Part One: Just Let Go

The bus is quiet now that we've been driving for over an hour. Most of the girls have settled in and have fallen asleep, but I'm not so sure how they're able to manage that. I've been a slayer for nearly five years now and I still can't sleep after a big fight. It's not the hungries and it's not the hornies. Yeah, they're there, but it's something different.

Maybe it's cos of all of the pain and destruction I've seen as a slayer.

Maybe it's cos of all of the pain and destruction I've caused as a slayer.

In any case, sleep defo hasn't found me as I try to rest my tired body. The back of the bus is probably the bumpiest as we travel down this endless road, but it doesn't bother me.

When I was a kid, the back of the bus was where the bad kids sat. We'd secretly try to smoke cigarettes that we stole from our parents and we'd swear up a storm, just cos we could. The bus driver used to ask us to explain the shoe-prints on the ceiling of the bus, and we'd just sit there and laugh. Yep, we were deemed the bad kids far back as I can remember.

I guess that's why I picked the back of the bus now. I'm still bad. You can't fix the errors of your past by sitting in the clink for three years, and it certainly doesn't help when you bust out, even if it was to save the world.

The one thing I don't understand is why B is in the back of the bus too. She's not bad. She's pretty much a fucking saint compared to me. Then again, she's always trying to punish herself in one way or another.

In fact, I bet that right now, she's mentally beating herself up for something or another. For watching Spike die, or for not knowing what step she should take next, or . . . I dunno, for forgetting to pay the paperboy or some shit.

I glance over to her seat across from mine and watch her for a few minutes. Her eyes are open and she's staring out the window, her head resting on the cool pane of glass. It doesn't take a genius to see that she's lost in her thoughts. So much going through her mind all at once.

I'll be the first to admit, it's all a bit overwhelming. Totally understand that she's got some stuff to think about now.

For a second I almost say something to distract her, but I stop myself before I can start. She doesn't wanna hear anything I have to say. And seriously, what would I say anyhow? 'Gee B, I bet you're just about as horny as I am.' Nah, not this time. The innuendos have always been there. The flirting has always been there.

But honestly, what's the point of it now? We won. It's over. She's gonna go and be Jane Normal, and me? I'm back to being a number. 430019, that is. Inmate, Stockton Correctional Facility.

There's really no point in the fun yet inappropriate innuendos if I can't pursue them in some shape or form. We chased that dog years ago and look where it led us. We'll never get rid of the awkwardness between us now.

After a few minutes I take another glance back at B. Her eyes are closed and her shoulders seem to be relaxed.

Damn. I guess she finally found her peace too. Maybe I'll find mine in a pot of gold at the end of my prison sentence.

Thinking that everyone around me is finally sleeping, I reach up and pull the window down a few inches. I take one more glance around to make sure I'm not being watched before reaching into my jacket pocket and pulling out my smokes. I take one out and place it between my lips, anxiously looking forward to the nicotine rush I've been craving.

"I thought that the whole point of reforming was to stop the downward spiral," Buffy says in a quiet voice, interrupting my actions.

I smile a little and keep the lighter a few inches from the tip of my cigarette.

"You ready to be my sponsor, B?" I ask, still smiling, earning a tired smile from her in response. "Yep, I'm trying to walk the righteous path now. All part of the bigger plan of finding some . . . I dunno, peace?"

Buffy watches me for just a moment or two before pointing to the cigarette dangling from my lips.

"You don't think that's just a little bit self-destructive? I don't know if you missed the memo, but: we won. New lease on life, yada yada yada."

I can't help but chuckle. Buffy will never change, and part of me is so happy to know that. I hesitate for just a few seconds before 86-ing the cigarette, and the rest of the pack, out the bus window.

"I'm sure the Powers that Be will ignore that small act of littering," Buffy says quietly, trying not to grin. She knows how to push my buttons.

"Baby steps, yeah B?" I respond back and just smile softly at her for a few seconds.

