*A/N: Please do not distribute or post this story anywhere without my permission.*
When the doors click shut behind us, it means we've got about 15 minutes until lights out. I don't really need the light to see and before they stuck Grimes in here, I used to stay up half the night shadow boxing and doing pull ups off the top bunk. But with a cellmate, I've had to tone it down. So I only get 15 minutes and I gotta make the most of it. I go to the wall, ready to run through my usual routine as quickly as possible. I drop into a handstand and brace my feet on the wall. Two hundred upside push-ups and I still haven't broken a sweat. I move to the center of our little space. By now, Grimes is up in her bed lying down. No noises yet so I know she doesn't have her hands in her pants. I drop to a squat, then brace my hands and jump into push-up position. Then back on my feet, then back in a squat. I do this over and over until the lights go out. Grimes is quiet. And she oughta be. Couple days ago I caught her watching me exercise while she was up there fucking herself. Normally I don't give a shit about these kind of things but I'm sitting here in my cell minding my own business, trying to keep my body tired so the itch to slay doesn't get so bad that I fucking strangle someone, and this bitch is gettin' off on it. So, I punched her in the head and she's been pretty quiet since then.
She can't see me now anyway so I strip off my shirt and pants and slide into my bunk. My muscles are still restless. No matter how hard I push myself, it's never enough to make the feeling go away. Every night exactly at sunset, I start to get this gnawing in my stomach. Like my body knows it's got someplace else to be. Slayers are definitely not cut out for life inside. I'm probably the only one who ever got locked up. We don't have the longest lifespans anyway, and it's not like the council could afford to let the one girl in all the world rot in jail while the vamps throw a parade. I guess I can thank B for the fact that I'm still breathing. As long as one of us is on the outside, the council doesn't mind me sitting in here.
Most nights it takes me a long time to fall asleep with all this useless energy pumping through my veins. I usually only get about four hours a night. Tonight, for some reason, I drop right off.
The dream starts off normally enough. We're in B's room, only it's even more girly than I remember it being. She's sleeping, all twisted up in her covers like a cocoon. She looks young, younger than I've ever seen her. She's lying on her stomach and her hair is long enough to reach almost to her ass. I see the bare skin of her shoulders peeking out from between her hair and the thin straps of her tank top. She moans suddenly in her sleep. Shit. Something might be hurting her. Never can tell what's happening in these dreams. It's all little sister this, human weakness that. Don't even know whose head we're in. I'm standing over her now and my fingers reach out to touch her like they have a mind of their own. The moment our skin connects I feel a pop and suddenly I'm standing next to Buffy and we're both in the desert. "What's going on?" I demand immediately. B looks terrified, holding her arms around herself and starting to cry.
"B?" I ask, quieter.
"This is how it started." Buffy's voice responds, but not from the girl standing next to me. I turn and B's standing on my left, looking just like she did when I saw her at Angel's.
"B?" I look back and forth between the two Buffys. "This is new."
"Shh," she says. "Watch." She looks at the other B, staring at her intently. Little B has tears leaking from her eyes now, and she's shivering in her pink pajamas. I follow her gaze across the desert to see a woman, so stooped she's almost apelike. Her face is painted black and white and she whirls and flies through a group of huge demons, avoiding their blows and kicks like it's nothing. Then the scene changes abruptly and me and the two B's are standing in a dark hallway.
"Duchess, we must go!" A servant girl clings to the hand of another woman, dressed nicer than she is. The older woman pats her hand.
"Go, girl." She says firmly. "I will handle this." A hideous vampire stands there, smirking. Already salivating for her blood.
"The Master." Latter day B offers helpfully.
"Huh?" I say, and then we're looking at a young girl in a wedding dress standing over the corpse of a demon, crying as a man walks away from her. And then I get what we're seeing. Slayers from the past. I remember the nightmares too from when I was first called.
