Faith regretted her decision on where to go next.
When she decided to leave Mobile it was very tempting to go to Florida as Buffy had suggested but for some reason she just couldn't do it. It wasn't because Buffy had been the one to make the suggestion either. No, it was that she felt if the area really needed a slayer the one stationed there wouldn't have left to check another area.
That was why she needed to go somewhere else and west was an as good a direction as any.
Billy had shown up the morning she was loading the truck up and had tried his best to get her to stay but she knew he didn't have a chance at convincing her and eventually he knew that, too. The only thing that came out of their conversation was that the demon went with her, for a little while anyway.
It turned out that his clan was based in Mississippi and since she was driving west she agreed to drive him to where his people lived. He promised it wouldn't take very long and Faith had to admit it wasn't terrible to have some company while she drove. The time went by faster, especially with all the stories Billy told.
Once they got to the farm Billy tried to convince her to stick around for a couple days and see what the farm had to offer but Faith couldn't imagine anything more boring. She thought about actually saying that but instead only said that she couldn't slay anything on a farm. That got a laugh out of everyone and she didn't have to offend them by stating their lives were boring.
After leaving Billy with his clan, and making sure he had her number in case ever needed anything, she was on her own again. She knew without a doubt that she didn't want to stay in Mississippi so she continued through the state until she hit the Louisiana state line.
She knew if she drove south and hit New Orleans she was bound to encounter something strange enough to make her stick around for at least a couple of weeks. The problem with that was because of those type of thoughts she figured there was bound to be another slayer in the area. Even though she was okay with Billy around she wasn't sure if she wanted to work with some young slayer she didn't know.
That was still something she wasn't sure she was ready for. She knew other slayers, the younger slayers, knew about her and the fact she chose to go back to prison. The young slayers also always seemed to be chatty, at least the ones she encountered in Sunnydale were, and Faith envisioned that they were all full of questions she didn't want to answer.
Because of those worries, Faith kept driving into Texas, even though she thought once or twice about driving back toward Florida where she knew what she was getting into. Texas was big though and she figured there had to be some problems only a slayer could solve.
Her phone rang as she pulled into a bar parking lot after a day of driving. There was a hotel next to it that she figured she could stay for the night, especially since she was tired from all the driving. Now all she wanted was to relax with a drink and maybe a little food before getting some sleep. Then she could figure out if there was a reason to stay.
"How's the beach?"
Faith sighed a little. "Not at the beach, B."
"Oh." She paused and Faith wondered if she was disappointed she hadn't taken her advice. "I thought you'd be enjoying the sun already."
"Actually, I went in the opposite direction. Billy needed a lift back to his clan and then I headed west." She looked at the map that was unfolded on the passenger seat. "I'm in Tyler, TX right now."
"Why there?" There was only curiosity in her voice and Faith smiled at that. She liked the lack of judgment.
"I'm sick of driving for the day," Faith answered. "Found a hotel, was just about to get a drink." She thought for a second. "I was thinking of stopping in New Orleans and checking it out but I figured there was already a slayer there. Am I right?"
"Yeah, there is and sometimes I think two should be there fulltime. Willow takes trips there, too, 'cause of all the witchcraft." There was another pause in the conversation before Buffy spoke again. "Why do you want to stay away from other slayers anyway?"
Faith thought about the question for a few seconds before answering. "I guess I just don't want to have to talk about prison or my past or anything. I just wanna get back to slaying without everything else. Can't move on if people keep bringing all of it up."
"Is that why you were okay with your sidekick?"
"He wasn't my sidekick," Faith said, trying not to smile at the question. She couldn't understand why Buffy had an issue with her teaming with a well-meaning demon but she definitely found it humorous. "But yeah, he only asked me about slaying stories and told me ones about his clan. It was more interesting than I'll ever admit to him."
"You didn't tell him about being naked with the priest or about the alligator wrestling, did you?"
Faith laughed quietly. "Wouldn't you like to know what stories I told him. Got a lot of Sunnydale ones, too."
Buffy was laughing a little, too, and that made Faith smile. "Well, I should let you get some food and relax. I'll let you know if we hear of anything in the area. It's easier than a blind search."
She could tell Buffy was about to hang up and wanted to stop her. She felt like this was her chance to ask. "Hey, B, does Willow transport people a lot?"
"Depends on what you think 'a lot' is. Why?"
