Previously on Walk the Line:
Slowly, Faith made her way toward the closed door of the room, her stake in one hand and Andrew still clinging tightly to the other. As quietly as possible, she pushed the door back to see a disheveled kitchen with lots of cupboards, a nice long countertop, and a very angry looking Anya sticking part way through it as if she wasn't solid.
Faith and Andrew looked at her with wide eyes.
"Well, are you both going to stand there gawking or are you going to give me a hand?"
Andrew leaned in closer to Faith, both unable to take their gaze away from the spectacle before them.
"I think the exhaustion from walking all day in the desert heat may be taking its toll on me," he said in a hushed tone, blinking his eyes hard. "Maybe this is just a mirage, and maybe a jelly donut and glass of cool skim milk would make me feel better."
"You'd think that surviving a particularly violent and deadly apocalypse would make a certain someone grow a pair," Anya said as she looked at Andrew, still struggling to free herself from the confines of the rotted countertop.
Faith looked from Anya to Andrew, who was clinging tightly to her bicep.
"I can't be sure on this, but I don't think that mirages insult people," Faith said before pulling Andrew's fingers free from their death grip around her arm.
Andrew merely wrapped his arms around himself, his gaze still focused on Anya.
"You'd be surprised. I've received insults from the oddest of places. Getting one from the Anya-mirage almost makes me feel nostalgic of times passed," he explained, letting one of his hands wander to an old broomstick that rested up against the dilapidated wall.
"I'm not a mirage," Anya half-heartedly defended as she continued to wriggle around in the countertop.
"The kid actually has a point," Faith said after a moment, turning her full attention to Anya. Slayer mode was in full effect. "I've seen stranger things. The Mayor had a late-night visit with me in B's bedroom not too long ago. Couldn't touch him even if I'd wanted to."
"Can we focus less on your ventures into sexual deviance with the elderly and more on getting me out of this counter? I . . ." Anya said, but paused as a slight wooshing noise sounded throughout the room. She looked from Faith to Andrew, who was busy poking the broomstick through her non-corporeal form. "May I help you?!" She gasped, offended and frustrated.
Andrew stopped waving the broomstick around and rested it back against the wall, dusting his hands off on his jacket as he looked to Faith again.
"See?" He said, a smug look on his face. "Mirage."
"Or possibly The First," Faith said, her gaze still fixed on Anya, hardness filling her soft brown eyes.
"Oh, sweet leaping Jesus," Anya said exasperatedly. "I'm not a mirage, and I'm certainly not The First. He's off in some vacant corner of the universe with his tail between his non-existent legs, licking his wounds. I think it's safe to say that we won't be hearing from him for a while."
"Then what are you?" Faith cut in quickly, unwilling to play any games with what could be a demon or worse. "We all saw you back in that high school, dead as a doornail, and I'm pretty sure zombies can't afford airfare, so . . ." Faith trailed off, waiting for Anya to explain, but Anya just looked back at her in frustration. "This is where you tell me who you are and what you're doing in my kitchen."
Anya was about to speak, but instead looked around the decrepit room, a look of mock horror on her face.
"This is your kitchen, Faith? And here I was thinking you had better taste than that." At Faith's glare, Anya rolled her eyes and continued. "I'm not a mirage, and I wouldn't be caught dead as a zombie. I can barely eat a steak without this horrible human conscience playing up on me. I'm a ghost, or as I prefer to be called -- living impaired."
"And why are you here?" Faith asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
"I'm your liaison to the Powers That Be," Anya stated matter-of-factly.
"No, why are you here?" Faith asked again, indicating their surroundings. "In my cupboards," she added with a half-grin.
"That's a perfectly logical question, to which I respond . . ." Anya paused and furrowed her brow, "well, I honestly don't know. One minute I'm sunning myself on a big fluffy cloud, and the next I'm stood here waist deep in rotting particle board, hoping that a giant rat doesn't come along and eat my arm."
"Actually, we're in Nevada," Andrew interrupted. "I'd be much more concerned about snakes and reptiles."
"Well that's much more reassuring!" Anya griped as she looked down nervously. "May I please leave the cupboard now?"
Faith decided to trust what truly appeared to be Anya -- or some crazy form of her -- for the moment and stepped forward, offering her a helping hand. The help was all for naught though, as Faith's hand passed through Anya just as the broom had a few moments before.
"Yeah, about that . . ." Faith began, pulling back her hand.
"Oh, penis," Anya said with a sigh. She struggled a few more times before closing her eyes and concentrating, though on what Faith and Andrew weren't certain.
Before they could ask what she was doing, Anya shimmered out of the cupboard and into a thousand little glittery particles that dissipated into the dusty atmosphere. Moments later, a large clatter was heard below them.
"Ack, a lizard!" Anya screeched from the previously undiscovered basement.
Faith stood and looked down at the dirty floor boards with an eyebrow raised while Andrew looked over at her and shrugged.
