She has tea. That's her thing now, tea. She took to London and to Giles. They ought to have suspected.
It's January and she checks the sports page to see about Aston Villa. This is work; sitting on a headstone, waiting. Three girls, the oldest seventeen, stand around talking about pop stars.
The shift comes.
"Alicia?" she says.
The seventeen year-old cuts off, turns to her. "Ma'am?" Ma'am she says with that accent that makes it sound like Mum.
"You want to be ready?"
"Yes, ma'am," says Alicia. She fumbles in her coat, produces a stake just as the youngest – fourteen years old – shrieks. There is a tussle. Faith sits on the tombstone, sipping her tea, watching.
- - -
Buffy comes up from Paris. Buffy likes Paris. Flashy and pretty and expensive taste. Faith digs the instant coffee out of the back of the pantry. Buffy says "You're still taking girls out yourself?"
"Yeah," says Faith. "I get itchy if I don't."
"Itchy," says Buffy. It has that chord of recognition. "I miss hunting."
She thinks about pressing. Neither of them have ever learned anything but kicking the shit out of whatever was handy. "Are you going to see Bill while you're here?"
"My son has my phone number if he wants to talk." She looks at her coffee. "I was just stopping by on the way to see Xander," she says, moving on.
"Tell him my youngest girl is a wuss."
- - -
She calls Giles after Buffy leaves. She says "She won't talk to him."
"That's to be expected, Faith. It's been that way for years."
He, in London, and her, in London, and they carry on these conversations by phone. He says "Actually, he's almost finished training. I was thinking of assigning him a slayer."
"Mine are too young for a newbie. You know I don't keep up with the others."
"Yes," he says. "You should really come up here for tea." This is a signal.
"Soon," she says.
"All right," he says. He hangs up.
She takes her girls through their forms in the school they built themselves. It's aggressive and ugly and it works. Buffy likes it too. It's a shame that Penny – the fourteen year-old, the youngest – is such a wuss, because her form is excellent. She'd make a good Slayer one day if she didn't freak out over sharp teeth.
She calls Giles again. "Did you mean it?"
"Faith, I'm not-"
He laughs. It's shorter than it used to be. "Of course."
- - -
"Buffy says you're fussing about Penny." Xander is smiling, she can tell, at the end of the line.
"She freaks every time she sees a shadow."
Faith frowns. It's still January. For the sake of the Slayers, Xander is nocturnal. They talk while Faith waits at gravestones, her knee aching from the cold and a time it shattered fifteen years ago and went untreated for three days. "When I was fourteen, I'd already-"
"Done all sorts of things Penny hasn't, because Penny comes from a normal family."
That's a fair point. "Yeah, okay." The problem hangs between them.
"You haven't complained about her form."
"Her form's fine."
"I can move her to a different trainer, I guess. A proper Watcher. If you can't deal with it."
"One sec." Faith covers the phone. To listen. She'd heard something, but now hears something. She doesn't just ignore her senses, though. She had heard something.
She uncovers the phone, idly fingering the knife concealed against her left arm. "Xander."
"I don't do wusses. That's not my thing."
"Fine. I'll switch her out to a more conventional trainer. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, or whatever."
Faith hangs up. Then she turns to the vampires behind her. There are three of them, but young ones; inexperienced. She goes to work.
- - -
Giles, as always, picks up the pen with his right hand before shifting it to his left for writing. Catching Faith's look, he says "We learn new ways of getting by." And so they do, compensating for each new injury.
"I talked to Xander." Technically, they are having tea. He has tea too, but he does not sip often. He has to put down the pen to drink.
"Penny. Why would we talk about Bill?"
"I don't know. Last time we talked it was about Bill."
That was also a fair point. "Okay," she says.
Giles keeps the heat too high for her, though her knee appreciates the relief.
"He said he'd switch her out."
His pen scratches against the pad. "Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Yeah." She finds herself studying a print hung on the wall. It looks Chinese. "He says he would switch her out to 'a more conventional trainer'."
"Ah." Giles puts down the pen so he can lift the mug and sip from it. After he puts the mug down, he says "There's nothing wrong with your style."
