Title: Static

Author: Lint

Email: CrashDarby@aol.com

Disclaimer: All Buffy folk belong to Joss, Mutant Enemy, and now UPN.

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Sequel to Maps. Xander and Faith establish just what they are.

Notes: I would highly suggest reading Maps before this. Otherwise it won't make a whole lot of sense. That and this is drabble. Pure and simple. Dedicated to Kate.

**

"Can I ask a stupid question?"

"Aside from the ones you usually do?"

"Funny," he chuckles into her neck, his fingers tracing down the column of her spine. Goosebumps raise along her skin and he smiles softly at his handiwork. She shifts slightly back, her body curving warmly into his. He runs his fingers from her back and over her hip settling gently on her stomach an inch away from the scar. She sighs and he'd like to think it's one of contentment but with her he's never sure.

"You're a wild man in the sack," she says, her voice heavy and tired. "Now let me sleep."

"Good answer, but not to what I was going to ask."

"You're not going to let me close my eyes until you do, are you?"

"Sorry. No. Okay, so, um," he begins. "I'm not entirely sure why I thought of this. It's just, I don't know. It popped into my head and I can't seem to get it out. So yeah. Would this… I mean would we… "

"Xander," she growls rolling over to face him. Annoyed yet curious. "Spit it out."

"Would this have happened before? You and me? You know… If you didn't try to kill me?"

Faith feels her mouth open slightly. Not the question she was expecting but the answer is easy enough.

"No," she says quickly.

"Didn't even have to hesitate huh?" He replies, his voice quiet.

"Nope."

She tries to see his face in the darkness of the basement, barely making out his features. From what she can see, fear is one of them. He's afraid to make her mad. She places a hand on his chest. She wants to say something comforting about as much as she wants to flee the room. How easy it would be to just shove her tongue down his throat to make him forget his question. But she doesn't want to do that either.

"I wasn't exactly girlfriend material back then was I?" She says. "Homicidal tendencies aside, I never really thought about you that much. And I popped your cherry because you were there. In my head that's all it was."

"It was more than that," he says.

"I know that's how you thought of it Xander, but not me. I was pumped up and looking to screw around and there you were. I'm sorry for it. I really am. But that's now. Then? Not a chance."

He doesn't say anything.

"No offense," she says.

"Offense? Why would I be offended?"

"I was fucked up. I'm not making excuses but that's the way it was. And you know I'm getting a little tired of being reminded about what I did all the time. You all seem to think that a second goes by and I don't think of it on my own. It haunts me you know? I'm talking poltergeist coming out of the walls of my mind. And I'm trying to pay it all back. I'm out there fighting your battle to make my amends. "

"I know you are."

"Then why this question? What kind of answer were you looking for?"

"I don't know."

She places her hand upon his face, the simple caring gesture still feeling alien to her natural impulse.

"Look I'm sorry I tried to kill you," she says. "But I didn't want to date you."

Moving her hand to his brow she feels no reaction from him. He isn't frowning, but he isn't smiling either. It would be far less awkward if he were doing either.

"You're not mad are you?" She asks.

"No." he says placing his hand on top of hers. "I've just been thinking about a lot lately. That's all. Maybe I could have helped. Maybe you would have liked me."

She laughs lightly. "You wish. You would have loved it if you roped me in wouldn't you? Parading me around like some trophy. The geek and his second hot girlfriend of the year."

"It wouldn't have sucked."

"Think that all you want. I would have dragged you down with me. Wilkins…"

She stops. Even after all this time just saying his name aloud still strikes a chord somewhere. Too many questions and emotions left unanswered.

"What would you have wanted with me?"

"Forgive me if this sounds way too egotistical or optimistic. But I think it, I mean you and me… We would have been okay."

"Listen to me," she says firmly. "You wanted to be a hero. You wanted to save me. You thought me fucking you bonded us in some way. It didn't. It had to happen the way it did Xander. I sure as hell wouldn't be who I am now, and who's to say you and I would have lasted? Maybe this wouldn't have happened at all."

