A/N: I'm experimenting with different styles of writing. Also, I'm actually continuing this former-oneshot into a full-blown story. You may notice a bit of a jump in writing style between the first two chapters as they were written two years apart.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything (characters, events, etc.) that you may recognize from either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel. Especially the dialogue I've quoted here.
Spoilers: The Angel episode "Sanctuary", mostly. "Sanctuary" is really a culmination of a four-episode arc that begins in BtVS and crosses over to Angel half-way through, but this particular chapter really only references that last episode. The rest of the story covers the last few episodes of BtVS season 4.
Rating: T for a couple mild curses.
Another Road to Redemption
Chapter 1: A Leap of Faith
Her elbow clipped a brick wall as she turned the corner just a bit too sharply. Biting back a curse, she kept running on, not even daring to slow down. Instead, she coaxed just a bit more speed out of her aching muscles. She needed to be faster. She needed to run faster than she had ever run before. She needed to catch her quarry soon, or she would lose the opportunity to make things right.
Whatever that meant.
Reaching out to her right, Buffy Summers snagged a post and used it to swing around into an alley without losing her momentum.
"She needs help."
"Help? Do you have any idea what she did to me?"
Blinking away the errant memory, she took a deep breath and sprinted even faster. She was using every ounce of her strength, because anything less than that would not be enough. This was her last chance, dammit! If she wasn't fast enough this time, then things would never be right again.
The definition of "right" still eluded her. It was something she could figure out later, at a time when she wasn't otherwise occupied. Now was the time for running.
"She wants to change. She has a chance to—"
"No. No chance. Jail."
"You think that'll help?"
Damn, she had been such a bitch to Angel. At the time, she'd thought he deserved her harsh treatment since he was so intent on harboring a murderer, but now she wasn't so sure. If only everything wasn't so jumbled up in her head right now. If only everything could just make a bit of sense…but that would never happen until she had a chance to figure out why she was running so fast.
She just knew that she had to. She knew that she had to catch her target, but she had no idea why, exactly, she felt that way. She had no idea what she would do if she finally caught up.
"Buffy? I'm s—"
"If you apologize to me, I will beat you to death."
She finally reached the end of the alley. Using the wall on her right as a springboard, she leaped off to the left and hit the ground running. Her feet pounded on the sidewalk as she tested the boundaries of her supernatural speed and strength. She was chasing one of the few beings in Hell or on Earth who could possibly outrun her, so she needed to make use of every trick in her repertoire if she wanted to even have a chance to close the distance between them.
Something insubstantial tugged her attention to the right and she followed the vague sensation immediately, vaulting over passing cars as she dashed across the road and into another alley on the other side. She heard loud curses from a few disgruntled drivers, but paid them no mind. The chase demanded every ounce of her attention.
"You're about three seconds from making her run. You know that. She's at a crucial stage—"
"She's playing you! She tried to kill you."
"That was just…That was just a cry for help."
"A cry for help is when you say 'Help' in a loud voice."
A flash of brown hair teased her into moving faster, but she noticed almost immediately that it was entirely the wrong shade. The hair belonged to a woman emptying her trash in the dumpster. Ignoring the slight sense of disappointment, Buffy blew past her, focusing on what her inner Slayer was feeling. There was a connection between the two of them. There always had been, as much as she had wanted to deny it, and it would lead her straight to her target if she could just catch her before she disappeared again.
"I know Faith did some bad things to you."
"You can't possibly know."
"You can't possibly know what she's going through."
"But of course you do. I'm sorry. I can't be in your club. I've never murdered anybody."
Of all the stupid things to say, she just had to bring up that particular fact, didn't she? Buffy bit back another vehement curse as she remembered the look on Angel's face after that ill-timed comment. It had been the exact wrong subject to mention and she had known it before she had even finished speaking.
But now she had the chance to make it all right. She could set everything right, make up for all her recent mistakes. She would do the right thing once she caught up with the other Slayer, just as soon as she figured out what exactly the "right thing" was. Turning Faith in for Finch's murder had certainly seemed like a great idea when she first chased her to Los Angeles, but some of the things Angel, and later Faith, had said were beginning to eat away at her formerly-firm resolve.
"You're not gonna run, Faith."
"Whaddya wanna do? Throw me off the roof? Again?"
"Any reason why I shouldn't?"
"There's nothing I can do for you, B. I can't…ever make it right."
"So you're just gonna take off again. Leave us to clean up yet another one of your messes."
"It'd make things easier for you."
"'Till you got bored with the whole guilt thing? Decided to come back and shake things up?"
"That's not gonna happen."
"You're right. It's not."
Wall! Buffy swore as she flipped over the obstacle that she had almost slammed into. Her thoughts were getting in the way, clouding her finely-honed Slayer senses so much that she was liable to run full-tilt into something very solid and painful without even noticing. She needed to keep her head in the game, no matter how badly her thoughts were caught in a tangled web, no matter how messed up she was inside. She had no idea what to think anymore. She had no idea what she should do, and it was all because of Faith.
"Angel said there was no way you were gonna give me a chance."
"I gave you every chance! I tried so hard to help you, and you spat on me! My like was just something for you to play with. Angel. Riley. Anything that you could take from me, you took. I've lost battles before, but nobody else has ever made me a victim."
Except Angelus. She had been so caught up in her tirade that she had totally forgotten about the whole debacle that had led to Angel's apparent demise two years prior. Angelus had taken everything she had, and then he took more. He had stolen everything that had ever mattered to her, everyone that had ever meant something to her, and stomped all over them. Her friends. Her family. Her pride. Her strength. Her love. Everything. There was only one thing that made Faith's actions seem so much worse.
She had a soul.
