Adjustment – Part XXIV

Xander pulled into a motel parking lot that was placed out of sight behind the building. The real truth that everyone knew was that all successful motels had hidden parking lots; the reason for this was that the main use for a motel was usually for some sort of illicit affair and those engaging in such didn't like to be able to be spotted by passing vehicles. It also made the lots great places for people trying to just not be seen. He pulled the car into a corner spot shielded from view even more by the adjacent SUV. The entire ride had gone by in silence as Xander drove wildly away from the scene but then lowered the speed down to a hopefully unnoticeable one. They had driven for over an hour before they found this place, probably a complete dive, but ideal for what they were looking for.

Xander turned off the car then looked over at Faith who was sitting there rigidly and unmoved as if she didn't notice the car had parked. Her expression was blank but it was clear that she had a million things on her mind. Xander lowered his hand to hers and entangled his fingers between each of hers then after a soft squeeze he picked her hand up and kissed it. She looked into his face over her hand, which he held in front of his face waiting for acknowledgment, giving a soft nod of admission. He lowered her hand then exited the car and headed for the motel office – he was feeling like a little too much of a pro at this, it being the second day in a row.

Faith opened her door and got out of the car and Kennedy followed suit behind her. For the first time she looked over at Kennedy, looking her over slowly needing to know that she was completely okay.

"Faith, I'm okay," she promised, seeing the intense worry and guilt on her face. Faith nodded in response then Kennedy added, "I mean, I'm not okay okay after what happened today, but I'm okay." She received another nod from Faith that she felt like she had to continue talking, even if it was coming out as meaningless prattle. "I'm just not used to seeing that… you know…"

"Don't ever get used to seeing that." Her words shook Kennedy to the bone and she couldn't help but remember the pictures the interrogator had placed in front of her on that table.

"Was that the plan?" Kennedy had to ask. As she voiced her question Xander returned to the lot with a key in hand. Faith answered flatly,

"No, that wasn't the plan."

"Oh," Kennedy answered as they walked into the motel room. Xander finally slipped, losing his tightly held equanimity and answered angrily,

"He had a fucking gun to your face and you think I'm not going to do something about it? You said it yourself, they're not going to fucking hesitate pulling that trigger on you!" Kennedy immediately tensed up and shot her focus over to Faith ready for a screaming match to ensue – she didn't know if they were mad at each other but she did know that the tension-meter in the car had skyrocketed.

She was surprised to see Faith just walk into the room quietly with the demeanor of a saint. Xander locked the door to the room then marched over to her on the other side of the room,

"Faith… look at your wrists, their bleeding… those fucks had you in cuffs for five minutes and your wrists are fucking bleeding… and that was in broad daylight in public. What would they have done to you in the precinct behind closed doors? Huh? I know what they'd do to you! I wasn't going to let that happen. I wasn't… I couldn't… I couldn't let them take you… they can't take you away from me, I won't let them."

"Okay," she answered blankly.

"Listen, I'm sorry, Faith, but I'm not exactly the seasoned veteran with this shit so if I'm freaking out, excuse me," he added, his tone much more biting. She was more hurt than offended by what he said and he could tell that this was just her way of dealing with something that she had promised herself she would never have to deal with dealing again. Kennedy watched them closely – Xander sighed heavily turning away from her and running his hand through his hair before turning back and walking up to her. He wrapped his arms tightly around her and rested his lips against her ear whispering, "I can't lose you, Faith, I just can't."


"They had it all fucking planned out!" Carter yelled angrily, "and we walked right into it! We were so preoccupied with the girl that we didn't even think about checking the car for anyone!"

"It was a big mistake," Brian admitted.

"That didn't seem planned to me," Eddy defended.

"How did that not seem planned?" Brian asked, "she shows up, plays nice, gets the girl then runs off leaving us with a dead officer."

"Sir," Joey answered, "when the guy was telling Eddy to un-cuff her she did tell him to just take Kennedy and to let them take her. She stood by the deal. I think all she came for was to get that girl out of here and turn herself in."

