"It cuts pretty close to the bone..."
Chapter 15: "It cuts pretty close to the bone..."
"So... what're you working on?" Dean asked.
"Background on our blonde un-friend," Faith said, sighing and powering down the laptop and closing it. "An awful lot of it to digest, written by a bunch of stuffy, manipulative old 12th century British twats." Dean made a face. He'd worked his way through more than one stuffy, impenetrable old volume or diary himself doing research.
"You could always try archives of the Weekly World News," he suggested. "More entertaining at least."
Faith grinned. "But less informative. I'll stick with this for now, hard going or not." She lifted an eyebrow, "'Sides - I'm more a Fortean Times kinda gal."
She stretched comfortably, reveling in the relative lack of ache in her shoulder and sides, and stifled a belch. Giambione had come through on the promised steak and burgers, and even the beer - a pair of icy Double Bastard ales from Stone Brewing. He and O'Brien had split the others in the six pack, leaving her another hidden in her saddlebags for later. She suspected a not-so-hidden snark in the choice of ales, but hey - she wasn't going to begrudge it to him. After letting Dean in, O'Brien had wandered off, presumably to park himself outside or find something else to occupy himself with.
"No televison?" Dean gestured to the black screen of the wall mounted TV.
"Kind of lost my taste for it. You can turn it on if you want?" Faith made a face, offering him the remote. He waved it off, shaking his head. "Lost track of stuff I enjoyed when I was in a coma. Didn't re-acquire the habit when I was in jail. And traveling as much as I do... it makes it hard to keep track of newer stuff. As far as the rest of it goes... news is pretty much carefully filtered propaganda. I can get better information from the net and newsblogs. Watch movies when I want a diversion - although more and more of those are crap these days too."
He nodded. "Same for us, since me and Sam have been on the road. I tried watching since I've been here and haven't been able to keep an interest. Ended up browsing cable for old movies and leaving sci-fi channel on for background noise."
"Yup." Faith gave him a thoughtful look, "Promised you a better account of how I ended up in here?"
Dean nodded. "Wasn't going to press. Figured you'd get around to it."
"Yeah... " She thought for several minutes, then told him the full story, starting with the encounter outside of her hotel and including the business with the blood factory. He listened with an interesting play of emotions across his face as she related the fight in the parking lot, or at least her end of it. She didn't downplay any of the battle, but she didn't brag up her part of it either.
"Christ," Dean shook his head, wonderingly. "No wonder you looked like you did when I saw you the next day." He wasn't sure which disconcerted him more: what she related or the matter of fact manner in which she described it.
"Yeah," Faith's voice was flat.
"So... " Dean trailed off for a moment. "Figure out what to do next?"
"Yup. Simple. I'm going to heal up, then go offensive: show her what she expects - shake down vampire haunts and demon bars, make a lot of noise, and create a problem," Faith grinned, wolf like. "And sucker her in, set her up and kill her."
"We're going to set her up and kill her," Dean said, with a grim expression.
Faith gave him an unreadable look, sighing inside. She shook her head, slightly.
Dean's face took on a stubborn cast. "We're a part of this, Faith. I think we have the right."
"You have the right," she replied, nodding. This conversation wasn't going to be enjoyable. "Are you sure you have the ability?" That came out harsher sounding than she'd thought it did in her head, and she didn't know how to take it back. It drew the response she would have expected: Dean's face flushed angrily. Great
, Faith. Soul of tact and diplomacy, huh? You of all people know how fragile the male ego is...
"Dammit - we've been doing this for a long time, Faith. You're not the only demon hunter out there, you know?" Dean stated, a cold edge creeping into his voice. "She may have been going after you, but when she dragged my brother into this, she made it personal."
"Not what I meant, Dean," Faith replied, softly. "I know it's my fault you and your brother were dragged into this, and I'm sorry. It's my fault Sam got hurt, and I'm sorry for that. I wish it wasn't between us, but it is... And that's not what I meant. Not how I meant it to come out."
