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 13D left off (with Faith and Xander witnessing Buffy and Angel’s kiss). It continues in mostly original territory, although I have borrowed a bit from BtVS. You’ll probably recognize the scene when you see it. (3) Thanks, as always, to Lilly for the beta read and edit!
Number of Chapters: 18
Complete: 14Chapter Summary: The revelation of Angel’s return—and of the kiss that he and Buffy shared—tears Buffy and Faith apart, putting more than just their relationship in danger.
Buffy pushed away from Angel, ending their intense kiss. Then she backed away, refusing to meet his gaze. She held up her hand in a weak gesture of denial.
“We can’t—” she started to say.
“Right,” Angel instantly agreed, over-nodding as he cut her off. “The curse.”
“Right. The curse,” Buffy echoed, although her thoughts went primarily to Faith.
Buffy’s and Angel’s eyes darted frantically about the room, refusing to linger on each other for very long. Buffy wrung her hands nervously, trying to build up her courage. Finally, she spoke, with both her head and her voice lowered.
“I...I never thought I’d see you again,” she explained in advance. “I...” She hung her head even more. “I’m...I’m seeing someone.” Buffy winced and then risked a glance up.
Angel’s face was full of shock and deep hurt. He looked away and swallowed hard. After a long moment, he simply said, “Oh.” He cleared his throat and walked a few feet away. “Can’t say I blame you...given the situation.”
“I’m sorry,” she said sincerely. “I didn’t want to hurt you, but you needed to know.”
“Fair enough,” Angel said through clenched teeth. He wanted to ask who and how and if they were in love, but he forced himself not to. He dropped his gaze to the floor and said, “I mean...life goes on...I get that.”
As Angel’s expression grew pained, Buffy could only watch. I stabbed him in the heart once, and now I’m doing it again, she thought to herself as guilt filled her mind.
With tears stinging her eyes, Faith ran blindly, racing at slayer speed as if hordes of demons were hot on her heels. Her mind shrieked in pain and rage as she ran. Her mental screams were raw, feral, beyond the scope of words. And when she somehow ended up at her motel room a short time later, they were finally given voice.
After slamming the door, she sank her hands into her hair, doubled over, and let out a piercing cry. When its sound had faded, she stayed bent over and rested her hands on her thighs, her breath going in and out with huge gasps. After a lengthy moment, she stood up straight, shaking her head.
“No, no....” she said in an anguished voice, trying to will away the truth of what she had just seen—Buffy passionately kissing Angel in his mansion. “Noooo...”
She started to slip her fingers into her hair again but stopped, curling them into fists instead. “NOOO!!!” she screamed long and hard.
She began to pace the room, her hands still clenched into tight fists. “How could she do this to me? How could she fucking do this to me?!!!” She stopped and put her fists against her forehead. “I gave her—” Her voice cracked, and she had to swallow and take a breath. She went on in a choked whisper. “I gave her everything...all of me...How could she...?”
Her words disappeared in a sudden sob as tears flowed down her face. She nearly doubled over again, but then pain gave way to rage, and she let out a frustrated cry that was half growl and half scream.
Meanwhile, Xander arrived at the library and told the others what had happened. As Willow, Giles, Cordelia, and Oz exchanged concerned glances, Xander hurriedly punched in Faith’s number on the desk phone.
Just then, the telephone in Faith’s motel room rang. It startled her, and she jumped, but then fire rose in her eyes. She rushed to the phone and snatched it up, base and all, without answering it. Then she yanked it away from the wall so hard that its cord was snapped from the jack.
The ringing instantly stopped, but Faith wasn’t finished. She slammed the phone back down onto the nightstand—once, then twice, then several more times until the device fell into pieces. What was left in her hand she threw across the room where it smashed against the wall.
Faith didn’t stop there. She grabbed the lamp off the nightstand and hurled it across the room as well. The nightstand itself soon followed, heading for the TV but missing. When she saw that the television set remained unscathed, Faith stalked over to it. She ripped it off its security stand and threw it to the floor. Before the TV had even stopped moving from its forceful crash landing, Faith sent the heel of her boot right into the glass screen, shattering it.
Xander stayed on the line as the phone call rang repeatedly, but no one ever picked up. He let it ring a few more times before hanging up and turning back to the others.
“No answer,” he told them. “She must not be there.”
“Even if she were,” Giles said, “I doubt that she feels like talking at the moment, given what you’ve described.”
“She must be devastated,” Willow said sadly.
She and the others looked at one another with both worry and helplessness on their faces.
Back at the motel Faith was pummeling the wall between the bed and the bathroom. She slammed her fists into the sheetrock over and over until her knuckles were bloody and the wall was in shambles. Eventually she stumbled back, exhausted, her gasping breaths slowly changing into sobs. She slipped to the floor with her back against the side of her bed and let her tears overtake her.
A short time later, Buffy left Angel’s mansion, returned to school, and entered the library. She found a very somber group awaiting her. Giles was standing, but the others were sitting. She noticed that all of the Scoobies were present except for Faith. She approached the group warily.
“What’s with all the tragedy masks?” she asked. When Buffy saw her mother stand up behind Giles, she instantly feared the worst. “Oh my god,” she said, rushing over. “Is Faith okay? Did something happen to Faith?”
“Do you care?” Xander replied bitterly.
“Xander, please,” Giles said before turning back to Buffy and gesturing for her to sit.
Xander rose from his chair and gave it slight kick so that it moved to the head of the table. Then he moved away to stand next to Cordelia’s chair.
Buffy didn’t budge from her position. “Please...tell me what’s going on!”
Joyce pointed at the empty chair and said, “Better take a seat, Buffy.”
