Chapter Eleven

Faith was released into Angel's custody four days after the meeting with Warden Drake. Before she left the prison, Drake had invited her and Angel into his office. While there, he placed several protection spells upon her and performed a Zedalyde Ritual, which in effect bound her soul to this plane.

He also gave her a supply of the medication that suppressed her dreams. However, Drake warned her that her body seemed to be building up a tolerance to the medication already and that it would soon lose its effectiveness on her.

Lastly, Drake promised to watch out for her while she was out of his care. He mentioned that he would contact some friends on a higher plane and try to get any useful information out of them.

With that, Angel led Faith out of the prison and towards the SUV that waited to take them to Sunnydale.

As Cordelia and Wesley waited in the SUV for Angel to return with Faith, they had discussed the fact that neither one of them trusted Faith still. Angel had told them what had been happening to Faith and asked that they give her a chance. Still, they were under the belief that Faith was faking the whole thing in order to escape from prison.

They mutually concluded to remain on full alert while in her presence.

However, their sense of alert quickly faded when they saw a weak and timid-looking Faith being slowly led to the vehicle by Angel. He had an arm around her waist and in turn, her arm was draped over his shoulders.

Her face was thin and pale. Her once toned and buff body now seemed too thin and frail. It wasn't the Faith that they'd once known, not even as she tried her best to put on a smirk and toss out a playful line.

"My fans await," she timidly joked. "I'll have to ask that we hold off on autographs 'til later. Might not wanna give the convicted felon anything sharp like a pen to play with," she said and forced out a hoarse laugh.

Suddenly, Cordelia and Wesley felt full of concern and sympathy for the girl.

"Hello, Faith," Wes simply replied, a compassionate look on his face.

"Hey Faith," Cordelia added, her face a mixture of concern and disbelief. "Angel, get in the front with Wes. I'm gonna sit in the back with Faith. You know, do the girlie-bonding thing."

She got up out of the passenger seat and moved to Angel, who was still supporting Faith. She slid between Angel and Faith and ducked her head under Faith's arm. After sliding her arm around Faith's waist, she led her towards the opened back door and away from Angel.

"Um, oh . . . uh, Cordy? Are you sure that you have her?" Angel fretted as Cordelia helped Faith into the back seat. "I can help, or . . . uh, well, just be careful. She's kind of weak right now."

Faith looked embarrassed at the concern that was being shown for her. She had never really been taken care of before.

"Uh, Angel . . . I'm right here, yunno? I can hear ya. Besides, I'm not that weak. It's just the meds that I'm on. Give it a couple days . . . slayer metabolism will get them outta my body, and I'll be good as gold, baby. Trust me. I'm five-by-five," Faith stated, a little smile playing across her lips.

Cordelia laughed aloud and rolled her eyes playfully. "God, Faith, 'five by five'? Are you still saying that? And more importantly, are you ever gonna let us know what it means?" Cordelia teased the other girl as she helped buckle her in.

Faith looked down at Cordelia's hands as they brushed across her abdomen while trying to buckle the seatbelt. Her trademark smirk crept up on her face.

"Hmm . . . well, if you keep up the T.L.C. that you're givin' me right now, I'll let you in on all of my secrets, Queen C," Faith replied, waggling her eyebrows.

Cordelia laughed. "And there, gentlemen, is the Faith that we all know and adore."

The four laughed as they finished settling into the vehicle. After checking that they were ready, they began their journey to Sunnydale.

As they drove away, Faith looked back at the prison that had been her home for more than a year. A sense of loss came over her as she realized that she might never be able to fully finish her quest for redemption.

However, the sense of loss quickly faded as thoughts of Buffy and Sunnydale flooded her mind. If she played her cards right, she might be able to earn Buffy and the Scoobies' trust and forgiveness once again.

That is, if she lived long enough to do so.

The ride to Sunnydale seemed to take a lifetime, at least for Faith. She was exhausted and her body and mind were in desperate need of sleep. She had the medication to suppress her dreams, but she was still too scared to even take a little nap.

Cordelia could sense that Faith was trying to stay awake so she tried to make small talk to entertain the girl. Wes and Angel remained quiet in the front seat, listening to the conversation but not partaking in it.

"So . . . Faith. Are you nervous about going back to Sunnydale? I mean . . . 'cause I know that I've been avoiding it. Like the plague." Cordelia nodded very matter-of-factly.

