Shared Destiny

Author: Norwalker

Part 1 of ?

Summary: Faith asks, in Enemies, " Everybody  asks why can't you be more like Buffy. But does anyone ask why Buffy can't be more like me?" So, what if , after season 3, Buffy became more like Faith?

Rating/ Category:  Rated R  Romance/Angst

Spoilers: Possible season 3 and after spoilers.

Time Line: Departs after season 3

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon , Mutant Enemy and Fox own them.

Warnings: Dark fiction. Character Death happens, please be aware of this. Strong language, sexual situations between members of the same sex. Violence. Possible racial/ethnic slurs that the author in no way supports or shares.

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She sat at the bedside, watching the young woman sleep.

She sat in the semi-darkened room, holding the young woman's hand. She pondered how life had changed for her. Wondering if the girl in the bed would ever wake up again. She wondered why she came here, day after day. What attracted her to this place. She tried to deal with the guilt she felt over the girl lying silently in the bed. How it'd been her fault that the girl was there. How, if the young woman ever did awaken , she would more than likely try to kill her. What scared her more than that , however, was how her life had seemed to spiral out of control.

Buffy Summers had a lot to think about. Too much to think about, at times. She tried to suppress the thoughts; it was sometimes just too painful to deal. But no matter how hard she tried, they always crept back in, nagging at the edges of her mind, trying to get her attention. Hiding in the dark corners, waiting to jump out at her when she was least prepared.

Nearly three years had passed since that fateful night on the rooftop. The night she'd fought with Faith, trying to kill her. She needed to save Angel, who'd been poisoned by the arrow Faith had shot into him. The only cure? The blood of a slayer. She'd meant to deliver Faith, but instead wound up nearly dead herself.

They'd fought hard on that roof, two slayers nearly evenly matched in skill and prowess. She'd stabbed Faith, saw the look of surprise in Faith's eyes when the knife sunk in. Heard her words echo over and over in her mind " You did it B. You killed me!". Just before she jumped off the roof onto a passing truck. She watched as the truck bearing Faith pulled away, carrying any hope to use Faith to cure Angel with it. The strange thing was she'd used Faith's knife to stab her. The very knife she would've probably used on Buffy at the Mayor's Ascension to slit Buffy's throat. The irony of it didn't escape her.

Without Faith, Buffy had no choice. She'd gone to Angel, and offered her own blood for the cure. At first he'd resisted, but she'd persuaded him… by hitting him until the demon inside him came out. She forced him to her neck… and he fed. Almost too much. She'd felt the fear of dying, the inky blackness closing about her. She'd felt the cold embrace of death upon her, wrapping her in its hard, icy arms. A searing pain had shot through her, as it became difficult to breathe, to even think. At the last moment, Angel had regained control of himself, and rolled off of her… but it'd been close. She touched the scar on her neck, the souvenir she retained from that night. At times, she could still feel the sting of the bite, the teeth sunk into her neck. It haunted her more than she realized.

They'd been successful. They'd stopped the Mayor, destroying him in the explosion that destroyed the high school. Using the very knife he'd given her, the knife she'd used to stab Faith, she'd enraged him and lured him into the library, which had been packed with explosives. The weird thing was, it'd been Faith who'd shown her how to defeat Mayor Wilkins. In a dream Buffy had in the hospital , Faith had come to her, explaining to her that Richard Wilkins would retain his human weaknesses, even after his ascension. She'd formulated a plan based upon that dream, and it'd worked. At the time, she wasn't sure if Faith had been in her dream, or if she'd just dreamed about her. But after all this time, she was convinced they'd shared  that dream.

What'd stuck more in her mind about that dream had been the last bit before she woke from it.

" There's a lot of stuff here. How're you going to pack it all?" Buffy had asked Faith.

"I'm not. It's all yours" Faith had replied, looking at Buffy.

" I can't use all of this" Buffy had protested.

" Just take what you need" Faith had replied. Then, she'd  reached out to Buffy, and lightly brushed her face with her fingertips. She'd said " Are you ready?" … and Buffy had woken up.

Mayor Wilkins had his revenge on Buffy, however. He fully expected to kill her on the day of his Ascension. But, in case she managed to escape, or something went wrong, he planned a second avenue of revenge. He'd falsified evidence of her assault on Faith, making it seem like Faith was an innocent victim of an out of control adversary. Though the facts were essentially correct, they were twisted in such a way as to make it look as if Buffy had gone to Faith's apartment out of revenge over Faith stealing her boyfriend, Angel, away. Although Richard Wilkins' credibility had sunk considerably after the Ascension, there were those on the City Council who'd shared his feelings about the slayer, and the case had been made against her. She couldn't dispute the facts, and try as she might, she couldn't convince the jury that the motive was bogus. Angel couldn't testify, for obvious reasons, and the prosecution made her other friend's testimony seem like they were trying to protect her. Since Faith didn't die, she didn't get manslaughter or murder, but was convicted of  assault with a deadly weapon.

So, while  Willow went to UC Sunnydale,  and Xander built a life for himself in construction, and married Anya( can you believe that one?), Buffy cooled her heels serving a 2 year sentence in prison. Life in prison for a pretty blonde teenager is not pleasant, to say the least. She actually wound up serving 30 months, due to extensions of her sentence because of fighting. She'd had to fight off advances by some of the women in prison, and some of the guards(that'd gotten her the extra time…never mind the time she'd had to spend in the infamous 'Hole'). But it soon got around not to fuck with her…she was a whole lot stronger than she looked. She hadn't had to fight after that.

