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One Dead Summer

Chapter Text

ONE DEAD SUMMER

by Lezzinbout

“Faith.”

“You said that before, dear. Here, I've brought the chaplain for you.” The nurse intones comfortingly, gently patting one bandaged hand.

The hospital's church representative was a balding older gentleman with kind eyes behind his bifocals.

“Bless you, my child.”

The priest lays a cheap plastic rosary softly atop the white sheet covering her legs and begins to pray.

 

“-AITH-“

The brunette falters in her spin around the pole, nearly falling headfirst onto the stage. She looks around for the voice that screamed her name.

There’s the usual hooting and catcalls from the crowd, but no face reflects the despair she'd heard in that cry.
…....that voice…

(FAITH!)

Okay, she has to go.

 

Now.

She leaves the stage abruptly to a chorus of boos.

No matter.

The Slayer in her is driving her body now, and she knows enough to follow its call.

 

 

The doctor and nurse both stare down at her unblemished hands, the perfect nails and fingertips that just a few days ago had been torn to bloody shreds.

“Impossible.”
The doctor breathes, and Buffy feels her heart drop at the fear and greed in his eyes.

“B.”

Faith suddenly enters, the 250-pound security guard dangling from one arm barely slowing her down.

She's dusty, disheveled and as battered as the duffel bag she's wearing, but Buffy has never seen a more welcome sight.

“We out.”

By the time Buffy's ripped out her IV she's been tossed unceremoniously out the window.

She hears Faith jump out after her, both of them spinning in midair before Faith lands neatly on her feet with 100 lbs of shaky blonde in her arms.

“Can you walk, B?”

The question is needless, as the blonde is already striding away, stretching her limbs experimentally. She tries a few roundhouse kicks and a flip just to be sure.

“Ok.” Faith says, and tries to think.

Where can they go?

Her old motel is about 4 miles away.

But the heat is on, and B isnt exactly inconspicuous in her hospital gown, and barefoot to boot.

Stashing the blonde away and coming back for her is not exactly an option, seeing as how she's already looking at Faith with an expression so seldom seen aimed in her direction it takes a minute to recognize it.

 

Complete trust.

Just then Faith remembers the knapsack she's still wearing.

Providence!

“C'mon B, put these on.”

And there is where the weirdness starts.

END CH1

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 2

 

Buffy just stays standing there looking at her stupidly, as though she doesn’t understand.

“C’mon, B, we don't have time for this. If we don't get off the streets soon we're gonna get popped.” Faith tries not to show her growing frustration. Expressing that particular emotion has never worked well in the past, for either of them.

Buffy just continues to stare.

Faith heaves a heavy sigh and starts to undress her. The hospital gown tears like paper beneath her impatient fingers.
Faith tries not to look at Buffy's body at all, which makes dressing her doubly more difficult than it has to be.

However, she can't help the little thrill that goes through her as she tugs her own underwear snugly over jutting little hipbones

Buffy is compliant enough, but otherwise doesn't make a move to help. It's as though the process of clothing oneself is utterly alien to her. She watches with interest as Faith tightens her own heavy leather belt around a petite waist in order to keep two-sizes-too-large pants safely in place.

When she's done Buffy says nothing but graces her with a huge grateful smile. Faith smiles uncertainly back, although she can't help but think…

'B, what's happened to you?'

 

-------------------------------------------------

“Buffy…is not coming back. We failed.

So…we’re it, gang.”

Willow says, mainly to shock herself with the very real truth of her words.

Eventually the group limp out of the Magic Box and onto Sunnydale's ravaged streets to find Dawn and Spike mourning the corpse of the Buffybot. The mechanical Slayer look-alike is too damaged for repair.

Still, they gather up the pieces in a somber ritual, made all the worse for the four of them in the know.

It feels too much like finality, like a real goodbye to any hope that their hero would return.

That night, no one sleeps.

Xander and Anya bed down in the living room and just lay there holding each other. Occasionally he hushes her further nagging about announcing their engagement to the gang. It’s just not the right time.

Not now.

Maybe not for a long time now.

In their bedroom overhead Willow refuses to go to bed despite Tara's pleas. She sits in a chair by the window weeping, desolate head held in trembling hands as she tries to accept her worst failure.

After a while life went on, as it continues to despite our best efforts.

Willow comes to accept that she was selfish, and holds a Buffy’s Anonymous meeting to apologize to everyone. She’s even brave enough to tell Dawn the truth about the failed resurrection. The witch knew she owed the young woman at least that much.

They went through countless tissues during their amateur therapy session, but it was amazing how much it helped them all heal. It helped the Scoobies grow closer than ever, cementing an already unbreakable bond.

Willow didn’t know how Dawn could deal with so many tragedies in her short life, but the teenager muddles through surprisingly well. She’s a little quieter and less bubbly than she used to be, but they all were now.

This was life, Lite & Buffy-free.

End chapter 2

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 3

A few demons pop up on the way, clad in full biker gear. Buffy slays them almost without effort. It’s as though she knows exactly where they are and what their next move will be.


They arrive at the motel without further incident. Because of her awkward outfit Buffy waits outside, safely out of view of the security cameras.


Their room is as dingy and filthy as Faith had imagined it would be.


Faith discards her leather jacket with a huge relieved sigh.


Hovel, sweet hovel.

 

They’re only in the room for minutes before Faith gets antsy. She knows that everyone from the cops to the demons to the goddamned Red Hat Society are looking for them right now.


Buffy's standing in the middle of the room swimming in her borrowed clothes, creepy new stare fixed on her counterpart.
“Faith.. .sorry.” she croaks.


Faith just looks silently back. There's too much she won’t say, so much she cannot say.


