Chapter Two

Despite Faith's protests, they agree with the doctor's request to keep her in the hospital for observation. The doctor had asked for up to seven days; they'd only promised two. Trying to keep Faith in that bed for anything longer than that is probably not only bad for her health but bad for theirs as well. Buffy's pretty sure they'd all be dead if looks could kill. Luckily they don't and Faith's initial chilling glare at their agreement to keep her there turned into more of a sulk after just a short while.

Buffy and Giles take turns at the hospital when able but it's Joyce that's been bearing the brunt of the Faith-sitting. She doesn't mind, or at least that's what she's told Buffy. In fact, she's happy to do it. She has a lot of accrued paid time off from the gallery and doesn't mind using it if it means helping them - and Faith - out. And honestly, it definitely helps. Buffy's not sure she could deal with being there hour after hour. While they've seemingly worked out a truce, she and Faith aren't exactly best buds. Judging by the icy silence between them most of the time when they're alone together, Buffy doubts they ever will be.

Still, she's willing to do her part. They'd failed before; she'd failed before. At least no one can tell her now that she never tried to make things right.

She's still dealing with classes and patrolling and everything else on her already full plate. The great thing about Faith's lack of chattiness is that Buffy can work on homework during her visits and Faith just ignores her by watching the wall-mounted TV. It's a win-win situation. Buffy just hopes that her presence alone is enough to let Faith know that she's at least making an effort.

Giles is a bit more proactive, trying to engage Faith in conversation during his visits. He's mildly successful, at least when it comes to business talk. Faith answers questions about her well-being and general slayerness but avoids anything deeper than that. It's obvious to see that they're all going to have to work on their trust issues.

Despite Giles and Buffy's inability to get Faith to open up, Joyce has a certain way of getting Faith to do just that. It's not like they're best friends at a sleepover but still, Joyce can get through to her. She doesn't share what their conversations consist of and honestly, Buffy doesn't think she wants to know anyway. Joyce had immediately offered to open up their home to Faith but Giles protested, making Buffy breathe deeply with relief. She wants to work with and help Faith but she's pretty sure that it's not a great idea to embed her so deeply into her personal life.

Not yet.

Not when she still isn't sure if Faith is genuine in her acceptance of their help. Besides, Giles is a trained Watcher. This is what he's spent most of his adult life learning how to do. Sure he's not exactly on the Council's payroll these days, but that's even better! It means he won't resort to any of their less tasteful tactics. All they need now is for Faith to get spooked and run, or attack, or worse.

So it's been decided that Faith will take the spare room at Giles' place, at least for the time being. They're not holding her prisoner, that's for sure. When Faith grimly suggests as much from her hospital bed, Giles quickly explains that it will surely be beneficial for them both. Faith will have room and board which she doesn't have to pay for or earn and he'll have full access to her for training purposes. Being unemployed, he can dedicate as much time to her as she's willing to allow.

Awake for two days now, it seems like Faith is still unsure of the whole situation. Honestly, Buffy doesn't doubt that they all are. Giles has been cramming as much work as he can into the time he's not at the hospital, developing training schedules as well as workouts to determine her physical strengths and weaknesses after being prone for eight months. On top of that, he has to get her room ready and make sure she'll feel welcome once she arrives.

In slayer-speak, that basically means having food aplenty and cable television installed. His place isn't exactly what one would call fun, especially not to someone who already feels like she's some kind of prisoner despite her agreement to the situation.

Joyce has taken the task of buying her some clothing and necessities seeing as that damn near everything in Faith's apartment had been relocated by the estate movers after the Mayor's death. She's still trying to track the boxes and items down but so far hasn't had much luck. Faith doesn't seem to care. When they bring it up to her, she just turns her head to the side and stares off in the distance, murmuring a quiet 'whatever'.

Buffy, for her part, hasn't really done much to prepare. Really, what is there that she can do? She's not going to knit Faith a 'welcome back' scarf, firstly because she doesn't know how to knit, and secondly because there's still a lingering feeling in her gut that Faith might just use it to strangle her.

Hence, Buffy hasn't done much but wait and worry and wonder if this idea of hers is going to work out or not. It's not like she expected it to be all flowers and roses, but still.

There is one chore she's been tasked with, however, but she's been procrastinating for two days and now she's run out of time. Faith is leaving the hospital today . . . and Buffy still hasn't told her friends about it. And no, she doesn't mean about Faith's discharge from the hospital; she means about her waking up in the first place.

