Watchers Council – Rowena’s Apartment – Continuous
Xander, Rowena and Willow all stood in the foyer area of Rowena’s apartment. “No really, what are you doing here?” she asked him.
“Well that’s a nice how do you do, Will,” Xander smiled.
Willow shook her head. “Sorry, I, uh, just mean I didn’t expect to…see you…here…in Rowena’s apartment. That’s all.”
“Oh,” Rowena said almost apologetically. She started to ramble, “I figured since he’s your best friend, it wouldn’t be a problem to include him. I mean, he came in right after you did and asked me if I’d like to go, but you and I had made plans already and…”
“She couldn’t resist my pitiful speech,” Xander smiled, but slowly his happy expression slipped away the longer he watched Willow. “But if I’m the third wheel…”
“Oh no,” Willow said quickly as she looked between Xander and Rowena. “No problem. I just thought…you’d be going with Andrew is all.”
“Andrew?” Xander asked as he approached closer. “He’s okay, but let’s be honest, if you had a choice between blondes would you go with the walking Star Wars dictionary or this very lovely woman here?” he added, motioning his hand to Rowena.
Rowena blushed and looked away as Xander continued to grin at her. From the doorway Willow began to grind her teeth, but managed to stop herself and force a grin.
“You got me there,” Willow replied, trying to put on a joking tone, before trying to switch the subject. “Should I go bring the car up front?”
“Don’t worry,” Xander told her. “I already brought one around for us.”
“Well look at you, Mr. Organized,” Willow teased, her forced grin back in place. “You thought of everything didn’t you? Where’re the roses and the candy, Xan?” She looked around, as if scoping out the apartment.
“Well, I’m playing things close to my chest. Don’t want to seem too anxious after all,” he said, with a wink in Rowena’s direction.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t want that,” Willow muttered, sending daggers in Xander’s direction.
Though Xander seemed to remain oblivious, Rowena pointed behind her, as if sensing the growing tension. “Uh, I’m gonna go finish up,” she told them. “Just give me about five minutes.”
“Take your time,” Xander told her as she hurried from the room.
Wordlessly, Xander and Willow stood next to each other, both of them rocking anxiously on their heels, neither saying anything nor looking at each other as they waited.
Watchers Council – Moments Later
Xander walked ahead of both women and opened the passenger door.
“Your chariot, m’lady,” Xander said as he opened the door and motioned Rowena inside.
Rowena smiled and shook her head as she climbed inside. Once seated, Xander shut her door and then opened the rear door as Willow slowly walked over.
“Here you go, Will,” he told her as he walked around to get into the driver’s side.
“What a gentleman,” Willow muttered, with a slight hostility to her voice.
“Hmm?” Xander asked as he opened his door.
“Uh, what?” Willow replied, covering.
“I thought you said something,” Xander answered.
“Nope,” she said cheerfully. “Better leave or we’ll be late.”
Without saying anything more, Willow sat down in the backseat and closed the door. Xander shrugged and then took his seat.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
“Where’re you headed?” Robin asked.
Faith turned around. “Oh, just gonna go do a sweep.”
“Thought we were going to the party?”
“Yeah, I will, but why don’t you go ahead, I’ll catch up.”
“Why don’t I go with you?”
Faith looked reluctant. “Can’t you just save a spot for me on your dance card and I’ll get there later?”
“Why should I?”
“Robin,” Faith sighed.
“No, don’t Robin me,” he told her, taking a step closer. “I’ve been fighting vamps longer than you. I think I can handle myself out there, even without the slayer strength. I’m tired of you handling me with kid gloves and I’m sick of you pushing me away.”
“Fine,” Faith told him. “Get your damn coat and let’s go.”
City Street – Minutes Later
Faith and Robin walked side by side without saying anything. From out of nowhere, Faith stopped walking and faced Robin. “You want to know why I’ve pushed you away lately?”
“Yes, I do,” Robin said, turning to face her, not even putting on any surprised pretense.
“‘Cause these girls remind me of where I’ve been and I know no matter what I do, I’ll never be good enough for you. I’ll always be a street rat from Beantown. How’s that for honesty?”
“Shouldn’t I be the judge of what I think is good for me?”
Faith looked away.
“No, hey,” Robin said, getting her attention. “You opened this up, so we’re gonna finish it, right here and now. Remember when I was worried about Xander? You said to chill. You also told me that you wouldn’t reassure me everyday. So let me say the same to you now. I might not say it everyday, and you might not choose to believe it no matter how many times I say it, but you bring my life meaning and you give me a purpose.”
