It was easy to fake a state of mental shock. Faith was halfway there, and fighting her instinct to brush everything off, to put thoughts of the dead man aside like he was nothing more than a bad dream, everything's five-by-five, thanks for asking. Normal people didn't act that way; normal people reacted when they murdered someone. Faith honestly couldn't tell if her silence was due to playing the part, or if it was genuine. She just knew that she needed to keep it up if she wanted the two men in front of her to think she wasn't abnormal.
Well, any more than they already knew her to be, since they'd come to their conclusions quickly enough about her being like Sam, one of the special children sent to Battle Royale: Old West. She wasn't arguing, because they weren't completely wrong. Sent there by a possibly sinister being? Sure. Asked to kill someone? You bet ya, pal. Tangled up in demon problems? Obviously.
They didn't give her the full interrogation they were obviously panting for, she noticed, but there was a chance that was coming soon as they were out of dodge. Better to keep your head down, she reminded herself, and tried to stare out the window of the Impala instead of at the backs of the two men in the front seat.
She winced at the flash of a light to the corner of her eye.
"Bobby's signaling us to pull over."
It was Dean stating the obvious. He was the hot older brother, Faith had quickly learned, and Bobby Singer would have been the old grumpy teddy bear in the car behind them. She'd been trying to catch on to their relationship, and all she knew was the pack of them were tight. The way Dean had looked at Sam when they found him … It made Faith wonder what it was like to have family that loved you that much. People who would lose their whole world without one another. It made her think of Buffy and Dawn, with a small ping of jealousy, and she didn't want to go down that path. She was here so she could bury her past, start clean, and that meant no thinking about what Buffy was doing right now.
Were they trying to find her?
Sure. Good guys probably thinking she was wrapped up in bad guy shit again. It was their duty to look into it. But they weren't looking for her the way Dean and Bobby were so obviously looking for Sam Winchester, the boy who still lived.
Maybe she was a little bitter that this trip was turning into a bust from which there likely wasn't an escape. Another slayer probably wouldn't have fallen for this shit to begin with. Faith pushed herself back deeper into the seat, annoyed that she didn't have a game plan for what to do after tossing her original orders. This was worse than when she took a hit job from evil lawyers. Almost.
The Impala hit gravel on the side of the road and rolled to a stop. With a less than subtle glance at one another, the Winchesters seemed to communicate a message.
"Be right back," Sam said, quietly, to Faith.
She pretended not to really hear him. Easier than to acknowledge that they'd pulled over to have a private pow-wow without her listening in on the conversation. In all fairness, there hadn't been much time for deliberation when they first met. There was a general need to get the Hell out before demonic forces showed up to finish what they'd started. Or to crown the winner. The hunters, she reminded herself, didn't know that Sam was actually the last man standing and thought she was in the running, another poor civilian transported to Horrorville like the rest of them. Which meant she needed saved.
There it was, the bit that was frustrating her. Not a few hours new to this world and the people whose lives she'd agreed to destroy (for the greater good, B), those were the people trying to help her. Despite the fact that she still had a young soldier's dry blood under her nails. Despite the fact that they didn't know shit about her.
Faith leaned her head against the back passenger window, as if resting. Sam might have gotten a taste of her super strength, but there was no reason to let on that her hearing was above average.
The men had walked back toward Bobby, who was parked at least two car lengths away, and Faith could pick up every word they said.
"...Yeah, well, doesn't mean I have to like it," Bobby was answering.
"You had holy water in the bottle. You tested her before we even left," Sam insisted.
Faith raised a brow, giving the empty plastic water bottle at her feet a side glance. Go, grumpy bear, she thought, absently. And she'd just thought the silver fox was trying to cope a feel while bandaging her side. She gingerly touched the shallow cut, hoping it would take its sweet time healing. No reason to freak them out further.
"I'm just sayin' we need a plan," Bobby said. "What do we do with this girl? You just said she showed up out of the blue instead of with the other batch of kids. And, Hell, some of those were homicidal. I'm just sayin', being in the wrong place at the right time isn't a ringing endorsement."
"That doesn't mean she's working with the demon." Even Sam sounded someone doubtful of his own words. "But if she was, wouldn't it be better to keep her close? The demon put us in that place for a reason, and there's nothing to stop it coming after us again. We don't have a choice."
