TITLE: Secrets and...
AUTHOR: claudine423@yahoo.com
FEEDBACK : Yes, please...I am a junkie.
NOTES: AU - This story takes place in the future, when the majority of the gang has reached the age of 30. Buffy died at the end of "The Gift" but she was never brought back to life. The explanation of what happened between that year and the time of this fic will unravel in the story. It starts off a little slow, but I promise all the characters will be introduced.
Permission to use these characters relating to BtVS & AtS has not been given. Joss, Twentieth Century Fox, UPN, WB & Mutant Enemy own TM and copyrighted them. This is purely for fun, and no copyright infringement is intended.  Oh how I wish Giles was mine, though. Sigh...

~~ Chapter One ~~

The world was dark around them, the air thick with the stench of death. Swords slashed through the night aimed at anything that moved or hissed. They were trapped, their backs pressed up against a cold, wet, stone, wall in another ramshackle shanty in a broken down Sunnydale. Silver lining? With their backs pressed up against a wall at least they knew nothing was behind them.

"Damn, you shoulda sprung me years ago, G." Faith was fighting beside Giles as if it were her duty to protect him should something go wrong. Slayer, Watcher…some things were sacred. Even though he'd never technically been her Watcher, she still had respect for him. But a decade spent in jail was a decade wasted. She knew things would not have gotten this bad if she'd been out, fighting evil and protecting the innocent. But she chose to allow the system to parole her when it decided. Still, after Buffy's death someone should have gotten her out of jail. One Slayer dead and one behind bars does nobody any good. How much blood had been spilled during her tenure in jail? How many years had the world been without a Slayer? Too many to mention.

"Now why didn't I think of that," Giles said and lunged forward to stake another vamp.

Ten minutes later the room was silent. Giles looked around and assessed the damage. "Faith, the box behind the glass casing on the pedestal," he motioned toward a set of steps.

She knew exactly what he was thinking and ran for it even before he finished his sentence. Amazing how the group worked together like a well-oiled machine after all they'd been through. Amazing how Faith fit right in even though she'd been gone for ten years. Not that she was part of the team before she left. Not that she was ever really part of the team. Thanks, B.

The others knew their part and tended to their tasks immediately. Xander doused the bodies of the victims the vamps had left behind with gasoline while Dawn and Wesley gathered information and weapons and anything else that might prove useful. They were out in two minutes, the house ablaze behind them as they drove away into the night. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Funny how the house seemed to be right behind them as if following on their heels until they made a turn eight blocks away. If Willow had been with them the fire would not have been necessary, she would have incinerated the place on command. But she had other work this night, work that Giles knew nothing about. She'd been feigning sickness all week and he, being the fool in love that he was, believed her. He'd believe anything she told him because he had no reason to believe otherwise.

Faith sat beside Giles in the passenger seat of a black Escalade, completely unaware of their destination. She took notice of how rugged he'd become and tried to picture him in his tweed suit roaming the stacks of the Sunnydale High library so many years before. His body was firmer, stronger than she remembered, his hands and forearms ripped with muscles. Must have gotten that way from all the hand-to-hand combat and sword wielding.

Things had been moving so quickly for Faith. She was paroled unexpectedly and even though she was sitting beside the logical explanation for her release, she was still unsure of who it was that actually came to her rescue. Nobody in the world loved her enough to spring her, so it must have been somebody who needed her. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Faith hopped on a bus back to Sunnydale figuring it would be the best place for her to be if she was going to help save the world...or what was left of it. Ironically Rupert Giles just happened to be waiting for her, though he admitted he had nothing to do with her reprieve. "Lucky guess," was all he'd offered when she found him waiting for her at the bus depot.

Giles was silent, stoic, as he drove. Though it started out as a gentle mist, by the time they got home the night air was black and a torrential rain beat down on them. The headlights barely cut a path for him, but Giles knew the streets of Sunnydale like the back of his hand. He could have driven them blindfolded.

"So, this is home now?" Faith was taken aback but not completely surprised as they pulled up to Angel's old lair, the mansion he called home for so long in Sunnydale.

