Lost Without Her
"You know, you don't have to go, Faith."
Faith looked up from the duffle bag she'd packed and smiled at Fred.
"Yeah, I do, Fred."
The brilliant young woman leaning against the doorframe sighed in resignation. She had grown quite fond of the dark slayer. Sure, Faith had defeated a horrid beast that possessed world-ending capabilities, had brought safety and light back to LA, captured Angelus, and saved Angel from annihilation. But Fred had found that there was so much more to the raven-haired beauty. Faith had endured incredible hardships, both from the world into which she was born and of her own design. Yet she was still fun, spirited, spontaneous, and sassy. Fred just felt that the world had a bit more sparkle when Faith was around.
Three months had passed since Willow and Tara had come from Sunnydale to re-ensoul Angel. It had taken that long for the lawyers at Wolfram and Hart to negotiate Faith's release from prison. In a closed-door session with the Governor of California, a case was made that her extraordinary bravery and selflessness during the macabre occurrences in LA earned her a pardon. The Governor agreed.
Faith zipped up her bag and walked over to the resident scholar at Angel Inc. She engulfed Fred in a big hug. The smaller woman basked in the warm affection of the slayer.
"Thanks, Fred." She murmured near Fred's ear. "You made everything so much easier for me." The slayer held Fred away from her for a moment. "If you ever need me, you know where I am."
Fred nodded, surprised that she was close to tears. "I know."
Walking down the stairs together, they encountered the rest of the staff of Angel Investigations. Angel, Wesley, Cordelia, Gunn, and Lorne. Warm good-byes were said all around.
Angel accompanied Faith to the front gate.
"We could get you a car, ya know."
"It's ok, Angel." Faith assured him. "I'm used to making it on my own."
Angel reached into his pocket and handed Faith a bank card and a healthy amount of cash.
Angel took her hand and put the items in it. "We've been given possession of Wolfram and Hart's financial resources." He explained. "And there's no better use that I can think of than to support the heroes of this world." He stopped Faith's objection with a raised hand. "It will free you to fight evil and you can live a better life, Faith. Please. The account will never be empty."
The rogue slayer didn't know what to say. No one had ever given her this kind of support except the Mayor. But Faith knew that in the fight against evil, what Angel offered was to help tip the scales in the favor of good. A slayer who was not tired, hungry, and homeless could do just that.
Faith accepted the card and the money and walked though the gate.
"Faith." The slayer turned back to Angel. "Give her my best."
Nodding her head, Faith set out to catch the midnight bus for Sunnydale.
In the early hours just before dawn, Buffy awoke to a warm feeling in her chest. Looking around her room and listening, she could detect nothing amiss. She turned over and fell back to sleep, with the warmth lingering near her heart.
Watching from a distance, Faith saw Tara coming up the walkway toward her first class at UC Sunnydale. She quickly caught up to the witch and put her hand on Tara's shoulder.
The honey-haired Wiccan jumped and turned toward the woman who'd surprised her.
"Faith!" She exclaimed. She threw her arms around the slayer's neck and gave her a heartfelt hug. Faith returned the embrace, thankful that Tara was glad to see her.
"How are you?" The witch asked as she released Faith.
The slayer flashed a dimpled smile at Tara. "Ya know, Tara? You've got to be the only person in Sunnydale who's first words to me are "How are you?" instead of "What are you doing here?"
"Faith," scolded the witch, "that's not true." She paused, her smile widening. "Well, maybe it's a little true."
Tara looked back at the clock tower as it chimed 10am. "I know." Faith continued to grin at the Wiccan. "Women's Studies, 10am to 11:30am, Wednesdays and Fridays."
The fact that slayer had memorized her schedule made Tara laugh.
Faith hesitated. "Are you sure? I really just wanted you to know I was here."
"I'm sure." Tara gave Faith another quick hug and dashed off to her class.
