Summary: Xander goes to see Faith later on the same evening that she killed Alan Finch.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.
Rating: PG-13 for themes and language
Time Frame: Near the end of "Bad Girls": alternate timeline.
Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (email@example.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.
Faith stared at the wall of the motel room, thinking of nothing. She felt more tired then she could ever remember feeling. Every so often, the image of a dead body sinking out of sight into the dark waters of Sunnydale Harbor, and she ruthlessly forced it away, going back to thinking of nothing. After a while, she found she couldn't do it any more, and she began getting angry. * Damn it, what was that idiot doing in the alley? What, B and me are fighting for our lives and he decides sneaking up on us is a great idea? How does someone like that live as long as he did in Sunnydale? Besides, what-- *
There was a knock at the door, and Faith turned to glare at the sound. * It has to be Buffy. . .she's the only one who ever comes by this late. . .Wesley doesn't strike me as the type to wander by at this hour * She didn't want to deal with Buffy right now. . .her accusing eyes, the look of raw guilt on her face that she would expect to find mirrored on Faith's own face. . .it was just too much. The knock came again, and Faith got to her feet with a snarl, planning to yell at Buffy to leave her the hell alone until she could get a good night's sleep. She pulled the door open, and was surprised to see Xander there with a concerned look on his face. Faith felt a spasm of anger and snapped at him, "So what, B didn't have the guts to come down here herself. . .she had to send you to give me a hard time?"
Xander blinked in surprise, then replied, "Sorry to bother you. . .but Giles called to tell me what had gone down with Balthazar tonight." Faith flinched, and Xander noted the reaction, but continued, "Big and Flabby's goons grabbed Giles and that Wesley guy, and Buffy and Angel freed them and killed the big slug and his vampires. . .quite a scene. Naturally, they didn't call me to help, but Giles said you weren't there, and I was worried. . .I knew that you wouldn't pass up a shot to stomp some big slimy demon into the ground unless something was wrong. . .so what is it?"
Faith looked at him, and saw that he was clearly being straight with her. She gave ground, giving him silent consent to enter the room, and he did so, watching her closely and frowning as he closed the door behind him. The Slayer remained silent, and Xander took a deep breath and coaxed her, "Come on, Faith. . .spill."
Faith looked at him, and her emotions were chaotic. . .she didn't want to tell him about it, because that would mean thinking about Finch, and watching him die, and thinking of the sight and sounds of a corpse sinking out of sight into the bay. She remembered the night of the Hellmouth beast, and how he had saved her and brought her back to that room, and an avenue of escape from both the maddening thoughts and from Xander's gentle but relentless questioning occurred to her. She took two steps forward, grabbed Xander's head, and began kissing him hungrily.
Xander was shocked by Faith's sudden actions, and his body immediately reacted in a perfectly natural, but terribly inconvenient way. For a second, he considered surrendering to the supernova of hormones that Faith had just set loose inside him, but-remembering another occasion when a Slayer was out of control and offering a similar temptation to him-he gathered his strength and pulled Faith's hands free, forcing her away before she could use her superior strength to hold on. He took a step back, gasping, then regained his composure and uttered two words in a voice both sad and compassionate: "No, Faith."
Faith stared at him, then laughed bitterly and replied, "No? Really? One time was enough, huh? A little time in here before we stopped the Apocalypse, and you don't want me any more?"
Xander blinked, and there was a hint of anger in his eyes as he hesitated for a moment, then walked up to Faith, forcing himself to ignore the intoxicating aura of the young woman that persisted even when she was visibly distraught. He looked into her eyes and calmly responded, "Faith. . .the day I don't want you is the day you'll have to put a stake in my heart, because it will mean I'm dead." He paused for a moment, then amended, "Of course, considering Dead Boy's record with Buffy, even that wouldn't stop me for having the hots for you, so I guess it just isn't going to happen."
