You Pull The Strings

Chapter One

“You making this a habit, Slayer?” A soft English voice broke through the smoky atmosphere of the dingy bar.

“Ya know what? This time Spike, I really am not in the mood. So turn your fucking sorry dead ass right around, and walk away.” Faith didn’t bother lifting her eyes to meet the blonde vampire stood beside her at the bar.

She was far from wanting company right now. All she needed was the drink in front of her, and the knowledge that she had enough cash for a whole lot more. The company of the darkness was all she craved as she sat with her elbows sticking to the filthy counter, the stale alcohol soaking into her favourite denim jacket. Not that she cared. She was beyond caring about anything so trivial. Or anything that wasn’t Buffy.

“Looks to me like you probably shouldn’t be alone. Where’s the other slayer? Your little pal? You’re usually inseparable,” Spike said, grinning. He probably should have kept his mouth shut.

Faith span around to face him so quickly the bar almost shook. She grabbed him and flung him hard. He hit the far wall with a loud crack, leaving an imprint of his backside on it. She had practically growled as she did it, sounding more like a vampire than she would ever care to admit.

She rushed towards him, not finished with venting some of her anger on the unfortunate vamp. Picking him up by the collar as she bent over him menacingly, Faith gave him a warning.

“Don’t give me an excuse to fucking dust you, dead boy, ‘cause I’m close to it. Next time I tell you to do something. . .do it.” She dropped the sorry looking vampire back onto the floor in amongst the filth and the discarded cigarette butts.

Faith straightened her jacket and went to sit down again. Daring with the dangerous look in her eyes for somebody to say something to her, Faith slumped back onto her stool and downed her glass of strong liquor. Savouring the taste as it burned down her throat.

She wanted to be drunk. She wanted that dead feeling it gave you, when the world seemed to slink away and just leave you to it. Faith ordered another shot, throwing her money onto the bar. Enough to pay for many more glasses. The bartender nodded in understanding that he would keep her topped up until the cash ran out.

The menacing girl didn’t look like she could be messed with, her hair sleek and straight, looking darker than usual. Her clothes and make up screaming “I’m a bad-ass, so stay the fuck away.” Leather pants and tight black tee shirt covered by a dark denim jacket that looked like it had seen better days but still managed to flatter her. She was hot, and she knew it. She was dangerous, and she loved it.

She was Faith the Vampire Slayer. At least nobody could take that away from her.

“Spike, I told you to get lost,” Faith said idly. She didn’t sound too convincing. The fight already dissipating as quickly as it had rushed through her.

“Look, I realise I’m kinda staring a vacuum cleaner in the face here, but. . .why are you sat in this stinking bar again, trying to obliterate yourself?” The bleach blonde vampire hung back on the other side of the stool next to Faith. He certainly had some balls. Either that or he was just stupid.

Faith looked at him and laughed a deep throaty laugh that came right from the middle of her chest. Several patrons in the background looked frightened for their lives she sounded that crazy. Spike took another step backwards, a flicker of fear dancing in his sharp eyes.

“God, you’re more fucked up than I am. I mean, I just told ya I’m gonna kill you if you don’t get outta my face. . .but, here you are sticking your dead head into my business. Gotta hand it to ya blondie, that deserves a drink,” Faith laughed.

She nodded again at the bartender, who instantly filled a glass for Spike and placed it on the bar.

Spike, visibly worried, slowly sat on the stool next to her. He kept one eye firmly on her as she took another swig from her glass, chuckling softly to herself now and again. Faith couldn’t be bothered to argue. She couldn’t really be bothered to do anything but keep downing the drink until she maybe fell off her seat.

She had good reason to be feeling the way she was. Her life was in a mess. More so than usual.

* * *

It had been two weeks since Buffy had regained her memory, and subsequently forgotten what had happened between her and Faith. The change in their relationship. The declaration of love. All gone.

For two weeks Faith had practically been grieving her loss.

After Buffy had recovered from the spell, she had spent a few days alone with just her mom. Faith didn’t see her for four days, but it felt like so much longer. She patrolled alone as she tried to make sense of what had happened, and how she was meant to just carry on as if nothing had changed. As if her heart hadn’t felt like it had been ripped from her chest and stomped on.

