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by Subversive Theatre


A/N: I’m kinda on a Regina Spektor kick. So this fic was based on the song Better. Sequel to Almost is Never Enough.


Listen to the Music


Chapter One

I knew this was going to happen eventually. I mean I didn’t know it was going to happen right now but I knew at some point I’d have ta see her again. Should have remembered she’d find a way when she was good an’ ready. Good an’ ready to kick my ass for the stunt I pulled the last time we saw each other.

God. That feels so long ago ya know? Like. Forever. It’s only been a year. One whole year today as a matter of fact. I know this because it’s always on my mind. The idea that Buffy’s gonna want retribution for what I did to her. What I can never forgive myself for. Jesus. What kind of a monster am I?

Oh yeah. That kind of monster. The raping kind. Thank whatever gods you believe in that it didn’t go further but it could have. It almost did. I almost made this so much worse. But whatever. Can’t change it now an’ I don’t wanna be forgiven so I deal. I usually deal much better than this but I usually don’t have ta see Buffy.

But here she is. Standin’ there in the pale moonlight like a fuckin’ angel. Yeah. I still think of her as an angel. So goddamn beautiful. I gotta look away because somethin’ like me shouldn’t even put my eyes on her. Let alone my hands. These bloody fucking hands. I look at ‘em and blink at the red tint staining them.

That’ll never go away. Never ever. Even Angel told me so. “You going to stand there all night?” Her voice shakes me out of my thoughts and I let my hands drop to my sides. I don’t even know what to say so I don’t for a long time. I just tuck my hands in to my pockets and lean against the side of a crypt.

“What are you doing here?” Because unless I’m mistaken I’m pretty sure I made it damn clear that I’m out. Of the Slaying gig. Of her life. Of my mind. Whatever. I’m just out. I’m done. I want nothin’ from her. Unless she’s here to dole out a lil bit of pain. I’m always up for pain and punishment.

Yeah that’s me. “I missed you.” Yeah right. I snort and shake my head with a smile that’s anything but pleasant. She missed me like a hole in the head. Or a real bad flare up of the clap. Wait. That was pretty gross. Wish I could take that thought back. Wish I could take a lot of shit back. But I can’t. An’ anyway it’s better this way. Better to be as far as I can fuckin’ get. “You’re hurt.”

I glance at the tear in the sleeve of my jacket and shrug. It doesn’t hurt bad. A little scrape from a vamp. I’ve been fucked up way worse than that before. “It’s nothin’. Just a little sore.” Her brows come up an’ I know without actually knowin’, that she wants to come closer to me. The second she looks like she’s gonna move I take a step back. Buffy blinks and sighs like she’s just as tired as I am. Maybe more tired.

“If I kiss you where it’s sore will you feel better?” Uh. What? I blink just the once but it’s enough that when my eyes open she’s standing right there. Right in front of me. How’d she...? There’s no time to hustle back a few steps before she grabs my arm and pulls me so close to her. So close I can feel the heat of her skin and taste the scent of her hair on the air. “Will you feel anything at all?”

I doubt it. “You forget who I am or somethin’ B?” Did ya forget I don’t feel anything? Well. Nothin’ good anyway. She shakes her head and it lowers which is fine by me. I don’t wanna stare in to those eyes an’ I can’t help myself when she’s lookin’ me in the face. “You shouldn’t be here.” But I sound less sure than I want to. That sucks ya know? I’m tryin’ to put distance between us, keep the distance we’ve already got an’ here she is. In my space. Closing whatever distance is between our bodies.

Buffy’s breath is warm on my ear when she leans up and whispers in to it. “Born like sisters to this world you know. In a town where blood ties are only blood...” What the fuck is she talkin’ about? Did Buffy go insane in the last year or what? “If I kiss you where it’s sore, will you feel better? Will you feel anything at all?” Okay I don’t know what’s goin’ on and it’s just makin’ me even more nervous and afraid than I already was.

It’s a struggle to get my arm back from Buffy but I manage it and stumble back. “Are you on drugs?” Because if she is she should kick me down with whatever she’s got. Buffy just smiles sadly at me and shakes her head. What the fuck is going on here? Am I in the fuckin’ Twilight Zone or something? Twilight. It’s gotta be them fuckin’ with me. This isn’t real. It can’t be.

“You’re getting sadder. And I don’t understand, but if I kiss you where it’s sore...” Her hand reaches out and brushes over my chest where my heart should be. We look down but instead of nice smooth skin an’ some fuckin’ hot cleavage there’s a big gapin’ bloody hole. How the fuck did that happen? When the fuck did that happen?

I raise a hand to my chest to touch the wound but the gore encrusted knife I’m holding stops me. I blink at it then drop it to the ground near what I think is my still beating heart. Okay now I’m really worried. Really fuckin’ worried. Buffy picks up my heart in her too perfect hands and places a kiss on it. White light surrounds us and I have to squint against it’s brightness. I can’t see Buffy anymore. It’s just too damn bright.

“Buffy!!” I jerk awake and sit up panting. Fuck me. It takes me a few seconds to kick the tangle of sheets away from me and stumble to the bathroom to look in the mirror. I flick on the light and stare. I look like shit. Probably because I just had the scare of my life. That’s sayin’ somethin’ since I think I’m pretty fuckin’ scary on my own. I touch my chest gingerly like I’m scared the shit is gonna bust open and spit my heart out on to the floor any second now.

It doesn’t. That’s good. I take a few breaths and turn on the tap. The pipes rumble and shake for a minute before spitting out a sluggish stream of water. I splash it on my face and sigh in relief. It’s warm. Wait. What? I look at the water and note that it’s gone from clear to red. What the hell...