He takes a moment to let that sink it.

"You going to let me sleep now?" She asks.

"Sure," he says moving to kiss her forehead.

Rolling back over to her side she yawns and he moves to put his arm around her but she scoots away slightly. He isn't sure of what to say. But he has the feeling that he's just screwed up royally.

**

"So this thing with you and Faith," Buffy says blowing into her steaming cup of coffee. "It serious?"

Xander smirks in-between bites of his egg and toast. He knew this would be coming. It's physically impossible to keep something secret in a house full of twenty. It was just a matter of time before someone asked. Wiping his mouth and taking a sip of orange juice he sighs and tries to think of how to answer. After last night he isn't sure he and Faith are going to be anything beyond caring bed buddies. The more he thinks about the question the stupider he realizes it was to ask. The answer would have been an obvious no whether he ever asked it or not. And the mere act of asking it seemed to damage what little bond he and Faith had formed.

"Look at you with the subtle," he stalls with an empty chuckle.

Buffy grins, and though it's clear she really wants an answer, he still has none to give. The only thing he can think of at the moment is that the orange juice he's drinking has far too much pulp for his liking and he puts the cup back on the table intending to not touch it again. She arches and eyebrow at him. She doesn't like waiting.

"I don't know," he says finally. "It's not something we've really talked about."

"But you are sleeping with her."

Dawn who has been quietly eating and keeping to herself starts choking on her food. Buffy reaches over and pats her on the back without looking, keeping her gaze on him. He breaks the eye contact to look at Dawn, slowly regaining her breath, and regards her quizzically. She must have been the only one who didn't have any suspicions or simply know outright. When her breathing finally regulates she looks at him the same way as Buffy and he averts his eyes down to his plate.

"No way are you getting out of this one," she says to him before turning to her sister. "How come I didn't know about this? How is it even *possible* that I didn't know about this?"

Buffy shrugs. "Don't ask me," she says, Xander growing unnerved at the smile his discomfort brings the two of them. "Not my secret to tell."

"It's not a secret necessarily," he replies. "We just don't know what to say."

Buffy's smile grows wicked. "She has plenty to say wild man."

He can feel the blush creep into his cheeks alongside the small swell of pride that Faith took it upon herself to brag about his performance. The pride quickly fades. It makes the thought of the previous night that much more painful in his mind.

"What does she say?" Dawn interjects.

"Not a chance I'm telling you," Buffy deadpans.

Dawn huffs before looking into her lap and mumbling something they can't hear. She sits for another second before bolting up from the table and shooting the two of them a glance over her shoulder.

"I'm going to go talk to Faith," she says and is gone before they can even think of stopping her.

"I thought she grew out of the crush," he says.

Buffy laughs and cranes her neck to check if Dawn is really out of earshot.

"So the deal is this. You two have a thing but leave it undefined."

"That's right."

"You're sleeping with her."

"Right again."

"Is it going to be more than that? I mean do you want to date her?"

"I don't know," he says. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't have those warm tingly possibility feelings for her. And duh, there's definitely an attraction going on. But she has this whole redemption thing going for her. Which is really refreshing to see it can be done brood free by the way. I guess it feels like that's a barrier. Like it's holding her back from me."

"She never seemed to girlfriend type."

He nods but can't help thinking about the night they'd ended up in bed together. Cleaning his eye. Sharing war stories. She'd been so honest and upfront with him. Was willing for once in her life to share his bed. If that was how she chose to change then in his opinion change was fucking awesome.

"She's changed," he says more to himself than to her.

"Maybe that's it."

"What's it?"

"That's she's changed. Maybe that's why there's a barrier. We all, and I'm not innocent of this either, still treat her like she was. A short fused whacko that didn't care about anything or anyone."

"No," he shoots it down. "I don't."

"Point is," she continues. "Maybe change is holding her back. Maybe she thinks that you see her that way."

"I don't."

"Does she know that?"

"She should."

