Man, the sun's bright today. It's hurting my eyes even with these sunglasses on. I don't remember the parking lot being so far from the front door either. Jesus, this kind of shit's why they make the nighttime. Great, everybody's in the lobby, perfect ending to a perfect night.
The plan's to move as quick as possible, no eye contact, no stopping or talking back. Xander says hi, Red gets to her feet but I blow by her, and G-Man's trying to say he'd like a word. Whatever, you assholes are way too slow…and then I barely stop in time when B slips in front of me. I bump her a little as it is, but she doesn't budge.
"Where have you been?"
"I was out."
I wasn't seeing double anymore, and I didn't get why she was talking about herself like there was more than one of her.
"Good for you. I need to sleep now."
She didn't move except to slowly take off my sunglasses. Fuck, sunlight's really bright bouncing off a marble floor. I squinted at her trying to look tough, but I don't give a shit how cool you are – it can't be done, not when you're squinting in pain.
"That's where the sleep helps out."
She still didn't move and it was so quiet you coulda heard a Kleenex hit the floor.
I don't know what she was gonna say, but after a pause she changed her mind and stepped aside. I didn't waste a second and headed up the stairs. Evidently there really was a God because I sure as shit didn't wanna talk it over with her; I just wanted to be left alone.
My place was nice and dark like a cave, the way I like it, and I tossed my jacket on the couch by way of the floor as I went past. I pissed, washed my hands, and splashed some cold water on my face. I glanced at myself in the mirror, and yeah, I looked like shit. I dunked my head under the faucet for a minute and let the cold water numb me. It felt like a real slice of Heaven and the pounding eased up, but the second I got out from under, the slice felt like it came straight from Hell and the pain was even worse.
I grabbed some aspirin out of the medicine cabinet and took a few, slurping them down before I shut off the water. I pulled off my shirt as I walked, unbuttoned my pants and sat down. It took more effort than I wanted to spend to tug off my boots and kick my pants all the way off, but I managed before I fell back on the bed.
It was time to thank God again because my pillows were soft and made me feel like maybe my head wasn't gonna crack open after all. It was nice and dark, there was no noise at all except the sound of me sniffling. Yeah great…time for the waterworks again. Shut up, Faith.
All I could think about was the talk. I hadn't planned to have it when we did, hell I wasn't planning to ever have it. But then life never goes how you want it to, at least not for me it doesn't, and why should this have been any different?
It was definitely my fault all the way. I've been acting bitchy as fuck, and even though I'd swear to myself that I wasn't gonna, I couldn't seem to help it. B tried to weather it out, but when you keep getting smashed by the storm you gotta start protecting yourself.
I knew if I kept going it would mean we'd have to get into it, but I couldn't stop being mad, hurt, fuckin' devastated. It'd been building for a while, and now I had it up and running. I was drinking a lot, something I knew B didn't like, and I wasn't exactly talking much or showing her anything good about me.
Still even with all of that set-up, I was surprised when it went down. I never would have thought the sun would be shining and it'd be two in the afternoon when the shit hit the fan. Not that I have a lot of experience with talks in general, but I just figured'em for the night time – maybe on a slow patrol or somethin' like that.
We'd just had lunch, some leftover subs, and I was still sitting at the table wishing I could fuck her and drink myself to sleep. Despite everything, we were still having sex and it was still crazy good. I guess nothing can ever stop that, but it wasn't easy like it used to be.
We're all tense with each other and I think I always start off way too rough. Sure she's a Slayer and can handle it, but sometimes Buffy likes it gentle and girly. I tell myself to do it that way every time, but I never can anymore.
I take her and I take her hard, like I'm trying to…I don't know. Maybe I'm trying to show her how I feel or maybe I'm just trying to hold onto her, I don't really know. I just know I'm too rough and it doesn't make me feel good. I guess maybe it's not such a big thing because B usually slows me down, makes me fall in line. And it's not like she's a pushover or not rough herself sometimes, but I know I'm fucking it up.
Anyway, she was putting dishes in the dishwasher, I was sitting at the table, and just like always when Buffy's anywhere around, the sunlight was like a flood of warmth and goodness all over the place. I kept shifting, trying to edge out of its way, but just like it had eyes, it kept finding me. Right at the big moment my arm was resting as close as possible without tipping over into the light, and I didn't have a clue how long I could hold it off and still hold on.
"We can't keep doing this."
I overreacted, or at least overreacted for the minute:
"Time to break-up, Princess?"
She looked like I'd slapped her.
"What? Why would you go there?"
I didn't answer her, but the truth of it was why wouldn't I? I'd been going there for weeks in my head, and the last few days I'd started earning frequent flyer miles. She stood there looking ticked off and a little scared, which meant she was gonna be majorly pissed if I didn't answer her.
"I don't know, B. I was just mouthin' off."