Sincerity and sorrow shine through Buffy's eyes. (Had they always been so expressive?)


“Sorry.” She says again, and her words are almost tangible with truth, and Faith grabs her close, and they just hold each other for a long, long time.

Faith feels a few tears slip out despite her iron self-control. Surreptitiously, she wipes her face on the blonde's hair.


She'd never expected anything like this from her former enemy.


It felt real.


It felt like they could forget all the horrible things she'd done…


At first the faint trickling sound she hears doesn't register. Then the smell hits her, and so does the truth, and she leaps back as though tased.


“Fuck!”


Buffy just looks back at her in confusion and hurt as urine darkens her borrowed jeans and puddles around her on the already stained carpet.


Moment: ruined.

After that first incident, it becomes painfully, odiferously clear that B is incontinent. The brunette Slayer cleans up as best she can, sacrificing her only towel.


It takes minutes of Faith pacing and smoking before pushing herself to the obvious solution.


She's gonna need Pampers. And wipes. She's going to be wiping a grown woman's ass for the nearest foreseeable future.


A Slayer's ass, at that.


One neat little side-effect of being one of the Chosen that few Handbooks mention is the lightning-fast metabolism.

To put it bluntly, a Slayer took several shits a day, and they were toilet-choking whoppers.


Its not a pleasant prospect. Faith decides she has to do some research on potty-training, pronto.


…as soon as she gets back from the store.


It’s only a stone's throw to the pharmacy on the corner, and Buffy's sleeping soundly at the end of the bed in a huddled ball. Faith slips out silently. She's nearly out of cigarettes, anyway.

 

 

Faith tosses the packs of diapers casually onto the counter. She grabs some candy and magazines to toss on the conveyor belt as well, hoping the Depends get lost in the clutter.


“Hiya.” She nervously greets the bored-looking woman behind the counter.


“You find everything okay?” The woman asks mechanically, starting to slide items across the scanner.


“Yep, yep, sure.” Faith knows she's acting weird, talking too fast and practically bouncing from foot to foot, but she can't help it.


The woman pauses over the adult diapers and gives her a sympathetic look.


“Oh honey, I feel your pain. Ever since my last baby was born, I can't laugh, sneeze, or cough without springing a leak.”


Faith knows she is soon to be the first Slayer to die of embarrassment. She swears she can feel the hint of a blush flushing the tips of her ears.


Throwing her money on the counter hurriedly, she grabs her bags without waiting for her change.


“Thanks.”


She darts out.

The dark Slayer fumes all the way home.

Even when B isn’t around, she makes her look like a moron!


She'd even sprung for the ones with little flowers printed on em!


Why?


…she wasn’t quite sure, yet.

Faith is instantly on alert when she gets back.


The first thing she notices, before even unlocking the door, is the dead quiet.


The second thing she notices after the door’s inward swing is that there’s no longer a twitchy, sleeping Slayer on the bed.


Or anywhere else in sight.


The Dark Slayer instantly goes into stealth mode.


Dropping her bags just inside the door, she shuts it silently and slinks into the room along walls slightly greasy under her palms. She finds the window in full darkness. It’s still safely nailed shut, and she continues her cautious creeping to check the bathroom.


Nothing.

Faith, never having been good at locked room mysteries, is growing frustrated.

Had her still-stunned companion been kidnapped? Or had she just trotted back to her perfect little life as soon as she’d remembered more than her former nemesis’ name?


It was so like the self-righteous Summers to ditch her disgraced savior without leaving so much as a thank-you note for rescuing her from doctors, police, demons, and who knew what other evils!


After three cigarettes and four minutes Faith decides that she really is, in fact, going out to look for the little twat’s stubborn ass.


To make sure she was safe or to exact revenge, now that the brunette hadn’t decided yet.


She goes to the closet to pull out her windbreaker.

Buffy is there on the floor, lying on her back with both hands crossed over her chest, seemingly asleep.


“B.”


No quiet tears this time. Faith is actually weeping in pure relief, small involuntary sounds escaping her mouth despite her desperate attempts to keep control.


Buffy is now awake and looking at her curiously, not moving from her oddly funereal position.


“C’mon B, time to get to bed.” Faith coaxes once she’s composed herself a bit.


Buffy doesn’t budge.


“Jesus, bitch, did you forget how to speak English?!” Faith blurts, her emotions still in a jumble in which anger usually landed face-up.


No response, not even annoyance at being called out of her name.


So the brunette goes to pick up the reclining Slayer.


Who plants hands and feet firmly against the narrow confines of the closet to prevent herself from being moved.


“B! Jesus!” Faith blasphemes once again.


They’re locked in a trembly, perfectly even struggle until Faith’s patience breaks and she lets go.


“Fine, you can just sleep in there, you stubborn little Clueless extra.” Faith doesn’t quite mumble.


Exasperated but still secretly glad she’d found the blonde, Faith heads to the kitchen for a draught of water and a probable nip from the bottle of Jack waiting in the freezer.


As soon as she rounds the corner there’s an otherworldly shriek.


It’s grating and piercing all at once and so shockingly loud that Faith leaps immediately back to the still-open closet door, sure there’s a banshee perched in there somewhere.


But there’s just Buffy, looking innocently up with a mouth clamped firmly shut.


Faith proceeds to double check the tiny space, tossing aside her own haphazardly-unpacked clothes to ensure there’s no supernatural threat lurking in dark corners.


After she’s satisfied with her thorough search and a still-silent Buffy, Faith heads towards the kitchenette again.


The keening is immediate and seemingly louder than before.


This time when Faith peeks into the closet Buffy holds out a hand towards her imploringly.


Her expression is so pleading that Faith is somehow touched.