"We could just blame it on Anya."

Xander laughs and takes another sip of his orange juice, cringing and remembering why he put it down in the first place.

"Funny thing about that," he says. "In the last three years I can't remember a time where Anya wasn't in the forefront of my mind. When I'm with Faith. Nothing. Nada. Bupkiss."

"Is that good or bad?"

"Good I'd say. Just makes the Faith thing a little easier on the conscious."

Buffy nods and sips her coffee before laughing softly to herself.

"What?"

"You and Faith," she says shaking her head. "Didn't see this coming."

Xander laughs with her.

"You're not the only one."

**

He had a feeling this would happen.

When she asked him to go for a walk/patrol with her he came without question. And when they'd been walking for nearly fifteen minutes and she hadn't uttered a word he nervously filled in the gap with random observations of their surroundings or comments about the house. Her silence unnerved him. From what he'd seen with her quiet usually equaled mad.

Eventually he lets his comments and attempts at conversation drop and they walk in odd silence. For a brief moment he wishes he'd inherited mind reading from mouth-less albino demons. But the wish is fleeting. And wishes he knows must never be spoken aloud.

He wants nothing more than to hold her hand as they walk but her thumbs are hitched in her pockets and he doesn't think she'd let him anyway. The silence is getting to be too much and he's not going to be able to keep it up for much longer.

"I don't get this whole caring thing," she says unexpectedly. "I mean I get the distinguishing right from wrong, good and evil crap. But this."

She stops walking.

"You."

"You know what this sounds like?" He says stepping closer to her. "The beginnings of a break up speech. Which is weird. I didn't know we were officially together."

"Look Xander. This is getting too serious. I don't think it's the right time for that. Psycho eye gouging priest ring a bell? First evil? This shit is out there waiting for us to fuck up again. And here we are in our own little bullshit soap opera of will they or won't they? I mean we had some fun you know? I rocked your world again. You rocked mine. We both got something we wanted."

"You have no idea what I want."

"Everything that ever meant shit to me was either taken away or I screwed it up."

"Excuses aren't reasons."

He takes a step closer to her and she takes one back.

"You're afraid of me aren't you?"

That gets her. Her eyes widening and turning ablaze at the accusation.

"I could take you in half a second."

"That's not what I mean."

He takes another step forward. She takes another back.

"I've never seen you back down from anything. And here you are stepping away from me?"

He sees her fists clench, some of that old Faith anger shining through, and second-guesses the aggressive approach.

"You've got the redemption thing working for you. Hell, that seems to be the word of the day when it comes to you. I applaud it Faith. I believe in it because I know how much you do too. But you don't have to take a page from fang face's book and think you have to do it alone. You've got a whole house full of potentials looking up to you."

"To Buffy," she mutters.

"To both of you," he counters. "You're a slayer Faith. There is no 'thee' slayer anymore. There hasn't been since Buffy died. Well, the first time that is. You never saw it the way. You always thought you were coming in second."

"You don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes I do. The great part about seeing everything is no one ever noticing you're there. I've seen you Faith. I know exactly how you were because I was there. I see you now. It's not the same person. You are not her. But there's this fear surrounding you. The horrifying thought that you still are. That if you're distracted by anything, by me, you'll revert back."

"I don't want to hear this."

She turns her back to him but doesn't walk away. And she doesn't deny any of what he's said. He stares at her back, the fountain of words in his mind running dry. Taking a cautious step forward he places a hand on her shoulder. When she doesn't shrug him off he places the other on her hip and leans in close to her ear.

"You're a good person Faith," he says quietly. "Not wanting to be with me won't change that. This," he says moving his hand from her shoulder to rest just above her heart. "Works better than you think. And I could easily fall in love with you. This knows that. And I think it also knows that you could do the same."

"You seem to know a lot," she says gruffly.

He smirks at her. Always playing the tough girl. "I just know what I see."

He removes his arms from her and steps back. She doesn't turn around. When he starts to walk away he can feel her eyes on him. He doesn't look back.

