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Challenge#2 The Hardest Word

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  • Challenge#2 The Hardest Word

    Title: The Hardest Word
    Disclamer:I have no rights whatsoever on anything Joss & co came up with first.
    Setting: Not too long after the final scene in chosen.
    Description: An attempt to revisit the history between Xander and Faith and, as a bonus, with Xanders lack of grief in chosen.

    Faith LeHane rushed through the hospital doors, exhaling explosively trying to rid herself of the stench of death and medicine. She hated the too clean smell that these places seemed to generate even in the midst of all the blood and shattered bodies they contained. It was sterile in every sense of the word, impersonal, uncaring, devoid of any kind of human feeling and that just seemed so wrong to her, especially now, especially tonight.

    They had won of course, saved the world, beaten back the tide of evil that had threatened to break over the earth and drown it in a sea of pain and torment. But the victory had come at a cost. Brave girls had been killed in the dire struggle. Their lives sacrificed to the greater good. Still others lay bloodied and suffering, fighting for their young lives in the plain building behind her.

    Faith smiled but it was a thin, humourless smile. There had been a time, not too long ago, when she wouldn't have been thinking like this, when the lives of others had ceased to hold any importance, not when compared to her all consuming self hatred. Now though all her thoughts were with by those brave girls? and by one brave man.

    She walked a little way out into the night air, pulling her jacket tight around her to fight off the unseasonable chill of the clear night, the questions racing through her troubled mind. Why couldn't she stop thinking of him? Sure it had been a good night; one of the best if she was giving out marks. But that was just sex. It didn't mean anything. It couldn't ever really mean anything. It should have been just another one night stand, another case of get some, get gone; wham bam thanks for the slam and if I see you later I might let you buy me a beer. So why was she so worried for him? Why did she suddenly care so damn much?

    Rousing herself from this reverie she stopped and looked up, spying a familiar figure leaning against the squat wall that surrounded the hospital, his back to her, head wresting on his folded arms. Here was someone whose troubles dwarfed her own. Who although he had escaped the battle unharmed had lost a lot more than most.

    Approaching warily, she pulled up to the side of him and matched his pose, staring out at the distant lights of the sleeping city.

    "How's the principal" Xander asked eventually, not moving from his sombre pose.

    "He's doing good." She replied "docs seem to think he's gonna pull through just fine"

    "Well that's good" he said "there's been enough death tonight"

    "Yeah." She half whispered, not knowing what else to say.

    Xander shifted slightly his face turning to her, his one good eye, red with the tears it had shed, looking deep into hers

    "Shouldn't you be in there with him?" He asked.

    "I? don't know" the dark haired girl replied taking her turn to stare at the view "To tell you the truth right now I don't really know what to do"

    He smiled at that, a small grim smile that was gone as quickly as it appeared. "Wow, Faith LeHane doesn't know what to do? Man must be good."

    "Oh, he's good alright" she replied with her own smile "Very, if you must know. Waay better than?" she stopped suddenly

    "Than me?

    "Look I didn't?. that is ? I mean, well?" Faith flustered, feeling the colour rise to her cheeks

    He smiled that brief humourless smile again "Relax Faith, it really doesn't matter, not now, not tonight."

    She knew, of course, what he was referring to. Anya was gone. The woman he had been on the cusp of marrying, the one he would have died to save, was dead herself.

    She had died bravely apparently, beating back the horde of vicious ubervamps that had tried to escape to the surface world and spread their evil and saving the life of Andrew at the cost of her own. Faith knew though that dead was dead. No matter how bravely or how well you died the results were still the same and it was always the people left behind that suffered.

    "I guess you really did love her then huh?" she said gently.

    "Guess so."

    An uncomfortable silence reigned for a few long moments, the muted sounds of the distant city and the traffic of the neighbouring roads the only intrusions in to the awkward peace. When, finally, it was broken it was Faith that spoke.

    "It mattered" she blurted out, the words spilling from her in a rush.


    "That night, the one where we? you know. It mattered. At least it did to me."

    The dark haired man beside her stayed silent, his gaze not leaving the skyline.

