Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or worlds used in this story, including the American Pie franchise, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House M.D., or Scott Pilgrim. No harm is intended toward any of the copyright owners. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only.+++++PREVIOUSLY: Faith, depressed over Chris's departure, talks to Buffy, and Buffy helps Faith to learn that she needs some time away.+++++FOUR: WILLOW
To say Willow was surprised that Faith had asked her to come up to her office was an understatement. Faith never asked
anyone to do anything. But the message had been very clear: "Could you please come up to my office? I have to talk to you about something."
When Willow arrived, she found Faith standing at the large windows, watching the girls milling about on the green below. Willow joined her there. "What's up? You rang?"
Faith nodded. "Gotta ask you something, Red. Something important."
Faith's voice didn't sound right. "Hey, what's wrong? Are you okay?"
The slayer turned to face Willow, and only years of control allowed Willow not to react. Faith's face was completely devoid of make-up, and without it she looked exhausted: deep shadows under her eyes, fine lines around her mouth -- it was like she was ten years older than she should be. "Faith? What happened?"
"Life," she said. "Life happened." She waved a hand toward the couch and, after Willow sat down on it, bolt upright, knees together, hands knotted tightly, Faith took a seat on the coffee table and put her hands over Willow's. "I'm not right, Red," she said in that same soft, dull voice. "I'm just... I'm not right."
"What do you mean?" Willow tried to keep her tone neutral, tried not to show how worried she was. "Did something happen?"
"Something's been happening." Even the Southie accent was almost completely gone, like the pattern on a well-loved t-shirt washed too many times -- Willow could hear it, but just barely. "I've been fighting nonstop for so long, and I've lost so much... so, so much..." She saw Faith's eyes water, but Faith soldiered on, and if there were tears, Willow didn't see them fall. "I need to go."
"Wh... what? Go? Where?"
"Away." Faith sighed. "Not forever. Just for a while. Dunno how long. Dunno where. But I gotta get out, get my head together."
"Faith, I know you've been through a lot lately, but don't you think leaving is a little much?" She untwisted her fingers and took Faith's hands in her own, leaning forward on the couch. Their knees touched, and even through Faith's jeans and Willow's skirt, the additional contact gave Willow a mental glimpse at exactly what Faith was feeling. "Oh, Goddess," she murmured. Unbidden, tears rose in her eyes and coursed down her cheeks. "Oh, Faith, I'm so sorry. We didn't know--"
"I didn't say." Faith reached up and brushed away Willow's tears with her fingertips. "Don't cry, Red. 'Tain't your fault."
"Not going to make me feel less bad."
Faith smiled at that, and just a glimmer of the old Faith shone through. "I appreciate it," she said. "I really do. But this is something I have to do." She patted Willow's hand. "I'll still be in contact, though. I'll tell you where I am. 'S not like I'm gonna pull a B and disappear."
"And I know you're not taking Andrew with you."
"Oh, hell no. Not after what he did with all those Jennifers." They shared a brief laugh, and to Willow's mind it ended too fast. "But that's not really what I brought you up here to talk about." She paused. "I mean, yeah, I definitely would've said goodbye, but that's not it."
Faith got to her feet and offered Willow a hand. When Willow took it, Faith helped her to stand, then guided her around the office to stand behind the big desk. "Try it out."
Willow felt all the blood drain from her face. She had to sit down, if only to avoid falling, and even if her mind couldn't handle it, her butt was definitely appreciating Faith's chair. The soft leather cushions felt wonderful against her legs and back -- and the butt
, her subconscious reminded her, don't forget the butt!
-- but it didn't take any of the enormity away from what Faith had just said. Not with words, mind, but still... "I can't," Willow managed to say.
"Sure you can," Faith said. "You used to be in charge of all the witches, didn't you?"
"But nothing." Faith knelt on the carpet in front of Willow. She put her hands on Willow's knees, and Willow was shocked at how warm Faith's hands weren't -- slayers were supposed to be hotter than Faith was right now. "Willow, you can do this."
"But I just... I mean, after Kennedy, and then Nancy, and--"
"I know you," Faith said. "We've been friends for 'bout five years now, right? " Willow nodded. "I know you can do it, Willow. And I know you need to do it. You need something to sink your teeth into -- a new challenge. Trust me."
"No arguments, Red." Faith stood up and turned the chair so Willow was facing the desk. She pushed it in, and Willow rested her palms on the smooth wooden surface. "See? It's not so hard."
"Faith, I don't think I can do this."
Willow felt Faith's hands on her shoulders. "I trust you to take care of my girls," Faith said. "Not forever; just until I get back. Can you do that for me?"
"Just until you get back? And then you promise the chair's yours again?"
"I promise." Faith squeezed gently. Her voice was hoarse, almost inaudible. "Thanks, Willow."
And at that point, Willow didn't know what to say. Besides, even if she had, the little part of her that was panicking wouldn't have let her get anything coherent out anyway.+++++Your continued support, readership, and reviews are greatly appreciated.
One more chapter. Tomorrow: Faith and Jeanine. See if you can guess who she is before she shows up.