Chapter 1: Bright Star
rating: pg 13
main characters: Adam Peirson(Methos), Faith
disclaimer: I hold no legal rights to any characters from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (creation of Joss Whedon & a whole lot of other people who aren't me) or from Highlander (Creation of a different group of people that don't include me).
distribution: Jinni's Quickfics, Paula, anyone else please ask.
notes: response to Jinni's Weekly Poetry Challenge (week 3, Poetry Quote below). Set AU post season four.
a small nod to Jinni's Willow/Methos for making me think of him again, and inspiring me to try using him in a fic.
"SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies."
-- She walks in beauty, Byron
He knew from the moment that he first saw her that she was someone special. Granted, that could have had a little to do with the fact that she had been busy fighting four vampires at the time, and winning, but still... She'd been beautiful, and her motion the sort to inspire poetry. Graceful, powerful, sensual even in a fight... mmmm. If he were a cat, he would be purring right about now.
Of course, he really should have known better, especially at his age, than to allow himself to be so completely distracted in a place with obvious vampires. His not-so-gentle reminder of that came in the form of a blond female vampire wearing a pair of those ridiculously low blue jeans with the flare legs and this sort of corsety top that showed of the tattoo encircling her pierced navel.
"Dinner is served, lucky me." Her claws had dug into his arm, drawing blood as she spun him around, trying to pull him close enough to bite.
"Sorry to break it to you, but you aren't my type." He'd shoved his other fist into her throat, the pain of it buying time for him to draw his sword. Then, he was fighting her, a man with a sword against a vampire with inhuman strength and sharp teeth. Thank... something... that she wasn't that good of a fighter. He still felt rather bruised by the time his sword parted that fanged head from her body, both falling to dust.
"Not bad. Decapitation does tend to kill most things." This voice was less threatening, with a sort of near purr and a faint New England accent to it. She was smiling at him, one hand on a leather clad hip, no bruises, injuries or weapons visible anymore. There were also no more vampires.
For a terribly awkward moment, he hadn't been certain what to say. Then, he'd smiled at her. "It's a fairly basic idea. Been around for a very long time, actually. I'm just... rather lucky that she wasn't that good of a fighter."
"Yeah... lucky." There was something in her smirk, a hint of secret knowledge that taunted him, tantalized him. "Might not be a bad idea to go inside somewhere, maybe a place with fewer vamps?"
He grinned, and gave in to the arrogance that had once led him to believe that he was above the laws, above the gods. "Maybe I can buy you a drink? I know this nice little jazz club..."
"You get attacked by a vampire, and now you're asking me out?" She looked shocked, but not angry. "Sorry, but I don't accept drinks from people whose name I don't know."
Holding out one hand, he smiled just a little. "Easily remedied. I'm Adam Peirson."
Her own hand slipped into his, hard with muscle and calluses, but almost delicate feeling just the same. "I'm Faith."
A part of him was trying to protest, to offer a warning that at best, this could only lead to heartache in the future. But the words emerged anyhow. "So... now that you know my name, how about that drink?"
Faith brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. "Most guys wouldn't be quite so keen to go off with someone they just saw fighting monsters. What makes you different?"
The question made him smile, thinking of all the possible ways he could answer that one. "Eternal optimism? Actually, you reminded me of a bit of poetry I heard once, something about being beautiful like the night, and a blending of light and dark. Except said a lot better, because that's what poets do."
She smiled, and was that a blush on those cheeks? She slipped her hand lightly onto his arm, her words soft, as if she wasn't quite certain that she should be saying them. "Maybe a drink might be nice."
A fragment of even older poetry danced in his mind, composed by a long forgotten poet for a forgotten king. Looking at her, he could only smile, thinking that here was a woman worthy of being called a bright star. She dwelled in a world filled with darkness, but there was a light to her. Maybe... maybe she could be his bright star?
"It would be my delight, oh bright star of heaven." The smile would hopefully keep her from deciding that he was some sort of lunatic.
Faith was definitely blushing now, almost glancing away. "You've been listening to too many poets."
She'd blushed, maybe been embarrassed, but she hadn't pulled away. Maybe... maybe she could be his bright star. He would have to see how the future unfolded.
end Bright Star.
Chapter 2: Stars in his Eyes
Faith had figured it would be a bad idea from the moment that Adam had invited her to get a drink. She was a Slayer, she didn't have the time to devote to a serious relationship, and now that she was a little older and wiser, she didn't just want someone to go off with for a quick night of sex. Or even a long night of sex.
But there had been something about him, in the way that he'd been looking at her that had made her accept. It wasn't the way that he'd quoted poetry at her. It wasn't his nice smile or good muscles, or the way that he'd kept his head when the vampire had attacked him. It wasn't the way his voice made a part of her want to pounce on him and eat him up. It was... well, maybe all of them, maybe something else. Maybe she was just lonely.
They'd had a couple drinks, and talked a little. Adam had definitely been flirting with her, but not the sort of thing that said 'I want you right now', it was more like... well, like he was interested, but willing to be patient. They'd just had drinks and talked about music for a while before she'd left to go back to her hotel room. Alone.
She'd bumped into him again a week later. Literally. There had been this vamp that she'd been fighting, and he'd thrown her towards the end of the alley when she'd just about melted his eye with her cross. Her fall had been broken by a body. Adam's body.
"glmmmph!" The muffled and unhappy noise was a clear sign that he was still alive.
A half glance had identified him. "Adam... good to see you, can't chat right now. I have to kill this guy."
Springing up, she'd dodged the vampire's next blow, and kicked at his knee, popping the knee out of joint and dropping him to the floor of the alley. She pulled a smaller stake, plunging it into his chest before he could recover.
It was a rule of slaying - kill the vamp first, then look for your favorite stake. That way, the bad guy doesn't get back up and hurt you. Finally, she found it, and gently wiped the dirt from it. Glancing over, she saw that Adam was standing up now, leaning against the brick wall beside the alley, wheezing a bit.
"You alright over there?" She couldn't help but worry a little bit.
One hand sort of waved. "I'll live. Slightly squished, but I'll live."
Walking closer, she'd touched the side of his face, her hand sliding to cup his cheek. "Feel up to going with me to find some dinner? A hard night of slaying gets me hungry."
He smiled, his eyes flickering over her, darkening just a little. "Hungry, hmmm?" There was a pause, just long enough to make her wonder if he was going to say something else or not. "I think I'd like that."
"Yeah, hungry." Faith smiled, flirting just a little. Slaying did make her hungry, although that wasn't all it did. But if she mentioned that, he'd think that she.... well, actually, she was coming on to him. Just not quite that blatantly.
Wincing a bit, Adam straightened, stepping away from the wall. "I know this place that has excellent Chinese. And an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet. Are you interested?"
"Sounds pretty good to me." She licked her lips a little, noticing that he seemed to be pretty affected by her, at least, judging by the flicker of his eyes and the not so small bulge in his pants. Looked like Adam might be hiding quite a bit under that loose jacket.
Offering her his arm, he grinned. "Well, shall we go then? Preferably before anyone else crashes into me? I doubt they'd be as pretty as you."
Faith slipped her arm into his. "Did I land on a gentleman?"
Adam just chuckled, his hand catching her fingers, lacing through them. "Only on occasion. But the little bit of good manners can be very helpful in some situations."
"Should I ask what situations those might be?" She was definitely flirting now. And there was a little flicker of what might have been jealousy. Was Adam one of those guys who'd figured out that women liked a guy who'd open doors for them and do the little gentlemanly things like offering his arm?
"Research departments, looking up old acquaintances... making you smile." He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand, the subtle motion sending delightful shivers down her spine.
"And how's my smile?" She asked, wondering what he'd say.
"Radiant." He looked at her, his eyes darkening as he leaned closer, the tip of his tongue flickering over his lips. "Faith, I..."
Lifting just a bit onto her tip toes, Faith kissed him, her tongue sliding in, trying to catch his. He tasted a bit like coffee, and a hint of blood from what felt like his lip. He must had hurt it when she'd landed on him. Her hands slid around him, pulling their bodies together.
Eventually, the kiss broke, and he was pressed against her, clearly very interested. He was gasping a bit for breath, and one hand reached out, running through her hair. "That was unexpected. But I liked it. Feel free to kiss me again any time."
Her chuckle sounded almost wicked. "You promised me dinner."
"Would now be a good time to mention that I can cook?" There was a hopeful and suggestive look in his eyes.
For a moment, Faith considered saying no. But then... she was a Slayer, it wasn't as if she's be having to explain to her kids why they shouldn't do like Mommy had. She'd probably be dead in less than five years. Why not go for it?
"Will you make me breakfast in the morning?" Her hand was playing with the hair on the back of his head, just over his neck.
Adam made this little noise, almost a purring. "Of course."
They walked off into the night, and Faith just knew that while this probably wasn't the wisest thing to do, it was going to be fun. Anyhow, she was a Slayer, why not seize the moment? She'd only have so many of them anyhow...
end Bright Star 2: Stars in His Eyes
Chapter 3: Binary
It was the small hours of the morning, past midnight but still several hours before dawn. He should have been asleep, considering everything.
He had fought and defeated a headhunter who had believed that Adam Peirson, former Watcher, would be easy prey. He'd then, still trying to hide his immortality, persuaded Faith to let him watch her back while patrolling. They'd fought a half dozen vampires, and several large, hulking and thankfully clumsy demons. After that, they'd returned home, they'd spent several delightful hours working out the riled passions of a Slayer. He should be dead to the world now.
Faith's hand moved, searching until his arm was located, and then sliding upwards, almost like a spider. Her slumber uninterrupted, she snuggled closer to him, making a contented noise in the back of her throat.
"A Slayer..." He sighed, and tucked a lock of her hair behind one ear. "You're doomed, my bright star. All Slayers are. You live fast, your lives intense and exciting and terrifying, and then you die, cut down in the most glorious and intense battles that the world will never know about. And who is left to remember the fallen? Who remembers the fallen stars?"
Slowly, he traced his finger over the tattoo encircling her arm. "My brave warrior..."
Her eyes fluttered, opening to look at him. "Not tired? You should be."
"Exhausted." He kissed her, enjoying the feel of her in his arms. "But there's been so much going on that I can't make myself sleep."
"The demon thing? I know they can be a bit much to consider at first..." Faith ran her hands over his arms, and sat up, the sheets falling away from her body. "Need a bit more distracting?"
"You're distraction enough." He let his eyes slide over her, and smiled. "No, I knew about demons being real."
"Something you want to share, Adam?" Faith asked, her fingers tracing over him again, a glint in her eyes hinting that the wrong answer could be very bad for his health.
"That's not quite the right word for it." He sighed, and let himself fall back on the bed, pulling the comforter over their bodies. "First, there's two groups of people who call themselves Watchers. One group follows girls who might become Slayers. The other group follows immortals."
"Immortals? Wasn't that some Persian super-cavalry?" Faith blinked, and looked at him. "Are the groups connected?"
"Not the Persian military. No, these immortals are otherwise ordinary men an women who simply... stop aging." He sighed, running his fingers over the thread of the comforter. "There's a few other minor things. But basically, that's the main thing. People who don't age, who never get sick, and who can only be given the Final Death by beheading. And I have no idea if the two groups are connected."
"There's been a lot of demons who say nothing else can kill them. I bet a gunshot would still do some bad things to those immortals." Faith looked thoughtful, and then asked, "Were you one of those Watcher types?"
"Yes. I was, and then... Well, I'm immortal." Adam shrugged, and leaned up on his elbow. "The Watchers had a big problem with that. As for gunshots, they hurt, and yes, they can cause temporary death."
"Temporary?" Faith blinked, looking shocked. "How can death be temporary? Do you just... get better?"
"Pretty much." He shrugged. "Of course, it still hurts."
"So, why are you telling me this?" Faith asked, frowning a little.
"I'd like to patrol with you more often, to watch your back." He sighed, and touched one of her scars. "I can fight, and I can help you. Plus, even if I do get hurt, unless they take my head, I'll heal."
Leaning forward, she kissed him. "So, you'll watch my backside? I got my very own personal Watcher again?"
"I rather like watching your front side too." He wrapped his arms around her. "A Slayer's life is hard and short as it is. Why force you to struggle through it alone?"
He had no idea why she burst into tears and hugged him so tightly to her that he was almost sure he felt ribs cracking. Nor did it feel like the time to ask. Instead, he hugged her back, and made soothing, comforting noises.
end Bright Star 3: Binary.
Chapter 4: Captured Star
"You can't fight me like this, little Slayer, and I have plans. Plans that you're no longer in a position to interfere with." The demon's grin showed sharp teeth, and one hand cupped her cheek. "Too bad that you aren't more cooperative, I could have made your captivity so much more enjoyable than this."
Faith glared at the demon, "You expect me to wake up from getting beat down by your minions and climb into bed with you? I don't think so."
She didn't mention that if he hadn't sent his minions after her, it would have been considerably harder to refuse. Granted, she was involved with Adam, granted, she had found herself caring far more about Adam than she'd ever planned to, but this demon... Well, he looked pretty damn hot. Almost seven feet of perfectly sculpted muscle with smooth bronze skin and long dark hair. The pointed ears and solid orange eyes didn't bother her, though the mouth full of fangs were a bit disturbing. If this guy had only decided to become a fabulously successful male model instead of trying something horrible...
"I'm surprised that you're keeping me here. Especially since I'm being so uncooperative," Faith growled, tugging once again at the chains holding her between two columns in the middle of the large hall.
The demon chuckled, his hand still on her cheek. "I am not a fool, Slayer. When one dies, another is Chosen. While I hold you as my captive, weakened by these spells, you can not harm me, and there will be no other Slayer who can challenge me either. Why should I kill you?"
Clenching her jaw, Faith decided not to tell him that the old ways were dead. She just glared at him, as she had been doing for the last several hours. She wasn't certain if she'd rather that Adam be coming to rescue her, or if she'd rather he stay away and be safe. She'd killed the vampire minions that she knew of, leaving only more demons like the one currently taunting her, which were stronger than humans but weaker than vampires. They also seemed to have a fondness for carrying swords.
Words echoed into the room, harsh consonants twisting and echoing in a voice that sounded familiar. She had no idea what was said, but the demon jerked his hand away, hissing. He stalked towards a hall, pulling a pair of short swords as he did. Posing just inside the hall, he hissed several more words, the tip of a forked tongue visible. For a few moments, Faith let her mind consider the waste of a guy like that being evil, but she shook the thoughts away. She really needed to get back home to Adam...
A knife was suddenly buried up to the hilt in his chest.
The demon made a small noise of protesting disbelief, sinking to his knees and then toppling to the floor with agonizing slowness.
Shrieking, his followers charged towards the hallway, drawing their own blades. It was obvious that they were intending to try to gain bloody revenge on whoever or whatever had just planted a knife in their leader's ribs.
Faith shook her head, tugging again at one chain. She couldn't break it, but she did manage to get her thumb close enough to pull one of the hairpins that she'd let Adam talk her into wearing. The stupid things were failing dismally at holding her hair out of her face, but it might work as a lock-pick. She'd been half decent at that when she was a kid, and couldn't just break the locks. Now, if she could just get the lock...
Steel clanged against stone and other steel, horrible screams and what had to be foul curses, though she still didn't recognize the language, echoed in the room, emerging from the tunnel. She wasn't certain if the minions were winning, or the attacking side, and less certain who she should be hoping would win.
Finally, she managed to unlock her right hand, the manacle opening with a pop. Her wrist felt raw, and blood oozed in several places. It hurt to reach up to try to pick the other manacle, but she didn't want to remain a captive any longer than possible. Besides, there was no guarantee at all that whichever side won would be friendly to her in the least, and she refused to go down easily if she could possibly fight. Unfortunately, the other lock wasnï¿½t opening, and the sounds of fighting seemed to be getting closer, or at least louder.
Giving up on the careful picking of the lock, she managed to just yank the other chain from the pillar, something that gave her mobility and a weapon. A chain against a sword wasnï¿½t quite ideal, but it should be enough to let her take one of them down and get a sword. After making a few looping passes with the chain, Faith attacked with it, wrapping it around the throat of one of the rear-most demon-guards and yanking him backwards. Maybe it wasnï¿½t exactly honorable, but theyï¿½d started thing by kidnapping her. He was clawing at his throat, trying to get rid of the chain, and Faith shook her head before yanking the chain hard.
It rattled as it severed his head. The chain was disordered, with coils at the end, smeared with blood that was only a few shades less red than a human. A pale mist started seeping out of the body along with the blood, with what looked like tiny sparks of lightning inside the mist.
Faith ignored the mist and took the sword from the body. The mist was pooling around her ankles, and it felt warm, smelling like blood and spices and lightning. While Faith hefted the sword, trying to get a feel for the way it would move in the few seconds that it would take to be ready to attack another demon, the mist started to flow up the chain, wrapping around her body and soaking in. Deciding that since it didnï¿½t hurt and wasnï¿½t slowing her down, sheï¿½d ignore it for now and focus on the demons, Faith moved to attack.
As she became lost in the moment of the fight, Faith reflected that they werenï¿½t that skilled. She wasnï¿½t having much trouble disarming them and cutting them down, slashing open stomachs and stabbing through chests. If it hadnï¿½t been that the lot of them had attacked her after sheï¿½d exhausted herself fighting vampires, they would never have grabbed her.
A sword narrowly missed her cheek, and Faith whipped the chain behind her, feeling that it connected to at least one body. Turning to slash, she faltered a moment when she realized that sheï¿½d already cut this demon down once before ï¿½ the scar on his cheek and the missing tooth were pretty distinctive. This time, she slashed at his head, severing his head and one arm from the rest of his body. She continued to fight, not noticing that the same strange mist was now rising from that body as well, unlike any of the demons that had simply been stabbed or had their stomachs opened.
Looking up, Faith was surprised to see that Adam was there, with a sword in each hand. He was cutting them down, and there was nothing of the ï¿½mild mannered Watcherï¿½ in his face. This was the darker, more violent side that sheï¿½d glimpsed during patrols, the side that sheï¿½d thought heï¿½d developed as an Immortal. Considering that he was cutting them down faster that she was, and Faith knew that she was stronger than Adam, there was obviously something she hadnï¿½t known. Sheï¿½d ask him later, if they both got out of this.
For the second time, she cut down a demon with jade-green eyes. This time, Faith slashed his head off as he fell. More of the strange mist rose up, making it hard to watch the floor, which was slick with blood over marble. ï¿½Why donï¿½t they just stay dead?ï¿½
ï¿½Thereï¿½s always a way to make them stay dead,ï¿½ Adam retorted. ï¿½Sometimes itï¿½s just messier than others. Taking their heads seems to work nicely though.ï¿½
Realizing that he was right, Faith began to aim for heads. With both of them lopping heads so close together, that strange mist got very thick, and some of the lightning sparks inside it were as long as her arm. Faith lost count of the times that she was zapped with the overgrown sparks, or the moments where her feet slipped in the blood. She knew that there were dozens of small wounds and bruises, but dismissed them from her mind. Time to heal later, if there was a later.
She didnï¿½t know how long they fought, or how many times she cut someone down. What she did know was that she was snapped out of her haze by Adam slicing the head from the leader, whose body was still slumped to the floor with a knife in his chest. The mist poured out of him faster, with lightning that were anything but miniature. Adam screamed as the lightning started to strike at him, as if the demon wanted to take him down as a last act.
Faith darted forward, grabbing Adam to help keep him from collapsing, and the lightning struck them both. She couldnï¿½t even scream as her muscles burned and images of deserts and palaces, of dainty foods and golden cups with flavored ice, of large eyed females in wisps of gauze, of sword fights with robed men, of storms that sent howling winds across the desert, sand scouring flesh from bone flooded her mind.
