SPOILER WARNING: None, actually.  (insert shocked gasp here)
RATING: PG-13 (language, and a Buffy/Faith relationship whatever)
FEEDBACK: Aw, what the hell, e-mail me.
SUMMARY: Inspiration taken from a challenge (though I left most of it out) over at the B/F Zone of the Guild, Shared Destiny.  Faith is out of jail, and she and Buffy bump into each other on the street. Faith's trying to fix things, and Buffy's just plain confused.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Buffy et. al. - Joss Does. The idea (and I use that phrase loosely) is mine, as are any original characters who happen to mosey on through.  Try not to reprint this puppy if ya don't ask me first, ok?
 

    "They don't know what they do/forgive them of their sins" Buffy sang to herself as she walked lazily down the street. She shook her head.  "Damn Bee Gees song."  It was almost dusk, and the setting sun did nothing to quell the heat that settled over Sunnydale.  She squinted into the sun, hoping that it would go down quickly.  She was in the mood to get rid of some evil.  Unfortunately for her, she was still walking while she was squinting, and ran into someone on the sidewalk.

    "Sorry," Buffy said to the stranger without even looking at her face.

    "I thought someone woulda taught you by now not to stare into the sun.  Bothers the eyes or something."

    Buffy turned at the familiar voice, not obviously tinged with sadness and something that resembled resignation.  Resignation to what, Buffy wasn't sure.

    "Faith."

    It was more of a statement than an observation, though it was stated gently.  Buffy looked her former friend, foe, partner in slaying up and down.  She was disappointed by how Faith looked.  She was tired, worn, and haggard, without the fight in her eyes.

    "In the flesh.  How you been, B?"

    "Good.  You didn't tell me that you were getting out."

    "You never asked."  Faith scuffed the heel of her boot against the pavement, and looked at Buffy, though not in the eyes.  "You never wrote me back, so I kinda stopped sending letters.  I figured you couldn't just throw me away, so I decided to come to you."

    "I wrote."

    The admission fell on Faith like a load of bricks.  "I never got a single one of your letters."

    "Maybe the prison staff wasn't very good at delivering them."  Buffy felt a warmth for Faith that she hadn't felt for so long.  She wanted to protect her again - this time not from herself, but from everything else.  Faith just wasn't the same.  "Are you doing ok?  You look so... so... different."

    "Lack of makeup can do that to a person.  I was gonna put some on, but whoever took up the belongings decided to keep some for herself."  Faith smiled wanly.

    "I wasn't talking about makeup," Buffy said, though she found herself missing the painted up Faith of the past.

    "Mm.. so what were you talking about?"

    Buffy took a step towards Faith.  "You're not the person I knew."

    "Well, duh.  Hopefully I'm not a raving psycho that you want to kill anymore.  I'm reformed, you know."  There was a sense of pride in her voice as Faith said that.  Reformed being good or bad, she still didn't know, but she could control herself now, and she had come to terms with what she had done.

    "I wasn't talking about you being a raving nutcase.  I was talking about you having a, I don't know... wild side?  We've been talking for almost ten minutes, and no passes at me."

    Faith looked up at the now graying sky.  "Maybe the wild side is what got me into all this trouble."

    "No.  Some stupid accident got us into all this.  And so did I turning my back on you.  I didn't know how you were gonna react, but... I wish I would have supported you like I should have.  That's what was in all my letters... they were all apologies, like your's were.  I was gonna be hard and tough - 'Big Ol' Bad-ass Buffy,' but after I read your first letter, I couldn't stand myself.  I couldn't stand what I did."

    Buffy's admission of guilt caught Faith off guard.  "What?  Why didn't you have this epipha-whatever when I got out of the coma?  Not that I'm bitter," she scuffed again, "but I'm just curious."

    "I kinda did, but then you showed up on campus rearin' for a fight, and then stole my body, so my mind kinda changed."  Buffy cringed at the expression that her words brought to Faith's face.

    "Oh.  I'm sorry, B."

    "Don't be.  The last thing you remember me doing is trying to kill you."

    An awkward silence fell between the two women, both admitting and not confessing their sins at the same time.  Faith finally broke the silence.

    "That's not true.  The last thing I remember is you kissing me."

    Buffy looked at Faith, confused.  "You were in the coma - how do you..."

    "Just because the lights were off didn't mean that no one was home."

    "I never knew... I would have come more often... I..."