"It's big and safe inside." Xander offered no more than that before he threw open his car door and headed toward the house. No more jokes or quips. No more flirting. No smiles. This Xander was serious and had grown up. Or had he just given up?

Giles cut the lights and the engine and turned to Faith, "Inside. It's not safe out here."
He looked down at the box that was sitting in her lap. He wanted to take it from her but she seemed to have quite a hold on it. He decided to leave it to her. Giles threw open his door and headed toward the courtyard.

"No kiddin'," Faith said and followed slowly behind them. "So, you wanna tell me what's going on around here?" In the distance a voice called out for help and Faith's Slayer sense kicked into high gear. But she was stunned when the others did not react.

"Death," Giles offered from ten paces ahead of her. He stopped and looked briefly in the direction of the distant call for help before he lowered his eyes in shame and continued inside. Too many called out these days. He couldn't help them all.

"Destruction," Dawn said as she breezed by Faith, seemingly unfazed by the cries around them.

"Mayhem, carnage," Wesley said as he walked by her.

Faith seemed to be in the slow lane as each of them passed by her.
"Same old Sunnydale," she muttered to herself as she crossed the threshold.

"Not exactly," a voice offered from the shadows just inside the front door. "Faith."

"Angel. Long time," she said with a bit of remorse. His visits had been regular the first two years she'd been inside. Then sporadic at best. That gradually dwindled to a once-a-year-update on the goings on in L.A. and Sunnydale. But the past four years she hadn't heard from him at all. She couldn't be angry, not when the world was crumbling all around them. She knew Angel didn't have time for her, she just wished someone would have busted her out or convinced her to bust herself out. What a waste. If nothing else, she had plenty of time to work on her body and learn about mental focus and how perfect practice makes perfect. She just kept picturing things over and over again in her mind until she had them right. And one day, when she needed the skills, they will have been burned into her memory and she could recall them for use. At the age of 30 she was in better shape than most of the men in the world. Except maybe Giles.

"A friend in L.A. told me you got on the bus to Sunnydale," he said as he led her inside. “I sent Giles.”

"Makes sense," she said. They passed by a mirror and Faith caught a glimpse of herself. Though Angel's reflection was absent, his body and her reflection were side by side. "Wow," she said.

Angel looked into the mirror and saw was Faith was reacting to. She was older, now, at 30. Still attractive, and buffer than she'd ever been, but the age was undeniable. That misspent youth was catching up with her, and she was catching up to him. But he was young and beautiful as ever...even if he had to take everyone's word for it. "Wanna trade?" He asked, dryly.

"Not in a million," she said with a smile. No amount of vanity could get her wishing to be a vamp. Faith turned away from Angel and followed the others into the living room. "So, lemme guess…big evil a-brewin'…yadda yadda yadda...apocalypse looming?”

“Something like that,” Dawn said.

“So where's big Red?” Faith asked while she casually scanned the room and took inventory of all the escape routes and any items that could be used as potential weapons in case of emergency. Even though they told her the mansion was safe, Faith knew there was always a way in. And with the big bads she'd been hearing about, she was sure that someone or something would try to get in sooner or later.

“Dawn, why don't you show Faith to her room,” Giles interrupted and walked over to the Slayer. He took the box she'd been carrying and said, softly, "I'm going to check on Willow...she hasn't been feeling well." Though he avoided it as much as he could, he inadvertently made eye contact with Faith.

Something moved her, almost to tears. She saw the sadness in his eyes, the desperation. It wasn't the same Giles. He was stronger and more forceful, yes, in that way he'd grown. But his eyes were blank. In fact, as she looked around and surveyed the old gang, they all seemed different. Emptier. Sadder. Hopeless. Had she been called in to help them or save them? Was she their last chance? Was the weight of the world really resting on her shoulders? Faith took a deep breath and let out a small sigh. I get it now, B.

~~ Chapter Two~~

"Feeling better, love?" Giles asked. He placed the box he'd taken from Faith on top of a dresser and made his way over to Willow. The room was dark except for a lone, flickering candle that was atop a nightstand beside the bed.

