Chapter Six: Conversations
"You'll leave me. I'll be alone."
"Never. You'll come with me."
"I can't; I've tried. They won't let me."
"You've never really tried, you know. We don't belong here. You know that."
"I don't belong anywhere."
"You belong with me."
"But you're afraid of me; I can feel it."
"Doesn't make it not true."
"But...how will we know? When will it be time?"
"When I'm brave enough to ask you, you'll be brave enough to say yes."
Buffy still hadn't come to terms with what Faith had done to herself or how she felt about it. She was both proud of her and horrified, approving and afraid. And angry...
Buffy reluctantly got out of bed and starting getting dressed.
She was angry. Angry that Faith could have gotten through her defenses and made her fall in love with her. Angry that Faith could have killed herself without a second thought. Angry that Faith was on her mind all the time so that she couldn't think straight. Angry that she wanted to hold her and let everything else around them disappear. Angry that she might not get the chance.
Buffy took a shuddering breath to calm herself as she buttoned up her shirt. It's another day. Let it go. Got to get through today...
A knock on the door---Dawn poked her head through.
Deanna smiled. Stop being so impatient. We just need to make sure you're...well, you.
Giles and Deanna had been fussing over Faith for about half an hour. The slayer had been confused and disoriented at first, since she expected to be dead; but confusion soon gave way to irritation as her interrogators had insisted on communicating telepathically in order to spare her throat for just a little longer. She had never been good at keeping still, even though at the moment that was exactly what her body was begging her to do.
She rolled her eyes. Look: I'm fine. Why don't you tell me why Willow stopped me?
Deanna didn't really know what to say. Well...
Giles gave a slight cough. "I'm sorry, but for the last few minutes..."
"Oh! Of course. Sorry." Deanna looked at Faith. "Do you mind?"
Faith shook her head slightly. No.
"Ok then. The truth is, we don't know why Willow stopped you, though of course we're glad she did. I imagine she didn't see the use of losing a strong fighter so soon."
But my powers would have passed on to everyone. The vampire sect would have no reason to come back.
"Maybe," Giles said after Deanna relayed Faith's thoughts. "It's also possible that they would have taken up another cause, even good old-fashioned revenge."
"Willow waited until the last instant---they think you're dead. We should have a bit of time before we have to deal with them again." Deanna's brow furrowed. "If we were supposed to lose you, we would have; I think you still have work to do."
Don't go all ‘this is fate' on me. This was Willow, and word on the street is she has a hard time letting slayers go.
Deanna looked at her. Doesn't mean she made the wrong choice.
"Yes...what now? What's going on?"
"Nothing. I think we should let Faith get some more rest." Deanna stood and gestured for Giles to do the same.
Faith watched as they made their way to her door; when they opened it, Buffy was standing in the hall. Faith blinked and immediately grew nervous.
"Buffy," Giles said. "I'm afraid it would be better if you came back a little..."
"I'm sure a quick visit won't hurt," Deanna assured him. "That is, as long as you don't get her worked up."
Buffy stared at Deanna as though she wasn't sure how to take that last comment. "I...I won't."
Buffy watched them leave, then pulled the door shut behind her as she entered Faith's room. Faith was grateful that Buffy didn't turn to face her right away; it gave her another moment to control the wide range of emotion that she knew was playing across her face. Finally, Buffy turned around and started for the bed.
Faith nodded at her.
"Oh, right. Sorry. I guess with the...you can't...right. Is it permanent? The...the voice thing?" Buffy stammered, suddenly worried.
Faith raised an eyebrow at her.
"No...ok, good, then...then that's...good." Buffy swallowed and tried again. "So are...how are you?"
Faith considered, then held up an open hand. Buffy was temporarily confused.
"High five? Oh," she said, laughing softly, "Five by five. Naturally." Buffy laughed again, but soon Faith could see silent tears working their way down her cheeks. Her heart broke at the sight.
Buffy wiped her eyes, embarrassed, before looking at Faith. "You scared the hell out of me."
Faith didn't know what to say; it was the first time in her life that she could remember even wanting to explain herself to somebody else, but even if she could talk, she just didn't have the words. She remembered an overwhelming sense of peace coming over her in the stairwell at the moment she made her decision to end her life---she had regained a sense of importance, of control, of knowing that what she did would have an impact, and of knowing it was the right thing to do. If the vampires had killed her with the scythe, all would have been lost, but if she killed herself the slayer powers would live on forever.
She hadn't thought about Buffy while that was happening. She hadn't really thought about herself, really...just ‘the slayer.'
But now as she looked at the blonde, her heart fought with itself. Faith knew what it was trying to feel, but the rest of her knew those feelings had led to some of the worst pain in her life. Still, here was Buffy, the most unlikely of persons to be sitting on her bed, telling her that the idea of losing her was frightening.
The idea that I could have you frightens me.
"I'm sorry," Buffy said quietly, "It's just...I know that what you did was right, and I'd be a total hypocrite if I said otherwise, but..."
Faith reached out gently and touched Buffy's hand, but Buffy jumped up and continued, ignoring the hurt look on Faith's face. "...but that doesn't change the fact that you would have been gone---you would have left me."
Faith, stung by Buffy's aversion to her touch, threw caution out the window.
"...Yes..." She croaked.
Buffy was taken aback, both at the actual word and the fact that Faith had gathered her strength to speak; for a moment it brought her back down to earth. She took a breath, registering Faith's anger and pain, and remembering how grateful she was that her counterpart was alive.
Faith closed her eyes and shook her head; she couldn't say what she needed to. She felt useless.
Buffy sat back down on the bed. This time she was the one to reach out; Faith let her take her hand. They sat there, just looking at each other, for a long time. Buffy gently traced her fingertips along Faith's hand before taking it in both of her own.
"I...I don't know why this is so hard for me. I'm being selfish. I am being a hypocrite. I'm not saying what I want to say..."
Buffy felt Faith tense up under her touch; she wasn't sure how to take it. She looked to her face for clues, but as usual the brunette's expression could be any number of emotions. Buffy lowered her eyes and slowly let Faith's hand go.
"I'm sorry. I guess I'm not really helping you." Buffy reluctantly stood up. "You're supposed to be resting and...I should probably go."
She took a few steps before Faith made a faint noise that got her to turn around. "Yes? What is it? What do you need?"
Faith grimaced, and Buffy leaned closer so the brunette wouldn't have to strain.
"Faith, what do you need?"
Buffy frowned. "I'm sorry, I..."
Faith saw a bitter look make a brief appearance on Buffy's face. "You need Deanna?" The blonde stiffened. "Sure. Yeah, she's...I'll get her for you." Buffy turned and quickly left Faith's room.
Faith sighed inwardly. She knew it would be awkward, but she didn't know what else to do; while listening to Buffy's worry, something had occurred to her that for whatever reason hadn't before, and she needed Deanna right away. And until she could talk, she couldn't fix things with Buffy.
Minutes later, Deanna entered her room, looking concerned. "Is everything all right? Buffy seemed..."
Faith shook her head. I need you to do something for me.
Deanna raised her eyebrows. Sure. Anything.
Faith raised herself up on her elbows, staring intently at her friend.
I need you to bring me the scythe.
Willow was also awake, holding a grateful Kennedy close to her. She gazed down at her girlfriend and gently kissed the top of her head. It had taken awhile, but Willow had finally convinced her that she was completely ok, at which point Kennedy was able to sleep for the first time in days. Willow wouldn't have woken her for the world.
Unfortunately, the world had an unpleasant way of creeping in anyway; Giles appeared in her doorway, and he looked as though he needed to talk. Willow gently rearranged Kennedy in their bed before slowly making her way to meet Giles in the hall.
Giles slipped his hands into his pockets. "I'd heard you'd recovered earlier. Is...is this too much?"
"No, I'm fine. Just a little tired, but no worse for the wear. But...how's my patient?"
"Faith will be all right, I think. She's trying not to speak too much now, but other than that..."
Willow breathed a sigh of relief; she hadn't noticed that Giles was not having a similar reaction. "Actually, Willow...that's what I came to talk to you about. Well...ask you about."
Willow raised her eyebrows, curious.
"Why did you stop her?"
Willow was taken aback. "Why did I...?"
"Faith had decided to end the battle by sacrificing herself and you didn't allow it. No one wanted to lose her, but it was her choice, and it would have distributed her powers to all of the potentials in the world. The sect could not affect the slayer line after such an act; nothing could."
Willow's brain was still trying to play catch-up. "But they believe she's dead."
"Giles..." Willow rubbed her head. "Faith didn't have to die in order for us to win."
"Let's hope not."
Willow stared at him, not knowing how to respond. It wasn't what had happened with Buffy---she'd made sure that she'd gotten to Faith before the slayer had actually died. This was completely different...wasn't it?
Giles glanced away momentarily before fixing his gaze on her.
"Willow...you're very powerful. I've seen you at your worst and at your best, and I know that you are capable of fantastic feats that others can only dream of. But with that power comes responsibility that requires unwavering discipline."
Willow crossed her arms, bracing for what he was going to say.
"If you're going to fight at the level that we do, with the power that you have, you have to be able to set your personal feelings aside and see the greater good."
Willow still didn't say anything. Giles took that as compliance and continued.
