I'm somewhere between sleep and awake when I feel soft lips press against my face. They travel gently over my cheek, down my jaw, over my chin, and then to the corner of my mouth. It's the sweetest thing I've ever felt and I don't want to open my eyes just in case it's a dream.
The lips move again and I feel warm breath against my ear before I hear someone whisper, "Buffy."
I stretch my back and raise my arms over my head, smiling sleepily when I feel her body move and shift with mine so that she's hovering just above me, our skin touching. Her lips find their way back to the corner of my mouth where she kisses me softly again and again. I finally give in and start actively kissing her back, sliding my hands down her arms and then over her sides so that I can keep her pressed against me.
I never ever thought that I'd be like this with Faith. I guess the end of the world can bring out some pretty surprising things in people.
"It's almost time to start getting ready," she mumbles against my lips, then pulls back to look down at me. I guess that means we've been laying here for most of the day since we got back from breakfast. She studies my face for a few seconds before tucking a strand of hair behind my ear and leaning down to give me another sweet kiss.
"I don't know if I can," I whisper, my breath quivery.
"You can," she whispers back, then nudges her nose against mine. She takes a breath like she's going to say something but then stops and buries her face in my neck, placing soft kisses on it.
I run my fingers through the back of her hair, then guide her head up so that I can look into her eyes.
"What were you going to say?" I ask her.
She stares into my eyes for what feels like forever, searching for something that she's not sure is there.
I know for a fact that it is.
"I wish we coulda done this a long time ago. Me and you, I mean. We've never been real direct with each other, yunno? Always dancin' around the important stuff and tryin' to keep ourselves safe."
"Little did we know we'd be safest with each other, huh."
"I know, right?" she says, chuckling a little. "I just wish . . ." She stops there and shakes her head sadly, her brow furrowing a little. There's so much regret inside of her. I wish I could make it easier for her like she's come to make things easier for me.
"If wishes were horses," I begin and that gets a smile from her.
". . .we'd ride off into the sunset together."
"Out into the demon wasteland?" I ask her, slipping my hands over her lower back and giving it a quick tickle.
"Yep," she says, squirming a little, trying to pretend she's serious despite the smile on her face. "We'd find a little abandoned cave of our own and hunt rabbits and wear their fur like little bikinis."
"Gross. I am not wearing a fur bikini."
"And we can get a demon butler. Yunno, just a little guy that we can keep in line with a daily kick in the ass."
"How do we decide who gets to kick him? Because I think it should be me."
"Well now you're talkin' crazy, B," she says, smiling even more. "Clearly I wear the pants in the relationship. I'll be the one doing the kickin'."
"That hardly seems fair, especially since your pants' will actually be a grotesque little fur bikini."
"Just you wait til you see the fur bikini. You're gonna be beggin' me to make you one," she says, pinching my sides and making me squirm underneath her.
I laugh and try to slap her hands away but she catches my wrists, then holds them up above my head on the cot so that we're completely pressed together. Her smile is bright and carefree as she looks down into my eyes but she quickly sobers up and looks almost nervous. Her eyes search mine again and I try to convey everything I feel for her.
"B . . . Buffy," she begins, licking her suddenly dry lips. "I'm sorry we've got a fucked up past. So much of that shit is my fault; I couldn't face what I felt and I got so fucked up over it."
"It's not just your fault," I reassure her. "Neither of us dealt. It made things bad, but it's better now. You've helped me out so much here. As bad as things are . . . you keep me going. You . . ." I trail off, feeling emotion creeping up, "you've kept everyone going. I don't know how you did it; you're pretty amazing."
She actually looks kind of embarrassed and she buries her face against my neck again, kissing it softly. Her hands release my wrists and our fingers instantly intertwine. My heart clenches in my chest.
"I love you," she finally whispers. The words are so quiet that no ordinary human would have heard them. With slayer hearing, though, they're loud and clear to me.
And with her slayer hearing, I'm sure she can hear the way my heart is beating triple time right now.
