Ground State
by Francis


The stars above were random accidents of atoms, molecules and gravity. Faith looked up into the night sky, it was a blessing that the sky was clear tonight. A falling star streaks briefly in an arc to its dying moment. Yet even then it possessed beauty, even in death it was special.

She walked to the spot where he said he would wait for her. The place wasn't like L.A. where the randomness of stars was replaced by carefully placed streetlights and office buildings, billboards and neon signs. She had to get out of L.A. and come here, she felt as though she was suffocating there knowing what happened. Angel, who had taken her into his firm after the Sunnydale battle, wanted to come with her but could not. He had his demons to fight still, both inside and out and the last thing he needed to do was to come to Buffy and get shaken up again.

Before she left L.A., she visited Cordelia in her small room inside the W&H building and told her that if she was still there that now was the time to get up. Cordelia didn't wake up, it's been a long seven years and she was still asleep. Sleeping beauty, she heard Angel call her.

"Hey Faith," Xander's familiar voice and form were like ghosts haunting her. Although he was a little older, they were all older, in a way he was still that boy whose cherry she had popped years ago. Except then, he had two eyes instead of one. She hugged Xander tight, her tattooed arm around his neck.

"You okay?" she asked him when they let go of each other.

"Yeah, I'm dealing, I guess," he sighed looking down at the single travel bag and then up to face Faith. "That's all you're carrying?"

"I have to go back as soon as possible, Xander," Faith told him. He took her bag and led her to his car, he opened the trunk and put the bag there next to his roadside emergency kit and toolbox. "How is she?"

"I can't say, she began patrolling again after it happened," Xander said trying to not to mention the reason why faith had to fly here. "I guess that's how she's trying to cope with it." He closed the trunk and opened the doors, Faith got on next to him the driver's seat. Inside he turned on the engine and changed gears from neutral to reverse. "It shouldn't have happened," he suddenly said, "She should never have gone after her Slayer."

Faith looked at Xander and saw that tears were running down his face. "It was her choice."

He turned to face her and said, "You tell that to Buffy."


She heard footsteps above her head. Her mother, light on her feet, and her new man, who dragged his feet like anchors, crossing the living room, over and over. In another time, it might have driven her insane. It was enough to drive any eight year old insane, this crossing and recrossing of footsteps. But locked in the basement the footfalls were the only thing keeping her sane.

Faith heard her mother crying and pleading and her new man screaming. In her mind, she pictured her mother on her knees chasing after the new man. A slap ringed from above and her mother stopped pleading, now she could hear her crying directly into the floor because the man was hitting her again and again.

Later when it was all over, she came over to her mother on the floor; bruised, bloody and torn apart. Her face was marked like hers, like her back. The bruises resembled the map of a world she knew, existed only in her mind. In this world, time stood still at that moment the circus came into Boston. She would always stand next to her parents and hold the edge of her mother's skirt. The taste of cotton candy was strong in her mouth and her father was still there, not dead.

This world existed around her last happy memory.


The car pulled into the drive way and Xander turned off the engine. They got off without talking, he took her bag out of the trunk and walked her up to the front door. She touched his arm and he turned to her, his face grave. "It's not your fault," she told him finally. Faith understood guilt better than anyone, except perhaps Angel.

"That's easy for you to say. You weren't the one who was supposed to be looking after her," there was bitterness in his voice but it wasn't towards her. Faith knew when to stop and she shut up. The door opened and Willow stood there, looking at them.

"Hey Red," Faith greeted with a faint and sad smile. Willow pulled her into an embrace as Xander walked past them. Willow tried to grasp him by the elbow but he got away. "You okay?" she asked pulling away briefly and planting a kiss on the witch's forehead.

"Uh-huh," she answered.

Kennedy emerged in the hallway and joined them in the hug. "I'm glad you're here," she told Faith. Willow smiled at Kennedy and they all headed to the living room hand in hand.

"Where's Buffy?" Faith wondered seeing no one there but Xander, bent with his face in his hand. Kennedy walked to Xander's side and held him against her body. He shook and trembled.

