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 where Part 07 left off. It continues in mostly original territory. (3) Thanks to Lilly for the beta read and edit!
Number of Chapters: Current Plan = 18 chapters
Chapter Summary: Having gotten their own serious conversation out of the way, Buffy and Faith must now face the rest of the Scoobies.
As soon as Buffy hung up the phone from calling Giles, she immediately dialed her mother’s gallery. She waited a few rings, and then her mother answered.
“Hi, Mom,” Buffy said into the phone.
“Hey, Honey,” Joyce answered cheerfully. Then a little worry crept into her voice. “Is everything all right?”
“Everything’s fine, Mom,” Buffy said. “I just wanted to check in with you, let you know I was okay...”
Just then, the bathroom door opened, and a barely-towel-clad Faith came walking out. Buffy’s attention was instantly drawn toward the freshly-showered slayer.
“...I, um, I know you’ve been, ahem, worried about me, and I wanted you to know that...”
Faith released the towel from her body and tossed it over in the corner beside the small dresser. She pulled out a pair of underwear and started to put them on. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Buffy staring. Faith grinned mischievously and then quite intentionally turned in Buffy’s direction, giving her a nearly-full frontal view as she finished pulling on her panties.
Buffy froze for a solid second, almost dropping the phone. Then she rapidly ducked her head so that her gaze was safely averted.
“...I’mfeelingmuchbetter,” she said hurriedly to her mother. Then she gave a small, awkward laugh before continuing at a more normal pace. “Much much better. Yeah. Feeling pretty good. Right now. Uh-huh...”
Faith grinned and turned back around to complete the task of getting dressed.
A few seconds later, Buffy finished her call to her mother, making sure that she told her about the meeting with Giles that night. After saying good-bye, Buffy made a point to hang up the phone with a noticeable amount of noise; then she loudly cleared her throat. She waited a full second after that to finally peek up and look in Faith’s direction. Finding her mostly dressed with only shirt, socks, and shoes to go, Buffy got up and walked over.
“So...how’s your side?” Buffy asked.
Faith turned and examined the wound. “Not bad,” she said. “I probably shouldn’t have gotten the stitches wet, but hey...not like I’m gonna need ’em for long.”
“Do you want another pain pill?” Buffy asked as she pointed out the medicine bottle on the dresser.
“No way,” Faith answered as she slipped on her shirt. “That stuff knocked me out.”
“No kidding,” Buffy teased. “I turned my back for one second, and you were passed out. I had to tuck you in and everything.”
“I guess we’re even then,” Faith teased back. “Miss I-Can’t-Hold-My-Liquor.”
“Funny you should bring that up,” Buffy said pointedly as she stepped back to retrieve something from the night stand. When she turned around, she was holding up the Polaroid from the bar.
Faith tucked her hands in her back pockets and gave a laugh that was only slightly repentant. “Cute, huh?”
“Oh yeah. Love my new fashion accessories,” Buffy added, calling attention to the drink umbrellas in her hair. “I suppose there’s one for every drink I had?” she asked as she set the picture on the dresser.
Faith shrugged. “Well, not counting the shots...”
Buffy groaned and covered her face with her hands. “God, no wonder everything is a blur from that night.”
“So you don’t remember anything?”
“Bits and pieces...flashes...” Buffy said. “I kinda remember this one part, but I don’t know if it was real or a dream.”
“What was it like?”
Buffy’s brow creased in thought. “We were sorta...dancing. Outside the bar, though. And you were holding me. Really close...”
Faith pulled Buffy into her arms. “Like this?” she asked, holding her hands firmly at the small of Buffy’s back.
“Yeah, like that,” Buffy answered slowly, a little huskiness entering her voice.
The two slayers stared at one another for a long time before Faith finally said, “And then what happened?”
“I-I-I don’t know, I...” Buffy paused to think. “Sometimes I think we kissed, but... Did we?”
Faith’s face spread into a broad grin as if she were going to tease Buffy by not answering, but then she said, “No, we didn’t.”
