A Buffy the Vampire Slayer
/ Stargate: SG1
Chapter 2: Caravanserai
I don’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, nor Stargate: SG1
; just having fun in someone else’s playground. EDIT:
Fixed title formatting that TTHF ate
Fixed the state of the DMV for Faith's license. (Somehow both Alkeni and I missed that I'd typed Maryland instead of Massachussetts!) Thanks to dcarson for catching that; it's somewhat bigger than a typo!11.30:
Fixed a physics bug found by fanreaderonetwo
that would have required the iris plates to close at over 666666 2/3 (and what does TTH have against the ⅔ entity?) times the speed of light. (See reviews for what I did wrong and the math that convinced me to fix it.) For posterity to laugh at me, I said the iris was meant to close fast enough to prevent light-speed weapons from passing the event-horizon of the wormhole. This is what happens when you write at 3AM, people.Author’s note:
First, wow, I wasn’t expecting anything like the reviews I got! This is my first return to the writing game in several years, and I thought I was a bit stilted and afraid my OOCness was too much, but I’m getting nothing but positive reviews. Hopefully I’ll be more IC for Buffy now she’s not channeling Giles. To answer a common thread in the reviews (and offer very minor spoilers): Yes, Buffy is going to get some advice from SG-1; yes, the SGC is going to beef up security (it actually comes up in this chapter), and yes, the biggest thing I wanted to get out of this was an increased level of trust between the Chosen Two… hopefully to a very
unforeseen plot twist. (Which I’m probably playing up a little too much. Especially since someone else seems to have already come up with half of it for themselves. All I’ll say is check out the TTH top fic by overall length, and it’s in there somewhere. Hopefully the other half will still make this an original twist.)
To save space on this chapter, see http://www.new-gardens.net/meeting-halfway-chapter-2-notes/
for more notes. Actually, at this point it’s more of a plot bible mixed with a writer’s diary. Lots of spoilers, so if you care about that sort of thing, I recommend you read the chapter first. Errata:
I’m not sure why I said chapter 1 was set between S03E02 and S03E03; Dead Man’s Party
still needs to happen. Stupid of me, and I’m a little surprised no one called me on that. So, chapter 1 is set between S03E01 Anne
and S03E02 Dead Man’s Party
and basically supplants most of S03E03 Faith, Hope & Trick
. Hope that’s not too confusing.
Two quick things before I let you get on with the chapter:
1) If it seems like episode-long problems are taken care of too quickly in this chapter, it’s because the change in circumstances gave the characters enough forewarning to increase planning and minimize chaos. Believe me, they’re not suddenly massively more competent than in the shows.
2) Special thanks to my beta Alkeni. If you like Highlander
, read Dead Man Walking
Lizzie came out of the shower wearing a set of fluffy, pink pajamas. As little as she usually appreciated cute, Faith couldn’t help but admit that it seemed to suit her. “Hey, the motel I was using probably took all of my stuff by now.”
Lizzie waved at her suitcase and said, “Help yourself. We’re around the same size. We can get your stuff back tomorrow. Take your time, I’ve gotta call my Watcher.”
Faith looked dubiously at the bathroom door. “You were in there a long time. Is there any hot water left?”
“Didn’t we have this discussion before
my shower?” Lizzie said with a snort. “I didn’t use any
hot water. My hair thanks you, by the way.”
“Oh yeah…” Lizzie smacked Faith in the shoulder and shook her head, then started dialing as Faith headed for the bathroom.
Lizzie had finished with her call by the time Faith came back out, now wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, but the phone was still on her lap, and she was staring at it like it had killed her mother. “What’d that phone ever do to you?”
“Nothing. Just, now comes the hard part.”
“Sleeping in the same bed as me and just
Lizzie raised one eyebrow at Faith and said, “No!” but at least she was smiling again. “The only sleep I’ve gotten in the last week was on busses; that part’s gonna be easy. No, now I get to call my mom.”
“Not the greatest relationship ever?”
“We were… Until she found out I’m the Slayer. That… didn’t go over so well.”
“Yeah. Oh, hey, before I forget.” Lizzie put the phone back on the nightstand and grabbed her now-battered briefcase off the floor. “I’ve got something of yours. Giles got the cleanup crew in Boston to send it to a PO box in Denver for me so I could use it to show the government types that I knew you.” She pulled a small plastic rectangle out from under the tangle of weapons in the case—and how had she gotten that thing past base security, anyway? Faith was about to ask when she saw what Lizzie was holding: Her driver’s license.
“The Watchers found,” Lizzie corrected. “I got Giles, my Watcher, to get me everything he could about you so I could pretend to the guys in the mountain that I was your new Watcher. He told the people looking for clues in your old apartment to send it to Colorado for me.”
“Thanks,” Faith said quietly, not quite trusting her voice. The tears in her eyes were from that damn allergen-laden mountain air, of course, not memories of the one person in Boston who had given a damn, mixed up with this girl she’d barely known a day who somehow seemed to care just as much.
“No problem,” Lizzie replied, just as quietly. “We’ll need some
kind of ID to get you set up in school.”
“Wait, what? School? Since when?”
“Well, if you’re going to be living at my house, I’m pretty sure my mom’s going to want you to be going to school. Don’t worry, I’ll have to go do all the makeup stuff right alongside you—long story. Plus, hey, Giles’ cover is as the high school librarian. The principal’s kinda sneaky and an asshole; you’re not getting in to talk to him all the time without being a student there.”
“Well… Damn. I really hope you’re the studying type, Lizzie, ’cause I dropped out something like six months ago.”
Lizzie frowned for a moment, then said, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out.” Then she picked up the phone and said, “Wish me luck. This is scarier than the Master, and he killed
“Why do I still have to be bait?”
“Look, we’ve noticed that vampires have a fairly common MO, right?” Xander Harris tried to placate his girlfriend. He might have come up with the plan when he was mad at her and wanted
a vampire to attack her, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a good plan. No, the fact that it wasn’t a good plan made it not a good plan, but it was better than anything else the group had come up with, and it was his
plan, so he felt the need to defend it. “On the whole, they’ll eat anyone, but if they have the chance, they prefer the young and the beautiful. And, while we’re all the same age and not too unattractive, can you blame me for saying you’re the best qualified? I mean, we can take turns a bit, but I’m sure you’ll have the most success.”
“Oh, well, when you put it that way… No!” Cordelia Chase smacked Xander on the shoulder. “I may be pretty enough to attract vampires, but I’m also pretty enough to make it a tragedy if their teeth mar my perfect skin. You’re attractive enough to get a hot girlfriend like me. You do it!”