At first, her mother and Willow had come to visit her. She put a stop to that after seeing the pain and disappointment in their eyes. It was like icy knives in her heart each time she saw them. Finally, one day she told them it would be better if they stopped coming. They'd protested, saying that they needed to see her. But she couldn't  deal with the fact that whenever they saw her, it was behind a glass partition, talking by a two way telephone link. She couldn't touch them, or hug them, or reassure them. All she could do was feel guilty for shaming them, and see the hurt and pain in their eyes. She finally refused their visits. After awhile, they got the hint, and stopped coming. It hurt not to see them, but it hurt more to see them. This was for the best, she convinced herself.

Angel came a few times to see her. She couldn't , absolutely couldn't deal with that. She refused from the first to see him. He wrote letters, begging her to see him, but she tore them up. He wrote one final letter, saying he finally realized that seeing him was too hard for her, and that he was sorry for causing her pain. That he loved her, but knew that he could never give her the life she deserved. That he would do the honorable thing, and stay away. She kept that letter, and on the night she received it, cried herself to sleep. She read it over and over in the ensuing months, her heart cut by fresh wounds on each reading. She still has it, tear stained, hard to read. But she doesn't need to read it anymore, she knows it by heart.

Her one lifeline to the outside world had been Rupert Giles. He came every week, keeping her up on what was what in Sunnydale. Being British was an advantage in this case. He was more easily able to hide how he felt when he came to visit her. She still felt shame, but she didn't have the heartbreaking anguish she had seeing her mom, or Will, on the other side of the partition. He kept an optimistic tone to things, as if this were just a difficult enemy they had to deal with. He did what he could to get her conviction overturned, taking it all the way to the State Supreme Court. But they turned it back to the lower courts, and her conviction had stood. Despite that, he still came every week. He knew in his heart that Buffy desperately needed someone to not judge her, to just accept what'd happened to her. He filled that role. It was because of his visits that Buffy didn't succumb completely to the darkness creeping into her heart.

The Watcher's Council, on the other hand, had done it's best to make her prison time miserable. They'd been angry, very angry, when she'd 'fired' them while fighting the Mayor. Her being in prison just added fuel to the fire. With her there, no active slayer was available to take over her duties. So, they hired a few assassins to try to kill her while in prison, in hopes of activating a new slayer( problem was, even if they'd succeeded in killing her, no slayer would have been called. The line went through Faith, not Buffy). Buffy foiled their attempts on her life, but she picked up a few scars as remembrances . She now had a scar at her jaw line where one woman tried to cut her throat…and a small scar across her brow where they had tried to stab her in the eye, but she'd deflected it  at the last minute.

Even with her own troubles, she was worried about her sister slayer. If the council was trying to kill her, they might also try to eliminate Faith. She begged Giles to help her protect Faith. Giles had been… well, surprised, to say the least, considering. But he'd complied, using his contacts to find a bodyguard to keep watch over Faith.  Buffy also wrote Will, asking her to put a protection spell, and maintain it, on Faith. Until at least Buffy could get out of prison. At first, Willow had been unwilling. There was no love lost between her and Faith. But Buffy pleaded with her, and finally she relented. In some small way, it eased Buffy's guilt to know that Faith was protected.

She tried to keep to herself most of the time. She spent her incarceration reading the books Giles would bring her, and thinking. About her former life, her friends, and most often, about Faith. She received few letters while in prison. Mostly, from her mom, and some from Willow. As time passed, it became harder to connect to her former life. She would answer the letters the best she could, but she often found it hard to have anything positive to say. After awhile, the mail tapered off, becoming a trickle of occasional letters from her mom. She rarely made calls. It was expensive to the person receiving the call, and usually ended up badly. She's called Willow a couple of times, but after the visitation debacle, there was a distance between them. She called her mom sometimes. Just so she could hear her voice. It was nearly pathetic: on the outside, she often had tuned out her mom when she lectured her. Now she craved any sound of her voice… even angry. But it tore her up inside, because Joyce wasn't angry, only sad and resigned. That hurt most of all. She'd even tried calling Xander once… but Anya answered, and there was an awkward silence. Followed by Anya telling her that they would prefer not receiving calls from her again. Can you say knife through the heart? She never made that mistake again.

She made few 'friends' in prison. Most gave her wide berth after seeing how she handled herself in the yard. A few, however, screwed up their courage and approached her. They found she wasn't mean, or particularly unfriendly. Just that she for the most part wanted to be left alone. But a couple persisted, and despite herself, Buffy warmed to them. Glenna,  a small red-headed girl with a quick wit and easy smile, reminded Buffy so much of Will she liked her almost from the first. She acted all tough around the others, but with Buffy she sensed something more, and opened up to her, revealing a sweeter, softer nature. She became Buffy's shadow during Buffy's stay in prison, and watched her back. Renee, a tall dark haired girl, was more of an enigma for Buffy. One day she just came over, and sat next to Buffy in the yard. She didn't say anything to Buffy, but just sat there. Buffy ignored her, but she didn't go away. The next day, same thing. Not a word out of her, she just stayed sitting near Buffy. This went on for a week, until one day Buffy, a little exasperated, looked up from her book. Glenna, naturally suspicious, started to move on Renee, but Buffy waved her off.

"Ok, girl, you've been like sitting here for what? … a week now? What's your deal?" Buffy says, a little impatiently. The girl was getting on her nerves.