"At least she's out of the cupboard."
Faith managed to turn over a couple of pieces of old furniture while Anya practiced shimmering up to the main floor with Andrew cheering her on. She looked around and gauged the building, making notes of everything that needed to be done to make it habitable.
All of the old furniture, shelving, debris, and god knew what else needed to be removed. The walls needed to be scrubbed from ceiling to floor and some dry-walling probably needed to be done on the areas that were punched through with the rafters exposed. A few coats of paint, some new wiring and lighting, and a whole lot of new furniture and some serious TLC could actually make it a livable place.
"Andrew," Faith called out. "I'm gonna need you to get on the horn and find out who owns this property and how much it's listed for. With the state that it's in, I'm hopin' we're gonna get the bargain to end all bargains."
Andrew looked distastefully around the dusky room, a grimace on his face.
"Are we sure that this is the place?" he asked.
"Completely," Faith stated confidently. "I was scoping it out while you were busy with the rah-rah sis boom bah's. There's four bedrooms upstairs, a common living space, an office, a den, and a full kitchen and bath. You know how much we'd have to pay for this if it was on the good side of town?"
"But I'm sure that the places on the good side of town have solid walls and sunlight," he griped. "Also a point is that they're on the actual good side of town."
"It's not up for discussion, okay? You don't like it, you're welcome to be on your merry way at any time."
"Fine," Andrew stated, pulling out his cell phone. "But let it be known that I'm doing this under protest. I still think the roof shed could be nice."
He made his way back into the kitchen for some quiet, careful not to touch anything along the way.
"You could hide his body in that god-awful basement and no one would ever know," Anya stated casually as she practiced leaning against a wall, trying her best not to fall through it.
"Yeah, but I'd know. He'd start to get all ripe after a while and I'd have to move again," Faith answered back just as casually as she took a seat on an old wooden chair she'd turned upright a few minutes before. "So tell me," she began, "how's a ghost like you end up with an ex-con like me?"
"Short straw, I guess," Anya said as she made her way over. "Wait, I'm probably supposed to feign happiness. Just luck, I guess!" she changed her tone quickly.
It was lost on Faith.
"You here to be my babysitter? Make sure big bad Faith doesn't go all psycho and start killing people again?" Faith asked almost bitterly.
"Your perceptiveness is sorely lacking. I've already told you that I'm your liaison to the Powers That Be. I'm not sure what the point is yet, and I'm still rattled by the giant man-eating lizard, but I'm fairly certain that they think you're on the right path. They told me to keep you on it and to let you know that they're on your side."
"But why?" Faith asked, narrowing her eyes. "They weren't big with the helping me out when I was having a crisis of mental sanity a couple years back. I mean, don't get me wrong -- I'm hella glad that they seem to be on Team Faith; I just don't know why they're bettin' on me now."
Anya tried her best to sit down on the chair next to Faith, but she started to slip through it so she shimmered out at the very last moment. Faith watched as she appeared back in the room in a cloud of shimmering light.
"Dammit," Anya grumbled. "Maybe they finally realized that they need someone who's going to continue fighting the good fight, and with Buffy retired, you're their girl now."
Faith thought about it for a few moments. Sure, she could be offended by the fact that she was runner up to Buffy Summers yet again, but more than that she felt grateful for being given the opportunity to set things right.
"Guess I should be flattered to be chosen next in line after B. She's kinda amazing at the slayer stuff, at least when she's not busy trying to kick my ass," she said with a quiet chuckle.
"Yes, well, whatever their reasoning, the Powers are backing you. You've chosen your own path now and they're thrilled with your decision. I . . ." Anya began, but stopped and clamped her hands over her ears. "What the hell is that?" she yelled.
Faith raised an eyebrow and looked around the silent room, then back at Anya.
"What the hell is what?" she asked.
"The chiming and church bells and harps! It's awful, please make it stop!"
Even with her slayer hearing, Faith wasn't picking up on the faintest of sounds except those of Andrew wheeling and dealing with a real estate agent via his cell phone.
"Think it's all in your head, An," Faith said, watching as Anya became more and more frustrated. "Maybe it's like the Bat signal."
"Perfect. First lizards, now bats. Can't a dead girl get a break here?!" she yelled, looking up towards the ceiling. "I find this highly unamusing!" She closed her eyes and concentrated and was gone in a mist of shimmering light once again.
"My! People come and go so quickly here!" Andrew said excitedly as he walked back into the room just as Anya disappeared. "I've always wanted an opportunity to say that."
"Tell me you didn't just quote the Wizard of Oz," Faith said evenly.
"I . . . didn't. Soooo, what info did Anya give you?" he asked, changing the topic quickly.
Faith narrowed her eyes at him for a moment before chuckling softly and shaking her head.
"Not much besides the fact that the basement is a good place to hide a body." At Andrew's slight step back, she continued. "She doesn't know much more than we do. Guess the Powers That Be decided they like my decision to keep on fighting the fight, so they sent me Anya as a liaison."
