Part Two - Interlude 1: December 30th
Buffy frowned at the soap suds that seemed to be migrating up her arm. She was starting to rethink her offer to wash their dinner dishes. Of course, she'd scored some brownie points with her mother; but her primary motivation had been to delay leaving for patrol as long as possible. The offer had been made in haste and was obviously a poor choice. Grease was stuck under her fingernails and some sort of scummy residue coated her wrists. She turned on the faucet, quickly dumping some more dishwashing liquid over her hands. And then up her arms for good measure. She wasn't looking forward to spending quality alone time with Faith, but it was still preferable to the disgustingness in this sink. Absently, she began to write her name with her finger in the soap film on her left arm.
"Honey," Joyce popped her head through the kitchen doorway. "Faith's here."
Buffy looked up in alarm to see the other slayer sauntering into the kitchen.
"Yo, B, I--" Faith paused to sweep her eyes over Buffy's soap masterpiece. "Uh, what are you doing?"
"The dishes!" The blonde shoved her arms back under the flowing water, washing away the evidence.
"Huh." The other slayer replied. "Okay then."
Switching off the tap, Buffy began toweling off. The entire front of her shirt had become soaked. Wonderful. "What are you doing here?" She asked crossly.
"Thought we could patrol together." Faith's tone took on a hint of annoyance.
"Oh. Right." Buffy plucked at her wet shirt in disgust. "Let me just get changed first."
The other girl followed her upstairs without an invitation, dropping herself casually across Buffy's bed.
"Don't put your boots on my bed." The brunette made an exaggerated display of holding her feet above the bedspread. Satisfied, Buffy turned to rifle through her dresser. She found a thermal shirt and quickly yanked her wet t-shirt over her head.
"How's the chest?" Faith's husky voice was right beside her and the blonde jumped, startled.
"It's almost gone."
The other slayer's eyes slid across the faint remaining purple line marring Buffy's torso. "Yeah," Faith agreed, raising her fingertip gently to the bruise. The blonde stood silently while Faith cautiously traced the tender mark. A little wrinkle formed between her brown eyes as she studied the line. She looked up to be greeted with Buffy's probing hazel eyes and quickly let her hand fall back to her side. "You'll be fine."
"Thanks, doc." Buffy replied sarcastically. "Can I put my shirt on now?"
Shrugging indifferently, Faith sat back down to wait. It was going to be a long night.
As a general rule, not a whole lot happened around this time of year. At least it hadn't in the time since Buffy had been called. She wasn't particularly surprised that they hadn't run into much action even though they'd already been through eight of the cemeteries in town. In spite of this, the amount of conversation between them seemed to be at an all-time low. If Faith felt as uncomfortable as Buffy did, the blonde slayer couldn't tell. The other girl was strolling along beside her, stake casually protruding from her waistband. Her shoulders were relaxed; her eyes roaming the empty ninth graveyard disinterestedly. Occasionally she'd sneak a glance at Buffy. But she didn't seem to be on the verge of bursting as Buffy did.
The blonde scrutinized the terrain in front of them, desperately hoping to find some errant vampire or demon in need of slaying. In spite of the break in tension between them the night before when they'd both been injured, she wasn't exactly bubbling over with things to say to Faith. She wasn't mad anymore, but a part of her was still hurt by the other slayer's outburst on Christmas Eve. It wasn't as though Buffy had a great track record when it came to relationships. Angel had been wonderful, really the best first boyfriend a girl could want. Until he'd gone evil and tried to destroy the world. That kind of thing tended to make a girl a little gun shy about hopping into another relationship.
But with Faith, she felt (had felt, she reminded herself) like maybe they could work. There was the obvious fact that the brunette was also a slayer, so there was little chance that sleeping with her would awaken a vicious demon out to ruin Buffy's life. But there was other stuff. Like the little smile she'd get after they kissed. And her incredibly raunchy and inappropriate jokes that Buffy said annoyed her, but secretly kind of amused her. And there was definitely some undeniable sparkage happening between them. It had taken their first awkward kiss for her to realize it, but once she'd seen it… Well, she'd pretty much thrown caution to the wind and let things with Faith progress at their own pace. True, it wasn't exactly the scenario she'd envisioned on the few occasions she'd been able to think about life after Angel. But it felt good. Right even. So much so that she'd told her friends about them. Just so that Faith could throw it back in her face later.