"You know what Joey, shut your mouth! Can you have a little bit of loyalty to your partner here? He's dead! He's your partner Joey… can you have a little more loyalty for him that just some pretty face you saw? Hot girls can be killers too, Joey, you better learn that now." Officer Brian scolded, his face still beaded with sweat as they loaded Stevenson's body into the coroners van in a body bag.

"This is going to be a mess to write a report up on," Carter said with a sigh. He was met with looks of agreement from everyone except for Joey,

"Do you plan on writing down how many violations of procedure there were?"

"What did you have in mind?"

"Well let's just start at the fact that Officer Brian walked past her vehicle and didn't notice the full sized male sitting in the car and then we can close with the fact that Stevenson violated all protocol by pulling his gun out to face off an unknown persons already holding a gun at an officer!"

"Well we'll be sure to rebuke him," Brian spat sardonically.

"I'm as upset as everyone else here, let's not forget that he was my partner, but we need to look at this judiciously; by pulling his gun on Faith he changed the intent of the male completely. It threatened his integrity and-"

"Not following you," Carter stated flatly, wanting to make opposition to their opinion as difficult as possible.

"Excuse me," Joey answered, remaining composed, "but please correct me if I'm wrong but as they taught us in training, when you're put in a situation with a person threatening an officer with a gun you're trained to try and ease the situation and offer forth the demands the gun holder has. You're trained to give them what they want – anything to get the officer out of danger. The demand of the man with the gun was clearly to release Faith and certainly not to put the barrel of a gun in her face. Obviously there's an attachment between the shooter and Faith and by threatening her so violently he reacted in kind."

"Well then I suppose all is forgiven," Carter answered sardonically.

"There's no need for the sarcasm," Eddy snapped.

"I'll be sure to have my written report ready by tomorrow morning," Joey added before exiting the scene.


Faith walked out of the bathroom and saw Kennedy sitting restlessly on one of the single beds and Xander walking towards the door. She wasn't sure why but her stomach twisted painfully seeing him looking like he was leaving. She had to admit there had been way too many occasions with the two of them when he walked out of a room looking fairly similar to this one. She had to assume that the association was too great to go unnoticed by her subconscious.

"Where are you going?" she asked quickly.

"I was just going to give Angel a call," he answered calmly holding up a cell phone.

"Oh," she answered, realizing how out of place her anxiety was, not to mention how out of character.

"I'll be right back," he said reaching his hand for the door knob.

"Why can't you just call him in here?"

"Faith, is everything okay?"

"Everything's just peachy," she answered sarcastically. "I just don't see why you can't just call in here…"

"No service," he answered. "I'm just going to make a quick call and let him know what's the what and try and figure out what we're supposed to do." He had already assumed that Faith wanted nothing to do with planning their next step by the way she was behaving. She seemed overwhelmed and distant yet anxious. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Whatever," she answered angrily, turning away from him and walking back into the bathroom to fix her hair after her shower. Confusion, oh how he had learned to love it. He exited the motel room carefully both as to not attract attention to the fact that he was being careful and also to be on the lookout.

"What's the deal with you guys now?" Kennedy asked, her tone all of a sudden very direct and almost accusing. She had been in a sort of shock up until this point and she had finally given herself the extra kick she needed to get over it – at least for now – and deal with what needed to be dealt with. And right now it was obvious to her that the first thing that needed to be dealt with was Faith. Her question went unanswered as Faith continued to towel dry her hair then run her fingers through it to bring it to its natural style. "You look like shit," Kennedy stated bluntly as Faith continued to do herself up in the mirror.

"You looking to get your ass beat?" she asked angrily. Kennedy shrugged, un-phased and answered,

"I don't know, it looks like I might be able to take you right now. You're looking a little stressed… maybe even a little tired."

"Seems to be the look I get whenever I'm in these situations," she answered bitingly, "can't imagine why though, Kennedy."

