Disclaimer: Xander Harris, Rupert Giles, and all other characters, setting, and miscellany ofBuffy the Vampire Slaye are copyright of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and 20th Century Fox. Benton Fraser, Ray Vecchio, and all other characters, setting, and miscellany ofDue Sout are property of Paul Haggis, Alliance Communications, and CBS. Gobo the Fraggle,Fraggle Roc, and other characters are property of Jim Henson and his estate. No infringement is intended. No profit will be made.
Not-the-Author’s Note: I did not write this. My brother did. Please let it be noted for the record that he actually solicited and used a couple of jokes from me in this one – Xander’s running gag about how he lost his eye and “Studly Do-Right”, which I intend to use in my next BtVS and L&O:SVU crossover. All feedback is welcome and will be forwarded off. Thanks.Past Due
Faith Lehane glanced around the entrance to Millennium Park. There was still no sign of her contact. She checked her watch and saw that it had only been three minutes since the last time she checked. Looking back up at the entrance, she pulled her jacket tight.Where the fuck is the Council contact? I could've found this girl hours ago riding solo. And I wouldn't be freezing my tits off in the process. At least Cleveland isn't so goddamn windy. I can't wait till we relocate to California.
Faith walked in a slow wide circle, trying to warm up her legs. Every few seconds, she'd glance back to the park entrance.This is retarded. I shouldn't have to wait for some Watcher newbie just ‘cause Giles wants them to have experience on a first contact. I'll probably have to hold their hand through the entire thing. They got two more minutes to show. Otherwise I'm calling Robin and telling him I'm doing this on my own. I wouldn't even be here if Robin hadn't told me to wait for them
Faith stopped as she saw a dark haired man with a cast on his right wrist about twenty yards away. Although the man's back was to her, Faith could tell he was searching the crowd, looking for someone.About damn time. Looks like I'm stuck playing babysitter for some stuck up tweed bound-
The man turned around, and Faith clearly saw the eyepatch. She froze in place as recognition hit her.Oh, fuck. It's Harris.
Xander Harris stopped as he spotted Faith. He muttered under his breath at the sight of her. It was only due to her Slayer enhanced hearing that Faith was able to make out the words.
“Aw shit. Faith.”
Faith forced a neutral expression on her face as she moved towards Xander.He's already spotted me. Can't exactly back out. God, I hope this goes better than the last time I spoke to him.
Cleveland, June 2003
After Faith left the meeting, she made her way to her motel room.
She hadn’t contributed much to the meeting. The main planning was done between Giles, Robin, Willow, and Andrew on how to rebuild the Watcher's Council. Faith really didn't care about any of that as long as she and Robin would be working together. It was pretty funny how the others were subtly trying to get Andrew assigned to someone else.
Faith stopped as she spotted a familiar figure staggering towards the room two doors down from hers.Xander. I thought we were missing a few people at the meeting. He's been AWOL from the last couple meetings too.
Xander stopped and leaned against the wall. He brought a bottle up to his mouth and took a couple of swallows. With his other hand, he rummaged through his pocket, finally producing a key card.Looks like Cyclops is loaded. Don't really blame him, after what he went through the last month in Sunnydale, I'd be drinking too.
Xander tried pushing the key card into the slot, but had trouble getting it in.
“Stupid card,” Xander slurred.Has anyone even spent time with him since Sunnydale? I know I've seen Dawn hanging around him, but he does not look in good shape.
Xander finally managed to open the door. As he took another swig from the bottle, the key card fell to the floor. Xander grumbled as he bent to pick it up, while keeping the door open.Shit. Looks like he could use a friend. I've been putting off squaring things with him long enough. Here goes.
“Hey, Xander. Glad I ran into you.”
Xander looked up at her words.
“I just wanted to say how sorry I am about what happened to Anya. She was a... well she was one of a kind. You've had a couple of rough months and could probably use a sympathetic ear.”
Xander stood silent in the doorway to his room.
Faith pressed on. ”I know that there's some bad history between us, but if you want to hang out, maybe talk through some stuff, I'm here.”
Xander's eye focused on her. ”Faith?”
With that, Xander shut the door on her.
Two days later, Faith walked up to Giles after a late night patrol.
“Hey, Giles. You seen Xander around? I was hoping to talk to him.”
Giles looked up at her. ”You haven't heard?”
“Heard what?” she asked.
“Xander's left. Yesterday morning, he approached me. He asked for... well, actually, he demanded an assignment. After we talked, he took the Africa assignment. He left this evening.”
“Just like that?”
“He was adamant about it. He already had all his current passport and other documents with him when we fled Sunnydale. He'll be traveling for the next few days, but you can call or e-mail him if you want.”
“I was kind of hoping to talk face to face.”
“I'm sorry, then,” Giles said. ”You'll have to wait until he returns.”
“When's he getting back?” Faith asked.
“His assignment shouldn't take more than a few weeks. A month at the most.”
Chicago, Present day
“Sorry I'm late. I got sidetracked. You been waiting long?” Xander asked.
Faith shrugged. ”Didn't notice. You ready to do the meet and greet with the new Slayer?”
Xander grimaced. ”Yeah, about that. How much did Robin tell you about the girl we're looking for?”
“Not much. Just told me to head to Chicago and meet the Council contact for dealing with a newly identified Slayer.”
“Figures,” Xander said. ”This one is going to be complicated. The reason the Council managed to spot the new girl is because she showed up on the police reports.”
Faith paled. ”Showed up, as in...”
