Review @ Norwalker
Part 20 of
" I'm really not getting you. I'm not getting you at all!"
Faith is pacing back and forth, unable to stay still. It's obvious she's upset and angry, but what's driving her is more than that. There's worry too, and plain perplexity, sadness and regret it's come to this. But it's come to this.
" I'd really love to get inside that head of yours, B. I really, really would. It must be fascinating in there, what with all those demons playing games in your mind. I'm hoping that's what this is. Some inner demons doing badness on you, because frankly, it's not making sense to me. You're acting like a child, you do know that, don't' you? A spoiled, really bratty child, I gotta say here. I know, I know, Angel's death really did a number on you. Well, me too. Willow too, lots of people, too. How 'bout Connor? Don't you think he's a bit bummed? At least he's not acting like a teenager about it, even though, he IS a teenager! But no, you're the only one acting like it's playtime here, and I'm simply tired of it. Get it? Tired of it. I want to be your friend, B. I want to try to understand you, but you're really making it hard. You know what I mean? It's like your smiling in my face and giving me the finger when my back's turned. What's bugging you? That I'm finally doing something with my life? Does that make you crazy? Shit, B, don't you think I should do something with my life? Wait… this isn't about me, though, is it? It's about you. You, you and you. God, I'm so damned tired of hearing about YOU! Get this, B, I'm about a millimeter away from pounding you into the ground. You can call me whatever, do whatever you want to me. Don't care, get it? But now you screwing around with Kira, and Willow… and we still have that little matter of Connor to deal with. Oh, yeah, I remember that too, got it? God, I so want to wipe that smirk off your face with my fist, B. What do you think of that?"
Willow sits look at Faith, hands in her lap, head cocked to one side. She has a concerned expression on her face. " Maybe a little harsh?"
Faith sighs, walking over to Willow, sitting on the bench next to her. She takes one of Willow's hands and holds it tightly, as if trying to find some kind of anchor. They're in the garden, it's early morning, and Buffy is still sleeping off last night's hangover. It's a week after the incident in the club, and Faith has had to 'rescue' Buffy from herself three times. Last night was the worst. After harassing some people, she went nuts and trashed the bar. The only way Faith was able to keep Buffy from being busted and doing jail time was to go and pay for the damages, and smooth things over. It wasn't easy, but it was expensive. Faith was reaching the end of her tether.
" I know, Red, I know it's harsh. But honey, I'm getting crazy here. I don't want to be the bitch here. But Buffy's out of control. During the day, she seems ok, goes along and does … well, whatever, but come sundown, it's like bad Buffy comes out to play. It's like she's two people, and I'm beginning to not like either one. What's really pissing me is she's dragging Kira along with her on these little adventures. I'm just glad Kira wasn't there last night. I'm really beginning to worry about her too. And, I don't need that! Not now, not when things are starting to come together. Kira needs to be focused on her job, not out playing bad girl with Buffy in the lead." Faith looks heavenwards for inspiration, anything would be welcome right now. She's fast running out of patience and ideas."I just don't know what to do here, Red. I feel helpless, watching her do this to herself, and not being able to get through to her. I stumped."
" I think, maybe, you're not seeing the whole picture here, Faith. I think you're focused on your own point of view, and not stepping back and looking at what's happening." Willow gently squeezes Faith's hand to emphasize.
" I'm not getting you, Red." Faith turns to Willow and searches her face for a clue." What're you trying to tell me?"
" Think about it, Faith. When you first came to Sunnydale, Buffy was at the top of her game, it was her show, and you were the outsider. You cast about for a way to fit into the 'gang', so to speak, something that would distinguish you, but still make you a part of it." Willow brings her hand up to Faith's face, and touches her, " Remember how that felt? How alone you felt, being on the outside, trying to get in?" Willow smiles ruefully," I sure wasn't much help. I was jealous of you."
" Jealous?" Faith grins, " Really? You were B's best bud."
" I thought you were trying to take that away from me. I didn't get that you just wanted to be part of things, I … I'm really kinda ashamed. Of course, when you slept with Xander, I was royally pissed. I was still…"
" Huh? Xander? What's he…" then she gets it. " You? Xander? Oh… god, I…" She starts to laugh. Willow's brows frown along with her mouth.
"What's so funny? I … I really had a thing for Xander!" Willow sounds a little huffy.
" Oh, god, no, I wasn't laughing at you… God, Red, Xander? Was just a boink … it meant nothing, absolutely nothing… I probably wouldn't have, but he was there, and I was horny… and the poor guy looked so desperate . Don't tell him that, ok? More a pity fuck, than anything." She sees that Willow isn't mollified. " Red… I'm sorry, I wouldn't have… ok, wrong, I would've because that's where I was then… but now…"
" Over Xander long time ago, ok? Gay now, remember?" Willow sounds a little strange," but Xander's a friend, don't like it when someone starts to put him down…" she mutters.
" Look, I really stepped in it, didn't I? I wasn't laughing at anyone, I was laughing at the irony of the situation. No matter what I did, no one liked it, they thought I was trying to hurt everyone on purpose, and that so wasn't what I was trying to do. I just… didn't think, because I felt all alone and not wanted… and oh god, that's what you're trying to tell me about Buffy, isn't it?"
Willow's still frowning, but the corners of her mouth are twitching. She's desperately trying not to smile, but she almost can't help it. – Beautiful and smart. God, no wonder I love her. Hey, I do love her, don't I?- She grins internally… and it breaks out on her face. Faith looks relieved.
" I got it right, then?" She says, looking as pleased with herself as a child that figures out something new all by herself. She almost preens with satisfaction.
Willow can't help being charmed by her innocent adorableness. To her, it's like seeing a whole new side of Faith she's never experienced before, a happy, confident Faith that isn't afraid of making a mistake in front of someone. She keeps that to herself , however.
" Yeah, I think you hit it , Faith. She's feeling a lot like you felt, back then. It's your show, now. She's on the outside, looking in. You got it all, and she feels like she's got nothing."
" Nothing? That's stupid. She's got you!" Faith declares.
" Really? From her point of view, in light of recent events?" Willow arches a brow, " You really think she thinks she's got me still?"
" Not getting you again, Red."
" If push came to shove, where do you think my loyalties would lie? At least, from her POV?"
