Before either girl had a chance to react the door flew open. Buffy gasped as she tugged the sheet up around them, and Faith waited for whatever yelling was going to come next. She watched as Joyce rushed into the room.
“Buffy, are you ok? I came as soon as Willow told me you were in danger,” Joyce explained as she came to a halt at the bottom of the bed, her face a mask of confusion.
The chosen two didn’t have the time to explain that Buffy wasn’t in danger, their shocked expressions the only sign of them not knowing what the hell was going on as Willow also charged into the room.
“Faith, get away from her,” Willow screamed, pointing at the brunette.
A bolt of energy sparked across the short distance between Willow and Faith, hitting the dark slayer solidly in the chest. Faith called out in distress as she tumbled from the bed with the force of the bolt. She crashed to the floor in a heap, her lungs refusing to pull enough air in, her body shaking from the force of the blow. She lay immobile; not knowing which way was up, feeling the pain in her hand where the drip had been ripped from her as she fell, the floor bruising her already delicate skin.
“Faith!” Buffy was instantly beside her, her hands reaching, her eyes wet with tears.
Buffy held the bed sheet around herself, covering the evidence of her joining with Faith as she knelt beside her checking for injuries, wiping her own eyes as she shuddered with the knowledge that Faith had been hurt again.
“Faith, are you ok? Are you hurt?” Buffy asked, with no attempt to hide the distress, the tenderness and love in her voice.
The groggy slayer nodded, not knowing if she herself meant she was ok, or if she was hurt. All she was really sure of was the presence of the two other people in the room. One of them looking like she was about to end her life; to extinguish any remnant of her pitiful existence.
Faith’s arms refused to move as she tried to pull herself up with the help of the other slayer. Her body was weak. Weaker than she had expected or hoped it would be. Whatever it was that Willow had hit her with had been powerful. She decided to remain on the floor, feeling defeated. She could see that Buffy realised how she felt. That she felt more than physically defeated, but also emotionally and mentally too.
She’d had enough. Faith couldn’t take any more. She couldn’t fight. Willow moved towards them, looking like she was about to do more damage.
“Willow, stop!” Buffy shouted, turning to face her mother and her friend. “Stop this. You’ve got it all wrong, Faith doesn’t want to hurt me and she never did. She loves me,” she stated forcefully, causing both Willow and her mother to look a little stunned.
“Buffy, maybe you should come over here,” Joyce said in an almost patronising tone as she lifted her arm in encouragement for Buffy to move away from her position on the floor, where she was busy cradling Faith.
Joyce obviously didn’t believe that Faith wouldn’t harm her daughter, and from her tone she sounded unsure if Buffy could actually see the possibility; as if Faith had put her under some kind of spell.
“What has Willow been filling your head with? The same things she did me? I don’t need to come over there, mom. I love Faith too.” She squeezed Faith’s hand.
Faith couldn’t quite believe what Buffy had just said. She hadn’t expected the complete show of allegiance to her; the admittance to having feelings for a bad-girl. The mistake Slayer. Her.
It was too much, and her dark sorrowful eyes filled with tears. Filled with hope and need, and love for her little blonde slayer. She had never had anybody risk anything for her before, but Faith knew without a doubt that Buffy saying what she just had would risk her friendships and her relationship with her mother.
Faith felt overwhelmed. She could finally feel the pure and consuming love flooding through her, seeping into her veins and into her heart from Buffy. It was filling her in a reverse of the sensation she’d had that day in the Magic shop, when Buffy had regained her memory and forgot all about her time with Faith.
Faith sank into Buffy’s arms, relief washing out some of the loneliness and pain of only ever having herself to rely on. To keep herself safe. To - ineffectively at times - keep the black sadness and anger at bay. She knew right then she was Buffy’s completely. There was no hope in walking away, for Buffy’s sake or for her own sake. For the sake of never having to feel so utterly devastated again if things went wrong.
There could be no walking away. Ever. She knew she would only slip back into the darkness without the love she could feel from the other girl, as much as that made her feel weak and vulnerable, and to some extent sick at herself for being so needy. It was clear to her. It was real and alive, and crawling around inside her; possessing her and giving her no choice but to give her heart and soul completely to Buffy.
Joyce just watched as Buffy clearly felt the wave of emotion coming from Faith, giving Buffy no choice but to hold the dark girl to her even more tightly. To wrap her in her strong arms and stroke her lush brown hair, whispering her love for her in the stunned silence of the small sparse room.