"N-N-No deal" The girl stutters, nervously." I… just wanted to sit here, if that's ok. Do you want me to go?"

" Look girlfriend" Buffy says, edgily." This aint high school. No saved seats, or that crap. Then again, I don't know you. You might be with someone who's looking to hurt me, or worse. So, you  sittin' there, all quiet like, is making me nervous. And I get pissed off when I get nervous. So, what's your deal? "She looks at the girl, and sees she's obviously afraid. She softens her tone." I'm not going to hurt you. Just tell me, ok?"

Glenna moves closer, staring at the stranger. " Buff, I don't like this." She says, moving closer to Renee." I think we should…" But Buffy interrupts her.

"Glenna? Chill. Hear her out first" Buffy says. Glenna backs off a bit.

Renee is nervously wringing her hands. She is looking down at the ground, and finding it hard to speak. Buffy puts a hand on her arm, and encourages her to talk to her.

"I-I- I 'm sorry. I didn't mean to bother you. I should go" Renee starts to get up, but Buffy puts a hand on her leg, keeping her seated.

"Yeah, maybe you should" Glenna, standing up, says. Buffy shoots her a look. Glenna rolls her eyes, but sits back down.

"Talk to me. What's your name?" Buffy says. She senses this girl needs to talk to someone, badly.

"Renee"

"Ok, Renee, what's up?" Buffy says.

Renee sighs. "This is so dumb. Look, I'm … scared shitless. These are killers in here. All I did was steal some money. I didn't even use a gun or nothin. But they sent me here. First day I got here, a group of them surrounded me, threatening me. They kept harassing me, trying to get me to join their ' gang '. God knows why, I'm like the biggest coward goin, ya know? But they won't leave me alone. So, I kinda hear you're real tough… no one messes with you. So…" She stops. She closes her eyes, and goes on." I figured if I kinda hung by you, they'd think I was with you, and they'd bug off. So far, it's kinda working.. They don't bug me so much now." Renee takes a breath." But, I can see I'm buggin you, so I'll go now. Sorry" She starts to get up again, but Buffy stops her.

"It's ok" Buffy says, a small grin on her face. She can understand how scary it can be here, remembering her own first days." So, you wanna hang out with me, huh?" She says, doing her best Godfather imitation." You want my protection. So, what do I get?"

"What do you want?" Renee answers, quietly." I don't got much, but I'll give you anything I got." She says. She continues coyly." Anything you want". She looks down at the ground, shyly.

Glenna nearly busts a gasket. She'd come on to Buffy, but Buffy had rebuffed her, saying she wasn't into girls. Now this bitch is making the moves on Buffy. She was so jealous! She starts to get up again, but Buffy puts her hand on Glenna's shoulder, holding her down. She pats her shoulder lightly, to reassure her.

" Thanks for the offer, Renee" Buffy says, blushing just a little bit." But, I'm not like into girls, ok?"

"Sorry… sorry" Renee said, jumping up before Buffy can stop her." God, I'm such a dope. God. I'll go now". She starts to leave.

"Sit down, Renee" Buffy growls at her. Renee stops, frozen. She looks at Buffy. Buffy smiles at her. " SIT!" Renee sits. Buffy continues. "That's better. Now look, it's ok if you hang out here. That's cool, I know how it can be here. But there's a price, ya know." Buffy says.

"W-What?" Renee asks, nervously. What did she want,  anyway? Who was I gonna have to fight. God, I can' t do that.

"Well, I expect you to say somethin' every once in awhile. Like, "Hi, how are ya?" or " How's it goin' " or somethin'. Don't just sit there all quiet all the time. It gives me the wiggins." Buffy says. "We gotta deal?"

The look of relief on the girl's face touched Buffy's heart.

"Yeah, oh yeah." Renee says, smiling. She has a pretty smile.

" Buff, what's the deal? I really don't like this. I don't know this chick. How ya know she aint gonna make trouble? I really hate this!" Glenna says, her eyes green with jealousy.

"Yeah, so I see" Buffy says, turning towards Glenna and smiling." Look, Glennie, just be cool, ok? She's alright."

Glenna flushes, and looks away, frowning.

"Awww, Glennie, don't be that way" Buffy says, sweet-talking her. She hugs her.

Glenna looks up at Buffy, a small smile on her lips. Buffy smiles back at her.

"Renee, meet Glenna. Don't mind her. She's just over-protective of me" Buffy smiles at Renee

'Maybe cuz she's crazy about you, Buffy' Renee thinks to herself. She smiles at Glenna. Glenna smiles back.

"That's better." Buffy says, approvingly. "Glennie's a real sweetie when you get to know her". Buffy pats Glenna's leg.

'She's really sweet on you, Buffy' Renee thinks. She knows she's gonna have to be real careful about what she says and now she acts with Buffy when Glenna's around.

So the three women became rather tight while in prison. Buffy had her 'gang', which stuck by her, not out of fear, but loyalty. They made Buffy's time there a little less onerous. For Renee and Glenna, it was great having Buffy as 'boss'. She didn't ask anything of them, and no one messed with them, ever. Or they answered to Buffy. That was something nobody wanted to do.

Three months before Buffy was scheduled to be released, she received some bad news. It devastated her. Giles, during one of his visits to Buffy, looked upset and particularly sad. Buffy was concerned. At first, he didn't want to tell her, but finally she got it out of him. Her mom had died of complications from surgery for a brain tumor. Buffy was floored. She hadn't known her mom was even sick. No one had told her. The guilt, the shame she felt, overwhelmed her and she lost it. She slammed down the phone, and ran from the visitor's lounge. When the guards tried to stop her, she fought them. They had to subdue her, and it wasn't gently. After she got out of the prison hospital, she'd earned a week in " The Hole" and lost all visiting privileges for a month.