She sat down at the table and took my hand, winding our fingers together. I looked down and yeah, of course. The sunlight was all over us and man, did I ever wish it could mean what I wanted it to. I tried to pull back, but unless I wanted to go all Slayer on her, that wasn't gonna happen.
"I've been trying hard not to push, Faith, but whatever's going on is affecting us now and not in a good way. You need to tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing, it's not important."
"That's a lie and we both know it."
"Stop makin' a big thing."
"Stop pulling away from me."
I looked down at our hands again.
She wasn't letting go, but I had to move. I pulled away and stood up, but it wasn't cool like in a movie and I looked like a jerk yanking away from her.
"It's my thing, okay? I'll deal with it."
"Like you have been? Because at the rate you're going…"
"Buffy, back off."
"Why? So you can just keep…"
She was up and in my face.
"No, I'm not leaving it. You're not dealing, you're brooding and being all 'Dark Faith'. What's going on?"
I couldn't tell her. The second I did meant we were over and as pathetic as it made me, I just wanted to hold onto her as long as I could.
I headed for the door, but the flat of Buffy's hand slammed it closed a second after I opened it.
"I didn't let you get away with this when we were just friends and I'm definitely not going to now."
"Get your hand off the door."
"Or what, Faith? Are you going to hit me?"
"…I'm not gonna hit you. I'm asking you to let me open the door."
I turned to look at her and fuck me, she was beautiful. Her face was flushed, her eyes were angry and determined, and her Slayer strength and "Buffyness" were just pouring off of her. I wanted her so much, more than anything before or since, and I knew that would hold for every moment after I lost her. I stepped away from the door and tried to look calm.
"B, I'm just gonna grab some air. We can talk when…"
"I know how upset you are, Faith, and you're not walking out of here without telling me what's bothering you."
"This is stupid."
"Yes it is because you don't need to do this. Just talk to me. I'll listen, you know that."
I spun back around and tried to leave again, but this time her body pushed against mine, smashing me hard into the door. She so never plays fair.
"Baby, come on."
Her breath blew into my ear, her lips nibbled and her teeth nipped, then her tongue hit one of my spots.
She ignored me and with so little effort on her part, she had me. It was something so Buffy: her smell, the feel of her skin, her voice all low in my ear, fuck she was so perfect.
"Tell me what's going on. We'll deal, then spend the rest of the day and night in bed."
Tempting offers didn't come any more tempting.
It took everything I had to slide out from between her and the door, and I groaned as I went, almost every part of me yelling for me to stay right where I was.
"Listen, we're not talking or fucking right now. I'm going out."
She was mad and frustrated, never a good mix for anybody, let alone B.
"What is the big deal? Why won't you just say it?"
"Leave it alone."
She grabbed my upper arm and it felt like a vise.
"Just tell me, Faith!"
I tried hard to shrug her off, to avoid her eyes, but she wouldn't let me.
I wasn't going to, but she was too close. Her eyes were looking right into me and all of this emotion was humming between us. I just blurted it out:
"I fucking love you, okay?!"
The stunned look on her face hurt me more than anything ever has in my life. She stood there not moving, not speaking, looking nothing but shocked. She finally let go of my arm and I took a few steps back from her.
"You…you love me?"
"Wow. Great talk, B."
She started looking a little more with it, her mouth was closed at least.
"I didn't know."
"What, I didn't do it right? Some important thing I left out?"
"No, it's just…you don't…you've never been in love with anybody."
"'Cept for this one chick from the second I met her."
Now I was pretty sure I saw pity. Was it possible to wish yourself dead and really make it happen? Never worked when I was evil or on the road to recovery, but since I was a good guy now, I was hoping maybe the Powers would cut me a break.
"…I love you too."
There they were – the words I'd wanted to hear back in Sunnydale, in L.A., in prison, in Sunnydale again, in Italy, here in Cleveland for years. She loved me. Buffy loved me…but I knew and I couldn't pretend.
I knew not to, but I couldn't shut up and I pushed it.
"How do you love me?"
"I don't understand what…"
"Is it like a 'world changing, heart pounding, can't live without me' kinda love?"
"I…You make me happy, you make me feel safe."
"So like you feel about Red, only me and you, we got benefits. That how it is, B?"
She looked like I was pulling out her guts, everything showing on her face. Still shocked, trying to sell me on how she felt while doing her best not to hurt me.
I was just one in the crowd now, just some poor fool who'd thought they could win the heart of the fairy princess. Please let me die…
"No, of course not…I don't…It's different…You make me feel like I belong somewhere."
"Wow, cue the romantic music. I'm all swept off my feet here."
She reached for me, but I moved away.
"Faith, you're putting words in my mouth. I'm…I need to think here, okay? You caught me off guard."
"Off guard? We've been together almost eight fucking months, Buffy. Think you've had plenty of time to figure out how you feel."