She was kneeling on the floor with Adam, blood soaking through the knee of her pants as she gasped for breath. ï¿½What the hell was that?ï¿½
ï¿½Quickening,ï¿½ Adam gasped, leaning heavily on her. ï¿½Itï¿½s only supposed to happen with Immortals. When one of us takes anotherï¿½s headï¿½ï¿½
ï¿½They werenï¿½t staying down very well. Not from being stabbed or slashed, only if their heads got separated. Then there was this funky mist with sparks. What was up with all those images?ï¿½ Faith lurched upwards, hauling Adam up as well. There was no need to linger here.
ï¿½You saw them too? Thatï¿½s odd, I thought only Immortals could share a quickening. Why were you here anyhow?ï¿½ Adam knelt down, grabbing the knife that had been in the demon-leaderï¿½s chest. ï¿½I thought you were only doing a quick patrol through the docks.ï¿½
ï¿½The minions swarmed and grabbed me after I fought a pack of vamps. He was saying something about a plan that he wasnï¿½t going to let me interfere with, no clue what the plan was, but he figured that as a Slayer, Iï¿½d object. Can we talk more after a shower?ï¿½ Faith shook her head, feeling the stinging of her cuts, the ache of the bruises, and the raw irritation of her wrists.
Adam nodded, and their trip back to the apartment was quiet. Weapons were given a quick cleaning and placed on the table, with the unspoken promise of a more thorough cleaning later. Kicking her boots towards the door, Faith just peeled out of the shirt and pants, dropping them directly into the trash.
They showered together; making certain that every inch was cleaned and inspected for damage. By the time they emerged from the shower, squeaky clean and exhausted, neither one seemed to have anything more than the bright pink of new skin.
ï¿½Adam Peirson isnï¿½t your real name, is it.ï¿½ Faith collapsed into a chair, feeling tired but unable to ignore the questions in her head.
ï¿½Itï¿½s the one Iï¿½m using now. That makes it real enough. But it isnï¿½t the one I had a century ago, or two centuries ago. Itï¿½s just a name, though since I picked it for myself, I could avoid it being something awful. Does it matter?ï¿½ Adam replied, settling onto the couch with a bottle of beer.
ï¿½What are you trying to hide? Your age, or things that you did?ï¿½ Slowly, she rotated her wrist; worried that something might have been damaged more severely during the whole mess.
ï¿½Both. The older an Immortal is, the more power to their Quickening. The more power, the more certain Immortals want to take the Quickening. Eventually, anybody will fall if enough people attack them. When I was younger, I did some things... Sort of a power trip, I suppose, convinced that ï¿½because I couldï¿½ was enough reason to do whatever I wanted. I donï¿½t want those things to become widely known. I donï¿½t want how old I am to be widely known. A former Watcher less than a century old isnï¿½t really worth bothering, but someone with some real ageï¿½ I didnï¿½t get to be this old by taking chances all the time.ï¿½
ï¿½I guess that makes sense. It must be easier to start over if you could just leave the area, change your name, and pretend it wasnï¿½t you. Iï¿½ve done things that I shouldnï¿½t have, things that Iï¿½d rather not drag out. Now we just hope that nothing from your past is going to show up and bite us in the ass,ï¿½ Faith mused, still frowning at her wrist. Nothing grated or twinged, in fact, her wrist felt just fine. Everything felt just fine, except for the fact that she was exhausted.
She shouldnï¿½t feel ï¿½just fineï¿½ yet. Everything should still ache and sting, the wounds from the demonsï¿½ swords should still be healing slashes, her wrists still chafed half-raw. Her head felt funny too, just a little cottony, and filled with a dull ache.
ï¿½My cohorts in crime are dead, and I think everything else is settled, or close enough. Are you feeling well?ï¿½ Adam stood up, reaching out to touch her forehead. ï¿½Faith, you have a fever.ï¿½
There was a weird popping sensation when Adam touched her. Faith didnï¿½t understand it, didnï¿½t know what could have caused it, but she knew that it was there. ï¿½Things feel a bit funny. Maybe everything will make more sense after a good sleep in our bed?ï¿½
Adam nodded, and picked her up, letting her curl one arm around his neck. They retreated to the bedroom, closing the door and checking to make certain that there were both blades and stakes in easy reach before letting themselves drift into slumber. Things would look better in the morning.
End Bright Star 4: Captured Star
Chapter 5: Stars Shine
Another night of patrolling had ended, with several vampires slain and some rather lamprey-like demons killed near the docks. They had fought back, and the whole thing had been rather brutal. Faith had distinctly heard several bones break on Adam, and she knew that her arm had snapped when sheï¿½d blocked a hit from the slightly more green than grey one of the trio. She and Adam had barely had the energy to strip off their clothing and fall into bed after theyï¿½d staggered home.
Everything should ache for several days after a fight like that, especially the broken arm. A simple break like that should have taken about a week, like the time sheï¿½d broken her collarbone in Louisiana. There should have been enough bruises over her body that she looked like she was in all-over camouflage body-paint.
The next morning, Faith felt just fine. So did Adam.
ï¿½Not that Iï¿½m complaining, but,ï¿½ Faith shook her head, looking over her unbruised body. ï¿½What the hell?ï¿½
ï¿½Breasts. Very nice, shapely ones,ï¿½ Adam smirked from the doorway. ï¿½They look much better without the bruises.ï¿½
Faith threw a pillow at him, ï¿½I know theyï¿½re breasts. The thing is, even as a Slayer, I shouldnï¿½t have healed this much this fast.ï¿½
ï¿½You say that like itï¿½s a bad thing,ï¿½ Adam moved closer, settling beside her on the bed. Placing his hand just above her hips, he leaned against her. ï¿½I donï¿½t like seeing you bruised and injured.ï¿½
ï¿½I donï¿½t like the bruises either, but I want to know why. More important, I want to know if thereï¿½s anything else that goes along with it. Especially if itï¿½s the kind of something thatï¿½ll come back to bite me in the ass,ï¿½ Faith sighed. ï¿½Maybe I should see if the Council had any records of those kidnapping demons that we killed. The ones who had the plan.ï¿½
ï¿½We certainly donï¿½t want anything biting your ass,ï¿½ he grinned, and whispered in her ear, ï¿½Iï¿½m the only one allowed to do things like that to you.ï¿½
Faith grinned as she pushed him off the bed, ï¿½Pervert.ï¿½
ï¿½You like me that way,ï¿½ he grinned up at her, eyes sparkling.
ï¿½Yeah,ï¿½ Faith agreed. ï¿½Let me get some clothes on before I send an email off to Giles, and then we need some food. Think you can cook something up?ï¿½
ï¿½Yes, mistress,ï¿½ Adam chuckled, rising to his feet.
ï¿½We hadnï¿½t tried that one yet,ï¿½ Faith commented, grabbing a shirt from a drawer. ï¿½Maybe later?ï¿½
It took Faith a little while to decide how much she wanted to tell in the email. It wasnï¿½t that she didnï¿½t trust Giles, but she didnï¿½t know who else had been brought into the Council. Giles she trusted, anyone else from the old Council she didnï¿½t. And as for anyone newï¿½ Maybe. But she didnï¿½t want to be wrong about that when it came to something this big. She just said that there were reports of some strange demon or demons that looked a hell of a lot like male models with sharp teeth, forked tongues and solid orange eyes running around, and she wanted to know what they were and if they were a Bad Thing.
ï¿½Do you think theyï¿½ll be able to tell you very much?ï¿½ Adam presented her with a plate, laden with eggs, toast and bacon.
Shrugging, Faith spun the chair around to face him. ï¿½No idea. I think Gilesï¿½ll tell me what he can, but God only knows how much they even have. Their main building got blown to bits, and I have no idea if they had any sort of back-up library or anything. I just hope that he wonï¿½t come back with something like kill one and become the replacement.ï¿½
ï¿½We killed a good number of them,ï¿½ Adman murmured, rubbing at his jaw. ï¿½And I donï¿½t feel any different.ï¿½
ï¿½I do,ï¿½ Faith growled before taking another bite of her breakfast. ï¿½Last time things changed this much, it meant Iï¿½d become a Slayer. Whatï¿½s this going to mean?ï¿½
ï¿½Whatever it means, I doubt that worrying will do anything. Eat your breakfast, and then we can practice with swords. Youï¿½ve got a long way to go before you can call yourself good,ï¿½ Adam placed his hand on her cheek, leaning in for a quick kiss. ï¿½Iï¿½ll teach you a few good moves.ï¿½
ï¿½I think you have a different definition of a good swordsman, old man. You do know that most people have switched to guns, right?ï¿½ Faith teased.
ï¿½Not Immortals, and not Slayers,ï¿½ he countered. ï¿½And since you insist on patrolling, I insist on helping, by being at your back and trying to make sure you have as much skill as we can beat into your muscles.ï¿½
Knowing just how painful his lessons could be, Faith sighed. Adam tended to work her into the ground with those lessons, wearing down even Slayer stamina. ï¿½Maybe itï¿½s a good thing that Iï¿½m healing fasterï¿½ï¿½
Ducking back into the bedroom for a pair of pants, Faith decided that Adam was right. Worrying wouldnï¿½t change anything. Theyï¿½d wait to see what, if anything, Giles sent back about those demons and if the information helped explain what was happening. In the mean time, better sword-work and stamina, assuming Adam didnï¿½t kill her with his lessons, could only help a Slayer.
Thank God she didnï¿½t have to face this alone.
End Bright Star 5: Stars Shine
Chapter 6: No Deathstar
It had been three weeks since Faith had been kidnapped by the strange demons. Two weeks since sheï¿½d sent an email to Giles and the Council asking for information. The only reply that sheï¿½d got had been from Giles, saying that heï¿½d try to find some reference to them, and hoped that if hey were indeed present that their plan could be dealt with in such a way as to involve minimal damage to life, limb and sanity.
Adam had translated that for her. Giles had meant heï¿½d try to get some info, tell her what he found, and to be careful and cover her ass if things got ugly.
ï¿½Ready for patrol, my star?ï¿½ Adam called, holding her sword towards her.
ï¿½Sure. Maybe if things donï¿½t get too messy we can check out that new club near the fountain?ï¿½ Faith gestured at the sword, grinning when Adam tossed it over.
ï¿½And if things do get messy, I can help wash your back,ï¿½ Adam grinned back. ï¿½Either way, it sounds like a good night.ï¿½
Faith watched as Adam pulled on his coat, shifting it slightly so that it hid the sword. The pair of them left the apartment, with Adam humming as they walked.
Faith frowned, listening to Adam. Fighting not to grin, she smirked, ï¿½Adam, you are not Darth Vader, you have no Stormtroopers, and we are not approaching the Death Star. You donï¿½t get your own ominous theme music.ï¿½
ï¿½He made wonderful entrances,ï¿½ Adam commented, eyes sparkling. ï¿½And he had a way of keeping the underlings obedient.ï¿½
ï¿½You mean terrified,ï¿½ Faith pointed out. ï¿½Something about watching people get force-choked when they fail inspires utter panic and fanatical efforts to not get killed for failure.ï¿½
ï¿½Terrified minions are obedient minions,ï¿½ Adam commented. ï¿½And I must say that he is very good about keeping the lines of responsibility clear. Heï¿½s killing the leaders who fail, not the underling messengers.ï¿½
Faith blinked, and sighed, ï¿½Things like that remind me that you said you did some bad things when you were young. You probably had the minions, and kept them in terrified obedience.ï¿½
ï¿½Having minions was the thing to do back then. Everybody that had the power and resources did it,ï¿½ Adam frowned, for a moment falling silent and distracted. ï¿½I thought I just feltï¿½ï¿½
ï¿½What?ï¿½ Faith was looking around, trying to figure out what Adam had felt, or thought he felt. She doubted very much that heï¿½d meant a cold breeze or her hand on his ass.
ï¿½For a moment, I thought there was someone else around,ï¿½ Adam shook his head. "If there was anybody, theyï¿½re gone now.ï¿½
ï¿½You might want to explain that a little better, Adam. There are people all around us. What did you mean, you thought someone was here?ï¿½ Faith leaned towards him, hissing the words in his ear. From a distance, it probably looked like she was whispering indecent promises to him.
ï¿½Not an explanation for public places, my bright star,ï¿½ Adam murmured, his eyes still flickering over the crowd. He may have said that whatever it had been was gone, but he certainly hadnï¿½t relaxed.
ï¿½One of those in-jokes from your old job?ï¿½ Faith asked.
ï¿½Something like,ï¿½ Adam agreed. ï¿½Iï¿½ll explain it later.ï¿½
Part of Faith wanted to sulk or hit something at being told ï¿½laterï¿½, but she resisted the urge. Adam had confessed that he was immortal, that it came with some awkward aspects, and that there were others who were also immortal. The ï¿½in-jokeï¿½ was probably the sort of thing you just didnï¿½t talk about in crowds, sort of like hunting vampires and the best ways to deal with demon blood and slime in the clothing. ï¿½Do we take the South side tonight, or do we head east?ï¿½
Adam pulled a coin from his pocket, and commented, ï¿½Heads we go east, tails we go south. Fair enough?ï¿½
Faith nodded, and watched him flip the coin. ï¿½This isnï¿½t a double-sided trick coin, is it?ï¿½
Laughing, Adam glanced at the coin. ï¿½Tails. Would I cheat on a coin-toss?ï¿½
ï¿½Maybe that depends on the stakes?ï¿½ Faith purred, leaning forward to kiss him. ï¿½Southï¿½s fine. Iï¿½m sure weï¿½ll find plenty to do either way.ï¿½
As it turned out, Faith was right. No sooner had they left the main street than they picked up a vampire tailing them. His efforts might have escaped the notice of someone who didnï¿½t know that dangerous things did go bump in the night, but he could hardly escape their notice. He waited until his three pals joined up before he tried to attack.
ï¿½Two for me and two for you,ï¿½ Adam joked as he slashed his sword at an astonished vampire. ï¿½I guess they have heard of womenï¿½s liberation and equal opportunity.ï¿½
ï¿½What the hell!? Who carries around a fucking sword?ï¿½ demanded the vampire.
ï¿½I do, you fanged idiot!ï¿½ Adam growled, slashing the vampireï¿½s head from his shoulders.
Faith grinned as she punched one of her vampires in the stomach, dropping him long enough to stake the second. ï¿½You know, stakes work better on the vamps than swords.ï¿½
ï¿½But I like swords,ï¿½ Adam countered. ï¿½I know swords. I live by the sword.ï¿½
ï¿½Thereï¿½s a saying you should know then,ï¿½ hissed an angry vampire, drawing something from his coat.
ï¿½What?ï¿½ Adam prepared to lunge, his sword ready.
ï¿½Live by the sword, die by the gun, you bastard,ï¿½ the vampire snarled.
Blood spread over Adamï¿½s chest, and he staggered. ï¿½Oh damnï¿½ï¿½
Faith went for the vamp with the gun, dropping him and staking him fast. She didnï¿½t want to give him the chance to reload. It wasnï¿½t long before all four vampires were dust in the alley.
Dropping to one knee beside Adam, Faith fumbled for a pulse. She didnï¿½t find one, but there were blue sparks flickering over the bullet wound. Blue sparksï¿½ and was the wound getting smaller? ï¿½Adam? You promised you wouldnï¿½t leave me to do this alone.ï¿½
Suddenly Adamï¿½s body arced, and he gasped for breath. One hand clutched at the place where heï¿½d been shot. ï¿½A gun! He had a bloody gun.ï¿½
Faith grabbed him into a big hug, relieved to feel his heartbeat against her. ï¿½Youï¿½re okay.ï¿½
ï¿½I got better,ï¿½ Adam whispered, his arms going around her. ï¿½I can be hurt, but as long as I keep my head, Iï¿½ll get better, Faith.ï¿½
ï¿½I know you said you werenï¿½t that easy to get rid of, butï¿½ï¿½ Faith blinked, trying to keep from crying. She didnï¿½t want to cry, to be one of those overly emotional girls who thought everything was a crisis. ï¿½You were shot, you fell down, and you didnï¿½t have a pulse.ï¿½
ï¿½Being shot hurts,ï¿½ Adam grumbled. ï¿½What happened to the vampires?ï¿½
ï¿½Dust,ï¿½ Faith waved a hand at the alley around them. ï¿½After he shot you, I didnï¿½t feel like playing with them any more.ï¿½
ï¿½Playing?ï¿½ Adamï¿½s eyebrows rose, and he sighed, ï¿½Here I thought I was doing a good job of keeping up with you, and it turns out that you were playing with them.ï¿½
ï¿½Before, I didnï¿½t see any point in rushing through. They didnï¿½t seem like they were anybodyï¿½s minions, there werenï¿½t any evil rituals, and no nasty magical artifacts. No reason not to have a little fun, you know? But then he shot you,ï¿½ Faith shook her head, and stood up, pulling Adam to his feet as well. ï¿½It wasnï¿½t fun after that. They needed to die and they needed to die fast.ï¿½
Adam muttered something that sounded vaguely like Sumerian.
ï¿½Try that again in a language I can speak?ï¿½ Faith arched an eyebrow at him. ï¿½Of course, if you wanted to add language lessons to our scheduleï¿½ï¿½
ï¿½Someone who was as close as a brother to me used to say that it was fun to play with the victims. We were very good at it,ï¿½ he shook his head. ï¿½But that was a long time before I used the name Adam.ï¿½
ï¿½Should I ask what you went by then?ï¿½ Faith brushed the knees of her pants off, hoping that it was nothing worse than vampire dust.
ï¿½The name he used translates as ï¿½Warï¿½. Mine was ï¿½Deathï¿½. But that was a long time ago,ï¿½ Adam shook his head. ï¿½I think we need a shower.ï¿½
Faith nodded, and they started back towards the apartment. Thoughts were circling in her mind, too tangled to form words.
Several blocks later, she glanced at him, ï¿½Death? War? Do I want to ask if there were another two in your group, and what they were called?ï¿½
ï¿½No. But we werenï¿½t very nice back then. I like to think that Iï¿½ve picked up better habits in the recent centuries,ï¿½ Adam grinned at her, and held out his arm. ï¿½Shower, a good night in, and maybe we can work on Sumerian tomorrow? I can think of a few learning incentivesï¿½ï¿½
End Bright Star 6: No Deathstar.
Chapter 7: Smart Star
Faith had been called many things in her life, a good number of them uncomplimentary. She was starting to get the idea that sometimes it didn't matter what someone said, as long as she knew the truth. Of course, things were much better when a few more people knew the truth as well. Faith was many things, but she wasn't an idiot.
Adam wasn't his first name, though it was real enough for now. He was immortal, and that should perhaps get a capital I when she thought about it or looked in her books. The sort of immortality that Dick had been looking for, as well as countless people over the centuries. He'd been a 'not very nice' person. Once, he used a name that translated as Death, and had a comrade called War. He'd kept terrified minions. He swore in Sumerian the way people only swear in languages that they learned as living, speaking tongues.
Her self-appointed Watcher, live-in kinky lover and friend had once been Death of the Four Horsemen.
Adam stumbled into the room, muttering something that held the words 'coffee' and 'die' among bits that she couldn't understand. His hair stuck in strange directions, and he only wore a pair of boxer shorts.
Handing him a mug of coffee, Faith smiled, "If I have to deal with an apocalypse, I'm blaming you."
Drinking from the mug, Adam raised one eyebrow.
"You certainly gave me enough hints to work with, Adam. You even told me the name you went by, back when you rode with your pal War. So, not that the motorcycle isn't a nice step up," Faith held her own mug. "But I'm still blaming you if an apocalypse shows up."
Adam sputtered, coffee ending up all over the table. "Hwaaa?"
Faith smirked at him, sipping her coffee. "I'm not as dumb as some people would like to think. I put the pieces together, the picture isn't exactly pretty, but there it is. Adam's a much better name for today."
"Damn. I'm not used to people actually putting the clues together instead of insisting that can't be right," he wiped at his face, and sighed. "Towel?"
Handing him a couple paper towels, Faith smirked, "The coffee does more good inside than on the table."
"And the apocalypse thing?" Adam was mopping up the coffee spray.
