Silver, Blood, and Gold: Epilogue -

Thursday September 3, 1998; Sunnydale, #4616, Apt. B on Windsor St., early early AM.

Faith stared at the door for long minutes, several times turning away, only to turn back again. The only thing that had prompted her to come up to the door in the first place was the fact that there were still lights on inside. Finally, she raised her hand and rapped sharply on it several times with her knuckles, ignoring the doorbell.

A faint "Bloody hell" came from inside somewhere, followed by soft footsteps. After several minutes, something shadowed the peephole, followed by the sound of the bolts being drawn back.

"Faith?" Rupert Giles opened the door, giving her a puzzled frown.

"Hey. I uh, decided I couldn't sleep, so I figured we'd get that talk out of the way," Faith stuck her hands in her back pockets, suddenly feeling even more uncomfortable.

"Ah." Giles shook his head slightly, giving her a faintly exasperated look. "And it couldn't have waited until morning, or perhaps early afternoon?"

"It is morning?" Faith ventured.

"Ah. So it is," Giles stepped back holding the door open to allow her to step in. Giving an approving nod at the caution, Faith stepped through the doorway. "I was about to have some tea before getting ready for bed," Giles said. "Would you care for some?"

"It's not that stuff that tastes like roots and dead seaweed is it?"

"Hardly," Giles chuckled, turning toward the kitchen. "It's perfectly good Earl Grey."

"Sure," Faith said, bobbing her head. "Lots of sugar and lemon, if you got it." She wandered around examining the small living room while Giles busied himself in the kitchen.

He came out a short while later carrying a tea service. Setting it on the coffee table he said, "There's sugar and lemon slices. I'll let you flavor it to your preferences." He took a seat on the sofa, picking up the tea pot and pouring into both of their cups.

"Cool." Faith took a seat perched on the edge of one of the arm chairs at the end of the sofa, spending a few minutes fixing her tea. "Ok, figured we'd get this done so you can fire me as your temporary slayer and we can move on."

Giles gave her a startled look. "I'm not planning to fire you, Faith." He chuckled, "I'm not certain it is even possible to fire one's Slayer."

"Not even a Watcher/Slayer incompatibility clause?" Faith asked in a joking tone of voice.

"I'm afraid not," he shook his head. Giles gave her a sharp look, saying, "A difference in perspectives on situations and how to deal with them isn't necessarily a mark of incompatibility." Taking a sip of his tea, he asked, "Might I ask what brings this on?"

"I'm not exactly a by the book Slayer," Faith said. "I don't do real well following rules and stuff."

"There are those who would be more than happy to inform you that I'm not exactly a by the book Watcher, either," Giles responded.

"I kinda figured that one out," Faith admitted.

"I might wish to know more about the reasoning behind some of your choices and decisions, however," Giles said.

Nodding, Faith responded obliquely. "Nineteen vamps."

"Beg pardon?"

"Nineteen vamps. At least a dozen between the sewer and that basement, and the seven you guys cleared. Maybe more - I kinda lost count down there," Faith said.

"I see. Plus the four outside, making just over twenty," Giles said. "If it hadn't been a series of individual encounters with us working as a group, it could have been an overwhelming fight."

"Uh huh. Six the other night, plus the dozen that jumped me that Shelia came in on at the end," Faith added. "Six with me and Xander the night before. However many with Cordy the night before that. Not even counting the Nightgaunts and other weirdnesses."

"It has been a rather intense summer, yes," Giles agreed.

"And according to the guys, it gets more intense after the summer," Faith said.

Nodding, Giles said, "I'm going to assume that you have a direction you're taking this in?"

"There's no manual for this stuff, Giles," Faith said, giving him a slight shrug. "We don't have a rule book to be 'by the book' by."

"Actually, there is a manual," Giles began...

"I've read the Slayer Handbook, Giles," Faith cut across him. "It doesn't cover a quarter of the crap I've seen since getting here. It doesn't even mention slayers trying to figure out how to have friends and a family, or girls with werewolf boyfriends."