She sat up and moved over, preparing a space for him next to her. "A little."
Willow reached up to greet him.

Giles took her hands in his and sat down beside her. He kissed her softly on the lips before pulling her into an embrace. "I'm back now." He'd felt so guilty for leaving her. If it wasn't for Angel volunteering to stay behind and check on her Giles would never have left. But the lair they burned down with Faith's help was not strictly about the killing, if it was Angel could have handled it. For the fight they'd fought that night Giles was needed. There were relics and books involved and other things that made sense only to the Watcher. So he'd left Willow alone, but ached for her every minute they spent apart. "I won't leave again, I promise."

Those were not the words she wanted to hear. She loved him, unquestionably. And if the world hadn't been in such turmoil she'd have squeezed him tighter and never let go. But things were not going so well in Sunnydale. In fact, Willow was losing herself. She had been using every ounce of her power to try and help save the people all around her, friend and stranger alike. But she was running out. The spell she weaved for Giles alone sapped her of too much strength. It kept him young and strong and heightened his senses, almost as if he were a vampire. It may not have given him the edge in mortal combat, but it evened the playing field. Maybe it was selfish on her part, keeping him youthful and handsome while 60 was only a few years away. Maybe it was truly a gift to him. Whatever the truth, the facts were clear - she was running out of magic. And soon the others would know. Soon Giles would know. He would never allow her to continue practicing if he knew the real reason she was so weak. So she needed him to be elsewhere so that she could recuperate enough to perform the spells she needed to accomplish what was most important. "We can't stay like this forever," she whispered. But her words were lost against the material of his shirt as she mumbled in his embrace.

"It's a shame, that," Giles whispered back and pulled away. He rested his forehead against hers and looked deep into her eyes. "Faith's here. She's strong and she's prepared to fight. I've no doubt she'll ease some of your burden."

"Good," Willow said, plainly.

"The others are downstairs. Do you feel up to joining us?" He pulled away a little farther but still lingered close enough to stroke her hair.

She just shook her head no.

"Shall I bring you something to eat? Or some tea, perhaps?" He tried so valiantly to take care of her. There were so few things he could do for her so he jumped at the chance whenever one arose.

"I'm fine." Liar . Her conscience was getting the better of her.

"All right, then. Get some rest." He kissed her again before he stood up and helped her settle back into bed. "I've got work to do. But I'm just downstairs if you need me."

"I know," she said. "I'll be fine. I'm just sleepy." She forced a smile to comfort him.

It worked. A little. He smiled back and left the room, fighting the urge to crawl up alongside her and wrap her in his arms. He had stopped asking himself what she could possible see in him years before. Now he just took her love for what it was - a divine gift. He'd know a lot of people in his life, some he even loved. But Willow was different. His love for her was something he never imagined knowing. His life began and ended with Willow. And if he ever lost her...well, truth be told? He never let himself finish that thought.

~~ Chapter Three ~~

“…and when Buffy died things around here got worse. The portal closed…and Glory was dead, yeah, but…” Xander was tooling around the kitchen, filling Faith in on all the details of the past decade while he tried to prepare dinner for everyone. Times were tough. Food was scarce. There were no grocery stores left in Sunnydale so they had to trek a hundred miles for basic supplies. And once Sunnydale was fading away in your rear-view mirror it's pretty damned difficult to turn the car around and go back. Unless you're a Scooby, that is.

“So, B died to save little sis in there?” The Slayer flopped down in a chair and propped her feet up on the kitchen table.

“Not just for me,” Dawn said from the doorway. “For you, Xander, Giles, everyone. She died saving the world.” Dawn had grown up, but Faith still saw that little-girl behind her façade. Always mocked, always being teased, always left out because she was the youngest. Watching her sister die had forced her to grow up real fast. But a part of her would always be that lost little girl wandering around the world wondering what she was made of and when the next psycho would come along and try to use her to open some other unmarked door. The key? The key to what…

“Right,” Faith said, trying not to ruffle anybody else's feathers. “So what happened after that? That was right about the time Angel stopped visiting so I'm kind of in the dark. I heard things inside, but I never got the full story.” She helped herself to a bottle of water that was sitting on the table. "You know how it is."

