Finding Faith

by Sweetprincipale

Between Season 3-4, a spinoff set in the Offers You Can't Refuse AU. (Please read that first.) A woman broken enough to believe she can't be saved. A man who knows he has nothing left to lose. Desperation, fear, and some hidden strengths throw these two together, stubbornly determined to show the world who they really are, who they can be- if they can just figure it out for themselves.

Author's note: The pace picks up after this chapter. Thank you for reading!

Dedicated to: Ginar369, Omslagspapper, Alkeni, Austexfan, Illusera, and Kathryn Merlin.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part X

Settling

She had her routine. Work out, pass out on the couch in front of a blaring television, wake up, eat, do pretty much the same work out with Wesley, plus his "torture walks" as she'd begun to think of them- walks with tons of stairs. Then sleep again, eat again, watch television again, and finally go to bed. Not always in that order, but always those things.

"I'm getting soft." She complained.

"If you mean you have lost that near death look and put on some weight from eating actual food- yes. Soft." Wesley replied absently, typing away.

He had his own routine. Wake up, shower, type frantically, wait until the noises of Faith grunting and cursing her way through her work out over the sound of television reruns drove him mad, then head to the library to work in some sort of quiet. Work until he couldn't see straight or was beginning to mix languages, or until his worry about leaving Faith alone for hours overwhelmed him, and rush home to be a supportive Watcher, there for her, training her, putting in the long hours of walking and rebuilding her strength, then making dinner. Waiting until she fell asleep, exhausted more easily than she'd ever admit, and then he'd quietly get out one of the ancient volumes of prophecies or demonology he owned, and read in his room. Just because she wasn't slaying, didn't mean he was going to stop "Watching".


"They've received all the paperwork, and I checked my balance- you can do that online now. Did you know that?" Wesley marveled at all the things one could do "online".

"How would I know that?" She asked around a mouth full of corn flakes, giving him a skeptical look. Like she'd ever had a bank account or anything resembling one.

"Ah. Well, the deposit from my legacy hasn't gone in yet, but it should in a week or so."

"Man, money stuff takes forever."

"I know." He looked worried.

"Don't worry." She told the cereal bowl.

His brow creased, deeper frown lines appearing."Faith, I'm -"

"I said, 'don't worry'." Faith repeated firmly. "You got this."

She doubted lots of things, but not his ability to keep grinding away at a problem.

He knew the words were said more from kindness than confidence. But kindness from her? "Thank you. Well... This won't translate itself. I've got to get back to work."

"Goin' to the library?"

"I think I'll work from home today, it's only typing, not sending materials. If you think you could keep it down to a dull roar?"

"Maybe."


"Maybe not." Wesley came over after several progressively loud hours, and gently clicked off the television.

Faith's abusive shout died abruptly, then changed to an annoyed snipe directed at Wesley. "We were just going to see if the twins have been sleeping with their biological half-brother-slash-pimp!"

"And as horrific as that is, I'm sure you can live without Mr. Springer's revelations until I finish this one very technical section. I can hear you even in the bedroom."

"You're so stale, man." Faith grumbled and glared, and went back to the flexibility training she was supposed to do. "And these pretzel twists you have me turning into- not helping. More leg cramps than ever." She panted and unbent her legs.

"That means you're dehydrated. No more soda or caffeine, only water for a few days, and it should clear up." Wesley was putting his laptop and disks in a satchel that had come with the computer. "I'll be back around four. I thought we could try out a new routine. I found a recreation center offering a free month's trial, and they have a pool, an indoor track, a terrain course- excellent for all the muscle groups."

"Uh. Yeah, okay." She gave him a quizzical look. "Isn't that kind of pointless? We're out of here in a couple days."

"Oh. I suppose we are." I was just getting comfortable. The men in plaid have stopped staring when I go to the bar. The manager seems to have forgiven Faith. I even have a corner in the library's computer center... "You know-"

"Don't you have deadlines?" Faith asked, voice suddenly cool.

"I do. Yes, I'd best go."


