DISCLAIMER: This is an unlicensed work of femslash fanfiction. What that means is twofold. The first is that it uses elements that are under copyright by another party and are used without that parties permission or consent. They are not however being used for any financial gain. Any new creations that result are however property of the author. The second point is that femslash fanfiction includes romantic and sexual of a same sex nature between women. So if you have objections to such things, no matter what the source you have been warned both of their presence and the nature as indicated by the story's rating. The author takes no more responsibility.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A long time ago Pat Kelly and I kicked around an idea for a collaborative fic in which Faith would pull a La Femme Nikita, but with actual good guys. Of course it was a long time ago and it never got past a few trial chapters. So I resurrecting it here and mixing it with a series of books I still love and used to collect fanatically. If I turn out to be a bit rusty I'll just ask your patience as I stretch those unused creative muscles.
SPOILERS: I've fallen a good couple years behind in my Stonyman Farm reading so I don't think I'll give anything away there, but anything Buffy through season seven or Angel to season four is fair game.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Life on the farm
By Dark Wyldchilde
Final Training Report-Slayer
As requested I am putting this report together now that Faith is ready to enter the lists as an active duty operative of Stonyman Farm.
With the fall of the Initiative, Stonyman Farm was alerted to a new threat to the nation's security. Or more accurately, an old threat: A threat far older than the increase in terrorism that led us to found the farm back in the 70's. When we learned that the threat existed we faced initial problems in defining the nature of the enemy. Just the initial reports that came into our custody indicated that while there were definite hostiles even they were divided into subcategories with each category having unknown capabilities. Yet unlike the Initiative, the Farm had no desire to harness those capabilities.
We simply sought to battle this threat, but with that perspective we realized that there were already forces battling the common enemy. While they armed themselves with primitive weaponry, their knowledge of the hostile forces allowed them to maintain a viable war effort.
One of those groups is known as the Watcher's Council. Contacting the Council was considered and then rejected as they did not appear open to co-operation with anyone as even their internal actions would rather see their operatives dead then acting independently.
One such operative was located in the initial search as she was serving time for a murder committed with a wooden stake. While the Council had condemned her, the Farm recognized the event as a friendly-fire incident. Our first contact was just for information gathering, but it quickly expanded as we learned that the convict was a "Slayer."
A Slayer is a human with enhanced capabilities that allows her to engage the supernatural on an equal footing. (The Slayer invariably being female.) When we learned that the Slayer is a singular entity we extended an invitation to come and train at the Farm.
The logic was explained as the Farm would be going to war with those supernatural elements whether she was with us or not, and if she was with us she would be able to actively repay her debt to society rather then passively repay the sentence behind bars.
While she had some initial reluctance she also had a sincere desire to make amends and eventually decided to accept the offer. There was some difficulty releasing her from prison as there was the Council as well as a group of rogue Council operatives which included the former Slayer.
So the solution was instead of altering her records we eliminated them. The Farm's computer resources deleted all records of her existence while all hard copy records were either gained though the Farm's contacts or stolen outright. While that left elements that were aware of her, they still believed she incarcerated. By the time they would have realized there was a change the trail would have grown cold.
That was proven true as Faith was successfully extracted from prison and brought to the Farm complex in the Blue Ridge Mountains for training. She possessed a natural aptitude for close combat and escape and evasion, she passed all standard firearm tests as well as training in demolitions and counterintelligence.
In turn she trained myself, as well as the rest of the Farm in the techniques for combating supernatural foes. That included both physical elements as well as intellectual, absorbing the necessary book learning while giving the Farm record of all her experiences and directing us to further resources that were then either bought or in some cases stolen from their original owners.
With her academic and physical requirements met she was then moved on to field testing. While she performed as expected when dealing with paranormal threats she had problems dealing with human combatants that sessions with Farm psychologists were able to help her deal with, including guilt over past actions and the mental block they were creating when dealing with human opponents.
With the end of this file I am placing Faith on the active roster as "Slayer" and authorizing her for her first field mission, reconnaissance of Sunnydale, California with the purpose of analyzing the Hellmouth as a threat in and of itself as well as any and all hostile forces it may contain. Her secondary objective will be to contact the Rogue Council elements present on the Hellmouth and evaluate them as a potential information source and weigh them as either ally or enemy.
Faith sighed. The hotel room was all too familiar. Of course now the shoddy furnishings were strewn with weapons and materials with a combined value that could buy a nice house, but this was a small town and while nightly murders might be overlooked someone new in the neighborhood wouldn't.
Opening up her mil-spec laptop she brought up the files put together by Aaron "The Bear" Kurtzman. A hulking figure of a man confined to a wheelchair in the one incident of the Farm being attacked. Something that never impacted his role as the head of the cybernetic commandos who kept the field teams fed with up to date information.
The files she brought up were yet another example of the team's excellence as it contained everything she knew about the Scoobies, any records of events she didn't know about and every file created since she left.
There were records of Rupert Giles returning to England as a citizen instead of just a tourist. Joyce Summers had passed on and her daughters seemed lost without her. Dawn Summers was developing quite the sheet as a juvenile delinquent and Buffy had quit college to pursue a career at the Double Meat Palace.
Alexander Harris seemed to be fairing better as his bank records showed a regular income from construction work at a place that seemed to regularly put him at the head of work teams. Anya was fairing just as well as she was soon to become Mrs. Alexander Harris if the wedding license was any indication.
Willow Rosenberg however was not as fortunate as Tara Maclay had taken up residence outside the Summers household. Willow herself showed up as well on a report from child services which indicated that she may be having a relationship with Buffy Summers, and while Faith already knew that Buffy was far too uptight for any of that, the mention of potential drug use created a sick feeling in her stomach.
