CHAPTER FIVE

"Yeah, I'm here alone, Rom," Faith said, looking out over the sea of Scooby faces in the living room of the Summers' home. "Nah, I don't really want to come over...no, it's not that I'm bored with you. I just...well, I'd rather not say...why would you think I was in your place last night?...well, why would I....no, I'm not afraid of you. Look, I finally have the house to myself, you know. It beats the shit out of that hotel. Mrs. Summers won't be back until tomorrow and Buffy and Angel are out somewhere, probably at his place sweating up the sheets or something. I don't care so long as Buffy's gone most of the night. Gives me some alone time with Mr. TV and free run of the fridge. Mrs. Summers has some good liquor...Rom, why are you asking again? No, I wasn't in your place before I brought Angel and Buffy over. Why would I do that?...Show them what? It ain't like we were there to boost your stereo while you were out of town...okay, look I'll see you tomorrow. 'Night." Faith hung up the phone and looked at the others. "I hope I didn't sound too convincing that I wasn't in his place."

"I think he'll take the bait," Buffy said, her hand diving into the popcorn bowl. They had on the TV and Faith was on the couch while the rest of them were on the floor and out of sight of the window. They had left it standing open.

"How long do you think this will take?" Cordelia asked, looking up from where she was filing her nails.

"What? You have a hot Sunday night planned?" Xander scowled at her. "Why is she here again?"

"If there's a mad killer flying in windows and murdering people, I doubt I could be anywhere safer than with you people," Cordelia said. She picked up the sack of herbs she had beside her, waggling it. "Besides, I can help."

"I'm not sure how long this will take," Faith said.

"The books said the Stikini kill mostly sleeping victims so it might be awhile before Romulus shows," Willow said.

"What kind of name is Romulus anyhow?" Xander snorted.

"So asks someone who's name begins with an X." Cordelia shot back, raising an eyebrow at him.

"It's Roman, you know Romulus and Remus," Willow prompted. "The twins who founded Rome."

Xander just shrugged.

"Of course, the twins did kill their great uncle to take over the area," Angel offered from his spot near the fireplace. "Then Romulus murdered Remus because he laughed at something Romulus had done. He was also known for kidnaping women from other cities just so his city would have more females."

"So, what Dead Boy is saying beware of what you name your kids or they'll become stone cold killers." Xander smirked at the vampire.

Angel smirked right back. "Should we go into the things your namesake did? I think there were nasty rumors about what he'd do with the soldiers...and his horse."

Xander's eyes widened and Buffy kicked Angel's big booted foot.

"Maybe we all want to shut the hell up just in case Rom arrives earlier than expected," Faith grumbled and the rest look chagrined.

"I just hope Giles and Oz are okay," Willow fretted, glancing up at the window.

"They'll be fine," Buffy said with less conviction than Faith supposed she would have liked to have.

"They'll be safer than us," Angel put in. "They just have to wait until Rom leaves and go in and do whatever it is they have to do with the organs. They won't be in any danger unless we fail and Rom returns home."

"There's a cheery thought," Cordelia groused.

Faith scowled at her and the cheerleader just rolled her eyes. They all settled down quietly watching the tapes Xander had picked up from the rental place. At least he hadn't picked any chick flicks. Those could drive Faith insane. She liked movies where things exploded. The original Batman movie might not have been her first choice but it was good enough to pass the time. At least she got to be comfortable on the couch while everyone else was huddled on the floor like a weird sleep over.

It was a little after eleven when Faith thought she heard the beating of large wings. She shut her eyes except for a crack just so she could see a little. The big horned owl was inside the house, dropping the cauldron it had in its claws, and winged to the couch faster than Faith would have thought it could move. It convulsed and Romulus was standing over her, his naked body, the one she had so loved on top of her, looking completely normal in the light.

He reached over the back of the couch for her, his hand questing for her lips, and her eyes popped wide open as she tossed the herbs in his face. "Surprise."

Rom fell back, coughing. The rest of the Scoobies scrambled to their feet. Faith grabbed her bow and arrows up from under the couch. Buffy and Angel had them, too. Faith had no idea if she was any good with them. Crossbows yes, regular bow, well, she was a Slayer. She had to be good naturally, right? Owl feathers had been attached near the points. She, Buffy and Angel looked like something out of Dances With Wolves. Too bad the name 'Stands with Fist' was already taken.

