Title: A Place in the Choir
Chars: Faith, Buffy, Dana, Giles
Thanks To: My incomparable Woobie, theantijoss
Written For: Faithficathon
Dedicated To: cheebs – thank you for your incredible patience!
-One to Two other characters you want: Buffy and Dana
-Two other requests: restraints, drugs
-Three things you don't want: Fred/Illyria, Robin Wood
Author's Note: This is a sequel of sorts to my Dana ficathon entry, "One Great Thing". If you haven't read it – just know that Faith and Giles are running a Slayer-training branch, and that Faith has sought out all of the mentally/emotionally challenged Slayers and brought them there. Dana was the first, but there are about a dozen others now, all with varying mental/emotional difficulties. Buffy showed up unexpectedly in the last story, and felt very out-of-place and unwanted. Oh, and Dana is not a fan of Buffy. She has improved greatly, but retains her habit of blurting out other Slayers' memories.
"Yo, Chiara, toss me that last roll." Faith leaned forward and nodded down the table.
"Didn't say Please. Always say Please," the girl sing-songed back, grinning.
Faith rolled her eyes half-heartedly and smiled back. "Chiara, can I please have the roll?"
"Nope!" Chiara grabbed the bun and stuffed it in her mouth. Chewing and swallowing quickly, she stuck her tongue out at Faith. "Now you say Please first next time!"
"Oh, you're teaching me now? Is that it?" She leaned back and reached around Elyse to punch Chiara's arm. "Thanks a lot!"
"Faith can have Sarah's roll," whispered Sarah from across the table. "Sarah isn't hungry."
"Babe, you gotta eat up." Faith frowned. "How else are you gonna kick Michaela's ass on the mats next time?"
"Faith is right, Sarah," Giles chimed in. "At least eat half of the roll and the rest of your peas."
Faith tried not to smile as Sarah stared glumly down at her plate. She glimpsed a flash of movement from next to Sarah and barely managed to grab Dana's wrist before it could snatch up the roll.
The girl's expression was sullen as usual, but more teenager-sullen than psycho-sullen. Faith maintained a stern face. "What did I say about grabbing other people's food? Huh?"
"Can't remember. Crazy."
Faith saw the corner of the Dana's mouth quirk up and her heart leapt. Giles had said they shouldn't ever expect Dana to be able to joke with them, but Faith persisted in teasing her as she did all the girls. Something must have been getting through.
Any trace of good humour in Dana's eyes was gone in the next second, though, replaced by her usual glower. "If Buffy Summers walked in here and said she wanted to switch to our side, I'd say, 'No thanks, sister, I've got all the Slayer one man could ever need.'"
Somehow, Faith didn't think this latest outburst was leftover from this morning.
"B!" She put on a smile and turned in her seat. "What's up? I thought your plane left an hour ago?"
Buffy shrugged awkwardly, her gaze sliding over the table as she hovered in the doorway. "Overbooked. I got bumped. Can't leave until tomorrow."
Throwing a worried glance at Dana, Faith struggled for a response until Giles hurriedly stood and walked over to give Buffy a hug.
"What a lovely surprise! Please, join us. There's plenty of food," he beckoned, guiding her over to the group.
"Right. Right, Sarah, slide over." Faith pushed back from the table and stood up. "I'll just grab a chair," she called over her shoulder as she left the room.
What the hell? B's little surprise visit had caused enough drama for the day. She'd disappeared without even saying goodbye and it had taken hours to get Dana chilled out again. Angel had been totally freaked and left way earlier than he usually did. Faith tried to quell her resentment at the thought of Buffy wrecking what little time she had with Angel. She stopped and leaned against a wall, tilting her head back and sighing. Why did she suddenly feel fifteen years old again?
Shaking her head, she yanked open the hall closet and grabbed a folding chair. She just had to get through the rest of dinner. She'd stick Buffy in one of the spare bedrooms for the night and deal with tomorrow tomorrow.
Faith strode back into the dining room and stopped short at the ringing silence. Buffy was standing on the other side of the table, her head down, but Faith could see her face was flaming. Dana concentrated on her plate, avoiding Faith's eyes.
"Dana," she warned. "Are you behaving yourself?"
Dana responded by downing the rest of her milk in one gulp.
Giles cleared his throat. "Let's just move on, shall we?"
