Soft sparkles of blue and red reflected in Buffy's eyes as she stared out of the large window before her. She zipped up her hooded sweatshirt, shutting out the slight breeze breaking through the old frame as her thoughts drifted with the snow outside. It was warmer indoors than it probably ought to be for a castle, but it wasn't just any old castle - it was slayer central. It was the hub of their operation. Their home. And it was currently bedecked in all kinds of Christmas accouterments.
Buffy wasn't sure how cheerful she felt, but her surroundings were stuffed full of cheer and jolly ho hos. The slayers were happy, or content at least to provide each other with fun and games as they looked forward to the following day.
Christmas eve had always felt like a time for family, for feeling loved, part of something special. In the past, Buffy had spent those perfect nights with her family; Buffy, her mom, Dawn, and her dad when he was there. They didn't last long. Soon her dad wasn't there at all, and with slaying came a whole new way of seeing the world. A whole new set of responsibilities that disregarded these special times. She was just happy to be given the opportunity to live another day. To watch as others smiled and joked and wished for all their dreams to come true.
There were no dreams Buffy had ever had that came true. Not the good ones anyway.
She turned from the cold scene outside to the warmth and camaraderie of her new family. It wasn't quite the same, but it was better than nothing. She would smile and joke with them, but she would no longer wish for her burdens to be taken from her. Burden was her duty. It was her calling.
Her calling had been shared, but she still shouldered the heaviest, the most tiresome of all their responsibility. She was responsible for them all. For the future.
“Eggnog, Buffy?” Xander called from across the room, sloshing creamy liquid into a pitcher adorned with green and red ribbon.
“It's a little early for me,” Buffy replied, smiling gently at him as he nodded and proceeded to cater for all the girls who now called him Watcher.
It was almost lunchtime and she didn't want to spoil it with creamy egg heavy beverages.
“Party pooper,” Willow said with a grin as she took a large gulp and then winced.
“See, I told you it was good,” Xander encouraged.
Willow placed her drink back down and swallowed hard.
“I'm not sure good is quite the word I'd use,” she said with a slightly pained expression.
“Meh, you're all just lacking the Christmas spirit,” Xander grumbled. “We'll put that right tomorrow. Nobody can resist the spirit on Christmas day.”
“Just as long as it's the kind of spirit that comes in a glass devoid of farm produce,” Kennedy commented as she strolled into the large living room.
She sat next to the few slayers that were beating each other up on the Xbox, her long brown hair and sarcastic commentary reminding Buffy just a little too much of a certain person she was trying not to think about. There was something about Kennedy that unnerved Buffy, but she was there with Willow and Buffy knew she had to play nice.
“I'm gonna see when lunch is ready,” Buffy said, smiling at her friends as she passed them.
There was no doubt that she wanted to feel the Christmas spirit that Xander was talking about, but she had too many things on her mind. They never seemed to have long to rest; always battling against something, fighting the odds, saving the world. And there was Faith; on her mind despite doing her best not to dwell. It hadn't been long since their last awful encounter. They hadn't spoken since; their already shaky lines of communication laying tattered and torn at Buffy's feet. Giles was gone too. The man she'd come to love as a father wasn't where he should be at Christmas. She didn't know where he was but had an idea that he was with Faith.
Though regret wasn't something that Buffy felt comfortable wading through, she knew a large portion of the blame lay with her. She'd judged too quickly, her trust faltering before she could stop it and save herself from the consequences.
As she made her way down the cooler corridor towards the kitchen, Buffy vowed not to ruin Christmas for her friends and the slayers. She'd do her best to join in with the cheer. She also promised not to be too distant when it came to Satsu. They'd struck up a good friendship, and though Buffy was unsure whether or not she wanted it to develop into anything more, she couldn't deny that there was something she liked about the girl that went further than just friendship.
Just before she reached the bustling kitchen, Buffy heard a strange sound coming from outside. She glanced out of the nearest window but saw nothing but falling snowflakes. The noise broke free of the freezing air once again, and Buffy scrunched her brow. It was a distinct neighing sound. Before she had a chance to figure out where exactly it was coming from, her surroundings suddenly started spinning.
Wind was roaring through her ears as it spun and she grabbed at her stomach. She was being teleported. She didn't know where or why, but she knew this feeling well.
Not much later and with an unceremonious thunk, Buffy landed in a pile. Wherever it was that she had landed on, it wasn't soft and comfortable. In fact, it was lumpy and she was cramped and. . .
“B? What the fu. . .”
