Summary: After the fall of Sunnydale, they all find themselves searching for a place of their own in the world. Old friendships are reconnected, new ones are formed, and they find themselves growing as a family while facing the evil that lurks behind every dark corner.
Author's Notes: I've been working on this one on and off for the last month. I wanted to do another immediately post chosen fic and do it right this time around. I know there are plenty of fics that have this similar plot, but I'm doing it my way of course. Hope you all enjoy the first chapter, would love to hear your thoughts :)
The bus rolled down the road; dusk was upon them now and the memories of Sunnydale were left behind. It had been nearly four hours since they all had defeated the First and the buzz from the fight had long died off. The bus was quiet aside from the soft whispers between the girls as they wondered what would happen next. Faith sat alone in the back, tapping her lighter aimlessly against her knee as she stared blankly out the window, thinking of just what she would do next.
The only thing she could think about at that moment was finding a bed to sleep in. Her body was aching, her mind exhausted, and the adrenaline pumping through her veins was unlike anything she'd ever felt before. She didn't want to worry about Robin too much and that was why, after they'd been on the road for an hour, she'd made her way to the back of the bus to be alone.
With a soft sigh, she turned away from the window and let her eyes drift over the others around the bus. There were about a dozen of them and she could see Buffy sitting at the front talking quietly to Robin and Giles while Xander sat behind the wheel, relieving Giles from driving for a little while. They were heading north and they had yet to pass by any signs of civilization aside from the odd rest stop every twenty miles or so. From what she had overheard a half hour before, they were going to figure out what was going to happen as soon as they reached the next town.
Faith stretched out in the seat before resuming her slouched position, knees up against the back of the seat in front of her. She'd been thinking a lot since they got back on the bus. She declared to herself that she was going to start over as this was a new beginning for all of them. Whether she was going to be welcome to stick around with Buffy and the Scoobs, she didn't care. Either way, she'd find a place to go, a place to move forward in her life and leave her past as far behind as she could. She'd even considered heading down to LA to help Angel, but quickly scrapped that idea when she realized this was her time and her chance to prove she could go on with her redemption on her own.
Up ahead was a rest stop, the neon 'gas and food' sign flickering against the night sky. The two-lane highway had been empty aside from the odd car that passed by them. Faith was itching for a cigarette and she was already up and out of her seat by the time Xander pulled into the dirt parking lot and stopped next to the gas pumps. Those who weren't injured got off the bus to make a trip to the bathrooms and to grab some food from the small, dingy diner next to the gas station. Faith stood by the road and lit her cigarette, watching as the smoke curled up into the air.
"Can I bum one off of you?" Kennedy asked as she stood next to her. Faith said nothing as she offered her a cigarette and turned to look up at the stars in the sky. "Thanks."
"No problem," Faith shrugged as she put the pack back in her jacket pocket. "Didn't know you smoked."
"I don't, really. After the day we just had, I need something to calm down."
Faith just nodded, keeping her eyes trained on the stars above. She wasn't in the mood to talk and thankfully Kennedy noticed that and walked away, leaving her standing there alone. She turned to look back at the bus and then over at the diner. The girls who had gotten off the bus had scraped together some money of their own to buy as much food as they could afford. Even with the after effects of slaying, Faith couldn't work up an appetite. She was just too tired to care about food now. Xander and Giles were still on the bus from what she could see, making sure the injured girls and Robin were as comfortable as they could be.
Her eyes drifted over to the payphones where Buffy stood talking quietly to whomever she decided to call. Her first guess was Angel since none of them had contacted him to let him know they'd survived. It was the first time since she'd come back to Sunnydale to help them with the fight that Buffy looked less stressed. In fact, when she thought about it, Buffy had always seemed to be wound up too tight. She wondered if that would change now, but she had her doubts. Buffy would always be Buffy no matter where they were or what was happening in her life. It was just who she was. She had figured her out years ago, at least she thought she had, and so far they'd managed to avoid any fights that would ruin the little progress they'd made in the last week.
