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Book One: Gift-Curse

by Amanda
Rating: PG-13

Author's Notes: No sex yet, not really. Some innuendo. Lot’s of potty language, and a little bit of violence. Starts up prior to The Body, Season 5, but glosses over things. From season 6 there are a few bits of dialogue “borrowed”.

Prison.
Prison sucks.

See, when I made the choice to come here, to repent, to redeem and reclaim my soul, part of me thought this would be an easy out. So shoot me. I was thinking 3 meals a day, a gym, bed to sleep in. Hell, those where things that had never been guaranteed in my life before- ever. Boy was I wrong. Sure it was those things. But no freedom, no privacy, and worse. No slaying. No umph. No fucking release. I WAS MADE TO SLAY.

I can still remember the moment, clear as day, when I was given this gift. I had been sitting on a park bench, just watching the crowds moving past me. Sitting, hands in my lap at Castle Island, looking out over the water wondering how I got here, to this place where I didn’t even know myself. But there was a woman, sitting next to me, her blonde hair just slightly graying, I could tell, as it moved in the wind. And she was telling me all about myself. She thought she knew. I could see it in her eyes though; she was one of them, and innocent. She had no real idea who I was, what I had to do to survive. I wanted to hate her, but then she started with, “In every generation there is one,” and I was hooked. Like a big ol’ fucking Cod right outta the water in front of us I was hooked. She said I was that one. That I had been given a gift, of strength, or determination, and full of responsibility. But that was all okay, you know why? This gift, it gave me a purpose, it would give me something to see when I looked into the mirror. I was so ready to it. I remember I jumped up, just like the kid that I was.

“Hell Yeah!” I said. “Let’s get going then, Watcher lady! Make me the best damn Slayer ever!” And she started to. Really she did.

I have never done anything as well as fulfilling my destiny. I’ve saved lives; I was good, until I was bad.

Stupid me. Maybe if I had read more, listened to Giles and Wesley I would have known how tempting evil would be. But I went off half-cocked, hoping to clean the slate for killing Allan. Killing sickened me. Feeling blood pooling around my fingers, warming my skin, as a soul shuddered and left the body. It is a feeling, a sickening howl that will forever haunt me. Where slaying makes me feel elated and alive, taking a human life killed part of me - and I'll never get those parts back. It had been an accident, killing him. I was so jazzed with the kill. B and I were just rolling through the night. Want. Take. Have. Opening up a whole new world for her, showing her where the fun was, getting her to understand something that I had realized since I had been called. Slaying was what we were built for, what we were meant to do, and that you needed to enjoy it, Hell even love it. Knowing that any day you could die, you needed to enjoy your job, your choices, and your life. It was all too short to worry about the little things. And B was really getting into it that night. We were connecting on a completely primal level. It was the best night of my life. I was feeling the adrenaline, as we both took out the vamps in the alley. I could feel us moving in the same rhythm. I felt like her equal. For one whole second I was Faith the Vampire Slayer, right up there with the great and wonderful Buffy. But just for one second. Then, “Faith No!” rang in my ears. And the stake went in too easily; the blood began to roll from his still beating heart. His eyes were wide, he knew exactly who and what I was. And my world completely stopped. There was nothing. No breathe, no beating heart, no dust swirling in the night. Just a man dying under my hand. It was an accident. I wanted to tell B, grab her and beg her to help me. But the look in her eyes, those damn hazel eyes that meant the world to me, closed down, and all that was in them was scorn. She wouldn’t help me. It had only been an accident, but I knew, no one would believe that. If B wouldn’t, then no one would.

I knew I would have to prove myself again. My plan was simple; I would convince the Mayor I worked for him, that I was the evil Slayer seeking only to destroy Buffy and her Scoobies. Then I could give Buffy the skinny and we could destroy the Mayor, together. Then everything would work out, they would all see that I was somewhat good, and worth trying to help, and maybe they would let me into their closed off little world. But I had no idea how easy it would be to forget myself, my plan. I really am a screw up, a few nice things and a kind word and the Mayor had me. I felt valued, something so new, so foreign, and it took over my mind, I forgot the plan, forgot how it felt to be good. Only remembered the feeling of being Buffy's shadow, second best. Probably didn’t help with the Mayor and Buffy telling me I was second best all the time either. Didn’t they know I already told myself that every waking moment? And it was all downhill from there; really it was easier to be bad than good. Just move through the world, not caring about anything. I know now all the things I did, and how terrible they all were. Strangling Xander; He should have known better to come back looking to me to scratch his itch. And kidnapping Red, I would never have hurt her, not really. Didn’t they all see that? In the Cafeteria, I thought for sure B could see right through me, to know I may have been evil, but I lacked the strength to really hurt them. I killed that wicked bug before it ate off Wesley’s face; but oh no. That was just Psycho-Slayer’s moment of weakness I suppose. Nope, to them, in their eyes I was pure evil. Hey, might as well show them how evil is done, right? If that was the best they all thought I could do, then I would do it. At that moment the only thing that was real was the now, the looks in their eyes in the darkened room, accusing, disgusted with me. And I was disgusted with myself.

When Angel and Buffy tricked me into believing Angelus had returned, I wanted to laugh in their faces. When Angel pretended he was turned, in the crushing kiss, I wondered, this is what she felt. They thought I was fooled; maybe I wanted to be. But I tried to tell her, show her. I didn't hurt her, not really, I could have, but I didn’t. I thought she could tell.... guess not. Too bad, we could have ended it there, the game, but it just ripped me to the core. I’m happy I broke them up, sad that she would never forgive me. They thought I was so naive. I knew it was a game, that's why I played. It was kinda fun to really lash out at them. Pushed the fucking lovebird's buttons. How far would they go? How big of a wedge could I drive between them? Those two who had everything in a look between them, who were allowed to love. God it made me crazy to see them together. It was like the PTB were just playing me too, letting him comeback from hell, just when they knew I was coming. They knew only Buffy's love, her support would have stopped me from going down the path of darkness, and they couldn't have that. The Chosen Two together would unbalance good and evil - least that was what they told me when I was in my coma. Sorry, Faith, you are runner up, designated hitter. Can't let you die. If we need you we will call. Well, fuck you!

So my first shot at redemption was a bust. Ended up with a knife in the gut. At the time I never thought she could do it. But I needed it, she needed it. Hell even Angel needed it. If I had just let her take me, she'd never believe me. If I told her I was sorry, she'd never believe me. She would believe a fight, and I gave it to her. Did she know then, that I attacked Angel cause I was jealous? Did she know then that my hate had turned to love? As I fell from the roof, I dropped all my defenses and watched her. She needed to know the truth, I felt I owed her that much. You see, I was ready then to die.

No such luck.

Second shot was even shorter lived. Wake from a coma and I want to find Buffy, need to see her, hear her voice. She was constantly haunting me. I just had to know, was her trigger finger still itching to take me out? Were the lovebirds still tortured, making mooneyes at each other, knowing that they could never just get down to business. Part of me was hoping that they were still clinging to the hope that they could love each other, without messing everything up by doing the nasty. Part of me knew that they really had something special, something I could never even dream of knowing.

