Summary: Post AtS and BtVS, Faith and Xander are approached by a secret government agency. Surprises all around.
Rating: PG-13, mostly for violence and non-kiddy-friendly themes. It'll probably be kept down to a PG level for most chapters, but I do tend to jump up and throw out the violence at the oddest times.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters.
A/N: Hopefully not just another post-Angel post-Buffy fic.
Chapter 1: Old faces, new places
The city of Boston was, for all its large, sprawling suburbs, essentially one large demon playground at night. It had more than enough shaded areas and underground tunnels for any number of vampires to hide in during the day, not to mention an unusually high number of cemeteries—mostly of the kind so old that huge mausoleums were the rule, not the exception—for vampires to rule and dominate.
The small red Oldsmobile parked next to one of the largest and oldest cemeteries was out of place. Most Bostonians knew better than to hang around cemeteries after dark—although the excuse they would use would involve the words 'gangs,' 'drugs,' and even possibly 'guns,' not words like 'vampires' and 'demons.'
It was the latter reasons that brought these two here.
The driver, a short, petite woman with raven-black hair and too much eye makeup, sat quietly. She was a Vampire Slayer, and it was her Sacred Calling to be here. Which, considering the way she looked at these things, meant that she was sublimely bored, and would probably have done anything to be somewhere else.
The man was, despite the time he'd spent with her over the past few months, still more than a little nervous about spending time with her. She'd tried to kill him more than once in the past, and it didn't tend to breed trust.
"So, what's your plan?" he asked. The eyepatch he wore over his left eye was a garish purple, one that he'd recently received from Italy as a gift. Faith was pretty sure it was supposed to be just a gag gift, but didn't say anything.
"I slay, we book," said Faith, keeping to as few words as possible. She wished she hadn't broken up with Robin Wood a few months past. If she had realized that doing so would end up with Giles pairing her off with 'Watcher in training' Xander Harris, she would have even put up with Robin's chauvinistic attitudes and mother-related issues. Indefinitely.
But she wasn't really a patient sort of person, and she'd dumped him. And now she was stuck hauling Xander Harris around with her, the one man she'd done the most damage to, and possibly the one man in the world who could intimidate her.
It was an intimidation that had nothing to do with his physical presence. She could kill him with her pinky, she was pretty sure. It had everything to do with the past, and the pain that she'd inflicted on him.
Worse, he didn't even seem to realize the effect he had on her. He acted the same as always—except for crying jags when he thought she wasn't looking, the occasional bender, and multiple attempts to throw himself into frays that were just a little too dangerous.
She got out of the car, checking to make sure she had a stake. Xander followed her, a little slowly. He still had balance issues with his missing eye, which also annoyed her to no end. He was always slowing her down, so that she had to walk when she'd rather run.
And it wasn't his fault, and it was fairly awful of her to resent him for missing an eye. And that made her even madder, that she had no right to resent him for it.
There was a rustling from the cemetery, and Faith looked up, instantly alert. A vampire, acting very scared, almost panicked, ran at them. He didn't say a word, jumping at them with a desperate attack.
Faith moved in front of Xander automatically, punching the vampire in the face. As he rocked back she brought the stake out in the right hand, swinging at his chest. He caught her arm, holding her back, and she kicked him in the groin. As he rocked back she staked him, ending the fight as quickly as possible.
She'd kept the fight quick and moving away from her Watcher, not wanting to let Xander get hurt. The last thing she needed was to have to report to Giles that she'd gotten his favorite new Watcher hurt.
As the vampire was reduced to a cloud of dust commandos appeared all around them, guns in hand. These commandos were decked out from head to foot in black, and wore night vision goggles, obscuring their eyes.
"Whoa," said Xander. "Flashback." He glanced around at the motionless commandos, who were in a circle around the Slayer and her Watcher.
Faith's eyes narrowed and her off-stake hand tightened into a fist. After her jailbreak she had always expected the men with guns to show up eventually, but they hadn't. Even during her continent-hopping the meager influence of the new Council had kept her passport clean.