Deadlines must be met, and the library is only open for so many hours a day. Eager to get his first copy done, a text translated into Russian, so that he could submit it and get his first real paycheck, Wesley worked around the clock over the weekend. He typed, consulted stacks of paper, and since he didn't have email capability from the apartment, called his agency or their affiliates as a last resort.


It drove her crazy to hear him yammering on in strange languages. Okay, one strange language, but still. It alarmed her completely absent sense of trust. He didn't do it often. Faith knew he usually used the library for most of his work, but the library probably frowned on you working for twenty four hours straight, and mumbling. Looking kinda shabby, too.

It was the mumbling she minded.

She lowered the stake she was twirling absently in her hands, and stared at him, head cocked, eyes slit. He could be saying anything. I'd never know. He might not even be going to the library, he might just be saying that. She felt stupid. The stake in her hand skittered across the floor. Her arms dangled, flexing the hardening muscles, arms rebuilt more swiftly. Her tattoo rippled, a little black flare, like a flag raised.

Mr. Smart Ass. Mr. Clean Cut. Never had to fight, always had to let us fight for him...

Except that time he saved my life, dragged me across the state, completely bad ass, and yet somehow- gentlemanly when he could be.

The flexing ceased. Faith sat back, listened and watched.

"Etot razdel ne imeyet uglubleniya, no bez subtitrov. Eto chto, oshibka?"

Faith's dark brows rose high on her pale face.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I assumed you'd speak Russian primarily."

Wesley turned his head and she could see the phone cradled under his unshaven jaw now. "I was calling from Trans- Lex. My name is Wyndham-Pryce and I'm translating a- oh good you have the file. I'm on chapter nine, and this section has indentations, but no subtitles. Is that an error? The previous chapters had both. Ah. Yes. Well, if you'd email me a list of the subtitles and where they belong...? I'll receive them later. Oh, no, I could take them down. That's even better. Excellent." Nodding, "mhmm"ing, and scribbling followed, until Wesley concluded, "No trouble, I quite understand. Thank you."

Faith walked without support for short distances, from the couch to the table for instance. She did that now, hovering over Wesley as he pointed to something on his screen and stared at something on a thick stack of paper. "Hey, Wes... What'cha doin?" She swung her long leg in the black, torn denim over the seat of the chair as he hung up his phone.

"Oh just a bit of medical translation." He flipped through the manual he'd gotten, lifting it from the the long brown envelope. "It took forever to get hold of someone there..." He mulled over it, then opened up his notebook. "A few finalities and I'll be off to the library to do the actual sending."

She craned her neck, but he was already putting the papers away. She realized she couldn't read the language anyway.

"Sure." Faith rose, and slunk over to him, hands behind hips, swaying slightly. Always a cross between wary and seductive, when she wasn't pissed. "Big job, huh?"

"Nine chapters."

"In Russian?"

"Yes, that's right." He smiled up at her for a brief moment.

Faith almost shook her head. She was doing the sexy stroll, modified version, but c'mon. Nothing besides a glance? Not like she wanted him to get all over her, but he totally disproved her "every man is a beast" theory. Slightly annoying after having been treated like a sex symbol since you grew boobs. Faith reminded herself that she'd been treated like that- but never by anyone that actually hung around, anyone she liked. "A textbook, huh? What's it on?"

"Hm?" Wesley finally realized she wasn't just passing by, but was actually talking to him. "Oh. It's ah- a medical textbook." She nodded, dark eyes wider and expressive, asking him to elaborate. She must be terribly bored. "It's about various treatments for prostate cancer." He explained. Faith made a sudden wince, and on reflection of the subject matter, he nodded and joined her. "Terribly uncomfortable reading actually." He reflexively crossed and uncrossed his legs.

"Wesley! You talk about stuff like that in front of a lady?" Faith cracked a grin, because she liked seeing the reserved side come down, and because it eased the tension of her own mind yelling at her for mistrusting Wesley, and for thinking badly of him, when here the guy was doing really hard, gross sounding jobs just to put a roof over their heads. The gross job was actually helping people thousands of miles away.