She smiles back at me the entire time, and . . . I dunno, it's almost like we're looking into each other or something. I can see how tired she is, how much she wants to rest, but I can also see how much peace she's already found. Maybe that whole reflecting thing she did while staring out the dirty window gave her some perspective.

Whatever it is, she looks almost content. And whatever it is, I don't really care; I'm just happy that it's giving us this bit of time together. Maybe it's the small piece of closure that I need before I head back to Stockton.

I'm pretty surprised when I see Buffy stand up from her seat, stretch, and then walk over and plop herself on my seat.

"So," she begins as she sits down with ease, "what do you think about all of this?" She asks as she indicates the now quiet bus.

"I think we did a kickass job," I answer back. "I think everyone's earned a well deserved vacation."

She nods her head in response, and a comfortable silence creeps over us. B looks down the aisle and assesses everyone, while I just glance out the window. A long open road with endless possibilities.

For the first time in ages, I feel like we're . . . okay.

"I've been thinking," she begins again, "I mean, I'm not exactly sure where we're heading. Me and Dawn, that is. She keeps talking about Europe. I don't know how I feel about that yet, but wherever we end up, maybe . . . maybe you should come with us."

Umm, excuse me?

I turn my head and look at Buffy, sat there looking as tired as ever, but also hopeful. Is she serious?

"Are you serious?"

She shrugs.

"Yeah. I mean, I don't know if we're gonna end up in Cleveland like Giles mentioned, or if we're off somewhere new and exciting, but . . . it'd be nice to have you with us. I think that maybe we have a shot at actually learning and growing from the past. Hey . . . we could be the chosen two again. It could be fun."

"Yeah, it could be fun, but we're not the chosen two anymore, B," I say matter-of-factly with a chuckle. "We're two of many. And as much as I'd like to think I deserve a place at your side like in the good ol' days, the sad truth is that . . . I don't."

She furrows her eyebrows, obviously not liking what I've said. I don't want her to think that I'm bitter though. I let go of all of that a long time ago.

"Buffy," I say, looking into her eyes, "there's no place for an escaped convict at your side. It's all too risky. Hell, this wasn't supposed to have even happened; I'm supposed to be behind bars right now. I helped because I was needed, but like you said: we won. It's over and done with now, and I've gotta go back to where I belong."

She hesitates. She's choosing her words carefully and I can tell.

"Maybe you belong with us," she says quietly. "Maybe that's why you got out of jail without a hitch. Maybe that's why you survived the battle when only a bus full of us did. Willow can work her mojo and zap your record, and poof . . . you're free to get your happy on."

"All good reasons," I answer with a nod. Hell, I wish she was right, but I know otherwise. "But the truth is, B, that I don't really have a place to belong right now. I have a lotta shit that I need to make up for. That doesn't happen while I'm gettin my happy on in Ohio or anywhere else."

And like the flip of a switch, Buffy's gone from tired and content to annoyed and upset.

I don't really understand what's going on here. Why can't she just accept that I need to do this? That I need to keep on my own path? Following her around just cos she asked me to doesn't set things right, nor does it make all the bad just . . . go away.

"Faith, why are you being like this?" she asks, frustrated. "Don't you understand that I'm asking you to come with us? It's not an easy thing to do, but I'm offering it anyway, and you're basically slapping my hand away. I thought you'd appreciate it. We want you to come with us."

And suddenly I feel like I'm being backed in a corner. I don't wanna do this; I don't wanna fight. Not after we just saved the world; not after we finally had our moment of 'peace' together.

"I do appreciate it, B, trust me," I say, my voice less friendly now. I'm still quiet; I don't wanna wake up the bus, after all. All I need is an audience to watch a repeat performance of the Buffy and Faith show. We can never just let things be, yunno?

It's all been done before.

"But," I continue, "don't you appreciate the fact that I'm trying to stay on the straight and narrow? That I'm trying to do something right in my life for the first time in ages? That no matter what mojo Red works, it doesn't change who I am and what I did?"

She's angry now. I can tell it in the way she's sitting, in the way she's holding her jaw tight as she speaks again.

"Of course I appreciate that, but aren't you done punishing yourself? You did bad. You went to prison. We grow and learn and move on."

