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Part two of two

Episode Six: Détente

by Ehann
At This Point In My Life by Tracey Chapman

That I Would Be Good by Alanis Morrisette

Shout Outs: To Craig, who taught me everything I know about Witchcraft. To Adjrun and Aurelio for giving me such helpful feedback and comments while I was writing this. To Peggin, for helping me keep the DL world straight in my head. To Georgevna, for the brutal feedback which made this chapter so much better. To Cousinjean for including me in this project (I’m having a ball, CJ!) and to the rest of the DL staff, for giving me such a fine story to continue. Thanks, people!


***

Spike had dropped Buffy off and was parking the DeSoto. She stood outside the Magic Box and tried to pull it together. God, this day could not be over quickly enough. It was only twelve- thirty. It had been a horrible morning but it was over with. Thank God, she thought. Dawn was going through a rough period, Buffy told herself. It was a stage. Something she would eventually grow out of. Buffy hoped. Could be worse, Buffy thought. I was only a little older than she was when I burned down the gym at Hemery.

As soon as she entered the shop, Buffy knew that something had happened. Xander and Willow were sitting next to each other at the table and Anya was hovering anxiously. Was that the ex-vengeance demon wringing her hands? This didn’t look good. “Is everybody all right? Was there an attack? Did-”

“No attack by vampires.” Xander said. “But we’ve had some evil twin action and a slimy blob demon that’s been trying to kill us. Always with the boringness on the Hellmouth.” He paused, searching for words. “Oh, by the way, remember your training room?”

Buffy noticed that Xander and Willow were holding hands and Willow looked like she had been crying for hours. And Xander…

“Oh, my god. Xander, your neck!.” The purple finger marks were clearly visible. Buffy was stunned. What had done this? “What happened?”

Xander and Willow looked at each other and neither said a word. Finally Buffy looked to Anya who offered, “Willow’s Do Not Disturb spell went horribly wrong and attacked Xander. Then she almost got eaten by a blob monster but Tara saved everybody. She’s still dead,” she added.

“What really happened, is that I did this,” Willow corrected solemnly. “I almost got all of us killed. And, Buffy, I kind of messed up your training room.”

“Kind of?” Anya muttered.

Buffy sat down next to Willow and touched her hair. “Hey. No one’s keeping score. Besides, it can’t be that bad.”

The redhead smiled wanly. “You haven’t seen it yet,” she muttered. Louder, she said, “I think I’m gonna be okay, now. Until Giles sees the back room anyway.” Buffy’s face softened. Willow continued. “I think I made my peace with what happened to her, Buffy. For awhile, I thought I would never be able to but…” She looked down for a moment and then met Buffy’s eyes. “She’s in a good place. And she’s watching over me.” There was a squeeze on her hand and Willow turned to Xander. “She’s watching over all of us.”

Anya spoke suddenly. “Tara would want you to go on.” The others stared at her, as if they didn’t expect such an observation from her. “Well, it’s true. She loved you very much, Willow. She would want you to…be happy again.” Anya glanced at the group, feeling self- conscious. “Well, let me tell you. You live on the Hellmouth, you think about death.” She shifted uncomfortably until Xander patted the chair on the other side of him. Anya sat down gratefully.

“Hello, gang. Been an exciting day for you too, heh?” Spike said. His battered blanket was still smoking as he tossed it casually over the back of a chair. He sat down on the other side of Buffy and lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply. “Stress finally getting to you, Harris?” He nodded at Xander’s neck. “Hanging’s out of vogue now, they tell me.” He turned to Buffy and brushed his lips across her cheek.

Xander made a face at the vampire. He said, “Don’t tell me that you guys had the morning from hell, too? I figured the two of you would still be kissing and making up after-” He stopped when he noticed the stony expression on the Spike’s face. “What? I meant it in a good way.”

“I know,” Buffy said. “It’s Dawn, she…” I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry. She met Spike’s gaze.

Spike picked up for her. “The girl is havin’ a hard time of it, is all. Couple of her mates at school been giving her trouble. She takes it out on Buffy…gives her trouble. I imagine it doesn’t make Little Bit feel any better though.”

