Chapter Four

Buffy continued to glare at Giles, fighting every instinct she had not to yell or lash out in any way. Anger and violence weren't going to get her answers, especially when it came to Giles. Fighting back her knee-jerk reaction, she took a deep breath and exhaled it through her nose before speaking again.

"Why didn't you say anything about these seers or the council when I brought this up earlier? You could have saved my ass. Literally."

"I'd had a hunch but I wasn't certain, so while you were out I made a phone call. Quentin Travers has basically confirmed my suspicions with his unwillingness to share more information."

"Seems to me like he's not the only one unwilling to share information," Buffy said bitterly.

"Buffy, please," Giles pleaded. When she relaxed again, he continued. "The men you described in your vision are a typical Council assassination squad. The fact that they were carrying guns and going after a slayer was enough confirmation of that. Quentin wouldn't have sent them on his own; Council protocol is to rehabilitate and re-train difficult slayers. So when I spoke with him, I put together two and two. The seers – they've shared a vision with him. They've shown him the path to take and events have been put into action that will result in the vision coming to fruition."

"But I don't understand why," Buffy said, exasperated. "So Faith's gone a little coo coo for cocoa puffs. Why would Travers suddenly agree to ignore protocol and have her killed?"

"Because it's what the seers showed him."

"And we're suddenly trusting a group of crazy old ladies…why?"

"They've been with the Council for more years than I'm aware of; centuries, I believe. They receive visions and they transmit them to whomever runs the Council. Once the vision is passed, it is the duty of the Council Head to carry out whatever the vision depicts."

"Here's a fun and interesting fact: Buffy's not the Council Head," Xander chimed in.

"Very true. My head is Council-less," Buffy confirmed with a nod.

"That's correct, but this isn't the first time that the sisters have shared a vision with another. I suppose that they can't control which visions they receive from The Powers That Be. Perhaps they sent the vision to you, Buffy, so that you could try to prevent it. It's their duty to report to the Council Head, but it's not their duty to find said vision agreeable."

"So what, they hijacked my brainwaves and hooked me up with Disturb-o-vision thinking I'd swoop on in and save they day?"

"It appears that way, yes," Giles replied simply.

"But why would they do that? Don't they know that Faith and I aren't exactly standing on the same side of the proverbial chalk line in the schoolyard?"

"You're a good person with a good heart. I'm sure that's not old news to The Powers That Be. No one else is going to step in to save Faith. It's up to you, Buffy, and the sisters knew that."

Silence descended on the room as everyone looked at Buffy and waited for some kind of reaction. She continued to stare at Giles, wishing that things would be less muddled and confused. Her life was always muddled and confusing though, so why should this be any different.

"Buff?" Willow said, unable to take the silence any longer.

Shaking her head slightly, Buffy looked over at Willow and offered her a tiny, comforting smile.

"I'm okay, Wills. And nothing bad is going to happen to Faith. Duty or not, I can't just let things play out like they're supposed to."

"So what's the plan?" Willow asked. If it meant keeping Buffy safe, she'd be willing to help out in any way, even if it meant bringing Faith back into the fold again.

"Try, try, and try again," Buffy replied as she began to walk very gingerly toward the weapons cage.

"Don't you think it's a little dangerous going alone?"

Buffy took one of the weapons from the cabinet and tucked it safely under her jacket, hidden away so that not even Faith would see it. Willow's eyes widened as she saw what Buffy grabbed.

"I think it would be more dangerous if you guys knew what I might have to do," Buffy explained. "It's probably best if you stay together tonight, safety in numbers. We'll need to make a plan about what we do if she cooperates."

"And if she doesn't?"

Buffy was silent, gazing down at her shoes for a few moments before looking back up at her friends. "Just make a plan."

She didn't want to think about the alternative.

The music at the Bronze was thumping loudly as Buffy entered but not even the brain-numbing sound was enough to block out the feel of the slayer connection. Faith hadn't shut her out which gave Buffy the tiniest bit of hope. Maybe the girl was hoping that Buffy would try again. Maybe she really did want to be helped but didn't know how to ask for it.

Or maybe it was some kind of elaborate trap.

Cautiously looking around the club, Buffy momentarily dismissed the elaborate trap idea and decided to be optimistic. Seeing as that Faith hadn't run out of the club yet and continued to dance away seemingly without a care, Buffy could only take that as a good sign.

She walked over to the bar and rested her elbow against it, her eyes trained on the dancing brunette. She barely registered the bartender that walked over and followed her line of sight, smiling at what he saw ahead of him.

"She's a regular," he said, his gaze never leaving Faith's form. "Comes in here late at night, asks us to play the music loud, and dances her ass off ‘til we shut down."

"It's not exactly late," Buffy said, looking over at him and feeling just a twinge of anger at the way he was practically drooling over Faith.

"Guess today's special then."

"Oh yeah, real special," Buffy said, rolling her eyes quickly.

Her sarcasm wasn't lost on the bartender who finally looked over at her, remembering his job.

"What can I get you?"

