Author's Notes: And we reach the end. Sorry about the time it took this one to finish up, but life got crazy. Thanks to everyone who has sent along their thoughts and feedback. You made me want to finish this one up nice and quickly. :) Now to tackle Walk the Line . . . ugh, I'm gonna need a pot of coffee. Feedback and thoughts are appreciated, as always. :)
Suggested music: Lips of an Angel by Hinder
Part Four – Just Another Thursday Night
It's just another Thursday night Sin City, 'cept for the fact that I'm not sinnin', and I'm far enough away from the strip not to be drawn in by the flashy lights and cheap drinks.
It's kinda funny how Vegas loses some of its spark after you've lived there a while.
I think it's been just over a year now, maybe a bit longer. Time flies when you're having fun or so the saying goes, right?
Truth be told, life isn't bad right now. After that first year in LA when we fled SunnyD, I came here to help set up and run some slayer facilities that Giles had in the works. No idea why he chose Vegas; I remember him saying something about property values and a booming economy, but I think he was only in it for the gambling. G's a roulette fiend.
I figured that besides the slaying gig, there wasn't much else for me to do. I'm not educated, and besides being able to lift things five times my weight, I don't have any skills.
So, the deal I have here isn't all that bad. Full-time job -- actually on the good side of the new Council, wicked studio apartment, and a girl that doesn't care if I smoke or don't shower or even if I need to take off for a day or two or five just to blow off some steam.
As far as outward appearances go, I didn't leave anything behind.
'Cept for that annoying thing called my heart.
Yeah, it's true. I fell big time in love with Buffy Summers. Yunno how it goes. Girls save world, girls gain sense of freedom, girls bond . . . it's history from there. Not to say that it was a quick process or anything. Almost two months went by after we got to LA before me and B even hashed things out, but once we did, we were pretty damn inseparable.
We hung out a lot and just took time to get to know each other better. There was always too much shit goin' on in Sunnydale for us to get to do that. Thing about closing the Hellmouth and saving the world, though? Left us with lots of time on our hands to just chill out for a while.
It was nice.
Fuck, it was more than nice.
Not sayin' that the Scoobs were real big with the welcome into their little clique, but Buffy dragged me along with them everywhere they went, and pretty soon they got over it.
B made them. Gotta thank her for that. No one's ever stood up for me like that before. Was kinda nice knowing someone had my back.
After about three or four months passed, the Scoobs finally saw how much me and B just . . . balanced each other. We smiled a lot more. We got through everything that was tossed at us because we dealt with it together, like a team. We could anticipate each other, and life was just good.
That's when I started to feel it. The little niggling feeling in my chest every time she was near me or looked at me or, yunno . . . blinked. Every little thing that B did had me realizing how much I was falling for her again.
I'd promised myself a long time ago that I'd never go back to that place – pining over Buffy from afar.
But yunno what? She wasn't keeping me at arm's length anymore. She'd welcomed me into her life and made me feel like I belonged.
Crazy thing was, she was falling for me too. Yeah I'm cocky, but not when it comes to that. I'm not talkin' outta my ass here. She was always finding ways to spend more time with me, touch me all soft and stuff, smile all flirty at me.
God, that smile of hers . . .
. . . shit, it hurts to sit here and think about all of it.
I shouldn't. There's no reason that I should be taking a mental stroll down memory lane. Carrie's on the other end of the couch with my feet on her lap and we're just . . . I dunno. It's not right for me to think about B when I'm right here, right now.
It's not fair to Carrie. Fuck, it's not fair to me.
Still, she's pretty much constantly on my mind.
Life goes on though. We realized we couldn't stay in LA forever, and everyone had to make decisions about where their lives were headed. Red and Xander took off together, just wanting to experience a life different from their own. Giles retired back to England. The slayers were sent to different places around the world.
Shit, I think that Kennedy ended up in Mozambique.
And that just left me and B to make our decisions.
That's when whatever we were building together fell apart.
