THE BUFFY TAPES

By DragonWriter17

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: All of the materials borrowed from Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to Joss Whedon and to the entities and companies associated with their creation. I have borrowed them for creative and entertainment purposes only. No compensation has been or ever shall be received for the writing below. No copyright infringement is intended.

My Website: .com/dragonwriter17/

Feedback: Yes, but only if it's of the non-flamey variety:

Distribution: The Mystic Muse and my personal site (If you are interested in posting my story on your site, please contact me first for permission.)

Spoilers: BtVS Season 3's Faith episodes and Season 4's "This Year's Girl"

Pairings: Buffy/Faith

Author's Notes: (1) I have borrowed some from the episodes above, but mostly early on and mostly from "This Year's Girl." I have used the transcripts from the Buffy vs. Angel web site for the scenes that I borrowed, modifying them as needed. Thank you Buffy vs. Angel! (2) The first part of this story has sections that are set in Season 3, but they are occurring "behind the scenes." That is, I tried to write the scenes as if they could really have happened in between the actual aired episodes or in between the scenes of the actual aired episodes. (3) I'm writing this one in modified Watchers style. This means that it uses scene headers from screenplay format, but the text is written in fiction format. Unlike Watchers, though, I may occasionally show a character's thoughts in italics. (4) And thanks, as always, to Lilly for the beta read and edit!

Story Summary: Faith awakens from her coma and finds that the Council has been recording surveillance of her hospital room. She finds a stack of videotapes that contain recordings of Buffy's visits to see her. What do the tapes reveal? And how does Faith react to seeing them?

*****************************************************************************

Fade In:

Int.

Summers Home – Buffy's Bedroom – Day (Faith's Dream)

Buffy fluffed a white sheet in the air and let it fall over her bed. The late afternoon sun shone through her window, lighting the room. She smoothed the edges and smiled.

"They smell good, don't they?" she said.

She looked up across the bed at Faith, who was smoothing the sheet on the other side.

"What?" Faith asked.

Buffy's smile grew. "Clean sheets. Like summer."

Faith shrugged. "I wouldn't know."

Buffy's smile went away. "Right. I forgot."

"I noticed," Faith said.

"I-I-I wish I could stay," Buffy started to say, "but..."

"...you have to go," Faith finished.

"It's just with..."

"Little sis coming," Faith said. "I know. So much to do before

she gets here."

The two slayers had finished with the sheet and were now standing beside each other at the foot of the bed.

"Now I really have to—" Buffy said regretfully.

"So go," Faith told her. "Don't let me keep—"

Faith stopped and looked down. She saw two blood drops staining the pristine white sheet. Two more drops also hit the sheet.

"Damn," Faith said to Buffy. "Just when we made it so nice."

Faith straightened up and looked down at her body. She lifted her eyes to meet Buffy's, but the blonde's expression was coldly stoic.

Faith's face creased in concern. "Are you ever gonna take this thing out?"

Faith looked down to see Buffy's hand wrapped around the handle of a large knife—the one the Mayor had given to her, the one Buffy had stabbed her with before Graduation Day. The knife was embedded in Faith's stomach, and blood seeped out around the blade.

Faith looked pleadingly into Buffy's eyes, but the blonde was completely emotionless. Suddenly, Buffy violently jerked the knife upwards. Faith opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Early Evening

Faith's eyes were closed, but her head jerked as if she were dreaming. The rails that lined the bed, the IV tube that fed into her arm, and the sound of the rapidly beeping heart monitor attested to her still comatose condition.

Her room was dim and drab, clearly neglected, but today Faith wasn't alone. As lightning flashed through the small basement window, two women stood next to Faith's hospital bed. One was short, heavy-set, and dressed in a nurse's uniform. Her hair was graying, and her nametag read "Doris." The other was tall, thin, and impeccably dressed in a dark suit; her hair was long and blonde, and at the moment, she lightly rested well-manicured fingers across Faith's arm.

"Any change?" Doris asked.

The other woman didn't answer; she kept her eyes closed and her focus on Faith as she read the sleeping slayer's mind.

"Marg?"

Dr. Margravine Petrova, psychic and psychiatrist in the employ of the Council, opened her eyes and looked at Doris, who stood across from her.

"Is she still salvageable?" the nurse asked.

"Very much so," the telepath answered, her English tinged with a slight Russian accent.

Doris frowned in response.

Margravine sent Doris a narrowed glare. "Tell Quentin that if he is looking for an excuse to order a termination, he shall not get it from me." She sighed and turned back to Faith, giving the girl's forehead a gentle caress. "If anything, she is even more troubled than ever." The blonde woman's face creased into a frown. "So much pain...so much darkness..."

"Darkness?" Doris asked in a concerned voice.

"Not in the way you think, my friend," Margravine told her. Then her face grew sad. "There is no brightness in her, no light, and no hope that there shall ever be any."

Now it was Doris's turn to look sad.

Margravine's lips grew tight as she angrily shook her head. "If Quentin Travers had ordered for her the intensive therapy that I requested when I first examined her as a potential, she would not be here today. Any blood she has shed...it is on his hands."

For a moment the two simply stared quietly at the sleeping Faith. Then Doris finally spoke up.

"Do you think she'll actually wake up?" Doris asked.

"Oh yes," Margravine instantly replied. "And soon."

"The doctor says her brain waves have changed, but not enough to signal an awakening. He says it's useless to hope otherwise."

The blonde telepath gave a loud scoff. "Doctors...they cannot see what I see. Her thoughts, her dreams, they are..." She held one hand in the air with the palm parallel to the floor; she put the other beneath and wiggled her fingers. "...they are closer to the surface now. You understand?"

Doris nodded.

"Watch her carefully, and call me at once if there is any change," Margravine said before turning to look at Faith once again. She saw Faith smile faintly in her sleep. "It will be soon, very soon indeed."

Fade Out.

Flashback To Before "Revelations":

Ext.

Alley Behind The Bronze – Night (Faith's Dream)

Buffy and Faith moved like lightning among the gang of vampires that had been hunting near the Bronze. After dusting at least a couple in the first sweep, the two slayers were now back to back, each fighting off two vamps in almost identical patterns of ducking, punching, deflecting, kicking, and finally staking. When it was down to the last two vamps, they sank their stakes in at same exact moment, sending a final sheet of vampire dust swirling around them.

"Hot damn!" Faith called out as she smacked Buffy's palm in an exultant high five.

"Slayers six, Vampires zero!" Buffy added proudly. "Total count for the night: sixteen."

"God, that was awesome!" Faith said, pacing around, clearly pumped up by the experience. "I could do this all night!"

"Unfortunately for our count board," Buffy said as she began brushing the dust off her own clothes and Faith's, "I think tonight's line of evil has been tapped out."

"You think? Really?" Faith said, disappointed.

"Never fear. A slayer's work is never done, and tomorrow is another day...or another night in this case."

Faith was pouting, but then an idea popped into her head, and the pout became a smile. "Hey, wanna go inside and dance? It's too early to go home now."

Buffy looked at her watch. "It's pretty late. It's probably only an hour till closing..."

Faith gave her a full-dimpled grin complete with raised eyebrow, and Buffy easily caved.

"Okay," Buffy replied, matching Faith's smile.

Cut To:

Int.

The Bronze – Later (Faith's Dream continued)

Since it was near closing time on a weeknight, the club was sparsely populated. There were a few couples tucked into the dark corners and the bartender himself. And, of course, Faith and Buffy, who were heating up the dance floor all by themselves.

As a fast number boomed from the speakers, the two slayers were dancing wildly and hotly with one another, oblivious to the world around them. When the current song ended, it segued immediately into a smooth slow song. Upon hearing the change, Buffy started to leave the dance floor, but Faith reached out for her hand.

"Hey, where ya goin'?" Faith called out as she pulled Buffy into her arms.

"Faith..." Buffy said in a chiding voice.

She tried to pull out of Faith's grasp, but Faith wouldn't release her. She eventually stopped trying altogether and just let Faith hold her. Soon she placed her own hands at Faith's hips.

"What'sa matter? Never slow-dance with another girl before?" Faith asked in a teasing voice as they moved to the music.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Not since I was eight at my aunt's wedding reception," she answered.

"High time, then," Faith said, flashing that magnetic smile of hers.

Unable to resist the dark slayer's charisma, Buffy smiled back and gave herself over to the dance.

A couple of minutes into the song, Faith's smile became an impish smirk, and she leaned over to whisper into Buffy's ear.

"See the bartender?" Faith asked.

Buffy surreptitiously cut her eyes toward him. He was staring right at them and practically drooling on the bar.

"He can't take his eyes off us," Faith said. "Wanna yank his chain?"

Buffy pulled back so that she could look into Faith's eyes. Then she quite purposefully matched Faith's impish smirk. Faith took that as a yes.

Faith's smirk became a hungry, devilish grin as she slowly and sensually ran her hands from Buffy's shoulder blades down her back. She brought her hands around to the front, running her fingertips up Buffy's arm to her shoulders and then down her back once again, this time pulling her even closer. Not stopping there, Faith used both hands to caress Buffy's ass through her tight jeans.

Buffy was breathing hard, running her hands possessively along Faith's back, nearly moaning when Faith gave her ass cheeks a final squeeze. When Faith leaned close and nuzzled against Buffy's neck, the blonde let her head fall back a bit and closed her eyes.

"Is he still watching?" Faith whispered huskily in Buffy's ear.

It took a moment for Buffy to respond. Then her eyes shot open, and she glanced over at the bartender. "Oh! Ummm, yeah."

She is loving this, Faith thought to herself. She is so busted. Faith chuckled and pulled back until she was nose to nose with Buffy.

"Should we give him the payoff?" Faith inquired.

Buffy was confused. "The payoff?" she asked, still breathing hard.

Faith winked before puckering her lips into an air-kiss for clarification. Buffy's mouth fell slightly open for a moment; then she swallowed noticeably. But she said nothing in reply; she seemed frozen in place.

At that, Faith just grinned and said evilly, "Nah...let's make him suffer."

Then Faith pulled away, draped her arm over Buffy's shoulder, and led her off the dance floor. She guided them right past the bar.

"Night..." she called out to the bartender in a sweet sing-song voice.

As the bartender dumbly gave them a little wave, Faith hurried Buffy out the door, beginning to snicker as they exited.

Fade Out.

Flashback To Between "Lover's Walk" and "The Wish":

Ext.

Sunnydale Cemetery – Night (Faith's Dream)

Faith and Buffy were finishing off a particularly large demon that had taken them nearly an hour to track and slay. When it was over, they were on the ground, panting from the exertion, but wide smiles were on their faces. When they looked at each other, they felt something move through them. It was the thrill of the hunt, the glory of the fight, the climax of the slay; it all combined with their growing attraction to one another and created a very powerful wave of slayer lust.

Faith got up and stumbled over to Buffy. She held out her hand. "You okay?"

"Yeah. You?" Buffy said as she took Faith's hand and allowed the dark slayer to pull her to her feet.

Once Buffy was up, the two slayers should have released hands, but they didn't. They just stood there, looking into each other's eyes, seemingly mesmerized, as they finished their conversation on automatic.

"Five by five."

"Good."

It was Faith who made the first move. She used her grip on Buffy's hand to tug the blonde toward her. Then she slipped her free hand beneath Buffy's hair at the base of her neck, pulling her into a crushing kiss.

It happened so quickly that Buffy didn't have time to resist. She surrendered herself to the kiss, returning it eagerly, letting her hands roam freely over Faith's back and sides.

Suddenly, something snapped in Buffy, causing her to abruptly end the kiss. She pushed away from Faith and took several steps back.

Without making eye contact with Faith, she held her index finger in the air and said, "Okay...that was a mistake." She began pacing the area. "That should not have happened." After pacing a bit more, she ventured a glance in Faith's direction.

Faith had a look of disgusted disbelief on her face at what Buffy had just said. "Are you kidding me?!!" Faith shot back in a frustrated voice.

Buffy was already in denial mode. "Seriously," she said, crossing her arms and shaking her head. "I-I-I don't know why I did that."