“Am I dead? Is this hell?” Buffy interrupted, squinting into the darkness that was all around her.
The residual queasiness from being teleported quickly vanished as Buffy tried to gain a sense of her surroundings and where she was.
“No, you're not in hell, but I'm beginning to think that I am,” Faith muttered as Buffy nudged at her.
Without needing to be told, Buffy was able to deduce that she was now stuck in a very small space. . .with Faith.
“Is this a coffin?” she asked, pushing upwards against what was obviously a lid of some kind. “'cause I've done the whole coffin vacation and it was far from fun the first time around.”
“No idea, B,” Faith replied.
Buffy struggled to move so that her elbow wasn't stuck in Faith's side, but there was very little room, and though her eyes were adjusting to the slight slither of light seeping in through a crack somewhere, she still couldn't see clearly.
“You don't know? It's your box, how could you not know?”
“It's not my box! Last thing I remember. . .I was being knocked unconscious. Next thing I know, I'm in this thing. An hour after realizing there's no way I'm gonna get out, you fucking land on me.”
“Hey, it's not like I asked for this. I don't even know how I got here,” Buffy whined.
“Well could you figure out a way to not be here?” Faith asked as she shuffled for more space.
It was pointless shuffling and struggling. They may not have been in a coffin exactly – though Buffy couldn't tell for sure yet – but it was more or less the size of one. No amount of wriggling was going to help them. Buffy was more or less laying on Faith, though she was off to one side, crumpled into her in an awkward position.
“Have you tried to break out?” Buffy inquired, pushing again at the lid that wasn't budging.
Faith grunted as Buffy lowered her arm and tried to turn to face her, her eyes finally adjusting enough to see the other girl's face.
“No, I was just laying here hoping you'd pop outta thin air to rescue me,” Faith responded sarcastically. “Of course I fucking tried. I beat against that thing for an hour, but just like he said. . .there's no way I'm getting out without breaking the seal.”
Buffy tried to focus and not think too much about just how close she was to Faith. The air was filled with Faith's scent; subtle perfume and soap, leather and heated skin. It was a heady mix and it was far from unappealing. She didn't want to find it appealing – the very idea unnerved her – but she did.
“Ok, so back up,” Buffy began, needing to distract herself as much as find out what was happening. “Who are you talking about and where's the seal? And how exactly did you get here. . .wherever we are?”
Faith sighed and – with difficulty – rubbed at her brow.
“We're in Mexico,” she answered. “I was following a rogue slayer, but we didn't know she had a. . .fuck knows what he is, but he's a warlock. I wasn't prepared for spells and shit.”
“Clearly,” Buffy commented, trying to pull away from the inside of her sweater. It was far too hot in Mexico to be wearing layers.
“Sorry, forgot how perfect you are,” Faith grunted. “You'd never get yourself stuck in a box huh.”
She glared over at Buffy, waiting for the penny to drop.
“Hey, at least I'm here through no fault of my own,” Buffy pointed out. “At least, I think.”
After clearly taking a steading breath, Faith remained silent. Buffy didn't want to argue – she was done with arguing with Faith. They'd done it so often. They'd clashed and fought and misunderstood each other far too many times for her to want to repeat it so soon after the last debacle. No, she promised herself not to fall into the same old trap.
“You said something about a seal. What is it?” Buffy asked, trying to ignore the threat of cramp that was already setting into her legs as they lay squeezed next to Faith's.
“No clue,” Faith replied. “He told me there's no way I'd get out without some powerful magic. A seal needs to be broken or something. I was kinda busy beating the crap outta the lid and swearing to really focus.”
Buffy scrunched up her brow. It was just like Faith to miss the vital clues. She was all about hitting out and screaming – her power unleashing in violent bursts rather than controlled force.
“Great,” Buffy muttered.
She could practically feel the tension oozing from Faith. The other girl was stiffening up, and in the dim light she could see a clenched fist laying rigid on Faith's thigh. Buffy didn't think fighting in such a confined space would lead to anything but a bloodbath, so she tried to relax herself, hoping that Faith would respond the same.
“They'll notice I'm gone soon,” Buffy said, speaking low and calmly. “As long as there's no magic stopping Willow finding us. . .we won't be in here long.”
“Kinda thinking if it was that simple Giles woulda been here by now,” Faith stated, moving her legs and causing them to brush against Buffy.
Trying not to get distracted by the full-body contact, Buffy blinked up at the small stream of light coming from above her.
