The children were once again running through the streets of some town so small and remote it didn't appear on any map when they saw Olaf and the Hook-Handed Man blocking the end of the street. Knowing the White-Faced Women were behind them and could turn the corner any moment and call for them, the kids quickly ducked into a dark alley they hadn't seen before.
They were distracted looking over their shoulder to make sure Olaf and his troupe hadn't caught sight of them that Violet didn't notice someone walking in their direction until she crashed into them. The stranger automatically wrapped an arm around her so she wouldn't fall or drop Sunny, but her other arm went to reach something behind her back. It was a young woman, who seemed surprised as she looked at them.
She wasn't too tall, but still towered over them. She wore combat boots and all her clothes were black. She had a tattoo on one of her biceps and her makeup was dark and heavy. Dark waves of hair went down her back. There was something about her that demanded attention, but there also was a slight roundness to her face that meant she was younger than she appeared.
"Dark alleys aren't the best place for children to hang out in. What brings you three here?"
The Baudelaires felt scared and exhausted, and they must've looked like it too, because this girl sounded worried but didn't lower her guard. Violet was most tired from carrying Sunny and running at the same time, so it was Klaus who answered as his sister struggled to catch her breath.
"There's a man named Count Olaf chasing us. He and his lackeys are here. Please let us go so we can hide."
The woman -girl? teen?- stared at them for a couple more seconds before stepping away from them and pointing at one of the alley's brick wall a few feet away.
"I know the best place to hide around here. Follow me, kids."
The siblings looked at each other questioningly, because the alley was a dead end with no doors, so this lady might be crazy and there was something weird about her, but after a beat they went after her. They didn't need words to agree that no matter who this person was and where was she taking them, it couldn't possibly be worse than letting Olaf catch them again.
The Strange Lady stood in front of the brick wall, but before they could question her, she knocked some bricks in what looked like a pattern and the apparently solid portion of the wall in front of them turned into a door that swung open. Strange Lady laughed at their faces before waving them inside.
As soon as they crossed the door it closed behind them, leaving them in what looked like a living room with several couches, a table, and a fridge. There was only one door and it was open, showing it was the bathroom. There were no other visible exits, but since they had just seen a door appear out of nowhere, they might've been anything behind those walls.
"Grab anything you want from the fridge and sit down anywhere. This place is impossible to find unless you know it's there and even then you need to know the opening pattern to get in. You're safe here. I'm Faith, by the way. A friend of mine is tracking down a rare book and I'll be here until she finds it. That might take a while so get comfortable."
Strange Lady Faith was already sitting but stood up as soon as they settled on the couch in front of hers. She walked over to the fridge, opened it and started grabbing as much as she could fit in her arms. Sunny made a noise that probably meant [I want some], but Violet and Klaus were trying to get their stomachs to stop grumbling at the sight of food. Meanwhile, Faith dropped everything on a nearby table before going back to the still open fridge, taking some cans and bottles out, kicking the door of the fridge closed, and putting the drinks in the table too. Then she pushed the table in front of them, grabbed a soda and a bag of Hot Dog Bites and sat in the same place she was before.
"Come on, kids dig in. This is here for guests to eat, and you are my guests now. I also know those looks. You're hungry. So eat something and relax. You're safe here."
"Thank you, Faith. I'm Violet Baudelaire and these are my brother Klaus and my sister Sunny."
The Baudelaires couldn't help but glance at each other when she said they were safe, because they had heard those words many times before, but they had never been actually true or lasted long. Their stomachs growled again and they decided to not say anything else and just start eating. Chocolate, candy, sandwiches, vegetables and sodas had never tasted so good. They tried to slow down, but it had been so long since they could get their hands on solid, non-expired food that they finished everything without realizing. Almost instantly Faith brought more food again so they ate until they were full and then more, not knowing when would be the next time they would eat. They also made sure to sneak some of the smaller, packaged edibles into their pockets.
When Violet opened her eyes and found herself in a strange room, she started panicking out of habit. Then she felt Klaus toss in his sleep, saw Sunny laying on his chest and remembered what happened earlier. They must've fallen asleep after eating, their exhaustion catching up to them as soon as they felt the smallest semblance of peace. There was a fuzzy blanket covering them, and she realized Faith must've tucked them in. Violet looked around to thank her and suddenly realized she was nowhere to be found.
That fact on itself didn't surprise her, she had mentioned she was only waiting for her friend. What bothered Violet was that they didn't know a way out of this room and she didn't even remember which was the wall with the hidden door they came through. Faith was the only one who knew they were there and she was already gone. She was considering waking Klaus to help her think of a solution when she heard a click and a whirring nose behind her. She turned carefully to not wake her siblings up and froze when she saw Faith walk in carrying three large paper bags. She was smiling but frowned once she caught sight of Violet's face. She quickly rushed over and knelt in front of the sofa so she would be eye to eye with the younger girl.
"What's wrong? Are you hurt? I have medicine and bandages if you need some."
