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Safe As Kittens

by Bobbi Manuel

"Prison Fic" Challenge:

Rated: NC-17
Dedication: My thanks to everybody who read my story, and my wicked crazy gratitude to everyone who gave me feedback. It doesn't get any cooler than writing, posting and then finding out that somebody's reading along and actually being entertained. That continues to be nothing but amazing to me, and I can't thank you guys enough for making me feel like a million bucks : )

I want to thank the usual suspects: Kelly, Frass, and ABC for their friendship and never ending encouragement and support. I feel like this is your story as much as it is mine…but it's not and I still want all of the praise for it. But all of the mistakes and typos and screw-ups, those are on you guys, all the way : ) : )

To Sal, my beta and friend, I bow, prostrate, and humble myself. You are an amazing editor, but it's your friendship that I value most of all. Thank you so much for staying at your post despite the fact that life has been way less than kind to you lately. You're nothing but a joy and an inspiration. The semi-colons are on me.

And finally, to the Mighty Oral. *sigh* Once again this story is dedicated to you. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but this straight girl is so totally "Ginawhipped".

Oh well, it turns out I can live with that…quite happily. xxxooo

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Chapter One


Faith was lying on her bunk staring at the wall next to her bed, and she barely moved at the sound of the guard's voice.

"Get down here!"

She didn't want to respond, hoping against hope if she stayed still he'd just let it slide. She knew it was Eddie and he was a decent guy, but he'd already given her the order five times. Any of the other guards would have just come in by now, hauled her off her bed and given her a beating. With a few of them, she'd probably even have been on her way to the hole, especially if it'd been one of the female guards she was dealing with.

They were mean bitches, always looking for a way to hand out pain, kind of like the nuns Faith remembered from her days in Catholic school. Eddie wasn't like that. He was tough, but he was fair and he actually gave a shit about the inmates. Still, rules were rules and Eddie didn't take kindly to being disrespected.

"Lehane, get your ass down here…now!"

She sighed and rolled over, hopping down gracefully before she made him do something they'd both regret.

"Yeah, fine. Happy now?"

The door buzzed as it slid open, and Faith finally lifted her head, shaking her hair back from her disinterested eyes as she prepared to go wherever the fuck she had to go. She had no clue what the special occasion was, she hadn't had a visitor in almost four months. Not since she'd finally gotten rid of Angel for good, and not since she'd refused to see her latest lawyer.

She just wanted to be left alone now, and talking about redemption, appeals, and other shit that involved a happy future she'd never have and didn't deserve, well, she was all done with that.

"Get in."

Faith saw what was happening, her mind was just having trouble processing it.

Buffy Summers was walking into the cell, decked out in the finest in prison wear and carrying her meager state issue possessions.

"Okay, no killing her, Lehane."

He called out:

"Lock'em down!"

 The door slid shut again, locking the Slayers inside their cozy home.

"It's just until dinner, let her get acclimated. You girls play nice."

He left them standing where they were, Faith speechless and more confused than she'd ever been in her life. It was Buffy who broke the spell, walking past Faith to place her stuff down on the tiny shelf that pretended to be a desk, then moseying the six steps it took to stand by the bunk beds.

"I'd ask you for the grand tour, but I think I've already seen it all, especially the bathroom. God, that's not going to be pleasant."

"What the…what the fuck are you doing here?"

Buffy was still staring in horror at the toilet:

"There's just no way that pictures can do it justice."

Faith grabbed Buffy by the arm and swung her around to face her, her eyes intense and angry:

"I asked you what the fuck this is."

"What does it look like, Faith?"

"Like I hit my head or the mac and cheese didn't agree with me."

Buffy pulled her arm loose:

"I suppose either of those things could be true, but they've got nothing to do with me being here."

"Stop fucking around and tell me what the fuck is going on!"

"I guess you could say I'm kinda undercover."

"`Undercover'. Like what, some lame episode of `Jumpstreet 21'?"

"Hey, I love that show, at least the Johnny Depp years."

Faith ran her hand through her hair in frustration.

"Just cut the crap and lay it out."

Buffy's somewhat playful demeanor disappeared, replaced by a Slayer serious look that Faith was quite accustomed to.

"I'm here because we're worried about you."

"We? Who's `we'?"

"Giles, Angel, and me."

Faith looked disbelieving:

"You're worried?"

"Well what did you think, Faith? You've refused to see anyone for four months and the reports from in here haven't been good."

"So what the fuck's it to you?"

"That's the million dollar question, isn't it?"

Faith looked lost:

"Not in the mood, so stop dancin' around, Buffy."

"Fine, in simple terms here it is: you are not going to pull this."

"Pull what?"

Buffy was gliding her hand along the rough blanket on Faith's bunk:

"You're not going to self-destruct."

Faith laughed, short and bitter:

"Think that's already happened, `sides, how do I put this, B? You're not the boss of me."

"Apparently I am."

"In your dreams, bitch."

Buffy smiled, the kind of smile that instantly made Faith uneasy.

"Oh, so you wanna talk about your dreams, Faith? And here I was all positive you wouldn't want to."

"W…what are…I don't know what the hell you're talking about."


For a moment Faith looked panicked, but she covered quickly:

"You're not staying here."

"That's not your decision to make."

"The fuck it's not!"

She grabbed onto the bars:


There was no response.



He sauntered down the hall to stand in front of her.

"I want her outta here."

"Yeah? Bet you'd like you outta there too."

"Don't dick around. You know I bunk alone."

He looked apologetic:

"Sorry, it's outta my hands. She's been assigned to your cell for the long haul, Warden's orders."

"Since fucking when?"

"Since fucking today."

Faith's fist slammed against the bars, hard enough to cause Eddie to take an involuntary step back, his hand falling to his nightstick. He liked the young woman in front of him, she'd saved his life and risked her own in doing it, but he also knew how dangerous she truly was.

"I don't like cell mates."

With her face contorted into a snarl like it was and her voice murmuring low and deadly, Eddie wasn't exactly being put at ease by her.

"I know that, and if it was up to me…"

"Get her outta here or I'm gonna."

"I can't, Faith, and neither can you. C'mon, why don't you just give her a chance? She's little and pretty, she's gonna need some protection, `specially from Frankie."

"Not my problem. I want her gone."

He shook his head as he turned to go:

"Well, it's not my problem either. And don't try any of your crazy shit."


He ignored her and walked away, and Faith hit the bars with enough force to bend one just slightly.


"It looks like we're stuck here."

"Shut up, Buffy. There's all kindsa things I can…"

"Right, so what's the big plan? Gonna get yourself thrown into solitary again? Well go ahead, I'll still be here when you get out."

"Yeah? How `bout I beat the shit outta you instead? Send your ass to the infirmary for a week."

Buffy laughed and sat down on the lower bunk:

"Um, in the unlikely event you could actually manage to do that, I'd be coming right back here when I got out. We're roomies, so deal."

"This isn't a country club, Blondie. It's a fucking prison and you shouldn't be here."

"Thanks for the concern, F, but since you've decided to go all suicidal…"

"I'm not suicidal!"

Buffy examined the bed, then laid back on it, her face clearly expressing her distaste:

"Call it whatever you want, I'm here because of how you've been acting. You were scaring Angel and now you've cut him off completely."

