Disclaimer: All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is mine.
"Christ." Daryl breathes heavy and arches over her back.
Faith drops both hands to the mattress below them, bracing their weight. She slowly raises her head, feeling the side of his jaw scruff against her cheek, as he burrows his face into the crook of her neck.
"There's more where that came from." She laughs, and he groans in response.
"Mercy," he says, shifting his weight and pulling back.
"Right—like you won't be beggin' for more," she says, kneeling upright, then turning to sit with her back to the footboard, looking for her clothes.
Daryl is as reluctant as Faith is to put his clothes back on, but he grabs the wadded up balls of fabric from where they're strewn all over the floor and bed, and tosses Faith her tank top and pants.
"Gotta check in with Rick," he says, eyeing her sideways and licking his lips, as he watches her shimmy into her jeans. "Ain't no way he don't have questions 'bout us out in the yard."
Faith rolls her eyes.
"Do you always do what Rick says?" She pulls her tank top over her head and her long, thick hair out from where it catches under the racer-back.
"Ain't the point," he says, pulling his pants up and staring at her like she's a ghost.
He's defensive, because she reminds him of Merle when she talks like that. If he's honest with himself, this is the first time he's ever acknowledged being defensive with regard to his brother, but he knows that it's true—and not just in the darkened recesses of his self-conscious mind. He knows Merle would give him all kinds of shit for following Rick's lead, and he'd wind up having to defend his choice of action.
Daryl knows where the defensiveness comes from—his desire to stay connected to Rick; Rick and the rest are family now. It isn't about who's in charge or who's following, but shit changes in the blink of an eye 'round this place.
Daryl keeps defending his actions inside his own head, and starts to feel crazy and stupid, for giving a shit what this bitch thinks.
"Do what ya gotta do, I guess." Faith shrugs and shoves her feet into her boots, then turns to leave the cell.
"It ain't what I gotta do," Daryl says, blocking her exit. "Maybe you don't know what it's like to have family, but that means more t'me than rank or powerplay bullshit."
Faith bristles at his words and sudden ice in his tone. She's always been good at shutting people out, herself, but she hasn't been shut out like this since she first got to Sunnydale, and Buffy made sure she knew she didn't belong—when she tried to open up to Buffy and was denied access herself.
She struggles with telling Daryl to go fuck himself for thinking he's getting one up on her, and jacking him in the face because he really is. He's doing this to fuck with her, she knows it, everybody does it, but it doesn't make it easier to swallow. It's obvious that he knows where all of her buttons are, and not just the ones that make her come. Faith doesn't know why he's doing it, exactly, but she's not going to stick around long enough to find out.
"Look, I may not be inbred white trash," Faith says, looking him up and down with the best expression of disdain she can muster, when she's got a world of emotion swirling through her mind and heart. "But I know what it's like to have family. I've got about eighteen hundred sisters out there that say I know a helluva lot about family!"
Daryl's eyes narrow as he watches her fidget, and he braces himself for more of her wrath. He's hit her where it hurts, and he knows it. He respects her strength, and where she came from, but she's been evading everything important since she strolled through the prison gates, and he can't sit by and watch her disrespect or ignore his family. He wants her to just come out with it, already, whatever it is she's got planned.
Also, he can only assume she's got more retort in her than calling him white trash—like he hasn't heard that one before—and he wants to see that side of her, too.
Faith shrugs, feigning indifference or nonchalance, but she looks way too anxious for not caring. "At the end of the day?" she says. "I do what I want."
Daryl shakes his head, and Faith can see him looking right through her. She doesn't know who she's putting on this act for, because it's obvious Daryl isn't there to buy it. Everything coming out of her mouth is bullshit, because she's done nothing but care since losing all those girls at the arsenal in Sunnydale, and nothing but agonize since Robin's death in the woods, over exactly this question—should she follow or lead?
"Thinkin' 'bout how those superpowers make you better'n anybody else in the world?" he asks with a sneer, inching in closer, and the tension between them from the yard and the woods and every other minute before they touched is back in full force. "Make you above us all, lookin' out just for you? Is how you're sure to fuck up—sure to lose people."