Andrew thought about it for a moment.
"If they wanted to really help, they could have sent a mystical artifact that smites evil on contact." He paused, a goofy smile appearing on his face. "That would've been cool."
"Yeah, well I got Anya instead. She doesn't smite evil but she can make a mean piece of toast. Still, you keep an eye out for that artifact though and let me know if you find one, got it Lara Croft?"
"It's a deal," Andrew stated with a proud smile, holding out his hand for Faith to shake.
He pulled it back quickly, however, as a flash of light appeared between them and a frantic Anya materialized. She did her best to steady herself but stumbled backward and landed partway through the dusty old couch.
"You should see if that whole shimmering deal comes with a manual," Faith suggested with a grin.
"There are sarcastic comments to be made, but they'll have to wait until later," Anya began as she struggled to stand. "The Powers . . . they were calling me, hence the annoying orchestra in my head. There's a girl in trouble, a slayer. The Council sent one of their representatives to Las Vegas to retrieve her and bring her to Los Angeles, but they were ambushed at her house and they're missing."
Faith sat forward as soon as she heard the last part. A Council representative. Giles was rebuilding the council nearly from scratch. If he had someone helping him now, it was someone already involved in the slaying game. Likely someone she knew.
Hell, maybe Buffy had changed her mind and decided to stay in the game, just doing something less hands-on than actually slaying.
"Who? Who did they send?" Faith asked.
Anya looked Faith directly in the eyes and momentarily stopped her attempts to free herself from the couch.
"Fuck," Faith grumbled as she stood up. "Dude nearly died like three times in the hospital and they're already throwing him into the game? Is Giles really that desperate for help? What the fuck is B thinking about retiring right now?"
"All good questions, but this isn't about Buffy or Robin, this is about Sara. She's a very special girl, Faith. She has psychic abilities in addition to her new slayer powers. The Powers think that a Biyalek demon clan has abducted them so they can take advantage of her power and abilities."
"Where is she?"
"Well, duh, she's missing. They'd like you to find her." Anya said matter-of-factly.
Faith tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes at Anya.
"Where was she in Vegas before she went missing? I need a starting point, something to go on."
"Henderson, about twenty-five minutes from here. They knocked her parents out and when they came to, their house was ransacked and Sara and Robin were gone. They've already notified the police but we need someone aware of the situation to go and find them."
"I'm on it," Faith said as she turned around toward the door. "Andrew, get on the phone with Giles and find out everything you can. Call me on my cell when you get an actual address, I'm gonna make my way in that direction."
"Okay," Andrew said with a nod. "But . . . how are you going to get there?"
Faith stopped mid-step and dropped her shoulders.
"Shit," she said. "Think cabs come to this part of town at this time of day?"
"I don't think they come to this part of town at any time of day," Andrew mumbled under his breath.
"I can help," Anya chimed in from her spot within the couch. "I can open a portal. Or, at least I've been told that I can. It's all very new."
"But you've never tried it before?" Faith said as she turned and walked back into the room.
"Technically, no. But I think I'm getting very good at the shimmering. Portal jumping should be a piece of cake."
Anya's enthusiasm was lost on a skeptical Faith who raised an eyebrow and looked down at Anya's very non-corporeal body sticking partway through the couch.
"Okay, okay!" Anya exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air. "I suck at the shimmering and I highly doubt the portal jumping would go without a hitch. You could end up in Siberia or with your arm attached to your ass."
"I'd have a genuine problem with anything attached to my ass," Faith added.
"And I don't blame you for that. It's a lovely ass," Anya stated with a sympathetic nod. "Maybe I'm just not cut out for this job. The Powers That Be should send you a replacement liaison. A helper monkey or something. I'm much better at jobs that involve money and counting money."
As much as Faith was having doubts about Anya and her ability to safely get her damn near anywhere, Anya had struck a chord within her when she began talking about replacements. Way back when, Faith was supposed to be a replacement. Kendra wasn't supposed to die. Maybe Kendra would have done a better job at fighting the good fight.
She decided that Anya deserved a chance to prove herself.
"Well, forget about money for now and focus on gettin' up. I've gotta get to Sara and Wood and you're the only way that's gonna happen," Faith stated firmly.
"No pressure, right?" Anya asked sarcastically as she finally managed to struggle free from the couch. Standing on wobbly legs, she came face to face with Faith. "Why do you have faith in me all of the sudden?" she asked.
Faith simply shrugged.
"Powers picked you for a reason. And besides, if I grow an arm from my ass, it's just one more that I can beat up the bad guys with, right?"
"Your enthusiasm is overwhelming," Anya said, gathering her senses. "But if anything goes wrong, I don't want any threats made my way. Corporeal or not, it's not pleasant to be threatened by a slayer."
"Deal," Faith said, readying herself for whatever might happen.