Faith poured some more coffee into Adam's mug. "You know, the whole threatened end of the world? Supposed to be a nasty thing, lots of death, destruction, chaos... All that?"
"I am familiar with the term apocalypse," Adam grumbled. "But we never tried to end the world!"
"No?" Faith arched one eyebrow, grinning at him. Teasing Adam was fun, especially when he was still half asleep.
"Raze a settlement, yes. Destroy the world? Hell no!" Adam spat. "We lived in the world, where else would we go? And then things got bigger in the retelling, and of course some of us felt like we had to try to measure up to our reputations, but we never tried to end the world!"
"Alright, Adam," Faith moved closer, letting her hand fall onto his arm. "I didn't mean to get you that riled up."
"Hrrmmmph," Adam scowled as he sipped at his coffee. "Destroy the world, indeed."
"I was mostly teasing you about the apocalypse stuff," Faith whispered into his ear.
"Good," Adam pouted. "The centuries have given me a bad reputation."
Faith laughed, imagining his face if she called him on that pout. "Wholly undeserved and exaggerated, right?"
Adam coughed, "Well... mostly exaggerated. And all my things are in this world."
"And we all know how boys are about their toys, no matter how old they are," Faith teased again.
Adam twisted, pulling her onto his lap before Faith could do more than squeak in surprise. He kissed her, and murmured, "Once upon a time, some would have considered you to be one of my toys."
"I'm not a toy, and I won't be ever ag...." Faith shook her head. "I'm a Slayer, not a toy. Even though it is fun to play with you."
Adam held her, murmuring things into her ear in half a dozen languages. "Maybe we should just finish our coffee and let the distant past go for the morning?"
"Yeah," Faith agreed. "That would probably be the best. Coffee, some food, and swords."
"A good plan, my bright star," Adam whispered.
Faith looked at him, "Hmmm?"
"I want your sword work to get better. Neither one of us have forgotten those demons, and I have a suspicion of what they might have done to you," Adam sighed, running his hand along her jaw. "But I don't have proof."
"What if you're wrong?" Faith asked, not sure if she wanted his idea into words just yet.
"Even if I'm wrong about the side effects, you are still Faith, the Slayer. Improving your sword work could only be a good thing," Adam countered.
Faith nodded, knowing that he was right. "You just want to get me all hot and sweaty in spandex."
"That's just a bonus, my star." Adam smirked.
end BS7: Smart Star
Chapter 8: Encyclopedia Demonica
Giles had finally found something on those tall, gorgeous demons that had held Faith prisoner last month, though she hadn't admitted that part. She'd only said there had been sightings and rumors, and asked for information. He'd called and left a message, saying that there would be a package for her at the local museum, and she should pick it up 'at her earliest convenience', which Faith took to mean as soon as possible without breaking into the museum.
Now she was glad that she'd taken the jeep. The package had turned out to be a pair of crates, each one about as heavy as a body, suggesting that they were probably full of old books. Either that or Giles had packed a Watcher in a box and sent him through the mail... Probably books though, the boxes were quiet. It was a good thing that her Slayer strength would keep it from being obvious how heavy the boxes were when she carried them up into the apartment.
Faith rubbed at her eyes, looking into the kitchen of the little apartment she was sharing with Adam. The sight didn't change. Adam, with no shirt and that stupid faded apron that read 'Kiss the Chef' had just pulled out a tray of muffins. There was a pot of stew simmering, and a loaf of bread cooling on the counter beside a six pack of beer.
He'd claimed he could cook early on, when they were still just bumping into each other when she went Slaying. Early dates had proven that he wasn't just making wild claims to get into her pants, he really could cook.
Adam's abilities as a chef aside, this wasn't normal. Things deviating from normal were trouble most of the time, and it left Faith suspicious. Sauntering towards him, she asked, "What's the occasion?"
"You wouldn't believe it was just because?" Adam glanced her way as he set the muffin tray on the top of the stove.
Faith moved towards the coffee maker with a snort, "Just because? Hell no."
"How did your early morning trip go? You were rather vague," Adam paused, frowning as he tried to remember this morning when Faith had left the bed. "I think. I hadn't had coffee yet before you left."
"I didn't crash into anything, didn't run over anybody, and didn't get pulled over for speeding, so that's a plus," Faith poured a mug of coffee, testing the temperature before taking a big swallow. "Giles suggested picking up the package pronto, so I went to get whatever. I'm almost positive it's two big boxes of books."
"What else could it be?" Adam smirked at her before removing the apron and draping it over a chair.
"Watcher in a box?" Faith shrugged. "The weight's right, but I don't think he'd send me a body. Could be that they found some prophecies that might cover me, so that could explain the rush."
Chuckling, Adam murmured, "I can think of a few Watchers I'd like to stuff in a box and ship by mail..."
"I'm hoping he just thought I needed my very own set of books to play name that demon with, and not any prophecies or bodies. Prophecies suck and bodies start to stink..." Faith shivered, not wanting to dwell too much on that dark time when she'd left a few human bodies. If she didn't dwell on it, she wouldn't get moody and broody, Adam wouldn't ask for the ugly details, and life could go on.
"I saw a commercial for just that very set of books the other day," Adam quipped. "Made by the people who brought us Encyclopedia Britannica."
"Encyclopedia Demonica?" Faith grinned. "Just what every Slayer needs."
"We might as well open up the boxes in the study. Fastest way to find out what's in the boxes is opening them," Adam paused, "As heavy as a body? You bring them in, and I'll shelve."
Finishing her coffee, Faith teased, "I thought it was supposed to be the man who lifted heavy objects and got things off the top shelf?"
"To each their own skills, and you've never complained about my abilities to get things off." Adam sauntered out of the kitchen.
With a small snort and a smile, Faith made her way to the jeep, bringing in the first box. "Cocky, arrogant bastard. Why do I keep him around again?"
"It's because I'm too sexy for my shirt," Adam joked. "Of course, the backrubs and the sex seem to make you happy."
"Good point," Faith lowered the first box to the floor, avoiding their toes. "Need me to pop it open, or are you good for that?"
"I'll handle the box, and we can make you pop later," Adam reached over, one hand running up the back of her leg.
"Tease," Faith grinned, stepping away from those skilled fingers.
Adam winked at her as he pulled out the first book, "Oh, I'm quite willing to follow through with it."
"I bet you are," Faith grinned as she went to fetch the other box.
By the time Faith had brought the second box up to the apartment, Adam had pulled a great many of the books out, sliding them onto the shelves. ï¿½We can figure out a good order for them later, but there are a couple that have ribbons in them. Either your Giles find a few sections we should look at, or somebody didnï¿½t check between the pages before they boxed these up for shipping.ï¿½
ï¿½Can I put in a request for marked for our question, not sloppy packing?ï¿½ Faith set the second box down before popping the top. There were several small objects packed in this one, each carefully wrapped in fabric with a layer of bubble wrap around that. ï¿½Cool, this one had prizes inside.ï¿½
Adam chuckled, peering into the box, ï¿½Donï¿½t ever change, Faith. Justï¿½ donï¿½t lose that enthusiasm and the way you try to keep things from getting too serious.ï¿½
ï¿½As if Iï¿½m going to be around long enough to change,ï¿½ Faith whispered, trying to hide the fact that her eyes just might be trying to fill with tears. Crying wouldnï¿½t help, sheï¿½d learned that one long before she ever knew about vampires and Slayers. Besides that, sheï¿½d known for a while that being a Slayer didnï¿½t lead one to having a long, happy life. Or a long one, or much of one beyond fighting and eventually dyingï¿½
ï¿½Faithï¿½ï¿½ Adam reached over, his hand circling her wrist. ï¿½Iï¿½ve run into those demons before. The ones who kidnapped you, the ones that didnï¿½t die until we cut off their heads. It was a long, long time ago, and I donï¿½t remember all the details. But there were a few things... Things that give me a suspicion. Efre and Al didnï¿½t get old after that.ï¿½
ï¿½Are you saying they were Immortals, like you?ï¿½ Faith blinked, hoping that her eyes would stop watering. Adam had once said there was no way to predict who would be Immortal, but why was he bringing it up now? ï¿½Wouldnï¿½t running onto two Immortals and fighting demons with them be a hell of a coincidence?ï¿½
ï¿½Itï¿½s hard for Watchers to predict. An Immortal can always tell another Immortal, and some of us can tell when someoneï¿½s a potential Immortal. We can feel it,ï¿½ he sighed, and leaned on the box. ï¿½Certain people will be Immortal, unless their first death prevents it.ï¿½
ï¿½How? I mean, why would how you die affect whether you become immortal?ï¿½ Faith wasnï¿½t sure where he was going with this.
ï¿½They donï¿½t wake up again if they die by beheading or if theyï¿½re burned to ashes,ï¿½ his voice was soft. ï¿½Before the first death, we age, we can get sick, injured, pick up scars and some have even wound up crippled. But the one thing we canï¿½t do is have children. Not bearing them or fathering them. Ever.ï¿½
ï¿½So you could tell that those guys werenï¿½t Immortal because they didnï¿½t feel Immortal? Or did they have kids back home,ï¿½ Faith frowned, and thought back to those demons. There had been something odd about a couple of them. ï¿½If they were healing that fast when we cut them down, howï¿½d the one get a scar on his cheek?ï¿½
ï¿½Efre and Al both had children before we fought those demons. I stayed in touch with them afterwards; I watched Efre marry off twelve of his daughters. They didnï¿½t seem to get older, but they vanished sometime after that, or maybe something happened between visits,ï¿½ Adam shook his head. ï¿½It had to have been something else, but I donï¿½t know what. Maybe the books will help us figure it out.ï¿½
ï¿½Right. Pass me one of those books with the ribbon,ï¿½ Faith held out a hand. ï¿½Thereï¿½s also the fact that if they changed a lot, you might not have recognized them, or they may have split while you were elsewhere. If the neighbors didnï¿½t try to kill them firstï¿½ or maybe after the neighbors tried to kill them.ï¿½
ï¿½Good points,ï¿½ Adam nodded and handed her a book.
Faith opened the book to the ribbon, blinking at the engraving of what almost could have been a Playgirl photo ï¿½ rippling muscles, naked, come here expression, solid eyes, pointed ears and a mouthful of fangs. ï¿½This is definitely one of them. Nice picture tooï¿½ makes me wonder about some of those Watchers and just how close they got to the ones they were watching.ï¿½
ï¿½What does the text say?ï¿½ Adam arched an eyebrow, and peered at the image. ï¿½Now that Iï¿½m feeling like my shoulders are too narrowï¿½ï¿½
ï¿½It says theyï¿½re efreet, come from the Middle East, tendency to use swords, chop their enemies into little piecesï¿½ï¿½ Faith skimmed over the paragraphs. ï¿½It says that some of them have vast and terrible magical power.ï¿½
ï¿½Meaning?ï¿½ Adam picked up another book, opening to a place marked by another ribbon. ï¿½Be wary, do not cross lightly, do not challenge to a sword fightï¿½ vast and terrible powers held by those of their number who are sorcerersï¿½.ï¿½
ï¿½Without explaining what that really means. Here, this one says that maybe only one in two dozen has those ï¿½vast and terrible powersï¿½, but nothing on how to tell which one out of those two dozen is the sorcerer,ï¿½ Faith snorted, and offered her own guess, based on her time as a Slayer. ï¿½Maybe the one in charge has the vast and terrible powers?ï¿½
ï¿½A sensible guess. This one says that their eyes are always solid, but may be in any color. And apparently, their women are just as gorgeous as the men. Complete with the teethï¿½ï¿½ Adam shuddered.
ï¿½Gives a whole new meaning to ï¿½donï¿½t kiss and tellï¿½, doesnï¿½t it?ï¿½ Faith looked over, seeing his worried frown.
ï¿½This one doesnï¿½t have anything about ordinary humans fighting them, just an account of a pack of Fyarls being cut down by a trio of them, and hereï¿½s an account of a pair of vampires being destroyed by one,ï¿½ Adam sighed, and flipped open a third book. ï¿½This account mentions some dissention in the ranks, with the one who didnï¿½t take orders well having a scar on his cheekï¿½ None of the others have been mentioned as having any scars.ï¿½
ï¿½Could be important,ï¿½ Faith offered. ï¿½Iï¿½m still going to worry about side effects.ï¿½
ï¿½That might be a good idea,ï¿½ Adam mused. ï¿½In the mean time, we should check out the rest of these, and shelve the others.ï¿½
ï¿½Maybe we should be on the lookout for stories of them dealing with ordinary people. Not the ones they get into fights with, but just ordinary folks. And Middle Eastern folkloreï¿½ Any books on that in there? I know Iï¿½ve heard the word before, somewhere.ï¿½ Faith couldnï¿½t remember where the word had been, or even what sheï¿½d been talking about, or eavesdropping on. For that matter, it could have been some book of fairy tales or a movie.
ï¿½This oneï¿½ but itï¿½s in Arabic. Iï¿½ll see if thereï¿½s one you can read,ï¿½ Adam promised.
End Bright Star 8: Encyclopedia Demonica
Chapter 9: to See a Star
"Enough old books for now," Adam closed the volume he'd been reading with a muffled thud. "We need to eat something, and then maybe something a bit more active. Sword practice, or patrol... or we could put on something less comfortable and try that new dance club near the docks."
"Sounds good to me," Faith slid the book away from her, rising to her feet in a smooth motion that incorporated a stretch that pulled up the hem of her shirt, exposing her stomach, complete with the vicious scar.
Adam grinned at her, making his way to the kitchen. "Of course, there's no sense in hunting vampires yet, there's still several hours of daylight left. And nobody goes to clubs this early... whatever can we do to fill the time?"
"My vote's for wild sex," Faith's hands wrapped around him, one sliding under his shirt to run her fingernails over his stomach. "That always puts me in a better mood."
As they ate a hearty lunch of stew and bread, washed down with a couple of those bottles of beer, Adam decided that he rather liked Faith's plan for the next few hours. While there were other things they could do - boring practical things - those didn't sound nearly as enjoyable.
Several hours later, freshly showered to remove the thin layer of sweat from their bodies, they slipped into nicer clothing. Nicer clothing and some concealed weapons, an even split between edged metal and wooden stakes. After all, they were hunting vampires.
"We might still be able to get in a bit of dancing after a quick patrol," he offered.
"Only if I don't decide to drag you back home for another round, old man. Think you can keep up with me?" Faith's eyes sparkled, and she ran one finger along his jaw, teasing him. "Or do I need to start looking for someone who isn't older than me by a few millennia?"
"Nobody your own age would be able to keep up with you, my bright star," he countered. "As for that, I don't see anything wrong with that plan."
They walked along the narrow street, senses alert as they waited for the vampires to either be foolishly overconfident and attack the ï¿½two lost mortalsï¿½ or to find some demons to kill. So far things had gone smoothly, with four vampires and one tall, bony demon with double rows of sharp teeth. He was starting to think that finishing the evening off with more wild, passionate sex would be a splendid end to a quiet evening out.
At his age, he really should have known better than to let such optimistic thoughts loose.
Faith tensed, drawing a stake from her jacket as she spat, ï¿½vampires!ï¿½
At the same time, he felt the presence of another immortal. They felt weak, or perhaps young, no more than a century or two at most. They couldnï¿½t have taken more than a few headsï¿½ unless this was someone whoï¿½d managed to project a false presence. It was a difficult trick, almost impossible to explain, and had taken almost a thousand years to learnï¿½ and would mean that whoever learned it had a very dangerous trick in their arsenal.
Three vampires had cornered what looked like a pair of young men, perhaps in college, walking along the street. The fact that one of them had produced a saber and was brandishing the blade at the vampires with some hint of competence suggested that things werenï¿½t quite simple. His guess was that the one with the darker hair and the saber was the immortal, though he didnï¿½t want to risk his life on that just yet.
It would have been a very simple fight if more vampires hadnï¿½t shown up. Almost a dozen more had shown up, as if from thin air, hissing and snapping. The man with the saber did seem to know how to use it, though he clearly wasnï¿½t accustomed to fighting vampires. A vampire had the other man pinned, with another grabbing a sleeve and sinking their fangs into his arm before Adam beheaded the vampire pinning him while Faith staked the arm biter from behind.
He doubted that any of the vampires had escaped, and there was a generous helping of the gritty vampire ash scattered about. The saber wielder was panting for breath, looking confused and suspicious. The other slowly pulled his arm closer to his body, bruises forming on the wrist already. Bruises that didnï¿½t obscure the sigil of the Watchers tattooed on the inside of his wrist.
Blast and damnation, a Watcher.
ï¿½Whatï¿½ those men, they hadï¿½ fangs,ï¿½ the Watcherï¿½s voice was unsteady.
ï¿½I am Jeremy Caldwell, of Virginia,ï¿½ the other man spoke with attempted calm. ï¿½How did you happen to find us in time toï¿½ ï¿½ he looked at the heaps and lines of vampire ash and shuddered. ï¿½Vampires. Eeeugh.ï¿½
Faith looked at him, one eyebrow raised in a sign that she was letting him take the lead with these guys. ï¿½Iï¿½ve got to agree with the last part. Eeeugh. No class, no manners, and no sense of personal space.ï¿½
ï¿½Adam Peirson,ï¿½ he gave the alias that heï¿½d been using for the last fifteen years. ï¿½Faith and I were out for a walk.ï¿½
ï¿½So you werenï¿½t looking forï¿½ï¿½ it looked as if Jeremy Caldwell was about to say ï¿½meï¿½ but he paused, finishing with, ï¿½anyone in particular?ï¿½
ï¿½We were looking for the vampires, but that isnï¿½t very difficult,ï¿½ Adam gave a half smile, hoping to both convince these two that he wasnï¿½t after Jeremyï¿½s head and that he was somewhat harmless. The second would be much more difficult after the fight with the vampires. ï¿½My bright star here has a strong dislike of them, and it makes her happier to see them fall to ashes. Life is better when sheï¿½s happy.ï¿½
"I saw the way she fought. The way they fell to her sword and stake," Caldwell gave a small shudder, his expression a mixture of respect and fear. "I haven't seen anyone who could do that since Annie Mae, the Vampire Slayer."
"You never told me that story," the other man grumbled. "What happened to her, and why are there still so many vampires if there's someone who can cut them down like that?"
"A Slayer is an awe inspiring warrior, but also a woman, always a woman. Sometimes a rather young one, but a woman nonetheless. And women, no matter how devastating to vampires, can perish in a winter fever, especially if there's also miserable weather, barely any food, and a war going on tearing the nation apart." One finger traced over words on the blade, and he sighed. "She died in 1863. As for the vampires, they can make more easily, and while there are uncounted legions of vampires, generally only a few working together, there is only one Slayer."
He noticed Faith fidget a little at those words, the not quite suppressed fidget of someone trying to hide something. He would have to ask her later, and seduce it out of her ifï¿½ when she didn't want to tell him.
"You guys might want to get off the streets. There's going to be more vampires out thereï¿½" Faith paused, and gave them a half smirk. "If you have a house or an apartment, they can't get in without an invitation. Hotel roomsï¿½ not so much, though they have problems if you've been there more than a week."
With a half shrug, he reached over, wrapping his arm around Faith. "Travel safely, gentlemen. My bright star and I have things to do tonight."
Part of him wondered if the younger immortal and his Watcher would be trouble. Another part was hoping that the conversation hadn't derailed Faith's post-slaying moods. He delighted in helping her satisfy those urgesï¿½
"Let's go home, Adam." Faith's voice was soft, filled with promises and temptation. "I could use a bit of help washing my back."
End Bright Star 9: to See a Star.
Chapter 10: Stars Shimmer
Adam didn't have the chance to ask Faith any questions until the next morning. They'd showered away the blood and ashes, and then spent some very enjoyable time helping her unwind from the Slaying. Serious questions had been utterly forgotten.
Until morning, at least. There was only so long that a passionate naked woman could keep him distracted.
