title: with my face to the sun
contains: parties, pancakes, resurrection, explicit sex, redemption, and friendship.
summary: After mysteriously surviving the battle in LA, Faith joins Buffy and Spike in Cleveland. It’s complicated. (Spuffy romance, Buffy & Faith and Spike & Faith friendship.)
notes: This is a direct sequel to the principle of the thing (700 words), which I recommend reading beforehand.
thanks: to aerintine for her comments about a much earlier draft which I shared with her many moons ago!
I wish to leave the world
By its natural door;
In my tomb of green leaves
They are to carry me to die.
Do not put me in the dark
To die like a traitor;
I am good, and like a good thing
I will die with my face to the sun
Jose Marti, A Morir
As soon as Spike turns off the engine, Faith hears the thumping bass emanating from the house. The song’s familiar, but she can’t quite place it. Buffy leans across Spike and honks the horn once before she climbs out of the car, and the throbbing beat abruptly dies down.
“Dawn,” Buffy says, slamming the car door behind her, “How many times—”
Faith makes for the trunk. She’s glad Buffy’s found a distraction—better than the long, silent ride home from the airport. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Spike get out, touch Buffy on the shoulder as she moves to pass him on her march into the house. Just that soft touch makes Buffy pause, makes her eyes lift to meet Spike’s. Faith looks away, gathers up their bags. They’d all packed light.
She’s the first one up the path, and the music comes spilling out when Andrew opens the door.
“Hark, kinswomen!” he says. “The Dark Slayer has returned!”
Before Faith has time to respond, Dawn elbows her way past him. “Faith! You’re here! Buffy got you to come!” She’s smiling that infectious Dawn smile, and Faith can’t help but smile tightly back when the kid hugs her.
“Yeah,” she says, and steps inside.
The house is in an older part of town, three stories, with plenty of room for the newest incarnation of the Scooby Gang. Andrew, Dawn, one of the Japanese Slayers, and Vi have decked out the living room with streamers and balloons. If it’s a wake, something’s gone horribly wrong. Faith drops the bags in the foyer and finds a chair to plant her ass. She’s mostly healed up from the whole sword to the gut, third degree burns, death and resurrection thing, but carrying everything from the car winded her.
Thankfully, the party doesn’t seem to require her active participation. Dawn puts on an old Katherine Hepburn comedy and the kids crowd around the TV. Faith leans her head back against the chair and doesn’t watch any of it.
After an hour or so, Buffy finally makes an appearance. She sits on the floor next to Faith and leans back against the chair. They don’t touch, but Faith can feel her there.
Buffy still hasn’t hit him, not even when she wanted to, wants to. Which she really, really does right now.
“Don’t go in there,” he says, when the door shuts behind Faith. “You’re hovering over her like an anvil. Let her be.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.” She kicks at a loose brick in the path up to the house and toes it back into place when it moves. She and Dawn laid down these bricks themselves in the whirlwind week of renovations between the day the council closed on the house and the one when their motley crew moved in last fall, but the spring rains have already loosened them. “I just— I want it to be nice for her, here. I don’t want her to have to do anything. That she doesn’t want to.”
Spike comes behind her, plants a kiss on the nape of her neck. “I’ve got a good idea, pet. Faith’d approve.”
“If Andrew bought alcohol for my underage Slayers, I’m going to—”
He exhales on the ghost of his kiss. “Let’s kill something.”
Tonight, when he pushes her hands over her head and bites gently at her throat with his blunt human teeth, she sighs, “Don’t stop, don’t—”
Spike leans in to kiss her. Cool lips, cool tongue, but he heats up at her touch. Buffy lets him pin her to the wall of the crypt and pretends she’s helpless. With his free hand, he caresses her cheek, and she tilts her head toward him.
He draws back, brushes his lips against hers, teasing, and Buffy loses her patience. When she pulls free and puts her arms around his waist, drawing him closer, Spike laughs and ducks his head, follows her down. She opens her mouth to him, lets her fingers slide up his neck and twine into his unruly curls. He cups her ass through her jeans.
“Buffy,” he pants when she surfaces for air. Spike used to have all these pet names for her, but he rarely uses them in private. Instead, he says her name over and over, the intonation subtly different, like her name is a language unto itself. “Buffy.”
Their lips are so close that she can feel the air shaping her name. Buffy closes her eyes and breathes him in.
After patrol, he cedes the house to Buffy and lights up a fag. No smoking in the house, so he and the porch are old friends by now. There’s even a chipped planter Dawn gave him for an ashtray. Spike’s grown fond of watching the lights in the houses along the street slowly wink out as night settles in.
When he goes inside to assess the damage, he finds everyone gathered around the TV. Andrew, Vi, and a giant bowl of popcorn have taken over the couch. Dawn and her girlfriend are on the floor, where Satsu’s fallen asleep, her head in Dawn’s lap. Faith is sitting in Spike’s armchair, eyes heavy-lidded, and Buffy is on the floor next to her, curled around the pillows Vi’s thrown off the couch.
