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Chapter Ten

The weapons locker was not small, as Giles had claimed. It was a big hole in the floor of his closet (buried under a truly disgusting pile of dirty clothes). Faith grabbed several stakes and a pair of matching daggers. "Load up," she told him. "If the Master's goons come after us, it's gonna take both of us to stay alive." The Master wouldn't give Faith another opportunity to escape. And it was unlikely Buffy would just happen by to save them.

For once, Giles didn't argue. He stuck with the long-range power of a crossbow and a short sword he wore in a belted scabbard. "Are you sure this is our best course of action? Sunnydale, even in the daylight, is not for the faint of heart."

"Good thing we got hearts of steel then, Giles." Of course Faith wasn't sure this was the right thing to do. However, she knew there were no other options. She had to find a spell for Janna, a way for them to level the playing field when the big battle kicked off. "Unless you been stashing more Slayers somewhere, we're taking a trip to school."

He grimaced. "I know you are correct. However, I seem incapable of accepting the reality. Let's go before I embarrass myself further and plead with you to leave me here, in the safety of my `man cave'."

Faith wisely didn't mention she'd like to hide, too. "Let's motor." Back down the stairs and out the window. Giles was more proficient at crawling through the opening than Janna had been. "Stick close. I've got the Slayer radar on high. If there are vamps out there, I'll let you know." Every step seemed to take an hour. The three miles across town stretched across a continent. Blips pinged off her senses several times, and they huddled in shadowed doorways or behind parked cars. They played a real-life version of "Doom".

If only Giles clutched a M-16 and not a crossbow. The vamps wouldn't stand a chance.

"When this is over, I will propose the Council institute new guerrilla warfare training for all Slayers and Watchers. While learning how to craft a proper Diary entry is important, it lacks a certain something when faced with imminent capture and death." Giles' breathing was labored. He'd struggled through the last mile; Faith had dragged him over several crumbling walls and through the underbrush that had once been a nearby park.

"Might be a good idea," Faith agreed with a smirk at his flushed, sweaty, and bedraggled appearance. "`Course, gettin' rid of the bottle and maybe running for more than the phone would help, too." Then she sobered. Her senses sounded a louder alarm. "Hang tight. We got company coming." For once, their position was good. The scrubby trees and overgrown bushes provided coverage. Faith didn't relax, though. She'd had one run in with the vampire crews; she didn't want another. Yet.

A car with blackened windows drove slowly by.

"They must know we are here," Giles whispered. "This is a thinly-populated area since the Master rose to power. Patrols normally center downtown or in the neighborhoods."

"No way they know." Faith hadn't known here they were headed until she'd made her announcement back at Giles' place. Not that it mattered. The patrol was here now, and they had to deal with it. Scanning the area wasn't any help. There was no other cover available once they left the park. It was a straight, completely open run across the street to the side entrance to the library. Patience had never been Faith's strong suit. Tonight, she had to learn.

For long minutes, they crouched in the bushes. Long enough for Giles' breathing to even, and for Faith's nerves to fray. Finally, the car drove away. Faith started to stand up. "No. Wait." Giles gripped her arm, holding her in place. "If they believe we are here, they won't truly leave. This is very likely a ruse to draw us out into the open."

"Vamps ain't that smart," Faith said. Most of them were lucky they knew which end of a stake to hold.

"I beg to differ. The Master is no fool, and he would not entrust a mission of this magnitude to any but his best." Giles let go of Faith's arm, however. He was leaving the decision up to her.

Stay or go? "You got it." The man next to her was Giles. That made his wildest idea better than Faith's best. Her trust was validated. Before Faith had gotten comfortable in the scraggly grass and sand, the black car reappeared. "That's why you're the Watcher, G-man. Knew pulling you in was a smart move."

This time, the car didn't linger. It slid along the sidewalk without stopping and then disappeared around the block.

Glancing at Giles, Faith waited for the all-clear. "I believe it is now safe." She recognized his expression, the cool confidence in his clipped tone. Giles, her Giles, was back, alive and well in this bedraggled copy. "To be safe, however, I suggest we avoid the direct route. There is a service entrance on the far side of the gymnasium."

"Yeah. Back by the girls' locker room" Faith flushed. She was an idiot. She should have thought of that. Before Snyder had installed the new video cameras, that door had been Faith's favorite mode of entry. Clambering to her feet, she hauled Giles up, ignoring his sputter of protest.

Faith made sure to be on the alert as they took off across the far end of the park. Her skin crawled with every step. It felt as if even the trees watched them. Her senses spiked and dipped wildly; Faith jumped at every sound.

She'd lived like this once. In another life. The streets of Boston weren't kind. She'd forgotten what it meant to be afraid. To constantly look over her shoulder.