“There were…problems at home this morning. I really can’t talk about it right now guys.” Buffy became very interested in brushing some lint from her jeans. She felt Spike shift closer to her and if his body had given off heat, she would have been able to feel it.

The sharp ring of the phone made Xander and Willow jump. Anya got up and answered it. “Good afternoon, The Magic Box, Anya speaking, how may I help you?”

“That’s my girlfriend,” Xander said. “Can answer the phone without a single breath.”

The others could hear Anya’s side of the conversation. “No…everything’s fine.” She looked helplessly over at Xander who shrugged. “They’re all here…. Giles, is that a girl with you? Are you sure she’s old enough, she sounds…Well, there’s no need to be rude! Yes, I’ll tell her. Bye.” Anya hung up and said, “Buffy, Giles wanted me to tell you he should be back in an hour or so.” She paused and then added, “He would have been back already but he had to feed his lady friend.”

Xander raised his hand. “Okay, anyone else for Ewww?”

Willow spoke suddenly. “Anya, Giles has a woman with him? Who was it?”

Buffy made a face. “It seems like an odd time to go on a date. Wait a second. He called me this morning and told me he had an appointment and had to go out of town for the day. He just wanted a day off? I don’t get any days off.”

Spike leaned over and whispered in her ear, “That’s because you’re so busy at night.”

Buffy blushed and tried to change the subject. “How’s the research front going, guys? Any luck on how this Scroll of Abercrombie is gonna bring the Master back?” Buffy again wished bitterly that dead demons stayed dead. Except for Spike. And Angel, she amended her list hastily.

Xander snorted. “Well, we were on the fast track to ‘Nope, We Got Nothingland’ and then mayhem broke out. The research party kind of went downhill from there.” He looked meaningfully at Buffy. “And there were no donuts. You said you’d bring ‘em this time.” He tried to raise one eyebrow. “For those who don’t know it, I’m working on my Watcher look.”

Spike cocked his head. “Your-”

“Yeah, you know, right after a meaningful pause I have to have a…a thing. Giles has tea, Willow babbles, Spike smokes. Buffy…stakes. My thing is gonna be The Look” He attempted to raise his eyebrow again. Failed. Sighed.

Buffy grinned for the first time since she’d left the house that morning. “Xander, I feel sorry for your Slayer, when you get one.”

***

Faith silently munched on French fries as they passed the Welcome To Sunnydale sign. Giles had told her when they stopped for lunch, that there would be a meeting at his store when they returned. About ten minutes and they would be there. Since leaving the prison, he had steadily increased his speed. Faith could tell he was getting nervous by the way he kept glancing over at her, as if he was afraid she was going to leap out of the car. His food was still in the McDonalds bag between the two seats, the grease stain on the paper growing wider every second. Finally, Faith couldn’t take any more silence. “What?” she asked sharply.

Giles did not bother to pretend to misunderstand. “There are things I haven’t told you. I’m wondering how you’re going to react.”

Okay, she thought. So far so good. He’s playing nice and honest with me. “Tell me and find out.” She popped another fry into her mouth and sucked on it, savoring the salty taste. She wanted to moan in pleasure at how delicious everything was. The Big Mac and McNuggets tasted way better than she remembered. She licked the ends of her fingers and looked over at Giles.

He cleared his throat, and then apparently decided to just dive right in and get it over with. “You’re going to find that many things have changed in your absence, Faith.”

She waited. And waited. She ate a handful of fries. “Giles, the meaningful pauses kind of lose their effect if you like, never say anything else.” Deep drink of soda. Heaven. “Spill.”

“I’m trying to find the best way.”

“Your drink.”

Giles looked down. He had squeezed the cup of ginger ale in his hand, and it spilled out onto the upholstery. “Blast. Would you mind?” He gestured for her to give him a napkin.

“I got it.” Faith blotted the napkin over the stain. She sighed and said, “You’re just making it worse. Tell me what I need to know.” She paused. “Please.”

