A/N: And we're back from the Holidays. And back to work as well. Good for my bank account, less good for my writing. Still, I should be able to put a chapter out every weekend.
"Lagos is dead." Buffy announced brightly as she bounced into the library. "Oh, and I need a new sword." She set the blade on the table so that the tip and tang both touched the table but the blade formed a sort of bridge or arch.
"Dear lord, Buffy. Whatever happened?" Giles wondered as he examined the weapon.
"Logo guy's ax." Buffy explained succinctly and pointed to the ax Faith now carried instead of her spear.
"Lagos." Faith quietly corrected.
"So, you parried a weapon heavier than this blade was ever designed to parry, yes? You made no effort to dodge?" Giles asked sternly.
"Well, yeah. But, on the plus side, I didn't get chopped in half." Buffy tried to get her watcher to see the positive in this. "And, he chopped Faith's spear completely in half!" she pointed out.
Giles furiously cleaned his glasses while pointedly not looking at either his Slayer or her former weapon. "Faith can make a dozen spears for a hundred dollars and an hour." Giles countered.
Faith shrugged. It was a slight exaggeration, but Giles was already going on.
"A even a basic sword costs several hundred dollars, and the cheapest ones you would want to trust your life to start at one thousand. In point of fact, the one you just turned into an ornament cost the council twenty-five hundred dollars. What do you have to say for yourself?" Giles finished as he replaced his cleaned glasses.
"I'm sorry?" Buffy replied meekly. Giles had never chewed her out like that before.
"Chill, Jeeves. Metal saved her life. You don't want her to parry with her sword, buy her a shield." Faith quipped. She figured Giles was probably putting on a show for Post and would apologize once they were alone. That tactic had worked on her, after all.
"Buffy, swords are expensive. Do try to be more careful." Giles chided one last time, but more gently.
Diana interrupted. "Back to Lagos, what did you find out?"
"He was working for Wolfram and Hart." Faith informed the three watchers. "He was evil too."
"Too?" Mrs. Post queried at the same time Giles did. Apparently, Diana hadn't shared that new 'Slayer Dream' with the other watcher.
"Oh yes." DD announced. "Whatever you think of our research abilities, it is within our abilities to make a phone call to England. Imagine Traver's surprise when I rang him up to ask about you. He was most helpful, detailing the list of crimes for which you'd been thrown out."
Post looked unfazed. "..." she opened her mouth to speak but Faith punched her into the stacks.
"Faith!" Giles shouted, surprised. "We could have at least heard her defense."
"Or she could have attacked us with magic. Not taking that chance. Send her back to England. Let them deal with her." Faith spat and walked out of the library.
The next day, Post was on her way back to the land of tea; her broken jaw wired shut. By sundown, Giles had found the resting place of the glove, Buffy and Faith had retrieved it, and they had gone back to the library where the glove was consumed by Living Flame. Which looked to Faith a lot like ordinary flame but she knew better than to test that theory.
In the end, it was a little disappointing. She had remembered this as a really pivotal point in her life. The last time in at least 5 years that she had truly trusted anybody. And now it all felt a little anticlimactic. Buffy, was bouncing off the walls with energy so she let the blonde do the slaying that night while she went home with Diana.
"Are you okay?" the watcher asked.
"M'fine." Faith insisted. But she wasn't. Christmas was less than a month away and somewhere between now and then Anyanka was destined to show up. If everything went to plan, she'd be leaving this world and going back to her own. To her husband.
They were lying in bed snuggled in post-coital bliss. Emphasis on bliss. Say what you like about Anya, but she had trained Xander well in the art of sex.
"I feel like I should throw you out in your underwear now." Xander whispered playfully in her ear.
"Like you could carry me that far." she snarked.
"You're right, laziness and exhaustion have saved you for now. You'd better keep me in this state though. Otherwise, you never know..." he trailed off and quickly fell asleep.
It had taken him more than a year to carry out his threat. He'd said that he thought he might have left the lights on his bike on and she'd volunteered to check. So out she'd gone in just her bra and his boxers when the door had shut behind her. She had to pound on the door for more than a minute before he'd let her back in with that goofy grin plastered on his face. His punishment for that little trick had been a lot of fun. More for her, but she didn't leave him out either.
