Buffy had kept hidden away for days, almost a week, trying to control her thoughts and her feelings. Every time she allowed herself to think, she’d think of Faith. Every time she hoped it to would be Tru she wanted to call, her inner monologue would disagree. She had to force herself to accept the way things were. This time she had to stay away from Faith completely.
She’d spoken to Tru a few times during the week and apologised several times for having run out on her after their first night of passion, and Tru was being nothing but nice. Her soft voice had soothed Buffy for a while and taken her mind off Faith, but that never lasted. When she least expected it she’d find her lips tingling from that last kiss. Feel her stomach twisting for all kinds of reasons. All kinds of bad reasons.
The words Faith had said reverberated around her mind.
“I’m done trying to be good enough for you. Have fun screwing my twin and trying not to think of me. I can’t do this anymore.”
It was said so harshly by Faith, and with such conviction that she knew for sure any hope of friendship with Faith was far out of reach. Maybe it was impossible. Buffy didn’t want to believe all hope was lost, but in their current situation she couldn’t see a way forward. While she was with Tru a friendship with Faith was unattainable. While she was with Tru, Faith had to be the furthest thing from her mind. The problem with that was actually making it happen. Faith wasn’t furthest from her mind, and truthfully. . .she never had been. She’d always been there, somewhere. Buffy had always been on the brink of falling, tumbling, tumbled.
Scuffing her shoes on the squeaky floor as she walked slowly to the lecture she was too late to reach on time, Buffy tapped her short fingernails on the large book grasped in her hands. She had it flat across her chest, hugging it to her as if it were something she could float on if her thoughts carried her away. It was too heavy to be much help on the buoyancy front, but Buffy liked the feel of it. It was an impressive book and didn’t fit in her small backpack. Unfortunately it was the wrong book for the lecture she was just about to completely miss.
Buffy’s focus had been far from focus-y when preparing that morning. It was almost the weekend so she could no longer just pretend like her life was normal and she didn’t have a secret girlfriend, or a secret crush that she was desperately trying not to have. Of course, she was fooling herself by calling it a crush. It had started as a crush way back before things had gotten stab-happy, but it had developed, bubbled up like a festering pond, pustulated like a burning boil on the backside of her innocence.
Buffy pulled a face and decided not to think in metaphors any longer. The point was, it had long since been a crush and was quite clearly something she couldn’t push aside, no matter how hard she tried. Falling in love with Faith had burned a deep mark onto her heart. It had healed a little over time, but having Faith back was akin to ripping the band-aid off a barely healed open sore. She was hopeful she could try to cover it up at least, but she knew it was there. She’d always know it was there.
As Buffy reached the large doors to the lecture hall a bell rang out. Hearing stamping feet rushing towards her, she got out of the way just in time as the doors swung open in front of her and a cacophony of students rushed out. Placing herself flat against the corridor wall and waiting, Buffy hoped she could tag on to the back of them and blend in before the professor she should have been sat listening to for the past two hours caught her and gave her a much more humiliating kind of lecture.
“Buffy?” Came a shout from in amongst the quickly moving throng.
It was Willow, and Buffy took a chance and pushed her way into the crowd towards her, instantly being carried away towards the cafeteria for lunch. She wasn’t feeling particularly hungry, or particularly social, but until there was a break in the flow there seemed to be no escaping the inevitable.
“Hey,” she said to Willow, giving her a small smile.
Apart from here and there at college and a few fly-by visits to the Magic Box, they’d spent little time together over the last week and it was already Friday. It was unusual, but Buffy had needed space. Slaying and studying, and arguing with her internal monologue had kept her schedule full. Willow was also spending far more time with Faith than Buffy cared to know, or talk about. She hadn’t said anything to Willow about it, and she couldn’t really blame her, but it still made Buffy bristle a little when she thought about it.
“So, I haven’t really seen you,” Willow said, stating the obvious.
The rush of students began to turn into more of a trickle than a torrent, leaving them room to step to the side as they neared an exit sign that would lead them out into the sunshine.
“Yeah, I’ve been. . .busy, studying, stabbing and killing, and stuff,” Buffy said awkwardly, gripping her book tighter.