Boy was I surprised when I peered through the window, seeing the whole gang there, but no Angel. In his place some big softy, some man who was so human I could smell his frailty. She gutted me for Angel, and only eight months later there was someone else in her life? Man, at that moment did I feel worthless. My life was worth nothing to her, to anyone. Standing outside, watching them all, I could feel the shudders of rage ripping through me, but I swallowed them down, turning away. This was not how it was supposed to be. I was going to try, really try, to set things right. I needed to come back; the darkness was eating me alive. So I straightened my back, and my resolve, vowing to do the right thing. But that tape from the Mayor set me off. The nerve, telling me I was nothing; that I wouldn't survive. Oh, no. Now I had to prove that I would. Prove to all of them that I was worth something. Oops, back to evil me. Too easy. But being in her body, hearing how much I was pitied and hated, how much Buffy was loved. In the church was when I snapped. I was evil, filled with hate, and it was all for myself.

Please kill me. But they didn't. Knew being alive was a worse punishment. Shot at redemption number two - failure.

Sitting in my cell, holding my knees and rocking. My hair filthy, cloaking my eyes full of unshed tears. Shot at redemption three; prison. Maybe third time is the charm. I've been here; caged for eight months, still awaiting trial. Haven't killed anyone here, though kinda hard when you are kept in a cage 23 hours a day.

Prison. Seemed like an easy idea at the time, again me not thinking things through. But Buffy said, and we all know she's always right. Prison is my hell. I don't know if I can make it.

The very worst are the screams. Cries of sorrow, rage, of a woman being raped, another wishing she was. But the worst scream is the one that comes from me. Every night after the same dream.

Walking through the apartment, window is broken, rain coming in with the wind. Candles flickering, foot steps from behind, sound of leather pulling over a bended knee.

'B?'

'Why won't you just die?' her voice hollow, as the knife slips in again. Organs sliced, rib shattered. Pain.

'I tried, I can't.' I hiss through the pain. My blood is rolling down my leg.

'Try harder.'

'I am sorry B, really am.'

'Prove it. Die!' cold blade through the heart.

I scream, no words, just the sound of my scream, sitting up.

"Shuddap down there Spencer." the guard calls down. I can’t even respond, I am waiting hoping I remember how to breathe. I gasp.

"Buffy, I am so sorry." My lips move, but no sound comes out. I sob, grabbing my knees again, and crying.

*****

The ringing bell sounds, and that signals showers. I know the routine now, got it fucking down. There is never a variance, never anything exciting, it is all by the book, right on time. I am officially freaking out! So the bell rings, and I wait. Count to ten and the cell door opens. Another ten and another bell rings, and we are supposed to step out onto the yellow line. Yupe, right on fucking time! I step on the line and we all head off to the showers. I would much rather stink up the jail than shower with my block mates, but no, there are rules and decorum to follow.

In the showers I am still a robot, at least that is what they call me. If I concentrate I can pick out the voices, listening.

“Little bitch.”

“Robot.”

“Murderer, I heard, skins only.”

“Think she is so much better.”

“Psycho.”

It is pretty much the same, and I don’t pay attention any more. Today I stripped out of the orange slacks, the tank top, the granny panties – um, gotta say I FUCKING hate those, and the sports bra. I walk with my head down to the showers, hair hanging around my face, and stop in front of a nozzle. The water is hot; I will give the prison that. And the soap isn’t so bad, I have had worse. I lean back my head in the water, feeling it running through my hair, pulling it down my neck, my shoulder blades. It feels calming. Too calming. I wasn’t paying attention. Not until I felt a tug on my hair, and hands on my neck and shoulders. The tiled wall was against my back, and if I were anyone but the Slayer the wind would have been knocked out of me.

“You think you are better than us bitch?” A voice in my face, stale breathe on me. Okay, so not having fun here. I slowly opened my eyes, giving my best, ‘Pulease’ face. Rolling my eyes, I saw two women on each arm, one on the legs, kneeling, and then the ringleader in front of me. She had four tears tattooed under her left eye. I wondered if I should be scared? Naw. I could take them all easily, putting them all in the infirmary in about two minutes, even wet and weaponless. The one facing me was missing a tooth, I noticed as she grinned. “I’ve decided to teach you a lesson, Faithy, and make you one of my girls.” As she said my name, my body froze. I hadn’t heard that name in a long long while. She grabbed my face. “And you can’t stop me.” She groaned as her ugly eyes looked over my body. I decided to take the one out kneeling in front of me first. I flexed my thigh, getting ready to strike, and then my mind screamed. You deserve everything that comes with this place. You made B a victim. It is your time to play that role again, Faithy. I froze again. I was no better than any of them, and I did deserve this. “We are gonna make you talk, Faithy, you are gonna beg me to stop.” The hands on my arms got tighter, and then I felt my legs pulled apart, hands roughly moving over my body, twisting, touching, possessing. The hands and mouths were taking me. I had no power, supernatural strength meant nothing. The world around me dissolved, it wasn’t five filthy women raping me in the prison shower, it was a place much worse. A deserted house, a back bedroom, the over head light swaying, moving the shadows around me, and his voice. “Be good and beg Faithy.”

I felt the panic, the fear, the humiliation, and a tear rolled down my cheek. I bit my tongue. I would never cry again. I would never cry again, I would never cry again.

*****

Ten months. Prison so sucks. Last night I got rolled in the showers, again. This time there were five of them, ex-gang bangers I think. Ten legs kicking, ten fist punching. This time they only beat me up, which was a nice change. I just lay there and took it. It hurt, a little. Nothing like how Buffy hits, more like children striking out at me. Lucky punches to the face, so they got their blood, made them happy I guess. So they stopped. By the time I woke this morning I was five by five. Gotta love Slayer healing!

But the worst was the dream I had after I had made my way back to my cell. Maybe it had been my own damn fault, thinking of Buffy. There were no other thoughts in my mind really, just her. Damn Slayer Dreams!

Walking through the apartment, window is broken, rain coming in with the wind. Candles flickering, foot steps from behind, sound of leather pulling over a bended knee.

“B?'”

“Why won't you just die?” her voice hollow. I was waiting for the knife, but it did not come. Then I knew, I could smell her, feel her presence in the room. This wasn’t my normal nightmare. This was us, here together. Another of those damn dreams that we sometimes share. Vaguely I wondered which of us had called the other here, to this place outside of reality, a place in our subconscious. I felt her hands on my shoulders, roughly shoving me against the wall. The air was knocked out of me, replaced by the feeling of her breath on my face. “When will you just die and leave me alone!” Her fist struck my cheek. Once, twice, another jab to the stomach. She was not pulling her punches; she was lashing out, using every ounce of her strength. This was what I missed earlier, when they were attacking me. The pain. “Fight back!” She screamed, and then spat on my face. I could feel the hot saliva rolling down my cheek. I growled and lashed out at her, and we began the same dance we had performed in this very room, months ago. We were both moving with such fury. I could feel the evil coursing through me.

“You bitch!” I howled, striking out at her. Wanting her to feel the pain I felt, to feel the rejection she lashed out to me every single day I was in Sunnydale. I dropped and kicked her legs out from under her, and she fell, but quickly flipped back up, tossing her hair from her eyes. They were as black as mine, filled with the blood lust we both had for one another. Her fist flew out, and I caught her wrist, and used my added height and weight and slammed her into the wall, rushing her, pinning her arms over her head. My body pressed against her, holding her there. Both of our bodies shook with our pants.

