Summary: After the fall of Sunnydale, they all find themselves searching for a place of their own in the world. Old friendships are reconnected, new ones are formed, and they find themselves growing as a family while facing the evil that lurks behind every dark corner.
The bus rolled down the road; dusk was upon them now and the memories of Sunnydale were left behind. It had been nearly four hours since they all had defeated the First and the buzz from the fight had long died off. The bus was quiet aside from the soft whispers between the girls as they wondered what would happen next. Faith sat alone in the back, tapping her lighter aimlessly against her knee as she stared blankly out the window, thinking of just what she would do next.
The only thing she could think about at that moment was finding a bed to sleep in. Her body was aching, her mind exhausted, and the adrenaline pumping through her veins was unlike anything she'd ever felt before. She didn't want to worry about Robin too much and that was why, after they'd been on the road for an hour, she'd made her way to the back of the bus to be alone.
With a soft sigh, she turned away from the window and let her eyes drift over the others around the bus. There were about a dozen of them and she could see Buffy sitting at the front talking quietly to Robin and Giles while Xander sat behind the wheel, relieving Giles from driving for a little while. They were heading north and they had yet to pass by any signs of civilization aside from the odd rest stop every twenty miles or so. From what she had overheard a half hour before, they were going to figure out what was going to happen as soon as they reached the next town.
Faith stretched out in the seat before resuming her slouched position, knees up against the back of the seat in front of her. She'd been thinking a lot since they got back on the bus. She declared to herself that she was going to start over as this was a new beginning for all of them. Whether she was going to be welcome to stick around with Buffy and the Scoobs, she didn't care. Either way, she'd find a place to go, a place to move forward in her life and leave her past as far behind as she could. She'd even considered heading down to LA to help Angel, but quickly scrapped that idea when she realized this was her time and her chance to prove she could go on with her redemption on her own.
Up ahead was a rest stop, the neon 'gas and food' sign flickering against the night sky. The two-lane highway had been empty aside from the odd car that passed by them. Faith was itching for a cigarette and she was already up and out of her seat by the time Xander pulled into the dirt parking lot and stopped next to the gas pumps. Those who weren't injured got off the bus to make a trip to the bathrooms and to grab some food from the small, dingy diner next to the gas station. Faith stood by the road and lit her cigarette, watching as the smoke curled up into the air.
"Can I bum one off of you?" Kennedy asked as she stood next to her. Faith said nothing as she offered her a cigarette and turned to look up at the stars in the sky. "Thanks."
"No problem," Faith shrugged as she put the pack back in her jacket pocket. "Didn't know you smoked."
"I don't, really. After the day we just had, I need something to calm down."
Faith just nodded, keeping her eyes trained on the stars above. She wasn't in the mood to talk and thankfully Kennedy noticed that and walked away, leaving her standing there alone. She turned to look back at the bus and then over at the diner. The girls who had gotten off the bus had scraped together some money of their own to buy as much food as they could afford. Even with the after effects of slaying, Faith couldn't work up an appetite. She was just too tired to care about food now. Xander and Giles were still on the bus from what she could see, making sure the injured girls and Robin were as comfortable as they could be.
Her eyes drifted over to the payphones where Buffy stood talking quietly to whomever she decided to call. Her first guess was Angel since none of them had contacted him to let him know they'd survived. It was the first time since she'd come back to Sunnydale to help them with the fight that Buffy looked less stressed. In fact, when she thought about it, Buffy had always seemed to be wound up too tight. She wondered if that would change now, but she had her doubts. Buffy would always be Buffy no matter where they were or what was happening in her life. It was just who she was. She had figured her out years ago, at least she thought she had, and so far they'd managed to avoid any fights that would ruin the little progress they'd made in the last week.
Faith turned back to face the deserted road, letting her thoughts wander and consume her. She tried not to think about Buffy. Those thoughts always led to anger and deeply rooted hate she was trying to get rid of. A fresh new start meant leaving those feelings behind and she was fully determined to stick to starting over, even if it destroyed everything she'd ever been. Her time in prison had given her a chance to reflect back on herself, and at those rare moments she was able to truly see what she'd become and she hated it. She didn't want to go back and Angel had briefly told her he would somehow take care of things so she wouldn't have to go back.
She took one last long drag of her cigarette before flicking it into the ditch. Taking a few deep breaths, she began walking back to the bus. Robin didn't look good. She could tell by the way that he kept shivering with every breath he took. He'd lost a lot of blood and from what she knew the worst of it had stopped, but he needed medical attention and he needed it hours ago. She sat in the seat behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"How are you feeling?"
"Horrible," he laughed softly.
"We're not far from the next town," Giles said quietly as he sat down in the driver's seat and turned to look at them. "An hour at most. As soon as Xander finishes fuelling, we'll be back on the road."
"What's the sitch with a place to stay for the night?" Faith asked as she leaned back in the seat and nervously picked at the small hole forming in her jeans just above the left knee. "I know we're all pretty much strapped for cash right now."
"I've got things covered," Giles responded calmly. "I made several phone calls throughout the last several days working out a plan just in case what happened in Sunnydale did indeed happen. In short," he paused as he took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, clearly as exhausted as everyone else, "I've managed to get in contact with the few remaining members of the Council. I've had some funds transferred to an account."
"So, we're covered?"
"We are," he nodded. "I wouldn't worry about it, Faith. You can choose to stay with us for a while until you figure out what you want to do. The plan is to head to Cleveland and Buffy is already on board with the idea. If you would like, you can come along with us and give us a hand there. That Hellmouth is twice as active as Sunnydale and we will need all the help we can get."
"I'll tag along," she said after a moment. "I mean, if Buffy is cool with that."
"If I'm cool with what?" Buffy asked as she stepped back onto the bus.
"Cleveland," Faith replied as she looked up at her. "You cool with me coming along?"
"It's your decision. If you want to, I'm sure we could use your help there."
Her voice was cold; she was physically and emotionally exhausted, and it was clear she wasn't in the mood to talk just as much as Faith wasn't. She didn't let Buffy's mood affect her, the lack of enthusiasm understandable for a couple of reasons. One being the exhaustion from the fight against the First and the army of Turok-Han and the other being the fact that she knew Buffy wasn't too comfortable having her around again. For whatever reasons Buffy felt that way, she would respect that. She couldn't expect their overall relationship to change overnight.
Faith made her way to her seat at the back of the bus as the rest of the girls got back on, chattering happily now that they had food to fill their empty stomachs. She just closed her eyes and let the voices around her fade out as she looked forward only to climbing into a nice warm bed and sleeping for as long as she could. With everything she had gone through in the last several weeks, sleep was at the top of her list. Everything else such as a long, hot shower, a good meal, even a night of sex—with whomever she could find that would satisfy her urges and needs—would have to wait.
She dozed on and off for the next hour, opening her eyes just as Xander pulled up to the small hospital. She headed to the front of the bus and helped Giles get Robin off the bus and inside the small emergency room. The doctors and nurses there scrambled to get those injured into beds and get the medical attention they so desperately needed. Of all of them, Robin was the worst. The nurses informed Giles and Faith, who stood off to the side together, that Robin's chances of survival were low. She felt numb hearing that, numb because of those whispered promises Robin had made in that first hour they'd been on the road. Promises of surprising her, showing her what it was like to be with a real man instead of the scumbags she'd been with before.
She needed a cigarette, so she left the emergency room and headed for the bus. She stood near the back and lit a cigarette with a shaky hand. Those that weren't in need of medical care had stayed on the bus, but she hadn't seen Buffy, Dawn, Willow, or Xander inside, nor were they on the bus when she'd come out. Giles came outside a few minutes later and stood next to her as she took one long drag after the other.
"Is Wood gonna be okay?"
"I'm afraid we don't know yet. He's in quite bad shape. Only time will tell," Giles replied as he turned to look at her. He looked at loss for words as he gave her a sympathetic smile that even she could tell was forced.
"I'm going to take everyone else to the motel a couple blocks away in a few minutes. You didn't by any chance see..."
"No," she said quickly as she flicked her cigarette and quickly lit another.
"You wouldn't by any chance have..."
She tossed her pack of cigarettes to him before he had the chance to finish talking. He smiled again, this time it was more genuine as he took out a cigarette and leaned into the flame as she held it out to him. He nodded his thanks as he leaned against the bus and joined her in staring up at the stars in the sky. She knew how strained her relationship—no, acquaintance—was with everyone, but she had a glimmer of hope that maybe that would all begin to change.
"So, how long are we sticking around these parts for?" Faith asked, breaking the silence that had settled between them.
"A couple of days at most," Giles replied. "We all need some decent rest before we drive to Cleveland and unfortunately, I don't think the bus will make it there. Xander suggests we try to sell it and buy a van. It may just be the only way to get us there in one piece."
"Would be a little cramped with all of us, don't you think?"
"Not everyone is coming with us. Most of the girls, they er, they have families to go back to."
"So then it's just the Scoobs and us? Kennedy is coming, isn't she?"
"Unfortunately," Giles chuckled softly.
Faith laughed and took one last drag of her cigarette before flicking it to the ground. "She's really not all that bad; then again I haven't spent the last what, six months, in a house full of teenage girls."
Even in the short time she'd spent there, it'd driven her insane. The only time she managed to get some alone time was that night she spent in Buffy's bed after the explosion. It wasn't all bad, either; they'd hashed a few things out, yet they were still a long way from ever becoming what she'd consider friends. They had that chance years before and she'd gone and screwed that up the first chance she got. All in all, if she was going to stick with the decision to go along with them to Cleveland, they'd have plenty of opportunities to work through their past.
Just down the road she saw Buffy and the others walking out of a small restaurant carrying a couple bags of food. She just got back onto the bus and went back to her seat and sat down, anxiously tapping her lighter against her thigh as she waited for the others and Giles to get back on the bus. She just wanted to sleep and the level of exhaustion her body was going through was beginning to make her rather cranky. Her stomach growled when she smelled the burgers the others had brought back onto the bus and she rubbed her stomach, hoping the hunger pangs would go away.
