Chapter Two: Sufferance
They sat at the table staring at each other for a long time, sizing each other up. He was a lot bigger than she remembered all broad shouldered and tall. It was a little intimidating facing that stare of his. Dark and penetrating, he didn’t even blink as he watched her impassively. She found herself feeling the familiar pull of attraction; it was slight but it was there and she pushed it angrily from her mind. She belonged to someone else and Angel belonged to Buffy; she had no right to feel even a hint of…anything towards him. She ducked her head to look at the table where she was twisting her hands nervously. She knew she should begin the explanations, but her mouth had gone dry and she was finding it difficult to speak. She wished Angel would say something to break the tension, but he was probably waiting for her to go first. She glanced up to find him looking a little frightened and wary, and realized he was just as unsure as she was.
“I, uh, suppose you’re waiting for an explanation,” she began haltingly. He just looked at her silently so she continued, “The first thing I should tell you is that my name is Faith and I’m a Slayer. I was called when Kendra was…when Kendra died. But I’m not supposed to be here.” She took a deep breath. “I’m from the future.” His eyes widened fractionally, but still he said nothing. “I made a lot of mistakes since I was called and a lot of them had a horrible effect on the future. I was given the opportunity to…change some things, and so…here I am.” She waited for a response, but he just continued to stare. She was confused; she knew he could speak. Was he like a moron or something? She started to get really nervous again, and then he leaned forward and said,
“But why are you taking care of me?” She met his eyes again and reached out for his hand. He allowed her to touch him, but he had an odd look on his face.
“The first mistake I made was here in Sunnydale. I killed you. I didn’t know that you had your soul; I just knew the story of what you had done and that you were like a vicious animal when Willow and I ran into you. I found out later that you might have been instrumental in stopping…” she paused and looked away, “something that should never have happened.” As she watched, a shadow crossed his face and she knew instinctively what his thoughts had turned to. He pulled his hand back slightly before asking,
“What happened to Buffy?”
“She left town after…everything and she hasn’t come back yet.”
“But she does come back eventually?” Faith leaned back with a sigh and told him the story.
She had been fighting the fight, starting to trust the new friends she had made; she’d even helped stop an apocalypse. There had been some trouble in paradise for the two couples of the group. She wasn’t too clear on the details, but Xander and Cordelia had split for good and Willow and Oz managed to work through it after some time apart. They had just found out that the mayor was up to no good when Buffy came back. Faith hadn’t exactly liked her; she was an uppity bitch but great in a fight. When she came back it was like everyone forgot Faith for awhile, and she had been hurt and confused. She’d been here all along helping them, working with them while Buffy had deserted them without explanation, but as soon as their golden girl came back they ran to her with open arms! Faith had made a decision to go undercover and work with the mayor, mostly to find out how to stop him but also to prove her worth to the other. It had almost backfired.
The mayor treated her with respect, he made her feel special. Up to that point in her life she had never had that. Buffy’s friends had made her feel welcome and accepted for a time, but their rejection, or what she perceived to be rejection, of her in favor of their “real” friend had stung and she wasn’t sure she trusted them. As she spent more and more time with the mayor she grew to love him like a father and she found herself torn between her Slayer duties and her feelings for a man she knew to be evil. In the end she had done the right thing and fought alongside Buffy against the mayor. They had defeated him, but Buffy had died that day. It had been a sad time for everyone and Faith had felt particularly guilty because of her ambiguous feelings toward the mayor.
She had always wondered if a small part of her hadn’t been in the fight, and if that was what had gotten Buffy killed. But there was no way to ever know for certain, and she’d lived with that uncertainty every day of her life since then. She looked up to find Angel watching her sadly.
“It’s not the main reason I saved you, but maybe you could change the outcome of that day,” she said trying to erase the sadness from his eyes. “She’s the one that told us about your soul. About how the spell worked before she…well, you know.” She was quiet for a moment before saying, “I think on some level she never forgave me for killing you.” She was getting fidgety again; she wasn’t used to being around someone so silent and brooding. She was more familiar with verbal sparring and a smartass attitude, things that she had grown to love over the course of a few short years. She wished she would stop thinking about him. All it did was cause her pain and distract her from her mission, but then he’d always accused her of being too hard, too caught up in the job. That was one of the many things they had fought about the night she’d left and she wished with all her heart that she had just given into his demands for once rather than being so stubborn. Things might have been so different…
“Are you alright?” Angel asked quietly and her eyes snapped up to his as she was jerked from her reverie.