“Dawn’s made up her room for you,” Spike says quietly to Faith. “You want me to show you?”
“All right,” she says, looking down at Buffy. “That okay by you, B?”
“Sure,” his Slayer says, eyes fixed on the TV.
Spike shoulders Faith’s duffle before she can reach for it—he knows exactly what she’ll think of his chivalry, but Spike’s come back from the dead twice now and he’ll take the goddamn duffle, thanks. “Come along,” he says, and leads the way back to the foyer and up the stairs. The house is an old Victorian rambler, space for the six of them and a few more besides, and it’s two flights up to Dawn’s room: he takes the stairs a little slower than usual and waits at the head for Faith to catch up.
“Cut that shit out,” she says when she hits the top stair. “I’m not an invalid.”
“Recently dead, though.” Spike adjusts the bag on his shoulder. “Turn left, then it’s the second door on your right.”
He lets her get ahead of him and open the door, waits while she takes in the room. It doesn’t look like a little girl’s room, like her room in Sunnydale: Dawn’s all grown up, sooner than he would have liked. Everything’s cool tones and crisp lines, tidy as a magazine, all her schoolbooks neatly resting on a shelf over the desk, the rest sorted by color into a rainbow that stretches through the bookcase. “Huh,” Faith says. She heads straight for the bed and plops down. Spike can see her chest heave a bit beneath the low-necked tank she’s wearing. “Sure she won’t mind me crashing here?”
“Bit’ll be fine on the couch. Or with Satsu, but what I don’t know Buffy can’t bother me about.”
“You gonna keep her locked up until she’s thirty?” Faith bends over to unlace her shoes.
Spike leans back against the door jamb. “Buffy might.” He chuckles. “But I know better than to tell either of them what to do.”
Shoes kicked off, Faith swings her legs up onto the bed, scoots back against the pillows. “That right?” She raises an eyebrow.
“Not saying I don’t try,” Spike says. “Need to wash up, or should I turn off the light for you?”
“Might as well turn it off,” she concedes. “Think I’m done in for the evening.”
He nods, flips the switch, pulls shut the door. Then he goes down to the hall to the last room on the left, the one he shares with Buffy. She’s not there yet, but the sight’s a comfort: sheets mussed (sheets that’ve been mussed for over a week now), heavy curtains drawn, open closet door bearing witness to a hasty departure. Spike pulls out a clean set of sheets from the dresser and makes the bed. The sheets are purple with oversized flowers outlined in white—Christ, he’s gone native—and clash with the yellow duvet cover, so he pulls the duvet up to the top, tucks it down behind the pillows, and tosses a few of the accent pillows back on. He’s not one for interior design, but Buffy likes things neat and—for her, he’ll do greater things.
Moving around the room, tidying things, it’s easier to keep his mind off Angel. Simpler when Buffy sent Angelus to Hell, difficult to argue the wanker hadn’t earned it. He’d worked hard enough for this death, maybe; going out in the line of duty, outnumbered, but firmly on the side of the Right. Spike fought for his soul, but he’s got no delusions about salvation: he was raised in the good old Church of England, and he knows a little about grace.
The movie’s still going downstairs; Spike’s hearing is sharp enough to hear the soft susurration of voices beneath the floorboards. He sorts the laundry into whites and colors, things for the machine and things to wash by hand. She’s all grace, his Slayer, whether she’s decapitating a slime-spraying demon or lying in their bed half asleep, lazy and slow at rest. No trouble at all to lie on purple sheets or smoke outside; no trouble at all.
Long as she doesn’t try to get him to give up the nailpolish again.
– 4 –
Summer’s creeping up on them in Cleveland, but the nights are still cool. Buffy’s up at 9am by long habit, even though she hates the moment when she has to slide out of the bed and leave behind Spike and her cozy cocoon. Spike sleeps like the dead, which he is, but Buffy’s still gentle when she pulls away from his embrace, tucking him neatly beneath the covers while she shivers, all goosebumpy beneath her oversized t-shirt, in the morning air.
She slides her feet in her fluffy purple slippers and pads over to the closet. It’s a bit sparsely outfitted at the moment: the clothes Buffy brought with her to LA are still packed away in her suitcase downstairs and the laundry bin is overflowing, freshly sorted. (It’s cute how domestic Spike has gotten. She keeps finding her panties in the handwash-only pile, which is both hilarious and slightly creepy considering who does the laundry.) So Buffy keeps it simple, just jeans and tank top over her second-to-last clean pair of panties and a barely-worn bra. She drops her t-shirt into the laundry bin and heads downstairs.
Andrew’s in the kitchen, hovering over the stove. “Pancakes!” he says, turning toward her. “Funny shapes or the more traditional style of flapjack? I await your answer.”
