Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own anything.
Summary: After leaving her sister in a mental institution years ago, Sam Carter had thought she had gotten over Elizabeth Summers untimely death three years ago. But, when Carter's alternate self from another reality comes through the Quantum Mirror she hears that Dr. Samantha Carter's ( "I prefer Samantha, thanks") sister, though having died at a young age, had a wonderful life, a loving husband, and a supportive sister. The incident leaves Carter wondering, had she not abandoned her own sister, would the young woman still be alive? Or, at the very least, would she have died knowing that her sister had loved her? But, is her sister really as dead as she believes? Nah. After all, what would have happened if no one had informed Sam that her sister had been brought back to life a year after her death? And now with the Goa'uld inching closer and closer, secrets and misconceptions are ready to be brought into the light, whether any one wants them to be or not.
It was like Robin all over again.
Faith had never handled loss very well; she kept her eyes on the slight form laying in the bed before her trying to will her energy into it.
She forgot at times how small the other woman was, how young she was; it was hard seeing her like this. Quiet. Unmoving. As though the other Slayer were dead and not just sleeping.
Seeing her like this made everything else seem less important. Or more important. Something. Everything was kind of fuddled. She was tired, fighting to keep her eyes open.
There was a time when she would have been able to operate off of two or three hours sleep. Like, oh, last week. She was tired and worried. All she wanted to do was crawl into a bed and forget everything for a little while.
Except she couldn't. There was an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, making it harder to step away. Some of it, Faith knew, had to do with Robin.
He had been wounded and dying, lying in a hospital bed, still like Buffy was now, only his breathing had been monitored, a soft beep of his heart beat from a machine letting them know he'd still been hanging on.
Buffy and Dawn had sat beside her when the doctors had told her there was nothing more they could do. They held her hands when he had been taken off of life support and they had held her while she cried when he had breathed his last breath.
Faith's eyes strayed to the other still form on the bed. Dawn slept curled around her sister. Her face troubled even while she slept. Poor kid. Seemed like they couldn't catch a break some days. The hours were slipping by too fast for Faith. Already four hours had passed since Buffy had returned to the house and passed out. Their time was trickling out and there was nothing they could do.
Faith had already argued with Giles over whether to wake her or not and, in the end, neither one had been able to agree. She'd been left sleeping. Dreaming hopefully better dreams than what reality held for them all.
Faith just prayed that Dawn wouldn't be waking to a world where her sister wasn't a part of it anymore.
Beside her, she heard Giles come to stand next to her. Faith felt her hands ball into fists, the nails cutting into her palms, causing enough pain that it clouded the ache in her side that had been plaguing her ever since she'd woken up just a few short hours ago.
She wanted to argue. She wanted to scream. To rage and destroy. She wanted Giles to feel just as helpless as she did.
Except that he was. In the past few hours, it was almost as though Giles had aged a decade. He was just as lost as she was.
The realization didn't make things any easier. It just made her hate him a little less. She had never been good at dealing with issues, especially her own. She'd always been more of a survival kinda girl and survival sometimes dictated the flight option when confronted with the need to either fight or flight.
Survival at all costs. Even if it including tripping the poor bastard running in front of her. Lessons all that she'd learned living on the streets. Diana, her Watcher, hadn't been able to break those habits. Perhaps she could have if they had gotten more time.
Sunnydale instead had broken most of her bad habits. Sunnydale and an annoyingly perky blonde and her even more annoying younger sister. For two upper-middle class kids, the Summers' girls were surprisingly angst-y.
Life. Mortal enemies. Coma. Body swapping (with a little boyfriend screwing mixed in). Death(and Faith had been in jail but she was still a little pissed that no one had broken her out for that particular romp and had resorted to using a robot of all things). Resurrection. First evil. Fricking-Cleveland.
"I thought everything was starting to settle down. Hundred odd girls, most here, all ready and rocking to slay. Kicking demon ass and all." She couldn't keep the accusing note out of her tone. Giles had told them that. No less than seven hours ago when he'd sent Kennedy out instead of Faith.
Kinda hard not to sound pissed even when she felt bad for the guy. Pissed was pissed and Faith always did best when she was mad.
Giles, if possible, seemed to fold into himself a little more. "The demon activity has been slowing greatly. Many of the more dangerous ones have been going into hiding or they have been weakened by the First's death. There are, however, still some, which are powerful. I hadn't-" the words choke off and Faith didn't look at Giles because seeing him lose it is not on her night's agenda. "I hadn't expected this to be anything more than a simple slaying."
