“You two girls want anything more? We’re about to close,” a rather sullen looking waitress asked as she sidled up beside Buffy and Faith at their booth.
Slouching down into her seat at the interruption, Faith let go of the breath she had tried not to hold whilst figuring out what made Buffy tick. She had the overwhelming urge to act mean to the tired, luridly dressed waitress for stumbling in to what could have been the conversation that turned everything Faith’s way.
It wasn’t the waitress’ fault, however, so Faith held her tongue. She knew Buffy didn’t like it when she would get angry at people for seemingly no reason. It was hard for Faith to keep her cool; the tentative grip she had on her need to display outrage at everything and everyone in any kind of position of authority, or that irritated her in any way, was hard to keep in check. She had been trying to conform; it was just a bit hit and miss sometimes.
“No, thank you,” Buffy replied, smiling at the waitress before she nodded and turned slowly to walk away.
Faith wanted to push the issue of Buffy’s appetite, but the girl in question was busy hurriedly wiping her mouth on a napkin and shuffling out of the booth. Her eyes were looking everywhere but at Faith, giving Faith reason to be even more intrigued. There was no way she could just let this drop. Obviously something else was at play other than just the post slaying hungries. Maybe the hornies were also a factor. Maybe Buffy just couldn’t ignore the possibility of being closer to Faith any longer.
Faith planned on finding out, but she had to be sly about it. Just coming out and asking wouldn’t gain her the truth. Buffy would rather lie than outright admit anything Faith had ever joked with her about. And there had been plenty of jokes. Whenever the opportunity would arise, Faith made sure to make a rude remark or crude comment.
She enjoyed innuendo. And she enjoyed it most around Buffy.
There was a line Faith hadn’t yet crossed, but the boundaries were blurring more and more. Buffy seemed ever more receptive to her little flirtations, and Faith couldn’t deny that the encouragement felt good. She could feel herself slowly falling into a place of contentment. She’d never been to that place before; making do with whatever made her laugh or feel high for whatever fleeting time she experienced it. But happiness? That was something Faith wasn’t sure truly existed.
Not too long after coming to Sunnydale Faith was certain that happiness didn’t exist. Every time she’d seen it nearing in to view it had been snatched from her. Most recently by Kakistos, and then Angel as he’d walked back in to Buffy’s life – and in to Faith’s way.
She’d been getting closer to Buffy before he’d shown up again. Feeling that glimmer of happiness lifting the weight from her back, until Angel’s shadow blocked her from its warmth.
Faith hated him.
Hated the fact he was all Buffy could talk about sometimes. All Buffy could think about. Until recently.
The last few days they’d slayed a lot together – without Angel. They’d grown closer again and more sure of each other. Faith felt like she could open up to Buffy once again. Not completely, but a little at least. A little was better than nothing, and Faith desperately wanted – and needed – somebody close that she could feel comfortable with. Somebody that could look at her and not just see all the bad parts.
She wasn’t sure why, but Faith had an idea that Buffy was indeed now seeing more to her than most had the privilege of seeing. Faith wasn’t all just about sex and leather, and flirting and fighting. She wanted Buffy to know that. She wasn’t exactly sure why it was so important for Buffy to see it, but deep down Faith yearned for that kind of acceptance from Buffy. She needed her to care.
“So. . .” Faith said slowly as they made their way out of the diner, “you wanna do another quick sweep before heading home?”
Buffy gave her a puzzled look, but there was a smile mixed in with it. A smile so cute Faith almost told her right out about it.
“It’s late,” Buffy glanced at her watch. “Actually it’s early. As in A.M early. Wow!”
“Surprised you’ve been having so much fun you didn’t realize the time?” Faith asked with a slightly self-satisfied smirk.
“Actually. . .yes,” Buffy chuckled. “Tonight’s been fun. In fact, the last few nights have all been fun.”
Now Buffy was smiling again, like she couldn’t help herself. Like she wanted not to be but couldn’t get her cheek muscles to obey.
A little light started warming Faith from the inside. It was that spark of happiness she wasn’t used to and didn’t really know what to do with. It felt strange, but good. It felt hopeful. She had the urge to gloat, and as much as she fought the urge as they wandered slowly down the street heading towards a place where they’d part ways to go home, Faith couldn’t hold back.
