Ticket To Everything


Chapter One

London to Cleveland. Not a flight I’d like to repeat too often, especially with flight attendants buzzing round my head every five minutes telling me I can’t drink. Hell, I had to drink, planes ain’t my thing. A big chunk of metal floating around in the sky isn’t my idea of safe travel. I get that it’s supposed to be safer than driving, but gimme something attached to the ground any fucking day. At least I wouldn’t have far to fall if I had to jump outta the door of a car. I swear, I almost had Giles sew a parachute to my ass just in case.

But I’m here now, driving down the freeway in my nice shiny rental car that smells like second-hand aftershave. They’ve got no clue I’m coming, except for Kennedy and Will. Ken and me have kept the friendship thing going since SunnyD sank a few hundred feet. She’s pretty cool even though she’s still a brat. All mouth and no trousers Giles says, and he’s got a point. She talks big, but underneath she’s just a girl trying to make her mark. I was like that once. I tried to make my mark in all the wrong ways. But that’s the past.

I’m living the good life now. Or at least as good as it gets. Giles took me with him back to London about a month after the big fight. They swiped my records an’ shit, and gave me a clean slate so I didn’t have to go back inside. I didn’t ask for it, but Giles didn’t seem to wanna let me go. He said I would clear my debt with the Powers That Be better if I was doing what I’m meant to. Slaying. Helping the world survive another day. He had a point so I tagged along.

He set me up in a nice place in London, close to him. Giles is all about building the council back up, but getting it right this time. He doesn’t want it the way it was, he just wants enough people around that can deal with all the bad shit in the world that normal folk don’t have to think about.

There’s little mini-slayers all over now. Popped up everywhere when Willow did her thing with the scythe. They’re not as strong as B and me, but they need people to look out for them. Watchers. Can’t leave a bunch of girls running around the world feeling the need to look for things that go bump-in-the-night without giving them some tips. Some help.

So I’m Giles’ right hand. . .woman. I do the slaying thing in London. Top capital slayer, that’s me. And when he needs me to chaperone new slayers or watchers I do my thing. I keep ‘em safe. It’s all cool with me. I get to slay, I get good food, a decent life compared to what I had before. Much better than what I had before.

There’s still something missing, though. Can’t pretend it’s any other way. I have a hole inside me. A big fucking gaping hole that no amount of slaying, eating, clubbing or being the good guy can fill. Every year it stretches bigger, and even though nobody would guess it. . .it’s eating me alive.

Three and a half years it’s been growing. Three and a half years of waiting. I dunno what I’ve been waiting for, but that’s been me. . .doing my thing, but wanting something else. Wanting it to leap out at me and grab me. Take me in with all my faults and bad habits and want me. Need me. It’s a stupid fucking way to think. It’ll never happen, no matter how many nights I dream it. And hell, I should be happy with the way things are. I am happy, it’s just not complete. That hole won’t go away. They tell ya it’s better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all. . .well, that’s bullshit, especially if you never really got close to what you wanted. What you loved.

It was always just at arms length. Always something in the way. I know she loved too. . .I’m not all-knowing in that department but I know what I felt when she looked at me. When she let herself look at me. We never bridged the gap, though. Got close to it back in Sunnydale before it went bang. Sat in her bed with her talking soft to me instead of shouting, sharing some home truths, sharing more than either of us probably wanted. It would have taken just one word, one look, one touch and everything coulda been different. But I guess neither of us was ready for that. I doubt we’re even ready now, but I had to come here. Had to reach out just a little. Plus, Ken invited me for Christmas, practically insisted and sent me the ticket, so I guess it’s time to at least get back in the loop. Buffy’s loop.

I dunno, maybe we can start over. Maybe this time we can get it right if we’re both willing. The thought makes me smile. I can’t help it. That thought always makes me smile. Every time we share the dreams. . .hell, I smile all day long. Dreams that don’t say anything, yet give me at least a few moments of peace with Buffy. It’s always a good day after a Buffy slayer-dream.

I pull the car up outside the house number I’ve been looking for. Little garden, a porch, big scary door. Kinda reminds me of someplace else. Somewhere gone now. Yanking the keys from the ignition, I take a breath and open the car door. It’s not like me to be nervous. I’m not that kinda girl. I haven’t been around these people for a while, though. They don’t really know me and I don’t really know them. The only person I can truly call my friend is Kennedy. It’ll be good to see her at least.

