The next few minutes seem to go by in slow motion as the shock and horror settle in. It's only seconds after we realize that Jo's been run through with the sword that Faith is kneeling at her side, gripping onto her chest armor and trying to shake her awake. Jo's head lulls back as soon as Faith lifts her the few inches off the ground and right away I know that there's nothing that's gonna bring her back.
She's already gone.
"Wake up, Jo! You fucking bitch, you wake the fuck up. Come on!"
"Faith . . ." Krista begins as she kneels down on the other side of Jo, trying to pry Faith's hands from Jo's armor.
"Help me wake her up, K," Faith pleads. She holds her gaze for a second and Krista sighs sadly.
A moment passes and Krista leans forward, putting her hand on Jo's cheek and looking down at her face. Her fingertips slip down to Jo's neck and she presses just below her jaw, looking for a heartbeat. Faith watches her intently, knuckles white from gripping on so tightly. Krista closes her eyes when she realizes that Jo is actually gone. She draws in a deep breath through her nose
"She's gone, Faith," she says sadly. I can barely hear her voice over the sound of the now cheering crowd.
A couple hundred ubervamps down and only one of us. I'd hardly say that gives them cause to cheer and celebrate, but I don't think they're celebrating Jo's death; they're eating up Faith's reaction. They've never seen her lose her cool.
Faith looks up from Jo to Krista's face and just stares at her, trying to take in what she just said. She blinks a few times and it looks like she understands, but she definitely doesn't accept it. I can tell that much from the way she's clenching her jaw and by the way her knuckles are getting whiter and whiter from gripping Jo's chest armor so tightly. She shakes her head and looks back down at Jo, not seeming to notice the throng of guards that have entered the arena and are walking toward us from all directions.
I don't know what's about to happen but I know it won't be good; I can feel it in my bones. As casually as possible without drawing attention to myself, I bend down and pick up my shield. I'd take Faith or Jo's swords from the ground but I can't reach it without tugging Faith and I'm trying to be discreet.
Krista notices me moving and looks over, then instantly realizes that we're being surrounded by armed guards. Her eyes widen and she looks over at Faith, trying to get her attention without speaking. Faith is too busy staring down at Jo though, eyes wet with unshed tears and full of anger.
"Thought ya said you'd never go down without a fight, Jo," Faith all but whispers, making me strain to hear her voice.
What she does next takes me by surprise. She tugs on Jo's armor and pulls her up into her arms, hugging her tightly. The sword through Jo's chest only narrowly avoids Faith and I instantly grimace because I know that Faith's gonna be covered in the carnage left behind when she pulls away.
I know I promised I wouldn't shed anymore tears in this place but I feel the wetness on my cheeks anyhow. There's no way I can even begin to imagine how Faith's keeping it together right now, but then I see her – really see her. Her back is tense and her muscles are coiled like she's about to leap into action. Krista meets my gaze without turning her head and I can see the fear in her eyes as they quickly flicker back to Faith, then to the approaching guards. I tilt my head to the side and peek over Faith's shoulder and that's when I see it: her hand is tightly gripping onto the sword sticking out from Jo's back.
"Slayers, stand. Leave the dead and return to your quarters," the closest guard shouts above the cheering crowd.
They wait for Faith to stand but she's just kneeling there, her body shaking now. It's not from sobs, either; it's from anger.
"Slayers, stand!" he shouts again, stepping closer to us. When Faith doesn't react, he reaches down and grabs the back of her hair, trying to lift her.
I suddenly hear her whisper, "I won't let ya go down without a fight, Jo."
She lifts her head – and the sword that she easily pulls out of Jo – and swings at him, easily slicing off the hand still holding her hair. The guard starts to howl in pain and Faith springs up into action. His head is off and rolling around at her feet before the other guards can register what happened.
And then everything tumbles into chaos. Krista tries to get into a fighting stance but she's still attached to Jo. Faith swings her blade down without looking and lobs off Jo's hand just above the wrist, setting Kris free. I'm sure I'd feel more horrified about that if I wasn't so busy trying to protect Faith's back from the approaching guards.
