How exactly do you start out a conversation like this?
Seriously, tell me how, cos B and I have been standing here staring at each other, completely silent, for the last five minutes.
Yeah. Pretty fuckin awkward.
She has this steady trickle of tears streaming down her face, and I can tell that she’s biting on her lip to keep back from crying aloud. As for me, well . . . I’m just tryin’ to look as emotionless as possible. I don’t need to have an emotional outburst at this point in time, cos I’m pretty sure that she knows exactly what I’m feeling.
Still . . . I don’t think that I can be mean right now. Don’t get me wrong, besides being sad about the situation, I’m just pissed off. I think that’s understandable. But this moment doesn’t need to be any tougher than it already is. I’m gonna keep my cool, and I’m gonna try to be as calm and rational as possible.
Finally, the silence gets to be too much for me and I just say the first thing that I can think of.
“It doesn’t mean that I don’t still love you.” I mumble out, my eyes burning into hers as if trying to convey the truth behind my words.
It’s true; I do still love her. Always will, I think. But for the first time in a long time, I’m putting myself before her. Fuck, it’s exactly the same thing that she’s been doing to me; putting herself first. Only difference is that I’m trying to be considerate of her feelings.
“Then what does it mean?” She whispers, her lips barely moving.
I sigh as I choose over my words.
“It means . . . well . . . I guess it means that I can’t be your security blanket anymore, B.” It wasn’t said with malice or contempt. I don’t think I said the words for her . . . it was more of an affirmation for myself.
Her eyebrows raise a bit and she shakes her head, trying to convince me as well as herself that it’s not true.
“Security blanket? No, that’s not what you were. What you are. I love you, Faith, and I want you here with me. Need you here with me.”
She takes a few steps forward until she’s standing just in front of me, an arms length away. Tentatively, she reaches her right arm out to me and rests it on my upper arm, but I don’t even react to the touch. I’ve made myself numb so that I can go through with this. Not even the power of the Slayer-tingles can break through my resolve right now.
My mind is made up, and I know what I have to do.
“I don’t doubt that you love me, B. I know you do. Or at least I think you do. But you’re not in love with me. There’s a difference. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with you. Madly. I’ve done everything that I can to keep you with me and to make you fall in love with me back. But, in light of recent events, I’ve come to the conclusion that you’ll never love me the way that I love you. It’s not fair for me to keep trying when you’ll just . . .never get to that point.”
She pulls her hand back to her side and keeps staring into my eyes, her lip trembling a bit as my words wash over her.
“That’s not true. I am . . .” She begins, but I cut her off before she can finish her sentence.
“Don’t.” I say, shaking my head just once as I let my eyes close. If I let her finish that sentence, I’m gonna break. I need to stay focused and get this over with.
And I think the situation is really starting to sink in with her. She knows that my mind is made up, and I think she just figured out that there’s nothing she can do to stop it. Not by being pouty and sad, anyways. I open my eyes just in time to see her wipe her tears away with the back of her hand before walking a few steps away and turning her back away from me.
“So this is how it’s gonna be.” She says, and I can tell that her jaw is clenched. “Something doesn’t go your way and you run, just like always. That’s so cowardly, Faith.”
Ahh. Reverse psychology. I know it well. How so? Because I always fall for it.
She says my name as if it hurts to say it . . . like it’s leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. She’s trying to piss me off, just so that I show some kind of emotion.
Well, it worked. My sense of ‘cool’ is gone.
I take a step forward in her direction, letting my arms flail around as I start to rant.
“Hey, you don’t get to make judgments like that, Saint Buffy. The day that you asked Anya to hide our ‘relationship’ is the day that you gave up that right, and when you came here yesterday and told me that you were gonna keep ‘dating’ Riley, I decided that I’m not gonna give you that right back. I’ve had enough of your bullshit, so you can find someone else to mindfuck. I’m done being the ‘dirty little secret’.”
Hello, Angry Faith. Welcome back.
Ha ha! And now she’s even more pissed off. She spins around and gives me the most defiant look that she can manage. Her arms are crossed over her chest, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t just see her stomp.
“You were never my ‘dirty little secret’, Faith. I was just trying to keep our relationship safe from the judgment of my friends while I worked out the details of it in my head.”
Do you smell that too? More bullshit. I’m not buyin’ it.
