It was nearly noon now and Buffy was getting antsy. Faith was still asleep and there were demons watching them from the back room, none of them hazarding so much as a step inside the front bar area. She kept a watchful eye on them, not moving from her seat at the wooden bar the entire time.
Unable to sit still any longer, she spun around on the barstool, intent on finding a way to pour herself a glass of diet coke. The caffeine would take the edge off and then she could . . . something caught her eye and she glanced down at the wooden bar.
The place where she'd carved her first initial on the bar now had a small addition to it. Directly next to the large and fancy letter B and scrawled in Faith's handwriting was the word ‘itch.'
Buffy scowled. Well wasn't that just fantastic!
All thoughts of being civil left her mind like helium from a popped balloon. Determined more than ever that she needed to save Faith solely so she could kill the girl herself, she hopped down from the barstool and made her way over to the booth where Faith was sleeping. She stopped just a step away from the table and crossed her arms over her chest, looking every bit annoyed as she felt.
"Get up," she said but Faith didn't budge an inch. "Faith, now."
Faith continued to sleep, her heavy boots balancing precariously on the edge of the bench. Even the subtlest of movements would send her legs slipping down to the floor and would surely jostle her awake.
With that thought in mind, Buffy gave the wooden booth a hearty kick and sure enough, Faith's boots slipped down and carried her legs down to the floor. Unfortunately for Faith, the rest of her body slipped down too and she landed with a thud underneath the table, her head thunking on a metal support beam.
"The fuck?" she said groggily as she slithered out from under and stood up, trying to gather what remained of her cool. "What the fuck just happened?"
She looked more confused than she did angry and Buffy couldn't help but feel her own anger slip from danger level eight down to danger level seven. Faith still had it coming to her; Buffy would just save it for a time when she was less possibly-concussed.
"You slipped," Buffy said evasively, ignoring Faith's raised eyebrow as she turned back to the barstool and grabbed her jacket from the back of it. "It's almost noon. Let's go."
"Lead the way," Faith said, her voice husky with sleep. She angled one of her shoulders up and craned her neck to the side, cracking it loudly enough to make Buffy grimace. Faith looked at her and shrugged. "Not exactly luxury sleeping conditions but I've dealt with worse."
Feeling her anger level dip down to level six, Buffy sighed and led the way to the back door where they'd entered, passing by several demons in the back hall who scattered out of their way as quickly as possible. When they finally reached the exit, Jonesy was standing off to the side, looking at them with a disapproving frown.
"Thought you weren't gonna let her cause trouble, Fai," he said.
"She didn't," Faith replied casually. "I did."
"You know the rules. I can't let ya back in."
"Yeah, I know," she said quietly. "Don't really make a difference anyway. Looks like I'm gonna be on the run the rest of my short little life anyhow."
A twinge of guilt ate away at Buffy then, making her anger level dip down to level five. As much as Faith still had a knack for pissing her off, she hated the idea of the girl having to hide for the rest of her life. Faith was only eighteen. Or was it seventeen? Come to think of it, Buffy didn't know. She knew practically nothing about Faith once she really thought about it.
As her anger level continued to fall, her guilt factor continued to rise. When she moved to open the door and found that Faith was already holding it open for her, those numbers kept on following that trend. They left the bar and walked silently through the alleys and side streets, trying their best to be inconspicuous. There were too many people looking for them now to just walk around like they had no problems in the world.
"So where to?" Faith asked, breaking the awkward silence.
"The public library."
"God, you guys are really into your libraries," Faith replied, shoving her hands deep into her pockets.
"Only because they're quiet and no one really uses them anymore," Buffy said with a shrug. "No one thinks twice if they see Giles in a library. It's his domain, or something. Besides, there are like a million and one hiding places."
"So we're gonna like, what . . . play hide and seek between the stacks?"
Faith looked completely confused and Buffy couldn't help but chuckle.
"Not exactly. Giles left something there for me. We just have to get it and then we can plan our next move, which ironically is going to be like a giant game of hide and seek."
"Yeah, we hide and the bad guys seek us," Faith grumbled, kicking a pebble so hard that it flew up and cracked a window on the building they were walking past.
And as much as Buffy didn't want to start another argument, she couldn't just let the bait sit there like that and not take a nibble.
"So, seeing as that the Mayor will have people looking for you now too, does that mean you finally admit he's one of the bad guys?"
Faith shrugged, her gaze fixed straight ahead of them as they continued to walk along. "Never said he wasn't. Bad or not, he welcomed me and made me feel wanted. Gave me a place to stay, some money in my pocket; hard to turn down when ya ain't got nothin'."
"You could have stayed with my mom and I," Buffy said, her voice quiet as she scouted the next street for signs of any assassins or goons.
"Ya never asked," Faith said just as quietly, then sighed deeply. "Whatever. Ain't worth breakin' each others' faces over anymore. Got me back and beggin' for your help now, so I guess it all works out for ya in the end."
Buffy could feel Faith closing off again and she couldn't risk it. Not when they were going to be living and working so closely together until this was all figured out. Risking having it slapped away, she decided to reach out an olive branch.
