Return to The Midnight Players of SHS Chapter Twelve

The Midnight Players of SHS

Author: mangled_monkey
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a rather nice computer. Suing will only make me unable to write. I don't own the Midnight Players either. That is a salute to my high school drama troupe.

As she looked out over the rippling water of the Pacific Ocean she knew her decision had been rash and impulsive. She also knew that she couldn't go through with it. Faith looked out over the water and sighed as she watched the freighter move towards the horizon. She had always been the type to up and leave any time a situation got difficult, but this time something was stopping her. Something was tying her to Sunnydale besides her duties as stage manager. Had she been more introspective, she might have realized the fact that she had responsibilities and people counting on her for the first time in her young life was the very thing that kept her from leaving. That, and her commitment as Buffy's best friend. Deep down, she really did know it, and that's what she had been sitting there for two hours contemplating.

She threw a wayward bolt from the steel working plant into the water and sighed. She had felt Tara walk up a few minutes previously, but didn't really want the company at the moment. She sighed again and decided that having her next to her, where she could see her, at least in her peripheral vision, would be easier than knowing she was watching but being unable to tell what else she was doing.

Tara sat next to Faith on the edge of the dock. She had found the girl five minutes earlier and had stood back watching, just to make sure she wasn't going to startle her too much by approaching. When Faith turned toward her slightly, she knew the troubled girl had sensed her presence and moved forward to join her.

They sat in an uneasy silence for a few moments, until Tara took a deep breath and broke it. "Why didn't you do it?"

Of the million things the blonde could have been talking about, Faith knew which she meant. For a moment, she considered answering the wrong question, just so she wouldn't have to admit she was too chicken to skip town. She took her own deep breath, took another drag from the beer she had liberated from a dock worker's locker, and sighed. "I... I wanted to, T, I really did..."

Tara waited as the silence after Faith's words stretched on. "That doesn't answer my question..."

Faith nodded and tossed a loose pebble into the water, watching as it rippled the reflection of the rising sun. "I couldn't leave B... it... she'd be hurt."

Tara nodded, looking out over the ocean. "She would be. And so would I, and Xander, and... heck, even Anya would miss you."

Faith chuckled. "Anya would miss what I let her get away with, not me." She swirled the remaining beer around in the glass as a nervous habit and Tara glanced disapprovingly at the bottle. Faith looked at it and sighed, chucking it out to sea. The moment had again become serious. "I couldn't leave you neither, T."

Tara smiled, knowing Faith really cared about her, and hugged her gently from the side, accepting that Faith wasn't about to hug her back. She held on for a few seconds, as the brunette tolerated the hug, and let go. She knew Faith actually enjoyed her hugs, but didn't want to admit it for fear that she would be seen as a softy. "Thank you for staying, Faith..."

Faith scooted ever so slightly away from Tara, feeling slightly uncomfortable with the physical affection the blonde always seemed determined to bestow upon her. Even after the years she had known Tara, the hugs still unnerved her just the slightest bit. She enjoyed them, but they made her nervous, as if she wasn't really deserving of the affection, even though Tara seemed convinced to make her sure that she was. All her friends had tried to do that, but they so far hadn't managed to counteract her drunken mother's influence. She frowned, again remembering why she was here in the first place. Buffy. "I need to be her friend, Tara. I owe her that..."

Tara nodded, knowing that Faith had more to say, and just waited in silence for her to continue.

"She... she comes to me with everything. She depends on me... I guess... it's selfish of me to want to- to almost... leave because she doesn't..." She paused, still not able to say the words. "because she's straight. I... it's not her fault, she didn't choose to like guys just like I didn't choose to lo-... like girls." She took a deep breath and looked up at Tara, a tear almost escaping her eye, but she blinked it back. "I can't lose her, T... I just can't lose her."

Tara nodded and put an arm around Faith's shoulders, knowing that the girl found physical displays comforting rather than intimidating as their verbal counterparts so often were. "I know, Faith..."

Faith nodded, wanting to change the subject away from her. "So how are you and Red?" She smiled hopefully, thinking that the new subject would brighten Tara's mood, seeing as how her and Willow (a name Faith was determined to never use having always been one to make up nicknames) seemed to be hitting it off so well.

Tara bit her lip and looked down into her lap, suddenly very interested in the water beyond her fingers also. That surprised and confused Faith, and she began to worry. "I'm not sure..."

Faith scooted a little closer to Tara, until their thighs were just touching, and bumped her shoulder gently. "What's goin on, Tara?"

Tara nibbled on her lip a little bit more before letting it out of the grasp of her teeth and taking a deep breath, almost a sigh. "I... I feel... guilty."

Faith lowered her voice a little to take on a more serious and concerned tone, a tone she hadn't been aware that she possessed until that moment. "What is it?"

Tara spoke gently and carefully, telling Faith the full version of what happened with Joanie, about what happened on her date with Willow, about the conflicting feelings she had about Willow and her deceased first girlfriend. Faith listened to all of this with patience and care, both traits Tara knew she had, but she herself had been unaware of. She listened also, as Tara detailed what she had and still did feel for Joanie, and how much the girl still meant to her.

Faith nodded slightly after Tara had been silent for more than half a minute, figuring that she was probably done at this point. "Tara... If Joanie were alive... Do you think you would still be with her?"

Tara looked up at Faith, at first surprised by the question. Then she thought about it. She really and seriously thought about what the answer to that question would be. On one hand, they had been very close and Tara had loved her with all of her heart. On the other, they had been very young, just children. The likelihood of finding your true love at 13 was low, almost to the point of impossible. She thought about the fact that, even if they hadn't broken up because they grew apart, they more than likely would have when Tara moved, or if Joanie moved before then as her parents did a few years after her death.

She took in all of the possibilities for what could have been, for the first time looking realistically to what probably would have been, and answered in a low but certain voice. "No."

Just saying the word, she felt a tremendous weight lifted from her, the world seemed so much lighter than it had, so much brighter and full of promise. Things weren't magically fixed and she still loved and missed Joanie, she always would. But she had finally admitted to herself that Joanie wasn't her only chance for happiness, and likely wouldn't have ever been her wife or lifelong partner.

Tara smiled and hugged Faith, this time in happiness. "I have to go tell Willow!" She stood up, excited and ready to run off, before remembering what time it was. "She's probably not even awake yet..."

Faith looked at her beat up and scratched watch and smiled up at Tara. "School starts in a half hour, T. She's probably on her way now."

That was all the incentive Tara needed as she took off running in the direction of Willow's house.

Faith sighed as she looked out over the water, then stood. It wasn't like Tara to run off that way and she smiled sadly, knowing that Tara had found her happiness and praying she would find her own.

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