From the top of the stairs, Faith looked across the road and up the hill towards a two story brick building that house yet another computer lab. Damn but Pittsburgh's good for keeping in shape, she thought. Nothing but hills and staircases no matter where you go. Looking back behind herself, she glanced over at what was officially titled the Cathedral of Learning but called the Tower of Ignorance by the techies who went to CMU, just up the road. Forty-two stories tall and you could climb all the way up, if you had a mind to, which she didn't. She got enough exercise. Who knew there'd be so many vamps drawn to a college town although she guessed it did make sense. Students off on their own for the first time – must look like walking happy meals to the undead.
After she'd picked up a ride from Rochester, Faith had thought she'd move on from wherever she ended up but Pittsburgh, with four universities, two of them exclusive to women, gave her too good an opportunity to hide. She changed who she was and what school she was going to at her whim and, so far, nobody had called her on it.
She looked around, scanning for vamps, as a student, obviously lost in thought, left the building and started walking down the stairs. I'm too exposed here, she thought. No vamp is gonna be stupid enough to go after this walking victim while there's a witness. To her right and down the hill a bit, someone stepped out of another school building. As he moved into the light, Faith thought, but I've been wrong before and raced down the hill, pulling her stake out as she went.
One quick thrust and the vamp was dust. Turning, Faith saw the student, a young man with dark hair whose eyes were growing wider by the second, stumble backwards, away from her. "You should be more careful," she said. "Hey, you need an escort home?" she called out after him as he ran back up to the lab. With a shrug Faith thought about moving on to another location when, as she saw a shadow move, she turned and ducked.
Blonde hair and fangs. Kakistos' minion.
As the vamp kicked her in the torso, Faith fell to the ground. Unable to move, she was thinking, oh God, this is it, I'm gonna die, when the vamp turned to dust above her. Jerking herself up, she saw two other vamps and a man with a crossbow. Calmly, looking as if he had all the time in the world but quickly enough, he shot stakes into the two remaining vamps.
"If you wanted to get yourself killed," he called across to her, "you could have given the Enforcers the honor. They'll be looking for payback after Boston." When Faith didn't move he added, "Or Kakistos' crew would be glad to take you out. No need to die at the hands of a third rate minion. Unprofessional."
"Kakistos." Faith jumped up. "That minion, the blonde, was his."
The man gave her a disbelieving look. "Definitely not. She was local."
"And you'd know that because?"
"I'd hardly make a decent demon hunter if I didn't know what Masters had come to the party," he replied with certainty.
"Uh huh," Faith replied, not sounding convinced.
"We need to talk," he said as he strode down the hill towards her.
"Your future and what the hell you're doing here with nobody watching your back."
"Seems like you already know something about that," she said, holding her ground. "Council goons to the right of me, vamps to the left. Kinda leaves a girl wondering who she can trust."
Pulling a bag off his shoulder, he stuffed the crossbow inside. "After Petra, I can see why you wouldn't trust your Watcher."
"She sent you into a fight with no intel," he explained as if accusing the woman of gross incompetence. Deciding he needed Faith slightly off balance, he deliberately invoked her nemesis' name. "Petra should have known who Kakistos was, how many minions he had and, if she'd been halfway decent at her job, what kind of defenses he was likely to have set up. That won't happen on my watch."
"Your watch. You my new Watcher? Thank God that geek turned tail and fled back to England," Faith replied.
He closed his eyes for a moment and, when he opened them again, replied, "I apologize. I forgot we haven't been introduced. Aidan Nelson Taylor, at your service."
"Mrs. B's cousin," Faith said.
"Yes," he said. "Mr. Wyndham-Price will be your new Watcher. I realize he's not the most effective fighter but please try not to denigrate him too much. He won't be of any use to us if his self-esteem is damaged."
"So, if you're not my Watcher, then what do you want?" Faith's eyes narrowed as it struck her. "The r'cal. You're here to get the dagger back."
He stood a bit taller, as if affronted by her accusation. "The r'cal is yours. I sent it to you."
"You sent it to your cousin," Faith corrected.
"I," he deflated a bit and turned his head. "I should have realized she'd keep it to herself. Petra always had been acquisitive when it came to occult objects. The r'cal is rightfully yours. It's a Slayer's dagger."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"The brother of a Slayer, a man who was both a skilled smith and mage, forged it for the Slayer line. There are rituals I can teach you to feed the soul of the blade and bond it more closely to your own."
Something in the tone of Taylor's voice told Faith he was sincere. He'd taken a powerful magical object, a blade as beautiful as any she'd ever seen, and sent it to her. That bit about feeding the blade's soul sounded a bit creepy though. "Thought you weren't going to be my Watcher," she replied, sounding him out.
"I'm not," he said, "but I've agreed to accept the responsibility of training your Watcher until he's actually able to assist you."
"That geek?" Faith asked, using a term she'd picked up from the local tech students.
He chuckled. "He's already better than you give him credit for although nowhere near prepared to be a Watcher. The Council," he shook his head.
"What about those Enforcers? Thought you said they were kinda mad at me."
"The Council will keep them off your back as long as you're willing to work with Mr. Wyndham-Price."
"But you'll be training me?" Faith asked.
"No, you'll need someone better than me as a trainer. I'll be training your Watcher." Faith blinked in surprise. She could already tell he was a much more effective fighter than Petra had been.
"Come on," he said, nodding towards the parking lot. "I want to get you packed up so we can get out of here first thing in the morning."
"Back to Boston?"
"My home is in Connecticut," he replied.
Faith paused. Mrs. B had stayed in Boston, keeping her in familiar territory. While Taylor strode confidently towards the parking lot, Faith thought over what she'd heard about him. Mrs. B had said he wasn't Council and her new Watcher, she thought with a sigh, had told her Taylor had been exiled to America. He didn't seem to think much of Taylor but, given how unimpressive the Watcher was, that was all in Taylor's favor. Mrs. B certainly thought a lot of him and had even tried to bring him in to train her, although that still didn't seen to be in the cards. On the other hand, anything that might improve Wesley Wyndham-Price had to be a good thing.
Johnny had out and out told her to trust somebody but mostly it was the dagger. He'd said the r'cal was hers. He could have sent it to the oh so perfect Buffy but he'd given it to her instead. Faith wasn't about to ask why but she figured she could extend a bit of trust back at him.
"Think we can stop over at Primanti's and grab a couple of sandwiches first? I'm starved," she called out as she picked up her pace to catch up with him.
He nodded and replied, "Yes, but then I'll need to get back to my hotel so I can call Brigit."
"Oh, you sly dog. Already got a local girl all hot and bothered?"
He gave her a look that said don't ever go there again. "Brigit is my assistant, a local widow," he replied in a freezing tone.
Faith thought about a crazy cat lady, who'd lived down the street when she was a kid, and was about to make a comment when she was distracted by the cycle sitting alone in the parking lot. "A Narbon XL-7. Midnight blue. One of the snazziest cycles on the road."
Tossing Faith a helmet, Taylor swung his leg over the cycle and replied, with a huge grin, "Accelerates faster than anything else and hugs the road like a dream."
"She's yours?" Faith asked. "You gonna be my sugar daddy or what?"
"Yes to one; no to two," he replied disapprovingly.
As Faith worked out his meaning, something in his tone reassured her. Maybe I can deal with this after all and, if not, she thought, I'm a Slayer. I can get myself out of trouble.