Who Will Sing Me Lullabies
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 5. Arguing.
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. Sorry this has been such a long time coming - rewrites took much longer than I hoped.
Part 5. Takes place instead of the events of "Touched".
Time stands still
Faith could feel a sudden sullenness settle on her shoulders when the front door of the Summers' house slammed behind her. The entire house was thick with emotion, unrevealed jealousy and resentment and anger. The Potentials sitting in the living room looked exhausted and depressed, and every head turned to stare when the door crashed shut. Between the emotions in the air and the glassy eyes of the Potentials on her face, Faith felt like turning tail and running right back out that door - there was still half a bottle of Jameson's in the hotel room - but there was also an unconscious vampire who probably hadn¹t slept in weeks. She was only too happy to leave him behind when B had called; he needed the sleep and she would have just kept him up. Besides, Faith wasn't looking to have another "you stole my man" squabble with the other Slayer.
But then Buffy was in front of her, having appeared silently from the kitchen door, staring at her levelly, and Faith wondered if some ass-kicking might actually be in store. "Faith."
Faith sneered back. "B."
"Thanks for coming over."
"Wasn't doin' anyone else." Buffy winced. Faith smirked.
Faith crossed her arms across her chest and peered at Buffy from behind her hair, faking a look of ultimate stupidity. She wondered if Buffy would buy it. She wanted to make this as difficult as possible. "Spike who?"
"Spike the annoying bleach blond vampire."
"Oh, him! He's sleepin' the sleep of the - er, of the undead in my hotel room." She watched the other Slayer's face. Buffy's eyes widened in shock and anger. Faith reached out and punched her in the arm, earning a grunt and a glare from Buffy, who wrapped her right hand around the spot on her left arm that probably wouldn't bruise. "Get off it, B. Nothin' happened. He showed up and we talked for a while. He could use the sleep, too. Looked like he'd been awake for days." Faith couldn't keep the sarcasm out of her voice or a trace of a self-satisfied sneer from crossing her face.
"We all have been." The unspoken words, "all of us but you" floated between the Slayers as Buffy's eyes raked over Faith's face again, testing for the truth.
"Swear on my crossbow, B, I didn't do your vampire. I don't even know why he came lookin' for me. Besides, even if I swung towards the formerly evil undead as partners in the sack, I'd pick your other vampire over Spike."
"Angel?" Buffy was incredulous. Faith saw the fish out of water look returning to Buffy's face and tossed her jacket on the newel post. Faith strolled through the living room, picking carefully around the Slayers in Training, and headed for the kitchen.
"B, you got food? I'm starving." Faith's brain repeated her careful mantra over and over: I will not let her get to me, I will not let her get to me.
The other Slayer had recovered her composure and turned to Faith's back as she pushed through the kitchen door. "Angel would never have you." B always did know how to get to me. Her brain finished the sentence for her: like the other night at Rupert's.
Faith paused in the doorway and turned to shoot a nasty comment back at Buffy. "I never tried. Want me to? We can compare notes." She knew she was already treading on B's last nerve, and Buffy took a menacing step in Faith's direction. Before she could get closer (and, sadly, Faith thought, before, she could punch B's lights out), the kitchen door swung out from underneath Faith's hand.
Willow, Xander and Anya slid past Faith into the living room. Willow smiled tiredly at Faith. The witch had looked exhausted ever since they returned from L.A. "Hey, Faith. You okay?"
"Five by five, witch. What about you?"
"Tired. But we've maybe got a lead. So that's something, right?"
Buffy stepped in and put a clear end to the conversation. "What have you found?" She sounded tired and snappy and more off her game than Faith had thought. Faith looked around curiously when Willow started talking. She'd assumed that Giles had been in the kitchen with the rest of Buffy's little gang, but he hadn't appeared with the witch and her entourage. She wasn't listening to what Willow said until Buffy turned to her.
"And Faith, I want you to take a team of the more experienced Potentials down in the sewers. Try and find a Bringer. They can't see but they've still got mouths. Isolate one. Bring him here."
"You want me to do what, B?" Faith had been so consumed by her fear that Buffy had killed Rupert and stashed the body somewhere that she's missed Buffy's entire string of instructions.
Buffy spoke slowly, as if she was addressing a small child. "I want you. To go down into the sewers. To kidnap a Bringer or find out what they're hiding."
"They're hiding something?" Faith hadn't realized that she had zoned that far out.
