I don't remember my dreams most nights, and when I do, they're usually of the bad variety. Monsters, demons, vampires . . . the works.
This one is different, though. Hospital machines beep and whirr around but I can't open my eyes to see them. I hear my friends. They're talking about me like I'm not here, but I can hear every word they say, every breath they take. I try to move, try to lift my arms, move my fingers; anything to let them know that I'm here, that I know they're here too. But one by one they leave the room, leaving me panicking at the thought of being left here like this forever.
This is what Faith must've felt. Must've lived every day when she was in her coma. People coming, people going, but no one able to help her.
Just when I think I'm totally alone, I hear someone approaching the bed. I feel warm breath on my ear before I hear a soft whisper, "Wake up, B," and then soft lips press against my forehead.
Before I can properly analyze it all, I'm roused from the dream by the sound of someone rustling around nearby.
I open my eyes and find that I'm not back in the infirmary where I was earlier, but somewhere much darker. It looks a lot like my own cell in here with just a few small differences.
Oh, who am I kidding? This place is the Ritz Carlton compared to my old cell. A sink with running water I can hear the steady drip from the leaky faucet a toilet, a mirror on the wall, a bench and a chair.
And clearing her throat to make her presence known is a very much alive and ever-annoying Faith resting with her back against the wall, arms folded across her chest.
You know, you'd think that after seeing and doing the things that I have for the last almost year and a half now that I'd develop some kind of an immunity to being shocked, but no. One glimpse of Faith walking towards me in the stadium and I'm passing out like a debutante in a heat wave.
I'm sure I'll be getting flack for that in the near future.
"Hey, Princess, have a nice nap?" She says, breaking the awkward silence. "Now don't go passin' out or nothing. I know I'm hot and all, but making you faint with one look at the goodness that's me? Damn. Never knew I was that good."
And no matter how crappy I feel, I can still manage a nice eye-roll. She deserves that much.
"I'm pretty sure it was the whole concussion, broken bones, and nearly being starved to death thing, thanks. And here I was thinking that forced servitude might've made you a bit more modest."
Faith grins, and for a moment as brief as it may be I almost remember what it feels like to live. There's a charge in the air and the corners of my mouth willing me to smile, but I push it back down. This isn't the time or the place for any of that.
I can't forget where we are and how we got here.
"Well, I never was one for modesty," Faith comments easily. Too easily. "I think we all learned that."
I can't help but wonder, how exactly is Faith acting so casual and easy-going after . . . after all that's happened? I've come across lots of people since we lost. Not a single one of them has been the way Faith is. Something has to be up, and I have every intention of finding out exactly what that is.
"Yeah, but you also weren't one to sit and stay and do what you were told, either," I reply coldly. "You fought us tooth and nail so that you could do what you wanted, when you wanted. What changed?" And then it hits me. I tilt my head and stare at her, trying to see what she's not letting on. "Or . . . maybe that's it: nothing's changed. You've switched sides before, and you're back at it again. Can't hack it -- being a slayer so you go to work for the bad guys and get to live how you want."
Faith just watches me through my little rant, a look on her face made half of disbelief and half of pure amusement. When I finally manage to stop the accusatory words from flowing out of my mouth, I wait for some type of reaction. A retaliation. Something to prove that she's evil, bad. Something to prove that there's still a bit of the old Buffy left inside of me.
That I'm right and she's wrong.
Faith, however, just looks over at her guard and gives him a nod. He nods back clearly a sign of solidarity in their evilness and shuffles over to the door. A moment later and he's closing the door tightly from the other side.
The large, impenetrable metal door with bars.
The sound of a lock clicking is unmistakable.
Cue the awkward and uncomfortable staring match between Faith and I.
A minute or two passes before Faith shakes her head in disbelief. She grabs the chair that was against the wall and pulls it over to the bed where I'm sitting. The room suddenly feels much smaller. She turns the chair around and straddles it, resting her arms over the high back, letting her gaze focus solely on me.
"Listen up, Blondie, cos I'm only gonna tell it to ya once: you literally know shit about me if you think all of that. This situation?" Faith raises her arms and looks around the room we're in, then back to me. "Not exactly ideal. But I'm making do with what I can and just tryin to get by, day to day. These girls here? They look up to me for some fucked up reason. They think that I'm the answer to ending all of this shit. And yunno what? I have no fucking answers, B. We're fuckin screwed here, but there ain't shit I can do about it at the moment. So, I go through my day. I goof with the girls, we spend time together. I keep up the false pretenses that maybe we'll get outta here if we keep on chugging along like good little trains, cos it keeps them alive, Buffy. Which is a lot more than I can say for some places."
