Faith Finds Out II: Counting Stars
A/N: Another one of my Faith Finds Out series. One-shot, but if people think I should continue it, I may do so. Doesn't have so much Satsu; it's not so much about her as it is about Buffy and Faith's relationship. Enjoy and review.
Back in L.A., before she left for Cleveland because of the fucking tension, Buffy and Faith actually had an unforgettable one-on-one.
She was packing up her shit in her five star hotel room - who knew being Angel's savior meant excellent service for years to come? - when she heard the knocking at her door. She hesitated, unsure if she should open it or not, when the pounding against the wood got louder. She sighed. It was one of the Slayers, then. As much as she pulled for the good guys, they were damn annoying when it came down to it. Always criticizing each other about the little things; when she was the princess of the underworld, nobody got picky. And when they did, somebody's blood was spilt, and it most definitely was never hers. Until it came down to Buffy, but that was a different story.
But there she was, all about the good deeds, opening the pickle jars, getting little kitties out of the trees, helping old ladies cross the streets...you get the drift.
Faith scowled and stormed over to the door, finally shouting,
"Will you hold the fuck-"
She pulled the door open, ready to chew the newbie out.
It wasn't a newbie.
Way to be completely unexpected. The two had avoided each other like the plague after Sunnydale went from a town to a hole in the ground, there was no reason for her to have - even for a moment - expected it to be Buffy the Slayer at the door. Maybe Kennedy. Even Rona or Vi wouldn't have come to much of a surprise. But Buffy Summers was the one who stood in the doorway almost anxiously while Faith conflicted between dropping her jaw or slamming the door in her face.
She did neither.
Instead, she played it cool, like she always did, holding her confident composure while she stepped aside to gesture the other girl in. She shut the door and without a word, walked past Buffy back to her two duffel bags, picking up a shirt that was left to dry on a chair on the way. Throwing it in one of the bags, she continued to pack, all the while taking note of every action Buffy made. The way she pursed her lips at the sight of the antics, the way her brows furrowed in deep thought, the way her arms crossed offensively - or was it defensively? - and the way she glared at the back of Faith's head. All of it noticed, even if it seemed as though Faith had no idea Buffy even existed.
"So it's true. You're leaving." Buffy's voice came through harshly. Cold.
"Glad your powers of deduction are still working." Faith replied dryly, shoving another boot inside.
"Why wasn't I aware of this until 20 minutes ago?" Buffy sounded miffed. Upset that she was once again not in control like she was used to.
Did it matter to Faith how Buffy felt? Well, a little, but at the time? No. Perhaps if Buffy had been kinder, more open, more receptive to the awkward friendship Faith had been trying to revive between them, then maybe it would have mattered. But Buffy had done no such thing. There was no friendship being re-sown. It was just Buffy and the Scoobs and the new Slayers with the occasional Angel and co. And then, separated from this motley crew, was Faith. Frozen out like she'd always been frozen out. So did she give a single fuck?
So was she going to respond?
Because Buffy didn't have the right to ask the question, much less receive an answer or explanation.
"Oh, so you're giving me the silent treatment now? Real mature, Faith."
Faith almost had to laugh.
"Maturity is in the eye of the beholder." She replied almost jovially, stuffing a final sock inside the bag to her left.
"Well I like to be in the loop of situations when they occur." Buffy retorted accusingly.
"Don't feel the need to apologize for you being a control freak."
Buffy's crossed arms didn't stay crossed for long. They flung out defiantly, one hand accidently knocking a chair over. Thank goodness Faith had picked up that shirt before that happened.
"Faith, you should've told me!"
Faith was never one to stay cool for too long. Especially in an argument. A fight. And most especially when a particular blonde was involved in the fight. She turned from her duffel bags, both open on the messy sheets of the hotel bed, eyes flashing with an aggravation that could soon become anger if somebody didn't watch out.
"And what difference would that have made, huh? What, you guys needed some time to digest the phrase, 'good fucking riddance' before I actually left? Plan for a fun night out after I did? What?"
Buffy was almost sure that the whole building felt the rattle of Faith's rage, even if she didn't even raise her voice above a mid-loudness. The anger was enough to cause an earthquake; you didn't really need her to yell, either. But then again, it wasn't like Buffy was one to back down from a challenge like that. Her pretty green eyes narrowed and her fists automatically clenched.
"I'm the head of things here, Faith, and if somebody in our crew is leaving or stepping out of line, I need to know about it!"
You could almost hear the metaphorical string snap.
Or maybe that was just the sound of the glass breaking as it hit the wall right next to Buffy's head, lightning fast.
Buffy had hardly even seen it. All she had seen was Faith's eyes flashing, her body stiffening, her lips forming a sneer; where the fuck did the glass even come from? Was that a fucking cup?