Faith turned back to face the deserted road, letting her thoughts wander and consume her. She tried not to think about Buffy. Those thoughts always led to anger and deeply rooted hate she was trying to get rid of. A fresh new start meant leaving those feelings behind and she was fully determined to stick to starting over, even if it destroyed everything she'd ever been. Her time in prison had given her a chance to reflect back on herself, and at those rare moments she was able to truly see what she'd become and she hated it. She didn't want to go back and Angel had briefly told her he would somehow take care of things so she wouldn't have to go back.
She took one last long drag of her cigarette before flicking it into the ditch. Taking a few deep breaths, she began walking back to the bus. Robin didn't look good. She could tell by the way that he kept shivering with every breath he took. He'd lost a lot of blood and from what she knew the worst of it had stopped, but he needed medical attention and he needed it hours ago. She sat in the seat behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"How are you feeling?"
"Horrible," he laughed softly.
"We're not far from the next town," Giles said quietly as he sat down in the driver's seat and turned to look at them. "An hour at most. As soon as Xander finishes fuelling, we'll be back on the road."
"What's the sitch with a place to stay for the night?" Faith asked as she leaned back in the seat and nervously picked at the small hole forming in her jeans just above the left knee. "I know we're all pretty much strapped for cash right now."
"I've got things covered," Giles responded calmly. "I made several phone calls throughout the last several days working out a plan just in case what happened in Sunnydale did indeed happen. In short," he paused as he took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, clearly as exhausted as everyone else, "I've managed to get in contact with the few remaining members of the Council. I've had some funds transferred to an account."
"So, we're covered?"
"We are," he nodded. "I wouldn't worry about it, Faith. You can choose to stay with us for a while until you figure out what you want to do. The plan is to head to Cleveland and Buffy is already on board with the idea. If you would like, you can come along with us and give us a hand there. That Hellmouth is twice as active as Sunnydale and we will need all the help we can get."
"I'll tag along," she said after a moment. "I mean, if Buffy is cool with that."
"If I'm cool with what?" Buffy asked as she stepped back onto the bus.
"Cleveland," Faith replied as she looked up at her. "You cool with me coming along?"
"It's your decision. If you want to, I'm sure we could use your help there."
Her voice was cold; she was physically and emotionally exhausted, and it was clear she wasn't in the mood to talk just as much as Faith wasn't. She didn't let Buffy's mood affect her, the lack of enthusiasm understandable for a couple of reasons. One being the exhaustion from the fight against the First and the army of Turok-Han and the other being the fact that she knew Buffy wasn't too comfortable having her around again. For whatever reasons Buffy felt that way, she would respect that. She couldn't expect their overall relationship to change overnight.
Faith made her way to her seat at the back of the bus as the rest of the girls got back on, chattering happily now that they had food to fill their empty stomachs. She just closed her eyes and let the voices around her fade out as she looked forward only to climbing into a nice warm bed and sleeping for as long as she could. With everything she had gone through in the last several weeks, sleep was at the top of her list. Everything else such as a long, hot shower, a good meal, even a night of sex—with whomever she could find that would satisfy her urges and needs—would have to wait.
She dozed on and off for the next hour, opening her eyes just as Xander pulled up to the small hospital. She headed to the front of the bus and helped Giles get Robin off the bus and inside the small emergency room. The doctors and nurses there scrambled to get those injured into beds and get the medical attention they so desperately needed. Of all of them, Robin was the worst. The nurses informed Giles and Faith, who stood off to the side together, that Robin's chances of survival were low. She felt numb hearing that, numb because of those whispered promises Robin had made in that first hour they'd been on the road. Promises of surprising her, showing her what it was like to be with a real man instead of the scumbags she'd been with before.
She needed a cigarette, so she left the emergency room and headed for the bus. She stood near the back and lit a cigarette with a shaky hand. Those that weren't in need of medical care had stayed on the bus, but she hadn't seen Buffy, Dawn, Willow, or Xander inside, nor were they on the bus when she'd come out. Giles came outside a few minutes later and stood next to her as she took one long drag after the other.
"Is Wood gonna be okay?"