“Can it, Rosenberg,” Cordelia said without looking at Willow, Xander’s best friend since preschool. “We’re having an argument here.”
“No, really, guys?”
“I said we’re arguing! Don’t you know not to interrupt when- Oh.” Cordelia turned from where she had been railing at Xander to see a vampire—still covered in dirt from his freshly-vacated grave—approaching her from behind.
“I love to say I told you so, so I told you so!”Xander shouted as he pushed Cordy aside and attempted to tackle the vampire who instead caught him and prepared to feast.
“Crap!” Oz, Willow’s boyfriend, tackled the vampire from the side, bringing himself, the vampire, and Xander to the ground, but thankfully keeping all mortal flesh away from pointy teeth. Willow nervously approached, a stake gripped across her chest in both hands, uncertain where to stab to avoid hitting her best friend and her boyfriend.
While Willow waffled, the vampire exerted its superhuman strength to get to its feet and throw off both boys. Willow tried to take advantage of its distraction and wide-open stance to stake it, but it backhanded her, the force of the blow throwing her straight over its gravestone and into the soft grass beyond. Cordy tried getting it from behind while it was attacking Willow, only to get caught in its grip when it turned too quickly for her to react.
Xander tackled the thing again, his witty banter reduced to “Hands off my girlfriend! Damn, do we ever need to work on this banter thing!” Cordy somehow managed to avoid getting caught in the tangle on the ground, but, like Willow before, was unsure how to stake the vampire without getting her boyfriend.
“Allow me.” All four teens and the vampire blinked at the unfamiliar voice. A delicate hand attached to a sleek, well-proportioned body in clothes tight enough to show it off reached into the mini-dogpile and pulled the vampire out by its lapels, lifting it over a brunette head with pouting lips, and placed it gently on its feet. The new girl gently brushed the grave dirt off the suit the vampire had been buried in, saying, “Now, now, let’s get all this dust off you. Don’t want it to get mixed up after all.”
“Huh?” Like most newly-risen vampires with no sire to guide them, this one had mostly only growled and grunted, its demonic urges overcoming the human intelligence within. Now, its confusion brought that slice of humanity to the fore just enough to express a question.
“Oh, I meant with the rest of you.” The tiny girl followed that statement with a single rising palm strike to the vampire’s chest, sending it flying upwards and outwards to strike a tree hard enough to crack it, if not for the fact that it hit a broken branch first, impaling its chest on the branch and bursting into a cloud of dust. “Hah! Booyah! One hit, no stake! Lizzie’s gonna flip over that one!”
Four mouths hung open, as the teens stared at the girl in their midst. Oz was the first to regain his bearings, followed by Cordelia. Both approached her cautiously, stakes in hand, only to be startled by her cheerful, “Yo! Faith!”
“Um… Excuse me?” Cordelia said.
“I’ll use small words. Me Faith. Me Slayer. Me slay vampire.” Faith accompanied her small words with gestures. “You must be the gang who help the Slayer in Sunnydale. I’ve heard about you guys.”
“And by heard, I hope you don’t mean ‘heard how keep getting our butts saved by the Slayer,’” Xander said, getting to his feet. “’Cause, really, we do manage to save our own butts from time to time.”
“Um… When you say ‘Slayer,’ you don’t mean… I mean, are you…”
“What my girlfriend is trying not to ask,” Oz spoke up, “is, ‘Are you Buffy’s replacement?”
Faith laughed. “Oh, hell no! Anyone who can take a hit like her and not go down is gonna be around long after me. No, I got called after… I think Lizzie said her name was Kendra?”
“So, wait, you’ve seen Buffy?” Cordelia asked.
“Yeah, we rolled into town together. She wanted to see her mom first thing, so I figured I’d go out, get a look at the nightlife. I got four vamps on the way here, so I’m pretty slayed out for the night. Time to take care of a little H&H… Or, at least the first H.”
Faith smirked at Xander, who gulped audibly at her reply. “It’s amazing how hungry and horny you get after a good slaying. But I’ll stick to food while we’re in public. What’s to eat around here?”
Sunnydale having a dearth of diners, the only place serving what could charitably be called food late at night was the Bronze, so the group of teens schlepped themselves over to the club and claimed a corner for themselves. Faith had regaled them with stories about her own short career as a Slayer on the way—the one about being forced to slay naked due to a heatwave and her lack of aircon seemed to be a hit, at least with the guys, and maybe a little with the redhead as well—but once inside, she attempted to steer the conversation away from herself a little. Much as she liked talking about herself, she really did want to get to know these guys. They were Lizzie’s friends, and, while she still wasn’t entirely certain what she wanted from Lizzie, she did know that she wanted to stick around for a while, and she had a feeling that the bond of Slaying together wouldn’t supplant years of friendship.
“So, you guys help the Slayer out? How’s that work, if you don’t mind my asking? I haven’t seen any superpowers yet, and, no offense, but that vamp was kinda kickin’ your asses.”
“No offense taken; he was,” the shorter guy said placidly. Given that everyone was calling him Oz, Faith was debating calling him “Wizard.” On the one hand, hey, easy movie reference. On the other, that made his nickname longer than his name, and for very little humorous payoff.
“Well, it started kinda slow,” Willow, sitting next to Oz, said. She’d leave nickname options open, but was leaning towards “Red” for her. Sometimes simple was best. “We found out pretty soon after she got here ’cause Giles wasn’t too careful about talking when he thought no one was in the library, and then our friend Jesse and I got taken by some of the Master’s goons. And then Jesse got turned…” Red tapered off.
“I wound up staking him while Buffy was fighting a whole bunch of other vampires.” X-man—now that
was an easy nickname; she bet he read the comics, too—said, face downcast. His girlfriend showed she wasn’t all bitch by hugging his arm and patting his shoulder sympathetically.
“Ah, yeah. Anyway, so, Xander kept saying he could help, and I’m really good at research, and I’m a lot better than Giles at getting computer records and stuff, so if we need to know if there’s a pattern to some deaths or something, I’m, like, the go-to girl.” Willow finished with an air of self-satisfaction.
“Plus, they’re really Buffy’s best friends. If there’s something big going down, they don’t let her go in without backup,” Cordelia said. X-man and Red both looked down, embarrassed.
“How about you two? I can’t imagine you got into this stuff just ’cause your SOs are doing it.”
“I’m a werewolf. Pretty much couldn’t avoid the supernatural.”