"You might be the head of your crew, Buffy, but know this; I'm not a part of it. Never was, never fucking will be. You made it clear years ago that we were nothing more than business partners and that alliance was broken months after that."
"Then we made a fricking deal, didn't we? When you call for help, Blondie, I go wherever you point me. When I need help, you bail. That's how it works, isn't it?"
"That's not true-"
"Sure it isn't." Faith cut her off stiffly, finally zipping up both bags with her back turned to Buffy.
Not wanting to look at her.
"You know what? Fine. Just leave, see if I care."
Faith hefted the bags and cricked her neck before moving to the door. When she got there, she opened the door and held it there. Without looking back, she found the strength to say one last thing.
"I already know you don't...otherwise I'd still be here."
Today she was lounging around in the new official Watcher's Council building. She was on break because neither Giles or his contacts had located any new rogues to be found and converted. No demonic activity or bad news other than the Scythe thing, either, and Buffy didn't want Faith's help with that. Not that she offered. Giles did. But wherever Giles went, Faith went and vice versa, so Giles offering his assistance basically included Faith in the package. But Buffy would hear none of it. She refused their help - through Xander, since she didn't even want to talk to either of them - and went on the mission alone with her and her army of baby Slayers.
Giles was depressed for a good month after that phone call.
Faith offered to kill Buffy for him, but he halfheartedly declined. Then she said she'd fly over and TP the whole fortress while they were on their mission, but Giles - although he laughed - insisted he'd be alright and that she was needed for more important things anyway.
Like help all the girls she managed to help. It was tough work, but she did it. And damn if she wasn't a pro at it. So many random girls around the world, needing more than just help, and there she was, giving them what they needed the most. A friend, a mother, a sister, a partner, a guardian, a critic, a boss, whatever. Whatever they needed to get back on track, that was what she did. She was their champion. Their savior. She became an Angel to a lot of little Faiths. And you know what?
She dug it.
But while she sat on her honorary couch, watching the TV in her honorary room, she heard a sudden whoosh and a pair of feet stumbling in the kitchen. Immediately she turned the TV off and jumped up, the knife always holstered onto her calf already in her hand. She turned and narrowed her eyes, waiting for the intruder to come around the corner.
There was a footstep.
A hand on the wall.
...to hit shin against coffee table.
Faith wasn't sure how to react. So her hand just lowered and she straightened herself up, the right amount of amusement and confusion on her face.
"Oh, hey Faith! Fancy meeting you here!" Willow smiled a little too widely, the nervousness pretty clear in her expression.
"Yea. Funny that, since this is my room and all." Faith responded dryly, sheathing her knife and motioning to any of the chairs for the Wicca to sit down.
Which she did.
"Mind if I ask what you're doing here? Popping up in my kitchen, nonetheless?"
Willow blushed, murmuring defensively under her breath.
"Not that easy, teleporting. Sheesh, you'd think it'd come with directions and this isn't exactly the easiest place to find..."
"You mean England, the new Council building, or my room?" Faith poked fun, grinning to show she wasn't angry.
"Your room." Willow replied promptly.
"Ah." Faith said absentmindedly, moving about the room a little nervously, picking up anything that might be considered dirty.
It was strange to her how much she seemed to care all of a sudden, about hygiene and how her room appeared to Willow, of all people. But in a way it was understandable. Willow was one of the people Faith had ever wanted to be friends with. Along with Xander, Cordelia, Giles, Oz, and Buffy. As of now, she could say that Giles and Cordelia were well in her tiny circle of friends, and Xander Harris - what with the twice a week phone calls - was slowly getting there. Oz was obviously still out of the picture, and Buffy was never going to be in the picture.
But that didn't ever stop Faith from wondering.
"So...how's Bu-everyone?" Faith internally cursed herself for the slip up.
Willow just grinned.
"Buffy, is fine. So are the rest of us humble servants, thank you for asking."
"Well gotta make sure she's not dead; that's really the only reason you'd come to me personally."
"That's not true, Faith, and you know it."
"So she's not dead."
"Nope, Buffy is of the alive variety."
"Good, good. Is she doing okay then?" Faith asked curiously.
"Yea. Very okay." The redhead said cautiously, starting to look a bit anxious.
"Is she still pissed at me?"
Willow paused before responding; she had to be honest, she wasn't sure. Besides, it wasn't like she and Buffy had been really amazing friends lately, and ever since the Scythe incident...
"You know, I don't know, Faith. I think things have been a little on the hectic side to be worrying over your guys' last mishap."
"She's seeing someone." Willow blurted out, nervously.
"Of course she is. Wouldn't make much sense if she wasn't." Came Faith's calm reply.
"So let me guess. It's some badass Scottish vamp, yea?"
"Okay, so she decided she'd give some humanoid demon a shot?"
