Author’s Note: Okay, for the purposes of this story Willow did resoul Angel, just not the way she did it on the show. Events in this story start immediately before Dirty Girls. Faith is arriving in Sunnydale with Willow, but we’re going to ignore all that Caleb stuff. You know, because I can. ;)
After she fires the crossbow all hell breaks loose. He rushes to where the humans are all locked up, caged like animals. One of the Master’s minions tries to stop him; he gets a hard right to the face for his trouble before Angel shoves him aside. Once the cage is opened, the humans rush by him, most of them eagerly joining in the fight. He turns to check on the Slayer. Xander is preparing to attack, but she doesn’t even notice; she’s too busy fighting another vampire.
“Buffy, look out!” She barely acknowledges the warning, and Angel rushes past her to take care of it himself. Punching the smug bastard is one of the best feelings he’s had in a long time, but the feeling is short-lived as Xander lunges at him with the broken crossbow bolt. Suddenly, everything turns hazy, and Angel is struck by a sickening wave of vertigo. He stumbles slightly, trying to shake off the sensation, and when he straightens up, ready to defend himself…there’s no one there. The factory is empty.
Chapter One: On a Long, Long Trip
Was it even possible for a road trip to be this awkward and boring? Riding to Sunnydale with Willow would never have been on her top ten list of “fun things to do”, but the amount of suck that this little trip had achieved was rapidly approaching record breaking levels. And did the witch ever shut up? The last half hour had been filled with a stumbling little speech that Faith liked to call ‘How to Say Absolutely Nothing in Five Million Words or More’. It had been riveting. If riveting meant you wanted to rip your arm off and beat yourself over the head with it, just for a little excitement.
“So, what do you think?” Willow turned at looked at her expectantly, and she fought back the urge to liven up the conversation by punching her in the face.
“Sounds good, Will. I’m fine with whatever.” Willow nodded, and Faith wondered if she had any clue that Faith had no idea what they were even discussing. Turning to stare out the window, she wished she could’ve stayed in L.A. Spending some time with Angel, some non-Angelus-fight-to-the-death time, would’ve been nice, but duty called and these days she was actually answering. Hell of a time to be all reformed.
It wasn’t that she hated Willow, or any of B’s little friends. As a matter of fact, when she’d first met them she’d thought they were pretty cool in a very innocent school kid kinda way, but there was too much history between all of them now. Too many bridges burned, and Faith was having a hard time feeling this whole “buddy” vibe Willow seemed to be going for. Not to mention, the nervous babbling? Really getting on her nerves.
Time had no meaning. He couldn’t even remember when he’d lost all sense of its passage, but he thought it might have been after he first started having the blackouts. He never knew how long they lasted, and Willow had delighted in confusing and tormenting him by withholding the information. For her, torture wasn’t complete without the physical and the mental component. The demon inside couldn’t help but admire her skill.
How long had he been here; was it a year or a day? He wasn’t sure. There was no torture; he was happy about that, but he hadn’t dared to venture outside so he hadn’t fed in, well, felt like forever. Could have only been hours. When it had finally sunk in that the battle was gone, and no one was coming to get him he’d collapsed in the corner. It felt good to finally rest, even if it was on a cold, stone floor. He hadn’t moved since.
He tried to remember what his life had been like before. Before failing to save the people he’d been sent to help. Before the endless torment. Before he’d listened to that bastard Whistler and headed for Sunnydale to help the Slayer. The Slayer who had never shown up, at least not until it was too late. It had been too late, hadn’t it? He doubted she had defeated the Master back at the factory, back… wherever it was he’d come from. No, she was probably dead. Or maybe he was dead. Maybe this was where you went when you died, or at least where he went. Seemed ridiculous, but what other explanation was there. Xander had been about to dust him, and then suddenly he’d been here.
Seemed a little too peaceful to be hell, but it definitely wasn’t his idea of heaven. Maybe this was a special place, all his own, made especially for evil creatures with souls. Not heaven, not hell – somewhere in between. What did it matter anyway? He was safe; that was all he really cared about. Heaven and hell were just abstract concepts, no real meaning. Like time. Time had no meaning. How long had he been here? Was it a year or a day…
“What is she doing here?” Dawn’s voice crackled with animosity as they stepped into the living room. Faith glanced her way with a smirk.
