Notes and disclaimers: Not mine, Mutant Enemy's, et al. Not for profit ever. Thanks to Missi and Tigs. Title from Kristin Hersh.



THAT'S YOUR BOY BREATHING




Faith is smoking on the bed. "Try not to set the bed on fire," Gunn says and goes to shower. Hotel bathrooms are the world's most boring rooms. In the world and possibly all dimensions. Not like Gunn ever saw a hotel bathroom in Pylea or even a hotel, but he's willing to assume. They're always small and plain and full of nobody. Even after Faith's come in, left her shit everywhere and apparently spilled the hotel conditioner in the shower. At least it smells good.

When he comes out, she's watching TV, still smoking and now she's naked. "Am I setting the bed on fire yet?" She smirks as she says it and crosses her legs.

Gunn really loves being a new-style Watcher some days. Do what works for the Slayer you're working with, they told him. He smiles and gets in bed.

*

Faith has her feet up, boots nearly hanging out of the window. "Like a dog panting," Gunn says.

"I'm not the dog here, Chuck." She grins and wiggles her boots. "You don't let me drive, what the hell else am I supposed to do?"

"Maybe not get your feet sheared off by the next Mack truck."

"Okay, Dad." She pulls her feet in and puts her boots against the dashboard. "Is this better?"

"Much," he says and ignores the mud she's getting all over his truck. His own damn fault, after all.

Then the phone rings. He reaches for the stupid headset thing at the same time as Faith grabs it and puts it on his ear.

"Gunn here." And just like he expected, it's his asshole bosses. Thankfully, the ones he really hates don't even bother trying to call anymore. Instead, he gets Andrew. Gunn grunts in the right places, wishes for a pen and then, thankfully, it's over. "We got a new assignment."

"Duh." Faith takes off the headset and gets his Palm Pilot out of his bag. "Give me the deets."

"Please don't touch my Palm Pilot. Ever." He takes it out of her hands and pulls over to the side of the road at the same time.

He tells her as he jots down the notes. "We gotta get a ring from a guy."

"Those are some details, wow. Don't make me remember too much here, Watcher man." She's barely pissed, he thinks. It's the way they run things.

*

They have to drive through Los Angeles. Gunn thinks for two seconds about skirting, taking the long way around to Delano, but there's no point in being stupid. By the time they get to the city limits, it's dark. Faith says, "I hate this fucking town." She's sitting with her arms crossed, back straight and poised like there's going to be a fight.

"I don't," Gunn says. "Can't hate home, can you?"

"I do. I hate this fucking town. I hate fucking Boston."

"Fine, you can hate home. Los Angeles never did nothing to me. It was the people. And the non-people." He can almost smile there.

As wound up as she was, Faith falls asleep an hour later. She wakes up when he stops the truck, looks around and for once, shuts up. At least until they get to the graves. Then she says, "Weird, isn't it? Vampires and crazy demons walk into an alley, only good old ordinary you walks out."

Gunn doesn't want to talk about it. He had his debriefings from the Council guys, Giles leaning over him like he hadn't told Angel three months earlier that Fred didn't deserve a message to Willow because they were working for Wolfram & Hart. Like the Slayers hadn't only swooped in when the demons were after the city. Like he could just be the guy in charge and Gunn wouldn't care. Like any of them ever gave a shit. He closes his eyes. It's all done now. The date on Wesley's tombstone is two years ago and Wesley wouldn't still be giving a damn. Well, he would be, but he'd be focused on whatever was in front of him. Wesley would be doing this job, and he can't, so Gunn is. The mission, he thinks. These are the people doing it; they're the ones fighting the bad guys now.

Faith puts flowers on Wesley's grave, and then Cordelia's and Fred's. He says, "Where'd you get those?"

"Took 'em from over there." She shrugs. "What?"

"Nothing."

He takes a moment. Then they drive on to Delano.

*

"This town looks fun," Faith says. "Smaller than Sunnydale, broke ass, and full of demons."

"Not full of demons. Just three or four. And we don't give a damn about them. We just want the ring."

"We're not killing anything?"

"Not unless we have to. We'll go find some vampires later, I promise."

"Ha ha. Why aren't we killing the demons?" She pokes his thigh enough to hurt and he nearly hits the brakes too hard.

"Cause they aren't really evil demons. They're just a little bit evil and most of the killing they do is other demons. They contacted someone who contacted Andrew about how they found some ring of power. Which we don't have to take to Mordor, but we do have to destroy it."

"Where's Mordor?"

"I made you watch those movies fifteen times, Faith." He grins.

"Where's the demons we're being all nice to? Maybe it's a trap."

"Could be. I don't think so. These are Ocnethuth; they're not down with traps. They tend to settle down and play it quiet."

Faith says, "Are you sure? No, wait, you totally are. Using your demon law knowledge, huh?"

"Actually, these particular Ocnethuth were clients, back in the day. Trying to get out of some parking tickets. So I don't need to."

