Alternative [zee]
by Alan Hitchen
Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon and others.
Dedication: To Keg Cider. This time I have used your idea. Thanks again.

The next morning Willow phones to tell Buffy that a friend saw someone looking like Faith at the bus station. She was leaving town.

Within minutes Buffy's car is screeching off the driveway and racing along the bus route. After Buffy has left, Cathy picks up the discarded phone and learns from Willow the news she has dreaded hearing. Shortly after, her car is following Buffy's, parallelling the bus route also in search of Faith.

Faith is hitching now. Headed for... Well, she doesn't much care where, just as long as it's a long way from Sunnydale. As she hears each car approach from behind she sticks out her thumb, no longer 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 see the driver until she sticks her head into the car.

She doesn't recognise the attractive dark haired woman at first. She just mumbles her thanks and piles in beside her, throwing her bag onto the back seat.

"Hello, Faith. How are you?" the woman asks pleasantly.

"Five by five," Faith replies automatically, then looking at her askance, asks, "Howdya know my name? Have we met before?"

"No, we've not met, but I have seen your photograph," she explains. "My name is Cathy. Buffy calls me Zee, it's my middle initial."

"Buffy?" The penny finally drops as Faith realises this is the woman Buffy was kissing the night before. "Oh," she says while looking away in embarrassment.

"Yes. Oh. Buffy is my girlfriend and has been for the past three years. But the minute she heard you were back in town she hared off to find you," she says bitterly.

Faith turns back to face Cathy in surprise. Buffy still cares about her. Her heart skips a beat. Perhaps all is not lost.

"She waited two years for you to return before I came into her life. Two years. I know she loves me, but I also know she loves you more. And it's because I love her that I'm doing this. Come back with me, Faith. Buffy wants you. She needs you. No matter what you've done she will forgive you. She loves you," Cathy says quietly, the last words coming out as an agonised rasp.

"But what about you?" Faith asks, her guilt biting even harder as she reads the deep hurt etched into Cathy's face.

"I'll survive." Cathy smiles bleakly. "Right from the start I've known this was a temporary arrangement. Buffy made me as happy as anyone could do. But I could never quite return the favour, because I wasn't you. Only you can make her truly happy. So I'll step aside for her sake."

"But..." Faith doesn't have the words to articulate her feelings at this moment, so lapses into silence.

"Come back, make her happy, it's the right thing to do," Cathy insists.

Faith simply nods in reply. Cathy takes a breath to compose herself, wipes the tears from her eyes, selects drive, checks the mirror, signals, then swings the car around to return to Sunnydale.

Sunnydale. A small Californian town that is hell for some and heaven for others.

It will always be so.

The End