Doyle Investigations: City of Doyle

This is a work of fan fiction based on the WB television series Angel. All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, Warner Brothers and/or Twentieth Century Fox, including Doyle... but since you don't want him any more, may I please have him?
Loosely based on the "Angel" episode "City of," written by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon; the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode "The Wish," written by Marti Noxon; and characters from other episodes of each series.

Chapter 1

by Ellen, ellen@eclecticon.net

The sign says 'Doyle Investigations,' but I know there was a time when it said something different.

I'd seen it in one of those damned visions. 'Guardian Angel' or something like that, I don't know for sure. The visions aren't always clear, for all they hurt like the very devil.

Still, I suppose it's apt enough. If this city's going to have a guardian angel, it'll just have to be me, which is nicely ironic, given what I've got hidden inside me.

But there's nobody else to do this job, at least in this city, and it needed doing, so, here I am.

I gave up on keeping a receptionist some time back. They don't care for the cigarettes, or the fact that I keep an extra bottle around at all times, just in case a vision hits. They especially don't like it when I have one of the visions in front of 'em.

One of 'em even got to see me sneeze, and ran out screaming. She never even came back for her last paycheck.

Now the voice mail picks up the calls, and there are days I don't talk to anyone.

Most days, it's just as well.

Now, tonight, that was a good example. The last vision showed me some fledgling vamps, not good enough for the Master in Sunnydale, I guess. We get all the rejects here. They were going to pick up a couple of girls at a bar I knew, with something less than honorable intentions.

So I went over there to hang out for the evening, which, when you think about it, isn't too far different from what I would have been doing if I hadn't had the vision. It would have been nice to be free to choose a better class o'pub, maybe, or a worse kind, if I happened to be in the mood.

If I weren't doing what I'm doing, I'd have gone back to Dublin years ago, when Harry died. The only thing that keeps me here is ... well, the same reason why she isn't.

I couldn't keep on teaching, and I couldn't go home again, not after finding out the reason why I was off the vampire menu.

I needed a way to take something back. It wouldn't bring Harry back. Nothing could. But getting back at what got her was the only thing that made sense to me then.

I had to put in a couple of years working for the L.A.P.D., which wasn't fun at all. Going from third-grade teacher to P.D. newbie was a bit of a jolt, especially when a few of the guys found out I'm not all human. Nothing in the rules quite fit, so they kinda took it upon themselves to make sure I left.

I'm stubborn though. Runs in the family, I think - at least the human side. I really can't say much about the rest.

Anyhow, I didn't leave till I was good and ready. Some of the guys got used to me after a while, some didn't.

So, I did it all up all legal, and got the license. Still, most of my clients aren't the paying kind. Lucky for me, I don't need much.

I managed to keep one friend from my time there. Kate always stuck up for me, and once I got past resenting it, we got along. She helps me fill in the blanks that the visions don't touch, and I help her tie up some loose ends, in return. It works pretty well most of the time.

And the drinks, well, on nights like this, they're a business expense.

I blend into the scenery pretty well in these places, if I do say so myself. So, nobody noticed me meandering outside after the three guys when they headed out with the two gals. "Let's go find some real fun." Yeah, right.

The girl was nattering on about knowing the doorman and getting into the Lido or something, whatever. I wasn't paying much attention. The conversation didn't get interesting until the "shut up and die" part.

Three of them against me was a pretty fair match. I distracted them a little - I've got a lot of practice doing the fallin' down drunk routine, and I came by it honestly, for the most part. They weren't expecting anything like those spring-loaded little babies I've been hiding in my sleeves lately, so I got the first two without even breaking a sweat.

The third one managed to get one good wallop in, enough to knock me down. It hurt.

You remember the comic book where the guy says 'It's clobberin' time'? I read it when I was a kid, and years later, when I was teaching, when Harry was still alive, the kids were still readin' the same comics. The more things change....

Well, you have to look like a monster to pull that line off. I manage well enough. But the vamps usually don't get it. Maybe if I said 'flame on'? Naahhh.

"You shouldn't have done that," I told the last vamp, getting up.

"Oh sh**, it's the half-breed. Man, they told me you weren't for real."

He was still gawping like an idiot at my other face when I staked him.

The girls were "oh-my-godding" all over the place, and one of them actually tried to thank me. I don't get much of that. I turned around, and started to smile, before I remembered what face I was wearing at the moment.

She let out a little scream, and both of them took off.

I guess this ain't the face of an angel. Oh well.

Seemed like somebody else might have been watching me, but I couldn't spot anyone. Just a feeling, y'know?

So, I went home. Home being the apartment below the mostly empty office.

