"You pop those things like they're candy," Xander commented as Faith swallowed six aspirins in the kitchen.
"What's it to you?" she snapped. Giles and Willow were also in the kitchen going over some paperwork. It had come up once or twice when they were all talking that Faith might've been, possibly, taking aspirin a little too frequently, but it was an issue all of them tended to avoid.
"I think you take too many of those," Xander answered, surprising everyone in the room. Faith was sure he'd just back off like he usually did, and Giles and Willow were surprised that he was actually going to try and have this argument with her. "You just took like, how many, six of those, and you'll probably take more later… do they even do anything?"
"They don't work for shit and I've got a headache," she answered honestly. "I'm just trying to get rid of this fucking headache that all of you are fucking causing."
"You know what, fuck you!" Xander snapped angrily. "You're-"
"Faith," Giles interjected. Xander shut up, realizing that he had sidetracked from an important issue that was concerning everyone. "You've had that headache for a month now and that aspirin doesn't seem to be helping. I think we should look into the cause and perhaps a different method of treatment."
"Alright, you look it up, and when you find the magic happy pill I'll be happy to pop it." With that she left the room.
"So do you think she even has a headache?" Willow asked.
"I do," Giles answered.
"Then it's got to be like a super slayer strength type migraine because she's popping aspirin every day," Xander added, accidentally allowing some slippage of concern into his tone.
"The only thing I can think of is that it began with Buffy's death. It's never been recorded before but there's also never been two Slayers before. My only guess is that they were both very close, in a different way than we understand. On a different wavelength or plane, if you will. And since Buffy suffered injury to her neck, I'm guessing that in some sort of disassociation Faith is feeling some of the pain incurred by Buffy."
"Simply said," Willow clarified, seeing the blank look on Xander's face, "Slayer sympathy pains." He nodded then argued,
"Wouldn't she have like a sore throat or something then?"
Xander walked onto the front porch where Faith was smoking a cigarette. She was sitting on the banister staring down at her hand. Xander tried to follow her gaze but couldn't find anything out of the ordinary so he asked,
"What's so interesting about your hand?" He paused for a moment then added, "If it's something sexually perverted don't tell me… okay, even still, you can tell me."
"I don't know," she answered. "Hell you already think I'm a fucking psycho but it feels like something's wrong with it… different somehow."
"Somehow, like how?"
"I don't know," she shrugged. "Does it look weird to you?" she asked holding both of her hands up, palms down, for him to compare.
"That means no," she concluded. She began rubbing her left hand, "I'm really losing it."
"Well, what made you think there was something wrong with your hand? Initially…"
"I have no idea," she answered honestly. She fell quiet, thinking intensely about something that she had absolutely no idea what it was. "Fuck…" she muttered, frustrated.
"FAITH!" Kennedy, Rhona, and Molly screamed from inside the house.
"Fuck," Faith repeated as she jumped off the banister and headed towards the door.
"Double fuck," Xander muttered humorously.
"You wish," she answered as she grabbed the doorknob. "You locked the door?" He shook his head and she took a step back and then kicked the door open with a hard kick. It flew open, splintering into a few pieces. She ran towards the kitchen but Willow and Giles were already running down towards the basement where the girls were yelling from.
"Faith!" Kennedy yelled again.
"What's wrong? What's wrong?" Faith yelled back as she ran down the stairs. She stopped suddenly and the others running behind her practically ran into her.
"Hi, Faith," Buffy greeted with a smile. It wasn't really Buffy, it was The First, but it looked like her down to each strand of blonde hair.
"Get the hell out of here," Faith warned.
"Oh, don't worry. I was just here to tell all these girls how they're going to die following you into this battle. I mean, after all, you're practically still evil. How do you plan on fighting evil?"
"It's not Buffy," Kennedy added, trying to keep everyone thinking straight. Faith wasn't sure if she had said it just for her benefit since she was definitely shaking.