She took the opportunity with no Buffy around to plead with Willow not to tell Buffy about anything she had seen or suspected. It was hard work, but she eventually convinced the redhead to keep her mouth shut.

Faith told Willow that what had happened between her and Buffy had just been a mistake. That it had been because of the slayer connection, and that Buffy had just needed comforting.

She told her that it wasn’t as bad as she maybe thought, and that it shouldn’t have happened. Explaining to Willow that it was best if Buffy didn’t know about it, to save her from being embarrassed or upset. Willow eventually agreed, although Faith could tell she wasn’t too happy about it. She just hoped Willow would hold true and not fuck things up.

The time apart from Buffy only served to make Faith feel worse than she thought she ever could. Especially as she knew her blonde counterpart was still seeing her ‘other’ friends, Willow and Xander. She felt pushed out again. After all she had put up with in the beginning, it was happening again. She was on the outside once more.

It had felt cold and lonely the first time, but now it was even worse. Knowing what she could have with Buffy, if only she would open up to Faith. Knowing that they could be together. Happy. In love. It cut like a knife. A big, sharp, rusty knife, digging straight into her open wound of a heart.

Once Buffy had got over the initial shock of learning that she had lost her memory, and spending some extra time to make her mom feel better, things kind of started getting back to normal.

The day Faith saw Buffy again would be burned in her mind forever. It was so surreal. Recalling how intimate they had been, and how Buffy had wanted her and craved her even, drove her crazy. Faith just wanted to rush up and grab Buffy. She wanted to kiss her and touch her, in all the ways that Buffy had told her she had wanted her to. But that was when she had no memory. When she had no guilt or worries about what everybody else would think.

Faith had been able to see a small spark of the desire in Buffy’s eyes for her. Just like before the amnesia spell. It was there in the sparkling green, hidden away. Faith was surer of it now. She understood what it meant, and she understood that Buffy would continue to ignore how she felt. She would push it away. Like she had done, and was doing to Faith.

It hurt like a motherfucker, but there was nothing Faith could do about it. Or at least, right now she couldn’t see a way forward. She couldn’t see any chink of hope, as she was too busy grieving her loss. She felt more lost and alone than she had done before, and it was all just too real and painful.

Pretending to be fine was hard. Pretending that her heart didn’t leap out of her chest every time Buffy came near her was even harder. She could feel herself pulling back from her slaying partner, as Buffy also seemed to pull a little away from her.

Faith wasn’t sure why Buffy was acting the way she was, but it was noticeable. Certainly to her anyway.

Things were mixed up. She knew that much, and she hoped it would work out and stop hurting so much. Even if Buffy never admitted how she really felt, Faith didn’t want to loose her friendship. She had promised never to leave Buffy, and she meant it.

But within two weeks things had really begun to take their toll on Faith. She couldn’t handle it anymore. Watching Buffy carry on with her life, without her. Looking from the sidelines as Buffy flirted with various guys at the Bronze, feeling crushed and beaten by it. Talking with her. . .but never really saying anything.

It was hard to just get up in the morning knowing she had to face another day of acting like everything was five by five. She no longer flirted with Buffy, not seeing the point if she wasn’t going to open her eyes and see Faith; really see her and notice how much she was loved and wanted by her.

That’s why she was drinking. That’s why she spent most of her nights roaming the streets, so she didn’t have to go back to the motel where the memories of Buffy making love to her pierced her brain and her heart over and over, tormenting her for being stupid enough to believe it could ever be. She was drowning again in despair and could find no better way out than through the bottom of a glass.

If Buffy wasn’t ready now, then she probably never would be.

If she had no recollection at all of what they had recently shared. If she couldn’t feel it, like she had told Faith she would be able to, then it was never going to happen. There was no hope. No point in even attempting to convince herself that there ever would be.

“Come on, Spike, you’re slacking.” Faith chugged back her glass of Jack D, slamming it back onto the counter for more.

She planned to stay there for the rest of the night. “Fuck patrolling,” she thought. . .what was the point?

Of anything.



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