“And how, exactly, do I do that, Robin? Give me a for instance here, because I’d really like to know.” Faith folded her arms across her chest, expecting to wait.
“Today,” he told her immediately. When he didn’t add more, she prompted him with a wave of her hand for more information. “When we were all waiting for the girls to get there, I could see it in your eyes. You cared what would happen. You truly wanted to help those girls and when I watched you, I felt like the luckiest guy alive, because you’re the woman I want to share my life with. You and I have the same purpose – whether it’s one life or millions, we want to save people if we can. I told you. I don’t always say it, but every day you bring some type of meaning to my world.”
Faith let her defensive stance drop. “Damn it, I’m sorry, Ace. I’ve been a bitch lately.”
“Yeah, you have,” Robin said firmly. “But the thing is, that’s one of the things I love about you too. I don’t like it cast in my direction, I must admit, but, I gotta take the good with the bad,” he told her with a grin. She grinned in response and moved into his arms. “Just remember, if anything’s going on in your head, tell me about it. Trust me, even if it seems small and stupid, I want to know.”
Faith opened her eyes and pulled away from his embrace. “Okay, well, in keeping with that, I’ve got something to tell you. I haven’t been doing extra patrolling on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve been going someplace else…” Faith paused nervously and looked away.
“Is it another man?” Robin asked, leery. “I honestly didn’t think you would cheat on me Faith.”
“It’s Mr. Linkley,” she told Robin. “My GED instructor. I see him twice a week at the adult ed community center, two blocks that way.” She pointed down the street.
It took a moment for Robin to catch up, but then he began to smile. “That’s wonderful,” he told her.
“Now, see?” she snapped at him in frustration. “You’re all happy about it.”
“What’s not to be happy about?” he asked.
“What if I fail, Robin? What then? Not only did I screw up once, but twice, and then you’re dating a two-time loser.”
Robin closed his eyes and shook his head before opening them again. “My watcher told me you can’t do everything on your own all the time, and I believed him, so if you need help Faith –.”
“Red’s been tutoring me privately.” Robin arched an eyebrow. “Not like that,” Faith told him with slight agitation.
He looked confused, but then realized what she was insinuating. “I wasn’t thinking along those lines. I asked Willow about your kill reports not adding up and she said nothing.”
“I told her to keep quiet about it. At least I know I can trust Red to keep her word,” Faith shrugged.
“Well, start trusting me too, Faith. Let me know what’s going on. I’m not gonna run away unless you want me to go, and quite frankly, that’s what it’s felt like lately. You didn’t want me or need me and I only made your life more complicated.”
“That’s not true,” Faith told him. “You’re one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. The greatest actually.”
“Yeah, I am all that and a bag of chips,” Robin answered straight-faced before cracking a smile. Faith began to grin, too.
Slowly the two of them began to laugh, but then a commotion echoing off the city buildings startled both of them. They turned in the direction of the noise and took off in a run.
Alley near Julia’s Factory – Moments Later
Robin and Faith pushed their way through the crowd of cheering girls to see Mia and Julia, fists raised and faces bloody, going toe to toe.
“What the hell is going on?” Faith asked.
“You BITCH!” Julia screamed and charged at Faith. Faith sidestepped and Julia went rushing past her. Quickly Faith turned to face her.
“Just chill and tell me what’s going on?” she asked the group.
“It’s our choice!” Mia shouted at Julia from behind Faith.
“You’re a friggin’ traitor! All of you!” Julia shouted to the half of her girls who stood behind Mia.
“Someone answer my question, now!” Faith demanded.
“We tried to get our stuff to go back to the Council, but she and her whipped dogs won’t let us in,” Mia explained.
“Go get your stuff,” Faith told her, without turning her eyes from Julia.
As Mia and her girls began to go into the factory, Julia released a frustrated scream at Faith and the two began to do battle. When Faith began to get the upper hand, two of Julia’s girls jumped in, punching Faith in the back and kidneys. Robin stepped up and tossed both girls aside so Faith could catch her breath. Both she and Julia got to their feet.
“Hey, I was raised not to hit a woman, so let’s all be calm a second,” Robin told them. As the two cast-offs began to charge him, Robin shrugged and threw two fists, one left and one right, knocking both of them to the ground. “Doesn’t mean I won’t,” he told them. The rest of the girls now surrounded Faith and Robin, who stood back to back.
“Got any ideas, Ace?” she asked as the group of eight girls circled them.
“Keep swingin’ till the last one falls?” he offered.
