They'd spent the better part of the day hiding out in separate rooms on the upper floor of the house, trying to remain out of sight so that any nosy neighbors wouldn't spot them and call the police. Even though she'd showered, Buffy felt pretty grimy in her old clothes and she was already losing her patience with the squatting situation despite that fact that it had only been one day.
As the sun started to near the horizon, Buffy pulled the cell phone from her pocket and flipped it open. She selected the one number in its address book and hit send, waiting as it rang again and again. She was about to give up hope of getting an update from Giles when he finally answered, out of breath.
"The one and only. Everything okay?"
"Yes, quite, but I believe this bloody contraption may be the death of me. I seem to misplace it at every turn. It's as though I literally repel technology."
"Don't worry Giles, your books will never turn on you."
"Not as if they're much use at this point, I'm afraid. My collection isn't as adequate as I'd believed it to be."
"Well, unless they can find a way to disappear the assassins and make Quentin Travers forget that Faith ever existed, I don't think they'd be much help anyway," Buffy said, barely able to hide her disappointment.
"Rest assured, Willow and I are working around the clock to find a possible solution to this. She's practicing a spell that, if we are unable to change events, may buy us some time to hasten Faith's safe escape from Sunnydale."
Buffy wandered to the doorway and looked across the hall and into the room Faith was in, watching as the brunette stretched and began to shadowbox.
"We were kind of hoping to avoid that option," she said quietly. "If we keep out of their sight, the assassins will have to leave eventually. Maybe they'll think we already skipped town."
"Or more will come," Giles said wearily. "They won't give up until their job is done. The council has judged Faith and it will do all it can until her sentence is carried out. This is their primary response. If it does not work, they will move on to their second response."
"You mean there's worse than search and destroy?" Buffy asked with disbelief.
"Buffy," Giles began, "I don't think you quite understand the assets the council has and what measures it will take to ensure that it has an active, malleable slayer at all times."
"So this is just the opening act," Buffy replied, clenching her jaw tightly. This was getting worse with every hour that passed. "Got it. Faith and I will keep doing what we're doing while you and Willow keep doing what you're doing. If we can't figure out something within the next day or two, you may want to start checking on airfare to get us out of here."
"You'll be accompanying Faith?" Giles asked, surprised.
Buffy let out a wry chuckle and turned so that she was looking back into her own room, her head rested against the doorway. "I'm already in up to my neck, Giles. Besides, she needs to know that we're here for her. That's not exactly the case if we send her off on her own."
There was a short silence on the other end of the line before Giles replied, "I suppose you're right. We'll keep going through the books for another day. If by tomorrow evening we haven't found any viable help, we'll look into finding a safe place for both you and Faith."
"Thanks. Keep me updated. Wish me luck keeping Faith in the house tonight."
"Did she reveal where she went last night?"
Buffy opened her mouth to speak and turned to look out into the hall again. She was surprised to find Faith resting up against the doorframe to her own room with her arms crossed over her chest; she'd obviously been listening in. Buffy closed her mouth and tried to come up with a way to cover her tracks but, after thinking upon it for a moment, decided to go with honesty.
"She said she went to patrol but I think she's hiding something from me," Buffy said to Giles, her eyes locked on Faith's. Faith replied by narrowing her eyes and Buffy just shrugged in response. She wasn't going to tiptoe around the subject matter. Faith was hiding something. That much was apparent. "I'll talk to you soon."
"Good luck, dear."
Buffy clicked the phone shut and crossed her arms over her chest mimicking Faith, the perfect image of defiance.
"You still don't trust me," Faith stated simply.
"Give me a reason to and I will," Buffy replied plainly. She took a few steps forward until she was just two feet away from Faith. "Tell me the truth; the whole truth."
"And nothing but the truth, so help me God?"
"You'll need more than his help if things go south and I find out you've been lying to me."