"Not that emotions are a bad thing; they're actually quite important---they represent our instincts, our gut response to a situation. They can save us, as they have throughout our evolutionary history. But now...the new challenge is to be able to recognize which ones impede us, which ones need to be kept in check. Do you understand?"
Willow hesitated, lost in thought, before straightening up and saying clearly, "Yes. Yes, I do."
"Good." Giles removed his glasses and began to wipe them on his shirt. "This is a new world for all of us, Willow, with new rules and new consequences. I need to know that you'll be able to think of these things on a larger scale than we're used to. You'll be able to do a lot more to keep balance in this world."
Willow looked him in the eye. "I won't let you down, Giles."
Faith gripped the cold steel of the scythe in her hands and felt power coursing through her veins. Her body was healing rapidly; her strength was returning.
Deanna watched her nervously, not certain that she'd made the right choice in bringing Faith the weapon. She could feel the power radiating from the woman in front of her, but she wasn't sure what Faith intended to do with it...
Faith finally opened her eyes.
While talking to Buffy about worry and fear and death, Faith had realized that's all they focused on when discussing the scythe, ever since they realized how it could end the slayer line. No one talked about the advantages of being connected to every slayer in the world. I wonder if Giles had steered us away from that line of thinking on purpose.
No matter if he had; she'd come to it on her own.
Deanna had come to her in a dream (it seemed so long ago), warning her, telling her to stay close to Kennedy and the other slayers from whom she got more strength. The slayer-witch had said the others acted like mirrors, reflecting Faith's own powers back to her. And the scythe could channel it all.
If she fought with it, she could be unstoppable.
When Buffy had first handed her the scythe, she had felt that it was hers. Not the slayer's---hers. She'd been right.
Completely healed, Faith got up from her bed and gazed at the blade as if seeing it for the first time. Deanna shifted uncomfortably. "Where are you going?"
Faith looked at her with such focus it almost frightened her.
"To find Buffy."
Chapter Seven: Show Me You Love Me
Buffy felt horribly guilty about her conversation with Faith---she said everything she shouldn't have, and was too cowardly to say the things that mattered. She really didn't do a thing to help Faith at all. "But who can help? That's right---Deanna!" Deanna who could both slay vampires with Faith and perform the highest magics with Willow, which left Buffy...?
She tossed her shoes into the corner and took a breath to try to calm herself. Her thinking brain knew she was making Deanna an outlet for everything that was bothering her. She wasn't sure if her jealousy was valid or not, but she knew Deanna was somebody she could rage against. She was safe. It wasn't fair for Buffy to be doing this to her.
Her emotional brain didn't care.
Since they'd been with the Alliance Buffy had felt like a wreck, like she'd been completely out of control of her own life. She wanted to leave more than anything, but didn't know how to go about it. On paper, it seemed like staying in the castle was the best choice---they couldn't be harmed there, they had unlimited resources, and no one on the outside could locate the dimension Giles and his team had built. For all intents and purposes, they could vanish here. But Buffy just couldn't shake the feeling that the Alliance wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Her gut was telling her to get out, but how to convince the others?
Then of course, there was Faith; she had to be kept safe, didn't she? Hidden? Wasn't that the best choice?
Buffy had no idea. She pulled off her shirt and went to her bathroom, turning the shower on and letting it warm up. She unbuttoned her pants.
If for no other reason, she wanted to leave because her instincts were getting mixed signals in the castle; she couldn't trust them. And if she couldn't even trust herself...
Buffy slid off her pants and the rest of her clothes and slipped under the hot spray.
She didn't want the others to accuse her of being paranoid. Xander, Dawn, and Willow all seemed to be adjusting to life in the castle just fine; she knew Willow would probably stay for the demon libraries alone. Faith would probably jump at the chance to leave, once she'd recovered, but then again leaving was never a problem for her.
Faith. Buffy sighed and tried to focus on the hot water.
Buffy knew she loved the brunette, but she had no idea what to do with it. She didn't know the details of Faith's life; in fact, she knew next to nothing about the slayer pre-Sunnydale. From what she could gather, though, romantic and loving relationships didn't make up a lot of Faith's history. Buffy gave a soft laugh; when lust reared its head, as it had in the basement of their not-so-safehouse, Faith didn't seem to have a problem with it; it was Buffy who pulled away that time. But when Buffy had mentioned caring about her and worrying about her, Faith had taken off into the night. So she's afraid of love and I'm afraid of sex...hooo, boy.
Buffy ran her hands over her hair and felt the water trickle down her back as she remembered dark images from Faith's mind. When they had been wandering in the woods before the Alliance found them, they had started to talk things out; that was when Faith's walls first showed signs of coming down, and Buffy had been almost overwhelmed with images of pain and violence related to the times Faith had loved anybody. Bufy was stuck---she didn't want to frighten Faith away by trying to push along what they'd already started (and what they both clearly wanted), but she didn't think Faith would ever make a move on her own. God, I wish she would...
Buffy stopped her wonderings; she could hear someone in her room. She pulled aside the shower curtain to call out: "Dawn?"
A moment later the dark slayer who had so occupied her thoughts appeared in the doorway.
It was so unexpected that Buffy blinked and stepped back, ending up against the shower wall.
Faith seemed to have recovered completely; in fact, it felt to Buffy like she was stronger than before the battle. The brunette stood straighter, was almost pulsing with power, and was gripping the scythe. Faith still hadn't said a word.
Buffy watched as Faith slowly set the scythe down so it rested against the doorframe and stepped over to the shower. Buffy could see the intentions in Faith's eyes and felt her own breath hitch as her body started to respond without even being touched.
"Faith...a-are you...I mean, are we...d-do you know how I..."
Faith reached out and took Buffy by the arm, pulling her close. "I've never been great with words." With that, the dark slayer pressed her lips to Buffy's.
Buffy buried her hands in Faith's brown locks as Faith stepped fully clothed into the shower and pressed her up against the wall. Buffy broke the kiss and gasped in pleasure at the rough feeling of Faith's clothes against her naked body.
Faith gripped her shoulders and turned her around so she was facing the wall, then came up behind her. Buffy pressed her hands to the wall for support while Faith snaked an arm around her torso and cupped her breast. Buffy tried to turn, to kiss her again, but Faith wouldn't allow it; instead, her other hand slid down Buffy's waist to her hips before following the blonde's curves to the front, where it vanished between her legs.
Buffy's knees gave out at the first touch, but Faith held her up as her fingers slipped inside and started their purposeful strokes. Buffy closed her eyes as a moan escaped her lips---She's inside me...Faith is inside me...
Was she ever.
Once Faith fell into a rhythm she quickly became more forceful; Buffy gasped and reached behind to wrap her hands in Faith's hair and pull her closer. Faith kissed her and then started working her way down Buffy's neck and shoulders, kicking, sucking, biting...
Buffy couldn't take anymore. With a surge of strength she turned herself around so she could face Faith. The two of them were thrown off-balance and tumbled to the floor of the shower; if it hurt, they didn't notice, and now Buffy was on top.
Water was everywhere.
Faith's eyes blazed at the woman writhing over her; Buffy gazed back with a look of self-satisfaction at having gotten the upper hand. Faith tried to fight by thrusting her fingers back inside the blonde, and though Buffy cried out in pleasure she would not be deterred---she was going to fuck Faith. Buffy placed her hands on Faith's shoulders while she rode her hand in ecstasy, and once Faith seemed to think that was where the blonde would stay, Buffy whipped one hand down to her waist and unbuttoned her pants. Faith responded by trying to buck Buffy off, which only pleased the blonde more. Buffy bent over and kissed Faith forcefully while she continued to grind against her hand and her soaked jeans. So rough...
With her body pressed to Faith's and the water making things extra slippery, Buffy let her hand find its way past the brunette's perfect breasts and toned abs to her waistband. She spent an agonizing amount of time teasing before going in and pressing her fingers to Faith's clit.
It was like touching a live wire---Faith cried out and sat bolt upright, knocking Buffy backwards so she was sitting on Faith's legs, looking at the brunette with longing and desire. The water rained down on Faith as she stared at Buffy, suddenly unsure and in unfamiliar territory. Buffy's eyes softened...it's ok, Faith...as she reached forward and gently tucked Faith's wet hair behind her ear, letting her fingers continue on to trace her jaw line, her chin, her lips. Buffy reached to Faith's waist and slowly peeled her wet tank top from her body, tossing it aside. She could almost hear Faith's heart pounding as she crawled back up her body and cupped her face with her hands; Faith's hands, in turn, had both come to rest on the small of Buffy's back. Buffy kissed her softly, carefully, before pulling back and looking deep into those soulful eyes and saying, "Come with me."
A moment later they had transitioned to the bed, leaving pools of water in their wake. Buffy kneeled before Faith and slowly pulled off her soaked jeans and underwear as one, which left the rest of Faith's stunning physique completely exposed. Buffy's breath caught in her throat, and she couldn't remember having ever felt for anyone what she was feeling for Faith in that moment. Faith, however, was looking increasingly nervous, and Buffy knew she had to snap out of it so she could provide the brunette with some...reassurance.
