The Chosen Two
Faith saw Buffy heading to the stairs and sped up to catch up with her, but as she passed the open door to Buffy’s room she paused for a moment. Something seemed wrong with it. She looked over the barren room, trying to figure out what was different.
Xander had given it a coat of white base paint when they first moved into the house as he had in all the bedrooms, giving each occupant a blank canvas to personalise as they deemed fit. But Buffy’s room had stayed that way. Devoid of anything that might proclaim this room as her own.
Her clothes had gone in the drawers and she slept on the bed but in the months since they had first moved to the city the slayer had never made the room seem much occupied. But this was all normal, there was nothing more or less than there usually was here. She turned from the room shaking her head to clear it of odd thoughts and jogged across the wooden floor to catch her friend at the top of the stairs.
"Hey B! Hold up..." as she skidded to a stop next to her, Faith noticed the small bag slung over Buffy's shoulder and some of the light in her eyes died. She realised what had been wrong.
Her room had been neat, tidy. Her bed had been made.
Buffy’s bed was never made. She constantly wanted to be moving with all the new power flowing through her, and cleaning up is never the most vigorous of tasks.
Faith had known for some time that Buffy leaving was inevitable. There wasn't enough slaying even on the Hellmouth to satisfy the lusts of such a powerful Slayer, and her friends, who had been incapable of adjusting to the person that Buffy had become even before the battle with the First, couldn't understand what she was now. Buffy watched many emotions flash over Faith's face, feeling honored that the girl who was so reserved, at least in showing her emotions, felt comfortable enough with Buffy to let her see what she felt.
Despite having known this time would come, Faith still struggled with the reality that the person she had trusted most was about to leave her. If Buffy hadn’t been the slayer she never would have heard the murmured words that came out with a sob, "Don't leave me." Faith met her gaze, eyes shining with tears that she would never allow to fall "I can't do this alone."
The words sparked something in Buffy and a memory hit her harder than any had in a long time. Since she had started to gain some control over her past lives. Since the nightmares of deaths had faded.**She was looking into a pair of startling blue eyes that were staring at her with the same deep emotion that she had seen moments before on the face of her sister slayer. The sun-bleached hair that fell around gentle facial features was set off by a sun so low in the sky that their positions allowed the face to eclipse it, giving the face in front of her an ethereal look.
Her senses were going haywire. She could feel the sharp stones underneath her like daggers digging into her skin, distracting her from an ache in her side that was no doubt the reason she was on her back. The sight in front of her started to blur as it became a strain to keep her eyes in focus. She could just about make out the face above her twisted in grief and heard the words that were sobbed through the tears.
“Don’t leave me.” Her vision cleared again as the pain reduced to an ache and she saw the longing, loneliness, the love shining through the tears that were starting to fall. “I can’t….” There was a weary, exhausted by life, look in the youthful eyes that begged her to fight her injuries. To stay.
She felt a small smile cross her unfamiliar features and reached up to push back some of the short locks that had fallen in front of the face. The movement of her arm pulled at a wound in her side that had been merely a low ache beforehand. Now pain that even a slayers body was unused to shot through her midriff.
Not wanting to add to the tears silently streaming down the face in front of her, she schooled her face not to show her agony and gently brushed her surprisingly dark fingers across the tear strewn cheek, leaving a trail of blood along high cheekbones. With a contented smile she painfully lowered her arm into the growing pool of blood around her.
The woman saw the flash of pain in her eyes and in an instant was at her side, lifting her weary body to be embraced in her lap. Where their flesh touched she felt a something run through her nervous system, something so different to the pain that had just left her breathless; but equally powerful. That sense of comfort, of completeness had nothing to do with her wound and everything to do with the bond, the destiny they shared. Desperate eyes looked down at her as the slim girl easily cradled her above the blood soaked earth.
"Please..." a tear fell through the inches separating their faces to land on her cheek "I can't do this alone."
The pain was now so overwhelmingly intense that her mind blocked it out and all she could think of was the person in front of her, glad that at the end of it all they were here together. There was a sense of disembodiment as she lifted her arm up to pull the face closer so that her last breaths wouldn't be whisked away on the wind.
In a strangled whisper so quiet that even a Slayer found it hard to catch the words she breathed, "Trust that we will find one another again" As she sank into oblivion she felt a feather-light kiss caress her lips and deep in her soul she heard "I do."
Then there was nothing but a comforting darkness wrapping itself around her, making her feel safe and loved.**
She thought it was passed, as she once more gained her focus on endlessly deep brown eyes that had regained their composure while she lost herself in the past. The despair was gone but the worry that replaced it was just as hard to deal with, just as impossible to cure.
“I…” Buffy started, trying to think of something, anything to say that could be right in this moment. Explain away what they both knew. Why she had to leave. Why Faith had to stay.
The memory, as all those of death seemed to do, had made the part of her that was the Slayer stir within her. However this time, there was something different. No desire for revenge. There was only…**The smell. It was so strong it overpowered everything else there was.
This wasn’t just any blood. The power flowed off it even as it seeped into the ground.
She recognized the power, the smell, and knew only that it was hers.
It was fading; that sense of power, flowing from the body along with all that blood.
She roared as she felt the last drop of power go, leaving the body cold, the liquid that had warmed it pooled about them.