“As in she's been involved in several recent crimes, including a few deaths.”
“So they figured I would be useful in talking to her?” Faith asked.
“Guess so,” Xander answered. ”We need a Slayer with experience for this one. I figure you can take the lead in talking to her. I did some leg work and found out that.... Aw, crap. I thought I lost these guys.”
Faith looked behind her and saw two figures quickly approaching them. The man in the lead had a pissed off look, along with a sloppy dress, and self righteous stance.That's got to be a plain clothes cop. I can smell bacon from here.
Faith was surprised to see the bright red and black uniform of the second man.What the hell is a Mountie doing here? And a damn fine looking one at that. If I wasn't with Robin, I would definitely break him in.
Faith turned to Xander. ”Why are you hiding from these guys?”
Xander ducked down. ”Part of the leg work I was doing. I was checking out one of the crime scenes earlier today. They spotted me, and I didn't feel like explaining what I was doing. Could have swore I lost them in Chinatown.”
The plain clothes cop walked up to Faith and Xander.
“Hey, there. Been looking all over for you. Tried to get your attention back uptown, but you probably didn't hear me since you were so busy sprinting away from me down the alley. Oh, word of advice, when you're trying to hide from a cop, you may want to wear something a little more inconspicuous than an eyepatch.”
“Oh, that was you? Yeah, I remembered I had a dentist appointment and I didn't want to be late. So what did you want? And why is there a Mountie hanging out with you?”
The Mountie answered. ”I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father.”
“And for reasons which don't need exploring at this juncture, he's remained, attached as liaison to the Canadian consulate,” the cop finished for him. ”What's your name?”
“I'm Xander Harris,” Xander peered at the two men. ”Are either of you named Taggerty?”
“I'm Detective Ray Kowalski, and this is Constable Benton Fraser. Now we've got some questions for you.”
“Yeah, now's not really a good time for me,” Xander said. ”How's next Thursday work for you?”
“Very funny, wise ass. You don't want to talk to us here, then we can give you a ride downtown.”
Faith brushed past Ray and walked over to Fraser. She slowly ran a finger down his chest.
“Oh, I'd love for you to give me a ride. Got any suggestions?” Faith purred.
“Well, Chicago does have an excellent public transportation system. I personally enjoy the elevated trains or 'L' as the locals refer to it, and would heartily recommend it to you,” Fraser said.
Ray continued threatening Xander. ”Now you may not want to talk to us, but we will get what we want from you. So we can do it the easy way or the hard way.”
Faith licked her lips as she walked around Fraser, swing her hips. ”You can get a whole lot out of me. I can be easy if you'll be hard.”
“Thank you for your offer to cooperate, ma'am,” Fraser politely responded. ”However, our questions are for your friend. If you have any information you want to share, please feel free to visit one of the local police stations. A desk sergeant will be more than happy to take your statement.”
Faith stepped back in shock. She turned to Ray. ”Is he oblivious or just gay?”
“Neither, he's Canadian.”
Ray turned back to Xander. ”Why were you hanging around three different crimes scenes in the past two days?”
“Oh, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for that,” Xander said. ”You see I doing research for... Wait a second. I only saw you at the crime scene today. How'd you know I was at the other two?”
“It was a combination of factors,” Fraser replied. ”Based off the footprint we found at the first crime scene I was able to estimate your height and weight. Also that you had impaired vision on your left side, but were favoring your left side when handling objects.”
“You got all that out of a footprint?” Xander asked.
“Three footprints, actually. Then when we saw you today, you matched the profile.”
“Wow, that's impressive,” Xander regarded the two men closely. ”Very impressive.”
“Why were you looking over the crime scenes?” Ray asked.
“Truthfully, I was trying to find the girl you're looking for.”
Xander paused. He thought carefully before answering. ”Because she's a Slayer. She's stronger, faster, and much more dangerous than you know. If the cops find her first, a lot of people are going to get hurt.”
“Xander!” Faith grabbed his arm and pulled him aside. “What the hell are you doing? You can't just spill the beans about the Slayer deal to the cops. That won't get rid of them. I'd tried to flirt my way out, but Studly Do-Right isn't going for it.”
“Faith, listen to me. These guys made me based on three footprints. When they saw me today, I did everything I could to lose them. I'm talking alleyways, ducking through traffic and crowds, even going along rooftops at some point. I've had vampires tracking me in the dead of night, smelling my blood that I could lose. But these guys still tracked me down,” Xander said.
“So what? You can't give them a cover story?”
“The point is that we don't know where this girl is now. But these guys will find her. Before us. If we work with them, they can lead us to her and we can keep more people from getting hurt.”
Faith grimaced. ”I don't like working with cops. I've had bad experiences with them.”
“I know. But can you honestly say that you were blameless in what happened?”
Hurt flashed across Faith's face.
“Look, I know this whole thing is rough for you, but we need to find this Slayer. Now will you help me convince these guys we're on the level?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Faith said. ”What's up with asking if they're named Taggerty?”
“It's a.... I ran into a psychic a few weeks ago. He said something would happen when I got to a place called Taggerty's or met someone named Taggerty. I don't know. It'll probably turn out to be nothing,” Xander explained.
They turned back to Ray and Fraser.
“What the hell is a Slayer?” Ray asked.
“A Slayer is a girl that is imbued with enhanced strength, speed, healing, senses, fighting ability, and other skills. She's one of the most dangerous hand to hand fighters on the planet. And you're going to need our help, because if you go after her on your own, she will kill you,” Xander answered.
