Crimson Velvet

Chapter 1:

'Gotta Have Faith'

A warm breeze gently stirred up the leaves lying on the ground. Of course, in southern California, the breezes were generally warm. But that didn't make it any less pleasurable. The late afternoon sun shone down on the 'Sunnydale School District' bus. No one in the parking lot could ignore it. For now, it was only the oddity of a school bus in the parking lot that drew their stares. The news about Sunnydale hadn't spread yet. They would have to paint over the bus to avoid awkward questions once it had.

Faith smiled, eyes closed and took a deep breath. She could just picture the scene occurring inside. The mob of Slayers would be taking up almost the entire lobby, and Buffy would be trying to explain that, yes, they really did want an entire floor of rooms. Robin would probably be backing her up and helping keep her from using her Slayer strength on the confused clerk. Faith tried to stay out of the way of the power duo when they were trying to get something done. It was easier, she found, to simply step aside than try to become involved.

The desk clerk would have to call a manager. Giles would begin complaining about the inefficiencies of the American systems. Andrew would agree until Rona reminded him that he too was an American. Then he would become indignant and complain until Buffy silenced him with a glare. No one wanted to get in Buffy's way when she was dealing with hotel staff. She had very little patience these days, and even less when she was tired. Willow would offer to use a simple mind-melding spell on whoever came out, and Kennedy would roll her eyes. Giles would start to lecture her on the "improper use of magickal abilities", then realize she was joking and start to clean his glasses. About that time, the manager would finally show up.

After explaining what they wanted to the manager as well, someone, usually Vi, would notice that Faith was missing. Buffy and Giles would exchange meaningful looks and send Andrew out to find her. He would search the bus, even looking under the seats (as if) for her, but he could never find her. He would return defeated, and Robin would make some smart-ass comment about "his girl". By then, they would have finally succeeded in procuring enough rooms for all the girls, and they would make a mad dash for the elevator, frightening all the other patrons. Xander would try to convince them that they all didn't have to fit into one elevator, and that if they were going to try, the least they could do was to let him squeeze in too. Once everyone was settled in, Faith would make her appearance. Kennedy would say something about how strange it was that Faith always seemed to show up just when there was no more work to be done.

"You bet your ass," Faith murmured aloud. She stretched and grinned. Her plans were always foolproof. They worked well for both parties. She didn't have to do anything, and the Scoobies didn't have to try and make her do something, thus wasting valuable time in which they could do the work themselves. Perfect.

She heard the front door swing open. Right on cue, Andrew jogged toward the bus.

"Faith? Are you out here, Faith?"

Sure am, but see if you can find me, she thought, another smile spreading across her face. Sometimes she couldn't even believe how amazingly clever she was.

"I know you're here, Faith. And I'm gonna find you this time!" The bus wobbled slightly as he got on board. "Faith? Come on, Faith, it's not funny!"

Like hell it isn't, Faith could barely stifle a laugh. But it was vitally important she did. Her entire operation would fall to pieces if she was discovered.

"You have to realize that the hero always finds his quarry. Like in that one issue, the Joker thought he could hide from Batman and lure him into his trap, but Batman knew all along where Joker was hiding. Not implying that you're like the Joker. You haven't been evil for months."

Safe in her hiding place, Faith rolled her eyes. That boy was seriously off somewhere. And he also seemed to have been absent when they were handing out people skills. She was in no position to criticize anyone's interpersonal talents, of course. She wasn't about to claim she was a "people person", or that she wasn't blunter than a club; but even she had more finesse than Andrew.

"Fine! See if I save you any pizza!" Back into the roadside hotel he stormed. Faith rolled onto her side and watched him depart, oozing frustration from every nerdy pore. Once he was safely out of ear shot, she allowed herself the luxury of an unrestrained cackle of victory. Several people getting luggage out of their cars looked around in surprise, but they couldn't see her.

Although she couldn't hear them, she could just see the legs of her companions. She could pick out Buffy's, Giles's, Willow's and Xander's easily. Kennedy was pretty easy, because her legs were pretty much intertwined with Willow's. The other new Slayers were a bit harder, since so many of them dressed the same. Honestly, no one had individual style these days. However, she watched as all the legs quickly left her view. The sprint for the elevator was on.

She waited a few more minutes, just to be safe, then sat up. Time for her grand entrance. Jumping nimbly off the top of the bus, she sauntered into the lobby.

