"Oh goddess, no!" Willow yelled as she sat and looked at Faith, then at Buffy who was crying while holding the broken girl in her arms.
"Willow, what happened?" Buffy said through clenched teeth, tears streaming down her face.
"I. . . things were going fine! W-we went through a couple of Faith's memories and I think we got some really useful information. I saw what happened in the alley when Finch died, and your confrontation with her at the motel. Oh! Then, I saw what happened at the Mayor's office . . . she went to turn herself in . . . but . . . it's complicated. He, uh . . . he put some kind of a spell on her . . . and then we were in another alley and Angel saved her. I tried to call to Tara to pull us out. I tried, Buffy! But something was wrong . . ."
"I heard you Will. I t-tried to get you guys out, but I couldn't, something was stopping me. I had to use the energy from the circle."
Willow looked away from Tara and towards the outside of the sand-circle. Her eyes grew even wider as she saw that all of the people in the outer circle were lying there passed out. Angel and Spike stood hovering over them, checking that they were okay.
"Oh my goddess!" Willow screeched, sobs now overcoming her. She couldn't believe how wrong things had gone and she couldn't help but feel that it was somehow her fault.
Buffy tried to get her attention, needing to know what else happened.
"Will . . . they're fine, they just passed out from the energy exchange. It is not your fault. We need to deal with Faith right now because I don't know what to do here," Buffy said, trying to sound as calm as possible.
Willow stopped sobbing long enough to tell Buffy and Tara the rest.
"After we saw Angel save her, something caught my eye . . . memory-Faith's eyes turned black, then bright white, and then she passed out. Our Faith had no recollection of that, or of the Mayor putting a spell on her. She never saw those parts in her dreams. My back was towards her, and when I turned around, she was on the ground like she is now. God . . . Buffy, I didn't know . . . I didn't mean to . . . it's all my fault."
She broke down sobbing again. Tara scooped her up in her arms and rocked her gently.
Buffy stood up with Faith in her arms and tried to step out of the circle, but the invisible barrier that the sand had created held her back. She balled her hand into a fist and punched the barrier a few times, hoping to get through. After having no luck, she turned to Tara.
"Tara, can you break through this thing?"
Tara lowered her head and mumbled a few words, and the barrier dissolved into thin air.
As the barrier dissipated, Angel looked up and saw Buffy run out of the circle with Faith in her arms.
"Buffy! What the hell happened in there? What's wrong with Faith?"
He left Spike to watch over the others and followed Buffy up to her bedroom where she gently laid Faith down onto her bed.
She turned to him and ran into his arms.
"I don't know what happened, Angel," she choked out between sobs. "One minute, everything was going smoothly, and then Tara was trying to pull them out because she heard Willow call to her. But she couldn't do it, so she used the circle's energy . . . I guess that's why they all passed out. Next thing I know, Faith is shaking in my arms, and she's got blood coming out of her nose and eyes . . . and she's breathing, but I don't know what to do. We need help, Angel . . . we can't let this kill her."
She buried her face against his chest and continued to sob.
He protectively wrapped his arms around her, whispering a few comforting words in her ear.
"Don't worry, Buffy. We'll figure it out and Faith will be fine. This is what she would get like before after her dreams, but . . . never with the blood thing. I think we need to go wake up the others so we can look further into this." He let go of her and grabbed her hand, trying to get her to walk towards the door with him. "Come on."
She pulled her hand away.
"No, Angel . . . I'm not leaving her alone. Go and wake the others, Spike and Tara can help. Send Giles up right away, please."
She walked quickly back to Faith's side, leaving him no chance to object.
Before he went downstairs, he walked into the bathroom and filled up a bowl with warm water. He grabbed a clean washcloth and towel and made his way back to Buffy's room.
"Thought you might want to clean her up a bit," he said as he left the items on her nightstand, then turned to leave the two girls alone.
Buffy promptly grabbed the washcloth and dipped it into the water. She rang it out before gently wiping the blood away from Faith's face. As she worked, she quietly whispered to the unconscious girl in front of her.
"Faith? Can you hear me? You have to fight. You're so much stronger than this, and you're not alone this time. You're surrounded by people who care about you, including me. Faith . . . I can't let you leave me again. We're the Chosen two; that bond alone makes it seem like we're meant to be around each other. I felt so lost when you were gone. Don't get me wrong, I hated you at first for leaving me. I thought that we understood one another, that you felt alone without me, too. Suddenly, you weren't there, and I was mad at you for that."