"For what it's worth?" Buffy began, looking over at Faith until Faith reluctantly met her gaze. "I'm happy to have you back with us. And I'm sorry it's under such crummy circumstances, but none of that matters. You're here and we're gonna figure out the rest."
Faith took in a deep breath through her nose and looked back ahead of her as they approached the side of the library. "Sure hope so," she mumbled quietly, then decided to change the subject. "Listen, libraries ain't really my kind of thing and my apartment is just a hop skip and jump down the street."
"No way," Buffy said, preempting what she was sure was coming next. "You're not going back there."
"B, listen. Damn near everything I own is in that place. I'm givin' up everything to do the right thing and save my ass, but I ain't doin' that without even a bag of stuff to take with me."
Buffy could feel herself getting frustrated but she tried to remain calm. She sighed and rubbed her forehead with her fingertips.
"Faith, this isn't a permanent situation. Once the assassins leave, we can go back there and . . ."
"Be serious, B. You and me both know this ain't gonna end all pretty. No way am I gonna be able to stay in Sunnydale. Even if I was, you really think the Mayor would just let me go waltzin' back in there once he realizes for sure that I'm back on Team Buffy?" At Buffy's silence, Faith continued. "I can go in the building next door and get up to the roof, then make my way over to my building. If I keep to the rooftops, no one on the ground will see me."
"Unless they're already in your apartment," Buffy countered.
"I'll be careful," Faith promised.
Buffy sighed again. "You're seriously trying to tell me that a bag of clothes and a pocket full of money is worth your life?"
"For fuck's sake, Buffy," Faith said, losing her cool. "I'm goin' in there and getting some damn clothes and shit, and then I'll meet you in the back alley here in ten minutes. I don't show up? Count your lucky fucking stars."
She started to storm off but Buffy's hand caught her arm and pulled her back a step.
"Fine. If you're so intent on getting your stuff, then we'll go together and I'll play lookout."
"Think again," Faith said and shook her arm free. "No way am I gonna put you in more danger than you already are. Just go and get your stuff from Giles and meet me out back."
She took off without another word, hiking up and over a tall wooden fence before disappearing over the other side. Buffy stood there and waited for a moment before shaking her head, clearly frustrated. Here she was doing everything she could to keep Faith safe and Faith was busy running back to the one place where both the Council and the Mayor knew where to find her.
And what for? A bag of stuff that could easily be replaced.
Completely perplexed and frustrated, Buffy turned and made her way to the side entrance of the library, checking out the street and parking lot before making her way inside.
The library was practically empty like it was on most days, all but one of the tables vacant on the entire first floor. A gray-haired librarian looked up from the front desk and smiled politely before going back to the small pile of books in front of her. Buffy made her way to the wide staircase that led to the second floor and went up it, her fingertips grazing the wooden railing as she went. The entire building smelled of old books and wood polish, though judging by the thin layer of dust covering her fingertips, she knew that the polish smell wasn't exactly fresh.
She walked slowly down a wide walkway, looking at the labels on the rows of shelving as she passed by. When she reached the ‘T' section, she turned down the narrow aisle and moved down it until she found the section she was looking for.
She looked for an obvious disturbance on the shelves but knew that Giles wouldn't leave any obvious evidence that anything on the shelf had been rifled through. She used her fingertip to trace along the books, then smiled and shook her head when she reached a bright red and gold volume of a book about . . . sleighs. Sliding it off the shelf, she let the spine fall open in her palm to reveal a few pieces of paper tucked between the pages.
Buffy didn't even bother to inspect the papers yet. She didn't want to loiter longer than she needed to so she tucked them in her pocket, then gazed past the empty spot where she'd removed the book. Sure enough, there was something wedged against the back of the shelf. She had to remove a few more books to be able to reach the back, but she worked quickly and soon enough had reached what Giles had left for her.
She sighed with relief when she realized that there was a pay-as-you-go cell phone, fully charged and with just one number programmed into the memory. Giles was always a step ahead and she was grateful that he was on their side. Next to the phone was a small beige envelope and when she peeked into it, she saw that it was full of cash.
Obviously Giles was preparing her to run if they couldn't figure out a way to keep Faith safe.
Wait until he found out that the Mayor was going to be after them too.
Buffy took a deep breath and looked down the aisle and to the windows at the side wall, hoping beyond hope that everything was going just as smoothly for Faith. The tight knot in the pit of her stomach made her think that wasn't the case though.
Faith climbed through the window above the small loft, ignoring the broken glass that spilled around her. It wasn't like she was exactly worried about getting her safety deposit back seeing as that she'd never paid for anything there, so she really had no problem breaking the window to get in.
She'd prowled around the rooftop before deciding to go inside, making sure that she couldn't sense or hear anyone inside. Feeling fairly certain that there was no one in there waiting for her, she'd made her way in and began to search around for anyone who might be hidden away. After a brief sweep, she realized that she was luckily alone and quickly began to pack two small bags that she found under her bed.
