Rating: R (for language)
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 Watchers Forum, 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, Hope, and Trick” (and beyond)
Author’s Notes: (1) See the first three chapters for detailed notes on the origin of this story. (2) This part picks up just moments after Part 05 left off. It continues in original territory. (3) Thanks to Lilly for the beta read and edit!
Number of Chapters: Current Plan = 18 chapters
Chapter Summary: Both Faith and Buffy are miserable during their separation, and while Faith keeps her distance, Buffy’s condition worsens.
Giles sat silently in the passenger seat of Joyce’s SUV as she drove them both to the Summers home. He had stopped by the gallery after school to tell her what was going on. Now the two of them were on their way to check on Buffy. Joyce gripped and re-gripped the steering wheel several times, her jaw tightening each time.
“I hate this,” she said finally. “You know that, right?” she asked, turning to Giles for a moment. There was no mirth in her eyes as she said this.
“Yes,” Giles said, hanging his head. “I’m well aware.”
Another long silence ensued. Then Joyce spoke up once again.
“I mean, she risks her life night after night—and not by choice, mind you, no, she has to because she had the misfortune to be ‘chosen’ by this-this slayer power whatever it is—she puts her life on the line, and how does this ‘power’ repay her? By punishing her for defending herself!” Joyce shook her head.
“I know this is difficult—”
“Do you?!” Joyce demanded.
“I do,” Giles said softly. “Not to the extent you know it, of course, but...despite the difficulty, we must focus on getting Buffy through this. Cursing her calling, however deserved it might be, won’t help us do that.”
“Fine,” Joyce said, pulling into her drive and slamming the car into park.
When Joyce and Giles entered the house, they found Willow and Xander on the couch with Buffy, who was still crying after Faith’s abrupt departure.
“Buffy!” Joyce cried as she rushed over to her daughter.
Willow and Xander instantly stood up, freeing the space on both sides of Buffy so that Joyce could take her place next to her daughter.
“Mom,” Buffy sobbed as her mother wrapped her in a warm hug.
“Baby, I’m here...” Joyce reassured. “I’m here.”
While Joyce tried to comfort her daughter, Willow and Xander slipped over to the front door to talk with Giles.
“What’s going on?” Giles demanded in a hushed voice. “What’s got Buffy so upset? And where’s Faith?”
“She left!” Willow replied angrily. “You should have let us come check on Buffy! We wouldn’t have left her.”
“What do you mean Faith left?” Giles asked.
“When we got here, Faith was gone,” Xander explained, “and Buffy was crying her eyes out on the couch. Just a coincidence? I think not.”
“She probably took off this morning and left Buffy alone all day,” Willow speculated.
Giles softened his voice. “Look, I know that Faith’s not known for her sensitive side, but—”
“But what?!” Xander shot back. “She left Buffy alone, and now Buffy’s a basket-case. You do the math. One plus one is two, and Faith’s the two.” Xander paused, rethinking what he had just said. “Okay, that didn’t make any sense, but the point is...Faith let us down.”
“She let Buffy down,” Willow corrected.
The voice came from behind Willow, Xander, and Giles, and they turned to see Buffy standing there.
“She didn’t,” Buffy said.
“What?” Xander asked, confused.
“She left because of me,” Buffy explained. “It was my fault.”
Joyce got up from the couch and came to stand beside Buffy. She put her hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Honey, you don’t have to try and cover for her. She said she’d keep an eye on you, and she—”
“No!” Buffy nearly shouted, pulling out of her mother’s grasp and stepping away to address the whole group. “You don’t understand! I don’t want you blaming her for something she didn’t do!” Buffy stopped to take a deep breath. “She left because I...I...” She looked down at her hands for a long moment before looking back up. New tears were in her eyes as she said in a flat voice, “It wasn’t her fault.”
Without another word, Buffy turned and went upstairs, leaving the others shocked and bewildered.
Later that evening, after having a long talk with Giles, Willow, and Xander, Joyce bid them goodnight and went upstairs to Buffy’s room. Although the bedroom door was almost completely open, Joyce gave a short rap on it and stepped inside.
Buffy was on her bed with her knees drawn up against her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs. Dressed in her pajamas, she sat staring blankly at her window, with only the bedside lamp on. She turned slowly at the sound of the knock and saw her mother standing there.
“Hey,” Buffy said in greeting.
Joyce smiled and said the same.
“Giles give you the scoop?” Buffy asked.
“Yes,” Joyce answered, sitting on the edge of Buffy’s bed. “Yes, he did.”
Buffy merely nodded in reply.
“Honey, I wish you’d told me. Now that I know about your slaying, you don’t have to hide things like this from me.”
“I just couldn’t,” Buffy said, glancing away, her voice nearly breaking. After clearing her throat, she looked back and gave her mother a grin. “’Sides, you really don’t want to know the gory details of my daily life as a slayer. Trust me on that.”
“I want to know when you’re hurt and when you’re in danger,” Joyce insisted.
“Mom, that’s every day,” Buffy replied softly, dropping her gaze to her hands. There was no sarcasm in Buffy’s tone—just quiet, inescapable truth.
Disbelief and denial flashed in Joyce’s eyes. They were quickly replaced by anger and fear until they too were replaced, this time by reluctant resignation. Joyce hated her daughter’s calling—truly hated it. Intellectually, she understood the importance of the slayer in the safety of the world, but emotionally she couldn’t help questioning why it had to be her daughter. This latest news had only increased her resentment and her worries. She reached out and took Buffy’s hand in hers.
“Please, Buffy,” she said gently. “Keep me in the loop? You don’t have to give me all the ‘gory details’ as you put it. Just tell me what’s going on. Good or bad. Slayer-related or not.” She gave Buffy’s hand a squeeze. “Because I love you and I want to know what’s happening in your life. Okay?”