"I'm afraid we don't know yet. He's in quite bad shape. Only time will tell," Giles replied as he turned to look at her. He looked at loss for words as he gave her a sympathetic smile that even she could tell was forced.
"I'm going to take everyone else to the motel a couple blocks away in a few minutes. You didn't by any chance see..."
"No," she said quickly as she flicked her cigarette and quickly lit another.
"You wouldn't by any chance have..."
She tossed her pack of cigarettes to him before he had the chance to finish talking. He smiled again, this time it was more genuine as he took out a cigarette and leaned into the flame as she held it out to him. He nodded his thanks as he leaned against the bus and joined her in staring up at the stars in the sky. She knew how strained her relationship—no, acquaintance—was with everyone, but she had a glimmer of hope that maybe that would all begin to change.
"So, how long are we sticking around these parts for?" Faith asked, breaking the silence that had settled between them.
"A couple of days at most," Giles replied. "We all need some decent rest before we drive to Cleveland and unfortunately, I don't think the bus will make it there. Xander suggests we try to sell it and buy a van. It may just be the only way to get us there in one piece."
"Would be a little cramped with all of us, don't you think?"
"Not everyone is coming with us. Most of the girls, they er, they have families to go back to."
"So then it's just the Scoobs and us? Kennedy is coming, isn't she?"
"Unfortunately," Giles chuckled softly.
Faith laughed and took one last drag of her cigarette before flicking it to the ground. "She's really not all that bad; then again I haven't spent the last what, six months, in a house full of teenage girls."
Even in the short time she'd spent there, it'd driven her insane. The only time she managed to get some alone time was that night she spent in Buffy's bed after the explosion. It wasn't all bad, either; they'd hashed a few things out, yet they were still a long way from ever becoming what she'd consider friends. They had that chance years before and she'd gone and screwed that up the first chance she got. All in all, if she was going to stick with the decision to go along with them to Cleveland, they'd have plenty of opportunities to work through their past.
Just down the road she saw Buffy and the others walking out of a small restaurant carrying a couple bags of food. She just got back onto the bus and went back to her seat and sat down, anxiously tapping her lighter against her thigh as she waited for the others and Giles to get back on the bus. She just wanted to sleep and the level of exhaustion her body was going through was beginning to make her rather cranky. Her stomach growled when she smelled the burgers the others had brought back onto the bus and she rubbed her stomach, hoping the hunger pangs would go away.
The ride to the motel was a few short blocks across the small, sleeping town. Those left climbed off the bus and stood around outside while Giles and Willow went inside the office to get them all rooms for the night. Xander paced back and forth a couple of times before walking over to Faith and handing her a greasy bag.
"Thought you might be hungry," he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Thanks," she smiled at him as she pulled the still warm and very greasy burger out of the bag and took a bite, her stomach growling in anticipation of finally being able to eat.
Xander smiled back at her as he leaned against the bus. Faith wasn't sure what to say to him, especially not after knowing he'd lost Anya during the fight. Her heart broke for him since she knew—at least from the things she'd heard from Angel and from listening to the whispers around the Summers' house—that he loved Anya more than anything else. Her heart broke for herself having never known what it was like to love anyone. She'd never loved her mother when her mother had been alive, nor had she loved any of the men or the women she'd randomly picked up in bars and clubs and brought back to her place for the night. She never had friends, so she didn't even know what that kind of love was like.
She was used to the loneliness in her life, the emptiness, and especially the darkness she was going to damn well make sure never crept back and took her over ever again. Her path to redemption would be a long one, but she'd make it since she knew she was strong enough to deal with whatever life would throw her way next. She couldn't just forget the past and move on, but she'd deal with her inner demons alone and work on becoming the person, the woman, she knew she could eventually be.
"Deep thoughts?" Xander asked as he flashed a lopsided grin her way when she blinked and looked over at him. "That deep, huh?"
"Whatever," she shrugged nonchalantly as she took another bite of the burger.
"Aren't we all," Xander chuckled softly, pushing himself off the side of the bus as Giles and Willow came out of the office.