"Angel's fuckin' irritating and I got sick of listening to his bullshit."

"Then your lawyer told you he could get your sentence reduced, maybe even overturned and you…"

"Guy was a dipshit, shinin' me on to keep takin' Soulboy's money."

"Maybe, but then the new lawyer said the same thing and she was working for free as a favor to…"

Faith kicked at the wall and began pacing:

"Bitch is a cunt. Probably just wants in Angel's pants."

"Uh-huh, right. Hey, are all of the blankets this scratchy or is this a new one? Because when you think about it, I can totally live with scratchy if I don't have to imagine some other woman doing…you know, `things' while she…"

Faith strode over to the bed, bent down and grabbed Buffy by the shoulders. She pulled hard, yanking her out and up to her feet, their faces just inches apart:

"Get the fuck out of here, Buffy."



"I can't, I'm the responsible Slayer, remember? This is my job, so if you want me to leave you're going to have to start trying again."

Faith didn't speak, her breath escaping in sharp, angry blasts.

"I don't want you here."

"Too bad, I'm staying."

They stood in silence and finally Buffy had had enough:

"I'd suggest you let go of me now before you find yourself heading to the infirmary."

Faith's grip tightened as she fought to get her herself under control. It wasn't fast enough for Buffy and she leaned in closer to Faith:

"Okay then, give us a kiss."

Faith let go instantly, startled as she shoved Buffy backwards.


She turned, slamming her fist into the wall, knocking out a tiny dent in the concrete and leaving a small smear of blood behind when the skin ripped at her knuckles. She struggled to slow her breathing, resting her hot forehead on the cool stone as she tried to block out what was happening.

Buffy Summers was standing in her cell and Buffy Summers wasn't going anywhere.

The Slayers each lay on their own bunks, Faith refusing to say a word. Buffy took the hint and remained silent, but when dinner time finally rolled around two and a half hours later, she was looking forward to escaping from the claustrophobic tension caused by sharing a cell with an angry Faith.

As she hadn't gone through the normal orientation so graciously provided by the prison, Buffy had no clue what was expected of her when she heard the rustling of prisoners stirring and felt the heavy expectancy in the air. She knew it was around dinner time, but she had no idea what that actually entailed.

Buffy got up off her bed when Faith hopped down, and she had to ask her twice before Faith would grudgingly answer:

"Just be ready when the door opens. We stand in line for the count, then head for the chow hall."

"Okay, that sounds easy enough."

Faith sighed, rubbing her hands over her eyes as she turned to face Buffy:

"Nothing's easy here. Gotta watch your back every second. Plus you're new. Stick close, they won't fuck with you as much then."

"Slayer here, Faith, I think I can handle myself."

"Yeah, but they don't know that. You look like a `fuck all you can' buffet, B. You're small and pretty, bitches are gonna be all over you."

"And then I'll get them off of me."

"But ya don't need a trip to the hole and ya don't need a beatin'. For once in your life, will ya just do what I tell ya? Stay close, I got a rep and that'll help."

The call went out and the cells slid open. They all fell in line and after a couple of minutes they were told to move out. Buffy walked next to Faith, but soon found herself jerked back a couple of steps.

"Hey baby, where'd you come from?"

A large, tough looking woman wearing a headband and a mullet, as well as cut-off sleeves revealing her big arm muscles, was leering in Buffy's face.

"Nowhere near you."

"Yeah? Want me to show ya how near to me you can…"

She was shoved back hard, bouncing off the railing that separated the walkway from the two flight drop.

"Hands off, Deb. She's mine."

Deb's hands went up in immediate surrender:

"Sorry, Faith. I didn't know you'd already claimed her."

"Now ya do, so beat it."

With a nod, Debbie took off for the stairway and the other women filed past them without a word.

"Wow, you weren't kidding. What was that, like ten seconds?"

"Fuck B, look in a mirror. Not every day someone lookin' like you strolls in."

"Was that a compliment?"

Faith scowled at her and looked like she was going to punch her:

"Just fucking pay attention. Not gonna hold your hand for ya."

Without another word they headed into the noisy cafeteria. There were four guards present and a long line of other inmates. Faith grabbed her hand and went up towards the front, sliding in front of a short but tough looking Hispanic woman.

"Thanks for the place hold, Juanita."

"You got it, Boss. Hey, who's the powder puff?"

Buffy turned to face her:

"Hi, I'm Buffy."

"'Buffy'? Your name's `Buffy'? HAHAHA!!! Fuck Faith, why don't ya just stick a bulls-eye on her and call it a day?"

Faith didn't comment, but Buffy did and she was clearly irritated:

"I can handle myself just fine...Juanita."

Juanita just kept right on laughing:

"Yeah, and if you're lucky, you'll be the only one doin' the handling. Where'd you find her, Faith?"

"In my cell. Here, B."

She handed Buffy a tray and slid her own along the metal railing as she began receiving the meal being served up one disgusting dish at a time. When she got to the meat area, the mean looking woman behind the counter lit up.

"How's it going, Faith?"

"It's goin'. How much longer `til the world stops spinnin'?"

"Just nine more days. Did I tell you she's already got her job all lined up?"

"Only like six times, but who's countin'?."

The lunch lady laughed as she handed a large, delicious looking steak to Faith that was almost as big as the plate it was presented on.

"I'm really proud of her."

"And ya oughta be. The kid's makin' it big time."

"She really is and it's all thanks to you."

Faith actually looked embarrassed:

"Whatever. Wonder if you got somethin' better for this one?"

She gestured at Buffy and the woman…"Mary"…according to her nametag, looked Buffy up and down before her eyes returned to Faith:


"Sorta. She eats way more than it looks, so was hopin' maybe…"

Another huge, mouthwatering steak was handed to Buffy.

"Any friend of yours. You be good to Faith, sweetie."

"I will be, I promise."

"Hey bitches, wanna move it so I can get my delicious baby cat chop for dinner?"

Juanita was obviously joking, but she was also pushing on Buffy slightly as she tried to move her along. Faith glanced back at her:

"Keep your fuckin' tampon in. Thanks, Mare."

"Wish I could do more."

They slid along, getting some potatoes, some unidentified fruit swimming in some mystery sauce, some stringy, slimy green beans, and then the stalest looking piece of cake Buffy had ever seen. It looked like Buffy's fourth grade science experiment.

"So what was that all about?"


"With Mary, Faith."


Faith grabbed two cartons of milk, placing one on Buffy's tray and then heading off to a table in the corner. She sat down with her back to the wall and Buffy sat down next to her. Juanita joined them and then two black women and a white girl approached:

"Who's the new fish?"

Faith didn't even bother to look up:

"Name's Buffy. Spread the word she's mine, yeah?"

The bigger of the two black women: Large Marge, chuckled as she sat down and began eating.

"Fuck, a piece that fine, word's already all over the place."

"Spread it more. Prefer not to have a buncha shit go down."

They all nodded and began eating in what was an unmistakably tense silence. It wasn't long before the other convicts started sharing looks between them about the dark cloud that was Faith, but no one dared to speak up until Buffy decided she'd had enough:

"So Faith, what happened with Mary?"

"Leave it."

"I don't wanna leave it."

