Who Will Sing Me Lullabies

Pairing: Faith/Giles

Rating: NC-17. Don't read this if you don't want to know.

Timeline: Season 7 AU, diverging from Angel episode "Orpheus". This story will share some, but not all, the events of the S7/S5 Faith arc on A:tS and BTVS. For example: Caleb, yes. Xander's eye, no. It takes plot markers from the canon but also diverges significantly in places. So you're clear.

Disclaimer: The characters herein do not belong to me; they are the sole intellectual property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions, though I wouldnít say no to a naked, trussed up Spike on my doorstep, if you have connections or something.

Summary: Part 4. The Aftermath.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Mike and Manda beta-ed this for me, Erin gave me feedback and created the gorgeous graphic up top, and I blame this entire plotbunny on Lani, because I thought it up but she all but dared me to do it; she's also my beta for all things British. The full lyrics to the Kate Rusby song from which this story takes its title can be found here. I listened to Tom Waits' song "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You" exclusively while writing this chapter. If you want to hear a song that I think sums up the relationship between Lullabies' Faith and Giles, this is it.

Part 4. Takes place between part 3 and the end of "Empty Places."

I can see that you are lonesome just like me,
and it being late, you'd like some company,
Well I turn around to look at you,
and you look back at me,
The guy you're with has up and split,
the chair next to you's free,
And I hope that you don't fall in love with me.

- Tom Waits, "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You"

Faith leaned against the door to Giles' apartment as it crashed shut behind her. She could hear Buffy raging inside and part of Faith desperately wanted to wait until Buffy had shouted herself out, and then Faith could pound the crap out of her for screwing up whatever this thing with Giles happened to be.

It was just like Buffy to do that, Faith thought to herself. She screwed it all up for me four years ago. She took away everything that I could have had, and she's screwed it up again this time around, too. Buffy could never deal with the fact that she wasn't the only Chosen One after her run-in with the Master. Her anger overshadowed her sadness and made her feel a little better, but she still wanted to hit something. She supposed she should have been consoled by the fact that Giles looked like he was sorry, when his precious Slayer kicked Faith out of his house. She wasn't particularly; Giles should have stood up for her. Faith felt stupidly childish again, whining, How come she's in charge? She listened to Buffy shouting, and Giles saying nothing, and wondered idly why Buffy's obvious security made her feel so inferior.

Because she's got something you don't, the little devil on Faith's shoulder told her. He loves her enough that he'll let her kick you out. She's got him. Faith fought back against this idea. No, you don't understand. He was talking to me before she showed up. He was listening. She didn't find these thoughts particularly comforting. The cadence of voices raised in anger didn't seem to be slowing from inside Giles's apartment. Faith gave up waiting - waiting for what, she wasn't sure; she was either waiting to kick Buffy's ass or, well, kick Buffy's ass - and slipped quietly away from the door.

She crossed the courtyard silently, edging carefully through the dark. She wasn't frightened of anything she might find, if only because her anger was producing enough adrenaline to fuel a small army, but she didn't like being caught by surprise, either. There was no sign of human life in the complex beyond the sounds of Buffy's voice and Faith's own shallow breathing. Sunnydale felt like a ghost town; Faith briefly considered making a break for somewhere else. She could stay out of this mess and stay alive and Buffy would never notice she was gone.

She was standing at the gate to the courtyard pondering if she should turn right, to the Summers household, or left, to the Sunnydale Arms and a sure way out of town, when she heard Giles's voice cut through Buffy's screaming. Faith looked down at the watch she'd swiped from one of the potentials. From start to Watcher interruption, Buffy had gone for almost 17 minutes. Even if Giles calms her down, Faith thought, you don't want to see B tonight. You don't want to know that Giles promised never to see you again so she would shut up about it. "Left it is," she said out loud, her voice cutting through the silence harshly, challenging anything out there to come her way. Faith stepped out onto the street and started walking.

A car slowed as it passed her, but she waved it off; no need to add a gut wound from a crazy preacher to the list of ways she'd been hurt in her lifetime. Or just tonight, she added silently, unable to erase Giles's look of sorrow and pity from her mind.

"You what with who?"