Giles knew this was it. Time for full disclosure. “Joyce is dead.” Faith pressed her lips together and said nothing. “Buffy’s sister is actually an entity know as ‘The Key’. A Hellgod named Glory wanted to use Dawn to open the Hellmouth and use it as a portal to return to her dimension.” He checked to see the Slayer’s reaction if there was one. Her face had paled. That was it.

“Xander was nearly killed by Glory, three months ago. It was touch and go for awhile-”

“But he’s all right?”

“Why, yes. He’s fine now. Willow saved him. She’s become a rather powerful witch. And her lover was killed by Glory.” Giles paused for moment.

“Oz is dead? Oh wait, I just remembered…”

“Uh, yes. Not Oz. The lover in question was a woman named Tara. Glory killed her.” Giles fervently wished he could clean his glasses. This explanation was getting rather…untidy. He decided to finish up with all due haste. “Willow hasn’t gotten over Tara’s death yet. She has not even begun to grieve for her.”

Faith received the unspoken message loud and clear. Do anything to hurt Willow and you’ll have to deal with me. “Understood,” she said shortly. Faith had enough problems to deal with. She didn’t want more trouble than what was already gunning for her. “Anything else I need to know?”

“Buffy is…she’s, well. Hmmm. How to say this?” He looked skyward briefly, as if hoping that heaven would instruct him on the least painful way to say this part. “Buffy is seeing Spike, who is working with us now.”

Faith sat up straight in her seat and choked on a McNugget. “Back up a second there, Watcher man. Did you just say that Buffy is getting down and dirty with William the Bloody?!” she looked confused. “Isn’t he, you know, trying to KILL her?” What is it with that girl and vampires, Faith thought. Did she forget about the ‘S’ in our job description?

Giles raised his eyebrows helplessly. “He changed his mind. He…” It was still somewhat bizarre to say. To hell with it. “They’re in love, and very happy.” Or at least they had been the last time Giles had seen them. Who really knew, anyway? He mentally threw up his hands. Oh, no, there was one more thing she had to know. Saved the best for last, did you Rupert? Good show. He took a deep breath. “Xander is going to be your Watcher,” He said grimly, and waited for the fallout.

***

Giles put the convertible in park and turned off the engine. Faith had not said a word since he’d informed her of her new Watcher’s identity. He was somewhat nonplussed by the girl’s reaction. He had been fully expecting an explosion of rage, curses, invectives…not this silence. He took his glasses off and said, “Faith.”

She looked over at him and he was surprised to see that her eyes were glistening suspiciously. “I can’t do this,” she said. Her hands were clasped together and she stared at them intently. “Take me back.”

“Faith…”

“Tell me how I’m supposed to look at them,” she cried. “Please, do you know? ‘Cause I want to. How am I supposed to look at Xander when the last time I saw him, I almost…I…” She pressed her lips so hard together that it hurt. “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I try to think about people who gave a shit about me.” She laughed hoarsely. “It’s a pretty short list, Giles. I think maybe that…I used to think that he wanted to be on it. Before…” She wiped at her eyes roughly. She didn’t cry. She was Faith, the Slayer, and she did…not…cry.

Giles let out a long breath. Pure emotion, from the girl who didn’t care. Correction, his mind whispered automatically. She cares, now. “Faith. You can’t change your past,” he said quietly. “All you can do is behave like you want to be treated.” He reached out a hand, hesitated, then laid it on her shoulder. He squeezed gently. “The others will come around. Even Xander. And with time, I hope, even Buffy.”

Faith looked down at the hand on her shoulder. Giles had never touched her before. It was…comforting. Her throat was tight and she felt like she couldn’t speak. “I’m so scared,” she whispered.

Giles smiled at her, for the first time. “Yes. I know.” He got out of the car and made a mental note to remember this moment. Something had just happened here, and he wasn’t sure what it was. But the troubled Slayer had rounded a corner. Faith opened her door and came around to stand next to the Englishman. “Things will work out.” he said.

Faith’s lips pursed and then slipped into a crooked smile. “Let’s do it.”

