THE BUFFY TAPES
Disclaimer: All of the materials borrowed from Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to Joss Whedon and to the entities and companies associated with their creation. I have borrowed them for creative and entertainment purposes only. No compensation has been or ever shall be received for the writing below. No copyright infringement is intended.
My Website: http://www.dragonwriter17.net/
Feedback: Yes, but only if it’s of the non-flamey variety: DragonWriter17@aol.com
Distribution: The Mystic Muse and my personal site (If you are interested in posting my story on your site, please contact me first for permission.)
Spoilers: BtVS Season 3’s Faith episodes and Season 4’s “This Year’s Girl”
Author’s Notes: (1) This chapter is all original material. (2) Just a reminder that I’m writing this one in modified Watchers style. This means that it uses scene headers from screenplay format, but the text is written in fiction format. Unlike Watchers, though, I may occasionally show a character’s thoughts in italics. (3) And thanks, as always, to Lilly for the beta read and edit!
Number of Chapters: 3
Story Premise: Faith awakens from her coma and finds that the Council has been recording surveillance of her hospital room. She finds a stack of videotapes that contain recordings of Buffy’s visits to see her. What do the tapes reveal? And how does Faith react to seeing them?
Part 01 Summary: After months of nightmares and observation by the Council, Faith wakes up from her coma. She escapes from the hospital and finds Sunnydale a very different place.
Part 02 Summary: As Faith hides out from those searching for her, she views the tapes she stole from the surveillance room. What she sees changes everything.
Faith and Buffy deal with the aftermath of Faith’s awakening and their own
The two slayers just held one another for the longest time. They were so caught up in each other that they barely registered Doris when the nurse told them she would go find the doctor.
“I thought I lost you,” Faith murmured into the crook of Buffy’s neck.
The blonde smiled, using her free hand to stroke the back of Faith’s head. “I thought I lost you, too.”
After a long embrace, the two pulled apart but kept their hands on each other’s arms, not wanting to be out of physical contact. When their eyes met, they just stared, a range of emotions crossing their faces.
Eventually, an awkward, ‘this-isn’t-what-we’re-supposed-to-be-doing’ moment descended, and they looked away, cleared their throats, and backed away from one another. Their glances darted about the room, landing anywhere but on each other. Buffy was the first to hold her gaze once again. She looked at Faith with amazement.
“The doctor said you’d never wake up,” she whispered. “I didn’t want to believe it, but after so long, I started to give up hope.”
“How long was I out?” Faith asked.
“Eight months,” Buffy answered.
Faith’s eyes widened. Just like my dream...So long...
Then Faith did a slow-motion series of blinks as a dizzy spell hit her. When she swayed on her feet, Buffy had to catch her.
“Hey, I got ya...let’s get you back over to the bed,” Buffy said as she helped Faith to the edge of bed. “Why don’t you lie back down until the doctor gets here?”
Faith shook her head. “I’ve been lying down for eight months. I think that’s long enough.” When Buffy gave her a chiding glare, Faith said, “I’m okay. Just a little light-headed, that’s all.”
Buffy’s expression softened, and she sat down next to Faith. Buffy didn’t speak, though, and the two slayers fell into awkward silence for a time. Eventually, Faith spoke up.
“So...back up to eight months ago. What happened exactly?” Faith asked. “Last thing I remember was falling off the building...and something about a cat and a bunch o’ cardboard boxes.” Her brow furrowed as she tried to make sense of the jumble of memories.
“You fell off the building and landed in the back of a truck,” Buffy told her. “You got driven away, and I didn’t see you again until we both ended up in the hospital.”
“I let Angel drain me,” Buffy answered, pausing for a long moment after speaking those words.
Faith hung her head and swallowed noticeably but said nothing.
“I almost died,” Buffy went on, “but Angel recovered and got me here in time.”
Faith looked stricken as she raised her eyes to meet Buffy’s. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Buffy merely nodded in silent acknowledgement of the apology. Then she said, “Anyway, that’s when the cat and the cardboard boxes thing happened. We had some kind of shared dream.”
“I remember now,” Faith said, thinking back. “I told you something about the Mayor, didn’t I?”
“Yes, and it worked. We stopped him...we stopped the Ascension.”
Pain entered Faith’s expression, and Buffy frowned in reaction.
“I know you cared about him, and I know he cared about you,” Buffy said. “I’m sorry it had to go that way.”
“I don’t know why you’re apologizin’ to me. Mayor wanted to do a demon makeover on the world, and I nearly helped him do it.”
“Because I know it hurts...and because, in the end, you helped me beat him.”
The two slayers went quiet for a while. Then Faith finally spoke up.
“So, what happens now?” she asked. “A ‘go directly to jail’ card or a one-way ticket to the mother country?”
“I don’t know,” Buffy said sadly. Suddenly, she took Faith’s hand in hers. “Whatever happens, please don’t run, okay? There’s only one way that’s gonna end, and I—”
“I know,” Faith said, remembering her dream. “I won’t run,” she assured her.
The two slayers fell silent once again, releasing each other’s hand.
“Man, is this doctor ever gonna show?” Faith complained in an effort to fill the awkward silence. “Good thing I wasn’t havin’ a heart attack or nothing.” She looked around the drab room. “I’m not exactly in the VIP suite down here.”
“Yeah,” Buffy ruefully agreed. “I think the Council wanted to keep you out of the mainstream.”
