all sorts of things to and for each other that would have been, had they been witnessed by the light of day, surly been struck down by the hand of an angry god.
"Yeah. The views pretty nifty ain't it?" Faith said, looking over the girl's shoulder as she stared out the window. "It used to suck but the building across the street finally just collapsed a few months back. Voila, I got me a scenic thing to stare at."
She didn't say anything in return, just continued staring out the window. Seeing the city, hearing the city...tasting the city and thereby hating it.
"Ya sure yer not hungry? Cause I got some leftover Chinese. Junior here doesn't really go for all those spices." Faith patted her belly.
"No," the girl whispered. "I'm fine. Thanks for asking though."
"S'not a problem, Red," Faith replied, collapsing back in her easy chair.
The brunette fumbled with the controller for a bit before finding the right button and the screen flashed to life with a buzz and than the sound of a laughtrack flooded the room. Shifting in her seat a bit, Faith picked up her coke and took a sip before letting out a contented belch.
After that silence reigned for a few minutes, except for the sounds emitted from the television.
A girl stood by a window in a broken building that was itself at the edge of a broken city. She shared that room with the girl who had murdered her and she had come back herself to murder in return. They had exchanged a few words and now she looked out the windows while in the background there was laughter from people who probably hadn't been that entertained when they were first recorded. Somehow the laughter was appropriate.
And if they could have seen her they would have really laughed. Everyone would have laughed if they saw her. Why, if she happened to be on the outside and someone else in her place, she herself probably would have laughed at them. A little.
"Caffeine isn't good for the baby," she finally muttered.
"Hell, Red, I gave up cigarettes for the parasite. No way in hell am I giving up my coca-cola," Faith snarled.
"Could cause birth defects though," the girl said.
"Nah." Faith sneered. "It's part Slayer. Gonna be all tough and rowdy for the big bad world.
"Ya hear mama in there junior?" Faith shouted, slapping her belly a few times. "Gonna be rowdy, just like your old lady. Rowdy I tell you!"
"A murderer like it's mother?" She turned around so her back was to the window and she was not facing the Dark Slayer.
Faith gaped a little bit. "Is that what this is about, Red? Coming back from the grave to avenge yer 'murder most foul'? Some shit like that?"
A voice from her memories echoed across her mind, she knew what her lover, her wife, would have said in her place, if she were here and the redhead on the other side. Her wife would have probably said something along the lines of : 'No, I came back to catch the latest Ice Capades.'
"Yes," the girl said simply. "That's what this is about."
Faith grimaced. "Not surprised. Well, if yer expecting me to be all...feeling bad about slicing you and B up...it's not going to happen."
She didn't say anything.
"So you came back? What for? I doubt to shake my hand and congratulate me on a job well done," Faith said. "Probably something a little more drastic. You came back to kill me, didn't you."
She again remained silent. Not out of a sense of tact or reluctance, she was smart enough to know a rhetorical question when she heard it. Her eyes never left the Slayer's.
"Do unto others as they've done unto you? Something like that, Red?" Faith again sneered. "You think you got the stones for that?"
"I was a girl, Faith," she said quietly. "I never had any stones and I still don't now."
Faith just snorted derisively.
"I was a girl in love. With another girl. Odd, or some would label us as such. Maybe even strike us with the term 'wrong' or 'deviant'. But that didn't matter to us. Because we loved each other, and from that love we were even going to have a baby. A daughter." Her eyes still never wavered from Faiths who, in turn, refused to look away either. "But you took that away from us."
"Oh spare me," Faith groaned. She broke eye contact by putting the back of her hand to her forehead, a mimicry of a 'damsel in distress'. "Why O'lord? Why did this have to happen? This cruelty and chaos, darkness and pain? What did we do O'Lord?" She snickered. "Is that what this is now, Red? The part where you ask me 'why'?"
"We don't care why," the girl interrupted her.
Faith's jaw snapped shut with an audible click, but she recovered quickly. "What's this 'we' shit, Red? The 'Royal We' or something?"
The girl took a silent step forward and the Slayer's left hand twitched. "Where's the knife, Faith?"
"You know what I'm talking about, Faith. The Mayor's present to you. The knife you held to my throat, the knife that Buffy buried into your gut, the knife you used to stab my wife from behind, the knife you used to slice me open before reaching inside and tearing my child from my womb, the knife you then used to slash my jugular and then spent hours using to torture Buffy before killing her." Her tone was flat, neutral, without a hint of passion or rage, neither rising nor falling as the list of atrocities was spelled out for Faith, still sitting in her chair; the television still playing.