She reaches out to clasp the tiny hand in hers and is yanked forward so hard the top of her head hits the inside closet wall with a heavy ‘thunk!’


A large hole gapes in the cheap plaster when she pulls dizzily away.


“FUCKIN-!” she begins, her loud shout hurting her own aching head just before she’s tugged into place next to the (insanely) strong Slayer.


Buffy positions the woozy brunette right where she wants her, pinned beneath a leisurely leg and a ruthless elbow before snuggling up and seeming to fall instantly asleep.


Faith lies in a bruised daze and wonders if her probable concussion is the explanation for how confused she is as to what exactly the fuck was going on here.

End chapter 3

Chapter Text

 

When Buffy opens her eyes the first and only thought is ‘Faith’.


Not just a word, empty syllables to drip meaninglessly from slack human lips.

An entity created to inspire awe.


The embodiment of a peaceful place, a calming color, a series of wonderful sensations indescribable in simple speech.
Engineer and deliverer of every good experience she’d had on this plane thus far.


The only creature alive like her.

A haven.

The object of her abject worship is currently so close hazel eyes can’t focus on her face. All the blonde can see is a slack drooling mouth as Faith mumbles unintelligibly in her still-sound sleep.


Buffy is not sleepy. Her body thrums with sudden energy, prompting her bedmate to roll away from her with a grouchy grumble.


Buffy takes full opportunity of her sudden freedom by sneaking out of the closet to pad into the main room.


Now what?


Her stomach cramps.


It hurts!


She wails in indignant surprise at the utterly undeserved pain.


Faith enters stage left, stumbling slightly due to the fact that she has yet to open her gummy eyes.


“Faith!” Buffy says emphatically as soon as she catches a glimpse of the tousled brunette.


“ ‘samatter, B? Trouble?” The brunette shifts herself into a drowsy fighting stance.


‘Hurt.’


The sight of her companion was enough to halt Buffy’s crying, but her stomach still hurts.


She stares mutely into Faith’s face, snot running unnoticed over upper lip, eyes wide and guileless.


Faith heaves a huge sigh when as she’d suspected, she doesn’t get an answer.


“B, you gotta cut the shit. I’m gonna go brush my fucking teeth.”


Faith heads to the bathroom.


Buffy follows her.

 

The sleepy brunette pokes her hastily pasted toothbrush into her maw and sits heavily down on the porcelain throne, multi-tasking per her usual morning routine. Seeming to have no concept of personal space, Buffy remains standing so close to her that the Californian’s practically wearing her shirt.


Faith tries to shove her away with an irritable elbow but the other slayer doesn’t even budge.

 


So the exasperated brunette decides to just ignore her, since the first piss of the day couldn’t and wouldn’t wait.

 

As soon as the sound of the seated Slayer’s stream tinkling against porcelain fills the tiny bathroom Buffy gets an odd look on her face.


It’s an expression of deep reflection, but the slight bend of her knees sends Faith a signal she’s already beginning to recognize.


Buffy is peeing too.


But instead of waiting her turn for the toilet for a normal person, or even doing it in the tub ( which also would have been acceptable as far as Faith is concerned), she just stands there and wets herself like an idiot.


It’s too early for this.


Faith stands, spits, rinses, the whole time watching the reflection in the mirror of a dumb-ass blonde standing behind her.


Once she’s done freshening up she’s hungry and craving pancakes. However, fundage is short due to her recent splurge on personal hygiene…necessities.


The free and convenient option is the ‘continental breakfast’ the motel offers. Faith knows this consists of stale cinnamon buns, nightmarish coffee, and a yellowish sludge trying to pass itself off as scrambled eggs. The only edible options are prepackaged cereal and diet sugar packets.


They didn’t even have milk, for chrissakes. The cheapskates.


‘You hungry, B?”


The blonde looks up at her hopefully.


“Faith?”


Ugh.


“Just…” Faith heaves a sigh in an attempt to keep herself from screaming in frustration.


“C’mon.”


Buffy follows as Faith parades the little idiot downstairs to the empty lobby and back again, cradling the mini-serving size boxes of cereal the brunette shoves into her hands. Once they get back to the room she has a brief moments’ peace she wisely uses to dose her coffee with a bit of Irish sweetener as Buffy turns the little boxes over and over in her hands, seemingly captivated by the colorful cartoon characters parading on cheap cardboard.


“Sit.”


Faith parks the pliant blonde at the tiny table.


During their late breakfast of Fruit Loops without milk, Faith decides its finally time to ask some important questions.
“Buffy.”


The blonde looks up from the mini cereal box she’s currently rooting in.


“What happened?”


The little blonde looks quizzically back before offering a handful.


“No, thanks.” Faith shoves away the grimy little hand under her nose.


“Buffy.” She tries again after a second, more seriously.


“Faith.” The blonde copies her somber tone, still trying to rape her face with the slightly soggy sugary hoops.


“Fine, brat.” Faith eats a couple (only the purple) and tries yet again.


“Buffy, where have you been? Do you remember?” Faith taps her own temple exaggeratedly, trying to make herself understood.


Buffy copies the gesture and laughs loonily.


“BUFFY! STOP PLAYING!” Faith barks.


The blonde stiffens up and starts to cry immediately at the harsh tone. Despite, she goes still, looking obediently back at her frustrated former enemy with eyes streaming unselfish-conscious tears. She appears every bit the child she behaves like, innocently ignorant but eager to please.


The cereal box in her hand explodes in a puff of multi-colored sugary dust as her fists reflexively tighten.


Guilt. Instant, merciless guilt, and not a little bit of fear assail the Boston-born interrogator.