"Yeah, well, you were wrong."
The silence had the flavor of agreement, not that it made Faith feel any better, until she finally broke it because seriously, listening to Buffy's struggling breaths were hard enough. She did not need to hear it in echo because of the room's freaky acoustics.
"What's the deal, G?"
There had to be a deal. Some stick had been stuck up the watcher's ass since army boy had come by and sniffed around Buffy.
"I don't know."
"Don't know or won't share?"
"There have been reports." Giles said slowly.
Faith did her best not to interrupt or snort. There were always reports. Like every ten minutes. Ever since Giles had found out that there were still a few Dimwits (Xander's nickname for the surviving members of the original council. Dastardly Ignorant Monoculed Watchers in Training, which none of them wore monocles of course, but since Xan hadn't been able to come up with something better, it had stuck). Twenty in all, four teams of five, each one with their own lead Slayer and a group of the more promising Slayerettes, and all reporting to Giles every five minutes because God if they had to actually make a decision on their own. Hell. Lorne was with one team at the moment trying to keep a twenty year old Dimwit and the 18 year-old lead Slayer from killing each other. Had to love repressed sexual tension.
"Some of the Potentials were never found. They simply dropped off the end of the world as it were. And the only reason we know their disappearance was not due to the First is because they were seen by family or friends anywhere from six months to five days ago before they vanished."
"You think the guy has something to do with it?" The thought didn't fit. Not with how Buffy had greeted the guy. One the other hand, it wouldn't be the first time that one of the good guys had gone bad.
"I think something is out there. Something we haven't heard about. Willow called shortly after this Major Finn had left. They had been able to finish the warlock with no problems two days ago. Originally, they were to go and meet one of the activated Potentials, see if the girl required training and where she would best fit. The girl disappeared five days ago. This is the seventh disappearance I have heard of." Giles rubbed at his eyes tiredly. "I don't know if the man, Davis, has any connection. But the disappearances and his sudden arrival to 'check out' the grounds and students was an odd coincidence."
"And you didn't like him?" Faith prompted.
"And I didn't like him." Giles agreed.
"It annoys you when things pop up from her past that you don't know about huh?" She fished, watching Giles now intently.
Silence fell back over them. Less intense than before. A little. Enough that Faith's fists uncurled.
"It never gets any easier. Watching her walk through the door. Watching her leave and wondering if something will get lucky, manage to get that one attack that ends it all. Watchers were never supposed to care for their charges. It, after all, would be pointless to care about this thing that was apart from humanity; a child that was just as much demon as the things she fought. None of the manuals, of the other Watchers, not even my own father told me that watching a charge walk towards danger would be more like watching my own child doing so."
"They never told me that I would care. They never gave me instructions on what to do when the charge argues back and tries to drive you slowly insane while at the same time making you ridiculously proud. They never said that she'd aggravate me or that she'd completely ignore everything I ever told her to only surprise me every so often and show me that she'd actually paid at least some attention"
Giles moved forwards, brushing away a lock of blonde hair from the sleeping Slayer's face before he stepped back. "I was never told that one day she'd outgrow me. They never told me that one day I'd have to let her go. Not to die. She's already proven surprisingly resilient to death. No. Would you like to know why I sent Kennedy in your stead?" He didn't pause long enough to Faith to give a response and Faith figured that Giles hadn't really been expecting one.
"I've seen how close the two of you have become, how well you work together. The other Slayers work in groups, even Kennedy though she denies it works best in a group for all her arguments to the otherwise. The two of you don't quite fit. It's like you have both outgrown this life. Your calling. Seeing Buffy today, how happy she was seeing an old friend, it made me realize that I would eventually have to watch Buffy leave. She's not made for this life anymore."
"Supernatural activities have slowed enough that the two of you would grow bored. Grow complacent. I doubt she even would have been injured on this last patrol if not for Kennedy. She Slayed that demon. Brought that foolish girl back here to be treated, before passing out. She put that bloody dagger in my hands so that I would know what kind of demon they had faced, because while demon blood varies in color from species to species, only one kind bleeds that shade of purple and acts like a sleeping draught. She did well and I can only hope that she wakes so I can tell her that myself."