"Normally, I would be crazy nervous about going back to SunnyD. Bad memories, yunno? I guess I should feel pretty hesitant, especially seeing as that I got a little torture-happy with a bunch of people there. I caused some major trouble there. But oddly enough? I've got too many other things on my mind right now to sweat the small stuff. Yunno what I mean? I've got other things to be nervous about."

"Yeah, I get it. So tell me what's on your mind. In your own words: what's making you nervous?" Cordelia asked. She thought that if Faith would talk about her problems, it might make them a little easier to deal with.

"Okay. First? I'm wicked scared that this dark magic shit is gonna make me go all Evil-Faith again. Warden Drake said that maybe it was the darkness that made me all psycho-slayer before, and I was hella strong back then! Imagine what it could do to me right now, being all weak and tired and shit."

Cordelia nodded. "Right. I can see why that would make you nervous. Why else?"

"Secondly? If the darkness doesn't consume me, it's gonna kill me. That is, if you guys don't figure out how to stop it. And that leads me to reason number three."

"And that is . . . ?"

"I hate the fact that you guys have to put up with this shit. Me? I don't mind dying for a good cause, or as a part of my redemption, or even to lift the burden off of any one of your lives. I've come to terms with that and I accept it. But everyone is already in too deep. If I die now, you guys are gonna feel like you failed me, and that's not true in the least bit. Just having you guys help me now, after what I've done . . . means so much to me. You all have gone above and beyond already. I don't want any of you to feel bad if things don't work out as planned. So, yeah. That's a big factor."

Cordelia smiled at the timid girl next to her and gave her a small slap on the arm.

"Now Faith, you should know that nobody makes Cordelia Chase do something that she doesn't want to do. I may have been . . . reluctant at first. I mean, after all, you did break into my apartment, elbow me in the face, and cause me temporary disfigurement. But that's all in the past. I'm here right now because I want to help. If that dark magic or whatever was controlling you before, then you're not guilty of the things that you did. You were merely a cute little leather-clad puppet, and you can't be held responsible."

"Thanks Cor," Faith said with a smile on her face. She felt genuinely happy that Cordelia had said that to her, mainly because she knew that Cordelia always told things like they were and that she wasn't lying about wanting to help.

Cordelia, however, decided to sneak in a little bit more to her diatribe.

"Besides, I know that you've gotta be telling the truth."

Faith knitted her eyebrows together.

"Oh yeah? How's that, C?"

"Because not even evil skanky Faith would let herself get into the condition that you're in now just to get out of prison. Say it with me now, honey: Sunlight is goooooood. Anorexic-supermodel body type is baaaaaaad. You need some UV rays and some McDonalds, stat!"

Even Angel and Wes were laughing in the front seat now.

"Gee, thanks Cor. Way to make the sick girl feel better about herself. I think you've been hanging out with Angel too much," Faith said, recalling the teasing that Angel had her through in the infirmary.

A glimpse of her old self ran through Faith as she decided to press on a bit further.

"Still. Ya gotta admit one thing, Queen C," Faith began as she ran her hands along her sides and licked her lips, "Even pale and bony? I'm still a fuckin fox."

Faith smirked playfully and winked at Cordelia, who was wearing a huge smile in return.

"Okay, I'll admit it. You're still a hottie. Like I said, all you need is a couple of rays and some take-out and you'll be bangin' in no time at all, and I'm always right about stuff like this. It's just too bad for you that my door doesn't swing that way."

"Don't worry, Cor. Even though my door may swing both ways, it's not currently open for business, if ya get my drift. I'm keepin' it strictly vanilla. Still, let's not forget that I'm not dead yet, and that as long as there's an opportunity for a crude joke or an off-the wall innuendo, I'll be there to dish it out."

Cordelia laughed, as did Angel and Wes.

From the front seat, Angel muttered under his breath, "You can take the girl out of the wild . . ."

Faith promptly finished the sentence for him, ". . . but you can't take the wild outta the girl. Damn straight. And don't you forget it, either!"

After the laughing stopped and silence once again fell over the vehicle, Cordelia decided to press Faith even further.

"Now back to the intriguing topic of your door swinging both ways and being closed for business and whatnot. I have to ask . . . I always thought that you were a straight-shooter, Faith?"


"Then back to the door analogy and swinging both ways. Should I assume that you're bi-sexual then?"

"Nope, I don't think I am."

Cordelia sighed, frustrated at Faith's vague answer.

"So are you gay? I mean, that would explain the leather fetish . . . and you taking Buffy to Homecoming . . . and the innuendos at me and any other girl . . . and . . . come on, save me here, Faith!"