Willow tried not to frown but she did, and Buffy tried not to feel guilty, but she did.
Thankfully Willow didn’t push her, instead looking down at the book and furrowing her brow that little bit more.
“Whatcha got there?” Willow asked, pointing.
“The wrong book,” Buffy explained. “The wrong and unnecessarily heavy book.”
With a nod Willow gave her a sympathetic look.
“Maybe you should take it back to your room,” she suggested. “I don’t think you have that lesson today.”
She was right of course, she didn’t have that lesson. Buffy just hadn’t been thinking when she’d grabbed it from her desk.
“Come with?” she asked Willow, hoping the small walk would give them some much missed time together.
Her friend nodded and smiled and they broke free of the lunch-bound crowd, heading towards Buffy’s dorm.
The sun soaked them in light and warmed their skin as they strolled slower than they probably normally would. Buffy took a deep breath and tried to relax, letting the warmth creep over her bare arms and shoulders, thankful she’d worn a small, strappy top and hadn’t grabbed a winter jacket in her fuzzy-headed state that morning.
A silence between them stretched on much longer than Buffy could ever remember such a silence doing in the past. In fact, she didn’t think they’d ever gone as long without speaking. Normally it was a non-stop babble-fest between them. Things really were worryingly out of sorts and Buffy wanted to get things back to normal. If she was ever going to attempt to bring order back to her currently chaotic life then it had to start here.
“How’s Tara?” Buffy asked, having seen her even less than normal.
Willow’s face lit up at the mention of her name.
“She’s doing good,” she said. “We’ll be meeting for lunch in a while.”
“Oh,” Buffy said, instantly feeling even worse, “you don’t have to follow me back to the dorm then, I can go alone.”
“No, we have time,” Willow insisted. “Then we can all go to lunch together. I miss the togetherness.”
Buffy felt her strained mood lift a little with Willow’s smile.
“Ok,” she replied with her own smile, picking up the pace so they’d get there quicker.
It felt good being around her best friend again. And little by little they slipped into their normal trend of conversation; chatting about silly TV shows, homework, and now magic. Now the silence had gone it became easier just to be around Willow, and with every passing minute she thought less and less about her turbulent love life. It was a nice break from her own thoughts.
They hadn’t chatted all week, and Buffy hadn’t been able to gush about Tru, or fret to Willow about Faith. She’d kept it all inside, driving herself nuts with a mix of self-doubt and excited restlessness.
Once she’d dumped her useless book back in her room and grabbed some money for lunch they set off back outside, heading across campus to meet Tara. As Buffy felt every one of her brain cells sighing with relief at the brief respite from constant bouts of over analyzing, Willow chose that moment to ask Buffy if she was seeing Tru that weekend. It all came crashing back.
After finding herself momentarily struck dumb by the question, Buffy finally answered, “Yeah, I’m going tomorrow,” she said awkwardly, feeling guilty again.
“It’s lucky Faith came back, to patrol when you’re not here,” Willow said.
Buffy narrowed her eyes and bit back her anger. Was Willow accusing her of slacking?
“Well I think I deserve a few weekends to myself, Will,” she stated coldly. “It’s about time Faith made herself useful around here.”
The annoyance was clearly evident in her voice and Willow didn’t miss it.
“Oh, I didn’t mean that you were slacking,” she quickly said. “You totally deserve some free time to be somewhere that’s not here. And a life outside of the whole slaying thing. I totally support that.”
Buffy glanced over at her as they strolled through the college grounds. Willow didn’t look like she was lying, but Buffy was feeling sceptical.
“It’s not like I’m leaving Faith to do all the work; it’s one night a week, two at most. I think I should be allowed that.”
Willow nodded fervently, her eyebrows raised. “I agree, Buffy. No arguments here.”
“Yeah, I bet Faith says differently, huh.”
Buffy felt her muscles hardening as she thought about what Faith might have been saying about the situation. She didn’t need the other slayer making her look bad just to discredit her out of jealousy.
“Nope, Faith hasn’t said anything,” Willow assured.