"No," Buffy explained with faux patience. "Caleb's protecting something. Willow found a church in Gilroy where someone burned a mark like on his ring into a rafter. When she looked the church up, she found out it's really old and really famous. And there's an inscription in some secret room."
Willow snorted with amusement. "Buffy, if you can look it up on the internet, it's not a secret." Buffy glared at Willow and Willow looked at Faith sympathetically. The look they exchanged only made Buffy glare harder.
"There's a room. There's an inscription. It is not for them to have. It is for her alone to'. Well, something like that. And we know Caleb was there. He wants something. He wants the thing that only she can bear."
"And you think that the Bringers are hiding it in the sewers?" God, B was a moron. To think that Faith would lead the charge into retrieve whatever prize Buffy wanted for herself - without doing any of the work, of course.
"No," Buffy snapped. "I think Caleb is hiding it at the vineyard." Oh, Faith thought. Oh. I'm not the hero. I'm the fucking trap. She's using me as the trap.
"So you're the hero and I'm the bait, is that right?" Faith was fed up and she could feel her face tensing. I should have turned tail and run, she thought. Gonna be dead either way.
"Something like that." Willow looked guiltily away from Faith, and Xander and Anya's heads bent together suddenly. And Buffy's conversation today was heavy with unspoken threats. Something like that, she said, and Something like that, since you're not worth as much as me is what she meant. Buffy wasn't a bitch. Faith knew that. Buffy wasn't even particularly cruel, when it came down to it. She just didn't like Faith, simple as that. It was black and white to Buffy: Faith bad, Buffy good. Faith bait, Buffy hero.
"What's Rupert think of this?" Faith said before she could stop herself. Buffy frowned. Willow gaped. Xander turned to Anya and whispered, "Who's Rup - oh. Giles." Anya snickered.
A weary British voice behind Faith's head responded before Buffy could. "He thinks it's the best idea we've got, for the moment." Faith turned and saw Giles, who had his glasses in one hand and was rubbing his eyes, not looking at Faith. His voice had sounded coached, practiced. Leave it to B, Faith thought, to be the only Slayer who coaches her Watcher in what to say, stead of the other way around. Faith was certain that he didn't mean that; she was certain Buffy had told him to say that, or else.
Faith stared. Giles avoided her gaze for a long moment, and then turned suddenly on his heel and marched back out to the kitchen. In the silence that followed, Faith heard the back door slam. Buffy looked irritated. "Xander, go after him. Make sure he's not leaving. He has to watch the rest of the Potentials tonight." Xander grumbled, but he heaved himself up from his chair and strolled after Giles. At the mention of the Slayers in Training, a dozen teenaged heads whipped back to their books, as if they hadn't been watching the entire scene with great interest.
"You haven't seriously relegated your Watcher to Babysitting, have you?" It wasn't that Faith had ever had a Watcher who'd, you know, Watched, but if she had, she wouldn't have put him on keeping teenage girls out of trouble duty.
"I don't want him fighting. What else is he supposed to do?"
"You're a real piece of work, you know that, B?" Faith smirked but her stomach hurt. She thought she don't know what she'd thought. She'd thought Giles, who'd never cared what the Watcher's Council thought of him, wouldn't care what Buffy thought of him, either. Then why did Faith care what he thought of her?
Buffy stared at her coldly. "This from the woman who slept with my Watcher." There was a collective gasp in the room; one of those moments where it feels as though you've stepped out of real life and straight into television, laugh track and all. Faith was surprised to see surprise written across the faces of Willow, Anya and the Potentials. She'd assumed that B had spilled the beans. Still, the gloves were coming off. No more Mrs. Nice Slayer.
"What can I say? I like em older. Not as old as you do, sure, but I also like em breathing, too. So, you know, you wouldn't have been interested in Rupes, anyway."
Buffy made that strangled noise again, the one she resorted to when Faith infuriated her beyond words, and Willow leapt from her chair. Buffy waved her off, going red in the face. "Look, Faith. You don't have to like me and I don't have to like you. But if you don't help us, you're going to end up dead, and there's a good chance that we will, too. So play nice, okay, and maybe when it's done I'll let you talk to my Watcher."
"Who the hell do you think you are, B? He's a person, not a piece of property."
"Why the hell are you interested in him, anyway, F? He doesn't seem to be your usually speed. Don't you like the innocent ones you can deflower?" Xander had re-entered the room just as Buffy spit that accusation out, and he blushed furiously and left the room again, rather hurriedly, slamming the door heavily behind him so the walls reverberated with the shock.
