A/N: OH MY GOD A NEW CHAPTER WHAT IS THIS BLACK MAGIC
Yes, I finally decided to continue the oneshot. Quick warning: don't expect frequent updates. I rarely have both the free time and the inspiration to write these days. Time between chapters could vary from a few days to a whole year or even more, so just put it on your alert list if you like it and don't hold your breath.
The disclaimer from the first chapter still applies, and this is the last time I'll mention it.
Another Road to Redemption
Chapter 2: One Small Step
The two Slayers sat together on a Greyhound bus headed towards Sunnydale. The brunette was staring vacantly out the window, deep in thought, while the blonde next to her was fast asleep.
Faith certainly didn't blame the other Slayer for falling asleep barely ten minutes after leaving Los Angeles. Neither of them had managed to get much sleep the previous night. Both were worried about the kind of reception they might get once they returned. Faith stifled a yawn as she glanced at Buffy, then turned to press her forehead against the window once more.
"What the hell am I doing?" she asked herself quietly.
Her thoughts had been endlessly circling all day, but she still had no answers. She didn't know why she had accepted Buffy's offer. She couldn't figure out why she hadn't just turned herself in to the cops as she had been planning.
Faith and Buffy had remained in LA just long enough for the police to drop their charges against Angel due to lack of evidence. He'd only spent a few hours in a cell, and was let out before sunrise.
Buffy had spoken once more to Angel before leaving. Faith, concerned about what her future might be, had listened in even after Buffy asked her to leave the room. She pressed her forehead to the bus window and recalled the conversation…
Several hours earlier…
"You should've told me what was going on."
Angel raised an eyebrow at Buffy before he sighed and looked away. "It wasn't any of your business."
"Not my business?" Buffy echoed quietly. Faith opened the door slightly further so she could hear what they were saying. Excellent hearing was one of the perks of being a Slayer, but Buffy and even Angel could hear just as well, so they didn't need to talk as loud.
"I needed more time with Faith. I'm not sure…"
"You needed…" Buffy hesitated, looking bewildered. "Do you have any idea what it was like for me to see you with her?"
"Buffy, this wasn't about you!" Angel exclaimed. Faith had no trouble hearing him now. "This was about saving somebody's soul! That's what I do here, and you're not a part of it. That was your idea, remember? We stay away from each other."
"I came here because you were in danger—" Buffy tried to explain.
"I'm in danger every day. You came because of Faith. You were looking for vengeance."
"Maybe you're right. Maybe I was looking for vengeance. Maybe I had a right to it."
"Not in my city," Angel growled at her. Then he frowned. "What changed your mind, anyway?"
"…I'm not sure," Buffy answered hesitantly. "I didn't even really know what I was going to do until after I caught up with her, but some of the things you said…and the things she said…just sort of clicked. Like what I had to do just suddenly made sense."
"You don't sound like you've forgiven her," Angel remarked.
"I haven't." Faith flinched at Buffy's words. "Not yet. Maybe not for a while."
"Maybe she should stay here, then," Angel suggested. "She needs help, not blame."
Buffy shook her head and sighed. "You don't get it, do you?" she asked. "Maybe you never did. You can't help her."
"Why not?!" Angel demanded. "That's what we do here in LA, in case you haven't noticed. We help those who can't help themselves."
"Even after all that time you spent with me, you still don't understand Slayers, do you?" Buffy replied.
"No, but I understand her," the vampire retorted.
"Do you?" Buffy asked, voice rising. "Do you have any idea what it's like? Sure, you've killed people in the past. We all know that. But it wasn't you. It was Angelus, the demon inside you. She doesn't have it as easy as you do. No scapegoat to blame—"
"You don't know me half as well as you think you do," Angel growled at her.
"And whose fault is that?" Buffy asked. Then she shook her head and sighed. "You know what? Never mind. Forget it. Faith, we're leaving. Ready?"
Faith's forehead knocked against the window, bringing her out of her memories. Shaking her head to clear it, she turned to see that Buffy was waking up. Past the blonde Slayer, on the right-hand side of the bus, she saw the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign glide by.
"Almost there, B," Faith finally spoke up, her voice quaking.
Where's your endless confidence, Slayer?
"You sound as scared as I feel," Buffy murmured sleepily.
"You don't sound scared at all," Faith replied with a wry half-smile that quickly faded.
"I've gotten better at hiding it."
"What else are you hidin', B?"
Buffy looked over at Faith and shrugged.
Angel had told her everything, or at least a summary of everything that had happened since Faith had showed up. He'd talked about his one-sided fight against Faith, and about how she had grown weaker and more desperate until she finally just begged him to kill her.
Buffy couldn't imagine what that was like. Wanting to die, to be punished for being a monster.
She hoped she would never find out.
She had gotten a taste of Faith's loneliness during the body swap. Suddenly, there was nobody on her side. No friends, no family, nobody at all who trusted her even the slightest bit, until she finally convinced Giles that she was really Buffy in Faith's body. Even then, he'd been wary around her. Everyone had been. As much as they knew she was really Buffy, they still saw Faith every time they looked at her.
And Faith has to live with that every day, Buffy realized.