We're standing in a forest, right behind a crouching Native American. He pulls his bow back, taking careful aim at a white deer standing in a small clearing. The doe freezes just before the arrow pierces her side. Her eyes fix on us and it's almost as though they're human. Really creeps me out. I look at older Buffy but she just watches sadly as the scenes start to change more and more rapidly now. Slayer after slayer lives, fights, and dies in the space of seconds before our eyes.
The world stops flashing and we're in the desert again. Little B is staring at her hands like she's confused as she flexes her fingers over and over. "Do you see?" Asks Big B.
I nod. "This is when you were called."
She looks sad. "Yes. Can you feel it?"
I shake my head and she grabs my hand, placing it on Little B's arm before I have the chance to resist. And then I do feel it. New power, coursing through her veins. Like energy you can never run out of. Something is different though. Something's missing.
Both B's disappear. Now I'm standing on a platform, and I see another Buffy run up the stairs. I can feel her relief when she charges onto a rickety platform high above the ground. I feel the tension in her legs like they're my muscles moving, as she balances her weight carefully, her hands already reaching toward her sister. Her throat almost closes from the feeling of love that surges from her gut as she reaches Dawn and looks her over. And then there's fear. Horrible, numbing fear coupled with a surge of anger when she sees the bright white portal start to open behind them. But suddenly her mind is quiet and her pulse slows down. She touches Dawn's face, whispers in her ear. I feel her sense of peace and I see the faces of her friends swim before her. I see Giles cleaning his glasses, feel her mother's arms around her, and for a second I see myself, sitting in the police station in LA. Then she turns and I feel the energy of the Slayer roaring through our veins and then we're soaring through the air, arms outstretched.
I wake up so abruptly I almost fall out of my bunk. I can feel the energy Buffy just jumped into. It's like my skin is burning off my bones. I run my hands palms up and down my arms, trying to soothe my aching flesh. Bile presses against my throat and I swallow hard, forcing myself to lie back down. I just gotta calm down. Only a weird dream. Nothing to freak over.
"Okay, Lehane?" Grimes is half asleep, which is probably the only reason she's forgetting she's pissed at me.
I clear my throat. Can't let that bitch hear me upset. "Fine," I say and my voice sounds hard. Good.
Grimes snorts like she knows I'm lying, but she rolls over anyway, muttering to herself. I try to relax my muscles, too. Everything's okay. I have nightmares all the time. This is the first time Buffy's taken a swan dive off a tower, but that isn't that weird considering the scenes I usually find myself in. Sometimes I dream I'm back at the Hyperion, cutting the skin off Wesley's face. Sometimes I see Angel crumbling to dust while I watch from the barred windows of the prison's cafeteria. But as much as I try to tell myself this is just a dream and Buffy's fine… I know it's not true.
My mind replays that dream over and over again and I finally pick up on what I felt when I touched Little B's arm. She had the slayer connection, no doubt. There's no mistaking something that feels so ancient and so integral to your being. But when I was called, there was something more there. Just a little tug, a spike in the intensity. It wasn't until I went to Sunnydale that I figured out what it was. Being around Buffy sharpened the feeling. I wasn't just connected to the slayer line, I was connected to her. So I know this wasn't just a nightmare. I can feel the power of the slayer in me. But the other thing is gone. Buffy is gone. It hits me so much harder than I expected, making my chest ache and my eyes burn. I roll on my side and tuck my arms around my stomach. I do not sleep.
It takes two days before I get the visit I'm been dreading. Angel sits on the other side of the glass, his face hardened from grief. "Faith," he starts, managing to produce a weak smile. "How are you?"
Whatever tiny little flicker of hope I had goes out and my chest aches again. "How did it happen?"
If Angel's surprised that I already know, he doesn't let on. He takes a deep breath and says, "A hell god. She opened a portal back to her own dimension and Buffy jumped in to close it before hell could unleash on earth." He closes his eyes as he fights to control his emotions. "I was in another dimension. We were trying to get Cordy back and I—I wasn't there."
I stare at him wordlessly, thinking about my dream. Buffy flying off that tower. I start to feel nauseous.
"I should have been there," Angel's voice is choked.
