by Padre

As she stood over the pile of dust that once was one of the Living Dead, the Dark Slayer turned to the Very-British-Looking-Man standing behind her. Her smoky voice had a strong icy quality to it. "You're not really a Watcher, are you?" It was a statement, not a question.

The tall man with dark hair, dark eyes, big glasses and an Everyman Face did not even flinch. "Miss Lehane? I beg your pardon?"

Despite the poor lighting in the old warehouse, Faith did not miss this new Watcher's lack of a response, it was too well practiced. "You heard me, Jarod. You're not a Watcher."

"But, Miss Lehane, if I may-"

"No, Jarod my boy, you may not. And, could you drop the phony accent while you're at it? It's really beginning to piss me off." The menace in Faith's tone could not be mistaken. "Oh, I have you so pegged. Yeah, you look like a Watcher. You talk like a Watcher, too." The brunette had a growing hardness in her eyes as she inched towards the stranger before her. "But you're not a Watcher."

Jarod's speech became rapid as he started to back up. "B-But, M-Miss Lehane, you yourself have thoroughly checked me out-"

"Yes, I have." Faith continued to move forward.

"Uh-and I assure you that my credentials are quite in order-

"Oh, they are Jarod. They're really good looking credentials. Best I've ever seen." Faith brushed back the side of her black leather duster, easily revealing the large blade that hung from her belt. "But, Mr. Jarod Hyde-Parker- Smythe-Jones- Or-Whatever- The-Fuck- Your-Name-Is, I'm used to being lied too. Being used. In fact, it's a vibe I pick up on really fast."

Jarod's retreat came to sudden halt as he backed into wall. "Th-Then you believe that I am some sort of impostor."

Faith stopped only inches away from the obviously nervous man. "I don't believe anything, Jarod. I know."

Jarod said nothing, but the truth could be read in his eyes.

Faith waited for just a moment...and then, with a wide and hungry grin, "But, despite my reputation and what I'm normally expected to do in a situation like this, I'm gonna be the Good Guy here and give you a chance to explain."

After a hard swallow, Jarod's voice could only crack, but his pronounced English accent was gone. "Uh, and what are you normally expected to do?"

Faith didn't even blink. "Run you through with this knife and laugh while you try to stop your guts from falling out on the floor."

Jarod felt his mouth go dry.

Faith pulled the blade from its sheath; her words carried Death. "What's it gonna be? Choose."

Jarod took a deep breath and let it out. He reached up to his face and slowly pulled away his glasses. In a rather normal voice, he asked, "How did you know?"

Faith put the blade back and visible relaxed. "It wasn't really that hard, Jarod, although, I've got to give you your props. Man, you're good. Really good. You nearly had me."

A flat voice was Jarod's only response. "But I couldn't convince you. Why?"

"Well, first of all, I'm a cynical hard ass with a wide streak of distrust and paranoia. And, well, Jarod, you're too damn sincere for your own good." Faith was smiling. "You're, what's the word I'm looking for, um, earnest? Yeah. Earnest. That's it."

"I'm sorry? You have me at a loss."

The Dark Slayer spread her hands. "No Watcher I've even known, with maybe the exception of Giles-"

"Rupert Giles?"

"Yeah, that's him-"

"He's quite inspirational."

"Well, yeah, I guess he can be-"

Jarod's voice was lightening up. "He was a very charming man-"

Faith's irritation was evident. "Interrupt me again and you'll find me a very un-charming slayer."

"Got it."

Faith tried to soften her tone. "See, Jarod, a lot of the people I've known in my life usually always had an ulterior motive when they tried to get to know me."

"I don't understand." Jarod was honestly puzzled.

"They would either pretend to be my friend or that they wanted to help me with something in order to get something from me. Sometimes, they did both."

Jarod paused for a moment. He could see where this was going. His own past was not so different. "And that makes you angry. Being fooled."

Faith's expression and voice carried a great deal of seriousness. "Yeah, a whole lot. You could say it's a real pet peeve of mine. Stuff like that makes me wicked ultraviolent and not too shook up about the consequences. Get my meaning?"

"Yes, I believe I do. So, if someone was to come right out and tell you the truth, you'd be more likely to help. You'd like having the choice of saying 'yes' or 'no'."

Faith nodded with approval. "Give the man a cigar."

"Why would I want a cigar? I don't smoke."

Faith let out a sigh. "Nevermind." The Dark Slayer cleared her throat. "What I'm saying is this: I'm going to take a chance that you're not like the others. Is there something you want to tell me?"

Jarod paused. Then, "I'm a Pretender."

A very thoughtful look came over Faith's face. Rather observantly, she said, "I've heard of Pretenders. You're supposed to be, like, some mega-super-genius or something like that."

"That's correct."

"In fact", Faith continued, "you're so smart that you can become just about anything you want. Even a Watcher."

"Even a Watcher."

Faith pulled up and old wooden box and sat down. She motioned for Jarod to sit on another that was near by. "And I have no idea why'd you want to be a Watcher." Crossing her arms, Faith continued. "Why don't you tell me, Jarod? You have my complete attention."