“Shit!” I look up in to the mirror to see my face streaming with rivulets of blood. I back up and topple over in to the tub, pullin’ the shitty shower curtain down with me. When I look at my hands though they’re clean. It was just water. Okay seriously what the fuck is going on here? And also. Motherfucker that hurt. I groan and wiggle around to get myself out of the tub. I’m not so sure I wanna look in to the mirror again but I do. No blood this time. Just plain ole water.

I gotta do somethin’. Somethin’ I really don’t wanna do. I check the Bettie Page clock on the wall before picking up my cell phone and dialing the one person that I know can make sense of all this. Let’s hope he’s willing to listen. I think he musta been up ‘cause he answers on the first ring. “Giles...”

Oh god. I’m pacing. I’m pacing in Giles’ office because I don’t know what else to do. That was one hell of a nightmare. Well it didn’t start out that way. It started out as a normal Slayer dream. If you can count those as anything remotely normal. “My god Buffy, you actually saw her cut her own heart out?” I shake my head and turn to Giles.

It’s way too early to be up but I knew he would be. And I knew I needed to talk to someone who would understand. “No. It’s like one minute she was perfect, just...Faith. And the next there was sucking chest wounds and pumpy hearts.” Which was gross. Even more so since I touched it and I swear I can still feel her heart wriggling around in my hands. Yick.

Out of habit I rub my palms on the thighs of my pants and sigh. "Is this the first dream you’ve had since she left?” The question makes me pause and I turn slowly to look at Giles. He doesn’t know. No one knows. Well. Satsu guessed some of it. But she doesn’t really know. I never talked about it to anyone. Not even Giles. I nod once and settle in to comfy leather chair in front of his desk.

“Any idea what all this means?” He starts to open his mouth but closes it with a click when his phone starts ringing. Giles answers without bothering to look at caller ID. It has to be Slayer business because no one else would be retarded enough to call this early.

“Faith? Good Lord are you alright?” Faith? The extreme wiggy I was feeling kicks in to over drive and I lean forward in my seat to try and hear the entire conversation. “No no. She’s fine. She’s right here actually.” Oh. She’s got to be asking about me. I can’t hear anything. Why can’t I hear anything? “Faith...are you still there?” Well that would explain why I can’t hear anything. She’s not speaking.

“Yeah I’m here G.” God she sounds good. Well. No. Actually she sounds like shit. But hearing her voice is good. I lean that much more forward and strain my hearing to its limits. Please don’t stop talking. Please Faith. “She had it too then huh?” I can tell she’s tired by the tone of her voice. It must be late where ever the hell she’s hiding now. Hiding from me. I hate this. I absolutely hate this. I hate not knowing if she’s okay.

I hate not getting to hear the low rasp of her voice when she laughs. I hate not seeing her all wild and fierce. But most of all I hate that she doesn’t even want to see me. Not even for a second. If that dream was any indication of how Faith feels it’s pretty fucking bad on her end. And I hate that too. Because there isn’t a damn thing I can do to make it better. I can never make it better.

“Hm. Yes. We were just discussing it. Perhaps it is a portent of things to come.” Giles takes off his glasses and there’s more silence on the other end of the line. I think she knows I can hear her and she’s being difficult on purpose. It’s Faith. Difficult is her middle name. “I’ll make arrangements for you to come to...Faith? Faith?” Giles sighs and drops the phone wearily. “She hung up.”

Okay who didn’t see that coming? I lean back in the chair and rub my forehead. I don’t know what this dream means. I don’t know anything much at the moment. Except one thing. “She needs me Giles.” He nods once at that and steeples his fingers. It’s his thinking pose. He usually gets in to that pose when he’s going to tell me something he knows I won’t want to hear. “Look I know you’re going to try and convince me to leave it alone. That she doesn’t want to be found. But...you heard her. She’s not okay and we can’t afford to have a Slayer out there that isn’t one hundred percent.”

Oh it’s all bullshit. He knows it and so do I. But Giles is Giles. And he loves me. More than that. He loves Faith. Yeah I know. Totally unexpected but he does. And I know he misses her as much as I do. We all do. Well. Everyone except Satsu. She’s pretty much anti-anything Faith related. Which is understandable since she’s the one that had to help me pick up the pieces of my shattered heart last year.

“Buffy...I know that you care for Faith.” Care for her? And the understatement of the century goes to Rupert Giles folks. I raise my brows at him and open my mouth to argue but he holds up a hand. “I know that you care very deeply for Faith but she’s made it clear that she wants nothing to do with us.” It’s right there that I can pick up the bitter current in his words. I clench my jaw at that because I can’t say anything. I was the reason she ditched Giles in the first place.

“I...” I don’t know what to do. My shoulders slump and I sit back in my chair why my arms tight around my body. I wish they were her arms. I wish she was here with me right now. “I need her. Okay?” I look at Giles but he’s not looking at me. He’s looking out the window at the sprawling landscape.

He sighs and turns to face me. Wow. Giles looks...old. No. Okay. I mean. I know he’s older than he used to be. But he really looks it right now. “In all my years as your Watcher I have come to realize something.” And that something is? “You have an incredibly keen instinct. One that often allows you to see things as they are when others can not. Though it was not so long ago that you couldn’t see past the end of your nose when it came to Faith.” Oh. Okay. See I know what this is now.

This is the part of the talk where he has to play devil’s advocate or whatever. He doesn’t want me to go to Faith because I made such a mess of everything last time. “But...instinct.” Hey I have to try here. “Yay for instinct right?” He smiles slightly and nods at me. Hey at least I’m getting an A for effort here.

“Yes, instinct. I can’t say that you’ll find her. Or that she’ll be glad to see you. Whatever happened between you is clearly still too raw.” Tell me about it. I still can’t wear the shirt I was wearing that night. It smells like Faith a little. And smells alot of booze. I keep it in a box at the bottom of my closet with the rest of the things I’ve accumulated over the years from past lovers. Sadly the only thing I have of Faith is that shirt.

