Title: While In Cleveland
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine and I make no money off this.
Summary: Two years after Chosen. Buffy and the remaining Scoobies are set up in Cleveland and Faith arrives to join them but has a motive.
"This looks like a good place."
"As good a place as any, Xand." I need to get out of this car. Being jammed in the back of a not so clean cab with Willow and Xander is too much for me, especially when they're bickering. If she wasn't gay, I'm sure anyone would swear they were married.
"I guess." Will doesn't look all that thrilled about stopping here and right now I just don't care. "Are you sure this is a safe neighborhood?"
The driver cranes his head back to us and he looks a little annoyed. I don't think he has any right: we're paying a damn fortune for this ride. "Safe as it gets, ma'am."
"Will, considering what we do why would that even matter?" Xander's practically throwing her out onto the sidewalk, following her out a moment later, so I guess he's made up his mind.
They're both scowling at this point and it has to stop right now. "Enough, guys." I hand the driver some cash and get out, joining my friends by the entrance. "We're supposed to have a quiet, relaxing night, just the three of us."
Will nods but I bet she's still annoyed. "We did agree."
"All right then." I need to have some fun and I need it now.
I guess all of us are a little nervous or anxious or something. This stupid hellmouth has been so active lately we haven't been anywhere as a group in a couple months and we rarely get a night off. I don't know about my friends but I need a break. And a drink.
We walk in to the restaurant, a place that looks a little like an upscale sports bar but without a lot of the noise, and the hostess seats us in a booth toward the back. We order drinks, three beers, and we all look at each other once our waitress leaves.
"This place is okay, I guess."
"I hope so, Will. We're not leaving now." Xander looks to me for a little support and I'm okay with that. I don't want to try and find another place.
"Yeah, it's nice." I look at the menu and they have pretty much everything so neither of them can complain about that. "Let's order and relax, okay?"
They both nod and I'm more than thankful about that. Normally, they're not this bad and I've put up with a lot in the two years we've been living together. I'm able to put up their arguing and pointless discussions but not on my night off. I work too damn hard to put up with arguing on my night off.
All of us study the menu and I'm mentally weighing the pros and cons on whether to get the chicken or fish when I hear a voice that I never thought I'd hear again.
"Shit! What are the odds?"
I look up from my menu. All of us look up, actually. "Faith?"
"The one and only." She has this grin on her face and I know it's because of our shocked faces.
"What are you doing here?" Will's voice is kinda high, which is what she does when she gets nervous or surprised. I guess this could count as both.
"I was over at the bar, having a beer." She sits down across from me, next to Xander. "You know, just hanging out."
She still has that grin on her face and I can't believe she's sitting across from me. I haven't seen her in over two years. She hung out with us for about a week after the First and then she split. Looking at her though, that might have been for the best. She looks fantastic. Her dark, wavy hair is hanging just past her shoulders and she's toned down the look I remember so well. She has on less makeup and her clothes are still tight but not as tight as they used to be.
"B? You okay?"
I like that she still calls me B. I shake my head to clear my thoughts then nod. "Yeah. I think what Will means is why are you in Cleveland?"
She shrugs. "I haven't stayed in one place for more than a month or so. Ended up here 'bout two and a half, maybe three weeks ago?" She stops and looks down and I bet she really doesn't remember when she got here. "Figured the gang was in town but I wasn't sure where and I never thought I'd run into you . . . guess I was wrong." She laughs and winks in my direction. "Must be fate, right, B?"
"Must be." I smile at her. I know she's probably flirting with me but I'll go with it. I kinda like it.
The waitress comes back and looks confused. "I didn't realize there was someone else coming." She sets down our drinks. "Should I get you a menu?"
"That's okay." Faith grins. "Can I get a beer?"
She nods and leaves. Faith looks over at Xander's menu and no one says anything for a moment. I think we're trying to get over that Faith's here, sitting with us. I know I am.
Xander's the first to speak up. "How long are you in town for, Faith?"
"Don't know, really. Till I get bored."
Oh, no. Xander has this look in his eye, like he's got an idea, and I don't like it. He usually has ideas that either get us into trouble or are so off the wall I want to smack him. "Do you ever think about staying in one place?"
I think I want to smack him. He's going to ask her to stay and being that Faith just said she leaves once she gets bored and she's never had the best attention span from what I can remember, this is a bad idea. I look over at Willow and I'm pretty sure she's thinking the same.
Faith only shrugs and I speak up before she can answer. "Where are you staying while you're in town?"
"I'm renting a room from this old lady I saved from a vamp the first night I was in town." She shakes her head slightly. "Trying to rent anyway. She won't accept money even though I have some at the moment. I usually do an odd job here and there for cash to get by."
"You should stay with us." Apparently Xander has not gotten over his idea. "There's plenty of room."
Faith raises an eyebrow. "Don't you already have a full house? Where's the rest of the gang?"
I step in again before anyone else can answer. "Dawn just went away to college. Willow and Kennedy broke up. Everyone else is overseas or went their separate ways, like you." I sip my beer as Faith nods.
She looks at Willow. "Sorry, Red."