"Faith..." He leaned back in the chair, sipping at his coffee. "I think we need to talk a little about the Slaying."
She shrugged, and sipped at her coffee, barely covered by the tank top and panties that were both a soft blue. "What's to talk about? See vamps, slay vamps, go home and have some fun."
"I haven't survived this long without knowing when people aren't telling me things. When he talked about the Slayer that he'd known, about how there was only one... What aren't you telling me, Faith?" He tried to keep his voice calm, not to sound accusing. Of all people, he knew that sometimes secrets were safer, sometimes secrets weren't just yours, and sometimes it was damned hard to share.
"For a long time, it was one girl in all the world. Maybe even since before you were around," Faith paused, and sipped at her coffee, sorting and discarding words before she spoke. "Slayers die, from so many things. Most of them from finding a bigger, faster, more dangerous thing out there. I guess getting sick could do it too."
"One dies, another is Chosen. That's what they said a couple centuries ago, when I spent a couple decades hiding in their council. I translated old prophecies - seems it was tricky for them to find people who could read Sumerian."
"What about Slayers drowning? Did you find that in the records?" Faith looked at him, the irises of her eyes looking larger and more intense that usual.
"Yes... What has that to do with what you weren't saying last night?" He knew there was something very big that he was missing.
"Not that long ago, a Slayer got Chosen. She was blonde, and pretty, and this guy ended up head over heels for her. Lucky bitch that she is, she even ended up with people willing to go help her, to fight beside her, to help her figure out what that thing is and how to kill it," Faith's voice shook a little, and her cheeks seemed particularly damp.
"Slayers with friends and allies can still be killed," his voice was low, and he reached out, covering her hand with his.
Faith looked at him, and her smile was a little too big, her eyes a little too wide when she spoke again, "The guy, the one that fell for her, that's important. She fought this awful vampire, and he left her face down in a nasty pool of water while he went off to go do the death and destruction kind of thing."
"He found her in time?" He tried to picture this young man, head over heels in love with a young woman, finding her struggling in water, perhaps water red with blood, wounded and weakened...
"He knew CPR. Apparently, a Slayer only as to be a little bit dead for the next one to get drafted," Faith's words were far drier than her face. "And then there were two, not one. But the Chosen Two isn't as catchy, and B isn't good at sharing."
"Two Slayers?" The very idea made his mind boggle. "That would be... What happened after that?"
"The girl that drowned got better with the help of the guy, and they didn't learn until much later that there was another Slayer. Then they both ended up in the same place and the newer Slayer got killed. My turn." Faith's words faltered, and she gave a small shiver.
She shook her head, and looked down, her eyes focused on their hands instead of his face. "Turns out Slayers don't share very well, and we aren't that good at playing well with others. She's off in Rome now, if my info's not out of date."
Adam still doubted that this was anywhere near the full story. The signs were all there screaming at him that the troublesome, painfully emotional parts that hadnï¿½t been spoken. Details about how sheï¿½d found out that Slayers didnï¿½t share well, or just how bad things could have beenï¿½ and as he remembered some of the more vicious harems that heï¿½d encountered, he concluded that maybe it was safer not to ask. Just because he was immortal didnï¿½t mean he didnï¿½t feel pain. The way Faith had spoken about it becoming her turnï¿½ perhaps a bit of resentment, orï¿½ No, she would definitely have been measured against the other Slayer, this Bea. Unless he was mistaken, Faith had felt like she had been measured and found lacking.
ï¿½Romeï¿½s a lovely city. Plenty of scenic buildings, nice toysï¿½ Iï¿½ve been told it was great fun to sack, with centuries of accumulted plunder. The last time I was there, it was also crawling with Watchers, both types,ï¿½ He forced himself to give a casual shrug, as if the whole thing was insignificant.
Faith made a small noise, as if she had choked on a sniffle, and her hand twitched under his own.
Pulling her into his lap, he held her, murmuring, ï¿½Iï¿½m right where I want to be, with the one that I want to be with. Iï¿½m quite happy with you, my bright star. You are more than enough for me, as a woman and as a Slayer.ï¿½
As he held her in his arms, he found himself wondering if anyone had ever put Faith first. If she had ever been considered in someoneï¿½s decisions, if sheï¿½d ever felt like she mattered to the people around her. If she had ever been someone elseï¿½s priority. And he wanted to find the people who had done this to her, the ones who had left her so frightened of being abandoned and kill them. Kill them slowly and painfully. He knew many ways to do that. Granted, he was a bit out of practice, but he was certain that it would come back quickly enoughï¿½
Faith was his bright star, and the one who mattered to him. That other Slayer could justï¿½ die. Or drown, again. It didnï¿½t matter to him, as long as she stayed away.
End Bright Star 10: Stars Shimmer.
Chapter 11: Sun Spots
"I saw him again, Eddie. This isn't a coincidence, and we haven't lost him," Jeremy closed the door behind him, one hand nervously touching the side of his neck.
Eddie Taylor sighed, hand resting on the keyboard of his computer. "You know more about vampires than I do. Until last week, I was convinced that he was just a demented Immortal stalking you."
"I didn't know if you'd believe me. The whole thing sounds a bit crazy," Jeremy sighed, and walked over to a chair. "Then again, so do people who can wake up again after taking five shots to the chest at close range. I just... I can't explain why they can do what they can do, or why they can't do other things... and the lack of reflection makes no fucking sense to me. I was told it was because a mirror shows your soul, and they don't have those anymore... traded them in for fangs."
"Fair enough," Eddie conceded. "Do you have any idea why he's chasing you? Since he isn't an Immortal, he's probably not after your Quickening."
"The bastard's a vampire, Eddie. He wants what every vampire wants - blood. And he figured out that I don't stay dead. He sees me as an all you can eat buffet," Jeremy shuddered before muttering, "Losing my head would be a lot better."
"And we already know that you can't beat him in a one to one fight," Eddie sighed, and looked at Jeremy. "What can we do? How do we get rid of a vampire anyhow?"
For a few moments, Jeremy was quiet and then he smacked his forehead, exclaiming, "I'm an idiot. The best way to get rid of a vampire is a Slayer! Think about it, who did we run into last week?"
"A pack of vampires that nearly killed us both, though you would have got better."
"That Immortal, Adam, and his girlfriend, Faith the one who has to be a Slayer. Slayers kill vampires. We find them and we ask them for help. I'll beg if I have to," Jeremy retorted.
"I like that idea. I'll get to work on finding them, and you... you hope that I find them in time," Eddie sighed. "Now what was his last name? Adam Peirce... no, not quite..."
Across town, the Immortal currently calling himself Adam and his girlfriend Faith were stalking vampires. They hadnï¿½t split up, since Faith had been feeling odd off and on for the last couple days. Sheï¿½d described it as her bones feeling itchy, combined with her head feeling floaty. She didnï¿½t have a fever, and wasnï¿½t having trouble thinking, so they were still going out on a patrol, just more carefully than normal.
There was a trio of vampires ahead. Their voices carried, and their words made it clear that they were from out of town, their master was someone called Sam, and they were not terribly bright. Subtlety was a skill that they lacked. Also their master was looking for someone, a person that heï¿½d decided that he wanted as a pet.
This someone had been fortunate enough to get a clue and skittish enough to run. Very sensible, in the opinions of Faith and Adam.
The vampires didnï¿½t seem to notice either of them until the pair lunged forward, swords swinging. The vampire that Adam had attacked fell to dust as his head separated. Faithï¿½s vampire had tried to twist out of the way, and dropped to the ground screaming as he lost his left arm, which fell to dust. The third vampire snarled and decked Faith, the force of the blow sending her flying into an alley wall. The minion followed after her, though it was debatable if this was to follow up the attack on the should-be-downed woman or to evade the sword-wielding man.
Adam stopped to behead the now one-armed vampire, confident that Faith could handle a single stupid vampire. After all, she was the Slayer.
Instead of keeping the vampire distracted with the sword and stabbing it with the stake, Faith was using both hands on the sword, her teeth clenched and a massive bruise forming on the side of her face. He winced as her sword opened the vampire from hip to shoulder, letting his guts spill forth, entangling his feet and causing an awful wail. Faith put them all out of the vampireï¿½s misery by severing his head on her backswing.
ï¿½A different strategy,ï¿½ Adam commented, walking closer.
ï¿½I think he was trying to play with me. Minions never play with Slayers, only Masters are arrogant enough to do that,ï¿½ She took her right hand from the sword, touching the side of her face and wincing. ï¿½Owww.ï¿½
ï¿½Youï¿½re bruising,ï¿½ He moved to her side, looking at her. She was a Slayer, this sort of thing wasnï¿½t supposed to happen. Slayers were more resilient, harder to damageï¿½ and easily stronger than a minion vampire. ï¿½Faith?ï¿½
ï¿½He was stronger than meï¿½ or maybe I was weaker than normal,ï¿½ Faith whispered. ï¿½And none of them reacted to me until we attacked them. Vamps always react to the presence of a Slayerï¿½ï¿½
ï¿½You said you were feeling off earlier. Between that and this fight turning out the way it did, I think we should take you home. Enough patrolling for one night,ï¿½ Adam fussed.
Faith hesitated, then touched her jaw again. With a wince, she agreed, ï¿½Okay. Itï¿½ll probably go away soon enough. Slayers bounce back pretty quick.ï¿½
Neither of them needed to mention that theyï¿½d be hitting the books to search for answers as soon as theyï¿½d gotten cleaned up.
End BS11: Sun Spots.
Chapter 12: Watching Stars
"Faith, I think we need to ask one of the Slayer Watchers. All the books are good to have, but... where do we even begin looking for something to cause fluctuations in a Slayer's strength?" he watched Faith as he spoke, her still damp hair clinging to the side of her neck as she leafed through one of the many volumes of demons.
She twitched, and then her shoulders slumped, "I guess you're right."
"Should we send an email, or would a phone call be a better means of contacting someone who would be willing to talk to us? Perhaps that Mr. Giles who sent the books?"
"What I want is for the whole thing to go away and things to go back to normal," Faith growled.
"Ignoring problems doesn't solve them." He opened another book, skimming descriptions of magical talismans. So far, not only did none of them sound like they could affect a Slayer's abilities, none of them were anything like anything that they'd encountered.
Faith sighed, and mumbled, "Pass the phone and I'll try to ring Giles."
In the end, she left a message on an answering machine - complete with swearing about talking to a machine - and told him to call her on her cell, because it was important, and she knew damn well that he wouldn't use the computer for anything short of an apocalypse within twenty four hours.
He could understand her frustration. He'd never liked leaving messages, not with people, not written down to be read later, and certainly not by talking to a machine. Just the way that she'd phrased things told him how worried she was, and he could understand that worry. Neither of them knew what was going on, if it would continue, if it would get worse.
Then an awful idea occurred to him. He had no idea how long someone could be a Slayer, only some hints as to how dangerous it was to be one. What arcane forces changed someone from a young woman to a Slayer, a warrior with abilities to make heroes and immortals weep with envy? What demands did that place on her body, on her spirit? Was this some strange descent towards death, as her body burned itself out? "Faith, how long have you been a Slayer?"
"About four and a half years. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before," tension had tightened around her eyes, narrowing those luscious lips.
Frowning, he considered his time with the Immortal Watchers. There had been very little about people getting caught up in Quickenings, or Quickenings when there were no immortals present. The most accepted theory was that a Quickening without an Immortal present just... dissipated, letting all the knowledge and skills of that immortal become lost. Wasted.
Offhand, he didn't recall hearing anything about people who weren't immortals being caught in a Quickening the way Faith had... Though it was possible that he could have overlooked some tiny detail. "Damn, I should have paid more attention to obscure things that shouldn't ever come up... especially once I met MacCleod. He attracts the bizarre."
"Remind me not to let him get near Xander... strange demons that haven't been seen for centuries will show up, wanting to date and kill them," Faith snarked.
"I think I need to make my own call," he sighed.
She passed the phone back to him and went back to flipping through books of demons, muttering a low commentary about the demons that she'd encountered.
"Joe's Blues Bar." The voice was calm and familiar, with music and the blurred hum of people talking and drinking in the background.
He smiled, relieved to get the man himself. "Dawson, this is Adam. I have a bit of a question for you and your old books. Can you find anything about shared Quickenings, Quickenings to non-immortals, or immortals with sharpened teeth and strange eyes?"
"You'll have to explain why," there was a bit of curiosity tinged with suspicion. "I can tell you right now that there won't be that much."
"Best to have that conversation in person and in private," he replied.
"Be here tomorrow at two and we'll talk."
He found himself glaring at the handset in mingled annoyance and surprise. "The old bastard hung up on me."
"Who're you calling old?" Faith leaned closer, "And isn't that a bit hypocritical when you know how to tell someone to fuck off in Sumerian?"
"Joe Dawson, and no. Being immortal meant that I'm never going to be old," he countered.
"So's being a Slayer, but that's nothing to smile about," Faith sighed.
He couldn't argue that. Instead, he tried some of those meditation and memory recall exercises, hoping that there was some tiny bit of information that he'd forgotten he'd seen. Some fragment of conversation.
Closing his eyes, he tried to let his awareness drift, to let the minor details that held his attention fade. To let go of the feeling of the carpet beneath him, of the scent of the old books and Faith's body-wash. To let go of the feeling of cotton against his skin, or the knife he had strapped to his shin. Breathe in... breathe out...
Let go of the bass and drums from the apartment below. Let go of horns blaring at the stoplight. Let go of his worry about Faith. Let go of his secrets about his past, the effort of playing Adam Peirson. To just... be.
He drifted into a state of altered awareness. It wasnï¿½t the focused remembrances that heï¿½d been aiming at, though sometimes he could reach that state after drifting though this sort of awareness. He could feel the huntress near him, her presence sizzling to his perception. Two dull presences in the dwelling below. One in the dwelling to the right, none to the left. A dull presence beyond the walls of his dwelling, accompanied by one of the humming presences of others like himselfï¿½
His eyes snapped open and heï¿½d pulled a sword from beneath the couch before heï¿½d taken a second breath, eyes fixed on the door.
ï¿½Share,ï¿½ Faithï¿½s single word covered many things.
ï¿½Two people in the hall, oneï¿½s Immortal,ï¿½ he watched the door, uncertain who was outside, what they wantedï¿½ Headhunters didnï¿½t usually bring spectators along. Unless the headhunter was threatening someone into bringing them to the apartment?
There was a tapping at the door.
ï¿½Adam Peirson? Can we talk to you? Itï¿½s fairly important,ï¿½ The voice from behind the door didnï¿½t sound threatening, but he did sound worried. ï¿½We met the other night.ï¿½
ï¿½Caldwell and his Watcher,ï¿½ Faith offered. ï¿½We do know how to deal with them if they are a threat. But donï¿½t give the verbal, just in caseï¿½ it is after dark.ï¿½
With a quick nod, he rose to his feet, moving over to open the door. The sword wasnï¿½t entirely hidden from view, but it shouldnï¿½t be seen from anyone else in the hall. Jeremy Caldwell of Virginia and his Watcher, who hadnï¿½t given his name the other night stood there, both looking nervous, but no weapons drawn. He opened the door wide, and gestured towards the couch, not saying a word. Vampires needed spoken invitations to apartments, and he wasnï¿½t about to test how loose that invitation needed to be.
Caldwell grabbed his Watcherï¿½s arm and practically pulled him into the apartment, visibly relaxing as soon as they were across the threshold.
ï¿½Jeremy, youï¿½re going to leave bruises,ï¿½ the Watcher hissed, not quite soft enough to escape being overheard.
ï¿½The thing about invitations is true. And hallways donï¿½t count,ï¿½ Caldwell replied, not quite as soft. Looking from Faith to Adam and then back to Faith, he spoke in normal voice, ï¿½I have a problem, and I really, really hope that you can help me.ï¿½
ï¿½What sort of problem?ï¿½ he asked his visitors. ï¿½And why are you looking at Faith?ï¿½
ï¿½Thereï¿½s a vampire after me. He wants to keep me as his diversion and eternal snack,ï¿½ Caldwell shuddered, ï¿½and the idea scares the living daylights out of me. Iï¿½ve tried running. Iï¿½ve tried shooting him. Nothing worked. So, Iï¿½m askingï¿½ Faithï¿½s a Slayer, thereï¿½s no other explanation for how she dealt with the ones attacking Eddie and I so easily. Help us kill him.ï¿½
ï¿½Why donï¿½t you tell us everything you know about this vampire,ï¿½ Faith spoke, as she walked over to the door, locking it and securing the deadbolt and chain.
End Bright Star 12: Watching Stars
Chapter 13: Wishing on a Star
Jeremy Caldwell sighed as he settled on the couch, the hilt of his saber peeking out from behind his neck. It was probably the only reason that he wasn't slouching. "There's a vampire that's been stalking me. His name's apparently Benjamin, and he wants to keep me. He's been stalking me for the past two years, across seventeen states."
"Naturally, being a sensible sort of guy, you don't like his plans, don't want them to happen, and have perhaps tried a few things to get rid of him already?" Faith leaned against the wall, her position letting her watch both the Immortal and his Watcher Eddie, and keeping her out of range of Adam's sword if they went bonkers on them.
"You mentioned shooting him," Adam prompted.
"Nine millimeter, four shots to the chest and the last two to his knees. I got chased away by some people who heard the gunshots."
"Here's something to try," Faith gave them both a half hearted glare. Sheï¿½d be a good deal angrier if she didnï¿½t know just how disturbing vampires could be, and what their ideas of diversions might entail. "Next time you blast his kneecaps out and he falls twitching and screaming to the ground, cut off his head. It works on vampires and most demons."
"I'm a bit disturbed that you said most demons instead of all demons. And that still leaves his hands and teeth, and he damn near bit through my ankle the time I tried that," He paused, glancing at Eddie to add, "That was what had me freaked out in St. Louis."
ï¿½Has he watched Monty Python too?ï¿½ Eddie murmured. In a normal voice, he looked at Faith, ï¿½Jeremyï¿½s certain that youï¿½re the Slayer. He said Slayers kill vampires. We have a vampire after us. Can you please help us get rid of the vampire?ï¿½
ï¿½We canï¿½t fault the logic,ï¿½ Adam admitted.
Faith nodded in agreement. Their logic was great, except for whatever was going on with her slayer-ness, or whatever it was that made her a Slayer instead of just a woman who knew how to kill things. And she had no intention of letting anyone know about what was going on that didnï¿½t absolutely need to know ï¿½ right now, that was herself, Adam, Giles, and Joe Dawson, the other sort of Watcher that Adam knew. She thought back to the vampires sheï¿½d met, and the utter disasters that had unfolded in Sunnydale because of Buffy and her vampire boyfriends. ï¿½Yeah, Slayers kill vampires. Things work better that way.ï¿½
ï¿½Then youï¿½ll help us?ï¿½ Eddie looked like he just might have kissed her if a frowning Adam hadnï¿½t been there.
Honestly, if she hadnï¿½t been involved with Adam, she might not have minded. Pushing that thought back, Faith flashed a grin at the worried pair and said, ï¿½Weï¿½ll need a description of the guy and what you can tell us about him. Anything ï¿½ if thereï¿½s a type of car he likes, a type of victim he chases other than you, known weaponsï¿½ even if he likes cats.ï¿½
Jeremy and Eddie gave each other a puzzled look, shrugged, and then they started talking. Jeremy had seen the vampire on more occasions, but Eddie had been trained to notice a large amount of details in a fleeting glance. They had a good deal to say, though some of it, perhaps a lot of it, would prove useless trivia.
In the end, Adam agreed to let them stay in the apartment until dawn. They were genuinely frightened by this vampire, and heï¿½d been killed by vampires a time or two, so he could sympathize. Faith couldnï¿½t bring herself to toss them out as vampire bait. Not since they hadnï¿½t actually done anything to make her angry or particularly awful that she knew about.
