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Walk the Line
Author's Notes: Since we all know that I can’t focus on one fic at a time, here is the Faith virtual series that I’ve decided to start. Chapters will be posted as episodes, and will be longer than most of my usual chapters are. Stars indicate a new scene. I know it’s not your standard Fuffy fic, but I’d love for you to give it a try and let me know what you think. :)
Episode One: Viva Las Vegas
Footsteps. Rustling. Labored breathing. He stood with his back against the cool stone wall of the crypt, listening for any of those sounds, but found that he could only make out the sound of his own heart thumping loudly in his chest.
His long leather jacket creaked awkwardly as he turned and looked around the corner, trying desperately to locate his pursuer. He gripped the wooden stake tightly in his hand, ready to make the final plunge at first opportunity.
When at last he heard the faintest snapping of a twig across the way, he dashed out of the shadows with his arm raised . . . and proceeded to run in the opposite direction of the noise.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” he chanted as he ran, a silent prayer to whomever was listening to help him out of his current situation.
He turned to peer over his shoulder, making sure that he wasn't being followed, when his steel-toed boot caught the edge of a granite grave-marker and sent him stumbling. In true acrobatic form, he tucked into a ball and somersaulted forward, easily springing back up onto his feet.
Despite the fact that he was fleeing, he stopped in his tracks and looked to the grave-marker, then looked astonishingly at his upright position.
“I always knew that I was good,” he said to himself, a smug look crossing his face.
Only when he heard a grunt in the distance did he remember that he was fleeing for his life. In an instant he began running again, somehow losing his direction after his little show of acrobatics. When he realized that he wasn't sure if he was running toward the exit or deeper into the graveyard, he stopped and braced himself against a tree, hoping to recompose himself.
He stood with his back to the small tree, looking around feverishly for anything that might help him regain his bearings. When he spotted the top of an iron fence he smiled to himself, his cool posture back in place. He took a step away from the tree and toward the fence, only to find himself being held back by a strong hand lifting him up by his collar.
“Where do you think you're going, junior?” The demon asked, making the man seem so small and frail now that he was dangling by the back of his jacket.
“Oh, you know,” he began, “I was just going for a stroll. Nice night, fresh air . . . sure is a change from all of those casinos. Did you know that one of every three people smoke in your average casino?” His voice trembled as he spoke, though he tried to act confident.
The demon shook the man, baring his large curved tusks in a menacing way.
“You think I care about casinos, human? Don't try to distract me . . . you came here with weapons to do damage . . . do you mean to damage me, demon hunter?”
“I really can't be considered a `demon hunter',” the man began, “Giles always tells me to stay out of the fray. I'm much better in a background support role. The kitchen seems to be the place where I'm needed most . . . a crucial role of everyday life is coffee and food. It may seem insignificant, but Buffy and the gang would have been lost without my smiley-face pancakes with bacon hair.”
The demon snorted as he laughed.
“Your Giles is incorrect. The role you suit best is . . . dinner.”
At that, the demon opened his mouth, letting it grow increasingly wide as he dislocated his jaws to swallow his large meal.
The man began to struggle but it was of no use . . . his head was nearly inside the monstrous jaws now.
“Please don't!” He screamed. “I'm all skin and bones, and I haven't had a bath in a day in a half!”
Just as a large string of demon-saliva ran over the man's sandy-colored hair, causing him to squeal in horror . . . the demon exploded into a million droplets of goo and gel, splattering all over him as he dropped to the ground.
The man immediately removed his slime-covered jacket and tossed it to the side before anxiously looking up to meet his savior. He used his shirt sleeve to remove the goo from his eyes, and finally he made out a figure through his hazy vision.
Though he hadn't been sure at first through the goo and the grime that blurred his vision, the raspy voice was enough to let him know that he had seen correctly.
“Oh, brave savior!” Andrew said dramatically as he stood up and wrapped his arms around Faith, the goo making a horrible squish noise as his body collided with hers. “I was sure that I'd seen my last sunset until you came along.”
