note(s): Ties in to "Little Sister." Lyrics from Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Face to Face," from the Batman Returns soundtrack. Full lyrics

warning(s): SPOILERS for Angel s4, Buffy s7. One is, at the time of writing, unconfirmed. Some of this is just speculation, because my imagination works overtime. *g* And one part of this is now impossible without CGI.

dedication: Glenn Quinn, who brought such life to Doyle. It was his passing that gave me the end of this story.



Facing the Music

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction
by cheebs!

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One last kiss
Before we die
Face to face
And dream of flying
Who are you?
Who am I?
Wind in wings
Two angels falling
To die like this
With a last kiss
It's falsehood's flame
It's a crying shame
Face to face
The passion's brief
I hate to stay
Oh, but then I hate to leave
And you'll never know...


------------------

She clomped down from the stage to the last strains of applause. It made her feel good to know there was something else she was good at, something she could be appreciated for besides her ability to kill things with her bare hands.

In present company, of course, that was a greatly respected ability.

They'd come to Caritas to celebrate another apocalypse averted. After many drinks and sitting through many bad karaoke singers, Faith had pouted that she'd never heard Angel sing. The group had unanimously agreed that she was better off, having been permanently scarred by the last Barry Manilow experience.

"Oh, come on," Faith had complained, "anything's better than a K'tharl demon singing 'I Touch Myself.' Talk about a scary visual place." She'd shuddered.

"I don't see you getting up there, girl," Gunn had snapped at her playfully.

Faith had raised her eyebrow. "Is that a challenge?"

"Could be."

Faith had grinned. "Okay then. One song each?"

"And you gotta let Lorne read you." Gunn had sat back smugly, sure that Faith wouldn't agree with that term.

Faith hadn't thought on it very long before agreeing. She'd smirked at Gunn, who'd grumbled something under his breath as he mounted the stage.

Then the world had slowed, nearly spinning backwards, sliding into monochrome fractals as her dream had begun to happen in the waking world. Cordy's flippant remark and Angel's arm around her shoulders. Fred's blush as she'd listened to her boyfriend's song. A nearby Meequok getting bumped by a Gr'rath'l, launching his forearm blade into the wall and dropping his drink. Faith had very nearly dropped her own.

Gunn had finished, gotten his reading, and come back to the table smiling. Then it had been Faith's turn. Light and dark had turned inside-out, up had become down, and she had nearly fainted as she made her way to the stage. She'd had only a few seconds of intro to regret her choice of song - never one to wear her heart on her sleeve, she'd picked something so obvious that she'd never be able to take it back. Her secret would be out...and she had no longer cared.

Face to face
My lovely foe
Mouth to mouth
Raining Heaven's blows...

...You'll never know, ahhhhhhhhhhhh...


The song over, she descended the stairs, pumped full of adrenaline to past the point of caring what Lorne would say. She knew, anyway.

"Faith, fairest of the fair, siren of Slayage, I can never thank you enough for gracing me with that song." The Host smiled broadly as he came towards her. It did not reach his eyes, which brimmed with tears that threatened to spill at any time.

"Just give it to me straight, Jolly Green." Faith smiled in spite of herself.

Lorne inhaled deeply, hesitating.

"I'm a big girl. I can take it."

"I know you can." The demon smiled sadly. "I just don't have anything to tell you that you don't already know."

Faith looked down pensively, chewing her lower lip. "Thought as much," she said when she lifted her head, looking him evenly in the eyes. "Been good knowin' ya." Then, as an afterthought, she added, "Don't tell them, okay? I have to go, and if they know they'll try to keep me here."

Lorne knew 'they' meant 'Angel;' while the others had grown fond of Faith, they certainly hadn't the means of stopping her from crossing the street, much less going to Sunnydale. "Not a word." He made the motion of locking his lips and throwing away the key.

Faith gave him a brilliant smile before returning to the table.

"Damn, girl, you got a set a' lungs on you!" Gunn exclaimed upon the brunette's return. "So who's the lucky guy you sang to?" He poured her another double shot of Cuervo Especial and slid it along the tabletop with practised ease.