Faith wrote down a short list and sealed it in an envelope before handing it to DD. "My chance for going home is coming up. I wrote down the Big Bads that I know about. (Warren Mears had been the hardest to remember. She wasn't about to write down that Willow had been the Big Bad that year.) If I don't come back, you guys'll have a heads up about all the big ones at least."
"Don't come back?" Diana asked holding the envelope.
"Well, I'm not sure how this will work out. So, if it it doesn't work and I die. Or I just disappear. Or if it does work and you're left with the Faith who would have been here. Be nice to her. Mostly she just needs some people she can depend on. So just be there for her and don't die." Faith gave a wry smile.
Diana sighed, "I wi- I mean, I would like you to consider staying Faith. You could have a life here too. And I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I think you could make more of a difference here than you ever did there." Diana held up a hand to forestall any reaction from Faith. "Just think about it. It's all I ask." The watcher tucked the envelope away securely. "I'll miss you if you go."
"Me too. But I've got family waiting for me." Faith explained. Wondering in the same sentence how much she would miss this new family she had already begun to connect with. It really wasn't a fair choice.
Faith hadn't really been studying for the SATs beyond her usual homework and tutoring with her watcher. Though she was working hard on schoolwork. She didn't want to flunk out on this do over. No matter if she was staying or going home. She just knew knew that the SATs were coming and that DD was insisting that she take them, never mind that she'd only been studying the 12th grade curriculum for about 6 months.
But she had to admit she was a little excited to get the scores. And extremely surprised at the score she'd gotten.
"You are a very intelligent woman, Faith. And it has nothing to do with time-travel. You admitted you had never studied most of these topics in the original timeline. I'm sure that given a full year or two and we'd have you at the top of your class." DD had insisted.
It was also nice when she'd compared her 1220 to everyone else's scores. Willow's big brain dwarfed them all, but both slayers had surprised everyone. Buffy's 1430 overshadowed her own scores, but she didn't mind. Buffy's intelligence (and hiding that intelligence) had gotten the blonde Slayer out of most of the tightest spots. So she was cool while everyone praised Buffy.
"But, I think Faith deserves more credit than she's getting, too." Willow spoke up.
Xander looked at his friend oddly. "Well, 1220 is good. And we have proof that your math skills are better than mine, but 1430 is a whole lot better than 1220. Not that 1220 is bad." he quickly added at the end.
"Like he said, Red. Good, but nothin' special." Faith agreed. She looked at Willow like she'd grown a second head.
"Until someone umm... accidentally looked up your transcripts." Willow blushed as she looked at Faith. "Can I tell them?"
Faith blushed too and rolled her shoulders uncomfortably. Guys undressing her with their eyes she could take easily. The attention of all her friends... made her uncomfortable. "Well, I suppose you better now that you got them all curious."
Willow smiled brightly like what she was about to tell them was some big deal. "Faith dropped out of school last year and still got a 1220." she began.
"Wow." "Cool." and "Not bad." were all murmured respectably.
"Last year was her freshman year." Willow finished.
This time, sputters of disbelief met Willow's words.
"Let me get this straight." Oz began. "You dropped out, skipped two grades, and still managed a 1220? Sorry Buffy, but that blows your 1430 out of the water." It was probably the most Faith had ever heard him speak.
Buffy shook her head. "Wow. No, you're right. That is awesome. Wait, if you were a freshman last year, that makes you..?"
"I told my watcher I wasn't doing three more years of this shit but she wanted me to get an official diploma. So we made a deal. She tutors me while I do my senior year, then I'm free." Faith explained.
"So, you've only be studying for 6 months?" Xander's asked.
"Since I got called. You think I study this shit for fun?"
"Wow, that's... impressive. Incredible even." Buffy said.
Giles smiled as he looked at the paper. "Buffy, this is, this is remarkable." he preened.
Buffy smiled. "Faith's is more impressive when you realize she's only been studying for 6 months." Buffy demurred.
"Really? A 1220 after only 6 months? That's sensational." Giles exclaimed.
"Just numbers." Faith said looking around at all the camping gear in the library. "You going somewhere?"
"Taking a short retreat. There's a clearing at the top of Breaker's Woods that's been the site of some fascinating Druidic rituals." Giles explained. "Diana will be in charge of both of your training for the next couple of days."
"All this, just for a couple of days?" Buffy motioned to the large amount of gear on and around the large table.
"This is basic necessities." Giles insisted.
