They fought well, in unison, and with hardly a word said between them. They saved their breaths for grunts and the odd instruction that was hardly necessary. It was like they’d been fighting together this way forever. It was always like that and Buffy regretfully missed it. She’d never tell Faith that, however. She’d never divulge the secret that watching Faith fight was like a nasty little drug she couldn’t quit.
Faith in full flow was a spectacle of energy and sex and Buffy had a hard time concentrating on the vampires as she kept one eye on Faith. Despite that fact, they danced rings around the heavy vampires as if they were nothing but annoying flies that needed swatting. Their stakes swung freely and dust shot up into the air all around.
Very quickly they were down to the last one, the leader. He wasn’t going to back down and run, which suited both the slayers as they gave each other a silent nod and rushed at him. He threw his fists towards their heads, but he was rattled and easily overpowered. Faith swept her foot out at his legs, bringing him down onto his back, leaving Buffy the kill as she leapt onto him and plunged her stake downwards.
The wood penetrated his heart with a satisfying plop, causing an agonised grimace to pass over his face before he evaporated. Buffy fell to her knees where his body had been holding her up, and cursed as she lost her stake into the dust; she hadn’t pulled it free quick enough.
“Ugh!” she grunted, wiping her hands on her pants and frowning into the dust on the ground. “I liked that stake.”
She could hear Faith breathing hard behind her, the energy still rolling off her in waves and hitting Buffy full force. Almost wishing she didn’t have to turn around Buffy took a breath to steady herself. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end as Faith moved closer.
“Hate when that happens,” Faith commented.
Her voice was a low burr of obvious arousal and Buffy could think of nothing but the adage about being hungry and horny that Faith loved to throw around. The adage was true, and they’d just battled seven vampires together. Turning around and looking Faith in the eye was not going to be a good idea, but she couldn’t just sit there and ignore Faith, or run off into the night without thanking her – as much as she wanted to.
“My own fault,” Buffy said as she got to her feet, keeping her back to Faith.
Brushing some dirt from herself, Buffy tried her hardest to ignore the sound of Faith’s breaths and the shuffle of her feet as she too righted her clothing and patted dust from her jacket. But ignoring Faith wasn’t going to suddenly cause her to vanish into thin air, letting Buffy off the hook. She was very much on the hook and wriggling around in her own disastrous dilemma.
“Thanks for helping,” Buffy mumbled through gritted teeth as she finally turned towards Faith.
“No big,” Faith replied, clutching her shoulder and rolling it uneasily. She’d obviously been caught there and was feeling for damage.
Buffy could tell right away that Faith was avoiding her eyes. They were both doing that in fact, which was completely silly, yet completely understandable.
“Did you get hurt?” Buffy asked, waving her hand in the direction of Faith’s shoulder as unassumingly as possible.
She didn’t want to have this conversation. Any conversation. Talking to Faith always led to bad things. They’d either fight, or they’d do something even more stupid like act on instinct and fuck the hell out of each other in a post-slay induced haze. Buffy wanted neither. Well that wasn’t exactly true, but she had to stay strong, and she had to get away from Faith as quickly as possible without appearing extremely ignorant and ungrateful.
“It’s fine,” Faith replied, dropping her hand from her shoulder and giving it an experimental shrug.
Her jacket was open, revealing a top much tighter than something Buffy would ever wear, and much lower cut. There was a sea of cleavage before her and a small trickle of sweat made its way into it as if teasing Buffy to follow. Teasing Buffy about what she really wanted, and what she was denying herself. Making herself stop staring, Buffy glanced over the rest of Faith before finally meeting her eyes.
And when their eyes finally met they were both caught in the moment. As if in some incredibly lame movie, Buffy felt as if everything around her melted away, leaving only them, only the possibilities that lay before them. She wanted to move closer – no, she needed to – but she forced her feet to remain where they were. She forced her hands to stay put at her sides, and she tried with everything she had to look away.
The depths of Faith’s eyes willed her to reveal herself. They stripped her naked. They made Buffy tremble with barely restrained desire. It was as if nothing mattered. Nothing existed but who they were and what they wanted from each other.
A dangerous powder keg ready to explode.
It felt like minutes had passed before Faith finally took the initiative and stole her eyes from Buffy’s. But it hadn’t been by choice as a blonde woman bounced towards them from the side of the path.
Buffy instinctively went to grab for her stake in her pocket, forgetting that it had been dusted along with the vamps.
“Well this looks intense,” the blonde commented, looking between Buffy and Faith.
