You Pull The Strings

Chapter Twelve

Willow was pulling on Xander’s arm, trying to stop him from yanking at Spike’s jacket. Buffy really didn’t need the help, but he was doing his best “I want to be a hero too” act. As people jostled to get out of the way, drinks fell, glasses broke, and it was in danger of getting them all thrown out. Faith watched as Buffy shoved at spike as he tried to get past her.

It wasn’t so much a fight really, more like a school ground push and shove contest in the middle of a haze of dance floor smoke and cheap perfume, and Faith had no idea why Buffy was acting the way she was. For a start, she hadn’t even looked in Faith’s direction since she had leapt from her stool.

“Ok, break it up. This is fucking ridiculous,” Faith exclaimed. She waded into the fight, holding the two warring parties apart. “What the hell you trying to do, B?” She eyed the shorter slayer, trying not to notice how sweet she looked all hot and flustered, and how her skin was burning under Faith’s touch.

“Get off me, Faith.” Buffy twisted away from the hand that had been holding her back by the shoulder. “And get out. Both of you.”

“Yeah, back off, Faith. You. . .you’re. . .” Willow bumbled to a halt as Faith glared at her. She continued cowering behind Xander, of all people.

Spike straightened his jacket, also glaring at the diminutive slayer and her ineffective gang. He looked annoyed, but Faith could see he was also a little confused. He wasn’t the only one. As far as Faith could tell, there was no reason for Buffy to have attacked Spike. He was more or less being classed as one of the good guys now, to a degree. So she knew Buffy had no intention of dusting him. Certainly not in the middle of the Bronze anyway.

There was a little speck of hope somewhere in the back of her mind that was telling her that maybe Buffy had been feeling a little jealous with Faith and Spike’s obvious show of intimacy. The last person Faith had danced with had been Buffy, although they never were quite an erotic floorshow they would dance a lot closer than most friends would deem appropriate.

Faith had always loved the way they could take over a dance floor. The way they moved so well together. The shy touches. The heat as fingers entwined, bodies pressed, eyes burned into one another.

They would become entirely absorbed in the dance. It was definitely intimate. She could place the feeling now, after their short amount of time together during Buffy’s amnesia. When she had kissed Buffy, it was like the same exhilarating rush of being somehow joined by what they were doing.

She remembered how it felt like the world had stopped for them the minute their lips had met. And how her heart had all but burst when Buffy had touched her the night she was drunk. It seemed like a dream now. The love that had wrapped around her with Buffy’s caress was a fantasy, somewhere in the back of her mind where she was still able to breath without pain, sleep without thought, feel without regret.

But she realised - as Buffy looked at her with more than a burn of disgust in her angry eyes - that Buffy would never be thinking of her as anything other than scum right now. Not after what she had accused Faith of in her drab motel room. Faith just had to feel the sharp sting in her chest to recall that.

“Don’t worry, pet. We’re leaving.” Spike shoved Xander to the side, knocking him into Willow, and her into a table.

Faith didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay and convince Buffy that what had been said about her, what Willow had told her, had been a pack of lies. They stood at the side of the dance floor; a handful of people milling around and pretending not to be watching, as the chosen two studied each other, glaring into each other’s searching eyes. It was like a Mexican stand off without guns. Everybody waiting for the next move.

The tension that Faith had been feeling as soon as the trouble had started, the strain of her muscles and the knot inside, eased as she continued to look into Buffy’s eyes. She felt deflated, and she wanted to walk away from the empty stare. Spike cleared his throat to get her attention and she turned to leave, feeling hopeless and unwanted.

“Faith, wait,” Buffy called and bridged the gap between them, grabbing Faith’s arm lightly.

She hadn’t ordered Faith to stop. Her voice was more hesitant and pleading than anything else. Soft and unsure. Without turning to face Buffy, Faith raised her eyes once again to look at Buffy over her shoulder. She waited. . .but only saw a small glimmer of something flash in the green depths of Buffy’s gaze. It looked a little like regret, or something warmer, but nothing was said. Then Spike once again broke the heavy atmosphere.

“Come on, lover.” He took Faith’s other hand and gave her a slight tug.

The instant he had finished calling her his lover, Buffy’s face once again became a cold hard mask. The gaze became a glare, and her hand tightened its grip on Faith’s arm before she let it go suddenly, like she was throwing something away that she no longer had use for. Faith took the hint, despite the cryptic look she had seen in Buffy’s eyes.

She turned her head, and without even bothering to notice the evil glares coming from Willow and Xander, she took off with Spike out of the club. She had no other choice despite how much she despised the entire situation.

* * *

As soon as they were on the outside of the club, making their way down one of the dreary and mostly dangerous alleys, Faith caught hold of Spike, spinning him round to face her and propelling him up against the wall. He let out an almost feminine squeal as she pushed him hard against the dirty brick of the dark building they were next to. Gripping his shoulders painfully, she brought her face close to his.

“Just for the record, blondie, I’m not your fucking lover.” She was sure if she’d had a stake to hand it would have been sticking in his chest right now.

“Calm down, Slayer. I mean. . .that wasn’t what you were saying last night whilst you were jumping up and down on my. . .” Spike’s head snapped back as Faith head-butted him.

