Faith tried not to blink, not to soften her fierce stare; if she were to close her eyes, to weaken her focus even for a moment, she was sure the heat so strongly building in her gaze would escape in the form of tears. Even now she could feel them rising thickly in her throat, covering over her thudding heart until she felt nauseous with her effort to keep them back. Her flattened palms slowly curled into fists until she could feel her nails digging into her skin, her jaw clinched until sharp pain shot through her throat, and her shoulders drew together so tautly that Faith’s back began to ache…and as she practiced this fierce self control, anger mingled with her grief and nearly overpowered it until she felt as though if she did not make some sort of gesture soon, she would literally burst through herself, whether in a frenzy of destructive actions, or in uncontrollable tears.
Take care of yourself, he had said. Like anyone would notice- like anyone would care anymore- like anyone would be affected in any way by what she did or didn’t do, especially when it came to her own self.
The absolute silence of the room seemed to amplify until it nearly pulsed in Faith’s ears, as loud as any noise she could imagine. She had thought it horribly, conspicuously quiet in the few days after Buffy’s death; the lack of multiple voices moaning and weeping in agony, calling for loved ones and babbling in delirium, as terrible as they had been, and as much as it hurt to hear them replaying in her mind, was nearly matched in awfulness by the subsequent silence, because all the silence meant was that none of them could ever make any sort of noise again. With only she and Giles remaining, both barely speaking, she had though it horribly, almost unbearably quiet.
But this now, this quiet with only the sound of her own heightened heartbeat, her own staggered breathing to pierce it at all…this quiet already seemed beyond what Faith could endure.
She was starting to push back from her chair in a sudden jerky motion, intending to leave the room, to somehow evade the silence it had held, when a sudden noise in the doorway stopped her. Freezing, Faith glanced quickly towards the door, her pulse speeding faster, and had barely returned to her seat at the desk when Giles’s head reappeared in the room, then half of the rest of him as he called to her with continued awkwardness.
“Faith…I will call you when I arrive.”
She meant to shrug carelessly, to tell him “all right” in the most casual and unconcerned way she could manage. She meant to give him an easy, if insincere, smile, to not let him know for even a second how difficult it had been just to breathe in the single minute he had been gone. But when she tried to turn her head, she found she couldn’t move. And when she opened her mouth, to her horror, it was not words that emerged, but rather a clearly audible and recognizable sob.
Furious, shocked, and mortified at her own betrayal of herself, Faith pressed her lips together tightly, refusing to let another break forth, and fixed her fierce unblinking stare at the wall again, raging at herself with little coherency in her thoughts. But no matter how closely she pressed her lips together, no matter what she screamed at herself inwardly, she could feel the tears standing more insistently than ever in her eyes, and she was terrified that this time she would not be able to keep them back.
She didn’t’ dare look towards the doorway, where she was sure Giles stood astonished, blinking several times in stunned bewilderment at what he had heard. In all the time he had known her, Giles had never once seen Faith cry. And if she had anything to say about it, he was not about to fucking see it today.
Faith wanted to tell him again to go, to fuck off, to leave her the hell alone if he ever planned to at all. But if she opened her mouth again she had no guarantee of what might come out, and so when she said nothing, she heard Giles step hesitantly into the room in several strides, stopping a distance away from her.
“Faith?” he asked quietly, the stunned tone of his voice clearly distinguishable even as she tried not to hear him at all. “Faith, are you…are you crying?”
She hadn’t been, exactly. But that simple question, asked in such a soft tone, was enough to release the tears that had until then been still standing safely locked behind her eyes, and Faith could have gladly hurt herself for letting them out, even in the silent manner that they emerged.
She pulled the hood of her hoody over her head with a jerky, angry lack of coordination, her hands shaking slightly in an effort to shield even her profile from Giles’s view, but especially the tears that so clearly answered his startled question. She didn’t wipe them away, for to do so would be to admit that they existed, and if Giles wasn’t certain now, she sure as hell wasn’t about to remove all doubt.
