Disclaimer: All characters and a few lines of of dialogue from “Graduation Day: Part one” are owned by Joss Whedon.
Author notes: This takes place immediately post “Graduation Day: Part one” and is an alternate ending: What if Faith didn’t throw herself off the building after being stabbed?
It had taken months to lead up to this point, months of wary circling about each other and frequent irritations, continual misunderstandings and serious mistakes, failures and dropped balls from both sides, and at one point in time, however briefly, genuine friendship, or at least, the beginnings of its roots, tentatively attempting to stem out into something deeper and more settled. But in the end, it all came down to a single moment, a single motion. One quick thrust of a wickedly curved knife, with a grimly set expression and steady hand, and they both knew that this was what it was all leading up to. This would be the end result. Perhaps it had been inevitable, perhaps it never should have happened at all. But the moment that Faith’s own knife pierced her abdomen, guided by Buffy’s hand, and they met each other’s eyes, they both knew there was no possibility of a take back.
For a moment time seemed to freeze as Buffy stared into Faith’s eyes, her hand still wrapped around the hilt of the knife, its blade buried deeply inside of Faith’s body. She watched as Faith’s mouth opened in a silent gasp, blood trickling out over her lip, as her eyes brightened with shock and what was doubtlessly intense pain, and it seemed to her as though it were her hand on the knife that was somehow still supporting Faith, keeping her from falling over.
With this nearly detached thought Buffy hurriedly pulled the knife back, removing it from Faith and holding it in a fist clinched so tightly she could feel her hand beginning to ache, the knife’s hilt on the verge of breaking. She did not look down at the blade, not wanting to see the blood that would color its steel. She did not look at Faith’s stomach, not wanting to see the red that was doubtless spreading fast over the fabric of her shirt. She did not want to connect the red with blood, with Faith’s very life force, fast leaving her body. She did not want to fully understand that it was she who had caused it to emerge.
This was what she had come here to do. She had come with resolve, with righteous anger, with every intention of killing Faith with no regrets, no looking back. She had come with the intention of doing exactly whatever it took to take Faith down, whether or not she was a human, without regard for whether it was right or wrong. It hadn’t mattered to her. When it came down to a choice between Faith’s life and Angel’s, it was no contest.
Faith had to die for Angel to live, and so if this was what it took, Buffy would make it happen. And if she enjoyed herself in the act, then she wouldn’t feel bad for that either. But the moment the knife pierced Faith’s skin, the moment she pulled it back out, and looked into her eyes, really looked and truly saw the emotions passing through their surfaces, enjoying herself was the last thing Buffy could have comprehended.
“You did it, B,” Faith breathed, as Buffy watched her face drain of color, the words seeming difficult for her to form. “You killed me.”
There was some shock in her tone, but also what sounded, incredibly, to Buffy, like wistfulness, and very little fear…maybe even relief. Faith knew that she was dying, that Buffy intended for her to. She knew that she had lost this battle. And yet there was no anger in her voice, no panic. It looked and sounded as though she had expected this. As though maybe she had even welcomed it, on some level.
As though she had almost invited her own death. Dared Buffy to kill her, without much regard for the outcome.
And Buffy had. Not yet…but soon. Buffy’s thrust had been intended to be fatal, and Faith must know that, must feel that every moment she continued to struggle to stand, to even breathe through what must have been terrible pain. If she were of any less strength than that of a Slayer, she doubtless would have fallen immediately. Maybe she would already even be dead.
Her hair was hanging in her face, her shoulders hunched over, hands pressed against her wound as though she were trying to somehow protect herself. It was a logical move, if made too late. It crossed Buffy’s mind as Faith took one faltering step back, then stumbled, her feet sliding, that the other girl looked very young in that moment, as her face began to lose all expression. She was still looking at Buffy, her lips parted, but if she intended to say anything more, she could not form the words, and she could not hold herself upright any longer. Her knees buckled, and she slid down before Buffy’s feet, her eyes closed, one hand flung out limply, the other still pressed against her still-seeping abdomen.
Buffy didn’t move. A part of her mind did not quite accept that Faith had truly fallen, and what it meant. It reasoned without full logic that Faith was waiting for her to draw close, and would then lash out at her, pulling her down beside her and somehow injuring Buffy as well. Faith was a Slayer. One single action, even one as deadly as this…surely it would not permanently bring her down. She looked at the knife still grasped in her hand, and it seemed to her that for Faith to really die, to really stay down, she would need to stab her again, and again, however many times it took. One stab, one time, that couldn’t have been all that would be needed. Faith was more than that, stronger than that.