Faith finishes her rant and narrows her eyes at me accusingly. She knows. Everything that's happened, everything that I've done, all out in the open. There's no more good slayer and bad slayer.
Still, she has no right to play righteous with me. She doesn't know how hard it was, how hard it is . . . she has no right to look down on me.
"What I did," I begin, my voice shaking, "what happened where I was, is none of your business. I did what I had to do. You know nothing about what it was like there. What it was like after the fall of Sunnydale. After everything else came tumbling down after."
I can't help the defensive tone in my voice. She's backing me into a corner here. Faith is the only person who has made me feel wrong in some way. Forget Spike. I asked for that.
"And I did what I had to do here, Buffy," Faith interrupts my thoughts. "One minute I'm holding the scythe which you gave me, by the way kicking some ass and taking names. The next thing I know, I've got a sword clear through my back and poking out the front of me; a regular shish-kebob. It wasn't a fucking flesh wound, either. I was tossed on a pile of dead girls girls we knew. And you wanna know something else? I died, Buffy. For two whole minutes, I heard the harps and saw the lights, and it was . . . so fucking beautiful."
Faith looks away for a brief moment and blinks back tears that she doesn't want me to see. She looks back at me with more intensity and emotion than I've ever felt and continues, "Guess he figured I'd earned my ticket outta hell. That's right: The big guy was welcoming me into his house. I had the keys in my hand, I was walking up to the pearly white gates and BAM! I'm back on the pile of bodies, and the sword is gone, the bleeding stopped. Red came down into the fray and mojo'd me back to life. I wasn't gone too long for her to pull me back," Faith explains excitedly, trying hard to keep her emotions in check.
I can't help but frown. I know what Faith went through. Granted, I was gone for a lot longer than two minutes. But waking up and knowing what Willow had done . . . it's not a feeling I'll ever forget. Even now when I've promised myself not to let feelings rule me, I feel them. Pulling me. Pushing me. Forming little tears in the corners of my eyes that I refuse to let fall. I can't.
You can't get blood from a stone.
"So I'm layin on this pile of bodies, watching as the Turok-Han either slaughter the girls or grab them and line em up against a wall. A big nasty demon grabs Willow after he sees her work her mojo; she's too weak from using all that magic to fight, and I'm too weak to do anything besides play dead. So I watch them march most of you off, and I listen to Spike scream for you as he burns alive. And then there's nothing. Complete darkness. A day or two later I come to, and I climb off the pile of bodies and try to just . . . function. Go for a walk around the school, find nothing but bodies. Lots of bodies."
"Who?" I interrupt eagerly. I need to know.
Faith shrugs, trying not to let the memories affect her. She's trying to tie off her emotions now, or at least to rein them in. "Anya. Andrew. Wood. Random girls that tried to run."
I interrupt again, trying to sit up more fully.
"What about Giles? And Xander? And . . . ahh!" I cry out and clutch my ribs, the pain almost more than I can handle.
Sitting up is not good.
In fact, I'm gonna go ahead and say that sitting up is bad.
"No clue," Faith answers, ignoring my pain. "Minute I stepped a foot outta the school, I didn't even have a second to take in the chaos that was all around before I was nabbed up and knocked out. Woke up and was hog-tied in the back of some kinda truck with a bunch'a other girls. Couple hour drive and here we are. Been here since."
Faith stays quiet for a few minutes while I take everything in that she's said. She keeps her gaze fixed on me, but I'm pretty much oblivious to it. There's way too much going through my mind. All of this info and I still don't know what the hell happened to my friends.
"Word is that you had it pretty bad," Faith finally says, pulling me from my troubling thoughts.
"This place is a five start hotel in comparison," I respond dryly, trying to avoid Faith's gaze.
"Heard that they didn't make you fight demons. All girl on girl, all the time," Faith continues.
I can't help the chuckle that escapes my throat, though it's completely empty of any feeling whatsoever.
"Leave it to you to make it sound like it was some type of pay-per-view lesbian porn event."
Faith smiles at first, but she quickly realizes that I'm not trying to be funny. I'm just trying to exist in this very moment without breaking down.
"Who was there with you?" She asks quietly.
I finally look up at Faith, pain evident on my face. In my words.
"Does is matter?" I ask her just as quietly. "They're not here now."
Faith nods her head in silent understanding. A minute passes before she asks her final question on the matter.
I can't answer. I just continue to stare at Faith, tears filling my eyes yet again but never making their way down my cheeks as I begin to rock ever so slightly. I don't need to speak the words. Faith immediately understands as her eyes widen just a fraction.
