Faith yawned, stretched and cursed the hardness of the floor beneath her. All she wanted to do was snuggle back down and go back to sleep, it couldn't have been much past six in the morning.
Knowing that wouldn't be a good idea, she sat up, scrubbing her hands over her face to try and wake up a bit. She hadn't even meant to fall asleep, but the rocking of the box-car must have been too much for her already weary self.
The sun shone brightly through narrow slats in the sides making dust-motes dance in the other wise gloom-filled interior.
She stretched again. Murmuring to herself, "You're really traveling in style now, ain't ya Faithy." Faith stood and walked across the swaying floor to the large sliding door. She yanked it open a couple of inches and peered out.
"Now where the hell am I?"
Buffy looked up from not eating her cereal as Willow and Kennedy clattered down the back stairs with duffle bags over their shoulders.
"Where are you two going?"
"Um, down to the lake." Willow blinked at her. "Remember, we told you last night? Picnic by the water? Make the most of the last of the good weather? You should come, it will cheer you up."
"I don't need cheering up," Buffy replied flatly, looking back into her soggy bowl and missing the nudges Kennedy was giving her girlfriend. They were hard nudges meaning no, no, no.
Willow gave a helpless face and gestured to Buffy. Kennedy rolled her eyes and went to pour coffee.
"I didn't realize you were going this early, that it was a breakfast picnic." Buffy had hoped Willow would be trying another locator spell this morning, for Faith not the chickens, but she didn't want to come right out and ask.
"Well, we figured why not make a day of it. We've been kinda neglecting our quality time recently." Willow smiled at Kennedy as Kennedy handed her a steaming cup.
"And," Kennedy continued as she placed a mug in front of Buffy, "I have to start looking for a job Monday."
"You're getting a job?" Buffy finally found herself interested in the conversation.
"Only a little one. Something part-time." Kennedy nodded. "My mother has threatened to stop sending me checks because she thinks I'm leading a life of debauchery..."
"And really, we hardly debauch at all," Willow smirked.
"...Obviously I can't tell her what I'm really doing and I won't lie to her and say I'm in college because then she'll get all crazy about grades. I'm hoping that she'll see how settled I am now when she meets Willow at Christmas and then the checks will start again. Until then I need a little something to keep my girl in pretty things." She gave Willow a kiss on the cheek. "I'll be in the car, don't be long."
When Buffy and Willow were alone, Buffy pushed her bowl away from her with distaste and picked up her coffee. "You're meeting Kenny's parents?"
Willow nodded. "Not until the holidays. Mine are on a whistle-stop world lecture tour and won't be back in the States until February, so it seemed like a good opportunity."
"Wow. That's serious relationship stuff, Will."
More excited nodding. "I know, I hope they like me. They have to like me. They know she's a lesbian so that hurdle is crossed, but what if they don't approve? What if they..."
Buffy stopped her before excitement could turn to a nervous ramble. "Willow, parents love you, you know that."
"Not all the time, sometimes they try to burn me at the stake."
That earned a tiny giggle. "Well if Kennedy's Mom is wearing a button that sounds like a cow, keep the matches away from her."
"Will do." Willow grinned back and was about to leave. Almost out the door she turned to face Buffy again. "I'll try another locator spell when we get back if you like. I know the last few have been a bust, but maybe we'll get lucky today - there's a few new things I want to try."
"Thanks Will, I'd like that."
Willow gave her best friend a soft smile and left.
Craig stepped out from beneath the icy cold water, gasping for breath and reaching blindly for a towel. His hair was matted to his face from the water pressure and he used his free hand to push it out of his eyes, making it stick straight up in the air.
"Gah! That doesn't get any warmer." He rubbed the towel hard over his back and shoulders to get the blood pumping again.
"I don't see why you can't just wait for a quiet moment and use the shower in the bathroom." Naomi sat on a rock a few feet away; her back was turned to give him some privacy.
Tying the towel around his waist, Craig sat on another rock to pull his t-shirt over his head and in the process flattening all his hair back down. "A quiet moment in that house? Yeah right. Anyway it's not like I'll ever get to shower under a waterfall back home." He pulled underwear and shorts on before removing the towel to scrub at his hair.
Naomi looked over her shoulder. "I don't know if you can really call this a waterfall."
They were in the woods somewhere north of the camp, possibly still on Sunset territory; she wasn't sure how far the boundaries went. Around them the ground was sloping, the gradient steep enough that the paths that criss-crossed through the trees meandered from side to side to avoid it.
Behind the two teens, a niche had been hollowed out of the stone and earth by years upon years of water passage. The water came straight out of the ground about seven feet up to splatter heavily into the pool below. The pool itself was a mere four feet in diameter and didn't reach past mid-shin, but the spring constantly kept it topped up with pure, freezing cold water. Old water was carried away by the shallow stream that left the pool to wind its way down hill to presumably meet up with the lake ten miles away.
Craig had found the beautifully secluded spot on his first day in hiding at Sunset Camp and so far it was still one of his favorite things there. He just wished there was a hot tap he could turn to adjust the temperature. "The water's falling. That makes a waterfall." He used a corner of the towel to dry his ears.
"I suppose, it's just when I think of a waterfall I think of Niagara, and this doesn't quite measure up." Naomi picked up the supplies she brought with her. A shampoo bottle, some soap and a bag of chips.
Giving her a grin, Craig put the towel around his neck, prize fighter style, and slipped into his shoes. "Wouldn't want to wash my hair under Niagara. Thanks for the stuff. I'll pay you back when we get home."
They started walking up the slope back to the camp, taking their time on the winding paths.
"Don't worry about it. I'm just sorry it's so girly. I should have packed you some of your own; I know what you're like."
The boy shrugged. "S'alright. Smells pretty nice really. So... you're sure Willow's out all day?"
Nodding, the pretty blonde went through what she'd found out earlier. "Ms. Rosenberg and Kennedy have gone for a picnic; they won't be back until this afternoon. Rubear and Ms. Summers are taking us all on a field trip - to the Hellmouth." She grinned at her friend. "If they have a gift shop would you like me to bring you something back?"
"Damn, I would have liked to go on that," Craig moaned.
"Why?" She asked surprised. "It's daylight. From what I can tell, we're just going to see a big church and then come home. I'm not even sure of the point."
"Hellmouths have literally hundreds of ley lines all converging at the same point. And not just ley lines either. Magical roots, cosmic fibres, supernatural circuitry. They ain't just mystical gateways to Hell you know, despite what you watchers wanna think." Craig offered Naomi a hand up a particularly steep and muddy section of the track and then they were on even ground and only five minutes from the camp. "Think of the chaos that could be caused with power like that at your fingertips."
Naomi stopped short and grabbed at Craig's arm to stop him too. "No! Do not think of that!"
