Disclaimer: Jossverse characters and situations remain the property of Joss. Obviously.
April 9, 1999
Buffy opened her eyes, turned her head, and checked the bedside clock again. Ugh,
she thought, turning over and burying her face in the pillow. Another few minutes and I’ll have to get up and get ready for school; so much for the almost-two-hours’ sleep I
could have gotten, if I’d been able to actually sleep after last night.
Some unconsciousness would have been welcome; maybe if she’d been able to dream a little it would have been easier to process the events of those few hours. Breaking into City Hall, being surprised by the Mayor, being saved from said Mayor by, of all people, her theoretical arch-enemy Faith. The walk through town afterwards, with Buffy trying her best to seduce the bad-girl, since she’d finally realized that Faith appeared to be feeling an intense, somewhat bizarre attraction to her, only to have the rogue Slayer take her on a midnight cruise aboard a very nice yacht given to her by Wilkins…. And then she turns the tables on me, completely catches on to me trying to play her… calls me on it, and instead of blowing up or trying to take advantage of me, she just tells me to stop, turns the boat around, and brings us back.
what had shocked Buffy into rethinking the whole thing; the realization that the other girl wasn’t just looking for a quick score with another Slayer, or a way to shame or humiliate her rival as payback for the trick she and Angel had pulled weeks before. No, whatever Faith was feeling, whether it was true love or something else, it ran much deeper than anything Buffy had thought the girl could
feel for another person. She was right, too, with what she said about me. I
am prejudiced; I look down on people I think are weaker than me; which works out to be just about everyone.
It wasn’t flattering; she didn’t like admitting that a part of her could be so petty or so ugly, and yet there it was. Part of the repulsion she felt towards Faith came, not because the girl had joined evil’s side of things, but rather because in doing so she had failed to live up to Buffy’s own lofty standards. It’s the same as when Angel turned, last year,
she realized with a little jolt of surprise. It’s not so much that he’d turned evil; I knew about his past, I could accept that he had that kind of darkness inside him. No, the worst of it, the real hurt, came because he’d abandoned
me. If he’d been killing people, and somehow still been the person I’d fallen in love with, the person who loved me back, then it would have been so much harder to hate him.
As it was now proving so much harder to hate Faith; the girl was
killing people, she was
in service to evil, and was making no apologies for it, either… and she also seemed to be desperately in love with Buffy, and wanted nothing more than to be loved in return. It was an impossible situation, and one that was proving heart wrenchingly difficult for the blonde Slayer to deal with. I don’t love Faith; we never got close enough for that to happen, not really. And yet, if things hadn’t gone so wrong, if I’d seen before just
why it hurt me so much when she betrayed us, betrayed
me…. If we’d had a little more time, and if Angel hadn’t come back when he did, I think I could have fallen in love with her.
Turning over again, to lay face-up amongst the tangled sheets, Buffy’s fingers went to the cheek Faith had touched, to the lips she had kissed so very gently, and she shivered underneath the blanket. I wasn’t lying to her, at the end; it might not be too late for me to love her, even now. God, why do I
do this to myself!?
“Buffy?” She jumped, startled from her musings by a light tap on her bedroom door, followed immediately by her mother opening it just far enough to peer inside. “Honey, it’s time to get up. Do you want some breakfast?”
She groaned in answer, and rubbed at her eyes.
“Yes, please,” she told the backlit silhouette in the doorway. “Eggs would be good. Some toast, too, if you have time.” Now, when she was faced with the prospect of actually getting up and starting another day, now
was when she suddenly felt tired and sleepy. “And coffee; a huge amount of coffee, please.”
She could feel her mother’s frown; Joyce Summers had accepted that her daughter was a Slayer, but she still didn’t feel that Buffy was old enough to be drinking coffee.