Eyeing Dana suspiciously, Faith handed the chair over the table to Buffy. Elyse appeared behind her with extra place settings and Faith managed to reward her with a smile.
Sitting back down to the remains of her dinner, Faith racked her brain for a conversation topic. The sounds of clinking dishes and glasses were all that could be heard in the room. Buffy cautiously reached a hand toward the potatoes, only to snatch it back at Dana's growl.
"Dana!" said Faith sharply. "Cut it out." Keeping eye contact with the scowling girl, she reached for the potatoes herself and handed them to Buffy.
Dana lifted her chin defiantly. "You like Chinese? I heard about this really great ribs place, but we could go Chinese. Plus the chopsticks double as stakes, right?"
Buffy's hand stilled halfway to her plate and Faith felt her blood run cold. She sat in shock, unable to make her voice work.
"Slayers and food just go together. Especially hot food. Hot food for hot babes."
Faith listened with growing horror, willing herself to speak up.
"Maybe we could go Bronzing after that."
Buffy's head was lowered again.
"What, like a date? I'm not, I mean I don't -"
The entire table was still, fixated on the words Dana was biting out so mockingly.
"Relax, B, I won't tell anyone. I've seen you watching me, no big thing."
Faith swore the sound of her heart beating was drowning out everything. Memories swirled by and she clenched her teeth against them. "Dana," she began, her voice thick.
Dana's attention was fully focused on Buffy now. "Oh God, this is wrong, Faith. We have to stop. We have to – oh God!"
The sneer in her voice made Faith wince. Her fingers were gripping the table so hard she began to imagine the slivers digging into her skin. Why couldn't she just stop this before it got any worse? Why wasn't B saying anything?
"It was a mistake, Faith. It can't happen again."
She couldn't breathe. Knowledge of the upcoming words had her insides screaming.
"Don't tell me you didn't like it, B! You liked your hands on my ass, my finger up your- "
"That's enough!" broke in Giles. His face was shaken, somehow older. Faith looked away, unwilling for him to see her shame.
He swallowed heavily. "Dana, go to your room. No training tonight. I don't want to see you until morning." No response. "Dana!" And suddenly he sounded like That Giles again, the scary Giles that he pulled out every once in awhile.
Dana's chair screeched back. She took three measured steps over to Buffy's bowed head and, very precisely, spit on it. She hissed one of her streams of Italian and stalked out of the room.
If Faith had thought the silence oppressive before, she had no words for the atmosphere now. A cracking noise suddenly startled her, and she looked up to see Buffy with a handful of broken glass, milk spreading over the tablecloth.
Faith closed the bedroom door behind her and slumped against the corridor wall. She hated using the sedatives, really did. Dana always complained that they made her head fuzzy. The poor girl needed to sleep, though. Things would be better tomorrow, after B – after everything settled down. Faith straightened her spine and headed resolutely down the hallway. She stopped at the last door and knocked tentatively.
"B? It's me. Faith," she added awkwardly.
She didn't remember Buffy's voice being that small. Swallowing nervously, she opened the door and slipped into the small room. "You okay?"
Buffy smiled weakly. "Fine. How's Dana?"
Faith shrugged. "She'll get over it."
"I heard screaming."
"She does that sometimes."
"Throwing you against the wall? She do that a lot, too?"
"It's hard to explain." Faith sighed, shoving her hands in her pockets. "Sometimes we have to use the restraints, yeah."
"You tie her down?"
She'd forgotten just how cutting that disapproving look could be.
"You'd rather I let her at you?" The old rush of irritation flared up again before fading to exhaustion.
"No," said Buffy, looking away. "I thought Giles said she was getting better."
"It's me, then?"
Faith didn't answer.
"I shouldn't have come back. I shouldn't have come at all," muttered Buffy, gaining her feet and looking around the room for her bag.
"No, B, don't do that. Just – it's fine, stay. You're already here." The right words wouldn't come. Faith was sure there were right words to say in this situation.
"Thanks for the glowing invite."
"What do you want me to say, B?" retorted Faith, frustrated to feel them sliding back into the old adversarial pattern.
Buffy looked up to meet her eyes before turning away again, shoulders tensed as usual.
Faith sighed. "Look, can we just sit down and – and talk?"
That got her attention all right. Those blond little eyebrows shot right up. "About what?"