The shirt I can barely stand to look at because every time I do I’m magically transported back to that god awful night. But it still smells like her. Enough that every once in awhile I take it out and just...smell it. And cry. God. I miss her. Is it even possible to miss someone that you don’t remember missing that much before? “So...can I go?” I’m hoping. Praying. Hell I’ll even beg.

“I don’t see where I have any say in the matter.” If it was that simple why did I even bother to ask him? I blink at Giles and get up from the chair quickly. “Buffy...” I pause just as I get to the door and turn to look at him. “Do you even have any idea what you’re going to say if you ever do catch up to her?” No idea. I was kind of more thinking about how I was going to find her first. But I need Wills for that. I shake my head and sigh.

What do I say to him? “I was going to go with ‘Hi’ for starters. Quickly followed by ‘I love you’ and hope she doesn’t run.” Or hit me. Hitting me tends to happen when Faith feels cornered. And I’m about to do some major cornering here. He nods and I leave his office quickly. If I stay in there much longer I might change my mind about this whole search thingy.

It doesn’t take me long to find Willow. All I have to do is follow the sounds of feet pattering on the floor. It’s a very specific pattern. A Snoopy dance pattern. I poke my head in to Xander’s room in time to catch him mid dance. Priceless. Willow glances up and smiles at me. “Hey you’re up early.” No kidding.

I smile at her and move in to the room to sit on Xander’s bed. “Yeah. Bad dream. Or actually bad Slayer dream.” It’s quiet all of a sudden and I look over my shoulder at Xander. He’s just standing there staring at me and it’s kind of creepy. “I think Faith’s in trouble.” It only takes that one statement for him to start moving.

“Well what are we waiting for? Will get to the mojo making we’ve got a Slayer to find.” We? I blink up at him and open my mouth. “Don’t Buffy.” Hey I didn’t even say anything. “She’s important to me too.” Right. And I might need Xander. He can reach Faith when no one else can. And right now I don’t know how far gone she is.

I nod once and glance at Willow. “Can you help us find her?” I’m pretty sure she can. The question is will she? Willow lowers her head to debate it. That’s right about when my heart stops beating. What if she says no. What if she doesn’t want Faith to be found because it always causes trouble?

“Give me an hour and I can teleport you two pretty much in her backyard. Er. Assuming Faith has a backyard.” Given the way she likes to live her life I’m going to say that’s a no. I blink at Willow and she nods her understanding. “Well. As close to her as I can get anyway.” I give her a relieved smile and get up.

“Good. I’m going to get ready and leave some instructions for Satsu. See you guys in an hour.” I’ll be seeing Faith again in an hour. I don’t even know how that’s going to go. I guess I should say that I hope I’ll be seeing Faith in an hour. For all I know she’ll take one look at me and go running off in to the night before I can...

Kiss her where it’s sore. Before I can make it better.

Chapter Two

“Okay. Any questions?” Satsu looks at me for a second before leaning against the wall of the training room we’ve gathered in to teleport. She’s not a very happy camper. Which I totally get. I feel bad for being happy that I’m leaving though and I think that’s only making it worse. Maybe I should just be happy to be happy and that will make her happy. I look at her expression one last time. No. I don’t think anything about this situation would make her happy.

She shakes her head once and pushes away from the wall. We’re not together so she really doesn’t have a reason to be angry. But she does have a very valid reason to be worried. I’m going to just say that this little display of annoyance is all about that. And nothing to do with the fact that I’m going to Faith’s...well I guess rescue. If she even needs rescuing. Which I’m not sure she does.

What am I saying? I’m going to be with Faith. Period. No lame ass excuse for it. Well other than the fact that the Slayer dream she pulled me in to was really disturbing and I want to be there for her. Even if she doesn’t want me to be. She wouldn’t have called Giles if she wasn’t afraid. She hasn’t called him since she left that night. So that means I need to go to her. I need to make sure that she has someone.

And that’s a thought that stops me. Maybe she does have someone. Maybe she has someone she’s in a relationship with. Oh god. I won’t be prepared for that. It’s not like I’ve been waiting this entire time for her to come back. Not on the surface. Maybe there was a part of me deep down that always hoped she would. But logically I knew I had to move on with my life. And I did. I moved on to a few different people. “Buffy?” I look up at Satsu and raise a brow. “Just be careful okay?”

I give a nod and she leans forward and kisses me lightly. Like I said. We’re not together. But okay occasionally there’s some closeness. Not in the naked way. I haven’t gone down that road with her since last year. But. Closeness. It’s the best way I can describe it. Xander grunts and crosses his arms over his chest. “Where’s my be careful kiss?” I snicker and pull back from Satsu’s soft lips. Gotta love my Xander.

“Well you’re a little more butch than I like them but okay why not.” It’s a surprise to more than Xander when she pulls him down for a deeper kiss than she gave me. I blink and look between the two of them when she winks and walks off. Oh boy. Poor Xander is going to have scrambled brains for a few minutes. I know what a kiss like that can do to a person.

“Buh...” Yup. I knew it. “Did...she...er. What?” Heh. I glance at Willow who’s trying very hard not to laugh. She chuckles softly finally and nods to the red circle we taped down on the ground. It isn’t really necessary but Xander insisted that we have a ‘jump zone’. No shit. Those were his exact words.

I pull Xander in to the circle with me and pat his arm. “Yeah she really did. Ready?” He gives a slight nod but I think he’s still a little shell shocked. I open my mouth to ask where we’re going but the air rushes from my body as we’re tugged back. I really hate teleporting. If it wasn’t an issue of time I would have flown instead. But I know Faith.