I wasn't expecting company. But, when I got downstairs, I could tell pretty fast there was someone there waiting for me.

Someone who didn't want to be seen... or heard.

I whipped around and tossed a stake in the intruder's direction, and a suprisingly small, delicate-looking hand whipped out and caught it, in midair.

"Impressive," I said out loud. "You're not quite human, whatever y'are. No human is that fast."

"Only a slayer," answered the girl, moving forward where I could see her, and she smiled.

"Hi," she said. "I'm Faith."

"Faith who?"

"Just Faith. The Vampire Slayer. Hey, saw you in action tonight, lookin' good."

I looked her over, and she stood still, enjoying the attention. She was small, dark-haired, young - still in her teens, I'd guess. She was wearing all black leather, like she wanted to look really tough, but somehow it suited her. She knew she looked good, a real stiffener, and she wasn't afraid to use it.

Everything about her was the opposite of my Harry, but that was a good thing. I don't much care for blondes any more. Don't like the reminder.

I could think of worse things to find in my apartment than Faith, the Vampire Slayer.

"Done getting an eyeful yet?" she asked coolly.

"I'll look all I want. You're in my home, uninvited. The way I look at it, that gives me a free pass on starin'."

"Yeah, well, I'm not a vampire, so invitations are not a problem."

"Go for breakin' and enterin' much?"

She shrugged. "Whatever. So you're Doyle. Word on the street is you're pretty damn good at dusting vampires. From what I saw before, sounds like word on the street was right."

"I'm no slayer, but I get by. So, what would the Chosen One be doing here?"

And, I wondered silently, why hadn't the Powers warned me ahead of time?

"Oh, you've heard the story. Good. I don't tell it well. I always found it pretty boring, myself. Okay if I sit down?"

"Hey, I'm impressed again. The girl knows how to ask permission. Fine. Go right ahead."

"Got any beer?"

"You old enough to drink?"

She laughed. "I'm a slayer. Have you ever heard of a slayer old enough to drink? Come off your high horse, man, and throw me a beer."

I shrugged. "I'm not in favor of corruptin' minors, but in your case, maybe I'll make an exception."

She nabbed the beer I tossed her way, and settled herself down. I took a seat as well.

"So, Faith, what brings you to my humble abode, eh?"

She took a long drink, and smiled. "Ever heard of a little town called Sunnydale?"

"As a matter of fact, yeah. I had a cousin there, till she became vampire food, like most of the rest of the town. You headin' in that direction? Because, if you're lookin' to take on the Master, sorry, thanks but no thanks. I've been around long enough to know what battles to fight and which ones not to fight. I can't do a thing for ya."

"Hey, slow down. If taking on the Master was what I wanted, I'd be there with bells on, and my pansy-assed Watcher applauding from a safe distance. Till I get killed, of course, which, judging by the last two slayers, gives me maybe a week, if I'm lucky. Do you notice my enthusiasm yet?"

"It's quite... infectious," I answered drily. "So, the last two slayers went to Sunnydale? I'd heard rumors."

"Yeah, first there was some girl named Buffy - stupid name for a slayer - and then Kendra. The Master chewed both of them up and spit them out, so I got called. One Wesley Wyndham-Pryce," and her voice dripped contempt over the name, "wants me to be number three. There's just one little problem."

"Which is?"

"While my so-called Watcher may think I'm just one more little dart that he can throw at the Master, I happen to like living. I wouldn't mind getting to see eighteen, y'know?"

"So, you ran away?"

"Let's just say I'm pursuing other options. I figure, there's more than one way to do this gig. Maybe even a way that doesn't involve running straight into a trap with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back."

"And I fit in where?"

"I hear you've been doing this for a couple of years now, and you're still here. I hear you've got more vampire kills than anyone who's not a slayer. So, I'm thinking, maybe this guy knows a thing or two about this business that the Watcher's Council can't get their heads out of their butts long enough to notice. And, since I'm kinda into survival, that works for me. Get what I mean?"

"What else have you heard about me, then?"

"That you're not quite human yourself," she tossed back promptly, and then, with a touch of hesitation, "That you got in this game in the first place because they got your wife."

I was silent for a moment, then nodded slowly. "True enough."

"Of course, they forgot to tell me that you're damn cute, too. Can I have another beer?"

"Not yet. How much did you hear about the not-human part?"

She stood up and sauntered over to me, sitting down practically in my lap. "I'm not worried about it."

"Maybe you should be."

She shook her head, laughing, and threw a leg around my waist. Agile girl. Good moves.

"Man, I'm a slayer. I can take any man, demon, or vampire, and if I don't like you, I can twist you into a knot so fast that you'll be seeing daylight from the rear. So, why should I worry?"

