Faith's Consequences (1/1)
by Blair

TITLE: Faith's Consequences (1/1) 
AUTHOR:  Blair Provence
E-MAIL ADDRESS: 
aggiemo@msn.com
SPOILER WARNING:  To third season, I suppose, up to Enemies. 
RATING:  PG
DISCLAIMER:  Not mine.  But I will accept them as gifts.  Except the Mayor.  He gives me the willies.
SUMMARY:  What really drove Faith to join forces with the Mayor at the end of Consequences?  An episode gap-filler.

FEEDBACK IS WELCOME AND APPRECIATED!

     The adrenaline-pumped overwhelming feeling of panic had finally begun to subside as Faith completed her twentieth circuit around the Sunnydale High School running track.  She slowed to a walk, weaving drunkenly onto the inner circle of grass and collapsing into a tired heap.  She closed her eyes and was immediately assaulted by an image of Allan the mayor's aide, staring up at her with wide, confused, pain-filled eyes as his heart's blood spilled onto the ground.

     "Dammit!" she swore, hauling herself up onto her elbows. "Get out of my head, you fucker!"  A sweaty lock of hair fell over her cheek and she swiped at it furiously.  "Stupid, loser bastard!  What the hell were you doing in that damn alley, anyway?"  She huffed angrily and rose to her feet.  "Probably on some evil mission for Mayor Wackjob - *probably* going to help Jabba the demon off Giles and Wesley-prick!"  She rubbed her hands up and down her arms as the chill of the night air cooled her sweat-soaked skin.  "I probably saved their lives!  But does anybody care about that?  Nooooooo."
    
     She started across the track, heading for the gate she'd busted open earlier.  "If *Buffy* had done it, they never would have pulled this shit."  She glanced down at her wrists, but the abrasions from the shackles had already healed.  "Angel never would have Sosa'd Buffy across the back."  She winced as the mention of Angel and the baseball bat brought back a picture of the fear on Xander's face as he'd struggled under her hands.  She shook the image off.  "Just like the rest," she muttered angrily, stomping through the early evening dew, "gets a little skin, thinks he owns you."  Shagging him had been stupid, a violation of the unspoken Scooby gang rules, but she hadn't realized it at the time.  And they wouldn't be forgetting - or forgiving - her transgression anytime soon.  "Stupid little loser club.  I don't need any of you, don't care what you think about me, about what I did..."  She could just imagine the horror on little innocent Willow's face, the smug disdain on Cordelia's, the oh-so-superior condescension on Buffy's...and the complete lack of expression on Giles' that somehow managed to be more horrible than the blackest fury.

     The thought of Giles sent her mind back to the moment of reckoning in the library when she'd gone to him to tell her tale. She never would have suspected he was so good at hiding his feelings - he hadn't turned a hair when she'd told him of the homicide 'Buffy' had accidentally committed.  She'd actually left the library believing that he had bought her story.

     She halted next to the bleachers as a sudden thought struck her.  <Maybe he did.  Maybe he did believe me until Buffy got her claws into him.>

     After all, he knew Buffy better than he knew Faith, and so obviously he would trust her more.  <God knows why...> Faith sniffed disdainfully, <considering all the crap she's pulled...> But even if he'd accepted Buffy's version over hers, he still hadn't turned her over to the Council - that had been Wesley- prick's little plan.  Not that getting bashed with a baseball bat and chained up by a vampire was a vast improvement over forced deportation, but she was willing to bet that the actual plan had been Buffy's brilliant construction.

     And Giles had tried to shield her from Wyndham-Pryce and his insane little band, even though he had no idea how crazed that bunch really was.  She was under no illusions about what would have happened if she'd been taken across the water - her first Watcher had been almost brutally blunt about the downside of her new Slayer existence, which was the role the Council would play in her life.  Total, complete, absolute control over even the smallest detail of her existence, something guaranteed to raise Faith's hackles, even when only applied to training and study. She'd been informed in no uncertain terms that she was far from the Council's ideal vision of a Slayer, and was starting out with more than a few strikes against her, not the least of which was ranking second-best from the get go.

     They'd sent enforcers after her, prepared to use lethal force.  She shivered again with a chill that owed nothing to the night air.

     Giles might have believed she was proceeding to prolonged incarceration, but Faith reckoned that her life-expectancy had been somewhere around two days max after setting foot in England. The Council had no use for a Slayer who couldn't perform - they would have killed her without a qualm.

     She owed Giles for getting them to back off after her escape, though she had no idea how he'd accomplished it.

     He was the only one, her one possible ally.  And it wasn't like Buffy was the kind of Slayer he deserved, anyway - all she ever did was disappoint him.  Besides, Giles was as much her Watcher as he was Buffy's, or at least he had been until Buffy had gone and gotten him fired.  The bitch.

     Giles.