Anya closed her eyes and held out her hand, her face scrunched up in concentration. Nothing happened for several seconds and Faith was pretty sure that it was going to be a bust, but that's when she noticed a swirling light start to form across the room.
"Is it working?" Anya asked, her eyes still closed.
"Yup, keep it up," Faith replied.
A few short moments later, the portal was fully open and swirling, ready to do its job. Andrew stepped forward, ready to go with Faith, but he was held back with a firm hand on his chest.
"Nuh-uh, not this time," Faith said. "I need you to stay here and call Giles like I asked. The more info we have, the better. I'll be in contact."
Andrew looked slightly disappointed at being left out of the action yet again, but he knew better than to question Faith when she was in slayer mode.
"You ready?" Faith asked, looking over at Anya.
"Oh sure, this is my punishment. Make me go through my own portal of the unknown," Anya griped.
"Fair's fair," Faith said with a grin. "Let's go."
Anya and Faith approached the portal with caution before stepping through it, eyes clenched tightly. They came stumbling out through the other side, Faith landing in a heap in a small flowerbed while Anya landed gracefully this time.
Faith began to stand up but suddenly found herself on her knees, clutching her stomach as she vomited loudly behind a small shrub.
Anya looked on with distaste and even took a step back as Faith stood up, wiping her mouth with the back of her sleeve.
"Never again," Faith grumbled, trying to get her bearings straight. She peeked over her shoulder and down at her ass, relieved to see that there was no arm or other appendage attached there.
"Be happy that we're not in Siberia. I think we're actually at the right place and it only cost us your lunch." Anya looked behind the small shrub. "And dinner. Jesus, Faith, how much can one woman eat?"
Faith ignored Anya's question as she surveyed the small ranch house, looking for confirmation that they were in the right place.
"How do we know that this is her house?" Faith asked, brows furrowed.
"I'd guess by the frantic looking parents being questioned by the nice police officer," Anya stated the obvious as she looked toward the front yard from the back of the house.
Faith followed Anya's gaze and saw two Las Vegas Metro cars with two officers searching the front yard while another two talked to Sara's parents. She crept back into the darkness of the back yard, hoping that their entrance hadn't been noticed.
"Look for clues before they make their way back here," Anya began. "Willow made your record disappear so you have no reason to hide."
"Force of habit," Faith said evenly as she stood up straight and started looking around.
Immediately she noticed marks in the grass just next to the stone patio. There were two lines -- likely from heels being dragged -- and they led out back through a fence. She followed the trail carefully, ignoring Anya's attempts at small talk.
When she walked through the gate and into the attached alley, she heard something faintly. She focused her hearing, away from Anya's voice, away from the noise of the police radios out front, away from the sound of a truck passing by on the next street over. That's when she realized it was breathing. Labored, shallow breathing. Someone was hiding behind the garbage cans ten steps away from her.
Reaching into her jacket, she pulled out a sharpened stake and gripped it firmly in her hand, her jaw clenched tightly. She held up her hand to Anya who got the idea and stopped her rambling.
Slowly but surely, Faith approached the plastic bins and held her breath, ready to find out just who was hiding behind them. She exhaled loudly as she saw a pair of scared brown eyes looking up at her from a seated position.
"Fuck!" she exclaimed loudly as she looked down at Robin, barely conscious with blood running out the corner of his mouth and from a large gash across his abdomen.
"Hey," Robin said weakly, immediately wincing and clutching his stomach.
"What happened?" Faith asked, falling to her knees to check him over.
"I lost the girl," he mumbled. "Demons, Biyaleks . . . too many. Sara ran, I fought them . . . they got her." He started to close his eyes, but Faith grabbed his face and made him look at her.
"Where did they take her?"
Just as Robin was straining to answer her, Faith's cell phone rang from inside her jacket. She pulled it out and answered it quickly, hoping not to draw the attention of the cops out front.
"It's Andrew. Mr. Giles says she's at 132 Fort Stanwick Road and that Robin hasn't checked in for the last three hours."
"Yeah, I'm here and I found him. He's hurt. Second we hang up, you get on the phone and send an ambulance here. There are cops out front so I'm gonna sneak out the back way. The Biyalek's got the girl and I can't stick around here. Did Giles give any information about the demons or where I can find them?" Faith asked.
"The coven can't pinpoint their hive exactly, but they have it narrowed down to a small warehouse district in the old section of Vegas. They like to stay near humans so they can, well . . . eat them."
"Fantastic," Faith grumbled. "The girl's been abducted by cannibalistic demons that are gonna steal her powers and chow down afterwards. Any other info?"
"No," Andrew answered quickly. "Except that Mr. Giles is on his way and should be here in a few hours."
"What? Why?" Faith asked, confused. "I don't need a babysitter. Call him back and tell him I'm on it and not to get his tweed underwear all bunched up. I'll be in touch."
She quickly closed her cell phone and placed it back in her pocket before turning to face Robin again.