In the end, though, Giles had to tug her through the door. Then they were standing in the front of the shop. Faith stepped out from behind Giles, and automatically scanned the room. Books, books, knickknacks, books, crystals, incense… “You really make a living doing this?” she asked Giles. Everyone at the table looked up at the sound of her voice. Faith lifted her chin and kept her face carefully blank. “Hi.”

Anya came running up to them. “Giles, I just want you to know that when I said 'everything’s fine’, I was talking about us. We’re all fine. And I had nothing to do with it. I was under the table when it happened.”

Giles simply gave Anya a quizzical look. “Under the-?”

Buffy stood up, her chair scraping loudly in the quiet. “What is she doing here?”

Willow and Xander didn’t say a word. Willow just looked sick to her stomach and Xander… Oh, no. Faith thought. His neck. Was that from-? No, it couldn’t be. Still, it was jarring. Faith wondered briefly if that’s what he had looked like after…

Giles met Buffy’s searing gaze. “The Council arranged for her parole, provided she resumes her duties as Slayer. Should she become derelict in those duties, Faith’s parole shall be revoked and she will return to prison to serve her full sentence.” He paused and pulled out his handkerchief. He wiped his glasses and added, “I believe you will find her attitude…improved.”

Faith shifted from one foot to the other. “Could you guys stop talking about me like I’m not here?”

“Xander. Good Lord, man, what did you do to yourself!” Giles hadn’t really looked at his protégé until this moment. “You look like you’ve been throttled.”

“Yeah, funny, huh? Giles, Willow and I have to tell you something,” Xander started.

Buffy turned towards Xander, “I get him first.” Then to Giles, “Office. Now.” She turned on her heel and left.

As Willow and Xander followed, the witch whispered, “I don’t think this is a good time to tell him…”

Faith stood awkwardly, and checked out the blond man at the table. Yes, she remembered him from…crap. From that night at the Bronze. I hope Buffy doesn’t know about that. He was a hottie, though. He returned her look silently with unwavering blue eyes. Not liking her thoughts, she turned toward the only other person currently in the room and said, “I’m Faith. The vampire Slayer.”

“I’m Anya,” she said to the dark Slayer. The ex demon sank into a chair. “Spike, you won’t believe what happened this morning.”

***

The four of them were crammed into Giles’ tiny office. The blonde Slayer faced him with her arms crossed protectively across her chest “Giles, I can not even believe you brought her here.” Buffy exploded.

“Now, Buffy, I need you to be rational and calm-”

“Sorry. Not happening. The last thing we need is another loose cannon. Do I even have to list all the people in this room she’s tried to kill? Some of us, more than once, in case you’ve forgotten. So, how is her being here helping?”

Giles was getting annoyed. “I think it’s obvious, Buffy, that you have other things demanding your attention right now, and-”

“I have it under control!” she snapped.

“The hell you do!”

Buffy’s face tightened. She listened as Giles continued. “The fact is, that your time for routine patrol has been severely limited. It’s completely understandable, given everything your family has been put through. And with the current situation being what it is, that is precisely why the Council decided to give Faith another chance. Buffy, think about it. If she is successfully rehabilitated that gives you more time for…to have some semblance of a normal life.”

Buffy seemed to lose some steam. “Normal life.” She shook her head. “What do you guys think?” she asked Willow and Xander. “Xander, you’re supposed to be her Watcher, right? So, you have a big stake in this too.”

He grimaced. “I’m not gonna lie to you, Buff. I have issues with Faith.” He absently touched his raw neck, a vivid reminder of past history. He didn’t want to think about the other, more…personal moments. He straightened his posture. “But I’m a Watcher now. I’ll do what I have to do. What I promised to do. Watch over my Slayer to the best of my ability.” He reached out to Buffy. “I hope you’re cool with that.”

“Will? What do you think?”

“Buffy,” the witch began. “I’m not the same person who was so terrorized by Faith, the last time she…made trouble.” She cocked her head. “I can protect myself from hellgods, now. I can handle it. Giles, do you really think she’s different now? Could she be, like, faking?”

