Chapter Thirty-Four: S.I.C.
She took her time about contacting Giles. She wanted to be calm when she spoke to him. He wasn't the one who had done wrong and didn't deserve to be treated as if he was. Though, there was a part of her that felt that he should have had them move in on Aaron sooner than they had.
There were regulations in place, she knew. She even respected them, for the most part. They may run the New Council, but that didn't mean that they could act with impunity. There had to be a proper investigation and physical evidence of someone's crimes before they could be indicted.
They'd had plenty of proof of his embezzling. He'd been padding his expense reports since just after he'd been placed in charge of the San Francisco house to hide his actions. They'd even had proof of his negligence. But Giles had wanted proof that he had aided in the murder of a Slayer.
Faith understood why Giles had waited, really. It just sucked that it had come at the price it had. Two Slayers, one barely in her early twenties, the other just shy of sixteen, had been killed. And it hadn't even been in the name of control, but in that of greed and it made her so, so sick.
She sent the others upstairs to finish dressing, and pulled a few items from the fridge to prepare breakfast. It had occurred to her that Aaron may have been adding something to the meals. His insistence on controlling their eating habits didn't sit well with her in light of her discoveries. It was the thought that Willow may need to test it for drugs that kept her from trashing the lot of it.
It gave her a little alone time to contemplate the situation. The revelations of the morning had obviously shaken the three young Slayers and she got that. Their Watcher, the person they needed to trust, had betrayed them. He'd killed two of their teammates, their sister Slayers.
Part of their confusion and disquiet probably had a little something to do with her as well. A lot of the younger Slayers she'd met didn't have a clue how to interact with her. That, she was certain, was both because of what she was, and because of her in-your-face personality. Add in that she'd had to lie to maintain her cover, and their current dispositions were understandable.
Unfortunately for them, there were things to be done and they were going to have to deal with her a little longer. Maybe in that time she would be able to, if not regain their trust, at least ease their concerns some. It wasn't really one of her priorities, but she would do what she could. She hoped that they would at least be able to see that what she was doing was for the best.
Faith leaned back in her seat after having finished eating. It was time to begin getting things sorted out. There weren't any more excuses for putting it off, at least not reasonable ones. She let her gaze shift from one Slayer to the next, contemplating how to start, and then she shrugged.
"Di, I need you to call the girls out of school."
"What?" The expected protests came in stereo. "Why?"
Holding up a hand to stall their protests, Diana asked, "What should I tell the Attendance Secretary? He's going to want to know why the three of them aren't coming in."
"Aaron's listed as their guardian, right?"
"Unfortunately," Diana said in disgust.
"Just tell `em there's a family emergency."
"What's the point in keeping us home?" Shawna interrupted, eyeing Faith warily.
"I'm gonna have to call Giles in about..." She paused, checking her watch. "Fifteen minutes. And then him and some friends are gonna make a personal trip out here. He's gonna have questions."
"Oh," Shawna muttered. "You mean Rupert Giles?"
"The one and only," Faith replied easily.
"This whole thing's not just some hoax, is it?" Janice interjected. "You really are one of the Chosen Two and our Watcher really did just turn out to be our next big bad, didn't he?"
"Well," Faith hedged, wincing. "I wouldn't say that he was your next big bad. He's just a creep."
"He may not have been the one baring the claws and teeth, but he killed Christy and Danni all the same, and he did it for money," Corrine said flatly. "He's not just a creep."
Faith didn't reply. There really wasn't anything she could say to that. For them, he was a big bad. He'd betrayed them, and for a Slayer, that was so much worse than bringing about an apocalypse.
"Evie, it's Faith," She enunciated tightly. "Transfer me through to Giles."
"Certainly, dear," Evelyn agreed amiably.
The ringtone began to sound once again. Faith leaned against one of the porch's support posts, waiting for Giles to answer. It wasn't long in coming. The second she heard the click, she spoke.
"If you want him in one piece, you'll be out here within the next seven hours, Giles."
"Ah, yes, Faith," Giles stammered. "How are you?"
"I'm mildly homicidal, vergin' on psychotic. And you?"
"Glad to hear you're doing so well," He teased. "How are the girls taking it?"
"I think they're gonna need a little extra help coping," Faith admitted. "But, yeah. You really do need to come out here, Giles. And bring a team with you—maybe B, Ken, Rona, and Vi?"
"Do you really need them all?"
She could almost hear the wince. She understood. She was asking for most of his other heavy hitters. That meant she was either going for overkill, or the situation was really dire.
