Author: Lizbeth Marcs
Spoilers: Up to the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel
Website: My Page on Fan Fiction Index
Meet the Culprits
Name: Alexander Lavelle Harris ( aka Xander)
Place of birth: Sunnydale, CA
Parents: Tony and Jessica Harris
Age: 22 or 23
Distinguishing Features: 5’11”, brown hair, and hazel eyes. Make that “eye,” singular, post mid-S7. Canonically, Xander wears an eye patch over his left eye after it was destroyed by the First Evil’s “general,” Caleb. Fanon conceit is split between Xander keeping the patch, replacing the patch with a glass eye, or Willow “magicing up” a new eye for him.
Occupation: Following high school he drifted through several dead-end jobs, almost all of which required him to wear a goofy uniform, a paper hat, and a nametag. Stumbled into construction work mid-S4 and ended up winning a permanent construction position at the beginning of S5 in The Replacement. He was promoted to construction foreman by S6’s Life Serial. Post S4, Xander has shown a natural aptitude for working with wood, despite the fact that he didn’t go through the usual apprenticeship track that occurs in the building trades. After the destruction of Sunnydale, he took a job working for Watcher’s Council headquartered in London. As of AtS S5’s Damage, he was stationed in Africa to seek out newly activated Slayers for the newly reconstituted Watcher’s Council.
Fighting Skills: Xander’s fighting skills (like every other character in BtVS) tended to fluctuate depending on what the story demanded. However, some things have remained consistent. He is good with distance weapons and we have seen him use tranquilizer guns and compound bows to good effect even after he lost his solider memories. He did have an “instinct” for military weapons thanks to his “soldier” persona from S2’s Halloween up to as late as mid-S4. During S4, he had a stash of guns and ammo in his basement abode, even though the soldier memories were starting to fade by that time. Even so, without the soldier memories, he was able to handle an automatic weapon at the end of S4.
Hand-to-hand is a dicey proposition. When armed with a sword or (more usually) an axe, he can hold his ground against opponents stronger than him when fighting as part of a group action. He is also able to continue fighting despite serious injuries (twice with broken wrist), when backed into a corner and desperate. One-on-one without weapons, Xander will come out the worse for it, especially since he generally fights opponents who are much stronger than he is. In the few times we’ve seen Xander throw a right cross at a human in S2’s Go Fish and S6’s Entropy, it seems clear that Xander could seriously hurt a normal human like himself. Generally, his greatest asset in a fight is quick wit, a certain amount of street smarts, and the ability to bluff. However, even that can only get him so far with the odds stacked against him when facing off against stronger opponents.
Leadership Skills: His leadership skills are present during the series, even if he doesn’t often take the lead. During Buffy’s absence at the beginning of S3, he was shown to be taking some leadership role in fighting vampires and actually led the students’ armed revolt in S3’s Graduation Day Part II. He also is able to take initiative and make snap decisions, as in the case of S2’s Becoming Part II with the infamous “lie” and S3’s Go Fish. He can intuitively find solutions to problems, as when he figures out Ted is a serial killer in S2’s Ted, steals a rocket launcher for Buffy to use against the Judge in S2’s Innocence, figures out that the demons are sacrificing themselves to blow open the Hellmouth in S4’s Doomed, suggests the Scoobs merge their abilities in S4’s Primeval, is the first one to suggest they kill Ben during S5’s The Gift, and figures out that Spike’s being “triggered” by the First Evil in S7’s Never Leave Me.
In addition, he has the ability to “inspire” people around him to do their best or can diffuse a situation by finding the right words to say, as shown in S4’s The Freshman; S5’s The Replacement, Into the Woods, and I Was Made to Love You; S6’s Grave; and S7’s Beneath You, Potential, and Dirty Girls. That same “inspire” ability has its dark side, since Xander will verbally strip the skin off someone’s back when angry, as in the case of S1’s Prophecy Girl (to Angel and Giles); S2’s Becoming Part I; S3’s Dead Man’s Party, Revelations, and Graduation Day Part II; S4’s The Yoko Factor; S6’s Entropy; or S7’s Selfless and Empty Places. However, he utterly loses this verbal ability when it comes to expressing his feelings or talking about who he fundamentally is.
Background: Next to Rupert Giles, we know the least (canonically speaking) about Xander in the regular cast. We do know he was born in Sunnydale and that he has known Willow Rosenberg since they were toddlers. We also know that he was just about to turn 16 or had just turned 16 when Buffy Summers came to town and that he, along with Willow and Jesse, was part of a troika of outcasts. He was very quickly pulled into Buffy’s world when Luke and Darla attempted to lure Willow and Jesse to the Master and he followed Buffy as she made her rescue attempt for both his friends. Although Willow was saved, Jesse was turned to serve as bait to lure Buffy into the Master’s lair. In the end, despite Giles’s and Buffy’s protests, both Willow and Xander insisted on helping, at first to try and rescue their missing friend, later out of loyalty to their new friend, the Slayer.
Jesse’s short career as a vampire was ended when Xander made his first “kill” by staking his former best male friend in the Bronze in S1’s The Harvest, although the staking in question was a pure accident. Since that time, Xander has never wavered from the idea that vampires equal bad. Even vampiric allies Angel and Spike remained fixed in his mind as creatures not to be entirely trusted, regardless of their souled status.
Xander’s home life unfolded slowly in the background throughout the series. There are multiple references early on that his family was probably hanging on to middle class by a thread. At first, he was presented as a neglected only child. We don’t learn until S3’s Amends that alcoholism is a significant feature of his home life. Additional details are built into the background, such as the fact that his parents tend to get drunk and have violent fights on holidays and special occasions and that (at the very least) verbal abuse was a fairly normal occurrence. In S5’s Restless, we see that one of Xander’s key fears is turning into his father (“That’s not the way out”) and that he hates and fears his father to the point that he views him in his dream as a hulking, angry, brute who’d kill his son. The Restless vision is interestingly somewhat different from the reality we see in S6’s Hell’s Bells where Tony is a brutish, angry, bully who is also seemingly impotent in his rage.
