Chapter Nine: Say Goodbye
Not alone anymore. The words resonated in her mind, bringing hope and peace along with it. She wondered if he understood what that simple statement meant to her. Remembering the emotions she’d seen in his eyes, she thought maybe he did, and maybe she could finally be free. Free of her guilt, free of her fear, free of the desperation that had plagued her for so long. It was a lot of responsibility to place on one phrase spoken in an emotional moment, but watching him as he walked into the room she knew it was possible.
“Here you go,” he said, handing her a mug as he dropped back onto the bed next to her. Cradling the mug in her palms, she breathed in the warmth and sighed with pleasure.
“You really didn’t have to make me coffee. I should be doing stuff for you for being so great about,” her gaze shifted slightly, “everything.” He shook his head.
“I wasn’t ‘great’. You were in trouble, and I helped you.” He looked over at her. “That’s what friends do. And I thought you could use something warm and soothing to drink.” She smiled slightly.
“You never take credit for anything. When I came through that portal I was a huge mess. I was saving them because I couldn’t handle the guilt, but I didn’t really care if I made it back. Hell, I took this trip without even knowing if I’d survive.” She took a sip from the mug as she thought about it. “I was filled with fear and doubt and seven kinds of guilt, and I was sinking deeper into depression every day.” She shook her head in disbelief as she looked at him. “You changed all that, and you have no idea what this time with you has meant to me.” She felt tears threatening and turned away from him, but he reached out and turned her face back to his.
“You changed all that, not me,” he insisted.
“You gave me the strength.”
“You always had the strength.” She put her hand over his.
“I’ve never felt safe in my life.” She turned her head slightly and kissed his palm before letting go of his hand. “I feel safe with you.” They watched each other silently for a moment and then she smiled. “Argue with that!” He laced his hands behind his head and gave her a lazy smile.
“You’re amazing.” She shot him a look.
“Yeah, a homicidal depression is real freakin’ amazing.” He let out a guttural laugh.
“See, we’re a lot alike.”
“Oh? You go out killing innocent people often, do you?” His jaw tightened, and she closed her eyes at her thoughtlessness. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “Sometimes I just say stuff, and my brain isn’t able to keep up. It’s a sickness, really. I-”
“It’s okay.” He cut her off, his voice quiet. “I meant that you don’t take credit for anything either. I just told you you’re amazing, and you brushed it off like it was nothing. I was serious.” He rolled toward her. “I remember, you know. When I first got back, and I was all – savage? I remember you. Feeding me, taking care of me, watching over me; the memories are kind of dream-like, but I remember it. I remember your eyes, gentle and haunted.” He was watching her again, and Faith felt trapped in the intensity of his gaze. “I know how depressed you’ve been. Even before you opened up to me about what happened, I could tell how much pain you were in. But you still came here, and you’re still fighting, trying to save everyone. I watched you struggle with the darkness and beat it. You have a strength of will that I find incredible.” He leaned up to rest on an elbow. “But you act like it’s nothing, like you don’t matter. Why?”
Faith shifted uncomfortably. She didn’t enjoy discussing herself, but he was being so sweet and sincere that she found herself wanting to confide in him. She finished up her coffee and set it aside, leaning back against the pillows and resting her hands on her stomach. She glanced over to find him still watching and waiting.
“I never really belonged anywhere. All my life people put me down, told me I was nothing. You hear something often enough, you start to believe it.” She looked down at the stretch of blanket between them. “Everybody always leaves. I learned that lesson early on, and every time I let someone get close, I learned it again. It wasn’t voluntary when Anya and Giles died. The leaving, I mean. It’s not like they decided to die, but I still got left behind.”
“So you tried to distance yourself from Spike.”
“And then he left me, too. Again, not his choice, but the fact that I left him first made it hurt even worse.” She glanced back up at him briefly, uncomfortable laughter filling the silence. “I don’t know if that answers your question. I’ve probably bored you to tears.” He shook his head and tugged her towards him until she lay with her back against his chest. Slightly confused, she glanced over her shoulder at him as he put his arm around her waist.