Buffy’s eyes were wet with tears as she whispered, “Okay.”
After giving her daughter a long, warm hug, Joyce got to her feet. “Can I get you anything?”
Buffy shook her head.
“Maybe you should lie down,” Joyce suggested. “Try to get some rest?”
“I will, Mom,” Buffy promised. “In a little bit.”
“If you need me, I’m right across the hall.”
Buffy forced a small smile. “Thanks.”
At that, Joyce turned and headed out of the room. As she left, she made sure that she left the door fully open. Buffy didn’t even notice. She had already returned to her sad staring.
Meanwhile, outside the Summers home, Faith watched Buffy’s window from the shadows. With pain and longing in her eyes, she watched until she saw the faint light inside Buffy’s bedroom go out. She dropped her gaze to the ground and sighed heavily. After one final glance at Buffy’s window, Faith went on her way.
Later that night, Buffy lay tossing and turning in her bed, clearly in the throes of a nightmare. She shook her head from side to side, her face creasing in a frown.
In her dream, Buffy was in the high school’s supply room. She did a slow 360, peering at the room with a confused look on her face. When she finished her turn, she found Pete suddenly right in front of her. Blood was gurgling from the wound in his mangled neck.
“Look at what you did,” Pete accused.
Buffy took a step back and looked down at her hand. In it was a broken bottle covered in blood. She screamed and dropped the bottle. When she lifted both her hands, they too were covered in blood.
“Oh God, oh God...” Buffy said in horror. She looked back up at Pete, tears streaming down her face. “I’m sorry...I didn’t mean to...”
“You’re sorry?!” Pete replied, outraged. Pete closed in on Buffy, backing her towards the wall. “You gouge a gaping hole in my neck and make me bleed to death, and you’re sorry?”
Buffy hit the wall, cowering as Pete loomed over her.
“Did you hear that?” Pete asked, looking over his shoulder. “The slayer is sorry.”
Instantly, the person that Pete had been addressing appeared. It was Angel. He was thin and pale with dark, hollow eyes, and his shirt was covered in dried and caked blood.
“She’s not a slayer,” Angel said coldly. “She’s a killer.”
Buffy awoke from her dream, screaming and crying. Within seconds, her mother was at her side. Joyce pulled her sobbing daughter into her arms and held her tightly.
The next morning, as Joyce was sipping her first cup of coffee, she was surprised when Buffy came into the kitchen, already dressed and ready for school—though not with her usual attention to appearance. She had paid only minimal attention to her hair and makeup and had put on a well-worn pair of jeans, an old t-shirt, and a faded zip-up sweatshirt. When Joyce started to object to Buffy’s obvious intention to go to school that day, Buffy instantly raised her hand and stopped her.
“Mom, I know what you’re about to say, but I need to go to school,” Buffy insisted.
“Honey, don’t you think you should—?”
“No,” Buffy said, shaking her head. Then she looked at her mother and said, “I can’t stay home forever.”
There was a mixture of determination and vulnerability in Buffy’s eyes, as if she were steeling herself to do something that she really didn’t want to. Joyce frowned worriedly.
“Look, sooner or later, I gotta face going back,” Buffy explained. “It might as well be sooner. Get it over with, you know?”
“Okay,” Joyce agreed. “But not without breakfast,” she quickly added.
As her mother began making preparations for a hot breakfast, Buffy’s stomach churned. Eating before fear-faceage...probably not a good idea, Buffy told herself. Then she added, Better play along. Otherwise, she’ll worry even more. Buffy sighed and settled on the stool at the bar.
As Buffy walked toward Sunnydale High, she felt her heart rate increase. The closer she got, the faster it raced. She had thought that walking the short distance would calm her mind and allow her to collect her thoughts, but it had had no effect on her ever-growing anxiety. By the time she had reached the school’s entrance, Buffy was a wreck.
As she entered the school, Buffy pulled her small book bag against her chest and wrapped her arms tightly around it as if she were shielding herself from the world. She lowered her gaze to the floor, allowing herself only occasional darting glances elsewhere; then she hurried through the lobby.
You can do this, you can do this, she thought, trying unsuccessfully to concentrate. Just focus on school. School, school. Teachers, classrooms, books, students. Pete. Debbie. Blood. Oh God, so much blood. Get a grip! They’re gone, it’s done, get over it! I wonder where Faith is. Why did she leave like that? Why? You know why. Stop whining! Just—
Buffy froze at the commanding voice in front of her. She slowly looked up. It was Principal Snyder.
“Buffy Summers,” Snyder said dramatically, crossing his arms in a stern stance. “Who just happened to be conspicuously absent the day after a double-murder.”
Snyder uncrossed his arms and stepped deeply into Buffy’s personal space, looming over her, glaring accusingly. Buffy shrank under his stare.
“If the police hadn’t assured me that the two lovebirds had killed each other,” he whispered harshly, “then you, Little Miss Violent, would have been the first on my suspect list.”
Buffy couldn’t even speak or meet his eyes. She just stood there, trembling, seconds from bursting into tears. Snyder’s lips twitched upwards at the sight. He stared silently at her, savoring the moment.
“Get to class!” he finally barked, earning a jump from Buffy, which brought an even bigger smile to his face.
When Snyder stepped aside, Buffy wasted no time in complying with his order. She scurried off without so much as a word to him.
As Buffy hurried around the corner of a hallway, she ran headlong into someone, sending his books flying from his hands.
“Oh my God...I’m so sor—” She stopped mid-sentence when she saw who it was.
“Buffy,” Scott said, surprised but happy.