They reached the main road that ran alongside the college, heading down the street to the diner that Tara was waiting at. Willow had asked Buffy to join them but Buffy was beginning to regret accepting. All this talking was leading to things she didn’t want to speak about, but there was no way of backing out of the conversation now.
“It won’t take long for her to start complaining,” Buffy insisted. “She’s pissed about Tru.”
Willow paused before speaking, but when she did speak it took Buffy a little by surprise.
“Well you can’t really blame her, Buffy,” she said quietly. “She’s upset, and confused.”
“She’s confused?” Buffy bristled.
Running a hand through her soft hair, Buffy shook her head. She didn’t want to be mad at Willow or bring up the fact it was her fault that Faith now knew Tru was her sister, but it was hard to keep control of her emotions when they were all jostled up inside her. The weight of guilt was heavy on her shoulders and she wished she could just shrug it off, but there was no escaping the muddle she was in. And there was no point in taking out her bad mood on her friend, despite how apparently determined Willow was to keep putting her foot in her mouth.
“I didn’t mean that it’s your fault,” Willow blustered, sounding panicked. “Though it is you that’s dating her sister, and she didn’t even know she had one. . .and yunno, she likes you so it’s. . .”
“Willow,” Buffy butted in. “Stop.”
Willow instantly closed her mouth, her lips a thin line as she gave Buffy one of her most apologetic expressions.
“Sorry, Buffy,” she said, barely opening her mouth.
With a sigh, Buffy stopped walking, once again running her hand through her hair and instantly thinking about how Faith did that very thing whenever she was nervous or agitated. Maybe it was contagious. Maybe Faith was infecting her with. . .well, with anything Buffy could think of to blame her for; like being gay for example. It had started with Faith. Faith had infected her with gay thoughts, so in reality this whole situation was Faith’s fault.
She wished that theory would stick, but it wasn’t exactly fair.
“It’s ok,” Buffy murmured with a sigh. “It is my fault, and I’m stuck in it and don’t know how to not be. It’s a big, sticky mess.”
Buffy couldn’t even look in her friend’s eyes, too busy gazing at her shoes and letting her worries sit heavy on her brow.
“Wish I could help,” Willow offered, lifting her hand and giving Buffy’s arm a quick squeeze. “You know I’m here whenever you want to talk.”
“I wouldn’t even know where to start,” Buffy confessed. “I was stupid not realizing it would get this hard, or messed up.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“You can find a time machine so I can go back and not get myself into this situation,” Buffy said with a wry chuckle. “Actually no, I’m glad I met Tru, and I’m glad we. . .”
A smile drifted over her lips as she thought about their last night together and the way they’d touched each other and. . .
“I know that grin,” Willow stated, pointing at Buffy. “You. . .you had sex with her didn’t you!”
Buffy couldn’t help but blush in reply as Willow practically jumped up and down on the spot in celebration.
“Tru may indeed have seen me out of my overly cute pajamas,” she said, trying to sound unfazed, her grin only growing wider.
Willow did a little squee noise as they began walking again.
“Was it. . .good?” she asked, clearly forgetting to be embarrassed about the whole sex-topic thing.
With a broad smile Buffy answered, “It was. . .”
She thought about everything it had been, and it had most definitely been good – great even – but it hadn’t really been all about Tru. She’d came thinking about Faith, and even though it had been special, the almost-sex with Faith had blown her away more. She couldn’t very well tell Willow that, though.
“It was nice,” Buffy continued, her smile faltering only slightly “Great in fact.”
Giving her a sceptical look, Willow narrowed her eyes and shook her head.
“You don’t sound too sure,” she pressed. “Was it not what you wanted? Or is it more of a Faith thing?”
Buffy was surprised at Willow’s guessing, but Willow knew her well – probably too well.
“I wanted it,” Buffy assured, letting herself remember how good it felt to touch Tru and be touched back. “But. . .it’s Faith.”
“What about Faith?”
“Everything,” Buffy replied with a sigh. “We almost. . .yunno, did it. And I rushed up to LA right after, but I couldn’t get her out of my head.”
Clinging tight to the straps of her backpack as it hung low on her back, Buffy did her best not to look at Willow. She didn’t need to feel more guilty and terrible than she already did. She didn’t need to see judgment.