“Ahh…” Faith forgets what she was going to say next. All can she feel is like a total heel in the face of such an obvious attempt to appease her anger. She decides to change tacks.


“It’s ok, don’t cry,” she soothes. It both feels and sounds strange in her husky voice but Buffy responds instantly, trying to smile through a face still hideously twisted with weeping.


“Let’s just eat, k?”


Faith tosses a piece of cereal in the air and catches it in her mouth.


Buffy giggles as though it’s the funniest thing she’s ever seen.


And Faith’s stomach warms with a feeling so good she can only compare it to downing the first shot of an all-night bender.

 

Since B seems unwilling or unable to recount the events that brought them together Faith chooses to drop it for now.
What she cannot forget is how it all began, the summons of a voice she now knew as Buffy’s calling her across miles and grudges and a dollar-speckled stage, a summons she’d felt as well as heard drawing her mindlessly to the little blond nuisance she’d written off long ago in a desolate prison cell.


Another thing she can’t forget is her own name, because the little Slayer says it about a million times a day. It seems to be one of the only words the blonde can say without difficulty besides a few others, ‘cheese-man’ for some reason among them. Complete sentences seem beyond her, and conversation proved impossible.


The blonde was basically a toddler in a slightly larger body. Utterly incapable of caring for herself, completely unself-conscious, and dumb as all hell.

But people can learn, Faith figures. Everyone started this life a screaming shitty baby, even Giles, and look how he’d turned out.
And he’d been a puling baby Brit, to boot.


So Faith decides to sponsor the little idiot, become her big sister, so to speak. After all, the chosen one as she is now has zero chance of making it alone. She’d proven that by shitting her pants every damn day so far.


Buffy hung on her every word and followed her everywhere. The little blonde obviously worshipped her now, a welcome change from her previous disdain.


To be honest, it felt kind of good to be so obviously and totally superior to the usually self-righteous little blonde.
I mean, Faith had made countless mistakes in her life, manslaughter and the desecration of her ‘sacred’ Calling among them, but at least she didn’t put spare change in her mouth, or surreptitiously pick her nose and eat it (both of which she’d caught her precious little burden doing).


Slaying wasn’t a problem in the slightest. Faith had seen the blonde in action already. Despite her sudden case of retardation she was twice the fighter she was before. Physically Buffy was still a lean, mean, demon-killing machine. Her regression seemed merely mental and emotional.


Faith had only graduated the school of hard knocks, but even she knew that if you saw Buffy without a Scooby there had to have been a snafu of some sort. An apocalyptic one. Totally possibly.


After the mayhem she’d glimpsed in Sunnydale on their way out, the shit was going down.


And Faith had enough of being elbow-deep in said shit. She wanted to get gone, pronto, and she’d already decided to take Buffy with her. At worst the Original Slayer was a precious bargaining chip to save her own ass. At other worst, she was an infinite pain in aforementioned ass.


If she’d been on her own she would have just train-hopped to safety. Being that she now had the worst traveling companion of all time in tow, a Plan B was in order.


So Faith wracks her brain with schemes and her lungs with smoke, combs her phone until she comes up with a connect.

 

 

 

In Faith’s new life after her release she’d found the underground kitten trade to be a lucrative one.

She never asked what was done with them, but delivering boxes of scrounged felines to various shady dens of sin came to be an essential source of income.


One demon owed her for a few deliveries. He was also dating a Wiccan that just-so-happened to be in the inner circle of a powerful coven that wanted to overthrow the Watcher’s Council.


If she called in a favor he could possibly teleport them somewhere far away, someplace where they could be safe while still fulfilling their sacred calling…

Faith looks to Buffy, sprawled across the floor working on a cheap puzzle she’d stolen from the lobby. It was a brightly colored plasterboard map of the US, each of the 50 states labeled with their name, brightly-colored with tiny wooden knobs to make placement easier for clumsy little hands.


She’s almost done, but the simple little Slayer has failed to realize the ‘Colorado’ piece is missing.
This puzzle would never achieve its true purpose. Even when completed, it would only be good for the trash…


Colorado….


Fresh mountain air, lax laws, nice scenery and a fair amount of demon activity from what she knew. Far enough away to escape detection, yet close enough she can hope they might be overlooked…


Faith makes the call.

 

 

 

“Hey Gene.” Faith greets the 8 foot tall horned demon as they appear in an empty warehouse directly in front of him.
Buffy whoops, then whoopsies beside her. All three are splattered with vomit.


The blonde starts to cry immediately, the deafening wails of a toddler with superhuman lungs.


Gene just stares as Faith tries to calm the blonde. It takes several pieces of pocket candy, a bottle of water and not a few threats to do so.


“This is my…ah, retarded cousin. B, say hi.”


Buffy stares dumbly at the bulky demon’s politely offered hand before sneezing so hard she sprays snot all over her new acquaintance.


“Thanks for the ride.” Faith says hurriedly.


“Any chance there’s a bathroom in this joint?”


And so the Slayers begin their new life in the great American North.


Faith manages to get an apartment by opening a credit card in Buffy’s name (thank the PTB for the Californian’s credit score).
Buffy proves herself useful in sympathy and handicapped brownie points.


Faith may have been reformed, but her morals are still dangerously flexible. After all, the little Slayer would be living there too, so it seemed at least somewhat sensible to stick her with a portion of the bill.


At least, that’s how Faith had convinced herself to look at it.

 

==============================================================================

 

Willow walked in the front door at Revello Drive, shoulders aching and the beginnings of a world-class headache blooming behind her tired eyes.


When they’d lost Buffy, they’d also lost the money she’d brought into the house. It soon became necessary for both Willow and Tara to get jobs in order to keep them all afloat and support Dawn. After all, the teen would soon be graduating high school and would need money in her college fund.


