Hands to Heaven
by daneorange
Rating: R

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its characters belong to Joss Whedon, and are definitely not mine, nor do I claim any rights to them. No copyright infringement intended.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Breathe for the title. And yes, I do have a thing for songfics. ::grins:: There is no real need to read the first installment (Under the title, ‘Dare You to Move’), although I would like that, too… ::wink:: Anyway, more strip poker, more memories as each card touches the table. POV is still Faith’s. Sorry, I tried doing it in Buffy’s… but I can’t keep it up for so long. *sigh* Starting to sound a lot like Faith lately… ::smirk:: Still the same formatting stuff apply -- *thoughts*, ::lyrics::, flashbacks in bold, if any.
Feedback: Pretty pretty please? Much much appreciated.

‘So what do you have this time?’ I ask as I give out the cards.

I made sure this time it would be me. Your eyes, focused on them, as if reading through them even as they slide face down towards you.

Your fingers find the edges of the cards, and one by one you take them into your hand. You look over them, catching my eye. ‘Good hand,’ I hear you say. ‘Thanks Faith.’ And you give me one of your trademark sarcastic laughs.

*Torn between hatred and love all over again,* I sigh. And my fingers move slowly towards my cards, laid face down before me. Almost reluctant.

‘Scared of your luck, Faith?’

Almost.

‘Never.’ Liar. ‘Never scared of any fucking thing…’ and more decisively now, I finally lift my cards off the table, one by one.

‘Got you now, bitch.’ I find myself saying, smug and confident now, satisfied with my hand. Definitely. Smells like absolute victory.

You look up from your hand. ‘Maybe, maybe not,’ you say. ‘Can’t be sure of anything now, can you?’

“But I am sure, Buffy…” I tried my best to keep up with your pace, growing faster and faster with every step. “I love you.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying…” and you walked on a bit faster, shrugging my hands off even as I tried to reach out to you.

“As if you know any better…” I just said.

No reply. Just walking and walking, a bit faster. *Why don’t you just break into a run, Slayer?* I wanted to yell. *That’s what one would normally do right? Normally do when scared…*

“Fuck, B, listen to me, just this once…” and I started to sound as if I was begging. Or maybe I really was. Begging for your attention, your mercy, your reconsideration…

Your love.

I stopped walking. “Fine, B. Just… walk out.”

And faster even you walked out on me. I just stood there and watched you go. Farther and farther away.

‘Far too sure, far too comfortable…’ I insist, raising a brow, smirking a little. Arrogant bitch mode. ‘You? Can you get any more scared than you already are?’

‘Oh the shivers, Faith…’ you taunt. ‘You give me the shivers.’

And then you lay down a ten. Of Hearts.

*Fuck.*

‘What’s that?’ I ask, trying to calm myself. Unbelievable how, with just a single move, you can shake all my foundations and lead me crumbling down.

Like you always have. It’s your expertise. Shattering me, divesting me of all my confidence, and my convictions…

‘Oh a ten of hearts,’ you reply casually.

I grit my teeth. ‘I knew that,’ I snap. ‘It’s so damn obvious.’

‘Just answering your question…’ and you even have the nerve to smile. ‘Why are you suddenly so mad, baby?’

Baby. Like a slap it hits me. ‘Not mad…’ I just say through clenched teeth. ‘Remember we *are* playing poker.’

‘Of course I remember…’ you say, tone still playful. ‘I don’t forget.’

“Waiting for a ride?”

I shivered some more under the rain as you pulled up near me, rolling your window down. “Damn, forgot my coat…” I just said, hands deep into both pockets.

“It’s late, I should get you home…”

“Oh no…” I found myself declining the offer. My eyes drifted over the roof of your car, to the edge of the dark street. Still a long way from where I was, if I were to walk. “No, I’m terribly wet…”

“Oh shut up, and get in for christ’s sake…” you interrupted. And I was forced to look back down into your car, if only to meet your eyes. Sparkling blue, even in the darkness… “Unless you want me to come out and push you in.”

“Buffy…”

Right there, just by the mere utterance of your name, I must have driven you a bit over the edge. And all of a sudden, I heard a door bursting open. *Driver’s side,* it barely registered in my head as the rain hit the back of my neck.

“Come on Faith!”

But your tone was neither imposing, nor threatening. Rather playful, teasing… even naughty.

I recognized it soon enough to break into a smile. “Bitch…” I just caught myself saying. “Now you’re wet, too.”

“Two better than one, what do you say?” with outstretched hands, you look up into the night sky, all cloudy. As if giving yourself up in some primitive sacrifice ritual to a rain god, or something.

I just had to laugh at the sight. “What are you doing?”

“Playing under the rain.”

I fell back onto the side of your car, laughing, laughing uncontrollably, totally uncaring. I’d always been free and uncaring, yes… But it was you who taught me how to laugh.

And I felt your arms around me for a fleeting second. I looked into your eyes quite tentatively. Smiling, you hugged me tighter, resting your head on my shoulder.

“Buffy.”

“Faith.”

Slowly, my hand came up your arm, resting on your shoulder. Holding you securely against me. Even for just one more fleeting moment.

