Summary: Sometimes, things aren't the way they seem...
He feels himself falling.
It's all he is feeling until he feels the discomfort of gravity as he hangs from his jacket, which is painfully being jarred up by a hand.
Nope, not falling anymore.
He hears something being whispered into his ear before he is stood up again.
Dawn runs over and he embraces her.
Looking up, he sees Buffy herself, who seems relieved that he isn't falling off a tower anymore.
"Are you alright?" Her voice is soft with concern.
"As right as I ever bloody well will be." He responds rather cheerily, dusting himself off. (No pun intended)
Then he realizes there is someone else beside him.
The one who pulled him up.
Spike immediately stands in position in front of Dawn, protectively, forgetting that whisper.
Oh bloody hell. Perfect timing for her to pop up out of nowhere.
He figures she'd waiting for the perfect moment.
The best distraction.
She grins in automatic response.
It's rather chilling.
She meets his eyes and he is almost shaken by the determination in them.
No sign of crazy.
If she was ever that.
Buffy also sees her, perhaps missing the look in her eyes, but she certainly sees her.
It is a name uttered in the most hate she could gather in herself possible.
A greeting that slides off her tongue like butter.
It's so easy for her.
"What are you doing here?"
A valid question.
"Well I guess I could ask you the same thing."
"I'm here doing my job, which isn't something I could say for the some of us."
"Sounds like fun, mind if I join in?"
Then the anger flares.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't throw you off like I did before."
The girl laughs.
"Don't go giving yourself credit for something you didn't do, B. I fell off that building on my own, thanks."
Buffy's eyes are steel.
Her voice even colder.
"That's not reason enough."
Faith shrugs at her.
"I wasn't giving you one."
Add more confusion.
"I thought you were in jail."
"So did I. Imagine my surprise when I found myself not in jail." She was laughing still.
"Always knew you were gonna get bored of the guilt trip. Gotta admit though, Faith, I didn't think you'd last this long."
"Oh that whole salvation thing is gonna have to last me, all right."
Buffy barely hears the murmur at the end:
"I'm gonna need it."
Buffy figures she didn't hear it at all.
"Besides, Soulboy should know the sitch by now."
Horror rises up inside of her.
"If you touched a single hair on him-"
Now anger flashes in the dark set of eyes.
"I knew you were dumb, Buffy, but I didn't realize you were stupid enough to think that I'd hurt Angel."
"You've done it before."
"Way different circumstances, Blondie."
"Oh yes, because he's going to be so happy to hear you broke out of jail."
"I never said that, did I?"
"But he'll understand why I did it. Why I had to come back here."
"Why, so you could take your revenge?"
"No, so you could take yours."
With that, Faith knocks her on the jaw.
And Buffy knows that it was light, but it doesn't matter, because it means Faith had provoked, which means she can counterattack without being on the wrong side of ethics.
Which is the precise reason why Faith did it in the first place.
Buffy swings out, hard.
Faith lets it catch her in the ribs, which makes her double over, but it also makes her stumble backwards.
She loses her balance.
Or maybe she finds it.
Spike figures it's the latter.
Her eyes sparkle and meet Buffy's, whose is full of shock.
In an instant her arm shoots out to grab Faith, but the dark-haired Slayer knocks it out of her way.
And as she falls into the descent to that blinding pit of electricity and magic, she speaks the words that are meant to be heard by one person and one person only.
"I'm sorry, Buffy."
A soft whisper afterwards, that she isn't sure she hears right.
"I love you."
When lifetimes seems to have passed, a body hits the ground in a scene of smoke and sizzles.
Faith always takes the last word.
When they reach the bottom, Spike stares at the mangled body.
He can hear her words all of a sudden, so clear now.
Amongst other recollections.
"Sorry, Bleachboy. Can't have you all broken if you're gonna take of B for me."
Whispered quickly into his hear as she pulled him from danger.
From ending up like she did.