Like I said . . . without the Council, I had no direction. Giles promised to set me up somewhere so I could carry on with life as a Slayer. It's what I know, and it's what I'm good at it. But . . . Buffy was done. She wanted a normal life for her and Dawn. No more Council, no more nasties, and no more things that go bump in the night.
And yunno what? She deserved it. She earned it. I couldn't stop her.
As much as I wanted to go with her, I knew that I couldn't. I'm not good at 'normal'. I'm a fuck up. What I had with B . . . I never wanted to fuck up.
I think that we both knew it was coming. Right until the very end, we acted like we weren't moving to opposite sides of the globe. I helped her pack her things, but we never once talked about it. We didn't wanna deal with what it meant for us.
So, I got in the cab with her and Dawnie and we headed to the airport. I helped them get their bags out of the car, I hugged Dawnie goodbye, and then I looked at Buffy. I looked at her good and hard, cos I knew it was really goodbye. Our lives had come to a fork in the road, and we chose different paths.
It was what was best for the both of us.
Least I thought so at the time, anyhow.
I pulled her into my arms and we just stood there for a minute all quiet. I had no clue what to say. It woulda been emotional blackmail for me to have told her I loved her then, because then she woulda rethought her life plans. There was no way I coulda done that to her. It wasn't fair.
She kissed my shoulder before she walked away and out of my life. We didn't say goodbye. There were no tears. It was just over.
We lost our chance.
We tried to keep in touch, but it pretty much sucked ass. I didn't wanna hear about how great her new life was. I wanted her to be happy, really I did. I do. But I also wanted her to miss me. To need me. To finally say the words that I'd wanted to hear the whole time I knew her.
Maybe I'm an asshole for wishful thinking, but I'd always hoped she'd call and ask me to come to her, or that she'd profess her love for me and we could live happily ever after.
I can't tell you how many times I almost called her and told her I loved her, but I just couldn't do it. I wouldn't emotionally blackmail her like that. It wouldn't be right for her to change her life cos I had some kinda awakening and finally found the balls to tell her I loved her. How fair would that be?
If she woulda said the words, I woulda hopped on the first flight and went to her. For a week, for a year, forever. Didn't matter. If I knew she wanted me, I would've been there.
But the fact remains that she never asked me to come, and I never asked if she wanted me there. If she wanted me at all.
So, we did the friendly phone call, every three or four days at first, then once a week, and then maybe once a month or so. I can't even remember the last time we talked now. I guess maybe it's some kind of a quiet acceptance.
I had my shot back in LA and I blew it.
Still, it doesn't stop me from thinking about her every day. Every hour. Every minute.
The last few times me and B talked, we were both involved in relationships. She was dating some kinda Immortal guy, but she told me again and again that their relationship wasn't 'like that,' whatever that means. They talked a lot, or so she said. I kinda don't wanna think about it.
I told her about me and Carrie, and I guess that she took it well. I met Carrie outside The Mirage hotel on the strip. A vamp was trying to pull her into an alley and I played hero. She didn't ask questions about the vamp, and I didn't explain.
Sometimes it's better not knowing about the things that live in the dark.
But that's basically the basis of our entire relationship. She stays at my apartment most nights. Sure, she has her own, but I think she feels safe with me. Sometimes, I need some space so I just toss on my jacket and head out for awhile. Last time I did that, I was gone four days. Just spent some time in the desert, doing my reflection and balance thing.
When I came back, she was still at my apartment. The dishes were done, leftovers were in the fridge for me, and she was sat smiling softly on the patio as I approached.
Yeah, this girl really is a gem. Honestly, if I wasn't still in love with Buffy, I think I could love her some day. But . . . like I said . . . I'm still in love with Buffy. I appreciate Carrie. I like having her around. Still, I know she's not the one for me, and she knows it too.
I told her about B from the start so she'd know that I wasn't fully available in the heart department, and she understood. It's why she doesn't push. She knows that if Buffy was ever to call and ask me to go to her, I would. There are no questions about it in my mind.
So, we don't talk about it.
A quiet understanding.