Buffy is dead and he thinks it's his fault? An angry chuckle bursts from my throat. "I should've been there!"
"Faith," He says cautiously, "you couldn't—"
I cut him off. "If I wasn't such a fuck up I wouldn't be in here in the first place. I would've been there, fightin' with B. She shouldn't have died."
"Faith," Angel tries again, "you're trying to atone for your past—"
"Guess I got somethin' else to atone for now, huh?"
Our eyes meet and he just stares back at me sadly. When my eyes start burning, I look at my lap. I'm not going to cry. I've got no right to cry over her.
Finally, Angel clears his throat and I manage to meet his eyes. "I know this isn't the best time, but now that Buffy is," he stops, struggling to clear his throat, "gone… well, the world needs a Slayer."
I stare at him. "Kind of tied up at the moment."
"That's not a problem." He glances behind him and I see a pale and tired looking Willow enter the room. "It's your choice, Faith."
Buffy's last moments flicker again in my mind. Her fear and panic and then her overwhelming love for her friends and family. So much love she easily jumped into that portal to save them. I've never felt anything like that. "What do I have to do?"
Sunnydale is burning and I'm seriously considering letting it go. Demon bikers are overrunning the place. Fires burn freely; there are too many people screaming and running to really focus on anyone. I'm more than a little out of my league to tackle a whole group of demons on hogs. It's not like life on the Hellmouth is going so well anyway. I'm on my own here. The Scoobies are preoccupied with trying to get by without Buffy. Angel's back in LA. And then there's that Buffy robot. It's creepy as hell and follows me around on patrol ever since Willow reprogrammed it to think I'm on her—its side.
A loud rumble fills my ears as a new group of demons turns onto the street. There's six of them and I duck into the nearest cemetery and break into a jog. As much as I hate going to the super friends, I'm gonna need backup. This is Buffy's cemetery—the one she's buried in—and I try not to think about her, lying six feet under the dirt beneath my feet. Can't think about her, I'll only get distracted.
I'm concentrating hard on not thinking about her, but there's no way I could miss the sudden sharp tingle in my spine. I stop dead in my tracks. The feeling intensifies, gnawing its way into my brain unpleasantly before it suddenly levels out. It's in just the right place, just the right intensity. Buffy. But this can't be happening. This is not real. I turn on the spot, concentrating all my energy on that feeling. My feet move of their own accord until I'm standing over Buffy's grave. Looking at the headstone, I feel sick. If I'm wrong, I'm desecrating her grave. But that feeling…
Dropping to my knees, I dig my hands into the earth and start tearing into it. Scoop by scoop, I dig as fast as I can. Dirt and moisture soak into my clothing and my fingers begin to ache. A faint scratching noise reaches my ears. Frantically, I toss the damp dirt away. "I'm coming!" I shout. Plaintive, terrified sounds emanate from the box as I finally reach it. A pale fist breaks through the coffin and I reach out, capturing her hand with my own. Kneeling on the box, I squeeze her fingers and tell her, "It's okay, B. It's okay. I'll get you out."
I keep muttering assurances as I tear chunks away from her coffin. The wood splinters and slices my hands, but I don't even take notice. I'm single-minded. My world has narrowed to just that buzzing in my brain. To the living—living—girl underneath me. I finally yank the lid away and my eyes fall on her. Buffy's wide, unfocused eyes stare up at me. Tears leak from her eyes back into her long hair. "No," she whispers. "No, no, no, no…"
I reach down and she flinches away. Her hands come up to press against her eyes and I see her knuckles are bloody, her nails broken and torn.
"Please." My voice cracks. "I just wanna help you out, okay?"
She grimaces, her head shaking rapidly as her hands knot into her hair.
I don't know what to do. She's a wreck but we can't stay here. It's not safe. "Buffy," I murmur as gently as I can. "We have to move."
She's panting, obviously terrified.
