For What She's Worth
by Buffonia

She's just a little girl. Not as tiny as Buffy, but small enough. No one would know by only looking at her that she was a hero. And what's the good of superpowers if you can't even sit up?

Joyce is fiercely deep-breathing back motherly tears at the sight of Faith beaten and broken in the hospital bed. Clutching the strap of her purse, the other hand on her butterflying stomach, she shakily moves to the Faith's side.

"Oh, sweetie." Joyce chokes on the whisper of it and presses her lips tight. Her palm is cupped to Faith's all-too-pale forehead before gently turning over, knuckles brushing down the sallow cheek.

Of course Joyce wishes that things could have been simpler; always different, but at least simpler. The three of them picnicking in the park. Movie nights where the girls could bicker over what to rent and Joyce would chuckle and sigh let them each pick one out. After Buffy's graduation, she was going to have a party. She and Faith talked about it one night, when Buffy was training with Mr. Giles.

Joyce had been folding laundry on the couch. Faith, sprawled on her stomach on the floor in front of the television, flicking the channels a mile a minute. The whole reason she came over, Faith had said, was because her T.V. was 'busted.' The night before, it had been her shower and the night before that, some other fictionally malfunctioning appliance.

Joyce always opened the door with a smile while Faith avoided her eyes and shrugged a new excuse. It was a quick matter of heating up leftovers, because Joyce always made dinner for two and set the table in hopes that Buffy might show up for it. Almost always was there a cold plate of food to be wrapped in tin foil and placed in the fridge by the time Joyce finished her portion of the meal.

Faith usually ate the microwaved goods with her fingers if she could, as Joyce tsked and handed her a napkin. Faith would roll her eyes at Joyce's over-mothering. It was a pantomime of a family that they didn't have and they both looked forward to it almost every night.

And then that one evening they were in the living room, Joyce creasing towels and Faith tapping the remote with what seemed to be slayer speed when Joyce mentioned the idea of a party. "I was thinking you could invite your friends and Buffy could invite hers."

Faith clicked off the sitcom as some fake laughter rang out from the speaker. She rolled onto her back, reclining on her propped elbows. "Four people don't make a party."

"Neither does a hundred dead people. All you need is cake to make a party. It doesn't matter who's there to eat it." Joyce sighed and placed the last linen on the stack. "High school has just been so rough for her, I want to show her how proud I am. There were times when I really thought she wouldn't make it."

"Yeah, well, slaying's a tough gig. Sometimes you can't pencil in the detentions."

Joyce immediately felt her mistake, heart sinking into her stomach at the look Faith tried to hide. "Honey, I didn't mean it like that. I know it wasn't good for you back there," said Joyce, trying to make amends. "You did what you had to do."

"No big. She's your girl, you should throw her a party. I get that. My mom got me a bottle of rum when I made it past tenth grade." Faith grinned to make it into a joke, but Joyce could sense the truth of it.

"This hasn't been the best few years for anyone," Joyce sympathized. "How about we all just get together and pig out. The cake will be for all of us."

"Count me in," Faith said. The grin small but real this time. "You can still write B's name on it though. She'd freak if it wasn't there."

Today was the day they were going to celebrate. Instead, Buffy's helping Willow start her packing for college and Joyce is cradling Faith's unresponsive, IV-needled hand in her own. No reason for cake. The word party is a disgusting thought.

Joyce wants nothing more than to pray for Faith to wake up. Sad fact is, the only way Faith wouldn't be in a coma is if Buffy were dead. And if Joyce prayed for Faith to open her eyes and walk again, and that prayer ever came true, Faith might just go and kill her.

All things considered, the mama bear in Joyce wants to lightly kiss Faith's swollen mouth goodbye and shut off all the machines. Her hand to her mouth, she'd sob an apology as Faith's body convulsed to its death.

But Joyce couldn't do that, not now, not with Faith so helpless and black and blue, and, God, the bruises are so big. Joyce isn't sure which is more painful, to look at the welts and scrapes and know that Buffy made them, or to have to be glad that this is how it all had to end.


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