The gang needed to make a move tonight and Buffy knew they were ready for it. All she needed was her two best friends in the world and her watcher to help her through the battle and she was confident they would be able to defeat Adam and whoever else stood in their way.
There was only one problem: Faith.
While it wasn't a problem to make sure Anya and Tara didn't come along, neither of them wanted to anyway and Riley was nowhere to be found, Faith wasn't ready to be involved in a big battle. Not only that, she had only been in Sunnydale a couple of days. She hadn't been out of Giles or Buffy's sight yet.
Buffy knew bringing Faith into The Initiative would be a mistake of epic proportions. She had a fear that if Faith got into a fight with a soldier she wouldn't fight back because they were human. It was something she'd overheard her say to Giles earlier in the day when she heard them mention the soldiers in their way. When she thought Buffy was out of earshot she mumbled to Giles about already having blood on her hands.
Faith had been in Sunnydale only three days but for the last two nights Buffy had been helping her get to sleep. After the first night she figured it would be a one-time thing, that Faith needed to simply readjust to being back and to get through the memories of everything she'd done but it wasn't happening that way. It seemed like the other slayer was going to have difficult nights for some time.
They hadn't talked about the last two nights. The morning after the first one Faith mumbled her thanks once they saw each other in the afternoon and that was it. After that Buffy had to deal with their plans with Adam and Faith remained out of sight for the most part, up in her room reading the slayer journals Giles had given her.
She checked in on her that night and again found that Faith was unable to sleep. There wasn't any crying this time but she wasn't sleeping, only looking out into space and occasionally shaking and mumbling. Buffy could see the wheels turning in her head and kept her company until she thought she was asleep.
Buffy and Giles talked right before they met Xander and Willow about what to do with Faith and they agreed leaving her alone was not an option. The odds were that nothing would happen but Buffy didn't want to take anything to chance which meant they had to find someplace for her to stay where she wasn't alone. That was why they told Xander and Willow to meet them at Buffy's house.
Her two friends sat on the couch in the living room while Giles went over the plan. Faith sat on the stairs away from everyone but Buffy could tell she was listening to the plan just in case . . . just in case they needed her. That felt like a good sign but Buffy didn't vocalize that thought.
Once he was done Giles looked to Buffy and they excused themselves to walk back to the kitchen where they found Joyce Summers preparing snacks. Normally, she would find it funny that her mother would be making snack food right before they went into battle but Buffy didn't have time to laugh about it. Not when she needed to ask for a big favor.
She looked up and smiled nervously as Buffy and Giles walked into the kitchen. "Sounds like you have everything under control."
"We do but can I ask you to do something for me?" She waited for her to nod then continued. "I need Faith to stay here."
Her mother instantly tensed up. "Do you think that's the best idea? Wouldn't she be more useful with you? I can watch over myself for a few hours, Buffy."
Buffy moved closer and leaned toward her, as did Giles. "Faith isn't any good with us right now, Mom."
"But she's a slayer."
"Yes, well, we fear that with Faith's current state of mind that if she doesn't have the upper hand in a fight or if she's fighting one of the soldiers she might not . . ." Giles trailed off, not wanting to finish the statement.
Her mother furrowed her brow at the comment and Buffy could tell she didn't know if she should be sympathetic or not. She struggled with that herself. "You think she would . . ."
"We don't want to take that chance," Giles said. "Before we leave we plan to tell her she needs to stay here and protect you just in case."
"But instead you want me to keep an eye on her."
Buffy nodded. "Pretty much. She won't try to hurt you, Mom. She's . . . well, she's struggling."
The three of them didn't say anything else and her mother only nodded her head in agreement. Buffy thought she might look a little nervous but knowing how Joyce Summers dealt with things it was more toward Faith's current state of mind and not for her own safety.
They walked back into the living room where Xander and Willow were talking quietly, almost as though they didn't want Faith to overhear whatever it was they were saying. It looked like she was trying her best to ignore them anyway. She was looking off into space, almost like she was remembering the last time she was there.
Buffy broke away from her mother and Giles and Faith stood once she realized she was walking toward her. "Big day, huh?" Faith asked.
"You're not coming with us on this one," Buffy said quietly.
