New Beginnings, Old Enemies

Chapter Eighteen

“Willow,” Giles said, clearing his throat and gesturing towards the stairs.

Willow nodded and hurried away before things got hairy. Riley was looking at Faith like she was some kind of communicable disease he wanted to eradicate. She could understand why, but it seemed like Buffy had come to a different conclusion about Faith. Willow wasn’t certain how she could tell, apart from the fact they had been all hand-hold-y. Maybe it was just a feeling. Or maybe it had been the way the two slayers were looking at each other, like they’d finally laid down their weapons.

She rushed into Faith’s room and looked around. There was a black tee shirt on the back of a chair; she scooped it up. Spotting a chest of drawers near the unmade bed, she pulled the middle drawer open and tugged out another tee shirt. They didn’t look too tight or small, despite the fact they were Faith’s. She rooted around some more and found a pair of baggy shorts and some grey jogging pants. They seemed clean so they would do.

Willow stopped for a second and looked around what had become Faith’s room. She shivered involuntarily, but then chuckled to herself at how silly it was to feel so on edge. By all accounts, or at least by Giles’ account, Faith wasn’t the cruel girl she had become before running into Angel in LA. She had changed and truly deserved a second chance.

Tara had helped her see that she should allow Faith the opportunity to make up for what she’d done. She was there to mend herself, and the damage she’d caused. Willow wasn’t one to hold grudges. Her heart had always been open and kind and even though she’d said some mean things to Faith once. . .she hadn’t really meant them, she’d just been angry. She didn’t understand Faith and all she had done, but it was time to try.

As she turned to leave the room, she noticed something poking out from under the tangle of sheets on the bed. Checking to make sure nobody was at the door, Willow tiptoed over to it. She pulled the sheet back a little way to reveal a worn old teddy bear. It looked battered and squashed, but there it lay, wrapped in Faith’s bed covers. Faith the ‘badass’ sleeping with a tatty but adorable little bear. It made Willow smile, and realise that Faith was just like any of them in a lot of ways. In most ways. She was just as vulnerable, if not more so under the tough-girl act.

She replaced the sheet over the bear and left the room.

Buffy felt about as uncomfortable as she could possibly be. She was naked and Xander wouldn’t stop staring. Her boyfriend wouldn’t stop glaring at Faith, and Giles was already starting to ask too many questions she didn’t have the answers for yet. How could she explain their complete lack of clothing?

“Buffy, put this on, you don’t wanna wear her things I’m guessing,” Riley said, removing his thick army sweater and shoving it into Buffy’s hands.

She looked at it, then looked up at Faith. Faith glanced away, avoiding her eyes.

“No, it’s ok, I’ll wear what Willow brings,” Buffy insisted, pushing the sweater aside. She didn’t want Riley’s scent around her now that she could finally smell again.

Willow stopped near the circle the two girls were still in and offered up the clothes. “The black one was over a chair, and the others were in your drawer,” she explained, expecting Buffy to feel a little uncomfortable at the prospect of wearing Faith’s possibly worn clothing.

Buffy leaned forwards quickly, before Faith could take her pick, snatching the black tee shirt and the pants from Willow’s hands. She pulled the top over her head and instantly felt better. Not because she was finally covered, but because it was Faith’s shirt. It was Faith’s smell. Buffy could swear she could almost feel Faith’s warmth on it. It made her feel much more at ease.

Riley furrowed his brow and got to his feet. He felt completely out of place, and he looked it. He watched as Buffy shuffled into Faith’s jogging pants under the blanket, her eyes fixed on Faith as she too got dressed. He had a hundred questions going through his head, but he refused to believe his girlfriend had forgiven the other slayer enough to now actually be her friend.

“I suggest the two of you get cleaned up and get some rest. Of course, I’d like to know more about the place you were sent to and what happened there, so I can document it for further research purposes. But we can go through that tomorrow,” Giles said, placing the old throw back on his couch now that the girls were standing and dressed.

“Sure,” Faith said quietly, her skin crawling under Riley’s gaze and Xander’s fumbling nervousness beside her. “Thanks for. . .getting us back,” she gestured towards the circle and the disarray of magic books piled nearby.

She wanted to get the hell out of there. There were too many people that deserved an apology. Too many people she had fucked over in some way. It made her feel sick to her stomach.

Buffy noticed how uneasy Faith looked. She could fully understand why and her heart went out to her. She saw how the dark shadows beneath Faith’s eyes seemed suddenly darker. How her head hung lower than before. Her hands fidgeting and shaking just enough for Buffy to notice. She doubted any of them saw past the darkness and the danger that was Faith, to the soft and longing heart of the girl. Buffy saw now. She saw and she wanted to envelop her in love.

“Faith,” Buffy said, her voice holding a tremor that probably gave her away, “can I talk to you?” she asked, walking past everybody and towards the stairs.

Faith looked from Riley to Buffy and nodded her head, following her silently.