Wesley blushed, even though he knew there was nothing to be embarrassed about, simply factually discussing a serious medical condition. It's the way she likes to tease, coarse, goading... thoroughly uncomfortable. "I- uh- I never had - this type of work, so I never did discuss it with a lady. Or otherwise."

Faith frowned and cocked her head. "You never joked around with anyone before me, did you?"

"I- have tried." He said stiffly.

"You tried. No one else ever made wise cracks? That's a 'Faith thing'?" She probed, wondering how the hardworking coach she was starting to like could magically revert to a tea-drinking piece of cardboard unable to answer a question without stammering.

"No. Taunts were usually meant as cruelty. Growing up, that is. Hrm." He stretched his neck, as if his collar were suddenly too tight. "Once one enters formal training and pursuit of a degree, one doesn't find anything remotely humorous in the world of Watchers and fighting evil."

"Wow... no wonder you've got such a stake up the ass sometimes."

Wesley's lips thinned. "I'm sure. Now, if you'll let me get back to work?"

"Sure, whatever." Faith wore a mask of indifference, but inside she was slightly stung. She considered going back into her room, but for some reason stopped at the couch, sitting on the arm.

"I wasn't being cruel. I'm good at cruel, but that time, I was just yanking your chain." Faith told her nails.

Wesley's eyes remained fixed on his screen, spine stiff, but soaking in every word.

"I know about what snots kids can be. 'Hey Faith, who's that bag lady who lives with you?', 'Hey, Faith, are you going to the dance? Guess not. You'll be kicked out by then.'" She blew her hair from her face with a huff, running her hands over her crossed arms. "You have to forget them, Wes. You moved on, grew up, kids from school-"

"That's all well and good if you go your separate ways. It never stops when the cruelest voice is your father's, and you work in the 'family business'. 'You received a 'Distinguished' on your most recent submission? The panel must be drunk.'" His face darkened. "Even as a child. 'Stop your sniveling, can you do nothing right, you'll disgrace us at Headquarters, what kind of man will you be?' " Wesley stopped abruptly.

Faith's face was not dark, rather curiously blank. He risked a look at her. "Faith?"

"We've got thick skins. Different types, but they're thick enough to let the bastards know we don't care." At least pretend until we fool ourselves.

"Ah. Well. I'm trying not to." Wesley smiled bitterly. "But, it's not my skin I'm worried about saving at the moment, so I really should get back to this. If you're finished?"

Faith gave him a long look, guarded and unreadable. Finally she nodded. "A good man. Damn rare." She rose and stomped unevenly off to her room.

Wesley's brows drew together. "A good man?" Wesley shook his head after her, puzzled. He slowly began to type once again.

It was several pages later that Wesley realized she wasn't making a random statement. She was belatedly answering his father's question.

Though his father wasn't around to hear her words, and though he wouldn't have believed the opinion of a rogue slayer, Wesley was grateful. More than grateful. Shocked.

Maybe, for the first time, he believed that he was.


For the first time in a very scary month of his life, Wesley felt like celebrating. Truly celebrating. "Faith! Faith, are you awake?" He swung through their apartment door as the sun set.

"If I was, I'm not now." Faith poked her head out of her room. "You're home early, and in a good mood. Putting whiskey in your tea?"

He ignored the jibe, too jubilant to care."The work was submitted electronically- emailed." He announced proudly. "And I received a confirmation receipt. It said 'payment processed in two to three business days.' It's a success!"

"Woo hoo!" She emerged from her room, barefoot, in her usual regimen of black on black, and to his surprise, high fived him heartily.

"I know! It's not a lot, but it's something."

"It's awesome! And I think I'm back on my feet. Y'know, for little bits at a time. Next town we get to, I'm chipping in, okay?"

"Now don't rush your recovery." He said sternly. "We can manage. We'll manage better once I get the other piece finished."