Giles considered. “No,” he decided. “I believe that she wants to be a different person than she was. In fact, in the short amount of time I’ve spent with her, I know that she is ready to make this commitment.” His eyes sought out Buffy’s. “She’s at a crossroads. She needs to have something to hang on to. And this, this could be it.”

***

Faith was starting to get tired of standing around awkwardly. Anya kept looking at her like she expected her to start stealing stuff. Spike smoked quietly, but kept a sharp eye on her. She could feel his ‘vampireness’. It was making her Slayer sense buzz. Buffy must be used to that though. Finally, the sequestered group came back to the front of the store. Faith wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do or say. Should she say anything? Maybe things would be better if she kept her mouth shut. Let things calm down, some. God, she wanted out of here so bad at this moment. She thought wistfully about her little cell at the prison. Right now it didn’t seem so bad in comparison to all these people she had almost been friends with, once, who were looking at her like some sort of specimen.

Giles opened his mouth then shut it. He really ought to let Xander handle this, he decided. He nudged the younger Watcher.

Xander stepped up gamely, as the others sat back down. “Okay, so what we were doing is trying to find some reference to how Darla and Drusilla are trying to get the Master all resurrected again. Spike found out last week that the evil twins were trying to use some scroll…”

“The scroll of Aberjian,” Giles supplied helpfully.

“…to bring him back from the dead.” Xander grimaced. “I believe I speak for everyone when I say, I hope it doesn’t involve opening the Hellmouth. Again.”

“Um, didn’t Buffy kill the Master already?” Faith asked. She was the only one still standing. There weren’t enough chairs, and she would be damned before she asked if there was another one.

“Twice,” Buffy said succinctly. “I hate it when they don’t stay dead. Darla’s supposed to be a pile of dust, too, you know.” She stopped suddenly, as if realizing that she had said more than strictly necessary.

Spike wasn’t sure what was going on in Buffy’s head. Well, that wasn’t true. He had a pretty good idea actually. Wanting to believe, but so afraid to. Thinking about past disappointments, real and imagined. So stubborn, my lady is. He saw the other Slayer just lurking about on the fringes of the group. Giles had noticed, too, Spike could tell. Apparently Rupert was letting Harris handle his new Slayer. Well, rot that. Spike found himself in the very odd position of feeling somewhat sorry for the new girl. He’d been in her predicament more than he cared to admit. Spike was about to tell Harris to give the girl his seat when Buffy said, “Spike, tell me again what they told you about the Master, when you were playing secret agent.”

The vampire looked thoughtful. “Darla told me that they had tried to raise the bastard already, but nothing happened. Then…” he shook his head. “Something odd. Drac felt him for a second, and then…poof! Gone.”

“Wait,” Buffy turned to Spike. “Didn’t you say that Angel has this scroll?”

“That’s according to Darla,” Spike said. “She and Drac were pretty frustrated about that too…Buffy, what are you thinking? If it’s what I expect you’re thinking, then you better do it in a hurry.”

“Um, for those of us who don’t read minds… huh?” Xander was confused.

“I better call Angel. I need to warn him that Darla might send one of her lackeys after the scroll.” Buffy checked her watch. “Crap. All right, someone else needs to call Angel. I gotta go. Dawn should be on her way home from school and I have to be there.”

“I’ll take care of it.” Giles said. I was right there, earlier this afternoon, he thought. I could have just gone in…

“Spike, you ready?” Buffy asked.

He put out his smoke and stood up. “Always, love.” He nodded at the scoobies. “Rupert," Spike said, “you’ll need help with the mess. I’ll come by tomorrow. On the clock.” He added. He took his blanket from the back of his chair and went to get the car.

“Buffy, what in the world is he talking about?”

Buffy held up her hands. She was so not even touching this subject with him. “Bye Giles.”

Buffy gave Willow a hug and kissed Xander on the cheek. She gave Faith a hard look, and exited through the back door.

Xander sighed. His brow furrowed. “Faith, you gonna have a seat or what?”

“I’m good here, thanks.” Feel like I’m goddamn wallpaper, she thought bitterly.

