New Beginnings, Old Enemies

Chapter Fifteen

“For girls so young, you both hold so much pain inside,” the old woman said, speaking softly as the light evaporated behind her.

Buffy looked her over. She was small and frail looking, and her hair was grey; tied in a tight bun on her head like somebody’s grandmother, or just any normal little old lady. She looked unremarkable. Buffy didn’t know what she was expecting, but it wasn’t this.

Buffy glanced at Faith, noting the twitching muscles in her arms as she stood by her, waiting for Buffy to make some kind of move. Of course, she wasn’t about to just jump on the old woman out of nowhere. Buffy wanted to hear what she said first, though her first words hadn’t put her in a comfortable place.

“Who are you?” Buffy asked, unsure about what she should be asking in order to ensure their safety.

“The question isn’t who I am, but who you are,” the old woman said, smiling sweetly; her eyes squeezing into little points of sparkling grey.

Buffy furrowed her brow. “I know who I am,” she assured, feeling Faith all kinds of tense beside her.

It made her want to move away. To be anywhere but near Faith when she was charged up that way. She could feel prickles rampaging up and down her left side, closest to Faith. It itched. It burned. Buffy wanted to strip out of her skin and crawl away from the feeling. She always did with Faith. She didn’t want to be attached to the feel of Faith. To the way she affected her.

“I’m not so sure you really do know who you are. Or who your friend is,” the old lady said as she tilted her head slightly and looked at them intently. “You’re both more, and less than you can see. You’re both complete, and empty, and nothing yet everything to each other.”

“What the hell are you going on about?” Buffy asked. She’d had enough of riddles.

She moved closer to the woman, feeling Faith’s eyes burning into her back. Shrugging off the feeling, Buffy stopped an arms length away, in case she had to reach out and stop the old lady from running, or. . .anything else that meant she would escape them and keep them trapped there.

Faith readied herself to take Buffy down, feeling incredibly uneasy about how Buffy was eyeing the old woman up like she was some kind of threat. Faith was used to non-threatening things turning around and biting her in the ass. . .but something about the woman made her feel at ease. She was positive she wasn’t going to hurt them. And she was positive that the old woman was their only chance to get back home.

Faith knew it wasn’t something they would achieve by murder, however. There had been too much murder in her short life. She wasn’t going to be part of this one. Faith had a sense that their hope lay with the lady as she continued to smile gently at them. Faith just wished Buffy could feel it too. She wished Buffy could feel a lot of things.

“Such sadness inside you,” the woman said, her eyes resting on Faith. “So much guilt inside, but you should let it go, my dear. Your soul has not been judged, it is Buffy’s guilt that brought you here.”

Buffy’s eyes went wide and Faith furrowed her brow deeply, trying to understand what she had meant.

“Wait,” Buffy said loudly, raising her hands to halt the conversation. “I say again. . .what the hell are you going on about? I don’t feel guilty about anything,” Buffy assured.

Faith watched Buffy intently, noticing how wound up she was getting. Her voice becoming trill and her green eyes darkening as she struggled to comprehend what the old lady was saying to them. Faith wasn’t sure what she meant herself. She did hold a lot of guilt inside. For the deaths she’d caused and for the damage she’d done; hurting people she had never wanted to hurt. Her soul was blighted with the dark stain of regret.

“You’re free to tell yourself that as much and as often as you can, dear, but I feel your pain, and I feel your guilt. How it hangs around your heart. Your crime brought you into this world and it will hold you forever,” the woman said, still speaking softly, though her words were dripping with venom as far as Buffy was concerned.

Faith ran a hand through her hair, processing what had just been said. Why was she talking about Buffy’s ‘crime’? As far as Faith knew Buffy was the model citizen. The model slayer. If she was grasping it right then apparently they were there because of something bad that Buffy had done.

“Hey, lady. . .I think you got it wrong,” Faith chimed in, moving closer to Buffy and feeling the need to protect her. “I’m the killer here, not Buffy. She didn’t. . .”

“Faith, you’re heavy with regret, but it is Buffy who feels her self drowning in it. Choking on what she did. What she believed was the only thing left to do,” the old lady said, soft grey eyes looking into Faith. “You call yourself a killer, when you were only ever a pawn of something greater than yourself. A mistake, followed by another that you had no control over. Those are not judged upon as you were not the one truly wielding the weapons.”

