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"Hey, Giles?"

"Faith. Do you have any idea what time it is?"

Faith peered around the bathroom door, but the digital alarm clock on the table beside the bed was turned away from her. "Uh, nope."

"I believe your mobile has a clock."

"Forgot to look. Sorry. Anyways, I didn't mean to wake you. I just got a quick question."

"Well, I shall attempt to provide you with a quick answer. And then I shall attempt to get back to sleep. Quickly."

"Heh. Okay, listen. You ever hear of a demon with blades that come out of its knuckles?"

"A demon that shoots blades from its knuckles?"

"No, I mean, they're in the knuckles, so you can't see 'em till he angry. Then they kind of slide out. When the slicing n' dicing's done, they go back in. That sound like some kind of demon?"

"It certainly sounds…well, non-human, at any rate."

Faith pictured him pushing himself up against his pillows and fumbling for his glasses.

"Retractable blades, hmm. What else can you tell me about this creature?"

"Well…" Faith peeked around the door again. The motel room was dark except for a shaft of yellow light – probably from the lamp out in the parking lot – that came through the blinds where a slat was missing. It fell on the foot of the bed, illuminating the rumpled blanket, and one long, hairy leg sticking out from underneath them.

"Faith?"

"Hmm?"

"I need a little more to go on. Have you engaged the creature yet, taken note of its fighting style? Is it fully bipedal? Does it have scales? Horns? Is it—"

"Looks human, mostly."

"Mostly?"

"Apart from the blades, I mean. And the hair."

"It has a pelt?"

"No, it just kind of…" The mattress's rusty springs squeaked as the leg Faith was staring at straightened and the toes flexed. She ran the tip of her tongue over her dry bottom lip. "He's got funny hair, and his sideburns—"

"His? So, this creature is male?"

The figure on the bed rolled over and the blanket slid off him and onto the floor. "Uh, yeah. Pretty definitely. And it ain't allergic to tequila."

"I'll have to consult my books," Giles said. "It doesn't sound like any demon I've ever encountered or read about. It could be some sort of hybrid, or something unnatural – a spell gone wrong, for instance. No, it's no good. I'll never get back to sleep now. Hold on a moment. Faith, are you a safe distance from the creature? I'd rather you not engage – not until I've consulted – just to be safe – until we know what we're—"

Faith cut him off. "Too late for that. You do your research thing. I'll call you when I got more info." She flipped the cell phone closed and shoved it into the back pocket of her jeans. Then she went back to the bed, and, in one swift movement, straddled its occupant, grabbed his wrists, and pinned them to the pillow. "Morning, sunshine," she purred.

"Morning," he grunted. He tried to break her grip, but she held him fast.

Faith noted the crusted blood on his right bicep, but the knife wound he'd sustained only hours ago was completely gone. At least as far as she could tell in the crap lighting. "You heal fast."

He opened his eyes. "You dress fast. This would be a lot more fun if you took your pants back off."

"Listen," said Faith. "What happened…happened. You were drinking, I was drinking, someone pulled a knife on you, and I can't resist a good bar fight anymore'n I can resist a good fuck. So. I just gotta ask you one thing."

"We used a condom," he said languidly.

"No. I mean, that's good. Whatever. I don't need demon spawn. Or any kinda spawn. I'm just asking – are you some kinda demon? Or," she went on, remembering something Buffy had told her a while back, about that army guy she'd been screwing in college, "did someone give you those knives? Before you answer, you might wanna consider the fact that I can and will rip your dick off if I think you're lying. And I know you heal fast, but I just don't see you bouncing back from that one quickly."

"And you ask so nicely."

"You gonna answer nicely?"

To her annoyance, he laughed. Actually threw his head back and laughed in her face.

"Something funny?"

"Yeah," he said. "I had this plan to pin you down and find out if you were with Magneto."

"Nobody pins me down," said Faith. "Who the fuck is this Magneto?"

"You know that I can get free if I want."

"Yeah? Let's see."

He did try, and she could tell that his earlier effort had been half-hearted, but she was stronger. Not a whole lot, but enough. She hoped he wasn't a demon, not because he'd fucked her half-blind a couple of hours ago, but because she wanted him to do it again, and she had a thing about fucking demons. It was a Buffy thing, not a Faith thing.

"Now that that's settled," she said, when he'd relaxed beneath her, "how about you answer my question?"

"Well, since you already answered mine," he replied, "all right. I'm not a demon. Don't even believe in them. The knives were a gift."

"From who? The Initiative? Come on," she said, when he just kept grinning. She dug her fingernails into his wrists.

"You're going to have to let go at some point," he said. "Whether you want to rip off my dick or scratch your nose. You might wanna consider the fact that I can and will put all ten of these knives through your chest. And I know you heal fast, but I just don't see you bouncing back from that one quickly. Or," he went on equably, "we can talk. Like civilized people."

"Never been one for pretending." The lie smarted for some reason, and she was grateful for the darkness; he didn't need to see the color rise in her cheeks.

"So, we'll talk like uncivilized people," he said. "That's fine with me. I'm Logan."

She hesitated for a heartbeat or two. Then, slowly, she released his wrists and sat back. "Faith."

"Well, Faith." Logan laced his fingers behind his head and looked up at her. "No one got killed last night. Right?"

She caught the uncertainty in his tone and it hooked her. Whoever, whatever this guy was, he wasn't evil. Just kind of fucked up. Like her. "Just broke a few heads," she said. "I'm pretty sure. And a few chairs," she went on, as flashes of the fight came back to her. "And some windows. Maybe a table. The guy who tried to knife you – he got away. Did you recognize him?"

"I've never seen him before," said Logan.

"Think he was working for someone?"

"Could be. Could be he didn't like my sideburns."

"Or your sweet personality. This Magneto," said Faith. "Could he've been working for him? Or her? Or whatever the fuck this Magneto's supposed to be?"

"Him," said Logan. "And no."

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure. He was too…ordinary."

"Unlike me."

"Yeah."

"So," said Faith. As the room lightened and more of him was revealed, she found it increasingly difficult to think. He was younger than he'd first appeared in the bar's dim lighting. Not young, but not old, either. Handsome, she thought, but no, that wasn't the right word. Nice-looking, in a half-feral way. Sexy. He was hard. Why in hell had she put her jeans back on? "So," she tried again, pawing restlessly at her own denim-clad thighs, "we got ourselves a mystery. We should talk about it. Later. Over coffee. Put your hands on me."

He'd been waiting for it, she realized when he grabbed her waist and pulled her down to him. Probably from the moment she pinned his wrists. Her cotton tank top ripped easily in his hands. Considering it was her only shirt for the moment, she'd have been annoyed if she'd had the time. But then those big, callused hands were cupping her breasts, teasing her nipples through her bra, and his tongue, hot and thick, was in her mouth. He tasted faintly of cigars and tequila, and he smelled like leather and sun-struck asphalt.

"Take your pants off," he growled against her lips.

*

"Well, the good news," Giles said when he got Faith's voicemail, "is that I can't find your mystery creature in any of the books I have on hand. That's the bad news too, I'm afraid. I'll have to do some more research. Do be careful, Faith. Until we know what we're dealing with…"

6/9/08