Chapter Twenty-One

"Hot stuff comin' through!"

Buffy ducked and narrowly avoided colliding with the paper bowl of food Faith was moving from the kitchen counter to the table. They'd developed an impressive synchronicity in the small kitchen area during the week that they'd been at the cabin now. Sure there had been a few collisions and a food fight or two that resulted from them, but when Buffy and Faith worked together as a team, they were unstoppable.

She looked down at the bowl Faith placed on the table and frowned.

"Faith, salad isn't supposed to be hot. Please tell me this isn't something weird you learned from the hobos."

"I wasn't talkin' about the salad, I was talkin' about the person carrying it," Faith replied with a wink. "Why are you eatin' all that healthy junk anyway? We're on vacation."

"It's not a real vacation, and I like that healthy junk," Buffy said as she took the bowl of mixed salad and placed it on her side of the table. "Besides, Sue said it's rare that they get something like that in the general store so I snatched it up before someone else could."

"Someone else? B, we're like the only people here."

Faith carried her paper bowl of instant mac-and-cheese to the table and sat opposite Buffy, taking a few pieces of bread from the bag before passing it over.

They'd been able to get a ride into town with Charlie two days after they'd arrived and had bought a basic set of cheap pots and pans so that they could expand their menu beyond Spaghettios and soup. The small refrigerator was just big enough to hold about one week worth of groceries so they'd stocked it up with basics. It had been just about a week though so they were already running out of things and had to get some last-minute provisions from Sue at the general store.

"No we're not. There are the two families down at the bottom of the hill and the older couple in the cabin near the general store."

"And I can categorically say that no parents are evil enough to make their kids eat salad while camping. It's cruel."

"Salad is good," Buffy said with a shrug and she took a forkful and chewed happily. When she was done, she stabbed a few more leaves onto the fork and held it out for Faith. "Here, try."

Faith raised her eyebrow and looked at the fork, then up to Buffy's face. She put her hand on Buffy's wrist and pushed it back to her side of the table.


But when Buffy held the fork back out, Faith sighed and leaned in, taking a forkful of the mixed greens. She chewed slowly, making faces as she did so that clearly showed how much she wasn't enjoying it.

"Well?" Buffy asked.

Faith finished chewing and swallowed. "I feel like I'm a fuckin' rabbit."

"You look like a rabbit," Buffy said under her breath, frowning as she went back to her bowl of salad.

Faith just grinned at her, letting the lame comeback go.

They'd been getting along well for the last week and hadn't really argued at all. In fact, Buffy noticed that Faith seemed to be making a big effort to be a bit more agreeable. That didn't mean that she didn't still tease Buffy and make her a little bit crazy, but she took it down a few notches which made it much more bearable. In fact, Buffy found herself growing fond of their banter.

Their banter wasn't the only thing she was growing fond of though. With Faith's walls down, Buffy realized that she actually liked her. They laughed together, got along for the most part, and all of the past bitterness seemed to fade away. They were just two girls getting to know one another the way they should have from the very beginning.

Now she kind of understood why Willow and Xander had been so taken with her right from the start.

Of course she and Faith didn't have much choice but to talk and get to know one another now, what with the complete lack of any modern technology. No music and no TV proved for some boring evenings, though they tried to make their own fun when possible.

The days were warm and the nights were cool so they'd taken to building small fires in the fireplace every night once the sun was down. While Buffy liked to lay on the couch and read a book she'd found in the cabin, Faith preferred to sit out on the wrap-around porch and look out over the lake and mountains. Buffy occasionally joined her but found that between the bugs and questionable presence of wildlife lurking in the dark, she preferred the safety of the couch.

They continued to eat their meal in silence, completely at easy with each other. The sun was already getting low in the sky and Faith began to build the fire when she finished eating, bringing in some of the wood that Charlie had dropped off for them on their porch. Paper plates and bowls meant that they burned their trash; the only thing that ever needed washing was the silverware and pots, which Buffy usually took care of seeing as that Faith made most meals.