“Uh, yeah, fine. Just got sorta lost inside my head there for a minute.” She ran her hands roughly through her hair as she tried to slip back into her take charge persona, but she felt more like a fragile child and she hated it.
“How far back did you come?” Angel wanted to know.
“Five years? No, six; I’m from ’04.” She looked at Angel for a long time, but she couldn’t tell what he was thinking. “So. Any questions? Comments? I can’t take much more of this whole…inscrutable thing you got going on.” She was surprised to see the smallest hint of a smile drift briefly across his face.
“It’s a lot to take in. I’m still in pain from my little…vacation and then I find a stranger from the future is taking care of me. A stranger who, apparently, has saved me from being killed by herself. I’m still working through all the details in my mind so forgive me if I’m not feeling real chatty.” He didn’t sound angry, but Faith felt the bite of his words nonetheless. She stood up and shoved her chair under the table.
“Look, I didn’t mean you should be jumping for joy and treating me like your new best friend. I’m just not good at figuring people out in the first place and you…you’re just completely unreadable.” She strode toward the door and after she had left he said softly,
“You’re not so…“readable” yourself.”
The next several days were odd; they both kept mostly to themselves. She still brought him blood and sometimes when he had nightmares she would watch over him as he slept, but she was pretty sure he didn’t know about that and the rest of the time they barely spoke. It was weird; she was basically living with this guy, but the mansion remained as silent as when she had been alone. But she didn’t feel alone. His presence was unmistakable; she could feel him moving around the place even when she couldn’t see him. She felt herself being drawn to him and she resisted the feeling desperately. He wasn’t for her. God! He wasn’t even her type. She considered him an enigma and she had never been a fan of mysterious guys, or mysterious people in general. She preferred things up front and out in the open which is probably why she had liked Anya so much.
Because of the debacle between Xander and Cordelia, Anya came to town as a vengeance demon named Anyanka. She lost her powers somehow and was forced to remain in human form. She had a crush on Xander for awhile, but after graduation he and Cordy got back together so she was out of luck in that department.
Faith ran into her a few times and they struck up a tentative friendship. She liked that Anya said whatever was on her mind. No subterfuge, no mind games, just a forthright manner and a quirky sense of humor. Anya was always there for her, no matter what the problem was and she was one of the few people that Faith truly cared about.
Anya had developed quite an affection for Giles, as did most people who knew him, and Faith had urged her to pursue the relationship. They had gotten married the year before everything had gone horribly wrong. They had been a stabilizing force in her life and she missed them fiercely. The thought of them still caused an unbearable ache of loss in her heart.
She wondered what Angel did all day…or night or whatever; he was probably thinking about Buffy and all the ways he could save her. She realized that her thoughts were a tad on the bitter side and smiled to herself. All these years and she was still envious of Buffy. Faith knew it was ridiculous; she’d had good friends, a loving relationship, and she’d saved the world more than once yet whenever she thought of Buffy that old rivalry she’d always felt crept to the surface. It was childish and she thought she had long since gotten over it. Apparently she’d been wrong.
She knew she should talk to him, but he made her wicked nervous. Not that she was afraid of an attack or anything there was just something about him that put her nerves on high alert. She decided to find him and see if he was okay, but when she turned to go he was standing right behind her so she bumped into him and let out a shriek. He winced slightly and she realized she’d probably hurt him.
“Oh my god! Are you alright? I didn’t know you were there; I must really be off my game not to sense a vampire lurking right behind me. Not that you were lurking; I’m sure you just came to-,” she stopped talking, pressing her lips together tightly, as she realized she was babbling like an idiot. Angel smiled slightly.