Faith stood with her arms hanging limply at her sides, unable to process the events of the prior thirty seconds.
“Please tell me you didn't just hug me with that demon's guts all over you,” she said with a grimace on her face, the continuous squishing noises coming from between her and the trembling boy all the answer that she really needed.
Andrew remained silent for a few moments as he realized the severity of his actions.
“It's really more of a terrified cling,” he explained as he tried to pry himself away from her body at last.
However, the goo was quickly starting to act as an adhesive and wasn't letting Andrew budge more than an inch or two before he'd snap back against Faith.
“I'm finding myself in a rather . . . sticky situation,” Andrew said, the side of his face smashed up against Faith's chest, impairing his speech.
“You've gotta be kidding me,” Faith said with a sigh as she began to shake slightly to see if Andrew would slip off. “Two hours in Vegas and I'm already flypaper for freaks.”
After a few minutes of useless struggling on both of their parts, Faith finally got frustrated and put her hands on Andrew's shoulders and shoved roughly. A long sticky, squelching noise later, Andrew was tossed to the ground and rolled a few feet until he became stuck to the ground.
He lay there squirming around, trying his best to un-stick himself from the dry grass. Faith watched on in annoyance as she tried to salvage her goo-covered outfit. It seemed pretty hopeless though. Her shirt was stuck to her jacket, her pants were stuck to her boots, and her hair was sticking to her face.
“I don't suppose you'd be able to . . .” Andrew began to ask for help, but stopped when he felt Faith lifting him up by the back of his pants. He got to his feet quickly and tried to brush himself off, the grass making him look like a walking green shag carpet, but his hands stuck to his shirt like he was wearing superglue.
Trying his best not to look scared at what Faith's reaction might be, Andrew blew out a deep breath and steeled himself, finally coming face to face with her.
“So . . .” Andrew began again, unsure of what to say next, “. . . you just got here two hours ago?” At Faith's nod, he continued, “Well, I'm glad to see you've decided to stick around.”
He laughed at his own bad attempt at humor, but quickly became quiet again when he saw the glare that Faith gave him.
“I've been here for four days now. Been scoping the place out, getting a feel for the local demon population,” he explained, trying to appear as professional and badass as possible. “Giles said this place is like a demon magnet, so I figured that it could use another guardian. That, and . . . when I mentioned that I'd never seen Las Vegas before, Mr. Giles went out and bought me a one-way ticket.” He paused to think about it for a moment. “He's really a generous guy.”
“Oh yeah, the very best,” Faith said gruffly as she bent down to retrieve her goo-covered weapons.
She couldn't help but recall the way that, when she had went to Giles for a bit of guidance after they left Sunnydale, he had basically told her that her life choices were up to her now. That he couldn't tell her where to go or what to do; that she would have to walk the line and see where her destiny led her.
At first she'd thought that he was warning her not to drink and drive, but then it sunk in: he wasn't going to be the one to give her orders anymore. No one would. From thereon in, all of her choices were her own.
It was a true test for Faith. Her past was filled with bad choices from as long back as she could remember. The thought of having to carry on, alone, without anyone pointing her in the right direction . . . well, she wasn't sure that she could pull it off.
The only thing that she was sure of, however, was that she couldn't go down that cold, dark path again. Her chance to do right was now or never. After shaking the feeling of being abandoned yet again, she realized that being alone and choosing her own path was probably exactly what she needed. To see if she could choose to do right on her own.
With that in mind, she had decided to go wherever her feet led her and do . . . whatever it was that she was supposed to be doing.
“Are you planning on staying for awhile then, or are you just passing through?” Andrew asked. “I've been up and down the strip a few times now and I can give you a pretty good tour. The Tournament of Kings at Excalibur is excellent,” Andrew offered and continued to prattle on and on.
Faith listened at first, but she quickly tuned out of the conversation. A big smirk crept up on her face as Andrew was rambling something about the Blue Man Group at the Venetian. Without hesitation, she drew her arm back, axe in hand, and threw it directly towards Andrew.