"I'm not rushing. As soon as we get settled in." Her knee suddenly buckled, the price of overdoing it, using supports less and less when she wasn't ready. Wesley caught her elbow and pushed her to the side of the hall so she could get her balance using the wall. "Right. A job. Maybe."


She helped with the dishes that night, not that there were many. He noticed her taking the tea things from the room, back to their box. That's right. As soon as things get better, we must move on. What if it's not as good in the next place? What if it's a step backward, or a step in the wrong direction? Anxiety prompted him to speak.

"We don't have to leave. In fact, if you like it here, I could see if we could find a more permanent setting." He offered. "Nothing too permanent, but a - a short term lease?" Wesley added hastily.

Faith slowly rose from her stooped position over the boxes in the corner. Her look shouted that he was an idiot to think of such a thing. Her voice confirmed the look. "Are you stupid? Dude, you might not be hunted down by the Council-"

"Nor are you!"

"Maybe in a year I'll be sure about that. Maybe. I'm still wanted by the mere mortals for other stuff."

He nodded, then paused. "I don't want to play devil's advocate-"

"Oh, this is gonna be a good one." Faith rolled her eyes.

"The police may want to question you regarding the deaths of the deputy mayor and the professor. However, if you're being sought right now, it is more likely that they want to just make sure you're alive. As far as they know, you've been kidnapped. You were on life support. They most likely- hrm- imagine that you're dead."

Faith nodded. "I want to keep it that way. If they do find me, sure they'll say, 'Great you're alive. Now let's talk about these unsolved murders.' Then they question me. What am I supposed to say, Wes? You gonna tell me to lie?"

"No..." And then where does that leave us? I don't believe she'd best learn a new way of life, find a way to heal, find a way to simply become, rotting in a cell. I don't think a cell could hold her. I don't know what she thinks or feels about the matter, only that she knows she shed innocent blood, and she wishes it would wash off. A Lady Macbeth who didn't wish for fame and glory, only to survive and have someone show her any kind of affection.

"You want me to turn myself in?" Faith prodded when his single word answer seemed to hang in the air unfinished.

No! The shout rang in his mind, and he barely quelled it before it burst from his lips. For purely selfish reasons first. He couldn't imagine a life without her, even after this small space of time. "I think that's up to you." He finally said hoarsely. "I think you wish you hadn't done it."

"Hey! Don't-"

"I'm not 'psycho babbling' at you, or whatever else you were about to say. I know you wish you had no innocent blood on your hands, and you can deny it if you like. Only, I don't think the best testament to your desire to change is to pay for two human lives by sitting in a cell, when instead you could save a thousand more. It doesn't usually happen like that, Faith. Where for once, in the whole span of human kind, you actually have the chance to restore what you took. I know it's not the same, not the exact same lives, but thousands more."

Hope flickered. Doubt tugged. It's too easy to let the rage swarm you, and you just- love the rush, the power, the dark, the thrill... All of it tingling in your blood stream like you're an animal ripping out a throat. "What if I don't ever save anyone again? I'm not sure I'm 'battlefield ready'." She tapped her temple with a rueful smile.

At least she thinks about it. Worries about it. That's the greatest maturity and strength a powerful being could have- to consider if they're in control of the power, or is it in control of them. "I think you'll get there. In time. No rush." Wesley reassured.

"What if I don't?" She insisted. Expecting another great motivating speech, she was confused when he seemed to be struggling for words, looking all twitchy.

"I'd say, even if you never move beyond this point- you've rescued two lost souls. Does that count for anything?"

Two lost souls? Faith frowned. Then it clicked. Me and him. "Dude. You know you did the 'rescuing' here." She pointed out with a cross between a snarl and a smile.

"I disagree."

"You're the brains, the money, and the wheelman. What the hell have I done?"

"Kept it going, planned, advised, sacrificed, worked... you've made it worth while." He stood up, patting her knee with a single smart tap. "I'd better start packing."

"But- hey." Way to change tactics, English.

"You feel better moving, then we move. Do you think a month to month lease would kill you?"