"Oh." Faith blinked. "That knife. It's in the cupboard of that bookcase over there." She pointed to a small piece of furniture at the back of the room.
The redhead moved to step around the chair and Faith moved. Her left hand, the one that had twitched when the girl had first moved toward her, dove into the crack between the seat cushion and the armrest and emerged an instant later with her fingers wrapped around the handle of the very blade of discussion seconds earlier. The Slayer lurched out of the chair swinging. Faith may have been pregnant, but she was still the Slayer and had the Slayer's gifts. Speed is only one of them and in this case it was enough.
The Redhead shrieked as white steel again buried itself deep in her flesh and tore across her abdomen in almost an exact parallel line of the scar she still bore. Her hands spasmed as actual pain and remembered pain joined forces and assaulted her mind. With a final wrenching tear, Faith pulled the knife free, letting the girl collapse to the floor on her knees, her arms wrapped around her now rent belly trying to stave off the flow of blood.
"Well, shit," Faith cursed. "It's going to take forever to clean that up. But..God DAMN Red! God damn, God damn, God DAAAMMMnnnn!" The Slayer licked the edge of the knife. "Yum. Spicier than I remembered."
She slowly ambled around the stricken Redhead still curled up into a tight, bloody, ball on the floor. "Fuck me..." Faith murmured. Her breath rasped between trembling lips and her hand, the one still tightly gripping the knife, was shaking.
"Fuck me," she repeated. "I don't see what people have against sequels, Red. As far as I'm concerned this one fucking rocks!"
She idly kicked the Redhead over and watched her convulsing on the floor.
Faith slowly lowered herself down on her knees.
The girl's head whipped around and her eyes blazed fury into Faith's. "No thanks." She laughed in the Slayer's face. "I think I'll stick around." And before the startled Slayer could react, the girl smashed her forehead into Faith's.
With a loud, bleating cry Faith reeled back and fell on her ass. The roles were now reversed, the redhead standing tall over the other fallen girl.
"Sequels are actually pretty good Faith." The Redhead leered down at her. The black lines on her face emphasizing and enhancing the feral void of her grin. "If the plot differs enough from the original."
She examined the cut across the bottom of her shirt. "Well darn," she complained. "Tara's gonna be real upset, she let me borrow it and I get it ruined."
"As I was saying." The girl continued, turning her attention back to Faith. "Sequals can be quite good, and, as you no doubt have figured out the story has changed. Whaddya think?" She held up the base of her shirt revealing the new wound slowly sealing up in the direction it had been adminstered.
Faith held one hand over her injured nose. "Neat trick, Red," she grumbled. "Nice headbutt too."
"Can I have the knife now?" the girl asked politely, holding out her hand.
"Been around a the block a few times, Red." Faith said, still holding her nose with her free hand. "Picked up a few things. Like how everything's connected!" Her voice rose to a shrill screech when she said 'connected' and she swiveled around and hurled her blade across the room.
It had landed on the television when she had first entered the apartment, flown across and taken roost there. It made sense, televisions were usually warm and it preferred warm places to rest just like anything else.
The knife flew from the Slayer's hand. Faith may have been pregnant, she may have turned from her duty and become a murderous, twisted mockery of her destiny. But she was still a slayer and she still had a slayer's strength and a slayer's eye.
The knife whipped across the space, end of end, glimmering and reflecting the gloomy light of the single lamp at the back of the room heading directly for the large, black bird on the tv. It had just enough time to cock its head to the side before the blade struck its chest dead center, burying itself amid a flurry of feathers, blood, flesh and bone.
Or...that is what would have normally happened had it just been an ordinary bird. But it was not an ordinary bird. It had been old when the stars were first imagined in the mind of the Watchmaker. It had done Its duty over the a space of time so great it could not be measured in time, but in terms of realities. To be attacked in such a base manner and to have one actually think that such an attack could be actually successful was a gross insult. An affront to Its position and role in this particular round of creation. Something terribly offensive that demanded restitution. Or it would have been, had It actually cared.
Which it didn't.
At most It was rather annoyed. It turned ungainfully on it's feet to examine the the knife jutting from the wall, cracking the plaster, the end still vibrating slightly from the force of the impact. It hopped up onto the handle and stood there looking at the dark haired girl still sprawled on the floor. It shook Its head slowly, as if somehow disappointed.
It looked down at her, at Faith and saw the slight sheen of moisture well up in the corners of her eyes. Fear settling in the hollow place at the bottom of her gut, spreading cold fingers to push and probe at nightmares thought safely tucked away.
Faith shook her head rapidly and wiped her eyes as if irritated by the ache in her nose. "I hate hate headbutts," she sniffed.
