Have you ever said something, and then later looked back and wished that your jaws had just frozen shut before those words had ever come out of your mouth?
I have. A lot. Though if I had the chance to stop just one conversation, it would've been this last great foot-eating endeavor. No, it wasn't just some open-mouth-insert-foot moment. The things I said came from some dark, nasty place inside me. Every syllable that came out of my mouth was dripping with bitterness and anger.
I was like some kind of Anti-Buffy. Looking back, I cringe at what a self-centered bitch I was acting like. Cordelia on her worst day would've come in a far second to the performance I put on. Worst of all, I said all those horrible things to two of the people I love the most.
Angel and Faith. If I apologize for the rest of my life (even though that would probably only factor out to about four years -- tops), I can never erase what my words did to them.
I had such good intentions when I went out to LA, after Giles told me that Faith was up there and tangling with Angel. It's true what they say about good intentions and hell -- if I was still on speaking terms with Angel, I'd probably ask him for a roadmap. It would definitely come in handy.
On the busride from Sunnydale to LA, I was haunted by the dual image of Faith's haunted face when we fought in the church and the memory of Angel when he was poisoned. Faith was so fragile when she left Sunnydale, truly on the breaking point. I was scared for her, wondering if she could be saved, and also wondering if I would lose her forever to the darkness of her own soul. But at the same time that I was chilled by the thought of what my surrogate little sister was going through, I was literally shaking at what could happen to Angel if Faith had tipped over. Death or dismemberment were high on my list of fears. The stress from Oz's visit, Willow's new relationship with Tara, and Riley's status as a fugitive wasn't really helping my mental state either.
Plus I had PMS and an unfilled Midol prescription.
Had I just gone straight to Angel's office, and walked in on them in their embrace, my first reaction probably would've been relief that they were both still apparently whole and undamaged. Oh, there would've been that old jealousy - I know myself well enough to admit that the only time that I will ever see Angel with another woman and not feel jealous is after I've lived another five lifetimes - but I doubt that it would've overpowered me to the point where I would ignore both the dead demon on the floor and the fact that the hug was comforting rather than passionate.
Instead, I stopped by Cordelia's apartment. Either she's been more successful at the acting gig than any of us thought or Angel offers a very competitive salary, because that place is truly amazing. The LA housing rates are enough that the little rat-trap apartment I was living in during my runaway summer after the Acathla incident had me strapped enough for cash that I was looking for a roommate, despite the fact that Cordelia's bathroom would comfortably fit into my old living room/dining room/bedroom. Plus hers came furnished.
Can you tell that I was impressed with her apartment? Anyway.
The reason I visited Cordelia before going to see Angel and Faith was because I didn't want to just waltz in completely uniformed of the situation. Sometimes I wonder if Sick Irony has my number on speed-dial. Instead of going in uninformed and understanding, I went in with background info and a chip on my shoulder the size of Saint Louis.
It wasn't really one thing that sent me spiralling into full-on bitch attack mode. It was more of a cascade effect made of a whole bunch of things that even taken individually would've made me unpleasant to deal with for days. Seeing Cordelia's black eye was the first thing. The sight of Cordy wearing clunky and unfashionable shades to conceal it gave me the intense desire to give Faith one to match it. So before Cordelia had even finished with her offer of coffee, I was pissed.
After I made the coffee (having tasted the monkey urine that Cordy tries to pass off as coffee, I figured it was safer if I made the beverages), we sat down and she brought me up to speed in about twenty minutes. Cordelia didn't embellish anything, and she didn't leave anything out, but she also had a very heavy (and very, very understandable) bias against Faith during the telling. She was also rather peeved at Angel (a result from his argument with Wesley that morning, I later discovered), and that came off as well.
So when I left Cordy's spacious and roach-free apartment, I was fuming. Caffeine from the coffee was not helping. On the busride from the apartment to Angel Investigations, I had even more time to stew over everything. More than anything, I was really angry at myself. From Cordy's description of the muggers, the assassination attempts, and Wesley's gruesome torture, Faith hadn't changed at all. I started to wonder if her actions back at the church had just been some elaborate charade to make me feel sorry for her, and to make me hold back at a crucial moment. Faith has played me before, and very successfully. There were months when she was working with the Mayor and I didn't have a clue.