"Sam's right, but we'll have to convince her of that," Dean said. "She hasn't said much since we left, but once she comes to herself, she might have a problem with being driven to a safe house with a bunch of strangers."
"Don't know if my place much qualifies as a safe house after what happened at Harvelle's," Bobby griped.
"What happened at the Roadhouse?" Sam asked.
There was a heavy pause, and Faith figured whatever was coming next was going to be painful. She pulled away from the glass, not really wanting to listen in. At least she knew where the group stood where she was concerned. They didn't trust her, but they did want to keep her safe, just as she'd guessed. She winced at the thought.
Maybe she should just get out of the car. Walk away. She was already giving Sineya the Slay Ghost the finger by saving Sam instead of killing him. Who said she had to stick around at all?
She didn't budge. Sighing to herself, she rolled her head back. Closing her eyes to take in the rich scent of leather, gunpowder, and a sort of masculine musk that seemed to linger on the seats. Not exactly something that she would want to bottle and sell, but it was oddly comforting. Homey, even, if a car could be called a home.
"You're not leaving, because you know you still have a chance to change your mind and do what you know needs to be done."
Faith's head snapped up to find Buffy staring at her from the front passenger's seat. The small blonde wasn't real, Faith knew, but she looked it, almost. This was a dream, obviously.
"If I call bullshit, you going to send me home to momma-slayer?" Faith asked, grinning tightly. "Let the real B get all pissy at me for not doing something right again?"
The first slayer tilted her head slightly in the way Buffy usually did when she wanted to let everyone know Faith was full of crap.
"You tell yourself you won't do it. That his blood won't be spilled by your hand. But, then, why stay with them?" Buffy asked. "Are you waiting to see what he does wrong? To see why he deserves to die? He doesn't. He's a victim of powers beyond his control. Even his father knew what would become of his son. Ask, see if the truth is in the brother's eyes. It's not Sam's fault, but we made an agreement, Faith. Time to hold up your end."
"Yeah, well, always get the money first, sweetheart." Faith shrugged. "Looks like you sent me to Neverland already, so I get to play Lost Girl all I want. And I don't even need to off Peter Pan."
"I won't send you back," Buffy assured. "So, you're half right. You can ignore me all you want. But you should know, it'll be hard for you to start over with a white-picket-fence in a world that's about to burn to ash."
"And you're telling me that Sam Winchester's going to be the one to end it all?" Faith huffed. "I've known the guy for a few hours, and I can already say you'd be better off sending me after this yellow-eyed bastard instead. Money's on that guy stirring this shit pot."
Buffy leaned forward, over the seats, closer to Faith. "Stay. Watch. Learn."
The slam of a car door woke her. Faith nearly bashed her head against the window when she jerked straight. The Winchesters were quiet in the front seat, Sam carefully adjusting a seatbelt around his makeshift sling.
"You know, it's polite to let a girl know when she's getting her next meal," Faith noted, holding back a yawn with one fist.
There was a short cough that might have been a laugh from Dean. "A girl after my own heart," he said. "Bobby said he's got a lasagna in the freezer."
"Pairs well with beer," she approved. "So, Grumpy back there doesn't mind a dinner guest?"
Sam shifted in his seat, as if uncomfortable, and winced when he hit his shoulder. "We need to talk, Faith. About what happened back there. About why we were in that place."
"From the sound of your voice, I'd say the conversation is going to be of the doom and gloom variety," Faith commented.
"Do you know what was going on back there? Do you know who it was who… I mean, do you know what brought you there?" Sam asked.
"Hard not to know," Faith answered, cautiously.
"Then, you saw him?"
"When we get to Bobby's," Dean interrupted. His eyes shot up to the rearview mirror, and Faith fought the urge to wink at him. "Plenty of time for chatting after we clean up. And eat," he promised. "We're almost there."
"Hey, you feed me, and I'm down for an interrogation," Faith agreed, trying for levity. "Long as you don't mind me asking a few questions too."
"Sounds fair," Sam answered.
Dean didn't reply, his eyes ahead, on the road, and Faith tried to ignore the guilty side-glance Sam gave him. He was nervous, she realized, and it made her stomach turn. What exactly did Sam Winchester have to feel guilty about?