"What then?" Dean still had that cold edge to his voice, and his eyes were hard. Not like she could blame him, really...
Faith's reply was almost inaudible, even to herself.
"What?" Dean's voice softened a bit, but his eyes didn't completely lose the hardness.
"I said... I like you, and I don't want to have to look down at your corpse, Dean. I don't want to have to stand across from you over Sam's corpse and meet what's in your eyes afterwards, ok?" Her eyes flashed, "Happy now?"
"No. Not really," Dean's eyes softened a bit and his voice was gentler. "But... yeah." He shook his head, "You can't protect us from this, Faith. We are a part of it now."
"Didn't say you weren't a part of it," the corners of her mouth quirked up. "Meant that I don't want you trying to go toe to toe with this bitch, 's all." Faith shook her head, "Dean... I can pick up the front end of your Impala, raise it until the rear bumper grounds - and hold it like that all day without strain. My reflexes are almost faster than human eye speed. Flat out, I can move almost faster than your eyes can follow." She paused, "And in a straight up fight, this vampire did me more damage in sixty seconds than anything has done since the last time I fought another Slayer. The only reason I'm not dead is because I hurt her so hard and fast that she lost control and then I out thought her and threw her into a moving truck. And then she ran when O'Brien's backup pulled in."
"Then you shouldn't fight her again either," Dean said.
"Not planning to," Faith's lips curled up a bit more. "Planning to set her up and kill her, not go another ten rounds. But she might have other plans... " Her eyes went distant for a few moments, then came back to his. "If it comes to that, I know her style now, and how to use it against her. But she knows mine, too... If she tears into you or Sam flat out like she did me, I will
end up standing over your bodies. I don't want that."
"She already did, once," Dean reminded her. Faith shook her head.
"No. She didn't go after you full out. She wanted to do damage and wanted you guys to live long enough for me to get the message, maybe to watch you die. If the cops had gotten the ambulance there a little bit slower... "
Both of them were quiet for some time after that, and then Dean said, "So, you want to keep me and Sam out of it to protect us?" Faith winced, both at the words and at the memories it brought up. "Going to try and keep O'Brien and his partner out as well?"
"No. I saw and heard of someone doing that once. I didn't like it then, and I'm not going to do it now." Faith met his eyes, "If you're up and around by the time I'm ready to go after her, then you're a part of it. I said I wasn't planning to keep you out. But... we're not going to do this stupid. And if someone has
to fight her straight up again, it's gonna be me."
"What do you have planned, then?" She could tell by his voice that Dean still wasn't completely mollified. But... he wasn't as cold as he had been, and that would have to do.
"Haven't worked it out completely yet," she admitted. "When I do, I'll let you know." Faith made a face, "This is the second time recently that I've had to deal with something that brute force and a straight up approach wouldn't work for. Tricky isn't something I'm real good at yet... but I'm learning." She frowned slightly, "I have some other backup for us that does 'tricky' a lot better. I want to talk to them and lay all of this out for them before I set any solid plans."
There was another long period of silence between them, this one a bit more comfortable than the first. Finally... "Are we ok, you and me?" Faith asked.
Dean was quiet for a while, then, "I don't know. I'm going to have to think things out some, I guess." he shook his head, and then met her eyes and held them, "I'm trying to not let her targeting us to get to you get between us. It's... not as easy as I thought, and I didn't even realize it was there until you said it."
He left not long after that, back to his and Sam's room, and left her gazing through the wall with her thoughts. 'I didn't blame you for your family demon trying to use me to get to you, Dean... '
went through her mind, until she shook it away. 'Or for you not warning me it could happen.'
It wasn't much comfort that she'd managed to keep that thought only in her head where it belonged, and hadn't let it out... but it was something to hang on to. For what it was worth..................................................................................
The man calling himself Special Agent Hagerman let himself out of the room, glancing carefully and casually along the hallway of the Marriott as he did so. No one observed him exiting, just as no one had seen him enter.
