Bobb-o keeps completely quiet as he takes me back to the camp. I think he can tell that I'm not up for any kind of his usual babble right now. What just happened with Faith has my mind doing some kind of little meltdown. One minute she was going crazy trying to get back in the arena, then we were fighting, and then . . .
Well, we all know what happened after that.
Maybe someone can explain it to me.
The last place I want to be is around a hundred girls asking questions and expecting me to comfort them after losing Jo, but there's nowhere I can go to be alone. There's no way I'd go back to Faith's room because I can only assume that she'll be going there soon and I'm not exactly up for a repeat of our little performance from the shower.
I need some alone time, some sleep, and a shower in the worst way, but it's all gonna have to wait. All of my problems have to wait, because I just realized I don't know what happened to Krista when the guards dragged her away.
God, I'm so selfish. Here I am worried about me and I never even stopped to think about her for a second.
I pick up my pace and I can hear Bobb-o struggling to keep up with me. He knows by now that I'm not trying to get away from him though so he doesn't even shout after me as I break into a full run when we get through the narrow passageway and out into the open camp. There are girls sitting everywhere throughout the yard, crying and looking distressed. They barely even notice me as I zip by, heading for the tent with the most commotion.
It's the infirmary.
I hear the panicked yelling before I can see what's going on. Pushing my way past the girls standing in the entranceway, I run in and stop dead when I see Krista laying back on a cot, pale and barely conscious.
"What happened to her?" I yell as I fight my way to her side and take her hand. It's so cold.
"The guards took her out of the arena but she saw that you and Faith were still fighting, so she struggled," Diane says as she grabs a pile of clean gauze pads and presses them tightly on the gash on Krista's thigh. "They didn't rough her up but there was trauma to her already injured leg. I think her artery might be nicked. I can't stop the bleeding."
Instinct kicks in and I grab Krista's remaining armor and rip it off with my bare hands, then press down hard on her upper thigh above the wound. Krista cries out in pain.
"I know it hurts, Kris," I say, trying to soothe her with my eyes. "Diane can fix it but we need to stop the bleeding first, right Diane?"
I look up at her and she meets my gaze, hesitant to answer. I give her a little nod.
"I'll try my best," Diane replies, not exactly offering as much hope as I would have liked. She reaches onto the cart she'd wheeled over before I arrived and pulls a sealed white box out from the bottom shelf.
It's the last box on the cart.
"Do you have everything you need in there?" I ask her.
"Not even close," she answers. The look on her face says the rest: it's all she has. She steals a peek down at the wound and notices that the bleeding has slowed down. "Krista honey," she begins, "I have to do this now because we can't keep the blood flow cut off to the rest of your leg for too long. That means we can't wait for any kind of alcohol to kick in."
"Just do it," Krista says weakly, her lips a pale blue color.
"Keep your hands on her nice and tight," Diane says to me quietly and I nod.
Two of the girls bring over some old flashlights and they shine them into the wound, giving Diane a clear view. When I saw the gaping tear in her leg, I had to look away. I've been a slayer for years but what's happening just six inches from my hands is too much for me to watch. My hands stay firm around her leg and I keep them there until I hear Diane tell me to slowly very slowly let go.
Diane sighs with relief when my hands are finally back at my side. I look down, purposefully avoiding the wound, and see the color starting to flow back into her lower leg.
"You're gonna be just fine, Krista," she says, unable to keep the smile from her face. "All we have to do is close up this gash, let you get some rest and you should be up and about in a few days."
"Yippee," Krista replies flatly, her voice barely a whisper.
I drop down onto one knee beside her and wipe the sweat from the clammy skin on her forehead. Her eyes slowly look over at me and she attempts a smile, the corners of her lips barely lifting.
"You did good," I say quietly, afraid that if I speak any louder, I'll hurt her.
"Oh yeah, real good."
"You're not allowed to be sarcastic within an hour of a near-death experience. It's like swimming after you eat. Big no-no."
She chuckles quietly, wincing in pain when Diane starts stitching up her leg. After a minute and several deep breaths later, she looks over at me again, her eyes watery.
I try to keep smiling at her but I avoid her eyes, looking up at her forehead. She can tell I'm avoiding the question and she shifts her head a little to meet my eyes. Guess I have no choice but to answer her.
"Alive. Not in the best mental place right now."
"She gets aggressive when she's pissed."
