In Loco Parentis

Summary: During the events of "This Year's Girl," Faith takes a detour to visit her old Watcher.

Disclaimer: All of these characters remain the property of their owners/creators. I just thought that Giles and Faith should talk out some old issues.

Rating: PG-13, for language and themes.

Time Frame: During "This Year's Girl" (alternate time line).

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

IN LOCO PARENTIS


Giles walked up to his front door, irritated at the lack of success that they had all had in locating Faith. Buffy's description of the confrontation that she and Willow had with the rogue Slayer was not encouraging. . .she seemed to be out for revenge, and that did not bode well for any of them. Spike's threat to act as an informant and make their lives even more hectic, though probably empty (as if the pillock would approach Faith when he couldn't fight back. . .not unless he had a serious death wish) served as a climax to their frustration. Xander had gone back home, after purchasing a formidable deadlock for his door: Giles had to agree that additional security was a good idea, particularly since everyone and his brother seemed to be able to break into his flat. . .

Giles opened his front door, walked in, and groped for the light switch, only to find that it didn't work. Mumbling to himself, he carefully moved forward. . .only to have the lights abruptly come on, revealing Faith sitting comfortably in one of his chairs. She smiled and called out, "Hey, Giles."

Giles, with great effort, restrained himself from the stream of curses that came to mind, and managed to reply in a relatively even tone, "Hello, Faith. . .to what do I owe this pleasure?"

Faith smiled and replied, "Smooth, Giles. . .I always liked that about you. . .calm and collected even when you must be thinking I'm here to gut you like a trout."

Giles noted that, while her words were harsh, her tone was not, and he wondered at that as he admitted, "The thought had occurred to me, Faith. . .I see you still have the key I gave you."

Faith nodded, smiling wistfully, "I've never used it before. . .I always appreciated the fact that you gave it to me, even if I never felt inclined to crash on your couch rather than live in my fabulous accommodations at the local fleabag."

Giles winced, cursing once again at the parsimonious fools on the Council who refused to provide Faith with sufficient funds to get her own apartment. . .it wasn't as if apartments were pricey in Sunnydale. He noted that her tone was still non-confrontational, and decided to keep things civil: "How are you feeling?"

Faith stretched like a cat, then replied, "Pretty good. . .comas aren't as bad as TV makes them out to be. Fought a little with B today, then ran around town dodging cops, and wound up here. . .running into three uninvited guests in your place. . .you should really get better locks, Giles." She pointed behind the couch, and Giles walked over to see three bruised and unconscious men that he recognized immediately, provoking an involuntary curse.

Faith laughed and commented, "I'm guessing you know who these jokers are?"

Giles nodded and replied, "Retrieval team from the Watchers' Council. They do the more active jobs that the Slayer is unable or unsuited to perform." He left it at that, hoping she would not ask the next obvious question, but Faith had never been that slow on the uptake.

"Hmm. . .like bagging rogue Slayers and maybe whacking them if they don't act nice?" Faith's tone was amused rather than hostile, and Giles nodded reluctantly. After a moment, Faith began laughing, and it was a minute or so before she was able to stop and ask, "Giles, how did the world survive all of these centuries with those clowns running the defense for the good guys?"

Giles laughed involuntarily, then replied honestly, "Faith, there are more than a few times I've wondered that myself." Sobering quickly, he turned back to Faith and asked, "So, Faith. . .you seem to have things under control here. . .what would you like to see happen now?"

Faith nodded and laughed, "Keeping the crazy chick happy. . .all part of the proper procedures. All right, drag those three idiots into your storage room and make sure those ropes are tight. I want to talk to you without eavesdroppers, and my guess is that they'd lie to make things hotter for you anyway."

Giles complied, not minding in the least. * Bloody fools are lucky to be alive at all. . .typical Council bungling. * He saw a couple of weapons that he had stored in the room and briefly considered arming himself, but after a moment of reflection he decided to hear what she had to say; after all, the longer he delayed whatever plans she had for him, the more likely that Buffy or some other assistance might arrive, and he was not sanguine about his chances of defeating Faith even with heavy artillery. He exited the room and closed and locked the door, turning to see Faith watching him curiously.