“I wound up getting caught in a bunch of it on my own. Plus, pretty much everyone in this town’s gotten caught in something now and then. I’m too honest with myself to ignore it.”
Faith nodded at Cordelia’s statement and said, “Amen to that!” tossing back another half a muffin. “Too much dishonesty in the world. Worst is when people call it ‘being polite.’”
Cordelia raised her cup of soda and repeated, “Amen!”
The first thing Buffy did when she got home was hug her mom. Also, the second and third thing. Just being that close to her mom reminded her in some ways why she had left. Sure, her mother wasn’t showing any signs now that she had meant it when she told Buffy not to come back, but the only other person she had done anything more intimate than shake hands with since leaving was Faith, and she had to remind herself not to hug with all her strength. Moms were delicate creatures to Slayers, and while very much worth perserving, she had to maintain a delicate touch that most kids would be able to turn off in this kind of situation.
Now, however, strength wasn’t so much of an issue, as Buffy and her mom were seated at the kitchen table, each with a cup of coffee—her mother had offered tea, but Buffy kind of didn’t think much sleep was going to be had that night anyway, and her mom agreed.
“So. Another Slayer, huh?”
Buffy sensed that her mother was trying to avoid the big issues for now. She was perfectly happy to oblige, although there was one thing she had to get out, and talking about Faith gave her an unfortunately opportune segue. “Yeah. I had a Slayer dream—we get dreams, sometimes, kinda like mini-prophecies—that lots of bad stuff was gonna happen if I didn’t go and help her. Not sure about the bringing her back thing; that was more because she doesn’t have anywhere else to go, as far as I can tell.”
“As far as you can tell?”
“She hasn’t talked much about her past, but I know she was adopted by her Watcher, and she was found only a year or so before she was Called, so probably no family. And, yeah, I know her new Watcher can probably adopt her, but I talked to Giles about the Council sometimes, and I got insanely lucky to get not just one, but two
Watchers who actually gave a damn about me as something more than just a weapon to point at the forces of darkness. Faith, too, and she’s going to need some sort of buffer against whoever the Council sends her now.”
Joye nodded slowly while Buffy continued to stare down into her coffee. “Like I said on the phone, I’m not going to say no right away, but I need to meet her, and I’m not going to do anything if we can’t get all the paperwork in order. And it’ll be foster care, not an adoption, of course.”
“Right. Adoption’s a big deal; foster’s just taking care of someone, which is all I’m asking for. Also, Australian for beer, apparently.” Buffy’s mom raised an eyebrow. “What? The diner had a TV, and the channels the customers tended to request tended to have beer commercials. Sorry, bad attempt to lighten the mood before the hard part.”
“Sweetie, we don’t need to do this right away,” Joyce said, laying a hand on her daughter’s arm. “I’m just glad you’re home. The hard discussions can wait a day or two.”
“Maybe, but this one I’ve got to say or it’ll eat me up like all the secrets I was keeping before.” Buffy took a deep breath, and her mother frowned in anticipation. “I called Giles. Before I left L.A. Before I called you.” Her mother leaned back in her chair. Buffy couldn’t tell if it was shock or just waiting for the rest. Either way, she forged on. “After the dream, I knew I’d need help. That I didn’t know enough about Faith or the Watchers’ Council to get in where I’d need to get in to help her. So, I needed to call him, so I could come up with a plan and get Faith. And, the big thing… I told him not to tell you.”
Now it was definitely shock. “Told him not to tell me? Why?”
Buffy started staring back into her coffee, but decided she needed her mom to understand how serious she was, so she raised her eyes again to stare into her mother’s. “The thing about Slayer dreams,” she said, “is that they’re always true. Sometimes they’re about the past, sometimes they’re about the future, often they’re so symbolic it’s hard to make sense of them ’til after whatever they’re predicting has gone down, but they’re always
true. I dreamt of the other Slayers Lothos killed from the first night after I was called until I killed him. I dreamt that the Master was after me when we first moved here, and I dreamt he would beat me for a week straight before he actually did. But there’s the other thing; Slayer dreams also don’t ever show the ending.
“I saw Lothos killing other Slayers, but I didn’t see either of us killing the other. I didn’t even see him killing Merrick. I saw the Master beating me, but I didn’t see me getting up again and killing him. And I saw me fighting Kakistos for Faith… but I didn’t see whether or not I’d survive. Kakistos is one of those big, old, nasty monsters. I know you think I risk my life when I go out, but the truth is that most vampires don’t pose any kind of real threat to me. But the really powerful ones, like the Master or Kakistos? Yeah, they can kill me.
“So, yeah. I didn’t call you, and I told Giles not to call you either,” the facts part done, Buffy returned her gaze to her coffee, “’cause I didn’t want to call you and say I’m coming home and then die. Maybe you didn’t deserve another week of wondering where I was, but the last thing I wanted was for you to hear I was on my way back, just as soon as I take are of this one thing, and then I die instead. I made sure Giles knew my plan, so he’d know when I meant to call back. So, you know, if I didn’t call back, he could tell you then.” Buffy blinked back tears, then wondered inanely if she should let them fall: She’d heard somewhere that coffee was better with a tiny bit of salt. “As soon as I decided to come back, I wanted to call you, but… I had the dream that night, and I couldn’t do that.”
Mother and daughter sat in silence for a few minutes, then Buffy started when Joyce put her hand on Buffy’s arm again. “Thank you for telling me,” she said. “I don’t know- I think I need some time to process that, but objectively you did the right thing. I just need to work out how that affects me subjectively.” She smiled encouagingly. “And, I think you were right that it needed to be said. I think a lot needs to be said, maybe. For instance, who was Merrick?” She waved away Buffy’s attempt to start an explanation. “Later. Like I said, I need to process this right now. I think maybe we have more to talk about than we can cover in one night, so maybe we can schedule a time, a couple of times a week? At least until we’ve cleared the air.”
“I’d like that,” Buffy said with a watery smile. “Say, Wednesday and Sunday? Tuesday seems to be a busy day, Slayer-wise, for some reason, and Friday and Saturday, hey, still a teenager here.”
Joyce laughed and gave Buffy’s arm one last squeeze before returning to her coffee. “So, about Faith… Where is she, anyway?”
“Oh, she’s off patrolling. She actually likes being a Slayer, so I figured it’d give her a bit of fun before the serious ‘meet the parent’ thing, plus it lets her get started on getting familiar with the area, and it gave us some alone time instead of dumping us both on you at once. She said she’d be back in a couple hours, and she claims
to have a great sense of direction, so I guess we’ll see her when she gets back.”