“I just came to see how you were doing. We haven’t talked in a few days, and you seem a little tense. If you need to talk or whatever, you know…I’m here.” She stared at him in surprise. He thought she needed to talk? He was the one being all dark and brooding with his king of pain act. He watched her expectantly, but when she remained silent he shrugged and turned to leave. She grabbed his arm to halt him.
“No, no, wait! I do want to talk; I was just about to come find you and see how you were doing.” She dropped his arm abruptly. “I mean…you’re the one who just got back from, you know, hell. I haven’t been talking to you because I thought you wanted to be left alone.” She cringed inwardly at how insipid she sounded.
“You don’t have to be nervous around me. I don’t bite. Well, I haven’t recently anyway.” He smiled and she laughed, caught off guard. She hadn’t expected him to have a sense of humor.
“You can tell I’m nervous, huh? I guess it is pretty obvious. I’m just not used to this.”
“Living with a vampire?”
“That I’ve done. No, I’m not used to this whole situation, the time-travel-change-the-shape-of-my-world situation, and dealing with you, who I can’t even begin to figure out.”
“What’s to figure out? And did you just say you had lived with a vampire before?” Angel asked in surprise.
“There’s a lot about you to figure out; I never know what you’re thinking or feeling. I’m used to people who express themselves a little more freely than you do. And yes, you heard me right about living with a vampire.”
“Why did you live with a vampire?”
“We were in love,” she said simply. Angel face clouded with disbelief.
“A vampire? You were in love with a vampire?”
“Yep, and he was in love with me.”
“I’m having a hard time believing that.” Faith looked at him, stung by the insult.
“You don’t think someone could love me?”
“That’s not- No! I mean, I’m sure you’re very…loveable; I just meant how did he love you with no soul?”
“With white hot intensity and a fiery passion,” she said with a dreamy smile as her mind drifted back…
At the end of the year Giles had become concerned about some masked commandos that kept popping up, but they had just about hit a dead end when Spike showed up. He’d been captured by the commando guys and escaped, but they’d stuck a chip in his head so he wasn’t able to feed. He offered to give her and Giles information in exchange for blood. She had wanted to stake him right off, but Giles had convinced her that the vamp could be useful in discovering what the soldiers were up to.
At first Faith had found him annoying, but she began to enjoy their verbal sparring and appreciate his sharp wit. Giles was disapproving of the time they spent together, but Faith didn’t like being told what to do and only hung around with him even more. She found him very attractive and apparently it was mutual because it wasn’t long before they’d become lovers. It started out as a meaningless fling, but over time she found herself caring about him and it scared her.
They were facing a new threat that apparently escaped from the commando’s lab. It was some freakish creation that called itself Adam and it was killing people all over town. When Adam approached Spike about an alliance, Spike had pretended to go along with him and then warned Faith about what Adam was planning. She hadn’t understood why he’d helped her, but he claimed he didn’t want to see her hurt, that he had feelings for her. She, of course, didn’t trust him at all. She had a hard enough time trusting human men, and they supposedly had souls and consciences. How was she supposed to trust a vampire? Of course Spike proved his loyalty by being instrumental in destroying Adam and he and Faith embarked on a relationship that no one, except possibly Anya, approved of. She ignored everyone’s warnings and enjoyed the connection she shared with Spike. They were both damaged warriors with a lot of issues, but it was probably the first time she’d been completely open with someone and it was liberating. They never hid their feelings; they were brutally honest with each other. They didn’t always get along, in fact sometimes they fought for days, but they always made up and she loved him fiercely.
Their fights became more intense and more often as time wore on. He accused her of shutting him out and focusing only on her duties. He begged her one night to stay with him instead of going on patrol; he wanted them to talk to work things out. She accused him of not loving her, of using her. She said he just didn’t want her killing his kind. She’d watched the hurt crawl across his face at her hateful words and then she’d walked out.
“He was right about me,” Faith said sadly. “I’d always been so open with him, but towards the end…I just shut down. I…had lost people that I cared about, and I think, maybe, I was trying to protect myself from being hurt.” She looked up at Angel. “It didn’t help though; it just made it worse. He was killed that night and I never got to tell him I was sorry. I don’t even know if he knew how much I loved him.” She broke down and Angel held her, too shocked too say anything.