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Switching Gears



After months of looking, I finally got a tip. I couldn't say why I wanted to look for her. Three years since she got out of prison, which made it seven since I'd last seen her. She was 25 now, an adult. I wondered how she'd changed. I pulled up in Giles' car (which he was very reluctant to lend me) and heard the familiar voice, even over the heavy rock that was blasting from, it seemed, three different directions.

"You gotta be kidding me-I paid less than that for my fuckin' engine."

I pretty much had my answer then, standing right in front of me in a tight black tank top and low-riding jeans. A cigarette was hanging loosely between her fingers, like somehow she'd forgotten about it. She was gesturing with her other hand towards the hood of the car in front of her as the conversation continued, though I missed a few parts.

"Where?" I heard her ask.

The guy she was talking to smirked. "Beat it out of me."

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I thought she might really do it. She grinned. "You don't really think you can beat me with that Matchbox car, do you?"

He looked mildly insulted. "I paid-"

"Tell someone who gives a shit, Pokey," she snapped good-naturedly. "It's not the price of the wheels, it's how you steer 'em."

"I steer them just fine! And don't call me Pokey!"

"I'd tell you to put your money where your mouth is, but I don't want cash from your ass. So lay it out if you think you can take me."

The guy, Pokey, glared at her and pulled a few bills from his pocket. Another girl who vaguely resembled Willow, came up and took the money from him. Faith handed her some money too, and she pocketed it. I got out of Giles' car and looked around. We were on a stretch of road that ran for miles along the beach. And 'we' was a surprisingly large group, considering it was well past midnight, maybe even past one. I was at the back of the crowd, so I climbed up on top of the hood. I couldn't hear them anymore, but I caught sight of them forcing through the throngs of people to the front.

They talked to some guy, slightly overweight with a hat turned backwards. He jumped up and down, yelling. "Yo, yo, everybody shut up! Look like we got a challenge tonight. Poke, so called because he's fuckin' slow-"

This was met with shouting and cheers, which Poke replied to by giving them all the finger. Even I had to snicker. No way could that skinny little wimp beat Faith at anything.

"-and Seger over here, who.." I couldn't hear what the rest of what he said was. Everyone was screaming and cat-calling her, and it was easy to see that Faith was in her glory.

"First time, right?" I looked down to see a petite girl with spiked hair had taken up residence next to the car.

I smiled. "Yeah, I just.. I know someone here."

She shrugged and lit a cigarette. "Figured."

"How could you tell?"

"Well, I know you ain't racing with this deathtrap," she said, patting the hood.

"No?"

"A convertible? This sucker rolls, and best case scenario is you end up a fuckin' vegetable. That's not likely, and only if you're lucky."

"Oh."

She grinned. "I'm Lisa. Cigarette?" she offered me one, hopping up on top of the car next to me.

I shook my head. "Buffy. I don't smoke."

"Buffy? Fuckin' A, you know Seger, right?" I looked at her blankly. "Faith Seger. That slut up there with the Pulsar."

"Slut? Pulser?"

"I meant it in a good way. Pulsar. Nissan Pulsar. '87, with dual exhaust, rackpinion steering, NOS.."

I blinked at her. What the hell was she talking about? "It's uh.. nice," I offered, looking at the car Faith was removing part of the roof from.

Lisa looked at me oddly. "Of course it's nice. She's spent every penny of every paycheck souping that baby up. She's hot shit and she knows it, that's why she always takes the roof off."

"What if it.. uh. rolls?"

"It's a T-top," she says distractedly, looking to the front again.

"Which means.."

"See that piece in the middle there, between the pieces she took off?" she points. I nod. "That stays on, it works kinda like a rollbar. Seger's never rolled, anyway. Never even spun out. Let me tell you, her toy's dirty. Pokey's got fuck-all on her, I don't know what he's thinkin'."

Oh god. Suddenly thankful my hair is blonde, maybe I can use that as an excuse. "Toy?"

"Car."

"Dirty? She stole it?"

Lisa rolls her eyes. "Dirty. Sexy. Car's almost hotter than she is, that's sayin' a lot. Everyone wants to lay pipe to Seger, Nikki just got lucky, is all."

Even I know what laying pipe is. I want to comment and find out who Nikki is, but the sounds of engines revving distract me.

Lisa practically squeals. "Fuck yes. Pokey's gonna get freight-trained." She jumps up and down, and suddenly I'm concerned about Giles' paint job. "Whoo! Let's go, Seger! Grease his ass up!"

Everything happens so fast, and suddenly Faith's off in a streak of black, with Pokey running right behind her in a red flash. Lisa's whooping and cheering, as is everyone else. I don't know what else to do. I'm still wondering what rackpinion steering is. Lisa pounds my shoulder. "Shit, here they come."