Faith has learned this exact lesson more than once before, yet she refuses to accept it coming from Daryl's mouth. She clenches her fists and watches him flinch at her action almost imperceptibly. She's as impressed as she is pissed off with his audacity—she'll give him that much. She doesn't take the punch that's itching her gut, though; she takes a breath instead.
"You don't know shit about how we lost Robin, Daryl," she says, her voice deadly quiet—feeling shaky, but sounding strong. She's well-practiced and successful at this exact game, after all. "So just shut your fucking mouth."
She and Daryl both hear Rick moving outside the cell; he's cautious, and he's listening. His presence doesn't change anything, though, because Daryl's going to finish what he started. Faith's been talking like she runs the show, and he won't let her make any decisions about his people without considering everything first, without talking to Rick. He'd rather she left than choose their destiny for them—maybe that's what she's getting at.
"I ain't talkin' 'bout Robin," Daryl says, moving in closer, crowding her. She thinks maybe he's trying to prove that he isn't scared of her—not that she's ever questioned his apparent lack fear about anything. "I'm talkin' 'bout the people who count on me to look out for them, and who look out for me."
"If you don't wanna be part of that," he continues, already second-guessing the utterance of his next words. "Then you ain't got a place here, Southie trash."
Rick's just outside the cell with his revolver drawn when Faith barrels through the door. She almost hits him, but misses with an agile turn and dashes down the corridor.
Once she disappears from sight, Rick turns to see Daryl bracing himself with arms open wide in the cell doorway, hanging his head. He takes a breath, wondering what to say to Daryl, then shifts his weight and reholsters his gun, not moving any closer. He can feel the tension and frustration rolling off of his lieutenant.
Rick is about out of patience with the Daryl and Faith Show, though, yet he needs Daryl to be focused, and he needs Faith to behave; and neither of them respond well to authoritative aggression.
Daryl takes a couple of deep breaths, then slowly nods before looking up at Rick. "Said some things-"
"I heard 'em," Rick says, letting Daryl lead for a minute.
Then both men are quiet for a beat.
Daryl wonders if Rick overheard some of the cruder things that went down with Faith. Much of what happens in the prison, or since the virus hit, isn't very private anymore. He also wonders how much longer Rick will stay silent and keep his gun holstered with Faith flying off the handle all the damn time. Daryl also knows that these girls—both of them—mean a lot to Rick and this group.
"What all'd you hear?" he asks.
"Enough," Rick says. He's talking about before the argument as well as the argument itself, but then he switches the subject back to the matter at hand. "That girl needs a lesson in teamwork if ya ask me, but that's another conversation…"
Daryl nods. Then he shakes his head and starts to almost laugh. He feels ridiculous for playing with her. He could be her father, and she acts like a fucking brat kid.
"You're not wrong, ya know," Rick says, like he's reading Daryl's regrets. "She's a grown woman. Coulda left last week, but she didn't."
Daryl looks back up at Rick and thinks. What Rick is saying is surely true, and Daryl starts to wonder why Faith would choose to stay. It's been a while since he's had the luxury or wanted to think about the whys of anything, so he takes the opportunity to do it right then.
Faith loads up with her knife and her crossbow, and jumps the fence before Axel can even get the gate open. She tries not to think about the dream she had or the things Daryl said. She tries not to think about Robin.
She runs five miles out until she isn't thinking of anything, then finds a stream to wash her face and hands. She's sweating, but she isn't tired, and her mind starts to race again.
She wants to scream and yell, but she also wants to be alone, and that kind of noise will definitely attract the walking dead. Then she thinks maybe that's what she needs—the rush and the crunch.
Her eyes scan the woods surrounding the stream, but she knows she's alone. There's nothing but her and woodland creatures for miles. She thinks about hunting then, and even though it's not on Rick's hunting schedule, she decides to look for something to kill.