He watched her with interest as he saw her raise her arm up, and then he promptly ducked and cowered as the axe came flying at his head. Only when he was covered in a fine layer of dust did he realize that she wasn't, in fact, aiming at him.
Standing up quickly, he looked to Faith, then over his shoulder where a snarling vamp had gone unnoticed by him just a moment earlier before the dust explosion.
Faith smiled, both at her accuracy and at the shocked look on Andrew's face.
“I think I'll . . . stick around awhile,” she said, walking casually over to Andrew and picking the axe up from the ground as he stood there speechless, his mouth opening and closing over and over.
She turned around and began to walk towards the exit of the cemetery, her usual strut back in her step.
Andrew shook his head, waking himself from his stupor.
“Do you need a place to stay?” He asked hopefully. “There's a hotel not far from here. They have a little diner with the most delightful apple pie ever, and my bags are already conveniently there.”
Faith kept walking, trying her best to make a quick escape.
“It's already paid for. There's cable TV and . . . I'll even let you be in charge of the remote.”
Faith stopped walking at that, weighing her options out in her head.
She'd used most of her money on the airfare there, and her funds from Giles hadn't exactly been transferred yet. Unless she wanted to stay alone in some fleabag motel yet again, she really had no other options.
“No Sci-Fi shit, and when the lights go out, you stop talking. Deal?” She asked, peeking over her shoulder for just a second.
“Deal,” Andrew said with a nod, then promptly ducked again as the axe came whirling towards his head and he was covered in another shower of vampire dust.
Without hesitation, Andrew ran the last few steps towards Faith shouting “thank you thank you thank you” over and over again until he ran right into her back, colliding into her with a loud, sticky squish-noise.
He sat there pressed against her, his arms flailing about at his sides as he tried to un-stick himself from her yet again.
Faith sighed and crossed her arms across her chest, wondering exactly how she always managed to get herself into such sticky situations.
“Fantastic,” she grumbled as she began to make her way towards the exit again, Andrew tagging along on piggyback.
A short walk and many strange glances later, Faith and Andrew arrived at the hotel that he had mentioned. It was a modest building; two stories tall, big sign out front advertising free cable in every room and a luxurious pool in the courtyard, and a nearly vacant parking lot.
Faith wouldn't have cared if the place was deserted; she liked her privacy, especially when she had thinking to do.
Andrew had talked her ear off nearly the entire journey. She threatened to turn around and bang him into a wall on more than one occasion, but he never relented in his jabbering and she just couldn't bring herself to come through with her threats.
She was, after all, supposed to be walking the walk of the good now.
That didn't stop her, however, from cannon-balling them both right into the `luxurious pool', which turned out to be little more than a cement hole in the ground. The cold water seemed to do the job; Andrew slipped off of her back and came up to the surface of the water sputtering and complaining about having swimmers ear.
As nice as the cool water was on her sticky body, Faith didn't waste any time in getting out of the pool and asking Andrew for the key to the room. She wanted a nice hot shower more than her suddenly tired body could let on, and the thought of a full night's sleep had her itching to get up to the room already.
The room itself was quite meager; two full beds, a color television bolted down to the chest of drawers it sat on, a bedside table with the obligatory bible stashed in the drawer, and a small bathroom that left very little wiggle room for Faith to peel off her sodden clothing.
With her clothes piled neatly on the closed toilet lid, she climbed into the shower and stood under the hot spray of the water, letting it wash away all of the traces of the evening's festivities. Without even realizing it, it also washed away all of her reservations about Las Vegas being the right spot for her or not. She had only been there for a couple of hours and already she could feel that the place was crawling with all types of unsavory activities and people.
Surely, she'd picked just the right place to make her home.
After realizing that she had forgotten to pick up her bags from the storage locker she'd stowed them away in earlier, she had a near knock-down drag-out argument with Andrew over borrowing a clean t-shirt to sleep in.
When all was said and done, Faith was wandering around the room in a Star Trek t-shirt and an oh-so-fashionable white terrycloth hotel towel tied around her waist.