"Well, Faith, you must really love these digs, huh? I mean, God, that probably made your day that all these girls just called your name to come save them, right? You're just loving this! I'm sure a part of you completely dug it when I was finally out of your way. After all, all you've ever wanted was to take my place. I was always the one that was just making you second best."
"Being second only to Buffy was definitely something to be proud of."
"But now you're number one. You're all these girl's first choice. You've got everything now, Faith. You've got the Watcher, the Scooby gang, and all these Potentials… it's a little wet dream all come true."
"Get the fuck out of here."
"Oh, and I can't forget your favorite part to all of this… you even get a complimentary beef stick to go along with the whole package. I've got to say though, I'm a little surprised you didn't go for Spike, you know, with your whole fetish with my boyfriends and all. But Xander, not bad… you know, except for the fact that he's with you just for the warm-up and then he goes and spends the night with the woman he really loves. But I guess you're used to that."
Faith couldn't help but look nervously around at the Potentials as they listened to the First spilling all of this. Kennedy looked almost as hurt as she felt.
"You know, if I didn't know any better, I might start to think that you're running out of ideas," Faith finally answered. "I mean, is this all you've got left? You come in here and start chatting it up and trying to gossip with the girls? That's kind of lame, don't you think?" Buffy shrugged and answered,
"Maybe. Faith, have you told them about how you used to be back when you were on the winning side of this eternal battle? I mean, did you tell them how you went all bad and loved every exhilarating second of it? I don't think you're really over it yet either. Maybe you'll decide to switch around again – why not? You never were into keeping loyalties anyway… Or better yet," she glanced over at the Potentials, "maybe me being here's just a little show for the girls to make them think you're still on the good side. How's my acting?"
"Hey, get the fuck out of her body," Xander finally snapped.
"Oh, I'm sorry Xander. I thought you'd like it… I bet you'd love to be in her nice, tight, warm body. See Faith, you're still just second on everybody's list, you always will be."
"You're really just giving me a headache now," Faith answered. "We've been in this fight for too long – all of these girls know to ignore you so your mind games are just a waste of time."
"Yeah, how are those headaches going? You know, I can see why you have them… look around. All of this," she motioned at the entire room with her arms, "takes a lot of extra work from that brain of yours. You're a sneaky one… you've got it working extra hard! Good for you…"
With that The First vanished. Faith looked around at all of the girls, worried. She looked over at Giles and Willow also, concerned that they'd be upset seeing Buffy like that. She didn't bother looking at Xander because she assumed he'd be the one able to hold it together. Like always – or at least she felt that way – she was wrong. He picked up a chair and threw it against the wall as hard as he could screaming as loud as he could.
"Hey," Faith said as she walked into her room. Xander continued to pace back and forth, ignoring her entrance. "Yo, you're making me dizzy, could you stop?"
"Why should I?" he asked. The rage in his tone intrigued her.
"For me," she answered softly, tilting her head to one side. He grabbed her arms and slammed her into the wall angrily,
"I don't do anything for you!"
"Yeah, except for the whole… you know, thing," she answered, proving she wasn't at all intimidated by him. He slammed her into the wall again,
"I hate you. You get that, right? Nothing I do is ever for you. You're the worthless tramp I fuck to relieve myself. You're the nothing that I use to forget how miserable my life is. I wish you were the one that died that night instead of…" he whispered angrily into her ear. She stayed there, unmoved. "And even after I said all of that, you still want me to fuck you. Right here, right now. Don't you? Well, you've got to say please…"
She swallowed the lump in her throat and somehow forced out a weak,
On a normal day he took out his frustrations on her. Today it was different. Today he was taking out his rage and fury on her. He slammed into her with her up against the wall. He held her hair in a fist forcing her to hold her face to the side so she wouldn't look at him. There was only once before in her life when she had felt this way and she had never wanted to feel that way again. This wasn't just rough it was violent and she knew it. But for the same reason she had been with him for the past few weeks, she let him violate her.