Buffy reluctantly sat down in the chair. She started to speak again, but Giles cut her off.
“We know Angel is alive,” he said. Buffy’s eyes widened, but she said nothing, and Giles went on. “Xander saw you with him. It would appear that you’ve been hiding him and that you lied to us.”
Buffy glanced away, trying to get her bearings.
“Nobody’s here to blame you, Buffy,” Willow said with a measure of sympathy. “But this is serious. You need help.”
Buffy looked over at Willow. “It’s not what you think.”
“Hope not,” Xander accused. “Because I think you’re harboring a vicious killer.”
Buffy’s expression crumbled under Xander’s attack.
Willow immediately interceded. “This isn’t about attacking Buffy,” she said. “Remember, ‘I’ statements only. ‘I feel angry.’ ‘I feel worried.’ ”
“Fine,” Cordelia spat back. “Here’s one: I feel worried...about me! Last time around, Angel barely laid a hand on Buffy. He was way more interested in killing her friends.”
“But...he’s better now,” Buffy insisted.
“Better for how long?” Xander pushed. “I mean, did you even think about that?”
Tired of the attack, Buffy suddenly stood up. “What is this? Demons Anonymous?” She started to walk away. “I don’t need an intervention here.”
“Oh, don’t you?” Giles shot back, causing Buffy to stop in place and turn back to face him. “You must’ve known it was wrong hiding Angel, or you wouldn’t have hidden it from all of us.”
“Buffy, how could you keep something like this from us?” Willow said, the hurt evident in her voice.
“I was going to tell you, I was,” Buffy answered desperately. “I-I-It was just that I...I wanted to make sure he was really Angel, so I had to wait.”
“Wait for what?” Xander said. “For Angel to go psycho again the next time you give him a happy?”
“I’m not going to gi—!” Buffy shot back defensively before calming herself and raising her hand to make a point. “We’re not together like that. I’m with Faith now, remember?”
Xander gave her a ‘don’t-be-so-sure’ snort.
“But you were kissing him,” Oz pointed out.
Willow gave Oz a quick, scared look. Then she glanced at Buffy worriedly, waiting for her reaction. For a moment, Buffy considered the implications of Oz’s comment. Then she turned angry eyes at Xander.
“You were spying on me?” she said, taking a step towards him. “What gives you the right?”
Cordelia moved to stand between Buffy and Xander. “What gives you the right to suck face with your demon lover again?”
Buffy stepped back, faltering in the heat of the accusing stares. “It was an accident,” she lamely replied.
Joyce shook her head chidingly. “Buffy...” She watched her daughter drop her gaze to the floor.
Xander let out a disgusted huff and crossed his arms tightly. “Yeah, I’m sure that’s the way Faith saw it, too.”
Buffy’s head shot up. “Faith was there? She saw?”
Xander’s only answer was a hard glare.
“Oh God...” Buffy looked away, an anguished expression on her face. When she turned back to the others, tears were filling her eyes. “Look, it was wrong, okay? I know that, and I know that it can’t happen again. But you guys have to believe me...I would never put you in any danger. If I thought for a second that Angel was going to hurt anyone...”
“...you would stop him,” Xander finished for her. Then he added, “Like you did last time...with Ms. Calendar.”
Crushed by Xander’s words, Buffy could offer no response.
Willow once again attempted to mediate the situation. She took a step toward her friend. “Buffy,” Willow said, “I feel that when it comes to Angel, you can’t see straight. And that’s why we’re here. We’re all gonna help you face this.”
“But he’s better now,” Buffy emphasized. “I swear.” When the others didn’t believe her, she looked to her watcher. “Giles, remember when you found me researching? I found a spell...the Repertus Animus. I did the spell, and it proved that Angel does have his soul. It’s not Angelus that’s back.”
“Oh, Angel’s got his precious soul back,” Xander said. “So, what? We’re supposed to just forgive and forget what he’s done? I don’t think so.”
Xander started to storm out of the library, clearly intent on going after Angel. Buffy grabbed him by the arm and spun him around to face her.
“You would just love an excuse to hurt him, wouldn’t you?” she said.
Xander pulled out of her grip. “I don’t need an excuse. I think a bunch of dead people actually constitutes a reason.”
“Right,” Buffy replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “This is all nobility. This has nothing to do with jealousy.”
Xander gave her a haughty grin, but his impending reply was cut off by Cordelia.
“Hello?” Cordelia said snidely. “Miss Not-Over-Yourself-Yet?”
Buffy pointed a finger at Cordelia. “Don’t you start with me,” she warned.
As Cordelia looked to Giles for support, Willow was becoming more and more upset with the way the meeting was falling apart. “Giles,” she whined, “no one’s doing the ‘I’ statements!”
“That’s enough! Everybody!” Giles barked, quieting the entire group. “Now...Buffy knows our concerns, and her actions, however ill advised, can be understood.” Cordelia shook her head in disgust, but Giles went on anyway. “I suggest that we take some time to calm ourselves. We can discuss this further at a later date. In the meantime, all of you, back to classes.”
One by one, Buffy’s friends gathered their belongings and left the library until only Giles, Joyce, and Buffy remained. Once the others were gone, Buffy eased closer to Giles.
“Thanks for the bail,” she told him uneasily.
His gaze averted, Giles clenched his jaw but said nothing. It was obvious that he was quite furious. Nevertheless, Buffy felt compelled to go on.