The slayer watched her go, thinking that maybe Tara was the only person in Sunnydale who would be happy to see her again. She knew all about the Scoobie gang. She'd been writing letters to the Wiccan for the last two years. It had started with Buffy's death. That event had hurt her so badly that she had desperately needed to reach out to someone. And Tara was the only person she could think of who might be willing to listen and understand. It turned out to be one of the best things she'd ever done. Despite the fact that Buffy had been resurrected, it was writing to Tara that had given Faith an outlet to express her feelings and to change. Tara's letters had also kept her informed about the people she had genuinely grown to care about. She wanted to make amends. She wanted to continue to fight evil as she'd been chosen to do. And most of all, she wanted to be with Buffy. Over the months Faith had confided in Tara about all the feelings she had for the Chosen One. Tara was the only person who knew that Faith was deeply in love with Buffy.
"What is she doing here?" Willow was not happy.
Having told Willow about the rogue slayer's arrival, Tara had to refrain from smiling at the reaction Faith had so accurately predicted.
"But Buffy will freak." Willow was still not happy. She knew that Tara had been writing Faith for months. She respected Tara's privacy and she trusted her judgment. But she didn't think having Faith back in Sunnydale was the best idea. After her resurrection, Buffy had done well in the slaying department. But the redhead knew her best friend's state of well being was not good. And it was growing steadily worse. Willow knew that the blonde slayer's purpose in life was the killing of evil things. But her responsibilities had become her only purpose. There was no joy, no relief, no life beyond that. Perhaps it was time to try another course of action.
Tara waited patiently for Willow to process the implications of Faith coming back into Buffy's life. The gentle witch also worried about Buffy's increasing remoteness. In Tara's mind, Buffy was lost. She thought the slayer was descending slowly into an abyss of duty and despair. Tara believed that Buffy was lonely, incomplete somehow. From what she'd been told, sparks had flown between the two slayers, before and even after Faith was seduced by the forces of evil. Tara felt there was something extraordinary between the two women that no one else could possibly understand. If there was anyone who could find Buffy, it was Faith.
"Willow, please. Can't we give her a chance?"
"Ok." Willow relented. Though she was the more powerful of the two witches, she knew that Tara was by far the more intuitive. If Tara believed that Faith was the answer to Buffy's sadness, then she would just have to trust her instinct. "But if she doesn't tell Buffy that she's here soon, I will."
Tara gave her lover a soft kiss. "Thank you, Willow. I'm sure that Faith will find Buffy tonight."
Buffy was taking a tour through the last cemetery of the night. The warm feeling she'd felt in her chest all day was still there. She wasn't terribly concerned about it. On this cool autumn evening, it was welcome. But she didn't have much time to consider the sensation. Hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Something was coming her way, something bad.
Across the cemetery, she could see two large demonic creatures approaching her. ‘No,' she thought, ‘not large… huge…' "Uh oh…."
As the fiends advanced on Buffy, the warmth she'd been feeling in her chest all day changed into more of an electrical sparking. And Buffy knew immediately that there was only one reason in the world, or rather, only one person in the world, who could make her feel that way.
As if by a magician's hand, Faith suddenly appeared by her side, a vision in black leather. But before Buffy could say anything or notice more, the demons were upon them.
Like a well rehearsed team, Buffy and Faith leapt into action. They pummeled the demons, but made little progress against their thick hides and dense bodies. Both women tried stakes as well, but to no avail. One demon grabbed Buffy and tossed her twenty feet away from the fight. The blonde slayer hit a gravestone near where she had dropped her weapons bag. She sat up, reached into the satchel that held her arsenal and pulled out her Slayer's Scythe. She looked back to where Faith was trying to hold her own against the two oversized monsters, mesmerized by the dark slayer's skills. Faith was so quick, so agile, and so powerful. And she seemed so much more controlled than Buffy ever remembered her being. She was absolute poetry in motion.
And she was losing.
When Faith looked back at Buffy, the blonde tossed the scythe to her. The rogue slayer caught and handled it as expertly as if she'd been using it all her life. She kicked back one demon as she swept the legs out from under the other one. When he hit the ground, Faith chopped his head off with one crisp, clean motion of the blade. As the other demon closed in on Faith again, she stabbed his leg with the sharp, stake-like opposite end of the scythe. The demon howled in pain and dropped to one knee. Faith then decapitated him with a left-handed upswing that would have made any home-run hitter proud.