I know her better than anyone else in the world. Except maybe Angel. He knew her in a way that I never could understand. But he’s not here and he’d just agree with me. Faith is probably packing up if not already gone. She knows me about as well as I know her. And she knows I’ll be coming for her. Er. Not in that way. I mean. I could. Very easily in fact. But that’s not the reason I’m doing this.

The solid ground under me gives a jerk and I loose my balance. Okay now would be a good time to not speak. If I open my mouth I’ll be making Linda Blair look like a kid with just a case of the pukies. It takes me a second to clear my head and stand again. Xander is still sprawled out on the ground. “You okay?”

He nods and rolls over and ew. I didn’t need to know he had that much cereal for breakfast. “That’ll teach me to eat the whole box of Fruit Loops” Disgusting. I crinkle my nose at that and shake my head. Xander takes the hand I offer and gets to his feet. Well. It’s a good thing someone kissed him before we left because I don’t think anyone is going to want to kiss him now.

It’s then that I feel her. Willow wasn’t kidding when she said she’d get us close. I glance up at the tall building that looks like it’s seen better days. She’s got to be somewhere in there. “She’s here.” He looks at me and I shrug. “Slayer thing. But if I can feel her then she can feel me.” And she’ll be on the move if we don’t hurry the hell up. Xander and I move toward the apartment complex and look around. We’re in a city. That much I know.

It could be any city but I’m getting the distinct feeling that we’re somewhere in the South. The air is too balmy to be any of the Northern states. And the greenery is too lush and wild to be the Western side of the country. I look at the street sign on the corner and nod. Well we’re in the States for sure. Xander pauses at the foot of the stairs and looks up. “Buffy...maybe I should. You know. Go first.”

Good idea. It’s better if he’s the first person Faith sees. If she sees me first she’s pretty likely to take a swing at me. “Yeah. I’ll wait here until you call for me. Just...be careful Xand. She’s fragile right now.”

He just looks at me and nods before heading up the stairs. I hate waiting.

I gotta go. I can’t stay here. Giles said he’d make arrangements. That means somethin’ I’m really not prepared for. It means he’s sending Buffy. Or if he’s not she’s gonna be coming here anyway. I know this ‘cause I know her. I grab the last of my clothes and shove them in the duffel bag I always keep handy. Just in case I have to bail in a hurry. It’s happened before. For awhile Giles had the impression I just needed to be convinced to come back.

Guess B didn’t tell him what a fucking mess I made. I’ve managed to avoid every team he’s sent my way until he finally just gave up. I think I hurt his feelings. I mean. I know I hurt him. It kinda hurt me too. I’m almost done grabbin’ my shit out of the bathroom when I feel her. Goddamnit. She’s here. They musta teleported in. There’s no fuckin’ time.

Fuck the rest of this. I can replace it. The only thing I can’t replace is the picture on the night stand. But that doesn’t matter now. B will be here in less than a second and I gotta go. There’s a knock on the door to the apartment an’ I seriously debate answering it. Not ‘cause I wanna see Buffy. I mean. Yeah. I wanna see her face. But I don’t. I can’t. “Faith?” I’m just about to open the window and sneak out but Xander’s voice stops me. Xander. Fuck. “Faith open the door please. I need to talk to you.”

Fuck fuck fuck. I sigh heavily and move to the door. I rest my hand on it, just feeling. Buffy’s not there. Okay. I can do this. I can face my one time friend and not run away. The door creaks when I pull it open and lean on the frame to keep him from just walkin’ in here. I can’t see behind him but the faint throb of the Slayer connection isn’t moving closer. “What’re you doing here Xander?” It’s not nice but he didn’t expect it to be.

“Well I was thinking about you and poof, here I am.” I give him a mild glare that doesn’t do shit to intimidate him. I gotta work on that. Used to be a mild glare had vamps shitting their pants. “Yeah that hasn’t worked since Sunnydale. So. Gonna let me or do I have to start singing ‘You Are My Sunshine’? And may I remind you I sing loud or I don’t sing at all.” Okay okay. I step back and let the door swing open. I’m not inviting him in. I mean I know he’s not a vamp an’ I know B is with him but I’m still not gonna invite him.

Not that it matters since he just brushes past me anyway and heads for the fridge. I slam the door shut and turn an’ nearly jump through the ceiling. Goddamnit Buffy. “What? The whole fuckin’ gang here to bring me in?” She frowns slightly and closes the window I was all set to escape out of. I don’t know how she got that close without me feelin’ her but I can tell you it won’t happen again. Xander walks out of the kitchen with a few beers and settles down on my bed. He hands one to me and I chuck it against the wall and watch the glass shatter. “Get out. Both of you. Or the bottle won’t be the next thing I break.”

Yeah big talk. But I’m capable of anything and they know it. Buffy isn’t even lookin’ at me. She’s looking around the apartment. Takin’ it all in. Probably judging me and it. Xander snorts at that and cracks open his beer. “I didn’t realize you were so keen to be alone. What with your running and hiding and everything.” Which means what? That he’s gonna be a dick and hang out anyway? That’s it I’m out. Fuck this and fuck them. I grab my bag and sling it over my shoulder.

Can’t get out the window ‘cause B is still blockin’ the way but I can go out the front door. An’ yeah. I haven’t actually looked Buffy in the face. If I get out now I might just be able to get away without having to at all. “Tell Giles the next person he sends my way is goin’ back in a body bag.” An’ just to make a point I flash that look over my shoulder at them. Yeah. You know what the fuck I’m talkin’ about. That look that says I’ve lost my fucking mind again an’ I’ll kill anyone that gets in my way. It’s soulless and they know what that looks like. They’ve seen it before a hundred times from a lotta different people.