It was going to end soon. Faith was going to put Sunnydale back the way it was supposed to be, and they could all stop hiding in the bushes.

"It's locked. How bloody short-sighted of me." Giles glowered at the door in an effort to open it.
If it had been Willow standing there, Faith might have believed a glare could work. Giles lacked something in the scary powerful, novice witch category.

"Don't get your boxers in a bunch." Pushing him gently out of the way, she examined the lock. "Looks like your Snyder ain't as safety conscious as mine. The little prick was too cheap to get the good shit. A two-year old could pick this thing."

Well, a two-year old with a wicked set of lock picks. Faith was way past two, but her picks were her pride and joy. She'd lifted them off a not-so-close friend the year right before she'd been Called. "Watch this." Carefully inserting the first pick, Faith fished gently until she felt it catch on the internal tumbler. The second slid home just as quickly. A little wiggle, a slight twist…

"Astonishing." Giles sounded impressed and Faith grinned in delight. "While I continue to struggle with your claim to be a Slayer, I find your unorthodox methods a refreshing change. It reminds me of…" He broke off, turning slightly away for a moment. "No matter. It is foolish to think of the past.'

The past. The one where he and Buffy worked as a team? Faith itched to ask questions. What the Hell had happened? She didn't, though. "You won't be doubting me if them vamps come back."

"I shall live for that moment," Giles responded drily. He pulled the door opened and gestured for Faith to precede him into the school. "Until such time, however, I will simply admire your skills as a cat burgler."

Cat burgler sounded better than other things Faith had heard used to describe her past. "Whatever," she mumbled. "Bet that'll be another class for the new Tweeds. Lock pickin' 101." Falling silent, Faith led Giles through the darkened halls of Sunnydale High. This reality had not been kind to the school. Although it appeared to still be in use – posters with upcoming events hung on the walls – the floor was chipped and scarred. Battle marks? "You still work here?"

She sensed more than saw Giles hesitation.

"Look, where I'm from, you're the stuffy librarian. Great place to hide all them demon books and get to see B every day. Might as well live there, with all the research parties and shit." Research parties. Her feet grew heavy. Who knew she'd miss those? Miss listening to Willow and Xander squabble over which book they had to read or which doughnuts Xander would pick up. Miss Buffy hiding in the stacks to "research" but really giggling with Willow while they painted their toenails.

The memories sucked at Faith; she was so lost in thought she registered the twinge in her senses nearly too late. Diving for the floor, she pulled Giles with her. Darts sailed overhead before she had time to register how truly hard linoleum was. "Stay here," Faith barked at Giles. She was tired of the Master's stooges. This time, she'd show them that dart guns were still no match for a pissed off Slayer.

There was no need to hunt her prey using Slayer senses. Even in the dark, Faith glimpsed two figures peeking around the corner near the science wing. "Don't be shy, boys. Two against one? I won't even break a sweat." A stake in each hand, Faith took off.

Apparently, the vampires hadn't been warned of her Slayer status. Neither ran for the hills. One had the balls to step directly into her path and raise his gun.

A stake lodged in his heart before his finger found the trigger.

That left only one more vampire for Faith. He was less of a challenge than his partner. Gun lowered, he stared at the pile of dust where his friend had stood. "You're a waste, pal. They shoulda never Turned you," Faith taunted. She'd been ready for a fight; this was a supreme letdown.

The vampire snarled and swung his gun like a club. Faith blocked it, ignoring the pain of impact. She'd missed this. Grinning triumphantly, she slammed the heel of her free hand into the vampire's nose and enjoyed the sound of breaking bone. Without waiting for a reaction, she launched a wicked uppercut. It was enough to loft the vampire into the air, right into the concrete-block wall on the other side of the hallway. "Say hi to your pal." He disappeared in a shower of dust as her stake found his heart.

Not much of a fight. Enough to get Faith's blood pumping and stave off her previously gloomy thoughts. "We need to pick up the pace. Looks like the Master ain't as dumb as we thought. I'm bettin' he's got more vamps on the way."

"Another run. Lovely. I had just recovered from our earlier exertion." Footsteps echoing in the hall, he led the charge toward the library.

Each step woke Faith's senses. "They're waitin' for us." She couldn't tell how many, though. "I'll go first. Keep your eyes open." Tension coiled inside. The double-doors were ahead. How many times had Faith shoved them open and strode inside?

Too many to count. Never with weapons drawn.

The doors slammed open with a resounding boom. The dozen or so vampires grouped by the checkout desk didn't let the noise distract them. Faith hurdled the first two. Giles would either take care of them or Faith would mop up after dealing with the rest. Luckily, she'd come prepared for a battle.