His elated expression fell when he saw Buffy back away from him with a look of horror on her face. She dropped her bag and tried to speak, but no words came out. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she covered her mouth with her hand. Scott looked on with confusion.
From across the hall, Willow caught a glimpse of what was happening and rushed over. But, just as Willow arrived on the scene, Buffy bolted.
“Buffy!” Willow cried out. When the slayer didn’t stop, Willow turned back to Scott and let out an apologetic chuckle. “Buffy, she’s, well, she’s just upset... about what happened, you know?” She bent over and picked up Buffy’s bag. “A-A-And she just doesn’t know what to say, that’s all.” She began backing away. “I’m sorry, but I should really go check on her.”
Without waiting for an answer from Scott, Willow turned and ran in the direction that Buffy had gone. Scott was left looking hurt and bewildered.
Willow found Buffy in the girls’ restroom. She had heard Buffy crying the minute she had stepped inside. She followed the sound to the last stall.
“Buffy?” she called out. “It’s me. Willow.”
Willow gave the stall door a test pull and found that it wasn’t locked. She called out Buffy’s name again and then slowly opened the door. She found Buffy sitting on the edge of the toilet seat, just sobbing. She set Buffy’s book bag on the floor and then knelt in front of the stricken slayer.
“Buffy?” she ventured again, reaching out to place a reassuring hand on Buffy’s knee.
Buffy looked up and met Willow’s eyes. “I-I-I shouldn’t have come back, Will,” she said, still crying. “I s-s-saw Scott a-a-and totally freaked out.”
“I know, I saw,” Willow admitted.
“H-H-He probably hates me,” Buffy wailed.
“No,” Willow said. “I’m sure he doesn’t. He could never hate you. I-I-I told him you were upset and that you just didn’t know what to say.”
“Really?” Buffy asked, hopeful. “What did he say?”
“Ummm, nothing...that I know of,” Willow explained. “I kinda came running after you.” When she saw Buffy’s face fall, Willow quickly added, “But I’m sure he’ll understand when you talk to hi—”
“No, no,” Buffy interrupted, jumping to her feet and shaking her head vigorously. “I can’t talk to him, I can’t face him, not after what I did, I can’t, I can’t...”
As Buffy’s words trailed off into more crying, Willow stood up and pulled her friend into a tight hug, trying to comfort her as best she could. “It’ll be okay,” she told her.
Buffy held onto Willow fiercely, but then, between sobs, she said, “I wish Faith was here.”
A deep hurt flooded Willow’s eyes. She felt a lump form in her throat, but she forced herself to speak past it. “Well, she’s not,” Willow said, trying to keep her voice even. “But I am. I’m here.”
“Thank you,” Buffy whispered against Willow’s shoulder.
The upset expression on Willow’s face didn’t soften at Buffy’s words.
Later that day, a calmer but still dejected Buffy trudged into the library. Giles was putting away some books, but he immediately came down from the stacks to stand beside his slayer. He put a gentle hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes.
“How are you?” he asked. “How are you feeling?”
Buffy put her hand on top of her watcher’s hand and gave him a rueful smile. “Like somebody ran me over with a Mack truck...about a hundred times. But other than that, I’m fine.” She tried to sound convincing and optimistic but failed miserably.
Giles gestured at the chairs at the table, and they both sat down. “Are you sleeping?” he asked.
“Not really,” Buffy said, dropping her gaze to her hands. “Every time I go to sleep, I dream…about what happened. I feel like I’m going crazy.”
Deep worry flashed in Giles’s eyes, but he pushed it down and said, “That’s perfectly normal, Buffy. You went through a very traumatic event. It’s going to take time for you to fully recover. The important thing is not to bottle up your feelings.”
“Oh, no bottling here. More like bawling my eyes out every half hour.”
“Good! That’s good!” Giles blurted excitedly, earning him a strange look from Buffy. “You know what I mean. It’s good that you’re expressing your feelings.”
“Tell that to my mascara,” Buffy deadpanned.
Giles looked confused for a moment, but then he eventually got it. After his quick chuckle, the two fell into an awkward silence. After a minute, Buffy finally spoke.
“I, um, I just wanted to say thank you for...you know...arranging things,” Buffy said.
Giles smiled back at her. He knew that she was referring to the police investigation of Pete and Debbie’s deaths. “It was the right thing to do,” he said.
Buffy fidgeted and looked nervously around the room before finally asking the question that was on her mind. “Have you, um, have you seen Faith?” she asked in a vulnerable voice.
“Um, no...no I haven’t,” he said.
Buffy looked away, clearly upset.
“But...you know Faith,” Giles quickly interjected. “Not unusual for her to drop out of sight from time to time...only for a short while, of course.”
Buffy nodded wordlessly.
“Buffy, do you want to talk about what happened yesterday...why Faith left...what got you so upset?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, not really. Just a...difference of opinion.” I like her, she hates me, that’s all, she quipped sadly to herself. “Not uncommon with us,” she added, forcing a small smile. “But thanks.”
At that, Buffy got to her feet and headed for the door. Giles watched her worriedly as she left the library.
That night, Buffy and Joyce were alone at home, sitting at the dining room table, eating supper. Actually, only Joyce was eating; for the most part, Buffy was simply pushing her food around on her plate, pretending to eat.
“So...how was school today?” Joyce asked. “You know...going back and all?”
Buffy froze, and it took her several moments to answer. “Hard,” she finally said, without looking at her mother. “Harder than I thought it would be, but...I survived.” She spoke the last two words without much enthusiasm. After a few final pushes of her food, she set her fork down. “I, um, I think I’m just gonna go to bed,” she said, looking at her mom, “i-i-if that’s okay.”
“Of course,” Joyce said sympathetically. “I wish you had eaten more, though.”
