Ties That Bind And Silly Watchers
“That is fascinating Mr. Giles. A prophecy involving a current Slayer and a Master Vampire! Why if I recall it's been over a century since we've had a prophecy involving a current Slayer.”
“Yes its quite fascinating, it was written by an 18th century Prussian mystic. Unfortunately he wrote all his works in a bizarre combination of German, Latin and ancient Sumerian of his own creation presumably to avoid having anyone but himself read it. Translation has been slow but so far I've been able to determine it has to do with the Slayer and a Master Vampire who is ironically enough known as 'The Master'.”
“The Master... is he the one known as the Blood Dancer? Oh that is fascinating! Wasn't he supposed to be locked away forever?”
“Yes, but you see it appears that when you take account the amount of energies from the Hellmouth and the millennial shift in ley line patters along with Gaston's theory of spell effects...”
Buffy tried, she honestly tried to keep up the conversation the Watcher's were having over dinner especially because it was about some prophecy that supposedly concerned her. But it hadn't been more than four sentences before whatever they were saying started to make as much sense as Charlie Brown's teacher going 'wha wha- wha wha wha, wha' to her students. Where the heck was Prussia anyway? Geography wasn't Buffy's best subject but at least she thought she would remember a country that sounded like the name of some fancy spoiled breed of cat.
Buffy sat next to her Watcher and across from Faith, with Wesley sitting in front of Giles in the small dining room table in his condo. As soon as dinner had begun half an hour ago Giles and Wesley had launched into a conversation about all things Watchery, reminding Buffy of sports junkies who had gone too long without being able to discuss fantasy football or whatever with another sports nut. They had more or less entered their own little magic and sorcery fanboy world leaving Buffy to speak with the brunette and purple haired girl sitting across from her. Talking, however, was something that Buffy had been avoiding thus far.
Even though she didn't get what they were talking about Buffy had been pretending to be very interested in the conversation between the two Watchers. The truth was that Buffy was a little intimidated by the girl across from her and didn't feel like striking up a conversation while feeling off balance. She knew it was kind of silly to be acting like that but for the moment Buffy allowed herself to indulge in a bit of social cowardice. While Buffy might be brave and bold when running across the undead in cemeteries the same didn't necessarily apply to all other aspects of her life.
Since her mutant abilities had manifested a year before (or when she had been magically 'Called' when a girl died through a mystical game of hot potato) Buffy had quickly come to see herself as unmatched in any kind of confrontation. She was superhumanly strong, incredibly fast in both reflexes and raw speed, gained an instinctive knowledge of combat and some kind of quick learning power for weapons and martial arts. Buffy healed much faster than normal and could take punishment that would probably kill a normal human with only mild to moderate discomfort. No one had come close to being a match for her since then, not humans and not vampires. It was the same package of abilities that supposedly every Slayer got.
Faith presented a challenge to this superior picture of herself since Buffy had no idea what she could do. The only thing she knew for sure was that the other girl was supposed to be strong enough to take on vamps and demons side by side with the Slayer... which meant she had to be really strong herself. But what was her power? When Buffy had found that she herself was a mutant she had researched things mutants could do. The list was almost endless. Teleportation. Limbs that could stretch and bend to be dozens of feet long. Mind reading. Spitting fire. Almost anything that you could think of really. And Buffy couldn't help but feel a sting to her pride knowing that while her own abilities were formidable and powerful and just downright awesome there were rumors of mutants who made what she could do seem kind of lame by comparison.
Some of the things she had read of rumored mutants? People who could control the weather. People who could cause earthquakes. There were even rumors of telepaths who could read your mind or turn you into a vegetable with a thought. Really powerful and scary stuff.
Buffy had to ask herself, why wasn't some mutant who could cause earthquakes the Chosen One instead of her? The Council needed to leave her alone and find a mutant who could blow vampires up with his mind.
So Buffy was feeling a little insecure thinking that maybe Faith's powers were more awesome than hers. It was silly but as much as Buffy wanted to just blurt out and ask the other girl what she could do it didn't feel right, like it was private or something. Again it was silly since Buffy would obviously find out sooner or later but the blonde didn't always act in the most logically reasoned way.
