by Kizmet

Who shall I be today? Who do I need to be today?

Mom, Dawn and Giles need Strong-Buffy, she's nearly, but not quite 
Slayer-Buffy. Slayer-Buffy doesn't feel anything, Strong-Buffy's more 
human. She hurts over Riley but she won't go to pieces over a boy, they can 
count on her. Strong-Buffy appreciates a little concern but she can take 
care of herself, really.

My friends want weepy-Buffy. The girl who just, how did Xander put it? 
Something to the effect of the girl who just screwed up with that once in a 
life-time guy. For them I have to be properly remorseful, grief-stricken 
over the horrible way I treated Riley.

It's not that hard, I really do grieve for the idea of Riley. With him I 
could be normal, and that was supposed to be a good thing, even Angel said 
so. When I was dating Riley I could reclaim some part of the life I had 
before I became the Slayer. He was the type of guy pre-Slayer-Buffy dreamed 
about: strong, protective, cute, some one to take care of me, and I just 
bet Riley was the Captain of the football team in high school. But 
pre-Slayer-Buffy was a shallow child, she didn't feel things deeply, it just 
wasn't who she was. She cared about having the outfit of the week, the 
right hair do, having her nails painted the coolest color and having the 
best boyfriend. She was more Cordelia than Cordelia; at least Cory knew 
there was more to life than being the most popular even if she wasn't 
willing to risk her popularity to find real friends, although I guess she 
did in the end. The pre-Slayer-Buffy didn't see what Cordy saw, she never 
had a clue that there was no real emotion in her life.

Pre-Slayer-Buffy might not have known how to love, but she did know how to 
look up at her boyfriend through fluttery eyelashes like he was her whole 
world and that worked for Riley. At least until I started trying to be the 
Buffy I learned to be after I became the Slayer too, then Riley started to 
see that his Buffy lacked something. I had to do it though, 
pre-Slayer-Buffy, all wrapped up in her prefect new boyfriend, almost lost 
me my real friends and Giles. It never occurred to me that I'd be showing 
Riley something he couldn't deal with when I started acting like the Buffy 
who accepts that she's the Slayer.

Then Mom got sick and I was afraid I was going to loose her, but I could 
show it cause it would have just made her worry about me and Mom needed to 
worry about Mom not Buffy. It was really hard and I was afraid if my mask 
slipped I wouldn't be able to get it back in place, so I didn't dare go cry 
on Riley's shoulder.

And when I messed up and the mask did slip. Only Riley wasn't there to see 
it. It wasn't my fault. It's not like I actually when to Spike for comfort 
instead of Riley, Spike was just there at the time. The really, really 
funny thing is Spike, evil, soulless, vampire Spike, gave me what I needed 
that night. He didn't try to make me conform to how he thought I should act 
or feel; he was just there so I wasn't alone. He didn't make any demands of 
me; I thought Riley would be like that because he loves me. Well, Spike 
loves me too, and he's always understood me better than anyone. Which 
really doesn't matter, I can imagine what my friends would do to me if I 
started liking Spike and I can't deal with that.

Still, I was glad Spike was there that night. Riley was off being the 
manly-man, killing the thing that hurt his girlfriend. When did I ask him 
to do that? Oh yeah I didn't, it wasn't me that needed him to be able to 
kill demons even though he isn't the Initiative super-soldier anymore. If 
Riley hadn't have insisting on taking over patrol for me maybe he would have 
been there when I cried and maybe that would have been enough. Only he made 
his choices. I suppose I should have found time between protecting Dawn from 
Glory, staying at the Hospital with Mom, classes, training and patrolling to 
make Riley feel needed.

I really shouldn't be so surprised, this is hardly the first time people 
have dictated how I'm supposed to feel to me. I even understand some of it, 
Giles is right, I am the Slayer and I should feel a responsibility to my 
scared duty. I used to have to be told that, now I understand. It's not 
like when everyone was telling me Angel's dead after the curse broke, but 
never letting me grieve because I was supposed to be out killing the thing 
that had taken his body.

It's okay for me to grieve because Riley left me, after he cheated on me 
with a whore. He's human; he's the love of my life. It's okay because he's 
like Rhett telling Scarlet, "Frankly my dear I don't give a damn." Riley 
just gave me my wake-up call as to what a spoiled, selfish child I've been, 
only it's too late for me to make amends with him and I'm supposed to feel 
awful about it. Twice I went through Angel dying, but my friends never 
wanted me to grieve for him, probably because he's a vampire, and, well we 
always knew it would come to a bad end and it's my own fault for being so 
stupid as to care for him.

