Disclaimer: All characters here represented belong to Joss Whedon & Co. Not me.
Author's Note: This story will take a few elements from BtVS:Season 8.
"Here we are!" Faith Lehane turned into the driveway of a sprawling ranch style house. She parked the neat black sedan next to a beat-up green Dodge Intrepid.
Her passenger in shotgun grinned ironically. "Home sweet home, huh?"
"Something like that."
"Only took us four days, six detours, and one helluva night in Hobbiton, California – did anyone even know there was a Hobbiton, California?"
"Not me. Back seat?"
Spike twisted his head around to check on the other passengers. "Coach class is out."
"What?" Faith pulled her key out of the ignition. "Asleep or unconscious?"
The vampire leaned further into the back seat. "I think asleep. Although given the way you drive, princess, the latter is definitely a possibility. Peaches." He reached out and shook Angel's shoulder roughly. "Hey, Peaches. Wake up."
"M'awake," the older vampire mumbled without opening his eyes. Illyria, Gunn, and Angel were all huddled together in a weird tangle of limbs. It took Spike's eyes several seconds to unravel it all – and that was saying something.
"Are we there yet?" Illyria clung to the phrase like a five-year-old to his blanket. "Please, Spike. Tell me, are we there yet?"
"We are here. Wherever here is. Where is here, Faithy?"
Doing her best not to glance pointedly at Illyria, Faith answered, "Cleveland. Ohio this time. Not Oklahoma."
Gunn lifted his head. "We're here?"
"No more of that crazy driving of yours?"
"We're here, okay? Jeez."
"Sweet Mother of" – Gunn disentangled himself from the others in the backseat faster than Faith could say "knife". Or grab a knife, for that matter. He threw himself onto the grass at the edge of the driveway and sprawled out, spread-eagled. "Thank you, G-d. Oh, thank you, G-d."
Everyone else followed him out of the car.
"My driving isn't that bad," the Slayer growled, popping the trunk. "Is it?" she asked Angel, who was helping her lift suitcases out of the car.
"Trust me, you don't want me to answer that." Angel winced as he moved a particularly heavy black duffle bag. "What did you put in here, Spike? Bricks, anvils, a statue of Acathla?"
"Pure whisky, actually," Spike whispered into Illyria's ear. "80 proof."
Unsure what insignificant mortal thing he was talking about and still rather queasy from that awful car ride, Illyria settled on a dismissive look.
"Anyway," the blond vampire went on, taking his bag from Angel, "you don't drive that badly, Faith. You're better than Buffy, anyhow."
It was the first time anyone had mentioned Buffy on their long car ride. Slayer and vampires looked at one another awkwardly for a moment. Faith was watching her friends, terrified one of them would express a desire that Buffy were there. Angel hoped desperately that Spike wouldn't say something crass and painful. For his part, Spike half-expected his grandsire to break into tears and start blubbering about cookie dough, of all things.
Luckily for them, Gunn chose that moment to try and stand up. He only made it halfway before falling down again.
"Guys? A little help here? Some residual vamp injuries. Can a brother get a hand?"
Spike and Angel stepped over to Gunn. They lifted him gingerly and set him on his feet.
"You humans are ridiculously fragile," observed Illyria with a smirk of disdain. "You break so easily."
"Watch it, lady. I survived that big battle."
"Wesley did not. What?" she asked as everyone else winced horribly. "I speak only the truth."
"Now's not the time, Blue." Spike patted her gently on the arm. "Not tonight, okay?" After shouldering his own duffle, he passed the ex-god a much smaller bag. "So, shall we go in?"
Faith moved sluggishly, like a dreamer just waking up. "Yeah. Yeah, let's go in." She slammed the trunk lid shut almost automatically. "Come on, guys. Everybody get their bags."
The exhausted remnants of Team Angel followed her onto the large front porch and inside the house. They walked through a spacious living room, then along a skinny hallway to reach the kitchen.
"You can set your stuff in the hall for now. I'll show you your rooms in a minute. Figured everyone would want a snack." Faith glanced around the group. "Who's hungry?"
"That depends on what you got."
"Funny, Gunn." The Slayer opened the fridge and started digging through it. "There's half a Domino's pizza, some Chinese take out that was here when I left, half a gallon of pig's blood, and I think we've got rainbow sherbet and frozen waffles in the freezer. Any of that sound good?"
Illyria had never had waffles, but she liked the word and so claimed them. After Gunn decided to take the leftover pizza, Angel and Spike spent a good two minutes bickering over whose glass had more blood in it. Sniggering at the pair of them, Faith fished a spoon out of the silverware drawer and settled down with her half-empty carton of sherbet. No one spoke while they ate. The long days of road-tripping had finally taken their toll, and each of them was thinking with some longing of a real bed that wasn't in some sleazy motel infested with ants, cockroaches, or a demon biker gang.
Just when Faith's head started drooping over her sherbet, the door to the kitchen flew open. A young man with sandy blond hair wandered in. He blinked at them all sleepily, then his eyes went to Spike.
"Spike!" He threw his arms around the vampire. "Faith said she was going to get you, and I just had to be here and come see you, you know." The young man released Spike and took a step backwards. "I was gonna get you one of the blossoming onions, but they're never as good as when they're fresh. So that can wait till tomorrow."