Faith blinked, and Xander's face fell as he continued, "Actually, the way you threw me out of here afterwards. . .I assumed I was the one who wasn't wanted any more. . .which was fine, your call. . .after what went down with Cordelia you probably think I'm just another cheating loser." Faith flinched again, and Xander frowned before concluding, "Anyway. . .you're just trying to seduce me to keep me from finding out what's wrong, and that's not cool, Faith. . .it's up to you who you want in your bed, but I deserve better than to have someone I care about use sex to keep me from helping her instead of because she actually wants me." He stepped back, folded his arms and stated flatly, "So it's not going to happen. . .you can tell me what's wrong, or you can throw me out and I'll go talk to Giles and Buffy, but I'm not going to ignore the fact that you're scared and upset, and that for some reason you're ready to do almost anything to keep me from pushing this. I risked my uncle's car and my ass to save you from that Apocalypse bitch, and I'm not giving up on you now."
Faith's eyes flashed angrily, and for a moment she considered ejecting him from the room so that she could have some peace before Buffy and Giles came back and began lecturing her. . .she didn't owe Xander any explanations. She looked into his eyes, preparing to snap at him and send him packing, then stopped at what she saw there.
Xander's eyes were dark, like hers, and they whispered as they looked intently at her. B's eyes seemed to shout her emotions: anyone looking her direction knew what she was thinking. . .but Xander's whispered, as if the message in them was only for whoever he was playing Comfort Guy for at the moment. Faith blinked, and she remembered sitting in the library with the group after Kakistos had been dusted, telling them about how she had lied to them. They had listened silently, and there had been concern visible on all of their faces, but she remembered Xander's most clearly: up to then her main impression of him had been the lascivious, if friendly look in his eyes as she told her naked Slaying story, but there was nothing left of that in his eyes as she had calmly told her story. . .only a level stare and a glint in his eyes that told her that he would be behind her in the future.
She also remembered the night she had nearly killed Angel, and the cold fury that had been in Xander's eyes as he bitterly told her about Angel's return and of Buffy's deception. His eyes had changed when they found Giles, first looking worried, then confused, then echoing his words of reservation as he came to the conclusion that Angel hadn't attacked Giles. She had ignored his eyes and words then, and the look of desperate pleading in his eyes as he tried to convince Buffy and Faith to stop fighting with each other while that bitch Gwendolyn Post got the glove and tried to fry them all.
Most recently she remembered locking eyes with him just before he plowed into the Apocalypse demon and saved her. . .his eyes had been cold and merciless, yet even from twenty feet away she could detect concern for her lurking in their dark depths. . .and, of course, the continued concern as he misinterpreted her request for him to hold her. . .and how that concern had been wiped away and replaced by stunned delight as she seduced him.
Faith closed her eyes, and thought of Cordelia for a moment. * She certainly wouldn't tell you to trust those eyes. . .at least not lately * Faith frowned, then shook her head inwardly: Xander had been straight with her all along, and she didn't even remotely believe that he was being dishonest with her now. The younger Slayer sighed, then sat down on her bed, cradling her head in her hands as she whispered to him, "Shit, Xander. . .I've really screwed things up this time."
She heard silence, then felt him sit next to her on the bed and nudge her slightly. She turned to him with pain-dulled eyes, and saw the same look of concern that had been there before, along with a new look of hope as he replied, "Tell me, Faith. . .I'm not going anywhere."
* * * * *
Twenty minutes later, Faith had finished, and both of them were silent for a moment before Faith asked quietly, "So what now? Do I go to the cops like a good little citizen and hope they believe that it was an accident?"
Xander laughed bitterly, and Faith saw anger in his eyes before he visibly calmed down and replied, "The same cops who tried to arrest Buffy for the murder of Kendra. . .the ones who keep writing reports attributing vampire kills to street gangs? Not a chance in the damned world, Faith, and the others will agree with me."
Faith felt a bit of the tension seep out of her at the certainty in Xander's voice. She frowned then asked, "So what, then. . .we let Wesley the Wimp know and see what those teabags in the Watcher's Council want to do?"
This time, the anger was visible on Xander's face, and there was open rage in his eyes as he clenched and unclenched his fists, startling Faith and causing her to reach out and give him a comforting squeeze as she whispered, "It's a little scary seeing you look like you're ready to kill someone, Xander."