"Not you," Faith teased. She snagged the shotglass before it stopped moving and downed its contents smoothly.

"That's cool, I like my women in a little less leather anyway." His arm curled around Fred's waist and pulled her onto his lap.

"Whole point of the leather is to get out of it." Faith leered. "Tooooo baaaad," she mocked in a singsong voice.

"Faith, knock it off," Angel interrupted as he shifted closer to her. She gave him her best innocent look, dark eyes wide, full lips set in a pout that made his knees weak. "And don't even try that; you know it doesn't work with me."

Braver than usual, in part due to the alcohol causing a warm feeling and in part a sudden need to cuddle, Faith snuggled into Angel's side. "Doesn't stop me from trying." She ignored the mildly jealous glare she received from Cordy, in a similar pose on his other side.

"Nothing ever really does, does it?" Angel looked down at the woman he'd come to think of as his sister, amazed at her temerity. "So what did he say?"

"Nothing new...'you're on the right path; blah, blah, blah.'" Faith grabbed the tequila from Gunn and refilled her glass, quickly downing it and slamming it down just a little too hard, causing the others at the table to jump.

Angel frowned. "I think you've had enough."

"Nah..." Faith shot up in her seat. She poured another round of shots for herself and Gunn, then chugged the third of the bottle that was left. "Problem is I haven't. And now we need another bottle." She jumped up and went to the bar, stumbling only once when a demon she didn't recognise wolfwhistled at her passing. Her resulting cold glare made him shrink in his chair.

Faith plopped down on a stool and placed her order, glancing at the bartender's crotch and raising her eyebrow in a calculated threat when asked for ID. She didn't look up when Angel settled himself to her right.

"Why don't you tell her?"

"She knows." She cracked the bottle and took a hearty swig. "Always has." Her eyes found a spot on the bar immensely interesting.

Puzzled, his brow furrowed. "We are talking about Buffy here, right?"

"Yup." Another swig, then another.

"About you..."

"Loving her? Yep." Chug.

He hadn't quite expected that. "Then who doesn't know what?"

"Who says there's anything to know?"

His hand on her arm stopped the bottle's ascent to her lips. "I just have a feeling."

Faith sighed deeply, puffing her cheeks with her breath. After a prolonged pause she answered without looking up. "Lots of things to know. They'd hurt someone."

Then she did look up, and he saw the truth in her eyes. His golden goddess fell off her pedestal, and he never hated her more than in that moment.

"Don't worry, big guy. Just keepin' her warm for ya."

The pieces fell into place, and his world fell apart. It showed clearly on his face. Wordlessly she passed him the bottle and motioned for another. He accepted it and studied the faint blackberry stain her lips had imprinted on its mouth. He imagined similar marks dotting Buffy's petite, lithe body, surrounding tiny bite marks made by blunt teeth. Oh yes, she liked biting; he remembered that clearly. He gave the tequila back and grabbed the fresh bottle as it was delivered, immediately cracking it and taking a deep draught.

"Sorry I didn't tell you sooner." He opened his mouth to refute but she continued before he could speak. "No, it's not okay. I just hoped she'd tell you before I got out. I couldn't tell you before then - it's just kinda shitty to say that sort of thing through plexiglass, ya know?"

Her entire manner begged him not to hate her, from strained voice to eyes to full full lips that were being mercilessly chewed. He was as unsurprised by her lack of faith in him as he was to find that he didn't hate her at all. Unlike Giles, Wesley had finally read her first Watcher's diary, and had told Angel just enough to understand where her inability to trust came from. No, not inability, he corrected himself - extreme reluctance, but not inability. She trusted him enough to get drunk with him and know with certainty that he wouldn't take advantage of her as nearly everyone in her life had.

He wished for that certainty now, tried to find the previous brotherly feelings and her resemblance to Liam's long-dead baby sister, and failed utterly. He knew it was the tequila - it always went right to both his heads. Not that he'd never been attracted to Faith, but he'd never acted on it and knew he'd never forgive himself if he did, though he was quite sure she would and had expected it for the longest time.

