New Beginnings, Old Enemies

Chapter Ten

Faith stared down at Buffy, her mouth falling open as she witnessed what was happening. She froze, her mind finding it hard to grasp the danger Buffy was suddenly in. Seconds ticked by and Faith shook her head, clearing out the lack of understanding and reaching the very distinct conclusion that she had to do something. . .and quickly.

“B,” Faith called, her heart pounding in her ears as she ran towards the other slayer.

Her feet skidded to a stop close to Buffy sending up a cloud of dust. She grabbed onto her outstretched arm, gripping it firmly as Buffy grasped her forearm back.

“Pull, Faith,” Buffy instructed, using her free hand to push at the earth quickly swallowing her.

She couldn’t budge herself and Faith’s tugging didn’t seem to be doing much either. Buffy felt panic setting in, but at least Faith was helping her. She hadn’t expected her to. She never would have guessed she would dash back to her with such a look of shock on her face, but Faith had done just that. And now she was pulling with all her might.

“B, I can’t get you out,” Faith said, gritting her teeth and scuffing her boots on the floor as she tried to yank Buffy out of the ground.

“Don’t let go,” Buffy said, almost pleading as Faith moved her legs either side of her and took both her arms.

Buffy’s torso was quickly disappearing, the air being squeezed from her lungs as the ground clasped her like a vice.

“I’m not gonna let go, B,” Faith assured, anchoring herself by digging her heals into the hard ground as she gripped onto Buffy’s upper arms. “Hold onto me.”

She leaned back, tugging on Buffy and hoping that she would somehow come unstuck. The earth around Buffy was solid and seemingly unyielding, but her efforts began to pay off.

Feeling her muscles strain and her brow dampening, Faith let out an almost carnal growl as she put all she had into freeing Buffy.

“That’s it, Faith,” Buffy yelled over Faith’s string of expletives.

Buffy felt the ground give around her. The vice slowly let her go. She clung onto Faith’s shoulders as more of her emerged from the dust and sand. She could breathe again, and as her legs slowly slipped from the sullied earth, Buffy kicked them free, crumpling on top of Faith as they tried to shuffle away.

The ground, or whatever it was beneath them wasn’t done, however. Faith’s foot was too slow in moving and she felt it being tugged downwards.

“Shit, this thing is still hungry,” Faith gasped as she tried to yank herself free.

Luckily, from her laying position Faith’s own weight wasn’t aiding her descent into the avaricious sand. It gave Buffy plenty of time to grab onto her leg and pull it out before it got any deeper.

They scrambled away, standing and keeping their eyes transfixed on the ruffled circle of sand that had tried to devour them. Buffy’s hands were still clasping Faith’s forearms after their hasty retreat, their bodies still on high alert.

“What the fuck was that?” Faith said, catching her breath, her dark eyes scouring the area around them.

“I have no idea, but whatever it was. . .I don’t think it’s gone,” Buffy answered, wanting to let go of Faith but not wanting to at the same time.

She didn’t question why. She didn’t want to dwell on her motives for staying attached to Faith. And more importantly, she was too busy worrying about the low rumble they could hear all around them, coming from below.

They stood as motionless as they could, hardly daring to breathe.

A burst of noise to their right caused them both to spin, Faith stood behind Buffy with a hand on her shoulder. A patch of sand blew upwards and the ground below it screeched. Buffy felt Faith close at her back and fell into a comfortable fighting stance, ready for whatever it was that seemed to be about to jump out of the ground.

All went quiet, then as if waiting for its chance to cause the most surprise. . .a ferocious cry came from the spot they were watching. As the cry sounded out a spurt of bones came shooting out from a hole that suddenly appeared. As quick as it had emerged, it vanished again, and the bones clattered to the floor in a neat pile where the ground was now solid once more.

“Well, now we know how the bones got here,” Faith remarked, watching for more movement.

“Yeah, and I was nearly a pile myself,” Buffy said quietly as she turned in a circle, staring at the many shimmering white piles she could see scattered across the deserted landscape.