" Oh," Faith gets it. All of it. It all fits together for her now." I really wasn't trying to make her feel that way, you know. You do know that, don't you?"
" Well, of course I know that, silly, " Willow takes Faith's hand back, giving it a reassuring squeeze." But, you gotta see that only you can really help her now. I'll do whatever I can to help, but it's really got to come from you."
Faith gets a funny expression on her face.
"What?" Willow asks, not understanding.
" That's a lot like what Kira told me."
" Well, I guess. I mean, Kira and I talked about it, and …"
" You and Kira?" Faith looks a little surprised, " I mean, that's good, but, you and Kira?"
" Oh yeah, she's really great when you get to know her, and well, she's pretty smart… and she's easy to talk to when you're not getting all jealous of her…" Willow trails off.
Faith puts her arm around Willow's shoulders, and draws her close. Willow doesn't really look at her, feeling somewhat( or totally) embarrassed for being such a jackass about Kira. Faith gently chucks her under the chin, and smiles at her.
" Did I mention how adorable you are?" Faith leans in close to Willow. " Really, just too adorable"
Willow blushes prettily, and starts to say " No" when Faith leans in and kisses her.
The kiss is soft, warm and affectionate, with a small promise of the passion that underlies it all. But Faith doesn't force it, just letting it happen. She knows that both she and Willow have a lot to go before they can get too intimate. They need to really find each other, know each other this time. She wants it to go slower this time, and last. For now kisses and hugs are good. For now.
From up high in her apartment overlooking the garden, the 'sleeping' Buffy is watching the two lovers. She smiles gently.- That's so sweet - she thinks to herself, feeling a warm little gush of happiness for them. She even ignores the small pang she feels.- Ok, just a tiny bit jealous, ok? I mean… nice to be … aw, screw it. With my track record, best not to be…- . She turns away from the window, walking back to the dresser and opens it. She pulls out a stack of underwear, and walks to the bed, where she neatly places it in the open suitcase lying there. She's walking back to the dresser when she hears a knock at her door.
She opens the door a little, and sees Kira standing there, holding two coffees and a bag. She smiles at Buffy.
" Hey, good morning, sleepy. Thought maybe we could have breakfast, you know?" She shakes the bag. " Doughnuts and everything. Mmm… yummy goodness!"
Buffy cracks a grin.- The girl's probably eaten 3 doughnuts in her life.- " Better be careful there, Kira. You're beginning to sound like me now."
" Naw, nobody can twist English like you can, Buffy," Kira returns the salvo.
" Really? Ever listen to Willow talk?" Buffy rejoins. She shakes her head, " Look, thanks for the offer, but I'm kinda busy right now, you know?" She starts to turn away, closing the door.
"Hey? Busy? What's up? What're you doing?"
Buffy stares at her for a second then shrugs.- She's gotta know sometime.- She opens the door wide, letting Kira in.
Kira immediately notes the suitcase and open drawer in the dresser. " What? You're packing? You're leaving? Why?"
" Thought it was time, " Buffy shrugs, getting some clothes from the dresser to put in the suitcase.
" But… what about Faith and Willow? You said… you promised you'd help get them together with me. I mean, we didn't do pinkie swear, or a blood oath, but still…"
Buffy chuckles," Pinkie swears? Blood oaths? What are we, like 11?" She shakes her head, then kind of nods towards the window, " go take a look."
Kira goes to the window, and looks out. She sees Faith and Willow sitting on the fountain, making out.
" Wow! Wow! It's … so cute!" She exclaims, turning to Buffy. " When did this happen?"
" What? Do I look like Dear Abby?" Buffy says, " I dunno. I just saw them out there this morning. They were talking, and started kissing and getting all mushy. I thought hey, looks good to me, you know?"
Kira takes another look down, and smiles. " They're so adorable. Come here," she waves Buffy over. Buffy comes over, and looks down.
" They should get a room," Buffy grouses a little, then turns away from the window." Not like there's a shortage or anything."
" What's wrong, Buffy? Jealous?" Kira smirks, noting Buffy's ambivalence.
" Of them? Please! They're acting like school kids." Buffy makes an impatient noise. She starts back towards the dresser.
" You still didn't tell me why you're leaving. Oh, and why you're in such a rush you can't share coffee and doughnuts with me… did you?"
" I did tell you, " Buffy says, " And not really hungry, you know. Maybe a little hung over… ok, coffee sounds good." She walks over to the coffee, pick up a cup and pries back the lid, looking at it. " Cream? Sugar?" She inquires
" In the bag, Buffy, " Kira says, walking over to join her.
Buffy digs through the bag, and snags a doughnut at the same time.
" Ok, maybe a little hungry. Thanks." She takes her coffee and doughnut, and sits on the bed, shoving the suitcase over a little to make room. She takes a bite of the doughnut.
Kira stands by the dresser, and takes out a doughnut and looks at it like it's an alien being. She turns it over in her hand, then tentatively bites on it. She smiles hugely, and wolfs another, larger bite.
Buffy can't help but laugh.
" You look like you've never eaten a doughnut before, " She giggles.
" I haven't " Kira admits, wolfing another bite. She has a little jelly at the corners of her mouth.
" Huh?" Buffy can't even conceive of the notion. " never had a doughnut? What? Where've you been living? In a cave in Tibet?"
" I was raised in a family that was very strict about eating healthy, " Kira explains, " doughnuts and such were a big no-no. ' They're all grease and starch and sugar' ", Kira imitates her mother, " ' They'll kill you quicker than a bullet.' "
" You're kidding, right?" Buffy looks at her like Kira's from another planet. " No doughnuts? What about chocolate? Chips?"
Kira shakes her head." I had carob bars… they were ok."
Buffy makes a face.
" Ice cream?"
" Vegans, Buffy. My parents were strictly vegetarians. No animal products at all…including milk or cream."
" No… ice cream?"
" No cheeseburgers?"
Kira shakes her head.
" No chocolate?" Again, Kira shakes her head
" Oh, this is so not good… not at all good, " Buffy shakes her head, " No wonder."
" No wonder what?" Kira looks at her suspiciously.
" I understand now, " Buffy nods her head, looking serious.
" What? WHAT?" Kira is getting nervous. –What the hell is she talking about?-
" It's pretty serious. Not too sure it's not to late…" Buffy clucks her tongue solicitously.
