Prologue: Graduation Day
Buffy had rarely seen the Sunnydale Memorial this busy, but then an exploding high school tended not to happen very often, and when it did it got people’s attention. Doctor’s and nurses scrambled to deal with burns, broken bones, blast injuries and, of course, the more familiar ‘neck ruptures’ of the few dozen or so people who streamed into the ER.
Buffy took some comfort in the fact that things could have been a lot worse. Big snake demon worse.
It was late evening, Buffy had left Xander, Willow, Oz and Cordelia as they all headed home after the battle. She had been quiet, listening to Xander and Cordy’s gentle sniping- mainly about Xander’s upcoming road trip slash spirit quest and Cordelia’s sudden announcement that she was also leaving Sunnydale early, apparently L.A beckoned.
Buffy had been pleased that their attitude towards each other had softened since the prom; they were even having almost normal conversations. Oz and Willow had also been quiet, Oz because, well he was Oz and Willow because she said she was wiped from the battle and said she was sleepy.
“It’s all that violence and strong language.” Willow explained leaning into Oz, “I’m overwhelmed.”
“Remind me not to stand next to you during the next mass battle, Will.” Xander quipped, “’cause I wouldn’t want you nodding off on me.”
Cordelia agreed. “Plus you’d probably end up drooling on his shoulder. Yuck.”
Willow shook her head. “It’s too much adrenaline, is what it is. I blame my hyper evolved fight or flight response. I think next time I’ll be away in a room somewhere, in charge of maps and stratagems. Ooh- and those little flags you push around with a stick. That always looks like fun.”
“It’s kind of scary that we’re looking ahead to a ‘next time’, don’t you think?” Xander said.
“Well, just because the high school’s gone doesn’t mean the Hellmouth is. I mean, if you could close the Hellmouth with explosives then I’m sure I would’ve read about it.” Willow thought about it and then her eyes widened slightly “Unless we made it bigger...”
“Sshh...leave some thoughts for tomorrow,” Oz said and kissed the side of her head.
Willow relaxed and leaned her head on Oz’s shoulder.
“Well, just for the record, I’m glad I’m leaving this place,” Cordelia remarked
“Me too,” Xander responded, then from a pointed look from Cordelia. “I mean I’m glad I’m leaving as well, ‘the welcome respite of the open road.’”
“But you’re coming back, big mistake.” Cordelia shook her head, “Plus, ‘the open road’? I have it on good authority that if you head far enough inland you’ll either be eaten alive or made somebody’s wife. I’ve seen ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, that’s why we have airports- so we don’t have to drive cross country.”
Xander made a dismissive gesture. “Ahh, that’s just hillbilly prejudice, I’ll be fine.”
“Well, with your luck...” Cordy smirked, trailing off.
Xander pondered. “Say Buff, could I maybe have a long term loan of a crossbow and maybe one of your larger axes.”
Buffy nodded her head. “Uh, sure. Wait, what? When did you see ‘The Hills Have Eyes’?”
Cordelia rolled her eyes “Oh, blame Xander and his frequent video nights for that one, like I don’t get enough blood and guts in real life.”
Xander shrugged. “Just call me master of the cheap date.”
Cordelia’s eyes widened as she turned to Xander. “Did you just call me ‘cheap’?”
“Um...You haven’t by any chance got any weapons on you now, have you Buffy?”
Buffy had left them soon after that, promising to call in a day or so for one final get together at the Bronze before summer separated them. She’d then headed home and rang the hotel her Mom was staying at, telling her it was safe to return to evil ground zero, assuring her Mom that she was fine and that, yes, she actually had her diploma, though sadly no graduation photo.
After hanging up she took a long shower and then changed into fresh clothes, feeling too restless to go to bed despite her weariness. Buffy had then paced around the house a little while before snacking on some leftover lasagne from the fridge. Having little idea what to do with herself Buffy had then wandered outside, walking back through an oddly peaceful Sunnydale, seemingly aimlessly, hoping the fresh night air would relax her a little more and help her clear her head.
She thought about the long summer ahead of her, a summer without Angel; a life without Angel. It was hard to see her life ahead without him nearby, the past year had seemed all about her struggling with her feelings for him, until in the end he had been the one to end it.
And right before Prom as well, not the ideal end to a romance.
Without really realising how Buffy had ended up outside the hospital, a place of noise and frantic energy that had drawn her inside, it was only then that she consciously realised where she was headed.
She had walked through the hospital in a sort of daze, largely ignored by the buzzing hospital staff. Buffy quickly moved through the patients lounge and off down one of the corridors, heading unerringly to a specific room.
