Disclaimer: As much as I'd love to, I own nothing.
Author notes: This takes place immediately after the episode "Revelations" on season 3, in place of the way that the episode ended. Actually, it takes off from where the episode ended. In fact, the whole first bit is just a rehashing of the episode ending so you recall exactly where it took off (with my own narration/added bits of their thoughts). I hated the way in the episode how Buffy barely tried to connect to Faith and make it okay, she gave up so easily when it was clear that Faith was still hurt and wanted things to be made better.
("You can't trust people. I should have learned that by now," the dark-haired Slayer mumbled as her eyes flicked away from her blonde counterpart. Bitterness rose in her chest, squeezing her heart so that she could more easily ignore the sharp stabs of disappointment nearly blocking her voice from emerging. She couldn't let it show, how hurt she was… how could she have been so stupid as to trust so many people, only to let them hurt and use her in return? Her mother, her father, Mrs. Post, Buffy, even her Watcher in a way… who would be next?
Faith didn't intend to find out; she didn't intend to let anyone close enough to possibly do so.
She shifted restlessly on the saggy motel mattress, pretending interest in her magazine, pretending that her shabby little room didn't embarrass her each time that Buffy saw it. She could see the apologies in Buffy's eyes, hear it in the soft tone she had never used with Faith before. But overriding her apologies, Faith could hear Buffy's pity… and that, she wanted no part of. Give her anger and contempt, physical or verbal abuse- that she could handle, even thrive on. But pity, sympathy… Faith couldn't deal with that. She didn't know HOW to deal with that.
"I realize this is gonna sound funny coming from someone who just spent a lot of time kicking your face, but you can trust me," Buffy was saying quietly, earnestly. Faith looked at her sharply.
How could she say that, how could she dare to say that after all the lies she had told her, after she had proclaimed to trust Faith, and then hid the most important parts of her away?
"Is that right?" she said sarcastically, not bothering to hide her anger and disbelief.
Buffy winced slightly, taking a step closer to the bed. Faith stiffened, preparing to pull away if the other girl made a move to touch her. She couldn't handle Buffy touching her right now.
"I know I've kept secrets. But I didn't have a choice. I'm on your side."
No one was on her side, Faith thought with a sudden flare of anger. Anger… and a sudden intense pain she could not crush down. Deliberately she hardened her eyes as she stared directly into Buffy's, making her voice hard and cold.
"I'm on my side. And that's enough.")
MY TAKE BEGINS
"No," Buffy said quietly, starting to shake her head. "No, Faith, that's not enough. That will never be enough for you- for anybody."
She took another few steps closer to the other Slayer, impulsively sitting on the edge of the bed and turning to face her. She saw how rigidly Faith was holding herself, her breath drawn in sharply… Buffy knew that the brunette didn't want her coming any closer, wouldn't stand for her to touch her. Respecting Faith's desire for space, yet also wanting to convey her sincerity, Buffy remained still, only attempting to catch her eyes.
"You need someone else, Faith, someone besides yourself. You can't always be alone. You need someone to help you sometimes- someone to support you. Everyone does."
"Oh, and by this 'someone' you mention, I guess you mean someone like you," Faith snorted. "Get real, B. Do you even hear yourself?"
"Yeah, I do mean someone like me," Buffy persisted, trying to ignore Faith's sarcasm and smirky grin. "Like all of us. Faith- I know we haven't done a great job showing it all the time, but we care about you. I care about you. I want us… I want us to be okay. I want us to be better than okay- to be friends. Good friends. And… I, I just want to try again. I want you to give us a chance. To give ME a chance."
Faith stared at the other girl, her eyes narrowing. She wanted to give her a chance… she wanted to believe her. She DID believe her, that Buffy was sorry, that she wanted to try again. But how could she risk it? How could she deliberately put herself out there again like that, just so she could be betrayed again? For whether or not she intended to, Faith was sure that Buffy would hurt her again. Every person in her life had done so, at some point or another… it was all she could expect from anyone.
"I did give you a chance," Faith replied, her voice taut. "When I first came here, I trusted you. I trusted you, and you lied to me."
Buffy exhaled, lowering her eyes. She didn't know what to say to that, for it was the truth. It didn't matter that Faith had lied to her as well at first- this was different. Faith had been scared… Buffy had been trying to save her own butt. It was bad enough that she had lied to everyone else, her oldest and closest friends… but to lie to Faith, who besides being her sister Slayer, already had such a hard time trusting anyone? To betray her trust… that was the worst thing Buffy could have done to her, a direct stab in the heart.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I should never have lied to you. I know that now, and I'm sorry for hurting you."
At that, Faith's eyes widened, almost as alarmed as they were instantly defensive, and she sat up straighter, dropping all pretenses of interest in anything other than Buffy.
"You didn't hurt me," she said, her voice rising, challenging. "I could kick your scrawny ass any day, B."
"I wasn't talking physically, Faith," Buffy said quietly, still meeting the other girl's eyes with her own.
Something flickered in their dark brown recesses, a shadowy hurt and realization that momentarily hollowed her expression. But then her usual defensive look returned, and Faith lifted her chin, all traces of uncertainty and vulnerability wiped away.
"Look, I don't need you, B. I don't need anyone. I've gotten along fine without anyone else before, and it was five by-"
"No you haven't," Buffy interrupted, and as Faith's mouth opened, eyes narrowing as she stared at her, Buffy continued, deftly overriding anything she might have been planning to say. "You didn't get along fine, Faith. I know you couldn't have. Oh, I have no doubt you survived. You're strong and tough, and you're a Slayer, so you'll survive a lot. But you weren't fine."
Still looking deeply into the other girl's hooded eyes, Buffy leaned towards her intensely.