On top of that there was a description of a blonde man with a British accent who was supposedly living there, and even The Bear had thought it the vampire Spike. That also set off warning bells in her mind.
Faith knew that her primary objective was to assess the Hellmouth but she knew from her own experiences that the danger from the Hellmouth came from the creatures drawn to it. Sometimes they were simply pulled there and set up hunting grounds, and some were more ambitious.
No matter what their motivation the Hellmouth was prime real estate. She sought out the best way to explain it in her reports and decided on comparing it to weapons of mass destruction: a prime resource that numerous factions seek to control. Some would seek to simply "have" it while others would actually employ it.
The quickest way to find the specific players would be to contact one. While there were options like the bartender Willy, he, and any other resource she would tap would quickly get word to the Scoobies in one form or another. While that didn't disqualify them, it made approaching the Scoobies first the most reasonable.
So she had to decide her first step; which Scooby to approach. While she already planned on performing some surveillance, crashing a Scooby meeting would probably have those who hated her the most influencing those who might otherwise listen to her.
So she had to decide who might listen to her. Anya was once a demon as well as one of the Scoobies who were not really around when she was. The problem was that she was engaged to marry Xander, and that would have been a problem even if Faith hadn't slept with the guy.
Willow might have been an option since she seemed to be at a low point in her life, but that brought into question if the redhead would be of any real use. Then there was the fact she lived with Buffy Summers and that was the person who insisted Faith go to prison and would likely not be too happy to see Faith out. Faith disqualified Dawn for the same reason. While Spike could be an option, she knew that she had to present a completely reformed image and consulting with the demon first could damage that.
So that left one person: Tara Maclay. While surveillance was necessary there was also the possibility of being discovered. Meaning that she should keep it limited and small in scale. That meant doing it in person, close quarters, and no electronics. Tara may believe Faith was just not sure when to come speak to her, but a tap of the woman's phone would be another story.
Extraordinary measures were not necessary as part of her initial intel package included class schedules and when Faith finally went to the campus she found that Tara followed those patterns. The large masses of young people made it easy for her to blend into the crowd, because while Buffy had been behind the wheel at the time Tara still knew what Faith looked like.
While Faith had only met her once, while in Buffy's body, even she could see a difference. There was a sadness to the way the woman carried herself, but the gentle demeanor remained. Something that made her sadness seem all the more tragic.
Tara was leaving her last class of the day, and Faith reminded herself that Willow went to the same campus so time was not on Slayer's side. So she took a deep breath to steady herself and strode forward. "Tara Maclay?"
She turned around at the mention of her name and her face seemed to force away some of its inherent sadness as she focused her attention. The focused expression then was shocked. "F-Faith?"
Slayer immediately took a submissive posture. "I'm not here to hurt you. I'm not here to hurt anyone."
Surprisingly Tara seemed to believe her. "Then w-why are you here?"
Faith knew that concealing things could ruin her mission, but in the covert world she was now a part of there was an instinctive need to keep secrets. While Tara didn't set off any of her internal alarms, the crowded college hallway did. "Not here."
Tara looked around, seemingly for the first time, and nodded.
They then had a long pause between them, neither woman what sure to do next. Faith was the one to take charge. "Your place would probably be closer, but I have a room."
"N-no, mine's o-ok."
"I really do mean it. I'm not here to hurt anyone."
Though Tara had calmed down once they had reached her room, Faith had still sought to put the blonde at ease. It was proven unnecessary as Tara's reply was calm and even. "I believe you."
Faith's voice however betrayed her shock. "You do?"
Tara actually smiled at the tone. "I do. Your energy is different. More at peace, more focused."
The focused comment stirred the hairs at the back of Faith's neck, but then again Tara was the one who had detected Faith inside Buffy's body. So Faith figured the witch had a sense for people, the fact she was able to be at ease just made Faith feel good about herself.
"So why are you here?"
Faith emptied her lungs in a long breath, taking another she leaned back into the chair Tara had offered from the desk. "Right now? I just need to get the lay of the land, You know? I've been gone a good two years now, and I was in a coma for a year before that."
"So you need to see if you have a place here?"
Faith quirked her lip as she rolled her shoulders. "Not exactly. I mean I'm a slayer. I have a place on the Hellmouth. The question is what problems I'll have with the other slayer and her groupies."
Tara's face turned downcast. "And that's why you came to me?"
Faith was confused by the remark, but more then that she was confused by the emotional reply. "Huh?"
Tara met the Slayer's eyes with an expression that couldn't hide the hurt she was feeling. "You came to me because I am not one of them. I never was."
Faith didn't hide her feelings either, but in her case it was skepticism. "I always thought you were..." Her expression then softened. "But I think I know what you're talking about."
Tara's sadness mingled with curiosity and she sat down on the bed next to where Faith had the chair resting. The question didn't need to be said and Faith kept going. "Well... think of it like you, but without being close to even one of the Scoobies."
There was a flash of sympathy on the Wiccan's expressive features, but she still had a question. "But you and Buffy?"
Faith shook her head. "B may have acted like she liked me, hell she may have convinced herself, but it was no where near like Red liked you. Of course I doubt Willow ever felt the need to prove she was the "real" witch, or let you know you were not the chosen one."
Tara sort of sunk in on herself, and while she fought the urge to cry a single tear managed to escape and roll down her cheek. Without even thinking about it Faith slipped out of her chair and in a fluid motion was sitting next to Tara on the bed. "So I'm guessing she did? Some sort of wand wagging contest?"
That got a choked snort of amusement before Tara took a breath to center herself. "There was a spell."
Faith put one knee up on the bed so she could turn to face Tara. "A spell?"
