There wasn't much conversation at first while Faith and I chowed down on the Chinese food, which was already mostly cold by the time she arrived.
Wesley didn't eat much. Just getting him from the couch to the table was a struggle. Between the drugs and the pain, I wasn't too surprised that he didn't have a lot of appetite, and the awkwardness with Faith certainly didn't help. He drank all the tea that Faith had brought in, grimacing a little, but apparently preferring this feeble excuse for Chinese tea to any other beverage that we had in the refrigerator.
Faith wouldn't look at Wesley as she disposed of her food and a cold beer or two with exaggerated relish, ignoring the plastic cutlery that remained wrapped in little plastic bags and conspicuously using her fingers instead. When she spoke at all, it was only to me, and she kept on making a point of calling me either "boss" or "lover," usually with her mouth full. I wouldn't have minded being called either one, except that she made it so obvious that the entire exercise was solely to annoy Wesley.
I'm not much for small talk myself, but if I didn't do or say something to break the tension, I figured that between the phony sweetness that Faith was putting on and the half-congealed Chinese food I was choking down, I might be getting a close and personal look at my dinner more than once this evening.
"So, Wes, what can you tell us about what happened to the last two slayers? Seems to me, it would be useful to know."
Wesley shot me a glance that was halfway between irritation and relief.
"According to our contact in Sunnydale, the Master killed one of them personally. The other fell victim to one of his more unusual minions, or so I'm told."
"You've got a contact on the Hellmouth? And still alive?"
"As far as I know, yes, although it would not surprise me if that situation changed." Faith looked bored, as Wesley elaborated: "We do have a man in Sunnydale who was trained as a Watcher."
"And so now he sits around and watches slayers die. Yippee ki yay," Faith muttered.
Ignoring Faith, Wesley went on: "For whatever it's worth, the first slayer who was sent to Sunnydale, Buffy - "
I nearly choked on my rice. "Buffy? What - ?"
Misunderstanding, Wesley huffed: "It would be against Watcher's Council policy to disclose the full name of any slayer, even after her death. For the protection of their families. Surely you understand."
I wasn't sure if that was an intentional reference to my personal history, or if Wesley just had an uncanny talent for putting his foot in his mouth, even with his leg in a cast. "I wasn't asking for the rest of her name. Buffy? What kind of name is that for a slayer?"
"With a name like that, maybe she actually died of embarrassment," Faith put in, snickering through a mouthful of egg roll.
"The Master broke her neck, as you already know," Wesley responded coldly. "I fail to see any cause for amusement in that. However, she was able to slay two of his most effective minions before she herself died. Unfortunately, by the time the next slayer, Kendra, arrived, the Master had already brought reinforcements in to bolster his ranks."
"Yeah, I'd guess that'd be what reinforcements do," I concurred dryly. "Speaking of reinforcements, why hasn't the Council tried to provide the slayers with some backup against the Master?"
"Until Buffy, the Council's policy toward the Master was one of containment. His activities have been primarily confined to Sunnydale, so far. However, we recognize the inevitability of expansion of the scope of his sphere of influence if it is not checked. Communities elsewhere are feeling the repercussions as word of the Master spreads among the worldwide vampire population."
Faith yawned, and then shoved another egg roll into her open mouth. Wesley looked irritated, but kept on talking. I had the feeling they'd played out this scene so many times that they could have done it in their sleep.
"Kendra was sent to Sunnydale with the intention of maintaining a holding action, in order to block any further expansion by the Master until other forces could be brought into play. Sadly, she did not survive long enough to accomplish that purpose. It appears that one of the Master's new minions has some type of hypnotic power."
"Like some of those old tales about vampires?"
Wesley nodded. "While most vampires lack any such ability, from time to time a vampire does manifest the ability to hypnotize victims. From what our contact reports, the Master has apparently found one with this particular skill, and that was sufficient to overcome Kendra."
For the first time during the meal, Faith spoke directly to Wesley. "And you were going to tell me about this when? After Hypno-Vamp had already made it two for two?"
"As it happens, I was already planning to add resistance to that sort of psychic attack to your training regimen, Faith. You made yourself scarce before I had the opportunity to do so."
Faith's glare could've struck him dead. From the way she was flexing her fingers, I was a little concerned that her fist might.
"Did you ever consider sharing that sort of information with the girl?" I cut in. "Seems to me, you're givin' out the orders and leavin' her guessing. She may have jumped to the wrong conclusions, but you didn't give her much help as to findin' the right ones. There's this little thing called communication, guys. Y'know? Sharing information, that sort of thing."
