Smiles In Shadows
by Scy

There was a bite to the evening that had nothing to do with teeth and was more a relation of Hellmouth town and the tingle of things going on just out of reach.

Faith didn't like to think of patrolling as 'avoiding home,' but sometimes there was no denying that Sunnydale wasn't her town. Especially when she was walking wandering around, trying to catch the trail of uneasiness that wouldn't let her sit still without a head's up.

It hurt that B didn't care want to keep her in the loop. As though she had something else to do besides sniff out the walking dead and those circular amusements of small town life.

B might talk about 'trust' and 'sharing feelings,' but all that meant was 'applies to everyone else.'

Looking for a dark sister and finding 'a good girl managing fine, thanks' was one thing. It was quite another to be expected to 'fall in line'.

It hadn't been tact and consideration that had carried her over state lines kept her alive. Yet, to suggest that doing things in any way but that of Buffy or her 'family' was unacceptable. They were so busy trying to avoid holes in 'the right way' that they couldn't see that it didn't take a ladder to find some way down.

Being a Slayer wasn't just about following a proper code of combat. Buffy's Watcher was into rules and doing things according to tradition, but he'd obviously learned that didn't work with modern teenage girls. For all his 'British stiffness' he'd bent the rules a little. If only Buffy could realize that loosening up didn't mean falling apart.

The girl couldn't seem to pull her mind off 'duty' long enough to see the meaning of 'chosen'.

Faith understood the Slayer's power, the female killer that drew men in even as it promised to rend them from tip to toes. It was in them, the need for the hunt. They wouldn't have been tapped otherwise. Buffy could take a peek or two at things that lived out of the sunshine but she was still too tan and light to do more than be a visitor.

B's laugh was like a chorus of church bells. A pure sound that never wavered, even when she was mussed and bloodied. Buffy was so good that she wanted to wrestle her down. See how deep that 'making the best of it' shine went and how it tasted. The girl had a core of goodness that Faith used to think was only make believe. That Destiny wouldn't let her go and have all the sunny days of her smiles was okay, she had responsibilities. There were things more important to the blonde than a perfect life. Unfortunately, Faith was not counted among them.

When she'd first seen the other Slayer it had hit her- she wanted to matter to this girl. Enough to be counted among her friends. Be inside the circle for once. But if she couldn't get in, she would see that their white hats stayed clean.

Which was why she did another sweep of the town before checking out the promising rumors of parties that might be worthwhile.

In a town where weird was accepted as inescapable there were times when it was more so.

A party where horny teenagers gathered in a corner and shook off their buzz to stare at their parents doing their equivalent of 'dancing' was more out of the ordinary than she ever wanted to see. No real danger, just some kids really confused and thinking about drinking themselves into blind stupors. Not a bad idea, but she'd never felt comfortable letting her guard down like that around people she didn't trust. Which didn't leave her with any chance to do so.

Back out on the streets she shook her head and resolved to never walk into a situation like that again. Demons were one thing, adults trying to recapture 'glory days' was a whole 'nother sort of scary.

Another night, in a hurry to someplace interesting, she might not have noticed the man walking so casually down the street. As though he had nothing but rights to stroll dark paths when there were demons and other, more human terrors waiting for a chance to sink sharp intentions into the dumb and overconfident. But as it was, she hadn't figured out where to go after the party was a bust, so she saw him.

He was rangy, lean and of good posture, like a gentleman just out for a night walk. The turn of his head as she approached and open evaluation of her shattered the impression of 'harmless and ordinary'. Nobody normal would have heard her coming, and that type would have backed away without fail.

Faith got a whiff of power from him, but he was still human, mostly, and he was 'out on for a jaunt' in a town where there was a Hellmouth and two Slayers. No bit of that seemed innocent to her. Plus the bit where he didn't seem to belong.

The man walked alone after sunset in a town where funeral parlors competed for business. Since no tourist would have lasted this long unbitten, he had to be someone who didn't have to worry about the dangers of the night.

Being one of those dangers, Faith was curious. The way he walked was even more interesting. She knew 'sneaking around' and 'skipping town' as well as the way to the nearest cemetery.

"Hey there, you lost?" she asked, knowing by the quick slide of his eyes to either side of her that he hadn't quite decided if conversation was the best plan.

"Not at all," he said, smiling in a way that wasn't comforting so much as it confirmed he knew what he was about. "I've finished my business-" he eyed her in a knowing way. "No need to get ruffled, I won't be hanging about in your town."

"Not my town," she corrected automatically and narrowed her eyes. A shifty guy and a bunch of people acting as though it was the 70's all over again added up to 'guilty.'

"You're not from around here," she noted. His words had a crispness that gave them a good shake not present in America. It was the sort of accent she always associated with 'manners and tidiness.' Still, his intentions weren't so civilized, he acknowledged her perceptiveness with a dip of his chin that was more mocking than polite. He had edges that that nothing could smooth down. She was almost positive that she could take him, but it was that 'almost' that made her jumpy.

She was used to being 'worldly' and 'in control.' The kids in Sunnydale were a perfect audience, not so sheltered that they didn't know what she was talking about, but not wild either. They had their places and liked them. To them she was the 'cool new Slayer, for however long they could overlook the fact that she just didn't fit in with their lives. And it wasn't as though she would act differently to please them. Pretending she was some 'dream girl' only made the let-down worse. This man didn't care about any of that.

Ethan moved closer, covering sidewalk like he expected the night to spit things up at him, it was just a question of 'when.' Calling him Mr. Rayne seemed a distance that couldn't be held. Like shutters in a gale, etiquette was blown away by charm. Fortunately wariness didn't follow after, and she stayed in place.

He looked at her as though she was still sweet and cute, like a Willow sort of girl, easy pickings, fun to be had. But she wasn't that soft, hadn't known how to be for a long time, and let that show in her eyes, the curl of fingers into fists. Warning and 'push me any more and find out just badly this can go.'

The threatening stance did nothing to intimidate him, and he only smiled shadow sweet at her as if he knew something hilarious and could barely keep it himself.

"Another time my dear, I think we'll cross paths again." He backed off, turned his back like he knew she had a knife but more than that, knew what she'd do in advance.

She watched him go, and remembered as her body relaxed, that the reason she didn't make a habit out of playing games with dangerously interesting men, mostly because the rest of the population never tasted as good afterwards.


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