"You know, I'm not going back to Cleveland any time soon," she started. "I kind of like traveling and being on my own. But well, I figured you could meet up with me once and a while if you were able to transport."
Buffy didn't say anything in response for a minute and Faith feared it was too soon for her to bring something like that up. She'd only been out of prison for a few weeks and even though she was getting comfortable with talking to Buffy over the phone, it was different in person.
"Forget I mentioned it," Faith said after a minute of awkward silence.
"No," Buffy responded quickly, "I don't want to forget it. I was just trying to figure out the best day to do it. Some days are busier than others here."
"You don't get days off?"
"Not really," Buffy admitted. "Weekends are filled with planning and patrols and all that. There's not a lot of time for fun."
Faith wondered if that was part of the reason Buffy had wanted Faith to stay in Cleveland. Maybe her role there would've been to share responsibilities but she shook the thought away. "Maybe it's time you take a day off then."
"It would be long overdue." Buffy seemed to be thinking it over and Faith was slightly relieved the other slayer hadn't laughed the offer off. Sure, Buffy was the one who reached out first with her wanting to Faith to stay in Cleveland but the rejection of the offer could've changed that.
"Okay," Buffy finally said, "give me a couple days to figure out the scheduling here and we'll figure out a day."
"Sure thing, B."
A couple of days turned out to be five and counting.
Faith wasn't sure what to make of the delay, especially since Buffy hadn't even called since then, but she decided not to read too much into the silence. The other slayer did have a lot on her plate whereas Faith was only concentrating on being on her own.
She ended up only spending a day in Tyler before moving on. One night on the town only led to two vampires being staked and Faith only counted them as one since they were a couple that seemed to be only passing through. Since they didn't think the town was worth staying in Faith decided she should feel the same. It was her job to be where the vampires were and they definitely were not in Tyler.
The state was huge and for two days all she did was bounce from tiny town to tiny town and for those two nights she even slept in her car instead of at a hotel. She had gotten into a couple of fights in a national park and ended up camping there in a way.
It turned out she stumbled not just a vampire hideout but also a group of demons, too. It was a big place and she thought when she decided to go to Davy Crockett National Forest it would be more relaxing than anything else. Faith had never been a huge fan of nature but she thought she could give it a shot now that she had the time.
Of course, she didn't expect to be stuck there for two days.
After spending an afternoon seeing some sights Faith got the idea that maybe there would be some vamps or demons or something that needed slaying in the forest. There were plenty of people that would make a good snack and in certain areas calling for help wouldn't even be an option. Hell, some of the people she encountered during the day were so clueless the area could practically be an all you can eat buffet for vamps.
Once the sun set the first night she was there she wandered into the woods with her normal weapons plus a crossbow. Faith stuck to the areas just beyond major campsites, thinking that if vampires wanted to attack they would be watching from an opportunity to attack. It turned out to be an accurate assumption.
After only a half hour she came across a vamp watching a couple as they sat by a small fire and she chased him off. He got away before she could stake him though and ended up chasing him through the woods until he led her to a much larger group of vamps, who had also set up a camp but for very different reasons than your average camper.
It sounded like they had been feeding off campers for days and days, sticking to the lone campers or small groups that might not be missed right away. They would feed at night then use discarded camping gear to hide from the sun during the day. There were eight in total, more than Faith wanted to take out at once, so they ended up chasing her through the forest for at least a couple hours before she could begin staking one at a time as they found her or she got the jump on them.
By the time she got the last one, a female vampire who was already trying to hide for the coming daylight, there was only a half hour before sunrise. That meant no time to sleep and getting a room somewhere was out of the question. Instead, all she did was sleep in the Explorer for a couple hours and clean up the best she could before wandering around again and moving to a different camping area.
The thought that was in her mind was that if there was a group of vamps in one area trying to feed off campers then there could be others. She had even heard some stories the campers were telling and even though they were being told to scare others, all of them were too similar for Faith.
By the time the sun set again Faith was back in the woods trying to find out if any of the stories were true. It turned out they were but it wasn't vampires causing the problems. There was a group of five demons in the area, ones that looked surprisingly like Bigfoot, and Faith had to get them out of the area, too. Given that she saw one take a teenage boy, knocking him unconscious before taking him back to the camp, she knew they weren't friendly.
Seeing some bones around the outskirts of the camp was enough evidence for Faith that the group was most definitely a danger to humans.