She could understand, and maybe even accept, that a soulless vampire would enjoy torturing her. She could even understand that Angelus just didn't care, because Angelus was just the dark, evil side of Angel, without any of his goodness to temper it. But a person? A human being? A Slayer? That went against her very knowledge of what it meant to be Chosen, or even what it meant to be human.
But then Faith had said something that shook her to her very core. The implications of her confession weight heavily on Buffy's mind.
"And you can't stand that. You're all about control. You have no idea what it's like on the other side! When nothing's in control; nothing makes sense! There's just pain and hate and nothing you do means anything! You can't even—"
How eloquent. She felt like a moron for even resorting to such juvenile tactics. She had been ignoring Faith's words, her desperate tone, everything. Until Faith spoke up again, in a quiet, hopeless voice.
"Just tell me how to make it better."
And there it was. The look on the other Slayer's face as she spoke, the emotion behind her words, the hopelessness that Faith showed in every movement, every gesture, every word. It hurt Buffy just to see it. Just to hear it in her voice. And it made her question everything she had ever thought she knew about Faith.
It left her unable to tell up from down anymore. Her mind was so completely blown by just those few sentences that she had been left without even an iota of an idea of what to do next. And now, she was chasing after Faith, knowing that she had to catch up before her fellow Slayer managed to shake her and vanish once again. What would she do when she caught up? The jury was still out.
There! Another flash of brunette! Even from fifty yards away, Buffy knew that particular shade of brown. She knew just whose hair happened to be that color. She was not wrong this time. It was Faith.
She cursed and sped up even more as the hair vanished around a bend in the long alley. Her muscles ached and strained as she pushed them far beyond their limits and then kept pushing harder. She had never abused them so much before, and she would certainly pay for it later when they all cramped up, but she could not slow down now, not when she was so close! She was almost there!
But she still needed to figure out what to do next.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity but was probably only a few seconds, she rounded a corner and there she was, just a few yards away. Buffy coiled her leg muscles and leaped with all of her strength, catching her quarry by the shoulders and bringing them both down to the pavement. Faith struggled weakly, but both of them were so tired by now that they were in no shape to fight, so the blonde managed to hold her down with her weight alone.
Taking deep breaths to calm her raging heart and relieve her protesting muscles, she looked down at Faith's face and felt her heart twist in a way that was definitely not related to her exertions. The brunette looked so lost and alone, so sad and defeated…
"I told you that you couldn't run," Buffy wheezed between deep breaths. "You're not running away this time. Not anymore."
"I wasn't going to," the younger Slayer replied, her eyes flicking towards the end of the alley. Buffy's eyes followed her gaze to alight upon a Police Station that shone like a beacon in the darkness that was Los Angeles.
"You think that'll help?" Buffy asked, quoting Angel word-for-word as the chaotic thoughts in her mind finally began to coalesce into a cohesive picture. "Get some time to yourself to think about the mistakes you've made? Live out your sentence in peace? It won't do you any good."
"Then tell me what to do!" Faith shouted, her eyes brimming with tears now. "Tell me how to make it all right again! Tell me how to fix everything I've broken! Tell me how to keep on living, or just let me die!"
That was all it took. As Faith spoke, her voice laced with desperation and tears beginning to leak from her eyes, Buffy finally came to a decision that surprised her more than she cared to admit. She didn't have time to second-guess herself though, so she just rolled with it.
"Come back to Sunnydale with me," she said firmly.
Faith's jaw dropped in astonishment as she stared at the Slayer who was still pinning her to the ground. Her struggles and tears slowed and stopped as she tried to make sense of what she had just heard.
"You're looking for redemption, right?" Buffy asked, still trying to figure out what the hell she would say next. "Remember your motto? 'Want. Take. Have.' Salvation isn't served on a silver platter. That's too easy. You have to want it. You have to take it. Or you will never have it."
Faith opened her mouth to say something, but the words never came. She was struck speechless.
"I won't kill you," Buffy reassured her as she finally realized what she wanted to say next. "I won't punish you. That would be too easy. You wouldn't have to do anything but just sit there and take it. No, you have to work for your forgiveness, like Angel is doing. You have to try. You have to struggle. You have to strive for your redemption. You have to earn it fair and square, and the only way to do that is to come back to Sunnydale with me and be a real Slayer again."
"I…I don't think I can do that, B," Faith murmured, still in shock. "I can't be…I can't be right again."
"Maybe not," Buffy admitted with a shrug. "Maybe it's all for nothing and you'll never be forgiven, no matter what you do. But so what? Will you just let the long odds discourage you? Will you give up now that the going has gotten tough? Or will you suck it up and deal with it like the Slayer you should be?"
"What do you care?" Faith asked quietly, eyebrows furrowed in thought.
Buffy wasn't sure how to answer that, and remained silent for a full minute before speaking up.
"I dunno," she mumbled. "Yeah, I admit that a part of me wants to just get you out of the way for good, either by finally killing you or by turning you in to the cops or the Council. But…I guess another part of me is looking for forgiveness as well."
Now Faith was really confused. "Why?" she asked curiously. "What do you have to be sorry for?"
Buffy thought long and hard before answering.
"I have a lot to be sorry for, actually," she realized. "I'm sorry about the way I pushed you away. I'm sorry for treating you like the lowest kind of criminal just because you made a mistake. I'm sorry for overreacting so badly that I scared you off."
Faith was struck speechless once again.
"I'm sorry for acting all jealous and petty when I thought you were trying to take my place. I'm sorry for not trusting you more."
When Faith continued to remain silent, Buffy took a deep breath and sighed before asking the million-dollar question.
"So…I know it'll be difficult, and it'll take a while to earn everybody's trust back, but…are you willing to go back to Sunnydale and start again?"
A/N: So, what do you think? Since this is an experiment, constructive criticism would be welcome. Especially when pertaining to plot holes and inconsistencies.