"You're also just a kid."

"I haven't been in a kid in a long time," she answered softly. "So, what's the what? Big bad demon just waitin' to come out and play?"

"You askin' to see?"

"You think you can scare me? No way. I dare you."

"Dare me, do you? Now, isn't that mature."

"I'll show you mature." She pressed herself against me, twining a hand in my hair. "Get a clue, man. I always get what I want. I'm not patient, and I'm not real good at taking no for an answer. So, we play it my way, or I show you what happens when I get mad."

"Or I show you what happens when I get mad, except that you're too young to remember what the hell I'm talking about. Which kind of proves my point, don't you think?"

She wriggled on my lap. "Whatever. Shut up and show me."

Ah, well, it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? With a resigned sigh, I changed, waiting for her to yelp and jump off my lap.

Surprise. Her eyes widened, and for a moment she did look like a little girl, but like one who'd just received a birthday present. "Wow!" she breathed. "Way cool."

She giggled for a moment, like a child, but her next move wasn't the least bit childish, as she made me gasp.

"Uhhh, Faith?"

"You have some need to talk, here? 'Cause I don't."

"You always come on to demons like this?"

"Naw, only the cute ones like you." Her hands were all over me, even though I still had my demon face on. Gotta say, she was getting to me.

Maybe it had been too long. Or, maybe that wasn't it at all.

Breathless, I got out, "Can't say as anyone's ever called this face cute before."

She shrugged. "Change back if you want, or stay the way you are, doesn't matter to me. I like a little variety, y'know."

"You tryin' to tell me that you're OK with this?" I managed.

"Five by five," she answered. "How about shutting up now?"

She put her hand roughly over my mouth, pushing a spine or two aside in the process, like she didn't even notice. When she took her fingers away, it was only to replace them with her lips, and they weren't any gentler than her hand.

Some things I can smell, and taste, better like this.

She tasted of beer, and impatient youth, and something a long way past innocence.

She tasted of need.

That was it.

Damn it. I was lost, and I knew that I'd probably regret it.

And right then, I didn't care.


Chapter 2

by Cedar, hvandewall@yahoo.com

"That," said Faith, wriggling off the couch in search of her pants, "was wicked fun."

"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.'"

"No?"

"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'."

"About what?"

"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'm listening."

"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 demons."

"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."

"No phones?"

"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."

"Doyle. Why?"

"Why am I offering you a job?"

"Yeah."

"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.


Chapter 3

by Tammy, t.l.green@talk21.com

When I resurfaced from the vision it was to find her dark eyes inches from my own. The look in them was more puzzled curiosity than concern.

"Hey, Doyle," she said. "What was that all about? And don't tell me I'm giving guys seizures now. You been holding out on me?"

I groaned and squinted up at her. "Holdin' out...? No, just hadn't got around to mentioning that part."

"The part where you're gonna be spazzing in the middle of a fight and leaving me to get my ass kicked?" she demanded. "What's wrong with you? Come on, spill."

I shook my head, which didn't do it any good at all. The room started doing interesting acrobatics in front of my eyes. "I get - visions. That is to say, splitting migraines with pictures. Of people in danger. People I'm meant to save. Not all of the business here comes from walk-in clients, y'know. Heck, not even most of it."

"Way cool," she said, sounding surprised. "You really do have a mission here. You could almost be a slayer." Then, after a moment's thought. "So that was a vision, huh? Whoa. Major bummer."

"Ouch," I agreed, trying to stand.

She had her hands on my shoulders, presumably some sort of effort to steady me when I'd keeled over, but truth to tell the pressure of those slim fingers wasn't doing me any favours.

I already knew from our, ah, close contact earlier that she had one hell of a grip. Didn't want to ever be on the wrong side of it. With that slayer strength, she could break me in half, demon or no. And with her temper, she just might.

She shifted her grip and backed off as I straightened up. "So," she said, her enthusiasm evident. "Our first case, partner. What'd you see?"

My head thudded viciously. She wasn't helping. I wondered what I'd gotten myself into with this girl.

"The usual," I said, as I unsteadily crossed the room and retrieved my jacket from where I'd thrown it. Two visions in one day was a real bitch; still, it happened now and then. I could have used a drink or ten, but knew I didn't have the time for that; urgency had permeated the vision. "Guy about to become vampire food. A few blocks away, ten minutes if we hurry. And we gotta hurry. You comin'?"

"Sure thing." Faith snatched up a stake and threw another across to me, twirling it through her fingers in a fancy move. Hell, she was fast. Some impressive reflexes, too.

