“You don’t have to do this,” Dawn says again.
“I know,” Faith says. She’s sitting on the mat the psychic provided, her legs asprawl.
“I don’t even really get why you want to.” Faith’s good now – or at least, as good as Dawn thinks anyone ever really needs to be. How it’s going to help anyone for Faith to worry more about that time she killed a volcano expert or that other time she tortured Wesley until he cried, Dawn doesn’t see.
Faith’s lips twist wryly. “Hey, keep it that way, okay? It’s okay. It’s fine. The shaman’ll send me down memory lane, I’ll make with the peace and the self-lovin’—” This comment is accompanied by the predictable leer. “—and I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
It was Giles’s idea. A chance to forgive, he said. Dawn doesn’t know how he talked Faith into it, but there’s common ground between them that Dawn doubts she’ll ever share. She’s cool with that so long as Giles doesn’t go trying to give Faith any tea-flavored kisses. Dawn is not okay with them sharing those.
So Dawn steps back to take a seat against the wall when the psychic asks and tunes out most of what the woman tells Faith as she coaches her into the memory trance. And Dawn waits.
When Faith comes to, she’s white. Her eyes go immediately to Dawn. Dawn takes her hand and Faith grips back like like a twister might whirl one of them to the land of Oz any second. “Are you okay?” Dawn asks.
“Five by five.” Faith gives her a sickly smile.
“Is there anything else she’s supposed to do?” Dawn asks the psychic. “Talk things over, or whatever?”
The woman shakes her head. “The journey was for her to take, and it is hers to understand and make peace with.”
“Fat chance,” Faith mutters, low enough for only Dawn to hear. “Get me out of here, D.”
Once Dawn gets Faith to her feet, she steadies somewhat and walks out of the meditation room under her own power, although she still won’t let go of Dawn’s hand. Once they’re out in the grayed, overcast sunshine, Dawn tries to ask: What did you see? Was it awful? But the words are scared away by the tightness of Faith’s jaw, the fixedness of her stare. They stride along past windows pasted over with faded movie posters and lit by words like SEX in red neon.
“Hey,” Dawn manages finally. “You’re scaring me.”
Faith turns. “I’m fine.”
“You say that, but—”
Faith cuts her off with a kiss – a bruising one that shoves Dawn’s lips back against her teeth. It’s over before Dawn can even figure out how to respond, and when Faith draws back, her eyes are unfathomably dark.
“Hi?” Dawn ventures.
“Hey.” Faith’s eyes fall to the sidewalk; her hands jam in her pockets. “Let’s just go home, okay?”
As far as Dawn had known, they’d already been going home, but she doesn’t argue.
Over the next ten days, Dawn finds herself backed up against walls, rolled onto the bed even more than usual. Far be it from her to complain, but there’s an urgency in Faith’s mouth on Dawn’s skin, her hand between Dawn’s legs that keeps on saying that something’s up.
“Whatever you saw from back then, you’re different now.” Dawn tries, and Faith’s eyes skate away. “You’re hero girl these days.”
“It was nothing,” says Faith with a shrug, but Dawn knows better than to trust the shrug.
“You’re a hero to me,” Dawn says. Faith grips her hand and doesn’t answer.
And there’s council business, and a dimensional thing Dawn has to go give blood for, and some demon that gets a similar donation from Faith before she stabs it in the throat. And Dawn would almost forget, if Faith didn’t keep on kissing her so hard and holding her so close after.
“You don’t cuddle,” Dawn mumbles into Faith’s skin one night.
Faith doesn’t let go. She doesn’t deny it, either. Dawn’s loose and dozy, and she’s three-quarters asleep when Faith finally answers. “You know that time I went after you and your mom?”
Dawn sucks in a breath and tries to be awake. “When you woke up in the hospital?”
“Yeah. Coma girl. I was pissed as fuck at every Summers I saw. Tied up your mom. Barricaded you in the bathroom before you screamed me deaf.”
Dawn remembers. “I had a nail file, you know. If you’d opened that door again...”
“Yeah.” Dawn can hear Faith’s smile in the dark. “You’d have gotten me good, squirt.” After a pause come the words Dawn’s been expecting, “That was what I saw.”
“Your house, and your mom, all tied up, and Buffy busting through that window.”
“You broke our house so bad. If Mom hadn’t been pissed before...”
“And I was scared,” Dawn says, in the interests of brutal honesty. “I tried not to be, because I knew Buffy wouldn’t have been. But you know I forgive you, right?”
Faith’s voice is strained. “I know.”
She better. It took quite a while, during the First and after, before Dawn found her way around to that forgiveness. Torture all the Wesleys you like, but come after Mom or Buffy, and fear for your life. Still, “It was a long time ago. Right? Back then, we didn’t do this.” Dawn slides a hand over Faith’s breast.
Faith laughs, genuine and loud, and shoves Dawn’s hand away. “Hey, I done a lot of shit, but I never perved on little girls.”
“See? A long time ago,” Dawn repeats. “Wasn’t that what the memory walk was all about? To see things clearly? To see how you’ve changed?”
“But I did.” Faith’s voice is suddenly harsh, like a sob has caught at the back of her throat. “You don’t get it. I did see. I know you’re used to this shit, but I never really got it until I went back and lived the whole thing over, and you weren’t there.”
It takes a moment for the words to sink in. Dawn feels like she’s swallowed ice, and it’s lodged somewhere halfway down. “Oh.” Dawn doesn’t know why she didn’t think of this.
“Freaked the hell out of me,” Faith whispers.
“Why? Because you realized your girlfriend wasn’t real?” Dawn shoves Faith’s arm away from her and sits up. Blindly she feels around the rug with her feet, searching for her slippers.
“Hey,” Faith says, grabbing Dawn’s arm. Dawn shrugs her off. She feels like she might cry. “Hey, that is not what I said. That ain’t it at all.”
Dawns wraps her arms around herself. “Then what?”
“I didn’t realize you weren’t real. I just, I kept feeling like you might not be.”
“How is that different?” Her voice feels like it’s made of rocks.
Faith crawls across the bed to sit next to Dawn. She doesn’t touch her. “God, grate me and put me on a pizza, okay, but I always knew you were too good to be true.”
Dawn isn’t sure this makes her feel better. “What?”
Faith heaves a sigh. “Never figured me and Buffy Summers’ kid sis would make such a great team, you know? And definitely didn’t figure she’d let me fuck her for a year and a half straight.”
“Seventeen months next week,” Dawn says automatically.
“So then I got a vision of this world where you don’t exist, and it freaked me the fuck out, okay? So sue me.”
“Oh.” Dawn thinks about that for a while. Faith waits. “So what you’re saying is, if I went and unexisted, you’d miss me?”
Faith bumped shoulders with her. “Maybe.”
“I’m not planning to, you know.” The possibility of it happening anyway, well, that’s a horror to be considered another day.
Faith’s hand folds into Dawn’s. “Peachy.”
“So, are we okay?” Dawn’s not sure of them she’s really asking about.
“I never could wrap my brain around it. Didn’t really see the point in trying. Not to go disappearing your existential crisis, but I guess I’d rather go back to not trying.”
“Yeah,” Dawn says. She leans into Faith and rests her head against Faith’s shoulder. “Yeah, let’s do that.”