Summary: Faith deals with her new Watcher, her Cruciamentum, and with her feelings for Giles. Follow-up to "Honesty."

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for violence, dialogue, and general themes.

Time Frame: Late third through early fourth seasons: alternate timeline as established in my prior story "Honesty."

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.


IDENTITY

Part I

Faith prowled through the graveyard, scanning the trees for movement. She held a stake clenched in her right hand, and she wore a small backpack, along with a belt with several items hanging from it.

A scream pierced the silence, and Faith sprinted towards the sound, searching for the source. After a few seconds, she spotted the dark figure leaning over a young blonde woman and called out, "Hey. . .might not want to do that. . .I might get pissed off at you."

The vampire raised his head and replied, "So. . .you're the crazy Slayer I've heard about. . .well, I'm not going to just roll over for you. . .a rep is a rep. . .but you're going to have to show me." With that, he dropped his victim and moved to attack the Slayer. To his surprise, Faith did not immediately move to the attack, but rather moved into a defensive pose, blocking the initial attacks with little difficulty. The demon snorted and commented, "This is the all-powerful Slayer I've been told about? Someone's been telling me some tall tales." He stepped up his attack, and Faith was hard-pressed to block the blows as they came in. The vampire was chuckling when he felt a liquid strike his face, and he found that he was in agony.

Faith dropped the holy water vial that she had been holding in her left hand while blocking with her right hand, and commented, "There's some things you just have to find out for yourself." She thrust the stake through the opening created when the vampire involuntarily clutched its burned eyes, and it burst into dust. Faith paused a moment, catching her breath and wincing at the bruises she had incurred in the attack, then moved off to hunt for more vampires.

Walter Morris, Special Emissary of the Council of Watchers, blinked at the scene he had just witnessed, then turned to Faith's Watcher and commented, "Extraordinary. . .the defensive skills she displayed without her powers were quite unexpected."

Danielle Edwards raised a delicate eyebrow and replied, "I have been training her for months now to deal with her tendency to be reckless in combat, after all, Walter." She looked at the receding figure of Faith and shook her head, commenting, "Still, her performance was remarkable. . .she should be quite proud of herself."

The sound of someone clearing her throat caught their attention, and they turned to where Buffy was standing with Giles and Xander. The Slayer gave them an annoyed look and commented, "Faith is doing great. . .I'm on board with that . . .but shouldn't we follow her to make sure that she doesn't get swarmed?"

Looking abashed, the two Watchers followed Faith, while Buffy, Giles and Xander looked at each other and thought back to the events that had brought them to this place. . .


* * * * *

February 25, 1999


"Faith. . .are you sure about this? The Council hasn't exactly been helpful up to now. . .I don't want you being stuck with another loser like Wesley the Weasel."

Faith smiled at Buffy's concern, then replied, "Hey, at least they backed down about Giles." The fiasco with Wesley had caused the Council of Watchers to re-evaluate the whole situation in Sunnydale, and they had sent a group of investigators to take testimony from Buffy, Faith, Giles, and the Scooby Gang (the bemused reaction of one of the Council investigators to that nickname for Buffy's friends provoked lengthy and spontaneous laughter from all present). When they were finished, they recommended that the Council reinstate Giles as Buffy's Watcher, and that the Council appoint a new Watcher for Faith. Giles had agreed with that recommendation, with reservations about who would be chosen for Faith. Buffy had been concerned, also: she knew all too well how deeply Faith had been hurt by the deception of Gwendolyn Post. The younger Slayer locked eyes with Buffy and commented, "We both know this is how it has to go down, B. Giles needs to be able to concentrate on you. . .and I wouldn't mind having someone to watch my back full time, either. You know I'm not ragging on Giles. . .but no one's ever had to watch two Slayers before. . .I think he needs a break."

Buffy chuckled and replied, "Yeah. . .I suppose he could at that." She reached out and clasped hands with Faith and whispered, "But you give the word, and Giles and I will help you deep six this Watcher like we did Wesley. . .O.K.?"