All was quite now. All deceptively calm.

Buffy swallowed, suddenly feeling her mouth go dry as she realized how close she was to being eaten. . .or whatever it was that would have happened had she vanished into the earth. She had Faith to thank for freeing her, and no matter how much hurt she carried inside herself from the past, she couldn’t help but feel a little of it dissolve. She felt a little of the need to hate desert her.

“Thank you, Faith,” Buffy said, looking up into Faith’s eyes as the sun made them sparkle an almost chestnut red colour.

Faith was still looking around them, keeping focused on the dust and sand for more surprises, but she blinked slowly when Buffy thanked her and glanced towards her for a second.

Her gaze didn’t stay on Buffy. It couldn’t stay on Buffy for too long. She was too afraid of what Buffy might see in her eyes. “It’s no problem, B,” she said softly. “You saved me too. Thanks for that.”

Faith looked away to the direction of the now setting sun.

Buffy looked down, a little shame seeping under her defences as she realised she had never saved Faith, not in the way she’d most needed saving. “It was nothing,” she muttered, wishing she could let go of her pain and disappointment, but clinging to its comforting embrace.

“We’d better get moving. We don’t wanna stand around looking like dinner again, and it’s probably gonna get dark soon,” Faith pointed out.

They didn’t know where they were headed, but Buffy agreed. Whatever it was under their feet it probably wasn’t going to give up on the prospect of a tasty slayer treat.

An hour or so passed as the girls walked in silence. They’d left the piles of bones behind, which hopefully meant they weren’t in danger of being swallowed whole again. Buffy certainly felt safer now. The ground was less sandy and more dusty. There almost seemed to be a path they were following too.

Outcroppings of rock dotted the landscape, and in the dimming light they could see what appeared to be mountains far in the distance ahead of them. Mountains that looked to be running either side of a valley.

The path they were on was leading them straight for it.

As the sun finally began to shrink beneath the horizon, Buffy felt the cold begin to descend around them. She threw her torn and tattered jacket over her shoulders as Faith removed hers from her waist and put it on.

“Think we should keep walking or stop for the night?” Faith asked, watching as Buffy rubbed her hands over her arms to keep herself warm.

She could see a large rock formation just ahead. It looked like an ideal resting spot. There was a flat section they could jump onto and a large overhang that would shelter them a little. Faith thought she should maybe point it out.

“We should stop over there for the night, it looks safer than the ground,” Buffy said, pointing, having noticed where Faith had been looking.

“Sounds like a good idea to me, B,” Faith agreed, not really caring that Buffy had tried to make out that she was the smart one. . .as always.

They kept walking in silence as they neared the rock. Buffy indicated for Faith to walk around it one way as she walked the other, checking the area for anything nasty that might pop out at them.

“It’s clear around here,” Faith called then hoped up onto the flat surface.

Buffy watched as the younger girl ducked under the stoop. Her dark hair was wavy after the rain. Her dark clothes dishevelled but not as torn as Buffy’s. Her dark aura being highlighted by the setting sun; its paintbrush of red leaving an eerie glow to everything, especially Faith as she shuffled under the overhang, digging around in the pocket of her tight jeans.

Buffy lifted herself up onto the rock, stood and stretched her back. It was still sore from their fall, but there were no crunching bone noises so she wasn’t too worried.

Looking out towards the valley in the distance Buffy shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun as its remaining slither slipped beneath the dry ground. She would take them that way, she decided. It looked far more likely to be populated than the bone-strewn desert they were traversing.

Hopefully, it wasn’t populated by things that were more likely to hurt them than help them.

“Fuck,” Faith grumbled from beneath the stoop now shaded in darkness.

Buffy looked Faith’s way and saw her cradling something in her hand. “What?” she asked, turning her back on the last rays of the sun.

“My smokes are screwed. Dry clean only I guess,” Faith said with a sigh and a shrug, screwing the offending packet up in her hand and throwing it off their perch.

