Heart to Heart
by Erin

*click* *click* *click*

The guard's heels sounded loudly against the concrete floor, a floor which oozed with the smell of authoritarian antiseptic. It was a smell found only in prisons, hospitals, and those special schools they sent you to if you were really bad.

*click* *click* *click*

The approaching sound eventually intruded into the young girl's thoughts. The thoughts themselves were painful, but she took the fact that she was actually facing up to them as a good sign. She had spent far too long trying to avoid thinking about so many things.

*click* *click* *click*

The guard stood in front of the cell now, unlocking it. "You got a visitor," she said to the girl harshly. The girl stood and allowed herself to be handcuffed; the guard didn't know it, but no handcuffs would hold this girl if she really didn't want to be held.

*click* *click* *click*

She followed the guard's footsteps, walking out of the holding cell area to the visitors' rooms. A brief, fleeting temptation -- freedom! -- crossed her mind, but the girl squelched it. Running wasn't freedom, she knew, only another kind of prison. The guard opened the door to a room and motioned the girl inside, closing and locking the door behind her. The deadbolt shot into place with a sense of finality.

"Faith," said a far-too-familiar voice.

The girl calmly raised her eyes to the speaker, a young blonde girl stiff with rage. Her whiskey-tinged voice caressed a name: "Buffy."

The blonde girl rose abruptly from her seat, as if to refuse to give Faith the advantage of height, or any advantage at all, for that matter. "Sit down."

Faith's eyes travelled slowly to the offered chair, and back to Buffy. "I think I'll stand, thanks."

Buffy took a half-step forward, causing Faith to wonder briefly if the blonde girl was going to try to force her to sit. She visibly stopped herself, and stared hard at the dark Slayer. For once, Faith didn't take the offensive, didn't start blaming other people for her problems. She just stood there, waiting. Peaceful. Maybe even a little bit confident.

It wasn't fair. She doesn't deserve peace, Buffy thought fiercely. Not after what she did to me. How she used me, inside and out.

Beautiful, was Faith's first thought. She's always been so damn beautiful. Even when she was angry. Especially when she was angry. Maybe that's why I pissed her off so much?

The two Slayers looked at each other for a long time until finally Faith shifted uncomfortably under the scrutiny. "So, what's the what, B? Why are you here?"

Faith's voice broke into Buffy's dark thoughts. "I just came from talking to Angel. I thought you might like to know that your little plan worked. You finally turned us against each other."

Faith winced slightly. "I know you probably won't believe me; there's no reason for you to believe me. But I didn't want that to happen."

"Why should I believe you? You've been trying to break us up for a long time now," Buffy said harshly.

"I don't know how to break this to you, B, but this wasn't about you. In case you hadn't noticed, you and Angel are broken up. That wasn't why I came after him."

"Then why did you come after him?" Buffy asked, dubiously.

"I was hoping he'd--" Faith broke off in mid-sentence, looking away guiltily. "When... when we switched bodies, I realized what I was missing all along. When I was...Buffy," Faith's glance slid off the blonde's face, refusing to linger, "I was treated like the hero, instead of like the skank all the time. It was supposed to be my fresh start." Her self-depreciating laughter grated on both of them. "I got what I always wanted. I didn't have to be Faith anymore."

"No, you left that for me," was the bitter reply.

Faith shook her head. "No, B, you didn't have to live like me. To see what choices I made and why. But I lived like you... They treated me just like you, a hero. Popular. Loved.

"When I saw you...me...standing there, I knew it was over. I'd have to go back to being the same disgusting, murdering whore that I was before." She sank down into a chair now, covering her eyes with one cuffed hand. "I blew it. I blew my one chance, and I knew I was never going to get another one. There was only one way left for me to stop being Faith."

"You wanted him to kill you."

Faith nodded, wordlessly.

Buffy stood there for a moment, digesting Faith's words. She was unwilling to give up on her anger, unwilling to believe Faith's 'miraculous' conversion so easily. "So why did you turn yourself in?" Buffy asked suspiciously. "Angel didn't ask you to."

"No, he didn't. You did," Faith replied quietly.

"I never--" Buffy stopped, thinking about what she had said when she found Faith and Angel together. No, no chance. Jail.

"Do you really think that will help?" Angel had replied. Buffy had assumed he was talking about Faith and her "second chance," and she didn't bother to listen. Now, she was thinking that maybe he was talking about her, too.

"It's ok, B. It's not a bad thing to want your pound of flesh."

"No, this isn't right." Buffy shook her head, flustered, her thoughts running on overdrive. Did she really want this? Why didn't it make her feel any better?

Why didn't it feel like vengeance?

"Didn't you want me here?" Faith asked, her eyes meeting Buffy's steadily, with just a hint of pain. "Didn't you want me to go to jail?"

"I guess, but--" Buffy stopped herself short of a final admission, and in that moment, Faith understood.

"You didn't want me to come here, did you," Faith said, her voice barely above a whisper. "You just wanted to drag me here. You only wanted me in jail when you knew that's what I didn't want. You wanted to hurt me the way I hurt you, so you wouldn't feel so much like a victim, isn't that right?"

Buffy shook her head, but no words came out.

"But by coming here on my own, I stole that from you, didn't I? By going along with it, you couldn't make me into the victim that you felt like." Faith's voice gradually grew louder, and she stood up to look Buffy in the eye.

"And what if I did?" Buffy lashed out now, eyes boring into Faith's own. "I deserve it! I deserve it after what you did to me!"

"So what can I do to make it better, Buffy?" Faith asked, desperately. "You still want to beat me to death? Go ahead; I won't even scream."

"You should be so lucky," Buffy snapped back. "Do you have any idea what you did to me? Trying to take over my life, trying to steal my family, my friends, my boyfriends... I trusted you!"

"I know!" Faith screamed, her voice breaking. "I know. You gave me chance after chance, and I blew it. I was scared, I was mad, I was crazy..." She wiped her eyes roughly with the back of her hand. "I'm sorry. I know you don't want to hear that, but it's all I've got. I'm sorry." Her voice hoarse, Faith looked up at the ceiling, irrationally trying to will the tears back into her eyes. "What do you want from me? I can't ever do enough to make it right."

Buffy looked at the crying girl; she had never seen such vulnerability from Faith before. Usually the dark Slayer screened her emotions behind a 'tough girl' facade, but this was really her. The real Faith, scared and alone.

"How long is this going to last, Faith?" Buffy asked, her voice low. "How long until the guilt isn't enough, and you come back to try to ruin my life again?"

"I can't," Faith brokenly whispered her reply. "It hurts... Oh god, Buffy, it hurts." She sank to a crouch, wrapping her handcuffed arms around her knees for support. "It hurts."

Buffy looked at Faith's tear-streaked face and her heart broke. She finally saw what Angel must've seen: a young, frightened, miserable girl. This wasn't a game. Faith wasn't playing anyone. Angel knew it, and now Buffy knew it too.

Her vengeance seemed so hollow now.

The blonde Slayer dropped to her knees beside the crying girl, stroking her hair gently. Faith groaned, and tried to pull away, but she didn't try very hard. Buffy held onto her, one arm wrapped around her shoulders, her free hand moving over dark hair soothingly.

"Apology accepted."

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