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 straight. 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.