“I hate you.” She hissed. I rested my forehead on the wall beside her head, my lips just a slight distance away from her ear.

“I know.”

“I hate you.” She said, still angry, but less rage filled. I pressed against her. I could feel her breasts on my chest, her thighs on mine.

“I know.” I whispered.

“I hate you.” This was so soft, her voice, that I know I shouldn’t have been able to hear it.

“I know.” I pulled my head up, and looked at her, tears slowly rolling down her cheeks.

“I hate you.” She mouthed. I set my forehead on hers.

“I know.” I said, feeling my own tears rolling down my face.

And then I had woken up. And found my pillow drenched beneath my head.

Now I'm shackled in the courtroom, not really listening, they are talking about me. This is the day, the day I’ve been waiting ten months for. Really the day I have been waiting my whole life for. Waiting to hear the truth. That I am evil, a lying piece of shit whore who deserves nothing but ridicule and pain. And I am ready. Hell on earth is what I deserve for all of the wrong I have done, all the wrong I was born to do. I am ready to repent. Who knows, in fifty years I might be ready, I might have my soul back. I kinda doubt it, but I am ready for what they are going to give me. Why is it taking so long? Why are they all looking at me like that? Pity! Don’t give me pity! I want to jump up and tell them, "I'm guilty, just fry me already." But then I’d have to speak, and I haven’t done that for ten months.

"The D.A. office is dropping all charges. In the preparation for trial, no evidence was found to corroborate the confession made by Ms Spencer. From reports provided by the prison, Ms Spencer has not spoken since her confession, and it is believed by the city and state, that she is delusional. We recommend that she be institutionalized, until further testing can show that she is neither a danger to herself or the citizens of the State of California.” The weasel looking man said, and my head snapped to him. WHAT? They can’t do this to me! This was my last chance, lucky number three! Buffy wanted me in prison, I needed to be in prison, I needed to get the blood off of my hands, and I needed my soul.

“Agreed.” Shut up Judge! I scowled. Then they were taking me away, pulling my chains. A soft gasp was heard, missed by most. But my Slayer hearing picked it up just fine. Looking through my hair, into the seats behind me. There they were. Giles in tweed, his eyes rounded and large, Joyce beside him, her eyes red and full of unshed tears. Was she crying for me? Don’t pity me, I pleaded with my eyes. They were pulling me away more forcefully now, but I kept my eyes on the two of them. Why had they come? Were they hoping to see me get sentenced? Was that the cause of the tears? No good news to run back to SunnyHell with, no pizza parties with the banner “Faith Gets Life, Hurray!”

So sorry to disappoint you, I rallied in my mind. Just if I could speak, if I could find a way to make the words come. Sorry.

*****

“My God, did you see her?” Joyce whispered as she clutched his arm. Giles merely nodded to her. He could not find his voice, fearing his emotions would betray him. “Skin and bones. She looks like she hasn’t eaten the whole time she has been in here.”

“Quite right.” He managed to get out as they walked down the steps of the courthouse.

“Did you see her eyes? Did you? So much pain, so much sadness. Is it true, Rupert? Is she mad?”

"I, erm. I am not sure. From what the Council has told me, she hasn’t spoken at all. No one is sure why she confessed-"

“Buffy.” Joyce said sadly. “Buffy told her she belonged here.” She began crying again.

“Yes, well, maybe Faith wanted to try and do the right thing.” He mused, wondering when the rogue Slayer would give up the act, when she would go back to her old ways.

“How did the charges get dropped?”

“The Council. We can’t have, erm, someone with her abilities in the general prison population.” He sighed, opening the door of her jeep. “We will be able to control her more easily now.”

“Does Buffy know?” She asked weakly.

“No, and she shouldn’t know. She has enough to worry about right now.” Giles said, closing the door softly.

*****

I thought prison was bad? God, sometimes I feel so stupid. Now I am in a small room, with nothing in it. The walls, ceiling, floor, all padded. They took away my clothes, and now I am naked, in the corner, hugging my knees to me, trying to hide behind my hair. This was how they tried to help people? And I thought that I was evil!

I am unsure how long it has been, maybe a day, maybe a week. No window, so I can’t tell. I do know that the drugs they give me are no joke. In the past, the Slayer metabolism would flush my system in about fifteen minutes, but not now. I feel so weak, so tired. Part of me wants to worry. See, my doctor, he’s British. I think we all know what that might mean.

I am rocking again, the motion I am hoping will get my blood flowing; get the chemicals out of me. This is Hell, true Hell. And I deserve nothing less, and I will endure this and anything else I am given. I have to, for B. I keep rocking, telling myself that I can do this, I will do this. It also soothes me, letting me drift off to sleep.

It’s dark, but warm. Sort of like being underground. I feel claustrophobic suddenly, and run my hands on my legs. I am wearing leather again. Used to feel good, but after being naked for so long, it feels terrible. I am contemplating taking them off, when it comes to me. The light smell, lavender and lilacs, and skin. I know that smell. My head jerks up, and I look through the darkness. Where is she?

“Faith?” Her voice is unsure, nervous. Why? Wait a minute. The darkness lightens just a little, and I can see her. She is wearing her sushi pajamas, her hair a little rumpled from sleep. Her eyes widen as she sees me. I know what this is.

“B.” I say softly, looking over her face. I really don’t want to fight again, not like last time.

“Another Slayer dream.” She sighs and sits down, crossing her legs and putting her hands in her lap. “What do you want, Faith?” She sounds so bored, tired.

“Me? I was just rocking in my cell, and then I am here. Don’t think it was me who brought us here.” I said, mimicking her, sitting down. “I am so drugged, I don’t think I was thinking of you. Maybe I was…”

“Oh.” She said, really interested in her hands. She looked so young and innocent. Nothing like the killer she was. I wondered if I looked like a killer to her still?

“Love the jammies, B.” I said, hoping to get her moving.

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Like the leather.” She mumbled. “You’re drugged?” She looks up, worried.

“Think so. Why did you bring me here?” I asked.

“Not sure. I was thinking about you today, I guess.”

“Good, frisky thoughts? Or murderous rage thoughts?” I asked, my voice holding the biting sting I am known for.

“Faith.” She sighed. “Do you ever think about me? I know it has been a year since I saw you last.”

“It’s been a year?” I puzzle, hearing the air leave my body. It hadn’t felt that long.

"You didn’t-" She started.

“No, sorry, B. You know me, little out of it, being the right hand of evil and all.” I snapped. “I think about you everyday.” I whisper, not sure if she can hear me. Should I just tell her that she stabs me every night?

“Do you still want revenge?” She asks.

“No. Just, just… URGH! Why did you bring me here Buffy!” I shout at her, not able to allow myself to loose all the power, not wanting my walls to crumble.

“I’ve decided I guess.” She started, and I just waited. “I was thinking I am done. I want to be done.”

“Done?”

“Slaying, done. I want to retire. I am tired of living every day with this damn curse. I really want it over.”

“We don’t just retire B.” I said sadly, and she nodded.

“I know. But I am in trouble, and I think I will be retired real soon.”

“And?” I think I know where this is going.

“What will happen then? Me, um, gone, and you locked away in prison?”

“I know what you want, B. I want it too, but I can’t.”