“You are a lot of things, but boring has never been one of them.” His arm tightened slightly. “And you’re not ‘nothing’.”
“You’re a sweetie, but it’s not that easy to overcome years of conditioning.”
“Well then I guess I have my work cut out for me.” She reached a hand back and gently touched his cheek.
“So, uh, what are we doing here?”
“It’s this wacky new thing called snuggling. It’s supposed to be comforting.”
“So this is you comforting me?”
“It’s nice.” She threaded her fingers through his. “I’m still a little sleepy. Will you stay with me?”
“I hadn’t planned on leaving.” She smiled slightly and drifted into a peaceful sleep.
Faith felt Eliana long before the familiar hum woke her. It was like a delicate ribbon weaving its way into her dreams and slowly winding around her body. She felt it, that sensation of peace and tranquility, pulling at her and knew without a doubt who it belonged to. She opened her eyes reluctantly, moving out from under Angel’s arm and then padding barefoot into the other room. The intensity of the light was almost too much for Faith to handle, and she stumbled back
“Could you maybe, cut the high beams, El? I’d prefer not to burn out my retinas.” The light dimmed slightly and Faith moved closer.
“Sorry. I wasn’t expecting a room with mirrors in a vampire’s house.” Faith smiled, but the smile faded as she realized why Eliana must be here.
“Yeah, well, Angel said a girl needs a place to check her look. He bought a couple for me; he’s real sweet like that.” She crossed her arms defensively. “He’s a really great guy, you know. A little broody sometimes, but everyone needs a good brood every once in awhile. I think he’s allowed a little gravity, what with going to hell and all. And I do realize I’m babbling, but I’m just really nervous about what you’re going to say, and I can’t seem to stop talking.” She took a deep breath before pressing her lips firmly together in an attempt to halt the flow of words.
“Why are you worried about what I’m going to say?”
“Well, I wasn’t exactly up-front about my, uh, murderous scheme. I figure you’re here to make with the punishing.” Eliana smiled.
“You think we were unaware of your intentions towards the Watcher?” Faith’s eyes widened slightly. “We knew of your plans before you even left.”
“We also had hope that you would do the right thing.”
“But I was ready to kill him; I would have killed him if Angel hadn’t…”
“Ah, yes. Angel. When we saw that you were developing feelings for Angel, we knew you would do the right thing.”
“How did that convince you?”
“When we first came to you with this opportunity you were filled with such dark despair. Alone and miserable, the only thing holding you together, the only thing keeping you alive, was your obsessive desire to right what you considered to be your wrongs.” Eliana moved closer, reaching out to gently grasp Faith’s chin. “This vampire of yours has brought you back to life, reminded you of the things worth living for. Friendship, love,” Eliana paused, smiling. “Fun. Look at you now, no longer consumed with grief, laughing, trusting. It looks good on you.” Eyes damp with unshed tears, Faith turned away and whispered,
“He told me I’m not alone anymore.” She laughed wonderingly. “He says I’m amazing.”
“He’s very wise.”
“He’s not mine though; he’s in love with someone else.” She turned back to face Eliana. “I’m not complaining or anything; I just- I was wondering if you have the power to help him. He deserves to be happy, but there’s this curse.”
“We are well aware of the curse. What is it you’re asking of us?”
“Is there any way to give him his soul forever? You know, without the happy clause.”
“That is within our power, but it comes with a heavy price. We had planned to reward the good you’ve done here by granting you one request.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“We had assumed yours would be to return to the new future you’ve created, but now you ask for Angel’s soul. We cannot do both; it isn’t allowed.”
“Wait a minute. Are you telling me that I have to choose between helping Angel and going home?” Eliana nodded. “What happens to me if I don’t go home?”
“Well, the other you would continue on this new path and live her life with no knowledge of any other future. You, though – you would cease to be.”