“You expect us to buy this?”
“Well, to be fair, that would be consistent with some of the witness reports,” Fraser said.
“Fraser, that was two winos and a streetwalker.”
“Their occupations shouldn't factor into it. Besides we don't know the young lady was a streetwalker. There are many reasons she could have been dressed that way.”
“Fraser, we are not having this discussion again,” Ray warned.
“Very well,” Fraser said. He turned back to Xander and Faith. ”May I inquire to why she's called a Slayer? What does she slay?”
“This is where you're going to have trouble believing me. All I ask is that you let me finish my explanation, and then I can prove what I'm saying is true.”
“We're listening,” Fraser said.
“Slayers are mystically powered warriors that protect humanity from vampires, demons, and any other supernatural threats. The problem is that most Slayers are contacted and trained to use their powers responsibly. This girl never had any training or supervision and now she's running wild.”
“Okay, thank you for playing. Fraser, I'm sorry to inform you, but you're no longer the most unbelievable person I've ever met. This guy just beat you,” Ray turned to Xander. ”I'm going to have to ask you to come down to the station with us and maybe there you can tell us the truth.”
“Wait a minute, Ray,” Fraser said. ”You said you can prove what you're saying. How?”
“Gentlemen, meet Faith. The Vampire Slayer.”
At the police station, Ray sat at his desk looking through files while Fraser stood next to him.
“I can't believe we let them go,” Ray lamented.
“We are meeting them later this evening,” Fraser pointed out. ”It's not like we won't be able to find them again.”
“You actually buy what they said?”
“As amazing as the story is, there has been ample evidence that supports them. The girl in question did fight off four uniformed police, putting them in the hospital. We have a number of eye witnesses that say she performed physical feats that should be impossible. And we both saw Faith twist an iron bar with her bar hands,” Fraser pointed out.
“But they're talking about vampires! As in 'I vant to suck your blood', Scream Blacula Scream, honest to god vampires. And you're taking them seriously.”
“There are several Inuit legends of a warrior maiden that would travel through the villages and drive out the evil spirits that plagued them. Most cultures have similar stories. Perhaps there is something to them.”
“Okay, when you start talking about Inuit legends, I am officially done with this conversation. Now I got work to do. I'll meet you later.”
Fraser said goodbye and started walking back to the Consulate.
“I have to agree with the Yank. It's obvious these people are delusional.”
Fraser sighed. ”I don't want to have this conversation with you.”
“You always were a little soft in the head. In my day you only trusted what you saw with your own eyes and held in your hands.”
“I can't believe you of all people are arguing against the possibility of the supernatural.”
“Why's that, son? I've always been a sensible, down to earth person.”
“Because, Dad,” Fraser said, ”you died three years ago. Yet you keep popping up to talk to me. I've seen you more often since you died than in the last ten years you were alive.”
Robert Fraser looked hurt. ”There's no need for personal attacks, son. Besides, the fact that I'm talking to you proves nothing. I might simply be a figure of your imagination. You always were lacking in mental discipline.”
“Dad, only you would be stubborn enough to argue against your own existence. And I'm not the only one who's seen you. Your old partner, Buck Frobisher, also saw you,” Fraser pointed out.
“Buck Frobisher is a fine man. No one else I'd want by my side in a fight. But, let's be honest, he's hardly the picture of mental health.”
Fraser shook his head. ”This is why I can't talk to you. You're completely unreasonable.”
“That's what your mother always said.”
Faith and Xander sat in a diner, finishing up their meals.
“I'm still not sure about this,” Faith said.
Xander looked around, vaguely distracted. ”This isn't exactly a normal first contact mission. We let the cops do the leg work to find her, then we pop in and deal with her. This could be a pretty rough assignment. I'm going to need you to please just do what I say. This thing could go bad in so many ways, so you need to be in top form for it.”
“If she's in trouble with the law-”
“We'll deal with it. If the cops give us trouble then I'll call Riley and have him pull some strings. He got you your pardon, didn't he?” Xander asked.
“Yeah, he came through there,” Faith muttered.Even after the shit I pulled on him, Riley helped me out. Another person on the long list of people I fucked over and haven't apologized to. This is stupid. Just say what you need to say to Xander. We're on the middle of a mission. He can't just walk out on you.
“Say, Xander?” Faith asked.
Xander stiffened, then pulled out his cell phone. It was vibrating.
“Hold on a sec, Faith,” Xander opened up the phone. ”Hello? Yeah, it's me.... Okay, I'll be right over.”
Xander closed the phone back up. ”Sorry about this, but I've got to run a couple errands. Can you meet up with the Mountie?”
“Uh... yeah, sure. Where are you off to?”
“I need to make a quick supply run, then check up on my Fraggle. Stick with the Mountie. Once he finds the girl, give me a call, and I'll meet up with you.”
Xander grabbed his jacket and tossed a ten dollar bill on the table. ”That should cover me. You got the rest, right?”
Faith looked down at the check on the table.
“Sure I can...” Faith trailed off as she saw Xander had already walked away and was exiting the diner. Shit! He fucking walked out on me! What the hell kind of errand does he need to run? He's not playing straight with me.
Two hours later, Faith, Ray, and Fraser stood on the upstairs floor in a busy nightclub downtown.
“I'm sure your friend should be here soon,” Fraser said.
Faith glanced up. ”What?”
“I couldn't help but notice that you keep glancing up at the clock. You do it every few minutes, ever since you called your friend and told him where we are.”