“Wait, you and Faith? You and Faith nearly. . .with the touching and the. . .oh boy.”
Stealing a quick glance at Willow, Buffy saw no judgment, only blinking, disbelieving eyes that were staring straight ahead. She obviously hadn’t thought of that scenario.
“Yeah,” Buffy confirmed quietly, hoping her friend wasn’t going to explode at any moment. “Things got a little out of hand.”
Their pace was slow but they’d be reaching the diner soon and Buffy was actually finding talking about the problem better than just burying it. She pulled Willow aside softly and stopped walking.
“Don’t say anything to her,” Buffy requested. “We talked about it and it’s not going to happen again.”
Willow looked almost disappointed at that, the corners of her mouth turning down as she formulated all kinds of questions in her brain.
“Do you want it to happen again?” she asked, sounding almost afraid of Buffy’s reaction.
Buffy rubbed at her forehead, trying to prise the answer out, but it was being stubborn as it switched its mind over and over.
“No,” she finally answered. “And sometimes yes.”
Willow sighed in consternation on Buffy’s behalf, rubbing Buffy’s upper arm in a soothing way.
“You don’t know what you want, do you, Buff?”
With a chuckle, Buffy shook her head no.
“I keep thinking that I do,” Buffy told her, “but then I don’t. It’s not like I don’t wanna be with Tru, because I do. I really, really do. But I’ve always had this thing for Faith – even through the bad times – and it’s hard to just forget it was ever there and move on, especially now that she’s back.”
“And especially now that you’re having all the semi-sex with her?”
“Exactly,” Buffy responded, letting Willow’s light chuckle lift her spirits. “But that won’t be repeated. I won’t cheat on Tru.”
“Even though you kinda love Faith?” Willow asked tentatively.
“You caught that the other night huh,” Buffy conceded, remembering the little slip of her tongue while they were at the Bronze.
“I think I heard right,” Willow stated. “Unless I imagined you saying you’d fallen for her before.”
It would probably have been easier on her to lie her way out of that – she’d become very good at lying lately – but that wouldn’t achieve anything. There was no point in deceiving her best friend.
“You heard right; she was captivating, dangerous, beautiful, and I couldn’t help myself,” Buffy said, her voice barely audible over the passing traffic.
“It must have really hurt when she turned on us all – turned on you,” Willow reminded Buffy.
With a sad smile Buffy nodded her head.
“I’d never felt that betrayed before,” she confessed. “When she came out of her coma and did what she did; it hurt so much.”
Without realising she’d done it, Buffy gripped at her chest with her hand, feeling the remnants of the broken heart Faith had left behind in her determination to destroy everything around her.
“And that’s why you can’t forgive her,” Willow stated despondently.
There was no response to that. In a way Willow was right; there was no way Buffy could brush all that hurt and anguish aside. But it wasn’t that simple. It wasn’t black and white. She couldn’t help but have feelings for Faith that she knew would burn her in the end.
She shrugged and refused to decide if there ever would be room for forgiveness or not.
As they reached the diner, Willow glanced through the windows. Tara wasn’t there yet so they shuffled through the door and found some seats. They ordered drinks and decided they’d wait for Tara before getting anything to eat. It was a warm day and most people were outside, but Willow wasn’t a fan of the sun; red hair and fair skin made her panic on overly bright days. She’d get blotchy before the sunlight even reached her, hence the propensity for clothing that covered as much as possible, even during the hottest of summers.
“She must be running late,” Willow said calmly, then a little more anxiously added, “Unless something’s happened. You don’t think something’s happened do you?”
Willow fidgeted with the condiments on the table as she peered outside through the large window. It was kind of sweet; how she was completely enthralled by Tara, every thought bringing her back to her.
Buffy wished she could be that way with Faith, without it being weird, or difficult, dangerous, or just plain stupid. When Willow thought of Tara it was happy thoughts, or concerned thoughts - the thoughts of love. When Buffy thought of Faith she didn’t smile, she grimaced and worried about their next fight. Though Faith made her heart skip and her stomach twist, there was no chance it would ever be the kind of relationship Willow had with Tara, and that’s what made her resolute in her need to keep away from her. She couldn’t afford to have her heart skip and trick her this time.