" WHAT IN HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" Kira is fully panicking now.
"Well, " Buffy comes over and puts a hand on Kira's shoulder, her face grave, " I really hope we're not too late. But you have a serious case of Nofunitis." Buffy shakes her head. Her expression is grim.
" Nofunitis? What's that…" Kira thinks a minute, then gets a wee bit irritated. " Cute, real cute. I have fun."
" Oh yeah, I know that, Kira. No doubt you get great giggles out of organizing those spread sheets by name, date and content. I bet you're a hoot at parties when you can make stock quotes from memory for the last 3 months. OH, and don't forget filing not only by name, but by color code for priority. Yup, that's chuckle filled."
" At least I don't have to find my fun at the bottom of a shot glass," Kira says in a sing-song tone.
" Yeah, right," Buffy mocks her, " You've been downing them pretty good last few times I 'dragged' you to a club or bar, " Buffy smiles wickedly, " funny how once you get there, not much dragging having to be done. More like, having to hold you down so you don't… oh, say… go doing table dances."
The color drains from Kira's face, and she turns away from Buffy. " That's so unfair, I mean… I was drunk, " Kira turns on her, " you got me drunk!"
" Oh, yeah… I remember now, " Buffy says, in mock sympathy, "that's the night I held that gun to your head and said drink or die… right?"
" You didn't tell me about Long Island ice tea!" Kira accuses Buffy.
" Oh, c'mon, everybody and their grandmother knows that Long Island ice tea is spiked ! God." Buffy shakes her head at that weak defense.
" I didn't!" Kira says defensively. She sees Buffy's expression, " Well, I didn't"
" Ok, how about the tequila shooters you were downing between the 'teas?" Buffy arches a brow.
" But… but they're so … yummy, " Kira trails off, blushing.
Buffy can't help it. She can't stay 'stern' at Kira.- She's so much a kid in some ways.- Despite herself, she breaks out in a chuckle.
" What's so funny?" Kira says, sounding annoyed.
" You are, you big dope, " Buffy laughs. She grabs Kira's arm, and starts to pull her after.
" What… what're you doing now?" Kira says, nervously.
" Well, if I'm going to 'corrupt' you, Kira, let's do it right, " Buffy says, pulling her out into the hall.
" Buffy, god, it's way too early to go to a club…" Kira is getting panicked. With Buffy, she's never sure what's going to happen.
" Ok, are you losing it, or what? Of course it's too early. We're not going drinking, dopey. We're going for ice cream. Chocolate mocha fudge ripple." Buffy gets a wave of sensual pleasure just thinking about it.
" Ice cream? For breakfast? You're nuts. It's not the right time for …"
" There is no wrong time for ice cream. Not for chocolate ice cream. Nor chocolate! Never!" Buffy pulls her along.
" But… what about your packing? Don't you think…?"
" Later. It'll wait. Not like I'm on a schedule." She closes the door to her room, and locks it.
" But I'm on a schedule, Buffy. I can't take off in the middle of the day…"
" It's morning, for Christ's sake. Don't even start that."
" But I'm working, Buffy… Faith'll be pissed if I disappear."
" It looked to me that Faith is way too busy to notice." Buffy grins wickedly.
" But, I'm vegan, Buffy. Eating animals is wrong."
" Ok, next animal we eat, I'll apologize!"
" You know what I mean. Animal products, like cream! It's wrong!"
" Too late, Kira. I saw you with that doughnut. You nearly had an orgasm eating it." Buffy looks at her, and notices something. " Wait!" She pulls Kira to a stop.
Buffy licks her fingers, then wipes the bits of jelly from the corners of Kira's mouth. Kira nearly dies right there from embarrassment. Yet, there is a strange tingly quality to her embarrassment, too.
" Can't have Ms. Executive going out with jelly doughnut mouth, can we?" Buffy smiles. Almost unconsciously, Buffy licks the tips of her fingers, then wipes them on her jeans. For some reason, Kira feels a little shiver. Buffy grabs her wrist again, and begins to drag her along.
They reach the stair, and Buffy is leading the way when Kira pulls her up short.
" Buffy, no! I've got work to do, I can't just go out with you at any time on one of your whims. It's just wrong!"
Buffy stops a step below Kira, and drops her wrist. She stands, back to Kira, looking down the stairs, as if something interesting is in the lobby. When she turns back to Kira, she's frowning. Her shoulders are slumped, and she looks incredibly tired.
" Yeah, you're right, "Buffy says, softly and tonelessly, " it really is a dumb idea." She starts up the stairs, and then turns back to Kira when she's on the top step. " Thing is, when I saw that look of happy pleasure on your face, when you were eating that doughnut… I just wanted to give you that again, you know? I mean… you've been really neat to me, Kira. I was kinda… oh, never mind. Go work, ok? Sorry, I was all wrong here." She smiles, but it's obviously forced. She starts to walk back to her room.
Kira feels like she's one inch tall.
" Buffy!" She calls out.
" Kira, it's no big. Anyway, I got stuff to do, ok?" She calls over her shoulder. She continues to walk away.
" Buffy! Is it… is it really good?"
Buffy stops and turns around. There's a smile on her face, and even from this distance, Kira can see the difference from the other smile. Buffy's face is all lit up. Kira feels a happy warm feeling in her tummy, but doesn't really understand it.
" Kira, it's like nothing you've ever tasted. Especially chocolate mocha fudge ripple". She beams." It's heaven in your mouth."
" Ummm… ok. If we do this, is it going to take long? I mean, I'm kinda already in trouble with Faith, you know? I don't want to get her pissed off at me again."
" Don't worry, there's a place right around the corner. I checked it out…" Buffy grins, " I mean, I can't live without my ice cream fix."
Kira stands undecided. On one hand, it sounds fun. –How does she do that? Make everything sound like fun?- However, she really is in Dutch with Faith, and the last thing she wants is Faith to have to come looking for her… again.- Faith looked ready to explode the last time she had to 'bail' me out of a situation. On the other hand, Faith DID look pretty busy at the moment… which was a good thing, since it was with Willow, and that's a good thing, right? That's what me and Buffy wanted to happen, right? I mean, this calls for a celebration, right? Not like we're going to go get into mischief… right? That last part? Never a sure thing with Buffy.
Buffy, in the meantime, sees Kira going through a major stress moment over this. She speaks up.