Gently taking back his arm, the teen winked at her and continued to walk. "I'm not. Wouldn't dream of it." It wasn't like he could ever manipulate the forces of nature in that kind of way even if he did have the urge. Which he didn't. "I just think it would be cool to go there and see if I could feel anything. Power-wise."
Naomi accepted this and trailed after him again. "Then why don't you come?"
"Because sitting in a packed mini-bus is not a good way of hiding and because with all the bigwigs out of the way I can help myself to what I need in complete privacy."
"Fine." Naomi shook back her perfect sheet of white gold hair in readiness to take her leave. "I'm going to get ready." She handed him the chips and started the walk back to the main house leaving Craig to return to the boy's dormitory until all was quiet. A thought occurred and she stopped in her tracks and turned back to him. "You won't have the place completely to yourself, Andrew will still be here."
She'd meant it as a warning, but seeing her friend's sudden smile, she realized it was defunct. Shaking her head, she left him to it.
The tracks always took the back way into town which had always been fine for Faith too. Except sometimes it took you a while to work out where the hell you were.
She didn't have a clue right now, but where ever it was, it was built up, graffiti'd and grey. It was beautiful to her desert and prairie weary eyes.
She left the railway behind and went in search of breakfast. Locations could wait 'til later.
"So which of them do you like?" Kennedy lay across the blanket, her head propped up on one hand as she took turns between nibbling her carrot stick and taking a bite from her sandwich.
Willow mirrored her position exactly, except she held no snacks. At irregular intervals she took sips from her bottle of water. "Which of the what do I like?"
"The Watcher trainees. Which one do you like the most?" Kennedy finished the carrot and reached into the tub for another.
Willow gave her a strange look. "Well none of them really. I mean, you can't deny Naomi is gorgeous, but I'm happy with you." Something occurred to her. "This isn't some way of telling me you want an open relationship is it?"
Kennedy laughed. "No, never. I only want you."
Blushing at her mistake, Willow leaned over and brushed her lips against Kennedy's. "Well that's nice to know. So what did you mean?"
Kennedy ran a finger through the red hair falling between them. "Which do you think has a shot at staying?"
"I'm not sure. Two are staying, and if I had to pick from inside Giles' head I'd say the little one, Anthony, and..." She stared at blue sky while she tried to decide who else.
"Anthony is too young according to Dawn. He still has another year of high school to complete in England. Apparently it was all cool while they were studying at the Council over there, but now that the operation has shipped Stateside some of the parents have gotten a little reluctant to insist that Junior follows in father's footsteps."
Willow nodded. "Especially with a lot of father's feet being recently blown to pieces. And mother's feet," she added, "y'know, so as not to be too sexist."
"Precisely." Kennedy delved for another carrot.
"So he's out," Willow mused. "I'd say Naomi would be my next choice, but I think Giles might deliberately not pick her because of them being practically related. He'll worry it won't look right."
"Dawn reckons that even if he doesn't keep her here, he'll make sure she gets on the program somehow. Have you heard Nay speak Latin? She could have been born in ancient Rome. D was getting pretty jealous until she realized that Naomi mixes up all her Sumerian prefixes and has to use a finger to read Tocharian."
Willow rolled back to face her girlfriend. "Dawn can speak Tocharian? I can't even speak Tocharian."
"I don't even know what Tocharian is, but if it was just nonsense she spouted then Giles and Naomi are really easily impressed." Kennedy grinned at the still pouting red-head and sidled close enough for a cuddle. "You're still the smartest, sweetie, Dawn just has a knack for languages."
Willow rested her head comfortably on the offered shoulder and wrapped her left arm around Kennedy's waist. "I know. I'm not threatened, yet, but she's young, you know. I may already have reached my peak and she's still got years of book learning to go. I don't like having the youth of today snapping at my heels so soon. I still wanna be the youth of today."
Kennedy gave a half laugh. "What about Peter?"
"Eww - what about him?"
"Rajiv." Willow thought about the young Asian Brit. "I don't know. He has a good brain, I'm sure of it, but whether he actually knows how to use it? Plus, I had to shoo him out of my cupboard yesterday, he was leafing through the medicinal herb draw."
Kennedy snickered. "Dawn says he's pretty damn smart, but he's a little preoccupied because he can't find anything decent to get high on. Apparently when he's stoned he's some kind of Einstein."
"Well I'm not going to be the one to test that theory. How does Dawn even know all this? Should we be worried?"
"She's been spending a lot of time with Reece since they got here. I assume he's filling her in."
"Hmm, Reece? I'm not too sure about his Golden Highness either."
"Well Dawn has nothing but good things to obsess over about him. All I know is he's handy with a sword. He was in my patrol group last night and he took down a Meluthian Hedray like he did it all the time. I think he's one of those guys that's great as long as you keep him where you can see him, but put it this way: I wouldn't date a woman like him."
Willow chuckled. "Me neither. Those Mel-hed's still hanging around?"
"Just the stragglers that were out hunting when we torched the nest. We'll get them," Kennedy assured her confidently.
"They're scared of werewolves, maybe that'll help."
Kennedy sat up, dislodging her girlfriend gently, to watch the speed-boats scudding around near the shore.
Sitting up also, Willow put an arm around her waist.
"Full moon tonight," Kennedy said quietly. "That came around quick. Guess it'll be good scouting practice for the wannabes. Wish we had all the girls here though. Do you think Buffy will come along? Shit what about the kid...?"
"Shh, Giles spoke to him while he was still in the hospital. He's told his parents and they have the fact sheet I compiled." Willow reassured her girlfriend. "If they have any problems they're gonna call us."
Kennedy gathered herself. "Yeah I think I knew that already. I guess we're set then. Maybe we should head back now so I can get things organized." She'd been dreading this night for four weeks, but with all the other stuff going on it had still managed to creep up on her.
She started to stand up, but Willow caught her arm and pulled her back down. "Will you relax? It's going to be fine." Willow turned on her cute voice. The even cuter than normal one. "Don't cut short our fun-day because of monsters."
Kennedy forced herself to calm down. "You're right. Let's make the most of this nice secluded lakeside spot and worry about the monsters later." Kennedy ran her fingertips up her lover's side, tickling her lightly through her top.
Willow looked up from resting her head on Kennedy's shoulder, a smile lighting up her eyes. Without saying anything more, they both slowly leaned in until they were kissing.
Buffy sat at the front of the recently fixed mini-bus with Naomi in the seat beside her, really wishing she could be someplace else. Since when did she sign up to be camp counselor to the annoying-as-hell English kids?
Anthony sat across the aisle from them and every couple of minutes a balled up piece of paper hit him on the back of the head. The first couple of times, even though the boy hadn't reacted, Buffy had turned in her seat ready to give the culprit what for. She couldn't tell which brat it was though. Now she was just trying to ignore it.
