Expanding Ripples II
Chapter 6: Expanding Ripples II
Disclaimer: These aren't my characters, only my interpretation. Magneto belongs to Marvel, Buffy characters belong to Joss Whedon and the various studios/networks.
Author’s Notes: Last chapter was a bit more linear, this one, will start again with the scenes I think. *Edit* Has been edited for grammar and a few mistakes
“So, this is the place,” Xander noted idly as he leaned against the hotel’s wall just as Faith was slipping out of her motel room.
“Huh?!” Faith immediately whirled around, stake in hand at the sound of his voice, until she saw who it was. “Geez, X, don’t you know it’s not a good idea to sneak up on a Slayer?”
He arched a brow slightly in turn, before shrugging just a bit as he responded, “Oh, I might have a bit of an idea, hence the distance between me and your door.”
“I see.” She smirked as she responded, hips cocking as she looked him up and down. “So, any particular reason you out in my neck of the woods, or you just hoping to get lucky?”
“Talked to Buff.” He studied her a moment after he spoke, pausing in consideration, “Sleepin’ any better?”
Immediately the girl stiffened, her eyes narrowing as she lost her playful edge. “How I sleep isn’t any business of yours.”
“True enough I suppose,” he acknowledged as he continued to lean against the wall, watching her with his dark eyes. “But, I imagine your nightmares aren’t the easiest.”
“I don’t get nightmares,” the girl responded flatly. “I’m the thing that scares them shitless.”
“Everyone has nightmares, Faith,” he spoke in a soft, quiet voice before he lightly rolled up his sleeve, revealing the faded numbers on his arm. “Do you know what this is?”
“A shitty ass tattoo?” the Slayer shot back, shrugging. “Gotta tell ya X, ya should get your money back from for such shitty work.”
“I would,” Xander responded humorlessly as his eyes locked onto hers. “But, Nazis don’t give refunds.”
“Ah, huh?” Faith blinked in confusion now. “I think I’m missin’ something here?”
“You are.” He nodded in return, his hand unconsciously rubbing against the faded ink staining his body before he quickly forced his sleeve back down his arm. “You know what the Holocaust was?”
“Yeah.” Faith shrugged nonchalantly. “The World War II shit with the Nazis killing a buncha Jews.”
“It’s an Auschwitz tattoo,” he said softly. “From the concentration camp.”
“Uh…” The girl looked at him oddly for a moment, as she slowly backed away. “Mmmk, look I know some people will do some freaky shit, but…”
“I didn’t get it done, Slayer.” His voice shifted slightly as he moved up the wall just a bit. “It’s a remnant and a reminder.”
“Of?” she found herself asking in spite of herself, as she looked into eyes that suddenly seemed far, far older than they possibly should.
“The man who’s memories I share,” he responded evenly. “The man whose tattoo is on my arm, and the man whose nightmares are etched into my soul.” Again, he unconsciously rubbed his hand over that arm, before he continued. “I can speak of nightmares and monsters, because I have endured them.”
“So, you got some shitty dreams, big deal.” The girl shot back, though her eyes glinted with uncertainty.
“There are nights, my dear Faith,” those eyes locked onto the girl’s, a soul spearing, penetrating gaze as that European drawl grew in force as he straightened up, “Where I close my eyes, and I see the dull, death glazed eyes of the men and women they starved and slaughtered as I carted their bodies to the ovens to be destroyed.”
He took a step forward then, moving closer, as his voice slowly dropped in volume as he continued, “Nights, where my eyes sting from the ashes of the bodies I stuffed into those ovens. Where their stench clogs my lungs, and I can’t bare to breath. Nights, where I am condemned by the eyes of those I was powerless to help, powerless to save.”
Closer and closer he’d moved with each word, standing taller, stiffer as he brought himself just before her, as she stood there, transfixed as she struggled to maintain her mask of indifference. “Nights, where I want to curl into a ball and cry myself into oblivion to escape what haunts me. Where death seems like a welcome release from the hell they trap me in.