“I know,” Buffy said. “I’m just not very hungry.” She pushed away from the table and got to her feet. “If anybody calls or comes by, just tell ’em I went to bed, okay? I’m not really up for conversation.”
“Okay, honey,” Joyce said, giving her daughter a nod.
Buffy turned and took a step toward the doorway. But then she suddenly turned back around. “Unless it’s Faith,” she added with hope in her voice.
Joyce frowned but didn’t comment.
“But she probably won’t come,” Buffy said dejectedly. “I mean, she’s got to patrol and everything.” She dropped her gaze to the floor and muttered, “What I should be doing.”
Without another word, Buffy trudged out of the dining room and headed for the stairs.
Later that night, Buffy tossed fitfully in her bed. Once again, her sleep was disturbed by nightmares.
In her current dream, Buffy was walking along a hallway at school. It was dark, and the corridor was lined with people. Though they were standing and moving, it was clear that they were dead—quite dead. Some were pale with punctures on their necks; others looked like they’d been savaged by beasts. As she passed each one, they glared at her with cold hatred, hissing accusations at her.
Buffy’s face creased in pain, and tears began streaming down her face. She stopped and turned in place, trying to address them all. “I’m sorry...”
They didn’t seem appeased. They started to close in behind her and around her. Buffy’s expression became panicked, and she turned and ran, screaming as hands reached out for her. Soon the crowd thinned, but before she could fully escape, a wall of bodies stopped her forward progress. She stumbled back then looked up to see familiar faces.
Jesse. Principal Flutie. Dr. Gregory. Theresa. Jenny. Kendra. Mr. Platt. Debbie. Pete.
“Oh God...” Buffy whimpered.
“You were supposed to save me,” said a pale and drained Jesse. “I tried to be your friend.”
“I believed in you,” said Dr. Gregory, carrying his own mutilated head in his hands.
“Because of you, a Slayer died,” a bloody Kendra added, crossing her arms in judgment.
“Pathetic,” Jenny pronounced sharply, despite the awkward tilt of her broken neck. “Fallen. Unworthy of the calling. It was your duty to protect us, and you failed! Faith is the only true Slayer now. Time for you to go!”
As Jenny and the other victims rushed forward, Buffy screamed...and then awakened in her bed with a gasp of fright. She pulled her pillow to her chest and curled herself around it, muffling her cries into its softness.
Outside Buffy’s room, a robe-clad Joyce tiptoed through the hallway carrying a glass of milk. She stopped when she thought she heard a sound coming from Buffy’s room. She peeked through the open door and saw her daughter apparently crying into her pillow.
“Buffy? Are you all right?” she called out. She heard Buffy get her sniffling under control then saw her glance briefly over her shoulder.
“I’m fine, Mom. It’s just another bad dream,” Buffy said. “Just go back to bed.”
Something in Buffy’s tone told Joyce she shouldn’t intrude this time. Though her maternal instincts urged her to do anything but leave, she reluctantly stepped away and returned to her bedroom.
Near dawn the next morning, Faith was still on patrol. Though she was already exhausted, she had stayed at it all night, hoping that the business of slaying would keep her mind off Buffy. It hadn’t succeeded.
As she passed through one of the older cemeteries, she clenched and unclenched her fists over and over as her mind replayed the last images she had of Buffy: Buffy’s hurt expression when Faith had shoved her away after their kiss, Buffy crying in anguish and reaching out to her, Buffy pleading with her not to leave.
Faith began shaking her head in frustration. “Stop it, stop it, stop it!!!” she screamed before lashing out at the nearest tombstone. She kicked it multiple times until it cracked. Then she slammed both hands against it and pushed, causing it to crumble to the ground in pieces. She stood over it, panting with exertion, before finally plopping down onto the largest piece. She groaned and dropped her forehead into her hands as her own thoughts began to assail her.
What is wrong with you?! You’re pathetic!
You got yourself into trouble and what did you do? You ran. Like always.
It’s all you’re good at. B was right. You’re a real bad-ass when it comes to packing and running.
Faith sighed sadly and then opened her eyes. She was surprised to find five demons closing in on her.
“Shit!” she cursed, jumping to her feet and whipping the stake from her back pocket.
The shaggy demons walked upright, but with a hunched-over, beast-like gait. As they neared, they growled and swiped their clawed hands in the air.
After a quick glance behind herself, Faith began backing away. After making a few steps, she looked behind herself again, gauging her escape route.
“Whatcha gonna do now, s-s-s-slayer?” the lead demon hissed. “Run?”
Faith’s expression hardened as she instantly abandoned the idea of a wise retreat. Instead, she roared and attacked, rushing the lead demon first. She let him make a couple of useless swipes at her, then took advantage of an opening and kicked him into two of his comrades.
When the demon to her left moved in, she side-kicked him to give her a moment’s reprieve while she took on the demon to her right. When he swiped at her, she grabbed his arm and spun him, then slammed her stake into his chest. He screeched and went down.
By then the demon to her left was back, and he grabbed her around the neck with his arm and dragged her several yards away, trying to choke her. The lead demon had regained his feet and came back mad. He sent his two comrades ahead, and each grabbed one of Faith’s legs at the other demon still kept his hold on her neck. Faith kicked at their clawed hands but failed to keep them from latching on.
The lead demon smiled and made a clean swipe right at her torso. Faith managed to free one of her legs and twisted away at the last second. As a result, instead of being sliced across her stomach, she caught the swipe on her right side directly above her belt. She screamed in pain as the claws raked through her flesh.
She kicked her other leg free and then backpedaled the demon choking her into a large monument. When he slammed into the stone, he released his hold on Faith. She flipped him, grabbed his head, and quickly snapped his neck.
