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by Rebelrsr

Summary: Faith stays in Sunnydale on the eve of Buffy's eighteenth birthday. Will she be able to help Buffy celebrate the occasion?
Disclaimer: I don't own ‘em. Boo hoo. Everything belongs to Joss and Co.
Spoilers: "Helpless"
A/N: Thanks to the usual suspects: zigpal, Lilly, and Ivy – with a very big hug to Tim for suggesting the basic plot to the muse.
A/N2: I've played fast and loose with the timeline of the canon episode.
A/N3: Submitted for the International Day of Fanfiction, 18 July 2008

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They were at it again. Giles and Buffy and all their secrets. Mumbling under her breath, Faith mocked Giles' accent, "It's only for a week, Faith. Surely you can see how badly they need a Slayer in Los Angeles." Scowling through the library window at the pair huddled over the research table, she continued in her own voice, "Like I fucking care about Los Angeles. I want to know what you're up to, Tweed."

She leaned her ear into the cold glass. Even with Slayer hearing, though, all Faith could make out were the deep rumble of Giles' voice and the lighter tone of Buffy's.

Considering her options, Faith stepped back. If she wanted to know what was going on, she'd have to get inside without setting off Buffy's senses. Could she do it?

She didn't have to. A flash of light caught her eye, and Faith turned back to the window.

Giles waved a pink rock in front of Buffy while they talked. A few seconds later, he placed it on the table. Craning her neck for a better look, Faith saw several more lying by Buffy's hands.

"That's it? I get the boot for some stupid rocks? Figures." Faith didn't leave, though. There had to be more; otherwise, Giles wouldn't have tried to get her out of town.

As she watched Giles shove a blue stone before Buffy, Faith's stomach twisted. Rubbing at the ache, she saw Buffy slump a little in her chair.

Something was wrong.

Faith might have broken through the window to help – except Giles didn't seem concerned. In fact, he smiled slightly as he carefully put all the rocks into a case.

Buffy never moved. She continued to sit and stare at the table.

"I think LA can wait, Tweed." Dropping to the ground, Faith got comfortable and continued to watch the scene inside. She wasn't there long. 

A few minutes passed and then Buffy jerked slightly. Glancing around the research table, Faith noticed her frown of confusion. The frown became an embarrassed smile, and Faith could almost hear her mumbled apology. With a yawn, Buffy climbed out of the chair and stretched.

"Patrol time, B?" Faith asked out loud.

Buffy unknowingly answered when she strode to the book cage and loaded up on stakes.

Faith checked her own pockets. A couple of stakes and a long knife nestled inside her jeans jacket. "I could use a little fun, too." She refused to acknowledge the surge of excitement at the possibility of slaying with Buffy. Moving away from the window, Faith sprinted toward the front of the school and a good vantage point.

A few minutes later, Buffy wandered outside. Walking like a bottle-blonde robot, she headed toward the nearby elementary school.

At first, Faith hung far behind Buffy. After all, she was supposed to be in LA, not Sunnydale. Things hadn't been good between them since Mrs. Post had blown into town. After a while, though, Faith noticed Buffy seemed off her game. Faith's senses pinpointed a handful of vampires nearby. The crawling inner itch had her reaching automatically for a stake and tensely scanning the bushes and trees for prey.

Buffy simply continued to walk, head back and eyes on the stars.

The first vampire ghosted out of the shadows behind Buffy as she jaywalked across Victoria Street.

Buffy never even looked back.

It might have been a ploy. They'd pulled the helpless routine many times on patrols, tricking vampires into coming after them and then staking them.

Faith doubted that scenario. Buffy's hands were in plain sight – and she wasn't holding a weapon. When the vampire charged, part of Faith still expected Buffy to defend herself.

The vampire closed quickly.

Buffy's empty hands swung at her sides in time with her stride.

She couldn't wait anymore. Faith stepped out of the doorway where she'd been hiding and hurled a stake across the street with deadly accuracy.

It struck the vampire in the back with so much force the point protruded from his chest. He looked down at it in surprise for a second. Then the only thing remaining of Buffy's would-be attacker was a pile of dust on the sidewalk.

Heart pounding, Faith watched Buffy stroll down the sidewalk. She'd never noticed the vampire or Faith's assistance.

Giving up on stealth, Faith walked a block behind Buffy. They crossed East Sola and skirted the hulking stone shell of Sunnydale Elementary School. There were more vampires ahead in Alameda Park. Faith counted at least three.

Even Buffy noticed the first one. He stood at the top of the slide, silhouetted by the bright moonlight. "Come on. Don't you know there's a height requirement for that? Get down before you hurt yourself," she called out.

Faith kept one eye on Buffy as she advanced toward the playground; the other scanned for the other two blips on her Slayer radar.

Her two targets were to the right. Faith drifted in that direction, keeping to the cover provided by the shrubs surrounding the equipment. Leaves rustled farther into the underbrush, and Faith knew she couldn't continue to divide her attention. Buffy would have to handle one vampire on her own.

Diving headfirst into the thick green growth, Faith tackled one of "her" vampires.

They crashed to the ground, grappling for position. Her head rocked back, and Faith bit back a groan when the muscled demon punched the side of her head. "Damn it. That's gonna leave a bruise," she protested.

He seemed fine with that. His fangs gleamed when he smiled.

"Bet this will, too." With a wrench of her hips, Faith reversed their position. Sitting on top of the vampire, she pinned his left shoulder to the ground. With her right fist, Faith rained down a series of crushing blows.

They were enough to daze her opponent. While he laid gasping and moaning under her, Faith yanked a stake from inside her jacket. Seconds later, her knees thunked to the grass.

"One down, one to go," she muttered. Hopping up, she wormed her way through the underbrush in search of her final target. He wasn't far away. Faith felt him nearby.

She paused. What the fuck? Buffy's vampire was still alive. He tickled the edges of her senses.

Head whipping back and forth between the vampire ahead of her and the one with Buffy in the playground, Faith struggled to make a decision.

Buffy won out.

Spinning, Faith located Buffy and her vampire on the grass near a picnic table. Air exploded from her lungs.

Somehow, the vampire had gained the upper hand. He straddled Buffy, and, even from across the playground, Faith saw him shoving a stake closer and closer to Buffy's chest despite her efforts to keep it away.

Faith flipped the stake in her hand over and prepared to repeat her throw from earlier.

Before she could bring her arm back, though, Buffy snapped her head forward, head-butting the vampire above her. She followed that with an open-handed slap. The sound of flesh meeting flesh was loud in the silence of the playground.

The vampire staggered back a few steps.

Perfect. Faith pulled her arm back, stake held close to her right ear. She just needed…

With a loud roar, the vampire charged at Buffy.

Whipping her arm forward, Faith heaved the stake at him. The sharpened wood slammed into his back – just as Buffy's stake pierced his heart from the front. A cloud of dust exploded where the vampire had been.

Slowly sitting up, Buffy brushed at her clothes. "Well, that was more fun than I expected," she grumpily announced to the empty playground, seemingly unaware of Faith's presence.

Faith melted back into the shadows. A quick scan of the area didn't yield anymore vampires. The last member of the previous group must have run away. She sent a silent thanks to the PtB as Buffy climbed unsteadily to her feet. Faith was out of stakes, and Buffy looked like she was on her last leg.

She took a step toward Buffy. Maybe she should say something, find out what was wrong.

"I am so telling Will that we can't do all-night study parties again. Sleepy Slayers are Dead Slayers," Buffy mumbled as she plodded back toward the street.

At Buffy's comment, Faith rethought her options. She didn't want to overreact if Buffy was just tired. She stepped back into the shadows and once again followed her down the darkened streets of Sunnydale.

There didn't appear to be any more vampires in the area – at least, none Faith could sense. She didn't relax, though. Keeping Buffy in sight, she continued tailing the other Slayer until she climbed the steps to the Summers' house. Freed from her self-imposed bodyguard duty, Faith watched as the living room light blinked out and Buffy's bedroom light went on. "Hope to hell you get some sleep tonight, B. I got better things to do than follow your sorry ass on patrol every night."

The upstairs bedroom went dark.

Casting one last look around the neighborhood, Faith began the long walk to the Sunnydale Motor Inn.



Determined to talk to Buffy about the night before, Faith made sure to get to the library early the next morning. However, the large room was dark and empty.

Rocking on her heels, Faith waited impatiently for one of the Scoobies to show up.

Ten…fifteen…twenty minutes ticked by.

Finally, Faith couldn't take it anymore. To hell with asking Buffy anything. She'd find out what Buffy and Giles were hiding on her own. A casual flick of her wrist released her switchblade from its wrist sheath and snapped the blade open.

Keeping her ears alert for the sound of approaching footsteps, Faith crept to Giles' office. Her knife blade slipped into the lock. Metal ground against metal, and Faith applied a touch of force.

The dead bolt retracted with a click.

"Good to know I ain't lost my touch," Faith congratulated herself as she turned the handle and stepped into Giles' cramped office. She started with his desk, rifling through the mountain of paperwork littering the surface.

Unless Buffy had suddenly turned into a two-headed, scaled demon that ingested its own young, there was nothing useful there.

Faith moved on, scouring the bookshelves and filing cabinets.


Slamming the filing cabinet drawer closed in frustration, Faith almost missed her first clue. The drawer closed with a thump, the sound immediately followed by the clink of shifting metal.

Pausing in her move toward the door, Faith returned to the tall wooden cabinet and pulled open the bottom drawer a second time. This time, though, she dropped to her knees and peered closer at the files crammed into it.

"You sneaky bastard," Faith insulted an absent Giles. The drawer was longer than she'd thought. Behind the last manila file folder, someone (and Faith put the blame squarely on Giles) had inserted a false back. She pried it out.

Behind the drawer was the silver case she'd seen last night. The one with the colored rocks.

Grinning in triumph, she pulled it out and flicked open the latch. The inside of the case was lined with thick padding and smooth black velvet. Six polished crystals rested in recessed pockets. A syringe and a nearly-full vial were bound to the padding with elastic bands.

The dim sunlight filtering through the window blinds caught the green crystal, and the sparkle drew Faith's attention. She stared raptly into the shifting colors of the smooth crystal and her stomach roiled. Frowning at the feeling, Faith looked away for a second.

The room spun crazily and she swayed on her knees. She grabbed the side of the filing cabinet, and the dizziness and nausea faded.

"What the fuck was that?" Her voice wavered and cracked when she spoke. Turning back to the crystals, Faith reached for the largest, a blue hexagonal piece.

A boom echoed in the distance as the front doors to the school slammed closed.

Faith reacted instantly. Closing and locking the case, she hurriedly dropped it back into its hiding place and shoved the false back in front. It took three tries to seat the wooden piece correctly. Finally, sweating and cursing, she got the drawer closed and ducked out of the office. As she sprinted past the research table and up the short set of steps to the stacks, Faith heard Buffy and Giles arguing just outside the library doors.

"Something's wrong, Giles. I almost got staked last night – by a newbie vamp. He was so new, he still had dirt under his fingernails," Buffy said loudly.

Hesitating at the top of the steps, Faith glanced wildly around. Damn it. No matter what she did, Buffy was going to know she was here.

The library doors opened a crack – and then stopped.

"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about, Buffy." Giles' voice was calm and unruffled.

Faith flinched and ducked instinctively as the loud smack of a hand hitting the wooden surface of the door exploded through the library.

"I'm not sure, Giles. In fact, I'm a long, long way from the Land of Sure." Buffy's growl of frustration made Faith smirk. "This can't happen now. I can't get sick; I can't have even a bad day. My dad's coming down to take me to the ice show."

The door inched further open and a slender leg encased in grey slacks stepped into the library. Out of options, Faith dove behind a shelf and flattened herself against the floor. Unable to see anything but the bottom row of books and the cheap carpet fibers, Faith waited tensely for Buffy to discover her.

No one came hunting her, though. The overhead lights popped and then hummed as they came to life. Footsteps tapped against the carpet. The lock on the book cage rattled, and the door creaked open. "We need to figure out what's wrong, Giles," Buffy announced firmly.

Metal clinked against metal as Faith cautiously raised her head and peered over the tops of the books. She watched Buffy exit the cage with a pair of daggers in her hands and stride to the middle of the room.

Giles sighed. He leaned against the checkout desk looking impatient. "Buffy, we don't know that this is anything more serious than a cold. Perhaps you should simply take it easy for the next twenty-four hours."

Not answering, Buffy took aim at the target pinned to the railing separating the research area from the stacks. The knife wobbled immediately after release and smacked into the target with the flat of the blade.

The clink as it dropped to the floor seemed to echo in the room.

"See?" Buffy turned to Giles and waved her arms dramatically. "I'm way off my game. My game's left the country. It's enjoying fruity drinks in Cuernavaca."