All that strength and power locked within her deceptively delicate form. I had to admit, I was more than a little curious to see how she handled herself in a fight.

Well... I wouldn't have to wait long to find out.


As expected, it took about ten minutes to reach the spot where I'd seen the attack take place. One good thing to come out of all that time in the LAPD, I know this city like the back of my hand, including - especially - the bits that ain't so pretty.

Handy for the Powers, that they can send their damned vague headaches to someone with the local know-how to interpret them.

This place, it was a bad spot, close to a couple of major demon hangouts, a real dive. It wasn't the first time a vision had dragged me there to help someone. Had to admit to a certain uneasiness with being in that area myself, and I was glad to have some back-up on hand for once.

We turned left down a narrow street where a pink neon sign on the corner building read 'bar' in stubborn contradiction of the brothel I knew lay within. The noises of shouts and scuffle told me the action had already begun.

As we got closer I could see the scene from my vision being played out. There were four vamps gathered around the one guy, a skinny posh-looking type... wearing a suit, of all things. God knows what he was doing slumming around this neighbourhood.

Nobody had ever taught these vamps not to play with their food. They were gathered around him like the mean kids in the school ground, tormenting, darting forward occasionally to land a blow or just to feint one. They'd done something to one of his legs, and he stumbled in little awkward steps with the limb bent off at a crazy sideways angle at the knee, making futile efforts to get away from them each time they sprang forward for another piece of him.

Faith shot a glance at me even as we hurried to intervene. She was grinning broadly, lit up in pink neon from the corner sign.

"Time to kick some undead b..." Her voice dried up abruptly.

She stopped running, and dragged on my arm to pull me back.

"What in the hell are you...?"

"Shut up!" she snapped. Her voice was rough and she sounded, oddly enough, scared.

We'd halted about ten yards from the little scene, and the vampires couldn't help but have noticed our presence. They were directing curious, hungry looks our way, with the exception of the one female who was too engrossed in the business of tormenting their victim, her hands all over his shivering neck in sickening caresses.

"'S'okay, folks," Faith drawled, her voice full of harsh amusement, bordering on shock. "You keep right on with what you're doing there. No way I'm going to stop you. Hell, some things you just couldn't pay enough to see."

"Have you gone mad?" I demanded, almost at the same instant as their victim, the guy from my vision, looked up.

Lined in pink neon, his wide, pain-filled eyes rested on Faith and managed to widen even more. "Faith..." he began, breathless and astonished and pleading.

He didn't get to finish because the she-vamp closest to him dealt him a painfully audible fist in the face that dropped him to the pavement. She raised a stiletto-clad foot to bring it down on his head.

I wasn't certain precisely what lay between Faith and this guy, but I wasn't about to let this happen.

Not in my city.

Faith seemed frozen in place. I shook my arm free and surged forward, aligning the stake with the she-vamp's heart as I did. I covered the short distance between us just in time to knock the vamp away the instant before the pointed spike of her heel drove through the guy's skull. She overbalanced backwards, and I overbalanced on top of her. The stake slid easily into her chest with the force of our landing.

She exploded into dust, and I fell the last several inches to the ground as her form disintegrated, bruising my elbows on the pavement.

Unpleasantly aware of the remaining three vamps, I moved to push off from the ground, reaching for the fallen stake, planning to twist around to deliver a hefty kick to the one standing closest and...

I didn't get any further than a few inches before a foot tramped down on the back of my neck, pressing me down into the concrete with a force that skinned the side of my face against the rough surface.

Damn, but one of them was fast.

I switched to demon, figuring the additional strength would be enough to shift the vamp's weight, but before I could use it hands grabbed my arms, one pair each side, with undead strength. They twisted, hauling me painfully to my feet as the weight was lifted from my neck. I thrashed around, trying to break their hold... unsuccessfully.

I'd been waiting for Faith's intervention, expecting it at any moment, but now I realised with a sinking feeling that she was nowhere in sight.

"Looks like we've caught ourselves a half-breed," the vampire on my left sneered.

"That's no fun. They taste bad." The one holding my right arm pulled a disgusted face which looked oddly comical on his already vamped-out features. But I didn't feel inclined to laugh.

The remaining vamp, the quick one who'd taken me down, walked around into my line of sight. He had a youth's face, firmly set to human. I'd learned those were the ones to be wary of; the ones with the control to look human even when riled. It took time to learn that control, meant they'd been around a good few decades. They weren't as dim as the fledglings.

"I've heard of you," he said to me. "I've heard of a few pals of mine who didn't walk away from an encounter with you. And of course, now Chrissy." He glanced at the slightly dusty patch on the ground; when he turned back his features were contorted into full vamp mode. "That makes me unhappy."