Faith squeezed Buffy's arm and responded, "You betcha, B." The two Slayers laughed, then walked through the library doors, where Giles was engaged in apparently polite conversation with a tall, dark-haired woman in her mid-thirties. She turned to see who had entered the room, and Buffy and Faith could see that she was wearing a simple tan business suit, and that her eyes were as dark as Faith's. Buffy momentarily thought of Jenny Calendar, but the visitor wore her hair in a bun, and her demeanor contained none of the relaxed irreverence that marked the gypsy cyberpagan's behavior until the tragedy of Angel's turning shattered that element of her personality. She smiled and called out, "Hello. You must be Buffy Summers-", then locked eyes with Faith and concluded, "-and Faith Stevenson. I'm pleased to meet both of you." Her voice was relatively unaccented, containing only a trace of the English influence that was inevitable from years of training as a Watcher. She extended her hand and stated simply, "My name is Danielle Edwards."

Buffy walked forward first and shook hands with the Watcher: her grip was firm, and the handshake brief but friendly. Faith hesitantly followed and repeated the procedure, commenting, "You're not wearing tweed. . .isn't that some kind of capital offense for you Watcher types?"

Danielle Edwards chuckled and replied, "I was born and raised in California, Faith. . .and tweed and I just are not destined to meet, I'm afraid." She smiled at Faith and commented, "We need to talk, Faith. . .would you like to go somewhere private, or would you like Mr. Giles and Buffy to sit in on our meeting?"

Faith raised an eyebrow: her new Watcher's approach was certainly different from Wesley's. She shrugged and replied, 'I've got no secrets from Giles and B; besides, I might miss something important." She grinned at Buffy and commented, "I've been told I have attention span problems."

The younger Watcher saw Buffy look away innocently and grinned as she replied, "All right. . .however you want to do this is O.K. with me." She gestured to the others to sit, and they all sat down around one of the larger tables as she began, "Look. . .I've read all of the Watcher's diary entries that Mr. Giles was kind enough to send to the Council when he was reinstated, and I've gone back and read the diary entries that Amanda left before her death, Faith." Faith's face clouded over for a moment, causing the Watcher to pause; after a moment, Faith nodded at her to continue, and she continued, "Faith. . .you've had a rough time of it, and since you've come to Sunnydale. . .well, Murphy's Law must have been written with the Hellmouth in mind. With all of your problems, it shows a great deal of character to have been able to go on as you have. . .the world has been very lucky to have two young women as extraordinary as you and Buffy to deal with all of the hazards thrown at it by the Hellmouth."

Buffy smiled softly, and Faith began, "Thank--," only to be interrupted as the Watcher continued, "That being said, we need to do a lot of work, Faith. You are a gifted fighter, even by the historical standards set by past Slayers, but your recklessness is too dangerous to you and those around you to be tolerated any more. The recent incident with the Eliminati vampires. . .jumping down into that confined space after an unknown number of vampires was an inexcusable risk, even if it did lead to the recovery of Balthazar's amulet. There are a number of similar incidents listed in both Amanda's and Mr. Giles' diaries, and I have this written report that Mr. Giles got from a Mr. Xander Harris about an incident between you and an Apocalypse demon the night that you stopped the Hellmouth from opening again last month-"

Faith's eyes flashed angrily, and she burst out, "Xander told Giles about that? And after-" She broke off abruptly, studiously ignoring Buffy's smirk and Giles' perplexed expression, but noticing the new Watcher's all too perceptive glance at her. Faith sighed in annoyance and waited for her Watcher to continue.

The younger Watcher raised an eyebrow, then continued, "My point is not to harangue you, Faith, but to let you know that we will be working on this. . .a more thoughtful approach to combat will enable you to use your gifts to better effect, and greatly increase the chance that you will live to see your eighteenth birthday."