“All right,” she said, surprising the girl into something more closely approximating wakefulness. “I’ll have it ready in a few minutes; don’t fall back asleep, now.” She turned and vanished down the hall, leaving Buffy to wonder a bit as she dragged herself upright. Wow, I get to drink caffeinated beverages at breakfast; eighteen years old and she’s finally starting to see me as someone vaguely adult.
She was just pulling on her fluffy robe and shuffling towards the bathroom, and a hot shower, when it occurred to her that she was back to hiding deep, dark secrets from her loving mother.Sure, she lived through finding out that I’m a super-powered champion of good. But telling her that I kissed a girl?
A moment spent trying to imagine that conversation only left her feeling more exhausted. Nope, not going to go there; sorry mom, it’s back to having sneaky-Buffy for a daughter.
* * * * *
A short time later, freshly showered and on her third mug of very strong coffee, Buffy was feeling almost human. She had also inflicted severe damage to the mound of scrambled eggs that had covered her plate, and the buttery toast that was arriving faster than she could put it away. Watching her mother manage all this while simultaneously organizing the shipping lists for the latest series of deliveries for her gallery, the Slayer felt a surprising stab of guilt. Not for deceiving Joyce about what was going on in her life so much as the choices she was making that made the deceptions necessary. It's selfish of me, isn't it, to keep doing this to her. I can pretend it's all noble and romantic, that I'm only 'following my heart', but somehow my heart keeps making me hurt the people I love. Giles would still have Jenny Calendar if I hadn't fallen in love with Angel--so many people would still be alive if not for that, actually. And mom could have been killed so easily during all that, too, if Angelus had been just a little less into those mindgames of his and more into the quick and dirty killing. Now I'm doing it again, flirting with someone dark and dangerous even when I know better, and why? Do I really not care that other people end up getting hurt because I can't resist playing with fire? Because I love the thrill of dancing so close to the darkness that I can taste it?
Buffy sighed quietly, again thinking back to Faith's kiss of a few hours earlier. Huh, literally 'taste it', in this case. And I enjoyed it, too, despite the monumental strangeness of the whole thing.
"You're being awfully quiet this morning," Joyce noted, looking up from the papers she'd spread on the counter. "Is everything all right?"
Buffy realized she'd been sitting there motionless for some time, staring down at her food and meditatively running a fingertip back and forth along her lips. She hastily pulled her hand away, grabbing up her coffee mug and taking a quick sip.
"It's fine; everything is fine," she assured her mother. "I was just thinking." Thinking about how Faith tastes,
she clarified mentally, cringing again when she thought about how Joyce would react if she knew. The woman already thought so much of what had happened during Buffy's teenage years was somehow her own fault--the divorce, her daughter's increasing tendency towards violence, the running away from home.... So there was a minute there, last night, when I was enjoying being with Faith; when I kissed her, and liked it. That should mean nothing; I shouldn't let it mean anything! I mean, I had no choice about being the Slayer, I couldn't spare mom that. This, though, is completely under my control. Being a good person, being as 'normal' a person as I can manage--that's something I can choose to do. And normal girls don't date other girls... especially girls who make serial killers look well-adjusted by comparison.
"Actually," she continued aloud, looking across the small kitchen at her mother, "I was thinking about that thing you were talking about before, the antique show? Are you still going?"
Joyce nodded, automatically looking down and locating the appropriate pile of paperwork from the small stacks arranged in front of her.
"Yes, tomorrow morning. It's not far, just a forty-five minute drive over to Meridian, and some of the best dealers in Southern California will be there. I should be able to make some good contacts for the gallery."
Buffy smiled; it was actually kind of cute how her mother could be all 'serious business lady' and still be deep enough in 'mom mode' to grab the toast out of the toaster in an instant when it 'popped' at her elbow, slather it with butter, deliver it to her daughter's plate, and then pick up on her paperwork again without missing a beat.
"Well then..." she said slowly, poking at the last of the eggs with her fork, "Would you mind if I came along?" Joyce looked up from the notes she was making on an invoice and regarded Buffy with startled eyes.
