NOTE: Anyone who reads my flist on a regular basis knows I write Spuffy. I write Spike. This assignment was a true challenge for me because there is absolutely no trace of Spike anywhere to be found in it. There is, however, Buffy. A post-S2 Buffy, complete with all her emotional baggage. So, please bear that in mind when you're deciding to read it or not. This is a Buffy character piece, and while it's not my usual thing, I really rather like it.
TITLE: Flight Patterns
RATING : R, for language
SETTING: Immediately post BtVS S2, going seriously AU from there.
LENGTH: 7100 words
FOR: zgirl714. I hope you like it, hon.
Thank you to sadbhyl for the beta and for convincing me I wasn't screwing this up.
Nobody made her do it.
Now, it was her choice. Her decision. The chooser and not the Chosen. Patrolling became something she did to keep her body busy and her brain from remembering.
There was a while there, right after she got to LA, when Buffy stopped. There were too many other issues---life and work and food and shelter---that took precedence over death.
Saving the world had to momentarily take a back seat to saving Buffy. That was new. Well, actually, that was old. It pre-dated slaying. In with the old, out with the new.
In with the new again.
Buffy’d been in LA for two months the first time she saw her.
Heard her was probably more accurate.
“…think I’m a fucking joke? Is that it? Well, step on up, boys. I’ll show you just how fucking funny I am.”
And Buffy watched. Ready to step in. Hidden by the shadows that had become her friend, though more than once she thought those brown eyes looked just too directly into hers.
Three vampires. The wannabe comedienne. No contest.
Buffy didn’t say a word, not even when the girl winked at her when it was all over. A flip of the long brown hair, a smile that was more of a smirk, and then the alley was empty again, devoid of life as the dust began to scuttle along the ground in its attempts to escape.
The incident was already forgotten when she went out on patrol the next night. Until the same brunette jumped down from a fire escape to land with a carnivorous grin at Buffy’s side in the middle of a fight. They didn’t speak until they were the only two left in the deserted street, and even then, all Buffy could say was, “Thank you.” No questions about who she was. No conversation. Just an acknowledgement of gratitude that seemed to satisfy both young women.
The girl showed up like that for a week, always in the middle of a fight, always with that wicked smile on her face like there was nothing more she wanted to be doing than dusting vampires in the dead of night. On the eighth day, Buffy finally got around to asking her name, and the two went to a coffee shop around the corner to have some pie.
Even then, Buffy thought it was ironic that the first hint of contact with her previous life would be called “Faith.”
It didn’t come as a surprise when she found out Faith was a Slayer, too. For three weeks, Buffy watched her fight, all seductive sway and lethal indulgence as she smiled in the faces of those she slaughtered. It was in the whisper of her stake when it plunged into a vampire’s chest. It pulsed in the dance of her feet when she’d stalk through the dust afterward. Hearing the words seemed redundant.
“But where’s your Watcher?” Buffy asked as they sat opposite each other in their usual spot. The coffee shop. With pie. Usually apple, but when the diner ran out, it was cherry and that was good, too. The nightly ritual was the best part of what she had any more.
“Where’s yours?” Faith shot back.
“There’s your answer, then.”
She didn’t press. There was a lot about Faith she didn’t know. How she spent her daylight hours. Who it was who had trained her so well. What her favorite movie was. It was better that way, Buffy reasoned. When you knew the details of someone’s life, you started to connect with them, and she wasn’t ready to play connect the dots yet. She liked her lone dot standing all on its own. It was safer. Easier.
Except now there was another black dot zigzagging around, like a fly looking for someplace to land. It wasn’t until Faith actually answered one of her questions for real that Buffy thought maybe the other Slayer had finally found the place she was seeking.
“It was this wicked ass dream,” Faith said. They were walking through a park where they’d just dusted a vamp macking on a teenaged girl. “This stuffed shirt was on a burning boat, bleeding like a stuck pig, and you jumped from the dock to help him get off. Next thing I know, a mess of vamps are all over both of us, and I’m helping you stake them before they can get to Mr. High and Mighty.” She shrugged. “Knew when I woke up it was the real deal and hitched a ride on the next bus to LA. End of story.”
