Disclaimer: I do not own any recognizable characters, nor do I own the Everclear song lyrics in the beginning of the chapter.
Author notes: This takes place third season Buffy, post "Bad Girls," and presumably some time after Saving Grace's seasons has ended (after Earl has finished his work with Grace Hanadarko; I haven't seen the third season yet so I'm not sure how the series ends). It is, obviously, a crossover of Buffy and Saving Grace.
"So pretty, oh so bold, got a heart full of gold on a lonely road
She said, "I don't even think that God can save me…
Am I gaining ground? Am I losing face?
Lost and found my saving grace
Be thankful for the gift my angels gave me"
Everclear, "Saving Grace," theme of Saving Grace
It started out as some of the best few days of her life. So of course, it was a given that it would end the way it did- as her worst, with no question about it, and no way to erase it…only the option of covering it up.
Things had been good, so much so that every day Faith was waking up actually smiling, actually happy, remembering the day before, and actually looking forward to the day ahead of her. Sure, she was still living in a crappy, depressing motel room, where the sounds lulling her to sleep every night were not air conditioner running (it was always broken, of course) or a fan (also broken) or the sound of traffic on the street outside (nonexistent), but instead, of the thumping of headboards and loud moans and screams of people screwing in the rooms next to hers. Sure, she was always low or lacking on cash, and if a vampire really wanted to kill her in her sleep, nothing was going to stop him, seeing as they could waltz into her motel room any time they felt like it. And sure, the deal she had worked out with the overweight and overly sweaty motel owner on how she could keep paying her way was sometimes almost beyond her endurance to the point that she had seriously considered just taking off.
And sometimes she had. The walkabout she went on once a month or so, Faith always considered just not coming back. But something in her would never let her leave for good. Something small and soft and wistful, something she hated to admit was present in her at all, always prodded, then insisted she come back, that she try again to make Sunnydale her home, to force her way into somehow being accepted in whatever way she could, even if it was just as the backup muscle and shock value girl.
It had been starting to look like her efforts weren't for nothing after all, that maybe she was starting to find a place with everyone…that maybe they wanted her to have a place with them. Or at least, that maybe Buffy did, and for Faith, that was all that really mattered, and all that would matter to everyone else. If Buffy decided she liked her…if Buffy accepted her as part of her group, as one of her friends…then Faith was part of them, and that was that. And everyone else knew it.
It really had seemed to be changing, getting better. Faith was being included, sometimes, when they had their monster meetings, and Giles was starting to talk about training her more seriously. Once in a while he even looked at her with approval instead of his standard British looks of bewilderment, embarrassment, or irritation. And when that stupid wimp of a Watcher, Wuss-ley Wyndham-Price, came along, it was even cooler. It was like Giles and Buffy and Faith, all on a team against him. Faith had never had that before, the feeling that she was on the majority's side instead of the one the majority was facing off against, and she had to say she liked it.
Obviously Xander was into her. The guy followed her every move with eager, if embarrassed, puppy eyes ever since she screwed him that time. He hadn't been bad, for a beginner, but beyond that, Faith didn't know. He was a nice guy, even if he was a naïve dork too, and it wasn't like she hadn't thought about him since, but that was exactly why that was a dangerous road she needed to stay off of. She might want to be part of the group, and it's not like she would mind helping Xander continue his sexual education. But he'd try to make it more, and Faith knew damn well that "more" was a place she flat out could never let happen. Vampires, she could handle. It was "more," and all that might entail, that gave her nightmares.
Willow and Oz- well, Willow still hated her guts and hoped she suddenly got a double mastectomy and leprosy of the face, or something, so nobody'd think Faith was so hot anymore, Faith was pretty sure. And who knew what Oz thought about anything. But Buffy…it had been with Buffy that Faith had had some of her best days, and it was with Buffy that her hopes were set on.
Faith always knew with just a little help and guidance, the blonde could figure out how to loosen up and really have some fun. After all, the girl was a Slayer too. Their bodies were made to do, feel, and be more than everyone else, so why not enjoy it? Just a few nudges in the right direction- and the sudden appearance of Wesley Wyndham-Price was some help too- and B was actually living large, slaying with her for the fun of it and not just duty, skipping school and stealing weapons, breaking out of police custody and having a damn good time doing it.