The only other sound was a sob emanating from Willow as she rushed back out of the room, the crackle of anger and betrayal leaving with her.
Buffy frowned, looking worried for her friend but also worried for the girl in her arms. She turned her attention to Faith, attempting to lift the younger girl back onto the bed. Faith felt her limbs unable to respond to help Buffy lift her. Her dead weight was causing Buffy problems in picking her up, and Faith had the impression Buffy was holding back her strength in order not to hurt her with the tugging.
Faith winced in pain as her leg bent at a funny angle, she grabbed hold of the smaller girl’s shoulders but they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere fast until Joyce moved towards them. Faith wasn’t sure what Buffy’s mother was going to do at first - at this point nothing would have surprised her - but she relaxed as Joyce bent down to her left side, helping her daughter lift her back onto the bed.
Buffy smiled softly at her mother, then she made her way around to the other side of the bed, retrieving her clothes and hurriedly putting them on with a blush as Joyce tucked Faith back under the sheet.
“I’m sorry, Buffy,” Joyce began, “I just thought. . .Willow seemed to think that Faith would hurt you in some way.” Joyce looked down apologetically at Faith as much as at Buffy. “I didn’t realise. . .” She didn’t have to finish her sentence, the red tint to her cheeks clearly expressed what she meant.
Faith didn’t want to say anything herself. She was too busy trying to breathe without wincing, and hope that she wasn’t about to get any more abuse from people. She was sick of always being the bad guy. She was well aware of all the mistakes she had made, threatening Willow being a major one, but she couldn’t find the strength right now to speak, to make sure Joyce knew she would never do anything to risk Buffy’s love for her again.
“Mom, this is a little complicated, but Faith hasn’t hurt me. If anything, I hurt Faith. She’s made some pretty dumb choices lately, and we need to deal with those, but I did and said things I never should have.” Buffy caught the weakened slayer’s eyes with her own. “Even though I didn’t remember everything, I should never have said those things. Mom, can you give us a minute?” She looked back up at her mother, pleading with her eyes for Joyce to trust that she knew Faith wouldn’t harm her.
“Of course, Buffy. But if. . .I’ll be right outside.” Joyce slowly left the room, her eyes sad and concerned, but her obvious feelings of loyalty towards Buffy, and of the confusion about the situation, didn‘t cause her to overreact, like Willow had.
* * *
As soon as the door closed Buffy pulled Faith into a hug, almost squeezing all the air out of her already jarred lungs as she cried over her.
“Hey, it’s ok,” Faith soothed, running her hands over Buffy’s back.
“No, it’s not. I nearly lost you because. . .instead of listening to what was in my heart, I listened to my own fear and to Willow. I should never have doubted what I sensed you felt for me, and what I knew deep inside I felt for you,” Buffy said through her tears. She pulled away from Faith a little, looking deep into the dark pools sparkling up at her.
Faith wasn’t sure she could deal with so much emotion. She had never felt somebody’s passionate and all consuming love before. She had never known anything but disillusion, so despite her feelings for Buffy and despite the fact she could literally feel the texture of Buffy’s love for her, she was still worried that it would all be pulled out from under her again.
After all, that’s what had happened the first time and she hadn’t even fully immersed herself in the enveloping embrace of Buffy’s confessions of how much she wanted and cared for her. Faith was scared. Petrified of it all going wrong and leaving her even emptier than she was before, to the point she would never escape the grasp of her dark side.
“I know what you’re thinking, Faith. I know I told you I loved you before, and that I wouldn’t forget. I know I let you down, and you know you should never have done what you did to Willow. We both messed up.” She took a deep breath. “I didn’t mean for things to get so out of hand. I was so confused. That night, when I gave you the knife. . .I had a flashback. I saw you, me. . .we were kissing and I felt so much desire there that it scared the hell outta me. I didn’t understand what it was about. Then I had a dream, and we were in bed but it was hazy and I woke up before I could tell what was going on.”
Faith shifted slightly as Buffy sat next to her on the bed facing her, green eyes pleading with her to understand why things had gotten so fucked up. Faith didn’t attempt to butt in; she needed to hear what had been going through Buffy’s head at the time Faith herself had been falling apart.
“I told Willow about it and she jumped to conclusions, said you must have taken advantage of me. I was so mixed up and scared of how I felt that I believed it. I know I should never have thought for a second you could do that to me, but it was easier than looking inside myself. I’m so sorry, but the flashbacks didn’t help. They were unclear, misleading, and I stupidly listened to Willow as she tried to convince me of things I knew you wouldn’t do.” A tear fell from Buffy’s eye, rolling silently down her cheek.
