Faith slammed the back door behind her and the room let out a collective sigh of relief.
"What was all that about?" Xander asked, looking from Willow to Giles and back again.
"Well, tensions are running high, as we know, and Slayers do have rather passionate demeanor," was Giles' explanation.
"Whoa, you mean passionate like as in getting it on?" The pubescent boy in Xander smiled gleefully, having no idea how close to the truth he was. "You think that was a lovers' tiff?"
"I meant nothing of the sort. I mean passionate as in explosive. They are both highly strung characters and the current strain is bound to affect them."
"Yeah, plus the whole Buffy and Faith history thing. Buffy was saying earlier that they'd had words. I don't think she's handling having Faith back very well." Willow confided.
"Maybe not Will, but Buffy just blew up big time for no reason. I mean, do any of you know what she was going on about?" Xander asked. "'Cause that didn't seem like 'normal Buffy' to me; that sounded like 'loose wires Buffy'".
"She did seem rather irrational. I wonder if it's wise to leave the two of them out there alone," Giles pondered.
Dawn was at the door looking out into the dark yard. "It's okay, they're not fighting they're just standing there yelling at each other from what I can tell."
"Oooh open the back door a bit so we can hear them," Xander suggested.
Dawn went to comply, but Giles spoke first.
"Don't you dare. They obviously have a private matter to discuss, so it's best to leave them to it."
Xander looked at Giles, hurt. "I only meant so we could hear what was going on, you know, 'cause then maybe we could help."
"Yeah, 'course you did Xander," Willow responded sarcastically, while firing up her laptop. "Now mind your beeswax. They're not getting it on, I'd know."
"Bet you a dollar," he muttered under his breath.
Spike stood in the shadows of the trees. He could clearly see the vineyard from here but he hoped he was far enough away not to be detected by the Bringers. He'd been standing there nearly an hour just watching and smoking cigarette after cigarette.
Images of the past ran through his mind. Meeting Buffy, trying to kill Buffy, falling in love with Buffy, making love with . . . 'hang on a minute, making love isn't what that was, it was shagging' . . . Buffy. He quietly laughed at himself. He had stormed off to get away from the blonde Slayer and now, like always, he could think of nothing else. He'd known her for barely six years for Christ's sake, how could she have this much affect on him? He had been in love with Drusilla for over a hundred yet now his Sire was merely a phantom from his past, where as he couldn't remember a time without Buffy. The Slayer was all he lived and breathed . . . 'Well okay not breathed and I guess technically not living either, but definitely bloody important - why am I arguing with myself?'
He shook his head at the absurdity of it all, but then tensed quickly when he saw three Bringers go scurrying into the vineyard, pickaxes over their shoulders.
"What have we here then?" He muttered inaudibly, but did no more than light another cigarette.
His mental voyage through the past inevitably brought him to the show he'd witnessed tonight. His fists clenched at the memory. He told himself it wasn't the fact she was kissing someone else, it was who she was kissing.
He had told her a few weeks back that he was over her, which they both knew was a lie. She had told him she was over him, countless times, which he believed to be a lie. Not that he was prepared to test his belief. The last time he had called her bluff it had ended in tragedy. And if he thought he'd felt guilty at the time, it was nothing compared to shame and disbelief and horror he felt since having his soul returned. It was the reason he'd tried to cut it back out. The remorse for the numerous deaths he'd been responsible for were like pleasant dreams compared to the nightmare he relived every time he remembered...
. . . the Summers' bathroom . . . Buffy crying out as she slipped . . . as he tried to explain . . . to make her understand . . . the sound of fabric tearing . . . the smell of fear . . . the look of disgust . . . "Ask me again why I could never love you?" . . .
There was a dull thud as Spike's fist shot out and connected with the rough bark of the tree. The pain made him hiss through his teeth, but that coupled with the sight of his own fresh blood on his hands snapped him back to the present.
He didn't expect her to love him anymore. He knew he didn't deserve that, but that didn't make the torch he held for her go out. And he'd be damned if he was going to stand by and let that second rate Slayer get her jollies at Buffy's expense. Faith was bad news, he was convinced of that. Buffy had been acting a little strange ever since she'd arrived. Defensive and suspicious with everyone - everyone except him. He allowed himself a small smile until he remembered her words from earlier.