Will, turned to Faith near to tears herself. "She left hours ago, we don't know where she is."

"And Giles?"

"He's upstairs, sleeping I think," Red turned away and looked at Xander, who seems to have calmed down. His head lay in Kennedy's lap, his eye patch on the table. "You're probably a little stiff yourself from the flight, there's a room upstairs next to bathroom..."

"I'm okay, Will," she told her. "I'm kinda starved though."

Xander sniffled, "Me, too."

"I can order us something," Kennedy suggested.


She remembers the day at school, the school principal coming into her classroom and asking her to come with her. Faith remembered thinking then that she did nothing, she was a good girl. Always a good girl. Daddy's good girl. She remembered the ride to the hospital in the police car with the principal, she remembered that they gave her candy to ease her.

And then she remembers the hospital, the smell of stingy antiseptic scaring her because it reminded her of flu shots. Her mother was there too beside her, shaking and trembling and laughing. She remembered that her mother wore the same skirt that she wore when they came to the circus. She remembered the smiley face pin one of the nurses had on and the barbwire tattoo the burly man next to her mother had in his arm.

That was the day her father died. The day her world broke to a million tiny pieces. She tried to hold on to those pieces with her hands, but they cut her and she bled.


They sat around the table and ate slowly. Xander took a mouthful of beer to push the pizza down and Giles peeked into the dining room. "Faith," he said to call her attention. She turned, saw him and stood, they met halfway and embraced.

"Damn, English. You still look fine," she told him jokingly. In truth, Giles knew how he looked, more old and tired. His hair was now almost completely white and his face lined with stress and sorrow.

"How is Wesley?" the Watcher asked her.

"Better, I guess. When I left I think he was trying to finally break-up with the zombie," Faith mumbled. Giles nodded and took a seat with them. "And you?"

Giles shrugged and smiled, "Guess." Willow and Kennedy giggled at Giles. Xander handed him a beer and he took a long drink. "I always thought that after Sunnydale, things were going to be better," he sighed. "And in a way, it has been better." Everyone hushed waiting for Giles to continue but he simply ate.

"Well, now I have to sleep," Faith told them after the pizza was gone. Willow led her up to her room for the night, inside Faith found a small bed that might have been Dawn's. Red left her after saying goodnight.


With the light of the mid-morning sun she watched her, those moves she used to do was now a cruel joke. Once sparkling eyes were none bordered by years of mourning. Sometimes late at night, Faith would hear her mother weeping and she hoped that it was for father and not for the pain of the blows her current man dealt to her.

Naked, her mother stood in front of the mirror, her body was eating itself out. There were marks all over her body and she would run her finger on top of it and wince. "Look at me, " she told her. "I'm beautiful."

She knew her mother loved her because she gave her the marks too. At 12, she found her mother dead on the couch coming home from school. Faith cried and slept beside her. The next day she called the police and she never felt her mother's love again.


Faith opened the window and she slid out on the roof. The last thing she expected to do was to slip out on the gang, but she couldn't sleep peacefully knowing that Buffy was out there alone in the state that she was. She carefully stepped towards the edge and jumped to the ground.

The house reminded Buffy of the old house at Sunnydale, which was probably one of the reasons why she picked it in the first place. She stood in the driveway next to Xander's car and looked at Faith as she dusted her leather pants off. "What are you doing, Faith?" Buffy asked startling her.

She stood up and looked directly at her. "I was going out, to look for you," she explained walking towards Buffy who stood her ground.

"Congratulations, you found me."

"Are you..."

Buffy shook her head slowly and smiled weakly at her. "Don't Faith." Faith stopped directly in front of her and touched her cheek.

"Don't what, B?"

"Don't ask me if I'm okay."

Faith took her in her arms, "You're not okay." They held each other there for what seemed like hours. Then slowly and tenderly Faith let her go and held her by the hand. "C'mon B, time for you to sleep."

The blonde resisted the raven-haired woman's pull. "No, not yet," she told her. "Come with me." Faith let her pull her away into the night.


