Summary: Buffy and Faith attempt to deal with what life throws at them. Will they ever reach a common ground and admit how similar their lives and thoughts really are?
Part 1: what am i doing?
"What am I doing?"
I half-expect an answer as I ask myself the same questions I've been asking for the past two hours. I've lied to my friends, my sister, to be where I am now, but I can't even think up a reason that sounds convincing to myself.
I told them I had to see Angel. Sure, we talked; I told him I was alive again, but after the shock wore off there wasn't much in the way of sparkage. We had each agreed a long time ago that we were finished. When I hung up the phone, I had this over-whelming feeling to leave, get out, and he was my perfect excuse.
No one questioned the "why," more the "why now?" I couldn't take the giddy way my best friend was acting: hovering around me, nervous and twitchy, dancing around me like a love-starved puppy looking for attention and validation. I couldn't take the opposite reaction I was getting from my sister, either: sorrow-filled eyes and hunched shoulders, depressed and sullen like I was still dead. So I left. Told them Angel needed to see me and took off.
Here I am now, driving down a long, dark, empty highway with the windows rolled up. I only have the vaguest idea of where I'm going. Not to see Angel, though. We agreed over the phone that it would be a pointless visit. But to see the only person that, even in death, in peace, I couldn't let go of. The only person I could ever imagine understanding me. I just hope she'll see me when the guards bring her into the visiting room. What am I going to say to her?
"What am I doing?"
Two more hours and the sun is starting to rise. It should be beautiful, but I just can't see things that way anymore. Knowing now what I do, feeling true peace the way no one on Earth will ever feel, the so-called simple pleasures just don't cut it. I can't care to see the point in them.
The night bleeds into day, colors waking along with the birds in the trees, but all I see beyond the red ball of sunlight is pain.
That, and two guard towers that let me know my shoddy directions have actually gotten me to my destination.
I don't think as I park and exit the car. I don't analyze things anymore as I enter the door marked "Visitors Only." I don't feel a thing as I'm lead through three security checkpoints. I barely breathe as I give the warden my name and my reason for being here.
I'm lead down a long hallway, the fluorescent lights so much harsher than the sunlight, stinging my eyes and blurring my vision. I sit down in a hard, Creamsicle orange plastic chair in a waiting room that smells of too much disinfectant, numb, practically forgetting why I'm here in the first place.
A guard appears through the door in front of me, and I follow him into another room, another uncomfortable chair. A different guard appears on the other side of the plexiglass partition, followed by the one person who could ever make me remember myself.
Faith looks almost bored when she sits down across from me. Neither of us reaches for the phones to start up a conversation. We could always communicate better without speaking anyway. Words just made things more confused. More confusing.
She studies me as I take in the sight of her in turn. Her hair is longer, more untamed than the last time I saw her. Her skin is pale from too much time indoors. I can see clearly defined muscles where her skin is exposed, her body having filled out from that of a lanky teenager to that of a young woman. A slayer's body.
Her eyes, though, the windows to her soul, once swelled with raging emotion, are hollow, disaffected.
Much the way I feel.
The guard reminds me that we only have ten minutes left, snapping me out of whatever trance I had fallen into, staring into Faith's dark eyes. Absently, I pick up the receiver next to me, watching as Faith warily does the same.
I can hear her slow, steady breathing through the connection. I can practically feel her heart beating, and it's enough to have my mind in a tailspin of memories. Sights and sounds and smells, and feelings. I'm lost for more moments, until she chooses to speak.
"I'm glad you came."
I can only nod. I want to tell her how much she's affecting me, but the words grate in my throat like sandpaper. Faith's eyes flash a deep sadness as she catches my gaze, before they return to their previous void.
"See ya around."
She severs the connection almost as soon as she speaks, not giving me a chance to respond. I don't think I could anyway. The guard leads her back to her cell. She doesn't even give me a backward glance.