“Do you think I’m crazy?” Buffy asked as she played with the straw in her cold glass of coke.
Buffy narrowed her eyes at Willow. “No, I mean for dating Tru.”
“Crazy is probably a little harsh,” Willow responded, sounding unsure. “I’d go with zany, and possibly wacky. But a pretty girl can make anybody a little wacky, just ask Xander.”
They chuckled and Buffy found herself feeling less and less weird about the fact she was having these thoughts and feelings about girls and not boys. That fact had become lost in the rest of the craziness, but it was still new, and still made her scratch her head and wonder about how quickly her life had seemed to change in the last few weeks. Though if she were being honest with herself it had started changing ever since Faith’s first arrival in Sunnydale. She had been the catalyst of so many things for Buffy. The instigator, the cause, the reason.
“Sometimes it feels like this is all happening to somebody else,” Buffy said vaguely, staring into her glass at the quickly melting ice cubes. “And I keep wanting to tell this other person what to do – what seems right – but. . .”
“But it’s not somebody else, it’s you,” Willow finished for her. They both stared at the ice as it cracked and glistened under a fine sheen of brown liquid. “And you still have feelings for Faith.”
“Feelings for Faith?” a voice asked behind them.
Both Willow and Buffy whipped their heads around and Buffy silently chastised herself for not getting them a view of the door.
“Xander!” Willow yelped. “I didn’t. . .that was. . .”
Willow’s eyes snapped towards Buffy, searching for help. With a sigh, Buffy just shrugged. There really didn’t seem to be a way of twisting what he’d overheard so that he didn’t find out just how zany-wacky Buffy was right now.
“I was just telling Buffy a story – a dream in fact,” Willow continued enthusiastically. “There were vampires, and Faith was one, and Buffy had bad feelings about her and wanted to slay her. Not good feelings. In fact, there might not have been any feelings at all.”
“Will,” Xander interrupted as he slid into a seat at the table, “you’re forgetting that I know you too well, and that right there was a babble. A babble of lies. Like a web of lies but with less spiders.”
“I wasn’t lying I was just. . .”
“Willow, it’s ok,” Buffy interrupted with a sigh. “I shouldn’t be making things worse by keeping even more secrets. Even though his head might explode I think it’s time to tell Xander.”
Willow looked at Xander with a frown; worry etched into her face.
“Are you sure?” she asked as Xander glanced between them both, practically wriggling in his seat as he waited to be let in on the secret.
“Yes, she’s sure, she’s definitely sure. . .now what is it?” he asked with a goofy grin.
“Maybe we should do this somewhere safer,” Willow insisted. “Or maybe he should lay down first; this floor looks kinda hard.”
Both Willow and Buffy looked down at the tiled floor and nodded in agreement that it did indeed look rather un-bouncy, but there was no good time for this.
“I’m crazy,” Buffy stated frankly before taking a long sip of her drink.
“That’s not new news,” Xander responded, quirking up an eyebrow.
“She’s crazy and gay,” Willow added. “Or at least gay for Faith.”
Xander’s other eyebrow quirked up and he slowly looked at both Willow and Buffy. His fingers went to the top of his arm and he started roughly grabbing at his skin.
“You’re not dreaming, you can stop pinching yourself,” Buffy told him. “And I’m not gay, I’m just. . .”
“Gay for Faith,” Willow said yet again.
“Ok, if she says that one more time I’m calling Giles and making sure we haven’t all just been sucked into a parallel dimension in which all my dreams come true,” Xander said, dreamily.
“Wait, you’ve thought about this?” Buffy asked, surprised that he wasn’t freaking out.
“One night I thought about it at least three times, in a row,” he admitted, gazing off into space, apparently oblivious to his audience as he reminisced.
“I have no words for that,” Buffy said, stirring her coke with her straw.
“Now I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and un-hear that,” Willow said wistfully.
“Oops,” Xander muttered, giving a little shrug. “So anyway. . .what’s the what? I thought you and Faith were all about the hate part of love and hate.”