Fuck, fuck, FUCK, why the fuck couldn’t he just go?
“Shut up,” she ground out in lieu of a reply, but even to her own ears her voiced sounded choked. As tears continued to make their way down her cheeks and chin, dripping into her hair, she fought to no avail to stop them without acknowledging them in any way. She was not successful. In fact, the more ferociously she instructed herself to stop, the faster new tears seemed to come, and it was a whole new battle to keep them silent as well.
She could hear Giles stepping closer now, only a few feet away from her, no doubt not knowing how to proceed. If she was Buffy, he no doubt would know exactly what to do…but then, if she was Buffy, there was no way in hell Giles would ever be fucking leaving.
“Faith,” he said slowly, not quite near enough to touch her, but almost. “Faith, why are you…tell me what’s wrong, please.”
“What’s WRONG?!” Faith sputtered a disbelieving laugh that held no humor, her voice rising. “What’s wrong, did you seriously just ask me what’s WRONG?! Have you been conscious for the past few weeks when we had fucking BOMB blow up our building, kill off half the people who lived here, and spread a blood-spewing virus through the other half that fucking killed them off in the most literal bloodbath was possible? And now you’re just off to fucking Mary Poppins land leaving me in the fucking house of mass destruction, and then you want to ask me what is WRONG!” she shook her head roughly, barking out a second sharp laugh that almost sounded like choking. “Just go, Giles. You said you’re fucking going, just go, okay?”
She grabbed the front of her hood and yanked it further forward as much as possible in her continued effort to attempt to conceal her face from him; even if Giles knew she was crying, she didn’t want him to SEE it. But he was still standing there. She could sense him even if she couldn’t see him, and his stumbling reply displayed his ambivalence.
“Faith…I can’t just leave like…when you…you are so…”
He stopped, clearly searching for the most accurate yet inoffensive way to word himself, and Faith wasted no time in providing him with a response that she was sure was on his mind, if not what he had intended to say aloud.
“You can’t go like what? Like a fucking traitor, a fucking coward? You can’t go when I’m WHAT, pissed off, UPSET, fucking CRYING, is that it, you can do whatever you want as long as you don’t’ have physical evidence that yeah, shit happened, that just because you don’t see it doesn’t’ mean it’s all fucking dandy, is that why you can’t go, Giles? Because if Faith doesn’t wave and smile and say pip pip mate or whatever you people do to say goodbye, then it makes you actually think about what the fuck you’re doing, but otherwise it’s fucking fine?”
She stopped, her chest hitching, and took in a deep breath, shutting her eyes as tightly as she could in an attempt to stop her tears, but still a few managed to squeeze past her lids. Faith could feel her nose threatening to run as well, and she sniffed hard in an attempt to stave it off as she spoke again.
“Well you still don’t see shit, Giles, I’m looking at a fucking wall just for you, so you can still say all’s NOT WRONG in your little Giles world, so just fucking go.”
Damn thing about Giles though…the moment he thought Faith might be crying and it might be somehow connected to his taking off, she knew damn well his sense of duty, or at least his sense of guilt, wouldn’t’ let him go on like he no doubted wanted to until he thought it was “okay” for him to. The minute Faith had opened her mouth she had doomed herself to his reluctant pressing, and no doubt to ending up saying a lot of things out of anger, frustration, and other strong emotions that she had never wanted or intended for Giles to hear.
“Faith,” he said quietly, not moving any closer from what she could hear- because he was probably afraid how she might break some body part if he got too close, she thought bitterly, and if that were true, it was probably a wise decision on his part, because she couldn’t guarantee she wouldn’t.
“Don’t Faith me,” she almost growled, shaking her head vehemently and almost causing her hood to fall off as a result. As it was she felt it slip dangerously but didn’t bother fixing it. “I said to fucking go, am I doing anything to stop you? Am I trying to hold you back? I said go, that’s my official fucking command, okay? Go catch your fucking plane.”