“This shirt's kinda like . . . Dolce and Gabbana for dweebs, huh?” She asked Andrew automatically earning a scowl from him.
“Mock if you wish, but not all of us have the tush to pull off leather and halter tops.”
“That's generally a privilege saved for hot chicks with superpowers,” Faith said with a smirk, flopping back onto the bed and pulling the scratchy blankets over her legs. She grabbed the remote and started flipping through the channels, happily ignoring Andrew's sighs of disapproval every time she passed something he'd wanted to watch.
Finally, she settled on The Simpsons and leaned back, ready to relax and call it a night. The next day would be a long one for sure, so she wanted to be as well-rested as possible.
Strangely, she was able to ignore the lights and sounds out on the strip, calling her out to experience the town and leave her mark upon it.
She was ready to leave her mark, sure, but not in that way. Not yet.
Not until she'd properly earned it.
A few moments later, Faith's eyes were fluttering, sleep beginning to lull her in its warming embrace.
Andrew, however, had other plans.
“Speaking of hot chicks with superpowers, I wonder how Buffy and Dawn are enjoying Italy. The air, the scenery, the beautiful architecture and the culture,” he said wistfully, gazing off as if he had been there a million times before, “I bet they're smitten with it.”
Faith opened her eyes and glanced over at him without turning her head.
“Far as I know, B didn't even really wanna go there. She did it for Dawnie, but she told Giles that she wanted to be with him in England. For all we know, she's holed up in an apartment somewhere, throwing a proper Buffy tantrum and boycotting all things Italian,” Faith said, unable to help the smile that crept up on her face. “Damn, I bet it'd kill her to boycott pizza. She's a total pizza junkie, hardcore.”
“She should consider herself lucky that she's not in England,” Andrew said with a look of distaste on his face.
At that, Faith turned toward him and raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah? Why's that, Andy?”
“Well, for starters, Mr. Giles is so busy trying to reform the Council that he's turned into a big Grumpypants. `Andrew, stop touching the books', `Andrew, stop stealing my tweed jackets', `Andrew, go and fetch us some donuts'. I know I'm not an original member of the gang, but I can do more than clean his office and pick up donuts.”
Faith couldn't help but chuckle.
“So, he made you his donut-fetching lap dog. What else?”
“Willow and Kennedy are even worse than Mr. Giles. He gave them a bit of authority in the new council and they just step all over me with their big witch-y and slayer-y boots. They sent me on menial tasks and stuff. Not cool.”
Faith grinned, imagining exactly what Kennedy and Willow must have put him through.
“They made you buy their tampons and shit, didn't they?”
Andrew looked uncomfortable, but answered nonetheless. “No matter what part of the world I'm in, the cashier always gives weird looks when I'm sent to buy products of a feminine nature.”
Faith laughed, “So you used to buy `products of a feminine nature' in Sunnydale too, huh?”
Andrew shrugged and looked at the TV. “Well, Kennedy was around for a bit longer than you were, and she's always been just as unpleasant as she is now.”
Faith had a good hearty chuckle at that, knowing fully well how Kennedy could get under one's skin. She almost felt bad that Andrew had to put up with her for so long.
“Anyhow,” Andrew continued, interrupting Faith's laughter, “Xander left to go and pick up Slayers in Europe and Africa, then Principal Wood left to do the same thing in North America. His first stop was Las Vegas, and when I said that I'd never seen it before, Giles told me I should check it out. I was the one who decided to make it my home though. He said how bad this place is, and I figured that it could use a white-hat here 24-7.”
After a brief moment of silence, Faith turned her head back toward the TV and smiled softly.
“And here we are now, two reformed killers, trying to stay on the straight and narrow.”
“Yeah,” Andrew said, copying Faith's thoughtful gaze as best as he could.
They sat in silence for several minutes, the sound of the quiet TV the only noise in the room. Andrew stole a glance over at Faith and could tell that she was deep in thought. The way that her brow was creased, well . . . he knew that she wasn't having pleasant thoughts or memories.