It didn't help that Faith oozed cockiness and confidence and kept looking at Buffy as much as she could short of outright staring. Actually Buffy found it a small miracle that the other girl could stop shoveling food in her mouth long enough to look at her or even breathe for that matter. To say Faith was an enthusiastic eater was being extremely kind about it and the girl had only a cursory understanding of table manners. She was on he third plate and didn't seem to be slowing down any only taking her attention from her food to take a drink of soda or let her gaze fall on Buffy yet again.
Buffy wondered why the other girl kept looking at her. Then it occurred to her that Faith was probably just as curious about Buffy as the she herself was about the other girl. Buffy was the girl Faith was supposed to put herself in danger to protect and here Buffy was completely ignoring her. Suddenly Buffy felt guilty about not trying to make conversation with Faith and turned to look at her fully.
“So...” Began Buffy, fishing for a topic of conversation, “where did you live before coming to Sunnydale?” she asked. See? Safe normal topic of conversation.
“Boston, grew up there mostly,” she said between shoveling food in her mouth, “been kickin' it in some secret Council training camp in England for the past year. The only town nearby makes Sunnydale look like New York, place was wicked boring.”
Buffy's lips quirked up in a little smile at hearing the other girl speak. Her light Bostonian accent and her interesting vocabulary were a bit weird but they seem to fit Faith perfectly.
“So you're from Los Angeles right? What was that like?” asked the brunette.
“Oh you know,” she said, “crowded, lots of traffic, lots of tourists. Amazing shopping. Tons of plastic surgery. It was a good place to be a perky blonde before all the mutant stuff started happening,” she said. Then it occurred to her, “Hey how did you know I used to live in Los Angeles?”
“Well hope this don't freak you out but the Council's got a huge ass file on you. Reading it was sorta a requirement to make all the suits happy I passed Shield boot camp. I guess you could say I've got intimate knowledge of ya B,” she said, her voice dropping low and husky with the double meaning.
Buffy's brain checked out for a minute, mouth handing open at Faith's statement. What do you say to something like that? And coming form a girl! Buffy was having a fit deciding if she needed to let the girl down easy or if she should yell at her when Faith's serious face broke down into snickers.
“Damn B I'm sorry,” she said between fits of constrained laughter, “I ain't never met someone as easy to mess with as you. Don't make that face you'll get wrinkles. I didn't mean anything by it girl you looked like I'd just stripped naked and asked you to marry me or something. It's all in good fun cutie don't let what I say get your panties all twisted up in a bunch. If that were to happen I might need to lend ya a hand to straighten them out, ya know being my duties as a Shield to help you out with anything you need.”
Why did her apology end up feeling like both an insult and a come on? Buffy had no idea how to handle the seemingly endless streak of flirtations and innuendos. Not knowing what to do Buffy decided to deal with it by embracing the most hallowed of Sunnydale traditions; completely ignoring things to the best of your ability. If nothing else she knew the other girl was having a laugh at her expense and Buffy didn't plan to keep giving her the satisfaction.
Buffy had to wonder though; did she actually like me or was it all a game to her?
“Har, Har, let's make fun of Buffy because she isn't used to people being inappropriately sexual. Well excuse me but if you don't mean it it's probably better if you kept it to yourself. In fact even if you do mean it you should probably keep it to yourself. It's not funny,” the blonde said.
“Of course it's funny. And who says I don't mean it?” Faith said with a mischievous smile. But luckily for Buffy the brunette and purple haired girl decided she'd better stop messing with the blonde for the time being.
“Anyway I don't really like talking about my past but if there's anything you'd like to know about me I'll try to answer. Figure it's only fair since I already know so much about you,” said Faith as a peace offering.
Buffy almost breathes a sigh of relief at the change in gears. She had decided she was going to ignore any future teasing from the girl but that didn't mean it was going to be easy. The blonde accepted the peace offering for what it was and contemplated what she wanted to know about her new protector. She was of course still curious about what the other girl could do but she wanted to ease into that conversation.
The blonde saw that Faith was finally finished eating and Buffy saw it as an opportunity to get away from the Watchers and their talk of 'Hellenistic vampire tribes' (did that mean vampires from hell?) and have a private conversation with Faith. With a tilt of her head Buffy indicated they should move to the living room and Faith got the hint easily enough. The two girls moved over and Buffy sat on the couch while Faith sat across from her in the recliner.
