Author: Amethyst Blizzard
Rating: PG-13, for mature themes
Summary: Buffy finds Faith alone, smoking a cigarette, and old wounds are opened. Can the two heal them together? Set sometime during "Dirty Girls".
Disclaimer: Joss is boss. I own nothing but my mind.
I watched her take a long drag, sucking in the sizzling tar like it was everything to her. She breathed heavily, gasping in the desperate smoke and evaporating nicotine. I knew in that moment, as she leaned against the rust-stained, white veranda, that she was playing dangerous. She was playing the bitch, just released from her prison cell, loaded and ready to explode.
She wore a black tank top, revealing the taut muscles in her arms, strained readily from the years she had spent locked up, raising her chin to the metallic bar in defiance of her sentence. Her jeans rested easily on her hips, lowering with each striding breath she took.
I tried not to notice the glimpses of deep, pale skin that emerged each time she shifted her stance, moving her weight from one foot to the other restlessly. She was always restless.
Smiling with an illogical nostalgia that threatened to consume me, I stepped past the doorway, allowing myself to be embraced by the cool breeze that fluttered over me.
The smoke from her cheap cigarette surrounded me, carried me into that blissful balance between life and imagination. She could always do that. She could always pull me away from what was real.
She glanced over her shoulder, high already from the nicotine that injected spills of euphoria and suffocation through her lungs. She didn't say anything, though I knew she wanted to. She always wanted to. But never could.
The end of her cigarette burned with resignation. It was almost out, though she continued sucking on it, breathing it in for all it was worth. It was her way, to suck the life out of something until it had expired completely.
She had done that with me.
Faith looked dangerous in the pure light the fresh moon cast onto the yard's soiled ground. She looked ready to kill.
With one arm draped around her middle, she studied me like an enemy as I moved to face her. My own disguise was pale, coloured with off-whites and stained creams. My shirt fluttered in the playful wind, allowing passages of cool air to pass through my skin.
I suddenly realised the tank top she was wearing didn't belong to her. It had a rip it in, just above the folded hem at the ends, revealing a strip of her pale skin. "That's mine."
She looked down, her dark hair falling over her face as she followed my gaze. Her cigarette rested between two fingers. She breathed out smoke. "Kind of low on the apparel, babe. Besides," she offered a knowing smirk, "I look good in it."
"Never were one for modesty, were you, Faith?"
She didn't answer, just lifted a brow, dragged on her cigarette, suffocated strangles of smoke expelling from her mouth.
The night wore on stiffly, moon rising in its secure pouch in the dark sky. Those years I existed through life in her absence were gone. She was back. She was dangerous.
Her cigarette died, ash slipping from it like dried leaves off a tree. A thick line of smoke sifted through the air, slowly snuffed out by the whistling breeze. All that was left was the cloud of noxious smoke she kept inside her mouth, until she breathed it out through her nose. I could see two brilliant streaks of wispy grey leave her as she sighed.
She looked longingly over the railing of the white balcony, her body twisted from me, hands clasping arms in a desperate attempt to connect, to not lose touch. She was calm. She settled that way, staring into the darkness of the night. I watched her long lashes curl over her eyes restlessly.
A ragged breath escaped her lips, though her eyes were solid and staring into nothing. Dangerous. "Pass go, collect two hundred dollars."
Her voice was sad, disbelieving and unbearably disturbed. It hurt me, shot through me, jolted my nerves. I frowned. "What do you mean?"
I watched as her head fell to a shoulder. She looked at me sideways with studying eyes. I looked away. She sighed, turned from me.
We slipped into the past, not wanting to, but resigning to our fate. We had to, otherwise we would never be able to live our lives alive. Grief grasped the edges of my heart, pulling me in, reigning in memories I had long tried to rid myself of. That man, wooden splinters hindering the blood from pulsing in his veins, the flowing crimson liquid that didn't stop leaking from the gaping hole in his clothes. My voice, yelling, hers stuttering, blurting out words that made no sense.
I-I didn't know. I didn't know.
The streak of red that dripped down the side of his mouth, staining the edge of his lips, staining my hands. Hers too.
We have to go!
I pushed the words, thoughts, memories from me. The words faded, the image dipped in red left me. The thoughts remained, bleeding steadily into the night, drowning us.
"You never knew what it was like," she whispered. I could feel the pain choking her throat, "taking a life like that. So young, Buffy. No matter what, you're never prepared. Never ready. Never sane enough to deal with something like that. Nothing is enough."
I looked at her, broken and dangerous in the moon's shadow. I hated her, then. At that moment, I hated her. "I did know," I returned forcibly, anger slipping from its restraints, "I felt it every day. And the only thing that kept me going was the hope that maybe you would feel it, that maybe you would cry like I did. That it wasn't just me dealing with it."
She dropped the remnants of her decayed cigarette to the planks of unpolished wood beneath her. It shattered as it fell, spilling coals of ash into the night.
"I dealt with it," she sneered, danger and flare returning to her lowering eyes, "I've been dealing with it for four years. But it isn't enough. I know that."
I felt the need to stab open up old wounds, explore their insides and draw blood. I felt dangerous. "And all it took was Angel, and you were out of there in a heartbeat."
She ignored me. She just looked down and pressed herself against the cold railing, dried crusty paint staining the black tank top a rusted white. Her voice was small, cold and lost, like it used to be, "It isn't enough because I haven't survived the thing I need to. I haven't survived you. This."
Unable to face me, she pulled her arms tighter across her chest and held herself in the nipping breeze. I slipped my own arms over my cooling body. I suddenly felt a chill.
The milky pale flesh of the moon peeled away from the shadow of the dark clouds and rested over her. Slender slits of shadow painted bars on her face as she laid a shaking hand on the wooden railing.
My voice broke her. I could see it. I could feel it all break within her.
Stepping over the bleeding wounds, creeping past the stinging cuts of broken feelings and confusion, I let myself find her.
She flinched as I touched my fingers to the tight skin of her arm. Something inside of me wanted to comfort her, to give her the peace she deserved, the cure for the disease within her. Her skin was a pale barricade that threatened to shatter around me. I tried to capture it, to catch it as it broke and fell. I was too slow. She was gone, her weakness, her silent struggle with me, gone.
Snatching her arm away violently, she twisted from me and raised her hand.
I couldn't see her face, then. But when she turned back around to face me, her hand dropped to her side, and what I saw in her eyes shattered me. Danger.
This time, I saw danger not in her eyes, but reflected in her eyes. She saw the danger in me, the danger of what it would mean for her to break before me.
And, quietly, I turned away.
A/N: It came out a little different to what I had first thought, and the ending seems a little abrupt and stilted. Reviews are always appreciated :)