by Dafmeister (aka Dafydd)
“Xander, you’ve excelled yourself.”
“You think, Giles?"
“Certainly. This is by far the most half-witted idea you’ve had in all the time I’ve known you!”
“Come on, what about- hey!”
“You’re toying with forces you can’t hope to comprehend!”
“I know, that’s why I got Will to help me.”
“Willow is involved in this madness? I can’t believe she’d be so reckless.”
“Desperate times, Giles.”
“In what way, exactly, are the times desperate?”
“You haven’t been here, G-Man. Trust me, until you’ve heard two pissed-off Slayers stomping around a Scottish castle, you don’t know what ‘echoing’ means.”
“It can’t be that bad.”
“Another week and we’ll be looking at structural damage. The north tower’s shaky as is, ever since Dawn took a chunk out of it.”
“This will not end well, mark my words.”
“Come on, Giles. They’re contained, they’re well supplied, what could go wrong?”
“You actually said that, didn’t you? All these years and you’ve learned nothing.”
Deep in the bowels of the castle, Faith’s boot hammered at a solid iron door. The sound echoed through the dungeon, but the door itself didn’t so much as wobble.
“Knock it off!”
“Kinda the idea, B.”
“You’re not gonna get it open.”
“Damn lock can’t hold forever.”
“The lock isn’t the problem.”
Faith looked around and saw Buffy glaring at her, a folded piece of paper in her hand, which she now flicked across the room to land at Faith’s feet. Faith picked it up after a moment’s hesitation, and saw that it was a note addressed to ‘The Cranky Twins’. She unfolded it and read aloud. “‘We know you’ve got history, and we know you keep on adding to it. While you’re on different continents, that’s okay, but if you’re going to be running into each other in the hallway you need to be able to get along. Right now you’ve got everyone on edge and we’re all sick of it. You’ve got supplies, so get talking. Work it out. X&W.’ Nice buds you got, B.”
“Shut up,” Buffy snapped. “This is all your fault, anyway.”
“Yeah, must be, I’m in the frickin’ country!”
“And why is that? What are you even doing here, Faith?”
“I brought in Shannon, remember? Redhead, thinks she’s the Dark Queen of the Irish or something, ringin’ any bells?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot, your new mission to round up all the rogue Slayers in the world – at least, the ones who don’t have a mansion!”
“Screw you, Buffy!” Faith snarled. “I didn’t want to hurt anyone, but you showed up and now Gigi’s dead!”
“Oh, I’m sorry, did your little friend get hurt? Musta been after you tried to drown me!”
“You attacked me, Buffy! Every goddamn time we get near each other, the first thing I see is your fist headin’ for my face!”
“Then why don’t you get the message and stay away from me!” Buffy yelled in her face, then checked herself. “Look, just sit down and shut up, I gotta think.”
“Whatever.” Faith sat down on an ancient stool and watched Buffy pacing around their new prison. It didn’t take long, the chamber they were in was only about thirty feet square. Two mattresses were laid out on the floor, along with piles of blankets, while boxes of food and soda bottles were piled in a corner. An ancient fireplace was set into one wall, presumably for the guards, and fresh wood had been stacked beside it. A narrow corridor led away into darkness behind them, lined with cells. “Looks like they plan on us bein’ down here a while.”
“Why couldn’t you just leave, Faith?”
“I got a job to do here, B.”
“You already did your so-called ‘job’, Faith! Shannon’s locked up, so why are you still here?”
“’Cause your stupid friends locked me in here, moron!”
“Which wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t around here in the first place!”
“You know, if you spend a little less time blaming me and a little more time doing somethin’ useful, maybe we can get through this door; I can do my thing with Shannon and you won’t have to look at me any more.”
“There is no ‘through this door, Faith. Will’s got us on lockdown, we’re trapped. Nothing we can do.”
“Fine, you sit and spin, I’m finding a way outta here!” Faith stormed off down the corridor.
“Locking them in together won’t solve anything.”
