DISCLAIMER: This is a derivative work. All BtVS characters
belong to or were created by Joss Whedon, and Mutant Enemy. Anything
from the Highlander universe that accidentally creeps in (characters,
etc.) belongs to Panzer/Davis. I don't own any of it. I'm just
responsible for the plot and words gluing my story together.
SUMMARY: See chapter 1
Pairings: No change. See chapter 1
SPOILERS: See chapter 1
1 Feedback? Reviews? Love them. Flames? Not so much.
2 FYI: It'll be a few months until I post the next part.
Word Count: 4,010
Where The Books Are.
Intent on examining one of the museum's new acquisitions, Buffy shivered, feeling something invisible brush against her back. It was something like, but not quite, the odd feeling she would occasionally get driving by the high school on the days she drove home alone. Looking up, she squeaked in surprise.
"Who are you?" She asked the brunette who seemed to have appeared in her corner of the library as if out of thin air and was now leaning against her desk. The woman was dressed in dark leather and denim, her leather jacket just barely covering a blood red top that revealed more than it covered. She suspected that the theme carried down to the feet she couldn't see from her side of the desk.
A faint, unidentifiable scent drifted from her. Something about it set Buffy's heart racing as the woman's dark eyes bore into her own, giving the impression that she was trying to see into her soul, searching for something only she could sense.
"What did Rosenberg want?" She demanded, her husky voice just above a whisper.
"This is a library." Buffy told her dryly, suppressing another shiver. "We have books. People read them."
"What book?" the woman asked in a tone that had Buffy bristling defensively.
"This is a 'private' library." Buffy told her with a glare. "We don't share information about our clients reading habits with random... visitors." she added, stretching the truth just a little in her best imitation of Dr. Pierson at his snarky worst.
"That doesn't concern me." The nameless woman told her. "What book was she looking at?" she asked again, leaning closer.
"I really can't tell you." Buffy said.
"Why would you want to help her?" the woman demanded, invading Buffy's personal space as she leaned so close Buffy could smell a hint of alcohol and cigarettes on her breath. "You're one of us, not one of them."
"One what?" Buffy asked, puzzled. The woman glared at her in disgust, her predator-like movements as she straightened up and stepped back setting off alarm bells in Buffy's head.
Buffy nervously shuffled papers on her desk while surreptitiously pushing the panic button built into her desk with a knee. It was the first time she'd ever used it, most of her few visitors were rather harmless academics, but she knew exactly what would happen. Museum security would use their hidden cameras to check things out and would then send someone appropriate to deal with her visitor or escort them from the building if necessary.
To Buffy's relief, the door opened several minutes later, before anything could happen. Mitzy and Tomas, one of the more frightening members of the museum security staff, stepped into the room, drawing the attention of the brunette who'd been wandering around, occasionally looking at the shelves.
"Miss Faith!" Mitzy said, addressing the brunette in a stern tone. "You're welcome to use our library like everyone else in the Council. But we need to clear it in advance."
"Yeah, right." Buffy heard this Faith person mutter. "Next time." she threw at Buffy before leaving the room, Tomas following silently behind.
"What was that about?" Buffy asked breathlessly.
"You are popular, aren't you." Mitzy told her with a smirk. "A redhead and then a brunette."
"Mitzy..." Buffy whined, blushing, knowing she would ignore any attempts to deny that she was interested in either woman. "And she wasn't here to see me, she was interested in Willow."
"Willow?" Mitzy raised an eyebrow in mock surprise before winking at her and turning to leave.
"What's going on?" Buffy asked.
"I don't know." Mitzy said, pausing at the door. "You'll have to ask your friend Willow."
Buffy frowned. "Who was that?"
"Little Miss Leather 'does things' for some old British company." Mitzy told her. "They pay to use some of our translators in the Paris office. They have their own book geeks, though no hotties like you," Buffy grimaced at the backhanded complement, "who use the museum's collection of books."
"So you know her?" Buffy asked, not completely surprised.
Mitzy shrugged, giving Buffy a faint smile. "We met the last time I worked in Paris. Life can get very interesting with her around. But she's not much for the long term thing. This is the first time I've seen her here."