The Slayer smiled and commented, "Good. . .you didn't grab one of those weapons. . .nice to know that you're still predictable."

Giles suppressed a moment of irritation, then replied, "Faith, we both know you could defeat me effortlessly unless I had an automatic weapon or perhaps the tranquilizer gun, and even then the smart money would be on you. Now, I gather that you wanted to speak to me. . .you have the floor." He sat on the couch and looked up at the young woman that had caused him so much heartache in the last year.

She sprawled in the chair opposite to him, and looked at him for a long moment before asking, "Giles. . .why didn't you just turn me over to Wesley the Weasel and the Council goons when you had the chance? I had just killed someone, tried to pin it on B, and seriously damaged Xander. . .why didn't you just give up on me?"

Giles was surprised at the question: Faith seemed neither angry nor apologetic. . .just curious. He took a long moment, then replied honestly, "Because both Buffy and I felt you were worth trying to salvage, Faith. Finch's death was an accident: no matter how irrationally and irresponsibly you dealt with it, that still remained the truth. Buffy was willing to set aside your attempt to pin the blame on her if it would help save you. . .and Xander. . .you know him. When he told us about your 'connection', Buffy warned him not to go. . .that you wouldn't assign much meaning to that encounter, but he didn't listen. . .I believe he genuinely thought he could rescue you. . .your reaction wounded him deeply, but he still wanted you to come back to what he saw as your old self."

Faith blinked, and commented, "Yeah. . .I screwed that up. . .I'm so used to doing the nasty with losers who don't have anything else on their mind. . .but I knew his history; hell, he had saved my ass the night we did it, from one of those Apocalypse bitches who could have ripped him into mulch without much effort. He tried to tell me he was trying to look out for me, but I wasn't having any of it." She looked at him and commented, "For what it's worth, I meant it when I told Angel that I wasn't going to kill him. . .but I did mean to scare the hell out of him, and I guess that really isn't that much better." She frowned and changed the subject abruptly: "That reminds me: how long has B been seeing the Clean Marine? I guess the eternal tormented love between Angel and B wasn't so eternal after all, huh?"

Giles glared at her and replied coldly, "You did your part in insuring that, Faith." He proceeded to describe in detail the events that occurred immediately after Faith went into her coma. Faith listened intently and nodded occasionally. When Giles finished, she whistled and commented, "You can miss a lot when you're comatose." She shook her head and noted, "It took some serious nerve for B to take that kind of risk. . .guess it paid off for her." She laughed and commented, "You know, I figured you guys would come up with some way to save Angel. . .the whole point was to keep you distracted, not pissed off and vengeful. " She smiled ruefully and concluded, "Guess that plan went wrong, huh?"

Giles nodded, his eyes still hard, and commented, "I appreciate your need to catch up on things, Faith, but why have you come to me for news. . .aren't you afraid that Buffy will show up?"

Faith smiled and replied, "I was pretty mad when I ran into B and Red today, and I made a few threats. . .my guess is that she's keeping a close eye on the Clean Marine and Joyce. . . I thought about them, but he's probably got a bunch of soldier buddies with big guns-" she smiled wickedly at the images that that particular phrase suggested, "-and I don't really have any beef with Joyce. . .she was always nice to me, and I don't really want to see her now that she probably hates my guts. Have I made the same mistake coming here to you, Giles. . .do you hate me as much as Willow and B do?"