“But,” he paused, leaning down, whispering into her ear, as he asked one simple question, “Do you know what?”
Wordlessly, the girl shook her head, unable to pull away as the boy whispered his words, “There are nights, where the nightmares that haunt me, leave me begging for the recollections of that hell.”
He pulled back, quietly looking into her eyes now as he would shift his stance, relaxing it slowly. “So, yes, I have ‘shitty’ dreams as it were. And I know a thing or two about what it’s like to be haunted. To have experienced the cruelty the world has to offer, to bear its scars.”
“What’s this have to do with me?” she snapped back, hissing softly as she looked up at him, eyes thick with pain she struggled to forced back down her throat.
“One doesn’t act like you act, as young as you are, without a reason.” He paused a moment, making a slight gesture towards his arm. “Without bearing their own set of scars.”
“So, what, you expect me to break down and confess my shitty life to you?” She snarled back now, her eyes glistening with tears she refused to let fall down her cheeks. “You want to hear me go, ‘wah wah,’ my life sucks, whining all the while? Well fuck that!”
She stepped forward, getting into his face when he stood his ground. “So you got a rotten deal, getting someone else’s shit. Boo fuckin’ hoo! You didn’t have to live through it! This shit is ALL mine! No one else’s! So your perfect life got ruined by some shit got bad, I’m cryin’ a fucking river here!”
“Perfect life?” Xander’s laugh rang hollow through the air as he looked back into her eyes unflinching, unyielding as he would instead hold his ground. “Not even close, my dear.”
He drew up the other sleeve of his arm, pointing out a thing line of long scarred flesh that race up the length of his forearm. “The night my old man decided eight was old enough for him to take a swipe at me with a broken beer bottle.” He shifted again, leaning forward as he pulled some his hair out of the way to show the half circle scar it hid. “When I was too slow to dodge the bottle of whiskey my mom threw at me one Christmas before I learned that I was safer outside with the demons than in my house with them.”
She lifted her arm, pointing out the ugly, faded quarter inch dots that only showed under close inspection. “From the guy that tried to make himself my pimp, to teach me to behave according to him.” She shifted again suddenly grabbing at the collar of her shirt, pulling it aside to faded line of a stitched up slash. “What I got when I tried to stop one of my old lady’s pieces of trash from forcing himself on me.” She sneered back at him, an empty, struggling thing as she refused to back down. “I can keep doing this all night, or maybe you wanna talk about how I got to watch my Watcher tortured and killed by Kakistos?”
“First vampire I ever dusted was my best friend since I was a little kid,” Xander shot back. “I found out about vampires, found out about Buffy being a Slayer, what a slayer as, and then my buddy got turned. He died on the broken pool cue I was holding when I was trying to keep him off Cordelia.”
He paused a moment, before giving her a long quiet look. “But, if you want to talk about losing your first Watcher, talk to Buffy.”
“And what's B got to do with this?” Faith shot back, snorting slightly, as she struggled to regain her front. “She's still got her Watcher.”
“Her second,” he corrected softly. “Her first, Merrick, was killed in front of her, died in her arms in fact.”
“What's the point in all this?” Faith finally growled, her arms crossing about her chest, clutching herself tightly as she looked up at him with glistening eyes. “You some kinda freak that gets off fucking with people's heads? Or, you just wanna keep trying to one up me on who's had the shittier life, huh?!”
“No, Faith.” He shook his head quietly. “I'm trying to let you know you're not in this alone. You aren't the only one who's been royally fucked over. You're not the only one who's been dealt a shitty hand.”
“Yeah, I'm not seeing it,” the dark haired Slayer shot back as she growled slightly. “You all seem like you're just suffering so badly.”
“We have friends to lean on,” he responded quietly. “If I didn't have them... If Buffy didn't have us... We'd be in a different place.”
He paused a moment, giving her a look before he glanced around the motel. “I'm not gonna treat you like a dumb little kid and tell you that you're not alone.” He paused a moment, looking at her meaningfully. “Even if you aren't. None of us are in this alone anymore.”
