"All teams, all teams – fall back to form perimeter."
Shit. Looked like the other shoe finally was dropping. 'Bout damn time. Faith's skin had been itching for months; so bad she'd almost asked for something from the infirmary.
Rainy night. Enclosed garden. Boy was smart, she'd give him that. But she'd faced smart before and she was still standing. Even if she wished different.
She scanned the area. He wanted her? Let him find her. It's what trouble did. First though she dumped the guns. Fun toys. She liked their power and kick. But this wasn't a night for toys. Tonight was personal. Another scan of the area--no need for bulky night vision goggles--and she found a spot that edged her lips up in a bitter grin.
Faith looked up, then squatted and jumped, landing quietly on the tree branch. He would find her, but only when she wanted him too. Her handler- no, her partner- had encouraged her improvisations, even smiling when it got the higher ups all steamed during debrief. She'd liked being part of a team. Was almost like SunnyD.
She'd been thinking a lot about the 'Dale lately. No help for it when she'd been paired with a blonde. As the second-tiered partner. But it had been cool. How many times does a girl get told she can help save the world? All she had to do was give up everything.
Been there, done that. But she'd been serious about redemption. And jail had few ways to burn Slayer energy. Being able to make a difference, always tempting.
Guess that's what the nuns were always jabbering about.
She breathed in, tasting the cold rain blended with damp earth and a hint of him. He might be all cool and collected. He was a goddamn stone at times, but she'd sparred with him. Tested his limits. Learned his scent.
'Nother thing she had learned: always be underestimated. That and never let them see you sweat. She pulled the back of her hand across her forehead. Then did a weapons check. She noticed her fingers didn't flinch as she touched the handle of the knife. Didn't cover her stomach after either.
Things had been good. First sign she shoulda bailed. Should have done before she got hurt, got dead. She held her breath, listening for him. He was moving. All quiet like, he was good – for a human. She'd been chosen for harder prey. There was only one person she couldn't run from.
She crouched, waiting..waiting and--
His reactions were quick. Hers were quicker. Finally she could unleash and let instincts rule. It ended with her drop kicking him cross half the yard. God that felt good.
Faith causally walked up to her prone victim, then squatted. "Sorry about that, Mike." He lay still, but she knew he'd heard her. "You're too good, couldn't afford to cut you any slack. Nothing personal."
"Go on and finish it." Drama queen. She stomped down on the part of herself that wanted his approval, needed to impress the one who'd so impressed her partner.
"Don't think so. Got an appointment with the rest of my life." She gestered to the wall and stood. Brave talk but she'd always been good at running away. Stuck inside a walled garden. She wasn't bloody Eve, he wasn't Adam even if she'd thought he hung the stars. She tried to exit with a B-like quip, but it fell flat.
"You killed her." Finally. Those words had been hovering around her like fog on the Charles for months. Figured he'd have the guts, and now broken ribs, to say 'em.
"Yeah, I killed her." She'd practiced this speech long enough to avoid inflections. "Too slow, too stupid, too careless..."
"She was none of those things." Righteous indignation from the guy who'd been ignoring her partner for months.
Faith looked up, letting the rain wash her cheeks before she turned to him again. "Wasn't talkin' about her." How could he think that? Her partner had taught her so much. "You blamed me, I knew you did, and you were right. But all this time you thought I killed her on purpose?" Shook her head. "Wasn't like that, Mike." She saw the wince he tried to hide at the nickname. That's what got a reaction?
"Tell me what it was like." Too cool for school, that was his report mode. Didn't matter. What she had to say, it wasn't for him. She echoed his tone. Pretended they were staring at each other in a briefing room.
"I tripped the trigger. I heard it go, but didn't pay attention. She heard it too, and she knew what it meant. She was just outside the door, she coulda got clear, but she tried to yank me out." Faith looked away, breaking report protocol. Everyone tried to drum things into her. The only things that stuck were knives. Knives and guilt. "Wasn't time."