"Because you wanted to," Faith answered for her. "Because it was hot."

"No," Buffy explained in a logical voice, raising her finger once again. "I'm with Angel and—"

"No, you're not," Faith pointed out. "You can't be. Remember? And if you'd stop wasting time wishing for what you can't have, maybe you could move on!"

"Move on to what?" Buffy countered angrily. "Hot but meaningless sex with whoever's convenient?"

Faith didn't have a reply.

"That 'get-some-get-gone' M.O. is your thing, Faith, not mine."

While Buffy walked off, Faith stayed behind, her face twisted into a scowl. Once Buffy was out of sight, though, Faith's expression changed into something more sad than mad. Buffy's final retort kept replaying in her mind. Every time the word 'meaningless' was repeated, Faith felt a sting in her heart. She hung her head and closed her eyes.

After a long moment, Faith opened her eyes and forced herself to shake off the encounter. Then she headed off in the direction opposite from the one Buffy had taken.

Fade Out.

Flashback To After "Amends":

Int.

Summers Home – Living Room – Christmas Night (Faith's Dream)

It was late on Christmas night at the Summers home. The snow that had fallen earlier in the day still remained. Although Buffy hadn't returned until mid-afternoon that day, she and her mother and Faith had had a very nice time, eating dinner together, opening presents, telling stories.

After sharing an eggnog toast by the fire with the girls, Joyce finally announced that she was going to bed. She made her good nights and left the two slayers alone.

With her mother gone, Buffy dropped the festive façade that she had been maintaining. She set aside her barely-touched glass of eggnog and plopped wearily onto the sofa. Faith downed the rest of her eggnog and then sat on the edge of the couch near Buffy.

"Rough day, huh?" Faith commented.

"You could say that, yeah," Buffy replied.

"But...Angel's okay?" Faith asked tentatively, dreading the answer.

Buffy nodded, then leaned up and rested her elbows on her knees. "I think he's free of the hold the First had on him. I'm sure he'll be fine now."

"Good. That's good," Faith said mechanically before glancing away.

The two fell into awkward silence. Faith's eyes darted around the room, landing anywhere but on Buffy as she struggled to come up with something appropriate to say. The sudden sound of a stifled sob made her turn immediately to Buffy. She found the blonde covering her face with both hands and crying hard.

Hesitantly, Faith moved closer and placed a hand on Buffy's back. "Hey, a-a-are you okay? What's the matter? What's wrong?"

At first, Buffy only sobbed louder. Then she leaned up and dropped her hands. "Everything," she whispered in a choked voice. "I almost lost Angel today." She turned to face Faith and made a helpless shrug. "He was going to kill himself. Just let dawn catch him on an isolated ridge."

"But...you saved him, right?"

Buffy shook her head. "Not me. I tried, but he wouldn't listen, and then time ran out, and—"

Buffy slumped for a moment, as if giving up on how to explain what had happened. Then she got up and walked to the window. Faith followed. Buffy opened the curtain and gestured at the snow outside. Faith got it: heavy cloud cover plus showers of snow equal no sun.

"It was a miracle," Buffy said, but without any awe or elation. Instead, she had hopeless tears streaming down her face. She looked at Faith, who stood beside her. "I should be happy. Angel's alive, and we even got to walk around town together in the middle of the day...I should be happy, but I'm not."

Buffy's crying was turning into sobs again, but this time into angry, frustrated ones. She went on in a shuddering voice as she paced the living room floor.

"It doesn't change anything! One stupid snow-day walk doesn't change a single thing! It's just a cruel reminder of what Angel and I can never have!" Her rage temporarily spent, Buffy stopped pacing and brought her hands to her face again. "It's not fair," she sobbed, "it's not fair..."

Faith hurried over to Buffy and quickly pulled her into a warm hug. She gently stroked Buffy's back as the blonde cried against her. "It's okay," she told her. "It's okay. I've got you." Faith repeated those words many times before Buffy's sobs finally subsided.

Buffy pulled back from their embrace but not away. Her eyes were anguished as she met Faith's concerned gaze. "What am I going to do?" she pleaded hoarsely, tears still trickling down her face. "I—"

"Shhhh," Faith whispered, reaching up to brush the tears from Buffy's cheek with her thumb. "Don't worry about that right now. Everything will be okay. You'll see."

Buffy's eyes softened in heartfelt gratitude, and when Faith leaned forward and placed a comforting kiss on her lips, she couldn't help but respond. She lifted her hand to Faith's cheek, caressing it as she returned the dark slayer's embrace.

But then, as before, something inside Buffy made her stop, forced her to pull out of the kiss and place her hand against Faith's chest. "I can't," she whispered, her eyes downcast. "I just...can't..."

Faith cupped Buffy's cheek and waited for her to glance back up. When she did, Faith softly asked, "Why not? I know you want to."

Buffy's expression was agonized as the two slayers stared deeply into each other's eyes. After what seemed like an eternity, Buffy pulled out of Faith's arms and backed away.

"Because I'm too screwed up right now to even think about another relationship," Buffy answered, her gaze averted. After letting out a deep breath, she added ruefully, "Besides, I know this is just a fling for you, and I—"

Faith cut her off with a question. "What if I told you it wasn't?"

Buffy's head shot up. Shock was on her face when she saw the sincerity in Faith's eyes. For a moment, she seemed to consider Faith's unspoken offer, but then she dropped her gaze and silently shook her head.

Faith glanced away. She felt tears forming in her own eyes, but she gritted her teeth and clenched her jaw and forced the sadness down. "It's late," she said. "I should go." She headed for the front door.

"Faith!" Buffy called out.

Faith ignored Buffy's plea. She continued toward the door, talking over her shoulder. "Thanks for inviting me. I'll see you around."

Without another word, Faith walked out of the door and into the cold winter night, alone, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Fade Out.

Flashback To The End of "Consequences":

Int.

City Street – Night (Faith's Dream)

It was mere minutes since Buffy and Faith had fought for their lives on the docks against the Mayor's assassins—Mr. Trick and his minions—and mere hours since Faith had accidentally killed Allan Finch and then blamed Buffy for it, since Buffy and Angel had tried to reach out to Faith, only to be foiled by Wesley and his Council thugs.

Now the two slayers walked in silence as they made their way from the docks back into town. Eventually, Buffy spoke up.

"Thanks, by the way," she offered.

"For what?" Faith asked.

"For taking out Trick," she answered. "For saving my life."

Faith shrugged in reply. "You shoved me out of the way of those pallets. Seemed only fair."

"A-A-And for not running," Buffy quickly added. "I really think it's the right thing to do."

"Easy for you to say," Faith grumbled. "You're not the one they're gonna throw in jail."

Buffy stopped walking, so Faith stopped, too.

"That's not gonna happen," Buffy told her. "You'll see. Giles said accidents like this have happened to other slayers. The Council will fix this."

Faith scoffed loudly and started walking again. "If chains and armored vans are their idea of 'fixing' things, then I'll take my chances on the road."

"Please," Buffy begged. "Please don't."

"Why not?" Faith said bitterly. "No one here is gonna miss me."

"I will," Buffy said.

Faith snorted derisively then said, "You'd just miss having another slayer around. You wouldn't miss me."

"That's not true," Buffy insisted.

Faith stopped walking and pointed her index finger at Buffy. "Prove it," she dared. "Stop this little dance of denial you've been on and tell me you care."

"Of course I care!" Buffy blurted. "Why do you think I went down to the docks to stop you?"

Faith folded her arms and glared. This was not what she was asking Buffy to say, and Buffy knew it. Still, the blonde could not bring herself to say the words. She sadly dropped her gaze and said nothing.

"Never mind," Faith said sharply. "Just forget it."

Faith turned off onto a side street and walked away.

"Faith!" Buffy cried out.

Faith ignored her and walked on, roughly wiping away the tears rolling down her cheeks and steeling herself against any tears to come.

Fade Out.

Fade In:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Night

The still comatose slayer was frowning in pain as unpleasant dreams continued to plague her as she slept. The thunder rumbled outside, and the lightning from the basement window briefly lit her face, which was wet with tears.

Cut To:

Ext.

Park – Day (Faith's Dream)

"Do you think it's gonna rain?"

A barefoot Faith was lying on a picnic blanket. She was wearing a light blue shirt and a bright pink skirt. Mayor Richard Wilkins was lying on the other side of the blanket, eating a sandwich. Faith just picked at the grapes on her own plate.

"Nonsense," the Mayor answered. "It's a beautiful day. Now eat your sandwich." He wiped his mouth with a napkin.

Faith viewed the sky with concern. "I don't know. It's just...it always seems like it starts raining right about now." She popped a grape into her mouth.

"You're too young and too pretty a girl to start wearing worry lines on your face," Wilkins told her. Suddenly, he saw something and sat up to take a closer look. "Well, hey, hey hey," he said as he picked up a small grass snake that was slithering across the blanket.

Faith frowned when she saw it.

"Hey there, little fella," Wilkins told the snake as he chuckled. "I don't know where you belong, but it's not here with us." He set the snake down and pointed it towards the grass. "There you go." After releasing the snake, he turned back to Faith. "You see? There's nothing that's gonna spoil our time together. Who wants cheesecake?" He gave a light laugh.

Faith smiled as the Mayor turned to open the picnic basket. Horror suddenly filled Faith's expression. "NO!" she screamed in alarm.

A black-clad Buffy was suddenly standing in front of Wilkins, holding Faith's knife in her hand. Buffy swung the blade down across the Mayor's throat. He gagged, but before he could fall, she thrust the knife into his chest. She pulled it and let him fall, then fixed her emotionless gaze on Faith.

"I told you I had things to do," Buffy said.

Terrified, Faith started backing away. Then, in a panic, she turned and

fled on her hands and knees.

Holding the blood-covered knife raised at her elbow, Buffy calmly stalked after her.

Cut To:

Ext.

Cemetery – Night (Faith's Dream cont'd)

It was now nighttime as Faith ran for her life through the trees, looking over her shoulder. She emerged from the trees and raced across the street to a cemetery. She was no longer wearing her bright clothes; now she wore a dark jean jacket over a red tank top, black leather pants, and heavy boots.

Somewhere behind Faith, Buffy continued to calmly walk through the trees after Faith, the large knife still in her hand.

Faith was making her way through the many headstones, running as fast as she could. But she didn't seem to be putting any distance between herself and Buffy.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Night

Still in the coma, Faith's body was now jerking as she dreamed. Her closed eyelids were fluttering.

Cut To:

Ext.

Cemetery – Night (Faith's dream cont'd)

Faith was still running through the cemetery. She looked over her shoulder at Buffy, who seemed to be gaining on her.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Night

Now Faith's closed eyes were moving even more rapidly.

Cut To:

Ext.

Cemetery – Night (Faith's dream cont'd)

Breathing hard, trying to run faster, Faith almost hit a headstone. She stumbled and looked over her shoulder. Before she could regain her balance, she fell into an open grave.

Buffy stepped up to the edge and looked down into the grave. The blonde's face was completely emotionless. Frightened, helpless, Faith could only look back up at her.

Buffy took a step forward and dropped into the grave, out of sight. At the same time, thunder crashed, and it started to rain heavily. From the grave came the sounds of fighting. There was grunting, then the sound of a knife hitting flesh, then only silence.

A hand reached out of the grave and clutched the edge. Faith's head became visible as she grabbed another handful of wet grass and struggled to pull herself out. The rain had already soaked her by the time she finally stood up. She pushed her hair out of her face with her hands and tried to catch her breath.

A few feet away from the grave, Faith looked up at the sky, letting the rain hit her face. A burst of angry lightning streaked across the sky, illuminating Faith and the ground around her. Raising her arms, Faith cried out at the world...

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Night

With a sudden intake of breath, Faith woke up, from her nightmare and her coma.

Faith slowly turned her head to the side and saw the monitor beeping in time with her heart. She raised her left hand in front of her face. It was bandaged at the wrist where an IV line was fed into a vein. She closed her hand in a fist.

