Several minutes later, at the table where she was waiting for Xander to come back from his sudden urge to again visit the saloon’s facilities, most of Faith’s attention was concentrated on leaning back on the rear two legs of her seat, balancing on these parts of her chair tilting away from the table. Still, she was a Slayer, so she snatched out of the air the object tossed in her direction without even looking at it, or needing to shift the slightest in her precarious position, until she finally glanced at what she now had in her hand. It was a key-ring with numerous examples of these door and lock openers clinking against each other, as Faith then bemusedly eyed that person she’d sensed coming near who‘d just given her this.
Blinking in momentarily astonishment at that woman’s accurate flash of inhuman speed, Joey managed to get back into his irritated mood, as the man now crankily informed Faith, “Lock up when you leave, or do whatever the hell you want! This place is yours now, because Bates and his gang will damn well remember soon enough that I was here and saw everything they did! That means I’ve gotta leave town, put all my stuff in my car, and head like a bat outta hell as far away as I can get!” The bartender and former owner of Joey’s now furiously stomped off into the back of the saloon, with Faith right after that hearing the rear door slam shut.
Her eyebrows quizzically rising, Faith started twirling the key-ring around her index finger, giving a quiet “Huh” over the latest events. The woman started wondering if she should feel guilty about what had happened, that guy losing his business and livelihood, until Faith remembered Joey’s practiced cowardice when the bikers had shown up, so the Slayer finally just shrugged and kept on playing with the keys. This continued even when Faith heard familiar footsteps approaching her from behind.
Sure enough, Xander pulled out his own chair and dropped into this, to then slump forward his torso, lying his upper body flat on the surface of the table he was sharing with Faith. Xander then crossed his arms, lifting his chin to perch that part of his body onto those limbs. The left, blind side of his face that was in Faith’s view was now drawn and tired, as the former Sunnydale native blankly stared ahead.
*Looks like he’s crashin’. ‘Bout damn time.* Opening her mouth to start expressing her own irritation about tonight’s events, Faith gazed again at the exhausted features of the man she’d agreed to support, and she felt a flicker of compassion. The Slayer decided to gradually get around to her concerns, and she instead idly tossed off to the man, “Yo, boytoy, since I didn’t hear no screams comin’ from the john, I guess Red’s booze-losin’ spell still works okay, not makin’ anythin’ ‘sides the alcohol vanish outta whatever you drank tonight.”
Still in his slumped position on the table, Xander didn’t look over at Faith, just quietly grumbling, “Thanks ever so much for reminding me of that possibility, Faith. After all, Wils was in the middle of her phase of ‘Whee! Let’s use magic for everything!’ back in Sunnydale when she remembered my birthday and decided it’d be a nice gift to cast a spell to make sure I wouldn’t wind up like my boozehound parents.”
Faith winced at the bitter tone that had suddenly appeared in Xander’s voice, particularly when he continued in that same sour voice, “Of course, it wasn’t until she actually finished that Willow figured it wouldn’t be such a good idea to test her spell or even tell me what she did. Especially since soon after that, she went into her ‘Whee! I’m a lesbian!’ phase, and totally forgot about it.”
Clearing her throat with some embarrassment, Faith risked a question, “She still can’t do nothin’ ‘bout it?”
“During all the apologizing and crying afterwards, Willow admitted the spell was linked to the place where she cast it, the Magic Box, the pieces of which are now buried under several hundred feet of rock and water at Lake Sunnydale.” Still keeping his chin perched on his arms, Xander now twisted his head around to sardonically peer at Faith with his right eye. “She still thinks I’m nuts for wanting it taken off, not understanding at all that maybe I’d like to get drunk once in a while.”
Feeling her face heat up over hearing that, Faith looked down at what the fingers of her right hand were still gripping, and she fretfully began to twirl the key-ring again, until a curious voice interrupted this, “Hey, Faith, where’d you get those?”
“What?” A startled Slayer looked up into Xander’s mildly interested features, to impulsively answer, “Oh, the usual thing, that yellow-bellied owner, he tossed ‘em over just before he took off for good.”
The left corner of Xander’s mouth twisted into a wry grin. “Figures. Remind me when we’re leaving to do the same thing we did before, dropping them in a mailbox in an envelope addressed to the local cops giving them the address and inviting them to have a look around. I’m sure they’ll find lots of things to investigate, with maybe the possibility of nailing those biker assholes.”
Faith cynically snorted, “It woulda been better to use a sawed-off shotgun and a coupla gallons of napalm on every one of ‘em. Not that anybody woulda missed ‘em, plus their victims woulda thanked us for it.”
Xander resignedly shrugged, “They were as human as me, Faith, even though I’m not particularly happy about sharing the same species as those jerks. Unless you caught them red-handed or they started something, you know quite well they‘re off-limits to you.” The man sighed, and then he said in a firm, concluding tone, “Well, whatever, it looks like we’re done with the fun for this year.”
Still feeling irked about that whole annoying Slayer thing of not being able to slaughter non-demonic people who really, really deserved it, Faith finally lost her temper, especially over what Xander had just said. “FUN?!” she roared. Faith continued yelling at the shocked man, “Holy hell, boytoy, we’ve been doin’ this for a coupla years now, and you still haven’t come up with somethin’ better to call it than fun?!”
