What You Will
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Author notes: This takes place during season eight of comics, post No Future For You arc. Not necessary to read the comics to understand though; Giles and Faith have teamed up, estranged from Buffy and co, to help bring back troubled Slayers from the brink. It is Christmas evening.
For Faith, it was Christmas de ja vu all over again. Her circumstances on the day that most termed "the most wonderful time of the year" were stunningly similar to those she had experienced on the very same day, nearly seven years ago, in Sunnydale, when she was just a kid, sixteen years old. Like then, she was spending her Christmas evening in a less than stellar motel; although the location had changed from Sunnydale to middle of nowhere, Washington, the results were basically the same as far as her environment went, except that this time around, she had the step up of dwelling in a two bedroom "suite" rather than a one bed single, and the TV worked better. Although, seeing as nothing but irritating and depressing Christmas reruns were going to play all day, Faith had no desire to take advantage of this amenity.
Like Sunnydale, there was very little in her surroundings to pay tribute to the holiday season- less, in fact, for there were absolutely no decorations of any kind in her room, not even the pathetic string of lights she had put up in Sunnydale, and the motel lobby had only one ratty row of garland on the counter and one twelve inch fake tree on the bored manager's desk. Faith was surprised someone there had managed even that much Christmas spirit. There would be no home-cooked meals or family gatherings for her today, no warm affectionate greetings or carols by a fire or any of the other sappy crap everyone else in America practically was probably doing. Unlike that year in Sunnydale, though, this Christmas Eve, Faith had not been invited anywhere- certainly not to someone's home, even just for a couple of hours. Other than that though, this year was looking startlingly similar to Sunnydale's Christmas '99.
Except for one thing. This Christmas, Faith might not be at a party, with family or friends, or even with other prison inmates, but she wasn't, for the first time, spending her evening alone. She was with Giles, and somehow, strange as it was, that did make a difference.
They had only been travelling together, as what Giles referred to as a "partnership of equals" in their efforts to reform new Slayers in danger of submitting to darkness within themselves, for a couple of months now, but it had already become a more comfortable and strangely positive relationship than Faith would ever have expected. In most circumstances now she found it easy to be with Giles, fighting at his side when necessary, negotiating and brainstorming plans of action more frequently; even when simply engaging in the course of daily activities, it no longer seemed strange to do them with Giles present. They gave each other as much space and privacy as was possible, and when it wasn't, well, they made do with as much humor as possible, anything to keep up the clearly defined line still marking their personal relationship to each other.
A line that, to Faith's eyes, at least, seemed to be slowly but steadily blurring, the longer she remained his partner, working in his proximity. She didn't think that it was a result of anything either of them were doing, or anything they really understood or could control, and she tried not to think about it, lest her thoughts accelerate it, give it more power than what it was already gaining. But it was happening, and their experiences today only proved that it was growing.
For one thing, there was the fact that they were in one motel room tonight, rather than the two they usually rented, so as to preserve the space and privacy they usually so carefully kept as a buffer between them, even as their relationship was clearly beginning to shift. It had been Faith, to her own surprise, who was responsible for this. As Giles had begun to order the rooms the night before, she had stopped him impulsively with a hand on his forearm, cutting him off and changing the request to one room with two beds rather than two rooms with one bed. When Giles had looked down at her with raised eyebrows, she had shrugged, taking her hand away with her cheeks flushing slightly.
"Hey, Christmas, Christmas Eve, no one likes to be alone, right? Don't worry, G, I won't ravage you in your sleep…unless I'm having one wicked naughty dream."
And then there had been the matter of the gifts. Neither had said anything about exchanging gifts, and Faith had taken this to mean that they wouldn't be doing so. She certainly hadn't expected any. But regardless of this assumption, she had found herself awakening earlier than usual one morning and buying Giles a pair of leather gloves…not just because she felt like she had to get him something, which she did, though she hadn't the faintest idea why, but also because she thought they would keep his hands warm in the bitter Washington winter…and because they were nice. Because Faith thought he might like them.
