Author Shona (aka Mara)
Disclaimer Neither of these are my sandboxes, I'm just playing in them for a while.
Fandoms Buffyverse, Leverage
Master Post here
Summary Let's go steal a knife...
"Xander?" Faith was losing count of the number of times this day was going to throw her curve-balls. "What the hell is going on here?" She demanded.
"More than you know. Hang tight, I'll be there soon."
"You're coming here? To Boston?"
"That I am. You gotta promise me something, Faith: don't do anything 'till I get there and try to explain things."
"Hey, you know me."
"Yes. I do. Please?"
The please threw her for a second, she wasn't sure if she'd expected him to try to order her to stand down. Asking her like this drove home how serious he was. "You know this guy?"
"Eliot? Yeah. I know him." Xander's voice was surprisingly flat. Clearly there was a lot more to that particular story. But hey, not the priority right now, she reminded herself. "Listen, he's good people. Even if he's not exactly… a good guy. Legally speaking. Per se. Look, this would be so much easier to tell you face to face."
"Can he be trusted?"
"D'you mean, can you trust him?"
"Do you trust me?" There was a time - not too long ago - when that would be a loaded question, but that was all in the past.
"I trust him."
"Good enough. And hey, you got an explanation for this wackiness then I'm all ears. Just get your ass here soon so's I can find out whose ass I need to kick."
"Just this once I can confidently say it isn't mine."
"Wouldn't be too sure about that, stud."
His gulp was audible over the call - man, she loved these new smart phones.
"Get here safe."
"Aw, I didn't know you cared."
"Ha! I don't, I just figure I got enough paperwork to deal with here."
"Yeah, yeah. You can't fool me. You're worried about me."
Faith snorted a laugh and hung up before whispering, "Always."
She turned to hand the phone back and found the entire crew seated at some of work counter facing away from her and looking up at the giant monitors. On them were displayed the online catalogue for the auction house, and what looked a lot like blueprints for the building. Faith's breath caught as the young guy - Hardison, she thought his name was - brought up the entry for the knife. Seeing it there on the screen, oh-so-much larger than life, brought all those memories flooding back. The feel of it in her hand; the weight; the loss as she'd been forced to leave it behind; the silver pain as it sliced into her…
Faith was dimly aware that the fugue state that had caused this whole thing was threatening to take over again. She could feel her hands clench into fists and she was getting ready to bolt for the door when the screens went abruptly blank and the older guy - Nate - spoke up.
"Everyone clear on the plan?" The group around him nodded their acknowledgment and Faith could feel her heartbeat start to return to normal. "Good. Let's go steal a knife then."
Faith could see Eliot's eyes narrowing as he stood and looked towards her. She forced herself to relax and met his stare calmly. "So what, you're all like thieves or something?" she asked.
"It's a bit more complicated than that-" Eliot began.
"Not something like, silly. We *are* thieves," the blonde said brightly - Parker, Faith remembered.
"Okay then…" she said slowly. "And you're going to steal the kn… the knife?" The thought of someone other than her getting their hands on it made her stammer.
"And bring it back here." Nate confirmed.
That loosened the tension she was feeling a little. They'd bring it here and she could take it from them. Thieves they may be, but there was no way they could stop her. And if they tried? Well she didn't need a knife in her hand to put them down. Even with the five-to-one odds, the only one who looked even remotely like a threat was Eliot, and she knew ways she could have him out cold without even breaking a sweat.… She started away from that thought. She couldn't really have considered that, could she? Even for the briefest of moments, that's not who she was. Not any more.
She blinked the thoughts away and said, "Ok, count me in. What do you need me to do?"
"Sit tight," Eliot said, "for now." She didn't miss the hint of anger in his eyes as he flicked a quick glance at Nate.
"Look, I don't know what you’ve got planned; but you're not cutting me out."
Nate held up his hands in what he probably thought of as a placatory way but which right now had Faith itching to smack him upside the head. "No one's planning on cutting anyone out. Trust me; we know what we're doing."
"And they saw you," Parker shrugged at her as if that was all that needed to be said.
"Well? If they saw me, then they sure as hell saw him." Faith snapped, pointing at Eliot who, she now realized, hadn't moved to the door with the rest.
"And that's why Eliot's going to be staying here too." Nate's voice was level but he seemed to be studiously avoiding looking at the other man. At least that explained the barely controlled anger she could feel radiating from Eliot. It was pretty clear nothing she could do - short of violence - would change the status quo, and the truth was she had promised not to do anything. Yet.
"Wait," she said. "You're going right now?"
"Strike while the iron's hot," Sophie said.