“Oh.” Buffy seemed disappointed by that response.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Faith added. “I wanted to.” She gave Buffy a full-dimpled smile and a wink. “I mean, who wouldn’t?”
When she got a small smile in return, Faith leaned in for a kiss, but Buffy moved her head back and made eye contact instead. “So, why didn’t you?” she prompted.
Faith froze for a moment, apparently stumped by the question. She pulled back a bit and looked away. “Uhhh...I don’t know...I mean, I could have...but you were all...and I didn’t want to—”
It was Faith’s turn to have a babble cut off with an embrace as Buffy pulled her close and kissed her soundly.
“Thank you,” Buffy said sincerely when they finally separated.
The two then exchanged warm glances, although it was clear from Faith’s expression that she wasn’t exactly sure what she was being thanked for.
“So...you hungry?” Buffy asked, changing the subject.
Faith smirked widely but chose not to twist the innocent question into more. “Starved,” she replied simply before nodding at the door.
About an hour later, Buffy and Faith were at the late-night diner where they had eaten the night of Kakistos. They had pretty much the same fare: cheeseburgers, fries, milk shakes, and more. When they had finished and paid the bill, they leaned back in their booth with satisfied expressions on their faces.
“Man, that was good,” Faith said, patting her stomach. “Just what I needed.”
“Me too,” Buffy agreed. “Oh, don’t forget these,” she added, pulling a medicine bottle from her pocket. “ER doc said you should start these tonight.”
“Oh yeah,” Faith said, taking the bottle of antibiotics from Buffy’s hand. “Thanks.” She twisted off the cap, took out a pill, and washed it down with a big gulp from a mostly-melted chocolate shake. Then she tucked the bottle into her own pocket.
Buffy looked at her watch and then cast a nervous glance at Faith. “It’s, um, it’s almost time for the meeting. We should—I mean, I should, you know, get going, I guess...” Buffy eased out of the booth and stood up, and Faith did the same. “I mean, you can come...I-I-I wish you would come...but you’re probably tired, and-and rest would be good for you right now, so I’d understand if you didn’t want to come, but—”
Faith took Buffy’s hand to stop her ramble. “I’ll come,” she said simply.
Buffy’s face immediately brightened. “Thanks.”
At that, the two left the diner, hand-in-hand.
A short time later, Buffy and Faith were outside Giles’s apartment. Buffy hesitated in the alcove, eyeing the door with more than a little unease. When Faith stepped up beside her, Buffy gave an embarrassed laugh.
“Sorry, I-I-I’m a little nervous,” Buffy said. “Stupid, huh?”
Faith stood in front of Buffy and put a hand on her arm. “Look, they’re your friends, they love you. All they care about is making sure you’re okay.”
Just then, Xander dashed from the apartment. When Faith turned around, he blurted, “Where is she? Is she all right?” When Faith stepped aside to reveal Buffy, he grabbed the blonde’s arms and asked frantically, “Is she still in one piece?”
Buffy rolled her eyes and pointed at the curb outside the complex. Xander rushed out of the alcove toward the street.
“Okay, so much for that theory,” Faith quipped.
“Buffy!” Willow said excitedly when she saw her best friend through the doorway. When she stepped outside, she then realized Faith was also there. “A-A-And Faith,” she added much less enthusiastically. She turned back to Buffy and smiled again, pulling her friend into a warm hug. “I’ve been so worried about you, all day.” When she ended the hug, she put her arm around Buffy and guided her toward the open front door.
Faith’s jaw clenched tightly, but she said nothing as she entered the apartment behind the two friends.
Once they were inside the apartment, Buffy left Willow to greet her watcher, who was standing beside his desk. Giles placed his hand on Buffy’s shoulder and smiled at her, but Buffy wasn’t satisfied with just that. She wrapped her arms around him, and though a little surprised at first, Giles happily returned the gesture.
Faith and Willow passed by them and each took a seat in the den: Willow in the middle of the sofa and Faith on the loveseat across. The two eyed each other suspiciously but didn’t say a word.