“I don’t hate her,” Buffy pointed out, her voice sad and quiet as she thought about what her past relationship had been with Faith.
Had it always appeared so awful? They’d had fun times, but she doubted anybody else had paid much attention to those parts – just the fighting and the betrayal parts.
“We were always kinda complicated,” she continued. “Now more so than ever.”
“There always seemed to be lotsa friction between you,” Xander commented. “Is there more of that now? Friction. Chaffing. Rubbing?”
Willow slapped him around the back of the head and gave him a stern look, but Buffy couldn’t help but laugh.
“I expected you to be more shocked than this, or angry, or. . .jealous maybe,” Buffy said to him.
“Nah,” he responded cheerily, “me and Faith were just. . .well a few seconds of awkward wriggling, mild horror and confusion doesn’t exactly make a guy long for a repeat performance. And I always thought there was something under the surface of the punching and stabbing between you. Call it instinct.”
“I think it’s more perv-stinct than instinct, Xander,” Willow remarked.
He took it on the chin and chuckled.
“Seriously though, Buff,” he began, turning to Buffy and smiling gently at her, “as long as you’re happy, and as long as I don’t catch the gay bug you guys seem to be passing around, I’m ok with it.”
“You might not be if you hear the rest of the story,” Buffy warned him, taking a deep breath and wondering if maybe she should keep Tru out of it.
Xander laid his hand on Buffy’s back, looking into her eyes so she could see the truth in them.
“Buffy, you’ll always be my hero,” he said softly. “You can tell me everything. I promise I won’t even faint a little bit.”
Buffy smiled and felt warmed by his friendship. He was a good guy and had always been there for her, or nearby cowering in a corner and cheering her on.
After taking a sighing breath she told him everything that Willow knew, leaving out a few details that may have sent his libido into hyperspace. He listened intently, making sympathetic noises and telling her he understood. She didn’t know how anybody could understand, or even like her after what she’d been doing, but his loyalty was unwavering.
“And Faith still wants to be with you even though you’re with her sister?” Xander asked once Buffy was done telling her tale.
“After the last time we spoke. . .I don’t know,” Buffy replied, staring down at the few grains of salt Willow had spilled on the table. “It’s probably a good thing if she doesn’t.”
“Well it sounds like you’re pretty wrapped up with Tru anyway,” Xander pointed out. “And she sounds really nice.”
He gave Buffy a gentle smile and she couldn’t help but nod in agreement. Tru was nice, and she was right to concentrate on her and not Faith. It was the right choice.
So why did she still have a ball of angst in the bottom of her tummy?
“She’s more than nice,” Buffy told him. “She’s everything I could ask for. . .in a girl. Which sounds really weird coming from me, but I like the girl part of it.”
She dropped her eyes to the table, blushing slightly. Maybe one day she’d get used to this new element of her, but right now it still made her feel a bit wobbly.
“Hey, I fully understand liking the girly parts,” Xander agreed, causing Willow to splutter her lemonade. “Not those girly parts, pervert. I was just agreeing with Buffy.”
“No,” Buffy interrupted, “you’re totally right about the girly parts. They’re pretty much totally appealing, in all the pervy ways.”
They all chuckled and Buffy took a moment just to watch her friends as they laughed and grinned and slapped each other on the back. This would never get old. They made Sunnydale much more bearable than it should have been. They made her feel safe in amongst the demons and the self-imposed angst.
After a few moments of smile-y silence, Xander took a swig of Willow’s drink, then proceeded to ask more questions.
“So if you’re avoiding Faith, does that mean we have to avoid Faith?” he asked. “’Cause she’s got an Xbox and some of the coolest games, and a TV that’s almost the size of my basement.”
Buffy smiled and shook her head. “You don’t have to avoid her,” she assured. “But I won’t be ‘hanging out’ with her anytime soon. I need to. . .”
She wasn’t even sure what she needed to do, or not do. She just knew that being around Faith right now was too hard, and too tempting, and too dangerous.
“Maybe. . .” Willow began timidly, “maybe that means you’re not making the right decisions.”