“Speaking of which . . . how exactly did you end up here?” Andrew asked, hesitating for a moment when he saw Faith snapped from her thoughts. “I mean . . . when we all left LA, Willow was trying to convince you that she could create you a new identity, but you weren't big with the happy on that.”
Faith nodded her head, remembering those last few days in LA as a group.
Giles had told her that she needed to walk the line and find her own destiny. Truthfully, she wasn't sure exactly where that left her. Part of her believed that she should be back in jail, as that was where destiny had landed her in the first place.
But then she realized that they had changed the destiny of the world by closing the Hellmouth. In doing that, she reasoned, she had earned herself a new destiny. A new take on life.
One last chance to get it right.
After much uncertainty and hesitation, she finally allowed Willow and Angel, together, to work out a plan to save her from a lifetime of being a fugitive.
Using the records of a girl who had died in Sunnydale just prior to the collapse, Willow and Angel mojo'd it so that it appeared that the girl was supposed to be in prison for the crimes Faith committed, and Faith had never existed within the system.
Tabula Rasa. A clean slate.
It was hard to swallow at first. Faith spent many a day drinking heavily, trying to avoid the thought process where she realized that she'd passed go, she'd collected $200, and someone else had taken her card and landed in jail. Sure, the girl whose identity they stole was dead, but it still affected Faith more than she could explain.
She didn't want to take another life, in any way, shape or form.
Still, she eventually pulled herself together and decided to do what was right. What she was meant to do.
Faith realized that Andrew was waiting for her answer, so she shrugged and tried to act as nonchalant as possible.
“I gave in. Red zapped my records, Angel made me some proper identification so I could have a real life, I took care of some crap that I had to deal with, and I made my way here. So . . . here I am, and here I'll stay.”
Andrew suddenly looked excited.
“It's gonna be great. Faith the Vampire Slayer, Andrew her trusted wing man, and the city of sins. Maybe we could get matching jackets or something. I'm thinking black. It shows less dirt.”
Faith sat up and raised both of her eyebrows.
“Oh no, little man. I'm here to do my thing, and you're here to do your thing - whatever it is that you do -- and that's the extent of our involvement. I'm gonna find a place, and I'm gonna do what I have to do to get by, and if you ever need . . . I dunno, a beat down or a severe scolding, you come and see me. Otherwise, the days of us being roommates ends tonight.”
Andrew began to protest, but Faith held her hand up and stopped him.
“I appreciate you letting me stay here, Andy, I do. I don't appreciate what you did to my clothes, but that's a whole different conversation. The fact is that I work alone, and that's that. Sorry to ruin your plans, buddy, but that's the final word.”
She turned the bedside lamp off and rolled onto her side, her back toward Andrew who sat looking put off on the other bed. She mumbled a quick good night and anxiously pointed to the turned-off lamp when Andrew began to object.
He flopped back onto the bed with a huff, feeling let down but not completely hopeless in their current situation.
Faith woke to the sound of the door opening and the bright sunlight shining into the room and directly onto her face. She grumbled loudly and pulled the blankets over her head, quieting down only when she heard the door close.
Andrew's chipper whistling filled the otherwise quiet room and Faith briefly considered tossing him over the balcony and into the pool, but then the smell of coffee filtered through her nose and perked her up slightly.
“Do I smell coffee?” She asked, peeking her nappy head out from under the blankets.
“French roast, freshly brewed,” came the all too chipper reply from Andrew. “From the diner downstairs. I tried to wake you up so you could get some breakfast, but you hit me in sensitive places so I left without you,” Andrew said, rubbing his still-sore behind.
“Sorry about that. I'm not really a morning person,” she said as she reached out for the proffered cup of coffee. She took a small sip and the hot liquid nearly scalded her tongue. “Hot damn!”
Andrew rolled his eyes and fetched the ice bucket, then lifted the cap from the paper cup and slid a piece of ice into it without much thought. Faith gave him a small smile.
“You're okay, Andy ol' boy.”
Andrew took that opportunity to toss a box of donuts onto her bed, hoping to win her over even more.