**



The night air is warmer than he expected it to be. Small beads of sweat tickle the back of his neck, chest, and legs. The house is empty except for Dawn, or one or two stray potentials that didn't participate in tonight's patrol. The soda is his hand is not the liquid refreshment he really wants but he drank the last of his beer a few days ago and never bothered to buy more.

Sunnydale had always been a quiet sort of town. Mostly in the metaphorical sense because having an endless supply undead hardly ever made for silent nights. The near dead silence hanging in the air is as unexpected as it is uncomfortable. The townspeople, slowly catching on that the strangeness that runs rampant is slowly coming to a head, have been evacuating one by one.

He shifts restlessly in his seat, the heat and stillness becoming increasingly more irritating. He wishes (again with the wishing) that he hadn't walked away from her. If only for the reason that he'd be out there doing something other than sitting with a warming can of soda feeling sorry for himself. If Faith wanted to repress what he felt were stronger feelings, other than the weird sex/vibe thing they had going, in an act of unnecessary self preservation who was he to argue?

Considering the circumstances he can't say he's entirely surprised. Faith as his girlfriend? Trying his best to think objectively he can come to the conclusion that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. No matter how much the rest of him wanted it. She'd been nice to him. Didn't pity his eye like everyone else. Had that cold hard knack for telling the truth even if it was the last thing you wanted to hear. Could fuck him deaf, blind, and dumb without breaking a sweat. Tried to kill him. He's been thinking about that day a lot lately.

He can still hear her say the words, "I could make you die," and the eerie blackness that stared down from her eyes.

The fact that she tried to kill him isn't as scary as the fact that he doesn't seem to care anymore. It's something that happened. The only thing he can really regret is the stupid question he'd proposed about it.

He sips his soda scowling at the can. This is not what he wants to be drinking. He's seriously thinking of going to the liquor store when Willow comes out of the back door. She looks as surprised to see him as he does her, but she smiles warmly and takes a seat next to him.

"I thought you were out with Faith," she says.

"I was," he replies. "I came back."

"I can see that. Why'd you come back though?"

"We started talking."

"About what?"

"About us."

"Oh?" She remarks sounding genuinely surprised. "There is an 'us' with the two of you?"

He sets his can down on the step and looks up at the growing concern in the redhead's eyes. Even after all this time she still hasn't forgiven Faith for much. She tolerates her. Puts on a friendly face and genuine impassiveness. But he can see that there's more buried feelings toward the raven-haired slayer than she lets on.

"I don't know," he says. "Right now it's not looking too good."

"Do you want there to be?"

He doesn't answer.

"Xander?"

"I feel bad about this."

"About Faith?" She asks.

"We're all going to die Will."

"Don't say that."

"We've been luckily too many times. And this time… It's not just some master vampire, or insane mayor, or Frankenstein wannabe. It's evil. Pure as driven snow."

"Xander…"

"Those girls, the potentials. I can't help looking at them knowing that all of them aren't going to be there when this is over. They train, and hope, and wish. But it's not going to save them. I sit here and I know this. The information is there, staring me in the face, and I'm thinking about it as much as I should be."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that, everyone I know and love might die, and I'm not as worried about that as everyone else seems to be. Because I'm thinking about how much I don't like the way principal guy stares at my non-girlfriend. Or that in all this mess I've managed to screw up the budding relationship of said non-girlfriend by asking a simple stupid question I should have known the answer to."

"Xander you're not making any sense."

"I asked Faith if we would have dated if she hadn't tried to strangle me."

"Oh," Willow replies, brow creasing in confusion. "What made you want to ask her that?"

"I don't know. It just, it came into my head. And it just felt like I needed to know."

"I think the answer would have been obvious."

He looks up to her shocked and the lack of tact she usually conducted herself with.

"Xander," she says. "Remember how surprised we all were when we found out that you two… I mean…"

"No I get it," he replies quickly. "She thought it was stupid too."

"You can't blame yourself for having these thoughts you know."

