"They're asking where ya been, like I know
Where ya been? Hey Summer, where ya been?
I tried to tell you, tried to tell you
Took a little bit too long"
-- Ben Folds Five, "Where's Summer B.?"
Faith woke from her dream as she had every other time: breathing hard, sweating, and with a pain in her head that traveled through her body before going away.
"What the fuck? This ain't right," she panted aloud. It seemed that her reaction to her dreams was getting worse as each day went by. Not only was her state of being affected upon waking, but the effects were being carried over throughout the day.
She did what she could to take the edge off. Chain-smoking seemed to help a little. Vigorous exercise worked too, but on most occasions she was too physically drained and didn't have the energy. Her last resort was food, particularly candy and sugar-filled treats. Unfortunately, those items were not currently on the prison's menu. Therefore, she had to call in a couple of favors and do some bartering to get what she needed.
It was now 2:00 pm. Faith had been awake for over six hours, but she was still struggling from her previous dream. Just when she felt like she was about to scream, a guard came up to her cell and got her attention.
"Lehane, you have a visitor."
Her cell door was opened, and she was escorted to the visitor section of the prison.
When they had reached their destination, the guard unlocked the door and turned to Faith.
"You have twenty minutes, window seven. You know the rules . . . you see the red light, you wrap things up. Be on your best behavior."
"Yeah, thanks Charlie."
Charlie had always been one of Faith's favorite guards. He always gave her extra outdoor and visiting time and let her have a little extra freedom in general.
Faith walked through the visiting room and made her way towards window seven. She wasn't really overly eager, as she thought it would just be Angel coming in to check up on her and get the latest progress report. Hell, she could even feel the little tingles being picked up by her slayer sense. He hadn't been by in a while now, so she figured that he was due for a visit.
She reached the window, but stopped dead in her tracks when she peered behind the glass. It was not Angel, nor Cordy, or anyone else that she may have expected. She had assumed that she would sit across from Gandhi before this would ever happen, but no. Sitting directly across from her was a less-than-happy looking Buffy Summers.
Faith couldn't move. She simply held Buffy's gaze for a few moments. Her first instinct was to turn and run, but she knew that the guards would stop her before she reached the door. She had no idea what to do so she stood there motionless, gazing at Buffy with a shocked and scared expression upon her face.
She had two basic thoughts running through her mind. The first was 'oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit,' and the second was 'oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.' It was probably a good thing that she chose to remain silent.
Finally, she was brought back to reality by Buffy, who was now waving her hand back and forth in an irritated gesture while mouthing the word 'Hellooooo?' Faith shook her head slightly to gain some sense and moved to sit down on the chair before her.
Buffy picked up the phone on her side of the glass. Faith was still in shock, so she just sat there staring at the girl in front of her. Annoyed, Buffy held out her phone, placed it on the receiver, and picked it back up with an exasperated look on her face, hoping that Faith would follow suit. After a beat, Faith once again shook her head and picked up the phone. She spoke first.
"Buffy? W-What are you doin' here?" Despite her best efforts to appear calm, her voice still trembled.
"Hello, Faith. It's good to see you too," Buffy's tone varied between sarcastic and annoyed.
"You know what I mean, B. It's not that I'm not glad to see y-you, it just . . . well, you're the last person that I ever expected to see here."
A nervous chuckle escaped her throat.
Buffy didn't respond with words. Everything that she wanted to say at that point was conveyed in a single gesture: she reached into her bag and pulled out a wad of opened and tattered envelopes held together by a rubber-band. She held them up and displayed them to Faith with a very annoyed look upon her face.
It took Faith a minute to realize that Buffy was holding the letters that she had written to the others in Sunnydale. Before Faith could respond, Buffy started, staring her straight in the eyes.
"Funny thing, Faith. Over the last couple of weeks or so, these mysterious letters started popping up for my friends and family. No one wanted to share with me, but much to their objection and fear for their physical well-being, I read every letter. Each and every word. Now, here's the even funnier part. In these letters, I see a lot of the same thing. 'I'm sorry for hurting you, I'm sorry for betraying you,' and my personal favorite, 'I'm sorry for hurting Buffy.'
By this point, Faith had lowered her eyes and began to frantically play with her hands and bite her lower lip. She knew what was coming next.
But Faith's little nervous display didn't deter Buffy, who quickly continued her speech, sarcasm and bitterness engulfing her words.
"So, after I finish reading these letters and laughing at their content, I go home to see if maybe I had a letter waiting for me, seeing as that you're so sorry for hurting me, at least according to the other letters. Now, follow me closely on this one, Faithy, because this one is the real kicker. I get home, and I find a letter waiting there. And I'm real excited now, because I know that I can really use another good laugh. But is the letter for me? Noooo. The name reads "Ms. Joyce Summers." Odd, or at least I thought so. So I look around for the letter addressed to Buffy, for whom you are so sorry for hurting. Lo and behold, I discover that there's no letter. I wait a couple of days, and still no letter, much to the disappointment of my funny-bone. I was about to go to the post office and see if there was some kind of error, but I figured that I would come directly to the source. And here I am."
Buffy paused and looked at Faith expectantly.
Faith, for her part, had been silent the whole time. Of course, her hands were almost raw from wringing them so feverishly and she was completely pale from the sheer shock that had hit her simply by seeing Buffy. With her eyes still lowered, she tried to speak.
"B, I mean Buffy, I didn't think that . . ."