Relief and frustration hit Violet at once, and she distantly noticed she was shaking, but when she talked her voice gave away how scared she had been.
"I woke up and you were gone and I thought we'd be trapped here with no way out."
"Sorry. You were so tired I didn't want to wake you guys up. I left a note on the table but I should've thought of how you'd react while I was out."
Faith looked regretful but there was a soft understanding on her eyes that helped Violet calm down again. She didn't ask why she reacted so extremely or why she jumped to conclusions so quickly, simply handing her a paper with some scribbles on it and a small diagram explaining how open the door from the inside.
"I went to talk to my friend and get us some proper dinner and a couple more things, but I left that in case you had to leave before I came back. I'm sorry I frightened you."
Only then did Violet notice the smell wafting from one of the paper bags still in Faith's arms. Her mouth watered and her stomach grumbled in agreement, making Faith smile as she stood up and put that bag on the table before offering the other two to Violet.
"I also got you some clothes. I didn't know your sizes so they might be a little too big. I remember how uncomfortable staying in the same dirty clothes for days can be so I thought you might want to change. On the bathroom there's a shower you can use too. You can clean yourself up while I prepare everything for dinner and then we can wake your siblings up. Is that okay with you?"
Violet didn't like letting Klaus and Sunny out of her sight, specially with someone they met earlier that day, but so far Faith had been nothing but nice to them, going out of her way to get them food and even new clothes. She also didn't try to order them around, instead asking for her opinion before making a decision that involved them. That was what made Violet decide she would trust her for now. That and a hot shower and clean clothes sounded too tempting.
After taking a shower that lasted longer than strictly necessary, she put on the clothes Faith chose for her and laughed. It was obvious the older girl wasn't used to shopping for someone else, specially someone with a different style. The dark red jeans were too big and went past her ankles, but cuffing the bottoms to make it fit was easy and a wide leather belt made sure the pants didn't fall off. There were two plain shirts, a red short-sleeved one and a green long-sleeved one, a blue flannel and a brown leather jacket. She put on the green shirt and blue flannel and thought of Faith at a clothing store, wandering in the children section and grabbing everything she thought was approximately their size. The image made her smile as she exited the bathroom and found the table perfectly set for dinner, Klaus smiling softly and staring at Faith, who was holding Sunny as she told her how she hadn't had Vietnamese food in years. What surprised Violet was that she wasn't making a stupid baby voice, rather talking like she knew Sunny could understand her.
[Did you shrink?]
Of course Sunny would point out how she had to roll up her sleeves to keep them from going past her hands. At least Faith wouldn't understand-
"Yeah, that was my fault. I got the wrong size, and I thought better a little too big than something that might not fit."
Klaus' eyes widened in shock and Violet was sure hers did the same.
"You understand Sunny?"
Faith winked at Sunny, not realizing how surprised the other Baudelaire children were.
"Yeah. You are one very smart toddler, being so coherent already. Now, would you two rather have dinner now or take a shower first?"
After a very tasty yet awkwardly silent dinner, Klaus went to shower and tells Violet that he'll take care of Sunny tonight. So she helps Faith label and put the leftovers on the fridge, but ends up asking something that was nagging her all day.
"Aren't you curious? We told you a man named Count Olaf was after us but all you did was taking us to a place to hide, feed us and buy us clothes without asking anything."
Faith finished cleaning the table and went to sit in the couch, patting the seat next to her. Once Violet stopped pacing and joined her, she smiled sadly.
"There was a time I was running from someone too. I remember how terrifying and exhausting it was. Always wondering how far away they were, not being able to sleep a full night or stay in the same place too long. It actually wasn't too long ago. So when I saw you three I just gave you what I could and thought you might need. What you choose to tell me or when is your decision. I won't force you to explain yourself, I just want to make sure you get what I couldn't."
Hearing this, Violet started sobbing, and Faith awkwardly hugged her. She didn't try to make her stop crying, just held her as she let herself break down and feel all the fear and stress she had been trying to suppress. After a while, Klaus and Sunny appeared wearing their new clothes and wordlessly sat next to her. Violet pulled away from the hug and held Klaus' hand while Sunny settled on her lap. Taking a deep breath and steeling herself, she began their story.
"We were together at the beach when Mr. Poe told us our parents died in the fire that destroyed everything we had-"
Klaus had to take over the story whenever Violet got too emotional, and she did the same for him. Without clocks none of them could tell how long it took, but for the Baudelaires it felt like hours but not long enough at the same time. How could all the tragedies they had lived through take so little time when it felt like years had passed since Mr. Poe first told them the news.
"-and that's how we ended up running into the dark alley where they crashed into you."
Faith had been quiet while they spoke, so they didn't know what to expect from her. Maybe to get up and yell at them to get out, or to laugh and call them liars with too much imagination. Instead, she took a deep breath and asked if she could hug them. Three shy nods later, she carefully wrapped her arms around the three broken kids next to her.