I sigh and rub my eyes with the palms of my hands. Please, Buffy . . . don't make me do this. This girl knows that I'll do anything that she asks. As much as I want to keep on keeping on, I know that I'll cave if she keeps this shit up.

I so need to be fucking strong right now.

"Why are you pushing this, Buffy? My mind's made up," I say, my exhaustion apparent in my voice.

"Because you're not listening to me," she answers, truly annoyed now.

"I AM listening. I listened, and then I explained why I can't. Why can't you just let it go?"

"Why are you being so stubborn about this?" She fires back quickly. "Seriously, just . . . forget for a moment that you're trying to . . ."

I sigh loudly and can't stop the words that fly out of my mouth.

"Goddammit, Buffy, why can't you just let me go?"

The words were neither soft nor quiet. In an instant, I hear rustling on the bus as a few people turn to see what's going on. I don't see them though. I'm having a stare-down with B. There's anger in her eyes, and frustration, and . . . maybe even a bit of hurt?

But I don't have the chance to ask her. Before we have the opportunity to talk it over, she's up and out of my seat and back in hers, staring out the window with her arms crossed over her chest.

She doesn't say two words to me the rest of the trip to LA. In fact, she doesn't say two words to anyone at all. Red came back to check on her after our little conversation, but B just shook her head and dismissed her.

Needless to say, B gets up from her seat and is off the bus before we even come to a full stop in LA. She makes her way into the large hotel before I can catch up with her, and I figure that she doesn't want to be found at this point.

As much as I'd like to think otherwise, Buffy and me? We can never be friends. She'll always be stubborn, and I'll always be wrong.

Maybe not in her eyes, but at least in my own.

I decide to take one last night to enjoy freedom before I head back to the clink. Giles told me I could have my own room after I explained my situation to him, and I've been sat up here almost the whole day. I watch some TV, and I sit on the balcony and . . . don't smoke.

Damn, I'm defo wishing I hadn't thrown my last pack out the bus window.

Giles cheerily agreed to spring for hotel rooms, but he wouldn't spend five bucks on a pack of smokes for me. That's fucked up, right?

Guess I can't blame him. It's a bad habit anyhow.

I'd much rather be spending my last free hours breathing in the fresh air, and watching the sun travel across the sky and settle. I wanna see the stars come out, and I wanna watch them fade into morning.

You don't get to do simple stuff like that in prison. You start to miss it after awhile.

I spoke with Angel a while ago; he's got lotsa drama going on, but he agreed to go with me when I turn myself in. I'm pretty sure that nothing he says will make them forgive me for up and escaping, but . . . well, it can't hurt. Red's gonna work some mojo so that he can be in the sun for a few hours.

Not sure why, but I keep going back to what Buffy said. She told me that Red would do her computer thing and zap my record clean. And yeah, that doesn't change what I did. I can't take anything I did back. But . . . damn. Livin' it up with B and Dawnie in Italy . . . that sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I'm not real cultured or anything, but I've heard good things about Italy.

And yeah, I was pretty shocked that B agreed to go to Italy so quickly. Dawnie mentioned it in passing during a Scooby meeting, Giles said it had good schools, and B agreed without even giving it much thought, or any thought at all.

Guess she just wants to put as much distance between us as possible.

But still . . . it's not stopping me from thinking about what life would be like if I made the move to Italy with Dawn and B. Giles could probably hook us up with some kinda slaying jobs, and if not, well . . . I'd just get one of those little mopeds and ride around looking fashionable and saying 'ciao' a lot.

I could probably get paid for that, right?

No doubt I'd keep on flirting with Buffy, just like I always have since day one. It's fun watching her squirm under pressure. And who knows . . . maybe after a bottle of some cheap wine, she'd let me get lucky. Cos I'm romantic and stuff.

Yeah, that'd be a good deal. Almost good enough to make me re-think my decision, but not that good.

