Forgive if not Forget

By Janine

Disclaimer: All belong to Joss Whedon and the WB. Don't sue.

Buffy walked into the dorm room she shared with Willow and headed straight for her bed. Once reaching her intended position she promptly flopped down and let her limbs fling where they wanted to and took up intently staring at the ceiling. Her life was falling apart; her life was reaching new and magnificent heights. Her life was treading into uncharted territories; she was falling in love. She had fallen in love; she couldn't fall in love.

She didn't know what the hell was going on inside of her head or her heart and it was not so slowly driving her insane.

Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and decided that the only way she was going to figure out what was going on with her was if she sat-or in this case lay down-and thought long and hard about what had been going on in her life over the past month. And she knew exactly where to start her recollection, and who to start it with. All things considered, it all came down to Faith.

{Faith was sitting on top of her, only it wasn't Faith, it was her. Faith was in her body sitting on top of her punching her about the face. But that wasn't really it, Faith wasn't really punching her-Buffy-she was punching, yelling at and cursing at herself. Buffy, unfortunately for her, just happened to be occupying the battered body for the moment.

Then it stopped, the fury, the raging, and the anguish…it froze. As their minds, their consciousness, or whatever you would like to call where transferred back into their bodies, time seemed to stand still for a moment. Both of them trapped in a form of stasis. Then Buffy looked down into Faith's brown eyes. Shocked, lost, hurt, scared brown eyes. And then she was being shoved away, the body beneath hers bucking up and thrusting her off in a violent motion. And then Faith was standing, and turning, and running away.

Buffy sat there for a moment, stunned, confused, then she too stood up. "Faith!" she called out, her own voice sounding strange to her ears after having inhabited the other Slayer's body. "Faith!" she called again when the Slayer didn't stop. There was a brief hesitation in her exit, but she didn't stop.

Once again Buffy paused for a moment; she was torn. Torn between what her heart was telling her to do and what her head was telling her was best. Should she chase after her brunette counter part as her heart so passionately willed her to do? Or should she let her go, let her run out of her life, out of Sunnydale, into oblivion? There was really no decision to be made. Buffy headed after her.

Faith had a good head start on her, but through pure will Buffy managed to keep her in sight. The distance between them closed and gained over the course of the chase, but Buffy never lost sight of the girl. The game of cat and mouse went on for a considerable amount of time, a half-hour Buffy would have guessed if she had been asked. Through the town, over park benches, through the woods, into alleys, they ran. Then finally, after passing through a thicket of woods Buffy observed the girl in front of her came to a halt.

Cautiously approaching the other girl Buffy craned her neck to try and observe what could have caused this sudden change of events. She found it. Faith was standing on the edge of a cliff. How far the fall was below Buffy couldn't tell, but if it was enough to stop Faith she knew it had to be considerable.

"Alright, B" Faith said turning around, her voice full of bravado. "Let's have at it."

Buffy didn't move.

"No," the blonde Slayer responded softly.

"That wasn't a question, B," Faith said bouncing on her heels lightly. "It was a warning. Whether you want to heed or not serious hurt is coming your way," the brunette went on.

"I don't want to fight you," Buffy responded in the same tone she had used before.

"Little late to play Mother fucking Teresa," Faith responded. "You can't just gut someone and then expect to be all hands across America," she went on approaching Buffy.

"I won't fight you," Buffy responded. "Not again," Buffy went on. "Like you said…I've done enough damage already," she said finishing as Faith reached her.

"Suit yourself," Faith responded raising her hand.

Buffy closed her eyes and waited. And waited…and waited.

Faith's hand twitched as she held it back, ready to strike. It would be so easy. Buffy wasn't even looking. She could take her out; she could take her out so easily. All she had to do was move. All she had to do was hit her. All she had to do was grow a fucking a spine because her fist just wouldn't move.

"Fuck B!" Faith swore twirling around angrily. "That's fucking low! Open your goddamn eyes!"

"If I do that you'll hit me," Buffy responded keeping her eyes firmly shut.

"That's the plan," Faith growled.

"Then I'm not going to open them," Buffy stated firmly. "I don't want to fight you," Buffy paused. "I also have no desire to be pummeled to death," she added.

"What the hell is this?" Faith asked in an exasperated tone. "You chase me out here like a fucking cougar so that you can what? Nag me to death? Fucking hand me over to the police and get your honorary deputy's badge?" she went on. "I'm outta here," she said starting to move around Buffy.

"No!" the blonde Slayer exclaimed reaching out her hand on instinct and grabbing onto the darker Slayers arm.

"If you don't let go of me, I don't care if you shut your eyes and plug your ears, I will kick your ass," Faith ground out with barely controlled anger. Why the fuck couldn't Buffy just leave her alone to crawl off somewhere and die? Did she take some sort of perverse joy in torturing her, because god knew she couldn't be doing what she was doing because she gave a damn about her. There was an angle Faith was missing. She knew it.

"I'll take that chance," Buffy responded softly. "Because I can't let you go."

"Can't B? I don't fucking think so. Won't is more like it," Faith responded trying to tug her arm free. "Say sionora," Faith went on raising her hand. This time she wasn't going to fucking chicken out. She didn't care if every cell in her body was telling her to just listen to Buffy. She didn't care if in her heart she wanted to listen to Buffy, wanted to trust Buffy. All the cared about the inevitable fact that she was going to get screwed over and she just wasn't fucking up to that at the moment. Her flying shit deflector was temporarily malfunctioning so she was going to have to duck out of the way.

"Please, Faith," Buffy said with a pleading edge in her voice. "Let me help you."

"Help me?" Faith asked incredulously. "Help me? What the fuck do you think you could do to help me? Shoot me this time?" she went on, her voice involuntarily exhibiting the pain the topic brought her. Buffy was silent for a moment, the remark hitting its target with a stinging accuracy.

"I thought that I'd maybe start with a hug," Buffy responded softly. She had meant the remark to come out with a trace of humor but as it was she sounded deathly serious, and, she realized, she was.

"A hug?" Faith asked, this time her voice more bewildered than angry. At least for the moment. "You want to hug me?"

"I…yes, yes I do," Buffy said finally opening her eyes and turning to face Faith.