    "I've had a lot of time to think about a lot of things over the past couple of years" she said straightening up and turning, leaning her back against the wall "That's the one thing that prison gets you, you know, time. I guess it was while I was in there that I realised just how badly I messed things up."

    Her eyes fell to the uneven surface of the wall, absently picking at a small piece of mortar with her fingers.

    "I guess I realised how badly I treated some people even before the whole evil-psycho-bitch-queen thing started." She risked a sideways glance at Xander's still form "you especially."

    "Especially?" He said turning slightly towards her "Well I don't know about that. I mean I know you tried to kill me but you tried to kill a lot of people. Hardly makes me special"

    "I don't mean that you idiot I mean before, you know with the whole? using and abusing thing."

    "Which is worse than the trying to kill me thing?"

    Faith shrugged "Like the man said I tried to kill a lot of people. If I start apologising to people for that it could take a while"

    Xander shifted his position, giving her his full attention "Faith are you actually trying to apologise? for sleeping with me?"

    "No! Well? yes?maybe." She took a deep breath in "God I suck at this. Look, I don't mean the sex part 'cos, you know, I'm pretty sure I'm never gonna have to apologise for that but? the way I treated you after, well that was cold. You didn't deserve that Xander, no-one does really."

    "And you only just figured that out?" He asked, his one good eye fixed on her face.

    "No I guess that somehow I've always known it was wrong" she picked up a small piece of the mortar she had freed and tossed it high, out into the strangely luminous sky where the promise of dawn mingled with the artificial lights of the distant city "Hell, of course I've always known." She admitted. "I know ?cos once upon a time I was the one on the receiving end. Everyone that I ever cared a damn for left me in one way or another Xander, and every time they did it was like my heart had been ripped out and dumped in the can."

    "So what, you learnt to get your retaliation in first?"

    "Guess you could put it that way, yeah." She replied "If I don't get involved, if I keep people at a distance then they can't get to me, they can't hurt me and I won't have to feel like that ever again. So I guess in the end I learnt to close myself off from people, to stop feeling for them." She pitched another piece of mortar to the waiting sky "trouble is you do that and you close off part of yourself as well. Probably why I stink so much at the apology thing"

    Xander looked at the girl at his side. So young, so small, hardly anything to her really; but he knew just how much that meant when it came to slayers. Faith had always seemed somehow bigger though, somehow older than her years. Now it seemed as though that illusion was being shattered before his eyes, the hard shell of fierce independence melting away exposing her fear and uncertainty, exposing her heart.

    "I got hurt tonight Faith" he began haltingly "hurt more than I thought I ever could be, and I know that that hurt is going to be with me for a long time, maybe it will always be with me. But what I do know is that if you were to ask me to swap this pain for the time I had with Anya" he paused, swallowing hard as he fought back the emotion "then I would say no. There's things I regret sure. There's times when we caused each other nothing but heartache, but I wouldn't swap one second of it, not if it meant not loving her."

    Faith could only look at him taken aback by the sheer power of his words.

    "There's a guy lying in a bed in there" he continued, indicating the hospital "A guy who could be your last best chance Faith. I think he needs to hear some of the things you just told me." He looked into her face, his single eye meeting hers. "You can run Faith, sure you can. Head for the hills just like you always have. Or you can stay and you can work to try and build something worthwhile, something that lasts. Something that will be yours forever." He paused for a second, letting his words sink in "Question is Faith, do you have the guts to be there when he wakes up?"

    Faith looked out once more at the distant city lights and thought of the hundreds of people they represented, people busy with their own lives and loves, people who would never know just how close to death they had been.

    "Well, I guess there's only one way to find out." She said eventually. Leaning over she kissed Xander gently on the cheek "Thanks." She whispered, favouring with a slight smile. Then turning away from him she wrapped her jacket around her once more and started back towards the forbidding hospital building. She was perhaps a quarter of the way back when something stopped her, making her pause and turn to back to the forlorn figure who had resumed his lonely vigil.

    "Oh, and Xander?" she called to him.

    "Yeah?" He said, not looking back.

    "... I'm Sorry"
    Last edited by tangent; 29-08-07, 12:01 PM.

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