The two witches tried their best to stagger their schedules so that Dawn wouldn’t be alone so much of the time, but it didn’t always work out.


Tara was in the kitchen, back to, still in her own work clothes.


Willow wraps her arms around her from beloved from behind, tucking her chin into the warm nook between neck and shoulder and still not quite believing her luck at being able to come home to her favorite person just as if they were already married.


“Looks yummy,” The redhead comments after taking a peek at the salad the blonde witch is throwing together.


“Thanks, b-baby. How was your day?” Tara kisses her softly before freeing up her pinned arms to chop cucumbers.


“Long. Where’s Dawn?”


“At the skatepark still, I think. I texted her but haven’t gotten an answer yet.” Tara continues to hum happily as she tosses the salad and adds olive oil.


She doesn’t notice Willow is seething as she steps away so the ever-intuitive (especially when it came to anger) blondish witch doesn’t feel her body tense up.


Angsty teen + 10 hours without supervision = pregnant angsty teen!


Four years of Hebrew school had taught the former Jewess at least that much.


She grabs her keys from the counter where she’d deposited them only minutes before, her weariness replaced with sudden nervous energy.


“I’m going out. Need anything?”


She slams the door on her hurried way out as Tara calls out futilely after her.


“Eggs! Bring eggs!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5


The Pampers, the weird little phobias, the Slayer-size tantrums…were all sometimes just too much.


Which was why Faith was currently on the balcony smoking a cigarette, watching Buffy press her red screaming face against the locked sliding glass door of their now-wrecked apartment as she raged with all the force of the Terrible Twenty-Twos.


The weary brunette just needs a minute, dammit, just a minute’s peace…


The sun is shining, with a blessedly cool breeze blowing from the east. It’s so pleasant out here that Faith can ignore the muffled sounds of Buffy’s fit (not without a pang of petty, vengeful pleasure) and close her eyes to tip her face into that sweet caress of balmy air.


Another scream, then the cacophony of shattered glass.


Faith whips her head around to see Buffy lying inside the ruined doorframe with both hands covering her face, cries reaching a pitch Faith had never heard before.


The panicked brunette leaps forward, her smoldering cigarette landing unnoticed atop a bare foot.


“Oh shit B, NO, are you okay? White Jesus!”


She tries to pry the protectively cupped hands away, but Buffy’s louder squeals of protest echo off the apartment buildings around their apartment block.


“I’m so sorry, B, please, just let me see. I’ll give you ice cream for dinner, two flavors.” Faith promises, fighting to sound as calm as possible over a thundering heart, cool as if she were merely asking for a light.


Her bruising grip on ever-so-breakable wrists turns gentle through an act of incredible self-will.


Reluctantly the blonde relaxes her pain-tensed muscles to allow shaky hands to be lifted from her face.

There’s a shard of glass three inches long protruding from the delicate pink tissue at the inner corner of one watering eye.

Faith struggles mightily not to lose her immediate shit at the gruesome sight.


She leads her sobbing patient inside, removes the glass, cleans the wound as best she can, tapes on a clumsy bandage and breaks out the Kit-Kats.


Soon B is perched on the couch cross-legged with both hands and her mouth full of chocolate as she squints at a rerun of ‘The Price is Right.’


Faith is snuggled beside, close as curtains, determined never to let her enemy-turned-victim out of sight for even a second, ever again. She’s still shaking so hard her teeth click together every once in a while, and it takes hours of showering guilty attention on the injured Slayer before she feels almost okay.


By the same time the next day Buffy has healed completely and seems to have utterly forgotten the whole ordeal.


Faith hasn’t.


Even as she’s nailing plywood over the balcony doors while chewing nicotine gum she can still see that fat bloody tear welling up to slither sensuously down a face grown familiar as her own.


She is still terrified.


If she weren’t a Slayer, Buffy might have been killed.


And it would have been all Faith’s fault, per the usual. Another death to further bloody her already filthy hands. Even if it was an accident, what was she, some kind of Typhoid Mary? Why did all those around her die?


So Faith decides that her new mission of redemption is to keep her sister Slayer alive as long as she can.
From now on the ever-irritating, ever troublesome blonde was going to be well cared-for. Like, rich bitch lapdog cared for.


Like,


        autistic white kid in California cared for.


Maybe B had the autism. Faith had heard you could catch it from toilet seats or something.


…or was that taxis?


Faith decides to teach Buffy to wipe down the toilet seat every time she goes, just in case, and resolves never to take a cab again if she can help it.

=============================================================================


Sunnydale’s only skatepark, or “The Tit,” as it was known to locals, was a sad affair.


A few prefab ramps on a bib of concrete, all heavily tagged and falling into disrepair. Still, it was almost always full of teens and local riffraff who somehow knew that in a town such as this there was safety only in numbers.


When Willow pulls up she can spot Dawn immediately, sitting on the table of the half-pipe and chatting with a bald girl sat beside her.


The redhead jumps out of her car amid catcalls and curious stares at her pantsuit and sensibly low heels.


She stalks up to the side of the ramp on Dawn’s right.


“Dawn, it’s time to come home.” She pronounces, to the teen’s utter horror.


Instead of the immediate compliance the witch expects, the young girl just looks back at her.


“Why?”


“Because it’s dangerous to be out after dark, Dawnie, and you know it!”


Baldy snickers at the stupid nickname.


“Don’t call me that!” The youngest Summers bursts out, red-faced.


“Dawn, c’mon!” Willow half-implores, half-commands.


By now several skaters have noticed the commotion and are watching their interaction with amused interest. One blonde kid with a man-bun cruises up the half pipe to land perfectly atop the table between them, board seeming to float up into his hand.