" Look, Kira, I don't want to force you to do something that you really don't want to do," Buffy says, quietly.
" No, it's not that. Really, it's not. It's just that with everything going on, Faith's kind of… well, her patience is at a low ebb right now. And, it seems when we get together, somehow trouble seems to follow. You know, like a dog and it's bone."
" Are you calling me a dog, Kira?" Buffy pretends to growl at her.
" No…no, I meant…"
" Cause you're certainly the bone." Buffy grins at her.
" That's… just mean. Just because I'm kind of trim…"
" Oh, now you're saying I'm fat, " Buffy smirks.
" No… god, why do you do this?" Kira almost whines.
" Ummm… cuz you make it so much fun?" Buffy giggles.
" You're mean!" Kira punches her on the arm.
" Ow, " Buffy rubs her arm, "Nice punch, there, beanpole." Buffy grins wickedly, " You're right, I guess I'm mean… but you're easy."
" Hey!" Kira blushes.
"Well, look at the evidence. First I get you to break you're vegan diet with … doughnuts. Now, I'm getting you to eat… animal products… Ooooo… you're bad, Kira, just bad!"
"I'm not bad!" Kira protests, getting a little worked up. " I'm not! Anyway, it's … I'm only going to taste yours."
" Uh-huh," Buffy says agreeably, but has a knowing grin. She knows the effects of the wonderfulness of chocolate. Kira's doomed.
They stop at the lobby doors, and Kira turns to her.
" Anyway, I've had like popsicles before. Homemade, of course. All natural."
" Yeah, I bet. Carob, I suppose, " Buffy makes a face.
" No, silly, fruit flavors. Geeze," Kira shakes her head at her ignorance.
Buffy looks at her pityingly.
" Kira, sweetie. Popsicles are like… masturbation. They're ok in a pinch, but ice cream? Ice cream is like…" she waves Kira closer, and whispers in her ear. Kira blushes bright red to her shoulders." … only, better!"
" No way!" Kira exclaims, still red.
" Way!" Buffy laughs, and leads Kira out the lobby doors.
Willow is feeling very woozily. Extremely, totally woozily, as a matter of fact.
She and Faith have been making out for awhile, more than she'd really anticipated when they kissed. This was getting a bit out of control, especially with Faith's warm breath and soft lips on her neck, and her warm, slightly stake roughened hand sliding under her blouse and making it's way up to her … oh, not good, not good at all. Gotta stop this… now!
Somehow, she finds the will to clamp her hand on Faith's, stopping its upward progress. Faith pulls away from her neck, and looks at her, questioningly.
" Maybe, " Willow says, slightly breathless, "we should stop now, Faith."
Faith gets a pained expression.
" Aw, c'mon Red. We're adults here, right? We can handle this… I know we can," Faith insists. However, her own breathlessness kind of belies her words." I mean, we're in control here, " Faith lies.
" Ummm… hummm… you maybe," Willow says diplomatically, " but I'm … we just can't, ok, Faith? We talked about this. We gotta go slower." All the while Willow is making this pretty speech, her body is screaming at her. " Are you nuts, girl? You haven't been feeling this good in… over a year!"
Faith pulls away reluctantly, her own breathing rather heavy because despite Willow's words, Willow's hands haven't exactly been innocently sitting in her lap, nor have Willow's lips been confined to tiny pecks on the cheek,.- Dammit, Red, do you want me to pop, or what?- She scoots away a little from Willow, and crosses her arms over her chest.
"Faith?" Willow tries to move closer, but Faith holds her off by moving further away. " C'mon, honey, don't be that way. We both agreed to this."
" I know that, Willow," Faith says, her frustration clear in her voice, " but I'm not built this way. I'm trying. I am." She stands and walks a ways off, knowing sitting near Willow isn't going to help. She turns and sees Willow looking dejected on the fountain.- Aw shit-.
"I'm not going to bite you, Faith. C'mon, come sit by me" Willow pats the stone bench next to her.
" No, I don't think so, Red." Faith doesn't move, " Not a good idea, right now."
" Kinda harsh, Faith, " Willow says, sounding a little sullen.
" Kinda harsh?" Faith shakes her head, " Don't you think it's kinda harsh getting all hot and bothered … and then stopping suddenly? That's harsh, Red."
" Think I'm loving it, Faith? Think I'm sitting here going all "Gee, this is great, how can I piss off Faith even more?". Think I don't get damned horny and frustrated too, Faith?"
" I'm sorry, Red, I'm sorry," Faith sighs, " Why, if we both hate this, are we doing it?"
" You know why, Faith. It's not some big mystery, " Willow stares at the ground.
" Well, ok, I'm stupid. Tell me again, slow, so I can follow along," Faith's tone holds a slightly mocking tone.
"Faith, stop it! Getting mean isn't going to help!" Willow stands up, moving farther away from Faith. " God, I hate this."
" So this is it? We're going to make out, then wind up biting each other's head off?" Faith doesn't look too happy.
" I don't want to, I really don't, Faith, " Willow says sadly.
" Me either. So, can we sit down, and maybe try to talk to each other?" Faith moves to the fountain, and sits. "Please?" Willow walks back to the fountain, and sits, but not too closely to Faith. Both sit for awhile, not saying anything.
" I didn't want to stop, Faith, " Willow finally speaks up, " it killed me to stop. I feel you in my arms, kissing me, your warm soft lips … the way you smell, the way you feel, and I ache for you. I do. I'm not a tease, Faith. I'm not some cold ice queen, believe me."
" I know, baby, I know, " Faith is nervously twiddling her fingers." But what would be so bad getting a little sweaty with each other? It's not like we're sexually incompatible, " Faith smiles at some of her memories of their lovemaking sessions, " what's wrong with making each other a little happy?"
" Like we've made each other happy over the last year, Faith?"
" It won't be like that, Red. We … we talked about it, already. We know what's going on now. We can work it out, I know we can."
" I can't do that again, Faith, " Willow says, firmly, " I won't. That night, the night you left me, I thought I was going to die. I wanted to die. I couldn't breathe, it hurt so bad, Faith. My heart broke into a billion pieces," Willow turns and looks at Faith, " it still hurts, Faith."
" I was numb."
" Huh?" Willow can't understand what Faith is telling her.
