A/N: It took a while, but I've gotten over my minor bit of writer's block re: what to do with Faith in this story (or, more honestly, how to do it). So, yay me. Meanwhile, The Road Less Traveled has snuck by 10,000 views here on FFN, and The Witch and the Warrior has blasted past 20,000. I'm pretty humbled by how many people are reading my stories, y'all. Thanks!
Buffy successfully snuck into her house, having spent most of the night sleeping with Xander after a dual patrol-and-training session (and this time the sleeping was actual sleep for once), but paused before going into the bathroom upstairs. For whatever reason, the light from the television in her mother's bedroom caught Buffy's eye, and she crept in to take a look.
"…..fishermen discovered the body today, the victim of a brutal stabbing…."
Watching both the TV and her mother, Buffy was oddly transfixed by the news of this seemingly non-Hellmouthy news story. That weird feeling only increased with the revelation that it was Sunnydale's Deputy Mayor, Allan Finch, who had been killed, and with the Mayor's stern promise of retribution.
"Oh, honey," replied Joyce, finally noticing that Buffy was there. "You're home…." Luckily, she was too preoccupied with the horrible news on the TV to scold her daughter. "It's just terrible-isn't it?"
Buffy, still taken aback by the news herself, could only nod silently.
That morning, Buffy passed Cordelia on the way to the library, and paused as she was completely ignored by Queen C, who looked starstruck. "What's her deal?" thought Buffy aloud as she entered the library to find a decidedly tense situation.
"Why do you insist on ignoring this?"
Buffy groaned. Wesley. And he was upset, probably about Balthazar. Despite the disgust, she walked into the library and watched Giles and Wesley spar verbally.
"It's clearly an act of human malice," argued Giles. "I don't see why you seem intent on wasting Faith's or even Buffy's-" The librarian paused as he noticed that Buffy was now present, and flashed her a fatherly smile as he greeted her. "Oh, hello, Buffy."
Buffy couldn't help but smile in a daughterly fashion as she returned the greeting. "Hi." However, she was all business as she glanced at Wesley before asking, "What's the sitch?"
"Deputy Mayor Finch has…."
"…..been murdered," finished the former Slayer. Explaining herself, Buffy said, "Mom was watching it on the news when I got back from Xander's house. She was pretty upset about it. But not, 'Let's burn Buffy and Willow at the stake upset.' 'Cause that would be awkward to go through that again."
"Yes, I can see how that would be uncomfortable," agreed Giles, remembering his own encounter with MOO. "How are, uh….things, with Xander, anyhow?"
Buffy couldn't help but swoon a little at the mention of her boyfriend. With a far-off look and a goofy grin on her face, she said, "Wonderf-" However, Buffy quickly snapped back into the present and said with a warm smile, "Good. It's really good."
"I'm happy to hear that," answered Giles. "And how about Willow? Does she-"
Buffy cut off her former Watcher with a nervous fit of energy. "She's OK!" But her expression faded after catching Giles' look of skepticism. "She doesn't know about…..everything, though."
"I'm far from one to be giving relationship help, but you know as well as I do how secrets have a habit of…."
"…not staying secret?" finished Buffy. "I know, it's just that I don't want to lose Will. I promised her I wasn't going to steal away Xander from her. Multiple times."
"I don't doubt you, Buffy," replied Giles, "but Willow has chosen to be with Oz, so I'm sure-"
"As interesting as this all must be, I think we should be concentrating our efforts on solving the murder of Mr. Finch."
Buffy and Giles shared a quick look in which they communicated their mutual contempt for Wesley before glaring right at him. "And if you're so determined to solve this crime, Watson, why don't you have Faith Sherlock out the answer while the rest of the Scoobies fight some real evil?"
"I have a better idea: why don't you and your groupies get out of my way?"
Buffy whirled around to face Faith, who looked upset enough to punch through the checkout counter. But, there was something else that she just couldn't place, something…off. "Faith, I'm just trying to..."
"For the last time, B," snarled Faith. "Get. Off. My. Back. I don't need you or your little friends to help me. I'm the Slayer, not you."
Clearing his throat awkwardly, Wesley reiterated, "Faith, I must insist that you look into the murder of Mr. Finch. Be it 'Natural' or 'Super' in nature, I want to know."
Faith seemed to freeze for the briefest of moments, which caught the attention of Buffy and Giles, who shared a glance before listening to her shaky reply. "Yeah, I got it. Find the killer, save the day."
Wesley caught onto something wrong with his Slayer, and asked with something approaching compassion, "Is everything alright, Faith?"
"You know me," she answered, her voice wavering just enough to cause Buffy to worry, "Five by five."
"Alright, then," declared the new Watcher after Faith had turned around and headed towards the door.
While Wesley returned to whatever it was that he normally did, the former Slayer and Watcher shared a worried glance.