The ride to the motel was a few short blocks across the small, sleeping town. Those left climbed off the bus and stood around outside while Giles and Willow went inside the office to get them all rooms for the night. Xander paced back and forth a couple of times before walking over to Faith and handing her a greasy bag.
"Thought you might be hungry," he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Thanks," she smiled at him as she pulled the still warm and very greasy burger out of the bag and took a bite, her stomach growling in anticipation of finally being able to eat.
Xander smiled back at her as he leaned against the bus. Faith wasn't sure what to say to him, especially not after knowing he'd lost Anya during the fight. Her heart broke for him since she knew—at least from the things she'd heard from Angel and from listening to the whispers around the Summers' house—that he loved Anya more than anything else. Her heart broke for herself having never known what it was like to love anyone. She'd never loved her mother when her mother had been alive, nor had she loved any of the men or the women she'd randomly picked up in bars and clubs and brought back to her place for the night. She never had friends, so she didn't even know what that kind of love was like.
She was used to the loneliness in her life, the emptiness, and especially the darkness she was going to damn well make sure never crept back and took her over ever again. Her path to redemption would be a long one, but she'd make it since she knew she was strong enough to deal with whatever life would throw her way next. She couldn't just forget the past and move on, but she'd deal with her inner demons alone and work on becoming the person, the woman, she knew she could eventually be.
"Deep thoughts?" Xander asked as he flashed a lopsided grin her way when she blinked and looked over at him. "That deep, huh?"
"Whatever," she shrugged nonchalantly as she took another bite of the burger.
"Aren't we all," Xander chuckled softly, pushing himself off the side of the bus as Giles and Willow came out of the office.
Giles gathered them all near the bus, explaining to them there weren't enough rooms to accommodate them all. Almost everyone paired off, got the keys to their rooms, and headed straight for them. Giles looked at Buffy, then over at Faith, and with a heavy sigh he motioned Faith to come closer.
"One room left, unfortunately."
"Great, we're roomies," Faith smirked at Buffy, hoping she'd detect the hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"It has two beds?" Buffy asked as she held out her hand for the key.
He nodded as he dropped the key into her hand and gave her a soft smile before walking to the room he'd be sharing with Andrew and Xander.
"Huh," Buffy exhaled as she and Faith walked to the last room on the far end of the small motel. "I don't want to talk to you, and I don't want to do anything but shower and sleep."
"Same here, B. Not gonna hear any arguments from me."
"Since we're staying here for a couple of days," she sighed as she stopped at the door and slid the key into the lock, "I don't want you bringing any strangers to the room. I know what you're like, Faith. I know that part of you hasn't changed."
"Whatever, wasn't gonna anyway."
Buffy just raised an eyebrow at her before she unlocked the door and stepped into the room first. Faith hovered in the doorway, watching as Buffy took off her jacket and placed it on the bed closest to the door. She let out a soft sigh as she walked to the other bed and sat down on the edge. She knew she should feel offended by what Buffy had said to her, but the truth did hurt sometimes and frankly she was just too tired to care. She untied her boots and slid them off, letting out a relieved sigh as she lay back on the bed.
"This sucks," Buffy said under her breath as she slid off her own boots and laid back on her bed. "We don't even have a change of clothes. Why didn't anyone bother packing anything?"
"Nobody knew the Hellmouth was gonna swallow up the whole town," Faith replied as she turned her head to look over at her. "Shit happens, right?"
Buffy said nothing more to her as she reached for the lamp that sat on the nightstand between the two beds and shut it off. Faith blinked a couple of times, giving her eyes a moment to adjust to the sudden darkness before she pulled back the covers and worked her way under them. It wasn't the most comfortable bed she'd ever slept on, but it didn't bother her. It wasn't like she'd ever slept on a comfortable bed in her life aside from the two nights she'd spent in Buffy's bed. Just thinking of that last night she'd spent there, having spent it with Robin, made the tears she'd been fighting back begin to fall.
She knew he wouldn't make it through the night. She bit back the choked sob that dared escape, not wanting Buffy to hear her cry. She had no idea what made Robin different from everyone else she'd ever been with and that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach told her she never would know. She rolled over onto her stomach and buried her face into the pillow, hoping to stop the tears that continued to fall. She wasn't just crying over Robin, they were tears of sadness, of uncertainty, and a few were tears of happiness and relief that most of them had lived through what had been the biggest fight of their lives.
With her thoughts running rampant through her mind, even as exhausted as she was, she knew sleep was far off. She slipped out of bed and walked to the small bathroom, closing the door quietly behind her before she flipped on the light. She couldn't even look at herself in the mirror. She hated seeing herself looking so vulnerable, so weak. She turned on the tap and splashed some water over her face, sighing as she let the last of her tears fall before she reached for the towel that hung on the rack on the wall.
The day began to replay in her mind, over and over again. It was a blur and she felt the rush she always felt during a fight flood through her body just thinking of it. As soon as the rush disappeared, that is when she felt it. That low hum she remembered feeling around Buffy years ago. She only ever felt it if she just relaxed, and relaxing around Buffy was a rare occurrence. It was almost comforting to feel it, and it made her feel whole in a way. It was that same feeling that scared her before everything went wrong. That same feeling that had caused a flood of mixed feelings, which led to questions about just how she'd felt about Buffy. She could feel that uncertainty coming back, that fear filling her as it dawned on her that those feelings she'd had for Buffy, that...attraction, didn't just disappear as she thought it had.
It made her wonder if that's why they were never able to be friends, aside from her destructive and carefree personality at the time. They were very different in every way, yet they shared one thing; the burden they had to carry with being a Slayer. Nobody else ever knew what it was really like and the loneliness that came with it. She knew even though Buffy had friends, had a family, that she still felt alone despite being surrounded by people who loved her. Buffy had been in love with two people that Faith knew of. Angel and Riley. Spike, in her mind, didn't really count. From the bit of the conversation she'd heard Buffy have with Spike as the Hellmouth had crumbled around them, she figured that when Buffy had told him she loved him she said it because she knew he was sacrificing himself for the greater good.
It made sense to her, though, and she got why Buffy would say that to him. From what she knew, Spike had been there for her when nobody else was. She knew of their instantaneous relationship, if what they had together for that short time could be called a relationship. She scoffed as she glanced at herself in the mirror, wondering why she was even thinking about Buffy and her relationship with Spike. She did remember that feeling of jealously that crept up inside of her when she and Spike had talked in the basement. She didn't like it and she still didn't. These were emotions she'd never felt before and she didn't know how to deal with them.
"Faith?" Buffy said softly as she knocked on the door. "Are you done in there?"
"I'll be out in a sec, B."
She glanced in the mirror once last time before she opened the door. She felt naked despite being fully clothed as Buffy looked at her for a moment before stepping past her and closing the bathroom door behind her. She grabbed her jacket, slipped on her boots and stepped outside as the craving for a cigarette at that moment was just too strong to ignore. She left the door open a crack as she sat down on the steps and lit the cigarette. She heard Buffy huff when she walked out of the bathroom and a minute later she stepped outside and sat down on the steps next to her.
"Can't sleep either, huh?" Faith asked as she looked over at her, grinning at little when Buffy just rolled her eyes and nodded her head.
"It's been a long day and an even longer couple of months."
"I know the feeling."
"Are you really going to come with us to Cleveland?"
"Why not? Not like I have anywhere else to go," Faith replied quietly as she stared down at the ground in front of her. "You can tell me honestly if you don't want me to come with you guys. It's not like I won't understand."
"I can't do it alone anymore," Buffy said after a few long minutes of heavy silence between them. "I don't want to do this alone anymore. I don't know what is going to happen in the next couple of weeks, months or even years, but after how you came to help us without a moment of hesitation, it made me realize some things."
"Like maybe you are not quite the same person I thought I knew," she said so softly that if Faith hadn't been listening as carefully as she was, she wouldn't have heard her.
Faith waited for her to say something more, but it never came. She always had a hard time trying to figure Buffy out, trying to get her to open up. She knew that it was the same with herself. She had built up walls years ago that would take a lot of time to break down. Time and trust. She didn't trust Buffy and she sure as hell didn't trust herself. It was hard for her to trust someone who had tried to kill her. Granted, at the time she'd done a lot of fucked up things to Buffy, her friends, and her mother, so she knew she deserved everything she'd gotten and then some. She knew that the way she'd retaliated once she had woken up from her coma had been mostly out of fear. At least she could admit that to herself, but it was too little, too late for that. She couldn't take back anything she'd ever done no matter how hard she wished she could.
She wanted to talk to Buffy about a lot of things; the only problem was, where did she start? Their personal history was loaded and to work through it all would take time—a lot of time. They'd only get through it all if Buffy was willing to, she knew that much. She also knew Buffy continuously gave off mixed signals and those were the ones she never read right. That playful banter they once had, maybe it'd get back to that point, but until she was sure they were comfortable around one another once again she'd have to learn to censor the things she said that just came naturally to her. It made her wonder then if Buffy had ever picked up on the fact that she had harmlessly flirted with her to no end years before.
"Deep thoughts?" Buffy asked with a stifled laugh as she nudged Faith in the shoulder with her own.
"You have no idea how many times that I've been asked that today, do you?"
"For someone who didn't want to talk..." Faith trailed off, chuckling softly as she took a long drag of her cigarette.
"Do you really think everything is going to be different now, or is it going to be exactly the same as it was before?"
"No idea, B. Guess it's one of those things you just gotta find out when the time comes."
"I was talking about us," she said quietly as she turned to look at Faith. "If you're coming to Cleveland we can't...fight like we used to. I don't trust you."
"I don't trust myself," Faith shrugged. "We're in the same boat, for once."
Buffy laughed a little at that and winced softly as she placed her hand over her stomach. Faith just watched her even in the dim light that shone from the streetlight as she lifted up her shirt to check out her wound. From what Faith could see, it had closed up and was already healing a hell of a lot faster than any injuries would have healed before.
"You okay?" Faith asked, resisting the urge to reach out for her.