She keeps her face buried in my neck, waiting. I move my head to the side and look down at her and she lifts it up enough so that she can gaze into my eyes. I think she finally sees what she's been looking for in them because a tiny smile lifts the corners of her mouth. She leans down and gives me a soft kiss, and when she pulls back, I smile up at her.
"Faith, I . . ."
A loud knock on the door makes us jump. When we hear the lock turn, Faith quickly moves off of me and to the side so that she can cover us both with the wrinkled blanket.
"What?" she yells, annoyed.
"Time for fight!" Bobb-o yells back. He opens the door without waiting for a reply and tries to shove our armor in without actually looking inside the room. It clangs around on the floor loudly and a piece gets stuck in the door wedge. After a few seconds of trying to push it in with his meaty legs, he finally gets frustrated enough to open the door all the way open. When I look up at him, I notice he has his eyes shut tightly.
I guess he's learned his lesson after walking in on us a few times.
"We go in five minutes," he says, then shuffles backwards out of the room with his eyes still tightly closed. When the door shuts behind him, Faith and I both break out into laughter.
"I think we broke him," I say.
"Two hot naked chicks can do that to a guy, demon or not," she replies.
Before we can finish up our little conversation, she hops off the bed and pulls on her panties and bra. Her back is to me when I stand up to join her and it seems like she's purposely avoiding looking at me; like if she does, what she just said will come back to slap her in the face.
Instead of pressing the issue, I start getting dressed too. The armor is so old and worn that it's hard to get on and I struggle with the side clasps on my skirt-armor.
A skirt. For battle. I shake my head and laugh.
Before I can get frustrated with the armor like I usually do Faith steps up behind me and quickly adjusts it so that it's fastened and secure like she usually does. I smile to myself when she leans forward and kisses the top of my shoulder, then goes back to dressing herself.
I want to say it. I want to tell her.
But she's gone into fight mode now and I don't want to break her concentration. Knowing that I need to focus too, I try to clear my head of everything but the task at hand. We finish getting dressed in silence, then knock on the door to let Bobb-o know that we're ready to go.
But being physically ready is one thing.
My head isn't in this and I realize just how dangerous that is as Bobb-o opens the door and leads us down the long corridor to the arena.
When we get to the entrance to the arena, a pair of guards take us from Bobb-o and lead us into one of the small prep rooms just off to the side. They go through the usual routine of checking that we're properly suited up but then they start a more thorough inspection. They check our shin guards and under any piece of armor where something could be concealed. It's pretty laughable; this armor leaves very little to the imagination. There's not much room for hidden weapons.
"What the hell do you think we're hiding?" Faith asks, slapping one of the guard's hands away when he tries to inspect her cleavage.
"Weapons have gone missing," he says gruffly. "We are to inspect every slayer."
"Hey genius, where exactly do ya think we're gonna hide anything with armor like this?" Faith asks, holding her arms out to the side and looking down at her barely-there armor.
"We are following our orders. Now submit or we will use force."
He waits for Faith to stand down and when she finally does so with a frown, the two guards finish searching us, coming up empty-handed like I knew they would. When they're finished, they walk out and send Bobb-o back in to wait with us until we're brought out with the others.
"What the fuck was that about?" Faith asks me as we watch them retreat. "If any of the girls thought they'd get away with stealing weapons, they're not as smart as I give them credit for."
"No way would they try to hide weapons on them," I say, shaking my head in confusion. "Not only is there no place to physically keep them hidden without having a sword hilt sticking out from somewhere, but they know what the punishment would be if they got caught."
"Maybe a couple girls wanna get caught," Faith says with a shrug.
I look over at Bobb-o who's watching us talk.
"Bobb-o," I begin, "have any of the girls gotten into trouble today? Were any of them searched by the guards?"
"Guards search them, find nothing," Bobb-o says with what looks like a shrug.
"That means the weapons are in the camp," Faith replies. "Guards are gonna toss it while everyone is in the arena tonight. They find anything, we're all gonna suffer."
"I need to talk to Krista. If the girls are stealing weapons, she'll know about it," I say.