Whatever she takes back to the prison won't be enough of a peace offering, though. She knows Rick heard every word she said, and she knows she has to address the trek to Minnesota—sooner rather than later. She also knows she's walking a fine fucking line with Rick—that pretty soon he'll call her on the carpet; and she's pretty fucking sure that's a fight she won't easily enjoy winning.
How the fuck did I get myself into this? she thinks.
She should have taken Daryl out that very first day—that first day when Robin died. She should have taken him out and headed back north with Vi, and they wouldn't be in this mess. She and Vi could've made it without their help—without their friendship.
She's fooling herself; she's disgusted that she would even think of taking Daryl out as a simple solution to her fucking stupidity and ineptitude at leadership. Besides, she and Vi were both dead on their feet. They did need Rick's group—they needed a place to sleep and food. They could have made it back to Minnesota without it, but they wouldn't have been any good to Angel once they got back; their recovery time would've been insane…
Her thoughts continue to dip and spin, and Faith is totally fucking pissed at herself for being a worthless excuse for a leader, when she finally spots a buck about a hundred yards off to her left. She moves fast and positions herself to take the shot.
On her way back to the prison, the buck slung over one shoulder and her crossbow over the other, her thoughts slow and glide—they start to settle, and she can't help but think of one of her many conversations with Buffy before she left with Vi and Robin.
"We're not alone anymore," Faith said.
Buffy nodded in agreement, as they watched Angel conduct rudimentary training with a handful of fledgling slayers.
"No, but we still have to lead," Buffy said with a pointed look.
"Yeah, but… it's easier just knowing, right?" Faith said. "I mean the hardest part before was feeling alone. I felt it back at your house, especially after I lead those girls into a death sentence at the arsenal, even before The First sucked Sunny-D into the ground—it was like nothing I'd ever felt."
Buffy nodded again, and she looked small and sad—smaller than Faith remembered her ever being.
"Ask Angel," Buffy said, nodding toward their current head of operations. "It's not just a slayer thing; it's a leader thing. He's carrying the weight of the world right now because of choices he made over a year ago."
Buffy sounded like she was figuring it out for herself, right on the spot, but Faith was still figuring it out in her head on her way back to the prison. There's nothing simple about being a leader, and it's never the same shit twice.
Buffy was The Chosen One, but she still got hormonal and emotional and fucked her vampire boyfriend—a vampire whose crazy-ass curse was broken by their special night, and who then went on a killing spree.
Angel wanted to do what was right for everyone, and he made choices that hurt people—people he loved—and those choices still haunt him, especially now that the SPs unleashed this virus on humanity. Yet, he gets up everyday, and he's the one they all look to for direction; he's the one who makes the hard choices for them.
The first shot Faith had at leadership—at partnership—she fucked up. Instead of being patient, and trying to understand why Buffy would shut her out, she put Buffy on the defense, and ultimately became her enemy. Sure, she was just a kid, but she knew, deep down, that she was wrong, and just kept on pushing. She acted from a place of hurt, keeps on doing it, but for what? What has she got to lose anymore?
It's literally the end of the fucking world, and she has a mission and a pretty damn good start to a team to achieve that mission—not to mention she just might have a legitimate partner for the first time in her life. She just might have a partner who she can teach and learn from, grow with. She knows she can make the changes needed, but she has to focus and look outside herself.
As she approaches the prison gate, and Axel lets her in, Faith knows what she's going to do. She sees Vi across the main yard with Glenn and Maggie, and calls out to her.
"Hey," Vi calls back, jogging over to meet Faith. "Wow—what a catch!"
Vi looks thrilled, and Faith feels accomplished—feels good about doing something right.
"Hey," Faith says, shifting the buck and clearing her throat. "I've been thinking about the trip a little more."
Vi's vibrant smile grows a bit more serious, and she closes the gap between her and Faith. "And?"
Faith nods. "You're right," she says.
Vi's eyebrows shoot straight up in amazement, because Faith basically just admitted that she was wrong. Vi's smile comes back in full force as she listens to Faith's next sentence.
"Angel's gonna need to see Judith," Faith says.