"I'm fine, it just hurts if I laugh," Buffy replied as she lowered her shirt back down. "You didn't get hurt, did you?"
"Couple scrapes and bruises. Nothing major. Guess I was lucky this time."
"Yeah. We should probably try to get some sleep," Buffy said as she stood up from the steps and walked inside the room.
Faith let out a soft sigh as she took one last drag of her cigarette and flicked it to the ground before following Buffy inside. She waited until the light was turned off to take off her jacket and boots, then climbed into the bed. She watched Buffy in the darkness as she rolled onto her side, her back to her, and tried to fall asleep.
A part of her was waiting for Buffy to punch her in the face for whatever reason of her own. In the last week she'd been punched twice, which was really not so surprising. Maybe things would end up changing between them and they wouldn't come to blows anymore. Maybe Buffy was tired of fighting with her, tired of hating her, just like she was tired of it too. She closed her eyes as she yawned, finally feeling the edges of sleep pulling her in. Sleeping for a week wouldn't happen, but she at least hoped for twelve straight hours or more. She fell into a light sleep listening to the sounds of the soft, steady breathing coming from Buffy, finding it relaxing and comforting in a way.
It hadn't even been a couple of hours before the knocks started on the door. Faith groaned loudly, hating to have been woken up, and pulled the pillow over her head as she listened to Buffy talk quietly to Giles at the door. She sat up slowly when she heard Giles say Robin's name, already knowing what had happened before he even said a word.
"What's going on?"
"I called the hospital for an update on the injured girls and Robin," Giles said quietly as Faith joined them at the door. "He didn't make it."
"He's...dead?" Faith asked, feeling as if she'd been hit by a brick wall. "You're kidding me, right?"
"He passed about a half an hour ago. The injuries were extensive and the doctor I spoke with informed me that they had done all they could."
Faith walked back to the bed and sat down heavily, blinking away the tears as she pulled on her boots and slipped on her jacket. She ignored Giles and Buffy when they tried to stop her from walking out of the room and she headed straight for the hospital, needing to see it with her own eyes to believe that Robin was gone. She felt like she was stuck in a dream, a nightmare, as she walked the few blocks to the small hospital. When she got outside the emergency room, she just stared blankly at the door, not knowing what to do all of a sudden. It didn't feel real.
She took in a few deep breaths before she walked inside and ignored the nurses who tried to stop her as she walked to the room she knew Robin was in. She stood there in the doorway, watching as the doctors unhooked him from the machines she guessed had tried to keep him alive. He lay there motionless, looking as if he was only sleeping and not dead.
"Miss," the burly nurse urged as she tried to pull Faith from the room. "Miss, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
"I knew him," she said softly, blinking away the tears that just wouldn't fall. "I never got to say goodbye."
"Can I have a minute alone?" Faith asked, barely recognizing her own voice. "Please? Just a minute is all I need."
The nurse nodded her head, giving her a sympathetic smile as she let Faith walk into the room. She stood at the foot of the bed and waited for the two doctors to leave before she finally let the tears fall. She couldn't move from where she stood, hearing the ghostly whispers of promises he had made her.
"When we settle down somewhere, I'll surprise you like I said I would, I promise you that and I can promise you it'll be worth giving it a shot."
Faith wiped away the tears, never taking her eyes off of him. She wanted to know why this was affecting her so badly. Nobody she'd ever known had ever made her feel so much in such a short amount of time. Nobody had ever gotten under her skin the way he had. Nobody had ever made her promises like the ones he'd made to her, promises that had given her hope that life would change for her and that maybe, just maybe, she'd finally know what it was like to be loved.
"Not everyone is going to screw you over in the end, Faith. You need to have a little bit of faith in others if you want to know what it's like to fall in love. Let me have that chance. I'll promise you in the end it'll be worth it. We all make mistakes and we all push others away, but that's what makes us human. All too human."
He'd been right, they were all too human and they would all make mistakes, over and over again until they finally saw that whatever they were doing just wasn't working. He'd said a lot to her in that first hour they'd been on the road and she knew she wasn't the only one who was listening to everything he had said. Buffy had been sitting in the seat across the aisle and every once in a while Faith had caught her looking over at them. There had been a look of disbelief on Buffy's face as Robin spoke quietly of the plans he had to prove her wrong. She didn't want to begin to think of what could have possibly been going through Buffy's head at the time; probably the same things that were going through her own right then and there.
Broken promises made for someone who didn't deserve it.
The same burly nurse came to lead her out of the room. She couldn't hear a word the nurse said to her and she turned and headed straight for the doors. She didn't want to go back to the motel, there was no way in hell she'd be able to sleep and she wouldn't have Buffy catch her crying either. She wandered around town and found a small corner store that was open. She knew she had some money in her wallet and she walked inside and headed straight for the back. She grabbed a bottle of Jack, it being the only brand of whiskey on the shelf and walked to the register. The old man that stood behind it smiled at her as she handed him a twenty.
She had the cap unscrewed before she walked out the door and she took a swig as she stood on the sidewalk, wondering where she could go and not be found too easily. The town was small, that was a given after she walked up and down the streets and ended up back where she didn't want to be, outside her and Buffy's room at the motel. She had been wandering around town for a few hours and she hadn't realized that until the sun began to rise. She stumbled towards the stairs and sat down before lifting the bottle, sighing as she took another swig.
"Faith?" Buffy said softly as she opened the door. "Oh god, you're drinking? Are you drunk?"
"What does it look like?" Faith snapped as she set the bottle down on the step next to her. "He's gone, B. He's fucking gone and I never got to say goodbye."
That empty feeling inside of her came with the ghostly whispers of the promises Robin had made her. Buffy sat down next to her and awkwardly hugged her, holding on tight when she tried to pull away. She gave in, wrapped her arms around her, and let the tears fall freely. The alcohol and the multitude of emotions that were thundering through her had made her give in. She no longer cared that she looked vulnerable and weak as Buffy held onto her tightly and just let her cry. She tried to pull away yet again, but Buffy still wouldn't let go of her.
"Just let it out, Faith," she whispered softly.
"Why does it have to hurt so fucking much?"
"You cared for him even though you hardly knew him," Buffy said softly, her breath tickling Faith's ear as she spoke, "that's why it hurts so much, Faith."
If she hadn't been so numb with alcohol and grief she would have felt the hum deep inside of her resonate through her body with Buffy holding her so close. Even in the state of mind that she was in, she couldn't help but think that this was the only time they'd ever been so close and that this was the only time Buffy had ever shown any signs of friendly affection towards her. She felt her body giving up and she pulled back from Buffy slowly, quickly wiping the tears from her eyes.
"Go get some sleep," Buffy said softly, smiling at her as she helped her to her feet. There was softness in Buffy's eyes she'd never seen before. She thought for just a split second that maybe Buffy actually cared about her in some little way.
Faith muttered a barely audible thank you as she collapsed on her bed and forcefully yanked the covers over herself. She silently argued with the voices in her head that told her she was wrong about everything, wrong about Buffy, that she didn't care about her. Nobody ever cared about her. It was just the way it was and the way it felt like it'd always be. Robin was supposed to be the one to change that, but he was gone now, gone and never coming back. Taken from her just like everything else that had ever been good in her life.
She gave up on the self-pity trip she'd taken herself on, knowing how dangerous that was for her fragile, emotional state. She let the last of her tears fall before she finally let the pain, the exhaustion, the loneliness, and the alcohol force her into a deep sleep full of dreams, of nightmares, and of emptiness.
Her mouth was dry when she opened her eyes to the sound of laughter drifting through the thin walls and the open window. Her head was pounding, the inevitable hangover making its appearance with a raging vengeance. Every inch of her body was aching from the feeling of emptiness inside. The small digital clock that sat on top of the dresser changed to six o'clock and she knew then that'd she'd slept away most of the day.
"Fuck," she groaned under her breath as she pulled back the covers, remembering everything that had transpired between her and Buffy before she'd passed out.
"Faith, are you alive in there?" Buffy asked, chuckling softly under her breath as she opened the door slowly. "Good, I was hoping you'd be awake."
"I've got food," Buffy said as she held up a brown paper bag. "Giles thought you'd be hungry."
"Thanks," Faith muttered under her breath as she sat up slowly on the bed and rubbed her throbbing temples. "There a party going on in the room next door or something?"
"Everyone is leaving in the morning, so we decided to have a little party," Buffy shrugged as she placed the bag on the bed next to Faith. "After tonight you'll have the room to yourself."
Faith rolled her eyes as Buffy stood there for a moment and just stared down at her. She knew she had to have been a sight to see and she knew it wasn't pretty, especially not after a night of heavy drinking. She ran her fingers through her tangled hair before grabbing the bag of food Buffy had brought for her. Breakfast sandwiches—four of them—and a few juice boxes. She chuckled softly as she moved to lean against the headboard. It wasn't until she'd taken a bite of the first sandwich, the rather cold and slightly soggy state telling her they were leftovers from that morning, that she realized Buffy had been staring at her the whole time she'd been standing there.
"What?" She asked with a mouthful of food. "Was there something else you wanted to say to me?"
"No, I uh," Buffy stammered, suddenly looking rather uncomfortable. "I'll just leave you alone. There's aspirin in the bathroom if you need it."
Faith just watched her as she walked out of the room, leaving the door open just a crack. Faith rolled her eyes and ate the rest of the food before she slipped off the bed and picked up one of her boots and threw it at the door to close it. She needed a shower and clean clothes. She stripped out of her clothes before she even reached the bathroom and filled the sink with warm water. She'd spent who knows how many years living in motels and washing her clothes in the sink and this was no different aside from the fact she'd be lounging on the bed in only a towel for a couple of hours.
She washed her clothes as quickly as she could, wrapping a towel around her before she wrung them out in the tub and hung them on the hook on the back of the door. She could still hear the sounds of the others even after she turned on the taps and stepped under the hot spray of water.
