Title: Nocturnal Reveries
Summary: Following the events of the season finale, this fiction supposes a possible continuation. Spoilers for those of you who haven't seen season seven; don't even read this summary! The Scoobies continue their fight against evil as Giles and Willow attempt to rebuild the Watcher's Council. Buffy has dropped out of sight (for the time being), taking Dawn with her to try and reconcile with their father. This fiction is about Faith and her continuing quest to redeem herself. You're probably wondering how I can possibly have Spike paired with her. You'll find out. One final note: I am not anti-Spuffy. I'm not against any 'ship, actually, as long as the story is good. But there is no Spuffy here. So don't write me any hate mail about it, because you've been warned well in advance.
Disclaimers: The characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and Fox Studios. I'm just borrowing them. No harm, no foul.
Staring out across the gleaming lights of the city, Faith pressed her cupped fingers against her lips to take a drag off her cigarette. The smoke burned an acrid path to her lungs, warming her from the inside. She wasn't going to warm up any other way out here—it wasn't even September yet but the nights dropped down to forty degrees or less when the skies were clear. According to the baby-faced dweeb who did the local weather in these parts that was unseasonably cold, even for North Dakota.
As the brisk wind died down and the balcony she stood upon fell into a peaceful quiet, Faith was able to hear the murmured conversation going on in the motel room behind her. At some point during her smoke someone had nearly closed the sliding door in an attempt to ward off the smell. It had probably been Willow—she seemed like the type to be a little hysterical about second hand smoke. But even through the thick layer of glass between her and the group, Faith caught snippets of what they were saying. Heightened hearing was a part of the Slayer package, although the trait didn't exactly get much recognition, what with the strength and sheer killing power to overshadow it.
"…close call," Giles was saying. "It may be time…on her way."
Faith frowned and shook her head. Stubbing the cigarette butt against the metal railing, she flicked it out into the darkness. Three months and they were all fired up to cut the cord. Somehow it didn't surprise her.
Today had been a close call. While they attempted to make contact with a ten-year-old Slayer named Charlotte Banks, a patrol car drove past the little girl's softball field. Faith had been busy holding the kid off after she nearly took out Wood's knee with a killer kick. At least the whole "Stranger Danger" campaign had done the trick—one look at the group of adults crowding around her and Charlotte's instincts took over. Without Faith around she would have beat the shit out of Robin and moved on to Giles before Willow even had the chance to open her mouth with a defensive chant.
During the melee the cops driving by took a closer look, and one of them recognized Faith. She supposed her mug shot was plastered across the nation's police stations. A murderer was one thing, but the shield didn't take kindly to a gal busting her way out of prison and making them look like a bunch of buffoons. Since she was sure her record suggested that she'd be armed and dangerous, she had a good chance of getting shot before she was ever dragged back to prison.
"…can't abandon her," Willow said, and Faith smiled wryly. Leave it to Red to back her up when the boys were ready to dump her ass at the nearest train station.
Faith turned away from her view of the factory with its squat smokestacks pumping toxic black smoke into the night sky. Grabbing the handle of the sliding door, she wrenched it open and stepped into the threshold. Faith put her hands on her hips and stared at each of the faces that turned guiltily toward her.
"So that's it?" she asked them. "We're done now?"
Giles, seated at the deeply scarred table crammed into one corner of the small room, merely removed his glasses and began to methodically clean them with the handkerchief he kept in the pocket of his khakis. Faith shook her head at him and turned her attention to Robin. The tall man leaned against the wall on the opposite side of the room. Staring down at the thin carpeting, he refused to acknowledge her questions.
Only Willow was able to meet her gaze. She sat on the end of Faith's unmade bed, her legs primly folded beneath her. The witch had probably suffered the most during their travels that summer. While they often headed back to their impromptu headquarters in Cleveland, she'd spent many weeks without the company of her girlfriend. Since the relationship was still pretty new, Faith knew Willow had to have all kinds of itches that weren't getting scratched.
She shook her head. It was time to focus. After three years in prison with only her mind to keep her occupied, her thoughts had a way of spinning off onto strange tangents when she didn't keep them under rein.
"I'm a hazard to the operation," Faith said to Willow.
At that comment, Willow winced and glanced down at the brown coverlet beneath her. "I think if we're more careful about your exposure, we can avoid this in the future," she began.
Giles stood abruptly. "Keeping you safe would require a certain degree of vigilance that we cannot spare," he told Faith. "Our endeavors now are a hundred times more difficult than they were for the original Council. We have to track and find Slayers across the world, somehow manage them so that they do not cause harm to themselves or others, and all the while without a proper staff of Watchers."
"I get it, Giles," Faith said. "But I don't need you to protect me. I'm the one that got my ass out of a sling this afternoon. Fact is, none of you were in any shape to do a damned thing about those cops. Wood over here spent the rest of the day icing his knee. What are you going to do the next time you're attacked by a renegade Slayer, huh?"
Giles only frowned at her mocking grin. "This is serious, Faith," he murmured. "Frankly, I believe that you endanger all of us with your presence."