The way Buffy had watched her, following her cues, the way she had danced with Faith, her face open and alive with her smile, her hand in Faith's and her eyes on her like no one else right then even mattered…the way they had been laughing, adrenaline pulsing strong as they chased down the vamps in the alley, a perfect team, knowing they would take them down together…it had been amazing. It had been perfect and exhilarating, freeing and just so damn fun, and Faith had felt close to her, like she was connecting with her, one with her in a way she could never be with anyone else. And maybe, just maybe, Buffy felt it too.
But then came Buffy's shout of horror as Faith's stake descended, too late, too fast, and Faith could not pull back, could not stop herself from following through, from burying its sharp wooden surface into the heart of a man who was still very much alive. Then came the seconds suspended in time as blood bloomed across his chest, as his eyes widened with shock and pain, as his shaking hands moved to cover the serious wound Faith had caused….the wound that was killing him. She could barely hear Buffy's panic-stricken voice, could barely see her bent over him, desperation stark in her features.
All Faith saw was the light in the man's eyes slowly dimming as he died right in front of her, and fear gripped her heart, twisting her stomach into a heavy ball low in her torso. Even as she ran, vaguely aware that somehow Buffy had separated, was no longer following behind, Faith could not stop seeing the man's open eyes, the blood spreading fast across his chest.
She should have known by now that for Faith Lehane, there was no such thing as a good day.
In an alley several blocks over and one street left from where the body now lay, Faith flattened her back against the wall, eyes wide, pupils enlarged and darting rapidly around her, making sure that no one was coming, that she was alone. Her chest heaved with her rapid, shallow breaths, her hair was half hanging in her face, and her heart beat so hard and quickly in her chest that she could feel it pulsing in her temples. Lowering her eyes, she hugged her elbows, shoulders hunching in, and tried to focus on slowing her breaths, on keeping back the bile rising in her throat and the tears stinging the back of her eyes.
That man…she could still see him so clearly, could not push his face from her mind. Over and over she saw her hand plunging downward, the stake's sharpened point penetrating his chest, the horrified realization that turned her stomach inside out and dropped it to her toes when she realized what she had done, what she was seeing before her. Over and over she heard Buffy's warning shout, saw the blonde's eyes widen until it seemed the only feature of her entire face, and none of it would stop, none of it would go away.
She had killed a man. Faith had killed a man. Not a vampire, not a demon, not a monster or zombie or cyborg…a man. She had killed another human being, one who hadn't even been hurting her or threatening her, and she could not accept what this meant.
The way he had looked at her…it was like he couldn't believe it either, what was happening to him…what she had done to him. He had looked at her like it made no sense to him, like his pain, his impending death, just wasn't possible, wasn't real…he had looked at Faith with shocked incomprehension, as if she had betrayed him.
She hadn't meant to. She had thought that he was a vampire. After all, wasn't that what she and Buffy had been doing, chasing vampires, sending them to a rather dusty afterlife? What had he been doing, a grown man like that, walking alone in an alley at that time of the night? She hadn't meant to hurt him, she never would have if she had known. She hadn't known he was human…she hadn't known.
The way Buffy too had looked at her, with total shock, with horror vivid in her eyes…she had looked at Faith like Faith had turned into something evil without warning, like Faith was a killer…and she was now, wasn't she? She had killed him. She had killed that man.
The more she thought about it, the more agitated she grew. She gritted her teeth and clinched her jaw, but her leg still quivered, needing the support of the alley wall against her back, and her nails bit into her skin, tearing through her sleeve as her breath quickened.
This wasn't fair, it wasn't fucking fair! Why had it happened- why now, when everything had been getting better, when everything was starting to edge towards okay? Why couldn't she have reacted fast enough, why couldn't she have slowed down? Why did he have to be there? Why did she always screw up every chance she got, no matter how hard she tried not to?
This was bad…this was so fucking bad. She'd go to jail, who would believe she hadn't done it on purpose, a girl like her? Buffy couldn't lie worth a damn, and who would believe her anyway, if she was babbling on about being vampire slayers, especially since she had been expelled from two different schools in as many years? Buffy wouldn't defend her anyway now, she was horrified by Faith and what she'd done. They could never be friends now, Buffy would never want to get anywhere near her after tonight. She'd tell all the others, and they would look at her like Buffy had…like a loser, a screw up, a horrible person who might turn on them at any second.