Faith didn’t know what to say. She felt her mind racing, trying to find the words to prove she was bad, and that it was all her doing. That she had no excuse other than the fact she had always been weak. Before she could speak, she heard laughter. Buffy was shaking her head and laughing.

“So she gets to kill people and everything’s ok?” Buffy snapped.

“No, she will never be ok, and neither will you, not unless you heal. This place isn’t for you. You were pulled here when you touched the book, because of each other, and you can only leave because of each other. I cannot fix this if that’s what you came for,” the woman said, shaking her head sadly. “I can tell you only that when you plunged the knife into Faith you damaged both of you. You blackened your soul with the crime.”

Buffy looked down momentarily, her skin growing pale and her eyes holding onto a blink before she opened them once more. Faith didn’t know what to do. She was reeling from the words. She was numb.

“I did what I had to,” Buffy said, her voice cracking as she looked through a rising haze of bitterness. “She was. . .there was no other way.”

Faith was almost certain she’d heard a soft sob coming from Buffy, but the blonde slayer clenched her jaw tight and held up her head higher as she regained composure. Faith rubbed her brow, wanting to be anywhere but there. The day was growing colder and the ache in her heart was growing stronger. She couldn’t take much more of this. Of Buffy.

“If it was Buffy that got pulled here because of what you say she did,” Faith said, making sure it didn’t sound like she was accusing Buffy of anything, mainly because she was sure Buffy had only ever done the right thing, “then why am I here? I didn’t touch anything.”

Buffy glanced over at Faith, throwing imaginary daggers her way. Buffy was certain it wasn’t her fault. She hadn’t done anything wrong. . .or at least that’s the conclusion that got her through each day. Somewhere deep down she was aware that the reality was a little different. Somewhere within herself she really was drowning, and she couldn’t deal with thinking about it, never mind feeling it.

The old woman looked from Buffy to Faith, her eyes sad, but a small smile lifting her thin lips. “You share a past, and a future. You share more than you’ll ever know if you don’t allow yourselves the chance to heal,” she explained, catching both their eyes in the hope they would truly listen. “The deep scars you inflicted on each other’s hearts, and on your souls go deep enough to bind you, but their depths are nothing compared to the depths to come. Heal the scars and you shall be free.”

Buffy felt her blood boiling. She wasn’t bound to Faith. The thought disgusted her. It cut her like a knife. Like a twisting knife in her side; sharp and deep and never ending. She didn’t want to hear it. She didn’t believe it. If she allowed herself to, then everything she had pushed under, everything she had forced herself to ignore and not to question would be unavoidable. She would be required to examine it and look into her heart and the pain that was in there. Buffy would have to admit why the pain was so severe. And she couldn’t.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Buffy snarled.

She didn’t give the old woman a chance to speak further. Buffy’s muscles tightened and she lunged. She pushed her hands out in front of herself, hoping to grab onto the woman to bring her down and end the flow of lies, but as a flash of light temporarily blinded her she felt the air rush from her lungs. Buffy hit the ground with a thud.

Faith had anticipated Buffy’s attack, rushing towards her and grasping her around the stomach to pull her away and down to the floor. They both exhaled violently as they crashed into a heap. The air around them cracked as the light imploded, leaving nothing but space where the old woman had been.

She was gone. Her words still hanging in the heavy atmosphere.

“Why did you do that?” Buffy yelled, untangling herself from Faith. She sat in the red dust, her mind in tatters and her heart racing.

“I couldn’t let you kill her, B. It was wrong,” Faith yelled back, getting to her feet and brushing off her pants.

“What do you know about wrong? You’re like. . .incapable of doing anything that isn’t wrong,” Buffy cut back, her words slicing Faith just as deep as any knife.

Faith turned her back, feeling her insides shake. Her lungs screaming for air as the atmosphere became murky and grew heavy and humid. Tears pricked her eyes and she swallowed them down. It hurt. It hurt so much for Buffy to hate her, but she knew it was her own doing. Each stab. Each word that pierced deeper than any wound. . .cut hard into her soul. The old woman had been right.

“We had to kill her to get out of here, and now she’s fucking gone,” Buffy shouted, pushing up to stand behind Faith. Close. Too close because now she could feel Faith burning her skin again. She could sense Faith shaking and churning inside, just like she was.

“Are you crazy, B? You were gonna trust that demon about this?” Faith said, trying to bite back her anger and her disappointment as she turned back to Buffy. “The guy is all red and blood-like and she steps out of pure white light and you think she’s the bad guy? Gimme a break,” Faith scoffed, shaking her head, wanting to be far away from the situation.