“Why? In case I woke up and went berserk?”
Buffy shrugged, not really able to contest Faith’s speculation.
“I guess that’s why you been hangin’ out here,” Faith said. “Wes made ya come and baby-sit the crazy slayer, huh?”
“Not exactly,” Buffy said. “Wesley isn’t here anymore. He left after I quit the Council.”
“You quit the Council?”
“First it was that damn Cruciamentum test; then they fired Giles. When they refused to help me save Angel…that was it. I told ’em I was done.” Buffy took a moment to let her anger dissipate. Then she turned back to Faith. “So, no…I didn’t come here to ‘baby-sit the crazy slayer.’ I came because I wanted to...because I needed to.”
Faith kept her guard up, refusing to allow herself to feel any hope at Buffy’s words. She knew she couldn’t count on this Buffy being anything like the Buffy in her dreams.
“I felt so bad,” Buffy said, “about everything that had happened. I had to tell you...even if you couldn’t hear me.” Her eyes filled with tears, and her voice became choked. “You were here, like this,” she said, gesturing at the hospital bed, “because of me, because of what I had done, and—”
“It wasn’t your fault. It was mine. I’m the one who—”
“No,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “It doesn’t matter what you did. I shouldn’t have stabbed you. It didn’t have to go down like that. I could’ve used a tranquilizer gun, a Taser. I didn’t have to take that knife with me, but the truth was...I was angry...furious at what you had done...what you did to Angel...what you tried to do to Xander and Willow...to the world...”
Faith let her gaze drop to her lap. “I had it coming, B. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”
Buffy turned so that she could face Faith. “Why did you do it, Faith? Why did you go down that path?”
Faith looked up and met Buffy’s troubled eyes.
Before Faith could formulate an answer to Buffy’s question, however, the doctor stepped into the room, followed by Doris. He looked at Faith with a wowed expression on his face.
“Miss Lehane, you are just full of surprises, aren’t you?” he said as he stepped over to where Faith was sitting on the bed.
Buffy immediately moved out of the doctor’s way so that he could begin his examination.
Dr. Hill was just finishing up his examination of Faith when there came a knock at the door. When Buffy opened it, Detective Stein entered with two uniformed police officers. He scanned the room then made eye contact with the Dr. Hill.
“Doctor,” Stein said, “how’s the patient?”
Dr. Hill walked over to the detective. “And you are…?”
Stein flashed his badge and said, “Detective Stein. I’m investigating the murder of Deputy Mayor Allan Finch. This woman is wanted in connection to that murder. I need to take her downtown for questioning.”
“Like hell you are!” Buffy said.
“Absolutely not,” Dr. Hill replied, crossing his arms over his chest. “She just woke up from a coma. She’s not going anywhere until I clear her.”
Stein peeked around Buffy and the doctor to look at Faith, who wouldn’t meet his gaze for more than a second at a time. “She looks well enough to me,” he pronounced.
“And you got your medical degree from where? Keystone Cop University?” Buffy snarked.
Nurse Doris snickered under her breath.
“Just let him take me,” Faith offered sadly. “You’re gonna have to eventually.”
At that, Detective Stein smiled and started to move forward, only to find himself blocked by Buffy, Doris, and Dr. Hill. The group began arguing loudly, and things were just about to become physical when a piercing voice cut through the melee.
“Excuse me!!” Dr. Petrova barked, adding a telepathic head smack that made the entire group grimace in pain and instantly shut up. Once she had everyone’s attention, she smiled and said in her Russian-accented English, “I’m Dr. Margravine Petrova. I’m Miss Lehane’s psychiatrist.” Then she turned to Stein. “I’m sure your case is very important, Detective, but Miss Lehane is in no condition to be dragged to a police station and interrogated. I forbid it.”
“Then I’ll question her here,” Stein insisted.
“No, you won’t,” Dr. Hill added, moving to stand beside Dr. Petrova.
Margravine stared at Stein for a moment and then asked, “Are you prepared to formally arrest Miss Lehane?”
Stein narrowed his eyes but had to admit, “No.”
Margravine gestured toward the door. “Then I believe your business here is concluded.”
Detective Stein reluctantly left but not before assigning one of the uniformed officers to remain on duty outside Faith’s room.
Margravine sighed and turned so that she was facing Faith, who sat slack-jawed in her hospital bed.
“Dr. Petrova?” Faith asked in shock.
“Miss Lehane,” Margravine greeted with a tilt of her head.
Faith shook her head. “I haven’t seen you since—”
“Yes. Quite a long time,” Margravine agreed.
When Buffy looked at Faith questioningly, Faith explained, “She was my shrink in Boston when I first found out I was—”
“Adopted,” Margravine interjected to Dr. Hill before Faith could complete her statement with ‘a slayer.’ “It was a difficult transition for her.”
Dr. Hill smiled at Dr. Petrova warmly, very grateful for having her support in fending off Detective Stein. Then he turned to Faith. “Well, Miss Lehane, I’m going to order those tests I mentioned earlier. It’ll be sometime tomorrow morning, I imagine. Until then, eat, rest, and try to relax, okay?”
Faith nodded. “Okay. Thanks.”
Once Dr. Hill had left, Faith turned to Margravine and said, “Thanks for the save, Doc.”