“So, magical seals and barriers, and a box that's probably a coffin. Stuck with no hope of anybody finding us. Getting hungrier by the minute, and about to roast my ass off. . .I can see this being quite a memorable Christmas,” Buffy said, forcing a deflated chuckle.
“If we don't get found, it'll probably be our last Christmas, B,” Faith pointed out without emotion.
Buffy sighed and tried not to let the dread seep inside her head. She'd never been a defeatist; always pushing that extra inch to come out on top, to win, to triumph over whatever obstacle was in her way. It didn't seem like she had much of a choice in the matter this time, however. It was out of her hands and. . .
A loud chirping noise startled the two girls and Buffy stared towards the bulge in the pocket of her jeans.
“Or yunno, you could have your cellphone with you. . .and just call for help,” Faith said, giving Buffy a completely dead-pan look as she reached for the ringing phone.
She'd completely forgotten she had it with her, and now felt a little silly for fearing the worst.
Answering quickly and trying to explain as Xander did his best not to panic, Buffy gave the details that she knew. He tried to reassure her that Willow would find her - barrier or not - and Buffy relaxed as best she could considering she was pressed extremely closely to a girl she'd always tried not to think about in anything other than a platonic way. Not that platonic was ever what they'd been, given the fact that even friendship seemed to elude them.
Before hanging up she asked Xander to inform Giles about what had happened. Faith gave her a grateful nod but she seemed annoyed. Maybe annoyed that she'd let him down. Buffy doubted Faith had done anything of the sort – sometimes bad things just happened – but she knew that guarded look. She knew the coldness of those dark brown eyes when Faith was trying to switch off her emotions and feelings.
“They're gonna work on it,” Buffy informed Faith as she hung up, checking the battery and wishing she'd taken the time to fully recharge her cellphone that morning.
She placed it in the small space just behind her knee.
“Scoobies to the rescue,” Faith said, sounding slightly jaded.
Buffy couldn't blame her – the history between them all was heavy with hurt and regret. She didn't want to bring it up, and certainly didn't want to spend however long it was they'd be trapped in an uncomfortable atmosphere.
“God, it's hot,” Buffy groaned, moving just a little as she felt beads of sweat beginning to trickle down her back.
She noticed that Faith was wearing just a small tank-top and cargo pants. It was clear she was hot too, but at least she wasn't on the verge of cooking alive. Mexico was a long way from Scotland and its swirling snowdrifts.
“And I'm getting cramp in my leg,” she continued.
“Well damn, B. Anybody would think you were stuck in a small box or something,” Faith said with a small chuckle.
“Glad you can see the funny.”
“If I don't. . .I'd be fucking outta my skull on crazy right now. Wasn't having a great time to begin with, but I coulda done without the audience,” she pointed out gruffly.
“I'm sorry,” Buffy said softly, the words feeling strange on her tongue.
She wasn't used to apologizing, especially not to Faith, but if they were going to move forwards in any way it had to start with an apology.
“I'm sorry for. . .last time too,” Buffy continued, lowering her voice. “I made a mistake.”
Faith didn't say anything right away and Buffy watched her face in the soft light. She could see Faith trying to digest the words, but she was fighting what they meant. It was obvious that she didn't want to hear apologies, even if they were needed.
“Yeah, whatever,” she said.
Buffy didn't push the issue further. She couldn't force Faith to accept that she knew she'd been wrong. Only time would heal the new wound. They had so many scars they'd given each other, it would just add to the pile. She hated that.
“Ugh, this thing is so not made for two,” Buffy grumbled, getting fidgety in her discomfort.
“Tell me about it,” Faith agreed. “Might be better if you just got on top of me.”
Halting – as best she could – the flood of thoughts that the suggestion instigated, Buffy tried to figure out if Faith was smirking. Her face was calm and expressionless, and Buffy wished she could put the dam back in place. The thoughts were leaking through, however, and she cursed herself for feeling the need to ask Faith what she meant.
“Get on top of you?” she asked a little shakily.
Faith turned her head and looked directly at Buffy, her dark eyes drawing Buffy in, immersing her in the feelings she knew would quickly drown her.
“Hop on, Twinkie,” Faith replied, the natural burr to her voice giving Buffy goosebumps.
Sometimes she hated that Faith got to her in ways she wasn't supposed to. Sometimes it made her crazy – in fact most of the time it did. But she could no longer deny the way Faith made her feel. There was no getting away from the attraction and desire that had always simmered just under the surface. It had always been there, and seemingly. . .it always would be.
“Stop looking at me like I grew another head,” Faith said after a few moments of intense staring. “I need to stretch out some more and I can't do that with you all squished into my side.”