Every head at the table snapped up at Buffy's words and the tone in which she'd said them. Faith's jaw was clenched and she was visibly furious as her eyes met Buffy's:

"…B, less you wanna throw down right here, shut the fuck up. We'll talk later."

It was a struggle, but Buffy remained quiet. She knew she had to respect the pecking order, at least in public, if she wanted to get along with Faith. Giles had explained it all in great detail. Great, great detail, but it still wasn't easy to just let Faith throw her weight around. Besides the fact that it was Faith's behavior that had them in the unpleasant situation they were now in, Buffy wasn't used to kowtowing to anyone, least of all Faith.

But she kept her mouth closed, even breaking the staring contest they had going to "meekly" return her attention to her food. Faith continued glaring at her for several seconds before she finally began eating as well. Once she did, the rest of the table followed suit, the relief palpable among the other women.

The peace and quiet didn't last long. Five large and clearly unfriendly women approached the table. One stood way too close, her eyes all over Buffy:

"And who do we have here?"

There was no doubt that she was the leader. Arrogant, big, tough, and Buffy had seen kinder eyes on demons.

"She's mine, Frankie, so waddle your fat ass back over to your table."

"Why don't we let the lady decide who she likes better?"

"Because I make the decisions."

"Fuck you, Lehane."

"Not if I'm breathin'."

Frankie laughed, but there was no amusement in it:

"Sooner or later bitch, you're gettin' paid back and I'm gonna make sure you're breathing for it."

Faith looked up:

"Yeah, `cause that worked so well for you last time. What'd ya lose, five of your best bitches?"

"I've got plenty more."

"Trust me, you start somethin' again, this time I'm takin' you out for good. Now back the fuck off `fore you and this fork get acquainted."

Frankie didn't move and Faith got to her feet.

Two of the guards began moving towards them, and while it agitated everyone else, neither Faith nor Frankie seemed to care.

"Fine bitch, but after I'm done with you, I'm gonna show your little girl there what it's all about. Then my crew can have what's left of her."

With a wink she blew Buffy a kiss as she walked off, her thugs going with her. Faith sat back down and began eating again as the guards returned to their original posts with a gruffly yelled:

"Settle down over there!"

With the dust settled, the group at the table resumed their meal as if nothing had happened. Buffy of course, had questions:

"So that was Frankie?"

Faith glanced at her, still pissed and wanting her to shut up:

"Yeah, that's why I fuckin' called her `Frankie'."

Juanita took pity on Buffy:

"So Buffy, what are you in for?"

Buffy pulled her eyes from Faith with difficulty, deciding it was best not to push it for now. She looked around at the other women:

"I assaulted someone."

Juanita couldn't stop the laugh that blew out of her.

"You `assaulted' someone? What, were standing on somebody's shoulders when you did it?"

"No, I was sitting."

Everyone but Faith burst into laughter and Juanita smacked Buffy lightly on the arm:

"Hey, you're alright! Fuck, takes all kinds, yeah? So, you innocent like all the rest of us?"

Buffy smiled, she was liking Juanita a lot.

"Yep, the coppers sold me down the river."

The women burst into laughter again, but Faith just rolled her eyes. Buffy's attempt to talk like a seasoned con was probably for real, yet it was so bad Juanita and the girls thought she had to be kidding.

"Jesus B, just shut up."

Buffy quirked an eyebrow and smiled at Faith while Juanita regained enough control of herself to speak:

"Yeah, I hear you, chica. The only one I've met in here who admits they're guilty is Faith."

"Really? And why is that, Faith?"

Faith didn't look up from her tray:

"'Cause I am."

Juanita leaned forward eagerly, her voice and face full of passion:

"Maybe, but all of the things you've done in here, the lives you've saved…"

"Stow it."

"…Eddie, Amber, me and that's not even mentioning…"

Faith slid her tray away angrily:

"Shut the fuck up! Nobody asked you to do a roll call."

"Well, I'm doing it free of…"

Faith was up then, yanking Juanita to her feet:

"Dinner's over. Go someplace else."

She let go with a slight shove and Juanita stumbled back, her face a mixture of hurt and surprise.

"Jesus Faith, take it easy. I was just…"

"You either go away or you're goin' to see the Doc."

"Fine, be a bitch. Nice to meet you, Buffy. Good luck with that one."

And then she was gone and Faith sat back down.

"The rest of you haul it too."

The other women left without a word and Faith sat silently.

"Well, you're not the most pleasant dinner companion, are you?"

"Just shut up, Buffy. I don't wanna talk to you either."

"Yeah, I got that, but here's the thing you should know: I've read all the reports. I know exactly what you've done while you've been in here. How you took a knife in the chest to save Officer Rhodes' life, how you protected a young girl named Amber from…"

Faith was up and walking out the door and Buffy watched her go. She sat there trying to identify the fruit on her plate. How was it possible that she couldn't figure out a piece…a pieces of broken apart fruit?

She looked up to see nearly everybody in the cafeteria staring at her and she let out a sigh:

"Oh yeah, welcome to the Big House, Buffy."

Chapter Two

When lights-out time came that night, Buffy had a slight, momentary freak out. She had to calm herself: she was okay and she could leave any time she wanted to. She wasn't trapped, wasn't confined and unable to get out, not like Faith was and had been for three long years now. Buffy was where she was by choice, a different kind of choice than Faith's, and that knowledge helped her accept the darkness, the catcalls and chatter drifting through it, and then the weirdly coiled quiet that surrounded her.

Faith still hadn't spoken, and after stripping down to her wife beater and panties, she'd opted to hide on her bunk with her face to the wall. But now, about twenty minutes after the lights had gone out, something had changed. Faith was now standing below the tiny slit that passed for a window, the small shaft of moonlight illuminating her wherever it touched. As she turned away and began pacing, the harsh silver beam caught her eyes and Buffy could see what was wrong: Faith wanted to slay.

She continued to pace without comment, walking quickly in the tiny area, her arms hugging her body tightly. It was just how Buffy imagined a drug addict would act while in the throes of withdrawal and she knew firsthand how her own body wanted to…no, needed to slay. She felt the pull to be out in the dark night and engaged in the thick of the hunt, to be immersed in the kill because it was where she belonged.

It was a basic instinct – something in her calling out, and to be unable to answer that call, to have to stand beneath a narrow glimpse of what you couldn't have…That was torture, plain and simple, and had been every single night of the last three years.


Buffy spoke in a near whisper, not wanting to call attention to them and not wanting to startle Faith who seemed to have forgotten she was there.


The pacing stopped, and Buffy could see the muscles bunched in her back.


"Do you want to spar?"

There was no response at first, but then Faith released a large exhale:

"Pretty cramped in here."

Buffy stood up:

"I think we can manage and if we're lucky, maybe we'll even slay the toilet."

Faith's voice still didn't sound friendly, but there was a distinct softening:

"Jesus, B, in here that thing's a luxury."

"Uh-huh. I say it's a mini-Hellmouth."

She was facing Faith in her matching underwear outfit, and the faint glow from the corridor and the thin shaft of moonlight provided just enough light for them to see each other. As her Slayer sight kicked in, Buffy saw Faith's dimples deepen at her comment.

"Alright, so how you wanna do this?"

