Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, I don't claim it to be, etc.
A/N: This was originally written as a fill for Classic Lover's prompt at Comment Fic "(514): Holy shit, I wanna ride him into the horizon." It doesn't have much to do with that prompt anymore however.
When Xander shows up, Buffy's halfway inside the hall closet. The sound of his entrance is echoed by the stampede of new Potentials who have overflown to his apartment with Rona at the rear of the group to push the stragglers along.
Faith thumps her knuckles against Buffy's hip to claim her attention and when she reluctantly pulls her head out of the closet she finds Faith's eyes zeroed in on Xander where he stands a few feet away from them at the bottom of the stairs, waving the Potentials through toward the kitchen.
"Check that," Faith says appreciatively, with more lust and implied sweatiness in her two words than even a full-grown sentence should be reasonably expected to contain. She hardly bothers to lower her voice, with both Xander's shouts up the stairs for Dawn to hurry up and the buzz of the Potentials to nearly drown her out.
Buffy only looks for a few seconds, before Xander walks away after the Potentials, and then she goes back to rifling through the coat hangers.
She justhad her jacket last night. She wore it on patrol and everything. And now it's disappeared. This house is getting seriously out of control and all the extra boarders are very much not helping.
Faith leans against the frame of the closet door, thumbs in the waistband of the sweatpants she'd borrowed from Willow's closet. "So, baby sis wasn't the only one to grow up, huh? Goodbye, little buddy, and hello, cowboy." She gives a grunting unff. "That right there is a boy I'd want to ride off into the horizon."
Buffy looks at the other Slayer long enough to roll her eyes before she turns and heads into the living room to continue her search.
She tries to stay focused on the task at hand, both because of the arrival of her carpool ride and because of the distraction it provides from listening to Faith talk about her friend in a manner that involves grunting. But she can't keep from pointing out, "You already did, remember?" She peers under the coffee table and finds candy wrappers and Cheetos bags and a crumpled T-shirt, but no jacket. "I thought you didn't like going back for seconds."
When she straightens up, Faith is shaking her head. "You don't get it, do you? There's all kinds of men out there to explore, B. You and me, we've got a limited shelf life and we know it, so why not enjoy it and try to get a free sample of everything we can?"
There's some denim sticking out from under one of the sleeping bags that's still spread out on the floor, but it's just a pair of jeans that either hasn't been put away properly or hasn't made it down to the washing machine. She tosses it back on top of the sleeping bag and, when a glance to the table and shelves at the other end of the room show less clutter and no clear signs of jacket habitation, she moves to inspect the couch. "You already 'sampled,'" Buffy grimaces at the term, "Xander though."
"Nah," says Faith. She steps around the coffee table so that she's still standing just a as far from Buffy as she had been, and then she takes one step more. Spike had spent so long not willing to touch her, not willing to be touched, but Faith can sidle right up to her, even after everything. "Well, okay, yeah, sure, but that wasn't exactly the same Xander that we saw just now, you know what I'm saying? Not any of us are really the same as we were four years ago, that's for sure."
When Buffy flips over the cushion on the right, it reveals her jacket and she yanks it free. "You still want Xander, though."
Faith rolls her eyes and folds her arms, but it seems more-or-less good-natured. Which is a surprising and new nature from Faith. "Yeah," she smiles a smile that borders on a smirk and rolls her shoulders back until they pop, "but you still know what I mean." She says this with complete confidence, and then turns and heads back to the dining room.
Buffy's probably going to be late. She's going to be late and this is the first time she's going to see Robin since he failed to kill Spike and got his ass kicked instead and that's already awkward enough without adding any late to it, but at least she isn't face him late, post-ass-kicking, and jacketless.
And Dawn hasn't come down yet, so at least she can place the blame for her lateness on someone else. That's what sisters are for anyway, right?
She heads to the bottom of the stairs and finds Faith against the edge of the wall, eyeballing Xander from a bit of a distance so she can observe without having to face the stampede of hungry, breakfast-hunting teenage girls in the kitchen.
There's a part of Buffy that still feels sick over Faith being here. In her house. In her town. There's a nausea down in her gut and an anger that's warm beneath her skin. She'd tried to help her. She'd held out her hand and yelled, she'd put a knife in her gut and a kiss to her forehead and Faith had kept on taking.
But as Faith studies Xander, Buffy studies Faith. Faith who'd been her friend. Faith who'd been hurt. Faith who'd attacked her and killed a man and fooled Riley and run and hid and apologised and yelled and almost gotten her shot and turned herself in and had somehow come out like this.
And she thinks about Spike downstairs on the cot and chained to the wall, and Dawn with a sword in her hands, and Anya in tears at the frat house, and Willow with her hair turned black, and seeing Angel half way in between, and the new scar on Riley's face when he'd come back last year, and about how Tara had held her and stroked her hair when she broke with her face in the other woman's lap.
She shrugs her way into her jacket, tugging down the ends of the sleeves.
And she thinks about her breaking.
This isn't her jacket. This is someone else's jacket. This jacket doesn't go in at the waist the way hers does and it's a little lighter in colour than the one she was trying to find now that she looks at it.
And she thinks about her rebuilding.
The jacket doesn't quite fit, but it also doesn't not fit.
And she thinks about how Giles had stalled her in the cemetery and how even though he'd taken Willow to the other side of the world to breathe and to balance he couldn't see what Buffy could when he looked Spike in the eye.
She still doesn't know where her jacket is, but at this point she's got this one on and it makes more sense just to wear it.
"Is it getting warm in here or is that just me?" Faith asks. She sort of looks back at Buffy, but she's mostly looking at Xander, and even there she's mostly looking at his butt. "I'm gonna go work off this energy out back."
When she and Xander pass each other, both passing through the space between the wall and the end of the table, he doesn't look at her for any longer than it takes to establish that he isn't going to make her walk into the wall by squeezing too close. He heads straight to Buffy's side instead. "Still no Dawnie? We're gonna be late."
And Buffy thinks, yeah, maybe she does know.
Changed. Changing. Maybe she can't see it right now, not for Faith, maybe she'll see it later, but it must be happening. Because it's always happening. And if she has any right to be telling the same thing not only to Giles but to Robin, as she plans to do just as soon as Xander pulls them into the Sunnydale High parking lot, then she's going to have to try her best to see the new Faith. To give her another chance, even if it's just the final one.
Because she's not the same person anymore.