"Good luck with that," Faith replies. "Ya really think you're gonna be able to have a convo with her like that when we get out there?"
"Exactly. Let's just focus on the fight out there before we start thinkin' about any fights in there," Faith says, nodding back toward the camp. "When we finish up in the arena, we go back to the camp with the girls and have a real serious talk about what the fuck they've been up to."
"If the guards aren't already back there waiting for us," I add.
"Yeah," Faith says dismissively. "Just keep your head in the game, B. I'll have your back out there; just try to stay focused."
"I will," I say with a nod. I feel a tremble throughout my body and I know I'm not ready for this yet, but I don't really have a choice.
"Hey," Faith says. She stands in front of me and makes me look up into her eyes. "I'm not gonna let anything happen to ya out there, B. It'll be like all the other easy fights we've been up against, right?"
"Yeah," I reply, unconvinced. "Promise me you'll be safe too."
And Faith lets down her mask of preparedness for a minute and smiles at me.
"I'm practically Miss Safety Pants."
"That's so much more appealing than Miss Fur Bikini Pants."
She laughs and leans down to kiss me, then rests her forehead against mine. "Stay safe, yeah?"
"Yeah," I nod. "You too."
We stay like that for a few more minutes until Bobb-o tells us it's time to leave. Nothing more is said as we walk out into the corridor and out through the entrance to the arena. The crowd roars as we walk in, fully aware that we're the top fighters. They're also fully aware of what happened here two weeks ago and they're all taunting me about it.
"Shake it off, B. They don't matter," Faith says, noticing the way I've stiffened up.
I nod and look over at her, then back up to the massive crowd. There's gotta be over thirty thousand demons of every variety out there, and they all want our blood. It's why they come back again and again.
It's not long before we reach the area reserved for slayers. The rest of the girls are already here and they barely notice our approach. They look completely fierce and not at all like the scared girls they once were. They've been training and working hard on their skills, both defensive and offensive. I just hope they listen to me when I tell them we need a solid plan before we can make any moves.
Maybe after Faith and I have that long chat with them later about the stolen weapons, we can finally get into the whole breaking out thing. It's going to take a lot of serious thought.
The crowd roars as the bosses step out and make their way into their private box but there's no big pomp and circumstance this time. No need to show me my dead sister on the screen. They've already broken me, or at least they think they have. Guess they didn't count on Faith, who'd already had her own breakdown, to pull me out of the darkness. Now they just want to have some good old fashioned carnage-type fun.
Luckily for me, I'm starting to feel the rage I thought I'd lost when I'd realized I'd been played.
Two or three dozen demons of different shapes and sizes start filing out into the arena from different entrances, all of them showboating for the crowd. That's when a few guards walk over to the slayers and start randomly picking them out and pulling them over to the weapon table. There are noticeably slimmer pickings on the table but none of the girls seem fazed by it. They just grab the odd sword or dagger and make their way out into the arena looking completely ready for a fight.
A really bad feeling starts to creep over me and settles in the pit of my stomach. Something doesn't feel right. The guards busy ransacking the camp, the fearless girls, the missing weapons . . . this all feels like some kind of really shoddily put-together attempt by the girls to gain the upper hand in the camp.
Don't they realize that even if they do . . . there's a horde of demons surrounding us?
Oh god. Please don't let this be their plan. Please tell me they've thought this through more thoroughly and that this is just my paranoid brain playing games with me. I feel my entire body start to tremble.
"Faith," I mumble, my lips barely moving.
"What?" she asks, her gaze focused on the dozen or so girls in the arena. When I don't reply, she looks over at me and instantly realizes something's wrong. "What is it?"
"Something's not right," I tell her. "This was planned. The missing weapons and the guards busy looking for them; the girls planned that. With most of the guards out of the way, the girls have less people to fight off."
"Fight off?" Faith asks, her brow furrowed.
"They want out. They've been training and practicing; they were waiting for me to lead them, but I . . . god, I wasn't there." A single tear falls from my eye and I swipe it away as I look around the arena for clues as to what's going to happen. "And you weren't there because you were trying to help me . . . this is all my fault."
