A/N: Takes place during Graduation Day Part 1, so refresh your memories. Angel/Faith pairing of course, though only mildly implied. Rated for a naughty word and slightly mature themes, just to be on the safe side.
Choose your poison.
She'd always wondered what that meant.
Now she knew, and she just felt hollow.
She thought of him suddenly, a flicker of a bitter memory that lingered in her mind, just under the surface. He had tried to save her, tried to convince her that evil was too big a price to pay. She hadn't listened, ran away, paid the price.
Too much, she thought now, solemnly.
She knew he was dying, maybe he already had. The arrow was poisonous; she remembered asking the Mayor for something to make him hurt, make him pay. Well, he sure was, now. His defiant alienation from her, his solid refusal to give in to her seduction. It all made sense, really, he loved another, she knew. It hurt, though. Hurt badly.
That he would choose that blonde bitch over her, it just made her grit her teeth and curse loudly.
He deserved to die, really.
Or did he?
She didn't know anymore. Was it right? To condemn him for another's sins? No, because he had sinned. Hadn't he? He had refused her, plainly and painfully. She needed to make him hurt, make him pay for discarding her like that.
The sweat dripped steadily from her forehead. Her heart beat wildly as she gripped the punching bag with what little strength remained in her. Somehow she knew she'd need her strength later that night, but she paid no heed to her hunch. She didn't care. Whatever B threw at her, she could take.
She felt the adrenaline surge through her veins as she struck her fist hard into the bag, making it whine and churn around.
It was Angel, she imagined.
It was him, and she was hitting him as hard as she could, with as much malice as she could muster.
Nobody had ever refused her. Nobody.
Not like he had, with those sad eyes, full of his love for Buffy.
She remembered his cold hands around her, and how she had made them warm with the heat from her back. She had inched closer, pretence gripping her like a sharp clasp, until their lips had almost met. They hadn't. Just as she could feel the moisture of his supple lips on hers, he pulled her hands away from his neck and shook his head, defiant.
I love her.
His words justified her means.
Why should Buffy have what she wanted? Why should anyone have Angel when she couldn't?
That was why he had to die.
That was why she had opted for something to hurt him.
That was why she had shot him with that poison arrow.
That was why he lay writhing in anguish, dying without a cause.
That was why she showed no remorse.
He didn't deserve it. Not after what he had done. Not after he had rejected her in such a way. No one deserved to get away with that. Ever. No one would hurt her like that and live to tell about it.
Except it did hurt her that she was killing him.
It hurt her deeply and she did not know why. Perhaps it was because of what could have been; they could have been lovers if she tried hard enough. Or maybe it was because he held her salvation in his fingers.
She didn't know. Nor would she know. Not now. Not when he was dying, sweating out his desires and being saturated in them.
She knew she felt something for him. That was clear. After he had tried to 'save her', and all. After he had found her strangling Xander near to death, he had tried hard to reach her beneath the surface, tried to find that switch that would make her show remorse.
He had failed.
There was no way she was going to flick that switch.
Except that she did.
She felt sorry for what she had done to Angel. All he had ever done was try to save her, even if he had refused her advances. That wasn't his fault. Under different circumstances, she figured, maybe he would have given in to her.
She'll never know now. He was dying. And she was responsible. She had been the one to press her finger against the trigger and fire the crossbow at him, looking at his heart but not aiming for it. She had been the one to choose that poison.
What was is she felt for him?
Certainly not love. She couldn't love someone like that, especially not Angel with his 'better than now' attitude. No, it wasn't love. It wasn't lust, either. It was something in the middle. Something she couldn't explain. Something so deep she couldn't even feel it. It was like a scratching, an itch that just refused to go away. Something that gnawed at her senses but she didn't let it embrace her. Not for a second. She couldn't.
The punching bag groaned with a righteous feeling of being ignored. She ground her fist again into the bag's padded middle and watched as it sunk into a small crevice, then breathed to reveal its hidden strength. Another sharp punch. Another. And then another.
Then the barrage came. It was something she felt inside of her, but something she could not control. An onslaught of punches followed a strained yell as she continued to pound the punching bag with her fists until they ached with exhaustion and bled with pain.
He had done this. He had made her feel worthless. He had made her feel less than everyone else. She wasn't sure if that was because she had tried to seduce him with her own agenda, or because everyone else seemed to be condemning her, but she knew he looked down at her now.
Or at least he would, had he lived.
Maybe he still was alive. If he was, she sure underestimated his will to survive. The poison intended to kill in a few hours, maybe two at the most. It had been well over that now, and she felt a regret that stung her as she stumbled away from the punching bag, sore and bruised from the imaginary fight she had envisioned. She reached for a jacket that lay carelessly over her bed.
She shrugged it on and took her hair out, aware of how mattered it was because of the sweat that continued to drip from her pores. Her breathing was steady and fluid. She couldn't afford for it to be quick and erratic; she knew there was something she should be prepared for in a matter of minutes.
She flicked on her music. It soothed her, made her feel calm and blended. She found some candy stashed somewhere; she thought it might have been from after a patrol one night. She liked to feel good after a hunt; she liked to feel high. She bounced onto her bed, suddenly unaware and uncaring of Angel's predicament.
Chewing on the candy, she flipped through a book of comics. There were careless drawings of people killing one another, a hero coming to the rescue, though too late to save a number of bloodied victims.
The music was cut off.
She knew there was someone there.
She knew who it was.
And she knew why she was there.
She rolled off her bed casually, throwing the stick of candy to one side as she faced her enemy.
She asked with a disturbing glee if he was dead. She knew the answer already.
Her sister slayer replied with a sturdy determination that he wasn't, and that there was a cure.
Choose your poison.
Now she knew what that meant.