Giles looked at her for a long moment: honesty warred with his sense of loyalty violently before honesty narrowly won out. He coughed self-consciously and replied, "I hated you for some time, Faith. . .your actions were treacherous in the extreme, and endangered the lives of the people I care about most in the world. . .not to mention thousands of people in Sunnydale. However, we succeeded in defeating the Mayor, and seeing you lying in that bed had a great deal of impact on me. . .and Buffy. She visited you weekly for months, you know. . .that's why the hospital knew to contact her. . .and I went with her a couple of times. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I'm still angry. . .but what I mostly am is concerned. Buffy had hoped that you would regain some perspective while you were incapacitated. . .that you would be willing to listen to reason and become a positive force in the world again. . .she was very upset at your reaction."

Faith scowled and retorted, "Getting stabbed in the gut and put in a coma for eight months tends to make you a little pissed-off, you know? I get so sick of all of her self-righteous crap. . ."

Giles raised an eyebrow and noted, "That has been evident for quite some time." Faith gave him an irritated look, and Giles continued, "Faith, may I ask you something?"

The Slayer blinked in surprise and replied, "Yeah, Giles, what did you want to know?"

Giles looked at her for a long moment, then asked, "When you were trying to pin the blame on Buffy for Finch's death, why didn't you go to Wesley? He hadn't known Buffy any longer than he had known you. . .and he would have been much easier to fool. . .why come to me?"

Faith stared at him, then replied bluntly, "I didn't trust the little weasel. . .I trusted you. . .I always trusted you. . .didn't you know that?"

Giles removed his glasses and polished them, never taking his eyes off of Faith, then replied, "I wasn't sure if you ever trusted anyone, Faith. . .to be honest, I was surprised you were willing to stay with me after Buffy's Cruciamentum. . .after I betrayed her."

Faith looked into Giles' eyes and saw genuine guilt there, and she was moved to reply, "Yeah. . .I was pretty pissed off about hearing the whole story. . .but B talked to me about it. . .and we both know why you did it. . .you were afraid that they'd fire you and send someone who didn't give a damn about her. . .about either of us." She laughed and commented, "I think the arrival of Wesley the Weasel kind of confirmed that you were right. Besides, they'll never be able to pull that stunt on me now." She searched Giles' eyes again and saw that the guilt was still there, and prodded, "That's not all there is to it, is it, Giles? Come on. . .spill."

Giles looked at her, wondering whether to admit this to her would be a betrayal of Buffy. After a moment, he decided that, whatever she had become, he owed this to her. He blinked twice, then began, "Faith, when you arrived in Sunnydale and we found out what had happened to your Watcher, I was glad to undertake the responsibility to be your Watcher. This is a dangerous place, and having two exceptionally gifted Slayers to help keep things under control was an extraordinary gift." Faith smiled softly at the compliment, as Giles continued, "Unfortunately, I'm sure now that the arrangement wasn't in your best interests. Faith, Buffy was my first Slayer, and I learned how to best deal with her on a trial-by-error basis." He laughed, then continued, "If you thought Wesley was insufferable. . .you should have seen me in those early days. Still, we learned from each other, and even after all of the heartache associated with the Master and then Angel, we had developed a comfortable working relationship when you came to town."

Faith shrugged and replied, "I thought you did all right. Sure, I always kind of felt like the ugly stepdaughter. . .but you gave me my space and watched my back."

Giles smiled sadly and replied, "But that's just it, Faith. In dealing with Buffy, that approach worked well, but you needed a more firm guiding hand than she did. I knew your first Watcher, Faith, and I know she must have supervised you much more thoroughly than I did." Giles saw Faith's face cloud over, and she nodded curtly as Giles continued, "You were spending too much time alone. . .I should have demanded that the Council put you up in better accommodations, closer to Buffy and myself, and I should have insisted on you following proper training procedures. . .but you were resistant, and my experience with Buffy told me to just let you find your own way. . .it was a mistake."

Faith smiled and replied, "It's not easy to insist with me, Giles. . .I never blamed you for that. . .though it might have been nice to have a decent place of my own."

Giles nodded and continued, "When that woman. . .Gwendolyn Post. . .arrived in town, I disliked her intensely on sight, as did Buffy, but I felt obliged to cooperate with her. . .to give you the chance to get the supervision that you had a right to as a Slayer. Your early training with her seemed to be going well. . .I simply dropped my guard, and you paid the price." He looked at her and concluded, "I'm sorry, Faith."