In the diffused light, she first saw her, the waif body moving across the water. She emerged from under to meet her and she smiled as the girl smiled at her. The small gestures of recognition made her heart skip a beat. Faith paddled towards the waif siren, her eyes were a piercing shade of green. "Hi, I'm Faith," she said.

"I'm Ronnie," the green eyed girl answered. "You do this a lot?"

"Not much, only when I want to get away," Faith answered her eyes looking all over the girl who might be older than her. "You?"

"No, first time. I just saw the water and jumped in." The girl fixed her hair, untangling the tangles, wiping the wet strands stuck on her face. "You with someone?"

Faith laughed, "No. I'm alone. But it's good, that you're here."

The waifish girl blushed, "You like me huh?"

"No! No, I'm not like that..." she tried to defend and explain. The green-eyed girl swam towards her and kissed her on the lips. Faith flustered and looked away.

"That's a shame. I like you a lot."


They walked amongst freshly watered grass and tombstones. Faith thought about nights like these years ago in Sunnydale, walking with Buffy quietly holding each other by the hand. Now the silence seemed too much that Buffy had to speak. Their fingers and hands touched briefly but they never held on to each other. They couldn't do that. They agreed not to when Faith returned from prison. "So how's Angel?"

"Oh, you know him. Broody and moody," she told her. "He's still no-bangin' Angel."

Buffy snickered and stopped herself, "And Cordy?"

"Out cold, B. Like Sleepin' Beauty without the prince charming."

"And the others?"

Faith stopped and Buffy turned to her, "B, I'm so sorry."

"Dawn," Buffy choked. "Dawn was an adult, Faith. It was her choice to become a Watcher. She knew what could happen." The blonde found herself in tears talking about Dawn. She buried her face against the front of Faith's shirt and held on to her tightly.

"Ssshhh baby," Faith ran her fingers through her hair. She kissed the top of Buffy's head and hushed her more.


"I don't fucking know who you are!" Faith told the woman who had cornered her in the alleyway. "I didn't know anything about Ronnie's business!"

"I'm sorry, Faith," the woman held out her hands to show Faith that she was not threatening her. "My name is Emma."

"What the fuck do you want?!"

"I know it's been confusing Faith, what's happening but trust me when I tell you that I'm a friend. I'm a Watcher."


Buffy shivered as she sat down, Faith sat beside her and the waitress came up to their booth. "What can I get you ladies," she said this with one brow arched high.

"Two coffee, please. And maybe some pie," Faith told her then turned to Buffy for confirmation on the pie.

"Yeah, that would be great," she told Faith and the waitress, who left pouting. "So when are you flying back to L.A.?"

"Next week, I guess," she answered taking one of Buffy's hand in hers. The waitress returned with their coffee and two slices of pecan pie and left them alone again. the brew was horrible, but the bitterness was good enough to nudge Buffy's system back to life. Blood and coffee coursed through her veins and face.

"Can I come with you?"

"To L.A.?" Faith asked surprised.

"Yeah. That is if you're okay with that?" Buffy confirmed looking out the window to the orange sky. The sun was rising already, it was the first time in years that Buffy saw the sun rise since in Sunnydale. "I was thinking of taking a break there, anyway."

"B," Faith trailed off rubbing her cheek with her thumb. "You're not running away from this."

"You're right. I'm not running away. I can't."

Faith kissed her cheek and returned to coffee and pie.


Her mind was playing tricks with her again. She rubbed her knuckles against her eyes and the person beside her was a complete stranger again. She touched her arm and found the bandage covering this itch on her skin. Faith stood up and walked to the mirror and peeled the gauze away.

The skin was sore underneath but the barbwire tattoo was clear. She picked up her things and headed for the bathroom. Faith jumped into the shower and washed herself clean of the stranger's sweat, saliva and come. She dressed in fresh clothes she had in her small duffel bag and left without leaving a note to the stranger.