We got pretty tight after everything went down. She was misunderstood. Nobody got where she was coming from, but I tried. Saw a lot of myself in her. We’ve been firm friends since. She knows when I need to laugh, she lets me rant when there’s no one else to listen, she gets that sometimes I get down about shit and just need a friend who gives a damn. I didn’t have to tell her about what I felt for Buffy, she knew. I guess she got it more from what I didn’t say than did. I avoid talking to Ken about Buffy when she calls, but she lets me know that she’s doing ok and that’s enough for me.

Apparently she went through a bit of a rough time at first, but being Buffy. . .she pulled through. Got her shit together. Kennedy doesn’t say much, and I don’t ask. I’m grateful for that. She doesn’t push me on it even when I know she can tell all I wanna do is know about B and her life. Yeah, Kennedy’s a solid friend. She doesn’t take shit and doesn’t give it, and she knows what I need and when I need it. Kinda makes me wonder why she’d get me to drag my ass all the way over here knowing my Buffy issues, but I trust her. Can’t say I trust a lot of people, maybe just her and Giles, so here I am. . .knocking on the door of the house Ken shares with Willow.

I probably wouldn’t be stood here if Buffy lived here too, so it’s a good job she has her own place. She lives closer to the city center, near Xander. The whole gang in the same city, minus Giles ‘cause he’s in my gang now, and Dawn ‘cause she’s away at college.

Shuffling my feet around on the porch I wait for an answer to my knock, checking myself over for wrinkles and shit. I’d stopped to drop my bag off at the motel I’m staying at, but I didn’t change. Maybe I shoulda. Gotta look pretty creased up after the flight.

The door swings open, taking me a little by surprise.

“Faith,” Kennedy yells excitedly, as if I didn’t know who I was.

“The one and only,” I say with a grin.

“Wow, so did not think you’d come,” she tells me, shaking her head.

“I never break a promise,” I respond, following her into the house so she can shut the cold out behind us.

The place looks good. Not huge, but nice. They’ve got tacky decorations all over, but I guess ‘tis the season and all that crap.

“You never promised,” Ken points out to me, chuckling as she takes my jacket.

“Yeah, well. . .meant to,” I say with a wink.

We just stand and grin at each other for a few moments. Memories lingering in the air of midnight phone calls where I’ve been there for her and she’s been there for me. We’ve shared a lot of shit over the past few years, and I think neither of us had that kinda friend before.

I chuckle and pull her into a hug before it gets stupid. Not usually a hugger, but hell. . .I think we both deserve it. We just grip tight to each other; thanks for all the times we’ve laughed, fought, shared a lonely moment when nobody else was around. She’s had it rough with Will sometimes, and I’ve had it rough with myself despite trying to put on a brave front. It’s good to just see her, get to give her the hug I’d wanted to so many times from over 3000 miles away.

“Hey, that’s my girlfriend yer groping, Miss Grabby-Hands.” Willow’s playful voice filters in through the moment.

I step back from Ken and we both laugh. I’m so not into Kennedy that way and Willow knows it. It’s not like me and Will have become good buds or nothing, but we exchange emails. It’s cool between us. The past is the past, and she’s a lot more understanding than I ever coulda given her credit for.

“She’s a hot chick,” I say, patting Kennedy on the shoulder, “but I ain’t into brunettes.”

We share smiles and chuckles, and I see Willow thinking more about that little line than she probably should. She knows I bat for both teams, but as far as I’m aware she has no clue that the only girl I really ever wanted pitching to me is Buffy.

“It’s good to see you,” Willow tells me and I can feel the truth in it.

Looking down to my feet for a second I hide the big smile that wants to break free. It’s weird. . .but it feels like coming home. I mean, I know they were never my home. Never could hope to be that close. Probably never even wanted to be that close to ‘em. But right now I feel a little less empty, and it’s good.

I give Ken’s shoulder a squeeze where I still have my hand on her. “It’s good to be here,” I say.

Ken smiles genuinely at me and I feel her love. Not the ‘lets go get naughty’ kind, but the friend kind I’ve never had. I know Will’s happy I came too. I think I made the right decision.

