DISCLAIMER: Buffy is not mine. I'm not that mean to her. She's Joss' punching bag.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am not Catholic, so if any of this is incorrect or not within the realm of Catholicism, please forgive me. I intend no offense. Having said that, I should point out that my mother is a Catholic, and *I* have attended the Church at times in the past, so I shouldn't be too off. And as always, thanks to Tam for her profound advisement. ;->

(A technical note -- text enclosed in //...// represents Buffy's thoughts.)


_For I Have Sinned_

by Lex, unrepetant heathen




//That's *way* too much blood.//

Buffy stared dumbly at the vibrant red coursing down her chest. Closing her eyes, bracing herself for the pain to come, she grasped the end of the knife and pulled. The blade made a chilling sucking sound as she yanked it free of her shoulder.

She clenched her teeth, waiting for the pain to hit. And hit it did. She hunched over from the force of it, gasping. //When did vampires decide to start carrying knives?// The attempt to straighten up sent her stumbling back into a tree. Leaning against the sturdy bark, she inched her way back to vertical.

Just then, her Slayer hearing caught the sound of the mob she had just escaped nearing her hiding spot. Angelus had decided to set his hounds upon her just for grins. //Damn it! I thought I'd lost them. I can't take all of them...// She jerked her head up, searching for someplace that held safety. She didn't want to lead them in a public place; that could induce a feeding frenzy on innocents. Her head swung back and forth. Her eyes caught on the elaborate steeple of a church. She'd be safe there. They could enter the church without an invitation, but they wouldn't even try. There were too many religious objects that she could harm them with. Or so she hoped. //Well, it's better than being ripped apart right here.//

With that decision made, Buffy quickly made her way to the church. As she neared the front door, she noticed the sign in front. St. Johns. Catholic. It figured. A small grin passed her lips as she realized the demons baying at her heels had accomplished something her mother had been trying to do for the past ten years -- to get her into confession.

Her mother was, at one time, a rather devout Catholic. She had desperately tried to raise Buffy in that faith, but Buffy had refused categorically. None of that religious stuff for Buffy Summers, no way. Of course, now she would willingly bathe in holy water on a daily basis if that would keep the vampires away, but that was another thought all together.

Reaching the doors, Buffy wrenched them open. The gust of wind that followed her in doused several of the candles lit upon the altar. The man kneeling before the statue of Jesus on the cross turned around at the sound of the doors opening. He was an older gentleman, perhaps sixty, wearing the collar that identified him as a priest.

His eyes searched her face, noting the blood smeared across her cheek and the hand preventing her shoulder from gushing her lifeblood upon the carefully maintained wood floor. "My child, is everything all right? Is there anything I can do for you, call an ambulance, tend to that wound?"

Buffy stared at him. He wasn't freaking out, which was a good thing. But then he was a priest and priests *were* supposed to be calm and stuff, so that made sense. "Actually, Father, I was wondering if you would be willing to hear my confession."

//Whoa! Where did that come from?//

For whatever reason, Buffy felt the need to enter into the confessional, to beg for penance for her sins. She had so much guilt resting upon her shoulders, she just wanted someone not in on the whole picture to tell her either that it was going to be okay or that she was absolutely damned to hell. She needed to know.

"Well, I don't usually take confession so late at night, but if you feel you need it, of course." He moved towards the confessional, reaching for his robe. As he dissapeared into the booth, Buffy had a moment's doubt. //What if I don't remember how?//

Her reason kicked in. //It's _confession_ , you geek. You go in, tell the guy all the bad things you've done, he tells you to say fifteen Hail Marys and you're done.//

Squaring her shoulders, and ignoring the stab of pain that the motion elicited, Buffy strode into the booth. She heard the grate sliding back. "I'm here, my child."

"Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been...uh...a *really* long time since my last confession."

"Go on. What do you feel the need to confess?"

//Where to begin?//

"Uh, well, Father, I have this job. It's kind of like a law enforcement type of job, where I'm responsible for keeping a lot of people safe, and well, --"

"Forgive me, my child, but you look a little young to be responsible for the lives of so very many."

"Well, huh, I felt that way at first, but now I accept my, um, my job and I try to do it to the best of my ability."

"There's no sin in that."

"Actually, the sin doesn't come in until later. You see, I'm responsible for the death of a friend...well, when you get right down to it, the deaths of two friends."

There was a moment's silence from the other side of the confessional. "Did you actually *commit* the murder? Or murders?"

"No. I'm not *physically* responsible."

"So you're saying you had prior knowledge of these acts?"

"Um, no I didn't have that either."

"So then how, precisely, are you responsible?"

"I just feel responsible. Like it's my fault."

"Do these murders have something to do with the blood staining your shirt now?"

"Kind of. In a roundabout way. My boyfriend, well, my ex-boyfriend, is the leader of...of a gang."

"I see. Go on."

"And my job is to stop this gang from taking over the worl -- I mean, Sunnydale."

"So may I ask why you began to date the leader, as it were, of this gang?"

"He wasn't always the leader of the gang. He wasn't a gang member for a long time. He hurt someone, and her family, um, got him into rehab. For his gang problem."

"That was rather helpful of them."

