Chapter Thirty-Five: My Favorite Girl
Buffy had initially been more than a little anxious when Giles had summoned her to his office. His brief explanation over the phone that there had been changes in the San Francisco situation hadn't been the most reassuring thing to accompany on the walk to Giles' office. Her walk would have actually been more of a brisk jog to a normal human being. That Giles had made her wait for the others to arrive before giving her any explanations hadn't been much of a help either.
Now she was torn. There was irrational anger that Giles had sent Faith anywhere near someone who had access to that drug. There was hope that Faith would be okay and a little irritation that Faith hadn't seen fit to call her. And there was also giddiness and that didn't need explanation.
At least, it didn't for her. She was hyperaware of the almost throbbing need to see and touch Faith that was the driving force behind the giddiness. She was going to see Faith. She was going to be able to put her arms around Faith and she was going to kiss Faith, come Hell or high water.
She was my favorite girl
And if we get the chance (the chance)
Buffy had just finished zipping up her overnight bag when her cell phone's ringtone began to go off from where she'd left it downstairs in Dawn's living room. The half-smile that followed in response was entirely involuntary. Most of her previous irritation was swept away by the simple words of O-Town's "Favorite Girl" as she raced to reach the phone in time. She dived onto the couch, sweeping the phone up from the coffee table and answering it in one swift motion.
"Hey, you," She greeted breathlessly.
"Hey," Faith replied roughly.
Buffy winced in commiseration. She wasn't certain just what Faith was going through. But she had her own ideas. Betrayed Slayers—never an easy or particularly pleasant thing to deal with.
"Hang in there, F," She said softly. "We're coming."
"Mmmm," Faith grunted faintly. "Do you have a timeframe for me?"
"Four, maybe five hours," Buffy replied, eyebrows furrowed in thought. "We can have Will teleport us if you'd rather not wait, though. She has some free time today, I think."
It was one of Willow's three days off. They usually gave a day off for every day worked for their casters to prevent burnouts. Buffy wouldn't have volunteered Willow if she hadn't known for a fact that Willow hadn't been working in a magical capacity the previous day. She wasn't stupid.
"Nah," Faith eventually managed. "It's not an emergency. I'm just really on edge. I wanna get the ball rollin' and get these girls set up somewhere that they can get the attention they need."
"Aaron's done a number on them, huh?"
"I think Janice and Shawna will be fine," She confided. "But I'm not so sure about Corrine. She needed help before they placed her with him and he just never bothered to make sure she got it."
"She's the Cuban kid we dragged out of that Hellhole three years ago, right?"
"Yeah, the one from Havana," Faith replied absently.
Buffy grimaced at the memory. She hadn't been there personally for the retrieval or cleanup, but she had seen the crime scene photos afterwards. It was a wonder that any of the Slayers that had been sent to retrieve Corrine could sleep. Corrine had accidentally murdered her father in self-defense and then a pack of demons had found her when she ran.
A cornered, angry, and frightened Slayer is a dangerous creature. That a Slayer was capable of rending a demon's muscle from bone wasn't shocking. That she hadn't even been thirteen yet was the part that caused most of them pause. Gore was nothing to most of them these days.
By the time their team had found Corrine, a week had passed. The girl had been half starved, dehydrated, hadn't bathed in even longer, and her wounds had been mildly infected. They'd had to tranquilize her to keep her from killing any of them. It hadn't been a high enough dose to knock a Slayer out, just enough to calm her down long enough for them to talk sense into her.
"On a scale of one to five, how badly is she behaving?"
"Uh," Faith snorted. "It's nothin' as bad as that. It'd probably be a little less worryin' if she was lashin' out. I wouldn't have even noticed anything off if it weren't for the way she fights."
"She's a ticking time bomb, huh?" Buffy could imagine.
"Oh yeah," Faith agreed tiredly. "And I'm just hopin' I get this done in time to diffuse her."
"I'm sure we'll manage," She said comfortingly.
"Here's hopin'," Faith said roughly. "I'm gonna let you get back to packin', B. I just wanted—Well, I kinda just wanted to hear your voice, get that reminder that I'm not alone, y'know?"