Faith just shrugs. Faith's the one who wouldn't cross the street and clutch her purse when the big bad Evil Lawyer guy walks towards her.

The Ocnethuth have a grey house with the blinds all drawn. Faith taps the fence and says, "Beware of dog. Do they actually have a dog?"

Gunn says, "I don't hear any barking."

"We don't want it," the biggest Ocnethuth says. He holds out the ring in a lead box with one of his eight hands. The other seven are behind its massive back. "The sapphire's cursed. I can read those carvings."

"Pretty," Faith says, peeking at the ring. "Cursed how?"

"The usual," the smallest Ocnethuth says. "Confers great power, corrupts the mind, makes your genitals rot. And very bad body odor."

Faith steps back. "Rot? It only does that if you put it on, right?"

"Yeah," the Ocnethuth says as he closes the box. "You gotta put it on. Come on, take it."

Gunn pockets the box. "Got it. You need anything else from us?"

"You still get parking tickets taken care of? Our spawn can't read a damn sign to save his life."

"Sorry, new boss can't swing it anymore." Gunn says and then they leave. Neither of them sees a dog.

*

Faith insists on getting a drink at some bar playing shitkicking music. She doesn't have to insist very hard. "We'll destroy the ring in the morning," she says, leaning back against the bar. "Can we do it from far away? Because, man, crotch rot. Ugh."

"Yeah, you can stand far away. Shouldn't be a problem." Gunn's already reviewed the procedure, it's nothing fancy.

Faith gets drunk which takes some doing with the Slayer thing and her built up tolerance. She doesn't do it often. And she usually doesn't start dancing up the toughest looking guy. It'd be a lap dance, but strippers don't let you touch that much.

So Gunn takes a deep breath and walks over. "You ready to go?"

She pushes off the guy and gets up close to Gunn. She smells like Wes did after Illyria. "Do I look like I'm ready to go?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

She laughs. Then she turns and pats the chest of her tough guy. "See ya," she says and in one quick move, grabs Gunn's hand and starts walking. "Someone was being all alpha male tonight. Jealous," she practically sings. She even wiggles her hips like it's hot.

"What's the deal here, Faith?" Thanks to Willow, he remembers in stereo now and in both versions he sees himself hitting Wesley and then Fred by accident.

"What, you're my fucking husband now? I don't get to have fun once in a while?" She lets go of his hand and shoves him at the same time. She's drunk enough it doesn't even hurt.

"Yeah, that makes sense. This is fun, your every fucking day isn't fun at all. That how you define it?"

Faith stops walking. "Why are we even fighting about this? I just danced with some guy. I left with you. That's more than I usually did with guys."

"I don't want you playing me. Trying to make me jealous."

"I wasn't," she says.

"Sounds like you're lying."

She starts walking again. "So what? So fucking what."

"I don't like it, that's so fucking what." He walks right beside her.

"Wow, let me keep a little list of what Gunn likes and doesn't like so we can have a picture perfect relationship. I'll do that right now."

"How exactly do you picture this, Faith? Our relationship?" Like they've actually called it that.

She walks faster. "I like the kind we don't fucking talk about it, we just do it."

"Yeah, we've had that for a year now, maybe you can spare a minute here." A whole year, it's probably a record for her. Not for him, but just barely.

She deliberately looks at his watch. "Start."

"Fuck off."

"Fine." They walk back to the hotel without talking at all.

*

In the morning, Faith bangs around the room until she's sure he's awake. Then she says, "Maybe I get a new Watcher."

He says, "Go ahead."

"I hope your dick rots off."

"Yours, too," he mutters and goes back to sleep.

*

She's still there when he wakes up. He sits up and says, "Good morning. How'd you sleep?"

Faith stares at him and doesn't move from her chair. She's pretending to read. Hell, maybe she is reading. "How's the book?"

She puts it down. "Shitty. Are you still pissed off?"

He shrugs. "Are you?"

"A little."

"Still planning to get a new Watcher?"

"You'd be fucked then, wouldn't you?" She stretches and crosses her arms over her chest. "I don't know. We work together pretty well."

"We do lots of things pretty well." Gunn gets out of bed. "We have to destroy that ring at noon. It's a drive to the right place. You up for that?"

She takes a moment to think, but she says "Yeah" eventually.

An hour out of town, Faith says, "What were we arguing about anyway?"

"You being a bitch. Me being stupid."

"You're definitely stupid." She smiles. "I told you this works better when we don't talk."

"We talk all the time." He looks over at her, smiling in the sun, alive. "We have good talks."

"If that's what you want to call it." She looks out the window. "I wouldn't want any other Watcher. Besides you."

"I wouldn't want any other Slayer."

"So that's settled. Right? This is about to start getting a little Dr. Phil for me."

Gunn nearly laughs. "Yeah, you and me are the definition of Dr. Phil."

They manage to destroy the ring with no genitals rotting.

"Good enough," Gunn says.

"Flip a coin," Faith says, "figure out where to go next. Left or right."

THE END

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