Setting: Early Buffy Season 4.
Summary: There was a time when Faith and Amy wouldn’t have much to say to each other. Of course, being in a coma and being a rat means beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to conversational partners.
Author's Notes: Originally written for the Buffyverse1000 challenge, by booster17 and empressvesica.
Amy was a rat; Faith was in a coma. Not many people gave either of them a thought.
After all, it's not like they were going anywhere. And really, what trouble could they get into in their current states?
Amy had no idea why Willow had bothered to bring her cage to the hospital on her visit, but then it wasn't like Willow was bothering to talk to her much lately. At least she still took Amy ‘out to see the world’ every now and then. It helped – to remember that there was a world outside the dorm room and her cage.
The hospital smelled. It didn't so much smell bad as too much, the scents of people and sickness and cleaners and flowers all overlapping and making her head spin. She wanted to get out. Out of this place, out of this cage, out of this damned body.
As if the Fates were mocking her, today was the day when Willow forgot to pick the cage up on her way out. That never happened on their previous outings.
But it wasn’t surprising really, Willow was pretty busy with college and Oz and stuff. Lots on her mind these days. Add to that this little call on a former nemesis. The girl was stretched to her limit right now.
Amy knew this. She had watched Willow study late into the night or try to study when really she was fretting until Buffy came home. Some nights, her eyes would stray from her books to the waxing moon. She had seen Willow crying as she hung up the phone from talking with Giles.
Amy knew, but knowing didn't stop her from letting loose a squeaky string of rodent expletives. She squeaked and twitched her whiskers and rustled her scant bedding.
But to no avail. The nurses came by, attended to Faith, and drew the curtains before exiting and turning off the light.
Great. So much for that hope of someone noticing her. Sunnydale blindness sucked at times.
As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, Amy took a good look around. Her cage was sitting under the only chair in the room, which did explain how the nurse missed the huge, furry, health hazard right in front of her.
With the curtains closed, there wasn't much else to look at. She could see under the curtain but the bottom of the footboard and the little wheels under the bed weren't really all that fascinating.
She let out another squeak of annoyance as she looked around her cage. This wasn't even her good cage. No wheel, no carefully built mound of wood shavings, no secret food stores.
Shit! There wasn't any food or water in this dinky thing. That was it - she was SO biting Willow when she came back. Well, after she was back in her real cage, with her bed and her hidden food.
This sucked, she thought with a soft sigh.
She gnawed at the wire bars for a bit, the wanton destruction of the travel cage making her feel a little better. Her mind wandered back to the girl in the bed.
Willow had held her cage high enough as they entered she had gotten a good look at Faith. She looked bad. Real bad. She'd heard something from Willow's friends in passing about how bad Faith had gotten. Something about building to a final make-or-break moment. She hadn't paid much attention at the time but from the soft cluck of the lips from the nurse when she left, she got the impression that they weren't expecting her to last much longer.
Maybe that was why Willow and the others had come that day. Pay their last respects and all.
She sure didn't look good. Dark circles stained the skin under each eye, though how you could have bags under your eyes when basically all you did was sleep she didn't know. Her hair was all dull and stringy but Amy thought they probably didn't wash it much around this place.
She had looked kinda thin and…
Amy caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned and jumped, nearly hitting her head on the top of the cage, as she came eye to eye with Faith, stretched out along the floor, chin cradled in her hands, staring curiously at Amy.
Wait, not Faith. No smell. No…what was going on?
Her eyes flicked back to the bed. She would have seen anyone get out of the bed, and come over here. She flicked back to Faith, who was observing her with a growing frown of puzzlement. "You see me, don't you?" Faith slowly said, extending one finger and pointing at Amy.
Amy squeaked, and shook her head automatically.
A small, pleased smile slowly spread across Faith's face. "And you just understood what I said, didn't you?"
Amy just stared, unblinking.
Not-Faith chuckled. "Didn't know mousey faces were so expressive. 'No shit, Sherlock' huh?”
“So why are you here? Just felt like visiting?” Obviously Amy couldn’t answer those questions, a fact the other whatever she was caught onto quickly. “Wait…I’ll stick to yes and no questions, okay?"
Amy nodded again. Sure, this was creepy as heck, but life as a rat had been pretty boring. This was the best thing that had happened since they had moved from that crazy party room Willow had been living in.