Giles gathered them all near the bus, explaining to them there weren't enough rooms to accommodate them all. Almost everyone paired off, got the keys to their rooms, and headed straight for them. Giles looked at Buffy, then over at Faith, and with a heavy sigh he motioned Faith to come closer.
"One room left, unfortunately."
"Great, we're roomies," Faith smirked at Buffy, hoping she'd detect the hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"It has two beds?" Buffy asked as she held out her hand for the key.
He nodded as he dropped the key into her hand and gave her a soft smile before walking to the room he'd be sharing with Andrew and Xander.
"Huh," Buffy exhaled as she and Faith walked to the last room on the far end of the small motel. "I don't want to talk to you, and I don't want to do anything but shower and sleep."
"Same here, B. Not gonna hear any arguments from me."
"Since we're staying here for a couple of days," she sighed as she stopped at the door and slid the key into the lock, "I don't want you bringing any strangers to the room. I know what you're like, Faith. I know that part of you hasn't changed."
"Whatever, wasn't gonna anyway."
Buffy just raised an eyebrow at her before she unlocked the door and stepped into the room first. Faith hovered in the doorway, watching as Buffy took off her jacket and placed it on the bed closest to the door. She let out a soft sigh as she walked to the other bed and sat down on the edge. She knew she should feel offended by what Buffy had said to her, but the truth did hurt sometimes and frankly she was just too tired to care. She untied her boots and slid them off, letting out a relieved sigh as she lay back on the bed.
"This sucks," Buffy said under her breath as she slid off her own boots and laid back on her bed. "We don't even have a change of clothes. Why didn't anyone bother packing anything?"
"Nobody knew the Hellmouth was gonna swallow up the whole town," Faith replied as she turned her head to look over at her. "Shit happens, right?"
Buffy said nothing more to her as she reached for the lamp that sat on the nightstand between the two beds and shut it off. Faith blinked a couple of times, giving her eyes a moment to adjust to the sudden darkness before she pulled back the covers and worked her way under them. It wasn't the most comfortable bed she'd ever slept on, but it didn't bother her. It wasn't like she'd ever slept on a comfortable bed in her life aside from the two nights she'd spent in Buffy's bed. Just thinking of that last night she'd spent there, having spent it with Robin, made the tears she'd been fighting back begin to fall.
She knew he wouldn't make it through the night. She bit back the choked sob that dared escape, not wanting Buffy to hear her cry. She had no idea what made Robin different from everyone else she'd ever been with and that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach told her she never would know. She rolled over onto her stomach and buried her face into the pillow, hoping to stop the tears that continued to fall. She wasn't just crying over Robin, they were tears of sadness, of uncertainty, and a few were tears of happiness and relief that most of them had lived through what had been the biggest fight of their lives.
With her thoughts running rampant through her mind, even as exhausted as she was, she knew sleep was far off. She slipped out of bed and walked to the small bathroom, closing the door quietly behind her before she flipped on the light. She couldn't even look at herself in the mirror. She hated seeing herself looking so vulnerable, so weak. She turned on the tap and splashed some water over her face, sighing as she let the last of her tears fall before she reached for the towel that hung on the rack on the wall.
The day began to replay in her mind, over and over again. It was a blur and she felt the rush she always felt during a fight flood through her body just thinking of it. As soon as the rush disappeared, that is when she felt it. That low hum she remembered feeling around Buffy years ago. She only ever felt it if she just relaxed, and relaxing around Buffy was a rare occurrence. It was almost comforting to feel it, and it made her feel whole in a way. It was that same feeling that scared her before everything went wrong. That same feeling that had caused a flood of mixed feelings, which led to questions about just how she'd felt about Buffy. She could feel that uncertainty coming back, that fear filling her as it dawned on her that those feelings she'd had for Buffy, that...attraction, didn't just disappear as she thought it had.