Giles stood up and asked, “Anyone for tea? Head shakes, all around. “I’ll go call Angel, then.” Noticing the dark Slayer still holding herself apart from the others, Giles wished that Xander and Faith didn’t have such a painful history. Or Buffy and Faith. Or Willow and Faith. He paused by the Slayer and motioned her to sit. Finally, she went to the table and sat down opposite Anya and Xander. One hurdle at a time, Rupert.

“Xander tells me you tried to kill him once.” Anya said suddenly.

Faith wanted to disappear. “That’s true.” She said. What else could she say? “I…I’m sorry about that.” She chewed on her thumbnail and stole a glance at Xander. He was looking at her, but he didn’t say a word.

Anya continued. “Are you going to try again?”

Faith wanted to be anywhere else in the world except here. She wanted to be back in her little cell, where all she had to do was think and not deal with anyone but herself. She wanted to be a person that didn’t know what it felt like to kill someone else. She wanted…she wanted to be somebody that mattered to someone. “No,” she said softly, still meeting her Watcher’s eyes.

Xander nodded a little and said, “Okay, then.”

Giles took a sip of his tea. Another disaster averted. He went and joined his friends at the table. There was work to be done.

***

Anya was staring off into space. “I don’t know, but this thing about the scroll seems really familiar,” she said.

Xander rolled his eyes a bit. “Well, we’ve been talking about it for a couple of hours, now.”

“No,” she said. “It’s more than that. I think I remember…something.” Anya closed her eyes and concentrated. “Okay, scroll of Aberjian, Ritual of Raising,…” her voice had trailed off.

“What is it?” said Xander, concerned.

“Vampires.” Anya opened her eyes and began wringing her hands. “Basically, it’s a how to guide for restoring a dusted vampire back into human form.” She tugged at Giles’ sleeve. “Wars have been fought over control of the scroll, Giles. I mean, just think about it. All the really, really old vampires who’ve been defeated? This is their chance to have them up and around and human again.”

“And after that,” Faith jumped in, “It’s a hop, skip, and a bite, until they’re part of the fang gang. Again.”

Willow said “Yeah. She paused. “Can you just imagine how powerful the magic must be if it can restore a dusted vampire back into…” Oh, no.

“Well, that’s why they would need the scroll. I imagine the ritual would need to be very detailed,” Giles said. “It’s difficult to believe that they would even make the attempt without the actual scroll.” He saw that the young witch had gone white. “Willow, what is it.”

“I think… no, it can’t be. But what if? I hope not…”

“Willow, please. Just say it.” Giles said.

“Well, I was thinking about what Spike said before. That they already tried the ritual. Don’t you see? They did need the entire scroll for the ritual to work properly. What if the spell worked, but improperly?” She took a deep breath. “Maybe he’s partly restored.”

“Is that like partly dead?” Xander interjected. Nobody paid him any attention.

“And they think it didn’t worked at all,” Giles said softly. “Is there any way for us to be sure of this, Willow?”

“Well, um, remember how I told you that I was trying this really deep meditation, to try and contact Tara? Well, I um…I may have accidentally contacted the Master, while I was trying to…” her voice trailed off. She didn’t want to see the look on Giles’ face. She took a deep breath and confessed. “I didn’t mean to, Giles. I was, kind of drawing power from my…inner darkness, I guess…and there was this um, accident in the training room.”

“Accident?” he inquired wearily.

“Well, the uh, ceiling’s still up, mostly, and there’s just a few cracks in the floor, and uh, so you can see through the walls now!” She snorted. “It used to be so…stifling in there before the windows got broken…”

The older Watcher put both hands on the table and lowered his head. Without moving, he asked, “What makes you think it was the Master?” He sounded resigned.

Willow knew she had to spill everything, now. “Something…kind of…blackness seeped into me while I was meditating. It…clouded my thoughts…I …I think I did something, that…” She finally managed to meet Giles’s eyes. “I can’t find Amy. I think something happened to her. And that maybe it was my fault.” A tear started to slide down her cheek. “I just got so filled up with anger, then I felt this force lash out of me and…I don’t understand how it happened!”