“That was. . .fuck. I don’t know what that was, but we’re not gonna be doing it again any time soon. So I’m not your fucking lover,” Faith said sternly. She emphasise her point by elbowing him, adding to the pain he was already in.

She dropped his shoulders from her grasp, and started walking away from the darkness of the alley, her hands dug firmly into her pockets. She was hungry and tired. Sick of feeling like shit. Sick of wanting something that was far out of reach.

“She’ll never love you ya know? Never,” he called after Faith as she disappeared into the shadowy side streets.

She had tried not to hear what he’d said, but it struck her like a bullet and forced its way into her brain. Walking with her head low, Faith stumbled through the streets, not knowing exactly where to go or what to do.

Faith didn’t want to go back to the motel and fill her time going over everything in her mind. And even though she was hungry and needed to replace her lost blood, she didn’t feel like eating, as she didn’t think her stomach could take it. So unlike herself, food was the last thing on her mind.

The trash filled gutters slowly gave way to spacious pavements as Faith wandered, hardly looking up or taking note of what was around her. All she could see was the look on Buffy’s face, the small flicker of something other than disgust turning icy and severe with Spike’s voiced assumption.

She didn’t even want to think about the idea of the cold dead vampire being her lover. The thought turned her stomach more than the idea of filling it with food. Her body had betrayed her and reacted. It had sought a way to replace the emotional pain, only to replace it with more.

A sound to her right caught Faith’s attention. She lifted her head and looked around, a trashcan was being filled by a very suburban looking man. Taking more of her environment in, Faith suddenly realised where she was. Just like before when she had been wandering aimlessly, she had homed in on Buffy.

Standing not too far away from the small path up to the Summer’s house, Faith ran a hand through her thick dark hair and allowed her eyes to find their way up to Buffy’s bedroom window. She was far enough away, and hidden enough by the leafy trees nearby to feel like it was safe to be there. Although she wasn’t sure if that was a good idea, as being there was making her heart long for, and her body need, the blonde girl within.

Faith could see the light on in the small window, its yellow hue seeping out into the dark, spreading like fingers over the lawn. Faith wanted to climb the slithers of light, knock on the window and be greeted by warm loving arms.

The fantasy of it was almost funny. She wanted to laugh, but the tragedy of knowing that things could be so different - and would be so different if Buffy would just open her eyes and open her heart and see what was right in front of her - was too real. It was throbbing inside the troubled slayer, weighing down her soul with emptiness.

The light in the window flickered a little, and Faith pulled further back into the shadows. Buffy was looking out into the night, her hand resting on the clear glass of the window. Faith couldn’t see her clearly, but with the shine of the light behind her, she looked beautiful, like she was a painting and the window was her frame. Faith risked creeping a little further forward to revel in the refined elegance of the girl she just couldn’t stop loving.

Long blonde hair settling softly on her shoulders, just begging for Faith’s dextrous fingers to run through it. Her face clear of makeup, fresh and almost angelic, pleading with Faith to place feather light kisses upon it.

Buffy looked sombre, and distant, as she stared out at nothing, just watching the stars turn and the night grow colder. She eventually turned away from the frame of the glass, with Faith watching as she sunk into the depth of the room and out of sight.

Sighing, Faith convinced herself that she shouldn’t just leap up to the window and prove to Buffy that she wasn’t the monster that Willow was telling her she was. That she would do anything for her. That she could love her and keep her safe. Show her how soft she could be under her hard exterior.

But Buffy didn’t want to know. She didn’t even want her friendship now that she thought Faith had taken advantage of her. It was pointless looking up and longing. Yearning for somebody that “will never love you”, Spike’s words came to haunt her in the silence of the suburban street she was currently hiding in the shadows of. She knew it - deep inside - she would never be good enough for Buffy.

Faith turned, wanting to get away as fast as possible. She ran, with her long dark hair whipping behind her, through the emptiness of the unusually tranquil Sunnydale neighbourhoods. Into the neon lights of the town. Into the deep recesses of her sorrow. Into the cemetery she had so recently stumbled out of, battered and bruised, and used. She didn’t have to plead with Spike to let her in; he was more willing than she wanted.

The run and the already fragile state of her body caused Faith to fall into the Spikes arms as he smirked at her, knowing he had the upper hand again. Picking the beautiful brunette up, he made his way over to the stale sheets of his bed and placed her back amongst the stains.

She wanted to slap him off her, get up and run to a safer place, but she didn’t know a safer place. Buffy had been it, and she no longer had her to turn to. There was nowhere for her to hide from her inner demons anymore. All she had was the drink currently being handed to her, and the knowledge that whatever pain she might endure at the hands of Spike, was nothing compared to the pain of being alone.

Even though she would never admit it to anybody, loneliness was Faith’s biggest fear. She had lived in that fear for far too long. Her first months in Sunnydale still had her gripped in its agonising clutches until Buffy had finally allowed her to step away from it a little, into the enticing embrace of her friendship. But the threat of it was always present.

The only time she had ever felt safe from its grabbing hold, was the moment Buffy had told her that she loved her. But it hadn’t lasted. Like a fool she had held a small hope that it would, but she was alone again. Now more than ever. It hurt. It emptied her, and looking up as she watched Spike pull his belt from his trousers, she realised it was all she would ever really feel.

Faith’s tears came soft and silent down her cheeks, as she gave in to the inevitable.



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