Buffy and Faith made their way to a much less affluent neighborhood just a mile or two away. They were sure to stay as hidden as possible as they moved through the darkness, both girls wary of every shadow and every car that passed by. When they reached the next house on the list they peeked into one of the back windows, checking for any signs of life.
"There's still some boxes and shit in there," Faith whispered. Her teeth chattered together as she shivered, her wet clothing and the cool night air doing nothing to help warm her up. "You sure no one's in there?"
Buffy noticed the same thing Faith had and began to wonder how credible Giles' friend was in giving him that list. What if she and Faith went inside and came face to face with a homeowner with a loaded shotgun? That was just as dangerous as dealing with the assassins!
"I have no idea," Buffy finally breathed out. She was shivering as well and her breath came out in a small white puff. "Giles said all of the houses are vacant."
"You trust him with your life?" Faith asked.
Buffy looked over and met her gaze and, after a moment, nodded.
"Good, then let's get inside before we freeze to death."
Faith tiptoed over to the door and tried the handle. Neither she nor Buffy were surprised when they found it locked. There was no lock box on this door and no conveniently placed dog door. They were going to have to get creative this time.
"Stand back, I'm gonna kick it in," Faith said, already in stance.
Buffy merely rolled her eyes and nudged Faith over a few inches. When Faith stepped off the welcome mat, Buffy bent down and lifted it up to reveal a dull key lying beneath it. She picked it up and held it up for Faith to see.
"It's the most common hiding spot ever," Buffy explained. "Plus, it's quieter than kicking the door in and alerting the neighbors."
"Well hurry up and use it, I'm turnin' into a Popsicle here."
Eager to get in and warm up, Buffy slipped the key in the lock and smiled when the door soundlessly slid open. She peeked inside and glanced around, noting that there was no actual furniture or signs that anyone was living there; just a few boxes and some cleaning supplies.
"You hear anything?" Faith asked.
"Just your teeth chattering," Buffy replied. "I think we're alone. Come on, let's see what we can scavenge from these boxes."
They walked into the house and carefully closed the door, making sure to leave nothing left out of sorts behind them. There was no electricity which was fine because they couldn't really turn the lights on anyhow, but it also meant that there was no hot water for showers. It wasn't like they needed to wash; they just needed to warm up!
Buffy found a box of cereal in one of the otherwise empty cupboards and after making sure that it hadn't passed its expiration date, she and Faith began to eat handfuls of it as they rummaged through the boxes.
"Find anything useful?" Faith asked.
"A few towels, not that we really need them with the lack of hot water. Might work as blankets."
"I got one fleece blanket here. Some pillowcases. Nothin' in the way of weapons. Box full of porn."
"Hopefully we won't need any," Buffy replied quietly.
"Porn?" Faith asked, confused.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Weapons. Giles should be able to get us out of here tomorrow. All we need to do is bide our time until he tells us where to pick up our tickets. The assassins won't try anything in broad daylight."
"So you keep saying," Faith replied. She was silent for a few moments and then shook her head sadly. "Never shoulda come to Sunnydale. Brought nothin' but shit down on myself and everyone around me since I got here. At least in Boston I was used to the shit, yunno? Here I was thinkin' that Cali would be my second chance. Yeah right."
She pretended to keep busy rummaging through a box but Buffy could tell that she was just trying to keep herself together. Walking over to her with a few towels rolled up under one of her arms, Buffy hesitated for a second before resting her free hand on Faith's bicep. Faith looked over and Buffy offered her a small smile.
"Life isn't always pretty. I'm glad you came here though. And I'm glad that I'm getting this second time around with you. There were," she took a deep breath and shook her head, "there were mistakes on both our parts. We can't change the past. And even though the situation right now is . . ."
"Shitty?" Faith offered and Buffy nodded.
"Yeah. Even though it's shitty, we're gonna make it through, and when we do? I'd really like to get a chance to know you, Faith. The right way."
Faith stared at her for what felt like forever but finally shook her head and looked back into the box in front of her. "If I make it."