Hearing the others having a great time, laughing and just letting loose, it made her feel even more empty and alone inside. She'd never been a part of their inner circle, not even in the beginning. She wondered if that would change even now, or if she'd forever just be the 'other' Slayer, the bad Slayer. She was doing everything she could to change. It wouldn't happen overnight, she knew that, but she was already beginning to feel the changes she was going through now. She just wondered if anyone else could see them, or if they even cared to notice.
Robin had never known what she'd been like before, yet after they'd fucked he just held her and they talked, two things she had never done with anyone else before. She didn't necessarily feel comfortable lying there with him while he was trying to get her to open up about herself, but she had felt safe around him, again for reasons she'd never know. It scared her to think she'd never find anyone else willing to be with someone like her and willing to give someone like her a chance. She knew why he had been willing to be with her, even that first night. He didn't know her the way the others did and she knew that if he did know her that way, he wouldn't have said or done the things he did.
Trying to get those thoughts out of her head, she grabbed the bland smelling shampoo and quickly washed her hair. There was music now being played in the room next door, masking the voices so she could no longer hear what was being said. She turned off the water and grabbed the towel, wrapping it around herself as she stepped out of the tub. It felt good to feel clean, her body felt more relaxed even with the pounding headache wreaking havoc almost beyond what was bearable. She just grabbed her wet clothes off the hook and hung them over the shower curtain rod. Even over the music she heard the soft knock on the door and she made sure her towel was wrapped securely around her before she walked out of the bathroom and opened the door.
"Oh, uh..." Willow looked at her for a moment, stumbling over her words. "We went out shopping today and Kennedy grabbed you some clothes. Buffy forgot to bring them for you when she brought you the food before."
"Uh, thanks?" Faith shrugged as she took the offered white plastic bag that Willow suddenly thrust out in front of her.
"It's not much, but..."
"You can...come over and join us," Willow said as she motioned to the room next door. "Xander went and bought some beer. We're all just going to relax and have fun tonight before the others leave in the morning."
Faith shrugged as she stepped away from the door a little so she could close it, but before she did she told Willow she'd come by in a bit, getting a friendly smile from Willow before the door swung shut. They had talked on the ride from LA to Sunnydale, mostly about the fight against the First. Faith had apologized to her and Willow had told her there was no need to apologize since what was in the past was in the past. It felt too easy to be forgiven just like that, but Willow had assured her that it was time to move on from that part of their history and she had assured her that if she gave Buffy time, that Buffy would forgive her as well.
She dumped the clothes out on the bed and went through them. Two pairs of jeans, both of which looked to be about a size too big for her, and two black tank tops. She grinned at the fact that Kennedy, despite not really knowing her, apparently knew her clothing preferences. There were a few other things in the bag—a hairbrush, deodorant, a toothbrush, and some toothpaste. All things they'd left behind that were essential to have, but things that she'd gone without at certain times in her life when she had no money. She ripped the tags off the clothes and pulled on the darker pair of jeans and one of the tank tops.
"Not bad," she mused as she walked into the bathroom to check herself out. The jeans were a little too big and she grabbed her belt and slipped it through the loops.
After she dried her hair as much as she could with the towel, she grabbed her boots and pulled them on. The music coming from next door was playing a little louder now and she knew from the sounds of the laughter she heard over it they were having plenty of fun. She grabbed her pack of cigarettes and her lighter, slipping them into her back pocket as she walked out of the room and headed next door. She needed to relax and even though she hardly felt like any serious drinking after the amount of alcohol she'd consumed the night before, she still could use a couple of beers.
"Hey," Xander said with a smile as he nearly ran into her outside of the room. "Beer is chilling in the ice in the tub, help yourself."
"Are you going somewhere?"
"I was actually coming to see if you were coming to join us," he replied with a soft laugh. "We could all use a night of fun, don't you think?"
"Hell yeah," she grinned as they both walked inside the room.
She suddenly felt out of place as she made her way through the crowded room and into the bathroom to grab herself a beer. She then made her way back outside, the room too crowded and too hot for her to stay inside. A few others were standing around outside the room, talking quietly among themselves. Kennedy came out a minute later, clearly already feeling tipsy by the way she stumbled down the steps.
"Glad the clothes fit," she said as she twisted off the cap from her beer. "And you're welcome."
Faith chuckled as they both leaned against the wall. "Appreciate you thinking of me."
"Nobody else did," Kennedy replied. "Hardly seemed fair that nobody else seemed to care if you had what you needed too."
"Doesn't surprise me."
"How are you feeling today? I heard you kind of...took Robin's death a little hard," Kennedy said softly, studying her and waiting for a reaction. Any reaction. Faith just shrugged and blankly stared down at the beer in front of her. "Well, I just want you to know you got a friend in me if you ever need one."
The words barely made it past her lips before she took a few sips of her beer. The night was warm and the sun hadn't begun to set yet. She felt peaceful there in the small town and it made her nervous. She wasn't used to the peacefulness she was feeling surrounding her. She was used to feeling evil crawling around in the shadows, lurking, waiting for that right moment to come out.
"Feels weird, doesn't it?"
"What does?" Faith asked as she looked over at Kennedy.
"Are you reading my mind or something?"
"Not intentionally," Kennedy replied. "I've just had this feeling since we got here that something isn't right about this place. It's too...quiet."
"Used to the buzz of a city, huh?"
"Something like that. But ever since I became a Slayer, I don't know, I felt it and now I don't anymore, you know what I mean?"
"So, I hear you're coming with us to Cleveland," Kennedy said with a smile as she raised her beer to Faith's. "Should be fun, don't you think?"
"Fun, right," Faith laughed dryly. "Ain't nothing fun about living on a Hellmouth."
"No," Kenned replied as she shook her head and took a swig of her beer. "I meant it should be fun having you around. I mean, I have Will, Xander is a decent guy, Andrew is pretty fucking annoying, and Buffy..."
"Is wound a little too fucking tight?" Faith offered, smirking at the look a surprise in Kennedy's eyes. "Yeah, surprised me too. You'd think she'd have learned to live a little by now and find the fun."
Faith chuckled as she pulled out her pack of cigarettes and offered one to Kennedy. She just shrugged and took one, leaning close to the flame of the lighter Faith held out to her after lighting her own. Faith had no idea what to talk to Kennedy about. She wasn't so good at the whole getting to know someone else part and she was starting to think that maybe Kennedy knew that about her and yet, for some reason, was giving her a chance. A chance laced with a lot of patience and heavy periods of silence between them.
"You and Buffy have a pretty heavy history, don't you?" Kennedy asked after a while.
"I've heard some stories, you know, about what you were like before."
"Not like that anymore," Faith replied flatly.
"I know. That's what I've been told."
Faith sighed out in relief. She'd heard of Andrew telling stories about her, about her and Buffy's past. She knew him as well as the others by now and when it came to him and stories, she knew he stretched the truth a little too far. Willow had been the first of all of them to give her that second chance. Xander seemed to be getting there, Giles as well. Buffy was harder to read, harder to figure out, but they hadn't come to blows. Yet. She hadn't spoken to Dawn too much. She didn't blame Dawn for staying away from her as much as she could, though, and it still freaked her out knowing just how Dawn came to be and that any memories she had of Dawn weren't even real. Willow had explained enough to her on that drive from LA to Sunnydale so that she knew what had been going on there for the last couple of years.
She flicked her cigarette to the ground and headed back inside. Most of the younger girls had gone off to another room, Dawn tagging along with them, so she took a seat at the small table near the window where Giles, Andrew, and Xander were sitting playing poker. She joined in on the game, trying to relax, trying to forget all that had happened in the last day. Every once in a while her eyes would drift over to where Buffy sat on the only bed in the room next to Willow. They were talking quietly, occasionally laughing at whatever they were talking about, and every once in a while Buffy would look over at her and quickly look away, never letting her eyes linger for too long.
Kennedy joined them at the table, grinning as she placed a bottle of vodka down on the table. Faith could only laugh at the look on Giles' face. He had already had a few beers and even though he hadn't had as much as everyone else had, she knew he was feeling more than just a little tipsy. He ended up calling it an early night, ushering Vi and Rona out with him and warning them all not to let the younger girls have anything more to drink.
"You game?" Kennedy asked Faith, drawing her attention and snapping her out of the daze she'd suddenly found herself in. "You want to do a round of shots with us?"
"Fuck yeah," Faith grinned as she downed the last of her beer.
Xander grabbed some plastic cups and lined up four of them on the table. Andrew looked a little intimidated at the prospect of adding hard alcohol to the few beers he'd already had. He muttered his goodnight before he stumbled out of the room, nearly crashing into the door before he could open it. Both Kennedy and Faith only laughed as they cleared the table of the cards and the poker chips.
"You two gonna join us?" Faith asked as she looked over at Buffy and Willow.
"No," Buffy replied coldly as she turned back to Willow and they continued with their conversation.
"Whatever," Faith said under her breath. She had to remind herself that she should have known Buffy wouldn't want to join them. "Come on, Kenny. Pour the shots already."
One by one, they downed shot after shot and between the three of them, half the bottle was gone in no time. Their laughter over nothing in particular filled the room and neither of them could even look at each other without bursting into another fit of hysterics. Faith had to get some air and she grabbed a beer from the tub and headed outside. The warm night air sobered her up, just a little, as she leaned against the wall and lit a cigarette. She'd only been outside for a couple minutes before she heard the sounds of Willow and Buffy asking to join in on the shots.
"Figures," she muttered under her breath as she took a long drag of her cigarette.
"Figures what?" Xander asked as he stood in the doorway. "Better hurry up and get back inside, the bottle is almost empty."
"I'm good," she said as she waved him off. "You guys finish it off. I'm gonna go for a walk and clear my head a little bit."
"Would you mind stopping at the pizza place?" Xander asked as he fished out a couple bills from his pocket. "Or I could just come with you and we'll grab a couple pizzas on the way back?"
"Whatever, doesn't matter to me."
Xander told the others he was heading out for a bit and joined Faith outside. She finished her beer quickly and placed the empty bottle on the windowsill before the two of them began to walk across the motel parking lot.
"Figures what?" Xander asked he glanced over at her.
"Figures as soon as I'm not right there that Buffy and Willow decide to join in on the fun."