Faith blinked at the simple sincerity in Giles' tone, and replied, "It's like B said. . .she had all of us fooled. I was a sucker for her whole 'Spartan lifestyle' crap. . .she even had me liking that damned motel room for a while. Between that and being pissed off at B for holding out on us about Angel. . .and it was amazing that I didn't really screw things up." Her face clouded over and she mumbled, "I was so messed up that I ran off to kill Angel without listening to Xander tell me that he hadn't been the one to attack you. . .hell, what was I thinking. . .that Xander would cover for Angel? So I leave him there with you being half-dead and nearly let that psycho bitch kill us all with that glove thingy. . .nice night's work."

Giles looked at her compassionately and replied, "None of us were at our best that night, Faith." He sighed and commented, "But a lot has happened since then, and you still are not in a good situation, Faith."

Faith sighed and responded, "I know. . .but I wanted to show you something." She tossed him a small object: he caught it and noted that it was made of strange metals and crystal, and was apparently meant to be held in the hand. He frowned and asked, "What is this, Faith. . .and where did you get it?"

Faith smiled and replied, "Well, after I ditched B, I was wandering around town avoiding cops and waiting for you guys to come out looking for me. I spotted you and Xander wandering around with that overgrown bug zapper and saw you run into Spike. . .B never told me he was so cute. . .so what's with him not trying to kill you two. . .some kind of peace treaty?"

Giles smiled coldly and replied, "He's been fixed. . .courtesy of Riley and his soldier friends."

Faith laughed and commented, "No wonder he looked so pissed off. . .maybe I'll track him down and have some fun with him." Giles grimaced, and Faith laughed again as she commented, "You Brits are such prudes. . .anyway, soon after that, I ducked into an alley to avoid cops and ran into this demon. . .who turned out to have a message for me. . .shame he couldn't have said that before I killed him. Anyway, I found that gadget and this videotape in the envelope." She held the tape up and commented, "When I peeked in here last night I noticed that someone had dragged you into the 1980's and bought you a VCR. . .saved me the trouble of boosting one from the store."

She turned on the TV and put the tape in the VCR, and after a moment the late Richard Wilkins, former Mayor and true demon, appeared on the screen and began speaking. Giles sat transfixed, a cold chill going down his spine as he heard the message that had been left for Faith: he noted that Faith was watching the picture with absolutely no expression on her face. When the Mayor explained what the metal and crystal object was for, Giles had to suppress the impulse to throw it away like some venomous creature. When the tape ended, Faith ejected it and turned off the TV, then turned to see that Giles had turned pale. Though there was a glint of amusement in her eyes, there was also genuine concern in her voice as she asked, "You O.K., Giles?"

Giles swallowed hard, then commented, "Sorry. . .I just had an intense desire to take this object and beat it into small pieces with a sledge hammer. . .it's bound to pass."

Faith smiled and took the object from his hand and replied, "Allow me," as she dropped it to the floor and ground it under her heel. There was a brief blue flash, and the withdrawal of Faith's foot revealed the mangled remains of the mystic artifact. She looked up at him and asked, "Feel better now?"

Giles smiled weakly and replied, "Immensely. . .but now I'm confused. Faith. . .what's going on in your mind right now? Why have you come to me?"