It made her wonder if that's why they were never able to be friends, aside from her destructive and carefree personality at the time. They were very different in every way, yet they shared one thing; the burden they had to carry with being a Slayer. Nobody else ever knew what it was really like and the loneliness that came with it. She knew even though Buffy had friends, had a family, that she still felt alone despite being surrounded by people who loved her. Buffy had been in love with two people that Faith knew of. Angel and Riley. Spike, in her mind, didn't really count. From the bit of the conversation she'd heard Buffy have with Spike as the Hellmouth had crumbled around them, she figured that when Buffy had told him she loved him she said it because she knew he was sacrificing himself for the greater good.
It made sense to her, though, and she got why Buffy would say that to him. From what she knew, Spike had been there for her when nobody else was. She knew of their instantaneous relationship, if what they had together for that short time could be called a relationship. She scoffed as she glanced at herself in the mirror, wondering why she was even thinking about Buffy and her relationship with Spike. She did remember that feeling of jealously that crept up inside of her when she and Spike had talked in the basement. She didn't like it and she still didn't. These were emotions she'd never felt before and she didn't know how to deal with them.
"Faith?" Buffy said softly as she knocked on the door. "Are you done in there?"
"I'll be out in a sec, B."
She glanced in the mirror once last time before she opened the door. She felt naked despite being fully clothed as Buffy looked at her for a moment before stepping past her and closing the bathroom door behind her. She grabbed her jacket, slipped on her boots and stepped outside as the craving for a cigarette at that moment was just too strong to ignore. She left the door open a crack as she sat down on the steps and lit the cigarette. She heard Buffy huff when she walked out of the bathroom and a minute later she stepped outside and sat down on the steps next to her.
"Can't sleep either, huh?" Faith asked as she looked over at her, grinning at little when Buffy just rolled her eyes and nodded her head.
"It's been a long day and an even longer couple of months."
"I know the feeling."
"Are you really going to come with us to Cleveland?"
"Why not? Not like I have anywhere else to go," Faith replied quietly as she stared down at the ground in front of her. "You can tell me honestly if you don't want me to come with you guys. It's not like I won't understand."
"I can't do it alone anymore," Buffy said after a few long minutes of heavy silence between them. "I don't want to do this alone anymore. I don't know what is going to happen in the next couple of weeks, months or even years, but after how you came to help us without a moment of hesitation, it made me realize some things."
"Like maybe you are not quite the same person I thought I knew," she said so softly that if Faith hadn't been listening as carefully as she was, she wouldn't have heard her.
Faith waited for her to say something more, but it never came. She always had a hard time trying to figure Buffy out, trying to get her to open up. She knew that it was the same with herself. She had built up walls years ago that would take a lot of time to break down. Time and trust. She didn't trust Buffy and she sure as hell didn't trust herself. It was hard for her to trust someone who had tried to kill her. Granted, at the time she'd done a lot of fucked up things to Buffy, her friends, and her mother, so she knew she deserved everything she'd gotten and then some. She knew that the way she'd retaliated once she had woken up from her coma had been mostly out of fear. At least she could admit that to herself, but it was too little, too late for that. She couldn't take back anything she'd ever done no matter how hard she wished she could.
She wanted to talk to Buffy about a lot of things; the only problem was, where did she start? Their personal history was loaded and to work through it all would take time—a lot of time. They'd only get through it all if Buffy was willing to, she knew that much. She also knew Buffy continuously gave off mixed signals and those were the ones she never read right. That playful banter they once had, maybe it'd get back to that point, but until she was sure they were comfortable around one another once again she'd have to learn to censor the things she said that just came naturally to her. It made her wonder then if Buffy had ever picked up on the fact that she had harmlessly flirted with her to no end years before.
"Deep thoughts?" Buffy asked with a stifled laugh as she nudged Faith in the shoulder with her own.
"You have no idea how many times that I've been asked that today, do you?"
"For someone who didn't want to talk..." Faith trailed off, chuckling softly as she took a long drag of her cigarette.
"Do you really think everything is going to be different now, or is it going to be exactly the same as it was before?"
"No idea, B. Guess it's one of those things you just gotta find out when the time comes."
