The sun is setting, all red and glowy and heatin' up my side of the bus. There's not a cloud in the sky and it's so beautiful it makes me wanna cry. I'm not a crying kinda girl, so I won't. I'll keep it all inside, like I always do. I can still appreciate the irony of the sitch, though. The pain in the beauty. The hurt beneath all that gold and orange sky. We just exploded an entire town – or imploded maybe; not too sure what exactly happened. I know we lost people. Good people.
But we won. It don't feel like we did as we all sit in silence, listening to the bus churning its way to LA, but we came out of it alive – mostly. We beat the bad guys and fought back the apocalypse. Buffy got us through it. . .just like I knew she would.
I turn a little in my seat, looking over my shoulder and over the bobbing heads of new slayers as they try to sleep. They're exhausted - emotionally and physically. I see Buffy near the back. She's not sleeping. She's sat alone, her head turned towards the window; looking out at the sunset. I see tears rolling down her face, but she's holding herself still and quiet. Kinda makes me hurt inside. The last few days musta been hell on her. Fuck, most of her time in Sunnydale probably was. I helped with that.
We talked about that before the big fight today; gotta lot of things out in the open so we could get past it. I ain't her best bud now and never will be, but we dealt – with the obvious stuff anyhow. Things'll be better now between us, though it's never gonna go away.
I look away from Buffy as she wipes at her nose. Everyone's asleep or stewin' in their own grief, and she's totally alone. Even Dawn's huddled into Xander instead of B. It's probably got a lot to do with the shit that went down when they all ganged up and kicked her out. Buffy: always in charge, always being watched in case she puts a foot wrong. And as soon as she faltered – did what they didn't wanna face, said what they didn't wanna hear - they all swooped in and fucking attacked her. I shoulda stood by her side, but I was just a guest. A mostly unwanted guest at that.
Being as quiet as I can I move from my seat. I take a glance at Wood and see that he's sleeping. He lost a good chunk of blood, but he's strong. Giles catches my eye in the rear-view mirror as he sits at the wheel, and I nod his way when he smiles sadly. I think he knows where I'm headed.
Reaching Buffy's seat, I hesitate, feeling my heart pounding and my palms getting sweaty. She could turn around and tell me to fuck off back down the bus. She could freak out at me. She could do a hundred different things that'll make it clear she doesn't need me near her. I wouldn't blame her for a single one. I still take a seat though, right next to her.
I don't say anything and Buffy sniffs, trying to hide her tears. She's still looking out at the sunset, watching the roadsigns pass by, the motels, the diners, the houses as we get closer to the big city we're headed for. Her hands are in her lap and I can see them shaking. Sure, it's a little cold now but not cold enough to shiver like that. I wonder at first if she's in pain, but Buffy's a tough girl - even for a slayer. She got cut bad, but she got it taken care of and dressed. I guess the whole thing is just hitting hard. Hitting her where it hurts most. . .right in her chest.
She's lost people. Spike. Her home. Her mom. She's left her mom behind in the rubble of Sunnydale, and she's hurting.
Doing the only thing it feels right to do, I slowly move my hand over to hers. She doesn't flinch or pull away and I take one of her hands in mine and just hold it between us on the seat. I can almost feel her breathing; each breath sighing through her like it's trying to keep the damn from busting. Like she's doing her best to control everything she's feeling. It's not good to keep stuff inside. I know that better than anyone.
Her hand is sweaty in mine, probably 'cause it's me doing the sweating. She lets the tears flow a little more and I squeeze, letting her know it's ok, and that I'm there – no strings, just there. She squeezes back and it feels like something inside me just broke. Feels like I got smacked in the stomach; the wind knocked out of me. Guess it feels good to have her not rejecting me.
I relax into the seat a little more next to her, looking out the window past Buffy, just staring at the shit that slides by as we get the hell away from the mess we just made of Sunnydale. I feel lighter; like I dumped 20 pounds of history back in the crater that's left. It'll never leave me - always there reminding me how easy it is to slip – but I get another chance. I've got another shot at it.
“Thanks,” I hear softly beside me.
I look toward Buffy, into her eyes, and I see that she means it.
“Anytime,” I reply.
She glances away, trying to stop the tears that don't seem to want to do anything but fall. Even crying, dusty and bloody from the battle, she's beautiful. She always was beautiful to me, even through the hate and the fighting.