"I need to go, I can't be here anymore."
I walked to the door, but she grabbed me and spun me around.
"Faith, please… "
She started crying and if only I owned a heart of stone I could have used it. Instead I put my arms around her and pulled her in tight. She leaned into me, her face nestling against my chest.
I held her for a few, then kissed the top of her head.
"I'm just gonna go get some air. I'll be back, okay?"
"I want you to stay."
"Yeah, well it's a day of nobody gettin' what they want."
And I left, only I wasn't gone for just a few hours like I thought I was gonna be. I was gone all night and all the next day and night too. I wanted to just keep going, to pretend I wasn't who I was, that we weren't where we were, but I do my best not to lie to Buffy anymore. I told her I'd be back so here I am, even though I don't see how it matters at all now.
I keep trying to stop thinking, but I can't. I feel like crying, running, anything to stop seeing how fucking shocked she looked. It was like she'd never even thought about love when it came to me, like she'd have been less surprised if Bigfoot got down on one knee and proposed to her.
I felt her before I heard her. She came into my room all quiet like she belonged, and she sat down on the side of the bed right next to me.
"Where were you?"
"I was out."
"No place, everywhere. I don't remember."
"…I was worried."
I rolled away from her which fucked up my perfect head sitch.
"I'm a big girl, Buffy."
"You're not acting like one."
I switched to my stomach, but that was no good, so I tried to go back to my original position.
"Whatever, okay? I just wanna…"
Her hand brushed against my hair and it seemed like she pulled all of the pain outta that part of my head. I wanted to roll away or better yet just leave again, but her hand was like magic and I couldn't move.
She stretched out next to me, her back against the headboard with both of her hands on my head. It felt so good I moaned and edged closer, which was stupid. When I have a hangover, the last thing I want's somebody touching my head, but B's fingers were perfect and the pounding was fading with every stroke. Her voice was soft and low:
"You're making this happen, Faith. It doesn't need to be like this."
Her hands wove through my hair to the back of my head and the relief I felt was so strong, I could have started bawling. Her fingers were massaging me just right and the hurt was disappearing. I sighed and she spoke up again:
"I just needed a minute to let it sink in, is all."
My head was on her lap now and I couldn't help snuggling in.
She bent down and kissed my cheek.
"Okay, just relax. We'll talk later."
Her hands kept doing their thing and she put me to sleep pretty fast. When I woke up she was gone and so was my headache. I took a hot shower and got dressed, planning to sneak out if I could. I knew if she spotted me she was gonna wanna talk, and that was the last thing I wanted. I was already embarrassed and gutted enough, so I opened the bedroom door careful and slow. Maybe she was downstairs or in the kitchen or in Red's room bitching about me.
Or maybe the place was all cleaned up, my jacket was hanging on the back of a chair, and B was sitting on the couch reading a magazine, watching me trying to sneak out on her.
"Well, you look a lot better."
"Are you hungry? I made some…"
Then my stomach growled so loud it totally blew my cover.
"Come on, I've got it warming."
She led me to the kitchen, sat me down at the bar and started pulling some stuff out of the oven. She was trying to act like everything was normal, but I could tell by the way she held her body, the way she moved, that she was upset. And as fucked up as the sitch was, I didn't want Buffy hurting.
She pulled this goulash thing I love out of the oven and put the hot dish on the stovetop.
"I know how much you like this, so I thought maybe…"
I went over to her then and wrapped her in a hug. She started crying, not some big dramatic sobs, just quiet and scared like a little kid.
"Don't cry, B…please."
We stood like that a while until I felt her nod. She stepped back, and I got out a couple plates and some silverware while she grabbed the bread and butter and two cokes.
The food was just right, one of the few meals that Buffy makes like a pro, and it felt good going down, 'specially when I knew for sure it wasn't coming back up. When we got done we just sat where we were, me tapping on the counter, B swirling her coke around in the can.
She turned her head to look at me.
"Maybe it'd be best if I just…you know."
Now she was pissed, and she stood up and went almost nose to nose with me.
"If you what, Faith?"
"Say it, you coward."
"Hey, I'm trying to think about you here."
She looked like she wanted to paste me.
"You're not thinking about me at all. If you were, none of this would be happening."
"That's not true!"
"I don't want you to go, Faith, I never want you to go. I'm happy when you're with me, it's you who has some crazy idea how much…"
I got up then – mad, sad, scared, just every fucking emotion there was.
"So it's my fault because I want you to love me?"
"I do love you, you stupid idiot!"
"You know what I'm talking about!"
We just stood there staring at each other until she walked over and sat on the couch. Her head was down and she never looked up as she spoke:
"I love you, Faith."
"…Yeah, guess it's not enough."
"Why? We're so good together or we were until you started this whole thing."
I crouched down in front of her and took hold of her hands:
"I think maybe I should just go for a while and…"
"No! If you go you won't come back."
