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Challenge #2-Born in a Basement, Died in a Basement

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  • Challenge #2-Born in a Basement, Died in a Basement

    Born in a Basement, Died in a Basement

    PG. Set during season seven, the timing isn't especially more explicit than that... sometime after Dirty Girls, given Faith's presence.


    "Remember when that was us?"

    He turned surprised. He hadn't heard her sidle up to him, but then again, he had always found her to be cat like. Half expected her to purr in the shadows. "When that was us?"

    She gestured towards them. "You know, new." Was that wistfulness in her voice?

    He shrugged. On the surface it was hard to identify with the army being raised in Buffy's backyard. There were so many of them, and the horrors they were facing seemed so many too. Kennedy taking point again, and every time he looked at her he blushed. Imagining that the force she exerted over the potentials was the same force she was exerting over Willow. In the bedroom.

    "Tough bitch, hey. Don't know what Willow sees in her myself."

    He looked at Faith properly for the first time. That had been known to raise a few blushes in its time. A few other things too. She was half smiling back at him, head tilted in that way of hers. "Longest conversation ever, right Xand?"

    "Right." He wanted to turn to go, but there was no where to go, he remembered. He'd come out into the backyard to escape Andrew's whining under the pretence of helping with training. To get some peace and quiet. Like that was ever possible. And now, Faith, following him out here, chatting as though they were friends. Friends. Hey, friends, enemies. What was the difference, these days? He decided to make a bit of an effort. Not like Buffy or Willow had been climbing over each other in an effort to get friendly with Faith. She was probably lonely. And, he reasoned, it had been years since she'd tried to kill any of them, while both Buffy and Willow had had murderous streaks just the year before. "So, what's up?"

    She looked surprised, like she hadn't really expected him to hold up his side of what, in her words, was their longest conversation ever. "Just thinking, you know." He waited for her to continue. "About all this, I mean. What the point is? And my part in it, given that I'm slayer numero two." She stopped, like she'd said too much. "Not that I mind. That's not why I'm here. I think we can all agree that I'm not gonna be top dog B, and really, that's okay."

    "Is that what you wanted?" Xander was curious in spite of himself. "You wanted to be the most important slayer?"

    Faith laughed, wryly. "Nope, Xand, I didn't wanna be the most important slayer. I just wanted to be like Buffy, be Buffy. Have the perfect life thing for a change."

    It was Xander's turn to laugh. "You wanted a perfect life, so you wanted to be Buffy? You know, right, how messed up that is?"

    She scowled. "Sure. I get that. Now. But before? you have no idea what my life was like, before I came to Sunnydale."

    He remembered, like he'd never forgotten, the feeling of Faith's hands around his neck. Slayer strength or no, the pain in the grip, in her touch, in her everything, at that moment, that was what had stayed with him. Not the pain she'd inflicted, that had faded, but the pain she'd had, to give.

    They were sitting now, on Buffy's back steps, eyes glued on the girls in front of them. This garden? sometimes it gave Xander chills, being out here. No matter how warm the day was. He could see Warren come flying around the corner, hear the shots that caused Buffy to crumple, feel Tara crumple, never to get up. That same ground now, desecrated in his mind, now played host to twenty girls, going through the paces, the motions. That they might become the next, should the girl beside him be the next to crumple.

    Without giving much thought to what he was doing, Xander scooted a little closer to Faith. Reached both his hands out, and took her hands in his own. Faith's eyes widened, but she said nothing. He was looking at her hands and wrists now, tracing the veins, the scars, with his own work scarred hands, blisters on both his thumbs, calluses on his palms. "You're not new." He almost whispered it, not knowing quite what he was saying.

    She seemed to get it, understand the reference to her opening line. "Neither are you." He looked up at her, and was surprised to see how shiny her eyes had become, almost like she was close to crying. He'd seen Willow cry, hundreds of times over the years. Seen Dawn in hysterics, caused more than a few of Anya's tears. He didn't think he'd ever seen Faith cry, and wasn't sure he wanted to. He'd seen Buffy cry, and he didn't like it.

    He almost grimaced, wanting to reverse the whole situation, undo the whole moment. He let go of her hands abruptly and shuffled away.

    "Never was, you know. I think I was un-new as soon as possible, coz I sure don't remember anything else." She turned her hands face up. "The funny niggle of wanting to live, plus slayer healing? I never did cut deep enough." He looked back at her, her expression had changed. Had he imagined the emotion he thought he'd seen in her eyes?

    Me too, he thought. ?Born in a Basement, Died in a Basement'; that's my epitaph. Not new, never was. Hanging with the slayers, like that was an answer. It wasn't an answer, not even a question. Just, as boy normal of the crew, the way things were. Coz, better being out there, fighting the forces of darkness, than being part of a force of darkness between four walls.

    "Big fight's coming, right? It's old too, this evil. All the better for us, not being new. We'll kick its arse." Just talk now, thought Xander. The moment's gone, we'll make a few more seconds of small talk, she'll walk back inside, I'll walk back inside, and we'll both forget that I touched her hands, that I was ever touched by her hands.

    "Sure we will. Buffy will figure something out, and, well, yeah, we'll kick it's arse." The reference to Buffy wasn't lost on Xander.

    "She's not the saviour, you know."

    "Sure she is. Didn't Giles teach you anything about popular mythology? The saviour dies, then comes back to life. Guess that makes you and Willow gods."

    He shrugged. "Don't think it works like that."

    She laughed. "I'm just kidding. But seriously? I don't make it through this fight? Leave me there. I'm in it while I'm here, but as soon as I'm out, I'm out." Her expression darkened, just a little. "Not that Willow would have a great case for raising me from the dead, anyway." She blinked and looked away. "I always thought I knew what evil was, you know?"

    "Having been evil, and all." Xander was smiling.

    "Right. Like, I tried to kill Buffy, then I tried to be Buffy, then I slept with her boyfriend." She sigh. "How can anything I do in this fight even begin to make it right." She glanced at him. "Not to mention trying to kill you. Remember that?"

    His response was almost automatic. Xander had played this conversation out in his head more than once. There wasn't, he'd realised a long time ago, really anything else to say. "The what now? Trying to kill me? Nope, that's not ringing any bells."

    "Well, remember when I?" Faith broke off, getting it all of a sudden. "Wow." A pause. "Wow."

    She stood up, suddenly. "Really is the longest conversation ever, now." Some kind of throwaway line that spoke volumes, words she wouldn't say, words he thought he could read in the scars on her hands, her wrists.

    "Sure." She walked away, heading inside, maybe to the basement to bum a smoke from Spike. ?Born in a Basement, Died in a Basement'; the phrase flitted around his mind. Too bad for the basement, he thought. It would get neither of them.