Disclaimer: The characters and locations of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" are property of their owners, not mine, and are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is property of the author, and may not be reproduced, retransmitted, or posted anywhere without my expressed permission.
Warnings/Ratings: This story is rated NC-17 for explicit sexual situations and language.
Spoilers: Through "Chosen," the final Buffy episode.
Thanks: To Kim and fox for beta'ing.
Before the world ended, Robin told her there are decent men out there. Faith figures that's probably true. She figures she's met a few of 'em in the last few years, pretty much all thanks to Buffy. She's grateful for that and hopes Buffy knows it. She tried to say as much before they parted ways. "Thank you," said Faith to Buffy, which meant a lot of things, mostly I'm sorry, but also a lot of other things including thanks for introducing me to some decent men.
And Buffy understood. "No," she said. "It's not the end." She meant it's the beginning, and she also meant they'll see each other again, some day. Then she hugged Faith, and Faith thought it was probably the first time in her life she's ever been hugged and really felt it.
Faith could have stuck with the rest of them for a bit, but Robin wanted to take off for San Diego where he had some friends, and he asked Faith to come along, and she figured she might as well stick with him instead. At least for a little while. At least until he gets better. Robin's a son-of-a-Slayer, but he doesn't have the same recuperative powers, and someone's got to look after him while he recovers from his wound. So they pumped him up with the drugs Andrew had lifted from the Sunnydale hospital before it went kablooey, and Faith stuffed her pockets full of fresh bandages and gauze, and Willow and Giles gave Faith a very detailed and graphic tutorial on how to tell if the wound got dangerously infected. And then Faith hotwired a car in the rest-station parking lot, and said thank you to Buffy and got hugged, and was off, with Robin groaning and sweating in the passenger seat.
San Diego ain't bad. Robin's friends were decent enough; they provided enough cash to set him and Faith up for a couple months in a crappy motel suite. But Faith ain't dumb either and she could see the writing on the wall. The money they had wouldn't last. Robin was still weak, mostly just sitting or lying around, occasionally flying into a rage, occasionally weeping, occasionally laughing and joking around -- but not strong enough to get up and take care of business yet. Some days it took all he had just to stagger into the bathroom and piss. So Faith did what she had to, to pay the bills.
She knew, after a little while, that Robin knew. And that he hated it, it tore at him inside. She knows too that Buffy and the others would be horrified, saddened. It isn't what Buffy wanted for her, for any of them. But honestly, Faith doesn't mind. It's not like she enjoys it, but it keeps the room theirs and the food coming in, and she actually feels freer than she ever has before. She could never explain that to the others, but it's enough to have it for herself.
She turned her first few tricks in dark slimy alleyways and that sucked, excuse the pun. Later she nearly barfed when she was washing off the knees of her jeans. So she scouted out a few better locations: a quiet park bench, a public restroom that's almost always deserted, and even, on occasion, the local Y.
She knows it's weird, but she's happy. Maybe for the first time ever. And she doesn't figure it's forever, anyway. This is just to keep things together until Robin's back on his feet. She figures she'll be a Slayer again someday too. Some day she'll stride again through a cemetery in the black of night, a stake in her hand, death in every footstep. She'll kick and she'll punch, she'll kill, and it'll be cool. But that's for someday, and she can wait.
Robin starts getting better, slowly but surely. One day after a few weeks or months, she's not sure, they're watching some stupid sitcom and he suddenly reaches over and grabs her tit. He tries to pull her closer but doesn't quite have the strength yet. Faith resists, mostly just scared of hurting him, but he takes it wrong and withdraws, his face pinched.
"I didn't mean it," he says at last, half angry, half sad.
"What I said that day. About you being ... you know, not so good. I was just trying to rile you up." His face is so anguished, his eyes so darkened with sadness, and Faith feels terrible. She knows how upset he is about the way she's making their money; he wanted to introduce her to nice men.
"It's okay." She moves closer, touches his shoulder tentatively. "It's cool. Really."
And from then on it's almost as if they actually had talked things out. Although Robin continues to tease her about having said she had mad skilz. "Who's the nigger in this relationship anyway?" he'll chuckle, and Faith always winces because she does have her limits and that word makes her uncomfortable. But it's okay between them again. Robin's still not really strong enough to fuck, but sometimes she goes down on him, pinning his hips to the bed with her slayer-strength so he can't reinjure himself by moving around too much. He moans and pushes into her mouth until her arms ache from the strain. Afterward he likes to finger her, and his touch is always delicate and precise, her orgasms always intense.
Things change one evening when Robin's just on the cusp of being back to himself again. Faith is out for a walk, waiting for it to be dark enough that the johns will come out. She's just strolling the streets, all casual and content with the way life is. When she thinks about it, she can feel them everywhere -- the other girls, the other Slayers. Everywhere. She can open up a space at the back of her skull and feel their energy, or their auras or whatever, and it's like she's surrounded by them. She can't distinguish them or locate them -- it's not a strong enough sense to isolate which tingle might be Buffy, or Kennedy or Rona, but it makes her feel connected anyway, and it's a good feeling.
So she's walking around feeling the others with her, and a guy comes toward her, walking fast and purposefully. Faith eyes him suspiciously, tries to back away; not an aggressive john, please, she's not in the mood. But he comes right up to her and takes her arm -- not violently, but firmly.
"Please," he says, his tone low and urgent. "I need your help."
Cop? thinks Faith a little confusedly. She shakes off his arm. "Get lost, pal. I'm not open for business."