"Lessee," said Not-Faith, her face scrunching up in concentration, "Now, I'm assuming this is still Sunnydale, land of the free-range vamp food and home of the weird?"
Amy nodded. Vigorously.
Not-Faith tilted her head in appreciation. "So, you. Talking rat. Magic has so got to be involved in this shit." She paused, considering. "And given the lack of reaction even from a cute mouse face when I said Vampire, you know a lot 'bout this place."
She extended her finger towards Amy. "You weren't always a rat, were you?"
Amy didn't answer for a moment, transfixed by the way Not-Faith's finger was stick through the interwoven bars of her cage. Not between the bars…but through them.
"Oh. Sorry," Not-Faith pulled her hand away.
Amy shook her head side to side and Not-Faith looked pleased to have guessed right.
"Cool. Human, then?" Nod of the head.
"And given that you're here, I knew you?" Shake of the head.
"Huh," Not-Faith said, pursing her lips. "You knew me?" Amy paused, then shook her head.
"Oooo... tricky," mused Not-Faith. Her forehead furrowed in thought. "Wait... you knew of me?"
Not-Faith thought for a moment and suddenly her eyes hardened. "Buffy."
Amy shook her head, slowly.
"Not Buffy…one of the Scoobies?"
"You and Willow friends…Wait. This is too hard." Not-Faith drummed her ghostly fingertips against the floor. "Don't suppose you're real into meditation or anything…"
Amy squeaked, once, loudly. She had meditated all the time for spells and hone her focus.
"Alright," said Not-Faith. "Let's try this.." and reached out her finger, once more passing through the bars.
"Relax. Let your mind go blank…." Not-Faith reached closer. "Um, maybe think about your human form??"
Amy considered biting for a second, but her human logic said that wasn't going to do a lot of good. The alternative was doing as she was told.
She relaxed, letting her eyes drift closed. She thought about being a girl again, about being tall, really tall, and eating real food and having a bathroom and bedroom as two different rooms. Something cold brushed against her and pulled. Hard.
She instinctively fought it even as she realized what Not-Faith was doing. It took all her willpower to push down the rat's desire to run, but she did and felt something give way.
Suddenly, she didn't feel wrong anymore. No strange skin around her, no smells she couldn't make sense of, no….paws. NO PAWS!
Her eyes flew open and she was looking down on Not-Faith poking at the limp form of a rat in a cage.
Well - guess she was Not-Amy now.
From where she was floating, she could see both Not-Faith below her, and Faith in the hospital bed. Such a contrast - the one grey and almost lifeless, the other looking quizzically at the rat body in a cage, almost glowing in the sheer vitality coming off her.
"Hey," she said, wishing for a more snappy opening line.
Faith rolled over and stared upwards, a smirk crossing her face. "Hey yourself," she answered, "You know, when I said imagine yourself human again, I kinda meant with clothes on."
Amy looked down. Eeep. She concentrated for a minute and when she looked again she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
"Sorry. I…uh, I kinda left my clothes behind when I turned into a rat."
Not-Faith sat up, crossing her legs in front of her. "Turned into a rat. Haven't heard that one lately."
"It's a stupid story…"
Not-Faith shrugged. "Not going to be any more boring than laying around in a coma."
She had a point. Amy sat down - sitting was weird when you didn't have a body. She knew the floor was cold and hard beneath her, but she couldn't really feel it.
Not-Faith waited patiently as she found the words and listened to the whole story - creepy kids and the witch BBQ and all. She laughed when Amy told her about Willow's first roomie and Xander and Anya…still going strong.
Amy carefully avoided any references to Buffy, which sort of limited what she could say about her present living situation.
The conversation dwindled and Amy went back to wondering how they were here, casually chatting like normal girls.
Well, someone had to say it. Someone had to bring up the reason they were both in this room together.
Amy nodded her head towards the bed in the middle of the room. The one with Faith's body on. "So, you're dying, I hear. How is that going for you?"
Faith's shocked look halted whatever glib phrase was about to come out next. "Dy-dying? stammered Faith. "But I... look at me! I'm frigging well glowing with health. There's no fucking way I'm dying!"