“Good a plan as any,” she answered. They both advanced toward the closest slayer.
As they battled to keep the slayers at bay with a host of kicks and punches, Mia and her girls came down with knapsacks and grocery bags in their hands, stuffed with belongings.
The young Asian-American Slayer began to grin as she watched Robin and Faith take on the other girls with skilled precision. Although the gang members swung with power, they lacked the coordination to connect with most of the blows. Faith and Robin used the gang’s inexperience against them, sidestepping their attacks to deliver precise punches that knocked their opponents back.
“Shouldn’t we help?” one of the girls asked from behind Mia.
She watched as Robin and Faith shared a brief grin with each other before continuing to engage their adversaries.
Mia shook her head, “Not yet,” she told them, holding up her hand. “They’re having too much fun right now,” she said, giving a little chuckle of amusement as she watched.
Two of the girls brought out chains and wrapped Robin’s hands. It was enough of a restraint that a third slayer was able to punch him in the face. At that point, Mia dropped her bag and motioned to the girls behind her.
“Now we’re up,” she told them as she raced headlong into the battle, immediately punching one of the girls holding the chains. The girl released her hold and, as a result, Robin had one hand free. Instead of dropping the chain, he held on to it and called out to his lover.
“Faith!” He tossed the chain to her and she turned briefly from facing off with Julia to catch it. She quickly wrestled the leader to the ground and wrapped the chain around her neck before shouting.
“Everyone, listen up!”
The commotion died down as the girls saw Faith on the verge of strangling Julia, who was clutching at the chain unsuccessfully. “One tug and your fearless leader is headless, so stand down!”
“You don’t got the guts,” one of Julia’s gang members shouted.
Faith tightened her hold on Julia’s chain, making Julia’s face turn even redder. “Are you a murderer?” she sneered at the girl. “Because I am.”
The heckler dropped the chain she was still holding and took two steps backward. Julia began pounding her fist on the ground for mercy and Faith loosened her hold slightly.
“Now, let those girls through,” Faith ordered. “Robin?”
“I’ll stay with them,” he told her, answering the unspoken question. As he stood guard, one by one they all walked through Julia’s gang unharmed.
“I’m right behind you, pookie bear,” Faith teased sarcastically.
Robin grinned despite his bloody lip. “I’ll be waiting, sugar pie,” he told her, joining in her merriment.
Faith gave a short laugh. After Robin cleared the last girl from the alley, she dropped the chain and Julia began to wheeze and cough. The remaining gang came over to help Julia to her feet, disregarding Faith. But instead of taking the offered help, Julia pushed them away, getting to her feet on her own.
Faith walked away to the end of the alley, then paused and looked back. “You hurt anyone, including any of these girls, and I’ll introduce you to a whole new definition of pain and suffering.”
“You’re still just a street thug,” Julia croaked out.
“Maybe,” Faith answered, a cocky grin on her face. “But I’m a slayer first.”
With a content smile, Faith walked down the street and caught up to Robin and the new Council members.
Reception Hall – Night
Willow was sitting at the bar, nursing an empty glass. She motioned the bartender over.
“Hit me again,” Willow told him.
In the middle of the dance floor, directly behind Willow, Xander and Rowena were slow dancing.
Further down the bar, Faith looked back and forth between the three of them. She gently put her hand on Robin’s shoulder and motioned him down toward her. After talking in his ear, he nodded and she walked over to where Willow was seated.
“You know, Red,” Faith began, “you should go easy on the whiskey.”
“It’s root beer Schnapps. There’s no more alcohol in this than in mouthwash.” With that, Willow downed the shot and motioned for the bartender to refill it.
“I don’t know about that,” Faith argued.
“No, seriously,” Willow told her. “Fifteen percent. See, I know these things because I’m a total geek and, as a result, I have no sex appeal whatsoever.”
Willow turned and picked up the small glass as Faith stifled a smile. Instead of saying anything, Faith bit her lip for a moment and took Willow’s hand, making her put the shot down. She didn’t let go of the hand and began to pull Willow from the barstool.
“What are you doing?” the redhead asked.
“I wanna have at least one dance tonight with my toes intact, and Robin always steps on my feet. Come on.” She motioned to the dance floor, continuing to pull Willow along.
“You realize people might talk,” Willow said, looking around at everyone in the hall.
“Since when do I care what other people think?” Faith told her. Then she pulled Willow closer by the shoulders and they both began to sway.