I couldn't really argue with that, so I tried to explain.
"I'm so in love with you, B. It's basic, like breathing or eating or slaying. I feel everything for you, and I'm all alone here."
Her hand rubbed along my cheek:
"You're not alone, I love you too."
My hand came up and took hers again. I kissed it, then let her go.
"But not the way I do, Buffy. And I guess…I guess I can't handle it."
"Faith, what are you talking about? I'm looking you right in the eye and telling you that I love you. You make me insanely happy, I don't want to be without you, how can that not be enough?"
"Look, I thought I'd be different. I thought I could be the one."
She was starting to get pissed again, and I didn't know how far I should take it. I didn't wanna hurt her or get my ass kicked, but she really didn't seem to understand.
"I watched'em, B, every single one. They couldn't bust through, but I thought I could."
"What are you talking about?"
"You don't know?"
"No, all I know is you love me, I love you, and we should be in bed together wearing nothing but big smiles. Instead you're trying to break us up, for what? Some fantasy of how much I should love you? Show me where the marker is, Faith, and I'll do my best to jump through all the hoops to get there."
She was outright mad now and I was the last person who could calm her down. Still, I had to try:
"I'm not asking you to jump through…"
"So that's what this is all about then? Me being lacking in the love department? Well, no surprise there, I'm always lacking when it comes to love. Angel, Riley, Spike, Daniel…. Now here you are, the person I love the most, the one who makes me the happiest I've ever been, and I still can't measure up somehow."
"Apparently I'm such a cold bitch I'll never make anybody happy. I guess I should be thanking you, Faith, for hanging in there as long as you did."
I just managed to get a hold of her as she cleared the door. My arms wrapped tight around her from behind and when I glanced down the hall, I saw Xander heading into his room. He was looking at us like he was caught in the middle of a war zone, and he just nodded and hurried inside. I could hear all of his locks turning as I hauled Buffy back into my place, flung her ahead of me, and got the door closed with both of us inside.
"Jesus, Buffy, would you…You're the one who likes to talk, so let's talk it through."
"Sorry, I'm not interested in standing here while you tell me how lousy I am at love, how much I've hurt you."
I could see the tears in her eyes and I felt so shitty. I just wanted to lay down on the floor and sleep for years. It wasn't all her fault, I knew that. I had way more issues than she did, and I knew they were somehow playing a huge part in how I felt. My buttons had definitely been pushed somewhere down the line and I guess you could say I was backsliding. And even though there was something kinda wrong with B when it came to letting people in, the biggest part was definitely on me.
I threw the glass dish I kept by the door into the wall by the window. We both just stood looking at it for a few, and I blew out a big breath trying to get some control of myself.
"B, look I'm sorry, okay? I don't know what I'm doing, which is wicked obvious since you think I'm blaming you for everything. I didn't mean…I'm just…Can we just be together tonight and forget about this shit for now? I miss you."
She didn't want to, but I saw her eyes soften.
"Fine, but if I wake up with you gone tomorrow..."
"I promise I'll be here. Slayer's honor."
We went into the bedroom, got undressed and into bed. King sized seemed huge what with all the distance between us. Her back was to me and I loved how her hair laid on her shoulder and how her muscles shifted when she breathed. I moved closer and brushed the hair off, replacing it with my lips.
She went stiff, but she made the little sound she makes when something feels good. I slid up right against her as I kept kissing. My hand trailed down her side, stopping at her hip to ease her back against me.
"Buffy, can I?"
She didn't answer, but I saw her hand go up to her face to wipe away some tears.
She turned to me then, her face so sad and serious.
"I do love you, Faith..."
"I know, baby."
Her leg flung over my side and her arm wrapped around my back pulling me closer.
"…more than I've ever loved anyone."
I kissed her, soft and tender, but Buffy wasn't feeling that. She smashed us together, our bodies and our mouths, and we made love hard and fast…then we did it all again.
It was only after that that she let me do it like I'd started to: all easy and slow and gentle. I wanted her to feel me, to know that I loved her, and I think she did. I felt her too, but I didn't exactly know what it really meant. We were a mess, all fucked up in all kindsa ways, but we fit just perfect as we fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms.
There are ways I've been fallin'
There are moments I hear redemption callin'
So come sweet fire of mercy
Warm me like the sun
To come…come undone
There are scars that I've been hidin'
There are closets I do not care to open
So come sweet fire of mercy
Warm me like the sun
To come…come undone
To come…come undone
-Come Undone - Jackson Waters
All the Time in the World
Okay, now we're really having fun, the kind that's not fun at all and makes you feel like you want to die. We're in some sort of weird holding pattern that reminds me of how we used to move so carefully around each other years ago, before we became friends. Everybody's noticed of course, and the people who've had experience with us in the past all look like the world's going to end sometime soon. If Faith leaves me, I think maybe mine will at least.