"Quit losing so much blood, you're gonna be pale as me soon enough," Faith attempted to joke, but her smile instantly faded when she saw just how badly he was doing. "Hey, an ambulance is on its way. You're gonna be right as rain."
Robin smiled weakly, trying his best not to pass out.
"Pretty sure I've heard that whole song and dance before," he quipped. "Are you going?"
Faith nodded her response.
"I've gotta find Sara before they do anything to her. She's important."
"I get it," Robin said. "Go fast, she's been gone a while."
Faith nodded again and squeezed his hand before standing up and facing Anya.
"I need another portal." When Anya opened her mouth to speak, Faith cut her off. "I know I said never again, and I mean it. Just as soon as I get a car. But for now, I need you to get me to that warehouse district."
"I'll get you as close to them as I can," Anya said, oddly serious and without any snarky comments. She closed her eyes and focused again, the portal appearing much quicker this time around.
"You're gettin' better at this," Faith commented with a small smile.
"Yes, I am. Maybe we can discuss a wage for my services." As Anya finished speaking, she covered her ears and looked up to the sky as the loud chorus sounded in her head again. "Fine! No wages!"
Faith shook her head and walked toward the portal, stopping only when she noticed Anya following her.
"I need you to stay here with Robin until the ambulance gets here. If he takes a turn for the worse, get in touch with Andrew."
With that said, she turned around and walked through the portal, leaving Anya standing there with a frustrated look on her face.
"Yes, I'll just stay here with the bleeding man that I can't touch or help in any way," she yelled to the now closing portal. "I'm sure that Verizon works via ghostly telepathy. Don't worry, it's fine!"
She turned back and walked towards Robin, stopping along the way when she saw something silver and shiny on the ground.
"A nickel," she exclaimed happily and bent down to pick it up. When her fingers passed through the small coin again and again, she grumbled, "This is just starting to get ridiculous now."
Faith landed with a loud thud in the middle of an alley, her fall cushioned by a heap of packing boxes. She rolled to her side and off of them just in time to lose a bit more of her lunch. And dinner.
Standing up with one arm clutching her stomach and the other wiping over her mouth, she grumbled,
She made her way through the warehouse and into a nearby alley as quietly as she could, focusing her slayer senses on anything that wasn't quite human. There were a couple rats scampering around a makeshift shelter made by a homeless person. When she noticed that the shelter -- empty of everything but a few seemingly out of place gallons of water -- showed slight signs of a struggle, she knew she was in the right neighborhood.
The demons had made the bum into a midnight snack.
Staring at the shelter with a hint of regret, Faith was pulled from her thoughts by a loud ruckus in one of the nearby warehouses. She made her way down the alley and toward the noise, and also toward the familiar tingle in the back of her neck.
The warehouse before her was large and dilapidated. It had sheet metal walls painted brown with a row of broken windows high up on the north side. She climbed onto a dumpster and peeked through the windows, careful to stay hidden in the shadows.
Inside she saw about eight or nine Biyalek demons wearing robes, standing in a half circle around a large table. A young girl, about 17 or 18, was strapped down to the table and looked to be heavily sedated or plain out cold. The demons looked on and laughed in the most creepy way that Faith could imagine.
From a room off to the side, a demon wearing a different robe from the rest approached, carrying a large knife and a glass jar. He put the items down on the table and pulled a penlight from within his robe. Pulling back the girl's eyelids, he shone the light into her eyes and smiled, obviously happy with her sedate condition.
Faith looked down at her watch and noticed that it was nearly midnight -- high time for any ritual to be performed. She hopped down from her perch and started looking for a way to get into the warehouse.
She didn't know what she was going to do once she got in there, but she knew she only had about three minutes by her watch to figure it all out.
When she reached a door shut tight by a chain, she grabbed the chain and pulled and twisted at it, making the steel loops crack under pressure. Just as she went to remove it from the handle, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned back just in time to get backhanded across the face, sending her flying into the side of the shoddy metal building.
The walls shook and creaked, no doubt catching the attention of the demons within. Faith didn't have time to worry about that, though; a particularly buff Biyalek demon charged at her, kicking her in the side of the head and disorienting her. As she lay struggling on the ground, he picked her up by the front of her shirt and held her high in the air as she helplessly struggled.
"I smelled you before you even approached the door, Slayer," he grunted, leering dangerously at her.
"I smelled you back at the airport," she quipped. "Fuck man, I know you're a demon, but does that mean you can't shower?"
The demon slammed her back against the wall, jarring her into silence.
"Joke all you wish. Once we harness the power of the slayer, we'll be able to move like you, and once we harness her psychic power, we'll be able to think like you. We'll always be a step ahead, slayer. You and your army of girls will become obsolete."
"Fuck you," Faith grunted. When the demon pulled her from the wall, ready to slam her back into it again, she spat in his face.
Much to her surprise, the demon dropped her to the ground and clutched his face with both hands as he howled in pain.