The others just stared at her. They couldn't get upset with her. They knew she had no idea. "Faith..." Dawn paused, hoping Xander would take the lead.

"Yeah?" She wasn't smoking, drinking, torturing anything or acting sleazy...so what could possibly be their problem?

"I don't know if you noticed but things are kinda rough out there. Supplies are hard to come by," Xander said, eyeing her drink. Sure, they had running water, but drinking water was a different story. If an all-out war broke out, and it got right down to it, the bottled water was the only thing they could be sure wasn't tainted.

Faith realized mid-swig that they were talking about the water. She lowered her eyes, pulled the water away from her mouth, wiped the rim of the bottle with the hem of her shirt and put the cap back on. "Sorry...wasn't thinking." She should have been...she'd just spent ten years in jail on rations. "Guess the freedom kinda went to my head."

"It's ok," Dawn said, "We just...we all have to..."

"I get it, no problem." Faith was a little embarrassed and wanted to change the subject as fast as she could. "Ok, so..." She handed the conversation back to Xander, "Glory-bitch is dead, Buffy runs up the tower and does a swan dive off to save us all, the portal closes, end of story...so when did downtown Sunnydale start looking like Chechnya?"

"Well, we lost two people that day - Buffy and Tara." Dawn sat down across from Faith.

"Who's Tara?" The Slayer truly forgot.

"She was Willow's..." Xander paused.

"Oh, right." Faith said. "Wow, poor Red...a best friend and her all around gal-pal."

"Yeah, it was rough for a while. She was really...out of it." Xander was shaking his head in denial, as if he wouldn't have believed the memories if they weren't his own.

"What do you mean?" Faith looked to Dawn.

"She was...depressed, I guess. We tried to get on with our lives, we tried to keep the streets safe, but it was too much for us," Dawn said. "We were killing ourselves - me, Xander, Anya, Giles...but Willow wouldn't help...she just stayed in bed...she gave up."

"It got worse. When word got out that the hellmouth was without a Slayer for its gatekeeper all kinds of evil started flocking this way. They drove all the businesses out, except for the liquor mart and the dirty book store." When the girls shot him a look he interjected, "Not that that's really relevant but...anyway...it got too much for everybody...people left and evil moved in full time." He was silent for a moment before he admitted, "Anya even left." Xander filled a bowl with whatever it was he was cooking and put it in front of Faith. It was almost an apology for even mentioning the water before. It was silly, really, when he though about it. After all - Faith was the Slayer...she needed fuel...she should be the first person to eat or drink whenever she needed to. He handed her a fork and a glass and then he poured the water from the bottle into it as he continued. "Finally Angel and Wes came back from L.A. to help."

"And when they came back Giles took Willow to England. There was a coven just outside of London that offered to take her in and work with her. He thought it might help to get her away from Sunnydale. She was our best defense but she wasn't using her magic...she just didn't care about anything." Xander pulled up a chair and sat between Dawn and Faith at the table.

"We don't really know what happened in England," Dawn said. "All we know is that five months later they came back, Willow was stronger than ever, ready to kick evil's ass and Giles was in love."

"As was Willow," Giles interjected from the doorway. "Not that I'm bragging." He smiled at his brood.

"Never took you for robbing the cradle, boss," Faith said.

"Hardly." Giles smirked and moved farther into the room.

Dawn moved instinctually, offering Giles her seat. She wanted to get away. She needed to see Willow. Alone. And with Giles safely occupied by their newest houseguest she figured there was no time like the present. "I'm gonna turn in." She shot Xander a clandestine look, one that begged him to keep the Watcher busy for a while. "I have some of Buffy's old things, coats and jeans, I'll put them in your room, Faith."

"Thanks," was all Faith said. It was sincere enough.

Dawn turned and left the room. As soon as she was gone Giles turned to Xander and asked, "Would mind giving us a few minutes alone. I've some things to discuss with Faith."