They hadn't talked about their kiss from that day in the lake and no more kissing had taken place since. Buffy could tell that Faith was waiting for more but she just couldn't bring herself to initiate it. She was beginning to wish she hadn't told Faith it had to be on her own terms; that gave her way too much leeway to chicken out – which she'd done any time she'd felt the pull between them.

And yes, she was feeling that pull more and more.

Another pull they both felt was the call of the slayer. Every day when night fell, they both got a little bit restless, something coiling tight within their bodies that was just begging for release.

"Another freakin' day in paradise," Faith said as she stared out the window toward the setting sun.

"All fun and no slay makes Faith a dull girl," Buffy said, grinning even though Faith's back was to her. "If it makes you feel better you can go and wrassle a bear. Can't be much more difficult than the alligator."

Faith looked at her over her shoulder, her hands still resting on the wooden window frame. "You makin fun, blondie?"

"Do I seem like the kind of person who would make fun of you?"

"Actually, yeah," Faith replied, then grinned. "But I ain't too worried ‘bout it cos I know I can take ya any day."

Buffy smiled sweetly and tossed the dish towel over to Faith. "Nice try, but you're not going to trick me into sparring. The cabin is small and we would completely destroy it."

"You're probably right," Faith replied, tossing the towel back to Buffy. "I wanna go for a run before it gets too dark, get rid of some energy. Come with me?"

Buffy knew that if she didn't agree to go, Faith couldn't go either. The one-hundred yard limit of the cloaking spell was really inconvenient sometimes. Still, she didn't feel like getting all sweaty just for the sake of getting rid of excess energy. There were better ways to do that. Ways that involved less clothing.

No, not that way. Sex wasn't on the menu.

Feeling a blush begin to creep its way on her cheeks, Buffy shook her head and tried to distract herself from those kinds of thoughts.

"Will you settle for a swim?"

Faith seemed to think about it for a moment and grinned. "If it means I get to see you in your underoos? Hell yeah."

Chuckling, Buffy placed the dish towel over the small ceramic sink and made her way across the room to the bathroom. She grabbed two big white bath towels from the shelf and came back into the main room of the cabin to find Faith eagerly waiting for her. Handing one of them to Faith, she slipped on her shoes and they made their way out of the cabin and down toward the lake. The walk only took them a few minutes and when they got there, they decided to walk further around to the one side where they usually went. It was the area with the flat rock that Buffy liked to sunbathe on and Faith liked to jump off of.

Faith immediately began to undress, eagerly stripping off her shirt and pants, leaving her in just a bra and underwear. She wasted no time in cannonballing into the lake but popped up to the surface quickly and turned around so she could make sure Buffy was following suit.

At least that's what Buffy wanted to believe she was doing. If she let herself believe that Faith was oogling her while she stripped, she'd never go through with it.

Taking off her pants and folding them up neatly, she placed them down on the rock and then made her way to the edge, sitting down carefully so that her legs dangled into the water. It was already a bit too cool for her liking but it beat running around in the woods any day. She kept her shirt on until she was ready to fully get into the cool water. Without meeting Faith's eyes, she quickly lifted it off and placed it atop her pants, then gracefully slipped into the water with only a tiny splash.

Her mouth opened as the shock of the cold hit her and she panted lightly as she treaded the dark water. The sun was so low behind the mountains now that they could no longer see it and only faint traces of pink and yellow lingered in the otherwise dark sky. The slowly appearing stars provided just enough light so that they could see the area around them easily enough with their enhanced vision.

"Don't be a baby, it ain't that cold."

"It's freezing," Buffy replied, her teeth already beginning to chatter.

"You're such a girl."

"I thought that was why you like me."

"I ain't ever been into girls before. Or I haven't fucked any, at least."

"Wow. Candid," Buffy replied, shaking her head slightly as she fought back a smile.

Faith shrugged. "You're the kind of girl that likes the truth, B. That's why it's all you'll ever get from me, even if you wish I didn't sometimes."

"So if I ask you if my butt is getting big from eating meals from a can for a week?"