Feeling Buffy shiver beside me, I take my hand from hers and place my arm over her shoulders. I expect her to resist this time, but instead she leans into me, resting against me so I can hold her closer. Never been one for holding people or giving them comfort, but then again I've also never been in love with anybody else but Buffy. I dunno why she's letting me be the one here for her, but I ain't complaining. I get the sense she just needs to be held, and everybody else is out of it, and like I said, there's still this weird atmosphere in the air.
Buffy leans her head on my shoulder and closes her eyes, and I feel alive all over. She's letting me closer than I've ever been, in more ways than the obvious. She's gotta be wondering why she's doing it too, but it's too quiet to talk without being heard, and though we're pretty much alone here at the back half of the bus, Willow and Ken ain't too far away. I don't mind just sitting here for B. I don't mind at all.
I can feel the city getting closer; feel the buzz of it crawling under my skin as buildings start to block out what's left of the sun. I've always been a city girl, needing to be in the thick of it all, in the heart of the action, of the dirt and the grime and the sleaze that hangs on its streets. I missed that in jail - being able to walk the streets at night, just soaking up the darkness in every alley, watching people screw up their lives, listening to the shouts, the screams, the sirens. It's my kinda atmosphere I guess.
No use pretending I can change that – I am who I am – but I'm not the same anymore. Not completely. There's stuff I'd never do now, things I'd never go back to. Hurting B is one of those.
She's breathing easier now, letting go of some of that pain inside as she relaxes against me. I dunno if I'm being much help, but she's holding onto me so it's gotta be doing something. I'm doing something right for once.
It feels like she's falling asleep and I place my hand over hers where it's resting on my thigh. There's no shivering anymore, and no more tears – for now no doubt. I take a peek at the dressing on her wound, just able to see it under her jacket, where her top is hitched up over the bandages. There's only a little blood, nothing to worry about.
“Are you looking down my top?” Buffy asks in a whisper, not moving an inch.
“I was checking out the wound, B,” I reply with a soft chuckle. “But now I'm looking down your top,” I add, grinning even though she can't see it.
My eyes flick to her top and I can't help but take a look, even though I didn't plan on doing it. I can see her bra but that's all. Hell, that's enough for my hormones to remind me I totally fucking want Buffy in the biggest way. I gotta ignore it, though. No use chasin' that dream again.
I turn my eyes away and see the small smile on Buffy's lips. So sweet; at ease with me even though she's sad and upset right now. Makes me all kindsa warm inside. Also makes me do something weird - I kiss her on the top of her head, and instantly fight back a blush. I remember kissing her forehead once, but that was different. That was out of anger. I just kissed her outta love and I hope to God she can't tell.
She squeezes my thigh where her hand is and I hold my breath a little, waiting for the outrage. But there's no outrage, just Buffy letting the smile stay on her lips and keeping pressed close to me. I get that feeling where it seems like you're floating; my legs heavy and my head light. There's so much I wish I could say to her, and so much I feel that I don't even know where to begin. I know I shouldn't. Know I don't have the right to say anything. I keep quiet, but it's boiling around inside me, making me dizzy.
I rub my fingers over her hand and up her arm a little way; not sure why, but it feels like a comforting thing to do. Buffy snuggles her face in closer to my neck, her hot breath spilling over my skin and making me wanna peel us out of our clothes and hold her against me.
“Faith,” Buffy says, her voice low and almost hoarse, “what are you thinking?” she asks, her fingers moving just a little on my thigh.
I thought she was falling asleep but obviously not. Thought I could hold back but I can't. I gotta be honest with her. This is a new road we're traveling down. A new beginning, and I can't lie anymore.
“Thinkin' about us naked,” I say, quiet enough for it just to be between us, “together.”
She blows a little harder against my neck, making me wanna squirm around in the heat its causing. I know it's not the time for horny thoughts, and definitely not the time to share them with B when she's all upset, but this is how it's gotta be from now on. No more hiding.
There's a pause in the comfortableness between us; feels kinda edgy, like it could sway either way. Bad or good.
“I don't think I'm in the right shape for nakedness right now,” Buffy says, moving just enough for her breath to be blowing right down my shirt and into my cleavage now. “Kinda physically and emotionally exhausted.”
I nod, distracted by the tickle of her breath. There's probably something I should say, like maybe “I'm sorry for feeling all horny when I'm meant to be comforting you and being a friend.” But I don't say anything.
