Disclaimer: All things Buffy belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and lots of people in expensive suits. I'm not making any money here, just trying to create a happier Buffyverse for my favorite characters.
Spoilers, etc.: Adheres to Buffy canon up to "Who Are You?" Spoilers for S4 after (and including) "This Year's Girl" and the AtS episode "Sanctuary." Many thanks to my beta crew: Desirata41, Zigpal, and Zenither. Couldn't do it without you guys.
Archiving:Please ask first.
Feedback: I love it – even the flamey stuff.
Willow opened the door with her shoulder, balancing her backpack and a stack of books in her arms. Staggering under the weight, she managed to drop everything into a more or less neat pile on the desk just inside her dorm room. She turned back to the door, flicked on the overhead light, and closed the door with a sigh. Today she thought was so not a good day. Ignoring her body's need for sleep, Willow was already making a mental list of the information she needed to track down for Giles. She turned back toward the desk rubbing tired eyes – and gave a short shriek at the husky "Hey, Red" that greeted her.
Sitting motionless against the far wall was Faith. Her hands were raised in what Willow supposed should have been a show of her good intentions. Without really thinking, Willow turned and lunged for the door. Buffy, she thought, but she never got the door open. A body pinned her to the door. Two hands grabbed for her wrists and pulled them tight to her waist. "C'mon, Red. That's not very welcomin'." Faith's voice rasping in her ear sent Willow into a panic. Heart pounding, she started pulling at her trapped wrists, throwing her body against the Rogue Slayer behind her. Faith just laughed. Duh, Willow's mind commented, she is a Slayer. I need a spell. What was that spell Tara mentioned? The fireball thingy…I know. It was in Latin – no, Sumerian – no, Latin. If I can just – her internal babbling was interrupted. "Red, I'm gonna step back. Could ya' not shatter all the windows until I gotta chance to tell ya' why I'm here?"
When Willow nodded, she felt Faith's grip loosen and the warm body behind her move back a slow step. Willow had no intention of screaming. As soon as Faith let go completely, Willow turned, pointed her right hand at the Slayer, and began to chant in Latin. At the end of the invocation, she and Faith stared at each other, waiting. Nothing happened. Damn, damn, damn. Maybe it was Sumerian.
Faith smirked. "Glad to see ya' ain't got any better at those spells." As Willow watched, Faith moved slowly to Buffy's bed and sat down. Willow noted with some satisfaction that Faith's face still showed the signs of her showdown with Buffy at the church. Well, her showdown with herself with Buffy in residence. "Could ya' just sit down a minute and I'll give ya' the news and split." Faith watched Willow closely to see what she would do next. When Willow just stood, staring, Faith let some of her impatience out. "Look, Red, if I'd a wanted ya' dead, do you really think you still be standin' there looking stupid?" Come on, Red. Just let me say this and go, before B comes back. Just the thought of meeting Buffy again, so soon after the latest fight, left Faith feeling sick.
Unfortunately for Faith, Willow wasn't just standing there looking stupid. As Faith taunted her, Willow used the time to think of the spell she wanted and find her focus. With Tara's calming voice replaying in her mind: It's h-hard to explain, Willow. You just have to know that you can do it. And, watching Faith's smirk and absorbing her thoughts on Willow's life expectancy, Willow knew that this spell would work. Raising both arms, palms up and pointed at Faith, Willow chanted. A warmth surrounded her and she felt a rush of power, centering on her outstretch hands. As Faith started to look uneasy and move off the bed, Willow finished her casting and invisible bonds grabbed the slayer, throwing her back onto the bed, binding her body with enough strength that even Faith's Slayer-enhanced struggles couldn't break free. "Hey, it worked!" Watching Faith struggle to get free, Willow nearly began her own version of the Snoopy dance in her glee. A knock at the door, though, interrupted the frantic activities of both girls.
Two pairs of eyes stared at the door.
Damn, please don't let that be B, Faith thought.
Geez, how am I going to hide the body? Willow thought, glancing away from the door to the now motionless Slayer bound to Buffy's bed.
Now, Willow and Faith stared at each other.
Another knock sounded, followed by a quiet voice, "Willow? It's me. Are you there?" Tara, Willow thought. Oh, good. I don't have to worry about hiding Faith. Maybe she can help me figure out what to do with Faith until Buffy gets back. Ooh, and I can't wait to tell her about the spell working. Well, the second spell. I mean…
"Red, you gonna let your girl in or what? I mean, if you don't think she'll be jealous of us being alone together."
