Written for the original flashficathon reunion, other fics can be found here: here.

Post-Chosen, Faith/Buffy, R

Feeling Life

When she woke up gasping in the middle of the night, Robin would try to hold her. He never understood why she always jerked away. Didn't know that when she closed her eyes, she could see him on the bus. Eyes rolling back in his head, motionless. And she knew then, she couldn't trust him. Not with something real.

She tried, for months. To pretend that it didn't matter, that he'd just been joking and she could accept that. Except then she'd think about Amanda. About Molly. Her first watcher. Those she couldn't save. And worse, those she had killed herself. Finch. Wirth. And about the name she couldn't even say aloud to anybody – Richard Wilkins III. About how she couldn't even tell anybody she still missed and mourned him. Angel might have understood, a little. But Angel had become strangely distant since Sunnydale fell into the earth. All those deaths were real. Faith couldn't joke about death. It haunted her waking hours.

But something else haunted her sleeping ones. And she still wasn't sure – what. Her watcher – her first watcher – had told her of Slayer dreams. But Faith had never put much stock in them. The dreams just felt like another confusing voice telling her what to do – and she could never tell if they were real or just her imagination. She'd asked Buffy about them, once. Years ago, back when she thought that she could redeem herself for those she'd neglected to save. But Buffy went quiet and changed the subject.

The dreams had never been common. Not for Buffy and certainly not for Faith. Hazy images – cloven hooves before Kakistos tore her watcher apart. Lightning arcing across the sky before Gwendolyn Post betrayed her. Falling through the sky forever. Vague images that never meant anything until it was too late, until her life was shattered around her and she was trying to pick up the pieces.

Except now she was dreaming every night. Bright, vivid dreams. Dreams of LA, dreams of Sunnydale. In them she saw a world that wasn't. A world in which Angel had a son that had to be a lie , a world in which Buffy never had a sister. It threw Faith off balance, made her question everything, everyone. Just a fucking dream she'd whisper to herself, trying to fall back asleep. Robin would stir and try to pull her close and she'd stiffen, unable to sleep while he was touching her. Unable to look at him without seeing his eyes open, empty, staring.

Sometimes she had the urge to ask Buffy – is this real? Is this what you remember? How are you sleeping at night? None of the other girls – the slayers, they weren't just girls, not anymore - were experiencing anything like this, she'd asked around. But then, none of them had been there, seen anything first hand. But Buffy was distant. Hell, Buffy wouldn't look at anybody half the time. Was always too damn busy to stay and talk, always had things to do, things to organize, slayers to train and moderate and…anything but talk to Faith.

Fuck. Faith was tired of waiting, tired of not fucking sleeping at night, not being able to breathe.

** ** **

Buffy was in her room, the door shut. It was usually shut. Faith knocked but didn't wait for an invitation. Wasn't likely to come, particularly not if Buffy had a clue who was on the other side.

“I need to talk to you.”

“Can it wait? Or can Giles deal with it?”

“It's not…It's Slayer stuff. I've been having these dreams, weird ones. No Dawn, some kid named Connor, it's like – it's like everything that happened, but it's not what happened. Like a movie that's just gone fucking wrong, ya know? And I was wondering…” Faith watched Buffy's face turn to stone at her words. Cold and shutting her out.

“Don't worry about it.”

”Jesus, B – I've been fucking dreaming them every night. It might fucking mean something! You haven't had any …”

Buffy interrupted her before she could go on. “I know what they're about. And you don't need to deal with it. I'll handle it.”

Faith could feel the pull of fear-anger-despair in her stomach. She wasn't good enough, again. Outside, not in the secret circle, not allowed to know anything. Send her out to kill, not to ask questions.

“Fine.” She kept her face expressionless. Shrugged. “Guess it doesn't really matter. Hey, listen, B – you don't really need me. I've been thinking – I should probably take off, let the next generation take up the slack, earn their keep. You know me, itchy feet. Being locked up for a few years will do that to a girl.”

She refused to look at Buffy. Didn't know what expression she'd see in those eyes. Relief? Disappointment? Or worse, boredom?

“Faith.” Buffy's voice was a whisper. Faith could almost believe she meant the words, except the proof was in the fucking pudding. Words never meant anything. “I – I'm sorry. I want to tell you, but…”

Faith waved her hand. Breathe she told herself. “Hey, no big. None of my business, right? It's cool. Not like I expected to start sharing everything with you. Just thought maybe there was something I needed to know.”