During the year after high school, his parents were a large part of his directionless misery. They forced their only son to pay rent on space in the basement (as opposed to at least letting him get his own room back) and pay for the privilege of raiding his parents’ fridge. It’s hardly any wonder that Xander holds his birth family in very low regard to the point that he’d rather hug Willow’s mom than his own after Joyce dies in S5. During S6, he finally comes out and calls his family “monsters” on multiple occasions. His unhappy family background finally explodes in his face during S6’s Hell’s Bells. Confronted with his nightmare scenario—where he becomes his father and Anya becomes his mother—Xander flees and leaves Anya at the altar. Instead of explaining what he saw in his visions, he merely takes the blame on himself, even though coming clean about the visions might have gotten him at least some sympathy.
Love Life: It’s this general background that makes Xander’s romantic choices interesting. He’s drawn to women who either have power or have the potential to be powerful. Xander is consistently attracted to women who are deadly and, more often than not, can kick his ass in the bargain. This pattern is laid down right at the beginning with his immediate attraction to Buffy. His “Slay-dar” also fires when he meets Kendra and Faith. Interestingly enough, when Kendra refuses to meet his eyes, backs away, and goes into “subservient mode” when they first meet in S2’s What’s My Line Part 1 (she explains to Buffy that it’s because she’s not allowed to talk to boys), he immediately loses interest.
In the realm of canon relationships, Cordelia and Xander are actually portrayed as the most “equal.” They both give as good as they get verbally and have a long-standing dislike of each other before getting involved. However, in the high school world Cordelia is the one who has the power. She’s the wealthy, popular, beautiful cheerleader who’s dated all the “cool kids” in the school. When their relationship begins, Cordelia is the one who actually takes the lead in hiding it (courtesy of closet kissing) and it isn’t until Willow accidentally discovers the two of them kissing that the relationship becomes public. After the relationship is out in the open, Cordelia slowly loses her standing as Queen C of the high school. By the time she (justifiably) breaks it off, her former followers and the high-powered jocks she used to date have relegated her to the same bin as the other Scoobs.
Early in the series, the Xander and Willow relationship was portrayed as a lop-sided affair. Xander saw Willow strictly as a friend while Willow held on to romantic notions. There is a near-kissing incident in S2 opener When She Was Bad, but at Xander’s end the attraction disappears almost as soon as the kiss is aborted. It isn’t until after Willow is dating Oz and starts building her own power as a witch that Xander realizes that he’s in love with her during S2’s Becoming Part 1. He doesn’t act on that attraction until S3’s Homecoming when he and Willow kiss while he restores her confidence in her ability to slow dance. The clandestine relationship unravels in S3’s Lovers Walk. It starts when Xander realizes that Willow plans to cast a spell on the two of them to “keep their hormones in check” without first consulting him. The final axe comes down when Oz and Cordelia catch the two of them kissing in the abandoned factory where Spike had trapped them. Once Oz and Willow reconcile, Willow makes it very clear that she wants Xander to keep his distance, which he does.
Xander had his longest and most significant relationship with Aud/Anyanka/Anya, the ex-vengeance demon. In her own way, Anya is powerful. She is significantly older than he is by about 1,200 years, has a blood-soaked demonic past, and has some aptitude for magic (if rarely used). Yet, because Anya is stripped of her powers when they become involved, in many ways she’s not as powerful as your average 20th century woman given that she has to learn how to be human all over again. Anya puts forward a shell of toughness, thanks to her forthrightness and her unwillingness to keep her mouth in her pocket, but at the same time she is rather vulnerable underneath the façade and seems to be easily wounded by the people around her, even if she covers it up by using bluster as a weapon. Anya is the more sexually “open” of the pair and it’s a pretty good supposition that she’s also the more sexually experienced. Like all the characters in S6, both Xander and Anya lost their bearings as their lives spun out of control. Anya began forcing herself into a role that didn’t fit: that of devoted fiancé and woman who got “her man” following their engagement in S5’s The Gift. Xander suffered cold feet (we could easily guess) almost right after he proposed. He delayed announcing the engagement to his friends and engaged in petty bickering with his significant other up to the wedding day. When Xander left Anya at the altar, she immediately returned to her vengeance demon roots where, following the great tradition of “all the women in Xander’s life eventually try to kill him,” she attempted to have him murdered (or at least put in a world of hurt) by trying to get all his friends to make a wish. It wasn’t until S7’s Storyteller that Xander and Anya reach some sort of mutual understanding (as well as the joy of experiencing some orgasms together). That understanding could have resulted in an eventual reconciliation. However, Anya died when Sunnydale was destroyed in S7's Chosen.
Other mis-steps in Xander’s romantic hall of fame includes: a preying mantis lady who only wants him for his virginity in S1’s Teacher’s Pet; the Inca Mummy Girl in the S2 episode with the same name; the entire freakin’ female population (both alive and undead) in town who turn homicidal on his ass thanks to a love spell gone awry S2’s Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered; and a demon needing a human sacrifice in S7’s First Date.
Sitting in this mix is Faith, the woman who popped his cherry in S3’s The Zeppo, and one of two people with whom Xander’s ever had sex with. She basically hits all of Xander’s hot buttons: Slayer, can kick his ass, has tried to kill him, and a bloody history. She also, has a vulnerability beneath the façade that’s strikingly similar to Anya’s. More importantly, she also comes from an unhappy family background that’s similar to Xander’s and has the same tendency as he does to dismiss it with telling, passing statements.
It’s in Xander’s interactions with Faith and Anya that we get some insight into his sexual life. Whenever we see him engaged in sex with either woman, they are both on top. While we can probably guess Xander’s first time was not his best, going by Anya’s numerous comments through the series, we get the idea that Xander’s sexual proclivities are anything but vanilla (references to spanking, sexy bathing, use of chains, public sex, making use of a gymnastic horse for fun and games). Anya also insists that Xander is a “Viking in the sack.” Since she’s got 1,200 years of experience, she probably knows what she’s talking about.
Name: Faith (no last canon name)
Place of Birth: Greater Boston Area (more on this below)
Parents: Unknown. We only hear about her mother in passing.
Age: Unknown. A good guesstimate is 21 or 22 since she was of legal drinking age near the end of S7.
Distinguishing Features: 5’5”, long brown hair, brown eyes, tribal tattoo encircling her upper right arm. Common fanon conceit is that she carries a scar on her lower stomach as a result of her coma-inducing knife fight with Buffy in S3’s Graduation Day Part I.