Pain surged through her body with every stroke and finally she couldn't keep the tears from escaping her eyes. She held them shut, begging silently for him to stop. She just listened to his heavy breath and constant mumbles,
"I hate you… I hate you…" as his hands held her hips in a merciless grip pounding in and out of her.
He hated himself and he took it out on her. He hated her for not hating him. All he felt was hate. And anger. There was a burning pain running through him but he used it as fuel in his veins to continue. He entered her with the same force he would've used to punch somebody. He'd never done this with anyone and it shocked him that anyone would allow it. He knew he was hurting her and he didn't care. He didn't care about anything anymore. This was that feeling she was always talking about – that feeling of being disconnected from ever caring about anything. It was gone. Everything, especially himself, was miles away and all he had to think about was that perfect body he was ramming into.
She was holding her breath now, praying that he'd finish. Suddenly a taste was in her mouth and she wondered why she was tasting blood. After a moment she realized she was biting her lip so hard that it was now bleeding. Her face was no longer touched by a few stray tears, now it was soaked as they poured unceasingly down her face. Each stroke was ten times more painful than the last. Finally she couldn't hold it in anymore and she pleaded,
"Baby, please stop." He didn't stop. He didn't hear her. He was miles from anywhere and she was barely a whispered made three countries away. "Xander, please… Xander, stop," she repeated, raising her hand to his hand that was holding her hair in a fist. He didn't hear her but her touch made him look up. He looked up into her face and saw her bleeding lip and her face soaked with tears. "Please stop," she repeated; he heard it for the first time. He flew back to reality and was surprised that he didn't gag on the spot.
He pulled out of her immediately and frantically tried to touch her waist or shoulders or anything to try and calm her down. She blocked his hands from touching her waist holding her hands between them and then pushed them frantically, but weakly, away when he reached for her shoulders. He didn't know what to do. She was shaking in a way he'd never seen anyone shake before and he'd certainly never seen her like this and he knew it was his fault. He reached his hands up to her face trying to get her to stop crying,
"Why didn't you stop me? You could've stopped me! Why didn't you stop me!" He began to ask frantically.
"I'm sorry… I just couldn't go anymore… I'm…" she tried to stammer out an apology, but not for not stopping him but for not being able to let him finish. She held her stomach in pain with her left arm as she tried to pull his hands away from her face with her other hand.
He knew she didn't want him to touch her but he couldn't not touch her because he needed to get her to stop crying! He couldn't just let her cry because it was his fault and he couldn't not touch her face because all he wanted to do now was hold her but she wouldn't let him! What do I do? What do I do? He asked himself frantically.
He watched her try and rid her face of the pain she was in. Her breath was short and shallow and filled with agony. But what really killed him was the fact that she was trying to hide it. As his adrenaline slowed the true guilt began to sink in. She gave up trying to keep him from touching her face and faced her shoulder as she had been before. She tried to hold in everything – with every breath it looked like she was holding down a gag.
Whether it was from the pain or from the memories ripping through her, she wasn't sure, but she knew she was close to blacking out. He saw the defeat in her eyes as the tears continued to flow and began asking frantically,
"Do you want to sit? I think you should lie down or something… Faith, listen to me."
"I can't… I don't want to anymore… Just stop…" she panted. He stepped back quickly, realizing that she wasn't even aware of what was going on anymore. He glanced down at her leg and saw a small stream of blood trickling down the inside of her thigh.
"Oh my God," he said turning away from her. He saw a large towel tossed over one of the chairs and quickly grabbed it and brought it back to her. "H-e… Here," he finally managed to say. She took it without looking up at him and he helped her quickly wrapped it around herself. "Look at me?" he asked weakly.
"I really don't want to right now," she answered, unable to conceal the anger in her voice.
"There's no excuse for what I just did… I want to say sorry but that doesn't seem like enough. Can I do anything? Please… please, I'll do anything. What do you need?"
