DISCLAIMER: Not mine, never were, not ever going to be.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Fool's Paradise
By The Last Good Name Left



Buffy stood at the edge of the rooftop, smiling at Faith.

Faith wanted to wipe that look of triumph off of Buffy's face, rip away her confidence and calm. Faith's muscles trembled and the sweat trickled down her neck. She could feel the insistent heat of a strained quadriceps and the multitude of bruises across her stomach. And Faith could see the blood spreading across Buffy's shirt; it made her nauseous. Suppressing the feeling with a great deal of effort, she reached out to grab Buffy, but before Faith could reach her, Buffy smiled and shook her head.

Faith left her hands hanging, waiting for Buffy to push her away.

Instead, Buffy spoke. "You did it. You killed me."

Faith flinched back, shaking her head. "No, this isn't how it happened." Buffy's rejection of Faith's hand tore at Faith, ripping holes in spaces that had never been whole. Faith shook her head, but Buffy ignored her.

"Quite a ride, Faith," Buffy said, and looked away.

"B," Faith pleaded. Faith wasn't sure if she were pleading for Buffy to look at her, or for Buffy not to fall. Buffy merely smiled and leaned backwards. Faith had a sudden image of playing the Trust Game. Faith knew that while she had never been able to fall backward into some else's arms, Buffy had an entire row of people standing behind her, and always had.

Faith sprang toward Buffy to pull her back, but it was too late. Buffy was gone.

Faith stared over the edge of the building, shaking with fear and fatigue. She couldn't tear here eyes away from Buffy's still body long enough to blink. There was no truck this time, no coma. There was no hope.

"No," Faith whispered, and woke up.

Faith shuddered in the darkness.

Someone in the next row was humming Silent Night; Faith could hear her at the edge of her mind, more the thought of music than an actual tune. Faith closed her eyes and struggled not to recall the last time Faith had heard the song. She failed, and the memory of Joyce's insistence on putting the Christmas carol cd on unending repeat thundered through Faith.

She closed her eyes against the memory of Buffy's body lying twisted and broken on the ground and bit her lip to stop the tears.

It didn't work.

Faith's cell mate rolled over in her bunk, and Faith shoved her fist into her mouth to stop her sobs from escaping.

The woman in the next row began her rendition of Silent Night again. Faith curled in on herself and willed the dream away. She had fallen, not Buffy, Faith reminded herself.

Buffy would never fall; there were too many people to catch her.



Buffy could hear the electricity crackle behind her, feel the wind tugging at her dress. She tugged the bonds holding her in place, and looked up to see a thing, with arms longer than a serpent, standing a little away from her and holding a knife. Buffy twisted around and trembled as she saw the portal behind her; she tugged at her bonds ineffectually again. The thing was coming closer again. Buffy whimpered in fear.

Buffy's feet ached with the myriad small cuts the demon had inflicted, and he came back for more again and again. She couldn't move. All her Slayer powers were gone, and the bonds were too strong. She was helpless.

Buffy could hear her friends below her, fighting and chanting and trying their best, but she knew that it was a lost cause. Glory was here, and the portal was open, and the world was ending. Desperation swept through Buffy, and she shuddered at her failures. The sting of her cuts allowed her to focus just enough to hear someone running up the makeshift tower. There was laughter, and more fighting, and then a dark figure with wild hair was running toward her, down the platform. Buffy struggled to see who it was, and when she realized who had come, she gasped.

"I'm sorry," said Buffy.

"It doesn't matter," Faith replied with a cold smirk, standing on the platform and looking past Buffy to the growing portal. Faith looked like she was about to go out dancing, carefree and casual and incredibly sexy.

"I'm sorry," repeated Buffy.

Faith shook her head. "No, you don't get it. I don't care."

"Faith," pleaded Buffy, "it doesn't have to be like this." Behind Faith, Buffy could see Glory, standing at the other end of the platform, waiting for the end. Glory was smiling, and the hopelessness swept through Buffy again.

"It'll never stop," said Faith contemplatively.

Buffy shook her head. "No," she whispered.

"Death is my gift," said Faith, and pulled out the knife the Mayor had given her. Faith flipped the knife in her hands, and strode toward Buffy. She held the knife casually in her hand, and when she reached Buffy, she stopped. Buffy strained against her bonds, trying to get away, but Faith kept walking.