“Oh yeah, you're just gonna welcome me into the group with wide, open arms huh?” The girl shot back with a thick hiss of sarcasm on her voice. “Cause ya know, not really seeing it, with the looks I was getting.”
“What, you mean from Willow?” Xander shrugged slightly, letting the silence hang heavily between them. “That's her being insecure, thinking we want to replace her with you.”
“Well, considering how you been treating her, I don't really blame her,” Faith snapped back. “And if that's how you treat your friends...”
“Willow... Did something that we're still struggling to forgive her for,” he responded quietly, his eyes growing distant. “She broke broke trust with us, just to prove she was able to do something.”
“Oh? How bad could it be if that little mouse did it?” Faith respond with a negligent wave of her hand.
“It caused Buffy to have to send the man she loved to Hell,” Xander replied, his eyes on her own, staring deep. “And I mean, straight into another Dimension, full of Demons and pain.”
Faith's eyes widened for a moment, before trying to look dismissive as she attempted to shrug his words off. “How'd the hell did she manage that?”
“Easy,” he spoke the words quietly. “She forced a soul, from where ever it was, straight into one of the worst vampires to ever live. Because, hey, lets ignore that her friends are telling her its a bad idea, lets ignore that its a CURSE. Lets ignore how we'd all seen first hand how much that kind of curse makes a soul suffer... She knew she could do it and it would mean that she could watch the tragic romance playing out with her own set of star crossed lovers.”
He ended with a slight hiss of venom in his words, before shaking his head slightly. “Though, if I'm honest, the main reason she did it, was because I said it was a bad idea, because I made her promise not to.”
“Ah... huh?” The confusion was thick in her voice as Faith responded back, “I thought this chick was your friend?”
“Since kindergarten,” he agreed with a nod, his eyes growing distant again, “The problem being, she was always the smart one. So, she got used to pretty much almost always being right. So, here I am, telling her its a bad idea, that she shouldn't be doing it. To the point where I'm ignoring her protests as her telling me over and over again that she can. Making her PROMISE me, that she won't do it. And what does she do?”
“Figures she knows better and does it anyway?” Faith offered up, shrugging slightly. “I know I've done shit like that. Hell, I know I STILL do shit like that.”
“Yeah, well it didn't exactly go over too well with me when I found out what she did,” he shrugged just a bit. “Nor with Cordy, when she found out Willow lied to her about me being cool with her trying it, so she could rope her into helping out.”
“So, you telling me if I lie and I fuck up, I'm gone?” Faith shot back, looking at the guy warily.
“Depends,” Xander countered, his voice soft, even. “If you do, you gonna own up to it?”
“And what's that gotta do with it?” Her arms were cross her chest, fingers digging slightly into her arms as she stared hard at the boy in front of her.
“Because, we all fuck up,” the boy shot back with a slight smirk. “Each and every one of us. The difference is are you willing to own up to your mistakes, or you gonna try to throw the blame onto something else?”
“Considering the fact I got no one to blame but me, I thought that would be kinda fucking obvious,” the girl spat back as she glared at him. “So what, you looking to take pity on the poor, fucked up Slayer who can't even protect her own Watcher?”
“Also something we apparently need to work on,” Xander noted carefully. “How to differentiate between the things you can control and the things you can't.”
“I'm the Slayer,” she shot back. “I should've...”
“Didn't you manage to scar one of the oldest living vampires currently known after only being a slayer for a few months?” Xander cut her off, watching her nod, reluctantly before continuing. “Look, you pissed him off that much because NO ONE had done that to him. He was one of the oldest vamps, EVER. Most Slayers would have gone down without leaving a mark from what I know. You marked him and then got away.”
“Yeah, I fuckin' ran,” she shot back fingers tightening against her skin as she started to stare off.
“You survived,” he corrected softly. “Then you headed towards help.”
“I ran,” she snapped back bluntly, eyes flashing. “I ran from the bastard that killed her. So don-”
“What, she'd have wanted you to have gotten yourself killed trying to avenger her in a hopeless fight?” He cut her off, his eyes starting to burn quietly.