"I invited Faith over to have a quiet dinner as my guest, and once we had eaten, I offered her a joint." Giles grimaced and pulled his glasses off, rubbing at his eyes. He'd never thought Buffy was the brightest girl, but she was taking a terribly long time to grasp the concept of someone other than Faith "making trouble", as she so put it. He was no longer stoned and was finding the whole conversation rather tedious. He'd really have liked to push Buffy out the door and send her home to Willow with some research topics, but that didn't seem to be in the cards. "I thought we could both use a chance to relax a little."

Buffy was making that face he hated, the one where she moved her mouth and no sound came out. Actually, come to think of it, no sound coming from her mouth was a welcome blessing at this moment. He hadn't quite recovered from her tirade about sleeping with Slayers and Watcher pride and "she tried to kill me"; Giles was rather afraid that his ears would still be ringing three days from now.

"It wasn't her that made you smoke marijuana?" Buffy sputtered.

Giles shrugged. He found that he didn't particularly care what Buffy thought of his friendship with Faith. "Well, I can't say that I was entirely responsible for the evening, either. If we hadn't ... er, slept together two evenings ago, I wouldn't have discovered that she's charming company, and I wouldn't have invited her over for dinner this evening." After he'd said it, he immediately regretted letting his mouth run off without his brain attached.

"See?" Buffy began to shriek again. "She did seduce you! I knew it! It's been so long that you've gotten laid, you'd fall for anything with a nice rack!"

"Actually," Giles murmured. "It's really her ass that's marvelous."

Buffy made a strangled noise and leapt to her feet. "It's her ... her ass ... I can't believe you've looked at her ass. I can't believe you know that her ass is marvelous."

Giles, feeling perversely amused by Buffy's choking noises, replied rather glibly. "I've groped her ass, so I actually consider myself an expert on the subject."

Buffy stopped pacing to wring her hands together and stare at Giles reproachfully. He was distracted momentarily by her strong resemblance to Joyce reprimanding a younger Buffy. She crossed the room to him and put her hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eyes. "Giles," she said. "Promise me you won't see her again. We've got bigger problems than your sex life. Faith won't be good for you in the long run. Remember? I've been in her body. She's nothing but trouble." Buffy squatted down in front of him. "Promise me, Giles. Promise me you'll stay away from her."

When he refused to answer, Buffy turned away from him and started to pull on the coat she'd dropped on the couch earlier. "I've got to go. We need to see if Caleb's left any kind of trail. I mean, he came from somewhere, right?" She soundly strangely down-to-business, as though the anger could be switched off at a moment's notice. Ever the consummate Slayer, he thought with bemusement.

"Right," Giles agreed, rubbing his glasses against his shirt and looking away from her.

"So we should look. Come over to the house later."

"Right," Giles muttered.

"And stay away from her, okay? It's really for everyone's own good."

Buffy swept out the door imperiously, letting it slam behind her. Giles held his breath for a moment, making sure that she was gone, and from the silence in the courtyard, he was fairly certain that Faith had not laid in wait for her. He suspected that when Faith got her hands on Buffy this time around, it wouldn't be pretty.

He looked across the living room at the dishes from dinner, the roach stubbed out in the ashtray, and the records he had strewn across the floor in his search for the perfect mood music. He could smell Faith's perfume in the air.

He sighed.

Giles has always believed that Wesley let himself be pushed around far more than he should have. First by his father, and then by the Council, and after the Council, by Angel and his merry band of crime fighters. Giles has always prided himself on the fact that he hasn't let anyone push him around. Not his Slayer, not the Council. It's something he has always considered to be a part of him, to the core of his being: he makes his own decisions. His decisions led him to have dinner with Faith; his decisions led him to the realization that he was, in fact, interested in the Rogue Slayer - beyond the superficial sex and conversations about evil. Giles was having difficulty thinking of her as Faith, and not the Rogue Slayer, and this bothered him for reasons that he couldn't quite understand.

What he couldn't figure out was why he was alone in his apartment, Faith gone. He simply couldn't fathom why, on tonight of all nights, he had let Buffy make his decisions for him - and turn his life even further upside down.

Giles reached across the couch to his end table and took the phone off the hook. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Funny. It didn't seem like it had been a mistake.

Faith was nearly trampled by one of Sunnydale's few remaining homeless men outside of the 24-hour liquor store near the motel. He was hungrily nursing a 40 oz. bottle of Olde English 800 and she recognized him as the most pathetic and poor of the panhandlers that congregated across the street from her home. If you could call it that, she mentally added. "Watch it," she said gruffly, before her mind caught up with her mouth. "Hey, where'd you get the money for that?"