Yeah, Faith didn't understand it at all.
She had spent most of the night before lying awake, not because of Giles's softly snoring presence in the bed next to hers, but because she was stupidly nervous, wondering how the hell she was going to give him the gloves or explain why she had got them, cursing herself for the deed that made no sense to her. He would think it was weird. He would feel bad he hadn't gotten her anything, or embarrassed, or worst of all, thank her his in vague Giles way and set them aside without the least idea that she had spent forty minutes torn between a light tan and a reddish brown option.
What the hell had she bought them for?
But when Faith awakened, so late in the morning that it was nearly afternoon, after the twenty minutes or so it took for her to attend to her morning needs and shake off some of her grogginess, she had been stunned by Giles unexpectedly handing her an unwrapped gift in a plastic shopping bag, a sheepish, somewhat embarrassed look in his eyes.
"I know how much you enjoy the caterwauling you call music on the radio," he muttered, " and I thought perhaps it would be best and most enjoyable for us both if you were able to listen to it in this fashion…merry Christmas, Faith."
Somewhat astounded, Faith had reached into the bag to discover a brand new Ipod. Her amazement was almost as much due to her shock that Giles apparently knew what it was and what it was used for as much as because she now owned one, that Giles had given her one. The gloves she had cursed herself all night for daring to buy now seemed stupid and inadequate trinkets in comparison, but when she had stuttered her thanks and retrieved them, shoving them at Giles awkwardly, he had smiled genuinely as he fingered them, thanking her with warmth in his eyes as he slipped them onto his hands with both surprise and pleasure in his gaze. Faith only wished that she had gotten something bigger, better.
That had been a nice beginning to the day, and un-Christmas-y as it was, their brunch at Denny's, the only restaurant open within driving distance, had been fairly pleasant. By focusing on each moment, Faith was managing to almost enjoy the holiday she had hated for most of her life. This year, odd as it was, was definitely beating out any other year that she could remember.
But now they were at their motel for the evening, again in the same double-bed room; they would move on in the morning, heading towards their latest mission in Wisconsin, but until then they were here, alone together, on the remaining hours of Christmas, yet somehow distant from each other all the same. Both were quiet, neither exactly acknowledging nor ignoring each other, so much as settling into their own thoughts, not fully engaged in the present moment. At least, this was apparent in Giles's case; Faith, who was furtively observing him, was noticing the faint frown turning his lips, the lines marring his forehead and under his eyes, and it occurred to her that undoubtedly this was not Giles's best Christmas. Undoubtedly he would rather be almost anywhere in the world now on this particular day than here in this shitty motel room with her.
Okay, so maybe that was going a little too far. There were a lot worse places to be and people to be with. And it wasn't like Giles hated her. Faith was pretty sure he liked her, actually. He had got her the Ipod, after all, a gift expensive and thoughtful enough that she could barely look at it without her throat closing over. But she knew damn well, all the same, that if he had his wish, it would never be to be here with her. As perfectly pleasant and content as he had been throughout the day, Faith was aware that it had probably been mostly a show for her benefit. She was more than aware without even needing to see it in his face that Giles was probably somewhat depressed at how this Christmas was being spent…and who it wasn't being spent with.
He was sitting with his back against the headboard of his bed, several books and various papers spread about him, paging through them with a faint frown as he obstensibly prepared for the following day and any possible events they might encounter on their expedition. Nevertheless, Faith knew his mind was not focused on his reading, nor were his eyes. She didn't fail to notice how they kept glancing up, drifting periodically over to the cell phone resting on his night stand, and she knew he was hoping for it to ring, itching to pick it up and call himself. She didn't want to blame him for it, as much as she was discomfited by his involuntary eye movement and feelings. This was his first Christmas without Buffy, without even being on speaking terms with her, through Buffy's own decision and stubborn perseverance. It was Buffy and her friends he wanted to be with now, and no matter how decent a thing they had going with their partnership or how their relationship was changing for the better, Faith knew she would never be able to compete.