The empty room, he reflected. At some point following the attack on her, someone had taken care to remove Lehane's belongings and other indications that she'd been there. Probably her police friends. They hadn't removed the wards that she'd put up - probably hadn't even realized that they were there - but those were an impediment only to supernatural beings. Not an impediment to someone who was basically a 'normal' like himself.
The cops had been good, and fast. O'Brien's bundling the Lehane woman into his partners unmarked to rush her to the hospital had been a stroke of genius, whether intentional or not. It had gotten her well away from the scene long before any media people had arrived at the scene of the grisly multiple murder slash parking lot fight at the restaurant. No detailed mentions of the Lehane woman had made news reports on the crime scene other than a brief mention of another woman in connection with the blonde that had fled the scene as police arrived.
Nodding to himself, he moved off down the hallway toward the stairs and the parking lot exit.
Lehane was too well guarded at the hospital for him to approach, and not only by O'Brien's hand picked people. Several of the 'people' watching the various entrances and approaches to the hospital registered as supernaturals to him despite their human appearances.
No matter. He was content to observe and allow things to play out. If Lehane managed to deal with her vampire assailant once she recovered, then that was one thing and he had ways to take care of her afterwards. If she didn't and the vampire killed her, then that was that. If she was turned... then she could be killed afterwards while she was struggling to come to terms with her new nature.
Either way, any of the resulting outcomes would settle a long outstanding bit of unfinished business.
He wasn't so wrapped in his thoughts as he exited the hotel that he wasn't paying attention to his surroundings. Therefore, it came as more than a bit of shock to him when he found himself unexpectedly grabbed and hurled face forward into a stretch of wall, with a large hand twisting his arm behind his back.
A shock, yes, but not one that was outside of his training or hs experience. He twisted throwing himself against the armhold, catching a glimpse of the large black detective that had managed to sneak up on him and throw him into the wall. The clicking sound of a heavy handgun being cocked somewhere behind but not too far from his head put a sudden end to his attempt to break loose, and he froze.
"I wouldn't struggle, friend," came a soft spoken voice. He twisted his head to see the black detective's bearded partner aiming a large caliber automatic at his head from just too far away to make resistance a good gamble. "Hate to have to fill out a bunch of shooting reports, you know?"
"Let go of me, if you know what's good for you," he snarled out. "You're interfering with a Federal Agent."
"A Federal Agent who was just caught on camera breaking into the hotel room of someone associated with the Philly PD, baby," the big black detective, Colby Burns, sounded amused. He twisted the armlock a bit tighter, raising Hagerman up on his toes. With his other hand, he pulled back Hagerman's sleeve to get a closer look at something he'd glimpsed during the brief not-quite-a-struggle. "Nice tattoo."
Burns pulled Hagerman's other wrist down to join his captive one, snapping cuffs on him. His partner shook his head and remarked, "You can discuss your 'Federal Agent' status with us down at Mid-South. Promise you we'll be all ears.".................................................................................
Faith hadn't been very surprised to receive visitors not long after O'Brien had gotten a phone call drawing him away to his precinct and had said that he was going to have to leave her uncovered for a few hours. She really hadn't expected these visitors to show up and talk to her cop friends...
O'Brien had been concerned, but had shrugged and accepted when she'd insisted that she'd be all right while he was gone and had explained about the warding. She seriously doubted that he was accepting of the concept of 'magic' on top of everything else... but evidently they'd acheived enough of a rapport that he was willing to trust her judgment. Interesting. She was going to enjoy taking the time to figure the saturnine cop out one of these days, she thought.
Faith had gone back to reading through the files Wes had sent after O'Brien had left. When the door opened and Blade and Hannibal began to slip in quietly, only to be halted by the warding, she'd grinned and uncocked the single action she'd been holding under the covers when she'd heard footsteps pause outside the door. And grinned again when King winked at her, after she'd invited them in, knowing he'd heard the revolver decock before she brought her hand out. Hey - she trusted in wards, but not so much as to be foolish about it.