“Bullshit.” I say, calling her out, taking another step towards her. “There are no details to work out, Buffy. I love you. You love me. Your friends and family love you, so they deal. It’s as fucking simple as that. But you, of course . . . you have to complicate things and over-think them. And if you haven’t realized the fact that your friends have probably known about us in their own way for months now, then you’re really not as smart as you’re given credit for.”
Zing! You wanna know how to really get Buffy’s attention? Point out that the secrets she thinks she’s keeping aren’t so secret.
Then question her intelligence.
Did I mention that Angry Faith likes to push people’s buttons?
The defiant look remains on her face, but I can see her fists clenching at her sides. I know that I’m egging her on, but I think that’s what I’m going for here. It’ll be a hell of a lot easier to walk away from her if we’re fighting; will make me wanna run back to her less.
“You’re such a victim.” She utters.
And here I was expecting her to go on the defensive. But I was wrong. She’s gonna keep attacking. Fine. She wants a victim, she’ll get a victim.
“Victim?” I say bitterly. “Hmm. Let’s see. You come to me when you feel empty or need something. You get your fill and then you leave and go back to your life, feeling happy and content and ready to deal, at least for a while. But me? I don’t have another life to turn to when you leave. You’re my life. And I can’t pretend that my heart doesn’t fucking break every time that you walk out that door.”
I couldn’t help the way that my voice trembled on that last sentence. I felt like I wanted to cry. Fuck, I can taste the tears in the back of my throat, feel my eyes stinging. I know that my resolve is breaking . . . not that I’m gonna run into her arms, but . . . I’m definitely a few steps away from letting the tears fall.
She must have noticed the tremble in my voice, cos suddenly she’s a step closer to me and looking up into my eyes.
“Faith . . . that’s not all you have. I’m not all you have. You have Giles, and my friends. And you have slaying.” She says, her voice soft as she tries to comfort me.
But her words have only served to piss me off even more.
“I have slaying?” I ask in disbelief, my voice going up an octave, my eyebrows raised.
Does she really think that slaying is something that I base my life on? That I would ever base my life on something like that willfully?
“Fuck that, Buffy.” I say, my voice dripping with anger. “Slaying is NOT my life. It’s not even a fucking hobby. I do it cos I’m meant to. I don’t get paid for it, I’m not gonna get famous for it, I don’t live for it, and I certainly won’t fuckin plan my life around it. And far as your ‘friends’ go . . . they’re not my friends, B. They don’t like me. They’d never waste their breath on me if I wasn’t a Slayer and somehow attached to you like that. They simply tolerate my presence. Trust me, they won’t fuckin shed a tear when they find out I’m gone, and they can go back to fawning over you and Riley.”
Did you ever watch a kid get yelled at in public? The way they kinda cower and slink back? I mean, that’s what I used to do when gettin’ screamed at by my parents. Part of the body’s natural instinct to protect itself, possibly from physical attack. But I’d never hit, B. I’d never put her through anything like that, like I used to get when I was young.
I think that I’ve already lost her attention at this point in time. She’s looking down at some random spot on the floor, her eyes welling up with even more tears, her head silently shaking back and forth.
She doesn’t wanna believe me. Doesn’t wanna believe that the words I’m saying are true. But she knows that I’m right. That she’s wrong. That her candy-covered world is suddenly taking a bitter turn.
“I have nothing, B. And I think you like that. You like having that kinda power and that kinda control over me. Gives your life that much more worth. And I don’t mind giving up some stuff for you, Buffy . . . any material things I had I would give up for you. But the way you use that power against me and don’t even realize it, or care even . . . it makes me feel weak . . . and it’s killing me.”
That last sentence made her eyes shoot back up to me, giving me a pained expression before sinking her eyes back down to that random spot on the floor.
Yeah, B. The truth hurts. Fuck, I’ve been able to learn that first-hand.
And I know I should stop talking. That I should just pick up my bags and go . . . get the hell outta here before I hurt her anymore . . . before I hurt myself anymore. But before I can stop myself, I let just a few more words slide out.
“So, yeah. Maybe I am a victim, Buffy. But yunno what? You made me that way.”
It brought the whole issue back home.
I was hurt . . . and she was the one who had done that to me. And in the space of 10 minutes, she went from thinking things were fine to knowing that her life, again, was taking a fucked up turn.
And it had been her own doing.
For someone who likes to think that she has a certain amount of control in her life, that musta been the thing that hurt her the most. She let things get this bad. She’s gonna have to step up and take responsibility for this one; nobody else can.