“They’re all funny shapes,” Dawn says between bites. She’s sitting at the table in the breakfast nook by herself; Vi and Satsu are usually out back doing their morning yoga thing by now and Faith’s probably still asleep.
“Pancakes,” Buffy agrees. “Coffee?”
There’s coffee, made by Vi, so it’s in the big French press and it tastes good, even though the beans are just Eight O’Clock Hazelnut. Buffy fills up a mug and tops it off with a splash of skim milk. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school today?” she asks Dawn, when her brain registers that it’s a Monday. “I thought we talked about this, none of this ‘Sumerian is more important than high school,’ missy.”
“It’s Memorial Day.” Dawn rolls her eyes, jerks her thumb toward the calendar on the wall behind her. “Jeez, Buffy, where have you been?”
Real awkward, crickets-chirping silence descends.
“This one looks kind of like Mickey Mouse,” Andrew says, over-brightly. He holds out a plate to Buffy. “One Mickey Mouse and one circle!”
“Oval,” Dawn says without looking up from her own plate.
“Don’t look a gift pancake in the mouth,” Buffy says, syruping them up.
“Pancakes don’t have mouths.”
“Actually,” Andrew begins. “There was this one issue of Ultimate Spiderman…”
She goes out and does a few stretches with the girls before they go together for a morning run: three easy miles around the neighborhood. She’s not their Watcher, never will be one; Andrew will, but he’s still training, still learning. The old Council was nothing like this. Watchers trained together for years, studied, but they didn’t mix with Slayers. “Don’t get attached” was always the maxim when they believed the lie that each girl was disposable. No girl is disposable.
Andrew’s a criminal and a comic book fan and a murderer. His pancake-making skills leave a little to be desired, and it’ll be a few years before he’s not a liability in the field. Andrew also loves everyone in this house enough to buy tampons for them in bulk from Costco. He makes breakfast three times a week and thinks that Dance Dance Revolution should be an integral part of every Slayer’s field readiness regime. It’s hard to say now whether he’ll be a better Watcher than the ones who came before him. But he’ll be different.
When they return home, Buffy leads Satsu and Vi in some cooldown stretches before they break for lunch. Lunch is a free-for-all smorgasboard of breads and deli meats and for the love of God, Vi, eat some fruit and vegetables or you’re going to die of malnutrition. Buffy’s not sure what she is to them, now, but she loves them and she’ll lead them for as long she can, as long as they need her. That’s different, too.
“Jesus, B.” Faith exhales, smoke drifting from her lips. “I didn’t see him die. You want to know that, ask me straight.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Buffy says, tapping her fingers nervously on her knee. “Not—”
“Did you want me to come out here because you feel bad? Guilty because I went out there and you didn’t?” Faith jabs the butt of her cigarette out in the ashtray. “You don’t owe me anything.”
“When I died, the second time, I went to heaven.” Buffy reaches out, touches Faith’s shoulder. “I just, I wanted to know if you were there, too.”
“‘Course you did.” Faith laughs, turns to look her in the eye, incredulous. She brushes off Buffy’s hand, stands up and stretches. “Get real, Buffy,” she says. “What would heaven want with me?”
Without paying much attention to her surroundings,, Faith heads upstairs, back to Dawn’s room, and finds herself pacing aimlessly, fingers tracing the lines of the angular furniture. She doesn’t notice that she’s crying until the cheers drip from her cheeks and splash her chest. She wipes them off with her hands; her eyes burn.
When she’d left for LA, she didn’t take much with her. Her best weapons, a change of clothes, cash enough to get her there, that was all. The rest of her stuff is still with Kennedy in Olympia, where Faith was crashing at the time. She packed light because she didn’t expect a return trip.
Not that Faith wanted to die, but—she was ready for it. She was okay with it, the darkness she believed in more than heaven or hell. She was ready.
It doesn’t make sense that she’s the only one alive.
Spike’s got a bad feeling about this, so he takes his coat and crossbow and goes to hunt her down.
He finds her two neighborhoods over, shoving her Scythe into the gut of something really unpleasant and slimy. Hethir demon, looks like. It groans balefully and gives her the two-fingered salute, which Spike finds almost charming. “Hello, love, just dropping by,” he says, swaggering over, crossbow at the ready. “Need a hand?”
“I’m working here, Spike.” Buffy punctuates her words with another thrust; the demon howls shrilly and starts to melt. “Ugh,” she says, stepping back and looking at her shoes with dismay. “I’d better hose down or I’m never going to get the ooze off these.”
“Busy night?” They’re in someone’s expansive back yard. Spike sits down on the swing set, leans back to get himself off the ground. “Missed you at home.”
“I got caught up,” Buffy says. “You know how it is. I feel like I haven’t done anything in forever.”