“See, I knew you weren’t just a vanilla girl,” Faith said, her grin getting wider as she turned and started walking backwards so she could watch Buffy’s face.
Buffy rolled her eyes, but the smile was still there.
“Face it, you like spending time with me,” Faith stated proudly. “Can’t get enough. Admit it.”
Shaking her head at Faith’s lack of humility, Buffy stopped walking, causing Faith to stop in front of her.
The streets around them were quiet and empty; shop windows sending their faint light out over the barren sidewalks. The soft glow wrapped around the two slayers as they listened to a moment of silence as their eyes sought for more information from each other. Information that told them what they were to each other, and what they could be.
“Ok,” Buffy began, a slight tremble to her voice that would have gone unheard if it weren’t for the eerie quiet around them, “I admit I like being with you. I mean. . .slaying with you, and yunno, the stuff afterwards.”
Faith’s eyebrows jigged up in to her hairline involuntarily. Buffy seemed caught in a moment of clarity and Faith hadn’t quite been ready for it. Buffy normally didn’t like revealing too much. She presented herself as being an open book, but Buffy was too difficult to read to ever be that. She was like an open book written in several different languages that Faith had probably never even heard of. The fact that Buffy was just offering up insight into her was. . .well it was definitely surprising.
There was no way Faith was going to lose her cool, however. She wasn’t about to let Buffy know just how much her words actually meant. How much the insight made Faith’s hope of some form of happiness – no matter how tentative – grow and flourish.
“Couldn’t help but fall for my charms huh?” Faith joked, a cocky posture making her look more confident than she actually felt. “Knew they’d get you diggin’ me in the end.”
She gave Buffy a wink and expected Buffy to blush and then backtrack furiously.
“They. . .” Buffy paused, taking a slow breath as she regarded Faith. “They definitely did something,” she finished quickly and quietly.
Whatever had been said, whatever had just passed between them, seemed to suddenly startle Buffy back to reality.
“But I should really get home now,” Buffy pointed out, moving to walk around Faith to cross the street.
Faith couldn’t let this opportunity slip by like any other. If she did, then it would get swept under the carpet. It would be forgotten about. The next day Buffy would act as if they’d never talked and everything was the same. But it couldn’t be the same. Something was definitely different. The signs had been subtle, but getting more frequent. Nothing was certain or concrete, but Faith knew – she felt it right the way through her – that there was more to this than what was on the surface.
Buffy liked her. She liked her liked her. There was no missing that, no matter how subtle it was.
“Yo, wait up there, Little Miss Tease,” Faith said, putting her arm out in front of Buffy in order to stop her.
She didn’t move the arm and Buffy didn’t make her, though she gave it a look that could have been construed as a warning had it been under other circumstances.
“Tease?” Buffy asked, her face a picture of mock astonishment. “How am I a tease?”
If Faith answered truthfully then there would be no going back. If she didn’t answer truthfully the moment would be gone, and they’d probably never get this opportunity again. At least that’s what Faith felt.
“Don’t play dumb, B,” she pushed, encouraging Buffy to face her once again as she steered her with the hand now on Buffy’s arm.
Once again Faith’s arm was given a slight warning glare, but Faith once again didn’t move it. She could practically feel Buffy’s mind whirling backwards in order to refute that anything was going on or that she’d hinted at anything at all.
“I’m not playing anything,” Buffy insisted. “Look, maybe you got the wrong idea when I just said. . .”
“That you liked being with me? Sure, totally sounds like I got something wrong, B,” Faith mocked, inching closer as she dared to push the boundaries.
“Well you obviously did,” Buffy said, getting irritated now because she’d been found out; her cover blown, her secrets exposed, and her walls irrevocably conquered. “I didn’t mean it like. . .that,” Buffy maintained, her eyes losing their way in Faith’s as Faith held firm in her belief.
“Like what, B?” Faith asked, calling Buffy’s bluff.
Buffy wrinkled her brow and glanced down uncomfortably at Faith’s hand as it remained attached to her arm just below her elbow.
“Like. . .with, yunno,” Buffy spluttered, “with attraction, or. . .other things.”
Faith couldn’t help but grin. She was more sure than ever now that Buffy was attracted, and all kinds of other things.