For the first time in forever . . . a ‘shitty situation’ isn’t my fault. It makes me feel a bit better about myself, but, still . . . shitty situation nonetheless.
I should be used to this kinda crap. Really. I never learn.
I turn away from her, about to just pick up my bags and be done with this all, when I hear a small thud behind me. I casually steal a quick glance over my shoulder to see that Buffy has fallen to her knees, her hands over her face as she weeps silently.
Part of me wants to watch her cry, just to get a little closure. Part of me wants to just walk out and start to move on.
But then there’s that little nagging part of me that still loves her so much, and wants to make sure she’s okay before I go. Cos, yeah . . . I’m still going. Ain’t nothin’ gonna change that.
I sigh aloud, knowing that I should say or do something, but not knowing exactly what.
With my eyes locked on her huddled figure, I manage a few jumbled words.
“Don’t cry, B. It’s not worth it.” I’m trying to be as emotionless as possible again.
Her head shoots up at me and she gives me a dangerous glare. It says, ‘back off’.
“Don’t tell me how to feel, Faith.” She spits out. “Go.”
And I stay.
And I’m still standing here, staring down at her.
Tell me again why I’m still fuckin standing here? I sigh.
I know why I’m still standing here.
Fucking lovesick fool.
“Run away, Faith. Run. Run away from me, because I’m a big, scary, nasty, un-loving, cold-hearted bitch, and because . . . because . . . because I don’t wanna hurt you anymore. I can’t. I won’t.”
She inhales a sharp breath before her shoulders start to shake uncontrollably with her sobs. God, she’s cryin so fuckin hard, and she’s just lookin up at my face . . . just watching me though her teary eyes.
And I realize that I don’t want to hurt her. I don’t wanna leave on a bitter note. I can’t. There’s still too much love.
I walk forward and drop to my knees in front of her, waiting just for a moment before I wrap my arms around her and hold her tight to me, trying to still her shaking body.
“Shhhh.” I whisper, one hand on the small of her back and the other on the back of her head, holding her to my shoulder and smoothing down her hair.
I hold her like that for a few minutes. There’s no fighting the few tears that escape down my cheeks. ‘Goodbye’ has never been a difficult thing for me before, but . . . this is just tearing me up inside.
It feels so final.
Her breathing finally evens out and I release my tight hold on her enough so that I can pull back and look at her face.
We stare into one another’s eyes for a few moments. Her tears are still falling, though silently now. Slowly, I bring my hands up to her face and run my thumbs over her cheeks, wiping her tears away.
A soft breath escapes her lips, and before I know what’s happening, we’re kissing.
Hard, deep, fast, desperate, wanting, loving, hating.
It’s her last attempt. Or maybe it’s her goodbye. I dunno. But I’m not fighting it . . . I’m just letting it happen . . . letting us feel for the last time.
Our arms find their way around each other and we cling tightly, our bodies swaying as we kneel there, the force of the kiss making us teeter back and forth.
When I feel her whimper into my mouth, I know I have to stop this. Once and for all.
I pull back from her mouth, resting my forehead against hers as we catch our breath. We’re still holding on tightly to one another, her fingers continually moving on my skin.
“Faith.” She whispers, trying to catch my eyes with her own.
But I just unwrap my arms from her and sit my butt back on my heels, looking down at my lap.
“Faith.” She whispers again, but I just can’t look up at her.
You understand, right?
With all of the strength and will that I have left in me, I stand up and turn around. I walk the few steps to my bags, bend slightly, and pick them up.
“Faith!” She says louder, pleading with her voice.
She knows I’m not deaf. I know I’m not deaf. I can hear her perfectly . . . but I’m not listening. I’m already out the door and walking down the hallway when I pick up her quiet whisper.
“Please . . . I love you . . . please.” Her words are being choked out quietly between sobs.
I feel so fucking cold-hearted that I can’t even force myself to turn around and look at her, or giver her any type of response at all. I’m walking through the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door rigidly, my jaw clenched tightly, my fingers gripping tight around the handles of my bags.
It’s not me. It’s the old Faith. The girl who doesn’t care and doesn’t feel and doesn’t get hurt. And something inside of me is screaming . . . trying to get my attention . . . telling me that I don’t wanna be that girl anymore. That I’ve changed. That Sunnydale has changed me into a person that I actually kinda like.
But it hurts too much being the girl that cares.
I don’t know if I can fully go back to being the old Faith.
So, I go for the next best thing. If you can’t take the Sunnydale outta the girl . . . take the girl outta Sunnydale.
