Chapter Six: Awareness
Faith let out a frustrated sigh. Where had he gone? He’d aroused her curiosity with his little mysterious act on the way to the mansion, but then when they’d gotten there he had disappeared into the other room. She boosted herself onto the table, feeling silly and hoping he was coming back and hadn’t just gone to bed or something. She leaned back to rest on her hands and closed her eyes while she waited. When she opened her eyes again he was standing right in front of her and she let out a little yelp of surprise.
“What is it with you?” She gave him a dirty look. “I don’t get how you’re always able to sneak up on me.” Angel smiled.
“You must be off your game.” Amused and insulted at the same time, she noticed he had changed into grey sweats and a white muscle shirt. “Maybe you need a little refresher.” Faith climbed down off the table, stripping off her sweatshirt as she began to figure out what he had in mind.
“You think you’re man enough?” They moved with predatory grace, slowly circling each other.
“I’ll try to go easy on you. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.” His comment was met with a hard right to the face. He shook his head, lightly rubbing his jaw; Faith smiled.
“Don’t worry about me; I can handle anything you got, big guy.” Angel grinned back at her and the fight was on. Spinning and kicking, fists flying, dodging and feinting; they moved with speed and skill, their precision impeccable. They were evenly matched, and neither one was able to gain the upper hand for quite some time. Faith delivered a roundhouse kick to Angel’s midsection, knocking him back slightly, but when she tried another, this time to the head, he caught her foot and pulled her off balance. Before she could steady herself, Angel was able to catch her in the face with a right cross, followed by a sharp jab to the stomach that brought her to her knees. She was back on her feet in seconds, catching Angel in the chin with a well-placed kick. As he stumbled back he kicked out sideways knocking her back as well. They regained their footing and circled each other again, each looking for an opening. Faith shot Angel a cheeky grin. “You gettin’ tired, old man?” She spun around and hit him in the ribs with a back kick, turning quickly with a follow up punch. Angel caught her hand easily and pulled her into a headlock, his arm pressed tightly against her throat.
“You forget who you’re dealing with; I could do this all day.” Faith’s elbow shot back into Angel’s stomach with no effect. She brought her fist up in a back handed punch, startling him enough that his grip loosened slightly. Faith quickly took advantage, grabbing his arm and flipping him over her shoulder onto the floor. She landed on him a moment later, hand raised as though she held a stake.
“I think you forget that I already kicked your ass once!” She brought her fist down to rest over his heart. “And now you’re dead.” They smiled at each other for a moment as Faith rested against him.
“I put up a good fight though. I bet I’ll take you next time.”
“In your dreams, buddy!” They laughed and as the laughter faded away Faith realized how intimate her position was. She grew serious and Angel looked up at her questioningly. Sitting up only furthered the unintentional intimacy, and Faith did something she hadn’t done in a long, long time; she blushed. As if on cue, Angel seemed to realize what had caused her embarrassment and tried to sit up too. This movement brought Angel into the closer proximity she had been attempting to avoid and made her blush even harder. “Um, hold on a minute, will ya.” She pushed him away so she wouldn’t be tempted into anything stupid, and started to push to her feet. As she stood a wave of dizziness passed over her. Angel jumped up as she swayed, catching her before she fell.
“Faith?” When she looked up there was a blinding flash of light, and she flung up a hand to shield her eyes. The light faded and she was looking at a graveyard by moonlight.
“What the-?” She heard a noise to the right and as she swung around towards it she realized that she wasn’t actually in the graveyard. She was looking at it from outside as if it were a scene from a movie. As she watched she saw herself walking out from behind a crypt; Buffy soon appeared by her side and she looked pissed.
“Would you wait a minute? Faith!”
“What?” She didn’t slow a bit as she spoke.
“Why does everything always have to be your way or no way? Why do you automatically argue with everything I say?” Faith stopped and turned to smile snidely at Buffy.
“What’s the matter, Blondie? You afraid of a little competition?”
“From you? Hardly.”
“Look, you do things your way, the safe way and I do what works for me. Don’t expect me to fall in line like all your little friends. This ain’t a military operation, sweetie, and you definitely aren’t my commanding officer!”
“I’m not trying to command you-” Faith broke in, interrupting Buffy’s denial.
“No, you just expect me to do as I’m told like a good little girl. Well, I got news for you, B; I haven’t been a good girl in a very long time.” Buffy started to say something, but when she looked over Faith’s shoulder her eyes rounded. She moved towards her.
