It had been almost a month since the battle with the Faber demons. Twenty-seven days. 648 hours. 38,880 minutes. But who was counting? Faith was counting. Why was she counting? Because Buffy was still mad.
Not so mad that she wouldn't speak to Faith. They talked, although as Spike would say, Buffy was a little on the "shirty" side. But she was mostly civil, even though she made the occasional, as Faith would say, "shitty" comment. She gave out little digs here and there, but most of the time she was pleasant.
Buffy did all of the things a person does when somebody they love is sick or hurt, and she did them all willingly. Even with Slayer strength, or the amount the Fabers left behind after trying to drain her for their ritual, it took Faith nearly three weeks before she could even get back on her feet, and it was up to Buffy to take care of her. She did…pleasantly.
She cleaned wounds, applied antibiotic cream, changed dressings, and fed the patient all of her favorite foods. She carried her back and forth to the bathroom, and spent a huge amount of her time trying to help Faith find a comfortable position…no easy task, especially in the first couple of weeks.
There was no problem with Buffy's nursing abilities, the problem was that Buffy would not touch Faith, not even a kiss. Sure she'd pick her up and hold her while Willow or Dawn changed the sheets. She'd carry her whenever it was necessary, and she did the whole sponge bath routine once a day which quickly became a torture that Faith could barely tolerate. It made her feel like she was going to explode, and not in a good way, but Buffy just carried on, seemingly unaffected as she went about her business.
It was all too clear to Faith that The Slayer was out of her reach, and as she got stronger and the pain became easier to deal with, Faith decided to fix things between them. She tried to start something with Buffy, and the response she received?
"You have got to be kidding me."
Then Buffy rolled over, firmly presenting her back to Faith as she drifted off to sleep. Faith stared at her in the darkness for a long time and even considered waking Buffy to ask her for a sponge bath, but her sense of self-preservation prevented that. It was slowly registering that she had a problem and sex wasn't going to fix it.
As she lay in bed bored out of her skull, she tried to think about what she needed to do to fix things. Short of not punching Buffy in the face, chaining her up, and then taking off to get herself killed, Faith was stumped. How could she prove she'd learned her lesson when the situation was pretty unlikely to ever come up again?
She muttered softly over Buffy's slight snores:
"Can't prove ya can keep your pants zipped if nobody's temptin' ya."
She decided her best bet was to approach Willow. Will, Red, the Slayer's best friend. She was smart and she knew Buffy inside and out…Willow would definitely know what to do.
The next day, Faith got her alone and then just spilled her guts like a girl. For the big finale, she threw herself on Willow's mercy, and it worked. She was sympathetic, for real, and Faith's hopes skyrocketed.
"Faith, I know she's really mad at you, and that can't be easy to handle. Buffy can definitely hold a grudge, that's for sure. Sometimes she's even downright unreasonable, but wow, what you did…"
"I know, and I'm sorry, really sorry. So sorry it's like...well, somethin' that's really sorry."
"And you know how much she hates feeling scared and helpless, so right there things are not of the good for you."
"I got that, Red. That's why I'm askin' for your help."
"And I'd like nothing better than to help you."
Faith grinned big, the relief practically pouring off of her:
"Fuck, that's great! Help away, Red."
"Course ya can. Bet ya got a shitload of ideas. Just gimme like five and I'll pick the best one. Damn, we're gonna have this fixed up in no time."
"Well, yeah, I do have some ideas, but there's a problem."
Faith's expression was nothing but confused:
"`A problem'? Ya mean `sides the one?"
"Buffy told me I wasn't allowed to help you."
Willow looked sad.
"…Please tell me you're kiddin me."
"She said that when you came to me for help, I should just remind you how much you like to do everything by yourself."
Faith's expression would have been hysterical if she wasn't actually approaching hysteria:
"She said to let you figure it out, and she told me I wouldn't like the consequences if I helped you out."
"And I know it sounds stupid, but her eyes were really scary when she threatened me, so..."
Faith pointed out what seemed to be the obvious:
"C'mon, what can she really do to you? I mean…"
"I don't know, but there was frog talk."
Faith sat looking at her, getting more depressed as each unhelped second rolled by, and Willow decided to go all chipper to cheer her up:
"But hey, I am on your side…well..kind of. I mean, I am as long as you don't repeat that to Buffy, `cause then I'll have to deny that I said it, you know? But in here? In here, Faith, I am definitely with you."
It wasn't encouraging, but Faith had other options.