Faith threw off the bed covers and sat up. Then she grabbed the wires hanging from her body and pulled the leads off her chest. The heart monitor instantly flat-lined. When she got out of the bed and stood up, she felt the IV line tug on her arm. She ripped it from her wrist and threw it on the bed.

"Ouch," she said softly.

Faith stepped out of the room, holding her wrist.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Hallway – Continuous

Faith saw a corridor that was very much like the room she was just in: dark, secluded, ugly walls. In her bare feet and hospital gown, she padded down the hallway. She heard a female voice over a PA system somewhere up ahead. Except for Faith, the wing seemed deserted. Hospital equipment, boxes, lunch carts, gurneys lined both walls, set there for storage or just forgotten.

At the end of the hall was a double door with an EXIT sign above it. She was still several yards from it when a side door opened, and a white-clad nurse stepped out.

Doris jumped in fear when she saw Faith standing there. "M-M-Miss Lehane?" the nurse stuttered. "W-W-What are you doing out of bed?"

Faith looked behind Doris, into the side room, and saw a bank of monitors and video recorders with the cameras clearly filming the inside Faith's now-vacated room. Faith glared and rushed the nurse, wrapping a hand around her throat and shoving her back inside the side room and shutting the door.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Surveillance Room – A Short Time Later

Doris was stripped to her underclothes, bound and gagged on the floor of the side room. Now dressed in the nurse's uniform, Faith was casually searching the contents of the room.

"Council's been keeping tabs on me all this time, huh?" Faith said as she ran her finger along a line of videotapes on one of the shelves. "Musta thought I'd wake up, then." She turned and smiled at the helpless nurse. "Gotta love that slayer healing."

When Faith turned back, she noticed a cluster of tapes sitting on a separate shelf. She moved closer and read the labels. All listed Buffy's name along with a date, the earliest starting with May 20, 1999. The dates ranged over a period of eight months. Faith turned and looked at the nurse.

"Buffy came to see me?" she asked in disbelief. "And more than once?"

Being gagged, Doris couldn't answer, so Faith ignored her and turned back to the tapes. She grabbed an empty box and scooped the "Buffy" tapes into it. Then she snatched Doris's coat from the back of the chair and headed for the door.

"Love to stay here in these luxurious accommodations the Council has provided," Faith taunted as she backed out of the door, "but I really gotta run."

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Surveillance Room – A Short Time Later

Doris rocked her wrists back and forth for the hundredth time, systematically stretching the electrical cord that Faith had used to tie her up. Finally, she was able to widen the gap enough to squeeze one of her wrists out. After that, it took her only minutes to free herself completely.

She didn't waste one second worrying about her nearly-naked condition. She went straight for the phone and rapidly punched in a number.

When someone answered, all she said was, "It's happened. Send the team."

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Later

Doris now had a hospital-issue housecoat wrapped around her body. Dr. Hill stood in front of her, an incredulous look on his face as Doris related her story. Next to him, Detective Stein took notes.

When Doris finished, Dr. Hill just threw his arms up in disbelief and then pointed at the nurse. "Check the logs and monitors. I want to know exactly what happened here. Coma patients do not just get up and walk away!"

Detective Stein stopped Doris before she could leave. "Did she say anything?" he asked the nurse. "Give any indication of where she might be headed?"

Doris shook her head.

"Did she make any calls? Take anything with her?"

"Just my clothes," Doris complained, deliberately omitting the fact that Faith had taken the videotapes of Buffy's visits.

Exasperated, Detective Stein turned back to Dr. Hill. "You knew this woman was wanted for questioning in a series of murders. There's no security on this wing?"

"You don't understand," Dr. Hill told him. "There was no way that girl was gonna wake up."

Cut To:

Ext.

Sunnydale High School Ruins – Same Time

Faith stood in the meadow across the street from Sunnydale High School. What was left of the school anyway. She hugged the stolen coat around herself and stared forlornly at the ruins.

Cut To:

Ext.

Main Street – A Short Time Later

It was still early enough in the evening that the street was quite populated. People were out and about, walking up and down the street, window-shopping, heading into restaurants and stores.

Unlike them, though, Faith seemed lost as she walked down the middle of the street, taking in the sights all around her. She saw a small girl pulling on her father's hand as they crossed the street toward the movie theater.

"Dad, come on," the girl said. "We're gonna be late."

Faith watched the father and daughter as they passed in front of her, but they took no notice of her. In fact, no one paid any attention to her at all as she continued down the street.

Cut To:

Ext.

Giles's Apartment – Moments Later

Cautiously, Faith walked down the steps to the courtyard of Giles's apartment building. She crept quietly towards his front door but made no move to knock. Instead, she ducked under the small window next to his door and peeked inside.

Cut To:

Int.

Giles's Apartment – Same Time

Inside the living room, Giles was rousing the flames in the fireplace with an iron poker. Buffy was leaning against the mantle. In the chair next to her was a man Faith didn't recognize. On the couch nearby were Willow and Xander.

"The puzzle, it seems to me, is why Adam has stayed dormant as long as he has," Giles said as he moved from the fireplace to stand at the end of the couch.

"When he's not making performance art out of other demons, that is," Willow replied.

"He's probably working off an autonomic power source," said the man Faith didn't know. "Because he's straight out of the box, he needs to charge up a while."

"Okay," Buffy said as Giles disappeared into the kitchen. "What's he charging up for?"

"Based on the clues, I'll go with killing spree," Xander said.

"And that's a best-case scenario," said the unknown man. "I suppose a little fire power would be a good idea right now."

He picked up what looked like a blaster from the coffee table and flipped a switch on it. Small lights on the side of the weapon started blinking as it charged up, ready to fire.

"Hey!" Xander called out, surprised. "How'd you do that?" He hurried around the table and grabbed the weapon, trying to find the switch. "Is there like an on/off button somewhere in here?"

"Blasters are easy," the man said, sitting back in his chair. "Adam won't be."

Buffy sat down on the arm of the chair and put her arm around the man's shoulders. Then she gave him a kiss on the temple.

Cut To:

Ext.

Giles's Apartment – Same Time

Faith slumped down from peeking in the window. She let out a weary sigh and closed her eyes. After a moment, she clenched her jaw and opened her eyes. Then she rose back up to look inside the window.

Cut To:

Int.

Giles's Apartment – Same Time

"Since Professor Walsh designed it," Willow ventured, "any chance she left instructions lying around somewhere?"

"Well, if she did," Buffy replied, "they're going to be in the Initiative."

Giles returned from the kitchen with a tea tray and set it down on the table. Then he began pouring his tea into a cup.

"Which we can't get into without mounting a major offensive," Giles pointed out.

"Speak for yourself," said the mystery man. When the others looked at him, he quickly added, "I'm just saying."

Giles considered the matter. "I must admit, a man on the inside would be, uh..."

"...a really good idea," Buffy finished. Then she turned to the man in question. "Are you sure you want to be double-agent guy?"

"I'm not exactly sure what you'd call me," he said, "but...I will share information. It's the least I could do."

Xander gave the man a stern look before turning to the others and saying, "Riley's right. It is the least he can do."

Cut To:

Ext.

Giles's Apartment – Same Time

"Riley, huh?" Faith whispered disgustedly to herself as she continued to peer inside the window.

Suddenly, Giles's phone rang, and a look of fear came into Faith's eyes. She saw Giles cross the apartment to his desk and answer the phone. Faith moved slightly away from the window as he got closer.

Cut To:

Int.

Giles's Apartment – Same Time

"Hello. Y-Y-Yes, she is." Giles held the phone out towards Buffy. "Uh, it's for you."

Buffy got up from where she was perched on Riley's chair and walked over the Giles. He handed her the phone.

"Hello. Speaking." Buffy listened for a moment. "What sort of emergency?" She listened once again, and her expression became solemn. "Um, no. I haven't."

Cut To:

Ext.

Giles's Apartment – Same Time

As Buffy moved towards Giles's desk, Faith backed away from the window even more.

"Thank you. I'll let you know," she heard Buffy say.

Certain that her former friend and fellow slayer now knew about her escape, Faith dashed away.

PART 02

Fade In:

Int.

Giles's Apartment – Resume

Buffy hung up the phone. Everyone was looking on with concern. When she didn't turn around, Giles spoke up.

"What is it?" he asked.

"It's Faith. She's awake." Buffy turned to face the others. "She attacked someone, took her clothing, and disappeared out of the hospital. No one knows where she is."

"I'd say this qualifies for a 'worse timing ever' award," Xander said darkly.

"What do we do?" Willow asked worriedly.

"Well, we have to find her," Giles stated.

"But what about Adam?" Willow went on.

"I'd hate to see the pursuit of a homicidal lunatic get in the way of pursuing a homicidal lunatic," Xander quipped sarcastically.

"Well, Faith's not exactly low-profile girl," Buffy pointed out. "I'll patrol and wait for her to make a move."

"And then what?" Giles asked.

"Oh! I have an idea," Willow said, now past her worry and into vengeance mode. "Beat the crap out of her." She grinned widely.

"Good plan!" Xander readily agreed.

Buffy tried not to let her friends' hatred for Faith bother her. "Good on paper," she replied evenly. "But we still have a decision to make. Do we hand her over to the cops? They wouldn't know what to do with a slayer even if they knew we existed."

"What about the Council?" Willow asked.

"Been there, tried that," Xander said. "Not unlike smothering a forest fire with napalm, as I recall."

"Well, the Initiative, they do have containment facilities," Giles suggested.

Xander looked Giles in the eyes. "One word: Evil."

Riley wisely remained quiet on the issue of the Initiative, but he had a puzzled look on his face as the conversation went on.

"There's no way around it," Buffy said. "Faith is back, and whether I like it or not, she's my responsibility."

"Yeah, too bad," Willow sighed. "That was funnest coma ever."

Xander nodded in eager agreement.

"We have no idea where she is," Buffy said, imagining Faith's emotional state. We don't know what she's thinking, what she's feeling..."

"Who she's doing," Xander interjected in a spiteful voice.

Buffy ignored him and went on. "She could be terrified. Maybe she doesn't even remember? Or-or maybe she does, and-and she's sorry, and she's alone, hiding somewhere?"

The looks the others gave Buffy that told her they didn't share her optimistic theory. But when Buffy frowned sadly, Giles softened his expression.

"Uh, perhaps there's some form of rehabilitation we just haven't thought about?" he offered.

"And if not," Willow added, "ass-kicking makes a solid Plan B."

"I'm not gonna rule it out," Buffy conceded. "But the first thing is...we need to find her. Then we can take it from there."

When the room finally grew silent, Riley spoke up. "Who's Faith?"

Cut To:

Int.

Pawn Shop – Later That Night

Now in stolen clothes more befitting her style, Faith crept away from the small back window she had just climbed through. Under one arm was the box of videotapes that she had taken from the hospital.

Slowly she eased her way through the store, past furniture and tools, exercise equipment and stereos, until she reached the TVs and VCRs. She set down the box of tapes and tried powering up the various devices until she found a combination TV/VCR that was plugged in and working.

She dragged over a plastic crate, dumped out its contents, turned it over, and sat down. In the dim light of the glowing television, she looked through the box of videotapes and selected one to watch: a tape dated the day after Graduation. She got up from her seat and slid the tape into the machine. She picked up the remote, sat back down, and waited for the tape to play. When she saw the image of her room at the hospital, Faith leaned closer to the screen.

ON SCREEN:

The hidden camera's point of view was such that it showed a medium shot of the room. It was focused on Faith, still in her coma, and the empty visitor's chair on her left, on the far side of the bed.

Within seconds, the door to the room opened, and Buffy slipped inside. After she had shut the door behind her, she took a step toward the bed and stopped.

"Hey," she said simply. "It's me."

She paused a moment as if expecting an answer from Faith, but obviously she didn't get one. She ducked her head and walked over to the visitor's chair and sat down, keeping her gaze mostly on her hands in her lap rather than on Faith.

"I-I-I'm sorry I didn't come see you sooner," Buffy said, "but I kinda had some world-saveage to take care of."