Occupation: Slayer. Former guest of the State of California correctional system. She escaped from prison during AtS S4’s Salvage and was certainly a wanted criminal up to the end of S7 BtVS. Her wanted status is currently unknown, although a common fanon sentiment is that either Angel, in his position as head of Wolfram & Hart, or the new Watcher’s Council has done something to rectify the situation. Current whereabouts are unknown.
Fighting Skills: The full Slayer package, which includes superior speed, strength, balance, and flexibility as well as accelerated healing. Innate expertise at all fighting styles and weapons. Tends to have a more flamboyant fighting style than Buffy and has been known to go into “beat down” on vampires and other demons during a fight when a quick staking would settle the issue. Has the ability to think quickly on her feet to stay alive when outmatched, but also has shown a tendency to be reckless during the heat of battle.
Leadership Skills: In S4’s AtS and S7’s BtVS, Faith showed good leadership skills. She’s able to win over and lead Angel’s group as well as hatch a plan to retrieve Angel from Angelus in AtS S4’s Salvage and Release. She also showed (I would argue) better leadership skills than Buffy’s S7 incarnation in Empty Places, Touched, and End of Days. She took the time to learn the Potentials’ names, she didn’t physically attack Buffy even when provoked, and had worked out a solid plan to find out what the First Evil was hiding. If the First Evil wasn’t so focused on getting Buffy alone at the Vineyard (or my meta explanation: if Faith’s name was in the series title), her plan would’ve worked.
General Background: Faith says that she’s from Boston, but a passing reference to Mayor Wilkins during S3 about her days taking high dives into quarries puts lie to the idea that she’s from Boston proper. Speaking as a Bostonian myself, it’s common practice for people as far west as the New York-Massachusetts state line to say they’re “from Boston” when dealing with people from out of state. To keep her a true-blue Bostonian, and keeping in mind that she swam in quarries as a kid, there are several likely suspect hometowns for Faith: the town of Rockport or the city of Gloucester, both located on Cape Ann, or Quincy, located just to the south of Boston. All three communities are easily accessible to Boston via commuter rail or subway (the locals call it “the T,” short for MBTA or Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority). Gloucester and Quincy are especially attractive “hometowns” for Faith since they are both working class cities with a reputation for a high crime rate. In fact, Gloucester was once known as the heroin capital of the United States, thanks to smuggling activities among the fishermen that call Gloucester’s port their home.
If we opt for Boston proper, Southie (a working class, crime-ridden, very Irish neighborhood) or East Boston (a working class, crime-ridden, very Italian area in the shadow of Logan Airport) are also likely suspects. Both would be easily accessible to the quarries in Quincy via the T or the Southeast Expressway (aka Interstate 93 south of Boston), if Faith and peers were boosting cars for joyrides on hot summer days.
Given that Faith’s canon last name is not known, keep in mind that the Greater Boston Area is home to an awful lot of ethnicities ranging from Cape Verde to French Canadian. A common fanon conceit is that she’s Irish, as a nod to the stereotypical Boston Irish, although most Bostonians would dismiss the idea out of hand since she doesn’t have the right accent or look and act the part. Faith’s name could be anything from Smith to Polanski to Perrone and until something canon comes out and states it, you could be right.
Faith makes no mention of a father and her few statements about her mother are uniformly negative. She mentions in passing that her mother was an alcoholic with a sharp tongue, but that’s about all. Despite fanon conceit, there is no canon evidence that Faith was physically or sexually abused, although I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that people took advantage of her sexually prior to her being Called.
She seems to have trusted and liked her Watcher. Although we don’t know the name of Faith’s first Watcher, we do know is that she was female and was murdered in a gruesome manner by Kakistos in front of Faith’s eyes. In S3’s Faith, Hope, and Trick, we discover that she came to Sunnydale because she was on the run from Kakistos and his minions. Although she might’ve come to town to ask for help, her immediate response is to run when she finds out that Kakistos has followed her. With help from Buffy, she is finally able to kill the vampire who murdered her Watcher. Despite the fact that Faith is very much on her own and is holed up in a sleazy hotel, neither Giles or any of the Scoobs try to find better housing for her or offer to lend a hand beyond Slaying duties. Joyce is the one who offers the most help by having Faith over for dinner and inviting the younger Slayer into her home at Christmas.
One thing that is readily apparent is that Faith, for all her standoffishness from the Sunnydale Scoobs, has a strong desire for trustworthy adult figures on whom she can rely to be loyal to her. This desire first appears in S3’s Revelations, an episode that ironically enough that illustrates that both Xander and Faith react in similar ways when they believe their trust has been betrayed and that their feelings of betrayal are being cavalierly dismissed. When Revelations begins, Faith is starting to open up to Buffy (in a limited way) by asking questions about Angel and talking about her “loser” dating past. She latches on to the veddy, veddy English Gwendolyn Post, who promises Faith a mixture of “tough love” and her undivided attention and support. During the episode, she finds out that the Scoobs had a “secret meeting” without her, putting lie to the idea that she was as “in” as she thought with Buffy’s friends. She confronts Xander about while he angrily plays solo pool at the Bronze and he tells her that Buffy was lying to everyone about Angel being dead. Faith is furious that Buffy lied right to her face about Angel and she willingly takes Xander along when she decides to kill Angel. She’s angry enough that she ignores Xander when he tries to hold her back after they find an injured Giles. She is further betrayed by Gwendolyn Post when she finds out that her “Watcher” has been tossed from the Council and that she’d been played for a fool. The whole episode marks the end of Faith attempts to reach out to the Scoobs.
This need for a trusting relationship is most fully expressed in Faith’s father-daughter like relationship with Mayor Wilkins in S3. When she offers her services to him at the end of S3’s Consequences, she’s at a low point. She’s just killed a man; realized that none of the Scoobs believe her lie that Buffy was the actual culprit; has attempted to kill Xander; was temporarily captured by Angel; and had a Council wet works team try to kidnap her. In short, she feels betrayed at every turn. When it becomes clear to her that Wilkins views her as the “number one Slayer” and that he cares for her without demanding sexual favors in return, he wins Faith’s undying loyalty. Even as late as S7’s Touched, the First disguised Mayor Wilkins is still able to get to her, using all the flattering endearments the real Wilkins did. The key is to the relationship is this: Wilkins’s affection for Faith was real to the point that, even in demon form, she remained his Achilles’ heel. Faith’s affection for Wilkins was equally real, since she altered her behavior to please and help him.