She filled the bags with as many articles of clothing that she could shove in and even managed to toss in an extra pair of shoes. She didn't have much in the way of actual possessions but she made sure to grab her PlayStation and a few games she'd purchased the week before. Lifting up the pillow from her bed, she reached inside the pillowcase and pulled out a small wad of cash. There was a few hundred dollars there and, though it wasn't much, she figured it could buy her a ticket out of Sunnydale if that's what it all came down to.
Realizing that she needed only one more thing, she quickly moved over to her brand new weapon armoire and pulled out the silver knife that the Mayor had given her as a gift a couple of days before. It was a thing of beauty and no way was she going to leave it behind so that he could give it to some other poor sap to use – probably on her - once he realized she was no longer his go-to girl. She tucked it away inside her leather jacket and stopped in the middle of the apartment, looking around for a few moments.
She didn't have good memories there, per se, but it was still hard to leave. Here she was giving up everything she had so that she could go back to hiding and sleeping wherever she could find someplace to lay. She knew that was better than six feet under in a tiny box, but it was still hard for her to accept. Even more difficult for her to accept was the fact that Buffy and Giles were so willing to help her now.
Shaking her head in disbelief, Faith began to make her way back to the broken window when she heard the phone ring. Every instinct inside of her was screaming at her to run, to just get the hell out of there and never look back. For some reason though, she stopped and picked up the cordless phone and looked down at the caller ID. The number was familiar.
It was the Mayor.
Of course he was looking for her. Between the fact that she hadn't checked in that morning and that the vamp in the bar had made a phone call to the Town Hall, he knew something was up. Faith knew there was two ways she could deal with this: she could ignore the call and bring more attention to herself, or she could answer it and buy some more time. If she could keep the Mayor at bay for just a couple more days, she might survive this after all.
Exhaling loudly, she brought the phone to her ear and hit the power button.
"Faithy? Is that you?"
"Yeah, boss. What's the what?"
"Manners, young lady. Always greet your caller with a pleasant hello."
"Sorry," she mumbled. "Uhh, hello."
"No reason to be sorry, dear. Unless there's something you need to tell me." He waited for Faith to reply, obviously aware of the fact that something was amiss with his slayer.
"Nope, nothing to report. Got caught up at Willy's this morning. Just got in."
"You know, it's funny you should mention Willy's," he began but Faith cut him off.
"Before ya get into it, yeah – I ran into B. She followed me in and gave me a hard time. She dusted your boy; sorry ‘bout that but I had other shit to deal with," she said, trying to cover all her bases.
There was a long pause on the other end of the line and Faith felt herself begin to sweat. Silence wasn't good, especially from Richard Wilkins III. The guy could talk your ear off twenty-four hours a day.
"Forgive me if I sound a little, well, skeptical, but I find it hard to believe that Buffy Summers killed one of my men but didn't lay a hand on my Faith."
"She ain't gonna hurt me, boss. She's a white hat," Faith said, finding it hard to swallow her lies.
"So you're still my number one girl?" he asked, his voice taking on its usual jovial tone.
Faith couldn't help but smile wryly. "Yeah, boss."
"Good. Excellent! I say we celebrate. There's a professor at the university that's getting a little bit too close to some history that could put a real damper on my plans. Are you feeling up to a little murder?"
Faith's stomach instantly clenched. She'd never taken a life on purpose; hell, she'd barely made it through when she'd accidentally killed Finch. Look where it had led her! How could he ask her to do this? How could he . . .
And then it dawned on Faith, clear and simple.
It was a test. He was testing her loyalty. If she did it, he'd know she was still on his side. If she didn't, he'd have her killed. After a betrayal like this, he might even do it himself. She couldn't say no; he'd know something was up. She couldn't have him coming after her when Buffy was so intent on sticking to her side.
Knowing that she'd have to deal with the consequences later, Faith grabbed a pen from the phone stand and took a deep breath.
"Just give me the address and I'll take care of it," she said.
One of the Council assassins sat with a black headset on, scribbling on a piece of paper as he listened intently. After a few seconds, he took the headset off and turned back to face the other two assassins, showing them the small scrap of paper that had an address scrawled on it.
"Well now we know where she'll be," he said.
The tallest of the three men took the paper and looked down at it with a smile.
"Then all we have to do is bide our time and she'll come to us."
The Mayor hung up the phone and rested back in his chair with both arms behind his head, a perfect picture of relaxation.
"That Summers girl has definitely gotten to her," he pondered aloud, spinning around to face two vampires who were careful to avoid the open blinds across the room. "I want someone watching over the good ol' professor's building night and day. I'm to be informed if and when she shows up. Make sure your boys don't man-handle her. I want my Faithy unharmed unless I give the order."
"Yes, boss," the vampires said before quickly exiting into the hallway.
The Mayor spun back around in his chair and faced away from the door, looking up at the dress bag that was hanging on a hook near the window. It was supposed to be a gift. The hem of a flowered sundress hung past the bottom of the bag and he frowned unhappily.
"Well . . . darn."
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