"Shit, don't tell me she's dating a normal human being?"
"I wouldn't call Satsu normal, but much more...good than bad."
"Satsu? Blondie's dating a guy named Satsu? You sure he ain't gay?"
Willow couldn't help a smirk.
"Oh she's gay alright." As soon as she remarked it, she immediately regretted it.
The shock on Faith's face sobered Willow's amusment up real quick, and she bit the inside of her cheek, cursing herself for her smart mouth. But as soon as the shock appeared on the dark Slayer's face, it quickly disappeared behind the stony face that scared Willow more than any of Faith's wild and reckless looks.
"Of course." She murmured, eyes slightly glazing over with haunted past memories before snapping back towards Willow.
"I...I'm sorry, I shouldn't have...I know that you guys...and there was-"
"Nothing." Faith interrupted quickly.
"There was nothing, Red."
Willow studied Faith's bare - and battered and bruised - feet with a sad frown on her gentle face.
"There was love." She said quietly before looking back up at Faith.
Faith, whose eyes remained cold and stony, jaw set and nothing showing past the steel armor she settled back on over herself.
"It wasn't mutual."
She didn't specify, but the redhead already knew. Only fools could've missed it and fools were what they were back in the day.
"So. What's the sitch now? Need help for another big bad? Or am I needed for some more quadruple DC?"
"Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap."
"Oh. None of that."
"Well...we're having a kind of...gathering."
"Yea...you know, to...celebrate."
Faith gave her a look.
"To celebrate? To celebrate what, exactly?"
"The return of the Scythe. It's more of an excuse, really, to just get everybody back together, since, you know, everybody's kind of falling all sorts of apart and Xander and I thought, hey! Why not throw ourselves a party to celebrate our togetherness by inviting all the good guys to our castle fortress thingy? Goddess knows we have enough room for half the world; not literally, of course, but you know what I mean-"
Willow flushed embarrassedly, playing with the hem of her blouse.
"Sorry! I just get a little overhand, you know, with the babbling and hey, kind of an old habit that's hard to kick and-"
"-shutting up. Check!"
Faith cracked a smile at that; she really couldn't help it.
"So you're inviting me to some party, is that it?"
Faith sighed and collapsed herself onto the couch.
"Gonna have to pass. Your head honcho's gonna throw a hissy fit if I show up."
"Listen, Faith, what happened in England...I heard what went down, and either way it was just a huge misunderstanding. And this party...whether Buffy wants me to or not, I'm inviting you, because I - as well as some others - want you there. I know we sucked at the whole friend thing before, but you are our friend, Faith, and since it's me and Xander throwing the party, we get to invite whoever the hell we want to, and you and Giles are most definitely a part of it!"
"Well shit, if that's the case, Red...I'm going for you."
"I'll be expecting it."
Faith went, because Faith rarely backed out on a promise.
She was fashionably late, taking a last drag from her cigarette before flicking it away. Giles had gone on before her, making her promise she'd actual go before he himself left their place earlier to teleport over to the castle. After a good hour, she finally had gotten the courage to call Willow to teleport her over. Of course, she made it clear to the Wicca that if they landed anywhere but at least a quarter of a mile away from the entrance, she'd throw a fit.
Faith didn't want to run into any...unpleasant people. AKA, Buffy Summers and her beau.
Now they stood in a small clearing amongst the tall trees, staring at the impressive castle and the cars that arrived in front of them.
"So am I gonna have to call Kennedy and tell her it'll be a while waiting for you to finish your brooding and destroying of lungs, or are we actually going to make it to the party before it's over?" Willow asked tentatively, checking her watch pointedly.
"Hold onto your broomstick, Red. Can't go in with wrecked nerves, now can I?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if it's the cigarettes that are messing you up."
Faith mocked a gasp and held her carton to her chest in mock offense.
"How dare you accuse my babies of such a thing? They ain't ever done anything to you."
"If I die of second hand lung cancer..." Willow muttered under her breath, dragging Faith behind her as they walked slowly but surely towards the castle entrance.
When they walked in, she was greeted by familiar faces and felt somewhat at ease. It was as pleasant as she could've hoped for, nothing too extraordinary, but certainly not simple. She dressed as simply as she could, a pair of clean jeans and a pretty top and nice shoes, for once. It was uncomfortable, but she felt like she owed it to Willow for inviting her in the first place. All in all, it was un-Faith.
There were compliments on her clothes, compliments on her work with Giles, who was standing somewhere across the room in his business suit. Pats on the back, firm handshakes, maybe even a few hugs once in a while. Faith couldn't say she was having a blast, but it was good to see people again; it wasn't like she was completely anti-social during the past year, but it had been a while since she'd seen and talked to people from the Sunnydale days. Even the L.A. days. She'd been a busy girl, saving lives and keeping the world from threatening apocalypses that lie just on the horizon.
