Chapter Three: Mistakes and Second Chances
Faith realized what she was doing and pulled herself together as she turned away from him. She wiped her eyes letting out an embarrassed laugh.
“God, look at me! What a mess, huh?” She turned back towards him, but couldn’t quite meet his eyes. “Sorry about crying all over you; I don’t know what got into me.” Angel crossed his arms while he looked at her.
“It’s alright. You obviously needed that.”
“Yeah, well. I haven’t had anyone to talk to about all this. They all…well, I didn’t have anyone.” She shrugged, staring at the floor, her thoughts focused inward. He was curious about what had caused her such sadness. Moving closer, he asked quietly,
“What happened to everyone?” Her eyes flew to his as she looked up, unaware of the bleakness that filled her face. She shook her head wordlessly, her eyes just a little wild.
“I can’t…” She stepped back blindly and stumbled slightly. Angel reached out and steadied her.
“It’s okay; you don’t have to tell me now. Whenever you’re ready.” He sought some reassurance that she was alright, but her face was still deathly pale. She was surprised when he pulled her back into his arms. She let him hold her, sinking into the embrace. He was big and solid, a wall between her and the pain. She clung to him like a child and, for the first time in longer than she cared to remember, she felt safe. She knew she should move away from him, but she couldn’t bring herself to give up the momentary peace she felt with him. As she continued to snuggle against Angel, her awareness of him grew and her body filled with a familiar tension. She abruptly pulled herself from his arms and quickly stepped back away from him. He watched her intently and she was worried that he knew what she had been feeling. She brushed past him and headed into the hall feeling flustered.
“I should really go into town. I need to get some stuff and you need more blood and I have…things to do.” She tidied up the mess on the table and grabbed a bottle of water, taking a big drink as she headed for the door.
“Things, huh? Sounds important,” Angel joked. “You need to do these ‘things’ right now? I thought we were going to talk.” She glanced at him and then turned quickly away.
“We did talk and then I acted like a big baby and now I need to go. We can talk more later.” And before he could say anything else she was gone. She took a deep breath as she closed the door behind her. I am such a freak, she thought angrily as she ran her hands over her face. She sank back against the door for a moment before stiffening her spine and heading off towards town. She was confused and embarrassed and she needed time to figure out what her problem was. If she had glanced back towards the mansion, she would have seen Angel watching her, but instead she kept her eyes focused on the street ahead of her. She worried about these emotions he stirred; they confused her. She supposed after being on her own for most of this past year it was only normal that she would feel a connection with the first person she spent some time with, especially when he was the only person and they were all alone together. It didn’t have to mean she had feelings for him; she just enjoyed the companionship. And that hug meant nothing; she would have reacted like that with anyone. She shook her head. Who the hell was she trying to kid? Companionship? Yeah, all that silence and brooding were real companionable. Angel made her feel safe and she hadn’t felt safe with anyone, ever. Her relationship with Spike had been too turbulent for there to be complete security, and her friends had provided many things but safety never really factored into the equation. So why did Angel bring it out? It didn’t figure and it was starting to bug her so she decided to focus on something else. She glanced up just as she bumped into someone coming the other way.
“Oh, jeez! Sorry, I wasn’t watching-”
“It’s quite alright. I was distracted as well so- Faith?” Her eyes widened and her breath caught in her throat.
“What are you- I thought you were-” he stuttered briefly and then a puzzled look crossed his face. “You look…different. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s definitely something…” She interrupted him quickly,
“Yeah, yeah it’s my hair. I did something…new, you know, trying stuff out. Whatever.”
“Maybe,” he said uncertainly before shaking his head slightly. “I thought you were meeting Willow?”
“Oh, yeah, I’m heading there now. So I, uh, better get going.” She moved past him awkwardly. “Don’t want to be late.”
“Right. I’ll see you later then,” he smiled and had turned to go when Faith touched his arm.