" I feel numb. I've stopped feeling, Willow. That night killed it for me. It was like someone came along and cut my heart out of my body. Do you know how bad it is to stop feeling, Willow? To know you'll never feel anything again? I did what I had to do, what I thought was right, but life had no color, no taste. Everything was flat. Cold, dead and flat. I had… I have… this thing to do, this thing that I need to do… and that's all I can even muster any kind of feeling for. Otherwise, I don't even think I want to live. How twisted is that, huh?"
" oh, Faith," Willow understands. It's like right after Tara, when she shut everything off.
" The only time I feel something is when you look at me. I feel my heart pumping, again. I feel my blood flowing again. I feel when you touch me and hold me. I remember to breathe, then. I remember I'm alive, not dead, but alive. Do you get it?"
" I get it, " Willow says, quietly. Without a word, she moves over to Faith, and puts her arms around her. Faith shrugs her off, moving away.
" No, don't. Don't. I don't want to feel. I know it hurts, if I feel again, it's going to kill me."
Willow doesn't take no for an answer. She moves to Faith again, and pulls her into her arms, holding her tightly. Faith struggles against her, but not all that hard. As matter of fact, the struggles are more like sobs. But her eyes remain dry, and her voice remains calm.
" No, don't. I can't do this, not now, Red. You've gotta believe me, I can't do this. I have too much to do…" She starts to struggle for real now, but finds Willow's embrace too strong. Odd, since she's got slayer strength. But she can't break free. " Let me go, please, Willow. I can't do this, not now. I can't be weak, I can't…" her eyes start to get brighter, " I can't feel this now… if I start now, I don't know if I can stop…please, don't… let me go, ok? Don't … let me go… let me … don't let me go…oh god…" something in her breaks, all the pain she's pushed out, and away, comes flooding over her." Not now…please, god not now. I've been good, I haven't cried much, I just accepted… don't do this to me… not now… not now…" her words stop, replaced by her sounds of pain and loss. A year, a lifetime of pain seems to flow out of her. She's always been the strong one, the one who didn't cry, who blew it off. No one could hurt her, touch her. But now, all the walls are down, the barriers breached. Her regrets, her remorse, her feelings of rejection, pain and loss slam into her as they never have before; she's having a catharsis, releasing her pent up emotions. Willow just holds her, rocking her as the sobs wrack through her. Her own heart breaks watching Faith go through this. She feels the tears running down her cheeks, but she remains calm, reassuring to the woman so much like a child in her arms.
After awhile, after Faith has regained some of her composure, Willow gently puts her arm around Faith's waist, and they stand, Faith leaning heavily on Willow. Willow negotiates their way to the lobby doors, and still holding Faith, she opens them. Faith is limp, as if everything inside her has washed out of her. She looks around, dazedly. Willow starts to lead her across the lobby towards the stairs.
"Where're we going?" Faith says in an almost childlike voice.
" Shhh. It's ok, just follow me," Willow says softly, holding her up.
" 'K "
Willow leads them upstairs, and into her room. Faith looks around, puzzled but not objecting. Willow sits her on the bed, and begins to undress her.
"What're you doing?" Faith isn't scared, or charged up. It's merely curiosity.
" Do you trust me?" Willow asks her gently.
Faith nods. Somehow instinctively she knows Willow wouldn't hurt her.
Willow finishes undressing Faith, and lays her down in the bed. She then proceeds to undress herself, and slips in next to her. Faith looks at her , puzzled.
" Willow? Should we be doing this? I though we agreed not to …"
" It's not about sex, honey. It's about being held, being close. Just trust me."
With that, Willow gathers Faith in her arms, putting Faith's head on her breast. She holds her, letting Faith hear her heart beat against her ear. Faith snuggles close to her, being encircled in Willow's arms. She slowly relaxes, her eyes slowly shutting.
Willow holds her close, caressing her lightly, letting her sleep.
Buffy sits back at the table shared with Kira at the ice cream parlor, and looks with wry amusement at her bowl. Kira's bowl. The huge extra large bowl. Her second bowl.
Buffy has created a monster.
They came in and were seated, Buffy ordering a small ice cream ( Chocolate mocha fudge ripple, of course), Kira primly saying she only wanted a taste. That eating animal products was wrong, and polluting to the body. Grabbing a second spoon, Buffy gave Kira a taste.
- And I thought she looked orgasmic over the doughnuts!- Buffy chuckles, watching Kira's face as she tasted it for the first time.- At least with the doughnuts, she didn't make little mewling, cooing noises.- Buffy can't remember anyone, ever, enjoying anything like Kira enjoys ice cream.
Well, two bowls later, practically licked clean, Kira finally seems sated… but Buffy wasn't too sure. Kira was eyeing her bowl with a new hunger in her eye.- I wonder if there's an Ice Cream-aholic's anonymous? I think I might have a candidate here.-
But the funniest thing of all was Kira's current expression, looking at the now empty bowl. It was a combination of longing and guilt.- I was really only kidding when I compared it to an orgasm… maybe I was closer than I thought. God, I wonder what happens to her when she does orgasm, it must be something to see.-
Buffy finds herself somewhat disturbed by that last thought, but shrugs it off. Until she watches Kira lick the spoon for the last little dollop of ice cream. It's rather too sensual for comfort.- No one should enjoy anything that much- Buffy shivers a little as she stands, collecting the bowls to return to the counter.
"Maybe we should head back," Buffy suggests, standing across from Kira. Kira is sitting there in post orgasmic bliss, just licking her lips, re-tasting the ice cream. Again, Buffy is getting a case of the wigs, and it troubles her. She knows she shouldn't be reacting this way.
" God, Buffy, why didn't you tell me about this before?" Kira admonishes her, still having the slightly hungry look in her eye. " I really thought you were kidding back at the hotel. But you didn't even come close."
" I think you enjoy ice cream way too much, Kira, " Buffy truthfully replies.
" I don't believe that's possible, Buffy," Kira smiles, Buddha- like, as she stands to join the small blonde slayer.
" What about eating animal products? What about polluting the temple of the body?"
" Please, Buffy. Nothing that tastes like that could pollute the body. It's ambrosia, frozen." She reaches out and squeezes Buffy's arm in a friendly way. She walks to the door and turns, " Well, you coming?" She turns and exits the shop. Buffy follows after, wondering when she lost control of the situation.