"It would be for the best," She replied firmly. "I don't want any of the other newbies in on this. It might cause them to start questionin' their own Watchers and most of them don't deserve that."
"Well, all right, that appears to be a reasonable enough request," He assented. "If I recall correctly from the rather sparse information we've gathered, it should be a short cleanup."
"Uh," Faith managed, cringing at the thought of breaking the news. "It's not gonna be as simple as you might think. There was some shit goin' down that your girl didn't know about..."
Five phone calls, a page, and an hour later found Giles' office crowded with four Slayers. He'd called them immediately after ending his call with Faith. She was more than capable of handling things on her own, but he'd recognized that edgy undertone in her voice. She was enraged and keeping her in close quarters with the object of her anger could be hazardous to Aaron's health.
Giles didn't blame her. The information Faith had given him explained so much. They'd assumed that Aaron's negligence of the Slayers was Old Council indoctrination. They hadn't even once considered that Aaron might have allied himself with the other side.
Though, he couldn't be certain that some of Faith's ire wasn't directed at him. He'd only given her half the information going in and had blatantly falsified parts of it. It wasn't the first time he'd employed that method to maintain the integrity of a mission, but he disliked it as much as she did. And no matter how reasonable she was, it still deeply affected her each time.
Now, however, he had another briefing to handle. And judging by the impatient look Buffy was sporting, he wasn't getting to the explanations fast enough. Though, depending on what he'd interrupted with his call, she'd have been impatient no matter his alacrity. He sighed.
"A little over a year ago, a team leader was killed in action. Willow came across the autopsy report and noticed an alarmingly familiar compound in the toxicology report," He began, very much aware of the growing iciness in Buffy's eyes. "She brought it to my attention and then began doing what she could on her end. Through her systems alone, she managed to gain just enough information to warrant further investigation, and so we placed an officer in the house.
"Plenty of incriminating evidence of Aaron's abuse of his position was gathered before recent events," Giles confessed, feeling his throat tighten. "However, I wanted to nail him for the death of Christina, the Slayer that brought him to our attention. Unfortunately, another Slayer died before we could find solid evidence. It was that which prompted Faith's current mission."
Suspiciously enough, some of the tension bled out of Buffy. Giles glanced at her curiously. His only reply was a shrug as Buffy slumped back in her seat. He eyed her warily.
"Is there a problem, Buffy?"
"He was Old Council, right?" She inquired, the words clipped with her anger.
"Yes," He admitted. "Aaron is a former supporter of Quinton Travers."
Her eyes seemed to fill with relief as his wording registered and her voice unintentionally softened as she asked, "The Cruciamentum?"
"The drug, yes," Giles confessed. "Aaron's purposes, however, were even darker, if possible."
Before Buffy could ask, Kennedy interjected, "How so?"
"He's made a deal with a local demon lord," Giles answered, kneading the back of his neck. "Aaron ensures that the patrol routes don't cross into his territory, and that the Slayers stationed there are ill-equipped to handle his henchmen, and he gets paid off. Both Christina and Danielle discovered his deceit so he drugged them and turned them over to the demon's thugs."
"And we didn't make a move before now, why?" Buffy asked, the deadly calm of her voice not fooling him a bit.
"Buffy, I'd have loved nothing more than to do so," He explained gently. "But as you know, there are procedures we all must follow even when we would much rather not do so. We needed to be absolutely certain that our information was not purely speculation. Neither Diana, Willow, nor I meant to allow another Slayer to die in the process, but he somehow got by us."
"It's time for a cleanup, right?" Rona asked, cutting to the chase. "I mean, someone has to take care of the demons Aaron's been letting roam unchecked to prevent any retaliation."
"Yes," Giles replied, relieved at the distraction. "Faith requested the four of you to keep the situation from causing prejudice against the other Watchers amongst the rest of our Slayers. You each are experienced and old enough to not allow Aaron's actions to color your perceptions."
"When do we leave?" Vi jumped in enthusiastically.
"Within the next four hours, preferably," Giles answered dryly. "I shudder to think what Faith shall do to Aaron if she's forced to remain in his vicinity for too long unsupervised."
"Um, Giles," Buffy chuckled humorlessly. "What you should worry about is what she's already done to him. She might not kill him, but there are lots of other things she's very adept at doing. And if she was calm when she spoke to you, that means she's all ready vented on someone."
Despite her words, Giles could tell Buffy was worried. Somehow, he knew it was more for Faith than for anything the other Slayer might do. It made him smile inwardly. How things changed.
"Perhaps it's just being in charge that has forced her to remain calm?" He suggested hopefully.