She wouldn't wish that sort of feeling on anybody.
"I can't do this, B."
Buffy turned away from Giles's front door as she lowered the hand that had been poised to knock. She sighed when she saw Faith's expression.
"You have to, Faith," she said quietly.
"I can't face them," Faith muttered with her fists clenched, "not after all the shit I did. Not after—"
Buffy wondered where Faith's brave front had gone. She hadn't seen a sign of it since before Faith had fled Sunnydale.
"I know it's hard," Buffy said as she walked up to her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "It's hard for me, too. I still don't know how I feel about all this. But everybody deserves a chance and going to prison wasn't gonna solve anything."
"What if they…"
"I won't lie and say everything will be alright," Buffy spoke up. "It'll be hard and you'll have to work at it. But I think they'll forgive you eventually."
"Will you?" Faith asked.
Buffy sighed quietly. "Eventually," she repeated.
When she saw Faith's hurt expression, she elaborated quickly, "I want to. I really do. And I will. But…I can't do it yet. We've got lots of baggage to work through and it'll take time but it will happen. I promise."
"Thanks," Faith muttered. "I…guess that's something, at least."
"No matter what I'm feeling, I've still got your back," Buffy reminded her. "I'll still stand up for you if things go sour."
Faith let out the breath she had just realized she was holding. She wanted to say how much it meant, that Buffy was willing to put aside her own feelings just to give her this chance, but she couldn't find the right words. Instead, she just offered a tiny, but completely genuine smile.
Buffy grinned in reply and took her hand, pulling her towards the door.
"Come on," she said. "The sooner you do it, the sooner it's done."
"Oh, well, that's reassuring," Faith remarked dryly.
Rolling her eyes, Buffy knocked.
Rupert Giles stood up and stretched when he heard the knock on his door. He had been sorting through books again. It seemed as if book-sorting was all he did, these days. Even without a library, he was still a librarian, a curator of his own collection of mystical and supernatural tomes.
"Just a moment!" he announced loud enough for whoever was outside to hear, as he glanced at the precarious stack of books on the coffee table to make sure they wouldn't fall over. When he was satisfied with the stability of his organized chaos, he turned towards the door, hoping the visitor was Buffy. Ever since she had left for LA to find Faith, he had been waiting for her to return safely. Sparks tended to fly whenever the two Slayers met, but he hoped his Slayer had managed to contain the situation without too much trouble.
Needless to say, he was shocked when he opened the door to see Faith standing before him.
Giles blinked. Clearly his mind was playing tricks on him, as there was something inherently wrong with what he was seeing. Buffy was smiling hesitantly at him, but otherwise appeared completely unconcerned about Faith's presence next to her. Faith herself looked…nervous?
"Good Lord," he muttered.
"I can explain," Buffy said quickly, in an obvious attempt to diffuse the situation. "Can we come in?"
"Er…" Giles felt an urge to clean his glasses, but repressed it. Impairing his vision in the company of a murderous Slayer was certainly not a good life choice. With a sigh, he stepped aside and gestured wordlessly towards his living room.
The two Slayers entered and he considered opening a bottle of scotch. He knew he would probably need it later.
Buffy watched her mentor carefully, with a nervous smile plastered across her face.
"…So?" she asked tentatively.
Giles took a deep breath and tried to gather his thoughts. "To be honest, Buffy, I don't know what to say," he answered. "I am…not exactly inclined to trust Faith after everything she's done." Watching as both of their faces fell, he sighed. "However, your opinion does matter the most," he admitted to Buffy. "You are the one she wronged more than anyone else. If you can trust in her, believe in her, I'd…be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt."
Buffy grinned widely, and Faith offered what could possibly have been interpreted as a grateful smile, but it looked so out of place on her that Giles was momentarily rendered speechless. Finally giving into nagging temptation, he removed his glasses to wipe off the lenses. They were a little smudged after all. It wasn't a nervous habit or anything.
Not at all.
"Now, Buffy," he said seriously as he replaced his glasses, "I may be willing to go along with this, but your friends may believe otherwise."
"I know," his Slayer replied, "but she needs this chance. She wants to make things right."
"I'm aware of that," he agreed with a smile. "I'm not arguing with you. I'm merely reminding you that it will be difficult, and that convincing your friends to give her a chance may not be particularly easy."
"I'll talk to Willow tonight," Buffy murmured. "Xander will have to wait, I guess. And…where should Faith stay?"
Giles rubbed the bridge of his nose. This was not what he had been expecting when Buffy had told him she was going to LA. He'd expected an emotionally-charged confrontation between Buffy, Angel, and Faith, as per usual whenever any two of those three met. He'd expected some violence, some shouting, and perhaps a spot of betrayal.
But he had also expected that Faith would either go to jail or be taken under Angel's wing.
Instead, she was standing in his living room.
"Bloody hell," he murmured.
It was really the only adequate response.
A/N: I hope you like it. I have rewritten this chapter so many times that I've lost count of how many revisions it has. And I'm still not particularly a fan of how it turned out. Unfortunately, it's a transition chapter and those are always hard to write. The next chapter should be easier.
If you notice anything unintentionally awkward or out of place, please let me know in a review.