Faith started to move backwards on the bed, but Buffy reached out and held her ankle firmly, keeping her in place. Buffy slowly pulled herself up, milking every moment; she could see Faith getting lost in watching her body---the toned muscle, the firm breasts, and little rivulets of water trickling from her wet hair over the entire package, making her skin glisten in what little light there was in the room.
Buffy stretched out next to her, looking Faith in the eye while her hand worked its way up her body. Faith shuddered and whimpered, but Buffy's gaze never wavered as her fingers got closer and closer to what they wanted. The blonde used her other hand to pull Faith to her in a passionate kiss as she finally entered her.
Faith moaned into her mouth and wrapped Buffy in a tight embrace as the slayer explored her. As Buffy's confidence grew, so did the strength of her strokes, and any trepidation the brunette may have felt went out the window as she locked her legs around Buffy's waist, her body begging for more.
Buffy gave it to her.
Faith cried out and buried a hand in Buffy's hair, gripping tightly; when Buffy looked down at her, she could see unshed tears in her eyes. She immediately started backing off, worried that she had done something wrong, but Faith quickly shook her head and pulled her in for a kiss, whispering in her ear, "No Buffy---don't stop. Please...don't ever stop..."
Tears leapt into Buffy's own eyes as she realized she'd just heard the closest thing to "I love you" that Faith could probably say to her. She blinked and pulled back so that they were face to face before saying:
With that, she thrust harder into Faith as the brunette's fingers found their way back into Buffy, and the two of them rocked back and forth, moaning and gasping, each becoming lost in the other's pleasure before finally crying out as one and collapsing back onto the bed, exhausted, spent, and more at peace than either one of them could ever remember being.
Chapter Eight: Nightmares
She listened for a response, but Buffy wasn't there now. Faith walked a few steps and tried to remember. "Hello?" Hadn't there been a vortex? Yes...yes, they'd left this place and gone to a grassy field, and there was a vortex, and the earth opened up and...and... What am I doing back here?
Faith started walking faster, uncomfortable in the open. There wasn't even a tumbleweed. She looked down at the knife, turning it over in her hands, puzzled by its reappearance. She remembered now---Buffy had pulled it from her own gut, and Faith had taken it, wiped it clean, and thrown it into the night. Maybe I didn't throw it hard enough the first time. With that thought, Faith stopped, wound up, and hurled the weapon as hard as she could into the darkness. She couldn't even see where it landed. Satisfied, she turned to continue her walking.
The knife was on the sand in front of her.
Feeling severely uneasy, Faith jumped over it and started running, hoping to leave it behind her. But after a few minutes, something was glinting on the ground ahead of her, and again it was the knife. More distraught now, she changed direction, but the knife appeared over and over again. Finally, with her hand shaking, she picked it up.
"What? What is it?! I'm...I'm done with you! Buffy's done with you. Why won't you stay behind?"
Angry, the slayer started running, weapon in hand, not caring where she was going. Eventually the ground beneath her feet became more solid, and soft grasses started brushing her legs. The grass was not as thick as she remembered; instead, it shot up in small, sparse patches. Faith squinted her eyes into the distance. She could see a path. It was more well-defined than the first one had been, but unlike the other one, she didn't see that it forked anywhere. She swallowed, gripped the knife, and kept walking.
Then came the wind.
Faith turned frantically, trying to see where the vortex would be coming from, but she didn't see one. Just as before, hail started falling; she picked up the pace, still searching for a sign that she was going in the right direction. There wasn't one. I could be walking into it for all I know, she worried. As she ran and stared at the dark sky all around her, she had a worse thought...What if I'm init right now...?
On the horizon, the broken-down shack that she and Buffy had run into for shelter appeared. Faith ran for it, full-out, as the wind started blowing bits of debris and she felt the hail growing larger, bruising instead of stinging where it hit her skin. With a final lunge, she threw herself though the door of the shack, spun around, and slammed it behind her. She leaned against the door and closed her eyes, taking a moment to catch her breath.
Faith opened her eyes against the door-instead of the rough, unfinished wood of the shack, the door had become smooth, more solid, and had an old coat of graying paint. Faith started to sweat before she even turned around. When she did turn, she saw that the shack had been replaced by a bedroom. The faded yellow wallpaper was peeling in places, and there were water stains in one corner. A small pile of stuffed animals, their fur worn away in many places, some of them missing an eye or an ear, lay next to the bed. All the rest of the toys (what few there were), were carefully put away, giving an impression of order and control that Faith knew to be false. Her hands trembling, she slowly let her gaze travel to the bed itself. Her breath caught in her throat as she saw Buffy sitting there, staring back at her as though nothing was wrong. Buffy...
"You're...you're not supposed to be here, B..."
Buffy looked puzzled. "Why not? Is everything ok?"
No! Faith wanted to scream, Nothing is ok! Can't you see that? This is all wrong! She took a breath to calm herself. It didn't work. "Sure, yeah, you just...you can't be here right now. It isn't safe." Faith glanced at the clock on the wall: 3:45am.
"Where else would I go?"
Buffy pulled back the covers and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. "Something is wrong. Why won't you tell me? I can help you."
"You don't know what you're talking about. You can't help me! You have to let me protect you!" Faith looked at the clock again. 3:47. Her breath became more rapid as feelings of desperation took over. "Buffy, please...let me save you..."
Buffy looked around. "I'm not in any danger, Faith."
Faith ran to the window and pulled up as hard as she could; it didn't budge. She ran to the closet door, but the doorknob had vanished. She punched the door in frustration.
"Buffy, please...I have to figure out what to do." The clock read 3:50 and Faith's blood went cold. She crept back to the door to the room and pressed her ear against it. Sure enough, she could hear the heavy footsteps making their way up the stairs. They weren't in a hurry. They knew she'd be there. She always was. Faith pressed her back to the door and glared at Buffy. "Why won't you let me protect you?"
"I'm not in danger."
"You are!" The footsteps started coming down the hallway. "As long as you're with me in this place, you are. I...I can take this. But you...I'd never let anything happen to you. This is all ok as long as I know you're safe."
The footsteps had reached the door; Faith pressed her eyes tight and locked it, trying to buy herself more time, knowing that she'd pay for it later. The knob turned, caught, and then the knocking started. Faith's eyes were pleading with Buffy to leave.
The blonde stood up. "No. This isn't ok, Faith. Let me help you."
The knocking had turned to pounding, and Faith knew the door wouldn't last long. She looked around frantically, and her eyes fell on the knife; she must have dropped it on the floor. So that's why you're still here, she thought as she bent to pick it up.
"I don't need your help, Buffy. I can take care of this now. I'll save us both." Faith gripped the knife and faced the door. The frame had started to give way, splintering around the lock. Faith swallowed hard and glanced over her shoulder to make sure Buffy was ok, but the blonde had vanished. Startled, Faith spun around. "B? Buffy?" The distraction was enough. The door was open, her arms were pinned behind her back, the knife had fallen to the floor, useless, and everything went black...
In the middle of the night, Buffy rolled over in her sleep to drape an arm across Faith and nuzzle into her neck. She sighed deeply, her body content to stay in this new position for quite awhile, oblivious to the hammering heart of her partner.
The dark slayer had woken up in a cold sweat, with tears streaming down her cheeks. She pressed a hand to her eyes and tried to quiet her breathing, not wanting to wake the blonde, who clearly hadn't shared her dream. Thank God...
Faith tried to fall back asleep in the comfort of Buffy's warm embrace, but the damage had been done; she felt as though she were going to throw up. She slowly rolled out of bed, tucking Buffy back in, and knelt on the cool stone floor of the bedroom. Once the nausea had passed, she focused on the next part---getting out. She felt a pulling in her chest at the idea of leaving Buffy, but she wasn't prepared for Buffy to see her in her current state. Buffy would ask too many questions; she wouldn't understand that Faith had been trying to bury the answers for almost fifteen years. Faith was angry with herself---angry that she couldn't keep the past buried, angry that something so dark and twisted could mess up what she knew to be right and good. But it was messing it up. Faith wiped her eyes and looked again at the woman sleeping soundly. Buffy wouldn't understand---sometimes walls are necessary for survival, they hold you up. You need them, like you need air and water, or you will crumble.
Faith stood up and walked over to the wardrobe next to the bed. She pulled it open and started rummaging for anything that would fit, knowing that her own clothes were still soaking wet, wherever they were...
But you need Buffy, the little voice in her mind kept trying to tell her. Don't you see? She is strong. She will help you. Faith shook her head angrily, trying to clear it, while she pulled on a pair of cargo pants and a long-sleeved tshirt. Boots were found buried in the back of the wardrobe; she grabbed them.
Faith walked quickly but quietly to the heavy doors of the bedroom. She hesitated, and turned to look at Buffy. Beautiful, wonderful Buffy...she loves me...I'm pretty sure...
Faith looked away. Sometimes you have to choose between the things you want, and the things you need to survive. She knew that if this wall came down, she would never be able to pick up enough pieces to build a new foundation. She couldn't go on. When faced with that choice, it wasn't really a choice at all---love had become a luxury, one Faith had never been able to afford. She pulled the door open and slipped out.
When she heard the door shut, a wide-awake Buffy opened her eyes, rolled over, and heaved a sigh of bitter disappointment.
Chapter Nine: Old Habits...