"Hey! If it isn't tall, dark and monosyllabic and his faithful companion," Faith snickered. "Good to see you."
Blade nodded, and King remarked, "Interesting doorway."
"Magic," Faith said, deadpan. "It wards, it guards, and it's great for annoying wandering smartasses." She laughed at his expression.
"Can't be that good," King smirked. "*You*
were able to get in." She laughed again, eyes sparkling.
"You look good," Blade observed. Faith could read the unspoken question in the slight eyebrow raise that asked: 'Are you going to be up for this?'
She answered both when he met his eyes evenly and said, "Yeah. It cut pretty close to the bone there, but I'll make it." Blade nodded. "Abby?"
"Still guarding the baby Hellmouth you dropped on her. And bitching about not being able to come here, probably." King snickered and winked at her. Faith grinned and made a rueful face.
"Oh well. Have to struggle bravely on, I guess. Glad she's ok." Faith smiled. "Also glad you guys came down."
Blade nodded. "You asked, we're here." Faith suddenly found herself blinking rapidly from the things implied by that simple, flat statement. He raised an eyebrow, "Now, why don't you lay things out for us?".................................................................................
Dean was scowling and flipping irritably through the cable channels when Sam woke up again. He watched his brother for several minutes before saying anything, taking in the scowl and the posture.
"Morning," he said, finally.
Dean looked over at him, surprised, and broke into a grin. "Night, actually. How are you... ?"
"Feeling?" Sam snorted. "Like a truck fell on me. Other than that, not bad." He grinned back, raising an eyebrow. "Thought you'd be spending time with Faith now that she's awake?"
Dean scowled again and turned back to his channel surfing. Sam raised his other eyebrow as well, cocking his head. Okay.... Dean glanced over at him, "Was."
"Right." Sam shook his head. "So, what happened?"
"Nothing." Dean's voice was flat.
"You have a concussion. What do you know?" Dean shot him an irritated look.
Sam returned the look, "I know you." Dean snorted, and Sam snickered. "You may as well tell me. I'm going to keep bugging you until you do, and all of that aggravation is bound to cause me to relapse. You don't want to be responsible for that, do you?"
Dean gave him an exasperated look, and shook his head. "Fine." He related the conversation up to the point where he came back to their room.
"Ah. See? That wasn't so hard," Sam closed his eyes again, feeling himself starting to drift back off. "Dean?"
"You're an idiot. G'night."
Dean scowled, shot him a dirty look, and flipped channels again..................................................................................
About an hour after Blade and Hannibal left, her phone went off while she was closing her eyes and trying to sort out the information she'd been absorbing. She glanced at the readout, grinned, and flipped it open.
"Hey Dawnie. S'me."
"Faith? Hey - what happened to you?"
"Had my first stand-up encounter with Miss Vamp." Faith paused for a moment, "I lost."
"Good gods... " Dawn spluttered on the other end.
"Well, kinda anyway," Faith rescued her friend from what sounded like an incipient aneurism. "More of a split decision: she threw me head first into a lamp post, and I kicked her in front of a moving truck. I think I'm ahead on points now."
"Good gods... are you all right?" Dawn's voice was soft.
"Yeah. Recovering anyway... I'm in the hospital as a patent this time," Faith paused. "Be up and around in another day or so."
"Jeeze. I wondered when I kept getting your voice mail. I was hoping you just had your phone turned off because you were working on something." Dawn was quiet for a moment, "Seriously: how bad?"
"Was out for three days. Concussion, broken ribs, dislocated shoulder. Then I was loopy yesterday when I woke up... kept drifting in and out," Faith told her. "Tried to call as soon as I was up to it... "
"Yeah. I had my phone turned off. Sorry."
"No big." Faith stated, "You called back, hey?"
"Yeah, when I remembered to check my messages. Are you sure you're going to be ok?" Dawn's voice was still worried. "And do you need the cavalry?"
"Yeah. I'm going to be ok - the healer you recommended me took care of most of it," Faith told her. "And I have cavalry coming out of my ears: Blade, King, Gunn, Vince... what I need is to get well enough to get out of here and do something with them."