The tension between them was palpable and Buffy could see Faith's jaw clenching. Faith obviously wanted to say or do something, but instead, all she did was take a couple of steps backward into the room.
"So we gonna do this sparring thing or what? I'm getting antsy."
Buffy wanted answers. She wanted to hash things out with Faith once and for all, but Faith obviously wasn't biting. Shaking her head with frustration, Buffy looked down at the floor and sighed. After a moment, she walked into the room after Faith and began stretching.
Sometimes they communicated better when hitting each other anyhow.
Two hours passed by and the sun had fully set in the sky. They'd been safe sparring since there were no lights on; the neighbors didn't even seem to take any notice in the big vacant house. Buffy was resting with her back against the wall, a thin sheen of sweat covering her body. She was still panting from their sparring and all she could think about was a nice cold shower.
Not that kind of cold shower. She was just hot. Really.
Faith was still pacing around the room, throwing the occasional punch at her shadow on the wall. Buffy watched her, exhausted, marveling at Faith's continued energy despite her injuries the day before.
"How does your knee feel?" she asked.
"Five by five," Faith answered, grunting with effort as she punched. "Arm's good too."
"And your back?"
Faith threw a few more punches and then kicked her leg high; had her shadow been a real opponent, it would have been headless. "Feels good."
Buffy reached into the grocery bag and pulled out one of the last few bottles of juice. The responsible part of her was telling her to save their rations; they needed to bide their time until they moved to the next house tomorrow. Thirst won out though and she twisted off the cap and took a nice long drink, then grabbed another bottle and tossed it up to Faith. Faith opened it and took a quick sip but then put the cap back on and looked down at her hands as she held the bottle in them. She looked a bit apprehensive for a moment but then the confident mask was back in place and Faith looked down at Buffy.
"Gonna save the rest of that for when I get back," she said and tossed the bottle back to Buffy.
Buffy clumsily caught it but was still caught off guard by Faith.
"Back from where?" Buffy asked slowly.
Faith looked at her for a moment longer and replied, "Slaying," before walking calmly over to her bag.
Buffy furrowed her brow and stared at Faith's back, trying to process what she'd just heard. "I'm sorry, I must be having a problem with my inner ear. I thought I just heard you say you were going slaying."
"Your hearing's fine," Faith replied easily. "I'm antsy as fuck and now I'm all juiced up from sparring. Gonna go slay a baddie or two, get rid of some of this energy. I'll be on my best behavior, slayer's honor."
She pulled off her shirt and Buffy gasped when she saw that Faith's back wasn't fine. In fact, it looked almost as bad as it had the night before. The bruise looked like it was a few days older but it was still there and looked sore as hell. Faith had to be lying when she'd said it felt fine, and if she was lying about that, Buffy wondered exactly how she was managing to walk without a limp, especially after two hours of pretty intense sparring.
"Faith, your back looks like someone took a sledgehammer to it. I get that you're antsy but it's not safe out there and you're still hurt," Buffy tried rationally.
Faith put a different t-shirt on over her head and pulled her hair out from under the back of it, still looking quite determined. "I'm not exactly handicapped here."
"Maybe not physically."
Okay, so rationality was quickly giving way to frustration.
"Says the blonde," Faith mumbled under her breath. She tucked a knife through the back of her belt and turned around to face Buffy, a confident look on her face. "Listen, I ain't ever been able to sit still for long. My mom would tell ya the same thing if she was still alive, but she ain't so you're gonna have to take my word for it." She ignored the look that Buffy gave her – the one that clearly said ‘I'm not impressed' – and headed for the doorway.
"Faith, wait," Buffy sighed out as she rubbed her forehead.
Faith obviously wasn't listening though. She turned around and walked backwards the last few steps out the bedroom door. "Be back before sunrise. Don't wait up."
The sound of Faith's quickly retreating footsteps down the stairs and out the back door let Buffy know that Faith obviously wasn't listening to reason. Buffy sighed and banged her palms hard against the carpeted floor. She took in a deep breath through her nose and sighed loudly.
