Title: Waking up

Author: lilyme

Rating: PG-15

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss Whedon & Co. I'm just playing with them.

Feedback: Yes, please.

Note #1: I've read tons of fics that dealt with Will and Faith's drive home from LA to Sunnydale with a quality I can't possibly reach. So I guess I'll better explore new territory.

Note #2: This is what might have happened during Faith's third coma.

Buffy and Xander are talking in the kitchen, Kennedy and Dawn are looking after the wounded girls and Anya and Andrew are „robbing" the abandoned hospital. I decide to look after Faith who is still lying lifeless on Buffy's bed.

My laptop battery is low, there's maybe twenty minutes on it left. Giles is back to his good old musty books right now, trying to find out more about this mysterious scythe. He said I should go and look after Faith, take care of her. I'm glad that he asked me to.I'm really worried about her. The second coma within a month, the third one all in all. Giles is the only person here I told about what happened in L.A., I didn't even tell Buffy about it. Not that we talked that much in the last few months, anyway.

Giles shares my concern. Since the hospital is officially closed down we don't even have the possibility to get a medical examination for her. Not that she would willingly agree to it, she'd probably snap out of her coma within two seconds. Makes you wanna mention the word "hospital" around her, just to get her to wake up...

I push this thought out of my brain as I go into the bathroom, fill a bowlwith warm water and pour some soap into it. I grab a washcloth and walk into Buffy's room.

There she lies, the lower half of her body covered with a blanket, her chest rising and falling evenly. The expression on her face is neutral, it doesn't seem as if she is dreaming or thinking about something particular. I'm not sure if that is a good or a bad sign.

Her clothes are dirty, dried oil and grime.

I sit down on the edge of the bed, on her right, put the bowlon the night stand and soak the washclothin the water. "Hey, Faith. It's me," I say softly, looking for a sign that she might have heard me. It doesn't come. Of course, that would be too easy.

I start to clean her face and, careful not to put too much pressure behind my movements. Cos although there are no visible injuries, apart from the shallow cut on her left cheek, I still might hurt her. I can see a bruiseforming on her forehead, right above her right eyebrow. This must be where she hit her head when she jumped into the water.

It takes me about three minutes to clean her up, not completely, she'll wanna shower when she wakes up, but I'll do for now.

„Hey, look, there's a face beneath all that dirt!" I smile and touch her face one last time, checking if the cut needs any treatment. But it is starting to heal up already. I look one last time for any sign that she's waking up soon, but she looks the same as when I came in. Emotionlessface, no movement behind the eyelids, the movingpulse point and the steady rise and fall of her chest are the only visible sign of life It's probably gonna take some hours before she wakes up again, I hope it's only gonna take some hours.

I look at the clock9:18 pm, almost night time. I decide to leave her be for now. She's hopefully gonna be okay in the morning. And I should probably help Giles with research.

"Night, Faith, I'll let you rest now."

I take the bowl and get up to leave. But something is holding me back. I look down at myself and see the fingers of Faith's hand gripping my shirt, not very strong, I could break her hold easily...if I wanted to. But now a little frown has formed on her face and she whimpers softly, something that sounds like a "no". She's willing me to stay here with her.

I sit down again immediately. She's responsive and I'm glad. I hesitate for a few seconds before I take her hand into both of mine, just show her that I'm still here. Immediately her face relaxes.

„Now, I'm not gonna sing for you, you know, like Lorne did," I say and squeeze her hand lightly, "wouldn't be fun for either of us." I'm not sure, but I think I see a little smile play around her lips.

I realize that this is not the first time that I sit on a bed in this position. Just days ago I sat like this on Xander's hospital bed. Holding his hand like I'm holding hers now. Her hands are so small compared to his, even a little smaller than mine. Yet there is so much power in them, almost impossible to comprehend for people with average physical strength.

I think about what I could say to her, with talking being the best way to get comatose people to wake up and all. I remember when I lay in hospital five years ago. I woke up again because, somewhere far, far away, I heard someone talking to me. When I heard them say "I love you," I figured it was Oz. Later I found out that it was Xander instead.