"Faith, what the hell are you doing?" I yell as a guard brings his mace down on my shield, denting it in like tinfoil.
"What does it look like?"
"You're gonna get us all killed!"
"We all die anyway," she shouts, grunting as she brings her sword down on a fallen guard.
"Do you want us to end up like Jo?" I ask. When she doesn't respond, I spin around and knock a guard in the head with my shield, then tug on the chain between our wrists until we're awkwardly standing face to face. "Do you want it to be your fault?"
She stares at me, breathing hard through her nose as she clenches her jaw tightly. Just when she opens her mouth to speak, we hear a scream from the side and see two guards dragging a struggling Krista back toward the entry to the camp. I don't think, I just start moving toward her, tugging a reluctant Faith along with me. I take maybe five steps before I'm yanked back but I keep struggling to get to Krista anyhow. Suddenly I feel a much more violent tug and I stagger back, expecting to slam right into Faith's side. Instead I hit something big that bounces me back a few steps before the chain stops me. When I look up, I see Bobb-o standing with a struggling Faith over his shoulder. He doesn't look angry like the other guards do; he looks concerned. Scared even.
"Faith no fight," he says, wincing as she repeatedly pummels his back.
The sword she was using is on the ground at my feet and I take a quick glance down at it, my fingers automatically flexing. Bobb-o's foot suddenly stomps down on it, dashing away my hope of quickly grabbing it.
"Bee no fight," he says, his big glossy eyes pleading with me.
"You fuckin' let me down, Bobb-o," Faith shouts as she wriggles around trying to get free. "I'll kill every fuckin' one of you."
Bobb-o stops looking at me and instead wraps his arm tighter around Faith, keeping her firmly in place. He turns and starts to head toward one of the exits . . . which means I'm going too, apparently, as I stumble and dangle around behind him by the chain connecting me to Faith.
Faith takes a few swings at the guards we pass on the way out and even manages to knock one out with a surprise kick to the head. She looks over at me and yells, "Don't just fuckin' stand there; fight them!"
Little does she know I can barely keep up with Bobb-o's big steps, let alone even think about taking passing shots at the armed guards. The crowd is cheering so loudly I can barely hear myself think. As we approach the exit door, I see Faith's gaze shift to someplace behind me. She stops thrashing around and just stares, her jaw clenched and eyes filled with rage.
I turn around and see one of the guards parading Jo's lifeless body around the arena while another guard uses her severed hand to wave at the crowd. There's a loud thud behind me and then Faith runs past me and back into the arena, tugging me along with her. The crowd roars and the guards spring back into action, trying to catch us as we run – or rather, Faith runs and I stumble – back toward the offending guards.
She approaches one of the two guards from behind and grabs the sword out of the scabbard on his hip. His head rolls at our feet within seconds and Faith instantly heads toward the guard holding up Jo's body. The sword easily plunges through his back and out of his chest, just like it had with Jo. The guard stumbles and falls, pulling us with him since Faith hasn't let go of the sword. We fall in a heap and when I lift my head up, I see that Faith has come to rest face to face with Jo. She lets out a loud scream which silences everyone in the entire arena.
They can't hear her angry sobs but I can.
It takes only seconds for a now limping Bobb-o to catch up and stop just beside us, giving Faith the time that she needs to grieve. I stay completely silent, horror and dread filling my heart as I watch the scene before me. No matter what comes next, I know it isn't gonna be good. There's no way Faith is gonna bounce back from this. She's already given up.
Bobb-o puts a hand on her shoulder and tries to encourage her up but she slaps his hand away. The other guards – thoroughly pissed off now – are losing their patience though and Bobb-o knows he has to take matters into his own hands again. He may be a demon but Faith is his friend; he doesn't want to lose her. Not like this.
He grabs her around the waist and hauls her over his shoulder again, dragging me up as he stands to his full height. He grunts in pain every time she pounds on his back but he walks steadily along, clinging to her tightly.
"Faith, stop," I say quietly, my eyes pleading with hers.