And now Faith was acting like she was perfectly relaxed! Walking along over there like she didn't have a care in the world. While Buffy was feeling vaguely nauseous and awkward and annoyed and kind of like she wanted to kiss Faith and then punch her in the face. She kept trying to tell herself that ending things with Faith now was for the best. She didn't want to get more invested if the other slayer was just going to do something else to hurt her. Only, it was hard to remember that resolution when the brunette was right next to her.
"Alright, B." Faith's sighed words broke into her thoughts. "What's up with you?"
"Nothing." Buffy replied automatically. "What're you talking about?"
"You haven't said two words all night."
"That's not true! I said 'duck' when that vamp was behind you and later I said 'yeah right' when you said you could have beaten him with one hand tied behind your back."
"You know what I mean." Faith grumbled.
Shrugging, Buffy kept her gaze searching around them, even as they neared the edge of the graveyard.
"You still mad?"
The blonde hesitated. "No."
"Yeah, you are." Faith stopped walking, folding her arms in front of her stomach. "I know you are. Just tell me."
Buffy stopped too, facing her fellow slayer reluctantly. "I'm not mad anymore. Things are just kind of weird right now." She unconsciously mirrored Faith's crossed arms. "We were, uh," Buffy struggled to find the words, her cheeks pinkening. "Doing whatever we were doing… And now we're not. But it'll get less weird."
"Yeah," Faith squeezed her hands against her arms and took a tentative step closer. "Look, B, about that… I—oomph!" The brunette slayer found herself tackled to the ground, her companion lying on top of her. "Buffy, what the he—"
Buffy would have laughed at the shock and outrage obvious in Faith's eyes after she'd slapped her hand over the other girl's mouth, but the situation was a little more serious than that. "Vampires." She whispered urgently, releasing Faith's mouth.
"So what?" The brunette hissed. "You trying to make their job easier by taking me down first?"
Glaring, Buffy rolled into a squat, peering out from behind the bushes. "I repeat, vampires."
Faith sat up, gazing past the blonde. There was a group of at least a dozen vampires stalking across the cemetery in the distance. "Shit." She whistled lowly.
"Maybe there's a nest nearby."
Faith looked over at her. "Still not understanding why you tackled me."
"There's like fifteen of them." Buffy said slowly. "We can't take them all at once."
The brunette slayer snorted. "So you wanna hide in the bushes."
"No," The blonde gritted her teeth. "I want to see where they're going and come back with reinforcements."
The group of vampires was approaching a nearby crypt. The vamp in the lead swung open the heavy door and slipped inside. "Screw this." Faith muttered and quickly got back to her feet. She was able to take one step before the other slayer's arms wrapped around her knees and yanked her back down.
"We're not going to fight them now." Buffy reiterated once Faith was back on the ground.
"You gonna stop me, Twinkie?"
"We both know I can."
"That so?" Faith smiled. "Guess I'll just give up now then. Oh, wait," She kicked out, knocking the other slayer away from her. She tried scrambling back to her feet, but Buffy had already recovered and was coming at her.
The blonde dropped on her from the side, her elbow connecting sharply with Faith's temple. "For once, can you just back off?"
Shaking her head, Faith backhanded her. "For once, can you just grow a pair?"
Buffy was knocked sideways, no longer pinning Faith down. "Get back down here!" She demanded as Faith began to climb to her feet.
"No!" Faith insisted, standing up fully. "Now come with me or don't but I'm gonna—oh crap."
"What?" The blonde hastened to her feet.
"Looks like we've been spotted." Several vampires were now making haste to reach the slayers and more had joined their ranks than before.
"Well this is just great!" Buffy shouted, as she turned and began to run toward the woods bordering the cemetery. "You couldn't just hide with me!"
Faith was at her heels. "Shut up and run! The bastards are chasing us!"