She took his jacket and used it to cover her head from the rain. A neon sign flickered above as she crossed the street and to the bus station. She bought a ticket to L.A. because there was no bus that went directly to Sunnydale. She didn't know anyone there and she didn't know anyone here, Ronnie was gone and so was her Watcher.


Willow and Kennedy were sitting in the kitchen watching Xander make breakfast when Faith came in with Buffy. They froze when they saw Buffy there. Faith broke the tension by demanding that Xander continue beating his eggs. "Hey, Buff," Xander managed to say before returning to cooking. Buffy rushed to him and embraced him. "I'm sorry, Buffy. I...I should've known better than to let her go out like that..." he stammered.

"It's not your fault, Xander," she told him. "Dawn was Dawn, she knew what being a Watcher meant." Willow began to cry and Kennedy held her. "Hey, Will."

"Buffy..." she began. Kennedy let her go and she walked towards Buffy and Xander. They group hugged and Giles came in. Unshaved and disheveled he looked at them and approached.

Faith and Kennedy, standing next to each other, looked at the four and sighed. "Kinda makes you feel out of place, huh?" the younger Slayer whispered to Faith.

"C'mon girl, time for the girlfriends to leave the core Scoobs to heal," she whispered to Kennedy who looked confused.


"B'll tell you all later," Faith smiled and left with the other slayer.


The dark haired girl pulled the blonde by the buckle of her belt. Buffy crashed towards Faith surprised, she was even more surprised when Faith kissed her hard and rough. Confused Buffy was trying to push her back but the hands under her shirt and the tongue circling inside her mouth were compelling reasons for her to stay put.

Faith unhooked her bra skillfully with one hand and pulled away smiling. "Faith, I...I..." Buffy tried to say something but the other girl was already pulling up her shirt. She let Faith remove her shirt and bra. Faith began kissing her breast, Buffy's nipples ached in erection, and the new girl's mouth closed over one of them. The blonde moaned and arched forward at the feeling of wet and warm on her sensitive skin.

Further down Faith's mouth slid, her tongue carefully explored the shape of Buffy's shallow navel. She pushed Buffy on her bed and took off her pants and cotton underwear that was wet in places. She buried her nose in Buffy's pubic hair, smelling sweat and soap and excitement. And then she began eating her out, like she ate out Ronnie.

The backs of Buffy's knees were on her shoulder and her hands rubbing skin. The blonde came with a shiver and a gasp and collapsed sweaty on the motel sheets. Faith crawled up and kissed Buffy on her bruised lips. "Don't worry, sweetness. I don't expect you to lick pussy tonight," she laughed and rolled next to Buffy.


Both naked, she sat at the edge of the bed and let Buffy do what she wanted to do. She straddled her legs and began kissing her slowly, deliberately. They drew in and out of each other's breath. Faith fell back on the bed as Buffy pushed forward. The early morning entered in the rooms' solitary window. Buffy could feel the heat of it on the small of her back.

"Come with me," Buffy whispered in between kisses. She let her nipples rub against Faith's as her hand slid down towards the other Slayer's mound. "Come with me, Faith," she repeated, spreading her outer lips and making circular rubs on her clit.

"Make me," Faith told her in a moan. Buffy slipped her fingers into Faith and thrust them in and out. Faith held on to her, both arms around her neck, panting and moaning. Buffy felt like letting all her hate and frustration into her thrust but stopped fearing what she might do. "It's okay," the girl beneath told her. "Let it all out B."

She trembled upon hearing the words but found that even though she was fighting it, she was thrusting harder and harder. Faith screamed and came. Buffy collapsed on top of her and began crying and apologizing. Her violence scared her, but she couldn't stop it.

"It's okay," Faith whispered soft and tired. "Worked for me, B." Buffy kissed her gently and they both fell asleep just as the day was beginning for everyone else.


Buffy didn't look at her. She turned around when she put on her clothes. Faith lay on the motel bed flushed from just having orgasmed on her own while Buffy watched beside her. "C'mon B, don't go yet. We can watch some movies." "I have to go. It's late," she said not turning around to look at Faith. "I'll see you tomorrow." Buffy left without waiting for Faith to answer.