"What the fuck are you up to?" Faith asked suspiciously renewing her struggles. "You're just trying to mess with my head. Make it easier to screw me over," she went on.

"No," Buffy said not releasing Faith from their gaze. "I just want to help you. Starting with a hug. No screwing or fucking, or any other verb that you want to toss out. Just the truth, and nothing but the truth…so help me god," Buffy went on holding her hand up as if swearing a solemn oath.

"You don't give a flying fuck about me," Faith said in what was intended to be a harsh whisper, but came out more a heart broken accusation.

"I give many flying fucks about you," Buffy responded a smile slowly making its way across her face. "And I know that I've done a lousy job of showing it and of that I am deeply ashamed," she went on. "You also have to admit that you didn't exactly make it easy for me what with all…" Buffy searched for a delicate term, "with all of your extracurricular activities," she said finally settling on a word. "But here now, I'm standing in front of…well beside you, holding a white flag. I haven't really given the how, or even the why much thought, but I know that I want to help you…and I know that somewhere inside of you you want to accept it. Please, listen to the white guy on your shoulder," Buffy finished in a pleading voice.

"Wha…" Faith started to say and Buffy could see tears beginning to form in her eyes. "What do you want from me?" she asked turning away from Buffy. She'd be damned if she were going to let Blondie see her cry.

"Just you," Buffy responded truthfully.

"I can't undo it!" Faith exclaimed whipping her head back around to face Buffy.

"I know," Buffy said. "I'm not asking you to."

"Then what are you asking me to do?" Faith asked not quite able to hold back the tears.

"Forgive," Buffy responded wanting nothing more than to wipe the tears from Faith's face, but reframed knowing that it wasn't quite time yet.

"Who? You?" Faith asked ready to yank her arm away again.

"No," Buffy responded gently. "You."

"Forgive me?" Faith asked her a vile half laugh, half sob erupting from her throat. "And how the fuck am I suppose to do that? I'm a goddamn murdering, fucked up, pathetic piece of white trash that's never touched something without fucking it up! And I'm suppose to forgive myself?"

"Yeah," Buffy responded reaching out this time with her other hand to place it on Faith's cheek.

"How?" Faith asked losing her internal battle and succumbing to the tenderness Buffy was offering. "How?"

"I don't know," Buffy said shaking her head. And she didn't. She didn't even know what she was doing out there, or why she should care about what happened to Faith, how she could care after all that had happened between them and all that they had done to each other. But she did care. And she knew that. It was as inexorable a fact as that she was Buffy Summers. "But we will…I promise. Together," she said meeting Faith's eyes once again.

In those soulful brown orbs she saw a flicker of resistance, of fear, of doubt. And then she witnessed the breaking of whatever barrier Faith still had walled up inside of her, and the next thing she knew the brunette was in her arms, sobs racking her body. And as Buffy wrapped her arms more tightly around Faith she felt the burning of tears in her own eyes. She let them fall. If whatever they had embarked upon was going to work, it had to be an equal partnership.}

Buffy blinked the ceiling of the dorm coming into view once again. As with the memory she had just left she could feel tears burning her eyes. Being wrapped up with Faith, crying her eyes out in the middle of the forest that day had been one of the most powerful events of her life. It had been beautiful and terrifying. Freeing, and enveloping. It had been almost painfully tender, and starkly intimate. She had no words, no thoughts that could accurately describe the span of emotions she had felt that day. The depth of emotion that lay there. It had been breathtaking, and it had only been the beginning on a road that was bound to get bumpier.

{Somehow they had fallen to the ground after wrapping themselves together, and sometime after that had fallen asleep. Or at least Buffy had, for she distinctly remembered waking up. Her back hurt like a bitch and her leg was asleep, and the moment the cobwebs cleared she realized that she was alone. When this realization hit her panic set in and she quickly sat up fully intending to look around for Faith.

"Somebody needs to switch to decaf," came the dry observation from somewhere off to her side. Buffy turned to face the voice, her anxiety lessening even before she spotted Faith's form sitting a meter to her left. "Good morning, or afternoon, or evening…or whenever the fuck it is. Someone at the hospital stole my goddamn watch you know," Faith continued watching as Buffy woke up.

Buffy reached for hers and started to take it off.

"I don't want your watch B," Faith responded staring hard at the other Slayer. "'Sides, I've been meaning to learn all that time of day by position of the sun shit. No time like the present you know."

"I thought you'd taken off," Buffy said crossing her legs after turning to face Faith. They were both now sitting Indian style.

"Thought about it," Faith admitted. "Could've too, you sleep like the dead B," she went on. "Someone'd have to whack you upside the head to wake you up."

"Did you think about that too?" Buffy asked, but her tone was light.

Faith just smirked.

"What changed your mind? About leaving I mean," Buffy asked a moment later.

Faith shrugged. "I guess maybe I'm a masochist, but I was thinking maybe you were telling the truth," she said finally. "And I'm tired of running," she added in a smaller voice.

"I'm glad you stayed," Buffy replied honesty.

"Are you really?" Faith asked. "I'm thinking I'm gonna be causing you a lot more pain than pleasure," she went on. "I don't think the Super Friends are gonna be too thrilled to hear Hannibal's still around."

"You're probably right," Buffy responded again in all honesty. "This is going to take some work…on all our parts."

"So?" Faith asked tossing her hands up in the air. "What now?"

"We talk," Buffy responded simply.

"About what?" Faith asked not really liking the sound of the talking idea.

"I'd say we have a variety of subjects to chose from," Buffy responded dropping her head down to look at her lap.

They were silent for long moments.

"I'm sorry I stabbed you," Buffy said in a rush breaking the silence.

Faith was quiet for a moment then she started to laugh. Buffy looked over at her sharply.

"That's amusing?" the blonde haired Slayer asked.

"No, it's just…real subtle B," Faith said by way of explanation. "That was jam packed full of finesse."

"I don't think this conversation is going to be all artful and graceful like a swan," Buffy responded shrugging. "Ugly topics to cover here."

Faith nodded her head once but didn't respond verbally. Again the silence came.

"Are you really sorry?" Faith asked looking up. "Are you? Or are you just saying that cause it's the polite thing to do?"