*Just this moment,* I silently prayed. *And you can remember again.*

Two. Four. Six. I counted in my head the torturous seconds. But you didn’t push me away, or even push yourself off me…

And I didn’t understand.

“Don’t be scared,” I heard you say. My eyes grew wider even. “I know what I’m getting myself into.”

‘You implying something?’ I snap. I try my best to hide the traces of the memories that have been washing over me these past few moments.

‘Oh nothing,’ you dismiss in turn. ‘Just random, you know.’

Stiff poker face, straight, flat, emotionless. I drift my stare back down on your card, ten of hearts, face up on the table.

‘There’s more from where that came from…’ you speak again.

‘What are you shooting for anyway…’

I glance up. You catch my eye and hold it in place. All those years, still nothing beats the feeling of drowning in your pools of blue…

You lay down another heart. Jack.

*Double fuck.*

‘Just a straight flush…’ you reply. Your casual voice, poking painful holes through my sanity.

‘Shooting for a straight flush?’ I ask. ‘You’re joking, aren’t you?’

‘Fucking not,’ you insist, laying down a Queen. Of Hearts.

And my heart jumps a little, my eyes trying their best not to show any hint of intimidation as they stray to where my leather jacket lay on the floor beside us, discarded momentarily.

‘Wonder what article of clothing is next for that pile…’

And my eyes shift back up to yours. ‘Certainly not something from me.’

“And all you do is take and take…” and I drilled my gaze to the floor beside your feet. “What about me, Faith? What about me…”

There again. Left in wonder as to what I had done wrong this time.

“I’m trying my best to give you everything, B…” I replied, holding back all that anger. “My very best.”

“But it’s always been this way…” you sighed. “And you wouldn’t even look me in the eye anymore.”

*Because it already hurts,* I wanted to scream. That I’ve been trying my goddamned hardest to deserve you, but whatever I do… I’m just not good enough…

Every goddamned time.

*Take and take…* I repeated the words in my head. How dare you, when all I ever wanted to do in the first place was… was to give you my all.

“Faith?”

Despite the pain, I tore my eyes off the ground to look into yours. As per request.

“I’m trying so hard to deserve you…” I just said. “And I’m not even sure if I should apologize for appearing so selfish.”

And you sighed. Yet again. Couldn’t you do something else? Like hug me close, or even just hold my hand, just two seconds… just like we used to?

Guess not. Things changed.

‘I don’t think so…’ your tone, too sarcastic to be allowed to slip unnoticed. ‘What do you have, anyway?’

I stare a bit harder before lowering my card. Ten of spades. ‘I’m not letting this one go without a good fight,’ I catch myself saying.

‘And it’s so exciting now, the idea of seeing either your top, or your pants next to your jacket…’ you mock again.

That comment so deserved a smirk. ‘Your undertones disturb me, highly.’

And it’s your turn to raise a brow of your own. ‘Undertones, Faith?’ and then, you roll your eyes. ‘Please.’

‘Please what?’

You look up. I look up. Our eyes meet in silence. Another deadlock. Another tie nobody can break.

‘Please just get on with your show…’ you continue, boredom in your voice. Façade. Liar. Fucking liar… ‘If any.’

I lay down a Jack of Spades.

‘Following my trail, it seems?’

And a Queen of Spades.

Left with two cards in both hands. Just two chances for redemption. And I feel as if our world is slowly caving in on us, and everything we ever shared, everything we ever built, every single fucking thing we worked so hard for, we worked so hard to establish, to keep together… every single effort to make things work – all reduced to two hands, all reduced to two cards, all reduced to two chances.

‘Waiting for you all over again, B…’ I just mutter. ‘What’s it gonna be?’

The question rang in my head again. *Who’s it gonna be?* Another one of those choices I did not want to make. Especially not now, as you had your head leaned on my shoulder. Not now as I had my arms around you.

Security, comfort, warmth… what was it that I had not been able to give?

What was it that I lacked? Why can’t we just make this work?

As quietly as possible, I slowly untangled myself from your embrace, silently praying for you not to notice the sudden movement.

You didn’t. And suddenly, I did not know whether to exhale relief or heed the pain. Pain of impending loss.

*Dammit B, there’s no easier way…*

:: God give me strength when I am leaving… ::

I moved out of the bed and walked over to pick up my clothes, scattered all over the floor. Or maybe that was just what it was all about. Some fun, some sex – all in good spirit, all with good intentions.

Besides, we all need a good fuck once in a while.

I slipped my pants on. *Yeah, maybe that was it,* I thought. Just something physical. Just something… something you know so well I can give.

But I loved you, didn’t you know that? It’s impossible for you not to. I told you, right? But then again, maybe you didn’t believe me.

I looked over my shoulder as I buttoned my pants. On the bed, curled up in white sheets. *Our* white sheets. On *our* bed, for so long.

I counted silently. *Two. Three. Three months.* I found myself shaking my head. Down the drain.

“Baby, where are you…” and I was startled by your voice, piercing through the silence, the darkness.

“Right here…” I replied, voice unbelievably soft. And I tried to suppress all impulse to come rushing back into the bed… with you.