"Really? You want to come along?" The older woman wasn't trying to hide her confusion, and it only increased the guilt the blonde girl was feeling. God, is it really that unusual for me to want to go somewhere with her?
Of course, a moment's contemplation answered that one easily enough. Okay, yes, it is out of the ordinary. Usually the only time I'm in the car with her is when I've talked her into giving me a ride somewhere. The only time we ever go out together is when I'm shopping, and need her to buy me things. We haven't even done a movie night at home in forever; I've been so busy with school, and Slaying, and hanging out with the guys....
"Sure I want to come along," she assured her mother. "Antiques, and... old things to buy and sell.... Plus there's the thing where...." She blanked, took a breath, and just said it. "I love you, mom.” It was totally spontaneous, completely true… and exactly the wrong thing to just throw out like that. Joyce looked at her in confusion, then narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
“Thank you, honey, and of course I'd love it if you came with me tomorrow. What did you do?”
Scary, how quick that reaction took hold of her mother, and plain ol’ bad luck that it happened on a day when Buffy had more than just the usual things to feel guilty about.
“I didn’t do anything!” she protested, with the same knee-jerk reflex that Joyce had just displayed. Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she gestured at her food. “I was just expressing some daughterly love to my mother, who went way, way out of her way to make me this yummy breakfast.” She took another drink of coffee to give that statement time to work, or not, and tried to put an appreciative-yet-put-upon look into the wide-eyed gaze she sent over the mug at her mom.
Joyce, however, had long experience with that look, and didn’t melt as easily as so many others did when faced with Earnestly-Innocent Buffy.
“Well, you’re welcome for the breakfast. What did you do?”
Buffy met her mother's gaze, not without some difficulty, and tried to find an answer. I've consorted with the enemy, not just once, but twice now, and if I'm wrong about her then the entire town will probably cease to exist in a few weeks.
Also, I'm currently feeling very tempted to start cheating on my boyfriend, who himself isn't exactly the safest guy to have around my friends and family. I suppose he wasn't bad enough for me, though;
he only went crazy for a couple of months, with the stalking, breaking and entering, killing and general terrorizing. Faith, though, is emotionally damaged and morally impaired on a full-time basis, and would probably like to turn murder into some kind of professional sporting event.
And, worst of all... I'm setting you up for more hurt, mom. You were so disappointed in me, when you found out I'd slept with Angel. How much worse would it be for you if I slept with
Faith? Bad enough that she's a girl. Maybe you could handle that if it were, I don't know, someone like Willow. You like her, you think she's a good influence on me. Faith... not so much with the liking or the good influence. And either way, if I got involved with someone to the point of having actual sex with them, without you even knowing there was dating going on in the first place, then that whole massive load of Mother's guilt would get dropped on me--again--and I wouldn't blame you if you did.
Joyce was still waiting for an answer, and Buffy was still looking for one, when suddenly, mercifully, the phone rang. Her mother sighed, and turned away to get it, all before the Slayer remembered who had promised to call her today. Oh, shit!
If she’d been one bit less terrified, Buffy would have said that out loud, and probably given her poor, suspicious, loving mother a heart attack right on the spot. As it was she had to settle for lunging up so fast that she sent her chair skidding back across the linoleum, and making a dive for the phone. Too late, much too late, even for a Slayer, as Joyce picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” she said, even as she turned to find her daughter frozen in mid-reach, her movement aborted as suddenly as if she’d been magically rooted to the spot. She gave Buffy a quizzical look, then apparently wrote it off to the usual inscrutable teen behavior. “Oh, it’s you,” she told the person on the other end of the phone. “We were just discussing possible lapses in judgment, and now here you are, the main contributor to my daughter's delinquency.”
Buffy’s brain froze up, which at least gave her a matching accessory to go along with her immobilized body. This could not
be happening to her, not this soon, before she was even sure if the thing between her and Faith was more than temporary insanity, if there could ever be something serious between two people with so much pushing them apart….