I don't remember getting out of the prison or into my car, but here I am, sitting in the parking lot. Tears I had thought would've dried up with my corpse months ago are tearing tracks down my cheeks. I don't really think I could explain my reasons for coming here. For not saying a word to her. I could tell you I had great expectations of heart-felt reunions and mended rifts, but then I'd be lying. I can't tell you what I'm doing here. Hell, I can't even tell myself. All I know is that today, it's where I'm supposed to be. I don't care if I never see Faith again. At least I'll know that I'll always feel her. I'll always feel something.
I turn back onto the now-busy highway, heading south. What am I doing? I've found faith, now I'm going to find myself.
Part 2: this letter will have to do
There’s so much I can’t say to you in person. Like what it’s like to die and come back from heaven with a serious lack of emotions and how my sister’s a total klepto and my best friend is practically a drug addict and I had sex with Spike ---.
Oh. Oh boy. Yeah. I’m doing just great with the communicating here. Ok, Faith really doesn’t need any of that dumped on her. Ok, let’s try this again.
No, no, that’s not right. Uggh. Deep breaths. Ok.
Ok, I can do this. Sitting here staring at a blank piece of paper for the last ten minutes isn’t helping. What do I want to say to the biggest enemy and closest friend I’ve ever had? God, Buffy, dramatic much?
I bet you’re wondering why I’m writing you after all this time. Well, you’re not the only one. You know, I thought I would hate you after the way you betrayed me, tried to kill my friends, seduced my boyfriends. I think I convinced myself that I did for awhile.
But the crazy thing here (and there’s a lot of that going around) is that I don’t. I never could. When I visited you, I wanted…
God, what did I want? This is stupid. I don’t know why I’m even writing this stupid letter. Just because Tara gave me that look, where it’s like she knows just what’s going on without me having to say a word. I really hope she’s not psychic. One look, and I - . I what?
…someone to understand. You always got me. Especially when I didn’t want you to.
Do you know what it’s like to die?
Death and me, we’ve always been close, have sort of a love–hate thing going on. But in the last instant, before it all went white and I was done, I remembered one thing: the look on your face when I found you with Angel in LA.
I've touched death more than anyone I know, but I’ve never wanted it the way you did then. And you did, didn’t you? I came to the prison looking for validation, and you definitely gave that back to me. But I can’t get what I can’t give. You helped me remember
I remember I used to be good.
Why is my hand shaking? Why is this so hard? I feel it, I do. She makes me feel so much and I want, no, I need her to know that
I forgive you.
Yo, B, what’s shakin’?
Dearest Miss Summers,
Yeah right! Who am I trying to kid? Man, fuck this.
Why did I ever let Angel let me convince him that I wanted to write anybody, especially her, a damn letter? She comes and visits me after like a year and a half locked up, and gives me this look like I killed her cat?! Doesn’t say a word, just stares at me, then leaves without a glance back or word for four fuckin’ months?!
You’re a stuck-up, prissy, pussy tease of a cunt. Fuck you. Fuck. You.
Uggh. That’s gonna screw up the redemption somethin’ fierce. Why am I even still writing this stupid thing? It’s not like I have anything to say to her other than I hate her. Only I don’t. Fuck.
I don’t hate you.
Kinda pointless to hate a dead chick, anyway. Except you’re not. Not anymore. Can I just say how fuckin’ trippy that is? What the hell are you people doin’? Sheesh. Not like I’m one to talk, huh? I’ve been fucked up a long while now; ‘bout time you caught up.
Sorry you died, sorry they brought ya back, cuz you’re obviously wicked pissed about it. I’m sorry for all the shit I put you through. Mostly, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to stop it.
What the hell’s up with me? Isn’t prison supposed to make people tougher? Cryin’ in my beer over a dead chick I can’t stand the sight of. Man, I wish I had a beer.
Yeah, I’m sorry, alright?! Not like you’ll ever read this, cuz I ain’t sending it.
I ain’t begging for forgiveness here. I’m just payin’ for my crimes. I hope you’re done paying for yours.
Part 3: why must we be so afraid, and always so far apart?
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve lost a fair amount of people in my life. Probably more than most. Merrick; Jesse; Miss Calendar; Kendra; my mom. And now Tara. They’re all dead and buried.