I feel so incompetent, like I was playing at something I didn't really understand. I thought this was just about Faith, but I see now how it's about me too. I was so focused on keeping it light so that I wouldn't scare her away, I ignored the fact that I can be hard to reach sometimes, that I can put up a wall.
But I'm not in denial about that anymore, I'm facing it head on. The problem now is that I want to take the wall down and let Faith in, but I don't exactly know how. It's been too long, and it's become such a part of me it's like asking me to stop being a blonde…which with an example like that, maybe I am a natural blonde after all. It's just that habits are hard to break, and when they're habits you've developed from protecting yourself? Well, it turns out that breaking your relationship with the woman you love is a whole lot easier to do.
Of course none of that even addresses Faith's issues. A well-adjusted person, a person without her awful background might not be as affected by my craziness, but then that's not who I'm involved with. I'm involved with Faith, the most complicated woman on the planet, and it's time for both of us to start helping each other behave with a little less of the crazy and a lot more of the mature.
I keep thinking back to the big fight we had a few weeks before this current situation got dragged out into the open. It was really the only big fight we'd had since getting together, and I didn't understand it at all at the time. It seemed to be coming out of nowhere to me, although looking back on it with what I now know, it's unfortunately all too clear.
It started with another end of the world crisis, and Faith and I disagreed on how to handle it. That wasn't the argument, that kind of fighting we can do in our sleep. As usual, we were both right and wrong, and with the gang's help we got the job done and saved the day…again
Everybody survived the battle, and aside from a couple of minor scrapes and broken bones to a couple of the other girls, we emerged unscathed. Faith rode home with the injured and I went with Will so that we could talk about exactly what spells she was going to use to destroy the talisman. She explained that it was pretty straightforward and she could handle it alone, so it was all "mission accomplished" and I was officially off the clock.
I couldn't wait to get cleaned up and be with Faith. Hungry and horny is a very real Slayer thing, and it doesn't get any better than dealing with the "hornies" when you're with Faith Lehane. Add in that we love taking showers together, it was nothing but good times ahead.
First though we needed a real clean-up, we were both covered in demon blood and other disgusting goo. The unspoken plan was to meet back at my place, which is what we do all the time. Faith basically lives with me, although sometimes for a change of pace we go to hers or as she likes to call it: "The Sex Pad". I don't know.
She told me to go ahead and get the water warm, she just needed to check on something. I figured that meant she probably wanted a cigarette, which she supposedly no longer smokes. I look at it like what I don't know won't kill her, so I got into the shower and put the water on as hot as I could take it.
Over the years I've gotten used to having icky stuff on me, but that doesn't mean I'm not thrilled to wash it off. The shower in my room is custom built and it's huge with heads and jets all over the place. I get slimed on a regular basis, so I said it was spare no expense and no skimping on anything. A clean Buffy is a happy Buffy, so I explained in great detail that we all needed to work together and build me the bathroom of my dreams. Giles was good about it, even letting me get a big Jacuzzi tub. My aching and clean muscles thank him almost nightly for his generosity.
It wasn't long before Faith slipped in behind me and I didn't say anything or even turn around. My eyes were closed and they stayed that way through four scrubbings and three hair washings. When I was finished, I didn't move from where I was. Faith needed some extra time due to her late start, and I knew that looking at her would make it almost impossible for me to give it to her. The extra time, I mean.
The water felt so good, especially on my shoulder. I'd taken a really hard hit there and it was sore and bruised, but the heat was taking away the pain pretty easily. Besides, I had other aches that were much more pressing and much more interesting to deal with.
I finally turned to Faith who was looking a little rattled. I figured the "hornies" had hold of her, something I was more than capable of taking care of. I smiled at the sight of her perfect body, her breasts should have their own TV show, and practically drooled at the thought of what I was going to do to her.
"So, Apocalypse number…Huh, do you think somebody's keeping track of that?"
"Pretty sure Giles is."
"Well until we know the official tally, let's just say we averted world endage again for the billionth time."
She barely smiled which wasn't like her at all.
"Hey, everything okay?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
Okay, I also knew how to end the grouchies. I moved in closer and wrapped my arms around her, ready to make her happy, non-grouchy and non-horny too. That's me – Buffy, the Full Care Provider.
I kissed her and it seemed like she stiffened for a second, but I assumed I just imagined it. I ran my hand slowly down her back, my tongue in her mouth, and she flinched and actually made a yelpy noise as she pulled away.
"Faith, what's the matter?"
She tried to return to the kissing, but no. I struggled to get a look at her back, but she kept moving around until I grabbed her arm hard and held her still. What I saw couldn't have shocked me more.