“I also notice that you seem a little on edge. If I'm not being forward, may I ask you why you're so nervous about seeing him?”
“I'm... I don't get nervous. Especially not over some guy. Who's not my friend for your information. We just work together sometimes. So whatever you're thinking, you're wrong,” Faith stated.
“Ah, I must have misread the situation. My apologies,” Fraser said.
Ray looked at the door as a group of clubgoers entered. ”Still no sign of her.”
“She'll show,” Fraser turned back to Faith. ”It's just that from what little I've seen, you seem apprehensive around your colleague. And you don't seem like the type of person that's normally nervous in social situations. So I concluded that there's something specific about him that is making you uneasy. Perhaps some past interaction?”
Faith shook her head. ”You're unbelievable, you know that?”
“Well, yes. Ray informs me of that fact on a regular basis. It might help to talk about why you're nervous to an impartial third party. Consider it a chance to gather your thoughts.”Yeah, like I'm going to open up to this guy. What happened between me and Xander is.... Aw hell, if I can't even think it to myself, how am I going to talk to Xander about it? Maybe the Mountie has a point. If I can tell him what the deal is, it might help me when I finally talk to Xander.
“You want to hear what the deal is? Fine. A few years back, Xander was part of a group I sometimes hung with. Once, when I was bored and alone with him, I hopped into bed with him, then threw him to the curb when I was done. A few weeks later, I got myself into some trouble. Xander shows up on my doorstep talking about how we're friends and how he wants to help me and shit. I figured he was just looking for another round in the sack, so I let him know how little I thought of him and basically treated him like dogshit.
“Only, the trouble blew up in my face. I did a lot of stupid shit. I hurt a lot of people, including myself, before I hit rock bottom. I finally got help and started straightening my life out. But I never squared away with him about how I acted back then.”
Fraser listened closely.
“Then about a year ago, I'm in Cleveland when a bunch of new Slayers arrived at the house. We're talking about this and that, when we get on the subject of Watchers. This one girl from Africa named Kwethiwe keeps going on and on about this Watcher who was always helping her, training her, always had her back. And not just her, but all the girls there. I mean to hear her tell it, the sun shines out this guy's ass.
“Now I'm listening to this and thinking it sure would have been nice to have someone like that helping me back when I was in trouble. Then Kwethiwe says this Watcher is a white man, with an eyepatch. That's when it hits me, five years after the fact that when Xander came to offer his help, he was being serious. And I just threw it away and fucked up my life.
“So does that help you figure out why I'm nervous around him?” Faith asked.
Fraser nodded. ”I understand. You need his forgiveness.”
“Yeah,” Faith agreed. ”But I know I'm not going to get it.”
“He is willing to work with you. I doubt he would do so if he was still angry over what happened between you years ago.”
Faith laughed. ”You don't know Xander. He's got a lot of experience working with people when he hates their guts.”
“Looks like our girl just showed up,” Ray informed them.
“Any sign of Xander?” Faith asked.
“I'm right here,” Xander said, joining the group. ”Sorry I'm late. Errands took longer than I thought.”
“Where'd you go?” Faith asked.
“Just had to pick up a couple of items. She show up yet?”
“Just arrived,” Ray said. ”So you're the expert here. How do you want to handle her?”
“I'm not sure,” Faith answered. ”Maybe we should start with -”
“Faith, you go down and talk to her first,” Xander interrupted. ”Slayers can usually spot one another right off. Do the standard intro to Slayer spiel. I'll join you a few minutes later. You two better stay up here. She's liable to run the second she spots a cop.”
“I don't like staying behind on this,” Ray said.
“We would be able to watch everything from a distance,” Fraser pointed out. ”And considering how the past attempts to arrest the young woman have turned out, I think a more diplomatic approach is called for.”
Ray sighed. ”This is going to be one of those things where I'm going to go with your plan no matter how stupid and badly thought out it is, isn't it?”
“Based on our history, that is the most likely outcome.”
“Fine, I'll be sitting over here ready to say 'I told you so.'“
As Faith approached the table, she saw the red haired young woman stiffen. The woman looked around until her gaze met Faith's.
“Hey, mind if I join you?” Faith asked.
The woman took a moment to study Faith. ”There's something off about you. You're different.”
“Yeah, I am different. And so are you,” Faith told her.
“Did Max send you? I already paid him all his money. Does he have another job for me?”
Faith shook her head. ”I don't know any Max. My name's Faith, and I need to talk to you. There's a lot I have to tell you.”
Faith sat down at the table. The woman glanced around nervously.
“I don't think so.” She began to get up, but stopped as Faith began talking.
“Look, I'm this seems strange, but I know what you're going through right now,” Faith said.
“You have no idea who I am.”
“Maggie Jackson, born April 13, 1986,” Xander said, joining the two women. ”Grew up on the South side of Chicago. You are currently wanted by the Chicago Police. Favorite drink is a Black Russian. Here you go, I didn't know what brand of vodka you like, so I just got the house brand.”
Xander placed a tray with two drinks down on the table. He took the club soda and handed the Black Russian to Maggie. Faith looked at the now empty tray.
“You didn't get me anything? What, is your arm....” Faith trailed off.
“Yes, Faith. My arm is broken. That's why I have the cast on it,” Xander said in a calm even tone. He turned back to Maggie. ”But the most important thing we know is that around late May of 2003 you changed. You're stronger, have better reflexes, healer quicker, and are troubled by the occasional odd dream. Am I close?”