    Faith took another step closer to Buffy and shushed her with a forefinger to the lips.  "It's over, past, whatever.  Just let us have a clean slate, 'k?  That's what I came back here for."

    "How can we have a clean slate when every time I look at you I see someone that I don't know anymore, and I know that I caused it?  I want you back - I want you to come home.  Not this shell of a person.  I want the whole you."

    "I can't be that anymore, B, and you know it.  The whole me had a dark side that got me into a shitload of trouble."

    "Then you don't have a clean slate either.  You can't still beat yourself up for what you did, and act like this, this... zombie.  I want the person who had a lust for life.  I don't care if you have a dark side - so do I.  So does everyone.  I wanna know you again, all of you."

    Faith was shocked.  A little over a year ago, Buffy wanted her dead, gone, out of her life.  All it had taken was a letter and a guilt trip on her part to bring everything into perspective.  God, if she knew that this was this easy, she would have written a letter a long time ago.  "I wanna know me again, too, but I don't know if I can.  I need..."  Faith didn't want to say it, but Buffy finished her sentence.

    "You need help.  Come home with me, Faith."

-----------

    Walking home, the two were silent.  Neither could believe that reconciliation could some so quickly and so smoothly.  Maybe they were two halves of a whole.  Dark and light, yin and yang.  Or maybe they both had just given up.

    "We're here."  Buffy fumbled for her house keys as they walked up the front steps.  Buffy unlocked the door and held it open for Faith, who entered with a mumbled thank you.

    Once inside the house, Buffy headed towards the kitchen, while Faith stood awkwardly in the hallway still.

    "Faith, you know that you can come inside if you want to," Buffy said with a smile, then turned back to the 'fridge.

    "Buffy, why... why did we just meet and everything was ok?"

    Buffy put down the peanut butter she was grabbing and closed the icebox door, turning to look at Faith.  "I don't know.  Maybe... maybe with everything that's happened in the past year I've finally learned how to forgive - to stop pushing until things go my way."

    Faith noticed the melancholy in Buffy's voice.  "Maybe you've just given up."

    Buffy didn't offer any resistance to Faith's statement, since it was basically true.  Faith walked up behind Buffy, thought better of it, and then leaned against the countertop next to her.  "I know how it feels to give up, B," Faith said.  "You cave in on the inside - you're beaten, and you never think that you can stand up on your own again.  Am I getting close?"  Buffy looked down at her feet in assent.  "But all you need is one person to help you stand up, and you're back on your feet, learning to walk all over again."

    "Who held you up?"  Buffy asked Faith, who had a look of concern on her face that was almost foreign to Buffy.

    "Well, Angel did while I was in jail, you know, but knowing that I would have a chance to get out and try to make it right with you was what kept me going while I was there.  That's really all that I wanted, was to make it right with you... I'm glad that I got the chance."

    Buffy looked Faith in the eyes and lost control - the pent up emotions of the past year finally came out, and Buffy found herself weeping in the arms of the person who she threatened to kill last time she saw her.  Faith honestly didn't know how to handle the situation, but she managed the best that she could.

    After Buffy finished crying, she looked up into Faith's eyes, shocked to see that the person she had considered someone not to trust under any circumstances was looking down into hers with a calming, "been there, know how ya feel" sadness.  "Looks like you and I both need help, Buffy... we can help each other if you want."

    Buffy nodded her agreement, and then sank back into Faith's arms.  She had a thought, one which she had thought before, a few years ago, but this time she thought it aloud.  "I need to go to sleep... and I want you to come with me."

    Faith nearly dropped Buffy.  "Wh...what?"

    Buffy broke away from Faith.  "I know how you've always felt.  It's just that it's taken this long for me to realize how I feel... I want to make it right."

    "B, just meeting me on the street and hopping in the sack with me isn't gonna make it ok."

    Buffy's face fell.  "Who said I wanted to sleep with you?"

    "Well, it was implied."

    "Sorry.  I just meant... I need someone to hold me, and I know that you do too.  Please.  It'll be a first step... sometimes just holding someone can fix things better than a thousand words can, you know?"

    Faith knew, but she had never experienced it.  "B, I... I'm not good at the whole holding thing..."

    Buffy smiled at Faith.  "You were doing ok a little while ago.  Come on, let's go to bed."

    Faith stopped to consider, and followed Buffy up the steps.  "I promise I won't try anything, B."

    "Who said I didn't want you to?"

    Faith smiled.  "Well, it was implied."  She followed Buffy into her bedroom, where under the bedclothes everything would be all right.
 
    END