Chapter 15.

Halfway home Xander ducked into an alley and started puking his guts out.

"Ah shit." Faith swore.

"Sorry." Xander sputtered before continuing his retching.

Faith shook her head even though he had his back to her. "It's my fault. I forgot who you are again."

Xander spit several times to clear out the food chunks and bile in his mouth, then he wiped his mouth with the back of his shirt sleeve. "No. I wanted to kill them. They were trying to murder Buffy. It's just..."

"It kinda hit you?" Faith finished.

"Yeah. Did we...?"

"Kill humans?" Faith finished his sentence for him again. She shrugged. "A few times. But only those who really deserved it. Even more than those guys." she didn't want to sugarcoat anything. "It will help when you know that Travers did that Test to over a dozen slayers while he was in charge of the Council and only two ever survived, including Buffy."

Xander straightened, cleared his throat, and spit one last time. He let out a sound that was nearly a growl.

Faith smiled. "Feel that? That's anger. Much better than pity."

Xander stopped.

"Whenever you start feeling guilty about the things or people you've killed, just remind yourself about all the evil shit they did first and the guilt goes away."

"What happens if you kill an innocent?"

Faith turned and looked down the street. "Then you tell yourself that the world is better off with you killing bad things than not, until you start to believe it yourself."

"How long till that works?" Xander had to ask.

Faith swallowed. "Dunno. Haven't gotten to that point yet."

Giles cleaned his glasses with the polishing cloth Faith had bought him for Christmas. He was standing while looking out the window of his office and not meeting the eyes of either Slayer in the room. "So, you happened to be walking past the Sunnydale Arms and heard screaming."

"That was it exactly." Faith said sarcastically. "Found two guys dead on the main floor. I was going to go check the basement when a vamp came down from the second floor. He attacked Xander. Xander dusted him. I checked upstairs and put a piece of wood in a guy who looked like he'd drank. End of story."

Giles returned his glasses to his face and sat down. He was clearly lost in thought as he poured himself tea.

Faith waited until he was taking a sip to drop the bomb. "So, that means no Cruciamentum for me or B, right?" She was rewarded for her timing with a perfect spit-take all over his office window.

"What?" was all Giles could manage as he attempted to sop up the splattered tea.

"The Cruciamentum. Am I saying it right? I was reading some of the watcher diaries and so many of them ended on their 18th birthday. Right after mentioning the Cruciamentum or The Test. I wondered why." Faith tone was completely innocent but her face did not look like she was wondering at all.

Giles stopped wiping up tea from the window and window sill. He realized very quickly that Faith hadn't simply happened by the test site. And the men there may or may not have died at a vampire's hands but it likely hadn't been accidental. Which meant that Faith possibly freed the creature and then waited outside until the screams stopped before going in to Slay. He also realized that he might be in very real danger if Faith thought he was in any way involved with the test. Buffy was in the room too, but for now she was merely confused.

"Why don't you explain to Buffy why so many Slayers die on their 18th birthday." Faith ordered.

Giles paused to collect his thoughts. Lying was straight out. He wondered how much of the truth he could get away with telling or not telling. It would require a delicate balance to placate one Slayer without enraging the other. But he judged Faith to be the greater threat to his person and decided that more truth would be better for him. Certainly in the short run. He could mitigate damage with Buffy later.

"Depending on who you ask in the council, the Cruciamentum is either a revered tradition or a horrific exercise in cruelty. Before I explain further, I want you both to know that both Diana and I were very much against either of you experiencing the test. We argued with- Well, I guess Travers is gone now?" Giles lost his train of thought for a second. "Unfortunately as neither myself nor Diana have much in the way of real pull in the council, the test would be administered with or without our help."

"What does this Cruci-whatever do?" Buffy asked.

"There's a compound. No lasting side effects but-"

"They take your powers, B." Faith cut in. "Then they lock you in a house with a vampire."

Buffy looked at Giles like he'd just kicked her puppy into rush hour traffic. "No. It can't be. You wouldn't do that to me."

