CONNECTIONS By D. M. Evans Disclaimer - I don't own them. Joss does. I'm just happy for the chance to play with them a little. Spoiler - Post Chosen, and let's say the first month or so of S5 of AtS (but not too spoilery beyond hey, Spike's in L.A.) Rating - R (mostly for language) Summary - Upon learning Spike's sort of back in the land of the living, Buffy heads to L.A. to talk to both her former lovers and takes along a surprise ally. Author's Note - All lyrics are from Sarah McLachlan's Fallen and no, I don't own them either.

CHAPTER ONE - BUFFY

Heaven bend to take my hand

I've nowhere left to turn

I'm lost to these I thought were friends

To everyone I know

Oh they turn their heads embarrassed

Pretend that they don't see

That it's one wrong step one slip before you know it

And there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed

I felt inside out. For weeks now, Spike's been back among the living, more or less. Willow knew while we were in Italy but waited until we had returned to London before telling me. Xander knew. He was the only one Willow trusted with that information. God, that sounded so petty to me but I knew it's true. Maybe she wanted to protect me from myself or maybe it's because over these past few months since Sunnydale died, there're been too many strains on our friendship.

We're all working hard, too hard but if we don't then we have time to think about things that are better left not thought. I love Willow. She's my best friend but we're not always going to see eye to eye. I keep telling myself that's natural. It's the way it's supposed to be but the things we're not seeing eye to eye on are big, deep to the bone things. So we all throw ourselves into rebuilding the Council and finding and training all the new Slayers, pretending nothing's wrong. The former was too big of a task but we keep trying.

If we don't then we'll all be trapped by our thoughts; Xander thinking how much he's grown to hate Andrew for not being the one to die; Dawn thinking about how scared she is now that her future fell into a giant hole with the rest of her life; Giles thinking about how he lost my trust when he let Kennedy and the girls drive me out and when he let Robin try to kill Spike; Faith thinking about Robin's death. We had been so sure he'd make it only to have him die from complications a week later; Willow thinking that the rest of us hate her lover and in my case, why shouldn't I? The bitch betrayed me in the worst possible way, turning kin and kith from me.

Kith, what a funny word. Brenna taught it to me. I was surprised when I met her, thinking all Watchers were either the stuffy Giles type or the psychotic Special Ops type. Brenna was wild, called herself a hedge witch. Whatever, all I know is she's Giles' age and she's into him. At first poor Giles was so embarrassed to have us all watching them like we were still high schoolers at a dance but now he doesn't care. I can't blame him. For the first time seven years, he's getting regular sex.

Of course, I felt pretty thankful to him right now. He's one of the few on my side. He's the one who told me about Spike. Wes had called him to check the details on some demon or another and wondered why I hadn't at least been curious about Specter Spike. That's what had me roaming Highgate Cemetery alone. I wanted to go back to L.A., if only for a visit. Willow and Xander had hit the ceiling. I couldn't believe it. Faith and Dawn kept out of the verbal brawl. Later, my sister told me she understood why I wanted to go back but she wished Spike had remained dead because it meant I was free. I wished she had never found out about that rape attempt. She couldn't forgive it and didn't understand how I could. Why couldn't I tell her that I hadn't forgiven him? I could never forgive that but I needed him. There was a connection there, not love but deep, a strange sort of need. And in the end he came through for not only me but the whole world.

That's why I wanted to go back. He deserved to be thanked properly. Xander and Willow thought I wanted him back as a lover and they're bound and determined to stop me. It's so hard. I know they mean well. They wanted me to be happy but I couldn't make them see this is my choice, that it wasn't even about taking Spike back. Right now, I wanted to be man-free. There was too much about myself that needed discovery without having to worry about men. It didn't help that Kennedy joined in, snarling at me, defending Willow. She even called me a necrophiliac. I thought Giles was going to hit her for that. He managed to end the fight but Xander's words still rang in my ears.

There was such venom in his voice. It reminded me of the year I met him and he told me he guessed a guy had to be dead before I paid attention to him. It was one of my real first tastes of destructive jealousy. A part of me wondered if things with Anya went south because he was still a little in love with me but I tried to tell myself that's nuts. Maybe it's because all his parents ever did was yell, maybe that's all he knows how to do when he's scared. I thought he was afraid I'd never come back if I saw Spike again. A sour taste hit the back of my throat as I thought about that party they threw for me when I came back after sending Angel to hell.

I felt as raw and bloody now as I had that night. All I wanted was to see Spike again. I owed him that much and my friends acted like they were embarrassed to know me. I should have handled it differently. I thought being honest with them instead of just running off and telling them after the fact would be for the best. I've tried that other way and I knew how much it hurt them but this way had been no better. Maybe we all have more growing up to do or need a little of our own space.

I was going to have that space. Nothing was stopping me from going to L.A. I knew this was going to be the hardest thing I've done in a long time. I didn't know if my emotional bank could cover the cost but I was willing to risk it; Spike and Angel all in one visit. What must Angel be thinking especially now that he's stuck with Spike? Wes had told Giles how the ghostly vampire couldn't leave. I couldn't see one without the other but if those two could survive being tied together then I could deal with seeing them both.