Buffy blinked, trying to convince herself that Darla hadn’t just walked up to them as if out of nowhere. She turned her gaze quickly back to Faith to see if Faith was reaching for her stake. She wasn’t, and Buffy noticed they were much closer to one another than they had been before. Somehow, while they were lost in each others’ eyes, they’d moved closer - just an arms length apart.
“Am I interrupting something, Faithy?” the woman who looked remarkably like Darla asked, sliding up beside Faith as if they actually knew each other.
“No,” Faith replied, her voice still tainted with heat, but her demeanour changing as she relaxed her body and took a step back.
Buffy tried not to feel bruised by Faith’s subtle shift, and she tried to work out just who this woman was, and why she now had her hand so familiarly on Faith’s arm. She really did look like Darla, and even sounded like her, but Buffy had seen her staked to dust years before.
“Who. . .” Buffy began, but stopped as the blonde woman rolled her eyes and gave Buffy a look that clearly stated she was already bored with this conversation.
“Darla,” the blonde woman said, as if trying to remind Buffy. “Surely you didn’t forget about me, sweetheart. I’d be hurt if I was that easily forgotten.”
“I didn’t forget,” Buffy responded, biting back a vicious snarl as she remembered their last encounter, and as Darla’s hand curled possessively around Faith’s bicep. “How?”
“Oh, a few weeks ago there was a little experiment in some laboratory in LA and bingo. . .I’m back amongst the living. Well, the almost living,” Darla answered, her eyes penetrating Buffy. “What was it you called me, baby?” Darla asked Faith, giving her arm a squeeze and making Buffy’s fists ball up.
“Half-breed,” Faith answered tightly, appearing uncomfortable as she shifted on her feet.
Quite apart from wondering how the hell Darla was there, and why she was there, she was also wondering just how she knew Faith and why they seemed so. . .close. Baby? Since when did Faith let anybody call her baby? It was unsettling to say the least.
“So you’re still a vampire?” Buffy asked as she once again mourned the recent loss of her stake.
“Half,” Darla corrected, still clinging to Faith. “And I have a soul. Like Angel.”
Buffy’s skin crawled as Darla said his name. There was something so not right here. Everything was off and Buffy didn’t know where to begin to piece things together so she could figure out what the hell had happened to her reality.
None of them spoke for what began to feel like an incredibly awkward eternity. Just what the heck was going on? Buffy had no idea, and she doubted she’d find out from Darla, or even from Faith.
“Well it was nice talking to you, but we have places to be,” Darla suddenly stated, dropping her hand down to Faith’s and entwining their fingers.
Buffy’s blood began to simmer, and her stomach muscles were so tight she imagined them popping open and revealing her innards to the world if this little display continued. Buffy couldn’t fathom how this had happened in the short time she’d been avoiding the other slayer, and how she’d got so far out of touch.
For what it was worth, Faith pulled her hand free of Darla’s, but she did it slower than Buffy imagined she should have. Their body language spoke volumes despite Faith’s reluctance to hand-hold, and it turned Buffy’s stomach. This was Faith. Faith who was meant to be in love with her. Who longed for Buffy. Who held the other half of her soul. She wasn’t meant to be with Darla even if Buffy couldn’t be with her herself. This was wrong.
“I should go,” Buffy said weakly, swallowing the lump in her throat. “I have. . .homework, and. . .”
She glanced at where Darla’s hand brushed against the back of Faith’s and a small piece of her broke inside. Buffy wasn’t sure why she was feeling this way – after all, she’d made the decision to be with Tru. She didn’t regret that decision. All this new information was messing with her mind and toying with her emotions. She had to get away from them. From Faith.
“We’ll talk about this another time,” Buffy warned.
Looking one last time into Faith’s now guarded eyes, Buffy gave her a rigid smile and thanked her again. She didn’t bother speaking anymore to Darla and blocked out whatever it was the half-vampire, or whatever she now was, said to Faith as she walked away, back up the hill headed for the exit.
Buffy walked quickly, her mind racing with questions she didn’t want to ask. The first thing she needed to do when she got home was call Angel. If something had gone down in LA that had dead, dusty, no longer existing vampires coming back to life – or un-dead life, or whatever - then he’d know about it. And if he knew about it, then she was all kinds of ready to give him a piece of her mind about not telling her Darla could possibly be arriving back in Sunnydale.
If he hadn’t known about it then she needed to know why not. He was meant to be on top of all things evil and nasty in LA. Surely something like Darla coming back to life shouldn’t have just slipped past him and his LA crew.
