Ex, Why and Zee
by Alan Hitchen
Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon and others.
Inspiration: Next Life by Hepburn.
Dedication: To Keg Cider. With thanks.

:[ex]:[why]:[zee]:

[ex]

Five years is a long time. Will she even recognise me, much less care about her ex? So thinks Faith, as the Greyhound bus roars past the 'Welcome to Sunnydale' sign on the outskirts of town.

She stands outside of 1630 Revello Drive, staring hard at its unrevealing facade. The blank eyes that are its windows stare back at her, as if to say, 'Why are you here?' To tell the truth, she's not quite sure of the answer to that question. Anyway, no one is at home. She moves on.

The Mall is not her sort of place. She hoped she'd be here amid the happy smiling faces of the bustling shoppers, but not today she isn't. She moves on.

The Bronze. She mingles unobtrusively with the crowd. Her eyes searching for a familiar face, or someone who can tell her where that face can be found. No luck. So again, into the night this time, she moves on.

Well, this is Sunnydale, she muses. Home of the hellmouth and demons galore. If she's still here, if she's still alive... The thought stops Faith cold. The one thing that she has never considered. What if she's dead?

No, she was too good, too careful. Not like me, and I'm still alive. No, she's alive, she's here, I just haven't found her yet. And with that comforting thought, she grits her teeth, buttons her jacket against the cold night air, and into the graveyard, she moves on.

As quiet as the grave. Never was there a truer saying as Faith strains her ears for the slightest sound. Wait. What was that? Nothing. Only another eleven cemetaries to go. She moves on.

Zip. Nada. Apart from a couple of newbies that didn't even see what dusted them, nothing at all. She's patrolling the streets now, covering the town in a block by block search pattern. Still nothing. Another block, then another, then yet another. Still she moves on.

There! She can feel it. That tingling sensation, that 'spider sense' that tells her another Slayer is close at hand.

Now, where exactly? That house. It's brightly lit. No curtains are drawn. I can see right in. There she is! She hasn't changed at all. Still blonde. Still beautiful. Still everything I ever wanted.

Why did I leave her? Why did I just cut and run? I was afraid, of myself mostly. I knew I'd let her down eventually. So I went before I could, and by doing so I let her down anyway. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

I've changed since then. Five years on the road can do that. I'm finally ready to settle down with the only one I ever loved. I can handle it now. I can make her happy, make us both happy. I know I can.

Oh, God! There's someone else! Tall, dark, attractive, intelligent too I'll bet. Look at them kiss. No, don't, it hurts too much. I knew in my heart of hearts this would be how it ended. Why would she wait for me? I sent no word in five years.

She said she loved me. She said she'd love me forever. I believed her then, but nothing is forever. Not for me. Except perhaps the pain.

Goodbye, B, have a nice life.

In the early morning the Greyhound bus leaves Sunnydale taking Faith with it.

She moves on.

[why]

Buffy stopped kissing her girlfriend and moved to the window. Just for a moment she had a feeling that Faith was near. She looked out into the inky black that lay beyond the street lights.

No, it couldn't be. Five years without so much as a postcard. Why would she come back now? I don't know. Why did she leave? I do know that.

I was the paragon of virtue against whom she could never measure up. Or at least, that's how she felt. No matter what I said or did I could never convince her that she was loved and wanted. That I didn't care what she'd done in the past. That for as long as she was with me only the present and future mattered.

Five years now. A long time. For a year after she left I chased every hint and rumour to try and find her. For another year I just sat and waited for her to come back.

Then I met Cathy. She took pity on the sad blonde sitting all alone in the park. It began with conversation, quickly became friendship, and almost before I realised it we had become lovers.

I love her, she loves me, and everything is fine. But she's not Faith, and never will be. I told Faith I'd love her forever and I meant it. But if she were to come back now... I don't know what I'd do - about Cathy that is - 'cos I'd have Faith back like a shot.