"Oh. I wouldn't worry about it," he laughed as he put his arm casually over her shoulders. "You know how Buffy gets sometimes."
"Yeah," she shrugged as they headed for the pizza place just down the road. "Whatever, man, it's not like it matters. I don't even know why I care."
"You're afraid you aren't gonna fit in with us, aren't you?"
"Did I say that?" Faith snapped as she pushed his arm from around her shoulders. "I didn't fucking say that."
The alcohol was making her mood shift horribly; she reached into her pocket for her cigarettes and quickly lit one. Xander only sighed as they kept walking slowly down the street. She stayed outside when they reached the small pizza place. It was nearly empty and the town was quiet just as it had been the night before. She didn't like it here. She was growing too tense without anything remotely interesting going on. She needed action. She needed a place to go dance and work off the mounting frustration she was feeling. She was starting to wonder if she'd made the right choice in sticking with them instead of going off to do her own thing.
It wasn't just the alcohol that had made her mood shift to where it was now. She was still trying to deal with Robin's death and still trying to figure out why it was affecting her so badly. It wasn't as if she loved the guy, nor did she feel any strong feelings for him. She did feel something, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She cursed herself under her breath for going back to thinking about it when all she wanted to do was forget for a little while.
"Ready to head back?" Xander asked as he walked out of the pizza place with four boxes stacked in his hands.
"Why not?" She shrugged as she took two of the boxes and they headed back to the motel. "Sorry for snapping at you before."
"It's fine. I get it," Xander said with a smile. "It's kind of weird though, isn't it? Just hanging out like old times only...we never really hung out before."
Faith laughed a little at that, feeling a talk from Xander coming that she really didn't want to hear. She wanted to be able to talk to him, to any of them, without the alcohol having loosened their tongues. She had to admit it was a little weird just hanging out with him as if it was something they'd always done.
"It is weird," Faith finally said and she heard Xander chuckle softly next to her. "This whole night has been weird. Keep wondering why the hell you guys even want me around."
"Second chances," he shrugged. "We all deserve a second chance and I think you do too. We just went through the biggest fight of our lives together and you fought with us, standing by Buffy's side without a second thought. Besides—though I can only speak for myself when I say this—I'm looking at the fall of Sunnydale as a chance to start over."
"Yeah, I'm looking at it like that too. Wouldn't hurt to be able to have that second chance and start over again."
"Sometimes we all need that," Xander said quietly and Faith just nodded in agreement.
They walked the rest of the way back in silence. They were halfway across the motel parking lot when she began to hear the sounds of Buffy, Willow, and Kennedy laughing in the room. Whatever they'd been laughing about they didn't look as if they were about to share when Faith and Xander walked into the room. Faith spotted the empty bottle and saw the glassy look in Buffy's eyes. She found it impossible to take her eyes off of her for a moment before Xander nudged her to put the pizza down on the dresser.
It felt different just to be there with the handful of people she never thought would accept her, bring her into the fold. She was still outside of the closely woven circle they had formed and she knew she would be for a long time, too. She could see that Kennedy, although she was with Willow, wasn't quite in it yet either. But they both were slowly being brought in, inch by inch. She could see it mostly in the way Xander had talked to her. She could see it in just the tiniest ways when Buffy's eyes caught her own for a moment. She took a bite of the pizza slice she'd taken out of the box while asking herself why she even cared, why she even wanted to be a part of what they all had together.
She just didn't want to feel so alone anymore.
Xander disappeared inside the bathroom and came out a few minutes later with several bottles of beer in his hands. He handed one to everybody, saving the last for Faith as he joined her leaning against the dresser. Even with the haze of alcohol, in the glance that the two shared, the subtle smile that was exchanged, she felt herself being pulled into their fold just an inch more. She was treading carefully, careful not to show the hope that flickered through her with just a simple look, a simple smile.
"What movie do you want to watch?" Willow asked as she grabbed the remote for the TV.
"Doesn't matter," Buffy slurred slightly as she glanced over at Faith. "Do you have any suggestions?"
"No," Faith replied as she shook her head and grabbed another slice of pizza. "Whatever is fine."
Everyone settled on the bed—everyone but Faith—as Willow flicked through the channels on the small TV. Xander motioned for her to join them, but she only shook her head as she hoisted herself up on the dresser and reached for yet another slice of pizza. She paid no attention to the movie that played on the TV. The voices of the others faded out and she was purely focused on Buffy and the sound of her laugh, her drunken laugh that slurred, yet it sounded so carefree. Easy. Something she knew didn't come along for Buffy very often anymore.
She didn't know Buffy as well as she thought she did. She never did before, either. But she was starting to see something in Buffy she'd never seen before. She could see the hurt, the pain just filling her, swallowing her, and yet she could see the fight in her eyes; the fight to go on, to make it better. The alcohol had made Buffy vulnerable; it had made them all vulnerable. She could see things Buffy had fought to keep from being shown and all it took was one simple look to see it flicker in her eyes, to see that wall come right back up.
Not wanting another hangover in the morning, she drank the last of her beer and willed herself not to get another. Her eyes were still on Buffy, watching her as she watched whatever movie Willow had put on. She didn't care, nor did she seem to want to. Xander motioned her over to the bed again, pouting until she gave in and slowly made her way over. She sat on the edge of the bed next to him and with a soft smile she moved to lean up against the headboard. Buffy sat on the other side of Xander and she leaned forward and flashed a small smile at her before she moved to lay across the bed on her stomach, her eyes trained firmly on the TV.
If it had been impossible for Faith to take her eyes off of Buffy before, it was even more so now. She felt the heaviness in her eyes, the tiredness. She was still feeling the fight with the First, still feeling the heavy pain over Robin's death, and she was feeling the alcohol and her body protesting and fighting to stay awake. Kicking off her boots, she settled as comfortably as she could sitting up against the headboard and closed her eyes. Sleep wouldn't be too far off, that she was sure of, and she let the sounds of the TV and the sounds of the laughter in the room lull her to sleep.
Faith woke first the next morning. She had her eyes closed as she stretched out and froze when she felt the warmth of the body curled up next to her. She didn't even need to open her eyes to know just who it was. She blinked and lifted her head, looking down at Buffy curled up next to her, her head lying on her chest and her arm draped almost possessively over her stomach. She knew she had to move her or slip out of there before she woke. The last thing she wanted to deal with was with a hung over Buffy about to kick her ass for the way they'd woken up together.
Willow and Kennedy were on the floor at the foot of the bed wrapped around each other and sleeping soundly. Xander was on the other end of the bed, curled up hugging a pillow close to his chest. Faith slowly moved Buffy, holding her breath until she slipped off the bed without having woken her or anyone else. She grabbed her boots and slipped them on, letting out the breath she'd been holding as she made her way quietly to the door and walked outside.
She stood outside the room, taking in a deep breath of the fresh morning air. She ignored the feeling of how good it was to wake up the way she had. She pushed it down and forgot about it, not wanting to deal, unable to deal. She felt too many raw emotions flicker through her as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could feel the hurt, the betrayal, the hate from before. She could feel the acceptance, the tentative trust, and the openness that she'd felt in the last couple of days. She could still feel Buffy's warmth all over her, and what should have made her skin crawl instead made her ache inside. Ache where she'd never ached before, deep in her heart.
"Good morning," Giles said cheerfully as he walked out of his room with a cup of tea in his hand. "Did you all enjoy yourselves last night?"
"Sure," she shrugged, a small smile teasing at the corner of her mouth.
"I'm going to drive the girls to the bus station next town over. Would you tell the others we'll be leaving tonight?"
"Yeah, I will. Are we driving that hunk of junk to Cleveland?"
"No," he chuckled softly as he took a sip of his tea. "After I drop the girls off, we'll simply park it and abandon it. I've arranged for a more suitable vehicle to take us all to Cleveland."
She just nodded and pulled out her crushed pack of cigarettes, muttering under her breath as she pulled one out and quickly lit it. "What happens once we get to Cleveland?"
"We'll find a place to stay and go from there."
"Are we all gonna live in the same house, or we gonna branch off on our own and just...work together?"
"What do you want to do?"
"Dunno, G. Honestly, I don't."
"I think that for now it's best we all stick together. I am sure we can find a house where we can each have a space of our own. You aren't the only one who wants that," he said softly, understanding what she was thinking before she even said a word. "Things are going to be different now, Faith."
"I know. Already feel and see the changes and they just keep on coming."
"Give Angel a call soon. I spoke with him briefly last night and he asked to have you call him. There are a few things he would like to speak to you about and I do not feel as if it is my place to tell you."
Giles handed her a slip of paper with a number written down. She knew the number, but the extension was different. He gave her a warm smile before he began to knock on each of the rooms, calling out for the girls to get ready to leave. Faith just folded the paper and slipped it into her back pocket as she walked to her room and sat down on the steps.
She sat there alone, taking one drag after another off her cigarette as she watched the girls, the new Slayers, migrate out of their rooms and onto the bus. The only two who bothered to come and say goodbye to her were Vi and Rona. She didn't do hugs, nor did she do goodbyes, but she gave them each a smile and told them to take care of themselves, to watch their backs. Rona promised she'd try to stay in touch, however she could, and with that the two walked away and got on the bus, turning back once to wave goodbye.
She didn't do goodbyes. Felt too final. Yet that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach told her the chances of seeing those two—or any of the girls—again were slim to none. Why did she care? She never cared. Maybe it was a sign that things really were changing.
With a heavy sigh, she flicked the cigarette to the ground and quickly lit another. She sat there hunched over, her arms resting on her knees, her head held low. Thoughts of the last couple of days ran through her mind, melding together, no longer making any sense at all. Thoughts of how she woke up, the feeling of a warm body next to hers, Buffy's warm body, not some random stranger she'd plucked off the streets and definitely not Robin, who it should have been. Then she had to ask herself: If Robin was still alive, would it have worked out? Would she have given him that chance to prove her wrong?
She didn't know. She'd never know.