“All good?” He asks, addressing them both though he only had eyes for the visibly upset teen.


His concern would be touching if he didn’t so closely resemble every jock who’d ever picked on Willow in high school.
He irritates the redhead on sight.


“No worries, Lincoln.” Dawn simpers, a hand shooting up to self-consciously smooth her tousled hair, making their relationship patently obvious.


The sole surviving Summers has a crush on this (admittedly) handsome boy.


Every sad-eyed pregnant teen Willow has ever seen on a highway billboard flashes through her little red head.
Willow decides to pull out the big guns.


“Dawn, if you don’t come home right now, I’m throwing away all your CDs. Even the Backstreet Boys.”

 

Dawn dies, her stomach lost in free fall.

 

No one could survive such utter embarrassment without suffering complete organ failure.


She jumps up and races to Willow’s car with spooky speed, throwing herself inside to sit facing stoically forward at nothing.
Everyone stares after her in shocked surprise.


The uncomfortably long silence that follows is broken by a cultured, timid voice.


“Don’t forget Dawn’s board, Mrs. Summers.”


The bald girl is standing and offering said item to Willow, her surly pierced face made radiant by a friendly smile.


The stunned redhead numbly accepts the offering, too stunned to even correct the young woman.


“Thanks.”

The car ride home is painfully silent.


When they get home Dawn races upstairs, presumably to check on her beloved CDs. Thankfully, Tara doesn’t seem to mind much that they’d come home sans eggs. Dinner consists of salad, vegetarian lasagna, and a careful dance of conversational avoidance between the two injured parties.


Tara pretends not to notice and chatters inanely on, skillfully managing to talk with both Dawn and Willow separately without forcing either of them to interact with the other.


It’s harder than it sounds.

 

 

 


Willow can only stew in her own juices for a few hours before she is desperate for a hand out of the pit of guilt she’d dug herself. It hadn’t been that long since she was a teenager, had it? How could she not have realized she was committing essential social slaughter by embarrassing her (best friend’s) little sister in front of half the high school’s counter culture?


She’d acted like the worst version of her own mother. In doing so, she’d managed to further alienate a young woman she loved who was already grasping desperately for any sort of acceptance, of security.


When was she gonna stop fucking up??


She feels familiar despair try to take her over, tightening her chest. After debating with herself for a moment she goes into the bathroom and takes two Xanax from the bottle she’d been prescribed, washing them down with tap water.
If there was ever a moment she needed relief from anxiety, this was it. She steels herself.


Willow Rosenberg, witch turned adoptive older sister, fighter of all things evil and scary, would need all the help she can get to face this looming battle.


The Eating of Crow.

 

 

She has Tara knock at Dawn’s room and call out to her. When the brunette invites her girlfriend in, it’s the redhead’s slim form that slips through the door.


Dawn’s lip curls at the sight of her. She goes back to her homework, staying sprawled on her stomach on the bed so the redhead doesn’t have a place to sit.


So the witch stays standing, fiddling nervously with a tube of mascara lying on the dresser.


“Please don’t touch my stuff.” Dawn says, breaking the by-now rubbery silence between them with the verbal equivalent of a hurled icicle.


Willow flinches visibly at the barb.


The little tube stays clenched in one sweaty palm, forgotten as she faces the sulky teen for the first time.


“Dawn, I…I really messed up, and I’m truly sorry. I just…”


She leaves off talking for a second to try and steady her suddenly-trembling voice and hands.


“I just care about you, so much. We all do. And after what happened, we can’t lose you-“


(-too.)


She can’t say the last word, and doesn’t have to. Both their eyes instantly go to the photo in its silver frame amid the clutter on top of the bureau, one of a much younger Summers family grinning into the camera as if they’d never suffered tragedy and never would.


They’re both crying now. Dawn buries her face in her folded arms, creasing the pages of her textbook.


Her voice comes out muffled but still audible.


“I love you guys. I’m sorry too. I saw all those texts and calls, and I ignored them. I just wanted to get away for awhile. I want to forget about everything…”


She’s sobbing too hard to say anything else.


Willow comes over to wrap her arm around her shoulders in the best semblance of a hug she can manage in their awkward position.


They both cry for awhile.


“If you answer the phone when we call…” Willow says slowly through a throat still clogged with tears and snot, “You can hang out past curfew, wherever you want. As long as you carry a stake. And if there’s ever any sign of vampires, demons, Satanists or any combo of the above, you have to run straight back here.”


“I will, I can, I swear. But you have to promise never to touch my CDs. Like, ever. No matter what.”


“Deal.”


The slight click of the door opening startles them both. It only opens a gap before a box of tissues slides across the floor to rest in front of the bed directly in front of them both.


The door clicks gently shut again, and Dawn gives a phlegmy, relieved giggle that Willow echoes as she heaves herself up to retrieve it.

=============================================================================

 


The dark Slayer would never admit to how she’d hang around clusters of young mothers at the park and the children’s section of department stores to eavesdrop on the unaware ladies’ child-rearing tips.


Baby Einstein DVDs and the use of sign language to communicate with non-verbal toddlers were both hugely successful results of her snooping.


Buffy picks up on ASL with spooky speed, expanding her vocabulary ten-fold.


Faith has a harder time but studies doggedly to keep up.


Speech seemed difficult for the little Slayer, but her dark counterpart did her best to keep her talking, or trying.

 

After cajoling a horny neighbor to hook her up with stolen cable in exchange for a brief striptease, Faith quickly found out how dangerous television could be to a developing mind.


Buffy gets hooked on the Wiggles.


Those four silly twinks in color-coordinated shirts soon take over the little blonde’s soul, prompting pleas to watch them daily and tantrums when they were off the air.