As the satanic bodies disintegrated into the ground, Faith walked over to where Buffy was still sitting up against the gravestone. Buffy used the seconds to drink her in. She noticed every detail about her. The way she walked, her scent, the look in her eyes. Faith was still breathless from the exertion. The older slayer could almost hear Faith's heart racing, practically feel the adrenaline still coursing through her veins. Her hair was longer, cascading past her shoulders in untamed waves. She wore a waist length leather jacket over what Buffy assumed was a tight-fitting, black tank top that revealed plenty of fair midriff skin and ample cleavage. The leather pants she wore were so form fitting that they appeared to have been painted onto the slayer's shapely, muscular legs. Her lower lip was cut.
As Faith approached Buffy, all she could think of was how beautiful her former partner looked. Gorgeous, yet strangely vulnerable. She wanted to scoop the woman up into her arms and never let her go. Faith stopped in front of Buffy, the scythe still in one hand. The smaller slayer stared up into deep brown eyes.
The brunette held out her hand to help Buffy up.
After Faith had pulled her up, Buffy asked. "Why?"
Faith looked away for a moment. "I'm not ready to tell you that yet, B. But I promise I'm not here to hurt you." Trying to deflect the inquiry, she looked down at the amazing weapon still in her hands. "Wicked cool weapon."
Buffy regarded the scythe. "I found it in the basement of an old abandoned winery." She looked back into Faith's eyes. "Giles says it's ancient and magical. That it belongs to the Slayer."
"Oh…. right." Faith quickly handed the scythe back to Buffy. She turned and started to leave.
"You're still so…" Buffy hesitated, trying to find the right word.
Faith turned halfway back to the blonde. Her eyebrows formed a slight frown, as if she were steeling herself against an upcoming emotional blow. She tried unsuccessfully to keep the defensiveness out of her voice.
"I'm still so… what?"
"Hot." Buffy offered.
Not expecting that, Faith let a small smile play across her lips. She glanced away for a moment, shaking her head slightly before looking back at Buffy.
"You always surprise me, B."
Faith turned and walked away. Buffy watched her until she disappeared into the darkness. She felt the electricity that had been pulsating in her chest fade back into the warmth she'd been experiencing since dawn. How could she not have known it was Faith's closeness? The connection she had with her fellow slayer was unique. But it had been so long since she'd felt it. She wanted to follow Faith, to be near her again. Instead she gathered her weapons and started toward home.
Unbeknownst to the two slayers, an evil witch from another dimension watched from a distance. She had only been in the shadows long enough to see Faith dispatch the demons she had sent to capture the Slayer. Disappointed by the failure of the demons she'd brought with her, she thought to herself. ‘There's got to be another way….'
Willow and Tara waited anxiously for Buffy to return. When she came though the door, they practically pounced on her.
"How was slaying?" Willow asked, trying to sound casual.
"What happened?" Tara this time.
"Demons. Big. Huge." Buffy replied starting toward the stairs. She was somewhat in a daze, still thinking about Faith. "Couldn't be staked, couldn't hurt ‘em."
"Then how did you kill them?" Willow again.
Buffy faced her two friends. "Faith."
"You saw Faith?" Tara figured it was her turn. When Buffy nodded, she asked. "Did she talk to you?"
Buffy shook her head. "She said she wasn't ready yet."
"Did you talk to her?" Willow was getting impatient as Buffy nodded this time. "Well, Buffy, what did you say to her?"
"I told her she was hot." Buffy turned from the two stunned witches and climbed stairs. "'Night."
"Well." Tara drew her arm around her lover as they listened to Buffy close the door to her room. "It's a start."
The hotel was much nicer than anything Faith would have ever picked out in the past. Not the fanciest place in town, but clean and comfortable. It had a nice big bed, a bar, a refrigerator, and a TV that actually worked. Faith threw her jacket on a chair and sat down on the bed. Images of Buffy filled her head. She wore her blonde hair straight and long, pulled partially back just the way Faith liked it. Under the white fitted V-neck sweater, the brown suede jacket and jeans, Faith could tell that Buffy's lithe body was toned and battle ready. Buffy didn't have her fellow slayer's defined athletic build. So she looked deceptively fragile. She never appeared as powerful as she really was.