“I know this is a lot to absorb, but—”
“Be quiet!” Giles ordered, silencing his slayer immediately. He slowly turned to face her. The severe expression on his face and in his tone frightened Buffy. “I won’t remind you that the fate of the world often lies with the Slayer. What would be the point? Nor shall I remind you that you’ve jeopardized the lives of all that you hold dear by harboring a known murderer. But sadly, I apparently must remind you that Angel killed the woman I loved and then tortured me...for hours...for pleasure. You should have told me he was alive. You didn’t. You have no respect for me, or the job I perform.”
Buffy dropped her head in shame as Giles stomped off to his office. After a moment, she looked up, hoping to find some support from her mother. But Joyce merely crossed her arms and shook her head in disapproval. Without another word, Buffy turned and left the library.
Once outside the library doors, Buffy fell against the wall, crying. Suddenly, she lifted her head, and horror filled her eyes.
“Faith!” she said urgently before dashing off down the hallway.
Meanwhile, back in the library, Joyce took a deep breath and walked into Giles’s office. She found him standing with his back to the door, fiddling with his electric teakettle.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly, not knowing what else to say.
“It’s not your fault,” Giles said, turning around.
Giles nodded silently, understanding Joyce’s need to apologize and appreciating her concern. Neither one spoke for a time. Finally, Joyce hitched her thumb over her shoulder.
“I should get back to work,” she said. “Thanks for calling me.”
“If anything happens, I’ll let you know,” Giles told her.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll do the same.”
At that, Joyce turned and walked away, leaving Giles alone with his thoughts.
Across town, Buffy was cautiously approaching Faith’s motel room. She walked up to the door and paused. She started to knock on it twice before stopping to take a deep breath to calm herself. She wiped away her tears and forced herself to knock on the door.
“Go away.” Those growling words were all Buffy heard from the room.
She leaned against the door, attempting to speak through it. “Faith, it’s me. Buffy.”
“Go away!” They came as a shriek this time.
Buffy’s tears returned. “Faith, please...” she begged. “Let me explain. It’s not what you think, I swear...”
“GO...A...WAY!!!” Faith screamed as she flung the door open and bore down on Buffy with rage-filled eyes.
Startled, Buffy took a step back. When she started to speak, Faith cut her off.
“Are you deaf?!!” Faith shouted. “I said, ‘Go. The Fuck. Away!!!’ ”
Faith’s loud voice caused another tenant a few doors down to open his door and step outside. “What’s going on?” he asked, clearly annoyed.
Buffy’s eyes darted in the man’s direction, but Faith kept staring straight ahead. Buffy shrank under Faith’s glare. She lifted her hand to her mouth as tears came pouring down her face. She tried to force out an apology, but her throat felt like it was closing in on itself. With a sob, Buffy dashed away.
Faith blinked several times and swallowed hard before steeling herself and glancing down at her fellow tenant. When the man saw the intense look on her face, he closed his mouth and scurried back inside his own room.
With no one else watching, Faith felt her chin tremble. She closed her eyes and clenched her jaw, willing the anguish down. She stepped back inside her room and pushed the door shut behind her.
Stunned and shaking badly, Faith didn’t even notice that the door to her motel room remained slightly ajar. Her heart was racing erratically, her breathing was increasing, and her head was pounding; she could tell another cry was threatening to descend.
In a panic, she scrambled over the debris to her undamaged chest of drawers. She yanked open the top drawer and pulled out her bottle of Jack Daniels. She twisted off the cap and downed an extra long swig. When she pulled the bottle from her lips, a hitch caught in her breathing, so she took two more quick drinks.
She waited a moment until she felt the pain shift into something else. It didn’t matter what that ‘something else’ was as long as it wasn’t the heart-wrenching agony that brought sobs to her throat and chest. She recapped the bottle and set it on top of the dresser.
Once again dodging debris, she made her way back to the other side of the bed. She plopped down on the edge and stared at the damaged wall. She wasn’t really seeing it, though. Her eyes were unfocused as recent events replayed in her mind. As the kiss between Buffy and Angel flashed in her brain over and over, she felt the rage begin to build again.
After leaving Faith, Buffy ran without thinking for a time. When she finally came to a stop, she was crying hard. She was devastated, falling apart, and she had no one to go to—no friends, no family, no watcher, no girlfriend.
Well...there was one place, she remembered.
She considered the prospect for a moment then made a decision. After getting her tears somewhat under control, she headed off toward Angel’s mansion.
As soon as Buffy came inside, Angel could see that she was upset, that she had been crying...a lot. He got to his feet and waited as she slowly crossed the great room and came to stand before him. She had her arms wrapped tightly around herself.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, touching her arm gently.
Buffy didn’t respond to his touch; instead, tears began rolling down her face. She gave them a quick, useless wipe with the back of her hand and then said, “Faith saw us kissing!”
Angel blinked and then nodded knowingly. “And she told the others,” he assumed, dropping his hand from her arm. “They must be pretty pissed.”
Buffy shook her head and began to cry harder. Angel then realized that there was more to the story than that—much more. But he had no clue what.
“What is it?” he asked, trying to make eye contact with Buffy but failing.
Buffy met his gaze then looked away several times before finally forcing herself to look at him steadily. She cleared her throat and said in a halting voice, “Faith... she’s...we’re...” She trailed off, unable to say the words, but she stared at Angel right in the eyes, praying he would understand.
After several long seconds, Angel put the pieces together in his mind. His mouth fell open, and his eyes widened in shock. “Oh.” He paused and then said, “You a-a-and Faith are...Oh.” He took a step back and turned away.
Buffy’s expression became even more anguished when Angel said nothing more and kept his back turned to her.
Back in the motel, Faith still sat brooding upon her bed. When she heard a knock at the door, she growled loudly, “I said go away!”
After another quick knock, she saw the door crack open and watched as Xander walked in. Faith sighed heavily and said in a flat tone, “I said go away.”