“God’s way of telling you to quit,” Buffy smirked as the destroyed packet hit the ground.

“Yeah?” Faith chuckled. “And what’s this,” she swept her hand out to indicate the now dark and cold desert landscape, “God’s way of saying you’re fucked anyway so there’s no point in trying to change?”

The words hung in the air for a few seconds, giving both girls the chance to examine them, to taste them and feel them and let the weight of them press out feelings neither girl was comfortable with.

Buffy looked down, her instincts telling her one thing. . .to tell Faith that changing for the better always had a point. That it was the right choice. The right thing to do.

Her deeper feelings, her fears, her need to cling to her own self-assured opinion of Faith and what she had done and why, stopped her. Those feelings were telling her not to speak. Not to give Faith the slither of hope she needed. The assurance that her desire to now ‘do the right thing’ was correct. Was worth it.

Maybe it had more to do with the fact she herself could see a glimpse of what could be. That she could see how Faith had already changed. The glimpse was too scary. It was too close for comfort, it was too much, so Buffy turned away from it and moved under the smooth rock that would be their shelter.

Buffy took her place next to the other slayer, sitting with her back resting against the warm stone. She glanced over at Faith who was staring out bleakly into the encroaching night. A little jab in her conscience forced words from her lips.

“If there’s something worth changing for,” Buffy said softly, “then there’s always a point.”

Buffy didn’t clarify what she meant by “something”, unsure herself about the intention of her words. Somewhere, where she didn’t want to look, she had an idea that the ‘something’ had to do with her, but Buffy was far from ready to admit that, or want it.

“Now go to sleep, and hope that littering here isn’t going to cause some kind of trash hating monster to crawl out from under the rock,” Buffy said, aware that Faith had sullied an otherwise litter free environment. “Yunno, if you’re gonna change, I think you should start with basic stuff like not throwing your trash on the floor. If you master the basics, maybe you’ll eventually get to. . .the not murdering of people.” Buffy continued with a sly grin, unable to hold back from belittling Faith just that little bit more.

Faith kept her eyes fixed on the blanket of darkness rolling in, as the sunlight took its last look at the world. She didn’t have the heart to sigh. She didn’t feel she had the right to take offence at Buffy’s words. She was too busy wishing she could understand. Understand her many reasons for wanting and needing to change, and tell Buffy that she was a major factor. That in reality. . .she was the main factor. The reason. The fuel that burned Faith’s light of hope inside.

It was a faint light, barely graspable, but it was there, despite the ice that Buffy poured over it.

Faith didn’t comment back, instead choosing the option of shuffling into a laying position under the canopy of stone.

Buffy wanted a comeback. She needed Faith to be. . .Faith, otherwise she was left with examining who Faith really was. She was left with thinking, and feeling, and hurting. She didn’t like not being in control. Buffy didn’t like not knowing which way was up.

She wanted to push Faith. Push her to her limits until she cracked and snapped at her. She didn’t want to see a changed Faith. A changed Faith scared the crap out of her more than psycho Faith.

Huffing, sighing and grumbling as she laid down, Buffy tried to get comfortable on the rock next to her supposed enemy. Her enemy. . .that had earlier saved her life. That had risked her own life for Buffy.

Another sigh escaped Buffy as she felt the weight of her own ego and self-righteousness come crashing down on her. She turned, lying on her side next to Faith, whose back was to her.

“Faith, I didn’t mean. . .well I did mean it, but I didn’t ‘mean’ it,” Buffy said quietly, clumsily trying to atone for her cruel words.

“No worries, B,” Faith answered. “You were right.”

Her voice cracked a little and her shoulders stiffened under her black jacket. Buffy watched, a faint light from a far away moon illuminating the soft curves of the rock, and the tough edges of Faith.

Somewhere a voice inside Buffy told her to reach out to Faith. To touch her. To bridge the gap. To proffer a peace treaty. Her hand didn’t move, however. The gap would remain.