She shifted in her seat and added, "We stopped the Mayor...we stopped the Ascension." She let her eyes flicker up to Faith's face for just a moment before casting them downwards again. "I, um, I used your suggestion, by the way. You know, to appeal to the Mayor's human side? It worked. It made all the difference, actually."

Buffy let out a long breath. Then, once again, she allowed her gaze to settle on Faith. "He...he really loved you..."

Her eyes became pained as she finally forced herself to look closely at Faith's comatose form. She frowned deeply and teared up as she took in the sight—Faith, pale and still, with tubes and wires leading to and from her body, with only the slight beeping of the heart monitor and the faint movements of her chest indicating that she was alive.

Buffy began to cry in earnest. "Why, Faith?" she asked, sobbing. "Why did you make me hurt you?"

BACK TO FAITH:

Her own eyes moistening with unshed tears, Faith merely sat and watched, clenching and unclenching her jaw repeatedly, but saying nothing.

Cut To:

Ext.

The Docks – Same Time

Buffy and Willow crept along the concrete dock and scanned the area for the umpteenth time.

"Anything?" Buffy asked.

"Nada," Willow replied. "She's not here."

"Damn," Buffy said before pulling a radio from her belt and keying it. "Xander, whatcha got?"

"The busses are a bust," came Xander's voice over the radio.

A few more calls to Giles and Riley confirmed similar results at the train station and airport.

Buffy stared off into the darkness. "Faith, where are you?" she whispered worriedly.

Cut To:

Int.

Pawn Shop – Later That Night

Faith slid in another videotape and waited as the machine began to play. She used the remote to fast-forward the recording until she saw Buffy entering the hospital room. Faith watched intently as Buffy silently walked to her bedside.

ON SCREEN:

Buffy didn't sit down in the visitor's chair; instead, she remained standing a few feet from the side of the bed. For the longest time, she said nothing at all but just wrung her hands nervously. Finally, she wrapped her arms around herself and looked up to see Faith's face.

"Angel's gone," Buffy said in the barest of whispers. "It's over between us," she added in a voice that was slightly stronger.

After thinking about her words, Buffy gave a rueful laugh and shook her head. "It was over before it even started. We just didn't know it." She sighed heavily.

"And when he came back," she rattled off, "we were trying so hard to not be together because we knew we couldn't, but at the same time we knew that—"

A slight catch entered Buffy's voice, and she stopped in place. After taking a deep breath, she pressed on in a softer, slower tone. "We knew that it was gone anyway...that what we'd had…it just died when he lost his soul."

She wiped away the tears rolling down her cheeks and gave another rueful laugh as she glanced back at Faith. "You were right," she said. "Big love, big loss, shoulda moved on but hadn't..."

Buffy just let her gaze fall to the floor.

BACK TO FAITH:

Faith folded her arms across her chest. "Told ya," she said to Buffy on the screen.

Cut To:

Ext.

Hospital Heli-Pad – Same Time

Once the arriving helicopter had sufficiently powered down, three men emerged and hurried toward Faith's nurse, Doris, who waited near the roof entrance.

"Collins, Weatherby," she greeted grimly to the first two men. She looked at the third man expectantly.

"Smith," he piped up, identifying himself.

"What's the situation?" Collins asked.

"You'd better come inside," Doris said, opening the door. "She's been at large for several hours. Margravine is on her way, but the police have already been here. So has the other slayer."

Doris's voice faded away as the door to the roof eased shut.

Cut To:

Int.

Pawn Shop – Later That Night

The stack of viewed tapes was now a bit taller. This time Faith wasn't sitting as she watched; instead, she was pacing behind the plastic crate, shooting angry glances at the source of the loud voice coming from the television.

ON SCREEN:

"Why did you do it, damn you?!" Buffy nearly screamed from the foot of Faith's hospital bed. "Why?!"

Buffy leaned over and placed her hands flat on the mattress, glaring at the comatose Faith. "Why on earth did you join a man who was intent on destroying the world as we know it? Huh? Can ya tell me that?"

When Faith didn't answer, Buffy straightened up and asked in a softer voice, "Why did you have to hurt Angel? And-And Willow and Xander?"

Then she turned her back on Faith, the hidden camera now revealing a tear-streaked face with more pain than anger. "Why did you have to hurt me?"

BACK TO FAITH:

"Because you hurt me!" Faith screamed while pointing viciously at the screen. Then she kicked the plastic crate, making it slam into the VCR controls. The image on the screen blinked then froze. Faith stood there, breathing hard for a moment, before walking off to calm herself.

Cut To:

Int.

The Bronze – Same Time

Collins, Weatherby, and Smith strode calmly through the crowded dance floor, scanning for Faith. When they didn't see her, Collins waved them toward the exit.

Just then, they saw Buffy and the rest of the Scoobies entering. Collins redirected his team to blend into the crowd. As he watched Buffy and the others search for Faith, Collins got a cunning smile on his face.

Cut To:

Int.

Pawn Shop – Later That Night

After getting her temper under control, Faith had returned to the VCR, restored her plastic crate to its former position, and sat down. Soon she had the next tape cued up.

ON SCREEN:

Buffy had filled several minutes with innocuous small talk about summer events as she sat in the visitor's chair next to Faith's bed, but now she let the forced cheerfulness slip away.

"I should be getting ready for college this fall," Buffy said with a guilty shrug of her shoulders. "Getting registered for my classes, getting a dorm room, all that good stuff."

"Will's already gotten her schedule, her dorm room, her books…she's even contacted some of her instructors and started on some her assignments." Buffy shot Faith an eye roll and a smile. "Yeah, I know… she needs to get a life."

Buffy's smile quickly faded, and she let her body slump once again. "I want to be excited, but...it's hard. I know in my heart it won't last. Something will come up...something slayer. It always does. You'd think I would've given up by now—trying to have a normal life. It's just not in the cards for the slayer. I should've stopped fighting the slayer life. I should've embraced it...like you did."

Buffy lifted her eyes and reached out to touch Faith's arm. "We should've been together, all this time. As slayers, I mean," she quickly amended, pulling back her hand. "Fighting side by side. It was so much easier when I knew I wasn't alone, when I had someone who understood..."

BACK TO FAITH:

"We should've been together, period, B," Faith said, "but you couldn't let go of Angel."

ON SCREEN:

Buffy stood up and leaned over, searching Faith's face for some sign that she could hear and understand. "What happened, Faith?" she asked. "Why did you run away?"

"Even after that fiasco with your fake Watcher Gwendolyn Post, with me lying to everyone about Angel, you still came back around." Buffy gave her a small smile. "You and me...we were finally clicking again, we were in synch, and I felt like we were really—"

BACK TO FAITH:

"What?" Faith prodded when Buffy stopped short. She leaned toward the television screen. "Really what? Say it, B."

ON SCREEN:

Buffy's eyes were stricken as she looked over at Faith in the bed. Then she shook her head.

"I don't know," she said lamely. "I don't know what we were..."

BACK TO FAITH:

Faith wearily eased back onto the crate and sighed, letting her head fall back against her shoulders.

Cut To:

Ext.

Revello Drive – Later That Night

After shutting the door to Giles's car, Buffy bent over to talk through the open window.

"Thanks for the ride, Giles," she said.

"We'll get back on the search first thing in the morning," he told her. "In the meantime, get some rest."

"I'll try," she replied. "But if you hear anything…"

"I'll call you right away," Giles promised.

Buffy gave him a wave and watched him drive away. Then she trudged off to her front door.

Cut To:

Int.

Pawn Shop – Same Time

As Faith watched the last tape in the box, she finally let the tears come. She wiped uselessly at them with the back of her hand as she tried to focus on the scene before her.

ON SCREEN:

Buffy was holding Faith's left hand with both of hers and sobbing hysterically, forcing out words between heaving breaths.

"I'm so sorry…God, I'm so sorry…" she cried. "For being jealous of you… and-and excluding you…for not reaching out to you when you needed it…for letting you push me away when I should have held on and never let go…"

Buffy caught her breath and then went on in a sad, small voice, "I wish I could go back and start over." She reached over and trailed her fingertips along Faith's forehead in a gentle caress. "I'd do so much differently…" she whispered.

But then her sobs returned. "Please come back, Faith," she pleaded. "I'll do better, I swear…just please come back…"

BACK TO FAITH:

Faith hit the pause button and dropped the remote to the floor. Covering her face with her hands, she let herself cry hard for a full minute. When she got her crying under control, she looked back at the screen. She reached out and touched Buffy's image.

"I want a do-over, too," she whispered hoarsely. She cleared her throat and said, "But that ain't never gonna happen, no matter how much we want it." Then she let her hand fall away from the screen.

With a sigh, she turned the VCR off, causing the monitor to go black.

Cut To:

Ext.

Phone Booth – A Short Time Later

Faith paced outside a phone booth in the corner of a convenience store parking lot. She had stopped at the store for something to eat and drink on her way to the interstate, where she hoped to hitch a ride to Los Angeles. But now she hovered near the phone booth, warring with herself about whether or not to call Buffy.

Come on…she said she was sorry, one inner voice pleaded.

She's sorry all right, another voice noted angrily. Sorry she

didn't finish you off the first time!

Just call her. She wants to make things right.

Forget her. Forget Sunnydale. Forget everything that happened

here. It's time to move on and start fresh someplace else.

You know you can't leave…not without seeing her one more time. You owe her that, don't you think?

Faith stopped pacing and closed her eyes for a moment. Then she let out an exasperated huff, opened her eyes, and headed for the phone.

Cut To:

Int.

Buffy's Bedroom – Seconds Later

After talking with her mother down the hall, Buffy entered her bedroom and started taking off her shoes. Suddenly, the phone suddenly rang, startling her. She scrambled for it and answered.

"Giles?" Buffy waited expectantly but heard nothing. "Hello?" she called out.

"Hey."

Buffy instantly recognized the voice. Her face lit up in both alarm and relief. "Faith! Where—?"

"I need to see you," Faith said, cutting her off.

"Fine," Buffy quickly agreed. "Just tell me where you are. We'll come get you."

"No. No 'we'," came Faith's voice over the phone. "Just you."

Buffy hesitated, suddenly uneasy about the prospect of meeting Faith alone. "Ummm…"

"Look, I know I screwed up, all right?" Faith blurted out. "I just…I need to talk, and you're the only one I even remotely trust."

"Okay," Buffy replied. "Where?"

"Meet me in Elmwood, the Carlton tomb, in an hour," Faith instructed. "Alone."

"I'll be there," Buffy assured her.

Cut To:

Int.

Elmwood Cemetery – An Hour Later

Buffy fidgeted in front of the Carlton tomb, pacing for a while then looking at her watch. It had been an hour already, but Faith hadn't shown herself.

"I'm here!" Buffy called out into the darkness. "And I know you're here, too, so you might as well come out."

Faith stepped out from the shadows. "Just making sure you're alone."

"I am," Buffy said, turning toward her. "Just like I said I'd be."

As Faith stalked closer, Buffy fought the urge to tense up and mirror Faith's posture. She willed herself to relax and remain calm.

"Are you all right?" Buffy asked.

"Do you care?" Faith shot back.

"Yes, I do," Buffy replied sincerely.

Faith considered Buffy's answer for a moment, but refused to let her defenses down. She smiled and began circling around Buffy.

"Well, I'm five-by-five," Faith snarked back. "Best thing about a coma, you wake up all rested and rejuvenated. I'm ready for anything you can throw at me." She stopped in place and struck a cocky pose.

"I'm not gonna throw anything at you, Faith. I'm here to help," Buffy insisted.

"Why?" Faith challenged.

"Like I said. Because I care."

"Why?"

Buffy got a puzzled look. "Why with all the why's? You're the one who called this meeting."

Faith hesitated, not really sure how to begin. She opened her mouth several times, but no words emerged. When she did manage to get something out, it was only a spattering of disjointed phrases. She finally let out a frustrated howl.

"What is the matter with me?!!" she growled. "It's just two freakin' words!!!"

"What?" Buffy asked in confusion. "I don't understand."

"I'm trying!" Faith grumbled to Buffy.