Maggie looked over Xander before replying. ”I don't know you. But you know way too much about me. So do the smart thing and get out of my face. You really don't want to piss me off.”
As she said this, her hand dropped down into her purse. She pulled out a collapsible baton.
Before she could do anything with it, Faith grabbed her wrist in a tight grip.
“Sorry, but you want to try anything, you'll have to go through me,” Faith warned her.
Maggie dropped the baton. She turned to Xander.
“You always let a girl do your fighting?”
“More often than you'd expect,” Xander answered. ”Now we're not here to fight. We're here to give you information and answer any question you have.”
“Any question? All right then. So tell me, One Eyed Willie, how'd you lose the eye?”
Xander shrugged. ”There was this kingdom of the blind. They needed a new king. Things got out of hand. Faith, you want to fill her in on the whole 'Chosen One' deal?”
Faith nodded. ”You must have been about seventeen when you became a Slayer. Unfortunately, no one was around to help you out. You had to figure things out on your own, but you made some bad choices along the way. I know what you're going through. I've been through it myself.”
Maggie's eyes narrowed. ”For the last three years, I never met anyone I couldn't take down. But you're saying you're as tough as me, you can stand up to me?”
“I'm saying you're not alone. We've got a school in London you can go to. You'll get all the training, learn all about who you've become.”
Maggie laughed. ”I dropped out of school as soon as I could. I don't plan on heading back anytime soon. I'll pass.”
“That's not your only option. We've got places set up all over the world. Europe, Africa, South America, We're going to be opening up a branch in California in a couple of weeks. You have a chance to use your gift to help people,” Faith said.
“Help people? What am I? Mother Fucking Teresa? I don't think so. I got a good setup going here.”
“Even if you don't want to help, there's still so much you need to know,” Faith said.
Maggie gulped down her drink then grimaced. ”House brand tastes like shit,”
She slammed the glass down on the table and turned to Faith. ”Now I know that I'm tougher than anyone out on the street. The people that used to give me problems either learned better or they're not around anymore. Anytime I need money, I just do a job. There are a lot of people in town who are willing to pay for my talents. You got nothing I need to know.”
“Really?” Xander asked. ”Because it seems to me you're thinking small time.”
Maggie glared at Xander. ”For someone who says he's not here to fight, you sure do talk a lot of shit.”
“One of my endearing quirks,” Xander said. ”My point is that there are a lot of people who could use a Slayer with... flexible morals. And they're willing to pay top dollar. The Order of Taraka is always on the lookout for new blood. Wolfram and Hart offer a six figure starting salary and penthouse suite. But if you're sure there's no information we can give you, we'll be on our way.”
“Xander, what the hell are you telling her that for?” Faith asked.
“Wait a second here,” Maggie said. ”You can hook me up with these guys?”
“What we can do is fill you in on all the information a Slayer needs. What you do with that information is up to you,” Xander said.
“What's the catch?”
“No catch. You just have stay and listen to everything we have to say. You up for it?”
Maggie thought for a second, then nodded. ”Yeah. When do you want to do this thing?”
“Tomorrow,” Xander said. He wrote an address down on a napkin and passed it to Maggie. ”Meet us here at 3 PM. It's an abandoned warehouse.”
Maggie took the napkin, got up from the table and left. As she walked away, Faith turned to Xander.
“What the hell was that? We're trying to recruit her, not send her over to the other side.”
“And she wasn't interested in your pitch, Faith. The way it was going, the two of you would be at each other's throats in another few minutes.”
“So, I could have taken her,” Faith said.
“Really? How many times have you gone toe to toe with another Slayer and not wound up in a coma?”
Faith looked away, her face burning in anger.
“I'm sorry, that was harsh. But look around you. We're in a crowed club. Even if you do take her down, can you do it before she hurts me, or some innocent bystander? This way we'll have her in an isolated place in case trouble breaks out. And we give her the whole Slayer spiel, do what we need to, and resolve this whole thing.”
Faith looked back at Xander. ”You're keeping me in the dark here. None of this is a standard operation. I've been on eight different meetings with newly discovered Slayers and this isn't like any of them.”
“I bet the Slayers you met were pretty normal, right? They were all American, most if not all are Christian. They all had friends and family for support. And none of them were in trouble with the law when found. Am I right?” Xander asked.
“I've been the lead contact for thirty-seven Slayers. Some came from solid homes. Some grew up in state run orphanages because their parents were killed in one of the wars. I've seen Slayers that grew up on the street, stealing to survive. I've met a Slayer that was a twelve year old prostitute because that's the only way she could survive. These Slayers grew up with famine, war, and AIDS.
“Maggie is not an ordinary girl, and it's a mistake to treat her that way. I've had a lot more experience dealing with distrustful, hostile Slayer. So I'm asking you to please just trust me and do as I say. Then when this is over we can go our separate ways. Okay?”
Faith took a moment to consider this.Shit, he can't wait to get away from me. And I still don't know what the hell he's aiming for with Maggie. But he's asking me to trust him. Last time he did that, I almost choked him to death. The question is, have I learned anything since then.
“I... yeah, I trust you,” Faith answered. ”I'll do what you ask.”
“Glad you're on board. Now I'm going to head back to my hotel room. Riley is still trying to smooth things over with the cops, so we can do our stuff. I need to check back with him. I'll meet you tomorrow at the warehouse “
The next day, Faith sat outside the warehouse address the meeting would take place in. She was deep in thought when she heard the sound of footsteps approaching. She looked up at the men coming towards her.