At first Tara wanted to dismiss Willow's actions. Her initial feeling was that it was not the kind of thing to discuss with a stranger, but the fact that Faith was a stranger to her some how made it easier to talk about what Willow had done to her, and the feelings it brought on.
It was sometime later after Tara had recounted the full tale and while she was emotionally exhausted, it was the kind of exhaustion one has after shedding a large weight.
"I'm not sure I should say this, but it almost seems... like a rape."
Tara was shaking her head and had opened her mouth to object, but Faith quickly cut her off. "Hear me out. She took your free will from you. She impaired your judgement... I mean I'm kinda assuming you girls were intimate...?"
The delicate question was left hanging as a sickening feeling spread in Tara's stomach. For so long she had blamed herself, told herself that it was her fault for not talking to Willow sooner. She then said as much, but the protest was feeble. "But Willow wasn't herself."
Faith rest a tentative hand on Tara's knee. "Doesn't matter to me Tar, and it shouldn't matter to you." She held up that hand and it's partner quickly. "Again, hear me out. Tara, so many women who are assaulted blame themselves. If it was someone they knew then they think they led them on. Even if it's a stranger they think it was their own fault for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if Willow wasn't in her right frame of mind... if it was a guy high on drugs raping a girl would you say HE should get away with it?"
The occasional tears suddenly blossomed into full sobs and Faith put her arm around Tara, a comfort that was instantly accepted as the other woman leaned into Slayer's chest.
Faith brought the other arm around and actually cradled the other woman as she sobbed. While her body was still, her mind was racing in time with her pounding heart. Intellectually she was bordering on classifying the Scoobies as a threat.
Emotionally she wanted to get a team of blacksuits, a term used for the troops sent to the "top secret counter-terrorism training facility", and lead them to wipe out Willow Rosenberg as a potential threat. As Tara stilled, Faith found herself calming down.
While wiping out Willow could fall under Faith's prerogative, it had ramifications for her entire mission. She still doubted that the Scoobies had turned into actual hostiles, but they might have dropped from the friendlies category. For someone like Willow Rosenberg to do what she did the group would have had to have went through some serious sort of implosion. That didn't strike her as surprising as she thought it should, but when she thought about it the group had shown those signs back when she was first a member.
She had hinted at Buffy's competitive streak with Tara, but the deeper truth was that the first Slayer had need for both attention and control that bordered on obsessive at the best of times.
Willow on the other hand was well suited to work with Buffy as Willow's self-esteem was so low that she needed others to reaffirm her worth.
Something that would lend itself well to mind-raping her girlfriend if said girlfriend was angry at her. Xander Harris was actually one of the more stable of the bunch, but despite that he suffered from a tremendous lack of motivation and that led him to follow the leader without hesitation.
When those elements of the Scoobies are in balance they can function effectively as a group, but if Buffy were to suddenly stop trying to exert her control then Willow would become more drastic in her attempts to gain attention, while Xander would follow whoever told him what to do.
With the additional stabilizing element of Rupert Giles gone things would decay all the faster. Taking the information Tara had provided it fit all too well.
Her thoughts continued unabated as she rubbed the witches back in a comforting gesture.
Buffy died, leaving Willow without a primary source of approval. Willow, having finally gotten a real taste of power tries to make everyone happy by bringing Buffy back from the dead. She succeeds, but instead of bringing Buffy back from the hell dimension Willow had convinced herself Buffy was in she dragged her out of heaven.
That left Buffy in shock and unable to carry the emotional burden of being the groups everything she withdraws.
So when Tara finally called Willow on her excessive magic use it wasn't surprising that Willow took steps to make sure that Tara kept reaffirming Willow's worth by loving her. When that initially worked it entered her head that it could be used to make Buffy be who Willow wanted her to be by altering the Slayer's memories as well.
Fortunately that blew up in her face and Tara was able to get clear of the core group, no matter how painful that may have been.
Her analysis was complete and Faith was about to decide how she was going to use it as she felt Tara slump even harder into her. Her attention now focused, on someone she was feeling very protective of, the signs quickly indicated that Tara had fallen asleep in Faith's arms.
Militaristic thoughts were shelved as simple humanity took over and the exhausted woman was carefully laid out on the bed, but not before the blankets were pulled back so Tara could be slipped underneath them.
Once Tara was tucked in Faith had gotten up and shut off the lights. She was to the door, but she stopped before her hand could reach the nob. While it might be forward of her to spend the night, she would rather risk seeming pushy then have Tara wake up alone after such an emotional hit.
Faith laughed to herself... because when had she ever worried about seeming forward?
She was still very sensitive to Tara and the woman's fragile status. Leaving the light off she pulled the desk's chair up again and tried to make herself as comfortable as possible.
The nature of the situation left her with little to do except watch over Tara, but as she did it Faith found herself enjoying the situation in a way.
As Tara slept the hurt that had been on her face as faded away to leave a sort of serenity that was normally only hinted on when Tara was awake. Blonde locks were tussled on the top of her head while wild strands ran over her cheeks and neck.
Some of them found themselves pushed back behind Tara's ear as Faith brushed some away from the sleeping woman's face.
While the covers concealed the large portion of Tara's body the way they draped revealed womanly curves that were sadly uncommon in this day and age.
Yeah, Faith could appreciate that kind of thing. She might not have announced her bisexuality, she didn't hide it either and could enjoy good looks regardless of the person's gender.
Such good looks combined with such a blatantly kind spirit left Faith whispering to the room. "How the Hell could anyone be stupid enough to lose you?"
Tara awoke to a knock at the door. The next sound to draw her attention came right after as Faith gasped. Looking over to the Slayer she saw her worry reflected back at her. Their worries were interrupted by another knock and Tara slowly slipped from under the covers.
"J-just a minute."
Faith stood up as well and shifted in place, whispering urgently. "What should I do?"