"Yeah, I know," I answer quietly. My eyes flicker down to my feet and I know I must look guilty or shameful because I can sense a change in Krista. It's like she's having a sudden realization.
"Did you . . ." Krista begins and my breath catches in my throat as I look back up at her, barely able to meet her gaze. She trails off quietly, staring at my face.
"Buffy?" Diane interrupts and I couldn't be more grateful if I tried. I quickly stand up and notice that she's done patching up Krista's leg. "Do you think I could talk to you for a second?"
I nod and steal a look down at Krista but her eyes are closed now. I can't tell if it's because she's tired or because she can't look at me. Brushing a few strands of damp hair from her forehead, I finally step away from her and join Diane at the back of the tent where none of the girls are loitering.
"Everything went okay, so far as I can tell," she says before I can even ask. "The bleeding has stopped and I think it will all heal nicely, so long as she can fight off any infections that may creep in."
"Why do I feel a but' coming on?" I ask.
"But," Diane says with a wry smile, then sighs deeply, "her healing won't kick in if she doesn't have the energy for it, and she won't have the energy because we're running out of food. Something needs to give, Buffy. That was my last emergency medical supply kit and the girls are down to one meal a day, if cereal bars and beef jerky can be considered a meal. If the guards expect us to fight, they need to give us more supplies."
"Maybe that's just it," I say quietly. "Maybe they don't want us around any longer."
"If that was the case, they would have let all four of you die out there and not just Jo."
And that's very true. If the four of us were out of the way, the camp wouldn't last long. Morale would die.
"We need to ask Faith to talk to them again. They listen to her because they know that she keeps everyone in line. Without Faith here, there would have been revolts ages ago. There'd be no girls left because every uprising would have been crushed, and then the guards and the demon clan would have had no entertainment. They need us to fight, Buffy."
"I think you can count Faith out right now," I say quietly and a look of realization crosses Diane's face.
"Is she self-destructing?"
"More or less," I shrug. Vague is good. "I'll talk to the guards. If they know that Faith and I are the higher-ups, maybe they'll hear me out."
"Buffy, you may be the original slayer, but you don't have the pull around here like Faith does. It's taken her a long time to find a way of dealing with the guards that doesn't result in them beating her or any of us down."
"Well, we don't have much choice right now," I answer almost defensively. "The girls need food and supplies and Faith has mentally and emotionally checked out. We either make do with what we have or we let me try to get something done."
Diane gazes into my eyes for several long moments and finally nods. There's blood on her forearms from where the rubber gloves she was using didn't cover and I can tell that she's in need of a shower almost as badly as I am.
"Thank you, for saving Krista," I say after a moment.
"I wish we weren't under the circumstances where people need saving," she replies, then laughs to herself and shakes her head. "I'll keep an eye on things here and make sure Krista settles in. You've got some cuts and scrapes but nothing serious. Grab a shower and come see me; we'll take care of the worst of the cuts."
"I'll be fine. Save the supplies for girls who need it," I tell her, giving her a small smile. "I'm gonna go see if I can find any guards that are willing to listen. Have you seen Shy?"
"The only girl I've seen since Krista was brought in is Krista. Shy's probably out with the other girls in the yard somewhere."
"Okay, I'll find her."
I head off into the yard and don't waste any time looking for Shy. There are girls crying and comforting each other and I know I should say something but I don't have it in me right now. I need to find Shy and then I need to find a way to convince the guards to listen and not hurt me after Faith's little show of retaliation in the arena.
It only takes me a few minutes to find Shy, resting back on her blankets in one of the dorm tents. She looks up at me but she already knows why I'm there. The small wooden box already sitting at her side lets me know that much.
"Faith is waiting for you in the showers," I tell her quietly. She nods and moves to stand but I step closer, stopping her. "Before you go, do you think I can . . . would you," I clear my throat, "I'd like to remember Jo, too."
Shy looks wary for a moment or two as she stares up at me. Eventually she moves off of her blankets and indicates for me to lay down. I do, on my back, and lift up my shirt so that the skin of my lower abdomen is exposed.
"This . . . will hurt," she says simply as she opens up the box and pulls out a wooden stick with a needle affixed to the end of it.
"Losing someone always hurts," I say, watching as she lights a small white candle and runs the needle through the flame several times, sterilizing it. She pulls a small well of black ink out and pulls out the plastic stopper. "Sometimes remembering them hurts even more."
