A crack of lightning jerked Buffy from her fitful sleep. It had struck close by, lighting up the insides of her eyelids with its white glow. She looked towards the small cave entrance to see flashes of electricity crossing its path. Fingers of white grasping from the sky to the ground.
She sighed, fighting down the fear that she would never escape. Her slayer courage forgotten as she bit her lip and thought about her mother and her friends. She couldn’t begin to think about how much she would miss them, as it cut too deep. She couldn’t imagine how damned her life would be, trapped with Faith as her only comfort.
Right now, as the damp air kept her chilled to the bone, Buffy was grateful to have Faith to cling to. . .and that ravaged her brain far more than not knowing how she would get back home.
She couldn’t allow herself to dwell on whys and what ifs, so she pressed closer to Faith, seeking her heat but also seeking some kind of familiarity no matter how much she hated her.
The word hate reverberated through Buffy’s mind as she breathed in deeply, wishing she could smell anything but blood. The scent of it had tainted her nostrils the entire time they had been there. She could smell nothing but the metallic sting of Faith’s blood.
Buffy used the flashes of light from outside to take a look at the cut on Faith’s brow. It had healed, leaving only a trace of dried blood on her hairline. The bump still appeared to be tender, though it had diminished in size a little.
Lifting her hand, Buffy gently brushed her fingertips over the lump. The bruise was nasty and Buffy winced as she touched it, subconsciously feeling the pain for Faith. Buffy moved her inspection from Faith’s broken head to her closed eyes, imagining them open without realising she was doing it.
She watched for a while, her fingers having moved from Faith’s forehead to her hair where she played with the texture of it as it rolled over her hand. She hadn’t allowed herself to just look at Faith since that fateful night when Faith had made her mistake.
Maybe she feared that the mistake was contagious. That Faith would infect her with ‘wrong’. Once Faith turned her back on her and her calling and went to the Mayor, Buffy had never looked at Faith in the same way at all. Physically or mentally.
She couldn’t without causing her brain to go into meltdown. She didn’t understand a lot of what she’d felt at the time, and what Faith’s defection made her feel. It all hurt too much, in ways she didn’t know how to deal with.
“Why did it all go wrong?” Buffy asked, not expecting an answer.
Deep down she knew some of the answers, but she didn’t know how to admit that. Not even to herself.
It was all best buried. It was better to hate than to be confused. Buffy understood hate, fighting, survival. . .but she didn’t understand Faith or why she had done the things she had. She didn’t understand her own actions either. It was all a mix of emotions and thoughts she didn’t know how to unscramble.
Buffy removed her hand from Faith’s hair, slipping it back under the younger girl’s jacket. Her gaze remained fixed on Faith’s face. She knew exactly where her dimples were when she smiled. She knew the exact colour of her eyes. She had memorised the cleft in her lip and the slant of her nose.
Trying to kid herself that these things were burned in her memory out of loathing, Buffy finally looked away. Looked down to where her hand lay hidden under Faith’s dark jacket, where it lay against the soft skin of her side.
She allowed herself to touch. For her fingers to feel the faint warmth of Faith. She shivered as a chill ran down her spine. Some things were meant only to be looked at and never touched. Some feelings and ideas were never meant to be realised.
Buffy lifted her hand from Faith, detesting the way her delicate feminine skin felt on her fingertips. Detesting the tugging need to reach out that it instilled in her when it came to Faith.
Her hand didn’t get far, however. Her curiosity got the better of her and she pushed Faith’s jacket aside and lifted the thin material of her top a little way, to reveal a faint red scar. Buffy felt a wave of nausea hit her as she recalled the night she stabbed Faith. Her intention was never to kill her, but to break her. To get her to conform and bend to her will.
Faith had been too strong and wouldn’t comply, and Buffy had been left with no choice but to take it to its natural end. Natural for a slayer anyway. There was no allowing the villain to escape when it came to being a slayer, and Faith had carved a very clear niche for herself as the villain.
It taunted Buffy endlessly that she’d had to bury Faith’s own knife into her stomach. She knew she’d do it again if it was called for. . .but it still made her a little sick to her stomach. Sure, Faith was evil and she hated her, but she was also human. She was a slayer too. They shared a destiny together and no matter how much Buffy tried to ignore that. . .she couldn’t, and it was driving her mad.
Softly, she whispered her fingertips over the scar she had caused. Buffy watched as she followed its flushed colour from top to bottom. She frowned, feeling the hurt Faith had caused her. Feeling the betrayal. Feeling the sadness. Feeling the regret.
As her fingers lingered she felt her heart twinge inside her chest. There was so much she wished hadn’t happened. It was too late to take it all back. It was too late to go back. But maybe. . .she could try to see what Giles saw. Try to let the past move behind her.
Buffy kept her fingers pressed gently to Faith and felt rather then saw Faith’s eyes open. She took a second to look up, but when she did, all she saw was wonder. Faith’s brown eyes searched hers as a troubled frown creased her bruised brow.