She lost heart after that. When she was released back into the general population, it was obvious she'd changed. She was angry and irritated all the time. Glenna and Renee went around on tenterhooks ,  not wanting to upset her. They kept close, but not too close. She didn't talk to anyone much, and a smile was a thing of the past. She stopped reading, most of the time she just stared blankly at the ground, or off into space. Glenna and Renee were worried about her, but didn't say anything to her.

About a month before her release, something broke in Buffy. They were sitting around, as usual, in the yard. Glenna made some casual remark, not even to Buffy, about it being a pretty day, or some such. All of a sudden, Buffy started shaking. She put her head in her hands, and started sobbing.

"What the hell did you say to her?" Renee asked, obviously distressed at seeing Buffy cry. No one had ever seen her cry.

"Nothing… nothing!" Glenna said, upset." I just said it was a nice day….". She moved closer to Buffy, and put her arms around her, trying to comfort her.

Renee stood back a bit,  and kept guard. She didn't want someone to mess with Buffy when she was obviously out of it.

But there's always one asshole that will take advantage of any situation, and there was no exception this time. One of the inmates, a larger woman, seeing Buffy crying, decided NOW would be a good time to enhance her own reputation at the expense of the slayer. She walked over, and standing just a little way off, called out.

"Hey, Buffy. What's wrong , itty-bitty? How come you're all weepy? Heard about your mom. Guess her pimp got tired of her stealin' from him, eh?" She sneered at the slayer.

Buffy stiffened in Glenna's arms. Glenna could feel her tense up. Oh, this is so gonna not be good, she thought.

What happened next surprised the hell out of everyone, especially Renee.

Renee, in a loud voice, screamed at the inmate, " You  BITCH !!!" Not even thinking, Renee, the one who was afraid of her own shadow, launched into the other woman, taking her by surprise. She started beating on her, knocking her down. She kept pounding on her, her fists going a mile a minute on her head. Glenna and Buffy were stunned. They'd never seen Renee do anything even remotely like this. It took both of them to pull her off the other inmate, who by this time was unconscious. Renee struggled against them, trying to get at the inmate. Finally, Buffy bear hugged her, calming her down. She was flushed, and angry, still yelling curses at the unconscious inmate. When it finally hit her what she'd done, her legs collapsed under her. Buffy and Glenna eased her down to the ground.

"What the hell happened to you?" Glenna said, a little in awe. The fraidy cat had a spine, after all.

"I…I dunno" Renee said, her voice quavering." God, what the hell did I do? I coulda got killed."

" Doubt it" Buffy said, grinning. Both of the other women felt strangely relieved. That was the first thing approaching a smile they'd seen out of Buffy in months. Buffy continued" You had her down and out, girlfriend."

"Yeah, good one, Renee" Glenna said, grinning at the taller girl." Why'd you go postal, though? Never seen you like that"

" I wasn't gonna let that fat tub of lard say that to Buffy" Renee said, blushing." I coulda killed that bitch".

" Well, girl. Doesn't look like you need me to look after ya anymore" Buffy said, smiling. She hugs Renee, who is totally red-faced by now." Thanks"

Renee turned redder(if that's possible) and turns away, embarrassed. The other two girls start teasing her, and calling her "Rocky", which stuck. After that day, Renee was a lot more confident, and the other women, hearing about the fight, left her alone.

Buffy was released a month later. There were some tears about leaving Glenna and Renee, but she certainly wasn't going to miss this hellhole. The week before she was to be released, she was on pins and needles, being extra careful to keep out of trouble. Just what she'd need now is a fight to get her extra time. But she avoided any problems.

On the night before her release, she was wound tighter than a tic. She paced her cell, and could taste her freedom. God, it felt good to know that tomorrow night she'd be sleeping somewhere without bars on the windows. Just before lights out, one of the guards came to her cell.

"Summers?" The guard said

"Yeah?" Buffy said. Oh god, now what?

"Come with me" The guard said, opening her cell.

Aw, damn. Now what'd I do? Dammit, I was so careful. God, I hope I'm not gonna be in this hellhole for longer. She followed the guard, her spirits sinking. It would just be her luck that for some unknown infraction more time was added to her sentence. At the last moment, no less. She sighed. Well, at least it can't be for too much longer. I know I didn't do anything major. But she still felt like she wanted to vomit. So close, so damned close.

The guard stopped at what was laughing called "The Honeymoon Suites" . They were the conjugal visit cells reserved for those prisoners with spouses on the outside. Back when conjugal visits had been allowed, that is. These days, they mostly were unused. They were different from regular cells as they had walls, for privacy. And they were decorated a little, with a double bed and some cheap furniture. But, ever since the practice of conjugal visits had been discontinued, the only time they were used was when some prisoner with pull bribed the guards so she and her 'girlfriend' could have a little private party together. What the hell was she doing here?

Her stomach knotted up. Son of a bitch. Some inmate with a grudge probably bribed the guards to get one of the 'suites', so they could give her a final little 'going away gift'. Damn. That means a fight, and more time tacked on to her sentence. Well, bitch, if that's what you want. Hope you like the hospital ward.