"What the shit? No, I'm not gay, either. What's with all the questions?" Faith answered quickly. She didn't like the direction this conversation was headed. She glanced to the front seat to silently plead with Angel for help but he was doing his best to pretend like he wasn't listening.

Cordelia continued.

"If you're not straight, not bi, and not gay, what the hell are you? And I'm trying to make a point here so just go with me here for a minute."

Faith exhaled sharply and then remained quiet for a moment or two. She decided to play along with Cordelia's little game.

"Yunno what? I really don't know what to consider myself. I would normally say straight, but . . . yunno . . . all female prison . . . long incarceration. But I'm not interested in the kinks and games that I used to be lately. Guess I don't see the point in it anymore. I'm definitely not gay cos I think both men and women are hotties, right? I'd be happy with either, as long as he or she was meant for me. Then again, I wouldn't consider myself bi, either."

Cordelia stifled a laugh.

"Umm, Faith, I hate to burst your bubble, but if you like guys and girls, and would be happy to end up with either? You're bi, honey."

Faith thought about it.

"I have to disagree with you there, C. Being bi means that you're attracted to both men and women. But like I said, I'm not into the kinks and games anymore." Faith paused, trying to form her thoughts into words. She hadn't realized that she started speaking aloud again. "I found someone who makes me disregard the rest of the world in that way. When I'm around her . . . I don't find anyone else compelling or attractive, because all I see is her. So, like I said, I guess I'm not bi either. I'm . . ."

Cordelia interrupted with a smile on her face, " . . . in love with Buffy."

Faith was quickly snapped out of her thoughts when she her Cordelia's words. She put her hand up over her mouth in an effort to stop any other treacherous words from escaping, but it was too late. The damage was done. Now everyone in the vehicle knew her deepest secret.

She was still wearing a shocked expression on her face when she removed her hand from her mouth in defeat. She gave Cordelia a pleading look, hoping that the girl wouldn't make fun of her.

Cordelia caught on.

"Oh. Don't worry Faith. I already knew it. Angel knew it. Hell, even Wes knew it and you know that he's normally Mr. Clueless. I just wanted you to realize it and to get it out in the open. We're not judging you, honey. In fact, I think it's kinda cute," Cordelia stated.

Faith's state varied between confusion, fright, disbelief, shock, and anxiety.

"How? What? How? And . . . cute?"

"Oh, please, tough-stuff. I can tell that you love her just in the way that you respond when someone mentions her name. And I mean, hello . . . I was there in Sunnydale before you went all grrr and argh. I'm not blind. Plus, vision-girl here, remember? You loved her even then. And the whole 'cute' issue? It's like when a little boy likes a little girl . . . he runs up to her and punches her, then runs away. Kinda like you and Buffy. Only . . . less with the bruises and cuts, and the whole stabbing thing . . ."

Cordelia drifted off in thought. She was brought back to attention by Faith who began feverishly speaking, addressing everyone in the vehicle.

"Listen, even if you guys know now, you can't tell Buffy. Ever. She doesn't need to deal with that on top of everything else that's going on with me. I can hope to maybe earn her trust some day, and maybe if I get really fuckin lucky, her forgiveness. But I know she'll never love me back, at least not in the sweaty and panty way that I would like. If this gets out in the open, it'll ruin any chance that I have at a quasi-friendship with her, not to mention my cred. So please, just let it be."

Cordelia smiled a little, as did Angel and Wes.

From the front seat, Angel could be heard singing under his breath, "Faith and Buffy sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G . . ."

Faith exhaled sharply and closed her eyes. She muttered under her breath. "Ooooh, you just wait, Soul-boy. I get my slayer-strength back and you and I are gonna have us a little rumble. Hope you're ready for an old-school ass-whoopin."

Angel stopped singing and chuckled at Faith's threat. Cordelia laughed as well and finally spoke to break the two up.

"Don't mess yourself, Faith, we're not gonna say anything to the Buffster. You just needed to realize it for yourself. I think I got my point across. And seeing that we were talking about your fears of returning to Sunnydale, that one needed to be put on the table with the others."

Faith understood what Cordelia was getting at.

"Right. Fear number Four: That Buffy will find out that I love her and it'll ruin everything."

Cordelia smiled a genuine smile.

"Congratulations, kiddo. You pass."

Finally, Wesley spoke up.

"Well, I do hope that you're ready to confront your fears and face your demons," he said as he pointed to something out the front of the windshield.

A small tremble went through Faith as she watched the moonlight spill over the road in front of them, illuminating the 'Welcome to Sunnydale!' sign in a perfect splendor.

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