I know it's not right and I tell her again and again that she's worth so much more, but she says she's happy to keep things as they are. Maybe she thinks that some day things will miraculously change. I don't have the heart to tell her she's wrong.
It's getting pretty late now and I can feel sleep luring me. Slaying was a bust tonight, so I came back early and we've just been chillin' and watchin some TV. Not sure how long I've been dozing for, but all this thinking about Buffy has me dreaming about her too. I see her sat next to a window with a phone in her hand, gazing out into the night. There are tears running down her face and she looks so sad.
I want to reach out and touch her, but it's a dream and something is holding me back. My mouth opens but no sound comes out. I'm starting to get weirded out, but then I notice that Buffy's looking down at the phone in her hand now. Dialing.
"Pick up the phone, Faith," she says and looks directly into my eyes, seeing me there for the first time.
I'm jolted away when I hear the phone ringing on the coffee table.
Carrie reaches forward and grabs it, stealing a quick glance at the caller ID before smiling almost sadly and handing it to me.
"For you," she says quietly, then looks back at the TV and pretends to be really interested.
I look down at the phone and see Buffy's number.
Without another word I swing my legs around and stand up, making my way to the spare bedroom. Call me crazy but I don't think it's right to talk to B in front of Carrie. I think she appreciated it too. Another quiet understanding.
I can't even wait to make it into the bedroom. Half way there I push the connect button and bring the phone to my ear.
"Hey B," I say, a smile instantly appearing on my face.
"Hey," she answers, and I can almost hear her smile too. I'll be damned if she didn't sniffle too.
"Was just thinkin' about ya," I confess.
"You always say that," she replies with a chuckle.
"Cos it's always true." Maybe a bit too honest, but there's no need to play games. "So what's happening, hot stuff? Pretty late. It's gotta be what, like . . . seven in the morning there or something."
Hmm. That's pretty weird. It was dark outside in my dream.
Dude, what the hell am I talking about? It was a dream. She coulda been doing the hula or something.
"Guess I can't sleep," she says quietly.
The conversation goes dead for a few seconds as I wait for her to continue. She's not though, so I guess I'm up to bat again.
"Everything okay?" I ask, expecting the usual 'just peachy.'
"Not really," she answers, and I hear her start crying softly.
"Hey . . . what's up?" I ask, my voice cracking a little. Hearing her cry is breaking my heart. "Is everyone okay? Dawn?"
"Yeah, everyone's okay. Dawn's away at school, and Dorian is . . . well, he's long gone."
Ahh. The boyfriend. No wonder she's crying. Another bad breakup for Buffy Summers. I feel bad for her, I do, but I'm not all that crushed about the boyfriend thing. Still, it's time to be a friend.
"Sorry to hear that," I say quietly. I hope she can't tell that I'm lying.
"Thanks, but I'm not."
"I said that I'm not. I'm not sad that he's gone. It wasn't meant to be. It was just another distraction that I put in my life," she says quickly, sniffling.
"He didn't hurt you, did he B?" I ask. I've gotta know. If the bastard laid so much as a finger on her, I'll put his name to the test.
"No, nothing like that. He tried very hard to make me happy. I asked him to leave."
Color me confused.
"Well why'd you do that?"
She pauses for a moment and I hear her take a deep breath.
"Because I didn't love him."
"Well then it's time to move on to bigger and better things, B." I take a deep breath and prepare myself for what's I'm about to say. "Course you're gonna be sad for a while, but you'll get back out there and find someone that you do love, and when you do . . ."
"I don't need to find someone," she interrupts me. "I already have."
Oh. Okay, so she's calling me for what . . . approval?
"Well, that's great I guess." Maybe an ounce of bitterness came out then. "Do I know him?"
"It's you," she blurts out, and I can hear her cover her mouth after she's said it.
Hello! Can I get a repeat on that please? I think my head just exploded.
"What?" I ask slowly.
"It's you," she repeats and starts crying again. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to spring it out you like that, Faith. I didn't. It's not fair of me. There are ten million reasons why I shouldn't have said anything, but I couldn't hold it in anymore."
