by Mike Dewar
Bright flashing lights smashed into my skull, while a throbbing sensation pounded against the sides of my head. Through the intense disorientation, I fought to gain a single image from the surreal whirl of light. Faith... twisting... writhing...
“ Could we get them to turn the bloody music down?” I yelled to Wesley.
“ What?” the Watcher screamed back.
“ I said, could someone turn the bloody music down!”
His reply was lost in the pulsing rhythm of the song.
I should have known letting Faith take me out for a good time was a bad idea. So far, her idea of fun seemed to involve strobe lights and the loudest rave music I have ever heard. Wes and I were on the fringes of the crowd, but it was still almost unbearable. Faith, on the other hand, looked like she was having a wonderful time, swinging her body like her bones were connected with elastic, and dancing with five…no, eight guys. All of who weren’t me. To say that I felt a little neglected would be an understatement.
Wesley shoved his way through the crowd to reach me, thrusting one crutch ahead like a knight’s lance. The frantically hopping man finally made it to my side and collapsed into a chair. An expression of faint disgust crossed his face as he reached behind himself and carefully removed a very squashed looking pizza box.
“ Classy joint,” I muttered. Oh, look, now Faith had slung her arms around the one guy’s neck and was whirling him around and around... his clothes were a hell of a lot nicer than mine. And he was taller and built like a football player.
Wesley broke in on my jealous musings. “I don’t mean to be picky, Mr. Doyle, but do you really think this is appropriate behaviour for a Slayer on a Saturday night? I must say I feel it is part of my duty to reprimand Faith...”
I waited. “...only my knee is aching abominably, and I fear that I would not survive another trip across the dance floor...” Wesley gave a weak little smile. “Perhaps you could lend a hand?”
“ And have Faith break every bone in my body for interferin’ with her little orgy over there?” I said sarcastically. “No thanks.”
Wesley snorted. “Oh come now, Doyle. I’m sure Faith wouldn’t break *every* bone...” He paused. “I realise that may not be exactly the most confidence-inspiring thing I could have said, but someone has to discipline that girl. And I am currently incapable of doing so, as you are aware...”
I let go a snort of my own. “Wesley, you couldn’t ‘discipline’ Faith if you had both good legs, a chainsaw and a variety of sedatives!”
Was that creep groping Faith? Was he? Just let me see one hand in a no-fly zone, pal, just one... it was then that I noticed that Faith’s hands were in places *definitely* considered no-fly zones, at least by this air traffic controller.
Wesley hemmed and hawed for several seconds, unwilling to interrupt my seething silence. I ignored him and focused on dreaming up happy little tortures for grope-guy. Acid featured. So did huge demons with slime and antlers.
Eventually Faith pulled herself free of Casanova and oiled her way through the crowd of dancing bodies towards us. “Hey, lover,” she said, squirming on to my lap. “Having fun?”
“ Not as much as you were,” I said bitterly.
Faith glanced back at her erstwhile dancing partner. “Hell, I was just flirting. No harm, no foul, right?” She smiled impishly. “Besides which, you’re cuter.”
I refused to smile back. “Faith, flirtin’ is flutterin’ your eyelids at a guy. What you were doin’ back there is probably considered illegal in five countries.”
Faith looked down at me, a funny little smile playing around her lips. I was uncomfortably reminded that I was trying to scold a girl who could go bowling with my skull without working up a sweat. “I think you’re jealous...” she said teasingly, the smile widening.
“ Am not. I’m just... protective. It’s a guy thing.”
“ He’s jealous!” she announced to the world in general.
“ I have to admit, she does have a point,” Wesley said, adding his unwanted two cents. “You do seem rather possessive - “
“ Fine,” I said grumpily. “I’m just an obsessive, jealous control freak. Whatever.” I would have thrown my hands in the air, but they were uncomfortably full of Faith.
“ Relax, Doyle,” Faith said easily. “I was just winding you up a bit. Checking to see if you actually had any balls to speak of."
I tightened my arms around her. “And did I pass?”
“ I’m not sure,” she said, a wicked smile crossing her face. “I think some additional testing is required. Up close and all." I think I felt my spine fuse together at that.
“ Faith!” Wesley spluttered, turning bright red.
Faith glanced over at him, her face hardening. “What?” she asked challengingly.
“ Um, I, well...”
“ Good,” she said firmly, looking down at me again. “Now, let’s lose the cripple and get out on that dance floor!”
I glanced at the gyrating mass of human flesh she was indicating. “Couldn’t we go and nearly get killed by a pack of demons instead? Please?”