Not a week back in the states, and she was already on wrong end of the guns.
She glared out at them from under her protective layers of eye makeup, and tried to decide whether or not beating them all up would be a good thing, or a bad thing. After all, if they were rogues, like the ones that Buffy had fought (she'd only heard the stories) then it was okay to hurt them. And Xander seemed to think there was a similarity.
They stood waiting silently, and she glanced around the Boston cemetery. Had they been waiting for her? What, exactly, was their deal here?
She waited, in what was a show of extreme patience, for her. Xander was uncharacteristically silent, doubtless trying to call on long dormant memories. She wasn't sure what exactly he meant by "soldier memories," but he'd mentioned them once before. She wondered if he'd been a member of the...what had Buffy called it? Something with an 'I.'
Then a car pulled up behind their Olds, and a tall man stepped out. Faith glanced back at him, and was surprised to see that, despite new scars, she recognized him. "Riley Finn," she said, wondering if this was proof that there was a God, and He hated her.
Xander turned around, staring. "Riley?!" he exclaimed, caught off guard.
"Xander?" said Riley, a little fazed. He glanced to Faith, frowning. "I don't know you, do I?" he asked.
She shrugged, remembering that he, of course, would not remember her face. Perhaps her name. "What do you want?" she asked. If they didn't know her name, then this wasn't about the men she had killed, and she was even more confused than ever.
Riley straightened up. "We've been looking for a Slayer," he said. "We noticed the ... sudden explosion in the Slayer population."
"And I'm the first one you've found?" she asked, reveling in the irony.
"No," he said. "We've found several. But none that were particularly willing to talk to us." He was still frowning, surprised she knew his face. "We'd like to offer you a job, if you're interested."
"I already have a job," she dismissed his concern. "A sacred calling, you might say."
"We pay better," said Riley, managing to keep a straight face as he said it. Xander remained silent.
She eyed the soldiers all around them. "So you're trying to recruit a Slayer to help you out with your commando duty."
He looked like a hero, like a solid up-right sort of guy. And she knew for a fact that he was a cuddler. And he attended Church. It was freakish, in a very nice sort of way. It was also something she had no intention of getting any closer to.
Sure, she had been reformed, joined the side of the angels. But that didn't change the underlying facts. She was Faith, the rogue Slayer, not Faith, the government Slayer.
Xander coughed. "We can't make any commitments, of course," he said quietly. "But I'd very much like to hear what you have to offer." He glanced at the commandos. "We're in the same business, after all. Maybe a little...professional courtesy is in order." He hesitated before the word professional, and Faith nearly laughed, barely holding her poker face on.
Riley nodded seriously. "It's nothing like the Initiative," he said, extending his hand to shake Xander's. Xander took it, nodding, and Riley offered his hand to Faith, who just stared at it.
She had her limits.
Riley cleared his throat, taking the hand back. "Would you like to take a ride to headquarters?"
"Uh, can we follow you in our car?" asked Xander.
"We can't get there by car," said Riley. "I have a stealth chopper waiting for us."
Xander blinked. "Sure," he said.
They walked back to the chopper, which was inside the cemetery, of course, with more soldiers standing guard over it. As Faith stepped up into the chopper she noted that the guards were alert, keeping watch for anything attacking.
She didn't like this plan at all, but she always deferred to Xander. It had driven Buffy insane, but Faith didn't want to push him. He'd been through quite a bit, and she still wasn't convinced that he wouldn't break at any minute and give up on her altogether.
Although right now, with him delivering them over to Riley and these soldiers, she was beginning to wonder if maybe Buffy was right.
The ride was short, and they were silent for most of the trip.
When they arrived, somewhere to the north of Boston, in a hilly, wooded area, Faith stared at the tiny wooden shack they were led to. "It's an underground base?" she asked.
"Well, we needed to keep it secret," said Riley apologetically. "We've expanded the paranormal side of the operations—and we discourage any experimentation on demons. The whole Adam fiasco was more than enough evidence that we can't use that sort thing for our own purposes."