The man turned around and grinned at her, sort of lopsided and sort of ...inhuman. "'S not nobody there, lady. It's all free for the takin'." Faith stared after him as he wandered away tipsily, and she almost thought she saw a flash of a tail underneath his ratty suit coat. And his hands were strangely like hooves. Either she'd just seen the devil or Nightcrawler, or she was going nuts. On the Hellmouth with this trouble brewing, she was willing to bet on the former. She was too tired to chase him but her curiosity was engaged, and there was the potential of something free to drink herself to sleep with.

She stepped into the open door of the liquor shop when she passed it. "Hello?" She paused. "Anybody here?"

There was no answer. "Okay, then," Faith called to the air. "I'm just going to snag this bottle of Jameson's and go home, you hear?"

Nothing. She grabbed the bottle by its neck and pulled it from its shelf. "Weirder and weirder," she said, shaking her head.

The encounter was enough to make her forget the scene at Giles's apartment, at least until she stepped back out onto the street. When she crossed the threshold into the darkness, her stomach dropped out with the memories of Buffy accusing and Giles blinking placidly. She paused and turned back into the store, grabbing another bottle of whiskey. "I'm going to need this," she offered to the empty town. "I think I'm really going to need this."

He woke uncomfortably on the sofa the next morning, drool on his face and his glasses on the floor. He had another moment of who was here and what was I doing before remembering. He said a silent prayer for the fact that Buffy hadn't destroyed anything in her tirade, and levered himself up to standing and set the cordless phone back into its cradle. He was slowly climbing the stairs to his bathroom, wanting to wash the horror of the previous evening from his skin, when his phone rang.

Pausing to decide whether he would go all the way up the stairs or back down them to answer it, he stumbled in indecision and sat down hard halfway up. He put his head in his hands and let the machine get it. "You've reached Rupert Giles. I'm unavailable at the moment, but please leave a message and I'll return your call as soon as possible." The beep rattled through his brain and woke him further. "Giles, it's Willow. Buffy wants you to come over. I don't know why she won't call you herself, but she's standing here making me call you" - here the message broke off into scuffling, Willow's obvious confusion and Buffy's angry whispers - "And she wants you to come over. So I guess we'll see you later. Bye."

The last thing Giles wanted to do today was spend the afternoon surrounding by morose Slayers-In-Training who were useless when it came to research. Not to mention the looks he was sure that Buffy would be shooting him all day. He knew she'd taken his silence as an agreement that he'd not see Faith again, but he wasn't sure that was what he had meant at all. He was fascinated by the other Slayer.

She wouldn't leave his mind. He'd always known that she was fierce and stoic, as all Slayers were in their own ways, but he'd never thought of Faith as having a mother or a history or rather particular taste in music. Two evenings, unexpected endings both, and he was as giddy as a teenage boy.

Giles didn't want to go to the Summers household today. Seeing Buffy, so like Faith in so many ways neither Slayer would ever admit, would fray his nerves too much. He studied his own mind for a moment, putting off the inevitable trip to Buffy's camp for orphaned Potentials, wondering why the traits that made Buffy appealing as a Watcher's charge made Faith so appealing as a lover. Both were tactless and pushy and fiercely independent, outspoken nearly to the point of being obnoxious, the sorts of Slayers that Watchers are trained to discipline and later learn to respect as they are - but they were also both charming and attractive and intelligent, the stuff that Watcher's dreams are made of. He'd never felt this way about Buffy, not as her Watcher or later as her friend. Perhaps this was because she always had been his charge; Faith, even when nominally under his control after Gwendolyn and before Wesley, had never been the lesser player in the Watcher-Slayer power game.

That was where the trouble lay, he realized. Buffy viewed Faith as her equal, and being Buffy's equal meant that you could only sleep with - or fall in love with - the people with whom Buffy was allowed to. Buffy was not allowed to fall in love with Giles, and had you suggested that she do so, she would have wrinkled her nose at you and squealed with amused disgust. Ergo: Faith was not allowed to be interested in Giles, as Willow would say, like that.