"What the hell?!"
"Sorry," Robin muttered, as Faith tucked her hair behind her ears and tried to regain her composure. She glared.
"What are you doing here?"
Robin frowned. "My room is right over there," he gestured. "Is it ok if I go there?"
"Yeah. Fine. Whatever." She took a breath, before realizing that he was looking her over. "You got a problem?"
"No, I just...you're ok?"
"Why wouldn't I be??"
He crossed his arms. "Because the last time I saw you, you were on the brink of death. Couldn't speak, let alone yell at me."
Right... "Sorry. Yeah. Willow's magic did the trick. That, and Deanna brought me the scythe. It's got some healing powers, I guess. Finished the job."
"I'm glad you're ok-"
"Great. Thanks. Listen, I have to..."
"You know what, Faith? I am..." Robin laughed angrily. "I am tired of this, whatever this is."
"No. I know we didn't...work out. But since then, you've been jumping down my throat every chance you get!"
"Robin" ...she felt her hands shaking..."I don't have time for this right now..."
"Everything is a glare, a snide remark. And then there was that time in the weapons room; you were crying, you were upset. I tried to help and you freaked out on me-"
"Why are you always there?!" Faith hollered. "Jesus, Robin, why are you always there? I don't see you trying to make yourself the knight in shining armor for anyone but me. Not Kennedy, not Xander, not Dawn! You're not trying to be a good friend. You're trying to force some connection with me."
"We do have a connection, Faith; maybe not romantic, but we're very much alike..."
"No," she snarled. "We're not. I would never stay in someone's face if they wanted me gone."
Robin glared. "That's true. I hear you have the opposite problem of just taking off, even when people want you to stay. Pretty unreliable."
"...Like your mother was?" Faith said. "Is that still your attraction to me, Principal Wood? Trying to tame the wild slayer, tell yourself maybe this one will come home every night, for you?" She inched closer, smiling. "Trying to stick it to Mommy has led to a very unhealthy obsession with slayers."
Robin clenched his teeth. "I'd argue, but it seems you have some experience in that area yourself. Or are you not looking for Buffy to save you from the monsters your mother didn't?"
The blood drained from her face as she flashed back to the dream she'd just awoken from. The rage quickly replaced the fear and she flew at him, ready to rip his head right off of his shoulders, when she was suddenly held back by some invisible force. She strained against it, sweat beading up on her skin with the effort. Robin, too, was frozen. They heard a voice.
"What's...oh no. Hang on, guys." Willow's voice from the staircase above them. Faith heard her run down the stairs and watched as Willow took in the situation. The witch sighed, shifting her armload of books to the other hip. "Did you forget that no one can be harmed here, or did you just not care?" She waved her hand to first release Robin from the castle's protective grip. Faith strained in protest, and Willow shot her a look. "Oh yeah, right-like you're gonna shake hands and be done with it." She turned and studied Robin; she knew whatever was going on was far from over. "Go on, Robin."
Robin smirked at Faith and vanished down the hall. Willow turned back to the dark slayer. "Are you ok?"
"Willow, just let me go."
Willow tossed her books to the ground and crossed her arms. Faith sighed. "Will..."
"Didn't I just save your life, oh...recently?" Faith stopped struggling and looked away. "Do you think I did it for fun? Or maybe for the praise I'd be sure to get for messing with natural forces again? Because that sure is one of my favorite lectures, let me tell you."
Willow stepped closer. "You're one of the good guys, Faith. I saved you because you're not done yet and you know it. You're a leader in this fight, and a damn good one. Don't let fear and anger undo all of that."
Faith looked at her. "I'm not afraid."
Willow glanced in the direction Robin had gone. "Yes you are." She waved her hand and Faith was suddenly able to move again. "You're in love."
Faith's heart leapt to her throat. "Willow, no, I-"
"Kennedy figured it out. Robin knows too, doesn't he? About Buffy."
Faith crossed her arms, fighting back the tears, but her voice still had a slight tremor. "I don't know what Kennedy thinks she knows, but you're both wrong. It's not like that with me and B. It just isn't, ok?"
Willow blinked. "Ok."
"And Robin...Robin just needs to stay away from me. I'm not cuttin' him another break." Faith stalked off down the hall, the scythe forgotten.
Willow picked up her books. "Whatever you say..."
When Faith burst into the conference room, the only one who didn't jump was Merk. Faith didn't seem to notice, let alone care that she had interrupted an Alliance meeting as she stormed past a slew of demons to get to Giles. "I want out."
Giles frowned and removed his glasses. "Faith. You seem to be doing better."
"Yeah. And it's time I was leaving."
"Faith, we...there are things we need to discuss before..."
"No, Giles. No more discussions. No more meetings. No more committees. I'm telling you what's going to happen."
Giles looked around the conference area at the demons before waving his hand; all of them quickly gathered their paperwork and left, except for Merk, who remained close to Giles. The towering beast crossed his arms and let a low rumble of a growl voice his opinion. Giles smiled lightly at this reaction to the dark slayer before turning his attention back to her. "Is that so?"
Faith's eyes narrowed at his simple implication. "Yes, actually. It is. I'm a slayer, Giles. I slay. You talk, you plan-I'm getting crazy in here, and it's because no slayer should be cooped up this long."
"You were in prison longer with no complaints."
She grit her teeth. "I chose that prison. Not this one. I'm not redeeming myself here; I'm losing myself. And I have to go."
Giles glanced up at Merk before putting his glasses back on with a sigh. "And what does Buffy think of all this?" Faith's stiffening was not unnoticed. Giles raised an eyebrow. "Has something happened that we should know about?"
Faith's eyes narrowed. "Your girl's fine, Giles. I still fight the good fight. But you gotta let me out so that I can fight. No point in being a slayer if you hide from the bad guys."
Giles glanced at Merk once more. The beast raised a giant brow. Giles locked his eyes back on the slayer. "This isn't the time to forget yourself, Faith. The sect will not be far behind you once the word is out that you're alive."
"I'm not hiding, Giles. Not anymore."
"I know, I know," he said. He thought a moment. "It is about time the other slayers knew of this new...development ...in the slayer line. It's their legacy too, now. You should be close to them."
Faith shifted her weight and looked uncomfortable. "But not too close, right? I did my time, in prison and in Sunnydale-I need my space, Giles. I don't do so well without it."
"No, you don't," Giles mused, crossing his arms. "All right. The slayers are gathered at one home-we can easily set you up in one nearby. Before you get too excited...when the others leave this place, they'll join you there. But you'll still have your own rooms. I just don't think any of you should be truly alone right now."
Faith didn't look particularly happy with this, but she knew she shouldn't push her luck. Her mind went to one accommodation she didn't think would be too hard... "Giles...the other girls should have a watcher real close. Why don't you put Robin over there?"
"Yeah. He's real...invested in the slayer line. He'll keep ‘em safe. Be a good teacher." And not be living in the same house as me, she said silently.
"This wouldn't have anything to do with why you want to get out of here, does it?"
Faith didn't say anything, and Giles knew that she wouldn't. "All right. I'll talk to him about it. When do you want to leave?"
Giles laughed softly. "All right. But Faith-I won't send you alone. Too much is at stake."
"Fine. Send my travel buddy to the weapons room when he's ready to go." She turned and walked out.
Two hours later, Faith materialized in a darkened suburban living room. The sun was just setting-a welcome sight. Slaying tonight. Her body was tingling with anticipation. She took a deep breath. The air was cool, but damp; it had just rained. The perfect fresh start.
Whoever Faith was supposed to be traveling with didn't show before Faith grew too impatient and demanded to be let go-no doubt her babysitter wouldn't be far behind. Faith decided to get a head start. She dropped her bag and bent down to rummage through it. She dug past the few clothes she'd brought and grabbed a stake. Slipping it into her back pocket, she stood up again and made for the back door. The keys were on the table, just as Giles had said. She stashed them in her pocket and set out.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, Faith started to run; it started as a slow jog, but as her freedom became more and more real with each step she picked up the pace. Soon she was running full-out, pumping her arms and legs and letting the feeling of the hunt course through her. Her senses were sharpened, and she took in every detail of her new town. She came to a small fence and cleared it easily, crouching on the other side in the damp grass as her eyes darted around for any sign of non-life...
Thirty minutes later Faith was sitting in a tree in a cemetery, waiting for the stray vamp that was bound to show up, when she realized something that bothered her-she hadn't run into any other slayers. Her brow furrowed. Didn't they live in the house next door to hers? Not that she wanted company, but with all those slayers in town she was bound to run into ONE out slaying. Right?
Either something had happened to them, or they just weren't out slaying. And since she hadn't had any prophetic dreams lately...
"Son of a bitch," she muttered. "They've gone soft."
She dropped out of the tree just as the earth on a fresh grave was being disturbed. She crossed her arms and sighed. "Of course, if all vampires are going to be this convenient in this town, I guess I can't blame the newbies for skippin' out."
A minute later, the vampire's arms were above the ground. Faith braced herself for the fight. However, as the vamp got his head and first half of his body out, he suddenly burst into flames and turned to dust. Startled, Faith leapt back, whipping her head around to try to see if she was still alone.
Her eyes fell on Deanna. "What the hell was that?!"