"Just… go downstairs or something, okay?"
"You want me to just go?" he asked to be sure she wasn't just putting on an attitude. She nodded, pulling the towel around her tighter. "Please stop crying…"
"Sure," she answered. He ran his hand through his hair nervously trying to figure out what he could do. He realized all he could do at the moment was just leave. He pulled on his boxers and grabbed his clothes and quickly left the room. He stood on the other side of the door looking at the closed door. He felt his heart, soul, and body break in half when he heard a muffled scream followed by crying.
As soon as he left the room, she pulled the towel up to her mouth and screamed with all the agony and rage she had inside of her as she slid down to the ground. She wished she were just angry but the way the scream was followed by sobs she knew that wasn't the case. She held herself in a hug sobbing into the towel, hoping no one would hear her.
Xander wiped the tears from his eyes before turning away from the door. He almost jumped when he saw Kennedy standing in the hallway looking over at him. Seeing the tears in her eyes only made his reappear. Her face was filled with sadness and disgust and hatred towards him. Her eyes felt like they were burning holes right through him. He ran his fingers through his hair again nervously then went to the bathroom. He knew Kennedy hadn't heard what was going on because of her Slayer hearing; everyone in the house had probably been woken up by it.
"So what's the plan?" Rhona asked, pressing Faith for an answer.
"What?" Faith asked blankly, glancing up quickly at the girls and then back down.
"I think we should spar today," Kennedy interjected. "Everyone pair off." They nodded, realizing that Faith wasn't just not okay but they were definitely seeing her upset for the first time. They all began sparring in the backyard, leaving Kennedy and Faith on the back porch.
"Are you okay?"
"Fine." Her voice was hoarse and broken making it obvious to someone who hadn't heard her crying all night that she had been crying. She pulled out her pack of cigarettes and Kennedy watched her closely. It took her about five times as long as it usually did to light the cigarette because of how unsteady her hand was.
"Can we talk?"
"Yeah, what about?" Faith asked nonchalantly.
"Faith, talk to me," she answered, practically begging. She had to bite her lip to hold in her emotions. She was quick to hide them but Faith caught it. She glanced up and saw the tears in the corners of her eyes.
"What are you all teary-eyed about?" she asked, trying to lighten the mood. Kennedy just looked down at her feet. "Hey, what's the matter?" Faith was trying desperately to pretend that she herself wasn't upset and she hated the fact that Kennedy seemed pretty up to date on her current events.
"Are you okay?" she asked, tears evident in her tone this time.
"Kid, I'm fine, okay?"
"Why would you say that?"
"You're eyes are all red like you've been crying… your throats all sore like you've been screaming… you're walking like…" a sob caught in her throat and she turned away, ashamed. She hated that Faith could sit there and pretend like nothing was wrong and she couldn't even get a full sentence out without crying. Faith rubbed the bridge of her nose with her finger as she held her cigarette, unsure of how to handle this. She had never gotten any talks like this so how the hell was she supposed to give one? Kennedy finally turned back around, her sadness converted to anger,
"How the hell can you just sit there like nothing's wrong? I just don't get it!"
"Kennedy, what do you want me to say?"
"I want you to say you won't do it again, but I know it would be a lie," she snapped. "If you want to let him hurt you like that, fine. I tried to get you to stop over a month ago and you almost fucking killed me! So you know what, fine, let him use you and hurt you, but don't fucking cry like you're not asking for it. Don't come down here and sit in front of all of these girls with your eyes all red and your lip all fucking swollen-"
"Kennedy, he doesn't hit me, if that's what you're thinking."
"I don't know what I'm thinking anymore."
"I would never let him hit me, Kennedy. That's not how it is… you know Xander. He would never hit any girl…"
"I never thought Xander would make someone cry the way he makes you cry."
"Kiddo, it's just sex," she said, trying to smile at her.
"Great, so you get off on him doing those things to you… hell, you fucking tell him to do it!"