"There was no choice." Giles tried to explain. "If I didn't. They would capture you with tranquilizer guns and administer the drug that way. And refusal would also mean I would be fired. I would have done it so I could mitigate the damage they would do to you." he leaned forward and Buffy took a step back.

"Chill, B. Nothing happened. You didn't stick her, did you?"

"What? No. No. The first dose wasn't due for another couple of days. And I had another meeting scheduled with Quentin to try to talk him out of it before then." Giles said.

"See? Nothing."

"But he was going to..." Buffy choked out. Tears were form at the corners of her eyes.

Faith noticed that Giles was about to get up to try and comfort his Slayer. She put a hand on his shoulder. Both to stop him from getting up and as a sign of solidarity. Or maybe just to intimidate him by having her hand so close to his throat. "You don't know that. Maybe he would have stuck Travers with the needle at their next meeting."

Buffy just glared at Faith behind her tear blurred eyes.

Faith raised her hands in surrender. "Hey. All I'm saying is that you can't judge him based on shit he didn't do." she smiled. "Believe me, that's actually harder for me than it is for you."

Buffy turned and fled. Faith kept her hand firmly on Giles' shoulder until the library doors closed. As Buffy left, Diana entered the small office as well. Giles felt somewhat more comforted hoping that Faith wouldn't do anything rash with her watcher there.

"So, G-dawg, I think this is the part where I tell you I'm not angry, just disappointed. Except for the part about not being angry." Faith said icily.

"Faith, let me explain." Giles begged.

Faith just shook her head. "You don't need to explain. I understand. But it doesn't mean I'm not angry. The watchers council just tried to kill my friend after all. So, all I really want to know is: is there any chance of putting one of you two at the head of the council now that Travers is dead?"

"Us?" Giles blinked. "As in me?"

Faith nodded. "It was a bad position all around. They had you in a corner. They tried to kill us, we tried to kill them back. Too bad we're so much better at it than they are. But I still trust you. Do you still trust me?"

Giles mutely nodded more in relief that his life wasn't in jeopardy than in answer.

"Most of my anger isn't for you. It's for the assholes across the pond who think they can tell us what to do and then commit attempted murder of heroes on their 18th birthday."

"What do you propose?" Giles asked warily.

"We take over. 'We' being one of you two probably since B and I gotta keep doing the Slayer thing. And Xander and Willow aren't experienced enough yet."

"I dare say that leaves me out." Giles sighed. "I'm afraid I'm none too popular with those who will be choosing Travers' successor. Nearly a laughingstock I'm afraid."

DD mouth twitched. "Nearly?"

"That was a long time ago. I really wish they'd let it rest already." Giles complained.

"What about you?" Faith turned to her watcher.

But it was Giles who answered. "Let's see, she turned a girl who was thought to be on her way to being a problem child into the model Slayer, got her on track to graduate high school early after she dropped out, and she's overseen the training of a band of volunteers to help the Slayer. I'd say there's a chance. Not to mention that she started off far more popular than I am in the council."

"Faith, are you sure? It would mean I'd have to go back to England." Diana laid a hand on her charge's shoulder. That green demon she'd sang for had said a new career opportunity was on the way and she should seize it with both hands. She hadn't really believed him until just now.

"This is more important." Faith declared. "Whatever you need from me to make this happen, just ask."

Diana pulled her Slayer into a tight hug. "Oh Faith, you've already given me so much. Except air." she gasped as Faith returned the hug with a little too much force. Once she could breathe again she looked around. "Right. Faith, here's the council checkbook. You're already on the account. But necessities only please. Food, rent, bills. Nothing embarrassing until after I've been made head of the council." she gave a knowing smile.

"Pay cash for the kinky stuff. Got it." Faith took the checkbook.

"Well, let me make some phone calls and see when the next flight to England is."

Buffy washed her face at a gas station on the way home. She didn't want to worry her mother with the reason she'd been crying.

"Buffy?" her mom called as she shut the door.

"Yep." Buffy acknowledged more brightly than she felt. She brightened for real a bit when she saw the flowers on the counter. "Ooo. Presents already?"