“Yes, yes. I’m sure it is. Hold on.” Joyce shook her head, and with a long-suffering look held out the phone. “It’s for you.”
Numbly, using both hands in an effort to not drop the receiver and really provoke an interrogation from the parental unit, Buffy put the phone to her ear.
“Hello?” she said, trying to sound at least semi-normal.
“Buffy?” She immediately recognized the voice, the not-Faith voice. Thanks to the near-infinite strength and power of the Slayer, she managed to keep her knees from folding up like limp noodles… barely. “Buffy, I’m terribly sorry to call at this hour, but I’d like to see you in the library before class. If you could come in a few minutes early, I would appreciate it.”
She nodded, nodded emphatically
with a rush of relief.
“Giles.” Putting her hand over the mouthpiece for a second she smiled brightly at her mother. “It’s Giles. Giles called. He does that, sometimes.” Joyce looked back at her, frowning a little in uncertainty, and Buffy turned back to the phone. “Come in early? Sure, I can do that. I’d be happy to do that.”
There was a brief pause, probably while he waited for the sarcastic remark that would punctuate that statement. When one wasn’t offered, he cleared his throat.
“Ah. All right then, I’ll see you shortly.”
Buffy nodded once more; she couldn’t seem to stop doing that.
“Yep! See ya!” Handing the phone back to her mother she grabbed up a last piece of toast and more or less bolted for the stairs up to her room. “Early meeting at school, gotta run!”
Her mother’s long-suffering sigh was audible from the upstairs hallway, but at least the questioning had been headed off quite neatly. Buffy set a new record for getting ready; hair blow-dried, teeth brushed, and clothes more or less in place, and was heading out the door in ten minutes flat. Joyce was still in the kitchen, and caught her just long enough to deliver a quick mom-hug, and peck on the cheek.
“Whatever monster he wants to talk to you about fighting, please be careful.”
That stopped Buffy, and she paused to return the hug.
“Not to worry; I’ve done this kind of thing a few times now, you know.” She looked up at her mother, noting the concern, and the faint traces of fear that were always there when the Slayer thing was the topic of discussion. I really do love you, mom,
she thought, but this time she didn’t say it out loud.
If she had, it would only have made the concern and fear in that face even stronger. So she headed outside instead, dropping down the steps of the back deck in a rush, then trotting around the side of the house towards the street. It was early, so early that the sun hadn’t quite come up yet, and she looked down at the dew-covered grass at her feet. Hm, hope my socks don’t get wet, I hate that.
Her good shoes were in the small backpack slung over her shoulder, along with a pair of stockings. Walking to school when Joyce was too busy to take her was no problem; doing it quickly in anything with a heel would have been. So she had her comfy shoes for the walk, and her moderately stylish ones to change into once she got to her locker. Habits left over from when I was actually one of the popular girls, back in L.A.,
she mused, adjusting the strap over her shoulder. It's a little silly, sure, but sometimes I miss being a girly-girl, being someone that all the guys wanted to date. Now, here in Sunnydale, I'm so far down the social ladder it's a major event if anyone besides Xander, Willow, Cordy or Oz even speaks to me. Being responsible for keeping the whole town un-annihilated is a lot to worry about, too; not many chances to be the old Buffy these days, the one who always had trendy clothes, not to mention plenty of time for being popular, hanging out at the mall, going on dates....
She sighed as she reached the walk that led from her front porch to the street, and turned left, still looking down. I wonder what it is that Giles wants? Is it really a monster to fight? Or.... Or did someone see me and Faith, last night? We were out in front of City Hall for a few minutes, and then that walk took us right through town. Maybe someone Giles knows was out late, saw us, and said something to him? What would I say, if he asked me about it? Should I lie even more, when I don't even know how I feel about--
She’d been paying too much attention to her feet, and not enough to her surroundings; careless of her, but then what could happen in her own front yard? The answer came as she ran headlong into an obstacle. A tall, broad, brooding
obstacle, that reached out to steady her as she stumbled back in surprise. Buffy stared in blank surprise, and managed one word:
* * * * *
She had been so caught up in trying to imagine the ramifications of her mother finding out about Faith, assuming there ever came a time when there was a 'thing' with Faith, that she hadn't really given much thought to this
situation: Her actual, current, semi-boyfriend. Yes, they were sort of on a ‘break’ right now; that didn’t really change the fundamental dynamic between the two of them.