“You leaving this behind?” I blink and look at Xander who’s holdin’ up my picture. Well. Not my as in it’s me in it. I’m not that fuckin’ vain okay? It’s a picture of Buffy gettin’ a piggy back ride from Xander. They’re both laughin’ and the sun is shinin’ an’ everything in that picture makes it seem like nothing can ever be wrong in the world. Nothin’ can ever touch them. I swallow hard because I need that picture. It helps me get through some of the more sleepless nights. “Because it’s pretty battered. Looks like you take it everywhere you go. You sure you want to leave this behind?”

My jaw clenches hard enough an’ I think I heard my teeth crack a lil bit. An’ all this talk is costin’ me time. Time that I could be spending gettin’ as far away as I can. I glance from Xander to Buffy and take another step toward the door. But I stop. I’m fuckin’ torn an’ I don’t know what to do. B just looks at me with sad eyes an’ I know she wants to say something. It’s written all over her face. “You keep that by your bed?” Fuck me. No way out of this without leaving it behind.

I shake my head and walk out the door. I don’t need this shit. I really fucking don’t. But it’s not like I get far. I’m already to the top of the stairs when I feel her behind me. I turn around quickly ‘cause I don’t know if she’s gonna want to fight or not. My look is wary but hers is blank. That’s shitty. I can usually tell if she’s gonna start some shit by the look on her face. But she ain’t givin’ it up this time. Fine. I take a step back but I’m too close to the edge of the stairs an’ I start to topple back.

“Oh no you don’t.” Buffy’s hand reaches out for me and tugs me back to more balanced ground. “I did not just watch Xander puke up a metric ton of Fruit Loops just so you can break your neck trying to run away. Again.” Always with the agains with these people. I shake B’s hand offa me and back up in to the wall. I’m startin’ to feel a little cornered here. “Look Faith, I know right now you’d rather either of us be here crowding you but that dream was bad. I’m...worried about you.” Worried? She’s fuckin’ worried about me?

I gotta scoff at that. “Yeah B, I’m sure you’re real worried about me.” Nah I know what she’s worried about. “More like you’re worried I’m gonna hurt someone else.” An’ I gotta say. It’s a good thing to be worried about. I mean. I haven’t killed anyone but I haven’t been the best person either. I don’t have any issues fuckin’ someone up if they look at me wrong. “But don’t worry B, I save all that up special for you.” She flinches at my words but it’s enough. Enough to get in a kick and a hard shove. Buffy goes flying back against the other wall an’ I start to get down the stairs but Xander is two steps ahead of me.

I think he jumped the landing when I was turning the corner. Motherfucker. “Faith wait. Please. I’m begging you...” Goddamnit. Why’d he have ta say it like that? I hesitate and look up at Buffy making her way down the stairs. “I know you want to go. Believe me. I want to let you go because I enjoy having the use of all my bodily parts but if you go now you’ll break my heart.” Oh fuck you Harris. You didn’t hafta say that. I drop my bag and slide against the wall until I’m sittin’ with my knees up in front of me. Xander breathes a sigh of relief and settles in next to me. “Okay so guilt still works. Nice to know.”

I glare at him but don’t say anything. Buffy kneels in front of me but I can’t look at her. “Please look at me Faith.” Please. She didn’t say it twice but I can feel it. Weird right? I don’t wanna be doing this here. Or now. Or ever. But I look up anyway ‘cause she asked me to. An’ even though I don’t wanna look in her eyes I do. Hey look at that, there is still more of my heart that can break. Fuck. I’m totally fucked here. “Come back with us.” I shake my head no ‘cause I can’t speak. “Just until we figure this all out.”

I don’t wanna. “Nothin’ ta figure B. I’m off my ass crazy. An’ violent. Nothin’ new there an’ that dream didn’t show nothin’ but the truth.” Yeah. I cut my own fuckin’ heart out of my chest. I did it an’ it was all over her. See I’m not stupid. I know some shit if I take the time to think it through. Everyone just thinks I’m stupid ‘cause that’s all I let them see. It’s easier that way. No expectations. “Sides. Sushi’s gonna kill me if I go back there.”

The look on her face changes instantly. She went from blank to pissed in the time it took me to blink. That’s more like it. “Her name is Satsu. And while she might want to take a swing at you she won’t. Not that you don’t deserve it.” I do. But who didn’t know that? I deserve a fuck of a lot worse. I shake my head again with a humorless laugh and try to get up.

“Think I’m gonna just go there an’ let you be all protector over me? Fuck that B. An’ fuck you.” Xander’s hand is heavy on my shoulder when he shoes me back down. I look at him an’ fuck if I don’t want to twist his head right offa his body for that touch. “You got a death wish Harris?”

“No Faith I really really don’t. But I think you do. And I’m not okay with losing my friends. No matter how pig headed they can be.” Friends? We’re not friends and I open my mouth to tell him that but he stops me with a nasty fuckin’ look. “If you say what I think you’re going to say I will puke the rest of my breakfast all over you.” Um. Yeah I’m gonna be keepin’ quiet here then. Last thing I want is to smell like barf. It’ll just make me want to hurl too.

I’m trapped. I got a pissed off Slayer in front of me an’ a pissed off Scoob next to me. This can’t get any worse. “Why? Why can’t ya just let it go?” Either of them. Why can’t they leave me alone?

Buffy tucks a lock of my hair behind my ear an’ I flinch back from her. “You called Giles. You wouldn’t call him unless he was the only one you could ask for help.” Xander hands me my picture an’ I tuck it quickly away in to my jacket pocket. I know it’s not lost on them but right now I feel too tired ta try and care.