"Trying to do what?" Buffy pressed, still perplexed.

"To say 'I'm sorry,' okay?!!!" Faith shrieked, startling Buffy.

When she saw Buffy jump in fear, Faith closed her eyes and hung her head, letting out a deep, sad sigh.

"It doesn't matter anyway," Faith said softly. "It's just words. Two stupid, useless words. Saying 'em doesn't change anything."

Buffy cautiously moved closer until she stood right in front of Faith. Then she gently took Faith's hands in hers, a little surprised that Faith actually let her do so.

"You're wrong," Buffy told her in a choked voice. "It changes everything."

When Faith looked up, the two slayers stared at each other, tears filling their eyes.

"I'm sorry..." Faith whispered, trying to pour all of her regret and remorse into those two simple words. As she ducked her head once again, the tears that had been forming in her eyes rolled over the lids and streamed down her face. "I'm so sorry," she went on. "I screwed up so bad. I hurt everybody, especially you, and I know I can't ever make up for that. I know it's just words, but I wanted to say it, to your face, at least once before I—"

Buffy yanked her hands back. "Before you what?" she asked angrily. "Leave?"

Faith glanced away without answering.

"Faith, the running has to stop. Right here. Right now."

"What choice do I have?" Faith shot back. "The police want to throw me in jail. The Council wants to chain me up and drag me back to merry ole England. What am I supposed to do?"

"Stay here...with me," Buffy told her. "We'll fight this. You and me. The Chosen Two. Remember?"

Faith shook her head. "Buffy...I've killed people...there's no coming back from that."

"There is," Buffy insisted, desperation filling her voice. "There has to be!"

"Why?" Faith asked, confused by Buffy's reaction.

It was Buffy's turn to let the tears fall. She swallowed down the lump in her throat and said, "Because I don't want to lose you. Not again."

Faith merely stared, an anguished look on her face, her expression revealing how badly she wanted to accept Buffy's offer. But all she did was drop her head.

Buffy stepped closer once again, ran her hands up Faith's arms and over her shoulders, then rested them on the sides of her neck. She leaned her forehead against Faith's.

"Please…" Buffy begged.

When Faith still didn't look up, Buffy lifted her chin and gently kissed her. Faith didn't kiss back. Instead, she broke into a sob, took a step back, and dropped into a squat.

"This can't be real," she said, hugging herself. "This can't be real…"

Buffy knelt in front of Faith and grasped her arms. "It is real," she assured her. "It is…"

When Buffy tugged Faith toward her, Faith allowed herself be pulled into a hug. The embrace made Faith cry harder. She just fell onto her knees and clung to Buffy even tighter.

After her sobs had subsided, Faith pulled away somewhat. She didn't raise her head but kept her gaze firmly on the ground.

"All I ever wanted was for you to love me," she confessed in a whisper.

"I do," Buffy replied earnestly.

Faith's head shot up, and she looked at Buffy in utter disbelief. She shook her head strongly and pulled out of Buffy's grasp.

"Not possible," she told her, getting to her feet. "Not after what I did to Angel." As Buffy also rose, Faith went on frantically as she moved away. "No…no...this is some kind of punishment, isn't it? Any minute now you'll laugh and point and say, 'See, that's what it feels like to get your heart torn out!' "

"No! Faith, no," Buffy pleaded. "That's not—"

"Well...lookee here..." said a taunting voice from the shadows.

When the two girls followed the sound, they saw Weatherby and Collins stepping into the moonlight right in front of them, with Smith just a few yards away. All three were armed.

"Did ya hear all that weepy talk, fellas?" Weatherby continued. "Pretty convincing, eh? If I didn't know better, that is."

Faith immediately whipped around to face Buffy and jabbed an accusing finger toward her. "I knew it!" she screamed. "All of this...it was just a trick to keep me here long enough for the Council cavalry to get here."

Buffy held up her hands in defense. "Faith, no! I swear!"

"Well, it's not gonna work," she told Buffy before turning back to Weatherby and the others. "'Cause you're not takin' me alive."

Collins racked back his nine millimeter. "Not a problem."

"Faith, run!" Buffy yelled before spinning into a simultaneous attack on both Collins and Weatherby.

Smith pulled an Uzi from his coat and began firing at Faith, who took off behind a line of tombstones. As she darted and dodged, Smith kept blasting rounds at her, but he only succeeded in destroying a dozen or more headstones. When Smith's gun ceased firing and he turned his attention to reloading, Faith rushed him. One kick and two punches later, Smith was on his back seeing stars.

Nearby, Buffy sent Weatherby tumbling a distance away with a high kick to the chest. Upon landing, she spun around and nailed Collins with a roundhouse that sent him slamming into a tombstone. She rushed over to Collins, but he didn't move.

Buffy swept her eyes across the cemetery until she found Faith. She exhaled in relief when she saw Faith snatching up Smith's Uzi and ripping out the clip. Suddenly, Buffy's breath stopped when, right behind her, she heard another nine millimeter being racked for firing.

She whipped around to see Weatherby dragging himself to his knees. He wobbled a bit but then steadied and took aim, first at Buffy, who was closer, then to his right for Faith, who was further away and who still had her back to them as she finished clearing Smith's weapon.

"Faaaaiiiithhh!" Buffy screamed in warning, causing the dark slayer to turn in her direction and unwittingly give Weatherby a perfect target.

Weatherby curled his lip into a snarl and said, "Bye bye, birdie..."

"Noooo!!!" Buffy yelled, waving her arms as she dashed in front of Weatherby to hopefully block his line of sight.

She was too late, though, and Weatherby's shot rang out anyway. The bullet blasted through Buffy's chest and kept streaking toward Faith. Luckily, with its trajectory altered, it narrowly missed the brunette, but the damage to Buffy had been done. She put her hand to her chest, stumbled slightly, then crashed to the ground on her back.

As Faith screamed Buffy's name and raced towards her, Weatherby looked on in horror at what he had just done.

"Damn it, man!" Collins exclaimed. "You've shot the wrong slayer!"

In a panic, Collins and Weatherby fled the scene with Smith quickly following.

When Faith reached Buffy's side, she immediately pressed her hands against the gushing wound in Buffy's chest in a useless attempt to stop the bleeding.

"Oh God, Buffy...oh God…" Faith cried.

With her last bit of strength, Buffy grabbed Faith's shirt and pulled her close. In a wet, rasping breath, she said, "It…wasn't…a trick…" Then her eyes fluttered closed, and she went limp, releasing her hold on Faith.

"No, no, no," Faith muttered wildly as she felt for a pulse that was no longer there. When she realized Buffy was dead, Faith rocked back on her heels and screamed her grief to the heavens.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Night

Faith was still screaming as she suddenly awakened in her hospital bed, emerging from her coma for the first time. She threw the covers off and jumped out of bed. When she felt their presence, she ripped the IV needle from her hand and snatched off the heart sensors as well. The readings on the heart monitor immediately flat-lined. Panicked and confused, Faith glanced rapidly around the drab hospital room.

Just then, Doris, the nurse, entered the room, drawn by the heart alarm at her station. "Miss Lehane!" she called out to the slayer.

Faith whipped around and frantically asked, "Where's Buffy?!!"

"You need to lie down, you're very sick," Doris continued, trying to soothe her patient with her words, but Faith paid no heed and quickly closed in on Doris.

"Where's Buffy?!!" Faith demanded. "What happened to Buffy?!!"

Frightened by Faith's crazed expression, Doris could only stutter, "She's...she's..."

Faith grabbed Doris by the arms so hard that the nurse slipped to her knees in pain. She screamed at Doris, "Tell me!!!"

Just then Buffy rushed in, still carrying the coffee that she had just gotten from the vending machine. Buffy froze when she took in the scene. She slowly set down the coffee and carefully approached, holding her hands out in placating gesture.

"Faith, let her go," Buffy said. "Then we can talk, okay? Nobody has to get hurt."

For a moment, Faith just stared at Buffy. Then she released Doris, who gratefully scrambled away to the safety of the corner. As Faith made halting steps toward Buffy, her mind slowly began to accept the fact that Buffy's death had been only a dream.

As Faith approached, Buffy set herself, preparing for any possible attack from the volatile slayer. But when she saw the tears streaming down Faith's face, Buffy relaxed her stance and reached out to steady the slayer. She was shocked, though, when Faith pulled her into a desperate hug. After getting past her surprise, Buffy gratefully returned the embrace.

PART 03

Fade In:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Resume

The two slayers just held one another for the longest time. They were so caught up in each other that they barely registered Doris when the nurse told them she would go find the doctor.

"I thought I lost you," Faith murmured into the crook of Buffy's neck.

The blonde smiled, using her free hand to stroke the back of Faith's head. "I thought I lost you, too."

After a long embrace, the two pulled apart but kept their hands on each other's arms, not wanting to be out of physical contact. When their eyes met, they just stared, a range of emotions crossing their faces.

Eventually, an awkward, 'this-isn't-what-we're-supposed-to-be-doing' moment descended, and they looked away, cleared their throats, and backed away from one another. Their glances darted about the room, landing anywhere but on each other. Buffy was the first to hold her gaze once again. She looked at Faith with amazement.

"The doctor said you'd never wake up," she whispered. "I didn't want to believe it, but after so long, I started to give up hope."

"How long was I out?" Faith asked.

"Eight months," Buffy answered.

Faith's eyes widened. Just like my dream...So long...

Then Faith did a slow-motion series of blinks as a dizzy spell hit her. When she swayed on her feet, Buffy had to catch her.

"Hey, I got ya...let's get you back over to the bed," Buffy said as she helped Faith to the edge of bed. "Why don't you lie back down until the doctor gets here?"

Faith shook her head. "I've been lying down for eight months. I think that's long enough." When Buffy gave her a chiding glare, Faith said, "I'm okay. Just a little light-headed, that's all."

Buffy's expression softened, and she sat down next to Faith. Buffy didn't speak, though, and the two slayers fell into awkward silence for a time. Eventually, Faith spoke up.

"So...back up to eight months ago. What happened exactly?" Faith asked. "Last thing I remember was falling off the building...and something about a cat and a bunch o' cardboard boxes." Her brow furrowed as she tried to make sense of the jumble of memories.

"You fell off the building and landed in the back of a truck," Buffy told her. "You got driven away, and I didn't see you again until we both ended up in the hospital."

"Both?"

"I let Angel drain me," Buffy answered, pausing for a long moment after speaking those words.

Faith hung her head and swallowed noticeably but said nothing.

"I almost died," Buffy went on, "but Angel recovered and got me here in time."

Faith looked stricken as she raised her eyes to meet Buffy's. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

Buffy merely nodded in silent acknowledgement of the apology. Then she said, "Anyway, that's when the cat and the cardboard boxes thing happened. We had some kind of shared dream."

"I remember now," Faith said, thinking back. "I told you something about the Mayor, didn't I?"

"Yes, and it worked. We stopped him...we stopped the Ascension."

"Is he...?"

"Yes."

Pain entered Faith's expression, and Buffy frowned in reaction.

"I know you cared about him, and I know he cared about you," Buffy said. "I'm sorry it had to go that way."

"I don't know why you're apologizin' to me. Mayor wanted to do a demon makeover on the world, and I nearly helped him do it."

"Because I know it hurts...and because, in the end, you helped me beat him."

The two slayers went quiet for a while. Then Faith finally spoke up.

"So, what happens now?" she asked. "A 'go directly to jail' card or a one-way ticket to the mother country?"

"I don't know," Buffy said sadly. Suddenly, she took Faith's hand in hers. "Whatever happens, please don't run, okay? There's only one way that's gonna end, and I—"

"I know," Faith said, remembering her dream. "I won't run," she assured her.

The two slayers fell silent once again, releasing each other's hand.

"Man, is this doctor ever gonna show?" Faith complained in an effort to fill the awkward silence. "Good thing I wasn't havin' a heart attack or nothing." She looked around the drab room. "I'm not exactly in the VIP suite down here."

"Yeah," Buffy ruefully agreed. "I think the Council wanted to keep you out of the mainstream."