“Giles, we had to do something. There’s… there’s rumours going around, about Buffy and Faith, what’s gone on with them in the past. Most of it’s wrong, but we don’t have enough people here who were actually there to stop it happening. All the girls we had in Sunnydale are running teams somewhere; it’s just me, Will and Dawn, and no-one exactly thinks we’re unbiased. There’s a lot of stories going around, ‘How Buffy Screwed Faith Over’, “How Faith Always Betrays Buffy’, stuff like that. People are starting to take sides, it’s hurting morale.”
“And you think this is the solution?”
“I don’t know what else to do. As long as they keep avoiding each other, nothing’s gonna change. This way they have to deal with it.”
“And if they ‘deal with it’ by trying to kill each other?”
“I beg your- ”
“Chill, Giles, they can’t hurt each other. Will did some work down there beforehand, the whole place is covered by the same wards as the practice rooms. They can hurt each other, but they can’t cause harm worse than cuts and bruises. They can wail on each other all they want, no problem.”
“All right, they can’t injure each other, but how do you know they’ll even try to talk it out? They’re both more than capable of ignoring each other, for days if necessary.”
“Yeah, well, I found a way to cut through all the crap and get them saying what they think.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask.”
“Remember back in college, a little problem involving beer?”
“No way out,” Faith said, returning to the main chamber. She kicked the stool at the door. “We’re stuck in here.”
“No, you’re stuck in here,” Buffy said. She was lying on her back on one of the mattresses, arms folded behind her head, eyes closed, and smiling. “I’m in Hawaii. I’m on the beach, it’s a beautiful sunny day, I’ve got my new bikini on, I’m drinking the best banana daiquiri in the history of the world and there’s a gorgeous surfer giving me a foot rub right now.”
“Nice detail. Likin’ the daiquiri. Know where I can score one?”
“Sorry, can’t hear you. Know why? ‘Cause I’m in Hawaii.”
“Lucky for you.” Faith sat down against the wall and lit a cigarette. A flicker of distaste passed over Buffy’s face as she heard the lighter, just enough for Faith to catch, but she wouldn’t break her sunbathing act. Her intransigence brought a grin to Faith’s face, and she exhaled each lungful a little harder than normal, hoping the air currents would carry the smoke across the room. After a couple of minutes, Buffy’s nose started to twitch, but she’d already staked too much pride on ignoring Faith.
“Guy or girl?”
“Huh?” So much for pride – the question was so left-field that Buffy reacted before she knew what she was doing.
“Your surfer, guy or girl?”
“Shut up, Faith.” Faith was about at the top of the list of people Buffy didn’t want to discuss her recent sexual history with.
“What, you’re tellin’ me you’re not the one gettin’ the bulk deliveries of girl-girl porn?” Buffy glared at her, and Faith chuckled under her breath. “Hey, I’m happy for you. It’s about time someone took the stake outta your ass and put it somewhere fun.” Faith caught the momentary flicker around Buffy’s mouth as she barely stopped herself saying something, and laughed. “Too bad you couldn’t get Sushi to stick around, looks like you could use another go.”
“Her name is Satsu!” Buffy snarled, abandoning her beach fantasy in favour of pure rage as she leapt to her feet. “You don’t know a damn thing about her, Faith! She’s kind, and brave, and she loved me, and she’s a better Slayer than you’ll ever be!”
For a second Faith was knocked off balance by the emotion in Buffy’s voice – she hadn’t realised how much Satsu had meant to her – but the contempt that followed re-ignited her own anger and she was on her feet too. “Yeah, right, I know, I’m the knock-off, the reject, not one of your perfect band of Girl Scout Buffybots. Too bad the kid didn’t know what she was gettin’ into.”
“Shut your stupid, evil mouth! You don’t get to talk about her, not ever, do you hear me!”
“Evil. Always comes back to that, huh B? Everyone gets another chance, except Faith!”
“How many more chances do you want, Faith? Every time I turn my back you’re hooking up with the bad guy. Or girl.”
“How many times, B? Giles sent me in there to stop her. To kill her.”
Buffy snorted in disbelief. “Funny how killing someone looks so much like saving them.”
“I thought I could talk her down, but you get mojoed in and it all went to hell, same as always. She was lonely, B. She never had a friend her whole life, and you’re surprised she got screwed up?”
“Tragic. No really, I’m crying on the inside. What’s a dozen murdered girls next to ‘Daddy doesn’t love me’?”