“I’m still not happy with your decision to let those two girls go, Colonel. I do understand your reasoning, but I’m not certain I agree.”
Colonel O’Neill nodded at his superior’s concerns. “I can see where you wouldn’t equate those girls with, say, Master Bra’tac, in terms of how good they’d be as allies, but the truth is, I didn’t let them go just because I was grateful for what they did or sorry for how we treated them. Sure, hearing all the Air Force personnel we passed on our way through town talking about how these two chicks saved everyone’s asses helped… But, sir, did you read the reports on what they were fighting?”
“I’ve read the preliminary reports, yes. Something about humanoid creatures with monstrous faces that appeared to feed on humans.”
“Read the detailed incident reports, sir. Trust me, you’ll see a whole new ballgame. By all reports, these creatures moved too fast to track and were too strong to even think about fighting one-on-one. Really, on an individual level, they sound more dangerous than a Goa’uld would be if we caught one without his tech. Those two girls went through them like a hot knife through butter, except for their leader, and they still
took him out. I don’t think my team could
take them, at least not without a big fight and lots of collateral damage. Take them in that kind of fight? Sure, I’ll at least try, and age and experience would probably win out eventually. Cause some damage to get a hold of potentially dangerous unknowns? Not a problem. Detain someone who just helped us and saved a bunch of U.S. citizens because we’re not sure what they are and it’s our job to find out? Fine. But all three? That’s pushing it, and as the man on the spot, I made the best decision I could. For my team’s sake, the overall mission of the SGC, and the reputation of the USAF as a whole.
“Besides,” he finished with a grin, “Carter’s got some good news.”
General Hammond turned to his premiere team’s second in command and nodded for her to speak. “Captain Carter?”
“Yes, sir. It seems likely that Elizabeth Frost was lying to us about her name, but we did manage to isolate a few surfaces she touched, such as the portion of the table she was sitting in front of, so if her prints are in any national database, we should be able to get an ID on her. I’m not holding my breath, but it’s possible. As for Faith Lehane, however, the driver’s license was entirely legitimate. I just got this in from the Massachussetts DMV.” Carter passed a fax of Faith Lehane’s driver information over. “Notice that she is, indeed, a minor. Her guardian is listed as Diana Dormer, whose records I managed to get from INS. A British ex-pat working as the curator of a small local museum in Boston. I assume that’s the Diana Faith and Miss Frost referred to.”
“What does this mean for us?”
“It means we can keep tabs on the girls, sir,” O’Neill said with a smirk. “Lehane’s also got a bit of a police record—as did her parents, which explains why they’re not her legal guardians—plus, as a minor, she’ll need to file paperwork if she wants to survive pretty much anywhere in this country. At least, if she doesn’t want to be a vagrant, and no one who dresses like that would want to. We put out some feelers for, say, requests for adoption or foster care or emancipated minor status, arrests, that kind of thing, and we’ll know where she is. It’s more police-work-ish than what we normally do, but it’s fairly basic, so I dont’t think we’ll screw it up.”
“All right. Is there anything else? Perhaps something concerning the creatures they fought or this ‘IWC’ Miss Frost mentioned?”
Daniel Jackson spoke up with his usual hesitance, which most people mistook for nervousness, but which his team and commanding officer had long since realized was only a result of a mind that ran a mile a minute pausing to pick the perfect words out of an array that would bewilder anyone else. “As far as I know, the only one who has a chance of tracking down the IWC is you, General, at least, assuming Miss Frost was telling the truth about that. But the creatures… Well, I’ve been doing some research, and, as strange as it may seem, vampires do match the descriptions pretty well. Human-like features, revealed to be demonic visages when feeding off the blood of the innocent, strong, fast, only coming out at night… I mean, we have a pretty small sample size for the night thing, it only happened once, but—”
“Ah- You’re rambling again Daniel.”
“Right. A-anyway, yes. Vampires. That’s what they seem to be, or, at least, what they most closely resemble. Whether they’re really aliens or extradimensional beings or actually vampires or something else, I couldn’t say, and they seem to have vanished, at least from the local area, so we can’t study them or anything. But, given that the legends seem fairly accurate, I’d say we can probably count on the less ridiculous things about fighting them to be accurate as well. Crosses? Just a shape, what could they do? Pretty much the same for holy water and crossing running water. But garlic? Could be there’s a chemical in garlic that harms them or smells bad to them. That’s garlic blossoms, by the way; the older legends seem to be more accurate and less embellished, and they specifically say blossoms, not bulbs. Um. Stakes. Could be wood also has some sort of chemical or other effect that kills them.”
“Eyewitnesses said the girls killed them with wooden stakes. Through the heart, just like the stories,” O’Neill added. “Even the big guy, technically. Just, the stake was a lot bigger.”
Jackson nodded. “Right. And sunlight, well, we didn’t see any go out in the sun or even avoid it, but if they’re not from our world, there’s a chance they could have some sort of severe reaction to the specific wavelengths from our sun. I’m not entirely sure why the moon wouldn’t hurt them, since it’s just reflected sunlight—”
“Well, the moon only reflects certain wavelengths, just like any other material. We think of mirrors as reflecting all wavelengths equally, but the truth is that they only do that with the visible spectrum; other wavelengths go right through or get absorbed. The moon’s the same way: It reflects most of the visible spectrum and a tiny bit more, but most of the rest is either absorbed and reradiated as visible or IR or, in certain outlier cases, goes right on through.” Rather than try to comment outside his area of expertise, Jackson just nodded in Carter’s direction and looked back at the general.
General Hammond nodded. “Very well. Much as it galls me to say this, we will treat any such creatures we may meet as vampires. I would like it if we could catch one and find out what we can about its purpose and vulnerabilities, but given the complete lack of mercy they showed in their attack, I think we can conclude that their purpose is not a friendly one. With that in mind, as well as their proven strength and speed, I don’t want anyone trying to be a hero: If you encounter one, whether on this planet or elsewhere, you kill it unless you are very
sure—and I mean ‘it’s already locked in a steel box’ sure—that you can bring it back with no harm to yourselves. I shall so advise all base personnel.”
“Right-o. Vampires, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. I hope we’re not gonna put that in the actual memo.’