“You're making me tingly, though,” Buffy continues in a shy whisper.
I blink, trying to understand what she just said.
“Tingly?” I ask, clearing my throat when I kinda squeak.
She snuggles her head against my shoulder and I can't help but hold her tighter against me. I wanna love her, take care of her, not just have crazy amounts of sex with her. It was always about the sex to begin with, and I fought down any other feeling. The feeling won't be ignored now. I can't push it out. It's there, right in my face, crawling around in me, needing to be heard.
“It's like. . .I can feel what you're feeling,” she tells me, sounding more sleepy again. “It's so clear. Like that moment when we switched bodies back after. . .after you swapped us and tried to run off with mine.”
My eyes close at the memory. I hurt her so bad back then. Betrayed her completely. I'd also felt that connection between us when we got switched back; stronger than normal. So clear. It went when I ran from the church, but the memory of it burns. Thinking about how it felt I realize she's right. . .something's changed. Maybe it's why I took the risk and walked up the bus to sit by her. Maybe it's why I took her hand, offered her some kinda comfort. I can feel her more. I can sense her more.
Buffy lifts her head a little from my shoulder and looks into my eyes. She looks so tired, and I can feel how tired she is. It's not all I feel but I can't quite make all the rest of it out; there's so much coming from her right now. So much inside her.
“I think it was the spell. I can't really feel any of them,” Buffy says, glancing out towards the new slayers, “but I feel you more than ever.”
I look over towards Ken, to Vi and the others – I don't sense them the same as I always did Buffy. And with Buffy it's definitely more pronounced now. More obvious and less subtle. Thing that makes me worry about that is. . .can she sense exactly what I feel for her? What I always felt?
There's another hush between us and I swear I can hear the pounding of my heart. I didn't come back here for revelations and admissions, I just came to let her know she's not alone – something else is going on though, that's for sure.
Buffy looks back to me at the same time I look at her. Her gaze falls to my body, sweeping over me; traveling up over my chest to my neck, looking hungry as she reaches my lips and then finally my eyes. If I didn't know better I'd say she just totally pictured me naked, and it's not helping me shut out that niggling horny feeling I get after slaying, and especially around Buffy.
I try to say something but I have no clue what to say. Don't think I've ever been lost for words, but I'm stumped right now. I see need in her eyes. Through the tiredness and the pain of everything she's just lost I definitely see need, directed right at me. Takes my breath away.
“I can feel what you're feeling, Faith,” Buffy says, making sure her voice is low and quiet. “I don't know what I think of it, or exactly what it means, but I feel it.”
She's so close to me and I'm stuck between wanting to slide right outta there to find myself some space to breathe again, and wanting to show her what it is she's feeling from me. Her mouth is inches from mine and we're sharing each other's air; heat starting to radiate between us, cutting through the chill of the night that's plunging us all into darkness.
Any closer and I'll be tasting her; lips on mine, bodies pressed together. It's all kindsa real. Maybe too real.
But there's a sadness surrounding Buffy right now that's stopping me from running. It's a sadness I can sense, almost reach out and touch.
“Buffy,” I begin, “I don't know what to. . .”
“I don't know what to say either,” Buffy says, guessing what I was gonna tell her. “Maybe we need to stop talking and just feel. Maybe that's what we always shoulda done.”
She sounds resigned, quiet and soft; like all the fight got taken out of her and she's left needing to hold onto me - the one person in the world that she probably shouldn't hold on to.
Before I can ask what she means, Buffy leans that little bit closer and her lips touch mine. There's no wild sparks or wandering hands, or hungry desire. . .it's just her lips and mine, touching softly, moving slowly - just for a minute. Her lips are gentle, teasing at mine and letting me know she really does feel what I have inside for her. I want to reach out and pull her harder against me. I want to taste her more deeply and freely, but now's not the time. I don't know for sure if we'll ever get that time, but somehow. . .I think she's letting me know we will one day. She's letting me into a secret. Sharing something deeper with me than we've ever gone.
She pulls away and puts her head back on my shoulder, closing her eyes and not saying a word. I rest back, head against the seat, just feeling how good it is to have Buffy in my arms with the taste of her on my lips. A taste I'm gonna want so much more of.
I don't know what's gonna happen when we get to LA, but things will never be the same now; things have shifted, stepped up to the plate ready to be seen, to be heard.
If she can really feel me then she knows. . .I love her. I'm here for her now. I'm ready.