 

 

Their days slide smoothly into a routine.


Buffy rises early, Slayers not needing much sleep. Around 8:30 she was usually up and demanding breakfast, no matter what time they’d gone to bed.


Mealtimes are a challenge until Faith discovers finger foods & baby wipes are the best bet to cutting down on messes. Buffy is a grown woman, so a sippy cup was out of the question. Yet a regular cup was still a bit hard to handle. A collection of straws, both bendy and regular proved a logical solution.


Fairly fast she was able to break B of the habit of tilting a glass to have a look at how much was left, which thankfully cut down on spilled milk and the tears that inevitably followed.
She wants her deposit back, after all.


B watches those wretched Wiggles while eating, and Faith tries to jolt herself awake with unsafe amounts of caffeine.
Around 9 they train for a bit. Stretches, weightlifting, and light sparring followed by another diaper change. After that came mental stimulation. Puzzles, pictures, blocks, at least 5 new ASL vocabulary words. Once Faith is able to pry her charge away from these distractions, its lunch, change, and a nap Buffy always protests vociferously.
Around sundown…

 


                                 …they slay.


Their world begins to seal itself around the two, and it’s a peaceful one despite the nightly violence.


Faith’s cellphone is chock full of pictures of the Chosen One doing the most adorable and inane things. She scrolls through snapshots daily, struggling mightily with the most difficult of decisions; which to delete in order to make room for more.
Buffy for her own part is eager to please, asking for nothing in return save for her Slayer counterpart’s constant attention. She says the other woman’s name about a million times a day.


The Boston-born woman hadn’t known the potential range of expression a single syllable could hold.


Speaking of which…any second now she would hear…


“Faith!”


Buffy pointed proudly at the finished puzzle.


The Dark Slayer clicked her stopwatch.


“2:42. Very nice, B! You shaved off ten seconds with that trick I showed ya!” Faith claps and whistles shrilly through her teeth, which she knows the blonde loves.


“Faith.”


Buffy bounces up and slings her arm around her counterpart’s neck, still bouncing a bit and looking at her expectantly.


“I think you’ve earned a trip to the park, B.”


'Swing!’ Buffy manages to sign as she bounds away to put on her boots.


Faith can’t help but wonder why this felt so good, so right, taking care of the sister Slayer she’d once betrayed.


It was more like a family than anything Faith had ever had. And it satisfied her more than she’d ever thought possible.

 


But Faith of all people knew far too well that the more you’ve got, the more you’ve got to lose.

Chapter Text

 Chapter 6 – So You Thought this was a Boat Show

 

 



DUCK-!” Willow screams.

“- RUN !” Xander bellows half a second after.

Tara briefly wonders what a duck-run is before her panicked brain propels her body into motion.

Only the awkward angle of her hunched back and wide stance of waddling legs as she does her best impression of a running duck save her from being impaled by the series of knives a ( female? ) demon is currently vaulting at her.

Willow utters ancient incantations as her hair turning black at the floating tips. Whatever she’s chanted freezes the snarling demon in place as Anya darts forward to pluck formerly deadly projectiles out of the air.

Xander takes the opportunity to leap on the motionless demon’s back and grasp her jaw in his hands. In that single second, he can’t help but notice how small her almost-human face feels cupped in his large, calloused grip.

“PTB, please forgive me.” He whispers before breaking the hellish thing’s scaly neck with one fluid twist.



After a shaky Scooby victory dinner of pizza and donuts Xander excuses himself to the front porch and invites Willow to go with him.

“I can’t do this anymore, Willow. I will never abandon you, but things are changing for us. Don’t tell anyone, but Anya and I..we’re…I guess you could say….”

The former Zeppo awkwardly palms the back of his neck.

“Were engaged, and we’re trying for a baby. With Anya in a delicate condition and me about to be a dad, we can’t afford to keep taking these…risks. We might even have to move away for a little while, at least until the baby is older. Please understand, Willow, I have to protect my family!”

The party grows understandably awkward after that.






Lately, the most powerful witch on the side of good was…

Lonely.

Lonely, abandoned, and utterly alone. 

 

Xander and Anya are constantly busy with packing and the classifieds and all the hassles that come with a cross-country move, just a tad too busy to take call after call from a weeping Willow.

Tara was at work, where personal calls were strictly verboten unless someone was dead.

Physically, not just inside.

Even without school Dawn is gone most of the time, hanging out at the Tit to make heart eyes at the young skater Willow still can’t bring herself to completely trust.

When Willow calls to check in, she (disturbingly) can't tell if it’s her imagination that hears Lincoln’s voice mocking her in the background, even when Dawn claims to be at the library with her new bald friend Alicia, who turns out to be a serious student despite her...unconventional fashion choices.

The depressed redhead was fully aware that staying home with no company but her dark thoughts only ever led to despair. Which could only ever lead to the further relaxing of her already-shaky grip on the wispy hope clinging somewhere deep inside.

Amongst the recently-depleted Scooby gang, patrolling alone is strictly forbidden according to the rules she herself had made.

However, the longer she thinks about it, the more going out to protect the innocent seems like a great use of her otherwise wretched time.

It seemed, very possibly, one of the better ideas she’d ever had.

Even if it was the warm glowy pill-haze talking.

After all, just because the world had lost its greatest hero didn’t mean that it wasn’t still in need of one.



She stakes four newly-risen before things start to get out of hand. The pharmaceutical drugs in her system are starting to slow her down significantly, and the slimy demon she happens upon among the dew-soaked gravestones is quick, quick.

It’s a bloody desperate struggle as they end up clawing at each other in pure human cat-fight fashion, yanking hair and gouging at eyes.