“Can’t feel you anywhere near… where are you?”

Anything to just hold you. Hold you near me, against me… To never leave you.

But I couldn’t do that.

:: Tonight I need your sweet caress, hold me in the darkness… ::

“Baby, go back to sleep…” and inspite of all previous resolutions, I found myself walking back to the bed, sitting beside you, fingers straying in your hair, studying your features as much as little light would allow me to…

Just this one last time. Committing you to memory.

Please. I would not like to forget.

“Love you…”

*Shit.* I looked away, as I heard you say those two words, in fear that a teardrop on your face will betray my plans.

“Love you too…” and I leaned in to plant a kiss on your forehead. And I hated the way it felt. So final…

:: Tonight you calm my restlessness, you relieve my sadness… ::

*But I have to do this, B… you know that. Sooner or later, I will have to… It’s better this way.*

“Always remember, B. Always remember…” I just said.

“Mm-hmm…” you just hummed sleepily in reply, as you sank back into dreams.

*Better this way.*

I stood up slowly from the bed, taking extra careful now not to wake you again. I knew if you pulled another one of those sleepy after-sex stunts, I would have to postpone this thing for tomorrow.

And the day after. And the day after that even.

And with each day it just gets harder and more painful, you know?

I walked away from the bed to pick up my top, and immediately slipped it over my head. A few inches away lay my jacket. I picked it up and wore it. I looked over my shoulder again – I knew I shouldn’t have done that.

You were still there, curled up in bed. Alone.

:: I can’t believe this pain, it’s driving me insane… ::

You knew this was coming, but you probably didn’t know it was going to be this soon.

:: Without your touch, life will be lonely… ::

But I could take that. Loneliness. Nothing I can’t fix on my own. Sooner or later, five by five all over again.

Or so I hoped. I reached the door, doorknob simply inches away. *Do it now, Faith,* I urged myself. *Do it now, or you may never have the strength to do it later.*

So I did.

:: So raise your hands to heaven and pray, that we’ll be back together someday… ::

I turned the knob and walked out on *our* life, leaving nothing but a silent prayer to Somebody I wasn’t even sure existed in the first place.

‘Ready when you are, Faith,’ you just say in response. ‘Are you?’

I clutch my cards tighter. ‘Like always.’

We’re back to square one. You make the first move.

King of Hearts.

I groan involuntarily. *Fucking shit.*

‘Scaring you yet?’ you notice my reaction. I regret being so readable. ‘You know, you can say you just prefer to have another round and…’

‘No.’ Decision firm, made so long ago. ‘You’re not giving me an out again, B.’

I lay my own King of Spades, and let out a sigh.

One more card left in both hands. One more chance, one more shot at redemption. One more move, maybe we can still make amends…

‘Do you even want to know what this card is?’ you ask yet again.

‘If that is the Ace of Hearts… you win,’ I reply. ‘If it’s a bluff, well…’

‘Well what?’

‘Well you’ll strip,’ I just snap.

Silence. Last chances for reconsideration, last chances to correct mistakes, last chances to gauge current situations…

Booth shooting for a straight flush. Spade. Hearts.

One card away from total resolution. Closure…

‘If you’re thinking of folding up… now’s the right time…’ and there you go again with your mocking.

‘I didn’t come back here to just fold up at the mere possibility of stripping a little clothing, undergoing a little consequence…’

There. I just violated the first rule: Never dig up past transgressions. It’s all game. An arbitrary move to settle the score between us – whatever it is.

But it’s always been this way between you and I. All a game of poker. All a game of stiff poker faces, emotionless voices, careful and timed gestures. And with every fault, every sin, a garment must fall. Something must fall…

‘If that is the Ace of Spades…’ you begin.

‘I’m not even sure I’d win, even if I hold the winning card…’ I reply, rather bitterly.

And it’s always been the case. Even if I had the best card, it was just never enough for you. Just never good enough… damn.

You sigh. And honestly, that scared me. A cross between disappointment, and surrender… what the fuck did you have in mind?

You lay down a red card.

And when I am just about ready to strike the table and break it into half… I just had to blink twice to catch the bitter truth.

It was the five of diamonds.

‘You win,’ you say in resignation, moving your fingers down towards the hem of your shirt.

‘Not yet…’ and I put a restraining hand on your arm.

Finally. Contact after so long…

And I lay down the Eight of Hearts.

‘Stalemate,’ I just find myself muttering. ‘Nobody strips.’

Your eyes drift over to my jacket on the floor beside us. As if sorry that no article of clothing has been added to the pile.

‘Stalemate,’ you just repeat. ‘Draw.’

‘Just like when nobody wins, huh?’ I ask.

‘Just like when nobody wins…’ you just repeat in response.

I take a final stare into your eyes, before shuffling the cards. I put them back at the center of the table before standing up and heading for the door.

It’s over. Nobody won. Nobody lost. Just the same. Tired of playing now. Tired of playing all this time…

‘Your jacket,’ you just call out from behind me.

‘Keep it,’ I just dismiss. ‘Save it for the next time.’

That is… if there ever will be a next time.

The End

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