"I can see the whole psycho thing now," she added, like a scientist finally figuring out a theorem.

"What?" Faith asked, the word drenched in rage. Kennedy shrugged – internally soothing the waves of fear rushing through her – and answered lightly,

"I can see it now… I'm not sure why I get it all of a sudden but before I believed it but I never really saw it in you. Willow said it was because you liked hanging with me… that it made you happy so I never saw that side of you. When you were with Xander too, you were always really happy. I don't think he saw it in you either – but I guess he knew it was there… Willow told me about that time you tried to… sorry, side tracked myself there. It wasn't that I didn't know it was there but it's the difference between reading a book that tells you a Vampire is strong and having one wrestle you to the ground. But anyway, back to my point," Kennedy continued not leaving any time for Faith to interpolate any of her own opinions. "I can see how back in the day you freaked… I mean here you are pacing back and forth and being bitchy when you didn't even kill the guy…"

"I was behind bars for what I did…"

"Thanks to you I got to experience that too," she answered, still maintaining her neutral tone. "You know what your problem is Faith? You really are crazy… I took this psych class once and they talked about how the ego thinks of Good and Bad and the way they mesh together to make a person. Crazy people, such as yourself, don't believe in that mesh; you assume something is either entirely Good or entirely Bad, which is impossible and why you'll never be happy with yourself. There's no way you can be all Good… and you know that because of what you've done. Hey, those cops showed me some of the pictures of the people you killed, and let me tell you, there ain't all good in there, Faith."

"Why would they show that to you?" Faith asked, her tone flustered. Xander entered the room silently, hearing the intense dialogue, and remained that way by the door unnoticed.

"Listen, you need to stop being so damn crazy and let those two things mesh… for a girl that's so into sex you have a lot of trouble with that concept," she joked. "What happened today, take the good with the bad… you got me out and as a bonus you're still out too."

"The price was that guy's life! We can't just take that away and shrug it off like it doesn't matter… we can't do that, we don't have the right to do that!"

"Faith," Kennedy answered, her tone completely altered, now instead of condescending it was soothing and relieved, "you understand that. Why are you still so scared of yourself? You're not going to slip away into the darkness again… he won't let you," she said, acknowledging Xander standing in the corner. Faith turned quickly towards Xander; he saw the tension in her expression that had yet to dissipate from Kennedy's speech so he immediately changed the focus off of her,

"Angel said to hold tight for a little while so he can figure out the best route for us to get back to Wolfram & Hart… then we make like bunnies and get over there asap."

"Saw that bunny comment going in a whole other direction for a second there," Faith joked, trying to cover for her still un-recovered state. She knew she was in a room with two of the very few number of people who her covering wasn't covering anything but it was more of an insecurity thing than anything else. Even if she couldn't convince anyone else in the room she needed to pretend she was convincing herself.

"I'm going to jump in the shower," Xander added, seeing the thankful hint in her expression that he had changed the focus. She did exactly as he expected; she gave a subtle acknowledgement with her eyes then turned away to busy herself with something else as though she were indifferent to anything he was doing. He smiled, pleased with himself that he was still so attuned to her foibles. Like everyone they were all rooted in insecurities but being with her while he was with her – and hopefully would get to be again – he came to love those small signs that seem like indifferent, if not bitchy, signs because really they were huge signs of affection. Her blatantly showing that he made her a little unsure of herself was about as big of a compliment as you could get from a girl like her.


"Willow!" Andrew called ecstatically as he jogged into the living room where Willow was sitting with Buffy and Dawn. Robin jogged in behind Andrew wearing a mixed expression.

"Andrew, what is it?" Willow asked nervously. He stood up straight and tall and took a deep breath,

"We just got a call," he proclaimed, then began to shift back and forth from foot to foot with his eyes tilted upward as if he were reading the message written on his brain.

"From who?" Buffy asked.

"From Angel," he answered, his tone making it obvious that he was dragging out his message.