He picked up the stake I'd dropped and toyed with it, with an amused glee that made me shiver despite myself.

Beyond him, I could see a slim figure slowly walking back through the shadows towards us, hesitating every few steps as though something even stronger than she was kept trying to pull her back. I fixed my eyes on the vampire in front of me, so as not to give away her presence by the direction of my gaze.

The vamp set the stake to the side of my neck. He dug it in, just a little way. Enough to hurt like hell. Even a sharpened stake has a pretty blunt, splintery point on it. He dragged it forward through my skin, about an inch or so, pressing down hard, until it met the base of a spine and stuck there.

I jolted in their grasp with the pain, but their grip didn't give. I felt the warm dampness of blood dribble down to soak into my shirt collar.

Faith stood now, immobile, several yards behind him, cloaked in shadows, unnoticed. She had a stake ready in her hand, but she kept staring down at it as though she'd never seen one before. Indecision and despair marked her face. She looked like she was wrestling with something bad, behind those dark-smudged eyes.

She glanced between me and the unconscious man. Her grip on the stake shifted, but she didn't otherwise move.

"You know, I fancy a souvenir," the vamp said. "Wonder if these things'll break off." He pressed the stake down harder at the base of the spine. It hurt like hell. "Yeah, looks like it..." He pushed his grinning face right up to mine, presumably wanting to witness my agony up close.

His mistake. I wrenched my head forward, though the move drove the stake deeper, and let him have a whole face full of spikes.

He howled and fell back, the stake clattering to the floor, hands pressed over his newly-ventilated face.

I heaved my arms, desperately trying to break the grip of the other two. Felt the joints, already held at odd angles, threaten dislocation. What the hell, this form could take it...

Thankfully, though, it didn't need to. "Aw, shit!" Faith snapped, in aggrieved tones, as she finally made her decision and sprang into action. She had already taken several steps further forward, sometime while he'd been cutting me, and she was so close now they'd have seen her in a moment in any case.

She rammed the stake into the vamp whose face I'd colandered and barrelled straight through the resultant dust cloud on her way to me.

At the sight of a slayer in full fight mode, the vamp on my left loosed his grip and ran.

I didn't give the remaining vampire a chance to copy him. The instant my arm was free my fist was making close acquaintance with his face.

Faith sprang after the one who'd lit off, and seconds later it was all over.

I turned on Faith, too angry even to switch back to human.

"You gonna tell me what the hell that was all about?" I snapped, clamping a hand to the side of my neck to stop the spill of blood. They'd avoided the main artery, thankfully, in their efforts to make it slow. "Care to explain why fifteen minutes ago it was 'partners' and now you're suddenly prepared to run off and let me get worked over by the bad guys?"

I had plenty more to say. I'd meant to say it. but the expression on her face stopped me.

From what I'd seen of her so far, I hadn't thought she could be capable of looking so dejected and hopeless.

"I'm sorry, all right!" she yelled hoarsely. I had the impression those weren't words she said too often. "This was supposed to be a new start! Then I see him here..." She floundered. "I saw they were gonna kill him, and I thought, okay, maybe we're a fraction of a second too slow, and who could blame us for being too late, just this once? It was like, for one instant, there was the answer to everything right in front of me. And then I realised you wouldn't let him die. So I left... but I came back!"

"We don't get to pick and choose who deserves to be saved and who doesn't, whoever he is," I said, hearing the angry edge in my voice and a little surprised by the ferocity of it. I took a few deep, calming breaths and forced my form to revert to human. I walked over to the guy we'd saved and knelt down to feel his neck for a pulse. "The vision sent us to save him. That has to count for something."

His pulse beat strongly. Decidedly alive. His left leg was surely broken, hanging at that peculiar angle, and most of the rest of him was in a bit of a mess.

I asked the question I suspected I already knew the answer to, quietly but insistently. I was in no mood for evasions. "Who is he, Faith?"

She laughed, a raw sound, weighted with irony. "Doesn't look like much, does he?" she growled in angry resignation. "But he's more than this useless waste of flesh wrapped up in a fancy suit. He's the Watcher's Council and everything I'm running from. I should have known I'd never be free of them."

She took the few steps necessary to loom over me where I knelt and delivered an illustrative kick to the unconscious guy. "Hey, Doyle," she introduced bitterly. "Meet Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. My Watcher."


Chapter 4

by Tammy, t.l.green@talk21.com

It took most of the rest of the night to get Wesley Wyndham-Pryce the medical attention he desperately needed and get him back to the office.