At least, on her horizon. Buffy and her gang had been just as busy keeping their horizons safe, and most of the time, their lines never crossed.
Which explained why Faith and Giles both had been as excluded as was possible. But they learned to work with each other, learned to enjoy working with each other, and managed to do a great fucking job while they were at it. It worked for Faith, and it worked for Giles. It was a solid partnership.
After she was done greeting people, she headed towards the buffet of food and drinks. She swiped herself a beer and sat down on a chair, watching the crowd dance in the ballroom while the DJ blasted music. It was catchy, but for some reason she didn't find herself wanting to dance just yet. It was just time to relax. Reflect, maybe.
It was only after a little while when she felt something in her gut. Tingling; not uncomfortably, but enough to make her eyes skirt over to see the blonde figure heading towards her direction. Faith stiffened, but gave a half-grin as Buffy Summers stopped haltingly in front of her.
Buffy looked beautiful as she always did, even if she wasn't wearing a fancy cocktail dress. She wore dress pants and an elegant blouse along with a pair of sexy heels, all bringing out the color of her pretty eyes, even though Faith hardly got a glimpse; she was afraid of falling in again.
"Faith." Her voice was soft, as if she was trying not to scare the brunette away.
"Enjoying the party?"
In a sense, she was, but now that she was here...it just made it much more interesting. Not that Faith would ever tell her so.
"It's cleaner than the ones I'm used to." She replied with a grin.
Buffy blushed a little, and Faith remembered all the times she wished she could be the cause of that blush again. Not really believing she was actually seeing it again now. Being the cause of it. Again.
"I didn't know you were going to be here."
"Not a lot of people did."
There was a bit of a pause while Buffy tried to think of something else to say and while Faith desperately tried to look as cool and unaffected as she could.
"How have you been?"
Buffy sounded like really wanted to know. As if she was really concerned about it.
"Five by five." She responded automatically, cursing herself for not thinking of anything else.
"Yea...what about you?" Faith asked casually.
"Good...well, of the good variety."
Faith felt her heart wrench. Buffy was doing well without her. It was expected; of course Buffy didn't give a fuck, so why did she always hope?
"Good." She responded dully, taking another sip of beer.
"I...how is your work?"
Faith smiled softly. That's one thing she could talk about. Something she was proud of.
"So far so good. Girls are all little brats, but you get used to them after a while. They're all good kids at heart."
"I think our resident Rogue has a soft spot for the mini Faiths."
The brunette chuckled, letting her pretty dimples appear. Then her expression hardened and her voice went stone cold.
"S'what happens when you run into a kid that's been fucked with to a T. Just a kid with a life that's gone to shit, needing just a little push towards the good end, you know? And since nobody else is gonna give it to them, why not me?"
Buffy smiled in return, and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder that pulled away as soon as Faith flinched at the touch. It's not that she meant to cringe; it was out of habit.
Buffy bit her lip before sighing.
"There's absolutely nobody else better suited for the job. Wills updates me sometimes, even when I tell her I don't to hear it, and I'm always impressed. Good job, Faith."
She wasn't sure if she should be insulted or appreciative.
Might as well take what you can get, right?
Buffy twisted her hands nervously, looking everywhere but Faith's eyes, before saying,
"Satsu's probably waiting for me somewhere. I'll talk to you later?"
The other girl. The one Buffy was seeing.
Might as well have told Faith she never wanted to see her again, too.
With a final hesitation, Buffy left Faith at her chair.
As the evening slowed, and the music leaned more towards slow couple songs, Faith began to feel weary.
Her eyes roamed over the dancing couples, and felt them settle on one. A cute little blonde and an attractive little asian. Arms wrapped around each other gently, bodies swaying to the rhythm of the soft melodies from the speakers. Cheeks resting against each other's. Once in a while - and Faith wanted to look away - lips meeting each other's.
But Faith couldn't look away. She kept watching, kept feeling the hot and cold, the wretched knife twisting deeper and deeper into her own gut, and she wanted to scream. And as much as she swore inside that she didn't give a single fuck, she wished she was the one in her arms. She wished she was the one holding the girl in hers.
And when their finally eyes met, sparks seemed to fly, and Faith could feel her heartbeat speed up. The world seemed to stop as they gazed, even though they both knew that the world kept going on, hardly aware of the moment. She wanted to walk up, reach for her face and say...something. Anything. At least a smile towards her direction.
But when her eyes finally dropped to see Buffy's hands resting intimately on the body of another, she turned away, feeling bile gather in her throat. Then - after grabbing a new beer - she walked towards the stairs, where somewhere up on the higher level she knew she could find a balcony.
Sometimes counting stars with a bottle in one hand made you feel less alone than you really were.