"Uh, they're not. They're from your father." Joyce began as Buffy started reading the letter. "His, uh, quarterly projections are unraveling and he can't afford to take off right now. He promises to make it up to you. It's all right there in the letter. If- if you want, I could ask somebody to cover for me at the gallery. I- I mean, if you want me to take you." Joyce offered.

Buffy crumpled up the letter. "No. No, that's not necessary. I'll see if Scott wants to take me." she tried to cheer herself up.

"That sounds like a wonderful idea." Joyce gave her daughter a hug. It was a bit stiff, but then again, her father had basically told her that she was less important to him than money. Behind Buffy's head she frowned but plastered on a smile again to try and cheer her daughter up before letting go. "Go wash up. Supper's almost ready."

"Happy Birthday, Buffy." Scott gave her a hug.

"Thanks." Buffy didn't sound nearly as enthused as her boyfriend.

"What's wrong?" Scott asked.

"I think my birthdays are jinxed. Last year... was a horrible birthday. And this year isn't looking much better. I was looking forward to going to an ice show with my dad, but he bailed and sent me the tickets instead." Buffy said, hoping Hope would take the hint.

"Well, I could take you. That is, if you still want to-" he was almost bowled over by Buffy's hug. Sometimes that girl didn't know her own strength. "...go. I take it you want to go?"

Buffy kissed his cheek before hopping back to the ground. "Pick me up at six."

"Wow, this is better than I expected." Scott Hope admitted.

"You don't have to lie for me." Buffy insisted.

"I wouldn't lie to you." Scott insisted back. "If I really hated it, at worst I just wouldn't say anything. But I mean it, this is much better than I expected. Granted, my expectations were pretty low so it wasn't a high bar." they shared a chuckle. "But these guys jumped over that bar and did a triple something or rather just to show off."

Buffy brightened considerably at that. Then she settled down for the serious discussion. "Listen I know you've been hinting that you'd like to be a part of my group of friends."

"It's just... you guys seem so close." Scott interrupted. "It feels like there's a part of your life that you're keeping secret from me."

"That's because I am." Buffy admitted.

Scott gave her a look in the darkened skating rink.

"It's nothing bad. I promise. But I just wanted to keep you to myself for a little while longer. Keep you safe." Buffy winced at that last part. She knew he was going to ask what she was keeping him safe from next.

"Are you in a girl-gang?" Scott asked instead.


"Well, it's one of the rumors going around about you guys. People tell me all the rumors and ask if they're true or not because I'm dating you but not in the group." Scott explained.

"People have actually noticed that? You know what? Never mind." Buffy shook her head. "Wait. What about Oz and Xander? How do they fit into the girl-gang theory?" she asked playfully. That was actually funny. She'd have to tell the guys later.

"Well assuming that it were true, it's pretty obvious that Harris and Osbourne aren't in charge. Theories as to what they are range from junior members due to being male, to consorts, to well... sex toys."

Buffy could see the blush creeping up Scott's neck even in the dark. Then she looked past Scott and could see a vampire following a girl into a door marked 'employees only'. "Popcorn! I'm going to get us some popcorn." she said as she stood up. "You just wait right here. I'll be right back."

Scott watched as she left then looked down at their half-full popcorn. He set it down on the seat and took off after Buffy.

He watched her go into a door marked 'employees only'. Less than a minute later, a girl came running out, mascara showing that she'd been crying. Scott urged himself onward on legs that didn't want to walk. He wasn't sure if he really wanted to know if she really was in a gang or not. He'd told her that one because it was the least weird of all the possible explanations for why all the jocks were afraid of her and her friends. He slowly eased the door open and watched as his girlfriend stabbed a Klingon in the chest with a stake. Said Klingon bared his fangs and then turned to dust which settled at her feet.

Buffy then turned around to see Scott standing in doorway. "See? Not in a gang. Just your ordinary, everyday Vampire Slayer."

A/N: Do not own Klingons or anything having to do with Star Trek.