"Hmm…the way we always do, except right on top of each other."

Faith couldn't hide her smile at Buffy's comment and she thought back to how they used to spar. They'd always had a blast when they went at it, the sheer exhilaration of hitting with all of the speed and power you could unleash and knowing that the other person could not only take it, they could give it right back, physically and verbally.

She'd always felt so close to Buffy at those times, like she'd found the place where she belonged, but even though she wanted to stay there, all too quickly real life would make itself known again. It was then that Faith would understand without a doubt that she didn't truly belong anywhere…and certainly not with Buffy.

"Faith, are you ready?"

"Yeah, whatever."

Buffy had no clue what had caused the shutdown to occur so completely and suddenly, but she was aware that the minor progress she'd just made had vanished as if it had never existed. She chose to ignore it and plowed ahead, hoping that maybe some sparring was exactly what they needed.

She faked with her right and tagged Faith hard on the chin, snapping her head back.

"Still punch like a girl, B."

"At least I punch, which is more than I can say for…"

Faith's combo only landed the first blow as Buffy quickly slipped past the second one to grab onto her. They stood there grappling for the upper hand, straining and twisting.

"You're stronger than I remember, F."

"And you're faster."

Buffy smiled with excitement:

"But I can still take you."

"Give it your best, Blondie."

They fought for twenty violent minutes, the close quarters and need to be quiet only serving to heighten the intensity between them. Buffy punched Faith off balance, then hooked her leg and shoved her hard against the wall. She went in for the kill, but Faith rolled along the concrete to gain space and kicked Buffy in the stomach, sending her to a knee.

She moved quickly as Buffy struggled to her feet, smacking her twice and knocking her hard against the frame of the bunk beds. Faith wasted no time, charging in at full speed for the victory, but Buffy whirled clear at the last second, shoving Faith headfirst into the lower bunk and following right behind her. She had her pinned in moments.

"I win."

Faith said nothing, her face smashed into a pillow that smelled like Buffy, her arms restrained in Buffy's grasp and her body held down by Buffy's soft, yet unyielding one. It was Buffy everywhere and Faith couldn't move or speak.

She felt totally alive, tingling just like she always did whenever Buffy touched her. And there in the secluded darkness of Buffy's bed, her senses filled with the woman she loved and had fucked over, Faith decided to remain silent and hopefully outlast the Slayer who had control of her in so many ways.

She jumped when Buffy's lips brushed her ear:


Whispered softly, intimately, and Faith couldn't believe the raw desire that shot through her, its own kind of adrenaline that caused her not to try and pull loose, but instead  prompted her to relax into the moment.

 "…say I'm the winner."

That voice still so intimate, the caress of her breath, the feel of Buffy's breasts gliding along her back, the thrill of slightly stronger hands gripping hers, the soft tickle of silky blonde hair gliding against her cheek, the warm bare skin touching hers, the heat she could feel through the thin fabric of their underwear, it all had Faith trying not to moan out loud.

"…You're the winner."

"Yes, I am. So what's my prize?"

Faith wasn't sure how to answer. From where she was, it seemed like maybe she herself was the winner. Buffy was squirming around on top of her and Faith had no desire to be anywhere else. She felt surrounded by Buffy, her smell everywhere, her voice, her hot body moving just enough.

"What'd ya want. B?"

Faith groaned as Buffy's body pushed down harder and her hands tightened their grip:

"Hmmm…what can I have?"


"Tell me, F…"

Faith felt a tongue dart out against her ear:

"…how far will you go?"

Faith knew the real answer was "pretty fucking far" when it came to Buffy, but she wasn't about to admit that.

"Up to you, B. Been in a chick prison awhile, I can pretty much do it all."

She expected Buffy to move off her then, but Buffy just pressed closer, making herself even more comfortable.

"Nice try, but I've gotten used to this between us over the last year or so."

"…What do you mean?"

Buffy laughed:

"You know exactly what I mean, but if you want me to say it, fine. Those dreams you've been having…"

Faith tried to pull loose then, but Buffy held on.

"Oh no, you wanted to hear it and you're going to. Those dreams you've been having…"

Buffy's tongue was back:

"…well, I've been having them too."

Faith's struggles stopped. She went totally still as her heart rate jacked up to an impossibly fast tempo.

"See, I know what you've been feeling…'cause I`ve been feeling it too."

Her lips travelled leisurely to Faith's neck, leaving a trail of goose bumps in their wake.

"A lot of stuff's been…cleared up between us…and me? I like it like that, F."

Faith struggled to find her voice and when she did, it came out all shaky:

"So what, we shared some hot Slayer dreams and now ya wanna go a round with me? All for it, but ya mind lettin' me loose so I can do some damage of my own?"

"I guess that depends on what kind of damage you've got in mind."

"Whatever kind you're up for, Twinkie."

Buffy laughed again, the sound all sexy in Faith's ear.

"Okay, tough girl. Fun's over…for now."

She released her hold on Faith and slid out, her rock hard nipples grazing along Faith's back as she left. Faith stayed where she was for a beat too long, finally rousing herself to move.

She tried to get up casually, but she ended up scrambling out of Buffy's bunk. She hopped up onto her own without a word and rolled towards the wall. Buffy stood looking at her for a minute, their combined breathing the only sound between them. Buffy's eyes were burning a hole in Faith's back, she could feel it, and she finally turned over to let her eyes meet the eyes of her cell mate.

Neither spoke a word and yet somehow the truth was exchanged. Buffy nodded as Faith kept staring, and as she prepared to retreat to her own bed, she summed it up:

"Time to deal, F…for both of us."

And then Buffy was gone, hidden from view and yet Faith kept right on staring, still able to see her standing there in the dim light.

The morning brought with it an early wake-up call, a surprise shakedown, an irritating cell straighten up after the surprise shakedown, breakfast, and then the dreaded shower scene from every horrible prison movie ever made. Buffy wasn't scared, although if she hadn't been a Slayer she would've had to have been dragged from her cell.

As it was she walked calmly, carrying her towel, her tiny bar of soap, and her little plastic bottle of shampoo. She thought about pretending she was at a swanky hotel, but besides the fact that the Ritz staff probably didn't make its guests march single file down the hall to the communal shower, she realized it would be reckless to let herself get distracted by a fantasy. She was in a dangerous place and needed to stay focused.

Faith didn't look at her, but Buffy heard her  resigned sigh before she spoke:

"Just stay close and you'll be okay. Can't do shit about them eye fuckin' you, so don't get pissed. Just ignore'em."


They reached the outer part of the shower room and Faith sat her stuff down on one of the tables and began stripping off her clothes. As each item was removed, Buffy couldn't help but gaze at all of the beautiful skin on display.

It wasn't even sexual at first, it was more like she was studying a work of art. Everything was in its perfect place, all of the shapes and shadings flowing just so to allow the piece to come vibrantly to life.

But as high minded as all that was, Buffy was just a woman, a woman who had learned something about herself when it came to the sex bomb standing gloriously nude, and there was no way she could stop the lust from surging through her. She stood staring, her eyes large and taking in every inch of Faith that they could.

"Gettin' a good look, B?"

Buffy didn't stop staring, didn't blush, didn't try to lie her way out of it.

"I am, but could you turn around…slowly?"