Faith sighed and sat down again. She waited a moment, then began: "When I went to the Mayor, I was in a place where I didn't trust anyone. . .and I was sick of being lectured about how bad I'd been. I didn't trust him any more than anyone else. . .I just figured that at least he would be up front about it, he'd appreciate my talents, and I'd just have to watch my back a little more carefully." She sighed, then continued, "But he suckered me, Giles. He got me a nice new place, treated me like a princess, and didn't even try to screw me when I dropped a loud hint that I wouldn't mind. I wasn't ready for that, and I dropped my guard again. It made me overlook the little things. . .like how he was willing for me to be at the mercy of Angel once that soul-sucker guy did his thing and Buffy was out of the way. . .like leaving me unguarded after giving me a poison for Angel that could only be cured by Slayer's blood. . .stuff like that. Hell, I don't know. . .he may have actually cared something about me. . .but he used me just the same." She blinked repeatedly, though no tears were visible, and she continued, "When I was in coma-land, I kept dreaming about him being killed by Buffy, then she would chase me down and kill me, then it would start all over again. . .different forms, same ending. When I woke up, I was primed for some serious payback."

Giles met her eyes with a compassionate look, and after a moment she continued, "You saw the tape. . .his big plan was for me to steal Buffy's life, since there was no place in the world for me now with everyone out to get me. . .but what kind of stupid plan was that? I couldn't stay here and play Buffy forever. . .it's just not in me to put up an act like that for very long. I could have taken off. . .flown to Mexico or Brazil or somewhere, but then everyone would be looking for Buffy. . .and what's the point of a new life if you can't live it in peace? It was all a bunch of crap, Giles. . .he was looking to get revenge on all of you, not bail me out. He was using me. . .and I'm tired of being used."

Giles nodded in understanding, then asked, "What would you like to do then, Faith? You certainly can't stay here."

Faith frowned and replied, "I know. . .I'm going to have to leave, but I want to go back to what I'm good at: I'd rather kill demons than work for them any time. . .but I'm sick of the damned rules and there's no way in hell I'm going back to the damned Council and begging for another chance. . .then I realized that there was one guy around that I could still trust to give me a fair shot. . .you."

Giles was moved by Faith's honesty, and replied, "All right, Faith. . .I'm certainly willing to listen to what you propose. . .how would you like me to help you?"

Faith sighed and responded, "I want to go out and do my own thing, Giles. . .do the whole 'walk the earth' thing. . .but I know that I'll need backup sometimes. . .and I was hoping it might be you. On the down side, I don't want you clueing in the Council or anyone else where I am. . .they might get lucky sooner or later." She looked at him and concluded, "I trust you more than anyone else right now, but I'm still a bit gun-shy, you know? I was hoping that you might have some idea how to do this."

Giles looked at her for a long moment, then walked over to the box in which he kept some of the less dangerous sorcerous artifacts that he had accumulated over the years. He removed two rings and brought them back to where Faith was sitting. The rings were silver, with clear stones etched with Norse runes. He dropped one in Faith's hand, which she examined and commented, "Pretty. . .what do these do?"

"Norse oath rings," explained Giles, becoming more comfortable as he ventured back into his own element. "Traditionally, they were used by tribal rulers and their most trusted warriors as a means of mutually assuring their loyalty to one another. The two persons each put on one of the rings and swear an oath that the other person has constructed. If both do so, with the intention of fulfilling the terms of the oath in the manner that the other person intended, the stones in the rings will turn green. If either party breaks the oath, the stone in the other party's ring turns red and they will know exactly how the oath was violated. The two may then either resolve the dispute in question. . .or, traditionally, they may duel to the death."

Faith shivered and commented, "Those Norse guys sure knew how to live. . .sounds good to me, Giles." She slipped on the ring, and as Giles did the same with his, she asked, "All right, Giles, what do you want from me?"

Giles looked at the Slayer, and he replied in an even tone, "I want you to swear off seeking revenge from Buffy, Willow, Xander, Oz, or Angel. . .or against any one of their friends. I want you to leave Sunnydale in the next twenty-four hours and stay away from here from now on unless I specifically ask you to come here. I want you to promise to avoid harming human beings unless you need to do so in self-defense or to protect others. I want you to do your best to help others, with the specific methods you use to do so being your choice within the limits I've already mentioned. . .and I want you to promise to be careful with yourself."