Margravine raised an eyebrow and glared at Faith. The slayer instantly corrected herself.
“Uhhh, Doctor. Dr. Petrova,” Faith amended.
Pleased with Faith’s correction, Margravine’s lips quirked into a slight smirk. Then she turned to Doris. “Have you informed the Council?”
Doris nodded. “Yes. Right after I called you. But I didn’t call Detective Stein. I don’t know how he found out.”
Margravine let out a testy sigh. “I suspect the call came from Quentin.” She said the Council leader’s name with clear disgust.
“Quentin Travers?” Buffy asked in a concerned voice as she stepped forward into the conversation.
“Yes,” Margravine answered as she took in the sight of the small blonde before her. “You must be Buffy Summers. I have heard much about you.”
She held out her hand to Buffy, who took it, and they shook hands.
“Don’t believe everything you hear,” Buffy said with a rueful grin.
“What I have heard has often sent Quentin Travers into fits of apoplexy,” Margravine said. “I am hoping it proves true.”
Thinking of Buffy’s attitude with Stein, Doris murmured, “Oh, it’s true.”
Buffy blushed and ducked her head a moment but then quickly lifted it. “Doctor, what’s going to happen to Faith?” she asked soberly.
“I am not certain,” Margravine answered. “This detective seems determined to pursue a case against Miss Lehane. However, I can assure you that the Council will do everything in its power to usurp the jurisdiction of the local police.”
“But…that doesn’t mean Faith will be free,” Buffy commented.
“No, it does not.” Margravine turned her attention to Faith. “You have made some very bad choices. There will be consequences.”
“I know,” Faith said, her expression remorseful and resigned.
“But they can wait,” Margravine announced in a lighter tone. “For now, we must focus on your wellbeing. From this point on, I am assuming responsibility for your case. Miss Lehane, do you submit to my authority on behalf of the Watchers Council?”
Faith nodded solemnly. “Yes.”
Margravine turned to the others. “Doris McKinley, Buffy Summers, you are my witnesses in this matter. Until further notice, Miss Lehane will be under my supervision. My authority shall exceed that of any watchers assigned to her and that of all other Council representatives. Only a direct order from the Command Council can remove Miss Lehane from my care. Is that clear?”
Buffy gave Dr. Petrova a playful salute. “Ma’am, yes ma’am!”
Margravine directed a sharp glare at Buffy. Like Faith, she instantly crumbled under its power.
Buffy cleared her throat and mumbled, “Sorry.” When Faith snickered next to her, Buffy gave the slayer an elbow nudge to the arm.
“Now then,” Margravine announced to the group, “I must go and argue with Quentin and arrange for a conference call to the Command Council.” She turned to Buffy and said, “And I believe that you have friends to inform, do you not?”
“Ummm, yeah, I should probably do that,” Buffy replied without actually moving. She clearly didn’t want to leave.
Faith just shrugged and said with sharp sarcasm, “Bet the Super Friends are gonna be thrilled.”
Buffy gave Faith’s arm a squeeze. “They’ll be okay with it.” Off Faith’s look of incredulity, Buffy rolled her eyes and added, “Eventually.” She smiled and caressed Faith’s shoulder until Dr. Petrova’s ‘ahem’ drew her away.
As Buffy stepped aside, Margravine met her eyes. “Do not concern yourself about Miss Lehane. She will be right here when you return. Yes?” she added with a quick look at Faith.
Faith nodded her affirmative answer, which earned her another glare from the doctor. “Oh, um, yes, ma’am,” Faith said aloud.
As Margravine guided Buffy through the door and past the officer outside, Doris followed after them. Before exiting, the nurse turned back to Faith and said, “I’ll get a tray sent down from the kitchen.”
“Thanks,” Faith said. “Can ya make it two? I’m kinda starving.”
“Two it is,” Doris said and then shut the door behind her.
Once everyone was gone, Faith let out a long, deep breath and lay back against her pillows. Worry fell like a shadow on her face as she stared at the ceiling.
Despite the lateness of the hour, Giles, Willow, Xander, and Riley had dutifully gathered at Scooby Central when Buffy had called.
“Thanks for coming on such short notice,” Buffy said. “I wouldn’t have called so late, but this is kinda important.”
“What’s happened?” Giles asked. “Have you seen Adam?”
“No, it’s not Adam-related,” Buffy replied. “It’s...it’s Faith. She’s awake.”
“Oh my God!” Willow gasped in alarm. “D-D-Did you call the police? Did they lock her up?”
“A-A-And throw away the key? Preferably after chaining her with slayer-proof manacles?” Xander quickly added.
“Oh, she’s fine,” Buffy answered sarcastically. “Thanks for asking.”
“Who’s Faith?” Riley asked, but no one answered him.
“What?” Willow shot back to Buffy. “Are we supposed to feel sorry for her? After what she’s done?”
Riley tried again. “Who’s Faith? Is she another slayer?” Everyone continued to ignore him.
“She tried to kill me. And Will,” Xander pointed out. “In fact, she tried to kill you...on more than one occasion even. You ask me, a coma wasn’t good enough.”
Luckily, Giles was more sympathetic. “How is she, Buffy? Really?”
“No, who is she?” Riley interrupted. “Will somebody please tell me what’s going on?”
“Faith is a slayer,” Giles explained. “Like Buffy.”
“She’s not like Buffy at all,” Willow insisted.