"Sound of nodding on this end," Dawn replied. "Still... only one
"Yeah, and I only broke even," Faith snickered. "I know. But Blade's more than close enough to even that up. And I have an ace in the hole." 'Two slayers, actually'
, she thought. But she was keeping that card in her sleeve...
"Yeah yeah - and you don't want your elbow joggled. I know. Seriously though, call Vi at least if you need backup, you hear?" Dawn's voice got softer. "Don't want to lose you."
"I know. And I will." Faith assured her.
"So, tell all. I want details, dammit." Dawn laughed, "More than just 'Yo. Fought vamp, got trashed, better now'."
Faith grinned and settled deeper into her pillows to fill Dawn in on the events of the past several days...
"wow." Dawn's voice was small when Faith finally wound down. She was quiet for some time... then, "That fight sounded bad enough, but I can't imagine
something like that blood factory you described."
"Imagining it is better than seeing it, Dawn. I hope you never have to walk into something like that." Faith didn't have to add the 'And I'm afraid that you will, sooner or later.'
She knew that Dawn was capable of filling it in on her own. "You don't need to see those rows of brain dead, film encased bodies every time you close your eyes the way that I have been."
"Yeah... " Dawn's voice was soft. "I'll bet." She paused, "I'm even more inclined now to suggest again that you call in more help."
"No." Faith said, flat. "You're not thinking this through, Dawn."
"How so?" Dawn didn't sound insulted, merely curious.
"This is a war building out here. And it's not a type of war that we're used to fighting. Not something that can be handled by crashing demon bars and vampire haunts. Maybe after this assassin is out of the way, yeah... but for now, it calls for a different approach than we're used to," Faith said. "And if going up against the First should have taught everyone something, it's that trying to learn and adapt on the fly when you're not sure what you're doing is a fast way to get people dead."
"Not an attack, just a question, right? Are you sure that that's not just you wanting to avoid having to deal with arguments over how to handle it?"
"Huh. Let me run that through my head a bit and think it through," Faith replied. Dawn was quiet while she did just that, checking it against her inner awareness. Finally... "No. Well... a bit: I really don't want to have to deal with Giles or someone second guessing me on what's best. But there's more to it than that. Not just ego."
"Like?" The other girl was curious, not challenging.
"This is something different, like I said. Not a matter of wanting to be in charge: if it turns out he has better ideas, I'll be happy to let Blade run the show. He's a professional and more experienced with this kind of organized vampire activity," Faith's voice was thoughtful. "You know as well as I do that if we get several teams of slayers down here as well, that won't happen: we'll spend as much time arguing over why all these outsiders need to be involved," Faith's voice was an uncanny imitation of sentiments Dawn had heard on occassion from other slayers, "involved, or are making decisions as we will fighting the enemy." Faith paused... "And I don't want to end up standing over the corpses of my Wild Bunch, or Vi's.. or Buffy's body wondering how it all blew up. Did that once. It sucked. Rather have someone who knows this particular score advise me, and if we screw up, we don't get anyone killed except ourselves."
"Rather you didn't get killed at all, Faith," Dawn said.
"Yeah. Not dying is high on my list of priorities," Faith replied. "There's another part of it, too." Dawn made an encouraging sound. "I don't want to draw the focus to the IWC when I'm the target. And I also don't want to call for help every time I hit a problem, not if I am quits and an independent. If I can't deal with things like this on my own with the resources I have, or can find, outside of the IWC... then we need to find out now. And I may as well drag back with my tail between my legs, hey?"
"Yeah... dammit." Dawn sighed. "All good reasoning. Would rather you had major flaws in your thinking I could poke holes in. Just don't want you to get killed demonstrating how indy you are. That kind of spoils the lesson, right?"
"Right," Faith laughed. "Do my best. But if I do
get killed, I'll make sure my last words are 'Showed you, huh?'" Dawn snickered.