"That is true," Shy agrees. She swipes an alcohol swab over my stomach several times in small circles, making sure the area is clean. "Remembering hurts, but it lessens over time. Then we are left with only memories. Are you ready?"
Taking a deep breath, I prepare myself as much as possible. I watch as she pulls a wide, flat piece of wood from the kit, then positions the needle against my skin after giving it a quick dip in the ink. She looks into my eyes and I nod. A moment later she starts tapping the stick with the flat piece of wood and the needle pierces my skin again and again. It's a long process, not nearly as quick and easy as the automatic needles in tattoo shops, but she works methodically to get the job done. I try to distract myself, looking over each and every one of her tattoos that I can see on her exposed skin. They're all beautiful tribal art and I know she can't have done them herself.
"My grandfather taught me," she says as if reading my mind. "I was his living canvas."
"They're beautiful," I say, wincing as she puts the needle back to my skin after another swim in the ink.
"As will yours be."
It's maybe an hour or two later and she finally lets me sit up. My skin is swollen and red, but I can already tell that I'm going to like my new artwork. I touch the area lightly with my fingertips and close my eyes.
"Faith will be angry with me for making her wait," she says as she blows out the candle and re-packs the items in the wooden box.
"Just tell her it was my fault."
"I will tell her only that pain has no priority. We all feel it. She grieves as the rest of us do; we simply deal with it differently. She takes it to a dark place now because she is losing hope. We all are."
I try to speak but I find myself lost in thoughts. That was the most I've ever heard Shy speak the entire time I've been here, and boy was it a mouthful. By the time I finally manage to gather myself, I look over and she's gone.
Shaking my head slightly, I leave the tent and head out into the yard and in search of the guards. Like Shy said, everyone is losing hope. Maybe if I can get them more food and better care in the infirmary, they'll start to feel better about things.
I hope so, because I don't know what else to try.
It's been almost a week now since Jo's memorial the night after she died. The guards had been kind enough sarcasm intended there to wheel her body in on an old cart for us to give our last goodbyes to. Seeing her like that was like being stuck in a nightmare. They weren't able to find her hand that Faith had severed because some sneaky demon had hopped down from the stands and stolen it as some kind of gruesome souvenir.
I don't even want to know what he did with it.
We were all sitting out in the yard, just mourning in quiet. No one was prepared to see Faith come walking out into the yard, her face devoid of any emotion except anger. She walked right up to Jo and just looked down at her for several long minutes. No one spoke. We barely breathed. I braced myself for some kind of an outburst, but it never came. Instead, her anger melted away and she just looked so sad. So defeated. She reached out and put her hand over Jo's heart, then walked back towards her room without saying anything or even sparing a glance at anyone.
A couple of the girls jumped up and tried to get her attention but it was no use. She'd closed herself off again. I don't think she was planning on ever coming back into the camp properly.
Which is exactly why everyone has been bugging me ever since then to go and speak to her.
"Buffy, you have to," Hazel says for what seems the millionth time, sitting at my side while Laura blocks me in from the other.
"It's not a good idea," I reply, still eating my breakfast. They've caught me in the food tent every morning since Jo's memorial.
And yes, we have breakfast food. Surprisingly, the guards listened to my request for more food and med supplies and had a truck full of crates and boxes brought to us the next day. The girls were busy sorting and doing inventory with it for the last few days and it was a great distraction, but now that the work is done, they're back to bugging me again.
"But you have to!" Laura says, echoing Hazel's sentiment from a moment before.
"Guys, listen," I begin, pushing my chair back so that I can speak to both of them at once. "Faith has shut down. Nearly everyone here has gone and tried to lure her out, but she's not biting. I won't have any more luck than the rest of you have."
"Yes you will, you guys have history together," Hazel tries.
"Yeah, and it's mostly bad." Seeing the pleading look on their faces, I continue. "I was with Faith when she lost it after Jo died. She's not going to just bounce back, and me being around her? That'd probably make her worse. Faith and I have a way of just setting each other off without even trying."
"It's because of the sexual tension," Laura says innocently, but when I look at her with my eyes wide, she quickly adds, "not that we've noticed any sexual tension between the two of you."
I stand up and head back out into the yard, grabbing an extra bowl of oatmeal as I pass by the table at the front. Hazel and Laura are hot on my heels though, along with one or two other girls now. When I walk faster, they speed up as well. They're not going to let this go, and they're getting more persistent every day.