Both Slayers felt a chill at that last reference, and Danielle Edwards was far too perceptive to not notice the flicker of fear that appeared in Faith's eyes for a moment. She leaned forward and met the younger Slayer's eyes, and whispered, "Faith, the Council hasn't been at its best lately. . .and I know that you are well aware of the price that Buffy and Mr. Giles paid for it. . .and that you probably don't trust me all that much yet. I take the duties that the Council has entrusted me with very seriously. . .my job requires me to send you out on a nightly basis to do things that might well lead to your death. But I think that Mr. Giles' approach to the job has proven to be exceptionally effective, and the central principle of that approach is that his Slayer comes first: before the Council, before anything else." She reached out and clasped Faith's right hand with her own as she concluded, "I hope that I can be to you what he has been to her. . .and what he tried his best to do for you."

Faith turned to see Giles' reaction, and saw that he accepted the truth in the other Watcher's words: he had tried to do right by Faith, but ultimately his loyalty was to Buffy. . .she had come to accept that and not resent it all that much. Faith nodded at Giles and turned back to her Watcher, replying, "Fair enough. . .but if you turn out to be evil, I'm catching the next boat to Tahiti." She leaned back in her seat, causing the Watcher to release her hand, then asked, "Was there anything else you wanted to say, Miss Edwards?"

The Watcher smiled and responded, "First, I would like it if all of you would call me Danielle. . .we will all be working together closely, and I see no need to stand on ceremony." The other Watcher and the Slayers nodded in acknowledgement as Danielle continued, "Second, Faith, the Council has arranged for a substantial living allowance for you. . .and I want you out of that rat trap of a motel by the end of the week. From what Mr. Giles has told me, there is a readily available option on short notice." She turned to her colleague and invited, "Rupert?"

Giles frowned and replied, "Yes, actually. . .one of the other tenants in my building moved out recently. . .might have had something to do with being ambushed by three vampires and almost drained before Buffy came by on patrol and rescued the poor soul." Buffy looked embarrassed, and Giles continued, "In any event, the rent is reasonable-as is the norm in Sunnydale-and since Danielle will be moving into a flat only two blocks away, it is convenient for all concerned." He took a deep breath, anticipating objections, and began, "Faith, I know you have become accustomed to your 'space', but-"

Apparently unconcerned, Faith interrupted: "No problem, Giles. . .I like your building. . .plenty of room to hang out in, and close to everyone. . .I like it." She turned back to Danielle and asked, "When can I move in?"

The younger Watcher raised an eyebrow: Rupert had warned her to expect a struggle from her Slayer on this topic. . .interesting. She looked carefully at Faith, then continued, "Then, of course, there is the matter of your continuing education-"


* * * * *

Buffy and Faith exited the library in silence and had walked halfway back to Buffy's house when Buffy turned to Faith and asked pointedly, "What are you up to?"

Faith raised an eyebrow and replied, "What are you talking about? Danielle seems O.K. . . .I'm just trying to stay with the program, B."

Buffy shook her head impatiently and responded, "Not that. . .I thought she was pretty cool. . .big improvement from Wesley the Weasel, and I'm definitely on board with her getting you to take less risks and doing a little of that book learning. . .no reason that I should be the only Slayer in history with a high school diploma." Faith frowned at Buffy as the older Slayer continued, "You turned me down flat when I told you that my mom wanted you to move in with us. . .and now you're ready to move into Giles' building? What happened to that great feeling of freedom you were always waxing poetic about?"

Faith grinned and replied, "Hey, B, don't get me wrong. . .your Mom is a great cook, and the company would be good. . .but the Council is springing for my own pad. . .one without cockroaches, rats, and truckers getting it on next door while I'm trying to get my beauty sleep, you know? It's still my own space. . .just a little farther away from the highway than I'm used to, and a lot more room."

Buffy frowned, then brightened as she commented, "I suppose you're right. . .and it'll be a great place for us to hang out minus all of the annoying parental units. . .assuming that Giles doesn't hang around and wreck that little fantasy." She shook her head and muttered, "Why anyone would want to live under the same roof with Giles is beyond me." Buffy looked away in search of suspicious activity, and missed the mischievous glint that briefly appeared in Faith's eyes, then faded as they walked along the quiet street.




. . .to be continued




As always, comments are welcomed and desired