The aftermath looked the same to her, tasted the same, felt the same. Different girl, same M.O. Clothes worn in haze. Thank yous that sound like apologies. Reasons that sound like excuses. But she'll be back, she thought to herself. They always come back. The only difference is this time Faith was not going to fall in love. Not for the SoCal Gal who couldn't eat her out.


Buffy helped her up and into the shower. They washed each other and clothed each other. Faith was sore all over and Buffy held her all the way down the stairs. They had lunch on the living room couch and left for the Watcher's Council for the service.

Dawn was cremated as she wished and her ashes were given to Buffy. Some of Watchers and Slayers who had trained under Dawn spoke of her highly. Willow stood up and told the story of Dawn's becoming, it was old news to them but to most of those there it was big news. Buffy didn't speak but she listened to every word that was said. Faith sat besides her holding her hand.

"Come with me, Faith," she whispered to her while Giles addressed the gathered Watchers.

Faith turned to her and grinned sheepishly. "I'm still sore, B."

Buffy smiled, "Not that way you perv. I meant come away with me."

"B, you can't run away...."

"I'm not running away, F," she mocked. "I'm running towards it."



Cordelia was still like she always has. Buffy touched her face, her hand and she felt warm. "She's still inside, they say," Faith told her looking at the fallen warrior. Fred stood behind them, "I can get Angel for you. That is, if he and the guys are finished slaying that Chaos demon."

"No," Buffy said turning to Fred. "We're coming back here anyway."

"Where exactly are you two headed to?" Fred asked them, she looked at Faith who smiled at her. They had been working together for years and in that time, Fred never looked at her that long and that intensely.

"Sunnydale. Well, actually the Sunnydale Crater," Faith answered.

"Wow. That's great, I've only been there once and it was a..."

"A big fucking hole in the ground?" Faith offered. Buffy laughed and kissed Faith in the cheeks.

Fred took a note of the kiss and was immediately deducing that they were lovers. She flushed but continued, "That sounds about right, but without the expletive."

"We have to go Fred," Buffy told her. "If Angel asks, tell him that we had to put some things to rest."


She hadn't been back to Sunnydale, or more appropriately, to where Sunnydale used to be, in the years after they changed the world. She knew Willow, Xander and Giles made an almost religious deal about going there at least once a year to check up on it.

Buffy squinted trying to stay awake behind the wheel, Faith on the back seat wasn't up for another hour so she had to stick with it. The road was long and desolate, forgotten by the rest of the world. She rolled down the window to let the night air in. It was cool and strangely odorless, proof that nothing was out there, except them.

The car sped past darkness for another hour before it pulled over to the side of the road. Buffy came out of the driver's seat and got into the back seat to wake Faith up. Faith groaned to tell her she was still not up to the task. "C'mon, Faith. You're turn baby."

Faith didn't answer Buffy, no need to, she was right. "Mmm--kay." She struggled to get behind the wheel and yawned.

"Are you sure you can drive?" Buffy was now a little concerned. If Faith was going to drive like this then there was no point of her trying to catch up on her sleep, because she wouldn't be able to.

"Don't worry B, I can."

She looked at the woman in the driver's seat again and to the passenger seat where their mission rested. "Wake me up, if you need anything," she told her and kissed her soft. The engine murmured and the car launched forward.


Buffy woke up feeling Faith crawling up against her in the backseat. She smiled seeing the brunette's face above her. "Are we there yet?"

"Yeah, B," Faith kissed her long and soft. "Time to do what we went here to do."


They stood over the edge of the crater, Buffy held the urn up and removed the top. Behind her, Faith put her arms across her chest. Desert winds blew and Buffy upturned the urn, Dawn's ashes flew and disappeared into the big gap.

"Rest in peace, Dawnie," Buffy whispered letting her arms fall to her side. She dropped the urn on the ground and let it roll off over the edge and fall. She turned towards Faith, she embraced her and thanked her for coming with her there. They walked towards the car and ate brunch before driving off towards the living world where they were still needed.


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