“ The demons can wait,” Faith told me firmly. “Tonight is fun night.”
“ For who?” I muttered as she dragged me onto the dance floor.
As the crowd closed around us, the last thing I saw was Wesley, poking glumly through his squashed pizza box.
I hurt. In lots of places, and for lots of reasons.
Firstly, Faith had tricked me into drinking enough energy drinks to poison a small country. Secondly, while dancing at a rave looks like just moving your arms to a beat, it’s actually a lot more tiring. Particularly with an energetic Slayer as your dancer partner. Thirdly... let’s just say Faith still had lots of energy to burn by the time we arrived at my place. Wesley slept up in the office that night.
And now it was morning and I was an aching wreck. I think if I have to choose between Faith’s idea of a good time and my idea of a good time, which generally involves getting legless and throwing up in people’s pot plants, I’ll have to stick to the liquor. Hangovers are bad, but at least they only really bother the head. The aftermath of Faith’s rave was a whole-body purgatory.
Speaking of the lady herself, she was up the office, wandering around and diminishing my instant coffee supply by the bucket-load.
And while she recovered with the assistance of caffeine, I was stuck down here with Wesley, doing what?
Sharpening weapons. As if there is anything more boring. You can only watch a grindstone go around so many times before you start to lose it. And of course, by the time the grindstone drives you into a psychotic rampage, you have all those nice sharp weapons so close at hand…
Speaking of the grindstone, I have no idea where Wes dug it up. I mean dug it up literally; it looked like it came from an archaeological dig, one of those ones out in some desert somewhere. It was a pathetic little pedal-operated number, which shook more when operated than I did when a vision hit. I wouldn’t have trusted it to sharpen a penknife.
While I tried to coax life out of the stone-age grindstone, Wesley sat carefully adjusting the string on one of my crossbows with a screwdriver. I could hear the cord creaking with strain as the idiot just wound it tighter and tighter.
“ Wesley, I think that’s quite tight enough,” I told him, eyeing the trembling bow.
“ I assure you, I received excellent training in all weapons before assuming my post as Watcher,” he said, smiling condescendingly as he levelled the crossbow at the target he had hung on my wall and fired. The bolt blurred as it leapt from the bow.
I watched with interest. “Nice, Wes. Very nice. If a vampire was sneakin’ up behind you, I’m sure that would have really come in handy.”
Wesley eyed the vibrating bolt embedded in the wall in the opposite direction from the target. “Yes... uh, yes. I meant to do that,” he said unconvincingly.
The bolt was buried in the wall to the feathers. “Sure you did,” I said soothingly. “Sure you did.”
“ Maybe I should just whittle some stakes,” Wesley said in surrender.
“ Good idea.”
“ So, how’s the sharpening going, my brave frontiersman?” Faith called mockingly, as she made her way down the stairs.
I rolled my eyes. “Funny girl.”
Faith yanked the crossbow bolt out of the wall and tossed it on a table. “I should go and do stand-up if the slaying doesn’t work out.”
“ Really, Faith,” Wesley said primly, “I hardly think your calling is something to treat so flippantly.”
Faith didn’t respond. Since Wes’s little commando attempt last week, she hardly even acknowledged his presence at all anymore. Instead she just sauntered over to the table where our pitifully few successfully sharpened weapons lay. “Beats me why you waste so much time fixing these things up. What’s the big deal, anyway?”
Wesley drew himself up. “A Slayer must always be able to trust her weaponry. If the worst comes to the worst, she can always rely on her weapons, if nothing else.”
“ Like her Watcher?” Faith shot back. “I rely on me, Wesley. I don’t need anything - or anyone - else.”
She turned away. For a second, the plastic little Watcher’s mask Wesley wore for a face dropped away and I could see real pain and humiliation there. I have to admit, I felt sorry for the guy. At the time he started his little revolution, he’d probably thought he was doing the right thing.
Wesley noticed me staring at him and the smug little mask slid back in place. “Be that as it may, Faith, you may find yourself in dire circumstances if your weapons are not up to standard.”
“ Huh?” she said blankly. I could tell she had understood what he said, she was just playing dumb to provoke him. Time for an intervention.
“ He means that if you’re tryin’ to decapitate a demon usin’ an axe that can’t cut old cheese, you look like a bit of a fool,” I translated. “Speakin’ of which, there’s an axe in the back of the cupboard that needs demon’s blood cleaned off it. Wes, could you toss it here?”