"Whoa, slow down," Faith says as she closes the distance between us. She puts her hands on my upper arms and gives me a little shake so that I focus on her. "They wouldn't do that; not without tellin' us. If they're all hell bent on breakin' out, this is probably some kinda dry run. What're they gonna do, take on every demon in this place?"
I stare up at her face, more tears filling my eyes but not falling. Slowly, I nod.
"That's . . . that's what they're gonna do. Faith, Krista told me the girls won't just sit around anymore. I told her that we'd lose half them just trying to get out and that the demons would chase us, so she said that they'd kill them all then. They don't care if they die trying because they know we're all going to die anyhow."
"But that's fucking crazy!" Faith yells, visibly upset now.
"Yeah, I know. But we lost two more girls last week, Faith. I asked them to wait for me and then . . . Dawn . . . I closed off. Maybe they would've waited if Mary and Allison hadn't died but now they're even more determined not to sit around and wait for death anymore. Don't you see? They're taking matters into their own hands. They'd rather their death be for a cause than for nothing at all!"
Faith shakes her head and looks back at the girls. A few are stealing glances over at us now but all of the others are busy watching the fight going on behind us.
"Why the hell wouldn't they have told me about it? I've been with them the whole time, side by side . . ."
"Because they knew you wouldn't let them. They know you're trying to help me and that you would tell them they needed to wait until I was ready. But they weren't willing to wait, Faith. Not after Mary and Allison."
I know I sound miserable but I can't help it. If this starts this rebellion, this uprising we're going to lose. We're all going to die, just when I've finally accepted the fact that I don't want to die anymore. That there can be something more.
"Well, they got another thing comin' cos no way am I gonna let this happen. I'm going to call them off."
She turns and starts to walk off but stops when she stubs her toe on something in the dirt. We both look down, brows furrowed. Slowly she starts to kick away some of the freshly loosened dirt with her foot and our eyes widen at the same time.
Faith stubbed her toe on a short sword, covered in dirt and still partially buried.
We both look up and start glancing around the side of the arena we're on. There are dark spots where the dirt has been disturbed all over the place. I guess now we know where all of those stolen weapons went to. They were never hidden back in the camp. The guards that are looking for them are on a wild goose chase.
The weapons have been beneath our feet the entire time.
"Fuck," Faith says, running her hands through her hair. "Not good. Listen, you stay here. I'm going to stop this stupidity before it starts."
"It's already too late," I tell her, nodding over to the slayers. A few are already busy nonchalantly kicking away loose dirt with their feet while pretending to be as engrossed in the fight going on as the rest of the stadium is.
Faith watches the girls carefully, then looks out into the arena at the slayers that were chosen to fight tonight. They're all still alive and nearly done taking out the demons that they're fighting with. If the match ends, it'll be too late to stop anything.
"You stay here," Faith says. She makes sure no one is watching us before bending down and grabbing the sword, then trying to hide it down her shin guard. The hilt is sticking up near her knee but she has no place else to put it.
She leans in and gives me a quick kiss on the lips, then pulls back and looks into my eyes long and hard before saying to Bobb-o, "Keep an eye on her, Bobb-o. Nothing happens to her, got it?"
Bobb-o nods but I can tell that he's worried. He'd never blow Faith in for having a weapon; hell, I bet he'd help her escape AND be her demon butler if she asked him. And now that she's asked him to keep me safe, I know he'll do just that.
Before I can say anything more to Faith, she's on her way toward the slayers and heading right for Krista. Krista glances over at me before looking back out at the fight, pretending that she doesn't see Faith. Faith is determined though and stops right in front of her, making Krista look up.
I can't hear what they're saying; the crowd is too loud and not showing any signs of quieting down for my listening convenience. I can tell that Faith is yelling, though, and it seems like Krista is yelling right back. The sad thing is that we forced Krista into this position. After Jo died, it was just her, Faith and I left in leader positions. Then Faith checked out, then me, and Krista was left to deal with the burden of the entire camp.
She had to do what she thought was right for everyone, and this is what the majority of the girls were pushing for.