"I'll tell you that your ass is still perfect, cos it is," Faith replied with a wink.

Buffy chuckled and swam out a bit further, Faith following just a few feet behind her. They stopped and treaded water, both girls looking up into the still darkening sky. It was serene, nearly perfect, so of course Buffy's mind had to drift to less perfect things. That was just how it worked, it seemed. She sighed quietly, accidentally getting Faith's attention.

"What's with the sighs?" Faith asked.

"I just have a lot on my mind," Buffy replied. "Graduation is in less than five days, the mayor is going to try to do something big and horrible, and the gang still hasn't figured out what or why or how to stop him."

Faith was quiet for a few seconds but eventually replied, "There's still time. If they don't come up with something solid in the next few days, you should probably get back. They're gonna need a slayer in case they can't stop him before then."

"I know," Buffy said, nodding gently. "But we can't go back. Not until Giles finds a way to deal with the council."

"Which he ain't gonna do in the next five days. It's time we face the facts, B: we're leaving your buds with too much shit to handle on their own. They can't find a quick fix for the council sitch when they need to focus on the mayor. They need more juice in their cannons. You gotta go."

"I'm not leaving you out here in the middle of nowhere with no protection," Buffy said.

Faith laughed, "I am my own protection, Buffy. I'm a slayer, just like you. I can hit the road until the sitch with the mayor is cleared up. Then we can deal with the council."

"No. They'll hunt you down and find you. I'm not leaving you now, Faith. We've come this far . . . it'll work out. The good guys have to catch a break for once. We're due one. I'm due one, dammit!"

Buffy was quickly losing her cool, not because of Faith but because she seemed to be losing more control every day. She was literally stuck in the middle of nowhere, her friends left behind to take care of business she should be dealing with, and Faith kept telling her to go. What was up with that?

"And another thing!" she said, her voice getting higher and louder as she went on. "Quit telling me to leave you! It's not going to happen for two reasons: one – I'm not leaving you on your own yet again; I already screwed that up enough in our past. Two – have you forgotten about this?"

She grabbed Faith and yanked her closer until Faith's hand laid flat against her chest. Faith's eyes widened for a moment as she looked down at Buffy's chest, then up to her eyes. While at first Faith had looked shocked, now she just looked a little bit confused. Rolling her eyes, Buffy elaborated.

"The cloaking spell. It's on my ribs."

"Oh," Faith replied and took what looked like a disappointed breath. "For a sec there I thought you were talkin' about your tits."

"You're impossible," Buffy groaned and Faith smiled big.

"Cos no, I'd never forget them."

"Stop talking."

"In fact, I'm thinkin' about them right now. Oh, and now," Faith said. She pursed her lips and waited for a few seconds and then added, "Yep, still now."

"I hate you."

"Yeah right. That's why you're with me in the middle of Montana, swimming in just your underwear and letting me fondle your chest."

"You realize I'm about to drown you, right?"

Faith grinned. "You have no idea how much I wanna kiss you right now."

Buffy took a breath to say something but stopped and closed her mouth, staring into Faith's eyes. Faith's gaze didn't waver but it did soften a little, as did Buffy's. This was her opening. If she wanted anything to happen . . . this was her chance. Faith had put herself out there again; she was just waiting for Buffy to act.

The ball was in Buffy's court now.

After searching within herself for nearly a minute, she finally made up her mind. She took a deep breath and steeled herself.

"So why aren't you?"

"Why aren't I what?" Faith asked, confused.

"Kissing me."

Faith could only smile. "Cos you said it has to be on your terms. Oh, and cos I kinda don't want you to drown me."

"Well maybe my terms have changed."

Faith raised her eyebrows, looking questioningly at Buffy. "Yeah?"

And for some reason, Buffy couldn't speak. She wanted to, there were words that she wanted to say, but all she could manage in the end was a nod.

That was all that Faith seemed to need.

