Faith could tell Buffy was trying not to look sad. She had a smile on her face as she helped Faith pack her bag but the smile didn't reach her eyes.
"More warm clothes or cold?"
"Probably a little of both," Faith said as she looked around the room. "Always need to be prepared and I always have my leather jacket. Keeps me pretty warm."
Buffy nodded and looked at her closet without taking out any of the clothes hanging there. Faith simply looked at her for a moment before walking over to her and embracing her from behind. She could already tell that this goodbye would be harder than the last.
"Mmm," Buffy murmured as she leaned back into Faith, "you know the answer to that."
"Yeah, I do."
Buffy turned in her arms, putting her arms around her waist. "So are you going east or west?"
Faith knew what she was getting at. It seemed that there were problems and old demons on each coast but the one that Faith knew she needed to confront was Boston. She knew that was part of the reason she couldn't stay in Cleveland. There were too many loose ends feelings-wise.
"East," Faith answered. "I was thinking that I'd drive toward New England. You know, check out that area and slowly make my way to . . . you know, Boston."
They kissed lightly and Faith closed her eyes to concentrate on the fact that Buffy had said that it might be easier for her to transport to her this time. For some reason she needed that now more than she had in the past. She figured it had something to do with Boston.
She hadn't been back to the city since she'd left as the scared slayer that ran toward California to someone she didn't know. Not that she would have admitted it then but Faith had hoped at the time that she would find something she thought she was missing when she'd left those few shorts years ago. Of course, she had but it had taken longer than she would have liked.
"Come on," Buffy said as she let go of Faith. "Let's get some breakfast before you pack up your truck."
Faith smiled as she grabbed her duffle bag and followed Buffy out of the room. Her girlfriend was taking her leaving better than she thought she would but maybe that was because they were starting to plan out visits. And of course, Faith had made sure this visit was longer than the last one.
She had spent the last eleven days in Cleveland, spending most of that time attached to Buffy. They either spent the days working with junior slayers or simply hanging out around the complex. Faith was able to take in everything that Buffy was doing and she could see how much good everyone was doing there. Then again, she still didn't think teaching was for her. She was perfectly content to help her girlfriend though.
It definitely scored her points that she was able to cash in each night.
One of the things she appreciated about her recent visit was that all the young slayers seemed to respect her. There weren't any of the looks she received the first time she arrived at the slayer headquarters. Faith wasn't sure if that was because Buffy had been telling everyone about what she had been doing out on her own or if it was something else but it felt good to not be looked at as an afterthought.
Her favorite part by far was the nights she spent with Buffy. Sometimes they patrolled with a few of the younger slayers but other nights they simply retired to one of their rooms. They watched a movie or a little TV or talked about anything and everything and the night always ended with sex.
The sex was amazing and it seemed like each time was better than the last. Faith had never allowed herself to let her feelings show before during sex, only wanting to get off and nothing more, but with Buffy that was changing. It could be because she was another slayer or that she loved her but Faith found that she wanted to share everything with her.
Faith dropped her bag by the front door then followed Buffy to the kitchen where Andrew and Willow were busy making breakfast with Xander assisting. The pair smiled at each other before joining everyone else.
"Wow, the two of you are actually joining everyone for breakfast," Xander commented as he stacked pancakes high on a plate. "What's the occasion?"
"Faith needed to pack," Buffy said, letting a sad smile show. "She's going to leave after breakfast."
Everyone seemed to share a look before Willow spoke up. "Oh, where are you off to this time, Faith?"
"East," Faith answered as she put an arm around Buffy's waist. "It's a little warmer so maybe I'll go further north, probably end up in Boston eventually."
Another look was shared but Faith chose to ignore it. She figured that Buffy talked to her two best friends about their relationship so the look probably had something to do with that.
Buffy leaned against Faith as they followed everyone into the dining room and sat down to eat. Most of the younger slayers were there as well but Faith wasn't paying attention to any of them. Her eyes were either focused on her food or on Buffy.
Her girlfriend was sad that she was leaving, that was easy to see, but there was something else that seemed to be on her mind. She hadn't talked about anything to Faith but Faith hoped that she wasn't as sad as she could have been because she was planning on visiting her more than before.
It was something Faith had thought about over the last couple days and each time she always thought back to that first morning with Xander. He's the one who first told her it was okay to ask for help, the one who put the thought into her head. She'd thought about it since and now that she was thinking about how facing up to some of her demons in Boston might be easier if she had Buffy to rely on.
That wasn't something she would have considered in the past. Faith still thought the road to her redemption meant that she had to deal with most things on her own but she had done that for the most part. Sure, she had worked with people from time to time but most nights she was saving people and staking vamps on her own. Each time she did she felt a little better about the choice she made. As weird as it felt to think, each success made her more comfortable in her own skin.