"Why? In case I woke up and went berserk?"

Buffy shrugged, not really able to contest Faith's speculation.

"I guess that's why you been hangin' out here," Faith said. "Wes made ya come and baby-sit the crazy slayer, huh?"

"Not exactly," Buffy said. "Wesley isn't here anymore. He left after I quit the Council."

"You quit the Council?"

"First it was that damn Cruciamentum test; then they fired Giles. When they refused to help me save Angel…that was it. I told 'em I was done." Buffy took a moment to let her anger dissipate. Then she turned back to Faith. "So, no…I didn't come here to 'baby-sit the crazy slayer.' I came because I wanted to...because I needed to."

Faith kept her guard up, refusing to allow herself to feel any hope at Buffy's words. She knew she couldn't count on this Buffy being anything like the Buffy in her dreams.

"I felt so bad," Buffy said, "about everything that had happened. I had to tell you...even if you couldn't hear me." Her eyes filled with tears, and her voice became choked. "You were here, like this," she said, gesturing at the hospital bed, "because of me, because of what I had done, and—"

"It wasn't your fault. It was mine. I'm the one who—"

"No," Buffy said, shaking her head. "It doesn't matter what you did. I shouldn't have stabbed you. It didn't have to go down like that. I could've used a tranquilizer gun, a Taser. I didn't have to take that knife with me, but the truth was...I was angry...furious at what you had done...what you did to Angel...what you tried to do to Xander and Willow...to the world..."

Faith let her gaze drop to her lap. "I had it coming, B. Don't beat yourself up about it."

Buffy turned so that she could face Faith. "Why did you do it, Faith? Why did you go down that path?"

Faith looked up and met Buffy's troubled eyes.

Before Faith could formulate an answer to Buffy's question, however, the doctor stepped into the room, followed by Doris. He looked at Faith with a wowed expression on his face.

"Miss Lehane, you are just full of surprises, aren't you?" he said as he stepped over to where Faith was sitting on the bed.

Buffy immediately moved out of the doctor's way so that he could begin his examination.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Moments Later

Dr. Hill was just finishing up his examination of Faith when there came a knock at the door. When Buffy opened it, Detective Stein entered with two uniformed police officers. He scanned the room then made eye contact with the Dr. Hill.

"Doctor," Stein said, "how's the patient?"

Dr. Hill walked over to the detective. "And you are…?"

Stein flashed his badge and said, "Detective Stein. I'm investigating the murder of Deputy Mayor Allan Finch. This woman is wanted in connection to that murder. I need to take her downtown for questioning."

"Like hell you are!" Buffy said.

"Absolutely not," Dr. Hill replied, crossing his arms over his chest. "She just woke up from a coma. She's not going anywhere until I clear her."

Stein peeked around Buffy and the doctor to look at Faith, who wouldn't meet his gaze for more than a second at a time. "She looks well enough to me," he pronounced.

"And you got your medical degree from where? Keystone Cop University?" Buffy snarked.

Nurse Doris snickered under her breath.

"Just let him take me," Faith offered sadly. "You're gonna have to eventually."

At that, Detective Stein smiled and started to move forward, only to find himself blocked by Buffy, Doris, and Dr. Hill. The group began arguing loudly, and things were just about to become physical when a piercing voice cut through the melee.

"Excuse me!!" Dr. Petrova barked, adding a telepathic head smack that made the entire group grimace in pain and instantly shut up. Once she had everyone's attention, she smiled and said in her Russian-accented English, "I'm Dr. Margravine Petrova. I'm Miss Lehane's psychiatrist." Then she turned to Stein. "I'm sure your case is very important, Detective, but Miss Lehane is in no condition to be dragged to a police station and interrogated. I forbid it."

"Then I'll question her here," Stein insisted.

"No, you won't," Dr. Hill added, moving to stand beside Dr. Petrova.

Margravine stared at Stein for a moment and then asked, "Are you prepared to formally arrest Miss Lehane?"

Stein narrowed his eyes but had to admit, "No."

Margravine gestured toward the door. "Then I believe your business here is concluded."

Detective Stein reluctantly left but not before assigning one of the uniformed officers to remain on duty outside Faith's room.

Margravine sighed and turned so that she was facing Faith, who sat slack-jawed in her hospital bed.

"Dr. Petrova?" Faith asked in shock.

"Miss Lehane," Margravine greeted with a tilt of her head.

Faith shook her head. "I haven't seen you since—"

"Yes. Quite a long time," Margravine agreed.

When Buffy looked at Faith questioningly, Faith explained, "She was my shrink in Boston when I first found out I was—"

"Adopted," Margravine interjected to Dr. Hill before Faith could complete her statement with 'a slayer.' "It was a difficult transition for her."

Dr. Hill smiled at Dr. Petrova warmly, very grateful for having her support in fending off Detective Stein. Then he turned to Faith. "Well, Miss Lehane, I'm going to order those tests I mentioned earlier. It'll be sometime tomorrow morning, I imagine. Until then, eat, rest, and try to relax, okay?"

Faith nodded. "Okay. Thanks."

Once Dr. Hill had left, Faith turned to Margravine and said, "Thanks for the save, Doc."

Margravine raised an eyebrow and glared at Faith. The slayer instantly corrected herself.

"Uhhh, Doctor. Dr. Petrova," Faith amended.

Pleased with Faith's correction, Margravine's lips quirked into a slight smirk. Then she turned to Doris. "Have you informed the Council?"

Doris nodded. "Yes. Right after I called you. But I didn't call Detective Stein. I don't know how he found out."

Margravine let out a testy sigh. "I suspect the call came from Quentin." She said the Council leader's name with clear disgust.

"Quentin Travers?" Buffy asked in a concerned voice as she stepped forward into the conversation.

"Yes," Margravine answered as she took in the sight of the small blonde before her. "You must be Buffy Summers. I have heard much about you."

She held out her hand to Buffy, who took it, and they shook hands.

"Don't believe everything you hear," Buffy said with a rueful grin.

"What I have heard has often sent Quentin Travers into fits of apoplexy," Margravine said. "I am hoping it proves true."

Thinking of Buffy's attitude with Stein, Doris murmured, "Oh, it's true."

Buffy blushed and ducked her head a moment but then quickly lifted it. "Doctor, what's going to happen to Faith?" she asked soberly.

"I am not certain," Margravine answered. "This detective seems determined to pursue a case against Miss Lehane. However, I can assure you that the Council will do everything in its power to usurp the jurisdiction of the local police."

"But…that doesn't mean Faith will be free," Buffy commented.

"No, it does not." Margravine turned her attention to Faith. "You have made some very bad choices. There will be consequences."

"I know," Faith said, her expression remorseful and resigned.

"But they can wait," Margravine announced in a lighter tone. "For now, we must focus on your wellbeing. From this point on, I am assuming responsibility for your case. Miss Lehane, do you submit to my authority on behalf of the Watchers Council?"

Faith nodded solemnly. "Yes."

Margravine turned to the others. "Doris McKinley, Buffy Summers, you are my witnesses in this matter. Until further notice, Miss Lehane will be under my supervision. My authority shall exceed that of any watchers assigned to her and that of all other Council representatives. Only a direct order from the Command Council can remove Miss Lehane from my care. Is that clear?"

Buffy gave Dr. Petrova a playful salute. "Ma'am, yes ma'am!"

Margravine directed a sharp glare at Buffy. Like Faith, she instantly crumbled under its power.

Buffy cleared her throat and mumbled, "Sorry." When Faith snickered next to her, Buffy gave the slayer an elbow nudge to the arm.

"Now then," Margravine announced to the group, "I must go and argue with Quentin and arrange for a conference call to the Command Council." She turned to Buffy and said, "And I believe that you have friends to inform, do you not?"

"Ummm, yeah, I should probably do that," Buffy replied without actually moving. She clearly didn't want to leave.

Faith just shrugged and said with sharp sarcasm, "Bet the Super Friends are gonna be thrilled."

Buffy gave Faith's arm a squeeze. "They'll be okay with it." Off Faith's look of incredulity, Buffy rolled her eyes and added, "Eventually." She smiled and caressed Faith's shoulder until Dr. Petrova's 'ahem' drew her away.

As Buffy stepped aside, Margravine met her eyes. "Do not concern yourself about Miss Lehane. She will be right here when you return. Yes?" she added with a quick look at Faith.

Faith nodded her affirmative answer, which earned her another glare from the doctor. "Oh, um, yes, ma'am," Faith said aloud.

As Margravine guided Buffy through the door and past the officer outside, Doris followed after them. Before exiting, the nurse turned back to Faith and said, "I'll get a tray sent down from the kitchen."

"Thanks," Faith said. "Can ya make it two? I'm kinda starving."

"Two it is," Doris said and then shut the door behind her.

Once everyone was gone, Faith let out a long, deep breath and lay back against her pillows. Worry fell like a shadow on her face as she stared at the ceiling.

Cut To:

Int.

Giles's Apartment – Later That Night

Despite the lateness of the hour, Giles, Willow, Xander, and Riley had dutifully gathered at Scooby Central when Buffy had called.

"Thanks for coming on such short notice," Buffy said. "I wouldn't have called so late, but this is kinda important."

"What's happened?" Giles asked. "Have you seen Adam?"

"No, it's not Adam-related," Buffy replied. "It's...it's Faith. She's awake."

"Oh my God!" Willow gasped in alarm. "D-D-Did you call the police? Did they lock her up?"

"A-A-And throw away the key? Preferably after chaining her with slayer-proof manacles?" Xander quickly added.

"Oh, she's fine," Buffy answered sarcastically. "Thanks for asking."

"Who's Faith?" Riley asked, but no one answered him.

"What?" Willow shot back to Buffy. "Are we supposed to feel sorry for her? After what she's done?"

Riley tried again. "Who's Faith? Is she another slayer?" Everyone continued to ignore him.

"She tried to kill me. And Will," Xander pointed out. "In fact, she tried to kill you...on more than one occasion even. You ask me, a coma wasn't good enough."

Luckily, Giles was more sympathetic. "How is she, Buffy? Really?"

"No, who is she?" Riley interrupted. "Will somebody please tell me what's going on?"

"Faith is a slayer," Giles explained. "Like Buffy."

"She's not like Buffy at all," Willow insisted.

Giles went on. "She came to Sunnydale last year, and for a time, she was doing very well, but then..."

"She accidentally killed someone," Buffy supplied. "A non-demon someone."

"She killed a human?" Riley asked for clarification.

Giles sighed. "I'm afraid so. And after that, she—"

"She went psycho," Xander said, cutting in. "She teamed up with the Mayor, who was trying to turn himself into a big demony snake so that he could take over the world, and she killed people every chance she got."

"That is not true!" Buffy accused.

"What's not true?" Xander replied.

"How many people she killed!" Buffy answered. "You make it sound like she's some kind of mass murderer, and she's not!"

Willow gave a shrug and said, "One, more than one...does it really matter? She's still a killer."

Buffy held up her hands to stop the attack on Faith. "Look, I don't deny that she did some horrible things. I think I know that better than any of you."

Willow and Xander shared a guilty glance at one another. They knew it was true: If anyone had a rightful beef against Faith, it was Buffy. They remained quiet as Buffy went on.

"But I also know that there is good in her. She's not evil. She just...she just needs someone to believe in her." Buffy cast a hopeful gaze around the group.

"Oh, I believe in her," Xander said. "I believe she needs to go to prison."

"Ditto," Willow agreed.

"I doubt that she'll be allowed to remain in the American justice system," Giles noted. "More than likely, the Council will remove her to England."

"Can they do that?" Riley inquired.

"Giles, no!" Buffy insisted urgently. "We can't let them take her away!"

"Good riddance, I say," Willow quipped.

"Amen, sister!" Xander added.

"Enough!" Giles boomed at Willow and Xander, startling them both. "You've made your feelings about Faith quite clear. There's no need to keep spewing such-such...venom."

Willow and Xander managed to look ashamed and hung their heads, saying nothing more.