"Giles, you pack like me." Buffy joked.
Giles handed her back the test scores. "Here, I suspect your mother will want to, uh, put it on the refrigerator."
"Yeah. She saw these scores, and her head spun around and exploded." Buffy smiled.
Giles scratched his head. "I-I've been on the Hellmouth too long. That was metaphorical, yes?"
"Yes. She was happy."
Giles smiled in relief, and went over to the weapon/book cage.
"She started with all this crazy talk about me going to college, maybe someplace else." Buffy said sadly. "I know. I know, I said that you were gonna have a goat. Responsibilities and all. I know the drill."
"She may be right." Giles said from the cage.
"Yeah, I know, I figured you'd... Okay. Be kind, rewind." Buffy said.
It took Faith a moment to recall the reference to VHS tapes.
"With scores like these. Both of you have the possibility of attending college. Seeing how you've both been able to balance school and Slaying up until now, I see no reason why you can't both continue that trend."
"No thanks for me, G." Faith refused. "I told Double D that this was as far as I'm going for school. Except for martial arts and maybe some military training. After graduation, I'm hitting the road and heading out on a demon-Slaying road trip."
"Well, let's, um, let's discuss it when I get back. In- in the meantime, um, I'd like you two to continue training with Diana while I'm- while I'm gone, and, um... please don't do anything rash." Giles started packing.
Buffy smiled. "'Anything rash', meaning..."
"Don't do anything I'd do." Faith offered with a smile.
Giles just looked at her sideways. Buffy too. "Faith, of the two of you, not that Buffy is irresponsible most of the time, but since you've come here, I've thought of you as the more responsible one. Your language notwithstanding. No offense Buffy."
"No, it's perfectly true." Buffy shrugged nonchalantly. "Faith's the responsible one. Which leaves me free to do the fun things like date Scott Hope."
Faith looked at them both like they'd turned into Fyarl demons.
"Just both of you be careful." Giles insisted.
"And use a condom." Faith grinned at the sputter she was able to get from both Buffy and Giles. Served 'em right for calling her responsible.
"Ooo! Faith! You have to hear this story, you'll love it." Buffy waved her over to join the group in the library before school the next day. "Start over so Faith can hear."
"Okay, so you know how Faith's been insisting that everyone carry stakes all the time because 'you never know when you're going to get attacked and it sucks 'blank' not having a weapon'?" Willow began, glossing over Faith's usual language. "So, last night, Xander and I were waiting for Cordelia and Oz to go bowling when Spike shows up out of the blue. Or should that be black? It was night time."
"Spike's this vampire-" Buffy started explaining.
"I know who Spike is." Faith cut her off. She certainly knew Spike better than all the assembled teens combined. "So what happened?" she asked Willow.
"Well, he grabbed Xander, but Xander kicked off the wall and threw him, and by him I mean Spike, into some shelves. Then he hit Xander. I attacked him with my stake but he caught my arm and threatened me, but while he was busy with that, Xander staked him in the back!"
An upset, "Damn!" slipped out of Faith's mouth before she could stop it. At the looks from the Scoobies she went on, "I wanted his coat. Heard he had a wicked cool duster he got from the second Slayer he killed. I was going to take it back." she covered. She couldn't believe it. She had changed the future just by giving them some tips on fighting. She wondered what kind of ripples this would have.
"He got that coat from a Slayer?" Buffy asked. She remembered the duster and it had looked pretty good on him... in a very evil way.
"It's what I heard." Faith shrugged. "But yay for you guys slaying him. That guy was seriously evil." For now, she mentally added. But then again, he hadn't turned good until Buffy had fucked him senseless. So this was probably for the best. They still had the vampire with a soul and a witch who could ensoul a random vamp if they had to use that medallion to close the Hellmouth again.
As the group broke up to go to class, Faith noticed that the two couples were no longer very coupley. She caught up with Willow. "Red, what else happened that none of you four are talking to each other?"
"Xander finally started noticing me as a woman... about a year too late." Willow complained. "So I was trying to do a de-lusting spell so we wouldn't do something we'd regret. But then Spike attacked and our dates showed up. But seeing the evidence of a love spell, our ex-dates didn't take our explanation well."
"That's too bad." Faith comforted, but inside she was singing. Xander was a free man. And Anyanka might still be coming. And in the meantime, she definitely would be.