“If you tried you could get out. They will need you.”

“Buffy, no one has ever needed me. I meant I know the world needs a new, good Slayer. But for some fucked up reason I cannot kill myself. Must be a Slayer thing.” She looked uncertain. “I tried before, at Angel’s. Sliced my wrists, they bled a little, and then healed. Tried to hang myself in prison the second night I was there, when I realized what I had really done. Nothing happened, I just swung there for an hour, and then got down because it looked so stupid. I have tried B. I know what you want, and I so want to give it to you, but I can’t on my own.”

“I never wanted that, Faith. I, I never wanted you to die.”

“We both know you are lying, and that’s okay. We both wanted each others blood bad back then.”

“But not now.”

“No, not now.”

“What do you want now, Faith?”

The slap hurt, and my eyes opened. I moaned. I wasn’t ready to leave her yet. I wanted to tell her. Who was hitting me? And why; oh no. Cracking my eyes open to see the doctor. He had another syringe in his hand. The liquid inside was moving, thick and copious. What in the hell was he giving to me?

“Wake up Slayer.” He hissed. My eyes got even rounder. He pushed down on me his knees on my shoulders. I could smell him. Masculine and hot. My stomach churned, and I was filled with fear. Oh, please no, please no don’t do this to me.

“Fight me if you are so strong, stop me.” He said again, shoving the needle into my arm. The liquid burned through my veins. I could feel it coursing through my arm, down into my heart, where it grabbed me. It truly felt like a hand clutching my organ and squeezing. “But you can’t fight. We’ve taken the Slayer out of you. Now you’re nothing. Just like you have always been, how it was supposed to be.” NO! I screamed to myself. If they took that away I was nothing, and I would never be able to help Buffy.

*****

“We know you are in there Faith. We can see your eyes moving. So why not drop the act. Why not talk to us? We all are family here.” The doctor said. But I wouldn’t. They wanted to kill me slowly, fine, but they would not fuck with my head anymore. I kept my eyes closed. Fingers dug into my cheeks, and I could feel his breath on me. “Keep doing this, and we won’t keep you around until the real Slayer dies, we’ll just kill you and find the new girl.”

“That really will be quite enough, Rogers.” A soft voice said. I know that voice. I open one eye. Is it really him?

“Mr. Giles, you have been asked here to help get her out of this state she is in.”

“And you are clearly placing her in that state. You are giving her too much of the drug. I have supplied my reports to Quentin. You all know that it is getting dangerous in Sunnydale with this new threat. We should be trying to help and rehabilitate Faith, so she will be ready.” It was him; it was Giles – wait rehabilitate? Dangerous in Sunnydale? What the fuck was going on now?

“Oh, and you suggest we let this thing walk around with all of her power? I fancy living.” The doctor, Giles had called him Rogers, squeaked. I couldn’t blame him. I was pretty sure I could rip his fucking head off, and would. Bad Faith, Bad. Trying to be good, remember?

“Let me have a go with her, would you?” Giles said softly. A punch shattered against my jaw, and I felt it break, before my mind went black.

“Hey.”

“Hey right back. Missing me again?” I snickered, finding myself in Buffy’s bedroom. Another Slayer dream.

“I think you brought us here this time.” She said sadly. Her face looked drawn, tired. I looked around, and then I noticed I was wearing my hospital gown.

“Sorry for the fashion don’t.” I mumbled, crossing my hands over my chest.

“What do you want Faith?” She asked, sitting down.

“We could fight, we are always good at that.” I say with my crooked grin.

“I don’t feel like stabbing you again.” She snapped, but smiled.

“Come on, you do it every night.” I laughed, not meaning for those words to come from my lips. She raised her hazel eyes to me, full of tears.

“You still hate me don’t you?” whispered.

“Not really. UGH.” I sat on her windowsill. “Do you remember these dreams when we wake up?”

“Yeah. You?”

“Yeah. Shit.” She grinned. “It would be so much easier if you didn’t.”

“I know. I think our time is short, what did you want?”

“I am sorry Buffy.” I said honestly, strongly. “If I had only been stronger, then my plan would have worked just fine, and I would be there with you now, fighting the good fight.”

“Plan?” She asked, her eyes looking worried. That was a shock. I thought for sure.

“Have you ever gone back to my apartment?” I asked.

“No. I couldn’t.”

“My journal is there. Or it was. It’s been nearly two years now. But if it is still there,” my voice faded, and she nodded her head, understanding. “I am sorry Buffy. I had a lot inside me, and I didn’t know how to let it all out, free it all. I am sorry.”

I bolted awake. Giles was sitting in a chair beside the bed. For a moment I expected my jaw to hurt, but it was only a dull annoyance. Had they stopped the injections? Was I getting my Slayer mojo back?

“Good to see you back, Faith. Do you know who I am?” He asked. I gave him a “duh” look. “Can you speak?” He asked, taking off his glasses. I shrugged. “Try and say something.” He said softly, watching my face. I tried, struggling to find the muscles to make my mouth work. My eyes slammed shut in concentration, but I couldn’t. I sighed heavily, opening my eyes again to look at him, and shaking my head. “That’s alright. I have brought you something.” He said, taking a thin book from the floor. “It’s a journal. I know how you had one before; I thought maybe you would like to try again. Of course the doctors here will read it.” He grumbled. I took the book and the pen from him and furiously wrote on the first page. My hand was shaking and my writing was terrible, but it would do. I pushed the book back to him. Thankfully he read it out loud.

“So very sorry, never meant to hurt any of you. What is wrong with Buffy? Who’s the big bad? Been having Slayer dreams? And what the hell is the Council doing to me?” He smiled. “All good questions Faith. Maybe when you are feeling better.” I slapped my hands together and gave him my very best Willow “Resolve” face. “Or now.” He said replacing his glasses. “There seems to be a hell god, from another dimension in Sunnydale, and she is looking for a way to open the portal to all dimensions to get home. Her name is Glory.” I sat back against the wall, my eyes fixed on his face as he began to talk to me, telling me.

*****

Her eyes are filled with tears, and Giles never knew that someone could hold them there for so long. He had talked and talked all day to Faith, watching her face, but the story of Glory and the tribulations of the group have taken their toll on her. He can tell she wanted to cry; her bottom lip was clutched between her teeth.

“What is it Faith?” He asks softly. She passes him the journal. He reads, Can I get out of here and help? He knew she would ask that. “I am afraid not. The Council has decided to keep you here, until you are needed.” She is writing again, and pushes the book at him. They got me out of jail, right? They knew I would be needed. “They hope Buffy will prevail over Glory, but they must be sure, the fate of the world and all that.” She was writing again. Come back in ten minutes? I need some time. He nodded and left the room.

	B,
	I am not very good with the words, so I am going to get right to it.
	I am so very sorry for everything I did. I hope you remembered the 
	dream last night, and then you might know already some of the things 
	I need you to know.
	You can beat Glory, I know you can, you just need to trust in yourself 
	and trust in the Scoobies. I just know you can kick her hell-god ass. 
	Get through this for them, for the world. This place won’t last without 
	you, The Slayer. I am not second best, I AM sloppy seconds, and I can’t 
	do it half as good as you. I know that, you know that.
	Please be safe, and I still do.