"It was time," Willow says easily. Damn right it was time. The last few weeks Kennedy was here all they did was fight and Xander and I were getting real sick of it until finally Kennedy moved out. I'm not sure where she is now.
We're all quiet for a moment, taking sips from our drinks and looking around before Faith breaks the silence. "Isn't this a big city for just the three of you? I mean, with the hellmouth and all."
"It can get a little exhausting," Willow admits.
"Sometimes too exhausting, Will." Xander looks at Faith and ignores Willow and I, probably because he doesn't want anyone interrupting him again. I hope Faith lets him down easy. "Have you ever thought of staying here for awhile?"
"Xander . . ."
"Buff, Faith's right. There's a lot to do here and I'm tired. I'd like more than a few nights off a year."
"You're talking about staying with you guys and fighting together? One happy team?"
"You can ignore him if you want, Faith." Willow smiles at her and I have a feeling she's thinking what I am: we don't want to guilt her into staying here.
That's not how Faith seems to be taking the offer, however, and she meets my eyes. "How busy is it, slayer-wise?"
"Cleveland is a lot bigger than Sunnydale." I think for a moment, mostly because she's taking Xander's offer seriously. I don't want to simply blow off her question. "Could always use another slayer."
And we're silent again and I'm a little uncomfortable. Willow and Xander are looking at me weird. Xander looks thrilled and Willow simply looks shocked. I'm not sure what Faith's thinking. She's looking away from the table and I could never read her anyway.
"I don't know." Faith turns back to us. "That's a lot to take in, yunno?"
"Hey, it's an open offer. Right, ladies?"
Willow nods, the reality of how overworked we can be probably setting in. "Xander's right. We can always use help."
Faith nods. "I'll think it over." All of us share smiles before she speaks again. "Let's just have some fun right now. What's everyone been up to?"
I'm more than okay with fun and my friends seem to be, too. The whole point of the night is to have a good time and Faith being here is just a bonus.
This night has been just what I needed so far. I'm having a great time and I think Xander and Willow are, too. We've all been talking and eating, acting like a normal group of friends. It's fun.
We ordered then told Faith about some of the vamp and demon groups we've encountered. Faith has told an odd story here and there but for the most part has stayed quiet. That seems so strange to me because the Faith I remember had a thousand stories to tell, one more outrageous than the last.
By the time dessert is served, Willow checks her watch and looks at me then Xander. "It's getting kinda late. We should think about heading back, maybe see if there's any info on the web we need to check out."
I can't believe on our night out she's still thinking about patrol. Before Faith can even think that's a cue for her to leave I speak up. "You and Xand can take off if you want. Faith and I can hang out a little more."
Thankfully, Faith seems to be okay with that. "Sounds like a plan," she says, smiling.
Xander nods. "Sure." Faith moves for him to get out of the booth and he looks down at her as he stands and she sits back down. "Hope to see you around, Faith."
I let Willow out of the booth, too, and she looks at Faith and I. "See you later."
"See you, guys."
They leave, without paying for anything either but I don't mind. I have a Council credit card with me to take care of dinner, a huge benefit of working for them. There's a moment of silence now that my best friends are gone and I look at Faith with a smile.
"Should we get another beer?"
"We've already had few," Faith points out. The service was a little slow so we were drinking for awhile before our food came.
"Okay." I look away from her, thinking of what I should say, before looking back at her. "Have you thought about our offer at all?"
Faith laughs. "You mean in the couple hours since it was suggested? Yeah, a little."
"And I was wondering what you think about it." She smiles. "You know, without those two listening."
I'm not sure what to say right away. It'll be nice to have her around, that's for sure, but I don't want her to stay simply because she feels guilty that I'm going it alone. "I'd like to have you here . . . if you wanna stay."
Faith smirks. "All I heard was that you'd like to have me."
I giggle a little though I'm kind of embarrassed that I do. "Be serious."
"Okay, okay." She looks about as serious as I think she's capable. "Here's serious. What if I wanted to ask you out if I stayed? Still want me here?"
Did she just ask me out? Is she joking? "Are you serious? You didn't just ask me that because we've been drinking and I might be highly impressionable? I bet you think I'm a lightweight."
"As fun as it might be to pull one over on you, no," Faith says, still smiling at me. "I mean it. If I stay, move and fight, be one of the team and all that, I'd like to take you out."
I look away from Faith for a minute and think about how life's been like over the last couple years. I'm the only one who hasn't dated. None of us have much time but Xander has dates every once and a while and Willow's even gone on a couple since Kennedy. I just haven't been interested in anyone since we've been in Cleveland.
"B?" She reaches out, touching my hand, and I look at her. "Come on, I know you have an answer. I can see the wheels turning . . . and you know I'm a good kisser."
"I was wondering when you were going to bring that up," I say, smirking.
She shrugs. "I thought you would. I mean, I get that we were drunk and all but come on."
"Come on? That's your big argument?"
"All I need, B." She grins widely, showing those cute dimples.
I can't help but smile and shake my head at her abundance of confidence. She's right. We were drunk and that's been my excuse as to why we kissed. Our whole big group, all the survivors, had a huge celebration a couple days after the battle with the First and Faith and I were the last ones partying. We talked for awhile, talking led to kissing and then we passed out. We didn't really talk about it after and then she left.