Buffy ran at top speed into the forest ahead. The trees weren't too thick in this area and Faith was able to pull abreast of her. Behind them, she could hear the heavy footfall of the vampires bearing down on them. Pushing her muscles, she ran faster. The other slayer was keeping pace with her, her wild brown hair streaming out behind her. Soon they had run far enough that this area of the woods was unfamiliar, and it was almost too dark for even her enhanced eyes to see. When a fallen tree trunk blocked her path, Buffy was caught off guard. She tried to jump it, but nicked her heel on the trunk and started to fall forward.
The first shiver of unexpected fear ran through Faith's heart as she watched her fellow slayer struggling to regain her footing. Unfortunately, it was a feeling that wasn't unfamiliar to her. Slayers only occasionally had cause to experience real mortal fear, but in her short tenure as one of the chosen two, the brunette had seen her watcher murdered, been chased across the country by an ancient master vampire, and lured powerless into a battle by the Watchers' Council. The feeling of raw, unadulterated fear was growing a little too commonplace for comfort. Desperately, she reached out toward Buffy as the blonde sailed toward the ground. Her hand caught the back of the other girl's shirt and she yanked upward. Back in a vertical position, Buffy quickly regained her speed and shot a grateful, if tense, smile at Faith.
The two raced on. Sensing that they were narrowing in on the girls, the vampires behind them were pushing themselves even harder. "Fuck," Faith gasped out. "Was hoping we would lose them."
Buffy muttered her agreement. She was starting to get worried. They were just beginning to get winded but as strong as the slayers were, even they couldn't hold out forever. They needed to get away somehow. They were running by a rocky hill now, and the trees were starting to grow thicker, making their path more treacherous. From the corner of her eye, Buffy saw a spot where the hill was darker than the majority of its face. Was that some sort of indentation? Somewhere they could hide? Reaching out, she gripped Faith's wrist and yanked her around so they were running almost back in the direction they had come.
"Are you crazy?" The brunette shrieked, starting to slow her pace.
"No! Just trust me!"
Faith looked nervous, but she followed as Buffy darted toward the area she'd seen. Sure enough there was a crevice, barely big enough for someone small to squeeze through. It looked like it expanded further back but she couldn't be sure. Maybe there was only enough room for one.
"Come on, they went this way!" The closest vampire shouted.
"Shit." Buffy grabbed Faith's shoulder and shoved her forward. "Get in."
Faith had obviously come to the same conclusion about their potential hiding spot as Buffy had. "No, you. I'll find something else."
"Faith!" The blonde hissed, shoving her harder. "I'm right behind you, just go."
Faith spared her a worried glance and then ducked down, squeezing into the little space. "You'd better be." She warned.
The blonde slayer followed her, just as the first of their pursuers passed close enough for her to hear his breathing. As she came through the jagged rock opening, a pair of warm arms encircled her waist and pulled her upright. "Think they saw us?" Faith's breath was close to her ear.
"I don't know. I don't think so." Finding the brunette's arms, she gripped one of Faith's sleeves and started to move further into the hollow space. It was mostly dark inside, but she could make out dim shapes. From the echo of their whispers, it seemed to be a fairly large cavern.
Faith peered around them. "Look," She said quietly, "is that light over there?"
The other slayer glanced around. There did seem to be a brighter area to their right.
"Let's check it out." The brunette's fingers found the hand still holding onto her sleeve and she slipped her palm into Buffy's.
Cautiously they crept away from the main cavern toward the less dark area. After several long minutes, the cavern was becoming dramatically lighter. Now they could see some of their surroundings. The top of the space was a few feet above their heads and looked to be made of dark reddish brown mud. The walls were unadorned by any distinguishing features.
"Well, that's kind of creepy." Faith's muttering redirected the blonde's attention.
Buffy's eyes followed where Faith was pointing, to a large clump of branches and rags. "Uh, that looks like a nest."
"Yep." The dark slayer's voice was trepidatious. "Don't think I wanna know what belongs in it."
"Maybe we should just…" Buffy took a step back, tugging the other slayer after her.
A quiet cry filled the small chamber.
Raising her eyebrow, Faith leaned forward, trying to peer into the nest. "Doesn't sound so big and bad."
"Then why don't you go take a look?"
