"I'm happy you came to see me," Giles said as he sat down.
Faith stood by the door awkwardly, not sure what exactly she should be doing. When she had woken up earlier in the day the first thing she thought about, after trying to get over a massive hangover, was going to see the watcher. She didn't know why but she thought that she owed him a better conversation than their last.
Now she was having second thoughts as she took a couple more steps into the living room, trying to decide whether to sit down or to run out the door as fast as she could. She wasn't even sure why she was there other than maybe she thought she should check in and discuss her patrols. Or what she could remember from them anyway. Discussing anything else wasn't exactly something she was comfortable with at the moment.
"Faith, please sit down."
She looked at him for a few seconds before relenting and sitting on the couch. "I'm not really sure why I'm here."
Giles looked her over and was happy that she looked sober, a definite improvement from the last time he saw her. "Well, regardless of everything that happened, you are welcome here. Did you patrol last night?"
Faith nodded. "Did a sweep of a couple of the bigger ones but I didn't see much. It feels like anything that survived the Initiative ran and no one else is coming back yet."
"I guess that's a good thing since Buffy . . ."
"Yeah," Faith said quickly before he could continue. Even though she was concerned about what was happening to Buffy she felt guilty enough without having to hear it. "Anyway, there's not much out there right now."
Giles nodded. "Maybe we should discuss training then."
"What, like act as if everything is back to normal?" Faith asked before she couldn't stop the question from coming out of her mouth. She wasn't expecting the offer and didn't feel any of the others would like the idea of her training with Giles.
"No," Giles said calmly. He knew he had to choose his words carefully when it came to Faith. "Faith, you've only been out of a coma for a few weeks. I think it would be best if we begin training so I can make sure there haven't been any side effects. Before, during the spell, I never looked for any signs but then I only thought you were unconscious for a few days."
"I'm fine, Giles."
He looked her over, trying to read her but couldn't. Faith rarely looked him in the eye. "No, you're not. You need to stop being so self-destructive."
"I didn't come here for a lecture, Giles," Faith said, scowling. "I came here . . ."
"You came here because you need someone to be on your side," Giles said before she could continue. "No matter what you think in terms of my allegiance I do feel responsible for you. I want you to know you can come to me."
Faith knew he was telling her the truth but part of her didn't want to believe it. "And what happens when Buffy finds out I'm here? What then?"
"I will deal with that when the time comes."
That wasn't exactly the answer Faith was looking for but she couldn't think of a response right away. In truth part of the reason she came to Giles' for was to see if he would say anything about Buffy getting better even though she had a hard time admitting it. The way he spoke though she knew that wasn't the case. She only looked at Giles as the front door opened.
"Hey, Giles, I have the book I," Willow said as she walked in but stopped the moment she saw Faith sitting on the couch. She looked from Giles to Faith and back again, trying to process what she was seeing. "What's she doing here?"
The look on Willow's face was a mixture of confusion, fear and anger and Giles knew that he needed to stop whatever might happen next. "We were discussing patrol. Faith needs to take over while Buffy is . . . recovering."
"But she's the one that caused it," Willow said before looking at Faith. "Why are you even still here?"
"Where exactly am I supposed to go?" Faith asked, raising an eyebrow in the process.
"It doesn't matter," she said as she kept her distance from Faith. Willow wanted to protect her best friend but that didn't stop the fact she was always a little afraid of Faith. "Just that you're gone."
"Willow, Faith needs to stay here," Giles said calmly. "We need the help and a slayer's place is on the hellmouth."
"But Buffy . . ."
"I wasn't the one that hurt B," Faith said, even though she didn't believe the words as soon as she said them. She knew that even without the spell she had hurt Buffy, just not in the way people assumed. "I didn't create the spell."
"But you didn't say anything and now Buffy . . . do you even care after what you did to her?"
Faith made herself look into Willow's eyes even though the hatred she saw in them was almost too much to take. "Of course, I care," she managed to whisper out.
"I don't believe you."
"Stop this," Giles said as Willow took a couple steps toward Faith. "Faith is staying in Sunnydale. That is not up for discussion and Faith is not responsible for the spell."
"Yeah, she just let it go on."
Faith stood up, trying desperately not to let her anger get the better of her. She knew that attacking Willow in any way would not help her situation. "Think whatever you want to, Willow, but I didn't want this. I never did."