Faith’s story is interrupted in S3 when she falls into a coma after a fight with Buffy during Graduation Day Part I. She comes out of it during S4’s This Year’s Girl and, after trying and failing to steal Buffy’s life through a body-switching device, escapes Sunnydale and heads for L.A. Her downward spiral was interrupted by Angel when he’s able to reach her in a way that Xander couldn’t. Part of what stood in Xander’s way was their previous sexual encounter and Faith’s belief that Xander would stand by Buffy before he’d help her. Angel, on the other hand, was able to initially make progress in S3’s Consequences because of their shared experience in taking innocent human life. He was finally able to “save” her when she showed up on his doorstep in AtS S1’s Sanctuary by helping her through the guilt and her confused emotions about the her time in Sunnydale and because he chose to help her instead of follow Buffy’s wishes. Although Faith was the one who ultimately turned herself in over to human law as penance for her past misdeeds, Angel’s help earned her loyalty to the extent that she broke out of prison in AtS S4’s Salvage when Wes came to her and said Angel needed help. In the run of episodes between AtS’s Salvage and Orpheus she fought to capture Angelus alive. Failing that, she risked her own life by taking the Orpheus drug and fooling Angelus into biting her, resulting in a tour through the darkest recesses of Angel’s mind. Thanks to her help (aided by Willow’s re-souling spell), Angel was able to beat Angelus and reclaim his rightful place with soul intact.
Willow brought her back to Sunnydale in S7’s Bad Girls and she is immediately pulled into Buffy’s war against the First Evil. She was temporarily put in charge of the Scoobs and the Potentials when “the troops”pushed to the edge by Buffy’s autocratic ways, endless speeches, and poor tactics that resulted in several of their number being killed and Xander’s maimingrevolted and removed Buffy from command. Despite her solid planning and sound leadership, Faith is nearly killed when she and her team of Potentials are lured into a trap. She gives the leadership back to Buffy when the other Slayer returns with the Slayer’s Scythe. During her time in charge, she becomes involved with Robin Wood, the son of Slayer Nikki Wood, in S7’s Touched.
Love Life: Prior to her incarceration, Faith was shown to revel in her own sexuality. She tended towards one-night stands and had little interest in something more intimate than “skin on skin.” Given that Faith was 17 (at the oldest) when she first showed up in Sunnydale, and going by her conversation about her dating history with Buffy in S3’s Revelations and sexually charged talk with Spike in S7’s Dirty Girls, we can safely assume that she became sexually active at a young age. Also going by her talk with Spike in Dirty Girls, as well as stray comments in other episodes, she tended toward the kinky side of sex, including role-playing and BDSM without safety words.
Prior to her incarceration, she is shown to take the lead in sexual matters. She seduces Xander by practically throwing him down on the bed in S3’s The Zeppo, attempts to seduce Angel in S3’s Enemies, prick-teases Spike and seduces Riley (using Buffy’s face) in S4’s Who Are You?, and cuts a swath across L.A. in during AtS S1’s Five by Five.
After her incarceration, Faith seems to shy away from physical contact with men she respects, as shown in AtS S4’s Orpheus when she passes on the hugs from Angel, Wes, and Gunn, even thought she acts as if she considers them friends.
After she returns to Sunnydale, she becomes sexually involved with Robin Wood in S7’s Touched. What’s interesting is that Robin plays the same card that many people have before: by playing up her importance in the general order of things and making it clear that he thinks she’s “the better Slayer.” Like Wilkins, Robin means what he says to Faith. Unlike Wilkins, he enters into a sexual relationship with Faith almost immediately. The problem here is that Robin Wood in previous episodes has shown himself to be somewhat obsessed with his mother, Nikki Wood, a Slayer who taught him that “the mission” comes before everything, and is possibly obsessed with Slayers in general. For example, he initially flirted with Buffy before finally asking her out in S7’s First Date, but any insipient feelings he may have felt for Buffy was killed when he found out that she not only was allied with a vampire, but that this same vampire killed his mother. Robin’s conversation with Spike in S7’s Lies My Parents Told Me also showed that he was somewhat mother-obsessed, something which may color his attraction to Buffy and Faith (it comes in shades of Freud, baby!). While understandable, it doesn’t bode well for a long-term relationship between Robin and Faith. Robin seems to have some serious mother issues mixed in with his attraction to Slayers, something that sooner or later is going to trip the two of them up. One also wonders how Robin’s meticulous ways are going to mesh with Faith’s more wild child persona. There is no denying that Faith needs a steadying relationship like the one Robin offers just after the destruction of Sunnydale, but I’m not convinced this “war time romance” is a long haul one.
So where does Xander sit? Xander has proven himself to be loyal and willing to support his friends. He certainly didn’t kick up a fuss when Faith came to town and, in fact, shows a willingness to work with her despite the fact she tried to kill him in S3’s Consequences. In many ways, Xander offers the emotional stability and loyalty that she craves; an understanding of what it’s like to have a Slayer in his life without potentially fatal accompanying baggage tied in with that; who seems to have no issues about his partners being stronger or physically more powerful than he is; intimate knowledge of what it’s like to deal with alcoholic parents who are, at best, neglectful; a shared need to be accepted and loved by friends and to have loyalty returned in kind; and a shared desire to find a place in the world.
In many ways, Faith and Xander are both outsiders: Faith was never part of any group that we could see and never fully accepted anywhere; Xander very often was the outsider even in his own circle of friends to the point where his loyalty and presence was often taken for granted.
Since Faith was a minor recurring character on BtVS, Faith and Xander didn’t have many scenes together. However, their scenes together said a lot about both characters.
Faith, Hope, and Trick
Faith: Oh, there's this Big Daddy Vampire out of Missouri who used to keep them as pets. So he's got me rasslin' one of 'em, okay? The thing must have been twelve feet long and I'm...
Xander: So was this, um, ahem, also naked?
Faith: Well, the alligator was. (laughs)
Xander smiles at her and laughs also.
Xander: She's got something, doesn't she?
Cordelia: What is it with you and Slayers?