Faith knew what Buffy and the Scoobies probably thought about her and Giles teaming up; Buffy and her weird ability to harbor jealousy and possessiveness for people she was thrusting out of her life had probably made sure to inform people that the reason Giles had taken Faith's side in their latest battle was and then taken off with her was because Faith was fucking him senseless. Strangers probably saw them together and assumed they were father and daughter. Neither were an accurate description of their relationship, but they were also not simply coworkers. Faith could not define their relationship, and being one to avoid analysis, did not try to.
But she knew very well what Giles's and Buffy's had been, and whether he said so or not, it must be killing him that she didn't return his call.
Faith knew he had called Buffy earlier tonight, when they arrived back at the motel. The bathroom walls were thin, and even though Giles had spoken softly, it wasn't soft enough to escape her Slayer hearing. She knew he must be disappointed that the little blondie bitch hadn't called him back, that he was still hoping. Faith felt almost unwelcome now, almost an intruder, even as she busied herself downloading songs from the laptop onto her new Ipod- a laptop that even Giles, technology phobic as he was, had admitted served them to be useful in their journeys.
Even as she did this she was restless, her mood shifting from her earlier good humor to one of resentment and faint depression. She craved cigarettes badly, as she hadn't in months, and would have set out to buy some if it weren't for the fact that she didn't want to miss the conversation if by some miniscule change, Buffy did call him.
Buffy Summers was skilled at doing this to people.
When she saw Giles's eyes slide over to the phone for approximately the fifteenth time, Faith shoved at one of the pillows beside her suddenly and violently, exhaling in a loud, impatient sigh, breaking the silence that had been bothering the hell out of her with what had been for her extremely uncomfortable to maintain. Sitting up abruptly and shutting off the computer, even though she still had one more song in the process of downloading, she turned her head towards him, addressing him sarcastically for the first time in twenty minutes.
"Starting to see where Scrooge was coming from over there?" she asked, and when Giles looked at her in seeming bemusement, she tried to clarify.
"Scrooge…greedy old geezer who hates Christmas so he gets bombarded with a bunch of them one night to make him jolly…damn, you really don't watch TV, do you?"
"If you are referring to the literary work by Charles Dickens, then no, I am afraid I have not seen any unfortunate media adaptations of the tale," Giles replied, turning more fully towards her and setting down the book he had been paging through. "What I am questioning is why you are referencing the work in analogy with myself."
"Well, you know…Christmas not like you'd usually think it should be, this year, and all," she said with a shrug, careful to keep her voice nonchalant. "So much for good will and cheer on earth, peace to men and all that crap, you know?"
"How a person thinks things should be and how they turn out in actuality are often so far removed from each other as to be unrecognizable, Faith, but that does not mean that they were wrong," Giles said mildly, but his eyes were on Faith's now, searching, steadily focused, as if he were now observing her in the manner that she had previously been observing him. "As for the ideals of utopia you speak of, the day they exist on earth will never come, regardless of the date in question."
Faith frowned slightly, seriously thinking about this tossed out statement, somewhat bothered by it. She knew it was true. Her voice was softer, more serious when she replied.
"Then why do we keep working our asses off to get it, Giles? If everyone knows it's never gonna happen…then why are we even trying for it?"
Giles's hand drifted towards his eyes, and Faith watched him, expecting him to remove his glasses to clean them, as she had seen him do countless times before. Instead he merely kept one hand on the frame, touching them absently as he looked back at her.
"I suppose, Faith, that we are hoping for the impossible…or at least to grow as close as possible to obtaining it."
A silence fell between them once more as Faith digested his words, a crease forming between her eyebrows. But she did not return to her computer, and Giles did not return to his books…and though she saw him glance once at the phone, she knew that his eyes were now focused on her.
"Do you have any family, Giles?" she asked finally, stretching her arms in front of her. "I never heard you mention a mom or pops, or bro or sis or anything. What, did they cut you off when you left English turf?"