She catches up to Kira halfway back to the hotel. Kira seems to be in no hurry, just sauntering along, enjoying the sunshine. She stops and turns her head as she hears Buffy catching up to her.
" Well, there you are, itty-bitty. Thought you'd never catch up. Isn't it a grand day out, today? All nice and sunshiny and… nice" She puts her arms up as if to catch more of the sun. " Really too pretty to be working. We should play hooky."
Buffy looks at Kira as if she's lost her mind. " What the heck are you talking about? You go through withdrawals if you don't have your laptop handy. And hey, stop calling me that."
" Calling you what?" Kira grins at Buffy. " Itty-bitty? But your so little, and so cute!" She pats the top of Buffy's head.
-God what the hell happened to her? She isn't this loopy when she's drinking. What is her problem?- " That's it. No more chocolate mocha fudge ripple for you. You're loopy."
" Don't be such a stick, Buffy. I'm just feeling good, and it's a pretty day." They start walking towards the hotel again.
" Me, a stick? This from the girl that not only thinks paperwork is fun, she relishes it. You make my friend Willow look like a rebel. I'm the stick?" Buffy makes an impatient noise, " anyway, you know Faith's going to have a cow if I don't get you back to the hotel, pronto. She thinks I'm a bad influence on you, anyway. Really don't need another lecture on how I'm a fuck-up, thanks."
" You're sure acting like a stick now, Buffy. It was your idea to go for ice cream, remember?"
-Yeah, rub it in, right. God, what a mistake. Who would've thought she'd zone out on ice cream?- " Yeah, kinda regretting that idea right now. Faith's going to think I got you drunk again!"
" God, Buffy, relax. I'm not loopy, or drunk, or anything. I'm just feeling good… great, and hey, it's such a nice day, shame to waste it. You know?"
They stop close to the entrance of the hotel. Kira looks towards the doors, and makes a face. " Hey, c'mon, Buffy, lets skip out. You and me, what do you say? It's so nice… lets go to the beach. I bet it's real pretty at the beach."
Buffy is beginning to get suspicious. – This just isn't smelling right here.- " Ok, Kira, spill it. What's up?"
" Up? Nothing's 'up', Buffy, " Kira shrugs, " Ok, you don't want to go to the beach, fine. Be a drag."
" Oh no, no way you're laying this on me. You're acting way too weird. First off, you bring doughnuts to my room… something you've never done. Then, when I try to take you to get some ice cream, you act like you'll get a disease if you leave the hotel. Now, you're acting like you don't want to go back in, even though you were making a fuss about taking a few minutes off. What's the deal?" Buffy looks at her sternly, " do you really think I'm too stupid to see something's going on here?"
" Nothing's going on, " Kira leans against the archway leading to the lobby entrance, "nothing really. I dunno, I just didn't sleep really well last night, kept having funny dreams I can't remember. But I woke up with the feeling something was going to happen today. You ever get that? Anyway, I kinda wanted to talk to someone about it, but didn't want to bother Faith. So I went to your room, but then you're packing like you're leaving, and that was strange. Were you just planning on sneaking out?"
" No, I was going to tell everybody. Just figured… I'd get packed first. I'm not feeling too useful here." Buffy's face gets a little grim, " I guess I was just tired of being in trouble all the time."
" Buffy, " Kira says sympathetically, coming over to where Buffy's standing. Buffy waves her off.
" No, no, you're trying to change the subject. This isn't about me, it's about you. What's going on up in that head of yours? Why are you acting like you don't want to go back in the hotel?"
" I don't" Kira sighs, looking down, not wanting to look at Buffy directly." Something's wrong, Buffy, I can feel it. Something's going to happen, I know it. I've got this feeling things are going to change in a big way… somehow. A way that we can't control." Kira looks up, " Everything Faith's worked for, we've worked for, is …."
" This is about Faith, then?" Buffy's expression is unreadable.
" Yes, of course," Kira looks at Buffy intently, " What did you think?"
Buffy shakes her head. " Go on."
" I really don't know anything. I only see hints here and there, but up to now I've kind of dismissed it. Figured it was just some rumblings by the old guard in Lehane. But…" She shakes her head, " I shouldn't be telling you anything about this. It's really not your concern."
" Kira, I promise. I won't say anything… to anybody, " Buffy vows.
Kira looks undecided. She needs to talk to someone, but Buffy's an outsider.- Would anyone inside is really going to listen to me? Without laughing… or banishing me? But, can I trust her?-
" Never mind, Buffy. It's just stupid. Let's go in," Kira says, pushing herself off the arch, and walking towards the entrance.
Buffy watches Kira walk away, a frown on her face. She doesn't say anything, but the hurt on her face is obvious. She follows Kira inside.
Faith knows she's dreaming. She has to be.
-Otherwise, how'd I get on this field in the middle of nowhere? How is it I'm dressed in these really cool leathers… wasn't I just naked a minute ago, in Red's arms, in bed? I thought I was.- She lifts the broadsword she's carrying, and looks at it.- Whoa, and this blade, really sweet. Yeah, gotta be a dream.
Yet it doesn't entirely feel like a dream. Everything seems so real, so intense. She can feel the coolness of the breeze as it blows against her, smell the damp earth, and … fire? She looks around, and notes that there are torches set up circling the field, and behind them, a crowd seems to be watching her. As if expecting her to do something.- Well, hope they tell me soon, cuz I aint got jack in the way of knowing what I'm doing here.- Deciding to go with it, she starts to take some practice swings with the sword, to get it's feel. –God, it feels good… nice balance, good heft. - Consciously or unconsciously, she begins to move through a series of exercises designed to combine movement with using the sword. She finds herself grinning, because the sword seems to be so much a part of her, as if it's an extension of herself. Swinging it left and right, bringing it overhead and thrusting and parrying with the air, she finds a sensual joy in manipulating the sword. She gets so caught up in it, that she doesn't notice the darkness that seems to descend behind her, nor the sounds of the crowd as the react to the change.
She nearly jumps out of her skin when she hears what sounds like a thunderclap boom behind her, and she whirls in air, sword pointed toward where the sound came from. She sees a dark swirling mass behind her, large and undulating, almost as if it were alive and breathing. There's an electricity to the air. Wary, but curious, she approaches the mass, using her blade to test it, to touch it from a distance. The blade cuts through it without touching it, but it grows cold, icy cold, in her hands.
