Time Will Tell
written by Meg L.


Rating: FRM
Spoilers: Post-Chosen.
Summary: A Giles/Faith friendship tale.
Author's Notes: For the Giles ficathon, recipient is soundingsea. Oddly enough though, turned out to be much more Faith-centric. Oops. Hope you enjoy nonetheless. Requests: Mention of Wesley, no fluff, no character bashing, angst.
Feedback Author: Meg L.
Author's LJ: Learn How To Speak


Some nights she dreamt of suffocation. Dust everywhere, Sunnydale crashing down around her. Dust creeping into her lungs, down her throat, clogging her nostrils, grit in her eyes and against her teeth. In her dreams the dust tasted metallic, foreign, unnatural. She would go blind from the dust in her eyes, her hands would become weighty and lost in the haze, as if they were no longer a part of her body. In these dreams, she always died. Before fading into blackness and waking up in tangled sheets, however, she would always see Buffy. She would hear her own words, far away and beautiful in their simplicity: “You did it. You killed me.”

Then Faith would fall.

Cheap hotels not unlike the one she had called her home in Sunnydale. Threadbare sheets, cold water, mini-fridges. Robin would sleep fitfully next to her, occasionally calling out her own name, or his mother’s. Neither of them slept well, not that it was to be expected. She would dream of death and suffocation, and he would dream of vengeance and loneliness. She knew it wouldn’t work out. It didn’t bother her. It was a warm body to wake up next to after gasping for breath. He would never wake up for her nightmares, however, and she never made a move to sooth any of his. They never talked about it. Had they talked, things would have changed. And there was already enough of that to go around.

Two weeks on the road, and the group of them had become quiet. She had watched Xander break down mid-breakfast. She had heard Dawn’s wracking sobs when she had realized her mother’s grave was no longer there, and seen Buffy’s red eyes every morning when she pretended to read the paper.

The worst was Giles. Lost in this cross-country tour, he had been shuffled once again to the background. And while he would occasionally make noise about going back to England or about training, for the most part he was silent. More quiet than the rest. And while he certainly had never exactly competed for attention like the rest of them had, she knew something was up. The rest of them were to self-involved to notice. She resolved to say something to Giles soon. Of course, she was caught up in her own affairs, with Robin, holding him while he recited stories about his mother by rote. Hollow words that meant nothing to either of them. Faith was nothing if not a good actress.

She had her chance a few nights later, lost somewhere in a middle state. She never bothered to find out where they were, while Andrew and Robin argued over which highway to take she fell asleep to the rhythmic lullaby of a slightly flat tire. They had finally given up, booked up half a motel, and retreated to their separate rooms. But out here, the sky was so clear that she had gone for a walk while Robin had poured over his maps, spread across their barely-shared bed.

She found him at the picnic tables, decayed from summer sun and inclement weather. She wondered if the dust from Sunnydale had followed him as well, blocking his lungs like it did hers. She wondered if he had problems breathing at night like she did. She wondered who his nightmares were about, if it was Anya or Spike or someone who had been lost to him long ago.

“Nice night,” she ventured. Voice like a gunshot, cracked and shattering every bone in his body. He didn’t turn.

“Indeed.”

“You’ve been pretty quiet lately. No big prophecies you’ve been hiding from us?”

“No.”

Well, this was going just fabulously. The man was no help during this so-called conversation at all. “You sound like Oz or something tonight, man. Hell, that’s all you’ve sounded like. What’s up if there’s no imminent death or apocalypse headed our way?”

She earned an irritated sigh for that. “Look, I know I’m not Buffy or one of the other ones. But you know, no one’s about to pay attention to you. Let’s be honest. Buffy has to deal with Dawn, Xander’s crying into his oatmeal about Anya, and Willow’s got a tenuous grasp on reality only because she’s been having lots of sex. We’re all about to go crazy here. So I don’t see why you just can’t talk to me instead.” No one could ever tell her she wasn’t honest about things.

Nothing. She gave up on him talking and sat down next to him on the picnic bench. “Did I tell you about L.A? We got kinda distracted there, what with the fighting and all.” Nothing. Jesus, give this man an award for stoniness. “Did I tell you Angel rescued a puppy?” A snort. Finally, some headway. She pressed on. “Yeah. I took this stuff called Orpheus—”

“You took Orpheus?” His voice and face incredulous, he had finally stopped stargazing and swung his head to look at her.

“Yeah. Nasty shit. Wes gave it to me.”

“Wesley? What on Earth could he have hoped to accomplish?” He sounded flabbergasted. It’s not like it was so bad, she was obviously here and therefore still alive. Maybe the stuff was worse than she had thought.

“We had to beat Angelus. He bit me, but I had shot myself up. Then we went on a nice little journey through his crazy-assed head. Wicked strange. Boy’s done some strange stuff, let me tell you. But he saved a puppy. And had some really really bad hair. It was long and stringy, and oh god, the shirt he was wearing—”

“Faith. One moment. Wesley gave you Orpheus to defeat Angelus. Where did he acquire it?”