“Are you all right?” Giles asked Buffy as they pulled out of their hug.
“I am,” she said, nodding with confidence. “Really, I am.”
“Glad to hear it,” Xander said cheerfully as he shut the door and came over. As Buffy held out the keys, his expression grew serious. He took the keys, tucked them in his pocket, and then grasped both of Buffy shoulders. “Really, I am,” he said, repeating her words with total sincerity. “You know that, right?”
Buffy put one of her hands over his and smiled. “I do.”
After giving Buffy a big hug, Xander moved into the den and sat on the far side of Willow on couch. When Giles gestured Buffy toward the seating area, Willow expected Buffy to sit next to her, but instead, Buffy headed straight for the loveseat, where Faith sat sprawled with her arms draped across the back. Willow frowned a bit as Faith shifted over to make room for Buffy to sit next to her. Once Buffy was seated, Giles sat down next to Willow. Then all three looked in Buffy’s direction and waited.
Before beginning, Buffy looked nervously at Faith. Faith gave her a reassuring smile and touched her back briefly. Buffy took a deep breath and turned back to face the others.
“First, I want to say thank-you for everything you did today. Faith told me how you all rallied to my rescue,” Buffy said. “A-A-And I wanted to say thanks, too, for understanding when I just ran off at the bluff without explaining anything.” Buffy reached out and touched Faith’s leg and shot her a quick glance. “I-I-I was just worried about Faith, and I wanted to make sure she was okay.”
“And how are you, Faith?” Giles asked. “What did the doctor say?”
“I’m good,” Faith replied. “Got stitched up, got some meds, knee’ll heal on its own. Like I said, it’s no big deal.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head at Faith’s nonchalant attitude toward her injuries.
“Well, good. I’m happy to hear it,” Giles said. “You should stay off patrol for another day or so at least, though,” he pronounced. Then he added, “Both of you.”
It was Faith’s turn to roll her eyes, but she didn’t object to her watcher’s orders. And neither did Buffy.
Giles inched forward on the couch and said, “I, um, I wanted to talk to you, Buffy, a-a-about what happened today. I—”
“I know, I know,” Buffy interrupted. “It’s crazy. I was telling Faith earlier, I can’t believe I did that. It’s like I lost my mind or something.” Then she promptly clarified, “I don’t feel that way now. Crazy, I mean.” She sighed and shrugged. “I can’t explain it. I don’t know why it happened.”
“Well, that’s what I—we—need to talk to you about,” Giles went on. After a short pause, he said, “We know why this happened.”
“What?” Buffy said with a confused look on her face. She glanced about the room, making eye contact with each one. “I-I-I don’t understand.”
“It’s because of what happened with Pete,” Willow explained. “When you...when you killed him, it...it triggered something.”
“A backlash effect,” Xander added. “A kind of...guilt curse.”
“Yes, it’s-it’s built into the slayer power itself, you see,” Giles continued, “as a kind of, um, safeguard to prevent slayers from using their powers against humans.”
“It’s what made you crazy, not you,” Faith said.
Buffy looked appalled at what they just told her. She got up from the loveseat and walked away. She kept her back to them for a long time before turning back around.
“You knew about this?” she said. “All of you? And you didn’t tell me?”
“We wanted to tell you, we did, but we were afraid,” Willow insisted. “Afraid that...” She stopped and looked at Giles imploringly.
“...afraid that if you knew about the curse, it would only increase your sense of guilt,” he finished for Willow. “That you’d feel that you deserved the curse and whatever consequences it brought.”
“We were trying to protect you, Buffy,” Xander added. “Slayers who kill humans...well, they don’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to beating the backlash. We didn’t want to lose you.”
Faith leaned forward and rested her arms on her knees. She wouldn’t meet Buffy’s gaze. “I was supposed to keep an eye on you, but—” Willow and Xander’s loud scoffing stopped her. After a brief pause, she went on. “But then things got...” She stole a quick glance at Buffy. “...complicated.” She shook her head and looked down at the floor. “And I thought I had screwed things up, so I figured you’d be better off if I left.”