I meet Faith's eyes. "I suppose."
I smile at her and try not to laugh at the surprise on her face. I don't think she thought I'd say yes. "Yeah. Stay and move in with us and I'll go out with you."
Faith grins widely. "Wicked." She moves to get up. "Come on. We should get my stuff then go tell Willow and Xander the good news."
I laugh at how she's suddenly full of energy. She didn't seem like that for most of the night. I bet she just wants to freak out my friends and I'm sure she won't be let down. They'll be a little shocked but I think they'll get over it. We've seen so many unbelievable things in our lives I doubt Faith and I going out on a date will come anywhere near the top of that list.
"Let me pay first and we can go."
She nods and I motion the waitress so we can get the check. After another few minutes of waiting and paying we're finally able to leave. I'm about to call for a cab when Faith stops me.
"I don't live very far from here so we can walk."
"Hopefully my landlady is still up when we get there. I don't just want to up and leave."
I raise an eyebrow at her. "Really?"
She smirks at my reaction as we hit the sidewalk and begin walking down the street, away from the restaurant. "Surprised?"
"A little," I admit.
"Hey, a lot's happened since we last saw each other. People change."
"Okay." I think there's more to it than that but we can get to that later.
We walk in silence the rest of the way. I'm trying to think about what exactly I'm doing right now. I never make the best decisions when I've been drinking and I hope this doesn't turn out to be a big mistake. It doesn't feel like a Buffy-type mistake so I think I may be okay for now.
"It's right over there, B."
I look to where Faith's pointing and there's a somewhat rundown house at the end of the block with the light on above the back door. I guess that's where she's been staying. The place doesn't look too bad, only maybe a little old. She could be staying in much worse places, I guess.
We reach the house and I follow Faith as she walks around the house to the back door. She pulls a couple keys out of her pocket and unlocks the door, jiggling the handle in order to get the lock open and then she needs to use her shoulder in order for the door to give way.
Faith turns back to me with a smirk as she opens the door. "It's a little tricky but I told Mrs. Rice it's better this way."
"This is better than having a door that opens?"
"No, but this one is harder to break into."
I nod, seeing her logic, and follow her into the house. We end up walking into a small kitchen and the light is on. Faith looks around and I'm not sure why until I see what I think is the light from a TV coming from the next room.
"Mrs. Rice? I'm back."
There's some grumbling in the next room but in a few seconds a middle-aged woman walks into the kitchen. She's probably in her fifties with graying hair and pale skin. She smiles at Faith but I don't think she likes that I'm here.
"Faith, you know the rules with late night visitors."
"I know." Faith smiles at her. "This is Buffy."
Her face brightens and now I'm a little nervous. "Well, why didn't you say so? It's so nice to meet you."
I shake her extended hand and look at Faith, wondering what exactly she's told this woman about me. It must be good though by the way she's smiling at me. "Nice to meet you, too."
"I know Faith's been trying to find out where you were in the city."
I smirk and look to Faith. "Really?"
Faith looks a little embarrassed and I succeed in trying not to laugh. It would not be of the good if I did, I know that much. "Yeah, well, B . . . I mean, Buffy, has offered me a place to stay. It's a little more permanent so we're here to pick up my stuff."
"Okay, dear." Mrs. Rice looks a little sad to see Faith go which surprises me. It probably shouldn't by now but it does. "Don't be a stranger, okay?"
"Okay," Faith says with a smile and I can tell it's genuine. "I'll leave a number so you can reach me if you have any more trouble."
She simply nods and walks back into the other room. Faith watches her go then nods her head towards the stairs and I follow her as we walk up them to her room. Hers is the first one on the right and she lets me enter first then follows behind me. It's small, just having a bed, dresser and nightstand but I guess that's all she thinks she needs. There's a backpack on the dresser and a small duffle bag on the floor with some clothes scattered around it. That looks like the only things in the room that are hers.
"This all your stuff?"
Faith smiles and kneels down to pick up her clothes. "I need to travel light to keep moving so I don't keep much around."
I nod and pick up the backpack on the dresser. "Makes sense."
She finishes throwing everything in her bag and we walk back downstairs. I walk back into the kitchen since that's the way out and I'm feeling out of my element here but Faith ducks her head into the other room for a moment before walking back to me, a smile on her face.
"She fell asleep. Write down your number on the notepad by the phone and I'll make sure the house is locked down before we leave."
Faith walks out of the room and I hope I don't look too shocked at how she's acting. I know she's been trying to clean up her act since she got busted out of prison and change her reputation but this is not the Faith I know and remember. I saw glimpses of the old Faith, the one I had that kiss with and the one I hung out with in Sunnydale before everything went so wrong, in the bar but I'm completely thrown right now.
I shake my head at the fact I think it's weird Faith is looking out for someone she barely knows. I need to get over it and write down the number for the house. I'll have to drag Faith to get a cell phone. They come in handy for patrol and we all carry them now.
"Hey." I look up and Faith smiles as she stands next to me. "Everything's locked. We should get going."
I nod. "Let's go."