As Faith watched the two of them she was acutely aware of how defensive her past self was being. God, had she always been this bitchy with Buffy? She watched as Buffy called her name in warning. She turned her head in time to see herself run through with a sword. She gasped and dropped to her knees as the other Faith did the same thing. She brought her hands up to her stomach and everything spun sickeningly as the cemetery disappeared and she was back in the mansion.
“Faith! Faith!” She felt Angel shaking her as she gasped for breath. She clawed desperately at her shirt pulling it open to look for the blade she could feel penetrating her flesh. Her hands pressed frantically at her abdomen, searching for a wound, but there was nothing there. Her panic eased slightly, and she tried to get control of herself. “Faith, what’s wrong?” She looked up at him wide-eyed, breathing heavily as she explained her vision.
“I guess it must not have happened yet. It couldn’t have been fatal, right, cause wouldn’t I be dead or something?” Angel looked pensive as he replied softly,
“I don’t know. I don’t understand how this whole thing works, but I don’t like the sound of this. I should go and try to warn you.” Faith nodded.
“Yes, please. I…I don’t want her to go through that, even if it doesn’t kill her. It felt…it was excruciating.” Her voice broke and she turned away, embarrassed at her emotional state.
“It’ll be okay; I’ll take care of it. You stay here. I’m gonna change and then I’ll go find you. I mean her…whatever.” He shook his head and hurried into the other room. Faith let out a shuddering breath and decided that she hated the frickin’ visions, hated them with a passion. They could never be simple flashes of memory; they had to be accompanied by blinding pain or leave her trembling with fear. Why had she thought she could handle this shit? Why hadn’t she asked about what would happen to her? She let out a short, bitter laugh. It was a little too late for second thoughts now and, really, when had anything in her life ever been simple or easy? At least she had Angel. She dropped her head into her hands. Now there was a dangerous line of thought. She couldn’t start depending on Angel in that way. Sure he was here now, but she wouldn’t have him forever. Sooner or later she’d have to leave and then she’d be on her own again, like before. She’d let Angel handle this because, well, she had to, but after this she had to rely only on herself. She nodded determinedly. But then Angel came out, ready to go, and she found herself wishing… wishing things could be different. He took her hand and looked concerned.
“Are you gonna be alright?” She nodded and gave him a weak smile. He patted her hand before he turned to go and she realized that even if she lied to him, she couldn’t lie to herself. She wasn’t going to be alright; she was scared to death and not about the vision. Her biggest fear had just walked out the door to try and save her. She dropped down to sit on the floor, resting her back against the wall. God, what was she going to do?
Great. Another dream. It was getting easier and easier to tell the difference. She hoped this wasn’t another one about Angel because she really couldn’t handle that right now. As things came into focus she realized that she was in the graveyard from her vision. No! She didn’t want to relive this, but even as she struggled to wake up she knew it was useless. The dreams always held onto her until they decided to let go. She walked out from behind the crypt and heard Buffy call to her just like in the vision. Faith responded just as she had before, but this time after Buffy said she wasn’t worried about Faith as competition Angel came along, and Faith heard herself saying,
“Well, well, well! If it isn’t tall, dark, and sexy. Where’d you run off to earlier?” Jeez, is this the way I talk to Angel?
“Had something to take care of.”
“So what brings you back this way?” Angel glanced at Buffy then back to Faith.
“You. Can we talk?” Faith flashed him a grin and then looked at Buffy.
“What was that you were saying a minute ago?” I’m such a bitch, she thought with reluctant amusement. Buffy waved them away and said sarcastically,
“Don’t mind me. Go. Talk. Do…whatever it is you two do.” Angel sighed in frustration, but before he could say anything he saw the demon behind Faith.
“Faith!” He pushed her aside and the sword cut deeply into his arm. For Faith everything seemed to slow as she looked in shock at Angel’s wound and then turned angrily on the thing that had hurt him. She advanced on the demon and, with little effort; she took his sword and killed him with it. Everything sped up again as she dropped the sword and turned to Angel. She reached out and gently touched his arm.
“Are you alright? I think you just saved my life!” Her eyes were wide with shock and he placed his hand tenderly over hers.
“I’m fine; are you okay?” Buffy put her hands up in a gesture of surrender, shaking her head as she walked away.
“I have got to get out of here!”
“Buffy,” Angel said, his tone apologetic. Buffy turned around and gave him a silencing look.
“No! Just…don’t even bother.” She shot Faith a fulminating glare before leaving. They both watched her go; Angel’s eyes betraying a hint of sadness while Faith appeared confused. She turned to say something to Angel, but everything began to fade away.