She tenses up, ready to fight. She opens the door, covering herself in case the bitch has friends, ready to jump her. She walks in, prepared to give better than she gets. It's dark inside, and she gets a bit nervy. She  hears giggling, and stops, confused.

The lights snap on, and there on the bed is Glenna, all smiles. She was bouncing on the bed, giggling and having a good time. Renee is at the light switch, giving her a wink.

"Hey, you two. What the hell is this?" Buffy growls. But she's relieved, too.

"C'mon, Buff. Ya  didn't think ya  were getting outta here without a little party, didja?" Glenna said, her voice sounding a bit funny.

"Yeah, Buffy." Renee said, jumping on the bed, giggling. "We're given you the royal send off, girl!"

Buffy's brow furls. " Have you two been drinkin?" She asks.

"Just an itsy bitsy teeny weenie bit" Glenna says, her  voice fuzzy.

"Yeah…what she said" Renee giggled…and burps.

The two women look at each other, and bust out laughing. Buffy rolls her eyes. God, just what I need.

"C'mon, Buffee, lets party a lil. Celebrate your freedom" Glenna says, her grin a bit sloppy.

"Yeah…we got wine, we got women…" Renee giggles, and starts singing…badly. She stops, and says" An' we got song!"

"I dunno, guys…I could get busted for this…" Buffy says, doubtfully.

"C'mon, Buff" Glenna say, waggling the wine bottle in her hand. "It's calling out your name…can't ya hear it?"

"Buffee… Buffee… Drink me" Renee giggles, obviously the drunker of the two." Quick, Buffee…before I'm all gone"

"Don't be a party poop, Buff" Glenna says, all serious…then breaks up into laughter.

"All right, one drink" Buffy sighs. Buffy never was much of a drinker. Make that, nearly never. Like, maybe a glass of wine at New years to celebrate. So, when she tilted the wine bottle, and drank down some of it, it hit her, hard. She'd been miserable in this hell hole for nearly 3 years, and the buzz felt good. So damned good. She took another drink, and just felt better.

The three women proceeded to get blotto. They all needed the release, and it felt good for once not to be in control. Buffy, with her slayer metabolism, was able to drink more, because it burned the alcohol quickly. Renee, on the other hand, was a bit of a lightweight. She tried to keep up with Buffy and Glenna, but soon was passed out on the floor, snoring up a storm. The other two, giggling, grabbed a blanket and pillow off the bed, trying their best to make her comfy. She didn't wake up, just snuggled in the blanket.

Buffy and Glenna wound up on the bed, leaning against the wall. Both were pretty blotto by now, and had stopped drinking. They just sat back and kinda rested, enjoying each other's company. Glenna, emboldened a little by the wine, threw her arm over Buffy's shoulders, and snuggled closer to the slayer. Buffy, drunk herself, didn't think anything of it.

"This has been great" Buffy said, her voice slurring." Thanks, babe"

"My pleasure, Buff." Glenna said, her voice soft." After all, have to say 'bye, right? Gonna miss ya, Buffy"

"Gonna miss you too, Glennie" Buffy said, snuggling closer. She was feeling warm and comfy." You're a real sweetie"

"Really, Buffy?" Glenna asked, her voice low.

"Yeah, really" Buffy said, smiling. She leaned back, and closed her eyes.

Buffy was taken by surprise when a set of soft lips captured hers, kissing her warmly and with a bit of passion. For a second, she responded, her own needs flaring up a bit. She felt a hand creeping under her shirt, and it cupped her breast. That woke her up, fast. She broke away, and gently pushed Glenna away.

"Glennie…no…stop…please" Buffy said, her voice pleading. "Please stop"

"Please, Buffy" Glenna breathed, her voice full of desire and longing." I need you so badly. I…I'll never see you again. I love you, Buffy!"

Buffy's heart melted. She didn't want to hurt this girl. But she'd told her upfront how she felt. She felt tears stinging in her eyes. She was needy too, but this wasn't right…

"Glenna, no. We talked about this. You know how I feel" Buffy said, her voice remorseful.

"Buffy, what's the harm? You're gone tomorrow. You won't see me again. I just want tonight…that's all" Glenna was pleading with her. She wanted her so badly, it ached…had ached for so long.

"Glennie, you know it doesn't work that way" Buffy said, her heart breaking for her friend." If we do tonight, it's just gonna hurt you more. I can't do that to you. That's just wrong" Buffy sighed. Damn, why'd it have to be so complicated. "I already told you I had someone else…outside"

Glenna, heartbroken, started to cry. Buffy went to comfort her, but Glenna started hitting her. Buffy just took it, letting her friend vent on her. Finally, exhausted, she just collapsed into Buffy's arms, and cried her heart out. Buffy, feeling miserable, cried with her. They held each other, and finally they recovered. Buffy held Glenna, trying to comfort her.

"What's wrong with me, Buff? Am I ugly?" Glenna asked, sorrowfully." Am I repulsive?"

"Oh, god, no!  You're beautiful, Glennie. You know that!" Buffy said." Believe me, it was hard not to want to just give in. I really wanted to."

"Really?" Glenna asked.

"God, yes. But, it wouldn't be right for either of us." Buffy said." I'd just break your heart, and… I have somebody"

" I know, I know" Glenna said." I… I guess I hoped…"She breaks off.

"I'm so sorry, Glennie" Buffy said, regretfully." I wish things were different. I do. But I can't help how I feel".

" I know, dammit" Glenna growls. " Lucky guy. I just hope he realizes how lucky he is!"