"But…" Faith stopped. She'd promised Xander she wouldn't do anything 'till he got here. But then… she wasn't doing anything… She tried to stop the thought, knowing it would come back to bite her - it always did, but it was out there before she knew it: what could possibly go wrong?
Eliot watched her a little warily. From what Harris had told him - which hadn't been much, typical of the boy - she was under some weird mojo that was screwing with her. So long as she was here out of the way, and away from that knife, she would be fine. But he hadn't missed that little… moment she'd had during the briefing. He'd been ready to take her down, if he'd needed to, even if he wasn't one hundred per cent sure he could have stopped her. Point was though, he shouldn't have had to. Not here.
She was keeping her back to him and he figured she was taking her time, trying to claw back some control. He felt for her, he really did. His own limited experience with the whole supernatural side of things had thrown him more than a few curveballs, but for someone like her, someone used to it, to lose it like this? Maybe he should cut her some slack.
"So, you and Harris, huh?" he asked, wondering just why that seemed important.
"Huh?" She turned and gave him one of the oldest looks he'd seen in a long time. "Xander and me? Nah, I burned that particular bridge a long time ago. We're just… us." Eliot didn't want to acknowledge the relief he felt at that. He told himself that getting involved with a Slayer was so far beyond a mistake that it almost came round to being a good idea. Almost. "What about you?"
The snort of laughter was out before he could stop it. "Me and Harris? Yeah right."
She flashed a quick grin. "Hey, you could do worse."
"Not my scene, sweetheart."
"Kinda figured as much." Was it his imagination or did her grin get just a little warmer? Bad idea. But maybe… "So how do you know him?" she continued.
Jameson Diamond Mine, Peoples Republic of N'djare. Some time ago.
Eliot was thrown back against the wall. Hard. He managed to get his arm up just in time to block the thrown punch, but the force of the relentless attack was driving him to the ground.
He shook his head, trying to clear the blackness creeping into the edges of his vision. He couldn't be seeing this. His attacker was just a kid, a scrawny pre-pubescent girl, but she had him beaten. He tried to push himself to his feet, tried to block the next punch, but he knew there was no way.
She was raining blows onto him and then her face just changed. He had no way of describing it. Her mouth was open - and a small part of his recognized there was some seriously messed up dental work there - as she lunged towards him again he realized she was going to bite…
And then she was just… gone. He blinked against the sudden shower of dust that was settling on him and knew he must have taken one too many blows to the head. There was no way an eye-patch wearing pirate holding a sharp stick was leaning over him with a worried look on his face.
No way in hell.
"Met a few years back. In Africa." He put as much censure in his tone as he figured he could get away with. It wasn't something like he liked to talk about.
Faith nodded, seeming to accept that. He wondered just how much Harris had shared with her about what had gone on in the mines, but dismissed it from his mind. Whatever the kid had said about then, what mattered was what he'd said about now. "Don't let her get too close to the knife. There's some kind of spell on it and she won't be able to stop it. Neither will you."
"And you're, what, doing him a favor?"
Eliot shrugged and moved over to the kitchen. "I'm good at finding things; sometimes I find them for him. Coffee?"
She followed him and perched on the countertop. "Yeah, black and strong as you can make it."
Maybe giving her caffeine wasn't the best idea, but what the hell, they had time to kill and it gave him something to do for now.
Eliot heard the voices coming along the corridor outside. The team was back earlier than he'd expected - no doubt he had a fair amount of teasing coming his way at how easy it had been for them. And yeah, so maybe he should have taken this to them, but he'd kept everyone away from this part of his world for so long it was ingrained. The door opened and Parker came through with a triumphant grin and the knife in her hand.
He was watching for it. Truth be told he'd been watching for it since he'd heard them return. But still, he almost missed it.
Faith was so fast.
One second she was curled up on Nate's couch like a contended cat; next second she had that damned knife to Parker's throat and backing out the door.
Eliot didn't think, he reacted, but even so, he knew he was outmatched. Knew he was going to lose this fight.
Not important. Getting her away from Parker - keeping the team safe - that was what mattered.
He came at her from the side, using his shoulder to charge into her with enough force to take her down. As they connected he reached out and *twisted* her knife hand away, hoping like hell Parker was quick enough to take the out.
He hit the ground hard but used the momentum to roll back to his feet, putting himself between her and the others. Faith's legs scythed out quicker than he would have thought possible and brought him crashing back down to the ground. She lunged for him and he just managed to bring his arm up to protect himself as she straddled him and stabbed the blade down straight for his face.