Lifting her head to look fully at Willow, Buffy furrowed her brow. “What do you mean?” she asked, intrigued.
“I mean, if you’re having to avoid her, surely that means. . .you’re not really happy picking Tru.”
With a groan, Buffy rubbed the back of her neck, feeling a tension headache beginning to work its way up from her spine. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she was constantly questioning herself, now her friends were questioning her, and making her think too much.
“I just know that when Faith and I are together, we end up fighting,” Buffy pointed out.
“Not just fighting,” Willow added, refusing to look in Buffy’s eyes.
“But that was a mistake,” Buffy insisted.
“A mistake you’re worried you’ll make again because you still like Faith.”
“I don’t like Faith,” Buffy mumbled unconvincingly, “She’s just. . .”
“Who you really want to be with,” Willow stated.
Xander swung his head from Buffy back to Willow as if he were watching a tennis match from the sidelines, obviously trying to keep up.
“Ok, ok,” he interjected. “Color me confused but it totally sounds like you want Buffy to pick Faith,” he said to Willow.
“Not exactly,” Willow answered, with a less than persuasive shrug. “I just think that sometimes. . .you shouldn’t fight the inevitable just because it might be harder than the other options.”
“Harder doesn’t even cover it,” Buffy commented sadly. “I can’t be with Faith. I just can’t.”
Buffy had the urge to get up and run from the conversation. She didn’t want her decision making questioned or put in the spotlight. No matter how crazy it all sounded to everybody else, Buffy knew what she had to do for the sake of her heart. For the sake of her sanity.
But her friends weren’t done with toying with her sanity.
“Why?” Willow pushed, her voice more timid now as she drew closer to Buffy’s storm-out point. “I mean, how do you feel. . .about them both?”
“Hey, maybe you could make a pros and cons list,” Xander suggested.
“I think not,” Buffy responded, giving him an amused looked. She didn’t need convincing of the fact that Faith was no good for her, she knew it already. Seeing it in black and white would only depress her more.
“Maybe you don’t need to make a list but saying out loud how you feel might help make it clearer,” Willow advised. “When I’m muddled up about what to have for dinner, Tara makes me vocalise my feelings about it.”
“No offence, Will,” Buffy began, “but deciding what to have for dinner doesn’t exactly compare to choosing which hot twin I should date.”
Xander chuckled to himself and grinned at Buffy.
“You should say that sentence in my vicinity everyday,” he said, continuing to grin.
“Stop being such a perv,” Willow warned, stepping on his toe under the table.
He jerked his leg upwards and banged his knee on the table, causing a few other patrons to glance in their direction.
“I can’t help it, it comes with the genetics,” he said confidently. “Seriously though, Willow’s got a point, about the talking things out thing.”
Willow smiled smugly at Buffy.
“Fine,” Buffy conceded. “How do I do this?”
“Well,” Willow began, “empty your mind and just say what you feel. How do you feel about Tru for a start?”
Xander leaned forward on his elbows, chin resting on his palms as he gave Buffy his undivided attention. It almost made Buffy want to stamp on his other toe, but slayer-style stamping would have had him hobbling around for at least a month, so she refrained.
With a weary breath, Buffy tried to clear her mind, focusing on Tru and what it was about her that she found attractive. The obvious first thoughts were of her physical beauty, but she needed to base this off more than the obvious.
“Tru is. . .” Buffy paused, remembering their few times together, “she’s easy to be with. She makes me feel safe, and I laugh a lot with her.”
Both Xander and Willow nodded, eager eyes expecting her to continue.
“She does this little thing when she smiles,” Buffy continued, dreamily. “Like she’s shy about smiling, but she shouldn’t be because she has a beautiful smile, all dimples and softness. Oh. . .and softness,” Buffy blurted, getting into it now, “she’s soft – all over - and gentle, and kind, and considerate.”
With a little happy sigh she drifted off into her own secret fantasy about her girlfriend, forgetting for a moment – until Xander broke her reverie – that she wasn’t alone.
“Ok, she sounds perfect to me,” Xander said. “Maybe I could swap Anya for her. Not that I don’t love Anya, ‘cause I do, but your girl sounds. . .”
