City of Doyle: Chapter 2
"Wicked fun?" I repeated, dubiously. "I was gonna go with drainin,' but, yeah okay. Not gonna disagree with you."
She grinned back at me, her dark makeup smeared off and hair a mess, and suddenly the little kid look was back again. Damn. This girl was gonna seriously mess with my head. And if I let her know that she would wind me around her finger until she was ready to kick me in the ass. So I kept my expression casual. "How d'you feel about pizza?"
The grin got wider. "You buying?"
"I don't have attractive female dinner guests nearly as often as I'd like."
"Especially the kind who like a good screw as appetizers?"
"Especially not those, yeah."
"Make it pepperoni, sausage and anchovies. No vegetables, period."
"Olives aren't vegetables," I countered.
Faith considered this. "The green ones sure as hell are."
I went for the phone. "Hi, yeah. I'd like two large with pepperoni, sausage, anchovies and black olives. And a liter of Coke. For? Yeah, that's right. Third bell down." I hung up, shaking my head. I must have been ordering from there pretty often lately. Possibly during the heavier nights with the bottle, which would explain why I don't remember eating that much pizza lately.
"Coke?" asked the girl now struggling into her top. "You've got plenty of beer."
"And you've gotten acquainted with my fridge, it seems. But I've already dealt with a couple drunken girls this evenin', as you saw. I'd rather you talked sense. Stop that." She was still trying to squeeze herself into the leather torture device she'd been wearing. She glared at me. "Take this," I handed her an ancient but clean bowling shirt, and an equally wash-worn towel, "and have a shower before we eat."
She slipped up to me again, the bad girl smile back in place. "Shower with me, and I'll really show you what 'draining' is."
"Tempting, but just not doable, girl." I had to laugh. "I'm gonna need a full meal at least before I take you up on that one."
Twenty minutes later we had both cleaned up, separately mind you, and had settled in my dim little kitchen for our daily dosages of grease and caffeine. Faith ate with the same single-minded enthusiasm that she did, well, other things, and kept eating well after I called it quits.
"You know, in some societies, they converse durin' meals."
She glanced up at me, dripping sauce on the shirt she had borrowed, probably deliberately. "Usually, I eat alone, or with my Watcher. He doesn't exactly 'converse.'"
"He talks at me, instructions, orders, boring rules, really boring warnings. It's pretty one-sided, so usually I just keep eating."
"And ignore him."
"Why not? He ignores me."
"Right then, we'll try something different. I'll ask you a question, and I'll even listen to the answer."
She was wary now. "Maybe I won't feel like answering."
I shrugged. "Then don't and I won't listen. But sadly, my ego's not big enough to believe you came here just for my legendary skills in bed. And if you want help from me you're gonna have to tell me what exactly you want help with."
There was a long silence. "I told you. I just want to explore my options."
"What've you 'explored' so far?"
"My Watcher gave me one. Go after the Master. And die."
"Which you're understandably not thrilled about. Okay, how about this one. Retire. Move someplace with less evil. I hear Duluth is pretty much demon free these days. Get a job, maybe a guy, or a pet, or both. Settle down and live to be 79.4 years old like the rest of America."
"So not me. Look mister, I'm a city girl."
"Ever tried being something else? How about a small town girl who never spends the nights lookin' over her shoulder?"
"Sounds dull." But she was gettin' mad, so I kept pushing. Yeah, I've got a death wish. I've come to terms with that.
"How about being someone who doesn't kill or be killed for a livin'?"
For a moment I thought she'd belt me a good one, but then she clamped down on herself with an effort that must have hurt. I was surprised she had that much restraint in her.
"Yeah, I'd like to try that. You think I haven't thought of throwing in the towel, or better yet, stuffing it down Wussley's throat and getting the Hell out of Dodge?"
Her eyes blazed and her fists clenched, but she hadn't hit me yet, and since I wanted to keep it that way I nodded. "Yeah, seems like you have. So why'd you decide different?"
"I'm the Slayer. I can't just chuck that." She glared at me, "but it's not because I've got some kind of 'my duty to save the world' complex."
The lady doth protest too much, I thought, but I was still aiming to avoid a Slayer powered fist, so I nodded some more. "Then why?"