Tara bit her lip. "It might be no one."
Faith couldn't help the grin from showing. "How long have you been in Sunnydale?"
Tara didn't fight the grin either, but it dropped away as she looked to the door.
Faith shrugged. "It was going to happen sooner or later. We'll play it by ear."
Tara nodded and grabbed the door handle. Faith's prediction was proven correct as Xander and Anya were behind it and smiling in a highly exaggerated manner.
Xander was the one to speak. "Hey Tara. What ya up to?"
Anya pushed past him. "She was probably up to sleeping, Xander. Look, we wanted to invite you to Buffy's birthday party."
The invitation itself was cut short as Xander followed her in and yelped. "FAITH!"
Tara stepped in between them. "Xander, it's ok."
Xander looked incredulously at Tara. "Ok! How can it be ok? You weren't here Tara. You didn't see half of what she did to us."
Surprisingly it was Anya who defended Faith, but sounded bored as she did so. "You mean like Willow?"
Tara dropped her head while Faith also looked away as the fiances argued, Xander taking his turn. "No, NOT like Willow. Willow had a problem."
Faith finally spoke up. "So did I."
"No one's talking to you!"
Faith rose to Xander's comment and stepped close. "No, just ABOUT me. So I figured that I had the right to step up."
Xander turned angrily to Tara. "THIS is ok?"
Faith spoke up. "But your sweet Willow can hurt whoever she wants and get away with it?"
Xander stepped closer to Faith. "She wasn't herself!"
Faith got right into his face. "What, she was possessed? She ACCIDENTALLY happened to erase the one memory that had Tara angry at her?"
Tara steeled herself up and stepped in. "Look, Xander. I invited Faith to my room. It's my room and my decision."
Xander tried to appeal to Tara. "But you don't know what you're getting into. You can't trust her."
Tara's voice was sincere, but quiet. "I thought I could trust Willow."
He turned and stormed out, but to everyone's surprise Anya did not follow him. Instead she looked Tara in the eye. "Look, we already figured that things would be tense with Willow. The fact you're dating Faith probably will just help, so Willow knows you're over her."
Tara was trying to object but Anya plowed ahead. "So Xander's a little tense too. So what? It's Buffy's birthday party and she's what counts if I understand the whole idea. So if you can make it you already know when and where." Anya then quickly cut out before Tara could blink, let alone object to any part of the statement.
Faith opened her mouth to apologize but Tara shook her head. "It's ok... really Faith. At first I was only Willow's friend, and then I was Willow's girlfriend. I..." Tara sighed. "I'm not surprised they can't see me as more then that."
Faith shook her head. "Their loss, but I'm not going to repeat that mistake... Tara, I haven't lied to you, but I have a secret. I can't even tell you all of it, but I'll tell you what I can. If you want me to, that is. I don't have any right to get involve you in any of this."
Tara's face scrunched in confusion. "But you want to?"
Faith pursed her lips and nodded. "You're a good person, and that's why I'm here."
The cryptic response seemed to do it and Tara just nodded. Faith then squared her shoulders. "But I can't really do it here. I have some things back at my hotel room, if that's ok?"
Faith's worry was obvious, and Tara could tell it was because following Tara to her room was one thing but if Tara agreed to come back to Faith's room it was another degree of trust. So Faith's smile was still showing surprise as Tara agreed.
Tara wasn't smiling back at Faith's hotel room. Her expression was one of shock at the arsenal laid out before her. Those stunned eyes met Faith's and the slayer took a deep breath before starting her explanation. "I don't know how much Red went into about the Initiative, but they weren't out to fight demons. They sought to find ways to use demons as weapons. Adam was just the crowning achievement of a million other projects."
Tara interjected then. "So you're part of the Initiative now?'
Faith shook her head. "No, but when they went down their files scattered and some came into the hands of... my superiors." Seeing the question on Tara's face Faith held up a hand. "That's one of the things I can't go into right away. I'm going to contact them and press for your clearance, but until they say ok..."
Tara nodded and kept silent so Faith could continue the tale. "Ok, the group I belong to got some of those files. While the group was founded for counter-terrorism they had already expanded to cover things like crime syndicates and in some extreme cases even criminal acts by corporate bodies."
The blonde's eyebrows shot up at that and Faith quickly explained. "I mean serious stuff Tar. A good example was a company that was killing political leaders in South Africa because the end of Apartheid was threatening their diamond pipeline."
That seemed to satisfy the witch as Faith took up where she left off. "So when they learned that monsters were real they expanded their war to another front. Part of that was getting reliable intel on this new enemy. While they had some files from the fallout they were incomplete. So they started their own research."
"And they found you?"
Faith nodded. "A murder with a wooden stake jumped out at them. So they first approached me for information... THEN they learned about the Vampire Slayer. At first they were willing to shorten my sentence for hard information, but when they learned I was a full-blown super-soldier designed to fight in the war they were joining they extended an invitation. A chance to repay my debt to society by doing what I was born to do: fight evil."
Tara looked at the more lethal implements. "Evil?"
Faith forced herself to meet Tara's eyes. "Evil, whatever form it takes. Usually that's the demons I'm familiar with, but there have been some threats..."
It was obvious from Tara's expression and posture that Tara wasn't happy with the answer, but she was understanding. "I know."
Faith shook her head. It just didn't seem like enough, she didn't feel the same need for approval that had led her to extremes like working for the Mayor, but she knew she needed Tara to truly see what she was saying. "Do you, Tara? I mean do you really know? The things I've seen have made the Hellmouth look tame by comparison. I mean demons at least have an excuse. I've seen humans, people who have souls do things... demons didn't make weapons of mass destruction, and they didn't fly the 747's on September 11th. "
That seemed to truly get to her and her expression sobered, as did Faith's. The slayer's expression was matched with a gentle voice. "That's what I fight Tara, but yes I've killed people. I haven't liked it, I've hated it, but I've done it. I did it because I found it easier to live with that then I would to live with the deaths that those people would have caused."