". . . Anything that was between us isn't there anymore. You killed it!"
Well if that was the case then why did she ask him not to leave one minute ". . . I'm not ready for you to not be here . . ." and then berate him for protecting her the next? No matter what she thought, he had been helping her tonight, even if he was only saving her from herself. The jealousy hadn't even hit him until he'd seen the raw desire in her eyes as he'd pulled Faith away. The same look he used to awaken.
No, he didn't buy it. The night Wood had organized his little death party with Spike as the guest of honor, Buffy had come running with tears streaming down her face and he knew she wasn't crying over the bloody principal.
There was still something between them. It might not be love, but it was something. And even if he never held Buffy in his arms again he would always feel that something. So Faith had better watch out because he wasn't about to let the dark Slayer do any more damage than she already had. He knew from the stories he had been told that she had tried to destroy Buffy's happiness on more than one occasion. Well she hadn't figured for Spike's presence this time around, had she? Let her try her worse.
Movement coming from the vineyard entrance stirred him from his deep thoughts and he instinctively slipped further into the shadows of the trees. A pack of a dozen or so Bringers walked purposely up the path, carrying something large and cumbersome, and disappeared into the black night. Spike watched them go, interested.
"Let the fun begin," he muttered under his breath as he soundlessly moved closer to the entrance.
"Right Faith, game's up. I want to know what you're playing at, right now!" Buffy had left the kitchen and stalked to the back of the yard with her back to the shadows and the light from the windows illuminating her face.
Faith slammed the back door behind her and spoke calmly as she strolled over.
"You're warped, y'know that? I dunno how you've managed to save the world so many times when you're so busy living inside that head of yours." She stopped a foot in front of the older Slayer, her back to the light, her face wreathed in shadows.
"What's that supposed to mean? Why can't you give me a simple straight-forward answer for once?" Buffy raged.
"You want a straight answer, B?" Faith smirked, Buffy could hear it in her voice. "You won't like it."
"Why don't you try me?" Buffy winced at her double-entendre. 'Talk about leaving yourself wide open. . . . Was that another one?'
"Okay. I'm not playing one." Faith answered casually, leaning back on her heels, shoving her hands deep into her jeans pockets as she assessed the other woman's reaction.
"Oh please, pull the other one, it plays Christmas jingles." Buffy sighed in frustration. Her fists resting on her hips, as if she wanted to keep them handy in case she needed them.
"Look B, I appreciate you might find it a bit hard to understand . . ."
"Not hard to understand F. Hard to believe is more like it."
Faith made an irritable noise in the back of her throat at being interrupted. "I was going to say hard to understand that you're not the be all and end all of my life, not everything I do is about you." 'Liar, liar - shut up!' "But I think you summed it up better B, in your self-involved world it probably is hard to believe."
Buffy huffed loudly at that, but for a moment was lost for words. Bested again at her own game. 'God now who's playing games? Why is this so difficult. There are about twenty people in my house right now, why is this the only one I can't have a civil conversation with?' Buffy shook herself out of her reverie when Faith began to speak again.
"All I seem to keep doing is trying to convince you I'm on your side now. And I'm sick of it." Faith's voice was firm and even. "So I'm only going to say this once more, got it? I'm here cause Red told me my help would be appreciated. Which is not something I'm used to, but I'm kinda getting a taste for it. So I came. Wes had organized me a little sabbatical from the pen and I figured I'd be more useful here than back in my cozy little cell."
Buffy opened her mouth to respond but Faith's hand quickly shot up between them.
"Don't even think about saying anything smart, cause I swear to God that I'll wipe the floor with your ass right here."
Buffy was clearly annoyed at the threat, but let it go, saying simply: "Go on."
"Yeah okay, well that's not the only reason . . ."
"I knew it!" Buffy muttered triumphantly.
Faith's scowl was lost in the dark, but Buffy heard the impatient growl. She just smirked in return.
"The other reason actually does have to do with you," Faith told her.
Buffy's smirk grew.
'Why am I telling her this? After everything I just said about her not being the reason I came back and now I'm telling her it was,' Faith thought, embarrassed. She knew why though. It had to do with their conversation in the basement. It had to do with wanting that Buffy back instead of the sneering bitch in front of her. She knew she was could be facing one Hell of a smack down if Buffy didn't want to hear what she had to say but she plunged on anyway.