"Andrew, just give them the bloody message!" Giles interjected, entering the room with an equally confusing expression to Wood's.

"Fine!" he whined, then continued, "well, Angel called because Wesley got a call from Xander and Xander called Wesley because him and Faith went and got Kennedy out!"

"Kennedy's out!" Willow exclaimed joyously.

"Yup," Andrew answered proudly before taking a seat on the couch next to Dawn.

"How'd she do it? Is everyone okay?" Willow asked, her tone still full of relief and excitement.

"Yes, Andrew left out a few side notes," Giles commented, removing his glasses and wiping them carefully.

"Here we go," Buffy stated with a sigh. Wood took a stance in the explanation and continued,

"Faith's plan was to go to the precinct where Angel found out they were holding Kennedy and turn herself in, in exchange for Kennedy being released."

"Faith had a plan? This already sounds fishy," Buffy interpolated.

"They ran into the police in transit as they were moving Kennedy to a different location," Giles stated, taking over the conversation from Wood seeing the frustration amassing in his features.

"And?" Dawn pressed anxiously.

"And Faith got out of the car and surrendered herself to the police. Once they had her cuffed to the car they began to refuse to let Kennedy go and Xander jumped in, unfortunately toting a gun."


"He held it up to one of the officers until they un-cuffed Kennedy then he demanded they do the same to Faith." Everyone's expressions simultaneously tightened – they all knew just how much Xander would do for Faith and the change in pitch of Giles voice confirmed their fears.

"What happened?" Buffy asked firmly.

"One of the officers pulled a gun on Faith and Xander shot him…" A silence filled the room like toxic fumes until Buffy muttered angrily,

"I can't believe her."

"Why 'her'?" Wood questioned quickly.

"What do you mean, why?"

"Buffy, maybe you misheard Giles but Faith didn't shoot the guy!"


Xander walked out of the bathroom, the steam spreading readily into the bedroom and then disappearing from view. Kennedy was asleep on one of the beds and Faith was sitting against the backboard to the other bed with her knees pulled up to her chest smoking a cigarette. He continued to towel off his hair while keeping a steady eye fixed on her.

"You okay?" she asked, her tone trying to seem casual but it dripped with concern. She knew what that first night felt like after the accident with Finch. She had run on sheer instincts for the rest of the night – weighting and dumping the body, then getting back to her motel room as soon as possible, showering for over an hour to try and scrub her skin clean of the whole affair until she was nauseous and lightheaded from the heat in the shower. She knew how that night felt and how it felt now to look back on it and know it was the night that completely destroyed her.

Xander looked up, almost surprised by the sign of worry, and saw that it was in fact uniformly painted on her face and not only in her words. He closed his lips tightly together and looked around pensively, shifting his gaze from the floor to the ceiling repeatedly before turning to her and answering,

"I don't know. I don't know what this feels like… guess I really am kind of stupid, huh?"

"No," she answered honestly, "I've spent years with nothing much else to think of and I still don't really know… I mean I think I know but I don't even really get me most of the time," she admitted with a soft smile. She got up off the bed and walked over to the small table by the window and snuffed out her cigarette in the ashtray. She looked musingly over at him for several long moments then turned away and looked at the crumpled cigarette lying isolated on the glass plate.

"What is it?" Xander asked, walking a few paces closer to her. She shook her head then answered looking back up at him,

"Xander, you're a great guy, and…" her tone showed she was really just thinking aloud, "and I've known you since forever ago and… you've always been a great guy. I mean a really really great guy," she emphasized, "I don't want to be a person who takes that away from you."

"I'm going to take the liberty of extending that comment to, 'you've always been a great guy in bed… I mean a really really great guy in bed,'" Xander joked with a soft smile.

"Why is it that the only affect I ever have on men is to make them obnoxious pigs?"

"Wow, I went from great guy in bed to obnoxious pig… that takes talent."