A dynamic that lost no time in reestablishing itself, as Angel gave her an intense, searching look.
“I’m sorry I startled you,” he said, letting go of her now that she’d caught her balance again. “I probably shouldn’t have come here, I know, it’s just been so long since I’ve even seen you—“
This, Buffy reflected, was very true; it had been more than a week since she'd allowed him to catch so much as a glimpse of her.
At first it had been because she'd felt confused, and a little sickened, by how well he'd played the part of Angelus in the little deception play they'd staged for Faith. Even though she'd known it was an act, seeing him do it, having him speak to her as that person, had given her some very real emotional flashbacks. She'd asked for some space, afterwards, and he'd obliged her.
Then, after her encounter with Faith, she'd avoided him simply because she didn't want him to realize she'd been injured; explaining the bullet wounds through her leg would have been difficult to do without revealing the conversation she'd had with Faith. A conversation which had also included a few revelations... like the fact that Angel's playacting had been very real in one respect. He had
gone through with having sex with Faith to help persuade her of his soullessness, even though when Buffy asked him later he'd insisted that he hadn't.
So that was where the last two weeks had taken her feelings for Angel: shock, fear, avoidance, and now suspicion and distrust. It hurt her to feel that way about him. She'd given him so much, entrusted him with everything in her that was hers to give. If he was telling the truth, then everything between them might be all right. If Faith had told the truth, then that betrayal would drive them even further apart. Now, looking into Angel's dark and, god help her it wasn’t even funny, soulful
eyes, she was faced again with the big question: which one of them did she believe?
"I just wanted to see you," he repeated.
“It’s okay,” she managed, though it came out a bit breathless. Being close to Angel had always made her a bit breathless; whether it was a 'soulmate' thing, or just a case of teenage hormones and first love, she didn't know... and didn't especially care.
Composing herself with difficulty, she pressed on. “Sorry about the avoiding thing. I just haven’t been feeling very social, with all the bad things happening. If I’m going to be stressed out and cranky then it’s probably best if there aren’t any innocent bystanders around to get hurt, if you know what I mean.”
He nodded, and took a tentative step forward, bringing him close enough to reach out and touch her hand.
“If I’m part of what has you upset, I’m sorry. If I knew how to make it up to you, I would.” There he went, not exactly admitting that he’d shagged Faith when he’d said he wouldn’t, said that he hadn’t
, and yet the offer to make things right could sort of be seen as an apology for doing it... couldn't it?
“There’s nothing to apologize about, is there?” she asked, casually, instead of with the sullen hurt that tried to creep into her voice. “It was just you pretending to be Angelus, you weren’t really him.” She looked up at him, and despite her best efforts she felt her expression and voice grow imploring. “It’s not like you did
anything that he would have done, for real… is it?”
Not exactly subtle, and someone well over two centuries old would have no problem reading between those
lines. Please; please just tell me you had sex with her. I’m a big girl, I can take it. What I can’t take is you lying to me, or you ‘protecting’ me from something you think I’m too fragile to deal with.
Trust me, if you love me as much as you say.
Angel stared at her with utter intensity, as if he were trying see through her words and into her thoughts.
“Buffy, I would never do anything that would hurt you as much as that
would have. I let her think she’d won, I played to her ego, and that was all it took. She’s still a child; it wasn’t very hard to convince her I was as twisted as she is.” He kept hold of her hand with his even as he reached out to touch the line of her jaw. They were close enough to kiss, though she wasn’t feeling especially romantic at the moment. “She would love that this is tearing you up,” he said softly. “Don’t let Faith win this, don’t let her take away what we have.”
