What the hell am I doing? I swore to myself over and over that once I got out of jail I would head as far as possible away from Sunnydale, away from everything that happened there, and most of all, away from Buffy Summers.
So what the hell am I doing sitting in my car outside her Mom's house?
Maybe it's coz this is the place that I associate most with Buffy. The cozy little family house, no... home. Her and her mom, together, happy. Most of the time anyway, they have their problems I know. But at least Joyce loves her. At least Joyce doesn't get drunk, or stoned, or both and decide to use her as a punching bag on a daily basis.
No, Joyce may not be perfect, but she's a good woman. And Buffy knows that. And I know that too. When I switched bodies with Buffy, Joyce was talking to me, or rather to Buffy, about me. She said she thought I was desperately unhappy.
And I thought 'Well fuck. How's that for my pathetic excuse for a life in a nutshell.' Desperately unhappy? Oh yeah. Unbearably miserable? You betcha. Hurt, angry, scared, alone, vulnerable, brash, arrogant, deceptive...
Was I evil? I was helping a guy who wanted to be a big snake and eat the world. I screwed over the only two people that ever tried to help me. I killed. Not vamps, not demons... but a person... no, people. Three of them. Did that make me evil?
I wasn't sure, but I had needed to know. So I shot Angel. I knew that would get her attention. Force her into action. I mean, this was her honey we were talking about. The guy who had tried to suck the world into hell, who had killed people close to her, and yet, when it all came down to it, she had forgiven him, she had loved him. After all that, she had found it in her heart to forgive him. Surely, surely if there was one ounce of something in me that was worth saving, worth redeeming, worth forgiving, surely Buffy would have found it.
She didn't. She stabbed me. She came to my apartment, all dressed to kill and ready to rumble. She looked on me and found me lacking, found nothing worth forgiving, found a knife, my knife, and rammed it in my gut. Judge, jury and executioner right there in one.
And I accepted her verdict. Fine, I was evil. That was my role, I'd play it well. We were enemies? Fine, I could play it that way. So what if I ached to have her put her arms around me and tell me everything was gonna be okay. So what if I longed to drop to my knees and beg her forgiveness. Too late Faith baby, jury's returned their verdict, judge has passed sentence and now the executioner's coming out to play. But fucked if I was gonna make things easy for her. She wanted me dead, okay, I'd be dead, but no way in hell that undead son of a bitch was gonna drink me. No way.
Passing truck. Five story fall. Memory of how cool, how clean the knife felt as it slid into my gut, contrast to the searing, burning pain that followed. Memory of her eyes, her big, beautiful, haunted green eyes when she looked at me and saw me die. She didn't know, but I'd been dead for a long time before I met her. My last memory - her eyes, trying to convey so much to me at once. Shock, hurt, anger, sorrow, pain, confusion, and maybe... though it may just have been wishful thinking on my part, maybe some regret.
But mostly... mostly, passion.
I don't know if it burned for me, if her hatred was that deep, or if it burned for Angel, who lay dying while she killed me, or if it was the same passion that burned in me when I made the kill, when I rammed a stake home into a non-beating heart and felt that one thrilling moment of exhilaration between staking and a dust cloud when you know you've nailed him, and he knows you've nailed him, and there's nothing he can do now but die. I don't know who or what her passion was for but that was my last vision of her. My last vision of anything before the darkness claimed me. And God, she was beautiful.
//Passion... it lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting, and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir, open its jaws... and howl. Passion... is born... And though uninvited, unwelcome, unwanted... like a cancer... it takes root. It festers... it bleeds... it scabs... only to rupture. It speaks to us, guides us; passion rules us all. And we obey... what other choice do we have?//
I'm out of my rental-car now, heading towards the house. Hesitantly, uncharacteristically timid, I knock on the door. Maybe I'm as crazy as everyone said I was coz I can't for the life of me figure out why I'm about to put myself through this. Coz no mistake, I know what's coming. Giles opens the door.
Okay, maybe I don't know exactly what's coming.
The look of shock on the G-Man's face at finding me standing on the doorstep would almost have been funny under different circumstances. But I wasn't laughing, coz he wasn't Joyce. Joyce I had been expecting, been prepared for. I had even allowed for the possibility that Buffy might be there though God knows I was grateful she wasn't, I needed a little more time before I'd be ready to tackle that situation. But that situation was the whole reason I was here, wasn't it? Fuck, why do I get myself into these messes?