Xander was carrying a bag of weapons and had a crossbow slung over his back. He glanced around the demolished room and nodded in approval at what he saw.
“What do you want?” Faith wearily asked as she got to her feet and headed for the bathroom.
“I want to go put a stake in Angel’s heart,” he answered. “How about you?” He smiled when Faith stopped in place and turned to face him, fury flashing in her eyes. His smile then gave way to a stern expression. “Buffy can’t think clearly when it comes to Angel,” he said. “We have to save her from herself.”
Faith focused her gaze beyond Xander’s shoulder as she let herself imagine the encounter he was suggesting.
“Soul or not,” Xander went on, “he’s a vampire, and he deserves to die. Are you in?”
Faith’s mouth curled into a hate-filled smile as the imagined scene played out in her mind. Xander was behind Buffy, holding the bound slayer in place. As Buffy screamed and cried, Faith mercilessly beat Angel, then stabbed him repeatedly until she was splattered with the vampire’s blood. When she saw Buffy sink sobbing to her knees, Faith gleefully pulled out a stake and plunged it into Angel’s heart, dusting him instantly.
At the sound of Xander’s voice, Faith came back to herself. “What?” she asked, annoyed.
“I said, ‘Are you in?’ ”
Faith clenched her jaw and said grimly, “I’m in.”
Meanwhile, at the school, Willow and Oz slipped into class about a minute before the bell was about to ring. When Willow moved down the aisle, she saw Cordelia sitting alone in the next row.
“Where’s Xander?” Willow asked, a little concern in her voice.
Cordelia appeared confused and then worried. “I thought he was with you.”
The three Scoobies shared a frightened look.
“He’s gone after Angel,” Willow said.
They rushed from the room and ran to the library to find Giles.
Back at the mansion, Angel was still turned away from Buffy. She tearfully bore the silence, knowing that Angel would speak when he was ready, and soon he was.
He slowly turned back around. “I mean, I know you said you were seeing somebody, but...” His mouth remained open, but no further words came out.
“I-I-I know it seems sudden...a-a-and weird,” Buffy told him, “but...I love her.” A lump formed in her throat, and she had to swallow it down. Still, her voice was choked as she said, “She’s everything to me.”
Angel stared for a moment longer before glancing away with a rueful chuckle. “I guess I should have seen it.” When Buffy’s face grew puzzled, he sighed and said, “When you told me about her earlier, you just...lit up when you spoke her name. I should have realized she was more than a friend.” His gaze fell to the floor. “I guess I didn’t want to realize it.”
Buffy closed the distance between them and took Angel’s hands into hers. She looked into his eyes and said, “I’m sorry for this...for everything. I know you’re back for a reason, but that reason isn’t me. It can’t be...we know that.” Angel sadly nodded in agreement as Buffy went on. “I do love you—a part of me always will—but my heart belongs to Faith now. Do you understand?”
Angel reached up and stroked Buffy’s cheek with his thumb. “I do,” he said.
Suddenly, a male voice intruded. “Thought you said it wasn’t like that,” the voice accused.
Buffy and Angel turned to see Xander standing several yards away. He aimed a loaded crossbow directly at Angel. Buffy instantly put herself between Angel and Xander.
“It’s not,” Buffy replied, “and I was just explaining that to Angel.”
Xander circled to his left, forcing Buffy to do the same. “Step aside, Buffy,” he told her. “You know this has to be done.”
“No, it doesn’t!” Buffy insisted. “Angel is just...Angel. He’s not Angelus. He’s not going to hurt anyone.”
“He’s a vampire!” Xander argued. “It’s in his nature to hurt people. He can’t help himself. But I’m going to make sure he never hurts anyone again.”
“Maybe you should do what he says,” Angel told Buffy. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I’m not,” Buffy replied, “but I’m not going to let him hurt you either.” She turned back to Xander and took a few steps toward him, cutting down the angle of his shot. “Xander, just put the crossbow down, and let’s talk about this.”
Xander shifted his position again, causing those in his sights to move directly in front of the alcove to the stairwell. Just as Buffy took another few steps toward Xander, Faith suddenly leaped out of the alcove, stake in hand. Angel turned just in time and caught Faith’s wrist with both of his hands. In his weakened state, Angel was no match for the dark slayer’s strength, and his arms began to shake with the effort.
“You’re gonna die, vamp,” Faith growled as she forced the stake closer.
Buffy whipped around and rushed to Angel’s rescue. She grabbed Faith by the shoulders and yanked her away from Angel, sending her flying to the floor a few feet away. The momentum of Faith’s departure caused Angel to stumble forward and then back, but he managed to stay on his feet. Once he had righted himself, his eyes instantly went to Buffy.
As soon as Angel had straightened up, though, Xander took his chance. He pressed the trigger on the crossbow. With a twang, the bolt flew across the room and sank into Angel’s chest. Angel fell back against the wall, his hand reaching for the bolt.
“Angel!” Buffy screamed in alarm, but the vampire didn’t turn to dust.
Xander cursed when he realized he’d missed Angel’s heart. He immediately began to reload the crossbow.
Buffy tried to move toward Angel, but Faith jumped to her feet, grabbed her by the arm, spun her around, and decked her hard in the jaw. Buffy’s head snapped to the side from the impact, and she nearly went down. When she straightened back up, she gingerly touched her jaw and looked in shock at Faith.
“Don’t look so surprised,” Faith told her as she circled around her. “You deserved that. Especially after you couldn’t wait to leave my door to come running to his.”
Buffy shook off her shock and held her hands out in a placating gesture. “Faith, I know you’re upset, but I need to expla—”
“Upset? UPSET?!!” Faith shot back. “Is that what you think I am?!!”