There's nothing but darkness in her usually bright eyes though and she tells me to shut the fuck up as she continues to struggle. We finally make it out of the arena and down one of the dim corridors that lead to the camp. I'm not sure what Bobb-o is planning on doing with us, or more specifically her, but I know that once he puts her down she's going to freak out again.
I can't let the girls in the camp see that. She's their fearless leader. If they see how bad she is, they're gonna lose hope. Losing Jo is already gonna be hard enough for them to deal with; they can't lose her too.
"Bobb-o, wait," I say and finally get to rest my weary legs as he comes to a stop and turns to partially face me. "We can't take her out to the camp and her room is too close to the girls. Is there anyplace else . . .?" I trail off, waiting for him to say something.
"Take me back out to that fucking arena, that's what you can do," Faith grunts, still struggling. She pulls her leg back and is about to give his gut another kick but he catches her leg this time and keeps his grip tight on her ankle.
"Faith no fight," he says, trying to keep his gruff voice gentle. He looks over at me and nods before leading us down another dim corridor.
A short walk –and much swearing from Faith – later, and we arrive at the showers. Bobb-o walks us in through the heavy door, letting it close with a loud thump behind us. His patience with Faith's constant pummeling must be wearing thin because he drops her unceremoniously on the middle of the shower floor with a thud almost as loud as the closing door had made. She grunts with pain but is almost instantly on her feet and trying to charge him. I grab her around the waist and pull her against me, struggling to hold her as her arms claw and punch in his direction.
"Let me the fuck go!"
"Bobb-o, just go," I tell him, meeting his worried gaze. "I'll be fine. Just leave me alone with her for a while."
"Bee sure? Faith mad."
"B's very sure. We just need some time."
He hesitates but then turns around and heads for the door, taking one last glance back at us before walking out. The sound of a metal lock clicks and I let go of Faith's waist, ready to face the storm. I brace myself for whatever abuse she's about to throw at me.
I don't expect the silence that I get.
A few minutes pass but I stay fully alert because I can see the way her muscles are still tensed and ready to lash out. Her fists are clenched tightly and I just know that sooner or later I'm gonna be on their receiving end.
Faster than I can react, Faith spins around and throws a punch, landing it just under my jaw. I stumble backwards but don't get too far thanks to the chain still connecting us. She uses it to pull me back to her and I ready myself for another hit that never comes. Instead she catches me by my upper arms and grabs onto them tightly, positioning me so that I'm face to face with her.
"I fucking hate you," she says through clenched teeth, her eyes boring into mine. "Bad Luck Buffy, bringing all of the pain and despair along with her. Shoulda fed ya to the wolves when ya first got here."
I listen to her words and let her say her piece. She's waiting for me to react, though, and I think my lack of a reaction is just further spurning her on.
"What's the matter, B? Cat got your tongue? Well hey, since you're so quiet here, that'll give me the chance to ask ya something else."
"Go ahead, Faith. Do your worst," I say passively.
She gets closer to me so that I can feel the warmth of her body against my skin. Her smile is cruel and she tilts her head to the side as she asks, "Why ain't I dead?"
And exactly what does she want me to say here?
"Maybe because you're lucky? You certainly didn't have any problem putting your life on the line out there when you stupidly challenged a horde of armed guards."
She laughs a bitter laugh and shakes her head.
"You're not listening. Why ain't I dead, B? I was fighting those ubervamps too, but here I am now, fun and fancy-free. How'd I make it through that?"
I think about it for a second before replying, "Because I had the shield and I protected us."
"That's right. Because you protected us. Now here's another question for ya, princess, and I want ya to really think about this one." She surges forward and slams me against the wall, holding me there with her tight grip on my chest armor. There's a dangerous look in her eyes and a snarl on her lips. "Where the fuck was that shield when that ubervamp got the slip on Jo? Hmm?"
My mouth opens in surprise. She thinks . . . she's blaming me for Jo's death? That's not . . . I can't . . .
"Nothing like the cold, hard truth to shut you the fuck up, huh," she says, a satisfied smirk on her face.
I snap out of my stupor at that, more than a little pissed off.