"Dr. Petrova said that there'd be consequences," Buffy said to Giles worriedly. "What is the Council going to do with Faith?"

"Dr. Petrova?" Giles asked, his eyes going wide. "Margravine Petrova? She's here in Sunnydale?"

After a nod, Buffy said, "You know her?"

"Yes," Giles replied. "She's a psychiatrist. Top in her field. The Council's best. If she's here, then the Council already knows."

"They know," Buffy confirmed. "The nurse assigned to Faith apparently works for the Council, too. She said that she'd already called the Council and that Travers must have called the police. A detective came and tried to take Faith into custody, but Dr. Petrova wouldn't let him."

"Quentin called the police?" Giles was apparently puzzled by Quentin's actions.

"Who's Travers?" Riley asked.

"Big wig inside the Council," Buffy answered before turning back to Giles. "Dr. Petrova seemed to think it was him. Why would he do that?"

"Why indeed," Giles said, a troubled look on his face.

"Giles, we can't let them take her," Buffy told Giles. "She needs to be here with us. We're the only family she's got."

Riley continued to look confused. Willow and Xander prudently kept their mouths shut, though it was clear they had more to say.

"I'll see what I can find out," Giles said. "Which may be nothing at all since I'm no longer employed by the Council. But I'll try."

"Thanks," Buffy told him. "I'm gonna go get some of Faith's things out of my basement, and then I'm going back to the hospital. If anything happens with Adam, you know where to find me."

At that, Buffy left without another word. Riley, however, immediately followed her outside Giles's apartment.

Cut To:

Ext.

Giles's Apartment – Seconds Later

"Buffy, wait up!" Riley called out, causing Buffy to stop and turn around.

"What is it?" Buffy replied impatiently. "I really need to go."

"I just wanted to see if you were okay. You seemed pretty tense in there."

He started to reach out and touch her arm, but Buffy moved out of the way. Riley pulled his hand back, a bit of hurt shining in his eyes.

"I'm fine," Buffy said. "As fine as I can be, anyway."

Riley tucked his hands into his pockets. "Well, if you need to talk..."

"I will," Buffy said, backing away, "but not now. Faith is at a critical point here. If she runs now, it's all over. I need to be there for her."

Riley nodded in understanding. "Call me later, okay?"

"I will," Buffy said.

At that, Buffy took off for her mother's house, leaving an even more confused Riley behind.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Dawn

A freshly-showered but still hospital-gown-clad Faith paced back and forth across the small patch of tiled floor in the room. She instantly stopped when she heard a knock at the door.

"Come in," Faith called out. She smiled when she saw it was Buffy.

Buffy smiled back and entered carrying a large cardboard box. She set the box down on the end of the bed and said, "Hey. How are you feeling?"

"Kinda stir-crazy," Faith admitted, "but my head hasn't exploded or anything, so hey, I'm good. What's in the box?"

Buffy opened the flaps and showed her. "Believe it or not, some of your old clothes." At Faith's shocked look, Buffy explained, "I boxed up some of your stuff at the loft. I've been keeping it in my mom's basement. Just in case, you know?"

"Huh. I figured you and the Scoobies woulda had a big bonfire with all that stuff by now."

"No," Buffy said gently as she shook her head.

"So, um, how'd they take the news?"

"'Bout like you'd expect."

Faith forced a smile and joked, "That good, huh?"

"Giles wants to help," Buffy noted positively. Then she added, "Willow and Xander…not so much." When she saw shadows shroud Faith's eyes, she quickly tried to reassure her. "Don't worry…they'll come around."

Faith didn't give any indication she agreed with that assessment. Instead, she just turned her attention to the box of clothes. "Let's see whatcha brought me."

As Faith started pulling out clothes, Buffy warned her, "They're clean, I think, but a little musty. From being boxed up for so long."

"I don't care what they smell like," Faith said, holding up a very faded pair of jeans. "Anything to get out this hospital gown."

Faith pulled on the jeans and tested their fit. They were a bit loose, courtesy of her eight-month-long coma diet. She ran her hands over the worn denim and then flashed Buffy a wide smile.

"Damn it feels good to be in my own clothes. Thanks."

Buffy smiled back, staring warmly at Faith for a lengthy moment.

It prompted Faith to ask, "What?"

"It's good to see you smile—a real smile," Buffy said. "I haven't seen that in a long time."

"Well, I better smile while I can," Faith said as she rummaged for a shirt. "I don't think I've got many smiles in my future." When she found a shirt she liked, Faith yanked off her gown, causing Buffy to shyly look away.

"You don't know that," Buffy countered as Faith donned her shirt. She looked up when she heard Faith chuckling ruefully.

"That's my B," Faith said, still smiling. "Always the optimist. The way I see it, I've got two options: go to prison or die young and on the run. Either way, it's not gonna be a smiling affair." Faith struck a pose and asked, "How do I look?"

Buffy dismissed Faith's fashion question with a hand wave and demanded, "How can you say it like that? Like your life is just over and it's no big deal?"

Faith finally let her smile slip away. "Because my life is over. It was over the minute I killed Finch."

"No, that was an accident," Buffy said. "You didn't mean to kill him."

"Yeah," Faith shrugged, "but everything after that wasn't an accident. I made my choices, and now I've got to face the consequences—like Dr. Petrova said."

Buffy shook her head in disbelief. "How can you be so calm about this?!!"

"I'm not!" Faith replied sharply. She took a deep breath and then went on. "But I gotta act like I am so I don't run out that door right this minute."

Buffy didn't know what to say. Faith just turned and walked a few feet away.

"I'm getting cabin fever just being here in this hospital room," Faith said softly. "I can't imagine what it'll be like in prison." She dropped her gaze to the floor. "Just locked up...forgotten...like I never mattered anyway."

Buffy walked around Faith so that she could stand in front of her. She took Faith's hands in hers. "You...matter. To me. You always have...you always will..."

Buffy and Faith stared into each other's eyes for a long moment. No longer able to contain herself, Faith suddenly pulled Buffy close and kissed her. Just as Buffy began returning the kiss, though, Faith abruptly separated them and backed away from Buffy.

"I'm sorry. I-I-I shouldn't have done that," Faith said without meeting Buffy's gaze.

"It's okay. I wasn't exactly fighting you off," Buffy pointed out.

"It doesn't matter. You weren't interested before I went psycho. You sure as hell ain't gonna be interested now."

"I was interested," Buffy said, causing Faith to look up. "Back then, I mean. I was more than interested, actually." She stopped and shrugged sadly. "I just couldn't see it. I wouldn't let myself see it. All I could see was Angel."

The two slayers were silent for a long time until Faith finally made herself ask, "He still around?"

"No," Buffy said, looking back up. "We broke up. We had to. It was useless, we knew that. He's in L.A. now."

Faith forced a smile and flashed it at Buffy. "So, who're you seeing now? Football player? Frat boy?"

"Not exactly," Buffy replied. "Riley is...kinda hard to explain."

Riley? Faith thought to herself, puzzling over her recognition of the name. Damn. How much of my dreams was real?

"Are things serious?" she asked.

Buffy hesitated a moment then said, "I...I think it is for him..."

"But it's not for you?"

"I...I like him, I do," she said, "He's super nice and very good looking,

a-a-and he's a demon fighter, too, which means I don't have to keep my slaying a secret, but..."

"But what?"

Buffy sighed. "I don't feel that connection, that need, you know? If he went away, I'd miss him, but I wouldn't be devastated…I wouldn't feel… incomplete…like I'd lost a part of myself."

Faith didn't comment, so Buffy went on.

"Besides Angel, I've only felt that way with one other person."

Faith didn't really want to know the answer, but she asked the question anyway. "Who?"

Buffy's face lit up in a warm smile. "You," she answered.

Faith blinked, then blinked again. She couldn't believe what she had just heard. She let out a sarcastic snort. "Yeah, right."

Buffy kept eye contact with Faith until it was clear to her that Buffy was being completely serious. More disbelief set in; then it changed to anger.

"You sure had a funny way of showing it," Faith noted bitterly.

"Yeah, I know," Buffy admitted. "I wish I could turn back time and do things differently."

Faith's expression softened. "Yeah, me too."

Buffy and Faith stared at each other once again but then looked away. After a long moment, Buffy broke the silence.

"Why did you do it, Faith?" Buffy gently asked, finally returning to the question from the night before that Faith hadn't yet answered.

Faith shrugged uncertainly. "I don't know...I guess I figured it was a lost cause...me trying to be good." She hung her head and stared at the floor. "I figured that was why you didn't want me..."

When Faith looked back up, there was a pained expression on her face, but it soon turned to rage. She clenched her fists tightly. "But as long as I was hurting you, I didn't have to—"

She stopped and then went on in a calmer, sadder voice. "I didn't have to face the fact that I was dying inside."

Buffy's expression was anguished, and she started to speak, but Faith beat her to it.

"I think that's why I jumped," Faith said. "I wanted to get that last hurt in, keep you from saving Angel." She let out a long breath and added, "But mostly I just wanted it all to end."

"God, Faith, I'm so sorry..." Buffy said, reaching out to Faith to give her a comforting hug.

Faith, however, moved out of her grasp. "No. Don't. I can't...not when I know it's just your guilt talking."

Buffy let her arms drop but kept her gaze on Faith. "What if I told you it wasn't?" she said, echoing Faith's words from Christmas night.

Faith just stared in shock. Then she got her guard back in place. "I wouldn't believe you," she answered.

Buffy took a step closer but didn't reach out. "Faith, it took me months to figure it out, why I was so scared of getting involved with you." Tears filled Buffy's eyes as her throat closed in on her. "I was falling in love with you," she explained in a choked whisper.

Buffy looked at Faith intently. When Faith said nothing and glanced away, Buffy cleared her throat and went on.

"A-A-And I couldn't handle it because loving you meant letting go of Angel and...I wasn't ready for that...not yet."

Buffy took another step closer. "Angel's gone. It's over between us. For good. And Riley is..." She paused, uncertain how to describe him. "He's not you," she finally said.

Faith wouldn't look up. Her eyes darted about the room. She just couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"Can we maybe...try again?" Buffy asked.

At those words, tears began streaming down Faith's cheeks, but still she would not look at Buffy or speak to her. Faith's reaction was beginning to frighten Buffy.

"Faith?" she prompted, reaching out to her again.

Faith turned away from Buffy's touch, shaking her head and crying harder. Buffy rushed forward and rested her hand on Faith's back.

"Faith, what is it?"

Faith got her crying under control and said simply, "I'm waiting."

"Waiting for what?"

Faith's expression had a traumatized blankness to it. "For the dream to end," she answered. "This is when it always ends. I let myself believe for one second, and it all comes crashing down, one way or another. But I never wake up, not for real."

Buffy moved around Faith and stood in front of her. She took Faith's shoulders in her hands. "This isn't a dream."

"No, it's worse. It's hell." Faith let out a sob as she lifted her hands to her face. "Oh God…I must be in hell..."

Buffy tried to make Faith look at her but failed, so she just pulled Faith into a heartfelt hug, refusing to let her go.

"You're not in hell," she told her. "I promise."

Buffy continued to croon reassuring words as Faith sobbed against her.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Surveillance Room – Same Time

Dr. Petrova and Doris watched intently as these events played out on the surveillance screen before them. Doris seemed uncomfortable with spying on the two slayers at such a vulnerable moment; she looked away and began needlessly straightening the rows of videotapes that had been recorded during Faith's coma.

Margravine, however, moved closer to the screen and even touched the image of the crying girls, as if she were somehow 'reading' them from a distance. For just a second, her lips lifted into soft smile. Then she pulled back from the screen and muted the speakers.

Doris turned from the shelf of tapes and looked back at the now silent image of Buffy and Faith on the monitor. A worried expression came over her face.

"Letting them get involved again...better nip that in the bud," Doris said.

"On the contrary," Margravine replied, "I believe it is exactly what they need."

Doris started to object, but Margravine just flashed her the 'I-know-what-I'm-doing' look.

"Fine," Doris said, rolling her eyes. "Psychic shrink knows all."