But Faith did not move. Faith’s eyes did not open, and Buffy knew deep down that this was what was logical, that anyone, even a Slayer, would have been badly internally damaged.
Time was running out. If Buffy was going to save Angel, if she was going to go through with this, all the way, she had to do it now. She would have to bring Faith to him.
She had had the plan clearly set in her mind before she set out, and yet now that it was in motion, every small piece of it that made up one whole seemed so different, so much harder than it had seemed in her mind. She had never imagined how it would feel to actually watch the blade disappear inside Faith, had never thought that Faith might have last words, had not envisioned the look on her face. She had never realized how very ugly blood could be, had never really noted how very heavy and hideous the knife would feel afterward in her hand.
And she had not imagined how difficult it would be to walk to the fallen Faith’s side, to have to lift her body into her arms and carry her, every step of the way, back to Angel. But this was exactly what she was going to have to do.
Buffy’s feet did not seem capable of lifting as highly as usual as she made her way to Faith’s motionless body, and she took a deep breath before kneeling beside her, intending to lift her in one swift movement, to get it over with as rapidly as was possible, to keep the time needed in touching her brief as she could. But when she set down Faith’s knife, then took Faith into her arms and got to her feet, what she immediately noticed made her suck in her breath, her heart speeding in its beats.
Faith was still warm, her skin in fact almost feverish to the touch. But what Buffy had not been prepared for was that Faith was still alive. She could see her chest rising and falling with each shallow breath, and though her eyes were closed, Buffy could see the pulse at her throat, however faint.
She might be touching Faith, the moment that Faith died. She might be holding her in her arms.
There was no time to really let this sink in, no time to recoil at the horror of this idea, a horror Buffy had not thought she might feel. She had to get her back to Angel. That was the plan, that was what she wanted. That was what she needed…what Angel needed. Nothing else mattered, nothing else was of any consequence, not in comparison.
Gritting her teeth, then setting her jaw firmly, Buffy began to walk.
She would not have thought she would care about how she was carrying Faith, or how she ended up transferring her from Faith’s apartment to Angel’s bedside. As long as she could get her there without anyone stopping them or spilling too much of Faith’s blood before Angel could get it, then what did it matter if she carried Faith roughly or with arms and legs dangling, head lolling, jerking ad jostling in her hold?
But again the reality was different than what she had anticipated, and Buffy found herself walking more slowly than usual, taking her steps with care. She had arranged Faith in her arms in such a way that she was not simply transporting her carelessly, like one might a pile of laundry or a bag of dog food, but rather holding her against her chest, supporting her head so it did not crane backward at an awkward and uncomfortable angle. Holding her like you would hold a baby or a child…almost cradling her.
She tried to tell herself that this was for herself, not for Faith. That if she let Faith flop over limply without having some care to her method of carrying, that Faith would be heavier and more unwieldy to handle. That she might lose blood more rapidly, and waste what couldn’t afford to be wasted. And some of this might be true, maybe even all of it.
But when she shifted Faith’s body in her arms, it had not been in reaction to any procession of logical thoughts; those had come later. It had simply been instinct. It had been what she would do for anyone she was carrying for a long distance who was injured….any person. Any human.
Even, apparently, Faith.
It was not easy then to tell herself that Faith’s humanity, the presence of her soul, did not matter in light of her evil acts. It was not easy to tell herself that she was doing the right thing, that Faith had driven her to this, as with every step, Faith’s skin seemed hotter, more alive, more distinctly human to the feel.
It was not easy not to compare Faith’s skin to Angel’s, to feel a pang of unease as Buffy thought of its hard coolness, how distinctly different he felt even when just as injured, just as ill as Faith was now. Even then, even in the midst of what appeared to be a human bodily reaction, Angel’s skin never felt human.
Buffy could not scale the side of the apartment or leap off the rooftop with Faith in her arms, or at least was not willing to take the risk of trying. To get to Angel she would have to walk straight out the front door and through the rest of the building, out a side or back door instead of a lobby. She could have taken the time to get a blanket to wrap Faith in, to disguise the fact that she was clearly unconscious and injured, but the thought never entered her mind until she was already at the head of the staircase. With each step she knew she was jostling Faith badly, but the girl never stirred, and her eyes did not move beneath their lids.