Naomi was saying: "The problem is: the more attention you give them, the worse they are; but," she chuckled, "if the attention comes in the form of a slap across the face with a wet kipper, it may work."
Buffy smiled. "You think I should try it?"
Naomi smiled back. "I should very much like to see it if you did."
A glimpse of raven hair caught Buffy's attention before she could answer. As Giles drove the mini-bus through Boudenver and on to Pleasant Creek, Buffy strained her eyes for a better look at the woman standing at the bus stop.
When the mini-bus had gone past and Buffy could see the woman's face her heart sank back down.
What was that? Strike one hundred and forty three? Buffy had hardly left the house all week in case Faith actually called, or there was something on the news that indicated the authorities were aware of the situation, but still every time she did go out she imagined Faith was everywhere.
But if she wasn't in Boudenver, where the hell was she?
Figuring it wasn't gonna make her late for nothing, Faith was sitting down on a bench dedicated to some Dearly Beloved soul and looking out at a rolling green lawn dotted with head stones and shady trees.
She'd had to take a break from wandering around the city. It was starting to get to her that she had nowhere to go, nothing to do and no money she could afford to waste. So she'd walked through the gates of the city cemetery, because really - where else was she gonna go to relax?
If the sun had been out, Faith probably would have happily shed her increasingly dirty jacket and stretched out between a couple of graves to catch some rays, but the sky had been grey for most of the day so far, sunlight only peeking through now and again. So she sat on one of the seats instead, enjoying the peace and quiet after the steady traffic noise she'd been surrounded with since leaving the railway that morning. Weird, how she'd gotten used to the quiet of the countryside even though it had gotten on her nerves when she was in the middle of nowhere.
Faith nodded to an approaching woman, not even considering it might look a little weird her being in a graveyard, but not at any actual grave. She received a tight smile back as the woman passed her, coming to a stop and kneeling at a fresh grave five or six plots down. She looked away again to give the grieving lady some privacy and went back to her thoughts.
It was mainly the woman from the bar she kept coming back to, the rich chick with the fancy smokes; the one who must have stolen Faith's bag. She'd been racking her brains for the past two days, but so far while she remembered she had been drinking with a woman, she couldn't remember much else. Not even what she'd looked like really.
But she remembered the cigarette case and the smokes must have been pretty fancy considering the way they'd messed with her head. Either that or her drink had been spiked, or ...something. Faith shook her head now as she remembered how wasted she'd felt - not the good kind of wasted either.
Faith could sorta remember agreeing to go to her room, but she'd just planned on crashing there for the night instead of on one of the crappy deck loungers; turned out her drinking partner had other ideas. They'd been in the corridor between the pool and the motel rooms when... whoever she was... had kissed her hard on the mouth, pushing the shocked and disorientated Slayer back into the corridor wall.
After she'd recovered from her surprise, Faith had shoved the woman away but the bitch hadn't taken no for an answer.
Damn, she remembered it more now. They'd scuffled a little, bouncing back and forth off the walls, until Faith got a grip on her throat. She wasn't squeezing or nothing, just it had been the only hand hold she could get to force the slut away.
And then... and then it was still all blurry! But Faith knew something had happened, something that had her... running away? What the hell, she didn't run...?
Her thought process was interrupted by a piercing scream from the mourner still kneeling a few plots down. Faith turned quickly to see what the hell was going on.
There was an arm sticking out of the ground.
"Dude, it's the middle of the day!" Faith shouted at the flaying arm sprouting out of the freshly laid turf as she sprinted over to the mourner-lady's side to stand at the foot of the erupting grave.
"What is it?" The lady, probably in her fifties or close to them, screamed at the top of her obviously very healthy lungs. "What is that down there with my son?"
"That is your son," Faith answered without thinking. She was too busy glaring at the overcast sky. Something hit her hard on the arm. "Ow."
"That's my dead son you're talking about!" The woman screamed at her, punching Faith in the arm again.
"Ow - what? I'm sure he was a good little choir boy when he was alive, but he's not now, is he."
"He was a good boy!" The old chick insisted, punching Faith again. "That's not my son! My boy never even sleepwalked, he wouldn't be..." She broke into tears but still had enough in her to strike out at Faith again while screaming: "Do something to help him!"
The woman had a hell of a talent for giving dead arms. Faith flexed hers as she looked from the batty chick to her dead son struggling to get out of his grave.
"Okay, firstly - you need to back off lady before I punch you back, got it? Secondly - where is the fricken sun?" She looked up again, but nothing. "Thirdly - unless you wanna see your boy die all over again, you might wanna turn around," she added as kindly as she could manage in her irritation.
Okay, so it was a cloudy day meaning the vampires could come out and play. Back in Boston, Faith and her Watcher had come across a whole apartment block of the undead that moved about freely enough during the day to hold down regular jobs at the abattoir thanks to the seldom seen weak sun in the cold winter months. Obviously it was a different matter in So Cal and the only time Faith had seen a vampire there venture outside during daylight, and live, had been Spike - who had been crazy anyway.
From a newspaper Faith had seen earlier, she knew she was in Indianapolis now, and while she had no idea where about on map that would be, the days had been getting a little colder as her week wore on, so northwards would probably be a good guess.
Two arms were waving about now as he clawed his way out and Faith cracked her knuckles ready to go to work. It had been a few months, but it wasn't like slaying was something you forgot how to do.
She was so busy stalking forwards that when the vamp's mother pushed her hard. Faith actually stumbled a few steps to the side. "Hey!"
"Don't you hurt my son!" The woman yelled at her, her voice was getting a little hoarse now, thank God.
"Jeez, I'm not gonna hurt your fricken son, I'm gonna kill the demon that hurt your fricken son." Faith shoved the lady away with her palm, hard enough to land her on her ass. Hopefully she hadn't broken a hip or nothing.
Faith produced her stake, a bit of an amateur looking thing, but she'd done the best she could with the spikey branch she'd picked up in Toponoh. After slicing off the long-ass thorns and whittling one end to a sharp point with her penknife, it would do.
The woman screamed as she saw Faith pulling the lethal looking stick from her inside jacket pocket. "What are you going to do? Don't hurt me, please."
Faith, who had been trying to ignore her, couldn't anymore. "Why would I hurt you? Unless you count punching me, shoving me and trying to deafen me as a reason? Just shut up and let me get this over with."
It felt weird doing this in daylight right now. It never had before, she'd never cared what time it was when she slayed, she'd just slayed. Now she had the urge to look around, to see if anyone was watching. It might be illegal to trespass in cemeteries after dark, but this must look a damn sight worse. Her fingers squeezed the stake like it was some kind of executive-stress toy.