By the time she got home Buffy was seething. Flinging her jacket onto her bed she began to pace, feeling her fists clenching and unclenching as if on instinct. She wasn’t happy about Darla being there, in her town. She wasn’t happy that she’d just allowed Darla to appear all smug and carefree without properly challenging her. She was even less happy about Darla fraternising with Faith. The last thing Faith needed, as she tried to atone for her mistakes and make good of her life, was another scheming vampire leading her astray.
Buffy was angry, and worried, and jealous. Yes, she could admit she was extremely jealous. It was an unmistakable feeling and she hated that she was feeling it. She had no right to be jealous, and really. . .it was just stupid. After all she’d put herself through in order to try to forget about being with Faith, so she could be with Tru, it was insane to even entertain the slightest bit of jealousy, but the way Darla had touched Faith. The way she’d spoken to her. It all pointed to one thing and it hurt. It hurt Buffy to think of Faith with Darla. With that thing that wasn’t even human.
She slumped down onto her mattress, sitting with her head in her hands, caught between laughing and wanting to cry. The irony of being horrified that Faith should ‘be’ with a vampire didn’t escape her. She had no right judging Faith about that one – if Darla did indeed have a soul. But Darla wasn’t Angel. The circumstances were not the same, and Buffy didn’t trust Darla. Not one bit. She’d almost be happier – or at the most just slightly less horrified – if Faith had chosen Spike to get her naughty on with rather than Darla. Though the thought of Faith being with anybody made her boil inside.
Fighting beside Faith, losing herself into her dark eyes, feeling the distinct energy they radiated around each other; there was only one way they could be if they were to ever get along. But they couldn’t be lovers. Too much had happened, and there was too much at stake.
“I can’t take this,” she muttered to herself, imagining she’d go crazy if she had to deal with anymore of this thing between her and Faith.
Whatever it was, it wasn’t healthy. It never had been healthy and never could be. They made each other insane, and Buffy was done with being insane over this. She’d chosen. She’d made her decision. She couldn’t do this anymore.
“I quit,” she sighed, flopping onto her bed and letting her pillows engulf her. “I’ll run away and become a nun.”
She groaned and rubbed a hand over her face.
“But nuns don’t get to wear cute shoes,” she reminded herself forlornly.
With a sigh, Buffy stopped talking to herself for fear of seeming even more insane than she already was. She had to stick to her guns, despite the fact Darla was now hanging around Faith like a bad smell. And she needed to know what the hell Darla was even doing there.
After a very short, rather curt and tense phone call with Angel, Buffy felt no less angry. He hadn’t known Darla was alive again, but he assured her he’d find out all he could. Her ex sounded just as angry, and somewhat worried, which didn’t help to put Buffy at ease. There was no way Darla was back ‘just because’. She had to be there for a reason, and whatever that reason was, it wouldn’t be a good one. Trouble would follow, and Buffy had enough to deal with without Darla coming along and making things even more complicated.
Buffy had been nervous enough that Spike was mixing with Faith, and possibly causing her to trip back on to the wrong path, but he was far less of a threat than Darla. Something had to be done, though Buffy would have to tread carefully. Just telling Faith that she couldn’t hang around with, get close to, or have icky vamp/slayer sex with Darla wasn’t going to have the right effect. Faith would rebel, and do what she wanted – as always. No matter what potential danger she was in, Faith wouldn’t let Buffy dictate her life, which irritated Buffy to no end. It would be so much easier if Faith would just do what she was told, or what was expected of her.
No, Buffy had to be a little more subtle than that – also for fear of giving Faith the impression she was jealous. Which she was, but Faith couldn’t know that.
Maybe Giles could help. Faith would listen to him, and though he too would have trouble just outright telling Faith what to do, she was sure Faith – given her history with them all – would listen to his reason. Buffy would call him tomorrow and explain that Darla was back and causing problems, and that Faith was under some kind of influence that could have her stepping back towards the wrong side of good and evil.
He’d listen and understand, and he’d know just what to do.
Yawning and feeling her muscles relax as the slaying and the sudden anger took its toll on her body, Buffy glanced over at her telephone. She wanted to call Tru to say goodnight – which was usual now. Every night they’d share their goodnights, and sometimes a little more - that left Buffy going to sleep with a nice buzz between her legs - but she was beat tonight, and she had too much on her mind.
She’d explain to Tru tomorrow that she’d had a hard day and fallen in to bed asleep before her head had even hit the pillow. It would be a small lie, but would save her from anymore anguish. She couldn’t talk to her girlfriend tonight after feeling so easily wrapped up in Faith’s energy. It would have been an awkward conversation, and Buffy wasn’t in the mood for any more awkward.
After a restless night full of dreams she’d rather not remember, Buffy trudged up the street to Giles’ little shop. She had class in an hour but wanted to catch him early, before Faith got there for her training. Buffy knew just when Faith would be around, so she could avoid bumping into her as much as possible. It had worked well, in her favour, up until last night.