Xander couldn’t get the crossbow to reload properly, so he tossed it aside and rummaged through his weapons bag for a stake. He drew it out and glanced menacingly in Angel’s direction.
Faith went on, pointing accusingly at Buffy. “I get an eyeful of my girlfriend making out with her ex—her vampire ex who’s supposed to be long dead—all the day after that same girlfriend swears she loves me? Oh, I am way more than ‘upset’!”
“I wasn’t ‘making out’ with Angel,” Buffy countered. “It was one kiss, that’s all!”
“You’re goddamn right it was just one kiss...’cause me and Xan, we’re taking Angel out before there can be any more kisses.”
Buffy turned to see Xander heading straight for Angel, his stake raised high. “Xander, no!” Buffy screamed and tried to run to Angel’s aid.
Faith grabbed her by the arm with one hand. “Don’t you turn away from me, bitch!”
Buffy whipped back around and sent a punch toward Faith’s face, but Faith caught it in her other fist. As they grappled, Buffy warned, “Faith, don’t do this.”
“Already done,” Faith said with a maniacal grin.
At that, the two slayers broke into an all-out brawl, Buffy trying to free herself to help Angel, and Faith trying to prevent Buffy from doing just that.
A few yards away, Xander descended on Angel, sweeping his stake toward the vampire’s heart. Angel, however, somehow managed to block the blow. Unlike Faith, Xander lacked slayer strength; consequently, even in his weakened and wounded condition, Angel was able to hold him off, at least for a time. It was a struggle, though, and he wouldn’t be able to keep it up for long.
Just then, Giles, Willow, Cordelia, and Oz came upon the scene. In the middle of the great room, between them and the far side, they saw Buffy and Faith fighting like mad women. Near the entrance to the stairwell, they saw Angel and Xander struggling over a stake. Willow and the others called out to those battling one another, but their shouts went unheard.
Suddenly, Angel shifted his position and caused Xander to lose his balance. Using the last bit of strength he had, Angel smashed his fist into Xander’s head, knocking him out cold. As Xander fell to the floor, Angel did too, now bleeding even more. Unfortunately, Giles and the others couldn’t get to either of them because of the slayers fighting in the center of the room.
In that fight, the tide was turning in Faith’s favor. While Buffy was trying to free herself without hurting Faith too much in the process, Faith was becoming completely enraged. The more Buffy tried to get to Angel, the more Faith’s heart screamed out in pain and betrayal, and the more she hurt inside, the more fury filled her.
At one point, the two slayers were grappling fiercely hand to hand, and their faces were mere inches apart. Buffy looked into Faith’s eyes, and what she saw there frightened her. It was as if there was no Faith in those eyes at all; there was only black, blind, burning rage. The fear that shot through Buffy made her falter, and Faith was able to take advantage. She landed a punch that stunned Buffy; then she kicked the blonde across the room, where she hit the loveseat and tumbled over.
Faith turned her eyes to Angel and stalked towards him. As he pushed himself to his knees and straightened up, she pointed the butt of her stake at him and said, “Time for you to go back to hell!”
As Faith raised her stake and surged forward, she could faintly hear Willow and Giles screaming, “No, stop!” but she didn’t stop. All she could see was a helpless vampire ready to be dusted, so she swung the stake down with all her might. She smiled when she felt the stake meet its target and penetrate both cloth and flesh. But then she saw gushing blood instead of vampire ashes. In alarm, she looked up and saw that it was Buffy she had staked, not Angel. At the last second, Buffy had apparently jumped to her feet, raced over, and thrown herself in front of Angel, taking the stake thrust directly in the stomach.
Buffy’s face was creased in pain. She slapped her hand over Faith’s, which still gripped the stake jutting from Buffy’s abdomen. She felt her own blood wet and slick on Faith’s hand, and she looked up to meet Faith’s eyes. She tried to speak but couldn’t.
In horror at what she’d done, Faith yanked her hand off the stake and backed away. Angel called Buffy’s name and weakly reached out for her, but Buffy stumbled forward out of his reach. After looking at Faith once more, Buffy crashed to the stone floor.
Faith began backing up in a hurry, already in flight mode. As Cordelia ran to Xander and as Willow and Oz ran to Buffy and Angel, Faith backed right into Giles, nearly tripping over him.
“Faith,” Giles said, reaching out to her with concern on his face.
Faith moved away from his grasp, then turned and ran away. Giles started to go after her, but then he stopped, knowing he’d never catch her. He turned back and rushed to help the others.
Hours later, at the emergency room, Buffy was groggily coming to in her hospital bed. Willow was standing on the side of the bed farthest from the door. She held Buffy’s hand and waited for her to look her way. Buffy blinked her eyes several times before she was able to focus and realize where she was and who was with her.
“Will...?” Buffy mumbled.
“Yeah, it’s me,” Willow said with a small smile. “Your mom’s talking to the doctor, but she’ll be back real soon.”
“Everybody’s okay, far as we know,” Willow began explaining. “Xander’s here in the E.R. He’s got a mild concussion, but it’s nothing serious. Cordelia’s with him.”
In his room down the hall, Xander slowly regained consciousness. When he saw Cordelia next to his bed, he asked, “What happened?”
“You nearly got yourself killed, you big idiot,” Cordelia complained but with genuine care in her eyes.
“What about Angel?” he asked desperately, attempting to sit up. “Did we get him?”
Cordelia winced and ruefully shook her head. Xander fell back against his pillows, angry and despondent. Cordelia started to relay the details, but Xander held up his hand and stopped her.