The creature chose that moment to finally shake the earth and sod from his head and shoulders.
"Hi Mom!" he said pleasantly as his yellow eyes focused, not even noticing Faith advancing on him.
His face was the ugly visage of the vampire and the lady, his mom, screamed her loudest yet as she caught sight of him from her seat on the grass.
Faith cringed, covering her ears.
The Vamp pulled an even uglier face. "Damn Mom, you don't change do you?" He launched himself out of the messy grave now, heading straight for his mom.
Who screamed some more.
Faith felt like letting him bite her, just for a minute, just enough to knock her unconscious and shut her the hell up. Instead she lunged forward, grabbing the collar of his once ironed white shirt and yanking him backwards.
As he ripped himself from her grip and spun around, Faith gave him a smile. "That's right; wouldn't you rather play with me?"
It looked her up and down, eyeing her stake and apparently deciding it wasn't dangerous. "Yeah, I would. Got anything in mind?"
"Harry?" The woman on the ground shrieked. "Harry, what's wrong with you?"
Harry ignored his mother; Faith had to give him props for that. "How about we play: You stand there like the good boy your Mommy thinks you are while I ram this pointy wood through your heart; sound like fun?" She held it by her stomach, the sharp end up.
"I got a better game." Harry wasted no more words as he jumped on Faith, his mouth wide as his virgin fangs tried find someplace to sink into her neck.
Her stake arm was trapped, but the newbie didn't know his own strength yet and was only using about half of it. Faith had no trouble avoiding his teeth, but the Vamp was a grabber and she was having a little difficulty in getting him off of her.
As she gripped one of his arms and held it away from her, Faith spoke to the old lady still on the grass. Faith had seen her start to get up once, but at the moment her dead son had leapt for Faith's throat, she'd fallen back down again.
"Boys - all the damn same, they only ever care about their own satisfaction, you know?" she said amiably, trying at least. This hard to be hard for her, seeing her dead kid acting all alive and shit. That was the worse thing about Vamps.
Faith doubted the lady could hear her above the high note scream which was probably shattering glass somewhere, but it had been a while since the Slayer had had a proper conversation and as Harry seemed more interested in her neck than her mind, she kept it up as she tussled with the fiend.
"Don't get me wrong. I'm sure your boy was a real prince when he was alive, but, hey, they all turn into pigs eventually, see?" Faith grabbed his hair and pulled his mouth away from her neck just enough to give her room to head butt him.
Which she did. The pain just spurred him on, he musta been really repressed when he was growing up. With a growl he tried to headbutt her back and caught a left hook in the face for his trouble.
He was still all clingy though, not giving Faith enough room to get the stake in his chest. She gripped it tight in her right palm as she struggled to get her left hand around the monster's throat and push him backwards to create some room. Her fingers caught him just under the chin and she pushed, clenching her fingers at the same time, causing him to howl.
Faith, her arm held out in front of her, fingers still squeezing hard, stared at Harry as a peculiar feeling of déjà vu washed over her. She'd done this before. The feel of the stake biting into her right palm wasn't a part of it though; it was the look on Harry's face...
"She was a friggin' Vampire!"
The memory rushed back to her so fast that she actually let go of Harry and he fell back just a step, clutching his throat.
"Yeah, I kind of guessed that already, what with the way those freaks bit me the other night and then waking up in a coffin..."
"Not you, she was a Vampire!" Faith could remember her face changing now, the way her yellow eyes had flashed right before she'd smiled that predatory smile and tried to kiss Faith again. She shuddered at the memory.
Harry looked over at his Mom who was slowly, too slowly as far as Faith was concerned, losing her voice.
"Her? I don't think so."
Faith shook her head at him, but she wasn't really listening.
"I didn't kill her," she said softly, trying to remember why not. Her stake would have been in her jacket, just like it had been most of the week, so why hadn't she reached for it?
Harry looked at his Mom again. "I can see that."
Faith turned her bemused look on the Vamp. "Were you this slow when you were alive?"
"Were you this crazy when you were...?" Harry started, stopping when he ran out of ideas for words.
"I'll take that as a yes then. You do realize it's the middle of the day, right?" Faith checked. "As in, not gonna be dark for another five or six hours?"
"So, you're nocturnal for a reason."
Harry looked down at the grass under his feet. "I woke up, I was bored, so I got up." He shrugged. When he looked up again, his fangs glinted. "And now I'm gonna kill you!"
As he sprang for Faith, she casually put her stake back in her jacket pocket. The breaking sunlight that had glinted off of his extra-long teeth was soon bright enough to start his clothes smoldering. He didn't seem to realize.
Side-stepping to avoid the flames, Faith watched as within seconds he burned away to nothing, just his fading agonized howl left behind.
"Crazy-ass fricken vamps," Faith muttered to herself.
"What did you do to my son? You killed my son!"
Aw crap, the lady was back on her feet and coming over for another round.
"I didn't kill him! I didn't touch him, you saw that!" Faith yelled.
"I saw you set him on fire!" The fruit loop yelled back, her voice scratchy.
Faith's sharp eyes caught someone coming out of a maintenance shed a hundred yards or so away.
Great! Time to adios.
"Yo, bitch, it's been fun, but..." Faith gestured over her shoulder. "Oh and I'm," she looked at the disturbed earth of the kid's last resting place, feeling guilt she didn't deserve. "I'm... sorry for your loss," she added with as much sincerity as she could muster, before taking off over the rolling green lawns in the direction of the gate.
What the hell was wrong with her today!
"Alright Andrew?" Craig for once didn't sneak in, but walked boldly up and sat at the kitchen table next to the blonde.
Andrew jumped a little at the loud unexpected greeting. "Uh yeah I guess." He couldn't quite meet the English boy's eyes, but he smiled warmly. Craig had been singling him out all week. He liked the attention, but it was weird. "How come you're not with the others?" He asked, remembering why he had some peace and quiet for once.
Craig shrugged. "I was feeling rough. I thought it'd be better if I stayed home in case I'm getting a cold; don't want to spread it around."
He looked over Andrew's shoulder as he spoke at the door to Willow's magic room. The door that was kept locked ever since Willow had caught Rajiv sniffing about in there. Stupid idiot had really made things harder for him.
"Well if you're not feeling well I can make you some soup?" Andrew offered, happy for a real reason to fuss over the new boy. He stood from his chair to go to the stove.
"No, I'm not feeling that bad, you don't have to go to any trouble." Craig felt like a wanker for lying to him.
"It's not trouble. It's nearly lunch time anyway." Andrew gave him another smile and managed to look him in the eye this time. For a second anyway. Then the uncomfortable feeling came back and he dragged his gaze away and concentrated on making soup. "You probably just need a decent hot meal inside you. You never come inside with the others."