Buffy looked up meeting her eyes.

"I am sorry. I never wanted things to escalate to that point. I never wanted it to come to that…" Faith interrupted.

"Come on B, you may not have wanted to sishkabob me, but you sure as hell didn't come over to sing camp songs and make smoores. You wanted to feed me to un-dead boy," Faith interjected.

Buffy sighed.

"Ugly issues, ugly truths," Faith commented. She wasn't sure if the comment was directed more at herself or at Buffy.

"Okay," Buffy said sighing deeply. "I didn't go to you with the most honorable of intentions, I went because I thought it was the only thing I could do. And I wasn't lying, I never wanted it to come to that, I never wanted to fight you in a 'do or die' match, but…" Buffy trailed off.

"When the choice was between me and the brooding one there really wasn't a choice," Faith supplied in the silence.

"It's not that simple," Buffy responded looking up at Faith.

"It never is B," Faith shot back. "But in the crunch, that's when we find out what's really inside."

Buffy lanced Faith with a harsh gaze and opened her mouth as if to respond, but then promptly shut it. She wasn't going to have this turn into a grudge match, but it was too late. Faith could tell from that one look exactly what Buffy was thinking.

"Say it," Faith demanded. "Go on! Say it!"

"No," Buffy responded refusing to meet the other girls gaze.

"Say it B! In the crunch I turned into a murdering psychotic!" Faith exclaimed angrily. The funny thing-in a sad way-was that she wasn't even mad at Buffy, she was mad at herself. She was disgusted with herself because it was true. She just sunk into the lowest rung possible and sulked there. Fuck everyone, screw 'em all!

"Your step faltered," Buffy responded finally. "And you had no one to pick you back up. More accurately I wasn't there to pick you back up," Buffy continued.

"And left to my own devices I started murdering people," Faith responded.

"Demons," Buffy replied. "You killed mostly demons."

"You know what they say B, it's the thought that counts," Faith retorted.

"Playing the blame game isn't going to get us anywhere," Buffy said blowing out a frustrated breath. "We both fucked up," she continued. "And I think we both know it. I also think we've both been beating ourselves up over it for long enough."

Faith stood up. "You're right. I'm sorry B. I'm sorry I fucked you and your friends and even fang boy. But I can't just 'I'm sorry' my way out of this cause I screwed my way into criminal charges and unless I get the fuck outta here I'm going to spend the rest of life in a cage and I'm not about to let that happen," she said pacing the area.

"Don't go," Buffy said standing as well.

"I have to," Faith said still not moving from her pacing path. "This isn't about forgiveness. I forgive you for whatever it is you've convinced yourself you did to me, and for what I convinced myself you did to me too. This is about my life and losing it. I'll admit I did some fucked up shit, but if I'm locked away I'm as good as dead B," Faith went on. "You've gotta understand that."

"I do," Buffy admitted. "But I also understand that I can't be alone right now, and I you can't either."

"You've got Kool and the Gang," Faith responded.

"And you?" Buffy responded. "You've got me."

"No, I've got an APB out on me, and I've got to go!" Faith said finally determined to actually move. She'd been side tracked enough by all of this emotional shit.

"Stay here, and we'll deal with that," Buffy said reaching out to stop her.

"How?" Faith asked.

Buffy was silent for a moment, then her eyes lit up and the proverbial light bulb appeared over her head.

"Willow," Buffy breathed out.

"Willow?" Faith asked looking at Buffy like she was a madwoman. "Newflash, Willow hates me. Deeply hates me," she went on.

"Have you ever seen that Sandra Bullock movie about the computers?" Buffy asked not even hearing Faith's response.

"Hello? Did you not hear what I said?" Faith asked. "And yes I saw 'The Net'. Why?"

"Willow could do her computer thing and do what they did to her in the movie only it would be good in your case," Buffy responded looking over at Faith.

"The police know what I look like," Faith pointed out.

"No they have a general description, which excepting the superhero qualities could fit a thousand girls. Brown hair, brown eyes, and leather doesn't really make for a conclusive identification," Buffy retorted.

"Fine, your still missing one key factor," Faith said.


"Willow hates my fucking guts. What makes you think that she's going to give a shit what happens to me? Or that she's going to want to help me?"

Buffy looked at Faith with gentle eyes.

"You really don't know Willow do you?" she asked almost in wonderment. "She'll help because we're going to ask her to. We're going to ask her extremely nicely, and she'll do it because it's the right thing to do. And as much as she dislikes you, she wouldn't do anything to purposefully cause harm to another human being. That's why," Buffy responded.

Faith was silent for a moment.

"If she says no…I'm gone," Faith said finally. "I mean it, I'm outta here if she says no."

"Deal," Buffy said. She knew Willow as well as she knew herself, and she knew that once they talked Willow would help.

"You trust her that much?" Faith asked.

"Yeah," Buffy responded smiling.

Faith shook her head in wonderment. Whatever. "Fine, let's get with the going then," Faith said heading off into the woods.

Buffy shook her head. She never would have thought at the time that getting Faith to trust her-at least a little bit-would be the easiest part of her virtually non-existent plan. It was painfully true that she had absolutely no idea what she was doing and that she was playing everything completely by ear. No waiting, no stopping, no thinking.

She shifted her position on the bed and moved up to curl herself around her pillow. The walk to the dorm room after their talk in the woods had been a silent one. The only time they spoke to each other was to convey the most menial of things. To ask which direction, or in Faith's case if Buffy was cold-the brunette had on a jacket where as her companion didn't-or something equally as trivial. Yet, Buffy considered as she crushed her pillow against her side, it had been a comfortable silence and had cemented the tentative relationship they had started on the cliff.

Snapping herself out of her thoughts Buffy glanced and the clock and turned towards the door. Willow still wasn't back. Buffy wasn't worried, she was ninety-nine percent sure that her friend was with Tara, still she frowned and wondered what the hell they were always doing out so late together.

Actually, she had an idea of what they might be doing-and it didn't all involve spell casting-and it just made her frown deeper. She was keeping her eye on Tara, the last thing she wanted was another heart broken Willow.

