Her first night out of prison was okay but the entire time Faith felt uneasy, like she wasn't sure what to say or even what to do. She didn't like the feeling at all and couldn't understand why she was feeling this way. It made her want to run.
Buffy had shown her around the large building and the grounds. The place proved to be bigger than Faith had thought and she couldn't help but be impressed at how together everything was, especially given that Buffy had insinuated everything had been set up in a matter of weeks. There was a level of organization that wasn't present the last time Faith had been with the group but then again, by the time she showed up in Sunnydale everyone was in crisis mode.
It turned out Giles was slowly setting up places all over the world for slayers to be trained since, as Buffy explained, there were vampires and demons all over the world. Now they had the ability to actually stop them no matter where they were. As part of the training process, slayers had to spend time on the Cleveland hellmouth, a minimum of six months.
That explained to Faith why the place was full of slayers and Buffy had said that since the property was large they might even build more housing and bring in a couple more watchers so they could have more slayers at one time. It seemed like she had a plan in place and Faith had to admit the way the group had set things up worked.
There were more rooms upstairs than Faith had thought as well. There were ten dorm-like rooms on the second floor that each held two slayers, most of which were full at all times. Two watchers also lived on the floor to make sure the teenagers at least partially behaved and of course, the rest of the gang was there to keep track of them. Apparently that didn't always work and Buffy had a couple stories that proved the young slayers had a rebellious side.
The third floor was where everyone else lived. The rooms were nicer and larger, most having their own bathrooms, something the younger slayers didn't have. Buffy showed her where she, Willow, Xander and Andrew stayed along with a couple another rooms for guests and when Giles stayed when he was there. One that wasn't a guest room and was next to Buffy's was her own room.
Faith looked it over carefully and she kind of liked it. It wasn't huge by any means but it had more than she expected. It had a bed, dresser, desk and couch along with a couple pieces of furniture, one which held a TV. It was also one of the rooms that had its own bathroom and when Faith looked in she noticed it was already stocked with towels and toiletries.
The way Buffy was acting kept catching Faith off guard but it was in a good way. After realizing that Faith wasn't saying much she kept the conversation going by talking about how they got the house and set everything up. She even talked about the fact that Dawn had moved to England to start her training as a watcher.
It was easy to see the move was recent and that Buffy didn't fully approve of her little sister's choice but Faith decided not to ask about it. There was a risk that she would overstep her bounds and instead whatever questions she actually voiced was directed at how the group had settled in Cleveland.
It turned out earlier in the year they had received word of a threat that a group of vampires got a hold of a device that had the ability to open the hellmouth. Robin Wood had been in Cleveland with three other slayers and they requested help after one of them had been killed. Once Giles researched when Robin had described everyone had rushed to the city. Apparently, once the device, something the vampires called the Rune, was made whole by touching the seal it could keep it open indefinitely without the use of anything else.
Buffy described how the first week brought back some Sunnydale memories since they were all crammed into a house Robin had been renting. That was when she and Giles realized they needed to set up something permanent, more so than having Robin and a couple of slayers staying there. Cleveland was too big of a threat.
That was the point where Faith actually asked about someone, having wondered where Robin was. Buffy broke the news that he had died along with three over slayers in the final battle where they destroyed both the Rune and the vampires trying to use it.
Faith wasn't sure how to take the news of Robin's death and she figured Buffy knew that because she didn't dwell on it. Instead, she talked about finding the property with Giles and how Xander and Willow had agreed to move there to start the training facility. Andrew proved useful when it came to help with furnishing the huge building and with the cooking so he stayed as well.
She finished with how she thought it was partially her fault Willow and Kennedy were on the outs most of the time. Prior to moving to Cleveland, the couple had travelled most of the time, stopping at covens or to help solve a vamp problem. It was something Kennedy liked to do and even without the Council she could afford to do it thanks to her trust fund. She was completely against moving and only grudgingly agreed to use her travel time for strictly slaying reasons. Buffy said that Kennedy had only been back a couple of times since they settled for good and it wasn't a subject she brought up with Willow anymore.
After all that they had dinner with Andrew, Xander and Willow which wasn't terribly uncomfortable but Faith knew that was because they didn't eat with the rest of the slayers. She still thought about the look she got when she arrived and really wanted to know what was said about her.