"Can't I?"

"Think about it Xander. If you had a choice to think about love or death, what normal person wouldn't think about the former? 'Hey we're all going to die' or 'hey, this person I like just might like me back?' It's perfectly natural."

Reaching out and placing her hand atop his she smiles warmly. As much as he doesn't want to he finds himself returning the gesture.

"She's running away from me," he says.

"Faith?"

"Yeah. Because I scared her I think. That question. Maybe it got her thinking. Maybe she saw what her life could have been like if she cared."

"She cares now doesn't she?

"Yeah."

"Shouldn't that be enough?"

He smiles softly, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

"Can I ask you something kind of sad?" He asks.

"Sure."

"After Tara," he stops when he sees the wistful pained look at the mention of her ex-lover's name. He nearly drops the question all together but a simple return squeeze from her hand and he continues. "How did you know you were ready?"

"I didn't," she replies with a grin. "But Kennedy was a little persistent."

"Just a little?"

"A lot. And it was a little weird at first. It did kind of feel like I was doing something wrong."

"What made you continue with it?"

"I loved Tara. I really did. And I know I'll never love anyone else like I did with her. But clichéd as it is Xander, life does move on. You got to go with it or be left behind. And I know Tara would have wanted me to be happy. I am happy you know. Maybe you should be too."

He nods before throwing his arm over her shoulder and pulling her into a hug.

"Anya's so going to freak out over this."

"Maybe she won't."

They both look at each other and burst out laughing.

**

He sits on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands listening to the muffled arguments of the potentials about the night's sleeping situation. None of them bother to try and sleep down in the basement anymore. He and Faith's domestic coup of the bed went silently unopposed. Tapping his toes nervously against the floor he wonders if she'll come down or end up sleeping somewhere else.

The arguments seem to die down into random sounds and he hears footsteps all over the house. Not a single one near the basement door. Sighing he falls to his back staring at the ceiling with vague interest. Those cracks could use a little putty. The door creaks open before he hears the steps leading to it. Lifting his head he sees a pair of boots come into view. Slowly they extend into a pair of legs, a stomach, and torso. When Faith's face comes into sight he can feel his pulse quicken. Once she's at the edge of the steps she stops.

Her expression is neutral. He's not sure whether it's good or bad. She glances back up the stairs then back at him. He thinks she's going to leave but she remains still.

"What do you want from me?" She asks.

"What are you afraid of?" He replies.

A beat.

"Nothing."

"Everything."

The conversation ends, the unspoken words hover in the air like static electricity. Charged particles drawing them together. He doesn't remember getting up from the bed. Nor does he recall her moving from the steps. Their lips spark together in a kiss.

Placing her hands on his shoulders she slowly guides him back to the bed, the two falling into the squeaky spring mattress. His arms wrap around her, sliding up to her shoulders pulling her closer. She moans into him, a day's worth of anxiety and animosity melting from their mouths.

His hands stray from her shoulders, running down to the hem of her shirt. Her hand moves to meet his and he starts to lift at the cloth but her hand stops him. Still holding his hand she breaks the kiss. He is confused. Looking up into her eyes he sees the life behind them, the eerie blackness he remembers a faded memory.

"Not tonight," she says.

"Okay," he replies, voice unsure.

She slides down his body until her head comes to rest on his chest. She pulls his arms over her and hugs her own to his sides. He's not sure what just happened. He and Faith had been consummating the relationship before they had even established that it was one.

She shifts slightly against him. He can feel her breath against his chest. Her heart beating into his lower abdomen. He'd talked her into cuddling before. A post coitus tangle of limbs and satisfied feeling against each other. This is different. And while he's witnessed it, defended it to others, he's never really understood just how much she had changed. Make up sex is something the old Faith would have done without a second thought.

"I don't want to be her anymore," she says as if she'd read his mind.

"You won't be," he replies.

"If you hurt me I will fuck you up beyond recognition."

"I know," he laughs moving to kiss the top of her head. "I know."