You Pull The Strings

Chapter Ten

Water trickled over the shaking wet body of the slayer beneath its torrent, attempting to wash her clean, to scour her body of the ravages of her own mission to hide behind what she thought she deserved. She had used Spike to give her a new pain and bolster her own lack of self-respect, but he had also used her.

He had gripped onto her broken heart with his cold dead fingers and taken. He had taken all she had left to give. All her pride, all her dignity, and the tiny amount of self-respect she had left inside. The part that she was saving for Buffy, to show Buffy that she would love her and stay with her forever. It was gone now. All of it.

He had used her in ways she had never been used before. In painful and degrading ways. He had done his worst as a vampire to a slayer, as he had taken her blood. Draining just enough to make her feel it, but not threaten her life. And she had let him.

She had let him do it all, without question.

Swallowing down the further urge to vomit, Faith pulled herself up by the sides of the grimy bath. She wiped her face clean and swilled warm water around her mouth, spitting it out to rid the taste of stale alcohol and Spike.

Standing on unsteady legs, ignoring the screaming in her mind and in her veins telling her that this time she had lowered herself as far as she could go, Faith continued washing herself down. She scrubbed at the hands that had touched the creature that was meant to be her enemy. At the cuts on her skin, and the wound on her palm, causing fresh blood to seep out over her. She scrubbed. . .at her chest, over her heart, wanting to wash out the agonising mix of pain and love.

She couldn’t wash out the love. It was still there, despite the harsh and hurtful words of the other slayer. It was still deep inside her. She still loved Buffy, and that was the biggest pain of all. Loving her so much, but knowing it would never be returned, even though it was there somewhere inside Buffy too. Faith was sure now that it would never be returned. No matter what. She felt further away from it now than she had ever done.

Finishing her shower, Faith made her way over to her bed and climbed under the disarray of tangled sheets. She clutched the pillow in her arms and buried her face within its musty smell. Her body twitched in its objection to cry, but it didn’t get its way. She did cry, more than she could ever remember doing in her short life. She sobbed her heart dry as sleep slowly led her into fitful dreams.

The majority of Faith’s day was spent sleeping off her violent night, tossing and turning in her naked abandon, replaying the recent events over in her head. Her mind compelling her to dream of the moment Buffy had told her she was in love with her, then forcing her to relive the moment she witnessed the hurt and betrayal in her angry eyes.

She woke with a start as her body jerked, not for the first time, at the memory of Buffy’s damning accusations. Her emotional weariness, and the blood loss from Spike’s over willingness to make her forget who she was, had taken its toll. She felt washed out and wrung dry.

She untangled her limbs from the sheets, memories of Buffy being tangled and wrapped up with her sweeping painfully across her mind. Pushing the thoughts away, she ran her hand through her wavy hair, moving it from her sullen eyes. She had to bite back the entire lack of enthusiasm to actually get out of bed and face the world again.

She was hungry though, ravenously so, the blood loss not sitting well with her slayer healing abilities that had done its best to replace the lost liquid pulsing through her veins. Faith needed to eat. . .and drink, and forget about everything all over again.

Faith dragged herself from the temporary haven of her bed, and grabbed a pair of jeans lying near by. They were not exactly clean, but at least they didn’t have the nasty bloodstains of a night she’d rather not be so blatantly reminded of, smeared all over them.

She stepped into the soft tight denim and slipped them up her slender legs. Then she tugged a small white tee shirt over her head and made her way into the bathroom. She wasn’t exactly sure how she was functioning. She was acting more on instinct than anything else. Actual conscious thought that didn’t make her want to crawl into a corner and hide just wasn’t happening.

After cleaning herself up and donning her battered old leather jacket, Faith stepped out into the late evening hush. She took a deep breath and shifted her eyes up and down the almost deserted street. Straightening her back, doing her best not to look how she felt, Faith slowly descended the steps to the dusty concrete ahead of her and headed towards the nearest fast food joint.

As she walked along the dreary street, putting on a show of confidence in her stride, Faith paid no attention to the handful of people making their way home, hurrying off to their safe warm houses and their safe warm lives. They were leaving the darkness to its job of creeping through the alleyways and seeping out into the territory of the living.

She ignored the encroaching gloom as she listened to the sound of her boots ringing out her tough girl persona on the hard surface of the sidewalk. Each thud was like a nail to Faith. A nail hammered firmly and resoundingly into the coffin in which she lay in her defence from the outside. Playing dead. The irony wasn’t lost on her. . .slayer of the living dead.

The fact that the night before she could very well have turned her destiny inside out and been killed and transformed by Spike, almost made her want to laugh at the cruelty of how fate had a very peculiar sense of humour.

She didn’t remember just when Spike had released her and stopped draining her of her blood, but then Faith couldn’t quite recall how she had allowed it to happen in the first place. She knew that not long after she had passed out from the effects of the alcohol on her system.

The thumping of her boots kept rhythm with her thoughts as she looked up from the sidewalk to take note of where she was headed. Faith had walked well past her intended destination and was now approaching the gates to an empty and shadowy cemetery. Maybe it was part of her calling, ensuring she’d just end up where she was destined to be if she wasn’t paying attention to where her feet were going. Looking up at the ominous gates of the graveyard, Faith felt a familiar shiver run down her spine, like a trickle of a raindrop snaking its way down her back. Buffy was somewhere nearby.