Xander is involved with Cordelia when Faith pulls into town, however, he’s immediately attracted to her. Part of it is that Faith is a new person: she’s hot, she’s exciting, and she’s armed with impressive stories, an aspect that immediately wins over Willow as well. The other part of it is his Slay-dar is going off. He clumsily flirts and Faith doesn’t exactly seem opposed to the attention he pays her and flirts back. At one point, she mentions that she wishes that she had friends like Xander and Willow. On Faith’s side, we can tell from this episode that Faith is pretty much a loner and wary of strangers. However, she seems open to offers of friendship and acceptance that the Scoobs can provide.
Faith: Guy like that, with that kind of glove, could kill a whole mess of people.
Xander: Said the same thing to Buffy myself. Weird how she didn't seem to care.
Faith: Buffy knew he was alive. I can't believe her.
Xander: She says he's clean.
Faith: Yeah, well, I say we can't afford to find out. I say I deal with this problem right now. I say I slay.
Xander: Can I come?
As noted above in Faith’s general background, this episode illustrates that Xander and Faith both want the same thing (trust, acceptance, and to be taken seriously) and both react badly when they’ve been emotionally slighted. They both have hot heads, they both react poorly to perceived betrayals of their trust, and they both hate having their feelings dismissed. When Faith mentions her unhappy family background to Gwendolyn, we are also aware by this point that Xander’s home life is also unhappy, but do not yet know that, like Faith, he also is the product of alcoholic parents.
The episode also highlights a key difference between the two: Faith stubbornly barrels ahead with her plan to stake Angel. Xander, on the other hand, when confronted with evidence that Angel may not be Angelus, urges her to step back and think things through. Xander then spends the rest of the episode trying to rectify the situation, first by telling Buffy that Faith is going after Angel, figuring out what the Glove of Mynhegon does, helping Willow mix ingredients for the spell, and stepping between Faith and Buffy as they square off against each other. This also somewhat tracks to where the characters are by the end of S7. Faith’s take-charge attitude is (generally) leavened with a little bit of caution; Xander’s role as someone who deals with daily logistics and providing day-to-day care, comfort, and stability for the people around him is (generally) less likely to let feelings of being personally dismissed or betrayed derail him.
Faith: Don't worry. I'll steer you around the curves.
Xander: Did I mention that I'm having a very strange night?
This is the only BtVS episode told completely from Xander’s point-of-view and shows his increasing sense of isolation from his friends. His “otherness” is marked by the fact that he is not a supernatural creature and that he doesn’t have a specific destiny to continue fighting the supernatural. It’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s an “outsider” even in his group of outsiders, especially since they all have plans for the future and he’s still trying to figure out what he really wants. In essence, this is the episode where Xander takes the first step on the road to the man he will be in S7’s Chosen. This is also the episode where he is initiated into the world of sex.
The interesting thing is that in the immediate aftermath Xander definitely is aiming for the post-coitus cuddle and Faith actually seems to be melting into that. In the next shot, she’s throwing him out while he’s still dressed in his underwear. In the shot not shown, you can almost imagine Faith—who mentions to Buffy in S3’s Revelations that she’s a “loser magnet” when it comes to men—suddenly backing off and reclaiming her distance. After all, from her point of view, Xander just proved he’d jump on her if he had the chance, even if she was the one who initiated the sex. You can almost imagine that she views their liaison as “payment” for Xander saving her life and helping her pop her shoulder back into place.
Faith: So, what, you're telling me never?
Buffy: Faith! Really, now is not the time!
Faith: I'm curious! Never, ever? Come on, really. All this time, and not even once?
Buffy: How many times do I have to say it? I have never done it with Xander! He's just a friend.
Faith: So? What are friends for? I mean, I'm sorry, it's just, all this sweating-nightly, side-by-side action, and you never put in for a little after-hours (thrusts her pelvis forward and grunts)?
Buffy: Thanks for the poetry. And, no. I love Xander. I just don't love Xander.
The episode literally opens with Faith talking about Xander, although she doesn’t come out and say that she actually has done the deed with the guy. Given Faith’s distrustful nature, it could be that she didn’t quite buy it when Xander said that he’d never been up with people before and was double-checking his story. Another part of it could be to see if she had somehow “taken” Xander away from Buffy, since at this point there’s a spirit of competition between the two. Another way to read it is that Faith actually is somewhat interested in seeing if this one-night thing with Xander could lead to something more and is pumping Buffy (albeit clumsily) for more information. If we go by Faith’s own statements, Xander doesn’t quite fit in with her history of losers since he seems to be a stand-up guy when it comes to supporting his friends in fighting the good fight.
Faith: I know what this is all about. You just came by here 'cause you want another taste, don't you?
Xander: No! I mean, it was nice. It was great. It was kind of a blur. But, okay, some day, sure, yay, but not now. Not like this.
Faith: More like how then? Lights on or off? Kinks or vanilla?
Xander: Faith, come on. I came here to help you. I thought we had a connection.
Faith: You wanna feel a connection? It's just skin. I see... I want... I take. (kisses him hard) I forget.
Understandably, this is the last extended interaction we get between Faith and Xander in the series. Xander’s intentions are actually pure when he goes to see Faith in her hotel room. He comes armed with an offer of friendship and help. He sort of has a grip on her personality (“I’ve seen you post-battle and you’re like a wild thing”), but not a complete understanding of her distrustful nature and her knee-jerk disdain for people she has sex with. Furthermore, Faith is starting her long spiral out of control and is engaged in trying to hide her accidental killing of Finch from not only everyone around her, but also herself. Xander refuses to buy what Faith’s selling and can only weakly offer to stand up and defend her in court (the question is open on whether it will be the courts of human law or the courts of the Watcher’s Council).
From Faith’s point of view, Xander’s offer comes with strings attached and is hardly the promise of unquestioned belief and loyalty she wants. Fueled by guilt and anger and leavened with the reality that she’s had sex with Xander, she turns on him. First she belittles their encounter (a sharp contrast with her conversation with Buffy in the previous episode). Then, she throws him down on the bed in a scene that, had Faith been male and Xander female, would been pegged as the precursor to a sexual assault. After laying the sexual smack down on a protesting Xander, she proceeds to strangle him. Xander’s life is saved when Angel bursts into the hotel room to knock Faith out.
Harsh Light of Day
Xander: And yet, still more romantic than Faith.
