Part 8: Faith—Thank You and Good Night

Faith can't sleep.

Big fucking surprise.

She hauls herself off the couch and creeps up the stairs. She cracks open the first bedroom door she sees and spies Buffy, Willow, and Dawn sleeping in puppy pile formation on the bed in what was once Joyce's old room. As Faith closes the door, she feels a twinge. She liked Joyce. B didn't know how good she had it.

Another creeping move brings her to another bedroom. Buffy's old room. Faith opens the door with more certainty and leans against the frame. On the bed an exhausted Xander rolls over, shying away from the light. Faith debates a moment before stepping into the room and closing the door softly behind her. She leans against a wall and slides slowly down until she settles in a crouching position using the wall as a support for her back. Her eyes adjust to the dark and she remembers Lorne's message: Ya gotta go with him. Watch the kid's back. Everything depends on it.

After hearing the stuff she heard tonight, Faith thinks she and Xander might be better off if she asked him to watch her back on something like a permanent basis. She wonders for something like the millionth time how he'd react if she asked him to ditch Sunnydale and leave with her after this business with the First Evil and the Hellmouth is finished.

A low moan from the bed knocks Faith to attention. She watches Xander's body twitch, roll over to face back in her direction, then relax. His breathing is ragged. A nightmare, Faith figures. She wonders if it features the people he murdered, she wonders if it's something worse. Decides that she really doesn't want to know.

She crawls slowly over to the bed, careful to make no sound. She freezes when another tremor shakes the bed and Xander kicks the covers partially off. He's muttering now, a broken string of words that may or may not be English. Faith silently wishes he would wake up, but is afraid to snap him out of sleep herself. After a few tense seconds of waiting, the muttering dies down. Faith breaks out of her paralysis and finishes the long crawl to the bedside.

Sitting up in a kneeling position, Faith studies, really studies, the man in front of her. He's wearing sweatpants, she notices. She sees the scars of three parallel scratches on his bare chest. Her eyes wander to his face and with a shock she sees the scars of more scratches on his right cheek. Her eyes narrow. She doesn't recall seeing them earlier in broad daylight. Yet, here in the dark they stand out, an angry red against pale skin.

Xander's eyes snap open and body tenses. Faith prepares for some angry questions and readies her excuses, but he doesn't seem to be aware of her presence. His eyes look right through her, focused on something else. The irises go momentarily black before a subtle swirl of green washes them. His eyelids fade to a close and something like a soft cry escapes him.

Demon? She questions.

Human still, she decides.

Once again she finds herself reaching out, this time to touch the scars on his chest. Her fingers barely brush the skin when Xander whimpers in his sleep and begins to shiver. She pulls back, uncertain what to do. Then she remembers. She reaches out and holds his hand. The shivering subsides and the breathing evens out while somewhere Xander searches for some real sleep.

She isn't sure how long she sits there watching him when the bedroom door inches open. A sliver of light spills into the room and Faith turns her head to face the next worried visitor. She is surprised to see Buffy's silhouette peeking through the crack. If Buffy is surprised that Faith beat her to the punch, she gives no sign.

Xander stirs, but doesn't let go of Faith's hand, which for some reason pleases the woman kneeling in the gloom. It's been too long since something hasn't died or cringed from her touch.