Faith saw one immediate problem with the bows. Unlike the crossbows, they were unwieldy. Rom ducked down and came back up swiftly. Faith barely had time to move. As it was, the foot on the little iron cauldron cut open her cheek. If she hadn't moved, it would have broken her jaw. Xander hit Rom with the herbs but the shot was low, scattering it across the naked man's butt.

"Xander, you throw like a girl," Cordelia said, lobbing a sack of herbs. She hit Rom in the back of the head.

Romulus growled wordlessly and made for the window, his body beginning to shake Faith and Buffy drew their bows simultaneously as Angel went for the window, too. At the creaking of the bows, Rom turned and shouted something in a language Faith had never heard before. She and Buffy were both lifted off their feet, tossed like rag dolls. She let go of the drawstring, hoping the arrow didn't hit anyone, totally unaimed. The drawstring stung her breast and forearm.

Rubbing her throbbing breast, Faith got up. Her arrow was in the ceiling tiles and Buffy had speared the couch. She had broken her bow in the tumble.

"That's why Amazons cut off a breast." Willow said, seeing Faith trying to sooth her damaged flesh. Faith had a bleeding welt on her breast, judging from the red smear on her fingers. The Willow moved closer to where Rom was grappling with Angel, the vampire's bow broken in two as well. She tossed her bag of herbs and hit Angel right in his bumpy face. His golden eyes glinted but the sneezing to blow his fangs out took away any hint of threat.

"Sorry."

Rom bolted for the window. Faith and Buffy both had him before he made it. Faith clocked him with the cauldron but he twisted, bouncing it off his shoulder. He grunted, falling back, his manhood swinging. Men should never fight naked, Faith decided but it was distracting to her and Buffy since they were so not used to it. Rom took advantage of that and tried for the window. He almost went to his knees, clutching his gut howling.

"We didn't even hit you," Buffy sneered.

"Giles and Oz must be treating his innards," Angel lisped around his fangs, wiping the herbs from his forehead ridges.

"No!" Romulus lunged for Angel who was between him and the window. He cocked his hand back, his fingernails like talons. "Your heart might not beat, leech, but you need it to live."

"Hey Rom." Faith swept his feet out from under him. "Worry about me and B. We're the Slayers."

Rom rolled back to his feet, eyes wide. "A slut like you is the Slayer? Now that's a laugh."

Faith's face darkened and she grabbed his long unbound hair, hauling him back. She had one of the owl-feather arrows in hand. "I'm no joke, Rom." She buried the arrow in his gut, her hand passing into the emptiness there. He truly was a hollow man and somehow that made it easier for her. Faith kept stabbing repeatedly.

Romulus shrieked and thrashed but he didn't bleed. Buffy joined the fray and Faith thought Buffy would pull her off like she had the time she had lost it on Kakistos' men but the blonde Slayer thrust her arrow into Rom's throat.

"The herbs!" Angel bellowed. "We need them, too."

And all the Scoobies were suddenly there, turning the livingroom into a cloud of greenish herb dust. They were all choking. For a moment Faith flashed back to junior high and her moron boyfriend of the moment had dropped his match into the full brick of marijuana they had been dipping into. He had tried to beat it out, sending herb and fire all over his parent's basement.

When the air cleared, all that was left was a very dead owl in a mound of what looked like oregano. Faith kicked the owl, tears running down her face. "Bastard."

Buffy touched Faith's shoulder. "You okay?"

Faith rubbed at her eyes. "Just got herbs in them."

Buffy favored her with a wan smile. "It's okay to cry, Faith."

Faith didn't want Buffy's pity. Lie! Parts of you does. "It's just that I really liked him. More than I should have. He was nice to me until the whole killing people and eating their hearts thing."

Buffy put an arm around her shoulder, giving them a squeeze. "Trust me, I know exactly what you mean."

Faith followed Buffy's gaze to Angel and the vampire looked away. "Yeah. I...I think I just want to be alone." Faith took a few steps towards the door then stopped, looking back at the mess in the living room. "Or maybe I should help you clean up first."

Buffy waved her off. "Go on. We've got it." Buffy's eyes strayed to the misfired arrows. "Only I don't know how to explain the holes to Mom?"