Like a murderer. She was one now…Faith was a murderer.
No…no! Faith couldn't let that happen, she wouldn't. She would make it like it never happened. She would make it so no one ever knew, so no one could ever pin it down on her. Not even Buffy. If there was no evidence, then how could anyone know she killed him? Without any blood or body, how could anyone even be sure that he was dead? There would be no proof that a crime had even been committed.
She had to go back…she had to get rid of the body. She could burn the clothes, or bury them… she could weight the body and dump it into the river. She better take the stake out of his chest though…it had her fingerprints on it, so she would have to burn it too. She could do this. She could make it better…she could make it okay. She could do away with this, she protect herself- but she better start right now.
Slowly Faith drew away from the wall, taking a few seconds to steady herself, and waited until her legs felt strong and steady before beginning to retrace her steps, returning to the site of the death. As she drew closer she set her jaw, lifting her chin, squaring her shoulders, and narrowing her eyes, deliberately hardening her gaze. She willed herself to do what she needed, what would protect her, and to feel nothing, either during or after.
Just do it, Faith. Don't worry about him, nothing you can do for him now. You've gotta do what you have to for you now…and the only way to do that is to get rid of what's left of him.
Several minutes later she stepped back into the fated alley's entrance, taking a deep breath, her eyes momentarily raising to the sky in a silent half prayer that came in a whisper she was not aware of speaking out loud.
She took a slow, shuddering breath, blinking several times, and then tensed her jaw again, bringing her emotion into rigid control before letting her eyes lower, focusing on the alley's contents. But as they came to rest on the open space before her, Faith blinked, then frowned in bewildered confusion, her eyes quickly roaming the space all around her in an attempt to come up with an explanation. For the body that had been slumped against the wall no less than ten minutes before, and all traces of its blood, were completely gone.
She had to have screwed up again. She must have ended up in a different alley, she must have took a wrong turn somewhere. But no, Faith recognized those windows, and the graffiti on one wall. This was the right alley.
Well, then maybe he hadn't died after all. Maybe he had just been hurt, and someone had helped him- took him to a hospital. But there was no way. Faith had seen his eyes freeze over…she had seen death too many times before not to recognize it in the man today. And if an ambulance had come there would have been sirens and noise and commotion for someone so badly injured…so someone must have taken the body. But who? Vampires? Why would they do that- to feed? But why would they clean up the blood? It couldn't be police, they wouldn't clean it either. Buffy? Had Buffy come back with Faith's same idea and tried to cover up for her? But how had she finished it all so fast, where was she now?
Faith turned in a fast circle, trying to find something, anything that would clue her in to what was going on, and when she came back around to face into the alley again, she gasped sharply, barely stopping herself from screaming. A man was standing a few feet away from her now, his back leaned casually against the alley wall, just a foot or two away from where the man had died. She knew with absolute certainty that he had not been standing there a split second ago. There was no way she could have missed him.
The man looked like nothing Faith had ever seen before, at least not in Sunnydale, California. He was slightly overweight, probably in his fifties, with longish greying hair and a tanned, weathered face distinguished with warm brown eyes and an easy, relaxed look to it. Of course, everything about him was pretty relaxed as it was. He was wearing holey, well-worn jeans and a beat-up grey flannel shirt, and he had a Mountain Dew bottle in one hand, though Faith could see the bulge in his lower mouth that indicated tobacco. All in all, he looked like a perfectly stereotypical image of a redneck, hillbilly hick from some southeastern state like South Carolina that Faith had never had the slightest interest in setting foot in. (Author note: I'm from South Carolina, I'm free to mock it lol)
As she stared at him without bothering to conceal it, her mind racing to come up with an explanation for his presence, the man took a long swallow of his Mountain Dew before turning his head her way, still very casual in his posture. But when he met Faith's eyes, and spoke to her in a thick Southern drawl, both his tone and his smile held undeniable affection.
"Those who call upon the name of the Lord are saved…well, you called, Faith. God heard and answered, and He sent me. My name is Earl, and what I am here is your Last Chance Angel."
As Faith's mouth dropped open, and she found herself momentarily unable to form words, Earl turned to face her fully, continuing to smile warmly.
"Are you ready to turn your life to God?"