Giles held up a hand, waving off Buffy's comment, and walked to his office.

Faith sucked in a deep breath and bit back a groan. She hadn't locked the door behind her.

Her error appeared to go unnoticed, however. Giles didn't reach for his keys; instead, he simply turned the knob and stepped into his office.

Closing her eyes in relief, Faith sagged back to the floor.

The relief faded when Buffy heaved her second knife at the target. Or…Faith assumed she'd meant to hit the bulls' eye. Instead of sinking into the target, though, the knife went wide.

An innocent reading lamp paid the price, and glass shards landed on the floor in time with Giles' bellow. "Buffy! Bloody hell. Stop throwing those things before you destroy anything else!"

Buffy's shoulders slumped and she plodded over to sit at the research table.

She was so close now that Faith could smell her perfume and should have been able to feel the warm, teasing tingle of recognition through their Slayer bond.

Faith frowned.

There was no tingle. Not even a brush on their bond.

The two near stakings last night, Buffy's lack of skill with the daggers, and now the seeming loss of their bond… Faith added up all of the clues – and refused to trust her answer.

Fighting off a chill of fear, she forced herself to check her math. Whispering in a voice so soft only Slayer hearing would pick it up, she said, "Hey, B. Looks like you need some lessons in hitting the target. If you want, I'd be more'n happy to be your teacher." She deliberately pushed Buffy's buttons with the blatantly sexual overtones in her voice.

Buffy didn't hear her. She continued to sit at the table, fingers tracing a random design on the scarred surface.

Climbing to her knees, Faith stared at Buffy and confronted the truth. Buffy wasn't a Slayer anymore.

She stayed in that position even when Giles returned to the room with his case of crystals in hand. Faith watched numbly as he sat at the table next to Buffy and patted her hand.

"Why don't we see if some meditation will help bring your vacationing game, as you call it, home?" Giles opened the case and removed the blue crystal Faith had been examining earlier. Pulling the gem from its velvet-lined pocket, he put it on the table in front of Buffy

The sparkle of the crystal pulled at Faith's attention.

She ignored the insistent summons. All of Faith's attention was reserved for Buffy. She stared intently at the other girl.

"Let's move past what we practiced last night, shall we?" Giles asked. "I want you to look deeply into the grounding crystal, Buffy."

Buffy didn't have any problems looking at the blue stone. Following Giles' instructions, she sat forward in her chair and examined it.

Smiling in satisfaction, Giles continued. "Now, I want you to look for something, Buffy. There is a flaw near the very heart of the stone."

Leaning even closer to the crystal, Buffy murmured, "I see it."

"Excellent, my dear. You are doing far better than I had hoped with this exercise." Dividing her attention, Faith glanced at Giles. Hmmm. She wasn't the only one interested in Buffy's actions. Giles' eyes were locked onto Buffy.

After a few minutes, Faith noticed Buffy's head droop and her expression go slack.

"Buffy?" Giles had noticed, too. He snapped his fingers, trying to wake her from her trance. "My dear?"

There was no response from Buffy.

Faith moved, putting one foot on the floor. Her muscles tensed as she got ready. Something was very, very wrong.

Giles still didn't seem to understand there was a problem. Movements slow and easy, he lifted the case onto the table and withdrew two more items.

Eyes wide, Faith watched him sit the vial and syringe on the table.

No! No way! The internal denial tried to tear from her throat. Faith stayed in position as Giles removed the safety cap from the syringe and inserted the needle into the top of the vial.

Yellow liquid filled the glass barrel as Giles retracted the plunger. When the barrel was full, he turned back to Buffy, flicked a nail against the syringe, and squirted a narrow stream of the liquid into the air.

Faith heard the droplets hit the table top.

Giles took Buffy's arm, turning it so her knuckles rested on the table. "Buffy?" he called softly.

There was still no response from Buffy. Her half-opened eyes stared sightlessly past Giles.

Surging to her feet, Faith started to leave her hiding place.

She'd waited too long. Before she reached the end of the bookcase, Giles inserted the needle into Buffy's arm and depressed the plunger.

Unsure what to do now, Faith stopped. Her eyes burned and she gritted her teeth at what appeared to be Giles' betrayal of his Slayer. She had to be wrong. She had to. Giles wouldn't hurt Buffy.

Repeating that mantra, Faith watched Giles pull the needle from Buffy's arm and replace the safety cap. The syringe and vial slipped back into the case before he leaned forward and waved his hand in front of Buffy's face.

The action broke Buffy's trance.

She jerked upright and blinked dazedly. "Wow. What happened?" Raising her hand, Buffy rubbed her temple. "Did I zone out on you?"

Giles nodded but remained silent.

"I'm sorry, Giles. I know you said this meditation stuff was important." She gave him her best puppy dog face. "It must be the flu bug or whatever. I promise to do better. Really."

Cracking a smile, Giles picked up the crystal and placed it back into its spot in the case. "Perhaps it's best you take care of that now, Buffy. I think you should…"

The trill of the school bell interrupted him.

"Um…" Giles faltered for a minute.

"I'll go take a nap in class," Buffy announced as she climbed slowly to her feet. "It's history class; I'm sure I won't have any trouble getting to sleep." Groaning and still rubbing her temple, Buffy started for the door.

"Do be careful, Buffy." Giles stood, too. "If you should begin to feel worse, you know that I am here for you." He closed the case as Buffy pushed through the library door.

Still standing stiffly between the shelves, Faith's fists clenched. Giles was there for Buffy? Not anymore. Not once Faith found the other girl and told her what she'd seen him do.

Giles' next words, though, drove those thoughts out of Faith's mind. "Do be careful, my dear. The Council's tests are never easy or simple." Looking far less pleased than before, Giles picked up the case and returned to his office. Less than a minute later, he strode out of the library.

When the door thumped closed, Faith stepped out of her hiding place. "What the fuck is going on?" Her words barely disturbed the heavy silence in the room. She had too many questions about last night and this morning. She needed answers. Already planning her next move, Faith trotted to the doors and peered out.

Students hurried through the crowded hallway, but Faith didn't see either Giles or Buffy.

Perfect. She slipped seamlessly into the throng and began hunting for her first target.





In the past few months, Faith had been around the high school so often that none of the students gave her a second glance. She dodged in and out of the crowd, searching for her prey.

There. Just ahead, talking to some beefy boy in a letter jacket.

Faith ducked behind a crowd of kids and went by. She couldn't snatch and run with everyone in the hallway. She'd bide her time. See if she could get Willow alone.

Another bell rang and the atmosphere in the hall changed in a heartbeat. Kids no longer walked and talked. They hurried, heads down and arms full of books. Some even ran. Faith cursed and spun around. Had she lost Willow?

No. The bright red hair stood out against the more prevalent blond.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Faith stepped around the corner of the last locker on her right and waited.

A minute later, Willow walked by.

Hands reaching out with Slayer speed, Faith slapped one over Willow's mouth and the other around Willow's shoulder. With a sharp tug, she pulled the other girl out of the hallway and pressed her tightly to her chest.

Willow didn't appreciate the kidnapping. She writhed and kicked, making repeated contact with Faith's shins.

"Fuck!"Faith's voice hissed between clenched teeth. "You got rocks in your shoes, Red? Stop twisting and I'll let you go,"she promised. Anything to get those deadly heels to stop drumming on her legs. "You and me gotta talk.”

The kicking slowed.

Gingerly lifting one leg after another, Faith made sure nothing was broken. "Alright. Now, when I let ya' go, no screaming."She waited for a second, but Willow didn't nod. Hands tightening around Willow, Faith got impatient. They didn't have time for this. "I ain't playing around here, Red."Debating with herself for a minute, Faith decided there was no other way. "I need your help,"she gritted out. "Something's wrong with B.”

That got a reaction. Unintelligible sounds leaked out under Faith's hand and Willow started beating at Faith's sides with her fists.

Figuring it might finally be safe to let go, Faith warily loosened her grip. "You ready to talk?”

"Yes!"That was clear, even with Faith's hand still hovering over Willow's mouth. "What's wrong with Buffy? I just saw her going to class. She looked fine."Twisting unexpectedly, Willow managed to wrench herself around. She glared up at Faith. "Did you do something to her? If you did, I'll turn you into a frog. I can do it, too. I have the spell with me.”

Her claim was debatable. Faith knew all about Willow's troubles with spellcasting. For once, though, Faith didn't take the opportunity to dig at Willow about her magic. "I didn't do nothing, Red. B don't even know I'm in town."Scanning the hallway, Faith knew they couldn't stay there. "You know where we can go so nobody walks in on us? I don't want that weird little bald guy to throw me out again."And she sure as hell didn't want Giles or Buffy to spot her.

"Giles won't mind if we use his office. I go there a lot to study since it's quiet."Willow tilted her head and continued to stare at Faith. "It must be really bad if you're asking me for help.”

"Yeah. It's really bad. And we can't use the library." No way. Faith didn't elaborate. She'd get to that soon enough once they found a good hiding spot. "Empty classroom? Janitor closet? Girls' bathroom? Where, Red?"The longer they stood here, the better the chance someone would see them. Her leg started to bounce with nervous energy. If Willow didn't know someplace, Faith would take her back to her motel room.

Biting her lip and frowning, Willow finally offered, "We could try the science lab, I guess. Mr. Haynes has prep time first period. And,"Willow seemed to perk up, "I have the key to the supply closet in there.”

"Let's go."Shoving Willow away, Faith followed her down the hallway away. The classroom was empty and reeked of chemicals. "Fuck. No wonder no one's in here. It stinks."Wrinkling her nose, Faith let Willow dig a key ring out of her computer bag and unlock a door at the back of the room.

She'd thought the regular classroom smelled bad; when she stepped into the supply closet, Faith knew she'd been wrong. Slayer-enhanced senses were bad. Coughing and blinking her tearing eyes, Faith dragged a big plastic bucket with a lid into the middle of the closet and pointed.

Willow looked mutinous, but she sat down anyway.

"OK."Now that it was time to tell her story, Faith didn't know where to start. Willow wasn't going to believe her. "Just let me do this and don't ask no questions until I'm finished.” 

"Can't you just tell me about Buffy?"Willow had obviously missed the part about not asking questions.

"No, Red. It's complicated."Faith paced as best she could in the tight space. "I'm gonna give you the Reader's Digest version, though." Hands clenched into fists, she forced herself to stand still and look at Willow as she started her story. "A couple of days ago, Tweed told me I needed to hop a train to LA. There was a vamp nest or some shit that only a Slayer could handle. He musta cleaned his glasses seven, eight times while he had me sittin' in his office. So I said, sure. I'd go – and then I hung around waiting to see what was really going on."

Faith paused as Willow shifted on her makeshift chair. From the tightly pressed lips, it was clear that she didn't think Faith had made the right choice.

Keeping her voice even with effort, Faith didn't respond to the silent rebuke. "Last night, I was outside the library when B showed up."Willow didn't need to know it hadn't been luck or an accident that she'd been peering in the window. "I couldn't hear what they was talkin' about, but Tweed dragged out this bigass case filled with rocks. He made B stare into one, and…"

She uncurled her fists and shrugged. "I don't know how to tell ya' right … B seemed funny when they were done."Skipping over a few details, she picked up with what happened when Buffy left the school. "I was going to talk to B, ask about them rocks,"Faith continued, stretching the truth. "Only, she didn't seem to know I was there. It was like she was sleep walking.”

"Did you think maybe she was ignoring you?"Willow snapped impatiently. "I mean, just because you wanted to talk doesn't mean Buffy wanted to.”

Nerves already stretched taut, Faith lashed out. Bottles, boxes, and beakers crashed to the floor of the closet. "She didn't know I was there, Red!"Faith snarled. "She didn't know the vamp was behind her, either. I had to toss a stake all the way across the street to dust the fucker before he got to her."Moving in close, Faith leaned down until she was less than an inch from Willow's face. "I had to save her ass twice in ten minutes because B was so out of it.”

Willow shrank back, eyes wide and afraid.

That look was enough to cool Faith's rage. Shaking and breathing hard, she retreated as far as she could and leaned her back against the closet door. "As fucking scary as that was, it ain't the worst. I showed up here this morning to ask B what was up. Only she and Tweed came into the library together."The scene played out in her mind. The crystals. The syringe. Unable to continue the story in any logical order, Faith blurted out, "Giles stuck a needle in her arm, Red. He drugged Buffy!”

The silence was deafening.

Finally responding, Willow slowly climbed to her feet. "You must have misunderstood, Faith,"she protested. However, she didn't sound convinced of that herself. "I mean, why would he do that?"Then Willow appeared to recover. Planting her hands on her hips, she glared at Faith. "I bet you're making this up. This is some game you're playing to break us up.”

