Epilogue Two.Over There.The day is comin’,
The drums are drummin’,
If you know one say a prayer.
There’s mothers cryin’,
And fathers sighin’, uh hum,
War is in the air.
The trains are fillin’ up with boys,
They've left behind their favourite toys.
They're goin over there,
Where someone has to die.
Over there, over there,
Where ours is not to reason why.
Over there, over there,
Where someone has to die.
‘Over There’, Chris Gerolmo.0=0=0=0A Bar, Washington DC, Christmas Eve, 2005.
Walking into the bar, Faith paused to brush the snow from her shoulders; taking off her beret she shook the half melted snow onto the floor. The bar was full of thirty-something office workers having a final Christmas drink with their work buddies before heading home for the holiday. Although the room was crowded and the air was full of the sound of conversation it wasn’t so crowded as to make her want to turn around and go back to her lonely, little hotel room.
After recovering from her wounds, the army had sent Faith home on leave for a couple of weeks. Not knowing where else to go, Faith had decided on Washington as her destination, as far as she knew she’d never been there before. The fact that she’d been told that various people in the Pentagon wanted to speak to her had also influenced her choice of destination. This was why she was now standing in a bar dressed in her Class B’s after a long day talking to officers who appeared to have nothing better to do.
The day had gone by with almost everybody who was anybody trying to recruit her for their own special unit or project. The only offer she’d had that had even slightly interested her was from the Air Force colonel who’d pinned Faith’s Bronze Star on her. Colonel Carter had offered Faith a job as part of some all service special forces unit. Faith had been told that it would involve a lot of travel and at times it would be incredibly dangerous but it was also very worthwhile and rewarding work.
Other than this the Colonel hadn’t told Faith much, in fact she’d been pretty tight lipped about what she’d actually be doing. When, Faith tried to press her for more information Carter had changed tack and tried a different approach. Suddenly she’d became less formal and put on some sort of ‘all girls together’ act, saying that there needed to be more women in her unit and how Faith was just the sort of woman who’d fit right in.
By the end of the interview, Faith still hadn’t made up her mind. All she really knew was that she wanted to do was get back to Iraq and see her buddies again. Promising Colonel Carter that she would give her offer serious consideration, Faith saluted and left the office. Leaving the Pentagon as fast as she could Faith’d headed for a bar to think over what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
Jacket and beret in hand, Faith made her way towards the bar; no one seemed to notice her as she squeezed between the suit clad drinkers. They were probably used to seeing service personnel of much more exalted rank than some lowly, newly minted, staff sergeant and she doubted any of them could read the medal ribbons on her blouse. Finding an empty stool at the bar, Faith hung up her jacket on the hooks provided under the bar top. Sitting down she smoothed her skirt straight and then, just as she was about to try and attract the barkeepers eye the man sitting on the stool next to hers turned and spoke to her.
“Can I buy a soldier a drink?”
Sliding around on her stool to face the man, Faith saw a handsome, dark haired guy of about her own age sporting a piratical looking eye patch. He smiled at her and his surviving eye seemed to twinkle with silent amusement.
“Harris,” the guy offered her his hand, “Xander Harris…its Staff Sergeant, isn’t it?”
“Lehane,” Faith nodded and took Harris’ hand, he had a firm, friendly hand shake; Faith felt the calluses on his palms, this guy obviously worked hard for a living, “Faith Lehane.”
“Nice to meet you Staff Sergeant Faith Lehane,” again there was the friendly smile, “now what about that drink?”
“Beer,” Faith returned Harris’ smile, “thanks.”
After ordering their beer, Harris turned back to face her and Faith felt like she was being minutely examined. Noticing his eye flick down to her chest, just for a moment Faith thought he was checking out her boobs, but then she noticed that he was studying her medal ribbons.
“That’s the Silver and Bronze Stars, right?” Harris asked; Faith nodded and accepted her beer off the barman. “Plus two Purple Hearts! You’ve seen a lot of action, am I right?”
“Yeah,” Faith felt unaccountably embarrassed, “Were you in the service?”
“Nah,” Harris shook his head, “I had an uncle in the Marines, he was in Vietnam; he taught me some stuff when I was a kid and it sorta stuck.” Harris paused and gestured to his patch, “This was a work accident, I run my own construction business over in Cleveland, I’m down here on a Government contract.”
Even after reading a copy of Faith’s army record and talking to Buffy, Xander hadn’t truly believed that Faith was a different woman; he had to find out for himself. Now Buffy was almost ‘Mrs Finn’ it had been fairly easy to find out where Faith was. When Riley reported that Faith would be in Washington over the Christmas period, Xander had decided to check things out; he had to know the truth. Was Faith faking it or had she really forgotten her past and become someone better?
At the back of Xander’s mind there had always been a feeling that they, the Scoobies, were somehow responsible for what happened to Faith. Perhaps if they’d been more welcoming, more understanding, tried harder to accept the new slayer and seen through the facade she presented to the world…well, maybe things would have been different. There was also the memory of the couple of hours he’d spent in Faith’s bed, she’d been his first. Okay, so she’d dragged him back to her room to satisfy her own needs, but…she had still been his ‘first’. Guys didn’t forget things like that, at least guys like Xander Harris didn’t. Maybe if things had been different, they’d…
No, Xander shook his head; it would never have worked out between them. One way or another he’d have still ended up in the parking lot clutching his clothes. It was best not to dwell on ‘what might have beens’ and just make sure that the young woman sitting next to him wasn’t a danger to anyone other than the enemies of the United States.