“I don’t wanna know,” he said, turning his head away to stare at the wall.
Back in the other treatment room, Buffy was becoming agitated. “Where’s Faith?” she asked frantically while trying to get out of bed.
Willow pushed her back against the pillows. “Oz and Giles are looking for Faith,” she told her. “They’ll find her. Don’t worry.”
Buffy allowed Willow to restrain her. Between blood loss and anesthesia, Buffy was too weak to fight much anyway. She laid her arm over her eyes and cried, “God, I screwed up so bad, Will...”
Just then, the phone rang, and Willow answered. Buffy stilled her crying and watched with hope in her eyes as Willow listened for a while and then ended the conversation.
“Did they find Faith?” Buffy asked.
“No,” Willow said sadly. “There’s no sign of her at the motel, or anywhere else for that matter.” When she saw Buffy start to cry again, Willow hurried to reassure her. “But don’t worry. We’ll find her. I promise.”
As tears poured down her cheeks, Buffy shook her head. “No...she’s gone...I just know she’s gone...”
Buffy was sobbing now, her body heaving with them. Willow was concerned about Buffy re-injuring herself, so she stroked Buffy’s arms and hair and tried her best to calm her friend down.
“Everything’s gonna be okay,” Willow said soothingly. “We’ll find Faith. It’s just a matter of time. You know her. She’ll turn up. And-And Angel’s okay, so that’s a good, right?”
“I know I messed up,” Buffy sobbed, “but I can’t lose Faith...I just can’t...”
Faith had run until her legs could no longer carry her. When she finally stopped, she found herself on the outskirts of Sunnydale near the connection to the Interstate. On weak legs she stumbled along the local highway, not really caring where she was going. Her eyes were distraught but tinged with a mixture of betrayal and hopelessness.
When she reached the exit to the Interstate, where most of the local traffic was veering off on its way to Los Angeles, Faith paused. As the smell of exhaust and tar and the high-pitched hum of tires on concrete assailed her senses, she took in the sight of the high overpass. She stared at it blankly for a long moment before trudging in its direction.
When she was about a quarter of the way across the bridge, she came to a halt. Mechanically, she climbed over the stone barrier and onto the top of an overhang that jutted out from the exterior of the bridge’s wall. When she looked down, she could see the southbound side of the Interstate beneath her—three lanes full of late afternoon traffic speeding along. It was at least thirty feet to the pavement below. She closed her eyes as voices assaulted her.
Oh God, what have I done?
You’ve crossed the line, gone too far.
Got some payback, that’s what.
I messed this up so bad...Jesus Christ, I stabbed Buffy!
So what? She deserved it.
Your violence may have taken a life.
This is her blood on my hands.
You know there’ll be more...you can’t help yourself.
That bitch cut your heart out. It’s fucking justice!
Faith covered her face with her hands and cried. The sobs hit her so hard that she nearly slipped from the concrete overhang. After scrambling, she regained her balance, and once again she looked at the drop below. She hovered there with tears blinding her eyes.
It would be so easy to just let herself fall. To end the pain that she had made herself vulnerable to. To cease the ravages of guilt that tore through her soul. To stop the violence that she clearly couldn’t contain.
But she didn’t fall. Instead, she slumped in despair and resigned herself to the only path left to her—the path that she both despised and relied upon.
She would run.
With that decided, Faith turned and climbed back over the stone barrier and returned to the small highway. Then she began walking back to town. Soon she’d be packed and on her way to anywhere but here.
A short time later, Joyce returned to Buffy’s room. The doctor had given her all the details and had reassured her that, barring any unusual complications, Buffy would be fine. As soon as her daughter was fully conscious, he had told her, she would be released from the hospital.
Joyce was glad to find Buffy awake, but she could see the fresh tears on her face, and that concerned her greatly. Willow had filled her in on what had happened after the intervention meeting—as much as Willow knew at any rate—but still her mind struggled to take it all in. With Buffy and Faith at odds, Joyce worried that the guilt curse would re-emerge, but for now, she pasted on a smile and crossed the room to the near side of Buffy’s bed.
When Buffy saw her mother, she began to cry again. She managed to croak out a single “Mom” before surrendering to more tears.
“I’m here, baby,” Joyce crooned, squeezing her daughter’s arm and running gentle fingers across her forehead.
Willow took that opportunity to release Buffy’s other hand and walk to the end of the bed. Buffy instantly sought out her best friend’s eyes, not willing to have her leave the room yet.
“I’m going to help search for Faith,” Willow told her. “Okay?”
Buffy nodded wordlessly and relaxed again. Joyce gave Willow a smile of gratitude and then turned back to Buffy.
As Willow headed for the door, her eyes narrowed in determination. I bet I know right where she is, too, she thought to herself.
After Buffy had gotten her latest cry out, she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. Then she adjusted herself in the bed so that she was sitting up against her pillows more.
Joyce frowned when she saw Buffy grimacing in pain from the small movements. When Buffy was settled, Joyce rested her hand lightly on her daughter’s stomach. “I hate this,” she said. “I hate to see you hurting.”
“You should try it on my end,” Buffy quipped.
She dropped the teasing tone when she realized that her mother didn’t appreciate the attempt at a joke. Truth was, she herself didn’t feel much like joking either. But that was the Scooby way...to make light in the face of darkness.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Buffy whispered hoarsely. “I never meant for any of this to happen.”
“I know you didn’t, honey,” Joyce said. “You made a bad decision, and Faith—”
“This wasn’t her fault,” Buffy instantly interjected. “She didn’t mean to hurt me. She was gunning for Angel, a-a-and I got in the way. I swear, Mom, she—”
Joyce held up her hands to stop Buffy’s ramble in Faith’s defense. “Rupert and Willow told me what happened. I know this was an accident,” she said, giving Buffy’s stomach another soft touch. Then she shrugged and added, “And I can’t exactly blame Faith for trying to do what I would’ve liked to do myself.”