"Yeah" Buffy said." I hope so too"

Buffy didn't  have the heart to tell Glenna the 'guy' was a girl. That the girl had long black hair, and full rich lips, and …probably hated Buffy's guts. Probably wanted to hurt her, or worse. That Buffy probably stood zero chance with her, ever. That she'd nearly killed her. Things were bad enough right now.

"Buffy?" Glenna asked, plaintively.

"Yeah, Glennie?" Buffy replied gently.

"Would it be ok if we snuggled?" She asked." I promise, I'll be good. Won't try nothin' " Glenna would take whatever she could get.

"Yeah. I'd like that" Buffy smiled.

The two women lay on   the bed, Glenna snuggling close to Buffy. Buffy held her in close, stroking her hair. After awhile, she heard Glenna gently snoring. Buffy, on the other hand, was wide awake, and totally sober now.

Buffy cursed herself for being a fool. Here was someone who obviously loved her, who would do anything to make her happy. Why couldn't she feel the same way? It was so unfair. She really cared about Glenna. She was smart, pretty, intelligent, and made her laugh. So why did her heart not respond to her?

Faith.

Buffy was obsessed with her sister slayer. In her time in prison, she came to realize her feelings for Faith. Thinking of her in this crap hole kept Buffy from going insane. The connection she felt, the bond, was strong. Thoughts of Faith were her light at the end of the tunnel, something to shoot for so she could get through this. She came to realize she not only cared about Faith, but that she loved her. That she was in love with her.

But those feelings were tempered by other feelings, and realities. She had lots of remorse over what she'd done to Faith. She knew in her head that at the time, she'd had no choice. It was her or Faith. She had to try to use Faith to cure Angel. She knew that Faith would've killed her, if she had the chance. That didn't ease the remorse in her heart, the guilt she felt deep in her soul. She'd stabbed her, nearly killed her. She could still see Faith's look of disbelief and betrayal. She could still here those words " You did it, B. You killed me!"  They, more than the legal system, were her judge and jury. You did it. You killed me.

There was the fact that Faith was still in a coma. After 3 years, she still lay in hospital bed, not waking up. She might never wake up. Even if she did wake up, there could be extensive brain damage. She might be unable to walk, due to atrophy of her leg muscles. Even if she came out of it whole, there was the little fact that  Faith has been out of it for 3 years. To her, it's still 1999.. She doesn't know about the Mayor, or how the Ascension failed. She still hates Buffy, probably still wanting to kill her.

Buffy looked at the sleeping form of Glenna. She looked so sweet, so innocent asleep. Despair gripped her like a vise. Why couldn't she love the one who loved her? Why did she have to love the one who hated her guts?

She laughed bitterly. It was her destiny.

Buffy was trying to make a go of life outside prison. It was not going well for her. Not at all.

When Giles picked her up outside the state prison walls, Buffy had been full of hope. She'd been incarcerated, sure. On false evidence. It was galling, but she was confident she could put her life back together, make a go of it. Put it behind her. Make a fresh start. But she soon ran into reality.

The first thing she did upon returning to Sunnydale was to visit her mom's grave. She was bitter because she'd been locked up in prison when her mom had to go through this all. Alone. It hit her how scared her mom must have been, facing the disease alone. Battling through it. The worst was the fact that Buffy wasn't there to help her through it, make it easier for her. Take some of the burden on, share her fears,  and relieve her suffering. No. Buffy had been in prison. Why? Because she saved the fucking world. Because of her ' Destiny'. It was a vile, bitter pill to swallow.

Buffy kneeled by her headstone, placing the flowers she brought. She read the inscription.

Joyce Summers

1960- 2002

Devoted Mother

Beloved Friend

You lived your life

With courage and grace

We'll miss you

Buffy felt the sting of tears in her eyes. Her heart lay like lead in her chest. How awful it all must have been for mom,  she thought. How terrible to have her child in prison, dealing with the shame alone. Knowing she was innocent, but not being able to prove it because of Buffy's secret. Buffy's destiny. Buffy cried in sorrow and frustration. Sorrow over the loss of her mother. Frustration that in her way, she contributed to her mom's sorrows, her pain. That she couldn't be there when she was needed most. Her rage increased when she thought about the Watcher's Council. How they were supposed to help her in her destiny, how they had time after time betrayed her, and ultimately tried to kill her. She touched the scars on her neck and face as a reminder of their perfidy. She swore then she would be avenged for what they did to her and her family. She wouldn't rest until she made them pay.

The next blow to her plans came from the state. Because she was in prison at the time of her mother's death, because she was a convicted felon, the state seized Joyce Summer's assets  under the RICO statutes, to defray the costs of her trial and incarceration. Essentially, Buffy was penniless.  Her mother's savings, her house, the insurance all went to the state. Buffy had nothing but the clothes on her back and the few dollars the state paid her for her 'services' while in prison.

Buffy found herself in the same crappy motel Faith had stayed in while in Sunnydale. She couldn't get a better place because she didn't have the money for a deposit. Strangely enough, landlords weren't exactly rushing to rent to ex-felons either. Wonder why? So she made due with what she could get. Giles helped when he could, but he was starting the Magic Box, and cash was tight. But he promised her a job as soon as business picked up.