Buffy watched, and waited for Faith to fall asleep. She scooted a little closer, searching for a little more warmth without waking Faith. She allowed one of her fingers to gently touch the soft tumble of Faith’s dark hair as it covered the small area of rock between them. She took comfort in the texture, whispered a quiet goodnight and fell asleep.

The night travelled them by, growing colder and more sinister. As they shivered in their thin clothes, a dream took them to surroundings that were more familiar.

“At least we know we’re not dreaming that awful place if we’re dreaming this,” Buffy said as she found herself face to face with Faith.

“I dunno whether to be happy about that or not, B. I mean. . .you can wake up from a dream,” Faith pointed out, looking into Buffy’s eyes.

“That’s true,” Buffy nodded. “So. . .is this a slayer dream? Are you here, or am I just making this up in my own head? Am I making the other place up in my head?” Buffy asked, not expecting answers. There were never any answers in the dreams she shared with Faith. Just more and more questions.

Faith chuckled, “I have no idea, B. I quit asking to understand these things. All I know is. . .you’re here and I’m here. It’s the same every time.”

“The same. The same me, and you. . .and why is there always a bed?” Buffy questioned, suddenly realising the small fact.

“Because you’re kinky, B,” Faith said with a wink and a smile.

It was always so much easier in their dreams. So much less baggage. So much less worry. So much less of everything, but it always ended with a knife, shoving them back to reality on its sharp tip.

“We’re never usually in the bed though, this is a first. . .for my dreams,” Faith noted, looking over the crisp white blanket as it covered them both on the large bed. “For the slayer ones at least,” she added, without thinking.

The last comment tripped its way through Buffy’s brain, not stopping to allow her to dwell on it, or fully understand its implications. It did leave an imprint, but not one she could recognize.

“Maybe it’s a sign. These dreams are always so. . .riddle-y,” Buffy mused, doing her best not to look down the gap in the sheet in the small space between them.

She wasn’t ready to discover if they were both naked or not. That brought about a whole truckload of more problems and thoughts she didn’t need to be faced with. Faith wasn’t as discerning, however and without stopping to nurture Buffy’s already panicking mind she lifted the sheet a little way and glanced down.

“Well, we’re both naked, B,” Faith affirmed. “I dunno about riddles, but this one’s gonna take some serious explaining of the inner mind kind. One of us has us naked in bed.”

“Hey, don’t look at me, maybe this is your dream. Maybe. . .I’m not here at all,” Buffy said, confusing herself even more.

“You’re here, I can feel you,” Faith said in a quieter tone, lowering the blanket and placing her hand in the space between them.

Buffy let her eyes drop to Faith’s hand, so pale against the stark white of the cotton sheet. She knew what Faith meant. She could ‘feel’ Faith too. She always had in their dreams together. This one felt different, however.

Faith watched emotions play across Buffy’s face. Little twitches. Little changes in the colour of her eyes. There was a tsunami of thought going on beneath the surface. Each crashing wave devouring the last. Each answer being buried by more questions, by more of their past doubts, fears, hasty ignorance and shame.

The bright room they were in was silent. The bed the only item within it. The slayers the only occupants.

Buffy moved her hand over Faith’s, her actions strangely detached from her. Like she was suddenly looking out from deep within herself, seeing her own hand as if it was somebody else’s, cover the soft skin of Faith’s on the bed sheet.

She felt the texture. She brushed her thumb over the delicate strength of it.

The air around them was suddenly thick with anticipation. With expectation. With suppressed and silenced recklessness.

Faith licked her full bottom lip, her heart poised at the thud of a beat. Waiting. They’d never touched in a dream. Any move to make physical contact other than the thrusting of a knife had always resulted in waking. Had always ended in pain and regrets.

Buffy was touching her now. Her fingers soft on her hand. Taking her hand. Holding it, fingers entwined. She closed the small distance between them, her hot breath spilling over Faith as their mouths met. Just touching. Just. . .on the brink.

On the precipice of stepping off the cliff into the cloudless sky below.



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