Faith caught the box and peeked inside, her eyes lighting up immediately.
“You're better than okay, buddy. You're top notch, I'll tell ya.”
Andrew smiled proudly at his donut fetching skills and sat down on the edge of his bed, facing toward Faith.
“I also picked up this newspaper for you. I took the liberty of circling some of the apartments and places for rent. The red circles are places I can find, and the black circles are ones that I'm not sure of. I figure that we can get dressed and head out; we might be able to check out quite a few of those before tonight's patrol.”
Faith looked up at him, a jelly donut hanging from her mouth and an eyebrow raised.
“We?” She asked, her voice muffled.
“I hate to bring this up, but the jelly donut was actually for me,” he said, staring at the jelly donut.
Faith held the box up to him, “Then take one.”
He shook his head. “You don't quite understand. There was only one jelly. It was for me. My jelly.”
Faith furrowed her eyebrows together. “You go to get donuts and only get one jelly? Dude, what's wrong with you? No wonder Giles shipped you out. You're gonna need some serious donut-picking training if this is gonna work out.”
Andrew smiled excitedly.
“Does this mean we get to have matching jackets?”
Faith chuckled and finished her donut, swallowing loudly much to the chagrin of Andrew.
“No, it means I'm gonna let you be my tour guide. Think you can handle that?”
Andrew stood up and puffed his chest out proudly.
“I'll be the best tour guide you ever had!”
Andrew read aloud from the newspaper, his voice muffled, “This spacious two bedroom apartment comes with a full bathroom, walk in kitchen, storage space, and a private 2nd floor entry.”
He lowered the paper to reveal his shirt up over his nose, his fingers holding his nostrils closed tightly. Faith was doing the exact same thing as she stood in the middle of the barren and dirty apartment, her eyebrows furrowed.
“You sure you got the right place?” She asked, unable to believe that the shithole they were standing in was the place from the ad.
“I'm sure,” he said. “Kind of funny that they never mentioned that it's above a Thai restaurant.”
“Yeah, and that the garbage dumpster is right outside the window, baking in the nice hot sun all day long.”
“And that spacious means cramped and uninhabitable,” Andrew continued, looking around the place distastefully.
Faith sighed and kicked a doorjamb that was laying on the floor. It smashed into the wall and made a large hole.
“This is the fourth place we've been in, Andy. Tell me they're gonna start getting better.”
“Actually, they seem to keep getting worse,” he said with a frown. “Maybe we should try a different newspaper. Or a different town.”
Though a bit discouraged, Faith was determined to make this work.
“Nah, we're all good.” She grabbed the newspaper from Andrew's hand and looked it over, noticing that only black circles remained. “Okay, so . . . new plan. We head to the store and get a handy little map and do a bit of exploring. I'll pick up the money Giles wired me at Western Union, then we can get some dinner and check out these other places. It'll work out . . . I can feel it. If not, we camp out at the hotel for a few more days until I find something. Not a big deal.”
“Well,” Andrew began, “I suppose that it's workable.” He looked around at the mostly open rooftop, his sneakers sticking to the melting tar on the roof.
Faith turned at him and glared.
“You're kidding me, right?” She asked, her arms spread wide to indicate the space around her. “When the ad says, `Spacious one-bedroom with balcony', you'd think that they didn't mean, yunno . . . a fucking rooftop with a utility shed on it.”
Andrew looked around and shrugged. “Maybe if we utilized some tents and tarps . . .”
“Oh, shut up,” she said, her frustration clearly evident. “Yunno, I was trying to see the bright side of things. I stayed positive through the garbage-smelling place, and the moldy basement place, and the place with the snake in the bathtub, but this . . . this is too fucking much.”
“On the bright side,” Andrew said, “there's only one more place to check out, and according to the map, it's pretty close by. On the bad side, all of the other places in the newspaper are way more than we could probably afford, and that's if we had jobs.”
Faith sighed dramatically as she sat down on an upside-down bucket.