As soon as she said it, Faith quickly walked around Willow and out the front door, not even looking at Giles before she did. Both of them watched her go before Giles looked at Willow and shook his head sternly.
"You have no idea what you're doing."
"Giles, how can you be nice to her after everything that happened?" Willow asked as she put the book in her hand on the coffee table.
"Faith is young," Giles answered as he stood, "and she's had a much harder life than I think any of you imagine or cared to ask about. If you woke up to a life that was everything you wanted, wouldn't you want to stay there?"
Willow opened her mouth to respond but couldn't think of anything to say. She had never thought about what happened in the way Giles had described it. As much as she didn't want to admit it, she had never thought much about Faith's past.
"Is that why you think she didn't say anything right away?" she asked quietly as she sat down.
Giles sat back down as well. "She told me the Mayor sold the spell to her as something that was for her. He told her that he had given her everything she ever wanted. Friends, family, stability . . ."
"Buffy," Willow finished for him.
He nodded. "I think so. Even though she didn't have any of the false memories the rest of us do she still has the memories of a time where she was accepted and loved, something I don't think she's had before."
"So what you're telling me is that Faith is dealing with some of the side effects we are?"
"In a way," Giles answered. "Buffy may have the headaches and the memory problems but Faith is also dealing with a sense of loss. It's simply different than the rest of us."
"Oh." Willow looked down and thought about what Giles was telling her. Part of her wondered what exactly Giles meant when he said Faith had a harder life than she would have ever imagined but the other part only wanted to keep thinking that Faith was the villain.
"Please try to remember that." Giles let out a sigh. "Faith needs to stay in Sunnydale. I . . . I can't watch out for her if she leaves."
Willow wanted to tell Giles that he wasn't responsible for Faith but she feared that it would start an argument. It seemed like he was set on making sure Faith was staying out of trouble and she decided not to press further.
"Have you talked to Buffy?" she finally asked.
Giles shook his head. "I spoke with her mother again yesterday and decided I would wait for her to come to me."
"Think that'll work?"
"I guess we'll find out."
After eight days Buffy was starting to feel more like herself again or at least, a little less crazy than when the spell had first been reversed.
She still hadn't ventured out of the house yet but thought today was finally the day that she would. The headaches weren't as excruciating as the first day and for Buffy that meant she was able to stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. That alone was something that Buffy welcomed though not for any normal reasons.
When she was awake she didn't dream about her time with Faith.
Buffy couldn't even think of how to describe them. She wanted to call them nightmares because they were definitely not something she wanted to dream about. Most of them were very uncomfortable and when Buffy woke up at the end of them she was usually sweating. They always left her with an uneasy feeling as well.
The only problem with calling them nightmares was that they were definitely not scary in the normal sense of the word. She wasn't being chased my vampires or demons and she wasn't being killed by anything. They weren't slayer dreams either, though that wasn't anything she could be sure of.
It's not like she would ask Faith.
Faith was the star of her dreams anyway and that was part of the reason Buffy considered them nightmares. Every time the headaches got to the point where all she wanted to do was sleep her brain would pick one of her fake memories and put it on full display while she slept. Each one of them felt like torture.
The one she had the night before was one that appeared often, so much that she physically hurt when she woke up. It was the night of her senior prom and she was so nervous she could barely get her dress on she was shaking so much. She had to have her mother help her with everything because she wanted every moment just right.
Of course, Faith had been her date. They had been tiptoeing about what they were doing, whether or not it was dating or fooling around on patrol. What had started as a kiss here and there while they were alone was turning into something more and Buffy knew she needed to decide what she was going to do. Her friends were trying to set her up and even though she had been avoiding all their attempts throughout the year, it had been increasingly difficult. Attending things with Faith "as friends" was getting old.
All that ended when Faith showed up early to her house one night and had told her mother that she wanted to date her and most importantly, wanted to take her to prom. There was a little shock involved with the announcement but they apparently hadn't been the stealthiest when it came to how they felt for each other so there wasn't much fallout.
Prom had been amazing. Buffy had been nervous about the night and she could tell Faith was, too, when she saw her. She had thought it was cute and continued to think that as they held hands and danced together throughout the night. Faith had even cheered the loudest when she won her award toward the end of the night.
After it was over, they made their way back to Faith's apartment where Buffy discovered a bottle of champagne waiting for them. They drank and talked then kissed a little until Faith looked into her eyes and told her that she loved her.
It took less than a second for Buffy to say it back.
