Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and company.

Notes: Set post Season Seven but not comics-compliant.

The last time that she had seen Xander, things had been awkward. Words and actions had hung heavy in the air between them. Anya hadn't liked her at all, the jealousy had rolled off of the former demon in heavy enough waves that Faith could have been pulled underneath. She had been grateful that Anya was a human once again. Although she couldn't see why Anya had hated her for something that had happened in the past. Faith could have understood if it had been Willow who had still held onto her resentment from the past, but the redhead had moved past it.

Now Sunnydale is nothing more than a crater that regularly gets featured on those late night conspiracy radio programs. Buffy's faithful little group is scattered around the globe trying to handle all of the Slayers that Willow's spell activated, while trying to keep the darkness at bay. It's an on-going struggle but for Faith it's one that she welcomes. It helps her find redemption.

Strangely enough she rarely comes into contact with the new Watchers' Council aside from her once-weekly phone calls. Each time she talks to Giles and they discuss where she is, what she's done, if she's come across any Slayers and the like. This time it's different he tells her that Xander needs her help in Africa. So Faith packs up her few belongings, locks up her weapons and bikes in a storage locker that Giles' credit card is covering the cost of, and she gets on a plane.

It's odd that it's her first time flying. By the time the plane lands, Faith is numb and is relieved to see Xander waiting for her at the airport. She's surprised when he pulls her into an affectionate hug and for a moment she can't help but think that there's something wrong with him.

"It's nice to see someone from Sunnydale," Xander explains.

He has enough tact not to mention the fact that she came close to killing him once. And she's just grateful to be off the plane and with someone who knows the lay of the land. They fall into a companionable silence as she follows him through the airport and to the beat up Range Rover he has waiting outside. She had thought that California was hot but the heat hear is overwhelming. Xander smirks at her before he picks up her bags and puts them in the back.

"So Giles didn't really get into why I was needed," Faith says as he starts up the engine.

"He's been rather quiet as of late, hasn't he?"

"Yeah so why am I here without any weapons?" Faith spits out, impatient to find out what was so life threatening.

"We've come across a major nest," Xander tells her.

She can tell that he doesn't want to tell her with how his grip on the steering wheel tightens to the point that his knuckles are turning white.

"Xander, just tell me," Faith says.

"My Slayers found a nest. I'd thought it was a regular vampire nest but apparently it wasn't," Xander says. "You have to realize that I wanted Buffy here. No offense or anything, it's just that I thought it'd be easier on her than you."

"What would be easier on me?"

Faith grits her teeth and expects the worse.

"Apparently the Mayor wasn't the only one who wanted to, uh, ascend," Xander finally spits out.

"Fuck."

"Yeah pretty much."

"Why me?"

"Buffy thought it'd be better if you came here because you'd have more inside knowledge."

Faith doesn't say anything, instead she folds her arms over her chest and stonily stares out at the scenery. No matter what she does, she'll never be good enough for Buffy Summers, she'll never be able to make amends for what she did wrong. The more she thinks about it, the more she wonders why Buffy would trust her enough to send her to Africa. No doubt the blonde Slayer was too busy trying to figure out her love life than to take a threat like this seriously.

"Look I know my opinion isn't worth much to you but I am glad you're here. I had wanted Buffy because I thought that maybe this might be a little too personal for you but when it comes down to it, I'd rather have you at my back than anyone else."

"What else aren't you telling me?"

Xander sighs. "The only name I've been able to discover connected with the person behind this is Richard Wilkins."

"The Mayor's dead," Faith emotionlessly says.

She's still not sure how she feels about the Mayor, even after all these years.

"Yeah I know, I stepped on his crispy remains, trust me I know."

Faith bites her tongue from telling him to show a little more respect for the dead. If this is all a set up by Buffy to test her true loyalties, the last thing she needs to have going back to Buffy is the fact that Faith feels any sentiment for the Mayor.

"Sorry about that," Xander says. "I know that whatever he was, he was kind of like a dad to you, wasn't he?"

"That's in the past."

"Look Faith, I am not Buffy. I am glad that we stopped the bastard before he could destroy the whole world and all but I know that he meant something to you."

That's when she remembers that Willow had told her about how Anya had reverted back to being a demon when she and Xander had hit a rough patch. It makes sense to her that Xander probably understands her more than anyone else, since he had probably loved her regardless of what she had done.

"I am pretty sure that it's not the Mayor, that it's probably just some wannabe sorcerer thinking that if they assume his name and identity they'll be looked at some sort of badass."

"So why do you need me then?"

"Giles thought that in case it was actually the Mayor, it might be best if he thinks that you're switching sides again."

"No," Faith says. "No fucking way."

"Good, we're agreed then," Xander tells her.

"What?"

"I am pretty sure that it's not the Mayor and even if it is, I am not sending you into danger like that. I want your inside knowledge to tell me what to expect, to know how we can bring the bastard down before he ascends. I want you to be my partner, not the person I send into danger while I sit and drink tea."

"Isn't that going against the Watcher code of ethics or something?"

"I've never been officially a Watcher," Xander tells her with a smirk. "We're going to bring this bastard down together, whether it's the Mayor or not."

For the first time since Sunnydale, Faith feels like she's on a real team. She's not just being assigned to do the dirty work that no one else wants to do. She looks over at him and flashes a smile at him. They can figure out what's happening and hopefully they'll find someone trying to desperately live up to the Mayor's reputation. And maybe if they work well together, Faith might find herself staying in Africa for a while.

((END))