As if sensing what he was thinking, or perhaps thinking something similar in her post-battle glow, Faith broke the silence between them. "We should get back to the others," she murmured, her voice thick like the tension that hung in the air.

"We should," he agreed, not trusting himself to move without kissing her.

"Yeah." She sounded less certain as she slid off the stool, Jose in hand. Squaring her shoulders, she started towards the table, then realised Angel wasn't moving. "C'mon, Soulboy, don't get all broody on me now," she baited with a magnificent, toothy grin. When he smiled, she grabbed his free hand with hers and pulled him up, then slung her arm around his waist for support as she took another gulp.

Her closeness made her unique scent unbearable, assaulting him with the woodsy shampoo and bath gel she preferred, muddled with dead cowflesh and layers of vampire dust soaked with assorted demons' blood, blanketed in the unmistakable essence of arousal. Death had never smelled so seductive to him. He rushed them back to the table, back to the woman he'd already told he loved who loved him back with everything she had.

"Did you two have a good..." Cordelia paused, her eyes raking over her drunken companions. "...talk?" She silently breathed a sigh of relief; she'd lost sight of them through the crowd.

'Yeah, I just told him I'm a big fuckin' dyke.' Faith kept her response to herself and drank from her bottle. She turned her chair around and straddled it, resting her arms on the back and letting the liquor dangle over it.

"It cleared some things up for me," Angel replied as he slid in next to his girlfriend, pulling her close.

"That it did," Faith agreed with a wide, feline yawn, making no attempt to stifle it.

"Hey now, you're not poopin' out on us, are you?" Fred asked. "Of course if you are I understand - we'd all understand, I mean - after that big fight and all the training this past week most people would be tired - but you're not most people, you're a Slayer, so maybe you don't get tired?"

Faith grinned at the other woman's babbling, which she'd come to find endearing in the time she'd been at the Hyperion. "'Course I get tired... plus it's past my bedtime." She winked at Fred as she got up. "Chuckles, m'man, I'm leavin' Jose in your capable hands. I'm out. See y'all in the morning."

As soon as she was out the door, Faith began to run. 'Shit! Why do you always fuck things up? He didn't need to know. She sure as shit wouldn't have said anything - why couldn't you just keep it to yourself for another couple of months?! Then it wouldn't have mattered anyway! Dumb bitch!'

Faster and faster she dashed, 'til she was little more than a blur - or rather, would have been, had anyone been there to see. It was late enough that no humans were about, and the things in the dark knew to stay out of her way. They whispered about her, how she was no ordinary Slayer, tainted with evil and insanity, who'd rip off a demon's head barehanded if it looked at her wrong but had turned a deaf ear and blind eye to killings that didn't directly involve her or her friends.

She ran until she'd no clue where she was, then suddenly pivoted on one foot and kicked the other into the burned out building she'd stopped before. The exposed beam twisted and the structure groaned loudly before collapsing around her.

She screamed - first in joy as the heavy beams fell toward her, then in frustration and anger as one by one they missed, some by centimeters. Her eyes hurt with dust, her throat was raw, and still she screamed. "Why now?! Why look out for me now, when you never did before?! Why can't you just let me die? I can't.... Just let me die...please...." The last words were choked out in a broken whisper as she dropped to her knees, tears running unchecked, unnoticed.

"Why'd you be wanting that?"

Faith stood slowly, danger radiating from her in palpable waves as she faced the foolishly brazen thing. "You don't want a piece of this," she growled, her instinct kicking in.

"What are you, crazy?" He moved into the circle of pavement illuminated by a streetlight that sputtered on its last legs, and she could see how beautiful he'd been when he was alive, with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. His brogue gave away an Irish upbringing. "I mean, you must be, to be here --" he gestured at the general area "-- this late at night, asking for death, when you could be with your friends having a grand time. But telling me I don't want a piece of tail as fine as yourself...well, that's just perfect insanity!"

His eyes widened as she snarled at him, baring abnormally pointed canines. He backed away, hands raised. "Now, Faith, you don' --"

Whatever he'd been about to say was cut off by her hand around his throat. "You know who I am - I don't really give a shit how - which means you know better than to fuck with me. Which means you must be crazier than I am." Her eyes shone, catlike, in the darkness.