Okay, realising now, in this awkward, stunned silence that I'd better say something. Time for a trademark off-hand remark, something glib, something possibly crude or shocking.
"Faith... what are you..? I mean... why...?" he stutters in his clipped British accent.
From inside I hear a voice, Joyce, call out. "Rupert? Who is it?"
Hmmmm... I wonder at the fact that they're on first name terms now. Joyce and the G-Man... huh.
He gathers his composure pretty quickly. I guess living on a hellmouth kinda desensitises you to weird stuff happening. "It's uh... It's Faith," he calls back.
There is another moment of stunned silence in which I can imagine her jaw hitting the ground, followed by footsteps, followed by Joyce.
"Faith?" The disbelief is evident even though I'm standing right there. On her doorstep. Still. They gonna let me in anytime today or what?
"Uh... come in." Joyce ventures, almost reading my mind.
I do, and they're surprisingly non-hostile to me. I guess I was half-expecting to find a crossbow aimed at me while Joyce told me to get the hell off her property and not come back again. That was half what I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting was the pot of tea she made as the three of us sat down together in their living room. That I did not expect at all.
Giles was wary. That was good, he had reason to be, good reason. I was one dangerous, psychotic bitch. Joyce was a little less suss of me. I never really got her, I mean, she could be all smiles and sweetness and motherly love at times, but she kicked Buffy out of her house for wanting to save the world. And then when I first arrived in Sunnydale she really tried to make me feel welcome. Of course me screwing her daughter over didn't go down too well and our next meeting had been slightly more... confrontational, but now she was taking me into her home... again, with a minimum amount of fuss. I didn't get her.
"I suppose you want to know what I'm doing here, huh?" I said to break the somewhat less strained silence.
"I had wondered, yes." Giles replied. "Aren't you meant to be in prison?"
"I was. I've done my time, I'm out now."
"Already?" Joyce asked.
"There wasn't really anything to link me to any of the crime scenes except my own confession. I had a good attorney, got me a reduced sentence on account of my age and all. Did eight months." I explained to them.
"And now you're here. Again."
Damn, that said it all, didn't it. This was always where I ended up. After I woke from that coma I found the Mayor's little body-switching device. Wicked cool. Only it wasn't, coz yeah, I got Buffy's body, that part was fun. And I screwed her boyfriend, literally, just to fuck with their heads. But I also got her life, and that part wasn't so cool. Coz her life was love and friends and mom and thank you and happiness and brightness and sheer radiance that I knew I could never have. I didn't deserve.
Want. Take. Have. That easy, that simple. A rule I could live by. I wanted Buffy. I took her. But I could never, ever have her.
And so I came back, to Sunnydale Church, to her. I knew she'd be there. I think I probably knew she'd have a way to get her body back. I didn't care. I was just so tired. And then L.A. And Angel, and my death that somehow became my redemption, the beginning of it anyway. And then Buffy, hurt and angry and raw. And her and Angel arguing, over me, and me in the middle, just like mom and my stepdad, and me begging them not to, and just like when I was eight it made no difference, and they fought, over me.
And it wasn't right, that they should do that. And I wasn't right. I finally realised that I hadn't been right in as long as I could remember. And then Buffy comes to have it out with me. And fuck, is it just me or does some of the stuff I say to her actually make sense? It sure seems to hit home with the way she flinches. But God she hates me, she detests me. She said I made her a victim, that I'm the only one who did that. Fuck. And all the while, all the while as we're yelling our hurt at each other, I can see it, feel it between us again.
//Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we can live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead.//
And her passion burned into me, seared me with her rightness. Her justice was what I had come to accept. She wanted me in jail? Hand me my ball and chain.
So I gave myself up and handed myself over. Let them cuff me and chain me. Let them pass judgement on me. Let them throw me in a cell for eight months, not as dark as the head I had lived in for eight months before that, but disturbing nonetheless. To see night fall outside, to know the darkness that was out there, to have your blood singing, calling to you to go... to hunt... to slay. It's a wicked powerful urge you get, to dust a vamp after eight months of nothing. It was the very first thing I did to celebrate my freedom. Second thing I did...?