Not sure where to start Buffy against decided to go with something innocent. “So did you get to fight any vampires during your training?” asked once again trying her best to be friendly.
“Not for the first seven or eight months. After that I got to fight a few in 'controlled conditions' and for the last few months Wes, Diana and me went patrolling for vampires in cemeteries and stuff. Dusted a bunch of bloodsuckers that way. Though I hear the numbers you run into in England are a joke compared to the number of vamps that turn up here in Sunnydale.”
“Another Watcher, her and Wes kinda split up my training between them. She's the only reason I didn't eviscerate the stuck up ponce in the first week. He's not that bad once you get used to him and realize that superior snob thing is like genetic or something and he don't actually mean nothin' by it.”
“So, um...” Buffy didnt know why she was so nervous asking Faith about her mutation so she decided to just go for it and stop being silly. Just ease into the topic. “You know I've never met another mutant before. You're the first one.”
Faith raised her eyebrows in clear surprise. “Really?” she asked like she had somehow taken for granted that Buffy would know other mutants.
The blonde nodded a bit sadly. “Yeah. You figure with all the buzz about the explosion of the mutant population I would have met another one by now right? Only I haven’t. I mean at least I don't think I have because a lot of the time you can't even tell if someone's a mutant. But of course you already knew that being a mutant and looking all human and everything. I mean I'm just glad to meet you. My mom and Watcher and everyone who knows has tried to be understanding but none of them really know what it's like you know?”
“Wow that really sucks,” said Faith, and Buffy's surprise she sounded like she sincerely felt bad for the other girl, “you shouldn't have to grow up and go through that without knowing any of your own people. Now I'm doubly glad I'm here. We mutants have to watch out for each other.”
“Yeah,” said Buffy a little sadly, “if we freaks don't watch out for each other then who will right?” she said, her mind still mourning the loss of her normal life because of her abilities.
To Buffy's surprise Faith got angry. “Don't say that. Don't spout that crap in front of me. If you weren't a mutant and you'd said that I'd beat the shit out of you. We're Homo Superior and we are the next step in human evolution and that's nothing to be ashamed of. If anyone thinks we're freaks it's because they can't handle that we're better than they are. Don't ever feel bad about being able to do things others can't Buffy or imma gonna have to beat some sense into you.”
Buffy was taken aback, surprised and a little angry at feeling like she just got her head bitten off for no good reason. But then what Faith actually said started to sink in and to her surprise it did make her feel a little better about being what she was. Having someone stand up and defend mutants so passionately, even from her, was really nice to see and it felt good.
Faith's serious and angry face eased into confusion when she saw Buffy give her a grateful smile.
“I always viewed becoming a mutant as pretty much a bad thing because it alienated me from everyone I knew and suddenly I had monsters chasing me and trying to kill me you know? I've never had anybody actually make me feel good about what I am before. I'm glad you're here with me Faith, even if you do turn every third sentence into an inappropriate sexual advance.”
For the first time since she met her it was Faith's turn to look a little bit flustered. Buffy guessed that getting thanked and complimented wasn't something she handled very well. “Uh, yeah thanks. No problem. I'm glad to be here too,” she said giving Buffy a dimpled smile.
Buffy's smile grew and she felt like a weight lifted off her chest. She'd been afraid that somehow they wouldn't get along or wouldn't be able to be friends since they were so different. After this conversation though she wasn't afraid of that anymore. Buffy felt like they'd just had a moment, and even though they still had to get to know one another she didn't feel quite so alone anymore.
Note to self: Ancient Council traditions? Weird and kind of creepy Buffy thought to herself.
When Buffy had arrived at the library the following day after sunset for the ceremony officially tying the Shield to her Slayer she had found all artificial lights turned off. Instead the library was dimly lit with about a dozen candles. The darkness inside the library wasn't any problem for her enhanced eyesight but there was something about making a place deliberately dark and sort of creepifying that didn't sit comfortably with her.
Giles and Wesley were dressed in their suits but for some reason they'd insisted she wear something special. They had for her a white old timey dress that felt like a miracle of clothing engineering. It seemed that it was somehow made to fight in and it made her think of what those Knight Templar guys wore into battle. She'd changed into it and it had done nothing but make her feel more awkward and uncomfortable about the whole thing.