Suddenly the crowd roars even louder and I see the last four demons standing in the arena get the upper hand on one of the fighting slayers. All four of them are dead in the blink of an eye after having been surrounded by the eleven slayers, but it's too late for Amy who is lying dead at their feet.
And then everything starts to move in slow motion as I see the slayers standing at the side with us charge out into the arena, dirt-covered weapons in hand. They immediately take out the few guards that are stationed just in front of them while the unarmed slayers behind them start digging in the dirt for the hidden weapons they know are there.
Faith turns around, eyes wide and looking . . . scared. For the first time since I've been here, she looks truly scared. She can't dwell, though; a new unit of guards starts to pour into two separate entrances of the arena and right towards her and the other girls. Sparing me one quick glance, she charges out after them.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing!" she yells, trying to pull the girls back. "Are you fucking crazy?"
The slayers completely ignore her though and begin to cut through the newly arrived guards that are storming in with weapons raised. The crowd is going crazy and sure enough, demons start to hop into the arena from the stands, ready to find glory by taking out a slayer with their own hands.
I try to run forward but Bobb-o catches me by the shoulders and holds me back.
"Bee no fight!" he says and wraps his arms around me from behind, trying to keep me safe.
I struggle half-heartedly as I watch the chaos begin to unfold in front of me. The slayers seem to hold their own for the first few minutes but soon they're overwhelmed by the sheer number of foes pouring onto the field. Didn't they know this would happen? Didn't they realize how horribly outnumbered and unprepared we are?
Faith has gone from trying to stop the girls to trying to protect them, fighting away demons that are quickly getting the best of them. Faith has been in battles like this; the girls haven't. She knows what needs to be done but no one else does and everyone is starting to panic. Girls are starting to run, just trying to escape the horde of demons. That's impossible when you're completely surrounded by them though.
I look over to see Krista and Shy fighting back to back with Laura and Hazel doing the same nearby. They're the only ones who have sense enough to do that which is probably why the demons are targeting the girls who are fighting all on their own.
"Bobb-o, let me go!" I yell, struggling against him.
"Faith say nothing happen to Bee, so nothing happen to Bee!" he shouts back, unrelenting in his iron grip on me.
"Goddammit, we need to help them!" I cry. Luckily for me, Bobb-o has some man-parts underneath all the blubber and I manage to kick him right in them without even realizing it.
He drops me involuntarily and quickly tries to scoop me back up but I'm too quick for him. I'm already digging into one of the last weapon hidey-holes and pulling out another short sword. When I stand up to check the situation out, I see that the slayers are getting smaller and smaller in number. There are bodies piling up everywhere, both human and demon, but there are more and more demons filing into the arena from the stands every seconds.
They're like a swarm of locusts and we're slowly getting swallowed up in their dark cloud.
Demons instantly surround me but I fight them off easily enough, determination and sheer desperation driving me. I'm still quite a way from most of the girls but I manage to help a few along the way, dragging them with me toward the center so we can all fight side by side.
Faith seems to be doing the same thing too, dragging Holly and Cara along with her from the other side while fighting off the demons that are hot on their heels. When she gets a bit of room between them and their attackers, she turns and sprints for the center, her eyes widening when she sees me fighting alongside the girls.
Distracted, I feel the sharp pain in my leg and look down to see blood starting to drip from a fresh wound. I hold out my sword and spin hard, taking out three demons that were behind me and ready to close in for the kill. Krista jumps in and goes back to back with me, feverishly shouting her apologies for all of this. Ignoring the pain in my leg, I try to focus on what she's saying but my eyes are fixated on Faith who is charging over here after seeing me get hurt.
She's not paying attention to the demons between us or the demons chasing after her though and she's about two seconds away from getting caught up in the swarm.
"Faith, stop!" I yell, taking off in her direction.
But it's too late. A demon catches her from the side and drives his sword directly through her mid-section, dropping her to her knees. Her eyes widen and she stares at me while she touches the wound and brings up her hand, covered in blood.
She whispers my name before she collapses face first onto the ground.
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