"And you'd like a Slayer of your own," said Faith combatively, stepping into the shack. Inside it was a spacious elevator. Riley stepped in with Xander, and hit the bottom button.
"We'd like the cooperation of the Slayers. Perhaps the Watchers as well," said Riley. "We have many resources we can offer to your organization."
"We're always looking for allies," admitted Xander. "But we'd be extra-cautious about allying with you—a little Initiative-shy, you might say." His usual humor seemed entirely gone, something Riley noted.
"Are you all right, Xander?" he asked. Xander waved the question away.
"Just a little more grown-up," he said, a little bitterly. "So, you have a whole magic and research department now, eh?"
"And we're training our men in handling vampires," said Riley. "We call them by their names, and we try to keep it all realistic."
"Realistic?" snorted Faith.
"How's Sam?" asked Xander, changing the subject.
"Sam's fine. We'll see her later, when we drop into the tech department," said Riley. "How's Anya?"
Xander was silent for a second. "She didn't make it," he said finally.
"I'm sorry," said Riley, and Faith was surprised to hear sincerity in his voice. "Um, for now, I thought we could start with an introduction." He offered his hand to Faith again. "I'm Riley Finn, commander of this little operation."
"Faith," she offered to him with a sneer.
He dropped the hand, his eyes narrowing. "Faith?" It was pretty clear that he did remember, and Faith sighed. He frowned deeply, remembering the brief glimpse he'd had of her, and clearly matching face to name for the first time.
Xander frowned, not getting it. He had, after all, more or less missed their first meeting. "Um, Riley—?"
"This is Faith, the rogue Slayer?" asked Riley flatly.
Xander grimaced. "Not so much rogue these days," he said carefully. "I don't mean to be jumping and conclusion-making, but I take it you've met."
"Briefly," said Riley. "And she...wasn't herself."
"Oh," said Xander, trying to remember. If they'd met when Faith stole Buffy's body, and Riley was Buffy's girlfriend then... "So, you're in charge here?" He changed the subject again, a little desperately this time.
Riley shook himself, turning to Xander. "Yeah, I'm really the most experienced demon fighter the army has, it turns out. And I even know one of the Slayers...well, two of the Slayers, I guess." He turned away. "We have a, um..." He trailed off as the elevator stopped. "Listen, there are a few...odd things...down here. I should explain, but..."
The doors slid open to reveal a long, empty corridor, lit by cold, fluorescent lights. At the end a man stood, wearing a long leather jacket that swept down to the floor. His hair was a shocking bleached blonde, and Xander immediately squinted at him in surprise.
"Spike?" he said, surprised.
"Didn't he die?" asked Faith, not quite surprised.
Riley was frowned. "What are you doing here?" he asked, stepping forward.
Spike glowered at him, looking at the Slayer and Watcher behind him. "Heard you finally found a Slayer willing to come back with you," he said. "I thought we might get started early. Hello, Faith. Xander." He turned away from them and started walking away.
"What, thought it might be Buffy?" asked Xander, still surprised to see Spike.
Spike didn't respond, the sound of his boots hitting metal echoing down the hall.
"Sorry about that," said Riley. "He's a little odd about anything having to do with Sunnydale these days."
"What did he mean, get started?" asked Faith suspiciously. Riley sighed.
"I had hoped to save that for later," he said. "But he obviously doesn't want to wait." Riley started down the hall. "He came to us four months ago. At first I didn't trust him at all, but he kept telling me the same thing. That he had a plan."
"And you need a Slayer for this plan?" asked Faith, still not trusting any of this.
"I thought at first that he meant he wanted Buffy here, until he told me about the spell you'd cast," said Riley tightly. "He's refused to consider any other course of action, although he's been a big help to us."
"What is the plan?" asked Xander.
"He wants to destroy one of the biggest demon organizations on the planet and break into hell," said Riley.
Xander considered that. "And he needs a Slayer because...?"
Spike was waiting for them, leaning against the wall at the end of the corridor. "Because I tried it without a Slayer, and it didn't work," he said flatly. "This lot won't do, Finn. Send them away, tell them it was a stupid idea."
