Buffy tried to struggle but the grip around her was iron tight. She opted to try to bite the hand that was muffling her screams but the more she tried to bite, the harder it pushed against her making it virtually impossible to even open her mouth. Her assailant dragged her along the front of the building until they reached the next room down. She couldn't see inside of it because she was pulled in backwards but she did her best to make a racket and kicked out with her feet.
"Calm the fuck down!" Came a harsh whisper against her ear and she instantly realized the voice to be Faith's.
She stopped her struggling – at least until she could figure out exactly what the heck was going on – and let Faith maneuver them until the door was closed and they were braced against it. Pushed face-first against the door with Faith pressed against her back, Buffy suddenly seemed to realize the awkward position they were in.
The second that Faith released her grip a little, Buffy slapped her hands away and spun around. She was instantly pressed against the door once again though and Faith's hand was back over her mouth.
Buffy wanted to argue and yell and possibly knock Faith about the head a few times but Faith's intense gaze kept her pinned there, silent and still. She suddenly realized why Faith wouldn't let her speak; she could very clearly hear the Council assassins through the paper-thin walls in the next room over and surely they could hear her too if she were to speak.
It sounded as if the men were tossing the room apart, realizing that even though Faith wasn't there, maybe they could find some clues as to where she might be. What sounded like a dresser drawer was thrown at the wall and thudded loudly against it and then down to the floor. Both Buffy and Faith looked over to make sure the shared wall hadn't cracked and revealed their hiding place but they seemed safe for the moment.
Buffy mumbled against Faith's hand so that she would move it but Faith kept it firmly in place. Perturbed, Buffy raised her eyebrow and mumbled something again and Faith's only response was the tiniest of a smirk at the corner of her lips.
She was enjoying this!
More than slightly annoyed, Buffy took advantage of the looser hold Faith had on her now and easily bit her hand. Faith's smirk faltered and she flinched with pain seeing as that she couldn't exactly voice her discomfort. Feeling victorious, Buffy smirked against Faith's hand . . . until she felt a set of sharp teeth digging into her shoulder. She shoved Faith's head away none-too-gently and glowered when she saw Faith now wearing the victorious smile.
"Jerk!" she whispered harshly when Faith finally pulled her hand away.
Faith shook her hand and looked down at the bite mark on her palm. She held it up and showed it to Buffy who looked guilt-ridden for maybe a half-second when she saw the red welt.
"You deserved it," Buffy lamely defended.
"So did you," Faith whispered back as she pointed at the noticeable mark on Buffy's shoulder.
Buffy looked down at it and nearly stomped but Faith was suddenly pressed tightly against her once again and impeding any excessive movement. She went to speak again but the sound of the men talking in the other room quickly hushed her up. Both girls simultaneously looked over at the wall and focused their hearing.
"Have you found her?" came a voice from what sounded like a speakerphone. It was Quentin Travers checking in on his team.
"Not as of yet. We're at the motel but there's no sign of her, just a bunch of her crap."
Buffy stole a glance over at Faith and watched as her eyes narrowed angrily.
"Our sources say she may be staying in an apartment in downtown Sunnydale and using the motel as a decoy. Be sure to check for her there."
"Don't worry boss, we'll get her," another one of the men piped up. "But what do you want us to do if the other slayer gets in our way?"
Buffy looked sharply over at the wall again and could feel Faith's gaze on her as they waited for Quentin's reply.
"Buffy Summers has made it very clear that she's no longer working for the Council, thus she's no longer our concern. Her life or death won't affect the slayer line, so if she gets in your way, do what you must to complete your mission."
"We'll head downtown and try to find the apartment. If she's not there, we'll check what the word out on the street is."
"Good; there's no time for dallying. Find Faith and dispose of her before she can turn the tables on you. Rupert's on to our plan so he and his little group of do-gooders may be trying to help her. Be sure to check out his place as well. And don't be afraid to pay a visit to Buffy Summers' house. She won't harm you if you use her mother as leverage."
Buffy's jaw, which had been hanging open in surprise, began to clench tightly. Her entire body tensed; she couldn't believe what she'd just heard. She wanted to lash out and scream and Faith must've sensed that because Buffy suddenly felt Faith press against her a little more firmly.
"Now's not the right time for a tantrum," Faith whispered.