Faith smiled as a sudden realization hit her. Biyalek demons. Her first Watcher had told her about them. Arid dwellers. Flesh eaters. And painfully allergic to water and non-blood liquids.
Struggling to her feet, Faith ran back to the makeshift shelter. She grabbed a gallon of water and ripped off the top, hurling backwards just in time to hit the stumbling demon. The water bottle exploded on contact with the force that she threw it, dousing the demon's entire head and chest. He fell to the ground as a sizzling sound filled the air, letting Faith know that her assumptions had been correct.
She glanced down at her watch and noticed that she had about one minute left to get in the warehouse and take care of the demons. It didn't matter that she had enhanced speed and agility; there was no way she could drag all of those gallons of water into the warehouse on time.
Instead, Faith ran back to the building and hopped up on the dumpster again. Peeking into the building, she got an idea. She lifted herself up and punched out the remaining jagged glass, then hopped into the warehouse. The demons within immediately began to scramble around looking for a way up to her, but she found what she was looking for before they could reach her.
Digging deep in her pocket, she pulled out a small metal lighter that she'd stolen from some guy at the Bronze years before and flicked it open, igniting a small orange flame.
She looked down at the angry demons and flipped them off with a huge smile on her face as she held the lighter up to the sprinkler system. Immediately, large rivulets of water began to cascade down from the dozens of sprinkler heads, dousing the entire floor space of the warehouse. The demons howled in pain, trying their best to find shelter or hide under their robes, but there was no use. There was nowhere to hide.
Faith made her way down the old wooden scaffolding and toward the center of the room where Sara was stirring lightly as the water rained down upon her. She stepped over the bodies of the dead and dying demons, kicking them along the way. When she finally reached the table, she found a pair of the brightest blue eyes staring up at her, alarmed.
"Where am I?" Sara asked groggily.
"You're safe," Faith answered as she tore at the straps holding the girl down.
Sara sat up and wiped the water from her eyes, immediately noticing the bodies of the demons around them.
"I don't feel very safe," she said, wrapping her arms around her now soaking wet body.
"Trust me, you're a whole lot safer than you were about five minutes ago."
Sara tilted her head to the side, staring Faith in the eyes.
"You're her," she said quietly.
"If by ‘her' you mean the slayer, you're half way right. But I'm not Buffy. I'm the replacement."
Sara smiled softly. "Not her. You're the one that's going to save us."
Faith raised an eyebrow at the girl.
"Now you defo got the wrong slayer. Buffy's the one that saves the day, not me."
Sara did her best to stand up from the table, but her legs were still shaky from the sedatives. Faith grabbed onto her and held her up with an arm around her waist.
"I mean you, Faith. Be strong. He's old and it won't be easy, but this is what you're meant to do."
Faith looked genuinely confused now. Surely this girl was just rambling on due to some side effect of the drugs. But then . . . how had she known her name? And who the hell was this old guy she was talking about?
"Come on," Faith said, shaking her head and leading them toward the door. "We've gotta call your ma and dad and get you to a hospital, and I've got a friend to check up on."
"We never wanted all of this for her," Sara's dad Maury said as he sat on the edge of her hospital bed holding her hand.
"Daddy, I'm fine," Sara said, embarrassed.
Faith just watched with a smile.
"When she was seven years old we put her in therapy because she would speak of things she couldn't have ever known," Sara's mother Alice chimed in. "We didn't believe her when she'd tell us things, but then they started happening and we knew that we had a situation on our hands."
"And then a couple of weeks ago I accidentally kicked a hole in the wall when I was messing around with my best friend Jamie," Sara added with a smile that was half proud. "Next thing we know, Mr. Giles called and said he'd be sending a representative out to speak with us about the situation. We all know how that one ended," she finished as she looked down at the IV in her hand.
"Yeah, but it all worked out in the end. Usually does for the good guys," Faith smiled. "Robin's in a room down the hall and he's gonna be fine, Giles is here and is lookin' forward to chattin' your ears off, your slayer healing is fixing you up like new, and me? Well . . . it's just another day at the office."
"Are your days always this eventful?" Maury asked with a chuckle.
"Sometimes. That's just cos I like to be my own boss. Thing about Giles though? He's got a good deal in the works. If Sara wants to go and learn about her abilities with other girls like her, she'll never be alone. I spent a lot of time alone when I was first called and . . . I dunno, was fun at first but I think it did more harm than good."
Her words weren't lost on Maury and Alice, who looked from her down to their daughter.
"Well, whatever you went through, I'd say it was worth it. You saved our little girl," Maury explained, looking back to Faith with appreciation. "Thank you, for everything."
Faith was overcome with a feeling that she couldn't quite put her finger on. She'd never been the one to save the day before. To save the girl. She wasn't used to praise and she wasn't sure that she liked it, but she sure didn't mind not being the screw-up for once.
