The line rang and rang and after the twentieth ring, Buffy finally hung the receiver back on the cradle of the old-fashioned telephone and sighed deeply. Giles had either left for work already or he was afraid that his phone was tapped and wouldn't answer any calls. She'd give it ten minutes and call again. If he didn't answer then, she'd try to get in touch with him at the school.
By the time she turned back to Faith, the girl was sipping from a fresh bottle of beer she'd apparently helped herself to. Her eyes were fixed at some point across the room and she seemed oblivious to the way Buffy was staring at her.
"He didn't answer," Buffy said after a moment, scratching at the varnish on the wooden bar with her thumbnail. "I'll try again in a few minutes."
"You seriously believe he wants to help me?" Faith asked, avoiding Buffy's gaze.
"He told me so himself," Buffy replied.
"How the hell do you know he's not just gonna turn me in and get some kind of big Watcher-type reward?"
"Uh, because he's Giles?" Buffy said with her eyebrows raised. "Things might not be hugs and rainbows between us now; they haven't been for a while. He wants to make it right though."
"Kinda late, don't ya think? Everything's already all fucked up."
Buffy shrugged, "Better late than never."
An uncomfortable silence settled around them and Buffy continued to find the wooden bar in front of her very interesting. She was acutely aware of every demon and vamp in the bar with them and continuously pushed down her instincts to slip into attack mode. Instead she used her nail to carve the letter ‘B' into the soft wood, smiling when she was done. Her territory was marked. Take that, evil demons!
Her brief personal victory was interrupted when Faith reached over the top of the bar and pulled another beer from behind it. The bottle hissed as she popped the top off and Buffy looked over to see her tipping it back to her lips, downing half the contents in a series of slow gulps.
"How are you drinking beer at eight o'clock in the morning?" she asked.
Faith shrugged and sat forward with both of her elbows on the bar, using her fingernails to start peeling the label from the bottle.
"Breakfast of champions," she said nonchalantly.
"Hmm. Mom always told me the breakfast of champions consisted of oatmeal, half a grapefruit and a piece of whole wheat toast. I think I'll let you be the one to tell her she's wrong."
"Pretty sure I'm the last person your ma wants to see."
"You'd be surprised. She told me to bring you home with me."
"Probably just so she can kick my ass for hurting her precious baby girl," Faith said bitterly.
"No one wants to see you get hurt, Faith," Buffy said after a few moments, her voice quiet and low. No vamp or demon needed to hear them hashing out their differences. "Things are . . . messed up. We're all at fault in some way or another. But no matter how much has happened between us, I can't just sit back and let the Council hurt you or worse. Me, Giles, the gang . . . we're all together on this one."
"Great. Just what I need, Scooby Team cheerleaders."
And Buffy's patience was officially wearing thin. She spun on her barstool so that she was facing Faith, her knees pressing into Faith's outer thigh.
"You know what would be just great? If you could drop the tough-girl woman-scorned act for five minutes and deal with the seriousness that is this situation."
Faith scoffed and took a minute to finish off her beer, then set the empty bottle back on the bar. Instead of facing Buffy, she spun the other way and stood up, stretching her back. When she started heading off toward the back of the bar, Buffy called after her.
"Where are you going?"
"To take a piss," Faith answered, spinning around to face Buffy with an over-friendly smile on her face. "We're like best friends now, right B? So you gonna come with me? Wipe my ass, powder my nose? Ain't that what besties do?"
"You're disgusting," Buffy mumbled as she spun back toward the bar, ignoring Faith now.
"Always been this way, princess. It's why ya never welcomed me into your little group of pristine pals." When Buffy didn't respond in any way, Faith sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Call again. Try not to beat up the patrons while I'm gone."
When Faith turned around the back corner and disappeared through a dark doorway, Buffy mimicked her irritably and picked the phone back up, dialing angrily. As expected, there was no answer at Giles' house. She hung up and quickly punched in another number, listening as the line rang again and again.
"Sunnydale High School Library, Rupert Giles speaking," Giles answered sounding slightly out of breath.
"Thank god," Buffy said, sighing with relief. "I tried calling you at home."
"I'm afraid I had some rather unwelcome visitors. I don't believe it's safe for us to communicate any longer while I'm there. While two of the assassins kept me busy with questions, I saw the third skulking around. I've no doubt he hid listening devices throughout my flat."