Buffy disagreed. It wasn’t the end of the story, not when Slayer dreams were interceding to bring them together. But she stayed mute. It was enough to know that Faith trusted her enough to tell the truth about why she’d come to the city.
The subject of Angel first came up when Faith caught her watching a group of girls walking into a high school on the first day of school.
“Don’t tell me you miss it.”
Flashes of Willow. Xander. Giles behind the counter in the library. She blinked.
“Just a bunch of kids,” Faith continued. She pulled out a cigarette, hitching a denim-clad hip to half-perch on the rail as she lit up. “Too busy coordinating their cars to their lipsticks to give a fuck about what’s really going on.”
“And you’re the queen of social awareness.”
“Damn straight.” One of those wicked grins that Buffy couldn’t help but respond to. “There’s no better way to tackle social injustice than by shoving a stake through its heart. Thought you knew that, B.”
She knew it, all right. Didn’t mean she liked it.
“High school boys are too green anyway.” Faith continued to ramble, like she had some secret mission to keep all silences filled lest Buffy say something neither one of them would like. “Give me a man who I can ride into oblivion without breaking his curfew any day.”
She wasn’t blowing smoke, either. Buffy’d witnessed Faith’s ability to pick up men firsthand. She probably could’ve witnessed it up close and personal if she’d wanted; the brunette had invited her along more than once. But the thought of sex…
Buffy’s almost imperceptible shudder in the harsh light of day did not go unnoticed. “Didn’t mean to shake your rafters there,” Faith drawled. “I just figured---.”
“What’s your damage?” She gestured toward the now-empty school grounds. “If you think it’s so crackerjack, why the hell are you out here and not in there whining about the quarterback wanting to get into your pants? Bells a’ringing, B. Only one holding you back is you.”
The school seemed tarnished after that, and Buffy turned abruptly away. “You don’t know anything about me, Faith,” she warned as she marched down the sidewalk. “You have no idea what I’ve done.”
“You mean Angel?”
His name had never been brought up between them. In the four months since she’d left the Hellmouth, Buffy hadn’t even uttered his name aloud, not to herself, not to Faith, not to the wino she passed on her way to work every morning.
To hear it now made her squeeze her eyes shut against the rush of memories, black and loud and avaricious in their bid for her attention, and she held her back rigid as the other Slayer came up behind her.
“Blame the dreams,” Faith said. “Telling me you’re here isn’t all they’ve been sharing.”
“I don’t want to talk about this.”
“Kind of guessed that. But just so you know, if you change your mind…you know where to find me.”
Nights began to blur.
So many constants…slaying with Faith, showering in her tiny bathroom to get the vampire dust out of her hair, Los Angeles twinkling its demonic taunts at every corner. It was easy to get lost.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Lunge, stake, repeat.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
So, on that fateful October eve, so like all the others that had preceded it, when Buffy heard the bell on the coffee shop door jingle as she bit into her pie, she didn’t even look up to see who had walked in.
She only glanced up when the arrival stopped at her table and spoke to her.
“Hello, Buffy,” said Giles.
Though the lines around his mouth were more pronounced, his eyes were exactly the same.
It made her want to weep.
Faith had known.
Faith had known all along.
Somehow, she couldn’t be mad at her for it.
That first night, Buffy fled into the night without saying a word, the tinny ring of that damn bell haunting her long after she’d left the coffee shop behind. Neither followed, and when the next dusk came without Faith appearing at her doorstep for their usual round of slaying, Buffy went to her.
And found Giles.
No more running after that. No point. Because if she wanted to be honest, Buffy was glad to see him. More glad than she’d been about anything in months.
He looked uncomfortable in Faith’s cramped studio apartment, too tall for the futon she’d lugged up from off the street, a Simpsons coffee cup steaming in his hand. The fact that he stood when he saw her standing on the other side of the threshold made her want to rush forward and hug him until she was fifteen again and freshly Chosen.
Ha. Fresh. Not exactly the word of choice to describe Buffy Summers these days.
“Don’t tell me you’re the stuffed shirt Faith saw in her dream,” she said in lieu of a greeting.
