It’s always with me in one form or another, from the pain of seeing Finch die, to the pain of Angelus’s fangs tearing into my throat.
I revel in it and rebel against it at the same time. It’s wrong, it’s evil, I’m evil…
The bright spot flares again and I focus on it, beating back the darkness as it tries to wash me away.
I don’t know who I am now, all I know is the pain. There’s a reason for the pain, something caused it, something not me did this, but I can’t focus. It overwhelms me, until the bright pain is all I know.
I blink and look around me, it’s too bright, far too bright. I don’t belong here, this isn’t the right time for this. I stand, my hand automatically going for my ribs to try to dull the pain before I realize there is none. I look down, no bandages, no blood. I lift the side of the white tank top I’m wearing and frown as I see there’s no marks. There should be something, shouldn’t there?
I breathe deeply and almost gag as the smell assaults me – too many women living too close together with too few showers. Bleach. Cigarette smoke. Something else… hopelessness. Prison. Unmistakeable and unwanted, both.
This is wrong, this isn’t the right time for this.
I turn and see the single cot behind me, the grey stone walls, the barred window. This wasn’t my cell, but I spent too much time in here. Solitary.
“I shouldn’t be here.” I whisper, trying to understand what’s happening, trying to figure it out and failing.
The sound bounces around me, echoing in the silence. As it fades I hear something else, something right on the edge of hearing. A guttural, almost animalistic voice whispering. “Alone.”
“What?” I call out, spinning around to face the speaker, but there’s no one there. I’m alone in this cell, no one’s coming for me.
A wave of despair threatens to drown me but I fight against it.
This is wrong, this isn’t the right time for this.
I walk over to the cell door – ten paces from the window, too short a distance to get much exercise – and look out through the tiny slot. The corridor outside is bright – too bright. As I squint my eyes trying to see past the glare, I catch sight of movement and I tense automatically.
I try to follow it, try to find it again, but it’s too fast, it’s gone. I crane my neck, trying to see as far outside the cell as I can but the light is blinding me and I look away. Resting my head on the cell door I blink away the tears of defeat.
“You’re giving up? Why am I not surprised? You never could see anything through to the end. Always giving up, always taking the easy road.”
I whirl at the sound of her voice. “B?”
She’s staring at me, hands on hips, wearing those blood red leather pants I remember from…
“Look at you, all dressed up in big sister’s clothes.” The words are out of my mouth before I knew I was going to say them. I frown, it’s like I’ve got no control over myself.
The bright pain flares and when I can see again Buffy’s much closer, close enough that I can feel the ghost of her breath as she speaks. ”I should have made sure the job was done first time round. None of this would have happened if I had.” She looks down and I follow her gaze.
She’s still holding the hilt of the knife, twisting it into my belly. I look up at her in shock, she’s killing me. She’s actually killing me.
”Not me, Faith. You’re killing you.” she says cryptically, and suddenly I’m falling away from her, falling endlessly.
“Quite a ride, B. You shoulda been there.”
The pain surrounds me again as I fall, buoying me, keeping me aware. And then suddenly I’m not falling, I haven’t hit the ground so much as I never left it. It’s like… one second I was mid-air, the next I’m standing in the sand. My hands go to my belly, to grab the knife, but it’s not there. I pull up my top again and see the scar – only scar I’ve never lost – glowing red for a heartbeat before it fades back to the ugly puckered skin.
”Alone” The animal voice is back, and this time I can almost feel the speaker behind me. I turn quickly, trying to catch whoever it is, but no one’s there. No, someone is there – off in the distance, staring at me wide eyed. She’s short, shorter than B even, and she looks so tiny, like she’d break in two in a strong wind. I feel like I should know her, like she and I are linked somehow, but I know in my heart I’ve never seen her before.
But there is something… like a line of dark smoke linking her to me. It’s attached to her gut, right about the place B stabbed me. I look down and see the smoke/cloud/line disappearing into the vaguely glowing scar. I look up, meeting the strange girls eyes, she looks as confused as I do. Something makes me turn around, to see if the line carries on behind me and I see the cloud in midair, writhing around like a headless snake. Not part of me. I lunge for it, somehow I know it’s important, it’s meant to be, but it dances away from me. Unreachable. I turn again, maybe the girl can help, but as I take a step towards her she starts to fade before my eyes. I stop, but she continues to fade into nothing.
As I watch her disappear I hear the voice again, inside my head this time.
The brightness takes me again, pushing back the dark.