Craig tensed. "Not really interested in socializing with the boy's brigade." That was true enough.
"Oh," Andrew turned from dicing carrots, "I thought you were one of them."
Craig sneered. "One of them tossers, not bloody likely." Seeing Andrew glance his way again, he realized his mistake. "I mean, yeah, I'm all watcherly and that, but that's the only thing we have in common." He pulled one of the books Andrew had been pouring over closer to him and used it to change the subject. "Heinderman's Compendium of Northern Demon Species and Sub-species," he read. "You understand this stuff? I thought you were just the bob-a-job boy. No offense," he added quickly.
Andrew turned again, perplexed. "Bob-a-huh?" Okay this had to get straightened out. Craig seemed like a nice guy, but Andrew really wasn't up for getting into anything with one of the watchers. He could just imagine everyone's reaction to that! He didn't have time anyway. What with cooking, cleaning, looking after Goorzah, helping Xander and Mr. Giles and doing his own part in the constant research that went on at Sunset Camp.
"Look, uh, I don't know quite what that means, but I think you've got the wrong idea about me, I'm not really Mr. Sextastic Man or anything... it's just, look Craig, I like you and I'm really flattered, and you have really nice eyes that kind of remind me of, uh, Bond," Andrew disappeared into a dreamy place for a few seconds before he kept on talking. "Uh Dalton, not Connery, and you get on great with Goorzie, but I've had a boyfriend before, sort of, and well..."
Jonathan, spread out and bleeding on the seal of Danzalthar made a mental appearance.
Blinking, Andrew continued. "- it ended pretty badly."
Andrew had made his little speech with his eyes on the parsnip in his hand, except for a brief look into Craig's dark hazel eyes as he mentioned them. By the time he'd finished talking he wanted to bolt out the back door, but his water was boiling and it was time to put the vegetables in.
Craig cleared his throat but Andrew didn't turn around. "Bob-a-job was something the scouts used to do when my old man was a boy. You'd go do a job for someone; i.e. Mow their lawn, and they'd give you a bob, which was like five pee or something. I was just referring to you doing all the chores around here, nothing else." He tried to keep any amusement out if his voice.
"Oh, yeah I knew that." Andrew wondered if he could fake a convincing swoon to get out of the hole he had just dug for himself. If he fell just right he could probably knock himself out for a couple of weeks.
Craig grinned at the blonde's back, fully aware of the discomfort he must be feeling. Nice eyes, huh? That didn't sound quite as not interested as Andrew kept making out. He said nothing though. "As you're being kind enough to make me lunch, why don't you tell me what you were looking for in this book and I'll have a go - me being a Watcher trainee and that." He chuckled under his breath.
"Um, okay." Andrew thought about what he knew. "Kennedy and the girls uncovered a nest of Meluthian Hedray's the other week. They're not too bright, mostly like just big dumb lizards, think Godzukki." Not as cute, though, Andrew thought, but close enough. "However, they have a sentient cousin called Sekopiluthian Hedray which is mostly like... Godzilla - with a big brain!" He stressed, stretching his hands apart to show just how big he meant. "From what I've researched so far, where you find one, you normally find the other. I'm just trying to see if I can get a list of nesting habits and feeding patterns or what they might be after; in case the girls come across any. Everyone else is so busy focusing on Faith and you guys, I figured I could do this bit."
Craig started flicking through the big book. It was brand new, he might have even been the first person to open it, but the knowledge it held went back centuries and so the printer had used an old fashioned type to reflect that. Looking from the squirley words to Andrew, he asked: "Sekpfullun Headaches? Can you spell it for me?"
Andrew smiled again, feeling much more comfortable now they were discussing something he knew stuff about. "I already wrote it down." He motioned to the note-book on the table.
Craig smiled back, grabbing the pad and Andrew turned back to the soup.
Buffy pulled her sunglasses down her nose to get a clearer look at Peter and Rajiv as they wrassled on the lawn of the church. The more annoying of the two had Rajiv in a head-lock and was trying to run him into the wall. She pushed her glasses up again, dismissing them. What did she care if they knocked each other out?
Turning her head she saw Naomi and the little one talking earnestly with Giles about..., she tuned her hearing in that direction ignoring the grunts and shouts coming from the fighting pair, oh what a surprise, talking about Hellmouths.
Buffy lounged on the bench by the church gate and studied Naomi from behind her dark glasses. She was tall, taller than Buffy anyhow and wearing casual blue jeans, but somehow her legs still seemed to go on forever. Buffy followed them up to her ass; which was when she freaked and looked away.
'I did not just check her out.' Buffy looked down at the ground, her cheeks burning with embarrassment. 'God! Thanks a lot Faith. Turn me into a lesbian and then leave me to fend for myself!'
This was okay, she was over-reacting, that was all. So what if she could admit Naomi was attractive? It didn't mean she wanted her. She thought Willow was attractive, but she didn't want in her pants.
She looked over at Naomi once again. She was alone with...Anthony? Giles was trying to bring some kind of order to Peter and Rajiv. Good luck. He'd been fighting that losing battle all week. Naomi's long, silky, white-gold hair hung loose down her back, catching the sun whenever she moved and creating a shimmery effect.
That was what it was! Buffy wasn't attracted to Naomi; she was just attracted to her hair.
Buffy lifted a hand to her own tied back locks. She hadn't even had it cut since L.A. She'd gone to a salon with Willow and Dawn at their insistence, but all she'd gotten was a trim. Her hair was almost as dark as it had been when she was dead! Why hadn't she thought about getting it done before Faith was due home?
'Guess deep down I knew she wouldn't be coming home.' Had she really known that, though? Or was she just trying to make herself feel better.
There were only two days left until the parole officer was coming to town and so far Faith hadn't tried to contact her and she hadn't just shown up like Giles seemed to think she would. Buffy was prepared to believe that Faith really had run away for good this time. She wasn't going to fool herself that Faith gave a shit anymore.
So why was she still insisting on the full-scale search?
It was for Faith's sake, not her own. The other Slayer couldn't afford to buck her parole conditions. If she wasn't here in a few days then she would officially be on the run for real and Buffy didn't want to see all of Faith's hard work come to nothing.
With a deep sigh Buffy pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and hit a speed dial button. While she waited for the other end to be picked up, she watched Naomi's lissom form stretch out on the church steps.
There was a click. "Hi. It's me. Did you look into the rapist story?"
She listened to Angel's answer. A tiny frown appeared as she realized nothing had come from the article she'd found.
"So the car was just dumped and you have no idea where she went after that?"
Across the church yard Naomi was resting on her elbows, seemingly intent on the tussle still going on between Peter and Rajiv. Buffy let her eyes flick up and down the younger woman's body as she listened to Angel tell her stuff she already knew.