“Like, die, or just fade out of existence?” She shivered. “Actually, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Either way, kinda depressing. So if I go back what happens to her?”
“You are her.”
“You don’t replace her; you just sort of merge with her. You’ll have experienced everything she has, gained the new memories, but you’ll still remember everything you remember now.” Eliana held out a small vial filled with blue liquid. “Here. You shouldn’t decide now. Take some time and think it over. When you decide, drink this and make your request. You’ll have some time afterward, maybe an hour, but you must leave this place.”
“You’re kinda like my own personal genie.” Faith’s amusement was bittersweet.
“No, that’s granting wishes. I cannot give you anything you desire, just certain requests. Besides, genies are a cunning breed; they tend to be evil.” Faith flashed her a brief grin.
“So, same deadline as before?”
“Yes, you must leave before the battle.” Eliana took her hand. “Just remember to follow your heart; you don’t do that often enough.” Faith nodded and then the light disappeared, taking Eliana with it.
Moving back into the bedroom, Faith stared at the small vial for a moment, wondering why she needed to drink it first. Then she tucked it in her pocket and crawled back into bed with Angel, wiggling around until she was back in her original position. For now she would enjoy the comfort of his arms. She could save the hard decisions for later.
Faith rolled over, stretching languorously as her eyelids fluttered open. It took a moment before she realized he was watching her. She smiled crookedly, hoping she didn’t look too horrible. His expression was unreadable, and she wondered if he was having second thoughts about her. Then the corner of his mouth kicked up slightly and he said,
“You snore.” She laughed in relief and then shoved him.
“I do not snore!”
“Yeah, you do. And you mutter.”
“In your sleep.” He grinned. “You mutter. I couldn’t understand a word of it; you were all incoherent.”
“Great. So now I have to worry about looking stupid when I’m asleep. Thanks for giving me a complex.”
“It wasn’t stupid; it was cute.” He brushed a strand of hair off her face, his expression affectionate. She flushed and couldn’t quite look him in the eye.
“Oh. Well, in that case – you’re forgiven.” She glanced up. “What’s the plan today? Maybe you should go see Buffy.”
“Well, I thought you might want to try making up with her. I’d hate for this situation, or our friendship, to come between the two of you. Maybe you two should talk, or something.” He rolled onto his back.
“She and I have talked. Plenty. About…everything, but I’m pretty sure it’s over between us.” He closed his eyes briefly. “It’s not your fault; it’s just- it’s complicated.” She watched him sadly.
“What if you didn’t have to worry about losing your soul?” He turned to look at her, and a strange expression crossed his face.
“I don’t like to play ‘what if’,” he said shortly, looking away. “Besides, it’s more complicated than that.”
“But you do still love her, right?”
“How about we change the subject? I don’t want to talk about this.” His voice bordered on harsh, and she pulled away, stung.
“Sorry.” She couldn’t look at him, suddenly desperate to get out of the room. “I’m, uh, gonna go get something to eat. I’m starving.” She scrambled off the bed and hurried towards the door.
“Faith, wait.” She stopped in the doorway but didn’t look back.
“What?” She heard him sigh as he sat up.
“I’m sorry.” Waving a dismissive hand in his direction, she forced her voice to sound cheerful,
“Yeah, sure. Don’t worry about it.” And then she left the room, unaware of the sadness on Angel’s face.
Angel spent most of his free time with her over the next few weeks, even taking her on patrol with him when he was sure they wouldn’t be caught. They talked about all sorts of things – his childhood, her ex-boyfriends, their shared hatred of mimes – but Faith never brought up Buffy again. She understood that it was a touchy subject, but it hurt that he had refused to discuss it with her at all. However, his refusal had helped her come to a decision. She figured being without Buffy must be extremely painful for him, and if it hurt him that much she really didn’t have a choice. She had to help him.