A throwaway line that’s somewhat telling. Anya shows up in Xander’s basement abode and seduces him by literally dropping her dress to the floor and standing naked in front of him. Xander’s two-for-two on sexual partners: he didn’t make the first move, the woman in question literally threw herself at him, and the circumstances aren’t exactly romantic. It also pretty much underlines the fact that Anya is his second sexual partner.
Who Are You?
Xander: We kind of have a romantic evening planned.
Anya: We were going to light a bunch of candles and have sex near them.
Faith-in-Buffy’s Body: Well, we certainly don’t want to cut into that seven minutes
Xander: I believe that’s my hey. Hey!
Not much to say here, except that Faith is dismissing her liaison with Xander. Anya, bless her, comes to Xander’s defense. Later in the episode, he contacts Giles when he sees a news report that indicates vampires are attacking people in a church. The information sends Buffy-in-Faith’s body to stop the attack. While there, she meets up with Faith-in-Buffy’s body and is able to get her body back.
Xander and Faith do not exchange words on screen. However, they both lead the cavalry of fresh troops into the Vineyard to help Buffy and Spike’s team fight Caleb and the Bringers. Xander enters first and manages to score some bull’s-eyes using a compound bow, allowing Faith to charge forward and get involved in the fight. When Buffy sounds the alarm to retreat and leaves with Spike, Faith grabs a wounded Potential and follows. Xander stays behind to rescue Kennedy and is captured by Caleb. Caleb rewards Xander by poking out his left eye. While not much in and of itself, it shows that both Xander and Faith are willing to put the past behind them and work together as a team. It also shows that both of them are willing to stop and help their allies even in the midst of a confused retreat.
Amanda: Do you think there are gonna be questions about her [Anya’s] sex life on the test? 'Cause I really hope I don't have to study all that.
Faith: Whenever she starts talking about getting all sweaty with Xander like that I just remind her I had him first. Shuts her right the hell up.
Faith: (to Robin Wood) Maybe you got bigger issues than what's wrong with B. I read people, too. (sounds of a car in the driveway) Xander’s home.
Again, no exchange of words between Xander and Faith in the episode. While it’s hard to tell whether Faith has revised her opinion of Xander, she certainly isn’t dismissing him as irrelevant. By this time, Faith has already picked up two things: people are chaffing under Buffy’s leadership and that Robin has some severe baggage about Buffy. In the background, the Scoobs and the Potentials are at the end of their rope and the discontent is boiling before it finally explodes in the open. When Buffy decides to go back to the Vineyard, people around her begin to protest. It isn’t until Xander expresses his discontent with Buffy’s leadership that things really go to hell for Buffy and the Potentials choose to put Faith in charge instead. Xander, along with Willow and Giles, tacitly agree with the plan. When Buffy continues her protest, Dawn tells Buffy she has a choice: learn to work with everyone or leave. Buffy chooses to leave. Again this is an instance of Xander (more so than Faith) being willing to work with Faith despite her past bad acts against him. It also shows how Xander, by simply withdrawing his support for Buffy using a single, pointed comment (“I lost it [your point] somewhere to my left”) is able to tip the rebellion over the edge.
Touched/End of Days
While they exchange very little by way of conversation, Xander consistently shows his willingness to back Faith in her role as leader. He helps put her plans in motion, he stays firm with Faith when Spike attacks all of them for deposing Buffy as their leader, and looks to her for strategic direction. When she’s wounded in a bomb blast, Xander and Giles are the ones who make sure she gets to a bed so she can heal.
Three Reasons To Read and Write Faith-Xander
Sexual role reversal
There is something of a slashy subtext to a Xander and Faith relationship. Faith’s role, actions, and attitudes more closely resemble stereotypical male traits. Xander’s actions and attitudes more closely resemble that of stereotypical female traits.
Faith in her persona as the Slayer, is the “action hero” who kicks ass and takes names. Like Eastwood’s Man With No Name, she comes from a shadowed past and isn’t inclined to easily let go of any personal details that might expose her. Like any comic book hero, she is endowed with special abilities and powers to fight evil. Like any anti-hero, she has done some patently evil things in her past, but is trying to make up for it by accepting responsibility for her power and using it to fight the good fight. Faith is the questing hero with a sacred mission to kill the monsters that would destroy humanity.
Xander, on the other hand, is the supportive sidekick who fights as backup. He’s the stand-in for the audience, no special powers, no calling, and everything he can do he’s learned how to do on his own. His inherent abilities fall in the realm of the “soft skills” usually reserved for female characters, communication, comfort, and keeping the home fires burning (as seen in S7 when he’s tasked with keeping the Summers home intact and the taking care of the Potentials). The only typical “male” trait Xander has is his unwillingness to divulge “personal secrets” or discuss his feelings. Xander represents domesticity or the reason why the hero fights by fulfilling the dual role of helper (in a fight) and dealing with issues the hero might not be able to address while carrying on their quest (getting innocent bystanders out of the way, dealing with day-to-day trivia).
Looking out beyond mythical roles, the sexual role reversal can be explored in relation to late 20th century matters when considering the realm of sex.
Faith’s sexual life follows what many people consider a stereotypical male pattern: multiple partners; one-night stands; guilt-free sex for the sake of sex; the fact that she is always shown to be the initiator; and is the conquistador over men. Xander’s sexual life follows what many people would consider a stereotypical female pattern: very few sexual partners (Faith and Anya for a total of two); one-night stands have consequences in the form of his partner turning on him or results in a long-term relationship; the belief that sex equals some emotional connection; the desire for romance to be part of sex; and is the passive party when sex is initiated.
Another realm where Faith fulfills the more “male” role and Xander the more “female” role falls under how they protect the people around them. Faith generally resorts to physical means first, as befitting an action hero. Xander generally resorts interpersonal skills by offering comfort and support in the background.
Writing the two of them in a relationship (either a working partnership or a romantic partnership) is a great opportunity to explore stereotypical sex roles and how men and women relate to each other.
Kicking the notion of “romantic” sexual assault in the head
We all know the soap opera cliché: the Luke and Laura story. How many romantic couples on soaps started when the guy sexually assaulted the girl? Too many. It took years for the most famous example of this (IMHO) odious story to finally admit that, yes, Luke really did rape Laura. It’s a story we’ve seen too often before and, no doubt, someone will trot it out again.