"You will," Buffy said with a nod even though Faith wasn't looking at her. "We both will."
Faith didn't say anything but merely nodded unconvincingly. Buffy watched her for a few more seconds before finally deciding to give her a bit of space. She took the fleece blanket that Faith had stashed on the stairs and slowly began to climb them.
"I'm gonna go and see where we can rest for the night."
"See ya in a few," Faith replied blankly.
Worried about Faith's mental state but not wanting to start a fight over it, Buffy went upstairs and scouted the bedrooms out. There were two small rooms at the front that faced the wind and seemed cooler than the last bedroom at the back of the house. Buffy chose the third room and walked in, eager to get out of her wet clothing. She laid the towels down on the plush carpeting side by side and laid the fleece blanket atop them. Like it or not, she and Faith were going to have to sleep under the same blanket seeing as that there was only one there.
Once everything was all situated, she stuck her head out into the hall and made sure Faith wasn't coming up yet. When she was sure the coast was clear, she quickly pulled off her shoes, top and jeans and hung them over the empty pole in the closet. Even though her bra and panties were cold and wet, she kept them on; she couldn't be naked under the blankets with Faith. That would just be all kinds of awkward.
Hearing the unmistakable sound of wet shoes squishing up the carpeted steps, Buffy quickly stepped toward their makeshift bed and dove under the fleece blanket. She was still situating herself when Faith appeared in the doorway and stopped, looking into the darkened bedroom. Faith's eyes scanned over to the closet where Buffy's wet clothes were hanging then over to Buffy who was now hidden away under the blankets from her neck down.
"Uh, I'm gonna," she hiked her thumb up over her shoulder but seemed to forget what she was about to say. "I, uh . . . maybe I should take one of the other rooms."
"You can if you want," Buffy replied, a bit surprised. "But this room is the warmest of the three and I'm pulling rank and keeping the blanket in here. There's no reason why you can't stay in here too. It's just to sleep."
Faith seemed to be thinking it over but eventually walked into the room without saying anything else. She kept her eyes locked on Buffy's as she began to undress, carelessly tossing her wet clothes over the bar in the closet without looking to see where they'd landed. Buffy couldn't seem to look away either and was busy mentally berating herself for being so suddenly obvious.
Dressed in only a bra and her panties, Faith walked over to the makeshift bed and slipped under the blanket but kept a respectable distance from Buffy. Buffy immediately closed her eyes like she was going to sleep but she could still hear the soft sigh Faith let out as the blanket began to warm her cold skin.
"I could use like eleven more of these blankets on me right now," Faith said, her teeth still chattering.
"You can get closer if you want to," Buffy offered. "To share body heat. It's what you're supposed to do when cold."
Faith managed to chuckle quietly. "I'm good. Besides, contrary to what I said yesterday, I don't snuggle."
"It isn't snuggling if you're doing it to live," Buffy defended and looked over at Faith, then smiled at the look Faith gave her. "Then again, we're not exactly in the north pole. I'm sure we'll be just fine."
They lay in silence for a long time, neither girl quite able to find the peace they needed to sleep. Faith was wide awake and staring up at the ceiling, or at least she was every time Buffy stole a sidelong glance over at her. Their shivering had stopped quite a while ago but they still lay there under the blanket together, unmoving.
"I'm not gonna make it through this," Faith said quietly, breaking the silence for the first time since they'd laid down.
"Yes you will," Buffy said, turning her head sideways so that she could look over at Faith.
She studied the girl's face and noticed for the first time a sense of defeat. Her confidence long gone, Faith just looked tired and young, and so, so scared.
"No, I won't," Faith breathed. She turned her head and looked over at Buffy, sadness in her eyes. "Doesn't matter if I get outta Sunnydale. They have magic on their side, B. They're always gonna look for me, and one day, they're gonna find me."
"Then we'll take them down together," Buffy replied. She reached over and grabbed Faith's hand, interlacing their fingers together and giving it a reassuring squeeze.
"I can't run forever. I ran from Boston to California and I still couldn't outrun my bad luck. Same thing's gonna happen again."