There was a really deep gash on her back and I quickly turned off the water. The blood was suddenly noticeable as it spattered on the floor and trickled slowly towards the drain. I took her by the arm again, but carefully this time, leading her out of the shower stall and over to the bed. I grabbed the first aid kit from under the sink as we left the bathroom, droplets of blood hitting the floor as we went.
"I need to see how bad it is and get the bleeding stopped."
She was walking with difficulty now, her adrenaline no longer zooming through her as the pain started to hit with full force. She sat on the edge of the bed and there was something about her that should have warned me, but I was way too focused on her wound to really process the signals she was sending out. I slipped on my robe and pushed on her carefully as I opened the kit, encouraging her to lie down on her stomach. She didn't move.
When I saw she was going to be stubborn, I stared at her without saying a word.
"Forget about it. Let's just…"
"Faith, I need to look at it."
"You looked, so let's…"
I kept staring and even though she was pissed, she finally did as I asked.
I was as gentle as I could be, and neither of us spoke as I wiped the blood away and checked to see if it was too deep for me to fix. She had the main gouge and a bunch of lesser scratches around it, making it obvious that she'd been clawed. She was lucky to be in as good of shape as she was.
"I don't like this."
"Yeah, me either. Wanna stop with the 'Florence Nightingale' routine and…"
"Why didn't you tell me how bad it was?"
I wondered if she'd gone crazy.
"Are you trying to say this doesn't hurt like hell?"
"No, I'm sayin' who gives a fuck?"
She sat up, and coupled with what she'd just said and how she'd said it, I was not happy at all.
"I give a fuck, Faith."
"B, it's no big. It barely even hurts so…"
"Now you're going to outright lie to me?"
"Okay, fine, it hurts! Happy?"
"Lie down, you need stitches."
She thought about arguing with me, but when she saw that I meant business, she did what I told her to. I folded a small towel and used it as a compress to try and stop the bleeding.
"I think Dr. Jansen is on call and…"
"We're not calling anybody. Just sew it up and get it over with."
"But we don't have any numbing stuff and …"
"For fuck's sake, Buffy, I think I can handle it!"
She was mad as hell, which if anybody should have been mad it was me. She was acting like a bitch and I didn't get it.
I put on some gloves and got everything set up.
"Yeah, like about a hundred hours ago."
I carefully removed the bloody towel and started stitching her up. I worked as fast as I could because despite Faith pretending it was no big deal, I knew it was really hurting her. I hated causing her pain and by the time I was finished, I'm not sure which one of us was the happiest.
We hadn't said a word the whole time I was working on her, and it was me who broke the silence. I took off my gloves and packed up the kit before I gathered the trash.
"We need to be careful, I'm not sure those are going to hold. You stay there while I get you something to drink. You'll have to wait to eat, but I could maybe get you…"
She sat up trying to stifle her groan, which was a total lost cause. I thought that was the craziest thing she could do, but then she stood up. She was all shaky and she went white, and I wanted to kill her.
"Stop bein' such a fucking nag. Not like you don't know the deal."
I wanted to punch her back onto the bed or at least shove her down, but that would have probably ripped her stitches apart so I restrained myself. It was hard to do though because she was pushing every hot spot I had, and it somehow seemed like she was doing it on purpose.
"But I don't ignore when I'm really hurt, Faith, and I don't act like an idiot either. You need to be still so you don't start bleeding again. It's really deep and you've already lost a lot of blood. I still think we should call Doctor…"
"Buffy, I'm not gonna just lay here and I'm not seeing any doctor. Now would you stop tryin' to win Brownie points by pretending you give a shit, and just leave me the fuck alone?"
I couldn't believe what she'd said. It was so over the top for the situation and so out of bounds at any time. It was just mean, it wasn't true, and to me it came out of nowhere.
She reached out to me, but I stepped back.
"No, don't touch me."
She didn't, she just stood there like the asshole she was.
"You go ahead and say whatever crap you want to, but you're going to get back into that bed and not move until your Slayer healing has had a chance to work."
"B, I didn't mean…"
"Get in bed."
And she did. Alone.
I went and got her six aspirin and a large glass of orange juice with a straw. I crouched down and helped her shift slightly so that she could swallow the pills and drink, and it took three glasses before she was no longer thirsty. She started to say something, but I picked up my pillow and walked out of the room. There were spare sheets and blankets in the hall closet and I made up the couch.
I checked on her every half hour and after two hours, I carried her to the bathroom and back after helping her do her business and get her t-shirt and boxers on. I spent the rest of the night checking on her, and it was almost 5:30 before I was sure that the stitches had done their job. The wound still looked ugly, but her Slayer healing was working at full steam.
"I think you're good. The stitches are holding and there's no bleeding."
"B…I'm sorry. Before when I…I shouldn't have said that."
"No, you shouldn't have."
I was mad and I was hurt, and I didn't want to talk to her. I went back to the couch to try and get some rest, but it wasn't long before she was there. I really wanted to yell at her for walking already, but I'd had enough. Let her kill herself if she wanted to so much.