It seemed like both Xander and Willow knew Faith didn't want to talk about prison because they only told her about what they had done over the last two years. Xander talked about working in England with Giles and helping to develop some high tech gear for when the slayers patrolled. Willow stuck with where she'd traveled and didn't mention Kennedy much at all.
Faith figured it must have been a sore subject.
In the end, Faith could tell all her body wanted was to sleep so she declined to go on patrol. Buffy had looked genuinely disappointed but Faith feared that if she went and liked it, liked patrolling in Cleveland, she might not leave and that was still the plan. She still wanted to go out on her own.
That was why after what was probably the most relaxing sleep she had ever had, Faith woke up early and packed a few things in a bag. There were clothes in the closet that were her size and she had to think that was Buffy's doing. There were also some weapons and Faith packed a couple of those in the bag she'd found, too. She didn't know where she was going but if she was going to be doing any slaying she knew she needed to be prepared.
Once she had everything together and had taken a long shower, she tried her best to get out of the place as quietly as possible. Of course, she had thought of the fact there were people up at all hours in the building and the stairs she took, the one that was closest to her room, made her travel through the kitchen on her way out.
"Good morning, Faith," Xander said as she walked into the kitchen. He had a cup of coffee in his hand and a newspaper in front of him. "Coffee?"
"Uh, sure," Faith said, not knowing what else to do or say.
He grabbed a mug from one of the cupboards and poured her a cup, smiling as he did. "What's with the bag?"
"I was gonna head out," Faith said before taking a sip. "I only promised to stay the night."
"I get it." Xander paused then looked at Faith again. "You know, I actually don't get it. Why do you want to leave so badly?"
Faith shrugged. "I figure in order to do this right I gotta do it on my own."
"Do what right? You served your time, Faith, and we both know you didn't have to."
"Yeah, I really didn't, did I?" Faith commented. "If everyone else had their way I wouldn't have done any time at all. By the end I was surprised I was even listened to the way they were trying to get everything dropped. But just because evidence and my confession were thrown out doesn't mean I didn't do everything I was charged with. We both know that."
"Are you talking about Angel's people?"
Faith only nodded.
"Okay," Xander said slowly. "I do understand that part of it as being one of the original ‘send Faith to prison' gang."
"There was a gang?" Faith asked, not being about to suppress the chuckle that came with the question.
"But what I don't understand is now that you're out, why don't you want to be here?"
"It's complicated." Faith paused and saw the disbelieving look on Xander's face. "I don't know how to explain it aside from that I think redeeming myself means I have to be on my own."
Xander seemed to think for a moment before saying anything. "What if you're wrong?"
"What do you mean?"
"You want to change, right?" He waited for Faith to nod before continuing. "You already started that when you helped us in Sunnydale. And honestly, there was one thing that you never did much before that would prove you want to change."
Faith raised an eyebrow. "What's that?"
"Asking for help."
She opened her mouth to respond but instead she heard Buffy behind her. "You're leaving?"
Faith turned and noticed Buffy was dressed in workout clothes. She had shown her the training area the night before so she figured that's where she was headed. "Yeah, B. I said I would stay the night and see everything and I did . . . but I want to start out on my own."
Buffy furrowed her brow and Faith wondered if this would be when the other slayer would show the side Faith remembered all too well: the bossy, "do as I say" side. But that wasn't what happened. "Come with me."
Faith looked to Xander but he only nodded so she relented and followed Buffy through the house until they reached her office. Once inside Buffy shut the door and went around the desk, shuffling through some papers and items until she found a leather pouch.
"There was a part of me that thought you wouldn't stay." She handed the pouch to Faith. "This was supposed to be yours so you could get settled here but it works for you to travel, too."
"What is it?"
"Open it and find out."
Faith opened the pouch and was momentarily speechless. Inside was cash, a driver's license, passport and a credit card. All the documents were in her name and she couldn't think Buffy had gotten them by strictly legal means. There was also a cell phone and a set of keys.
"What is all this, B?"
"You need a fresh start, right?" Buffy asked, the smallest smile appearing on her face. "This will help."
"Are these even legal? I don't exactly remember applying for a passport."
"They're mostly legal." Buffy walked around the desk and leaned against the front of it. "That's your signature, right?"