The redhead crossed the room, ignoring the quiet squelch of her boots as they trekked across blood soaked carpeting from her own belly, and pulled the knife out the wall. She carefully wiped the plaster dust off the blade with the edge of her shirt and tucked the knife into her jacket pocket.
Faith, in the meantime had pulled herself back to her feet and sat back down, wincing, into the large chair decorating the center of the room.
"You're scared, Faith," The Redhead said, moving to stand beside the seated girl. "You should be. You've lost."
"Not going to kill me, Red. I know you, you couldn't do what I did to you. That takes a special kind of twisted and I know you're just not that way."
The Redhead whipped the blade out of her pocket and held it, edge down, so Faith's own dark eyes were reflected in the hard steel.
"You knew me, Faith," the girl purred. "Past tense." Then she didn't say anything more, letting the brunette realize every way those last two words could be interpreted.
Still holding the knife in front of the Slayer's face she spoke again, slowly, her lips and tongue articulating lovingly every last syllable, almost caressing them. "A riddle for you, Faith. 'I have a tongue yet no teeth or mouth, cut meat yet drink no wine. What am I?'"
"Can you guess for me, Faith? Hmm?" The smile on her white dead face grew a little wider.
The Slayer couldn't seem to look away from her own reflected eyes. She opened her mouth, swallowed, and tried again. "I...I don't know."
"Oh c'mon, Faith." The Redhead whispered. "It's a game. Here's a clue, it's the only thing you ever loved."
Slowly the the dark haired girl turned her head to look up into the grinning face of the other. She didn't say anything for a few seconds. The only noise in the room once more the TV. Now the news was on and the anchorman was feigning concern as he read about the latest bouts of gang violence plaguing the perfect city of Los Angeles.
"A knife." Faith said finally.
"Very good Faith. A knife is the correct answer." And the Redhead turned the knife and ran the side of the cold metal over the rising swell and exposed flesh of the Slayer's gut. She ignored the shudder that wracked over Faith's body as well as the gasp that accompanied it.
She felt nothing. Not a twinge of regret or worry. There was no pleading voice deep inside her, or even a the slightest questioning of her actions. Inside there wasn't even pain or rage. She was playing a role, filled with nothing. Grey, absolute like sheet metal was all she held within, flat and pitiless, not even the slightest ripple of difference or indifference. Just actions, reactions and things that had to be done. Even this realization though, of what she was, caused not the slightest tremor in her hand as it slid the blade along the rise, over Faith's navel and turning it so the point now scraped a white line down the other side over her flesh toward her pelvis.
With a yelp of pain Faith bolted upright and the Redhead yanked the knife away.
The Slayer's fingers buried into the soft material of the armrests and tore away great chunks of the fluffy material. Her muscles stood out in stark contrast, writhing and shifting under her skin as they became more and more tense. The lines of her neck bulging. At the same time a large stain spread slowly around the Slayer's crotch.
The Redhead strolled into the kitchen, arms crossed over her chest. "Either you just peed your pants Faith, or your water just broke. Don't move. I'll be right back."
"Push." The voice was flat and quiet. In no way comforting merely giving an instruction.
"Fuck you," Faith snarled. The girl reached around and slapped the Slayer's cheek. "That's no way for a mother to talk." She chastised.
The brunnette was stretched out on the floor, on a white sheet. The Redhead crouched between her spread legs, a blanket and two bowls by her side.
"Push, Faith." Again the command and the Slayer had no choice but to obey, her teeth grinding together and muscles tensing as her body reacted whether she wanted it to or not.
This had been going on for hours.
The sun had risen and set in the interim and in that time the Redhead had calmly and methodically prepared. First she had torn the phone out the wall so they would not be interrupted, nor allowing Faith any chance to arrange an interruption. Than she had carefully and precisely repaired the door, screwing it back onto it's hinges and, as best she could, repairing the deadbolts. Those had proven a lost cause and she had settled for propping a chair under the doorknob. While doing all this she had allowed Faith to go through the joys of labor. Twisting about in her seat, spitting and cursing as waves of pain assaulted her, feelings as if a giant vice was slowly crushing the bones in her abdomen yet at the same time forcing something else open. The Redhead had had to intercept Faith when she tried to stumble across the room to the kitchen and grab a bottle of whiskey.
"That's not good for the baby," the Redhead had admonished as she casually plucked the bottle from Faith's hand and tossed it out the window. Then she had gone back to getting things ready. After that was completed she had carried the Slayer to the easy chair as if she were a babe herself and sat her down then turned up the volume on the television to drown out any sounds that might attract the neighbors...if there were any. Then pulling up another wooden one she had sat down to wait.