“You’re the crazy slayer, Faith. Don’t get that confused.” Buffy felt the words fly from her mouth before she could stop them.

She didn’t know why she would have wanted to stop them. It was true, she thought Faith was crazy. Or had. Or could have been. She didn’t know. Didn’t know her own mind it seemed. Didn’t know what she felt. What was really the truth. Buffy didn’t want to believe anything the old woman had said as it hit too close to something that frightened her.

What she had done to Faith frightened her. The act. The knowing Faith could have died. Would have died if it had been a little further to the left, or a little higher. Her mind flashed back to that night; plunging the knife into Faith, looking into Faith’s dark and scared eyes and just wanting to hold on. Just wanting to hold onto Faith and make it all right. Fix it. Fix them and everything that had gone wrong.

Losing Faith had hit her heart like a bullet; ripping its way through her. And Buffy couldn’t explain why as she’d avoided ever thinking about the why. She just knew it had hurt, it still did and she couldn’t deal with it. With the implications she had evaded so well.

It wasn’t about being a victim. It wasn’t about Angel or Riley. It wasn’t about some kind of slayer code or anything else that covered the reality. It was underneath all the excuses. It was thick and sticky and threatened to trap Buffy within it, making her lose herself. She was scared, so scared of losing herself to Faith.

It had taken all her courage to fight what Faith made her feel, and it had made the darkness within take hold on that night, and on many other nights since. Buffy hated herself for it, but she hated Faith more for it. She was sure.

Faith said nothing back to Buffy. She had no words. Her soul throbbed inside her as she watched Buffy’s eyes. As she tried to understand the other slayer and what they really meant to each other. She was certain now that they did mean something to each other. The old lady had said it, and Faith felt it. She was sure she could see it within Buffy too. In her eyes. The eyes that Faith always saw when she closed her own.

They stood in silence, a sense of calm covering them finally as the wind picked up around them, swirling patterns of dust at their feet. The calm didn’t last as rain broke from the sky above and released its cleansing torrent upon them. Faith looked up and watched the darkness descend.

A searing flash of lightning struck too close for comfort and Buffy yelped and leapt forwards, away from its prickling heat. She landed in Faith’s arms.

“Urgh,” Buffy groaned loudly, revulsion dripping from her lips. She let go of Faith quicker than something that would have scorched her.

Faith narrowed her eyes as Buffy jumped back from her. She couldn’t take it anymore. Not when there was so much inside of her wanting to get out. Not when Buffy had it all inside her too.

“What? I’m only good enough to be close to in your dreams?” Faith said accusingly, raising her voice above the sound of rain.

Buffy blinked; drops of water already tumbling from her hair and into her eyes as she glared at Faith, knowing exactly what she was getting at. She didn’t want to be reminded, because she couldn’t believe she’d done it. Not only that. . .but Buffy couldn’t fight back the twinge in her heart at the thought of what had happened.

“They’re just dreams,” Buffy yelled, wishing she could avoid the conversation and the accusing look coming from Faith. Wishing it had just been a dream.

“Not the last one, B” Faith said, glancing down to the floor, a puddle at her feet reflecting her sad stare. “That one felt pretty real to me.”

“It wasn’t,” Buffy shot back, not giving in. Not relenting to what was obviously happening between them, and what had always been waiting to crest.

“Are you sure?” Faith asked, looking right into Buffy’s eyes, her anger bubbling over. “It felt real when I was coming all over your fingers with your tongue in my mouth.”

The slap came out of nowhere; too quick for Faith to duck away from. Buffy hadn’t used her full strength, but the sting was raw, reddening Faith’s cheek. She lifted her hand up to the mark and looked at Buffy through the rain that trickled from her brow. They stood silent for what seemed like an eternity as the heat from their bodies filled the air with steam.

“I didn’t mean for that to happen,” Buffy said quietly. “The dream, not the slap,” she clarified, willing the images of that night from her head.

Faith let out a short laugh, dropping her hand and shaking her head as her eyes bored into Buffy. “It felt like you meant it,” she said, recalling Buffy’s fingers teasing her clit as she came. The sensation. The care and the soft nurturing.