	Faith

When Giles came back into the room, her face was red, and she pushed a folded letter to him. The front said, Please give to B. Her eyes pleaded with him, and he took the note. After leaving her he read it, and a frown came over his features. She was going to try, he knew that now. She was so very different than the way she was. But there was no way he would ever let Buffy know that Faith was in the possession of the Council. Not now. It was too dangerous to cloud Buffy’s thoughts at a time like this.

*****

She had gone on patrol, and subconsciously had found herself here. Standing on the street, looking up at the balcony of Faith’s old apartment. It was so quiet tonight. No birds, no bats, not even frogs or crickets. Just the beating of her heart, and the sound of her breath.

Everything was weighing on her shoulders, as it always was. The fate of the world, being supported by her. Did no one else understand how absolutely ridiculous that was? Her, the world’s protector? What a joke. Her head was in the clouds most of the time now. She knew she was not going to make it. All Glory had to do was turn up the power, and there would be Buffy soup. There was no way for her to succeed. She could see it in all of their faces, the fear, and the knowledge that she was letting them down.

She looked up again; remembering the fight, hearing the phantom noise of their boots on the ground as they fought. With a deep sigh, Buffy began climbing up the side of the building.

The place was just as she had left it, after Faith fell to her death. At least, that was what Buffy had thought at the time. That the Rogue Slayer had died, and there was no cure for the man, okay, vampire, she loved to make it until morning.

It smelled stale in here. But like Faith had pointed out in the dream, no one had been there for two years. Buffy made her way to the bed, looking down at the rumbled sheets, the comic book that lay open, just where it was when she had come into the room that night. She lifted the mattress, and saw the book lying there. It was thin, Buffy wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, something the size of a telephone book? It looked petite, very un-Faith like. She lifted it up, and dropped the mattress down. Slowly she sat on the floor and opened to the first page.

Sunnydale. I thought it would be bigger, you know, Hellmouth and all. But it is barely the size of my old neighborhood back in Southie. Okay, let’s not talk about that.

Patrolling will be a snap that is if she lets me patrol with her. I don’t know what to expect from THE Buffy. She was all my watcher spoke about. Buffy is this, and Buffy is that. Man, already I don’t want to meet her. How can I even hope to compete? But maybe I’m not meant to. I am heading out tonight to find her. I asked around the school, and it seems that there is this club she goes to. I hope I find her. After everything that my watcher told me about the great and mythical Buffy Summers, you think someone could have told me what the fuck she looked like.

Okay, maybe it was a good thing that no one told me what she looked like. I never would have believed them, not in a million years! It was almost funny, if it hadn’t been so terribly awkward. I was taking care of this major fashion don’t vamp, when she happened upon me. I think she had been watching, and was coming to save me. Wow, someone was coming to save me? That is SO never going to happen. So me trying to poof the vamp, and there she was. I really could not not stare. She was so small. I mean, not a dwarf, just petite, so unassuming. Just standing there, stake in her hand, hanging at her side. And man! What she was wearing, a short black dress with all these accents of color, perfect make up, red lips, and major heels – What? I am a girl; I notice these kinds of things! How she ever thought that she was going to be able to slay in that outfit I will never know- wait maybe I will, if she lets me stay around. What was I saying? How did I know it was her? The stake almost gave it away, not a normal fashion accessory, if you’re not a Slayer. I was fighting the vamp, looking at her from the corner of my eye, standing with this red head, and a leggy brunette, and two guys. I knew she was the one though. I could feel it coming off of her; I guess that is the Slayer vibe. It was a new sensation, like a humming almost. Never felt it before, but my whole body was tuned into hers. I wonder if she felt it too? She was just looking at me, her mouth a little open, her eyes just burning into mine. I really felt strange. I just could not believe how beautiful she was. I was just hoping, waiting for her to say something. And then she did! We spent time talking. She has all these friends, and that is so weird. All the books my watcher had me read where all, ‘the Chosen One will be alone,’ blah blah blah. But she has this support system in place. I can see that right off. She depends on these people, and trusts them. Which I don’t know if that is a good thing. One of those guys was freaking me out. His eyes were looking at her the way HE used to look at me. And when I was talking, I know I was pushing buttons with the naked priest story, but I had to see their faces. And he has it bad; the boy hormones are running through him. The look in his eyes, yeah, he could be like HIM. I’ll have to keep an eye on him. I don’t like that at all. But that’s off track. It was obvious they had no idea what to make of me, and I was completely freaking out, being around her; so I did something so terrible. I lied. Just, she looked so expectant, and so sad at the same time. How could I go, ‘Hi, I’m Faith, my watcher is dead and there is this freaky old vamp after me who scares me to death.’ No, not going to happen. I will work this out on my own, just as I always have. I can’t do that to her. I don’t even know her, but I can’t cause any more pain in those eyes.

Buffy closed her eyes slowly, remembering the night herself. She had just gotten back from L.A., and HELL, and wasn’t really feeling very open and charitable. Actually she was completely anti-Faith, picking the younger girl apart before her. She remembered that. Outside it was getting lighter, dawn was coming. She flipped through the pages, skipping some, getting closer to the end.

I am so sorry! I never meant to. I was so caught up in the moment, and in my thoughts. I should have been concentrating on the slaying, paying attention to the world around me. It’s just, we were so in tuned to each other, fighting, slaying. She was so close I could smell the power coming off of her, and could hear her grunting with the punches she threw. If I had been keeping my mind on the slaying, and not in my little pathetic fantasy world, I might have been able to stop myself, before killing him. I didn’t know! God, Buffy I am SO sorry. I didn’t know. I never meant for you to feel that pain. All I have ever wanted was to please you, make you proud, and make you want to include me into your world. But I had no idea how I could get you to do that. What could I do to let you know how much you meant to me, how much I was learning from you? I want nothing more than to be part of your inner circle, to be invited to the Bronze for dancing, to be invited to the Scooby meetings. I was so tired of sitting in this shitty motel, waiting for you to pick me up to go patrolling, tired of you dropping me off after a few hours, and never knowing when you would be back. It was killing me. And then tonight everything seemed to just be going so well, you were dropping some walls, and I was too. But it was over in an instant, because I couldn’t stop thinking about how beautiful you were when you slayed, and I fucked up. I killed a man. And when I looked into your eyes, and saw what was there, I died too.

All I ever wanted was to love you, but tonight I saw that even that couldn’t be done. You hate me, despise me, and worst, pity me. I can’t bring him back, I wish I could, but I can’t. But maybe I can prove to you that it was a mistake. See, I have been sitting here, thinking about how I can prove to you that it was a mistake. I saw that fear in your eyes, thinking I did it on purpose. I didn’t though. So what can I do? I can be like a Scooby. Red hacks in and gets you info with the computer, maybe I can just hack in and get the inside scoop. I know the Mayor knows I killed Allan. Maybe I can use that. Maybe I can be just strong enough to get next to the Mayor. I don’t know how else we can stop him. I will get all we need from the inside, and then I will give it to you, and then I pray that you will forgive me. I need so much for someone to believe in me.

I am loosing. I can feel it. I am sliding down into the mouth of Hell and there is nothing for me to grab on to. I am sitting in the fucking wicked apartment, that the Mayor gave me. I can’t believe it. He gave this to me! ME! He talked to me today, not about end of the world stuff, but about life. He told me he could see the pain of my past in my eyes, and that he wishes he could make it up to me. He said things like that should never happen to people, but what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. He said I am strong, and that he knows I will make him proud.