“You got no idea, princess,” Faith’s voice had turned low and dangerous, and Buffy wouldn’t let herself hear the pain knowing at its roots. “I know exactly what she did, I know she needed stopping, but there shoulda been a better way.”
“So that’s why you started your little Slayer rehab program? Gonna save some lost souls?”
“Many as I can get to.”
“You know, if I didn’t know you, I’d almost be convinced.” Buffy turned her back on Faith, grabbed a food bag off the pile and stalked off.
“Think what you like, B.”
“Oh, I will.”
“Damn it,” Faith muttered to herself. Outside the high, barred window she could see that the sunlight was fading, and what little heat had penetrated was ebbing away. “I’m gonna get a fire goin’ before we freeze in here.”
“You did what? Xander, have you completely taken leave of your senses?”
“Giles, it’s ok. They can’t hurt themselves, they can’t hurt anyone else. We’ve just given them some time alone to work through some stuff.”
“You’re turning them into cave-people!”
“Exactly. They say what they want, how they feel, not what they think they should say. And it’s not like they’re gonna get the full-on Cave-Slayer dose, just enough to stop them over-thinking. We’ve been careful.”
“You and Willow.”
“Yeah. Well, more Willow than me. I mean, I had the idea, but I needed Will to re-create the beer formula, and set up the wards, seal the door. She did most of the hard work.”
“And she had no qualms about this, this… abuse of her powers?”
“Hey, take it easy there. We’re doing what we can with what we got here, Giles.”
“Madness, utter madness. And on a full moon, of all times.”
“Full moon? Is that bad?”
“We’re not gonna fix anythin’ with you hidin’ in there,” Faith said, ripping open another pack of cashew nuts. Half a dozen empty packs littered the floor around her feet, along with half a packet of cookies and the remains of several sandwiches.
“Shut up, Faith!” Buffy yelled from inside the makeshift tent she’d assembled from blankets and bits of furniture. She’d started by just draping a blanket over an alcove, but it hadn’t taken Faith long to realise she could flick cashews over the top just to annoy her. Hence, the tent.
“You know, B, I hate to say it, but it looks like they got us this time.” Faith tossed another log into the fireplace, sending a cloud of sparks up the chimney. “We’re not gettin’ out ‘til we start talkin’.”
“I am not talking to you!”
“They’re not gonna open the door just ‘cause you’re pitchin’ a snit.”
“I am not pitching a snit!” Buffy got up so fast she got caught in the blanket walls of her ‘tent’. She flailed around for a minute before her head emerged. “I don’t wanna talk to you, I don’t wanna listen to you, I don’t wanna look at you. I don’t want anything to do with you!”
“Yeah, I got that ‘bout the time you ditched me in Cleveland.”
“Ditched you? Ditched you?” Buffy was on her feet now, cookie crumbs tumbling from her clothes, eyes blazing in the firelight. “I gave you a job to do, Faith. I gave you and your boyfriend a Hellmouth to watch and a squad of girls to look after! I gave you the most important job I could think of!”
“That’s crap, B, you know it.” Faith jumped to her feet, fists clenched at her sides. “Soon as you didn’t need me any more, you kicked me out so you could go play Queen of the frickin’ Castle!”
“Queen of the… how dare you!”
“You know the worst part, B? I really thought we were gettin’ somewhere, you and me. After Sunnydale went down…” Faith turned her head away, trying to hide her tears. “Middle of the fight, you got hit, you gave me the scythe, remember what you said? ‘Hold the line’. And I did it. I held the frickin’ line for you, I was the last one out the door before you. You gave me the scythe, B! I thought finally I was good enough for you, but I wasn’t, was I? You just needed me to do your killing for you. That’s all I am to you. A killer.”
“Faith, if I’m so hard on you, why’d I give you a job, huh? I asked you to do one thing for me, but that’s too hard for poor little Faithy. She’s gotta start whining and bitching, break up with a guy who actually cares about her, ignore the girls I sent to work with her and act like she’s the victim!”
“Screw you, B!” Faith stormed off down the corridor, into one of the cells and slammed the door behind her.