“Buffy?” Riley called out, confusion in his tone. “Are you sure you don’t just wanna come home? I have a Jeep outside so we can go right away,” he said, adding, “I’ve gotta get back to the squad, so we can’t really hang around.”

His words were firm, making it clear he expected Buffy to go along with him. She didn’t want to cause a scene so nodded.

“I’ll be ready in two minutes,” Buffy said, smiling reassuringly at Riley as he posed his manly pose.

Buffy ascended the stairs with Faith following close behind. Giles watched them go, pulling his glasses off to tidy up the lens he was sure was dirty. He hoped they weren’t about to hear the crashing and banging of a fight. He didn’t yet know if they hadn’t been trying to kill each other whilst they were stranded on the other dimension.

Buffy walked slowly but surely into what she supposed was Faith’s room. It was dark as the blinds were closed. The bed was messy and there were books placed haphazardly around the few surfaces. She trailed her fingers over one close by on the chest of drawers. It was a history book.

“B,” Faith said quietly, pushing the door to but not closing it completely, “you ok?”

Faith didn’t know what to say or how to act. They’d just had sex and she’d just told Buffy she loved her, but that. . .well that had quite literally been a world away. She didn’t want to push all the wrong buttons now, or expect Buffy to dump her steady and sane boyfriend to be with her; somebody that was far from steady, and still not feeling quite sane.

“Yes, and no,” Buffy replied cryptically.

She stepped closer to Faith, taking the fidgeting hands within her own as she stood facing her. She took a second just to look into Faith’s eyes as they stayed silent. All she saw was a girl she was falling for. That she had fallen for long ago in fact.

Faith wet her lips and braced herself for rejection.

“We’ll work this out, Faith,” Buffy said softly as Faith’s eyes locked with her own.

She moved a hand out from within Faith’s and cupped her cheek, tenderly brushing her thumb over soft skin.

“B, I don’t expect you to. . .” Faith paused, distracted by Buffy’s warm hand. “I mean, I know you have a life, and a boyfriend, and I’m a big mess of everything that could fuck that up for you, and I don’t wanna be the cause of pain for you again,” she said, wishing it didn’t need to be said.

Buffy didn’t allow Faith to say anymore. She leaned forward and brought their lips together, almost chastely kissing Faith, but soft and slow and full of meaning. Faith sighed into the kiss, parting her lips a little to feel more of Buffy’s mouth, to take one more taste of everything she wanted.

They both got caught in the moment, soft lips moving over each other as hands sought skin and warmth as they stepped into an embrace. Buffy eventually pulled away, taking a deep breath as she rested her head on Faith’s shoulder.

“You smell so good,” Buffy whispered, finally able to breathe Faith’s scent in instead of the harsh odour of fresh blood. She kissed the delicate skin of Faith’s neck, her nose rubbing over it.

“Really?” Faith chuckled deeply, arching her eyebrow. “I’ve gotta stink pretty bad, B. Haven’t showered since the other night.”

“Nuhuh,” Buffy murmured, still nuzzling. “I like it.” She smiled as Faith continued to chuckle.

She felt completely safe in Faith’s arms. It bemused her, and why wouldn’t it after all that had happened? There was no getting away from the fact they had leapt some kind of great divide, however. They’d shared something immense, tore down each other’s barriers with kisses and naked flesh and the affirming embrace of sex; of making love. The apologies and Faith’s confession of love. A great love that Buffy could feel coursing through her from Faith.

It made Buffy know she was safe with Faith this time. It wasn’t going to be easy, and she was sure at times they’d both feel like running scared again, but there was no going back now. She wanted this, and so did Faith.

“Buffy!” Riley called loudly up the stairs, grabbing Buffy’s attention away from Faith.

Faith stepped back at once, removing all but one hand from Buffy. Buffy plucked it from her waist and held it in hers, looking deep into the shadowy corners of Faith’s eyes.

“I promise we’ll work this out,” Buffy said again and Faith nodded sceptically. “We had sex, Faith. I don’t do that with just anybody. I don’t do that with girls, normally,” she said bashfully.

They both laughed a little.

“You don’t have to give anything up for me,” Faith said soundly, wanting quite the opposite.

“I do, Faith, and I will. Just give me a little time. I can’t break his heart without at least trying to let him down gently,” Buffy explained, squeezing Faith’s hand.

Faith understood that. “What about the guys?” she asked, motioning with her head towards the door, knowing they would cause the real problem.

Buffy took a deep breath, knowing how hard it was going to be because of how protective her friends were. “We’ll deal with it,” she said firmly. “I’d better go, do you have a cell-phone number?”

“Yeah,” Faith replied, recalling the so far unused cell-phone Giles had bought her, and moving to root around on her desk for a pen and some paper. She scribbled her number down and handed it to Buffy.

Buffy smiled and leaned up to kiss Faith quickly before reluctantly turning to go.

