For marriednmich, who is taking a break from LJ. Glad you liked it, and thanks for beta'ing it.

Summary: Faith is on her own. Post Chosen.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Just playing.

Lonely

Faith sat alone in her Cleveland apartment, watching TV and absently patting Butch, the beagle she'd picked up at the pound. The scene was tranquil; in fact, the only jarring note was the frown on Faith's face. Something was off with this little scene, but she couldn't figure out what.

After several months of hanging with the Scoobies and the Newbies, building and rebuilding relationships, Faith had finally snapped. Oh, not in any bad, irreparable, back-to-jail-with-you kinda way. She'd just gotten to a point where she needed to be on her own. She started withdrawing, especially from Robin and Buffy, whom she'd grown, surprisingly enough, very close to. Faith started getting quiet and she began patrolling alone. It had led to some hard feelings; Robin had taken off with his wounded eyes and a handful of girls to train. Buffy had tried to talk to Faith more than once, but Buffy's own fear of abandonment and other responsibilities kept getting in the way.

It was Xander, sorrowful, shattered Xander, who'd gently asked what was wrong. Faith wished she could've blamed it on Jack Daniels or some magic spell, but she couldn't because it wasn't true. For some unknown reason, it all came out; the feelings and fears created by the way everyone had watched her, whether warily, greedily or guiltily, in prison and how she felt like people were still doing it. Faith had talked for hours. Buffy had joined them at one point, though all she did was listen sympathetically. When Faith finally ran out of words, Buffy and Xander led her to Giles's door and left her there, whispering, 'All you had to do was ask.'

So Giles had set her up in Cleveland. She had some cash from the Council accounts Willow had 'found', a set of very good references, and a clean slate. Oh, and Butch, as of a month ago. The beagle in need of rescue as much as Faith was.

She'd found a decent job as a bouncer at a bar downtown. It cut into her patrolling time, except for the occasions she got to dust some vamps trying to snack on some of the patrons. Her life was pretty routine; work, slay, sleep, hang out with Butch. She enjoyed the routine, she liked her job and co-workers, she still loved to slay. The biggest change was that she now slept alone. It wasn't for lack of offers; she just didn't accept any. She told herself she wasn't ready; she'd left the Scoobies to be on her own, to sort out her head. Sleeping around felt like cheating.

She only really missed sex on her nights off, which weren't many. Faith tried to deal by going slaying or by picking up extra shifts if she could, but every once in a while she found the streets quiet and the bar over-staffed. That's how she found herself home tonight. Home, and lonely.

Faith realized that she was lonely. She missed the Scoobies; she missed group slayage, she missed having an audience for her puns and more spectacular kills. She missed having someone to talk to when she wasn't slaying. Despite admitting it to herself, she wasn't ready to admit it to the Scoobies – she'd asked to leave; now she had to live with the consequences. Maybe one day Faith would even learn from her mistakes.

Faith sighed deeply and tried to lose herself in the nameless comedy flickering on the TV screen. But the brave heroine turned into Buffy, the wise advisor looked just like Giles, the best friend had Willow's red hair, and the sensitive hero reminded her of sad, knowing Xander.

It was still early by Faith's usual schedule when she gave up and started turning out the lights. As soon as the last lamp clicked off, Faith heard a light tap at the door. Her depression must have gotten the best of her, because she didn't even hesitate to wonder who would knock at midnight before she threw open the door.

Buffy and Xander stood in front of her, grinning widely. Xander was holding a pizza.

"Hey Faith. Did ya miss us?"