If anyone one else in the world had said that to her, Faith would have laughed and done as they asked. Coming from Buffy it made her heart skip a beat, and she tossed her clothes into one of the laundry carts against the wall. She reached for her towel without letting her eyes meet Buffy's:

"Better hurry, they don't give us all that much time."


But that was easier said than done. The showers were a nightmare: shower heads attached to poles sunk into the tile floor, all facing one another. There was no privacy, and the two female guards hovering around just added to the fun.

Faith hung her towel on the small hook behind her, then turned the water on as she stood off to the side. She placed her soap and shampoo bottle on the ledge next to her while she waited, finally sticking out a hand to test the water temperature. She shifted her entire body underneath the steamy spray and Buffy had to force herself not to stare as the water eased over her smooth, taut skin, making it glisten and look even more beautiful than it already did.

Doing her best not to appear too self-conscious, Buffy mimicked Faith's routine. She hung her towel on the little hook on the wall behind her and tried to ignore the many eyes that were blatantly appraising her. The ones that were just looking didn't bother her too much and the ones that seemed to be lusting after her embarrassed her, but there was something else going on that was bothering her even more. It was the kind of disturbance that set her Slayer senses on high alert and she turned her head to see who was…Frankie.

The look in her eye wasn't just lustful, which would have been plenty bad enough, it was all too clear to Buffy that Frankie wished her pain and lots of it. She obviously saw her as a way to get to Faith, and Buffy wasn't exactly happy with letting her think that.

After all, she was The Slayer, and everything in her wanted to stride over and beat Frankie into an unrecognizable pulp, leaving just her ridiculous black crew cut intact so that her remains could be identified. Instead she turned away to place her soap and shampoo on her ledge…which she didn't have because her shower head wasn't on the end like Faith's.

She glanced around to see what the other wall-less women were doing, but she couldn't see anything except wet breasts and more tattoos than she'd ever imagined existed. She could still feel the eyes of several women on her, and she didn't know what to do with herself. Her skin was heating up from more than just the water, her embarrassment at being on display naked was making itself known.

Suddenly everything got a million times worse…Buffy dropped the soap.

She had no clue what to do, but she did know one thing for sure: there was no way in the world she was bending over for it. Several of the other inmates laughed as they saw her predicament and a few made faces at her, hooting and hollering loudly:

"Yeah, bend over, baby!"

"Hey pretty fish, pick it up!"

"New girl's askin' for it!"

Buffy stood looking down at the soap like it was a hand grenade missing its pin, wondering if she was just seconds away from that scene in the Linda Blair movie she'd watched for research, when Faith walked over and just picked it up.

She handed it to Buffy with a huge smile, her eyes sparkling wickedly:

"Fuck B, wanna stop with the flirting?"

Buffy took the soap, doing her best not to look anywhere other than Faith's face:

"Sorry, but everybody's just so hot here, I couldn't help myself."

Faith laughed and took Buffy's shampoo from her, placing it next to her own bottle. She slid under the water again and went back to rinsing her hair:

"Sing out when ya need it, B."

Buffy got busy, hanging onto her soap like her life depended on it. When she was done washing, she turned to ask Faith for the shampoo, but was surprised to see she was already out and wrapped in her towel. She motioned Buffy to slide over to her previous spot.

"Shake a leg, they're gonna toss us soon."

Buffy washed and rinsed her hair quickly, more than happy to wrap her towel around herself. She went out the door on the other side of the room where she'd seen Faith exit, and was greeted by two bored looking guards.


"76 something. My name's Buffy Summers."

The guard looked up, irritated:

"Like I give a fuck. Either come up with a number or waltz around bare-assed."

Buffy's eyes narrowed:

"Listen, I don't think…"

"Her number's 769445, Boss."

Faith was standing there meekly, the expression on her face like nothing Buffy had ever seen or imagined she'd ever see on Faith.

"Yeah, well I don't like her hoity toity attitude."

"She's just a fish…"

Faith leaned in:

"…and `tween me and you, she's not all there upstairs."

Buffy started to protest, but Faith's hand clamped down hard on her arm.

"Ya mean she's a retard or somethin'?"

"Well, I ain't a doc, but she's pretty slow."

The guard looked at Buffy with disgust now instead of anger, but she was holding out a fresh set of clothes and a new towel.

"Here. Remember your number, freak!"

She said it loudly right in Buffy's face, but before Buffy could comment or kill her, Faith was propelling her out of the room.

"Yeah, I'll teach it to her. We'll use phoe…funet…ebonics."

"Whatever. Next time she can head her ass over to De-Seg."

"Got it, Boss!"

Then they were in the dressing room and Faith rolled her eyes:

"Fuckin' bitch. And what's with you givin' your name?"

"I thought it would be…"

"You're not in a five star hotel."

Buffy laughed:

"The Ritz."

"What the fuck are you…Just fuckin' get your shit on."

And Faith walked out into the hallway.

Buffy got dressed as fast as she could, then found Faith leaning against a wall waiting for her.

"Going my way?"

Faith didn't respond, but Buffy didn't care. She was so relieved that the shower was over and that she hadn't been gang raped with a broom handle, she felt downright giddy. That was until they turned the corner and saw Frankie and five of her crew waiting. They were strategically placed out of sight from the guards, and there were two lookouts at either end of the hall.

"Hey, where ya goin', pretty girl?"

Buffy tensed, but Faith spoke first:

"Really wanna do this, Fattie?"

Frankie no longer pretended to be friendly:

"I'm not fat, bitch!"

"Yeah, I know. You're big-boned."

Buffy laughed, she couldn't help it, and Frankie's gaze turned to her:

"I got big fingers too, little girl. They make a huge fist."

Frankie bounced hard on the floor, her big-boned body crashing into the far wall. Her crew looked stunned by how fast Faith had moved, but they loyally prepared to charge her en masse. She stood there unmoving, her eyes still on Frankie:

"I don't like that kinda talk around B."

Frankie got to her feet:

"Talk ain't all we're gonna…"

Officer Jackson came strolling out of the shower room area, her nightstick already out:

"Hey, what's going on out here?"

"Nothin', Boss. Frankie just slipped, floor musta been wet."

The guard never looked away from Frankie while Faith explained.

"Yeah? Well, get back to your cells and slip all you want to in there. I don't need any shit, so gate time's over for all of you. And knock off the red eye, Frankie. Nobody's scared."

Frankie and her gang left, but not before Frankie blew Buffy a kiss:

"See you soon, little pretty one."

Faith started to leave too, but Officer Jackson held her nightstick out and blocked her way.

"You watch yourself, Lehane. Frankie's a bitch with a lot of back-up and you don't need to be gettin' slammed either."

Faith didn't say a word and headed back to her cell. As Buffy passed, Officer Jackson cocked her head and mouthed:

"You okay?"

Buffy nodded discreetly with a smile and kept moving.

When she got there, Faith was already pacing. Buffy stepped inside and Officer Jackson gave the order for them to be locked down. As the cell door slid shut, she moved down the line to make sure Frankie and her gang were also locked in.

Faith continued moving, ignoring Buffy completely until Buffy touched her shoulder:

"Faith, I…"

She found herself slammed back against the bars, Faith's hand around her neck:

"What are we playin' at here, huh, B? I got better things to do than pretend you need my protection."