To Giles, this wasn't true - Faith had been long-grown when she turned up in Sunnydale, and though Buffy might be an adult now, she wasn't then. Faith had been off-limits back then because the Council still employed him, but he could see no reason that she should be now. She was a truly fascinating young woman, and, his mind reminded him, there was the added bonus that she seemed to return his affections. As he thought this, his mind cleared and he realized the key difference in how he saw Buffy and how he perceived Faith. Buffy had never considered that she could be on the same level of command as her Watcher, regardless of whether Giles was telling her what to do or she was telling him.

Faith considered everyone, everywhere, to be right up her alley. On her level. She looked at Giles as though he was her equal, and that gave him the permission to feel the same way in return.

The phone rang again, disturbing him. He didn't want to answer it. He wanted to take a shower and try to call Faith and sleep for a very long time. He pulled his glasses off and dropped his face into his hands again. He sat on the stairs for a long moment before rising slowly to finish the trip upstairs. He'd shower and shave and make the trip to Revello Drive, because that was what he was supposed to do - what he was supposed to want to do. What he couldn't remember, despite his sudden clarity on the recent romantic fiasco, is when being Buffy's Watcher stopped being his number one priority.

Faith got drunk when she got back to her tiny motel room. Flat-out puking in the trash can wake up with a stranger stinkin' drunk. She got drunk and stayed drunk until the sun started to rise, and then she passed out. When she woke up, alone in her bed, the sun was creeping behind the horizon and her head was pounding. The whiskey might be a step above the cheap shit she was used to, but half a bottle would still do anyone in - even someone with the physical strength of a Slayer.

She separated her face from the crusty drool on the pillow and stumbled for the bathroom. Before she made it there, she stopped and turned towards the phone on the bedside table. To call down and see if she'd slept through any calls, or not? Not, she decided. I don't care if he's called. I don't care if she's called. She staggered into the bathroom and turned the water on, as hot as it would go. She stripped and stepped into the shower, sliding down against the wall until she was sitting underneath the pounding water. Well, she thought to herself, at least this mass exodus from Sunnydale means the water pressure's great and the jerk next door can't use all the hot water.

Faith let the water run over her body, turning her face up into it. This was the best recovery from a long night of fighting, she'd always thought, and her body and her mind felt as though she'd been dueling it out with the Beast again - helpless and frustrated. The water falling on her face was hot and it made her think of tears. I could cry here and no one would know, she thought. But why do I feel like crying?

She liked Rupert Giles. That much was clear in her mind. She enjoyed his company, and for no reason she could see, he appeared to enjoy hers. She liked him, and she thought she could like him a lot more. Faith knew that people weren't normally to be trusted; that was a belief she'd lived her life by. And despite this, she trusted Rupert. She liked and trusted Rupert Giles, former Watcher.

This realization was not the disturbing one. Faith's realization that Buffy Summers, that other Slayer, had probably destroyed all chances that Faith, the Rogue Slayer, had to have a real friend - that was the disturbing realization. That was what made Faith shake uncontrollably.

In a mirror of Giles's earlier gesture, Faith dropped her face into her hands and let the water pour over her back.

When she had composed herself, she stood up and washed her hair and cleaned the sweat of adrenaline off her body. She was toweling her hair dry, her head turned upside down, when there was a tentative knock on the door. She paused mid towel swipe and flicked her eyes in that direction. Her body wasn't telling her that there was a foe on the other side, but Slayer's caution and all that jazz. Dropping the towel to the floor, she crossed the room quietly and raised herself up to peer through the peephole.

Immediately on the other side of the door was an enormous eye. Faith leapt back and shrieked, a noise that frightened her even more, and regrouped to deal with the monster. She crept back to the door and looked out again. The eye had retreated and become a blur; a blur of reflective hair and black leather. Oh. Shit. It's just Spike. Wait. Spike. Slayer's pet vampire. What the hell is he doing here?

She stepped away from the door to think some more and the vampire pounded a little more forcefully. "Oy, Slayer, open up. It's me."

Faith, against her better judgment, slipped the chain back and flipped the locks. She opened the door 6 inches. "What do you want?"

"See your beautiful face."

"Did B send you?"

"Oh, come off it, Slayer. I'm not her bleeding lapdog. I came to see if you wanted to go out."

Faith opened the door and leaned in the frame, considering how honest she thought Spike really was. "Out? Out where?"


"Willy's is trashed. B and I were there this morning. Best ass-kicking I've given in a while."

"'S trashed, but I was just by there and Willy's gone, but the beer's not."

"Not what?"

"Gone. Or trashed."