It took another whole night for Faith to get rid of all five of them, killing the last one as the sun rose through the trees. The fight left her exhausted and in need of arrows for her crossbow. The lack of sleep was also getting to her but she didn't want to sleep the day away. Even though she was getting some action and learning why she didn't like camping, a hot shower and a comfortable bed was not something she wanted to be without for a third night in a row.
The next three days she spent in a different town each night, checking out the sights and trying to spot a vampire here and there. Most of the time though deciding where to stop for the night was mainly determined by what kind of hotels were in town. It probably wasn't the best idea in terms of slaying but some of the smaller towns had nothing to offer in terms of accommodations.
Now on the night of the fifth day she was in Huntsville, TX, and something about the place felt like there were vamps in the area. Her slayer senses were finally paying off.
She walked out of the hotel she'd just checked into and tossed a bag in the backseat of the Explorer. Earlier in the day she'd gotten the supplies she'd needed since she needed arrows and had lost a couple knives while fighting the demons in the woods. Now she was completely restocked and picked up a better bag so she could carry the weapons around easier and be less conspicuous in the process.
Her phone rang as she got in and she looked at it a minute before answering. "Yeah?"
"Do you need a magickally enhanced phone or something?"
Faith furrowed her brow at the question. "What are you talking about, B?"
"I tried to call you a couple times but it never went through. I either got the message that you were out of a calling area or that your phone was out of service. Where were you? Jump into a portal or something?"
It suddenly became clear why she hadn't heard from Buffy. Her phone probably didn't get reception in the state park or in some of the in the middle of nowhere towns she stopped at. She hadn't even bothered to check to see if it was on, just assuming that it was instead. "Out in the woods for awhile. Guess my phone didn't work."
"The woods?" Buffy said and Faith could almost see her raise an eyebrow at the answer. "For real?"
"What can I say, B? The vamps like the woods."
"Oh." She paused. "I figured out a day and I was trying to call to tell you that but then when I couldn't reach you . . . well, I kinda thought you'd changed your mind. Needed more space or something."
"Wouldn't have asked if I thought that," Faith said easily. "Besides, if you were concerned couldn't you just have Willow do a location spell or something?" She paused. "Did you do that?"
"No, I didn't though I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind. I'm trying to respect your privacy. I know that's what you want."
There was another silence before Buffy starting talking again. "So I was talking with Willow and we were looking over vamp activity and none of traveling slayers has been to Houston in a few months. We don't have anyone located there because we thought the slayer in New Orleans could handle it."
"No luck, huh?"
"She's too busy with her own area," Buffy summed up. "I thought if you weren't too far away we could meet there tomorrow. Maybe go slaying together?"
Faith smiled at the idea. "Sounds cool."
"Great," Buffy said and Faith could practically hear the smile on her face. "How close are you to Houston?"
"I can be there in the morning."
"Okay, I'll call you tomorrow with where Willow intends to transport me."
"Cool, we'll talk later."
Faith ended the call then and set the phone down on the passenger seat. She looked at the steering wheel for a moment and thought about what just happened. Buffy would be with her tomorrow.
Faith thought the best idea was to skip patrolling and get a good night's sleep since she hadn't the last few days. She didn't want to be tired when she was with Buffy. It might be easier to be irritated then and she didn't want to cause a fight or anything.
That was one thing she feared as she drove to Houston in the early morning. The purpose of them getting together was to start to know each other without all of the problems of the past. She didn't want to say anything that Buffy would take the wrong way and she didn't want to jump to conclusions with anything the other slayer said. Being sleep deprived would increase the chances of that happening.
Buffy had called while she was driving and had quickly given her the address of the hotel she'd gotten a room at and some general directions on how to get there. She sounded a little nervous over the phone and Faith didn't know if that was a good or bad thing. She was nervous as well but hoped that didn't show in the phone call.
It had taken a lot for Faith to even be ready for the meeting. She had to keep reminding herself that Buffy wasn't out to get her. Sure, she might eventually want to try and get Faith to go back to Cleveland to teach with her but Buffy wasn't out to hurt her in some way. That was why she needed to keep her normal defenses down. Faith wanted to think that wasn't necessary anymore, especially since Buffy was keeping their talks light and without drama.
She made it to the hotel by ten in the morning and thought for moment if she was too early. Faith had told Buffy where she was driving from and that it wasn't far from where she was staying, just slightly over an hour, but she'd never been told when Willow was transporting Buffy.