"What?" said Xander, surprised. "Why not?"
Spike shrugged, turning and walking away from them again. Faith glowered at him. "What is up with him?"
"He doesn't like being around people these days," Riley said apologetically. "Um, anyway, would you guys like something to eat? We have a cafeteria further along with food that's almost real...pretty good, really."
"Sure," said Xander. "Why won't we do?"
Riley shrugged. "He doesn't make a lot of sense," he said. "We've had to work very hard to get anything at all out of him. He's, um..."
"Crazy?" asked Xander, remembering all too well the post-soul days when Spike had stayed with him.
"Maybe," said Riley, leading down a number of different turns. "But he's been invaluable in moving this program forward."
"Translation: he kills things," said Xander, grimacing.
"Uh, yeah," said Riley. "If we can get him to go outside, which hasn't happened except for once." He led them into a brightly lit room with a buffet at one end. "Help yourself," he said. "I'll be right back."
As he half-jogged down another hallway Faith grabbed a tray. "I can't believe we're doing this!" she hissed at Xander. "Are you out of your mind?"
"A little bit," said Xander. "I can't believe it. Spike's alive." He snorted. "Undead, anyway. Why am I not surprised?" He grabbed a tray angrily. "Giles said we need to explore every possible ally we come into contact with."
There was a sound behind him, and he turned, not entirely surprised to see Spike standing there, fidgeting. "Nice to see you too," said Spike sarcastically. "Okay, maybe you lot could work, but you have to promise not to get in touch with Buffy, all right?"
Xander stared at Spike, taking in the gaunter than usual cheeks, the wild eyes, and the hair that, though as bleached as ever, was messy and looked greasier than usual. "Hi, Spike," he said coolly. "Back from the dead? I thought the first thing you'd do is run to Buffy."
Spike shrugged. "Call me a changed man," he said with a dark smile. He turned to Faith. "We're talking about something big, something epic. Do you think you could handle that?"
She snorted, eyeing Spike carefully. He looked dangerous to her, in a way that he hadn't in Buffy's basement. Dangerous. Unhinged. "You want us to help you kill some demons and break into hell?"
He closed his eyes. "Something like that," he said, measuring his words carefully, as if unsure what he could say. "There's a big problem in the world, and we're fighting a losing battle. Of course, they keep the Slayers out of it pretty well, thanks to the whole conspiratorial air surrounding the whole thing." He began to lose it then, his quavering the words coming out faster and faster. "And they'll kill you if you let them, destroy you. Do you have any idea what...?!" He stopped, cutting himself off, looking down and away from them.
It took him a moment to visibly reign himself back under control, during which he backed slowly away from them. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "But I haven't been...well. There are others...a team I've been assembling. Some of them...I've told some of them. It took a long time. Perhaps...perhaps you could ask them."
Riley entered the room at a half jog. "Spike!" he said, reaching out for the blonde's arm.
Spike whipped around, jumping out of Riley's reach, scowling. "Keep your hands off me!" he yelled, his voice high and desperate.
Riley lifted his hands. "Sorry, sorry," he said quickly. "Maybe you should go back to your room, okay?"
Spike glared at him, and then glanced back to Xander and Faith. "I'm not insane," he said. "Not really. I've been insane. This isn't at all like it." He stuffed his hands into his pockets. "And I really hate this." He stalked away angrily, his boots clanking on the floor as he went.
"Sorry about that," said Riley. "Um, I asked Major Hartley to call Spike's team in. They can explain this a lot better than I can."
"Team?" asked Faith, frowning.
The first person through the door looked very familiar, but Faith couldn't place him at all. He was just a kid, a teenager with messy hair wearing an orange shirt and baggy pants. He gave her a look that she didn't even bother returning, one that was unsure and flirtatious at the same time.
"Faith," he said, surprised, and she looked back at him, frowning. She couldn't place him at all; she wasn't even sure she'd ever actually met him. "Uh, you probably don't remember me," he said, smiling.
