After they'd finished eating, Aidan asked Wesley to join him in his office. Rightfully irritated that some stranger had been brought in to train his Slayer, Wesley considered declining but with a sigh gave in and followed Aidan back to the study. He did, after all, have to work with these people. Until the Council abandoned whatever foolish notions were allowing this interference – as if the time honored tradition of one Watcher, one Slayer hadn't worked perfectly well for generations – he really had very little say in the situation. It rankled, but there it was.
When Aidan, playing the gracious host, gestured for him to sit in one of the leather chairs, Wesley slumped down into it, feeling quite despondent, which is why Aidan's words took him so off guard. "I want to apologize for bringing in a trainer without discussing it with you first."
"I, um, what?"
Aidan was still standing, towering over him really, and Wesley wondered if that was some sort of psychological trick, if giving himself the high-ground physically didn't give his words more merit. Waving his hand out, in an awkward jerking motion, Aidan said, "You are her Watcher, and I should have consulted you."
Wesley didn't know how to reply. Aidan was perfectly correct when he said Wesley should have been the one making that decision, but even after he'd been selected to be Faith's Watcher, in those heady few days between receiving the assignment and being sent to the States, not to mention after he'd arrived in Boston, almost nobody treated him with the respect his position deserved. He settled for a quiet and dignified "Thank you", which he immediately questioned, wondering if that acknowledgement would allow Aidan to think he could be disregarded again in the future. Perhaps he should have gone on the offensive, demanding that the woman be dismissed.
"Of course, it goes without saying that neither of us are competent to give Faith the training she deserves as the Slayer."
"But," Wesley said, sputtering out a few more buts before making his point, "I've been training for this most of my life."
Aidan sat at that, leaning in, acting as if Wesley were his equal and possibly his friend. "I know exactly what your training is, and it isn't enough, although I'm certain you think otherwise. I would have thought the exact same thing at your age, but I've had almost two decades to learn better. Faith needs to be trained by the best, and I know Cam doesn't look like much, but don't let her looks deceive you. She's an amazing fighter and best teacher I've run across."
Wesley took that in, still not pleased that some stranger, someone he'd never even heard of before, was stepping in to train his Slayer, but the situation seemed to have spiraled out of his control, and he didn't believe he had any say now that she was here.
Standing again, Aidan stepped across the room, saying, "I'd like to say I'm letting you borrow these as way of an atonement, but even though I've behaved most egregiously, I do have a favor to ask." Pulling three tomes out of the bookcase, he brought them over to Wesley.
Not certain he wanted to look at them, but fearing he'd appear ungracious if he didn't take them, Wesley had all three tomes in his lap before he realized what they were. "Transformare Homo Daemonium," he whispered, awe in his voice. "The definitive work on the creation of demonic races from human flesh. I've seen references in other books but never thought to be holding them in my own hands. Where did you ever find them?"
Aidan gave him a smile. "That's a long story." Tapping one of the tomes, he added, "I'd be interested in your thoughts, especially on the second volume."
"I'd be honored," Wesley stammered, holding onto the tomes as if they were the Holy Grail itself.
"I'll leave you to it then," Aidan said, gesturing toward the doorway.
Rising with a grace he rarely had, as if only when surrounded by or holding ancient books did he feel comfortable in his body, Wesley took the tomes up to his room, feeling he could only keep them properly secure in a small space. Leaning over the desk that Aidan had provided at his request, where he usually made notes for his Watcher diary, Wesley opened the first tome.
About a half hour later, Wesley sat back in his chair. "But if that's true, then Eddington's theories on the origins of selkies would be completely invalid." Standing, he'd taken one step toward the door before turning back to the tomes. He brushed his fingers over the pages he'd just been reading, as if reluctant to leave them behind. Giving himself a shake, he added, "No, I can't just let that rest."
Leaving the three tomes behind, he made his way to the living room, going straight to the shelf he wanted. As he was flipping through the book, he was surprised to hear chanting, apparently coming from outside the house. Looking up with a start, Wesley tilted his head to catch the sound better. Come at me, and I'll stick to thee. Wesley thought about holiday customs, of running from house to house with a wren in a box begging for treats, and briefly wondered if there were children at the door, but from the sound of it this wasn't the same thing at all. The chanting wasn't the singsong he'd expect for that sort of holiday custom. It had the pacing of an incantation. Attack and be stuck fast. It honestly didn't sound like a prank. Perhaps he should investigate.