"No," Buffy said.

The platform bounced when Faith jumped.

"No!" shouted Buffy. When Buffy heard Faith hit the ground, she screamed.

Buffy heaved upright and awoke with a gasp. She struggled to control her panicked breathing, and clenched her jaw to stop her violent trembling. She could hear Faith hitting the ground, again and again in her head. Her feet stung with the memory of a thousand cuts, and Glory was standing at the end of her bed, smiling at her compassionately.

Buffy lurched out of bed. She had to get out of the room which stank of fear and sweat and hopelessness. Buffy stumbled downstairs and slumped over in the kitchen.

She sat there trembling and staring into space until dawn.



Faith grabbed the Scythe from Buffy and swung it around to meet a climbing Turok-han at the edge of the pit.

"Keep the line together," shouted Buffy behind her. Faith didn't want to turn around and see Buffy with a hole in her stomach, so instead she concentrated on demolishing at many Turok-han as she could.

A few of the newly called Slayers to her left were hefting swords and doing some damage, but the Turok-han kept coming. One Slayer collapsed under a swarm of bodies, then another.

"Hold the line," Faith shouted, resolutely not looking over to where Buffy had fallen. However, there were fewer and fewer Slayers left to hold the line. Kennedy was dinner, Amanda a ragged pile of torn muscle and compound fractures.

"Help," whispered Vi as one Turok-han tore her arm from her body and another ripped open her neck.

"No!" said Faith and tried to fight through the mass of bodies keeping her from rest of the Slayers.

"Please," called Rona.

Faith was so intent on getting to the other Slayers that she didn't realize she was being herded toward the edge until she felt the world fall away from under her foot. She barely managed to keep her balance, but it didn't matter. Someone reached out and pushed her, just a little, and it was enough.

She fell, endlessly into the mouth of hell.

Faith awoke from her unending fall by the sound of someone in the next room slamming the door. She stared at the ceiling for a moment, trying to figure out where she was. There were only three other people in the room with her, and it took a moment for Faith to realize who they were. When she did, she rolled over to look at the next bed. Dawn was still, but Buffy was twitching in her sleep. On the floor next to Faith, Xander was snoring. Faith's heart was pounding, and she desperately needed to either smoke a cigarette or kill something.

Faith climbed out of bed and stepped carefully over Xander. She perched on the windowsill and lit up. She could see Buffy in the streetlight, twisting and shaking. She was obviously having a nightmare.

Faith watched Buffy shiver, but didn't wake her.



Just before she was swarmed over, Buffy threw the Scythe to Faith, who caught it and swung around. The Scythe slipped cleanly though one of the newly called Slayers, and Buffy shouted at Faith, but the sound was caught in the back of her throat as a Turok-han grabbed her and tore at her.

Faith yelled something, but Buffy could only hear the sound of teeth grating on her neck.

"Hold the line," Buffy whispered at the demon eating her.

She could hear the shouts and pleas of her army.

"Help," someone said.

"No!" another shouted.

Next to her, someone whispered, "Please," but Buffy couldn't move her head enough to see who it was.

"Buffy," called Faith, and it was sheer luck that Buffy was facing the pit, and watched as Faith fell backward over the edge. Buffy closed her eyes and let the pain take her.

She let the peace flow over her, carrying her away from the pain and fear, and then Buffy opened her eyes.

She watched Dawn sleep for long moments, remembering when Dawn had first come home from the hospital. Buffy's five-year-old self had been fascinated by the tiny being. Dawn still slept the same way she had when she was three days old. Buffy rolled on to her back, but a soft sound made her glace around the room. Her sister continued to sleep. Xander was snoring loud enough to cause a freight train to jump it's track, but the other bed was empty.

Faith was sitting on the windowsill, watching Buffy.

Buffy tossed the sheets aside and limped over to Faith. They looked at each other for long moments, and then Buffy climbed onto the sill next to Faith. She wrapped her arms around Faith. Faith tentatively leaned against Buffy. Buffy focused on Faith's heart beat, the sound echoing through her ears. Faith gently ran her fingers through Buffy's hair, and Buffy couldn't stop her shiver. She could feel the tension coursing through Faith, but instead of saying anything, Buffy held Faith tighter.

If Buffy held on tight enough, maybe Faith wouldn't fall again. If Buffy held on tight enough, maybe neither of them would fall.

The End

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