Faith inched away. It was as far (and as fast) as she could manage. Her legs felt like old rubber bands stretched well past their limits. "Janna?" Her voice cracked and wavered. She'd seen magic before. Hell, she'd even felt it before, sort of, as she and Buffy duked it out in Angel's mansion. This was very different, though. Very up close and personal. "It was just a question. No need for show and tell."
From one heartbeat to the next, the building power disappeared. "Whatever I cannot do for protection..." Janna glanced away, appearing older and far less mystical. "The Slayer keeps us safe."
Of course she did. Faith nodded her head in agreement. "B's the best." Sitting quietly for a moment, she watched her hostess closely. "Looks like you rate pretty high, too." Other than the Glove, Faith had only known one other witch. Smoke from the fire caused her eyes to tear and her throat to tighten. She blinked and coughed. "Gotta ask. With the two of you on the same team, why sit here? Why not take out the Master and stop living in a tent?" She hadn't planned to be so blunt. She'd wanted to get to the question eventually. Faith slumped in defeat. She sucked at this.
Apparently Jana thought so, too. Turning abruptly, she marched to the other side of the campfire in a swirl of multi-colored skirting. "It will take more than parlor tricks to beat a master vampire."
"Like what?" Faith's mouth, not her brain, continued to control the conversation.
Jana merely stared at her.
Blowing into the steaming bowl, Faith let the silence stretch. It seemed perfectly clear to her: let Jana do her magic while Buffy took out the survivors. Then, as she slowly drank her soup, she took a closer look at that plan. Jana's magic maintained some kind of barrier around the camp. How much energy did that take? Faith vaguely remembered Willow babbling something about magic needing energy and how a witch had to use her personal energy store. If Jana didn't have enough personal fire power... "So you're gonna be stuck here forever." Even after coming to terms with reality, Faith hadn't mastered tact. "If I'm helping Buffy, would that be enough? I mean, you'd only have to take out a third of the vamps instead of half."
Slowly, as if Janna had forgotten how, she began to laugh. The low, rough sound grew until it filled the air. Scowling, Faith fought the urge to protest that she hadn't been telling a joke. Janna finally quieted; she was still smiling, however, when she told Faith, "I like you."
Faith snorted. Janna didn't know her. Didn't know who or what she was or what she'd done. "You do now," she said seriously. Finishing her soup, Faith let the conversation die. She let the food and the fire - and the non-combative company - soothe some of her tension. It would be so easy without Buffy or the Master or the sight of a dilapidated Sunnydale to forget. To push duty and correcting her mistake onto a back burner. Faith yawned. God, she was tired. Sleeping on the floor hadn't exactly been restful.
The floor. The wall of cans. Buffy's hideout.
With a twist of her wrist, Faith tossed the last of the soup onto the fire. It hissed and smoke rose in a thick cloud. "Tell me about magic. Why can't you take on the Master? Red..." The bowl bent in Faith's hands as the name (and grief) registered. Consciously unclenching her fingers, Faith said with unnecessary force, "She was a witch. She used to study spell books and shit. Don't you got some of those?" Most of Willow's spells had been a disaster, but she'd always acted as if she could take on legions of demons. Surely there were ways to find extra energy to boost the magic.
The fire cracked and popped as the last rays of sunlight disappeared. Turning the soup mug in her hands, Janna didn't laugh at Faith a second time.
"Can't you do it?" Now that she'd mentioned it, Faith was becoming more and more convinced this was the answer to the first of her problems.
The new Lead Slayerette didn't share her enthusiasm. "Magic isn't like that, Slayer. It's not a weapon." Janna stood, dumping her soup with less fanfare into the flames. "The Goddess imbues all nature with her energy; those of us who worship her can harness that power. I've already perverted the energy in this area to keep us safe."
That was bullshit - and Faith said so. "You didn't seem to mind 'pervertin'' anything a minute ago when you were showing off." It had been a long day. This was too much like previous conversations with Buffy, pushing for responses and reactions. This time, Faith didn't have the energy for that. She kept it plain and simple. "Truth is, you either ain't as good as you're pretending or you're too scared."
When Janna laughed this time, there was no real amusement. "You were right to warn me, Faith. My first impression of you might have been wrong." She returned to her seat, slowly, and when she resumed speaking Faith wasn't surprised to hear resentment and anger in her voice. "I have power. Enough to ward this site. Enough to handle a cadre of the Master's soldiers." The mug she still held flew across the tiny cooking space and disappeared into the dark with a soft thunk. "If I knew how to do something with it."
Despite her confusion, Faith stayed silent.
"I know how to heal, a little. I can ward - as you know. Beyond that, I'm helpless. I have no spell books, no Coven to ask. All of my contacts in the Craft..." Janna broke off, leaving Faith to fill in the blanks.
"Dead?" The Master must have targeted the witches when he took over the city.
Shaking her head, Janna blew Faith's mind. "Oh, I didn't know anyone in Sunnydale. Before Sunnydale, I...moved around a lot." She'd been staring fixedly at the ground. Her gaze flickered to Faith and then away as she continued. "The internet provided all the resources I needed. I sold charms and read palms, maybe dabbled in love potions for bored housewives. The money was good." Her smile flashed, sudden and quirky, for a moment. "None of its worth a damn now."