Being already dead, Doyle didn't need the air the Slayer's hand would have been blocking had he needed to breathe...but he did need to keep his throat uncrushed if he wished to speak to her further. He pushed his spikes out hard and fast.

"Shit!" Faith dropped him and leapt back, clutching her hand. The holes closed before the bleeding stopped. She looked at him, head cocked, with the oddest expression.

"I did not want to do that to you, but you left me no choice." He got up warily, never taking his eyes from her.

"You're Doyle." Recognition finally dawned; she'd seen him in a photo tucked among the few trashy novels in A.I.'s main bookcase. Angel hadn't said much about him, other than he'd been a good friend and had died a hero.

"Aye."

"You're dead."

"And that stops people from coming back, when, exactly?" he asked, eyes twinkling with merriment.

Faith considered his query carefully before answering. "Good point."

"Not as good as the ones on my neck, apparently," he replied. Then realising to whom he was speaking, he closed his eyes in expectation of a blow. When none came, he opened first one, then the other, with great caution lest just being looked at set her off.

She just stood there, calmly appraising him with a raised eyebrow, arms crossed.

"Guess the big guy never told you about my horrid sense of humor."

She just stared, her features still mildly annoyed. She rocked her weight from one hip to the other, as if aching to hit something... or someone.

"Right. Just get straight to the point, then, shall I."

"Not like I have all night," she prodded, a slight smirk curling the corner of her mouth.

Doyle barked out a laugh. "Ha! Good to see Broodboy's not wearing off on you entirely."

"Oh, he's quite the comedian these days." Her smirk widened, threatening to take over her face.

"Is he now?" He brightened at whatever mental image he had. "I have not had the chance to look in on him that much, 'til just a few weeks ago."

"What happened a few weeks ago?" she asked, her mind still too inebriated to wrap itself around the obvious answer. Then she paused and took in his expression. "Oh. Right." Her brow furrowed bemusedly. "Huh?"

The half-demon sighed and rolled his eyes skyward. 'Why me?' "You got out."

"I know; I was there. I'm not that stupid." Faith looked at him expectantly. "What I wanna know is why you never checked up on Soulboy before then."

'Great. Another Slayer as clueless as the other. What'd I do to deserve this?' "I was too busy watchin' you, why'd you think?" He saw the set of her jaw change subtly and continued, "I was assigned to you by the Powers That Be. They said watch, so I did. Then you came here; so did I. Simple as that."

"So why you here now?"

"Might have something to do with your wee tantrum, there." He jerked a thumb toward the pile of beams.

"Hey, not my fault it was made so badly." Faith shrugged.

"That's not what I meant. You asked why they would not let you die."

"Oh," she said softly.

"It's not your time, not yet. Ye've a few more trials ahead. But you already know that." His voice softened further. "It will not be as bad as you think, to see her again. I cannot tell you more than that, though."

"It's not just her," she whispered, looking away. "I..."

"You're afraid to die."

She nodded mutely, face downcast and hidden behind a curtain of chocolate silk.

"Bein' a Slayer does not exactly come with a gold watch and a pension. Dyin's part of the job." He glared angrily. "Christ on a cross, gel, d'you think I wanted to die? D'you think anyone does? It's part of livin'! Now get over yerself, get on with what's left of your life and live every minute as if it's your last! Because you won't know it is until it's too late."

She lifted her head just enough to look at him through her hair, shocked at his sudden backbone.

"Get on with you. Night's still young, an there's plenty of whisky to be had - much better than that garbage you've been rottin' your gut with all night."

Impulsively Faith leaned in and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. "Too bad all the good ones are dead."

"If you like, I can stay around," Doyle suggested with a leer.

Faith groaned. "Later," she said with a dismissive wave, jogging back in the direction from which she'd come.

Doyle stayed for a while, watching long after she was out of sight range. With a smile, he faded.

The streetlight flickered out.


~ never an end ~
12/15/02