Her eyes fluttered open and she realized she had fallen asleep on the floor. She looked around, wondering if Angel was home yet, wondered if the dream was a memory or just a product of her fevered imagination. The thought that it could be an actual memory sent a shiver down her spine. If this dream was a memory, were the others? And if they were, what exactly the hell did that mean?
Standing and stretching, she wandered aimlessly around the mansion until she found herself standing in the doorway of Angel’s bedroom. She stood silently, staring at nothing for a moment and then curled up on the bed, his pillow clutched tightly to her chest. What was she doing? You’re falling for him, kiddo. Faith shook her head in denial. “I am not!” Oh, really? Is that why you’re curled up on his bed, hugging his damn pillow? “Shut up.” That’s the best you can do? Wow, you’ve got it bad! She punched the pillow and shoved it away angrily. Much as she might like to, she couldn’t run from her thoughts, and she was forced to admit that she had grown fond of Angel. Fond? Okay, more than fond, but she wasn’t willing to think about how much more. She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling, trying to blank out her intrusive thoughts, but the fact that she was rolling around on Angel’s bed wasn’t something her mind was willing to let slide. Sighing, she had moved to get up when she heard a low hum. She recognized the sound and looked up quickly to see a blue light emanating from the wall. Something taking the form of a woman stepped through the light and into the room. Faith smiled involuntarily, a reaction that had become familiar to her by now. Something about this being filled her with an indescribable feeling of peace and contentment.
“Faith.” The woman smiled back at her. “You’re looking well.”
“Thank you.” Faith’s smile lessened slightly. “Is it time? I didn’t realize-”
“No, I’ve only come to check on you. It’s not time yet.” Eliana strode around the room, taking in Faith’s relaxed pose on the bed with a raised eyebrow. “You’ve been making excellent progress. Although I hadn’t expected you’d be sharing the vampire’s bed.” Faith blushed, an annoying occurrence that seemed to be happening a lot lately, and rushed to climb off the mattress.
“I’m not sharing his bed; I was just…” She tried to think of an explanation that wasn’t embarrassing. Eliana waved her hand dismissively.
“I am well aware of the situation; I was only teasing you. We find your feelings for this creature, this…Angel I believe he’s called, we find this development pleasing.”
“But…why? I thought I was meant to be with Spike. I love Spike. How is this betrayal of his memory in any way pleasing?”
“Love is never a betrayal.”
“I am not in love with Angel!” Eliana shook her head in disappointment.
“Denial of the facts does not change them. You, more than anyone, must realize that.” She reached out and tenderly stroked Faith’s cheek. “But this is not what I came here to tell you.”
“You’ve come to tell me my time is short, right?”
“Just a reminder really. You have only until the graduation battle to finish what you’ve started. You cannot be here for that particular fight.” Faith lowered her eyes forlornly.
“What will happen to me…after? Will I go back or will I, will I…die?”
“That is a discussion for another day. You’re going to have to make some hard choices, but I think you’ll do the right thing.” Faith’s gaze shot up to meet Eliana’s.
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll see.” Faith ran her fingers through her hair, roughly pushing it off her face. She closed her eyes briefly in frustration.
“Don’t give me that mysterious,” she opened her eyes, but Eliana was gone, “crap.” She heard the front door of the mansion clang shut and hustled out of Angel’s room, hoping he wouldn’t realize where she’d been.
“Faith?” She heard him call softly.
“I’m up here. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, you’ll be happy to hear I just changed the future.” He was silent for a moment before sighing wearily. “Or the past or whatever.” She came around the corner and found him shirtless.
“Oh, crap,” she said under her breath. Great. Just what she needed, half naked Angel. Then she realized he was washing blood off his arm and rushed forward in concern. “Oh my God; you’re hurt!”
“Cut by a sword; it’s nothing. It’s already starting to heal.”
“You were cut by a sword?” He looked up and caught her dumbfounded look.
“Yeah. Found you just before the demon showed up, pushed you out the way, he cut me, and then you killed him.”
“Wow, so my dream was real!” He gave her a funny look. “I sorta fell asleep after you left and that’s what I dreamed about. I must be getting memory dreams or something.”
“What else have you dreamt about?” She blushed again. Dammit!
“That’s not really important right now. I was thinking before you got home and I think it’s time I told you.”
“Told me what?”
“About what happened to the others; how they,” she took a deep breath as her voice cracked, “about the way, uh, the way they…died.”