And as if her day wasn't going badly enough, the bucket cracked and she ended up on her ass on the melty-tar roof. Not knowing exactly what was the right thing and what was the wrong thing to do or say, Andrew walked over and after hesitating for a moment, sat down next to Faith on the squishy tar.
Faith looked at him in disbelief but couldn't help but chuckle at him.
“You're a putz.” She unstuck herself from the tar and stood up, offering a hand to Andrew who graciously accepted it with a large smile.
“Come on,” she said as she walked toward the stairwell. “Only one last place. How bad can it be?”
Before they had stopped at the last place, Andrew and Faith made their way into a small diner along the way. They got the dinner that Faith had promised him, and she even let him get the jelly donut he had missed at breakfast time. It was quickly getting dark outside, so she excused herself and ran to the Western Union place next door to collect the bit of money that Giles had promised her.
He knew that she needed something to get her new life started, and he had promised to use his own funds to help her out. As much as she didn't want to accept a hand-out, she knew that she really didn't have any other options.
Using her fresh ID from Angel, Faith collected the $3,500 from Giles, along with a telegram that he had sent with the money. It vaguely read:
Back-salaries being paid to all employees since date of . . . hire. Stop.
Funds being diverted into private account. Stop.
Contact me for further details. Stop.
Faith was pretty puzzled by the message, so she immediately hit up the payphone in the diner when she stepped back in.
Of course, getting a collect international phone call in the middle of the night wasn't the best way to approach Giles, but Faith figured he'd forgive her this once.
Basically, he explained that the original council had been withholding funds from Buffy and Faith. In the 1980's, after a slayer or two decided they'd rather have a paying job, the council had decided to pay the slayers an annual salary. However, they had shamelessly denied that to both Buffy and Faith on the count that their watchers hadn't known about the promised stipend.
As it was, Faith stood to collect $ 25,000 per year for the five years that she had been a slayer, despite the fact that she had been comatose and in prison for most of those years. She knew that she didn't deserve it, but she figured that . . . this was Giles' way of telling her that yes, she was still a slayer, and that yes, she still had a job to do, if she was willing.
Besides, with $ 150,000 in her pocket, well . . . she didn't have to worry about getting a crappy apartment or trying to clean the goo from her leather jacket.
Faith was barely able to believe Giles, who told her that Buffy had accepted her back-salary as well. Even though Giles had told her the account information and warned her not to be foolish with the money, she was sure that there had to be a catch. That it was too good to be true.
After hanging up with Giles, she decided that she wasn't going to tell Andrew about the money, and that she, herself, wasn't even going to think about it. As far as she was concerned, it didn't exist. At least, not yet it didn't.
With a slight hop in her step, Faith went and fetched Andrew and let him lead her to the last place on their list.
Almost immediately, Faith regretted the decision to go and see the last place. She and Andrew walked down a long dark street, so far from the Vegas strip that they couldn't even hear any traffic. The street was filled with old buildings that were in shambles, some with plywood up over the windows. It looked as it if was almost deserted, but by the lights that shone in several of the windows and the few cars that were parked carelessly against the curb, Faith knew otherwise.
Andrew was busy holding the map up in front of his face, not even looking where he was walking. Faith had to hold his elbow and guide him around manholes and cracks in the blacktop so that he didn't hurt himself.
However, she was sure that if this place turned out to be worse than the others, she would hurt Andrew herself.
“24C, 24C, 24C,” Faith said impatiently as she scanned the fronts of the buildings, looking for an address. “Andrew, I don't see any fucking 24C's. I see . . .513, and 517, and . . . No Trespassing, but I don't see any fucking 24C's.”
“The map says that we take a left at the diner, and follow the road down, just like we did,” he said confused, not really able to make heads or tails of the map but unwilling to share that with Faith.
Faith was about to give Andrew a good smack on the back of his head, but she caught a movement in the corner of her eye. A man walking into one of the abandoned buildings.
Suddenly, she felt a whirl of tingles going up and down her back. She smirked, knowing fully well that it wasn't a man that entered the building, but a vampire.
“You keep on checking that map, Andy,” Faith said, giving him a pat on the back as she made her way toward the building.