"'Gee Mom we were trying to shoot a naked wizard man'," Xander offered.

"You really do have the brains the size of a chick pea," Cordy said, brushing herbs out of her long hair.

"It's just...damn, how did I pick a man this wrong," Faith grumbled, tears pricking at her eyes.

"It's easier than you think," Buffy said quietly, trying not to look at a distressed Angel.

"We're experts at it," Willow said encouragingly. "I'm just lucky Oz is a good wolf. But I did fall for a demon in a robot body."

"Bug woman, Incan mummy girl," Xander said, raising a hand.

"I went out with Xander," Cordelia chirped and Willow held Xander back.

"Even Mom was dating a homicidal robot," Buffy said. "Kinda par for the course on the Hellmouth."

"Lucky us," Faith grumbled, going out the front door. She collapsed under the big tree leading to Buffy's bedroom window. She tried to remind herself Rom was nothing more than just another notch on the bedpost, that he didn't matter. As the tears refused to stop, Faith reminded herself this was the reason why she should never spend more than one night with any man. This was what she didn't want, the pain, the deep hurt. Love them and leave them was the way to go. Only, she wished she truly believed that.

Buffy leaned against Angel as they cuddled on her bed. Angel had Mr. Gordo in his lap. She felt odd with Angel in her bed, like Mom might come home and catch them. She could never quite relax with him here like she could at his place but she didn't want to leave Faith alone. It was a challenge just to make Faith sleep another night in the spare room but the dark-haired Slayer refused to be comforted or hovered over. After cleaning up, they had all watched another of Xander's movies, something with Jackie Chan. Buffy was shocked at how quick a normal human guy could move. Giles and Oz had returned, Romulus' insides taken care of. Eventually everyone left but Angel and Faith.

"I feel bad for Faith," Buffy confessed, resting her hand on Angel's thigh. "She really liked Rom."

"Which is not her style," Angel said.

"You know?" Buffy was surprised Angel had noticed how Faith treated men.

"She's seen some bad stuff in her life, Buffy. I can tell. I've seen it before. I doubt she trusts many people." Angel shifted on the bed, looking silly against her lace pillow shams.

"She was crying," Buffy said. "I've never seen her that vulnerable."

"And you might not again. You saw the toll showing weakness took on her," he replied.

"I kinda wish she didn't have to help kill him," Buffy murmured, trying to sink into Angel even as he was sitting up. She knew he'd have to go soon. It was nearly dawn. "Did you see her? That rage?"

"Keep an eye on her, Buffy. She's damaged inside," Angel cautioned, stroking her arm.

Buffy nodded. "Like she's torn up."

"A poor torn heart, a tattered heart, that sat it down to rest, nor noticed that the ebbing day flowed silver to the west, nor noticed night did soft descend . Nor constellation burn, intent upon the vision of latitudes unknown," Angel said, softly.

Buffy gave him a curious look. "Poetry?"

"Emily Dickinson." Angel kissed her. "She was pretty depressed most of the time if you judge by her work."

"I know how she feels," Buffy said woefully. "It just never ends, does it? The fighting, the pain."

"It does, for a little while, if you let it," Angel said, getting up. "If you take joy in those around you. Faith doesn't know how to do that, Buffy. That's where you can help her."

"You think highly of my abilities," she said, following him down the stairs.

He smiled. "Always."

He left her with a long parting kiss. Buffy went back upstairs to try and get a few hours sleep before she had to go to class. She went to knock on Faith's door but it was silent within. Buffy decided if Faith had finally gotten to sleep she wouldn't thank her for waking her up and making her deal with the pain again. Buffy decided reaching out could wait until tomorrow. There would be time then. There was always time, right?

Author's Note - The Stikini, both the Oklahoma Seminole wizard AND the bikini are real (well, a real legend in the first case) so no, I wasn't making up the gross scenes in Rom's house.

Requirements

Main Char request: faith, angel, buffy, feel free to add an OC
Genre: slightly dark/angsty, but not heavily so. smuttiness is always good, also.
Rating: as high as you're willing. but, given the request, id say r-nc17
requests: original scooby gang, xander-angel-willow banter, faith!smut
restrictions: not fluffy, just realistic, and no b/a bashing please