No matter how crazy they all say she is, he holds the body of the girl in his gaze reverently.
There is a respect for her that he has.
A respect he doesn't have for much anyone else.
Grudging but heartfelt all the same.
He murmurs her name under his breath, as a word of passing.
Something like a prayer.
For some reason, Angel arrives on the scene.
They can't quite get the incredible amount of pain in his eyes as he nears them.
Broken bodies, injured heroes, a hard-won victory thanks to the mistake of a psychotic criminal.
Both he and Spike finds it more than ironic that they are the only ones that understand.
It makes sense for now.
The others won't recall a thing until later.
"You pushed her."
It's all he can manage to say.
All other words chokes up in his undead throat.
Tears drying up before they can even fall.
"She hit me, Angel. I didn't mean for her to fall, I just hit back."
He closes his eyes for a moment.
Then opens them.
"She hit you."
He can't sigh, in fear he'd sob.
Instead, his gaze just lowers to stare at the body.
"That's what you wanted all along, isn't it?" He whispers to it.
He kneels, reaching out his shaking fingers to brush that bit of hair from her face.
Even in death, she wears a triumphant smile.
"She didn't hit you hard, did she?"
He nods then, slowly.
He looks up at Buffy, letting everything sink in.
He opens his mouth, but he can't speak.
To everybody's utter shock, Spike is the first one to touch him.
The bleach blond vampire reaches down and grabs Angel by the elbow and hoists up.
The dark-haired vampire complies, but immediately his knees buckles as he begins to cry openly, hands meeting his handsome face.
Spike can't help but become angry at his own tears.
He flings the arm away from him, so much rage inside.
He should've known.
"Damnit, Angel! Bloody fucking hell!" He shouts at the sky.
The others just stare, jaws slack.
"She did this, didn't she? This is what she wanted, isn't it? Fucking perfect. Just perfect. What happened, Angel? Did all the other idiots just fall off the bloody face of the earth and she thought it'd be a good idea to go and off herself like this?!"
Angel stands up now, tears still falling, but kept more in check.
He looks away from all eyes, dazed.
"She had to change everything, but she wasn't...she wasn't supposed to come back."
"Why this?! Why now?!"
"She didn't want her to die."
So does Angel, just like Faith said he would.
It doesn't make them less grieved.
"Okay...what are they talking about? And since when are they friends?"
Xander's eyes flit between the two, feeling a bit more than disoriented.
There is something...strange about this.
Like they've done this before.
"Oh dear God."
Giles gets it.
His hand fly to his temples in a blurred movement and his little crew watches in wonder as he shakily moves towards the body on the ground.
They are even more surprised to see him check her pulse.
Unnecessarily, but it's more out of habit than out of hope at this point.
Or is that the other way around?
Either way, it doesn't matter.
There is no thump thump thump.
No sign of life.
He stays still, just gazing contemplatively at her face.
"Prophecy says I wasn't supposed to be here after all, then why the fuck am I still here?"
"The prophecy states that you are meant to be here, if only so that you can reverse time and change the events that allowed for you to still be here."
"It doesn't matter, we're not going to resort to that. I'm certain there are other paths-"
"That will lead us all down to death and destruction."
"There are always loopholes in these prophecies, Faith, these things are not quite so black and white."
"Seems pretty black and white to me, Giles."
But the beginning only proved to be hopeless and their enthusiasm had waned so far, that they had no choice.
Couldn't shake the determination she had that brought only him, Angel and Willow to the picture.
Making him promise not to back out.
Not to squeal.
He pulls off the glasses slowly and holds his arm up against the moisture gathered at his eyes.
"You silly little girl." He softly sobs, as he touches her face again.
Silly little girl, he says.
What he really means is; you remarkable young woman.
Willow's initial reaction is to be angry.
How dare she show her face?
How dare that convict, that traitor, arrive here, during this time of hardship?
A surge of hatred.
A sudden need to protect.