"Is it still cold?"

"Beer's beer, Slayer. Are you coming out with me or not?"

"Why me?"

"Rest of the bunch is too poncy to get blasted."

Faith looked back at her nightstand and the half empty bottle of Jameson's and then at Spike. She pushed Rupert Giles, Buffy Summers, the First Evil and being a Slayer at the end of the world to the back of her mind. "What's the worst that could happen?"

Spike's mouth quirked in a parody of a smile. "Don't ask questions you don't want answered, Slayer." He offered her an arm and she cut the lights and locked the door. Rupert Giles would never speak to her again. What, exactly, was there left to lose?

It took Giles an hour to finally reach the Summers household after Willow's message. Not that he encountered difficulties outside his own apartment, but because he had a desperate urge to cocoon himself into his home and stay there until this went away or the world ended, whichever happened first. Buffy had called twice herself, leaving curt messages about "where was he" and "why did he think that he could just disappear and not answer his phone" before slamming the receiver down angrily both times.

When he finally pushed through the door into the living room, he was greeted by a sea of heads, all bent over thick books and musty newspapers. All of them looked up, flashed recognition, and bent down again. Either Willow's running a tight ship, or Buffy took some anger out in her training today. Dawn was the only one who didn't go back to her research. She stood and stretched and set her book down. Careful not to step on any of the Potential Slayers sitting on the floor, she crept, rather than bounded, to his side.

"Giles, I'm so glad you're here." She hung on his arm and smiled up at him broadly; he resisted an urge to shake her off and run home before Buffy appeared. "Buffy's been a real -" Dawn broke off as Buffy came through the door to the kitchen. She glared at her sister and Dawn scurried off up the stairs. The Slayer moved her eyes to Giles's face.

"Where have you been? We've been calling all morning."

Giles felt a sudden wave of nervousness wash over him. He pulled his glasses off and rubbed a hand across his face. "Ah. Well. It took me a little while to get started this morning."

"I'm not surprised," she snapped. "You were higher than a kite when I left last night."

"We discussed that, Buffy." Giles hoped that he sounded more patient than he felt.

"I guess so. Do you have any ideas?"

"Ideas about what?"

"This preacher. Caleb."

"Oh. Yes. Well," Giles slipped his glasses back on. He supposed he should be pleased that Buffy was utilizing him as a Watcher and not an emotional punching bag again. "I suppose that if he's a preacher, he might be linked to a Church. He doesn't seem the sort to simply don the collar and the identity."

"Churches?" Buffy looked skeptical.

"It's the only logical step we've got, Buffy. And look for anything that might match the pattern of the burn on Shannon's neck."

Buffy sighed. Her eyes looked tired and hurt, but the spark of anger was gone. Giles knew that didn't mean the anger was actually gone. Her distance across the room was clear enough on that measure. She turned into the kitchen and muttered something to Willow, seated at the counter with her laptop, about looking up churches. Giles crossed the room and Buffy stepped out of his path, avoiding even accidental contact with him. Moving to Willow's side, he began to speak quietly in her ear. Buffy glanced back at Willow nodding and typing and Giles acting like a Watcher.

If he could pretend he was still a Watcher, she could pretend he didn't really enjoy Faith's company.

Faith woke slowly after her night on the town with Spike. She remembered leaving Willy's, but the trip home was a little blurry. There wasn't a vampire beside her, so she hoped that meant she hadn't slept with him. The setting sun poured through the still open curtains and she realized she'd slept another day away. Two mornings had passed since Giles had let Buffy throw her out of the only place she'd ever felt safe. It was Thursday night. Faith pried herself into a sitting position, squinting - there it was again, even when she wasn't nervous - against the glare on the glass. She briefly considered a shower and threw the idea out quickly. With a bottle and a half of Jameson's left, she was in for some more drinking, and why bother washing the drunk off if you were just going to start drinking again afterwards?

She reached for the bottle, skipped the glass with a shot straight from the neck, and turned on the TV with the remote. All the channels were news, and all they had to say was that Sunnydale was strangely empty these days; something unknown had caused a mad rush out of town. Even I knew that, thought Faith grumpily. She poured another shot of whiskey down her throat and as it spread into her veins, her mind fell back on the scene with Buffy. It seemed to be impossible for her to stop thinking of it, or of him. Stop it, she scolded her mind. It was fun and now it's finished. Whatever.