“Yes, Faith?” She looked at him for a moment her eyes watery then launched herself at him, her arms going tightly around his neck and said tremulously,
“It’s so good to see you.” Then she released him abruptly and rushed off, tears streaming down her face, leaving Giles to stare after her in confusion over the unexpected emotion. Faith was mentally kicking herself. She couldn’t believe she had let herself get caught off guard like that and, even though she was beyond happy to see Giles, she should never have given in to her emotions that way. The Faith that Giles knew in this time would never act like that towards anyone, and he was bound to be suspicious. If he brought it up to her and she denied it…the Scooby gang wasn’t stupid; they would know something wasn’t right. She needed to straighten up and get back in the game. She was here for a reason; she had better start acting like it and pay attention instead of moping around in a daze.
She had rushed out of the mansion because she couldn’t deal with her emotions, but she hadn’t lied to Angel; she did have things she needed to do. With all the silence between her and Angel, she had run through her magazines much faster than normal. She needed something to keep her entertained and she should pick up some blood for Angel. Once he was all better he could attempt to reintegrate into the Scooby gang. Now that he was back to himself, he would be able to explain his newly re-souled state; if they had seen him when he first came back he wouldn’t have stood a chance.
She ducked into a store and picked through their magazine and book selection. They had some good mags, but their books were mostly romances. Romance, she laughed bitterly. She’d love to have a relationship where the only stumbling block was some misunderstanding or disapproving parents. Instead, she got death and vampires and moral middle ground. The heroines in those books wouldn’t have a clue how to handle someone like Spike. Or Angel. Dammit! She thought as she slapped a book back on the shelf. She needed to stop thinking about him. Okay, she thought. Think about Spike. Think about all the reasons you were attracted to him. Think about how much you loved him. She felt a smile slip into place. Spike had been one of a kind, a true original. Thinking about their life together helped her focus. Angel was merely part of her mission. So he was attractive, so what? A lot of guys were attractive. So she had an itch, didn’t mean she had to scratch it. She’d deal and move on; it was what she did best.
She continued to scan the reading material until the local paper caught her eye. One of the headlines caused a faint memory to stir, but she couldn’t quite bring it into focus so she put the paper on top of the other stuff she had picked. She decided she’d had enough of the silence at the mansion and headed for electronics. She got a small radio and some CDs, hoping Angel wouldn’t mind if she made some noise. There was only so long you could spend immersed in your own thoughts before you went crazy, and she felt she had long since passed the mark. She figured that Angel could probably benefit from some mindless entertainment himself, but when she tried to imagine him dancing to some of her music she had to smile.
After she paid for her stuff she went to the butcher to get some blood for Angel and then headed home, making sure to keep out of sight. She didn’t want another incident like the run-in with Giles. She noted the waning daylight with surprise and hurried back to the mansion; she’d spent a lot longer in the store than she’d thought. She paused to collect herself before she burst through the door and called out for Angel, injecting a lightness she was far from feeling into her voice,
“Honey, I’m home! And I brought dinner.” He ambled in while she was setting up the radio and smiled slightly.
“What’s all this?” She handed him the blood and watched as he took a drink.
“All this quiet reflection is making me twitchy. Figured a little music might take my mind off…stuff. Besides, you’ve probably just been itchin’ to do a little dancin’.” Angel gave her one of his inscrutable looks before saying firmly,
“I don’t dance.” Faith smiled impishly.
“Yeah, we’ll see.” She hit play and a loud pounding rhythm filled the room. Faith felt the music slide through her and everything drifted away as she moved to the beat. Lost in her own little world, she continued to dance around as she put things away, completely oblivious of Angel’s thoughtful gaze. She pulled out the paper that had caught her eye, spreading it out for easy reading as she continued to move and sway to the music. She looked up, noticed Angel watching her, and gave him a sincerely happy smile, saying loudly, “Isn’t this great? No thinking involved just rhythm and movement.” Angel nodded but remained silent. She turned away and rolled her eyes; jeez, the guy really needed to learn how to loosen up. She scanned the paper, finding the headline that had tugged at her memory, and read the whole article; it was a follow-up to a story from the week before about some babies that had disappeared from the hospital. Her eyes widened and her gaze flew to the date at the top of the page. Suddenly the incident blazed into her mind with full-blown clarity, and she spun around to the radio. The room was plunged into silence as Faith brought her hands to her face and mumbled forlornly, “Shit!”
“What? What’s wrong?” Angel pushed away from the wall where he’d been leaning.
“It’s tonight. It happens tonight! How could I have been so stupid? How could I have let myself get so distracted that I didn’t remember it was tonight?”