She lifted her head when she heard the next room's door open. Buffy stepped out, groaning as she tried to shield her eyes from the bright morning sun. She couldn't take her eyes off of her as she watched her stretch out and yawn before she stepped down the few stairs and walked towards her. She fought back the smile—smirk, really—as Buffy approached her, but found it impossible when Buffy smiled right back at her and sat down on the step next to her.
"How you feeling this morning, B?"
"Like hell. I am never drinking again."
"I'll hold those words against you," Faith chuckled softly. "Giles told me to tell you guys we're leaving tonight. He just took the girls to the bus station."
"I heard. Felt you go a little while ago too. Kind of woke me up when you left."
Faith looked away from her and took a long drag, inhaling sharply, wondering if Buffy knew how she'd been sleeping, how close she'd been, how good it'd felt. It took her a little while to work up the courage to look over at Buffy. She was afraid of what would happen, what Buffy was thinking, but that small smile that curled over Buffy's lips eased her fears, just a little.
"You know the funny thing?" Buffy asked softly as she turned to look at Faith, making her wonder just what was really going through her head. "I kind of want to stay here. It's quiet. I know we can't stay, but it'd be nice to, just for a little while."
"Yeah, I guess."
"Are you really coming with us?"
"Good," Buffy said as she smiled a little wider. "I mean good because we'll need you there with us, Faith. Yeah," she paused as she laughed softly, "I think I'm still a little drunk."
"I think you are," Faith chuckled as she nudged her with her shoulder. "But thanks, though."
"For telling me you want me to come along without actually saying that."
"What else would you do? Where else would you go?"
"Plenty of places," she shrugged as she took one last drag of her cigarette and flicked it to the ground. "None of them feel right, though, and I'm tired of being alone. If you guys want me around, I'll stick around. Can't promise you that we won't come to blows eventually, cos you know us. We're like oil and water. We don't mix."
"You ever wonder why? I mean," Buffy sighed as she leaned back against the door, "there seems like no reason for us not to get along. We did before, at least for awhile, didn't we?"
"Yeah, before everything went to shit."
"It's not going to happen again, Faith."
"No? How can you be so sure of that?"
"Because I won't let it happen again," Buffy said softly. "I can't let it happen again. After everything we've just been through and the few things we have already talked about, I know now that you're the only one that would ever truly understand what I go through."
"Maybe. And thanks for that, B. I don't think I could handle going through the same shit as we did before. Kind of really fucked me up over it all, you know?"
"Yeah I know. I can't help but think a lot of the stuff you went through before had a lot to do with me and..."
"B?" Faith stopped her before she could go on. "Anything that happened between us and with me is all my doing, okay? I know where I went wrong and I know I can't just expect you and the others to forgive and forget. Shit like that takes time, right?"
"Yeah," Buffy nodded her head slowly. "It does take time. You know," she sighed as she looked at her for a moment before dropping her eyes to look at the ground in front of her, "you aren't the only one who needs to be forgiven. You aren't the only one who has done things that...affected everyone else around you. I did a lot of things to you too. Granted, you deserved them, but...that doesn't give me the right to point fingers and say 'hey, you are evil and bad and I don't trust you'."
Faith could tell how hard it was for Buffy to say those things to her, as she was having trouble now making any kind of eye contact with her. She understood where Buffy was coming from, though. She couldn't blame Buffy for the past; she couldn't blame herself entirely for it either. Redemption, even for herself, would take time—a lot of time—and patience, both of which would be a test of her character in the days, weeks, months, even years to come.
The words 'I'm sorry' would come in time between them, but it would take a lot more than just words to prove that point. It would take—dare she think it—friendship. It would take more than words, more than friendship, though. It would take some kind of understanding they could reach between themselves. An understanding that they were all too human, that they were bound to make mistakes no matter what transpired in their lives.
The smile Buffy gave her then when they finally did look at one another, a small and rather simple understanding, gave her hope that they were finally on the right track. She clung to that hope, not caring if things would turn to shit the second she blinked. She had to cling to something and the hope she felt growing between them was all she could hold onto.
In the end, after Giles shouted at them like they were children to stop the bickering, he pulled over to a strip mall and gave them enough cash to buy whatever music they wanted to. Faith used that quick stop to buy a pack of cigarettes and she now leaned against the van, taking one drag after another while letting her thoughts wander. She tried not to listen to Giles, Buffy, and Willow as they spoke quietly inside the van about what they would do once they all arrived in Cleveland. Her mind was set on the short phone call she'd had with Angel just a few short hours before.
Angel told her he'd taken care of her police record. He promised her she wouldn't have any problems with the long and short arm of the law as long as she kept out of trouble. It all seemed too easy, but he assured her that it was for the better this way. She couldn't help save the world if she was locked away in prison. He knew that as well as she did. She couldn't fight for her redemption behind the prison walls; she had to do it outside if she wanted to do it right. Being trapped within herself was prison enough and those ghosts of her past would always be there, haunting her. Taunting her. Trying to coax her back to the darkness she was fighting day in and day out.
Sighing, she took one last drag of her cigarette, now thinking and wondering what the hospital was going to do with Robin's body. Angel had asked and she didn't have an answer. She didn't say a word. She had only fought back the tears just as she was fighting them back now. She wanted to know, though. She needed to know. Maybe it'd give her some sense of peace knowing where he'd be laid to rest. By the end of the phone call with Angel, he'd promised her he'd take care of things with Robin and let her know, but it didn't feel good enough for her. It just wasn't enough.
She got back in the van when she saw the others come out of the used music store they'd spent the last half hour in. The second round of pointless arguing started as soon as they were back on the road. She just closed her eyes and leaned her head against the window, trying to drown out the voices just for a couple of minutes.
"Faith," Xander said softly as he poked her in the leg until she opened her eyes and turned to look at him. "Pick one."
He held out the handful of CD's they had bought and she shrugged as she pointed at random, not even caring what she ended up picking for them. As long as it stopped the pointless arguing and got some music playing, she was good. He smiled widely as he handed the CD forward and within seconds the first beats of Iron Man blasted through the cheap generic speakers.
Faith smiled to herself as she closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the window. Even over the music, though, she could hear the soft sigh coming from Buffy as she sat in the front next to Giles. She opened her eyes and looked up at Buffy, catching her eyes for a moment when she looked back. Even under the soft glow of the streetlights as they passed by, she could sense something was bothering Buffy from the look in her eyes. It bothered her too; it was almost as if she could feel whatever Buffy was feeling. It also scared her a little, wondering if it worked both ways. Wondering if Buffy could also feel whatever she felt.
She shifted uncomfortably in the seat, nudging Xander a little bit as she tried to make a little room for herself. It was going to be one hell of a long ride to Cleveland. She let out a soft sigh as she slouched down in the seat and closed her eyes once again. The voices of everyone crammed in the van drained out with the sound of the music blaring through the speakers. She pulled herself into the void she was used to, the aloneness that she fell so easily into when she needed to. It filled her body like a drug. It sent her thoughts on vacation as she just welcomed that vast emptiness she'd slipped into.
Hours passed by, miles of road left behind with thousands of miles yet to go. She wasn't sure when she'd fallen asleep, but when she opened her eyes the sun was just rising and Giles was pulling into a gas station to fill up. Everyone scrambled to get out of the van to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, and buy some coffee and breakfast from the diner across the road.
"How much sleep did you get?" Giles asked Xander as the three of them stood outside against the van while the service boy filled the gas tank.
"Couple hours. I should be okay to drive most of the day."
"Good," Giles replied with a relieved smile. "How are you holding up back there, Faith?"
"Eh," she shrugged. "It's not that comfortable being wedged up against the window, but I figure it's better than nothing."
"Better than walking or flying," Xander grumbled. "C'mon, Giles, you could have at least flown us out to Cleveland instead of spending god knows how many days on the road."
"A road trip is an experience," Giles reasoned, which made both Faith and Xander roll their eyes. "I myself have never been on the road like this before, and I'm sure we can all benefit from this experience one way or another."
"Right," Faith laughed as she pushed herself off the van. "What kind of experience would that be, Giles?"
"An experience, er..." he stammered as he removed his glasses to give them a quick wipe. "It is just an experience, that's all. Once in a lifetime thing, er...also gives us all an opportunity to..."
"Get on each other's nerves at all hours of the day?" Xander offered, he and Faith both chuckling as Giles let out a frustrated sigh. Xander turned to Faith, a playful smile curling across his lips. "How long do you figure it'll take for us all to want to kill each other?"
"I...are we gonna bet on this?" Faith asked with a wink as Giles groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Five bucks says Dawnie is gonna try to kill Andrew first by tomorrow then she's gonna try to kill Kennedy."
"Ten," Xander smirked as he stuck out his hand and they shook on it. "Giles, you in?"
"This is infuriating," he muttered under his breath as he paid the service boy. "I'm in, but," he smiled at them as he stuck out his hand to shake on it, "I call by tomorrow afternoon, not tonight."
"You underestimate them," Xander laughed as he shook his head and leaned over to Faith, keeping his eyes on Giles as he whispered to her, "Easiest ten bucks we'll ever make."
She nodded her head, trying to bite back the smirk as Giles looked at the two of them. He laughed as he shook his head and went around to the driver's side to get in. Faith and Xander walked across the road while Giles drove the van to park it in the small parking lot outside of the diner. Faith headed straight for the counter, avoiding everyone that sat in the booths. The diner was empty, completely void of customers other than their group, which was probably for the best considering how much food they had already ordered.
She ordered a coffee, black, and a stack of pancakes and stayed there at the counter, sitting on the last stool and mindlessly tapping the fork against the linoleum countertop. Andrew was telling everyone a story. What, exactly, she didn't know nor did she care, but he had them laughing and the only one she could hear ever so clearly was Buffy, even though her laughs were few and far in between. She blocked out the buzz, the connection, when she felt Buffy sit down next to her at the counter.
"Hey," she said softly, smiling when Faith turned to look at her. "How come you're over here all alone?"
"Dunno. Just am."