Turned out the guy wasn't in the country precisely legal, and hospitals meant documentation and questions, so in the end we had to pay a visit to Farrell, a demon doctor I visited from time to time when the opposition got in a lucky hit or several. Demon genes tend to bring with them the necessity to avoid hospitals and, God forbid, blood tests.

Whether Farrell's qualifications were legit or not I didn't know - just as I wasn't entirely sure if he was demon or human himself - and I didn't ask. But his expertise had saved my skin more than once and, that considered, I could dispense with the need for paper proof.

He answered the door in his dressing gown, irritably, and was no less irritable when we hauled one blood-soaked watcher through his front door and onto his carpets. "I don't treat humans," he said, after a glance and a disparaging sniff in Wesley's direction.

His mood improved only upon delivery into his palm of a wad of creased bank notes.

"Bring him into the office," he said, and led the way into the back room where he practised his trade.

I thought Wesley was beginning to stir as the doc was gathering his things together to set to work. His eyelids fluttered and some hazy awareness of the surely agonising pain twisted his face. But he certainly wasn't conscious enough for speech and I didn't try. He lapsed into deep unconsciousness about half a minute after Farrell stuck a hypodermic in his arm. Probably for the best.

The protests I'd expected from Faith didn't arise. In fact, she remained unnaturally quiet throughout the proceedings, standing against the wall looking bored and cleaning out her fingernails with a knife while Farrell first dealt with Wesley's leg and then the deep cut on my own neck.

At any rate, it was getting dangerously close to sunrise and wake-up hour for the daytime world when we finally carried Wesley's sedated form out to the doc's car and manoeuvred him into the back. I climbed into the back seat too, to stop him rolling off every time we rounded a corner. Wasn't sure I trusted that particular job to Faith.

Farrell drove us across to the office where he ousted us from his car and presented a bill for outstanding medical expenses and transport costs.

"You didn't think a lousy hundred would cover this? I'm not a charity," the doc said in parting, grouchily. "Oh, and I do want the tab paid off by the end of the month, this time. Try to remember I treat professional collection boys, too."

"Yeah, 'course, man." I waved him off, then turned my attention back to Faith and our snoring human burden. "Get his legs. And be careful."

"Yeah, right. Like he'd notice. I do know what was in that syringe." We got him up the steps to the front door between us, awkwardly. Normally it wouldn't have been a problem, but we were drained both physically and emotionally after one hell of a long night. "You're seeing him at his best right now, you do realise that?"

"I'll make my own judgements when he wakes up, if you don't mind."

She shrugged with the assured air of someone who knows their chances of being proven wrong are extremely low. I sighed and struggled with the front door, tiredness blurring my vision and coordination, the key shivering in my hand and doing its damnedest to go anywhere but the lock.

"And even if he was the most worthless piece of shit imaginable, he'd still be human, and I still wouldn't abandon him to the fang brigade." I got the lock open finally, and kicked the door back.

"I didn't mean it, you know." She didn't look at me, her face obscured behind her hair, bent over her unconscious watcher and taking most of his weight as we pulled him through the door and across the hallway to the elevator. "I don't want him dead. I just... wanted to be free. We aren't going to be able to get rid of him now, Doyle. He'll ruin it all. I mean, I knew he'd catch up sooner or later, but I thought it'd be more later. That we'd have time to get ourselves established, get the proof to shove down the council's throats when they did catch up. Then I'd show them we could do good here, and maybe their way isn't the only way, or the best way."

I considered the point while I punched the button for the basement apartment. "Well, he's certainly not going anywhere without help for a while, not with that leg. Far as he's concerned, we'll be looking after him. He'll owe us. And... I won't tell the council where he is if you don't."

Her grin, absent for hours now, returned in an instant, bringing back with it that dark, amused glitter to her eyes. "You mean that? Wow. Cool. I knew you'd be a great guy to work with. A demon after my own heart, right?"

A pause, and then a few seconds later. "Hey, are we, like, going to keep him chained to the bed or something? Did you see that film?"

I groaned and shot her an exasperated look. "Get your mind outta that sewer - if that's possible - and help me get him to the couch. No chains necessary. He won't walk off."

Once that was done I flopped down in a spare chair and waited for my head to stop spinning, Faith paced restlessly around the room and we existed for a minute in relative quiet, the only sounds her footsteps and Wesley's snores.

"So," she said finally, looking out of the big broad window at the sunrise. "You want to go to bed?"

I looked at her. The glint in her eyes made her meaning quite clear. Hell, the girl had some fierce appetites, not to mention a whole lot more energy than I did.

"Don't take this the wrong way," I said. "And not that I'm usually one to turn down an offer like that. But... I want to go to sleep." I pulled a wry face. "Right now, anything else would just about kill me."