The day before graduation was rough for Faith. She knew she had to make her request that night and, while she was terrified of what would happen to her, the biggest stress came from trying to figure out how to tell Angel. She wanted him to know that he was finally free of the curse, but she didn’t want him to know about the sacrifice she was making. That would probably ruin it for him, and he’d try to talk her out of it. He loved to play the martyr; he wouldn’t want her cutting in on his gig. She shook her head. That wasn’t fair. It wasn’t his fault he was such a good guy, but she was damned if she was gonna let him ruin this. This was her decision, and she had already made it.
He was sleeping now, getting in a nap before nighttime came and he could get out of the mansion. She stood in the hall and watched him for a moment; his sleep was so peaceful now, so different from when he’d first returned. She wondered what he dreamed of these days. Wandering into the main room, she wiped away a tear; the thought of never seeing him again was painful. Eliana had said she would ‘cease to be’. Faith guessed that meant no awareness of what happened after and decided that could be considered a blessing. No awareness meant no pain, and she’d leave knowing that Angel would be able to find happiness with the woman he loved.
The mansion was too quiet, and the oppressive silence wasn’t helping her shake off the impending sense of doom. Music sounded good, but she wasn’t really in the mood for hard rock; she felt the need for something a little gentler. Bypassing her CDs she headed for Angel’s collection. She knew he wouldn’t mind; he’d been trying to educate her on classical music for awhile now, but she’d been stubborn in her refusal. It seemed a fitting goodbye to finally give in. Grabbing the first one in the pile, she pulled the case open and popped it into the player.
She gathered together several of the large pillows Angel had bought to shut her up about the lack of comfortable furnishings in the mansion. Laying back to enjoy the music, she studied the room critically. The pillows were comfy, but this place could really use a couple bean bag chairs and a nice sofa; she should have tried to talk him into that.
The music started and she closed her eyes as it flowed through her. It was in a different language so she couldn’t understand a word the guy was saying, but the emotion… She definitely understood the emotion. It was a mix of sadness and hope, causing an ache in her chest. She drifted somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, her mind filled with thoughts of Angel. By the time the song finished her face was wet with tears, and she felt a little foolish.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Angel said quietly into the silence. Faith wiped at her face before sitting up. “Canto Della Terra, it’s one of my favorites.”
“What language is it?”
“Italian. Did you like it?” Faith smiled, drawing her knees up to her chest.
“I’m over here wiping tears off my face, and you have to ask?” He moved to sit next to her, and she tilted her head to look at him. “It was really wonderful.”
“So why are you suddenly listening to this stuff?”
“I wasn’t in the mood for hard rock.” Angel’s eyes widened and he reached out to touch her forehead. “What are you doing?”
“Checking for a fever; I figured you must be sick.” Leaning sideways, she nudged him with an elbow.
“Ha. Ha. Very funny.” She rested her head on his shoulder, and he draped an arm around her. The next song had started awhile ago, and the music drifted around them as they sat together, both lost in their own thoughts. “You need a couch.”
“Hmm?” Faith pointed a couple feet away.
“You need a couch right there. This whole place is all sharp corners and hard edges; it isn’t exactly visitor-friendly.” He shrugged.
“I don’t have that many visitors.” She glanced up at him.
“You have me.” Their eyes met and he just studied her for a long breathless moment. Then he smiled and whispered,
“Yeah.” She let herself get caught in his eyes briefly before pulling away and clearing her throat.
“I, uh, I have something I want to give you. Kind of a present before I-” she caught herself, “before the battle tomorrow. You know, for good luck.” She got to her feet and headed for her room. “You wait here; I’ll be right back.”
In her room she collapsed against the door as soon as she shut it, her head dropped back and she closed her eyes. She didn’t know how she was going to get through the next few minutes. Saying goodbye to Angel was going to be one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do. She ran a shaky hand through her hair and straightened up. At least he’d finally be able to be with Buffy. He knew what needed to be done to save her, and soon his soul wouldn’t be a problem. I’m doing the right thing, she thought. I just have to get past the hard part.