As she raised the glass for another mouthful - if you can't ignore your problems, drink 'til they go away - there was another knock at her door. "Go away, Spike."

"Not until you stop sulking, Slayer."

Faith set the bottle down with a clatter and stalked over to the door. She yanked it open and snarled at the vampire on the other. "What part of 'Go away, Spike' didn't you understand? Because I thought I was pretty clear on what I meant. I meant, go away and leave me the hell alone, Spike."

"Come on, Slayer. What good's it doing you to lie around in some grotty hotel room, drinkin' 'til you can't see straight? Not much. At least with me, you can kick some ass."

She rested her head on the doorframe. She was suddenly very, very tired. "Go away, Spike."

"If you're not going to come out with me, Slayer, I'm coming in." He walked straight into the wall of invisible protection and crashed backwards. Faith felt a laugh bubble up inside her and suppressed it. He straightened up, rubbing his forehead, and said, "Well, I'm comin' in, if you'll let me in."

"I suppose you can come in, Spike." He shoved past her and was leaning on the TV, staring her down. She turned. She heard the edge of whine creep back into her voice and she hated Sunnydale and Buffy Summers fiercely for a moment, hated them for making her feel so pathetic. "Spi-ike."

"Oh, come off it. Let's go out. There's a nest of vamps over in the western cemetery. Do you good to get out of this place. Bring the whiskey."


"Slayer, if you don't follow me right now, I'm going to pick you up and throw you over my shoulder and carry you out."

"You couldn't."

"Could and would."

Faith looked Spike up and down. Drinking hadn't gotten rid of the feeling that Buffy had screwed her out of something good with Rupert. It really couldn't hurt anything else to go kick some ass. "Let me find my shoes." Spike grinned. Faith rolled her eyes at him. "You haven't won, Spike. I just have some aggression to work out and if you're lucky, you won't even end up on the wrong end of a stake." She turned her back and rooted her work boots out from behind the table. Once she had them laced up and had located her cross-bow underneath the bathroom sink, Faith faced Spike and snarled. "Let's fucking go, already." She stalked out of the hotel room and Spike followed her, an odd look of amusement on his face.

They were 200 yards and one vampire into the cemetery when Spike finally spoke again. Faith had fought in an uncharacteristically efficient manner and swooped in for the kill before Spike had even gotten a good hit. He didn't like having his fights taken away. He could have left the bint at home drowning in a bottle of whiskey, after all. "What's your bloody problem tonight?"

"You." She sneered at him and he snorted with amusement, and then flinched as her fist flew past his face, missing his left cheek by two inches before connecting with the face of a vampire behind him. Spike ducked, Faith kicked, and when he came up he caught the undead guy in the head with another boot. While Faith wrestled their opponent to the ground, Spike kicked him in the head repeatedly, punctuating his speech with the sound of steel toed boot on undead skull.

"It's not me's" - kick - "got the other" - kick - "Slayer in a snit, and she was pissy" - kick, crack, kick - "enough to toss me out on my arse." Kick, punch, dust. "I'm bettin' that the same thing's got you worked up." Spike straightened up and lit a cigarette while Faith brushed dust off her hands. She started off across the grass again.

"My problems aren't your business. Why don't you ask your sweetie?"

"She's not my sweetie, and she wouldn't have stopped to tell me if I'd asked. Seems like the week for Buffy to squawk at all of us like a barkin' mad parrot. She was stuck somewhere between 'where the hell were you' and 'how dare you leave without my permission' when she gave up and kicked my sorry arse out."

Faith continued cautiously across the graves. "She kicked me out before she even 'squawked', as you put it."

"Kicked you out of where, Slayer?"

"Nowhere." Spike considered this as some demon he'd never seen before appeared behind a mausoleum.

"Slayer, everywhere's somewhere." Faith poised and took two steps forward. The demon lumbered, and Spike hefted up the axe she hadn't noticed he was carrying. She raised an eyebrow and threw a punch that missed, then ducked as the thing swung out at her, and came back up, readying for more.

She flashed a quick look at him. "She's pissed off because she thinks I seduced Giles."

"You an' the Watcher? Oh, boy, this is gonna be good." Faith glared at Spike and channeled her obvious anger into a no-look punch that caught the thing on its ... is that a nose?, wondered Spike.