My dad, Oz, Angel and now Giles have all left. Left me. True, Angel is only two hours away, but he may as well be on the other side of the world.
My best friend is coming back to me today. I should be excited, not sitting alone on the floor of my room having a pity party.
My room. Willow and Tara’s room. My mom’s....
I can hear Xander coming in downstairs. I don’t know why he knocks anymore. He has a key and everything. His happy voice floats up to my ears through the floor, followed by Dawn’s excited almost-shrieks. I haven’t told them yet about Willow. How she didn’t finish the training with the coven. Giles said that she’s well enough to come home; she’s needed here. I hope Dawn will be able to forgive her. Xander, too.
I’ve seemed to be in a very forgiving mood lately.
I hadn’t thought about her, not once, in two days. Must be a record for the last year. Once I saw her, once I told myself that I’ve forgiven her, she’s been constantly on my mind. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I tried to ignore it. Tried to take comfort in the fact that I may have forgiven her, but she doesn’t know it. I tried to forget her. But Faith isn’t an easy person to forget. Even when she doesn’t write. And even when I don’t visit. Not since....
I wonder if she knows what’s going on? I wonder if she’s been having the same horrifying nightmares of girls getting murdered that I’ve been having?
I should see her. Swallow my pride and go back up to Stockton and give her a head’s up. It’s not like I don’t have enough on my plate besides a new job in a place I never, ever wanted to return to; a new demon threat killing people in my dreams; a potentially evil, albeit hot, high school principal; my best friend coming home after not completing her “don’t destroy the world and go evil” lessons.
Right, Buffy, I’ll just make a quick jaunt out to visit my ex-partner/arch-nemesis in prison. Writing a letter I never actually sent was hard enough.
I couldn’t leave Dawn right now anyway. She’s so confused over Anya and Spike kinda being back in the fold, but not really, and now Willow coming back but not completely fixed. Healed. Better. Whatever.
I want to see Faith, as crazy as that sounds. I thought about it more than once over the summer. Not for her, but for me. But, like I said, can’t leave Dawn. It’s not like Dawn’s too young to be left alone, or with Xander. Just, after the way I treated them all, especially my little sister, she’s, they’ve – ok, fine, I’ve been… clingy.
I think, though, that Faith could bring some levity to our little group. She would definitely stir things up. We’ve all been far too serious lately: I think we could use a little convict rogue slayer in the mix to get us all off our high horses. Of course, they’d all look at me like I’d grown two extra heads if I actually brought it up at the dinner table.
Oops. Xander’s calling for me from downstairs. I guess that means it’s time to head to the airport. I hope this all goes smoothly. Ok, happy face. I’m going to pick up my best friend!
Smoke curls around my head. Its acrid stench fills the cramped cell before wafting gently out the gap under the locked door. Funny how something so disgusting is so oddly comforting.
I didn’t smoke before getting locked up.
Now, though, now it seems like I’ll fuck anything that looks at me right just for a carton of these damn things.
They say prison changes you, makes you forget what real life is like. Well, I’ve been here a couple of years now, and I still remember. I feel real life scratchin’ at the walls, itchin’ up my back every night the sun goes down. Trust me: a slayer locked up knows exactly what she’s missin’ outside.
I stopped feeling it for awhile, that pull. Guess that’s the Powers that Be telling me I’ve been tried and hanged. They didn’t want me slaying any more than the fuckin’ super friends did, so they took away that pull, made me want it. Crave it.
Then the dreams came.
Yeah, I knew what they were from the get-go: The PtB were showing me all the people I wouldn’t have a chance to save while I was in here. I fucked up big time, and they made sure I knew it.
I’m still sweatin’ this last one: some pink-haired punk girl getting gutted by blind dudes in robes. There was a voice, deep and menacing, but it’s talking in another language so I couldn’t understand. Everything’s slowed way down, like they were under water or somethin’. It was almost like the dream was delayed, on repeat, even though I don’t remember ever having it before.
I wonder if that means she’s havin’ ‘em? Am I getting B’s recycled slayer dreams?