"You know what, B? We don't need to do that here." Faith wasn't sure to whether to be angry or humiliated, but she knew enough to grabb Buffy's arm and haul her out onto the porch. She could hear the Potentials start chattering excitedly - the other Slayer is sleeping with the Watcher! Can they do that? - before the door slammed shut. She turned to Buffy and squinted against the sun. Buffy was standing petulantly in front of the porch swing and Faith crossed warily to her and sat down. She looked up at Buffy. "So what the hell is your fuckin' deal, B? I'm a grown up. He's a grown up. What's the problem?"
Buffy fidgeted and glared. "It's setting a bad example. The Potentials need to know that it's not okay to sleep with their Watchers."
Faith was past angry; she had reached this Zen point where it was just so fucking ridiculous that it was funny. "Okay. First off, B, they wouldn't have known - Willow and Anya and Xander wouldn't have known - if you hadn't just told them. And hey, thanks for spilling my personal life all over the house, by the way. Really appreciate that. And second, they're living in a house with the Slayer who quit the Council, the Slayer who got her Watcher fired. And what's up the with the coming back from the dead thing?" Buffy huffed and started to say something, but Faith held up a hand. Buffy wrinkled her nose in displeasure. "Dead Slayers are supposed to be dead, yo. That's the point of death. Dead Slayers are dead and then there's another Slayer. The whole two-Slayers thing is the problem in the first fuckin' place. You think you're setting some kind of good example, with your rule-breaking and little gang of Scoobies and your sleeping with vampires and your coming back from the dead?" Faith stopped for a breath. "And while we're on the subject, what's up with vampires, anyway? Isn't banging the enemy against the fucking rules?"
Buffy was hyperventilating. If Faith hadn't slipped back from Zen to anger, this might have amused her. As it were, it merely irritated her. The silence continued, except for Buffy's labored breathing. Faith stared at the tree in the Summers' front yard; the only thing that seemed the same from the last time she'd been here, when she was in Buffy's body, hoping her life could go right this time.
"Do you love him?" Buffy's voice was still low, still cold. Faith could see her hands twitching, waiting for Faith's answer. Faith knew those hands wanted to twitch into fists, to solve this problem the only way Slayers really know how - with anger, with violence, perhaps with gory death and dismemberment. Personally, she was ready to pound Buffy into the ground, but she couldn't afford to throw the first punch. There were things - inexplicably important things, things about her future - riding on this conversation.
"No. But I could have learned to. I could learn to."
Buffy made a noise that was hardly human, something caught between laughing and choking. She looked at Faith incredulously. "You? You've never loved anyone in your life. The Council thinks it's a weakness for Slayers to love. I think they're wrong. If you could love, you'd never have killed that man."
Faith's voice was low and steady. "I loved Angel. I love Angel. He saved me. The least I could do was love him for that."
Buffy flashed to her feet. "You cannot possibly use that word in conjunction with that name. I loved Angel. I love Angel. How dare you suggest that you could feel something towards him on the same level as me? I loved him and I killed him. You have no idea what it is to kill something you love. To kill something because you understand mercy. You've never killed with mercy or with love, killed because you had to. You just kill."
"You kill without mercy or love every night. That's what a Slayer does."
"Those are monsters."
"Angelus was a monster. And the deputy mayor was a mistake, and you know that I'm sorry for everything I did." Faith's voice remained cool, detached. She couldn't commit herself to this, or the carefully aloof demeanor she'd cultivated for most of her life would come shaking off with anger. She just didn't want to lose what was riding on this conversation.
"It's different, now. You couldn't have learned to love Giles. It's better for everyone this way." Buffy leaned down and hissed in Faith's face. "You just can't love. You're cold. You're inhuman."
Faith grabbed both of Buffy's wrists in her hands as Buffy tried to turn away. She yanked Buffy back to the level she was sitting on. "And you haven't helped me, either, have you? Jealous from the moment I strolled into your little Hellmouth. You've always had friends, you've always had family. I've never had anything. Being a Slayer took all chance of that away from me. And now you're convinced that I don't deserve a future where I could have it. You've had everything, and you think I should have nothing." Buffy tried to pull away, a half-hearted attempt, but Faith jerked her back. She knew Buffy wasn't going anywhere. She was too afraid of what the Faith in her head, the Psychopath Torture-Artist Faith, would do. It was written in her eyes. "You've had a Watcher who cared enough to stay when he wasn't your Watcher anymore. And maybe he's been distant, too, but he loves you. You can tell. Just look at the way he looks at you. I've had a Watcher who died, a Watcher who tried to end the world, and a Watcher who was such a ponce he didn't recognize love until it slapped him in face in the form of that ex-boyfriend you loved so much you sent him to hell." She paused and tugged Buffy even closer, so that their eyes met. "All I'm trying to say is that I don't want your Watcher because he's your Watcher, you stupid bitch. I just want a friend."