“An’ when this shit blows up in all our faces you’ll let me go right? No questions, no bleeding, no followin’. Right?” Xander doesn’t say anything because he’s lookin’ at Buffy. So I look at her too.

“We’ll talk about that when we figure out what this is all about.” I already know what this all about. They just don’t know it. But they will.

Chapter Three

Man I hate teleporting. It always makes me feel off balance. Well. More off balance than I already feel. My legs are a lil bit shaky when I stand but I figure I’m standin’ an’ that’s better than what Xander is doin’. Seriously. How much fuckin’ breakfast can he pack away? Because he chucked it earlier, then again before we left and again in the bushes now that we’re here.

Buffy gives me a slight eyeball roll and a grin but I don’t react. I don’t fuckin’ wanna be here but I feel like I don’t have a choice. She frowns a little but doesn’t push. That’s good. Dunno what I’d do if she started in with the pushin’. Maybe some of my own brand of pushin’. No not the sex havin’ kind, though I wouldn’t say no to that. It’s been a fuckin’ long time here.

But not with Buffy. I mean. Yeah I’m not fuckin’ blind here. I know she’s hot an’ I know I wanna be with her like that but that way just leads to some shit. Some shit that we’re already gonna be draggin’ our asses in to. Better to leave this as uncomplicated as I can. “Great. Hell on Earth. Looks the same.” I glance around lettin’ my eyes slide from Buffy’s face so I don’t hafta see the hurt look I know I’m gettin’.

Sorry B, some things just gotta be this way. “Well not alot changes in a year I guess.” Ooh that was cold. I smirk a little and shrug at Buffy. Yeah not much changes, I still wanna be the fuck away from here. The fuck away from her. “I’ll show you where your room is.” I nod and heft my bag over my shoulder. Dunno what I’m headin’ in to here ‘cause I don’t know how much of what Buffy’s told everyone else. I think I might be feelin’ a lil bit of fear actually. Lemme think. Nah. I think that’s actually the Homewrecker burrito I scarfed last night after patrol.

Yeah. Well that’s my story at least. “Yeah that’s fine. Go right ahead. I’m good I’ll just be...oh god...” I wince when Xand chucks yet again. I probably should be nicer to him since he’s sufferin’ now ‘cause he wants to help me. Wait. What the fuck am I saying? I didn’t wanna come here in the first damn place. I start ta follow B but pause an’ glance back at Xander. Damnit. Damnit all to fuckin’ hell. I give Buffy a low whistle to get her attention an’ chuck my bag in her direction. She catches it with a raised brow. I roll my eyes an’ go back for Xander.

“C’mon Xand, ya got nothin’ left ta give the bushes here.” I help him up an’ let him lean on me as we walk. He’s still a lil green an’ it makes me wonder if he’s gonna toss cookies again before we get to the front door. "If ya puke on me I’ll dump your gutted body in the moat.” I think he’s tryin’ ta see if I’m serious or not ‘cause he’s lookin’ at me kinda scared. Buffy raises her brows but she’s not mentioning it. That’s good. She’s playin’ it safe. I mean why wouldn’t she? She already got what she wanted. I’m here ain’t I?

Buffy falls in to line with us as we make slow progress to the castle. When we get there the door flings open an’ out bounces B’s fuck buddy. I hafta work hard not go give her a look. It’s not easy but I do it. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t cut me a fuckin’ nasty ass look. Well. I know at least one person that knows what went down that night. “You’re back. All of you.” I think she was kinda hopin’ that I wouldn’t be back with B.

B looks over at me an’ Xander then back to her girlfriend there an’ shrugs. “Yep. We’re back. Well...mostly back. I think Xander may have left his stomach somewhere back in...” Buffy pauses and glances at me with a raised brow. Oh. So she didn’t even know where I was, she just teleported to be there. To be with me. I don’t wanna think like that. I can’t. She didn’t do it ta be with me. She did it ‘cause I scared her bad with that damn dream an’ now she’s gotta make sure I’m not fallin’ over to the dark side again.

Well. Fallin’ more to the dark side. I’m pretty sure she knows I’m no saint. “Florida.” She nods once and glances back to Sushi.

“Right. Florida.” The pause isn’t lost on Sush but she ain’t commenting. Interesting. I’ll just file that lil bit of info away for later. Like when B is pissin’ me off an’ I wanna rattle her cage a lil bit. “You don’t mind helping Xander to his room do you?” She’s lookin’ at her girl but I don’t think her girl is lookin’ back at her. I glance past Buffy and smirk. Nope Sushi’s only got eyes for me. I look up at Xander and sigh. Let’s just say I don’t think she wants to leave me alone with Buffy if she can help it. It’s a solid plan. One I can back.

“Don’t worry about it B. I got this.” Xander gives me a weak smile an’ I shake my head. Well it’s not like I could just leave him to her mercies right? She doesn’t even look like she wants ta get close to my boy here. My boy? Jesus Christ. It’s happenin’ again. I’m here like what? Ten fuckin’ minutes and already I’m pitchin’ in like a trooper. Buffy starts to open her mouth but I just grip Xand a bit tighter and start him toward the castle. If she wants to keep up she better get a move on ‘cause I don’t intend on slowin’ down enough for Xander to think it’s time to puke again.

Taking the stairs sucks ass. I stop on a landing and glance at Xander almost apologetically. “Hate ta do this Cyclops but you’re draggin’ me down.” In one swift move I sweep him up in my arms and start up the stairs at a faster pace. “Geez Xander, the fuck are you eatin’?” He gives me a pitiful look. Heh. The combination of pink an’ green don’t go well on his face. “Uh uh uh. No talkin’. The way I’m holdin’ ya if you open your maw, nothin’ but puke is gonna come out and I happen ta like this shirt.” He offers me a slight smile and I make my way to his room.