“So you are a tease then,” Faith countered. “Saying stuff to make me think one thing, then taking it back.”
She was half joking, finally pushing, testing how far she could go.
“Faith, you’re making my brain hurt,” Buffy groaned, pulling away from Faith’s hand. “Whatever it is that you think this is. . .you’re wrong.”
She tried to sound sure but Faith could see right through it. Stepping down off the curb to follow Buffy a little further than normal, Faith couldn’t hold back her chuckle.
“Can’t take it back, Buffy,” Faith stated. “I’m on to you.”
Finding it hard to hide her mirth, Faith practically skipped up beside Buffy as Buffy picked up the pace, hoping to make it home before she made her feelings even more obvious.
“You’re on to nothing,” Buffy insisted.
As much as it sounded like Buffy was getting mad, Faith could tell she wasn’t. She knew what angry Buffy looked like. She knew what she felt like too; Faith had received enough punches and kicks via Buffy for that feeling to be imprinted into her mind, and probably many other parts of her body too.
“Dude, you so dig me,” Faith laughed confidently.
“I so do not,” Buffy countered, sighing in frustration.
“Do not,” Buffy insisted.
As Buffy shook her head in irritation, Faith felt like all the little pieces to possible happiness were gathering; ready to slot together to give her the picture perfect idea of what she hoped feeling truly content looked like.
It was so close. Buffy was close to letting go. Even though she was saying no, her body, her face, everything but her words were saying yes.
A little more charm, a little more pushing and Faith would get what she wanted.
“Hey, I totally get why you’re into me, B. No need to be embarrassed,” Faith said eagerly, ignoring Buffy’s eye-roll. “I got a bangin’ body and know how to show you a good time with it.”
Buffy coughed as she took a breath, spluttering in order to deny the fact that Faith was right.
“What?” Buffy practically yelped. “I’m not. . .that’s not even. . .”
She couldn’t get the words out but she didn’t need to, Faith could see the blush even though Buffy was trying to avoid eye contact. She could sense that she was right; it ran right through her like a tingle. Almost like the slight tingle she’d get around Buffy normally, but more obvious. More pleasant.
“Faith, we are not having this conversation. Not now. Not ever,” Buffy insisted as she stopped at the mouth of a very dark alley, turning to face Faith and point at her in the hope of proving how serious she was.
“Too late, we just did,” Faith responded.
Buffy seemed completely exasperated; unable to refute the obvious as Faith stood grinning before her.
“I mean it, Faith,” Buffy said, talking softer now, a pleading look on her face. “We can’t talk about this. It’s. . .it’s pointless.”
It didn’t feel pointless to Faith, however, and she doubted it was exactly pointless to Buffy. It may have been scary for her, but not pointless. And Faith was in too deep already to just let it go.
“It’s not pointless,” Faith assured, also speaking softer; trying to curb the natural cockiness inside her. “Nothing wrong with wantin’ something.”
Buffy paused at that, her eyes looking deeper in to Faith’s than Faith felt completely comfortable with. Was this the moment Buffy forgot about Angel, forgot about how she was meant to be and chose just to be? Was this the moment Faith had been hoping for since first meeting the annoyingly alluring slayer before her?
“Slayer sandwiches all round, fellas,” came a gruff voice from within the alley beside them.
Buffy pulled a surprised though somewhat relieved face and they both turned to look in to the shadows, just as three rather big, rather orange, and rather smelly demons lunged out from behind a stack of boxes.
“Oh, thank God!” Buffy exclaimed, obviously grateful for the well timed interruption.
Faith sighed and pulled her hands in to tight fists, ready to beat some demon face to a pulp for interrupting a pinnacle moment.
The demons were big and ugly but they’d dealt with plenty of big and ugly in their short time slaying together; she doubted they would have much trouble against these three. Though their smell was beginning to make Faith’s eyes water.
“Yo, seriously, is there a demon handbook someplace that tells you guys not to shower?” Faith asked as she sidestepped a sudden, clumsy swipe at her midriff.
The demon trying to grab her leg grunted and wiped at his nose. A large nose that was oozing orange slime.
“Oh gross,” Faith complained, punching him in the head just as Buffy sent one demon merely stumbling backwards with a powerful kick. “Let’s waste these things before we get slimed.”
