Part IV

Faith's eyes fluttered open again: she glanced over at the window and saw that the sun had shifted again. She started to glance over at the wall clock to see what time it was, and flinched when she saw who was sitting in the visitor's chair next to the door: Willow. The redhead had noticed that Faith was awake, and her expression was completely neutral as she watched Faith flush in surprise.

The Slayer sighed inwardly. * And I thought that talking to Xander would be tough. * She met Willow's eyes and commented, "Look, Willow. . . if B talked you into this. . .you don't have to be here. I know how you have to feel about me right now. . .and you don't owe me anything. It's broad daylight: I'm sure those idiots on the Council won't try anything right now. . .and B would never forgive me if you got hurt if they did." She forced a reassuring smile and urged, "Go on. . .it's a nice day out. . .have some fun with that cute boyfriend of yours."

Willow's eyes flashed angrily, and she pulled her chair up to Faith's bedside before whispering, "Don't you dare try to get off that easily, Faith." The redhead locked eyes with Faith for several seconds, visibly calming herself, then continued, "When you wound up in here, Buffy asked for volunteers to keep an eye on you. . .and I didn't say anything. As far as I was concerned. . .the Council could have you." Faith had no doubt that Willow meant every word as she continued, "But Xander came to see me today, and he told me what you had said to him. . .and that he believed you."

Faith blinked hard at that, and was about to say something when Willow held up her hand to indicate that she should be silent. The Slayer fell mute, and Willow continued, "At first, I didn't care. . .when you hurt my friends, you hurt me. . .even if they inexplicably decide to forgive you." She paused for a moment, then continued, "But then I started thinking about what I was feeling towards you. . .I was more angry at you than I had ever been at anyone. . .I wasn't even this mad at Spike when he kidnapped me and nearly killed Xander last year. . .and you know what? I can't justify it to myself. Until this whole thing came down, you've been one of us. . .I know it may not have seemed that way to you, but you were. You've been very important to the whole world not ending thing this year, and-in spite of everything-I feel a certain amount of gratitude towards you about that." Willow sighed, then concluded, "Faith. . .we've never really figured each other out. . .we're too different. But I really need to understand things, and if I'm going to work through how I feel about you. . .I need to understand. . .why, Faith? Why did you freak out like that? Why did you turn on the three people who cared about you more than anyone in the world? I need to know."

Faith closed her eyes for a moment, carefully considering her next words. She opened her eyes and met Willow's inquisitive stare as she began, "I guess it really started when we all found out that B was hiding Angel from us. Everyone was mad. . .and I was furious at her. . .it didn't help that Gwendolyn the Bitch had been pushing my buttons, and when Xander told me I just lost it. I was so pissed that I didn't listen to Xander try to tell me something was wrong. Anyway, you know what happened. . .I almost wasted Angel, gave Xander a nice body slam when he tried to stop me and B from beating the crap out of each other. . .and you almost died. Nice night, huh?"

Willow blinked, then replied, "God, Faith. . .you didn't think that we were mad at you over that, did you? We were all a mess that night. . .Xander particularly. . .just bad luck, bad judgment, and an evil Watcher. . .kind of routine for here, actually." In spite of herself, she smiled, then sobered when she saw the expression on Faith's face. She frowned and coaxed, "Sorry, Faith. . .go on."

Faith blinked, then continued, "After that, I took off for a while. . .I needed to think some things out. When I came back, I wanted to try to make things right with B and the rest of you. . .so I helped where I could. That thing with the Council screwing over B kind of made us get tighter as a group. . .as bad as the whole scene was for her, I liked how we were working as a team. . .us against them, you know? Then that thing with those Apocalypse bitches happened, and we all clicked. . .we saved the world, the bunch of us. . .that was such a rush. . .even Xander was in on it, no matter how hard we tried to keep him out of trouble."
Willow smiled again as Faith continued, "Then they sent Wesley the Weasel here. . .and it all went bad. I got so pissed off. . .they had almost killed B, and she was ready to fall right back in step with what they wanted." She shook her head angrily, and went silent.

"So you decided to tempt her away from the straight and narrow." Willow's voice was neither approving nor condemning; rather, it was matter of fact, trying to get Faith to continue.

"Yeah." Faith's tone was an odd mix of bitterness and wistfulness as she continued, "It was cool for awhile, you know? B doing things my way. . .we kicked some serious butt for a few days." She smiled softly, then frowned as she remembered what had followed and continued, "The cops catching us raiding that sporting goods store for weapons should have clued me in that something was wrong. . .when things go sour in this town. . .for any of us. . .they tend to do it in a big way. But we got away. . .and then there was the other night in the alley." Faith blinked and looked at Willow bleakly as she elaborated, "I never told B this. . .I went back to the body after we took off, and I just crouched there and stared at him for a long time. . .I kept thinking, 'OK, joke's over. . .c'mon, get up'. . .but he didn't, and what I did next just kind of felt like sleepwalking, you know? By the time B came to see me the next morning, I was numb. . .she found me trying to scrub out the bloodstains from my shirt. . .they had been gone for hours, but I couldn't stop."

"Faith, I get that part. . .but why didn't you just let Buffy tell Giles? He would have stood up for you. . .just like he did when we all thought Buffy had killed Ted." Willow's voice was audibly frustrated: she couldn't believe how everything had spun out of control so quickly.