She paused as she put the soiled washcloth back in the water and used the clean towel to dry the wetness from Faith's face. She continued whispering.
"But, I got over it when I came to see you in jail. If I'm being perfectly honest with myself, I got over it even before that. I would try to feel you every night, just so that I wouldn't feel so alone; you know, temporarily fill the void that you left behind. And you know what? I didn't. Feel so alone, that is. And suddenly you were back in my life again, and Angel is telling me that all of the bad stuff that went down probably wasn't your fault and that I should give you the chance to start over with a clean slate. I couldn't help but smile, because there's nothing more that I would love than to be given a second chance at a real friendship with you. I don't want to feel so alone anymore. And now, maybe I . . . we . . . won't have to. But first, you need to fight this . . . we need to fight this. I've gotten too used to the idea of having you around again for you to just up and leave me a second time."
By this point, she was absentmindedly stroking Faith's hair.
She wasn't lying in what she had said; she really didn't want to feel alone again. But was there something else underneath it all? Could it be that it wasn't the feel of the Slayer-connection that she wanted, but just the feel of Faith?
She pushed the thought to the back of her mind as she heard someone coming up the stairs.
As she turned and looked towards the door, she saw Giles timidly hovering, not wanting to interrupt the tender moment.
"It's okay . . . come in Giles."
He walked into the room and looked down at Faith, still lying unconscious on the bed.
"Angel's filled me in. Have there been any changes?" He asked quietly.
"No, none. I cleaned her up and I tried talking to her, but . . . nothing. Do you think we should take her to the hospital?"
"No, I don't."
Buffy gave him a surprised look. She'd expected him to go all parental and force them out the door.
"We can monitor her here just as well. This is a mystical problem, not a medical problem. They wouldn't know what to do with her, much like we don't right now."
Buffy nodded her head. She turned her attention back to Faith and continued stroking her hair.
"Giles, seeing her in that coma everyday for eight months was hard enough. She doesn't deserve this. We need to help her," she pleaded.
She hadn't yet realized what she'd just said or that Giles had caught it.
"I'm sorry, but . . . did you just say that you saw her while in her coma, every day for eight months?" He asked. His tone wasn't angry, just a bit confused.
"What? I, umm . . . oops." She drew in a deep breath and then continued. "Yeah, I went to see her nearly every day. Guess I just felt bad that I put her there and that she had no one else to be there for her. Plus, you know about the whole 'Chosen Two' thing and our connection, and how I don't feel so alone when I'm with her. I really can't explain it."
"You don't have to explain it, Buffy. You're an adult and you are perfectly capable of determining how you feel. Trying to make me to understand is pointless, so long you understand it yourself. Besides," he paused, "you are well aware that there is nothing about your generation that I understand."
He gave her a knowing smile, passing no judgment on her.
"Thanks Giles. Anyways, I think I should stay up here with her, make sure there are no changes or whatever. Is everyone else waking up down there?"
"Yes, slowly but surely. We'll start to research right away. I'll send Angel and Spike out to patrol tonight. Perhaps they can stir up some information from the Mayor's former cohorts. This might be a good opportunity for you to get some rest; we have a lot of work ahead of us."
That sounds like a good idea. Thanks Giles." She smiled at him, and he simply gave her a small nod before turning out of her room and disappearing down the stairs.
Buffy turned back towards Faith. She walked to the opposite side of the bed and slowly laid down besides the girl, pulling her into a similar position as the night before.
"Okay, Faith. It's time to see if I'm gonna be a rich woman or not. We're gonna test out that All-healing Slayer Cuddle that I mentioned. I swear, if this works? You get 50% of the profits." She laughed a little to herself before wrapping her arm around Faith's waist and pulling her into a tight embrace. "Alright, let's make with the healing."
She rested her head on the pillow and slowly dozed off.
Buffy woke to the sound of someone quietly calling her name.
"B? Hey B? Buffy?"
Buffy's eyes shot open, realizing that the voice was Faith's. She sat up quickly, looking down at Faith who had shifted onto her back.
"Faith! Oh my god, you're up! How are you feeling?"
Needless to say, she was surprised to see that Faith had awoken so soon. Angel had said that she was out for over a week the last time she'd an episode like this.
Faith groaned a little.
"Five by five, all things consid . . . no, wait, that's a lie. I feel like shit, thanks for askin," she replied, laying her head back down on the pillow.