"Listen, everyone's got their own style, alright? Mine is a little rougher than most… last night got out of hand and we both know it, so it's cool. Okay?" Kennedy stared at her blankly. "I'm being straight with you…"
"Whatever." Kennedy stood up and headed for the door back into the house.
"Your style, Faith? Is it part of your style that he's still with sleeping with Anya? Is that part of the whole Faith style?"
"This is the same shit B would pull. What the hell do you care what I do?"
"What do I care? I care because you don't make it a priority for you to care about yourself and you definitely don't make it a priority for any of the men you sleep with." With that she stormed back into the house slamming the door behind her.
"Faith, what are you doing?" Giles asked, walking into the living room. Faith was sitting on the couch pulled into the fetal position watching TV.
"What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Aren't you taking the girls out on patrol?"
"Does it look like I'm taking the girls out on patrol?"
"No, it doesn't," he answered angrily.
"See, Giles, you should really have more confidence in your observational skills, you'd have to ask a lot few dumb questions."
"Faith, in case you've forgotten, you're in the middle of a bloody war to save the world!"
"Yeah, slipped my mind," she answered sardonically. She continued to surf the channels and in his frustration he jumped forward and grabbed the remote from her hand.
"There isn't going to be any blood television if you don't save the world, Faith."
"Are you on medication?"
"'Cause if you are, you really need to up the dose a little bit." She sat up and grabbed the remote back from him but she regretted the quick movement. He caught her body's protest and asked,
"What did you do?"
"Faith, what is the matter with you? Are you hurt? If you are you need to tell me and if you're not than you need to get up and go fight!"
"Giles, did I ever tell you the story of when I tortured my annoying British Watcher nearly to death?"
"This world is doomed!"
"Can you make me some hot cocoa?" she called after him as he stormed out of the room.
"Make it yourself, bloody Slayer. You know, I take no responsibility for her, for the record! I had nothing to do with her training…"
Xander walked in the front door and glanced over at the couch. He took a step towards her and stopped, unsure of what to do and past that, what to say. He could tell by the way she was breathing that she still didn't feel great.
"Hey…" he waited for a response but didn't get one. "Aren't you supposed to take the girls patrolling?"
"Giles said he wanted to do it," she answered, keeping her gaze on the TV.
A week passed and everything seemed to settle down at least a little bit. Kennedy was still angry and upset but she seemed to bring it down a peg or two. Xander tried to spark a few conversations, hoping to build up to the talk they were going to have to have, but the funny thing about conversations is that they involve the cooperation of two separate people. There in lied his problem.
He sat downstairs in front of the TV for about an hour trying to work enough nerve up to just go talk to her. Her and the girls had gotten back from patrol about an hour ago and he'd been waiting for his body to grow a fucking sack so he could just go talk to her, but he was having no such luck. Finally he walked up to her room, knocking gently on the door.
"Come in." He walked in and was soon greeted by her.
"I was wondering when you were going to come see me again," she whispered in his ear. She kissed the side of his neck, then tugged down on his ear with her teeth.
"No, Faith, I just wanted to talk to you."
"We can talk after," she lied.
"No," he answered firmly, "we need to talk now."
"Trying to play a big boy now?" she teased meanly. "You think just 'cause you can make me cry, now you can tell me what to do?"
"Faith, please… I want to talk to you."
"Fine, you talk… I'll listen," she answered as she kissed his neck. She placed long kisses in a line from one ear to the other then moved to his lips as she ran her hands under his shirt.
"I don't want to do this anymore. It's not fair to you."
"But…" She was strangely shocked by what he had said. "But… but you can't… you can't leave me…" Her demeanor shifted completely and now she was the passive, pleading one. "You can do it like last time and I won't stop you, I swear… please… Xander, come on. Don't do this… at least give me a chance to make it up to you and then you'll want me, I promise."