Sighing she turned away from the door. There was nothing that she could do about it anyway, other than look out for other worldly activity. It was Willow's life, and Tara genuinely seemed to care for her. Facing the wall, Buffy closed her eyes and let her mind wonder back in time once again. She was only at the beginning of her search for the answers to her current predicament, and she knew there was lots more to sift through.

{Buffy was aware of the decrease in Faith's pace of speed as they approached Stevenson-Hall. Granted they were being careful to keep Faith out of view, but Buffy knew that wasn't what the cause of it. There was an increasingly palpable air of unease surrounding the girl and Buffy was positive it wasn't the thought of the police seeing her that was unnerving the darker Slayer but the thought of a petite redhead. It would have made Buffy laugh out loud if Buffy had never been on the receiving end of one of Willow's piercing looks and even more battering lectures. Granted Faith was in a worse position in Willow's eyes than Buffy ever had been-and ever hoped to be in-but they had managed to work things out, and Buffy was confident-though not as confident as she was presenting-that they would in this case as well.

Without thinking about it Buffy reached behind her and grasped Faith's hand tugging the girl forward. Faith had to kind of jog for a couple of paces to remain upright, but other than that she remained unscathed. They continued to walk like that, hands joined, for a few moments until finally unable to resist Faith started down at their hands and drew her brows together. Buffy noticed the movement and saw the look. She quirked a questioning eyebrow in response, but Faith didn't she her. Uncertain what the prolonged inspection meant Buffy started to release Faith's hand but the other Slayer stopped her.

"Why'd you do that?" the brunette asked looking at Buffy through her lashes.

"Take your hand?" Buffy questioned. "You were lagging."

"No," Faith responded. "Why'd you keep holding it?"

Buffy searched for some sort of insincerity in Faith's eyes as a response to the brunette's question, but all that she found there was truth. Faith was genuinely curious. So Buffy thought for a moment, then ended up shrugging
her shoulders helplessly.

"I just did," Buffy said thinking that she hadn't even been aware that she was still holding Faith's hand until the Slayer started staring. "You act like it's the first time someone's ever held your hand," Buffy commented shaking her head somewhat self-consciously.

"It is," Faith responded.

Buffy looked at her when she said this. The shorter Slayer was literally shocked into silence. It was such a tiny act, to most people a small and insignificant act. Common place, a casual sign of affection. But to never have had that, it was almost beyond Buffy's comprehension. To be denied something so small for your entire life, it was inexcusable to her.

When Buffy finally came back to her senses she noted that they had stopped walking, and while she was looking at Faith, Faith was facing forward staring out in front of her. Buffy looked down at Faith's hand, which was now lying limply by her side, and after only a moment's hesitation she reached over and picked it up.

"Come on," she said starting to walk again. "Until we get this thing done it's not safe for you out here."

When they finally arrived at the door to the room Buffy shared with Willow they ended up standing outside for a moment staring at the number 214 as if it was the ninth gate.

"Just wait out here for a second," Buffy said quietly.

After seeing Faith nod, she opened the door and slipped inside.

"Buffy!" Willow said shooting out of her chair and heading in her friends direction. "Where've you been?"

"Faith," Buffy responded.

"Yeah," Willow said more somberly. "We saw you take off after her," she went on. "Is she gone?"

There was a hopeful quality to Willow's voice that made Buffy shift her weight uncomfortably. "Not exactly," Buffy responded avoiding Willow's eyes. "You might want to sit down for this," she went on. Willow looked at Buffy dubiously when she said this, but she sat down nonetheless.

"This is going to be a serious unfun isn't it?" the hacker asked knowingly. "Most likely," Buffy responded sitting down herself. "You're never going to believe this…"

She then launched into her story of what had taken place over the last few hours. Willow sat listening to her in an almost catatonic state for the duration of the tale. The only real evidence that she was still alive being the slight rise and fall of her chest and the blinking of her eyes.

"Will?" Buffy asked a few seconds after she had finished. "Say something…please," Buffy implored.

"I…you…with…what…outside…WHAT!?" was what Willow eventually got out. Buffy looked at her considering her answer when the door to the room shot open and Faith walked in.

"What happened to the waiting outside part of the plan?" Buffy asked looking the dark haired girl.

"I thought that was my cue," Faith responded meeting her eyes. "There's always a cue."

"Best to stick with what you know," Willow muttered under her breath. Buffy heard the comment but just barely.

Getting off of her bed Buffy crossed the room to where Faith was standing. She hesitated for a moment, then reached out and placed her hand on Faith's shoulder. Then she quietly said, "Just give us another minute okay?" Faith looked past Buffy to Willow who was looking at her with icy eyes that were clearly intended to lance her. It worked. Faith merely turned her attention back to Buffy and nodded.

Once Faith was out the door Willow focused her attention on Buffy. "Wha…" she started to say sputtering indignantly. "Have you been possessed by a retarded ghost or something!?" she asked finally.

Buffy sighed and shook her head.

"Buffy," Willow said in a more reasonable tone. "This is Faith we're talking about here. Having a charitable nature is an admirable quality but…this…this isn't the same as taking in some wet orphan puppy. She's a killer."

"I know what she's done Will," Buffy responded. "But I also know that she can't be defined by the sum of her actions."

"Yes, I think she can," Willow responded. "In fact I'm fairly certain that's how society works."

"We occupy a different society Will. Rules in our world have to be changed, bent," Buffy replied.

"So it's okay that she's a murdering sociopath?" Willow asked incredulously.

"No, of course not," Buffy responded quickly. "But, you've gotta understand, I was inside of her Willow. More than that I was her, and it was a lonely, frightening place to be. And I know she's done some terrible things but there's a person in there. One who's worth trying save. I know because for a moment when we switched back there was a moment where we were connected. I was Buffy and Faith at the same time and I felt her pain and desire to change. She just needs help."

"You tried to help her before," Willow pointed out.

"No, I didn't. Not really," Buffy responded shaking her head. "Do you remember when we went to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace?" Buffy asked suddenly.

"Yes," Willow replied slowly. Sometimes conversing with Buffy was as disjointing as being on a rollacoaster.

"Remember when Yoda said 'fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering'?" Buffy asked. Willow nodded. "That's Faith Will, that's all of us. Her fear led to anger, which led to hate, which led to suffering. And our fear of her and her anger just increased an already dismal situation and led to more suffering."