"Xander, I'm really sorry," she stated, the levity leaving her tone completely. They stood there, both looking down at the floor for a long moment of silence. They were standing about half a pace apart when Faith gently tapped his hand with hers then walked back to the bed, seating herself back similarly to the way she was before he exited the bathroom. She sat with her back against the backboard but with her legs extended and not bent.

Xander gave his hair a finally ruffle with the towel then tossed the damp cloth onto the corner of the table that also held the ashtray. He took a deep breath then looked up at her sitting on the bed; she was a goddess to him. Always had been and always would be. He could recall every moment he had ever spent with her from the first night they had all laid eyes on her for the first time at the Bronze to the night he made himself go by the hospital and see her lying there completely motionless up to that day when he watched the world almost take her away from him as that officer held his gun up to her face. He could recall every moment he spent thinking about her from how captivated he was with all of her stories to driving around Sunnydale aimlessly the day after they had slept together just thinking of everything she must've gone through and how it all panned out. He could even recall every moment he spent wishing there were more moments in his life so he could be with her and think about her just a little bit longer.

She sat on the bed quietly watching his features soften and his muscles relax as he looked at her and saw all that he was fighting for. She picked up on of her hands from the bed and held it out slightly towards him, encouraging him to come closer. He climbed onto the bed and she slid down slightly so that her elbows supported her. He laid down right against her with his head resting on her chest and his upper-body across her waist. He was facing towards her and he held her with his arm wrapped around her waist. She seemed to make everything just go away as she ran her fingers gently through his hair.

"I love you," he said gently, looking up into her eyes without moving his head. He watched her face – her mouth didn't move but her face smiled affectionately down at him.

"I love you too."

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

"You alright?" Angel asked as he walked into Wesley's office. Wesley plopped down his tea mug then as he was about to answer the phone rang. Angel stood by understandingly as Wesley picked up the phone and answered,

"What?" He nodded as he spoke as thought the person on the line was in the room not hundreds of miles away. "Yes… very good… yes… thank you. Cheers." He hung up the phone then turned to Angel. Angel observed him quietly, seeing the overwhelming stress and exhaustion on his face, he sat down across the desk.

"How's it going?"

"It's set," Wesley muttered. Angel sighed and readjusted himself in the seat,

"I'm shocked by Xander… I mean, I've seen a lot in my time but I never saw that coming."

"Love can do a lot to a person…"

"You don't seem surprised."

"There's nothing left in this world to surprise me," Wesley answered sternly. Angel nodded,

"I know what you mean… it's still…"


"Yes… although you seem strangely upset for someone who's so not upset," Angel commented.

"I've learned to keep emotions away from things… especially when it comes to Faith. It seems to be the safest route."

"The detachment of a Watcher…"

"My role as a Watcher has hardly ever been recognized," he stated, "I'm not about to go around collecting hugs and kisses now."

"Hey, Wes, you still in such a good mood?" Lorne asked with forced joviality as he entered the room nursing not one but two martini's. "Well, you girls ready for a our little road trip?"


Kennedy opened her eyes, for a reason unbeknownst to her entirely to see a sight that brought a smile to her face immediately. The room was dark except for the faint glimmer of light through the window from one of the nearby street lamps. Faith was lying with Xander, stroking his forehead and running her fingers through his hair slowly just looking down at him contently. Faith felt her eyes watching her and slowly turned her attention over to Kennedy.

"Hey," she muttered softly.

"Hey," Kennedy answered, her head still remaining sleepily on the pillow. "Is it time to hit the road?" she asked with a groan.

"Nah," Faith assured her.

"You sure?"

"Running late's kept me alive so far…" she kidded. "Don't worry about it, kid. Just get some rest, you look like you need it." Kennedy was almost taken aback by the caring and maternal tone from Faith. There was a softness to it that seemed so different from any words she had ever heard escape her mouth but it sounded strangely familiar and fitting. Whatever it was, Kennedy found it nice. She was handling the situation alright but it certainly didn't hurt to have Faith make her feel a little better about it all.