She sat down carefully and pulled my legs onto her lap.
"Don't be mad I came out here. I went slow and I'm not doin' anything to pull the stitches."
I was facing the couch and I had no plans to turn around.
"Buffy, can we talk?"
"Look, I didn't mean that; it was wrong of me to say it. I don't know why I…Okay, yeah, I do know why I said it, okay? I just…I was having trouble letting you look after me. I've never had anybody do that before and it made me freak out."
"Yeah, I noticed."
"I like it, B, I do, but sometimes if shit's stirred up inside me, I get all…I don't know what I get, but I know I act like an asshole and I'm sorry."
I turned onto my back, leaving my legs on her lap.
"I think I understand, but you need to understand too. Of course I care about you and want to look after you when you're hurt. I wanted to do that when we were just friends, but you always blew me off. Now that we're in a relationship…"
"I get it's changed."
I didn't know what to say. I was glad she was finally acting normal, but I was still upset and worried.
"Faith, I know your life's been really different than mine, and I get how it messes up stuff for you now. But…you have to know I care about you and…"
"Yeah, I know, B."
"…you have to know it's not okay that you don't sometimes."
She was shocked and her grip tightened on my legs.
"Buffy, there's never a time I don't care about you."
"I always care about you, don't ever doubt that."
Boy, talk about making my point for me.
"I know you care about me, Faith. I meant sometimes you don't care about you."
"Oh. Fuck, I thought you thought…"
I swung off her and stood up.
"And that relief you're feeling? That's sort of what I'm talking about."
"How would you feel if I acted like you did tonight?"
I started to pace, but made myself stop after a couple of back and forths in front of the sofa.
"Why did you think it was okay not to tell me you were hurt?"
"I didn't… I didn't have some big plan. Yeah my back was killing me, but…I didn't wanna make a big deal about it."
Her words made me feel so sad and I felt like I could start crying. And murder her.
"That's great. So you what? Figured I wouldn't notice a gaping hole in your back, we'd have sex, and afterwards you'd bleed to death in my arms because you didn't want to make a scene?"
"I'm sorry, okay? For like the fifth time now."
"Is there some limit on how many times you can be sorry, Faith?"
"No, I just…I don't know what else you want me to say."
She really was an idiot. A stupid, damaged, hurt, abused idiot, and she just broke my heart sometimes.
"How about: 'I understand what you're saying, Buffy. I'll make sure to care about myself in the future, if not for me, then for you.' That'd be a really nice start."
"Fine, I'll do my best to give a shit, okay? Now can we just let this drop?"
I didn't want to let it drop, but we were both tired and she really needed to sleep and recover. I sighed and then offered her my hand:
"I left Giles a message that we were taking the day off, so let's just get some sleep."
We got into bed and after a subtle hint where she practically whimpered and nuzzled against me like a lonely puppy, I held out my arms. She fell asleep pretty fast, but I had a little more trouble. I tried to tell myself I was making a big deal out of a little glitch, but it didn't feel like a little glitch. It felt like I was involved with an abused kid who didn't want to admit when she needed help, an abused kid who was now a woman who didn't expect even the most basic of care from her lover.
It also felt like she didn't understand how I felt about her, but I justknew that couldn't be true. There was absolutely no way she couldn't see how happy she made me, there was no possibility that there was any confusion at all when it came to that.
I tightened my arms around her and kissed her cheek.
"You're safe with me, Faith. I promise you you're safe."
Good thing she didn't hear that promise that night because it was obviously one I couldn't keep. She doesn't feel safe with me, she doesn't feel loved either…at least not enough.
I never said it to her or got any deeper than I had to because I was trying to keep her at ease. I didn't want her freaking out on me, but of course by keeping it casual as much as I could, I made her think that I wasn't really into our relationship. The big bonus benefit with that was that I could keep myself emotionally protected a little bit too. I guess you could say I hedged my bets like I always do in any relationship, and Faith sensed it.
She reads people better than anyone I've ever known and she read me perfectly as far as that goes. It turns out that our combined history has every angle covered when it comes to us screwing up our relationship. Yep, Faith and I complement each other so perfectly, even our bad traits mesh together like they were made for each other. Thanks to those insecurities we're now in a huge mess.
But the good news is now that I understand what's going on, I think I can fix it. I just have to start dealing and dealing fast because otherwise Faith is going to be gone, and there is no way I want that to happen. Not ever.
She's still here, but she could decide just to take off at any minute. I feel like I'm on pins and needles all the time, and it's a horrible way to live. She's completely convinced that it's over, that there's no hope, but I don't believe that for a second. This is simply a glitch, a snafu, a wake-up call, and I will totally hang onto her leg if she tries to walk out the door.