She cringes to herself as her subconscious yells at her for her poor decision making and excessive procrastination, but she's sincerely worried about the whole situation. Xander will be easier to convince than Willow, that's for sure. Buffy actually has to share a room with Willow. There will be no hiding out from her or giving her time to adjust to the idea; they're thrown together in the same small space and did you know that Willow's been working on her magic skills lately? All Buffy needs to do is wake up with a tail or a horn, courtesy of her angry and vengeful best friend!

What's more, she hasn't yet told Riley. He's still recovering from his incident with Adam and he has to be feeling neglected right now with how little Buffy's been able to see of him since Faith awoke. Their relationship isn't exactly out of its 'new' phase yet but she knows he's heard snippets about Faith from their group conversations and will not be happy about Buffy spending oodles of time with her, or any at all.

She's been dreading this moment since even before Faith woke up, but she heads to the campus cafeteria to meet her friends and break the news to them. Choosing a public place wasn't entirely accidental; Buffy's pretty sure Willow won't use magic on her in public. At least she hopes she won't.

Crap, maybe she should have brought her mother to this meeting too!

The last to arrive, Buffy spots her friends at the furthest table in the cafeteria, already digging into their food. She skips the lines and instead heads right over, happy that she doesn't have much of an appetite anyway.

Riley sees her first and stands up, wrapping one arm around her back and pressing a kiss into her hair as she scoots past him into the empty chair beside the window. Willow and Tara immediately greet her and Xander tries but is muffled by his mouthful of spaghetti. Anya looks mostly indifferent which Buffy is planning on banking on. Not that having an ex-vengeance demon on her side or at least vaguely in her corner is necessarily a good thing but it makes her feel less alone in the matter.

"Long time no see, Buffster," Xander finally manages, using the back of his hand to wipe spaghetti sauce from his lips. "I feel like I haven't seen you in ages. My how you've grown!"

"Hey, easy with the growing talk," Buffy playfully warns as she steals a piece of garlic bread from his plate and tucks into it.

Okay, maybe she's hungrier than she thought. Come to think of it, she's not even sure of the last time she had a meal . . .

"I'll second that," Willow says. Seeing Buffy frown, she immediately clarifies, "I mean about the not seeing you, not about the growing! You're still the slimmest slayer I know."

Buffy doubts that, knowing how much Faith has thinned out since being in a coma. She swallows loudly, the garlic bread suddenly feeling like sandpaper in her dry throat.

"Ha," Buffy says, forcing a laugh. "It's funny you should say that, actually. There's something . . ."

"So then I'm not the only one who hasn't been seeing her then," Riley interrupts teasingly.

Buffy has to fight the urge to kick him under the table for ruining the perfect segue. Instead she smiles sweetly and gives his bicep a soft squeeze.

"You guys know I'm not usually so much with the avoidy," she explains. "But Riley, you needed rest, mister. And Wills, I've been doubling up on patrols and the studying so dorm time has been cut short. And between all that, Xander, I haven't been able to make it off campus much for visits. But I promise, I'm trying my best."

"It's okay, Buffy. We forgive you," Xander replies easily. He uses his last piece of garlic bread to sop up some sauce from his plate and then crunches into it happily. "Besides," he continues around a mouthful of food, "as official Scoobies we're used to slayer protocol. Once you take down the big bad robo-man, we can all get back to our regularly scheduled friendage. Saving lives comes first. We get it."

Buffy smiles but has to look down at her lap to compose herself. Another good segue. She needs to take this one before the opportunity passes by and they find out about Faith by stumbling across her at Giles's apartment.

"I'm actually glad you said that, Xander," she begins. She takes a deep breath and looks up, smiling shakily as she looks around at her friends. "You're right. Saving lives comes first. And that's why I've chosen to do something I think will save someone, even if it won't exactly win me any popularity contests."

Willow frowns with worry. "Buffy, how can saving someone make you unpopular? It should make you a hero!"

"Because that person is Faith," Buffy breathes out quickly.

A charged silence follows in which Buffy has to stop herself from jumping out the window and running off into the wild. Instead she stands her ground, looking from person to person and wondering who will be the first to break.

Xander takes a deep breath and slides back in his chair, pushing his tray toward the center of the table and out of his grasp. His appetite is clearly gone but he seems at a loss for words, instead staring off at some random spot on the table. Anya takes the apple from his tray and bites into it, not realizing that this is apparently the time for pregnant pause and deep thought.