"I did have family once, of course…everyone has genetic lineage, obviously," Giles responded, and Faith rolled her eyes at his wording, noticing from his slight smile that he had noticed. "My parents are gone now, and I was an only child- like yourself, I suppose, though I am quite certain our families were vastly different in their interactions."
"You think?" Faith's eyebrows raised sardonically, and Giles smiled.
"Undoubtedly. It is quite different, now, of course, for the both of us. Now…"
His voice drifted off, his eyes dimming slightly and casting aside, and Faith felt her jaw tense. Without planning, she finished his sentence tersely.
"Now Buffy is your family, Buffy and all her friends." When Giles did not verbally reply, but merely watched her, she continued, her voice slightly too loud, unconvincing in its attempt at humorous disregard.
"And now I don't have family. But it's five by five…can't miss what you don't have, right? Especially if you didn't have it in the first place."
"You are wrong, Faith, on both counts," Giles told her quietly but firmly, and Faith stilled, looking at him sharply.
What was he trying to say, that she did have family? Who, then? Angel? The masses of newly called Slayers? HIM? If that was true- if Giles considered Faith to be his family- then why wasn't he content to be with her? Why did he keep looking at the phone, keep remaining so quiet…why was Buffy's presence and attention required for him to feel that his holiday was acceptable?
If Faith was family, what role did she play? The redheaded stepchild to Buffy's firstborn, heiress status, the illegitimate and unwanted bastard to Buffy's cherished princess, the evil stepsister to Buffy's Cinderella? Or was she not even that closely tied in- a distant fourth cousin, a stepchild of a stepchild twice removed? If Buffy was family by love and choice, how was Faith family- by force? By accident?
Giles was still regarding her closely, and when Faith did not reply, not trusting herself to say aloud anything less than mortifying in its defensive insecurity, he spoke again with some intensity, his tone almost demanding that Faith not only look at him, but listen.
"Faith, you have people who care about you, who enjoy your company, who have watched you learn and grow in a multitude of ways over the years. You have people who respect you and wish you well and have grown alongside you. You have people who would put themselves in great danger to defend you and risk their lives or die to save you. If you ask me, that is the definition of family, whether or not one is connected by blood."
Faith took his description with some disbelief; although she did not argue the definition, she certainly had difficulty swallowing that it applied to her or those she knew. She raised her eyebrows, her voice skeptical.
"You say "people" Giles, but I'm not exactly seeing a huge crowd ready to take me up on that…so when you say "people," do you really mean "you?""
"I mean both," Giles clarified calmly, not lowering his eyes away from hers. For some time now Giles had not messed with the work spread around him, nor glanced at his phone, and it seemed that both were currently beyond his thoughts…that his thoughts were fully and sincerely focused on Faith.
Why was that suddenly so uncomfortable?
She wanted to believe him…she wanted it to be true. She wanted to be Giles's family, even if it was a damn fourth cousin…hell, she even wanted to be the others' family, if they'd have her, no matter how irritating and self-righteous they could be. Even Buffy…especially Buffy.
There was no way in hell Faith could ever say that, or even try to ask in her own way for assurance, for Giles's proof as he saw it, of the truth of his words. Yet she could not bring herself to be flippant or sarcastic either; it was too important to her, the desire too raw and urgent, even if she wanted to deny it as such.
She could not come up with words that satisfied her, so instead, with movements and mindset somehow both hesitant and impulsive, Faith stood, walking the few steps across the room to Giles's bed, and sat on its edge.
Giles looked at her quickly, startled by her movement, and his face tensed with faint discomfort, more from awkwardness than anything else. Faith was not touching him, not yet, but the fact that she was sitting with him, on his bed, was an unprecedented occurrence. He opened his mouth, preparing to speak, but then closed it, deciding to simply wait for Faith, to let her reveal her intentions in her own time…whatever those might be.