"When you came to find me in Sunnydale, Faith, it was because you needed someone. You needed help, and you knew it."
"Well I should have known better," Faith snapped, tearing her eyes away; but Buffy spoke again, her voice insistent, fierce.
"No. No, Faith, WE shouldn't have. I should have. I should have trusted you… but I didn't."
Buffy scooted over impulsively, and Faith froze, wanting to jump up, and yet at the same time almost desperate to let herself be swayed, convinced. Buffy took Faith's shoulders in her hands, squeezing them with gentle yet insistent pressure as she looked hard into the other girl's eyes, too close for her to be able to look away. Faith tensed, her mind racing, heart beginning to pound, but Buffy held her still as she spoke to her urgently.
"Faith- Faith, please believe me when I tell you that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I lied to you. I'm sorry I hurt you- physically AND emotionally. I'm sorry I've ruined your trust and respect in me. I'm sorry I've ruined our friendship. But Faith… I don't know what else I can say. Don't you think I wish that I could take it back, that I could just do everything differently than how I did it?"
Buffy's voice had dropped to a near whisper by the end of her words, and she still gripped Faith's shoulders, blinking rapidly against the tears beginning to form. Slowly she took her hands away, sitting back a little as she sniffed, deliberately giving herself and Faith a little space. A silence began to stretch between them, broken only by Buffy's careful breaths and the sound of Faith's loud heartbeats to her own ears.
Faith tried to keep her face impassive, to show no signs of being moved by Buffy's words. But a sickening mass of emotions was swirling inside her, threatening to spread out into her lips and posture and eyes. Confusion, anger, hurt… and the beginning stir of something that, to her dismay, nearly felt like hope. No- she couldn't, she could NOT do this to herself again. She couldn't be so stupid, so weak…
"I know you want to trust me, Faith," Buffy was saying, once more breaking her train of thought from her too-near seated position. "You don't feel nearly as hard and uncaring as you want me to think. Faith… that's a good thing. You might think of it as a weakness, but it's not. If anything, it's a strength."
"Strength?" Faith cried, laughing with bitter incredulity to hide her dismay at the older girl's having nearly read her mind. "Yeah, you say that, B, but that's not what you did, is it? YOU didn't trust ME."
Buffy knew as soon as she heard the inflection of Faith's voice last word that this was the heart of the matter, what hurt the other girl the most. Faith had put her trust in Buffy, and Buffy had not reciprocated. She had essentially scoffed at the trust that was so hard for the other girl to give her in the first place. This, much more than Buffy trying to hurt her physically or the actual lie she had told, was what got to Faith.
Buffy tried again to meet the dark Slayer's eyes, having little success.
"That was my mistake, my weakness, Faith. This… this is me trying to be strong."
She hesitated, knowing that the other girl would not like what she was about to do. But she needed to do it- and she suspected that Faith needed her to as well.
Reaching for her once more, Buffy took hold of Faith's hand, intertwining her fingers with it. Faith started, then tried to pull away, but Buffy covered her fingers with her other hand, squeezing them firmly. Faith stared at their hands, her expression flickering between a scowl and a nearly fearful ambivalence.
"Look… Faith, I care about you. Don't shut yourself away from me."
Faith would not look at her, did not move… she couldn't move. Every muscle was tensed as she wrestled with herself, her inner struggle between fear…and reluctant relief.
Finally she sighed, a long shuddery breath that sounded a lot less impatient and a lot more insecure than she'd intended.
"B, are you even going to give me a choice in the matter?"
Buffy could feel herself beginning to smile, despite her efforts to stay serious.
"Nope," she said simply, squeezing Faith's hand. "No, no choice."
Faith sighed again, and this time she was biting her lip, the turmoil inside her showing all too clearly in her expression.
"B…" she began, but her voice trailed off, and she seemed to be looking at Buffy almost pleadingly- almost as if she were hoping to be interrupted, hoping that Buffy would go on. And Buffy did, squeezing Faith's hand again to emphasize her words to her.
"I won't let you down, Faith. I promise," she told her seriously. "At least, I'll really try not to. And that's all anyone can really do, you know? Try?"
Faith sighed again, closing her eyes, and Buffy could almost see the way her mind must be reeling, indecisive, struggling against the habits of a lifetime and her hope for something different, something that might finally be better, if she could trust in it.
When she finally spoke, her voice was huskier than normal, and she shook her head.
"I really oughtta just kick your ass and be done with it," she muttered. "But… I don't know, B…"
"You won't though, will you, Faith?" Buffy asked, her tone almost matching Faith's. I know you won't."
She let go of the other Slayer's hand, but before Faith could retreat again, she looped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her into a hug. Faith stiffened, her eyes widening in alarm. This only made Buffy feel guiltier, almost protective… the look in those conflicted eyes, and the softness of the wavy hair under her hand, made her feel protective, almost like an older sister.
She was about to let Faith go, since the other girl was still clearly uncomfortable with her touch. But to her surprise, she felt Faith slowly, awkwardly slide her hands around Buffy to rest on her back. And then her body was relaxing slightly… she was still tense, still confused and upset… but she was leaning into Buffy, deliberately returning her physical contact.
A sudden affection for the other Slayer flowed through Buffy's chest, and she knew that this was Faith's way of trying to believe, something she must have wanted badly all along.
"Thank you," she whispered, resting her cheek on Faith's shoulder briefly. "Thank you, Faith."
In a few moments time, Faith would pull away, making a sarcastic comment and allowing her usual cocky expression to return. In a few moments Buffy would retaliate, and the two girls would stand up as if nothing unusual had happened.
But in that moment, they remained still, dark-haired girl in the arms of the blonde, and something passed between them that they could not explain… the kinship of the beginnings of a fragile rebuilding of trust.