her back and a couple of changes they'd managed to get in cheap stores along the way.
Throwing herself onto the bed she realised she wasn't angry with the state of the room; she was worried. She had no clue what to do next. Getting him out of the motel had been the big plan but then what? None of them had had much of a chance to scout out the area beyond basic patrols so she had no idea what this town offered, hell she wasn't even sure what this town was called – San Bernardette or something, she thought. It didn't help that a tiny part of her was insisting on
thinking of this as a date either. She'd never really been the dating type after all, so for that thought to even cross her mind freaked her out more than a little.
In the past whenever she'd wanted to blow off steam, she'd find some club that went in for loud music – the louder the better as far as she was concerned – and just let herself get lost in the rhythm until the world melted away and nothing else mattered. Part of her missed those days – the total abandonment of control she'd had then. But that was the problem wasn't it? Losing control was something she just couldn't afford to do anymore. Especially not if she was looking out for someone other than herself.
Movies were out, partly because there was nothing much on that she wanted to see – one of the drawbacks of living the kind of life she did was that the big-screen version just didn't cut it anymore. Mostly though it was because she figured he'd already spent enough time in the dark. Dinner maybe? Way to really turn it into a date then. Besides, she was a little short on both cash and conversation skills
Dammit! Was this how normal people felt all the time? It was a wonder the human race ever survived if this was what going out was like – how the hell did people do it? She shook her head in frustration as she realised she was again treating this outing as a date. Now wasn't the time to get side-tracked like this! She really wasn't that bad at planning – if it was a patrol she was organising she'd be in her element.
Inspiration struck. Patrol. It's what she was best at after all, and it would get him out – make him feel useful again maybe. And the part of her that was still insisting on the date-like comparisons pointed out that patrolling could easily be mistaken for a moonlit stroll. Okay, so it would be a moonlit stroll with evil monsters ready to ambush them around every corner, but a moonlit stroll nonetheless.
Smiling a little indulgently at this unaccustomed sappy side of herself, she grabbed a pair of dark jeans and a sleeveless top and headed for the shower noting that she had at least forty-five minutes before she was due to head back to get him.
Ten minutes later and a fully showered and dressed Faith was pacing her room. Still over half an hour to go and she was already wearing a hole in the carpet. What the hell was she going to say to him? Could she cope with another round of verbal attacks? What did she think she was doing, her of all people, trying to help someone? She was still so damned screwed up herself that the thought of being a shoulder for
someone to lean on – even if that someone was Xander – was tragically laughable. She was way out of her league here.
Suddenly she couldn't breathe and realised just how small – how cell-like – this room was. She had to be outside. She flung open the door but paused as she heard voices coming up the hallway. It took her a second to place them and when she did she gently pushed the door almost closed, it was Willow and Kennedy. They were still a couple despite the betting pool predictions – Faith had her money on another week at the most – and they spent most of their time together away from everyone else.
Even though Willow had been her first point of contact during her re-introduction to the self-titled Scooby Gang (and she'd have laid down good money on it being Xander who came up with that particular nickname) things were still shaky between them. Faith smirked as she realised that was the understatement of the century. She had her unique history with each of the old-time Sunnydale survivors but even
she had to admit Willow was a special case.
They'd hated each other even before Faith had slipped. The hatred was based on jealousy – or at least that's what it was on Faith's side and she was pretty sure the same held true for Willow. Jealousy over connections with other people. Willow was Buffy's best friend and yet Faith had more in common with B than Red could ever hope to have. Back then, she knew Willow had thought of herself as a kind of protégé of
Giles' and when Faith arrived she took his attention away from his student. And of course there was Xander. Faith was neither blind nor stupid; she knew Willow had seen him as somehow "hers" so when Faith had taken part of him that the redhead would and could never have, it had been the final death knell for any hope of cordiality between them. Things were different now, of everyone there she and Willow were
probably the ones who had changed the most and Faith smiled a little at the thought that maybe they finally had something in common after all.
The couple were passing by her door now and she heard Kennedy's voice take on an almost petulant tone. "I don't understand why you have to listen to what anyone else thinks. You're the most powerful one here; if he won't talk to you maybe you need to think up a spell – maybe you can make him forget…"
"No." The coldness in Willow's voice startled both Kennedy and Faith but the younger Slayer had a remarkable recovery time and carried on regardless.
"But it might be the best thing, if you make him forget then he won't be moping in his room and we can get on with life without worrying about excess baggage."
Whilst she'd been in prison, Faith had been forced to go to anger management counselling in which the instructor tried to overcome the stigma attached to the whole "count to ten before you act" cliché. Right at this moment she'd long since passed that number and was trying every trick she knew of to hold herself back. Excess baggage? How dare that little slut even think of calling him that? She took a deep breath, knowing that what she was about to do would forever kill
off any hope of reconciliation with Willow. Seeing her beat down her mouthy girlfriend wasn't going to do anything to alter her image of "Faith as psycho" after all. She actually had her hand on the door handle when Willow's quiet voice again startled her into inaction.
"Shut your mouth." The anger in those three words was something Faith had only heard a few times in her life and each time it had come from the kind of dangerous people not even a psycho Slayer would want to fuck with. There was a shocked intake of breath from Kennedy and Faith stepped forward to better see through the crack. Willow was holding
her hand up to forestall any further comments from the young brunette. "You don't ever get to talk about him like that. He has done more, seen more, sacrificed more than you ever will. He is a far better person than you will ever be." The witch's voice was still quiet and yet every word struck home. "You know nothing about who he is. If he wants to `mope in his room' then he'd damn well earned that right a hundred times over. His friends will help him through this when he's
ready for us. There's no quick fix. We… *I* learned that the hard way and for you to suggest that there might be makes me realise that you really don't know me half as well as you think you do."