I let go of Kennedy and slip my hands into my pockets, taking a deep breath and letting myself relax. This isn’t so bad. No bad feelings, no lingering hatred coming my way. Nothing that’s making me feel like I shoulda stayed at home. But then. . .I haven’t seen Buffy yet. That could be a whole different story. Guess we’ll get to that when I do see her. She’s not the reason I’m here, though. Sure she’s a big part of it, but not the only part. Hell, even that feels good. . .knowing she doesn’t rule my life and my decisions. Doesn’t influence me the way she used to. Makes a girl feel kinda liberated. Even if it is pretty much just me fooling myself, I can live with that.

“Yunno, a girl could die of thirst in a joint like this,” I say with a smirk.

“Sorry, my bad,” Ken says. “What’ll it be?”

Before she gets completely through the door to the kitchen I see something pop out from behind it. A little thing, not much higher than Ken’s kneecap. Takes me a second to realise it’s a kid. Unexpected to say the least.

Willow smiles at my surprise and goes to lift the little brat up, placing her on her hip like she’s been doing it for years.

“Faith, meet Lucy,” she says, making the kid wave at me.

I go to lift my hand to wave back, but decide not to look like a complete twat so keep it in my pocket instead. Kids, like planes. . .are just not my thing.

“We’re babysitting,” Willow explains.

Makes sense. Ken never said either one of ‘em had shot a sprog out.

The kid stares at me and I feel kinda uncomfortable. Like it wants to eat my head, or maybe just get its grimy hands all over me. Her hair is all dark and tight curls, the little dress she has on a mess of sticky chocolate and crumbs. Little hands grabbing at Willow’s necklace.

“Tell Faithy how old you are, Luce,” Willow tells the kid.

I pull a face at being called Faithy, but I guess kids like that kinda shit.

“Thwee,” she says, looking kinda shyly at me then burying her face into Willow’s neck. Could be called cute I guess, but I dunno. . .never got it myself.

“Whaddya want to drink, Faith?” Ken calls from the kitchen.

“Something strong,” I reply, backing away to sit on the couch as Willow lets the kid down to run around, grumbling about her being too big to carry now.

“We weren’t expecting you ‘till a little later,” Willow tells me.

I nod and distract myself by looking at the lights twinkling around the tree, the little star stuffed on top leaning over like it’s about to drop off. It’s all pretty Christmassy. I was never really into Christmas. Never had much of one as a kid, and I guess the cheery stuff passed me by every year. The only Christmas I’d ever had that meant at least something was the one I almost had with Buffy. Almost being the operative word. That got screwed up just like everything else.

Until Ken sent me the ticket and told me I just had to get to Cleveland for Christmas I was set to spend it alone. Giles has his new girlfriend to hook up with, and the newbie slayers and watchers all have families and shit to go to. It woulda been just like any other year, ‘cept this year I didn’t much feel like being alone again. Took Ken up on her offer after a little persuasion.

“Lucy, don’t throw that at. . .” Willow instructs too late.

I duck as a stuffed pink pig goes shooting past my head. Kid’s got a hell of a throw, that’s for sure. Staring at the little monster I raise an eyebrow and she does the same, at least I think. Her grin could almost be called evil, but I doubt it’s the right thing to do to point it out. I just know she’s thinking I’d be fun to piss off; I know that look, I had the same one when I was a kid. They used to call me evil too, even back then.

“Her dad thinks she’s a little angel, but we know better. She likes to see you get angry. It’s comical to her,” Willow informs me, giving me a telling nod.

Makes me wonder why she’s looking after the kid if it’s that bad. I mean, who the hell would babysit the spawn of hell if they didn’t have to? The spawn edges closer and I’m wondering if it would be obvious if I got up and moved. Willow’s putting back the phone the kid just knocked to the floor, maybe she wouldn’t notice if I tied her to the Christmas tree with the lights to keep her from getting too close with those sticky hands.

“Mommy has prettier hair than you,” the kid tells me as she creeps along the edge of the couch all coy-like and ready to strike.

Great, I’m being insulted by a three year old.

“Yeah, well. . .I bet I got nicer ti. . .”

“Faith!” Willow yelps, cutting me off. “We don’t say words like that in front of Lucy.”

Never hurt me as a kid. Though, that’s probably not entirely true. I think one of my first words was “Fuck”.

“Sorry,” I mumble.

I wonder where the hell Ken is with my drink. I mean, how long does it take to get a girl a beer? I’m practically dying of thirst here. I go to stand, thinking I’d better go look for the drink myself, but before I can move I get a leg full of kid. Lucy decides clinging onto me might be fun, but I can’t see the reasoning behind that one.

