You Pull The Strings

Chapter Two

Loud banging. . .lots of it, woke Faith with a start. She cautiously opened one eye to make sure there wasn’t some demon or other going at her head with a hammer. There was nobody in her shit hole of a room but her. She sighed, thankful that she hadn’t brought some deadbeat home with her the night before.

Unfortunately she had done that at least three or four times in the last couple of weeks, well, three or four times that she could remember. Faith was doing her best not to get caught up in the way she had lived her life before the whole incident with Buffy, but it was hard, and a hot drunken girl with a tendency for overwhelming horniness was not an advert for guys to stay away. And she was weak, and longing for something to take the pain from her, to make it all just disappear. It never worked of course, it only served to make her feel worse.

Clutching at the messed up blankets strewn mostly on her, but also hanging on the floor, Faith fought back the urge to vomit as the banging continued. She gazed over at the door as it was almost knocked off its hinges, then swung her legs out of bed and sat up, swaying a little in her morning-after daze.

“Alright, I’m fucking coming,” she yelled above the noise. Her voice was raspy with the abuse from the cigarettes and alcohol she had been consuming.

Faith pushed a hand through her messy hair and stood up. The sheets fell to the floor behind her as she stumbled almost blindly to the door, knocking off an empty bottle of beer from her dresser as she used it to steady herself. She unlocked the locks and slid the bolts along, the clanking causing the hammering from the other side to stop. With one hand up against the doorframe to hold herself up, Faith let the light and the air into her haven of depression.

“I’ve been knocking for. . .Faith! God, put some clothes on,” Buffy yelped and ushered Faith away from the open doorway and back into the room, a slight flush rising to settle on her face.

Faith stood unsteadily in front of Buffy, one hand on her head to ensure it was still on her shoulders, and the other hanging limply at her side. She wasn’t wearing a thing, which was in no way unusual for her on a morning. She noticed Buffy’s blush, but she wasn’t rushing to cover herself, as she had no clue why Buffy was there, or what time it was for that matter.

Buffy turned towards Faith after she closed the door behind her. “Faith you. . .” Buffy looked around the apartment. “God, this place is a mess.”

Faith stared at Buffy and had the urge to laugh. It wasn’t just her room that was a mess. She was a mess. Faith was busy suffering the worst hangover, after a four day binge drinking session in which she had swung from bar to club and back again, barely stopping to wash or eat, or anything that involved the normal day to day running of life. She shook her head and followed Buffy’s eyes around the room.

There were empty bottles strewn everywhere, and her clothes were in various piles of disarray on the floor. Her ashtrays were full, her TV was on and filling the dark of the room with flickering white snow, and there was at least two used condoms stuck to the side of the overflowing trash can. It all hit home, with a thud.

Faith sat down heavily on the end of her messy bed, chuckling at the state she was in because she couldn’t think of anything better to do.

“Here. . .at least put this on.” Buffy spoke softly to Faith, who glanced up to look at an expression almost of sorrow that flashed across Buffy’s face.

Faith took the offered large tee shirt and gingerly pulled it on over her head. It smelt of cigarettes and stale alcohol, just like she did, and it did nothing to ease her stomach as it twisted in knots in a warning not to move too quickly, or at all.

“I. . .we’ve been trying to get hold of you for days, Faith. Where have you been?” Buffy asked. There was genuine concern in her voice.

It was mixed with something that sounded like annoyance, though, so of course Faith picked up on that rather than the fact that Buffy seemed worried about her.

* * *

“Sorry, am I fucking up the perfect little life of Buffy-the-good? Taking up your time to come and check if I’m still even alive?” Faith ran her hands through her hair to ease it out of the wavy morning look it had settled on.

She then tried to stand up, ignoring the hurt look on Buffy’s face that gave way to an angry one. Wavering with the alcohol still sticking to the insides of her veins, Faith made her way to the window.

“Hey, don’t take your hangover out on me. I’m not the one who’s been disappearing and not bothering with even training, let alone slaying,” Buffy pointed out as she watched Faith open the curtains and squint at the onslaught of the sun into her musty room.

“So, that’s it. . .you think I’m slacking,” Faith sighed and shook her head, but knew she had been. “You think I’m not pulling my weight.” She also knew that was the truth.

“Faith, it’s not that, it’s just. . .” Buffy let out a long drawn out breath. “You make me so angry sometimes.”

But she didn’t sound angry and there was that hint of concern again that sounded more like pity now to Faith.

“Was there something you wanted, B? I mean, other than coming here to make me feel like shit. Which I already do, so there’s really no need.” Faith pushed open a window to let in some much needed air to the stale atmosphere of the room.

“I didn’t. . .whatever,” Buffy said, exasperated. “Look, I don’t know what’s wrong unless you tell me. And clearly something is. I thought we were getting on ok. I thought we were friends.” Buffy stood by the door and watched as Faith sat down heavily again on the bed.