"You look pretty tired too…"

"Yeah," she admitted, "I am."

"Why aren't you sleeping?"

"I'm trying," she answered with a soft, even loving smile. Kennedy felt like Faith must've been feeling really guilty about the whole situation, and that was why she was being so nice because after all, everyone said she wasn't really that nice. But Kennedy knew, she knew it right from the beginning, under it all Faith was this nice. She wasn't sure why but she thought she saw something more of Faith's mom sitting there, even though she hadn't ever met or heard about her mom, or anything good anyway. She shrugged off the thought, knowing there probably wasn't as much goodness in anyone else in this world as there was in the woman in the next bed. She idolized her and she felt safe. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to drift back to sleep, happy to feel so safe again.


"Would you just come in already?" Giles stated partly with frustration but mostly with laughter. Buffy had been pacing back and forth around the door to his office for the past half hour. She opened the door and walked in.

"Thought it would start driving you crazy soon."

"You were right," Giles answered. Everyone was exhausted and frustrated at the lack of news they were getting. No one had slept for fear of missing an update, all needing desperately to know what was going on.

"I brought you some tea," Buffy said with a tired smile.

"No you didn't," Giles answered with a joking glare. She shrugged wearing half a smile. "I haven't seen you smile that way since… well, before you even met Faith," he joked.

"Yeah, well, I'm going to kill her as soon as I see her again so…" she answered, only allowing herself to be seen as half joking. The phone rang and both jumped, then Giles answered it almost excitedly but always with extreme apprehension. His hand hovered over the phone momentarily before picking it up,

"Hello?" Giles listened in silence for a few moments then answered, "very well… alright… cheers."

"What was that?" Buffy asked as he hung up the phone.

"I don't think you'll be having the chance any time soon…"


The first time she had been woken up she didn't know why but this time she knew and was shocked by it. When Faith had said she didn't mind being late, she had still assumed they would be leaving before the sun was lighting up the entire room. She moved her eyes across the room and sudden jumped into a sitting position finding the room empty except for her. She felt a rush of panic surge through her body but she tried to subdue it knowing there was no reason for it – she knew they would never leave her behind! She jumped up out of the bed and ran into the bathroom and looked around the tiny room at least half a dozen times before she was convinced that it was empty. She went over to the door and looked out of the window and saw the car gone. Her stomach didn't sink it disappeared leaving a completely empty gap inside of her. She couldn't tell whether she wanted to cry or scream out in rage.

Standing near the window she glanced down at the table and the ashtray caught her eye. It was full of three cigarettes, which she could tell were from Faith – she had a certain way of putting them out that was always the same. Under the ashtray was a folded piece of paper; she grabbed it quickly and unfolded it. Faith's boxy, graffiti-like handwriting was obvious as it was streaked diagonally across the page. She absorbed the letter in it's entirety, noting the quick pace of the letters but how the pressure of the pen on the page showed how it wasn't rushed when written and how each stroke was deliberately not only painted but pressed onto the page.

'Hey Kennedy – I know you'll understand this even if it's not right away but you know this is the only way… kiddo, I'm so sorry. Please don't hate me… I only did this because I hoped it would be what you needed to get through this. If I'm wrong, I'm sorry. Kennedy I love you and don't you dare let anyone convince you otherwise – ever! -Faith.'

Kennedy held the paper so tightly in her hand that her knuckles turned white and her fingertips were fire red. Before she even realized there were tears streaming from her eyes and onto the paper. She thought she was angry but she knew it wasn't that simple when she protectively began to wipe her tears from the page, careful not to smudge any of the writing. The door to the room opened quickly and Kennedy turned with a jump. Gunn and Wesley were in the door,

"Kennedy, I'm Gunn and this is Wesley… I'm a friend of Angel's and-"

"I'm Faith's Watcher," Wesley announced proudly. The glow in his tone was something he would never admit to but it was undeniable. Kennedy nodded and folded the paper up and followed them out closing the door pensively behind her.