She cried out in pain because her other was gone and the being that kept her trapped had broken right alongside her, allowing her to voice her anguish.**
Buffy found herself once more looking into Faiths eyes; trapped by deep wells that jumped between conflicting emotions every time she regained her focus. Within them, beneath the hurt that shimmered on the surface, she could see what she knew was in hers, reflected back. The killer within her had surfaced, and it had bought the other slayer’s bloodlust right along with it.
In that instant, with the power of their shared demon drifting between them on a tide of emotions she knew what to do. She joined their hands trapping them in a loop of energy flooding out of Buffy into the other place it recognized as home; then back into the Chosen One when it grew too much for Faith to take.
“Can’t you feel it?” She asked breathlessly, wallowing in the joy of allowing her power out so freely “Feel how connected we are?” Buffy broke their physical connection but the power flow continued, the energy of all Slayers surging between the two current holders of that title “Trust in this. Know that you’re not alone.”
Buffy waited until Faith nodded, unable to speak when she knew the timbre of her voice would betray her. Show just how much it broke her heart to watch the other girl leave. Hoping her assumptions were wrong.
But Buffy only gave her that awful knowing smile. The one that says ‘I know what you’re doing but I’ll let you’ and with a light kiss on the cheek, because how do you say goodbye to someone that caught you sneaking away, she turned and walked away from Faith.
~ ~ ~
She had half-known that they would come. It would have been impossible to see Faith and not realise what had happened. What else could leave the girl who had so easily shrugged off her lover’s death completely devastated? However, now that they were walking through the waiting room towards her, she just wanted to run.
Escape to anonymity where she could ignore the memories of her most recent life. Hide behind ones where there wasn’t anyone but herself and the endless fight for survival. She was vaguely surprised that Faith herself was leading the group towards her, all her expectations would have been on Willow or her sister taking point on this futile mission to bring her back. Didn’t they know she’d left them long ago?
“You forgot this.” Faith threw the bag she held at Buffy’s feet where it landed with a muffled metallic noise.
There was no need to look to see what was in the bag. She could feel it, like she could feel the connection to the girl that had given it to her there was another, deeper connection to the thing she was being given. She thought of the intense flow of power that had so energised her earlier, knowing that the same could be achieved with the scythe. It had been forced to hold the power of the Slayer and could be used to inflame what she held within.
She looked up into brown eyes and knew she couldn’t take it. Take this physical reminder of their connection away from Faith. More than that she didn’t have the right.
“The scythe was meant to be passed through the slayer succession along with the power. You’re the current slayer Faith. You always have been, from the moment you were called. Nothing that’s happened to me changes that.” Leaving the bag on the floor Buffy stood as a train pulled into the station, not bothering to look at its destination. She moved in front of the other three, waiting for what they had to say, barely able to look at the tear stains down Dawn’s cheeks.
She had expected anger, reprisals... anything but the desperate hug she received as if her sibling was trying to enfold her in a protective layer of flesh. Buffy returned in kind, remembering not those false memories of a childhood spent together; but the oh so real ones of the past few years. When Dawn had been a living reminder of the reason she fought.
“Come back to us someday.”
The words came out in a choked whisper, ruffling her hair where Dawns’ head rested on hers and then, as suddenly as it had began, she was free again; Dawn walking away from the group in the same sharp pain-filled strides she had used following their mothers coffin.
Buffy was afraid to look up at her two oldest friends; terrified of seeing the same understanding Dawn had given her reflected in their eyes. Because with that response she realised what she should have known all along, too lost in her own pain to appreciate that they were allowing her to pretend. They somehow understood that this... this was something they couldn’t fix, and had allowed her the premise of normality as long as she wanted.
She fell into an embrace as fierce as the one that had preceded it; content to just hold the only two people who knew everything this life had done to her. When they broke apart she sent one last look at Faith, who alone seemed poised to grab her and physically prevent her from leaving; the only one with anything beyond resignation in their eyes. As she turned away from them Buffy saw that last spark of hope die fade out of chocolate brown eyes, and couldn’t help but pray she hadn’t killed it forever.
Without a backwards glance she walked away from everything that had defined her life so far, and got on the train to nowhere.
~Having reached a break in my tale, this seemed as good a time as any to comment and reflect on what has been written. A large part of this story was never meant to happen, Buffy and the Scoobies were going to part ways when she returned from her drunken night in Chapter Two. Whenever I tried to write that confrontation it never gelled with how I see the characters and so some level of reconciliation was made, and Buffy took her road trip to Cleveland.
I often seem to find that these diversions from my plans lead in exactly the direction I needed to go, and this was no exception, allowing us to view Buffy’s state through their eyes. Now we’ve finally made the break, all pretenses gone. How far through the deceptive mask they saw… well I’ll leave that up to your interpretation. We’re heading for a slight change of pace and style when we pick up our favorite slayer’s tale, but first I hope you’ll enjoy the coming interludes that somewhat bridge the gap between what has been and what’s to come.
If you've ploughed through this and got all the way to the end I think its safe to presume that you like it (or don't completely hate it), so I really would love a review to say why. If you're in too much of a hurry to read the rest... well I'll take that as a compliment and hope to hear from you when you get to the end of what I've done so far. In the mean time let us leave Buffy as she travels into the unknown.