Night was the hardest. Buffy would lay awake for hours, tossing and turning in her Slayer school standard-issue twin bed with its two inch foam mattress and unfinished maple wood frame. She was used to crappy beds; that wasn't the problem. She'd slept in a dorm bed for a whole year, after all. No, the bed wasn't the problem.
Her brain. That was the problem.
No matter how easy her day was, how exhausted she was, how relaxed she should be, her brain would not shut off. Running and rushing, like sped-up videotape of a highway during rush hour. Some thoughts flew so fast, she couldn't even grab onto them before they spun away, just out of her grasp. Before she could realize her fingertips had only grazed the thought, fifteen more had blindsided her.
What if Dawn flunked out of college? What if a fire started in the kitchen and everyone was asleep? Where did I leave my keys? What's that noise?
Am I a terrible person?
The last one was the most common worry, passing through her brain every other second or so. Xander assured her regularly that she wasn't, even if she didn't bring it up. That was one of the things she loved about him. But how could she believe him, when there was so much evidence to the contrary?
The signs of her failure were everywhere. In the gaping crater that was once Sunnydale, where somewhere miles beneath the surface her mother's disturbed grave lay. In the avoidant and overly formal emails she got from Dawn, away at school and alone for the first time in her life. In the psychiatric ward of the school, where the girls who couldn't handle their new powers were kept.
The worst failure was the one she had to face every day. Faith's eyes, full of betrayal and hurt and guilt every time she looked at Buffy.
Sure, things seemed okay on the surface. She and Faith talked, joked even, and they worked together well enough. But that look in her eyes never changed, never went away. Buffy had failed her, and she knew it, and sometimes she wished Faith had the guts to scream it at her.
She never dreamed she'd miss having Faith hate her, but honestly, the hurt was worse. She wanted Faith to get angry, violent even, and maybe they'd fight and be able to move on. Instead, Faith sat there and laughed and laughed and the more she laughed, the more Buffy broke inside.
Nights were the hardest, but that didn't mean the days were easy. Especially when she was sitting at her desk, lost in thought, her paused pen soaking ink through the top two sheets of paper beneath its fine point, and suddenly a voice interrupted her thoughts. It wasn't so bad when it was Giles, or one of the girls complaining about a backed up toilet.
"Hey, you got those forms for the trip?"
Buffy looked up quickly, her thought train derailing when she caught Faith's gaze. "Uh.. What?"
Faith waved a pamphlet at her. "The senior trip." She paused, waiting for Buffy to catch up. "The seniors.. Are going.. On a trip."
Buffy blinked. "Oh. Right. To Antarctica, right?"
"Argentina. But close enough. I just need the forms, the ones for the parents to sign. So I can give 'em out tomorrow."
"Argentina?" Buffy swung around in her desk chair, rifling through a pile of papers and folders, and pulled out a small stack that was held together with a bulldog clip. "Here they are. What's in Argentina?"
Faith took them and thought about it briefly, then shrugged. "Argentinians?"
Buffy closed her eyes briefly, unable to laugh. "Faith, I can't do this."
Faith looked around in confusion, frowning. "Um.. What can't you do?"
Buffy pushed her seat back and stood, gesturing. "This. This.. Come-in-here-and-laugh-about-Argentina thing. I can't do it anymore, Faith. I can't.. swap sandwiches and talk about Argentina, and act like everything is okay between us. I can't pretend this is all we are, and that we don't have this.. Really confusing, really fucked up past!"
Faith bit her lip. "These are the wrong forms." Buffy just stared at her, her eyes welling up in frustration. Faith sighed and set the papers down, her voice low but firm. "How long is this gonna go on, B? How many fucking years can we drag this out and go over and over the same god damn things? Why can't we just move on?"
"How can we move on when we haven't even dealt with this stuff?" Buffy asked softly.
"'We' don't have anything to deal with, B. I've fucking dealt with it. I dealt with it in my dreams for eight months, I dealt with it on the bus to LA, I dealt with it while I was hidin' out in Angel's basement and duckin' bullets with you and signing my god damn confession, and I dealt with it for three years in prison! What the hell else is left for me to deal with?"
"Me!" Buffy cried out, stamping her foot. "I can't even look at you, without.."
Faith reached over and grabbed the correct stack of papers, looking at her sadly. "That's not my problem, Buffy. That's yours. Far as I'm concerned, we're cool. I've forgiven you, and I've forgiven myself. I can't make you feel the same way, though." She swallowed hard, her voice lowering a little. "I never could."
She looked at Buffy sadly, and walked out with the papers in hand.
Buffy watched her go, a few silent tears making their way down her cheeks.
And later that night, she lay in bed again. Her thoughts rushing, racing, and suddenly they came to a dead halt. She got up. Walked out the door. Headed down the hall and never even paused, despite the fact that she'd never been to that room before. She knocked. Waited. Knocked again, louder. Faith opened it.
Buffy kissed her.
Faith pulled back gently, her voice soft. "What..?"
"I forgave you a long time ago. I just.. Never could forgive myself. Couldn't.." Buffy paused, searching for the words. "I can't.. Just let myself have whatever I want. I can't just do what I want. And I can't just.."
Buffy stared at her feet in dismay. "I don't even think I know how to anymore."
This time, Faith kissed her. They moved closer. The kiss deepened. Arms wrapped around each other.
The door shut.