"Guess that rules out your place as a hiding spot," Buffy said, massaging her forehead with her free hand.
"I gather that you've found Faith?"
"Yeah, she's with me, and boy oh boy is she just as pleasant as ever," she said sarcastically.
"Buffy," Giles began, his voice bordering a stern scolding.
"I know, I know!" she interrupted him irritably, garnering a few looks from the bar patrons. She shot them all a quick glare and hunched her shoulders forward, trying to hide herself from them. "She's not exactly being Miss Cooperative but we're working on it."
"Good. Give her time, Buffy. Once she sees we're genuinely eager to help her, I think she'll be more willing to cooperate. Until then . . ."
"I know," Buffy interrupted again. "I'm behaving. We're gonna need someplace to hide though, Giles. They've already been to her motel, they know about her apartment, and my house and yours are out of the question."
"I'd assumed as much. I've been in touch with a friend of mine; a real estate agent. She's printing us a list of unoccupied houses and buildings in Sunnydale. It's our best option short of sending Faith away, which we may have to resort to if the assassins prove unyielding."
"Oh, I can make them yield," Buffy replied confidently.
"I'm sure you can, dear, but we can't put your life at risk as well."
"It already is. We overheard them at the hotel. Since I'm not ‘the Council's concern' any longer, they've been directed to eliminate me if I get in the way," she said.
"Then it's even more imperative that we keep both Faith and you from their grasp. Buffy, do you remember where you put that item that time we needed it safely hidden?"
Buffy thought long and hard. God, there were a million ways she could answer that, but she decided to play nice. Giving Giles brain-strain wasn't good when they were in stressful situations like they were now.
"You mean that thing I stole from that guy with the thing?"
"Precisely," Giles replied, somehow sure that he and Buffy were on the same page despite the vagueness. "I've left something there for you and I'll take the list there as soon as I receive the fax from my contact. Will you be safe until then?"
Buffy cautiously looked around the bar, noticing the several demons that were trying to pretend that they weren't watching and listening to her. She shrugged, "Safe as any other place in Sunnydale, I guess."
"Excellent. Head toward that place at noon; this way we can be assured that you won't run into me and that anyone following me won't be led to you."
"But how do I get in touch with you once you've left the library?"
"There will be instructions with the list. And Buffy . . ." Giles paused uncomfortably, "I must ask that you refrain from contacting your mother. I'll be in touch with her at work shortly and let her know what's going on."
"Okay, Giles. Just . . . make sure she's safe. I won't be able to focus on helping Faith if I know that everyone I care about is in danger," Buffy said quietly, twirling the curly phone cord around her finger.
"We'll take the utmost safety precautions. Please say you'll do the same."
"We will. Thanks, Giles."
Buffy hung up the phone and pushed it back to the other side of the bar, feeling the stress of the situation starting to weigh down on her. She rested her face in her hands and shook her head lightly.
"You look like someone just ran over your puppy," Faith said as she climbed up on the stool next to Buffy.
"I'm lucky I don't have a puppy," Buffy said, turning her face so that she could look over at Faith. "If I did, the Council would probably kidnap and torture it as a scare tactic."
Faith just stared at her for several long moments, the look on her face unreadable. She seemed troubled but like she was trying to keep that hidden. Like she didn't want Buffy to see past her badass exterior.
"You've got some thinkin' to do, B. Pretty sure you're not gonna get a chance to take any of this back once we walk out that door together. Just ran into one of the Mayor's boys in the back room. He's dust now but if he saw us here together, chances are that he already blew me in and the Mayor ain't gonna be happy to know I'm friendin' it up with ya again. Gonna have two people huntin' me down now if that's the case."
"Well part of the deal was that you stop working for the Mayor," Buffy said evenly. "If some vamp blew you in, it saves you the hassle of having to type up a resignation letter."
"Oh yeah, cos that's me, all right and proper with the paperwork," Faith said, the tiniest of a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. The smile instantly melted away though, leaving Faith with a deep scowl on her face as she looked down at the bar. "Maybe I should just get the hell outta dodge. Mayor ain't gonna keep me safe now, that's for sure. The assassins will give up eventually if I hide, but the Mayor's always gonna be here, B. Now you're caught up in this and . . ." she trailed off with a shrug, shaking her head lightly.