"So have you searched all of Utah? Don't tell me it's impossible, I know the kind of resources you have there, Angel." Buffy huffed. "Can't you use some kind of infra-red beam to locate her body heat?"
Buffy subconsciously wet her lips as Naomi pulled her t-shirt up to catch the sun on her flat stomach. 'Damn, all this thinking about Faith is turning me into her. I can totally imagine licking ice-cream off of that tummy.'
A hand landed softly on her shoulder and Buffy jumped, her phone left her hand, flew into the air and was caught by a large manly hand above her head. Looking up she realized it was Reece who had disturbed her.
"Do you mind? I'm on an important call,." she snapped, standing up and holding out a hand for her cell.
"Then why throw it at me, darling?" He handed it back to her.
She turned her back on him, but before she could get the phone fully to her ear, Reece whispered into it. "I know Nay's fit, sweetheart, but she's only got eyes for Rayne, not that the poof has any clue." She could sense him grinning. "You'd be breaking your precious rogue's heart for nothing."
What? I...What? She glared at his back as the tall, snobby watcher trainee walked away. What the hell does that mean? She has a weather fixation? And just what is it he thinks he knows about Faith and I? And what's with the 'rogue'?
It wasn't the first time Buffy had heard one of their guests call Faith 'rogue' and it pissed her off. That was done and in the past. Faith wasn't rogue anymore, she was just missing.
Buffy continued to glare at Reece's back as he strolled right up to Peter and Rajiv and stopped their silliness with a single word. It was only then that she became aware of the tinny little Angel voice shouting into her ear.
"Sorry. One of the new watcher jerks is just begging for a full demonstration on Slayer strength. No, he's just an idiot..." Her tone became more excited as Angel finally told her something useful. "And your man in the field is sure it's her? That's the biggest lead yet, Angel!"
She listened to her ex for a few more minutes, her mood way better than five minutes ago. Just as she was about to hang up she asked in a rush: "Uh, Angel. You don't suppose I could get a copy of the surveillance photos, do you?"
For three hours they had been poring over the old and new demon books. Between the two of them they had finished off the whole big bowl of soup and were now snacking on Willow's homemade cookies as they passed volumes back and forth and wrote notes on post-its to fix inside the books.
"Says here: "The Sekopiluthian Hedray organized an army of their lesser brethren: the Meluthian Hedray, to march upon the city of Augustine in 1360. Not a soul was left alive as the demons ravaged the city and took control of the Hellmouth.," Craig finished reading his passage and made another note on a yellow post-it.
Andrew finished chewing his cookie. "I knew they weren't just fluffy little lizards. Not that lizards are ever fluffy, I guess, but I knew there was more to it." He let his finger scroll down the page in his own text. Finding what he wanted he started to read. "A Sek can devour one hundred human bodies in a single day. It stores the fat in its tail and can then live quite actively for ten to fifteen days with out feeding again." He closed the book with a snap.
"So if you don't get eaten in the first one hundred, you've got up to fifteen days to make yourself scarce before the bugger needs to eat again. You can't say the geezer ain't sporting," Craig chuckled.
Andrew shrugged. "All I know is that we don't need something like that around here. There are less than one hundred people living in town. One Sekopiluthian could wipe out Boudenver and still have room left for Pleasant Creek."
Craig leaned back in his chair, lifting his arms high overhead to stretch them out. "Do you really think it would bother with someplace as small as this?"
Andrew looked at him. "They're attracted to the Hellmouth. You read it! It's where they nest!" He was getting quite agitated now.
Craig boy leaned over to put a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down mate. You guys do this sort of thing all the time, don't you? It'll be no sweat. And you found all this out. You'll be the hero, mate. Andy saves the day!" He squeezed the shoulder under his fingers and gave Andrew a broad smile.
Andrew blushed. "I'm not really a hero, I just seem to have a knack for staying alive, and anyway you helped."
"Nah it was all you. I just looked where you told me to look." Realizing he'd been leaning at an awkward angle to hold on to Andrew's shoulder for way too long to be natural, Craig let go and put his hand, palm down, on the table top. He didn't break eye contact though. "You're pretty good at all this. How come you don't get to go out and play with the others?"
The words I used to be a super-villain died on his tongue. "I-ah-I..." Andrew wanted to look away, but there really was something about Craig's eyes that just held him in one place. He blinked, but when his eyes were open again, Craig was still smiling at him, leaning forward just slightly, hazelnut eyes twinkling. "I grew up in Sunnydale," Andrew explained instead. "If you don't understand this stuff, you normally end up being eaten by it."
Craig nodded, happy with that answer. "I never really got into it to be honest. Mum always had other stuff she needed me to do."
"You never got into it?" Andrew looked up, bemused. "I thought all of you came over from the Watchers Academy. Wasn't it, like, mandatory to learn about demons?"
Craig kicked himself. He kept slipping up around these people! He was sure he was usually a lot smoother than this. "Uh, Well yeah, 'course, but there was different, you know, departments and wotnot. I was more into my magic studies than the demon side," he lied, even though it was sort of the truth.
"Oh yeah, I guess that makes sense." Andrew had no reason not to believe him. Mr. Giles could do some magic, which he must have learned at the Academy. "So are you any good?"
Craig grinned. "Would you like me to pull a bunch of flowers out of a hat for you?"
Andrew just blushed at him and it might have become uncomfortable, but before it could Willow and Kennedy came through the back door
Craig looked away from Andrew in dismay, forgetting the exciting significance of his new friend's non-answer. He again stared over Andrew's head at Willow's locked magic room. Bugger. He'd been having so much fun just hanging out with Andrew that he'd forgotten to find a way to sneak in...again.
Craig got up from his chair and made for the outside. Andrew's voice stopped him.
"Aren't you going to help me explain the Sekopiluthian stuff we just found out?"
"Uh, no. You know it better than me anyway. I need to get some air." Craig didn't want to loiter in the house now people were beginning to arrive home. He fell back on his earlier excuse as he left. "Feeling a bit stuffy."
As he left he heard both Willow and her girlfriend tell Andrew that they had more important things to worry about - like werewolves. Werewolves sounded cool. Yet another field trip he didn't dare go on. Still he'd be too busy tonight trying to jimmy open the window to the Magic Room to worry about big hairy mutts.
"Tomorrow, Andrew." Willow focused on her dinner again. Her day at the lake had left her ravenous.
"It could be a big threat. The stuff we read today sounds really creepy," Andrew whined from further up the table. He wished Craig was there to back him up, but once again he hadn't showed for dinner.
The rest of the watcher trainees were there, but Andrew didn't really like any of them. Except Naomi; she was okay.
"Andrew, stop whining," Kennedy snapped as she buttered a soft roll for Willow. "Tonight and the next two nights we're doing werewolves. Werewolves come first and then after the full moon is done for this month we can take a look at what you found, okay Andrew?"