"But it's the right time for inappropriate grinding?" Buffy whispered back, sneaking a look down at the non-existent space between them.
"There's no such thing as a wrong time when it comes to inappropriate grinding," Faith whispered with a grin, making sure to move her body ever so subtly against Buffy's.
Buffy grimaced and put her hands on Faith's shoulder, extending her arms until there was a good foot of space between them.
"I'll pass," she said harshly.
Faith grinned and straightened up, finally letting Buffy have some personal space. "Your loss, blondie."
They stayed completely quiet for several minutes longer and listened to the sounds from the other room. The men spoke quietly to one another as they rifled through her stuff and finally left the room a short while later, piling into the black sedan and driving off without any more fuss.
Buffy sighed with relief when they were out of sight and she plopped down onto the chair next to the door. Faith took a seat on the edge of the bed and used the top of her boot to push around the loose fibers of the shag carpeting. There was so much Buffy wanted to say and do – including giving Faith a serious ass-kicking for the quasi-abduction – but she could only sit in silence as she played over the new information.
Not only was Faith in trouble, but now Buffy was as well. She hadn't harmed anyone, hadn't done anything to incur Travers' wrath, but now her own life – and possibly her mother's as well - was in danger. The Council had continuously put her in danger, including the harrowing cruciamentum, and now they were threatening even further harm if she helped a fellow slayer.
Only one thing was sure; there would only be one winner in this battle: the Slayers or the establishment that had continually exploited them.
Sheer determination drove Buffy as she stood from the chair, a fire burning behind her eyes.
"I'm going to kindly overlook the fact that you dragged me in here like that and instead focus on the fact that you kept me from going in your room and wasting my time trying to save you when you weren't even there," she said as she looked down at Faith.
"Sounds fair. Hey, since you're bein' all big and overlooking things, think ya can overlook the whole tranquilizer incident?"
Buffy's eyes narrowed and her shoulder started stinging with the memory from the night before, but the red in her cheeks from the memory of their shared kiss stung even worse.
"How about we just scratch yesterday altogether and start fresh," Buffy suggested.
Faith eyed her suspiciously for a moment, instantly taking notice of her reddened face. She grinned just a little bit and stood up, offering her hand out to Buffy. Buffy seemed hesitant to take it at first but eventually gripped on and they briefly shook on it.
Why did she suddenly feel like she'd just made a deal with the devil?
"Just to be clear on things," Buffy said, "we're not okay. We're far from it, actually, but we don't have time to fight over it anymore. We can work on it . . . once we figure out how we're gonna get out of this alive."
"Whatever. Pretty sure neither of us feel like dyin' today."
"I know I don't. But there's a condition to this truce." Faith raised her eyebrow so Buffy continued. "The Mayor. You have to cut ties."
"Not as easy as it sounds, B," Faith said as she sat back down on the edge of the bed. "He sees me with the good ol' Scooby gang and their fearless leader? The Council assassins are gonna be the least of my worries."
Buffy stared at her long and hard and eventually shook her head sadly.
"Of all the allies you could've picked, Faith, he was the worst."
"Yeah, well beggars can't be choosy."
Faith's walls were going back up and Buffy couldn't risk that right now. They needed to stick together if they were going to make it through this and she couldn't have Faith re-thinking their truce in the middle of it all.
"Alright, alright . . . I'm sorry," Buffy apologized, holding her hands up. "Let's not get into it. We need to get in touch with Giles before he leaves for work to see if he's arranged a place for us to stay."
"Good luck tryin' to get a line outta here. Phone lines have been busted for weeks."
"Oh. Well that's . . . inconvenient. I guess we can try to call him from somewhere else but the Council knows most of the places we can safely go to do that, and we can't exactly stroll up to his place in case they're staking it out."
"So let's head to your buddy Red's house. She's got a phone that works, right?"
Faith stood up casually and started walking toward the door but stopped when she felt Buffy's hand wrapped around her forearm. She looked down at her arm and then up to Buffy's face, raising an eyebrow in question.
"No, we don't get them involved. Willow and Xander are off-limits until this all blows over. I can't watch them if I'm with you, and even if we could go there, I'm not so sure Willow would be exactly happy to welcome you into her house."
"Course not. Can't have the psycho slayer in the inner sanctum of nerd-dom," Faith said dismissively, the bitter tone in her voice not lost on Buffy.