Eliot grabbed her wrist again, grimacing as he felt the blade slash across his forearm. It was like burning ice but he could tell it wasn't too deep, he'd somehow managed to deflect it enough to prevent any serious injury, but the blood dripping down into his eyes was going to blind him if he didn't manage to get her off him. He twisted his grip and managed to break her hold, the knife skittered down to the floor beside him and he could have sworn he felt the chill of the steel on his neck as it landed.
Faith's eyes flashed with somethingand he became aware of the noise coming from behind him. The fight had taken seconds, and only now were the others reacting. She had him pinned and he knew whatever they were going to do was going to be too late for them. He willed them to do the smart thing and run while they still could.
A punch connected with the side of his head, making him see stars and as he saw her draw her fist back again he knew this was the end.
Eliot tried to turn his head to see where the shout had come from but found himself frozen in place. As was Faith. There was an animal rage in her eyes as she struggled against whatever was holding her still, and then someone else moved into Eliot's eye-line. An eye-patch-wearing someone. Harris.
Wearing surgical gloves, Xander picked up the knife from where it lay and put it carefully into an ornate wooden box he seemed to have brought with him. The moment he closed the lid the fire vanished from Faith's eyes to be replaced by a look of abject horror.
"Uh, Xander?" Eliot said, "Little help here?"
"Huh? Oh, right the freezing spell thingy. Yeah. Thing is, I can't undo it."
"What?!" Eliot could only imagine what this looked like to everyone else - he was beaten, lying on the floor with a woman half his size straddling him with her fist raised. Not a picture he wanted them to keep in the family album. Or ever mention again.
"Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. It'll wear off though."
"Five minutes, give or take. I think"
"You think?!" Eliot closed his eyes. This was why he tried to keep this part of his life away from the team - he had no control over the situation. He was stuck here and anything could be happening to the rest of them… What if they needed him?
"You'd be Mr Harris? Nate Ford, pleased to meet you." Or they could be settling in for tea and scones until the whammy thawed out. Typical. He listened incredulously as they moved into the apartment, leaving him and Faith trapped – for now - just inside the doorway. Eliot had to admit, though, there were worse situations he could have been in.
Faith could do nothing but listen as Xander explained to these strangers what had happened to her. Somehow she wasn’t surprised to learn it all went back to Wilkins. His shadow had stretched over her life from the day she walked into his office so to find it coming back to haunt her all these years later was something she should have expected.
She’d looked up to him. So maybe he wasn’t the best role model, what with the killing and all the evil, but he’d been good to her. He’d treated her like family. He’d made her feel like she mattered.
And now it turned out that that was all a lie? That he’d done something to the knife to bind her will to him?
She felt her whole grasp of reality fall away. She had no control. She had never had any. Nothing she did mattered because the moment she let her guard down she became nothing more than a tool. Just a weapon.
Faith gradually became aware of a tingling in her limbs and she tensed herself, ready for what was coming. She’d only have a second, she’d just have to hope it was enough.
Before he expected it, Eliot realized he could move again. Of course, the only movement he was currently capable of was curling around the tight ball of pain he was left with after Faith’s knee connected squarely with his gut. Despite the agony, he figured he’d gotten off lightly, she could have connected a bit lower and he knew he’d be lucky to walk – or do other things – again.
The door slammed as he forced himself upright and he saw Xander running across the apartment. Faith had bolted.
Xander was starting to think this was a mistake. He was lost in a city he didn’t know, it was starting to get dark, and even if he did find Faith, what was he going to do? He was sure there wasn’t going to be a repeat of what had happened the first time he’d tried to reach out to her. She wasn’t going to hurt him. But she might just hurt herself.
Finally he made it down to the docks, knowing she’d steer clear of people he figured there was a good chance she’d be here. A rundown and seemingly abandoned warehouse a short distance from the others caught his eye and he wasn’t surprised to find the chain that had been keeping trespassers out lying broken on the ground. Swallowing past the lump in his throat he pushed the door open and slowly walked in.
"This is where it happened, you know." Xander turned towards the source of the voice and finally saw Faith sitting on the floor with her back against a worn strut. Her voice echoed hollowly. He took a couple of small steps towards her, noting as he did that she seemed to draw into herself the closer he got. He stopped.
"Where what happened?" he asked, although he had a horrible feeling he already knew.
"Bunch of us used to squat here, I know it's not much, but it kept the worst of the rain out." She turned her head and gestured towards a far corner of the long-abandoned warehouse. "That's where I used to crash. Then one night I skipped out on patrol and she came to read me the riot act, and that's where Kakistos caught up with her. She shouldn't have been here. She should have known better."
"She was your Watcher, she was looking out for you." He said gently.