Deanna shrugged, a mischievous grin on her face. "If they're going to be boring, it's up to us to make it interesting."
The slayer-witch walked over to Faith, who raised an eyebrow. "You're my chaperone?"
Faith nodded and looked back at the pile of ash. "Girl after my own heart."
"Have you checked in with the other slayers yet?"
"Hell no. Though it kind of bothers me that they're not out here, working. Gotta tell you, I didn't think I'd have to re-teach them the basics: slayers slay."
Deanna shook her head. "I looked in at them before coming to find you; they're watching a movie."
Faith eyed her. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"
"That we materialize in their house and teach them a lesson about letting their guard down?"
"That's a yes." Faith smiled.
Forty minutes later, Faith stood in front of a refrigerator, door held wide, trying to decide what to sample next. Deanna came up behind her. "You going to clean them out?"
"They deserve it. We're fighting life-and-death battles, and they're watching Project Runway? Please." Faith grabbed another beer and some leftover chicken while Deanna watched her.
The slayerettes had been terrified of the light show Deanna put on, especially when at the end of it an angry former rogue slayer was standing in their living room. Apparently the girls had interpreted "lay low" as "don't slay at all," and it wasn't clear whether that was due to a legitimate misunderstanding or a desire for a break. Faith suspected the latter, responded with harsh words and physical threats, and the newbies had taken off into the night to reacquaint themselves with their callings.
Deanna shifted her weight. "This isn't a good sign, you know, not considering what we have to tell them; that they have to protect you."
Faith shook her head. "No one has to protect me. I'll take care of it."
But Faith had grabbed her food and stalked out of the back door. Deanna ran to keep up as the dark slayer went back to their house next door. "Faith, wait."
Faith frowned, took another drink, and stared at her. "What?"
Suddenly Deanna didn't really know what to say; Faith noticed, raised an eyebrow, and slowly sat on the back porch steps. She ate her food while keeping an eye on the slayer-witch and watching her squirm.
Deanna shook her head and sighed, not knowing how else to say it: "I'm sorry about you and Buffy."
Faith nodded slowly, finishing her chicken before standing and crossing her arms. "I like you, you know." Deanna started to speak, but Faith raised a hand. "You're a great fighter. You're creative in battle. You're smart, you're powerful...and you're a good friend." Faith stepped closer to her. "...I don't have a lot of those, you know."
Deanna swallowed. "I-I figured..."
"I'd like to keep that friendship." Faith sidled up to her so her lips were right next to the witch's ear. "...so don't ever bring her up with me." Faith smiled dangerously, picked up her beer, and headed further into the yard.
Deanna let out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding.
Giles had warned her about this-unlike Deanna, he hadn't known what the catalyst was; but he was sure something in Faith had started going back to the way she'd been. He'd sent Deanna to be with her not only because she was powerful, but because she didn't know that side of Faith and wouldn't judge her as harshly as the others might. But that didn't mean she wasn't disturbed by the change; this wasn't the Faith she'd fought beside.
It was her job to make sure that Faith didn't get lost...
Deanna gathered her wits and started after the slayer, but Faith had vanished into the woods behind the house. Deanna moaned-it was going to be a long night. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on Faith's energy, but her own was now too scattered. She decided not to explore why that could be, and disappeared into the woods herself.
"Faith," she called, knowing she was talking to herself more than anyone else. "Faith, come on...we don't have to talk about anything you don't want to, but you should really come back to the house. Please?" She sighed and pushed aside some low branches. "It's just...I meant that you've kind of stopped being a team player...recently...very recently...and it's important that you remember that people can help you. We didn't all get here alone."
"But here we are," came a husky voice from her right, "alone."
Deanna gasped as the dark slayer slipped out of the shadows; one hand was on her waist and another was cupping her face before she knew what was happening. She'd heard about this side of the slayer, too, and thought she had prepared herself for it. But now that she was faced with being the object of the sexual brunette's desires, her brain was no longer running the show. She found herself responding as Faith pulled her closer and kissed her...
Chapter Ten: Dousing the Flames
Faith let her hands slip down to Deanna's back and pulled her close. They stumbled backwards, each struggling to gain the upper hand, until Faith pressed Deanna against a tree and the witch moaned into her mouth.
Faith smiled wickedly and lowered her to the ground.
When Deanna felt herself lying in the wet leaves, reality crept back in and she pulled back, gasping. "Faith...Faith, wait. What are...what are we..."
Faith shook her head. "If you don't know, you've never done it right." She pushed Deanna's shirt up and out of the way and swooped down to run her tongue along Deanna's chest. The witch whimpered and started to writhe underneath the dark slayer. While her mouth captured one of Deanna's breasts, Faith's hands slipped into her pants, sliding around to grip her ass firmly. Deanna buried her hands in the slayer's hair as Faith started to slide one hand between her legs...
Suddenly, Faith's passionate hands were gone. Deanna blinked and tried to catch her breath as she realized she couldn't feel the slayer's weight on top of her anymore. "Faith?" She started to sit up, but only got halfway when she was hauled roughly to her feet and slammed against the tree trunk. She cried out and saw stars, but it was only when her head cleared that she truly became afraid; pinning her to the tree was none other than Buffy Summers. The blonde slayer glared. "Did you really think I'd take my time getting here?"
Deanna's gaze fell to her left, where she saw Faith lying on the ground a dozen feet away. Buffy jerked her back to reality.
"Don't worry about her; you've got your own problems." With a final shove, Buffy let her go. Deanna coughed and slowly started to fix her clothes. She watched Buffy retrieve the scythe from where it had been embedded in another tree, leading Deanna to wonder how long she'd been watching before she'd intervened. Buffy came back to her; she gave the scythe a toss for good measure, caught it, and leaned in close.
Deanna nodded and hurried back to the house. Buffy turned to Faith, who was still lying where Buffy had thrown her. The blonde strutted over and propped the scythe on her shoulder. "Look at me."
Faith slowly turned over, propping herself up on her elbows; she avoided Buffy's eyes.
"I said look at me."
Faith was breathing shallowly and looked terrified, but she knew better than to ignore the blonde a second time. She met her gaze.
The instant she did, Buffy threw the scythe at her feet. "Get over whatever this is and do your damn job."
With that, Buffy turned on her heel and stalked out of the woods; she never looked back.
Chapter Eleven: Safe as Houses
Robin was sitting on the couch, waiting for her. To Buffy's annoyance, when she had insisted on leaving the Alliance immediately, Giles had sent Robin with her so that the new slayers didn't go without a watcher for another second. Not that it mattered (he would have to be there sooner or later), but she just didn't feel like dealing with him at the present moment.
"You find her?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said, crossing her arms.
"Everything's fine, Robin."
"Where's the scythe?"
"I gave it to her."
Robin raised his eyebrows. "Do you think that's wise?"
He nodded slowly. "Ok then."
"Look, why don't you get settled in next door? Do they even know we're here yet?"
"Deanna says she and Faith ran into the slayers earlier. I think they're on patrol."
Buffy bristled. "Where is Deanna now?"
Robin studied her a moment. "Downstairs-she took the room in the basement."
"Fine. Good." Buffy cleared her throat. "Make sure you explain to them about...about the deal with the scythe and how the spell worked. Is there anything you need from here?"
Robin shook his head, stood up, and grabbed the small bag he'd quickly packed. He hesitated.
He shook his head. "Nothing," he said, and he left the house.
In the silence that followed, Buffy stared out the front windows into the night. Her brain and her heart were fighting with each other, as they so often did. Her heart wanted her to destroy the slayer downstairs and rescue the one still in the woods. Her brain knew that even if she did, she'd be no better off, and would end up repeating the same pattern until something gave out. That ‘something' would probably be me, she thought. Faith will never change. Resigned, she started up the stairs, selected the closest bedroom, and closed the door behind her. The small table lamp gave the room a faint glow that Buffy resented; she turned it off. She sat on the edge of the bed for a long time, staring at the wall and hoping that if she stared long enough a solution would come.
Faith looked warily at the scythe in front of her, half expecting that if she even flinched it would magically fly up and slice her neatly in half. Sure, it would end the slayer line, but it would also end the tension, the worry, the responsibility...
She stared at the details of the weapon, letting her eyes trace its edges, its curves. She felt as though she were being set up. She was a screw-up, a nothing, a mistake who had forgotten to take the scythe with her, forgotten, and now it had been thrown at her feet by the slayer as though Buffy wanted nothing to do with it.
As if she wanted nothing to do with me.
That was it, really. Tears came to her eyes, tears she could blame on no one but herself, and she finally stirred to sit up and start wiping mud and leaves off of her clothes. When she looked back at the scythe, the metal didn't seem to gleam anymore; she didn't feel its power. When she reached over to lift it it felt heavy, it felt cold. She set her jaw and hauled it with her as she stood up-she couldn't put it off any longer. She started back for the house.
Deanna was in the kitchen. Faith's heart was suddenly in her throat and she froze in the doorway. Deanna sensed her, of course, and beckoned her in. Faith slipped in quietly, trying not to look around.
"She's gone to bed," Deanna said softly.
Faith nodded and felt her ears flush. She watched Deanna fix a peanut butter sandwich; they didn't speak. Finally, Faith couldn't take it anymore.