I'm distracted from my thoughts when I hear a soft knock at the door. I figure that it has to be Giles or someone coming to say goodbye. Yeah, they all know the plan now. I guess they've been pretty understanding. Red offered to work her mojo but I kindly refused. I told her to check back in a few years in case I get a bit stir crazy.

I hop off the balcony ledge and make my way across the small room, pulling my terrycloth white robe closed as much as possible. Laundry service offered to wash our battle-stained clothes and I figured that it'd be best if I went back to prison without blood stains all over me.

When I finally make it to the door and pull it open, I'm a bit freaked out to see B standing there. She's got her arms wrapped around her body and she has tears in her eyes and . . . who told her where my room was?

We gaze at each other for a few moments in silence, waiting for the other to say something.

Hey, she's the one who came to see me. She can talk first, thank you.

Instead of talking, she steps into my room and gets right up in my space as she closes the door behind her. I stand firm, not backing up, trying not to let on how surprised I am to see her here.

A few more moments pass and I can tell she's struggling with herself. Just as I go to take pity on her and break the silence, she reaches out quickly and puts her hands through my hair, pulling me down into a passionate kiss.

Unexpected? Totally. I'd ask her what was going on if my tongue wasn't too busy trying to keep up with hers. Hell, I'd try to put my hands on her shoulders and push her back if they weren't too busy resting on her hips, pulling her closer to me. And I'd totally take a step back, if I wasn't already being pushed back towards the big bed in the middle of the room.

I feel the back of my legs hit the bed, but there ain't no way that I'm about to be dom'd by Buffy Summers when I don't even know what the hell's going on here. As I start to tumble back, I pull Buffy with me and turn so that she lands on her back with me hovering just above her.

Not sure how I manage it, but I pull away from her lips god, the dreams I've had about those lips and look down at her. There are tears in her eyes and she's doing her best to reach my lips again, but I stay just out of range.

"B?" I ask, my voice shaky. "What . . . I don't understand . . ."

"Shhh," she interrupts, leaning up far enough this time to brush her lips over mine. "Please . . . just, please . . ." she pleads, resting back down with her hands in my hair, pulling me down with her.

And as strong as I'm trying to be about staying on the right path, this this moment that I have with Buffy I can't fight it. I'm not strong enough. It's what I've always wanted.

I don't know how many hours we lay together, kissing and fucking and . . . shit, maybe even making love. I can't say cos I've never done it before, but what we did together was different from anything I've ever done or felt.

At some point in time we fell asleep, the moonlight filtering softly over our naked, tangled bodies. I'm pretty sure that when we fell back onto the bed to sleep, B was all up on me, but when I wake up at the first signs of daylight, she's on the far end of the bed on her side with her back toward me.

I reach out across the bed to touch her, but I pull my hand back at the last second. I can't. It's too hard. I have to walk away soon.

Buffy must've felt the slight movement on the bed, because I hear her speak quietly.

"Is it almost time?" she barely whispers.

"Yeah," I answer, my voice thick with sleep. "Angel will be here in a couple hours."

A couple minutes of really awkward silence pass by before I hear a sniffle. I try to reach out again, but Buffy gets up from the bed and starts searching for her clothes, putting them on piece by piece.

"B," I start, not really knowing what to say. I don't want her crying. It's breakin my heart here.

"Don't," she says quietly still, trying to avoid looking at me at all costs. "Yesterday on the bus, you asked me why I couldn't let you go."

I nod rather than answer her. I don't know if I can speak right now.

She puts on her shirt, the last of her clothes, and looks around the room before finally looking over her shoulder at me, tears streaming down her face.

"That's why," she says, her eyes welling up with even more tears.

She walks to the door and lets herself out without so much as another glance back. I'm still laying here on the bed, naked and covered in her scent, in the same position that I was five minutes ago.

There's too much to think, too much to say . . . too much to regret.

I could go with her. I can run after her, spin her in my arms, and kiss her with everything I've got and promise to never leave her side. I can promise her the happily ever after that we deserve.

But that won't happen. Ever. I have to go where I'm supposed to be.


I bang my head back on the headboard and close my eyes, sighing deep.

Never really liked Italian food anyway.

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