Chapter Twelve

After about a ten-minute ride, the SUV finally pulled onto Revello Drive. Faith had noticeably tensed up, her nerves taking over her.

Cordelia glanced over at her and gave her a warm smile. Without hesitation, she grabbed Faith's hand in her own and gave her a little nod, telling her without words that everything would be okay.

Faith closed her eyes as they pulled into the driveway. She kept them closed as she heard the car engine turn off and as she heard Wes, Angel, and Cordelia step out and close their doors.

She thought that maybe if she kept her eyes closed, none of this would really happen. She wouldn't be in a car parked outside of Buffy's house, waiting to walk in and beg for help. She wouldn't be sick; she'd still be back in prison and all would be right with the world. Maybe it was all just a bad, bad dream.

However, she was broken from her thoughts as she heard her car-door open. She kept her eyes closed tightly; still hoping that maybe it was all a dream. Her body suddenly shook as a familiar tingle ran through her. When she felt a gentle hand on her arm, she slowly opened up her eyes and looked up to face a concerned looking Buffy.

Shock. Pure shock was all that she could feel. Shocked that she wasn't getting pummeled. Shocked that Buffy wasn't yelling at her. Shocked that Buffy didn't look angry. At all.

"Hey, B. Wasn't expecting to see you standin' there. How goes it?" Faith tried her best to put on a bright smile, but her anxiety was too high and a shaky grin was all that she could muster.

Buffy shook her head as if trying to snap out of her thoughts and responded.

"Meh. Another day, another apocalypse. How about you?" She asked as she helped Faith out of the car.

"You know me, B. Five by five, all things considered."

Faith tried to hop out of the car like she would've back in the day, almost forgetting her current state. When her feet hit the pavement, her legs buckled and she began to stumble.

Buffy immediately tightened her grip on the shaky girl, sliding her other arm around Faith's lower back and guiding her arm over her shoulders.

Faith, taken aback by Buffy's action, looked at her with a shocked and confused look upon her face.

"Umm . . . thanks, B. Guess I'm not quite up to the hoppin' and the walkin' yet."

Her cheeks turned a little pink as a hint of embarrassment crept over her.

"It's no problem Faith, I've gotcha."

Angel, Cordelia, and Wes looked on with a little bit of shock.. Angel had never expected Buffy to be as concerned or as receptive as she was being right now.

He'd had been giving Buffy daily updates of Faith's status since the first day she was sent to the infirmary. She seemed a little skeptical at first, seeing as that Faith had seemed fine when she came to visit. Still, she showed her concern by asking questions and demanding updates on any changes in Faith's condition.

Shortly after Angel had met with Warden Drake and Faith in the prison, he contacted Buffy right away to make arrangements. He explained everything that Drake had told them and made it clear to her that Faith needed her help.

He was surprised that Buffy didn't put up a fight and he questioned her on it.

Her answer was fairly straight forward; if what Angel said about Faith was true that the darkness had been in control of her then she really couldn't hold any grudges against her any longer. They would still have lots of things to talk about and work through, but she was going to give her a chance. She didn't want to fight her anymore.

Angel was thoroughly pleased and surprised to hear that, but he had to ask her how she thought the Scoobies would react. He didn't want to send Faith into a situation that could possibly make her stressed and more ill. They didn't share a connection with Faith like Buffy did, after all.

While Buffy couldn't make any promises about how her friends would react, she knew that they were all reasonable and good people. Things could be weird at first, but she knew that it would get better. Easier. It had to.

And if it didn't? Well, then she'd make them deal.

Buffy began to walk Faith towards the front porch when she unconsciously began to feel along Faith's side and back with the arm that was supporting her there.

"Geez, Faith. I can feel your ribs! How much weight have you lost? I couldn't tell that you were this skinny when I came to see you . . . guess the jumpsuit covered it all up."

Faith shrugged.

"I don't really know. They didn't exactly serve up portions that fulfilled my Daily Slayer Nutritional Requirements, if ya know what I mean. Between that and the whole lack of sleep thing, I guess I kinda slimmed down a bit."

Buffy looked at her incredulously, eyebrows raised.