"Deanna...Deanna, I'm sorry."
Deanna shook her head. "Don't. It's ok."
"Please...it's not. I..." Faith realized there was really nothing that she could say to make it better; everything she thought of sounded empty, hollow. She owed Deanna so much, and she depended on her friendship. What could she possibly say when she'd actively tried to destroy it?
Her hands fell to her sides. "I'm so sorry." She looked at the floor, wishing it would swallow her.
Deanna walked softly over to her and reached a hand up to her face. Faith held her breath, not sure of what was happening or what she should do. But Deanna's hand kept going past her face to her hair, where she removed a stray leaf Faith had missed. "I'm sorry too," she said, smiling sadly. Faith didn't say anything as Deanna left the kitchen and went back downstairs.
Exhausted, sad, and spent, Faith worked her way upstairs. She came to the first door and knew immediately that Buffy was in there. She hesitated, then placed a tentative hand on the door. She wanted to call to her, to see her again, even if she was angry-anger was better than nothing at all.
Instead she turned away and went to the room at the end of the hall. There was a big window across from the door; she crossed to it, leaving the scythe by the bed and cutting off the small lamp that had been left on; she wanted to see the sky. Faith put her hands in her pockets and stared out at the darkness for a long while. Finally, she crawled into bed fully clothed and was asleep in moments.
Faith stared at the digital readout on the chipped pink clock on the nightstand and felt nauseous. Her back was pressed to the door and her breath was fast and shallow. He'll be here soon...
She glanced quickly at the bed---it was empty. Wasn't Buffy here before? she thought. Oh god...where is she? Does he have her? Her heart sped up and she left the door to search the small bedroom for signs of the blonde. There was nothing.
Tears leapt into her eyes. Buffy wasn't there. No one to worry about but herself. But last time, there was something different...last time there was...
Sure enough, the knife was lying on the floor, offering her protection, safety---options.
Not this time, she thought. This time I'll grab it in time---I don't have to worry about Buffy. I'll be ready for you. She started to move towards it.
"Don't touch it."
Faith assumed a fighting stance and looked around to see who had spoken.
Standing next to the bed was Buffy, but she wasn't dressed as she had been the last time. Gone was the nightgown, the soft hair flowing down her shoulders; instead she was in battle gear, hair pulled back and out of her face, a sword strapped to her back.
"Don't touch it."
Faith hesitated. "I have to protect us."
Buffy glared. "I'm not in any danger. You are."
"Fine!" Faith shouted. "Fine; I'm the one in danger---me! And for once, I've been given something to help me fight back. I'm going to win this time."
"Did you win last time?"
Faith shook her head---Buffy didn't understand. Last time was a mistake; a fluke. This time would be different. This time...
3:50 am. Faith reached for the knife.
Buffy drew her sword. "Stop."
Faith could hear him on the stairs. She looked desperately at Buffy. "B..."
"I'm trying to help you, Faith."
"Help me?" Faith laughed; a weird sound, she thought, when she was so frightened. "You could help me by letting me arm myself!"
The pounding on the door started. Faith jumped; she started shaking her head. She glanced at the knife, lying on the floor as if it were waiting for her, just for her. It would save her. "Buffy, please..." The door would give way, and soon.
"Stop reaching for the knife, Faith!"
She could hear the frame start to splinter and crack. Buffy held out her hand.
"Reach for me."
Faith's wide eyes met Buffy's ferocious ones. She swallowed, then slowly extended her own hand to meet Buffy's. The blonde warrior grasped her firmly and pulled Faith behind her as the door finally gave way.
A dark, faceless monster came crashing through in a whirlwind of heat and smoke. The creature roared, then expanded to fill the entire front wall of the bedroom with its shadowy form. Buffy charged and Faith screamed as the blonde slayer sank her sword deep in the center of the beast; the house shook, there was a huge explosion, and in the darkness and stillness that followed there was also, for once, quiet...
Outside the slayers' new headquarters, a cold wind had started up; the group in the woods realized they would have to take it into account. Silently, they crept closer, but they stayed within the cover of the trees as they focused their attention on the last room to have gone dark that night...
Faith woke up feeling frantic, kicking at the sheets until she was free. She dug her hands into the mattress to ground herself, gasping for breath, and feeling...feeling...
She clutched at her chest and tried to get her heart rate to go back to normal. She ran a hand through her hair and let the tears run down her face. Tears of relief, of a weight lifting. Her brow furrowed---this wasn't a feeling she was accustomed to.
She wiped her eyes as she regained control of her breath. She was safe.
She heard soft footsteps outside her door; she knew who it was. Instead of merely being a figure in this dream, Buffy had shared it with her. Buffy knew her fears, knew what she could never say. And she saved me...
Buffy gently pushed the door open and looked at Faith with loving eyes; Faith felt her own well up again.
"Hey," Faith whispered.
Buffy glanced at the floor, then back at Faith as she crossed her arms to steady them. "I love you, you know," the blonde said quietly.
Faith closed her eyes as her heart swelled; she nodded and pressed her hands to her face.
Buffy took a step towards the bed, which is the only thing that saved her life.
Faith's eyes flew open as she heard the window shattering; Buffy cried out and fell to the floor.
Faith covered her head as a...a pulse issued from the house, shaking it and causing more windows to break. She rolled off the bed and pulled Buffy into her arms---her shoulder was bleeding. The shaft of an arrow was sticking out of it. Faith's eyes widened in horror.
"Deanna!" she screamed. Buffy's eyes were rolling back in her head. "No...no, B, stay with me. Buffy..."
Another pulse shook the house and lit up the surrounding woods. Faith held Buffy closer. "Deanna!"
The slayer-witch appeared moments later; her shirtsleeve was torn and there was a bruise appearing under one eye. She took one look at Buffy and dropped to her knees. "Give her to me," she told Faith.
Faith did. "Deanna...what..."
"The pulses were mine," she said quickly, pressing a hand to Buffy's wound. "I immobilized them. They jumped me in the basement; I sent out another in case there were more..."
"There are," Faith growled. She ran to her bed and grabbed the scythe. "Can you heal her? Is she going to be ok?"
"Yes, but Faith, you can't..."
"Not now." She jumped over the two of them and ran down the hall. She could hear Deanna yelling after her, "You don't understand! Come back!"
Faith quickly swept the house; trusting that Deanna's attackers were still "immobilized" she raced out the back door towards the woods. The second pulse would have frozen anyone back there. She could see a large area where the vegetation was disturbed and ran straight for it.
"Didn't expect to find a house of magic and slayers, did you?" She muttered to herself. She leapt through the air, raising the scythe over her head and preparing to fell her enemies with one swipe. When she saw what was frozen in the brush, her eyes widened; at the last possible moment she swung the scythe to the side, tucked her head, and crash-landed. When she rolled to a stop, it was against a rock---she swore and pushed herself to her feet. Her arm hung at an odd angle; she grit her teeth, popped her shoulder back in place, and slowly walked back to what had attacked them.
Faith stared for a long time, not wanting to believe what she was seeing. They had been attacked by the slayers next door.
Chapter Twelve: Enemies Within
Deanna held Buffy close to her, putting pressure on the slayer's wound and chanting a healing spell. The problem had not been the arrow; Deanna had broken the shaft and pulled it the rest of the way through, nice and clean. But when the tip of it burned her skin and Buffy started shaking, Deanna realized it was coated with poison. She grit her teeth.
It was hard for her to keep her focus; her mind kept wandering to the brunette slayer. She wondered what Faith would do when she discovered that they had been attacked by their own people.
Deanna had been jumped downstairs by three of the slayers; they had pinned her arms and even succeeded in blindfolding her when she emitted the first pulse, knocking them unconscious. She didn't have time to see if they were alive---she sent out a second, larger pulse, hoping to immobilize anything within a 100ft radius of the house. When she raced upstairs and found Buffy injured, she felt even more lost.
Why did the slayers target Buffy?
Buffy moaned in her arms, and Deanna knew she would have to focus if she was going to save her, but she also needed help. She suddenly felt horribly alone and exposed---who were the good guys? Deanna closed her eyes and brought to mind the one person she, Faith, and Buffy would never doubt.
Faith sat on a rock with her head in her hands. In front of her were four slayers armed with crossbows and knives. She hadn't been able to bring herself to see if they were alive or dead, or if there were any more. Her mind was reeling. She couldn't figure out the how's or the why's until she figured out the what's---what was all of this? A hit? A mistake? Sabotage? A confusion spell? Mutiny? She had no idea.
Shakily, she stood up and stepped to the closest slayer. She bent down on one knee. The girl's eyes were wide open; it didn't look like she was breathing. Faith reached out and touched her skin. Cold.
Faith frowned. If they were dead they shouldn't have gotten cold that fast. Deanna's "immobilization" must have meant a stasis. If that was the case, she didn't want to break it and kill them. She stepped to the next slayer, and the next---each one was in the same condition.
She stepped further into the woods and saw two more. The first was also in stasis. But the second...
Faith jumped back as the second one twitched and gasped for air. Only the top half of her was moving---her hips and legs were as frozen as the others. Why not the rest of her? There were more important things to think about, Faith thought, and she straddled the girl's chest with the scythe pressed to her throat. She studied the terrified slayer's face. Jenn...