Eventually, Giles sighed, a sound full of mourning, and he sat at the foot of the double bed. Faith moved towards the other end, settling herself against the headboard, far enough away that she could move if the woman beside her moved, close enough that she could restrain the other Slayer if it came to that, near enough that she could track the barely perceptible rise and fall of the blonde's chest.
They sat there, silence surrounding them, silent witnesses to a battle they could not see.
She hoped that Buffy would wake up too, they fell back into silence. Absently, Faith rubbed at her aching side, distantly wondering what she had done to injure herself there.
"You look like crap. kiddo," Hank said as he sat down.
Buffy snorted because honestly, she knew she did. Her hair hadn't seen a brush in a week, never mind a straightener, no makeup, lack of sleep, and while white was a cute color in moderation, the all-white jump suit the place had her wearing wasn't doing anything more than making her look more than a little washed out.
Of course, the soul crushing knowledge that the one person, two if she counted Sam, people she had counted on to have faith in her, to believe her had agreed to put her in this place. Yeah. That probably wasn't helping any either. She was tired inside and out.
Hank's eyes skittered across the room to where Joyce was standing across the room. Even from a distance, Buffy could see how angry her aunt was as she spoke with Jacob and the doctor.
"So, here's the thing. Joyce and me, we talked it over and what ever happened at the school happened at the school. What ever happened after it...happened. There aren't any charges that were brought against you and the kids were obviously on something. We're just happy your ok, we know you thought you saw things, but after what happened, we think anyone would have had a hard time coping." Buffy studiously did not meet his eyes. She wasn't prepared for another member of her family to call her crazy, even if the family connection was by marriage. "But, we don't think you should be here after everything."
Hank smiled. Buffy wanted to cry. Standing he moved around the table and crouched down beside her. "So, the thing is, we want you to come and be with us. For as long as you want. Jake has agreed, if you're willing." Buffy flew across the small space between them, her arms latching around his neck, and buried into his neck. Hank gave a startled laugh and returned the hug just as tightly. Buffy didn't even care she was so exhausted she felt like she was about to collapse or the painful twinge in her side the movement had caused. She tensed when she heard the guards approach them. Gently disengaging her arms from around his neck, Hank tucked her body close to his, shielding her with his larger frame. Buffy felt pathetically grateful.
"Sir, you need to step away from her-"
"No, I don't believe I need too-"
"It's ok, Morris, Miss Carter is leaving us." Dr. Lee said, drawing close to them. Joyce and Jacob trailing alongside of him. "Against my advisement."
"Well, you can take your advisement and-"
"Joyce," Hank interrupted and Joyce's mouth snapped closed. Buffy looked at her aunt and watched as she visibly stamped down on her anger.
Clearing her throat, Joyce moved in on the other side of Buffy and smiled down at her. "How about you two go and get your things? I have to finish up the paperwork and then you can come home." Buffy nodded and allowed Hank to guide her away. She spared a glance at her father as they turned away, took in the grim twist to his lips and defensive posture. It hurt to look at him and see that he didn't want her to leave the institution either. It hurt almost as much as when he had put her in there.
"Come on, kiddo, let's blow this Popsicle stand. I'm dying for some Chinese and I think this place is literally killing my soul. I mean, look at the decor, how can they expect people to get better when that god-awful paint job..." Buffy let Hank's words wash over her, just listened to the sound of his voice and tried to make it drown out the argument she could still hear going on behind them.
"Joyce, she shouldn't be leaving, she still believes in those things."
"Can it, Jacob, Anne would be having a fit right now if she knew about you putting her baby girl in a place like this. She went through something traumatic and she needs people who are going to care for her, not people who are just going to foist her off like some inconvenient problem."
"That's not fair-"
"And, you don't have a say in it. You've already signed the paperwork. Now, Dr. Lee, if we can please get this finished. I agree with my husband. The paint job here is truly horrendous and it's killing my soul. I would like to take my family out of here as soon as possible."
"Of course, Mrs. Summers. Let's go back to my office..."
Everything was like a dream. It all passed in a hazy blur. Being given back her own clothes, the trip to the car, Joyce's arm wrapped around her as she sat with her in the back seat. Buffy felt her eyelids grow heavier and heavier, the ache in her side making her uncomfortable enough that she wasn't quite able to fall asleep. The miles seemed to slip seamlessly into one another, the sound of the car and quiet words of her aunt and uncle just enough to lull her into a light sleep. She just needed to rest her eyes for a little...