"But I need him! I can't live without him!" One of the Slayers whose name Faith hadn't quite caught, clung to the remote. Rona rolled her eyes.

"You can live one night without your Brad Pitt fix. I want to watch something else for once."

"But-" the Pitt-obsessed Slayer sadly relinquished the remote and the other girls in the room cheered.

"As long as it hasn't got any blood in it, I'll be happy," Vi shuddered and hugged a pillow tighter, "I'm not ready to watch violence just yet."

"Well, whatever you ladies decide, I'm out of here," Faith rose and grabbed her leather jacket off the chair.

"Faith, Giles said we 'shouldn't venture out unarmed'," one of the girls piped up. Faith grinned wolfishly at her.

"Girl, I am a weapon." The protester looked like she was going to say more, but Rona cut in.

"Chill. Faith can take care of herself."

"Thanks," Faith shot Rona a quick thumbs-up.

"No problem, girl. Just be careful."

"When have I not been careful?"

Rogue or no, she was still the same Faith once she reached the dance floor. The music blared, the strobe flashed, and she just let herself go. This was the one place that she could stop being a Slayer, stop searching for redemption, stop being a murderer. She could just be "Faith", no tricks, no complications.

People everywhere

A sense of expectation

Hangin' in the air

Givin' out a spark

Across the room

You eyes are glowin' in the dark

The men flocked around her. They always did. A ring of upset girlfriends began to surround the dance floor. All of their furious eyes were burning into Faith. But the heat just made her go harder, be bolder. They were all watching her? Good. She was going to give them their show.

And here we go again

We know the start

We know the end

Masters of the scene

We've done it all before

And now we're back to get some more

You know what I mean-

Things hadn't changed on the dance floor. She had been like this since before she became Slayer. Afterwards, it still wasn't much difference. Only that she could dance harder and longer without half the negative effects on her body. She had danced this way when she showed up in Sunnydale, running from Kakistos, hoping to start a new, better life.

Voulez-Vous

Take it now or leave it

Now is all we get

Nothing promised

No regrets

Voulez-vous

Ain't no big decision

You know what to do

La question

C'est voulez-vous

Voulez-vous

She had danced like this while Buffy's friends-yes, Buffy's friends. That was really the problem there. They were all Buffy's friends. She was the intruder. She was always the intruder; breaking in on their tea parties, and spoiling the fun. She danced like this after she killed a man, and was never the same. Except in her dancing.

And here we go again

We know the start

We know the end

Masters of the scene

We've done it all before

And now we're back to get some more

You know what I mean-

When she had time to go out while she was working for the Mayor, this was the way she danced. Her descent into evil changed her life, her outlook, her friends (or lack thereof), but not her dancing. Out at the Bronze, no one would tell the enormous changes that had occurred between the girl who had showed up one night, and the girl who was here now.

Voulez-Vous

Take it now or leave it

Now is all we get

Nothing promised

No regrets

Voulez-vous

Ain't no big decision

You know what to do

La question

C'est voulez-vous

Voulez-vous

After her coma, in Buffy's body, this is how she danced. She had found Buffy's body as lithe and capable of twists and gyrations as hers, but not as willing. It was obvious that Buffy did not dance that way. Which was one of the reasons Faith was so proud that she did. Buffy was Slayer first. Buffy had a Watcher who loved her and lived. Buffy had friends. Buffy had a tormented vampire boyfriend. Faith didn't have any of those things...everything she got was second rate. But she could dance in ways Buffy would never imagine.

Volez-Vous

Take it now or leave it

Now is all we get

Nothing promised

No regrets

Voulez-vous

Ain't no big decision

You know what to do

La question

C'est voulez-vous

Voulez-vous

Voulez-vous

The song ended, and slowly the men drifted back towards their partners. That was probably the saddest part of life for Faith. When everyone who had adored her a moment ago decided she was just an ordinary girl, and went back to their real life. It would be nice if once, just once, one of the guys stayed to talk. Have a drink. But they never did. The girlfriends would pout for a few minutes, but they would take them back before the night ended. And Faith was left standing on the dance floor, alone among couples.

The night had suddenly taken a depressing turn. With a heavy sigh, Faith wiped some droplets of sweat off her forehead with her hand, and headed for the door.

The night air was surprisingly chilly. It felt good after being inside a veritable furnace. She let a sudden gust of wind whip her dark hair around her head and grinned into the night, determined to cheer herself back up. She had been flying high on emotion all night, and was not about to crash into real life now.