Xander was stunned. He hadn't expected Giles to ask something like that. If he was going to leave the room, how was he supposed to keep an eye on Giles? Stalk him from the shadows in the hallway? "Uh, yeah...sure." He composed himself enough to get that much out while his mind was racing. He finished clearing the last of the dishes from the sink and then dried his hands and left the room.

"So when did Xander turn into Aunt Jemima?" Faith smirked at the Watcher.

"We all do our part around here...some of us are stuck with tasks we might not enjoy, but it's one of the necessary evils of this comic-book-super-hero lifestyle we're forced to live." Giles stood up and walked over to one of the cabinets. He stretched on tiptoe to reach behind a set of glasses and when his hand reappeared it was holding a half empty bottle of scotch. "I, for example, am relegated to being the den mother which forces me to, among other tedious things, hide provisions when I see fit."

"When you see fit or when you wanna unbutton your Oxford and chill with your old pal Johnny Walker?" She downed the glass of water that had been in front of her and held her glass up for a refill from Giles' stash.

Xander listened to this much from the other side of the kitchen door. He finally decided to leave the two of them, assuming they'd be catching up for a while and his secret meeting with Willow and Dawn would be safe.


The voice startled Xander. "Angel? What...no...no...I was just...leaving." Me and Shaft, super cool. He nonchalantly strolled down the hallway away from Angel and headed up the steps.

He found Willow's door slightly open, with two shadows painting the wall across from it. He knocked softly as he entered. When he found Dawn and Willow huddled together he closed the door behind him and joined them. "I think it's safe to say Faith and "G" as she affectionately calls him, will be occupied for a while." He sat beside Dawn on the bed, both of them facing Willow. "So...any luck?"

"You want the good news first?" Dawn asked.

"Oh, no..." Xander knew things weren't going to be easy. After all, the forces of good and evil were waging an epic battle all around them, surely a snafu or two would arise in the quest for supplies of such a serious nature. "Ok, what the hell...gimme the good news first...change things up a bit."

"Good news is...there are two known remaining copies of Grismay's journal, spells and incantations fully intact." Willow prattled on. "One was owned by Quentin Travers. He died three years ago but his granddaughter inherited his entire collection. She and her coven went underground over a year ago and no one has heard from then since. It's rumored that they're somewhere in Scotland, preparing for the final battle. If it's true, then I'm sure she's got the journal with her."

"Wow, that's the good news? You suck at this game." Xander met Dawn's eyes. "Ok, so there's a second copy...I'm guessing the bad news goes with it."

Dawn held up a printout from the internet and read it aloud. "London Bridges Antiques and Auction House, just two short hours from Sunnydale. Specializing in rare books and magical artifacts. Beginning this week: Grismay's estate - lots showing online." She stopped reading and allowed Xander to interject.

"Aaaaaand the problem?" He coaxed.

Even though she'd read it a hundred times she still looked at the page as if she needed to see the words to actually speak them. "Ethan Rayne, proprietor."

~~ Chapter Four ~~

"So tell me the truth, G," Faith said, "You and little red riding hood? Really?" She knocked back a shot and quickly poured herself another. As the Slayer, Faith knew the importance of keeping her body fit. Her body was her weapon. But tonight, her first night of freedom, called for a round or two of drinks. There would be time for seriousness, time for responsibility and self-control. She knew that that time was just a sunrise away. But for now, the Slayer allowed herself a night to kick back.

Something in the Watcher's eyes assured her it was ok. Or maybe it was the fact that he was half knackered himself. He answered her question with a question. "Have you ever been in love?" It was a simple statement. Giles meant nothing offensive by it, yet as soon as the words left his lips he felt as though he'd just put her down. Always the gentleman, he quickly rescinded his statement when he looked into her eyes. "I'm sorry, that wasn't supposed to sound harsh."

"Hey, it's ok. I'm still young, right?" Faith downed another shot and then got down to business. "Ok. So, I assume there's some sort of 'master' plan. Lay it on me."