“It's just... I...” Faith struggled to find the words, looking up at him as the guilt boiled in her dark eyes.
“You feel like you should have done more?” he offered, his voice soft and gentle as it left his lips. “Like you should have been able to do more? Like, somehow, it's because you weren't good as you should have been? Weren't as strong as you think you should have been?”
“...Yeah.” She couldn't meet his eyes as the words left her lips, the shame eating at her as her pride hissed in angry displeasure.
“It hurts, I know,” he said softly, looking up towards the sky, watching the shifting clouds moving across the dim stars. “Believe me I know. Just like I know it can consume you if you let it. The Need that it can bring about inside of you.”
Faith looked at him, uncertainty cracking through her mask, watching the play of emotions rippling across his face, before finally, reluctantly she asked, “How do you know?”
“Because, half the time these days, I can’t tell whether things are his, or mine,” he said softly. “I have the memories, as if I’d lived them myself. I feel the emotions he felt, even if I’m able to see things slightly differently than he did. He was a man that placed it all on his shoulders, and his alone.”
Again, he paused, lips pursing for a moment before he looked back into her eyes. “Tell me, Faith, if a man is kept back from a burning building by a mob, unable to break through when they hold him back, is he responsible for her death, when he tried as hard as he could to reach her?”
She knew where he was going, she knew the analogy he was making even as he described the scene to her. “No, it’s not, but it doesn’t make it any easier to live with.”
“He lost everything that day,” Xander spoke softly as he quietly slipped his hands into his pockets. “The last bit of innocence that had some how managed to survive the horrors he’d endured. He lost his family, child to a mob, his wife to what was awoken within him by it. All he could do, was try and prevent it from happening to anyone else.”
The pause he gave then, lasted longer than the ones before it, before he looked more deeply into her eyes. “He faltered on that path, he lost his way, because he couldn’t let go of the guilt that consumed him.” His voice softened ,gently as he finished. “He was strong, Faith. Stronger than most people could ever imagine, but in the end, because he was alone, because he clung to his guilt, he almost became the very things he hated and wanted to fight against.”
“So, what do you expect me to do then?” Faith said softly, her eyes uncertain, even as the harsh bravado dripped from her words.
“Well, tell me,” he grinned softly then, “How do you feel about cars?”
The dark haired Slayer stared back at him in confusion.
“Huh.” Faith blinked slightly as she looked around the dusty garage, before looking back towards the three people she was accompanying. “All right, I’ll bite, what’s the plan?”
“Eh, I’ve got a few projects I wanna work on,” Xander responded with a slight shrug. “Some designs I’ve been working on in my head, but I needed to actually get a bit hands on with them to see if they were feasible. This place came on the market after a bit of ‘gang violence’ and I figured what the hell.”
“And this has what to do with me again?” she arched a brow slight, shrugging a bit, “I mean its cool and what not, you could do some serious work with the equipment here, but…”
“There’s an apartment over the office,” the boy shot back.
“And?” Faith responded again, holding up an unreadable expression on her face.
“Gah, and I thought dweeb boy was dense,” Cordelia spoke up, with an over exaggerated sigh, before she stuck her finger out at Faith. “Okay, Miss I-Like-Dressing-Like-A-Biker-Slut, you are going to stay in the apartment instead of that dive of a motel.”
“Hey!” Faith immediately bristled as she glared back at Cordelia, before a slight smirk curled on her lips. “I always thought of myself as a ‘I-Like-Dressing-Like-A-Rock’n Roll-Slut,’ thank you!”
Buffy grinned then, her eyes flickering over to where her cheerleader friend was fighting to keep the corners of her lips from rising. “Hmm, she’s spunky, what do you think, should we keep her?”
“I don’t know.” Cordelia was tapping her lower lip lightly. “Think she’s house trained yet? I don’t want her humping my leg.”
“Nah,” Faith shot back. “You’re not my type, C.” She paused a moment before flicking her eyes over from Xander to Buffy in an exaggerated leer. “B and X, though? That’s another thing all together.”