"It's okay," I say, carefully reaching to take her hands from her face. "It's just me. It's Faith. You're okay." Hearing that she's with me probably doesn't make her feel that safe, but when I touch her, the connection between us spikes in my brain. She must feel it too, because she lets me move her hands from her face. "I'm gonna pull you out," I tell her, moving slowly down to wrap my arms around her torso. Still dazed, she winds her arms around my neck and allows me to pull her up and out of the casket.
She smells like dirt and chemicals but I don't care. She's alive and in my arms. I help her out of the hole and she stares blankly around the graveyard. The horror on her face is like a punch to my gut. The sounds of chaos from the street become louder and I know we're running out of time.
"B," I approach her cautiously. "I'm gonna take you somewhere safe, okay?"
She doesn't seem to understand me. I move toward her, touching her shoulder. She shudders but seems too confused to really react. I've got to get her out of here; she's in no condition to fight. I tuck my arm beneath her knees and lift her into my arms again. Moving as fast as I can without scaring her, I carry Buffy away from her grave.
"If I'd known you were coming back from the dead, I'da rented a nicer place," I tell her while I scan the street outside for more of those bikers.
She sits vacantly on the edge of the bed. Clumps of dirt fall from her clothes onto the bedspread, but I don't care. She's alive. I don't know how or why but she's alive and I'm so fucking happy I could fall to my knees and start thanking God right now.
I retrieve my first aid kit from the bathroom and sit beside her. Her eyes follow me, slightly more focused than before. "Gonna patch you up," I tell her, carefully reaching for her hand. Again the buzz in my brain amps up, sending tingling down my spine. I patch her up as best as I can, cleaning her scrapes and judiciously rubbing antiseptic into them. It must sting, but Buffy doesn't move, just allows me to manipulate each of her fingers until all are clean and bandaged.
"Do you wanna shower?" I ask, dipping my head to meet her lowered eyes. I'm not sure if she understands but she pulls her arms tighter around herself. I take that as a 'no.' Instead I get a clean, loose t-shirt and some shorts from my drawer. "How about getting out of that at least?" I hold the clothing out to her.
Her gaze rises to meet mine and she slowly takes the clothing. "Bathroom's right here." I gesture and Buffy slowly walks inside and closes the door.
Several minutes later, she hasn't emerged and I start to get concerned. "B?" I call, knocking lightly on the closed door. When she doesn't answer, I peek my head in carefully. Buffy stands before the mirror, staring at her image blankly. Her discarded dress and stockings lay on the floor and she's wearing the clothes I gave her.
"Are you okay?" I ask.
She shakes her head slightly and turns toward me. The devastation in her face is so obvious that I find myself reaching for her. Never would have thought I'd see the day when I'd be hugging Buffy Summers, but here we are. I smooth her tangled hair back.
"Faith," her voice is thick and scratchy but she's speaking. She said my name!
"Yeah?" I pull away and look at her fully.
"Is this hell?"
Even with Buffy back, nothing changes in Sunnydale. I've got a real live patrol partner now. But she's not exactly much for talking. I don't know what Willow did, but something is definitely not right with the golden girl. She never smiles, not really. At least not the way she did before. And she's sloppy on patrol. She'd have died again by now if I wasn't out there with her.
Then there's the thing with Spike. That eats at me in ways I don't even want to think about. I'm following her right now, trailing her across the cemetery on her way to his crypt. Buffy looks around the graveyard for a moment before she slips inside the crypt. I know she feels me standing here. But she goes in anyway. We both know she'd die of humiliation if any of the super friends found out that she's been spending her nights boinking the evil undead, but she doesn't seem to care if I know what she's doing here. I know exactly why too, and if I wasn't already in such a shit mood, I would be now. Buffy's not worried what I think because nothing she ever does is gonna be as bad as what I've done. She's right about that too, which is why I'm out here right now. B's bad off, but I ain't gonna let this go any further. Somebody's gotta scrape her up off the pavement and get her back together, and if none of her friends see what's happening… well, it's just lucky I got a hard head because she's not gonna make it easy.
I step out of the shadows as she emerges from Spike's crypt with a frown on her face. "Boyfriend not home, B?"