Buffy stops me at his door and helps me get him in the room. Xander groans when I dump his ass on the bed none to gently. “Thanks for proving once again, you’re the butchest of the butch.” I snort at Xander and take my bag from Buffy. I’m just about out the door when he tugs on my wallet chain. I look down at Xander an’ blink. “Seriously. Thanks. For coming back and everything.” Oh. That’s what he wants to thank me for? I stand her a long ass time before nodding once. I did it for both of them maybe. Or maybe just for me. I don’t know.

I don’t know anything anymore. Buffy’s girl clears her throat and settles on the edge of Xander’s bed. “I’ll stick around and keep an eye on him.” I dunno if she’s talkin’ to me or Buffy but we both nod at her an’ leave the room quietly. Well fuck now it’s all awkward and shit. I look around like I’ve never seen the place before. Mostly it’s just so I have somethin’ do while B, tries to think of somethin’ to say.

“Uh. I picked a room for you in a different wing. Follow me.” I nod and keep my steps nice and measured. Me an’ B just fall in to step like we were always meant ta. There’s a long silence between us as we go down a corridor an’ up a flight. “So...this is nice and awkward. How’ve you been?” How have I been? Huh. Not the easiest question to ask a girl. Lemme see. I’ve been pretty fuckin’ shitty. See there’s this girl.

There’s always a girl. An’ I fucked up real bad with her. Did some pretty unforgivable shit. Then I took off. An’ then I spent a few months ditchin’ Slayers an’ Watchers an’ messengers. Then I closed a hellmouth or two. Got shot at by a redneck. Stabbed by a demon. Almost thrown in jail for startin’ a fight over a girl. Burned down a few buildings just for shits and giggles an’ oh yeah had some pretty fucked up dreams. I shrug a bit at it. “You know me B.”

I don’t think I really need to say what I’ve been up to. She probably knows. Probably has Red checkin’ in on me or some shit. Buffy nods a bit and slows her pace. “Yeah I know you. Which is why I’m going to go out on a limb here.” Here it comes. You can always tell when she’s gonna say some shit ya don’t wanna hear. Buffy stops at a door and pushes it open before gesturing me inside. Ah. So she’s gonna wait until we’re inside ta bitch at me. That’s fine by me. If we’re gonna get dirty in here I wouldn’t want the kiddies to see. They still look up to her. Hate to sully it by kickin’ her ass a new shape in front of them.

My bag drops to the floor an’ I wait. Buffy closes the door and sits on the edge of the bed. I know she wants ta say something. “Gonna get to the going out on a limb part or we gonna play charades for it?” Why do I hafta be such a dick sometimes? Can’t I just...no. No I really can’t. I can’t ever let Buffy think I’m somethin’ I’m not. This is me. This is who I am. If she wants sweet and concerned she shoulda stuck with the kid and left my ass out there to rot.

Buffy’s face has that hurt look to it again but she shakes her head. “Yeah I’m getting there.” I grunt and settle in to a chair across from her. Well. I don’t wanna feel bad but I do. Might as well give her a chance to say whatever the fuck she’s got on her mind. “That was a pretty fucked up dream Faith. It scared me and I don’t think all of that fear was my own.” That’s cause it wasn’t. But I’m not tellin’ her that. “And then you called Giles which pretty much confirms my thoughts.”

What does she want from me here? I tip my head to one side an’ just watch her before I say anything. God she looks good. Tired but good. “Look. It’s nothin’ out of the ordinary. You just happened ta get dropped in to this one.” I shrug like it’s nothin’. Truth is this isn’t the first time I’ve had a bad dream. Not gonna be the last either. So okay this one was a lil more weird what with the water turnin’ in to blood in the bathroom while I was wide awake. But it’s gotta just be some fucked up thing of mine right?

Like I wasn’t all the way awake or somethin’. “You still can’t lie for shit Faith.” Well. That does get me to smile a little. It fades quick like though ‘cause this isn’t happy fun time for either of us. “Look, you hate this. I get it. But I wasn’t lying Faith. I’m worried about you. I’ve been worried about you.” Yeah. Dunno why she would be worried. She’s got no reason to even care. I open my mouth but she shakes her head and gets off the bed. Honestly I don’t know what to say here. Thanks? It doesn’t seem right to thank her for this so I shrug.

“You got no business worryin’ about me B. Worry about the kid. She’s worth the effort.” Me? Not so much.

Worry about the kid? Well. At least she didn’t call her Sushi again. What an obnoxious nickname to give someone. But of course it’s Faith and she really doesn’t like Satsu. It’s a shame because Satsu could learn a thing or two from Faith. Er. Not in a sex way because I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had sex with Faith. Not you know, outside of fantasy land or whatever. I mean. I can guess. I mean I’ve imagined. Oh. God. Why can’t I just shut up? I clear my throat and shake my head at Faith. “That’s...” I don’t know what to say to her. “Faith you have to know. I love you. That makes you worth the effort even if you don’t see it that way.”

She snorts at me. It’s really fucking annoying when she dismisses me like that. But she’s hurting right now. I have to keep telling myself that or I’m going to be all defensive. And I know from past experiences that getting defensive only leads to defensive fighting. Because as soon as Faith senses she’s getting to me she’ll push until I force her to leave. I’m not going to give her what she wants this time. “Dunno why B. Ya got plenty of reason ta hate me, but no good one ta...ya know.” God. She can’t even say it.

This isn’t good. I think she’s given up on herself. I wish she would have at least sat on the bed so I can be close to her. As it is I had to get up so that I could kneel in front of her. “Okay well you’re just broken. And I’m thinking slightly retarded.” Sure I have a million reasons to hate Faith. But I don’t. I honest to God don’t hate her. I just wish we could start off on the right track for once. Just one time. I rest a hand on her knee and she jerks and slides further back in her chair. “Faith, we’ve got issues. Big issues. But we can work them out. We can make this...”

