Buffy blinked, caught off-guard by that proclamation.
“Faith? Our Faith? Has she come out of her coma?”
A sudden thought struck her, and Buffy’s eyes widened, her stomach dropping.
“Giles- Faith is okay, isn’t she? She’s not…” she blinked again quickly, unable to bring herself to say the words that were flickering through her brain… the words that would make more real to her the possibility that Faith might finally have died.
Ever since Buffy and Faith’s confrontation on the rooftop four months ago- the confrontation that led to Buffy stabbing her sister slayer in the stomach and Faith flinging herself off the roof onto a passing truck bed- Faith had remained in a coma in the Sunnydale hospital. Buffy would have had no insight whatsoever into Faith’s mental and emotional state since, except for her dreams. The first time Buffy dreamed about Faith, Faith had seemed to hold no anger or resentment towards her; she seemed saddened, sorry for her past actions. Buffy somehow knew that her dreams were shared by Faith, possibly a result of their sister slayer connection- and almost definitely a reflection of the other girl’s psyche. And if this were true, then somehow Faith and her attitude toward Buffy had changed… or else it had never been quite as hateful and aggressive as Faith had wanted to come across as.
Proof of that was Faith’s words in Buffy’s first dream with her. Cryptic as they had been, they had still provided Buffy with the knowledge she had needed to defeat the Mayor- who Faith had once loved like a father. Buffy knew that couldn’t be a coincidence… and also what it must have taken for Faith to tell her, even while unconscious and through a dream. Maybe even especially so; Buffy doubted she would ever know the effort and energy that had expended from Faith.
Ever since Faith had visited Buffy’s dreams sporadically, each time behaving much in the friendly, almost wistful way she had in the first. And each time Buffy felt instinctively that the dreams were deliberate, messages sent out from Faith that she was supposed to understand and interpret, messages that were important in more ways than just conveying to Buffy Faith’s changing and regrets. But Buffy had never been able to understand them, and neither, when she described them to him, had Giles.
What with the dreams and her gratitude over Faith’s help with the mayor, not to mention her hurt and helpless physical state- a state Buffy had put her into- Buffy could hold no anger or resentment for Faith either. When she thought of her sister slayer, it was with a blending of sadness, guilt, and helpless worry for her, a wishing that everything had gone differently between them. Even when Faith had been at the height of her terrible, misguided actions, even when Buffy had steeled herself to hate her in order to make herself able to kill her, she had still had to work hard to bury the affection she had once felt for her, the many memories they shared of lighter times. Now when Buffy thought of Faith, especially after one of their shared dreams, she could only remember the feisty young girl she had been before, the girl who, despite her rough edges, had her heart in the right place. The girl who had never quite been able to be really happy…
She had gone to visit Faith only three times since she had sank into her coma. Once, immediately after their first dream, where Faith had helped Buffy with the mayor. The second time, the day after the mayor’s aborted Ascenscion on Graduation Day. Buffy had told Faith what had happened and thanked her for her help, as Faith lay there, still and unresponsive. The third time had been a week afterward. After that, Buffy had stopped visiting. She felt guilty, ashamed for doing so, but she couldn’t stand to keep looking at Faith so motionless and pale, to see how thin and unnatural she looked, almost as if she were nearly already dead. She couldn’t stand to not see Faith improve, to know that it was she who had hurt her so badly.
And so it had been nearly three months since Buffy had gone to visit Faith in the hospital. Anything could have happened in that time…
Buffy’s mind stumbled over itself as she tried to remember when she’d last shared a dream connection with Faith. It had been recently, hadn’t it? Surely not more than a week ago at the most. Surely Faith wasn’t…
“Faith is okay, right? She has to be!” she repeated to Giles, hearing the near panic entering her tone. “Last time I saw her she was still the same, not better or worse. How could that have changed? And I’m stil having dreams-“
“That’s it exactly, Buffy, she hasn’t’ changed,” Giles told her quietly as he put his glasses back on, meeting the blonde slayer’s eyes. “Faith is showing improvement, yes, but no indications of awakening.
Her wounds have healed as well as ever expected, and yet she still remains comatose. Buffy- I believe that it is not physical reasons, but rather mental ones, that keep her in her present state.”
Buffy felt her expression freeze at his words, and an icy dread and guilt spread through her insides.
“You think- you think something’s wrong with Faith’s mind?” she almost whispered in horror. “Like- like it’s damaged now? Is- is she a v-vegetable now?”
She cringed at the harshness of her own word, blinking back tears… but Giles was shaking his head at her hurriedly, his eyes widening as well.
“No, no, Buffy, that isn’t what I meant at all!” he hastened to reassure her. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder, and Buffy closed her eyes briefly, nearly sagging in relief. “On the contrary. I have spoken with Faith’s doctors, and as I understand it her physical signs are very encouraging. She breathes on her own; she only requires a feeding tube as a matter of nutrition and hydration. She shows normal brain activity and also shows normal, or rather nearly normal, reflexes in response to physical stimuli. What with these positive physical signs and the dreams you have shared with me, it seems quite clear to me that Faith’s mind is fine. When I say she remains in a coma for mental reasons, Buffy, what I actually meant was for emotional reasons. I think that physically, Faith should have been able to come out of her coma weeks, even months, ago. I suspect the problem is not that she can’t, but that she won’t- that she, for whatever reasons, doesn’t want to.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed as she thought about Giles’s words; they made sense to her, but somehow they didn’t feel right.
“I don’ t know, Giles… why would she want to stay in a coma? And why would I keep having these dreams about her if Faith wanted to stay? I… I get the feeling somehow that she does want to come back, but can’t. Maybe…maybe she has dreams a lot, really vivid ones, and she can’t just wake up from them yet. Maybe… I don’t know, Giles, I just don’t know,” Buffy exhaled, spreading her arms almost helplessly. “I know she’s trying to tell me something in our dreams… I just don’t get it.”
She was quiet for a moment, her face pensive as she tried to remember her last dream with Faith. Suddenly she straightened, frowning at Giles sharply.
“Wait a minute… what does the Council have to do with any of this? What do they care? You said they contacted you about Faith- what do they want?”
Giles’s shoulders stiffened; he seemed to be bracing himself for something very unpleasant. Buffy felt her heart speed up once again as she waited, her own body tensing in dreaded anticipation of his response.
“They want to have her feeding and hydration tubes removed,” he replied finally, his voice taut. “If, by four days’ time, Faith has not yet awakened, they will do so and allow her to die of malnutrition and dehydration.”