Most men at this point would start to get angry too, start yelling back, if nothing else. Some men would take her at face value and go, whether or not they thought it was what she wanted. Some men would start getting defensive and listing like a lawyer all the ways that Faith was wrong to wait until the hour before they needed to be on a plane before spelling out what she thought about them leaving. But even back when she was just a kid Faith had figured out that Giles wasn’t like most men, and he did none of the things that most men would do.
Instead he took two slow steps forward, very likely risking life and limb for all he knew, and lightly rested his hand between her shoulderblades. Faith’s already rigid back jerked, and her head swiveled to look at him so rapidly that her hood fell off entirely, but she was too focused on Giles’s hand on her back to be able to simultaneously care that he was now also looking at her face. As she looked at him for the first time, she saw the furrow of his brow, the uneasy yet strong concern in his eyes, but also the near helpless uncertainty tensing his expression.
The dark shadows beneath his eyes seemed particularly stark and obvious in the room’s lighting, and the lines marring the corners of his eyes, his brow, and near his mouth seemed particularly pronounced. He looked tired beyond description, and though Faith had always thought of Giles as old from the day she met him, the past few weeks had emphasized his aging to the point that he looked at least fifteen years older than the actual age she estimated him to be.
“Faith,” he began, and the weariness was in his voice as well as he met her eyes, exhaling in a slow, controlled breath. “I didn’t know…I was not aware that you…”
“Don’t touch me,” her voice rose sharply, and she jerked her chair a few inches away, angered that the fierceness in her tone was significantly diluted by her continued struggle to try to banish the tears still occasionally emerging from her eyes. “Don’t touch me, Giles, and don’t start telling me about what you didn’t KNOW, you never know shit! For someone who’s supposed to be so damn smart, you just never think, do you? What, you didn’t KNOW, you think I wouldn’t give a damn if the last person left of this place, the last person I know on this PLANET just takes off and leaves too, just a couple of fucking days after every person I know had fucking left too? You don’t KNOW that most people can’t just watch fifty people fucking die and then be perfectly fucking cool with the one person who didn’t fucking pissing himself to be able to take off too? That the second no one else is there all you want to do is take off and make sure you never have to look at me again? You think, you don’t KNOW that maybe someone would give a shit about all that?! Well you’re fucking right, Giles, I don’t give a shit, so GO!”
She cut herself off before another sob could break out, sucking her breath in sharply, and sniffed hard, starting to turn back to face the wall, face flushed, heartbeat thudding almost beyond control. Giles didn’t’ try to touch her again, but he also didn’t back away. She could still feel him standing over her, his discomfort practically tangible as he attempted to decide his best course of action.
“Faith…that isn’t…it’s not that I wish to leave you, per say,” he began, and Faith made a loud noise of disbelief, shaking her head roughly.
“And that’s why you’re on a plane to England, right? Don’t give me that bullshit about not wanting to leave me, because if it was anyone else, you would fucking stay.”
Her words hung in the air between them, heavy, accusing, sharp with dissent, and both were silent as Faith took in another deep breath, finally swiping at her face in a jerky, angry gesture without turning back towards him. She attempted again to focus on evening out her breaths, on controlling her tears, and was met with only success, just before Giles spoke, his voice more strained than ever.
“Faith…it’s not…you are wrong, it’s not about…my leaving, it’s not about you. I just…you must understand, I just…I just need to go. I…I cannot stay here, in this building, in this city, this country…after everything we’ve seen, all the memories made here…good and bad both…they…all are equally difficult to endure, and…I want no further reminders by seeing anything…anything at all tied to it…any of it. I just…Faith, I cannot stay where any of my memories remain,” he said slowly, his voice dropping so low yet intense with growing feeling that he seemed to be almost hissing at her. “I cannot go on for another day with the remnants of what was remaining before my eyes.”
The remnants of what was…and that, Faith knew every bit as much as he did, was her. She and he, they were the remnants of what was…it was she he could not stand to look at or be with. It was she whose face brought him nothing but pain. It was she he could not endure, and with this knowledge pain built up strongly within her heart, bursting forth from her in her heated words of retort.