After the sun had set, a good eight hours since the labor had started, the Redhead had unceremoniously dumped Faith, who had drifted off into a fitful sleep, out of her seat and onto the floor.
Stripping the still groggy Slayer of her pants had proved little trouble. Faith had not resisted as the Redhead forced her legs apart and examined her. Maybe she had given up, but the girl doubted it.
"I'm no doctor, Faith," she had said. "I wouldn't have minded being given the chance but you saw to that didn't you?"
Faith didn't respond just lay with her head back, trying to hold back the pain that had been growing steadily for the last day.
"So, all I have is a few books I read in a pique of boredom way back when but...I'd say you're ready and even if you're not, I'm tired of waiting." The girl said in a deadpan voice.
And she had said for the first time the word that Faith was quickly growing to hate. "Push."
It had watched the goings on. Had not interfered in any way merely observed. Refraining from judgement until later, for now being seemingly content to let things proceed apace.
"Push. More." The girl commanded in a clipped voice. Taking a deep breath the Slayer held it and bore down.
"Good." The Redhead responded in the same flat voice. "Not much longer."
"You're...you're enjoying this aren't you, Red." Faith gasped, sweat ran down her face and pooled in the hollow of her neck.
"I thought I would, Faith," she replied evenly. "Ever since this began I was filled with such absolute.. hate and rage. Pain too. I was convinced that somehow seeing you hurting, or at least killing you would ease it, provide a balm of some sort. Now though, now I feel nothing, am getting nothing...there's no satisfaction here. This is just something I have to do." She looked up at the Slayer and her flat, green eyes reflected no light.
"I believe you," Faith whispered before letting her head fall back to land on the floor.
"That's nice," the Redhead said. "Now push."
"Push again," the girl commanded.
Faith complied wordlessly and the the baby was expelled from the Slayer's body with no fanfare or sense of accomplishment. It took in it's first lungfull of air and began to wail loudly as only a newborn can do. If the Redhead noticed Faith's hand twitch at the sound of her child she gave no sign.
"Well, that's that then," the girl said and reached for the knife.
She carefully lifted it from the bowl of clorox bleach in which it had been soaking for the last hour, rinsed it off in the hot water and wiped it dry. Then she carefully cut the umblicical cord before dropping the blade back into the pot of water.
She picked up a blanket and cleaned off the screaming child as best she was able. Then taking another one she wrapped it up before handing it to it's mother.
"Congratulations, Faith," she said in that same, dead voice. "It's a girl."
The silence was palpable, the television having been turned off long ago. Flat green eyes stared into defiant black ones and between them all a child screamed.
"A girl," Faith whispered.
"Yes. A girl. Just like mine, of course yours is alive."
"Good point," Faith said.
The Redhead crouched down next to mother and child and reaching out slowly, ran the fingers of her left hand through Faith's hair. The grime and oil of Faith's formerly shining locks coated her fingers but she ignored the feel and instead pushed the ribbon out of the Slayer's hair letting her curled, tangled hair fall free. She followed the the hair with her fingers down, down to the back of Faith's neck and let her fingers linger there, wrapping them slowly, firmly but in no way that would cause discomfort around the back of the Slayer's skull.
Faith said nothing.
Reaching out with her right hand she caressed Faith's cheek, once...twice...and on the third time again her fingers lingered, slipping, sliding, moved down the contours of the brunette's face until she gently cupped Faith's chin in the palm of her right hand.
"Say it Faith." She murmured.
"What?" Faith gasped back.
"I've given you all I can. Say it. Tell her, just once. That's all I can allow Faith. You have this once chance to tell her, Faith, how you feel."
Faith's eyes glanced down to the child she held to her chest. She had stopped crying, Faith's daughter, and now her tiny hands fumbled about with Faith's tank top, as if somehow drawn by instinct to the what lay underneath. Then, moving steadily Faith's eyes looked at the other girl, holding her head in her hands. Her eyes stared at the scar tissue visible through the cut in her shirt, up over her breasts, her neck that Faith remembered her fingers wrapped around and steel sliding home, to her face. Her white face, pale, like chiseled marble; the eternal smile of ebony that twisted over and along the curves of her features accompanied by the black tears, up to those green eyes with less light in them then when she had watched the Redhead's life drain away that first time three years ago almost to the day.
And she chose.
Faith's lips curled up into her trademark smirk and she felt that cold comfortable slamming of the gate in her mind, locking away weakness, mercy and fear. She couldn't even feel the hot streaks running down her face anymore.
"At least I got to have my baby, Red."