"You know what, Faith? You're wrong. We fought together as a team, and as a team we won. Krista was hurt so I checked up on her. You were the one standing with Jo. Does that mean it's your fault?" I grunt as she pulls me from the wall and slams me back against it again but I don't stop talking. "No. It's nobody's fault."
"Well, maybe it's not your fault," she says, feigning confusion. "Maybe I should be havin' this chat with your buddy K. She was the one who was supposed to be protecting Jo, after all."
She starts to take a step away but I grab onto her armor and pull her close enough so that she can feel my breath on her face.
"You leave her out of this," I almost growl but quickly fight to regain my composure. "She fought hard, just like the rest of us. You can't pass the blame on this one because there's no one to blame; it was an unfortunate accident and it couldn't be helped."
She listens to me speak, her jaw clenching tightly until I finish that last sentence. Then the cruel smile is back and I know that whatever comes out of her mouth next is gonna hurt.
"I guess you're the expert on that one, aren't ya, B? Buffy Summers, the deadliest slayer in the arena circuit. Cuts them down by the heart or the head. Oh, wait . . . those were probably ‘unfortunate accidents' too, weren't they?"
Suddenly the memory of every girl I killed in the arena starts washing over me, filling me with a sense of guilt and horror that I haven't felt in a long time now.
"Shut up. You have no idea," I begin through clenched teeth but she cuts me off before I can continue.
"Oh, I think I have a pretty good idea. That's always been your M.O., takin' people out by the head or the heart. Even back in SunnyD ya fucked with my heart, then with my head when things went a little bit . . ."
My fist flies out before I can stop it and lands square on her mouth, cutting off the flow of her venomous words.
"You shut your mouth," I growl out, barely able to find my voice.
She removes one of her hands from my armor and runs the back of it over her mouth, looking for blood. Finding none, she smiles and shakes her head.
And I lose control.
I strike out at her in a flurry of fists and feet, grunting with effort as she matches every punch and every kick, hit for hit. The dangerous smile is back on her face and I suddenly realize what she's trying to do.
She wants me to beat her. She wants me to win. She's given up and she wants this over, and I'm the only one who can best her.
I stop suddenly and drop my fists to my sides, breathing heavily as I stare at a wild-eyed Faith. She's watching me, waiting for me to move, but I shake my head no and take a step back.
"No. I'm not playing your game. I won't be the one to . . ."
I don't get to finish what I'm saying because I'm suddenly pressed up against the wall again, but this time I'm not pinned there by Faith's hands but by her lips. Her mouth is hot and hard against mine and I'm not sure why but I find myself lost in the kiss, letting her take from me whatever she wants. My chest is burning and I need to breathe but I can't pull away from her mouth. I kiss her deeper instead while my fingers push into her hair, keeping as close to her as I can.
The chain that's linked between our wrists is cold against my stomach as it presses awkwardly between us but Faith doesn't let it get in her way. Her hands slide down my sides and over my stomach as she devours my mouth. I gasp against her lips when I feel her hand sliding down even lower but I'm powerless to stop her. My hands wind tighter in her hair and keep her lips pressed to mine when she tries to look down between us.
Her fingers aren't tentative or clumsy but instead seek out exactly what they want, slipping into my panties and expertly between my folds. She doesn't seem surprised to find me wet for her; even though Faith and I don't exactly have a great history together, there's no denying the way fighting each other makes our bodies react. Maybe our bodies know something that our brains won't let us think.
She hums against my lips as her fingers find my clit and press down on it, making me sigh into her mouth. I know this shouldn't be happening but I can't stop it. I don't want to stop it. When she strikes up a rhythm, slipping over and around my clit, I try my best not to let my brain explode. I concentrate on the feel of her fingers, the taste of her kiss, and the almost tentative way she's rubbing herself against my thigh to get some relief.
Almost as if on autopilot, my right hand disentangles from her hand and slips down between us, brushing over the chain and dipping down beneath her armor. My fingertips are wet before I even manage to slip them inside her panties and she groans when I softly cup her pussy. Her hips thrust against my hand, trying to get some friction. I know I'm not exactly well-versed in the joys of lesbian sex but it comes easy for me as I copy and mimic her moves. She groans when my teeth nibble on her lower lip, then she surprises me by slipping two of her fingers inside of my dripping hole.