She understands that I was the demon. That it wasn't girl against girl; it was demon against girl, and that I was made into a demon to do the bidding of my captors.
Faith runs her hand through her hair and takes a deep breath, exhaling loudly. There's nothing she can say and she knows it. No fitting response, no pep-talk that can take away the pain of my actions. Of what I was made to do.
There's no more light and dark, no more yin and yang, like Andrew used to re-tell again and again. We're the same now, Faith and I. Both killers, both guilty of things no human should do.
Faith killed a man out of the necessity to live. Self-preservation. If she didn't do what the Mayor asked of her, she likely would've been killed too. I killed those girls with the same rationale. Kill or be killed. And I had something to live for. I needed to save my friends. Save the world.
It didn't matter, the pain. I did what I had to do, just like Faith did what she had to do. I understand that now. It took me becoming her to finally understand her.
It was always all about self-preservation.
Faith knew pain. She knew what it was to be evil, to be used. Maybe she was never perfect. Hell, Faith used to tell me again and again how she knew that she was a screw-up; that being called as a slayer was her new lease on life. But it was the Mayor who made her into a demon, who had used her as his own private tool. All she wanted was to live.
When Faith came back to Sunnydale, I overheard a conversation that she had with Giles one night. She told him that it took her a long stint of being alone in jail -- along with much convincing by some friends to reassure her that she wasn't, in fact, evil. That she was good, and that she had the ability to once again do good.
And we all know that she tried. Traded in her prison suit for a white hat and played for the good guys until the tragic end.
I wonder now, after the way she tried to turn it all around . . . did it take away any of her pain? Did it make up for what she did in her past? Maybe if Faith was able to lose some of the weight of her sins, I'll be able to do the same.
Maybe Faith sees all of this running across my mind. She's staring, eyebrows furrowed, looking deeper into me than I'm possibly comfortable with. Maybe Faith knows that I won't let myself be convinced that I'm good; that I'll always have to carry the pain and regret of what I've done.
Most importantly, maybe she realizes that I don't know if I'll make it through this minute, this hour, this day if I stay on the same thought train, cos she's suddenly changing the subject.
"When was the last time you ate?" She asks, unsure of exactly what to say or do.
"How long have I been here?" I ask, but I can't bring myself to meet her gaze. I stare blankly at the wall, fighting my inner demons, trying my best not to let my emotions run rampant.
Emotions show weakness, and weaknesses here only get you killed.
"'bout two days, give or take. We can get you something small, you should be . . ."
"Six days," I murmur.
Faith looks at me with eyes wide in disbelief.
Six days is pretty par for the course. Sometimes they'd give us food once a week, sometimes twice. Guess they figured that since we were slayers, we could go without for longer.
They were wrong though. Guess they never read their copies of "Slayer Metabolism Weekly."
Faith finally stands and puts the chair back in its place against the wall. She walks over to the big metal door and grasps onto the metal bars on the tiny window, pulling her face closer to it.
"Bobb-o!" She calls out, smiling as the bumbling guard immediately makes his way over. She obviously misses the face I make at her. Bobb-o? "Listen, I'm gonna need some food in here. Get me some kinda red meat, and anything else you can that's not sugary, got it? See if you can scrounge up some protein bars, too."
Bobb-o makes some type of guttural noise in the back of his throat, his eyes blinking rapidly.
"Listen, I know," Faith responds to what obviously only she understands, "I know it's not food time, and I know you're gonna have to sneak, but you've got those pouches hidden all over your body, big guy. Besides . . . you're the man, Bobb-o! No one's gonna think twice to mess with five-hundred pounds of pure brute strength," she says, obviously used to sweet-talking the guy.
Yeah, leave it to Faith to make friends with her guard. She was busy learning how to communicate with him while I was busy avoiding my guard and figuring out ways to slip past him. Why is it that she always befriends the bad guy?
Or am I being a hypocrite? Dervin was nice to me, but I never spoke to him. He never really spoke to me either. We basically tolerated each other's presence. I think that maybe . . . maybe he felt bad for me.
Then again, I guess my past is speaking against me too. First Angel, then Spike, and Clem . . . I guess I always drift towards the slightly more demonic crowd too.
And then I sleep with them.
just not Clem. That's a big hell no with the eww and the yuck.
Okay, so maybe Faith and I have more in common than I thought.
Bobb-o makes a gruff chuckling noise, breaking me from my thoughts before he turns and makes his way down the corridor. Faith turns back toward me with a smile on her face.
"Bobb-o," she says, pointing over her shoulder with her thumb.
"Is that his Christian name?" I ask.