“Um,” I say, trying to shake her off.

“I think she likes you,” Willow giggles from her seat opposite.

Sure, it’s fine for her to sit there giggling, she doesn’t have a chocolate covered imp stuck to her leg.

“Ken?” I shout towards the kitchen. “How’s that drink coming?”

“Coming right up, just trying to find the bottle opener,” she calls back.

“Maybe find something that’ll prize this kid off me while you’re at it,” I shout to her. “I’m gettin’ all kindsa weirded out.”

Seriously. I just don’t get the kid thing. They’re like. . .little people but much more evil and nasty. And this one’s looking up at me like I have the answer to everything she wants to know. Pretty scary shit. I don’t have the fucking answers, and I sure as shit don’t know anything about stopping her from wailing if she decides that’s what she wants to do.

I look pleadingly over to Willow and she grins and chuckles. “Lucy,” she says finally, “leave Faith alone. Mommy’ll be here soon and you don’t want me to tell her you’ve been naughty.”

Gotta love the psychology crap you can pull on a kid. Making everything turn into a possibility that Mom might get mad. Never worked on me of course, I did stuff all the more, just wanted attention. The more it pissed people off, the more I did it. Thankfully little Lucy here isn’t like that and she lets go, at least enough for me not to feel like she’s trying to yank my leg off.

Her hands are still on me and she’s still looking up with those big brown eyes, her mind probably coming up with all kindsa ways to hurt me or make me as covered in sticky goop as her. I narrow my eyes at her, a little warning look, but fuck me if she doesn’t do it right back. Little bastard’s a tough one that’s for sure.

“Don’t worry, Buffy won’t be long, Faith,” Willow tells me.

At first I dunno why she’s telling me that, but the little kid’s eyes sparkle with the mention of her name. It can’t be. No way. I look over at Willow then back to the kid, mouth open, not knowing what the hell to say.

“Wait,” Willow says, scratching her head, “you did know didn’t you?”

I shake my head no. I didn’t know. Had no fucking clue. A little piece of info Ken obviously kept from me, probably to protect me from being hurt. Well it certainly hurts right now. Hurts to be so far out of the loop you don’t even know the girl you’ve been crazy in love with since the age of sixteen had a baby.

I can feel my chest getting all tight. I don’t like the feeling. It’s one I haven’t had for a while. Not since the night I left to go to England, watching Buffy wave with the others as the cab pulled out. Her eyes locking on mine. My mind playing tricks with me and making me believe she was crying a little. A small tear. At least some sadness. Seems like forever ago.

“I didn’t. . .” I start to say, my voice shaking despite the fact I’m trying to keep it together. “Who’s the. . ?” I can’t get the word out.

Kennedy comes back through from the kitchen, looking suitably sorry for herself. Yeah, her and me need to talk about this that’s for sure.

“Her father’s Robin,” Ken tells me.

I laugh. I actually fucking laugh, ‘cause it’s just that weird. I mean, come on. . .Buffy has a baby I’ve known nothing about for three years and it turns out she’s shacked up with Robin, a guy I fucked on and off for nearly a month before leaving. Gotta say, life knows how to get me on the back foot, every time.

Looking down at the kid I watch as she gets a worried little look in her eye, lip coming out in a classic Buffy-pout. She’s got most of Robin’s looks but that pout is definitely all Buffy. It’s all too real. Too much for me to process right now.

Edging away I choke back the tears that want to fall. I won’t cry. . .not after so long. What right do I have? So Buffy has a life. She’s all loved up and raising kids and all the shit she probably always wanted. I shouldn’t get upset at that, it’s not like I ever had a chance with her or ever could. I guess it’s just hard getting smacked in the face with it full force without being prepared. I definitely wasn’t prepared for this.

“I’m gonna go,” I say quietly, hardly recognising my own voice.

“Faith, I’m sorry. . .I didn’t think. . .” Ken says, her words losing the flow as I lift the kid away from me and hand her to Willow.

The kid. Fucking Buffy’s kid. It’s fucking surreal and crazy and I just wanna grab hold of the little thing and hug it, ‘cause it’s Buffy’s yunno? A part of her.

But I don’t, I grab my jacket and shut out what Willow’s saying to Kennedy. Shut out what Kennedy’s saying to me. I just can’t hear it right now, I need to go away and deal with this. I need to get rid of the stupid fucking idea that me and Buffy could ever have something more. . .once and for all.

 

 

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