"How do you know she won't just...snap again?" Willow asked.

"She will," Buffy responded. "If we don't act now. I can't give you a one hundred percent guarantee, but I know that she's willing to see this through and that she WANTS to change."

"What do you need me to do?" Willow asked. Her tone indicated that she wasn't exactly thrilled about this.

Buffy briefly outlined her plan, and Willow confirmed that she it was possible.

"Thank you," Buffy said walking over and hugging her friend.

"I'm doing this for you, not for her," Willow responded, but her tone wasn't nearly as harsh as her words.

While Willow booted up her computer Buffy went out into the hallway and got Faith who seemed to be trying to peek into someone's room through the keyhole. This earned her a frown and a disenchanted shake of the head, to which she grinned lopsidedly and shrugged her shoulders. After that they proceeded into the room once again, and once inside gathered around the computer.

"I'm going to need your name," Willow said without looking over at the dark Slayer. "Your full name," she added correctly anticipating Faith's sarcastic response.

Faith was silent and Buffy looked over at her. "You have to tell her. If she's going to change the records she has to know," Buffy said.

Faith sighed deeply and closed her eyes. Once they found this out she was never going to live it down.

"Evans," Faith said quietly.

"What'd you say?" Willow asked.

"Evans," Faith practically growled. "My name is Faith Evans, okay? That's right Yuk it up," Faith went on glaring at Buffy who was having a hard time not laughing.

"I'm sorry," Buffy said tears coming out of her eyes with the effort it took not to laugh.

"Just ask when my next album is coming out, it'll make you feel better,"

Faith responded practically pouting.

"What…" Willow said struggling herself. "What would you like your name changed to?"

Buffy tried she really did try, but she couldn't help it. "Hill?" she offered helpfully.

"That's not cool B," Faith responded glaring at her. "What are you going to do later, go kick some puppies?"

"I'm sorry," Buffy said having gained control of herself again. "Really."

"Whatever," Faith muttered. "Prescott," she said a moment later.

"Is that a new saying?" Willow asked. "Cause I still have no idea what five by five means."

"It's a name," Faith said turning to face Willow who then promptly turned away. "You asked for a name."

"I'm going to need a first name too," Willow responded. "We'll keep Faith as your middle name," Willow responded tapping.

"I don't know…how about Moon Zappa?" she responded popping towards Willow. "Be nice," Buffy warned. Willow didn't deserve to have to deal with Faith's name issues.

"Right," Faith responded backing up with a scowl. "What the fuck…how about Cynthia," she said finally.

Willow nodded and began to type.

"This is going to take a while," the hacker said a moment later. "You," she directed at Buffy, "might want to consider calling Giles and letting him know you're alive."

Buffy turned and gazed at Willow with an amused smile on her face. The situation wasn't funny, Willow was clearly not pleased, but she was cute when she was snippy.

"Will do," Buffy responded.

"And Riley's been looking for you," Willow added.

The moment Willow finished pronouncing his name Buffy froze. Riley. God, she had forgotten about him completely after she had taken off after Faith. He was probably wondering what the hell was going, not to mention where she had been. Riley...she had completely forgotten.

"I've gotta…" she said suddenly, but the rest of her sentence was interrupted.

"You can't leave me here with her!" two sets of voices exclaimed simultaneously.

Buffy stared at them. She had to go see Riley, but they were right. Leaving them there together with the way things were probably wasn't the smartest idea. While she was thinking about this predicament Buffy observed

Faith looking out the window moodily. It was getting dark out. "Forget it," Faith said tugging her jacket down. "I'll go do the duty," she continued jerking her head towards the window and therefore the outdoors.

"Faith," Buffy started to say, but Faith waved her off.

"Nah, it's five by five," she said before heading for the door. But then, just before she reached the door she jerked to a stop, as if she had been attached to a rope that had run out of room, and she turned around.

"Buffy," she started to say, but she paused after blowing a disgusted breath out. "Fuck," she went on a minute later. "Look…I'm sorry."

"For what exactly?" Buffy asked curiously.

Faith smiled depreciatively.

"You'll see," and with that she turned back towards the door.

"Wait," Buffy said. "Where will I find you?"

"The usual sites," Faith said then she breezed out the door.

"What was that all about?" Willow asked once she was gone.

Buffy frowned. "I don't know, but I think I'm going to find out."}

Buffy turned around restlessly as she finished going through this serious of memories. If only she had know that there was some serious foreshadowing going on there. If only she had thought about why she had been so completely captivated by Faith back then instead of waiting until now. She knew if she had she could have saved them all a lot of trouble, but she also knew that back then there was no reason for her to think about it. At least not in detail.

Buffy walked out of the house Riley shared with the rest of the Initiative in a haze. He had slept with Faith. Faith had slept with Riley. They had slept together. He said that he had thought it was her, he had said that Faith had acted like her, and truthfully she understood that. Faith had been around her long enough to at least be able to simulate her behavior for short periods of time, and then there was the pesky fact that Faith did occupy Buffy's body at the time. What Riley had done, was forgivable if nothing else. He couldn't have known. But still it stung like a bitch it, really did.

And Faith. Well, at least Buffy knew what she was apologizing for now. She knew that Faith regretted what she had done. But she also knew that only two days before Faith had plotted the whole thing out, and apparently executed it without a hitch. But that was before right? That was before they started to work things out, before the cards had been laid on the table. It was a prior bad act, and one that had been apologized for. But damn if it didn't hurt.

As Buffy turned towards the cemetery she realized that she had one of two options and really only those two options. She could 1) take it personally, hold it against Faith and destroy the progress they had made over the past day. Or 2) she could forgive, if not forget, what had been done, and continue with the path they had embarked upon.

As Buffy spotted the lone figure in the distance, standing proud against the night her decision was made. She would forgive. Maybe Willow was right, maybe she was crazy, but something inside of her wouldn't let her let Faith walk away this time. There was a connection between the two of them, and Buffy would work to keep it whole.

"There's a freight train heading out of Dodge at dawn," Faith said as Buffy came to a stop behind her. "I figured I'd go out with it," she went on. "That is if you think the town's big enough for the both of us for one more night," she finished. Her posture was excellent; she was standing at her full height that made her a couple of inches taller than Buffy, but her voice wavered near the end.