Shit, that's all the fuckin go ahead I need. I sit down at the computer – compliments of Giles – and go to the bookmarks. A few clicks later and I'm typing in my credit card info, booking my flight into Rome. I don't know where the transfers are or how much the ticket costs. All I know is that I leave in eight hours.
"Maybe there are ten million reasons why you shouldn't have," I say to her.
"I know," she half-sobs. "I'm so sorry. I know that you've got your own life now, and a g-girlfriend. You seemed happy the last time I talked to you. It's why I haven't called you again. I didn't want to be the one to bring all of that crashing down. It's so not fair, and I am so, so sorry, Faith."
"You didn't let me finish," I stop her babbling. "Yeah, maybe there are ten million reasons why you shouldn't have said anything. I'm a screw up. I'm a pig. You can do better. You should do better. But there's one really important reason why you should have."
"Why?" she asks quietly.
I click 'ok' and my boarding pass starts to print out.
"Cos I love you too."
Something in the hallway catches my eye and I turn to see Carrie standing there with a duffle bag over her arm, smiling at me sadly.
"Uhh, hold on a minute," I stammer into the phone before covering the receiver with my hand and standing up. "Hey," I say to Carrie, walking over to her.
"Hey," she says back. "I'm . . . listen, I'm gonna go."
She doesn't sound mad. Sad, maybe, but I know it's nothing she won't get over. The way she's looking at me lets me know that.
"You don't have to," I say, but she shakes her head at me.
"I do. You've been waiting for that phone call for a long time, Faith," she says. She takes a few steps closer to me and puts her hand on my cheek, touching it lightly. "Go to her. Find a reason for your heart to smile again."
She gives me a soft kiss on the lips – our last goodbye – and she turns around and walks out the door, leaving me standing here with the phone still clutched in my hand.
"You're gonna make someone very lucky one day, Care," I say to her retreating form.
She pauses and looks at me over her shoulder. I see the silent tears streaming down her face, but she's smiling. It's an honest to goodness smile.
I don't put the phone back to my ear until I hear the front door click behind her.
"Sorry," I say into the phone as I make my way back to the computer.
"Tell me again," she says absently.
"I love you, Buffy. Always have, and will forever if you let me. Hell, even if you don't let me I will. I've tried not to and it's too hard to fight."
I can hear her laugh happily through her sniffles. God damn, I can't wait to show her how much I love her. Never gonna let her go again.
"What do we do?" she asks after a couple of moments pass. "It's not like you're exactly available."
"Carrie just left," I tell her.
"Oh god, please tell me that you had some horrible fight before I called and that she was already leaving," she says sadly.
"Not quite. But she knew she never had my heart. It's always been about you. Guess she finally decided to move on," I answer truthfully.
"Doesn't make me feel any better."
"Didn't think it would, but I'm hoping that we can get past that. I'm sick and tired of being afraid to love you, B. I thought we lost our chance forever when we left LA, and to be honest, I'm still wavering on disbelief that all of this is really happening."
"Well it is," she says softly, and I can hear her smiling again.
"I can't wait to see that smile," I tell her, and I hear her smile even bigger then.
"Might be a while before you can," she says sadly.
Can't wait to hear her reaction when I tell her I'm coming to see her.
"Not so. Just booked my ticket. My flight leaves in eight hours. I'll see you before the day is through."
I wait for some kinda excited reaction, but all I get is a little questioning hum.
"Flight? I thought that it only takes like two or three hours to drive from Las Vegas to LA."
My smile falls.
"You're in LA?"
"Yeah, I moved back a week ago. Didn't Angel tell you?" she asks.
I look down at my 1200 dollar non-refundable ticket.
"Nope, never got the memo."
A moment passes before she speaks again.
"…was it at least a cheap flight?"
I can't help but chuckle.
"I think I just made some airline a little bit richer and gave the person in the seat next to me a whole lotta sprawling room."
"You didn't," she says, trying to hide her laugh.
"Totally did," I answer back. "Doesn't matter, it's on the Council's expense account."