But I'm just kidding myself. She's gone. Gone for good. She's still alive. That much I do know. Still alive, still out there, probably still alone. Searching for whatever it is that will give her peace of mind. I hope she finds it. All I ever wanted was for her to be happy. Why couldn't she believe that?

Buffy turns back to Cathy and apologises for her distraction.

The next day, Willow phones to tell her that a friend saw someone who looked like Faith at the bus station. She was leaving town. Within minutes Buffy's car is screeching off the driveway, racing along the bus route in search of her.

Faith is hitching now. Headed for... Well, she doesn't much care where, as long as it's a long way from Sunnydale. As she hears each car approach her from behind she sticks out her thumb, not bothering to look. She'll check them out when they stop. If they stop. They haven't stopped for hours now. Hold on. This one is slowing down.

The sun is in her eyes so she can't quite see the driver until she sticks her head into the car. The blonde hair, the blue eyes, the warm smile, the distinctive perfume, all is just how she remembered it. Even her voice is just the same, soft dulcet tones saying the words Faith thought she'd never hear. Words of love, words of forgiveness, welcoming her back.

Faith gets into the car as if in a trance. She is an ex no longer, she doesn't know why, but right at this moment it doesn't seem to matter. What does matter is that Faith is back home again and this time she will never leave.

[zee]

That night Cathy returns home from work to find an anxious Buffy awaiting her arrival. She introduces Cathy to Faith and explains what has happened. Cathy is not pleased. Cathy is steamed.

"This is Faith? The Faith?" Cathy fumes. "The one that left you heartbroken FIVE years ago. The 'love of your life' who took off after just SIX months and then never said ONE word to you in all that time!"

"Look, Zee," Buffy interjects, reaching out to comfort her.

"Don't you 'Zee' me, Elizabeth!" Cathy replies sharply, slapping away Buffy's arm. "We've been together for THREE years now. We were talking about getting married. We even discussed children. I love you, Buffy. I'm yours, heart and soul, the whole ball of wax. I know you love me. You've told me that often enough. Don't try to tell me you were lying all these years because I know you weren't. But now you say it's all over. That this - UNWASHED BITCH!"

Faith, who has been standing silently behind Buffy, suddenly jerks forward menacingly. Cathy just fixes her with a glare of utter contempt and continues with her character assesment.

"This pathetic TRAILER TRASH is to replace me - just like that?"

Buffy quickly moves between them and flashes a pleading look to Faith to suggest she backs off. Faith ignores it and presses forward aggressively until she stands toe to toe with Cathy, who is balling her fists, and is standing ready for a fight.

"Hey, ZEE, this bitch was here first!" Faith states with vehemence.

Buffy groans. "Will!" she calls out, and Faith and Cathy are suddenly frozen face to face in mid-snarl. Willow enters the room.

"Good call, Buffy. Just two seconds more..." she leaves the sentence unfinished.

"Yeah, well." Buffy shrugs. "You see the problem? Now you know why I asked for your help."

"Sure, Buffy, I see the problem. I just don't like the solution. I'm not sure it's ethical for me to interfere with Cathy's free will."

"It's the only way, Willow," says Buffy as she circles closely around the two motionless women.

"I love Cathy, that's why I don't want to see her hurt, but I love Faith more. I always have, I always will." She grimaces. This is so hard and hurts so much, but for Buffy there is no other choice. She turns to Willow.

"You have to make Cathy fall out of love with me so she can move on with the minimum of pain. It's not as if she'll be left on the shelf for long. She's got plenty of admirers. She was always telling me about Anne at work giving her the eye, and how if I didn't do this or that she would leave me for her." Buffy almost smiles as she recalls this running joke between them.

"Okay, okay, Buffy, if you're really sure?"

"I'm sure," Buffy confirms. "Now, unfreeze Faith and let me calm her down, and then you can work your magic on Cathy."

And that's what happened. It wasn't ideal, but it was the best solution. Buffy got Faith, Anne got Cathy, and everyone was happy. Or as happy as they could be, after all, nothing's perfect, is it?

...or would you prefer Alternative [zee]...

The End

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