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Beholden to Yesterday, Part Eight

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Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 22, 2001

        Sand gets in my mouth as I press my face against the side of the hill, the burning grains pressing against my lips with blistering force. All I can see are Michael and Max's faces, their eyes shocked with sudden knowledge. Liz's arm brushes mine as she pulls on her clothes, and her skin is clammy and wet, cold. She doesn't feel hot anymore. It's as if the life has been sucked out of her. Again, I feel hatred for Max Evans well like bile in my throat.

        Standing up, brazenly naked, I watch Michael's gaze go wide with pure masculine appreciation as I don the cotton armour of my uniform and stretch my legs. Max shakes his head as if he's trying to comprehend what he's seeing. Then he wheels around drunkenly, his knees wobbling as he leaves, and Michael follows him, glancing at me uncertainly as he goes.

        Liz's eyes are wild and round, glassily staring at me as she rocks back and forth. For one sickening moment I remember with startling clarity the way Angel looked when I killed him. His glowing eyes. Those gasping breaths he took as if he were a fish caught on a hook. The gasps he always seemed to take when he was around me. As if his lungs were trying to take me in and couldn't. That whispered plea- "Buffy" if I could save him. I think he hadn't realized what I'd done. He thought someone else had run him through with the razor-edged sword- and maybe that was a blessing. But his voice- and his face—his beautiful Angel-ness that caught me in its web. It makes me press my fist to my face, biting my knuckles as I try not to sob. I miss him. And I hate myself for thinking I have the right to. When I was the one who sent him away. Who let him get sucked up like so much dust in the wind.

        Liz is making those gasping noises now as she tries to breathe, and I know them well. They are the sound of a drowning person and I've felt the bubbles crawling at my throat, known the rich yolk of the swollen river of pain, swirling through my lungs and mouth. Maybe it's the poison of loving someone when you know it's doomed.

        She turns to me, her eyelashes washed with tears and she stands, her knees wobbling. I glance at her, at this person I just made love to in the reedy water—and I don't recognise her. Her hair sticks to her cheeks as she rubs her arms and says in a thin voice, "So he knows now."

        I nod, agreeing with her. He knows, and it's bad, but I don't know what else I can say. "I'm sorry."

        That sounds inadequate. She laughs almost hysterically and picks up her bag, rustling through it, presumably for a kleenex. As her fingers twitch and tremble I can see her getting impatient and the bag tips, spilling the contents to the sand. Falling to her knees, she shakes as she picks everything up and I bend to help her. I smell her and she smells like water and sweat and sex and I reach out to touch her face.

        She shies away from me and backs up, stumbling. I stare and she giggles, fresh tears spurting from her betrayed eyes.

        "I think we need to take a step back," she says decidedly. "We need to stop. I can't deal with this right now. Not after..." she trails off and glazes over and I can almost see Max's hold sliding over her flesh, shackling her arms and legs and it doesn't make me resentful. How can I be when Angel's skin and mouth and beautiful voice make bombs go off in my head every night?

        "Ok," I answer blankly and she looks at me, surprised.

        We stand there for a few moments underneath the orange sun and I run a hand down my thigh. It hurts. It smells like her.

        "I'm tired," she finally murmurs, and begins to walk back to the car.

        "I'm tired too," I reply and follow.


        Maria and I have to take a package for Mr. Parker in Dexter the next day. As we drive along the dusty highway, I fiddle with my turquoise skirt and think of the night before, the first in a while I've spent alone. Everything ached, as if somehow my insides craved Liz. Maria's citrus oils fill the car and make my nostrils itch.

        She turns up the music and yells to me above the wind, "Get used to this. Liz's Dad makes us run errands constantly!"

        The mention of her name jolts me. I sit up straight and force a laugh. "Well, I don't mind. At least we get out of the kitchen. It's so hot today."

        She fans herself where sweat drips down her neck, staining the chest of her uniform. I powdered myself white this morning, but I'm still sticky. When we left the Crashdown, Liz was working but she didn't even glance at me. I could see she was trying not to cry and I made myself be glad- ha ha Lizzie, you're lonely to. I'm glad.

        But I wasn't. Maria turns down the radio dial with her slim fingers and brushes the blonde strands of her hair off her face. "Are you ok?" she inquires seriously and I nod absently.

        "I'm fine."

        She slants me a look. "Wow. Don't bounce off the walls. You're making me dizzy."

        I can't help but laugh. "No seriously, I'm ok. Just didn't get much sleep last night. What about you? Michael forgone his vow of silence yet?"