Thinking about that, I convinced myself that she was doing the same thing again, only this time with Angel as her victim. After all, if she was so repentant and weepy, why had she taken such pleasure in slicing Wesley - the only one who had still had (forgive my pun) faith in her innate goodness?
And then there was my guilt about what happened to Wesley. I had trusted Faith enough not to chase her after the battle in the church, and because of that, Wesley was likely to be scarred for life. I have bad associations with incidents like that. The parallels to this currant situation was reminding me too strongly of when Angelus tortured Giles because I hadn't been strong enough to kill him sooner.
So, when I came in and saw Angel holding her, all of this just built up and came out in a spew of unmitigated venom that was directed really at everyone in that room. Faith for her actions of the previous days, Angel for his actions while Angelus, and myself for being (in my eyes) an idiot who didn't learn from experience.
Looking back, I intellectually know that I probably deserved it when Angel hit me. After all, between the verbal abuse of Faith in her condition and the fact that I'd just hit him, I'm not surprised that he acted the way he did. Still.... the idea that he hit me out of anger is still one that throws me for a loop emotionally. Back when it actually happened, I was so shocked that it's surprising that I didn't just keel over right there.
He'd hit me before. In sparring, when he lost his soul, once or twice by accident when we were fighting demons, but never once in anger. And hard enough to draw blood from my lip, which considering the Slayer thing, says just how much force was behind that cut. Even thinking about it now, I'm just reeling. The argument that followed that.... well, I'd rather not even think about the things I said.
The argument with Faith on the roof brought something else out that I hadn't even realized - my anger that I'd become a victim because of her.
It's funny -- out of all my friends and loved ones, I sometimes think that Faith is the one who understands me the most. The only time I even hinted about my intense fear of loosing control was to Angel, when he tried to commit suicide last Christmas. And that was only a brief footnote in a tirade - that I hated how much he could hurt me. But with Faith, I said it straight out, and she caught on right away.
We're two sides of the same coin, caught between perfect understanding and complete incomprehension.
We were at the point of blows (our usual method of solving our issues with each other) when the Watcher Squad attacked. Even in the middle of my bitchiness and self-involvement, I would rather have died myself than let Faith get hurt. Which, considering the fact that I once sent her into an eight-month coma with a knife and a four-story drop to the ground is pretty ironic.
Those months we spent together before she murdered Allan and joined the Mayor were good ones. When I look back at the best memories I have, the endless games of sychronized Slaying we played rank near the top. Hours each day were spent sparring and trying to mirror each other's movements, until we knew what the other would do even before the action was made. She knows every move I have, but the only reason I keep beating her when we go head-to-head are the two extra years of experience I have over her. I'm just a shade quicker to compensate or readjust than she is, and when two people are so evenly matched, that can make all the difference in the world.
But when those leather-clad goons that I recalled *so* fondly attacked, we slid right into that old pattern. For a moment, we could've been in any of the countless battles we had fought as a team. But once the battle was over, I slid right back into bitch-mode.
We motored to the station in Angel's car, and let me tell you, that guy makes *me* look like a safe and conscientious driver. I almost lost track of how many stop signs and red lights we ran. It's a good thing he has a bogus license plate, or he would be suffering from an overflow of tickets.
Faith had to turn herself over to the cold arms of the law before I believed that she wanted another try at life. She is even now sitting in a cellblock, reliving her crimes over and over in her head. And the last time I saw her, I treated her like a dog.
I've written her letters, trying to apologize. When she writes back, she says it's okay, and that she doesn't hold it against me. But words scar even more deeply than a knife. Neither of us will ever forget the things we said to each other. If I ever get permission from the prison warden to come and see her, we'll probably talk a lot, and might even eventually become comfortable again. But the scar of those words will always remain.
As for Angel..... we need to stay away from each other.
I had told Riley about my vampiric ex-boyfriend. It was past time to tell Angel that there was someone new in my life, someone I loved. But the way I rubbed his nose in it and tried to shame him with it...
I started crying as soon as I stepped out of the police station, and I could barely look Riley in the eye when I came back to Sunnydale.
Cordelia let me crash at her apartment. She even sat and listened to me as I told her the whole painful story. As the former queen of cutting comments, she understood. But she told me that if I ever found a way to truly make up for it, or to go back and erase those spiteful words, she wanted to know right away.
Because the words "I'm sorry" just don't cut it.