Buffy prayed that there were no cameras in the hallways having caught her image on film, and that if there were, then they had not recognized her or Faith. It would be a near miracle if the Mayor didn’t have people posted specifically to watch his girl, to come running for back up at the slightest sign of trouble. And what was she to do, if that happened? How could she fight with Faith in her arms? Yet how could she risk putting her down, and the Mayor or one of his minions snatching her up and taking off with her, before Buffy could take her away, making this whole ordeal in vain?
With each flight of stairs she was sure that one of the doors to the landings would throw open, that a pack of vampires or demons would descend upon them. But nothing came. Still, Buffy’s heartbeat did not slow. In fact, by the time she reached the ground level of the staircase and slipped out the exit into the back alley of the building, she could feel her pulse throbbing steadily in her temples, a pained tightness pressing against her heart.
She stayed to the back alleys as she continued to walk, knowing very well she could not walk in front of store buildings or on any main roads, even at this side of the night. Of course it would do her no good to come across a vampire ready to pick a fight, a vampire who might finish draining Faith himself as an evening snack while Buffy was simply trying to finish him off to get away. It was still possible that the Mayor would send someone. But even more than that, Buffy didn’t need a human to see, a police officer, or some nosy do-gooder who would try to help her, or worse, report her. It might be Sunnydale, and the number of people wandering down the streets with unconscious, bleeding bodies might be significantly higher than your average town’s. Still, it was a delay Buffy couldn’t afford to risk.
She walked, each step measured, deliberate, her eyes fixed straight ahead. She walked, and made herself keep her eyes from shifting downward to Faith. But it didn’t matter. Still she could hear Faith’s raspy, shallow breaths, still she could see her blood drying at the corner of her mouth. Still she felt the tickle of Faith’s hair against her arm, and still, she could feel the feverish warmth of her skin.
Looking at Faith in person, watching the boldness with which she moved, the space she seemed to take up in every room, she would not have thought that she could be so light, feel so small in her arms…almost fragile. Faith in her arms felt scarcely bigger than Buffy herself. It seemed surreal to her, as she continued to walk, that something so small and light could have caused such havoc, committed such evil.
She would not look down at her. She would not see her face…she would not check on her wound.
What would Joyce think, when she learned what had happened? What feelings would flicker through her eyes? Shock…anger…disappointment? What would Joyce say, how would she look at Buffy now, to know that her daughter had taken a knife and stuck it into the stomach of a human girl…the same girl that Joyce had invited over for Christmas Eve?
Don’t think of Joyce. Don’t think of anyone…no, think of Angel. Think of Angel, moaning and sweating in his bed. Think of Angel’s features twisted in pain, think of the blood soaking his shirt, the arrow piercing his skin, an inch from his heart.
Blood on shirts…the knife, buried to the hilt. The look in Faith’s eyes, the shock, her hands to her stomach. Blood trickling through. Blood-
No. No thinking of that. Think of Angel. Think of Angel awake, Angel strong. Angel getting out of bed, Angel taking you into his arms…
But Angel would never do that again. Angel had broken up with her. Angel was leaving town, the moment this thing with the Mayor was ended. If either of them remained afterward, Angel would still be gone.
Then don’t think of Angel. Think of nothing. Think of nothing at all. Just walk. Just walk….
Buffy would not look down at Faith, but even so she saw her in her mind’s eyes. Even so she saw her strange, strained, smile, the look of wistfulness in her eyes even before she drove the knife home.
“I’m gonna miss this…”
Even then, had she known…was it really possible she had wanted this? Was it really possible she had driven Buffy to this point all along, and by the end it had been almost intentional?
Faith fighting in a back alley, her movements wild and impulsive, yet always with a panther-like feral grace. Faith sobbing in a rundown motel room, a clawed arm hissing her name, waving through the hole it had torn through the doorway. Faith hooking an arm around her shoulder, knuckling her fist to Buffy’s, slapping her a high five, breaking out into a wide grin. Faith pacing and restless, Faith dancing with abandon, pulling Buffy with her into the crowd and keeping hold of her hand, keeping her close. Faith’s face, vulnerable and uncertain in the doorway Christmas Eve, her hand offering gifts wrapped in newspaper. Faith’s face, softer, more peaceful than Buffy had ever seen, when she returned home hand in hand with Angel that same evening, standing beside her mother in the doorway to look out on the snow.
Faith struggling for breath as blood spilled over her lips. Faith’s skin growing ashen as her hair falls forward, as her legs give out. Faith still and silent in her arms, Faith’s blood steadily seeping. Faith dying, with every second, every step.
“You did it, B. You killed me…”
Buffy’s stomach twisted viciously, and it took every ounce of her effort, everything bit of will she had to keep walking. She could not take this back now. What was done was done, and if she stopped now, it truly would be for nothing.