The lead demon seized her from behind, picked her up, and threw her hard against a large headstone. She hit it with a thud, landing on the same side where she’d already been sliced. She groaned loudly and rolled off the far side of the headstone, temporarily out of the sight of the three remaining demons. They rushed the headstone.
Seconds before they got there, Faith popped up, a small throwing knife in each hand. With synchronized slings, she let the daggers fly. Each one hit their mark: right between the eyes of the lead demon’s comrades. It was just Faith and the lead demon now.
When she came from behind the large headstone, he rushed her. She moved sideways to the tombstone she had broken earlier and tried to high kick him. He grabbed her leg mid-kick and slammed his forearm onto her knee. She screamed in agony as her left knee joint was forced into full hyperextension.
When Faith hit the ground, she rolled onto her stomach and began dragging herself way. Just as the demon leapt upon her, she got her hand on a chunk of granite that had broken off from the tombstone. She turned and bashed his head with the jagged rock. When he went down, she rose to her good knee and smashed his head three more times until his blood began splattering her upper body.
Finally, she dropped the rock and surveyed the damage: all five demons were dead, she was safe. She gave a high-pitched hysterical laugh that very nearly turned into a sob. She choked it down before it could do so, however, and then let herself fall back onto the ground. As she lay still, waiting for the dawn, a few tears trickled down her cheeks.
The next morning, after Joyce had arrived at her gallery, she called Giles at the school. She tapped her pen impatiently on her desk as she waited for the librarian to answer.
“Library, Mr. Giles speaking,” said the voice on the phone.
“Mr. Giles, this is Joyce Summers.”
“Oh, Mrs. Summers, is everything all right? Is-is Buffy all right?”
“No, she’s not!” Joyce replied angrily. “She’s having nightmares all night. When she’s not having those, she’s crying...she won’t eat anything...the only thing she ever asks about is Faith, though I don’t know why after she deserted her the other day. We have to do something!”
“Yes, well, I, um, I’m not sure there is anything that we can do,” Giles admitted. “Other than watch over her. The powers at work here are—”
“If Buffy’s not better in the next day or so, I’m taking her to the hospital,” Joyce said, interrupting Giles. “There has to be something they can do to help her.”
“If her condition does worsen, hospitalization might be a prudent course of action.”
This was not what Joyce wanted to hear. She sighed unhappily.
A short time later, Giles arrived at Faith’s motel room. He walked up to the door and gave it a couple of polite raps. When he heard no sound from within the room, he gave the door a hefty series of knocks.
“Faith, are you in there?” he called out.
“Jesus Christ!” he heard Faith yell from inside. “I’m coming already.”
Within a few seconds, the door opened. “What?!” Faith demanded. Giles’s eyes widened at the sight.
Faith’s hair was damp as if she had just gotten out of the shower. She was wearing a very thin and very short robe that was only barely tied closed. Her body was covered in bruises, and her left knee in particular was quite swollen. Through the opening in her robe, Faith was holding a bloody towel against her right side.
“Dear Lord! What happened?” Giles exclaimed.
“What do you think happened?” Faith said, leaving the doorway and walking back to her bed. “Got jumped by some demons. One of ’em clawed the shit out of me.”
Giles immediately took off his jacket and started rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. “Let me see,” he said in an all-business tone.
Faith shook her head. “I don’t think so,” she said defensively and sarcastically.
Giles put his hands on his hips. “Faith, I am your watcher. Treating wounds, wherever they may be, well, it comes with territory, so lie down and let me see.” His tone was stern but not mean.
“Fine,” she huffed.
Faith lay on her side with her back to Giles and opened her robe. She stuffed her lumpy motel pillow under her arms and let out an annoyed sigh.
While Faith got settled on the bed, Giles washed his hands in the bathroom. When he returned, he took a look at the first aid kit she had already laid out. He pulled out the things he would need. Then he turned back to Faith and began examining the wound.
It was a series of long, ragged gashes about eight inches long that stretched around her side at her waistline. All were red and angry-looking and still bleeding.
“Faith, this looks very bad,” he said, squinting worriedly at the wound. “You should go to the—”
“No,” Faith said firmly. “I hate doctors, and I hate hospitals, so just clean it up, put a Band-aid on it, and I’ll be fine.”
Giles gave an exasperated sigh. “Very well.”
He poured an antiseptic into the long gashes, making Faith flinch and groan. She cursed softly into her pillow.
“Sorry,” Giles said.
“Just hurry up,” Faith growled back.
Giles applied an antibiotic ointment and then covered the wound with a large adhesive bandage. “Done,” he announced.
Faith let out her breath and pulled her robe back around herself and sat up.
Giles went to the bathroom and washed his hands again.
“So...what brings you to the poor slayer’s side of town?” Faith called out to him.
“It’s about Buffy,” Giles said as he came out of the bathroom and sat at the end of the bed.
“What about her?” Faith asked, concerned. “Is she okay?”
“No, not really,” Giles replied honestly. Then he said, “I want you to go see her.”
Looking very uncomfortable, Faith said, “Why?”
“She needs you, Faith,” he told her simply.
Faith shrugged. “What does she need me for? She’s got you, her mom, all her super-friends.”
“She needs you, too,” Giles said sincerely.
Faith scoffed loudly and got off the bed. She limped over to the TV and grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels sitting on top of it.
“What for? I mean...who am I, Giles? Just some fucked-up girl from Boston she’s known less than a month.” She opened the bottle, took a big swig and then another.
“You’re a slayer, Faith.”
Giles got up from the bed and walked over. He took the bottle from Faith, closed it, and returned it to its place on the TV.
“And being a slayer is a very...lonely place to be. She needs someone who understands the calling...and-and the sacrifices that often come with it. She needs you, Faith. She’s been asking for you.”