Four weeks. Time to get familiar with the locals- not enough time for them to get too familiar with you. Time for the Watcher formerly known as Pain in the Ass to get his mail and do his responsible thing. Maybe time to get a part time, cash only kinda job.

That still means you move twelve times a year. Holy crap. Never thought about it like that.

"Okay."

Okay? Simple as that? Ha, when were things ever simple between us? "Good. Where to?"

"You pick. Someplace with a library and a bar."

"I'm sure every city has those things, Faith." He pointed out drily.

"Looks like you're free to pick any place you want. Riding the open highway..." Wesley's eyes glazed over, that faraway look, the half-smirk...Faith laughed to herself and continued, "Yep, free as a bird, picking any town you see, no one telling you where to go." She walked past him, off to do some packing of her own. For no reason she could think of, she reached down and slapped his behind in a friendly sort of way and whispered, "Go get 'em, John Wayne."

"That wasn't my John Wayne face, that was James Dean!" He called after her, blushing and rubbing his lower cheek in surprise.

"Anything you say. Rebel." The last in a throaty laugh.

He groaned faintly. Maybe some tea before packing the kettle away...


Dawning

They left at sunrise, simply a force of habit, beginning in the dark, avoiding detection. "Where to, Mr. Dean?" Faith smirked, alert from adrenaline.

"Now stop that." He was the opposite of alert. Groggy and sore from double checking everything and loading the car. "I haven't picked a destination. I thought we'd stop at the next major city after a day's drive."

"Sounds like a plan."

That was it? No arguing, no snarking? They gave each other incredulous sidelong glances.

"I do believe we're starting to get along." Wesley said with a cherubic smile.

Faith nodded slowly, then reached down thoughtfully to the radio, flipping the dial with uncanny expertise to the loudest heavy metal station she could find. "Aren't we, though?" She gave him a cheeky grin.

He pushed the wire rims up to his forehead and rested them there. "I said we were getting along. I didn't say a miracle had occurred." He shook his head. Although, considering where we started, and considering where we're headed, I'd say there might be a bit of a miracle somewhere.


"Why James Dean?"

"Why not?"

"I don't know. I had you figured for Churchill or- some other stuffy English guy."

"Churchill was not stuffy! He was an incredibly tenacious, eloquent-"

"I take it back! Geez, God save the Queen and stuff!" Faith held up protesting hands.

Wesley grinned faintly. Then mused. "I never thought about why. He died young. He did an incredible amount with a short life, and he did it- at least in the films, in his own way. Critique didn't bother him, he simply- he rebelled, he fought to be understood, seen for what he was. Messily, powerfully. But he did it. I don't know. Envy."

Everything has to be heavy with this one... Faith hadn't expected anything that heartfelt. "I thought it would be the motorcycle and the smokes."

"Oooh. Those were jolly impressive as well." He said with just a touch of longing.

"I never thought your parents would let you watch things like that."

"They didn't. When I was at boarding school a group of the lads snuck out and watched it at a second run cinema. I learned to like John Wayne in the double features."

Faith snickered. "Okay, Cowboy. You picked big shoes to fill."

"I know, unlikely fits, really. What about you? You must have idolized someone. Who was your childhood hero?" Madonna? Catwoman? Some other tough girl, a femme fatale, a cross between the two?

Faith's soul tucked into a protective crouch. "I didn't do that crap. I had bottles to duck and booze to clean up. I didn't have a 'hero'." She shifted suddenly in her seat. "I'm beat. Mind if I -?"

"Oh, no. Not at all. Not at all." Wesley watched her turn her shoulders to him, head huddled on her chest, forehead to the glass, feigning sleep as he drove miles of sparsely populated highway.

You can tell me you never had a hero, you could tell me why. You could tell me it was your drunken mother, simply because she was your mother, I'd understand. God knows I worshipped and feared my father all these years. "You could tell me anything..."

He whispered it so softly, to himself, not to her, but she still heard him as she pretended to be asleep.

He drove into daylight. She closed her eyes to it.