“Dealer, I guess. He’s got the contacts. Wes has changed, you know? Has this scar across his neck. He’s been fucked up, and pretty good. Better than the job I did on him. He’s…”

“Hardened.” Giles spoke with the voice of someone who had been there.

“More than that though – he stabbed this girl in the shoulder to get information out of her. Just, bam! Knife in the shoulder. She screamed, and he didn’t even blink an eye.” Silence from his end. “I can’t say that there wasn’t some part of me that didn’t appreciate it. He got the job done, you know? We got Angel back. And he still cared for me. There’s still a bit of Wes down in there, somewhere. But something fucked with his head all right. And whatever it was, I wouldn’t want to meet it..”

Silence. She thought of dust again, of what had poisoned Wesley. He had carried her, with her hands limp and her head lolling back. There was still a bit of the man that she had once known, that she had once tortured still lost beneath stubble and scar and sorrow. But this wasn’t the time to think about Wes, it was the time to help Giles.

“You can’t be worse off than he is.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure.” Head tucked into collar, glasses gone, he was a different man as well. He had tried to kill Spike. He had been suspected of being dead and the First in disguise. And the gang had barely blinked at his possible death. He had to still be reeling.

“You men. Thinking you’ve done horrible things, that you can’t be redeemed. Look at me. I killed. I tortured. And here I am, I’m still paying. I still dream of blood on my hands, a knife in my gut. I don’t see how you have anything to complain about. Yeah, you tried to off Spike. But you saw him as a threat. Maybe he could have been.”

“I suppose.” Slow agreement, hesitant and unsure, not in its entirety. “You do realize you know nothing about me.” He fingered a spot on his arm, through his coat. She watched him, his fingers rough and careless.

“Yeah. But I’ve seen it before. You’ve got some bullshit guilt you’ve been carrying around. How long ago was it? Whatever it was, you’ve probably paid for it. How many times have you helped save the world?”

“It’s—” They finished together.

“Never enough.”

She sighed. They had more in common than she’d like. She thought again of dust infecting her lungs. Her voice was raspy now, from cigarettes and screaming. From imagined dust filling up her lungs, blackening the insides until she coughed up her darkness. She looked back to the motel: yellow lights and shadows against the windows. Flickers of moth-like movement and clean air. Robin would still be in their room, tracing red and blue lines marked with numbers, trying to find his path. What if it had been Wesley in there instead? Diamond eyes and hard line of mouth, scar across his neck instead of across the stomach. Pale skin beneath her teeth instead of dark. He would show her bruises, flowering blue and black and fading to green. Robin had his own to worry about.

What if Giles was the one in her bed—lying broken in morning sun as his crooked fingers trailed along her skin? Would he worship her? Would he bruise her as much as she would bruise him? Would he leave scars?

She had to get back soon. Robin would miss her.

“One of these days, you’ll stop punishing yourself.”

Quirk of the mouth at the corner, lines bending and forming new maps. “Doubtful.”

Another pause, natural and stretching out into the night. “Think everything will work out?”

She could barely see his eyes in the dark: green overtaken by black. Pupils taking over in order to see. Xander had spoken of black eyes before, when Willow had gone crazy over the other witch. Xander had been reduced to a whisper, awe filled as he spoke of black eyes and black hair and black magicks. He had shown her his scars.

Always on the edge.

“I suppose time will tell.”

She nodded. “Yeah. Time will tell.” She sighed and stood. “Better be getting back. Robin—”

“Will be wondering where you are.”

“Right.”

She watched him, perched hands and dry eyes. He never quite looked at her, at her ear, at her neck, at her hands. He was older than she remembered, when she had called him young and desirable. When he had worn suspenders and stuttered, all nervous energy. This was a different man before her. Not quite as lost as Wesley, but following close behind. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. She had no idea who had said that, but she knew all to well how valid it was sometimes.

“You need to talk, you know where I am.” Tight smile and whispered thank you, but she knew Giles would never come to her. She knew Giles was closest to the edge of all them, even more so than Xander and Buffy, even more than she was. Worst of all, she knew that none of them could stop it, had the rest of them even bothered to notice. Only time would tell.

“Do you ever dream?”

He watched her lips, pursed and tight. He thought.

“I watch her jumping off the tower. She always screams. It’s the same every time: I run to her, but I’m too late. She’s on the ground, broken and twisted. The worst part is… The worst part is she has a smile on her face. She looks peaceful.”

“You hate it, don’t you? That she could be happier dead than alive?”

“I despise it. She takes the easy way out. And she abandons us all.”

“The worst part is, it’s not a dream.”

“No. It’s not.” His voice, far away and beautiful. His tears, unreal and silver-white.

Faith left Giles, small and indistinct against forest and stars, and headed back to the light and safety of the motel, of Robin’s arms and empty words, of dangerous thoughts concerning a broken man, and of dreams of suffocation.

END