Chapter Thirty-Three: And Let the Fireworks Blow
Faith was very much aware of the rousing of the other occupants of the house, and not just because the door to the office was now wide open. She was waiting for something—someone, and her senses, all ready supernaturally enhanced, had grown hypersensitive. She was still seated behind the desk, but she'd pushed the chair back and was currently comfortably settled. Her right foot was dangling over her bare left knee, and her fingers were interlaced on her belly.
She was almost utterly still. Even after all these years, it didn't come naturally to her. She was fairly certain that if tested, she would prove positive for ADHD. Nevertheless, for once—and she wasn't counting the times she'd been in a coma—she was still. Her breathing had grown shallow long before now in an attempt to keep her from going off the deep end.
From inside out, she was trembling from the effort she was exerting to maintain her tight reign over herself. The tension was visible in the hard lines of her jaw and in the way her knuckles had gone white. But those were the only indications. Her mask was nothing if not scarily efficient.
To say that she was angry would have been an understatement of the highest degree. She was perfectly clear as to why Giles had withheld information from her now. And she wished she wasn't. Because just this once, Faith wanted to kill a human, and she didn't regret that thought.
The past five hours had been a lesson in restraint. She'd read through each of his Watcher's Journals and then hunted down the ledger he'd been foolish enough to keep on their system. Faith hated and it had grown deeper and darker with every secret revealed. How she hated.
Giles had been right to go about things the way he had. Any other and her perceptions would've been colored, tainted. She wouldn't have been capable of giving enough rational thought to her actions and he'd have never stood a chance. She'd have called it a justifiable homicide.
But now she'd had time to think because she'd had to make the discoveries on her own. Well, mostly. And no matter how much she wanted, needed it, she knew she couldn't kill him. But it would take a while to come to terms with the fact that she didn't question if she should.
For now, she would wait. She would make him come to meet his own end. And if he didn't, he'd wish he had when she came for him instead. Play time was over and so was his little side-job.
It was the sound of Aaron's bedroom door opening, finally, that made Faith smile with dark satisfaction. She'd been fairly confident that even he wouldn't be able to justify taking another sick day for the injury she'd inflicted. She continued to wait in silence. He wouldn't be able to see the door of his office until he headed towards the kitchen due to the position of the room.
Faith wasn't surprised to hear another door open before Aaron was even halfway down the stairs. She'd figured that Diana was very much aware of the possible consequences of her actions the moment she'd suggested that Faith go over Aaron's files. She doubted that Diana ever did much of anything without a purpose. She just didn't seem the type to do things otherwise.
Faith knew the moment Aaron registered the open office door and the light on inside. His steps faltered briefly before changing direction and speeding up. The trembling stopped abruptly, replaced by tightly coiled tension as she waited with anticipation. She tilted her head just slightly and eyed the door, her entire body screaming calm detachment to anyone who didn't know her.
Anyone who did know her would recognize it for what it was. She was preparing to pounce. The sound of Diana gathering the other Slayers faded into the background like white noise. The moment Aaron entered Faith's line of sight, she adapted a mocking smile, waiting still.
"What are you doing in here?" Aaron asked, his lips turning down into a stern frown.
In between one breath and the next, Faith assessed him. Aaron was dressed, meticulously and pretentiously as always. His argyle knit dark blue and pale pink sweater was tucked into a pair of khaki pants and he wore a pair of leather loafers. And as far as she could tell, he was unarmed.
"I was just checkin' in back home." Faith eased out of the chair, hands held up in feigned innocence.
There must have been a note in her voice that she hadn't hidden very well. His eyes grew wary and he stiffened noticeably. Though, that might have been because of the way she was prowling towards him. Anyone who had spent any amount of time with a Slayer knew what that meant.
"My office is off limits," He managed to keep his voice steady. Faith was impressed.
It was in the visible jump of his pulse point and the way his gaze kept shifting that she realized he was frightened. Faith was now just a couple of feet away from him. The distance didn't mean much for a Slayer. She could close that space in less time than it took for him to breathe.
She stopped right in front of him, personal space never having meant much to her at any rate. She caught his eyes with hers and let her humanity fade to the background. Her mask fell away, letting him see every dark impulse and every ounce of hatred that she felt for him in that instant. One second bled into another and then he tried to bolt and Faith was more than ready for him.
It was the sight of Faith pinning Aaron to the wall with his right arm pulled up behind his back at a painful angle that Diana, Shawna, Janice, and Corrine entered to find. Faith was sure it was an odd sight to see. She was several inches shorter than him and she was leaning her weight into his back, pressing his arm up even higher. She was also still dressed in her boxers and tank top.
"What the bloody Hell do you think you're doing, bitch?" Aaron gasped out.
"There he is," Faith said sardonically. "I was kinda wonderin' what it would take to get you to give up your lame excuses for propriety, you fuckin' scum suckin' maggot."
"Let me loose," He snarled, struggling against her.
He let out a high-pitched squeal when she leaned a little harder into him. It was the low din of protests starting up that reminded her of the presence of the younger Slayers. An urge, twisted and primal, wound its' way through her soul deep and she fought the desire to inflict damage. Instead, she reared back and slammed him against the wall as a concession to her darker half.
"Hey!" Corrine and Janice shouted in unison, but Faith ignored them as Diana kept them back.
"Don't get involved."
"But she's—" Corrine started defiantly.
"Aaron Brighton Graves, by the power invested in me by the Powers that Be," Faith interrupted, tone too cold to ever be considered professional, "I hereby place you under arrest. Anything you say, can, and will incite me to beat the ever lovin' hell out of you, you son of a bitch."
"What?" Several voices screeched at once.