Faith is up and out of the chair, cutting me off mid sentence. I sigh and turn to face her while she paces. “That’s the thing about it B. I’m not here to fix our issues. I’m here ‘cause ya think some shit is goin’ on that’s dangerous to me. You ever think that you’re what’s so dangerous to me? Huh?” Well. No. I mean okay sure I know if we got in to as we so often have that I could be dangerous to Faith. But I don’t think that’s exactly what she means right now.

“You’re dangerous to me too Faith.” She stiffens and I shake my head. “Not...just like that.” Because its more than what she can do to me physically. It’s what she does to me emotionally. “I’m afraid I’m losing you. That’s more dangerous to me than an entire army of the Turok-Han.” Her head comes up slightly at that. We share a glance filled with so much emotion. Too much emotion. But she covers it quickly like she always does. Covers it and hides away behind all that cold hard exterior bullshit. I’d like to say that I’m reaching her but I’m not so sure. At least she’s not pacing anymore.

“Ya never had me B.” That fucking hurts. I look up at her quickly and stand. I never had her. I know we never did the whole relationship thing. I know that we never even managed to come to terms with a friendship. Not fully. Not before we fucked it all up over that stupid rogue slayer. But it hurts that she says it like that. Because really? She’s had me since the moment she first locked eyes with me. She had me and I didn’t want to deal with it. Any of it. I spent years not dealing with it. And now.

Well now I guess I’m trying to figure out how to deal. “Maybe not.” Maybe this is all just a pipe dream and I should just let her go. It’s what she wants right? So then why does everything inside of me scream against the idea of letting her go? “Maybe I’ll never have you.” Her brown eyes flick away from mine because she can’t hold my gaze. Letting her go is wrong because she needs something. Something to make this better. Even if I’m not that something I’m never going to let her walk away without making something right. “But this isn’t about what I have or don’t have Faith. This is about whatever you’re dealing with.”

If this whole dream thing was entirely Faith then that’s one thing. But if it’s an outside influence then I want to deal with them. By dealing I mean total annihilation here. “Told ya B. That’s just the way I roll. Sweet dreams are your gig.” Oh yeah because I don’t wake up in a cold sweat most nights. I roll my eyes at that and cross my arms over my chest. God sometimes I swear she’s just like Angel. Though probably I shouldn’t mention that just now or she might try to see if she can shove me through that tiny window near the fireplace.

“Oh please Faith. That was not your average run of the mill dream. It had you spooked. It has me spooked and I was only along for the ride.” Okay I shouldn’t have said that. Faith looks at me and smirks something that looks slightly predatory. Okay more than slightly. And yeah it gets me wet. Great. “And of course the second you show everything that comes out of my mouth is somehow way dirtier than I mean it.”

God her laugh sounds so rough. Like it’s rusty from disuse or something. But then I don’t think she’s had much of a reason to laugh in the past year. My heart feels compressed in my chest and I sigh softly. “Hey don’t blame me. You came lookin’ for me remember B?” I nod because yeah I remember. For a second she and I are just looking at each other and there’s no tension. No distance. God I want to kiss her. I want to kiss her and hold her and tell her that it’s going to be better. I can make it all better. If she lets me. But it changes in that instant.

It’s almost like she read my thoughts or something because she’s pulling back in to herself again. “Faith?” She pauses, still silently watching me. I don’t know what to say now that I’ve said her name. “I really missed you.” Every damn night. Every damn day. I missed her. And she’ll never really know that. I watch her head dip down with the weight of guilt she’s holding on to. That’s not what I wanted. I don’t want her to feel worse but it seems like anything I say is going to end up that way. “We all did.” Well. Most of us. Her head bobs up and she sighs.

“Giles is gonna kick my ass isn’t he?” Well. Not literally no. I think he’d really end up just winding himself. At Faith’s mildly panicked grimace I smile and shrug a bit.

“Well he wasn’t pleased that Xander and I went to get you but I think he’s missed you more than he lets on.” Oh. I’m not saying she’s just got to flash him her dimples and he’ll cave. I mean. Probably. Because Faith’s dimples have amazing mind controlling properties. But he’ll probably be all British and huffy at her for awhile. She smiles a bit and nods. I can’t help myself. I move in to her personal space and cup her face. For the first time she doesn’t actually flinch away from me.

I think that’s what we call progress. A knock on the door startles us and Faith makes her escape. Shit. I grunt and turn when the door opens and Satsu sticks her head in. Great. Just fucking great. Faith tenses next to me and it’s like the past thirty minutes never happened. “What’s up Satsu?” She blinks at me and raises her brows.

“Um, just checking in. Make sure no one needs anything...” Yeah right. I shake my head and sigh.

“No we’re good. Thanks.” Satsu hesitates for a moment before she closes the door. I wait for her feet to stop sounding on the smooth stone corridor before turning to face Faith. She’s smirking. What the hell is she smirking at?

I give her a look and raise a brow. “Sorry. You’d better go chase your girlfriend down. She might think you’re tryin’ ta hook up with me. What with the closed door an’ all.” Oh she thinks that’s funny does she? I snort and cross my arms over my chest. Goes to show how much you know Faith.

“She’s not my girlfriend. And it’s none of her business if I was. Which I’m not. At the moment.” But I like to keep my options open. I give Faith a significant look before opening the door to her room and glancing back at her. She’s got a shocked look on her face and that makes me smirk right back. That’s right. I finally left Faith speechless. Today may turn out to be the best day ever.

“B?” I wait for her to say something. “I missed ya too.” Well it’s something. I nod and leave her room feeling better than I have all year. Finally.


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