Buffy was too busy to actually listen to Faith's sarcastic answer. She was frantically checking her over, feeling her forehead for a fever, trying to feel for her pulse, looking into her eyes for signs of trauma, etc.
"How long was I out for this time?" Faith asked.
Buffy glanced over at her alarm clock.
"Uhh, about three hours, give or take. I guess I kinda lost track of time while I was napping."
"Napping?" Faith asked with a grin. "I wouldn't exactly call that napping. Sounded like you were using a chainsaw to cut down some trees over there. I think that signifies a fairly deep sleep, B."
Buffy's mouth dropped wide open.
"I do not snore, Faith."
Faith just stared at her with a questioning look on her face.
"Okay, fine! I might snore a little," Buffy admitted. "But . . . I have an excuse. I had to have my adenoids taken out when I was little. Now maybe you can answer a question for me Faith. What's your excuse?"
Faith blinked hard and shook her head a little.
"Nuh-uh, B. I don't snore, I've gotcha there."
Buffy smiled sweetly, and in her most innocent voice, she said, "Not that, Faith. I mean, what's your excuse for the drooling you've been doing on my pillow?"
Faith looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
"I'm sorry, B, I must not have noticed it with being unconscious and all. How ever will you forgive me?" She copied Buffy's innocent voice and batted her eyelashes as she talked.
Buffy just growled a little.
"I already forgive you," she replied, teasing a little. "But, the pillow now belongs to you. Enjoy."
The two girls chuckled a bit. After a few moments, Faith finally decided to get down to business.
"So, fill me in on the missing details: we do the mindwalk, go through some bad memories, Red tries to bring us back and can't, we watch the big finale, and then . . . go. Your turn."
"Oh. Right. Will turned around and found you lying on the ground, bleeding from the eyes and nose. It happened here too, outside of your memory. You whimpered, you trembled, and you bled, in that order," Buffy answered.
"I bled from the eyes?"
"That's wicked gross, B."
Buffy nodded again, "Yeah, and I got to clean it up. How convenient for you though." Buffy said skeptically, but in a joking manner. "You can't even stay conscious long enough after you start bleeding from your eyes to clean it up by yourself. I think it's a conspiracy."
Faith chuckled a little, as did Buffy who had relaxed back down, propping her head up on her elbow. She turned slightly onto her side so that she could remain in contact with Faith.
Faith looked downwards, hiding her eyes.
"So, umm, what's the what? Am I dyin?"
"No, not gonna happen. Because I . . ." she goofily wrapped her arm around Faith's midsection, "am not letting you go, now that we're getting along so well and all. You'll be up and slaying in no time, right? And I'll be able to have a night off for a change, right?" Buffy joked, trying to take Faith's mind off of the severity of the situation.
Faith chuckled again, then unconsciously laid her own arm over Buffy's across her midsection. "Sure, B. That could happen."
The gesture didn't go unnoticed by Buffy, whose goofy grin turned into an endearing smile. They just gazed at each other for a few moments, happy to have the new-found peace in their often turbulent relationship.
They were brought out of their reverie when they heard a cough at the bedroom door.
Buffy immediately sat up and turned a bright shade of red when she saw that it was Cordelia. Faith just sat back and gave her a grin.
"I'm sorry; I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" Cordelia asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She continued, "Oh, don't worry Buffy. I won't let your little cuddle-fest out of the proverbial closet. Besides, I think it's absolutely adorable. You can both use a little but of that slayer-lovin as far as I'm concerned," she stated, making both girls blush and pull their arms back to their own sides. "Anyways, I thought I should come and get you. Wes and Giles think they might have figured some stuff out with the details Willow gave them. Should I tell them you'll be down, in say, oh . . . ten minutes or so?"
Buffy looked up at Cordelia, surprised at how cool she was being about the situation that she'd walked in on.
"Uhh . . . who are you, and what did you do to the Cordelia Chase that we all know and fear?" Buffy asked, trying to sound lighthearted.
"She grew up . . . wearing big sister's clothes these days," Cordelia replied with an understanding smile. "I'll just be back on my way downstairs so you two can carry on with your vicarious cuddling and gazing." The two girls started to protest, but Cordelia cut back in. "I know, I know . . . it's a slayer-thing. Whatever. Be downstairs in ten minutes or I'm sending Dawn up with the Polaroid camera and lots of film."
She left without another word.
The two girls just sat there for a few minutes, content smiles playing across both of their faces.
Finally, Buffy helped Faith out of bed and down the stairs to hear the news.
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