And last night had caused Buffy to have one of the most erotic dreams of Faith she’d ever had to date. The pure lust and passion they’d shared in it left her feeling guilty, and wretched. It wasn’t fair on Tru to still be thinking of Faith in such a way, but then. . .she supposed she couldn’t really control her dreams. It wasn’t as if she’d asked to dream about Faith going down on her until she passed out from pleasure. It wasn’t as if she’d wanted to fantasize about tying Faith up and. . .
Her thoughts were abruptly halted as she practically bumped into the shop door, causing her to drop one of her books on her foot.
“Stop looking at her backside,” Buffy heard behind her as she bent and picked up her book.
“I’m not looking at her backside,” came a following plea.
Buffy would recognise those voices, and those accusations anywhere.
She straightened up and turned around to be greeted by a wide smile from Xander, and a glare from Anya.
“Why not?” Anya then asked her boyfriend. “She has a perfectly shapely ass. Should I be worried about your sexuality?”
Xander rolled his eyes and shook his head. No matter what he said, he could never win with Anya.
With a shrug, he stepped into the shop as Buffy pushed open the door for them; letting their conversation stay between the two of them and not getting involved, even though she wasn’t exactly happy about them discussing her rear end.
“Even I looked,” Anya continued as she trailed behind Xander.
“Then maybe you should be more worried about your own sexuality,” Xander pointed out with glee.
“That’s ridiculous,” Anya retorted, ignoring Buffy as she set her books down and glanced around the shop in hopes of finding Giles to end this silly discussion. “Why would I be attracted to Buffy? I mean, she has a nice, firm rear, but she’s short, and annoying.”
“Hey!” Buffy protested finally. “I’m not that short.”
“Of course not, dear,” Anya replied, patting Buffy on the top of the head before wandering off behind the counter to start her daily routine of counting Giles’ money.
Buffy slouched down into a chair and refrained from defending herself further. It was pointless conversing with Anya most of the time; there would be only one outcome, which would leave Buffy feeling silly, and Anya looking smug. Really, Buffy liked the girl, but she was difficult to be around.
“So, Buffster,” Xander said cheerily as he plonked himself down on a seat next to Buffy, “great to see you around, because we haven’t so much and we’ve missed you.”
“Speak for yourself,” Anya muttered a few feet away.
“I know,” Buffy said coyly to Xander, “I’ve been busy.”
“In LA?” Xander whispered so that Anya wouldn’t hear, wiggling his eyebrows as he did so.
“No,” Buffy protested with a coy smile. “Well, sometimes, but mostly just busy with school, and slaying. You know how it is.”
He gave her a quizzical look.
“Not exactly, Buff,” he reminded. “I don’t go to school and I’m not a slayer. If I was a slayer, I’d wear a costume. Something all sexy and black, like catwoman.”
“You want to wear a sexy, black costume like catwoman,” Buffy stated, looking pointedly at Xander.
She raised an eyebrow and watched as he followed her thought train.
“No!” he exclaimed. “Only if I was a slayer, which I’m not, and yunno. . .I have man parts, and though I’m pretty sure I could almost pull that look off – what with my deceptively handsome looks – the man parts would look freakily out of place in a catsuit.”
Buffy chuckled and nodded. She could have done without that particular image.
“How are things in the world of our favourite slayer?” he asked after a slight pause.
Seeing that Anya was busy with the till, and the money within the till, Buffy gave Xander a small shrug before replying.
“Things are going ok,” she told him.
“Yeah?” he pressed. “Have you and Faith been ok? ‘Cause we haven’t seen her around much the past two weeks either.”
“I haven’t really. . .she hasn’t been around?” she asked, turning more towards him. “Has Giles noticed, or said anything?”
“He hasn’t said anything; she still comes here to punch Giles around every day, but she doesn’t hang out with us as much. We were getting a little worried that maybe you two were bruising each other on rooftops again.”
“No bruising,” Buffy assured. “I bumped into her last night. We slayed some vamps but didn’t really talk.”
Buffy went quiet, wishing that maybe they had talked. She missed Faith. As crazy as that was, and as pointless as it was to think it, it was true. Slaying with her was. . .something else.
“Actually, I came here to talk to Giles, about something to do with Faith,” Buffy confessed. “I think she might be in trouble.”
Xander’s brow creased up and he seemed genuinely upset.
“That doesn’t sound good,” he worried. “What kind of trouble?”
“Trouble with a capital D,” she replied cryptically. “We have a visitor in Sunnydale.”