So, she took whatever job came along. She did the waitressing thing. It was low pay, demeaning and hard. But at least it paid the bills, and she could save the tips so she could eventually get into a decent apartment. If she could overcome that felony thing. Yeah, right.  She ate whatever meals she could at work, saving money there. Her clothier of choice became Wal-mart… or the thrift stores. She didn't go to movies…too expensive. When she could get the VCR in the room to work, she rented movies…the cheap ones, not new releases. Fortunately for her, being in prison made a lot of the cheap ones new for her. When she got an especially good tip, she would treat herself to the Bronze. The cover included 2 free drinks, which she would nurse all night. She got to dance, at least, and blow off some steam. Didn't happen too often, but she treasured every moment of it. Her clothes were horribly out of fashion, but she did the best she could with what she had. It was one of her nights at the Bronze that she ran into Willow again.

She'd been hesitant about meeting with Willow. After that thing about visitation at prison, a distance had developed between them. When she reached her on the phone, it was awkward, to say the least. Her letters from Willow tapered off, and Buffy finally figured that Willow just wanted to let it go. So, she'd respected that, not trying to contact her by phone or letter.

After she'd been released, she contemplated seeing Willow again. She even went so far as to go to campus, and wait by her dorm to try to contact her. She found out from the R.A.  that Willow had moved out of the dorm, into an off-campus apartment. He didn't have the address. Buffy took it as a sign that maybe she just wasn't supposed to renew her friendship with Willow. Maybe that was over, in the past. Something that was high school. And life wasn't high school anymore.

So, that night when she saw Will walk into the Bronze, Buffy's first instinct was to get up and leave. She didn't want to make it awkward for her old friend. Then she said to herself 'Hey, I paid the cover. I gotta right to be here too. I'll just not bother her, and visa versa, and all is cool, right?'. Her  Bronze nights were too few and far between to just leave before she had to. She decided she'd just blend back so Will wouldn't be disturbed.

But before Buffy could disappear in the crowd, Willow spotted her. She stopped dead in her tracks. She looked hard, and her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open.

"Buffy?" she called out over the crowd. " Hey, Buffy!"

Buffy froze. Oh, shit! She turned around, smiling, ready to try to make nice, overcome the awkwardness. That's when she was hit by the red headed hurricane known as Willow. Will was hugging her, and laughing and kissing her on the cheek. There were tears in her eyes, and it was like Buffy had never left. Buffy, overwhelmed with emotion, hugged Will tight. Too tight.

"Buffy…Yes, so glad to see you, too… but breathing is getting … difficult" Willow gasped out.

"God, sorry Will. Just…just" Buffy started to cry." M-M-Missed you" She stuttered out

"M-M-Me too, Buff"  Willow said, her own tears coming in floods now. She held tight to her friend, not believing she was really here. She looked at Buffy, and noticed the scars on her face and neck.

"Oh, my goddess, Buffy! What happened?" Will cried, gently touching the scars. Buffy, ashamed, tried to hide her face, but Will wouldn't let her.

"The Council happened, Will." Buffy said, not able to keep the bitterness completely out of her voice." They decided I was a 'negative asset' and sent some people to … terminate my contract, so to speak. A couple got a little too close."

"Oh, goddess, Buffy!" Willow said, hugging her again. " The fucking bastards!"

"WILL!" Buffy cried, a little shocked. " Where'd you get that mouth? Do you kiss your….Where is Oz, anyway?" Buffy looked around, puzzled. The only person she saw close to Willow was a pretty, shy blonde girl, kind of hanging back.

"Oh… that's right, you don't know" Willow said, a little embarrassed." Oz and I broke up…oh… must be nearly 18 months ago"

Buffy's mouth hung open in shock. Oz and Will, broken up? God, She'd thought they'd be together forever, they seemed so right together.

"What happened, Will? I thought you and Oz were like…forever!" Buffy said.

"Well… halfway through my freshman year in College…Oz…well… had an affair. With a She-Werewolf". Willow said, still a little bitter about it, by the tone of her voice.

" A WHAT?" Buffy said, thrown. Willow explained the whole sad saga about Veruca, including how she nearly killed Willow Oz had come in time to save her. But, it'd been close, and he nearly killed Willow before she could shoot him with a trank dart. Buffy's eyes grew wider, and her jaw dropped lower as she described Oz leaving, because he wasn't in control of " The Beast" anymore". Buffy shook her head, trying to make sense of it all.

"So, who're you with now, Will?" Buffy asked, looking around. She spotted the shy blonde woman again.

"Oh, goddess. Where are my manners? " Willow says, turning around. She waved at the blonde woman." Tara? Tara honey, come here!"

 The shy blonde woman, smiling, comes up to Willow and Buffy.

"Buffy, I'd like you to meet Tara." Willow said, the love she has for the woman shining in her eyes. " Tara, this is the Buffy I've been telling you about".

"Hi, I'm very pleased to meet you" Tara says, with a slight stutter." I've heard so much about you".

"Well, that gives you the one up on me" Buffy says, smiling. She pulls the blonde girl into a hug, and whispers softly into her ear. " I can see by Will's look that  you make her very happy. She must love you very much" Tara, unaccustomed to this, blushes.

"So, Will…when did you leave start batting for the other team, huh?" Buffy asks, smiling. Will is more than a little non-plussed. She'd been expecting Buffy to be weirded out by her relationship with Tara… and here she was taking it like it was no big. She figured that if she lived to be 100, she'd never fully understand Buffy Summers.

"Uh…Uh…well, I met Tara after Oz and I broke up. In a Wicca group. And we just … clicked" Willow said, more than a little thrown. "We…fell in love" She smiled at Tara, who smiled back at her.