Buffy's heart just sort of... melted. That was the only description she could think of to fit the sensation that followed Faith's declaration. It was obvious Faith was as reluctant to return to the dance their relationship had reverted to in the past two months as she was. That was fine by her.
"I certainly do," She replied softly. "Take care, okay? I want you in one piece when I get there."
"Sure thing," Faith managed to get out before she snapped her cell phone shut.
She let out a heavy breath as she set the phone on the porch rail. It felt kind of like her heart was in her throat now. She wasn't certain what had prompted her admission, but she didn't regret it in the least. She thought it was about time she acted on that thing she'd idly mentioned to Diana.
There wasn't really anything standing in her way. Buffy's marriage status was just a technicality. Her divorce would be finalized soon enough, and in the meantime, Satsu wouldn't be around to make a fuss. She and Buffy had been dancing around their relationship for weeks as it was and the rumor mill had certainly picked up on it, especially after that goodbye scene in the cafeteria.
They just needed to make it official. So, they'd have to talk about it. Faith winced. They'd made progress in that aspect of their friendship, but communication still wasn't one of their best assets.
Faith bowed her head in thought as she absently trailed her toes against the grain of the porch. She'd originally come out here for privacy to call Giles and to escape the awkwardness that was inside. The phone call to Buffy had been completely spur-of-the-moment. She couldn't find it in herself to be annoyed that it had left her with even more on her mind than she'd already had.
That reminder caused her to snap her head up and she had to stifle a groan. Mind on the job, She admonished. Y'know, you did have a semi-reasonable excuse for callin' her when you started.
Faith retrieved the phone and hit the speed dial once again. As the ringtone sounded, she started an internal mantra of, you are an adult. You are not a twelve year old kid. You are an adult.
"Is there a problem, Faith?" Buffy's voice intruded on her thoughts.
"Ah, no," Faith stammered, a little out of sorts. "Well, kind of. I forgot to mention that I needed you to bring my lap top when you come. There was an incident with the computer here."
Faith squirmed in discomfort. She hadn't meant to destroy it so totally. She'd just needed to release a little steam and her choices had been Aaron or an inanimate object. She'd already taken out her anger on him more than she'd intended and she hadn't wanted to go there again.
"Yeah, I can do that," Buffy chuckled. "But you know I'm not going to leave that alone, right?"
"Yeah, yeah," Faith muttered. "Tell me somethin' new."
"I'll see you later."
The sound of the doorknob turning made Faith look up to see the front door swinging inward as she shut the phone. Her gaze met Shawna's and she cringed internally. Shawna's eyes were dark brown bordering on black from confusion and pain. Aaron hadn't just been Shawna's watcher, he'd been her only parental figure since the deaths of her parents and Faith knew that betrayal.
Faith knew it intimately. Faith had been in and out of three different foster homes after the courts had revoked her mother's custody. For almost a year, the first family had been a real home to her and then Faith hit puberty and the foster dad finally showed his true colors. She hadn't even been at the second place for a month before it had started all over again, and she didn't give the third one the chance to even begin before she ran away.
Aaron's was a different kind of betrayal. But it was betrayal all the same. No matter how much of an asshole they were, it still hurt to have the people who were supposed to care turn on you. It could consume you until you were a bitter, angry shell, and Faith didn't want that for anyone.
Faith made a decision right then and there. She knew she might regret it, but she couldn't leave it alone. She would get the others the help they needed. But she was making Shawna her priority.
Corrine needed help. Janice even needed someone to encourage her to stand out more. But they didn't tug at Faith's senses this way. Shawna felt like family, like Dawn always had.
Shawna stepped out onto the front porch, shutting the door behind her. The movements pulled Faith from her thoughts and she sighed. She noticed a slight change in Shawna's expression. It was obvious Shawna had something to say, but she was reluctant, or wary, about saying it.
"What's up, kid?"
"I thought maybe you should know..." Shawna started and Faith groaned silently because it just sounded like the beginning of something that she really wasn't going to like.