"I think you know what I'm going to ask you," Faith growled.
Jenn started crying and gasping for air. "Faith...we...we tried to...what we said..."
"Slow it down."
"Not doin' so well. Why don't you start telling me what the hell this is."
Jenn shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Jenn, either you start telling me what the hell is going on, or-"
"Or you'll kill me! Just do it!"
Faith stared at her, bewildered. Just a few hours earlier this girl had been watching television, half asleep and without a worry. Nothing was making sense. Faith stood up and pressed the palms of her hands to her eyes. In her frustration, she started to pace. Jenn panicked. "Faith, please...don't leave me here."
"Shut up, Jenn, or say something useful, would ya?" The girl looked torn; Faith noticed her breath was more ragged. Faith felt for her, in spite of herself. Why should you? She almost killed B! What's wrong with you? Faith shook her head, hoping to clear it. "You know what? There isn't time for this. I'm getting Deanna. We'll make you talk." She turned to leave.
She heard a small whimper.
"Please...don't go. We were...we were just fulfilling our part. Of the prophecy." Jenn's voice was weaker as her breath grew more shallow.
"There's another prophecy where Buffy dies? Spare me." Faith started walking back to the house.
Jenn's cry distracted her, and Faith tripped over yet another body. She pursed her lips and bent down once more, ready to confirm that it was yet another slayer. She looked, then looked again. She felt the blood drain from her face as she realized who it was, and the pieces started falling into place.
"Not Buffy," Jenn choked. "You."
Willow and Kennedy came through a portal and arrived in what looked like the basement. Kennedy drew her sword; Willow held an arm in front of her and motioned for her to keep quiet. They started up the stairs.
When Willow had heard Deanna's plea, she'd also received her feelings of desperation, fear, and uncertainty and had realized that although the situation was urgent, it was also delicate. She'd taken Kennedy's hand, knowing she could trust her, and they'd left immediately without telling the others.
On the main floor, things were quiet. She looked at Kennedy, who shook her head. Nobody here.
Upstairs, came a voice in Willow's mind. "This way," she said, and Kennedy followed her as she raced up to the second floor. "Deanna?"
At the end of the hall, they found Deanna holding a semi-conscious Buffy who was covered with blood. Kennedy lowered her sword. "What...what happened?" Willow dropped to her best friend's side as Deanna filled them in.
"The slayers?" Willow said. "But what..."
"I don't know. I just don't know. But Faith is still out there, and..."
"Let's go," Kennedy said, turning to leave.
"No, wait---you should go with her," Willow told Deanna. "Let me heal Buffy; you tell Faith what you know. We don't know what she found out there---she may need both of you to help her."
When Kennedy and Deanna left, Willow stared down at Buffy and took a deep breath. "We've handled worse than this, right? Sure we have. Everything's going to be fine..."
Kennedy and Deanna stepped gingerly over the frozen bodies of the other slayers as they worked their way into the woods. Kennedy couldn't believe what she was seeing. What had made them all turn against the good team? Deanna darted in front of her and ran to a slayer who was farther away than the rest. "No, no, no," she whispered. "Damn it." She dropped down and put a hand to Jenn's neck, checking for a pulse.
"What is it? She's frozen too, right?"
Deanna shook her head and looked back at Kennedy. There were tears in her eyes. "No. She's dead."
Kennedy blinked. "She's...what?"
Deanna took a shuddering breath. "She's still warm. Not like the others. Look." Reluctantly, Kennedy stepped closer. Deanna was right---Jenn wasn't like the others at all. Only her legs looked locked in place, but from the waist up her stillness had a softer quality to it, not rigid. Kennedy looked back at Deanna, confused.
"She was almost outside of the area of the spell I sent out," Deanna said sadly. "Only part of her was in stasis. But..."
"...she couldn't live like that," Kennedy finished.
"Her blood couldn't circulate, and she..." Deanna trailed off.
Kennedy put her sword back in its sheath and fought back her own tears. "We're...we're going to figure this out. Are there any more of them?"
"Yes," came a quiet voice. Deanna stood up and looked at Kennedy, but the other slayer had already started to head deeper into the woods. They found Faith sitting on the ground, her back against a tree, running her finger along the stake end of the scythe. Kennedy ran to her side.
"Faith, are you ok?"
Faith's eyes fixed on hers. "Jenn...she's...?"
"She didn't make it," Deanna said quietly.
Kennedy's voice was gentle, but firm. "Faith, did she say anything to you?"
"She said enough," Faith said as she got to her feet. "She said they attacked the house because I was in it."
"Wait, what do you mean?"
Faith started walking, and the others followed. "That's what you get when you send newbies to do a professional's job. They shot Buffy, but they were aiming for me."
Faith stopped in front of a body; Kennedy looked around her and saw Robin Wood on the ground. Her eyes widened as Faith kicked his leg.
"Shouldn't have been so impatient, huh, Principal Wood? Couple days of target practice, and maybe a few reminders that I don't have blonde hair and you could have gotten your wish!"
Deanna tried to put a hand on her arm to calm her, but Faith's eyes blazed at the witch. "Just help me get him inside."
Chapter Thirteen: The Greater Good
"Careful," came a familiar voice. As her eyes focused, she saw that Willow was holding her, she was in Faith's room, and Faith was nowhere to be seen. She tried to sit up but a sharp pain went through her and she winced.
"I said be careful," Willow gently chided. "Are you ok?"
"Just because you keep saving me."
"Well, Deanna helped this time."
The blonde frowned at the slayer-witch's name.
"You'll be fine in another hour," Willow continued. "Arrow missed everything important, and the poison's all out."
"The poison? God," Buffy mused, trying to be light, "good thing my attackers are such suck-shots."
"Well, see, funny thing...promise to keep still?" Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Right, well...your attackers were slayers."
"Yeah. Kennedy's out there with Deanna and Faith getting more information."
"You didn't tell anyone else, then?"
"No." They both knew it was a good choice, but neither one was comforted by that information. Wordlessly, Willow helped Buffy to the bed. She noticed that the blonde's gaze kept focusing on the window, and, Willow figured, on a certain woman beyond it.
"She's ok," Willow said. Buffy blinked and brought her attention back to the room.
"What? Yeah, I know, but...I mean, who's ok?" She said quickly.
Willow smiled and raised an eyebrow. "Faith. And that was awful, by the way."
Buffy looked down and flushed. Willow took her hand and squeezed it. "You all right?"
The slayer nodded and glanced back at her friend. "Willow, I...don't know how to...I mean...you may think I'm crazy, but..."
"Have you told her you love her yet?"
Buffy blinked; her jaw dropped. "Wha...how...?"
Willow sighed. "You did. Good."
Willow smiled. "I think Faith needed to hear that as much as you needed to say it." She leaned forward and hugged the blonde. "This is a good thing," she said softly.
Buffy held Willow as tightly as her shoulder would allow and tried not to cry; she was tired of crying, even if they were good tears. "You...you really think so, Will?"
"Yes, I do. Except the part where I owe Kenn ten bucks."
Buffy wiped her eyes and sat up. "I can't explain it, but...let's just say these last few months have been very...different...from the last few years."
"Kinda snuck up on you, huh?"
Willow smiled and brushed Buffy's hair out of her face. "I know the feeling."
Buffy laughed softly, but then stopped as her gaze met the brunette slayer's; Faith was standing in the doorway. "Hi."
"I'm ok." Faith took a tentative step into the room. "You?"
"She's good to go," Willow said. "Well, if you give her just a little while longer."
Buffy was watching Faith's troubled gaze shift around the room. "Faith, what is it? What'd you find?"
"You need to come downstairs."
Robin had started to regain consciousness. His brow furrowed and he squeezed his eyes shut against the weak light of the basement, as if it were too much for him. He moaned and went to rub his head, but his arms wouldn't move; he was tied down. He frowned and slowly opened his eyes.
The first thing he registered was the crossbow----Kennedy stood a few feet away with the weapon aimed at his chest. His eyes darted to the side, revealing Willow and Deanna. Directly in front of him sat Buffy. He swallowed, which made Buffy smile.
"Oh good---you look like you're ready to cooperate. Doesn't he look ready to cooperate, Kennedy?"
"God I hope not," Kennedy muttered, clicking off the safety on the crossbow.
Robin's eyes jumped to the weapon before settling back on Buffy. The blonde slayer stood slowly, never taking her eyes off him. "You tried to kill Faith."
Robin frowned as her words registered with him.
"That's right...she's still alive." Buffy glared at him. "And my left shoulder really hurts, so I don't want this to take too long."
"It won't. There's nothing to say." He stared at her defiantly.
"You could tell us who you're working for, why you turned against us," Kennedy snarled.
Robin laughed softly. Buffy's eyes widened, and she punched him in the face. "You want to try that again?!"
Robin spit blood out of his mouth and sighed. "It's just that...you're not going to get the answers you want."
"Wanna bet?" Kennedy raised the crossbow. "I'm feeling some truth-telling coming on."
"Enough," he said. "I didn't say I wasn't going to tell you the truth; I said the answers aren't the ones you want." He looked to Buffy, who was radiating anger. "You want me to tell you there's some huge conspiracy planned months in advance. You want me to be a mistaken pawn in a game with many players, all of whom are evil, evil, evil. But you don't want to hear the truth----that..."