"Well, I couldn't be happier for you , Will" Buffy said, pulling Will into another hug. She whispered in Willow's ear" So, is she like…really good?" Willow, not expecting any of this, is totally thrown by the question. She blushed deep red. Then she whispered back "Oh, goddess, yes!". The two friends giggle, looking slyly at Tara, who then blushed

The three of them find a table, and sit. Willow still can't believe Buffy is back. She'd missed her friend terribly.

"So, Buffy. How long you…" Willow hesitated, not wanting to remind Buffy where she'd been for the last 2 ½ years.

"Been back in town?" Buffy said, helping Willow over her awkwardness. Like friends are wont to do." Been back nearly 3 months, I guess."

"Three MONTHS? And you haven't come to see me?" Willow said, a bit upset.

"Will" Buffy started." I came to campus, to look you up. But you moved off campus. They didn't have an address on you. So, I kinda took it as a sign that maybe…well…" Buffy blushes and looks down." That maybe our friendship was…over" She manages.

"Buffy!" Willow said, firmly." We're friends. We stick together. I'd… I'd never drop you as a friend, not for anything!"

"Buffy" Tara added in. " Will and I've been together nearly 2 years now. I know in all that time, she talked about you constantly" Tara smiled." I had to admit, sometimes I got a little jealous" Buffy and Willow both blush. Tara continues. " But I know the one thing she'd been looking forward to was seeing you again."

Buffy looks sufficiently embarrassed. Wondering why the earth never opens up and swallows you up when you need it to.

"I'm…god, I'm sorry Will. Just, that after the incident with the visitation, and then the letters dropping off, and …well, let's be real, Will, I'm an ex-con. What do an ex-con and a college junior really have in common? I was ashamed, Will. Ashamed that  I'd embarrass you if I hung around. So, I kinda…didn't" Buffy says, quietly. " And I'll admit it, Will. I'm kinda bitter. The state took away everything from me, convicted me…for doing my job, for fulfilling  my destiny" Buffy's  expression has hardened.

"Buffy, you were framed. We know that" Willow said, quietly. "But even if you deserved to be in prison, I'd be your friend, no matter what. Do you understand?" Willow chided her, gently.

"Yeah…I was dumb...ok?" Buffy says, apologetically. She should've known better. But the thing with Xander had hurt her, and she learned not to trust while in prison.

They talked for hours. Willow learned about how the state had taken all of Buffy's inheritance, and was ready to go ballistic 'til Buffy and Tara calmed her. When she learned where Buffy was living, she immediately insisted that Buffy would move in with Tara and her. Buffy declined. Not that she was fond of her rat-trap, but she had a secret she didn't want to share…and it would be harder if she lived with them. She explained that she needed, for her own sake, to work her way back. That she loved them for offering, but this was something she needed to do. Willow was upset, but she said she understood.

They parted late that evening, later than Buffy expected. But it was worth it to her. For the first time since returning to Sunnydale, Buffy felt a small sense of normalcy returning to her life.

So, what was the secret Buffy was keeping from Willow? Faith. The fact that every night, she would spend hours at her beside. When she first got out, she bugged Giles until he told her where Faith was… in Sunnydale Convalescent. She'd been transferred there after her physical wounds had healed, and it became apparent her coma would be a chronic condition. Not much hope was held out that she would ever waken from the coma. All the time Buffy was in prison, Faith had been non responsive, never stirring from her own prison of the mind. Her only companions in that time had been the vitals monitor and the feeding tube they used to give her nourishment. No one came to visit her.

All that changed when Buffy returned from prison. She came every night she could( that is, nights when she didn't have to work). She'd spend hours there, talking to her, singing to her, reading to her. She groomed her, and after training with the nurses, took over bathing Faith. She didn't mind. She loved the girl, even if that was a one way street. All she cared was that she got to spend time with her. As much time as she could. Until Faith woke up, and threw her out(literally?). She knew it was hopeless, that Faith couldn't care for her… but she at least would do what she could for her. Call it love, or penitence. She did it.

And so, we're back to where we began. With Buffy, in Faith's room, watching her sleep. Thinking about her life to this point. Wondering if Faith would ever awaken. If she'd forgive Buffy. If she'd hate her. She just didn't know any of the answers. She barely knew the questions.

It'd been a particularly bad night at the restaurant. The tips were sucky, the customers particularly rude, and she'd had to stay an extra hour because the ditz who was supposed to come on shift had been late. She was tired, and feeling depressed. She wondered if it was ever going to get better, if things would ever get to some semblance of normal. If Faith would ever wake up, even if only to curse her out. As she held Faith's hand, looking at her sleeping form, it just all overwhelmed her.

She started to cry. Just tears at first, angry, frustrated tears. But then the sorrow and pain kicked in, and she started to sob. She was too tired tonight, too defeated, to try to hold it back. Her body shook, and she laid her head down on the bed. What did it matter? Faith was never going to wake up, never come back to her. She'd never have the chance to say she was sorry, make it right. She didn't give a damn who saw her, she was too miserable to care.

Faith opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was the woman she hated, leaning over her bed, crying her eyes out. She was holding her hand. Faith looked at her, confused.  She remembered everything, including Buffy stabbing her. Her expression hardened, and she pulled her hand away.

Buffy looked up, surprised. Faith was looking at her, an expression of contempt and anger on her face. She said one word.

"Buffy!"

~~&~~&~~&~~&~~&~~&~~&~~

To be continued.

Author's note. Sorry for the long chapter, but I just couldn't stop writing it. Don't think any succeeding chapters will run this long. Thanks for reading it.