More than a hint of jealousy.
And is that...sorrow?
Then shock, as the memories smacks her across the face.
"Gotta do this, Red."
"There has to be another way, Faith! Just give us some more time!"
"Can't wait til last second; you know that better than me. This is it."
"Come on. I know you always wanted to give me what for. Now's your chance."
"I don't want to give you what for anymore! No vengeanc-y feelings here; we're of the friends type, now, remember?"
"Course I do, Red. Never gonna forget you."
"Don't say that."
"It's only a matter of time."
"But not you!"
"It's just me; who cares?"
"Love ya to death, Willow."
She'd used her real name.
"Faith!" She cries out in, running.
Crumpling beside the body, beside Giles.
Shaking her lightly, begging her to wake up.
To get up.
Even if they all know her last breath has been taken.
"Oh no...no...Goddess, no..."
Not wanting to believe it.
Not wanting to accept it.
Hating herself for her first feelings.
Hating herself for not remembering fast enough to stop it.
Knowing nothing could've been done anyway.
Who cares, Faith had asked.
"We do..." Willow cries.
Letting tears hit the corpse.
Xander is at a loss.
He doesn't know what to do.
Much less to say.
Anya figures it out; her hand rests gently in his.
Raising her eyes up to thank the girl up in the sky.
For protecting them.
For protecting him.
He licks his dry, chapped lips.
Slowly moves his feet.
They feel like lead weights.
Every step making him remember their last words like it was yesterday.
It probably was yesterday.
"I mean, a big no on sending you back and not having you come back plan, but the whole going back in time thing is pretty nifty."
"Yea, it's one of the only good powers your man-o-steel has."
"Superman! Oh man, when he flies around the world so fast that it makes it spin backwards!"
"Super wicked. Basically that's what we gotta do to save the world this time."
"So...you're like Superman! Or...Superwoman, since you're pretty woman-ly..."
"Cool, huh, X-man?"
Not so cool now.
Not at all.
Would give up all his comics to have her back.
Did give up all his new comics only to have her gone.
He begins to cry.
Doesn't give a damn that it isn't manly.
His true favorite superheroes are girls, anyway.
Dawn's already bawling.
She's gripping tightly onto Spike, who she lost before.
Not wanting to look at Faith, who she lost again and again and again and again.
To jail, to Cleveland, to social work, and now to death.
All for a good cause.
Remembering how she made her promise to support Buffy.
Promise to take care of herself.
Promise to be strong.
To remember all her teachings.
"When the dawn breaks free but the faith is lost, find comfort at the womb of the heart and rejoice."
"What does that even mean?"
How did she know?
"Means you gotta go to the place where you feel most at home."
"Well what about the dawn and the faith? I mean, that's us, right?"
"But it's too...obvious. Even the simplest of these prophecies aren't this obvious."
"Sometimes the largest things are the easiest things. Just gotta know when to keep it simple."
"Okay since when are you this riddle-y? You're never this vague."
"Always exceptions once in a while, you know?"
"Well I gotta go meet up with Giles and Red. Angel's here."
"What about Buffy and Xander? And hey! What about me?"
"It's a surprise. See ya, Squirt."
Didn't realize those were the last words.
Let herself fall apart for a little while before the words hit her.
Dawn breaks away.
"Mom's grave!" She calls behind her.
They follow after her quickly, forgetting all injuries.
Angel holding Faith's body close to his as he runs, coat billowing out behind him.
Smelling her blood.
Making him feel ill.
Making Angelus howl with want.
Willow holding tightly onto Tara's hand as she nearly flies.
Tara stumbling behind.
Tiring them out.
Not really caring.
Xander dashing past the trees with Anya hot behind him.
Not used to the sprinting.
Doesn't matter if their lungs pop.
Just need to get there.
Giles feels like he's racing to get there first.
Spike is impressed.
Or would be, if he wasn't focused on other matters.