Buffy sighed as she motioned to the woman behind the counter to fill up her empty mug of coffee. They sat there for a few minutes, neither of them saying a word. Faith tensed a little as Buffy turned to her, sipping her coffee slowly. Her eyes trailed over the side of Faith's face and the rest of her body, burning into her, driving her insane with thoughts she didn't want to have, thoughts she shouldn't be having when it came to Buffy.
"What do ya want, B?"
"Then what are ya staring at me for?"
"Trying to figure you out," Buffy chuckled, a teasing smile dancing over her lips as Faith looked over at her. "If you must know, I'm learning how to read your mind. Are you scared?"
She let the laugh escape past her lips, her own teasing smile tugging at the corners of her mouth as she looked down into her cup of coffee and shook her head. "You're something else, aren't ya, B?"
"Oh you have no idea, F."
She wasn't used to this side of Buffy, but it was nice. She could feel the ease of the laughter that was shared between them. It was different than any time before when things were easy, or almost, between them. She could almost taste the hope between them that this was one of many steps they'd take before they could call themselves friends. It made her feel less alone, it brought a different kind of smile to her face, and for once, just once, she didn't doubt the hope she had for them to finally make amends.
Of course, she had to remind herself of what Angel had said to her over the phone. She had to give Buffy time, give her space, and give her the chance to get used to having her around again. She had to let Buffy make the first move in their friendship, let her take it that one step further when it came to talking and opening up and learning how to trust one another again. Angel told her she had remember that Buffy was hard to break, just as she was when it came to letting anyone in. If anyone knew either of them best, it was Angel. She trusted Angel and she would trust whatever he said to her when it came to Buffy.
"So, is this something I should get used to?" Buffy asked, smirking at her as she slowly turned to look at her. "This spacing out, getting lost in your own thoughts thing, I mean."
Faith nodded, stifling a laugh as she took a sip of her coffee. "Yeah. I guess. What, you want a better answer than that, Twinkie?"
"No. That's good enough. For now," Buffy laughed.
The woman behind the counter smiled at the two of them as she placed the plate of pancakes down in front of Faith. She dug right in, not realizing just how hungry she was until she took the first bite. She could see Buffy watching her out of the corner of her eye and every so often would glance down at the huge stack of pancakes on the plate. Faith reached for another fork and handed it to her without a word. She slid the plate over a little, doing something she never had before—offer to share her food, and with Buffy nonetheless.
"These are good," Buffy said after she'd taken a bite. "Really good."
"Good? They are fuckin' ace, B!"
Buffy raised an eyebrow as she reached out for more. She took one last bite and walked away to join the others. Faith just exchanged the look and went back to eat the rest of her breakfast alone. They were in and out of there in less than thirty minutes. She grabbed a coffee to go, ignoring Andrew when he told her she'd regret it once they were on the road for more than four hours at a time. It wasn't the first time she'd been on the road. She knew it wouldn't be the last, either. What was always the way it was for her would always just be that.
There were no fights over the music, no quiet talking. Nothing. Nothing for hours other than the sounds of the tires over the road. Miles of land passing by, becoming just another place, a small piece of memory that would soon be forgotten. It was in times like this she'd just shut off for hours at a time despite how many others were around her. The closer they got to where they'd spend however many years saving the world yet again, she felt it, and she felt that heaviness and the energy that surrounded it. The evil. So much stronger than anything she'd felt before.
They stopped a few times, mostly just to rest, to get gas, since what was the hurry. Running off to yet another Hellmouth, not knowing just what they were all walking into, was enough to make them want to take their time. Nobody had said it, but it could be felt hanging heavy around all of them. The seventh stop of the day was at the side of the road to change a flat. Faith had lost track of time since the last they'd stopped, but it was nearly dusk and they were in the middle of nowhere. Literally.
Through every stop they'd made, through the entire day, nobody had spoken. Too tired as the realization of everything that happened really began to sink in. It wasn't new for Faith, she'd felt things before, but not quite like this. It was a mix of old and new, something she didn't see coming. She stood at the side of the road, holding the flashlight for Xander as he struggled to change the flat.
"Shouldn't we try to help him?" Buffy asked as she moved to stand closer to Faith.
"Nah," Faith chuckled, finding it rather amusing as Xander gave up trying to twist the nut off. Buffy raised her eyebrow, again the way she had in the diner, and laughed softly as she crossed her arms over her chest. "You want to try?"
They both laughed as Xander turned to look at them. Faith had expected him to still be frustrated at not being able to get the wheel off and yet he knelt there and laughed right along with them. The smile and the laughter died off as Faith took a small step away from Buffy. The buzz deep inside of her felt too strong to handle and she almost felt slightly winded. It was one of those feelings that just hit her out of nowhere and she chose to blame it on being stuck in a van with seven other people. It was the same feeling she'd felt when she'd been locked up. She hated it yet embraced it all at the same time.
Things had changed, even if only a little. Still, she wondered if she could be everything she hadn't been able to be before. Just being among them was enough to question whether she should even be there or not. None of them had tried to push her away, tell her to leave, or that she wasn't welcome to stay around. It had been quite the opposite and she knew it was only because she had been there for them all, especially for Buffy, during the fight against the First.
In the end Faith ended up switching the tire, claiming the front seat and smirking at Buffy as she quickly slipped into the seat. Xander got behind the wheel, laughing under his breath as Buffy forced Kennedy to sit in the far back. Buffy sat next to Willow, smirking right back at Faith as she gave the seat a nudge with her knee. She laughed to herself as she picked up the Black Sabbath CD and put it on, flipping Buffy off when she nudged the seat again. She chuckled to herself as she pushed the seat as far back as it would go and stretched out her legs.
The sounds of bitten back laughter that escaped from everyone but Buffy gave her a smile, this sense of forgiveness in an odd way. They had to do things different, their way, and whatever their way was, they seemed to be figuring it out slowly. Giles had been right. A road trip was an experience and it wasn't just about the miles they'd driven or the places they passed. It was about slowly forming a bond between all of them, building up old and new friendships from the foundation up.
It was the middle of the night when Xander pulled over to the side of the road and let Willow take over. In the odd way everyone rearranged the seating, Faith ended up next to Buffy with Xander and Kennedy next to them and Dawn and Andrew in front of them. She leaned up against the window, watching the darkening landscape roll by as she tried not to just feel Buffy as she sat a little too close for her liking. She sat up most of the night, stealing small glances over at Buffy who laid against Xander as she slept, trying to figure her out in those moments she wouldn't be seen letting down those walls she had when it came to Buffy.
"We should stop for a couple hours," Giles said quietly. "We need to get some proper rest. I'd rather not have us spend one more day on the road than we have to."
"You couldn't have thought of that last night?" Dawn protested what everyone else was thinking right then.
"Dawn," Buffy said tiredly, not even bothering to open her eyes yet.
"You want me to pull over here?" Willow asked and Faith lifted her head a little to look ahead.
Giles only nodded his head and Willow pulled into the parking lot and parked the van next to the small office. Everyone climbed out, stretching out sore and tired limbs while Giles went to get a few rooms for the day. He was in the office for not even five minutes before he came out and ordered everyone back in the van. They left without a second word after Giles explained the owners had been killed by what he suspected were werewolves. He didn't want to rush to Cleveland, but he didn't want to stick around anywhere else on the way either.
It was only an hour before they found another motel. Faith grabbed a key from Giles and headed straight for the room. She barely had her boots off before she collapsed on the bed in exhaustion. Even through the walls, she could hear the muffled voices of Buffy and Dawn in the room next to hers as she drifted off to sleep. She welcomed the noise. Any noise. Just anything to drown out her thoughts long enough for her to sleep was the only thing she needed to get a few hours of decent sleep.
Faith knew she'd been sleeping for most of the day when the sharp knocking on the door woke her up. Without even waiting for her to answer, Giles told her she had ten minutes before they were out on the road. In the other room she could hear Buffy and Dawn jokingly discuss ways to dump Giles somewhere along the way just so they could get some decent sleep for a couple of days. It only made her laugh as she got out of bed and headed for the bathroom.
Nine minutes later she was back in the van, cramped up in the same seat with Xander next to her. She grinned, laughing softly as Xander pulled out a ten dollar bill from his pocket, returning her smile as she pulled out one of her own. Neither had forgotten the bet and it was only going to make the rest of the day and night just a little more interesting. They had to get some fun outta something, was her logic, one that Kennedy and Andrew ended up buying into, finding the fun in something so harmless.
It was little things like that which made the days and the miles go by quicker. It made those lingering thoughts disappear for a little while and it helped Faith learn to just be around the others. She was becoming friendlier with mostly Xander and Kennedy, the three of them finding some sort of a bond in the endless hours spent on the road. Little by little she'd find that one moment alone she shared with Buffy. Whether it was a laugh at the side of the road, or sharing breakfast, or even the soft smiles and the looks that lasted just a few seconds more with each one.
Whatever was happening between her and Buffy was something that never was there before. It was comforting at the same time that it was making her nervous. The nervous part was making her uneasy. Nobody had ever managed to make her as nervous as she felt around Buffy, yet it was different this time. She wasn't scared of Buffy; she was scared of what she was starting to feel for her. Those thoughts were swimming around, drowning out the others until it was all she could think about.
And all she could feel was the evil that kept drawing in closer with every mile that went by.
"You okay?" Xander asked softly as he turned to her.
"We're almost there," he said with a smile that quickly faded when Faith nodded her head. "Is something wrong?"
"No. Just itching to get out, be able to rest for a few days. Being cooped up makes me all kinds of...itchy," she said, trying so hard not to make it look like she was fumbling for words. Not wanting to let her nervousness and the anxiety she felt to be shown. It was a sign of weakness, and the last thing she wanted to do was show a side of herself that was vulnerable.
"When we find a place to stay, do you want to come with me and find a bar, have a couple of beers?"
"Sure," she replied and kicked the seat in front of her. "You two down for getting some beers with Xander and me when we get to the city?"