The conspirators exchanged a glance before Giles shook his head. “Actually, I found you first,” he replied. “Faith came…after.”
“And you never tried to talk to me?”
“You weren’t ready.”
“And you think I’m ready now?”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
For once, Faith was silent, hovering around the edges of her apartment with eyes that saw everything but didn’t know whether to accept what was unfolding. Buffy wanted to rail at her only friend, to yell and scream and pound and cry at the backhandedness of suppressing the truth. Instead, she laughed. Because the absurdity of feeling like Faith, and having Faith feel like her, and having Giles standing referee in the middle of it all, was suddenly the funniest thing she’d seen the entire time she’d been in LA.
Demons got a holiday that night. Faith ran out for Chinese---because having a pizza would just be too Sunnydale-like, especially with Giles there---and Buffy was left to try and catch up with her Watcher without either of them mentioning names that could hurt with just a few syllables.
Generally speaking, they succeeded.
Giles’ apartment was head and shoulders over hers or Faith’s, and too soon, Buffy was spending more of her time there than she was any place else. It wasn’t that it reminded her of Sunnydale, because it didn’t. Not situated in the middle of a high-rise with a spanking view of Robinson & May’s. Not with its over-abundance of cream and rented furniture. Only the stacks of books offered a hint of home, and for some reason, Giles tried to hide those whenever Buffy was around.
It was just that it was better. Nicer. With a real bathtub and an elevator instead of six flights of stairs and a remarkable absence of empty beer bottles littering the front walk. It would be stupid not to spend more time there, especially when Giles seemed to accept the fact that she wasn’t going back to Sunnydale any time soon.
And then it got stupid to keep paying rent for her crappy apartment when she wasn’t even there any more. By Thanksgiving, she was ensconced in Giles’ spare room.
Nothing ever got said about Joyce. Nothing ever got said about going to school. When Giles was gone during the day, Buffy did the unthinkable and snooped through his old phone bills to confirm that he never even called Sunnydale any more. He’d cut all his ties for her, and after, she felt shamed for taking so long to embrace him back into her life. That night, he found her sobbing in the corner of the couch, but when he asked what was wrong, she could only say, “I’m just glad you’re here,” before grabbing her stake and running off to meet with Faith.
“Mine was killed,” Faith explained when Buffy brought up the issue of Watchers again. The time for slip and evade seemed to be past. “This vamp named Kakistos started jonesing for a piece of me, and my Watcher got in the way. Hightailed it out of there before things could get too ugly.”
“You didn’t dust him before you went?”
“More like couldn’t. Way too powerful. I figured I’d get a few more vamps under my belt, and then go back and make it really hurt.” She grinned. “I might be punchy, but I’m not stupid.”
Sharing Giles was inevitable.
Especially since Faith had had him first in LA.
Surprisingly, that didn’t bother Buffy as much as she thought it would. They became their own little unit. In sync. There for each other. She figured all they needed to become a status quo family was a pet.
One serious drawback to living with Giles arose almost immediately.
Her sleeping patterns had become even more erratic after leaving Sunnydale. Choice borne of necessity. It sucked to sleep and fall immediately into dreams that should’ve been nightmares if they hadn’t been true. Maybe that still qualified them as nightmares.
For Buffy, that qualified as life.
Faith didn’t know. Or hadn’t. What they’d shared hadn’t stretched that far. It was just too much of a relief to talk superficially again without dragging in the not so superficial.
Buffy didn’t know she spoke in her sleep. She didn’t know she cried in her sleep. She only knew that when she slept, it all came back.
…Red. Then dark. And tears. Hers. His. And so much blood…
And then there was Giles, shaking her awake, all eyes so close where were his glasses? but there, really there, not like the dream. Thank god not like the dream.
“Buffy, wake up. It’s just a dream. I’m here. You’re fine. You’re safe. I’m here.”
A litany of comfort that took too long to penetrate her fugue.
And the tears that didn’t stop when he pulled her into his arms opened the door to talk about the dreams. To talk about Angel. To tell what had happened, and to explain once and for all why she had run.
It didn’t mean she stopped crying, though. It just meant she didn’t have to hold the secret as her own any longer.