Giles went on. “She came to Sunnydale last year, and for a time, she was doing very well, but then...”
“She accidentally killed someone,” Buffy supplied. “A non-demon someone.”
“She killed a human?” Riley asked for clarification.
Giles sighed. “I’m afraid so. And after that, she—”
“She went psycho,” Xander said, cutting in. “She teamed up with the Mayor, who was trying to turn himself into a big demony snake so that he could take over the world, and she killed people every chance she got.”
“That is not true!” Buffy accused.
“What’s not true?” Xander replied.
“How many people she killed!” Buffy answered. “You make it sound like she’s some kind of mass murderer, and she’s not!”
Willow gave a shrug and said, “One, more than one...does it really matter? She’s still a killer.”
Buffy held up her hands to stop the attack on Faith. “Look, I don’t deny that she did some horrible things. I think I know that better than any of you.”
Willow and Xander shared a guilty glance at one another. They knew it was true: If anyone had a rightful beef against Faith, it was Buffy. They remained quiet as Buffy went on.
“But I also know that there is good in her. She’s not evil. She just...she just needs someone to believe in her.” Buffy cast a hopeful gaze around the group.
“Oh, I believe in her,” Xander said. “I believe she needs to go to prison.”
“Ditto,” Willow agreed.
“I doubt that she’ll be allowed to remain in the American justice system,” Giles noted. “More than likely, the Council will remove her to England.”
“Can they do that?” Riley inquired.
“Giles, no!” Buffy insisted urgently. “We can’t let them take her away!”
“Good riddance, I say,” Willow quipped.
“Amen, sister!” Xander added.
“Enough!” Giles boomed at Willow and Xander, startling them both. “You’ve made your feelings about Faith quite clear. There’s no need to keep spewing such-such...venom.”
Willow and Xander managed to look ashamed and hung their heads, saying nothing more.
“Dr. Petrova said that there’d be consequences,” Buffy said to Giles worriedly. “What is the Council going to do with Faith?”
“Dr. Petrova?” Giles asked, his eyes going wide. “Margravine Petrova? She’s here in Sunnydale?”
After a nod, Buffy said, “You know her?”
“Yes,” Giles replied. “She’s a psychiatrist. Top in her field. The Council’s best. If she’s here, then the Council already knows.”
“They know,” Buffy confirmed. “The nurse assigned to Faith apparently works for the Council, too. She said that she’d already called the Council and that Travers must have called the police. A detective came and tried to take Faith into custody, but Dr. Petrova wouldn’t let him.”
“Quentin called the police?” Giles was apparently puzzled by Quentin’s actions.
“Who’s Travers?” Riley asked.
“Big wig inside the Council,” Buffy answered before turning back to Giles. “Dr. Petrova seemed to think it was him. Why would he do that?”
“Why indeed,” Giles said, a troubled look on his face.
“Giles, we can’t let them take her,” Buffy told Giles. “She needs to be here with us. We’re the only family she’s got.”
Riley continued to look confused. Willow and Xander prudently kept their mouths shut, though it was clear they had more to say.
“I’ll see what I can find out,” Giles said. “Which may be nothing at all since I’m no longer employed by the Council. But I’ll try.”
“Thanks,” Buffy told him. “I’m gonna go get some of Faith’s things out of my basement, and then I’m going back to the hospital. If anything happens with Adam, you know where to find me.”
At that, Buffy left without another word. Riley, however, immediately followed her outside Giles’s apartment.
“Buffy, wait up!” Riley called out, causing Buffy to stop and turn around.
“What is it?” Buffy replied impatiently. “I really need to go.”
“I just wanted to see if you were okay. You seemed pretty tense in there.”
He started to reach out and touch her arm, but Buffy moved out of the way. Riley pulled his hand back, a bit of hurt shining in his eyes.
“I’m fine,” Buffy said. “As fine as I can be, anyway.”
Riley tucked his hands into his pockets. “Well, if you need to talk...”
“I will,” Buffy said, backing away, “but not now. Faith is at a critical point here. If she runs now, it’s all over. I need to be there for her.”
Riley nodded in understanding. “Call me later, okay?”
“I will,” Buffy said.
At that, Buffy took off for her mother’s house, leaving an even more confused Riley behind.
A freshly-showered but still hospital-gown-clad Faith paced back and forth across the small patch of tiled floor in the room. She instantly stopped when she heard a knock at the door.
“Come in,” Faith called out. She smiled when she saw it was Buffy.
Buffy smiled back and entered carrying a large cardboard box. She set the box down on the end of the bed and said, “Hey. How are you feeling?”
“Kinda stir-crazy,” Faith admitted, “but my head hasn’t exploded or anything, so hey, I’m good. What’s in the box?”
Buffy opened the flaps and showed her. “Believe it or not, some of your old clothes.” At Faith’s shocked look, Buffy explained, “I boxed up some of your stuff at the loft. I’ve been keeping it in my mom’s basement. Just in case, you know?”
“Huh. I figured you and the Scoobies woulda had a big bonfire with all that stuff by now.”
“No,” Buffy said gently as she shook her head.
“So, um, how’d they take the news?”
“’Bout like you’d expect.”
Faith forced a smile and joked, “That good, huh?”
“Giles wants to help,” Buffy noted positively. Then she added, “Willow and Xander…not so much.” When she saw shadows shroud Faith’s eyes, she quickly tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry…they’ll come around.”