Faith had learned a few things since her arrival. One of which was that the demon researching types were always book hoarders. Bobby Singer's house was not at all what she had been expecting from the junkyard and dilapidated exterior of his home. Inside was proof of what she'd already guessed, the old guy was smarter than he looked. She had a feeling Giles would have been in Watcher heaven, digging through the man's stacks of lore. If anything, the books, notes, charts…all of that left her concluding that her instincts were also right about him being a pro. This family, they hunted evil, and they knew their stuff.
And there was another thing she'd quickly picked up on. Their stuff was not her stuff. Faith had a feeling that Willow and her witchy mojo might have been able to feel out exactly where demons had gone so sideways on the evolutionary track here in this universe, but the rules, somewhere down the line, had been changed. It had taken her one short, baited joke about vampire stakes for her to realize that they weren't on the same monster-page.
Sure, that was fair, she thought, snidely. Toss a girl in another 'verse and throw out the rule-book along the way. God, how she frickin' hated homework, but it looked like she'd need to thumb through some of Bobby's tomes if she wanted to pretend to be another 'hunter' who knew her shit.
With a groan at the thought, Faith pushed herself up from her makeshift cot. The metal beneath her echoed the sentiment, sounding as worn out and used up as she felt. Still, as uncomfortable as the bed was, she'd slept in worse, and the Slayer-vision dreams hadn't visited her throughout the night. Definitely a plus.
Faith swung her legs over the edge, feet landing on the thin rug over the cement floor. She'd peeked the night before and not been disappointed to find a big-ass pentagram painted beneath. Seemed Bobby wasn't taking any chances with his visitor. Probably why he'd told her she could sleep in the "basement room" for the night. Faith had pretended not to hear the upstairs lock slide into place before the guys had lumbered off to their own beds. She wouldn't be surprised if they'd taken turns keeping watch, and only partly because there was a demon hunting half of them.
The post-lasagna interrogation the night before hadn't gone too badly, likely, she guessed, because the hunters were as tired as she was and anxious to reinforce any demon traps around Singer's house. So far, she'd told them her name, the fact that she'd had run-ins with big-bad monsters in the past, and the last place she remembered being before the yellow-eyed shitstorm: "Cleveland, visiting friends." Not a lie. Just not their Cleveland, exactly. When they'd asked her if she had any hunting pals who could verify who she was, she'd shrugged it off, with a, "I don't play well with others."
It wasn't enough to satisfy them, not by a long-shot, but she figured lying and pretending to be a preschool teacher or some shit wouldn't fly. She wasn't nearly freaked out enough by this mess to be Average Jane. Thankfully, the vampire poke had left them thinking she was a newbie. That might help her case for the moment.
What happened when they started to dig? She wasn't sure. The truth might be a bit much to handle, even for demon hunters. Especially with the whole, "here to kill your boy Sam," part in the middle.
Faith gave her pile of clothes a glance before deciding to let them air out a bit longer. The oversized t-shirt she'd been thrown smelled like motor oil, but it was comfortable and clung to her hips. She left it on as she crept out of the room and toward the stair case up to the ground floor.
It wasn't until she was halfway up that she realized the morning sounds weren't just the usual moving about. Someone new was upstairs. Sounded like a woman's voice.
Faith moved up closer to the door, but didn't bother to try the handle. Breaking locks wasn't a way to win anyone over, she'd learned. Neither was using a slayer's enhanced hearing to listen in on a conversation, but no one was perfect.
Faith closed her eyes, concentrating. It sounded like they were near the kitchen, and the conversation wasn't heated. Probably not a visit from a big bad, then. She caught one of the guys asking a question. Ellen, they called the woman. They hadn't mentioned an Ellen the night before, so maybe they hadn't been expecting her.
"...Ash called, told me to look in the safe…"
Faith's brow wrinkled when she heard the boys chip in, obviously looking at something Ellen had produced for them. A map of Wyoming. Faith didn't know what the hell that had to do with anything, but the guys were getting antsy, bringing up omens, railroads, a devil's trap. Demons, the Exorcist variety, she was quickly learning. Apparently monsters were just monsters in this place.
Dean's voice pulled her from that thought. "What if Colt wasn't trying to keep demons out? What if he was trying to keep something in?"
"No way a full blood demon gets across," Bobby barked.