Riley crosses his arms over his muscular chest and takes a deep breath, lips pressed tightly together and eyebrows raised in concern.

Willow is the only one who really surprises Buffy in her reaction. Buffy had expected anger and rage and explodey magic aimed directly at her, but instead Willow rests her hand over Tara's which is on her arm in a gesture of comfort and looks up at Buffy with worry.

"Faith's awake?" she asks.

"She is," Buffy replies with a nod.

"Since when?"

Buffy looks down at her lap. "Since two days ago."

She takes a chance and looks up to see Willow nodding gently in understanding, her worried gaze focused out the window. After a few quiet moments, Willow looks over at her again, her eyebrows knit together in worry.

"And you're just telling us about it now? Didn't you take our safety into concern at all, Buffy?"

She sounds more hurt than angry and that makes Buffy feel twice as guilty. Anger she could have dealt with. Hurt, well . . . she never expected that! Honestly, right now she'd prefer the rage, even if it came with a magically-induced tail.

"I did, I swear," Buffy quickly replies, moving forward to the edge of her chair. "And she's weak right now; so weak. I was there when she started showing signs of life . . . "

"You were there?" Willow asks, sounding even more confused.

"I," Buffy begins but stutters over her words as she tries to find the best, safest answer. At this point there's no safe answer; there's just the truth and she owes them that much. She sighs and presses her fingers against her temples before continuing. "I've been checking in on Faith at the hospital whenever I get a chance. I'm sorry I never told any of you but it was easier that way. She doesn't have anyone else. I know she hurt us, all of us, but in the end she came through. Maybe that doesn't right a wrong; I don't know. I can't expect everyone to have warm happy feelings about her. But what she did; she helped save us and the entire town. Maybe the world. So, yeah." Buffy shook her head and smiled in a self-deprecating way. "I've been checking in on her when time allows. I've been following her progress. I was there when she starting coming to, and I was there to offer her a second chance for help when she finally did."

"Buffy, I get that you feel indebted," Willow begins. Buffy tries to interrupt but Willow cuts her off with a quick shake of her head. "I get that you feel indebted, but how many second chances can you offer a person? You gave her every chance . . ."

"Did I?" Buffy asks glumly.

It's a question she's been asking herself a lot lately.

Willow opens her mouth to respond but instead seems to find herself at a loss for words. She closes her mouth and a silence once again settles upon the group. They're obviously all pondering the exact same question.

"Buffy," Xander begins, "I reached out to Faith. I tried, but she was already too far gone, and that was over nine months ago. Do you really think you have a chance now?"

Buffy just shrugs. "I think I owe it to her to try. She's not unwilling. Giles and my mom, they're both in on the deal. And before you get mad at me for telling them and not you guys, please understand that I wanted them there because I thought it would feel less like me threatening her. My mom was never involved in the badness with Faith, and if Giles is going to be partially responsible for helping her he needed to let her know that face to face. We've been hammering out the details as we go."

"And what are these details?" Riley asks, finally speaking up.

Buffy takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. Here goes nothing.

"She's going to stay with Giles. Right now she's really weak and run down , so he's going to assist in her recovery. Once her body is recuperated, he'll get into a training routine. I'll be there when I can, going through the motions with them."

"So you're counting on her weakened state to keep her in line yet you plan on making her stronger through rigorous training so that she can pursue her vengeance?" Anya asks, more inquisitive than anything. "That sounds kind of counterproductive if you ask me."

Dammit! Buffy was counting on Anya to be indifferent, not add to the general group fears!

"She has a valid point, Buff," Xander chimes in unhelpfully.

"And I realize that," Buffy replies. "But Faith will be staying with Giles. While she's not a prisoner and we don't want her to be - if we did, we'd turn her over to the Council - she'll be under his constant care and supervision. If things start going badly, we'll shut the whole thing down."

"And how do you plan on doing that, Buffy?" Willow asks, concerned. "She's a slayer. If she wants to create mayhem, she will. Are you going to stab her again if the going gets tough and hope she conveniently falls into another coma?"

Buffy's composure falters at that question. There's no getting around the badness that had happened between she and Faith, nor what Buffy had to resort to in the end. A million times she's wished that she could do that day over, but wishing got her nowhere. She was living with those consequences even now.

"Willow," Tara scolds quietly, obviously seeing how her question has affected Buffy.