Tara's voice was calm this time as she met Faith's eyes. "I understand. How can I help?"
Faith paced up and down the front porch of the Summer's household. Tara stepped in her way and put her hands on Faith's shoulders. "It's going to be okay, Faith. You need to do this, and you are not alone. I'm here."
Faith smirked at that and Tara found herself grinning as well. That seemed to break the tension and Tara kept speaking. "I mean I AM your girlfriend after all."
Faith's expression grew more serious. "Are you sure you're ok with that?"
Tara nodded. "It helps me, too." Tara got a shield against her former girlfriend and Faith now had a cover for being in Sunnydale.
They gave each other another nod and Tara turned to ring the doorbell. It was quickly answered by the woman of the house. Buffy quickly embraced Tara with a happy voice. "You made it!"
The women exchanged greetings and then Buffy turned to Faith, and the greeting was far less friendly. "Faith, you were the last person I expected to see. When did you escape?"
When Faith first planned her return to Sunnydale she was going to play it humble, but now that she as backing up Tara she wasn't about to play it nice. "I didn't, got released."
Buffy scoffed. "On what grounds?"
Faith's time at the Farm has matured her old arrogance into a calm confidence. Yet her old attitude slid on like the leather jacket she had skipped in order to look nice for the party. "Good behavior." She smacked the gift she had bought for Buffy to the other slayer's chest. "Happy Birthday."
Striding into the house she was taken back. The professional still remained at her core, but she felt good, like she was stretching muscles that hadn't been used in far too long. At the Farm she had a support system that was there even when she was operating on her own. Here she was standing on her own, because unless she wanted the Scoobies cut down in a hail of gunfire she had to handle this solo. Though not really when she thought further, there was someone backing her up and she saw that person talking with the one Scooby Faith kinda wanted cut down in a hail of gunfire, and preferably Faith's own.
Of course saying that Willow and Tara were talking would be generous since the uncomfortable silence was hanging far heavier then the occasional bits of conversation. Faith broke the tension by coming up and draping her arm around Tara's waist. "Hey Tar, you thirsty?"
Tara was only capable of managing a nod, but it was enough for Faith to pull her away and lead her to the kitchen. Faith however didn't wait that long as she was already rubbing Tara's shoulder trying to comfort her as they walked through the kitchen door.
She was so focused on trying to soothe Tara that neither noticed Buffy until she spoke up from her position at the kitchen's island. "So how did you two meet each other... I mean besides the first time?"
While Faith's first thought as to curse herself for her initial treatment of Tara the woman in question seemed to realize Faith's train of thought and laid one of her hands on Faith's to silently put that thought to rest. That did the trick, leaving Faith's second thought to focus on Buffy. The fact was the other Slayer seemed to be making a genuine effort.
The rapid mood shift caught Faith's attention, but after Tara's explanation of Buffy's resurrection Faith was perfectly willing to let it slide. That left Buffy's question, but it was one they had prepared for. It had seemed best to keep it as close to the truth as possible so they had settled on the story that Faith had come to Sunnydale after being released and had approached Tara as the one Scooby who would not attack her on sight.
Much to the pairs' surprise Buffy looked guilty at that statement. "Was this before you and Willow...?"
Faith wanted to keep Tara from having to lie anymore then necessary so she lied for her. "It was right about that time..." She made a show of looking to Tara as if for confirmation before continuing. "And she ..." The next part was entirely sincere. "She seemed so sad." She then finished with more of an omission then an out and out lie. "We talked."
The discussion was interrupted by a surprising guest as the door opened to allow two demons into the room with the two Slayers. Faith didn't recognize the first one who seemed friendly enough, but was given away by the pointed ears, pointed teeth and rolls upon rolls of skin. The second however she quickly recognized as the vampire Spike.
Spike's friend introduced himself as Clem while Faith grabbed one of the beers Spike had brought. She returned the greeting and was pleasantly surprised at Clem's reaction. "Faith, the Vampire Slayer?"
She grinned as she nodded, but then Clem looked confused and looked between the two Slayers. Faith answered the question with a smile and a shake of her head. "Long story."
Buffy shrugged. "I drowned and Xander did CPR."
Faith snickered. "But that covers most of it."
Spike had been sizing Faith up and finally chose to speak. "Not all of it, I wager. When I last heard you two weren't the kind to chat over drinks. I actually thought you would have to be chatting through bullet proof glass."
Faith took a deep tug on her beer. "I got out."
Spike lifted his brows to the mismatched hairline. "How so?"
"I was released."
There was no pause as he replied. "So why are you here exactly?"
To Faith's surprise Tara stepped forward and put her arm around Faith's waist in a way that was obviously possessive.
Spike made a show of looking out to the dining room, and by extension the rest of the house. "That must have been a spot of fun?"
Because of where he was looking he was the first to see Xander entering the room with someone who was new. An attractive young man with blonde highlighted hair and blue jeans and red shirt who seemed uncomfortable, but nice enough. "Hey Buffy, Richard was just wondering where he should park his car." He did a double take. "Faith?"
Tara broke the pattern that as developing. "Faith could show him where to park. Couldn't you, Sweetie?"
Faith was initially too startled to react, but she wasn't the only one and was the first to pick up on it. "Yeah, unless something's changed?"
The fact she was looking at Buffy caused a look of panic on the other Slayer's face but she soon realized that Faith was just asking if there had been any changes to things like parking since Faith had last been in Sunnydale. So she settled for a shake of her head.