Amy paused as an idea hit her. “Energy…” she mused, “If you’re ‘projecting’ all the time, then maybe your body’s dying without you inside it….”
"This," a sweeping gesture took them both in, "is astral projection."
Faith still looked lost.
Amy sighed. "You're doing it and you don't even know what it is?"
"Looks like." Faith shrugged. "There was a lot of stuff my Watcher tried to explain before…"
She shuddered and quickly moved on. "Had a lot of time to think things through, just laying around. I remembered some of the stuff she said about meditation and focus. Thought it might help me get better. One time, I sorta floated out of me."
Amy nodded. It could help her body narrow in on healing. But if she was doing it too much…
“I’m sorry, Faith,” she eventually said, after having gone through everything she knew in her head, “But there’s nothing I can do really.”
“When I go back in the rat, which it looks like I’ll have to do rather than die myself, I won’t be able to tell anyone about what’s happening to you.” Amy looked disgruntled. “It’s not like Willow pays me any attention anymore since Oz left her.”
“No kidding! Wolf-boy dumped her?” Faith swore. “Wait… bad choice of priorities there. Me. Dying. Go on.”
Amy closed her eyes, not wanting to see anymore of the pain on Faith’s face. “You have to…get back in, and stay there.”
Faith's voice was flat as she echoed Amy. "Stay there…"
"How far have you been going?"
Faith didn't look up from her intense study of the speckles in the pattern of the linoleum. "Far. I can't seem to get further than the nurses station, but I can go to other rooms. Sometimes they can see me, talk to me."
Amy sighed. "It's just too much, Faith. You can still pop out every now and again, but you need to be spending most of your time in there - healing."
Faith stood up, and crossed the room to the bed. Looking down at herself, she slowly exhaled. “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. I look like shit, don’t I? B really did a job on me, didn’t she?”
Amy moved behind her, and also regarded the prone figure in the bed. “You know you have to do it, Faith – or are you afraid of what might happen when you wake up?” she asked, mentally crossing her fingers.
Faith whirled round almost instantly, switching from contemplative to furious. “You think I’m gonna let them get away with this? You think I’m just going to lie down and die?”
“Why not?” said Amy, somehow keeping her voice steady. “Isn’t that what you’re doing right now?”
She was glad she didn't really have knees in this body because they would be shaking right now. This was colossally stupid, but if it worked…
Faith clenched her spectral hands into fists. "Fuck you."
She muttered a few other choice things, pacing back and forth. It was barely perceptible at first, but as she paced, Faith became more and more transparent until she faded entirely.
She stopped fighting the pull, Amy thought. It was hard to project. Even with her power, she could feel the tug. It was like a rope around her middle, the pressure and pull constant.
The further she moved from her body, the stronger it got.
Had to give Faith credit. This wasn't easy to do.
She took one last look at the still figure on the bed. With a sigh, she let herself go and felt the world grow larger, more solid around her.
She blinked and she was looking out through bars again. She couldn’t see the bed, but she also didn’t see glowy Faith wandering around. Hopefully, she had listened.
Amy gnawed for a little bit, finally falling into a light sleep in a disappointingly small mound of shavings.
She woke up to find Willow, on her hands and knees peering under the chair.
“Amy! I am SO sorry. I can’t believe I forgot you here last night. Guess I was sorta upset.”
She gently pulled the cage out and as she lifted Amy could see Faith, still out for the count, but looking a little better than yesterday.
“I came right back but visiting hours were over. I told them I left something important in the room, but I couldn’t say I’d left my friend, who just happens to be a rat.” Willow stopped rambling enough to cast a low level “no see” spell. It didn’t really hide Amy, just made people unlikely to really look at what Willow was carrying.
The witch prattled all the way to the car and the entire ride home. She went on and on about what a bad friend she was and how she had bought those yogurt drops Amy liked so much and a new exercise ball and how she was going to spend at least an hour each night researching other spells that might change Amy back.
Amy didn’t really listen. Maybe she would. Maybe she wouldn’t. Amy didn’t much care.
She happily let herself be dropped back into her cage and, snuggling into her favorite pile of bedding, she thoughts were for the girl alone in a hospital room, fighting to return to world that, at best, wouldn’t notice her return and, at worst, would try to make sure her first breath was her last.
Perhaps being a rat wasn’t quite so bad.