"Really? Isn't that what you do even when I'm not here? Protect everyone."

Faith let her arm fold, her forearm pressing in hard against Buffy's throat:

"Think I'm a hero, B? How `bout I snap your neck right here?"

"Go ahead, but you'd better hurry…The guard's coming back."

Faith applied more pressure, actually cutting off Buffy's air:

"Would solve a lot of things…"

Buffy didn't struggle at all and after a few seconds, Faith backed off.

"Just use your `Get Outta Jail Free' card, Buffy. You don't belong here, so stop fuckin' with me."

"I'm not fucking with you, Faith, you're doing that all by yourself. I told you why I'm here and I told you what it'll take to get me to leave. When and if that happens…well, that's all up to you."

There had been just silence in their cell, but after about two hours had managed to crawl its way past, Faith suddenly sat up, her legs dangling in the air as she sat on the edge of her bunk looking out into the hall. Buffy had given up trying to read the tattered "Field and Stream" magazine she'd found in the tiny desk drawer about an hour and fifty-nine minutes ago, and she was relieved to see that something, anything, was finally going on.

She turned from the desk to face the door, then became suspicious when Faith jumped down with a big grin. Her happy smile held as Eddie appeared in front of their cell staring down at a clipboard.

Faith looked at Buffy all cocky and smug:

"Time for work, `Little Miss Superhero'. Try not to get yourself capped while I'm the fuck away from you."

"Lehane! Summers! Time for kitchen duty."

In almost any other situation, Faith's reaction would have been comical.

"What? Eddie, no way does she pull kitchen duty! She's fuckin' new! She shouldn't even have a job yet!"

Eddie barely glanced up:

"And yet her name's right here."

He held the clipboard up for Faith to see.

"That says you and her in the kitchen this week, yeah? I'm not seeing wrong, am I?"

Faith looked like she was going to blow a gasket.

"Yeah says that, but what the fuck is this? She's a fuckin' fish! How's she rate a tour in the chow hall?"

Eddie looked bored:

"This gonna be one of your crazy days? `Cause I…"

"I don't want her workin' with me!"

She was yelling now and another guard walked over to see what the problem was. Faith raised her hands in a placating gesture and tried to look calm, but after a brief glance at her, the new man pulled his nightstick and turned to his co-worker:

"Trouble, Eddie?"

"Nah, we're good here, right, Lehane?"

She struggled to speak calmly:

"…As gold."

The other guard, Officer Cotton, didn't look totally convinced, but he nodded and walked off. Eddie waited until he was out of earshot before he spoke:

"Stop all this bitchin' and moanin'. I don't make the assignments, I just carry'em out. "

"Yeah but…"

He stepped closer to the bars.

"Look, I get it, alright? But this is from the top: you two are to stay together, 24/7. Nothin' I can do about it."

"And you don't think that's weird? Eddie…"

"I do think it's weird, it's weird as hell, but so's a lotta shit in here. Look, I'm askin' as a favor: just calm down and accept it. You can't change anything and you're workin' your way to a beating and a trip to the Hole."

Faith's anger lessened slightly as she looked at him:

"You gonna be the one to bring it, Eddie?"

He laughed:

"If I gotta. Listen, you keep going like this, some of these new screws are gonna be happy to calm you down. Can't we just skip all that?"

"But this is fuckin' fucked up!"

"I hear ya."

She stood still, but it was evident she was struggling with herself. Her hand slammed into the bars making them clang loudly:


He waited until she looked him in the eye.

"This gonna go good or do I gotta get backup?"

"…I'm alright. Got my word."

He nodded and called out for the cell door to be opened, and the second it was she stomped out, leaving Eddie and Buffy alone. He stared after her for a minute before turning to Buffy:

"You don't look like much. What's this all about?"

"I can't really get into it."

"…But you're trying to help her?"

Buffy nodded:

"I'm a little late, but yes I am."

He smiled and gestured her outside:

"Never too late for that. She's a good girl. Turned herself right around."

"I know, I just need to make her see that too."

He hollered down the line:

"Lock it up!"

The door slid shut and he ticked off their names on the clipboard.



His dark eyes were filled with emotion as he looked at her:

"Girl saved my life, no reason at all. It's not a fluke either, got plenty of stories like that about her from a lot of people in here. I don't give two shits what she did before, she's not like that now. You need back-up at some point? I'm your man."

She smiled at him:

"I'll make sure to remember that."

"And watch your back in here."

Chapter Three


The next week passed slowly, probably just like every week always passed in prison. Faith wouldn't speak to her, not that Buffy was at all surprised. They were together all day and all night, each working in the same job at the same time, thanks to some creative and cooperative scheduling from the Warden. She was impressed at the influence Giles and Angel had, not that she fully understood who they knew and how, but she didn't need to know. Her focus was on Faith.

She made "friends" with a couple of the girls, at least enough to do business with them, but she wasn't really there to fit in. She was there to shake Faith up and to get her to see that there was no point to prison anymore. Faith didn't seem at all eager or willing to face that fact.

Each night Faith paced when the darkness fell, but every time Buffy extended an offer to spar, she received no response at all. As the week wore on, Buffy too began feeling the strain of not patrolling. The pull had always been more intense whenever she was around Faith, and she knew her presence was having the same effect on her cell mate. Of course, Buffy hadn't gone without slaying for three years and she knew Faith was actually hurting. She felt bad for her…so bad that she started using it to her advantage.

As Faith stalked back and forth in their cage, Buffy would talk about slaying relentlessly. She spoke about the specific kills she'd made, the fights Faith had missed. She described in great detail every step of the battle: her moves, their moves, what it felt like to run, to slam the stake home. She would go on and on about how she could sense the vampires lurking, how her body would feel totally alive, how the smells of the night drifted to her on the breeze, how the smallest noises in the darkness sounded loud in her ear, and how solid the smooth heft of the wood felt in her hand as the dust swirled all around her. 

On the fifth night, Faith finally snapped. She yanked Buffy up roughly, her face contorted in a rage and her grip painfully tight on Buffy's upper arms as she'd held her just inches away:

"Shut…the fuck…up."

Buffy said nothing, her eyes staring into Faith's until she was shoved away. Buffy sat back down and Faith leapt up into her own bunk, and that was it: four angry words, the sum total of Faith's verbal communication with everyone for the entire week.

She merely nodded at Mary in the lunch line and moved along, and on the third day, Mary looked at Buffy accusingly after Faith walked off:

"You making her unhappy?"

"Yes, but I have a good reason."

"You're gonna get leeway `til she says otherwise, but you better straighten this out fast."

Buffy smiled at the huge pork chop on her plate:

"I'm working on it, Mary. Honest."

"Yeah, we'll see."

Buffy began looking forward to her mystical chats with Giles that occurred once a day if she could manage them. She had an arrangement with a friend of a friend of Juanita's who had bathroom cleaning duties. She let Buffy head in alone while she loitered outside, pretending to mop while she stood point and kept everyone else out. Buffy gave her report while keeping an ear out for the warning:


That meant a guard was approaching and Buffy had to cut off the connection and head back out into the hall. She always made sure to use the facilities too while she was in there, and so far she'd managed to avoid doing anything humiliating in the cell.