I wonder how much sooner Faith would have woken up from her first coma if she had had someone talking to her regularly. She might have woken up months earlier!...And less pissed-off. I'm not stupid. I know that at least some part of her post-coma-agression came from waking up alone and realizing that nobody gave a darn thing about whether you live or die. That life has gone on as if you never even existed in the first place.

Looking back at it, I know that we all have made mistakes in the past. Said and did things we can never take back. Things that we still have to learn to live with. Like we have to learn to get along with each other again.

"I'm sorry we didn't really have time to talk since LA, you know, the ride back home..." I stop and think about the last word, "Home...?"

"That's great, Rosenberg," I mutter out loud. I don't think Faith thinks of Sunnydale as that. A place where the mayor used her for his evil plans, where she's been stabbed half to death by Buffy, where our Scoobie club has been so secretive that she couldn't really find a way in, where she lay in a coma for eight months...

"I don't know, Faith, do you think of this place as home? Do you consider any place home? Sunnydale might be the closest thing to a 'home' you ever had...There is so much I don't know about you..." And it's true, I know almost nothing about her, starting with her last name. She's Faith from Boston, slayer since 1998, age... Heck, maybe 'Faith' isn't even her real name.

"You know there are some questions I'm gonna ask you when you're okay again and this apocalypse is over," she has turned her head towards me, as if she's really listening to what I say. "I hope we have some more time between this one and the next. Who would have thought that the word 'apocalypse' has a plural form? You don't even find it in the dictionary. Believe me, I looked it up!" Again I see that faint smile. "Yeah, I know, research girl," I grin and feel her squeezing my hand. That's it. I'm almost through to her! I just need to keep talking.

But I don't have the chance to. Something is getting in the way. Something always does. This time it's him, or should I call it "it" since it's not him? If you're confused now, don't worry, you'll understand it in a sec.

On the bed, on the other side of Faith's body he sits, in his suit that makes him look like a second-hand car dealer, just your average guy – not like someone who's greatest wish it was to turn into a giant snake.

He leads his incorporeal hand up to Faith face, as if he wanted to touch her. "Aww, now look what you did to my poor girl Faith," he says and clicks his tongue, before he gets up with a maniacal grin on his face. "Oh, no, wait. I did that to her!" he cackles like a hyena. He walks slowly around the foot of the bed. "Well, she has never been the brightest girl on earth, running straight into my trap."

He's now standing right in front of us, hands in his pant pockets"You know, she was destined to die in there. Oh, well, I guess I have to cook up something more effective for her."

I try to ignore him. It's not the first time the First appears to me, but it's still unnerving to no end. I don't know if Faith ever had the pleasure to meet...it. Her face remains neutral, I have no idea if she can hear him also. I look down at our clasped hands, she's still squeezing mine, not very strong though.

He sees our interaction and of course takes the opportunity to comment on it. "I remember the last time you were holding her hand. That one time," he paces around the room slowly, "in the school cafeteria. Only then you were trying to keep that hand away that was holding the knife to your throat." He sighs dramatically, "Good old times."

"I should have given her the order to kill you back then. She would have done, no doubt. She would have done everything that I told her to."

"But the last year wouldn't have been half as much fun!" He chuckles, standing next to me again. "And did I thank you for this mess you created when you brought Buffy Summers back? Terrific! I would not be able to work this effectively if you hadn't." He makes a move, as if giving me a pat on the shoulder.

"So, how could I repay you? Let me think. You know, you could always join my side, I could make you my new right hand. Caleb's time is up, I'm tired of him. But you, you have so much potential in you. Think about it, you could finish what you started last year."

I grip Faith's hand tighter. I wish she would wake up. I mean, not that she could do anything him, but at least I wouldn't feel so alone.

"That's right, keep clutching her hand. Borrow strength from a person who doesn't even know you're there," he spits sarcastically. "And even if she knew, would she care?"

Her head is turned away from me, but I guess it has more to do with him than with me.

"The last time you wanted to kill each other," the First morphs into Tara, "and now you pretend to be friends."

And now it's over for me This is Tara. My Tara standing only three feet away. Only it's not her, it's the First.