She should have expected this. Willow had always hated her, hated her tie to Buffy and the Slaying. Pushing away from the door, Faith reached behind her and gripped the doorknob. "You're right, Red. You always are. I'm just a bitch looking to make B like me better than you."She wrenched the door open and strode out. She'd go to Buffy. At least Buffy already knew something was wrong. Maybe she'd believe Faith about the crystals and the drug.

Willow's quick footfalls followed behind her. "Faith…"

Faith kept walking. She was through dealing with Willow. Slamming out of the classroom, she ignored Willow as she ran along beside her.

"Faith! Wait!"Willow gripped her arm. Her sneakered feet squeaked and slipped on the tile floor as Faith dragged her along without slowing. "Please!"With one last yank, Willow managed to get part of her body in front of Faith. Plastering herself to Faith's front, she added a final, "Stop!"and a very stern Resolve Face.

"Oh for fuck's sake."Bowing before that look, Faith shoved Willow beneath the stairs to the second floor. "What? You want to yell at me some more? Maybe add in how I torture puppies or knock old ladies down in the street?"

They were toe to toe now.

Her question broke the mood. Willow's face cracked with a small smile and then she giggled. "Do you? Knock people down when you cross the street?”

Faith didn't return the smile or laughter. Willow was wasting time. "Look, Red, I ain't here to giggle and exchange stories on how to get the jocks in the sack. Either help me find out what's up with B or get the hell out of the way.”

"You're right."Willow's smile faded and she took a step to the side. "I don't…I still don't believe you,"she said in a rush. "I guess…I guess I'll help you look, though. Just in case."

Head starting to pound from stress and Willow's rapid mind changes, Faith nodded curtly. "Great."She rolled her neck and heard several loud pops. "What do we do first?”

Chewing her lip, Willow stepped out from under the stairs and resumed their trek down the hallway. "Well, I need to know what drug Giles used."Her head snapped up, and she glanced at Faith. "I mean, that Giles allegedly used.”  When Faith simply scowled, Willow looked away and went on. "And why would Giles do something like that? I don't understand, Faith. Buffy's like Giles' daughter!”

"I know what I saw, Red."Faith stuffed her hands in her pockets. "If you need to know about the drug, I know where Tweed hides it. I can get you a look since he ain't in the library. You want me to…" She hesitated and then mentally shrugged. Her less than legal activities wouldn't shock Willow. "You want me to steal the stuff and meet you somewhere?”

Willow gave her a long look. "We aren't stealing anything, Faith."

We? Faith mocked silently. Willow wouldn't be anywhere around when she broke into Giles' office again.

"We're simply borrowing it, and we'll put it back when we have the information we need."Willow might have been free with the we, but she had a point. "It would be better if I didn't have to worry about getting caught."She bounced on her toes. "It would be worse, though, if Principal Snyder found out I left campus. He'd probably blame Buffy and try to kick her out of school again."

Faith didn't dare break Willow's train of thought. She concentrated on steering them back toward the library.

"I'll go with you,"Willow announced.

"The fuck you will."No way was Willow sneaking into Giles' office. Faith shuddered at that. "Why don't you…”

She never got to finish. "I spend a lot of time in the library, Faith. If someone – even Giles – finds me there, they won't ask questions. I'll use the computer at the checkout desk to research whatever is in that case."Willow grinned impishly. "Or I can sneak a peek at the Slayer Diaries he thinks I don't know are hidden in his office.”

Giving in, Faith chuckled. "And here I thought I'd have a chance to get B to live on the wild side. Guess I was aiming for the wrong Superfriend. Let's do a little breaking and entering, Wendy.”


Despite Faith's comment, there was no breaking in required. The library was unlocked – as was the door to Giles' office. "Well fuck; this ain't no fun,"Faith complained as she hefted the case of crystals onto the checkout desk next to the computer.

"It's not supposed to be fun,"Willow snapped. She typed rapidly on the keyboard and glared over her shoulder at Faith. "According to you, Buffy's in trouble."Taking her hands off the keys, Willow turned on the stool and gazed at the case. "Is that what you saw Giles use?”

Faith nodded and flicked open the latches. "Yeah."The sparkle of the crystals caught her attention, and she lost awareness of the room. There was a dark spot in the big blue stone. Leaning in, she tried to find it – and swayed a bit.

She jerked back when a hand waved in front of her face.

"Hey, watch it, Red. You might poke my eye out or something with those skinny fingers."Blinking dazedly, Faith shoved the case closer to Willow. "Here. All ya' had to do was ask if you wanted a closer look.”

Willow looked worriedly at Faith and barely glanced at the contents of the case, though. "Are you alright? You faded out and didn't hear me when I was talking.”

The crystals…Faith quickly took a step away from them. "It's them,"she said, pointing at the gems nestled in their velvet-lined spots. "That's what happened to B when she looked at them, too."Stuffing her hands in her pockets, Faith hunched her shoulders. "What the fuck are they?”

Reaching out, Willow pulled one out and held it up. It sparkled in the sunlight pouring through the skylight.

Faith physically turned away when she caught herself staring raptly at it. "Red? Stop playing with the damned thing and get to work. Giles ain't gonna stay gone all day. He lives here, remember?"Her head pounded and she pulled a hand out of her pocket to rub her temple.

"Right. Sorry."Faith could hear the embarrassment in Willow's squeak. "I put it back. You can turn around now.”

As much as she didn't want to admit she was having a problem, Faith didn't turn around. She could almost feel that blue crystal waiting to grab her again if she did, and there was no way she was letting that happen again. "Nah, I'll just hang by the door. Play lookout in case Tweed comes back.”

"Faith."Faith risked a glance over her shoulder at Willow's terse summons. "I don't know what I'm looking for. You've at least seen this stuff. I need you to help me.”

They shared a sober look at the request.

"My bad, Red. You're right. We gotta help B."No matter how much Faith's skin crawled at the thought of those gems, she had to help Buffy. She reached out and slammed the lid of the case closed. If Willow was researching, it didn't need to be open. "Where do we start?"she asked, stuffing her hands into her pockets again.

Willow frowned at the keyboard. "I'm not sure. I've already cross-referenced the crystals with the Council. I didn't get anything."Her fingers moved restlessly over the keys. "I could probably hack into their records…"She trailed off and began typing again.

"Ain't they got some kind of protection against that?"Faith asked curiously. Leaning closer, she peered over Willow's shoulder. The letters and numbers moved too fast for even her enhanced vision to follow.

"They should."Faith caught Willow's slight smirk. "They don't, though. You know how bad Giles is with computers. I get the feeling he's very progressive for a Watcher."The characters on the screen froze and then blinked. "Huh.”

Waiting as patiently as she could, Faith stretched and rolled her neck.

"I'm in. I think,"Willow mumbled. Sticking her face right against the screen, she stared at something. "Either they have a way more complicated algorithm than I thought or I just broke their system."

Faith rolled her neck again as all the muscles she'd loosened a minute ago knotted up again. "Red, I don't give a fuck about the computer or them algor-whatevers. Can you get the info on whatever's up with B?"The words were a husky growl.

Machine-gun typing answered her.

Boxes, strings of letters and numbers, pictures…they sprang up on the computer screen and then disappeared seconds later.

Finally, as Faith reached out to physically make Willow explain what was going on, Willow sat back on her stool. "I found it." She pointed to the information filling the screen. "It's old, and the reference is vague. I think what you saw was something called the Cruciamentum.”

The word sounded bad. Faith shivered. "That some kind of Slayer cold or something?"she asked, hating the quiver in her voice. If it was in the Council computer then Giles hadn't hurt Buffy accidentally. He'd done it on purpose.

"It's a test, from what I can see."Wide green eyes looked at Faith. "Apparently, it's something every Slayer goes through right before their eighteenth birthday.”

"B's hitting the big one-eight tomorrow, ain't she?"Faith already knew that. She'd heard the Scoobies talking about throwing Buffy a party for weeks. "Guess this is the Council's special present, huh?"She tapped her fingers on the case. "What about this stuff? And the fact B ain't acting like herself?"Even now, Faith couldn't bring herself to voice her fears that Buffy was no longer a Slayer.

Shaking her head, Willow started typing. "No. That's all there is. I've checked every database and file in the Council records."She sighed and banged her fist on the desk. "Stupid computer-hating men!" Willow snarled. "Not all of the records are stored electronically yet. So much of the Council information is still sitting on a shelf getting dusty.”

Echoing Willow's frustration, Faith started pacing. "We ain't got time to lose it, Red. We still got to find the rest of the information. If it ain't on the computer, what about them books you said Tweed had? Would it be there?”

Willow nodded slowly. "It might. I know Giles writes everything down, but…"She looked up at Faith. "If this is a test, Faith, shouldn't we let Buffy try to pass it on her own? I mean, what you described sounded terrible. I just…It's a test!”

She had a point. Staring at the floor, Faith replayed the scene from the previous night. "Red, I know you're big on the books and school. And if I thought for one minute that this was just some test to see if B can remember the names of all the other Slayers, I'd be cool with that.”

Slowly dragging her eyes up, Faith met Willow's gaze steadily. "It's way more than that. Them funky rocks, the drug."Rocking on her heels, Faith sucked in a deep breath and forced herself to go on. To say out loud what scared her the most. "I can't feel her no more, Red. It's like B ain't a Slayer no more.”

The comment hit home. Willow went pale and then bright red. "You…you think whatever Giles did took away her Calling?"Her voice rose. "You're crazy. I know you're crazy because Giles would never do that, no matter what. He's her Watcher and…and like her father…and he wouldn't…"

Faith sprang forward. "You think I don't know that? You think I'm havin' a laugh and just fucking with your head? You think I want to tell B that Giles did this to her? I was there last night, Red."Her voice cracked as she continued intently, "You looked in the fucking case. The drugs and the crystals were there. Stop trying to convince yourself this is all my fault and find out what the hell is goin' on! What is that shit in there?"Faith pointed wildly at the case. "'Cause I swear that B don't feel like a Slayer anymore. She's not on my radar, and I know she can't feel me.”

"OK."Willow slid off the stool and opened the case. "I'm sorry,"she said softly. "I wasn't there, and I haven't seen any signs that Buffy's different.”

Faith's knuckles ached from the way she clenched her hands. "Red…"she growled.

The vial came out of the case, and Willow stuffed it in a pocket. "I'll go back to the lab and run some tests during my free period.”

"What about the books?"Faith couldn't relax yet. She didn't trust Willow not to go on another tirade.

The question earned her an intense look. "I have to get a look at them,"Willow said solemnly.

"Then let's get the books and go. We been in here too fucking long. Tweed'll be back and I ain't gonna explain to him why you got all his diaries or whatever spread out on the research table."Faith grabbed the case and carried it back to Giles' office. She left it leaning against his desk where she'd found it. "What do you need?”

Biting her lip, Willow scanned the shelves. "Slayer Diaries."She pointed to a row of leather-bound journals on the top shelf of a bookcase against the far wall. "Like these, only…Buffy's isn't here. Giles always keeps it here.”

Faith sensed a panic attack on the way. "Don't get all lathered up, Red. Tweed likes to hide things. Make sure the book ain't stashed on another shelf and I'll check for secret drawers and shit."She dropped to her knees and started with the paper-laden desk.

There wasn't another false back or any hiding spots, though.

Sweating and close to an unaccustomed emotional outburst (though, not panic), Faith slammed a hand onto the floor. "Fuck it! Where's that book?”

"I don't know."Willow sullenly dropped down to sit next to Faith. "Maybe Giles has it with him. We can use the other diaries, though. This is a traditional test. That means other Slayers have gone through the test. Right?"She peered at Faith and tossed her hair over her shoulder. "Did your Watcher ever mention it?”

All the air in the room disappeared. "No,"Faith choked out. "She didn't."Standing up in a single, powerful surge, she tried to pace the tiny office. "If we can't find the book you want, let's motor, Red."The more she talked, the less she thought – and the better she felt. "Grab them other diaries and I can read ‘em while you test the drug. Maybe you'll find something before B heads for home."Babbling was addictive. Faith pressed her lips together to make sure she didn't lose any more control.

Willow didn't look pleased with the decision.  However, after staring around the office one last time, she climbed to her feet and started unloading the shelf she'd indicated earlier. By the time she had finished, her backpack bulged.

Smirking, Faith watched the other girl stagger under the load.

"You could help,"Willow panted as she resettled the strap over her shoulder and leaned into the weight.

She had a point. Faith snatched the backpack from Willow and effortlessly looped the strap over her shoulder. "You need anything else?”

"No,"Willow said as she scanned the room. "If I find something in the diaries or when I test the vial, we may have to come back, though."She took a step toward the door and stopped. "What if Giles comes back and sees all the books missing?”