Faith left with the young man which still left Xander, and while he also had a question on his face it was mixed with anger.
Tara answered it. "Anya knew I would want Faith here so she said I could bring her."
Buffy got up and walked to Xander. "And I want Tara here. So why don't we go mingle?"
That left Tara in the kitchen with the two demons, the vampire being the one who chose to speak. "So what the deal with Faith, exactly?"
Tara pulled her shoulders up slightly. "She's showing Richard where to park. Do you think he was cute? I mean I thought he was cute. I mean I'm really not a good judge, but I thought he was cute."
Clem did as well. "I thought he was cute."
Spike however didn't find anything cute about the whole situation and left the room.
Outside the house the cute boy in question was talking to Faith as they sat in his car while they parked it. "So who are you, exactly? I mean I picked up that your name is Faith, but Xander didn't mention you."
Faith had been leaning back in the passenger seat, and that caused her head to sink into the headrest. "That's not surprising. We have a bit of a history, not to mention the fact my current girlfriend used to be dating his best friend."
A smirk peeked out of his lips. "Girlfriend?"
Faith gave him a full formed grin. "Girlfriend... that gonna be an issue?"
Richard's smile burst out. "Nah, not at all. So you're..."
Faith gave a good natured cluck of her tongue. "I'm not, but Tara is."
That confused him. "So who's the best friend?"
"Willow, the redhead?"
His smile vanished. "I saw her, she looked pretty upset."
Faith's expression grew downright cold. While he didn't realize it he was looking at the expression Faith usually wore when she was facing evil. "She still has feelings for Tara."
He might not have known exactly what was going on, but he could tell it was a delicate situation. "If you don't mind me asking... what happened?"
The car had just come to a stop so Faith and Richard turned to face each other as she spoke. "You mean between me and Tara, or Willow and Tara?"
He shrugged helplessly. "Both, either. I figure they're connected somehow."
Faith's hair swayed slightly as she shook her head. "Not really. Willow... has had some problems, and when it was really bad she hurt Tara. I had been... hell I had been incarcerated. I got out and came back to find her and Willow broken up. I just started out trying to be there for her... and it grew."
He gave a good natured nod. "Should we go in?"
Faith made a display of looking at the house. "I suppose we better. SO? You interested in B?..."
"Who's B? You mean Buffy?"
Inside the house the woman in question was talking to Faith's supposed significant other. "Have you told her anything?"
Tara took a moment to consider the implications of what Buffy was saying. "You mean about Spike? No Buffy. I said I wouldn't tell and I meant it."
Buffy looked apologetic. "I'm sorry, I just..."
Tara smiled gently. "It's okay... I did tell her about where you were. About where Willow took you from? I-I thought she m-might be able to h-help."
Buffy blinked. "Help, help how?"
That caused Tara to blink in her own feeling of surprise. "With monsters, patrol, the Geeks?"
Buffy then came to her senses. "Oh-OH you mean with slaying... yeah, that would be great."
She then veered entirely off topic. "So Tara... how? I mean, you and Faith, it just doesn't make sense."
Buffy's voice was quiet, but harsh. Tara was keeping quiet as well, but her voice was steady. "Doesn't it? You are all Willow's friends. Faith was finally someone who could listen to me without trying to apologize for Willow."
Tara headed off the objection before Buffy could even form it in her mind. "Buffy, I'm not blaming you. Willow is your friend, and she was your friend long before you ever met me. That's not something you can change, and I wouldn't expect you to. I... I would just ask you to let me have something for me."
Buffy kept up her birthday tradition, but with the presence of the second slayer it was one of Buffy's better birthdays. That was what helped lead to the conversation Tara and Faith were having.
It was in Tara's room as the two women were getting ready in the morning. Tara was looking through her closet, but had to move to the side as Faith put away a sleeping bag.
"Are you sure you're okay sleeping there?"
Faith smiled. "Well there's another option, but we're just PRETENDING to date."
Tara's cheeks shaded pink. "I didn't think it would go this far."
Faith titled her head. "Are YOU okay?"
Tara actually smiled as she nodded. "I-It's like I said to Buffy. I like having someone who's there for me."
Faith smiled this time. "I am, you know."
That made Tara blush even deeper, though Faith didn't understand why. "Still, you okay with my other stuff being here?"
There was a pause before Tara continued. "I'm glad this is an apartment and not a dorm. Are you sure that your bosses...?"
Faith broke into Tara's pause. "Can make me above the law? Yeah..." She kept speaking as she pulled out a nondescript black laptop computer. "We have huge ties with the Department of Justice." She gave Tara a roguish grin. "I can even BE a Fed. It's a bogus id, but it's real where it counts."
Faith set down on the bed, tucking one leg up and under the other, putting the laptop on the knee. Tara then sat down next to her as she fired the machine up, speaking as she did so. "Now, they should have finished the background check, cross-referenced my statement and yours, weighed my threats and shouting, and gave you clearance."
Tara was smiling as Faith set up the satellite uplink and logged in. Her brows shot up. "They want a conference. Do you think we have time before we are supposed to meet Richard?"
The witch was already looking apprehensive. "I'll call h-him."
Faith set the computer down on the bed and looked into Tara's eyes. "It's going to be fine, Tara. These are good people."
Tara put on a smile, which led Faith to turn back to the computer and move it to the desk, setting it up for a conference call.
There were several passwords asked for in the security set-up, and once they were given clearance a window popped open to reveal a hard face that softened once it saw Faith looking back.
It was obvious he was an older gentleman, but the features were smooth enough that it was hard to place the age. His hair was still jet black, though if that was the result of dyeing or not she was uncertain. The man's one distinct feature were his eyes; icy blue, clear, intent and attentive. Even though he was looking though a tiny digital camera built into the frame of the laptop Tara felt he had already taken in the entire room.