"No," he answered, standing firmly. He knew this was wrong and whether she knew it or not, it was for the better. "It's done. Finished."
"You can't leave me!" she screamed, finally breaking into hysterics. "You can't! You can't! Don't fuck with me, Xander… I need you."
"No," he answered coldly. As much as he wanted to stay there and hold her and talk to her he knew there was no way that was going to happen until she was detached. He hadn't realized at first how attached she had gotten, but it clearly had to end now. He headed for the door and part of him expected her to try and stop him. He braced himself for a Slayer's grip or something but there was nothing. He just heard her slide open a drawer.
"You're just going to fucking leave me! I won't let you leave me!" She pulled a knife out of the drawer. Xander turned at the noise and saw her with the knife. She placed it against her arm and as he ran towards her she pulled it across, making a deep laceration.
"I want to be with you… I need you…" she cried. She felt the cut on her arm and she saw him running towards her, but she only saw him as a blur. He reached her, grabbing the cut and holding it tightly with his hands.
"Faith, look at me," he said, trying to maintain his panic. She looked up quickly at him, his voice different, but for some reason it fit. Angel crouched over her holding the wound tightly. "Buffy! Get me some towels, quick!"
"Buffy?" she murmured to herself.
"Faith, look at me," Angel demanded again. She looked up at him, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Faith, he's gone. I know you miss him but this is not the way to deal with it. Do you hear me?"
"I want him back…"
"I know you do," Angel said, embracing her tightly as Buffy took over the wound.
"I want him back so bad."
"Shhh…" he soothed, holding her tightly.
"I think that'll be okay," Buffy said, securing the bandage tightly around her arm.
"Okay," Angel agreed. He picked her up off of the floor and walked her over to the bed. He put her down gently but she continued to cry.
"He loved me…" she remembered. She looked down at her left hand and saw the beautiful ring he'd given her so she would never forget that.
"He loved you very much," Kennedy agreed, walking from the doorway into the room with Willow. Willow put a glass of water down by the side of the bed for her, then sat on the windowsill with Kennedy.
"I wish he didn't," she answered, still staring down at the ring. "I wish he was just like every other loser I was ever with, and then I wouldn't miss him. I wish he'd have just used me or lied to me or cheated or something! I wish he did something wrong so I wouldn't feel like this…
"But he loved me. He really loved me and he never used me or lied or cheated or anything… He never hurt me! He just was… he was perfect. Angel, I… need him… back," she said between sobs. "He wanted me. He's the only person who's ever wanted me and they took him away! Why did they take him away from me?"
"I know it hurts but…"
"Angel, they took him away from me when I was sleeping… I didn't even say goodbye. They didn't even let me say goodbye."
Kennedy began sobbing inconsolably as Willow held her by the window. Kennedy couldn't stand to see Faith like this. There were people who truly loved each other and then there was Faith and Xander. They were just on a completely different playing field. Faith had never loved anyone and Xander had made her fall completely and totally in love with him. She loved him with everything she had and now that he was gone it was like she didn't have a chance to ask for any of that back before he left.
Everyone was crying because of losing Xander, but seeing how distraught Faith was only compelled them to cry harder. As he held her, Angel felt his own tears streaking down his face. He, better than anyone else in this room, knew what she had gone through to get past all of the bad hands she had been dealt, and still, the powers just kept throwing her the fucking torture. Angel could feel it as he held her, she was broken.
She fell asleep and Willow and Kennedy quietly went back to their rooms. Buffy and Angel sat by the window, wanting to spend the night watching her. They knew they had to keep an eye on her, but that night was too close a call.
"We should've known to keep a closer watch on her tonight," Buffy said quietly. Angel nodded, disappointed in himself that he hadn't stopped her from hurting herself earlier and that he couldn't just make this all go away for her. "The first night after the funeral is always the hardest."
It's said that when one is put through a traumatic experience that they're incapable of dealing with, their mind will create an alternate reality for them that helps them to prepare and cope with their true reality.