"Fine." The brunette took a few self-assured steps closer to the pile in the corner. Drawing up next to it, she nudged it none too gently with her shoe.
The bundle shifted slightly, emitting a sharper wail. "Quit crying and get out here so I can kick your ass." Faith ordered it impatiently. When the cries continued, she knelt down and yanked at the crude pile. A chunk of rags peeled back and the slayer's hand stilled. She sat back on her haunches. "Huh." She murmured.
"What?" Buffy asked.
"Think you better come over here, B. This looks like more your expertise."
Rolling her eyes, the blonde started over. "What's that mean—oh."
The two slayers stared down at what appeared to be a human baby dressed in a grubby pair of pajamas. "This is not my area of expertise." Buffy stated definitively, as the baby began to fuss again.
"More yours than mine."
"No. Definitely not."
"Come on, B. It looks upset or something, just pick it up."
"No!" Buffy insisted. "My last babysitting experience didn't go so well."
Faith's lips twitched in an effort to keep from smiling. "Do I want to know?"
"No, you don't." She glanced at the infant in concern. "What are we going to do with it?"
"I'm kinda concerned with how it got out here. And when something's coming back for it."
Buffy nodded grimly. The baby had obviously been brought here by something. It was up to them to rescue it before that something came back. It had stopped its little displeased murmurs and had instead rammed its dirty fist into its mouth, sucking delightedly. Wrinkling her nose, Buffy turned to Faith. "The vampires are probably gone. We should get back, talk to Giles."
The idea of talking to the watcher made Faith sneer. "You can talk to Giles."
"Fine," The blonde agreed. "But you're carrying the baby then."
"A deal's a deal!" Buffy called delightedly, already disappearing into the darkness of the main cavern.
Looking down at the baby, Faith offered it a tentative smile. It stared back for a moment, and then abruptly stopped sucking its fingers and started sniffling. "Buffy!" Faith called out. "Get back here!"
"Can't you carry him for a while?" Faith trudged along behind her counterpart, holding the baby uncomfortably.
"Her? I don't fucking know. It's wearing green."
"That's unisex. You could check, you know."
Faith stared incredulously at the back of Buffy's head. "Junior here doesn't smell too good, B. I ain't looking in there."
Buffy grinned back over her shoulder, leading their way through the moonlit woods. Their trek was silent, aside from Faith's grumbling and the occasional pleased gurgling of the baby. Gradually the trees became fewer and more widely spaced. Buffy dropped back to walk beside the brunette. "Where do you think he came from?" She wondered.
Faith shrugged, twisting her head away from the baby's groping fingers. "Dunno."
"I mean, shouldn't there be people out here looking for him?"
The child's little fingers successfully grasped a handful of Faith's hair, tugging it down toward him. She frowned at him and swatted his arm down gently. "Dunno."
"What if someone abandoned him?"
Undeterred by the slayer's attempts to keep his hands from her, the baby lifted sticky fingers to her face, managing to lodge one chubby digit into her nose. Faith snorted in shock and grabbed his hand. "Maybe." She muttered back.
"We should probably just take him to a police station or something then."
"Uh-huh." Faith frowned at the little tyke who had now hooked his fingers in the neckline of her shirt and pulling on it merrily. Awkwardly, she flipped him around so he was facing outward from her body. His angry cry finally got Buffy's attention.
"What are you doing to him?"
"Me?" Faith glared down at his little melon head. "He's the one who can't keep his hands to himself."
"He's a baby, Faith." The blonde shook her head at her companion.
"He's still handsy."
"Aww," Buffy teased. "He likes you. Little… Joey likes you."
"Yeah, he looks like a Joey."
"All babies look like Joeys because Joey is like the most boring name ever."
"What do you want to name him then?" The blonde huffed.
Hoisting the baby into the air in front of her, Faith looked at his face curiously. "How about Lucas?"
"Lucas." Buffy repeated, testing it out on her tongue.
"Yeah." The brunette pulled the baby back against her side. "Luke."
"Luke. I like it." Smiling the blonde, laughed. "I hope he's actually a boy."