"But of course," Margravine replied in mock haughtiness.

Doris glared, Margravine smirked, and then they both started chuckling.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – A Short Time Later

Buffy and Faith were now sitting on the bed together. They were holding hands, but things were still somewhat awkward. They smiled at one another, but when Faith looked away, her expression immediately grew dark.

Suddenly, Faith blurted "OW!" and grabbed at her upper arm. She glared at Buffy and said, "What was that for?!!"

Buffy grinned mischievously. "You were getting all 'it's only a dream' on me again. I had to do something."

"So you pinched me?"

"Yep, and see...no waking up. Just good old fashioned reality."

Faith's annoyance quickly faded, and she smiled, secretly appreciative of Buffy's efforts to keep her grounded.

"Well, for the record, I'm supposed to pinch myself, not get pinched by my dream lover."

"Dream lover?" Buffy teased. "What have you been dreaming about me?"

Faith actually blushed and couldn't think of a comeback, which amused Buffy to no end, but she didn't press her advantage. Instead, she just took Faith's hand once again.

After a long moment, though, Faith's light mood vanished just like it did before. This time, she caught herself and huffed in frustration. "I know it's a downer, but I can't help it," she said. She gestured at their linked hands. "This is...it's just too unbelievable."

"Why?" Buffy asked sincerely.

"Why?" Faith repeated with heavy sarcasm. They turned and faced each other. "I tried to kill Angel. You know, the love of your life that you didn't want to let go of? And that was after I tried to steal him from you. Not to mention everything else that I did. I just don't see how you could want to see me after all that."

"Maybe it's because I know that a lot of what happened wasn't all your fault. It was mine, too."

"Your fault? Come on, B...what'd'ya do? Hold a crossbow to my head while I did all those things?"

"No, but...I didn't make you feel welcome, I didn't support you like I should have, and I didn't tell you the truth about how I felt. If I hadn't done all that..."

"It was still my choice," Faith insisted.

The two slayers grew silent and turned away from each other for a while. Buffy broke the silence.

"He forgives you, by the way," she said in a soft voice.

"Who?"

"Angel."

"Oh."

"Before he left, he told me to tell you that if you ever woke up. I promised I would. I didn't understand it then, but I do now. The forgiveness, I mean."

"Just like that? Poof! And it's 'I forgive you'? Slate's clean?"

"No, not 'just like that.' It's not a one-time thing. It's a process, and it takes time. But I want to try." She turned and faced Faith and tried to make eye contact, bringing both her hands to cover Faith's. "We can do this. I know we can."

Faith didn't answer. She just got a troubled look on her face.

Concerned, Buffy asked, "Don't you want to try?"

"Of course I do!" Faith said, jumping to her feet. "More than anything. But what's the point if I'm going to prison?"

Buffy got up, too. "We don't know that you are."

Faith scoffed loudly.

"Okay, Miss Pessimist," Buffy said, "let's assume you are going to prison. Isn't that all the more reason to try to be happy now? As long as we can?"

Slowly but surely, Faith realized she had to succumb to Buffy's logic, and a grin appeared on her face. "Life is short, eh?"

"Exactly," Buffy confirmed, bringing her face close to Faith's until they were nose to nose. They exchanged smirks.

"How'd you get so smart, Blondie?" Faith asked as she reached out to put her hands on Buffy's hips.

"I'm a college girl now," Buffy chirped, resting her arms on top of Faith's shoulders. "Too smart for my own good."

Faith leaned in further, breathing her words against Buffy's lips. "Too something..."

Finally the two slayers kissed. Hungrily at first, roughly feeding a passion long denied. But then sweetly, softly, as they chose to slowly savor one another in the short time they had.

Cut To:

Ext.

Sunnydale UC – The Grove – Later That Morning

Riley smiled and stood up as Buffy approached his table. "Hey," he said as he gestured her to the chair across from him. "How goes the slayer sitting?"

"Oh, um, good," Buffy replied, fidgeting a bit as she sat down. "She's being completely cooperative, no problems at all. They had to take her to get some tests run, so I thought I'd come find you. I-I-I wanted to talk to you about something."

"Sounds serious," Riley said guardedly.

"It is," Buffy said somberly. "I need to tell you something...about me and Faith."

"Okay."

"We were...we were involved. Ummm…romantically."

Riley's eyes widened in total surprise. "Oh. Um, wow. Uh, wow." He shook his head in confusion. "I don't know what else to say."

"We kept it secret. None of the others knew." She paused a moment and then added, "Not even Angel."

Riley couldn't speak. He was still in a kind of shock.

Buffy shrugged and glanced down at the table. "It never went very far. I was too hung up on Angel to let it, but...our connection was very strong." She looked back up. "It still is."

Riley blinked and did a double-take. Then he stood up, "Wait, are you saying that you have feelings for this girl?"

"It's not that simple," Buffy said as she too got to her feet.

"Yes, it is," Riley insisted. Then he asked with pointed emphasis, "Do. You. Have feelings for her?"

Buffy let out a deep breath and then met Riley's eyes. "Yes," she said firmly.

"Still?" Riley blurted in disgusted incredulity. "After everything she's done?"

"She is sorry for all of that!" Buffy tried to explain. "She was just a messed up kid when all that happened."

"She killed people and helped a man who would've killed thousands. I don't think 'sorry' is gonna cut it!"

It was Buffy's turn to be silent, not knowing what to say next. After a while, Riley spoke again.

"Okay, so you have feelings for this girl. Where does that leave us?" he asked.

Buffy gave him a sad shrug. Riley got the message. Nowhere. It left them nowhere.

"I see," he said, clenching his jaw tightly.

"I'm sorry," Buffy said sincerely. "I never stopped caring for her, but the doctors didn't think she'd ever wake up. I was...trying to move on."

"Oh, so I was just 'move on' guy for you?" Riley replied hotly.

Buffy opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Nothing she could say would ease Riley's pain. She knew that. Finally, she just sighed dejectedly.

"I don't know what else to say except I'm sorry."

" 'Sorry'," Riley repeated bitterly. "Yeah. Seems to be a whole lotta 'sorry' goin' around these days."

At that, he walked off. Buffy started to call out to him, but then she just let him go.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Later

When Buffy returned to the hospital, she found Faith back in her room, all of her tests completed. She was lying comfortably on her bed with her ankles crossed and her hands tucked behind her head.

"So, how'd it go?" Buffy asked. "What did the doctor say?"

Faith grinned proudly. "Apparently I'm a medical miracle." She lifted her t-shirt and smacked the scar on her stomach. "Gut looks good, and brain looks even better," she added, pointing at her head. "It mighta taken it eight months, but slayer healing does good work."

Buffy's face lit up in relief. "I'm so glad!" she told her as she gave Faith a big hug. When she released her, she cupped her cheek and said, "I was so worried."

Faith ducked her head, a little embarrassed at the affection Buffy was showing her. She shook it off and put on a teasing tone, "So, what'd ya do while I was getting poked, prodded, and scanned?"

"I talked to Riley."

"Oh."

"Yes. I told him about us, and then I broke up with him."

"Really?" Faith asked, still having trouble believing what was happening.

"Really," Buffy said with certainty as she caressed Faith's cheek once again. "I've waited eight months for a second chance with you. I'm not going to let anyone or anything get in the way of that."

"Not even prison?" Faith asked.

"Not even that," Buffy assured her before kissing her soundly.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – Faith's Room – Later

"Where is she?" Faith asked impatiently as she paced about the small room. "Shouldn't she have heard something by now?"

"I'm sure she's just wrapping up loose ends," Buffy said. "Dr. Petrova seems like an 'all her ducks in a row' kinda person if you know what I mean."

Faith smirked at the description. "Yeah, you're probably right." Her smile quickly fell away, though, and her expression grew serious. "Look," she told Buffy, "no matter what happens, I want you to know that I appreciate everything you've done. If you hadn't been here when I woke up…"

Buffy moved in and placed her fingers over Faith's mouth. "No more wasting time on 'might have been's,' okay?"

Faith nodded and said, "Okay."

Just then, they heard a knock at the door. They jumped at the sound and turned toward it.

"Come in," Faith called out.

When they saw Margravine stride in, the two slayers shared a nervous glance. Neither happened to notice that the police guard who had been outside was now gone.

Faith tucked her hands into her back pockets and made herself ask, "So, what's the verdict?"

As Margravine gathered her thoughts, Buffy placed her hand on Faith's back and waited with her.

"Based upon my recommendation, and despite considerable opposition from Mr. Travers, the Command Council has decided to give you another chance."

As Buffy and Faith both exhaled in relief, Margravine cut them off with a but.

"But," she added sternly, "there is a catch. A price, if you will. For you, Miss Summers."

"Me?" Buffy said in surprise.

"The Watchers Council will arrange for Miss Lehane to avoid prosecution for her crimes and will reinstate her as a slayer here in Sunnydale…but only if you also return and place yourself under the Council's authority once again."

Buffy didn't hesitate in her answer. "No problem. If it keeps Faith here and out of prison, then sign me back up. In fact, sign me up twice," she added. "I'll pull double-duty, whatever it takes."

"Wait," Faith said, putting up her hand to halt the deal. "Are you sure about that?" she asked Buffy. "The Council hasn't done anything but screw you over. Really, B, you…you don't have to do this."

Buffy gave Faith a warm smile. "I know I don't, but I want to. Besides, I'm doin' all the slaying stuff anyway. The only difference is I'll have to report in to some stuffy ol' book-lovin', tweed-wearin' British guy." She turned to Dr. Petrova and asked with a grin, "Right?"

Margravine hesitated, then cleared her throat and admitted stiffly, "More or less."

"See?" Buffy told Faith, giving her a light-hearted but determined 'I've-made-up-my-mind' look.

"Okay," Faith said, lifting her hands in surrender.

Margravine waited until the two slayers turned back to her and the matter seemed closed. Then she went on. "Now to the provisions," she said, addressing Faith. "Regular sessions with me will be required, of course."

Faith nodded in compliance. That one was a given, she had figured.

"Although you will not be prosecuted by the local authorities, you will be required to complete community service on top of your regular slayer duties." Margravine pinned Faith with a serious look. "You have committed terrible crimes. There must be atonement."

"Yes, ma'am," Faith answered meekly.

Margravine's demeanor shifted a bit, and she surprised the slayer when she called her by her first name. "I must warn you, Faith," she said, "after this, there will be no other chances. If you fail this time…"

"I won't," Faith promised.

Margravine smiled and said softly, "I believe you."

As she resumed her report, the doctor immediately snapped back to her stern and strict professional tone.

"Appropriate lodging will be arranged for you once you are discharged from the hospital, at which time you shall both report to Mr. Giles for your duties and assignments." She tossed the last off nonchalantly and waited for the reaction.

"Mr. Giles?" Faith asked incredulously.

Buffy was just as confused. "But he's…"

"Fully reinstated to the Council as well." Margravine gave the amazed slayers a wink. "You are not the only ones getting second chances."

"Thank you, Dr. Petrova," Faith said sincerely.

"You are most welcome," Margravine replied. "I go now to check with your doctor. I shall return as soon as I can."

At that, Margravine exited the room, leaving the two slayers alone.

Buffy and Faith looked at one another and then broke out into humongous smiles. They hugged and kissed and then began chattering away about the miraculous way everything had worked out.

Cut To:

Int.

Sunnydale Hospital – The Next Day

Having completed Faith's discharge, the two slayers now stood in the lobby, looking out of the large glass doors that led in and out of the hospital.

"Well, this is it," Buffy said. "Are you ready?"

"Ready as I'll ever be, I guess."

"Are you scared?"

Faith merely nodded in reply.

"It's not gonna be easy," Buffy conceded. "But we can do this," she told her as she took Faith's hand in hers.

Faith gave Buffy's hand a firm squeeze, and then together they walked outside.

When they reached the parking lot, Faith stopped and looked up to the sky. She closed her eyes against the brightness and let the warmth of the sun seep into her skin.

And for the first time in her life, Faith felt hope…for the first time, Faith saw light instead of darkness.

The End.