Because of the not knowing she sat in the parking lot of the hotel for a few minutes and simply waited. Faith wasn't sure why either. It wasn't as though she could see Buffy transport into the hotel. Even though she wasn't sure how the process worked she figured seeing people fly through the air from one destination to the other wasn't part of the deal.
Taking a deep breath, Faith got out of the truck and walked into the hotel. She avoided the front desk and took the elevator to the fifth floor. From there she walked to the room 509, took another deep breath and knocked.
It took a few seconds but then the door opened and Buffy stood on the other side, a nervous smile on her face. "Hey."
Faith smiled back. "Hey."
She stepped aside and gestured. "Come in. Kind of a nice place."
When Faith stepped inside she had to admit Buffy was correct. It was a two room suite complete with more frills than Faith had in any of the hotels she'd stayed at yet. She heard the door close behind her and she turned back to Buffy with a raised eyebrow. "All this for a day?"
Buffy blushed slightly. "Okay, small fib. When we talked yesterday I reserved this and had Will transport me right away . . . so I've been here since last night." She paused. "But you know, I haven't had a real day off since I got to Cleveland so I think I deserve a nice room with extras."
Faith laughed quietly. "I guess so." She had down on the sofa by the door. "I guess that means you've racked up a big room service bill."
"Possibly," Buffy answered with a grin as she sat next to her. "So . . . you haven't asked why I picked Houston?"
"Why'd you pick Houston, B?" Faith asked as she turned more toward her.
"I did a little research," she started out, laughing at the look on Faith's face. "Yes, I research now. I found there's been a series of people showing up dead with 'severe neck trauma'. It's all on the outskirts so I figure the vamps are in that area."
Faith nodded. "They definitely don't like to wander away from a food source. How come you just noticed that now? Isn't a series of deaths something a slayer needs to get to?"
"There's a lot of series of deaths, Faith. More than we can ever hope to investigate," Buffy said. "Some of them turn up to be nothing so that messes things up, too."
"I get it." Faith leaned back, resting her head against the back of the sofa. "So what are we going to do to kill time today?"
"I can't believe you don't like shopping. That's not normal, Faith."
They hadn't moved very far from Buffy's hotel room. Faith hadn't eaten breakfast so they stopped in the hotel's restaurant for a little food before they decided how they would spend the afternoon.
"It's perfectly normal."
"What did you do when you where in all the other places you've been so far? You had to have done a little shopping. I know I would."
Faith laughed at the expression on Buffy's face. "I go shopping when I need something and it's not like I can just go out and buy stuff at each place I stop. There's only so much space in the Explorer and I like to have a good amount of weapons handy."
"Okay, point taken." Buffy sat back in her seat as she sipped on a glass of water. "So what did you do during the day?"
"Well, you know what I did when I was in Mobile."
"Yeah, and you have the tan to prove it."
Faith grinned. "You're a little annoyed I didn't go to Florida instead, right? Especially since we'd be on a beach right now and not in this restaurant trying to decide what to do."
"When you're right, you're right." Buffy smiled again and looked down at her water. Faith could tell she was trying to think of something to say. The other slayer always had a look when she was doing something like that. "What did you do when you were in Memphis?"
"I walked around a lot." Faith shrugged. "You know, kinda got to know the place. That was when I wasn't trying to sleep off the night before." She chuckled when she saw Buffy raise an eyebrow at the comment. "Not like that. A few times I've actually been up until sunrise. Those days I usually slept until the afternoon since I'd have to do it all over again as soon as the sun set."
"You picked a couple of pretty active places."
"I guess I just attracted 'em, ya know," Faith said. "I didn't have much luck in the places I've stopped in Texas so far."
Buffy furrowed her brow again. "What about that park?"
"With the exception of the park," Faith corrected. "By the way, why would vamps like camping? Hell, why would anyone really like camping? I mean, I get why the demons were doing since it looked like it was actually where they were living but why hide out in the forest? Stupid vamps."
"I don't know. Stupid campers might make an easy meal and as long as they had a plan to avoid the sun it might not be so bad."
"Hey, I was out there for two days and felt gross. Never again."
"Never say never, Faith. It might happen."
They looked at each other and laughed a little at the situation. Faith was able to breathe a sigh of relief, too, because the initial awkwardness was starting to completely fade away. She wanted to be ready for this, to be ready for developing a friendship with the person she was never able to.
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