Offering one last smile to the family, she stood up and excused herself, but not before giving Sara her personal number in case she ever had any questions or just needed to talk.
It wasn't something she'd ever done before, but she was more than happy to offer it up this time.
When she walked out into the hallway, she found Giles stood with his back resting against the wall, a small smile on his face. How much he'd heard, she wasn't sure, but she was hoping that she wasn't about to get a pity party for her small revelation about her earlier years.
"They're all yours, G-man. I'm gonna go check up on Wood and you try not to bore them to tears with that whole ‘one girl in all the world' mumbo jumbo."
"I'm afraid that speech is a bit outdated," he quipped.
"Maybe a little," Faith said with a grin. "After I know he's okay, I'm gonna hitch a cab back. Got lotsa stuff to take care of."
"Yes, I'd say that you do. I met Andrew at your new . . . establishment . . . and he begged me to make you reconsider your pending purchase."
"Yeah, that ain't gonna happen. Once I get it fixed up it's gonna be good. Nothing more than I need, yunno?" Faith said as she leaned back against the wall next to Giles, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Yes, I do know," Giles said, crossing his arms over his chest in a similar gesture. "It's also why the Council has decided to complete the purchase post haste so that you can get started in your . . . erm, journey, is it?"
Faith lowered her head at that and stood there silently for a few moments as Giles waited for some type of response, good or bad. He knew that Faith didn't take kindly to unexpected and un-requested help. He was ready to deal with that.
"I don't need a babysitter, Giles, and I don't need people sticking their noses in places they don't need to be. I've got a handle on things, and I . . ."
"I'm quite aware that you do, Faith, and I assure you that this isn't an attempt to snoop upon your business. The Council, previously, has always done its best to accommodate its slayers. In regards to you, they failed miserably. It's something that haunted them for their duration. In re-creating the Council, I've decided that there are certain wrongs that we need to right. I'm aware that it may seem like a bribe or hush money, but that's not our intention. We're asking nothing of you. We . . . I'd just like . . ."
Giles began to falter, anxiously taking off his glasses to clean them with his handkerchief. Faith interrupted him though, hoping to stop the moment from becoming any more awkward than it already was.
"Hey, I get it," she said, holding up her hands. "Just trying to help. And . . . thanks, I guess. Just . . . don't get used to it, yeah?"
She offered him a small smile so that he knew she was okay with it.
"I won't make it a habit," he said with a smile of his own.
Giles agreed to give Faith a ride back to her place on his way back to California, which made Faith quite happy knowing that he wasn't going to stick around to watch over her. She liked Giles, she did. She just didn't want him getting used to sticking around.
Then she'd realized something. California? Wasn't he supposed to be in England with most of the other Scoobies?
Giles explained that while Council Headquarters would remain in England, he had people there that were more than qualified to run the operation. His plan all along had been to come back to the states and run several slayer bases from there. He was staying in California now, though he imagined he'd end up in Cleveland once the primary base of slayers was established there.
And of course, Buffy couldn't be that far away from the action, especially once Giles had returned. She'd packed her and Dawn's bags and headed back to the US, temporarily holing up in Los Angeles with Giles. Though she remained dedicated to retiring from the slayer action, slaying was in her blood. If she wasn't going to be out doing her job, the least she could do was teach and help others.
Xander even managed to make Los Angeles his base of operations even though he was traveling to new slayers more often than not.
Faith guessed that when it really came down to it, the Scooby gang just couldn't bear to part from one another.
Making her way down the long hospital corridor, Faith watched the room numbers pass by until she reached Robin's room. She gave an almost inaudible knock on the door before peeking her head in.
"Hey," she said quietly when she saw Robin awake and flicking through the TV channels.
"Hey," he said back, his face instantly lighting up as he watched her walk in and plop down on the chair next to the bed. "Wasn't sure you'd stop by. Know how much you hate hospitals after the last time."
"Yeah, well . . . sucked watching you die and come back all those times. Think maybe I'm traumatized or something," Faith winked and kicked her feet up on the side of the bed, the perfect picture of relaxation.
"Yeah, you're traumatized," he said as he tried to sit up in the bed, wincing as he felt his stitches pulling.
"Easy, buddy," Faith said and sat forward with her legs back on the floor. "You've got a few days at least before they release you. Just sit back, relax, and let your body heal properly this time. And shit, no more field trips for you until you're good and healed. I mean it this time, yo."
Robin smiled and rested his head back on the lumpy hospital pillow.
"I think I could use some of that patented Faith healing," he quipped, but stared directly into her eyes when he said it.
Faith understood what he meant, but she didn't let on that she did.
"You want me to call a priest or a mojo man or something?"
Robin laughed but winced immediately. Faith gave him a friendly smile, but nothing more than that.
Faith knew she'd always made stupid decisions, especially when it came to her sex life. Back in Sunnydale when they got groiny together, she wasn't thinking that he was a guy she could end up with. She was thinking that she was about to die and wanted to spend her last few hours doing something she'd always enjoyed.