"I was talking about us," she said quietly as she turned to look at Faith. "If you're coming to Cleveland we can't...fight like we used to. I don't trust you."
"I don't trust myself," Faith shrugged. "We're in the same boat, for once."
Buffy laughed a little at that and winced softly as she placed her hand over her stomach. Faith just watched her even in the dim light that shone from the streetlight as she lifted up her shirt to check out her wound. From what Faith could see, it had closed up and was already healing a hell of a lot faster than any injuries would have healed before.
"You okay?" Faith asked, resisting the urge to reach out for her.
"I'm fine, it just hurts if I laugh," Buffy replied as she lowered her shirt back down. "You didn't get hurt, did you?"
"Couple scrapes and bruises. Nothing major. Guess I was lucky this time."
"Yeah. We should probably try to get some sleep," Buffy said as she stood up from the steps and walked inside the room.
Faith let out a soft sigh as she took one last drag of her cigarette and flicked it to the ground before following Buffy inside. She waited until the light was turned off to take off her jacket and boots, then climbed into the bed. She watched Buffy in the darkness as she rolled onto her side, her back to her, and tried to fall asleep.
A part of her was waiting for Buffy to punch her in the face for whatever reason of her own. In the last week she'd been punched twice, which was really not so surprising. Maybe things would end up changing between them and they wouldn't come to blows anymore. Maybe Buffy was tired of fighting with her, tired of hating her, just like she was tired of it too. She closed her eyes as she yawned, finally feeling the edges of sleep pulling her in. Sleeping for a week wouldn't happen, but she at least hoped for twelve straight hours or more. She fell into a light sleep listening to the sounds of the soft, steady breathing coming from Buffy, finding it relaxing and comforting in a way.
It hadn't even been a couple of hours before the knocks started on the door. Faith groaned loudly, hating to have been woken up, and pulled the pillow over her head as she listened to Buffy talk quietly to Giles at the door. She sat up slowly when she heard Giles say Robin's name, already knowing what had happened before he even said a word.
"What's going on?"
"I called the hospital for an update on the injured girls and Robin," Giles said quietly as Faith joined them at the door. "He didn't make it."
"He's...dead?" Faith asked, feeling as if she'd been hit by a brick wall. "You're kidding me, right?"
"He passed about a half an hour ago. The injuries were extensive and the doctor I spoke with informed me that they had done all they could."
Faith walked back to the bed and sat down heavily, blinking away the tears as she pulled on her boots and slipped on her jacket. She ignored Giles and Buffy when they tried to stop her from walking out of the room and she headed straight for the hospital, needing to see it with her own eyes to believe that Robin was gone. She felt like she was stuck in a dream, a nightmare, as she walked the few blocks to the small hospital. When she got outside the emergency room, she just stared blankly at the door, not knowing what to do all of a sudden. It didn't feel real.
She took in a few deep breaths before she walked inside and ignored the nurses who tried to stop her as she walked to the room she knew Robin was in. She stood there in the doorway, watching as the doctors unhooked him from the machines she guessed had tried to keep him alive. He lay there motionless, looking as if he was only sleeping and not dead.
"Miss," the burly nurse urged as she tried to pull Faith from the room. "Miss, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
"I knew him," she said softly, blinking away the tears that just wouldn't fall. "I never got to say goodbye."
"Can I have a minute alone?" Faith asked, barely recognizing her own voice. "Please? Just a minute is all I need."
The nurse nodded her head, giving her a sympathetic smile as she let Faith walk into the room. She stood at the foot of the bed and waited for the two doctors to leave before she finally let the tears fall. She couldn't move from where she stood, hearing the ghostly whispers of promises he had made her.
"When we settle down somewhere, I'll surprise you like I said I would, I promise you that and I can promise you it'll be worth giving it a shot."
Faith wiped away the tears, never taking her eyes off of him. She wanted to know why this was affecting her so badly. Nobody she'd ever known had ever made her feel so much in such a short amount of time. Nobody had ever gotten under her skin the way he had. Nobody had ever made her promises like the ones he'd made to her, promises that had given her hope that life would change for her and that maybe, just maybe, she'd finally know what it was like to be loved.