Faith didn’t give any indication she agreed with that assessment. Instead, she just turned her attention to the box of clothes. “Let’s see whatcha brought me.”
As Faith started pulling out clothes, Buffy warned her, “They’re clean, I think, but a little musty. From being boxed up for so long.”
“I don’t care what they smell like,” Faith said, holding up a very faded pair of jeans. “Anything to get out this hospital gown.”
Faith pulled on the jeans and tested their fit. They were a bit loose, courtesy of her eight-month-long coma diet. She ran her hands over the worn denim and then flashed Buffy a wide smile.
“Damn it feels good to be in my own clothes. Thanks.”
Buffy smiled back, staring warmly at Faith for a lengthy moment.
It prompted Faith to ask, “What?”
“It’s good to see you smile—a real smile,” Buffy said. “I haven’t seen that in a long time.”
“Well, I better smile while I can,” Faith said as she rummaged for a shirt. “I don’t think I’ve got many smiles in my future.” When she found a shirt she liked, Faith yanked off her gown, causing Buffy to shyly look away.
“You don’t know that,” Buffy countered as Faith donned her shirt. She looked up when she heard Faith chuckling ruefully.
“That’s my B,” Faith said, still smiling. “Always the optimist. The way I see it, I’ve got two options: go to prison or die young and on the run. Either way, it’s not gonna be a smiling affair.” Faith struck a pose and asked, “How do I look?”
Buffy dismissed Faith’s fashion question with a hand wave and demanded, “How can you say it like that? Like your life is just over and it’s no big deal?”
Faith finally let her smile slip away. “Because my life is over. It was over the minute I killed Finch.”
“No, that was an accident,” Buffy said. “You didn’t mean to kill him.”
“Yeah,” Faith shrugged, “but everything after that wasn’t an accident. I made my choices, and now I’ve got to face the consequences—like Dr. Petrova said.”
Buffy shook her head in disbelief. “How can you be so calm about this?!!”
“I’m not!” Faith replied sharply. She took a deep breath and then went on. “But I gotta act like I am so I don’t run out that door right this minute.”
Buffy didn’t know what to say. Faith just turned and walked a few feet away.
“I’m getting cabin fever just being here in this hospital room,” Faith said softly. “I can’t imagine what it’ll be like in prison.” She dropped her gaze to the floor. “Just locked up...forgotten...like I never mattered anyway.”
Buffy walked around Faith so that she could stand in front of her. She took Faith’s hands in hers. “You...matter. To me. You always have...you always will...”
Buffy and Faith stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment. No longer able to contain herself, Faith suddenly pulled Buffy close and kissed her. Just as Buffy began returning the kiss, though, Faith abruptly separated them and backed away from Buffy.
“I’m sorry. I-I-I shouldn’t have done that,” Faith said without meeting Buffy’s gaze.
“It’s okay. I wasn’t exactly fighting you off,” Buffy pointed out.
“It doesn’t matter. You weren’t interested before I went psycho. You sure as hell ain’t gonna be interested now.”
“I was interested,” Buffy said, causing Faith to look up. “Back then, I mean. I was more than interested, actually.” She stopped and shrugged sadly. “I just couldn’t see it. I wouldn’t let myself see it. All I could see was Angel.”
The two slayers were silent for a long time until Faith finally made herself ask, “He still around?”
“No,” Buffy said, looking back up. “We broke up. We had to. It was useless, we knew that. He’s in L.A. now.”
Faith forced a smile and flashed it at Buffy. “So, who’re you seeing now? Football player? Frat boy?”
“Not exactly,” Buffy replied. “Riley is...kinda hard to explain.”
Riley? Faith thought to herself, puzzling over her recognition of the name. Damn. How much of my dreams was real?
“Are things serious?” she asked.
Buffy hesitated a moment then said, “I...I think it is for him...”
“But it’s not for you?”
“I...I like him, I do,” she said, “He’s super nice and very good looking, a-a-and he’s a demon fighter, too, which means I don’t have to keep my slaying a secret, but...”
Buffy sighed. “I don’t feel that connection, that need, you know? If he went away, I’d miss him, but I wouldn’t be devastated…I wouldn’t feel… incomplete…like I’d lost a part of myself.”
Faith didn’t comment, so Buffy went on.
“Besides Angel, I’ve only felt that way with one other person.”
Faith didn’t really want to know the answer, but she asked the question anyway. “Who?”
Buffy’s face lit up in a warm smile. “You,” she answered.
Faith blinked, then blinked again. She couldn’t believe what she had just heard. She let out a sarcastic snort. “Yeah, right.”
Buffy kept eye contact with Faith until it was clear to her that Buffy was being completely serious. More disbelief set in; then it changed to anger.
“You sure had a funny way of showing it,” Faith noted bitterly.
“Yeah, I know,” Buffy admitted. “I wish I could turn back time and do things differently.”
Faith’s expression softened. “Yeah, me too.”
Buffy and Faith stared at each other once again but then looked away. After a long moment, Buffy broke the silence.
“Why did you do it, Faith?” Buffy gently asked, finally returning to the question from the night before that Faith hadn’t yet answered.
Faith shrugged uncertainly. “I don’t know...I guess I figured it was a lost cause...me trying to be good.” She hung her head and stared at the floor. “I figured that was why you didn’t want me...”