"Xand! Hey, was kinda hopin' you…"
"Sorry, no can do."
"I can't help you."
"Fuck, didn't even ask ya anything."
He looked at her like she was being ridiculous:
"So you aren't going to ask me to help you with Buffy?"
"…Well yeah, course I am."
"And that's why I said `I can't help you'."
"What about our bond? Me and you vs. the scary ass girlfriends?"
Xander looked sheepish:
"For `Motel'! C'mon, Xander, gotta stand up here."
She grinned big, relieved and happy that he had her back.
"…Buffy's way scarier than Anya. She even twisted my arm, and I mean that literally."
"Stop bein' such a pussy! She's not gonna…"
"It hurt! And An's out too. Buffy paid her."
Faith left in a huff, muttering out loud:
"Fine…She wants to play hardball? I invented that fuckin' game."
Faith knew people, and she knew who wasn't going to be scared.
**Guy's unintimidatable. That a word? Fuck it, it is now.**
She found him watching TV in the living room with all of the curtains shut tight.
"Junior, how's it hangin'?"
"No complaints, Dark One. Looks like you're on the mend, finally walkin' on your own."
She sat down next to him and took a swig of his offered beer.
"Yeah, thing is: I could be way better. Got a little problem."
"Heard about it. Better you than me."
"With ya on that. She's pretty mad."
He finished off the beer and sat the bottle down carefully on the coffee table.
"Well on the money there."
"So I'm tryin' to figure what to do."
"Feel for you. Been on the receivin' end of her anger more than once, and it's not fun."
"That's why I was hopin' you could help."
He leaned his head back on the couch, his eyes closing for a long moment:
"Definitely could offer up some advice."
"Great! So what do you think I…"
"Not gonna though. Slayer said to mind my own when you came calling. S'posed to let you suss it out on your own."
Faith stood up all pissed off:
"Spike, you're `William the Fucking Bloody'! You sayin' you're scared of Buffy?!"
"Kewpie doll for the Dark One, that's exactly what I'm saying. I might be `William the Fuckin' Bloody', but she's `Buffy, the Mightily Pissed Off Vampire Slayer'."
"Christ Spike, have some balls!"
"Got two and plannin' on keepin' `em. She can be mean when she wants to be, had enough of that to last me an immortal lifetime. Much as I feel for you, and I do, I can't help you."
He disappeared into the basement, and she knew it was time to fight dirty.
Dawn was sitting on her bed looking at what seemed to be every shirt she owned.
"Hiya, Squirt. Hey, how'd ya like to make an easy hundred and buy somethin' new?"
Dawn looked up:
"Uh-huh. Don't try to drag me into this. You screwed it up, you fix it."
"Yeah, I'm gonna, but I need…"
"You know, you should just be glad I'm not still furious with you. Although on second thought, why aren't I still furious with you? When I think about what a dumb thing you…"
"Wow, look at the time! Good talk, Dawnie."
She got out there as fast as she could because there was no way she needed another Summers woman out for her blood. The first week of her rehab had shown her what that was like, and the experience was more than enough to last her a mortal lifetime.
It wasn't going too well, but Faith wasn't going to give up that easily. She knew she needed someone smart, someone Buffy was afraid of…
**Ha, watch this! Fuck, that's pretty funny.**
"Faith, how wonderful to see you up and about. Surely you didn't walk all this way?"
"Nah, sprung for a cab."
"Ah, well please, sit here. To what do I owe this visit?"
She sat down gratefully, but she didn't relax:
"Kinda need your help."
He sat down in the chair facing her:
"Yeah. B's pissed and I got no clue how to patch it up. Was thinking you could…"
He stood back up, removing his glasses as he did.
"Well Faith, it's always been my belief that each and every couple must navigate their way through their own unique travails. It's imperative that each individual within said couple learn the proper…"
"Can the bullshit. She got to you too?"
He sat down heavily:
"I'm afraid so. I've been forbidden to assist you in any way whatsoever."
Faith got to her feet:
"Giles, you're her fuckin' Watcher! You just gonna sit around and wat……look at this shit?!"
"I am sorry, but my hands are tied. She promised dire consequences should I attempt to guide you along."
"But what exactly can she do to ya? She's not gonna…"
"I found her quite intimidating, and the look in her eye was not at all comforting. There was also mention of my books finding themselves disorganized for several months."
She left in a snit, but she wasn't beaten…not by a long shot.