The leer in Spike's voice, no more than usual, somehow caught something in Faith's chest. She could feel her face crumple, visibly, and tried hard to concentrate on the fight. She felt Spike's eyes widen on her and when she turned around to look, the demon was staggering up. "Aw, pet, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to ... touch a sensitive subject."

Faith couldn't spare the energy to look at him. The demon was slow and clumsy but strong, and last thing she needed was to explain to Buffy how she let Spike get his head bitten off by something orange and kind of scaly. Faith was determined not to cry in front of the vampire, and beating something to a pulp was the best sort of release for that. "Just fucking fight, okay?"

She swung at the thing again, catching it in the head with her cross-bow. The bow made a painful cracking sound but sent the monster reeling enough for Spike to slip in behind it. She dropped the ruined weapon and went with bare hands, catching in the chest with two consecutive punches. It stumbled back towards Spike, who was lurking with the axe raised and a single boot to the chest toppled it backwards. Spike lunged in with the axe and with one clean stroke to the neck, the demon's head was off and melting, with the rest of it, into orange goo.

Faith leapt back squeamishly and yelped, and Spike leaned on the axe and laughed. "Not so tough, are you, Slayer?" That sentiment rang true with her; she looked up and his eyes were honest. She wasn't sure he really cared, but it couldn't hurt to tell him the story, either. Could it? She took a deep breath.

"Okay. So on Monday, I went to apologize to Rupert. And he invited me in." And the Slayer told the vampire the entire story.

While Faith was pouring her heart out to Spike and stalking through graveyards, Buffy was shouting again. This time she was standing in the Summers kitchen, where the research team had finally found a lead after 36 hours of books and websites and newspapers.

Giles, Willow and Dawn were sitting, exhausted, around the kitchen table, while Buffy howled. "Where the hell is Spike? Why isn't he here? He's always here, being a pain in the ass! And now I need him and he's nowhere to be found! Isn't that just typical of men?"

Dawn's voice cut softly through Buffy's tirade. "You threw him out of the house, Buffy. You told him you were tired of him being underfoot all the time."

Buffy shrieked incoherently at her sister, who immediately made herself as small as possible on her stool. Willow peered up tiredly from her cup of tea. "You can't send anyone to look for him, Buffy. I know that's what you're thinking. It's too dangerous, even if we might know where Caleb came from."

"I could go alone." Buffy was still glaring at no one in particular, her mouth pulled into a frown. "He could be at Willy's or the butcher's or..."

Willow replied, "You said yourself that Willy's was closed, and the butcher's already left town."

Giles sighed and pulled his glasses from his face. "And no, you can't go alone. We can't afford to lose you now that there's only one Slayer in the fight." Buffy's face suddenly brightened.


Giles narrowed his eyes at her. He wasn't sure if he could read malice on her face. "What does Faith have to do with this?"

"He must be with Faith. Where else would he be in a virtual ghost town?" She turned to Willow. "Call Faith."

"Now?" Willow wrinkled her nose. "I'm tired, Buffy. You're tired. Wait until the morning. Sleep on it. Spike will come home sometime. We don't want to send anyone out to search for this church until we have a better idea of where it is."

"Spike can't travel during the day." Buffy fidgeted again. She still looked angry to Willow's eyes, though he voice had fallen to a normal register.

"Spike can't travel to somewhere we're not sure exists anymore."

"Tomorrow?" Buffy's voice was hard.

"First thing tomorrow," Giles cut in. "First thing tomorrow, someone will locate Spike."

Buffy was standing firm. "And call Faith."

Giles's stomach wrenched. "And call Faith."

Faith had only been asleep for a few hours after her booze, slayage and bleeding hearts fest with Spike, when her phone rang with a clatter. Rupert, her mind cried out. She groped for the receiver. "'lo?"

Buffy's voice was cold and hard. "Get here. Now."

Faith spat back over the line. "Fuck off and die, you fucking cunt." The call disconnected with a heavy click. Faith dropped her head back to the pillow. Three days. The phone rang again, once, and stopped. She looked at it, willing it to ring again, willing it to be Rupert. It didn't comply. She rolled off the bed and headed for the shower. If nothing else, she could at least kick the shit out of Buffy when the other Slayer inevitably pissed her off.

This thought didn't lessen the hurt Faith felt. In a crushing thought, she let all her hopes go as she stepped in the water: you will never compare to her in Rupert's eyes.

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