"Ah. Quite," Giles said. "I'm afraid the Watcher's manual doesn't mention how to deal with those things, either." He examined Faith carefully while pouring them both refills, "So effectively, you're pointing out that in lieu of an effective road map, we're forced to design our own rulebooks for dealing with things where there are no guidelines."

"I am?" Faith gave him a wide eyed look, then broke out into a grin. "I was, but it sounds better when you say it."

Nodding, Giles gave her a small grin of his own. "It's hardly a new awareness for me. However, my previous attempts at throwing out the rulebook and improvising have had... disastrous results, at best."

"I'm not gonna screw Shelia's soul out and send her on a rampage, Giles," Faith said, seriously.

Giles winced, visibly. He removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"I'm sorry," Faith said, wincing herself. "Didn't mean that how it came out."

"No, it's quite all right," Giles said, replacing his glasses. He gave her a bleak look, "I do fear you've been spending far too much time with Cordelia, however."

"She does tend to have that blunt thing going," Faith said.

"Quite," Giles leaned back, holding his teacup and giving Faith a serious look. "While perhaps not that exactly, you must understand that something similar is a fear of mine, as it must be for Xander and the others. And it is a valid fear."

"Except for Red, maybe," Faith said, nodding.

"Yes, well, Willow may have been a bit too caught up in the romance part of the 'tragic romance' and forgotten that 'tragic' is an essential component of those things," Giles remarked.

"I hate vampires," Faith stated. "Probably as much as Harris does. I'm not gonna get all cuddly and palsy with this gal and forget what she is."

"And yet you see advantage in allying with her to some degree?"

"We're not getting ahead of this," Faith said. "We could go out every night from sundown to sunup and kill every vamp and demon we find, and still not get ahead of it. There's always going to be more." She shrugged, "I'll take whatever edge we can get, even if it's a strange vamp that likes killing other vamps."

"Bluntly, to borrow a page from Cordelia's repertoire," Giles said, "Do you believe that you can trust this Shelia?"

Snorting, Faith gave him a direct look. "No. But I don't trust anyone, so that's nothing new."

Giles raised his eyebrows, covering for a few moments by pouring more tea for them. "Not even your friends?" He asked.

Faith opened her mouth, then closed it, cocking her head and narrowing her eyes slightly. "Lemme get back to you on that one." She fixed her tea, adding sugar and lemon until it was ready, "I could get to trust Cordy and Xan, I think."

His lips twitching slightly at the corners, Giles decided to let that one go for now. Instead, he nodded. "I passed the decision to you. I'm not going to second guess your choice even when I'm not certain I agree with it."

"Why?" Faith's question was bluntly curious.

"Hmmm." Giles frowned, "It hardly benefits either of us for me to stress on one hand a need for you to learn to to choose between acceptable risks and unacceptable ones, and then undercut you on the other hand whenever you attempt to apply the lesson." He considered for a moment, then added, "I would very much like for you to become a confident and adaptable Slayer, not a drone who merely chooses within options outlined by your Watcher."

"And if it blows up on us and kills everyone?" Faith smiled at his statement, but her eyes were serious.

"Promise me that you won't leave me a note and disappear for parts unknown if that happens," Giles said, dryly, "And we'll attempt to work through it."

"Not a problem," Faith grinned. "Think I've had enough tea. And I'd better let you get some sleep."

"Quite all right, Faith." Giles said. "I did tell you you could speak with me on any matters you wished at any time." He rose with her to see her to the door. "Will you be in tomorrow for training?"

"Ah... probably not. If that's ok?" Faith shook her head, "We're leaving tomorrow afternoon for Cordy's lake cabin, and I need to get my stuff together." She glanced back at the clock over his mantle, "Err, this afternoon."

"Ah. Very well, then. Do enjoy yourselves up there," Giles closed the door behind her, quietly, and stood gazing at it for a long time with his hands in his pockets and a slightly bemused expression.


To be Continued in "Night Watchmen" Episode 1d: "Days of Futures Not"