The pull came back with a vengeance with the first one a couple weeks ago, so I dunno. Guess you could say that’s why I’m in solitary again.
Better than my cellmate, though: I put her in the infirmary with a detached retina and a broken jaw when she tried to wake me up from that damn dream. Stupid bitch.
There’s no light in here, but I can feel the sun rise. It’s like a warmth, spreading out over my shoulders and down my arms, making my fingertips tingle. It’s telling me we’ve survived another night. But I know better.
These dreams are telling me something big is going down. The fact that I’m havin’ ‘em tells me that when it comes to it, I’m gonna be in it. Needed. It’s a terrifying thought, really.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not worried about me: somethin’ tells me I’m gonna make it through. But just knowing that I’m gonna be needed in this fight, that I matter, well, that’s the whole reason I started smokin’ these fuckin’ things in the first place tonight.
I’m not a hero. Never have been, never will be, but I’ve never wanted anything more than to kick ass, take names, and save lives than I do right now.
They say “be careful what you wish for,” right?
I wished for strength and got more power than I could handle. I wished for death, but death spat me back out. I wished for peace, locked away from the crazy world outside, and now all I know is what I can’t have. What I can’t do. I stopped wishing the day I burned that fucking letter to ashes.
I'm not stupid. I may be needed, but I sure as hell ain’t wanted.
Part 4: a walk in the woods
She looks so tired.
Arms crossed over her chest, face drawn: it's like she's trying to hold it all in. Hold it all together.
Last time I saw B, she looked... dead. Death warmed over, if I’m bein’ polite. There was nothin' there that I recognized as anything but a stranger.
Last night, though, I knew her; self-righteous smirk, punch like a Mack truck and all. I see now it was just for show. Maybe just for her.
Tonight, she's just Buffy. As much as she tries, she couldn't ever hide from me. The slump of her shoulders, the cracks in her voice, the dark circles under her eyes, they all tell me the same thing.
She's sick of this shit.
I would be too if I'd been carrying the weight of the world for seven years. Not me, though. I just got back in it, my shoulders are strong, they can handle it. I think she's starting to see it, too.
The hostility's worn off to show me something resembling camaraderie. Me and B are never gonna be tight buds, but she’s showing me tonight that we can at least work together. The words she says, the tone she uses can’t tell me that, but the fact that I’m here, she’s here....
Well, you know what they say, right? Actions speak louder than words?
She’s allowing me a place in this fight, at her side. She’s accepting my help. It doesn’t seem like much, but it feels a little like forgiveness.
She looked so uncomfortable. Walking stiffly, like it was painful. Her hands were shoved into her tight pockets and she was babbling like she was nervous. Like she needed the distraction.
Then I told her it was good to have her here. I validated her presence and she’s relaxed.
We’ve fallen into step on the path leading away from the swarming Bringers, and I can’t help but think back to jokes about new Olympic categories. I want to say something, to ease the silence, but I don’t want to push. I don’t want to cause that rigid set to fall back on her shoulders.
Maybe I should start slow?
A joke about synchronized walking?
We do seem to have it down to an art.
But then, I don’t know this Faith. Is she the type that likes to joke around, like she used to be? Or is there no place for jokes with Faith now that she’s gotten… better?
I look at her now, and I see a stranger. Someone new to get to know. I thought it would be hard seeing her again, that old hurts would get in the way of everything else.
I see her now, and I see a blank slate. And that’s what she’ll get from me: a new beginning.
It could all be so simple.
Sometimes I think it woulda done us some good if we had just kicked the crap out of each other the first night we patrolled together. If those vamps hadn’t interrupted….
Ya know, schoolyard logic? We beat each other up, become the best of bestest buds.
I think maybe we would’ve understood each other better in the long run. The way things are now can’t be any worse than that, can they?
I’m not talkin’, she’s not talkin’. We’re just walking along the same path, our feet finding a rhythm together when nothin’ else does. I wonder if B’d appreciate any thoughts on synchronized walking?