Buffy’s eyes grew pained. She was well aware of how her mother felt about Angel, even though she knew she didn’t have all the facts. “I know it’s hard to understand, but...I had to help him. I owed him that.”
“Why?” Joyce demanded. “He’s a killer! What could you possibly owe him?”
Buffy took a deep breath and then answered her mother. She decided it was time that her mother knew everything—the soul curse that had been laid upon Angel, the loophole in it that had led to the lifting of the curse when Angel and Buffy had made love, the torments the soul-less Angelus had put her through the previous year, the climactic battle before the statue of Acathla, the restoration of Angel’s soul just before Buffy was forced to kill him, the pain in her heart that had been so severe it had made her run away from home, the joy she had felt when she discovered she could love again, the mixture of emotions that had hit her when Angel had miraculously returned. Finally, Buffy detailed the events of the last few days that had led to where she was now.
When Buffy finally grew quiet, Joyce didn’t speak right away. How could she? How could she bear the knowledge of what her daughter had endured, what she was still enduring even now? Joyce let her gaze fall to the hand that was clasped tightly around Buffy’s. She felt tears roll over her lids and saw them splash onto the crisp white sheet.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, lifting her eyes to meet Buffy’s. “I didn’t know, I didn’t know...”
Buffy gave her mother’s hand a squeeze and then pulled her into a hug that was much needed by both of them.
Meanwhile, Willow followed her hunch to the bus station. She knew that Faith’s first instinct would be to run. That was her M.O. after all. She had proved that time and time again.
When Willow entered the station, she quickly scanned the waiting areas. Sure enough, there, in the rear, next to the exits to the bus bays, was Faith. She sat slumped in her chair with her back to the front door. A packed duffel bag was on the floor next to her chair. Willow headed that way.
In the reflection of the glass wall before her, Faith saw Willow approaching. She felt her gut tighten in reaction, but she made no move to leave or even to glance in Willow’s direction. When Willow planted herself, with arms crossed, right in front of Faith, the dark slayer still didn’t look up.
“Is Buffy okay?” Faith asked, continuing to avoid the redhead’s gaze.
“Yes, she is,” Willow replied.
Faith let out a small breath and nodded in relief. Then she looked up at Willow. “Where’s your shovel?”
“Outside,” Willow replied tersely. “I’m hoping I won’t need it.”
“Too late,” Faith said. “It’s done. So go get it and have at it.”
“I think I’ll beat you with words instead,” Willow answered.
Faith groaned aloud. “I’d rather have the shovel.”
Willow looked around the bus station and made a sweeping gesture at it. “Well, at least you’re being consistent,” she said sarcastically. “Hit a glitch, hit the road.”
“This wasn’t a ‘glitch’. It was...” Faith trailed off, not knowing what to call the disastrous series of events that had just occurred.
“Doesn’t matter what you call it,” Willow said, crossing her arms again. “Running away isn’t the answer.”
“Why not?” Faith shot back. “It’s over. She’s got her ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ demon lover back. She doesn’t need me. So that’s it. We’re finished.”
“No, you’re not,” Willow insisted, her voice softening as she sat down in the seat next to Faith. “At least you don’t have to be. Buffy was just temporarily confused when Angel came back. You’re the one she loves.”
Faith just shook her head in disbelief.
Willow went on, undeterred. “You two love each other, and love can overcome anything. I believe that.”
“Whatever love we had,” Faith said sadly, “it’s gone. After this, it’s just...gone.”
“That’s a lie, and you know it!” Willow accused.
“I’m not the one who’s been lying!!!” Faith nearly shouted, her pain-driven anger once again rising to the surface. When she saw nearby passengers looking in her direction, Faith lowered her voice and went on. “She lied to my face—right to my face—about where she’d been, and all that time she was—” She stopped, unable to put into words what she had seen happening between Buffy and Angel.
“She lied to all of us,” Willow answered, “but...I can kinda understand why. I mean, try putting yourself in her shoes. The man she loved more than anything, the man she had killed to save the world, was-was...back. She had to be freaking out.” Willow paused for a second and then went on. “But don’t stop there. Imagine her then trying to tell her friends that he’s back—her friends that she’s sure are all card-carrying members of the Angel Haters Club.”
“I’m her girlfriend,” Faith complained, refusing to be moved by Willow’s argument. “She’s not supposed to keep secrets from me.”
“And I’m her best friend, and Giles is her watcher, and...well, you get the idea. It was hard. But she was getting there. I know she would have told us soon.”
Faith let out a long sigh. It took her a long moment to speak again. “It’s not just the lying,” she finally admitted.
“I know,” Willow said sympathetically.
After clenching her jaw several times, Faith continued. “She stood there and told me that she loved me, like it was the surest thing in the world, and the next day, she was kissing her ex...looking at him, touching him, like she had just done with me the night before. I can’t forgive that,” she said, shaking her head. Can I? “I can’t,” she forced herself to repeat.
Willow didn’t know what else to say. The kiss was a crushing blow; she knew that. She looked away and remained silent, racking her brain for anything she could use to keep Faith from leaving. She looked back when Faith spoke up again.
“And even if I could, I know Buffy can’t,” Faith said, her expression devoid of all hope. “Not after what I did.”
Willow turned in her seat to face Faith. “That’s not true.”