She listened to what he had to say, she let him touch her with his cold, dead hands, and she tried her best to believe his denial; she really did. He’s a good guy, a good man, too; a hero. What happened to him, getting turned into a vampire, getting a curse with that completely retarded happiness-turns-me-evil clause, none of that was his fault. I can’t blame him for that, or the way we’ve been going crazy with frustration since he’s been back. I love him so much, even if we can’t ever do everything we want to do….
Buffy wanted to be completely fair; if she were
completely fair then there was no way she would take the word of a crazy girl, a sociopathic, homicidal, paranoid-nymphomaniac over the utterly reasonable, totally sane arguments of her long-time boyfriend. On the face of it, it was a no-brainer, which of them she trusted more.
And yet…. He calls her a child, he dismisses her because she’s so young, and I’m what? Two, two-and-a-half years older than she is? That much time is nothing to him; he's lived for centuries... how can he
not look down on me, even if he tries not to? How many times have we argued, and he’s fallen back on calling me an immature child? How many times has he used that as the excuse he needs to go ahead and do something I’ve decided is a bad idea?
She chewed her lip, trying to balance emotion with reason, and failing. No, Angel; Faith isn’t as childish or stupid as you’d like to think, and neither am I. Everything that’s kept me alive for the last three years has come from instinct, and I’m going to trust that now.
Which one of them did she believe, the vampire or the Slayer? It seemed like the decision had been made, somehow, before she even consciously framed the question.
“Okay,” she whispered, though it was more an answer spoken to herself than to Angel. “Okay, that’s it, then.”
She still loved him, still wanted him... but in some vague yet profound way, things between the two of them would never be the same again. Figuring everything out might take some time, though one thing seemed certain:
Seeing Faith no longer felt quite as much like cheating on Angel.
He was still standing there in front of her, waiting expectantly, one assumed, for her to fall into his arms as she always ended up doing. This time, though, she didn't think he deserved that, so instead she took a deep breath, and threw out the first thing that came to mind.
“Giles called. He seemed to think that something’s up, wants me to come in and talk about it before school.”
He searched her face, trying to discern the real motive behind her sudden distance. Not finding it, he went along with the change of subject.
“Something’s come up with the Mayor?” he asked. Obviously that was the easy assumption these days, whenever possible evil registered at the edge of the radar screen. She shrugged.
“I don’t know. He wasn’t very talky when we… talked. Though that might have had something to do with my mother standing right there, listening.”
He nodded, looking even grimmer than usual as he edged into what Xander would call ‘Yellow Alert’ mode; not yet actually throwing punches, and yet definitely clenching the metaphorical fists in preparation for battle.
“I’ll ask around the underground, see what I can find out.” He looked up, and yes, the sky was showing signs of daytime happening any minute now. “I’ve got to go, try to be—“ He stopped in mid-word, frowned, and gave her a strange look. He was still holding her, so by necessity he was standing very close indeed. She had no idea what the problem was, and when he leaned forward just a bit and sniffed
at her, the confusion went even higher.
“What is it?” she asked, a little apprehensively. Yes, she’d been in a hurry to get out of the house, but she had
remembered to put on deodorant.
He didn’t answer immediately, instead pulling back his hand from her shoulder and putting it to his face, and sniffing again. The look on his usually unreadable face told her that his confusion outranked hers by a factor of ten.
“Faith,” he said, slowly, with one word managing to turn Buffy’s blood to ice for the second time that morning. “It’s faint, but it’s there. Her scent, it’s all over you.”
“Oh,” she said, her mouth on autopilot while her brain reeled. He could smell
Faith on her? Even after she’d showered this morning? “That’s because I ran into her last night.” That
got a sharp look from him, and he immediately gave her a look up and down, searching for visible injuries. Too late, of course; the gunshot wounds were well-healed by now, with only fading scars and an occasional twinge to show for them.