She almost wanted to tremble with the mix of wanting to see the other slayer and wanting to back away and run. She looked from the entrance and back to the street several times, not knowing which way to go. She was well aware that if she could feel Buffy, then Buffy would feel her.

She couldn’t just stand there and wait for Buffy to stumble across her, so she filled her lungs full of the warm night air and strode into the inky blackness of the cemetery before her.

* * *

Faith kept to the shadows, listening out for her fellow slayer, narrowing her eyes to look deep into the dark to find her. She didn’t want to be spotted by Buffy. She didn’t want another showdown, or worse, and hoped that even though Buffy would sense her presence she wouldn’t actively seek her out.

The trees stood silent and still in the stagnant air, not daring to obstruct the perfect hearing of the dark girl as she walked deeper into the winding pathways of the small graveyard. She picked up the sound of talking ahead and slowly edged toward where it was coming from. Faith stayed low and hidden as she spotted Buffy up ahead. Covered by the dark shadows and the veil of leaves behind the tangle of undergrowth she was crouched behind, Faith was certain she wouldn’t be seen.

Buffy was sat on a large ornate tombstone as Willow paced excitedly in front of her, chattering incessantly in her usual way. Faith had more or less a side on view, although Buffy was more turned away from her than towards her. She was grateful of that, as she knew Buffy was particularly good at seeing in the dark.

Even given the risks, Faith couldn’t tear herself away from Buffy. She had to see her, and be near, no matter what the consequences. No matter how much she wanted to will herself away.

She could feel the tug on her heart as she watched the other slayer. She was just there, but yet so far out of reach. It was like a knife digging into Faith’s chest. The overwhelming feeling of wanting Buffy but not being able to have her or to act on her desire was ripping out her insides.

It was like driving a hot poker into her gut and twisting, wrapping her torn flesh around the scorching iron. It hurt in so many ways; Faith was unable to quantify it fully. She just knew it was a pain she had never felt before. The suffocating need to reach out. The need to touch, and hold, and just be by Buffy’s side. It all cut her deep, as her broken heart reminded her she couldn’t have what she wanted.

Listening over the sound of her own steady breathing and pounding pulse, Faith swallowed back the desperate vacuum of need devouring her, and focused on what the redhead in front of Buffy was babbling about.

“See. . .isn’t this better? Just you and me, like old times,” Willow chattered. “Well, not like old times because Xander isn’t here. But neither is Faith, which is a good thing right? I mean, she hurt you. . .she used you, so it’s better now its just us.” Willow looked expectantly at Buffy, but Buffy didn’t respond beyond a very faint nod as she stared off, frowning into the night.

Faith tried her best not to get too infuriated about what Willow was saying. She didn’t want to give her position away, even though she could tell by Buffy’s stiff body language that she knew Faith was there somewhere, lurking in the shadows of the cobweb strewn graveyard.

Buffy seemed too distracted to react and find her. Faith thought it must be because she was feeling bad about being used and betrayed - as Buffy believed she had been. And that she didn’t particularly feel the need to search Faith out and deal with it again. Whatever the reason behind Buffy’s lack of interest in her whereabouts, Faith was grateful.

“She really betrayed you, Buffy, so don’t feel sorry for her. I know you. You’ll be thinking it was your fault or something, when it wasn’t. Faith made you go with her, I was there, and then, and. . .what she did to you was terrible and you’re better off without her friendship if she can do something like that. She took advantage of you, and threatened to torture me and kill me if I told you.” Willow waved her hands around in dramatic effect then sat down next to Buffy, giving up on her damning speech as the blonde girl stared blankly ahead of her.

“But why?” Buffy spoke almost in a whisper into the night. “Why did I go with her? Why did you all allow it if I didn’t want to go? I. . .” she trailed off as Willow cut in.

“She was very persuasive and manipulated you, and told us she’d keep you safe. I just think you were confused. I tried to tell Giles it was a bad idea, but he trusted her,” Willow explained. “He was stupid to do that. We all were. I feel so bad that we left you with her so she could. . .God, Buffy, I feel so bad about what she did to you.” Willow was laying it on thick.

Faith couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing. The way Willow was poisoning Buffy against her almost went beyond jealousy and into a whole realm of something else entirely. Faith was seething inside at the way Buffy had been told such utter bullshit. She could feel her blood boiling again, her body coiling and ready to spring as she hid away.

She instantly regretted picking up her leather jacket as the heat in her veins caused her skin to feel like it was burning its way out of its confines. Angry beads of sweat made their slow and sticky way down Faith’s slender back as she tensed her muscles in order to keep still. Faith shivered as a trickle of perspiration inched a path downward between her breasts. She wanted to pull all her clothes off and feel the night air dry her skin and cool the burning inside her. She wanted to stand up and yell at Willow to shut up, and tell Buffy that it was all lies and that she loved her, and wanted her, and would do anything to prove it.

But she didn’t do anything but turn and sneak away as Buffy dropped her eyes to the floor at the conviction in Willow’s voice, and in her words.

Faith felt beaten. She felt unable to do anything, to defend herself, or fight to stop feeling so lost without Buffy. She felt alone. She was alone. The only person she had now was Spike, and that thought stuck in her brain like a rusty razor, slicing into her common sense.

She exited the gates of the cemetery and headed for the bar she knew the Spike would be sat in. She couldn’t be alone. As much as she hated admitting it to herself, she didn’t dare be alone.



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