"Not everyone is going to screw you over in the end, Faith. You need to have a little bit of faith in others if you want to know what it's like to fall in love. Let me have that chance. I'll promise you in the end it'll be worth it. We all make mistakes and we all push others away, but that's what makes us human. All too human."
He'd been right, they were all too human and they would all make mistakes, over and over again until they finally saw that whatever they were doing just wasn't working. He'd said a lot to her in that first hour they'd been on the road and she knew she wasn't the only one who was listening to everything he had said. Buffy had been sitting in the seat across the aisle and every once in a while Faith had caught her looking over at them. There had been a look of disbelief on Buffy's face as Robin spoke quietly of the plans he had to prove her wrong. She didn't want to begin to think of what could have possibly been going through Buffy's head at the time; probably the same things that were going through her own right then and there.
Broken promises made for someone who didn't deserve it.
The same burly nurse came to lead her out of the room. She couldn't hear a word the nurse said to her and she turned and headed straight for the doors. She didn't want to go back to the motel, there was no way in hell she'd be able to sleep and she wouldn't have Buffy catch her crying either. She wandered around town and found a small corner store that was open. She knew she had some money in her wallet and she walked inside and headed straight for the back. She grabbed a bottle of Jack, it being the only brand of whiskey on the shelf and walked to the register. The old man that stood behind it smiled at her as she handed him a twenty.
She had the cap unscrewed before she walked out the door and she took a swig as she stood on the sidewalk, wondering where she could go and not be found too easily. The town was small, that was a given after she walked up and down the streets and ended up back where she didn't want to be, outside her and Buffy's room at the motel. She had been wandering around town for a few hours and she hadn't realized that until the sun began to rise. She stumbled towards the stairs and sat down before lifting the bottle, sighing as she took another swig.
"Faith?" Buffy said softly as she opened the door. "Oh god, you're drinking? Are you drunk?"
"What does it look like?" Faith snapped as she set the bottle down on the step next to her. "He's gone, B. He's fucking gone and I never got to say goodbye."
That empty feeling inside of her came with the ghostly whispers of the promises Robin had made her. Buffy sat down next to her and awkwardly hugged her, holding on tight when she tried to pull away. She gave in, wrapped her arms around her, and let the tears fall freely. The alcohol and the multitude of emotions that were thundering through her had made her give in. She no longer cared that she looked vulnerable and weak as Buffy held onto her tightly and just let her cry. She tried to pull away yet again, but Buffy still wouldn't let go of her.
"Just let it out, Faith," she whispered softly.
"Why does it have to hurt so fucking much?"
"You cared for him even though you hardly knew him," Buffy said softly, her breath tickling Faith's ear as she spoke, "that's why it hurts so much, Faith."
If she hadn't been so numb with alcohol and grief she would have felt the hum deep inside of her resonate through her body with Buffy holding her so close. Even in the state of mind that she was in, she couldn't help but think that this was the only time they'd ever been so close and that this was the only time Buffy had ever shown any signs of friendly affection towards her. She felt her body giving up and she pulled back from Buffy slowly, quickly wiping the tears from her eyes.
"Go get some sleep," Buffy said softly, smiling at her as she helped her to her feet. There was softness in Buffy's eyes she'd never seen before. She thought for just a split second that maybe Buffy actually cared about her in some little way.
Faith muttered a barely audible thank you as she collapsed on her bed and forcefully yanked the covers over herself. She silently argued with the voices in her head that told her she was wrong about everything, wrong about Buffy, that she didn't care about her. Nobody ever cared about her. It was just the way it was and the way it felt like it'd always be. Robin was supposed to be the one to change that, but he was gone now, gone and never coming back. Taken from her just like everything else that had ever been good in her life.
She gave up on the self-pity trip she'd taken herself on, knowing how dangerous that was for her fragile, emotional state. She let the last of her tears fall before she finally let the pain, the exhaustion, the loneliness, and the alcohol force her into a deep sleep full of dreams, of nightmares, and of emptiness.