Nah. Buffy’s all about business these days, it seems. Sure, Spike can talk a big game, but lookin’ at B now, I just don’t see her lettin’ her wild side out any time soon. She looks scared, and tired, and almost… guilty.
I feel like I should say something, just to break this awkward silence. What to say, though?
‘Hey, B, you think we’ll kill each other good and proper this time around?’
Yeah, something tells me that wouldn’t go over too well. Maybe I should tell her about what went down in LA? She seemed pretty interested a few minutes ago.
‘Hey, B, I was in your boyfriend’s mind and you weren’t.’
She’s stopping just ahead of me with a worried look on her face. Maybe she knows what I should say.
She probably does, too. Got some new mind reading powers or something from Willow while I was locked up. Maybe I can get her attention.
‘Hey, B! You’re a stupid, stuck-up bitch!’
I guess I do know what I should say, no reason to try and hide it anymore. And if she can read my mind? Well, then I guess she already knows.
Way I figure it, she can’t beat me to death if she needs me in this fight. Her words, not mine.
She’s fidgeting again. I wonder if she even realizes she’s doing it? I wonder why I notice, and then I remember that I’ve been watching her walk next to me for the last five minutes.
The angry bruises I can see peeking out from beneath her clothes make a sickly accessory to the worried look on her face. I guess she’s lucky I held back a little last night. Ok, no I didn’t, but at least I didn’t add to all of the purple and green and yellow blotches all over her body.
Should I say something? Make sure there’s no lasting damage?
Yeah, right, Buffy, what could I say that she wouldn’t throw right back in my face? I don’t know. And didn’t I already establish that I don’t know her, either?
I want to ask her about the bite mark on her neck. Tell her that I have an identical scar.
But then she probably knows that already, especially after taking a self-guided tour of my body.
She keeps looking at me out of the corner of her eye. It’s starting to creep me out. But then I realize that she’s probably only doing it because I’m doing the same thing.
I speed up a little while she’s back in one of her deep-thinking funks. We’re almost to the house, and I feel like maybe one of us should say something. The fact that Faith doesn’t seem to be paying anymore attention to me makes me stop walking. I guess it’ll have to be me to break the ice. Again.
I am the fearless leader, after all. Heh, right.
Faith stops just behind me, and it’s like we’re in a Mexican stand-off, except I’m not facing her.
Why do they call it a Mexican stand-off, anyway? It’s not like only Mexicans can have stand-offs and ---
And she surprises me.
I can just barely see her in my peripheral vision; her head is down and her hands are still at her sides, out of those pockets and not fidgeting anymore. I take a deep breath that I’m sure she can hear.
“Yeah?” I don’t move, I just let her speak.
And I wish I hadn’t. Because now I have to do this. She has to know that she never needed to say it.
Part 5: how did it come to this?
I haven’t seen her in a year.
Not that long, considering some of the extended breaks we’ve taken from each other. Jail, death, long bouts of unconsciousness, they’ve kept us apart before for miles and miles. She always found her way back. This time, though….
The rising sun glints in the glass in my hand, mocking me as it illuminates the amber colored liquid inside. I didn’t used to drink before breakfast.
Or, more accurately, in place of breakfast. Things change.
How did it come to this?
The red morning sun is a warning, but I don’t know what it’s trying to tell me. The first time, I knew, but I didn’t listen. Just a routine apocalypse, just another May day.
I thought that when it happened I’d be elated. I’d laugh from deep in my belly and rejoice. Finally! Not me this time!
Or maybe I wouldn’t care. I’d shrug my shoulders and keep on walking.
I did care, though. Too much. Not enough.
She did, too. She told me so.
I’d heard rumors, rumblings from the other girls, but I waited. I wanted to hear it from the source.
New Year’s came, and we all crawled back to each other. Friends, family, allies, acquaintances, reuniting for the first time to throw out the old, and ring in the new.
With streamers. And lots of alcohol.
And whoever was in charge of the decorations should be fed to a Nisanti demon. I mean, really? Who puts up mistletoe for a New Year’s party?