Faith looked to the other side of the room and watched Rowena staring at them. Faith made eye contact with her and smiled. Rowena sharply turned away, shifting her focus to Becca, who stood on stage singing.
“Cute couple, huh?” Faith said, motioning her head toward Xander and Rowena, making Willow look over.
“Sure, I guess.” Willow’s voice conveyed anything but that opinion as she glanced over and saw Xander and Rowena grinning at each other.
“Y’know,” Faith began, “Blondie hasn’t fallen for him…yet.”
Willow let out a ragged sigh. “What’s the purpose of this conversation?”
“Point is, if you don’t make a move, you might lose your shot.”
Willow shook her head, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. She’s just a friend,” Willow tried to move away, but Faith held her in place and she barely budged. “Damn slayer strength,” the redhead muttered as she gave up and continued to dance.
“So really, what’s holding you back?”
“You, at the moment,” Willow jabbed, with a glance at Faith’s arms encasing her upper body.
Faith ignored the comment and asked, “Still pining over Slick?”
“Kennedy? No,” Willow told her with certainty. “No pining. We’re better apart than together.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Well, for starters, I don’t even know if Rowena’s ever dated a woman.”
“She hasn’t,” Faith answered. Willow began to look angry at the thought of Faith prying. “Hey, I didn’t ask her or anything,” the slayer added quickly. “She mentioned it when Xander thought you two were dating.”
“So she told him that we weren’t – dating, I mean?”
Faith stopped moving, but didn’t loosen her grip on the witch. “Isn’t that what you told her? I mean, I was in the kitchen and there was a great deal of insistence on your part that tonight was not a date.”
There was a brief pause, until Willow asked, “Can we just stop talking and keep dancing?” Faith shrugged and started to sway again. Soon the silence seemed to be too much for the witch. “Anyway,” Willow finally went on, “now I know she’s not interested in women.”
“When I woke up from a coma I thought you were still driving stick, but I was wrong.”
“Why thank you, Faith. What an incredibly crass way to put that,” Willow replied sarcastically. “You really have a wonderful way with the English language.”
Faith chuckled. “You’re welcome, and here’s more crassness I’m sure you’ll enjoy. When you met Tara, did she fulfill some long-standing desire for the Sapphic side of life? Or, did you just happen to meet a gal who thought you were sexy as hell and introduced you to the benefits of lesbo love?”
“Oh geez,” Willow sighed, looking away.
All Faith did was laugh. “No, seriously,” she said, calming down. “Did you make a move on Tara or did she instigate things more?” Willow didn’t answer and looked away. “Ah, I see what’s going on now,” Faith nodded. “The question is, do you?”
“Do I what?” Willow asked, frustrated.
“Do you see that you’ve got to be the one to make a move? Ro ain’t gonna be the bold one here, Willow. Number one, she’s too much of a tight ass.”
“Defending her honor? That’s a good start. She might like that,” Faith teased.
Willow released another sigh and looked over at Rowena and Xander, who were now laughing about something. Faith spared a glance to them again before turning back to Willow as the music ended.
In the midst of the applause, Faith leaned in closer to Willow’s ear. “You don’t have to jump in with both feet just yet, Red. But if you don’t start stepping a little closer, Ro’s gonna pass you by and you’ll never know what might have been. So, what’s it gonna be?”
Another slow song started and Faith walked from the dance floor, making her way over to Robin. Willow watched as Faith stole the drink from his hand and took a sip, then kissed him and handed it back. With another ragged sigh, she looked over at Rowena and Xander, who were still dancing. With a slight roll of her neck, she squared her shoulders and walked in their direction.
Faith looked past Robin’s arm to see Willow walking over to the pair and saying something. Xander released Rowena and motioned to take Willow in his arms, but the witch shook her head and said something with a grin. Faith then watched as Rowena laughed and touched Xander on the upper arm before letting Willow lead her closer to the stage. Faith’s smile grew larger as she watched the two women begin to dance.
Xander paused on the dance floor for a moment, looking slightly confused, before shrugging and walking back to the bar alone.
Watchers Council – Morning
Faith walked out to the doorstep and picked up the morning paper that lay there. For a moment, she hesitated and looked around the grounds and street surrounding the Council. With a shake of her head, she went back inside, shutting the door.
From across the street, Julia stood watching the slayer. With an angry expression, she swung one leg over her Japanese racing bike in front of her and kicked it into gear. She sped down the alley and out of sight.
End of Lessons Learned
On the next episode of Watchers…
Giles celebrates turning 50 by buying a painting at an auction, but finds that he may actually be getting more than he bargained for.