“On it,” Buffy assured.
“You’re both on the menu, but who wants to be dessert?” One of the demons asked with an obnoxious guffaw.
The slayers quickly arranged themselves into their usual fighting formation and Faith calculated which demon was the bigger of the three, which was faster, and which was most likely to explode into a icky pile of goop with the first punch. She watched as Buffy grabbed the largest demon, smirking to herself because Buffy always liked to make sure Faith knew she was the better slayer. That particular fact was currently in dispute, but they’d both decided it was pointless fighting amongst themselves about it. It was better venting on the local gallery of monsters and vamps and proving it by body-count than bruising each other up.
As Buffy slammed the big demon into the snot-nosed demon, Faith caught the other one with a series of blows to the head. Her fists sticky with whatever it was they were excreting, she soon discovered that they weren’t quite as squishy as they looked.
“Um, B? You feel like leaving these guys to munch on the locals so we can take off?” she yelled over a cacophony of snarls and grunts.
There were in fact no ‘locals’ around, but Faith was confident that three hungry demons could find some soon enough. She didn’t much feel like being dinner. Being eaten by Buffy was one thing - and a hell of a nice thought - but being eaten by anything else. . .well it didn’t hold much charm.
As she became temporarily distracted by the thought of Buffy and eating, and Buffy eating her in particular, Faith tumbled to the floor. She hadn’t tripped however; no, this was due to the fact Buffy had been flung her way like a rag doll, sending them both to the ground with a solid thud.
“Ugh!” Buffy huffed. “Bony much?”
Buffy rubbed at her back where Faith’s knee had collided with it, trying to regain composure so the demons didn’t get too much of an advantage.
“I dunno, heavy much?” Faith retorted.
She too scrambled to her feet, but just as Buffy was about to take a swing at the largest demon he flicked out his foot, right in to Faith’s head. She crashed back down to the floor, cursing at the pain. While Buffy was distracted by the other two – pummelling one whilst being pummelled by the other – Faith found herself underneath what felt like precisely six tons of stinky demon flesh.
“Well fuck if this doesn’t feel like the night I lost my virginity,” she jibed as he writhed on top of her trying to get her to stop wriggling so he could lower his head and take a bite.
Buffy’s head whipped her way, eyes wide as she looked down at Faith as she struggled. She had no words, and apparently not very much in the way of concentration either.
Once again Buffy was hurled backwards, colliding with the wall of the alley they were now scuffling in. She cried out in pain as her back hit the brickwork, but something obviously snapped within her that wasn’t made of bone. A snarl distorted her face and she executed a series of spins and kicks, punches and jabs, and whatever else she could throw at the other two demons as Faith remained struggling on the floor.
Vile smelling liquid dripped onto Faith’s arms and torso as the demon on top of her insisted on continuing to attempt to devour her. She held him back just far enough to keep his sharp teeth from finding flesh, but her arms were growing weaker by the second. He was too heavy to move, and obviously too hungry to notice that his fellow demons were now squirming in agony on the floor.
But he certainly noticed the flying kick that eventually sent him spinning off Faith.
“About time, slowpoke,” Faith grumbled, rolling away from the demon as he got to his feet and bared his teeth at them both.
Buffy didn’t send a witty retort Faith’s way as per usual, instead offering Faith her hand so she could get up as quickly as possible. She looked almost concerned for Faith, which she normally didn’t when they were slaying. Faith wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, if she liked it or not. Maybe the conversation they’d been having had changed something. Maybe this was Buffy’s way of showing Faith that she was right after all.
Whatever the reason for Buffy’s unusual silence at Faith’s ungainly struggle, Faith wasn’t about to bring it up just yet. They still had the one remaining fangy, orange lump to deal with first.
“Well, I can see that maybe you’re not quite the meal we’d hoped for,” he sputtered through congealed saliva. “But let us leave you with a parting gift.”
Before either Buffy or Faith could stop him he ripped off what looked like a razor sharp scale from his thigh, flinging it towards Faith and sending globs of orange blood left and right along with it. She soon found out that it indeed was razor sharp.
“Fucking, mother fucker!” she cried as the makeshift blade sliced into her torso.