At first, she thought that having Buffy around would hurt that feeling but she didn't think that now. It changed since Buffy had told her that she loved her.
"There'll be plenty of time for thinking later," Buffy whispered into her ear as they ate. "Stay with me for now."
Faith looked at her and smiled before quickly finishing up the food in front of her. It was getting late in the morning and she knew she needed to get on the road if she was going to get set up anywhere and have time to patrol.
She leaned in and put her lips to Buffy's ear. "B, I should probably get going if I'm going to get a good drive in today." When Buffy nodded she turned to the rest of them. "I'm gonna hit the road."
Both Xander and Willow stood as she did and before she knew what was happening, both of them gave her a hug. She still wasn't quite used to anyone besides Buffy hugging her so she stiffened for a moment but then she relaxed and let the moment happen. It was almost starting to feel like they were friends.
After they said their goodbyes and Faith waved a goodbye to Andrew, the two slayers grabbed Faith's bag and started an increasingly slow walk to her truck. Faith could tell it was going to be hard goodbye, even with her promising to visit more.
She tossed her bag in the back and found Buffy waiting for her by the driver's side door. She smiled and kissed her as soon as she reached her. Buffy kissed her back, deepening the kiss as first opportunity. Their arms wrapped around each other tightly as they did, making it so neither of them could move from their current spot.
Faith broke away once she needed to breathe and rested her forehead against Buffy's. "I'll call once I stop driving for the day, okay?"
Faith smiled and lightly kissed her again. "You know if you need me here I'll come back. No hiding injuries or anything."
Buffy looked a little confused for a second since Faith hadn't told her anything from what she'd learned from the others but then she narrowed her eyes. "I can't trust anyone."
"I mean it, Buffy. If you want me to be honest with you about everything and to trust you when I need help you have to do the same."
She nodded and buried her face in Faith's neck. "As soon as everything calms down for the summer, I want to be with you for awhile."
"I can't wait."
Buffy lifted her head and smiled even though tears were threatening to fall. "I know going back there is what you need to do but whatever happens just remember that people love you. That I do."
Faith knew why she was saying what she was. It was because once she ended up in Boston some of the self-loathing and maybe even the fear she felt before would resurface. "I love you, too."
They let go of each other then and Faith gave Buffy one last kiss before getting in the Explorer and driving away.
Even though it was the last thing she wanted to do, Faith found herself camping out in her Explorer.
In the two days since she left Cleveland, she hadn't gotten as far as she wanted. She had hoped to be further north but instead she was still in Pennsylvania. When she was just started to get settled in for her first night away from Cleveland and was doing a patrol in an area of Williamsport she got a call from Kate.
The younger slayer had been tracking a group of vampires but they always seemed to be one town ahead of her. All she said she was doing was dealing with their aftermath and she was venturing farther north than she had previously. Since she thought Faith might be in the area she asked if they could meet where she thought the group might end up.
That meant that instead of leaving Williamsport the next day since she hadn't encountered any vampires or demons and driving out of Pennsylvania and into New York she drove to Salt Springs State Park. Faith didn't know why certain vampires always wanted to stay in wooded and rural areas but she didn't like them. She wished they would stick to a place where she could at least get a motel room with running water and a bed.
There was a knock on the passenger window and Faith turned her head to see Kate standing there. She unlocked the door and the other slayer hopped inside, a smile on her face despite the face she had obviously been living in the elements for some time. Her jeans and shirt were clean but her jacket and boots had spots of dirt everywhere. Her hair was well hidden under a baseball hat, making Faith think she simply didn't want to deal with it.
"Hey, kid," Faith said, smiling, "what's going on?"
Kate smiled. "Thanks for meeting up with me. Once I got north of the Carolinas I knew I was getting out of my element. I'd love to be anywhere south right now."
"I left Cleveland a couple days ago," Faith said as she looked out at the trees in front of the truck. "I was hoping to be a little further north by now but I'm okay with helping out. Figured you'd call in for reinforcements only if you needed it."
"I like working on my own but I'm not stupid," Kate said. "I know when something needs more than just one slayer."
"You ever work with anyone else?"
She nodded. "Yeah, I ran into Kennedy last fall, like October or something. Bumped into her in Miami, slayed with her for a couple nights and then she moved on. I was in Cleveland when it first started, too. I was one of the first to get sent out on my own."
Faith smiled at the fact Kate was proud that she was trusted to be on her own. It was another reason she was okay with being around her. "So what are we looking for tonight?"
"Six vamps," Kate explained. "Two men and four women. The ages they look are anywhere from sixteen to maybe 35."