        She sighs and scans the open road with her pensive glare. "Nope. He's stubborn that way. He won't break... I can guarantee it. Even though I keep calling hoping he will."

        "Do you call him a lot?" I wince, thinking that I'd never want to be that kind of girl. I know I could be though. I think of what it would have been like if Angel broke up with me... if he had woken up beside me that morning and instead of turning evil, had just said... sorry Buffy, but you're not my kind of girl. If he'd taken his dark skies and his hot kisses and his addictive skin and left me in the bed when the sun hit the horizon... by his own free will and not some ancient curse... would I have been as able to cope? Would I have called him? Sweated for him in the night and wished for him to come in my mouth and inside me? Went over to his house and taken off my clothes and begged him for some kind of complete? I don't know... well, yes I do. But the answers underneath my skin scare me.

        "About twice a week," she admits, and looks embarrassed. I light a smoke, drawing the nicotine deep into my lungs and blood. She asks if she can have some of the cigarette and I let her slide her mouth around the burning tube. She looks a little like me, with her bruised eyes, sucking on the smoke as if it's going to fill the void. I keep hoping it will, but of course it never does.

        "Well that's not that bad," I decide and glance out the window at the blue blue sky. "I thought you meant like twice a day."

        She giggles and her thumbs flex on the steering wheel. "Right. Like he's worth that." But she breathes out in a choked rush and I know he is.

        "He loves you, you know," I offer uncertainly and she shrugs.

        "I know. I wouldn't be doing this if he didn't." She takes a swig of water and her throat works as she swallows. "I don't think love's the problem, you know? Maybe it's just that he's scared. He's like a little boy... he had problems growing up. Foster care," she explains briefly. "And then there's the whole alien thing. So he's got all this baggage and no room for me." Maria laughs harshly. "I guess I ask for too much room in his life."

        I don't know what to say. I know what it's like to love someone with shit in their past and a tortured soul. I know what it's like. And that's why I don't offer sympathy. I never wanted any. "Are you going to wait?" I ask and she gazes into the middle distance.

        "For him...? Yes. Probably. Probably forever. I'll always be waiting. But I'll move on. Cause I'm that type of girl." She smiles bitterly. "Lizzie on the other hand... she'll go to her grave loving Max. I don't think she'll ever truly move on."

        Biting my lip, I feel a bead of blood from the torn flesh and flick my tongue out, catching it. It tastes salty and I feel bile swell in my throat. I feel sick. Maria clutches my hand for a quick moment.

        "You understand, don't you?" she looks sad. "I can tell you left someone behind..." Hurriedly she adds, "Don't talk about it if you don't want to. I don't mind."

        I shake my head, angry at myself for being so stupid. I have to talk about him sometime. "He..." I pause and swallow, my breath thick. "I loved someone. But I had to... I had to leave him, you're right. So I get it. What you're going through with Michael. And I'm sorry. Pain is not a good. Especially that kind of pain."

        "Yeah," she whispers, and we drive.


        The kitchen smells of grease and hamburgers and I want to get out of here badly. I don't know why I agreed to work the grill with Michael today. Just because Mr. Parker said he's give me extra money because the other cook is sick and I've been made feeble-minded by the heat, obviously.

        I flip a burger and keep an eye on the fast frying onion rings, as Michael sneaks me looks almost as often as he does when Maria pops her head in to yell at us for being so slow. Liz doesn't even glance at me when she comes in. I notice the dark smudges underneath her eyes, and the way her wrists shake. I know I'm looking at her like Max looks at her and it makes me feel sick.

        "So..." Michael finally says and I brace myself for what I know is coming. "You and Liz."

        "Yep," I answer dismissively, even though I know it won't put him off. I hand Maria a container of fries and some hot dogs as I turn back to the grill and throw another few on. "Pass me the seasoning."

        He does, and then mutters, "Max is upset."

        "I can imagine," I reply, and don't feel even a pang of sympathy. Isabel is in the restaurant today, in all her regal beauty. She sits with Alex and they talk. I can see them through the window to the dining area. He looks up at her with serious adoration on his face, but all I see on hers is fear. She's so terrified, it's coming off her in waves. A frightened animal who wants to run. I wonder if anyone else senses it, or it's just me. Whenever she catches me staring I don't look away. She does first, and it gives me some satisfaction, because I still feel like a predator of some kind.

        "I never thought Liz was much good for him," Michael continues and I look at him impatiently. He blathers on, unconcerned. "But it's better when he's all lovey-dovey than when he's like this. He's mad."