"Oh." Buffy frowned, thinking about the things Faith had said. Deep in thought, she waved at Mitzy as she left the room.
Willow smiled at the receptionist as she was waved through to the elevator. Life was good. The trip to LA had gone better than expected, she was ready to make progress with the book and Buffy would be there.
"Willow?" Buffy's voice interrupted her thoughts as she carefully arranged her things on the desk in preparation for an afternoon of delving into the book. Turning around, she smiled as Buffy rolled over to her with the book in question nestled in her lap.
"Hey." She grinned as she took the book from her outstretched hand. There was something about the blonde that occasionally sent a small wave of happiness through her. She'd first noticed it at lunch the day before but she wasn't ready to analyze it. She'd had so little happiness come her way over the past few years since Tara's death and took the small things as the gifts from the Goddess that they undoubtedly were.
"There was a woman here this morning." Buffy told her. "She was sort of looking for you."
"Me?" Willow said, surprised. The Coven Elders knew she was in California but she hadn't mentioned Sunnydale to anyone else. And anyone who might have a reason to talk to her had her cell phone number. "What was her name?"
"Faith. I think. Brunette. Around your height but a little more..." She vaguely waved her hands. "Kind of goth looking. Leather and everything." Buffy said. "Not very happy with something."
"She sounds familiar but I don't think we've ever met." Willow said, recognizing the name and description. "Did she say why she was looking for me?"
"She wanted to know what you were reading."
"You didn't tell her. Did you?" Willow said faintly. She wondered what the current slayer, if that was who it was, was doing in Sunnydale and why she was curious about her reading habits. She didn't think she'd done anything to attract her attention so it couldn't be anything personal.
Only the Coven Elders had any idea of the task she'd been set. Her few friends in the Coven assumed she worked on special projects for the Elders and traveled at their whim, a belief she encouraged. And as far as she'd been able to determine, although the Coven and the Council rarely cooperated with each other, the current Council had no idea how they'd gained control of the slayer line and didn't know it could even be taken away from them. So the possibility that Faith was trying to stop her was very remote. There must have been some other reason for her interest.
"No, silly." Buffy smiled at her and Willow was once more struck with just how beautiful the woman's face was. "But she did say something odd."
"What?" Willow asked. She'd read everything she could find in the Coven's records about slayers but so much had been lost over the years. Anything she might learn, even through second hand observations, would be extremely helpful in her quest.
"She wanted to know why I was helping one of 'them'" She looked puzzled. "I think she meant you."
"Her people and my people don't really get along. We have similar goals but very different methods. They're really into direct interaction, violence, that kind of thing. We prefer a more subtle approach." Willow told her quickly, intentionally being as vague as possible. "What else did she say?"
"She said I was one of hers." Buffy looked at her curiously. "What do you think she meant? I don't wear leather and I don't do the 'in your face' thing she was doing. She was kind of scary." She frowned. "I don't think I have anything in common with her."
Willow looked at her speculatively. She wondered if Faith knew something about Buffy that she didn't. She was too old to still be a proto or potential slayer, and a slayer in a wheelchair wouldn't have survived long if there were any truth to the legends that they were mystical lightning rods. It was possible she was a proto-slayer the Council had somehow missed. It was an interesting idea, she thought.
Potential slayers who'd never become slayers were a rare commodity outside of the Council. Even after they lost whatever quality made them potential slayers, the Council tried to keep them in its grasp their entire lives, treating them like precious stones, locked away from the sight of ordinary mortals.
"Hmm..." Willow decided it would be foolish to say anything before she'd had a chance to do some research. And that would have to wait until after she was done with the book. "From the little I've heard about her... and what I know about the people she works for... I really don't know what she meant. We'll have to ask her if she comes back." She didn't think it would hurt her own plans to ask the slayer what she'd meant -- assuming she returned, though she didn't expect an answer. She just hoped she survived the encounter. This slayer was well known in the underground for her short and violent temper.
Being encouraged to leave the museum before her questions had been answered had done little to improve Faith's mood. She'd woken up ready to tear the world a new one and could still feel the anger just out of reach. What she needed was a good fight, but the chances of finding something to take the edge off in Sunnydale, unless the sleeping Hellmouth opened, weren't good. And she didn't do second times so the guard she'd recognized at the museum wasn't a memory she needed to relive.