The brunette watched Buffy from the corner of her eye for several long minutes. Things between them felt pretty good at the moment. The absurdity of finding a baby in a cave after being chased by a group of vamps had broken down the tension. But Faith knew it was only a temporary reprieve. She was starting to seriously consider Cordelia's advice about just telling Buffy how she felt.
The main problem with that was that she wasn't exactly sure what that was. The basic information was there, it was the translation from random thoughts into something that made sense that was eluding her. What she did know for sure was that the less than two weeks that she'd spent with the other slayer, getting to kiss her and hold her, being on the receiving end of Buffy's attention and her concern, had been… well pretty fucking great actually. And in the week since Faith had gone and fucked things up she'd been miserable. As annoying and self-righteous and arrogant as the other slayer could be, there was no denying that there was something about the little blonde that just did it for Faith. Cordy had called it love but that was not, Faith told herself sternly, what it was. Faith Lehane didn't do love. She did lust. She did lust a lot. She did one night stands and she did getting some and getting gone.
But damn it, she missed the other slayer. Missed the easy way they'd been beginning to talk to each other. Missed the way Buffy's brow wrinkled in concern as she checked Faith over for obvious wounds. Missed the other girl's eyelashes fluttering against her cheek. And fuck, Buffy was a good kisser. Faith missed kissing her. Missed her twitchy awkwardness and her made up Buffy words.
Buffy glanced curiously over at her. "You okay?"
Faith jiggled the quiet baby in her direction. "Just busy playing nanny."
"Right." The blonde smiled a little as they finally stepped back into the cemetery they'd started out in.
"B… what I wanted to say before..." Faith began.
Buffy raised a warning palm, her body tense as she scanned the surroundings. "We need to get through here fast. We can't exactly fight with Luke here."
Faith sighed internally even as she agreed out loud. So much for telling Buffy how she felt.
By the time they arrived at Giles's door, Faith's mood had deteriorated even further. Buffy had practically dragged her the last block, while still refusing to carry the baby. The blonde slayer knocked now, giving Faith a pleading look. "I'll do the talking, okay? Just… try not to hit him."
"No promises." Faith smirked dourly.
Giles opened the door cautiously, his hair rumpled and clad in a t-shirt and lounge pants. Buffy goggled at him for a moment.
"Buffy." He greeted in surprise. "Faith." His gaze wandered curiously over the alert and gurgling Lucas. "Err, come in." The watcher stepped back and Faith reluctantly followed the other slayer inside. She granted the watcher a flash of teeth that qualified more as a threat than a smile.
Giles led the way to his living room and gestured for them to be seated. Buffy immediately launched into the tale of their evening. Already familiar with the circumstances that had led them here, the brunette shifted the baby across her knees, settling him so he could lay in the indentation between her thighs. Luke stared up at her with interest and, having nothing better to do, Faith looked back.
Buffy finished filling the watcher in on how they'd come into possession of the young child, and Giles had begun rifling through some papers on his desk. "Can you describe the err, nest, I believe you called it?"
Shrugging, the blonde frowned. "It was very… nesty."
"Nesty." The librarian deadpanned. "Yes, well, anything else you can tell me?"
Buffy wracked her brain for more detail. "It was mostly branches and leaves, with bits of fabric." Behind them, the baby sneezed.
"Uh, B?" Faith's voice called nervously.
"Do you know what type of branches?" Giles continued, writing down Buffy's information.
"Yeah, I recognized them from all those extra credit hours I spent in the 4-H club."
Giles looked at her expectantly.
"Giles." Buffy was exasperated. "No. Why would I know that?"
"Buffy…" Faith tried again to interrupt.
The watcher pinched the bridge of his nose. "Most people are familiar with at least the trees commonly found in their area."
"Well, I've been a little busy with—"
"Buffy!" The brunette slayer's voice was loud enough that both Buffy and Giles turned to her in surprise.
Faith was standing beside the couch and she gestured down to the baby, whom she'd left lying against the back of the sofa.
"Oh…" Was all Giles could manage as all three stared down at the infant. Luke smiled happily, oblivious to the fact that his skin was now green with tiny blue spikes protruding from his chubby face.
"I'm sure I've seen it somewhere…" The librarian sat at his desk, muttering to himself while flipping through a particularly ancient looking book.