As cliche as it was that night was the first time they had sex and it was everything Buffy had thought it would be. Even though she knew Faith wanted to speed up everything she let Buffy set the pace, something Buffy appreciated. She wanted to remember every single second, memorize every inch of her girlfriend, and that night she did.
She remembered holding onto Faith tightly once they had finally had enough of each other and Faith lightly rubbing her back as she fell asleep. She remembered Faith whispering how much she loved her and that she would never leave her. The words made her smile and all tingly as she drifted off to sleep that night.
It was the best night of her life . . . and it wasn't even real.
Buffy had woken up crying and that wasn't the first time. Most of her nightmares were of nice, romantic memories of Faith and once she was awake and knew they weren't real it felt like she might die. The pain was almost unbearable and Buffy didn't know how much more she could take.
She wondered if the dreams were happening because the headaches were slowly beginning to be less painful and knew that was something she should ask Giles about it. The problem was that she hadn't seen him since the spell was reversed and she didn't know how to approach him again. She'd avoided him for so long.
In the end, she decided to just go for a walk. Buffy figured she could stand to be out in the sun for a little while and maybe it would make her feel better, if only for a short amount of time.
Faith had done something she hadn't done much of since everything had turned to shit on her: she ventured out of her apartment and got something to eat while it was still light out.
She had spent the morning with Giles after he had called the day before and insisted that she show up to talk about patrol and training. Apparently, whatever Willow had said to him didn't have any effect on his opinion of her. That surprised her at first but in the end she knew it shouldn't. The watcher wasn't exactly someone who could be easily swayed.
The talk they had was something Faith desperately needed. They didn't mention Buffy once, keeping it strictly professional, and that was a welcome relief. The closest they got to bringing up the spell or its aftermath was when Giles told her that if she wanted to work with him she had to cut back on all the alcohol she was consuming.
He told her being drunk while on patrol was asking to die and she shouldn't want to die.
Sometimes she didn't share his opinion.
Today she was feeling a little better though. She still thought about Buffy all the time but she knew that she couldn't do anything to help her. If anything, the only way she could help was to stay as far away as possible.
When she got back to her apartment she turned on the TV and sat in front of it, looking at the sandwich she had purchased. Faith didn't have much of an appetite and wondered if that was because the apartment left so empty. It was the reason she always seemed to have her TV on when she was there. The silence due to the lack of sharing the space with someone else was deafening.
She heard a noise in the hall and listened for a moment. Since Faith had already seen Giles today she didn't think there was anyone else who would even bother. The only other person who had shown up was Buffy's boyfriend and she doubted he would come back for round two. He had to know he was no match for her. She was sure the rest of the gang hadn't thought much of her and would never stop by for a visit.
A few seconds later she heard the distinct sound of a key in the lock of the front door and that made Faith tense even though she didn't know why. No one should have a key to her apartment. The only one who did was the Mayor and he was very dead.
Faith stayed seated as the door slowly opened. There was a knife only five feet from her so she knew she could be armed in only a second if she needed to be. She was relieved that she didn't reach for it as the door opened to reveal Buffy on the other side.
She couldn't believe what she was seeing. The last person she thought she would ever see was the other slayer and now that she did her heart broke. Buffy looked so tired and it was incredibly easy to see that she hadn't been eating much. She looked much too thin for Faith's liking, so much so that she wanted to offer her the sandwich that was now being ignored.
"It looks different," Buffy said quietly as she looked around, avoiding eye contact with Faith. She was afraid of what she would see if she looked.
Buffy was right though: the apartment looked different than when she was there last. Everything she remembered doing to it, the decorating and putting up all the pictures of her best moments with Faith, were gone. That made sense though. None of it was real even if her brain tried to tell her it was.
"It looks like it did when we . . . when we fought," Buffy said as she continued to avoid looking at Faith. "Minus the damage."
"When the spell was reversed it was kind of selective," Faith said quietly, hoping that eventually Buffy would be able to look at her. "I'm not really sure what the Mayor set up before he did everything."
"What do you mean?"
"Apartment didn't go back to being destroyed and I still have all the money I did during the spell. There isn't a warrant out for my arrest. I just lost everything else."
Faith wanted to include Buffy in with everything she had lost but didn't know how Buffy would react to her saying it. She knew she needed to be careful with what she said. Now that she had the opportunity to see Buffy again she wanted to make it last.
Buffy nodded. "Didn't see your car outside."