Faith’s hand moved over Buffy’s at her stomach, grasping it lightly. Panic hit Buffy and she pulled her hand away, and scampered backwards. The softness in her thoughts evaporated and Buffy drove a hard mask over her face. She stood, stooped a little due to the cave height, her gaze fixed on Faith. Waiting for. . .she really didn’t know what.
Faith squinted into the darkness, seeing Buffy poised and looking almost feral as she stared down at her, her green eyes wide. Buffy’s clothes were torn and dirty, and her hair was damp and straggly. The sight almost scared Faith. She’d never seen Buffy looking so. . .wild and threatened.
Faith didn’t know what was going on, but self-preservation kicked in and she tried to stand. As soon as she lifted her head from the floor however, her stomach lurched. Faith swallowed hard, trying not to be sick as she rose to all fours.
She coughed, her throat dry and head pounding. She closed her eyes and furrowed her brow, reaching out to the wall beside her to help herself up. Faith stood very shakily, leaning heavily against cold stone, unsure of whether Buffy would suddenly pounce on her or not.
Looking down at herself, she realised she looked just as bad as Buffy. Had they fought? She didn’t know. Her last memory was of being in Giles’ apartment, having told Buffy not to touch the book he had warned her about.
“B,” Faith murmured, her voice cracking as she battled not to vomit, “what the hell happened?”
Buffy unclenched her muscles a little, seeing that Faith was apparently in no shape to go psycho-bitch on her. In fact. . .she looked pretty bad.
“I don’t know,” Buffy admitted honestly. “There was some kind of light, then we landed here, or rather. . .just outside,” Buffy indicated the cave opening, keeping her eyes on Faith’s every movement.
“Here?” Faith asked, sliding back down to her knees as she felt her head oozing in and out of blackness. “Where’s here?”
Buffy relaxed a little more but once again felt the bite of the icy wind, causing her to rub her arms as she stood in the firing line of the rain as it swept in. “Some kind of wet, desert nightmare? I don’t know, I didn’t find the tourist information point yet, and sadly my map of desolate and unappealing hell dimensions got blown away in the freakishly evil wind outside.”
Faith found the strength to cock her eyebrow. She guessed that Buffy really didn’t know where they were, so it probably wasn’t a good idea to ask more questions and antagonise her anymore than she already seemed to be.
They kept their distance, as usual. Closeness being too heavy with intrigue and possibility. Distance keeping them safe.
Faith rested on her knees, leaning back against the wall. She could hear thunder outside the small cave, or whatever it was, they were in. A flash of lightning hit close by and Buffy jumped away from the entrance. She stopped close to Faith, then seemed to hit some kind of dilemma that made her step back into the path of the rain.
Faith sighed and looked down. She felt tired. She felt dejected. She didn’t know what was going on or where they were. All she knew was that her head hurt, and that Buffy wasn’t likely to help her out in discovering why.
Maybe, like Buffy had suggested, it was hell. Her own personal version of it, where Buffy treated her like scum and expected her to switch on her ‘evil side’ again at any moment.
Buffy watched as Faith slunk lower to the floor. The younger girl lifted her hand to her head, feeling around the raised bruise and dried blood. Buffy thought she had better offer up some kind of reason for it being there. She didn’t want Faith thinking she’d beaten her up.
“I think we kind of fell here, and you must’ve hit your head when we landed,” Buffy said, feeling her teeth begin to chatter again without Faith’s warmth. “You’ve been out cold for a good few hours. It wasn’t raining at first, but then. . .somebody decided my day wasn’t crappy enough. So I brought us in here so we wouldn’t drown.”
“Right,” Faith said, struggling to keep upright and wondering just how far they must have fallen for her to feel as rough as she did. “Must have been that book. Giles told me it could be dangerous.”
Buffy looked blankly at Faith, trying to work out what she was talking about. “Book?”
“Yeah, you find them in libraries, or mostly lying around at Giles’,” Faith said with a half-hearted chuckle, her dazed condition making her push her luck. “You were looking through the one he told me not to touch. He said it was dangerous so I left it alone. . .and I tried to warn you, B, but obviously too late.”
“How the hell could a book do this?” Buffy asked, waving her arms in the air. “Don’t be dumb, Faith, it has to be something else. Maybe your demon friends have brought you home, and I got caught up in their warpy thing.” She pouted, positive that their predicament wasn’t her fault.
Faith winced, not wanting to recall that she had ever got involved with, or close to a demon. The Mayor was never really a demon to her though. He was. . .something she’d never had before. Somebody who cared, or at least seemed to.
“You were looking through that Lawbreaker Book, B. Then the next thing you know, we’re here, and I have a headache to end all headaches, and you’re standing around in the rain talking about warping,” Faith said, wondering just how much longer Buffy was going to allow her to speak. “B, face it. . .you got us pulled into some kinda weird place here.”
“Don’t you dare try to blame me, Faith,” Buffy said, raising her voice, not wanting to hear accusations from Faith, who had fucked up more than Buffy ever could. “The book wasn’t even called that, it was something to do with. . .jawbreakers.”
Faith noticed the little stomp Buffy ended with and recalled just how endearing she could be when she wasn’t being a self-righteous bitch.