The muscles in the back of Faith's neck screamed as they tightened further. "I don't know, Red,"Faith admitted. "Does it really matter? We either leave ‘em here and let B handle this on her own or we take ‘em and deal with Tweed when he finds us. Your call."She waited stiffly for Willow to make a decision.

"Let's hurry."Willow set a blistering pace for the door. "It's almost time for the bell to ring, and I don't want Buffy to see us together."She stuck her head out of the library.

Glad Willow couldn't see her eye roll, Faith crossed her arms and rocked on her heels as she waited for Willow.

After a few seconds, Willow's head reappeared. "There are only a few people out there now. We can probably make it to the lab if we hurry.”

Faith wisely didn't point out how much time they'd wasted while Willow played lookout. "Ready when you are,"she said instead. Sticking to Willow's back, she followed her out of the library.

They retraced their earlier path. This time, though, Faith wondered if there was a neon sign over their heads. Every one of the kids they passed stared.

It was a relief to turn the corner by the lockers and duck out of sight.

That's when the bell rang and hundreds of people flooded the hallway. Faith grabbed Willow and pulled her into a classroom doorway. "Stay put,"she hissed in Willow's ear. "I don't want to run into B.”  She would have continued if a shout hadn't interrupted.

"Hey,"a male voice shouted over the din in the hall. "You don't do that to me!"

Faith tried to peer over the crowd. This didn't sound good. If a fight broke out, Snyder might show up. She didn't want to risk getting rounded up right now.

Unfortunately, the glimpses she got showed the fight was already underway. Some tall, bulky kid had a hand wrapped around Cordelia's arm. "You made me look like a dork in front of my posse.”

"Get over yourself,"Cordelia snapped back. She played to the crowd, throwing her free hand up in the air dramatically. "You and your ‘posse' are pathetic. I don't even know why I thought you were worth my time.”

Faith shoved Willow out of the doorway. "This is gonna get ugly. We need to get out of here before the action kicks off."She dragged Willow around a group of kids trying to get closer to the action.

She came to an abrupt stop when a new voice tickled her enhanced hearing. "You even think about hitting her, I'm going to make you into a pretzel.”

Buffy. "God damn it!"Faith spun around and started the other direction. This time, she didn't try to avoid the students. She simply shoved them out of the way. With Willow still stumbling behind, she got them to within a few rows of the front – just in time to see Buffy attempt to yank the boy away from Cordelia.

It was worse than the fight with the vampire the previous night. Buffy not only didn't move the kid, she actually lost her balance from the failed takedown. Windmilling wildly, she stumbled backward into a bench along the wall.

"Still think I'm lying, Red?"Faith whispered numbly.




When Willow didn't answer, Faith flicked a glance in that direction. What she saw was nearly as upsetting as Buffy's attempt at a fight. Tears tracked rapid paths down Willow's cheeks as the other girl stared in disbelief at Buffy. Faith knew Willow understood now; she knew Buffy wasn't a Slayer any longer.

There was no satisfaction in that thought.

"Come on, Red."Faith put one hand on Willow's shoulder and clenched the other into a tight fist. Her stomach knotted and her muscles quivered with the need to rescue Buffy. She couldn't. Faith knew she couldn't risk drawing attention to herself.

The knowledge didn't make it any easier to steer Willow back through the crowd and to the science lab. However, as soon as they entered the privacy of the empty lab, Faith broke. The backpack came off her shoulder and flew across the room. "Fuck it!"Out of projectiles, Faith resorted to a more immediate display of anger. She swung both hands at the lab table in front of her. The surface buckled and cracked under the force.

"Stop wasting time, Faith."Willow's voice was hoarse and tight. It was so unlike her usual voice that it penetrated Faith's blind rage.

Shaking and suddenly enervated, Faith dropped onto a stool. "Yeah."She had to get back in the game. Faith fought to block the image of Buffy staggering into a bench after some stupid  jock shoved her. "Sorry."The picture in her mind wouldn't go away. It continued to replay, one slow frame at a time.

"Faith!"Willow seemed to materialize at Faith's elbow. "Did you hit your head while I wasn't looking? Stop taking a nap and start reading the Diaries."

The diaries… Faith blinked dazedly at Willow. What…? The Diaries. Faith sprang off the stool. The Slayer Diaries. "My bad, Red. You need anything to run the tests?"The missing energy was back in spades. Faith bounced in place, ready to go.

So, it seemed, was Willow. "No. Everything I need is right here."She trotted to one of the undamaged lab tables and set the vial they'd taken from the case down. "I just have to get a few things out of the closet. It won't take long…I don't think.”

"Then I better hit the books."At another time, Faith might have laughed at that. Right now, though, her lack of research skill was anything except humorous. Retrieving the backpack she'd hurled across the room, Faith fished out the first Diary. What had Willow called the test? "What exactly am I looking for, Red? The name of the test?”

"Cruciamentum."Willow set down the beaker she was working with and hurried to the chalkboard at Faith's look of incomprehension. She scrawled the word across the board. "There. That's what you need to find."

That was more like it. "Thanks,"Faith said shortly. She opened the first book. Crabbed and illegible handwriting met her eyes. She nearly growled in frustration. There was no way she'd find anything in here – Faith couldn't even read the first paragraph.

Putting it aside, she tried another. Better. At least the words were clear. Faith skimmed the first several pages.

12 June 1732

I do not believe Emmaline has fully accepted her Calling. She continues to speak of returning to her family. Despite numerous encounters with vampyres, she has yet to actually utilize any of the skills I have attempted to demonstrate.

The passage sounded like Buffy, Faith thought. Except for not using her skills. Buffy didn't have a problem taking care of the demons spewing from the Hellmouth. Faith's hands clenched around the leather-bound volume. Buffy hadn't had a problem – until this test.

Faith skipped ahead. She needed to find the age of the Slayer. If she could find just the notations on the period prior to Emmaline's eighteenth birthday… "Red!”

Her forceful summons startled Willow. Shrieking, she spun around. "What?"Willow peered wildly around the room. "Is something wrong?”

"Nah. Nothing more than when we got here."Faith waved the book in her hands. "You been around Tweed longer than me. How old's a Slayer when she gets called?”

"I…I don't think there's an age limit, Faith,"Willow said slowly. "Buffy was fifteen. And you were…um…"She stared intently at Faith. "I don't even know how old you are now.”

Not shocked by Willow's lack of knowledge, Faith merely nodded. "Right. So if I figure fifteen for most Slayers getting the Big Call, I only gotta look about three years ahead of when the diary starts."Opening the journal again, she paid close attention to the date of the first entry. Seventeen thirty-two. Faith mentally added three years before randomly picking a spot in the middle of the journal.

The pages were blank.

That couldn't be a good sign. Working backwards, Faith flicked through page after page until she came to more of the cramped writing. Her eyes narrowed and her lips moved as she read the entry.

20 April 1733

As I feared, Emmaline's lack of dedication left her vulnerable and unable to defend herself. While attempting to rescue Lord Dunworthy's family from a nest of vampyres, Emmaline was, herself, killed.

The entry continued – probably more scathing remarks on the hapless Emmaline. Faith couldn't read it. She was cold…no, hot. It was sweltering in the science lab. She tossed the book aside and slid out of her coat. Faith swiped at the sweat on her forehead and determinedly grabbed another diary.

Not every Slayer died that quickly. She was still doggedly repeating that belief to herself as she numbly set journal after journal on the table. "Red?"Faith raised burning eyes. "Tell me ya' got something."Please, she nearly begged. There had to be some tiny spark of hope somewhere because there was only death and despair in the diaries.

"I haven't been able to find anything yet."Willow adjusted the knob on the burner flaming under a beaker. "There's still one test I haven't run, though. What about you? Did any of the Watchers talk about the test?”

"No."The word was so short and harsh that Willow turned around. "Unless we're way off on ages, none of ‘em even got to eighteen. Fuck. They never made it anywhere close."Faith's anger and frustration threatened to explode out of control again. Jumping to the ground, she paced back and forth with powerful strides. "How the fuck do they have a test if B's the only one who got that old?"

The question hung in the air with only the hiss of evaporating liquid as accompaniment until Willow offered a quiet comment. "She can't be the only one, Faith."She didn't sound totally convinced of that, however. "Giles only said most Slayers die young. He didn't say all."

Faith clung to that. Giles hadn't said all Slayers died young. Buffy had made it this far. She'd make it even farther – Faith wouldn't let her do anything else. "You got any names in that scary head of yours, Red? Some of them Slayers who didn't get munched too early?"

"Um…"Willow frowned so fiercely Faith almost took a step back. Seconds ticked by.

As much as Faith wanted that name, they were wasting more time. She had five more journals to read through. "Don't hurt yourself or nothing', Red. I'll try this one."Blindly grabbing a diary, Faith held it up. "It looks thicker than the rest."It was a lie. They were all the same size.

She saw Willow's eyes go to the book and then to the pile on the table. "I'll go back to work on finding out what's in that vial."They shared a sober look as Willow let Faith's lie about the size of the diary slide. "I should have…something soon.”

Something was better than nothing. Faith nodded and opened the next diary and checked the date. Completing her calculations, she gingerly slid a finger between the pages close to the middle of the journal. Please, she whispered to the Slayer who had been the subject of the journal. Please be the one. Holding her breath, she peered at the page – and gave a whoop of excitement. "Yes! Yes!

"You found it?"Willow left the equipment and ran over. "What does it say? Let me look!"She tried to pull the diary out of Faith's hands.

"Do your own fucking work, Red. I got this."Faith held onto the book tightly. "'Sides… I ain't got all the info yet."She wasn't ready to admit she didn't have anything more than a single date which might indicate the Slayer in the diary had reached her eighteenth birthday.

Willow pouted.

"Oh, put that away."Faith scowled and pointed at the liquid bubbling in the beaker. "Go play with the tubes and shit. I'll let ya' know when I get to the really good stuff."She had to physically turn away before she gave in and let Willow do the reading. Pout Face ranked right up there with Resolve Face.

Still giving Faith an unhappy look, Willow stomped back to the chemistry equipment. "If I don't get the news as soon as you do, Faith…" she threatened.

Already busy reading, Faith held up a single hand in acknowledgement. "Let me guess. You'll turn me into a rat.”

"And give you to Amy to play with,"Willow vowed.

Faith flipped back a few pages and read more. "You'll be the first person I tell, Red."She didn't remind Willow she was the only other person in the room. "Now shut the fuck up and let me read.”

12 October 1503

It has begun. Mr. Eggelston's man delivered the gems last evening. I will start Sarah to the proscribed meditations today.

Marking the page, Faith looked up. "We got gems and meditation," she announced.

"That's good."Willow held up a test tube. "My test is finished."She looked grim, lips pressed into a thin line.

When she didn't go on, Faith put the diary on the table and rubbed her palms on her thighs. "You first.”  She'd never thought she'd miss Willow's inane chatter and too-bright smile. Until now. Faith braced for the news.

"This,"Willow murmured through clenched teeth as she carried the tube closer, "stuff Giles gave Buffy…"Each word grew in volume, and the knuckles around the glass container were white. "It's an adrenal suppressant and a muscle relaxant!"

Thankfully, Willow was so wound up that Faith didn't have to ask for an explanation.

Steamrolling ahead, Willow waved the test tube wildly. "Giles took away Buffy's Slayer abilities, Faith. He just poked her in the arm and poof! Buffy wouldn't have had the strength or the energy to stake stuffed animals.”

It wasn't what Faith wanted to hear. Refusing to give in to the panic that caused her legs to twitch with the need to run, Faith choked out, "We…we can get it back, right?"

Willow stared at her blankly.

It was so hard to get the words out. As slowly as she could, Faith tried again. "B's superpowers. We can get them back. It ain't a one way street?"It was supposed to be a confident statement; no matter how hard Faith worked, though, her voice trailed up at the end.

"Yes."Willow nodded forcefully. "It's like taking a big sleeping pill. As long as she doesn't get anymore of that drug, it will wear off.”  She chewed her lip.

Faith's breath whooshed out in relief and she grinned. "Wicked. We'll make sure Tweed don't get anywhere near B until she's ready and able to kick his ass back to the Mother Country.”

Unfortunately, Willow didn't grin back. "Faith, it's good news. It is."There was a but coming. Faith sensed it, and the smile faded. "If this is a test, what does Buffy have to pass? I mean, why use the drug at all?”

Logic sucked. Faith wanted to run to Buffy with the information they had and help her get back to normal. Willow's question meant they had more research and less telling Buffy in the near future. She turned back to the book. "I ain't got real far, Red, but this is the best shot we got."



Willow scrambled around the lab table and hopped onto the stool next to Faith. "What have you found so far?”