Hammond gave the colonel a look that mixed reproof and amusement in equal measure—a look that often found itself pointing in Colonel O’Neill’s general direction—and said, “No, Colonel, I believe we shall merely advise base personnel that a non-human, most likely non-alien threat has been found to exist in small numbers on Earth, generally living in small, hidden enclaves. These creatures are hostile, fast, and strong, and show an unusual aversion to garlic flowers, sunlight, and wounds caused by wooden weapons. Use those weaknesses to your advantage.”
“And beheading and fire. Also traditionally effective against vampires.”
“Thank you, Dr. Jackson. And fire, and, if you find yourself able to accomplish it, decapitation. I think I will start composing the memo as soon as you four are on your way. This situation in no way affects your scheduled departure for P3X-382.”
“And what else will you be doing with your time, General? Even wording the memo so it’s useful, but doesn’t automatically make everyone think we’re afraid of ghoulies and ghosties shouldn’t take the whole time we’re gone.”
“Not that you need to know, Colonel
,” Hammond put extra emphasis on the rank to remind O’Neill of his place, “but I will be continuing to update our security measures. In reviewing the security logs relating to Miss Frost, it turns out that she managed to sneak in a briefcase full of weapons merely by wielding a pretty face and a flirtatious attitude at the guard manning the scanner. Our computer logs show what looks suspiciously like a number of large knives, where our paper logs show nothing. We’ve already begun running lines to add a remote security overwatch on all traffic heading to our level, and I expect them to be done and ready within the next couple of days. Our methods of keeping people in
are also being overhauled, but I expect that to take a bit more thought, particularly in light of the fact that we can’t really make the mountain’s primary ventilation any more secure without making it less effective. Think about it while you’re away; any ideas might be helpful.”
Faith tried not to fidget too much under “Call me Joyce”’s gaze. She wasn’t used to anything like a person important to a person important to her, and she wasn’t going to screw this up quite that quickly if she could avoid it. Joyce had laid down the law first thing, true, but there wasn’t all that much law to lay down: Don’t smoke in the house, be discreet about bringing home guys, fridge is available, clean up after yourself—possibility of more explicit chores to be discussed in the future if Joyce felt it necessary—get a job or go to school. Nothing she couldn’t handle, she thought, although she wished she’d had Lizzie on-hand for some moral support. Instead, Joyce had sent her off with the kiddies when Faith got back, saying, “You should get a chance to say hi to your friends.” All Faith knew was that it’d be nice to have Lizzie and her self-confidence back because she had no idea what to do about the dead-looking-and-smelling cat that had just yowled its way out of the basement.
It was getting later, and the Bronze was getting crowded as it did most nights, so Buffy and company found themselves wandering the streets as they talked, rather than try to find a quiet corner in the club like they had with Faith. “So,” she said, after several blocks of silence, “I know I kinda left in a hurry, and I don’t know what you guys were all thinking about it, but… Well, I kinda got the whole ’talking things out’ ball rolling with my mom, and it was uncomfortable, but it helped, too, so… I mean, if you guys are okay with it, I was thinking maybe we could—”
“A-are you sure that’s a good idea, Buffy? I mean, yeah, some air needs clearing, but you just got back, and you already did the air-clearing thing once tonight.”
Buffy smiled at Willow and said, “Pretty sure it’s not a good idea.. Pretty sure I’ve gotta do it anyway. But, you know, only if you guys want to. I’m the prodigal son, and I don’t want you all to resent me for running off and then coming back and acting like there’s nothing wrong.”
The others blinked in confusion. “You strike me as more of a daughter, Buff, but you’re not exactly a prodigy outside the field of kicking ass,” Xander said.
“She’s referring to the story of the prodigal son in the Bible,” Willow said with a slight frown. “But, but, since when did you make with the literary references?”
“Idunno. I’ve kinda been making with the mentorship the last week or so,” Buffy said with a shrug. “I guess it comes with the territory.”
“You mean with Faith?”
“And with Li— ah, with Anne before that. Girl in L.A., little older than us, but not so good at living on her own.” Buffy paused for a moment, thoughtfully tapping her chin. “Wait, isn’t the Prodigal Son in the New Testament, Rosenberg
“Well, yeah, but just ’cause I’m Jewish doesn’t mean I can’t study other religions.” They walked along in silence for a few more minutes before Willow said, “Look, Buffy, I appreciate the clearing the air offer, but I don’t think I can think of what I wanna say right now.”
“Yeah, me either. I think we need some time to get used to the idea of ‘Buffy’s back’ before we commit to ‘Buffy needs a good talking-to,’” Xander said. “And I notice the peanut gallery hasn’t said anything.”
“Nothing to say,” Oz said ironically.
“Yeah, we’re kinda peripheral on the Buffy thing,” Cordelia said. “You’re not exactly the center of our lives. It’s like, ‘Oh, look, Buffy’s back. Now, where’d I put my shoes?’”
Buffy laughed. “Yeah, it’s really just Willow and Xander who have reason to be mad at me. And my mom and Giles, but I think I’ve started the road back with them already. Just tell me when you’re ready and we’ll make time to work it out. You guys are important to me, and I really missed you when I was gone, and I don’t want to screw it up any worse than I already have.”
“Aw, we missed you, too!” Willow said, hugging Buffy around the waist.
“Cordy, don’t get jealous now, but I’m about to hug two women at once.”
Cordelia rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, go get it over with.” Xander grinned and complied.
“So,” he said once the group hug was over and he was back by Cordelia’s side where he belonged. “We’ve met Faith, and we’ve re-met the Buffster. Do we get to meet Lizzie next?”
“Lizzie?” Buffy said, confused for a moment. Suddenly, comprehension dawned on her, and she laughed. “Oh, Lizzie. Maybe. She’s not always so much fun, but I think I like her. Now, I think Mom’s probably had Faith alone for long enough; time to head home and see what’s left of the two of them.”
Buffy had said good night to her friends and returned home to find Faith sitting on a box and her mother on the phone. “What’s up?”
“Oh, we’ve apparently got ourselves an undead cat,” Faith said. “Your mom’s on the phone with your Watcher, trying to figure out what demon might cause spontaneous feline reanimation.”
“We sure it’s spontaneous? Where’d it come from?”
Faith shrugged. “Basement, I think. Your mom seems to think it must’ve crawled in one of the basement windows and died. Not sure why it un-died yet, so it looks spontaneous from here.”
Just then, the door crashed open and Buffy’s friends piled inside. “Ah, Buffy, you wouldn’t happen to know why there’s a bunch of violent zombies shuffling their way over here, would you?” Xander asked.