“And what a brilliant idea that was,” Willow grumbled.
“No kidding,” Xander said.
Faith pointed angrily at Willow and Xander. “Look, you weren’t there, okay? You don’t know what it was like!”
Xander shot a glare at the watcher at the other end of the sofa. “We weren’t there because Giles wouldn’t let us be there.”
At that, everyone but Buffy started into a simultaneous argument.
“Another brilliant idea...” Willow said.
“I didn’t let you go because...” Giles began.
Willow scoffed again. “...like Faith would be a good idea.”
“Hey!” Faith objected.
“I wanted to go,” Xander insisted, “but nooo...”
“...I didn’t want to set off Buffy’s—”
An ear-piercing whistle from Buffy stopped all four in mid-argument.
“Enough!” she shouted.
Then she glared at each one until they calmed down. When she was sure that they wouldn’t pipe up again, she took a moment to calm herself and to gather her own thoughts. She let out a long exhale and then spoke.
“I think I understand why you did what you did. I know you were doing what you thought was right. But you can’t keep information like that from me,” she told them. “It’s hard enough being the slayer when I know everything. So no more secrets, okay?”
Everyone nodded in acquiescence except for Willow. “We weren’t the only ones keeping secrets,” she pointed out.
Buffy sat down next to Faith again and hung her head. “I know.” When she glanced back up, she kept her eyes fixed on Willow. “I would’ve told you, but...I didn’t know what was going on myself.” Buffy turned and gave Faith a rueful smile. “Still don’t know exactly.” Faith returned the smile, and Buffy turned back to the group. “But we’re going to find out,” she said. “Together.”
There was a bit of a warning in that last word as Buffy spoke it. And for a very long series of moments, no one said anything. Then Xander grinned and broke the ice.
“Together,” he said rather whimsically. “I like together. Especially the kind of together I saw earlier today. Will we get to see more of—Ooooommpphhh!” Xander cradled his arm against his side where Willow had once again elbowed him. “Jeez, I was just tryin’ to lighten the mood.”
After a few chuckles, the group sobered again, and Faith turned to Giles. “So...is this backlash thing over now?”
Giles shrugged uncertainly. “I, um, I honestly have no idea. The records didn’t indicate any kind of specific timeline. It’s possible that the effects might last for weeks, perhaps even years. Buffy herself will probably be the best judge of that.” He turned toward the blonde. “Buffy?”
“I definitely feel different now,” she answered. “I told Faith I felt like I had been under a spell and that when we were on the bluff it seemed like the spell had been suddenly broken. I guess I was right.” She dropped her gaze to her hands. “I mean, I still feel bad about what happened. I don’t think I’ll ever get that image out of my head.” She frowned a bit and then added in relief, “But at least I don’t have Pete screaming in my ear any more.”
All four listeners blurted “What?” at exactly the same time.
“When things got really bad,” Buffy said softly, “Pete was there. N-N-Not ‘in my head’ there, but ‘out here’ there. Kind of like a ghost or something.” She paused a moment, her eyes filling with pain. “He was taunting me, reminding me of what I had done, blaming me.” She hung her head once again. “He told me that I had failed my calling...that I was broken now...that the world would be better off without me.”
Anguished expressions crept onto the faces of Buffy’s friends as it finally became clear to them the degree of torment Buffy had truly been under the last several days. Faith reached out and took Buffy’s hand in hers.
“Buffy, I’m so sorry...” Giles said.
Buffy forced her frown away and looked up, but there were tears in her eyes. She wiped them away and said, “But he’s gone now. At least I think he is. I haven’t seen him since...” She didn’t finish that sentence; she just looked at Faith and smiled.
“If you see any sign of him,” Giles commanded, “or experience any hint of what you felt before, you must tell us immediately. Understood?”
Buffy nodded in agreement.
“Good,” Giles said. Now satisfied with her compliance, he moved on to a relevant side topic. “Have you, um, have you spoken with your mother yet?”
