It's a slow night. Faith dusts one vamp after two hours of patrolling, then nothing. She's kind of surprised; Halloween's still a few days away. Mostly, she's bored.
Bored, but too wired to call it quits – besides, there's no heat in her apartment and Robin's in bed with the flu, so he can't scratch her itch – she pockets her stake and ducks into a bar.
Typically, heads turn when Faith makes an entrance. Considering she's still wanted by the police, that's not necessarily a good thing. But just about everyone here seems engrossed in the baseball game on the TV over the bar. She gives the men a cursory glance as she orders a pint of whatever's on tap. No one fuckable. Okay, the bartender isn't so bad – if you squint - but he barely looks at her as he takes her cash and hands over her drink, and she isn't quite that antsy – yet.
She takes her drink and a basket of roasted peanuts to a booth by a window, and puts her feet up on the red vinyl seat. Fucking Cleveland, she thinks, tossing a peanut into the air and catching it in her mouth. Not that there's anywhere she'd rather be. She doesn't miss California, and she isn't jealous of Buffy, training Slayer wannabes in Scotland or wherever.
She tells herself she isn't jealous. She spent too damn long being jealous of Buffy and it cost her too damn much. Besides, she's not interested in travel, and teaching isn't her thing. Last time she tried it, she almost got everyone blown up. She doesn't need any more blood on her hands.
Any more human blood, anyway.
Demon blood, she can handle.
Faith's gaze wanders back to the bar. The people are really pretty excited about the baseball game. They're cheering, clapping one another on the back, spilling their beer. It's the Red Sox versus the Cardinals, she notes, and feels a small twinge because her mom used to tell her - when she was very young – that her dad would come back when the Sox won the World Series. It took Faith a while to understand what that meant, and just a little longer to stop caring.
She fidgets in her seat, drums her fingers on the table, tilts her head so she can watch the window discreetly.
When she catches the flicker of movement, she's so grateful, so ready, that she's on her feet and out the door in seconds. The lurker gives a strangled yelp as she all but hurtles into the street, turns, and tries to run for it.
Faith takes off after him. She could throw her stake, get him in the back, but she wants to grapple. She overtakes him, grabs his shoulders, spins him and pins him against a brick wall. "Going somewhere?" she says sweetly. "Stick around." She punches him in the gut.
There was a moment, right before he tried to make a break for it, when Faith thought that maybe this wasn't a vampire. Could've been a bum hoping for a handout, or some kid trying to decide if he should go in with his fake ID. But Faith's sure now. He moves like a vampire, like a demon in a human-shaped outfit. And he's got that cold, coppery smell that seems to cling to vamps who forgo proper grooming – which is most.
"Stick," the vampire wheezes as Faith pulls back for another hit. "I get it. Haha."
Faith pauses. "The hell?"
"'Cause you got that stick in your pocket and you're gonna, uh, stick me with it."
"Got that right," says Faith, and the vampire gives a satisfying grunt when her knuckles connect with his ribs.
"No 'hey, hey,'" says Faith, pulling him away from the wall and tossing him to the ground. He rolls, starts to rise, but she kicks him back down. She pulls the stake from her jacket pocket.
"Hey," insists the vampire, and he covers his heart with his hand. "Just – wait a minute? Okay?"
"Nope, not okay." But she frowns. His protective gesture unnerves her slightly. She thinks, maybe this vampire came looking for her. Maybe he's got information about…something. If Robin were here, he'd insist she wait. So would Buffy.
"Okay," says Faith. "What? Make it quick. And don't try to be cute. That stick thing was lame, and I gotta say, I got this wicked strong urge to dust you. So."
The vampire's eyes widen and he says, sounding surprised and delighted, "You're from Boston!"
"I'm from Boston, too!"
"Once again," says Faith, advancing, "so?"
"I grew up in Jamaica Plain," he babbles. "On Washington Street! I only mean," he goes on hurriedly because Faith's really not impressed and making no effort to hide it, "it's nice – bumping into someone – with that accent. Tonight of all nights."
"You mean the night you die?"
"I'm already dead," he reminds her. "I mean the night the Sox break the Curse of the Bambino."
Now Faith's really unimpressed. "That's why you were out here? So you could watch the game through the window? What, you couldn't get a TV for your tomb?"
The vampire grumbles something about the cost of cable and electricity.
"You know," says Faith, "you're a real Buffy vampire."
"I mean, you're the kind of lame-ass, dopey vampire B used to meet all the time in Sunnydale. Can't dress, can't fight, can't even make good puns."
"Oh," says the vampire, "I can fight."
The swift, sharp kick to her ankles knocks her off her feet. He's on her in an instant, pinning her legs, grabbing at her wrists. His face changes and his eyes are the same yellow as the streetlamp lights.