Joeï¿½s Blues Bar was closed until five, according to the sign on the front door. That and the fact that the door was locked slowed Adam down for only a few moments as he picked the lock, muttering ï¿½Iï¿½m glad he uses the old fashioned doors. I havenï¿½t a clue how to open the electronic locks that were starting to spread.ï¿½
ï¿½Most people knock,ï¿½ a voice emerged from behind the bar.
Adam shrugged, ï¿½You said to meet you here at two. I figured that youï¿½d be expecting us.ï¿½
ï¿½I expected you. What I didnï¿½t expect was that youï¿½d bring your girlfriend, considering what you asked me to look into,ï¿½ Joe added, moving slowly around the bar, collecting a cane as he walked towards a table.
ï¿½If this has to do with the fact that Iï¿½m involved with a much, much older man, I already know about that. Or the fact that if he gets a bump or a scrape while weï¿½re out, heï¿½ll get better,ï¿½ Faith had a half smile.
ï¿½Bump or scrape hell, our outings tend more towards broken bones and blood loss,ï¿½ Adam growled.
ï¿½Whyï¿½s that?ï¿½ Joe looked at them, gesturing for them to sit down.
ï¿½The first time I met her, she was out hunting vampires,ï¿½ Adam offered. ï¿½Itï¿½s a regular occurrence for my bright star.ï¿½
Joe shuddered, ï¿½Nasty beasts. Especially the ones that can play human.ï¿½
ï¿½One of our walks ended up with a fight with a vampire that used guns. I took a couple rounds to the chest. He was a decent shot, it was almost immediately fatal,ï¿½ Adam rubbed at his chest.
Faith glanced at Adam, noticing that while nothing that heï¿½d said was a lie, it gave the impression that sheï¿½d only learned of his immortality and healing factor on patrol, not that heï¿½d already told her about it. Granted, it was the kind of things that was damn hard to believe, but heï¿½d told her before heï¿½d been shot on patrolï¿½ damn vampire. ï¿½Adam walked home with me that night. The vampire became dust.ï¿½
ï¿½Ahhh,ï¿½ Joe looked thoughtful, his fingers tapping at the edge of the table. ï¿½Does this tie in to asking about shared quickenings, or quickenings involving non-Immortals?ï¿½
Faith sighed, deciding that two could play at the game of partial truths. ï¿½I got kidnapped by some weird people. Adam came to rescue me, and we had to fight our way out of there. The thing is, there was this freaky lightning thing when the assholeï¿½s head got choppedï¿½ï¿½
She rubbed at her wrist, remembering the feeling of the tiny lightning bolts and the strange images that they had carried. ï¿½It didnï¿½t hurt as much as I expected, and there were weird pictures. Places that Iï¿½ve never been, foods that Iï¿½ve never even seen, let alone tasted. Both of us were caught in it.ï¿½
Joe was staring at her hand. ï¿½You arenï¿½t immortal. There are scars on your hand, and your knuckles are scraped. Iï¿½ve heard of pre-Immortals picking up a quickening, and sometimes, it theyï¿½re injured enough, that can wind up acting as a first deathï¿½ï¿½
ï¿½She wasnï¿½t a pre-immortal before that happened.ï¿½
ï¿½Is she now?ï¿½ Joe asked, focusing in on Adamï¿½s use of the word wasnï¿½t instead of saying isnï¿½t.
Faith gave him a weak glare, and then offered another partial truth. ï¿½Thereï¿½s been something weird going on with me since that night. My healingï¿½s fluctuating, my strengthï¿½s fluctuating, and every once in a while he gets that look like he thinks he felt something. Then whatever heï¿½s picking up goes away.ï¿½
ï¿½Huh, thatï¿½sï¿½ unusual,ï¿½ Joe looked distracted, as if he was already thinking about old books. Maybe they had information on computer, to spare tired eyes, or at least be more portable.
ï¿½If you can dig up anything that might let us know what to expect, it would be appreciated,ï¿½ Adam was giving his own weak glare at Joe. It was obvious to Faith that he knew full well that he was asking the man to dig up relevant information that was at best unusual and obscure and might even be just recorded as myth, or even non-existent.
Joe nodded, adding, ï¿½Depending on what I find, I might need to ask if what happened to you matches. Assuming that I can find anything. This might turn out to be as much a myth as Methos.ï¿½
ï¿½Thatï¿½s exactly what weï¿½re worried about,ï¿½ Adam countered.
While Joe sputtered and blinked, Adam and Faith left the bar. She waited until they were down the street a ways before asking, ï¿½So, thereï¿½s some sort of myth about a character named Methos?ï¿½
ï¿½Big myth,ï¿½ he agreed with a smile. ï¿½Some stories call him the oldest Immortal, and others call him a metaphor. Others say that there was once a guy named Methos, but heï¿½s vanished into the mists of time and legend. Sort of like a cross between King Arthur and Noahï¿½s Ark.ï¿½
Faith just chuckled, remembering how heï¿½d confessed to being Methos. To being Death of the four horsemen. Followed by an immediate denial of attempting to end the world and the insistence that what theyï¿½d done ï¿½ which hadnï¿½t been at all nice ï¿½ had been exaggerated over the past few thousand years. The Watchers and other Immortals thinking that Methos was a myth would probably be a great way to be safer. ï¿½So where do Immortals come from anyhow? What makes someone Immortal?ï¿½
ï¿½I donï¿½t think anyone knows why. The ones that Iï¿½ve met have been everything from royalty to merchants to warriors to beggars. Some had good, caring families, some had hard working families, some hated their families, and some were foundlings. The best anyone can guess is that itï¿½s justï¿½. Something. A potential that some people have and most lack. In some people, that potential is never realized, while othersï¿½ï¿½ He shrugged, as if to finish that others became Immortal.
Faith nodded, wondering if it was anything like sorting out who had the potential to become a Slayer, back when there were still thousands of potentials running around. Nobody seemed to know why one girl would be a potential when another wasnï¿½t ï¿½ there had even been a case of twins, with one of them a Slayer and the other not. Yeah, there were ways to identify if someone was a Potential, or easier ways to determine if someone was a Slayer, but that didnï¿½t explain why.
ï¿½Maybe between Giles and Joe, we can get some answers,ï¿½ Faith whispered.
He took her hand in his, giving her fingers a little squeeze. ï¿½Maybe.ï¿½
End Bright Star 13: Wishing on a Star.
Chapter 14: Starlight Advice
Faith was in the middle of stretching when her cell phone rang. She almost let it go to voicemail, except that there was only one reason that her phone would be ringing 'Every Breath You Take.' She'd programmed it to use the stalker-song for the special calls from the Watcher's Council - that is, from Giles, Xander, Willow, or Dawn. And it only used that ringtone when they used the special magic-encryption that Willow had devised to make sure things were as eavesdropping and tracking proof as the techno-witch could manage. Needless to say, they didn't use that encryption all the time, and a regular call would ring in with the default ringtone, which was an energetic techno selection this month.
Hoping that it was Giles with some useful information, she answered, "Faith here."
:You left a message demanding that I contact you,: Giles sounded as if he was trying hard not to be annoyed. :I hope that it is something of importance to merit such tones?:
"Yeah, yeah... remember I asked about the gorgeous demons with the fangs and solid eyes? There's a bit more to it than rumors of them about town," Faith began. She didn't want to dump everything on him in the first ten seconds, that would only lead to him rubbing his glasses and muttering Britishisms.
:The efreet. You'd be astonished how often they get described in such a manner. I do hope that they aren't causing problems, some of them have terrible magical powers. Several theories have linked them with the legends of Djinn...: there was a pause, and she could hear Giles sigh. :Tell me what happened, Faith.:
"One of them kidnapped me. He had at least half a dozen followers, and they can have different colored eyes than just orange. He knew I was a Slayer and wanted to keep me locked up and out of his way, I guess so he could go ahead with whatever plot he had goin' on," Faith was frowning at her fingernail, thinking that it looked a bit off. Had she managed to bruise under the nail on her last patrol?
:Oh dear... You wouldn't be calling me from your phone if you were still in captivity, would you? What else happened?:
"Adam came to rescue me. Turns out he's pretty handy in a fight, good with a sword..." Faith wasn't certain if she should mention his Immortality to Giles. It wasn't her secret to pass about. "The thing is, those efreet guys kept getting back up."
:The books mention them doing that. They are apparently very difficult to kill:
"Turns out that cutting off their heads works pretty well," Faith countered. "Except that it seems to be having some sort of effects. Weird ones. I need you to help me figure out what's happening to me."
There was a pause, and what might have been the sound of a teacup being put down on a saucer. :What sort of side effects do you mean?:
Faith tried to figure out the best way to start. Should she begin with the vampires attempting to toy with her? The periods of weakness and lightheadedness? The changes in how fast she healed? Biting back a few choice curses, she dropped the main problem like an anvil, "It's doing something to my Slayer-ness."
There was silence for a count of fifteen and then Giles began swearing. She could pick out the Sumerian about being buggered by diseased donkeys, and the Latin about blunt swords and shields made of grass, but there were other parts that she couldn't figure out at all. A few Gaelic words about festering, frozen and darkness.
"Very creative. My own swearing doesn't include nearly that many languages," Faith was impressed.
:Give me specifics. Everything that youï¿½re certain is connected, and then what you suspect is connected,: Giles demanded.
ï¿½Like I said, we had to fight our way out of there. When one of us cut their heads off there was this crazy miniature lightning kind of thing. It stung, but not as bad as a tazer, and it had these weird images of places I hadnï¿½t been. Both of us had the hell beat out of us before we got home,ï¿½ Faith paused, remembering the morning after. ï¿½I was fine by morning. Not even any bruises.ï¿½
:Was that within the normal healing process? Do continue.:
ï¿½It was a couple days after that that I felt weird when I woke up. Sort of lightheaded. When I patrolled that night, the vamps tried to play with me, like they would some random person. And they felt like they were hitting really hard,ï¿½ Faith paused, and then added, ï¿½Except that it turns out they were just normal vamps. I wasnï¿½t very strong that night.ï¿½
:Have there been any strange marks that you couldnï¿½t explain? Especially small bruises?:
There was also a bit of muttering that sounded as if she wasnï¿½t supposed to hear it. Something about a drug and a cruiseï¿½ No, that couldnï¿½t be right. No way Giles would be muttering threats involving cruises with men on them. ï¿½No weird marks. Not funky bruises, not weird stripes or spots or not a tattoos, nothing changing color. The part that doesnï¿½t make sense is that when I feel light and weak, and the vamps donï¿½t seem to react like Iï¿½m a Slayer, it seems to change how my presence feels. And I heal faster then than I do the rest of the time. Then it feels like it swings back and I feel all crazy Slayer-like, and I canï¿½t wait ï¿½till dark to go slay some vamps.ï¿½
:Youï¿½re healing faster when weaker than when you feel normal? Thatï¿½ that doesnï¿½t make sense. If thatï¿½s the case, then it isnï¿½tï¿½: Giles stopped before he explained what it couldnï¿½t be. :Hmmm. Perhaps if I focus on things that accelerate the healing processï¿½:
ï¿½Thereï¿½s been no rituals that either of us were present for. No magic amulets or charms or big boxes. No chanting or trying to cast spells,ï¿½ Faith wanted to say that Adam was as confused about this as she was. Except that he said he had an idea, something that he wasnï¿½t certain about.
She could still hear Giles muttering over the phone. :ï¿½focused manipulationï¿½. No, not chamomileï¿½. Invocation of the Hunter? No, she would have noticed thatï¿½ Essence of the demon?:
ï¿½Whoa, whoa, whoaï¿½ there was no essence being exchanged! I was chained up, but thatï¿½s it!ï¿½ Faith interrupted.
:Essence of the demon does not always refer to sexual contact,: Giles retorted. :From what youï¿½ve said, those miniature lightnings were a form of essence. The essential life essence of the demons. There are rumors of another sort of being with those lightnings, sometimes referred to as demons and sometimes presumed some sort of magical martial artists. Those individuals donï¿½t seem to age, or sicken. While most of their actions are a mystery, they sometimes engage in ritual combat, ending with the decapitation of the loser. Blue lightnings emerge from the loserï¿½s body and are primarily absorbed by the winner. Speculation is that those lightnings are the loserï¿½s life essence and power.:
ï¿½Heard about them,ï¿½ Faith admitted. She didnï¿½t want to explain that sheï¿½d heard all about the Immortals from Adam, or why he knew so much. ï¿½I hadnï¿½t considered that sort of essence. But that still doesnï¿½t tell me whatï¿½s going on or why I keep feeling weak. I havenï¿½t felt that weak since before I was a Slayer.ï¿½
:I do know that there are several species of demons that reproduce by infection. What I donï¿½t know off the top of my head is if efreets are among those species. I will need to do some additional research on themï¿½. Are you absolutely certain that thereï¿½s no other potential cause?:
ï¿½If thereï¿½s anything else responsible, then itï¿½s something that can work without any direct contact,ï¿½ Faith insisted.
:Be careful. Stay alert for any additional signs that things might be out of the ordinary, and I will get back in touch after Iï¿½ve done more research on the efreet.:
ï¿½Sure thing. Youï¿½ll e happy to know that Iï¿½ve been studying and practicing. I found a good teacher for old languages, and Adamï¿½s been helping me with my sword work,ï¿½ Faith smirked into the phone.
:Which old languages?:
ï¿½I could follow most of the Sumerian you were snarling. Nasty stuff with the donkeysï¿½ do I want to know where you learned that from? Iï¿½ve also been working on my Latin and I can swear in Turkish,ï¿½ Faith decided not to tell Giles that compared to Adam, whoï¿½d actually learned Sumerian as a living language, that he had a weird accent.
:Turkish?: Giles sounded curious now.
ï¿½Yeah, but all I can do so far is swearing and asking for coffee,ï¿½ Faith admitted.
Giles laughed at that.
Hanging up the phone, Faith felt a little better. Giles had to find something ï¿½ he was used to finding obscure stuff fast to keep things from going disastrous. Heï¿½d survived over a Hellmouth, heï¿½d out-planned Mayor Wilkins. Between Giles, Joe, herself, and Adam, they had to find an answer. She just hoped that the answer wouldnï¿½t be ï¿½too bad, youï¿½re dying.ï¿½
End Bright Star 14: Starlight Advice
Chapter 15: More Stars in Heaven
Something strange was going on with his lovely bright star. Something that had started after she'd been kidnapped by the efreet, after the pair of them had cut their way out. After they'd somehow shared a quickening from the efreet.
It should have been impossible. Quickenings weren't shared. Only Immortals had them, not efreet. Quickenings didn't do anything to ordinary humans. Being too close to a Quickening didn't make a human into a pre-Immortal. Nothing was supposed to be able to change a Slayer in any way besides death.
Except that something was happening. Whatever it was didn't care that nothing should be happening, that Faith should be immune to whatever.
It didn't care that she had responsibilities as a Slayer. That he wanted her to be safe. That he didn't like mysteries or surprises concerning himself or people he cared about. Not that he'd cared about many people in the last few thousand years, but still...
He especially didn't like that this was happening at the same time that someone was asking for her help. Whatever was causing her strength to falter was still happening - that was not good when preparing to fight a master vampire. Or any other time, for that matter. He'd wondered if Caldwell and his Watcher had plotted this out, found some way to weaken Faith, planning to remove her to throw him off his game and then take his head. There were plenty who'd be willing to use such tactics.
Except that he had no idea how they could affect a Slayer. That they thought he was nobody of any real importance save as he could influence the Slayer. That they were really terrified of this vampire Benjamin. If Dawson, Faith's Watchers, and himself were all stumped, there was no way that some traveling former soldier who hadn't even finished his second century could have plotted out and accomplished whatever was happening to Faith.
"How good is Joe?" Faith asked, her hands polishing a sword take on patrol tonight.
"I wouldn't bet on him in a fair fight, though he's clever and ruthless enough to avoid a fair fight and get rid of his enemy anyhow. Brave, battle-tested and wounded... a good man," he sighed and then looked at her hands. "He'll give this a good effort. I just don't know if there will be anything to find, or if he can find it fast enough."
ï¿½The good thing is that this whatever doesnï¿½t seem to be trying to kill me. Not that having something closer to human strength when Iï¿½m hunting vampires is a good thing, but itï¿½s way better than sprouting scales or horns or tentacles,ï¿½ Faith offered. ï¿½Or sudden migraines or fits of vomiting.ï¿½
ï¿½Fits of vomiting never help anything,ï¿½ he agreed with a shudder.
ï¿½What the hell?ï¿½ Faith muttered, poking at her finger.
ï¿½My star?ï¿½ he looked at her, uncertain what had prompted that comment.
She shook her head, ï¿½My fingernail just fell off. Thatï¿½s the second one today, and I know I didnï¿½t hit them into anything hard enough to do that. It looks like a new oneï¿½s already growing in, but why the hell did it just fall off to begin with?ï¿½
ï¿½Are you sure that you want to go looking for this vampire Benjamin tonight? Charming as Caldwell seems, his death wonï¿½t cause me to lose sleep. Yours would,ï¿½ he didnï¿½t like the idea of losing Faith. Of having her smile, the sparkle of her eyes, her wicked sense of humor or that vibrant sensual passion gone from this world forever.
ï¿½I can slay,ï¿½ she shook her head, her hair falling to hide her face. ï¿½Justï¿½ it might be a good idea not to split up tonight. Iï¿½m feeling fine now, but why take chances?ï¿½
ï¿½I have no objections to staying close to you, my bright star,ï¿½ he smiled at her. Heï¿½d be quite content to stay with her for as long as he could. She made life interesting again. ï¿½Perhaps we could work on your Turkish for a while?ï¿½
ï¿½Might be a good idea to be able to do more than cuss someone out and ask for coffee,ï¿½ she grinned.
end part 1.
He didnï¿½t know how to tell her that she was starting to have a presence. Not the sort that anything with a brain could detect, but similar to the presence that Immortals and pre-Immortals carried. Close to what the efreet had possessed. It wasnï¿½t there all the time, ebbing and cresting like tides, but without any rhythm. It was strongest when she said she felt light-headed and weak, the least Slayer-like. He had even less idea what it might meanï¿½ or rather, he had wild ideas and not the first bit of evidence for any of them.
It still wasnï¿½t as strong as the presence of an ordinary pre-Immortal. He had no idea what would happen when she died, if it would make a difference. If it would matter how strong that strange presence was when she died.
He didnï¿½t want Faith to die.
His hand closed around the hilt of a sword as he snarled to himself in a language that he couldnï¿½t remember the name of, ï¿½I do not want the woman I care for to die. Instead of cower and complain, I will do something about it ï¿½ I will fight at her side, I will strike her enemies that she might miss, and I will watch her back. I am a warrior, not someone to hide in the darkness hoping that all turns out according to the will of the spirits. Anyone who wishes to strike her down will need to get past me, and I will make them bleed.ï¿½
ï¿½Any of that something youï¿½d care to repeat in a language I know?ï¿½ Faith looked at him.
ï¿½Just a bit of a pep talk to myself, my star,ï¿½ his teeth bared in an expression that wasn't a grin as he remembered age upon age of fighting. ï¿½I donï¿½t have to stay at home fretting over your safety, Iï¿½ll be right there with you.ï¿½
ï¿½You did promise to fight by my side and watch my back,ï¿½ Faith murmured. ï¿½And at your age, I think you should have had enough practice.ï¿½
ï¿½Your enemies are my enemies, my star. I havenï¿½t lived this long without learning what to do with enemies,ï¿½ he put the sword in the hidden sheathe along his back, and hid a few wooden stakes on his person as well. Best to have them, even if beheading worked wonders on vampires as much as Immortals. He knew what to do with enemies ï¿½ there were reasons that heï¿½d been called Death. ï¿½Jealous, possessive bastardï¿½ had also been something heï¿½d been called, and he intended to keep Faith. Keep her alive and healthy and passionate.