Buffy’s eyes widened, and she called over her shoulder, “Mom! Tell Giles there’s people, too!”
Faith smirked and said, “Wanna meet the inspiration for Phoebe’s most popular song?”
“Wait, you watch Friends
“Can it be avoided?”
“Good point.” Buffy turned back to her friends. “Did the zombies look like they were going anywhere specific, or were they just shuffling around?”
“They looked pretty much like they were heading right at us,” Xander said. “Dunno if that’s ’cause we’re tasty brains or on the way.”
Buffy looked out the window, then said, “Well, either way, it looks like they’re headed this way now. There’s too many windows here for us all to block; we’ll have to barricade ourselves into a single room.”
“We’ll use my room,” her mom said. “The bedrooms have a phone line, and it’s bigger than Buffy’s room. Mr. Giles, I’ll call you right back as soon as we’re barricaded in.” She dropped the phone in its cradle and started leading everyone upstairs just as something started pounding on the front door.
Once in Joyce’s bedroom, Buffy’s mother grabbed the phone and called Giles again. Buffy looked around, not having been in the room in months, and noticed that not much had changed except for the art on the walls, always a changing decoration, since there were always plenty of choices running through the gallery. As she glanced around, while everyone else started shoving the dresser in front of the door, Buffy noticed a slight flash out of the corner of her eye. Her head snapped to the side, and she found herself looking at an angry, toothy, wooden mask hanging on the wall.
“Mom? What’s up with the mask?”
“It came in with the latest shipment at the gallery. It’s a great shipment, lots of great African art.”
“So, traditional, then, not some fancy modern take on ancient stuff?”
“’Cause the eyes are glowing, and I’m guessing that it’s not electronic.”
Colonel O’Neill was just about to leave the briefing room when the phone rang again. He motioned for Daniel not to leave yet; since the last call had been to tell them the first group of Nasyans had returned to the mountain from the hospital, this one might also concern the Nasyans, and, therefore, Daniel, their diplomatic lead. He wished he could blame the Nasyans for all that had gone wrong in the last day, but it wasn’t their fault that their planet had been attacked while SG-1 was there. Nor was it, apparently, SG-1’s fault, although they couldn’t think of any other reason at the time. No, that thing
in Carter was to blame, both for leading the Goa’uld to P3X-382 and for hopping into Captain Carter when she tried to save his former host’s life.
Okay, he sympathised a little. His experiences in black ops had ingrained into him that survival was foremost, and the snake had apparently been trying to go to ground, not stirring up any trouble, when the Ashrak found it. Still, just because he understood where it was coming from didn’t mean he gave a damn about its life when compared to a member of his team, or even the unfortunate Nasyans who had gotten caught in the middle.
“Patch the security footage to the briefing room.” General Hammond turned to Colonel O’Neill. “Looks like we’ve found our Ashrak. The security overview noticed the man on the spot let through someone the handprint scanner didn’t recognize. They say it looked like he did something to the guard.” All three men turned to look at the briefing room monitor as the feed from a security camera came on, showing a line of men walking through the hallways of the base. “The man at the back, according to security.”
He looked no different than any of the other men in the line, an Air Force NCO in the camo BDUs and beret of an on-duty guard. That was probably because he was an assassin; they tended to like blending in. He’d done it himself once or twice, although he usually blended in as a civilian rather than in a foreign military. “We’re not gonna be able to separate him without drawing suspicion, are we?”
The general nodded. “And to confront him now would most likely cost all of those sergeants their lives. Unfortunately, I’m not certain I see much choice.”
“Wait a second, sir. I think I might have something.” O’Neill held up a hand, indicating that he was still thinking. His mind ran at a speed that showed why he was on the same command team as Daniel and Carter, even if his specialization was vastly different. The general allowed him to think, knowing that this was precisely why the colonel was his second in command.
“Okay, we let him get down to our level. Act like we don’t suspect a thing.”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Daniel asked. “I mean, we know what Goa’uld in general are capable of, and I can only imagine an assassin would be stronger, faster, and think on his feet.”
“Exactly. We know just how strong and fast a Goa’uld is. And we have a whole helluva lot more blast doors on this level.”
Edrekh mentally sneered at the pitiful security of the Tau’ri as he walked through their base, none aware that he was even there, let alone how to find him. With nothing more than a single use of the hara’kesh, he had walked right throut the front door. Soon, he would find and destroy the dishonorable Tok’ra, Jolinar of Malkshur. Kronos would be pleased, as would Selket.
His thoughts were interrupted by the blaring of an alarm klaxon. Had they found him after all, or did they only suspect? The men in front of him—for he had already begun to hang back in preparation for splitting off to look for his prey—reacted to the alarm by shouting and running forward towards a red line on the floor. He began to run with them, but as soon as the last man had passed the red line, a sheet of metal, a good six inches thick, dropped from the ceiling. He turned to look behind him, only to find a similar blockage in the tunnel behind him.
A speaker near the ceiling spoke in a deep voice. One could almost say “booming,” at least for one of the Tau’ri. “Ashrak, this is Major General George Hammond, commander of Stargate Command. You are now our prisoner.”
Edrekh allowed a smirk to escape to his host’s face. “So, you were aware of me.”
“From the moment you entered the base. Unfortunately, knowing the physical capabilities of the Goa’uld, we realized that we could not capture you through conventional means. Nor, frankly, can we hold you where you are without blocking a rather useful passageway. By the same token, we canot kill you without either risking your escape or doing damage to our blast doors that would be both expensive and time-consuming to repair. With that in mind, we are prepared to offer you a deal.”
“You will give me the Tok’ra Jolinar of Malkshur in exchange for leaving your base unharmed? My mission is only to kill this one who is not one under your responsibility. As an ashrak, I have no quarrel with the Tau’ri at the moment. My mission is only to kill the traitor.”
“Unfortunately, that is not an option either.” The voice did not seem to find this unfortunate. “Jolinar of Malkshur has sought sanctuary with the SGC, and I will not have him harmed in my base. However, he has also made it clear that he will not stay here permanently. What I propose is that we will offer you safe passage to the Stargate, where we will dial an address of your choosing. You may then enter the Stargate entirely unmolested. You can resume your pursuit as well as you are able after Jolinar of Malkshur has left this planet.”