As for Faith, her heart was thudding wildly in her chest the moment she joined Giles on his bed; her face was slightly flushed, her pulse speeding, and she was fiercely arguing with herself even as she did not yet quite know what it was she was planning to do, if anything. This was far from the first time she had looked at Giles and felt…something…seen his crinkle-eyed smile or a flexing of muscle through his clothing and found herself imagining how he was in bed, appreciating him as an attractive man, for his age. And she had seen in the quickly stifled flickers that sometimes passed across his eyes, in the way his mouth thinned and he cleared his throat at times, turning his head away, that he thought at least sometimes that Faith was attractive too.
Even so…Faith didn't have the slightest idea what exactly it was she wanted. This was Giles. Giles, who was the father figure to B and all the rest…Giles, who they would probably all rather kill themselves than imagine naked, let alone sleep with…Giles, who they would all roundly condemn her for touching, and undoubtedly already were. Giles, who none of them would ever touch, or even imagine touching…Giles, who Buffy would never be capable of thinking about as anything but a father.
Giles, who Faith suspected and feared would drop their "equal partnership" like a smoldering iron if Buffy were to come calling, or even so much as ask him to.
And it was that last thought as much as anything about Giles himself or the faintly bemused smile he was casting her way that made Faith move closer to him on the bed, laying her hand firmly on his thigh. When she felt his muscle twitch, and he tensed, his eyes flying to meet hers, Faith looked back at him with her jaw set, determination more than lust in her eyes, mingled with a vulnerable fear that she prayed he couldn't read. Fear of the unknown, of the loss of the tentative comfort of the relationship they already had…but mostly, fear of rejection, of being told, as Buffy and the others undoubtedly would, that she was wrong, disgusting, not good enough…that no matter how far she came, how much good she did and how much time passed, she would never be good enough.
She could take it coming from them. She expected it. But Giles…that was different, and it was his possible response that most provoked her fear.
"Faith," he said quietly, his voice not condemning, not shocked, not a question…just that, a quiet statement of her name. And Faith took that to be encouragement.
Shoving all his books and papers to the floor with one sweep of her arm, Faith slid her hand further up Giles's thigh, turning to face him more fully and pressing her hand against his chest as she covered his mouth with hers, kissing him deeply, fully, parting his lips. For the first few seconds Giles stiffened, not reacting; for the next few, he kissed her back, his hands moving to grip her shoulders. But then he tensed again and pulled his head back, pushing her slightly away even as he continued to grip her shoulders.
"Faith," he said, his tone slightly breathless, stunned…but Faith could hear his heart beating, had sensed the desire in his returning kiss. "What are you-"
"There's no mistletoe, G, so I just winged it," she replied with a slightly devilish grin, her hand sliding across the back of his shoulders to cup his neck and feeling him shiver involuntarily in response. "Tis the season to be jolly, right?"
She moved in to kiss him again, but Giles pushed her back slightly, quickly sputtering a protest. "Faith…Faith, this is…why-"
"Because I want to, obviously," she said, rolling her eyes; there was little hurt, surprisingly, for his less than total participation, because she knew now without a doubt that Giles wanted her. Whatever it was keeping him back- shock, some misplaced sense of honor or modesty, Buffy- well it wasn't personal, and she could get around it, with a few more well placed touches.
"And it's Christmas," she concluded as she leaned in close, eyes locked on his, breasts slowly pressing into his chest. "Make of it what you will, G, but just go with it…it's Christmas."
When Giles did not immediately reply, but remained tensed beneath her, sudden hurt flashed through Faith's heart, the insecurity she had been sure was gone returning, and she too tensed, starting to pull away. Not meeting his eyes, she said tightly, "Fine then. Five by five, if you don't want it, I'm not gonna-"
But a warm hand reached out to touch her face, turning it back to meet his eyes. And with one hand cupping her cheek, his eyes calmer, holding a decision that had been absent before, Giles leaned forward, meeting Faith's lips with his own.
There was no plan, no premeditation, no understanding of what this was, what it meant, or where it would go. Their already tentative relationship had just become even less defined, and it would undoubtedly become even more so…but neither cared. It was Christmas, and in that space of time, both would simply make of it what they would.