Buffy stayed eye to eye with Faith for what felt like an eternity. Without warning, she wrenched herself from Faith's grasp and stalked across the porch to the door. She rested her hand on the door knob and turned back to Faith. "It's easy, Faith. Do what I want and you can see Giles. Play by your own rules, and you can kiss friendships with any of us good-bye." Her voice was totally even, emotionless. "We can't always get what we want, Faith. But I will get what I want this time around, and what I want is to make it out of here alive." Buffy turned the doorknob sharply and pushed the door open, disappearing without a second word.
Faith slumped back onto the Summers' porch swing, feeling exhaustion press the tension and anger out of her joints. Being so tired you couldn't sleep was that Zen feeling again. She felt almost like floating out of her body. Maybe her spirit could disappear to somewhere that was not in the depths of an Apocalypse and her body could go on doing whatever it was that B demanded that it do. Faith thought she could live with that.
Except that not matter how hard she willed it, her soul stayed tightly joined to her body, which was still stuck tightly to Buffy Summers' porch swing. If she was still stuck in this body in this still self-destructing town, she had to make her decisions count for something. There was no way that B was going to get anything out of her if Faith wasn't going to get something back. Something like Giles.
Faith began to count options inside her head. One, do what Buffy wants, kick the bucket, never see Giles again. Two, do what Buffy wants, survive, have Buffy go back on any deals she might make, never see Giles again. Three, don't do what Buffy wants, leave town, never see Giles again. And four, the slimmest chance, do what Buffy wants, survive, have Buffy make good on her promise and have a shot at figuring out what was up with Giles.
When every option but one leaves you dead or alone, you grasp hope where you can find it. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain from playing bait for Buffy; there was no telling whether the world's end would kill her anyway. Besides, Faith reminded herself. That's what you do. You take chances. Haven't you always?
"Right," Faith said aloud. She immediately winced. She didn't like to think that she was developed a habit of talking to herself. Still, hearing her own voice state facts seemed to make things more real. "Right, then, I'll play along with B. Nothing could get any worse."
She stood up and walked across the porch, wanting to voice her decision and then go home, away from all the eyes she was sure would be prying into her mind. Buffy really didn't know when to keep her mouth shut, did she? She turned the doorknob and pressed the door in cautiously. The living room was silent and she swiveled her head slowly - only to find the room devoid of Slayers, Scoobies and various Summers family members. Maybe I can just leave a note. Faith crept quietly into the living room, scanning the tables for a piece of paper not covered in scrawlings about the First Evil. She thought she'd found one when someone cleared their throat.
Her body tensing for a fight, Faith's head snapped up. When her eyes focused on the body standing across the room, her stomach lurched and she reached out for a nearby table to steady herself, knocking a stack of heavy books to the ground with a crash. Giles was standing in the doorway from the kitchen, staring at the ground, and polishing his glasses with a fierce intensity.
Faith opened her mouth to say something and no words came out. She felt young and scared and fantastically confused, staring at the Watcher, and she used the hand not firmly attached to the table to reach behind her, groping for the edge of a chair. Finding one, she lowered herself into it and continued to stare. Well, he's following Buffy's instructions to the letter of the law, if not the spirit. He's not talking to me.
She tried to speak again. This time, her voice worked. "Where'd they all go?"
"Ah. Buffy took the Potentials out for training. Xander went in search of more plywood, and I believe that Willow and Dawn are on a mission to locate dinner."
"I had something to tell Buffy."
"I'm supposed to relay any messages you might have to Buffy when she's finished with training."
"You know what, G?" Faith was finding Buffy's I'm-the-leader attitude irritating again. "She's got Spike to fetch and carry for her. She doesn't need you." Giles' face turned to hers briefly and his eyes flickered hurt, before he wrenched his gaze from hers. That hurts. She shook her head in disgust and stood up, teetering uncertainly on her still quivering legs. I can't believe this old man has got me so twisted around his finger that I'm shaking over him standing across a room from me. This isn't my life. But it was her life. Faith thought she'd seen regret in Giles's fleeting glance, and she was banking on it.
"Tell B that I'll be back at sunset with Spike. I'll do whatever she wants me to."
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