"It won't. I'm here with you now."
"How does that change anything?" Faith asked suddenly. She let go of Buffy's hand and turned on her side to face her, bringing them that much closer together. "That just puts you in as much danger as I'm in and I can't have that." Her breath caught in her throat and she swallowed loudly, then sadly shook her head. "You can't go with me, Buffy."
"You don't really have any say in what I do or don't do," Buffy said, finding her confidence. "I won't stand idly by this time. That's what happened last time and . . . I can't let that happen again."
"Because you feel guilty," Faith said rather than asked.
"Because I care about you," Buffy replied immediately, leaving no room to doubt her.
Faith moved so fast that Buffy couldn't stop her. She was suddenly right next to Buffy and hovering partially atop her, her hands braced on the floor next to either of Buffy's arms keeping her pinned there. She looked so intensely into her eyes that it took Buffy's breath away, along with any thoughts she'd had of pushing her off.
"You shouldn't," Faith breathed. Her skin was surprisingly warm already and Buffy's hands automatically found her sides, though whether it was to share her warmth or to push her away, Buffy wasn't exactly sure. "We only ever hurt each other."
"It doesn't have to be that way," Buffy said. Her palms rubbed against the smooth skin of Faith's sides to her lower back and then back to her sides. She had no control of her hands, it seemed; they were working independent of her brain that was screaming at her to realize the situation they were in; how dangerously close they were to finally doing what their bodies had always tried to do but their brains had always stopped.
Buffy couldn't think though; she could barely breathe with how intensely Faith was looking at her. Faith lowered herself down just a little and Buffy could feel her leg between hers, their skin just barely brushing together now.
"Then how can we be, Buffy?" Faith whispered. "How can I make all this better? Do I wave a magic wand around and fix it? Tell me. Just tell me and I'll do it. How do I save my life?"
"You don't," Buffy whispered, her hands sliding to Faith's arms and up them until she was cupping her face. "I do."
And for some reason she couldn't explain or even begin to work out in her own mind, she pulled Faith down until their lips were touching, tentatively at first as they were both surprised by her action, but then more assured as the seconds ticked by. She could feel Faith's breath warm against her face and she sighed when she felt Faith's tongue gently caress hers for this first time.
This was different from the kiss they'd shared in her bathroom just a few nights before. This wasn't mean or harsh or full of months of anger and hate; this was filled with everything else that had been buried beneath all of that.
This was an apology.
This was a promise.
And it was a promise that they were both enthusiastically making as Faith rested her weight down on Buffy, their tongues dueling as hands began to caress and explore. The fleece blanket was suddenly much too warm and Faith pushed it down behind her so that it rested at her waist.
Buffy sighed into Faith's mouth as Faith's hand began to explore up her side, not yet bold enough to rest over her breast but her thumb taking a quick detour on the damp material of Buffy's bra on its way up to her shoulder. Buffy's own hands were becoming bolder with every minute that passed. As Faith's lips left Buffy's and started to kiss and suck over her jaw and neck, her hands wandered down Faith's chest and over her sides. Her fingernails scraped gently up Faith's back and Faith shivered, pressing her thigh a little more fully against Buffy's center.
Buffy bit back a moan and tried to focus on something else that would keep her from babbling like a moron. When her fingertips tripped over Faith's bra clasp, she figured that was as good a spot to focus as any. She'd never taken off a bra from this angle – and not off of another person – but she managed to slip the clasp open without any trouble whatsoever.
While she took a moment to be proud at her bedroom prowess, Faith suddenly stopped kissing her neck and froze, completely unmoving. Buffy wasn't sure what was wrong but as she felt a series of hard, warm breaths against her skin, she knew that Faith was taking a moment of her own.
And it wasn't a moment to feel proud; it was a moment, apparently, to come to her senses.
"What the hell are we doing?" Faith mumbled against her skin but couldn't seem to move away.
"I don't know," Buffy admitted. Her hands found Faith's face and she pulled her up so that she could look into her eyes. She didn't expect what she saw there: sadness. Confusion.
