They started out small, pushing up the way her wisdom teeth had, insistent and eventually bloody. Their dull ache was familiar, though she wouldn't name it for what it was.
A few days after the battle in L.A., she woke up to find Buffy by her bed. "I thought I came back wrong," Buffy said, in one of her many attempts at sisterly post-resurrection bonding.
"Yeah," she said in acknowledgment, her voice still husky and grating. She didn't remember anything, harps or choirs or sweet nirvana. Nothing like this, anyway. The pain pulsed constantly beneath her skin. Proof of something. Faith resisted the urge to reach back and touch them. "I'm not so worried about that."
When she was a little girl, she'd gone to mass with her mother every Sunday. Noon mass, of course, to give Mom some time to sober up before she braved the sanctuary. Faith wasn't much of a reader, but when she got bored there wasn't much else to do besides flip through the missal until she had to stand up again and recite something.
It got boring real fast, though. They never gave you the whole story.
During the sermon her mind always wandered. Her eye went to the pockets of light in the church, which was dark even at noon, except on the hottest summer days. Then the stained glass windows would be cranked open, the casements tilting inwards, and sunlight would stream in bands across the pews. Fans droned softly overhead but sweat still trickled down her neck, pooling between her shoulder blades and in the small of her back until her dress itched.
Chuck was dead, or she'd ask him about it. Angel and Wes were missing. Cordy was on a higher plane. No one else seemed keen to share the details.
Eventually, she called Giles. "Give me the run down," she said. "Nobody's being straight with me."
"Well," he said. There was a pause. "You were certainly dead, when Buffy and Spike found you. They brought you back to the hotel. When they next came to check on you, you were breathing again. There's not much more to tell."
"How did I die?"
"Buffy wasn’t sure. You'd been burned, of course, and there was the sword wound. How are you healing?"
"All right," she said. It wasn't a lie.
The chapel in prison had a skylight over the table they used as an altar during mass. Faith had more patience these days, but her mind still wandered sometimes. The words were the same, they came back easily. She wasn't sure what she felt, what she believed, but in chapel, being still came easy.
When she was really young she'd wonder where God was hiding. It helped pass the time. She'd go through the possibilities. The choir loft, hidden from view, seemed likely, except it was so dark, and she didn't think God would like it. Maybe the altar, but it didn't seem very comfortable. She usually settled on the stained glass window over the altar. There was an angel, bright and pale amidst the colored glass, which was red and blue and yellow and green and purple, jewel colors as vivid as a pack of crayons.
In chapel, her eyes would get lost in the light, and she'd think of wide, white wings.
Eventually, the bones broke through the skin. She bandaged them, but it was awkward. The first few times she bled through the dressings. After that she started wearing a lot of black shirts.
New skin grew over new bone, too slowly, like some fucked up kind of metaphor.
A month after she ran straight into the arms of hell, she found herself kneeling in the last pew in the back. She braced her elbows on the back of the pew and clasped her hands together, bent her head over them. Her shoulders itched, the cushion was thin and the bench dug into her knees. Their dull ache was familiar. It would do, for now.