“What? What happens?” Angel turned her to look at him, worry etched in his face. Her expression became a mixture of bitterness and sorrow as she whispered,
Officially, Giles was still Buffy’s Watcher. The Council made their decision clear- Faith needed her own Watcher and they would send their choice as soon as possible. So no one suspected that anything was amiss when Gwendolyn Post showed up claiming to be said Watcher. Faith, however, was less than enthusiastic. She liked Giles and she didn’t want some power hungry chick ordering her around as if she knew what it took to be a Slayer. Faith was surprised to find herself responding to the new Watcher’s style and ideas. It was all very short-lived, however. Turned out Gwendolyn’s motives weren’t so pure.
Faith was supposed to find this magic glove and keep some demon from getting his grubby hands on it, but once Giles had gotten it, her new Watcher’s true intentions had been revealed. Gwendolyn intended to use the glove herself. In the ensuing fight Giles had been hurt pretty severely, and wound up in the hospital. Faith had managed to stop Gwendolyn and destroy the glove, but Giles had been blinded.
“He had a rough time of it for awhile.” Faith looked up at Angel sadly. “Do you know what that must have been like for him? His whole life was books and observation; he was a Watcher, for God’s sake! And suddenly it was all taken from him.” She shook her head, but soon a look of admiration crossed her face. “He didn’t let it hold him back, though. He worked hard to overcome that obstacle; he was so courageous. Giles is one of the only people I’ve actually looked up to in my life, and he never disappointed me or let me down. He was one in a million.”
“Was?” Angel asked, and Faith’s expression grew remote as she turned away.
“He- He’s dead. They’re all dead.” She was silent for a moment, and Angel reached out to her. Still turned away and unaware of his attempt at comfort, Faith moved suddenly and Angel dropped his arm back to his side. “The fight is tonight. Giles loses his sight tonight. I’ve got to do something; I’ve got to stop her, keep her from hurting him.”
“They’ll see you if you go.”
“I can’t just stay here and do nothing!” Angel shook his head.
“I wasn’t suggesting we do nothing; I’ll go. We both knew I’d have to face them eventually; it’ll just have to be a little sooner than we thought.”
“No, Angel, you’re still healing; you’re not ready. What if you had to fight? Maybe we could both go. We save Giles without letting him see me, and you get all the credit.”
“It’s perfect! You’ll be a big hero; everyone will welcome you back with open arms. Viola, you’re back in the group!”
“You think that’ll work?”
“Only one way to find out, but we have to hurry.” She quickly grabbed a couple things. “It’s almost time.”
They walked in silence, keeping to the shadows so as not to be seen. Faith was nervous; she had always felt bad that she wasn’t able to prevent the injury that caused Giles to go blind. Now she had a second chance and because of her own stupidity they might not make it in time. What was wrong with her? She’d come here to change things, but she seemed to be doing a lousy job of it. She was pulled out of her thoughts when Angel told her,
“Don’t beat yourself up about it. All this stuff happened a long time ago for you; it’s only natural that it would be hard to keep track of everything. You’re doing your best; that’s what really matters.”
“Aw, come on, self-flagellation is what I do best!” She glanced up at him then quickly looked back at the ground. “But thanks.”
“No problem, I’m cursed with a similar affliction myself.” Faith smiled.
“You know, you’re kinda funny.”
“Yeah, I’ve been considering a career in stand-up,” Angel deadpanned causing Faith to laugh out loud. He studied her intently for a moment. “You should do that more often.”
“I wasn’t sure I remembered how.” Her voice was wistful, but he was happy to see that her smile stayed in place.
“So, where we headed?”
“Restfield Cemetery. Giles went after the glove on his own. He told me he had just found it when the psycho bitch attacked.” She shook her head in frustration. “He should have waited.” Angel stopped in his tracks.
“Wait. The Glove of Myhnegon?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“Heard of it.” He started walking again. “What’s the plan?”