"Hullo, Andrew." Spike looked down at his overly enthusiastic friend and smiled. Usually the boy's puppy-dog behavior irritated him, but not tonight. It had been far too long since someone had been truly happy to see him. "I thought you were in Rome?"
"I was. But I wanted to come see you. And all the interesting stuff's happening here, anyway. There's a Hellmouth and a whole cadre of Slayers and this place."
"This place?" Andrew glanced at Gunn, not entirely sure where to place him. "Yeah. It's kind of a halfway house for Slayers in trouble. Giles and Faith run it."
"Giles?" Spike and Angel turned as one to stare at Faith, incredulous.
Faith shrugged. "We worked a mission together a few months ago. He helps me get the money for this place. But you don't need to worry about running into him. Giles's back in England. Hey, Andrew, want to give everybody a tour? Show them their rooms, the basement? I'll do the dishes."
"Sure thing." Andrew's eyes lit up. He loved being a tour guide. "Follow me, people! But keep your voices down. The little Slayers are sleeping."
As soon as everyone was out of the kitchen, Faith started cleaning the table and sticking dishes in the dishwasher. She had recently learned that once you let the mess get away from you, it reproduced like rabbits. Dishes done, the Slayer pulled an abused cell phone out of her jeans pocket and punched in a long number. After three rings, the person on the other end picked up.
"Hey, G-man. We're all back in Cleveland, safe and sound."
"Good to hear. I was starting to wonder. Did you get lost?"
"Only twice . . . okay, maybe it was a bit more than that." Faith laughed. "How's England?"
"Grey. Wet. Utterly beautiful."
"Figures. Have you seen Buffy yet?"
"I called her yesterday. We are going to meet for dinner and have a long talk tonight."
"See if you can get back in favor?" The minute Faith said it, she wished she hadn't. She could just see Giles wincing at her lack of taste or tact or one of those t-words. "Sorry, Giles."
"Faith . . ."
"It's none of my business. Really."
"Faith – "
"I should let you go. Got to get some sleep. Rona left me a message on my phone. New girl tomorrow. Bye."
Faith flipped the phone shut and set it on the table, feeling slightly disappointed. Why did she always have to screw things up? Glancing at the clock, she realized it was four in the morning.
Way past time for good Slayers to be in bed, she thought dryly. And formerly bad, currently reformed Slayers as well. Hmm. I should probably go check on everybody. A shower sounds so good right now, though. She sighed and plopped down on a barstool at the kitchen table. It's been a long week.
"I get top. I'm always on top."
"And you never let anybody forget it," Angel muttered under his breath. He still wasn't sure how he and Spike had ended up in the same bedroom, albeit with two bunk beds. Had Andrew said something about this being the only sun-proof bedroom in the house? It sounded familiar, but Angel was too exhausted to remember.
Spike was already hanging his duster up in the closet, marking his territory. He grinned at the jacket fondly. "Home sweet home, eh?"
The younger vampire chose to let this pass. Yeah, Faith needed them at the moment, but Spike well understood wanderlust. Besides, the last few months had been awful enough to unsettle anyone, even the Poofter. Did vampires get PTSD? Spike was starting to think they all had it. Gunn with his nightmares, Angel with his near constant brooding, Faith and her past . . . Sometimes it felt like Blue was the normal one.
"Can we get some of that glass?" he asked to change the subject.
Angel sighed. "What glass, Spike?"
"The glass you had in your office. The scorch-proof glass."
"Maybe." Angel shrugged off his jacket and set it on the bottom bunk. "I'll be back. I left something in the kitchen."
He found Faith passed out at the kitchen table, her head on a towel.
"Hey." He tapped her gently. "Wake up."
"I'll trade you a pack of cigarettes for those chips. And some soap. Oh, sorry, Angel." Smiling blearily, Faith sat up and rubbed her eyes.
Trust Angel to guess it right the first time. "Yep." She hopped off her barstool. "I should really go to bed. Big day tomorrow."
"Faith, why am I here?"
The Slayer looked at him in confusion. "Because we need you. I need you." Oops. There went her filter. She was definitely too tired to function. Pull it together, Faith. She tried again. "'Cause Giles thinks you can help."
"Help with what?" If she stumbled one more time, Angel was going to reach out and take her arm so she didn't give herself a concussion.
"Help save people, of course. Isn't that what you do, save souls?"
"I used to." Angel thought of Fred and felt like crying. Either that or drinking himself into a coma. "Now I just destroy them."
After tripping over her own feet and nearly crashing into the wall, Faith linked her arm through Angel's. "You saved me," she reminded the vampire quietly.
He had no response for that. Arm in arm, the two friends walked down the hallway to Faith's room together. She disappeared inside, flopped onto her bed, and was asleep in fifteen seconds.
Out in the hall, Angel turned to go back to his own room, half-smiling. He wasn't sure if this was going to work out, but at least he wasn't alone. He had Faith and Gunn and Illyria and sometimes even Spike. And that was enough for tonight.
Author's Note: Several months ago, I wrote a story called "Life as We Know It" that was something like this. After reading it through again, however, I didn't like where it was going or how I was writing it. Hence my decision to scrap it and write this instead. Hit that tantalizing "review" button and let me know what you think!