“Bitch,” Buffy whispered. She sat down on the wreckage of her tent and opened a bottle of soda. A tear gathered at the corner of her eye, and she crushed it away with an angry swipe of her hand.
“Willow, please, help me understand what on earth’s possessed you to do this.”
“Giles, come on, it’s not like I’m controlling them or anything. I’m just… lowering some inhibitions, that’s all.”
“Inhibitions are there for a reason, Willow.”
“Yeah, sometimes, other times they just get in the way. Giles, Buffy’s freaking out about the whole Faith thing. Not exactly loving it myself, but I’m not the one she tried to drown.”
“Willow, you don’t understand, the circumstances-”
“Were circumstancy, I know, and I’m trying to be fair here. That’s why I’m trying to help both of them instead of warding the castle so Faith can’t come in at all!”
“But to resort to this, to poison them?”
“We’re not poisoning them! Giles, really, I’ve been careful with this. We didn’t put it in beer this time, a-and I did some work on the spell too, reduced the impact. They’d have to eat practically everything we gave them in, like, a day before they start painting on the walls.”
“You moderated the effects.”
“They’d have to eat a great deal more than normal to suffer the full effects?”
“And this spell, it operates by making the id the dominant part of the psyche.”
“Right, they’ll say what they want and how they feel instead of getting yelly.”
“Willow, have you forgotten that, in Freudian theory, the id governs hunger?”
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. Oops!”
“How come I’m always the bad guy?”
Buffy had been dozing by the fire, her stomach grumbling over the amount she’d eaten, until Faith’s voice woke her up. She looked around and saw Faith standing at the corridor entrance, just barely in the circle of light cast by the fire. “What?”
“How come I’m always the bad guy, no matter what I do?” Faith’s voice was more controlled now, but there was anger simmering under the surface still.
“Natural talent,” Buffy replied, instinct putting her into combative mode. She wrapped her blanket a little tighter around her shoulders and tossed another log on the fire.
“What the hell do you want me to do, Buffy?” Faith said, picking up a bottle of soda and coming to sit by the fire.
“Oh, I don’t know. Get lost, go to hell, get outta my sight, never darken my door again, you pick.”
“Quit, you mean.”
“That’d be a start.”
“Not gonna happen,” said Faith. She had to pause for a moment while her own stomach growled at her.
“Eat too much?”
“No such thing.” Faith drained half the bottle of soda. “How do you do this?”
“Turn me into the villain just by being there.”
“I don’t turn you into the villain, Faith, you did that all by yourself!”
“That was a long time ago, B.”
“And, what, you’re different now?”
“Why do I keep tryin’ to talk to you?”
“Because you’re just that stupid?”
Faith’s arm lashed out before she’d even thought about it, her fist crushing Buffy’s nose. She pulled back at once, physically holding her arm against her chest, muttering “Damn it, Faith, get a grip!”
Buffy had fallen back, away from the blow, and now she touched her nose with er fingertips. Blood gleamed in the firelight. “I knew it. You never change, Faith.”
“Shut up! Just shut up!” Faith yelled at her. “I don’t wanna fight, B!”
“Sure you do. You always wanna fight. Well, we’re locked in, Faith. Guess it’s cage match time.”
“No! I’m not-” Faith’s voice was cut off as Buffy’s foot caught her in the ribs. She twisted away from the kick, coming up into a half crouch on reflex. “Why you doin’ this, B?”
“Why? Because I hate you!” Buffy was practically snarling now, firelight dancing in her eyes as she slowly advanced, and the loathing in her voice felt almost physical. “Every time you come near my life something gets destroyed! I want you gone, Faith.”
Faith leapt at her.
They hit the floor beside what was left of their food supplies. Buffy’s head bounced off the stone floor hard enough to stun her for a moment, enough time for Faith to get on top and start pounding her fist into Buffy’s face. Buffy managed to get an arm up to ward off some of the blows, buying herself enough time to drive her other fist into Faith’s stomach, knocking her off balance and letting Buffy squirm loose. She rolled to her feet and came face to face with Faith, hands already in guard position.