Buffy went over to the bed gazed down at the fellow Slayer lying there, seemingly too small and fragile to ever be a threat to anyone. Bruised and pale, her slow, shallow breathing and the beeping machines by her bed the only real signs that Faith still clung to life. She looked younger now, the same age as Buffy really. And so vulnerable, not like the badass image she projected when she first arrived in town or like the killer she had later become.
The last time she had seen Faith had been the in the strange dream they’d shared with each other, oddly there had been no anger or hate between them, only acceptance and cryptic stuff. And maybe some regret.
Buffy is in Faith’s apartment, windows still broken from the fight but otherwise different. Packing boxes lie everywhere stuffed with Faith’s things.
A cat leaps onto Faith’s bed. “Who’s going to look after him?” Buffy senses Faith pass close by behind her; she knows this is a dream.
“It’s a she, and aren’t these things supposed to take of themselves?”
“A higher power guiding us?” Buffy asks.
“Pretty sure that’s not what I meant.” Faith walks through the apartment, her back towards Buffy.
“There’s something I’m supposed to be doing.”
Faith replies knowingly. “Well, yeah. Miles to go. Little Ms. Muffet counting down from 7-3-0”
“Great,” Buffy said exasperated. “Riddles.”
“Sorry,” Faith replies over her shoulder “It’s my head. A lot of new stuff.” She stares at the broken window. “They’re never gonna fix this, are they?”
“What about you?” Buffy asks.
Faith turns to her. “Scar tissue,” she gestures to her face. “It fades. It all fades.”
Buffy looks down to see the flash of a blade in her hand for a moment, and then it’s gone.
“You want to know the deal? Human weakness. Never goes away. Even his.”
Buffy mouth curls in a slight smile, her voice light. “This your mind or mine?”
Faith laughs. “Beats me,” She walks forward as Buffy smiles. Faith continues “Getting towards that time.”
Buffy looks at all the boxes scattered around. “How are you going to fit all this stuff?”
“Not gonna. It’s yours.” Faith stops in front of Buffy.
“I can’t use all of this.”
Faith looks into her eyes. “Just take what you need,” she reaches up and touches Buffy’s cheek, “You ready?”
Lots of regret, that’s what Buffy herself, felt right now. Not anger or guilt exactly- well maybe some guilt, but in her head she knew Faith had forced this on both of them, bringing things to a head by trying to kill Angel. Still Buffy found herself missing Faith, or maybe just the memory of her smiling and stories, dancing and fighting. Those things Buffy found hard to forget.
“Isn’t it crazy how slaying always makes you hungry and horny?”
“But you like him, right? When you think about him you get that good, down low tickle right?”
“Come on, we’ll find a couple of studs, use ‘em and discard ‘em. That’s always fun.”
“We’re Slayers, girlfriend. The Chosen Two.”
“Want. Take. Have.”
And through all those memories the swirling questions all beginning with ‘what if?’
Buffy reached out and took Faith’s hand in hers and sat on the edge of the bed, leaning forward slightly.
“He’s dead,” Buffy said, her voice sounding unnaturally loud in the quiet room. “The mayor that is, he got to ascend for, like, ten minutes before I blew up the school with him in it.”
She sighed. “I don’t know if you can hear me or even if you want to hear any of this, but I guess I owe you. I mean you did help me, so you should be pleased. But there are better ways to help, y’know. Such as, I don’t know, not trying to kill my friends or my boyfriend. Or me. Especially me. A few less fights to the death would have been real swell of you.”
Buffy shifted slightly on the bed. “If anyone saw me here they’d wonder what the hell I’m doing. Hell, I don’t know what I’m doing- I’m not really known for chatting away with people who try and kill me.” She paused, frowning, “Well, actually I am but that’s not really the point. It’s the betrayal –that’s what gets me, the turning on friends and ranting on about us being better than everyone else. That’s what spins my head; I just don’t get it.”
Buffy found herself toying with Faith’s fingers “Anyway, I don’t know if you’re ever going to wake up, or if you had any change of heart or doubts about, y’know, going all evil. I hope you did. I hope I get the chance to tell you that I’m sorry and that I really wanted things to be different between us. For us to be...friends, maybe. I guess I could have handled things better as well, to begin with anyway.”
Buffy blew out a breath and was surprised to find out she was a bit teary. She blinked them away “I just...I want a do-over. God, If I could just go back the beginning I would do so many things differently, we...we could be Slayers again, we could get things right between us. I wish that could happen.”
Suddenly Buffy felt a wave of dizziness wash over her, along with a feeling of warm air and a slight exotic smell, like scented candles. She felt a presence near her, like there was a ghost or spirit nearby, only subtly different.
“DONE,” a voice intoned, somehow both a whisper and a roaring command, full of power. Buffy’s head spun as her world fell away...