She relived this deja vu moment. Hadn't she turned her back on him before, in this same car, on another half-deserted highway? Hadn't she still ended up spilling her guts to him?

Wesley jumped in his seat as the seemingly sleeping figure suddenly began speaking, still curled to the side, talking in a flat, empty voice. "Laney Perkins' mom. Mrs. Perkins, I guess."

"I'm sorry, I'm not sure what we're talking a-"

"My hero. Laney was this girl in my class, kindergarten through third kid. And sometimes at the bus stop people would call 'Laney!' and sometimes I'd think they'd be saying 'Lehane!'. But it was never someone waiting for me. It was usually her mom. Her mom came to every stupid pageant, every 'graduation' where you move from one grade to the next. She baked cupcakes the size of your face for Laney's birthday every year. She decorated for class Halloween parties, she volunteered to come on field trips... She'd come in for story time... She made the best Christmas cookies for the winter party..." Faith realized she'd slipped into some dangerous form of sappiness and jerked herself out of it. "That was my hero. Nothing special. Just a mom with too much time on her hands."

Her return to silence dared him to say the wrong thing. Which would have been very easy for him to do, because he had no idea what in the world would follow those remarks, so ordinary, but so telling. His heart, which seemed to have a growing number of soft spots for this woman, desperately wanted to be comforting and consoling, to say that it was never foolish to admire someone who showed love and commitment to a child, to any other person. He could tell her that wanting a better parent was something they had in common.

"Wes? I can feel you not talking. Just say it's stupid or say it's so sad and you pity me. Get it done with." Faith curled her fists into her chest, half huddling away, half coiling for a blow.

"I don't know what to say. I don't pity you. I am sad."

Her fingers loosened slightly. "It's not much of a 'hero'. No way in hell is thatwhat I want to become. I mean- I'm not having kids. EVER."

"Heroes aren't always what you want to become. Merely what you wish to see in the world."

She considered. "Okay, Yoda." She turned in her seat, looking over at him.

"More in homage to Ghandi, than Yoda, I thought." They shared a wry smile, his mellowing to something soft and misty.

"Fuck, Wes, if you start to cry-"

"I'm not!"

"You look like you're about to start knitting baby booties, all dreamy eyed. What's the what?"

"I was thinking. Someday, you could well be some little girl's hero. She'll see you save someone from a terrible fate one night, and think, 'Golly, I want to be like that one day. So strong, fearless, and beautiful, saving innocent lives and fighting against those who would do others harm..." Drat. Now there was a lump in his throat, as he imagined himself being there, in the background, seeing this moment as well.

" 'Golly'? Really, Wes? You been around children in the last couple decades?"

"That's what you choose to comment on?"

"Never gonna happen. I'm not a hero. I'm a Slayer. Or I was. Might do it again." She gave an agitated roll of her shoulders, conflicting thoughts on that topic crowding her mind.

"Slayers are heroes." Wesley stated with conviction.

"Then Watchers are assholes." She spat. Wesley looked like she'd slapped him. "You can't lump us up like that! We're not all the same."

"Fine." He conceded.

"Good."

"But-"

Faith groaned. "Dammit, Wesley, let it die already!"

"But," he insisted, ignoring her, "I do think all of you are heroes, in your own different ways. If you think you can't be one because you've made mistakes-"

"Because I've broken every single one of the top ten, Wes."

"I don't imagine Mrs. Perkins was perfect. Look at James Dean. The smoking alone- not a positive role model, Faith."

"You're a wuss, Wes."

"If all slayers are different, then all heroes are different. I hope one isn't prevented from joining the ranks of the heroic based on something we did in the past, or none of us would ever stand a chance." Wesley informed her doggedly. When she didn't say anything, his voice took on a note of pleading. "If heroes were supposed to be perfect, then they couldn't be human."

"Not arguing." Faith said in a tone that contradicted her words. "I'm just sayin'. Me? Not hero material."

"You're a very stubborn person." Wesley said after several seconds, in a very clipped voice, hands gripping the wheel extra tightly.

"I'm leaning away from the role of sexy as hell villain, though. How's that for compromise?"