And as odd as it sounds, I was even more frightened to see Angel than I was Spike. I knew what I was going to say to Spike. That was the easy part. I knew that things weren't over between me and Angel despite my little speech. The kiss we shared was proof of that. That wasn't the kiss of just friends. The thing between us was still there undiminished despite Riley and Spike. I felt like I could drown in its salty waters.

Going back, I felt like I was falling with no one there to catch me. Spike and Angel might not want to see me again. Maybe they needed to move on with their un-lives since I wasn't ready to have them in mine again, at least not full time, not yet. After the fight, maybe my friends didn't want to see me again either. Still, I had to do this and to hell with what they thought. Wounds had to be lanced before they could heal and I needed to feel that touch of steel.

I wiped away the tears pricking at my eyes when I heard some thing behind me. I whirled, ready to stake whatever might fade in out of the shadows. Moonlight glinted on the enormous monuments. Instead of something stakable, I saw Faith by a huge tree, her face unreadable.

"Hey, B."

"What're you doing here, Faith," I said, trying to keep my voice from shaking.

"Same thing you are, patrolling." She sauntered over to me. "And I had a favor to ask."

I steeled myself, trying to imagine what Faith wanted. I tried not to be too harsh on her. She really was trying. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. She had betrayed me too many times. The memories of her in Angel's arms in L.A. still hurt as fresh as the night I found them at his place but he had been right. Faith had been redeemable. I shut my eyes, willing away the memories of how I treated Angel that day. I had mixed such a lethal potion of anger, jealousy and betrayal in that cauldron. I treated him like Xander had treated me over the years. Xander's never once apologized for his harsh words. Neither have I. Now I knew my first words to Angel when I got there. "What do you need, Faith?"

That sounded harsher than I wanted it to but Faith didn't seem to notice. "I want to go with you to L.A."

I took a step back and nearly fell over a headstone. "What?"

"I'm not trying to stop you, B, or get in your way," she said quickly, holding a hand out. "I just want to see Angel again and thank him. The same goes for Wes."

"For not giving up on you?" I could understand that.

"I would have died if not for him." Faith glanced at her feet.

"I think you could have handled those Watchers in L.A.," I said.

Faith shook her head, her dark hair melding with the shadows. "I'm not talking about that." She sat on a marble bench and indicated for me to join her. I perched on a nearby headstone shaped like a tree stump and listened in disbelief to the stuff she claimed she had wanted to tell me ever since Sunnydale went underground but the timing was never right.

She had been inside Angel's head. She knew him intimately. Faith knew my Angel better than I ever would. She saved him and all I felt was blinding jealousy. Then I remembered that fight earlier tonight. I hadn't sunk so low into a well of self-pity that I couldn't see what would happen if I let that jealousy rule.

"I'm sorry, Buffy."

"For what?" I got up and went over to her. "You saved his life, Faith. You gave Willow the time she needed to do her spell. Angel doesn't want to be Angelus. He'd rather be dead, which isn't going to happen if Angelus gets free. The demon always has way too much fun here. I'm grateful you were there for him. I wish I had been free to be there to help but it didn't happen that way." I really meant that. Once there was a time when Angel and I always knew when the other needed help. Now we could miss it even if it was written in neon across the moon.

She smiled. "Thanks, B. For what it's worth, he loves you. I saw that all too clearly. I'm not telling you what to do or anything, 'cause it ain't my place. From what I saw, Spike loves you too and I wouldn't want to be in your position for the world." She laughed mirthlessly. "For a change."

Boy, I was so not expecting that. She was right. Getting caught between them was a horrible place to be. If I didn't know how Dru went mad, I might have guessed it was from being the Milkbone between Spike and Angel. "I know they do. That's one of the reasons I have to go to L.A."

"I totally get it. That's why I kept out of the blow up. They don't trust me as it is. I didn't need to piss gasoline on the fire. I guess, while I'm confessing, I should tell you one more important thing. You had it all backwards about why I went to L.A. in the first place," Faith said.

"You were running from me and the Council," I said simply. What more was there to understand?

"No, hell, I wasn't afraid of you, B. I was afraid of me." Her voice broke. If she cried I didn't know what I'd do. "I went to L.A. to get Angel to kill me. Suicide by vampire, only he wouldn't play. He thought he could save me, like he saved himself."

My eyes widened. I knew I had to be gaping like an idiot. "So that's why you tortured Wes."

Faith shrugged. "That and because he owed me that pound of flesh for being such a fuck up when I needed a Watcher. That's what I was thinking at the time. I know now it wasn't his fault."

"Angel would never have killed you, Faith." There was no doubt in my voice. Even in Sunnydale no one tried harder than Angel to save Faith and back then I resented it.

"I know...but Wes nearly did. I don't know if he realizes I hadn't fallen apart so much that I didn't see him going for my back with that kitchen knife. To this day, I don't know why Wes tried to protect me from the Council and that's why I want to go back to L.A."

I stared at her for a few moments, shocked. "I'd be glad for the company." The words sounded so open and honest I think they surprised us both.

"Thanks, B." She smiled at me and for once her usual smarm was missing from her grin.

"No problem. Anything else you want to get off your chest?" I asked, thinking there was more, probably none of my business a lot of it but hey, for once, I got Faith talking and it wasn't all bluster and posturing.

"Yeah, watch out for vampires." Her grin went its usual wicked.

I whirled and saw them coming through the headstones. We both leapt into the fray with enthusiasm. After getting shunned earlier, having something to take my anger out on felt good.