It didnï¿½t take long until they were near the place that Caldwell and his Watcher were staying. On the one hand, sharing living quarters would make it very easy to keep tabs on the Immortal. On the other hand, it also made him wonder just how close the pair really wereï¿½ not that it would make that much difference to him.
Faith was frowning, her eyes searching the darkness to their left. ï¿½A vampireï¿½ and this isnï¿½t going to be a good night for Slaying. Iï¿½m having trouble sensing him. Either thatï¿½s gone wonky on me or thereï¿½s a stealth vampire out there. Given the way I feel, I think itï¿½s me having issues.ï¿½
ï¿½Normal vampires are bad enough without facing stealth vampires, or ninja vampires,ï¿½ he agreed. To the right, he could feel another presence. Not quite like an Immortal, in fact, it was similar to the way Faith had started to sometimes feel. But the other was more defined, less wobbly than when Faith had a presence. He decided to give no sign that he knew about that being until they had shown if they were friend or foe.
The vampire made his move, attempting to attack Caldwell and his Watcher from behind before anyone could act. Thankfully, he only had the speed and stealth of an ordinary vampire, which was more than enough to be a fatal surprise to most humans. Caldwellï¿½s Watcher found himself shoved into a wall, falling in a dazed heap to the sidewalk. The man wasnï¿½t unconscious, but he was clearly not able to leap up and fight. The smear of blood on the wall suggested some sort of head injury, which could be quite problematic for someone human.
Faith was moving even as the Watcher headed for the wall, her sword drawn and eyes bright. Had she had the full strength of a Slayer, her strike would have severed the vampireï¿½s body in half from shoulder across to his hip, turning him to dust. He was a half step behind her, just far enough apart that their swords wouldnï¿½t interfere with each other.
With rude curses right out of sixteenth century France, the vampire moved in a way that pulled him away from Faithï¿½s sword and spun him to face her. His eyes burned amber, overshadowed by thick ridges, as he glared at them, ï¿½Iï¿½ll make you pay for meddling in my hunt!ï¿½
ï¿½How ï¿½bout an IOU?ï¿½ Faith quipped, her sword prepared to strike again.
Benjamin growled, lunging towards Faith. Her sword flashed, leaving several more cuts that ï¿½ if sheï¿½d had the full strength of a Slayer ï¿½ would have severed parts of the vampire to fall as dust. With a loud howl, he managed to fling Faith at great speed into Caldwell, leaving them both a collapsed heap on the sidewalk, neither one immediately bouncing to their feet to fight.
He took a step towards them, ignoring the man with the sword. ï¿½Youï¿½re mine now, Caldwell.ï¿½
Methos didnï¿½t swear, he didnï¿½t shout, and he didnï¿½t snarl insults at the vampire who had just hurled Faith as if she were a bit of soiled laundry or unwanted offal. Any of those things would attract his attention, would give warning. Instead, the first strike was a sideways blow across the back, just above the hips. It severed the vampireï¿½s spine, dropping him to the ground with a spray of blood and the paler fluid that surrounded the spine.
Kicking the vampire to roll him over to face upwards, Methos stepped into the vampireï¿½s line of sight. Even as he spoke, he raised his sword for the final strike, ï¿½You are a fool, and you harmed someone who is mine.ï¿½
The sword slowed as it cut through the vampireï¿½s raised arms. This was enough to make the blade drag as it passed through the vampireï¿½s neck. Instead of a swift, almost painless beheading, the blade tore through his flesh. The head fell to the left, bouncing twice and rolling into the gutter even as the body fell to dust.
Looking up, he could see a pair of eyes, glowing like coals, at the top of a building. Inhuman eyes, watching the whole fight.
Turning towards the tangle of Faith and Caldwell, he asked, ï¿½My star, are you able to stand?ï¿½
Faith was on her knees, one hand clutching the bloody sword, her head tilted down. ï¿½Give me a moment.ï¿½
He moved closer, ready to help her to her feet if necessary, worried. Caldwell wasnï¿½t moving, his body opened across the ribs and down the stomach where Faithï¿½s blade had caught him, blood spilled everywhere and organs showing. Dead, but as his neck was undamaged, the man would recover.
Faith spat, her empty hand raising to touch her temple, the fingers scraped over the back. Her hair was damp with blood, and she lurched to her feet. ï¿½Not a good for night hunting.ï¿½
ï¿½Heï¿½s dead now,ï¿½ Methos shrugged, one hand making a disrespectful gesture at the heap of ash that had been the vampireï¿½s body.
ï¿½Iï¿½m pretty sure I killed Jeremy, and that bastard heap of ashes over there knocked a couple teeth loose. My headï¿½s ringing, and I feel weak as a kitten,ï¿½ she closed her eyes, bloody fingers not quite touching the side of her head. ï¿½I donï¿½t even feel normal human strong, let alone Slayer strong. And thereï¿½s someone out there, watching me. I can feel him.ï¿½
ï¿½Caldwell will recover, you only half-gutted him. Why donï¿½t I put him back in his room, and you see if the Watcher needs a doctor? Iï¿½m not the best judge of that for ordinary people,ï¿½ he suggested.
ï¿½Good idea. Sï¿½pose these Watchers arenï¿½t as used to shrugging off concussions,ï¿½ Faith murmured.
Faith moved slowly over to Caldwellï¿½s Watcher, her movements still showing the gracefulness of a hunter and warrior. The sword was still clenched in her hand as she checked the Watcher.
Methos gathered up Caldwell, making certain that none of his internal organs were likely to fall out and trip him. He hauled him back into the building. While they had locked the door behind them, the locks were flimsy and unremarkable. The biggest delay in picking them was the fact that he was still holding Caldwell of the open gut. As tempting as it might be to just drop him on the floor, that would likely cause splattering at the least, and possibly organs bouncing out ï¿½ he really didnï¿½t need the younger Immortalï¿½s entrails spilling onto his shoes. Instead he left him on the couch. ï¿½My bright star was injured killing your vampire, youï¿½d best appreciate it. Otherwise Iï¿½ll hunt you down and take your head myself.ï¿½
Faith had Caldwellï¿½s Watcher with her, and they were making their wobbly way down the corridor. Caldwellï¿½s saber was clenched in the Watcherï¿½s hand ï¿½ the grip spoke more of a desperate urge to not drop it or leave a trail than any readiness to fight. Faith looked at him and gave a tiny smile, half of her face scraped and bruising, ï¿½Heï¿½s got a concussion, and smacked his arm pretty hard. He can move it and grip, but it hurts. I donï¿½t think itï¿½s broken, but if he canï¿½t move it right in the morning I told him to go to a doctor.ï¿½
ï¿½Sensible,ï¿½ Methos directed them into the room, where the Watcher collapsed into an armchair, blinking at Caldwellï¿½s form on the couch.
ï¿½He looksï¿½ is he dead again?ï¿½ The sword fell along the carpet, and the man groaned. ï¿½I need to stop finding walls like thatï¿½ï¿½
ï¿½Heï¿½ll be fine. There wasnï¿½t that much organ damage, everythingï¿½s still there, and still mostly where it belongs. Try not to go to sleep. You might want to clean up his sword, who knows whatï¿½s been on that sidewalk,ï¿½ Methos remarked.
ï¿½Thatï¿½s true, Jeremy does fuss over keeping it clean. What happened to the vampire?ï¿½ He looked up, frowning at them.
ï¿½Benny-boyï¿½s a heap of dust,ï¿½ Faith supplied.
ï¿½Oh good,ï¿½ the Watcher sounded a bit dazed.
ï¿½Stay awake, clean up the sword, donï¿½t let anybody in until Jeremy over there canï¿½t be used as surgical instruction,ï¿½ Faith demanded. Turning to look at him, she smiled, ï¿½Can we go home now, Adam?ï¿½
End part 2.
He could still feel someone watching them as they made their way back to the apartment that he shared with Faith. He suspected that if he could spot whoever it was, heï¿½d see the same glowing coal eyes that heï¿½d seen after the fight with the vampire.
Once in the apartment, he helped Faith out of her clothing ï¿½ always a favorite thing ï¿½ and through a shower. Once the both of them were clean and not naked, they returned to the living room to clean their swords. Heï¿½d learned centuries ago that cleaning long blades naked was generally unwise, and occasionally painful, especially if something startled you. She was walking steadier now, and the bruise was already that unflattering greenish tinged with yellow. He could feel her, not just the warmth of her body, but feel her as a comforting hum.
ï¿½Itï¿½s lasting longer, whatever it is,ï¿½ Faith whispered.
Methos could only nod. ï¿½Youï¿½re changing. This isnï¿½t the way that I wanted to learn how much truth there was in some wild stories that Iï¿½d heard a few thousand years ago. I canï¿½t even be certain why youï¿½re changing.ï¿½
ï¿½Giles said essence of demon. Those guys who had me chained up,ï¿½ she picked up her sword and started to wipe the blood away. ï¿½Those tiny lightning bolts apparently count as essence. Iï¿½d thought it had to be something a little moreï¿½ well, something that didnï¿½t happen.ï¿½
ï¿½But youï¿½re a Slayer,ï¿½ he whispered. Heï¿½d never been quite certain of all the details of how that worked, but surely Slayers werenï¿½t supposed to be changed into other things. For that matter, what would this mean for the future of Slayers?
ï¿½Maybe not for much longer. I was never the only one, and thisï¿½ whatever this is wonï¿½t mean no more Slayers,ï¿½ Faith paused.
ï¿½Because of Bea that drowned?ï¿½
ï¿½At first,ï¿½ Faith paused before muttering, ï¿½That bastard vampire knocked teeth loose.ï¿½
ï¿½They should tighten back up,ï¿½ he offered.
ï¿½Know anything about Turok-Han?ï¿½ Faith asked.
Methos blinked, wondering about the apparent change of subject before shuddering. ï¿½I remember those damn menaces. Strong, the strategy of a wild boar, and ugly. I thought theyï¿½d been hunted to extinction?ï¿½
ï¿½Apparently not quite. A bunch of them showed up in Sunnydale, where we had to fight them. There was a witch on our side, and she cast a spell. It made the potential Slayers with us into full Slayers. A dozen Slayers was more than enough to fight of the Turok-Han and we still managed to escape before closing the Hellmouth turned the town into a giant sinkhole,ï¿½ Faith shook her head before muttering, ï¿½I didnï¿½t think sheï¿½d be able to pull it off, but sheï¿½s a strong witch. A lot stronger than she was when I first met her.ï¿½
ï¿½A dozen Slayersï¿½ï¿½ Methos considered that idea, finding it somewhere between awe-inspiring and terrifying. ï¿½I assume that theyï¿½ve since scattered to hunt demons and vampires across the globe?ï¿½
ï¿½Yeah, Slayingï¿½s gone global,ï¿½ Faith murmured. ï¿½Which means that this whatever thatï¿½s going on wonï¿½t leave the world Slayer-less.ï¿½
ï¿½I just donï¿½t want it to take you away from me,ï¿½ he admitted.
Faith gave a lopsided grin, ï¿½Neither do I.ï¿½
There wasnï¿½t much else that he could say. More Slayers might keep the world safer, or perhaps with the growing population, they might only be able to hold the vampires and demons in check. But she was more than just a Slayer, she was Faith, was his Faith. The woman that he cared for, perhaps even loved, the woman he didnï¿½t want to lose. ï¿½Slayer or not, you are my bright star, and I want you to stay with me.ï¿½
End part 3.
End Bright Star 15: More Stars in Heaven
Chapter 16: Starlight Calling
Faith didn't feel normal when she woke up after the painful fight with the vampire that had been stalking Caldwell. She still had a bruise over half her face, and the teeth at the back of her jaw, beneath the bruising... They hadn't tightened back up. In fact, they felt looser than they had last night.
Not only that, but she'd lost the other fingernails on the hand that had lost two the day before. Except that instead of leaving her fingers raw and exposed and vulnerable, there were already new nails there, still too short, but darker, and looking a bit tapered, almost as if they came to points. Then again, that could be a side effect of having been underneath the other nails. And now a couple fingernails were loose on her other hand, and several of her toenails were starting to feel like they'd be going next.
There was a strange itchy feeling in her bones, reminding her of when she'd had a broken arm when she was young, reminding her of when fighting vampires and demons ahd left cracks in her bones that had healed over days instead of the weeks that it would have taken before her Calling. Not only did her bones feel weird, so did her muscles. The feeling reminded her of when her foot fell asleep, but not as strong and over her whole body.
The little scrapes were gone. The smaller bruises had also vanished, leaving only part of the one on her face. She could still feel it, her cheek felt tight and tender, but she could only guess what shade of healing bruise it would be this morning. When she was feeling weak and not very Slayer-like, she healed faster. Much faster. Not as fast as Adam under the influence of those you've just been killed tiny blue lightning bolts, but much faster than a Slayer. She wasn't sure if that made up for the vampires being able to hurt her as easily as they did. Not as much as if she were an ordinary human, but much easier than she'd prefer.
It was starting to freak her out.
"My star, are you up?" Adam's voice called from the kitchen.
Faith grinned, certain that he could at least distract her for a while. "I'm awake. Think I can talk you into bringing me breakfast in bed?"
"What can you offer me?"
"Wild, passionate sex," Faith answered.
"In that case, you can indeed convince me to bring you breakfast in bed."
In the end, breakfast was cold by the time Faith ate any of it. Not that she really minded. The distraction from worrying about what was happening to her was worth it. Not that it wasn't fun all on its own merits.
ï¿½I think we need to talk to our Watchers again,ï¿½ Faith sighed. Sheï¿½d been hoping that it wouldnï¿½t be necessary, that the Watchers could somehow find an explanation for what was happening, and if it was a good or bad thing. Maybe a way to stop it.
ï¿½To Joe and your Giles?ï¿½ Adam asked, one eyebrow rising. ï¿½Why?ï¿½
ï¿½How can we expect them to figure out whatï¿½s going on if they donï¿½t have all the information? Not that I really want to be talking all about whatï¿½s going on, but I want answers. More than its something, and I get hurt more, and nobodyï¿½s got answers. I was hoping that we wouldnï¿½t need to share part of the details,ï¿½ Faith admitted.
ï¿½Why? Not that Iï¿½m in any greater hurry to share the details, but what are your reasons?ï¿½ he leaned closer, kissing her collar bone.
ï¿½Does Joe Dawson even know about demons? Does Giles and his batch know about your sort of Immortals? Does anyone know if Immortals and Efreet are connected? How do we explain the bits to them?ï¿½ Faith sighed. ï¿½Maybe we need to find a brand new minion to help convince Joe we havenï¿½t lost our minds.ï¿½
ï¿½The minion might not be a bad idea. A real vampire does tend to be damned persuasive evidence,ï¿½ Adam mused. ï¿½As for Giles and his Watchers, I donï¿½t know.ï¿½
ï¿½Fair enough. You figure out how to talk Joe into going on a patrol with us tonight or maybe tomorrow, Iï¿½ll call Giles. Iï¿½d flop back on the bed and ask what I could possibly have done to deserve this, but I have a few ideas, and sometimes it really is better not to know. Wouldnï¿½t help anyhow,ï¿½ Faith sighed.
ï¿½More coffee will be waiting for when you finish your call. Iï¿½ll make sure all the weapons are in good condition, sharpen up some more stakes, and call Joe,ï¿½ Adam leaned forward, giving her another kiss. ï¿½And if you want to flop back on the bed and forget for a while, Iï¿½d be delighted to help you with that again.ï¿½
ï¿½Later. Once we have everything planned out and time to kill before patrol,ï¿½ Faith promised.
As Faith pulled out her specially prepared cellular phone, which had been engraved with tiny runes and markings, drenched in magic, and then covered over with a couple spells to prevent ï¿½unneeded attentionï¿½, she decided that it was a good thing that these new fingernails were growing in so fast. Looking at the tiny markings, she grinned as she realized some of them were Sumerian. A curse that would-be thieves would have insects burrowing into their food and vermin infesting their bedding. Another line to prevent the wind, heat, or sands from damaging the object. She could also pick out the Latin that ensured open skies and clear voices, that messages would not go astray, as well as an invocation of protection for the secrets in those messages, that none might listen who were not invited. ï¿½Nice work, Red. Now if I can remember the right way to trigger those security measuresï¿½ï¿½
She was about to hang up when Giles answered his own enhanced phone :Iï¿½d ask if you know what time it is here, but you wouldnï¿½t use these measures just to harass me. What is the problem, Faith?:
ï¿½Sorry about the time,ï¿½ Faith winced a bit. She had forgotten just how much of a time difference there was between Seacouver and London. ï¿½Remember I asked you a little about some strange demons, looked awfully human, solid eyes, sharp teeth and claws?ï¿½
:The Efreet, if my guess is correct. There should be some information on them in the books that I had shipped to you. You mentioned beheading one of themï¿½: Giles let his voice trail off, something clearly intended to prompt Faith to give more information.
ï¿½Right. The pictures match up, the sexy demon guys were Efreet. What I hadnï¿½t mentioned was that I got grabbed by a bunch of them, their leader had me chained up in their base. Iï¿½m pretty sure they didnï¿½t do anything else, no signs of any hanky panky, no new tattoos, no painted on designsï¿½ Adam came to the rescue. We had to fight our way out, and things got pretty weird. Stab them, theyï¿½d get back up. Cut their heads off, and theyï¿½d stay down, but there was this weird fog and tiny lightning and hallucinations,ï¿½ Faith sighed.
ï¿½You left the hallucinations out of your earlier descriptions,: Giles paused. :Is Adam the one whoï¿½s been teaching you foreign languages?:
ï¿½Yeah, Adamï¿½s been teaching me languages. Not the issue here. The thing is, since that almost kidnapping, Iï¿½ve been feeling weird. I mentioned the being weaker, but when Iï¿½m weaker, I heal faster. But whateverï¿½s going on itï¿½s getting more so. My nails are falling out, and thereï¿½s already new ones underneath. The new ones just donï¿½t look the same,ï¿½ Faith admitted.
:Have you noticed any changes in perception or diet?: His voice was softer, with the undertone of worry that made Faith picture him pinching the bridge of his nose.
ï¿½When Iï¿½m feeling less Slayer-like, I have a harder time feeling the vampires. The not as bad part is that they donï¿½t seem to feel me as a Slayer then either. I hadnï¿½t noticed any changes to sound or sight, but sometimes I think I can feelï¿½ something, like a presence,ï¿½ Faith admitted. Reaching down with her free hand, she poked at one of her toenails. It wiggled in a way that suggested if it didnï¿½t come off today, it might during the night. Hopefully not on patrol.
:Faith, there are some mentions in the older books about people who had encounters with Efreet. Some of themï¿½ some of them exhibited changes, though seldom so soon.:
ï¿½What sort of changes, why later, and what happened to them?ï¿½ Faith asked, a tightness settling over her ribs.