But at the lead right behind Dawn is Buffy.
Just dryness in the mouth.
Bitter taste on the tip of her tongue.
Skidding to a halt at the grave.
Others stopping beside her, behind her, somewhere close.
Joyce's grave is covered with leaves.
Dawn gets down, on her knees, hands frantically shoving leaves away from her goal.
Whatever it is.
Brush away the leaves, blow away the dirt.
It's a bag.
Just a bag.
Shaking hands, she lifts it all the way from the pile of dirt and leaves.
It's so dark, so hard to see, but they don't need light; they have the moon.
She doesn't think, she just dumps it all out.
Dusty books, comics, jewelry, photos, envelopes, diaries, so many things to help them this time around...
Giles picks up a rare book he traded for a bag of crystals, 6 years in the future.
Faith had been with him, to keep him from being cheated.
The bag of crystals is here, too.
Xander holds onto all the comic books that haven't even been published yet.
At least not this year.
They'd gone together on a graphic novel shopping spree that took hours on end in a store that won't exist until after 3 more years.
Willow's hands trembling as the paper wrapping reveals powerful candles.
Once upon a time in the future, she'd explained their importance to Faith when they had the house to themselves.
Explained how much easier life would've been if she'd had them before.
Now she had them.
Dawn flips through a photo album she'd made with photos from the past, present, and the future.
The album was a birthday present; Faith had seen her box of photographs and thought they should be organized.
There's a Watcher's diary; one she'd been writing in everyday for research.
Faith was almost as strict as Buffy when it came to her studies.
Anya finds an envelope with her name on it, filled with currency from several different countries.
Both had an understanding on the importance of money.
Spike sees a bullwhip and knows it's for him.
Always the jokester, that girl.
Tara even finds a note written for her; an apology for their first and last encounter.
She'd already forgiven her, long before Faith went to jail.
Angel already has his future souvenir left for him when she dropped off her letter at his front step earlier this day.
The leather jacket she'd bought for him 4 years later as a thank you gift.
An address book of future contacts that would be much more helpful now.
Buffy picks up a velvet box and snaps it open.
A ring she'd worn for almost a year long in the future.
A matching ring still on Faith's finger.
If she'd just seen the ring first.
If she'd just been more observant than angry.
If she'd just remembered soon enough.
She lets go.
Choking on the dryness, the bitterness, the tears that cascade down her cheeks into the parted crease of her lips.
Just to choke her still.
Hands still on the box.
On the ring.
Feeling herself fall.
Not bracing herself.
Not giving a damn.
Being caught under the arms by cold hands.
"Whoa there, Slayer. Careful."
They all are.
Then her arms reach out, everything in herself flinging towards one body.
"Faith." She calls out hoarsely.
"Faith?" She cries.
"Faith!" She screams.
Throwing her body against the arms that tighten around her, trying to hold her still.
Struggling to break free.
Get up, wake up, answer me, Faith, open your eyes, please, please, please...
Grasping her shoulders as she is on her knees in the dirt and the grass and the leaves.
Tears staining his cheeks as he searches her eyes.
"I'm sorry." He whispers.
"I'm...so sorry..." He chokes out, a little bit louder.
Finally breaking down.
Not what she wants to hear.
Not even close.
Pushes him out of her way, crawls toward the broken body.
Lifts the head, holds it close.
Cradles her baby.
Couldn't protect the one that mattered the most.
No; she killed the one that mattered most.
Pushed her off the edge.
"I love you."
In the future, Faith had said it first.
In the recent past, Faith had said it last.
Was the only one who said it.
Never heard it repeated back to her.
"I'm not ready yet."
"Whenever you're sure, B. Just letting you know because it's how I feel."
Not knowing she was just too scared to say it back.
To finalize it.
Maybe she knew anyway.
Buffy hopes she did.
Lets her tears wash the blood on the beautiful face.
Wishes it would wake her up.
Make her whole again.
"I love you."