What we’ve got here is the perfect case study for kicking “romantic” sexual assault in the head. First off, the sexes are reversed. Sexual predator and perpetrator is female. Sexual victim is male. No one is arguing that S3’s The Zeppo is a case of rape. Clearly it’s not. Xander dives right on in, with Faith the leading the way. However, you do have Faith’s disturbing assault and near-murder in S3’s Consequences to work with. Faith is physically stronger and so the danger is very real to Xander. However, the visual dissonance between the larger Xander and the smaller Faith almost makes the viewer take the whole episode slightly less seriously. While we’ve never seen Xander actually dealing with the issue, had the same thing happened to Willow in S3, it most certainly would’ve been dealt with on some level. A good fanwank can come down to Xander’s personality: he wouldn’t tell anyone anyway if he was trying to grapple with what Faith did to him.
Ignoring this important piece of history is not doing justice to the ship and plays right into the cliché. Tackle it head-on and don’t ignore it. There isn’t a whole lot of need for shouting and screaming about it. Certainly over-the-top drama isn’t necessary. But, on some level, that past needs to be acknowledged and dealt with in some manner before you can even get them to trust each other. What’s working in your favor is that there is a gap between S3, when the two last had any significant interaction, and when they see each other again in S7, a gift of time and distance between the event and when they are thrown together to fight the First Evil. They both know themselves a little better and they both have better coping skills (good and bad). It’s common knowledge that Faith is working to make up for past bad acts among the Scoobs, and so is not likely to slide back on bad old habits. Xander has had his own struggles, his own relationship with Anya, and has settled into himself in a way he wasn’t in S3.
Authors who write “early relationship” Xander and Faith have tackled this hurdle in several ways. Some address the past and build trust between the characters first before starting to build it up into a ship. Some have the two falling into bed first and then have the characters struggling to keep the past from repeating itself by building trust. Both options do work and they can work well. What it takes is honesty and a deft hand to pull it off. Address it, but don’t blow it out of proportion. Consequences wasn’t a turning point in either Xander’s or Faith’s lives and it didn’t mark any major change in status for either one of them. Faith was already on her downward spiral and her assault on Xander wasn’t the thing that pushed her over the edge. Xander picked himself up, dusted himself off, and continued on with his life. However, the assault is a serious issue, may have been important for one or both, and it should be treated seriously. Xander has no reason to put complete trust in Faith. Faith may not know how to apologize or bring up the subject.
Jumping the hurdle is a way to take on the cliché and give Consequences its teeth. Show that, yes, there are consequences that still resonate with Faith’s attempt on Xander’s life, but there is a way to get past that with time, patience, and work. It also ultimately shows both characters at their best and gives them something they didn’t have in canon: an adult relationship where both participants have their eyes wide open and knowing that if they want the something more they have to work at it, be honest, and actually trust each other enough to be vulnerable with the other person. They’ve seen each other at their worst; they’ve seen each other doing good things. Everything’s on the table, it’s just a matter of getting them to accept it.
It’s all about the psychology
First thing’s first: neither Xander nor Faith are fluffy characters. Both have rough edges, both have fairly impressive tempers, and both can be prickly in their interactions with others. In addition, both are used to being considered “not quite up to snuff” by the people around them: Xander because of his lack of “superpowers” and special training; Faith because (in her own mind) she’ll never be considered the better Slayer. Furthermore, they are also both extremely guarded about revealing what’s important to them or personal information that might make them seem weak in the eyes of people around them. As far as we know, Xander almost never admits to feeling like the outsider or “the lesser Scoob.” Faith never admits to her feelings of helplessness and inadequacy. They both also have a very difficult time asking for help when they really and truly need emotional rescue.
They also have similar strengths: They are both loyal to their friends. Laugh if you want, but loyalty is loyalty even if they go about offering it in different ways. Xander offers loyalty first and will remain loyal until something major happens that makes him question it. Faith offers loyalty only after someone proves they’re worth giving it to.
They are both survivors and scrappers and are used to occupying underdog status, regardless of whether that status is real or perceived. There’s a blue-collar grit that informs both characters and makes them stand out from the white-collar backgrounds of the other Scoobs. It’s most notably expressed whenever Xander or Faith stubbornly dig in, grit their teeth, and bully and bluff their way through difficult fights and situations to get the job done.
They both show native intelligence, wit, and street smarts when approaching problems and will both resort to unorthodox leaps of logic and actions to achieve success. Xander, throughout the series, has been shown to have a firm moral compass (even if he can be hypocritical in applying it) between right and wrong. After escaping Sunnydale in S4, Faith starts developing her own moral compass when she agrees to pay for her crimes. By S4 AtS and S7 BtVS, her moral compass is in place and is shown to be as strong, if not stronger, than most people’s. Both show rudimentary strategy skills when given their own heads and enough time to plan and both have shown they can think quickly on their feet in life-and-death situations.
Where they actually fit lies in where they differ: Faith has a tendency to keep people distant while Xander has a tendency to reach out to people. Faith is a loner while Xander prefers to live in a crowd of people (although the fact he’s working alone in Africa without his Sunnydale friends might be an element to consider when writing post-S7 Xander).
Faith is a fairly good judge of character with a strong bullshit detector, but she doesn’t always know how to translate her judgment into good communication skills. Xander’s ability to judge strangers is nowhere near as good, but once he gets a bead on someone’s character he can usually find the right words to say to spur them into action or help them through a difficult situation. In the heat of battle, Faith tends to take the lead and fights in the thick of the action; Xander tends to focus on the periphery by backing up the people with the physical power or removing innocent bystanders and the injured from the field of battle.
Writing Faith and Xander as a romantic couple is not always going to involve fluff, hugs, and puppies. While Xander is certainly capable of going for the sweet schmoopiness when in private, it’s never been shown to be his romantic default. Faith probably thinks schmoop is something you scrape off the bottom of your shoe, so it works out.
Where the romance can come in is this: Faith can take the measure of a person and is willing to revise her opinion when there’s evidence that shows she initially misjudged someone or that someone has grown into a person she can trust. Xander knows how to communicate with someone in such a way that they actually find themselves wanting to live up to the ideas he expresses. Both character traits have a “blind spot” in them. Once Faith’s trust and loyalty is won, it seems to have been won for all time, even if she’s placed her trust in someone who turns out to be evil as in the case of Mayor Wilkins. Xander can communicate about the things he sees, knows, and understands, but all his abilities fail when it comes time for him to express what he feels or what’s important to him as an individual.