Willow finally stuns the hellish beastie with a cheap uppercut to what she thinks might be a vagina. 

Her opponent writhes in pain beneath her as she straddles its goopy torso, pinning its arms to its sides with powerful thighs before murmuring a spell guaranteed to implode the head of her enemy in 30 seconds or less.

“You kinda suck at this, white hat. Best hire the dark Slayer to get the job done right. She’ll do it, for a fair price. Hell, even her pet zombie could…” 

The creature’s venomous rant is cut off as its head swells like a balloon before exploding into bloody chunks of hair and bone that splatter onto everything in sight.

Except Willow’s Hello Kitty sweater and pink jeans, which remain magically clean as she sits stunned atop what remains of an unholy corpse.



When Willow gets home Tara is horrified to see her mangled hair and rapidly swelling lip but reacts as usual, with gentle first aid and a blessed lack of nagging about exactly why the redhead had stumbled home so late and battered. 

 

Willow wouldn’t have been able to explain right then anyway. Her head is so swimmy she’s almost sure what she’d heard had been a hallucination.

Yet she had to know for sure.

 

Time for some hardcore research (and not a few bribes) for new information.

 

What dark Slayer?

 

Faith?

 

A zombie? Had Faith began to dabble in the dark arts and become some sort of slutty evil necromancer?

Willow had to know. Previous experience had taught her that involving others only complicated things. No more dragging those she loved into her morally questionable, dangerous shenanigans.

Once she’s calmed down enough to actually attempt an explanation as to how she looked like she"d gone 3 rounds with Tyson, she becomes a liar on top of everything else. Little matter, with all the atrocious sins already staining her prematurely weathered soul.

She'd become the kind of person she hated the most, the smooth-faced liar who gave little-to-no thought to the lives a whopping fib said to an innocently trusting face might destroy. A woman who could fake tears and still accept the tender affections showered upon her battered frame without any outward sign of her deception, or any hint of the guilt gnawing at her mind.

 

Lips split and bruised are kept sealed by the single thought that clangs around inside her head like a particularly catchy snatch of music.

 

Slayer…zombie…?

 

With a bit of slightly rough rustling through the tangled branches of the demon grapevine, Willow harvests some wild rumors. 

 

They say in the demon bars and back alley hideouts that there’s a dark Slayer in the North currently killing whole tribes of demons like so many flies, assisted by a zombie slave that obeyed her every command.

This creature, the Buffy, was purported to have been a Slayer who’d been killed by none other than Faith herself. The gruesome details varied from source to source, but all agreed that the murderous Slayer had then performed some sort of ritual to bind the Superzombie to her disgustingly virtuous whim. The two had supposedly wiped out nearly half the Northwest’s demon population in a genocidal rampage that had the Underworld in a whirlwind.



The first spark of hope Willow’s felt since the failed resurrection ignites in her chest. It mingles strangely with the guilt she already feels having had a hand in providing the ever-unscrupulous Faith with an undead killing machine. And stranger still with a rapidly dawning, horrible truth;

 

 

that she just might have to kill whatever abomination it was that she’d created of their beloved martyr.



=======================================================================================================

 

 

“FAAIIITHHHH!!!”

Faith jerks awake to her own name being screamed so loud that the neighbors probably would have been pounding the wall in protest...if they’d dared. Everyone in the building hated how noisy the two oddballs in 32G were, yet none had the guts to call them on it after an incident involving a certain blonde, a complaining neighbor and a severed finger. So the Chosen Two’s closest neighbors suffered in tense silence.

 

The alert brunette makes her sleepy way down the hall with supernatural speed and stealth, crossbow notched and ready.

 

Buffy is sitting up sitting up in bed tousle-haired and sniffling. At the sight of her former enemy she outstretches both arms hopefully in the disheveled brunette’s direction.

A slayer’s muscle density equals dead weight. Only Faith could lift her so easily from rumpled blankets to check her for wounds.

“Shhh, B, you’re alright now, goddamit,” Faith hushes, knowing it’s not so much what she says as how she says it. Anything to keep the little weirdo from loosing that deafening screech again.

Sometimes Buffy forgot that the humans they protected and lived alongside needed sleep, and much more of it than Slayers did. Faith did her slapdash best to be considerate to their neighbors, despite all appearances to the contrary.

The tired brunette lets her knees give out so they land sitting heavily down on the bed. Buffy squirms backward in her lap until they’re face to face and begins to sign urgently inches from unfocused eyes.

Faith doesn’t understand these sign, or has forgotten, or can’t read properly due to their proximity and the trembling of Buffy’s hands.

She has to look it up before she finally understands.

Deaddreamdeaddreamdeaddreamdead-‘

Faith has to grasp Buffy’s sweaty palms to stop the almost compulsive signing. Sleepy brown eyes fill with involuntary tears at how much those ten icy little fingers quake.

She has to think before signing an answer, not because of hesitation but because the signs don’t come as naturally to her.

Faith will protect B. B is home. I will keep B safe.’

They fall asleep curled together in the closet.

 

=======================================================================================================

 

 

“Hello? Willow? I can barely hear you, bloody cursed connection…” Giles’ voice crackles before coming in clear again.

 

Yes, Willow? What is it? Are you well?

 

 “Giles, I think…” Willow stops for a second and tries to continue breathing normally through her rapidly tightening chest. She gives the comforting orange prescription bottle beside her on the bureau a longing glance before continuing bravely on.

“I have reason to believe my resurrection spell went more kaflooey than I thought. I might have…we might be…”

The anxious witch sucks in another huge breath Giles can hear all too clearly despite the fuzzy connection before the world stops around him at the next 10 words.

“I think I might have turned Buffy into a zombie.”