She figured that Robin was on the same page, but then he started talking about dates and proving her wrong and she knew that she'd made a mistake. Nothing about Robin screamed one night stand, and he certainly didn't seem to accept that it was anything less than a possible starting point for a relationship together.
There was no future for them as a couple, Faith knew that. She liked Robin. She appreciated him and he made her laugh. They could be great friends if he was willing to accept it, but her heart was elsewhere. She'd locked it away, knowing fully well that there was only ever one person that had had it.
And that person was totally not making with the reciprocation.
Still, she didn't want to hurt Robin's feelings, so she tried the friendly approach.
"I dunno, Mr. Principal. I'm trying this whole new thing where I focus on the important stuff. Not that you're not important, but . . . yeah. You need to get better, and I need to focus on finding out who I am and learning to like whoever that is."
Robin's smile faltered for a moment, but he quickly recovered.
"I get it," he began. "You still don't think there are any good guys out there. You're used to the same old song and dance, get some get gone. I'm gonna show you different. Mark my word."
Faith smiled politely but looked down at her hands.
"You don't need to show me anything other than what it's like to have a good friend. That's all I want from you, Rob. Serious, yeah?"
She looked back up at him, only to find him smiling knowingly.
"Okay," he said. "But I'm not giving up."
Faith merely shook her head and chuckled, unwilling to be any more direct with him in his current condition. They'd have a talk somewhere down the line. Until then, she'd let him think whatever made him happy.
Stealing the remote from his hand, she put her feet back up on the bed and began flicking through the channels.
"So, anything good on this thing?"
Robin groaned. "Nothing but soap operas and talk shows."
"Ouch," Faith winced. "Who knows. Maybe we'll luck out and Montel will have a show about babydaddy's."
She flicked over to the proper channel and sure enough, Mr. Montel Williams was holding an envelope with the ever-elusive results of a paternity test in his hands.
"Score," Faith said with a grin. "I'll bet you twenty bucks none of those three are the babydaddy, and an extra ten if the chick runs off stage crying."
"Oh, you're on."
"Honey, I'm home," Faith called out as she walked into the ramshackle building she was now calling home.
Her ride back with Giles had been short and sweet, just the way she liked it. Giles asked if there was anything else he could do, not as the head of the Council but as a friend.
That had meant more to Faith than she could have imagined, but she didn't show it. Instead, she merely said that buying the building had been enough and that she'd be in touch.
The great thing about having lots of money was that the Council could pretty much arrange for a quick transaction. The real estate agent was due to come around within the next week for Faith to sign the final paperwork, and she was even granted permission to be on the premises until that time.
Seeing the amount of work that needed to be done and her eagerness to just get it over with, she was grateful that Giles had worked out that last small detail.
Faith looked around the small living space when she walked in, instantly noticing that much of the debris had already been moved, saved for two old wooden chairs and the large sofa that undoubtedly needed more than one person to move it. She found Andrew sweeping the floor while Anya practiced her sitting skills.
"You're back," Anya said with a smile as she noticed Faith. "Very good. I'm happy that I didn't send you to Siberia."
"Same here," Faith said as she took off her jacket and slung it over the back of one of the chairs. "What happened to this place? Not complaining, but you totally killed the Talking Trash Heap." She took a seat on the chair and continued to look around.
The place really wasn't so bad with most of the debris cleared out of the room.
"Well, you left me here alone in the middle of the night and I wasn't prepared to sleep," Andrew began, "so . . . I got out this trusty broom and I . . ."
"Oh, can it," Anya interrupted him. "Giles called Merry Maids. They did what they could, but said that there needs to be some structural work before they can do a proper job."
"Sneaky old bastard," Faith said with a smile. "No wonder he was all about gettin' out quick before I got into the place."
"Yes, well he left some phone numbers for local contractors. I'd assume that you should get some estimates to fix this place up," Anya said, looking around distastefully as she continued trying to sit on the couch without falling through.
"I'll get on that in the morning," Faith said with a nod.
Anya cheered excitedly as she finally managed to sit down on the old couch, her body fully on top of the cushions and not sinking through them.
"It's a shame, you know," Anya began after a few moments and cheers from Andrew passed, a thoughtful gaze on her face. "Most contractors will completely take advantage of a young woman looking for pricing and overcharge her. I know I would."
"You're a real gem," Faith joked.
"Yes, I am. Anyhow, I was just thinking that with his experience as a contractor, it would be really nice if you could hire . . ."
Anya stopped mid-sentence as the front door came flying in and an excitable and anxious looking Xander came running through, his eyes immediately locking on her.
" . . . Xander?"
The shock of seeing him made her lose focus, sending her slipping through the couch and into the basement once again.
Faith calmly looked from the couch, to Xander, and then to Andrew as the sounds of Anya shrieking in the basement filled the room.
"Hey Andy, think you better go save the lizards."
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