“Psh, magnet boy?” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “I suppose he has SOME redeeming qualities…”
“Magnet boy?” the dark-haired Slayer asked with an arch of a brow, confusion written on her face.
“Since Halloween, last year,” Cordelia responded with a wave of her wrist. “Totally made things such a pain, because he got all smart and mature, and wouldn’t let his hormones get the better of him.”
“Not to mention, able to stare down one of the most feared and vicious vampires ever recorded.” Buffy added casually with a slight smirk on her lips.
“Oh?” Cordelia blinked before leveling her eyes on Xander, who shifted slightly where he stood, a brow raising in response. “So, you’ll tell Buffy these things, not me?”
“Technically, I didn’t tell her,” he clarified casually. “The nurses did.”
“Ok, hold up a sec.” Faith raised her hand and then pointed towards Xander. “What the hell are they talking about?”
“Stuff,” the dark eyed teen responded laconically.
“Ugh!” Cordelia huffed slightly. “I swear, he’s absolutely a pain sometimes.”
“Just sometimes?” Buffy asked with a playful smirk on her lips as she threw a wink at Xander.
“I plead the fifth.” A slight quirk arched up his lips as Xander almost smiled slightly in response.
“Ya know, you guys can be really fuckin' frustrating!” Faith growled out as she glared at the three other people in the garage.
“Eh, there was a chaos worshiping magic guy in town last year, “ Buffy answered with a slight chuckle of recollection. “Turned all of us that bought costumes or props from his shop into our costumes.”
“Buffy was a useless 18th century noblewoman,” Cordelia offered helpfully with a soft grin. “Was running around, screaming her head off, calling cars demons and being a general pain in the ass.”
“Where as Cordy here, went to another shop, so was just your typical slutty cat girl,” said blonde sniped back, her eyes narrowing just a bit.
“Puh-lease,” Cordelia shot back with a dismissive wave of her hand. “I'm never typical.”
“So, what did X go as then?” Faith asked, her brow quirking up slightly again, before pausing, her eyes widening a bit as she looked at the boy in disbelief. “Oh, you gotta be shittin' me! Magneto?!”
“Eh heh,” Xander offered her a sheepish grin before nodding slightly. “One purple cape from the shop, and some crappy, homemade elements and...”
“Instant warehouse district janitor!” Buffy finished with a grin and a soft giggle. “I barely had to patrol for a month.”
Faith paused a moment, before a wicked grin passed her lips. “So, X-man...”
Xander groaned softly in response as he palmed his face and shook his head. “Great, just, great. Why am I not surprised?”
The sultry Slayer only grinned back at him, hips cocking to the side as her thumbs caught in the pockets of her leather pants. “What? You thought I was one of those frilly dresses and girlie doll types when I was a kid? Fuck that!”
“Ugh.” Cordelia sighed softly as she would lightly pinch the bridge of her nose. “Well, I guess we have our new resident geek.” She paused a moment then, before eying the girl critically. “Hmm...”
“I know that look,” Buffy noted, a sudden grin on her face as she glanced back at Faith before looking at Cordelia once more. “You'll need my help you know.”
“Psh!” The cheerleader waved her hand dismissively, before taking another look at Faith and nodding reluctantly. “Yeah, I suppose I will, won't I?”
Xander took one look at his two female friends, before looking at the confused Faith. “I'd run if I were you.”
“Huh? Why would I need to do that?” the brunette Slayer asked in confusion.
Xander looked at her, before he would shake his head slowly in despair. “Okay, Ladies? It can wait until after I make my offer.”
“Aww!” Both blonde and brunette pouted in unison before eying Faith with a feral glint in their eyes.
“Offer?” Faith asked again, looking at him in confusion and no small amount of wariness.
“Yeah.” Xander nodded, grinning slightly. “I want some security for this place. I figured having a Slayer living here would do that.”
“And what would I have to pay?” Those dark eyes were narrowed now, eying the boy up and down as her whole body grew tense and wary.