"Faith." she growled into the phone, ignoring the looks she was getting from the other patrons in the coffee shop.
"What did you do?" the annoyed voice of her watcher asked.
"Nothing." she said. Scaring a librarian was all in a days work.
"That isn't what Travers said."
"He's a twit." Faith grumbled.
"What are you doing in Sunnydale?"
"Checking out the Hellmouth?" She mumbled.
"It's been dormant for over fifty years." the voice in her ear reminded her. "If it was going to open up there would have been signs already."
"Gwen..." Faith said, trying to keep her voice from sounding childish.
"Don't 'Gwen' me, Faith. I just spent the last ten minutes being chewed out for not controlling my slayer."
"I wasn't doing anything." Faith said defensively. She knew she was given a lot more freedom by her watcher than the Council expected. But in exchange, she was expected to keep her nose clean. "Just checking out a library book."
"You know they don't like surprise visitors." Gwen chastised her. "We need them more than they need us. Don't antagonize them."
"Then how'd Rosenberg get in?" Faith muttered. "I'm sure she didn't get an invitation."
"Rosenberg? You were told to drop it. She isn't our concern."
"I know. Blah, blah, blah, we stay out of the Coven's business. Blah."
"Yes. We don't need that kind of attention."
"You mean you don't need that kind of attention. You know the Coven isn't going to be interested in whatever scheme you have going, Gwen. And Travers is clueless."
"That isn't the point." her Watcher said. "Effective slayers don't advertise their presence to all and sundry."
"All and sundry?" Faith choked on her coffee. "What watcher geek are you hanging out with this week? Should I be calling a certain geek in the British Museum the next time I need to talk with you?"
"No. And it's called having friends." Gwen told her. "You should try it some time."
"And go against centuries of Council tradition?" Faith said with a laugh. "We wouldn't want that."
"Just stay out of trouble, Faith." her Watcher admonished. "Next month's Council retreat will be exceedingly boring if you aren't alive to be there."
"Yes, Auntie Gwen. I'll be there." She grumbled. Her watcher tended to treat her like a wayward child but they understood each other. "Can you check something for me?"
"The librarian chick at the museum, Buffy Summers. She's either clueless or she was protecting the witch for some reason." Faith said. "I want to know who she really is."
"That isn't going to be easy." Gwen said. "I'll need somewhere to start."
"Have whatever watcher flunky is following you around this week make himself useful and start with the list of potential slayers five years before I was called."
"You think the Council missed her?" Faith could almost see the wheels turning in Gwen's head.
"Maybe. Or they dumped her. She's in a wheelchair."
"Travers isn't usually that nice. Potential slayers injured badly enough to need wheelchairs..." Gwen said, her tone reminding Faith of what had happened to her predecessor. "...if she'd become a slayer she would have been helpless. She wouldn't last long against the demons that are attracted to slayers." she mused.
"Maybe the Coven protected her." Faith suggested. "I don't really care. I just want to know who she is." she repeated.
Faith threw her boots across her hotel room. The sleeping Hellmouth had been a dud. Sneaking into the local high school to take a look at it hadn't been remotely challenging. Sunnydale itself had been too quiet for her taste. She'd sensed only the vaguest signs of anything demonic. If Rosenberg hadn't been in town she would have already been headed to the nearest airport on her way towards one of the usual demon hotspots.
The only interesting sight had been the tall brunette she'd caught a glimpse of at a table just as she was leaving the coffee shop. Unfortunately, she'd outgrown her clean-cut preppy stage years ago. Even short term they were too high maintenance for her taste.
She was just about to call for room service, one of the few perks she allowed herself when traveling for the Council, when her phone started ringing. As always, she had to suppress a laugh as she answered it. Even after several years with Gwen as her watcher, the 'Wicked Witch is dead' ring tone still cracked her up.
"Interesting little tidbit." Gwen told her without even a hello. "Guess who works for the Council?"