" Ok, what the hell is going on here?" Faith asks, out loud. Anger, with a tiny undercurrent of fear, colors her tone. She doesn't like this. Not one bit. She stabs at the surging mass once again, and again the blade turns icy. But it's not nearly as icy as the fear that gnaws at the pit of her stomach.
" It's time, Faith, " The voice seems to surround her, envelop her. It doesn't come just from the mass, but from everywhere. " Time, time to face what you would rather hide." The voice seems familiar, somehow.
The crowd surrounding the field starts to chant " Time, time; it's time, it's time". – Swell, the Greek chorus. Just what I needed.-
" Face what? What the hell are you talking about, large, dark and misty?" Though her tone is sarcastic, her expression is serious, and she holds the blade above her head, as if to attack.
" That which you hide, that which you wish to conceal."
" Oh. Ok, oh wise …er… cloud, exactly what the hell is that?"
Faith feels a sharp jolt between her shoulder blades, as if a blunt object had hit her hard from behind. She loses balance and starts to fall forward, but manages to catch herself, and whirls around, to face….
Herself. Staring at her, with a disgusted, mocking look.
"Me, ya dope. Time to face me!"
Faith, stunned, doesn't react immediately, and her duplicate takes advantage, doing a swift kick and leg sweep, bringing Faith down hard to the ground. Her twin kneels on her chest, holding her down. Faith, surprised and not at all pleased, glares up at her.
" Well, looky what I got here, " Twin-Faith chuckles. She pulls a knife from her belt, and hold's it to Faith's neck, " I got me a do-gooder slayer."
" Who the hell are you?" Faith asks, eyeing the knife to her throat warily.
" You, ya mook, can't you see? Or is all the radiance of my smile blinding you, moron?" Twin-Faith smirks at her." Well, I'm part of you, anyway… the part you don't want to show off to company, I guess." She caresses Faith's neck with the flat edge of the knife.
Faith grabs her twin's wrist, and twists it, causing the knife to drop harmlessly to the side. She brings up her knees, hard, into her twin's back, and bucks, throwing her face forward into the ground. Faith jumps up, grabs the knife, and quickly kneels on her twin's back, raising her head, and putting the knife to the throat.
" Ok, really tired of this crap. Tell me who you are, or I'm gonna cut you, bitch!"
" Ahhh, there's my girl, " her twin mocks, " Go ahead, baby, cut me. You can't kill me, you can't get rid of me, cuz I'm you, babe. I'm Faith… the Faith that you don't want to know about. The Faith that kills, the Faith that betrays, the Faith that's out for herself, and be damned everybody else. So, go ahead, you do it. But I'm not goin' anywhere."
" Bullshit. You're an illusion, a dream, " Faith hits her 'twin' upside the head, " You're nothing but a bit of my imagination gone wild."
" Yeah, babe, you just keep telling yourself that. But the fact of the matter? I'm real, baby. I'm here, and I'm tired of being ignored. You think just because you put on a white hat, that I went dead? No way, girlfriend. I'm here, always was, always will be. I'm right below the surface, waiting, and watching. I know what you know, see what you see, feel what you feel. Didn't your walkabout in Angel's mind teach you jack?"
"What the fuck are you babbling about?"
Twin-Faith laughs, the bucks Faith off, then kneels over her, holding Faith down.
" Angel, Angelus. You know, both sharing the same body. Angel on top, because of the soul thing, but Angelus is there, and aware, and looks for any chance to get out. Well, sweetie, it's like that with you and me. Except, you got a soul by being a human, so not gonna lose it too soon. But you can't pretend like I don't exist, cuz I do. I'm part of you, babe, and you better accept that fact. You think you can ignore me, and I'll do a fade. But that aint gonna happen, and ignoring me? Well, you're doing that at your own peril. Cuz I see things, know things that you don't see and don't know. I gotta stake here; if you're screwed, well, I'm screwed too."
" You're a fucking liar, " Faith struggles against her twin, but can't seem to break her hold. " All you want is for me to go back down that path… not going there, not doing that again. I've changed, and you're just a shadow of the past I don't need anymore. Got it?"
"Oh, you need me, babe, you don't have a clue how much, " Twin-Faith says, " I'm the side watching your back, keeping you from being a dope. You need me." Twin-Faith nods sagely
" Yeah, like I need Ebola," Faith head butts her twin, who backs off. Faith gets up and kicks her. " You're a waste of time, a waste of space, … generally, just a waste!"
" You're such a loser, Faith. You're so worried about being good all the time, but don't you get it yet? It's not about good, or bad, or any of that crap. It's power, Faith, that's what gets the big house, the stuff, all the marbles… it's who has the power, and how they use it. But, without me, you can't get power, cuz you just aint got the guts, or whatever it takes to make the hard decisions. That's what I do, Faith, believe it or not. I give you that."
" You're wrong, I don't need you. You try to tell me that you're the spine, but you're the weakness. You're the thing that saps me, that makes me less. You lie, cheat, do whatever you have to do to get me to use you. Thing is I can get what I want, what I need without you."
"That's crap. Everything you do, everything you want, is informed by me. Whatever you touch, I touch, because I'm integral to who you are, Faith. You think I'm the negative, but I'm not. I'm the one that gives you desire, that makes you lust, that causes you to go out and fight… to satisfy my urges, your urges. That's what it is , Faith. All about what you want. Because without me, you're nothing. You're goody-goody self would be nothing but a flabby bowl of Jell-o without me. You can try to shut me out, throw me out, and ignore me. But in the end, I'm still there, and I always will be. Don't you get it? You can't do squat without me, so deal with it. Learn to live with me; better, embrace me, make me your bitch, and you'll be stronger."
" Embrace this, bitch," Faith picks up her fallen sword, swings it and cuts her twin's head off. The body falls to the ground, but then it crawls to where its head has fallen. It picks it up, and stands up , facing Faith. The head speaks.
" Can't kill me, babe. Told you that, " it places its head on its shoulders, and smiles, " Thing is, you keep trying, and I keep coming back."
"Shit!" Faith spits out, flustered and angry.