Faith resisted the urge to cover her ears. Instead, she just winced internally. Releasing Aaron's arm and keeping him pinned with a hand against his opposite shoulder, she reached behind her to retrieve warm metal from her waistband. When she brought her hand back around, she quickly slapped one end of the handcuffs around the wrist of his right arm.
She'd discovered the handcuffs during her investigation of his desk contents. It had been by pure force of will that she'd managed to maintain her composure at the discovery. She hadn't wanted to consider their purpose, sexual or not. There are just some things that don't bear consideration.
She stepped back, jerking Aaron away from the wall and then shoving him toward one of the two black iron guest chairs. Before he could right himself, she pushed him down into the seat and attached the second cuff to the thin arm of the chair. Then she moved out of range and settled herself on a corner of the desk. Catching Diana's gaze, she jerked her head toward the door.
"Get them outta here. I need to have a little discussion with Asshole."
"I'm not going anywhere until you tell us what the Hell is going on here," Shawna demanded, finally speaking up. "You're just a little too in touch with your inner mistress of pain for me to feel comfortable leaving you alone with him. He may be an ass, but he's still human."
"Shawna," Diana started, reaching for the girl's shoulder.
"No, I'll handle it," Faith said, holding up a hand to stall her and then giving Shawna her full attention. "You think this is uncalled for, right?"
"In a word," Shawna managed, despite her confusion, "Duh."
"Good," Faith said, nodding seriously. "That means you'll be just as disturbed by the fact that he's the one that drugged both Christina Elliot and Danielle Oscar and sent `em to their deaths."
The room fell silent. A brief glance at Aaron told Faith that he was seething, despite his obvious fear. She eyed the three youngest Slayers who were beginning to show their anger and disbelief, waiting for their reactions. It was Corrine that broke first.
"You're lying," She spat, confused and a little desperate. "He's our Watcher."
"Cori," Janice said quietly, pulling her towards the door. "I don't think she is."
"But, they were sick, that's why they weren't able to defend themselves," She choked out. "You remember, right? In both cases they'd been losing their strength for days beforehand. He said..."
"That it was the flu," Faith finished flatly. "It wasn't. He shot `em up with a combination of adrenaline suppressants and muscle relaxants. It's a drug the Old Council used for a test they called the Cruciamentum, a test which was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Slayers."
"Who are you?" Aaron gritted out.
"Stop fucking about and tell me who you are!"
"Maybe it's `cause of my name," She said absently. "I mean, Buffy is a little more memorable."
The penny dropped. Aaron fell silent, eying her in growing horror. Faith just gave him an obnoxiously maddening smirk. Just because she couldn't kill him didn't mean she'd behave.
She lifted her gaze to find three sets of wide eyes staring at her. She chuckled humorlessly. Then she shot a meaningful look at Diana. The redhead nodded and began to herd the others out.
"The name's Faith Lehane," She drawled, giving Aaron a dark look. "I'm the dark Slayer."
It wasn't a description she really used that often any more. She was self-aware enough to know that that wasn't her now, no matter how often she might feel like it was. But he was a relic of the Old Council. She liked the way it made him squirm to realize just who he was dealing with.
"Diana," Aaron snapped as she started to close the door behind them. "What do you think you're doing? You cannot just abandon me here with this—this...rogue Slayer. I absolutely forbid it."
Diana turned her head slowly, giving him an incredulous look over her shoulder, "You what?"
"I forbid you to leave me here with her," He repeated anxiously.
"Ooh-Rah, Asshole," She enunciated as she exited the room, firmly closing the door behind her.
"I don't have anything left to say to you," Faith said as she fiddled with the base of the computer monitor. "I just want to see how you react when I bring your entire world down around you."
"What do you mean?" He asked reluctantly, expression sullen.
It was a violent surge of motion that took him by surprise. One moment, she was sitting almost calmly, absently tracing the base of the monitor. The next, she lifted the monitor, stood, and threw it across the room all in one fluid motion. It hit the wall in an explosion of glass, metal, plastic, and sheetrock that made him jump, even as she simply stood there looking at him emotionlessly.
"You think your crimes against my girls are the only ones I'm aware of?" She asked rhetorically, reaching up to pull the lanyard around her neck out of her tank top and holding up a flash drive.
"That's just the thing. Keepin' your records on Red's systems? Not the smartest idea."
He stayed silent and Faith chuckled harshly, shaking her head, "You've had a good run, man. You made a couple million, and didn't even have to get your hands dirty. All you had to do was keep the patrol routes from crossing into his territory and you had it made. Sounds easy enough.
"I mean, you probably would've gotten away with it. But you just had to get a Slayer killed. Chris found out about your deal with your pet demon and you just couldn't let it go, could you? Gave her a little bit of the juice every day and then set her up with some of his goons, right? You just didn't expect anyone at the Council to notice the compound in her blood in the autopsy."
Faith watched the color bleed out of his complexion as recognition set in. It was only conjecture at this point, but she didn't doubt that she was very close if not spot on. It would have set off alarms for Willow, if not for anyone else. They'd had their own experiences with it.
"Your biggest mistake was doin' it a second time, though," She finished. "They may have just been suspicious of the circumstances when they sent Diana. But when a second Slayer wound up dead and her blood work tested positive, they didn't just suspect it anymore. So they sent me."
For good measure, Faith reached over and grasped the cord of the phone on the desk, giving it a good yank. She heard the plastic snap as it left the phone jack in the wall behind the desk. Then she grabbed the phone, throwing it full strength in the same direction the monitor had gone. Once that was done, she tucked the disk drive back under her shirt before approaching Aaron.
She considered him briefly, and then shrugged. Aaron didn't have a chance to react before Faith struck out at him, clipping his temple with her fist. After confirming that he was out, she patted down his pockets quickly and efficiently. Once she was assured that he had nothing on him that could be used as a means of escape, Faith turned and walked out of the office.