Whatever Sam was about to say was lost. Faith wasn't sure what had made him trail off, but she knew what he'd been about to say, that humans could get across. Humans like the ones that yellow-eyed jackass had been toying with, his special children, as he'd called them. Faith wished she knew how to connect the dots here, but it was obvious the guys outside had a bit more info they weren't sharing with her. Especially Sam.
That boy knew something. And why wouldn't he? The first slayer said he was connected to it all. An innocent victim, but still connected.
"Just walk away, Faith," she muttered to herself. "Take the money and run, dumbass."
Not that there was actual money involved, but freedom had its value.
She let out a sigh, frustrated with herself. There had been a minute, she was sure, right after the Hellmouth turned into a crater, when she'd been stupid enough to believe she might be able to stop making bad decisions. Use the collapse as a fresh start. Of course, that moment had come and gone quickly. She hadn't quite fallen back to homicide (until recently offers were put on the table, obviously), but she wasn't the mentor to the young army of slayers that she'd momentarily believed she might have a chance of being. She blamed Robin for getting her hopes up like that. Still blamed him, as a matter of fact, but she had to admit, she hadn't, in at least a good six months or so, fallen back on old habits. So, it was a real kick in the pants knowing she was going to be doing exactly the wrong thing by trying to do the right thing.
Not. Fucking. Fair.
She rapped her knuckles on the basement door. "Yo, Winchester," she called, "mind giving a girl a cup of coffee when you kidnap her?"
The voices in the house went quiet, then were replaced by whispers. Probably explaining who the hell the chick locked in the basement was to this Ellen lady. Faith waited patiently, elbow propped on the door frame, until the clunk of heavy boots stopped in front of the door. The bolt slid out of the lock with a sharp click.
Dean opened the door slowly, looking somewhat abashed with a forced smile on his face. He was a sight for sore eyes, and as frustrated as her current situation was making her, Faith couldn't help but size him with a long, lazy look. After all, she had a time-honored method for dealing with frustration. Still. Didn't seem polite to flash a leg at the moment, even if her lack of pants did the job for her. A different time, a different Faith, and a bit of blood spilled the night before would have been considered foreplay for her. Sometimes she hated taking off the bad girl hat. Feelings sucked.
He cleared his throat. "Uh, looks like the door, eh, jammed."
Faith raised a brow. "Yeah. Sure. And here I was thinking your pal Bobby was just a kinky bastard with locks on his basement love bunker."
Dean blinked, obviously thrown. "We didn't kidnap you," Dean clarified. "You came with us, remember? And please don't put the words Bobby and love bunker in the same sentence again. Ever."
Faith smirked, glad to see him rattled. "Coffee, sugar."
Dean glanced down at her legs, appreciation flashing across his face before he shut it down. "Pants. Before you give Bobby a stroke," he countered, and looked like it actually pained him to say those words. "There's a bathroom down this hall, if you want a shower. Breakfast will be waiting when you come back up. Then we need to talk."
Faith tilted her head. "Such a gentleman," she chided.
"Not really," Dean promised. He hesitated, as if he wanted to say something more, but shook his head. "I wanted to say, last night… There wasn't really a good time. But, thanks."
Faith paused. "For what?"
Dean's brow wrinkled in thought. "For saving my brother," he said. His voice caught, rough around the edges. "I saw…I mean, if you hadn't taken that other guy out…You saved Sam. I won't forget."
Faith shrugged her shoulder, uncomfortable with the sincere look in those eyes of his. "Yeah, well, what kind of dick stabs someone in the back anyway?"
The kind of dick I stab in the front, she thought, bitterly.
"I'm trying to thank you," Dean said, his voice quieter.
She grimaced, holding down the answer circling in her head: "For what? For not killing Sam or for ending the world?"
Faith grabbed the door knob out of his hand, pulling it closed. "Don't," she said, before it snapped shut. She held her weight against the door, letting it hold her up a moment, and happy when she heard footsteps leading away.
Dean wasn't sure he'd ever met a woman worse at taking a thank you.
On the one hand, he was certain there was more to her story than the few scraps she'd fed them the night before, and her whole presence gave him a chill. Hell, she didn't even deny that she was a little different from the norm, but how different was something he still hadn't figured out. On the other hand, though, if she was some evil dick just waiting for a chance to cut their throats, why was she so damn bad at playing her part? 'Cause honestly, the demons they'd met were better at pretending to be damsels in distress than Faith.