“Are you all right?” he asked. Well, ‘softly demanded’ actually described his tone better. She nodded, not having to strain to look troubled as she remembered the previous night.
“I’m fine. Not that I shouldn’t be a Slayer-shaped scorch mark on somebody’s carpet; there was a little trouble with my commando raid on City Hall.” He took hold of her by the shoulders again, and she accepted it for what it was; an adult trying to comfort a distressed, beloved child. “Anyway, I faced off with Wilkins, and then Faith showed up, and I managed to get through it without losing any body parts. Unfortunately, I came away without anything noteworthy in the way of information, or clues about the dreaded, as-yet-undefined Ascension thingie." She shrugged as much as she could while still being held by both arms. "Oh well; any deathtrap you can walk away from is a good one, or something like that.”
His hands tightened, like he was thinking about shaking her until some common sense found it’s way into her head. Fortunately for him he didn’t follow through on that impulse; she loved him desperately, but there were
limits on the amount of condescension she could endure.
That didn’t stop him from unleashing the verbal abuse, though.
“Why didn’t you come get me?” he demanded, a for-real ‘demanded’ this time around. “Going in there alone is just asking to get killed, or worse!” His eyes were cold, now, and filled with old, dark memories. “Believe me, Buffy, someone like him can definitely manage ‘worse’, if they think it’s worth their time. And we both know that Faith would be egging him on the whole way, and enjoying every minute of whatever he did to you.”
Buffy nodded obediently, though what she really wanted to do was plant her fists on her hips and give him a good old fashioned glare. Wrong. You're completely and totally wrong about that one, O ancient and infallible undead guy,
she thought to herself. Turns out the only reason I’m still alive, that Willow, and Xander, and Giles are still alive, is that she’s holding back.
We’re the stationary, non-invulnerable targets, right out in plain sight, and she’s not taking the easy shots we’re giving her. She’s even convinced his Mayorness to lay off of us, at least for now. Which is a big part of why I’m going to talk to her when she does call me; I owe her at least that much.
Out loud, she settled for a sigh.
“I know, it was dumb trying to go it alone.” Which was true enough, though she’d had her reasons. “Don’t tell Giles, okay? I’ve already got this whatever-it-is happening this morning, and I don’t want to have to sit through two lectures in the same day.”
He nodded, grudgingly, and looked like he might have gone on a while longer, if she hadn’t forestalled him by pointing at the sky.
Glancing up again, he grimaced, and let go of her long enough to pull his leather jacket up a bit; not that it would be much help if he got caught out in the middle of the street.
“I’ll talk to you later?” he asked hurriedly, and she managed to find a weak smile for him.
He leaned in, looking for a goodbye kiss, but she hugged him instead, hard. Yes, in spite of everything she did still want to kiss him, even though she was deeply confused about the various current and possibly future romantic interests in her life; unfortunately there was the nagging problem of his vampiric senses. If he’d managed to pick up Faith’s scent, despite her shower, who was to say that he wouldn’t be able to taste
Faith if he kissed Buffy now? Would two minutes with a toothbrush and some mint-flavored Crest be enough to guarantee he wouldn’t?
He didn’t seem to notice that she’d deliberately dodged the smooch; he hugged her back as hard as he could, with a strength almost equal to her own. Then they let each other go, and he turned to run for shelter. The nearest tunnel access was nearly two blocks away, and he had very little time; the tops of the taller trees were already reflecting the morning sun. Buffy wasn’t worried, though; he’d lived a long time, and survived a lot. He wouldn't even have trouble surviving the end of me and him; it would just be one more little tragedy, another chapter in eternity. I’m the one who’s going to have trouble dealing with that one, if that's how things end.
He would always be her first love, first real
love, and she’d been so sure that it would last forever. Now.... For the first time, she wasn't completely sure that it would work out that way.
She kicked herself into motion; Giles would be wondering what was taking her so long.
* * * * *