Buffy wasn't sure how being on top of Faith would make her feel less squashed, but she was willing to try. The arm she had trapped under herself certainly thought it was a good idea as it throbbed for more room.
Tentatively, Buffy lifted herself up, but she stopped moving as she realized she wasn't sure exactly how she was meant to lay on Faith.
“How do you want me?” Buffy asked, ignoring the fact her voice was now clearly deeper, taking on an almost erotic tone. Apparently she had no control over her hormones.
Without missing a beat Faith wiggled her eyebrows as she looked up at Buffy.
“Thought you'd never ask,” Faith responded with a grin. She didn't push it and just chuckled when Buffy felt her cheeks redden. “Lay on your back on me, it'll be more comfortable for ya.”
Just how laying on Faith was going to make her anything but completely on edge - and uncomfortable in a totally different way - Buffy didn't know, but it was better than the alternative. It was also a great opportunity to just be close to Faith in ways she'd – up until recently – denied that she wanted.
She eventually nodded and with some difficulty turned around, pushing herself on to Faith in a way that was awkward even though she was trying for it not to be.
“I'm not gonna break, B. Just get your ass here,” Faith stated, grabbing Buffy's hips and pulling her into position on top of her.
“See, that's much better,” Faith said, spreading out a little so she wasn't all pushed into one side.
Buffy had to concede that it felt more roomy this way, even if she was struggling to deal with their new-found familiarity. In fact there was a lot she was trying to deal with, and it had her chewing on her thumbnail as she lay stiffly on Faith. It wasn't like Faith to be so. . .open. Sure, she was being wary and kind of standoffish, but they weren't fighting. Faith wasn't pushing all of Buffy's buttons that would get them to the point of fighting. It was definitely much better than their last meeting and reminded Buffy of how they'd begun to be around each other during the time Faith was back in Sunnydale at the end, and the few weeks afterwards.
“You can relax, B. Not gonna try to strangle you or molest ya or nothin'.”
With more than a hint of disappointment – at the idea of not being groped, and not at the strangling comment – Buffy did her best to ease her muscles back into a relaxed state. She sunk into Faith and fell between her legs a little as she shifted her feet. Biting back a moan, she adjusted herself. . .but she was still finding it hard to get comfortable.
“Scoot down a little,” Faith instructed, waving her hand to the side of Buffy to indicate what she meant.
Luckily the box was long enough for Buffy to be able to move down without the need to bend her legs too much. She did as Faith instructed without thinking too much about it, then stopped breathing for a second as Faith guided her head down on to her ample chest. It was soft and comfy, but doing quite the opposite of relaxing her.
“Natural pillow,” Faith explained. “Now relax before you start getting me all antsy.”
“Right. Relax,” Buffy muttered, trying to keep her breath steady as she rested on Faith's boobs.
This was surreal to Buffy. This was new territory for them both. They'd gotten close when fighting on many occasions, and even when sparring, but this was a whole new level of close that felt intimate and charged full of promise.
“Well you're. . .definitely comfortable,” Buffy finally squeaked.
Once she started to get used to reclining on Faith, Buffy realized she was getting hotter and hotter. Of course, now it wasn't just the Mexican humidity that was affecting her, it was also Faith. It couldn't be helped; she was practically laying between her legs, head rising and falling with each breath Faith took as she enjoyed the soft cushion of her breasts. It was all a little too much.
“I have to lose this sweatshirt,” Buffy whined, lifting her arms to unzip it and pull it off.
It wasn't exactly an easy task, and as she wriggled to get free of the now sticky material, she heard a distinct groan coming from Faith. It made her stop, but Faith didn't say anything so she continued tugging off the sweater, grunting in frustration as she struggled. Finally she was able to push it to the side, leaving her feeling a little less tethered and uneasy. A little more wriggling to get back in to position and she'd feel much better.
It seemed that Faith was far from feeling better, however.
“Seriously, B. Can you stop the wriggling already?”
Buffy kept moving until she was back where she'd started, resting her head down on lush plumpness that was now all kinds of appealing.
“Why? I was just trying to cool down.”
“Why?” Faith repeated, punctuation the question with a deep sigh. “Because you're wriggling right on my crotch, genius. And now I'm not only cramped. . .but way fucking horny too.”
A small oh shape situated itself on to Buffy's lips, but no sound came out. She hadn't quite expected Faith to be so honest. That wasn't subtle flirting like in the past, that was all out making it clear Buffy got her hot.
Oh, this was going to be an interesting Christmas all right. Interesting and tight.