"Sure, I trusted Giles. . .but he wasn't in charge any more. Look at what happened the next morning. . .Wesley gave me and B our marching orders and totally blew off Giles. . .and look what happened when Wesley found out what went down." Faith's voice was flat, as if she were describing the weather, but Willow could sense the underlying frustration as she continued, "I think that's why I was so harsh with B. . .I just wanted it to all go away before that weasel caught wind of it, and I would have said anything to anyone to make it happen."

"So you told Giles Buffy did it." The edge was back in Willow's voice as she reminded Faith of what happened next.

"I knew he wouldn't be as hard on her. . .particularly after what went down a few weeks ago. I thought that she was going to tell anyway. . .and I thought I didn't have anything to lose." Faith's eyes turned bleak again, and she whispered, "I was wrong."

"And Xander?" Willow whispered the question, as if she was hesitant to speak louder for fear that anger would overcome her.

Faith sat up in bed and looked at Willow silently for a moment before replying, "Wrong place, wrong time, Willow. He as much as told me that Giles had lied to me. . .only fair, I suppose, but it still hurt. . .then he tried to push me into coming clean. . .I just lost it. Then he brought up-" She looked at Willow, who visibly flushed. Sighing, Faith locked eyes with her and said, "Look, Willow. . .like I said to Xander, I won't apologize for what happened between me and Xander earlier. . .it's how I am, and if he misread it, it wasn't because I said anything to make him do it. But he's tried to be my friend apart from all of that, and I just misread what he meant. I'll tell you what I told him. . .I wasn't trying to kill him, just scare the hell out of him." She blinked and looked away, concluding, "Still. . .maybe it was just as well that Angel came in when he did. . .my judgment has kind of sucked lately."

Willow smiled softly and replied, "Yeah, it has." The redhead sighed and stood up, commenting, "Faith. . .I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that I'm still pretty mad. . .but you've given me some stuff to think about." She walked over to the door, concluding, "I'll be outside the door with Oz. . .give a yell if someone tries to kidnap you again."

Faith watched Willow depart and retrieved Buffy's diary from the nightstand, flipping a few pages to an entry she had found earlier:

February 6, 1998

As awful as things have been lately, we were bound to catch a break sooner or later, even if it was only one of us getting a break in our love lives. Unfortunately, this being the Hellmouth, it had to come with complications. Oz, the guy who Willow has had her eye on, and vice versa, turns out to be the werewolf that we've all been looking for the last couple of nights. . .and who I thought had killed Theresa Adams. . .that little homicide turned out to be Angelus saying "hello" in the form of a vampire-o-gram. Anyway, Xander staked Theresa (and was there for a much needed hug afterwards), and we managed to tranquilize wolfy Oz and send the hunter who was after his hide-literally-packing (I bent his rifle barrel like a pretzel. . .got the arrogant bastard's attention). So Oz gets to be cooped up in the book cage for three nights a month, and the only question was how Willow was going to deal. Xander was feeling rather overprotective (and after Angel, I can't blame him much. . .but he's dating Cordelia, so who is he to talk?), but I gave him a dirty look and made it clear that Willow should be allowed to make up her own mind. They're going to try to make it work. . .and good for them. At least she knows when her boyfriend is going to lose control. . .I should have been so lucky.

Faith sighed, then turned ahead a number of pages before beginning to read again:

November 28, 1998

Well, this has to be a first. . .Spike comes to town and kidnaps Willow and Xander, and it isn't even the most sucky thing to happen this week. . .of course, the kidnapping did help bring stuff to light, and nearly resulted in us attending one of Sunnydale's favorite outdoor events. . .a funeral.

At least I know now why Willow's been so edgy the last few weeks. . .she's just been off. She was going to tell me about the whole thing with Xander while we were waiting for Lagos to show up, but I think the whole decapitation thing made her lose her nerve. . .I wish she could have told me. . .damn it, maybe the cold voice of reason from someone who has had relationships seriously blow up in her face might have made them break it off before anyone got hurt. . .before Oz ended up brooding in his room and Cordy ended up in a hospital bed, having to come up with excuses for how she got impaled.

It has to be the Hellmouth. . .Willow had been with Oz for almost a year, and even Xander and Cordelia seemed to be going smoothly. . .and Xander had to pick NOW to wake up and smell the Willow? No wonder Willow tried witchcraft to deal with the problem. . .she's wanted Xander for so long, it must have seemed like some evil trick that he suddenly noticed how damned beautiful she is.

To top it all off, Spike got away again. . .I swear, if I ever see that jerk again he is SO dusted. Not only does he screw up things between Oz/Willow and Xander/Cordy, he made some rather pointed observations about me and Angel. . .and he was right, damn it. I can't see Angel any more. . .it's just too much. Oh well, I'll have my hands full dealing with my two broken-hearted best friends. . .with Faith away, I could use a little help on patrol anyway.

Faith closed the diary and pondered what she had just read. Willow must have felt like she would never be forgiven for what had happened between Xander and her, but the musician had ultimately decided that what he felt for Willow meant more than the hurt he had suffered. She realized that Buffy was trying to make a similar gesture for her, and the others were trying to help. . .but she was still unsure: could the damage truly be undone? She put the diary away and closed her eyes, once again trying to find clarity in slumber.

. . .to be continued

As always, comments are welcomed and desired