At least, until the sudden explosion of laughter from the other two girls lit up the dingy garage. Turning her head, Faith glared at the two as she snapped out, “What's so damned funny?”
“I'm sorry, it's just...” Buffy was practically giggling as she leaned against Cordelia. “You think XANDER would expect you to sleep with him to stay here?”
“Seriously!” Cordelia snickered a bit more as she supported the petite Slayer leaning against her. “Hell, I've practically thrown myself at him and he shot me down.”
“Practically?” Xander asked with a rueful chuckle.
“Oh, shut up, dweeb boy,” the cheerleader snapped back with a soft grin before looking at Faith. “Look, Faith? Xander here wouldn't take advantage, as he puts it, of those of us who are royally fucked up in the head.”
“I never said that!” the boy immediately protested as he watched the anger start to flare in Faith's eyes. “I've never even THOUGHT that!”
“Knowing Xan, that's completely true,” Buffy agreed, as she noticed Faith's rising temper. “Doesn't change the fact that every girl in Xander's life is pretty much damaged goods in some way or another.”
“Yeah, right,” Faith snapped back, the anger dripping like venom from her words. “Like you two little princesses know anything about what it's like to be damaged goods or fucked up in the head.”
Cordelia looked at the other brunette girl for a long moment before she snorted audibly and made a quick gesture, cutting off Buffy before the blonde could say anything. “I got this.” Keeping her attention fully on Faith, her lips pursed into a thin line before she continued. “So, you think we're just a pair of spoiled little princesses with perfect lives huh?”
“Fuck yeah!” the girl snarled back glaring at the pair of girls.
“First off.” Cordelia sniffed lightly as she would direct a finger towards her own chest. “I'M the spoiled one. Buffy here? Not even close. I got most everything I ever wanted growing up. Whatever clothes I wanted, toys I wanted, etc etc etc.” She waved a dismissive hand and shorted quietly. “And ya know what? I didn't know a damned thing about what it was like to have a real friend.”
“Yeah, right.” Faith shot back. “I'm sure you were just aaaaaaaaall alone.”
“Actually, yeah, I was,” Cordelia shot back. “Me? I got to surround myself with all the popular people, all the beautiful people.” She paused a moment before continuing on. “All the people that if I turned my back on them for a second, I'd find more knives in me than Buffy has stakes. Every one of them, scrambling to reach the top of a pointless social ladder, just so we could say we were at the top. Because, that was the ONLY thing in our lives.”
She again, paused a moment, taking a slow, deep breath before glaring at Faith quietly. “Because, we were all pretty much empty inside. Or, who knows, maybe some of them found something fulfilling in it, maybe they actually enjoyed having no one they could trust, no one they could rely on. Me? I hated how utterly pathetic I really was. So, I did the only thing I knew how to do...”
“Be a complete and utter bitch to the people you were jealous of?” Buffy and Xander chimed in, almost simultaneously, earning them a glowering glare from the young Chase.
“I told you, I got this!” She huffed back, grumbling softly as she shifted slightly. “But, yeah, they’ve got a point. Xander and Willow were the only ones that were honest about how they felt about me. Though, Xander just didn’t treat me like I was any different from anyone else. Willow, just hated me.”
“Still dislikes you immensely,” Buffy added quietly. “But then, you did make her life a living hell for so long.”
“Excuse me for being a jealous, petty bitch,” Cordelia snapped back before sighing uncomfortably. “Look, I won’t even pretend I’ve had as hard a life as any of you. I never lacked for material things.” She paused a moment before jerking her thumb towards Buffy, “Though, I’m guessing only blondie here has a worthwhile parental figure in their lives out of all of us.”
“Well, there is Giles,” Xander answered casually, but with a shrug. “Closest thing I’ve ever had to a father.”
“Huh.” Faith shrugged slightly. “Still not seeing exactly what your point is in all this, Princess.”
“I don’t have a perfect life,” Cordelia shot back. “It’s not as bad as yours has been, or Xander’s but, tell me, how good does it feel to always be alone? Not being close to anyone, no friends, your family more concerned with money than each other?”