“We went to LA,” Spike points out, scuffing his feet against the dirt to slow himself down some.
“We went to bury the dead and there weren’t any bodies. Faith died and woke up and de-coma-ed and all we did was sit by her bedside and feed her ice.”
“I fed her the ice,” Spike says. “You were hiding by the vending machines.”
Buffy grabs one of the swing’s chains and jerks him to a halt. “Come on,” she says. “Let’s go home. I’m tired.”
“Tell me what’s wrong.” They’re both quiet for a long moment. “If it’s Angel—” he starts.
“It’s never over,” she says, cutting him off. “If Faith can come back, if you – how am I supposed to say goodbye to him?”
“Is that what you want?”
“Yes.” And again, “Yes. Spike. I’m here with you.”
“I came to you,” he says, standing up, coming toward her where she’s leaning against one of the swing set’s poles.
They walk home slowly in the dark, quiet. When they’re in their own backyard, not quite close enough for the motion detectors to turn on the floodlights, he tugs Buffy to a stop and kisses her.
When he pulls away, she inhales deeply. “I won’t leave you.”
“Won’t you?” His voice low.
She glances up at him. “Not yet. Not now. It’s just- I need to know there’s an end.”
“All these beginnings,” Spike says, looking at the garden around them, Faith’s car in the driveway, the slumbering house. “It makes them mean something.”
How alive he felt, those times she pressed a stake to his heart, how fiercely he wanted to go on. In the shadows, he haunted her like a predator, an acolyte, a lover, a ghost. And how beautiful it is, the sunlight where he can never touch her.
He dips his head to kiss Buffy again, breathes into the kiss the words he wouldn’t utter. His fingers ghost along her collarbone, follow its line past the edge of her blouse and up the rounding of her shoulder. Her lips part, inviting him in, where her mouth is warm, soft, but not yielding. She matches him pace for pace, hips pressing against his, back arching beneath his splayed fingers.
“Come to bed,” she says.
He watches as Buffy lifts her shirt over her head, the muscles in her arms shifting, sinuous, beneath her skin. He loves the mixture of soft and hard, the way her body speaks of her beauty and her craft. She unbuttons her jeans and lets them drop to the floor. Her underwear is sheer, elastic, no underwire in the bra; she leaves it on. He comes to her, then, cups her breasts, traces their curves through the netting, feels her shiver.
“You want this?” he says. He always asks.
“I do,” Buffy says. “I want you.”
She helps him undress, her breasts brushing against his chest, and for a few moments he doesn’t breathe. When he rolls one of her nipples between thumb and forefinger, she braces herself, gripping his shoulder.
Oh, he could take her like this, up against the wall, legs wrapped around him, but Spike pushes her slowly down onto the bed, hands at her hips. Buffy leans back, trusting, and her long hair spills onto the quilt. When he digs his fingers into her hips, she shudders, choking back a sob.
“Buffy?” he asks.
“No, no,” she says, breathless. “I want you. I want– it’s okay.”
Then she takes him into her hand, strokes him, and he can’t think, can’t do anything but pant, leftover instinct. He thrusts a leg between her thighs, and bends over her, mouthing her breasts through the sheer cloth. She cries out softly. He teases her nipples with his lips, first one, then the other, bites them as he moves over her. She shudders once, clamps her legs around his, shoving her wetness against him.
He reaches down and strokes her through the thin gauze, and she’s gone.
When, still trembling, Buffy says, “I need you,” he pushes aside the cloth and enters her. Seeing her like this, half-dressed, hair tumbled, body flushed and wanton is unbearably erotic, and he has to stop for a moment to compose himself. “Need you,” she whines, and he’s helpless, he complies.
“Buffy–” and he’s pushing up her bra, caressing her, moving into her. She arches up to kiss him. No, he can never get enough of her, never will. He’d come back over and over, for this, for her, for her.
He grips her arms too tightly when he comes, but he can’t look away from her eyes, her damp cheeks. “Oh, Spike,” she says, and her voice is so tender. He can’t bring himself to let go.
Faith pours herself another cup of Folgers. When she lifts her mug to her lips, she looks up at Buffy, all eyebrows.
“Really. I need you here. I need someone else who’s – who’s not Spike. And knows. You know.”
“Yeah, I do.” Faith taps the fingers of her free hand against the kitchen counter. “That enough, though? Not like I’ve got a lot of practice sticking around.”
“This is a place you can stick to,” Buffy points out. Outside, there is a thud, raised voices. She hopes Andrew isn’t trampling the herb garden underfoot. She shakes her head, smiles.
Faith is still leaning against the counter, sipping her coffee out of Satsu’s Hello Kitty mug. Buffy dries her hands on the towel hanging next to the sink before she touches Faith’s arm.
“Stay with us,” she says.
“Maybe,” Faith says. “Maybe.”
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/807565.html