It was a glancing blow, ripping her top and the skin beneath as the blade whizzed by. Only her own razor sharp instincts – causing her to flinch away from the fast moving projectile - ensured the thing wasn’t now buried somewhere within her abdomen.
Faith grabbed at her side to deter the bleeding as Buffy looked from the wound to the demon and back again. The snarl was back and Faith almost felt sorry for the demon. He was about to regret ever even thinking about detaching bits of himself to throw at unsuspecting slayers.
“You so didn’t wanna do that,” Buffy chided.
She lunged forward towards him but he was fast despite his size. Dodging her attack, he managed to grab both of his friends and pull them to their feet. They were off running back down the alley without so much as a glance behind.
Buffy took a few strides, appearing to want to follow them, but Faith was too busy bleeding on the sidewalk to want to embark on a jog around town looking for a repeat performance. She was done for the night. As much as she hated letting the enemy go – any enemy – she was in need of stitches, and possibly a chemical peel in order to get the slime off her skin.
“Let it go, B,” Faith said regretfully. “I’m all kindsa oozing here, and some of it ain’t my ooze.”
Buffy turned back towards her, the snarl replaced with a look of concern. Faith was beginning not to like that look. She didn’t like pity. And she didn’t like feeling like less of a slayer than Buffy either – especially if it was Buffy making her feel that way.
“We’ll get the bastards tomorrow,” Faith assured. “Gonna rip that fucker a new one.”
“You won’t be ripping anything if we don’t get that seen to,” Buffy pointed out, getting close to Faith and staring at the blood creeping from between her fingers. “We might have to go see Giles. There’s gunk and demon blood all mixed in.”
She pointed at Faith’s now stinging side, but Faith wasn’t about to go trailing all the way over to Giles’ house to clean up something she could do herself, in the uncomfortableness of her own crappy home.
“I’m just gonna get my ass home, pour a shit load of bleach in this fucker and drink a bottle of whatever the fuck I have lying around. It’ll be cool,” Faith asserted, her shit-eating grin doing nothing to inhibit the pain currently causing her to lean to one side.
“Right, because pouring bleach into a wound is the smart thing to do,” Buffy contested sarcastically. “If you don’t want to go see Giles, then I’m coming home with you.”
Faith raised an eyebrow and shook her head. She wasn’t in the mood for a pity party. Any other kind of party sure; no gaping wound that was probably showing the world her inner most inner-mosts would stop Faith from partying hard, but she didn’t want to give Buffy an excuse to look down on her.
“Nah, it’s cool,” Faith insisted. “I’ll be five by five.”
Buffy chuckled and shook her head.
“Whatever the hell that means, I don’t care. I’m coming home with you and making sure you don’t end up pouring alcohol on your stomach and drinking the bleach, now quit whining and come on before I change my mind and throw you over my shoulder to take you to Giles.”
Faith opened her mouth to protest, but Buffy obviously wasn’t willing to listen as she started walking back towards the motel.
“Hey!” Faith protested a little too weakly. “I don’t need your help, or your pity, B. I got taken down and I’ll deal with the consequences.”
But Buffy wasn’t listening.
“Don’t make me pick you up,” Buffy warned, glancing over her shoulder at Faith as Faith followed slowly behind.
Maybe Buffy wasn’t pitying her at all, Faith thought. She wasn’t even sure what was worse; pity, or Buffy seemingly not caring enough to even take it slow as they made their way through the empty streets. Pity didn’t seem so bad given the prospect of trying to keep up with Buffy as she marched them to the motel. The pain was itching and burning at Faith’s gaping flesh. Maybe the bleach idea wasn’t so dumb after all.
“Give a slayer a break and slow down,” Faith grumbled, clutching at her stomach as she followed.
Buffy stopped and took a breath. She seemed like she wanted to do something, or say something. . .but that something was obviously not a something she wanted to share right now. After taking another heavy breath that made Faith feel like all kinds of a burden, Buffy closed the distance between them and snuck her arm carefully around Faith.
Neither of them spoke, and Buffy allowed Faith to lean in to her as they crossed the street, heading round the corner towards the bright lights of the rundown hovel Faith liked to call home.
Despite the pain in her side and the worrisome amount of blood escaping, Faith couldn’t help but breathe in deep and relish the intoxicating scent of the girl beside her.
Happiness always came at a price.