If that was the game Faith was playing, well . . . Buffy would just have to beat her at it.
Quickly hopping to her feet, Buffy ran over to Faith's bag and grabbed a dagger and a stake from it and then quickly followed Faith down the stairs and out the back door. She only hoped she could catch up with her before Faith got too far.
She wandered through the back yard, blowing the hair that had fallen out of her ponytail away from her face. Counting on their slayer bond to lead her in the direction that Faith had gone in, she focused on the intense tingles running down her spine and kept going in the direction that made them the strongest. She got to a yard a few houses away and she stopped, looking around through the darkness.
There was an in-ground pool off to her side and, after admiring how beautiful it was and noting how deprived she felt for not having her own pool, she turned her back to it and looked further out into the night. She sensed movement in the tree line and immediately moved to head toward it but the sound of water trickling gently caught her attention. She turned around slowly and almost screamed but a hand covered her mouth while she was grabbed tightly around the waist.
"What ar-mpff you doi-mmmm," she mumbled against Faith's hand as Faith slowly walked them backwards down the steps and into the pool. Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head at the feel of the cold water against her hot skin but she was focused more on hating Faith at that point. When they were finally at the furthest corner in the deep end, Faith braced Buffy against the wall and met her gaze.
"Quiet!" she whispered harshly.
Buffy tried to speak but Faith put her hand harder over her mouth and shot her a look that, for the first time in her life, actually managed to shut Buffy up. She tried to read Faith's face but Faith was busy staring out into the yard, the top of her head just barely peeking above the concrete surface.
"Vamps," she finally whispered. "A whole fuckin' mess of them. The mayor's boys. Looking for me, I'd bet."
Buffy wanted to say something but Faith was too busy staring out into the yard. Suddenly Faith's eyes widened and she looked at Buffy, terror written across her face.
"Big breath, now!" she ordered.
Buffy barely had time to comply and suddenly they were under the water and slowly sinking until they were just a couple of feet below the surface. They stared at one another, barely able to see without any illumination around them. Only the stars provided any light but even then, it was extremely dark.
A shadow passing above them caught their attention and they looked up at the same time, watching as a group of vamps walked around the pool. One seemed to be looking below the surface so Faith wrapped one arm around Buffy's back and slowly pushed off the step, sending them down even lower where the moonlight was certain not to reach them.
Buffy closed her eyes tightly as the seconds ticked by, the burn in her chest beginning to feel more and more intense. She couldn't stay down there much longer; she needed air. When she finally couldn't take it any more, she opened her eyes and put her hands on Faith's shoulders, ready to push off of them. Faith held her tighter though and indicated the vampires still lingering above them.
That was when Buffy began to panic. She shook her head and pointed to the surface, then tried to push off of Faith again but Faith wouldn't budge. Buffy knew she couldn't get enough momentum in the water to punch Faith hard but she wound back anyway and prepared to deliver a blow. The blow Faith delivered was bigger though . . . and much more literal. Faith's lips covered Buffy's and she blew her remaining air into Buffy's mouth.
A few tiny bubbles escaped and slowly bobbed to the surface but it appeared that they went unnoticed. The vamps slowly began to disperse from around the pool, leaving Buffy and Faith wondering just how far they'd gone. Faith gave Buffy the one-minute hand gesture and looked her dead in the eye before rising to the surface to check out the situation. Buffy watched anxiously and, when Faith waved her up, she eagerly rose to the surface and took a much needed breath of air.
The vampires were already far across the yard and heading toward the house that they'd been hiding in, having noticed the back door that Buffy had left ajar.
Faith shot Buffy an angry glare and Buffy shrank back down into the water up to her nose, knowing that she'd really screwed up this time. The vamps disappeared inside, not needing an invitation since there was no longer anyone living in the house.