Jarod sat. After a few moments, a very dark look came over his face. Staring off into space with a cruel stare, he started speaking. "When I was a small boy, I was taken from my family and brought to a place called The Centre."

Faith was slightly surprised at the foul bitterness that was pouring out of Jarod. "Do you mean 'taken' as in 'kidnapped'?"

"Yes. They did it because I was a Pretender, just like my older brother."

"Doesn't sound like a fun place."

It wasn't. I was always kept in a rigid environment. What I ate, what I drank, what I read or what I saw, all of it was controlled by The Center. They used my genius, my gift, for their own perverted plans."

"Okay, now I don't get it. I mean, I'm a Slayer, right? I kill things." Faith grew very quiet. "And I'm really good at what I do. I know why someone would want me on their side. Why have your own Pretender?"

"Like you said, Faith. I can become other people, get inside their heads."

A light went on in the Dark Slayer's brain. "Then, if you can do that, you can guess what someone might do next. Or maybe, solve a problem that no one else can." Faith let out a breath. "Okay, yeah. I see where you're coming from. You'd be one wicked hot property."

Jarod only nodded in affirmation.

"And," Faith continued, "you don't work for this Centre anymore, right?"

Jarod let out a chuckle. "I ran away some time ago. It made them very unhappy."

"No doubt." Faith's tone grew somber. "All right, so what do you want with me?"

"There used to be only one Slayer. Then there were two. Now, there are many."

"I know all about it, pal. Had a front row seat at the festivities.-"

"The Centre now has a Slayer of it's own."

Faith grew very quiet while she digested Jarod's announcement. "How do you know this?"

"I have a friend, on the inside. She told me about her."

"And the Council? I'm sure they know this, right? What did they say?"

Jarod took a deep breath before answering. "The Council...ahem...the Council of Watchers, or at least this one growing faction, gave the Slayer to The Centre."

Raw, smoldering fury began to form behind Faith's eyes. "You don't say." Faith spat.

"My friend says she was part of a deal."

That's all Faith really had to hear. On the verge of boiling over, she stood and grabbed Jarod's jacket by the lapels. "Deal?! What deal?"

A feminine voice, one filled with steel, came from the shadows. "That when the time was right, The Centre would back them in a coup over the Council. Oh, and please let go of Jarod or I will put a bullet in your head."

Faith whirled around to see that a tall woman with intense blue eyes, long dark hair and way too much dark lipstick had joined them. The Dark Slayer also did not miss the very loaded Glock that was pointed right at her. But, without missing a beat, Faith released Jarod, somersaulted back to the tall woman and backhanded her across the face. As the tall woman fell to the ground, stunned from Faith's blinding attack, Faith took possession of the Glock and pointed at her.

Jarod stood, but made no move towards Faith. "Wait! Don't hurt her! She was just trying to protect me!"

"Really don't need your help here, Jarod," the tall woman muttered, not trying to do a very good job of covering up her annoyance. "I got it all under control. Besides, she's not going to shoot me."

Faith raised an eyebrow. "And you know this, how?"

The tall woman revealed a sick grin. "Cause, Cutie, I do my homework. I know who you are and how you operate. If you had wanted me dead, I'd already have a knife buried in my chest."

Faith let out a laugh; she liked this woman. "Yeah, all the way up to the hilt." With growing respect, the brunette extended her hand, helped the tall woman up and handed her Glock back to her. "Where are your manners, Jarod. Ain't ya gonna introduce me to 'your friend on the inside'?"

"How did you know?" the Pretender asked.

The tall woman smiled. "Cause she's a bad-ass." She thrust out a hand to Faith. "Parker. Miss Parker. Gotta smoke?"

Faith reached into her duster and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, handed a cigarette to Miss Parker and then took one for herself. "No first name?"

Miss Parker lit a cigarette and said, "Do you advertise your last name?"

Faith nodded and lit her smoke. "You gotta point."

Jarod came over to the Two Very Dangerous Women. "You know, Miss Parker that smoking may increase your chance of-"

"Can it, Boy Scout. Go help an old lady cross the street." Miss Parker said with a large exhale of smoke. "I'm bonding here."

Faith let loose a wide grin. "Does he nag you too?"

Miss Parker rolled her eyes. "Non-stop."

After a few moments, Faith spoke up. "So, what's the plan? Just break into this Centre place and grab this Slayer?"

Miss Parker looked visibly irritated. "She's not just something to grab!" Then, with a softness in her eyes, "She's an innocent. The Centre will change that. I want to stop them. But, yeah, that's pretty much the plan."

Faith took a second and gazed into the eyes of Miss Parker; she found no falseness there. Then she looked over at Jarod and found the same thing. "Will there be a lot of killing?"

Miss Parker was direct. "Yes."

Faith nodded. "Okay, I'm in. But when this is all over, you gotta do something for me."

"And what would that be?" Jarod asked.

Miss Parker already knew the answer. "We're going to go after the bad guys in the Watcher's Council, aren't we?"

"That's the plan."

"Will there be a lot of killing?"

Faith went cold. "Yes. A lot of killing."

Miss Parker smiled. "Okay, I'm in."

Jarod nodded. "Me, too."


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