Faith snorted derisively and mirrored Willow’s position. Then she held up one finger to count by. “I just tried to kill her ex right in front of her.” She added a second finger. “I hit her...repeatedly.” She popped up a third finger. “And, oh yeah, I stabbed her in the gut with a stake.” She sat back in her seat and dropped her hand into her lap. “I’m pretty sure I’m the last person she wants to see right now.”
“You’re wrong,” Willow told her, grasping her arm and giving it a squeeze of encouragement. “Buffy desperately wants to see you. She wants to-to...to try to explain, to try to patch things up. Please come back with me and talk to her.”
Faith pulled out of Willow’s grasp and got to her feet. “Why are you even doing this? Begging me to stay? I know you been actin’ like you had some big change of heart, but in reality, you’re probably thrilled to see me go.”
Willow also rose from her seat. Then she looked Faith in the eyes. “I haven’t been acting, and I don’t want you to go.”
More than anything, Faith wanted to believe the things that Willow had said, but she knew that Willow didn’t understand—she knew that Willow couldn’t see the darkness living inside of Faith, that black pit of irrepressible rage that threatened everyone around her. She needed to make Willow understand.
“I hurt her, Willow,” she said in a choked voice. “I attacked her. I swore to her mother that I’d never hurt her, and I...” She broke off, unable to go on.
Willow reached out and touched Faith’s arm once again. “I know you did,” she said gently, “and she hurt you, but you didn’t mean to—neither of you did.”
Faith let out a small huff. “The ‘didn’t mean to’ doesn’t matter. You told me that at the dance. And you were right.”
“No, I wasn’t. I see that now.”
Faith shot her a confused look. “Why?”
“Because I see how much you mean to her, how much she means to you, how much you two need each other. Yeah, okay, you both made mistakes, but you can get past this. You can.”
Faith looked away, thinking deeply, but she didn’t speak.
“Please,” Willow begged. “Give it another day. Talk to Buffy. Things will work out. I promise.”
Faith didn’t share Willow’s optimism. She knew it was useless. No amount of talking would make Buffy forget the dark, violent rage she had seen in Faith’s eyes. No amount of talking would heal the jagged gash in Faith’s heart. No, it was only a matter of time before the love inside them—what little was left—simply died.
But Faith was too tired to argue anymore. So she just said, “Fine. One day. One talk.”
Willow lit up with a hopeful smile.
That evening, after getting word from Willow and being cleared by the emergency room doctor, Buffy was finally released from the hospital. The clothes Buffy had been wearing had been soaked with blood and then cut away during treatment, so Buffy was stuck wearing a baggy set of green scrubs. At least she got to wear her own shoes, she thought to herself.
Joyce had pulled her SUV up to the E.R. entrance and was now attempting to help Buffy inside the vehicle.
“I’ve got it, Mom,” Buffy told her. “Slayer healing’s already kicking in.”
Joyce complied but not without letting out an exasperated sigh.
Once Joyce had driven them home, pulled the SUV into the drive, and turned off the ignition, Buffy reached out and stopped her from getting out of the car. “Mom, I need to go see Faith...tonight.”
“Absolutely not,” Joyce told her. When Buffy looked at her with pleading eyes, Joyce argued, “You just got out of the hospital!”
“Mom, please,” she begged. “I have to talk to her.”
Joyce succumbed to the desperation in Buffy’s eyes. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll drive you.”
Buffy let out a small whine. “I can’t talk to her knowing that you’re waiting outside. Besides, this is probably gonna take a while.”
“Can’t this just wait until tomorrow?” Joyce countered. “After you’ve had a little time to regain your strength?”
Buffy shook her head. “You heard Willow. She only got Faith to agree to stick around for one more day. I have to talk to her now. Please.”
Joyce glance away for a moment then turned back to her daughter. There were tears in her eyes as she cupped Buffy’s cheek and whispered, “I love you. You know that, right?” Buffy nodded. “But sometimes it’s tough being your mother.” She gave her a small smile and then handed over the car keys.
With her heart thudding in nervousness and her gut in knots, Buffy stepped up to Faith’s door and knocked. This time, there were no angry screams—just the soft click of the door opening.
The two slayers stared silently at each other for an entire minute—their eyes full of poorly masked pain—before Faith stepped away from the door and walked to the other side of the room, where the nightstand had once stood. Buffy took Faith’s actions as an invitation to enter, so she came in and carefully shut the door.
Buffy didn’t notice the demolished condition of the room; she had eyes only for Faith. She took a few steps toward her, but no more, since Faith had put clear distance between them. When Faith didn’t speak, Buffy decided that the ball was in her court.
“Thank you for agreeing to stay...a-a-at least long enough to talk,” Buffy told her.
Faith only nodded her answer, so Buffy went on, her words tumbling out as fast as they came into her brain.
“I know that what I did hurt you, and I’m so sorry for that. I should have told you about Angel, I should have trusted you to understand, but I was so freaked out, and I didn’t count on all those feelings coming back, and—”
Buffy stopped short when she saw Faith’s face crease in pain before growing hard again. Buffy then burst into tears, knowing that she had screwed up once again, unable to even voice an apology without hurting the woman she loved.
“I’m so sorry...” she sobbed as she walked over to Faith and dropped to her knees before her. “God, I’m so sorry...” she repeated, bowing her head as she cried. “I love you so much...please forgive me...please...”
Continuing to beg for forgiveness in plaintive hiccuppy breaths, Buffy leaned forward until her face was buried against the front of Faith’s jean-clad legs.
Faith, however, made no move to touch her. She just stood there, unmoving, except for the trembling in her hands and the tears streaming down her cheeks.
seemed like an eternity, Faith closed her eyes against the tears and reached
out with a single hand to caress the top of Buffy’s head.