“What? No hug?” The teenager scowled before stomping out of the room. They listened to her loudly head upstairs before slamming her bedroom door. Everyone was silent as they searched for something to say. “I think my subtle charm has finally won her over.” Buffy smiled slightly, but quickly got down to business.
“Faith and I are gonna patrol. Spike.” Faith eyes moved to another familiar face in surprise. What was a notoriously bad ass vamp with a history of Slayer killing doing hanging out with Buffy and the potentials? “Take the girls through the stuff we talked about earlier, and then see that everyone gets settled in.” He rolled his eyes, but he nodded in agreement and herded the girls outside.
“What’s with your new pet, B?”
“Spike? Big bad vampire, one time mortal enemy; suddenly, he takes orders from you? What’s up with that?”
“Things change, Faith. I’d think you, of all people, would understand that.” She headed for the door, and Faith followed her, nearly slamming into her when she stopped abruptly. “Don’t ever call him that again.”
“What?” Faith asked in confusion.
“He’s not a pet. He’s a… friend, someone I trust.” Buffy looked up at her, anger sparking in her eyes. “And I’d appreciate it if you kept your distance.”
“My distance? Is he dangerous or something?”
“No, I just don’t think he needs to be treated to your special brand of, uh, friendship.” Faith just stared at her for a moment before breaking into a grin.
“Is he like, your new boyfriend or something?”
“That’s really none of your business, Faith. Just stay the hell away from him.”
“God, B,” she laughed, shaking her head. “You just can’t stay away from the vamps can you? Good for you; I bet he’s a tiger in the sack.”
“I said it’s none of your business.” Faith held up her hands in surrender.
“Okay, okay. Just want to make sure I know the deal so I don’t fall into my old habits.” Buffy just gave her a hard look before turning away.
“See that you don’t. I’d hate to have to fall into my old habit of kicking your ass.” Faith smiled.
“Now there’s the B I know and barely tolerate.” As they headed outside she heard Xander mutter,
“Well, that wasn’t at all tense.”
They walked silently for a long time, neither one knowing quite what to say. Buffy kept glancing at her, a puzzled look on her face until, finally, Faith couldn’t stand it anymore. She stopped suddenly in the middle of the cemetery, and Buffy turned to look at her in surprise.
“Can we just get this over with already?” Buffy crossed her arms defiantly.
“Get what over with, exactly?” Faith shrugged, moving to sit on a tombstone.
“Whatever it is you’ve got going on in that head of yours. You want to fight? Yell at me? Tell me off? Whatever it is, just do it already; I can’t stand the silence and the looks.”
“What do you expect me to say, Faith?”
“I don’t know, B, that’s the whole problem. I know we’re not friends. I know you wish I wasn’t here - ”
“You don’t know anything about how I’m feeling.”
“Well, then tell me, for god’s sake! Or does that go against the uptight, show no emotion thing you’ve got working for ya?”
“Are you trying to make me hit you?”
“Do you want to hit me?” Buffy threw her hands up in disgust.
“This is ridiculous.” She turned to walk away, but stopped with her back still to Faith. “You know what I first thought when I saw you? I was relieved. Relieved that I didn’t have to do it all on my own anymore.”
“Yeah. Then I remembered who I was dealing with and, honestly, Faith, I know you’re all reformed now and I’m sure you’re trying real hard, but you seem just the same to me. How am I supposed to forget everything and trust you?” She turned to look at her, but Faith had no answers. “Because I really want to. I just don’t know how I can.” Buffy looked at her for a moment longer before turning and walking away. Faith watched her go, not knowing what to say. Knowing there was nothing she could say. She stood and headed in the opposite direction. Things were never simple.
Kicking ass? Always good for the soul. They had her cornered in the alley, and they were smiling like they thought they’d found easy prey. They were about to get the surprise of their lives. Or, well, their unlives or something. Whatever. The first one charged her. Why did they always go separately? Even with a normal human it would still be smarter for them to make a team effort. Idiots.
Faith stepped forward as he approached, meeting his clumsy rush with a well placed kick in the head. He stumbled back, surprised, and she was all over him. A flurry of fists connected sharply with his face and abdomen before she whipped out her stake and finished him. She glanced up to find the second one still staring at her in shock and shook her head in disgust.