"A bit? Looking at you makes me think of one of those way-too-skinny waif supermodels of the 90's. Ooh, I've got it now . . . a vampire supermodel. Say it with me girl: sunlight is our friend. Helps fight the pastiness. You need some sun and some take-out."

Cordelia laughed aloud in the background, overhearing what Buffy was saying.

"See, Faith? I'm always right. Don't you forget that!" Cordelia taunted playfully.

Faith turned her head around to look at Cordelia. She shot her a huge grin while popping her middle finger up in response, then mouthing the words 'Fuck You, C.'

Cordelia laughed again then sarcastically replied, "Fuck me? I don't think so, Faith. I already told you my door doesn't swing that way. Besides, aren't you holding out for someone else?"

Faith's jaw dropped in disbelief and her eyes just about bugged out of her head. She gave Cordelia a menacing look and a shake of her fist before turning back in Buffy's arms.

"What's that all about? Care to share?" Buffy inquired, her interest piqued.

"It's nothing," Faith answered a little too quickly. "Cordy's talking out of her ass again. Best to disregard and ignore anything she says."

Buffy smiled slightly in response.


She pushed the front door open and led Faith into the house.

"Some things never change," Faith stated as she looked around the house, noticing that it looked exactly the same as the last time she was there.

"Yeah. I kind of like it that way though. Always something familiar to come home to. Makes me feel kind of safe, you know?"

Faith nodded, even though she really didn't know what Buffy was talking about. When she was younger, her own home was never a safe haven, and since she was called as a Slayer she had never had a permanent place to call home. Always some shitty motel that lasted only until she would skip out of town and make her way to the next shitty motel.

Jail had been her only safe-haven, and that in itself was pretty shitty.

Faith snapped out of her thoughts and continued to look around. She saw a couple of people standing in the kitchen. Some of the faces were familiar and some were new. One face, however, seemed to be missing from the bunch.

"Hey . . . where's Mrs. S? She doesn't have to be afraid to be around to me, yunno. I'm pretty harmless right now."

Faith watched as Buffy hung her head and drew in a deep breath. When she looked back up, her eyes were filled with tears. She exhaled sharply and took in a couple of deep breaths before she spoke.

"Umm . . . my mom . . . I . . . there was a shadow . . . she died. A couple of weeks ago. Right after I-I came to s-see you."

Faith's eyes got large once again, and she shook her head in disbelief.

"Oh God, B . . . I'm sorry. I didn't know. Shit . . . I'm sorry I brought it up . . . geez, I'm such an asshole," she stammered.

"No, Faith, it's not your fault, you didn't know." Buffy sniffled, then continued, looking up to meet Faith's gaze. "You know what? She was really happy that I went to see you. Said that it would be good for my soul to get some closure with you. Guess she held on long enough to see it happen."

The tears that Buffy had in her eyes were now freely falling down her face. She used the back of her hand to wipe them away.

With the arm that was draped over Buffy's shoulders, Faith gave a gentle, comforting squeeze. She wasn't exactly sure if Buffy wanted to be comforted by her, but it was the only gesture she knew of that wasn't over the top.

She closed her eyes and waited for the backlash from Buffy. However, she was surprised to find that Buffy didn't resist. In fact, she had actually nestled herself into Faith's embrace just for a moment, until she heard a cough from behind her.

"Am I interrupting something?" Angel asked with a sly grin on his face.

Buffy quickly sat Faith down on the couch and stood up, straightening out her clothes.

"Nope. Faith was just trying to be consoling. I . . . I told her about m-my mother," Buffy answered, looking very emotional once again.

Angel put Faith's bags on the floor near the stairs and walked over to Buffy, pulling her into a tight embrace. She closed her eyes and relaxed against him as he stroked her hair and placed a chaste kiss on top of her head.

Faith watched from the couch and a hint of jealousy swept over her. She thought that was what she should've done; just scooped her up and held her. Then again, with her strength diminished, they probably would've both crashed to the floor in a heap.

Right. A simple squeeze was perfect.

Cordelia and Wes walked in at that moment and Cordelia made a gagging sound as she saw Buffy and Angel in their embrace.