"Yeah Giles, I'm back. Again."
I came home.
I hang up the phone in my dorm room, still not letting the conversation I just had sink in. Angel had called, first time I've spoken to him in months, he called to tell me that she's out. Faith's done her time and now she's out. And she's not in L.A. Angel thought I should know that she was free again. I'm grateful he told me.
He doesn't know where she is, but I do. Or at least, I know where she'll end up. Sunnydale. In some twisted way, I guess this is her home. Not a home that's particularly fond of her though.
And now it's starting to sink in, and the realisation hits. This could be a second chance, a new start for her, for us both.
But what if Faith doesn't want a new start? What if she's perfectly happy to pick up where we left off? With the hurting, the anger, the pain.
I thought once before that we could start over, when she woke from her coma. But she was aggro and bitter and throwing it in my face. I told her it didn't have to be that way. God, I didn't want it to be that way.
"Actually, B. I think it has to be *exactly* this way."
She wasn't ready then. To forgive, to deal, to move on. What is it that makes me think she'll be ready now? Could it be the emptiness I saw in her when I was in L.A.? When we were on the roof and she was telling me how I was all about control, and she had none, and how she felt nothing she did mattered.
It mattered. It mattered a hell of a lot. To me at least. But what she said, about control, that hit home. I couldn't control her. Worse, I couldn't control myself around her. She brought out a side of me that was exhilarating, liberating, and utterly frightening. Because that side of me, of us, got a man killed.
And that's when everything went to hell. I tried to reach out to her. That's what I tell myself. That's what I told her. I wonder though. Was it her I reached out to, or was it my own perception of her? I was so desperate to regain control, so eager to have her fall back into line that I didn't really listen to her.
She said she didn't care. That was bull. But I didn't see it then. She said that she was the only person she needed on her side. She was crying out to me to be on her side, to stand by her. But I didn't see that either. I see it all so clearly now. Living in someone else's body gives you a whole new perspective on their life. For her, it was all about survival, about putting number one first so that you were still alive come morning. She didn't have the friends, the watcher, the Scooby Gang. I had tried to fit her in to my little circle, but I had gone about it all wrong and she hadn't fitted. I believed she could be a Scooby, one of the guys, that she could hang at the Bronze, that she'd follow our pattern. God, I was so wrong.
When I slay, it's about duty and responsibility. I kill vampires and demons to protect the people I love. When Faith slays it's about not dying. And what kills me is that I never took the time to question that. To wonder why it was that she beat the vamps bloody before she staked them. I mean, I saw it, I wondered about it, I may even have remarked on it. But I never questioned her, never cared enough to ask.
I saw the rage in her, but I ignored it, brushed it aside. Okay, so she was angry at the world a lot of the time, she could still be one of us. But she couldn't, because I never really knew her. I never saw the dark, hurt side of her until it was much too late. And by then things had been set in motion, and they were going to run their course.
And run their course they did. I stabbed her, she was in a coma for eight months, she woke up, she held my mom hostage, she switched bodies with me, she slept with my boyfriend, she almost got me killed by the watcher's council... she came back to save a bunch of innocent people, she went to L.A. to kill Angel, she tortured Wesley, very nearly to death... she wanted him to kill her, she wanted to be dead... she gave herself up... she made that decision to try and change.
And now she's back.
And I don't know what I'm going to do.
"Does Buffy know you're here?" Giles asks me as he pours more tea.
I fidget, see that I'm fidgeting, and force myself to stop. "Not yet."
Joyce looks up at me. "Are you..." she pauses. "I mean."
Class. She's trying to find a polite way to ask me if I'm gonna continue to be a psycho bitch and make her daughter's life a living hell. Points for trying Joyce.
"I want to make things right with her."
Damn, that was honest. Where did it come from? And I have to ask, while they're here, two people who know her perhaps better than anyone else.
"Do you think... do you think she'll, maybe... I mean... if I..." way to babble, girl.
"I think you have a chance, Faith." Thankfully Giles knows what I'm trying to say and stops me before I turn into Willow. He takes his glasses off and begins to twist them in his hands. I recognise this as a sign that he's about to lecture me. For once I'm gonna be smart and listen. Then he turns that serious, penetrating look on me. "But it won't be easy. You hurt her very deeply. And it's going to take a lot on your part to make amends."