“I called her after I talked to you,” Buffy replied. “Just to let her know I was okay.” Alarm suddenly came over Buffy’s face. “Does she know about all this too?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Giles answered. “Well, about the curse, yes. But not about what happened today, at the bluff.”
Buffy let out a breath of relief. “Good. I don’t think I’m ready to tell her that part yet. She’s worried enough as it is. If I tell her any more, I’ll be spending the rest of my senior year under house arrest.”
Everyone laughed, and then Willow said, “No kidding. Remember when she grounded you when we were trying to stop the Harvest?”
“Do I ever,” Buffy said. Then she sighed and said, “Oh, I’ll explain it to her somehow. Without the scary details. And when enough time has passed, like twenty years or so, then I’ll tell her what really happened.”
“A-A-And what were you just saying earlier about no secrets?” Xander reminded her.
“That was just for us,” Buffy said with a hint of a pouty whine. “Moms don’t count.”
As the meeting fell into pleasant small talk, Willow excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she came out, she found Buffy waiting in the hallway outside.
“Oh, sorry, were you waiting for the bathroom?” Willow asked.
“Um, no, actually I was waiting for you,” Buffy replied. “I-I-I was hoping we could talk. You know...just you and me?”
“Okay,” Willow said. “Y-Y-You wanna go outside?”
Buffy looked toward the den, turned back to Willow, and said, “Yeah. Maybe we should.”
When the two friends had stepped outside into the alcove, they took a seat on the bench nearby and continued their conversation.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you what was going on,” Buffy said, reaching out to touch Willow on the arm. “Since Pete, I just—”
Willow took Buffy’s hand in hers. “I get it, Buffy, I do,” she said sympathetically. “I just wish I had known what you were going through. It must have been awful.”
“It was,” Buffy said, dropping her gaze to her hands. When she looked up, she said, “A-A-And the whole thing with Faith got mixed up in all that, so that’s why I didn’t say anything...I just couldn’t.”
“But...how did this happen? This thing with Faith?” Willow asked in a whisper. “I mean, since I’ve known you, you’ve always...you’ve never been...you know...so inclined?”
“Believe me, I know,” Buffy agreed. “But there it is, and I guess I am, at least with Faith, anyway.”
“But, but...Faith?” Willow asked skeptically.
“I know it seems weird, but there’s something between us,” Buffy said. “And it’s...powerful.”
“But...Faith?” Willow repeated, still incredulous about the whole matter. “She’s about as trustworthy as Ethan Rayne in a chaos shop. She ran out on you, Buffy. When you needed her the most.”
“No, honestly,” Giles insisted.
Xander and Faith looked at Giles with doubt in their eyes.
“Unicorns are not a fable,” the watcher repeated. “They really do exist.”
“Unicorns?” Faith asked skeptically.
“I’ll prove it,” Giles said, rising to his feet. He turned to his bookshelf and began scanning the shelves. “I know there’s a reference in the Compendium...”
Both Faith and Xander rolled their eyes and shook their heads. After a few seconds of waiting for Giles to find his reference, Faith glanced worriedly at the front door. Xander noticed, got up from his seat, and joined Faith on the loveseat.
“They’re talkin’ about you, you know,” he said.
Faith dropped her gaze to her hands. “Yeah, I figured.” Then she looked at Xander. “I’m surprised you’re not out there, jumpin’ on the ol’ bash-Faith-bandwagon.”
Xander shrugged. “Well, I can’t say I haven’t got reason to,” he admitted. “Still more than miffed about the night you left Buffy.”
Faith didn’t reply. She just nodded ruefully.
“But...the fact of the matter is...you saved Buffy.” Xander looked at her intently. “We wouldn’t have gotten there in time. And even if we had, I don’t know if we could have stopped her. You did, and that’s good enough for me.”
Faith took that in. Then she grinned and said, “Plus you got to see two hot chicks with superpowers makin’ out.”
“That was a definite bonus, yes,” Xander replied, grinning as well.