I don't have any pride when it comes to that part of it. I want her, I need her, and I know we can work it out, even though she has no skills to deal with this kind of thing. That means it's mostly on me, which is kind of scary since I'm not exactly the Martha Stewart of long term relationships…which I'm fairly certain makes no sense as crafts aren't involved and we'd be in even bigger trouble if they were.
But I don't care if I'm talking stupid or if I'm forced to stencil our driveway. We're going to do the hard work and get through this if I have to kill us both to do it. All we need is for me to open up a little bit more and for her to understand that she's wonderful and well-worth loving. She has to learn to believe me when I tell her that I love her, and I have to understand that I'm in love and there's no holding back because I'm afraid she's going to leave me.
All we need is some time to make the adjustments that will get us past this stuff.
"Yeah, right. Nobody gets past shit like this, B."
"Yes they do, and besides – I don't care what other people do. They're not us."
She keeps trying to put it on a deadline. Like if we're not "here" by "then" it's over, we'll never make it.
"Faith, things like this take time. Just let us try without you making it 'do or die' right this second."
"It is do or die, B."
We had a big fight yesterday. I finally blew up at her, even though I repeatedly swore to myself that I wasn't going to do that. She's depressed and scared, and not the most pleasant person to be around right now. She's still drinking way too much even though I've asked her about a thousand times not to. She's bitchy and she's antsy too…in other words, she's a lot like Faith in the old days.
But this isn't the old days and we're not anywhere close to who we used to be. I know who she is now and I'm in love with her. Even though the confident woman who came after me seems to be long gone, I know she's still right here and I want her back. I love what we have and I'm fine with taking it to the next level. Now that everything's all out in the open, I can face up to everything and I can make changes.
It turns out that what I've always been waiting for is Faith, and now I have her. At least I think I still do, otherwise she'd be long gone by now. I know for a fact that she loves me, and looking back I can see she always did. I really dropped the ball on that one, but okay, I've picked it back up and I'm going to do something with or to it that means something crazy good in some sport.
So anyway, we were supposed talk yesterday and despite agreeing to that the night before, Faith clearly didn't want to when the time came. She'd been mad all day, drinking from lunchtime on, which means from the second she got up. Giles had spoken to me earlier that morning about taking her off of active Slayer duty, but I'd begged him not to. I suggested he keep pairing us together alone because that way if she got anybody hurt, it would just be us.
"Buffy, as much as I understand there's a rather unfortunate situation occurring, I cannot in good conscience continue…"
"Giles, please just give us a little more time. We'll get it straightened out soon, I promise."
"Perhaps I should try speaking with her again. Maybe this time she'll listen."
"I don't think she will, but I'm all for you trying…just not right now, okay?"
I could see he had doubts and was worried about both of us, but he simply nodded and gave me the smile he always does when he thinks I might get myself killed.
The day dragged by and then finally Faith and I had our calm night of dinner and conversation. The meal went well enough even though she was a little on the quiet side, but things changed completely when the conversation part of the evening rolled around. Her idea of talking was to give me one word answers to everything I asked, and she didn't speak at all unless I made her. I let it go for about ten minutes hoping she'd perk up, but then I'd had enough.
One word answers combined with her swigging her drinks straight from the bottle did not put me in a happy place, and I wanted to smack her upside the head to make her stop acting like an obnoxious brat.
"Faith, do you think you could put a little more effort into this?"
I did my best to stay calm, but it wasn't working very well.
"You should probably know that I'm at the point where I'm going to punch you if you give me another one word answer."
I just sat there staring at her while she refused to look at me; counting in my head until I was sure I had my temper under control.
"Wow, just imagine if you tried this hard to fix things instead of making everything worse by being a smart ass."
And no, I didn't punch her, but I did snatch her bottle of Jack Daniels and break it into a million pieces against the wall.
"What is this, Faith? I'm right here and I want you. I'm willing to do whatever I need to do to keep you, so maybe you could try concentrating on that instead of counting down the minutes until you leave."
I don't know if it was what I said or the destruction of her alcohol, but Faith was furious.
"Want me to drop to my knees now and offer my thanks? I'm countin' down the fucking minutes because that time's coming, Buffy. All that's stopping it from being now is that you feel guilty."
We had a huge argument then with both of us tossing out plenty of insults and blame. It ended with me storming off to the bedroom and her heading into the kitchen for a fresh bottle.
She's convinced herself that I don't love her and for whatever reason, she doesn't want to let go of that. No matter what I say or do, she's determined to break us up. It's crazy, but it's where she's at and so it's where I'm at too. I'm also mad at her because she's keeping us here, and I'm mad at myself as well because I'm the fool who led the way in the first place.
Oh yeah, we're having all kinds of fun now…and I'm scared.
The perfect moment captured
But it's gone just seconds after
If I could I would lay you down
If you could would you change your mind
Oh take your time baby
-All the Time in the World - Naked Blue