“It's not…” Buffy shook her head. “I don't know how much you know, about what's happened the last few years.” Her voice was so soft Faith had to strain to make out the words, found herself taking a step forward, listening.

She shrugged. “Shit happened. You dealt. You always do.”

“But I didn't…I wanted to talk to you about it, tell you earlier. Let you know I – I understand a lot more now. But we've been so busy, with the First Evil and then…” Buffy's voice trailed off.

”Don't give me that fucking bullshit, B. It's been months. Talk if you want to talk but I'm not part of your little gang. You've made that pretty fucking clear. So if you don't have anything to say, I'm out of here.” Faith turned to go, nausea churning in her gut. Excuses. There was always one excuse after another why Buffy didn't want her around.

“Can you just shut up and listen for a change?” Buffy shouted out. “Fuck!”

Shocked, Faith turned and stared at her. “Damn, B.” She breathed out. “I don't think I've ever heard you swear before.”

“Dawn's not real.”

Faith stared at Buffy, a ragged burst of laughter stuttering out. “What the hell? Never figured you for taking up crack, Buff.”

Buffy shook her head, frustrated. “Sorry, that – that's not what I meant. She's real but she's not…she's my sister but she's not…those memories are false. She's only existed for three years.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “That's why it scares me, when you dream…you're dreaming the truth. I don't know if I want to know what that is.”

Faith just blinked at her for a second. Dawn – Dawn was real. Fuck, Faith remembered everything about her. Hero-worship and anger at taking Buffy away and chocolate ice cream and how Dawn once told Faith that she was her favorite sitter and…Faith shook her head. “I'm fucking lost, B. Explain.”

Buffy shrugged, looking down. “It's a long story. Too long, I…”

“Whatever. Never mind then.” Faith turned. Too fucking little, too fucking late. Pretty much always the same, give Faith a crumb and see how long she'd stick around hoping for another. Months, years. She couldn't keep living like this. “Some things don't change, I guess.”

Buffy reached out, grabbing Faith's wrist, spinning her around to look at her. Faith could feel the pressure of each finger, the grip tight, just shy of bruising. She wasn't sure what that meant. Couldn't remember the last time Buffy'd touched her, except with fists. This was…firm. Constant. Not letting go .

“That's – that's kind of my point, Faith. We're not – not the same people we were four years ago. And…” Faith could see Buffy struggling to take a deep breath, her skin unnaturally pale. Hard to think of Buffy the way she was now, sometimes. All those years in prison and Faith always pictured Buffy laughing, golden, shimmering and dancing just out of reach. Remember sparring with her, the way Buffy's skin would gleam, her breasts rising and falling with each breath as she moved and dodged, smiling at the sheer joy of it all. And then she came back to Sunnydale and found her…

Cold. Brittle. Faith thought it was months before she even caught a glimpse of a genuine smile on Buffy's face. Wondered what had happened, figured it was just her. Cold silence wrapped around herself in order to conceal Buffy's distaste for having to deal with her. Having to work with Faith for the good of the world didn't mean actually having to like her. Faith knew that, even as she saw the shadows deepening under Buffy's eyes, the straight, unbending way Buffy held herself and compared it to memories of grabbing Buffy by the hand, running down the streets, half-doubled over with laughter. Wondered if she was the one who'd done this to Buffy, tore the smile from her face, leeched the joy out. Everything she touched, Faith betrayed. She didn't want to be that Faith any longer. Wasn't going to be. She'd made a vow, four years ago.

Buffy was still groping for words, eyes huge and almost pleading. It made Faith's chest hurt, made her want to blink back tears. Watched Buffy struggling for a second, trying to figure out how say something, anything. It wasn't like any of them had ever been that good at communication. The grip on her wrist was tighter, only thing keeping Faith from bolting.

“Fuck it,” she muttered. You only lived once and she'd already lived half a dozen years longer than she'd ever expected. Hell, worst that could happen was Buffy…would never talk to her again. But that might not feel much different than right now, talking past one another.