“Of course. Can't seem to lose these guys,” Faith muttered.
“Do you mind if we join you?” Fraser asked.
“Make yourself at home. You here to bust Maggie?”
“We're here to observe the meeting. From a discreet distance, of course.”
“Surprised you guys are going to be hanging back. I would've thought once you tracked her down, you'd swoop right in.”
“Well, there were some impulses to do that by people who will remain unnamed,” Fraser said.
“She's knows it was me, Fraser,” Ray said.
“Nevertheless. That changed when Ray received a call from a Homeland Security agent named Riley Finn who... politely directed us to allow Mr. Harris to take the lead in handling this situation.”
“You guys must be thrilled at that.”
“Oh, yeah. Nothing I like better than jumping through hoops for the feds,” Ray remarked.
“However, his captain was most insistent that we follow Agent Finn's suggestions.”
Faith shook her head.
“Do you know Agent Finn?” Fraser asked.
“Much as I'd like to forget, yeah. I've met him,” Faith said.
Fraser sat down next to Faith. ”If you don't mind me asking, have you had a chance to speak with Mr. Harris yet?”
Faith looked at him, wearily. ”You don't mind me asking, but what the fuck do you care about it?”
“Because it's obvious that you're having a hard time here and could use a sympathetic ear,” Fraser said. ”And I'd like to help, if I can.”
Faith let out a tired laugh. ”I still can't tell if you're putting me on or not. But the answer is no. I haven't talked to him yet. Every time I work up the nerve to open my mouth, something comes up, or he has to take off, or he just shuts me down. Can't really blame him for it. It's not like I deserve anything else from him.”
“I'm sure you deserve more than that,” Fraser said.
“Well, you don't know me,” Faith snapped. ”I already told you what I did to Xander. You mentioned Riley Finn. I did just as bad to him. I did a lot of bad things to a bunch of people. Some tried to help me, be my friend. Some never even met me before I blew in and fucked them over. The fact is I can never make up for what I've done. It's obvious Xander doesn't want to hear from me, so why should I even bother?”
“Because it's important,” Fraser answered. “When it comes to seeking forgiveness, one of the fundamental steps to acknowledge what you have done wrong, and if possible, apologize and atone to those you have hurt. Despite his reluctance, he will benefit just from knowing you regret what you did to him. And you will benefit from it too. You won't be able to move on until you do.”
“Maybe I don't deserve to move on,” Faith said in a quiet voice.
“Faith, ever since I was six years old, I knew I was going to join the RMCP. I studied up on law enforcement growing up. It was my one singular passion. I had no other goals in my life.... Well, except for one summer when I was twelve, I wanted to learn the pan flute and spent my free time attempting to adapt a rock opera to the instrument. But that was just a passing fancy.”
“Get to the point, Fraser,” Ray urged.
“The point is that with the exception of one summer, I have immersed myself in the study and practice of law enforcement. And in those many years, I have met countless law breakers. And they fall into one of three categories. The first is a person who breaks the law with no regard for the consequences of their actions. They don't care who they hurt or what they do as long as they benefit from it. You are not this type of person.
“The second is a person who makes a bad decision, or is in a bad situation with no other options. But once they do so, they seek to justify what they've done and refuse to take responsibility. The third type also makes bad decisions, but they realize what they've done is wrong and regret it. They will seek to atone for their mistakes and endeavor not to repeat them. They will do everything they can to make up for what they've done.”
“I don't know if I can do that,” Faith said.
“But you want to. And as long as you act accordingly, you will be a better person.”
“How do I know you really mean that?” Faith asked.
“Because I don't lie,” Fraser said.
“It's true. He doesn't,” Ray added. ”It's really, really annoying.”
Faith smiled. ”How can I be sure of that?”
“You did hear the whole pan flute digression, right?”
Fraser looked up. ”It looks like Mr. Harris has arrived. Ray and I will be done the block to observe the meeting.”
Faith got up and walked towards Xander.
Ten minutes later, Maggie showed up at the warehouse. Faith was waiting by the door, while Xander sat at a table, going through his supply bag.
“Okay, I'm here. You got the contacts for me?” Maggie asked.
Faith stepped towards her. ”We'd like to talk to you first, Maggie. I know you've had some trouble in the past, but this is the chance for a new start for you.”
“Shit, you're still on this kick?”
“I understand what you're going through. You've had a shitty life. But now that you can kick ass, you figure you can do whatever you want. But it doesn't work that way. The choices you make will catch up to you. And when they do, it'll hit you harder than anything you've ever known. Please, just listen to me on this. Come with us. We can offer you a life where you will be helping others.”
Maggie began laughing. ”You really believe that, don't you? Well, listen up. I don't care about your mission, or anything else you're preaching. Now Pirate Pete over there has some info that will lead me to the high life, and I'm going to get it. You want to stand in my way, and I'll go right through you.”
Faith straightened up. ”You're not going to lay a finger on him.”
Maggie smiled and began to step forward.
“I really hate to break this up,” Xander interrupted. ”I mean with the all the glares and imminent cat fights, I figure there's at least a thirty percent chance you two might kiss. And I would hate to miss that. But I need to clear up a few misconceptions.”
Xander stood up. ”You see Faith thinks that this is a standard recruiting mission. She thinks
that any trouble you've gotten into has been because you couldn't handle being a Slayer. What she doesn't know that you were a killer long before you became a Slayer.