The water sloshed around them as Faith moved forwards and put one hand behind Buffy's neck, pulling her closer until their lips met. Buffy immediately sighed into the kiss, her body finding Faith's under the water and relishing in its warmth even in the cool water. They did their best to try to stay afloat but it was difficult, especially when Faith deepened the kiss and their tongues began to duel.

They laughed as they sunk down up to their noses and had to pull apart so that they could breathe. They didn't go far though, Faith still staying within touching range so they could loosely cling to one another.

"How do they make that look so easy in the movies?" Buffy asked.

"I dunno, but I was about to go down with the ship just so I could keep kissin' you," Faith admitted with a grin.

Buffy smiled and leaned in, kissing Faith once again. The water splashed around them and they laughed, doing their best to keep their heads above the water.

"You know," Buffy began coyly, her fingers gently touching Faith's shoulder, "we don't have to be in the water to kiss."

"We don't?" Faith asked, grinning. They both knew where this was heading.

"Nope. There's a perfectly nice fire back in the cabin and if I'm not mistaken, there may even be some marshmallows for you."

Faith's eyes shone mischievously in the moonlight. "I don't think it's marshmallows I wanna eat."

Buffy nibbled on her lower lip as she looked into Faith's eyes, a small smile forming on her face.

"Well can we go inside anyways? I'm really, really freezing."

Faith laughed and nodded, taking Buffy's hand and leading her back toward the rock where their clothes were. She hopped up onto it first and grabbed a towel, then leaned down and helped Buffy up, wrapping it immediately around her. She ran her hands up and down Buffy's arms over the towel, trying to help warm her up.

Buffy surprised herself by leaning in and catching Faith's lips in another kiss, though this one was longer and deeper than the ones they'd shared before. There was nothing between them this time, nothing that would stop them from taking what they wanted. What they had probably always wanted.

"You should get your towel, you're gonna freeze to death," she murmured against Faith's lips, keeping the towel clasped as tightly around her body as she could manage.

Faith pulled back and looked into her eyes, a small grin tugging at the corner of her lips.

"Don't worry ‘bout me, B, I'm feeling plenty hot." Buffy chuckled quietly and watched as Faith leaned down, picked up her folded clothes, then handed them over. "You're freezing. Get that perfect ass of yours back to the cabin and add another log to the fire. I'll be right behind ya, just gotta get my clothes together. They're around here . . . somewhere."

Buffy laughed as she looked around and saw Faith's shirt on one rock and her pants on another rock ten feet away. Feeling the cool night air seeping in through the now wet towel, she nodded and gave Faith one last kiss before hopping back down the path as quickly as she could without her shoes on.


Faith watched Buffy bounce along for just a few seconds before beginning to gather her things. She wrapped the towel around her body and tried to dry off a little, finally starting to really feel the coldness of the night. She was just about to turn and follow Buffy when she heard a small clatter. At first she couldn't tell what it was and figured that maybe it was some kind of nearby critter, but when she looked down at her wrist, she knew immediately what it was: the bracelet.

She looked around to see where it had gone to but it was nearly impossible with the stars being the only source of illumination now. The rocks around her were enormous and had huge cracks between them, leaving way too many places where it could have gone to.

Looking over her shoulder, she could already see Buffy in the porch light of the cabin, walking up on the deck and then inside.

Not good. Definitely not good.

Feeling a wave of panic hit her, she dropped to her knees and began feeling around. The rock scraped her knees as she scrabbled around but she didn't care; she needed to find that bracelet and she needed to find it fast.

"Hey B!" she called out, hoping Buffy would come back and help her. A flashlight would be a godsend.

The seconds ticked by and the bracelet remained out of sight. She felt another wave of panic hit her, only this time it was different. Her heart began beating painfully hard and her head started swimming. She had to stop moving and close her eyes, trying to fight back the onset of dizziness. No matter how many deep breaths she took though, it didn't help.

Something was wrong.

Something was happening to her.

Bringing her hand up to her chest, she pressed hard and waited for the pain there to stop. It only grew worse though until finally it was unbearable.

"Buffy!" she called out.

She crawled a few feet down the path before her arms finally gave out from under her.

Then everything went dark.

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