"Uh…"Faith couldn't quite meet Willow's eyes. "Nothin' about the test except the Watcher plannin' on playing with them crystals."That didn't sound as positive as she'd wanted, and Faith rushed on. "But that don't mean it ain't in there. This Slayer at least lived long enough to need one. If…you know…we're right about the age thing.”

"We're right,"Willow snapped, and Faith heard the unspoken, We have to be. "Can…can you put the diary on the table so we can both look? Two sets of eyes are better than one, right?"She peered hopefully up at Faith.

Fuck. This was worse than Resolve Face. Thrusting the book down between them, Faith pointed at the last passage on the page. "Check it out. If the dude's got those crystals, the test can't be too far off, can it?”

She was talking to herself. Willow leaned close to the page for a second and then quickly flipped to the next. Her lips moved slightly and then another page turned. "Ooooh, that's not good,"Willow muttered. Another page turned. Almost immediately after checking out the new entry, Willow's head came up. "I'm going to turn Giles into a frog! I don't even care that I hate frogs. I hate Giles even more!”

The news must be more than simply ‘not good.' Faith reached out for the diary. "Red? What the fuck did you find?"She tried to pull the book off the table, but Willow still gripped it tightly.

In a voice quivering with emotion, Willow began to read. "It was a disappointing battle. Sarah showed so much promise. However, the vampire that the Council set against her proved to be greater than Sarah's skills.”

She might have continued if Faith hadn't ripped the book out of her hands and read the passage for herself. "Fuck Giles. I want you turn the entire fucking Council into frogs."Nearly tearing the pages, Faith turned to the next several entries.

They were blank. That one, condescending comment was the last Sarah's Watcher had made.

Faith stared at the empty page. What were they supposed to do now? Killing Giles sounded good. It might even make her feel better. It wouldn't help Buffy, though. Hand shaking, she flipped back to the last passage. "It ain't much, Red,"Faith pointed out. "Do we go to Buffy now or should I drag Tweed here for a little torture? Think he'd break and squeal before I even got to the really fun stuff."She peered around the science lab, looking for things to use. The Bunsen burners were a given.

"I don't want to torture Giles!"Willow protested.

"Coulda fooled me."Faith slumped on the stool, completely enervated. "I don't get it, Red. They take away the Slayer powers – for what? To kill some vamp? That's fuckin' stupid. Slayers kill vamps. Normal humans run for their lives.”

Faith thought she'd gone too far with that last comment. Willow's eyes narrowed and her brow wrinkled. "Look, I didn't mean nothin' by it. I was just saying that…"Faith tried to apologize.

"Say that again,"Willow demanded.

"I'm…sorry for saying…"Faith mumbled.

"Not that!"Willow lunged forward and grabbed the diary back. "You said the Council takes away a Slayer's power and then makes her kill a vampire. That's it!”

The strain had obviously been too much for Willow. Faith cleared her throat and searched for something to say, some way to help Willow deal with it all and get back to work on a solution.

She was too slow. "That's why Giles gave Buffy the drug, Faith. That's the test,"Willow insisted again. "If a Slayer makes it to eighteen, they take away her power and make her kill a vampire – as a human. If she wins, the drug wears off and she goes back to being a Slayer.”

Now Faith understood. Feeling sick and shaky, she slipped off her stool. "And if the vamp wins, no big loss, right? It ain't like there won't be another Slayer Called to the Bigs."Gripping the table to stay upright, Faith stared blankly at the floor. Slowly, as the seconds ticked by on the wall clock, the nausea faded. Faith still shook – with anger. "We ain't lettin' that happen to B. We gotta tell her. We got proof now,"she stated forcefully. Willow wasn't talking her out of it this time.

"Buffy's in English right now; we can grab her when the bell rings."Willow was on board with the plan. "That gives us another fifteen minutes to find out more about this test."She sounded fierce. "I want to know exactly what Giles has up his sleeve.”

"Red, this is the Hellmouth. Vamps are a dime a dozen. Now that B's Slayer powers ain't working, all they gotta do is wait ‘til dark and nab one to toss at her."Faith wasn't sure where Willow was heading with her insistence on more research.

"Just any vamp won't work, Faith."Willow waved the diary. "Remember? Sarah's Watcher mentioned the Council arranged for a vampire. Why would they do that? They don't exactly station Slayers where there aren't a lot of vampires, but they specifically arranged a vampire, Faith.”

Still not following the logic, Faith sat back down. "You're sayin' the Council brought some vamp all the way from England? Why the fuck would they do that?”

"Because this is a test, Faith."Willow bit her lip. "They want to make sure Buffy is good enough to be the Slayer. I bet they intend to use a really special vampire for that.”

It sounded good – on the surface. Faith wasn't as trusting as Willow, though. "Don't think you got it all figured out just yet, Red. You want to see B in action and give her a grade, you bring your vamp and set her up somewhere against him so you can watch and take notes."She met Willow's eyes. "You want to make sure B don't walk out alive… You suck out her Slayer and then, when there ain't any doubt how weak she is, you make her fight a vamp.”

"Stop. Stop right there,"Willow said in a high, thin voice. "We can't go into that or I might get big with the freaks, and that won't help Buffy.”

Fair enough. Faith hadn't done much for her own piece of mind, either. "You start on the new book shit. I'll find B."Willow started to protest. "Look, Red, I ain't gonna argue. You're the only one who can do the computer crap. Head for your place. Me and B'll be right behind you."

"What about Giles?"Willow asked. "If he finds out we know about the test...”

"If he finds out, what can he do?"Faith hoped Giles did find out. She wanted to ask him a few questions. "He ain't stupid enough to take on a Slayer and a witch."It hurt to leave Buffy out of the mix. Unfortunately, the Buffy they'd seen in the hallway wasn't a factor in any real fighting. "Get the fuck outta here. The bell'll be ringing any minute.”

Still frowning, Willow nonetheless stored the remaining drug in a stoppered test tube and stuffed the diaries in her backpack. "Are you sure…?"she broke off when Faith scowled at her. "Fine,"Willow snapped. Thrusting the backpack at Faith, she stomped out of the room.

Faith didn't waste any time. She looped the backpack over her shoulder and crept into the hallway. It was still empty. It wouldn't stay that way for long - not if the crowd earlier had been any indication. Giving up on trying to hide her presence, Faith trotted down the hall and up the stairs to the second floor.

This was the tricky part. Wishing she'd thought to ask Willow how, exactly, to convince Buffy to skip her classes (and risk Snyder's wrath), Faith paced restlessly in front of Buffy's classroom. "It ain't like I can blurt it out or nothin',"she mumbled to herself. Well, she could – if she wanted Buffy to freak and try to kick her ass.

Then she remembered. Buffy couldn't kick her ass. Not anymore.

The shrilling of the bell interrupted her morbid train of thought. The door in front of Faith flew open and kids poured out. Even watching for Buffy, Faith almost missed her. Shoulders slumped and gait an uneven shuffle, Buffy was well hidden behind several tall, athletic boys.

"B!"Faith called out, dodging through the throng. "Buffy!”

Buffy turned, and Faith stopped dead in her tracks and stared at the pale face and glazed eyes. "Faith? What are you doing here? If Snyder catches you…"She broke off, seeming to get paler.

"Fuck, B!"Faith sprang forward and wrapped an arm around Buffy's waist. "You look like shit."The words were out before Faith could censor them, and she felt Buffy stiffen against her.  "Red sent me to get you,"she said hurriedly, hoping to distract Buffy.

"Will? You talked to Willow?"It was clear Buffy didn't believe her.

Not answering immediately, Faith steered them toward the stairs. "Yeah."She couldn't stall much longer. As sick as Buffy was, she would still notice that Faith wasn't taking her to class. "We…she's got something she needs to tell you.”

"Can't it wait?"Buffy weakly tried to pull away.

"No!"It came out in a harsh and frantic rush, and Faith hunched her shoulders at Buffy's shocked look. "Fuck. Didn't mean to go all Slayer on ya', B. It can't wait, though. No way. We gotta motor. Red's at her place waiting for us.”

Buffy wasn't in any shape to resist; she did drag her feet, though. "Faith? What's going on? I feel like crap, and I'm not up to any of your games.”

"No games, B."Faith gently squeezed Buffy's shoulder as they took the last few stairs. "I mean, you think Red's gonna skip class for something that ain't important?"It was the only way she knew to convince Buffy to go with her.

"Shit! Is the world ending again?"Buffy grinned faintly as she asked the question.

Faith couldn't resist the smile. She grinned back. "Ah, come on, B. You know you get off on saving the world."The smile disappeared as soon as the words popped out. If they were wrong about the effects of that drug, Buffy wouldn't be saving anything anymore. She fell silent as they walked outside into the bright, late morning sunshine.

The trip across town reminded Faith of the previous night when she'd followed Buffy. Well, maybe not. Last night she'd still had hope that Buffy was simply faking her weakness. Today, Faith had no such illusions. She kept her arm around Buffy's waist so she could keep up as they walked.

"Are you going to tell me what's up?"Buffy asked once they were a few blocks away from the school. "You and Willow are so not friends. If she made you her messenger, this isn't a Fingernail and Hair Night at the Rosenbergs.”

Buffy needed to know the truth, and Faith wanted to tell her. However, the proof was with Willow. "I ain't spillin'. Red promised to turn me into a frog if I did,"she lied. Fuck, she hated this. Looking away so Buffy didn't see the truth in her eyes, Faith went on. "I think she mighta been serious this time, though. Her Resolve Face was at a whole new level, let me tell ya'."

"Ah, so that's why you made the pickup. You were just scared of the witch."Buffy's fingers poked Faith's ribs, and Faith twitched reflexively. "I so have your number, Faith. You're afraid of Willow.”

When Faith looked at Buffy, mischievous hazel eyes peered back. It was hard to stay focused with Buffy in this mood…at least until Buffy's smile faded and she leaned her head on Faith's arm. "B?"What if they'd been wrong, and Buffy was getting worse?

"I'm fine. I think I've got one hell of a cold, though. You should have seen me in the library this morning."Buffy's words stabbed at Faith. "I looked like Cordelia chucking the throwing knives at the target.”

"I remember Queen C saved your ass at that dance, B. Maybe you did better than ya' think."Faith's chest ached as the conversation went on, and she looked up the block, willing the Rosenberg house closer. The house was at least in view, and they appeared to be the only ones in the neighborhood.

The last few minutes of the trip were silent. Buffy leaned more heavily against Faith, and Faith felt the clammy sweat soaking Buffy's clothes. It was a relief to raise her hand and pound on Willow's front door. Footsteps thundered inside the house, and the door sprang open in front of them.




"Buffy! Oh my gosh! Are you OK? You look… I mean, fine! You look more than fine. Um…"Willow stood in the doorway and stared at Buffy.

Faith wanted to rub her face in pained disbelief at the visible shock and near horror on Willow's face. Hadn't they spent the last few hours digging up information on what the Council had done to Buffy? "You gonna let us in, Red? I told B the shit you had to tell her wouldn't wait."In case Willow didn't get the big hint, Faith bodily moved Willow aside and helped Buffy into the house. "Bring your computer down here," she ordered. "Me and B are gettin' comfy on the couch."

"I can make it upstairs, Faith."Oops. Buffy didn't sound too happy; she didn't look happy, either, when Faith glanced down. In fact, she glared defiantly at Faith and wiggled in her grasp. "Willow always does her best research in her room."

"Fine!"Grumbling – and keeping a close eye on Buffy – Faith stalked to the staircase. "We use the couch at B's place. How the fuck was I supposed ta know this fucking couch was different?"

A pair of giggles froze Faith with one foot on the bottom step.

"I've never seen Faith pout before,"Buffy stage whispered to Willow. "It's kind of cute. I mean, look at the way her lip pokes out.”

Spinning, Faith glowered at the other girls. "I do not pout. My lip always does that, and it's sexy, not cute."She crossed her arms over her chest. "Ya think you can stop laughin' long enough to let us pass on the news, B?"No matter how much Faith normally liked seeing Buffy smile, the memory of the Diary entries soured this particular experience.

"Sorry."It was Willow who answered. Buffy merely straightened and stopped smiling. "I forgot. For a minute, that's all. I'm back on track now."Biting her lip, she wrapped an arm around Buffy's waist and hugged Buffy to her. "Come on, Buff. I've got everything set up in my room.”

It took all of Faith's self control to turn around and continue up the stairs. Willow wasn't strong enough to fully support Buffy, and even before she started to climb, they were listing to one side and staggering. Faith's hands clenched into fists as she listened to the thuds and grunts behind her.  She never even paused at the top. With stiff strides, Faith followed the faint scent of Willow's perfume to the first door on the right.

The girly decorations and the humming laptop on the bed let her know she'd chosen correctly.

"Hey! Now who's blocking the way?"Willow gasped out. "Move it or lose it.”