"No. No, you don't understand." He hurries after her as she tries to escape. "Please, it's my daughter. She's only nine."
Faith pauses, frowns, looks at him again. "Huh? What about your daughter?"
"I..." He gestures vaguely, helpless. "She's changed somehow. Different. You know?"
Faith blinks at him slowly, feeling amazement well up in her chest. Is this gonna happen?
"Yeah," she says slowly. "Yeah, I know."
"We don't know what to do. My wife and me. We need help. I've seen you on the streets -- I thought -- I don't know why I thought you could..."
"It's okay," says Faith, suddenly strong again, confident again. "I can help your kid. Take me to her."
Her name is Ashley. She is indeed nine, and until the world ended she was a pretty normal kid, kind of girly. She has a frilly pink bedroom, a lot of stuffed animals and dolls, a diary with hearts and flowers on the cover. But she also has a hard set to her mouth and a steely glint in her eyes that terrifies her parents. Faith wants her to understand.
"You gotta understand, Ash," she says, folding her legs casually underneath her on Ashley's bed (pink, frilly). "You gotta know what it's about."
"I do know," Ashley says with her hard mouth, her narrowed eyes tracking Faith closely. "It's because I'm special."
"Yeah, that's right. You're special, and you have special responsibilities." Faith doesn't know much about kids, so she figures she might as well just talk to Ashley like she's a grownup. "There are nasty things out there, creatures, demons. And you have the power to stop them, that's how you're special. But it's not a game. It's a responsibility. It's important. You gotta understand it. You gotta respect it."
"That's dumb," says Ashley, but cautiously, nervously. "I don't have responsibilities. I'm just a kid. I just have homework."
Faith leans forward to hold Ashley's gaze with her own. "You're not just a kid, Ash. That's what I'm tellin' ya. You're different. You can't just be a kid any more. You gotta look out for stuff." She pauses. "And do your homework too. I mean, school's important too." Yeah, do as I say....
The kid looks a little scared. "But why?" And there's so much to that question, isn't there? Why me? Why now? Why the evil?
"I don't know," Faith sighs, feeling a surge of sympathy. "I'm sorry, I don't. You just gotta deal with it, Ash. You can't let it bury you. Cuz it will, if you're not strong."
"I can be strong." The glint is back in Ashley's eye. But now it's not so scary any more. She's confident, she's on the way. She's looking at her pink bedroom with contempt.
Later, her parents fawn all over Faith, crying and stuff. It makes her wicked uncomfortable. But Ash is back to normal -- well, a new normal, but at least one the parents can recognize -- and they're grateful. They give Faith money (which no way is she too proud to take) and beg her to tell them what else they can do to thank her.
"Nothing," she says, but she takes their phone number, just in case, because they insist.
And that's how it begins.
Before long they're flooding to her. Faith doesn't even know how they know -- how Ashley's father knew -- but they all do. They find her, whether she's in the motel room with Robin, or walking the streets, or hanging out at the Y, or shooting pool in the bars. They're all confused and scared and excited, and they hang on her every word. And Faith does her best. She tries to explain to them about slaying, what it means, why it's important. She tells them haltingly about Buffy and all the times she saved the world. She explains about stakes through the heart, beheading, holy water, and sunlight. With the ones who are old enough, she gives some fighting lessons: just basic stuff, kicks and punches, how to roll with a blow, how to turn the opponent's strengths against him.
Sometimes she gets exhausted and frustrated and angry with the whole thing. Sometimes it's just too much and she needs to hide. She doesn't turn tricks any more; enough of the new Slayers give her cash that she doesn't have to. But sometimes she needs to let out her tensions, and it's a good thing that Robin is pretty much fully healed now, able to take a really hard violent fucking. Sometimes even that isn't enough and Faith has to go to the cemetery and spend the night killing things.
But that's only sometimes. Most of the time she feels calm, more so than ever. She feels what Willow might call centered, grounded. She deals with them all: the Slayers who are timid and terrified, the ones who are confused and angry, the ones who have that dangerous look in their eyes that says they have the wrong idea about their new strength. Faith takes each one as she comes, gives her what she needs and sends her away stronger, surer, more confident, and (Faith hopes) more stable.
"I'm like a Watcher now," she says one day to Robin, who has found himself a job tending bar. Faith perches on one of the stools and watches him polish glasses. "How fucked up is that?"
"You're doing good, Faith. You're making things right." He doesn't look at her. There's a distance in him, ever since he finished healing and the girls started coming in a steady stream. Faith senses his bitterness but doesn't know where it comes from or what to do with it. She's been realizing how little she actually knows him, despite everything.
"Yeah. I guess." She kicks her foot idly, spins on the stool a couple of times. "So. You leaving?"
Robin puts down a glass and looks her in the eye for a long moment. "I believe so," he says at last. "Yeah. I believe I am."
He doesn't ask Faith to come along. She isn't offended. She wants to stay, and he knows it. A few days later, he packs up the few things he's acquired, kisses her awkwardly on the cheek, and boards a cross-country bus.
Faith moves out of the motel and into an apartment. One of the new Slayers donates a space in the back room of her bookstore, where Faith can do her teaching. The younger girls come in several times a week, and their parents never know what they're being taught, but they pay Faith generously for teaching it. The older girls come in when they want to, when they need to. The vampire population of San Diego dwindles rapidly.
And one day Faith looks in the mirror and sees herself.
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