**'Kay, so B's the big fish in this little Hellmouth of a pond. Cool, she's earned that, but I'm gonna start playin' in the fucking lake.**
She dialed and it rang twice:
"Hi. How are you feeling?"
"Better. Pretty mobile now, so…"
"I'm glad to hear that."
"Yeah, listen, need your opinion on somethin'."
Faith felt the relief shooting through her. Cordelia sounded perfectly normal, B had slipped up big time.
"It's like this: B's still mad and I'm not sure what I gotta do to make things right with her."
"And I'm guessing riding off into the sunset to die won't work."
Faith wanted to tell her to "fuck off", but she needed help and that wasn't going to get it.
"Learned my lesson, alright?"
"Are you sure you learned the right one?"
"Yeah, no more goin' off to die. Now ya wanna try to keep up?"
"I'm just saying maybe there's…"
Faith was totally at the end of her rope:
"Look, I fucked up, B's mad, and I gotta do somethin' nice for her. Not rocket science here."
Again Faith fought to hold onto her temper:
"So you got any ideas that might work?"
"Hmm…Have you tried pounding Angel into a bloody pulp again?"
"Cor, I get what I did was wrong…all the way around, okay?"
"Hello? Some advice, please."
"Oh yes, I have some."
"Okay, great! Let's hear it!"
Cordelia's voice remained calm and even:
"Assume Buffy can operate a phone. Assume I agree with her about this 100%. Now assume Angel does too. Assume Wes, Gunn, and Fred are also pissed that you did such a stupid thing. If I were you, I'd also assume that no one here is helping you with this problem you're having. I'd also assume that despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, you're smart enough to figure this out all on your own. Assume that you're going to have to or you're going to make an ass out of you and you."
The sarcasm was plain to hear:
"That's just how it is for you loner types who keep everything inside."
Faith sighed, clearly resigned to her fate:
"We're all mad, but we all still love you. Now go fix it."
The dial tone told her unequivocally that she was on her own. She took a deep breath and began giving herself a pep talk…out loud:
"Okay, I can do this, no problem. I'll just sit quiet and let my brain spit out the answer."
She got comfortable on the bed and started thinking. An hour later it seemed clear that Buffy had even gotten to Faith. She was apparently afraid to help herself.
"Fuck, just think. Must be missin' somethin' obvious here…Know I promised to make it up to her…What's she lookin' for?"
She kept concentrating and then…
"Dinner! I'll make her a great meal again. Ha! My brain's not a gutless pussy, I got this bitch firin' on all cylinders now!"
Three hours later, Buffy walked in and Faith could see right away that she liked it. She wanted to laugh and yell out, "Gotcha, baby!" but she knew she had to play it cool.
Still, "fixing stuff" in a relationship? It wasn't that complicated, not when a person knew the other person as well as she knew Buffy.
"Mmm…It smells delicious."
"Yeah, figured I'd make ya a…"
"I'm not hungry though."
And then Buffy went upstairs. She just turned and walked up the stairs and out of sight, and Faith couldn't believe it. She'd been propped up for three hours in some significant pain, and Buffy had just walked out on her.
It didn't take long to realize that she wasn't coming back, and Faith blew out the candles, puttered around the kitchen doing stuff, and then gimped up the stairs. She was totally confused and totally unprepared. Her brain was clearly an idiot and it was all she had.
Moments after she got there, Buffy emerged from the bathroom. She'd obviously just had a shower, and she dropped her towel like it was nothing and started getting dressed. Faith was momentarily distracted as her heart beat out of her chest and her eyes popped out of her head. It felt like her whole body was on fire, and she couldn't even remember her own name.
Sponge baths, the proper kind, were unfolding in her head as her thoughts started drifting to…She fought herself back on track, and decided she deserved a medal for doing it.
**Not "doing it" doing it…Fuck…Not actual "fuck" like in "fucking"…**
She had to make herself stop.
She looked at Faith, all pleasant:
"Um…Could we talk?"
Buffy just stood there like she was waiting for something, and Faith had no idea what the hell was going on. Then she realized she'd made it seem like she was going to be doing the talking, and Buffy was simply waiting for her to start.
"Can we sit down?"
Buffy was there to help, leaning over Faith and shifting the pillows around to get her body just right. Faith's mind was whirling:
**Oh yeah, my body's just right. So fuckin' right she should just lay next to me, only `cause I know on top of me and grinding is a way unrealistic dream at this point. Still, she smells so fucking good and her shirt's wet and her tits are…**
Buffy sat down in a chair facing the bed, waiting pleasantly.