My sleep was disturbed and plagued with strange dreams. In them, I saw the earlier fight played out again, only this time the four vamps had some other victim, and neither Faith or Wesley were there...

But the ending, for me, went the same way things had been going prior to Faith’s intervention.

I experienced what would have happened if she hadn't come back. Woke up sweating and shaky after what seemed like hours trapped in the nightmare, almost able to smell the lingering odour of my own blood, feeling phantom pains where the knife had gone in, and wondering if it hadn't been more than just a dream.

Wondering if I'd been meant to die that night, if she hadn't come. Four vamps... might have been too much in the best of circumstances. I had to face the possibility that, whether she'd initially run off or not, her presence had saved my life.

It hadn't felt like one of the visions. But then, who knew? I still didn’t really understand them, after all this time. Maybe someone was trying to tell me something.

I touched the gauze taped over the cut on my neck, and found it was sticky with fresh blood.

I sighed and glanced at Faith. She was curled up in a well-padded bundle at the other side of the bed with her back to me, having won the battle for the lion's share of the bedclothes hands-down.

My alarm clock said it was nearly 1pm, and my first thought was that it was a bloody liar, but when I groaned my way through into the kitchen to fix a coffee, the clock in there said just the same.

Didn't feel like I'd had nearly six hours sleep. I could've done with about another week's worth. My muscles ached from the night's punishment. I abruptly remembered the severely injured guy on my couch and hurriedly poured the sludgy coffee into a mug, which I sipped at as I went to check on the invalid.

Wesley hadn't moved, which was a relief, although not really a surprise.

Maybe I'd been working on my own too long, I reflected. Whatever Faith's opinion of the man, someone should've stayed up to keep watch over him. But then neither of us had been feeling a hundred percent that morning when we'd staggered off to bed.

I went upstairs and dug out the current case files from the office, then set up the paperwork on the table, near enough the couch to notice if he started coming around. The office would just have to stay shut for the day. It happened often enough.

Faith and Wesley slept on through most of the afternoon, until Wesley surprised me by being the first to wake at about 4pm.

His muffled groan drew my attention from the office accounts. "What in Heaven's name did that doctor give me?" asked a very English voice, ragged and creaky but still carrying a far too generous and distinct whiff of 'Public School Education'. I winced.

I hadn't thought he'd been so aware of what was going on, at Farrell's, but evidently I'd been wrong. "You don't want to know", I answered. "Suffice to say he left a few more doses of it for if things get really bad. And some more regular painkillers, too. You need either right now?"

He blinked at me blearily, shaking his head carefully. Considering what he'd just woken up from, there was a surprising amount of sense in his eyes. "You. You were with Faith. You... saved me?"

"Yeah. We both did." No need to go into all the details. "Damn fool thing to do, going into that neighbourhood, at that hour, alone and human and all."

His eyes narrowed, and he propped himself up a few inches taller on his elbows on the couch, and managed a pompous, "I'll have you know I am a trained member of the watcher's council, with a significant knowledge of all varieties of demons and fiends of the night..."

That ridiculous pride would have been funny, if it hadn't nearly got him killed.

He subsided suddenly with a grunt of pain. "I... I think I'd quite like some of those drugs now," he said weakly, his tone a hair short of a whimper.

I fetched, and once he was busy absorbing them and evidently hurting a bit less, resumed the conversation. I said, testing for a reaction to confirm or deny the rest of Faith's assertions about him, "Didn't seem to be doing you any good last night, all that training."

He sighed. "Books," he admitted morosely. "It's mainly books. But I have faced vampires before, under controlled circumstances..."

"Nothin' controlled about these circumstances," I summed up for him. "Welcome to LA, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce."

"Oh, I'm afraid I don't know your name...?"

"Doyle."

He waited as though expecting more, then let it go with a shrug. "I must say, you don't look like Faith's usual type." I winced at the resignation in his tone. Sounded as though he'd seen a lot of her usual type. His hands fluttered as he searched for words. "A lot less... leather. And tattoos."

"Yeah, well, I'm dressed for the office right now."

"Indeed. Office?" He stared around until his eyes found the clock on the wall. "But it's nearly evening."

"We're closed right now, actually, not to say that I don't work unusual hours anyway - pretty much as and when needed, in fact. Faith just accepted a partnership yesterday, by the way."

"Good grief. That can't be right. She's got... other commitments."

"Slayin', right?"

His initial surprise was rather comical. Then he hesitated, and thought it over, his face scrunched up in confusion. His gaze was suspicious when he turned it back upon me. "What precisely is it that you do, Mr Doyle?"