“And that’s what I am, isn’t it, Giles- a reminder of your past, a nudge towards bad memories, a constant source of grief? I’m something to fucking forget, to run away from just like everything else? You think you can go away and just start over a new life, that nothing of this one will even exist if you just fucking turn your head and move your ass away from it, is that what you think? Well you can’t do it, Giles, it’s not fucking possible!”
Faith could hear her voice rising, the agitation building in her chest, heating her face and bringing the barely suppressed tears threatening yet again as she abruptly jerked her hair around to face Giles, then abandoned it entirely to stand, head tilted up to meet his gaze full on. Gesturing repeatedly for emphasis, she continued to address him fiercely, her voice growing nearly to a scream.
“You can’t leave ANY of it, Giles! No matter how far you go or how much you try not to fucking thing about it, you can’t fucking outrun it, you can’t just FORGET it or start over, you can’t just shove it away, it’s a fucking miracle if you even survive it! You can’t keep from dreaming it at night and hearing them in the day, no matter how far you go they’ll still fucking be there, they’ll still fucking follow you, don’t you KNOW that?! They’re fucking IN you now, Giles, just like they’re in me, we can’t just fucking claw them out of us, they’re there and we can’t do shit about it, we can’t just fucking run away from them because they’re THERE! You think I don’t want to run away?!” she cried, and she was openly yelling now, her face and body very close to his, tears once again streaming down her face even as her voice remained strong, aggressive.
“You think I don’t want to leave them all behind?! I don’t have anywhere to fucking GO, Giles! I don’t have anyone or anywhere to run to, there is no one fucking left for me! I can’t fucking forget them! You think I don’t see their faces all day long, you think I don’t hear them screaming and choking and there’s nothing I can do to make it better?! You think I don’t see them every time I close my eyes, you think I don’t feel their blood on my hands and their hands on my skin, you think I don’t hear them begging me to help them, calling my name, calling me her…her m-mother…”
This was too much, entirely too much to think about, too much to feel all at once, and more by far than she had ever spoken aloud. Faith felt as if everything soft and vulnerable still remaining inside her was being ruthlessly shattered into fragments as she lowered her head, shoulders hunching as sobs overtook her, rattling through her frame so violently she could barely stand, much less form a coherent thought or further words. Even so she tried, elbows hugged tightly against herself as she forced words through a heavy fog of tears.
“I c-can’t…I can’t leave…there’s no one…no one but them….them and me. I’m…I’m the last one left. I’m the f-fucking last one left, and you’re…you’re…”
She could barely make out Giles’s outline through her curtain of hair falling over her bowed face and the intensity of her crying she could not see or analyze his expression. It did not matter…it was not Giles or anything he was doing that Faith could focus on. All she could think about was the strong emotion rolling through her, beyond her ability to control, and she could not see or analyze Giles’s own personal struggle in the wake of her breakdown.
It was not any significant space of time before Giles responded…but in that small break before action, the weight of his future rested within his hands. In that brief space of time he wrestled with fear versus knowledge, instinct to preserve himself versus instinct to preserve another, a future set in stone, if alone, versus a future of uncertainty, if with another…and most predominantly, he struggled with his pain. For whatever path he chose, his pain would undoubtedly be part of his baggage.
But the short space of struggle time passed, and Giles stepped forward with slow but determined steps, taking Faith wordlessly into his arms. As her arms came about him, and she grasped him in the desperate manner of someone clinging quite literally to all that remained of her world, Giles lowered his lips to the crown of her head, continuing to hold her close. And in the doorway stood his carefully packed baggage, now rendered unnecessary, forgotten.
They could not outrun their past. But maybe, they could learn to walk beside it, into their future.
author notes: I'll probably get screamed at for ending it here, but this scene was actually the scene from my dream, I'm still writing Saving Faith and have other ideas, and I have no plans to continue. Lol just assume they avenge the terrible deaths.