Save Angel. Save Angel…it was too late for Faith. Faith had made sure of that, long ago.
And yet every step closer to Angel she came, her mind was spinning alternate scenarios, desperately searching for another way. What if she took Faith to the hospital now? She was a Slayer, she could endure much more than the average person. What if she could find another cure for Angel? What if she only took some of Faith’s blood, could she somehow thin it to make it seem more to him?
Ridiculous thoughts, thoughts that would help her not at all…and yet they kept coming, every step of the way, even as Buffy was walking through the front door.
Her friends were still in the living room, or at least Oz and Xander were. She didn’t see Giles, but Willow emerged from the hallway, presumably having just come from the bedroom where Angel was lying. She avoided their widened eyes and solemn expressions, did not look at them to see their gazes fall to Faith in her arms. She didn’t respond to Xander speaking her name, to Oz’s silent thinning of his lips, to Willow’s outstretched hand, slowly falling back to her side. She ignored it all, because if she paused for one moment, she could not be sure she could bring herself to keep walking to Angel’s side.
She paused only to struggle with the doorknob, having slight difficulty in turning it while still holding Faith securely, and again she noted distantly that she was being careful with Faith’s body, that she was still supporting her head, and it was this factor that made it something of a challenge to open the door. As she walked inside the dimly lit bedroom, shutting the door behind her, she was looking at Angel in bed, but all she could truly focus on, as hard as she tried to shove it away from her, was Faith’s slight weight in her arms, the sound of her staggered breaths.
Angel, she noted, as she took slow, heavy steps towards him, eyes fixated on his suffering expression, did not breathe.
His eyes rolled towards her slowly, looking at her without seeming to truly see or recognize her, and Buffy saw his head lift weakly, his nostrils flaring, as though seeking out an added scent. It took her a moment to realize that he must smell Faith’s blood, and that its scent alone had already in part revived him.
Buffy felt bile rise in her throat, and she swallowed several times, her grip on the figure in her arms tightening. For one moment she contemplated backing away, shutting the door behind her. One moment, she considered another way, one more time.
But then she set Faith down beside Angel in the bed, with a painstaking care that belied the intent of the action. She set her down, and she stepped back, speaking to Angel in a voice that was just above that of a whisper.
“Drink, Angel. Drink…it will make you better. It’s…it’s what has to be done.”
Angel’s head turned towards Faith, his nostrils flaring again, and she saw something feral, an understanding that was more instinct that actual thought flicker across the surface of his eyes. As his face began to shift in his features, his eyes yellowing, one shaking hand lifted to grip the side of Faith’s throat, pulling her closer to his mouth. When his fangs emerged, piercing the other Slayer’s skin, it was not him that Buffy was looking at, but rather Faith.
She watched as for the first time since she had collapsed at her feet, Faith opened her eyes, as a choked gasp escaped her lips, an utterance of pain so weak and helpless that Buffy could not quite accept it as having come from her at all. Faith’s eyes remained open wide as Angel drank from her, a terrible eager slurping noise piercing Buffy’s ears, and she watched as Faith twitched in a strange shivering spasm, as though she wanted, but could not summon the strength, to fight back.
Her eyes met and found Buffy’s, not quite pleading, even in their pain, but rather resigned, even as her color deleted rapidly from her cheeks. Buffy knew as she looked back at her, unable to tear her eyes away, that Faith too knew that she would die, that she was accepting it, maybe surrendering to it, and that she would not ask, perhaps did not even want, for Buffy to stop it.
She knew that Buffy had arranged for this, that Buffy would watch it all. Knew, and still, there was no anger in her eyes…just that terrible acceptance of her fate.
The words rose to Buffy’s lips, almost emerged from her tongue. Her hands twitched with the desire to rush forward, screaming, ripping at Angel’s hands, clawing at his face, whatever it would take to make him stop.
No, stop, don’t…get away from her. Let her go…give her back to me, let her go. I’m sorry….I didn’t mean it. I didn’t know how it would be.
Make it stop. I take it back…let her go.
But Angel was already drinking. Angel was drinking, and his own color was returning as Faith’s drained away. She could see him getting better before her eyes, with every moment that Faith’s life grew closer to its end. If she stopped now, it would be for nothing. If she stopped now, both would be gone.
She wanted it to stop. She wanted to be the one to stop it…but what’s done was done. Even if she stopped Angel now, it would already be too late.
“You did it B…you killed me…”
She knew Faith’s eyes were still on her when she turned and walked out of the room.