"No, it's okay," Buffy says, giving Tara a soft smile. "The truth is, I don't know what will happen if it doesn't work out. We can't force Faith to do anything. Giles and I can only show Faith we're here for her and that we're willing to try to make things better. I haven't really considered failure at this point."

"Maybe you should," Riley adds. "If you're going to ingrain her into your life, you need to be prepared for all eventualities. I don't like it, Buffy."

"I know," Buffy replies. "I don't expect any of you to. And honestly, I don't expect any of you to be involved in any capacity, either. If you decide you'd like to help, I won't turn you away. God knows we can probably use it. But I can keep you guys as far away from all this as possible. I'll work out a schedule and keep her off your radar. Giles's place will obviously be a no-go for the foreseeable future but doing this won't keep me away from you guys."

Everyone is quiet, lost in their own thoughts. Buffy watches their faces closely, looking for any signs of hope. She could really use someone on her side at this point but she understands if she's alone in this. At least she has her mom and Giles.

Anya's the first to break the silence.

"Well I for one don't care what you do with her. Train her, lock her up in the basement; whatever you like. Please just keep her away from Xander's pants. I would also appreciate it if you don't let her kill me in my sleep."

"Noted," Buffy says, her tone overly bright. "I'll do my best. Xander?"

He offers a shaky smile. "Add me to the list of people that would not like to die in their sleep." He waits a beat before adding, "I think I just need some time to digest all of this, Buffster."

"You probably mean the three plates of spaghetti you ate," Anya offers easily.

"I get it, Xan. Take all the time you need," Buffy answers gratefully, then looks to Riley.

"I already said I don't like it, Buffy," Riley says. "You're already committed to finding and destroying Adam, and now you have to deal with another killer. How do you decide which one is the bigger threat?"

Okay. She knows she has Adam to deal with, but Riley is partially right here. How is she supposed to devote time to helping Faith when she needs to be out on the street looking for Adam? Riley is already injured; she highly doubts anyone in the Initiative is going to be any more help than he was.

And she knows it shouldn't bother her, but Riley calling Faith a killer when he doesn't even know her and wasn't even there irks her more than it should. Still, she keeps herself together as best she can when she replies.

"That's also a valid question," she says. "For what it's worth, Faith isn't a threat. At least not right now. If your soldier friends can help cover cemeteries, I can use my patrol time more wisely to find and destroy Adam. Giles will be bearing the brunt of the daily Faith responsibilities; if he senses things going south, I'll deal with it then."

Riley is quiet. Buffy knows he'll agree to help out with Adam in any way possible, but as far as Faith goes, she can't count on him, not even for moral support. She guesses that's to be expected; boyfriends are supposed to be overprotective.

That pretty much leaves Willow. She looks over to her, not even bothering to hide her worry. Willow is her best friend. Her acceptance and support means more than anything to Buffy. Still, Buffy knows this is asking a lot of her and she doesn't have her expectations set very high. Judging by the look on Willow's face, she's glad she wasn't expecting much.

"I'm sorry, Buffy," Willow says sadly, shaking her head. "I agree with Riley. This seems like a bad idea. I'm happy you're confident in Faith's ability to do right but I'm just . . . not. I'm not doubting your intentions or your ability; I'm doubting hers. I'm worried about what's going to happen when she gets sick of sitting at Giles's. And frankly, the fact that you won't even entertain the worst case scenario tells me that you haven't fully thought this through."

"I have," Buffy says, trying to sound confident. "But no matter how things turn out, I won't let them end with a knife in the gut and an eight month coma this time around. Not by my hand. That day still haunts me, Willow. I can't let it happen again."

"I know," Willow says sympathetically, her hand reaching across the table to touch Buffy's hand. "They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. This is insane, Buffy. I'm sorry, but I can't be a part of it. I'm sorry."

She briefly squeezes Buffy's hand before letting go and standing up, then excusing herself from the table. Buffy watches her go in defeat; she hadn't expected much but it still hurts to have her best friend walk away from her.

When Willow is gone, Tara stands too, looking awkward between Buffy and where Willow had taken off to. She offers a sympathetic smile before gathering her tray and bag in her arms.

"I'll talk to her for you, if you want," she offers shyly, pushing her hair behind her ear before taking off after Willow.

Buffy sits back in her chair and sums up her day in her head: three against her plan, one ambivalent to it, one who didn't cast a vote, and one raging case of stomach upset from a stale piece of garlic bread.

She has a feeling that moving Faith to Giles's apartment later that night is going to be the cherry on top of an already awesome heartburn sundae.

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