I nod slowly. "I know..." God I know. It's all I've thought about for the last eight months or so. About how in hell I was ever gonna make things right with her. But I was willing to try, and that had to be a start. Didn't it?
Joyce sensed the somewhat strained turn this conversation was about to take and intervened. "Do you have somewhere to stay, Faith?"
Damn, hadn't even thought of that. "Uh... I was just gonna rent a motel room. I mean, I don't know how long I'm staying or anything. It all depends on..."
"You could..." she looked to Giles for a moment and he nods almost imperceptibly, "You could stay here if you want... we have a spare room."
Tempting as that would be I immediately see the hundred and one problems that could cause. And numbers one through a hundred are all Buffy.
"Thanks all the same Mrs. S, but I think it'd probably be best if I just crashed at the motel. For now, anyway. But I appreciate the offer."
"Are you sure-" Joyce began.
"Yeah, yeah. Thanks again." I stood up, suddenly too damn full of energy to stay sitting at their little tea party. "Look, uh... I'm gonna head. If you see Buffy..." God, if you see Buffy what. "Just... just tell her I was here."
Giles nodded. "We will."
Joyce looks like she's going to say something but a look from the G-Man makes her change her mind. Instead she just says "If you need anything..."
I smile my usual, self-assured, screw-the-world-coz-I-don't-need-'em smile and nod. "Hey, I'm five by five. Thanks for everything."
And then I'm gone. Running scared from their cozy little home and the whole... normality of the situation. I need time, and space. I need to think. Inside my mind is running a mile a minute, my emotions so screwed that I could hardly identify them, never mind deal with them. Outside however, I'm my usual calm self, strolling to my car. Sit, keys, ignition, gear, drive.
I don't even remember deciding to go there. Hell, I don't really remember getting there. One minute I'm leaving Joyce's, the next I'm sitting in my car outside UC Sunnydale. It must have started to rain on the way here. It hardly ever rains in Sunnydale.
I try not to take it as a sign or anything, as I get out of the car that suddenly seems way too small and I perch against the hood, staring at the buildings that contain the dorm rooms of the college. The rain hits me from all sides and somehow it seems fitting, that I should be out here, sitting in the rain, while she's up there, somewhere. One of those bright warm lights is her room.
I must be crazy. To have come back here after all that's happened. To even imagine that I could begin to make things right between us. But I can't help myself. I'm drawn to the light that is Buffy Summers like a moth, and I'm probably as likely to get burned. I can't explain why I keep coming back here. I don't even think I fully understand it myself. But I'm here now, again. And one thing I have never been is chicken. So I'll see it through. After all, there's not much else I can do.
But for now I'll just sit on my car and debate in my own head whether or not I should go up there and see her.
I close the door to my dorm room, leaving Willow and Tara to have their privacy. I told Will about Faith and she seemed to understand the confusion I'm feeling. Damned if I can understand it myself though.
I've come up with a plan of action. And step one is what I'm doing right now. I'm going to patrol. I'm going to forget about her entirely for tonight and just concentrate on staking vamps. Tomorrow I'll go to Mom's and see if our favourite psychopathic slayer has dropped by. I figure that's one of the first places she might go, if she's even in Sunnydale.
When I think about it, she could have gone back to Boston, or to anywhere for that matter. I mean, she could be in Yemen by now, or she could be...
...sitting on the hood of a red convertible a few feet away from me.
Despite everything, and in spite of myself, my first thought is 'damn but she looks good'. And she does, she's drenched from the rain and she's just staring up at the dorm rooms with an almost vulnerable air about her. A kind of vulnerability that makes me want to just go to her and put my arms around her and... and promptly get decked if I tried it most likely. Faith was never exactly the touchy feely type.
So she's here. *Here*, here. And now she senses I'm here, gotta love those heightened slayer senses, and the vulnerability is gone, replaced with a wall of self-assurance and sheer arrogance that I can sense before she even looks my way.
