Title: Smother Me

Author: Tamara

Rating: PG-13 for violence and language.

Pairings: Primarily BuffyFaith, mentions of past BuffySpike and FaithWood.

Disclaimer: I own not, all hail Joss. Title from the used, assorted bits of dialog from episodes of BtVS and Angel, including, but not limited to, "Amends," etc.

Summary: Buffy finds Faith after five years of nothing. Apocalypse is nigh and Buffy needs her, in more ways than Buffy may be willing to admit. 2008, five years post-Chosen.

Author's Note: First, I was originally just going to post this as a super-long one shot, but I don't want to anymore. Chapters it is. Second, If it isn't painfully obvious as you read, this is my first foray into BuffyFic. I've been eager but wary to attempt writing this fandom because I'm not sure my humble skills could do it justice. Here's hoping. Feedback is love.

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September 2003

Cleveland

"Faith?"

"Hey, B."

"What are you doing?"

Faith sighed, blue smoke curling out of her mouth as she did. She did not want to have this conversation right now. Or ever. She gestures at the duffel bag on the step next to her. "What's it look like?"

"No," Buffy says, and Faith can almost hear her shaking her head. "No, just come back inside."

"Can't do that."

"Yes, you can. Just get up, turn around, and walk straight until you're through the door. Easy."

It's not that easy.

"Faith..."

"Look, we both knew this was coming. It's not like I was gonna stay here forever, you know."

Buffy was in front of her now, glaring down at Faith through the darkness, and Faith just sat on the steps, holding her dying cigarette. "I get that you're scared, but running away isn't going to make anything better."

"It's the only thing that can make it better. Nothing's different."

"Everything is different!," Buffy corrects emphatically.

"You, maybe. Everyone else. Not me. I'm the same as I ever was. Time doesn't make it go away."

"But time can change it. You don't have to leave. You can stay here and you'll see, it doesn't have to go bad." She knows Faith is worried about screwing up again. But Faith won't. She has too much going for her now.

"I can't do it again, B." Now Faith is standing and making space between her and Buffy. "I can't go back to that."

"So don't."

"What if I can't help it?"

Buffy is exasperated, she keeps looking back at Faith, the house, then the empty street, and back again. Like she's waiting for something to happen. "Faith, please. Just come back inside and we'll talk about this."

"All I did was hurt the people around me. I ruin anything that matters. You know. I hurt you over and over again."

"I know what you did. It doesn't matter."

"It's all that matters!" Faith is yelling, she has to remind herself to keep her voice down. An audience is the last thing they need. "No matter what I do, people end up hurting. All I ever do is wrong and hurting you seems to be the only thing I'm good at. I can't keep doing it. And I can't stay here knowing that it's gonna happen."

"No one can change the bad you've done, Faith, but you've done good, too. You can keep doing good. You're bigger than this. You don't have to run away. There is a way to be good again and that's staying here and trying to make it right." Then Buffy's voice hardened. "But if you leave now, all it's going to do is hurt me."

Faith says nothing. She turns her back to Buffy and bites her lip to stop crying. Buffy begs her again to please, just come inside. Faith doesn't move.

"You don't get it. Just go back to bed."

"I won't," Buffy reaches out, makes a grab at Faith's bare arm. When Faith pulls so violently away, Buffy slaps an open palm across Faith's wet cheek like an accusation. Faith answers with fist to Buffy's jaw. The force and surprise of it knocks Buffy to the ground. Faith watches her fall and thump quietly to the sidewalk like a dropped rag doll. The sight of it makes her stomach twist and her heart clench.

"Shit, B." And Faith is at Buffy's side. She has every intention of pulling Buffy into her arms and holding her until the sun comes up, but her hands don't brush aside blonde hair or slip into nimble fingers. They close tight around slender wrists and pin them over a shaking head. Faith is on her knees, one on either side of Buffy's hips and Faith knows she looks angry, can feel her face twisting into a scowl against her will. Buffy is crying.

"Am I worth all this trouble? Do I deserve those tears?" Faith shakes Buffy for good measure, but her resolve is weakening. She says what she's been afraid of all this time. "Nobody needs me here."

Buffy doesn't fight back, she just lays beneath Faith, open and exposed. "What about me? I need you. And I tried to make that not be true. I almost killed you and it didn't change."

Faith watches Buffy's eyes change into angry, hardly feels it when Buffy shoves her back and the gravel in the pavement bites her palms.

"And I hate it!" Buffy continues. "I hate that it's so hard and that you can hurt me so much. I know everything that you did because you did it to me."

Buffy shakes her head again at this truth and it frees tears from her eyes and Faith's. "I wish that I wished you gone. I don't. I can't."

Faith rises to her feet and Buffy does the same. Faith begs, "B, please. For once. Let me do the right thing."

"The right thing is fighting. It's hard and it's painful and it's every day. But it's what we have to do. It's what we were born to do. You and me, together."

Faith thinks that together may be too much. She doesn't know how to make Buffy understand that together is everything Faith wants that she doesn't know how to have.

Buffy isn't finished. "If you're too much of a coward for that, then go. If I can't convince you that you belong here with us, with me, then I don't know what can. But do not expect me to stand here while you do it. And don't expect me to say goodbye because―"

The abrupt blast of a car's horn swallows Buffy's words, its headlights tearing through any progress to be made. The taxi Faith called pulls up to curb in front of the two women and all either of them can do is stare at it. "I ain't got all night, lady," the driver calls. "Are you ready?"

Faith is not ready, but she moves past Buffy and grabs her duffel bag anyway. Before Faith can open the car door, Buffy is already walking up the stairs to the house. She does not say goodbye.