“Well, I got there after the action had already started, but Giles told me…let me think; it’s hard to remember the details. She hit him from behind and when he came to she had already put on the glove. She was…trying to kill him, and he ducked behind one of those statue-looking things. She shot some sort of lightning bolt at him and part of the statue just…exploded. The doctor said some sort of debris had lodged in his eyes; surgery was too risky. She was about to fire again when I showed up. We fought; I won. Giles was blinded for life.” She had thought about it a million times; if she’d only gotten there a few minutes sooner… “Once he goes behind that statue, I’ll distract Post and you get Giles the hell out of there. I’ll duck out of sight, the other me will show up, and we’re golden!”
“What if you see yourself? And won’t this Watcher lady wonder why there are two Faiths?”
“Well, Gwendolyn won’t be saying much after she’s dead, and the problem of the other Faith…well, that’s why I brought this.” She pulled her hair up under a plain black, knit hat, which she tugged low on her head. She looked up and smiled at Angel as she also pulled the hood up on her sweatshirt. “It’s dark and if she does catch a glimpse of me it’ll only be from the back. There’s no way she’ll know it’s me; she’ll just assume I’m some stray civilian caught in the crossfire.”
“Alright. As plans go, it’s fairly solid. What about Giles and the others; do you really think they’ll welcome me back?” Faith paused to consider before replying,
“Well, ‘welcome’ might be a little strong of a word. Xander will not be happy, I’ll be suspicious, and the others will be very wary. But saving Giles will be a big plus and you can explain about your soul. Tell them you understand if they don’t want you around, but that you’ll help them if they ever need it. They’re big on discussion; they’ll talk it over and eventually they’ll accept you.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, but I know them. That’s what they’ll do; that’s who they are.” She looked up and they were at the cemetery. “Showtime.”
They snuck in and found the spot where the fight would take place. Faith didn’t see anyone and figured Giles was still in the crypt getting the glove. She glanced at her watch, anytime now all hell would break loose. Angel gave her a questioning look and she leaned over to explain, but at that second she heard a noise from inside the crypt and she saw Gwendolyn Post creeping through the graveyard. She motioned Angel back out of sight. After the Watcher had passed he leaned down and whispered to Faith,
“Maybe I should get him out of here as soon as she knocks him out.”
“No, I already thought of that.” Faith started to turn toward him but thought better of it and kept her eyes on the crypt. “I thought about stopping her before she knocks him out or before she puts on the glove, but it won’t work. I can’t let Giles see me and if you try to stop her before she puts on the glove it will look like your attacking a defenseless woman; Giles will think you’re still evil. And once the glove is on she could be too much for you to handle. No, Giles has to see that she is the bad guy and that you are saving him.” Angel nodded in agreement and they watched as the scene unfolded. Giles came out of the crypt and Faith barely kept herself from calling out as Gwendolyn snuck up behind him. She gripped Angel’s arm as Giles fell to the ground, her grip tightening as the bitch unwrapped the glove and put it on. As Gwendolyn went through the little activation ritual Faith nodded for Angel to head over and get ready. Giles woke up and the chase began. He dodged behind the statue and as Gwendolyn took aim, Faith ran in low and tackled her. Angel made his move and pulled Giles to safety while Faith jumped back and tried to stay out of Miss Evil’s way. She glanced at her watch and smiled as she took off running; she ducked behind a mausoleum just in time to see the other her show up and take the bitch down. All in all a smooth piece of work, and the look on Post’s face upon seeing the second Faith - priceless.
She watched as Giles and Angel came out to meet the other Faith. Past Faith looked Angel up and down suspiciously.
“Who the hell is this?” Giles looked stunned as he turned to reply,
“‘Angel’ Angel? Buffy’s Angel?” Faith demanded, her voice rising angrily. “I thought he was dead.”
“Apparently he’s back,” Giles said, halting Faith when she would’ve attacked. “He just saved my life, Faith. I think maybe…under the circumstances, I think we should call the others before we…decide how to proceed.”
Faith couldn’t hear what else the three of them said as they moved further away; she hoped she hadn’t sent Angel to his death. Her past self looked ready for battle and Giles seemed oddly unsure of himself, but if she knew the gang the way she thought she did it wouldn’t be long before Angel returned safely home. She continued to watch them and suddenly Angel turned and caught her eye. She lifted her hand in a slight wave so that he knew she saw him and he nodded and turned away. Faith headed back to the mansion feeling alone and hoping Angel would be okay.