See Part 1 for full disclaimers and story details
Author's Notes: And so, dear readers, we come to the end. Of this tale, at least. My deepest thanks to everyone for their wonderful words of encouragement throughout the writing and posting of this fic. Without you all, what would be the point? A final hug and one last word of thanks to Lynette for all her hard work. Don't shake your head at me. (vbg) As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.
Faith stared at the door in front of her. There was no demon behind it that she knew of and no torture device sitting lying in wait for the Slayer. Even with those facts loud in her brain, she hesitated. She knew his last name now. Hell, she even knew where he lived. She could have just showed up on his doorstep, but Jack was a suspicious person by nature. If a woman he'd met once years ago knocked at his house it would not be a pretty thing.
So she went with Plan B. Except now that she was actually at the bar, she was so nervous her keys jingled in her hand. What if he said no again? What if he just up and left? What if. . .
No more what ifs, she told herself sharply. Are you a Slayer or a whiny little girl who's too afraid to live? Shoving the keys deep into her jeans pocket, she pushed open the door. The day she refused to face a challenge was the day she should be buried.
Making her way into the bar, Faith scanned the busy crowd with the ease of long practice. Just the normal Friday night hang out people in attendance, not a demon or vampire in sight. She paid for two beers and took a sip from one, the second bottle chilling her hand. Ignoring the appreciative looks she was getting from the two frat boys on the stools next to her, she kept looking. He was in here somewhere.
On the drive from Cleveland, she'd thought long and hard about the week she'd spent with Jack in the future and had come to one solid conclusion. Willow had told her time was fluid and the future was constantly changing based on a person's actions and decisions at any given time. The future where she'd never told Jack about being the Slayer hadn't happened yet. Now she knew what his reaction would be. He wouldn't think she was crazy, wouldn't run shrieking in the other direction. She didn't have to wait three years to tell him.
And seven people might not lose their lives because of her.
She didn't have to tell him right away, but he'd hit on something that had bothered her the entire time she'd been back in Cleveland. Being the Slayer was an integral part of who she was and she'd refused to let Jack into that part of her. This time she was holding nothing back.
Just as frat boy number one decided to make his move, she saw him. Jack. He'd taken a table in the corner, a beer on the table in front of him, one foot resting on a second chair. The large TV suspended from the ceiling was showing a hockey match and his eyes followed the action with an intent gleam she'd come to recognize. Stepping away from the bar, the two beers in hand, she made her way through the crowd, her anxiety suddenly doubled.
"Can I buy you a beer?"
He looked up at the words, his smile hovering between confused and friendly. "Thanks, but. . ." He trailed off, a frown taking over his features.
She knew the instant he figured out who she was. His face cleared, the smile returning in full force. Damn, he looked good. The hair had the smallest touch of brown left, the lines of his face not quite so deep. But all she focused on was the warmth spilling from his eyes.
"But I think I'm a little too old for you," he finished, waving her into the seat opposite his. Jack's eyes shone with pleasure. She could only hope it was from her presence.
"You're not old. You're the perfect age for me."
He snorted and lifted his beer in a small salute at her compliment. "Thanks, but I do own a mirror."
She didn't say a word, letting her eyes speak for her.
Shifting slightly, Jack sat forward, face growing serious. "How've you been, Faith?"
A warm glow of happiness spread through her chest. He really did remember her. Her name, not just a recognized face from years ago. And yet how did she sum up the last six years of her life? Including the past week she'd spent with his future self? "Now that I'm here? Couldn't be better." His face gained a touch of confusion colored with concern at the relief in her voice, but she plowed on before he could turn that look into words. "The last time I was here, Jack, I asked you out."
"You didn't ask me out," he corrected gently, taking a sip of his beer. "You asked me to sleep with you."
She just managed to keep the blush from taking over her whole face. What a brazen little girl she'd been, thinking any man, no matter what age and experience, would get down on his knees and thank his lucky stars she'd deigned to make an offer. But she'd lived since then and lived hard. And she knew she needed the man sitting across the table to be in her life. The trip from Cleveland to Colorado Springs had been torture without him, her entire body actually aching from missing his presence.
"And you turned me down."
"You were seventeen, Faith."
"I'm not saying you were wrong," she interrupted before he could get offended. "But I'm not seventeen anymore." The implied question hung between them, thick as the shadows that had been the focus of her life for far too long.
He leaned back in the chair, beer coming up once again for a stalling sip. "I'm not exactly in your age group."
That hadn't been a 'no'. She smiled and slid the extra beer across the table at him. "Men in my age group are worthless." Jack's eyes flew from the bottle he'd grabbed automatically to her never-been-more-serious-in-her-life eyes. "And I'm not leaving until I get the answer I want."
He searched long and hard in her face, as if trying to decide what kind of game she was playing. She forced the nervousness down, refused to let it show, only allowing the confidence of her decision to come through. Knowing him as she did, she knew a million thoughts were clamoring over each other to be heard in his very quick brain, most of them surrounding his job he couldn't tell her about and her sudden reappearance in his life. The silence went on so long, she was starting to wonder if she'd screwed it all up when he picked up the beer she'd bought. Transferring his attention to its label, he gave it a cursory read over.
Meeting her eyes solidly, he tipped the bottle against his lips, taking a long swallow. "Why don't we start with dinner."
Every bit of tension disappeared as a smile took over her face. Her heart thumped heavy in her chest, sending tingles down her limbs. The future wasn't set in stone. They had all the time in the world to get back to the feelings she'd only just learned were possible. For once, she'd done something right.
"Dinner sounds perfect."
The Beginning . . .
Final Author's Note: I had such a great time writing Jack and Faith together that I couldn't let them go after only one story. A sequel is in the works, okay, more like ficlet sequels actually. So stop on by every now and then to see if any more of their story is ready to be told.
Once again, thank you for reading!