"I never assumed this deal would be trouble-free, Faith. I mean, I wasn't quite expecting Tranq darts and demons bars, but I figured it wouldn't be an easy ride. The important thing is that we keep everyone safe, including you. We have bigger personal issues between us to fry, but we can do that once we put out the fire."
Faith thought about that for a minute and scrunched up her face in confusion. "Don't you need the fire to fry something though?" At Buffy's glare, Faith just shook her head and looked down at the bar again before meeting Buffy's gaze once more. "You sure I'm worth all this?"
And boy, was that a loaded question. Two weeks ago Buffy would have said no. She would have told you that her life, or her Mom's life or her make-believe puppy's life was more important than Faith's. That vision though; seeing Faith shot dead, no one to know or care about it; something changed in Buffy when she saw it. She couldn't let it come to fruition.
Because even though it took her a while to realize it, Buffy knew that Faith was worth more than the three bullets in her chest that fate seemed to want to fire at her.
"Yes," she said finally, looking deeply into Faith's eyes; trying to convey the truth she felt behind her answer. "All lives are worth saving; just because we're not exactly best friends doesn't mean I can sit back and watch you die."
Faith silently held her gaze for nearly a minute before she nodded gently and turned away. She whipped a small blade from her pocket and started digging into the wooden bar just as Buffy had been doing before. Buffy watched her for a few moments, then spun around so her back was to the bar and she was able to look out into the sparsely populated room.
"So what's the plan?" Faith asked, her voice a low mumble.
"Giles has some info for us," Buffy said, her gaze fixed on a demon in the corner who was watching them with a snarl on his face. "We just need to sit tight until noon and then we can head out to get it. Until we can figure out some kind of a plan, we're going to squat in vacant houses and buildings. Not exactly luxurious, but they'll never know where to look for us and we can keep moving around."
Faith sighed and spun around, resting her elbows back on the bar behind her. She followed Buffy's gaze to the snarling demon and tilted her head to the side as she watched him intently.
"Never been one to run from a fight. Feels wrong."
"Not as wrong as three bullets to the chest would feel," Buffy said evenly, her eyes still fixed on the demon.
"Probably got a point there."
"And we're still nixing the idea of me gettin' the hell outta Sunnyhell?"
Buffy shrugged, "That'll be our last resort. The assassins may give up for a while, but they'll track you down, Faith. You won't be safe anywhere. As for the Mayor, the gang and I already know he's the baddie of the year, so he'll be dealt with. Giles is researching it. In the meanwhile, we need to see if we can find a permanent fix for the assassins."
Faith thought about it for a minute, tilting her head the other way as she continued to stare at the increasingly agitated demon.
"Willing to bet that if we can catch them without their glocks, me and you can fix'em permanently."
Buffy pulled her gaze from the demon momentarily and looked over at Faith. "They're human. We don't kill humans, Faith." When she saw Faith tense up, she hurriedly added, "Not on purpose, we don't."
She quickly averted her gaze but heard Faith take in a deep breath, then let it go like she was counting to ten. Ah. So Faith did feel bad about Finch. Buffy knew there were more emotions beside anger and hate underneath Faith's tough exterior.
"Right. So the Council assassins can kill humans – namely me - but we can't. Good to know," Faith said bitterly, her body tense.
Suddenly she pulled her arm back and brought it forward as hard as possible, sending the knife she'd still been holding in her hand flying across the room. It impaled itself in the snarling demon's forehead, instantly dropping him to the floor. Buffy watched on, surprised, as several of the other demons ran into the back or out the front door. When they were finally alone with the dead demon and a sleeping Pirston demon in a small booth, Faith smirked a little.
"Thank god we can still kill demons, huh." At Buffy's speechless nod, Faith walked over to one of the newly vacant booths and climbed in, letting her legs rest lengthwise against the seat with her back against the wall. "Noon, right?"
"Umm, yeah," Buffy replied, finally finding her voice.
"Great. Wake me up then."
Faith crossed her arms over her chest and rested her head back against the wall, making herself as comfortable as possible. She finally closed her eyes, leaving Buffy to wonder how she could be relaxed enough to have a nap at a time like this.
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