Because she had no one else to really talk to, she tended to ramble on with Giles whenever they spoke. He would let her go for a couple of minutes before gently steering her back to the true reason for the calls.

"Yes, I can well imagine. So, how is Faith, Buffy?"

"She's like a wall, Giles. A stone wall. A cement wall. A prison cement stone cell wall with three other walls  and bars surrounding a filthy toilet sitting in the middle of those walls with no privacy whatsoever."


"I mean, I don't care what somebody's done, a girl needs her privacy."

"How do you think you're managing?"

"Well, Juanita told me to try and time my…ah…needs, so that anything besides peeing, I make sure I use the community…"

"Buffy, your toilet concerns aside, do you…"

"It's just lucky she knew somebody, but they're still standing right outside which is kinda weird in and of itself. I mean, I don't get how anyone ever manages to…"

"Buffy! Would you please report on the mission?"

She was obviously embarrassed:

"Sorry, but it's just so degrading and…Okay, the mission report: I've got nothing. She won't talk to me and I'd say she's this close to punching my face in. She's totally shut down and the couple of people she's close with in here, she's not speaking to them either."

"That's to be expected. She's not stupid, she knows exactly why you're there and she's determined to outlast you until you get tired of trying and leave."

"Fat chance of that happening."

She could practically see him, his glasses in his hand, his gaze focused on nothing:

"Well, you're our man on site, what do you surmise our next move should be?"

"Woman on site, and I surmise I should start pushing her more."

"Yes, perhaps a gentle nudge would be just the…"

"Giles, Faith won't even feel a `gentle' nudge, I have my doubts if she'll feel anything except a major headfirst shove into the wall."

He cleared his throat and she knew he was now cleaning his glasses as he thought it through.

"Yes, I suppose that's probably an accurate assessment. All right, do whatever you feel is necessary and…Hold on, Willow wishes to speak with you."

There was a bit of static and then Willow's voice was audible:


"Hey, Will."

"Hi! How's it going? Got any Big Berthas after you?"

"Just about ten. It's so crazy in here."

 "Pardon me girls, but…"

Willow cut him off:

"What about the shower, Buff?"

"Oh my God, my first time there…I dropped the soap!"

"No you didn't!"

"I did, right on the floor. Talk about a nightmare."

"Goddess, so what's worse then: the shower or the bathroom?"

"Hmm…I guess the bathroom because there's just no privacy no matter…"

"Oh for God's sake, we don't have time for this idle banter!"

"Well sorry, Giles, but having a bathroom naked in the..."

"Buffy, please."

Willow got them back on track:

"So Buff, we aren't going to be able to contact each other for the next few days."

"How come?"

"The spell's going wonky, so wonky I have to start over from the beginning."

"Yep, I'd say that's pretty wonky, all right."

"I know, I think one of the ingredients I used was older than it was supposed to be. Anyway, if you have to reach us, you're going to need to use a regular phone."

Buffy wasn't happy with the news, but it didn't seem so dire either:

"Okay, so no semi-instant magical connection to my posse. I should be able to make it alone for a few of days…Oh God, did I just so totally jinx myself or what?"


"Buffy, Giles here."

"Really? I thought it was still Will, you guys sound so much alike."

"Our time is growing short."

"And so's your temper. It's like you're the one in the Pen."

He sighed:

"I just want to be sure you remember to reach out to your contact should you need an emergency extraction."

"No problem there, Officer Jackson and I are best buddies. We've already exchanged the secret handshake and everything."

"All joking aside, do not hesitate to ask for her assistance. If worst comes to worst, we can always find another way to help Faith."

Buffy smiled at the concern in his voice:

"Don't worry, I'll be fine and so will Faith."

"I have nothing but absolute confidence in your ability to get the job done, but please be careful, Buffy. It's quite dangerous, what you're doing, and whilst I understand your eagerness to help Faith…"

"You don't want me to become a hardened con?"

"It's not an easy situation to navigate and when you begin pushing her…"

"Giles, we went over all of this already. I have to do this and you know all of the reasons why. I'll be as careful as I can be, and even though she's not happy with me right now, Faith has my back."

"And I'm glad to hear that, but…just be careful, yes?"

"I will be, I promise. Speaking of being careful, how's it going there? Is Angel keeping an eye on the Hellmouth?"

"It's going fairly well, although he's rather difficult to work with. It seems he doesn't like to take direction, and of course that's terribly jarring after years of working with you."

Buffy's voice was bright with excitement:

"So he's making me look a lot better? See? Buffy's not so bad when it comes right down to it. In fact, I'll bet you wish…"

"Buffy, you'd do well to recognize sarcasm when you hear it. All's fine here, and it's quite a refreshing change of pace to actually make suggestions that have a chance of being followed."

"Hey, that's just mean! I am in jail, you know. A little appreciation from the outside world is mandatory."

She heard the laughter in his voice:

"Yes, all right. We're missing you dreadfully, and although Angel's performing admirably and we're all doing whatever we can to assist him, he's simply not you. We're counting the minutes until you return."

"There, now was that so hard? A Slayer just wants to know she's appreciated."

"Which you most definitely are. Right then, we shall let you know when communication is available again. The device we implanted into your shoulder will continue to work, the problem's all on our end."

"Good because there's no way we can get contact to put in another one. Well, not unless we meet in what they call the `bone yard' and I am so not doing that with either of you."

Willow's voice chirped up all excited:

"The `bone yard'? What's that?"

"You know, where the prisoners meet their partners for um…you know."

"For…oh! No, no meeting there, not ever!"

Buffy could practically hear her blushing.

"As I said, there's blessedly no need to even consider that. Buffy, remember to trust your instincts when it comes to Faith. You know her best, so follow your own lead."

 "Got it. I'll talk to you guys whenever. "

"Yes, we'll alert Officer Jackson when we've got the system up and running again."

"Okay. Oh and can you put some money in my account? I need it for cigarettes and chocolate. And maybe some magazines."

"I'll take care of that right now."

"Thanks. See you guys later."

 "Be careful, Buffy."

"Slayer promise, Giles."

"Buff, I forgot: Xander says to say h…"

The connection severed and Buffy felt totally alone. She exited the blocked off bathroom, scooting around the yellow "Caution: Wet Floor" sign and the water bucket. She handed ten cigarettes to the woman still mopping the floor:


"Sure. Same time tomorrow, Buffy?"

"Uh, no…wait.Yes, just not for as long."

The woman carefully placed the cigarettes in her shirt pocket, then began mopping for real.

"Still gonna need ten smokes if you wanna lay claim to this time and spot. You wanna cut down on the time, I can cut the payment in half."

Buffy shook her head:

"No, let's just keep it for the same length of time."

"That's good for me."

"Okay, see you tomorrow."

"Yeah, not like we're goin' anywhere."

The Big Yard wasn't much of a yard, not unless you were stuck inside for most of the day every day. If that was your predicament, then it was a palatial English garden with lush concrete, blooming basketball hoops, and delicate workout equipment called the "iron pile", all surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire. The guards strolled along the grounds, as well as patrolling above the scene with high powered rifles, as they sought to ensure the serene calm of the setting.