Shifting in her seat, she mumbled, "Not really" under her breath.


"Oh, nothing."

"So you were saying about your ex-boyfriend?"

"Oh, yeah. Well, when I met him, he was working out his *gang* problem. He actually helped me and my friends on several occasions. Saved my life countless times."

"He sounds like a nice young man."

"Yeah, he was the best. The greatest. I love him so much, Father. Not just because he was so helpful, or because he saved me. I love...um...I *loved* him because he knew everything about me, all the bad things as well as the good and he still wanted to be with me. He saw everything that I was always afraid to show another person, and he loved me in spite of it all."

"But somehow that all changed?"

"He, um, well, he went back to his gang."

"And why did he do that, my child?"

"We...I did something. I caused him to go back to the gang. Please don't ask me what I did, because I can't explain it, but *I* caused him to go back to the gang. He's really bad news now. And the worst part of it, he's trying to get back at me by going after my friends."

"He's harmed people?"

"He's harmed a lot of people in his lifetime. Too many for me to count. More than he can remember."

"Which of your friends did he hurt?"

"There's this man that I'm close to...he's sort of my father, brother, and mentor all rolled into one."

"You sound as though you love this man very much."

"I do, I do. Giles keeps me sane when I just want to go crazy with my grief. And my grief is so much worse knowing that his girlfriend is dead because of me."

"Because of you or because of your ex-boyfriend?"

"Well, Angel -- "

"Your ex-boyfriend is named *Angel*?"

Buffy grinned. The poor priest. //He must be so confused.//

"I know, I know. It's a rather incongruous name. For a killer."

"I'll say."

"Anyway, Angel killed Jenny -- that's Giles' girlfriend. He snapped her neck, all in an attempt to hurt me."

"And it very obviously succeeded."

"I liked Jenny. She was trying to help me...uh...lure Angel back from the gang. He knew that it would hurt me, so he did it. And he's tried to kill Willow, Xander, and Cordelia as well. Um, actually, after he killed Jenny, Giles went after him and tried to kill him. But he nearly succeeded in killing Giles until I got there and fought him off."

"*You* fought him off?"

"I'm stronger than I look, Father."

"You know, child, I believe you."

She fell silent for a minute. "Father, these are my sins. I am responsible for the pain of those who love me. I bring nothing but torment to them."

"Yet they still stay with you."

"Well, I...I suppose so, --"

"So perhaps they love you in return?"

"I'm sure they do, Father. But they can't love me that much. I've brought so much death into their lives. They'd be better off without me."

"Have you ever asked them that? Have they ever expressed that thought to you?"

"No, but -- "

"My dear, I think you sorely underestimate your friends and the love they have for you."

Buffy closed her eyes, leaning back, resting her head against the old wood.

The priest continued. "They see something in you worthy of that love. And who are you to question their judgement?"

His chiding tone brought a smile to her lips. He sounded just like Giles when he went into scold mode. She heaved a breath. Her shoulder wasn't paining her as much. Maybe it was time to go, to finish off the pack of demons that were hunting her.

"You're right, Father. I guess I just thought that I wasn't worth it. But they have shown me many times in the past that they think I am worthy. To them. And in the end, I guess that's all that matters."

"I'm glad I could help, child."

"Don't I get a punishment? No Hail Marys? No act of contrition?"

The priest actually laughed out loud. "My child, you would have to be Christian to recite the Hail Mary. And something tells me that you are *not* Christian."

"Well, no. I'm not, actually."

"And as for an act of contrition, I'd say being the Slayer takes care of that."

Buffy froze in her seat. "Wha--what did you call me?"

"It's all right, dear. I know who, rather, *what* you are. I knew the moment you walked in here."

"But how?"

"My child, whether you choose to admit it or not, the both of us work on the same team. We're both out to save people. You just have the more, uh, physical aspect of the job. Keeping the world safe from demons, or *gang members*, as it were, is your daily act of contrition. You are the front line of defense against the Hellmouth."

"You know about the Hellmouth? And yet you still stay?"

"It's my calling. But then, I imagine you know a thing or two about that."

"You could say that. You could definitely say that."

With that, Buffy stood and exited the confessional. The priest followed suit. He stood next to her. She reached out and clasped his hand between the two of hers.

"Thank you, Father. I needed someone to talk to. Plus a safe haven didn't hurt either. "

The priest smiled. "Any time, Slayer, any time. You are always welcome here. Even though you aren't Catholic."

"Gee, thanks, Father." She bit her lip, trying to contain the laughter. "It's almost dawn. I have to make a final sweep of the area, see if I can't bag a few vamps on my way home." She walked down the aisle of the church, her step lightened considerably, the load on her heart significantly less than it was when she walked in.

The priest watched her dunk a small bottle in holy water on her way out the door. He watched her figure disappear into the darkness, a warrier girded for her battle against evil, until he could no longer see her.

Turning around he knelt again at the alter, and continued his prayer. This time, he added in several prayers for her, for the small Slayer that strode so confidently out of his church. He felt better having talked to her. She sounded completely up to the challenge. He hoped to God that she truly was.

For she held the fate of Sunnydale, if not the entire world, in the palm of her hand.