"Ugh! Haven't you two learned your lesson yet? Hugs lead to kisses. Kisses lead to groping. Groping leads to groiny-ness. Then we have us a real problem: one sick slayer, one heart-sick slayer, and one soulless vamp with a taste for death and a fetish for torture. I don't know about you guys, but I think we need to stop this before a whole vicious cycle starts up."

She pointed at Angel, who just glared at her.

"You! Couch! Now!" Then she pointed at Buffy. "You! Anywhere but the couch!"

Buffy and Angel dejectedly separated. He walked to the couch and sat down, mumbling under his unneeded breath as he did so, ". . . don't know who made you the boss of me . . . I'm over two centuries old . . . always treat me like a little kid . . . you're not the boss of me."

Buffy also walked towards the couch but sat on the armrest next to Faith rather than in the empty space next to Angel. She crossed her arms across her chest and pouted. She glanced up at Cordelia through her eyelashes and noticed that she was getting an annoyed look from the other girl.

"What?" Buffy asked, sounding both innocent and annoyed at the same time. "It's my house! Besides, I'm not sitting next to him. Oh! . . . and I have no intentions of getting groin-y with him, so just chill out, Cordy." Then under her breath, she added, "You're not the boss of me."

Faith couldn't help but laugh at the exchange. Cordy was back in town for ten minutes and she was already taking charge. It was no wonder that Faith liked her so much.

Slowly but surely, the Scoobies began to enter the room from the kitchen. They were apprehensive at first, but Faith's appearance and demeanor slowly melted their fears away. They finally let their guard down, at least temporarily.

Dawn smiled as soon as she saw Faith. She ran over and knelt in front of her, wrapping her arms around Faith's legs and giving them a tight hug.

"Faith! It's been so long. My god, how much weight did you lose? Oh! You'll be able to share clothes with me now!" Dawn giggled.

"Hey, Crack-of-Dawn, it's good to see you too, kiddo. I just might take you up on that clothes offer, as long as you've got some leathers to share." Faith responded while mussing up Dawn's hair.

From across the room, Xander and Willow watched in awe. Not only had they never seen Faith act lovingly like she was now, but they had also never seen her in a physical state like her current one.

"Oh my goddess," Willow exclaimed, quiet enough so that only Xander heard her.

"I'll see your 'oh my goddess,' and raise you a 'holy shit'." Xander replied just as quietly.

Anya, on the other hand, was extremely intrigued by the dark slayer in front of her. Instead of standing back and acting shocked, she walked right up to Faith and grabbed her hand, shaking it firmly.

"Hello. I'm Anya. I don't believe we were ever properly introduced. Xander is mine, so please refrain from seducing him or having sexual relations with him." She paused and studied Faith for a moment, then continued. "Though . . . from looking at you now, I understand why he would want to have sex with you. You're strangely tempting and exotic, even though you are a little pasty. And those lips! Rrrrrrrooow."

Anya made a little growling noise and winked at Faith, who gave her a questioning smile in return, making sure to run her tongue over her bottom lip as she did so.

Anya continued, "Anyways, I hope that your recovery is quick and easy. Maybe when you're back to your dark and sexy self, you, can enjoy a session or two of consensual pleasure with Xander and I. I'm very limber."

An air of discomfort swept across the room. Xander cringed from across the room, Giles let out one of his patented 'Dear Lord's,' and Cordelia laughed as if it was the funniest thing she had heard in a long time.

Faith looked a little puzzled at first,but she burst out laughing after a moment or two passed.

"You, I like," she said as she glanced at Anya. Then she looked across the room at Xander and finally caught his gaze. "Hey Xan-man, you've got yourself a live one here. She keep you on the edge of your seat?"

"You have no idea," he answered with a friendly and pleading smile.

She noticed Willow fidgeting next to Xander and talking to a blonde girl standing next to her.

"Hey, Red. You're lookin' good."

"Thanks," Willow replied with a nervous smile. She didn't take compliments too well.

"Last time we ran into each other you were makin' big with the magic mumbo-jumbo. You plannin' on turnin' me into a frog or snail anytime soon?" Faith asked, trying to be playful but not wanting to overstep her boundaries.