:The records say nothing that explains the timing, though none of the people that Iï¿½ve found records about were Slayers. That might be part of it ï¿½ they might also have had less exposure to the miniature lightning. There is mention of fingernails and toenails being replaced by harder, sharper ones. In a few cases, the teeth began to fall out as well, and the irises began to take up a larger portion of the visible eye.:
Faithï¿½s tongue poked at the teeth that had been feeling loose since the vampire had thrown her into the wall. Maybe it wasnï¿½t all from the impact? ï¿½Wh-what happened to them after they started to lose teeth and their eyes changed?ï¿½
:In one case, the other Watchers reacted poorly and attacked, killing him. In another, there was a large fight with a trio of Saï¿½Barneth demons, and the affected Watcher was one of the casualties of that fight. The last case that Iï¿½ve been able to find where things advanced as far as the eyes changing, the affected person was an unCalled Potential, and shortly after her eyes started to change, she vanished. It was assumed that she had run away, though it could also have been a careful kidnapping: Giles sighed. :I suppose that doesnï¿½t help very much.:
Faith considered what heï¿½d said, about one changing person being killed by another Watcher, and the last one vanishing. She remembered the habit Watchers used to have of killing someone ï¿½infectedï¿½ by demon essence, since there were several types of demons that spread by changing humans, rather than by spawning little demons. ï¿½An unCalled Potential would know about the old Councilï¿½s habit of killing someone that might have been under demonic influence, especially if they thought the person was changing. The old Handbook that I used for target practice called it ï¿½cleansing the contamination.ï¿½ I bet she didnï¿½t want to get killed and figured out on her own against the world was a better option.ï¿½
:Quite depressingly probable,: Giles agreed. :Though I do regret not being of more help thus far.:
ï¿½Not your fault,ï¿½ Faith sighed. Sheï¿½d have run if she suspected that her Watcher planned to kill her because of something that happened in a fight. Well, deflect or evade the blame, then run ï¿½ and she had tried that. It had spiraled into many bad things, butï¿½ Enough with that, she was moving on to better things. ï¿½Lemme know if you get any good information on the Efreet, or the Immortal types who look human and have a habit of lopping each otherï¿½s head off, kay?ï¿½
:Yes, of course,: for a moment, Giles paused, and then he spoke again. :Faith? Please donï¿½t just vanish on us, even if your eyes do change.:
Faith could feel herself smiling. ï¿½Iï¿½ll try not to.ï¿½
:We shall have to hope that is sufficient,: Giles murmured before ending the call.
Tossing the phone in her hand, Faith considered what heï¿½d told her. Heï¿½d found other people whoï¿½d started changing, others who had no doubt been just as confused and frightened by the sudden changes as she was now. And two of the three had died when it was happening, maybe even both because of it ï¿½ she knew just how dangerous ï¿½friendly fireï¿½ could be, and knew damn well that it wasnï¿½t always accidental. ï¿½Iï¿½m not the only one.ï¿½
She just hoped this wouldnï¿½t have a terrible ending.
End Bright Star 16: Starlight Calling.
Chapter 17: One for the Books
Methos walked back to the bedroom, smiling at the sight of Faith. "I've talked with Joe, we shall meet him tonight at ten, and go for a bit of a walk. He was a bit reluctant to agree to such a thing, but I managed to persuade him. I think that we shall need to tell him about Slayers, and that ï¿½ at least until recently ï¿½ you were a Slayer."
"As far as I know, Iï¿½m still a Slayer. Nobodyï¿½s ever told me about any retirement plan other than a rather permanent and nasty death," Faith commented, the side of her face covered with mottled greenish bruises. Half healed bone deep bruises that she'd only received last night.
"You know that I have no intention of that happening if I can stop it," he countered, leaning forward to kiss her.
It took a few minutes before he remembered to ask about her phone call. "Did Giles have any useful information?"
"Sort of, maybe," Faith hesitated, nibbling at her lip. "He said he found three cases where people had fought efreet before and had things start happening to them after. One was deliberately killed, and one died in a fight with some demons, which was recorded as accidental friendly fire. The last was a Potential, and she vanished when her eyes started to change."
"So it would be best not to let any of the hidebound Watchers know about the efreet. Friendly fire can still kill."
Faith chuckled, "I try to avoid that sort all the time, not just when something weird's going on."
He grinned at her before asking, "How often is it that nothing weird is going on for you?"
His star was quiet for a moment before murmuring, "I suppose that depends on what you count as weird. Most people would say that everything since I was Called as a Slayer was weird, with a possible pass on time in a coma or in jail. Then again, most people don't get to experience their very own coma, and most try to avoid jail..."
Thinking back to his own experiences with an unpleasant variety of jails, the question drew itself from his lips. "Have you spent much time in jails then?"
"A couple overnights for being a bit too noisy with the Slaying, and one for public nudity after a pack of vamps woke me up. I had to kill them before they ate this church bus full of people. It wasn't until after the fighting was over that I realized I was still naked," She shook her head. "Then there was the time in L.A. That was... that was the grayest and dullest six months of my life. And then all their records about me just... poof, gone, so they let me go."
"Police records do not simply vanish like that," he insisted. In the thousands of years that various constables, police and militaries had kept written records, they never just poofed away without considerable help. No matter how much people might wish otherwise. Come to think of it, there might still be some very old records recording some of his stays in jails, back far enough, if he could remember the names that heï¿½d been using in that area during that centuryï¿½
"I think Red made it happen. She's the only one still alive that would know who I am and be able to do it. I just have no idea why she would," with a shrug, Faith leaned back into the pillows.
For a few moments, Methos contemplated asking about this Red and what else she could do besides cause police records to disappear. But on the other hand, there was his bright star, reclining on the bed, the very picture of temptation... He had a long acquaintance with temptation, and had never deluded himself by claiming vast amounts of virtue. His lovely star won out over curiosity about some computer expert any day ï¿½ unless they needed a computer expert right then. As it happened, he didnï¿½t see the need for anyone else right now.
It was several hours later, when they were dressed again and rummaging through the kitchen for a light midday meal when his curiosity returned. ï¿½My star, who is this Red that you mentioned, and what did she do to the records?ï¿½
ï¿½She was one of Beaï¿½s friends. Shy, fairly quiet, good with computers. She was dabbling with magic when I first met them, but she got better later. Lots better,ï¿½ Faith paused, her eyes losing focus before she shuddered. ï¿½I donï¿½t know what she did with the records, it could have been as simple as deleting them or it could have been something a lotï¿½ more. Donï¿½t know if I want to know. Shy and quiet as she seems, Redï¿½s got a vicious streak if you cut down deep enough.ï¿½
Methos only nodded, having met more than a few people like that himself. Normally, they lacked advanced computer skills or magic to act on that vicious streak, but the idea wasnï¿½t that different. ï¿½I doubt that there would be much about the efreet on the internet. Or internet accessible databases.ï¿½
ï¿½Probably not,ï¿½ she agreed.
ï¿½Weï¿½re meeting Joe near his bar. Which direction do you think will give us the best chance of finding a new vampire quickly, for proof of your Slayerness and to distract him if things get awkward?ï¿½ he asked, pulling an apple out of the bowl on the counter.
Faith didnï¿½t hesitate a moment before answering, ï¿½Towards the water.ï¿½
ï¿½You are the vampire expert,ï¿½ he smiled at her. Tonight would be educational for Joe Dawson. He just hoped that it wouldnï¿½t wind up becoming another of his regrets. There might be a very good reason that despite the similarities, despite the heavy presences in Britain, despite the similar training, the Immortal-Watchers had no knowledge of the Slayer-Watchers.
End part 1.
Faith kept bouncing as she slid weapons into place when they prepared to go meet Joe Dawson. Her predatory grin, that little twitching of her left hand, the fact that sheï¿½d placed a wooden stake at the small of her back instead of a good steel knife ï¿½ it all told him that she was feeling more Slayer and less other now. Of course, the fact that the presence that wasnï¿½t quite like a pre-Immortal gave the same message.
ï¿½Since he knew about vampires already, do you think heï¿½ll be glad to know about a Slayer?ï¿½ Faith paused, and murmured, ï¿½He doesnï¿½t need to know thereï¿½s more than me and Bea. That has nothing to do with whatï¿½s happening to me, and telling himï¿½ itï¿½s risky for no reward.ï¿½
ï¿½Fair enough,ï¿½ Methos replied. He wasnï¿½t certain that ï¿½fairï¿½ was the correct word, but he fully agreed with Faithï¿½s point about the risk. Much of what they told Joe would end up in Watcher archives. If they hadnï¿½t known about the Slayer before, they would after that bit got added ï¿½ and it would be added. Perhaps not with her name, but that there was a Slayer, and what that entailed? That was the sort of fact that Watchers lived for, searched for, would even die for. ï¿½Being a Slayer might affect how much or how quickly things are happening. Things might have gone differently if you werenï¿½t the Slayer, at the very least, he probably wouldnï¿½t have tried to keep you prisoner. Bea means that there is another, that this wonï¿½t end the chain of Slayers. While many of the Watchers that I met were decent enough people, ï¿½manyï¿½ isnï¿½t the same as ï¿½allï¿½, and some of themï¿½ I know that some have been down-right nasty bastards. I donï¿½t know if heï¿½ll be glad to know that there is a Slayer. I donï¿½t think I know him well enough to do better than guess.ï¿½
When theyï¿½d finally finished arming themselves, they both shrugged into their top layers, to ward off the chill and cover the weapons. Methos pulled on his own worn tan longcoat, which nicely concealed his current sword. Faithï¿½s jacket brushed over the tops of her pants pockets, nowhere near long enough to conceal a sword, though it did a wonderful job hiding stakes and knives. Both of them were practiced, or paranoid enough that they had other weapons, not that those were visible to the casual eye either.
Joe was browsing in a music store just down the block from his bar. He left the store without buying anything after he caught sight of them through the glass. ï¿½You seem to be staying out of too much trouble, Adam. And Faith, you are a delight to see.ï¿½
Faith grinned at Joe before teasing, ï¿½Aww, youï¿½re just sayinï¿½ that because Iï¿½m prettier than Adam.ï¿½
ï¿½Of course you are,ï¿½ Joe grinned back. ï¿½And I think Adam would agree with me on that count.ï¿½
ï¿½True,ï¿½ Methos admitted. ï¿½But you can find your own girlfriend.ï¿½
For a while, they walked along quietly. Joe moved a little more slowly, a little stiffer than most, but he hid his injuries with considerable skill. The walk wasnï¿½t silent, but the words held little significance. Idle comments about the weather, about a few of the recent news stories.
Moving closer to the docks, Joe shook his head, ï¿½Why are we really out and about? It canï¿½t be because you donï¿½t trust me, and there are easier ways to keep from being overheard.ï¿½
ï¿½Easier, yeah, but this way, not only is there no eavesdropping, but we can pop out the proof,ï¿½ Faith paused, ï¿½and just why is it called eavesdropping anyhow? Isnï¿½t an eave part of a house? Dropping houses on people isnï¿½t subtle, isnï¿½t quiet, and if they survive, they definitely know that youï¿½re there. Even if itï¿½s only part of a house.ï¿½
Both of them laughed, and Methos offered, ï¿½It came from people hiding from the rain under the eaves of the house. Walls tended to have gaps, so you could hear what was happening inside, but they didnï¿½t see you.ï¿½
ï¿½Focus. What do you have to say that you think Iï¿½ll have a hard time accepting? Beyond the whole vampires, which I already knew about, and shared quickenings. Adam and MacLeod already had things to say about those,ï¿½ Joe shook his head, the pinched look around his eyes suggesting that he wasnï¿½t enjoying the walk.
ï¿½Vampires are nasty,ï¿½ Methos paused, searching for the words. It was easy to say that they should tell Joe Dawson about the existence of a Slayer. But finding the words to do it was somehow more difficult.
ï¿½Youï¿½re over-thinking,ï¿½ Faith gave a playful swat to his shoulder. ï¿½Vampires are real, theyï¿½re nasty. A long, long time ago, a group of old shamany types did something about that, and empowered a woman to fight them. I donï¿½t know why a woman, so donï¿½t ask. She became strong and fast enough to go toe to toe with the vamps and win. Eventually, something happened and she died. The empowerment moved to someone else. And on to someone else when she died. Always a woman. That woman is whatï¿½s called a Slayer. A few years back, there was a Slayer who had a friend that knows CPR. She drowned, he used a little CPR, and then there were two Slayers. Sheï¿½s in Rome now. I was in Boston when I became a Slayer.ï¿½
ï¿½A Slayer, mystically empowered to fight vampires? How do you know that you are one? And does this connect to what you asked me to look into?ï¿½ Joe was frowning, his expression suggesting that for every question heï¿½d just asked, he had a dozen more lurking.
ï¿½Old tradition says it was a mystical empowerment. It just kicks in one day, whenï¿½ï¿½ Faith paused, swallowing the words that sheï¿½d been about to say. ï¿½You go from being in good shape but a fairly normal girl to one day being able to break down doors and do a standing jump up to the second floor balcony. But it only transfers when the Slayer dies. Not when she gets kidnapped and held captive for a while so the bad guy can go about his evil plot, smug in the knowledge that the Slayer is chained up in his dungeon instead of lurking out there preparing to stop him.ï¿½
ï¿½When did you find out about this?ï¿½ There was something in Joeï¿½s voice that suggested that he had a whole new group of questions.
ï¿½I was twelve when my first Watcher showed up. He said I was a Potential, and explained what that meant. Lots of girls have the potential to become Slayers, butï¿½ I donï¿½t think anyone knows why this one and not that one. My second Watcher, when I was almost fourteen said that there were these signs and portents that could be read, and some other stuff that I didnï¿½t have the patience to listen to ï¿½ the part that stuck was ï¿½one dies, another is Chosen.ï¿½ I was fifteen when I became a Slayer,ï¿½ Faith shrugged, as if the rest didnï¿½t matter.
Movement in an alley caught their attention. Methos could see a pair of figures, the movements suggesting that they were some sort of predator, even if only thieves.
ï¿½Vampires,ï¿½ Faith grinned, launching herself into motion.
His bright star was beautiful and deadly in motion. She matched blows with the first vampire for a time, before a twist and stab eliminated the second, who had been attempting to attack her from behind. She then kicked the first vampire into the wall before pouncing, stake first. The dust swirled a little, falling to the alley.
ï¿½Bruce Lee, or Chuck Norris, or one of a few other top level martial artists could do something similar,ï¿½ Joe murmured, staring at Faith. ï¿½Butï¿½ï¿½
ï¿½Do you think that sheï¿½s one of those top level martial artists, feeding you a line about mystical empowerment?ï¿½ Methos asked.
ï¿½Some of those martial artists can do very strange things,ï¿½ Joe chuckled. ï¿½I donï¿½t think sheï¿½s spent decades of intensive training learning to use some ancient martial art. I thinkï¿½ I think that if her talk about Slayers as she knows it isnï¿½t the truth, then the truthï¿½s still going to be one of those weird, wild stories that you almost have to be part of to believe.ï¿½
ï¿½Slayers can detect vampires, sense them. Similar to the way Immortals can detect each other. Iï¿½ve seen Slayers before,ï¿½ Methos admitted.
ï¿½Super strength, super speed, an innate ability to detect enemiesï¿½ thereï¿½s probably some sort of enhanced healing too. Whatï¿½s the downside?ï¿½ Joe asked.
ï¿½Vampires can sense Slayers, and want to kill them. Itï¿½s a major achievement for them, like defeating the current champion. Think of it as similar to the Game, as played by some of the most vicious, nasty Immortals in your records. It makes it difficult, perhaps even impossible to have a normal life, for whatever definition of normal fits the time and culture,ï¿½ Methos paused, thinking to the few encounters heï¿½d had with other Slayers.
ï¿½The biggest bitch about it is the high turnover rate. There used to be this big thing if an active Slayer made if to eighteen. Looking at the old records, that happened two, maybe three times a century, but most never made it that far,ï¿½ Faith made her way back, sliding the stake back up her sleeve. ï¿½The fact that you canï¿½t always go to the hospital after some of this doesnï¿½t help. Thereï¿½s only so much that ï¿½wild animal bitesï¿½ will explain.ï¿½
Joe was quiet for several minutes, though he seemed to want to turn their meandering back towards his club. As they walked, he asked another question. ï¿½Do Slayers ever use swords?ï¿½
ï¿½Yeah. Basic sword work is part of the training, and some really like it. Decapitation works great on vamps, and it gives a bit more reach. What brought that up?ï¿½ Faith was still bouncing on her toes as she walked.
ï¿½If I can give you names, dates, and perhaps sketches, can you find out if someone was a Slayer? There were some things in the archives that seemedï¿½ rather odd.ï¿½
ï¿½Theyï¿½d all be dead now, so I guess that would probably be doable,ï¿½ Faith offered.
ï¿½But that still doesnï¿½t explain the report about some sort of giant frog-man,ï¿½ Joe muttered.
Explaining about demons took several hours, even keeping to the simpler things. The idea that some types of demons werenï¿½t killed by decapitation disturbed the man greatly. Joe, like Methos, felt that decapitation should be fatal all around.
Methos wondered why it seemed like things were going too well as they walked back to the apartment. Joe had taken the news rather well. But there had been over a dozen stupid young vampires. A demon that looked like a giant naked rat. Some sort of scaly demon-dog. A couple more vampires. A drunken mortal who had tried to feel up Faith, though she had refrained from actually breaking him. In a display of restraint, sheï¿½d only dislocated his shoulder and knocked him unconscious before dropping him inside a little church.
Ah well, eventually whatever impending disaster was waiting would befall them soon enough. He could be patient.
End part 2.
End Bright Star 17: One for the Books
Chapter 18: Glimmer of Starlight
Faith sighed, staring at the mirror. The bruises were almost gone now, leaving only faint yellow markings over the side of her face. She'd lost two teeth, both conveniently loosened by the vampire Benny-boy, after Caldwell and his Watcher Eddie.
The fact that new ones were already coming in to replace them freaked her out a little.
So did the fact that she'd lost all of her finger and toenails now, replaced by new ones, heavier, sharper ones. They were starting to grow longer, and she suspected that they'd wind up looking like neat, wicked sharp claws.
The irises of her eyes were looking bigger, hiding more and more of the white part, the name of which she could never remember, and probably didn't matter anyhow.
She could feel Adam in the kitchen. His presence didn't irritate like a vampire, or have a buzzing the way he'd described another Immortal, but... she could feel him.
There was another presence, outside the apartment, maybe on the next building. That one was different than Adam's presence, and the best description that she could give was that it was smoother.
"It isn't going away," she whispered. Not that she'd really expected it to just wear off, but there had been a part that had hoped. "I couldn't feel him before."
"My Star," Adam's voice called from the kitchen. "Are you alright in there?"
Faith walked into the kitchen, wrapping her arms around him. "Whatever's happening... it's still going. Getting more so."
"I know." He held her, not offering assurances that neither of them would believe. "You... you feel different now."
"Will that change things?" Faith wasn't sure that she wanted to ask the question, was even less sure that she wanted to know the answer.
His words were soft, "Things change, Faith. You know that. Whatever's happening, you're becoming less and less the Slayer... a Slayer. Not less dangerous, and you're getting better with a sword, but... if you aren't a Slayer, you might go hunting demons less often. That would mean fewer injuries for both of us."
"I didn't think there was a way to not be a Slayer anymore," Faith admitted. She didn't want to tell him how much better it made her feel that he was talking about them both getting injured less often if she wasn't the Slayer anymore. Didn't want to admit how happy it made her feel that he wasn't planning on bailing.
"You may have found one, my bright star. The idea of more than a few years with you sounds good."
"I suppose just about anything sounds like only a few years once someone gets to your age," Faith ruffled his hair, thinking back to their talk about his over-grown reputation. "ï¿½At least, given your advanced age, you still have your health."
"Of course I still have my health!" For a few moments, he tried to glare at her, before the glare became a grin. "That's the best part of being Immortal. I stay healthy. Of course, there are some who describe it as staying young and beautiful forever."
"Funny thing about the sort of people who go around talking big about having forever - they usually get overconfident and then get dead." Faith smirked, the expression feeling wrong over the place where the new teeth were still coming in.
"Are you alright with what's happening, my star?" these words were soft, without the arrogance of the immortal warrior or the seductiveness of her lover.
"I'm a bit freaked out. Lost two teeth... but there's new ones growing in. My eyes are looking different." Faith closed her eyes, taking a slow breath. "I'm changing, but I'm not sure what I'm changing into, or if it'll go beyond what I look like and into my mind. I don't want to not be Faith anymore."
He just held her, "You are my star, my Faith. I like who you are."
End part 1.
Adam had met Joe at his club, talking a bit over beer and picking up those names and descriptions of sword-wielding women that may have been Slayers. Faith had packaged those up and sent them towards Giles. After all, it wasn't as if she knew the first thing about who had or hadn't been a Slayer back before B anyhow.