"You know," the vampire says calmly, while Faith writhes beneath him, "I just wanna see the Sox win. It's kind of a life goal. Death goal, if you will. I got turned at a game. Fenway Park, 1986. Game Two against the Mets. I got up to get a coke, and this vampire grabbed me. No one could hear me scream – kind of the way no one's going to hear you, should you choose to. Incidentally, if you're going to scream, now would be a good time because this story isn't very long, and I'm going to kill you when it's over."
"Incidentally, I kinda hate to spoil the ending for you, but you're seriously not."
"Look, I get you're a Slayer. I know you're wicked fast. I can tell you're wicked strong. But I'm talking about a death goal here." He starts to twist her wrists. "Right before he bit me, I begged the vampire to turn me. Because I wanted to see the Sox win that badly. And you know what? Well, I guess you do know what."
Faith can't help it. Her wrists feel like they're about to snap off, the damn vampire's knees are going to leave bruises the size of apples on her thighs, but she just can't help it. She starts to laugh.
"What?" demands the vampire.
"You," gasps Faith, "are so lame!"
This is bullshit, and she's tired of it. While he's being all indignant, she breaks his grip on her wrists, pushes him off her, and stakes him through the heart.
"You're hot," she says.
"Always am, baby."
"Haha. I bought you some ramen. It's in the kitchen."
"How'd slaying go?"
Faith shrugs. "You know. Two vampires. Figure most of 'em are lying low, since it's close to Halloween."
"Yeah." Robin coughs. Faith retreats to the end of the bed. When he can speak again, he says, "Sox won tonight."
"No shit, really?" Faith studies the bruises on her wrists. "Didn't think you were into baseball."
"I'm not. Tried to watch the news before you came in, and that's all they were talking about. Guess some curses just break by themselves. Nice when they do."
"You okay, Faith?"
"Fine," she says, getting to her feet. "Fine. I just gotta go."
"I know," says Robin, eyelids drooping again. "Don't want my best Slayer coming down with this."
"That's not what I—" But she stops herself. There's no need to tell him what she meant. He has to sleep, and she has to go before she changes her mind. She picks up the book of demon lore that's lying on the blanket by his hand, closes it, and sets it on the bedside table. Then she tugs the blanket up to his shoulders, kisses his bald head with genuine affection, and turns off the light.
"Oh, come on," she shouts as a white Honda speeds past. She stamps her heels. "What do you want me to do, take off my shirt?"
As the minutes and cars go by, though, frostbitten nipples for a ride – with a working heater and radio, preferably – starts to seem like a fair exchange.
Reminding herself that she's survived a hell of a lot worse, Faith lowers her arm and starts to unbutton her jacket. Her numb fingers are clumsy. "Come on," she mutters, trying to will her body to do what she wants. "Come on."
Suddenly she remembers being eight years old, standing by the kitchen door, trying to zip up her jacket so she can go outside and play in the snow. It keeps getting caught. Her mom tries to bat her hands away, tries to help, but Faith screams at her because she's frustrated and she can do it herself, she doesn't need any help.
Faith gets the jacket open and shrugs it off her shoulders. Underneath, she's only wearing a tight t-shirt and bra. All the hairs on her arms rise painfully. "Okay," she says, rubbing her arms. "That was step one. Now for step two…"
And here comes a car. Faith steps away from the shoulder of the road, tosses her hair, grabs the hem of her t-shirt.
She doesn't take it off. The car squeals to a stop, and the front passenger door swings open. Faith grabs her jacket.
As she approaches the car, the driver drawls, "Well, if it isn't Claudette Colbert. Get in, honey. You'll catch your death." The familiar voice hits Faith like a punch. She almost stumbles.
She half-falls into the passenger seat, slams the door. "I swear, this is the craziest – what are you doing here?"
"Yeah, I can see that. But doesn't Angel—"
"Don't know, don't care. Okay, that's not strictly true." He restarts the car. "Want to hear a story? There's still plenty of time before we get to where we're going."
"Where are we going?" asks Faith.
"Depends. Where do you want me to take you?"
"I don't know," says Faith. She's been watching Lorne's face. There's something about his frown that troubles her, but she's too tired and still too cold to name it. There's an edge to his voice as well. Maybe he and Angel had a fight. Faith looks at the side mirror instead. "First," she says slowly, "I was thinking Boston 'cause it's been a while, but now… I don't know. Don't care. Wherever."
"We'll be two drifters," says Lorne. "Off to see the world. Are you all right with that?"
Faith is still watching the road in the side mirror. It's grey and eerie in the glare of the taillights. Kind of like a river. "Five by five," she says.