"Why would you go and do an asshole thing like that?" Buffy asked leaning against a tombstone casually.

"You did go to see the Beefstick, right?" Faith asked chancing a glance in Buffy's direction.

"Riley," Buffy corrected softly. "And yes I went to see him."

Faith was quiet for a moment.

"And you two have like…an open line of communication?" she asked finally.

"I know," Buffy said deciding to just get it out there. "That still doesn't explain why you're leaving."

"What?" Faith asked twirling around to face Buffy full on. "Are you on crack? No, don't give me that look. Seriously B, are you?"

"No, I'm not on crack," Buffy responded frowning at her.

"I boink your boyfriend and you want to know why I think it would be a good idea to get the hell outta town?" Faith asked incredulously. "Am I the only Slayer in history with any sense of self preservation?" she mumbled under her breath.

"So that's it. Despite everything that's happened today you're just going to up and leave?" Buffy asked with a little edge to her voice.

"You can't seriously want to have anything to do with me now," Faith said, but the words sounded hollow even to her. Frankly after going around trying to stab and strangle her friends, sleeping with the boy toy almost seemed like a misdemeanor. Plus, the fact that they were having this conversation was proof that Buffy did indeed want to have something to do with her, as bewildering as it was.

"I can and I do," Buffy responded.

Faith shook her head in wonderment.

"No wonder everyone loves you," she said finally. "You're a fucking saint.

How the hell am I suppose to compete with that?"

"You're not," Buffy responded. "This isn't a competition Faith," she said not being able to repress the bit of anger that crept into her voice. "It's a partnership."

"Well, how the hell can I resist that," Faith responded. "I hate freight trains anyway. Too bumpy," she concluded.

They stood there for what had to have been minutes in silence, just staring in front of them.

"Come on," Buffy said motioning for Faith to follow her.

"Where?" Faith asked following Buffy nonetheless.

"It's late," was all Buffy said in response.

"I've gotta find someplace to stay then," Faith responded dropping back, her mind already thinking of places she could crash without bumping into some of the men in blue.

"You have a place," Buffy responded. "That's where we're going," she said looking back at Faith.

"Where?" Faith asked curiously.

"With me," Buffy said beginning to walk again. She knew that Faith would follow her.

"You can't be serious," Faith said.

"You've gotta stop saying that," Buffy responded. "I'm always serious," she paused. "Except for when I'm not. This is one of those times I am serious though."

"What about Red? Does she know about this comfy arrangement?" Faith asked even though she kind of liked the sound of it.

"Ask me that again in about twenty-minutes," Buffy responded smiling.

Faith returned the smile and said. "Now who's being bad B?"}

Buffy smiled at the memory. If there was one thing that she and Faith were both extremely proficient at, besides slaying, it was banter. And if Buffy had never met Kendra, she would have thought that the ability to banter sophisticatedly in any situation imaginable to man and demon alike, was some sort of prerequisite to Slayerdom. She knew however, that it probably had more to do with herself and Faith having just developed similar methods of keeping people off base, keeping people away, and keeping themselves in the dark. The banter was, as much as it was a way to play, also a way to hide; hide from other people and from themselves. Still, it was in moments like that where Buffy felt closest to the other girl, and it was at that time in the conversation, that the tensions, that had been running since Buffy had walked up to her, faded. There was something pure in it, something that was unique to their relationship, their dynamic alone. And it was then, that Buffy admitted for the first time just how much she had missed Faith.

Buffy smiled again at that thought. She had once talked to Faith about that very subject, and trying to describe what she had meant she had likened the effect to that of a virus. Needless to say, Faith had taken offense.

Buffy lost the smile however, when she remembered what it was like trying to explain to Willow that Faith was going to be spending the night with them. That hadn't been nearly that funny.

Buffy walked into her dorm room, closely followed by Faith. The blonde Slayer breezed into the room and over to Willow, who was sitting at her desk working on the computer while the darker Slayer shoved her hands into her pocket and slowly walked into the room before loitering by the door.

Despite Buffy's reassurances, Faith was still rather uneasy in regards to how Willow would respond. In her mind she pictured an earth shattering kaboom. She didn't want to be too close to that.

"How's it going?" Buffy asked coming to a stop behind Willow. "Looks complicated."

"It is," Willow responded. Then she smiled. "Because this," she said motioning to the screen, "is my physics review. As for the altering of the official police documents, that's done...and wasn't nearly as complicated as this," she finished swinging around to face Buffy.

"You amaze me," Buffy said sending her a huge smile. "And if you actually got this smart by eating fish I owe my mother a HUGE apology."

Willow smirked and looked past Buffy to Faith who was still hanging out by the door apparently just observing the interaction between the two friends. When Faith saw her look over she worked one of her hands out of her pocket and offered Willow a tiny wave, and what she considered to be her most charming smile. Willow didn't at all look impressed and turned back to observe Buffy.

"Funny story..." Buffy started to say, but Willow had heard many of Buffy's funny stories and she knew where this one was leading without having to wait for the punch line.

"Buffy..." she said in a whining voice.

"Will," Buffy said kneeling down in front of her friend and taking her hand. "It's our only option. The police are still looking for her."

"That would be a cue to most people NOT to let her in," Willow said sullenly, though her resolve was melting under Buffy's attentions.

"I promise to protect you, but you won't need protection," Buffy said in response giving Willow the puppy eyes.

Faith watched the entire display with an amused expression on her face. Buffy certainly had groveling down to a fine art, and Willow was going to buy the whole song and dance. If Faith hadn't also found herself in Buffy's web of charm she would have laughed out loud.

"You sound like John Diefenbaker," Willow muttered under her breath. She knew she was going to agree, but she wasn't going to do it easily.

"Who?" Buffy asked momentarily distracted.

"Canadian Prime Minister. 'Conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription'," Faith responded not moving her eyes from her boots. If she had bothered to look up she would have seen two sets of eyes gaping at her.

"Come on Will," Buffy said shaking off her shock. "It'll be fine. You two will even have something to talk about. Obscure references to Canadian history, doesn't that sound like fun?"