When Faith looked back up, there was a pained expression on her face, but it soon turned to rage. She clenched her fists tightly. “But as long as I was hurting you, I didn’t have to—”
She stopped and then went on in a calmer, sadder voice. “I didn’t have to face the fact that I was dying inside.”
Buffy’s expression was anguished, and she started to speak, but Faith beat her to it.
“I think that’s why I jumped,” Faith said. “I wanted to get that last hurt in, keep you from saving Angel.” She let out a long breath and added, “But mostly I just wanted it all to end.”
“God, Faith, I’m so sorry...” Buffy said, reaching out to Faith to give her a comforting hug.
Faith, however, moved out of her grasp. “No. Don’t. I can’t...not when I know it’s just your guilt talking.”
Buffy let her arms drop but kept her gaze on Faith. “What if I told you it wasn’t?” she said, echoing Faith’s words from Christmas night.
Faith just stared in shock. Then she got her guard back in place. “I wouldn’t believe you,” she answered.
Buffy took a step closer but didn’t reach out. “Faith, it took me months to figure it out, why I was so scared of getting involved with you.” Tears filled Buffy’s eyes as her throat closed in on her. “I was falling in love with you,” she explained in a choked whisper.
Buffy looked at Faith intently. When Faith said nothing and glanced away, Buffy cleared her throat and went on.
“A-A-And I couldn’t handle it because loving you meant letting go of Angel and...I wasn’t ready for that...not yet.”
Buffy took another step closer. “Angel’s gone. It’s over between us. For good. And Riley is...” She paused, uncertain how to describe him. “He’s not you,” she finally said.
Faith wouldn’t look up. Her eyes darted about the room. She just couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“Can we maybe...try again?” Buffy asked.
At those words, tears began streaming down Faith’s cheeks, but still she would not look at Buffy or speak to her. Faith’s reaction was beginning to frighten Buffy.
“Faith?” she prompted, reaching out to her again.
Faith turned away from Buffy’s touch, shaking her head and crying harder. Buffy rushed forward and rested her hand on Faith’s back.
“Faith, what is it?”
Faith got her crying under control and said simply, “I’m waiting.”
“Waiting for what?”
Faith’s expression had a traumatized blankness to it. “For the dream to end,” she answered. “This is when it always ends. I let myself believe for one second, and it all comes crashing down, one way or another. But I never wake up, not for real.”
Buffy moved around Faith and stood in front of her. She took Faith’s shoulders in her hands. “This isn’t a dream.”
“No, it’s worse. It’s hell.” Faith let out a sob as she lifted her hands to her face. “Oh God…I must be in hell...”
Buffy tried to make Faith look at her but failed, so she just pulled Faith into a heartfelt hug, refusing to let her go.
“You’re not in hell,” she told her. “I promise.”
Buffy continued to croon reassuring words as Faith sobbed against her.
Dr. Petrova and Doris watched intently as these events played out on the surveillance screen before them. Doris seemed uncomfortable with spying on the two slayers at such a vulnerable moment; she looked away and began needlessly straightening the rows of videotapes that had been recorded during Faith’s coma.
Margravine, however, moved closer to the screen and even touched the image of the crying girls, as if she were somehow ‘reading’ them from a distance. For just a second, her lips lifted into soft smile. Then she pulled back from the screen and muted the speakers.
Doris turned from the shelf of tapes and looked back at the now silent image of Buffy and Faith on the monitor. A worried expression came over her face.
“Letting them get involved again...better nip that in the bud,” Doris said.
“On the contrary,” Margravine replied, “I believe it is exactly what they need.”
Doris started to object, but Margravine just flashed her the ‘I-know-what-I’m-doing’ look.
“Fine,” Doris said, rolling her eyes. “Psychic shrink knows all.”
“But of course,” Margravine replied in mock haughtiness.
Doris glared, Margravine smirked, and then they both started chuckling.
Buffy and Faith were now sitting on the bed together. They were holding hands, but things were still somewhat awkward. They smiled at one another, but when Faith looked away, her expression immediately grew dark.
Suddenly, Faith blurted “OW!” and grabbed at her upper arm. She glared at Buffy and said, “What was that for?!!”
Buffy grinned mischievously. “You were getting all ‘it’s only a dream’ on me again. I had to do something.”
“So you pinched me?”
“Yep, and see...no waking up. Just good old fashioned reality.”
Faith’s annoyance quickly faded, and she smiled, secretly appreciative of Buffy’s efforts to keep her grounded.
“Well, for the record, I’m supposed to pinch myself, not get pinched by my dream lover.”
“Dream lover?” Buffy teased. “What have you been dreaming about me?”
Faith actually blushed and couldn’t think of a comeback, which amused Buffy to no end, but she didn’t press her advantage. Instead, she just took Faith’s hand once again.
After a long moment, though, Faith’s light mood vanished just like it did before. This time, she caught herself and huffed in frustration. “I know it’s a downer, but I can’t help it,” she said. She gestured at their linked hands. “This is...it’s just too unbelievable.”
“Why?” Buffy asked sincerely.
“Why?” Faith repeated with heavy sarcasm. They turned and faced each other. “I tried to kill Angel. You know, the love of your life that you didn’t want to let go of? And that was after I tried to steal him from you. Not to mention everything else that I did. I just don’t see how you could want to see me after all that.”