"Just fucking perfect," Faith whispered harshly. "They're gonna find all of our shit in there and the mayor's gonna know I'm runnin'!"
"At least he won't know where you're running to," Buffy said. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the soggy list of addresses.
"Doesn't matter," Faith replied, shaking her head angrily. "All the rest of my shit was in there. I have absolutely nothing left. Why the hell couldn't you just have let me walk out that door alone!"
"Because I care about you, you asshole!" Buffy whispered back just as harshly. She put her hands on Faith's head and pushed her under the water and when Faith surfaced a moment later, she spluttered loudly and gave Buffy the meanest glare Buffy had ever seen.
"Did you ever think that maybe I fuckin' care about you too, B?" Faith said and pushed Buffy back so that she was against the wall of the pool again. "Have you taken a fuckin' second to notice that my life has turned to complete shit since I killed Allen Finch?"
"That was an accident!" Buffy argued.
"Doesn't fuckin' matter now, does it," Faith said. "There are two different groups of people out there right now hunting me down like a fucking dog. The assassins are gonna kill me if they find me and the mayor is gonna kill me if I don't prove my loyalty and take that guy out. I'm fuckin' damned if I don't and damned if I do, and I'll be damned for sure if I take you down with me."
Buffy's face went from anger to confusion really quickly. Her brow furrowed, she asked, "What guy, Faith?"
"What?" Faith asked angrily, her brow furrowing too.
"What guy?" Buffy asked again, putting more emphasis on the words. "You said the mayor wants you to take out some guy."
She waited as a look of realization crossed over Faith's face. Faith swam to the side and rested her forehead against the concrete ledge of the pool, banging it slightly against it.
"Fuck," she said, silently chastising herself.
Buffy held onto the ledge with one hand and pushed on Faith's shoulder with the other, making Faith face her.
"Whatever it is you're hiding, just stop. This ends now. Tell me what the hell is going on," Buffy said, her voice surprisingly gentle.
Faith smiled wryly and shook her head in despair. She looked like she was at the end of her rope and about to plummet.
"I lied to you," Faith finally admitted. "When I was getting stuff at my apartment, the phone rang. Don't know why but I answered it. Mayor was snooping around, he knew something was up. Told him I was still his girl; thought it would buy me some time. It did, but not for long; he asked me to do an errand for him. I don't do it, he knows I ain't his girl anymore and he releases the hounds or worse."
Buffy stared at her in horror.
God, everything was so, so much worse than she thought!
"You're not a killer, Faith. You're better than that."
"Am I?" Faith asked, her voice wavering a little. Her eyes were shining but Buffy couldn't tell if it was tears or water from the dunk a minute before. "Am I really, Buffy?"
Buffy couldn't answer. She knew the truth; Faith was better than that. Her mind was aflutter with Faith's revelation though and she knew that they would never make it by hiding out there any longer. They needed to get out of Sunnydale.
They needed to get out of Sunnydale now.
"We need to leave," Buffy said, nodding her head with conviction. "Tonight. I'll call Giles . . ."
"With what?" Faith asked miserably.
Suddenly Buffy felt Faith's hand in her pocket and the quick tug that followed. Faith produced the completely waterlogged cell phone from it and held it above the water.
"With what, B?" Faith asked again.
"Shit," Buffy whispered. She racked her brain and tried to devise a plan. If they could find a place to hide for the night to keep away from the vampires searching for Faith, she could find a payphone in the morning and call Giles at the library. It wasn't a perfect plan but it could work. "We'll go to another house tonight. Once it's light out, I'll find a phone and call Giles, tell him we need to get out of here, now."
"It ain't gonna work," Faith replied, shaking her head.
The only thing she had left was hope. She wouldn't let that be taken away from her too.
"It has to. Come on."
She grabbed Faith's hand and pulled her along to the shallow end of the pool and, after checking that the coast was clear, dragged her across the yard and into the cover of the trees.
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