Faith frowned and looked away, fidgeting nervously. Finally, she gave an unhappy sigh and said, “Fine. I’ll stop by.”
Giles gave her arm a squeeze. “Thank you.” As he headed for the door, Giles added, “And skip patrol tonight. Give yourself some time to heal.”
As Buffy moved between her classes, she eyed the bustling crowd with trepidation. While her fellow students talked and joked and got things out of their lockers, Buffy crept cautiously down the hallway—the memory of her nightmare picking at the back of her mind.
Suddenly, in a group of students by the water fountain, Buffy saw Pete standing and staring. Buffy gasped and stopped in place, causing the person behind her to run into her.
Buffy didn’t even notice the grumbling complaint of the person who moved past her. Her eyes were locked on Pete’s bloody figure. She backed frantically into the far side of the wall and hurried sideways into the opposing traffic. She kept going until she was beyond the fountain and then broke into a run.
When she got to the end of the corridor, she stopped and looked back, breathing heavily—more from fear than exertion—but Pete wasn’t there. She took a moment to get her breathing under control and then headed for her next class.
Meanwhile, Faith lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling. Despite her wounds and exhaustion, and several more shots of whiskey, she had been unable to sleep. With a painful groan, she reached over to the nightstand and plucked a Polaroid from between the phone and the wall. She looked at it sadly.
It was from the night of Kakistos, the night Faith and Buffy had gone out to the bar. Faith and Buffy were hugging, cheek to cheek, with their inside arms wrapped around each other’s waists, and their outside arms held together with their hands clasped as if they were striking a tango-like dance pose. They were both smiling wildly. Buffy had several tiny drink umbrellas stuck in her hair.
Faith gave a small laugh and shook her head. Then her sad frown returned. She lay back down, bringing the picture with her, letting it rest right over her heart.
At the end of the school day, Buffy was once again in the hallway. After the earlier event, she was even more nervous than before, expecting to see Pete or some other dream victim hovering nearby. When she made it to the end of the corridor and into the lobby without incident, Buffy exhaled in relief. Not only had she managed to avoid seeing Scott all day, but she had also not had a second encounter with Pete. She thought she was home free. She was wrong.
Just as she turned the corner, Pete was suddenly in front of her. She cried out and pressed herself against the wall, drawing the attention of the other people in the lobby.
Pete leaned closer. “Look at them,” he said, motioning toward the gawking spectators. “They know.” He moved to the side so that he could whisper in her ear. “They know what you are...they know what you did...”
Buffy shut her eyes tightly and shook her head repeatedly, clutching her book bag against her chest. “You’re not real, you’re not real,” she told herself several times before opening her eyes once again.
Pete was still there. He smiled and said, “Thaaaat’s riiiight. I’m here to stay.”
Buffy looked at him with fear and disbelief. Then she backed her way to the front entrance. When she got to the door, she ran through it and dashed down the steps.
As Pete smiled wickedly, the onlookers merely shook their heads, wondering what was up with the crazy chick.
Later that night, Faith finally left her motel room to go over to Buffy’s house. As she walked, she limped noticeably and often cradled her arm against her side. Despite Giles’s order to skip patrol, she made a sweep through several cemeteries in an effort to postpone the inevitable, but without even a fledgling vamp to distract her, she eventually had to make her way over to Revello Drive. She stood on the sidewalk looking up at the Summers home. She saw that the lights in the living room were on and that someone was watching TV. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Okay, make it quick, she told herself. Keep it light, see how she’s doing, then get the hell outta there.
She took another deep breath and headed for the front door, still limping at bit and favoring her side. She knocked on the door. She heard someone turn the TV off and walk to the door. When it opened, a sad Buffy was standing inside the doorway.
“Hey,” Faith said simply.
“Faith!” Buffy said, her expression brightening at the sight of the brunette. When Faith didn’t echo Buffy’s enthusiasm, Buffy’s face fell. She looked away for a moment, then made herself speak. “Y-Y-You wanna come in?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Faith said.
Faith forced herself not to show any sign of her injuries as she stepped inside the living room. Once Buffy had shut the door, Faith made no attempt to move further into the room; instead, she hovered only a few feet from the door.
At first, neither of them said anything. Finally, Buffy said, “So...how’s it goin’?”
“Good,” Faith replied. “Just...doin’ the patrol thing.” She shrugged and said, “Giles said I should stop by, so...”
“Oh,” Buffy said in a hurt voice, dropping her gaze to her hands.
Faith mentally smacked herself. Stupid! She quickly went on, trying to gloss over her mistake. “So, um, how are you...you know...feelin’ and stuff?”
Buffy looked back and gave Faith a fake smile. “Good, I’m good.” She dropped the smile and said, “Well, not so good really, but you?”
“Good, I’m good,” Faith said, fidgeting a bit. “Five by five.”
“Good. That’s good,” Buffy replied, fidgeting just as much. “So...how’s patrol?”
“Good. In a way. It’s kinda slow, actually. Tonight, anyway.”
“Hey, don’t complain,” Buffy told her. “You’ll jinx it and get an apocalypse for sure.”
They shared a laugh but then immediately fell into silence. Their eyes darted nervously about the room, refusing to meet the other’s gaze.
Ask her, ask her! Buffy’s inner voice told her. Buffy frowned but then raised her head and looked at Faith. Just as she was about to speak, Faith beat her to it.
“Well, I’d better get back to it then,” Faith announced. Then she turned around and headed for the door.
With a pained expression, Buffy watched her go. Then she called out, “Faith?”
Faith stopped in place, but she didn’t turn around. Instead, she spoke over her shoulder. “Yeah?”