“We did some checking up once you were identified. Been running with gangs since you were eleven. Had your first kill when you were thirteen. Once you got your Slayer mojo, the violence just increased. You went from a small time runner to a major thug for hire. But you started getting cocky. The last few months, the police started investigating. When they finally caught up with you, you put them in the hospital, nearly killing them. That's when you caught our attention.”
Maggie yawned. ”Yeah, this is my life. Now I want those contacts.”
“In a minute. Now what you don't realize is that me and Faith are somewhat responsible for you being a Slayer. We didn't come up with the idea, or cast the spell. But we were there when the decision was made. Considering the circumstances, we didn't have much choice. But since then we've had to face the consequences.
“Turns out that not every new Slayer can just drop everything in her life to join the fight. Problem is that just being a Slayer makes them a target. Almost all are able to make the adjustment, but there have been one or two who just couldn't handle it.”
Xander began rummaging through his bag. ”And then there was Dana. A severely traumatized young girl who became delusional when the Slayer dreams hit her. She saw demons everywhere and attacked them. Except not everyone she killed was a demon.
“So a few people in the Council worked with the local witches coven to figure out what to do. And they came up with a solution. It some long distance spell casting, a few runes, and one potion to be ingested by the soon to be ex Slayer.”
Maggie clenched her fists. ”You keep your damn potions to yourself. No way I'm going to -”
“Yeah, little too late for that. The house vodka last night? You said it tasted a little off?”
“You son of a bitch!” Maggie took a step towards Xander. Faith grabbed her arm and easily pulled her back.
“Let her go, Faith,” Xander said as he pulled out an object from his bag. He aimed it towards Maggie.ZAP!
Maggie fell to the ground.
Xander walked to the door and waved outside. He walked back to his bag. He looked up and saw Faith watching him in silence.
“It's a Zat'nik'tel
. I picked it up at an Air Force base. It comes in handy now and then.”
Fraser and Ray ran into the warehouse.
“You can arrest her now. She won't cause you any trouble. Well, she won't cause you any extra trouble,” Xander told them.
Faith sat in the passenger seat as Xander drove her to the airport.
“So why didn't you tell me what you were planning? I could have helped.” she asked.
“I needed all her attention on you so I could slip her the mickey. You're not the best liar, so I didn't tell you. I know it sucks to be kept in the dark. I've been there a few times myself, but I didn't want to risk anything going wrong.”
“Yeah, makes sense, I guess,” Faith said.
The two sat in silence for a few minutes.
“I'm sorry,” Faith said. ”I'm sorry I tried to kill you in the motel. I'm sorry I didn't believe you actually wanted to help me. I'm sorry about... everything. What I did, how I acted, what I thought... I'm just sorry.”
“When you first came to Sunnydale, we really screwed up,” Xander said.
“Your Watcher was killed before your eyes. One of the meanest, baddest vampires ever chases you across country trying to kill you. We found out about this and did nothing. Not me, not Giles, not Buffy or Willow. We were too caught up in our own high school melodrama to notice. Once I saw where you were staying I should have talked to Giles. I should have tried to help you long before a few days after I slept with you. I did everything I could to avoid you when you returned to Sunnydale. And when you actually tried to talk to me about Anya, I... I have no excuse for what I said.”
Xander paused before continuing. ”Everything that happened when you first came to Sunnydale, we should have handled better. I don't know if it means anything to you, but every Slayer I meet, I remember what happened with you and I do everything I can to make sure that never happens again.”
“I just thought you should know,” he finished.
“Oh,” Faith said. ”I... thanks.”
Xander nodded. ”So we cool?”
Faith looked over at him and then smiled. ”Five by five.”
“You know, I never actually knew what that meant.”
“It means we're cool.”
Xander nodded. ”Good. When you get to Cleveland say hi to everyone there for me.”
“You haven't heard?” Faith asked.
“We're relocating. The Cleveland Hellmouth is totally closed. There's not enough activity to have a full base there. So there are going to be two new bases opening up. One will be here in Chicago. No word on who's going to run it, but I heard Willow and Kennedy are lobbying hard for it.”
“I'll have to miss that one. Where's the second base being set up?” Xander asked.
“California. That's where me and Robin will be setting up. Turns out there's a lot of supernatural activity in the north part of the state,” Faith said.
“I know. I went through there awhile ago. Didn't know there was enough to set up a base there.”
“Well, it turns out the Council was just contacted by a pretty powerful coven of witches in San Fransisco. Robin says they're pretty important. There was something about how the Council initially contacted them to set up some alliance but it fell through.”
“Wait. This wasn't the Halliwell sisters in San Fransisco, was it?”
“Yeah, I think that's them. Robin said it was a pretty big deal to be working with them,” Faith said.
“I was the one that contacted them. They said the Elders didn't want them in an alliance. They must have convinced them to work with us,” Xander said. ”Phoebe will be there. Faith, would it be possible for me to be assigned to the San Fransisco branch?”
Faith shrugged. ”I guess so. It's up to Robin since he's going to be head of the branch. He'd have to do some shuffling around of the staff. Of course if that meant reassigning Andrew back to London, then Robin will definitely agree. What's got you so jonesing for this?”
“When I was out there, I hit it off with Phoebe Halliwell. I thought something could happen, but we never got the chance to find out. But I've also been getting tired of running solo. I miss working with people. It's been pretty lonely.”
“I know the feeling,” Faith said. “You want me to talk to Giles about getting you on our team?”
Xander shook his head. ”I'll give him a call once I pick up Gobo.”
“Who the hell is Gobo?”