"That's just Doyle. And I'm a licensed PI. Defender of the innocent, helper of the helpless, that sort of thing. Specializing in the sort of stuff the police can't handle. Not too much different to slaying, fact. Faith came here to seek me out, we kind of hit it off."

"A private investigator, Faith?" he spluttered. Had to admit, I could see where he was coming from, there. "And you and she...?"

"That's right. And she's staying. She wants to stay. I ain't gonna argue with her. Are you?"

"You do know she's only seventeen?"

His self-righteous tone made me ignore my automatic stab of guilt and set me on the defensive. I was beginning to see what Faith had been talking about; it wouldn't take too long for this guy to start grating on my nerves. Still, he seemed reasonably well-intentioned, for all that. I just shrugged and said, "If she's old enough to risk her life fighting demons..."

"You got that right." Her voice cut through the air. I turned to see her in the bedroom doorway, back in her leather gear again, all cleavage and attitude. "You want me to wait off having a little fun when I want just 'cause it's not proper by your stuffy standards? You'd prefer I waited till I was too dead? The last two slayers died before they were even eighteen. You remember? 'Cause I can't forget."

There was a silence. Wesley shook his head, looking bewildered and unhappy. "Faith," he began softly.

There was affection there, I was surprised to note. It was kind of strict and pompous and proprietorial, but it was there nonetheless.

She knew it too. She looked repentant, a little. Her aggressive posture abruptly drooped. "Hi, Wes," she said, grudgingly, guiltily.

There were several seconds when none of us seemed able to think of anything to say. Then Faith headed for the door, her movements decisive. She paused before she went out, picking up my jacket and pulling my wallet from it. She helped herself to a few scruffy notes and put them down her cleavage for safekeeping. She said, "I'm hungry. I'm off for food. Anyone feel like Chinese?"

"Bring back a selection," I said, pretty sure nothing would go to waste with her around.


I heard her footsteps on the floor above us and the front door slam as she left. I turned my attention back to Wesley, who was sighing and tutting and shaking his head.

"She's certainly her own person," I observed.

"She's impossible."

"Yeah, well." I smirked; couldn't help myself. "Ten impossible things before breakfast, and all that."

He glowered. I got the impression he didn't appreciate frivolity of any kind, and disapproved of me deeply. Must be a real fun guy for a gal like Faith to work with, I thought. But on the other hand, it worked the opposite way around too. He must have a real hard time trying to get her to do anything. I couldn't see any way the pair might possibly connect to each other.

Whatever bright spark had decided to put the two of them together had to have been seriously tripping.

"She can't stay here. You must realise that." He leaned forward, insofar as he was able, to address me. "She can't avoid her destiny. She's the Chosen One, the only one with the strength and skill to take on the Master. She's the only one that can put a stop to all this horror."

"Or she can die. But then you'll have another shot at him, right?"

He nodded, completely serious, totally missing the edge in my voice.

"I don't buy that," I snarled. "She's not just a game piece, a dart, a bullet, whatever. You and your precious council, you're lining these girls up like they're interchangeable - one dies, the next is picked, yeah? Well, get this; she's a person. She has a right to live."

He blinked at me, but stood up to the onslaught better than I'd expected, wrapping a big blanket of Duty around himself and calmly staring me down. He said, in that soft voice of his, "She has a job to do. A higher purpose. How many of us can say that? Yet she's turning her back upon it."

Remembering his hint of affection for Faith earlier, I knew the only way to get past the duty and appeal to the man was to fight dirty and use the fact he cared to twist him around.

But then maybe, I thought with a spark of hope, it wouldn’t be necessary to even consider employing the kind of methods of coercion or imprisonment which Faith had suggested earlier.

"Look, I get where the girl's coming from, man. I fight these creatures, it's my purpose too. But I'm not about to go commit suicide trying to fight a battle I can't win. Better to stay here and fight the fights I can make a difference in. Maybe someday I'll get the urge to take on greater things - and maybe so will she. Give her time. At least grant her a couple of years of life. An experienced slayer is a better slayer, right? If you send 'em out soon as they're picked and barely trained, it's no wonder they're gonna fail."

I was getting to him. He was nodding slowly, his expression slightly sickened. I wondered idly if he'd worked with either of the other two who'd gone to their deaths, before.

"And maybe someday, if she survives, she'll be strong enough to take down the Master and set the world to rights," I finished quietly. "But you know that just now, she isn't." I let that sink in for a moment, before driving in the final nail. "Do you really want to give up on her and move on to the next option in line already?"

Wesley, speechless, shook his head.


Chapter 5

by Ellen, ellen@eclecticon.net

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.."

"Yeah?"

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."

"Truce, then?"

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?"

End

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