The long and short of it is this: the key to writing Faith and Xander as either a romantic pair or even a pair working together without romance is to find a way to get them to actually trust each other. In writing Faith, the challenge is for her to see Xander for not just his numerous flaws, but also his numerous strengths; revising her opinion of Xander from one of “Buffy’s puppies” to someone she can trust to back her in a tight spot; and for her to finally bestow the gift of her trust and loyalty on him. In writing Xander, the challenge is for him to see Faith as someone he can trust beyond what’s necessary to get a job done and to cross his internal communication barrier so he’ll actually talk about the blood and guts of who he is.
How you reach that point depends heavily on where you are when writing the story. Are they just meeting after not seeing each other after a period of time? Are they already involved in a romantic relationship? Do they have an established working partnership and stumbling into something more? When answering these questions, at all times you do need to keep one thing in mind: their past with each other has not been a happy one. Faith, after all, did try to kill him in an act with significant sexual undertones in S3 and had little interaction with him in S7. Consider how you should address that before going ahead with the romance. If you are writing any kind of “at the beginning” story for any kind of relationship (either romantic or simple working together), it’s something that begs to be addressed in some way if you’re going to start knocking down the defensive walls. This item is far less important to deal with if you’re writing the two of them in any sort of established relationship.
Don’t be afraid of their respective pasts and don’t be afraid to use it in building the relationship. Don’t be afraid of employing their respective dark sides as well as their character strengths. They are both interesting characters in a large part because of their flaws and they are both characters who crave a happy ending, even if they’re both suspicious of the notion that they’ll ever get it.
Most of all, have fun.
And finally, when writing dialogue, word of advice:
Speaking as a Bostonian, please, please, please don’t use the phrase “5-by-5.” No one around here uses it and after S1 AtS, Faith didn’t use it either. Reading it once a chapter in any fic that involves Faith drives me positively around the bend. I’d rather read her saying “wicked” every other word (as in “that was wicked awesome” or “you’re wicked cool”) if only because it is an actual Boston-ism. Bostonians have a very particular way of speaking with a very specific cadence. Here’s a reference to get you started: A Wicked Good Guide to Boston English.
I might as well put myself up for inspection. You can find all of my Faith-Xander stories at My Fic Page My Personal Page on Fan Fiction Dot Net on on My Live Journal.
Others I recommend:
For romantic relationship/working partnership:
anythingbutgrey has Tradition of Appearance, an interesting “might-have-been” post Zeppo prior to Faith going bad.
flurblewig has What If. Shippy undertones and somewhat sweet. Faith and Xander in all their S7 awkward glory have a conversation I wish I’d seen.
girlfromsouth has Differences, which is absolutely perfect in its domesticity. Well, more like domesticity Xander-and-Faith style.
Godeater has Fire and Ice. I honestly don’t know how to classify it, so it’s in this category by default.
jengrrrl offers up Honeysuckle, wherein Faith hurts Xander one last time.
katemonkey offers Dreamcatching, a heart-breaking story of desire and need that just kills me.
Lint has several stories that are interesting and quite good. My favorites are Maps and its sequel Static.
Laura Shapiro gives us the hot, hot, hot A Connection. Xander’s tryst with Faith from inside Xander’s head. Not work safe.
Monet has several very good stories. I especially enjoy her Road to Redemption series, which starts AU between S4 and S5. I’ll just put it this way: Xander, Faith, and LA. Things are never smooth between them, but this series hits all my sweet spots. Bonus, it looks like she’s starting a second Road series. If you want to start with a short one shot, try Seeing Eye-to-Eye
moonlettuce gives us Nearing Autumn. So very hot and so very sad. This time it’s Xander who wounds Faith.
Nicolette McFadgen’s In Her Arms series is seriously AU and seriously stunning. Mentally and emotionally shattered Xander and Faith connect in a way that is sweet, obsessive, dark, and yet, somehow hopeful as well.
nwhepcat off the list? Not a chance. Right now she’s got the Xander/Wes bug, but her most excellent Faith-Xander stories can be found at Bugger This. All of them are worth your time and attention. I mean all of them.
Saturn Girl has several Faith-Xander stories. A very dark one that I happen to like is Another Taste wherein Faith-in-Buffy’s body shatters Xander. For something with a shippy undertone, check out Reconnecting Part I and Reconnecting Part II. There’s also a WiP that’s an AU from mid-S5 called Picking Up the Pieces.
whiskyinmind has several stories that are worth checking out in her memories. Crimson Regret is her latest but it’s a WiP right now.
Scb047 has Between the Shadows (scroll down to author’s name). Not a fanon Xander-type I generally cotton to, and a series that tremendously AU starting with S3, but compelling just the same. Faith doesn’t show up until later stories, but the relationship is dark, twisted, and adversarial.
For working partnership only:
BonnieD's Going on Faith is a solid story, but vaguely Auish for Post-S7. She’s promised a follow-up, but this story stands good on its own.
hjcallipygian's got Of Those Chosen: The Twins. It’s a WiP, but there are regular updates.
IceWing offers up more action-oriented fare with his Divergent Destinies series. It’s not the kind of characterization of Xander I usually like, but taken as a whole the stories work. Vaguely shippy, but more Xander and Faith working together.
ludditerobot writes some of my favorite Xander-Faith stories. Their prickly, cautious interaction is pitch-perfect in their trusting distrust of each other. And they certainly know how to slash at each other with words. Go and read his stuff. Eyeless is the beginning of a series he’s working on, but it stands just fine on its own. He was good enough to post a snippet of a future installment that’s just…wow! Just Playin' is a great stand alone.
Shin Willow goes for the dark and Blood Bag is as dark (and as AU) as it gets. Sadly, it’s a WiP that hasn’t been updated in awhile.
Faith and her Zeppo
I Need a Parrot: Faith/Xander section
Peace and Chaos which as several excellent stories that are very much worth checking out.
Slayer/Psycho/Vamp/&Zeppo: Xander/Faith section (Formerly Black and Blue Romance)
Unseen: Xander/Faith section
Hope you enjoyed!