"I'll take it." He paused. "Is this where I give you a 'high five'?"

She laughed soundlessly, rolled her eyes, and after a minute, grudgingly stuck out her hand. He patted it.

"Harder, Wes, I'm not gonna break." This time he did it right. "There you go. That's what I'm talking about!"

"What are you talking about?"

"It means you did good, Wes. Hey, can we get an Egg McMuffin or something?"

"In a few more exits."

"Sounds good."


"Good for another couple hours?" Faith managed to walk back to the car on her own, and didn't even stumble. Which is what gave her the sudden idea.

"I'll go until we find a place for the night." Wesley said, then yawned enormously.

"Uh. Hey... You know- my legs work now." Faith didn't go to the passenger side, but stood by the hood.

Wesley's eyes suddenly forced themselves to look bright and chipper as he walked past her and pointedly opened the driver's side door. "Indeed they do. I'm very pleased."

"Can't lose my balance in a car. With a seatbelt." She smiled winningly.

"Faith..."

"I can't get us lost!" Her voice took on an edge of whining. "We're not going to a someplace special, so not like I can screw up on the directions."

"Did you even pass your driver's exam?"

"You bet. I have my license." So I had one point less than I needed. Little 'lip service' gives everyone an A. "I never got a ticket in my life." Cops aren't bad in the backseat. Or a field. And the ones you can't persuade to give you a 'warning', well, you just give them something worse, and ditch the car in the next town. Not like any of the cars were mine to start with.

"I think I can manage today."

"You look like you're gonna pass out."

Yes, and he felt like it, too. The Watcher wasn't supposed to watch twenty four hours straight, was he? Yet he felt like he had been doing so for days. "That is possibly the only one of the last three statements I believe." Wesley sighed, and tossed her the keys.

"Sweet!"

"Should we pray before you take the wheel?" He moaned.

"I'm only gonna drive for a couple hours. I promise."

"Hmm." He made a noncommittal, slightly worried noise.

"We can switch it up. So you sleep a little, then I sleep a little..." She sat behind the wheel, fingers flexing eagerly, foot revving the engine.

"Only two hours to begin with- and only if you promise you'll stop if you feel a muscle spasm coming on." He cautioned, now not sleepy at all. More like consumed with anxiety.

"Don't worry so much." Faith put the car in motion, and Wesley clung to his seatbelt. "You take good care of me. I'll give it back."

He relaxed marginally. Then much more, the first sign of tension leaving sending a resurgence of exhaustion to his system.

"You look like shit."

"Perhaps I should've borrowed some of your make up after all." Wesley giggled giddily as he began to slide into that overtired state of mind.

"Not your shade, Wes."

"No... I'm an Autumn ... something or other." He shook his head, and his eyes fluttered closed.

Faith watched him. You know he's the biggest fool in the world, right? He gave you the keys to two tons of death in metal, a mega bullet that can go a hundred miles an hour. Then, he drifts off to dreamland.

Her inner voice scolded. He's not the fool. You're the fool. You still think about hurting people, just to see how much you can push, then see if they'll come back. Or to get rid of them, to be alone and hate it, and then wonder why you're alone... Like a hamster stuck in a ball. You know you're the one who can put yourself back in the cage, or keep yourself out of it.

"Ah!" Wesley gave a pre-sleep exclamation, accompanied by a violent twitch.

"Whoa, it's okay. All good. You're safe."

"I know... you've got the first watch..." He mumbled dreamily.

"That's right. I'll take this shift, you get the next one." She agreed in a soothing voice that felt strange to her.

He smiled at the dome light of the car. "Heavens. If we go on being civil to one another and making compromises... we may actually become friends." He sighed contentedly. "I'd like that."

Faith snorted skeptically. "Don't hold your breath, Wes." Inside, the woman who had long ago started seeing people only as tools or liabilities suddenly wondered if she knew what a friend was anymore. "Yeah. Could happen." Faith muttered. Could have already happened. We just don't know how to handle it.


To be continued...