"...that you acted on your own," came the husky voice from the shadows. Robin swallowed as Faith stood up from her quiet place in the dark under the stairs. She kept her distance. "You've had a problem with me for awhile. That's what this is about."
"You're something else," Robin said, spitting more blood. "All of you. There is a very real possibility that the slayer line could end. Forever! Everything we've fought for could unravel in an instant!"
"We don't fight for the slayer line," Deanna said, a hard edge to her voice. "We fight for good."
"You're one to talk," he scoffed. "The whole creed of your Alliance is that you don't fight for good----you fight for balance! You're the ones that told us Faith was the demon realm's golden ticket. I think letting them wipe out the slayers would disrupt that balance, just a bit."
Buffy grabbed him by his shirt. "I don't give a damn about balance, Robin; I fight the good fight, all the time. And up until a few hours ago, so did all those girls next door. One of them is dead, you know." She released him. "Jenn. Not that you care."
"People die in battle. How many did you lead to their deaths?"
"You bastard. You lied to those girls! You told them there was a prophecy, a...a group of mystical demons about. That if they didn't kill Faith fast their powers and the slayer line would vanish by midnight. What is that?!"
Buffy hit him again, sending him sprawling on the floor, still tied to the chair. He coughed. "Come on, Buffy----they didn't even ask any questions! They wanted to believe me. If I had explained the truth, there would have been questions or doubts. You can't have that in an army, you know that. Faith has to die for slayers everywhere to live----as long as they got the main point, I don't care about the details."
He cried out in pain as an enraged Kennedy shot him with the crossbow. It hit his leg, and Willow leapt forward to make sure the damage wasn't too great. She put a calming hand on her girlfriend and turned to Buffy.
"No spells, no mind control," she whispered. "He did this on his own."
"I don't know if that makes me feel better or worse," Buffy said tightly. She ran a hand through her hair, exhausted. "Would you contact Giles? I think we're going to need his help with all of this."
Buffy allowed herself, finally, to turn and face Faith. Her lover remained frozen in the shadows, her gaze unfocused; Buffy could tell her mind was going a mile a minute, which wasn't necessarily a good thing. She took a step closer.
"Are you all right?"
Faith looked up at her with such guilt and pain that Buffy started to feel it in her own gut; she had to look away before she lost control.
"I'm sorry, B."
"It's not your fault."
"It is. All of this is."
"Stop it. Don't say that."
Faith was quiet a moment. "He's...he's not wrong, you know. What he did. He's not wrong."
Buffy's heart sank. "Faith..."
"She'll betray you," came a weak voice. They all turned to face Robin, who was still lying on the floor in the chair. His eyes revealed an enormous strength of will; they were currently locked on Faith's as he dealt the final blow. "You know she will. She can say whatever she wants, but the truth is...she's killed her lovers before in order to save the world."
The blonde slayer's eyes were blazing. She launched herself at him, but Deanna erected a field, catching her. Willow held Kennedy back from the top of the stairs.
Robin smiled weakly. "It would have hurt you less if you'd let me finish it here."
An hour later, Giles' team from the Alliance had transported Robin to a secure facility in the castle. The slayers who had survived Deanna's stasis were in an infirmary; no one was sure yet what should be done with them.
Buffy leaned against the kitchen counter with her eyes closed as tightly as people and demons bustled through the house, repairing what they could with magic. Not that we'll be staying here long... Once again, her heart ached for home. They hadn't been in the same place for longer than a month since Sunnydale.
Had that been so long ago?
The blonde opened her eyes and stared out the kitchen window into the darkness. Faith was out there somewhere, having slipped away in all of the confusion. She had been so quiet during Robin's interrogation, which was so unlike her. Buffy had expected her to rage and strike out, maybe even take the crossbow from Kennedy or kill Robin with her bare hands, but the silence...
Buffy was sick with worry.
"Am I interrupting?"
She turned to see Giles standing in the doorway. "Oh...no." She quickly wiped under her eyes. "Come in. What's going on?"
"Our teams seem to be finishing up."
She nodded. "Great. Um, thanks."
"Buffy." His voice was gentle.
She cleared her throat. "Was...was there anything else?"
"Yes," he said. He pulled out a chair and sat, resting an arm on the table while he looked at her. "I'm glad you contacted us, even if you don't like what we do. What I've done, with the Alliance."
She didn't say anything.
"I know this must be a...confusing time for you. So much has happened, and you haven't gotten even a moment's rest to process..."
"Giles," Buffy said warily. "I know how tired I am. Please, if you have anything to..."
"The sect is back," he said quietly.
She closed her eyes and felt her hands turn cold; she crossed her arms and slowly sat in the chair next to his. "All right."
"They haven't made a move yet, but our seers know they will. They know Faith is alive."
Buffy stared at the wall, remembering how the sect had drawn Faith out by taking over a hospital, slaughtering the people inside. All innocents. "Ok."
She didn't say anything else; Giles studied her as they both sat in silence. Finally he leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "You were right to doubt the Alliance."
The blonde frowned at him. "What...?"
He didn't look at her. "The problem with fighting for ‘balance,' for an idea of there being a ‘greater good' in this world...is that it's awfully subjective. The Alliance tries to uphold ideals, prevent chaos...but no one holds control over this universe. We can only try. And if any of my followers really knew me, they could tell I've already failed them."
She blinked at him. "How?"
He hesitated, then stood up from the table. "Because while I teach ideals and how to fight for them, I don't fight for them myself. I fight for you."
Buffy was stunned.
"Don't get me wrong----I may still irritate you, inconvenience you, and disagree with you on any number of occasions. But I will never allow harm to come to you. I can tell myself it's because the ‘greater good' that I fight for is that which makes us human; therefore sacrificing my humanity and hurting someone I love is letting evil win. That's certainly what I tell my armies. But the truth is, Buffy...I just don't want to."
Giles pushed his chair back in and looked at his slayer. "The greater good is subjective, Buffy. As a leader, you have to be able to justify yours if you want others to take up the cause." He glanced out the window. "Faith's back." With that, he left the kitchen.
"She's...what?" Buffy jumped up. Sure enough, Faith was standing in the backyard.
Buffy ran outside. "Are you ok?" She stopped when she saw what the brunette was wearing----a leather jacket she had not been wearing earlier that night. Buffy glanced to the right and saw a motorcycle helmet sitting on the picnic table. Her brow furrowed. "What's all this?"
Buffy watched as Faith lit a cigarette. "Ok...but what is it? What's going on?"
Faith exhaled a plume of smoke. "I'm leaving," she said steadily.
Buffy stiffened. "You...you can't! What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about how I'm too much of a liability to have around, especially now. We knew the demons would want a piece, but now we got the very real possibility that one of our own is gonna turn hero by killing me in my sleep. They'd kill anyone protecting me, too."
"We can fight them..."
"Everyone, B? The bad guys and the good guys?"
"Yes," Buffy stubbornly insisted.
Faith took an extra long drag of her cigarette as Buffy crossed her arms and tried not to panic. Faith stared at the house; she could see Willow and Kennedy discussing something in one of the upstairs bedrooms. She looked back at Buffy. "And when another house full of our friends gets attacked? When your little sister, and Willow, and Xander are killed, just because I live in the same house?"
Buffy didn't say anything; how could she? Her eyes started to fill with tears.
Faith finished her cigarette and flicked it away. "So, I'm leaving. I'm taking the scythe. And the good guys can focus on...on just being the good guys."
Buffy swallowed. "You're never coming back?"
"That's the plan."
Buffy turned away from her and pressed a hand to her mouth. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. Maybe this is for the best. Maybe the sect will stay away. Maybe she'll be safer. But I need her!
"Buffy, I know this is a lot to ask, but...I hope you don't hate me for..."
"For leaving me?" Buffy laughed miserably.
Faith stepped up behind the blonde and turned her around. Her deep brown eyes were swirling with emotion. "For asking you to come with me."
Buffy gasped. "W-what?"
Faith tightened her grip on Buffy's arms. "I love you, B. Will you come with me?"
Buffy whipped her head around to look at the house again; she felt a painful longing. When she straightened up, she was thinking of her friends, of her sister, when she looked Faith in the eye and whispered, "Yes."
Faith pulled her into a tight embrace. They both knew that saying goodbye to the others meant they would run the risk of being talked out of their plan, and the choice had been made.
The right choice.
Faith led Buffy to the front of the house, where a motorcycle was parked. Faith handed Buffy the helmet. "Here...put this on. Hold tight, and don't look back. Trust me," she said quietly, "it's easier that way."
Faith mounted the bike and Buffy climbed on behind her, wrapping her arms tightly around the brunette. The motorcycle roared to life.
Buffy couldn't help it----she glanced back at the house. At the sound of the bike starting up, Willow appeared at the front door; Buffy watched the realization dawn on her face. "Buffy!"
But the slayers were off, racing down the street and passing houses, cars, mailboxes and lawn ornaments. Buffy gripped Faith tighter as the brunette picked up speed and the trees became a blur. Soon they had left the town behind them and were out on the open highway, hoping danger was following them as they headed into the unknown, into the night.
Where they belonged.
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