Faith hopped out of the way. "Didn't think you were gonna make it, Red. All the moaning and groaning back there. Maybe B should make one of them trainin' schedules for you. Doin' the computer shit is makin' you so outta shape you can't get up one flight a stairs."

Buffy took the opportunity to shift away from Willow. "Are you two on drugs? Since when have you been all with the chummy?" She dropped onto Willow's bed and lay back on the pillows.

Since Giles and the Council started setting you up. Faith barely bit the comment back. "Nah. No drugs, B. Me and Red found something we could agree on. She's gonna tell you all about it. Ain't you, Red?"she asked, giving Willow a nudge.

"Right."Willow didn't appear ready to tell Buffy the truth, though. She wiggled and bounced and wrung her hands without continuing.

"Will?"Buffy grunted as she struggled to sit up. "What's wrong?"Panic edged the words. "Did…did something happen?"Glancing between Willow and Faith, she asked, "Xander? Giles?"Her pale face grew even whiter. "Mom?”

The fear in Buffy's voice finally pushed Willow to action. "No! No, Buffy. Everybody's fine."She stopped and bit her lip. "Well…”

"It ain't the Scoobies or Mrs. S, B."Faith got tired of waiting for Willow to explain the situation. Buffy looked like hell, and dragging this out wasn't going to help with that. Unfortunately, as soon as the words were out of her mouth, Faith realized she didn't have a clue how to start the story. To give herself time to figure out the best plan, she stalled. "I was at the library last night.”

Faith had lost Buffy with the seeming change in subject. Frowning in confusion, Buffy stared at her. "You were? You…"The look sharpened. "You got hurt? Faith, we need to call Giles. He can…”

"We don't need Tweed,"Faith said more sharply than she intended. God, this was a nightmare. She sucked in a deep breath and held up a hand. "Fuck, I'm sorry, B. Didn't mean to bite your head off. Just…this ain't easy to say, and I don't wanna fuck it up.”

That earned a slight smile. "I hear the best place to start is the beginning,"Buffy said softly.

The beginning. Right. Faith latched onto that. "Gotcha, B. We go all the way back to yesterday."Grabbing the chair from Willow's desk, she turned it around and straddled it. With her chin resting on the back, Faith started to talk. "Tweed called me up. Told me to get my ass to LA and help with somethin' big. Only…he didn't say what, even when I asked." She dropped her eyes and mumbled the next few words. "Kinda got me wonderin' if he was just trying to get rid of me.”

"He wouldn't do that, Faith."Buffy held out a hand. "I know we…I haven't been the best at making you feel part of the gang. Giles is…”

At another time, Faith would have lashed out bitterly at that. "Hold that thought, B,"she interrupted with a tight smile. She and Buffy stared at each other, and Faith was only dimly aware of Willow settling on the bed next to Buffy. "We get through this, I'm gonna want to go back to it.”

Nodding, Buffy continued to reach out before gripping Willow's hand.

Faith watched the movement and her own hand automatically rubbed up and down her thigh. "Like I was sayin', I thought Tweed was pulling a fast one so I camped out to check on the real story."Her voice grew husky as she relayed the scene she'd witnessed through the window the night before.

"Oh, the crystals."Buffy rolled her eyes. "Giles thinks I need to meditate more. ‘Slayers should be able to block out the distractions around them, Buffy. It is key to their continued survival,'"she quoted in a bad English accent.

"Buffy…"Willow finally joined the conversation. "The crystals…They weren't about meditation.”

It took less than a second for Buffy to disagree. "Sorry, Will. I was there, listening to Giles go on and on about it. Sparkly rocks plus Buffy equals meditation.”

Faith wanted to skip big portions of the retelling. She wanted to scream the truth at Buffy. She didn't. Instead, she tried a different avenue of attack. "You looked pretty crappy during the fight with the vamps after the meditatin'.  Them crystals didn't help you fight better. Or are you skippin' training, B?"

"You were there?"Buffy asked angrily. "You were there and you didn't help? I nearly got killed!"Then her eyes shot wide and she looked at Willow. "I'm exaggerating, Will. It wasn't that bad.”

"You're wrong, B. It was worse than bad,"Faith said. Her hands were on the back of the chair now, and the wood creaked in protest at her grip. "I dusted one vamp before you even got to the park. Had to chuck a stake all the way across the fuckin' street ‘cause you were all alone in BuffyWorld and didn't see him. Got me another one while you were rollin' around with the one that nearly spitted you, too.”

A strained silence emanated from the bed. Buffy simply stared at her in shock.

Pushing harder, Faith kept going. The words were hard and cold as she worked to make Buffy understand. "Got you all tucked in and then I hit the library before you dragged your ass outta bed this mornin'. Did a little research of my own, B. Got to see you stinkin' up the place with them daggers.”

Buffy flinched at that. "I…”

Willow smoothly interrupted. "That's when Faith came to me, Buffy. The crystals… Buffy, the crystals aren't for meditation. Giles used them to put you in a trance."Her words were rattling out and still picking up speed. "While you were under, he drugged you.”

Faith hadn't expected Buffy to believe them. It was a good thing. Buffy gave a bark of laughter. "You know, Faith, I'm used to you yanking my chain. It's just what you do, and I've learned to ignore it. Now you want to go after Willow? That's low – even for you.”

Dragging air into her lungs, Faith fought to keep her face expressionless. "Yeah, B. You're right. I love fuckin' with you and the Scoobs."The breath she'd managed to take exploded back out. "I ain't playin' this time, though. I was in the library this morning, hidin' behind the books when Tweed told you to find the crack in the crystal.”

She watched Buffy frown and tilt her head.

"Maybe you don't remember. I do, B. I ain't never forgettin'. After you started hunting for it, you got real weird. Like you were almost sleeping. That's when Giles got out some big-assed needle and stuck it in your arm."Faith swallowed hard. "I tried to let you know I was there. Got right up close and whispered some crap about wanting to show you a good time.”

A flush crawled up Buffy's neck and cheeks. "Like that's something new. At least I missed it.”

"You did, B."Faith met Buffy's eyes, feeling her muscles try to cramp from the tension. "And that scared the piss outta me. You didn't hear me talkin' and you sure as hell didn't sense me – and I was nearly sittin' in your lap.”

The comment hit home. Faith saw Buffy's lips press together and her eyes narrow. "In case you missed it, Faith, I haven't been feeling well.”

"No. I got it, B."Faith sprang off the chair. "You don't – and that's the fucking problem. You ain't sick. That shit Tweed gave you…"Faith had to force the words out. "It did somethin' so you can't be a Slayer, B.”

"That's it!"Buffy tried to scramble off the bed.

In less than a second, Faith was on her. She lay on top of Buffy, easily pinning her down. "Red's got proof, B. It's in them diaries Tweed keeps. But if ya' don't feel up to readin', push me off. Come on. You're always letting me know I ain't as good as you. Make me move.”

A low growl tore out of Buffy and she twisted underneath Faith. Or…she tried to twist.

Faith easily kept her seat. She could see the surprise and then the fear creeping into Buffy's eyes. Aching at the need to keep taunting Buffy, Faith nonetheless forged ahead. Buffy hadn't fully accepted the truth yet. She kept struggling uselessly. Faith knew just how to get Buffy to the edge. She dropped her body down until they were pressed together all along their length. "Ya' know, I been wonderin' if you're as good as that Scott said you were.”

It did the trick. Buffy went so pale Faith thought she might pass out. That changed when Buffy lashed out with her right hand. It slammed into the side of Faith's head – without so much as moving it an inch. 

Buffy stared at Faith, eyes wide. Then her eyes flickered to her hand. For a long moment, Faith watched her look back and forth, trying to understand what had happened. "Wh-What did you mean, when you said I wasn't a Slayer anymore?”




"Exactly what it sounded like, B."Faith rolled off Buffy and stood. She was shaking – inside and out – and desperately trying to hide it. Keeping her back to the bed, she said, "The shit Tweed gave you took away your superpowers.

Willow jumped in, "Not for good, Buffy."Faith thought the back of her head was going to burst into flames. She could feel Willow's glare. "What Faith meant to say was that the drug is an adrenal suppressant and a muscle relaxant. It puts the Slayer to sleep. Once it wears off, though, you'll be fine."

Hands stuffed deep in her pockets, Faith slowly turned. Buffy looked worse than ever. Still pale. Still sprawled on the bed where Faith had left her. Now, though, there were tear tracks on her face. "B…" Faith started to say.

"Shut up."Buffy didn't yell. In fact, her voice was a mere whisper; yet, it prevented Faith from uttering even a hint of sound. "You were in the library, you said. You saw Giles drug me, you said." Buffy's words pelted into Faith. "If you were there, and you thought I was in trouble, why did you stay hidden? Why didn't you jump out and stop him?”

Staring at Buffy in shock, Faith finally shrugged. "I don't know, B."It was an uncomfortable truth, and Faith forced herself to meet Buffy's eyes. "I guess…I guess I didn't want to believe he was really tryin' to hurt you."She replayed the scene in her mind. "Right up until he shoved that needle in you, I bought the crystal crap, too."Lips curving in a self-mocking smile, Faith mumbled, "Even thought it was one more way for you and him to make me the backup Slayer.”

For once, Buffy didn't pick up the gauntlet. Instead, she simply slumped further into the bed until it seemed to swallow her. "What do we do now?”

Faith didn't have a clue. "Red says the shit wears off, and the test thing's supposed to be on your birthday. We can stash you here so whatever the Council's got waitin' for you can't find you."And while Buffy was sleeping it off, Faith would be tearing Sunnydale apart looking for it. Buffy might be off her game; Faith was not.

"That's not good enough."Buffy struggled to sit up until Willow wrapped an arm around her and helped. Sweating from the effort, Buffy shook her head. "The Council won't give up. If I don't show up for the test, they'll just find a way to do it again.”

"You ain't getting out of bed, B."Faith didn't bother with politeness. She planted herself next to the bed and crossed her arms. "You couldn't beat Red in a fight right now. No way am I letting you run off after some vamp the Tweed Crew hand-picked for you."

They glared at each other for a long minute. Neither was backing down. "Will,"Buffy finally broke the charged silence. "Can you get us something to drink? I'm feeling kind of parched."She never looked away from Faith as she made her quiet request.

Faith wanted to grab Willow and beg her not to leave. Stomach knotting, she knew that being alone with Buffy right now wasn't a good idea. In fact, it was bad. Very bad.

Willow must have sensed it, too. "Um…how about I tell Faith where to find the kitchen? She can grab enough snacks for hungry Slayers and…and not spill it on the way up the stairs."

The words dropped into a vacuum.

"Please, Will."Buffy wasn't letting Faith off the hook. "I'd really like for you to get me a drink.”

Sweat slid down Faith's neck under her hair, and she realized she was covered in a clammy layer of moisture. Shivering, she heard Willow's soft sigh of exasperation and then her stomping steps out of the room. "Getting rid of the witnesses, B? You still think you can take me?"If Buffy was going to play hardball, she wasn't getting in the first pitch.

"If I have to,"Buffy answered instantly. "I don't trust you, Faith. This is too much like one of your head games. Giles drugging me? Giles? Why? For some test you haven't explained yet? Or is it to get me out of the way so you can finally be The Slayer?”

For a second, rage blinded Faith. The room darkened and she took a single step closer to the bed. If she hadn't seen Buffy's slight flinch, Faith knew she might have made the Council's test a moot point. "Fuck you, B!"Clenching her fists, she spun away and paced. When she thought she was under control, Faith laughed shortly. "You always know how to get to me, B. Push that one button that has me on the edge of kicking your sorry ass."

"The only way you can do that is to drug me!" Buffy shot back.

The rage drained away, leaving Faith exhausted. "Yeah. You got it, B. I slipped you a Mickey and now I'm waiting for that one moment. Then I'm gonna do what I've wanted to do since hopping off the train in SunnyD."Letting her hands fall limply to her side, Faith faced Buffy. "I'm wondering, though… If I'm all about beating the Great Buffy, why ain't I done it already? You were fucking pathetic last night with them vamps. I could have sat back and let them do the work.  That way there wouldn't have been nothing to tie me to the body.”

Buffy's face was nearly translucent outside of the two half-dollar-sized red spots on each cheek.

Looking around the room, Faith located a fanny pack with a stake sticking out of the pouch. She walked over on stiff legs and pulled the weapon out. "Maybe I'll finish you off right now. Red's outta the way…"She expertly twirled the stake in her palm on the way back to Buffy's position on the bed. Then, pretending to reconsider, she flipped the stake into the air.

It spun end over end – and landed with a soft poof right next to Buffy.

"Better yet, why don't you just fucking stab me with that thing, B? Take your best shot."Holding Buffy's gaze, Faith stood relaxed and completely open to attack.