Buffy snapped off a kick that Faith blocked, dropping her arm to knock Buffy’s foot away. She replied with a punch that just clipped the point of Buffy’s jaw, and then the blows began to fly in earnest. What was left of the food was crushed underfoot as they knocked each other around the room.
By the time Faith landed on her back, with Buffy on top of her, both of them were bruised and bleeding from a dozen small cuts. “The whole punchin’ thing doesn’t seem to be workin’ like usual, huh B?”
“Then I guess I’ll have to hit you harder!” Buffy slammed her elbow into Faith’s nose. Faith grappled with her, finding the leverage she needed to tip Buffy off and break clear, but only for a moment. Buffy came back in, leading with a kick. Faith caught it, hooked one arm under Buffy’s leg, the other around her shoulders and the next moment Buffy was airborne, flying down the corridor into the darkness.
Faith got to her feet, wiping blood from her nose. “Had enough, blondie?” She could hear something from down the corridor, what sounded almost like stretching and popping. “B?”
The noises stopped, then she heard footsteps coming her way. Buffy appeared at the edge of the firelight and Faith gasped. Her face was scraped raw down one side, presumably from the fall, but she looked stronger than ever. Her hair was loose, tangled and matted in a way Buffy would never tolerate, and she was walking hunched over. It was her eyes that captured Faith, though, hard and angry, without any kind of thought of reason behind them. She snarled, circling the fringes of the firelight, and Faith suddenly felt pain shooting through her, knocking her to her knees. Buffy charged.
“So, now that we’ve established the full extent of your lunacy, what are you going to do about it?”
“Will, I don’t-”
“Nothing’s changed, Xander. They still have a problem, they still need to work it out, and this is still the only way we can think of for them to do it.”
“You intend to leave them in there?”
“Giles, we’ve gotta do something. Even if they do go all cave-slayer down there, at least they’ll be working through stuff. We just might need more Band-Aids after.”
“Gotta go with Miss Mojo on this one, Giles, we’re out of options.”
Buffy’s limbs felt like they were made of tissue paper, she was so tired. She could see that Faith was exhausted too by the way she was moving, her lank, tangled hair falling over her face as though she didn’t have the energy to push it aside, but she still was moving, and as long as she did, Buffy was going to keep hitting her.
She picked what was left of a chair and swung. Faith managed to turn away from the blow, taking it on her shoulder and arm rather than her head, and the last of the chair’s joints fell apart. Faith threw a punch at her jaw, re-opening a cut in her lip. Buffy dropped the last of the chair and threw herself forward, locking her arms around Faith and pinned her arms against her sides.
Try as she might, Faith couldn’t break free. The pain was got worse and worse as Buffy squeezed, crushing her, keeping her from breathing. Buffy was face to face with her, teeth clenched, lips pulled back with the exertion as she tried to squeeze the life out of Faith. Her hair fell aside as they struggled, exposing the pale skin of her neck, and Faith lunged forward to bite her.
Buffy yelped, in shock as much as pain, and released her hold to push Faith away. Faith’s teeth lost their grip as she did, and the pair of them stumbled away from each other, eyeing each other for the next move.
Faith staggered forward, wiping blood from a cut on her forehead before it could get into her eye. She flailed with one fist, clouting Buffy on the side of the head before she could get her arm up, but the blow had no real force behind it. Buffy thrust both arms out and shoved her, and she staggered, swaying with fatigue. She lurched forward again, and Buffy came to meet her; they collapsed against each other, sliding to the floor, the last of their strength gone.
They lay there for a few moments, gasping for breath, then Faith rolled away and began dragging herself toward the wall. Buffy watched her go, too tired to stop her. The fire was burning low now, unattended during hours of fighting, and finally Buffy crawled that way, trying to soak up the warmth. After a while, she had found the energy to throw another log on the spluttering flames. As she lay there, she started to pick at the curdled mess of emotions she was feeling and finally asked the question. “Why Faith hate Buffy?”
“Faith not hate Buffy,” Faith replied. She was leaning against the wall, out in the cold and darkness away from the fire, blood drying on her face. “Buffy leave Faith alone. Faith always alone. No-one want Faith.”
“Buffy want Faith.” Buffy’s simplified mind didn’t understand why she’d said that, but she meant it and for once her brain couldn’t get in the way.