But it was her eyes that Faith kept seeing in her mind. The rich, hazel colored depths made her think that Buffy could see directly into her soul. The rogue slayer almost wished she could. Perhaps then Buffy would see how much she loved her and how badly she wanted to share her life.
Faith got up and poured herself a drink from the bar. She was restless. But she hadn't really cared to do the mindless sex thing in a while. She only wanted Buffy now. God, how she wanted Buffy now. Faith wished she still smoked.
Buffy also lay in her bed unable to sleep. Images of Faith kept reappearing in the darkness. The way she moved, that wisp of a smile, the way she made Buffy feel. Since she'd been away, the younger slayer had evolved from a pretty teen with a dynamic body into a gorgeous woman with muscles and curves in all the right places. Buffy didn't try to pretend that she was immune to Faith's physical charms. She had secretly lusted after the lovely brunette just like everyone else had. But she'd always kept Faith at arm's length because she'd felt a responsibility for her. Buffy sighed. ‘Yeah, right… and a fine job I did there….' But it was obvious now that Faith no longer needed her guardianship. If the opportunity ever presented itself, she would not make that mistake again. The implications of her thoughts faded as Buffy allowed replays of Faith at the cemetery to lull her to sleep.
Two days later, Tara knocked on the door to Faith's hotel room. The slayer had told her where she was staying. It was already past 10am and the witch knew that quite possibly Faith was still asleep. But she needed to talk to her. She knocked again and heard muffled movement behind the door.
When it opened, Tara grinned. The slayer was indeed half asleep. Jeans unzipped and barely pulled on, an old T shirt put on inside out. Faith was rubbing her eyes, but she stood back to let the Wiccan in.
"Coffee?" Tara offered.
Faith nodded and padded into the bathroom. Tara went to the sink and set up the coffeemaker the room provided. When the slayer came back, she had splashed water on her face and was trying to look awake. She sat down at the small table.
"What's up, T.?"
As the coffee began to perk, Tara joined her. "You saw Buffy?"
Faith nodded. "Two nights ago. Why?"
"Where have you been since then?"
Faith got up and poured the coffee into a cup. She held up the carafe to Tara who shook her head.
"I've been slaying." Faith answered as she sat back down. "Keeping a low profile, ya know? Stayin' out of Buffy's way." She watched Tara for a reaction. "I thought I'd give her some space. Ya know, time to get used to havin' me around again."
Tara sighed. "Faith, she can't get used to having you around, if you're not." She put her hand over Faith's. "I think Buffy needs you."
A puzzled look crossed Faith's face. "Needs me? Why would Buffy need me?"
"I think she's always needed you, Faith, as much as she tried to hide it." Tara attempted to explain. "There isn't another person on this earth who knows and understands her life and her feelings like you do. You may be opposites on many levels. But your destinies are linked together like no one else." As long as she had gone this far, Tara took a chance. "I know you're in love with her." Faith stared down at her coffee cup. She had written it to Tara. She had thought about it constantly. But she had never admitted it out loud or heard someone else voice it. "You need to tell her. I think she's lost without you."
Faith quickly looked up at Tara again. Concern flashed in the expressive, brown eyes.
"Since the resurrection, it's as though Buffy's happiness didn't come back with her." Tara continued. "She slays, she's responsible. But she doesn't really feel. She doesn't really let anyone in. You have a connection with her that's special, Faith." Her instincts told Tara to lay it all on the line for her friends. "I think you've always been a part of her heart. And…" the witch hesitated, "I think she loves you."
Now Faith looked absolutely shocked. "But.."
"I know." Tara held up her hand to halt the tirade Faith was about to launch into about their past. "There's been a lot of history, mixed messages, and damage. But the bottom line here is that I still believe she's lost without you."
That night, Willow approached Buffy, who was reading in the living room. "Going slaying tonight?" She asked. Buffy shook her head. "Things have been pretty slow since Faith came back. I was going to skip tonight."
"Why don't you come out to the Bronze with us?"
"I don't know, Wil...." Buffy started her usual refusal.