It never came. Buffy picked up the stake, seemingly uncomfortable with the feel of it in her hand. "You're right. If you'd wanted me out of the way, I'd be dead.”

Faith wanted to scream. What the hell did she have to do to get Buffy to trust her? The cramping in her stomach migrated higher and settled around her heart. Maybe nothing she did would ever do that. "You ain't gonna die, B."She grinned humorlessly. "At least, not while I'm around to watch your back. I know my place."She would have gone on, but Willow's footsteps sounded on the stairs. "You need to give Red a chance to explain this test, B. It's bad – like them Council dudes don't want us to live past eighteen.”

Hoping the showdown was over, Faith resumed her seat in the desk chair. She was still there, examining the carpet, when Willow grunted and kicked the door open. Panting and holding a tray with soft drinks and chips, she staggered to the nightstand and dropped her burden. "I brought us all something to drink. I thought we might need it once we started going over the Diaries. Did Faith show you the entries, Buffy? I couldn't believe the way the Watchers talked about their Slayers. Giles never, ever sounded like that. Well… I guess…"Her chatter faded abruptly as her gaze bounced between them.

"I didn't show her,"Faith announced brusquely. She needed to get out of here and do something. Soon. "Do it now, and then I can take a walk to Willy's and see if he's heard about a new vamp in town."Reaching for the book bag Willow had slung on her desk, she fished out the journals and tossed them onto the bed.

Willow frowned and quickly picked the diaries up. Checking them for damage, probably, Faith thought. Finally satisfied at their condition, Willow sat next to Buffy and opened the first one. "This is the first time we…Faith, I mean, found anything about the Cruciamentum. That's… that's what they call the test.”

Buffy read silently for a second. "And the next?"She didn't show any visible reaction to the death of the Slayer in the diary. However, Faith thought there was a tremor in Buffy's voice.

Without another word, Willow handed over the second diary. "This one almost survived, and it's why we think the Council is bringing in a vampire especially for the test. See?"She leaned in close and pointed to a spot on the page.

Following the pointing finger, Buffy began to read again. This time, though, she reacted. "It was disappointing?"she nearly shouted. "That's all he could say? His Slayer died and he was disappointed!" Faith thought Buffy might throw the book across the room from the way she clutched it.

"Yeah, kinda makes you want to meet them Council guys and say ‘hello,' don't it, B?"Faith stretched in the chair. "Thing is, that's all we got. That one line about a vamp the Council sent in. You hear Tweed talkin' about anything like that?"She didn't want Buffy to freak about the Giles thing again; unfortunately, he was their only link to the Council and the test.

"No."Buffy's energy seemed depleted after her outburst. She dropped limply back against the pillows. "Nothing about vampires or tests. All he wanted to talk about was the meditation and the crystals."Her eyes drifted to Willow. "Anything on your end, Will? You always manage to find information.”

It was obvious that Willow hated to fail Buffy. She shook her head, looking for all the world like a puppy expecting a swat on the nose. "No. I tried at the library – before we had the name and the details. Then I did another search from here. There isn't anything online about the Cruciamentum. I guess the only records are written, and there don't seem to be many of them around, either.”

"We can't worry about that, Wills."Buffy smiled grimly. "How many times do we ever have all of the information we need?"

They all shared an understanding look.

Buffy continued slowly, as if she were coming up with the plan as she talked. "If the Council's sending a vamp in for the test, there has to be some way to trace it. You can't just slap a stamp on its forehead and drop it in the mailbox. Will, do your computer magic on anything coming in from England in the last week. People or boxes. Faith and I aren't exactly at the top of the Council's favorite people list. I'm betting that it wasn't only a vampire coming in to see me die.”

"Fuck, B."Faith felt compelled to protest the cold assessment of the situation – even if it was probably accurate.

Two hard hazel eyes burned into her. "You read the same things I did. If we die, the Council is disappointed, and then they move on. After all, there's another Slayer waiting in the wings."Buffy wasn't going to be dissuaded. "Are you sure you don't want the job? All you have to do is leave me outside after dark. I'll be dead so fast…”

Faith jumped out of the chair, knocking it to the floor. "Shut the fuck up, B."The brief moment of camaraderie was over. Buffy was talking crazy, and it…it bothered Faith. Scrubbing a hand over her eyes and blinking to hide the sudden rush of tears, Faith snapped, "I ain't lettin' a vamp kill ya', B. You keep saying shit like that and after you're all back to normal, I'll do it myself.”

She couldn't stay here anymore. Every time Buffy opened her mouth, she told Faith how much she still didn't trust her – and every time it hurt like hell.

Picking up the stake she'd given to Buffy while Willow was downstairs, Faith shoved it into the waistband of her pants. "You and Red do whatever, B. Look for vampires tied up in bows or visitin' Tweeds. I'm going to see if Willy or any of the local demons knows anything."And Faith really, really hoped they were reluctant to talk. She needed to hurt something. A small smile crept out. Maybe she wouldn't start with Willy. There was one other human who she knew would have the information.

"Faith, wait!"Buffy and Willow yelled out at the same time.

Faith, however, didn't wait. In fact, she didn't even slow down. Ripping the door open, she pounded down the stairs and out the front door. Giles would be at the school. If he wasn't in the library, well… Faith would simply sharpen her stake and wait for him. He'd come back sooner or later.


Faith's fury carried her nearly to the downtown area. Finally, though, she managed to regain some self-control and slow down. Buffy always did this to her. Always. Faith paused in front of a store window and glared at her reflection. She didn't belong here; Faith knew it. Buffy did, too. "Don't matter,"she whispered to the glossy image of herself. "Only important thing is making sure B gets her power back."After that… Well, Faith would make that decision when the time came.

More focused, she resumed her trek to the school. Giles might not be as much fun to play with as Willy, but he would have the best information. As she jogged down the sidewalk, Faith planned. She couldn't really hurt Giles. Not until Buffy had had a chance to confront him about his actions. Faith had no trouble accepting that. Of course, that didn't mean she couldn't rough him up a little.

By the time she reached the high school, Faith knew exactly what she wanted to do. Slipping into the crowded hallway wasn't easy. Principal Snyder was on the prowl. Not wanting to get tossed out before she could find Giles, Faith searched out just the right group. "Hey,"she said huskily when she spotted her prey. "Nice play last night.”

"Thanks."The tall, muscled boy with the football on his jacket smiled down at her. Then the frown faltered. "Are you new? I don't recognize you, and I…”

Faith jumped in quickly. "Yeah. Just got here a coupla days ago."She moved in close and wrapped an arm around the boy's waist, ignoring the death glare she received from the blonde girl in the group. All of Faith's attention was on Snyder as he moved through the crowd. So far, so good. He hadn't spotted her. "So, ah…You wanna give me a tour of the school, Sport?”

The boy's eyes lit up and his chest puffed out. "Sure. Anyplace special you want to see first?"His eyes dropped to Faith's chest, lingering for several long seconds.

Resisting the urge to slam his head against a locker, Faith did her own puffing out. "Oh, I'll let you decide what you want to show me,"she purred. She leaned even closer as Principal Snyder walked down the hall in their direction.

"I've got something I know you'll like."God, the kid was too stupid to see the contempt in Faith's eyes. His lips twisted as he leered at her. "Come on. My next class is lame. I'm sure Carla will take notes for me.”

It was a tossup if Carla was going to take those notes, or stab her former boyfriend with the nail file clutched in her hands. "Josh, you can't do that!”

Josh gave Carla a withering glance and moved away with Faith in tow. "Sorry about that. Girls can get so possessive, you know?"His hand began flirting with the waistband of Faith's pants in back. "I was thinking…"

Faith was surprised he could make that statement with a straight face. "Really?"she encouraged, envisioning the moment Josh wasn't necessary and she could rip his arm off.

"Yeah. There's a really quiet place in the auditorium. Way up in back, where the lighting guy sits."His questing hand managed to slide beneath the hem of Faith's shirt and his fingers caressed her bare back. "We could start the tour there.”

If Josh knew how close he was to dismemberment, he didn't show it when Faith looked into his eyes. Fighting the growl that wanted out, Faith demurred. "Nah. That ain't you, Sport. How about the gym?" She was leading him on, pushing for the location she wanted. "Or…"She flashed a bright smile. "How about the locker room? Bet you know someplace in there to show me.”

It wasn't what Josh expected. "Huh?"He leaned back and frowned. "Why would you want to go there? It's…well, it's a locker room.”

Tired of playing nice, Faith yanked away. "Hey, look, if you don't want to show me around, there's other guys who will."It was a true statement, but Faith didn't have time to make it happen. If Josh wouldn't do what she wanted, Faith would have to find the girls' locker room on her own.

Josh, though, was smart enough to realize his new ‘squeeze' wasn't kidding. He quickly got over his confusion and reclaimed his hold on Faith. "Hey, my bad. If you've got a thing for locker rooms, who am I to argue?"He steered them down an adjoining hallway, expertly threading through the crowd.

The pace of the students around them picked up suddenly, a few even beginning to run. The sound of the bell echoed in the hall as locker doors slammed and tennis shoes pounded on the linoleum floor.

"Looks like you're late, Sport. Anybody gonna come looking for you?"Faith asked. They must be close to their destination. She could smell the faint odor of chlorine and mildew.

"No."Josh's hand travelled farther up Faith's back as he attempted to reassure her. "Mr. Haines is a friend of Coach. He'll think I'm lifting weights or studying the playbook."

Perfect. As Josh reached out with his free hand to open the locker room door, Faith took a quick look up and down the hall. It was empty. "Hey, Sport?"she said softly, muscles tensing in readiness.

"Yeah, babe?"He still didn't sense the danger.

Faith's left hand shot out, the fist making solid contact with Josh's temple. He slumped instantly, and Faith let him fall to the ground. "That's for thinking I'd really fuck a loser like you."Then she lashed out and kicked him in the ribs. "And that's for pawing me, Sport.”

Feeling better, Faith grabbed the collar of Josh's jacket and dragged him into the locker room - the girls' locker room - before stashing him behind a wall of lockers. "Now…Should be no problem gettin' what I need in here."Her voice sounded small in the large, concrete-walled and  -floored room. "Just gotta find the right locker."She gripped the first padlock and pulled. It resisted for only a second before Slayer strength won out. "Bingo."

Inside the cluttered locker was a mountain of beauty products and other items. Faith pocketed a cigarette lighter with a smirk and then dug further through the mess. By the time she finished, she'd added a large locker mirror, two packages of stockings, and a can of hairspray.

On the way back out, she borrowed Josh's jacket. "Sorry, Sport. I need to fit in, ya' know?"Faith told him as she put the jacket on and loaded her booty into the pockets. Poking her head out of the door showed there were only a couple of other students getting books out of their lockers. Trying to look nonchalant, Faith walked out of the locker room and headed for the library.

No one even glanced in her direction.

Her heart rate sped up as Faith approached the familiar double doors. Rubbing her damp palms on her pant legs, Faith reminded herself this was necessary. Giles had information she needed to keep Buffy safe. Still not completely comfortable with her decision, Faith shoved the doors open and strode inside.

"I'll be with you in a moment,"Giles mumbled, barely glancing up from the book he was reading.

He didn't recognize her in the borrowed letter jacket. Faith smirked and took advantage of the situation. Three bounding strides put her at the check-out desk, which she hurtled with ease. Before Giles could do more than squawk a protest, she had her right arm around his throat. Pressing her face close to his, she whispered huskily, "Sorry about that gig in LA, Tweed. Somethin' came up here.”

"Faith…"Giles choked out. "Good Lord; let me go!"It might have been more effective if his voice hadn't been a mere thread of sound interspersed with gasps for air.

"Not gonna happen, G."Dragging him off the stool, Faith used her free hand to raise the pass-through. She dumped him into a chair at the research table (the same one he'd sat in as he'd injected Buffy) and quickly used the stolen stockings to tie him down. "Don't go anywhere." With a wink, Faith left Giles and placed the ‘Out to lunch' sign on the library door before locking them inside. "I'd really hate it if we got interrupted.”

Her actions had enraged Giles. "That is it! I have tried to work with you, Faith. I have tried to protect you as I do Buffy. I have even defended your questionable decisions to the Council…”

He might have gone on if Faith hadn't backhanded him. "Protect B? Is that what you do?"Stopping the flood of angry words, Faith glared at Giles. She had to stay in control. She had to think.  "Ain't my decisions that need questionin', Tweed. That'd be you."While Giles gaped at her with blood trickling from his split lip, Faith took off Josh's jacket and unloaded the pockets. She slowly spread her tools out on the table next to Giles, giving herself time to think while ensuring he could see each item. "Tell ya' what. Right now, I'm going to ask the questions, and you're gonna give the answers. You talked to B today?"Faith asked conversationally.