" Listen to me. As I said, I see things you can't, or won't see. I'm telling you now. Your friends, the ones you think are with you… don't believe it. They're setting you up for a fall. They want you to fail. So get smart, and cover your butt, cuz it's comin' sooner than you think." The twin starts to walk towards the mystical haze, " Way sooner. " It starts to walk into the darkness, but turns and waves. " Ta for now, babe. But don't worry. We'll talk again, real soon." As she enters the haze, it begins to grow and spread, becoming larger and larger until everything is covered by it… and all goes dark…
Faith opens her eyes, and finds herself staring into the worried, olive colored eyes of Willow.
" Are you ok?" Willow asks, " You started thrashing in your sleep"
Faith notes a red welt rising on Willow's cheek. She grimaces.
" Did I do that?" Faith asks contritely.
Willow shrugs, " I know you didn't… weren't trying to hurt me. It's no big."
" Sorry… I'm sorry, " Faith says, getting up.
"Where're you going?" Willow asks, " I thought…"
" I can't right now, Red. There's something I've got to do." Faith picks up her clothes, starting to dress.
" Yeah, ok. I understand, " Willow tries to cover her disappointment. She starts to get out of bed.
" Red, honest, if I could…" Faith walks over, and sits next to Willow. She leans in, and tenderly kisses the injured cheek. " I love you, babe, I really do. But something's here, and I've got to take care of it."
" In the hotel… something's here… something's going to change."
Faith gets up, and finishes dressing.
" Are you sure you're ok… " Willow looks worried, " you're kind of scaring me here."
" Don't worry… I'll take care of it. It's fine, trust me."
A fully dressed Faith exits the room, leaving Willow with her thoughts.
When they enter the hotel lobby, Buffy and Kira see three strangers standing at the reception desk, backs to them. Kira moves down a bit and greets them.
" Hi, sorry we were out of a bit. Can I help…" her voice trails off when the three turn towards her. She looks a little shocked. " Layne, Peter… Liam… what're you doing here?"
" Now, dear, is that anyway to greet family?" The woman, tall with wild red hair and arresting blue eyes, asks her. Buffy notes she has a slight lilt to her speech.
" No, sorry, of course not. Layne, it's good to see you, of course. You too, Peter, Liam" Kira replies. Buffy is a little surprised to hear Kira's voice change, her voice taking on a lilt similar to the woman's.
" So, Kira, you've been keeping yourself out of trouble, I hope," Layne walks over to Kira and gives her a peck on the cheek.
Buffy can't help letting a chuckle escape.
" Excuse me, Miss, I don't believe we've been introduced, " Layne, the redhead, turns to Buffy. She fixes Buffy with her intense gaze, and Buffy feels uncomfortable, but doesn't flinch.
" My name is Buffy. Buffy Summers, " Buffy says, stiffly, " However, I don't have a clue as to who the heck you are."
" Ah, well, bit of fire I see, " Layne smiles broadly, " My name is Layne Hearne. We should've been introduced properly, but sometimes my sister here forgets her manners." She looks askance at Kira.
" Sorry, sorry, " Kira says, assuming her fade into the background manner." This is Layne, whom you've met, and these others are my … cousins, Peter and Liam."
Buffy notes that Kira has lost all her confidence. She's acting like a schoolgirl who's been caught cheating on an exam. – What's going on here, anyway?-
" So, Miss Summers, exactly what do you find so amusing about me?" Layne asks, arching a brow.
" No, nothing's amusing about you, particularly, " Buffy replies, slightly sarcastically, " it's more what you said. About Kira keeping out of trouble. Just a bit funny, I guess, considering Kira's about as straight- arrow-girl- scouty as they come."
" I'm sorry, I don't quite understand that?" Layne looks a little puzzled.
" Kira's about as likely to get in trouble as a schoolteacher at a bible retreat, " Buffy replies.
" Indeed? That's news, " Layne turns to Kira, " Seems that this year has been good for you, then." She turns back to Buffy, " My sister can be a bit wild; at least she used to be."
Buffy makes a rude noise.
" Pardon me?" Layne's tone gets a little stiff.
" Wild girl? This one? She who spends her nights organizing her underwear drawer? Don't think so."
Kira has been listening to this exchange, her face alternating between pale and flushed. Finally, to divert the subject, she speaks up.
" Layne, you still haven't told me. What're you doing here with Peter and Liam?"
" We're here to see Faith, Kira. But she doesn't seem to be around. Interesting way to run a company, I must say, " Layne doesn't look particularly amused. " Do you happen to know where she might be?"
" Uhhh… uhhh…" Kira stalls, looking out in the garden, but not seeing Faith or Willow out there. " uhhh…"
"Maybe she's up in her room, Kira, " Buffy puts in quickly, " She said she had some work to do… maybe she went up there to get away from distractions? Maybe you should go check it out?"
" Right, good idea, " Kira shoots a grateful glance at Buffy, " I'll do that…"
Kira starts towards the stairs, but doesn't get very far when she hears a voice call down from above.
" That won't be necessary, Kira. I'm here, " Faith is standing at the top of the stairs, a slightly grim expression on her face. She starts down the stairs and stops, seeing the trio standing by the reception desk. " Well, Layne, Liam and Peter. Now my day's complete! Sorry, I've been feeling a little under the weather… used a bathroom upstairs…"
" Hello, Faith, it's good to see you, " Layne calls up to Faith from where she's standing." Sorry to hear you've been unwell."
" Hello, Layne. Wish the pleasure were mutual, " Faith rejoins, reaching the lobby floor. " So, since I don't suspect you've come all this way for a social call, exactly what's up, Layne?"
" Never the pleasantries with you, eh, Faith?" Layne grins bemused. " Very well, then, indeed, we're here on business. Is there somewhere we can talk… privately?" She casts a pointed look at Buffy.
" Hey, I'll leave, " Buffy says, not needing a piano to fall on her head. She starts to turn around.
" No, you stay, Buffy," Faith says, not wanting Buffy to have any excuse to get up to mischief. " You might check in on Red, she might need something…" she turns to Layne, Peter, and Liam, " My office" she gestures towards the office off the reception desk.
Faith, followed by Liam, Peter and Layne, head for the office. Kira stands, uncertain and undecided. Faith reaches the doorway, and turns back towards Kira. " Coming?" Kira is off like a shot, heading for the office. Once the five of them are inside, the office door closes.
Buffy stands staring at the door, feeling uneasy.
She somehow knows this isn't good.
Not good at all.
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