Tara turned to her companion when she heard a warmth in Faith's voice that had only begun to creep into their conversations. "Striker, so I'm guessing Tara's cleared?"
Striker gave a curt nod. "Yes. Can you bring her up to speed on the Farm? We're not qualifying her as a field agent, even though she is in Sunnydale, but with her permission we will label her as part of the support staff?"
The two Farm agents turned to look at Tara and the blonde paled under the scrutiny. "S-s-sure."
Faith looked ready to comfort her but Striker actually beat Faith to it. Though his voice was more confident then calming. "Tara, we don't draft people, and if you are not sure all you have to do is say so. We wouldn't be able to inform you as to the nature of our organization for obvious reasons, but if you have doubts it would be better if you say so now. Just don't have doubts about if you're needed. Faith's recommendations as well as the knowledge you displayed made you a shoe in. We NEED good people here, Tara. While we have consulted with academics their knowledge WAS all academic. You have the hands on knowledge of the occult that we desperately need."
The witch took a steadying breath. "I'm glad I'll be able to help."
Striker gave Tara a smile before addressing Faith. "Now, with the rest of the situation. While I've went over your report I need know there is anything that can be salvaged or if we should simply set up operations on our own."
Faith motioned Tara to sit on the bed as she set the computer on the desk and did the same. Looking back to the desk she spoke. "I think that any attempts to salvage would simply speed up the decay. Right now I think that I should keep my cover as Tara's girlfriend and simply help them out while things resolve themselves one way or the other. That doesn't need to stop us though. I'll get the ball rolling. Just tell me what's free."
Striker nodded and seemed to reach towards them as he typed on the computer. His voice was distracted as his eyes read the screen. "Phoenix Force is currently in play with continuing ops in the Middle East, and I was there helping them. I'll be shipping back once Sunnydale is in motion. Able Team however has been freed up because of the Office of Homeland Defense."
Faith looked over her shoulder to where Tara was sitting next to her. "Phoenix Force works internationally while Able Team works more stateside. Striker and I operate globally."
Striker brought them back. "Do you want me to dispatch them?"
Faith considered it, but shook her head no. "Actually I'm wondering if Leo might be free. I'll put more together but right now Sunnydale doesn't need guns. The place is actually pretty calm for the mouth of Hell. What we need to do is set up some sort of order here. I detailed it in my reports of the Scoobies past actions, but the heart of it is that the Scoobies are a more reactionary force. The Farm however specializes in taking a more aggressive stance, and that's what's needed. I know it may seem insane but I think we need to look into making a branch office."
That got his attention, but she just kept going. "Look Striker, the Hellmouth is like an IMMOBILE WMD, and it needs to be secured."
He did interrupt then. "The Initiative tried setting up a base in Sunnydale."
Faith clucked her tongue while shaking her head. "No, they set up a lab. If you have another option I'm listening but the whole reason I am here is to assess the danger the Hellmouth possesses and I can sum it up like this... when the world ends I'll bet my last bullet this is where it starts. This place is THE most likely ground zero for Armageddon."
He let out a long breath. "Maintain position. Keep assisting the Scooby Gang. Deal with the Geeks as you see fit and alert us if any greater threats develop. Striker out."
Faith held up a hand. "Wait. I'll be submitting info for Tara's paychecks. With that I'm going to want to shore up my cover by explaining our windfalls."
"Any other supplies you need?"
Faith took a moment to fully consider that. "Even if I can't explain my sudden income I am going to set up a full safe house for a long term deployment. So I'm going to need the appropriate supplies."
"What have you used up so far?"
Faith shook her head. "A single .45 round, so I'm ok."
An arched brow was enough to ask the question and Faith elaborated. "Vengeance demon had cast a spell forcing us all to stay within the Summer's household. I used the round to destroy the locket that houses the demon's power, and explained it as personal protection from the Council if they come gunning for me again."
Tara then spoke up. "W-would they?"
Faith again looked over her shoulder to find herself nose to nose with Tara. "Bear's keeping an eye on them. The Council might try to sneak a team in but I don't think they'll manage it." She then put a hand on Tara's knee. "But we'll have to play it as it comes."
Tara nodded as Faith turned back to Striker. "Still, that covers it. Slayer Out."
He gave a curt nod. "Striker Out."
Tara had a playful smirk. "Slayer?"
Faith smiled back, but blushed as she did so. "That's my code name."
Tara kept the smile, but turned it down a notch. "So you made reports on the Scoobies? What did you say?"
Faith bit her bottom lip. "What we covered, that as a unit the Scoobies have no leadership and no morale. Individually they are unstable but only a danger to those close to them."
That took away Tara's smile and she looked away but Faith reached over and gently pulled Tara's chin to look her in the eye. "But that IS a danger. So I recommended isolation and observation."
Tara nodded and tried to look away, but Faith still had her chin and made Tara look back once more. "And as a member of the Farm's support staff I am directing you to avoid contact unless accompanied by one of the Farm's combat operatives."
Tara gave a weary smile. "You?"
Faith nodded. "Me. I really should bring you up to speed on the Farm, but if Richard's not there already he's going to be soon."
Tara stood up. "We can talk about it later."
There was more conversation, but they had added three people and moved it to the Espresso Pump where the five of them were nursing caffeinated beverages while they conversed. Richard was the odd member of the group and the focal point of the two pairs of Faith and Tara, and Xander and Anya.
But before they could focus on him they had to settle some other matters. Alexander Harris being the source of the issue. "So Faith, I'm surprised to see you here."
Everyone looked surprised but Anya was the one to deal with his issue by kicking him in the shin from where she was sitting next to him. "Faith is Tara's new gay-type girlfriend. I'm just wondering if Faith's got the gun."