He raised his eyebrows and leaned forward in his eagerness to learn more.
“I’m guessing it’s not the good kind of visitor, like Santa Clause, or Superman.”
“It’s Darla,” she told him, wondering how wise it was to talk about this before getting Giles’ views on the subject.
“But how? She’s. . .”
“Not as dead anymore apparently,” Buffy interrupted. “I don’t know how exactly but Angel’s on the case. Something happened in LA, or at least that’s what Darla said.”
“You spoke to her?” he asked, probably surprised that Buffy hadn’t just staked her on the spot.
“Yeah, and she seemed oddly friendly with Faith. I would have got my slay on otherwise,” she added.
Xander nodded and stroked at is chin almost comically. Buffy knew he’d been getting along well with Faith since her arrival, and she felt bad for him. It seemed that Faith had even more to lose this time around.
“I need to talk to Giles about it. Find out what, if anything, I should do.”
He nodded again.
“Could I suggest a sharp stick and some form of swift stabbing action?” he asked.
“Who are we stabbing?” Giles suddenly questioned as he wandered up behind them. “Is there a new antagonist in Sunnydale? It’s been much too long since I’ve been able to do some good old fashioned research. In fact, I have just the set of books.”
He shuffled about on a nearby desk, producing a book in each hand, which he jiggled eerily jovially.
“These just arrived from Poland,” he said enthusiastically.
“Darla’s back,” Buffy stated, no longer worried about who knew.
Researching and killing evil things is what they did, as a team, and it felt like it had been far too long since they’d worked together in such a way. Their last big bad had been Adam and they’d really had to pull together for him, and it just seemed like they’d drifted apart since, which was a little sad, and somewhat Buffy’s fault.
Giles’ eyebrow quirked up and he reached for his glasses, pushing them onto his nose and donning his ‘Watcher face’. It made Buffy smile inside and she regretted her decision to stay away so much. This was her domain, her home, and though Faith’s presence was. . .irritating, alluring and dangerous all at the same time, it made her wonder if she’d been right to avoid everything in the way she had been.
“Do we know how? Or why?” Giles asked. “Where did you see her?”
It was clear that he was a little excited.
“Will she try to steal my man?” Anya asked, joining them at the table and possessively flinging her arm around Xander. “If so, we should call in the big guns. We need Willow and Tara, and that funny English vampire man with the silly hair.”
“I’m not sure it’ll come to that,” Buffy said, wondering why she herself wasn’t considered as a ‘big gun’ to Anya. “Angel’s finding out how she’s here, and maybe why she came to Sunnydale, and I know she’s half-vampire, half-human, or something.”
“So you can poof her?” Xander asked.
“I don’t know, she says she has a soul now, and. . .” Buffy sighed and looked at Giles, “she’s apparently Faith’s. . .friend.”
She chose not to tell them that they seemed closer than friends, which was very likely given both their history, and the current circumstances.
“This is news to me, I wasn’t aware Faith had any new friends,” Giles stated, removing his glasses and looking a little sad.
“I don’t want to jump to conclusions but I don’t think it’s a good idea for Faith to spend her time with Darla,” Buffy told them, hoping they’d agree. “She’s too vulnerable.”
They all nodded, but Buffy felt a bit guilty for judging Faith on something she hadn’t done yet. She knew that jealousy was driving her as much as anything right now, and it left her feeling slightly uncomfortable in her own skin. She avoided their gazes as she wrestled with her own reasons for getting involved in Faith’s relationships and hoped none of them realised what the real problem was.
“I need to speak to Faith,” Giles stated. “Even if Darla now has a soul like you say. . .she could still be dangerous.”
Buffy bit her lower lip, feeling more terrible by the second for pushing her nose in where it most definitely wasn’t invited. Though Giles was right and Buffy knew he’d be subtle, she could only imagine Faith taking it badly when she was told who she could and couldn’t befriend. There would be repercussions, and Faith would probably blame Buffy.
Just another day in Sunnydale when the two slayers are on a different page.
“Ok, I’ll leave that with you, and I’ll let Angel know you’ll do some of the research thing too,” Buffy said. “I’d better go before. . .”
She stopped herself from saying “before Faith comes in and things get awkward,” as it didn’t need to be said. They’d all realised she was keeping away from Faith, though they didn’t say anything or make it their business, and Giles didn’t know about Tru and all the extra weirdness between her and Faith now. She was grateful they just nodded and smiled as she scooped up her books and set off for college.
The next few days were going to be tenser than usual. Buffy fully expected some kind of showdown with Faith about Darla, and she didn’t know if she was mentally - or emotionally - prepared for it.