"It's terrible that all that happened to you. You are incredibly strong, going through so much and still keep moving on. There really is no one left who will take care of you?"
Pulling away, she saw the three of them shake their heads sadly.
"Okay. Now it's my turn to tell you my story. But no matter how crazy or impossible you think it is, you'll have to wait until it's over to ask any questions."
The children doubted there was something they'd find impossible after their many encounters with Olaf, each weirder than the previous one. She started her story and they felt bad for her when she told them about her alcoholic mother, abusive father and the several foster homes she was in. Then she talked about the first time she came across a vampire and they blanked.
"-things would've been way worse for me had it not been for Jenny. She saw how many issues I had and instead of ignoring them she took me in and helped me the best she could. At first I stayed in Sunnydale because I felt like I owed her and the least I could do was help them fight evil. Then I realized the town I was trying to protect had become my home thanks to her and the rest of the gang over there. She's the friend I'm waiting for. She's trying to track down a book that could help with a demon situation back home and I came with to keep her company for the trip. Now, any questions?"
The Baudelaires stared at each other for a while. On one hand, Faith sounded convinced of what she said, but most crazy people believed they said the truth. On the other hand, she had been nothing but good with them and she didn't try to hide what she did wrong in the past, which indicated she was being honest. Klaus was the first one that dared to speak.
"That all sounds improbable but possible. You at least know too many details for it to be a joke you just made up. But we have never encountered or even heard of any of the creatures you mention outside of fiction. We'd like to see some evidence."
Faith didn't even hesitate before standing up, walking over to the couch she had sat on at the beginning that was now empty, and lifted it over her head.
"Asking for proof is always a smart move. Is this enough? As a Slayer, my strength is enough to match and beat vampires and other monsters."
Sunny clapped excitedly while Violet and Klaus nodded, already processing the new information and changing their view of reality to include it.
"I've dusted dozens of vampires on my own. With the rest of the gang we've stopped apocalypses, fought gods and destroyed demons. One of my friends is a witch that can see people's auras and identify them no matter what they look like. My point is, we could take on an evil Count and his human lackeys, no matter how insane they are or how cunning he thinks he is."
The children had just heard Faith say they had stopped apocalypses, gods and demons, but what they couldn't believe was the last part. Violet and Klaus talked over each other, not being able to even finish their sentences. Sunny, on the other hand, didn't even stop to think about it.
"Are you saying-?"
"Do you mean-?"
Faith was smiling nervously but warmly. She nodded before realizing she was still lifting the couch and carefully put it down again.
"Yeah. Do you want to come stay with me in Sunnydale?"
They still had to answer when the wall-door opened and a gorgeous woman walked in. She looked tired and was smiling warmly while she carried a giant, dusty old book that looked incredibly heavy.
"Hello, I'm Jenny Calendar. Please call me Jenny, Ms. Calendar was my father."
They heard Faith mutter 'still not that funny', but realizing this was the friend she had talked about and she was smiling, they stood up and politely introduced themselves too. Jenny's smile widened.
"Well, has Faith filled you in about our lives and our town?"
All she got in reply were affirmative nods.
"Has she invited you to come back with us?"
They nodded again, slightly more hesitant. They were expecting her to tell them it had been a mistake and that they couldn't come, because when had been the last time something had worked out in their favor? Instead, she kept smiling warmly at them.
"I hope you said yes then. She came find me earlier and told me there were three children she wanted to help and that maybe we could take them with us to do so. I immediately agreed. You can fill me in about the rest of the story while we go, if you want. It's a long trip home and there will be more than enough time to talk in the car, but we should get this book to Sunnydale as soon as possible. It'd be so much quicker if it was digital!"
Faith coughed a little to get her attention.
"Jen, I think you had too much coffee and not enough sleep. Slow down. And you know how Giles doesn't want to risk another Malcolm."
Turning towards them again, Faith nervously cleared her throat before smiling yet again.
"So what do you say? Want to come live with us on vampire-filled town above a literal Hellmouth? We have fun, it's never boring and we will kick that creepy Count's ass if he even dares show up."
The Baudelaires stepped away and whispered to each other for a few moments before coming back. It hadn't been a hard choice at all: vampires and demons didn't sound that bad when they meant getting away from Olaf, going to somewhere he wouldn't know about, staying with nice people that wouldn't die because of them and could protect themselves... They only stopped to grab the bags Faith brought them earlier that contained their old clothes before walking over to stand next to Faith.
"When can we leave?"
Faith smiled at Jenny before turning towards them and carrying the bags for them. Meanwhile Jenny pressed her palm against over a mark in the wall, which made the door open again. It was a dark night outside, but to the Baudelaires it looked like their chance at a brighter future.
"We can go right now."
The children stepped outside first, Violet carrying Sunny and holding Klaus' hand. Faith and Jenny followed after them, walking each at one side of the kids, making them feel protected even without realizing.
Maybe for once something was going to work out in their favor...