"'Friends'". She cowers down next to me and I try not to meet her...its eyes. "That's interesting, huh? You don't have many of those left, so now you look for new ones in old your enemies. And Faith, she never had any. She was always alone. And this is the reason she hated you. Not just you, personally, not just your friends. The whole world. Because everyone seemed to have something that she hadn't. She couldn't stand it here. And she knows that there are only two ways to get rid of it all. As do you."

She holds up two fingers, straight into my face. She bears no resemblance to my Tara, I know that it's not her, and still I can't seem to ignore what she's saying to us.

"One," she holds up her thumb, "destroy all the people in this world, and eventually the world itself. Well, that's more something you would do, isn't it?" She flashed a devilish, un-Tara-like grin. "She doesn't have that kind of power. But you do. Just think about it, it would be so easy for you. End it all. No more pain, no more apocalypses. And the best thing – you could be with me again! That's what you want, right?"

"Or, two, let's call it Plan B," her index finger accompanies her thumb and I know what she's going to say next, "you could destroy yourself. You could even take her with you, if you want to. There," she points over a pillow lying on the foot of the bed. "the quickest option. And she's defenceless. No fuss, no muss. You'd be done before anyone would notice." She...it looks at me, almost with a look that Tara would wear...gentle?

"Isn't that what friends are for? To help each other? To help each other end their pain?" The First makes a move to lay its hand on ours. "And then we just need to find something for you...but I guess you're experienced with this sort of thing. You'll come up with something, right? Did you know that she joined a self-help groupin prison? For attempted suiciders. She could probably teach you some things," she laughs.

"Get out," I whisper, barely audible.

"What was that, honey?" She leans closer to me, taunting me.

"I said, get out, leave us alone. You're not getting through to us," I grip Faith's hand hard and she whimpers. I would be happy about that reaction if we weren't in this situation.

"My God, and here I thought you had lost your ability to speak. And you're an "us" now, huh?" She looks between both of us and smiles. "You know, I think, I finally figured out why you're with Kennedy now. It's because you couldn't have her." she gets up and looks at Faith more closely. "So you chose someone who is almost like her, didn't you?" She looks at me again. "I noticed how you kept looking at Buffy when she was in her body. At first I thought you were interested Buffy, but the looks stopped when they switched back..." I look down, maybe there was a little bitof truth in these words.

"No need to lie to me. I'm dead. I can now see everything. I can see everything that you did. Everything that you could do in the future. I never thought that you were capable of things like that." She gets up and folds her arms.

"But of course I could be totally wrong about you two and there's only one thing that brings you two together. You know what that is? You're both murderers." It says, morphing into Buffy.

It's standing there, adopting the self-righteous pose Buffy developed over the years. Arms folded, hip sticking out, contemptuouslook on her face.

"At least Faith went to prison and paidfor her deeds." She turns to me, "What about you, "Red"?!" she scoffs. "Do you think that the three months in "bangers-and-mash"-country are punishment enough? I think you might have enjoyed a little time behind bars. You meet the loveliest people there." She nods into Faith direction, "Just ask her. She could tell you fun stories."

I wonder about everything that happened in those...how long was it?...two-and-a-half years of prison. I tried to ask her, but the only thing she told me was that something attacked her with a knife not long ago. And we didn't have time to talk ever since. Who knows what else has happened to her?

"Hell, they might even have stuffed you in a cell with her. Wouldn't you have liked that, huh? Spend some quality time together?"

"You could have kept her company. Poor little Firecracker – she had it rough. Do you see how soft she has become?" Faith is laying there, a tear rolling down her cheek. "They say prison hardens you. But look how she came out. Clingy, whiney, a pathetic excuse for a slayer!" I ignore the First and wipe her tear away, let my hand linger on her cheek for a few seconds.

"You know that her original calling was a mistake, don't you?" she says to me. I've heard someone say this before, I don't know who it was, maybe I even read it in one of Giles' files...accidentally, of course...but it made me wonder ever since. If I knew more about her past I might understand.

"Hmm, well, maybe we can still solve this problem. I'll tell you right now," she leans in closer and whispers conspiratoriallyin my ear, "not every slayer is going to survive this battle."