Faith needed a minute to gain control of herself, and then she got right to the point:
"Okay B, I know you're mad. Talked to everybody, and I know you want me to figure it out by myself. I'd like to, I really would, but you're not dealin' with the brightest bulb in the…in the…in the some fuckin' thing. `Less another prophecy says we're gonna die, got no clue how to prove I won't chain ya outta the game again. Must be missin' something here."
"I guess so."
Said so pleasantly, Faith could feel her temper flaring and she smashed it down. She was in the wrong and she was determined to remain calm and mature.
"Thinkin' this would go a lot easier if you'd just tell me what you want me to do."
"Yes, I suppose it would."
"Buffy, what the fuck do you…Sorry, didn't mean to yell."
They sat in silence, and Faith could feel her frustration mounting.
"So, you gonna tell me, B?"
"You're makin' this way harder than it's gotta be."
"I'm sorry you feel that way."
"Well how the hell else can I feel?"
Buffy picked some lint off her shirt and responded pleasantly:
"Maybe some other way would help."
Faith could feel her temper trying to spin out of control, but she wasn't going to let it.
"Look, you know I feel bad?"
"You know how sorry I am?"
"What the fuck else do you want then?!"
"I guess that's the big question, isn't it?"
"Jesus Fucking Christ, Buffy! What else do I need to do?! What the hell else can I do?!"
She was furious now and she needed to pace.
It took her about five hours to make it back on her feet because she'd stiffened up after the day's whirlwind of activity. She was glad that Buffy didn't try to help or she would have had to kill her…although since she just sat there staring pleasantly throughout the whole ordeal, by the time Faith did manage to stand, she wanted to kill her anyway.
She had given up all attempts at calm maturity and had progressed to outright screaming:
"What is it? Want me on my knees? I gotta beg for forgiveness now? That gonna be good enough for you, Buffy?!"
"No Faith, I don't want you to beg."
"Sure about that? `Cause from where I'm…"
"I'm positive, no begging."
"Well, then what the fuck's it gonna take for you to forgive me?!"
"I've already forgiven you."
Faith was pacing back and forth, ranting and raving:
"`Cause I'm tellin' ya, B, I couldn't be more fucking sorry if I…What'd you say?"
"I said I've already forgiven you."
"Okay then, so what…"
"You said you'd make it up to me."
Faith felt like killing her:
"What do you think I been tryin' to do?!"
"Take the easy way out."
And that was when it hit her, what it had all been about. She hobbled back over to the bed and sat down on the edge.
"Message finally received, B. Would ya mind goin' to the kitchen and grabbing our supper? Left two plates warmin' in the oven. There's beer in the fridge."
"Okay, but let's get you comfortable first."
Buffy helped her back into bed, just like a thousand times before, but this time was better. There was something different in her touch and as she leaned over to make a final adjustment to the pillow under Faith's right arm, Faith stared at her eyes.
They were all soft and warm again, and when she felt Faith looking at her, she smiled. When she pushed off the bed to stand up, she paused to kiss the patient. It was quick, just a peck really, but it made Faith crazy happy. She watched Buffy walk out of the room and she couldn't stop smiling for anything.
In just a few minutes, Buffy came back in with their dinner and they ate in a comfortable silence.
"Faith, you are the greatest cook ever."
"Got my talents."
"Yes, you do."
When they were finished, Buffy cleared the dishes away, stacking them on the desk. She sat down on the bed and linked their hands together. Her eyes looked like Faith always wanted them to look - like she was Buffy's everything.
"B, I wanna talk to you about why I acted like I did and why I won't ever be doin' that sorta thing again. Wanna talk to you about why I don't feel like I'm worth a whole helluva lot."
"I'm ready to listen."
"Know ya are. Guess this is one of them issues you mentioned back in L.A., the kind we need to tackle as a team."
"Figured. Well, I'm ready now too."
Buffy raised Faith's hand to her lips and delivered a soft kiss:
"Good. Two ready Slayers working together? Issue has no chance at all."
"Kinda nervous here…Bet a sponge bath would help me relax."
"A `sponge bath'? And I was positive you hated those. They sure never seemed to relax you."
"Don't want that kind, want a real one."
Buffy laughed at the sexy look on Faith's face:
"I see. Tell you what, if this goes like I think it's going to, I'll give you the best sponge bath of your life."
Faith's dimples came out to play as she fairly smoldered at Buffy:
"Sounds not pleasant."
"Trust me B, that's a compliment."