He nodded. It wasn't like disagreeing would get him anywhere.
"So who is going tonight?" Giles asked. "I don't want any of the students to go unless they have a Slayer partner. Although I'm sure everything will go smoothly this time, it's better to be safe than sorry."
Kennedy looked around the table counting the watcher trainees. "Where's Whatshisname?"
Naomi tried to finish her mouthful as quickly as she could in order to come up with an excuse for her friend, but Andrew was already speaking.
"Craig wasn't feeling very well this afternoon; I think he's gone back to the boy's dorm. He'll probably be better off in bed this evening, I think," Andrew told Giles solemnly
"I bet you do. Ow!" Peter's smirk was quickly replaced by a glare at the person opposite him. "You frigging bitch, you kicked me!"
"I have no idea what you are talking about Pete." Naomi flashed him a charming smile and popped another forkful into her mouth.
"Hey!" Buffy pointed her knife at Peter. "If I ever hear you talk to any of the women in this house like that again; I'll kick you. Got it?"
"Ahh, ain't lust grand," Reece drawled, causing Rajiv to spit up some potatoes.
He muttered a "sorry" in between giggles.
Giles was looking very displeased. In fact most of the people in the kitchen were looking very displeased, but it was Giles that spoke. "Okay boys why don't you go and get yourselves ready and try to-uh- calm down a bit. Werewolves, it would seem, are attracted to over-active hormones and I'd hate to see any of you eaten," he finished dryly. Standing, he gave his thanks to Andrew for the meal and left to ready himself for the evening's adventure.
Reece, Peter and Rajiv left via the back door. Rajiv was still giggling to himself. Anthony brought up the rear looking sorrowful.
Naomi stood up too. "I am sorry about them. They're not usually quite this bad." She considered her words and added, "Actually Peter is, but the others are normally tolerable." She gave Buffy a slightly bemused look before excusing herself.
When none of the new arrivals were left in the kitchen, Dawn turned to Buffy and asked.
"What was Reece talking about? Ain't lust grand?"
Buffy rolled her eyes, shaking her head. "Nothing important. Ready for the off in thirty minutes, Kennedy?" She left without waiting for an answer.
"Guess we know who's taking charge tonight." Kennedy wasn't sure whether to be pleased or pissed. True she didn't want to be running the werewolf show, but she was getting a little fed up of the way Buffy just kept taking over the last few days too.
Xander looked up from his dessert. "She's just..."
Kennedy interrupted him impatiently. "Blowing off steam, I know."
"I've never known one chick have so much steam." Rona chuckled as she dug out the last of her yogurt.
"Where the hell is Rayne now?" Reece demanded, his temper flaring. Mr. Giles had told him to have everyone ready by nine and again the little twerp had disappeared.
"Who cares?" Peter pulled on a jacket and lit a cigarette. "As long as he en't here."
Rajiv finished his rushed rolling of something illegal and likely toxic and stuck it in his pocket for later. "He's probably scared of the werewolves. Can't say I'm too happy about meeting any either."
"We're not going to find any bloody werewolves," Peter scoffed. "Everyone knows they're well rare. We've got more chance of meeting up with a bloody fairy. Ain't that right, Miley?" He turned and gave the smallest boy a slap on the back of the head.
Anthony grimaced and left ahead of the other Watcher trainees.
Or at least tried to.
Something caught his ankle and he fell face first into the damp grass with a small scream.
Craig crept around the side of the house in the shadows. The sun had dropped twenty minutes ago and, apart from a line of orange light over the horizon, the sky above Sunset Camp was a swirly mass of navy and indigo.
He knew the patrol group would be leaving any minute and he wanted to be away from the boy's dorm and the garage so he wouldn't risk being spotted.
Willow's magic room was at the back of the kitchen and the window faced to the side of the house. By hiding in the big rhododendron that grew beneath the window, he could watch the truck leave without it passing anywhere near him and then get through the window as soon as all was quiet.
He knew by nightly observation that the four people left in the house: Andrew, Dawn, Xander and one of the new slayers, a different girl every night from what Craig could tell, would all park themselves in front of the telly with enough munchies to last the evening.
So providing he could get in and out of the window without smashing anything, he was golden.
A scream came from the back of the house as Craig crouched behind the large bush, nibbling on a slice of bread he'd stashed in his pocket earlier. Those bastards were going to kill Milestone one of these days, but he didn't have enough nervous energy to worry about that an' all.
Giles felt eyes on him as he came down the front stairs, right before someone said: "Giles!"
He looked up from the silver sword he was inspecting for nicks. "Yes Kennedy?"
"Wrench monkey is coming Monday morning." Kennedy, having safely delivered the information she was supposed to, went back to watching the TV while she waited for everyone to be ready.
"What monkey?" Giles asked, brow creased. He looked at Goorzah, who was curled up on Andrew's lap, wondering if this was something to do with her. Although he couldn't think for one moment why he would need to be informed.
"Plumber, Giles," Kennedy clarified with a chuckle. "For the shower block. When he's done Xander said he can get the floor down and start tiling the walls."
"What tiles is he using?" It was Vi's turn for the home patrol and she was making the most of it by sprawling on the couch next to Andrew and munching on popcorn. Every now and then she'd flick a kernel to Goorzah.
"The usual ceramic, I assume," Giles told her.
"I meant what color. I think as one of the people who are...is...uh, going to be using it, I should get a vote."
"I suppose that would be alright," Giles replied easily, his eyes twinkling. "What color do you vote for?"
"Um...I don't know." Vi sat back to think about it.
Giles grinned to himself and pretended to be absorbed in the vile sitcom the children were watching. He knew there was already a large stack of plain white tiles waiting in the shower block for Xander to affix, but it didn't hurt to keep the slayers amused with trivia such as this. He'd learned that lesson with Buffy.
"Well while you're deciding that," said Dawn from the other armchair, "I know exactly what colors I want my bedroom. I'd like it purple and lilac."
"Isn't that the same thing?" Kennedy turned her head enough to see Dawn.
"I want the walls to be lilac and the woodwork and curtains and whatever to be darker," Dawn explained cheerfully, picturing it already done in her mind.
"How dark though? There's lots of different shades of purple." Vi suddenly began choking on popcorn. She pointed to something on top of the TV.
Giles and everyone else were too preoccupied with staring to comment at first.
"We weren't asking for a color chart, guys," Andrew said eventually as he tried to sink as far back into the couch cushions as he could.
The dozen or so Pixies that had suddenly popped into view stared back at them uneasily.