She moved to retrieve the vial, staring at it for a moment before unscrewing the cap, touching the glass hesitantly to her lips and then tipping it back. The liquid tasted cool, but it burned going down and she was struck by a sudden wave of dizziness. It passed quickly, and she bent to pick up her dagger. Pulling it from its sheath, she held the cool metal carefully against her cheek. This weapon had great sentimental value for her and she wanted Angel to have it, something to remember her by. He was probably wondering what was taking so long. Tilting her head back and closing her eyes, she whispered,
“Please give Angel his soul permanently.” After a few seconds she opened her eyes, put the knife away, and headed back into the main room. It seemed almost anticlimactic. Faith kept expecting a bright flash of light or a loud clap of thunder to mark the occasion, but everything remained quiet and dark. Angel stood as she approached, smiling in anticipation of whatever she had for him. If he only knew.
“Took you long enough. What did you get lost in there?” She smiled and flipped him off.
“I know this may seem odd in light of the fact that I almost killed a man with this, but,” she held out the dagger, “Giles gave me this a couple years ago. He said it use to belong to a friend of his, and he wanted me to have it. It was the best present I ever got, and I want you to have it.”
“Don’t you want to keep it?”
“I want you to have it, as a symbol of our friendship and what you mean to me.” He took it and tugged her towards him for a hug.
“You’re saying goodbye again. What’s going on?”
“I have some really great news.” She swallowed her tears and forced a smile as she pulled back. “You don’t have to worry about the curse anymore.”
“I, uh, sort of called in a favor and your soul is yours. Worry free. Isn’t that great?” He still looked puzzled. “You don’t have to worry about losing your soul anymore. You can get as happy as you want without all the badness.” Realization spread across his face, and she thought she saw tears in his eyes.
“Are you serious?” His voice was hoarse and she nodded happily, moving easily into his embrace. Her hand lightly caressed his back as his arms tightened around her. Closing her eyes, she let herself get lost in the sensation of being held by him. She wished that he could hold her like this forever and that the rest of the world would disappear, but mostly she just wished she could stay. Tears began to trail down her cheeks, and she knew it was time to let him go. Pulling away, she reached up and trailed a hand down the side of his face.
“I hope you and Buffy will be very happy.” She pulled completely out of his arms and turned to leave. He grabbed her hand.
“Wait! What? Where are you going?”
“I have to leave now; my time is up.”
“But I thought-” He broke off and stared at her in confusion. “What happens to you now?” She looked away and shrugged.
“I’ll be gone.”
“You have to go now?” Faith nodded. “I don’t understand.”
“You don’t have to.” She looked up at him and smiled. “Just… be happy.” His jaw twitched, and he took a step towards her.
“I’ll miss you.” Her lip trembled, and she almost broke down.
“I’ll miss you, too.” Moving towards the door, she turned at the last second to look at him one last time. She hesitated for a moment, and he watched as she came back towards him. She reached up and touched his face with one hand, the other brushing back his hair. Sliding her hands to his shoulders, she stretched up to touch her lips to his. Angel’s arms came up convulsively as he crushed her against him, their mouths moving together, desperate, seeking, hungry. Her fingers slid up into his hair, and she moaned low in her throat as their bodies pressed impossibly closer. She pulled back abruptly, and he almost didn’t let her go. Touching her fingers to his lips, she smiled through her tears as she whispered brokenly,
“I love you.” By the time he realized she was going, she was already gone, leaving him with his hand pressed to the door as it closed.
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed this chapter! In case there are any Andrea Bocelli experts reading this, I wanted to point out that I took a bit of dramatic license with the song mentioned in this chapter. Canto Della Terra was copyrighted in 1999 so it is possible that Angel could have the CD, but highly improbable. For anyone who hasn’t heard the song, you should check it out; it is truly beautiful. If you’d like to see the lyrics and the English translation you can find them here – www.bocellionline.com/Canto.htm