"Cause I'm the Slayer," she repeated. "Which is the equivalent of 'fastest gun in the west.' I can try to quit, but any vampire or demon with something to prove is going to take the fight to me. They'll never leave me alone, and if I wanna live I don't get to pretend I'm Sandra Dee."
Well. I was doing a fast reassessment of Faith's survival chances. She wasn't stupid, she wasn't a sheep and she might learn self-control given a few years and a few lessons.
"Points for knowledge of classic movies," I told her. "And for some common sense. Now, keep goin'."
"You're right girl, you can't just quit. But there's more reasons why not, and I want to see just how deep that logic of yours goes."
"I told you, I don't do the martyrdom shit."
"I heard that part. I'll give you a hint. Why haven't you ditched your Watcher before now?"
There was a long pause. "He was useful. Not that he taught me anything, but he had a little cash. A roof, food, access to weapons, and oh, about twice, some information I actually needed."
"He took care of you."
"Hey, I can take care of myself."
"Yeah, you told me. You always get what you want. But not without becomin' a criminal."
"I protect the damn world from vamps and demons. How many people do you think I've saved by now, thousands? Because in my book, that puts me in the plus column. They can spare me the price of rent once in awhile."
"So the demons aren't enough for you, then? You want the LAPD after you as well?"
"Oh, yeah. Almost forgot, you're pig-trained yourself, aren't you?"
"Yeah. And most of 'em aren't my favorite people in the world, but not all of 'em are as stupid as you seem to think."
"Your point being?"
"You need a Watcher, and you know it. And since you don't like what you're hearin' from your current one you've decided to try me on for size. Well, forget it."
Damn she moved fast. I knew she was gonna hit me this time, but before I could even flinch she grabbed her empty soda glass and to my total shock hurled the thing into the brick wall so hard that the shards came back at us.
We sat for a moment in silence.
When Faith spoke again there was no emotion in her voice. "You wanted logic? How about this? I'm the Chosen One. Their choice, not mine. One Slayer dies, and another is called. right? I try to quit and the Council will put me down like a dog; hoping the next one will be better behaved."
I just stared at her. She really did stop being a kid long ago. I wondered how long.
"Yeah, I'm exploring my options. Here are the ones I see. I do what I'm told and I die. I quit and I die. Or I get answers from you, show the demons and the Council that I'm holding my own, and I get to live just a little longer." Those black eyes never left mine. "I need those answers and if I have to hurt you to get them, I'm not gonna cry about it."
Okay. Time to take down the intensity just a notch.
"You might not cry, but I probably will. I'm not a huge fan of torture, especially when I'm on the hurting end."
She relaxed, just a little. "So teach me what I need to know, and I'll go peacefully."
"Back to Wussley?"
She stiffened again. "For now."
"Or I could give you option four."
"I told you to forget casting me in the Watcher role. I don't want a snotty houseguest who ignores me unless I feed her. It's too much like having a cat."
That got her. She laughed.
"What I've got here is a business. I've even got occasional paying clients. I help people with problems the police can't touch."
"Meaning usually demons, yeah. I could use a slayer as a partner."
"To do what?"
"Rescue people, track and kill whatever's currently snackin' on the good folks of L.A., before the lawyers show up to start more trouble - in this town, they're worse than most of the demons. If you want to go out and dispose of a few extra vamps pro bono I'm not gonna be against it." I looked at her hopefully. "Possibly answer the phone?"
"I'm five-by-five 'till the last part, Doyle."
"Not unless you want your greeting to be 'Who in the hell is it?' "
I heaved a fairly fake sigh. "Oh well. Here's the offer: first we pay the office expenses, then we split what's left. You get yourself some place to live, preferably nearby, because the hours in this job are crap and I don't pay overtime."
"What about benefits?"
"In this job? There aren't any."
"Not even sleeping with the boss?"
"Oh. Well, that's negotiable, I suppose. Interested?"
"I'm pretty well qualified, aren't I?"
"That you are."
"Why am I offering you a job?"
"There are a lot of demons out there Faith. Which you know better than anyone. I've been on my own in this gig for years, and there's a hell of a lot more pain in this town that I can deal with on my owwww....." Vision time. Two in one night, damn them.
I could feel Faith grab me. "Doyle? Doyle!?" Then the nightmare pain took over.