Faith's mocking tone startled Willow into motion, and she leaped over to the door. Wrenching it open, Willow blocked the view into the room by standing in the opening. Tara stood in the hallway, hand over her heart, shocked by the unexpectedly enthusiastic opening. "Tara, hey, how are you?" Willow was grinning widely and bouncing a little on her toes.
The grin was so endearing that Tara found herself responding with a smile of her own. "Fine. I w-was w-wondering if you wanted to go to the Espresso Pump?" Willow already looked as if she had had too many mochas, though. She was flushed and still bouncing in the doorway. A closer look showed the smile to be almost manic. "Um, W-Wil, is everything OK?" Tara reached out and lightly brushed her hand along the arm resting against the door jamb. "Can I come in?"
"Sure! Um, well, there is just one little thing…" Willow's voice trailed off as she moved scant inches back into the room to let Tara squeeze inside. "Someone was waiting for me when I came home and—" her voice trailed off as Tara stopped abruptly, staring in horror at the Slayer sprawled in apparent comfort on Buffy's bed.
The horror was quickly replaced with embarrassment when Faith made one of her trademark comments. "Come on in, Blondie. Didn't know Red had plans to give me a floor show, but I think watchin' the two of you would be wicked cool." Faith laughed with real humor at the red that stained the two witches. "Like I said, Blondie, it's a real shock that Red ain't drivin' stick no more. You been showin' her how to find the ignition switch on your automatic?"
"Wha-What's sh-she d-doing here?" Tara blushed even more, remembering Faith's previous reaction to her stutter. The only thing that kept her from rushing back out of the room was Willow's form pressed tightly against her back.
Willow, too, heard the increased stutter in Tara's speech. Her giddiness dissipated and in its place was an almost overwhelming exhaustion. "I don't know. She was here when I got back." Willow stepped around Tara to stand at Faith's side. Looking down at her captive, she continued. "Strangely, she hasn't done much. Well, other than her usual 'gotta talk about sex all the time' statements. Of course," a brief surge of the earlier euphoria returned, "she can't go anywhere right now. I have her bound."
"Yeah, about that, Red. Could ya' maybe let me loose? I mean, although bein' in B's bed's gotta be at the top of my fantasy list, I got places to be." Faith hoped the witches missed the slight shake in her voice. Damn, I need to get outta here. Trouble always happens when I try to do the right thing.
Willow missed the shaking in Faith's voice but not the innuendo. Rage moved her even closer to the bed and provided strength to the blow that sent the Slayer's head rebounding in the opposite direction. The sharp sound of the impact was followed by total silence. Willow could feel Tara staring at her. The anger that had motivated the blow drained away leaving her shaking and sick at her own actions. Willow turned away from the bound Slayer and her shocked friend, but Faith's voice followed her.
"Well, you did say you wanted to be alone with me so you could kick my ass. Of course, you needed to be bigger and stronger first. Feelin' stronger now, Red?" Faith's voice was flat, the mocking edge gone. "Tell ya' what. Let me give you the info I got, and then ya' can let me go or finish what ya' started. Don't make much difference anymore."
Willow slowly turned back around and walked over to Tara. Taking her hand, she pulled the unresisting girl to the other bed in the room and sat them down. She kept a firm grip on Tara's hand even after sitting, trying to borrow a little of Tara's usual calm. "What exactly did you need to tell us, Faith? I don't think I'm up for any more stories of your sexcapades."
"You're in luck then. Only been one romp since wakin' up. I think I'll leave the tellin' up to B." Faith took a deep breath before continuing. "Think you need to spend a little best friend time with B, Red. She ain't herself right now."
"No, really? And whose fault is that, Faith?" Willow could feel the anger again, simmering just below the surface of her control.
Tara wrapped her free arm around Willow, murmuring softly "Shh, baby. You need to listen to her. Whatever she's saying right now, she really believes it's important." She ducked her head, looking into Willow's eyes. "Please. Just listen." Feeling Willow relax slightly, Tara turned her gaze back to Faith. Faith's aura, just like that night in the Bronze, was full of sharp edges. This time, though, the black and red of despair and anger flickered and pulsed. Faith was on the edge of collapse; eight months in a coma and the events of the last few days sapping even her Slayer stamina. "Go ahead, Faith. We're l-listening."
Tara and Willow watched as Faith nodded slightly – the only movement allowed within the bonds of Willow's spell. "'Kay. When B I and were throwin' down in the church, I just started wailin' on her. She was pretty much down for the count." Faith paused when Willow gasped. Hearing nothing more from the witch, she went on. "Ya' gotta understand. I was in B's body. I shoulda' been winning. B's always been the better fighter." Faith's lips twisted and her voice sounded bitter. "But she wasn't really fightin' back. She was just lettin' me hit her."