Faith made a sound that was half laugh, half derisive snort. "She'd have been better not caring. She'd have lived longer anyway."
"Hey," Xander said, crouching down and willing her to look at him. "You can't know that."
"That's just it, I do know that. And you know something? She was just the first. First in a long line of people who died because they made the mistake of caring about me." She finally looked up at him. "You know that; you were nearly one of them. You can't trust me. And don't try to tell me about all the good stuff I've done. It doesn't matter. None of it does. I can't change who I am. Look what happened today."
"That wasn't you, that was the knife."
"You think that makes a difference? It was me. I did those things back then, and I nearly did them again today. Every single time it looks like I'm moving on, making up for it, it comes right back at me. It's never gonna get better. It’s never gonna end. I should be put down like a rabid dog."
"Not gonna happen," he said, more than a little scared at just how defeated she sounded. How broken.
"Hey, if you can't do it, I'm pretty sure your bodyguard's up to the job."
Bodyguard? Xander glanced back over his shoulder and swore softly. Spencer. Xander stood and headed towards the other man, "What the hell are you doing here?" he hissed.
"I was worried." Eliot was looking over Xander's shoulder, watching Faith.
"I can handle it!"
"Wasn’t you I was worried about."
"She… you… What?" Xander frowned, biting down the anger he was feeling. "What did you think I was going to do?"
"Hell, you work for some messed up organization that screws with girls’ lives – what was I supposed to think?"
"You were supposed to think that you know me."
"I know you. I don't know who you work for or what they're capable of. What they'd do? I have no idea. And y'know, everyone does things they're not proud of. Under orders." The censure was obvious and Xander knew this wasn't the time to revisit old arguments.
"It's not like that," he said, grateful he could say that and knowing in his heart that it hadn't always been the case. Xander glanced across to Faith who hadn't moved a muscle. Seeing her so lost cut him to the core, but he knew he wasn't the one who could fix her. Not this time. The compassion in Eliot's eyes though, maybe he could get through.
"Be careful." Barely controlled anger flashed in Eliot's eyes and Xander held his hands up in surrender. "Hey, I don't think she… no, I know she won't do anything that could hurt you. I'm just saying be careful you don't hurt her. She's not as tough as she likes to make out."
As he walked away, Xander couldn't help but wonder if he was making a huge mistake. He thought back. No, it wasn't a mistake. Eliot and Faith had a lot more in common than either of them probably knew. Both unbelievably broken, but hey, maybe they had enough crazy glue to fix each other. He shook his head in disgust. That was going to be such a profound thought, and then he had to think about crazy glue. Typical.
"So," Faith said quietly as Eliot sat down beside her.
"So," he replied.
"Y'know? Xander's a good guy, but there's something he keeps on forgetting." She raised her voice to just short of a shout. "Slayer's have really good hearing!"
"Ha! Just call me Dumbo, Lehane! I don't forget anything! No, wait! Make that Babar!" Harris's reply echoed around the warehouse and Eliot was glad to see a tiny smile flicker across Faith's face.
"Yeah, he's not so good with people, is he?" He said.
Faith sighed, "Oh, I don’t know. He gets me." She gave a little laugh. "He's one of the few who does."
"Is that right." Eliot was careful how he phrased that, if she wanted it to be an invitation, well that was up to her.
She waited for a while before speaking and he wondered just what she was thinking about before she said, "Yeah. It is." She shifted slightly, looked him straight in the eye. "He said he trusted you. That you're one of the good guys. Was he right?"
Just how was he supposed to answer that? He met her forthright gaze and knew anything but the truth would push her over the precipice she was clinging to. Eliot took a deep breath. "Am I a good guy? No. But I'm tryin' to be better. You say Harris trusted me? The last thing I'd ever do is let him down. And I know he's lookin' out for you."
"I coulda killed you." She nodded towards the gash along his forearm.
He shrugged. "Takes a bit more than that to kill me."
Faith watched him for a long time, searching for something. Eventually she seemed to find whatever it was and she nodded once. "Good enough," she said.
He allowed himself a tight little smile as he stood, brushing dust from his jeans. Eliot looked down at her. "Coming?" he asked.
She flashed her dimples and he had a second to register just how wicked her grin was before she said, "Takes a bit more than that to make me come, tough guy."
There was a shout of laughter from the doorway and Eliot wondered just how much Harris had heard. He held out his hand and helped her to her feet. "How about later we find out just how much more?" he teased.
"Oh like my life wasn't complicated enough?" Xander said as they approached him. "If you two start going at it like bunnies I’m never gonna get any peace am I…"
Faith smiled warmly this time and linked arms with both men and headed out into the night.