Have you ever seen Highlander? It's a pretty cool flick, made a fairly good tv series out of it too. It's about these immortal guys who are all bent on killing each other because "there can be only one" or something. And they have watchers too, kinda like our Watchers, only not so... tweedy. Anyway, point is, the Immortals have this inner sense thing that tells them when there's another Immortal in the area. In the film they have this cool echoey effect and shit. Talk about life imitating art - that's exactly how I know Buffy's here. I can feel her.
So I turn my head and there she is. A little older, looking a little more worn around the edges, but she's still... Buffy. And I can see that she doesn't know how to handle this any more than I do. I have this brief compulsion to fall back into old habits and I guess she feels the same coz her first words are
"Back to wreak some more havoc, Faith?"
I bite back the sharp reply that's on the tip of my tongue and consider my reply carefully. It'd be so easy to just fall into that old pattern, to follow our usual rules of engagement, 'You hurt me, I hurt you.' But screw it, that's not why I'm here. At least I don't think it is. I push myself off the hood of the car and stand facing her.
"Actually no... I'm here to apologise."
She just looks at me, not quite willing to stop trying to bore holes into the back of my head with her eyes. Damn but she's cute when she's mad. Maybe that's why I spent so much time pissing her off. That and the bordering on insanity thing.
"I told you not to-"
"Yeah, you did." I interrupt, "But it's something I should have said a long time ago and if you don't want to hear it, fair enough, but I need to say it."
Okay Faith, deep calming breaths. I can see this getting out of hand so easily. I'm walking a tightrope here. She's quiet for a minute, digesting what I said maybe, or maybe just trying to subdue the urge to find the nearest blunt object and turn me into a bloody pulp. I think I'd probably let her if she did decide to go postal on me. Still willing to let her be my judge, jury and executioner. I never learn, do I?
"Why are you here?" she says eventually in a tone I can't quite read.
Yeah, been asking myself that a lot too lately.
"To be honest... I'm not sure." God, how do I say this, "I'd like to try and make things right. And I understand that there is no reason at all that you should believe me and I know there's no way you're gonna trust me but... but I really am sorry. And I want to try and fix things as best I can."
I can see her indecision. I hurt her so much. Like she said, I made her a victim, why should she believe me? But it's in her nature to look for the best in people, and she wants so badly to be able to find some good in me. *I* want so badly for her to be able to find some good in me.
"Fix things?" She's hurt and angry now, this isn't good "You want to fix things?!"
Shit, she's pacing. Pacing isn't good.
"How can you even hope to change things, Faith? There's no magic wand that you can just wave and turn things back to how they were."
"I'm not trying to. I know I can't just paint over my mistakes, I gotta deal. And I will... if you let me."
I can't believe we're actually having this conversation. I can't believe we're having any conversation at all and not just tearing at each other's throats. I want to believe her, I really do. But how can I trust her? After everything that's happened, how can I even begin to trust her again? The answer comes to my mind unbidden -
'If you let me.' Can I do that? That's the question I suppose. Can I let go of my anger and my hate enough so that we can start to rebuild?
She's looking at me and even though the bravado's still there, it's more obvious bravado now. She's still got that tough exterior, that's part of what makes her Faith, but I can see through it a little more easily now. And those eyes, those deep, soulful eyes that have haunted my dreams for so long now, they're looking at me with a mixture of hope and doubt and uncertainty and I have my answer.
"Are you sincere?"
Her look of guarded relief mixed with determination hits me right in the gut and I can't hold the serious glare that I had pinned her with.
I nod, still keeping myself guarded. It's gonna be a long while before I can trust her again. If ever, but this is a start, right?
"Well... If you're serious about starting over then that's good. But if you screw us over again..."
"Yeah, I get it. Lotsa pain, blunt objects and the like, right?"
I'm not going to let her joke this off.
"That's just for starters. No more second chances Faith, this is it."
She nods in understanding.
"It's more than I deserve-"
"Yeah, it is." I cut her off.
She examines the ground beside her boot closely for a minute. When she speaks it's quiet, but loud enough so I can hear. "Thanks, B." She looks up at me. "I won't let you down. Not this time."
And that's it. My anger is washed away and somehow I feel a hell of a lot better. She *is* sincere, I can see the change in her. I don't know if I can trust her again, but we have to go somewhere from here. And I just hope that wherever we end up is somewhere good.
I'm not gonna say it'll be easy, but... it's a start.