Wesley opened the back door slowly, wincing when it squeaked, and peered into the night as if afraid something might jump out at him. The chanting had stopped. To his right he saw Mrs. Smith, Camille, the woman who'd been brought in to train his Slayer, and about three feet past her Faith in a fighting stance, standing as if she were protecting Mrs. Smith although Wesley couldn't see any danger. Perhaps this was merely another training session, but then, as a set of about a dozen fireworks went off in the distance, Wesley saw the colored lights reflecting off of... something, the light fading from the darkness Faith was facing moments before the fireworks faded in the sky. A tickle of knowledge at the back of his mind told Wesley that he should recognize the creature, but he had no idea what it might be, possibly because he could barely see it, pitch black as it was against the base of the trees, even darker than the shadows. Wait, pitch...
Faith kicked at it.
"No," Wesley shouted, racing into the yard, knowing he was too late to stop her even before he tried. By the time he'd reached her side, her leg was already stuck up to the thigh in a gooey mass. Even though the creature's leg had dissolved when Faith had kicked it, the rest of it was still upright, a large pitch figure, towering over his Slayer. Wesley tried to calm himself. A Tar Baby, he'd never expected to see such a creature in his whole life, but at least it wasn't terribly dangerous, as long as Faith didn't attack it.
Faith wrapped her arms around it's neck. "Kinda busy here, Wes," she yelled back, grimacing as the tar congealed over her hands.
"Stop fighting it!"
"Can't win if you don't play the game," she added, trying to yank her hands out of the tar.
"The more you fight, the quicker it'll pull you in," he shouted. "Just stay still and give me some time to research. There must be a way to get you out of it."
"That'd be called killing it," Faith called back, slamming her head against the Tar Baby. As it sucked her in, it completely lost its human form, reverting to a massive pile of goop. Only Faith's leg, the one she hadn't kicked with, stuck out from the black tar.
Diving for the leg, Wesley pulled at it, knowing his actions were futile but also certain research wouldn't work now. Faith couldn't hold her breath that long. Turning his head toward Mrs. Smith, he yelled out, "Why don't you help?"
Instead of responding, the woman simply stood there, serene as a Buddha. "Please," Wesley had started to say, hoping that begging would move the woman, although what she could do, he didn't know, when the night started getting brighter. Turning toward the Tar Baby, he squinted, raising his arm to protect himself from the blinding light as it exploded into a flash so bright that he could see white even from behind his closed eyes.
"What the hell?" he heard Faith shout.
Wesley, blinking his sight back, saw Faith standing toe to toe with Mrs. Smith, the Slayer looking like she was ready to rip the woman's head off. Certain that he wouldn't look so calm if facing an enraged Slayer, Wesley wondered if he should intervene. Perhaps if he stayed out of it, Mrs. Smith would realize she wasn't up to training a Slayer and leave. That certainly would be for the best.
"Did you have something to do with that?" Faith asked in a shout.
"Check your necklace," Mrs. Smith replied.
Faith pulled at the chain on her neck. "It's gone," she said. "That plastic thingamajig is gone."
"It was created to destroy the Tar Baby; once the two touched, they were both destroyed."
"So you just happened to know that monster would be attacking and threw me at it?" Faith asked, scorn clear in her voice.
"I rather believe she had it created," Wesley said, wondering if the spellcaster were still about.
Never taking her eyes off Faith, Mrs. Smith replied, "It was a test. You failed. You let anger control your actions and ignored good advice from an ally. If this had been a real attack, you'd be dead."
With the moral high ground firmly in his pocket, Wesley stepped toward Mrs. Smith, anxious to press his advantage. "Do you really believe either of us will trust you after that betrayal?"
The woman's lips twisted into a small smile as she, seemingly ignoring Wesley's words, directed hers toward Faith. "I am not your friend, but I will do all I can to make you the most effective fighter you can become. This will save your life." Turning to Wesley, she added, "And you speak of betrayal? What, were you planning to ignore the Council's directive on the cruciamentum?"
Wesley paled as he stuttered, "How do you know about that?"
"As I said before," she replied. "My sister."
Her sister had been a Slayer. He wondered what secrets she knew.
Faith glanced between the two of them. "The cruci-whatsit?"
"Nothing," Wesley said dismissively, looking for firm ground, for some stability that would give him a sense of control. "Nothing to concern you."
Faith stepped back, a wary look on her face.
"Your feelings of insecurity will get the Slayer killed," Mrs. Smith said before turning and walking into the house.
Faith gazed up at the last of the fireworks. "I'll tell you one thing. She's already a lot more interesting than Petra ever was."
"You cannot mean to train with that lunatic," Wesley exclaimed.
"What's the cruciamentum?"
"I, um, well," Wesley stammered.
"That's what I thought." Faith followed Mrs. Smith into the house, leaving Wesley outside, alone in the dark.