She flicks her eyes dismissively in my direction. "Whatever. I gotta get home anyway." Quickly, she starts to walk away. We don't communicate outside of patrol and I guess she figures I'm overstepping the boundaries.
"Yeah, you do," I say real slow. "Might as well save yourself the trouble of sneaking out later too. Spikey boy ain't gonna be home."
Buffy stops mid-stride and turns back to face me. She narrows her eyes and takes a few steps toward me. "What's that mean?"
"It means at least one of us remembers what slayers are made to do."
Her face goes completely blank, for a moment while she processes what I just said. Then she explodes, flying at me hard, screaming her throat out. I dodge her first swing. "You bitch!"
I'm too busy taking her knee in my stomach to respond. I double over and she grabs my hair, yanking me around behind her.
"You murderer! You had no right!"
"I had every right," I grit, wrenching my head out of her grasp. I kick her legs hard enough to knock her away from me. I don't wanna hurt her, but I'm not gonna be her punching bag.
Buffy barely stumbles, coming back at me with a right hook that feels like it split my face in half. I spit blood and dig my nails into my palms. She wants me to hit her back, but I'm not gonna take the bait. "Why?" She demands as she aims a kick at my ribs.
I evade the kick, just barely. "I'm a slayer; don't need a reason to slay."
"He wasn't hurting anyone." She lashes out with a flurry of punches. Most land on my arms but she gets a lucky shot in my stomach.
I gag a little as I let the momentum of her punch knock me onto my back. Rolling to the side, I think I can get out of her path, but she knows my moves before I do and lands on my back.
"He had a chip. He couldn't hurt people," Buffy's muttering like she doesn't care if I hear her or not, but her fingers dig into my shoulders hard.
"Like hell," I growl, as she yanks me forward and slams me back into the ground. I'm seeing stars when I manage to turn over and backhand her off me. "I know you're messed up right now, but even you gotta see that he was only making it worse. He was evil, B!"
She doesn't answer; instead she's crawling back at me, her nails clawing at me as she tries to get back on top. I scramble backward but she manages to get some leverage anyway and yanks herself back on me.
I'm getting madder by the moment. If B wants to throw down, then we'll throw down. I buck my hips and bring my elbow into her temple when she lurches sideways.
Crying out, she falls off and rolls away. We're both on our feet in the space of a few seconds and I feel a little bad when I see the side of her face turning red. She ruins all that a moment later though. "You're gonna talk to me about being evil?" She laughs out loud. "What the hell do you know about anything? You were a slayer and you threw it all away to work for a demon."
"Yeah." I force my voice to be calm even though I almost wanna kill her at this point. "At least I never let one fuck me."
Buffy blanches and I can see we're teetering on the brink of something bad, even worse than what we're already doing. Pure rage covers her face and she takes a step toward me. "What's the matter, F? You jealous?"
It's actually so ridiculous that I laugh. "Jealous that you've been banging some neutered bloodsucker? Nah, I don't think so."
Buffy smiles, and for a moment I almost think the tension's gonna resolve and we're gonna walk out of here together. But the look in her eyes… It's like she's not even in there. "You know that's not what I mean."
I freeze. I know she's not saying what I think she's saying.
"Come on," she almost purrs, and I take a step back from her. "Just admit it. You staked him because he had me and you know you never can."
She smirks a little and turns like she's going to walk away from me. That bitch. That fucking awful bitch. I'm racing after her and tackling her so she lands on her face in the grass before I can think twice about it. She kicks up frantically, trying to dislodge me, but my hold is tight. I smash her face into the earth while she squeals and kicks.
I manage to get control of myself and let her go. I feel sick when I drop off of her. B's totally out of control and part of me knows that isn't her fault and wants to help her. But damn, she always knows exactly where to hit to make it hurt. I gotta stop letting her draw me into her shit. I'm trying to pick her up and she's trying to drag me down with her.