"That was a product of the spell," Faith answered as she looked at the floor. "Have you talked to Giles about any of it?"
"No." Buffy touched the top of a table that used to have the picture of the two of them dressed up and ready to go to prom. Her heart hurt that it was absent. "Have you?"
That wasn't an answer Buffy was expecting but then again, she wasn't sure what she had expected. She hadn't planned on coming to the apartment to begin with. The walk had made her feel better but soon she had found herself in front of Faith's apartment building. She had stood in front of it for at least fifteen minutes before deciding to go in.
Now that she had she wasn't sure what to expect. Buffy's first thought was that Faith would probably be passed out drunk and she had to admit that she was relieved that that wasn't the case. Of course, it would have been an easier visit for her if she had been.
Faith wanted to stand up and go to her but knew it was best to keep her distance. "Why haven't you talked to Giles?"
"I haven't felt like talking to anyone."
The silence between them was deafening and Faith could only let it go on for a minute before she had to ask what she had wanted to since Buffy had walked in. "Are you okay, Buffy?"
A shiver went through Buffy's body when she heard Faith say her full name. Her mind flashed to a memory of the first night after she had moved into the apartment when Faith had made her a promise that whenever she used her full name that meant she was serious. It was one of the reasons she always called her Buffy when she told her she loved her.
She used a hand to wipe away the tears that had fallen as she remembered before finally looking at Faith. "How can you even ask me that?"
It took every ounce of willpower for Faith not to attempt to comfort her. She knew it wouldn't end well if she did. "I don't know how the spell affected you."
"Giles didn't tell you about the memories?"
"He did," Faith answered quietly, "but he didn't say anything else."
Buffy tried to stop the tears from falling but now that they had started she couldn't seem to stop, which only made her angry. She also didn't much care for the worry she saw on Faith's face. "How could you?"
"How could you do this to me?" Buffy took a step toward her but kept her distance. "I have everything in my head, you know that? Every single memory from the spell is still there and it's competing with what's real."
Faith had to force herself not to reach out to her. All she wanted to do was comfort her, tell her it would be okay even if it was a lie. "I didn't know."
"I don't care." Buffy ran a hand through her hair. "You should have said something right away. That whole time I thought there was something wrong with me. That my perfect girlfriend didn't want me anymore. You could have stopped all that."
Keeping her eyes cast toward the ground, Faith felt ashamed of not being strong enough to do what was right. "I don't know what you want me to do."
Buffy didn't address what Faith said, instead looking around at everything in the apartment, memories flooding her brain. "Do you know what I see when I look around?"
Faith only shook her head, not knowing where Buffy was going with what she was saying. She decided the best thing for her to do was to stay silent.
"I don't see when we fought," Buffy said, trying to keep from crying. "I see the day I moved in here. I can see trying to change some of your decorations and you fighting me every step of the way." Buffy laughed at the memory even though it caused her pain. "I remember how we celebrated that night." She paused and looked at Faith, pain etched on her face. "We made love for hours."
Neither of them said anything for a few minutes. Faith didn't know what she could say in response to what Buffy told her. She could tell how much she was hurting and that the memories weren't exactly pleasant for her but there was a part of her that would give anything to share the memories Buffy had. She wanted to know how it felt to have those memories.
"It's driving me crazy that none of it's real," Buffy said quietly. "Part of me wants it to be real. I've never been that . . . happy."
She couldn't stop herself this time and Faith walked over to Buffy quickly, putting her arms around her before she could even comprehend what she was doing. She felt Buffy tense in her arms but she didn't fight it. Faith wondered if she wanted to fight it.
Buffy could tell her body wanted to relax but she fought against it. She didn't come to the apartment for Faith's pity, even though she couldn't be sure of that. She wasn't sure of anything anymore but being Faith's arms made her uncomfortable after only a few seconds. Too many memories surfaced.
She pushed Faith away and started to move toward the door. "I can't do this. It hurts too much."
Faith dropped her arms to her sides and let Buffy go without trying to hold her again. She could tell Buffy was starting to cry and it broke her heart. "I love you," she whispered out as Buffy stood in the doorway, "more than ever."
Buffy stopped when she heard Faith and couldn't stop the tears from falling. She couldn't turn to look at Faith though. The words she'd just said hurt so much. "I love you, too," she whispered so quietly she knew the only person who would've been able to hear it was Faith.
She walked out the door without another word and Faith watched her go before sitting down and starting to cry.
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