Richard was the one to bail Faith out after he took a long drink of his black coffee. "I'm glad she's here and I'm glad she had the gun. She kept me from being stabbed and she managed to shoot that thing so we could get out."
Anya was indignant. "That 'thing' is a very dear friend of mine!"
Xander smoothed the situation over in his way, but almost as a matter of reflex. "An, honey, that 'thing' cast a vengeance spell on us."
She wasn't convinced however. "Because the little klepto asked her to."
Tara and Faith exchanged a long glance.
Richard however was the one speak over the arguing. "So this kind of thing is common?"
Anya was the one to answer. "Well what did you think I sold at my store?"
Xander put a calming hand on Anya's elbow as he spoke to Richard. "It's kind of a catch 22. Once you know it's there you can't help but run into it."
Richard didn't seem to be buying it so Tara tried to help. "The supernatural is all around us, but most people dismiss it. They call it bad luck or animal attacks or accidents and just ignore the idea that it could be something else."
He shook his head. "But those things?"
Faith backed Tara up. "Yeah, but one of those things was using a sword. So when someone is found hacked up the cops just figure some psycho used a machete or something, and if I hadn't shot Anya's buddy... well they wouldn't have heard about us until we were skeletons and that wouldn't have told them anything was out of the ordinary."
That convinced him and he slowly nodded, his shoulders giving a shudder. "And you and Buffy..."
Faith was understandably the one to elaborate. "We're Slayers... we're the natural born hunters for those kind of things."
"So you fight them?" Richard followed the statement with a confused look in Anya's direction.
Xander was the one to answer the look directed at his fiancé. "Yeah, but it's not ALL back and white, mostly black and white, but not all."
He followed that with a pointed look at Faith and that led her to sigh. "Ok, I'm sure Xander would tell you as soon as possible anyway. So I may was well beat him to it. I was co-opted awhile back. I have always been a Slayer, but I ended up working for the bad guys for awhile."
He was following. "Is that why you were in jail?"
Faith sighed again, her resignation showing. "No, that came before. A human strayed into a big vampire fight and I staked him before I realized he wasn't one."
He blinked several times. "But that was an accident, right?"
Xander scoffed. "THAT was."
Faith glared at him. "Yeah, but the rest of the group turned on me quick enough, so I turned on them.
Richard started getting confused again. "Turned on you?"
Faith was about to continue, but her train of though derailed when she felt Tara take her hand. Looking over she met the other woman's eyes, and while they were pretending to be girlfriends the support in Tara's eyes was sincere.
Swallowing hard Faith continued. "There's a group that calls itself the Watchers Council. They appointed themselves to train and help the Vampire Slayer. The fine print though was that they also sought to keep the Slayer on a leash, their leash."
Xander's angry eyes met Faith's, and he seemed to finally see she was getting just as angry as he was. "... I think they showed that's not a bad thing."
Faith's nostrils flared. "You mean like when Giles doped Buffy up and locked her AND her mom in a house with a psycho vamp?"
Xander twitched at that and remained silent. Faith was obviously preparing another verbal volley but she was cut off when Tara reached up to touch her cheek. The tender gesture cut off all of Faith's thoughts and all she could so was again turn to look as Tara, and again see that support, but this time it was voiced.
"They might not have changed, but you have."
It was Tara's turn to lose her senses as Faith leaned in and kissed her temple. "Thanks."
Tara's first thought when she came back to her senses was recognizing the look on Faith's face as the Slayer being afraid she had went to far. So she gave a smile to let her know it was ok, the shyness it held was just a natural reaction.
Richard was now smiling as well as he looked at the two women, as was Anya, and even Xander seemed impressed by the public display of affection.
Tara was the one who took control of the attention delivered their way by addressing Richard. "So Richard, d-do you think you could do that?"
Faith's eyes got wide and Tara blushed. "I-I mean with Buffy!"
Faith gave her a wink and they all looked to Richard as he answered. "I dunno guys, I mean I could have been killed, but..."
Anya interrupted his thoughts. "BUT?"
He shrugged his shoulders helplessly. "Just... but."
Xander had mellowed out by this point. "So you'd like to think about it?"
Their coffee date broke up soon after that since the main reason it had happened was that they wanted to talk to Richard about his first encounter with the supernatural and a possible second encounter with Buffy. The simple things like not trying to tell people about the existence of monsters was quickly covered and since he wasn't sure about Buffy the conversation dried up quickly enough.
The supposed girlfriends were walking back to Tara's room and while Faith knew she should be getting ready to tell Tara about the Farm she could only think about kissing her.
"So you're sure it was okay?"
Tara was smiling and blushing as she nodded. "It was fine." She took a deep breath and then let it out." It was kinda nice." Her smile then grew cheeky. "I would've thought you've kissed girls before."
When Faith's only reply was her own cheeky grin, Tara's eyes grew wide.
The cheeky grin was given a non-committal shrug AND an arrogant swagger.
Tara was still smiling, but she stopped to put her hands on her hips and arched her brow.
Faith stopped and her voice showed how much she was enjoying the game they were playing. "What?"
"You've had other girls besides me?"
Faith waggled her eyebrows.
"So why didn't you say?"
Faith sobered, not in a truly negative way, but enough to let Tara know that she was trying to be serious. "I don't really go into it. I always figured I don't need to broadcast it. Guys were never hard to find and if a girl was interested... actions usually spoke louder then words."
Tara looked away and then back. "I wish I could be like that. When I meet a girl I like I'm always afraid to say it because if she's not..."
Faith gave Tara a gentle grin. "Then she should learn."
Tara took a second to realize what Faith was saying, but she blushed once she realized.
Faith took a long pause, and then held out her hand. Tara looked at it then up at her and took Faith's hand.
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