She twisted her hand slightly, twisting her it until she could latch her own hand around Buffy's wrist. Tugged, pulling Buffy off balance. Took a deep breath, let herself fall backwards, the weight of her body dragging Buffy down with her. Faith ignored the jolt of pain as she hit the ground hard, Buffy half knocking the wind out of her. Forced herself to relax, mentally braced for Buffy to slug her and take off. Waited.

“Faith?” Buffy's tone was shocked, questioning. But she wasn't moving, her body loose and easy on top of Faith's, her breathing calmer than her voice.

Faith loosened her grip on Buffy's wrist, slid her hand up over Buff's forearm, feeling the sleekness of skin, taunt muscles and fragile bones. Smoothed her hand around to Buffy's back, feeling Buffy stiffen slightly but not move. One fucking shot . She leaned up, just brushing her mouth over Buffy's, feeling Buffy's breath exhale out in a huff of surprise. Faith mentally braced herself for the rejection she knew was going to come.

“I wanted to say – I'm sorry for everything I did.”

Buffy froze above her, body tight, a spark of anger in her eyes. “Is that what this is about? Sorry?” The words spat out, and Faith started shaking her head before they were even finished.

“No! Fuck no, B…Buffy. No, this is about the fact that I want to fuck you. That I wanted to five years ago, even if I didn't know it then. That I spent three years in prison thinking about it and that…ever since I got out…you wouldn't look at me or talk to me or…” Faith's voice dropped to a whisper. “I've really missed you, B.”

She kept her eyes open, somehow. Even though she was terrified (at) of what she'd see on Buffy's face, in her eyes. She'd had dreams about this moment, but they'd always ended with Buffy smirking, sliding a knife into Faith's stomach and laughing as Faith clutched at the wound, blood seeping through her fingers. Turning away. Walking away. Faith thought the knife might be easier to bear than this moment, the waiting, trying to decipher the expressions playing across Buffy's face. Her fingers clenched tightly around Buffy's hips.

Buffy bit her lip. “Faith, I…”

Faith could hear…reluctance. Something. Defeated, she stiffened, let her hands drop down to the ground at her side. She' tried. She'd lost. Fucking story of her life.

“Never mind.” Faith said tonelessly, lying motionless. Tried to memorize the feel of Buffy's body lying on top of hers. “Thought maybe…” Shook her head.

“No!” Buffy's hand reached out, cupped Faith's cheek. Faith resisted the urge to press her head into the gesture, held herself completely motionless. “I mean, I've never…not with a…” Her voice trailed off.

Faith glanced up, a spark of hope sparking through her. She searched Buffy's face, a smirk dawning on her own. With a laugh, she flipped them both over, resting her weight on top of Buffy, moving her hips in a long, slow circle. “Shit, B, if that's all…” She leaned down, lips brushing over Buffy's neck, tongue delicately licking out and tracing the line of Buffy's jaw. Slid her hand up under Buffy's shirt, fingers grazing the skin of her belly. So soft, like satin. So much strength underneath, but touching it…Faith couldn't remember ever feeling anything this soft and warm. She let her fingertips glide in small circles, rocking her hips into Buffy's.

Smiled, slow and catlike. “I can teach you anything you want to know. Trust me, three fucking years in prison…” Faith leaned down, catching Buffy's mouth with her own, Kept the kisses small, delicate and nibbling, until she could feel Buffy straining up to reach her. Slipped her other hand around, cupping the back of Buffy's head, cradling it. Felt the warmth spreading through her, slow and liquid, making her shiver, making her want to clutch Buffy to her, fuck her mouth with her tongue but…she needed to keep it slow, steady. Didn't want to scare her. Treasured the small sound of Buffy's whimper, sliding her hand up, tracing the line of Buffy's breast, feeling the nipple pebble beneath her palm. Gliding her fingers lightly. Remember this. This moment, this is real . Broke away, taking a deep breath.

“Ok?” Faith whispered, glancing down at Buffy. Please let her say yes.

Stiffened in shock as Buffy suddenly wrapped both legs around Faith's waist, arching her pelvis up hard. “Faith? Ask me that again and I'll kick your ass. Trust me, you're more in danger of breaking than I am if you keep teasing me.” Buffy smiled slowly, a glint in her eyes. “But I dare you to try.”

Faith closed her eyes, smiling. Leaned down, kissed Buffy hard, fiercely, breathing her in. Feeling Buffy move beneath her. Feeling life.

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