     The only one she could conceivably trust to help her find her future.

     Squaring her shoulders, she headed toward the school. Toward the library.

     Toward Giles.

********

     Buffy contemplated the polished tabletop of the library table, her fingers absently toying with the handle of the teacup Giles had prepared for her.  Her gaze flicked upward to study his drawn face.  He was staring down into one of his musty tomes, deep in thought.

     "Do you really believe that?" she asked him abruptly.

     "Wha-What?"  He looked up at her, drawing his brows together in puzzlement.

     "Do you really think Faith stands a chance?"  It wasn't the question she wanted to ask, but it came as close to it as she could manage for the moment.  <Do you really think I'm the one who can help her?> was what she really wanted to know, to receive a little positive reinforcement to bolster her own shaky self- image.  But she couldn't figure out how to phrase that question without sounding selfish, and she figured her status in Giles' eyes had taken enough of a beating over the last few days.

     He laced his fingers together and steepled them under his chin.  "She's a very disturbed girl, Buffy.  Far moreso than I had ever realized, which was an unconscionable miscalculation on my part."  He leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and sighed.  "Perhaps the Council wasn't ill-advised to relieve me of my duties after all."

     "You don't mean that," she said softly.  "You know that's not true."

     He shrugged tiredly.  "Sometimes I wonder.  Sometimes I think all I've done is make a bloody mess of things."

     "What, do you think you should have been more like Quentin Travers?" she asked, upset at his self-denigration.  "Sending us out to die without a care in the world, certain in the knowledge that if we died...well, there are more where we came from? Because that's what Weasel Wesley thinks, I can tell."

     "He is...young."

     "*And* an idiot!  Don't tell me you don't thinks so."

     A tired smile crossed his lips.  "Well, I'm not exactly an objective judge of his character."

     "Why should you be?" she shot back.  "He *took* your *job*, Giles!  And he won't listen to *any* of us, even though we've been living on the Hellmouth for *years*.  He's the worst combination of ignorant and arrogant, not to mention the fact that he makes the cowardly lion look like Rambo."  At his blank look, she elaborated.  "Angel *told* me what he overheard when Balthazar had you in that warehouse, right before we came in."

     Giles shifted uncomfortably in his chair.  "What do you mean?"

     "I *mean* that Wesley offered to make a deal for the amulet in order to save his kneecaps.  He was willing to roll over on us.  Giles, you tried to fight the Master in my place!!  Wesley probably would have just said 'Seeya in the afterlife, and boy do I hope the next Slayer's a nice British chippy!"

     "You can't know that for certain," he objected weakly.  "It is impossible to know for certain what someone - anyone - is capable of doing, especially in situations of great stress."  His expression darkened and he looked away.

     Buffy frowned for a moment before comprehension dawned. "You're talking about my birthday, aren't you?"
    
     He bowed his head.

     "I'm not over that," she told him honestly, and he flinched. "I don't know if I'll ever be truly over it, just like you'll never get over some of the crap I've put you through.  But Wesley would have drugged me and sent me to that mansion with a spring in his step and a song in his heart, Giles, and he never would have felt a pang of conscience for it."

     She got up from her chair and skirted the table, stopping next to Giles and hitching her hip against the polished wood. Her gaze was intense, burning into his with the fury of brutal honesty.  There was no more room for lies between them.  "The only reason what you did still makes you feel so guilty is because you care so much about me.  And the only reason I can't blow it off and just say 'forget it, no biggie' is because I care so much about you."

     He nodded once, still looking miserable.

     She took a deep breath and continued, "But no matter how mad I was at you that night, I never once wanted another Watcher.  So you can sit there until the cows come home talking about how they weren't being 'ill-advised' or whatever, but I'll never believe it.  I'll never agree with it.  And no matter how many pompous speeches he makes, Wesley Wyndham-Price will *never* be my Watcher."

     He blinked, a bit stunned at her vehement tone.  "I didn't realize..."

     "What?"

     He swallowed.  "I didn't realize you felt so strongly about m-...my position as your Watcher.  I thought-" he paused and swallowed again, "well, you've never been shy about pointing out my flaws."

     Her eyebrows flew upward.  "And you're the soul of tact, are you?  Remember me, the flighty, irresponsible non-studious type person?  C'mon Giles, a few tweed jokes here and there didn't mean we didn't appreciate you."

     His lips tightened into a grim line.  "It's not about the jokes, Buffy."

     The smile died on her own lips.  "No.  I know that."  <Oh, God, we're hitting all the low points tonight, aren't we?>  She braced herself to broach the next topic.  "It's about Angel, isn't it?  About me dating him, when you thought it was a bad idea, and me turning him into a demon, and me hiding him when he came back from hell."

     He averted his gaze.  "We all came to trust him, Buffy," he offered finally through pursed lips, "even I, who had both the knowledge and the experience to know better.  And I told you the night he lost his soul that I didn't blame you, and you had my unwavering support."