She gets up and walks to the foot of the bed, now standing in the back of us.

"You're way in over your heads with this apocalypse. You and your little army are not nearly strong enough. I mean, just look at you two. You – afraid to use magic because you might turn into your old self again. And poor Faithie – with her nasty habit of getting knocked unconscious every now and then...You're both weak. Physically and emotionally, and you know it." The first looks at the clock, it's a little past ten now. "Oh, look at that, gotta run. Gotta plan some evil things," she...it winks. I always have to remind myself that it's not Buffy talking to us.

"Will, F, be seeing you." And just when I think that she...it has finally left us... "And don't worry. She's heard me. Every single word."

But now we're alone again. Both alone with ourselves. I'm still holding her hand tightly and her eyes have started to move.

"Well, at least that pleasant encounter had one positive effect. You're waking up, huh?" I touch her face again, not because she's crying – just because I want to.

I think I would have had a breakdown if I hadn't had her here with me. Somehow, she gave me strength. Just because she was here, even if it was in an unconscious state.

I now realize how I will get her to wake up finally. I remember what the First said: "You're both weak." But I can help that. Can help Faith, just like she helped me just now. Alone we might be weak, but together we can be strong.

I close my eyes and start to concentrate. I think back to the conversation I had with Buffy; it seems like it was a long time ago, but it was only a few months ago, back then when everything was still so weird. Back then when I didn't know if my "friends" would ever trust me again:

"It takes so much strength, I don't have that much."

"Well, I've got so much strength. I'm giving it away."

„You sure?"

„Will it help?"


And now I'm the one lending strength to a person who is looking for her place in this world again. I haven't found again, not yet. But maybe that's one thing we can help each other with.

I feel my hands getting warmer, feel the energy flowing right from my body into hers, just through our linked hands.

I don't know for how long we remain like this, it might be one minute, it might be ten, but it doesn't matter, anyway. Cos now I feel her fidgeting around and squeezing my hand harder.

I open my eyes and see two very dark brown, almost black ones, staring back at me. Her left arm has moved behind her head, she looks pretty casual for someone who was in a coma just moments ago.

"I thought you nodded on me over there," she smirks.

"Sorry about that," I laugh and move to release her hand. But she doesn't let go, keeping our contact. "How are you feeling?"

"A little sore, but otherwise, pretty okay. How long was I out?"

"About ten hours."

She raises her eyebrows and pulls a mock pout, "Shortest coma of my life..."

„You are not gonna try to break your own record, are you? Three comas is enough..."

"Magic number," we say in unison and smile.

"It's great to have you back. Now we can kick some evil...incorporeal ass." She's looking at me funny. "What? Surprised to hear something like that from me? There's a lot of things you don't know about me."

"I'm afraid so. But I wanna know. I mean, you wanna know about me, too. To get a little, you gotta give a little, remember?" She moves herself up a little more. I help and put that other pillow under her head.

"Thank you," she says softly.

"No problem."

"Not for that," she motions to the pillows, "I mean, for that also, but I actually meant for staying with me. It's nice to not wake up alone."

"Anytime," I give to give her a peck on the cheek.

"What was that for?" she asks me, a little surprised.

"That was my thank you. For you being here with me."

"You're welcome." And now she's is pulling me into a hug. Just a short one. I don't know if Faith ever hugged someone like this. But I know that I could definitely get used to that feeling of her in my arms. Don't let Kennedy hear that.

I hear a knock on the door and we pull away. "Come in," I say.

Buffy, the real corporeal one, enters, carrying the scythe. "Hey. I heard Faith talking and figured...Do you have a minute?" she asks into Faith's direction.

"Yeah, sure."

I get up to leave, taking the bowl with me.

"Will?" Faith calls to me and I turn around. "Can you give me some water? I'm kinda thirsty."

"Yeah, no problem, I'll be a couple of minutes."

"Thanks," she smiles, while Buffy moves to sit on the bed.

I close the door and head downstairs. I'm kinda tired, maybe I should go to bed. You never know what tomorrow brings. But I'm not afraid. There is always that one person I can count on. That's a fact.

--- end ---