Anyway. I was drunk. She was drunk. We ended up under the God damn mistletoe together and Robin, of all people, started the “kiss, kiss, kiss!” chant. Her face was swimming around in front of me, so I grabbed it with both hands and planted one on her lips.
I don’t really remember much about it, other than the fact that the whisky on her tongue and the tequila on mine made me kinda queasy. I remember her forehead resting on mine afterwards; the way her hot breath teased my cheeks; the husky timber of her voice.
“B… B, that was… wow…” Her words were slurred, her eyes half-lidded and bleary. Her smile teased out words of my own.
“Faith, y – you kissed me!” I laughed. I hiccupped. I hugged her close to me until she ran off to dance with Robin and Kennedy.
She used to send me postcards. I’d get them from all over the world: Nepal, Fiji, Madagascar, Patagonia, the Yukon. She had found freedom after we destroyed my hometown, and she used it better than the rest of us ever could. She was gone for months at a time, sometimes so long that I’d start to forget.
Just little things, really: the roughness of her voice after a long night of slaying, the hints of green in her eyes, the freckles across her nose. I never worried, though. She always came back.
She had been gone so long that I almost missed her when she met up with us in Cleveland. “Don’t tell me you’re still pissed about New Year’s, B!”
Her laughter made me remember. I was never mad about that night. After all, I kissed her.
“Shit, Faith!” I had squealed. “Where’d you come from?!”
Seriously, she had sprung up in front of me out of nowhere. I don’t care if Dawn is convinced Faith had been walking towards us in plain sight for a block and a half.
“What, B, no hugs this time?” I scowled. She winked. We’re different like that. And yes, there was hugging again.
Faith and I were never meant to be best friends, or great lovers, or mortal enemies. I’ve always thought of our relationship as beyond definition.
Does that sound pretentious? I think the whisky’s getting to me.
We all spent the night holed up in a Days Inn, catching up, researching the biggest of big bads since the First went scrunch. We were still flying high from such a phenomenal victory. A full year later, and still, we were invincible. Faith and Xander cracked jokes, Dawn and Willow instigated an epic food fight, Giles phoned it in. It wasn’t until the sun began to rise that we even contemplated the situation with any hint of seriousness.
Faith had stood at the window, arms crossed in front of her. I remember that her hair was up in a ponytail that morning, swept carelessly out of her face so she could read yet another dusty tome. It made her look younger. Innocent.
The look of worry on her face made me pause. Made me stand at her side, in solidarity. In allegiance.
“Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.”
Her words, the simple rhyme, made us all stop. Re-read the words on the page, study a little more intently on the threat we’d be facing. Just another demon, wanting to open a portal to unleash hell on Earth.
I still remember the last thing she said to me. When it all went wrong.
We won. We did. The world still turns because of us.
Because of her.
But we didn’t celebrate.
“Our time’s runnin’ out, B.”
I remember screaming, running after her as she jumped into the swirling mass of energy, trying in vain to stop her. She knew from the start how it would end. She knew, just as well as the rest of us, that a force of pure good entering the portal was all it took to close it. To save us.
Willow had a spell, a back-up plan, so it wouldn’t come to that.
So we wouldn’t lose anyone.
It was iffy, though. None of us even knowing if it would work. Too much time spent goofing off the night before to test it first.
“I love ya. You knew it, don’t look so shocked. I’ll see you again.”
Faith was never a patient person. She was in the fight to win it. Always.
“Ice this fucker for me, yeah?” Just like that, she was gone.
I always used to worry that I’d forget her face, her scent, her voice. I did once, for awhile. When she was comatose. I forced the color of her eyes, the flash of her teeth when she smiled, out of my mind.
Mornings are the worst for me. Hence the whisky.
A little JD and a Marlboro Red and it’s like New Year’s all over again.
I don’t worry so much about forgetting her anymore. Not when she’s in my dreams every night. Not when I save her. Over and over.
My friends have long since given up trying to find her. They never got it, though. They tell me she’ll be the death of me if I keep this up. This constant vigil.
But she always comes back.
I’ll see her again.