“You vamps, you really suck with the strategy. See, when I was hammering your buddy, there,” she gestured over to where the first one had become dust. “That was when you should have come in. Strength in numbers, catch me while I’m distracted. Instead,” she pulled a small crossbow from behind her back, aimed and fired, “you wait here like a simp, and you die.” He dissolved into dust, still staring at her with that stupid expression on his face. She started to walk away. It was kinda sad when the challenge went out of the game.
She was almost to the street when she heard a noise in the alley behind her. She turned quickly, scanning for activity, but she couldn’t make anything out. She prowled back the way she’d come, stake raised, ready to strike. After thoroughly searching the area, she still didn’t find anything. So, basically, she had wasted half an hour on an empty alley. Great. She decided to find Buffy, see if she’d run into anything interesting. Maybe they’d get to have another one of those awkward little conversations. Being back in Sunnydale was really swell.
He watched her go, shaking with fear at his near capture. He’d heard the struggle outside and managed to over come his nervousness long enough to venture out into the alley. They’d had her cornered, and he’d known it was up to him to save her. In the old days he wouldn’t have thought twice about jumping into the fray, but after everything that had happened he’d hesitated at the idea. And then the girl hadn’t needed his help. Slayer. He’d scrambled quickly back out of sight, knowing that she’d kill him if she spotted him.
He cowered in the darkness, confused. Different Slayer. Buffy must have died in the fight at the factory. But… this was the factory, and as far as he could tell he was in Sunnydale. This Slayer had easily overpowered her opponents, and there had only been two of them, no reinforcements waiting to help, no sign that the vampires were running the town. Where was he? How did he get here? He slipped back into the factory, returning to his corner for the night. He should really try to find some answers. He stared blankly at the wall. Maybe tomorrow.
Back at the house she had to go outside if she wanted a smoke, but she really didn’t mind. All the noise and activity of the potentials made her skin crawl. The cramped quarters made it seem a little like prison but with an odd giggly schoolgirl, slumber party twist that just weirded her right the fuck out. Feeling the cool night air on her face, knowing she could take off if she really wanted – it was a nice feeling.
“Heard you defeated the mighty Angelus. Impressive.” She turned to see Spike step out of the shadows.
“Nah, not really. Totally got my ass kicked. Shot myself up with a special little cocktail, just for him. Gave the bastard a real nice surprise when he bit me.” Her hand moved unconsciously to touch her neck.
“First time?” he asked.
“Yeah. Worth it, though.” He snorted in disgust as he boosted himself up on the railing.
“God, not another one!” She looked up at him in confusion.
“’Nother member of the bleedin’ ‘We *heart* Angel’ club. You in love with him, too? God, I hope not. He’s really not all-”
“Look,” she interrupted. “I know you have issues with the guy, probably even more so now that you’re shacking up with his honey, but I don’t want to hear it, okay? I’ve been to places so dark I thought I’d never find my way back, and Angel is the only one who never gave up on me. He’s the only thing brought me out of it. Do you have any idea what that means to someone like me, to have someone actually believe in you?” He stared at her silently for a moment.
“Yeh, think I might at that,” he said softly. She nodded.
“Alright. So how about shuttin’ the fuck up, then.” He nodded, and they sat in companionable silence.
“Ex-honey,” he muttered, and Faith just shook her head and smiled. Another one caught in Buffy’s web. Girl really knew how to keep ‘em coming back for more.
“What do you think they’re doing out there?” Buffy asked as she pretended not to watch out the window.
“You have nothing to worry about.” Willow smiled reassuringly.
“Worried? Who said I was worried? I just think it’d be better if everyone stayed together instead of, you know, hanging out by themselves and flirting on the porch.” She dropped down on the couch, and Willow patted her on the knee. Buffy shook her head. “Am I really that obvious?”
“You practically peed all over him earlier before you and Faith left.” Buffy wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“No! Because of the marking your territory… a dog, you know, to mark… It sounded a lot less disgusting in my head.”
“It’s not that we’re even together or anything. I just…”
“He’s one of yours.”
“Yeah.” She tilted her head. “That makes me sound like I think I own him, which I don’t. It’s just Faith’s taken everything I’ve ever had and, and messed it up, you know? I just don’t want to see her and him, and with the togetherness.”
“Buffy, Spike would never. EVER. And you don’t have to explain yourself to me. Believe me, I understand the emotional baggage that is Faith. We all understand.”
“I know.” They were quiet as they both got lost in the past for a moment. “So, really. What do you think they’re doing out there?” Willow laughed, and they both scrambled to sneak a peek through the curtain.