"Well," she begins, sitting back down on the chair like she was a few minutes before, "it's not as classy as Buffy', but I think it has a certain ring to it. Besides, it's way easier to say that than the gurgle way he normally says it."
"Right. A nickname. Imagine the horror if you didn't have a way to communicate with the evil demon that's holding you hostage."
Ahh. And there's the righteous side I thought I'd lost.
Faith narrows her eyes at me, but changes the tone of the conversation right away. Guess she wants to save the fighting with me for inside the ring.
"Food should be here in a bit. Bobb-o's a pretty decent guy. Doesn't mind doing a bit of the ol' sneakery for me cos he knows that I don't step outta line with him. And I mean . . . we don't have TVs here or anything, but sometimes when we're bored, Bobb-o does this dance for us. Kinda reminds me of the truffle-shuffle from The Goonies. Always worth a laugh."
Demon entertainment. What will they think of next?
"Well, I'm thoroughly happy that you've been entertained all this time. Heaven forbid Faith gets bored. All work and no play makes Faith a . . ."
"Raging bitch?" Faith interrupts.
"Well . . . I was gonna go with dull girl', but sure, I guess . . ."
"I mean you, B," she interrupts again. "Listen, whatever chip you have on your shoulder, whatever baggage you're bringin with you, leave it at the fucking door. You think you're gonna come in here and shake this place up, do things your way? You got another thing fuckin' coming. The world undoubtedly sucks right about now, but it's bearable here, and I plan to keep it that way. You don't like it? Hop the fence and take your chances on the outside."
On the outside? Believe me; if I thought I could make it on the outside, I would've done it a long time ago. Besides, what good did it do me the last time? Before the last place was even out of my view, I was zapped and brought here.
"Do you really think I'd make it out of here alive?" I ask, my voice bitter.
She hesitates for a minute, her eyes locked on mine.
"No," she answers. "But believe me when I say that I'm not gonna let you fuck things up here. You put these girls this situation in jeopardy and I will pick you up by your big head and toss you over myself."
Before I can stop myself, my hand has made its way up to my head in paranoia. My head is not big. Maybe a bit dirty, maybe a bit bruised, but otherwise perfect.
I catch the grin on Faith's face and I drop my hand down to my lap, embarrassed. Just as she's about to start teasing me, we hear the lock on the door clink and Bobb-o shuffles in. He closes the door behind him, then starts taking wrapped food out from various pockets and . . . oh god, did he just lift up a skin fold?
Suddenly I'm not feeling so hungry.
Faith grabs a couple pieces of beef jerky from a plastic bag and pops them into her mouth, then tosses the bag at me. It lands in my lap and I just look up at her.
She doesn't expect me to eat this right? I mean . . . sure Bobb-o seems nice and all for an evil demon, but I'm not all keen about eating something that was stashed under his manboob, even if it was wrapped in plastic.
Bobb-o finishes unloading the snacks, then turns around and leaves when Faith gives him an appreciative slap on the back.
I wait until he leaves and I hear the door click shut before I turn to Faith, frowning.
"You can't be serious."
"Totally am. Beggars can't be choosy and you need all the strength you can get."
"Ugh. It can wait."
"Really can't. Slayer healing isn't gonna do much if your body has no energy to do it. Bobb-o brought some peanuts, some beef jerky, some cereal bars, and despite my warning, I'm pretty sure there's some Reese Cups in there for you too."
She picks up the bag of jerky from my lap and holds it out to me, waiting for me to grab it. I just look at the bag, then back up at her.
"You pass on this, you're not gonna get any food until tomorrow and I'm tellin ya that ya need it tonight."
She's getting increasingly impatient and I can't for the life of me figure out why. Why does she care if I eat or not and when?
"Then I'll wait until tomorrow," I tell her and put my hand on hers, pushing it away.
She inhales loudly through her nose, her jaw clenched tight, and she narrows her eyes at me.
"You know what's good for you, you're gonna take all of this food and scarf it now, then you're gonna lay down and get some rest."
Her words are even but terse, and I can tell that she's holding back her frustration. But she's not the only one that's frustrated here.
"Why are you suddenly so interested in what I eat and when I sleep?" I ask, my head tilted to the side to study her face.
She stands up straight and drops her arms to her sides, shaking her head in frustration. Taking a few steps toward the door, she opens it up and then pauses, looking back at me over her shoulder.
" cos you're fighting tonight."
She tosses the bag over and it lands on the mattress next to me, but I don't reach out to get it. I watch as she walks out of the room freely and leaves me alone with a bunch of contraband food and a look of shock on my face.
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