"Nope. You'll be happy to know that I have no current plans to turn you into a frog or anything. Besides, I'm sure your animal spirit is a wolf or a fox or something cool like that, 'cause I mean . . . come on . . . it's you. Not that a frog isn't cool to some people. But, with the warts and the slime, and the croaking and hopping, just . . . yuck . . . and . . . I'm babbling again, aren't I? Frogs tend to do that to me."

Faith just took in a breath and chuckled a little.

"Yep, you kinda are. But yunno what? I missed that, Red. Feel free to keep going if ya want to."

Willow shook her head.

"Hmm . . . nope. I'm done now. Besides, I've gotta save all the strength I have for tomorrow. Looks like you and I are going to do a little magical mind-walk, see if we can find out what's going on in your head."

Almost immediately, Faith's smile faded as she looked down nervously at her lap. She couldn't believe that not only were the Scoobies being nice to her but they were going to help her as well.

Everyone in the room noticed as Faith dropped her head and they all went silent as they waited for someone to say something. Angel sat on the couth with Faith and Buffy, Dawn on the floor in front of them. Cordelia sat on the stairs, while Wes and Giles hovered nearby the front door. Tara, Willow, Xander, and Anya sat on the chairs across from the couch, looking at each other awkwardly as Faith collected her thoughts.

She wanted to thank them, but wasn't sure how. She decided to just jump right in.

"Umm, listen guys, I wanna thank you all for bein' so nice to me. I know I don't deserve your friendship, especially with all the shit that went down in the past. Whether I was someone's evil puppet or not, it really doesn't matter cos I was pretty shitty even before then. I was selfish and afraid of being alone, so I took advantage of my so-called friendships at every opportunity. Fucked up, right?"

"Faith, you don't have to . . ." Buffy interjected, not wanting Faith to have to go through this in her current state. She placed her hand on Faith's shoulder, but Faith cut right back in.

" . . . no B, I do. Please, just let me finish before I chicken out."

Buffy nodded. Oddly, she didn't remove her hand from Faith's shoulder.

"Okay . . . so, where was I again? Did I get to the part about me being a shit-head yet?"

The gang smiled at her question. Anya decided to answer.

"You said you were shitty and selfish, but you didn't get to the shit-head part yet. Please continue," Anya said, then nodded and smiled.

"Yeah . . . thanks, Ahn. Okay, so continuing on . . . I was a shit-head," she looked to Anya who nodded at her, then continued, "and I want to make it up to all of you. But, I have to fight the good fight first. If I get through this? I'm not gonna go takin' off like I normally would. I'm gonna deal with the things that I shoulda dealt with a long time ago. And if I start slackin', I fully expect each and every one of you to kick my ass back into gear."

"Will do," Buffy and Dawn replied at the same time, a little too much optimism in both of their voices.

Faith laughed, as did a few other people in the room.

"So, good. Then the plan is: We find out what's going on with me, we try to stop it, we win, and then I stick around to deal. That is, if you guys don't give me the boot first."

Xander responded with a smile.

"Nahh. I think we can learn to put up with ya. Especially if you share some more of your stories. There are more stories, aren't there?" He asked anxiously.

"Sure, Xan-man. I've got a lot more to add to the collection now. Prison-variety," she said and winked.

Xander just stared at her with a fascinated, goofy look upon his face. "With the girl-on-girl action, and the chains and the hand-cuffs and other prison-y goodness?"

Faith laughed again.

"Kinks or vanilla, your choice."

A small pout appeared on Anya's face and she interrupted.

"Xander, I think that you're getting too involved in the sex and girl-on-girl talk, and you're not including me! Now I have to top her, just to keep your interest! I can be creative. I can be exotic. I can hand-cuff you to the bed and give you orgasms. In fact, I'm going to do that right now. Come on!"

She stood up, grabbed his hand, and led him to the front door.

As he was being pulled along, Xander blurted out, "Uhh . . . I'll talk to you guys soon! If you don't hear from me by tomorrow afternoon, come looking for me. And bring a locksmith!"

A couple of stray laughs came from the house as the door slammed shut behind the two fleeing Scoobs.

Faith smiled to herself. It was definitely good to be back.

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