“He's my Fraggle,” Xander answered. ”It's a long story.”
Gobo climbed into the Humvee as Xander talked on his cell phone.
“Aw, Mr. Xander, do we have to leave already? There's so many things to do here,” Gobo said.
“Quiet, Gobo. I'm trying to talk to.... Hey, Giles. It's Xander. I need to talk to you. Faith and I dealt with the rogue Slayer situation here. The girl's in custody now. But Faith told me that you were closing down the Cleveland branch and opening branched in Chicago and San Fransisco.”
Giles spoke on the other end of the phone. ”Yes, that's correct, Xander. I actually wanted to speak to you about that.”
Gobo looked out the window as Xander drove down the street. ”There are so many interesting looking places I won't be able to explore.”
“Now, Giles, Faith tells me that the staff for the branches haven't been decided yet,” Xander said. ”I've been thinking about this a lot lately -”
“Oh, Mr. Xander. Can we stop there? It looks so fun. And I'll never be able to see it again,” Gobo pleaded.
Xander glanced out the window. ”That's a McDonald's, Gobo. They're everywhere.”
“- and it should only take a few weeks to set up,” Giles said. ”After that -”
“Wait, what was that?” Xander asked.
“I've never seen someone do that before,” Gobo said, pointing out the window. ”Can we talk to him?”
Xander looked over. ”That's a homeless man taking a dump in an alley. We can skip it.”
“And the experience you had in setting up the Africa branch will be an enormous asset,” Giles said. ”I don't have anyone else to spare.”
“Setting up the branch?” Xander asked. ”Yeah, I can be in San Fransisco in a couple of days to help. That would work out great.”
“That's an interesting building. The sign says library. Is that where all the books are?” Gobo asked.
“Not San Fransisco,” Giles said. ”The Chicago branch. Since you're already in the city. The initial work will involve arranging a headquarters, trying to set up contacts.”
“No, Giles, listen to me. I don't want to hang around Chicago. I want to be posted to the San Fransisco branch. This is something I've-”
“And there's a nice park. They have a swing set. I love swing sets. I get this tickle in my tummy when I go up real high.”
“Quiet, Gobo. Giles, I'm tired of going from town to town for these quick stays. Even if it's for a couple of weeks. I want to be assigned to a team. Specifically the San Fransisco team.”
“Xander, I understand that the constant travel and isolation can be trying for you. The fact is that that was never meant to be a permanent assignment for you. But I've talked with Robin and Sam Zabuto about the use of personnel, and we've agreed that -”
“And there's an Applebee's. And next to it is a dry cleaner.”
“Gobo, please keep it down. Giles, thrilled as I am that you've actually given some thought to my future, I would like a say in this.”
“And a Sam's Grocery store. There's Starbuck's Coffee,” Gobo said.
“Of course you get a say in the matter, Xander. But I can't just drop everything and start reassigning people. We have to plan these things out. And right now there's a lot of work that needs to be done to set up the Chicago branch. Work you are more than qualified for. Once that is done, we can discuss a permanent posting in another city.”
“And Blockbuster Video across the street, next to Taggerty's Bar and Grill.”
“I get that the work needs to be done, Giles. But having to wait several weeks when I know that I want to be....,” Xander trailed off and turned to Gobo. ”Wait, what did you say?”
“The Blockbuster Video. That's where you can borrow the stories about Silly Creatures and watch them. They also sell candy, and popcorn, and sodas, and -”
“What was next to it?” Xander asked.
“Taggerty's Bar and Grill,” Gobo said.
Xander turned back to his phone. ”Giles, let me call you back.”
Closing his cell phone, Xander stopped the Humvee, shut of the ignition, and got out. Across the street he saw the neon sign for Taggerty's Bar and Grill.
“Gobo, I'm going in. I'll meet you back here in an hour. Okay?”
“Sure, Mr. Xander. Thanks for letting me explore some more before we leave,” Gobo replied, happily.
Xander slowly walked into the bar and looked around.
IOkay. Seems like an ordinary bar. I don't know what I was expecting.
He walked up to the bar. The bartender was a white man in his late thirties with receding dark hair. He had an impish grin on his face as he talked to the tall African American bouncer.This is stupid. So some psychic mutters a name a few weeks ago, now I'm looking over my shoulder trying to spot it? There' must be thousands of places and people called Taggerty. I should be on my way to San Fransisco. Except I had to let Gobo roam around. I guess I better hang out here until he gets back.
“I'm telling you, Champ, it's a surefire idea. Singles night at the veterinarian. Think about it, people bring their pets in, then mingle around. They already have common interests, they get to show how loving and responsible they are. Sure there will be differences between the dog people and cat people, but a little friction adds spice to the relationship. It can't lose.”
The bouncer shook his head. ”You just keep thinking, Trevor.”
The bartender Trevor saw Xander standing at the bar and walked over to him. As he approached, he quickly appraised Xander, noting his eyepatch.
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah, I'll take a club soda,” Xander answered.
“Coming right up,” Trevor said, pulling down a glass. ”So what brings you here?”
“I, uh.... I'm not really sure. I think I was expecting something or someone.”
Trevor's eyes sparkled as he heard this. ”Well, you came to the right bar, my friend. The name's Trevor Hale. And I excel at helping people find what they need. What's your name?”
Xander examined Trevor cautiously. ”My name's -”
Xander turned around and saw the familiar face before him. ”Hey, Dawn. Funny running into you here.”To be continued in Playing Cupid