Faith nodded, and replied, "Fair enough. I want you to promise not to tell anyone where I am unless you get my O.K. for it. I want to be able to call you for help, unless you are tied up with an emergency here. I want you to pass along any info you have about people looking for me, or anything else that you think might be interesting to me as a wandering do-gooder. . . and I want you to be careful, too. You may think that you didn't do such a good job as my Watcher, but I'm counting on you to stick around to save my cute little ass when I need it now."

Giles nodded, and replied, "Agreed. Shall we make it formal?" They joined hands and recited the oaths that they had constructed for each other. When they had finished, a bright glow came from their joined hands, and they felt a tingle as they released each other. The stones on the rings were now a bright green, though they did not glow.

Faith looked at the ring and commented, "Cool. . .so now I should probably get out of Dodge." She nodded towards the closed storage room and asked, "Need help in dealing with the jokers in there?"

Giles smiled and shook his head, replying, "I made sure that they were still completely unconscious before I locked them in there. . .I'll tell them that you must have left before I arrived, and that I haven't seen you." He looked at her with concern and asked, "Do you need money?"

Faith shook her head and replied, "No. . .my old apartment is still empty, and I found the bankroll that I had hidden in there. . .courtesy of my former boss and a few things I did here and there." She noted Giles' disapproving look and innocently commented, "Hey. . .it's for a good cause, right?" Giles nodded reluctantly, and Faith extended her hand to her former Watcher as she said one more word: "Thanks."

Giles clasped the Slayer's extended hand, and commented, "You're getting a chance for redemption that most of us don't, Faith. . .make the best of it."

Faith nodded, then turned to go, only to stop and toss him a key, commenting, "Change the damned locks, Giles." With that, she departed, and Giles stood silently for several minutes before he looked up and saw Buffy standing in the doorway. He blinked and asked, "When did you get here?"

"I came here as soon as I sent Mom out of town and waited for you to get back. I looked in through the window and saw Faith in there with you along with the Watchers' goons. I was ready to burst in on you guys, but she just wanted to talk, so I waited. . .I heard everything. Do you think she'll stay on the straight and narrow?"

Giles laughed and replied sadly, "I'm sure she won't. . .but if she hadn't been sincere in the oaths she swore, the rings would not have activated. Wherever she ends up, right now she wants to do good. . .just on her terms." He sighed and commented, "Buffy, the traditional role of the Watcher is best described as in loco parentis." Spotting Buffy's blank look, Giles explained, "That's Latin for 'in place of a parent.' My job as Watcher was to keep you committed to your duties, to train you, and to provide a sense of discipline in your life." Buffy laughed, and Giles admitted, "I have not been entirely successful with the latter, and in your case that wasn't a problem: you have a loving mother, and you are generally mature enough to make discipline less of an issue. Faith needed more active supervision, and in a way, she craved it: I'm sure that that is why she accepted Miss Post and the Mayor so readily, as they provided order and discipline that I did not. Perhaps the limits imposed on her by the oath will serve. . .if not, I am not optimistic about her future. In any event, we should be safe for the time being . . .and we will have warning should she become a danger again."

Buffy smiled sadly and replied, "I hope it doesn't come to that. . .in spite of everything, I want her to be better." Muffled noises began coming from the storage room, and Buffy grinned ferally at Giles and suggested, "Shall we get the Watchers' crack hit team out of there?"

Smiling at Buffy's sarcasm, Giles replied, "Oh, if we must. . .I need that room, and they won't fit in my bathtub." Laughing in relief at the resolution of the crisis, they opened the closet door and Giles exclaimed, "Now how did you get yourself into this predicament?"


* * * * *

The young woman sat in her bus seat, staring out into the darkness. Her formerly long hair had been cut short, and wraparound sunglasses hid her dark eyes. Faith watched as cars zoomed by, then vanished leaving the darkness unsullied by headlights. She looked down at the ring on her hand: the stone remained green, causing her to smile gently as the bus zoomed by the sign reading, "You are now leaving Sunnydale. Come back soon!"




As always, comments are welcomed and desired