"Diet soda, please."

He quickly pulled a clear plastic cup from behind the bar and filled it up with diet soda, refusing Buffy's money when she placed it on the bar. She left it anyway, not wanting a freebie from a guy like that. Nothing was ever free when it came to creepers.

She turned around, ready to head to the dance floor when she noticed that Faith was no longer there. The slayer connection was still as strong as ever though so she knew that the girl had to be lurking around somewhere. A cheering noise off to her side drew her attention and she looked over to see Faith at the pool table, stick in hand and collecting a wad of money from some guy she'd likely just scammed.

Taking a sip of her soda followed by a deep breath, Buffy made her way over toward the pool table, waiting for the moment Faith would look up at her and she'd see everything she needed to know in those dark brown eyes. As if on cue, Faith suddenly scanned the crowd and their eyes met. Buffy tried to keep her cool, ignoring the way her butt seemed to ache just a little bit more when Faiths lips curled up into a grin.

"Back for more so soon?" the brunette asked, trying to remain as nonchalant as possible. She took another shot on the table, sending a bright red ball flying into the pocket right where Buffy was standing.

"What part of ‘I don't want to fight' are you having a problem understanding? My white flag is waving, Faith. I'm here to talk," Buffy said easily.

"We don't talk, B. We fight. Longstanding history and all."

She made her way around the table until she was standing next to Buffy and leaned down, taking another shot. Buffy knew that she was getting that close as a test; the girl wanted to test how serious she was about not fighting.

"We've talked. We've talked a lot," Buffy tried.

Faith straightened up and came face to face with Buffy, the same cruel smile on her face that she'd worn back at her new apartment.

"I talked. You listened . . . sometimes. You never talked, B. Never wanted to share with me; nothing about you, or your past; hell, not even your friends. The time for talk is over."

She leaned over the table and took another shot, her growing anger apparent as she sent the cue ball off the table and across the room. It hit a wall and shattered into a hundred pieces.

"So I'll talk, you listen," Buffy said and quickly continued before she could be stopped. "The Powers That Be sent a vision to the Council in a weird, twisty kind of way. Long story short, Travers saw it and he's not interested in rehabbing you anymore. He's sending assassins; three men with guns."

"And what makes you think I can't take them?" Faith asked casually as she stepped around Buffy to get to the other side of the table. She none-too-gently smacked Buffy's ass with her pool stick as she passed by, making Buffy yelp and give her an annoyed glare.

"Guns, Faith. Small weapons, shoot bullets? Is any of this ringing a bell?"

"I'm not afraid of a couple of dicks with guns. I'll just lay low, they'll never find me."

"And if they do?" Buffy asked, her eyes pleading with Faith to just be reasonable for once.

Reason, however, was not on the menu for the night.

"Then I'll take them out too."

Said so easily. So nonchalantly. Like taking life was just an average everyday kind of thing for her.

"Just like that?"

"Just like that."

And just like always, Faith chose that moment to walk away. She didn't want to start a brawl in the middle of the club and with the way their conversation was going, the was about to lose her temper at any moment. Resting her pool stick against the table, she casually strode through the club and out the back door, hoping to make a hasty retreat through the back alley then out the front where lots of people were probably loitering.

Buffy watched the girl walk away for nearly a minute before she chased after her, nearly colliding into her back when she stepped out the back door. Faith quickly spun around, her eyes wide when she realized that it was Buffy who'd nearly crashed into her.

"Listen, I'm sick of whatever kinda game you're tryin' to run here, B. Back the fuck off and let me handle my own shit. Ya never cared when I was in trouble before so why the fuck are you trying to be my buddy now?"

Shoving Buffy back a few steps, she turned around and began walking through the alley.


Buffy's voice calling after her caused Faith to slow down and eventually stop, keeping her back toward Buffy. When she finally made the decision to let Buffy say, well, whatever the hell she felt she needed to say, she felt a sharp jab to her buttcheek. She quickly looked over her shoulder at the stinging area on her ass to find a metal dart sticking out of her. She yanked it out and stared at it before tossing it to the ground and finally looking toward the shooter.

Buffy stood with her legs spread shoulder-width apart and the small tranquilizer gun gripped tightly in both hands with it still pointed at the brunette.

Faith reacted in the only way she knew how: she sprinted towards Buffy and lunged at her from several feet away, ignoring the second dart that pierced her upper thigh when she was airborne. She crashed into Buffy and tried her best to lash out as they landed with a thud on the hard pavement but her limbs were heavy, so very heavy, and she could barely keep her eyes open.

Buffy watched as Faith finally succumbed to the tranquilizers and stopped her half-hearted struggling. When the girl was finally still, Buffy laid back and winced as a new blast of pain surged through her backside. Faith was draped over her and snoring slightly. There was no drool yet but she was pretty sure it would come soon if she stayed there like that.

Using what felt like the last of her strength, she sat up with Faith in her arms and stood, trying to figure out what exactly she was supposed to do now.

Cooperation: 0. Brute force: 1.

This was going to be ugly.

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