"We can't do this, B," Faith said, shaking her head. "I can't let you . . . this can't happen."
Without waiting for Buffy to reply, Faith rolled off of her and as far away as she could possibly get without actually leaving the cover of the blanket. She pulled the blanket up so that it was covering her chest and stared at the ceiling once again, still breathing hard from their unexpected detour into R-rated territory.
Buffy lay there speechless, her lips still tingling from Faith's kiss. She glanced over at the girl who looked completely distraught and wanted nothing more than to make things okay for her for once in her life, but she couldn't. All she could do was prove to her that she wanted to help and that she would see her through this. That she wouldn't just sit back and watch anymore.
Taking a chance, she reached out between them and found Faith's hand atop the blanket. She tried to take it in hers but Faith quickly pulled away as if she'd been scorched. Faith glanced over at her, eyes full of apology.
"Sorry. It's . . . I'm all fucked up here. Let's just . . . go to sleep, okay? We'll figure it out in the mornin'."
Buffy nodded and looked down at the space between them when Faith reached out and took her hand, giving it a quick squeeze. It didn't linger though and soon Faith let go and turned on her side with her back facing toward her. Buffy stared at her back, hoping beyond hope that Faith would turn around and that they could work through . . . whatever it was that had just happened.
Faith never did turn around though. Buffy heard her breathing become steady and slow, a good indication that she'd fallen asleep. She had no idea how Faith could sleep at a time like this, especially after what had just happened between them, but she eventually settled down and tried to follow suit.
If they made it through this alive, they sure were going to have a lot to talk about.
Faith lay completely rigid and unmoving, trying to keep her breathing as steady as she had for the past hour. It was hard pretending to sleep, especially when she knew Buffy was watching her, but Buffy eventually fell asleep as well, giving Faith the opportunity she'd been waiting for since she'd been downstairs alone.
She hadn't gone upstairs with intent to sleep; she'd gone upstairs to say goodbye. Her first instinct had been to just leave quietly while Buffy had been upstairs but she couldn't do that; not when Buffy had stuck out her neck for her. She had to leave though; no way was she going to let Buffy follow her to hell and back. She was gonna get outta dodge and as far as possible from Buffy and the people she cared about. At least that way she knew they'd all be safe when the storm landed on her head. None of them were safe while she was still around.
She wasn't going to make a big deal out of it; she was just going to apologize and leave. But when she'd seen Buffy laying there all quiet and almost naked and nice and, well, almost naked, she couldn't help herself. Her feet led her into the room even while her brain was shouting at her to stop.
And well, the kissing had been . . . a complete surprise. Sure she'd gotten close to Buffy, but Buffy had initiated the kiss! She couldn't even wrap her mind around that. Two days ago there was anger and hate and now? Buffy was laying two feet away in just her underwear.
This was getting even more out of control by the minute and she had a sneaking suspicion that after what had happened between them an hour before, there was no way Buffy would just let her leave now.
And that's why she'd stopped kissing Buffy. And that's why she'd been pretending to sleep for the past hour.
And that was why she was about to sneak out in the middle of the night like a coward.
She needed to take care of things once and for all, consequences be damned, or none of the badness would ever stop. Living life terrified and on the run was not a life at all.
She had two enemies after her now; it was time to deal with at least one of them.
Slowly rolling onto her back, she looked over at Buffy who was on her side and facing her. Trying to be as quiet as possible, she moved to stand up but then rethought it. She rested down on her elbow and used her free hand to push a few strands of hair from Buffy's face, her fingertips lingering for a couple moments. She wished it didn't have to be this way, but she didn't have any other options.
"I'm sorry, B," she whispered.
After staring at her for just a second longer, she stood up from the floor and made her way to the closet. She grabbed her clothes and went out to the hallway to get dressed, not wanting Buffy to wake up. Once dressed, she looked down at the knife in her hand and sighed as she tucked it securely behind her back through her belt.
Buffy had been wrong; Faith was a killer. She just couldn't escape it.
And now it was her only way out.
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