"Oh great," Faith said sarcastically. "When did you pick up the psych degree, Doyle?"
Wesley cleared his throat irritably. "In any case," he continued, "The need for a holding action still exists. I can't reveal the details, but there are already discussions underway with others, both inside and outside Sunnydale, to build a coalition of sorts against the Master. This will take some time, however, and the Master only grows stronger as time passes."
"Well, stallin' the Master is all well and good, but I'd suggest we figure out a non-fatal way to accomplish it. Do give Faith some credit, man, she came here looking for some trainin' that might actually give her a decent shot at survival, and I'm personally in favor of keepin' this particular slayer around and kicking vampire butt for as long as possible."
At that, Faith flashed a smile at me that promised mischief enough to melt me right where I sat. I had to swallow and catch my breath a moment before I could go on.
"So," I went on, watching Wesley's face, "Y'think maybe the Council could be persuaded that expandin' the trainin' program might be of some benefit?"
Wesley nodded slowly, thoughtfully, and turned slightly to include Faith as he spoke. "We do have a common interest in this matter, whatever you may think of me personally, Faith, and whether you choose to believe it or not." He gave her a long, straight look which made it clear that he knew perfectly well what she thought of him. "Each Watcher is customarily assigned only to a single slayer, although exceptions have been made on occasion. A successful Watcher is one who keeps the slayer both alive and active for as long as possible. So, if you choose to give me no credit for anything else, you might accept that it is in my self-interest to maintain you in that status."
Faith, with her mouth full of sesame chicken and a dollop of sauce escaping to her chin, had the good grace to look slightly abashed at that.
"For so long as you are fulfilling your responsibility as a slayer, I can justify your remaining here for a reasonable time to diversify your training. I know of no reason why you cannot continue to function as a slayer while you assist Mr. Doyle, provided, however, that you continue training with me as well. Given my current condition," and Wesley made a deprecating gesture towards himself and his makeshift leg cast, "I would expect my own input will likely be limited to the non-physical aspects of your training for the next few months, which will include resistance to hypnotism and other forms of psychic attack."
His eyes settled on me speculatively, and I groaned inwardly as I anticipated what was coming next. "Of course, while I am unable to spar with you, I am certain Mr. Doyle will have no objections to assisting in that respect."
I was sure that was smug humour I could see sitting just behind his eyes. Sparring with Faith, even in training, sounded a lot less than fun. I winced at even the idea of it. "Thanks a lot, man," I muttered.
"Anyway," Wesley swept on swiftly. "I'm sure working with Mr. Doyle will be quite useful for honing your fighting skills and maintaining combat readiness while I am out of commission. Beyond my recovery, I make no promises."'
Before Faith could speak, I cut in quickly. "We'll take it a day at a time then. Faith works with both of us, until Faith herself decides otherwise. Fair enough?"
"For the moment. It seems to me to be an acceptable interim arrangement," Wesley agreed, even as Faith began to splutter indignantly.
"Wait a minute. You mean he has to be here? Like, every day?"
I shrugged. "Does anybody have a better idea?" Getting no response from Faith beyond a sullen look, I turned back to Wesley. "So, have your Watcher studies been limited to vampires, or are you fairly familiar with the different types of demons, too?" It occurred to me that it might be wise to find out whether my second unexpected houseguest would know enough to be able to classify a Brachen in the non-threatening category.
Wesley straightened slightly in his chair, wincing as he did. "I'll have you know that I am noted for my skill at research. I am fluent in numerous languages, both human and demon. Oh, and by the way.."
Staring at the scattered containers of Chinese food on the table with distaste, he added: "Also, I can cook. If you could bring in some groceries, and perhaps some sort of crutch to give me some limited mobility around your kitchen, perhaps we could have something fit for human consumption around here. If we all die of food poisoning, that would tend to make the issue of the fulfillment of Faith's responsibilities entirely a moot point. "
Faith laughed. "That one was a fair shot, boss-man o' mine." Again, her grin and the mocking tone in her voice told me that she knew perfectly well who was really in charge around here, and had been since the moment she walked in the door. "S'all right then, I'm game to give it a try for awhile."
She nodded. "Truce for now." She glanced briefly at Wesley, then back to me. "If you can put up with keeping him around, I guess I can too, just as long as he stays out of the way."
"Sounds like we have a deal, then," I said, wondering what I was getting myself into, but extending a hand across the littered table to Wesley anyway. He took it, responding with a surprisingly firm handshake, and Faith put her hand over mine, her fingers still sticky with sauce.
"So, we're five by five then. Cool. Anybody want dessert?"
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