Most people ran the other way when they heard screaming; Faith followed it like a calling card. There were two kinds—shrill and short, accompanied by stumbling. Their ass hitting the ground or their sneakers stomping against the pavement while they made their escape. Those ones allowed for time, meant someone’d got startled, but they weren’t counted out, not yet. Easy to swoop in and make stuff right. Might even get a thank you. That wasn’t what Faith was hearing right now—it was type two. The kind where they weren’t sure they’d have another breath once their lungs were all screamed out. Gettin’ their neck twisted and snapped or worse. No ice pack was gonna help with these ones. It was agony and nothin’ else—she’d be too late.
Faith still ran. The air always got thicker at night, carried sound better. Like being underwater. Could almost taste the tang of blood in it too, though she knew that was more of a suggestion of thought. Job’ll mess you up. The house was nice—probably two floors, some flower pots out front. A bright green door with its color visible despite the dark. Life or death, though, and if Faith was fast enough, maybe they’d live to yell at her for kickin’ it in. She hoped so. It buckled and splintered underneath her boot; the screaming subsided. Fuck. No time to waste with a tour—she sprinted into the living room, ears tuned to the slightest sound of struggle. C’mon. A shoe brushing up the edge of a carpet. Bingo. Faith raced around the corner and—
She slipped. Palms and a knee shot out to catch her fall, but she still slid. The floorboards were covered with a sheath of blood; the rug was brown. On it, a man lying belly-up, maybe in both senses of the word. She’d hardly registered his state before her muscles tensed up. Told her to move. Faith couldn’t breathe. Just acted. She sprung up, tore her jacket off and pressed it tightly against his abdomen. He was warm. She realized his shirt didn’t used to be that color. Her hands, neither. It wasn’t gonna do any good. Her mind kept shooting her that knowledge, but it wouldn’t sink in, not ‘til her eyes snagged on something dark and snakelike slithering out where his stomach was punctured—she didn’t wanna place a bet on whether it was his large or small. Didn’t matter now. It was wrapped around his neck like a boa constrictor. This was—she’d done a lot of horrible things, but this was up there even among that stuff. Don’t puke. Don’t. She forced her lungs to expand, sat there frozen in time. She was too late. People always got caught in the crosshairs, but that didn’t mean their lives weren’t important; she’d finally accepted the rule that had actually come intuitively to her to begin with. Times like this? Made it hard.
His wrist didn’t have a pulse. No surprise there. He was better for it, condition he was in now. Someone had done this, and the bastard was still here—no way he had time to escape, and Faith would make sure he didn’t. He’d get what was coming to him. She cradled his head in her hands, could feel her fingers starting to stick together. His mouth wouldn’t close. What did this? Vamps just didn’t—they drained a person, sometimes turned ‘em. Nothing like this.
Someone or something was moving in the next room over. Fuck the element of surprise; Faith didn’t care. She’d had enough surprise. Her thumb traced over the corner of his lips, where a rivulet of dried blood spilled out. She scratched it gently away with her nail. Who. What. She summoned a swallow and rested his head back onto the carpet, clumsily got to her feet using the wall for support. It was red where she’d touched it. Focus, focus Faith. More movement.
“What… what did you do to him?” she tried to sound authoritative, but it was sapped out of her at the moment. No face to give her anger to. In a couple seconds, that’d all change. “It didn’t work,” she glanced over at him again, “didn’t count on me showin’, did you?” Her hands scaled the wall as she walked; her head was dizzy and numb, like she was just watching herself do all this stuff from somewhere else. “You’re not leaving.” The harshness was back in her voice, something dark and long-since tucked away bleeding into it. The kitchen, they were in the kitchen. The sink was running. Here it goes. “You’re—“
“…Anya?” Faith’s jaw shook. So much for no more surprises.
It was dark out, one of those chilly Ohio nights she hadn’t got the hang of dressing for just yet. Stretched out on a very tasteful but very blood-stained shag rug in the living room of a nice, suburban home, Lewis Smajdor screamed his last. He had an exceptionally clean kitchen, Anya thought to herself as she turned the tap on, thankful for her dress’s short sleeves and dark colour. Stylish and practical, climate issues aside. She wet her lower arms, lathering a good amount of soap up nearly to her elbow and scrubbing methodically.
…She had wanted to be so disgusted by it. Had wanted to feel every ounce of the guy’s pain weighing on her conscience until it felt like insanity, until it made her want to claw at her own skin, climb right out of it and just leave. Just go away somewhere that was… far. Not here. She’d thought for sure she’d feel it when it came to the ripping out of his intestines portion of the evening - that took a steady hand and a strong stomach. That took a monster.
It was what had set her apart from the rest of them, D’Hoffryn used to say. Nobody else came close to her level of commitment. Even after years at the job, each victim, each little injustice suffered by the women in their lives made her blood boil with rage. For over a thousand years she’d killed, tortured, transfigured and mutilated scores of men in the most gruesome ways anyone could’ve imagined. She’d slain Olaf so many times, had seen a piece of him in every man she’d destroyed and with every kill she’d felt that whatever small piece was left of the woman she’d been before was getting its justice.
After a few hundred years Anyanka couldn’t quite remember what her name had been then, but she’d never forget Olaf’s. That seemed important somehow.
That was then. That wasn’t now. It couldn’t be. She was Anya now no matter what D’Hoffryn insisted on calling her, and it was Anya that picked the red from under her nails, hoping Lewis had some hand lotion somewhere in this place. It was a damn shame gloves had gone out of fashion for everyday wear, and why the hell was she thinking so much about how dry her skin was when there was a body soaked in blood in the next room?
This wasn’t right. She wasn’t right, and she knew it, but try as she might she couldn’t bring herself to feel any remorse. She tried picturing how he must look laying there, not screaming now. Eyeballs bulging, intestines wrapped tightly around his thick, meaty throat. Blood spreading across more of what had been a perfectly nice carpet. Nope. Nothing. It produced less of an emotional reaction in her than breaking a nail did. She huffed to herself, frustrated, and began to rinse off when she heard someone call her name out from behind her.
She forced herself to remain still for a moment, not to react. The soapy, pinkish bubbles spun around the drain until the water ran clear. She shut the tap off, drying her hands thoroughly on a spotless dish towel. They were wrinkled and cracked, and as she finally turned to see who had intruded on her, she flexed them experimentally. Her skin felt withered. Briefly, she wondered if that was how elderly bodies felt from the inside. Maybe she’d never know.
“Faith. What are you doing here?” she challenged but kept her tone mild, posture relaxed and leaning back against the sink. If it came to it, she could take a slayer. She didn’t want to particularly, but she thought she could. If it came to it.