Giles cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. He savored the final sip of his drink before he admitted, "Actually, there isn't." The Watcher paused, took a deep breath and leaned forward to look the Slayer directly in the eye. "We're out of options. We're out of strength. We've been fighting alone for over five years – two ex-Watchers, a witch, a vampire and a couple of humans. It's unthinkable. I don't know how we've managed to keep death at bay this long but for some unseen intervention that we neither understood nor acknowledged until it was evident that it was gone. We've no support of any kind from anyone. The Watcher's Council abandoned us years ago. We seem to be living in the land that time forgot and yet the ravages of evil continue to multiply outside our very door day after day after day. There is nothing sacred, nothing safe within a hundred miles of this forsaken place. We stay, Faith, because the guardians of the gate have all gone and someone needs to be held accountable. But Willow and I...and the others...we've exhausted our possibilities. It's up to you, now. You are our only hope."

The last part resonated with her. She'd allowed herself to think it once before for a few brief moments but it soon seemed like a silly notion. Buffy was the queen bee, not her. Buffy handled the weight of the world just fine but Faith always fell short. But now, looking into the Watcher's eyes, she knew it was true. "Wow, no pressure or anything," Faith said. It was sarcasm, but it was not a joke. She felt the gravity of his plea right down to her bones.

"I know, Faith. I understand and I apologize. If you've got any ideas, please feel free to share them because I've run out." Giles sat transfixed for a moment, trying to understand the burden he'd just laid on Faith. She'd just spent ten years in jail and here he was asking her to save the world. A world that she was not allowed to exist in unless she was behind bars until only a few short hours before. He snapped himself out of it and stood up.

Faith watched as Giles turned his back and walked away. She saw him standing at the counter, his head hanging down from sheer exhaustion. When he turned back around he had two lit cigarettes dangling out of his mouth. He inhaled deeply and then removed them both and handed one to Faith before he sat down again across from her and allowed the smoke tendrils to billow out of his nostrils. “Questions? Comments?” He smiled at her to lighten the mood. He would be right beside her the entire time. He wanted her to know she would not be alone.

They sat in silence together for the next few minutes. She took a final drag on her cigarette and tamped out the butt in a makeshift ashtray. “Looks like things are pretty bad out there, worse than I thought.”

“They are.” He put out his cigarette.

“Looks like nothing's gonna change tonight, even if I go out and start killing stuff.”

“It won't.”

“Looks like you need a plan,” she said.

“We do at that.” Giles was a little concerned. He had no idea where she was going with this.

“Well…” she paused, her mind a blank canvas. The old Faith would have strapped on an arsenal and run headlong into the fray. But this Faith had something the old Faith did not – wisdom. And now it seemed she had earned the trust and respect of the Watcher. “Since I can't change the world tonight…” She wasn't pausing for dramatic effect, she was mulling over the idea in her head, making sure it was what she wanted to do. “…I'm gonna grab 40 or 50 winks and we'll start in the a.m.”

Giles breathed a sigh of relief. He watched like a proud father as Faith sashayed out of the room but as soon as she was out of sight his smiled faded. Though he'd stopped listening to his conscience years before this time the voice could not be ignored. Rupert, you old pillock, she'll be dead in a week.

~~ Chapter Five ~~

“Wes?” Faith knocked softly so as not to disturb the others in the house.

Wesley had been reading, his nose lost in an ancient text when he heard the Slayer calling to him. He made his way to the door and pulled it open. “Faith, what is it?”

“Just thought we should talk,” Faith said as she casually pushed her way in.

The Watcher was surprised given their history. He closed the door and then sat down at a long table across from her.

The room was large, one of the largest in the mansion. It was full of books and weapons and other magic supplies. Wesley was involved in combat from time to time, but he spent the bulk of his days locked in his room researching and translating any prophecy he could get his hands on. He liked having a lot of space to himself.

"I assume you're staying?" Wesley shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It wasn't that he feared Faith, but their relationship had never been a healthy one. They had never really had long, meaningful conversations unless it involved slaying. So he stuck to what worked. Besides, what else was there to talk about? Sharing his feelings wasn't exactly Wesley's forte.