"You're really asking me that?"
Buffy shrugged, completely unconvincing in her show of ignorance.
"Well, we could talk politics. Movies. Sports. Or hey, let's talk about Chinese food!"
"What? C'mon, Buffy, say something about it. Admit that it happened, at least. That would be nice."
Buffy buried her face in her hands and didn't answer.
"Oh, because this is so stressful for you. It's your family and friends that you were just humiliated in front of," snapped Faith. "I'm the one who's gonna be here tomorrow, next week, whenever. You're just gonna take off again and leave it all behind for me to clean up." She left out the 'again' there, but they both heard it. "Look, if you hated it so much, you could have just said. You didn't have to freeze me –"
"If I'd hated it," said Buffy in a low voice, still not looking at her. "you would have known."
Faith threw her hands in the air. "So that's Buffy-code for what? I don't get you, B!"
"I didn't hate it. Can't that just be enough?" asked Buffy desperately.
"Then why? Why did you – "
"I don't want to talk about this." Buffy's knuckles were turning white where she gripped the handle of her bag.
Faith felt her throat start to close up and ordered herself to stop it immediately. She would never, ever give Buffy Summers the satisfaction. "Fine. Go then. Stay the hell away this time."
She could see Buffy's jaw clench, but got no response. Shaking her head in disgust, she turned on her heel and reached for the door handle.
"I still have the chopsticks."
Faith whirled. "What?"
"I don't know why," Buffy shook her head. "I mean, I thought about snapping them about a million times, but I never got around to getting rid of them."
There was that silence again, that damning silence. Faith ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "Look, where are you going?"
"Not really sure. My ticket is back to Italy, so …"
"I mean, we have a branch in – there's this girl, a Slayer, and she – well, are you even free?"
Buffy frowned. "Free for what?"
"Our Amsterdam branch could really use some help."
"Didn't look like it to me."
"When did you – fine," Faith brushed aside the comment as Buffy turned away again. "I mean, your help."
"Yeah," Faith continued uneasily. "One of the girls, Mina, is having these … issues with a guy. Well, sort of a guy."
"What do you mean, 'sort of'?"
"He's part-demon," answered Faith, watching the other girl closely. "She says they're in love, but it's a whole big thing. No one really knows how to handle it. I figure if anyone could …" She trailed off.
"So I'm like, Freaky-Relationship Expert Girl now? Thanks, that's very flattering." Buffy picked at the material of the bedspread.
Faith took a deep breath and tried to remember the last "find your patience" thingie Sean had tried to teach her. "Look, Buffy, I can help these girls with a lot of things, but relationships really ain't one of them. What the hell am I gonna tell them?"
Buffy met her gaze, surprised. "What do you mean?"
"Last guy I was with? Couldn't handle the whole stronger-than-him thing. We had a big fight. He stormed out alone, told me he wasn't a child and he could take care of himself." Now it was Faith's turn to stare intensely at the bedcovers. "He was wrong."
"Faith, I'm so sor-"
"Don't," she broke in. "Just – okay, I can survive just fine in this world, but combining the whole Slaying thing with a normal life? That's your gig, not mine." Faith bit her bottom lip. "Maybe it's 'cause I never had a normal life in the first place. I don't know. But you – you can do it. You can have both, I've seen you."
"I don't know, Faith. I've been out for so long …"
"They need you, B. We need you there." Faith resisted the urge to squirm at the touchy-feely sentiment. She could see Buffy's forehead doing that crinkly thing it did when she was thinking hard.
"You're not that bad at relationships, Faith," she said quietly. "Maybe you're used to thinking that, but I've seen you with everyone here. That's something."
Faith suddenly found her own thread in the comforter to concentrate on. "Whatever. Thanks," she added.
The next time their eyes met, there was the faintest whisper of a connection, an echo of a time long past. The animosity faded for a moment.
"You really think I could help?" Buffy's eyes had a spark of hope in them for the first time since she'd shown up there.
They stared at each other, but somehow this silence wasn't so loud.
"I guess I could try to change my ticket in the morning. Might not be able to leave for a few days."
"That's okay. We have the room."
"Thanks for the glowing invite," answered Buffy wryly.
Faith grinned. "I'll see you tomorrow," was all she said as she slipped back out, leaving the door cracked open behind her.