“Well, don’t expect a repeat performance,” Faith teased. “I don’t usually work with an audience.”
“Oh, just a glimpse every now and then shall be sufficient,” Xander said. “I’m sure my vivid imagination will fill in the gaps.”
“I’m sure,” Faith quipped.
“I, um, I don’t understand this,” Giles said, having turned around to face Faith and Xander once again. “I was certain I had the proper volume...” Giles seemed quite put out.
Xander and Faith tried not to burst out laughing at the unhappy watcher.
“No, that wasn’t her fault,” Buffy insisted. “It was my fault. I made her run.”
“Oh come on, Buffy! What could you have done to make her run away?” Willow scoffed. “I mean, really...”
“I kissed her.”
Willow did a double-take. “W-W-Whaaat?”
“I kissed her.” Buffy gave an embarrassed shrug. “I had a nightmare, and she was comforting me, a-a-and I kissed her.”
Willow’s mouth dropped open. It stayed there for a few seconds and then began to move. “I, uh, ee, oh, um...”
“I think I’ve rendered you speechless, Will,” Buffy quipped. “Either that or you’re picking a very strange moment to practice your vowel sounds.”
Willow’s brain was still struggling to process what Buffy had just told her. It simply did not compute. If anyone was the initiator in this affair, it had to be Faith. Didn’t it? “W-W-Well, w-w-what happened?” she finally managed to ask.
“She kinda froze,” Buffy answered, “with this look of shock on her face. I got worried. I thought I had totally screwed up. But then...she kissed me back.” Buffy’s eyes lit up, and her lips skewed into a smirk. “And I mean kissed...me... back,” she added, emphasizing each word.
“I-I-It was good?” Willow asked nervously but with more than a little curiosity.
“Ohhh yeahhhh!” Buffy confirmed.
“So, how did you get from you thinking ‘oh yeah!’ to her going ‘I’m outta here!’?”
“She just freaked,” Buffy said. “She shoved us apart, backed away from me toward the door, and just ran. Of course, the state I was in, her leaving was like...my world was coming to an end.” Buffy’s expression became pained. “And the things Pete said to me...”
Willow gave Buffy’s hand a squeeze. “But she still ran,” she pointed out. “Doesn’t that bother you?”
“Maybe a little, but she explained why she freaked, and I understand where she was coming from.”
Willow didn’t look convinced, but she chose not to press the matter further.
Just then, Faith came out of the apartment. She approached cautiously and said, “Hey, you ready to go? You said you wanted me to walk you home.”
“Yeah, um, sure,” Buffy said. “Let me say bye to Xander and Giles, and I’ll be right out.”
At that, Buffy went inside, leaving Faith and Willow alone. The two made darting glances at one another but didn’t speak. At least not until Willow began eyeing Faith with suspicion once again.
“You got something to say, Red?” Faith finally asked, turning to face Willow.
“I sure do,” Willow said, turning to confront Faith. “If you hurt her, I will beat you to death with a shovel. Got it?”
Faith’s eyes widened, and her mouth opened slightly. She couldn’t believe the mousy redhead was actually threatening her. She was even more surprised when Willow didn’t back down. Instead, Willow gave Faith one final glare and stomped inside.
“Damn,” Faith said, impressed.
Within seconds, Buffy came back outside, having made all of her good-byes to the other Scoobies. Then they two of them headed down the steps from Giles’s apartment.
“So...that went pretty well,” Faith commented as they reached the sidewalk at the curb and started toward Buffy’s house.
“Yes, it did,” Buffy said with a smile. Then she sighed and added, “Only one more hurdle to go.”
“Mom?” Faith inquired.
“Piece o’ cake,” Faith said as she wrapped her arm around Buffy’s shoulders.
“That’s easy for you to say,” Buffy replied.
“It is, isn’t it?” Faith shot a smirk in Buffy’s direction.
rolled her eyes, but then she quickly put her own arm around Faith’s waist,
and the two slayers walked down the street together.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 09...