Faith reached out and brushed the tear away, lowering her hand to rest in Buffy’s. “Go on. Just tell me why. . .” Faith waved her other hand, indicating her current position, and the general absurdity of the situation, “this happened.”
“Because I’m stupid for denying my feelings for you, and you’re stupid for giving in to your anger and threatening Willow. Once you did that I couldn’t help but think what Willow was saying was true. As much as it hurt, as much as I didn’t want it to be true, I couldn’t get past it. When I came to question you I was so mixed up. I fell back on my slayer instincts and just hit out. I didn’t mean to, but it seemed easier than listening, than attempting to figure out what was really going on. I was so angry, but so hurt to think you could have. . .” Buffy began to sob, her lungs taking short painful breaths with the weight of her emotion.
“Shh, it’s ok, I know what’s it like to make mistakes,” Faith said tenderly. “It hurt that you thought I could do that to you, though. I’d never do anything like that to you, Buffy. It would kill me. The thought that you actually did believe that almost killed me.” Faith could feel her own tears now. Tears of pain, of exhaustion, of the memory of what had transpired because of her own helpless feelings.
“Faith, please, can you forgive me?” She didn’t stop for Faith’s answer just yet. “I got lost in all the confusion, in the mixed messages and memories. Then you said you loved me. I was floored, but still I didn’t see it within myself because I refused to look. I retreated inside my little haven of ignorance then. Willow was saying things I didn’t wanna hear; I was seeing things in my head that didn’t make sense. Then I saw you in the Bronze with Spike.” Buffy paused, her eyes growing dark for a second. “It made my blood boil, but not for the reasons it should have if I’d truly believed everything Willow had said you’d done. I was jealous. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. You looked so lost and I wanted to run over to you and hold you, and that got me angry ‘cause I was no longer in control of what I felt, of what I wanted.” She sighed as Faith closed her eyes with the pain of both their mistakes.
The room held still and silent, the air coming to a halt in its breezy path. Waiting. Tiny specks of dust filtering through the blinds to fall to the floor in the oppressive atmosphere. Shuffling outside stopping, or feeling like it had with the endless possibilities of what could be said, what could happen; what was meant to happen next.
“I’d lost control then too, B. I was lost. I was on a downward slide to nothing. I needed you, but I was forcing myself to ignore it ‘cause it hurt. It hurt to feel rejected by you. To think that you thought I was scum. I acted like it, B. I acted exactly the way you thought I was. The way I am.” Faith’s dark eyes grew darker with her own self hatred at what she knew she was capable of, how far she knew she could allow herself to fall.
“You’re not scum, Faith, you’re everything to me.” It sounded like Buffy’s heart was breaking with the knowledge of what Faith had believed, and what she had put herself through because of her own - and Buffy’s - actions.
She pushed her hand through Faith’s dark hair, the small amount of contact, of simple intimacy, establishing some kind of calm again.
“I wanted to stop you leaving with him, Faith. I really did, because I was beginning to see the truth. I knew it was there somewhere inside me, but I was still terrified of letting it out because then it meant giving in to what I’d been denying for so long. It meant knowing that Willow had done her best to keep us apart. It meant I had to deal with you being the way you were right then, all hurt and angry, and more than likely wanting me to get out of your life. I couldn’t just let you leave so I followed you out into the alley,” Buffy confessed. “I heard what you said to Spike, about what you’d done with him. I knew then I couldn’t let things go on the way they were; that I had to look within myself to find the truth. That I had to trust my heart. Your heart.” She placed her hand - the one that had been gently playing with Faith’s hair - over the younger girl’s heart.
Faith instantly felt the heat through the thin material of her gown. She was temporarily out of commission right now, unable to ask the questions she wanted to. Unwilling maybe to hear some of the answers. All she could really do was listen to Buffy, and learn her side of the whole disaster.
“You ran off and I couldn’t find you, so I went home. I cried as I began to remember everything. It hurt so much to know that I’d pushed you to. . .to go to Spike.” Buffy’s tears were flowing again, her small frame shaking with the memory of the pain of discovering just what Faith had been through. “I guessed maybe you’d be there. . .with Spike. So I went to find you, to tell you that I was sorry and that I’d remembered. That I love you. God Faith, I’m so sorry I didn’t get there sooner. I hate myself knowing you went through that. That you put yourself in that position because of how lost you felt. How I made you feel.”