Faith's blasting Limp Bizkit and holding her middle finger out the roof, bouncing in her seat. Pokey's pulling in behind her a hell of a lot slower than he pulled out, his back tires smoking. Apparently Lisa finds that hysterical. "He spun out! Shit, there goes his allowance for the week.." I look at her questioningly. "Pokey's famous for flapping his lips. His daddy's rich, so he's got all the toys, but doesn't know how to play with them. Seger, on the other hand.." She trails off and raises her eyebrows. "Well, come on. Gotta go give her props, you might as well come. She'll piss herself when she sees you."

"No, I don't think-"

"So don't think! Come on." She grabs my hand and drags me through the crowd, and thrusts me in front of Faith before I even realize what's going on.

She doesn't see me at first, there's too many people rushing her. But she turns, and catches my eyes, and for the longest time, she doesn't move. Then, the Willowish girl from earlier comes up, loops her arm around Faith's waist, and waves a small wad of bills in her face. Faith takes the cash and kisses the girl, who I'm now assuming is Nikki. It's a long, deep, open-mouthed kiss, which I feel is deliberately to show off. That emotion is confirmed when Nikki's hands stray to Faith's black denim-clad ass. I frown.

Faith finally pulls away and slides the money down into her cleavage. She lets Nikki go, much to her dismay, I think, and comes over to me. "What?" she asks, slightly annoyed.

I'm taken aback. I expected a lot of things.. A fight, the finger, being completely ignored.. Not that, though. "Um.. Yeah. You were good out there.."

"I know," she says coolly, taking a cigarette from the pack Lisa offers her.

"Right."

"What do you want?"

"I thought we could go somewhere and talk," I say softly.

She sighs like I just asked her to carry her car across the Sahara on her back. Nikki comes up behind her, obviously recovered from the insult of being rejected in favor of me. She wraps her arms around Faith's waist and kisses her shoulder. "Faith's busy tonight."

Faith smirks at Nikki and turns back to me. "Tomorrow?" She glances at Nikki again. "Er.. tomorrow afternoon?"

I exhale. "Okay."

"There's a place on South Ave, a diner. Two o'clock?"

"Fine."

"Fine." She turns her back and returns to the crowd with Nikki latched onto her like.. for some reason, the word 'leech' pops into my mind, and I quickly shove it away.

What do I care who Faith dates?


So we meet at the diner. We have coffee. She waits for me to talk.

"So. How's life?" I ask, feeling stupid even as the words leave my mouth.

"Does it matter?"

"Well. Back home, things aren't too different. Willow and-"

"Buffy.." she interrupts, and I stop, only because she used my full name. It sounds weird coming from her. "I don't care."

What? "What?"

She lights a cigarette and snatches an ashtray off another table. "I don't give a shit what's going on in Sunnydale. That's *your* home. Not mine. Willow and them, they're your friends. I have my own."

I don't even know what to say to that. I'm so stunned. I never imagined that she just.. wouldn't care. Wouldn't be interested. "Nikki seems nice.."

She snorts. "You were a few feet away form her for all of two seconds, so unless you're talking about her ass, you don't really have much to say about her, do you?"

I feel a blush coming over my cheeks. "I-I guess not."

"Look, Buffy. Let's not drag this out, okay? Cut the shit and tell me what's what. There some great big scaly demon that needs slaying? Count me on board, I'm always up for saving the world. Other than that, you and I have nothing to discuss. Nothing."

"We do!" I cry.

"Oh, really? Enlighten me. Please."

"Because I.."

"You.."

"I wanted to see how you were doing. I.. I missed you."

"I'm fine. And I wish I could say the same, but I really can't."

When your heart drops into the pit of your stomach--I wonder if that's physically possible. It must be, because there's no other explanation for what just happened to me.

"You.. can't?"

She looks at me seriously. "No. I can't. I don't miss Sunnydale or anything about it. Including the people." She shakes her head and leans back. "I have a life here, y'know? Friends that are mine. A girl that's mine. A car that's mine. And I got it all by myself. I was nothing when I got out of prison. I was staying in shelters and fucking guys for money. But I got a job, and a place. And I started building a life-something I never even had a shot at in Sunnydale. Not with me the way I was, or you the way you were."

"You liked me then." That's not a question.

"At first. Before you became a self-righteous bitch."

"I've changed."

"Well, so have I."

Those last words hang in the air just a moment too long, and I fight back tears. She shakes her head. "Look, I thought you wanted to talk to me about something important."

"It is important! God, Faith. I care about you so much.."

"That's important to you, Buffy." She stands up and tosses down a few dollars. "Not to me."

The tears sting at my eyes now. I wonder if it's possible to die from heartbreak. I just want to hear her call me 'B' one more time..

"Coffee's on me."

And with that.. she's gone. Just as simple as that, she walked out the door and out of my life.



 

 



 

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