“Why now, B?” Faith called quietly after Buffy as she stepped through the door.

Buffy paused in the doorway, looking back at Faith as she stood looking all unkempt yet adorable in a scruffy white tee shirt and overly long shorts.

“Because I can’t ignore it anymore. It’s too strong, and this time. . .I don’t want it to destroy us,” Buffy said honestly. “If it’s what you want too, then I’m willing to do my best to get it right this time.”

“It is what I want,” Faith assured, taking a leap. “I know now more than ever.”

Buffy smiled broadly, feeling warm all over as she just looked at Faith, knowing the beautiful girl before her was hers completely. Faith; with all her edginess and darkness, her charm and suffocating sex appeal, was hers. She felt her stomach fill with butterflies, refraining from quashing them down like she had done so many times in the past.

“I’ll call you soon, Faith,” Buffy said, sighing happily, truly happily for the first time in what felt like forever.

Faith watched her go, resting her hand on the doorframe as Buffy disappeared down the stairs. She didn’t like letting her go with Riley, but she had no choice. She wasn’t in a position to make demands. It was down to Buffy to deal with Riley, Faith just hoped she didn’t have to hand him a nice kick in the head if he so much as touched Buffy in anger.

She was trying to be good after all.

Chuckling to herself she made her way downstairs as she heard the front door close. She knew it was safe to come down now as she couldn’t feel the faint tingle she normally got from the other slayer.

“Ah, Faith,” Giles said, smiling warmly as she entered the living room. “Would you like some tea?”

Faith grinned, holding back laughter at how crazy everything seemed right then. Here she was, back in Sunnydale, Giles making her tea and Buffy making her heart buzz and the scoobs. . .staring at her warily from the other side of the room. Some things never changed, but at least she was on the right track now.

“Thanks, Giles,” she said, feeling awkward as she stood in her baggy shorts and worn tee shirt, her hair a ruffled tumble of curls and her body still covered in the remnants of her heated tryst with Buffy.

“I’m glad you both came back ok,” Tara said shyly, breaking the uncomfortable silence. “W-we tried our best for the portal not to hurt you. I’m sorry it kinda destroyed your clothes, though.”

Faith raised her eyebrows, stopping herself from correcting Tara. “Yeah, um. . .no big. I think it was just the spinning around thing that did it. It was kinda like being in a giant tumble-dryer,” she explained.

Tara nodded. Willow nodded. Xander shuffled uneasily.

Faith took a deep breath as the three friends stood in a line before her. She had so much forgiveness to ask for and didn’t know where to start. She didn’t even think she deserved an ounce of their absolution. She had to say something. She couldn’t leave the awkwardness to linger. She had too much to lose now, and so much to gain.

“Guys,” Faith said, trying her best not to sound sarcastic or insincere in any way. Complete silence descended over the room. “I can’t take back anything I did or said to any of you. Things just don’t work that way. But I can tell you how sorry I am.”

Xander spluttered a little as he swallowed hard, wanting to believe Faith, but still being utterly afraid of her.

“I didn’t mean. . .” Faith continued, looking to the ground momentarily to find the right words, “to do what I did, or to be the person I was. I don’t ever expect any of you to understand let alone forgive me, but I promise not to take that route again.” She felt tears begin to well in her eyes as she knew the words, every syllable and letter, to be true.

Faith bit down the tears and stood her ground, waiting for rebuffs and scorn.

Xander cleared his throat, wanting so much for things to be ok. He wasn’t sure he was man enough to forgive just yet, but he was prepared to try. He scratched his head and nodded slightly at Faith. There were things far scarier on the hellmouth than Faith after all.

Willow took Tara’s hand in her own, knowing she could face anything with her by her side. She smiled gently at Faith, sensing that the girl before her had matured and learned from her past mistakes. She could feel how much Faith was hurting inside with all she’d done. It was tangible. She wasn’t going to add to it and make the journey harder for Faith, and she knew Tara felt the same.

“Everything will work out,” Willow said, confirming it to herself as much as anything.

“I second that,” Tara said kindly, turning to smile at her lover beside her.

Faith brushed her fingers through her hair and felt more relief than she had been expecting. It was good not to feel like she was being constantly judged. She was still wary, and still utterly sorry for what she’d done, but there was a chink of light now where once there had only been darkness.

“Tea up,” Giles called brightly, breaking the tension as he entered with a tray of cups and saucers.

He had heard every word from the kitchen and was immensely proud of Faith for daring to apologise. She had grown so much in such a short time and he had nothing but admiration for her and the way she was developing. The girl he’d first met was nothing in comparison to the young woman stood beside him now.

Faith seemed to have taken hold of all her power, and the forces within her, and was ruling it, rather than it ruling her.

Giles rested his hand gently on Faith’s shoulder and smiled sincerely at her as the others busied themselves with handing out cups and biscuits. “Welcome home, Faith,” he said softly as she looked up affectionately at him.



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