"Buffy, we need her back. She's been here since the beginning and now she's not and everyone feels all wiggy about it," Hazel tries.
Just as I reach one of the dorm tents, I spin around to face them, offering them as pleasant a smile as I can muster.
"The wiggyness is an unfortunate side effect, but I'm the last person Faith wants to see right now if she's trying to stop herself from having a mental breakdown. If no, when she decides to end her isolation, we'll talk things through then. Now get out there and run the girls through some training. Arena tomorrow night." Before they can get in another word, I slip inside the tent and pull the canvas flap shut behind me. I know it would do nothing to keep them out if they really want in but I'm hoping they get the hint. I close my eyes and listen carefully, sighing with relief when I hear them shuffle away across the dry dirt.
"They're right, you know," comes a voice from behind me. I turn around to see Krista laying back on her blankets, propped up on her elbows so she can look up at me.
"Don't you take their side!" I warn her playfully as I kneel down on my blankets just next to hers and hand her the bowl of oatmeal. Her leg is healing but she's still having a hard time moving around. Bed rest it is.
"Hey, I'm completely sideless," she says as she stirs the spoon around inside the bowl distastefully. "But they're right. Faith was here from the beginning and the girls see her as our leader. I mean, they respect you too, Buff, but it doesn't matter if the guards give us champagne and filet mignon. Without Faith, it's all empty to them."
I take a deep breath and sigh because I know she's right. Still, it doesn't make me want to deal with Faith any more than I already don't.
Snatching the bowl back from her, I stand up and ignore her shouts of protest.
"Fine. I'll go and talk to her, but if anything bad happens, I can't be held responsible!"
Oh god, this is gonna go so bad.
"But why are you taking my breakfast?" Krista asks, slightly amused now.
"Because I'm mad at you!"
I turn around and stomp out of the tent, ignoring the way Hazel and Laura are jumping around excitedly alongside me. Yeah, I should have known that they wouldn't go too far from me. A couple girls look up as I walk across the yard and they smile. They think that I'm gonna bring Faith back to them.
Hell, I don't even know if I'll make it out alive.
We start making our way down the corridor to Faith's room and I stop, turning to face the few girls that are following along. Laura takes the bowl of oatmeal from my hands and greedily digs into it as soon as I start talking.
"Okay, this is the deal. You guys stay out here, and no matter what you hear, don't come running in. I can handle Faith if she lashes out but I don't want any of you getting caught up in the fray. Keep some distance. I'll be back soon."
Without another word, I turn around and make my way down the rest of the corridor, stopping only when I'm outside the door. Bobb-o looks excited to see me. He fumbles with his iron key ring and quickly unlocks the door for me, trying to make me feel welcome. I think he's just pretty excited to see me too; he's been glued to Faith's side since Jo died and I don't think she's doing much talking or visiting with him.
"Bee come to see Faith?"
"Yeah, that's the plan," I say tentatively, keeping my voice down. "How has she been?"
Bobb-o does what I can only describe as a shrug and indicates the door. He obviously wants me to go in. I take a deep breath and steel myself. I can do this.
"Faith?" I give the door a couple knocks and listen for a reply. Suddenly I'm yanked inside and pressed against the wall next to the door. Faith is right in front of me, holding me tightly by my shirt and keeping me right where she wants me.
"What are you doin' here?" she practically snarls.
"I'm fine, thanks for asking!" Seeing her eyes darken, I continue, "The girls asked me to come and talk to you."
Faith makes a sound like a buzzer going off and says, "Wrong answer! Thanks for playing. Buh-bye now."
Her lips are dry and she's noticeably skinnier, which I guess means she hasn't been eating much if any of the food we've sent her. She's self-destructing, fast. This needs to end.
"Wait, don't shut me out like that. Let's just talk."
It seems like she's pondering that for a moment and her eyes scan up and down my body, taking in all of me.
"Don't much feel like talking," she mumbles, her hands loosening from their grip on my shirt and moving to slide down my sides. Her thumbs trace small circles on my hips, making my shirt ride up a little.
"Then I'll talk, you listen," I say, my throat tight as I try to ignore her touch.
Hey, if all it takes is a little over-the-clothing groping to get her to listen? I can handle that. It's so much better than the smackdown I was imagining.
"Yeah, I'll just listen," she says, her voice a whisper as her lips curl up in a grin. "You talk, and I'll . . . keep my mouth busy."