"No," both Faith and Willow responded together.

"Buffy," Willow said in a reticent whisper. "What if this whole 'I wanna be good thing' is," here Willow stopped talking and waved her hand in the air making the 'so so' motion. "She could, in the middle of the night, you know," then she took her finger and made a slashing motion across her neck. Buffy was silent for a moment considering her answer. She needed to talk to Willow alone and try to explain what was going on. It was just that everything she was doing was based so much on emotion rather than evidence and/or logic. But despite that, despite the fact she had no rational explanation for what she was doing, she knew that it was the right thing to do, and that she was right about Faith.

She turned to look at Faith. Their eyes locked and Faith smirked. "I'll go see what the kiddies in 216 are up to?" Faith said turning around and heading for the door.

"How about we don't practice our voyeurism skills?" Buffy asked. "Come on, a girl's gotta have some fun," Faith said turning around to face Buffy.

"Be good," Buffy said wearily.

Faith raised two fingers to her forehead and saluted, then she headed out the door.

Once Faith had left the room, Buffy turned her attention back to Willow.

"I know I'm asking a lot Willow, really I do," Buffy said standing up. "And I know that this 180 that I've done concerning Faith is probably beyond confusing to you... it's confusing to me too. All I can say is that I KNOW
that everything Faith and I have shared today and told each other is on the up and up. I can feel it Will, in my bones I can feel it. And I know I have no right to ask this, but I'm going to do it anyway because I don't know what else to do. I can't leave her out on the street, and there's no place else that we can set her up for tonight. Please Will," Buffy said looking down at her pleadingly.

"Alright," Willow said finally. "But she's sleeping on your side of the room."

"I owe you," Buffy said leaning down and kissing Willow on the check.

"No, you owe me big," Willow corrected with a smile.}

Buffy opened her eyes again and ran a hand through her hair. She could still vividly remember what happened later on that night. She and Willow had set Faith up with a blanket and a pillow on the floor--on Buffy's side of the room--and then they had stayed up for a while longer watching a little television. They had talked, but the mood in the room was tense.

Both Willow and Faith would only talk to Buffy, and after about an hour of watching the two of them ignore each other, Buffy announced that it was time for bed. They all seemed relieved.

Though that wasn't the remarkable part of the night. It was what happened after they had gone to sleep, that had affected Buffy so deeply. It was what happened after that, that erased any doubt Buffy might still have had in her mind about continuing with what she had started with Faith in the woods.

{Buffy tossed and turned restlessly then finally opened her eyes. Something was keeping her awake. Listening for a moment she didn't hear anything in the room but the regular sound of breathing and was just about to close her eyes again when she heard a noise that sounded out of place. Almost like a whimper. Her first instinct was to look at Willow but when she heard the sound for a second time she realized that it was too close to her to be Willow. She looked down at the floor. Faith. The sound was coming from Faith and it was most definitely a whimper.

Buffy flung her bed sheet off of her and quietly got out of the bed. After looking down at Faith for a moment she kneeled down beside the girl and reached out, placing a hand on her shoulder.

Faith's body jerked violently and pulled away from her.

"Please don't...please," Faith mumbled softly after she moved away. "I'm sorry," she went on as she curled herself into a ball.

Buffy looked at her and frowned. She was having a nightmare. Buffy suddenly felt very protective of the girl curled up in front of her. She moved forward a bit so that she was once again sitting by Faith.

"Shhh," Buffy said softly reaching out, gently brushing some hair out of Faith's face. "It's okay," Buffy continued in a soothing tone.

Faith tensed at the first touch of Buffy's hand on her, but as the lighter Slayer continued to speak to her and caress her gently, Faith's body slowly relaxed and she started to stretch out again.

"I'm sorry mom," Faith said, hesitantly leaning into Buffy's touch. It was as if, even in her unconscious state, she was still trying to protect herself. Either that or she wasn't sure what was going to be the reaction to her move. Either option saddened and angered Buffy.

"It's okay," Buffy said kindly, still playing with Faith's hair. The Slayer figured that the easiest way to help Faith get over her nightmare would be to give her the forgiveness she seemed to be searching for. "I forgive you," Buffy went on in the same tone. "It's alright."

Buffy was somewhat surprised when a moment later Faith shifted her position so that she was no longer lying beside Buffy but on top of her. The younger girl placed her head on Buffy's lap and burrowed up against her.

Buffy opened her to mouth to protest but then swiftly closed it. Faith seemed relaxed, why should she risk waking her up? Who knew when Faith last had a good night's sleep? But, Buffy considered she also needed to go to sleep. The day's events had completely exhausted her, and, she thought, under the circumstances, that was hardly unreasonable. Buffy sighed; there was only one option.

Reaching up Buffy grabbed the remaining pillow off of her bed and dragged it down to the floor with her. Placing it on the floor she carefully maneuvered herself so that Faith's head was still resting on her, but so, that she was now in a horizontal position. Repositioning the blanket so that it covered the both of them, Buffy closed her eyes and sighed. If she didn't wake up first in the morning she was going to have some explaining to do.

Somehow she didn't think that Willow would react well to finding her curled up with Faith, and she didn't think that Faith would react well to it either. Especially if Faith remembered her nightmare. Oh well, it wouldn't be the first mistake she had ever made and it certainly wouldn't be the last.}

Buffy stood up and walked over to the mini fridge she and Willow shared. She needed to get something to drink. As she bent over and looked at the badly lit contents of the fridge she remembered how relieved she had been when she had woken up first that morning. As Buffy headed back over to her bed, bottle of water in hand, she remembered how she and Faith had gone to breakfast.

{Buffy, as she had silently prayed would be the case, was indeed the first person to wake up. Not being able to put it off any longer she carefully removed herself from Faith's embrace and got up, situating herself back on her bed. Glancing at the clock she figured that she had a good half hour before Willow would be up, and as for Faith, well, she couldn't even hazard a guess what her sleeping habits were like.

Positioning herself on her side, Buffy peered over the edge of her bed to look at the now peaceful figure on the floor. Now that Buffy could clearly see Faith's face she noticed how young the girl looked when she was asleep.