Faith shook her head. "Nope, not a bit," she said.
He nodded. "Makes you wonder," he sighed. "I assume you've met the crew?"
"The crew?" said Faith, not understanding.
Riley shrugged. "We have a few, um, demons," he said, embarrassed.
"What?" said Xander.
"Well, they're Spike's friends," said Riley defensively. "Part of the team."
"Hey, it's cool," said the teenager. "Um, I'm Connor, Connor Reilly." He extended his hand to Xander. Xander took it slowly.
"Xander Harris. Why is it cool? How is it cool?" Xander asked, frowning.
"It's only Harm and Dru, really," said Connor.
Xander backed up. "Wait, wait. Harmony? Drusilla? VAMPIRES?!" He was looking freaked out.
"Yeah, but no big," shrugged Connor. "If they start getting out of line, I can slap them down."
Harmony sulked into the room. "I hate fluorescent lights," she said. "They destroy my complexion. Oh, hi, Xander." She rolled her eyes. "God, I really am stuck with the losers, aren't I?"
"Ah!" yelled Xander, backing up. "Vampire! Vampire roaming free!"
Harmony rolled her eyes again, leading Faith to wicked thoughts of how those eyes could get stuck that way. Faith pulled the stake back out of her waistband. "That's one problem I can fix in a hurry," she said with a grin.
"Whoa! Slayer!" said Harmony, throwing her hands in the air and backing up. Riley moved in front of Faith.
"Harmony's working with us to—oof!" Faith's left arm slammed into his chest, knocking him back and to the side, and she moved forwards towards Harmony.
Connor moved forward, grabbing Faith's arm. "You might want to move that, junior," said Faith, giving him a patented 'you are so dead' look.
He punched her in the face.
As Faith flew through the air and slammed into the buffet, sending plates and food flying, she realized two things. One, the kid hit like a Mack truck. Two, he was going down.
She tossed the stake aside, coming up as fast as she could, scrambling out of the food and towards the kid. She snapped a kick at him, and he ducked under it, spinning and punching. She blocked each punch.
She knew he wasn't a vampire, but whatever he was, he was good. His powers weren't quite up to hers, but he made up for it with some wicked moves, and determination that she hadn't seen in any fighter since...Angel.
He caught her fist in his right hand. "Are you sure you want to do this? Harm's just about as harmless as a vampire gets, unless you count the soul-bearing kind. And—"
She punched him in the face, rocking him back. He shook his head, scowling, and kicked her, knocking her back onto her butt. "Or we can rock the joint, whatever."
"All right, stop!" said Riley. He had a gun in his hand. It wasn't a normal gun, in that it didn't seem to have a barrel, but Connor stopped. "This is a stungun. It works with directed sonic waves. It'll give you a really, really bad headache when you wake up, so I'd avoid it, if I were you," said Riley seriously.
Faith glowered at him, then glanced to Xander, who met her gaze. She tried to convey the message 'this is all your fault' through telepathy, and then stood up.
"Well, I can see that we're all gonna be friendly," said Riley, lowering the gun. "That's good. Listen, um, maybe Connor better explain about the vampires."
"I'll help!" Said Harmony.
Faith glared at her. "Why don't you just get gone, okay?" she asked. "That's about all we'll be needing from you."
Xander nodded uncertainly. "Yeah, what she said." He was sweating, noted Faith. That wasn't a good sign.
Connor frowned. "Harm, why don't you go help the guys hold onto Dru for a while, okay? And if you see Spike, uh...well, just keep your distance."
Xander stared at Connor. "Okay, you look human, but I just saw you go toe to toe with a Slayer. A very strong Slayer who doesn't back down easily. And you knocked her on her butt."
Connor sighed, grabbing a chair and sitting on it backwards, his arms crossed on the back, in front of his chest. "We have a mission," he said slowly. "It's kind of an important mission. And we're going to need some help."
A/N: Connor, Spike, Faith, Xander, Drusilla, and Harmony? Not to mention Riley? Sounds like a bad soap opera.