Willow squirmed out of Tara's embrace and stood up. She didn't trust herself to get any closer to Faith but needed to have a better look at the Slayer when she asked, "What do you mean, she wasn't fighting back?"
Faith turned her head so she was looking right at Willow. "I mean, Red, I think she wanted me to win."
"Why? Is this just another of your twisted mind games, Faith? Make me doubt my best friend? Drive another wedge between us?" Willow's voice picked up volume as she ranted at the bound Slayer. "She fought hard enough to get away from the Council. She used the Katra sphere that Tara and I made to switch back into her own body. How do you explain that?"
"I can't, Red. All I know is that when I was yellin' at her and punchin' her, she barely struggled. Even after all the crap that's happened with us, B and me share a bond." Faith paused for a moment and Tara could see the hurt and regret in the shifting colors of her aura. Faith's voice, though, gave none of that away. "It used to be really strong. I could sometimes feel what B was feelin.' After that bitch Post showed up, things kinda' got in the way and the bond faded. But in the church, I could feel B again. It was weird. I could tell she was pissed and that part of her wanted to finish what we started on the roof before graduation. But there was somethin' else. It felt like, I dunno, like she was just too tired to care."
Willow shook her head in instinctive denial. "You're wrong. Buffy wouldn't just give up." Faith's words, though, were scaring her. Since the start of college and the appearance of Riley and Tara, she and Buffy had drifted apart. Would she even have noticed if there was something wrong?
Faith watched the emotions play across Willow's face with her thoughts. She tried shifting on the bed, but the bonds were still too strong. She couldn't stand not being able to move, and her body was letting her know that she really needed to move – soon. "Hey Red, while you're beatin' yourself up for bein' a bad Slayerette, could ya' let me up long enough to go to the bathroom? Gettin' real urgent, here."
"Tara, I don't…" Willow trailed off. She couldn't get over what Faith had said about Buffy, and didn't want to deal with the Slayer any more.
"It's OK, sweetie. Just release the bonds and I'll escort her there and back." Tara stood up and approached the prone Faith. "Just so you know, Faith, I'll have a spell ready in case you try to run. And," she looked into Faith's eyes, "I can tell what you are feeling. I'll know even before you try to run." Faith's eyes widened, and Tara saw the silvery-blue of fear join the mix of emotions surrounding Faith. Keeping an eye on the other girl, Tara chanted quietly, completing all but the final phrase of her own binding spell. She stepped back from the bed and nodded to Willow to release Faith.
At Willow's whispered command, Faith felt the invisible bonds disappear. Slowly, making sure to look as unthreatening as possible, she stood up. The time on the bed had allowed her damaged ribs to seize up and the other aches and pains to worsen. She was able to keep from gasping with the pain, but couldn't quite stand up straight. Tara's eyes met hers, and Faith could see the awareness of her pain in the witch's blue eyes. "Let's go, Blondie. Which way we headin'?"
Tara gestured for Faith to lead the way. "Left into the hallway. The bathroom's the last door on the right." As Faith slowly walked toward the door, Tara glanced back at Willow. The redhead's internal monologue was still going strong from the vacant look in her eyes. Shaking her head, Tara followed Faith out of the room. As they made their slow and careful way down the hall, Tara said, "When we get back into the room, I'll take a look at those ribs. From the way you're moving, you probably have more than a few broken."
Faith looked surprised by her comment and was starting to reply when Tara was nearly knocked over by the wave of fear, pain, and regret that exploded from the Slayer. "Fuck, B's comin'." Faith turned to look at Tara. "Blondie, I know you got no reason to trust me or help me out. But if B finds me here, I'm dead. You gotta let me get outta here."
Tara watched as Faith's attention turned toward the stairs at the end of the hallway. "Faith, you've given up just like you say Buffy has. From looking at your aura, you're just waiting for a chance to die."
"Yeah, I am, Blondie. But if B finds me here, she's gonna take me on. Even if I tried, I can't beat her. If she finishes the job she started on that roof, she'll be just like me – a killer. She's still gotta chance. With you and Red and the rest of the Scoobies, B'll be OK. It's too late for me." Faith could sense that Buffy was only seconds away from coming out of the stairwell. "Tara – "
"Go, Faith. I'll tell Willow you overpowered me." As the Slayer turned to run down the hall, Tara touched her arm. "Be careful, Faith. Remember it's never too late for those who truly want to find redemption." She wasn't sure Faith heard her. She was already moving, using all of her Slayer speed. She disappeared around the corner just as the stairwell door opened.