True Power
Rated SAFE

"Hey there, handsome, you looking for a little fun?" Faith danced closer to the leather-clad man, clichés like built like a Greek god tumbling through her mind. Muscles on muscles, just her kind of man.

"Fun. That depends on what you call fun," the man turned, gracing her with a dark look.

"Oh, I think we have a pretty similar idea of fun," she teased, twisting her body to the beat of the punk music. Cleveland wasn't so bad, if you knew the right clubs.

The man pursed his lips and then smiled wickedly. "Not many people can keep up with my definition of fun," he challenged her.

"Funny, I was going to say that same thing," Faith laughed as she moved in until they danced millimeters from each other. He had the moves. His body was lithe and strong, and Faith could feel some of the tension drain from her. Wood with all his hang-ups could never give her this. He could never just allow their physical bodies to move together with such perfect grace: two predators moving in tandem. The guy might not be setting off her slayer-sense, but Faith could feel the raw aggression that marked him as anything except prey. She would never need to rescue this one from a vampire.

"Andrew," he offered her in a whisper that still seemed to rise above the punishing drums. She raised her eyebrows without interrupting the dance and his hands gravitated to her hips, pulling her in until the ground on each other, sweat mixing with the smoke and haze of the club. "My name is Andrew."

"Faith," she offered in return. "The last Andrew I knew was a bit of a nerd," she yelled back.

"The name means warrior, and I'm this nerd you know."

"No, you aren't." Faith reached up and ran her short nails over the back of his neck just hard enough to draw a little blood. He arched his back like a cat and smiled. Oh yeah, they understood each other. Suddenly the arms reached around the small of her back and inhuman strength pulled her close. Faith felt her heart skip and lust twisted through her guts.

"Maybe we should take this somewhere else," she suggested, not sure if she really meant to get down and dirty with this guy or fight with him since he was definitely moving into the not-human column, but right now, either was five-by-five with her.

Andrew nodded and started pulling her toward the back exit. Oh yeah, she was in for a tumble one way or another. When he pushed open the door, Faith twisted to the side and slipped out of his embrace before darting out into the dark night. This part of the city smelled of car fumes and rot, but that didn't bother her. She'd grown to love the darker parts of her adopted city.

"So, I'm thinking you have more to you than meets the eye," Faith commented as she kept her arms loose and ready for an attack. Instead Andrew started laughing. The back door to the club fell closed with a heavy thunk and he leaned against it.

"You always were my favorite. The blonde one was always so… prissy," he commented. "But you, you're my girl."

"The last person to say that to me tried to open a Hellmouth and become king of the universe. I'm not falling for it this time."

"I'm not some pathetic wanna-be," he assured her. "I'm the one and only God of War, Ares, at your service."

"God. Right," Faith said as she circled closer to the dumpster. It looked like she was going to get a rough and tumble fight instead of a roll in the hay, but it was all good.

"I am." Andrew shimmered for a second, and then he changed before her eyes. His hair lengthened and curled. The plain leather vest grew silver studs and gauntlets appeared on his forearms, large stones outlined in silver triangles decorated the very functional pieces. And now, at his side hung the largest sword Faith had ever seen.

"Big sword," she commented. Andrew/Ares gave a predatory smile.

"It's not the only big sword I own. But seriously, let's talk a little business. You used to be so powerful, so beautiful and free, and now you're limiting yourself. I just thought I'd offer you a little friendly advice. Get out there. Kick a little ass, make a little trouble."

"Oh, I can do that just fine on my own. I'm wondering what you get out of this."

"I just enjoy watching the glories of war spread across the land. The strong get stronger; the weak get conquered and stop draining the resources from the ones who deserve it." The man stalked closer, his body calling to hers until she ached to touch him, to grab and rip and throw him down on the ground, or be thrown down by him, one or the other.

"You're just altruistic? Give me some credit," Faith crossed her arms and struggled to control her heartbeat which pounded in her ears.

"You could take this city. You could take this country. They have no idea what you battle every night, and you could take just a little of that power and take control of this place. You know that, don't you. When you lie awake and night, don't you think of how much safer your friends would be if you just took control away from all these weak men who claim to know power?" Ares slid closer, and suddenly Faith knew that she was looking at the real thing. This was Ares. She could almost taste the power. "You can be what you always wanted to be. You can be the powerful one they all have to bend to."

"And you're just going to let me take all the control?" she asked. She felt almost drunk on his power, the feeling of violence and lust and power flowing through her veins until she had to grab the edge of the dumpster to keep from stumbling to the ground.

"It's yours to take. I can advise you, though, stand behind you and guide you."

Faith gasped as he was suddenly behind her, his arm slipping around her waist, his words breathed into her ear. "I've always had a soft-spot for the dark-haired warriors, the women who know how to wield a sword so much better than the men who try to control them." The words sank into Faith and she could feel an orgasm growing in her, even though Ares' hand remained on her stomach. Closing her eyes, she let her head fall back.

"You were almost mine. I never would have allowed the mayor to control you because you're a force of nature. You are a hurricane, and sooner or later, he would have bowed to you just like the rest of the world. If that boy hadn't planted a seed of doubt in you, you would have grown into a beautiful and deadly rose."

"Boy?" Faith asked dreamily.

"You should have broken his neck. Dead, he wouldn't have corrupted your power the way he did when you allowed him to live."

Faith remembered the feeling of a helpless neck under her hands. Xander's eyes looked up with such fear, such surprise. The surprise had kept her from snapping his neck. He'd expected better from her. No one had ever expected better from her, but Xander had been so confident in her goodness that he had come to her alone and unarmed. That delay had given Angel time to come and stop her.

"Xander and Angel both stopped me from becoming a monster," she said quietly, her mind clearer as she tried to step away from Ares. His arms tightened around him.

"You're denying your true nature. You ran away from your lover tonight. He tried to tell you what to do, and you know he doesn't have that right. You're the one who matters in that relationship. You have the strength to take what you want. You have the power to stop the demons once and for all." Ares' voice was just as silky and seductive, but Faith found herself shaking her head.

"No. Wood was right. I shouldn't be five by five with the mistakes these younger slayers are making. It's time for me to step up and remind them that power comes with rules and responsibilities." Faith moved away with more confidence this time, pulling herself out of Ares' arms. "You might be Ares, but it's been a long time since anyone's worshipped you, so I'm guessing you need me more than I need you," Faith said. Ares opened his mouth to argue, and she put up a hand. "I'm too old to fall for your shit, babe."

Faith turned her back and started down the alley. If he planned to attack, this would be the time, but somehow Faith didn't think he would."

Ares watched her leave.

"When are you going to give up?" a voice asked behind him. He turned to find Athena watching him with her arms crossed over her gold armor.

"You've got the rest of them all safely in your corner; you can't blame me for going after just one," he sighed.

"I helped create them," Athena pointed out.

"Yeah, but one of these days, you aren't going to have one of your little moralistic defenders in the right place at the right time. One of these days, I'm going to get just one on my side, and we're going to change the world. They could be so much more than you allow them to be. They could rule the world."

"But they choose not to. That's part of what makes them slayers."

"Weakness," Ares snorted. He vanished into the darkness.

Athena sighed. "One of these days, brother, you're going to learn what true strength is," she said to the air as she considered the men she had put into Faith's path. Ares saw the slayers as her greatest creation, but they weren't. The slayers were the sword, but the people whose lives she guided into the slayers' paths, they were the real power. Alexander Harris and Rupert Giles and Robin Wood and hundreds of others faced her slayers without anything on their side but the truth. That was strength, and now Faith was going back where she belonged. Athena smiled and faded away.

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