Faith sighed. Her watcher could be a royal pain some times. She loved politics and intrigue, things Faith couldn't care less about. "Who Gwen..."
"Don't sound so enthusiastic." Gwen told her drily.
"I'm a bubbling fount of seething interest." Faith said sarcastically.
"Your Buffy Summers' doctor."
"And..." Faith prodded.
"That's all I have. Her file was mostly empty."
"But she has a file? So she's at least a potential slayer then." Faith said. "How did you know her doctor works for the Council?"
"I asked the Archivist where the contents of her file was." Faith could hear a certain smugness in her voice. "He said it was in Travers' office in his personal safe."
"How did you find out about her doctor if her file was locked up?"
"Libraries like to cross-reference things." Gwen told her. "Her non-existent file,"
"The one hidden away in his mightiness's office?" Faith asked.
"Yes, that one." Gwen acknowledged. Faith smirked. She could almost hear Gwen grinding her teeth at the interruption. "Her file references another file for a doctor in LA who happens to be on the Council payroll."
"This is all on paper, isn't it." Faith grumbled. "So you can't send it to me."
"Correct." Gwen said. "However... this also means your little friend Rosenberg can't hack into it and find certain things out."
"That is good, isn't it. She must be going nuts about the things I said to Summers." Faith grinned to herself.
"Just what did you say to her?" Gwen asked, annoyance clear in her voice.
"Nothing really." Faith grimaced at Gwen's biting tone. "Just implied a few things. If Summers likes Rosenberg... things could get interesting."
"Likes her? Not all potential slayers have your tendencies." Gwen said.
"No..." Faith laughed hollowly. She wasn't going to deny that she had been verging on some seriously twisted behavior when the Council had swooped down and taken her from her family or that she was the furthest from the Council's image of the virginal warrior maiden of any slayer in centuries - Gwen had seen her therapist's files after all - but going down in Council history as the 'slutty slayer' was not something she was really proud of. "But take it from an expert on the sex lives of slayers. Rosenberg is going to be confused by Summer's behavior."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Nothing for you to worry about." Faith told her. "I think I might just hang out here for a few weeks and watch the fireworks." This would be much better than what she'd originally planned for Rosenberg.
"Faith! What do you mean?" Gwen whined.
It wasn't often that Faith knew something her Watcher didn't. She laughed before disconnecting her phone and grabbing the room service menu.
Dawn skipped up to the museum door, her eyes catching sight of a woman lounging in the sun on a bench in the small courtyard. There was something exotic about her, though she couldn't quite decide what it was. It wasn't the leather, or the wild mane of hair, or even the slightly goth looking make-up. Shrugging, she entered the building and headed towards the reception desk.
"Hey Mitzy!" She beamed at the young woman, as always amazed at how professional she looked compared to her usual appearance in class.
"Hey Dawn." She smiled. "Here to take Buffy to lunch?"
"Yup! Class got out early."
"You might have to fight for her today." Mitzy smirked at some private joke.
"She's become very popular."
"She told me about going to lunch with Willow." Dawn said, nodding.
"Did she mention her other admirer?"
"Nope. Who?" Dawn asked. "You didn't ask her out did you?"
"Nah. You know it's against museum policy for the security staff to mingle with everyone else." Mitzy pouted. "I can't even ask her out for coffee."
"That sucks. I think she could so go for you." Dawn winked. "If she wasn't too busy pretending she doesn't need a relationship she might be open to the idea."
"We both know better." Mitzy said.
"Yup." Dawn agreed. "So who?"
Mitzy pointed towards the door. Turning around, Dawn could see she was pointed at the woman she'd seen on her way in. "Who's she?"
"That would be Miss Faith." Mitzy told her. "She works for one of the museum's regular clients. I believe they compete with Willow's organization."
"And you think they'll both go after my sister?" Dawn asked.
"Maybe. I'm not sure I would wish Faith on someone like your sister for her first experience with the better sex." Mitzy frowned. "Faith is quite the ride. But a little rough around the edges."
"So you've taken her out for a spin?" Dawn smirked.
"Oh yeah!" Mitzy growled. "Not someone to forget. Too bad she doesn't do repeats."