If she wanted to seduce him to get closer to the hunters, then she was halfway there. But, Dean thought with a hard swallow, she could have already had him with his jeans around his ankles if that was a goal. Because, hot damn, those legs.
He was still shaking his head over the woman when he plopped down on the sofa near Bobby's desk. Sam had moved the map over to another table and was staring at it with such intensity that Dean was surprised when he cleared his throat.
"She okay?" Sam asked, eyes darting up.
"Hope Bobby left her some breakfast," Dean answered instead. "Lady's grumpy without her java."
Sam huffed out a laugh, but he sobered quickly. "I can't believe it let us leave."
"Let?" Dean asked. "You escaped, Sam. And it was mostly luck, just like it was for Ellen. Now, I'm not stupid enough to believe this is over with, but that doesn't mean we can't get ahead of whatever that bastard is planning. The fact that two of you got out instead of one, that wasn't what he wanted."
"Hopefully," Sam muttered. He took a deep breath, switching subjects. "Bobby's helping Ellen get settled for a bit before he starts gathering supplies, but they're both itching to move on this thing in Wyoming. So am I. If we really do have a chance of getting in front of this, the devil's trap might be it."
"Yeah, well, we kind of need to find a place to put our houseguest before we head out," Dean commented, but even he knew it sounded more like a question than a statement.
Sam raised a brow. "You trust her to come with us?"
"Nah. Doesn't trust me to stay behind though, right?"
The answer came from the doorway. Dean barely stopped himself from jumping out of his seat. Faith was standing in the door to the hallway, toweling out her wet hair. She was back in the baggy shirt they'd loaned her (and, Jesus, Dean didn't like the heat he felt when he realized he liked the way she looked in his shirt), but, thankfully, she'd slipped her pants on.
"Girl takes fast showers," Dean commented, breaking the tension.
"Like 'em slow, too, when the mood hits me," she said, a crooked smile on her face when she met his eye. "Long as they're hot, I'm good."
Sam coughed awkwardly into his sling. "Hey, Faith," he said, in greeting. "We were just going over a possible hunt."
"I picked up on that," she noted, then made herself comfortable on the edge of the desk. "Wyoming, you said, right? That where your Big Bad is headed?"
Dean pushed himself up off the sofa. "Demonic omens are lighting up the area, but they're all skipping out on one chunk of real-estate. We're thinking that we need to find out why. You interested?"
"Sure. Might also like to kick some ass," she replied. "This a 'keep your potential enemies closer' type situation?"
Dean winked at her. "Who wouldn't want to keep you close?"
"Seriously?" Sam rolled his eyes. He turned his attention back to Faith, wearing a tight frown. "Listen, Faith, this is going to be dangerous. You don't have to be a part of it. You could go the other way and not look back. We could give you some protection sigils, maybe some ways to hide your tracks from the demon for a while. You don't to be a part of this fight."
Sam was right. Dean dropped his gaze, ashamed he wasn't pushing her to do just that. There was barely a chance they'd make it out of this alive. Dragging someone else along was akin to murder.
"Yeah, hate to break it to you, Sam, but it's kind of my fight too," she replied.
Dean looked up to see a somewhat startled look on her face, like she hadn't expected to give that answer.
"Now it is," she said, as an almost whispered afterthought.
Dean didn't like to see that sad look on her face, especially with it directed at Sam, as if she pitied him. It was almost as good saying they didn't have a chance in hell of winning. Yet, she was tagging along anyway. Dean didn't know if that made her an idiot or a hunter.
He shook his head toward the kitchen. "Get you a bite while the eggs are warm. We're heading out before lunch."
She stared from one Winchester to the other, as if she was expecting someone to change their minds. "Alright then. I'll need to borrow some toys."
Sam nodded. "Bobby has you covered."
She disappeared around the corner, shouting back something about the coffeemaker. Bobby barked an answer from the other room, and Dean found himself shaking his head again in wonder.
"This could go sideways in a hurry," he said, mostly to himself.
"I just want it to be over."
The quiet confession from Sam left Dean feeling sick. He stepped over to the desk seat, gripping his brother's shoulder tightly. "We're going to get through this," Dean promised. It was empty, not a promise he could keep, but he willed it with all he had. His eyes flickered back up to the doorway. "Long as we're together."