Faith shrugged dismissively. “Whatever. Anyway, it’s not like anything exciting is going on. I haven’t gotten in a good staking for days.”
Apparently, even the Powers That Be have a sense of irony, because that’s when the vision threw me out of my chair and onto the floor.
The vision was of a purple, horned demon severely in need of some underarm deodorant.
Yes, he was ugly. Yes, he was evil. Yes, he smelt like a pile of garbage.
But despite all that, he really didn’t deserve what Faith was doing to him.
Wesley was standing a careful distance down the street, well out of harm’s way. I was a little closer to the fray, one of my sharper axes at the ready. But really, Faith didn’t need either of us.
The demon hollered as Faith smashed its head into a telephone pole, bending one of his horns into a u-shape. She hit the staggering, bloody demon three times in the jaw for good measure and then swept her knee up in a blow that made me look away with watering eyes.
From the occasional snarled phrase escaping from her teeth, I had a sneaking suspicion she was pretending the demon was Wesley.
“ And that’s for making me do those stupid hypnotism exercises!” she growled, as the demon staggered backwards and fell through a doorway.
“ She does seem rather... enthusiastic today,” Wesley noted placidly, as Faith strode through the doorway like a petite, leather-clad avenging angel.
“ Yeah, enthusiastic,” I muttered, hastening towards the broken remains of the door. ‘Pat’s Bar,’ it read. I doubted Pat was going to be very happy about this.
Fortunately, the bar was almost customer-free, as Faith picked the demon up and began to drive his head repeatedly into a pool table, sending coloured balls everywhere.
The man standing next to the pool table with a cue in his hand stared at her with a mixture of confusion and annoyance. “Are you quite bloody finished?” he asked, his harsh English accent jarring my ears. “People do want to play pool, you know.”
“ Our apologies,” Wesley said politely, his more educated voice raised over the demon’s stunned grunts and Faith’s snarls. “We’ll be out of here soon, won’t we, Doyle?”
The guy had white-blond hair and was wearing a long black leather duster. He looked like a cross between Billy Idol and Sid Vicious. I sniffed the air. Vampire. Wonderful. Another half-an-hour of watching Faith pummel her frustrations out loomed before me. “My advice to you, pal,” I advised the vamp, “run away while you still can. When that Slayer over there has finished with Horny, she’ll start up on you.”
The vamp looked over at Faith with more interest, folding his arms casually. “Slayer. How about that.” He smiled slightly, clearly sizing her up. “A bit more leather than usual for one of them. I like it, very alternative. My kinda girl.”
Faith let her foe slide slowly off the pool table and onto the floor, leaving a trail of greenish blood on the felt. “And who the hell are you?”
“ Spike,” he said simply, as if that was all we should need to hear. He ran a finger over the table and casually inspected the greenish residue left on the tip. “You’ve pretty much wrecked that table, you know.”
“ Tell someone who cares,” Faith bit out, pulling a stake from her belt. “Let’s get this done.”
“ Hang on a bit, will you?” Spike said easily. “I haven’t even heard your name yet. I want to know what to put on your tombstone.”
“ Faith, just kill him and then let’s go,” Wesley ordered. "This bantering serves no good purpose.”
Spike glanced over at him. “Let’s see... suit... glasses... nancy-boy accent... so this would be the Watcher, right? I always like to eat the Watchers first, like an appetizer before the main event.” Wesley swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing.
“ A little cocky, aren’t we?” I shot back. “Three against one, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
Spike walked past Faith, raising his eyebrows. “And who’s this then? Not a Watcher, unless their standards are really slipping.”
“ Doyle,” I growled. His little ‘slipping standards’ crack hadn’t gone down well.
“ Well, Doyley, old son, the Watcher’s a wimp on crutches and I could flatten you with one hand tied behind my back. So no fear here, I’m afraid.” Spike smirked.
I went demon, feeling the strength spread through my body as my spines sprouted. “Really.”
Spike didn’t flinch. “Really.”
“ Screw this,” I heard Faith mutter behind me and then I heard her step forward. Spike spun, whipping the cue across to keep her back, presenting me with a lovely target for my axe. I stepped in, raising the weapon high, and Spike slammed the butt of the pool cue back into my unprotected stomach.
I doubled up, retching my meagre breakfast on the floor. Spike chuckled as he stepped aside, nodding to Faith in a casual way. “I’ll see you round, Slayer. Then we’ll finish this.”
As I bent over the floor, my breath rasping in my throat, I heard the back door of the bar slam shut.
“That could have gone better,” Wesley announced.