It was awful, and yet Buffy looked forward to going there every day. No matter how depressing everything else was, the sun was out there as well as the clean air. The white clouds were drifting by, the birds were singing, and for one glorious hour a day, Buffy could feel the California heat on her skin and imagine she was anywhere else besides where she was.

She smiled as she cleared the doorway and walked outside. The guard posted there was Eddie, and Buffy nodded at him. He smiled at her, then after Faith entered the yard, he closed the door and spoke into the phone:

"Everybody out and accounted for."

Faith was already starting her workout, beginning with chin-ups on the suddenly cleared bars. The other inmates, who'd been doing the very same thing just moments before, had jumped down without a word and gone to find something else to do. They were unwilling to cross Faith in the best of times, let alone when she was in a foul mood like she'd been for the past week, and so the area around Prisoner 430019 kept clearing out wherever she went. There was no one who dared to invade her space.

Buffy lifted her head towards the sun and breathed in deep. It was beautiful out, perfect "picnic at the beach" weather. She gave herself a couple of minutes, then sighed and opened her eyes. Anyone who knew her would know what the expression on her face meant: The Slayer was on the clock and she wasn't going to be stopped.

She wasn't looking forward to what was about to happen, but then she wasn't looking forward to staying in a hellhole any longer than she had to either. She wasn't sure how long the guards could let it go, but Sheila Jackson had assured her that she'd have at least a few minutes. She was going to have to make them count.

Buffy headed over to the workout bar and jumped up, grabbing on and doing her own chin-ups side by side with Faith. They worked in silence as they instinctively began rising and falling in tandem. Synchronized chin-ups, Slayer style.

Buffy gave it a minute then plowed ahead:

"So Faith, have you always been such a coward or is this just a prison thing?"

There was no response except for a slight faltering in the rhythm.

"What, you're so gutless now you're not even going to speak?"

Still nothing. Faith did ten more chin-ups, then dropped to the ground. She began walking off and was forced to stop abruptly as Buffy's spinning dismount landed her smack dab in the middle of Faith's path.

"Where you going?"

Faith's eyes met Buffy's then, her anger obvious as she stood glaring. Her voice emerged low and threatening:

"Get outta my way, B."

"Or what?"

Faith stepped to the side and Buffy matched her. Faith tried the other side, but Buffy was there as well.

"Don't do this, not out here."

"Why? Because you've got a rep? Well guess what, F? I don't care about your precious rep."

And then Buffy shoved her to the ground.

There was an audible gasp from the inmates who'd seen it go down, and a few peeled off to spread the news that the new girl was crazy and about to die.

"It feels nice in here, doesn't it, Faith? You're the big fish in the little pond, not just the second rate Slayer anymore. In here you're all safe and…"

Faith flipped to her feet:

"Yeah, that's prison…safe as kittens. Think what ya want, I don't give a fuck."

She turned to walk away and Buffy shoved her from behind. This time Faith sailed face first along the dirt and grass.

Officer Jackson and Eddie hadn't made a move toward them, and the other guards were busy watching their own sections. Without a report from the guards, the snipers were focused on the usual trouble spots, and those were usually nowhere near Jackson and Rhodes, the two best liked guards in the place. They had the records and the seniority, so they got the better behaved prisoners, and no one was expecting any trouble in their section. Buffy was exploiting that loophole for all it was worth.

Faith got up slowly, a small smudge of dirt on her chin, her eyes promising death to the woman standing in front of her.

"Don't know what you think you're playin' at, but…"

"I'm not playing, Faith. I'm wondering where you are."

The prison yard was alive with a contained excitement. Several inmates had drifted over casually, inserting themselves between the guards and the soon to be rumbling girls. They wanted the fight to go on as long as possible, so creating a body filled route was the best way to drag things out. It slowed the guards down at least a couple of minutes, and in a prison fight those minutes could be like an eternity. The inmates moved like a well-oiled machine to get into position.

"I'm right here, right where you fucking wanted me."

"Oh, so it's my fault, is it?"

Faith took a step closer, her words barely escaping through clenched teeth:

"We both know whose fault it is. But I'm here doin' my fuckin' time, so fucking leave me alone!"

"And just how much time do you need to do, Faith?"

"Sentence is twenty-five to life."

"You've already served plenty of time. You could get out of here if you…"

Faith moved right up in Buffy's face:

"We're done with this talk, Blondie."

"We haven't even started yet."

"I'm walkin' away and I don't wanna be touched."

Faith turned and before she'd taken two steps, Buffy had hold of her. Faith whirled and broke free from Buffy's grasp, and the punch she threw although fully expected, hurt like hell. Buffy staggered back like a drunk trying to get her balance, her jaw aching.

Before she could square herself, Faith was on her. She hit her three more times before Buffy could retaliate. She went down and pulled Faith with her as she used her legs to toss Faith over and away from her. Faith rolled with the momentum and was on her feet, already moving in.

They stood toe to toe, exchanging punches that had the other inmates yelling with excitement. Buffy connected painfully with Faith's cheek and the blood sprayed out, dribbling down her chin to the grass below. Faith feinted with her left and followed with a right hook to Buffy's lip, then kicked her hard in the ribs.

Buffy bent over with the blow and Faith moved in, only to be met by Buffy's elbow between her own ribs. It hurt, but Faith kept coming and she tackled Buffy and knocked them both back to the ground. She was on top and she struck Buffy twice before she felt Buffy's legs wrapping around her neck and pulling her to the ground. Buffy used the leverage to roll her way on top.

Whistles were blowing and the guards were struggling to get through the thick mass of inmates who were intent on keeping them out. Faith head butted Buffy, knocking her backwards with the impact, but Buffy kept going into a reverse somersault and ended up standing. She kicked Faith in the shoulder, then punched her hard, jumping and putting everything she had into the strike.

Faith shifted just enough to miss most of the power in the blow, but she caught enough of it along her injured cheek to make her stumble and fall to her knee. She shook her head to clear it and stood up only to see Eddie, Officer Jackson and about ten other guards rushing their way. Normally she'd have gotten down on the ground and locked her hands behind her head, but she still wanted to hit Buffy.

The Head Slayer was standing there ready: her hair messed up, her face flushed and slightly sweaty, her breathing heavy with her shirt partially ripped open. Her eyes were beautiful, sparkling with anger and excitement and something else that Faith couldn't identify.

She was wearing her usual confident and annoyingly self-righteous expression, and its appearance made Faith want to punch it right off her perfect, beautiful face…right after she kissed the living shit out of her.

Faith stood there with the guards coming, undecided what to do in her last moments of freedom, when Buffy decided it for her. Her eyes were amused; it was obvious she knew what Faith was thinking as she stepped closer:

"Either one works for me…"

And then one hand grabbed onto Faith's arm and the other went behind her head, pulling her close and smashing their lips together.

Faith was surprised, totally and completely, yet she was kissing Buffy back the instant their lips met. Her arms went around Buffy, yanking her flush against her as her lips and tongue explored every inch they could reach. The yelling from the other inmates intensified, all complete with hoots and hollers and appreciative whistling, and yet neither girl was really hearing it.

And then the guards were on them, pulling them apart and hauling them off to solitary. They lost sight of each other, but the last thing Faith heard was Buffy's calm voice:

"…but that's the one I prefer, F."



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