“Buffy always want Faith,” she said. “Like be with Faith. Then Faith hurt Buffy. Make Buffy sad. ”
“Faith not want hurt Buffy,” Faith said. “Faith sorry. Faith miss Buffy.”
There was a miserable, plaintive edge to Faith’s voice that didn’t need a modern brain to understand it. Suddenly Buffy wasn’t looking at an enemy, she was looking at a wounded member of her tribe, and before she knew there were tears in her eyes, glimmering in the firelight. “Faith miss Buffy?”
Faith looked at up her and saw the tears. “Faith make Buffy cry. Faith bad!” She began thumping her head against the wall, while a high, keening wail started deep in her throat.
“No!” Buffy cried, half crawling, half running across the room. “Faith not bad!”
“Bad! Bad! Buffy hate Faith!” Faith’s hand began pounding on the wall along with her head, breaking open the fresh scabs on her knuckles.
“No!” Buffy crouched beside the wall and took Faith’s head in her hands, forcing Faith to look at her. “Buffy not hate Faith!”
“Buffy not hate Faith?”
“Buffy love Faith.” She physically jerked back in surprise as she said it, but she couldn’t help herself, couldn’t deny the truth of it.
Faith didn’t believe it, she was shaking her head. “Buffy not love Faith.”
“Buffy love Faith!” Buffy insisted, thumping her fist against her chest, right over her heart.
“No…no…no… Faith love Buffy,” Faith whispered. “No-one love Faith.”
“Faith love Buffy?” Buffy’s brow creased in confusion, and she rocked back on her heels. “When Faith love Buffy?”
“Always love Buffy,” replied Faith. “Then Faith hurt Buffy. Faith hurt Faith.”
“Faith love Buffy…” Buffy didn’t know what to do, when she’d said she loved Faith she hadn’t expected to hear it back, and tears began to slip from her eyes. “Faith… love Buffy.”
Faith nodded, her own tears making smudged tracks through the grime and blood on her cheeks.
“Faith love Buffy. Buffy love Faith. Buffy… Buffy kiss Faith?” She didn’t wait for an answer, she leaned forward and brushed a clumsy, awkward kiss across Faith’s lips. She jerked back from the contact, her fingers touching her lips, and a huge smile broke lit up her face. “Buffy like kiss Faith!”
“Buffy taste like cherry.”
“Kiss Faith more?” When Faith nodded, Buffy leaned forward once more, and this time Faith came to meet her. They pressed together, their lips moving in ways they half-remembered but still seemed completely new. Buffy could feel something stirring inside her, deep in the pit of her stomach. “Buffy want Faith.”
“Faith want Buffy.”
There was a ripping sound.
“You think they’ve wound down yet?” Willow said, brushing her fingers over the outside of the dungeon door.
“I think – Kat said the shouting and banging stopped hours ago,” Xander replied. He put his ear to the door and listened for a minute. “Can’t hear a thing.”
“We should probably go in, then. Right?”
“You go on.”
“You want me to go in front?”
“Just being polite. Ladies first.”
“We’ll go in together, okay? On three?”
“Sure. You got the teleport spell handy?”
“You betcha,” Willow brandished a talisman. “Speedy getaway, right here.”
“Okay then. One.”
“Three!” Willow dropped the spell holding the door shut and they pushed it open.
“Buffy?” Xander whispered into the darkness, then realised how pathetic he sounded.
“Buffy?” he repeated, with more volume, “you okay?”
The fire had burned down almost to the embers, and wasn’t casting enough light to see by; the pre-dawn light wasn’t yet bright enough to do any better. Willow flicked on her flashlight, sweeping it over piles of crushed food and broken furniture, and heard Xander do the same. She covered her side of the room and saw no sign of the Slayers, but her light picked out heaps of tattered clothing scattered around the room. Her light reached the corridor on the far side of the chamber when she heard Xander’s exclamation.
“Oh God, not again!”
She turned and found him with his hand clamped over his good eye. She followed his light and saw Buffy and Faith curled up together on a battered mattress, under one of the coarse woollen blankets she and Xander had provided. They both looked to be naked, and were streaked with dirt and covered in cuts, bruises and scrapes, but they were entwined in each other’s arms, Faith resting her head on Buffy’s shoulder. “Okay… not exactly what I was expecting… Xander, we’ve gotta get out of here!”