"Other than I'm not sure why I haven't caught up with them yet?" Kate shook her head. "To be honest, they look a little out of place and that's why when I ask people know who I'm talking about. Until they stole some warmer clothes they were described as six underdressed people of multiple ethnicities since they all looked like they were going clubbing. Flashy clothes usually make people look twice." She paused. "Of course, some people get a little colorful with their descriptions."
Faith chuckled quietly. "I encountered that once or twice."
They sat in silence for a minute, both looking around the area from their view in the vehicle. They still had about an hour before sunset and Faith hoped that they didn't have to spend more than one night in the park. After one night all she would want to do would be to take a shower and sleep in a bed.
"So how are things with you and the Gen . . . I mean, Buffy?"
"Nice catch," Faith commented, smiling at the nickname. "It's good. Just left Cleveland after spending some time there."
"Can I ask a question about that?"
Faith raised an eyebrow, equally surprised that she wanted to know and that she bothered to ask permission. "Sure."
"Why are you travelling if the two of you are together?" Kate asked. "Wouldn't you just want to stay in Cleveland? I mean, you'd be able to do whatever you wanted and you have someone who wants you there. I know you were in prison. It's kind of slayer legend at this point. Cleveland's gotta be better than that."
"Yeah, it's better than that," Faith agreed. "But I have to do some things on my own. What I have with B . . . it was unexpected."
"But you love her?"
Faith nodded. "I do."
"I don't get it."
"It's really not for you to get," Faith said as she turned her head to look at her. "Do you have anyone?"
Kate looked away from her. "When I first got to Miami I met someone and we started dating. He was . . . he was everything I was looking for and we moved in together."
"Why am I sensing this doesn't have a happy ending?"
"Let's just say he's not in the picture anymore."
Faith sensed Kate didn't want to talk about it further so she left it alone. In the past, she wouldn't have cared to even ask about someone else's past. After trying and failing with Buffy, she figured trying to be friendly was wasted when she was really on her own when it came right down to it.
She genuinely cared now, especially seeing that the other slayer was trying hard to repress any feeling she had. It was so much like what she would do.
Looking at her phone, Faith realized she probably wouldn't be able to call Buffy after they started walking into the park. She looked at Kate as she opened her door. "Gotta make a call before we start moving."
The other slayer only nodded and went right back to looking at the wilderness in front of them. Faith stepped out of the truck and hit the speed dial as she put the phone to her ear, smiling as Buffy answering after a couple rings.
"So this is a little early."
"Good to hear your voice, too, B," Faith said easily. "I wanted to check in and let you know that I might be out of range for a day or two. I don't know why vamps like the woods but I gotta follow a group through a state park before they hurt someone. Well, more than they already have."
"So no panicking if you don't pick up or the call doesn't go through?" Buffy asked teasingly.
"Exactly," Faith said as she smiled and laughed quietly. "I actually have Kate with me. She tracked the group all the way from Miami."
"Really? I guess that explains why we stopped getting reports from her."
Faith looked into the truck for a second before turning away. "She stopped reporting in? Maybe that's just 'cause she's been busy tracking."
"I guess." Buffy's tone sounded doubtful but she didn't address it further. "Still in Pennsylvania then?"
"Yeah," Faith answered. "But as soon as we stake this group of vamps I'm going to keep moving north like I planned. Just couldn't say no when Kate called me."
"Okay, call me when you can," Buffy said. "I've gotta get organized for tonight's patrol. I love you."
Faith smiled. "Love you, too, Buffy. Be safe."
"I think they went this way."
Kate looked at Faith with an eyebrow raised. "You sure?"
Faith nodded as she started walking in the direction she had pointed to just a moment before. "Yeah, I don't think any camper would leave a path of destruction this big."
The other girl nodded and they started to walk through the woods. They had only been moving through the woods of the park for an hour when they heard a scream began to move in that direction. After ten minutes of listening to their slayer instincts and a pair of flashlights that picked up a small blood trail, they were able to get close to the group they were after.
The path they were following was well-worn and Faith wondered if that meant the group didn't care whether or not they were being followed. There were also a lot of questions she had for Kate as to how she caught on to the group and started to track them down. It felt like the group was simply traveling around doing whatever they pleased and that it didn't bother them that someone was following them. It didn't feel like they had ever had an encounter with Kate either before but she could be wrong.
Faith made sure she had her best weapons with her because of that feeling. She had three stakes and had knives stashed in both her jacket and her boot. At Kate's suggestion, she even had a small axe strapped to her back. The younger slayer had explained that having one usually helped her when she was in more rural areas and that was all the reason she needed.