I had to run away after Acathla, I knew they wouldn't let me grieve. They 
probably threw a party because Angel was in Hell and I just couldn't stand 
to watch them celebrate his death so I had to be elsewhere. If I'd thought 
even one of them would have been able to mourn Angel with me I might have 
stayed, but even Willow, the staunchest supporter of Angel and I's love, 
told me to kick his ass.

Or at least that's what Xander told me she said. Now that I know Willow was 
trying the curse again, it doesn't make sense that she wouldn't have warned 
me. It just doesn't seem like a Willowy thing to do. I should ask about 
that message, but I don't have a whole lot of friends, and it's hard enough 
not to push Xander out of my life when I just suspect that he gave me the 
wrong message. Xander has been complaining about being the odd man out ever 
since I started to question that message in my head. I wonder if it ever 
occurred to him why we aren't the friends we once were.

After Angel and I broke up everyone told me to get over him, why should I 
have expected differently. They had wanted me to start dating other guys 
like I'd completely forgotten Angel when I though of him as dead, it would 
have been really twisted if they'd been more supportive when he just broke 
up with me. So I did what they wanted, Willow was so happy when I got all 
giddy over Parker, until we figured out he was slime. Then Riley came along 
and he was the prefect Buffy-boyfriend. He was everything Angel wasn't; aka 
Riley was human.
When Oz left Willow for her own good I helped her exactly like she helped me 
deal with Angel leaving: I gave her a week of sympathy, then it's all "Buck 
up, it's for the best. You've really got to be happy now, at least where 
anyone can see you." Willow didn't like that prescription any better than I 
had. I guess she didn't recognize it from the receiving end. Or maybe it 
was different, cause Oz was a werewolf and Angel was a vampire. Don't ask 
me to explain, I just put on my mask and everyone's happy, as long as it's 
the mask they want to see, I've got so many now it's hard to keep them 

Still I really thought it would be different with Riley, because he loved 
me. I thought that meant I could be just Buffy when we were alone together. 
I guess Angel spoiled me that way, he really did love the private me.

Riley say he does the same, I don't believe him. He did the things he did 
because I wore my masks with him, that's what he claims. I think I just 
wore the wrong mask with him, or it didn't fit well enough, because Riley 
says he want to be let in all the way, then he turns around and demands to 
know how I need him. Well I certainly don't need him on patrol, I'm the 
Slayer, he just acts like he is. He's worse than Xander; at least Xander 
doesn't think he should be as good a fighter as the Slayer. Riley can't 
handle that I'm stronger than he is. I don't need Riley to support me 
emotionally all the time, sometimes I need to be strong for Dawn and for my 
Mother, and it's too hard to flip my emotions on and off like a light 
switch, but I guess I have to do that if I want to keep the people I care 
about. I couldn't tell Riley how I really needed him. I needed him to be 
my normal boyfriend, to have picnics in the sun with, to introduce to my 
mother, to show off to my friends, to avoid being the dreaded fifth wheel. 
I need him to make the normal part of my life complete, to help me forget 
Slayer-Buffy for just a little while, but that's not enough for Riley, 
that's not the roll he wants. He wants to be my Hero.

He claims he wants in, under all my defenses, he says that's the only way I 
can truly give him my heart and soul, but he wouldn't like the girl he'd see 
if I did that. Riley has an image of the Buffy he wants in his head and he 
thinks the private Buffy is that girl. He should have fallen for an 
actress, not a Slayer. I've had a lot of practice in wearing masks but I 
wasn't good enough at it for him. He knew the Buffy I tried to be wasn't 
real, so he went behind my back with some vampire hooker!

I'm so mad at him for that, only that's not allowed. It's my fault he did 
it. I have to forgive him cause he's my true love not the rebound guy. 
Parker was the rebound guy, even though he used me, I only tried to use him 
to rebound it didn't work. Who cares how much I loved Angel, or that I 
needed time to get over him, Riley was there and he's the perfect guy so 
I've got to be ready to give my heart again on Riley's time schedule, 
because he's just so fucking wonderful. Even if he does get off on having a 
vampire whore suck his blood. He's the one, so I have to forgive him 
anything, take his ultimatum, swallow any pride I've got and go running 
after him like he did nothing wrong.

I actually do feel sorry for Spike, for how I treat him, but I'll explode if 
I can't take out my anger on someone. I'm sure he's killed the messenger a 
time or two himself, so what goes around comes around. I'd be angry at 
Riley, for cheating on me, for leaving me, for wanting more than I have to 
give, but I could loose my friends if I don't act like they think I should, 
and they think I'm the one who screwed up, so I've got to act repentant. No 
one cares if I use Spike to vent.

See I've learned my lesson. I'll wear my masks so well no one will ever 
guess there's anything else behind them, and I'll be what everyone wants me 
to be. That way they won't leave me.