“I do,” Faith said quietly. She pressed her lips together and added. “I know that’s not what you want to hear, Willow, but I understand exactly how it happens. It gets a hold of you. It gets into you.” Her brown eyes were intense. “Like all of the sudden you turn a corner and all the light’s gone out of the world.”

“Yes,” Willow whispered. The two girls stared at each other for a long moment until Xander broke the silence.

“You think this…evil…that got into you…you think it’s the Master?” He sounded incredulous.

“Oh, Xander, I don’t know if it was him. The only thing I know for sure is that…it hates. And it’s so angry. I really can’t make you understand how bad it was.”

“Text book definition of Vampire if you ask me,” Xander said without thinking. I am so glad Buffy didn’t hear that.

“But I don’t think you guys are really getting the situation,” Willow said. “I think that whatever Darla and Dru are doing to raise the Master… they’ve screwed it up somehow. That’s how come he was able to contact me while I was in an altered state of consciousness. Maybe it has to do with…I was one of the people who needed to be there when they tried to bring him back the first time. Maybe that’s why he was able to contact me. I do know that he hasn’t crossed back over all the way yet.. But when they figure out how to fix whatever went wrong with the spell…”

“All hell’s gonna break loose in this town.” Faith finished.

***

Dawn cautiously peeped in the living room window. Sure enough, Buffy was sitting in there. At least she didn’t look ready to commit murder, like she had this afternoon. Dawn had spent the day at the beach. She’d sat in the sun and let the waves lap at her toes, and she’d wondered how she was supposed to live with everything that had happened to her. She’d stayed there until the sun had dipped dangerously low in the sky. She had cut it close, but she was here and safe.

I feel like I’m coming unglued, she thought morosely. Like everything is breaking apart. So many people had died at the Bronze. Fifteen, no ten minutes more and she would have been one of them. But getting snatched by Drusilla was the worst yet. Worse even than Glory. Glory at least had been rather straightforward. But Drusilla…she was so creepy! How had Spike stayed with her for so long? Shaking her head, she looked up at her bedroom window. She started climbing up the latticework. The last place Buffy would ever look for her was in Dawn’s own bedroom. And she could sit by herself and think. And for a little while she could pretend that mom was alive and everything was like it used to be.

***

Buffy could smell the pizza before Spike brought it through the door. She jumped off the couch, and held the door for him. “Thank God, you’re back,” she said. Off Spike’s look she added, “I’m starving.” Buffy smiled and leaned forward to kiss him on the mouth.

Spike broke the kiss and said, “Not that I’m not enjoying the greeting love, but, I thought you’d be worrying yourself sick about the little one still.”

Buffy’s grin widened. “Well you see, I would be doing exactly that, but she’s sitting upstairs in her room, this very minute.” She took the pizza box and laid it on the kitchen table. Spike got two plates from the cupboard and handed them to Buffy. She drew out a slice and bit in. “Mmmn…heaven.”

“All right, I’ll ask. What happened when Dawn got home? Did she apologize for skipping school or what?”

“Nope, and nope.” She was halfway done with her slice. “I’ll bet you, that she’s sitting up there, hoping that I’ll lose my mind looking for her. Not a bad plan actually, but she doesn’t know to avoid all the creaky spots in the roof like I do.”

“So, Niblet’s having herself a sulk is she? Fine then, we’ll let her be.”

She was thoughtful. “Spike, if she skips school again, it could make things really bad with the social services people.” She looked at her lover. “She told me today that it was only a matter of time before one of the monsters in this town kill her. She shouldn’t have to worry about that stuff. I had to, she’s just a girl still. She should be able to go out with her friends and go to movies and stuff.” Life on the Hellmouth really blows sometimes, Buffy thought.

Silence settled between the two of them for a long while. Finally Spike said, “While I was in town, I ran into Anya. She was waiting for Xander. I, ah, I’ve been meaning to ask her something for awhile now, and…”

“Really? I didn’t know that you and Anya really, you know, hung out.”