     "That was before he killed Ms. Calendar."  She watched as Giles flinched, as he always did when the teacher was mentioned, and felt her usual sharp stabbing pang of guilt.

     "I never blamed you for that," Giles replied softly, closing his eyes.

     She swallowed with difficulty.  "Not out loud, no."

     He looked up and met her gaze squarely.  "I never did, Buffy."

     His quiet, steady voice brought tears to her eyes.  "Maybe not."  She swallowed again, fighting back the tightness in her throat.  "But I know you think I betrayed you by hiding him when he came back from hell.  And maybe you were right about that, but I've wanted to tell you...I didn't do it for the reasons you think, Giles."

     "What do you mean?"

     "You said I didn't trust you, or respect you or the job you do.  That's not true, Giles.  But..."  She shook her head and sighed, wondering how to explain it to him so he could truly understand.  "I saw you, you know, after everything happened.  I saw all of you out in front of the school - and Willow was in a wheelchair, and Xander had a broken arm...and you, Giles.  I saw what he had done to you, and I knew that it was my fault."

     "Buffy-"

     "No, Giles.  It was my fault, and you'll never convince me any differently.  He tortured you...and he enjoyed it, didn't he?"

     Hollow bitterness echoed in his voice.  "Very much."

     She nodded, seeing the horror of those moments flash in his dark eyes.  "How could I tell you that I was helping the man who'd done that to you, Giles?  How could I ever justify it, or expect you to understand it?  It was unforgivable.  So I thought I could just...I don't know, keep you separate, or something." She dared to glance at him.  "Because I had to help him, Giles. What happened to him was my fault, too."

     "No, Buffy."

     She shook her head.  "It's how I felt, Giles.  And I thought if I could just help him, and not hurt you in the process, that it would make up for some of the pain I caused."  She shrugged tiredly.  "It didn't work out that way, though."

     "No," he replied dryly.  "But...thank you for explaining that.  It does help somewhat.  And you aren't to hold yourself responsible for my pain, Buffy."

     "But you're the one who always pays for my mistakes, aren't you?  Whenever I screw up, you get hurt.  Whenever I make a bad decision, you pay the price."  A few tears spilled over, streaking down her cheeks.  "Why, Giles?  Why do you stay when all I do is hurt you?"

     His eyes darkened with emotion.  "Because even with all of the problems - the Hellmouth, the vampires and evil witches, the seriously overweight demons...Cordelia-" his smile flashed fleetingly before vanishing behind a serious, steady, unwavering regard "-even...even with what happened to J-Jennie...there is no other place on earth where I can imagine living my life.  It's not even a matter of choice anymore, Buffy.  I don't think I could leave even if I wanted to."

     She choked on a sob.  "But *why*?"

     He reached up to touch her cheek, lightly, with two fingers, answering tears glinting in his own eyes.  "Because, my dear girl, *here* is where you are.  And there's no place on earth I'd rather be."

     She let out a strangled cry and reached down to embrace him fiercely, burying her face in his neck.  He wrapped his arms around her as she settled in his lap and held her close as she cried.  "Shh, Buffy.  It's all right.  Everything's all right." He gently kissed the top of her blonde head.

     "I know it's selfish," she sobbed into his shoulder, "I know I don't deserve it - but promise you won't leave, Giles.  Promise me."

     "I promise, Buffy.  I'll never leave you."  He framed her face with his hands, smiling tenderly down at her as he smoothed away her tears with his thumbs.  "We're a team, you and I.  Where you go, I go.  I'll never leave."

     She nodded up at him, smiling through the tears.  "A team," she whispered, hugging him close again.  "We're a team."

     Faith backed away from the library entrance, slowly lowering the clenched fist that had held one swinging door open a few scant inches moments before.  The picture of Buffy in Giles' arms was burned into her mind, echoing with the sound of his voice - <'We're a team you and I...We're a team...Where you go, I go...I'll never leave you...>

     For Buffy.  Everything for Buffy.  Always for Buffy.

     Slowly her fists unclenched as she fought to control her harsh breathing.  The measure of calm she'd managed to attain on the track seemed as distant as the moon as her mind raced with pictures of her recent life in Sunnydale - all the moments when she'd been made to feel second-rate, the little slights, the thoughtless put-downs.  While Buffy had her home, her school, her friends, her mother...her *Watcher* - perfect little Buffy with her perfect little life, and all she ever did was whine...

     Faith had tried, she really had.  She'd tried to live it their way, to be loyal, reliable and trustworthy, to look out for the weak, to fight the good fight.  But if her life thus far had taught her anything, it was that Faith could only depend on Faith.  And she had to look out for herself, because nobody else would.

     Nobody.

     It was time for a new plan.


END