"Giles gave me the gloom and doom." She eyed him up and down. He was handsome. She'd never really noticed before just how attractive he was. Sure Cordelia got all swoony over him the first day he showed up in the Sunnydale High library but that was back in Wes's Pierce Brosnan-y days. He had grown since then, had seen so much in his travels. Faith could see the depth of the differences in his eyes.

"You must be a glutton for punishment," Wesley said. He never smiled when he spoke, even when he was exercising that dry, British wit. Truthfully there wasn't anything to smile about these days. Had there ever been?

"It should have come from you," she said, her voice tinged just slightly with anger.

"What?" Wesley asked.

Faith summarized Giles' speech to her, " Buffy's gone, you're our only chance, we're out of ideas." She got up and stormed over to him, mad at him for a reason she couldn't discern. "You were my Watcher...you should be the one telling me this shit."

Wesley was startled by her outburst but he did not stand up or back away from her. "That was another lifetime, Faith. In case you've forgotten the things I said never mattered to you. Besides, this is Rupert's town. It always has been." He surveyed her for a moment – she was breathing heavy, her cheeks slightly flushed. "Did you tell him?"

"Tell him what?" She backed off and sat on the table in front of him, her legs dangling, the outside of her right ankle resting against his left knee.

He looked away, not wanting to make eye contact. "That you're frightened." It was a statement, not a question. He wasn't asking.

Faith knew he'd just called her, had just seen right through her into the core of her very soul. She slid off the table and into his lap, quickly leaning in to kiss him in one fluid movement.

But Wesley pulled away and lifted his arms, afraid that any contact from him might be misconstrued as reciprocation. Had she forgotten? Had she really forgotten the last time their bodies were like this?

Faith just smiled, almost crushed by his actions but trying to pretend as though it wasn't such a big deal. "Was hoping you'd forget," she whispered. Hero to skank in less than ten minutes, a personal best. She got up and left the room without saying another word.

If she hadn't just spent the last ten years in jail Wesley might have been flattered. He waited until the door closed and then got up to lock it.

Faith was embarrassed. She'd never admit it out loud, but she admitted it to herself. Ten years ago she'd never have even done that. But she'd grown, like the others. She wasn't even sure why she went to Wesley like that. If she wanted sex she should have just gone to Xander. Right? Maybe she needed something more. Maybe she needed to be turned down.

She stopped by her bedroom but she was too antsy to sleep. Besides, her buzz was wearing off. So she grabbed her jacket, a stake, and a battle axe from a rack on the wall and made her way to the front door. When she stepped out into the courtyard she saw Angel coming down the steps heading toward the house. "Oh, great.” Busted.

"Going somewhere?" He asked as he drew closer.


"Giles said you were staying."

"I am, but I'm not officially on 'Buffy's gone and everyone with half a brain has tried and failed so let's use Faith as a last resort to save the world' duty until tomorrow morning," she said with a smug smile.

"And now?" The vampire asked.

She raised the battle axe, "Now, I feel like killing something." Faith took a step to walk around Angel but he grabbed her by the arm.

"Not alone you're not."

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me," he said, still holding onto her.

"Why don't you go and baby sit the Brady Bunch inside...I'm a big girl...I can take care of myself." She tried to take another step but Angel would not let go.

"Faith, this town is not like it used to be. Trust me. We've been fighting for so long I forget how it was," he said.

"How it was when B was the potentate?" She raised an eyebrow.

"Big word," he said.

"I had a lot of time on my hands, picked up a few things inside," she said.

"I'm not trying to pull rank or insult you or anything like that. The fact is we need you. Alive," he said. He let his grip go and looked her in the eye. "Come back inside. Shower. Sleep. Tomorrow you get a brand new life. This is your town, now. Remember that." Angel nodded toward the house.

Faith looked off into the distance as another feint cry for help came floating in on a breeze. Deep inside she knew she couldn't help anyone. Not tonight. Not alone. She sighed and turned around to follow Angel back into the house. "I'm killing something tomorrow."

"I know," he said.



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