Faith was actually younger than Buffy, by about a year the blonde Slayer guessed since she didn't know for sure, but the other girl had this old aura about her. It was like she had seen too much too young, and it had made her weary and jaded beyond her years. Buffy had been told that she had a similar air about her, but even she could tell that it was different with Faith. Faith, she guessed, had been like that far before she had even learned she was a Slayer, whereas Buffy had lived in a state of ignorant bliss.

Buffy figured that she must have spent the entire half hour, she had guessed it would take Willow to wake up, looking at Faith because the next thing she became aware of was a yawn coming from the other side of the room signaling the hacker's wakefulness.

"See, still alive," was Buffy's greeting to her friend. The look Willow gave her reinforced her own thought that she should have just stuck to 'good morning' as a greeting.

* * * * * *

"Is she ever going to wake up?" Willow asked Buffy about half an hour later. Willow was looking at Faith's prone form as she said this.

"She is now," Buffy responded walking over to the body. She had no real desire to interrupt Faith's slumber, but they had to get going. 

"Buffy," Willow said hesitantly. "Do you think know, waking her up is such a good idea. Maybe you should use this," Willow continued reaching for the broom.

Buffy shot the hacker an amused grin. "It's alright Will," she said bending down and touching Faith's shoulder. The moment Buffy's hand made contact with the brunette's body, Faith jerked upright and a fist shot out from her body in Buffy's direction--which Buffy barely managed to avoid--and Faith went scrambling backwards until she backed into Buffy's night side table. Buffy looked over at Faith wide eyed, and Faith looked back at her with an equally perplexed expression.

"Told ya you should have used the broom," Willow tisked.

Buffy, who's heart was still beating a mile minute, simply continued to stare at Faith who just then seemed to be processing what was happening. "Good morning," Buffy said finally, her voice cracking half way through. It looked like it was going to be an interesting day.

* * * * * *

"So I'll meet you at the Pulse," Willow said as she flung her book bag over her head.

Buffy nodded and Willow headed out the door.

"Doesn't she eat?" Faith asked playing with Mr. Gordo--which meant that she was poking at him.

"She's meeting Tara for breakfast," Buffy answered frowning at Faith's abusive behavior towards her pig.

"I'll bet," Faith responded a lewd grin spreading across her lips. "After spending the night with us she's probably desperate for something to eat."

Buffy continued to glare at Faith. Though it was true she had absolutely no idea what anything Faith just had said meant, it was clear from the look on her face and the tone of her voice that it probably wasn't good.

"What are you talking about?" Buffy asked carefully.

"You know, a little morning rendezvous," Faith said doing that wiggle of her hips she did when she was jazzed about or amused by something. "She'll definitely be awake for class."

"I repeat," Buffy said slowly. "What are you talking about?"

Faith gaped at Buffy finally conceiving that she was the only person in the room that had any idea what was going on between the other two girls.

"Nothing," she finally responded. "Hunger deprivation you know. Doesn't do a body good."

Buffy stared at her knowing that it was most certainly something, but a something she didn't have time to deal with at the moment.

"If you say so," Buffy responded. "Come on," she continued ushering Faith out the door.

* * * * * *

Buffy sat back and watched as Faith devoured what had to have been her third stack of pancakes. It seemed to Buffy as if the girl wasn't so much eating them as she was inhaling them. Buffy found herself thinking that it seemed as if Faith hadn't had a decent meal in months, and much to her chagrin she realized that she was probably right.

"Are you going finish that?" Faith asked snapping Buffy out of her train of thoughts.

Buffy looked down at her plate.

"Nah," the blonde Slayer responded, but before she had even completed the word the item of food in question had been removed for her plate. Buffy smirked. The pancake hut was probably never going to let them back in, ever again. It reminded Buffy of the Simpson's episode where Homer ate the entire seafood restaurant's buffet and still wasn't full. Buffy just hoped Faith would restrain herself from suing anyone.

"We have to stay out of sight until we meet Willow and Tara later," Buffy said when she was fairly confident Faith was finished.

"Why? Didn't Red already do her computer hocus-pocus?" the brunette asked.

"Yeah, but you still don't have any I.D," Buffy responded sensibly.

"I've never had any I.D," was Faith's answer.

"Well you're going to get some now," Buffy continued. "It'll help diffuse suspicion. Willow and Tara are taking care of getting it for you now."

Faith looked over at Buffy after she finished speaking, giving the older Slayer an odd look. Then she shook her head, and opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, but then she shut it again.

Buffy watched Faith and could tell that she was struggling with something so she remained quiet letting Faith figure it out. She knew that if she tried to push, Faith would just shut down.

"I'm about as good at 'thank yous' as I am at apologies," Faith started a moment later. Buffy remembered the conversation she was referencing to. Faith had once told her that she wasn't good at apologies because she felt that the world was out to screw her, which made her generally more owed than owning. "So this is gonna be real brief, no poetry and symbolism and shit,"

Faith went on. "Thank you."

Buffy smiled. Coming from Faith, that was probably the greatest thing that had ever been said to her.

"You're welcome," Buffy responded.

Faith shrugged uncomfortably and looked away.

"What's on today's menu?" Faith asked steering the conversation back to more comfortable territory.

"I've got one class, then we're gonna meet up with Will and head over to Giles' house."

"Giles?" Faith asked making a face. "I don't think he's gonna be too thrilled to see me."

Buffy considered making a joke about nobody being thrilled to see her but getting over it anyway, however she decided that it would be in bad taste. She and Faith were just starting to get comfortable around each other again and she didn't want to mess it up with some bad joke. Also, it wouldn't have been entirely true. Buffy had been glad to see her.

"He'll get over it," Buffy said with absolute certainty. "He'll have to."

"You're so dominant," Faith commented with a smile in response to Buffy's tone.

"And don't you forget it," Buffy responded winking at Faith. Then she stood up; it was time to go.

"So, what am I supposed to do when you're in class?" Faith asked as they headed out the door. "You know what they say about idle hands," she continued grinning madly at Buffy.

Buffy smirked.

"Willow and I have some laundry that needs to be done," she responded. They stopped walking for a moment after she said that, and turned to face each other. They stayed like that for a second, then Buffy took off sprinting away from Faith who promptly started to chase after her.

Continue to Part 2

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