As I walk out the front door and down the middle of the street towards the Sunnydale Bus Terminal, I can feel something wash over me. A light tingle that starts at my toes, courses through my body, and tickles my scalp. She’s watching me walk away, I can feel it. Just like when she used to watch me walk down her walkway from her bedroom window.
I stop dead in my tracks in the middle of the street. I know I shouldn’t, but . . .
I turn my head back and steal a glance up at the window. Sure enough, I can see B standing there, looking down at me. Her body jumps a little when she sees me look up at her, and we just lock eyes over the distance. Slowly, she brings her hand up to the window and places her palm flat against it, holding it out to me.
And of course, because it’s the way life always works out for me, the sky decided to start pouring buckets of rain on me at that exact moment.
Fucking priceless. Someone wanna write a book about this shit?
I give her a brief sad smile before nodding my head once and continuing my way down the street, my boots sloshing in the rapidly filling puddles.
I keep repeating “I am not making a mistake” over and over in my head, making sure that I can agree with it every time that I say it.
So far, so good.
I barely even realize that I had been walking for so long as I approach the bus terminal. It’s the middle of the night, so there’s pretty much no one around. An old man is propped up against the one bench with his suitcase against the building, using it as a pillow as he sleeps. There’s a greasy dude behind the ticket window, eyeing me up as I approach, his eyeballs popping outta his head as I get closer.
Hot girl. Lotsa rain. Wet t-shirt. You get the idea.
“Where you headed to, little girl?” He asks as he stares at my tits, bringing his eyes up to mine only after I pulled my jacket closed.
“Wherever gets me outta here the quickest.” I mumble as I pull a few soggy bills outta my pocket, tossing them on the counter.
He tears his eyes away from me for just a moment as he looks towards the large bus that is pulling up to the terminal.
Lazily, he brings his eyes back to my wet figure and looks me over some more like a total fuckin perv, waggling his eyebrows a few times.
“Bus 104 – non-stop to LA. Or . . . you could always spend the night here with me, sweet thang. I could show you a real nice time.” He says as he slides the ticket a bit my way, trying to keep it just outta reach.
Yeah fucking right. I use my slayer reflexes to slip my hand across the counter and grab the ticket before he could even realize that I had moved. He watched on in awe as I flung my bag back over my shoulder, my ticket in my hand.
“Keep dreaming, pencildick.” I say under my breath as I make my way towards the open door of the bus.
I hop up on the bus but stand for a moment on the bottom step, turning back to take a last glance at Sunnydale.
Yunno, it doesn’t look as bad as it did when I first stood here a year ago.
I should probably be having some kinda profound revelation as I take in my last breath of sweet air before turning back onto the warm and stuffy bus, but . . . there’s nothing.
I think Sunnydale taught me a lot, but the main thing I learned was that you can’t keep yourself aloof and unaffected when you drop anchor and try to grow roots. Maybe I’m not meant to have a home and friends and any other marker of stability.
Maybe when I was telling B earlier that there’s more to my life than slaying, I was being presumptuous. Maybe it’s all I really need.
Either way, I’ll have to find out soon.
As the bus takes off towards LA, I sit there in my soaking wet clothes and try not to think, cos all of my thoughts are going right back to the same place. Buffy, smiling. Buffy, laughing. Buffy, crying. Buffy, sleeping. Buffy, lying in my arms.
My life has been so completely consumed by her these last few months that I wonder exactly what I’m gonna do with myself now.
I’m wondering if I made a mistake.
I’m asking myself if I couldn’t have just learned to be her number two, her backup.
But then I remember how it made me feel, and how no matter how much I would change myself or try to accept it . . . I just couldn’t.
I settle back against the seat and rest my forehead against the window, watching the last year of my life pass before my eyes under the dark cover of the passing landscape. I know I can be strong. It’s who I am, or was.
As the bus passes the last streetlamp heading outta town, I catch something in the reflection of the window. Blonde hair just next to me.
I snap my head towards the aisle, my heart pounding in my chest as I prepare myself to see B standing there.
But she wasn’t. The old man with the briefcase is now across the aisle from me, sleeping with his arms folded across his chest and his head against the window.
‘It’s not her, Faith. It’s just her ghost. Don’t let her haunt you.’ I keep telling myself.
I sigh loudly, turning my head and pressing it back against the window.
‘Goodbye’ isn’t difficult. It’s fucking terrifying.
I’m so fucking screwed.
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