Anyways, here it is!
Title: Alone All Along
Rating: PG-13 I guess
Disclaimer: Don't own them, never will - I'm just playing in a pretty big sandbox.
Notes: This is the follow up to All Of Me and is again inspired by lyrics from the Evanescence song "My Immortal" - it's not a song fic though! The lyrics are: i've tried so hard to tell myself that you're gone and though you're still with me i've been alone all along
A/N 2: Huge thanks to Bill for the quick beta! The next part will be coming soon!
“Anya?!” No answer, part of him knew there never would be. He couldn’t stop looking though. “Anya!” His throat raw from the shouting, he stood immobilised, aware of the destruction going on all around him and not caring. He couldn’t leave until they all made it out. It was what he did – he brought up the rear, made sure everyone survived.
A small but surprisingly strong hand was suddenly in his and he knew, without looking, that it was Dawn, pulling him away, leading him, making sure they all got out. It was as if the mantle had been passed.
He kept looking, frantically trying to spot her – a flash of blonde hair, her broad smile, her accusing stare, anything. There was nothing.
And then he was out, seated on the bus, automatically going through the motions, patching up the ones who had gotten out, trying not to think of the ones who hadn’t…
A blur of yellow hair just too far to the left for him to focus on caught his attention. His head whipped round to identify it and he found himself back in the hallway, frantically searching.
Faith sat with him, helping him through the dreams as best she could. Once back on the bus there had been an uneasy kind of comfort. Both of them acknowledged that what had happened between them was just that – between them.
Finally he had slept; secure enough in her presence to rest. The lump that simple act had brought to her throat had threatened to choke her. It may not have seemed like much to an onlooker, but the implicit trust in her that his actions had demonstrated was something she would never have thought she could have again. A wry smile worked its way onto her face; they had a complicated history that much went almost without saying.
Life had shown her there wasn’t a whole lot of point hoping for a less complicated future so that only really left her with the present that was pretty damn screwed up.
Here she was a was, a fugitive freak, riding with a busload of other freaks to God alone knew where, realising she could easily fall for the man she’d tried to kill remorselessly. And him? He was recovering from a major injury and trying to deal with everyone’s grief but his own.
Yup, her timing officially sucked.
Beside her he mumbled a little in his sleep, still caught in the grips of the nightmare, before he abruptly thrashed his head from side to side yelling a wordless denial.
The sudden movement snagged the elastic strap on the edge of the seat and pulled the patch away from his now empty eye socket. Her first instinct was to recoil from the ugly scarring there, but she swallowed that quickly as she saw some of the others turn to see what the shouting was about.
As quickly as she could, she gently un-snagged the strap and manoeuvred the patch back to where it should be. After all he’d gone through, was still going through, he deserved a whole lot more than this but all she could give him now was his dignity.
Satisfied it was once again secure, she glanced up to find herself the object of curious stares from several of the girls on the bus. Instantly her hackles were up but if her time in the big house had taught her anything it was control. Silently counting down, she stared back at the girls, hating the pity she could see on their faces. Not pity for her, but for Xander. Faith hadn’t treated him all that well in the past, hell before today she’d barely spoken two words to him since her return, but she knew instinctively that the last thing he wanted was pity from these children.
Defiant, she glared at them until they began to shift uncomfortably and turn away, lesson learned. Faith wondered exactly what had changed in her to make her stand up for Xander. Yeah, so she was sure there was more than a chance she was falling for him, but she’d never been this protective of anyone before. Not since Zak…
This was different though, Xander was more than capable of standing up for himself, he would probably hate to know she was ‘protecting’ him like this. While she contemplated this new protectiveness, she became aware of another pair of eyes watching her. Looking up warily, she met the concerned gaze of Giles.
Unlike the others, there was no pity in his expression, just concern and something akin to understanding. She smiled at him, realising that smiling was only just starting to feel less alien to her, and watched as he made his way quietly up the bus towards her.
“Faith? How are you holding up?” Was he really worried about her?
“Um. Okay, I guess. You?”
“Fine, fine.” He looked down at his feet. “How is he?”
She glanced across at the sleeping man beside her, the mumbling had ceased but the deeply etched frown lines and the constant twitching told her he was still caught in the web of his nightmares.
“Not good. But he’ll get through it.” She shrugged lightly, they all would.
“Yes. He will.” The Englishman met her gaze. “With help. I don’t know what happened back there but you seem to have gotten through to him where everyone else failed.” She blinked in surprise. She’d kinda assumed she’d just been in the right place at the right time and said so. Giles shook his head in disagreement.
“There were plenty of opportunities for him to open up to any one of us but he chose you. One thing Xander has always excelled at is burying away his problems, so for him to share them with anyone is no mean feat.” He chuckled darkly. “Years ago he went to help you because he felt the pair of you had a connection. Perhaps he was right.”