"You were nowhere near." As if him speaking it made it true. She listened to his litany of 'facts'. "Unobstructed kill radius on that device was four metres. Even if her body took the main blast, you would have been dead or crippled. You had no wounds when you brought her back. You lie."
He didn't believe. Who would? Only one thing to do. She grabbed the knife from her shoulder harness and tore the sleeve off the body armour. No need to hide now. She made sure to lock eyes with Michael as she dug the tip into the soft skin above the wrist. The sharpness of the field blade slid up to her elbow, a suicide cut on anyone else.
"In an hour you won't see anything there." Her tone was bored. She knew this not from battles, but from earlier attempts. "If I sliced to the bone, it'd be a scar by morning and no sigh at all the day after."
She wiped the blade on her pants, always take care of your weapons isn't that what they taught? Only her partner had bothered to take care of her. "That wasn't somethin' I could put in my report. You guys got a real kick-ass program, Mike, but you never dealt with anything like me, and I made damn sure you never found out what you had on your hands."
"You're saying that what happened to her was an accident."
So murder or accident? She'd done both before and this, this was different. "She's dead 'cause she trusted me. Would of died in her place, if I could."
She let the knife swing in her right hand, blinking away what had to be the rain. "Had to happen, sooner or later. I screw up everything. But this." She paused, making sure there was eye contact. "Wasn't what I wanted."
"So why run?" He was still spread across the ground, yet spoke with years of command. "You were exonerated, put back into operations. You tried to break free, to get clear of us. Why?"
"I'm leaving cause she couldn't." He deserved to know. Why did she always end up as thirds in soap opera relationships? "You have any idea what a great deal I lucked into with her? I'd killed people, and I was ready to pay for it...and then you guys yank me outta stir and tell me, 'Guess what? You get to serve a life sentence and do some good while you're at it.' Dream come true; least, it was the best dream I could come up with." As twisted as MP-5 could be, it was clear sailing after being caught in the Council's game. "It was different with your lady, though. She talked sometimes, not very often, but she wanted out. Couldn't let go of the idea. She said once she had a gun in her mouth and was taking up the slack on the trigger, it mattered to her that much." She watched as his breathing changed subtlety, as he tensed and relaxed muscles that no ordinary eye could catch. Faith delivered her last blow. "She stayed for you. Stayed because of you."
"You were jealous." Give the man a prize. But she'd learned long ago that jealousy lead nowhere profitable. Not for people like her.
She tried for causal. "Her dreams were better'n mine, even if it wasn't for me. But I owe her, so I'm gonna try and live hers out for her. Different kinda life sentence." Her fourth: Slayer, Jail, the Para-Ordinance, and now freedom. "I'm sorry. You and her, it was...I wish...I'm sorry." She'd seen in Nikita the same incandescent fury of B whenever Angel was threatened. Same old story no matter where she went. She needed to learn to avoid blondes. She looked him over once more then turned towards the nearest wall. Only to pause as he spoke softer than before.
"She told me something once. She said that you... I didn't understand but she thought that you--"
Why was Mr. Tightlips babbling? Too damn close, she only realized her guard was down when his weaker hand hit a nerve cluster the Organization hadn't bothered to mention. Stunned, but not killed. She became aware as a knife bit into her ass. Not a mortal wound, so she took her turn at possum.
A gun was fired, again not at her. What the hell was Michael playing at? He had her dead to rights, but dead didn't seem on the agenda.
The radio in her ear crackled, echoing the words said nearby. "Another team penetrated the garden. Four of them. They're dead. She escaped; she's wounded, I think mortally."
There was a pause. What was his plan? Faith ignored the stone pushing into her thigh. Ignored the rain still splashing around her. Kept her breathing steady and listened.
He stood a few feet from her. "Interrogation is no longer an option. Trigger the implant."
Implant? Her partner had mentioned unseen leashes. Explained the dime-sized hole in her ass. That sucker would take days to heal. His near silent footsteps paused again.
"Live. Live for Nikita." Looks like she'd fallen in the middle of another star-crossed love. She lay on the cold ground, letting the last of the rain wash away her entanglements. This storm was almost over. Her next sentence was about to begin. Alone.