God, B, if only it was you saying those things, things I have been praying my whole life to hear. But you never would, you would never stoop down to the sewers where I dwell. My insides are ripping I can feel them. I used to be filled with so much love, unconditional burning, driving me fucking crazy; can’t-breath-when-you-touch-me love - but now it is turning, and I am so scared of what I am becoming. Maybe you were all right. I am evil, and this is all I will ever be good at.

Buffy wiped a stray tear from her cheek, and slowly closed the book. It was time for her to get back to the dorms. She had to get ready for class, and then check on her Mom. She hadn’t been feeling well. She took the journal with her, holding it tightly in her hand.

Faith had loved her. She sighed, walking down the street. Buffy had known that. Faith could hide a lot in her eyes, but the night she stabbed her in the gut, Buffy had seen it. The acceptance, the forgiveness, the thanks, and the unconditional love.

But what Buffy had wished she didn’t know, was that she had truly failed the younger Slayer. If only she had her mind in the right place, everything would have turned out differently between the two of them. They would be fighting together, and Glory wouldn’t know what had hit her. Maybe she just needed to swallow her pride, and do what she needed to do. As Buffy walked, she changed course. She was heading for Giles’.

*****

I decided I would talk when I felt like it. And I sure as shit didn’t feel like it yet. So the doctors had given me a dry erase board and a red pen. Red. Subtlety was not wasted on me with that one. Assholes, I smirked. My mind was back in place, no more drugs, and no more venom. My strength was coming back slowly as well. After the coma I never really had the chance to get my muscles back into shape. Lying around for eight months really will mess you up. Plus being catatonic for a year, but hey, I needed that time. I needed to heal.

And I think that now I have. I have accepted my place with open arms, just as I had accepted my gift when my Watcher came and took me from my mother’s house, telling me “You are one of the Chosen. It is your destiny to fight.” So I was second string, and that was okay. I was in the wings, readying myself for the day that Buffy needed me; the day the world needed me.

I really am in a mental hospital, but I do have some perks. The training room for one. I love that room. I spend two hours in the morning and then three in the afternoon. It was wicked painful in the beginning, but I am feeling it now, getting into the movement and the feel of fighting. Though no one here will spar with me, only Giles. But he hasn’t been back for a month.

Right now I am sitting in the Dr. Rogers' office, and I am making him explain the Council’s fucked up logic to me again.

EXPLAIN AGAIN in red, held out to him.

He hissed through his teeth. “There never should have been the two. Buffy should never have been brought back to life, after she died.”

BUT SHE WAS

“Right. And Kendra was called, and the full power of a Slayer was passed to Kendra. Then you have two Slayers, both with full and equal power. That was never supposed to be. The prophecy clearly states ‘In every generation there is the Chosen One.’ Not two. ONE.” He said sitting at his desk, twirling a gold pen in his fingers.

AND THIS WAS WRONG, WHY AGAIN?

“The balance of good and evil was unevenly matched.”

BULLSHIT – WAY MORE EVIL

“I would ask you not to be vulgar. There is always supposed to be more dark than light. That is what makes human society move forward, evolve. With too much good comes stagnation, and then extinction. Kendra was gone quickly, as you know. And then you were called. There was no way to really stop the problem at the time. The Council is very impressed with Buffy, so we could never agree that she needed to be terminated.” I scowled at him, a low growl coming from my chest. “We would never do that. There was no need, you see.”

CAUSE I WENT EVIL, MADE THINGS OK

“In a manor of speaking, yes.”

PTB, THEY DID IT ON PURPOSE.

“P.T.B.?”

POWERS THAT BE. HAD A VISION, THEY TOLD ME IT WAS THE ONLY WAY TO CORRECT THE TABLES. I HAD TO BE EVIL.

“Well, then, yes. That is correct. You made things right. And stop writing. I know what is next. You are here with us, under our watch until, and if you are needed. If Buffy cannot survive this latest nemesis, then it will be your turn to be the Slayer. If not, you will stay with us here until Buffy dies. If you are too old, then you will be terminated, and the new Slayer will be called.” He said, a touch of smile on his thin lips.

GOT IT. GONNA GO NOW.

I stood up and walked to the door. I turned and flipped him off, then left the room.

*****

“What!?” Buffy’s voice came out strangled. She looked down at her Watcher, as he cleaned his glasses. She could not believe what he had just told her, and he could not believe he had blatantly lied.

“She is dead.” He said again. She began pacing.

“When?”

“Last week, I believe.” He replaced his glasses, looking up at her with a frown.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She hissed at him, thinking that this could not be happening.

“Things with Glory, I, erm, you should not be distracted.” He said strongly in his defense.

“DISTRACTED?” She yelled, slamming her fist down on his table. “She could have saved us all.”

“No, Buffy, that is not true. She is not a true Slayer, you know that, you have always know that there was something wrong with her.” Giles said.

“What was wrong was how we treated her, that we used her, like she was used her entire life.” Buffy said, her words full of self-loathing. “I made her what she became.”

“No, Buffy. She was broken before she ever came to Sunnydale.” He stood and put his hand on her shoulder.

“But, I mean, how? She and I have been sharing dreams – and she, um, she told me that she tried to take her own life, but couldn’t.” Buffy whispered, and Giles sighed knowing that new information. He had almost told her that Faith had killed herself.

“I am not sure, exactly. I think there was a fight in the Prison. And she was killed.” He said. Buffy looked up at his face, mouth open to ask another question, when the phone rang. Giles answered the phone, color draining from his face. Buffy knew there was something wrong. “Buffy, we need to go to the hospital.” He said hanging up the phone and moving to the door. “It’s your mother.”

*****

I felt strong again. My body moved like it used to, I felt like a cat moving through the jungle. Or maybe a shark? Oh, fuck it; Faith was back, and strong and ready. But I really hoped I wasn’t ready. How long would I stay in this place, really amped, so ready to fight the fight? It was like constant foreplay with no actually release. It was driving me out of my mind.

But anything was better than them telling me that Buffy was gone, and that it was my turn up to bat. I would gladly sulk around this place twisted tight into a coil for fifty years, if Buffy was alive and out there. This was my true penance. My true redemption.

I couldn’t reach her in my dreams anymore, and that had me worried. I wondered if Giles had given her my note. I wonder if she had found my journals. I had tried to remember all that I said in them. I know the gist was that I had been jealous of her, in awe of her. And slightly angry with her. But who could blame me? They left me wallowing in that filthy motel, never including me in their reindeer games, only coming to me when it was time to patrol or fight a big nasty. To all of them I had been a spare part. Need a little extra fire power? Hey, let’s get the whore from her rat hole, get her to help, and then while we celebrate, send her back to the rattrap till we need her again. I hated that. It was just like my childhood all over again. Forget little Faithy until she was needed, user her, and then forget her again. Oh, yeah I was mad at them! The whole Scooby group of them.

When Allan died in front of me, my world had shattered, and I needed her so badly. But I had betrayed her. I know I had mused on what might have been that night if I hadn’t made that mistake. And I knew it had been my fault that she ran. I shut her out. And then I tried to make it all better, by my plan with the Mayor. But we all know how I fucked that one up, don’t we?