"That night on the roof. In L.A. The last time I saw you before I turned myself in. You hated me. I could see it in your eyes."
Buffy didn't deny it; she had hated her at the time.
"When I tried to say sorry and you said you'd kill me if I did . . . Well I never did say it, did I? . . . And then on the roof when I . . . Do you remember what I said, about not being able to do anything to make it right, to make it up to you?"
Buffy nodded silently. She remembered the whole night only too well. The sound of the helicopter. The harsh wind the rotor blades created, stinging her cheeks and causing her eyes to tear. The feeling of defeat when she thought Faith had run off again. The shock at seeing her at the police station. How young she'd looked when she was lead away for questioning. The argument with Angel afterward. Oh she remembered everything, she just wished she didn't.
"Well I thought about that a lot. Y'know, I didn't want to, but it turns out you get a lot of time on your hands inside, who'da thought it? And well, of all the unpleasant thoughts I had to keep me company, that was one of the better ones."
"Faith if you're looking for sympathy, you're hunting in the wrong place cause there's none here," Buffy told her coldly.
"I don't want your God-damn sympathy, I want you to listen to me!" Faith's voice began to rise in exasperation.
"Well you coulda picked a better time for your little confession session. I'm about to go off and fight a lunatic padre who wants to crush my bones to bake his bread so I'm running a little short on patience. So either spit it out or save it for later. With any luck he'll kill me and it'll be too late," Buffy said flippantly.
Whoosh. Buffy had the all too familiar sensation of flying before her back slammed the ground and the air was knocked from her. Before she had time to register why she was laying on the ground Faith's shadow swooped over her and the dark Slayer's fist connected sharply with her nose.
"Oww!" Buffy fumed before she was picked up by the lapels of her jacket and thrown backwards towards the edge of the yard. As she tried to sit up a foot connected with her chest and she fell backwards again.
Faith loomed over her, her shadow leaving Buffy in darkness.
"You know what? Screw you, Buffy Summers. You ain't all that. You live your life in your little fairy world where you're always right and everyone else is always wrong. But you know what? You're the one that's wrong. You're messed up. You're lording it the high and mighty over all your friends while you're screwing a soulless vampire behind everyone's backs. You're so far the wrong side of right you can't even see it anymore. You once said you wanted to be my friend, well guess what? I think I'll be better off without. I mean is there anyone of your friends who's life you haven't completely ruined?"
Buffy tried to spring to her feet but Faith was stood right over her and just punched her straight back down to the ground.
"No, don't get up on my account. Look at Willow. She was a poor sweet geek before she met you and then last year she goes and tries to destroy the world. Can you honestly say that would ever have happened if she didn't know you? And poor Xander, aside from his recent handicap . . ."
Buffy lunged again but was met with a kick under her chin. Her head snapped back and she lay on the grass dazed, while Faith continued to rant.
". . . the guy didn't have much going for him thanks to you. He only attracts demon women cause that's all he meets. He can't tear himself away from his precious little Buffy to find a real woman. Then there's Dogboy, Red's girl getting killed and Anya; well I gotta admit you probably can't be totally to blame for her. The girl's just weird, even for a demon. But do you get my point? Can you see the common denominator here?"
Faith leaned over Buffy. "You are. Their lives would be so much easier if they weren't friends with you. You've bound them to you in such a way that they feel that walking away from your stuck-up ass means walking away from their responsibility to the world, but it never should have been their responsibility in the first place. Normal friendships don't have these issues."
"How would you know Faith? You don't have any friends," Buffy retorted, her breathing heavy. Tears were streaming down her face but she was pretty sure Faith couldn't tell in the darkness.
"Ah, well that's where you're wrong again, B." The brunette dropped down heavily on top of Buffy, her knees catching her under the ribs, winding her again. She smiled as the blonde exhaled loudly. "I have friends. I have Angel and Wesley and who else? Oh yeah, now this might sting a bit: Willow. Yeah, I know, it was kinda a shock to me too, but yep; Red's forgiven me. Or at least we've come to an understanding. Cause they all know something you're too dumb to figure out."
"And what would that be Faith?" Buffy panted.
"That I've changed. That I'm sorry."
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