The fledgling plan Faith had been creating shriveled and died. She was back to square one: two Slayers against an army. Or was she? Faith's mind latched on to a piece of Janna's explanation. "You said you don't have any books, right?"
"Yes. Lugging them around didn't make sense so I used my computer." Janna waved a hand at the camp, now hidden in darkness. "Finding a dial-up connection around here is a challenge."
Janna would have made a good Scooby. Humor mixed with frustration; the hallmark of every research session Faith remembered. Maybe that was why the solution to their problem popped into her head. "Giles!" Exhaustion faded away. "Giles has books. Hundreds of them." When she spotted Janna's look of confusion, Faith paused and reeled in her excitement. "There's this guy in town," she protected Buffy and her connection to Giles, "who has books you can use to learn spells. And if that don't work, even Giles has got a phone line."
Unfortunately, her explanation wasn't enough. Janna remained firmly planted in place. "Is this Giles a witch? Why would he help us?"
"Because…" Faith broke off as reality intruded. Giles wouldn't help them. He hadn't believed Faith's story earlier. The entire situation shoved Faith right to the edge. Pacing in long, frustrated strides, she took stock. Of course, Giles might be too busy drinking or trying to kill them to let them use his library. Faith growled internally. To hell with Giles and his feud with Buffy. This was serious business. If Janna needed spell books, Giles was going to give them to her - willingly or not. "I'll take you there first thing in the morning."
Until then...Sleep would take a back seat to planning.
With a slight grunt of effort, Faith jabbed her jacket-covered elbow into the window pane. It shattered, the sound slightly muffled from the use of the heavy denim.
"I thought you said this Giles would help us!" Janna tucked herself closer to the side of the townhouse and glanced furtively around. "Just because I'm Rom doesn't make breaking the law a hobby."
Maybe she should have come alone. Janna was freaking like Giles over a little breaking and entering. Rather than respond, Faith tossed her jacket over the jagged fragments of glass and gingerly climbed into Giles' home. He was there. Slayer hearing picked up the hint of a snore from another part of the townhome. Janna was safe to start researching. Turning around, Faith used her jacket and brute force to remove the final pieces of window glass and then pulled Janna inside. "Alright. Hit the books. I'll go round up Giles."
She waited just long enough to watch Janna pick her way through the darkened room toward the large bookcases against the far wall of the living room. As soon as Janna pulled the first book off the shelf, Faith felt some of her tension melt away. Books, research, and friends… It was a recipe for saving the world. Faith's real world.
Now all she had to do was convince Friend Number Two to join the party. She could do it. After long, sleepless hours in Buffy's lean-to, Faith had a foolproof strategy. Leaving Janna to hunt spells, Faith hit the stairs and followed the sound of Giles' heavy breathing to the second floor.
The smell of booze and unwashed Giles hit Faith at the landing. She cursed her enhanced senses and concentrated on breathing through her mouth. She didn't have to sniff Giles out now. There were only two doors, one of which gaped open to reveal a bathroom. Not bothering with stealth, Faith twisted the knob on the second door and stepped into Giles' bedroom.
It was filthy, in keeping with the first floor. Piles of clothes littered the floors. More bottles of Scotch shared space with dusty bottles of cologne and demon texts on the dresser and nightstand. In the middle of the mess, Giles sprawled (thankfully) fully clothed across the bed. Before her confidence crumbled, Faith grabbed a half-full bottle. The top came off with no effort.
"What…" Whatever else Giles might have asked as he jackknifed erect was lost under a wave of Scotch. It coursed over his face and soaked his shirt. His bloodshot eyes peered at Faith with comic confusion and irritation.
Faith didn't give him a chance to rouse completely. She strode to the bed and yanked him to his feet – and then held him there when he swayed alarmingly. "Time to get the fuck up, G-man. We got a vamp to kill."
She got no answer; although, Giles did manage to stabilize himself. His muscles tensed against her hold.
"I ain't gonna listen to whatever you got to say. You don't believe me about the real Sunnydale? Fine." Her voice was intense and Giles flinched at each word. But he was listening. She saw a little of the haze clear from his eyes. "You think I'm full of shit? You might be right. I don't care. You know what I do care about?"
Giles' head moved left and right.
"Buffy." Faith said the name loud and clear. "You do, too. B told me that," Faith said with shameless exaggeration. "She said you took on the Master alone 'cause of some lame ass prophecy."
She had Giles' attention. He stopped struggling and met her eyes. "That is not quite how it happened."
"Don't really matter." Faith was tempted to let him go and step back. She might have if the memory of her first visit wasn't fresh in her mind. Giles was a smart, sneaky bastard. He could very easily be playing along. "The only thing that does is B. I found a witch I think can help."
It was the wrong thing to say. Giles' mouth tightened. "Magic cannot help us. How do you know this witch? The Covens in this area…"
"She's a friend of Buffy's." Buffy was Faith's ace in the hole.
He wavered. His eyes met Faith's then darted away. "Did Buffy send you here?" The hesitancy in Giles' voice was horrible. Un-Giles like.
And Faith couldn't bring herself to tell him the truth. "Yeah." For once, she didn't regret the lie. "Think she's ready for the final battle, if ya' know what I mean." Not completely untrue this time. Faith was absolutely convinced Buffy was ready to end things. The only question left in Faith's mind: was Buffy hoping to kill the Master – or let him kill her?