He raises his hand to cut her off. "The way you train your girls works for you. More importantly, it works for the girls."
"So what did-"
"Faith. If what you were doing was getting Slayers hurt, Xander would have stopped sending them to you. But what works for you doesn't work for everybody else."
She keeps finding herself looking at those prints.
"Really, Faith," says Giles. "You haven't been a lost little girl in twenty years. You shouldn't need me to tell you."
"And I thought I'd grown up."
Giles picks up the pen again, replicating that awkward two-handed movement. He says "You did. Too fast, all of you. You didn't have time to get it right."
But they've turned Slaying into a career, all of them working for, collecting paychecks from, a company that opened a Human Resources department three years ago. Still, they all work the graveyard shift.
- - -
There's a funeral two weeks later, in Paris. The body will be cremated. They don't think he was turned, but they don't take chances. Faith leaves her girls on their own to be there. Dawn and Xander and Willow and Kennedy show, too. Kennedy comes with Willow; Willow looks younger than the rest of them do.
A Watcher's funeral is not a public affair, and no one is involved that an outsider would call a priest. But there is a eulogy.
Giles is there too, until Buffy sees him. "You don't get to be here," she says.
"No," she says. "You brought him into this life. You put him in that box."
"I was trying to protect him, Buffy. Please-"
"You killed him, you bastard." Buffy is steel. Faith is watching. Everyone is watching, in this crowded living room. "You took my trust and my friendship, and you broke it, and even that wasn't enough for you. So now you've taken my son." She stops. "My son."
"Buffy," says Xander.
"Let her speak," says Giles.
And she closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and she is centered when she opens them.
"You've taken everything I have. Everything I am. But the little piece that's left hates you. I hate you. And-" She loses track of what she's saying. "And- And it's my son in that box. And I say you leave."
So he turns and hobbles away. Faith looks at the thin set of Willow's mouth and the frank silence from Xander's, and makes up her mind.
"Fuck this," she says, and follows him out.
Outside, in the street, it is nearly dusk. She had not realized before. But he turns, seeing her. There are Frenchmen and French ladies, going about their business. His cane, of course, draws the light.
"It's. Shit. It's not your fault."
"Of course not." He looks past her, at that little house. "I expected this. I just thought... I should try."
Faith rubs her hands together. "You booked at the Hilton?"
"Come on. Let's see if we can't find a taxi."
"I used to think one day she would forgive me." His knuckles are white. "She never will, will she?"
"Let's get a beer in you."
He doesn't press for an answer.
- - -
"One is never too old to get drunk, I suppose," he says. He's moved up to whiskey from beer, but still is only a little intoxicated. Judging by his vocabulary, anyway.
Faith watches, smiling. She's had a bit, too, and has already decided to expense the bar tab as a little fuck-you at Xander for shutting up.
"Faith," says Giles. "He never knew."
He's smiling at his glass. "He was my son."
Buffy never had told anyway who it was who'd gotten her knocked up. She had just handled it herself, unflinching in that way she had. "Wait." Buffy has slept with Giles, then. "You fucked Buffy?"
"Once." He doesn't object to the language. "And..." He trails off. The one in his hand might have been his third or fourth glass of whiskey. He's definitely refilled sometime during this part, when she wasn't really paying attention.
"She was still angry with me. I offered, when we found out. She said she wouldn't trust me with a child." He finishes his drink and fills again. Being a practiced drinker, Giles holds it better and consumes more, faster, to compensate.
She is in over her head. "You did what you could."
He laughed. "Make sure they put that on my tombstone. 'He did what he could.' Too little and always too late. And I've buried everyone I've ever allowed myself to love."
"Not everyone," Faith ventures. It's the most direct they've ever been with this, but they're both drunk and she's not very good at this. She reaches out her hand to cover his on the glass.
Giles looks at her, squinting a little through the alcohol haze. He takes a deep breath and releases it as a sigh. "Faith," he says.
"No. It's too late. I wish." His eyes fall back to his drink, to her hand on his. "I wish I still had something to give. But it's too late."
And it is. She's watched forty go by and he has done the same with seventy.
"Fine," she says. When you get older, you learn to pick your battles.
- - -
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