Dawn giggled. "I'll talk with you later." Turning towards the elevators she left Mitzy deep in thought. Or at least as close to it as she ever came, Dawn thought.
Trying to open the door quietly so her sister wouldn't hear her, an almost impossible task, Dawn peaked into the library. Walking towards Buffy's desk she breathed as carefully as possible, congratulating herself when she noticed that her sister seemed to be absorbed in watching Willow.
"Hey Buffy!" She said loudly, trying not to laugh at her surprise. "Ready for lunch?"
"Yeah. Sure." Buffy mumbled, turning red at Dawn's raised eyebrow.
Not one to avoid an opportunity for mischief, Dawn said "Don't sound so excited. If you would rather go to lunch with Willow or Faith let me know. I'm sure I can find someone or something to keep myself occupied."
"Don't get Mitzy in trouble!" Buffy warned her.
"I don't have any plans for her that she wouldn't agree to herself." Dawn told her with an exaggerated leer.
"Definitely not!" Buffy protested. "I'm taking you to lunch before you get her fired. Just give me a second to put things away."
"Geeze Buffy, I was just kidding." Dawn pouted.
"Faith?" Willow asked, pausing as she was about to hand a book to Buffy.
"Brunette? Serious male eye candy? She's down by the main entrance." Dawn told her. "I think she's waiting for someone." Dawn watched in surprise as Willow rushed to her carrell and quickly packed up her bags.
"Buffy, I'll see you this afternoon." Willow said. "I need to speak with her about something."
"You're welcome to join us afterward." Dawn said. "We're just going down the street to Bob's Diner. We'll save you a spot. Right Buffy?"
"Sure." Dawn noticed her sister faintly blushing.
"Maybe." Willow said. "I really need to catch her."
They watched her hurrying out of the library, almost running. "Do they get along?" Dawn asked. "Mitzy says they're competitors of some sort."
"I don't know. I don't believe they actually know each other." Buffy frowned. "I hope she doesn't get hurt. Faith looks very tough."
"So which do you prefer?" Dawn asked, winking at Buffy.
"Well?" Dawn prodded. She wasn't as sure as Mitzy was that her sister was just in denial but she had no problems helping her figure it out.
"Faith seems too butch." Buffy said. "But why would I want either of them?"
Dawn shrugged. "I'm not the one you need to convince either way." She squeezed Buffy's shoulder. "Let's get going. Bob said he would save your favorite table."
Quickly reaching the lobby, Willow rushed outside, muttering a quick protection spell. It probably wouldn't help much if the Slayer objected to her presence but it was better than nothing.
Looking around she saw only one person, a woman dressed in leather who seemed to be sunning herself. Carefully approaching her, Willow stopped a yard away. Not really far enough away to escape a slayer but close enough to carry on a cautious conversation.
"You were looking for me?" She asked. As the woman's attention focused on her she could feel a faint swirl of magical energy reaching out briefly in her direction before it collapsed back around the woman.
"Yes." Faith pulled a pack of cigarettes out of a pocket and lit one up.
"Why?" She scrunched up her nose at the smoke Faith blew in her direction.
"The Council says you are off limits if your Coven says you've reformed." Faith told her. "But that doesn't mean I'm going to forget what you did. You crossed a line you shouldn't have and I don't really trust you, Rosenberg. I plan to keep a close eye on you."
"But, but..." Willow stammered, her mind already churning through the ramifications of trying to accomplish her task with a Council watchdog constantly at her heels even as her ever present guilt enveloped her. "There were reasons." she protested.
"Doesn't matter." Faith told her dismissively. "Don't care. If it happens again, I'll be there. And I'll stop you. Personally."
Not willing to say anything in her own defense, Willow gave her an anguished look. Her shoulders slumping she turned towards the road, where she could see Buffy and her sister watching curiously down the street, hopefully too far away to have heard anything.
"Rosenberg!" Faith called to her.
"Yes?" She stopped but didn't both turning around.
"Summers is now under my protection. If you hurt her -- In any way at all -- You'll answer to me. Got it?"
Willow nodded, whispering quietly "Yes." Taking a deep breath, she headed towards the waiting women.
To Be Continued