After drilling her in what she was supposed to do they announced it was time to get the ceremony over with. Buffy was happy to learn that even with all the prep time and all the big fuss the actual 'ceremony' was really short. Shield comes in, says a few words, Slayer says a few words, kiss on the forehead, the end. Before Wesley leaves to tell Faith it was time he lit some acrid smelling incense all over the library that made Buffy's eyes water. It was times like this that made Buffy wonder why she was still playing along with all the craziness of the Council in the first place.
Wesley reentered the library followed a minute later by Faith. As the Watchers placed themselves on either side of Buffy the other girl remained standing by the entrance. Buffy looked over at what the other girl is wearing and the fighter in her is suitably impressed. They had Faith decked out in leather armor that looked strong and lightweight and something that might actually be useful in a battle. She had a sword on one hip, a dagger on the other and stakes on specially made loops on her trousers. In the dim light of the candles Buffy thought the other girl looked dangerously beautiful, like finding a leopard in the dark out in the wild. Faith's face was a serious mask that gave away nothing of what she was thinking.
Buffy's and Faith's eyes met and it was like an electric shock passed between them. Buffy felt her heart rate speed up and her body flush, sort of like it would if she was getting ready for a fight. At some unseen signal Faith began walking towards her never once breaking eye contact. Buffy watched the other girl stalk over to her like she was in a trance and it felt like something monumentally significant was about it happen.
Faith stopped in front of Buffy just out of arm's reach. With one last long look into Buffy's eyes the brunette dropped to one knee and lowered her head slightly like you would imagine someone doing for a King or Queen. Buffy felt anxiety and fear spike through her as she looked at the girl kneeling down in front of her and submitting to her like that. It was a simple thing to take a knee and lower your head but in this setting it felt like so much more than that. It felt like devotion, commitment, and whole host of other scary words that Buffy wasn't sure she wanted or was ready for.
Buffy didn't have time to let her inner rambling continue because then Faith was speaking:
“You are the One Girl in All the World, the Chosen One, the Vampire Slayer charged with sacred duty to stop the Demons and the swell of their numbers. The fate of many lays in your hands and for the sake of the many you must be protected. Buffy Anne Summers, I, Faith Darkholme, offer myself as your Shield. I pledge to protect you from all who would threaten your life and well-being. I pledge that your battles will be my battles and that your enemies will be my enemies. I pledge that when it becomes necessary I will lay down my life to protect yours. You are the candle in the darkness and I am the hand that protects it from the wind. I am yours Buffy Anne Summers until the day of my death. My mind, body and soul now exist only for you.”
Buffy stood speechless, completely blown away by the enormity of what had just happened. Giles was right she should have gone out of her way to find out more about all of this. What was happening here was special, and sacred, and it was a really huge deal. Buffy was torn between feeling profoundly grateful, scared and horrified at how this simple ceremony was tying their two lives together. No wonder Slayers and their Shields were the closest of companions, how could it possibly be anything else?
With a start Buffy realized she had been standing there gawking for too long and there was a part she had to play to complete the ceremony. Reverently Buffy bent down, parted Faith's hair from her face and lay a soft kiss on her forehead.
Straightening up Buffy said the words that needed to be said. “I, Buffy Anne Summers, the Vampire Slayer, accept you, Faith Darkholme, as my Shield. Your sacrifices will not be for naught and they will never be forgotten. I can offer you nothing but the comfort of a comrade at arms. Rise, sister, and let us walk side by side. From this day forth until we are separated by death we will never be apart.”
She stood up slowly and faced Buffy. Supposedly now the ceremony was over but Buffy didn't just want to leave it that way feeling so formal. With tears in her eyes Buffy stepped forward and threw her arms around Faith's neck.
“Thank you,” she whispered in the ear of the taller girl, “I don't know how they talked you into doing this but I'm glad they did. I know we don't know each other yet but for some reason I can't imagine it being anybody else but you,” said Buffy surprising herself with the emotion and sincerity in her voice.
Faith had stiffened at the contact but after Buffy's words the brunette relaxed and wrapped her arms around the shorter girl. She brought her head down to Buffy's ear and whispered, “I can tell you about all that other stuff later. But I'll just promise you that I'll always have your back Buffy. Always.”
A/N: Next time; Buffy and Faith have to go to school. Plus we finally find out what Faith's mutant powers are. Look forward to it!