He gave his own happy sigh and Buffy raised an eyebrow in his direction.
“Plus, she’s hot,” Buffy added as she watched Xander start to daydream.
“But so is Faith,” Willow butted in. “How do you feel about her?”
Swirling the forlorn remains of the ice in her glass with her straw, Buffy tried to find words that expressed just how Faith made her feel. Most of her feelings were tainted with ugly reminders of bitter fights and nasty words said between them. It was hard to quantify just what moved her about Faith; there were so many contradictions inside her.
“How do I feel? I feel everything from pain, anger, hurt, lust, desire. . .” she tried to explain. “She makes me feel like I’m falling from a rooftop. Like every heartbeat could be my last, and every touch. . .all that I need.”
She pushed her empty glass away and refused to let her own words sway her. She knew she needed more than what Faith could offer her.
“The way she makes me feel. . .it’s dangerous,” she continued quietly, looking down at a stain on the table. “It’s too dangerous to feel that. To feel like I want every breath to be full of her. To be so wrapped up in her that I can’t think straight. We’re bad for each other, even though all it takes is one look from her to make me ache inside.”
There was more she could say, or try to explain, but her heart was in her mouth and her head was beginning to spin. There was no doubt that Faith moved her in ways Tru probably never could, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. It wasn’t good for her.
“That sounds like a tragic movie,” Xander spoke softly. “Or one of those English novels they try to make you read in high school.”
“It doesn’t have to be tragic,” Willow said when Buffy nodded at Xander’s analogy. “Maybe it’s just. . .difficult to understand.”
“Oh it’s difficult alright,” Buffy said. “Too difficult.”
Though Willow’s suggestion to air her feelings was a good one, a helpful one, it had only managed to prove to Buffy that Tru was the girl for her. At least for now.
She knew – given time – she could fall for Tru. They would be happy together; and though there wasn’t the passion there that she had with Faith, it was still good. It was better than battling and fighting, and feeling like she was free falling through shards of glass every time Faith tugged on her soul.
“Well, as much as I like Faith – now,” Xander said, giving Buffy a bump with his shoulder. “It sounds like the safer option is Tru, and I’m all for my Buffster being in safe hands.”
Buffy gave him a grateful smile and felt a little better for having his backing.
“But safe isn’t always. . .well, safe,” Willow pointed out. “And it sounds to me like you’ll always want Faith in some way. Maybe Tru isn’t the better option, for both your sakes.”
With a groan Buffy laid her head on the tabletop, wishing she didn’t have these difficult situations thrust her way so often; trust Willow to prod at her brain and make her think too hard again. Killing demons and vampires was easy compared to trying to figure out her love life.
“No, there’s no way I can be with Faith,” Buffy assured, lifting her head and trying to ignore Willow’s disappointed grimace. “I want her too much to be with her; it would never work.”
“How exactly does that make sense?” Willow asked, still grimacing.
“It just does,” Buffy said firmly. “When you want something that bad. . .it never lives up to expectations. We’d both be disappointed, and then we’d fight, and then. . .”
“Faith isn’t exactly the most stable of people,” Xander declared.
“Exactly,” Buffy agreed, sitting taller in her chair again. “She’s not stable, and Tru is.”
Willow sighed and scuffed her feet on the tiled floor. She was about to say more, probably about to refute everything that Buffy was intent on thinking, but then Tara strolled up behind them, giving them a little wave and a cheery smile as she rounded the table.
A little grumble did slip from Willow’s lips, however. Buffy heard it as clear as day, even if the rest of the gang were oblivious.
“But it’s Faith you love,” she’d said, and it buzzed around Buffy’s brain like a frightened bee.
No amount of love – no matter how ingrained – could convince Buffy that choosing Faith was the right thing to do. She’d still love her as there was no killing that particular feeling, despite how hard she’d tried to stamp on it, but she’d do it from a safe distance, in much safer arms.
Arms that reminded her of Faith, but that also reminded her of how incompatible to Faith she was.
“I’m just gonna go call Tru,” Buffy said, as Tara took a seat and began reading over the menu Willow handed her. “I need to tell her something.”