"Come on, Buffy." Willow interrupted. "Let's go have some fun for a change." She turned and headed toward the stairs, throwing her last comment over her shoulder. "Who knows… maybe Faith still loves to dance as much as she used to."
When the three women entered their old club it was fairly full. The Friday night crowd was a good blend of town people and college kids. The local band was a popular one. The music was already pulsating and the dance floor contained many gyrating couples. As they made their way toward the bar, Buffy abruptly stopped and let her eyes wander over the dance floor. It took only seconds for her to find Faith. She was near the back, completely absorbed in her dancing. Buffy watched her fellow slayer move to the music. Faith loved music and she loved to dance. Buffy knew it was one of the few times that Faith might not be instantly aware of her presence. She could get that immersed in the rhythms and movements. The man Faith was dancing with was obviously more interested in Faith's body than in dancing. He tried several times to capture his exquisite partner and pull her to him. A flash of annoyance pierced Buffy. But Faith eluded him easily. Closing her eyes, swaying to the beat, she continued to dance practically alone.
As the song came to its conclusion, Faith suddenly turned, opened her eyes and looked directly at Buffy. The blonde felt slightly unsteady as if the gaze had physically impacted her. She let out the breath she hadn't been aware she was holding and managed to smile at the sexy slayer. Faith started toward her when the man she'd been dancing with grabbed her arm. Buffy wanted to dart across the room and break the offending hand. But Faith turned, said something to him, and he let her go as if he'd been burned. Faith strode over to Buffy.
"Hey." She said softly.
"Hey." Buffy replied.
"You look great." Faith admired the soft, pale blue shirt Buffy wore. The peasant style neckline exposed the smooth, tanned skin just above the blonde's breasts. Its stitching gathered in the front leaving the string tie to rest in Buffy's cleavage. Faith could imagine pulling at the bow and loosening the opening just enough to let it slide down the blonde's shoulders. She wore gray slacks that fit snugly, accentuating her slender hips and firm ass. Buffy's charisma was subtle, yet Faith was mesmerized by it. The brunette wanted to slip off the suede jacket she wore and let her hands run rampant over everything underneath.
"You, on the other hand," Buffy teased, "leave nothing to the imagination." It was true that Faith's radiance was completely displayed. She was wearing her usual skin-tight black leather pants and this time a crimson red tank top. Her hair was loose and all the skin that was showing around the tight shirt had a sensual glow.
"And just what have you been imagining?" Faith took a step toward Buffy.
‘You, writhing naked on my bed,' thought Buffy. She shook her head to dispel the vivid image. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
Faith took another step closer so that she was mere inches from the blonde. Buffy could feel the heat, the lust, emanating from Faith's body.
"Yeah, I would."
Willow and Tara watched from the bar as the two slayers did their own private dance. It was quite clear to the witches that the slayers were completely unaware that there was anyone else in the room. They were so focused on each other. At that moment, someone jostled by Buffy and accidentally nudged her off balance. Suddenly Buffy was in Faith's arms. Buffy's hands were on Faith's biceps, Faith's arms circled Buffy's waist. They stayed that way, gazing into each other's eyes. Tara took Willow's hand and squeezed it.
Finding herself in Faith's arms may have been the last thing Buffy expected. But she instantly realized that it was where she most wanted to be. She began to feel a slow burn that started low in her hips and built up her torso. Her eyes widened as she stared into her partner's eyes. She finally recognized the feeling as it coursed through her entire body. It had been years, and it felt like an awakening.
Faith watched as Buffy's body went through its transition from bystander to participant. The brunette could practically feel the transformation. Faith's extensive sexual experience had taught her a lot about passion. It was intoxicating to feel the blonde's libido stirring. As much as she wanted to pull Buffy to her, she did not initiate a more intimate embrace. Faith waited.
For once, Buffy didn't think or rationalize. She just let herself feel. It took very little effort to close the distance between her and her slayer. Buffy reached up ever so slightly and kissed Faith.
Soft and slow, Faith let Buffy learn her. She savored the tentative exploration, the gentle repeated caress of lips she'd been dreaming about for years. She wanted so much to increase the pressure and slide her tongue into Buffy's mouth. Still, she waited.