With tears welling in her eyes, Buffy said softly in a very choked voice, “I, um, I’ve missed you.”
Faith closed her eyes and swallowed hard. When she opened her eyes again, she said lamely, “Yeah, um, thanks. Gotta go.” Without another word, Faith opened the door and left the house, closing the door behind her.
The tears that had formed in Buffy’s eyes slid over her lids and spilled down her cheeks. She covered her face with one hand, and after a moment, she pulled it away, wiping at her tears.
“Did you see that?” came Pete’s voice as he appeared beside her. “Did you see how fast she wanted out of here? She couldn’t stand to be near you. She was just...disgusted by you.”
Buffy pulled away from Pete, shaking her head, not meeting his eyes. “No! That’s not true.”
“Giles had to make her come over here,” he went on. “What does that tell you?” He moved closer. “It’s bad enough that you’re a disgrace to your calling, but then you went and kissed her,” he said cruelly. “I’m surprised she didn’t just puke right there on the spot!”
Buffy turned and faced Pete, pointing at him desperately. “No, no,” she said in denial. “She kissed me back.”
Pete just looked at her and shook his head as if breaking some bad news to her.
Buffy turned away and started to cry in earnest. “She kissed me back...” she said in an anguished voice, full of doubt, but wanting so desperately to believe.
Behind her, Pete merely smiled.
The next day, Buffy once again returned to school. She looked even worse than she had before. Her clothes were rumpled, and her hair was a bit flat. Her face was pale and haggard, with dark circles under her eyes. She looked like she was fighting a bad case of the flu and had just dragged herself out of bed to come to school.
More than a few students stared at her as she passed through the lobby. Some even seemed to be whispering about her, as if they had seen her actions the day before. Buffy did her best to ignore them and went on to her classes.
She went through the morning in a kind of distracted withdrawal, speaking to no one unless they spoke to her first, just trying her best to blend in and disappear. When she met Xander and Willow in the lunchroom, they tried to engage her in conversation but couldn’t get more than a few words out of her. When lunch was over, Willow and Xander lingered with Buffy outside the cafeteria.
“Buffy, you gonna head to the land o’ books with us?” Willow asked.
“Yeah, we can mess with Giles and un-alphabetize the encyclopedias,” Xander added, waggling his eyebrows invitingly.
Buffy actually grinned. “Sure, I could use a little...Scott!” Buffy’s grin faded to shock as Scott joined the group.
“Scott, hey!” Willow said in a nervous and high-pitched voice.
“Hey man,” Xander added.
Scott nodded politely at Willow and Xander but then turned his attention to Buffy. “Can we talk?”
“Um, yeah, sure,” Buffy replied, trying not to panic. She turned to Willow and Xander. “I’ll see you guys at the library, okay?”
“Okay,” Willow said. But she didn’t leave until Xander pulled her away.
As her friends left, Buffy dropped her gaze to the floor. “Look, I’m sorry about the other day,” she said. When she looked up, she saw Pete standing several feet away. She tried unsuccessfully to avoid being distracted by his presence. “I was just, um, shaken up, a-a-and I know I’ve been all avoid-y, and I know we need to talk about Homecoming...” She dropped her gaze once again, and there was no hint of enthusiasm in her voice as she continued. “...coordinate colors and all.”
“Actually, we don’t,” Scott said.
Buffy’s head shot up. “What?” she asked, confused.
“I lost my two best friends, and you’ve been avoiding me like I’m the one that did it or something!”
“No, that’s not it at all,” Buffy tried to explain. “I just—”
“I don’t want to hear your excuses!” Scott said hotly. He took a calming breath and then added, “Just...consider yourself uninvited.”
At that, Scott walked away, leaving a devastated Buffy behind. When Scott had gone, Pete moved in. He circled menacingly around the distraught slayer.
“One by one...they’re all going to abandon you,” he told her. “Because you’re a freak! A pathetic...failed...freak!”
Buffy flinched at his every word. When she could take no more, she ran away with tears streaming down her face.
Minutes later, Buffy was crying hysterically in the library with Willow and Xander and Giles hovering worriedly nearby. The three couldn’t get close to Buffy, however, because she was pacing frantically at the base of the stairs to the stacks. Unseen by the others, Pete stood just a few feet away from where Buffy was pacing.
“It’s not fair,” Buffy wailed. “All I wanted was a normal life. Is that too much to ask?”
“No, it isn’t,” Willow said gently.
“Can’t have a normal relationship,” Buffy went on. “Can’t even have a normal date.” She stopped pacing, and her face creased into a pleading expression. “Why can’t I just go to a dance and for one measly night have everything be perfect? Why?”
“Because you’re a failure,” Pete stated. “A mistake. A Slayer that should never have been.”
Buffy didn’t look in Pete’s direction, but she did drop her gaze. Xander took a step toward Buffy and started to speak but was cut off.
“Shut up,” Buffy said to Pete, but without conviction.
“I haven’t said anything yet,” Xander pointed out, confused.
“That’s why things have gone so badly for you,” Pete said. “You and the calling were never meant to be.”
“Buffy, things’ll get better,” Xander said. “You’ll see.”
“No,” Buffy cried, shaking her head, not wanting to believe Pete’s words.
“I mean, really,” Pete continued. “Do you honestly think you belonged on the list of potential slayers?”
“Xander’s correct,” Giles told her. “I know that things seem rather bleak at the moment, but I promise you...you won’t always feel like this.”
“You’re a mistake,” Pete repeated, his tone becoming harsh and cold. “One that needs to be erased before you kill someone else.”
Buffy cringed in guilt.
“Buffy, please...let us help you through this.” Giles reached out and put a comforting hand on Buffy’s shoulder.