Faith had been flipping through some of the Watcher books that Giles had sent, the ones about demons. On the one hand, none of them looked anything like the efreet. On the other, some of them might turn up in the area. The whole preparedness thing would go better if she could just keep focused for longer than ten minutes. It didn't help that the other presence, the smoother one that she didn't recognize, was still lurking around.
"I'm back," Adam's voice called, the door rattling.
"The guy with the microbrewery make you a good deal?" she looked up, flashing a grin. The new teeth were in, and while they were a bit sharper, they didn't feel that different than the old ones. She'd be okay as long as... until she lost the others. Until those all got replaced by sharper versions.
"fairly," there was a clinking noise as he settled the bottles of beer on the table. "He's not used to someone willing to haggle with him."
Faith closed the book of demons, preparing to go into the other room. That was when she felt the other presence move. "Whoa, the lurking dude is on the move. Lurker's headed this way."
"What lurker?" Adam demanded.
"I don't know who, but what might be a good question. They've been hanging around for a while. So far, they haven't made any attack-type moves that I've noticed, but... When I'm not so Slayer-like, I can feel a presence. A better question might be what do they want?"Faith walked towards Adam, hoping that things weren't about to fall apart, or involve kidnapping and chains again.
There was a knocking at the door.
"Since when do demons knock before they attack?' Faith demanded.
Adam blinked. "Unless this one isn't planning on attacking us?"
Faith shrugged, before walking to the door. "Might as well try the polite version first."
Opening the door, she blinked at the person standing there. He was another efreet, though dressed in ordinary clothing, including a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses that would disguise him from a casual glance as long as he didn't go flashing any big grins. There were no weapons visible, and definitely no chains to tie people up with.
He looked right at Faith, and made a small nod. 'You are changing, and must have questions. Please, permit me to come inside and we can discuss this like civilized beings."
"You have answers!" Adam hissed. "You know what's happening to her."
Faith opened the door wider and gestured, her hand ending up pointing towards the couch. "I've definitely got questions."
With a small nod, he stepped into the apartment, walking towards the couch even as Faith closed the door behind him. "The circumstances are not common, and yours are a bit different, so I may not be able to answer all of them. But I can answer some, and help you find the rest. You may call me Pazel, it is the short version of my name."
End part 2.
"So, Pazel," Faith took a breath, trying to keep calm. The questions poured out in a rush, "What am I turning into, why is it happening, why me, and how much am I going to change?"
"You are becoming one of us. We are often called efreet, after one of our renowned warriors. There are not very many of us, especially when you compare our numbers to those of any modern human population," Pazel sighed, removing the sunglasses. Solid eyes the hue of polished bronze looked over the room, somehow seeming far less disturbing than the orange eyes of the one who'd kidnapped Faith.
"Is this how you get more efreet? Turn someone into one of you?"Faith shivered, and tried to think of where the nearest weapons were.
"Most are born efreet, to efreet parents. Sometimes an efreet is born to an efreet father and a mother who was most often but not always human. There are not as many efreet women as men. Those who are born efreet grow up in ways fairly similar to the way that humans grow. But not all children born to humans with efreet lovers are born efreet. Some of them give every sign of being human. Many of those human seeming children of efreet appear unable to have children of their own, there have been guesses about the cause, but guesses are not facts. I suppose that has little connection to your own changes." Pazel explained, pausing with the same sort of thoughtful frown that Giles used when he was trying to explain something complicated.
"What happens to those children? The ones with an efreet parent?" Adam had his own frown, one that looked more like somebody with a few things that were starting to look like clues.
"We can normally tell by a few years of age if they take after the human side. Most go about their lives the same as any human. Some of them... a very few manifest their heritage later. We generally manage to find them before too long - we can sense each other." Pazel had the quiet expression that generally meant people were gazing off into their memories. "Sometimes they reject us, refusing to accept that they may not be as human as they thought. Some of them react quite violently, and we usually leave those to their own ways."
"So once they say no, that's it? You just leave them alone?" Faith frowned, "And how much will I change anyhow?"
"Not when they say 'no', I believe a better translation would be when they say 'hell no'. As for changes? Physically, not much more than you already have. You will finish getting in a new set of teeth, and your eyes will continue to change - the color may shift a bit, or it may remain the shade that they already are. Some adjustments to bone density, muscle efficiency... nothing that you would see in a mirror. There might be a few more things that you will be able to eat safely, though it should not affect what foods you prefer or dislike." Pazel paused. "The most significant change is that we do not age the same way that humans do. Once we become adults, we stay adults, there are no efreet that a human would consider as looking old. Those who were raised human sometimes have difficulty adjusting to that."
"So this change... it won't affect Faith's mind?" Adam asked, one hand reaching out to rest on Faith's arm. "What happens to those that don't go with you? What about the ones that seem human for their whole lives, without... without their heritage making itself known?"
"Becoming efreet does not change her sense of right and wrong, does not change what she was taught to be acceptable behavior. We do not need to... we have no more need to harm another to live than humans do. I have been told that our senses of sight, of hearing and taste work in the same way as those of a human. Some who manifested said that the only difference they noted was that we can feel each other's presence. And I do not know what happens to those who never manifest - I have always assumed that they lived and died as humans."
"So, if you're such nice guys, why did that jerk kidnap me, chain me up in his lair? Adam had to come rescue me," Faith scowled, staring at her wrist where the manacle had fastened, despite the lack of any wound or scar remaining.
"I said that we are few in number, that we do not need to feed on humans. I said that becoming efreet will not change your sense of right and wrong. I never claimed that all of us were nice guys. We are individuals, with the ability to chose our actions. Some of us grew up in times where acceptable behavior was quite different than what is acceptable today, in this part of the world. As for why he abducted you, perhaps because you are an attractive woman. As I said, there are few women of the efreet. Tebron was always rebellious, and did not take orders well, I suspect that the more modern ideas of courting would seem silly to him. But a few decades ago, it would be considered unremarkable to simply take a woman of no apparent family or protector into your household. For many, it would be an improvement from what options they had available," Pazel was giving them the expression that suggested they weren't paying enough attention.
"How old was Tebron? And how do you know that he was the one who kidnapped Faith?" Adam's voice had taken on a calm, flat tone that Faith knew concealed anger.
"Orange eyes? Fondness for story-like Turkish decor? I owed his father a rather large favor, and I was supposed to try to keep the brat from coming into contact with some of the more dangerous entities among the non-human circles. He and his band were... what is the current term for wild, often ill-mannered men who are not the ones with authority, who want to enjoy everything right now, without working for their gains, without considering consequences, without taking responsibility?" Pazel sighed, "The true powers among those circles would have eaten Tebron alive- perhaps literally."
"Want, take, have," Faith murmured. She'd worked with that philosophy for a while, and it had gotten her into a lot of trouble. Then again, that had gotten Tebron and his boys chopped down by her and Adam. "Sounds like a pack of wild frat-boys."
"Are they... are they really dead, or will they get better?" Adam asked. "They didn't get back up when their heads were severed, but they did from being stabbed."
"Most likely, they will be truly dead. Only someone of exceptional will and frequently considerable power can come back from that - it requires reforming the body. Tebron and his boys were not known for their willpower." Pazel paused, and looked at Faith. "That would have been what triggered the changes to begin. It does not always happen, only with those who are already..."
"Already what?" Adam glared.
"I am uncertain of the translation in this tongue. There must be a certain... affinity. Sometimes spell-casters will change. Those who have been demon hunters may change, but they often deal poorly with it. It can awaken efreet heritage in those with the correct ancestry. Certain people who are seers, or born hunters, whether they have hunted or not. Those who have absorbed a great deal of mystical or demonic energies," Pazel shrugged. "Some change slowly, some faster. Sometimes, if they begin to change, they are killed before they can survive such things."
"Wait... killed is generally the end. Especially for humans." Faith looked at him in confusion.
"Many things that would kill a human, we can survive. It hurts, and will leave us helpless for a while, but we recover. For those who become, there will be a point where you will be efreet enough that you will recover from being stabbed, or poisoned, or being held under the water. You will not need to worry about illnesses. But that point is not always at the same rate, it can not be judged by the changes of your eyes, or your nails, and it is not something to test. What if you are not at there yet?" Pazel explained.
Faith blinked. That described the fight with her kidnappers, but it also described Adam. Could Adam and his sort be... "Those mostly human seeming kids that get some of the efreet. The ones that go their own way. Do they stay looking human?"
"I am told that most do, but I have never sought out such a child. Those who do not remain human looking rarely stay among humans. The tales that they can tell... drowning, burning, stoning. Even if it takes them a while to get to that point, those come to us."
Adam's voice was hoarse as he asked, "How long had Tebron been an irresponsible brat?"
"About five hundred years," Pazel shook his head. "His father is powerful enough that Tebron was protected from the consequences that usually encourage wild young men to become less wild."
"This renowned warrior of old... Was his name Efre?" Adam's gaze was focused on Pazel. "About two inches shorter than me, with a scar on his chin?"
That was when Adam started swearing. Swearing in languages that Faith couldn't even name, let alone translate.
"Poor manners to use such language in front of a woman," Pazel murmured.
End part 3.
Faith blinked, and bits started to piece themselves together. If Tebron at five hundred was still the irresponsible frat-boy, still had Daddy trying to keep him out of trouble, then they were immortal. If they could have kids with humans, kids that didn't always look like them... Kids that grew up to be like Adam. Grew up immortal, and on their own because they might not want to go off with the pointy-toothed people. Which could mean that Adam wasn't all human either...
If Immortals were the children of efreets, then was there any point to the whole head-chopping thing other than a permanent way to kill your enemies?
She felt like swearing herself. "What does this mean for being a Slayer?"
"I do not think that this has happened to a Slayer before. A few women who had great potential as hunters, some who had training and had been hunting, but that is not the same, is it?" Pazel's voice was soft.
"There is a big difference between a trained and skilled hunter that happens to be female and a Slayer,"Adam observed.
"When people start changing, how long does it usually take?" Faith asked, feeling her heart thumping inside her chest.
"There is no usual time for that. Some do not show signs for decades. Others may start to show signs within a few moons... months. You are showing advanced changes within weeks. At this rate, your changes should be complete within a few months, perhaps even sooner." Pazel smiled, which might have looked less unsettling if his teeth weren't all very sharp.
"So, Tebron the brat is dead. Why are you still here?" Adam wasn't quite glaring at Pazel, and his voice was creeping from 'Adam Pierson, harmless former Watcher' towards 'Methos, sometimes called Death'.
"Because of you," Pazel spoke softly. "Both of you were exposed to the energies of the efreet. She is changing. You... You feel a bit like one of us as well. I do not know if you are one of those wandering children, or if you are simply changing at a slower pace than she is."
Adam looked absolutely stunned. "I feel... like one of you?"
Pazel nodded, "Very similar. It is too early to know if that presence will change, if you will change as Faith is changing."
"So what happens now?" Faith asked.
"I will remain in the area. If you have questions, I will try to help you answer them. Should you decide to leave human society to dwell among our people, I will help you - either or both of you. But there is no hurry. Efreet have time. You will continue to change, he may change as well, or he may remain as he is now." Pazel made a gesture that wasn't quite a shrug.
"Anything else that we should keep in mind?" Adam murmured. "Other than watch for my teeth getting loose?"
"I have seen you fighting vampires. Be careful of those who watch the vampires. They have a disturbing tendency to attack those who do not look human, and not give a chance to answer questions. It was even part of their official policy, though I am told that we have rescued several who changed from them before they could be killed." Pazel's words were grim. "They do not tend to be very accepting of those who are different."
Remembering what Giles had found in the archives, Faith could only shudder.
end part 4.
end Bright Star 18: Glimmers of Starlight.
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
Methos had woke early, his dreams battering him with fragments of ancient memory and twisting events and conversations in directions that he didn't think had been quite accurate. Then again, while being immortal meant his health was fabulous, he would be one of the first to admit that his early memories were a bit patchy. Maybe it was a result of injuries, maybe from too many Quickenings, or maybe it was just the sheer amount of time. The why didn't matter that much. Methos began working on some omelets while he fretted, figuring that the food would be good for him.
What Pazel had said kept chasing memories and old questions around. It might explain so many things... and if true, raised other questions. Could he and the other immortals be part-blooded children of the efreet? Or would it just be a conveniently plausible lie that appealed to someone desperate for answers and explanations? If this were true, what status and role would part-bloods have among the efreet? Did Pazel and others like him seek part-bloods to bring them into the fold, or to keep them from drawing unwanted attention to the efreet? What would being part of the efreet community mean if they did accept?
Ugliest question of all, where the hell had the whole head-chopping 'There Can Be Only One' business come from? Who's idea had that been, when and why?
Was Pazel being honest with them? Connected but not the same, could they trust him? What possible benefit was there to Pazel in approaching them?
He couldn't dispute the suggested explanation for Faith's kidnapping. She was an attractive woman - his bright star was absolutely beautiful, and deadly with a blade. Nor could he argue that abducting a desirable woman and keeping her, assuming that you could accomplish such a thing, used to be commonplace, and for much longer was now considered reasonably excusable if the woman didn't have apparent protectors. His main objection, other than that if he had to adapt to the changing times so should everyone else, blast and burn it all, was that Faith had a protector. Him.
As much as he wanted to growl that he'd kill anyone who hurt her, he'd been making that quite apparent. He'd killed Tebron - if that was his name - and his minions. He'd killed the vampire Benjamin. He'd be quite willing to kill again. And he'd be willing to keep trying new methods until he found one that stuck if necessary. He might not share Faith's strength that being a Slayer - for however long that lasted - gave her, but he had centuries of experience. Killing was an area where experience mattered. Had this been what happened to Efre? Had he become one of them? Fled when he could no longer pass for human? He knew that Efre hadn't been quite the same as he was, knew that Efre's wives had borne him children, children that had too much of Efre's looks not to be his own flesh and blood. That was something that didn't happen with what he'd considered 'normal Immortals' - no aging, no children.
Methos found himself wondering just what signs there were to look for to determine if someone had efreet heritage if you were uncertain about their parents. He'd known many orphans and foundlings over his lifetime. He'd also seen many, many instances where the husband was not the father - modern daytime television wasn't exploiting new messes, just a newfound willingness to talk about them. Enough things fit that he had to call Pazel's words plausible. He'd seen enough, done enough over his life that he wasn't willing to believe it just because it made sense and fit a scattering of pieces. Wasn't willing to trust Pazel just because he offered a few answers. Though his ponderings were giving him a few more questions to ask Pazel the next time they talked.
Trusting too easily or fast could be fatal. Could be worse than fatal.
On the other hand, dismissing things just because they countered previously known 'facts' or because he didn't trust the source could be a problem too. As could dismissing something just because it sounded crazy. After all, once upon a time, people believed that the world ended at a range of mountains. That there was nothing beyond the ocean. The world was flat. Many people out there didn't believe in vampires. And - for absurd sounding - how about rumors of people who'd never get old, and would live forever unless you cut off their head?
"Tasty as the omelets can be, what did the mushrooms do to you that you're chopping them like that?" Faith's voice from the doorway alerted him that his star wasn't asleep anymore.
"It wasn't the mushrooms," he tried to keep his tone light. "I was just considering what Pazel had to say last night."
Faith moved closer, her fingers combing through her hair. "What he had to say... it fit what's been happening. What we've seen, what's happening to me."
"Does that mean you believe him?" Methos tried not to sound challenging.
For a moment, Faith was quiet, fiddling with the coffee-maker. After it began to gurgle, she offered, "I don't have a better explanation right now. His seems to fit and makes sense. It's internally consistent, and I know there's demons that can interbreed with humans, I know there's demons that can convert humans into more of them, and I know there are things that can awaken a little bit of not so human in someone's ancestry."
"There was internal consistency," Methos agreed. He wouldn't argue Faith's knowledge of demons, not when she had the books to back it up and he'd spent most of his life trying to avoid them.
He also noticed that she'd said she lacked a better explanation right now, not that she believed him. And that she hadn't said she trusted him.
"I don't trust him yet. I can't argue with anything he said, and he may be right about what's happening to me. But I do know that if we keep track of him, that's better than just knowing that he's out there somewhere, doing who knows what." Faith's soft words were punctuated by rattling as she grabbed a pair of mugs from the cupboard. "Always prudent to keep track of enemies and potential enemies," he agreed.
"He said he'd be there if we had more questions. I know there will be more questions. Those books may not have all the answers, may not have the right kind of answers," Faith paused, perhaps remembering Pazel's caution about those who watch the vampires. "But if we keep track of what he says, and keep track of how that matches up with what's happening..."
"Listen, but verify," he mused.
"I let myself be caught up in sweet sounding words before," Faith whispered. "The price was too high. With the right words, if you pick your moment, you can own someone. "
"And yet we both fear the idea that this could be real, and that we might reject what could be good for fear and old pain," he poured the mixture of eggs, cheese and vegetables into the skillet.
Faith nodded, her expression full of worry.
"We have time, my star. There is no need for us to make a hasty choice." After all, he knew too well that sometimes the hasty choice was made by either wild hope or old pain instead of reason and wisdom. They couldn't afford to let blind hope or old pain - which he and Faith both had in abundance - chose for them.
Inside, hope burned that this could be real. That this could be a family, a people of their own. A future that didn't involve constantly watching his head. At the same time, he feared that it might be a cruel deception. Or that the place offered might be considerably less appealing.
Time would, as always, tell.
"Right. This is too serious to dismiss the guy that might have answers just because he's not human and we don't like what he said," Faith sighed, pouring some coffee into mugs for both of them. "The idea of not being human anymore..."
"Of possibly never having been fully human, if what he said about part-blooded children is true..." he whispered.
"That too. The idea scares the hell out of me," Faith admitted. "Not surprised that you're a bit freaked out."
"I thought I had an idea what I am. Someone showing up and suggesting that everything I knew, that millennia of Immortal tradition is... guesswork and mistaken is disturbing." He grabbed one of the mugs of coffee. "And nothing he said would explain the beheading."
"What did Joe call it? The Game?" Faith sipped at the coffee, making a face at the heat. "Hell of a game."
"I don't know if anyone can explain who came up with that or why. It's been there, been in motion as long as I can remember," he admitted.
"Pazel said that beheading was normally bad for them too. So cutting heads off wouldn't be their idea of an evening's fun and games. So..." Faith shook her head. "I got nothing good, not even anything firm on that one."
"Do you want to share his words with anyone else?" he glanced at Faith. She seemed to have respect for Giles, who was part of the vampire-tracking Watchers. But did that mean she trusted him enough to mention an efreet trying to tell her that she would become one of them? Even if she did, would that trust be deserved?
"Not just now. I'll tell Giles that there's someone with things to say, but that I'm iffy about their truthfullness. I trust Giles, I do..." Faith's words trailed off, and she shivered.
Methos nodded, reading that as she wanted to trust Giles, and maybe her head did. But her gut didn't quite trust him. "Telling him that there is someone offering information of unproven veracity would also give him a place to start looking if anything happens."
"Veracity... That sounds like a word Giles would like. Is that a fancy way of saying truth?" Faith gave a small grin as she sipped the coffee.
"Truthfulness, accuracy... the ability to rely on the information or judgment. It's also a term that gets used by some of the snobbier translators," he winked at her, "And some of the stuffiest bastards translating in the Council buildings are so far off in their work that it's hysterical."
"What do we do if he's telling the truth? If we are changing into something that can't pass for human?" Faith whispered.
Methos sipped his coffee, and sighed. "I don't know. I really don't."
What else could he say? He didn't know if Pazel was telling the truth. He didn't know why Pazel would lie to them, or why Pazel would seek them out if he was being truthful. He didn't know how much Faith would keep changing - since he couldn't deny the evidence that she was changing. He didn't know if they could trust Giles with what was happening to Faith. He didn't know if they could trust Joe with the whole mess about efreet and Faith maybe becoming one and himself maybe being kin to them... all the Immortals maybe being kin to them. He just didn't know. Methos hated not knowing.
End Bright Star 19: In Light of Those Words.