She shuddered at the reminder. Yes, he’d tried to help her and she’d repaid him by trying to rape and kill him. Some connection.
Giles continued, “You and I have rarely seen eye to eye, Faith.” Now there was the understatement of the century! “But I hope we’re in agreement here. Xander is going to need help to get through this, whether he admits it or not. Can you do it?”
She started to nod but he held up his hand, stopping her.
“Think carefully about what I’m asking. Despite what he seems to think, Xander is just as important as anyone else here. Perhaps more so, he’s grown from being one of the most aggravating people I’ve ever met to being the one person everyone feels they can trust. That trust is something everyone here needs, but we also need him to be able to deal with it.
Everyone confides in him, but of all the possible options he’s chosen you to be *his* confidante. Can you cope with that? If you have any doubts at all, then for everyone’s sake, walk away. Now.”
Faith swallowed, she was more than a little overawed at the esteem Giles seemed to hold Xander in. That was something she’d never have seen coming back in the day. Thinking back she realised there was indeed a marked difference between the goofy kid she’d known and the confident man she’d just met.
There had been signs of who he would become, but they’d been buried deep under the comic façade. The kid was always trying to fix what he saw as his mistakes whereas the man didn’t try – he just buckled down and did it. Anything that was broken – furniture, windows, people – he quietly got on with it. And now he needed help to fix himself.
It really was an awesome responsibility Giles was offering her, but she knew she could do it. She had to.
She met his gaze again and nodded, resolute. “I can do it. I *will* do it. Whatever he needs.”
Part of her expected the Watcher to argue, she thought perhaps he still didn’t trust her and who could blame him? He proved her wrong however as a warm smile came across his face.
“Capital. I knew you could do it.” That little bit of praise found its way straight into her heart. He believed in her, he trusted her to do this. Finally Faith felt like she belonged. On impulse she jumped up and grabbed him in a hug from which he had no chance of escaping.
“Thanks. I won’t let you down.” She whispered it, not wanting anyone else to see how much of an effect his words had on her.
“Yes, well… I… uh… I’d better take my turn at the wheel again. Rather that than let Buffy drive.”
“Hey! I heard that!” piped up the blonde Slayer, “At least if I drive it’d be legal – you never did get that license renewed did you?”
Giles smiled indulgently, a lot of the worry he’d been shouldering seemed to be gone.
“You’ll do fine,” he said sotto voce before turning away and heading back up to the front of the bus. Faith watched him go feeling a warm glow of acceptance. Someone believed in her.
Turning back to her seat, she found Xander in the same place she’d left him, still asleep. Settling down beside him, she smiled a little as his head moved to rest on her shoulder. Yes, this was a burden she was more than happy to bear.
He could hear voices but not words, they didn’t matter though – all that mattered was finding Anya, getting her out. Getting them all out.
“Anya?!” his throat was raw from the shouting and from breathing in clouds of dust kicked up whenever a new chunk of masonry fell.
There was no sign of her anywhere but he knew she was here, all he had to do was keep looking and he’d find her. That way everything would be all right, they’d all make it out alive.
“Anya?” suddenly there was a hand in his – he knew it was Dawn trying to pull him away, trying to stop him finding her. He jerked his hand from the strangely vice-like grip and yelled out once more.
There. A flash of golden hair off in the distance. It was her, it had to be. Without being aware he’d even moved, he found himself rounding the corner. He could see her before him, standing defiant. She was wielding the sword she held expertly and managed to strike down not one but two fleeing Turok Han.
He saw the movement behind her, saw the robed figure raise its knife high. He tried to call out, to warn her, but his throat was raw from all the shouting.
He watched in shock as she was cut down. Her mouth formed a perfect ‘O’ of surprise and she finally saw him standing there as she crumpled to the floor.
“No!” finally his voice came and he ran forward. Too late. She was gone.
Her killer was still standing in the same spot, triumphant. He watched in sickened horror as an empty hand was raised and the hood was drawn back. His disbelieving eye took in the tumbling locks of brown hair, the slight cleft in the chin and the intense dark eyes. She looked straight at him, smiling, and said, “It’s incredible, you can see the life going out of them, you can see them die and you know it was you who did that. It’s the closest thing to being omnipotent because at that moment, to that person, you are. You hold the power over life and death and it feels good.”
Shock finally jerked him awake. For a second he didn’t know where he was but gradually the clangs and pings from the labouring engine brought him back to reality. Lifting his hand to shield his vision, he tried to shake the images from his mind – images that hadn’t happened. He knew that.
“Xan, are you okay?” The voice shocked him out of his thoughts and he spun around in the seat to see Faith watching him with those hugely expressive dark eyes.
A coldness crept over him as he spoke. “Get away from me, you murdering bitch.”