Buffy watched the red hand mark on Faith’s cheek slowly fade as her words drove into her, tunnelling through her resolve and her defences. Slow tears began to mingle with the rain water as she dug deep inside for her cold resistance. It hadn’t failed Buffy often, but it was nowhere to be found now. . .when she needed it most.

“It wasn’t meant to happen,” Buffy mumbled.

“But it did, and it wasn’t a dream,” Faith said, speaking softly but knowing Buffy could hear her above the downpour and the thunder.

Faith stepped closer, watching Buffy’s world whipping out from beneath her feet, leaving her unsteady and falling. She could see they had reached some kind of apex. A point where the path divided; one of hope, and one of darkness.

Buffy swallowed hard, but the tears wouldn’t stop. She hated that she couldn’t stop. Her depths were being exposed on every drop of salt and she was terrified. She always had been. Faith was a whirlpool of wonder and possible pleasures and pain, and she couldn’t step into it. She daren’t step into it and lose her control. Not without a fight. A fight often to the death.

“I don’t know what to say,” Buffy revealed, her voice almost lost; fragile as the words left her lips. “I don’t know what you want from me.”

The thunder rolled closer, almost shaking the ground as Faith watched every tear plummet from Buffy’s cheeks. Picking them out amongst the rivulets of rain, as if they were lines of text written on a quivering page.

“I just want the truth for once, B,” Faith confessed, knowing her plea was probably far too much to ask for. A price too large would have to be paid, and she doubted Buffy could ever reveal the truth even to herself. She continued, pushing past Buffy’s walls. “I just want you to stop keeping me on the outside when you know I’m in there,” she said, lifting her hand and pointing to Buffy’s chest.

A sob tore through Buffy’s control. Her heart split open to reveal the scared girl inside and she trembled to the ground. Buffy’s hands landed in the wet dirt at her feet as she sank to her knees, feeling her strength ripped from her with Faith’s words. With her uncloaking finger that had accused her heart of things she couldn’t bear to look at, but knew she felt.

Her tears flowed fast and heavy with regret and hurt. Clinging to the safety of defiance but failing as Faith scooped her into her strong arms as she fell to the ground in front of her. Buffy struggled momentarily, no force behind her pushes as Faith held tight as they knelt facing each other. Buffy wanted to tell Faith to leave her, but her arms relented, treacherously wrapping around Faith’s neck and holding on, as she wept for every day of denial she’d lived since Faith had placed a burning ember in her heart.

Buffy felt it all wash through her. All the nights she’d cried herself to sleep, whispering to herself that she couldn’t want a girl. Couldn’t be falling for a girl. That Faith was nothing more than a distraction. A dangerous temptation she couldn’t touch. How it had hurt and burned every time Faith had looked at her and spoken to depths within her that were forbidden. She had wanted to reach out to Faith, but every time she had willed herself to try, something or somebody had been there to screw it up, until Faith took them down a disastrous path and defected to the mayor.

It had been lost then. Her chances gone. Her fantasies growing dark and painful and crushing her soul. Buffy had been too scared to jump into the fire and show Faith her heart, and then it had been too late. It had felt like every step since was just another piece breaking, until it lay shattered in her chest, beating dull and lost without Faith to give it life.

Buffy finally let go.

Sobs flowed over Faith and she clung to Buffy, letting her pour out her pain as she mumbled incoherently into Faith’s neck. The words were unclear, but Faith knew what Buffy was saying. She felt it within every bone, every muscle and every pump of blood through her heart. She sensed the regret and the anguish. The need to grip to control in the fear of losing something you didn’t think you could live without. But Faith had lived without her heart for a long time. It had been Buffy’s from the start. It was so clear to her now, and she knew Buffy was coming to the same conclusion.

“Shh,” Faith said quietly, trying to calm Buffy.

She brushed dripping blonde hair from Buffy’s brow and face as Buffy looked up at her through tear stained eyes. Faith watched her own tears silently drop onto Buffy as she looked down on her, Buffy’s face cradled in her hands. Their eyes spoke whole sentences they couldn’t find the words for, and as the rain swathed them in penetrating water, soaking them to the skin, their mouths crashed together.

Wet lips sliding and tasting and taking; Faith held Buffy’s face softly and kissed her fully and deeply as Buffy responded in kind. The tears flowed from them both as they drank each other down.

The lightning cracked above and the ground became a wash of drowning dirt, their clothes drenched through as each piece clung to their bodies, as they clung to each other.

Their lips anchoring them to one another in a stormy sea of emotions.



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