“You realize that by doing this, you sign the death warrant of one you claim to protect,” Edrekh said, carefully examining the door. He was very much afraid that Major General George Hammond had spoken truly about his ability to escape while these doors remained in place. He might just have to take the offer, much as it galled him to be so outwitted by the Tau’ri. He had underestimated them. In the future, he would take their capabilities more seriously… and in so doing, he would destroy this Major General George Hammond himself, should he find himself without a mission. In his wiliness and ability, he had shown himself worthy of the personal attentions of an Ashrak, although he doubted the man would be pleased by those attentions.
“I realize that may be the case. Unfortunately, I do not see that I have much choice, and Jolinar will be leaving our protection along with our location. Truthfully, the only weapons we have that will kill you without an unacceptable loss of life on our part are the doors like those that block your path, and they do not move quickly enough to catch you under them.”
Edrekh thought a moment, then nodded. “Very well. I accept your arrangement.”
“I thought you might. While we spoke, my second in command has been ensuring that your path to the gateroom is clear. You will encounter none of my people along the way, and all side-corridors will be blocked by blast doors. You will see myself and some technicians when you enter the gateroom, but we will be behind reinforced glass you cannot penetrate—and neither can we. You will see weapon emplacements in the gateroom, but the weapons themselves will be removed. I might be willing to trick you into entering the room with those weapons, but I have a feeling you would notice them before entering their killzone.”
“I appreciate your candor, Major General George Hammond. You have acted honorably towards me. I will do the same. I warn you that, after I have killed Jolinar of Malkshur, I will come for you. The traitor may have warned you that I will torture her to death. This is true. However, as befitting the honor you have shown me, I will kill you quickly.”
“You are welcome to try,” the Tau’ri’s voice responded challengingly as the door in front of Edrekh opened. He followed the open passage deeper into the base. As he went, he passed a few conventional doors to either side, but he had sensed that the base commander had told him the truth in all particulars. The rooms behind those doors might contain valuable equipment he could destroy, but that was not his mission, and it might endanger the deal that would enable him to complete his mission, and they would likely not contain any viable exits.
As promised, he entered the gateroom unmolested. He approached the Chappa’ai, then turned to look through the reinforced glass at the technical team… and his enemy. Major General George Hammond must be the stocky man with no hair standing proudly, overlooking his people, and the second in command he had mentioned was probably the grey-haired taller man at his shoulder. Edrekh nodded his respect to the leader, then turned to the gate and began pointing out coordinates for his destination, an abandoned planet from which he could move on to a more hospitable one without leaving behind any trace for the Tau’ri to follow. Again as promised, the address he requested was dialled, and the gate was activated. He turned to nod once more to the Tau’ri commander, then walked into the gate.
Major General George Hammond had not lied when he said the blast doors were not fast enough to crush him. However, a beam sensor relays information at the speed of light, and the one installed a mere centimetre in front of the gate had only to relay a single bit: off. And the iris was meant to close off the gate with far greater speed than the wormhole of the Stargate itself. He had entered the gate unmolested, but was allowed no further. Well, half of him, anyway.
“Please, Buffy? This is my moment! Any hard feelings over the running away thing are gone if you let me do this! Pleeeeeease!”
Lizzie rolled her eyes while Faith looked on in awe. And she had thought she
took Slaying too casually. X-man had started begging the moment Giles had relayed how to defeat Ovu Mobani, and he and Lizzie had completely ignored the zombies pounding at the door to engage in their argument. “Fine, far be it from me to ruin your moment,” Lizzie acquiesced.
“Yes! Hah! Okay, deep breath.” It was Queen C’s turn to roll her eyes at her boyfriend’s antics. He stepped in front of the mask, then leaned back and playfully put up his dukes, bobbing about a bit as he recited lines from his favorite Three Stooges
sketches, ending with a dramatic and nasal, “Why I oughta!” and a picture-perfect two-fingered eye poke. With a psychic scream and a flash of light, the mask disintigrated, and the thump of zombies trying to break down the door was replaced with the thump of zombies collapsing to the ground.
“Happy?” Lizzie said, arms crossed over her chest in a way that Faith couldn’t help but notice pushed her boobs up in a fascinating way.
happy,” X-man said with a shit-eating grin on his face.
“Great. So, Mom, if you could please tell Giles that the threat is taken care of, the rest of us are gonna start cleaning up this mess.”
Lizzie grinned at X-man. “Those zombies didn’t come out of nowhere, Xander. The demon was calling them, but I doubt it was nice enough to take the corpses with it when it left. And I for one don’t want to have a bunch of corpses sitting around and rotting in my living room.”
“Shouldn’t they all disappear like the mask did?”
“Whattya think this is, a TV show?” Faith laughed at the thought. On TV everyone would want to watch the fight, but not the cleanup. Hell, she kinda wished it really did work that way; since it didn’t, she called dibs on the shower after corpse-hauling was over.
One thing Faith had learned early was that life went on. Whether after her mom brought a “client’ home, after being Called, after losing her Watcher, or after spending half the night dumping ex-zombies on the curb, life went on, and if there was crap to take care of the next day, well, she’d take care of it. So, while Lizzie started puttering around in the kitchen to stave off boredom, Faith found herself getting a ride to Sunnydale High to get enrolled. The principal was a chowderhead who seemed to think Lizzie and her mom were the scum of the earth, but he was easy enough to play: Lizzie had suggested while the cleanup was winding down that it might be a good idea to make Principal Snyder think that Faith was a cousin whose parents had died… and who hated her Californian family with a passion. She wanted to wash her hands afterwards, and Joyce embarrassed her by accepting her apology for the insults to her and her daughter and apologizing right back for making her go through with it, but she and Snyder bonded over their shared hatred of the Summerses. He was sure that her past record was past, and so long as she placed in the proper grade on some tests, she could slip right back into high school. He even gave her a week to study.
She certainly didn’t plan to tell him that Lizzie would be helping her get back up to speed; she hadn’t been the greatest student in the first place, and dropping out halfway through her sophomore year would not help at all. On the way out, she met with Lizzie, who was setting up something of a picnic in the park across the street from the school. The school grounds alone were more of a park than Faith was used to in Boston, and for all that she could see streets and buildings on all sides of the park from the school’s gates, it seemed positively rural to her. It was a little intimidating how much space there was here. In population, Sunnydale was tiny compared to Boston, but Hellmouth Town and Beantown covered almost he same area of land.
“You actually cooked?”
Lizzie looked up from her arrangements and grinned at her mom. “Well, I could only eat for free at the diner during a shift, and money was kinda tight in L.A. I can’t really do anything complicated, but I make a mean sandwich.”