        He pauses and flips a burger in the fat. Some of it splatters down his apron and it looks like it burns, but he doesn't seem to feel it. He says, "Liz is totally disloyal."

        "Oh give me a fucking break," I snap and push him out of the way as I grab a coke and gulp some down, wiping my forehead. "Liz is just..." saying her name sends a wave of loneliness through me, and I falter a little, "she's just sad. We're just sad. And we... we care about each other. Is that so wrong?"

        He shrugs. "I guess not. But it's like... Liz pledges her undying love for Max and then—"

        "Like you pledged your's to Maria?" I remind him, spitting out the words like venom. "You had no choice, or so you say. You had to leave her. Well so did Liz. She had to leave Max. But she found me. And you could find someone else too—"

        He grabs my arm and it thrills me because it feels like we're in a fight and my bones itch for the kill. The thought worries me for a second as Michael hisses; "I love her. I don't want anyone else. Liz should..." he breaks off and lets me go, looking at the newly formed bruises on my forearm. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to grab you like that."

        "S'ok," I brush it off, seeing true fear in his eyes at his actions. He's scared of violence. I know he killed someone... and for a moment I wonder about the past Maria spoke so briefly about... the bad childhood. "I understand Max is your family and you feel loyalty to him. And I get that he's upset. But Lizzie told me he has a destiny... so it's almost the same. He's got someone else, to."

        "Not really," Michael answers. "Tess isn't like the other woman. She's... she's different. She's his past. Max is romantic..." he looks as if the idea is foreign to him. "He thought Liz was his one true love... and he hates when something disrupts that idea."

        "Yeah," I reply and almost laugh. I know how Max feels. It sucks when something comes along and messes everything up. Like sex, and velvet covers, and whispers and moans in the night. And Angelus. And Acathla. And swords, and my insane need to save the world. Feeling like I'm going to throw up, I lay a hand on his arm and soothe him with my fingers. "I'm sorry for always attacking you about Maria. I guess... I guess I just want you both to be happier than you are."

        He touches my fingers just once, and quickly. Affection terrifies him too. "Don't worry about it."


        The moon shines as I climb onto Liz's balcony and she sees me, sitting up from where she's been lying on the lounger, her slim body tensing. "Hey," she bites off and closes her diary.

        I don't apologise for disturbing her. She's happy to see me, anyway, I can tell just by looking at her. "Writing?" I question and she shakes her head, the fall of her shining hair swinging over her shoulders.

        "No. Can't seem to tonight," she murmurs and I sit down on the chair, wringing my hands.

        "I'm the Slayer," I blurt out without even thinking, even though it's been at the back of my mind the whole way over. Telling her. Telling her everything.

        She just stares at me. "Is that supposed to mean something?"

        "No." I breathe out, and lean forward. "It's... it's this girl. One girl in all the world. Who fights vampires. That's me. It's a big secret, no one knows about it. Except my friends and I and my Watcher. That's the English guy who helps me and guides me. Except mine is more like my father. And..." I feel the tears running down my face as I ramble and Liz continues to look at me as if I've lost my mind. "I know it sounds crazy. And you're thinking that you didn't know vampires exist. But hey... aliens exist. I never knew that. I ran away from home after... after something bad happened. And no one knows where I've gone. God, they're probably all furious with me... but—"

        She holds up her hand and presses another to her stomach, her eyes wide. "I..." she pauses and takes a shuddering breath. "Slayer? The Slayer? Vampires? Buffy..."

        "I know... you're telling yourself it can't possibly be true. But..." I think of some way to convince her and then see the iron table leg in front of me. Picking it up, I use my strength and bend it almost in half. Liz gapes in shock as I right it again, my muscles barely feeling the effort. "Slayer strength," I explain. "Comes with the package."

        "Oh God..." she moans and rocks forward. "This is too weird... how come you never told me?"

        " I didn't..." I falter helplessly and touch her cheek. "I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to forget."

        With unsteady hands, she draws me forward, into her arms, and I kiss her lips, our teeth bumping as our mouths mesh and our tears mingle. She's sweaty. I whisper that I think I love her and she murmurs that she loves me too, and I ask her if it's still over and she laughs and says that she missed me.

        Afterwards we lie together underneath the thin blanket, gazing at the stars. I think of Angel, and how far I've come to get away from him. I can barely remember what it's like to hold him close anymore. He drifted through my life, like a ghost with a gun... blowing away all the cobwebs and dreams and false hopes.

        I watch the stars now, and all I can see is his face. I can't have run very far.

        End of part eight. Feedback? It makes me write faster, and besides, I'm dying to know what you think!

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