“NO!” Buffy screamed, wrenching away from Giles’s grasp. She pushed past her friends, turned, and pointed an accusing finger at them. “You don’t understand. None of you understand!” She dropped her hand and just stared at them. “There’s nothing you can do...there’s nothing anyone can do to make this better! My whole life is going to hurt and suck and end in disaster until I make it stop.”
Without another word, Buffy turned and ran from the library. Willow, Xander, and Giles instantly took off after her. They chased her through the school hallways and out the front entrance, but once outside, she quickly outpaced them and left them wheezing and panting at the far edge of the campus.
“Giles! What are we gonna do?” Willow asked in a panic. “She’s gonna hurt herself, I just know it!”
“You go to my office and find the locator spell,” he told her. “You know the volume. Get as much set up as you can. I’ll go to the magic shop and get the additional supplies we’ll need.” Giles turned to Xander. “You call Faith and get her here. If you can’t get her on the phone, then drive to her place and get her.”
“Faith?” Xander objected. “She’s part of the reason Buffy’s in this state.”
“Yeah,” Willow agreed.
“No, she’s not,” Giles said firmly. “It’s the backlash that’s causing all of this. It’s taking every negative occurrence in Buffy’s life, no matter how small, and blowing it completely out of proportion. The truth is...we need Faith’s help. Now, hurry, both of you!”
Willow and Xander ran back inside the school, while Giles headed for his car
in the faculty parking lot.
A short time later, Buffy trudged her way up steep, narrow gravel road until she was at a precipice hanging over a rocky canyon far below. The sign nearby read “Kingman’s Bluff.”
Buffy wasn’t crying anymore; instead, she just seemed dead inside. She walked numbly to the edge, a few feet from the brink of a very long drop, and stood there waiting.
Soon Pete walked up behind her. He leaned over and whispered into her ear, “There now...that wasn’t so hard, was it?” He moved to stand beside her. “It’s for the best really. With you gone, another slayer can be called. One that isn’t broken.” His voice turned mean. “One that doesn’t kill the people she’s supposed to be protecting!”
At the library, Willow and Giles were just completing the locator spell. They were standing over the table, watching as a glowing trail of magic indicated a particular spot on the map of Sunnydale.
“We’ve got it!” Willow cried. “Kingman’s Bluff!”
Giles snatched up the radio sitting nearby. “Xander! Faith! It’s Kingman’s Bluff! That’s where Buffy is!”
“That’s just a few miles from where I am,” Faith said over the radio. “I’m on my way!”
“It’ll take me longer,” Xander said from his car, “I’m on the other side of town.”
“Meet us there,” Giles said. “We’re leaving now.”
At Kingman’s Bluff, Buffy was still standing on the edge. Tears were slowly rolling down her face.
“There’s nothing for you here, nothing to hold you back,” Pete told her. “No duty, no life, no love...”
Buffy put her hands to her face.
Faith had made her way to the gravel road leading up to Kingman’s Bluff. She was desperately trying to run up the steep hill, but her injuries were slowing her down. She was limping badly and clutching her side, which was bleeding again.
“Buffy, please don’t do it, don’t do it,” she panted as she ran. “Please don’t...”
“Do it!!” Pete screamed.
Buffy dropped her hands. She was crying hard, but forced herself to get it under control. Once she had done so, she took a step forward, resigned to her fate.
Faith poured every ounce of her voice into that call as she tumbled onto the cliff-top, her injured knee finally giving out on her.
Buffy turned around and saw Faith getting back to her feet. But Buffy didn’t move or speak.
Practically dragging her injured leg, Faith limped over. “Buffy, please...step back from the edge...let’s talk, okay?”
“Don’t listen to her!” Pete ordered.
Buffy lifted her eyes to Faith’s. “There’s nothing to talk about,” she said flatly.
“Yes, there is,” Faith insisted, moving closer. “We’ve got unfinished business, you and me.”
“It’s all finished, all over, everything,” Buffy said in a voice devoid of hope.
“No, it’s not,” Faith countered, still several yards away. Buffy, however, was only a small leap away from the drop.
Buffy didn’t answer. She simply turned back around and took one step closer to the edge. Now a mere lean in the right direction would take her over the side.
“No!” Faith called out desperately.
She rushed over as close as she dared, knowing that too much momentum could easily send Buffy or herself or both slipping over the edge. She fell to her knees and skidded the last few feet. Ignoring the searing pain in her knee and side, she reached out with her hand.
“Buffy, please!” Tears were rolling down Faith’s face, and her voice caught in her throat as she begged, “Please don’t leave me!”
Something about Faith’s words—the way they echoed Buffy’s earlier ones, the way they came in a voice choked with anguish—made Buffy turn around again. She stared at Faith for the longest time, a mixture of conflicting emotions passing over her face: despair, fear, sadness, anger, hope.
“Don’t listen to her,” Pete urged. “Just get it over with!”
As Faith held her breath, Buffy continued staring, hovering uncertainly between two decisions. Finally, though, she gave a huge sob and held out her hand toward Faith. She took two stumbling steps before collapsing to her knees. Faith scrambled the few remaining feet between them and pulled Buffy into her arms.
“Oh thank God!” Faith whispered, holding Buffy close and burying her face in the long blonde hair. “Thank God,” she repeated.
Buffy didn’t speak. She just clung desperately to Faith as the tears came.
Once they had both calmed a bit, Faith pulled away enough to touch Buffy’s cheek and to look into her eyes. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if...”
Faith trailed off, unable to complete the sentence. Buffy merely looked imploringly at her and remained silent. Finally, Faith abandoned words entirely and pulled Buffy’s face to hers, kissing her warmly, thoroughly, and with all her heart.
When Buffy did the same, Pete’s image simply faded away.