“Yeah. Friends,” Faith said quietly. She looked away from Buffy, cringing at the amount of condoms she could see in the nearby trash can. “I’m five by five, girlfriend, so you can go back to your perfect little life in suburbville.” She stood abruptly and the rush of alcohol, and the fact that she hadn’t eaten for three days, caused her to stumble forwards.

Buffy rushed towards her and caught Faith before she fell to the floor, holding her up and placing her back down onto the crumpled bed.

“Please, Faith. Tell me what I’ve done. The last thing I remember. . .well, we were doing ok. We were. . .” Buffy took a deep breath. “Faith, I don’t know what to do. Tell me.” She seemed close to tears, which only made Faith even angrier.

Not at Buffy, but at herself. She realised she was being unreasonable, because Buffy had no clue why she was acting the way she was. As far as Buffy was concerned they had been getting on better than ever, and there was no reason for the change in their friendship.

“I can’t tell ya what to do, B. I can’t tell me what to do. You should just leave me to it, and let me fuck up ‘cause that’s what I do best.” Faith was aware she was sounding sorry for herself, but that’s the way she felt, and in her current state she was powerless to hide the fact.

“I hate seeing you like this, Faith. If I’ve done something wrong. . .” she stalled. “Maybe it was when I’d lost my memory, that’s when all this seems to have started. Please, Faith, tell me.” Buffy knelt in front of Faith and placed a hand on her bare thigh, moving it quickly as she gazed down and seemed to recall that Faith wasn’t wearing anything but the tee shirt.

“B, it isn’t you. It isn’t something you did.” Faith forgot for a second that she was meant to ignore the fact that they had been so intimate at one point, and gently pushed Buffy’s golden locks out of the way of her eyes with her right hand, lingering a little with the silky hair spilling over her fingers. Then she remembered that Buffy would probably freak out, so removed her hand swiftly.

“Why have things changed, Faith? I wish I knew, because I’d fix it. I feel. . .I just want to get back to normal with you. I liked it when we slayed together, went dancing, or just hung out.” Buffy got up and sat on the bed next to Faith, her eyes wandered over to the trash can close by. She sighed, deflating a little.

“If you’re sick of me hanging around. . .” Buffy’s voice was weak and defeated, breaking before she could continue.

“No, that’s not it,” Faith assured clearly, hating the way she was making Buffy feel. “I’m just. . .look, I’ll pull myself out of this.” She turned towards Buffy. “We can get back to how we were, if that’s what you want.”

She hated saying it, because she didn’t want to go back to how they’d been, with Buffy denying her feelings and keeping her at arms length, ignoring the fact that she wanted more from Faith than just her friendship. Faith could tell, in Buffy’s voice and the way she looked at her, that she did still want more but was too scared to show her, or to give in to it.

Faith convinced herself she was done with getting drunk and feeling sorry for herself now. It wasn’t getting her anywhere, and was only pushing the girl she loved further away than ever. She certainly didn’t want that, and at least now she knew that Buffy did still kind of care for her. She wouldn’t have been there with her in her stinking room, trying to convince her not to go any further off the rails if she didn’t care.

“I do want us to be friends, Faith. Close friends. I. . .don’t laugh, but I’ve felt a little lost without you. I don’t know if that’s something to do with what Willow told me, about what I was like with you when I couldn’t remember anybody else but. . .”

“Wait. . .” Faith interrupted, “what’s Red been saying?” The hostility in Faith’s voice was clear.

She was worried that Willow had told Buffy more than she needed to know about their time together in her motel room. Faith didn’t want Buffy to learn about it, especially not from somebody else. Her blood was beginning to boil at the thought alone.

“She. . .she didn’t say much. Faith what’s wrong?” Buffy remained sitting on the bed as Faith got up and ran a hand through her hair.

She looked down at Buffy and caught her looking at her with a slight blush to her cheeks. Faith realised the action of raising her arm had caused the tee shirt to ride up and give Buffy more than an eyeful of her naked crotch. Doing her best to ignore the fact that Buffy was failing to look away, Faith turned her back.

“You’d better go, B. I need to get cleaned up. I’ll catch up with ya later, for patrol.” She watched as Buffy apprehensively made her way to the door. “I’ll meet you at yours.”

“I hope you do, Faith. Because I don’t wanna. . .” Buffy paused. “I just. . .” she sighed, apparently finding it hard to get out what she meant. “I hope I didn’t do anything to make you mad at me when I was under the spell. If I did, I hope you know you can tell me, and I’ll do my best to put it right.” She turned with a sad look on her face, and left the room.

Faith breathed out heavily. She wasn’t sure now what Buffy knew or what she didn’t. She looked around her room and determined that drinking herself into oblivion wasn’t helping her out any, wasn’t making her feel any less lonely. She decided not to fall back into it anymore.

She also decided it was time to have another chat with the redhead, and make sure nothing came out to change Buffy’s mind about them being close friends again. She wasn’t about to go back on her promise to Buffy because of Willow’s jealous streak.

No matter what, Faith couldn’t go back to just being the back up slayer that Buffy didn’t give two shits about, so she rubbed her head to ease the pain, and set to work repairing her mess of a life.



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