Kennedy's reply was muted but Faith could easily spot the manipulative undertones. "I'm sorry. Really, I am. But why doesn't he come to you? If you've been friends this long then surely he'd want you to help any way you can?"
Willow's answer almost broke Faith's heart, "He doesn't want me. He isn't talking to anyone, except sometimes Faith…"
There was a sharp crack and she stared as Kennedy held her hand to her fast-reddening cheek where Willow had slapped her.
"You haven't the slightest idea what you're talking about, do you?" She sighed "Ken, this just isn't going to work. I'm sorry I slapped you – that was unforgivable – but I'll tell you one last time, you do not get to talk about my friends like that. You haven't a fucking clue what you're saying."
Faith's eyes widened in shock – she'd never heard Willow swear before, and that it had been in her defence was even more shocking. "Fine. If that's the way you want it…"
"It is." There was no sadness in Willow's voice, just a weary resignation.
"Well… I guess it's over then."
"I guess it is. Goodbye Kennedy."
Faith could see the younger girl's jaw working as she struggled for a comeback. Not finding one, she finally gave up and stormed away leaving a downcast Willow standing mere feet from Faith's door.
Feeling guilty over her inadvertent voyeurism, she stepped back trying to keep her presence hidden.
"Faith? Can I come in?" Willow asked. So she knew Faith had been listening then, her heart sank a little as she eased open the door.
"Of course, c'mon in. I'm sorry – I didn't mean to eavesdrop, I'm sure you guys'll work it out though. You just need to talk I guess."
"What? Me and Kennedy? There's no point. I mean, what was I thinking? We had nothing in common, yeah okay so she's hot and has the whole tongue ring thing going for her but the way she treats people? Especially my friends? We're better off without each other." The redhead shrugged as she came into the room and Faith was a little surprised not to see any regret on the woman's face.
She shifted uncomfortably, "Yeah, thanks for including me in that "friends" thing. I mean, I know it probably wasn't intentional... but thanks."
Willow rolled her eyes. "Faith, I do think of you as a friend. D'you know that in school I used to be so shocked if anyone wanted to be my friend that I ended up pushing them away? I only really had two friends for the longest time."
"Buffy and Xander."
"No, actually, Xander and Jesse." She saw the look of puzzlement on Faith's face. "You never met Jesse, he and Xander were buds so he and I were kinda friends. He… died just after Buffy came to town."
Faith had a sinking feeling that she knew what had happened but she couldn't stop herself asking. "I'm sorry, did … was it vamps? Did they kill him?"
"Worse, they turned him. Xander had to stake him – Jesse was the first vamp he killed."
"Jesus." That filled in a lot of blanks and Faith found herself taking in yet another layer in the complicated man who was Xander Harris.
"That about sums it up. Except not so much for me, what with the being raised Jewish thing." There was a sparkle in Willow's eyes as she made that small joke and Faith saw for the first time hints of the person she was and gained a new understanding of why she inspired such fierce loyalty in those around her.
"Willow," she swallowed – this was probably one of the hardest things she'd ever done. "I… I'm sorry."
"For how I treated you back then. It was really shitty and I don't deserve this – I don't deserve to even be considered a potential friend. I tried to kill you."
She hung her head, unable to meet the other girl's eyes.
"And I tried to kill everyone. I think I might just have you beat there. I'm sorry too, Faith – I never gave you a chance when you first arrived. I was so new to the having friends thing and I thought you were taking them away from me. I was wrong and I'm sorry."
Faith could feel the tears pricking her eyeballs and when she glanced up she saw Willow's own eyes glistening. On impulse she pulled the other girl into a hug, an embrace of both penance and absolution on both their parts.
After a few moments, there was an outraged yell of "What the hell?!" and she glanced up to see Kennedy in the open doorway staring at them in shock. Before she could move, the younger girl turned and fled. They broke apart, grinning a little and she wiped at her damp cheeks without a trace of shame.
"Um, Willow? Don't you think you should go after her? Make sure she doesn't get the wrong impression or anything…" Faith prodded gently, privately she agreed that they weren't the best couple in the world, but hey she could possibly still get her winnings if they lasted another week. Willow just shook her head.
"Nah, it'd serve her right really. Make her realise she's not the only hot Slayer here." She blushed furiously and tried to back-pedal, "Um… I didn't mean… Faith…" Faith just laughed.
"So you think I'm hot, huh? Well… gotta tell you, if I swung that way…"
Willow looked mortified for a second before catching the teasing glint in the Slayer's eyes. She started laughing and within seconds Faith had joined her. Eventually she glanced at her watch and realised she was almost out of time.
"I've got to go Willow, I'm taking Xander out on patrol and I told him I'd be there now."
"Xander's going on patrol again? That's great! How did you get him to agree to that?"
"Well… he doesn't exactly know about it yet." Faith went on to fill Willow in on the details and laughed along with her as they both pictured her dragging Xander's much larger form into the middle of the street outside the motel.
"S'a good plan. I'm glad he's talking to you again Faith – I wish I could help, but he won't even answer the door to me." The smile on Willow's face almost hid the pain in her voice. Almost.
"He will, he's not really even talking to me yet. It'll take time."
Willow seemed to give herself a shake and smiled rightly. "Right, get going you – we have to get our boy back in action!"
Faith smiled and ripped off a mock salute. Heading for Xander's room she realised what Willow had said, "our boy". It made her feel as if she'd been accepted. As if she was part of the family now; as if she was home.