After about fifteen minutes they heard talking and soon saw the group trying to start a fire in an open area that looked like a people had camped there dozens of times in the past. Faith put a finger to her lips and Kate nodded as they watched for a minute. Two of the women got a fire started and that was when Faith noticed the body cast off to the side. The man was dressed as though he had been camping in the area and from the look of it he was either unconscious or dead.
"Why did we have to pick this place, Joey?" one of the women asked as she sat in front of the fire.
"'Cause I have the feeling tonight is the night," one of the men said as his eyes seemed to scan the area around them. "She'll catch us tonight and I want to have a little fun with it."
Faith turned her head to Kate and raised an eyebrow but the other girl wouldn't look her way. She didn't like that it seemed the group were almost trying to set a trap for them. Kate had failed to mention any of that.
Not wanting to let any of the vampires get the upper hand on her, she made sure all of them were together around the fire before stepping out from her hiding spot. "Is this where the party is?"
All of the vampires turned to look at her before the other man in the group spoke up. "Well, we've had an appetizer. I don't know about the rest of you but I'm ready for the main course."
Faith pulled a stake out of her jacket, wanting to show them right away what her intentions were. Because of what she'd heard she didn't think playing the part of a helpless human would be the right move. "Yeah, I don't think that'll happen."
"Slayer!" one of the female vamps exclaimed. "How is there more than one?"
"I heard there were several now."
"More than you know," Kate said as she moved from her hiding place to stand beside Faith, a stake in her hand as well.
"Kate, my dear," Joey said, clapping his hands together. "Finally caught up with us. It took you long enough with all the breadcrumbs I provided."
"What the fuck, Kate?" Faith muttered under her breath, hoping only the other slayer could hear.
"Later," was all she said back before taking a step toward the group. "This ends now."
"I see you've tried to get a little help but the odds are still in my favor," Joey said, his smile wide. "I can't wait to taste you."
Kate let out a scream before charging for the vampire. Faith cursed under her breath, not liking the situation she'd let herself get into, and followed. She picked two of the female vampires, both of them standing off to the side and trying their best to stay out of the way, and thought they looked like the easiest to stake. It seemed like she needed to lower the number of vamps since Kate only had one on her mind.
Both vampires swung wildly at her but they were both inexperienced and Faith felt confident in the fight. She dared to look over at the other and saw that the rest of them were trying their best to overwhelm Kate. That alone gave her the energy she needed to overpower both of vamps and stake them quickly before jumping into the other fight.
She quickly pulled the other male vamp away from the fight and punched him in the face as hard as she could. His nose was immediately broken and blood sprayed out, causing him to cry out in pain. Faith knew that gave her an advantage, especially since it seemed all of the vamps were only focusing on Kate.
That thought was a little alarming but Faith tried her best to block that from her mind as she fought the vamp she had pulled away. He was a better fighter than the two women but his initial injury had crippled his ability to put up the kind of fight that would normally cause her problems. In the end, he only landed a couple of punches before Faith saw an opening and staked him.
When she turned back to Kate's fight she noticed that she had staked the other two women and was only fighting the vamp that taunted her, Joey. Faith watched them, waiting to see if Kate needed her to jump in since it looked like a very personal fight. The other slayer was fighting with so much emotion in her eyes that it was obvious she was the one who needed to finish it.
Faith had a strong suspicion as to why but she waited for the fight to end to confirm it.
Joey hit her hard across the face, causing Kate to fall, and smirked as she jumped back up. "Baby, this has been so much fun, don't you think? Shame I'll be drinking you soon."
"Never," Kate spit out as she hit him harder and swept his feet out from under him before he knew what was happening. In a second a stake was in her hand and he was dust.
Kate sank to her knees as the dust settled and Faith could tell tears were starting to fall from her eyes. She walked up and crouched down beside her, taking the stake from her hand that she'd been gripping tightly.
"I was gone two days to hunt down a nasty demon and when I came back he had been turned," she said, not looking at Faith but at the fire. "The first time I saw him after I had the chance to stake him but I couldn't. I thought he was still in there somewhere but I was just stupid. That's when he started playing these games and I had to track him and the group he turned." She let out a sigh that almost sounded like a sob. "The blood of all the people they killed is on my hands."
Faith looked past her to the dead man lying twenty feet away. She wasn't wrong but Faith knew better than to tell her that at that moment. "We all have had fights like this. Vamps and demons come after us, they try to take the people we care about. That's the shitty part about being a slayer."
Kate finally looked at her and opened her mouth as if to say something but didn't. Instead, she put her arms around Faith and began to cry.
If it had happened months ago, Faith knew she would have no idea what to do. Comforting people wasn't exactly one of her strengths and probably never would be but she knew that was what Kate needed more than anything else. That was why she put an arm around her and let her cry on her shoulder, knowing that was what the other slayer needed and happy that she was able to do it.
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