"Oh, Giles will be thrilled," she jokes.
"No doubt about that." I pause for a moment, then, "Why the hell aren't you givin' me your address? I've got a bag to pack, places to see, people to do."
She laughs now. An honest to goodness laugh. My heart does a little fluttery thing.
"I'm three blocks from the old Hyperion. Jade Flatts, apartment 3b."
I grin. "Hope you meant what you said, blondie. Gonna be there before you can change your mind and go globe-trotting again."
Without giving her any time to respond, I hang up the phone. I'm serious when I say I'm gonna be there before she can change her mind.
I walk around my apartment, picking up loose odds and ends that I know I'm gonna need. Clothes, hair and make-up stuff, a couple DVDs and video games, my iPod, and my leather jacket. I'll have to come back for the rest and to sign a cancel lease agreement.
Damn, this is gonna be a big change, but yunno what? I don't care. If I have Buffy, nothing else matters.
I make the ride to LA in record time. There was a touch and go situation with a state trooper, but I put on my best flirty smile and talked him outta the ticket he wanted to give me. That woulda been two tickets Giles woulda had to foot the bill for. Thank god he's only getting the 1200 plane ticket and not the 100 speeding ticket, right?
Shit. I'm gonna have to hide from him for a couple of weeks 'til he cools down.
I have to circle around Buffy's block about three times before I finally find a parking spot. By the time I get outta my car and start walking down the block to her place, I start feeling the tingles. The tingles that let me know she's nearby.
As I approach her building, I look up at the terraces. To my surprise, I see Buffy sitting out on hers, curled up on a small chair with a blanket around herself. She smiles and looks down at me, and I swear to god I lose my breath for a second. She's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.
"Am I supposed to start quoting Shakespeare now? Something about Juliet and the sun and over and yonder and through the woods?" I ask her.
She stands up and walks to the edge of the balcony, resting her elbows on the railing.
"Quoting isn't necessary," she jokes. "But you coming up here and stealing a kiss totally is."
I smile all big at her.
I know she expects me to come running up the stairs and knocking on her door, but I have other plans in mind. With a grunt, I heave my bag up into the air and onto the third floor balcony. Before it even lands I'm scaling up the side of the building, bracing myself between an iron downspout and the other balconies.
She steps back and watches, amused.
What can I say? I've been patient long enough.
I hop onto the balcony with a thud and fix my rumpled clothes, then I make my way over to her without another moments hesitation. My arms instantly wrap around her and pull her into a hug, holding her tightly against me. Her arms wrap over my shoulders and I swear to god I feel like my heart's gonna explode.
When I hugged her at the airport before she left, it wasn't like this. I think by that point my heart knew that our chance was lost. But here we are now, a whole new chance being offered to us, and we're both on board this time.
No more games, no more hesitation, no more being afraid of our feelings.
I pull back and look into her eyes, seeing there for the first time the one emotion she'd always keep hidden away as best as she could: love.
She rests her forehead against mine and closes her eyes, breathing in nice and deep. I do the same, filling my senses with everything Buffy.
"I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to get here," she whispers.
"No more sorrys," I interrupt her. "All that matters is that we're here now, yeah?"
"Yeah," she agrees, nodding a little.
She puts her hand on the side of my face and runs her thumb over my lips, watching as I give it a little kiss.
"I'm so in love with you," she whispers and my heart clenches in my chest. It's the best feeling I've ever felt.
"I love you, Buffy," I whisper back, and I lean down to seal it with a kiss.
Her lips are softer than I ever could have imagined and I feel like I've just died and gone to heaven. There's nothing sweeter in the whole world than what I'm feeling right here, right now, this very minute.
It's just another Thursday night in the City of Angels. There's a car alarm blaring a few blocks away, quite possibly from my car. I just realized I left my cell phone back in Vegas. A neighbor is blaring Lionel Richie loud enough to wake the apartment complex, and I'm pretty sure we're getting perved on by some guy across the street.
Buffy giggles against my lips and my heart smiles.