Faith sat up, wrapping her weary arms around Buffy. She felt utterly stripped of everything but love for her. She couldn’t think about what had happened between her and Spike. Not yet anyway. It was just another thing to hide within herself for fear of what the emotions would bring about. She realised that bottling things up would only lead to more heartache, but there was no way she wanted to get the hopelessness and her own lack of self worth out in the open until she was sure she could deal with it; that they both could.
“I know. I know you’re sorry. I’m sorry too, B. I’m sorry you had to see that. That you had to know what I’d done.” They clung to one another, foreheads resting against each other, tears and pain washing out of them. “You stopped it though, and I’ll never be able to thank you enough. I didn’t really wanna die. I just didn’t know what else to do.”
“Oh, baby, I wish I’d had the courage to know for sure I loved you. None of this would have happened. I’ll never forgive myself. How can I even ask you to forgive me, when I can’t?” Buffy pulled back slightly, looking so far into Faith’s eyes she could feel her soul being bared.
Faith resisted the urge to look away and to close off, like she knew she was so skilled at doing. She realised she couldn’t do that if they were going to get through what had happened. If they were going to attempt to patch up the crumbling mess of both their hearts then she needed to open up completely to Buffy. She had to bare her soul.
“I forgive you. . .” Faith said, her voice sincere and gentle, “if you can forgive me. If you can let me show you how much I love you. How much I wanna stop being so stupid and allowing myself to be lead by my anger, by all the pain inside me. I need you, Buffy. I need your help to be a better person; to be the kinda person good enough to deserve you and your love. Please, let me show you. Let me prove how sorry I am about what I did to Willow, about how I dealt with this whole thing. Buffy, help me deserve you.” Faith knew she sounded pathetic. She felt it, but was powerless to hold back how she felt any longer.
“You do deserve me, Faith. We belong together. We just need to accept that we’re both needy when it comes to each other, ‘cause I need you to. I need you so much. . .so please, tell me again that you’ll never leave me,” Buffy pleaded.
The blonde slayer’s green eyes sliced through any doubt Faith may have had about giving in to every emotion she felt. She could see it clearly still. There would never be any walking away, no matter how much they could and probably would continue to hurt each other. They were stuck, revolving around each other, gravity holding them fast in a constant twisting and turning storm of emotion, of desire and need.
Faith placed a shaky hand on Buffy’s cheek, gently brushing her thumb over the lips she had so recently been kissing; knowing she could continue kissing them. Knowing now that Buffy wanted her to continue kissing them.
“I’ll never leave you, B. Just as long as you promise. . .never to leave me again either.” She whispered her lips over Buffy’s, tasting the love on them, swallowing it down as Buffy spoke.
“I promise I’ll never leave you, and that I’ll never forget again that you have my heart. Faith, I love you with everything I am. Good and bad. I’m yours.” She pressed her lips back to Faith’s.
Everywhere they touched Faith tingled, her skin reacting, warming and smouldering with devotion. She fell into the slow burning inferno of their love and desire for one another, her craving heart swept up with Buffy’s as they clung to the hope of a future with less pain. Less loneliness. Less of the things that tried to tear them apart.
Everything that was unresolved she knew they would work through together. Every pain, every mistake, every mixed message and emotion; all the fear and the anger. They would both work through it, for one another.
Faith relaxed within Buffy’s embrace and did her best to hold nothing back. Trusting - maybe foolishly - that she would be able to live her life out of the dark and away from the torture of her past mistakes. There was only this left now; Buffy and her. Their shared destiny and their shared love. Anything less and Faith knew she’d be lost forever. No going back.
Buffy was her light and she prayed to anybody that cared to listen. . .that she would never have that light taken away so cruelly again. She wouldn’t survive the black depths within herself without it. Without Buffy. Faith didn’t even need to imagine where she would end up without Buffy. She had seen a glimpse of it already, and she didn’t want to go back and see more. There would be no second chances if she fell into that particular abyss again.
“I love you, Buffy. I’ve searched for you my whole life and I’m never letting you go again. Never.” Faith poured her heart out into Buffy and crossed her fingers.
She made a silent promise never to let Buffy or herself down again, and she let go. She let go knowing Buffy was there to save her.
She felt the strong arms around her. Buffy’s strong arms. And she was saved.