Spike shifted in his chair. “Well, I’ve been thinking about what you said last week. About the crypt. And you’re right. I don’t belong there anymore. It’s just…not who I am, and not who I want to be.” He hesitated. “So I asked if Anya had sublet her apartment yet, and she said that Xander was still paying the rent on it.”

Buffy shrugged. “Trust Anya to figure out a way to save money…and I’m still not getting your point.”

Spike reached for his cigarettes, but before he could light one, Buffy said, “Not in the house, please.”

“Right.” He waited a beat. “So I can move in there whenever I want, she said.”

“Huh?”

“Anya’s old apartment. Where she no longer lives. I can live there, now. So, I won’t be sleeping in a crypt if I don’t stay the nights here.” He leaned over the table. “And since it’ll still be her place, technically, any other vamp would need an invite. What do you think?”

“I think…it’ll be good for you. Why were you so worried about it?”

“Dunno, I guess. A man gets to thinking sometimes…”

“Ah. Thinking. I’ve heard that men do it on occasion. I’ve yet to find proof.” She grinned as she got up from her chair. She sat down on Spike’s lap straddling his legs.

“You know what men think with,” he growled. “There’s your bloody proof.”

She giggled and clung to him, suddenly feeling lighter. Dawn was safe, Spike was here with her and…

“So how are you doing with the other Slayer here? Town big enough for the both of you?”

Buffy smiled a little sadly. “It always was. She just never accepted that.”

“I’ve been in her shoes,” Spike said.

“What do you mean?”

He gave her a look. “Buffy. I jumped through hoops trying to convince you I’d changed. Until the day you finally believed me, all of you treated me like…I wasn’t there. Like I wasn’t…”

“Human?” Buffy bit her lip. “I never thought about it like that.”

“Well, let’s just say that I see things in that girl’s eyes that are a little too familiar for comfort.” He tipped up Buffy’s face. “She’s trying.”

Buffy laid her head on his shoulder. “Good.”

***

Faith yawned. She closed her eyes briefly and tried to take stock of how things had changed in just one day. This morning, she had woken up on her tiny cot, in her cell. Fifteen hours later, she was sitting in Sunnydale, bored out of her mind and exhausted. It had just occurred to her that she had no idea where she was going to spend the night. In her old life, this would not have been upsetting. Now, however, she longed for nothing more than to feel settled. Somewhere. It didn’t matter where. Hell, even a sleeping bag on the training room floor sounds good at this point. To make matters worse, people were leaving. Willow had left half an hour ago, at eight thirty. Anya and Xander were talking about what to order for dinner. The ex-demon was gathering up papers she had printed off the Internet. Giles was in his office, poring over the book with the reference to the scroll.

“See you later, Faith” Xander called. He opened the door for Anya. He let it close behind her and then said, “Are you…you doing okay?”

She laughed because she wanted to cry. “Just dandy. Night.”

The young Watcher looked troubled, but headed out anyway.

Time passed. Faith was so caught up in her thoughts that she jumped when Giles said her name.

“What are you doing here? Didn’t everyone leave?” Giles asked. He was still holding the book.

Faith wished that Giles wasn’t going to make her say it. She hesitated, and seeing his encouraging look finally offered, “I don’t think any of the others were interested in a sleepover tonight.” Her look clearly said, ‘Now what am I supposed to do.’

Giles stood for a moment. He hadn’t even thought about what to do with Faith. It was a difficult situation because he couldn’t in all conscience ask Willow or Xander to put her up for the night, or longer. She needed a stable situation, she needed support. “Get your things,” he said. “You may stay in my guest room. Until we…”

She was shaking her head. I just want somewhere that’s mine, she thought. They got me out of jail, but didn’t care enough to figure out what they were gonna do with me. All of the old insecurities started creeping up again.

Giles gripped his book tightly. It was late, and he was tired. “You’re coming with me, Faith. If the situation doesn’t suit, well…perhaps you’ll feel differently with a good night’s sleep under you.” He mentally crossed his fingers and hoped for the best.

She was too tired to fight anymore. “All right,” she said. “Let’s go.”

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