She slowly made her way up the walkway that led to the door, pulling her stake out of her inner pocket and gripping it anxiously. With a grin on her face, she strutted into the building, her swagger full of cockiness and certainty.
However, she wasn't prepared for the ten or more vamps that lay strewn around the front room amongst the debris and dirt.
“Oh, don't tell me that you guys are here for the apartment too,” she said, trying not to sound uneasy at all. “How embarrassing, us all showing up here at the same time.”
The vampires looked around at one another, not one of them exactly sure what she was getting at. Finally one of them stepped forward in game-face, snarling and smirking.
“I didn't know we were getting dinner delivered, boys.”
Another vamp spoke up from an old beat-up sofa.
“I dunno, boss . . . she kind of smells like a dumpster at a Thai place.”
Faith frowned, sure that she didn't stink.
“I'll have you know that I'm lean, mean, and 100% delicious, boys.” She ran her hands over her chest and down her body, trying to look as appetizing as possible.
A vamp took that as an opportunity and lashed out at her, not noticing the stake that appeared in front of his chest just before he impaled himself on it. He exploded into a million pieces, causing all of the other vampires sit up in alarm.
“And for the record,” Faith stated, wiping the dust from her jacket, “not one of you is gonna get a taste.”
Before she had the opportunity to get into a proper stance, all of the vampires leapt at her, fangs bared. Faith did her best to keep her balance, using the momentum of two of the vampires to stake them easily.
Two of the vampires ran out of the building and into the night, instantly realizing that they didn't want to die. They ran right by an oblivious Andrew, who was mumbling something about `maybe taking a right instead of a left' as his face stayed hidden behind the large, crumpled map.
Faith grinned cockily, the numbers looking less scary around her now. Three vamps dusted, two running for their undead lives . . . she could easily handle it.
Andrew stood with the map in both hands, completely ignorant to the noises of the scuffle going on right inside the building next to him. He spun the map a bit to the right, and then upside down as he looked at it puzzled.
Faith took that opportunity to come flying out of the door and tumbling down the sidewalk, landing just a few feet in front of Andrew. Without so much as a peep, she was back on her feet and charging back into the building, eyes wild and body charged up with slayer rage.
There was no stopping her now. She was in the zone. Since they had woken all of the slayers using the scythe, she felt ten times stronger. Like nobody could take her, even on a bad day. From outside the building, the sounds of the scuffle got quieter and quieter as
vamp after vamp met the pointy end of Faith's stake. When her stake splintered into several pieces as she was fighting the last vamp, Faith decided to improvise. With a loud heave, she lifted him into the air and impaled him on the leg of a table that had been sat upside down.
Just as the vamp exploded into a cloud of dust, Andrew came in, waving his hand in front of his face.
“Whew, sure is dusty in here,” he said, looking around the messy place. “Well, he continued, “I think I figured it out. You see, I was holding the map at the wrong angle. Upside-down, actually. We're supposed to be across town, back by the first apartment. This black circle should have been a red circle. So, off we go, I guess.”
He began walking toward the open door, taking caution not to step on anything that might puncture his tar-covered sneaker.
Faith stood amongst the rubble, taking a good hard look at the place.
“Yunno what, Andy? I think you got it right,” she said as she continued scoping the place out. “This is the place. This is where we're gonna live.”
Andrew froze, then turned slowly around. He glanced around the messy room and then back to Faith.
“If we're casting votes, I vote for the rooftop place. It could be cozy.”
Faith shook her head, a small smile on her face.
“Nope, you're outvoted two to one, Andrew. This is the place.”
“Two to one? Why do you get two votes? I want two votes.”
Faith smiled and leaned against a wall, still looking around the place. First, it needed to be emptied out. Then, it needed a serious overhaul. But from what she could see, it meant that they would have their own private building with plenty of room for . . . whatever it was that they needed.
Just as she was beginning to relax, Faith heard a loud noise from another room. Andrew made a little squeak noise and clung to Faith's arm, earning him an amused look.
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?”
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