“Maybe it’s because I know that a lot of what happened wasn’t all your fault. It was mine, too.”
“Your fault? Come on, B...what’d’ya do? Hold a crossbow to my head while I did all those things?”
“No, but...I didn’t make you feel welcome, I didn’t support you like I should have, and I didn’t tell you the truth about how I felt. If I hadn’t done all that...”
“It was still my choice,” Faith insisted.
The two slayers grew silent and turned away from each other for a while. Buffy broke the silence.
“He forgives you, by the way,” she said in a soft voice.
“Before he left, he told me to tell you that if you ever woke up. I promised I would. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. The forgiveness, I mean.”
“Just like that? Poof! And it’s ‘I forgive you’? Slate’s clean?”
“No, not ‘just like that.’ It’s not a one-time thing. It’s a process, and it takes time. But I want to try.” She turned and faced Faith and tried to make eye contact, bringing both her hands to cover Faith’s. “We can do this. I know we can.”
Faith didn’t answer. She just got a troubled look on her face.
Concerned, Buffy asked, “Don’t you want to try?”
“Of course I do!” Faith said, jumping to her feet. “More than anything. But what’s the point if I’m going to prison?”
Buffy got up, too. “We don’t know that you are.”
Faith scoffed loudly.
“Okay, Miss Pessimist,” Buffy said, “let’s assume you are going to prison. Isn’t that all the more reason to try to be happy now? As long as we can?”
Slowly but surely, Faith realized she had to succumb to Buffy’s logic, and a grin appeared on her face. “Life is short, eh?”
“Exactly,” Buffy confirmed, bringing her face close to Faith’s until they were nose to nose. They exchanged smirks.
“How’d you get so smart, Blondie?” Faith asked as she reached out to put her hands on Buffy’s hips.
“I’m a college girl now,” Buffy chirped, resting her arms on top of Faith’s shoulders. “Too smart for my own good.”
Faith leaned in further, breathing her words against Buffy’s lips. “Too something...”
Finally the two slayers kissed. Hungrily at first, roughly feeding a passion long denied. But then sweetly, softly, as they chose to slowly savor one another in the short time they had.
Riley smiled and stood up as Buffy approached his table. “Hey,” he said as he gestured her to the chair across from him. “How goes the slayer sitting?”
“Oh, um, good,” Buffy replied, fidgeting a bit as she sat down. “She’s being completely cooperative, no problems at all. They had to take her to get some tests run, so I thought I’d come find you. I-I-I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Sounds serious,” Riley said guardedly.
“It is,” Buffy said somberly. “I need to tell you something...about me and Faith.”
“We were...we were involved. Ummm...romantically.”
Riley’s eyes widened in total surprise. “Oh. Um, wow. Uh, wow.” He shook his head in confusion. “I don’t know what else to say.”
“We kept it secret. None of the others knew.” She paused a moment and then added, “Not even Angel.”
Riley couldn’t speak. He was still in a kind of shock.
Buffy shrugged and glanced down at the table. “It never went very far. I was too hung up on Angel to let it, but...our connection was very strong.” She looked back up. “It still is.”
Riley blinked and did a double-take. Then he stood up, “Wait, are you saying that you have feelings for this girl?”
“It’s not that simple,” Buffy said as she too got to her feet.
“Yes, it is,” Riley insisted. Then he asked with pointed emphasis, “Do. You. Have feelings for her?”
Buffy let out a deep breath and then met Riley’s eyes. “Yes,” she said firmly.
“Still?” Riley blurted in disgusted incredulity. “After everything she’s done?”
“She is sorry for all of that!” Buffy tried to explain. “She was just a messed up kid when all that happened.”
“She killed people and helped a man who would’ve killed thousands. I don’t think ‘sorry’ is gonna cut it!”
It was Buffy’s turn to be silent, not knowing what to say next. After a while, Riley spoke again.
“Okay, so you have feelings for this girl. Where does that leave us?” he asked.
Buffy gave him a sad shrug. Riley got the message. Nowhere. It left them nowhere.
“I see,” he said, clenching his jaw tightly.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said sincerely. “I never stopped caring for her, but the doctors didn’t think she’d ever wake up. I was...trying to move on.”
“Oh, so I was just ‘move on’ guy for you?” Riley replied hotly.
Buffy opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Nothing she could say would ease Riley’s pain. She knew that. Finally, she just sighed dejectedly.
“I don’t know what else to say except I’m sorry.”
“ ‘Sorry’,” Riley repeated bitterly. “Yeah. Seems to be a whole lotta ‘sorry’ goin’ around these days.”
At that, he walked off. Buffy started to call out to him, but then she just let him go.
When Buffy returned to the hospital, she found Faith back in her room, all of her tests completed. She was lying comfortably on her bed with her ankles crossed and her hands tucked behind her head.
“So, how’d it go?” Buffy asked. “What did the doctor say?”
Faith grinned proudly. “Apparently I’m a medical miracle.” She lifted her t-shirt and smacked the scar on her stomach. “Gut looks good, and brain looks even better,” she added, pointing at her head. “It mighta taken it eight months, but slayer healing does good work.”
Buffy’s face lit up in relief. “I’m so glad!” she told her as she gave Faith a big hug. When she released her, she cupped her cheek and said, “I was so worried.”