"Kinda figured," Faith said. "You would've yelled at me to pay better attention if I was actually going."
She raised an eyebrow but comment on what she said. "I want you to stay here. You know, make sure none of those demons or government idiots come after my mom. I don't exactly trust that they wouldn't do something like that in order to keep me away."
Faith nodded and Buffy couldn't tell if she believed her explanation or not. "Play watchdog again. Got it."
Buffy almost smiled at the memory of Faith keeping an eye on her mother on Christmas Eve. It seemed like a lifetime ago instead of just a year and a half. That had been the night they actually bonded and decided they should be friends as well as allies. It made her sad that it didn't work out that way.
"It won't be that bad."
"Only this time your ma probably doesn't want to be anywhere near me," Faith commented, eyes cast toward the ground.
"She's fine with it, Faith," Buffy assured, taking a quick glance toward her mother. She looked worried but she thought it was more for everyone's safety than the fact that she would be alone with Faith for the night. She knew more about their plans than Buffy liked since she never wanted her to think about the danger she put herself in on a daily basis.
Faith must have caught her glancing toward her mother because what she said next caught Buffy off guard. "I won't do anything."
It surprised Buffy that she never feared for her mother's safety tonight, even with Faith with her. After what had happened when Faith woke up from her coma, she knew that she should be thinking that keeping the other slayer as far away from her mother as possible would be ideal. That thought hadn't even crossed her mind though.
She wanted to be shocked by that fact she knew she couldn't. Faith was a different person than when she woke up. She didn't know if it was because of something that happened in LA or if it had something to do with the body switch but the vindictive, evil Faith didn't seem to be there anymore. It was replaced with someone who couldn't stand herself because of everything she'd done.
"I know, Faith," Buffy said and sighed. "We'll meet up here once it's over."
Faith nodded and Buffy turned to join the rest of the group. She knew her friends were thankful not to have Faith fighting with them and even though she did as well she knew her reasons were much different than theirs. They didn't want Faith because they thought she'd turn on them. She didn't because she thought she'd turn on herself.
Buffy shook the thoughts out of her head quickly. She wondered exactly when she started thinking about the wellbeing of someone she thought she hated.
The battle against The Initiative had been hard but the battle against Adam had been worse. Buffy had needed more than just her own strength to defeat him and thankfully, the spell that allowed her to use the strengths of Giles, Willow and Xander as well worked. Adam would have likely killed her without it.
They found Riley with Adam and he helped with the demons and the soldiers but he didn't stay with the group in the end. He was still military through and through and Buffy knew that. It was likely he would just be debriefed and reassigned. Buffy knew even though he had been insubordinate while he was dating her it was clear he had been well-liked by his superiors at one time. Those connections would make sure he continued to have a successful career though Buffy hoped it was far away from Sunnydale.
She didn't say much of a goodbye to him. It was obvious he was still bitter at how they broke up, or how she broke up with him. Buffy knew he would never believe any of her excuses at why they broke up that didn't have anything to do with Faith and she didn't want to get into a fight right after a big win for the good guys. So instead she opted for a quick goodbye with the group and walked away. She felt it was all she could do.
"How do you think your mother has been dealing with Faith?" Giles asked quietly as they walked up to the front door of her house.
"We're not gonna walk into something bad, are we?" Xander asked. "This is Faith we're talking about."
"Xander, did you see Faith tonight? Did she act like the Faith who tried to hurt or kill all of us?" Buffy tried her best not to scowl. "Hell, she's even scared to be in the same room with you. Who knows what'll happen when she finally gets the courage to apologize."
"We'll try to hear her out, Buffy," Willow said. "It's hard with everything that happened but if you're dealing with it then we can try. She hurt you more than any of us."
Buffy wasn't dealing with it so much as she was ignoring the pain for now. She knew she would have to deal with it sooner rather than later though and didn't like how true Willow's statement was. "I'm sure my mom is fine," she said simply, only choosing to answer Giles' question.
They walked into the house to find that even though it was very late at night or early morning to be more accurate, all the lights were on and there was voices coming from the kitchen. Buffy almost expected to hear arguing or anger in the voices but she didn't. Instead, she could hear laughter.