“Lawbreakers, B. The thing was all dusty and shit, you musta read it wrong,” Faith pointed out, feeling increasingly weary. Needing to lie back down and worry about where they were and what they were going to do later, when she felt better.
Silence prevailed for a minute as Buffy wracked her brain and Faith moved her legs from under herself and sat on the dusty floor. She felt woozy, the space around her drifting in and out of her sight. The lightning flashes outside burned the back of her eyes and she wanted to shut them and curl up into a ball to sleep.
It was cold though. Deathly so. She had woken up a little warmer than she felt now, remembering suddenly that Buffy had been tucked up against her. Hope fluttered through Faith’s heart, but she realised Buffy had only been seeking her heat, as the other girl stood shivering in the doorway.
“Look, B, even if it was because you were looking at that book, it doesn’t matter,” Faith said, hoping to ease some of the tension. “You didn’t know it would do this. Let’s just hope Giles knows how to fix it.”
Buffy opened her mouth, ready to object again to the idea that she had done something to cause their latest calamity. She didn’t have much fight in her, though. She was too cold. Too soaked from the rain. Tired of clashing with Faith.
She looked out into the downpour, watching the dirt on the ground being kicked up by the torrent of water. The wind swirled it into shapes, and Buffy could see similarities between them and how she felt. She was in turmoil inside and had been for some time.
A strike of lighting, so close it made the air crackle inside the cave, broke Buffy from her thoughts. She wanted to move away from the rain and the lightning, but that meant moving closer to Faith again. She wasn’t ready to act all buddy-buddy with Faith, even if she did want to find some way to move on from what had happened between them.
Forgetting and forgiving wasn’t something she thought she could do with Faith. She had been able to set aside the horrific things Angel had done, because he had done them when he had no soul. Faith didn’t have that excuse, and she had never given Faith a chance to tell her the reason for her behaviour and betrayal.
She didn’t think she could ever allow Faith that opportunity.
“B, you’re getting soaked over there. You can move closer yunno, I ain’t gonna bite,” Faith said. “My Doctor thinks my crazies are clearing up, and they’re not contagious.” She tried to smile despite the pain she was in.
Buffy felt her own lips tug a little at the corners, but she battled it down, refusing to let Faith get inside her walls like she sometimes did in her dreams.
“You may not be contagious, but I don’t trust you, Faith,” Buffy said, her cold tone making that very clear.
Faith sighed, needing to lie down. Needing some warmth as much as Buffy did. “You don’t have to trust me, B,” she said sadly. “But I’m not in any shape to be a threat to you, and we can’t do anything until that storm blows over. I feel sick, I’m sore, and I’m fucking cold. Now come on. . .just lay back down with me before we both freeze to death.”
Buffy held herself whilst the rain dripped from her hair, watching Faith as she rested on her side in the only dry area of the shelter. She knew she was cutting off her nose to spite her face, but she couldn’t seem to get past her own stubbornness and need to be right all the time.
She shook her head like a petulant child. “I can’t,” Buffy practically whispered.
Faith tussled with her eyelids to keep them open as she shook from the stabbing cold. The darkness was encroaching on her sight, but she could still clearly see Buffy, as she was shrouded in light every time the skies threw their bolts to the ground.
She could also see what Buffy was doing. She could sense the struggle within her. She knew what it felt like to battle with your own emotions, trying to work out what’s right and wrong. She’d done enough running to know the signs.
“B, I remember something you once told me,” Faith said quietly, her strength waning as she looked up at her fellow slayer. “You told me that the first rule of slayer club was to not die. . .or something like that.”
Buffy chuckled slightly at Faith’s confused look. She understood, however, and she did recall once telling Faith something similar. “I didn’t get all Brad Pitt on you, Faith, but yeah. . .you’re right. Our first job is not to die,” Buffy agreed, feeling that maybe she was safer with Faith now than she ever had been.
She truly didn’t trust Faith and was sure she never would, but her skin was turning blue, and Faith looked on the verge of passing out. She was the better, quicker, stronger slayer anyway. . .so there really was no reason to fear Faith.
At least, not for the obvious reasons anyway. When it came to the things she didn’t understand, for Buffy. . .there was plenty of fear involving Faith. Fears she didn’t like to dwell upon.
Discounting them all, Buffy shuffled forwards and lowered herself to the floor. Her eyes were fixed on Faith’s and they shared a moment of silence, and maybe a little understanding, before she lay next to her. She kept her back to Faith and moved into her, holding herself stiff in her consternation at having to seek something from Faith again.
Faith got as close to Buffy as she dared, smiling secretly at having her close. Despite everything that had happened between them, she had only ever wanted Buffy to be close to her. She had only ever wanted Buffy to be touchable instead of some ‘perfect girl’ that lived in a glass case.
She knew Buffy wasn’t perfect. It seemed only she, Giles and Angel really knew that. . .but she realised that they all, including herself, still cherished the idea that she was special. That she was something to hold onto. That there was hope that she would let them into her glass case with her one day.
Faith hoped that too, and was only just understanding that as she felt sleep overcome her. As she lifted her arm over Buffy and felt no resistance.