At the door to the club, a group of college students entered the Bronze. Among them was college freshman, Dawn. She still lived at home, but her class schedule and friends left little time for her to spend there. Unaware of the recent events involving her sister, Dawn was surprised to see Buffy at the club. She was even more astonished to see her sister kissing another woman. As Dawn took in the scene, she felt her blood begin to boil. Strangely, it wasn't the fact that her sister was kissing a woman that galled her. It was who the woman was she was kissing. 'What is she doing here?'
The youngest Summers marched over to the couple and pushed the rogue slayer out of her sister's embrace. Before anyone could react, Dawn reached up and slapped Faith hard across the face.
"Dawn!" Buffy shouted at her sister as Faith slowly straightened back up. Faith watched the fuming young woman with no discernible expression.
"What was that for?" Buffy was frightened and furious. So many emotions that she hadn't encountered since her resurrection were bombarding her this evening. She felt raw, exposed and overwhelmed.
But Dawn stood her ground and continued to glare at Faith. "That's for my memories of you."
"Faith..." Buffy started.
"S'ok, B." The dark slayer interrupted, still holding the young woman's gaze. "She's got reason."
"No, she doesn't." Buffy held onto Faith's arm to prevent the brunette from turning away. Her voice became softer, almost pleading with Faith to stay. "She had no right...." Faith broke eye contact with Dawn and turned regretful eyes toward Buffy.
"I didn't say she had a right, B. I said she had reason."
Then Faith turned and walked away from them both.
Buffy turned on her sister, her own anger rising to the surface. "What in the hell's the matter with you?!"
"What in the hell's the matter with you?!" Dawn shot back. "That was Faith for god's sake!"
Buffy was at a loss. Of course her sister was upset. She hadn't thought to tell her about Faith's return.
"And you…" Dawn stared past Buffy directly at Tara. "You knew about this?"
Before Tara could respond, Dawn spun around and walked quickly out of the club.
"Dawn, wait!" Tara called after her retreating back. Going after the young woman, neither Buffy nor Willow stopped her.
Willow shook her head at the sweeping range of emotions she'd just witnessed. She felt now more then ever that her lover had been right about Faith and Buffy. No big shock there. Tara had an extraordinary way of reading people. But what she hadn't expected was the reaction of the dark slayer to Dawn's tirade. The young woman had slapped her in front of a crowd, but she'd not reacted at all to the affront. Faith had remained calm. No anger, no violence, no retaliation. If anything, Willow thought Faith had appeared sad. She had to admit that she'd had doubts about Faith despite Tara's intuition. But those reservations melted away as her heart accepted the change in the dark slayer.
"Dawn!" Outside Tara caught up to the teenager.
"How could you?" Dawn stopped and whirled back at Tara. "You knew she was here!"
"Dawn, she's only been here a few days." Tara tried to keep her voice even.
"How could you let her anywhere near Buffy?" Dawn flared. "After everything she put her through."
"Come on, Dawn. Faith has spent the last three years in prison. She almost lost her life stopping an apocalypse in LA." Tara drew near Dawn. "She's here to help. And I think Buffy needs her."
Dawn's expression became slightly less angry as she tried to take in what Tara was saying. "Why would Buffy need her?"
"Sweetie, you know that Buffy's been struggling ever since the resurrection." Tara now had a soothing hand on Dawn's arm. "No one's been able to get through to her. I think Faith can."
Dawn loved her sister. And she knew that she'd been unhappy for a long time. "Do you trust her?"
This is what it came down to. Trust. Dawn had endured the loss of her mother, living with her sister who was The Slayer, who had died, and Willow's spree with dark magic. Tara had been the one constant in her life. Dawn loved and trusted Tara more than she could articulate. If Tara told Dawn that she could trust Faith, then she would. But if the Wiccan was wrong and Faith let her down, Tara knew that Dawn would never trust her again. She made a difficult decision.
"Yes, sweetie, I do."
Dawn sighed and hugged Tara. "Ok. But that doesn't mean I have to like it."
Tara released Dawn but kept her hands gently on her arms. "No, it doesn't. But if you make it difficult for Faith to be around, the only one who will suffer is Buffy."