“Ok, fine,” Faith grudgingly admitted. “It sucks, happy?”
“No, not yet,” Cordelia admitted with a light tapping her lower lip. “But that’ll have to wait until after I take you shopping, there are these boots that I know would look killer on you.”
“Wha-huh?” Faith was blinking now, before shaking her head, and slightly glaring towards Buffy. “So, you gonna go next telling me that I got the wrong idea about you?”
“Eh.” Buffy shrugged slightly. “I was my school’s Cordy, I got called, my Watcher died to save me, I killed the Master vamp that was responsible, then burned down my gym to get the rest of his minions. My parents had me committed, split up, I got let out finally, got dragged out here. Found out I was living on the Hellmouth, died, got brought back to life by Xan here.
“Fell in love with a guy, slept with him, caused him to lose his soul, turning him into a vicious murderer that killed my new Watcher’s girlfriend, then I sent him to Hell right after my friend Willow had restored his soul.”
“Don’t forget getting blamed for Kendra’s murder, having your mom find out you were the Slayer, getting into a fight with her before running off to fight Angelus to save the world, getting told if you left, you couldn’t come back, and then running away.” Cordelia added nonchalantly.
“Gee, thanks Cordy, I don’t know how I missed that part,” Buffy shot back sarcastically before she paused a moment, then shrugged once more. “I guess that about sums it up.”
“Well, there was the time…” Xander started up, a grin on his face as he watched Buffy send a glare his way. “Needless to say, we’ve all had our share of the fucked up side of life.”
“Fine,” Faith responded grudgingly, as she slowly looked Buffy over. “So, it’s true that your first Watcher died?”
“Merrick,” Buffy said softly, her head nodding slightly. “Lothos was gonna kill me, he stepped in, the vamp killed him instead.”
“Didn’t know that,” Faith admitted grudgingly. “Just saw you with G, and figured he’d always been yours.”
“Giles is a great Watcher,” Buffy responded quietly. “A bit tweedy, and easily flustered, but a great guy. But, if I could go back and save Merrick, I would in a heartbeat.”
“I get ya.” Faith nodded softly before turning her head towards Xander. “So again, how much do I gotta pay, rent wise then?”
“Actually, I was thinking of paying you to stay here and keep the place secure,” Xander shot back with a wry grin. “Makes it easier for everyone involved.”
“I don’t want a hand out,” Faith growled softly as she glared back at the teen. “And, what the hell? How can you even AFFORD this place, let alone to pay me to stay here?”
“Ya know, that is a good question,” Cordelia spoke up, suddenly eying Xander critically. “How ARE you affording all this, oh King of the Cretins?”
“I sell stuff,” he responded easily enough, waggling his brows at the two girls.
Buffy rolled her eyes slightly in response, before reaching over and lightly smacking the back of his head. “He’s smarter than he lets on. Like, makes Willow look like me smart. So, he designs stuff, sells the designs and makes a decent living off of it.”
“Decent living?” Faith was arching a brow as she looked around the shop. “Huh, I think you have a different definition of decent living than I do. This shop, plus all this equipment…”
“Sunnydale special,” Xander supplied, shrugging a bit. “Previous owner had a run in with the local wildlife. Got the place pretty cheap all things considered.”
“Even cheap wouldn’t be THAT cheap,” Faith shot back.
“Xander, have you been holding out on me?” Cordelia asked suddenly, her eyes gleaming with a predatory light.
“Well…” The boy shifted in slight discomfort under the two sets of penetrating dark eyes, before gesturing towards his blonde friend. “Where do you think Buffy’s new wardrobe came from?”
“Oh no you don’t,” Buffy shot back, grinning at him. “You’re not shifting things back to me.”
“Uh huh…” Xander straightened up, eyeing Cordelia critically. “How much do I need to contribute to Faith’s new wardrobe to get you to drop it?”
“Hold up, new wardrobe?” Faith asked in confusion as Cordelia completely ignored her question.
“Hmm…” the cheerleader tapped her lower lip lightly for a moment, before reaching into her purse, and pulling out a small piece of paper and a pen, before scribbling a number down on it before handing it over to the boy.