Faith ducked her head, a little embarrassed at the affection Buffy was showing her. She shook it off and put on a teasing tone, “So, what’d ya do while I was getting poked, prodded, and scanned?”
“I talked to Riley.”
“Yes. I told him about us, and then I broke up with him.”
“Really?” Faith asked, still having trouble believing what was happening.
“Really,” Buffy said with certainty as she caressed Faith’s cheek once again. “I’ve waited eight months for a second chance with you. I’m not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of that.”
“Not even prison?” Faith asked.
“Not even that,” Buffy assured her before kissing her soundly.
“Where is she?” Faith asked impatiently as she paced about the small room. “Shouldn’t she have heard something by now?”
“I’m sure she’s just wrapping up loose ends,” Buffy said. “Dr. Petrova seems like an ‘all her ducks in a row’ kinda person if you know what I mean.”
Faith smirked at the description. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” Her smile quickly fell away, though, and her expression grew serious. “Look,” she told Buffy, “no matter what happens, I want you to know that I appreciate everything you’ve done. If you hadn’t been here when I woke up…”
Buffy moved in and placed her fingers over Faith’s mouth. “No more wasting time on ‘might have been’s,’ okay?”
Faith nodded and said, “Okay.”
Just then, they heard a knock at the door. They jumped at the sound and turned toward it.
“Come in,” Faith called out.
When they saw Margravine stride in, the two slayers shared a nervous glance. Neither happened to notice that the police guard who had been outside was now gone.
Faith tucked her hands into her back pockets and made herself ask, “So, what’s the verdict?”
As Margravine gathered her thoughts, Buffy placed her hand on Faith’s back and waited with her.
“Based upon my recommendation, and despite considerable opposition from Mr. Travers, the Command Council has decided to give you another chance.”
As Buffy and Faith both exhaled in relief, Margravine cut them off with a but.
“But,” she added sternly, “there is a catch. A price, if you will. For you, Miss Summers.”
“Me?” Buffy said in surprise.
“The Watchers Council will arrange for Miss Lehane to avoid prosecution for her crimes and will reinstate her as a slayer here in Sunnydale…but only if you also return and place yourself under the Council’s authority once again.”
Buffy didn’t hesitate in her answer. “No problem. If it keeps Faith here and out of prison, then sign me back up. In fact, sign me up twice,” she added. “I’ll pull double-duty, whatever it takes.”
“Wait,” Faith said, putting up her hand to halt the deal. “Are you sure about that?” she asked Buffy. “The Council hasn’t done anything but screw you over. Really, B, you…you don’t have to do this.”
Buffy gave Faith a warm smile. “I know I don’t, but I want to. Besides, I’m doin’ all the slaying stuff anyway. The only difference is I’ll have to report in to some stuffy ol’ book-lovin’, tweed-wearin’ British guy.” She turned to Dr. Petrova and asked with a grin, “Right?”
Margravine hesitated, then cleared her throat and admitted stiffly, “More or less.”
“See?” Buffy told Faith, giving her a light-hearted but determined ‘I’ve-made-up-my-mind’ look.
“Okay,” Faith said, lifting her hands in surrender.
Margravine waited until the two slayers turned back to her and the matter seemed closed. Then she went on. “Now to the provisions,” she said, addressing Faith. “Regular sessions with me will be required, of course.”
Faith nodded in compliance. That one was a given, she had figured.
“Although you will not be prosecuted by the local authorities, you will be required to complete community service on top of your regular slayer duties.” Margravine pinned Faith with a serious look. “You have committed terrible crimes. There must be atonement.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Faith answered meekly.
Margravine’s demeanor shifted a bit, and she surprised the slayer when she called her by her first name. “I must warn you, Faith,” she said, “after this, there will be no other chances. If you fail this time…”
“I won’t,” Faith promised.
Margravine smiled and said softly, “I believe you.”
As she resumed her report, the doctor immediately snapped back to her stern and strict professional tone.
“Appropriate lodging will be arranged for you once you are discharged from the hospital, at which time you shall both report to Mr. Giles for your duties and assignments.” She tossed the last off nonchalantly and waited for the reaction.
“Mr. Giles?” Faith asked incredulously.
Buffy was just as confused. “But he’s…”
“Fully reinstated to the Council as well.” Margravine gave the amazed slayers a wink. “You are not the only ones getting second chances.”
“Thank you, Dr. Petrova,” Faith said sincerely.
“You are most welcome,” Margravine replied. “I go now to check with your doctor. I shall return as soon as I can.”
At that, Margravine exited the room, leaving the two slayers alone.
Buffy and Faith looked at one another and then broke out into humongous smiles. They hugged and kissed and then began chattering away about the miraculous way everything had worked out.
Having completed Faith’s discharge, the two slayers now stood in the lobby, looking out of the large glass doors that led in and out of the hospital.
“Well, this is it,” Buffy said. “Are you ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.”
“Are you scared?”
Faith merely nodded in reply.
“It’s not gonna be easy,” Buffy conceded. “But we can do this,” she told her as she took Faith’s hand in hers.
Faith gave Buffy’s hand a firm squeeze, and then together they walked outside.
When they reached the parking lot, Faith stopped and looked up to the sky. She closed her eyes against the brightness and let the warmth of the sun seep into her skin.
And for the first time in her life, Faith felt hope…for the first time, Faith saw light instead of darkness.