Xander took a deep breath and his face calmed, but the rage remained in his eyes as he repeated what Giles had told him about Wesley's conduct before and during the fight with Balthazar. Faith listened, but the emotion growing in her was fear, not anger. She looked at him as he finished and muttered, "Great. . .he's useless AND a coward. . .he'd probably hand me over to the Council with no questions asked. After what they did to B, they probably won't have any problem whacking me and hoping the next Slayer will be an obedient little thing. . .I'm so screwed."
Xander blinked, and his hands unclenched as the rage vanished from his eyes, replaced by grim determination. He stared into her eyes and replied, "Faith. . .listen to me. In the morning, we'll go to Buffy, who is, if I know her, and I do, just as upset as you about what happened, and we'll all go to Giles. He'll know what to do. It was an accident, Faith. . .you and Buffy are going to be hurting for a while about it, but you don't deserve to have your life wrecked over it. We'll talk about it, maybe even cry a bit about it, but we are going to get past it. . .and the Watcher's Council isn't going to have a goddamned thing to say about it: they'll have to get through all of us before they get at you, and I'm including Dead Boy for that. . .he does have a way of coming through for us when his soul is open for business."
Faith laughed involuntarily, then sobered and looked doubtful. Xander kept looking at her, saying nothing, willing her to believe him. After about a minute, she nodded slightly at him and whispered, "Thanks."
Xander smiled at her, then leaned over and kissed her gently on the forehead before replying, "It's what we do, Faith. . .we screw up, we stick together, we fix it, we move on. . .we've had a lot of practice, and if you stick with us, you'll be doing it for us in the future."
Xander saw Faith relax somewhat more, and he felt a surge of relief go through him: Faith would be all right. He smiled at her again and asked, "Do you want me to take off so you can get some sleep?"
She looked at him, then shook her head and replied, "No. . .I want you to hold me. . .so I can get some sleep."
Xander saw the haunted look in her eyes, and this time there was no ambiguity about what she meant. He hugged her tightly, and before long Xander was sitting up in bed, his arms around Faith as she drifted off into uneasy slumber.
Xander frowned and tried to keep the anger he had about what had happened to Faith-and Buffy-in check, not wanting to disturb the Slayer's rest. Resigning himself to little or no sleep that night, he leaned back and waited for dawn.
* * * * *
Daylight had been peeking through the windows of the motel room for some time, and Xander was semi-dozing with Faith still in his arms, when a soft, familiar knock came from the door. Faith stirred, but did not awaken, and Xander smiled briefly before sobering and calling out, "Come in, Buffy."
The door opened, and Xander could see that Buffy had managed even less sleep than he had that night: she looked exhausted, and guilt was naked on her face. She looked at the scene on the bed, and some of the tension in her face faded away as she saw that Faith seemed to be resting somewhat peacefully. She looked into Xander's eyes and saw the compassion there, and just stood there and soaked it in for a moment before closing the door behind her and whispering, "You know."
Xander nodded gently, still trying to let Faith sleep as he quietly replied, "She told me. . .after a bit of persuasion." He paused, then concluded, "I told her we would go to see you after she got some sleep."
Buffy slowly walked over to the bed and sat on its edge, looking down at Faith and casually brushing a strand of hair from her eyes as she asked, "What did you tell her, Xander?"
Xander looked solemnly at her and replied simply, "I told her we would be there for her, and that the Council could go to hell." He saw her blink and saw the tears in her eyes, and he added quietly, "You should already know that goes for you, too, Buffy."
Buffy nodded slowly as the tears began to run, and she leaned forward to hug him. Xander returned the hug, and when they broke apart Faith was watching them both with wide eyes. Buffy leaned forward and lifted the younger Slayer into a sitting position and hugged her fiercely. Faith hugged back, and Xander waited quietly until they broke apart and lapsed into silence. After a moment, Faith looked at Buffy and asked, "B. . .is this what having a family is supposed to feel like?"
Buffy looked at Faith, then turned to where Xander was watching them both, ready to help if needed. She smiled at him and turned back to Faith, whispering, "Yes, it is."
As before, comments are welcome and desired.