It's hard to concentrate as her hands continue to travel over my abdomen, sides, and now thighs, but I shake my head and focus. I should stop her, but then she won't hear me out.
"The . . . the girls," I say, my voice shaking as she drops down to her knees and lifts my shirt up enough so that her nose grazes my stomach. She kisses and licks, then stops completely when she gets to my new tattoo. I take advantage and continue, "The girls need you, Faith."
Suddenly her lips start moving again but she drops my shirt back down so that the tattoo is hidden. I guess she can't face what happened yet.
"Oh yeah, we're just a fucking happy and pleasantly-stocked little death camp here," she says as her hands trail over my thighs over the material of my pants.
"You said you were gonna hear me out," I accuse and she lifts up her hands in surrender . . . then uses them to pull down my cotton pants.
"By all means, don't stop on account of me." Her voice is husky and full of want.
I clear my throat and take a deep, shaky breath. I didn't sign up for this!
"It doesn't matter if we have food or medical supplies; they look up to you," I continue, taking in a sharp breath when I feel her lips graze over my panties. My hands find the wall behind me and I tilt my head back, giving it a quick bang on the wall. It doesn't knock any sense into me though because I don't seem to be telling her to stop.
"I'm kinda enjoyin' looking up to you for a change," Faith says, and when I look down at her, her eyes fix on mine when she pulls my panties to the side and takes a long, languorous swipe along my slit.
"Jesus, Faith!" I nearly shout, my hands trying to grip onto the hard wall behind me. "That's not hearing me out!"
"No, it's eating you out," she says, taking another few licks. "But you already knew I wasn't gonna listen." Her tongue goes back to work and I feel her hands on my inner thighs, pressing against them so that I have to step apart. "Good girl," she mumbles against me, and then I feel her really dive in.
And I do mean dive in, two fingers deep.
"Unnghh, Faith," I groan, my hips moving against her eager mouth.
She pulls it away and says, "What B, run outta things to talk about already?"
"No," I grunt in reply and gather all my strength to continue, "but once I start using your ears as handles, you won't be able to hear me anyway."
She laughs against me and picks up the pace of her tongue, sliding it over my clit again and again as she thrusts her fingers deep inside of me. I feel myself slowly starting to lose control not that I really had any control in this situation to begin with and I start breathing hard and fast, trying to keep quiet.
Faith changes the angle of her fingers after a few minutes and my mouth drops open wide as my eyes clench tightly shut.
"Oh fuck, Faith!" I cry out.
Oh god, I'm never gonna be able to look at Bobb-o in the eye again!
I feel my myself clench around her fingers and she stills them, letting me ride out my orgasm. My highly unexpected and very inappropriate orgasm. I flex my fingers and . . . when did they grab onto her head? I was kidding about the whole ears thing!
Suddenly Faith's mouth starts moving again and I jerk forward, using my hand to push her head away. She grins as she looks up at me, my juices covering her chin. Brushing her thumbs over her lips and chin, she cleans herself off and then stands up to come face to face with me. Her fingers catch my pants as she stands and she pulls them up, stopping when they're appropriately back on my hips.
I gasp when she slides her hand down the front of them and slips my panties back over properly, then cups her hand over me. Her lips are just a couple of inches from mine when she whispers, "Did ya come hard?"
I'm not really used to such crude talk well not since Spike, anyway so I don't say anything. She rubs her fingertips softly over me and my mouth falls open again, my breath shaky and quick.
"Did ya come hard?" she asks again.
I can only nod in response. Her breath is warm on my face and her lips keep getting closer and closer to mine. I wait for her to close the distance and I'm not surprised when she does . . . but her lips never quite make their way to mine.
Instead I feel her reach over just to my side to grab the door handle. She pulls the door open and stands back, giving me room to exit.
"Thanks for the chat, B. Hope ya enjoyed my conversational skills."
My mouth snaps shut and my stomach churns. If I walk away, she wins, but I don't know what else there is to say. I don't think she'd let me say it even if I could.
Taking one last moment to arrange my clothes properly, I walk out of her cell, completely avoiding Bobb-o's gaze. I do the walk of shame back to the camp and prepare myself for the barrage of questions that are likely to follow.
Yes, Hazel, I talked to Faith.
No, Laura, it didn't go so well.
Yes, Buffy, you are an idiot.
What was I thinking?
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