Buffy's not moving and I can see some blood trickling from her lip where she bit down hard. "B?" I put my hand on her back and shake her a moment. She's limp when I roll her over and grasp both of her shoulders. "Buffy?" I call more gently. I'm leaning over her, worried I really hurt her. Should have known it would take more than face planting in some grass to knock her out.
Her eyes snap open and her fist is flying up at my face before I have time to move. I blink at her for a moment, trying to clear the blackness closing in on her face. She stares back, wide-eyed, and then I'm out.
The first thing I notice when I start to come around is that my head feels like somebody bashed it in with a bat. The second thing I notice is Buffy. She's on her knees on the ground next to me, sobbing her heart out. I wanna be mad because she freaking cold clocked me and the whole left side of my face is swollen to hell. But the moment I see her, hunched over, hands covering her face, crying so hard her whole body shakes, all my anger just drains away. Right now, I don't even care that she used my feelings for her against me. The thing that I've had to learn to live with is that it doesn't matter what she does. Buffy, she's just under my skin. Even when I wanna hate her, I don't.
So I pull myself up, wincing at the aching in my head. She makes some obligatory attempts to smack me off when I slide my hands under her arms and pull her against me. But we both know if she wanted to get away, she could. I rub her back while she just keeps going. She cries so long I don't know how she hasn't passed out from lack of air. And she's loud. If everybody and their mother didn't know there was something really wrong in Sunnydale, the cops would be here by now for sure. But a little screaming in the graveyard doesn't turn many heads around here. So we just sit in the grass, matching dried blood caked on our faces and in our hair, Buffy falling apart and me trying to hold her together.
When she finally stops, her eyes are glazed over like she doesn't even know where she is anymore. I get up, all my limbs seem to be in working order at least, and pluck her to her feet. I'll walk her home and get her inside. Probably have to deal with Willow, waiting up like she's B's mom or something, but that's alright. I can take one for the team. Who wouldn't, for the girl they love?
Buffy allows herself to be led a few feet and then she stops. I look at her curiously and she meets my look with her teary eyes. "I," she begins and then swallows hard. A lone tear breaks free and slides down her cheek. "I was in Heaven."
With this one statement, so many pieces fall into place. "B," I manage to get out through my choked up throat.
She shrugs, wrapping her arms around her torso and holding herself tight.
"I'm sorry," I say simply. What can I say? Even though she just knocked me unconscious, she looks so lost that all I wanna do is help her. This is much too big. I don't know what to do. "Let me take you home," I suggest.
"I can't," she draws her brows together as if she's in pain, "I can't be there right now."
"Right. Um," I rake my fingers though my hair, wincing as they get caught in matted bloody pieces, "let me take you to my place then."
Like the night I dug her up from the ground, she sits stoically and lets me clean her wounds. I do mine second and dispense Tylenol for both of us. My head's still ringing. I may have a concussion but I can't even bring myself to be mad at her. Once she's cleaned up and dressed in my spare clothes, I pull back the covers of my bed and she climbs in. I follow right after, gently pulling her body against mine without hesitation. Buffy melts against me, too exhausted to protest. I wait for more tears but she just says in small voice, "I couldn't stop." I rub her back as she continues, "With Spike… I wanted to… I just couldn't."
"How could you?" Buffy looks up at me with watery eyes.
I sigh. "I've been there." Off her skeptical look, I clarify, "Not there as in Heaven. But I know what it's like to hurt so bad you need other people to hurt you, too."
Now she looks sorry for me. "Faith…"
My hand stills on her back. "I'm okay, B," I assure her. "Point is that you're going to be, too."
"Do you really think so?" Buffy asks quietly.
We're both silent for a few moments. Buffy slides closer and tentatively places her arm around my waist. I listen to her breathing even out and I think of the night not so long ago when I dreamed of her jumping off the tower. I remember the hollow ache in my spine during the months she was gone and the crazy, wonderful buzzing and tingling that spread through my body the night she came back. I'm not going to let her fall, no matter how determined she is to do it. I've got her now. And I'm not letting go.
Thanks for reading! Please review and let me know what you thought! :)