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A million thoughts seemed to flicker across Faith’s mind as she tried to make the decision she knew would haunt her for the rest of her life. Time seemed to stretch but she knew it was over in the space of a heartbeat. Logically she knew what she had to do – she had to save Willow. Once out of the fire the witch could help hold it back so they could get Xander out. If she took Xander, Willow was dead. Faith knew that, but her heart was telling her that logic was a fool.
Willow was unconscious, maybe even already dead – Faith was finding it hard to focus with the smoke and unshed tears obscuring her vision – maybe she’d wake once she was in the open air and be able to do something, but maybe she wouldn’t.
Finally, her heart breaking as she did, Faith made her choice.
“I’m sorry.” She whispered through the veil of tears. Reaching forward, she traced a shaking hand down the side of Xander’s face, trying not to think of the might-have-beens. Trying not to think that she’d let someone else down just as she was letting them in. Her breath stopped as he seemed to lean into the caress – was he about to wake up? Could he make it out of here on his own?
“Xander!” She tried to yell, but the heat and smoke combined to make her voice crack and what emerged was little more than a squeak. Desperate now, she slapped his face hard, wincing at the loudness of the crack; willing him to wake.
Nothing. No reaction from him at all.
Another creak from overhead made her twist around just in time to see an entire section of wall give way under the onslaught of the flames. As she watched, she could see the remaining window panes begin to warp with the intense hear. She was out of time.
Refusing to let herself think about what she was doing, because she knew there was no way she could through with it if she did, Faith scooped up the smaller of the two and, with one final look at Xander, she ran.
Small explosions from behind her indicated the glass had finally given way and moments later felt the shards pelting her. She refused to let it stop her and, shielding Willow as much as possible, she forced her way out of the inferno.
Once out of the flames, she was instantly trapped in a strong grip and as she looked up into the breathing mask of the fire fighter hauling her away, she dug her heels in. Unceremoniously dumping Willow’s comatose form into his arms, Faith turned around and once more ran into the scene of devastation before her. Resolutely ignoring the anguished shouts from behind her, she forced herself onwards.
She couldn’t leave him there to die alone. She wouldn’t.