As the night passed, Faith found herself telling Xander about her time in Iraq. About Doublewide, Mrs B and all the other guys. She told him about all the stuff she’d seen and done; she even told him how much she missed her buddies, how she somehow felt she’d deserted them.
“Yeah,” Harris nodded his head, “I know what you mean, I’ve got some friends like your buddies. I miss ‘em, y’know?”
“Yeah,” Faith agreed, “its real crappy being away from ya friends this time of year.”
“Hey!” Harris looked up and around, he’d not realised how late it was; he looked around the bar to find it was almost empty, “It’s late I better be going.”
“Yeah,” Faith agreed as she looked around; there was hardly anyone left in the bar, she placed her hand on his arm, “look, this doesn’t have to end here if you don’t want it to.”
“Eh?” Harris looked at Faith his head cocked to one side.
“Hey, I don’t normally try to pick up guys I’ve only just met, but, you’re cute and seem like a nice guy,” Faith took a deep breath, “my hotel’s close by. If you want you could come back with me, y’know?” Faith saw the hesitation in Harris’ eye, “Look, I’m going to the restroom,” she pointed across the bar. “If you wanna say no, just don’t be here when I get back, okay? I’ll understand, you’ve probably got someone waiting for ya at home.”
Jumping down from her stool, Faith headed towards the restroom.0=0=0=0
Watching Faith leave, Xander pulled his cellphone from his pocket and dialled, he waited for a moment before his call was answered.
“Buffy?” He said, “Look I can’t talk long, I met up with Faith, I’m ninety-nine-point-nine percent sure she doesn’t know who I am. I don’t think she’s faking…I’d think I’d know if she was…look, maybe the people upstairs are blocking her memories or something, I don’t know…hold it, she’s coming back, talk to you later, gotta go…bye!”
“Still here?” Faith asked, “Who were ya talking to?”
“Old school friend,” Xander smiled, “you said something about a hotel?”0=0=0=0
The next morning, Xander awoke to the smell of coffee; lying in bed he let the memories of the previous night return. The sex had been good, not like the wild animalistic sex he remembered from the last time he’d slept with Faith. It had been fun; yes it could safely be said that fun had been had by all. What was more, he didn’t feel like he’d been used like some kind of sex toy…and oh-yes he wasn’t standing shivering in the parking lot holding his clothes in his hands.
“Sorry it’s only instant,” Faith sat on the bed next to him.
“Not a problem,” Xander sat up and took the cup from her hand; he found his eye drifting over her naked body. He saw the scars on her legs and arm; the way the skin on the back of her left hand had a sort of translucent look to it. He’d read all the reports about her bullet wounds and burns, seeing them in the flesh, as it were, sort of brought it all home to him.
“Hey! Stop that,” Faith grabbed her robe and wrapped it around her shoulders covering herself up. “I know, I’m a mess, ya probably regretin’ coming back with me.”
“No I don’t,” Xander shook his head, “I think you’re one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.”
“You do?” Faith looked and sounded truly stunned by the comment, “Gee thanks.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes as they sipped their instant coffee.
“Look,” Faith said quietly, “I wanna say thanks.”
“Thanks?” Xander smiled, “Was I that good?”
“No…Yes!” Faith frowned as her tongue tied itself in knots, “Look what I meant to say was thank-you for the beer and coming back with me and…and, well being my buddy for the night and listening and understanding…and the sex was pretty good too.”
“Only pretty good?” Xander looked shocked then nodded his head in understanding, “But now you want me gone?”
“Umm, yeah,” Faith sounded genuinely sorry as she twisted the hem of her robe into a knot between her hands, “look, it was great an’all but it was just a one night stand,” she wondered who she was trying to convince, “and I’ll be goin’ back to Iraq and it’d never work out between us and…maybe if things were different and I’d met you some other time. Don’t take it personnel, you’re a nice guy and I don’t say that often and…”
“What!?” Faith demanded angrily, here she was pouring out her heart and this guy just laughs at her!”
“No, look, I’m sorry,” Xander shook his head, “I have a friend who babbles on like that, you reminded me of her there for a minute.” Sighing Xander swung his legs out of bed and started to pull on his pants, “Look, I understand, let’s just remember this as a good night when we both met someone and we both had a good time, okay?”
“Yeah,” Faith sounded relieved, she’d not wanted to upset this guy, he was nice and there weren’t too many nice guys in her life, at least not any she could remember, “thanks.”
“Glad to have been of service,” Xander was more or less dressed by now, “here,” he searched in his jacket pocket and brought out a business card, “that’s got my e-mail on it, anytime you want to talk you can get me there. I’m betting you don’t have anyone to write home to…am I right?”
“Thanks,” Faith took the card and watched as Xander headed for the door, he paused and turned back to look at her his hand resting on the door knob.
“Nice to have met you, Staff Sergeant Lehane…Faith,” he raised his hand in a casual salute, “you look after yourself over there.”
“Well,” Xander smiled wryly to himself as he walked along the corridor away from Faith’s room, “at least this time I got to get dressed before
she threw me out!”The End.Authors end note.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed and kept reviewing and who recommended this story. It’s most appreciated and unexpected, which makes it doubly nice. I’d not actually expected to get much reaction out of this story…just goes to show I’ll never work out what makes a popular fic.
A sequel? Well I’ve had a couple of ideas about what Staff Sergeant Lehane does next, but I’m not going to rush into anything yet (if at all) I’ve made that mistake before. The sequel is never quite as good as the original, so I’ll maybe write something else first.
Once again, thanks for all recs and reviews, glad to have written something so many of you appear to have liked.