Straightening up to stare into the furious features of the woman glaring at him, a taken-aback Xander opened his mouth, and then shut that to put his startled thoughts in order. Slowly speaking, the man measured his words, “Faith, there’s just no single word that can describe hilarious and gross and sweet and sad and pleased and disastrous and greedy and doomed and grateful and everything else to explain Anya. Like I told you, I….just couldn’t come up with anything else to remember her the way she deserved, until I got really depressed on the day that should have been our wedding anniversary and set out to find a fight.”
Faith rolled her eyes, clearly remembering, as she snapped, “Yeah, and I wuz the one that hadda spring ya from the hospital with yer broken ribs, missin’ teeth, and the concussion, without havin’ the Council and the other Scoobies findin’ out!”
Xander allowed a derisive look to appear on his face, as he huffily pointed out, “You were more than willing to take advantage of it, when you blackmailed me into coming along with you on YOUR special days!”
The two of them at their table glared at each other for several moments, until they abruptly looked away, unexpectedly feeling a bit ashamed of themselves. Still staring off in different directions, both started their mumbled apologies at the same time, “Sorry, boytoy-- Faith, I didn’t mean it--,” until they stopped and turned back their head to hold the other’s gaze, identical wry grins appearing on these survivor’s faces.
Xander managed to be the first to speak, in a contrite tone, “Look, Faith, I’m perfectly okay now with escorting you in our best clothes to those formal afternoon teas in those old-style hotels, but I have to tell you, it’s kinda weird to me as my visits to scuzzy human bars to tease the natives must be to you. Didn’t your first Watcher ever say WHY she took you to the Parker House in Boston in the first place?”
Faith sighed, allowing a bittersweet nostalgic expression to pass over her beautiful features. “Diana prob’ly woulda, if things hadn’t gone to shit with that fucker Kakistos right after. Nope, when it was all over, she just asked me if I had a good time, and all I could think to say was ‘Hell, yeah!’ I gotta tell ya, it was a damn relief to swear again, since I hadda watch everythin’ I said in that posh place, not wantin’ to let her down. That also took my mind off the fact I was in a real pretty dress for the first time in years, my hair put up, and a ton of gunk on my face.” The Slayer smiled sadly at an intently listening Xander. “Even with alla that, it was just….nice. Bein’ with her, knowin’ she was proud of me….well, I didn’t have that much before, ever.”
Xander now smiled back equally sadly at a woman who’d had an horrible early life, until she became a Slayer and then met someone who actually treated her with kindness and care. He softly spoke to his friend, “Remembrance, Faith. We do it to honor them, to keep them in our memories with what made them happy. I….don’t want to forget Anya, Faith. No matter what happened back then, she’ll always be part of me, so I head out on the day when we should’ve gotten married, to find the seediest human bar possible, and just basically go nuts. Like our lives together would’ve been, totally wacky and wild, but…with each other. And, I want to tell you, I’m glad you’re with me when I do this.” At the last, he reached out to gently pat Faith’s hand resting upon the tabletop.
Faith looked down at this, hiding the sudden shine of tears in her eyes, until she finally managed to control herself, looking up once more into Xander’s waiting face, as the Slayer whispered, “Yeah, ditto. I got your back, always, same as you do for me.” Faith’s mood suddenly improved, as shown by her happier voice when she went on, “’Bout that, I already got the reservations for this year’s afternoon tea. We’re gonna go for the ultimate: the Connaught in London.” She grinned at Xander’s startlement, chuckling, “Yer gonna be in full fig, lookin’ both scrumptious and dangerous in yer Armani suit and that eyepatch.”
“Sounds fine to me,” Xander smilingly acknowledged. He beamed at Faith, his own spirits brightening, as he teased, “I’ll be looking forward to your new dress, especially like all the other times you make it a surprise on that day and don’t take me along on any shopping expedition to find this.”
Faith mock-glowered at the snickering man across from her. “Hey, it’s only once a year, and I get in the proper Slayer temper right before I go huntin’: Stalk, pounce, kill, an’ carry off to my lair.”
“That was kinda why we always had to find new fast food places back in Sunnydale every time we ordered out, because Buffy pretty much acted exactly like that when the Chinese or pizza came to the library or her mom’s house, ripping the food right from the delivery guys’ hands, snarling and growling and basically freaking them out, so they never came back again. Still, it meant that at least half of the time, we never had to pay, due to those guys running away as fast as they could after that.” Xander smirked at Faith’s giggles over hearing a new Scooby Gang story, until the man’s face suddenly cracked into a massive, jaw-stretching, yawn.
Getting up from her chair, Faith looked down kindly at the California native once more looking tired. “Ya take a few winks, Xan, and I’ll call a cab so we can get outta here. ’Kay?”
“Sounds good,” admitted Xander, again leaning his upper body onto the tabletop and tucking his head into his folded arms. “Wake me up when it gets here.”
A couple of minutes later, with their ride lined up, Faith came back to their table and found her companion in a deep sleep. Xander didn’t even twitch when the Slayer sank into her chair, despite ordinarily snoozing lightly during his usual dozing, a necessity in their dangerous lives. Faith abruptly once more felt tears in her eyes at this absolute trust casually shown by someone she’d hurt badly years ago. Impulsively reaching out with her right hand to stroke his hair, she froze with her fingers about to touch him, as Xander mumbled a couple of words in his sleep.
Now Faith Lehane actually allowed a few tears to roll down her cheeks, as she lightly caressed the top of his head, and whispered as softly as possible to a slumbering Xander Harris, “Yer still gonna wear that pink carnation on the lapel of yer suit when we walk into that place, us both lookin’ fine and ready to chow down.”