"What?" Buffy interrupted, sarcasm turning into anger. She was shouting now. "You didn't think that I deserved a letter? That I didn't need an apology? Or did you just forget about me, Faith? Was I not important enough to make your little list of 'People-I-hope-will forgive-me-for-my-vile-behavior-and-utter-lack-of-humanity'?"
Buffy's little tirade had now caught the attention of the guards, who were cautiously making their way over toward window seven to investigate. Faith noticed the guards coming over and silently pleaded with her eyes for Buffy to control her emotions.
Buffy saw what Faith was trying to imply, so she calmed herself down and brushed back the hair that had become loose around her face. She gave a small smile to the guards to let them know that everything was OK and watched as they slowly walked back to their respective posts.
Faith took this opportunity to get a couple of words in.
"Listen B, I didn't forget you. You were number one on my list but I couldn't think of what to say to you. Where could I even begin? Even though those letters were totally brutal for me to write, they were a piece of fuckin' cake compared to tryin' to write a letter to you. Nothin' I can say or do can ever make up for how I acted and what I did to you. I know that you can never forgive me, B. What I did was inexcusable. I guess that's why I gave up on tryin' to write you. I can't make this better. So, back to your question . . . no, I never forgot about you. You're pretty much all I think about."
Buffy didn't respond, at least not verbally. She simply sat back in her chair and closed her eyes.
A few minutes went by like this. Buffy had closed her eyes, obviously lost in her thoughts, and Faith didn't want to interrupt her or make her any angrier than she already had.
Faith anxiously awaited a response from Buffy, strumming her fingers on the counter as she waited. Her eagerness finally got the best of her.
"Hey, B? You still breathing over there?"
"Buffy? C'mon, I can't take this. What do you want me to do? What do you want me to say? Tell me and I'll do it. Just let me know that you're not gonna jump through the glass and break my neck. And hey . . . if that's what you wanna do, I won't even stop you. 'Course then it would be you sitting on this side of the glass," Faith said but stopped when she realized she was rambling.
Buffy leaned forward, bringing herself closer to the glass. She took a breath as if she was about to say something but stopped herself.
Faith noticed that Buffy was going to say something, and now she wanted -- no, needed -- to know what it was.
"C'mon B. Say what ya gotta say. I can take it, I'm a big girl. I'm not gonna . . ."
"Tell me you're sorry," Buffy quietly interjected, her voice barely a whisper. Her green eyes now looked directly into Faith's.
Faith was about to speak, but Buffy continued.
"Tell me that you're sorry for trying to hurt my friends and family; for betraying us; for rejecting our help, my help; for running away from your demons instead of confronting them; for passing blame. But Faith, I don't want you to apologize for hurting me. Not yet."
"I'm sorry, Buffy. I'm so sorry. For everything that you mentioned and more. I poisoned your life and the life of everyone that I came across from the moment I walked into Sunnydale. If I could take it back, I would. I would go back in time and let Kakistos kill me like he'd been trying to do for so long, but both you and I know that I can't go back. So, yeah, I'm sorry Buffy. And even though you don't wanna hear it, I'm gonna say it anyway: I'm sorry that I hurt you. I'd give my life to take back the hurt that I caused."
Faith had said the last sentence so low that she could barely hear it. She wasn't even sure if the words had escaped her lips or if they were just a fleeting thought in her mind. Either way, she lowered her gaze from Buffy's and waited for some kind of response from her.
However, Faith was distracted by the red light that began to flash near the window.
Two minutes left.
She shifted her attention from the flashing red light to the small blonde that sat on the other side if the glass. She was taken aback when she saw a few stray tears falling down Buffy's face.
"Aww shit, B, don't cry. C'mon, I didn't mean to make you . . . man, I hate it when girls cry! I'm sorry . . . shit! I'm still apologizing to you. Listen, we've got less than two minutes left. I don't want you to leave here sad, so, come on. Get mad. Bash me, curse me, loathe me. Just stop crying, please Buffy. Please?"
Faith felt utterly heartbroken looking at the crying girl in front of her. She had seen Buffy cry before, but this was different. Something was different.
She guessed that the scars she left on Buffy were deeper than she ever realized.
"Faith, I want to believe that you're sorry for everything," Buffy said, emotionally exhausted. "I just don't think I can do it today. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Or maybe even next year."
"But maybe someday, right? Maybe you'll be able to see how sorry I am someday, right B?" Faith was almost excited at that thought.
"Someday, Faith, I might believe that you're sorry. But forgiving you? That's a whole different story."
Buffy began to stand, knowing that they had less that a minute left.
"Okay, I accept that, B. But I don't want my last memory of you to be of you standing here, crying." She paused. With nothing to lose, Faith decided to push the envelope a little. "Would you come back to see me? Even if it's just to yell at me and throw things at the glass? Do you think that you could? Or would? There's a lot more that I'd like to say to you. It doesn't have to be anytime soon . . . I've got nothing but time. Twenty-five to life, actually."
Buffy thought about it, her internal conflict obvious upon her face. At one point in time, she had decided that Faith didn't deserve the time of day. Still, something was nagging at her to let Faith try to make her peace.
After a couple of seconds, she nodded her head affirmatively and then put the phone back on the receiver.
She grabbed her jacket and bag and turned to leave. However, before she left, she turned her head back and glanced at Faith, shooting her the smallest of smiles before walking away.
'So there's hope . . .' Faith thought as the guards led her away, a small smile playing upon her lips.
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