All of them shared looks before walking into the kitchen. Her mother and Faith were sitting at the kitchen table and Joyce was laughing. Faith looked to be the most relaxed Buffy had ever seen, too, both before and after the coma. The sight had Buffy raising an eyebrow and she was sure she wasn't the only one. She hadn't thought of a way to make Faith comfortable and relaxed like that.
Her mother noticed the four of them standing there then and stood. "Oh, you're back." She immediately hugged her daughter. "I'm so relieved you're okay."
"Yep, back in one piece," Buffy said as she let go. "What was so funny when we walked in?"
"Oh, we were just talking," she answered and Buffy didn't like how vague she was. She almost felt jealous her mother could get Faith to talk when she wasn't talking to anyone else. "Actually, I'd like to talk to you and Mr. Giles for a moment."
Xander and Willow nodded and mumbled that they would be in the living room getting ready for the celebration because of the battle they'd just won. Buffy noticed Faith didn't make a move to leave but she figured this conversation would be about her. That would be the only reason Joyce wanted to talk to only her and Giles.
"Did something happen tonight, Joyce?" Giles asked, looking at Faith as if she needed to give the explanation.
"Oh, no," she answered quickly. "We've spent most of the night talking."
"Really?" Buffy couldn't believe she'd gotten Faith to talk. Now she wanted to know what she said. "What about?"
"Oh, you know, just this and that. Nothing big."
That wasn't an answer as far as Buffy was concerned and she looked at Faith so she would give a better explanation. She didn't like that her mother now knew things she and Giles did not. They were the ones that needed to work with her.
"When we were talking an idea came to me. I think it would be ideal for Faith to stay here while she works with you."
Buffy exchanged a look with Giles before he spoke. "Joyce, I don't know what Faith has said about our arrangement but . . ."
"We didn't talk about that," she said quickly, "but I do know that Buffy will be spending a lot of time at your place now, more than she did prior to you deciding Faith should rehabilitate here. I would like to see my daughter occasionally over the summer and I don't mind if that means Faith stays here. We have a spare room."
Buffy looked at Faith but it looked like she was trying hard to stay out of the conversation. It didn't look like this was her idea at all but then she would expect her mother to want to help if she thought she could. "Mom, the deal is Faith stays at Giles' so she can go through the whole Council rehabilitation process minus the unnecessary parts."
"Like the drugging and killing parts," Faith mumbled but didn't look at any of them. Her eyes looked everywhere but at the three of them.
Joyce looked a little disturbed at the comment but didn't ask about it. Buffy figured it was because she didn't want to know the answer to any question she would ask. "She can still do all of that. Is it really necessary that Faith stays with you, Rupert?"
Everyone's attention was suddenly on Giles and Buffy knew that her mother had a point. It wasn't completely necessary for Faith to remain with Giles 24/7. She was only staying there because they didn't trust her to be on her own and they couldn't think of anywhere else. Buffy's house was never an option because she never thought her mother would go for it and she didn't much want to live with the other slayer. Now that the offer was out there though Giles had a decision to make.
"What do you think Buffy?"
She wanted to call him out on the fact he was simply passing the buck to her but Buffy didn't want to do that here. Faith was in the room after all and they were discussing where she would live without even asking her. From the look on her face though, Buffy doubted she cared all that much and that she had no part in this idea.
Having Faith right in the next room would have its benefits. She'd be able to keep an eye on her, making sure she was sleeping, without having to be at her watcher's place all the time. Maybe a change in scenery would do her some good. Whatever happened while they were gone had obviously made her relax. Maybe her mother was the key to getting her to open up more. Maybe she already had tonight.
"It's okay," she said after a minute. "You don't exactly have the space when we start up training. We'd have to do that here anyway so I don't mind."
Buffy could almost hear her friends whispering in the other room about it and she knew she would have to give some answers. She knew she could just say yes to agree with her mother but when it came right down to it she really didn't mind if Faith lived under the same roof as her. It would be uncomfortable but not unbearable. At most it would only be for a few months because then she would be back at college.
Giles nodded. "I suppose it could work. Faith, is this okay with you?"
Faith finally looked at the three of them. "Didn't realize I got a say."