The youngest Watcher-cadet, Anthony Milestone, gave another girlish scream as he was lifted into the air and marched away. It wasn't so much that he was being kidnapped that bothered him; he had read enough Watcher diaries to know that was par for the course. No, it was more that whatever was doing the kidnapping was carrying him only six inches from the ground. Every now and then a longer strand of grass than most would tickle his nose irritating his godforsaken hay fever. This was most unseemly. He tried to reach into his trouser pocket for his handkerchief, but something slapped his hand away.
"Naw reechin' fer yow aarms!"
The accent he was addressed with was oddly familiar to Anthony, but the words made no sense.
"Um, excuse me," he tried, as he was easily carried further away from the dormitory. "I think there may have been some misunderstanding. If you would be so kind as to put me down I'm sure we can sort this out in no time."
"Shaat aap, dundlehead biggaar," the alien voice snapped at him.
Anthony may not have understood the words, but the meaning was clear. The young man fell silent and tipped his head as far back as possible to avoid the damp lawn.
"So where was she?" Willow asked as she went through her drawer to find a dark sweater to cover her bright t-shirt.
Buffy was leaning on the door-frame to Willow and Kennedy's room. She was already dressed head to toe in black. "A motel in Nebraska."
"Nebraska? Why?" Xander was sitting at the dresser. "I mean... why?"
Buffy shrugged. "I don't know. That's where Angel's guy snapped her. She had a motorcycle."
"A motorcycle?" Xander bounced on the little stool a little as her grew more excited. "What kind? Do you think it's hers? Do you think she'd let me ride it? How could she afford a bike though?" He frowned again.
Buffy's shoulders rose and fell in another shrug.
"Well if it isn't hers then that means she stole it, right?" Willow checked.
"How do I know?" Buffy shook her head irritably. "All I know is that she was spotted at a garage with a red and black motorcycle and then she spent the evening drinking in the bar across the street with another woman."
"So if Angel's guy knew that Faith was in this motel all night, why didn't he get down there and pick her up?" Xander asked. "Doesn't he have, like, a helicopter fleet now?"
"He did," Buffy defended her ex. "He even went personally, but by the time he got there she was gone."
"He must have a pretty slow helicopter," Xander snarked. He rubbed his palms on his jeans, his own frustration at the situation showing itself.
Two days left. The thought kept coming back to Buffy with more urgency every time. Only one day really now, one full day anyway. She tried again to forget about it as she broke the even worse news.
"According to surveillance guy she was only there long enough to get hammered," Buffy explained. "Once she couldn't drink anymore she left." She paused a second. "With the woman."
Xander and Willow stayed silent, not sure what to say.
A knock at the window finally broke the uneasy quiet.
Going over, Willow peered out into the darkening evening. "Huh?" She opened the window to get a better look. "Oh hello. Would you like to come in?"
Faith prowled the streets looking for somewhere to crash.
A motel was out of the question, she barely had enough money left to buy a pretzel. She really hadn't budgeted all that well, or at all really, come to think of it. She'd had good intentions, but then she'd played that song before and it never really worked out.
She didn't want to go to a shelter. She'd spent enough time as a kid catching zee's all around South Boston's finest accommodations for the home-challenged. And it wasn't just the bitter memories and the foul smells that kept her away either; if people were still looking for her, those would be the types of places they'd be sniffing around.
She would have tried to pick up another random stranger for free drinks and a free bed, and they would be for free too - no services rendered, but after the last chick she'd targeted had turned out to be a vampire she just couldn't be bothered. She was too low to slay for pleasure and too beat to slay for work; in other words: a miserable wreck.
The days were all rolling into one and she was surprised by the LCD display on the side of the office block in the middle distance telling her it was Saturday already. Scrubbing a hand through her dirty hair she scuffed her boots on the sidewalk. Yeah that news improved her mood no end. She coulda sworn it was only Friday. What day had she been released again?
The knowledge that time was passing even faster than she thought just made her all the wearier. She cut a left between two tall buildings and walked away from the main streets full of crowds. She wasn't going to find a safe place to sleep in the midst of all the fancy shops and classy restaurants that was for sure.
Twenty-five minutes of trudging later she hit pay dirt. She'd left the higher class business district behind and was now making her way along a street lined by stores, most of them empty, topped by several stories of low-rent apartments.
She was beginning to lose the light so Faith wasted no time in picking a nameless store front and checking out the inside through a window free from Special Offer posters and discount promises. It was bare save for a chair sat in the middle of the floor and half a dozen broken down cardboard boxes.
It was perfect.
Making a note of the number painted over the door and the store's position on the street, Faith carried on walking until she was level with the building's service alley and ducked in.
Two minutes and a jump over a fence later Faith was standing at the employee's entrance to the empty shop. Without looking around at the yard, because that would imply to anyone looking out of their apartment windows that she was doing something she shouldn't; she turned the doorknob and leaned her shoulder against it. It opened even easier than she expected because it hadn't been locked in the first place.
That meant that someone had beaten her to the punch; wouldn't happen again though. She carefully stepped through the door and pushed it closed behind her as she wondered who or what her company might be if they were still here.
If it was kids, Faith was pretty sure she could come to a win-win situation. She'd just show them a little of her strength and then tell them to keep the noise down while she got a couple of hours of shut-eye. If they weren't very polite or decided they weren't in the mood for guests, she'd toss them out on their asses and they could come back when she cleared out.
If it wasn't kids then she'd just have to gather the energy for one more slay after all.
Faith was stepping confidently but quietly across a tiny kitchen cubicle. There were coffee granules and an Olympic sign made of mug rings on the counter and she wondered if the electricity and water were still on. A wash would be good. A cup of coffee would be better, but Faith couldn't actually see the source of the spilled granules or a kettle for that matter.
The door she went through on leaving the kitchenette lead to a narrow corridor with a closed door at the far end and an open one just a few feet in front of her on the left. It was very dark in the corridor, but Faith didn't even bother trying to find a light switch. Even if the electricity was on she didn't want to risk drawing attention to herself from anyone outside.
She started to inch towards the open door, but then sighing impatiently, she gave up.
"Okay I'm too damn tired to play cat and mouse with you. If there's someone here come on out so we can be introduced."
A pair of yellow eyes appeared in the darkness of the open doorway.
Faith nodded to herself. "Not kids then."
'Guess one vamp isn't gonna cut into nap time too much. Better not make me hungry though; can't afford to eat again until I hit the road outta here tomorrow,' Faith thought as she reached for the stake tucked inside her jacket.
"Come on then, let's get this..." Faith's voice trailed off when she noticed the second and third pairs of malevolent glowing eyes. Her body shifted into a tighter stance of defense and she sneered. "Okay so this is gonna be a nice little bedtime work out. It'll beat the hell out of doing a thousand crunches on a cold stone floor."
There was a vicious snarl behind her and before she could even turn her head, a fourth vampire attacked from the kitchen.
To be continued...
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