Faith looked over the documents and had to admit that it definitely looked like she signed for everything. Even the picture looked recent. "Yeah, it is. What I don't understand is how?"
Buffy kept a straight face, like she knew the answer she would give would be one Faith wouldn't like. "You're going to accuse us of being stalkers again but waiting until you were out wasn't good enough. Getting the license and passport take time and I'm not that patient. We used court documents Angel's office had to make them. They are legal in every other sense."
"So this was something for me to start working here?"
Buffy nodded. "But now you can use it to do what you think you need to do. The credit card is a Council one and Giles will get annoyed if I don't tell you not to go overboard. The cell's one of ours, too, so you can keep in contact if you want. It has mine, Will's and Xander's numbers all programmed in. Giles is in there, too. A couple of the keys are for the front door and to your room and for Robin's car . . . I think he'd want you to have it."
Faith looked at the keys sadly. She wished she could have talked to Robin before he died but knew she wouldn't have wanted that talk to be at the prison. There was still no regret in the choice to have zero contact while behind bars.
"You don't have to do this, Buffy," Faith said quietly. "I think I can do just fine on my own. I don't need everyone here trying to do a good deed or clear your conscience or whatever by giving me all this."
"That's what you really think of us? What you think of me?" Buffy shook her head. "It's been two years, Faith. How many times do I have to say that? If I remember correctly, I was one of the ones telling you that you didn't need to go back to prison."
That was true and Faith tried to shake off the old suspicions she always had when it came to Buffy and everyone else. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, reminding herself she wanted to leave all the judgments she'd once made behind. "Thanks for this, B. It'll help."
A smile appeared on Buffy's face. "Not a problem. Are you going to leave right away?"
It sounded like there was still hope in her voice that Faith would stay but that wouldn't happen. Faith still wanted to leave and find her own way. "That's the plan. I want to get on the road and figure out where to go."
Buffy nodded but the smile started to fade. "Do you want a suggestion on where to go? Someplace where there's plenty of vamps for you to get back into slaying?"
"Where?" Faith asked, raising an eyebrow. She wondered if this was an assignment since Buffy had mentioned traveling slayers.
"Memphis," she answered. "Vamps like it for some reason even though there isn't much of a supernatural presence there, not like here anyway."
"Maybe they like Graceland." Faith shifted from one foot to the other. "Is this like an official assignment or something?"
"No, we've had people do sweeps through there before," Buffy said. "There might be someone there now, I really don't know. Things have been busy enough here."
Faith nodded, taking Buffy at her word. "Maybe I can check it out."
She turned to walk out of the office but Buffy spoke up before she could get to the door. "Faith? Do you mind if I call you sometimes? Just to check in and see how you are?"
That was something Faith didn't know if there was a right answer to. Part of her wanted to say no and another part thought maybe this was the second chance they needed. "Yeah, sure. I guess you have my number now."
Buffy's smile was the last thing she saw before walking out of the office and the building to find the car that was now hers.
Robin's car was actually an older Ford Explorer. Faith appreciated it's black color, ample room for supplies and weapons and that it wasn't something girly but then again she couldn't ask for much with a free vehicle.
She hadn't seen anyone else on her way out and she was thankful for that. There would be nothing but trying to make excuses to Willow, Xander or Andrew at why she couldn't stay and she really didn't want to run into any of the young slayers. Putting up with their looks, stares and any comments wasn't exactly something on her to-do list.
The first thought she had was that she wanted to get some clothes that she could pick out and some supplies for the road but instead decided getting out of Cleveland was the first priority. That was why after stopping at a gas station to top off the gas tank, get some food and a road map she was quickly on her way out of the city.
She decided to go south though she wasn't sure if she would actually do as Buffy suggested and drive to Memphis. One thing that stopped her from going on patrol the previous night, aside from being tired from traveling with Andrew, was that she felt it would have been awkward. Faith was definitely feeling the urge to slay something though. It was a feeling she'd suppressed the two years in prison but there wasn't a need to anymore.
The drive gave her a lot of time to think, something that she'd had plenty to do over the last two years. It was different now though. Now she was able to do some planning and follow through with those plans without have to wait. Even deciding where to eat lunch made her smile.