"Hey, your choice of moniker, not mine. Can't really blame her though, can you?"
Buffy's voice was soft rather than argumentative; she really wasn't trying to start a fight with Faith. She tried to look into Faith's eyes but the girl was busy looking anywhere but at her.
"Whatever. If we need a place to lay low so we can call Giles, I know just the spot. They'll never look for us there."
Faith shook Buffy's hand off her arm and walked the rest of the way to the door, turning slightly but not facing the girl when she realized Buffy wasn't following after her.
"You coming or not?" she asked.
Buffy stared at her for a few moments, noticing how the tension across her back and in her shoulders betrayed her otherwise casual demeanor. She finally sighed and nodded, in disbelief that she was trusting Faith so easily once again.
"Lead the way."
They'd walked through several alleys and side streets, careful to avoid any areas where they could be easily spotted by passersby. Sunnydale wasn't a big town by any means but there were still quite a few people out and about during the day, especially this early when they were all headed off to work and school. There was no telling where the assassins had gone to first so Buffy and Faith were fully on guard.
Buffy could barely believe her eyes when she saw Faith leading them toward a familiar building that she would never consider a good spot to hide from danger.
"Willy's, Faith? Really? This is your idea of a safe place to lay low?"
"It's early in the day, B. It's not really open for business to the regular clientele. Besides, no one's gonna give me a hard time in here."
"Because of your evil boss?" Buffy whispered harshly as Faith knocked on a back door and waited for a response.
"Well, yeah," Faith said with a shrug.
"Well that's just great for you, but I regularly bash heads in on the bar in here! I hardly think they're going to roll out the welcome mat and . . ."
"Hey, what's up, Faith?" A male voice asked as the door swung open, interrupting Buffy's little tirade.
A tall and buff human male stepped out a little bit looking every bit some kind of a Greek god in his tight t-shirt and blue jeans. He and Faith shared a big smile before Faith put on her charmer act.
"Not much, Jonesy," Faith answered, giving him a quick high-five. "Me and the princess here need a place to crash for a bit; make a call or two."
Jonesy turned his attention of Buffy and looked her over, his smile falling as he realized who he was looking at.
"I dunno, Fai. We're neutral territory during the day. I let her in here and she starts getting stabby, I'm back to flipping burgers at the Doublemeat Palace."
"B promises to be on her best behavior, don't ya, Buffy?"
Buffy looked from Jonesy over to Faith who was giving her the biggest, fakest smile she'd ever seen. She wasn't sure she'd be able to play along if things got even remotely evil inside but she'd at least give it her best shot; they didn't really have many options.
Plastering on her own fake smile, Buffy looked back to Jonesy and held up her empty hands, wiggling her fingers around a little.
"No punches shall be thrown by these hands."
Jonesy seemed wary for a few moments but eventually shook his head and smiled, then stood aside so the two girls could enter. Buffy and Faith offered him one last smile before stepping past him and into the bar. He looked up and down the alley before stepping in as well and closing the door behind him, locking it tightly.
There weren't very many people or demons in the bar this early in the morning; not even Willy was behind the counter. A large-screen TV was playing in the background and the few patrons didn't even seem to notice their entrance.
"Lively crowd," Buffy commented, careful to keep her distance from pretty much everything around her.
"They're only here for safe-haven during daylight hours," Faith explained as she leaned over the bar and pulled an old-fashioned telephone from under it, resting it gingerly on the counter. "Most of them are passive; they avoid humans just as much as humans avoid them."
"And you know about this little daylight hideaway how exactly?"
Faith tensed up and finally looked over to Buffy after a moment, her eyes narrowing. She took the phone off the receiver and thrust it out at Buffy, holding it against her chest until Buffy took it from her.
"Just make your fuckin' call already."
Buffy didn't know exactly what she said to make Faith shut down again but she wasn't going to dwell on it right now. She needed to get in touch with Giles before he left for Sunnydale High or they'd have to wait until he was home later; they couldn't risk going to the school when the assassins knew that was one of the spots the Scoobies could always be found.
Quickly dialing the number, she held the phone to her ear and counted the rings, hoping that she hadn't missed him.
From the back room, the dialing of a cell phone could be heard as a vampire stood in the shadows, watching Buffy and Faith intently.
"Yeah, it's me," he said into the small phone. "You're never gonna believe what I'm seeing right now."
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