"Of course, you do," Joyce said easily. ""If you want to still stay with Mr. Giles I don't mind. You won't hurt my feelings if you say no. I just thought it might be easier and we have the room."
Faith only looked at Buffy for a moment, almost as if she was trying to see if she was only agreeing for her mother's sake. Finally, she nodded. "It's okay with me."
Joyce smiled and put her hands together. "It's decided then. Faith, you can bring your things over tomorrow and I'll take the day off to clean out the spare room."
"Mom, I can do that."
"No, it's settled," Joyce said as she put a hand up as if to stop any other arguments. "Besides, Faith tells me she still doesn't have many clothes so I thought we could get some tomorrow, too. That is, unless there are other plans."
Giles shook his head. "No, I've neglected that because of Adam but tomorrow would be good day to get Faith completely settled in."
"Good." Joyce smiled. "Now go enjoy your victory."
Buffy knew it would be pointless to argue so she turned to go back into the living room as Giles stayed to talk with her mother and Faith about scheduling. From the looks on Xander and Willow's faces as she entered the living room she knew she was probably going to get a lot of questions.
It was a shame she probably wouldn't have the answers.
Buffy didn't know how it happened but in less than 24 hours her mother seemed to have forgiven Faith for everything she'd done to her. She really wanted to know what they'd said to each other the previous night.
Her mother wasn't talking though and Faith seemed to be uncomfortable with the situation, even more so that Joyce Summers was trying to make her feel at home. Buffy wondered if it was the first time anyone had bothered to do that.
She was even trying her best to make the shopping trip the three of them were on more comfortable. Buffy and Faith looked anything but comfortable but Giles had given her mother money to take Faith shopping for some more clothes and Buffy didn't want the two of them to be alone. She didn't like the thought of them talking without her.
"Okay, we've managed to get a few nice things so far," Joyce said and looked down, almost a though she was going off a mental checklist, and stopped at a display. "Faith, did you bring jeans with you?"
"Just what I'm wearing," she said as she looked down.
"Well, I know I saw you in leather pants a number of times last year but I don't think Mr. Giles' budget will accommodate that. You'll have to go with something else for now."
Buffy wanted to mention that the only other pants in Faith's bag were leathers but decided against it. She only wanted the shopping to be over. It felt foreign to even think that but helping the other girl pick out clothes was weird. She could tell Faith felt the same.
When Faith found something and left to try it on, Joyce stood next to Buffy and sighed. "Honey, you don't need to act like a security guard."
"I really, really do." Just because she didn't think Faith would hurt anyone didn't mean she was okay with leaving her to shop with her mother all day. She also didn't like that her own mother was acting like everything bad thing that Faith had done didn't happen.
"Faith is going through some very tough things right now," Joyce said calmly. "I'm just trying to be understanding."
"And you think I'm not going through something just as tough," Buffy responded in a hushed voice. "You don't even know the things she's done to me."
"Yes, I do." She gave Buffy a very serious look. "And before you think I've forgiven Faith for anything, I haven't. That will probably take a very long time. But I can be understanding for now and give her a place to stay that's away everything else in her life."
"Except for me."
"Yes, except for you," she admitted. "Have the two of you really talked yet?"
"Not gonna happen."
"It will," her mother said with a smile, "and you can start by asking if she's okay in there."
Buffy grumbled but did as she was told. She walked toward the dressing rooms but her mind kept thinking about what her mother had said. Had Faith really told her everything that had happened? Buffy couldn't imagine that the other slayer would have told her every detail of the body switch, including when she had slept with Riley while in Buffy's body. It didn't seem like Faith would have the strength to admit all that to her.
She knocked on the door to the room she had seen Faith go in. "Faith? Everything okay?"
The door opened and Faith stepped out slightly, wearing a new pair of jeans. Buffy's mouth dropped open slightly as she looked at her. It looked as though they were painted on. Even though she could barely look at Faith at times, she knew she looked amazing right now.
For a split second, Faith looked like she did when she first came to Sunnydale well over a year and a half ago. Buffy could practically feel the confidence coming off her but it was gone as soon as she noticed it. Then the sadness and remorse in Faith's eyes returned.
"Too tight, right?"
Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Get whatever but hurry up. I don't want to spend all day here."
It looked as though Faith might say something back but only nodded and closed the door to the room, leaving Buffy standing outside of it looking confused. She found that she wanted so badly for Faith to respond the way she thought she should have: sarcastic, cocky and maybe a little flirty, too. Part of the reason she wanted that was so then she could prove the old Faith was back and that meant she had no interest in changing.
The other part was what had her confused and trying to convince her own brain she was wrong. There was a small part of her that wanted the reaction out of Faith that would show her the Faith she liked. She wanted the one who had her back in a fight and pushed her buttons but in a good way. The one she wanted as a friend.
Not wanting to think about that, she only shook her head and walked back to her mother, who was looking through a sales rack. "She's almost done."
Joyce did another look through the bags in her hands. "I think one more stop and we're done. Rupert mentioned Faith needed some clothes to train in, too."
"You know she stole all the clothes she brought with her, right?"
Her mother sighed. "And that is why we're buying Faith new clothes. Buffy, I know this is hard for you but sometimes life makes us choose the hard option because it's the right one. Mr. Giles needs your help and I would think you would at the very least want to help him."
Faith walked up to them at that moment and handed the jeans to Joyce. "These are fine. Are we almost done? I'm not big on shopping."
"One more stop and the torture's over," she said, not paying attention to how her choice of words affected both slayers. They tensed at the same time but for very different reasons.
Buffy walked behind the two of them and listened to how her mother talked to Faith. It sounded like she was trying her very best to get Faith to talk but the other girl wasn't saying much back. She wondered if that was because she was with them. It seemed like they had no problem talking the previous night.
It made zero sense to her but she knew she'd have her own time with Faith and she'd use that time to ask what was going on.
If Buffy thought it was hard to leave for patrol because she was leaving Faith alone with her watcher, the very thought of leaving her alone with her mother was much, much worse. It wasn't even that she feared something would happen. She wanted to know what they talked about.
Dinner hadn't been as painful as she would have imagined but that was only because Faith was quiet and Giles had come over to drop off more reading material for Faith. He didn't seem to need to but Buffy figured it was only an excuse to see how both she and Faith were acting around each other. Faith hadn't even gotten through the three books he'd had her start with yet so what he had brought wasn't exactly needed.
When it was time for her to patrol, Giles walked her out and stopped once the front door was closed. "Buffy, we need to discuss Faith."
"Like why you agreed to let her stay at my house?" Buffy asked with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
Giles let out a quiet sigh. "I spoke with your mother in detail about the situation this morning to make sure she knew what she was agreeing to. It seems Faith found it easy to talk to her last night. If that continues to be the case maybe we can work through at a faster pace."
"So right now my mom is Faith's shrink?"
"For lack of a better term, yes," he answered. "I feel if she's able to talk to someone, confront every misdeed and apologize for them then she won't be at risk for a mental break. I think you will agree that could happen, especially if she's not sleeping. Is she?"
"I think so," Buffy said though she knew she couldn't be sure. All she knew was Faith stopped the shaking and mumbling while she was there. "It's not exactly my intent to keep a comforting arm around her while she sleeps."
The way he looked at her made Buffy think she was about to receive a lecture but he didn't start one. "Drop off Faith tomorrow morning. I plan on reviewing some of the journal entries she's read with her. You don't have to be there for that but I want you to start taking Faith to different places in the afternoon."
Buffy furrowed her brow. "What do you mean?"
"I want you to take her to every place where she chose wrong, so to speak. I'd like to try for one destination per day so she can confront her past. I feel you are the best person to be with her when she does."
"Why?" Buffy asked, even more confused now.
"Because there's only one thing I know about Faith that hasn't changed from the first day she arrived in Sunnydale until now. She wants to be your friend."
She opened her mouth to respond but then couldn't think of anything to say. Buffy wasn't sure how Giles could see that when all she saw was someone she was sure hated her. There didn't seem to be any offer of friendship in her eyes but maybe she just couldn't see it because of what had happened between them. If it was true that only left one very important question for her.
After everything, did she still want Faith as a friend?
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Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven || Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen || Chapter Fourteen || Chapter Fifteen || Chapter Sixteen
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