Faith continued to smile at him, but a familiar weight settled around her heart at his words. For an instant she flashed back to her time in Sunnydale. She'd always been on the outs with the group, and at the time it was easy to blame their lack of loyalty on the sparkly blonde who always seemed to dazzle everyone around her. But Buffy was gone now—she was out of the biz for good, or so she claimed. Yet here Faith stood in the exact same spot, cut off and cast aside like she was trash. A girl could start to believe she really wasn't worth a damned thing after a few years of this treatment.
"You know what, that's fine," Faith acquiesced. "I can get out of your hair tonight."
"That's not what he's saying, Faith," Wood interjected, stepping away from the supportive wall. He was still limping slightly. The joys of being a regular human being.
Spreading her hands open in front of her, Faith snapped, "What the hell is he saying, then? I think 'you endanger all of us' is pretty damned clear. Now if you all don't mind giving me some privacy, I'll just get packed. Unless you'd rather pass me off to the good old boys down at the precinct."
"No," Willow said, jumping up from the bed. "We don't want you to get caught. That's why we're worried about you. You have extenuating circumstances that the police wouldn't understand…"
Faith laughed, shaking her head. At Willow's quizzical expression, she said, "All the crap that went down these past five months doesn't change the past, Will. I've killed people. Innocent human beings who didn't do anything to deserve it. B. never even came close to that kind of darkness."
"I did," Willow whispered. Giles turned away from her, a pained expression on his face. "I told you about Warren…what I did to him. You want to start swapping stories, let's go right now."
"Yeah well, you're not getting kicked out," Faith muttered. "Now are you going to get out of here or do I have to leave all my shit behind?"
"Where will you go?" Wood asked. Startled, Faith could only stare at him wordlessly. "I'm only asking because while this is a very dramatic exit and everything, I don't think you've really thought this through. What are your plans?"
Faith furrowed her brow. "Hell if I know," she admitted. "But that's nothing new to me."
She didn't really have that much, so her secondhand army duffel bag was filled in a matter of minutes. For some reason Willow insisted on staying behind even though the guys had gone off to their rooms. Faith drew the line at letting her help with the packing…that was just a little too much of a slap in the face, even for her.
"It's not so bad," Faith said when she caught the look on Willow's face. "Buffy's already jumped ship, you know? And you guys have a lot of resources and people on your side. You're better off than you were the first time I was taken out of commission. At least this time I'm conscious."
Willow didn't so much as crack a smile at the joke. Faith sighed. Stepping closer to the red-haired woman, she murmured, "Look, if you're so worried about me going off on my own, why don't you hook me up with some funds, you know? For cigs?"
Expecting a serious comment by the way Faith had stepped forward, Willow was shocked by the appeal for money. She burst out laughing, and Faith relaxed for the first time since leaving the balcony. "You're terrible," Willow sputtered, covering her face with her hand.
When Faith realized she was crying, she uncomfortably took a step back. "What's the deal?" she asked. "Six months ago you didn't even like me."
Still hiding her face in her hands, Willow shook her head. "Everyone is leaving," she cried. Quickly composing herself, she said, "Sorry. I'm sorry. Emotional outburst complete."
Faith frowned. "Good," she said. "Look, it's not like I'm never going to see you guys again. I just need to lay low, get a feeling for the sitch. Giles is right. It's better if I do this on my own."
Feeling awkward, Faith patted Willow on the shoulder. "Yeah, so…I'm gonna head."
As Faith reached the door, Willow called out behind her, "Wait!"
Sighing inaudibly, Faith turned in time to spot a wad of green flying in her direction. "For cigs," Willow explained.
Glancing down at the crumpled twenties in her hand, Faith snorted. "You know, you're all right, Red," she said.
"It's probably safer if you stick to darkness," Willow advised. "Less possibility of being spotted…well, I'm sure you know more about this than I do."
Faith nodded. "I'm like a vamp," she promised, pumping her fist into the air. Slinging the duffel bag over her shoulder, she stuffed the money into the pocket of her jeans and hurried out into the hallway before Willow had the opportunity to stop her again.
She paused just outside the closed door of room 213, where Wood was staying. Their strange little thing hadn't really been much, not after his implication that she wasn't very good in the sack. Even though they fooled around a few more times later on, that had mostly been due to the fact that he'd almost been skewered and was feeling less than manly. Shrugging to herself, Faith realized that while she counted him as a friend, her personal feelings for him didn't extend that far after all. She didn't even feel a little twinge about leaving him behind. And here she thought she'd matured since the big house.
Faith moved on, not even glancing toward the door of Giles's room. Reaching the stairs, she quickly hurried down toward the parking lot and made her way toward the empty street. At this time of night she wasn't likely to meet many suspicious gazes. She'd put in her time before dawn and then find someplace to crash. For the first time since breaking out of prison, she actually felt a little hopeful about her prospects.
"You're still a little insane, Faith," she murmured to herself as she glanced up and down the street before crossing.
To be continued...