It was in the early afternoon when she hit the Cincinnati city limits and decided that was enough driving for the day. She still needed to do some shopping for clothes and anything else she might need and there wasn't a need to rush. There wasn't a schedule to stick to and Faith was curious to try out the credit card she was given.
Of course, it worked and Faith decided to take to heart what Buffy said about Giles wanting everyone not to go wild with the cards. She only got clothes she felt she needed and resisted the urge to get leather pants. At least, she resisted for now. She figured she'd be able to justify them soon, after she actually started doing some good and not just saying that's what she was going to do.
After she thought she had enough clothes to at the very least travel so she wouldn't have to wear the same thing every other day, Faith went about finding a decent hotel. Like the clothes, she didn't want to go overboard but she didn't want to stay at some fleabag motel either. She'd stayed in enough of those to last a lifetime.
First though, Faith did what she had wanted to do since she got out of prison: she found a restaurant and had a nice, slow, quiet dinner. It was something she had wanted to do right away but having Andrew pick her up had effectively put a wrench into that plan.
Her first official meal out of prison was a steak, rare and seasoned perfectly, along with a baked potato and some vegetables she had no intention of eating. She sat there for what was probably a long time since she saw the waitress looking at her watch, probably hoping she'd leave so she could fill the table with the hope of getting more tips.
Faith wanted to really relax so she enjoyed every bite and tipped the waitress big for putting up with her. The long day was starting to tire her out so she stopped at the first hotel that didn't look too expensive but expensive enough that she wouldn't have to search for bugs before she settled in for the night.
She looked up at the man behind the counter. "Yes?"
"Will you be staying for just the one night?"
"Yeah," Faith answered, nodding. "Just for the night."
He smiled. "Here's you key card then. You're on the fourth floor and the elevators are to your right."
Faith thanked him and took her bag and some of the clothes she'd bought that day to the room, smiling as she walked in and closed the door. It was simple, she hadn't sprung for a suite or anything, but it had a big and comfortable looking bed, a TV that actually looked like it worked and a nice, clean bathroom. That was all she could really ask for.
She took some time to look over what she bought and make sure it was really to her liking before taking a long, hot shower. Even though she'd had some time to herself the night before, Faith had been too uncomfortable surrounded by Buffy and her friends. She knew Buffy had wanted the place, the new slayer headquarters, to be her new home but it hadn't felt that way. She felt like a visitor instead.
There might be a time when that wouldn't be the case but Faith couldn't imagine when that would be. Maybe once she really got back on her feet and started to get a sense on what she wanted to do she would feel like she belonged. Now wasn't that time though.
After watching TV for a couple hours Faith felt she was relaxed enough to get some sleep but as she reached to turn off the light her eyes looked toward something. She looked at the phone she'd been given.
She looked at it for a minute before picking it up and looking through the features and contacts, something she hadn't done when she'd been given the phone. Sure enough, all the numbers Buffy had said were programmed in were there and Faith found herself thinking about calling her. Before she even realized she wanted to, she pressed the option to call.
The line rang a few times and Faith figured she was either out on patrol or maybe even already asleep. It wasn't yet midnight but it was getting there.
Finally, Buffy answered. "Hello? Faith?"
"Uh, hey," Faith said, suddenly realizing she wasn't sure what to say. "How'd you know it was me?"
"Your number's programmed into my phone," she said quietly. "Are you okay?"
Faith was silent on the question until she realized Buffy was waiting on an answer. "Um, yeah, I'm okay."
"Then why did you call? Are you still in Cleveland?"
"No, I'm not in Cleveland. I'm in Cincinnati," Faith answered. "I, uh, I was thinking. You know, about you asking if you could call me."
"I kinda figure that can go both ways."
She could almost see Buffy smiling on the other end. "Yeah, you can call. I just got in from patrolling so this is kinda when I'm winding down." She paused. "Did you go out patrolling tonight? I'm sure you could find some activity in Cincinnati."
"I was a little busy getting some clothes and few supplies. Didn't go to wild with the card either."
Buffy laughed. "I wouldn't care if you did but I bet Giles would."
Neither of them said anything for a few seconds but before Faith started to get that uncomfortable feeling that was getting all too familiar Buffy spoke up. "I like this . . . talking to you like this."
Faith smiled. "Me, too."
"Well, I have to be up in a few hours so I should get some sleep," Buffy said. "Drive safe, Faith."
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