Giles remained stonily silent.

"I'll let that one slide."With a slow smile, Faith picked up the mirror – and then slammed it onto the table.  With a tinkling sound, it broke into four smaller pieces. Faith took the largest and held it up. The lights of the library reflected off the surface as she hitched a hip up on the table. "Let me lay it out for you, Tweed.”

"Please do."Giles tried for dry and disapproving. He would have made it if Faith hadn't been able to see the way his pulse pounded against his throat or the way his eyes followed the hypnotic flicker of light on the mirror.

"Thanks,"she said. "I'll do that."Running one finger down the edge of the mirror, Faith savored the slight sting that prefaced the single bead of blood that ran over the glass. "I don't trust you. Never have, even before that Post bitch fucked me over. You said go to LA…I figured you were up to something. Good thing for B I got your number, G." Locking eyes with Giles, Faith stuck her finger in her mouth and sucked at the blood.

Giles' throat moved in a convulsive swallow, and Faith saw sweat beading on his forehead. "I am not up to something, as you so quaintly put it."His voice had lost even the pretense of disapproval. It was tight with tension…and the first hint of fear.

It was what Faith wanted. She needed Giles to feel fear.  Unfortunately, she hadn't counted on her own. As Faith watched him glare defiantly at her, she remembered meeting Giles for the first time. Remembered his shocked and somewhat embarrassed reaction to her come on – and then his warm welcome.

The light on the mirror flickered more dramatically as Faith's hand trembled.

"Faith, my dear…"Giles' voice wove past and present together. "Whatever you think, I consider myself your Watcher as much as Buffy's.”

At Buffy's name, the thrall broke. Faith jumped off the table and faced Giles. "See, that's the problem, Tweed. You're a Watcher. You do whatever the Council tells you."In less than a heartbeat, the sharp edge of the mirror was against Giles' throat. "And from what I saw this mornin', that means sucking out B's Slayer powers."Her hand was rock steady now. Giles wasn't the nice, fatherly figure she'd first thought. He was just like Gwendolyn Post, and he'd betrayed Buffy's trust. She was going to make sure he regretted that.




"This morning?"Giles twitched, and the mirror pricked his neck. He sucked in a sharp breath and froze.

The cut was too shallow for blood. The skin did turn a bright pink that darkened as Faith watched, though. "That's right. This morning,"Faith echoed to make sure he understood her meaning. "I was here when you jabbed that needle in B's arm."The anger boiled higher, and Faith fought to stay in control. It would be too easy to give in, and that wasn't what she needed. This was a mind game. Beating Giles was going to take more than brute force and sharp objects. Moving the broken mirror away slightly, Faith met Giles' wide eyes. "Looks like you really know how to treat a girl right, Tweed. Get her all loosened up and then slip her something to keep her that way.”

Never looking away, Faith leaned into Giles. Her breasts brushed his chest and her lips hovered right next to his ear.

His heartbeat thundered in Faith's enhanced hearing. It nearly drowned out Giles' choked,  "I did no…”

Faith cut him off. She wasn't interested in his protests. Carefully considering her words, she purred, "I thought you were different, you know? All that talk of me and B bein' like family, and how Watchers cared for their Slayers."The words were soft, barely a whisper in Giles' ear. Faith wanted him tense and hanging on her monologue. "So when I saw you drug B, I figured ‘family' meant somethin' more…uhhhh."As she half-grunted, half-moaned the last syllable, Faith rolled her hips into Giles.

"Dear Lord!"Not even the threat of the sharp glass pressed to his throat kept Giles silent at that. "Buffy…I…No!”

Letting a smile of satisfaction sneak out at the way Giles was following her unwritten script, Faith moved on to her next cue. "I stuck around for the show, Tweed. For an old guy, you ain't bad, and B?"The next statement lodged in Faith's throat, and she had to force them out. "Always wanted to see if she was as hot as I thought. Free porn – without the popcorn and sticky floors.”

Giles trembled against her. She could feel the heat from his skin, and the dark red of his face didn't surprise her. Oh, yeah. Faith was hitting all the right buttons, and the only toy she'd needed was her voice. "You are unbelievably vulgar. How the Council allowed you to remain a Slayer…”

This time, Giles pushed the buttons. Faith lost sight of the goal as his words reignited her fury. Abandoning the mirror with an enraged heave, she picked up the can of hairspray and the lighter. One flick sent an inch-high flame into the air, and Faith depressed the top of the hairspray can.

An explosion of fire surged between her and Giles.

He jerked back as far as his bonds and the heavy library chair would allow, and their eyes met through the super-heated air. "Oh, I'm trash, Tweed. Just some slut your ‘friends' forgot to throw away,"Faith snarled. "But B's different." She wanted to go on. List all of the ways that Buffy was better. Unfortunately, Faith's need to prove her point mixed badly with her seething anger. She miscalculated the distance separating the still-flaming hairspray and her captive.

A line of tiny embers flared to life along the lapel of Giles' jacket.

Faith let them burn for a second as she extinguished the blaze from the can in her hand. Then, with casualness she didn't feel, she reached out and patted the small fire out. "Sorry about that," Faith apologized with blatant insincerity. "Kinda gets me all riled up when you start comparin' me and B."

The interrogation had gotten out of hand and far off track. Not sure what to do next, Faith resumed her seat on the research table and watched Giles. She'd used all the tricks in her bag, and he hadn't broken. The next step…The next step was one Faith didn't want to take.  Staring at the faint bruise her earlier blow had left on Giles' face, she reluctantly picked just the right spot for the next one.

Her inner musings were interrupted at a tap on the library doors. She and Giles both looked in that direction. "Rupert? Are you there? Hello?"The door handles wiggled against the dead bolt.

"You expecting company?"Faith kept her eyes glued to the entrance. The voice carried a familiar accent; maybe this wasn't going to be a complete waste of her time. "Like some friends here to kill B?"

Giles didn't answer her directly. "Just a moment, Quentin,"he called out.

The doors stopped moving, and Faith heard a disgruntled mumble from the hallway. "How dare he keep me waiting? I'm the head of the Council…”

"Your boss ain't too happy with you, Tweed." Sliding off the table, Faith tore at the stockings holding Giles to the chair. "You might want to let him in before you don't get that big promotion."The first binding came undone. Before moving to the next, Faith made sure Giles understood the score. "I'm letting you go ‘cause I need more than you got. One hint that I'm here, and it won't matter that you ain't got fangs.”

From the way Giles went from flushed to pale, Faith was sure he knew she was serious. "That won't be necessary, I assure you,"he muttered. "Now, I suggest you find someplace to hide. This is not a conversation I can have with you lurking about.”

"Don't worry, Tweed. I ain't going to mess this up. I want to hear everything your boss has to say."Faith pointed at the door. "You do your thing…and I'll do mine."When Giles grimaced and stalked toward the front of the library, Faith hurried into the stacks. She slid into the same spot she'd occupied that morning and waited for the action.

It didn't take long. As soon as Giles turned the deadbolt, the doors sprang open. "Our meeting was scheduled for eleven, Rupert. Have you gotten so lax after your time in America that you can no longer read a clock?"At least, that's what Faith thought he said. Quentin's accent was far harder to understand than Giles'.

"My apologies, Quentin. Although I am here as Buffy's Watcher, I am also taxed with pretending to be a librarian."Giles reclosed and locked the doors, and the two wandered to the checkout desk. "Forgive me if I became so caught up in my work that I missed our appointment by,"he checked the watch on his left wrist dramatically, "two minutes. Would a cup of tea help you get over the stress of the wait?”

Faith stared at Giles in shock. He was occasionally sarcastic during Scooby meetings – especially when Xander was goofing off. This, though, took sarcasm to an entirely new level.

"Scotch, if you have it."Straightening his tweed jacket and smoothing his thinning hair, Quentin scanned the library. "Impressive. They actually have books here. I was unaware American teenagers could read.”

A slight smile curled Giles' lips as he ducked under the pass-through and unlocked one of the cabinet doors. "Perhaps, if you have time, I'll introduce you to Ms. Rosenberg. She will set your prejudices back a step, I dare say."He held up a heavy glass bottle. "Single malt, I'm afraid. Will that be good enough?”

"For now."Faith rolled her eyes at Quentin's petulant response – then she ducked down behind the books shielding her from view as he walked to the research table. "What is this?"Quentin asked. A rattle and then a click filled the otherwise quiet room. "Have you taken up smoking, Rupert?”

Melded to the floor, Faith pressed her lips together over a curse. She'd left her supplies on the desk. Afraid to even breathe, she held completely still and tried to plan her escape.

"Really, Quentin."Giles' voice sounded closer. "Put that down before you set yourself alight. I've been doing a spot of cleaning. The few visitors I have often leave me souvenirs. I found these particular items in the non-fiction section.”

There was no response for a moment. After a satisfied sigh, Quentin finally got around to saying, "Ah, for an inferior blend, this certainly hit the spot. The flight over was interminable."Liquid splashed and Faith risked glancing up. Quentin had refilled his glass and taken a seat. "On to the business at hand, Rupert. I have the team completing the details for tonight's events. Have you administered the final dose of the serum?"

Giles' face was expressionless. "I have.”

Both Faith and Quentin waited for more.

When it became clear that Giles had nothing else to say, Quentin frowned. "I see you are still unhappy with testing your Slayer. Is she so unskilled that you fear for her safety?"He stared fiercely at Giles for a long minute. "Or perhaps it is something more concerning. I have often wondered, after reading your diary entries, if you feel something more than a Watcher's pride in your charge, Rupert.”

Even from her position, Faith saw the tide of red creeping up Giles' neck. "If you are suggesting that I am, in any way, romantically interested in Buffy…"He really didn't like comments about that, Faith realized.

"Oh, I have no fears on that count. You may be a pompous ass, Rupert, but you are not a molester of children. As I recall…" Quentin smirked and took another drink of Scotch. "You used to prefer more maturity and experience in your conquests."The smirk faded, and Quentin leaned forward, setting the glass down. "I suspect you have lost perspective on your responsibilities, Rupert. When I received your last letter, protesting the Cruciamentum, I went to the Council with my concerns.”

The bottle in Giles' hand slammed onto the table with enough force Faith was surprised it didn't shatter. "Really? How interesting that I was not informed of your actions. I believe the Watchers' Guide clearly indicates that I have the right to know if my qualifications are in question. You have overstepped your bounds, Quentin. Perhaps I should speak with the Council about my concerns regarding your ability to lead us down the right path.”

As interesting as the scene was, it wasn't giving Faith the information she needed. She silently willed the two men to get to the important part of the meeting. Soon. Faith wanted…needed to get back to Buffy and give her some hope that this wouldn't end in disaster.

"Let's see if you even have a job after tonight first, Rupert."There was a cold satisfaction in Quentin's voice, and Faith's hands fisted against the carpet.

She wasn't the only one enraged by the comment. Giles took a threatening step toward Quentin before jerking to a halt. "Oh, I have no doubt that Buffy will complete the test easily, old boy. She is the most talented Slayer in our history. Her accomplishments speak for themselves," he said. It sounded as if her were speaking through clenched teeth.

"So you keep telling us, Rupert."Pushing away from the table, Quentin stood. "I've taken that into account.”

What the hell did that mean? Faith wanted to shout.

Her thought coincided with Giles asking, "Precisely what does that mean?”

"Nothing that need concern you."Quentin pulled at the sleeves of his shirt until they set the way he wanted under his jacket. "You've done your part, Rupert. Please allow me to do mine. Once the test is finished, I shall forward you a copy of my report on the results.”

It was clear he was leaving, and Faith still didn't have any more information than she'd had before. No longer caring if she was discovered, she climbed to her knees. Giles might not have given up the goods under torture, but Faith knew Quentin would squeal like a pig at the first cut…

"You cannot believe I will merely go home and have dinner while you conduct the test."Giles voice cut through the library. "I want to be present.”

"That is not part of the testing."There was a tense silence until Quentin pushed his chair under the edge of the table. "I will contact you, as promised, Rupert."He spun on his heel and was at the door in seconds.

Scrambling up, Faith took off after him. It should have been easy to catch him. However, Faith hadn't counted on interference from Giles. As she dashed past, a hand gripped her arm. "Let me go!"Faith watched the library doors swing closed behind Quentin.

"Faith! Wait! You cannot go after the Head of the Council and threaten him as you did me. I assure you he did not come alone,"Giles warned in an urgent voice. "Think!"he continued in a rush. "We…Buffy needs your help, Faith. Help you will not be able to provide if you are a captive of the Council.”

For a split second, Faith hesitated. "Ain't got any plans on getting caught, Tweed."Wrenching free, she sprinted to the entrance and barreled through the library doors after her new prey.




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