Faith knelt down on Lizzie’s picnic blanket, picked up a sandwich, and made a show of examining it. “Idunno, this one looks outright friendly.” The warmth that bubbled up in her chest when Joyce and Lizzie both laughed was slightly uncomfortable, but not entirely unpleasant.
“Watch it, that sandwich’s heart is pure spicy mustard. Speaking of which, Mom, we may need more spicy mustard.”
“That’s quite a bit of food, Buffy. I know
you’re not going to be eating it all.”
“I thought I’d treat the gang, since they can leave campus for lunch this year.”
Joyce nodded. “You know, how about you invite them over for dinner tomorrow? A nice little get-together without zombies.”
“I’ll pass along the invitation.”
“Good. Okay, now, I’ve got to get to the gallery. Faith, do you want a ride home?”
“No, thanks, I’ll just hang with Lizzie and her friends for a bit.”
Joyce nodded again and kissed Lizzie’s forehead, then startled Faith by patting her on the shoulder before heading for her car. Faith tried to cover her reaction by fishing a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of her pocket. “You’re allowed to smoke in this park, right?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure,” Lizzie said, making a face.
“What, you gonna tell me they’re gonna kill me?”
“We’re probably not going to live to see twenty; I think a bit of smoke is the least of our problems. I just don’t like the smell.”
“Oh.” Faith hadn’t really thought about Lizzie’s feelings about smoking since she’d excused herself to go outside for a smoke on their little cross-country trip from Colorado. “Kinda my thoughts, except for the smell thing.”
“I bet that’s not what you were thinking when you started.”
“Well, maybe more like twenty-five.”
“Oh.” Lizzie dropped her eyes at the reminder of Faith’s life pre-Choosing. “Sorry.”
“No big. I figure, either you deal or you don’t deal, and dealing’s more my style.” She paused for a moment, then started to put the pack away again. She was still trying to hook herself a sister Slayer, after all, and literally blowing smoke in her face seemed like a bad idea.
Lizzie shook her head and reached out to catch Faith’s wrist before she reached her pocket. “It’s okay. We’re outside, and you just got out of a meeting with Snyder.”
“Are you gonna quit just for me? When I can’t even answer you yet?”
Faith was startled that Lizzie’d even brought it up, and flattered that she remembered. She dropped her eyes in embarrassment and said, “Well, no.”
“Then I’m gonna have to get used to it, aren’t I?” Lizzie announced, giving Faith’s hand one last squeeze, then going back to laying out her sandwiches.
“If this is just ’cause my childhood sucked—” Faith started, struggling not to touch the cold spot on her wrist where Lizzie’s hand no longer was.
“No, it’s because I hope you’ll stick around and I know you’re not going to quit smoking. The awkward
is because of your sucky childhood.”
Faith laughed and lit her cigarette, but she was careful to blow away from Lizzie.
Soon enough, Lizzie’s friends came ambling over, more in an amorphous mass than in the distinct pairs they’d been in when talking to Faith. They sat and started chatting, more with Lizzie than with Faith, but that made sense, since they were her friends.
Buffy was handing Oz a sandwich when a thought hit her with palpable force. “Um… Now that I think of it, maybe you shouldn’t be making with the smokage while Oz is here.”
Oz just gave Buffy an exasperated look and said, “I’m in a band.”
“Sorry, you’re right. I was just thinking, you know, werewolf nose.”
“Lizzie, seriously, if you don’t want me to—”
“No, that’s all I was thinking. Werewolf nose. Forgot he’s got to be used to way worse than just a cigarette or two.”
Red chose that moment to pipe up, frowning slightly. “Yeah, Oz plays at the Bronze, and people smoke there all the time. Inside, even! But you really shouldn’t smoke anyway. It’s bad for your health, you know. Ever seen one of those pictures of a smoker’s lungs?”
“Wills,” Lizzie said softly, “I really don’t think Faith is shortening her lifespan any.”
“Well, hey, I know Slayers make with the ultra-fast healing and all that, but—”
“Not what I meant.”
Red seemed to get it then, and she deflated, suddenly depressed. “Oh.”
Even Queen C seemed a little bummed, though that might have been been because X-man was. On the other hand, he seemed the sort to pick a conversation right back up when it was going downhill, and he latched on to Faith’s earlier comment. “Wait, ‘Lizzie?’ You’re calling Buffy ‘Lizzie?’ Why is Buffy Lizzie?”
“’Cause Buffy’s usually a nickname for Elizabeth,” Faith said with a negligent shrug, willing to change the subject if everyone else wanted to.
“But Buffy’s not Elizabeth. Buffy’s Buffy.”
“I know. That’s what makes it funny.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I don’t either,” Lizzie said with a smile Faith hoped she could call fondly exasperated, “but Faith likes nicknames, and she likes ’em unique. Plus, when we first met, she thought my name was
Elizabeth, since I kinda had to lie to make some government types think I was a Watcher.”
“But, the way you were going on about Lizzie, we thought she was some kind of superhero! I mean, you know for you, not just for us. A superhero’s superhero.”
“She was,” Faith said matter-of-factly. Way she saw it, Lizzie had swooped in like her guardian angel, plucked her from an inescapable mountain, took on her own greatest fear without a backward glance, and then let Faith be the one to kill that fear, without once being insulting enough to acknowledge that Faith was afraid. Okay, so maybe that was a bit much in the way of hero worship, but it wasn’t undeserved, and it wasn’t like Lizzie hadn’t shown her vulnerable side or acknowledged her faults. She just didn’t let them get in the way of doing what needed to be done, and that was an attitude Faith could respect.
She also noticed that Lizzie had some trouble accepting just how awesome that made her, so she had to tread a little more carefully now that she wasn’t talking behind her back. Huh, that made it sound worse than it was, like what she was saying behind Lizzie’s back wasn’t singing her praises. She should think more about what she should say with or without the other Slayer present. “Lizzie showed up dressed like a lawyer to deal with those government guys,” she said, choosing her words carefully, “and then, soon as it hit the fan, we was both off, runnin’ through the woods, goin’ down the mountain faster than a car could, and we plowed through vampires left and right, like they wasn’t even there, ’til we got to Kakistos. Then, she’s in there, fightin’ this monster, one on one, and the plan was for one of us to fight him and the other stake him while he was distracted, but let me tell ya, I’da been pissin’ myself if it were me doing the distracting.” Faith nodded, both to emphasize her point and in satisfaction at the faint relief on Lizzie’s face that she wouldn’t be getting solo credit for the fight.
Next best thing to figuring out why Lizzie seemed so uncomfortable with that well-deserved praise.