*****

"Buffy, do you really think this is the right time to-" Willow began, ringing her hands as the two girls stood in the cemetery.

“Don’t Will, just don’t.” Buffy mumbled, still looking down.

“I am just worried, for the past few days you have been kinda out of it, and isn’t this for the best? I know I am relieved.” Willow began again, an edge to her voice. Lately she had been getting stronger, more powerful. Buffy had seen it, and at first dismissed it. But now it was obvious. Willow was tapping into some strong powers, and was really coming out of her shell, shyness evaporating with each passing day. “With Glory trying to get the Key, and your Mom, this should put your mind at ease.”

“Ease?” Buffy turned to face her best friend. "This is supposed to put me at ease? That everyone I –" She shook her head. “Maybe you are right. Part of me was always dreading the day she would come back.” Buffy wanted to add, that she was hoping the other would come back to help her defeat Glory, because she wasn’t convinced she could do it on her own. But Willow had rage in her when it came to Faith, and Buffy just didn’t have the energy to deal with that right then. “Why don’t you go, I just, I need to say goodbye.”

“Why? After all that she did to you, to Angel, to Xander, to me?”

“We did things to her too Will.” To that Willow snorted.

“Whatever, Buffy. I will see you back at the magic shop.” The red head turned and walked away. Leaving Buffy to kneel before the fresh marker. She moved her fingers over the name.

“I, I am sorry Faith. For the things that I did. I am sorry.” Buffy took a stake from her pocket and slammed it into the earth. “And I forgive you.” She whispered, and then stood, feeling a tear roll down her cheek. “I wish you could have come, I really need you here. I know that you had been trying, and I had always hoped that I could give you that second chance. Maybe we both could have learned from our mistakes, and moved on. But we’ll never know, huh? I hope you are in heaven. Everyone here thinks you are in hell, but I hope not. I hope there is a special Slayer heaven. Cause then I will get to see you again, and then we will talk. I know you are more of an action girl, but we need to talk.” She wiped her eyes, and then turned away, walking out of the far corner of the cemetery.

*****

I was taking out everything in me, rage, passion, fear on the punching bag. (Right, left, left, right, left, right, right, kick) I just didn’t want to stop; I couldn’t stop, not then. My mind was reeling, spinning with thoughts. Earlier I had been in the shrinks office, sitting there while she asked me the cliché questions over and over. Didn’t she get it?

“Faith, tell me about your childhood.” She had clasped her aged hands as if in prayer. What made her think today would be any different than all the days before this? I hadn’t answered then, why would I answer now? I crossed my arms and stared at her. “I see. From your behavior, I can only assume that there was some abuse, either mental or physical.” I smirked, giving her my best duh face. “I really want to help you get better Faith. We all want that.” I picked up my pen and wrote, then turned the board to her.

ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?

“Who do you mean?” She asked. I groaned.

COUNCIL

“Yes.” She smiled softly. She kind of reminded me of my first Watcher. Maybe it was the light blue eyes, eyes that didn’t seem to judge me the first time we met.

THEN YOU KNOW ABOUT MY MOM.

She shrugged at that. “We know some, from the reports of your, erm Watcher.” I shrugged my shoulders at her. “But I think you need to talk about it.” I rolled my head back and tapped my throat. “I know you can talk Faith.”

I HAVE TRIED. DOESN’T WORK. HOW COME?

“It is a symptom of your condition.” She said.

BEING EVIL PSYCHO SLAYER IS A CONDITION NOW?

“Do you feel evil?” I thought about that one for a minute. Did I? What did I feel if not hate and evil? Remorse? Guilt? I always felt those, and they were tied to the evil. I nodded my head yes. She closed her eyes for a moment. “If you were let go today, right now. What would you do?” I sat up in the chair, writing excitedly.

1. FIND VAMPIRES
2. KILL VAMPIRES –poof
3. EAT PIZZA
4. GET LAID
5. GO HELP BUFFY WITH BIG-BAD-HELL-GOD-BITCH

I turned it around, and she smiled, even chuckled. “What about revenge for being locked away? What about finding Buffy and showing her the meaning of pain? Payback.”

I DON’T HATE HER.

“What do you feel?”

WE ARE NOT GOING THERE DR

“Okay, okay.” She stood up and walked around the desk. “I don’t think you are completely evil, Faith. I don’t think that you ever were. But you still need our help. We are offering it to you, and all you need to do is find the humility in yourself to want help. We cannot do it for you, you must want to heal yourself.” She said sadly. I nodded, and then wrote slowly.

NOT READY, YET.

And now I was beating the shit out of this punching bag, and it felt so good, but it hurt so much too. I hadn’t really noticed that the liquid running down my cheeks wasn’t sweat, but my tears.

*****

“She is vastly improving.” The doctor said from behind Giles’ shoulder. They both knew the doctor had his doubts months ago when the council decided to bring the rogue Slayer here, but now it could be seen. Faith just didn’t seem to be the same girl, not completely.

“Good. She may be needed.” Giles said softly, rubbing his neck, and dreading the thoughts he was having. He just could not find one plausible way that Buffy would survive Glory on her own. “We may need to send her soon.”

“You know that cannot be Rupert. There cannot be two Slayers.”

“The world will bloody end if Buffy fails!” He hissed at the other man, his desperation getting the better of him.

“Faith won’t be going anywhere. Unless she opens up, unless we give her a clean bill, if the current Slayer passes before we have the results dictated by the Council, Faith will be terminated.” Giles nodded slowly, understanding. He looked through the glass window again, watching Faith as she wrote in her journal.

*****

I always knew the Council was a bunch of fuck up losers, but they were stupid now too? Hello! Slayer hearing, can hear every fucking word you mutter in your holier-than-thou accent outside my door. I didn’t even bother to look up.

So if I didn’t get my shit together, they would kill me, calling the new Slayer. Well, maybe that was what the world needed, a new fresh Slayer. I sat bolt up right. What did Giles just say?

“Bringing a new, untrained girl into this, after the hell dimensions are opened, if Buffy does fail – do you really have hope that we will survive?” I looked up and locked eyes with Giles. He wasn’t stupid. He knew I could hear him. I nodded, got the message loud and clear. I needed to get my shit together.

I opened the journal to a fresh page and started writing. My entire life, all of it, everything. They wanted it all; they were going to get it all.

*****

“This can’t be happening.” Buffy said underneath her breath. How much more was she going to loose? Riley was lost in the middle of the Amazon. Angel was missing. Her mother was dead, Tara was now gone mentally. And Faith, Faith was dead. She was standing at the foot of the hospital bed, watching as Willow held Tara, seeing the love between the two of them, even now, when things seemed to be at their worst. Buffy turned her face away, holding her tears in her eyes.

How could she look at them, knowing she was going to fail, knowing that their world was going to become a literal hell? The Powers That Be were a bunch of lunatics in Buffy’s mind, leaving her, a broken young girl to save the world.