Xander took one look at the number and snorted softly. “I’ll give you a quarter of it.”
“Three quarters,” Cordelia countered primly before gesturing towards Faith. “I mean, look at her!”
“Hey! I’m right here you know!” Faith countered back with a huffing growl.
“Thirty percent is more than generous,” Xander responded. “I some how doubt she’s a skirts and dresses kind of girl.”
“Damned straight!” Faith agreed, before glaring at them. “But stop talking to me like I’m not here!”
“Heh.” Buffy patted her fellow Slayer lightly on the shoulder. “Relax, this isn’t about you.”
“Well, from what I can see she’s certainly got the legs for it,” Cordelia countered back. “And you shouldn’t be limiting a girl based on your assumptions. Sixty percent!”
“It sure as hell seems like it is,” Faith said with a glare. “And you ain’t getting me in a damned dress!”
As Xander responded, Cordelia shot Faith an amusingly patronizing look that practically shouted, ‘of course you’re not’ in the most sarcastic tone possible. “And she’s no you. So, you’ll be lucky if I give you forty percent.”
“Forty?” Cordelia gave him a look of outrage as she lifted her chin, sniffing disdainfully at him. “I’ll go no lower than fifty! And that’s crippling the budget as is!”
“Deal,” Xander finally admitted before pulling out a card from his wallet, before pulling it away from her as he continued. “But, you go over it and I’ll make you work it off!”
“Deal,” Cordelia snapped back, snatching the card gleefully from boy and turning towards Buffy and Faith. “All right, Buffy, shall we?”
“Indeed we shall,” the blonde girl responded with a smirk as she looped one arm in Faith’s while Cordelia took the other, as they began to drag the girl off.
“Hey, don’t I get a say in this?!” the brunette Slayer demanded.
“Nope!” three voices chimed back at her as the Boston girl found herself hauled away.
“I can’t believe you’re making me do this,” Cordelia whined softly as she glared up at Xander.
“Well, I did warn you,” Xander responded casually, grinning sweetly down at where the cheerleader was dressed in a grungy pair of overalls, with an equally ratty shirt, covered in grease and grime.“And, you still went over what I agreed to.”
“Yeah, but I thought you’d just make me pay you back!” Cordelia protested as she waved a socket wrench at him.
“I am,” he was grinning, along with a similarly attired Faith as they worked on the rusted hulk that had once been Dodge Challenger.
“I meant just paying you back the actual money, doofus!” she whined softly. “Not make me do any actual work, work!”
“Fair’s fair, Princess,” Faith grinned back at her as she would look back at Xander. “The frame’s still good, but its gonna need some serious body work.”
“Good thing we got help then, isn’t it?” Xander shot back, as he looked down at Cordelia with a grin. “And after this one, we’ve got the Mustang, and the Charger.”
“What?!” Cordelia glared up at the boy. “You don’t honestly expect me to…”
“Yup,” Xander responded quickly, cutting her off. “Every day, after school.”
“But… but… My manicure, my hair, my skin!” the cheerleader was staring up at him in absolute horror. “You can’t do this to me!”
“Yes, I can,” Xander grinned back at her. “But look at it this way, you get to spend time doing something worthwhile, with some actual friends.”
“But…” she was pouting now, her eyes switching over to Faith’s, pleading.
“Oh no, Princess,” Faith grinned sweetly back at her. “After that hell you called a shopping trip you dragged me on, no way in hell I’m letting you get out of this. I only wish B was here too.”
“Buffy and cars… Soooo not a good mix,” Xander chuckled back. “I mean… Seriously, not a good idea.”
“Don’t remind me,” Cordelia sighed as she slipped under the car in resignation. “I made the mistake of letting her drive my car for all of five minutes.”
“Never again, right?” Xander grinned back at her as he would go to work himself.
“B really that bad?” Faith asked curiously as she started strapping the chains to the decrepit engine.
“You don’t want to know,” Cordelia and Xander responded simultaneously.