"Ohh, shit," I gasp out, my eyes shutting tightly as I adjust to the feel of her inside of me. She doesn't give me any time and instead starts up a steady rhythm while her palm pushes hard against my clit. "Fuck!"
I'm trying to keep up with her but my arms feel so heavy that I'm not even sure my fingers are moving anymore.
"Inside," she whispers against my lips before sucking my tongue into her mouth.
My fingers easily slide through her wetness and inside of her with little resistance. Her head drops back and her eyes slam shut as I start to thrust my fingers inside of her, feeling her walls pulsing around me. She stills her fingers inside of me for just a few seconds before pulling them out and back up to my clit, slipping over it hard and fast.
I know I won't be able to hold back for long at this pace and a few minutes later I come hard against her hand, my entire body spasming as the pleasure washes over me. It's been so long since I've felt this; since I let myself feel this. There should be guilt but instead there's only relief and warmth and I feel like I've been missing this my entire life.
Faith continues to kiss and suck on my lips as I come back down, trying my best to keep my fingers moving inside of her. Her breath hitches in her throat as I pick the pace back up and press my palm against her clit like she'd done with me. She grunts softly as I add a third finger inside of her and she clenches her eyes shut even tighter. I feel her warm breath against my face and as much as I want to feel her lips on mine again, I want to see how this ends even more.
Her inner walls clamp down around my fingers and she bucks against my hand, her thighs clamping together to keep me against her while she rides out her orgasm. I feel her sticky wetness seep onto my hand and I feel wrongly proud for being the one to make that happen. For getting her wet and making her come.
I don't know how all of this happened - we were fighting five minutes ago and then we were fucking – but I don't feel the shame or the guilt that I thought I'd feel. I just feel warm. Satisfied. And I don't feel alone.
Faith's body rests against mine as we take a few minutes to catch our breath. I pull my fingers from her pussy with a wet plop and she twitches, a tiny smile tugging at the corner of her lips for just a split second. She finally opens her eyes and looks at me after a moment. Her lips find mine and we share another kiss, her tongue slipping over and around mine before she withdraws it. She kisses my bottom lip, then my top lip before she pulls back and looks at me with a puzzled look on her face for a few moments. My thumb traces over her cheek and jaw and by the time I meet her eyes again, the look of puzzlement is gone and she looks blank. Her walls are back up.
She takes a step back and adjusts her armor, then wipes the fingers still covered in my wetness off on her hip. Her eyes suddenly look less hard than they were a moment ago. It looks like she wants to say something but we're interrupted by someone standing in the doorway and clearing their throat. We both look over to see Bobb-o standing there with the key to our shackles. He looks wary yet confused at the same time.
Faith nods at him and he shuffles over, eying her cautiously as he unlocks our restraints. The iron cuff slips from my wrist and clangs noisily on the floor, disturbing Faith's thoughts. She looks back to me, the cruel smile back in place.
"You can take her away, Bobb-o. I'm done with her."
I watch her for a second, confused. I want to ask her what's going on or what just happened, but she turns away before I can say anything and starts to strip down. Her armor is kicked to the side a few moments later and she steps naked under the warm spray of the shower, seemingly forgetting that I'm still standing here.
Bobb-o tugs on my elbow and I look up at him, then back at Faith.
"Come, Bee. Back to camp."
I watch to see if Faith will react in any way but she just goes on with her shower like she's standing here alone. Shaking my head, I turn and head for the door with Bobb-o hot on my heels.
Just as I walk out, I hear Faith shout out for Bobb-o and I stupidly get my hopes up that she's changed her mind. That I'm gonna find out what just happened. That she hasn't just treated me like some kind of use-and-discard getting off service.
"Tell Shy to get her ink and get the fuck in here," she shouts before the door shuts behind me.
And my hope comes crashing back down.
Ahh, there's that guilt I was looking for.
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