There were extra stakes in her pockets. Faith heaved the two already in her hands at two of the vampires reaching for her. Before their dust settled to the carpet, she had a dagger in her left hand and another stake in her right. She blocked more blows than she missed, but Faith still picked up scrapes and bruises. Her left ankle ached and threatened to buckle after one enterprising vampire slammed a broken-off chair leg into it.

Faith ignored it all. Breathing heavily, she faced off against the last four vampires. "Been fun. Thanks for throwin' me a welcome home party. I was feelin' sad about coming back here until I saw you."

"We'll be the ones celebrating," one of the group answered. He was an ugly brute who towered over Faith by at least a foot. His neck was thicker than her waist

"Huh. Really? `Cause I think you're wrong." Talker Vamp was big, sure. He was also slow. Faith dove forward and hit the floor in a somersault. The move allowed her to come to her feet right in front of her target. He only had time to stare at her in amazement before she staked him. "Who's next? I love Pin the Stake on the Vampire."

No one stepped forward to volunteer.

Making a command decision, Faith picked a vampire at random. "You're on deck." He didn't understand the reference. Instead of going to his fate quietly, he fought back. Faith ducked under a haymaker but couldn't avoid the booted foot one of the vampire's friends drove into her stomach.

She doubled over. Fuck that hurt. Every breath took too much effort. Wheezing, Faith got a good grip on her weapons. The bastard with the big feet was going down next.

Before she managed to straighten, though, all three vampires were gone. Brandishing a crossbow, Giles stood on the mezzanine. "What? I couldn't let you have all the fun. It was a party, after all. You said so yourself."

"Right. A party." Breathing was a bitch, but Faith pushed through. "We better grab the gifts before the rest of the vamps show up. Where do we start?"

"I'm afraid everything in here has been destroyed." As Giles joined her near the checkout desk, Faith took her first real look around. The shelves were broken or leaned drunkenly. Individual pages covered the floor. Any book still whole had fallen victim to fire or water damage – or both. "If we are very lucky, the collection stored in my office survived."

Faith hadn't had the best of luck so far in this version of Sunnydale. "Got my fingers crossed. Let's grab and go." She could feel a tickle in her senses. "More vamps on the way. And I've had enough partyin' for one night. Feel like vegging on the couch now."

"Indeed. A very solid plan." Giles wasted no more time. He hurried into his former office. The furniture there was amazingly undamaged, if Faith discounted the scorch marks along one side of the desk and the filing cabinet drawers hanging open. "The books are in hidden compartments at the bottom of each drawer."

That's where their luck ran out. Even though Giles had the keys to the compartments, the lock on the first one refused to turn.

"Move out of the way. Work on the rest; I've got this one." The vampires were getting closer. They had to get the books and run. Faith took Giles' place. Balling her hand into a fist, Faith cocked her arm and punched the stubborn piece of wood.

It shattered and splinters buried themselves in Faith's hand. Hissing in pain, she removed the compartment cover and grabbed the book below. "Giles?"

"Ready. The rest were not so difficult." He clutched a battered satchel to his chest.

"Let's head for home." Ripping the book bag from his hands, Faith added her one book and looped it over her shoulder. They didn't need to use the back entrance this time. It felt like every vampire in Sunnydale was headed their way. They left through side door leading directly into the main quadrangle. "I can't carry you. You're gonna have to keep up," she warned Giles.

Giles nodded grimly. "Understood."

Faith had spent a lot of time touring her Sunnydale; she used that to their advantage. Not even the addition of the Master and the wanton destruction of the city had altered its basic layout. Even that knowledge wasn't enough. Less than a mile away from the high school, Faith and Giles hit a dead end. A dead end created by two cars with black-painted windows. "Son of a bitch!" They were trapped.

"Take the books." She thrust the bag in his direction. "And then run like Hell when I tell you." As long as the vamps didn't hit Giles with a dart, she could keep them occupied long enough for him to get away.

"I will not…"

"Yes, you fucking will! You got to get those books to Janna." It was the only chance this Sunnydale had to survive. "Don't make me kick your ass." There was no answer, but Faith couldn't spare a glance to see that Giles was being a good little soldier.

Daylight gave Faith and Giles some assistance. The vampires were trapped inside the cars with their tranquilizer guns. Muzzles poked out of barely-lowered windows. Faith didn't wait for the first dart to fire. She heaved a stake at one of the cars. "Start shootin' at the windows."

Giles was fucking awesome with a crossbow. He concentrated his firepower on the other car. Screams filled the air as windows shattered and sunlight poured into both cars.

The vampires hadn't managed to fire a single shot.

Tucking her last remaining stake away, Faith turned to Giles. "You drivin' or am I?"



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