Willow shrugged as she looked at Kennedy. A smile and a nod was all Faith needed before flashing Xander a smile of her own. They all ignored Andrew when he asked to join them and then Buffy turned around to look at them all from the front seat, asking if she could come with them. Nobody said no, it was a continuous shrug of the shoulders with all eyes landing back on Faith as if it was up to her. It wasn't up to her. All she did was nod her head and slouch back in the seat, wondering what alternate reality she'd stepped into, while she listened to Andrew mutter to himself about being left out yet again.
Nobody was purposely leaving him out, he was just annoying and tagging along since he had nowhere else to go. Just like she did. She had nowhere else to go, but for some reason the others wanted her around. She saw it in everyone's eyes whenever they just looked at her, especially Buffy's. It was that look that told her that they were all over the past. They might not have forgiven her for all her wrong doings, but they were over it and only wanting to move on from there. She'd felt it every day they'd been on the road, too, and it was one of those feelings she was having a hard time grasping on to.
It was a mad dash to get out of the van as soon as Giles pulled up to an empty looking house. He explained the old Council had properties all over the world, that this house was one of them and now was theirs. Faith, Xander, and Kennedy were the first ones inside, all three of them running up the stairs to claim one of the six bedrooms as their own. There was some kind of hidden understanding that the master bedroom was off limits to the three of them. None of them complained when Buffy claimed the room as her own—nobody but Dawn, that is, but that was expected.
Every room in the house was sparsely decorated in second-hand furniture, but it wasn't empty and Faith figured that was a hell of a lot better than trying to live in an empty house. She stayed in her room, checking out the books that lined the bookshelf on the wall. Council approved books, hundreds of them.
"Giles," she said as she stepped out into the hallway as he walked past the room. "You should check out the books in there. I think there's more in there than I saw you have in Sunnydale."
"Indeed," he replied with a smile. "Every room has hundreds of books that will be useful for us. I was going to suggest we move all the books down to the living room."
"Sounds like a good plan; y'know, after we all sleep for a week or two," Faith laughed as she walked downstairs with him to join the others in the kitchen. "We're still heading out to grab a couple of beers," she asked as she walked up to Xander, "aren't we?"
"You and I are going on a beer run while the others go and buy some food. We're just going to stay in tonight. That cool with you?"
The lie slid past her lips so easily, but it didn't feel completely wrong. Although she did want to go out to a bar, or preferably a club, she knew it'd have to wait for another day. She knew she didn't have to go along with whatever they wanted to do, but that nagging feeling in the pit of her stomach that had driven her insane for the last couple of days was telling her to stick around and hang out with the people she'd never actually been friends with. Until now. The bond she'd formed with all of them, even the small one with Buffy, made her finally feel that string of acceptance and she didn't want to lose it.
The store was not even a block away. She and Xander bought a few cases of beer—Bud Light since it was Xander's choice—and walked back to the house in complete, utter silence. They stocked the fridge and joined Andrew and Dawn in the living room as they tried to figure out how to get the old TV to work.
"Can't I have one?" Dawn asked as she motioned to the beer Faith had in her hand. "Buffy doesn't have to know if I have one, does she?"
"I am not a kid!"
"You're underage. Makes you a kid," Faith chuckled. "Better not, though, Dawn. I've gone this long without Buffy kicking my ass, kind of want to set some kind of a record."
They all laughed and settled around the old, worn couches in the living room. Andrew finally got the TV working, barely, and they sat there until the others came back with enough food to last them a week, if not more. It was finally sinking in that they were there in Cleveland, that they had a place to stay that wasn't just another motel, but a house they would soon be able to call home once they made it their own. Nobody wanted to listen to Giles as he explained that they would have to make a schedule for patrol and general household chores. After spending four days on the road, nobody wanted to think about what would happen the next day, next week, or month.
Faith slipped out onto the front porch by the time she opened her third beer. It didn't surprise her that Buffy followed her out and sat on the steps next to her without saying a word, much less casting a glance in her direction. By the third time Buffy let out a soft sigh, Faith turned to look at her, wondering if she should ask her what was bothering her. She didn't have to, though, since she could feel it. Buffy was feeling restless.
"Doesn't feel real, does it?" Buffy asked softly as she turned to look at Faith. "Being here, I mean."
"Nah, not really."
"I...can you feel it?"
"Feel what, B?"
"The energy coming from the Hellmouth."
"Yeah, I can feel it. Strong, isn't it?"
"Stronger than it was in Sunnydale, don't you think?"
"Definitely," Faith replied, smiling a little at her as she took a sip of her beer. "I've got a feeling we'll never be bored here."
"We were never bored in Sunnydale either," Buffy laughed softly. "At least this time...it's not all up to me to save the world again and again. I don't feel the weight of the world resting upon my shoulders like before. I'm kind of...relieved you are here."
"We got Kennedy too."
"Yeah, but," she laughed softly as she shook her head and looked away from Faith. "She needs to be trained and you and I both know how much work that is going to take. She's a little bit..."
"A little bit what?"
"Too confident and sloppy when she fights. Granted I've only seen her really fight as a Slayer once, but..."
"She's a hothead, B. Fights first, asks questions later, or doesn't ask questions at all. Goes straight for the kill after she's knocked 'em around a little."
"Sounds like someone else I know," Buffy smiled as she nudged her gently with her shoulder. "Not that it's a bad thing, it's just..."
"Not the right way. I know."
"No, it's right, it's just..."
"Just what, B? Irresponsible?"
"It'll get you killed if you fight like that. I know you know that now, but Kennedy doesn't. I tell you," Buffy sighed as she took a deep breath, "I am so not looking forward to helping Giles with her training."
"I'll take care of it, B."
"Why not? Kennedy and I are a lot alike in some ways."
"That's scary," Buffy laughed and moved away from Faith as Faith reached out to poke her in the arm. "It's scary because she's unpredictable. You know what I mean, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do. Doesn't matter though. We'll deal with it when the time comes, but you know what I want to do right now, B?"
"I just want to sit here and chill out tonight."
"No you don't," Buffy chuckled as she moved to sit a little closer to her. "You wanted to go out to a bar, or a club, instead of staying in tonight."
"Maybe I did," she shrugged, fighting back the laughter that escaped anyway. "No big deal. Got plenty of nights to go out and have a little fun, dance for a couple hours, find someone to get a little pelvic with."
"What?" Faith asked, raising an eyebrow at Buffy as she let out another sigh. "You wanna come out with me one night, have a little fun? Or are ya gonna try to get me to quit that part of my life?"
"No! I mean, you can do whatever you want, Faith. I just realized we all can do whatever we want now, for the most part anyway."
"Damn right we can do whatever we want now, at least until the next apocalypse rolls around, right?"
"Til then, Twinkie," Faith said as she wiggled her eyebrows, smiling when Buffy laughed softly, "you and me are gonna find the fun. The others can tag along with us, but nobody is gonna be able to touch the amount of fun the two of us are gonna be having."
"What, you don't think we can actually have fun together?"
"Yeah, I'm not so sure if I consider your type of 'fun' the same as mine."
"And what is your type of fun then?" Faith asked, a small smile crawling over her lips as Buffy just shrugged her shoulders. "Let me guess," she teased as she raised her beer bottle to her lips and took a sip.
"Please don't," Buffy laughed as she stopped her before she could continue. "It's been too long since I've actually wanted to have fun."
"Right, you said that, but how long really, B?"
"Years. I actually don't remember the last time I just..."
Faith sighed as Buffy trailed off, suddenly lost in her own thoughts. She was lost in her own thoughts too, thinking about how that had been the longest conversation they'd had in recent memory that didn't end up with them fighting physically. She thought about how nice it was, how relaxing it was just to sit there with Buffy on the front porch as the sun began to set.
"How come you decided to stay on with us?" Buffy asked quietly as she turned to look at her. "I know that you didn't know where you were going to go or what you were going to do, but why?"
"Just did," Faith replied, not knowing what else to say to that other than the obvious. She'd thought they already talked about this too, about why she was there with them, but let it slide. "I'm a Slayer. I should be on a Hellmouth, fighting the good fight."
"What about...weren't you in jail?"
"It's been taken care of."
"So, what," Buffy questioned as she furrowed her brow, "you just get off easy despite what you've done?"
"I guess, but I wouldn't call it getting off easy, B. Spent two years in prison and I know I can't claim I've changed completely, but I'm working on it. Redemption is a long and hard path and Angel doesn't think that I..."
"Yeah," Faith nodded, leaving it at that.
Heavy silence filled the air between them. Angel was a touchy subject between the two of them, it always had been. Things were different now and yet at the same time they weren't. Buffy got up and went inside, saying a quiet goodnight before she closed the door behind her. Faith leaned against the railing and pulled out her pack of cigarettes, lighting one as she watched the sun set in the sky. For every step forward she had taken with Buffy, one little thing sent them right back to square one, just like that.
"Brought you another," Xander said quietly as he joined her out front, handing her a fresh bottle of beer as he sat down next to her. "You and Buff have a nice little talk?"
"Guess so. Was going good then..."
"I mentioned Angel and it went for shit, just like that."
"It won't always be this way," Xander said as he draped his arm over her shoulders, staying tense for a minute until he realized she wasn't pushing him away. "Give her some more time to get used to you being around before you two start in on the heart-to-heart talks."
"Yeah," she breathed out as she turned to give him a half-hearted smile. "Time. Seems like we got plenty of that for now, huh?"
"For now. Until the next apocalypse comes around."
"How long do you figure before that happens?"
"I give it..." he trailed off, chuckling as he closed his eye for a moment. "I give it a week, no less. Once word is out that we're here now, things are bound to get bad."
"Yeah," she sighed as she closed her eyes. "Things always go bad when there's a Slayer in town. Can't help but think how much worse it is gonna be now that there are three Slayers here."
"Still," Xander said with a smile as he gave her a gentle squeeze before dropping his arm from around her, "it isn't anything we can't all handle. We fought the First and we won."
"We were just lucky and our luck is bound to run out sometime."
Faith hated to say it, but that's what happened. They were just lucky and with her experience with luck, it was bound to fall apart one way or another, and it was bound to happen sooner rather than later.
She just hoped they'd all be ready for whatever life was about to hand them next.