*****

How could this be true? How could this be a life? The doctor set the journal down and looked across her desk at the young woman, just eighteen years of age. She held the demons and the hell that was her past behind her pale skin, behind her fired eyes. This seemed to make things so clear, based upon everything she had read in the Watcher Council’s files on the girl, how she had succumbed to Mayor Wilkins, based solely on his ability to make her feel valued, make her feel needed. It all made sense, how easy, how blinded by need the then sixteen-year-old girl had been for someone to believe in her, and show concern and care for her. But through it all, the doctor wondered how could she ever laugh? How could she ever love? She watched as Faith tilted her head to the side, and smiled softly, her lips moving a fraction of an inch. The older woman looked down at the last line of the journal. Do not pity me.

“I never will pity you Faith. You are a survivor, so strong.” She said softly.

STRONG ENOUGH TO PASS? The red letters were so striking on the white board. The older Doctor smiled. “I wish I could say yes, but I will file my report to the Council, and they will decide.”

BUFFY NEEDS ME!!!!!!

“You know you can never work beside her again, regardless of what happens, we can never allow that. You know it deep down, Faith. As much as it hurts, and seems unfair, I know that you understand.” She watched the young woman’s lip begin to quiver, and tears slip from her eyes.

SHE IS GOING TO DIE WITHOUT ME. I CAN'T LET HER DIE

“You don’t have that choice.” She said softly. The room was filled with a moan, so low, as Faith put her head in her hands, sobbing.

*****

She stood looking down the platform, seeing the dimensions opening, growing wider. A large beast flew from the opening, and she was shaken from her thoughts. It had started. She wasn’t ready in time. The world was going to end, all because she had taken too long. Whimpering beside her. Dawn looking up at her, eyes so round and afraid. The metallic smell of blood in the air between them. BLOOD! She thought, and she knew. Death is your gift. Buffy Summers took Dawn in her arms and began speaking in her ear, softly.

*****

“Buffy NO!” I screamed aloud sitting up in the small bed. I felt it inside, even in my dream, I felt it. Like an extra beat of my heart, that made my whole body freak out. And I knew. Buffy was dead.

I jumped up off the bed and went to the steel door, and began slamming my palm against it.

“Open this fucking door! Open this door! Rupert Giles! Rupert Giles! Rupert Giles!” Was my mantra, coming from my mouth, but my voice was so very soft, from disuse.

*****

She was pacing in the room. They sat behind the one-way mirror, watching her move. Eight paces, turn, eight more, turn.

“She was calling for you.” Rogers said beside Giles. “Out Loud.” He said for emphasis. Giles just nodded. He felt broken inside. Two days, just two days without Buffy and he felt so very empty.

“What,” he squeaked, and then cleared his throat, “What is the will of the Council?” Giles asked, his eyes watching the girl pacing.

“The dimensions between worlds was open for some time, and which leaves some serious cleaning up. They agree that Faith should do it. They have taken your recommendation into consideration and agree.” Rogers said, sounding somewhat miffed.

“I see.” Giles said.

“If you ask me, this is a terrible idea,” Rogers mumbled.

“No one asked you.” Giles stood and walked to the door connecting the rooms. He knew he wasn’t ready for this, but he felt he had no choice. There was no way the remaining children could handle the random evil that was moving about Sunnydale, they needed Faith. He opened the door, and stepped into the room. The young girl froze, with her back to him.

“I am ready.” Her voice was low, raspy. He nodded, not caring that her back was to him. He watched as she slowly turned, facing him. She looked so strikingly young, eyes blood shot and filling with tears. “I won’t let her down, again.” This was a whisper, and Giles turned, leaving the door open as he walked through, knowing she was following slowly behind.

*****

I followed behind him out the main doors. The sunlight was so bright it hurt, and I was seeing twinkling lights. I groaned and stopped walking, covering my eyes with my hands. It was just too bright. I hadn’t seen the sun in, in, fuck I couldn’t remember seeing the sun last.

“Faith?” Giles called softly to me, he was beside me, and I could hear his keys jingling in his palm.

“Bright.” I whimpered. “Walk, I will follow.” Man my voice hurt so much. I screamed and yelled the entire first day, until they told me he was coming. Then I just sobbed. But now was the time to be strong. I felt his fingers enveloping my upper arm. I tensed stiffly, and then cursed myself. This was Giles, if he wanted to beat the shit out of me, I’d let him. I deserved it. He gently pulled me forward.

“What have they done to you?” He whispered, but I knew he knew.

“Not nearly what I deserved.” I let him lead me forward, and kept my eyes clamped shut. He helped me into the car, and I slowly opened my eyes, it still hurt, but I could focus now, out of the direct sunlight. Giles slipped behind the driver’s seat. “New car G-Man, I am liking the wheels. Much more you.” I slipped back into myself, watching him as he turned his head to look at me.

“Faith, let me say this now. This is a trying time for me, I, well.”

“You loved her like a daughter, I know. Your heart is broken. I understand. I also understand that I have no place in Sunnydale other than to clean up what is left. When I am done with that, the Council will decide my fate, either it’s quite enough for them to, to terminate me, or I become acting Slayer.” I said locking his eyes.

“Quite right.” Giles said softly. “There is something else, about the children.” Giles took his glasses off, and began cleaning them.

“I know the Scoobies don’t need to have me around right now, they are all broken and,”

“That, and, erm, Faith they all believe that you are dead. They are not expecting you back; they will not know that you are back. I will not put them through that.” His words were like ice, and though they cut me, I heard him and understood him loud and clear. But then I felt my eyes rounding, as the thought came to me and out of my mouth.

“Did, did she think I was?”

“Yes. It was for the best.” I felt a tear rolling down my cheek, but took in a deep breath. She thought I was gone, that was why I couldn’t reach her in our dreams. And now, with her gone, I would never see her again, never be able to tell her all the things I needed to. Buffy was dead. She was gone. I had never felt so empty in my life as I did at that moment.

I nodded to Giles. “There will be strict rules to be followed when we arrive, Faith. And I have the power, that if you go outside of those rules, I do not think I need to say it.”

“You will kill me.” I said, trying to make it up beat. I vowed to myself that I would not put him in that position, I would not make this broken man shatter by taking my life. I looked at him, showing him that I wouldn’t do anything. I hope he could see that. He moved to start the car, and we began driving away. I looked back at the hospital; it looked very small, normal even. I sighed, I could have died there, and part of me did, with Buffy.

She was gone, and nothing would ever be the same. I could not imagine what life would be like for me now, how long it would last. A week, a year, five years. But did it really matter?

It all kinda makes more sense to me now. How Buffy felt about being the Slayer.

See, when I was called I had nothing in my life, and no future. There was nowhere for me to go, I was stuck, whoring around, living hand to mouth through each day. But then I was this great thing, with a prophecy and power. I was something, I was a Slayer! It was the greatest gift.

But B, now she was totally different. She had family, friends, and a life. She had a future, college and a loving husband, 2.3 kids and a Suburban. That was what she was living each day for. Moving towards that goal. Being the cheerleader, studying hard in school, doing her nails and being popular. But then some old guy comes and tells her she has this destiny, she must give up all her dreams all of her life and fight the evil that lurks in the shadows, the evil that we dare not speak its name. So to her, this was a curse.

And with B being gone, I don’t see it as a gift any more, not completely. I know the burden that comes with it, the responsibility, the knowing that I will never be free again. I will always have to fight and live based on the fact that I am The Slayer. And it feels like a curse for me now too.

...continued in Duty...

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