“If they wake up and catch us looking at them like this, teleporting won’t be fast enough!”
That broke through Xander’s near-catatonia, and he practically bolted for the door. Willow was about to follow him, then she hesitated. She quietly put another couple of logs on the fire, then she whispered an incantation, her fingers traced a pattern in the air and something materialised beside the mattress.
As Willow closed the door behind her, Buffy allowed her eyes to open. She caught sight of the thing Willow had left them and blushed, but it passed as she felt Faith moving beside her, and let out a contented purr as a kiss brushed her shoulder. “Good morning.”
“Mornin’ B. Looks like our cover’s blown.”
“Yeah, seems to be the way things work around here.” Buffy stretched out under the blankets, snuggling closer to Faith.
“That where the ‘Oh God, not again’ thing’s comin’ from? You got caught?”
“Hey! We weren’t ‘caught’, the castle got attacked, it was a legitimate emergency burst-into-Buffy’s-room situation! Just… really sucky timing.”
“You sure it’s not just those guys havin’ the hot’n’sweaties for you?” Faith said, grinning at her.
“You think we shoulda said somethin’ to them, B?” Faith murmured in her ear. “Sounds like they figure we’re gonna be pissed.”
“Let ’em sweat a while,” Buffy replied. “Serves them right, locking us up down here and dosing us with that stuff.”
“Not exactly hatin’ the way it worked out here.”
“It was a lousy stunt to pull,” Buffy said, not caring if she sounded pouty, “and it’s not like they knew this would happen.”
“No-one knew this was gonna happen, B,” Faith said, laughing under her breath.
“No kidding,” Buffy replied, a sad smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. One of the fresh logs burst into flames, bathing them in gentle yellow light. Buffy watched it flicker across Faith’s skin and turn her eyes into pools of warm, welcoming darkness. “I keep thinking I’m gonna wake up, and I really don’t want to.”
“Right there with you, Buffy,” Faith said. Her fingertips whispered across Buffy’s skin, drawing a groan of pleasure that suddenly turned to a hiss as she brushed against a bad scrape, and she flinched. “I’m sorry!”
“Don’t stop, please don’t stop!”
“But I hurt you…”
“Oh God, Faith, right now everything feels good.”
“What about later, Buffy?” Faith’s voice was quieter now, and Buffy could see fear in her eyes. “What happens next? I’m tired of hurtin’ you, Buffy.”
“I don’t want to hurt you either.”
“So what do we do? I’m no good with relationships, B. You know how crazy I get sometimes. What if I screw up again?”
“We’ll figure it out, Faith. I love you.”
“Cave-you loves cave-me.”
“No, I love you,” Buffy said, gazing into her eyes. “I just needed CaveBuffy to do the talking for me. Do… do you love me?”
“God, B, lookin’ at you, it’s like… it’s like, as long as I’m with you, I’m gonna live forever.”
“Then we’re gonna make it work, Faith. I’m not losing you again.”
“It feels like I’m always losing you. After Finch, then when you woke up, and after Sunnydale…” Buffy couldn’t face her for a moment. “I’m so sorry about Cleveland, Faith. I thought it was what you wanted, you own place, a fresh start.”
“It coulda been, if you’d been there.”
The tears were coming again, slower now, easier, but coming from deeper inside. “Seems like I’m the one doing the screwing up lately. I’ve done a lot of things that seemed right at the time, but now I don’t know if they were exactly of the wise – oh God, not this,” Buffy said, seeing the idea pass behind Faith’s eyes, “I don’t mean this. This might be the only thing I’ve done right in months.”
“You mean it?”
Buffy just kissed her in response.
“Cherries… how come you taste like cherries, B?”
“Chapstick. Trust me, the winds we get around here, you’ll need it.”
“I’ll need it?” Faith said. “You want me to move in here?”
“Don’t you want to?”
“I don’t know, I mean… I can’t just be one of the girls, B. I got my own job to do, I’m not quittin’.”
“I don’t want you to,” Buffy assured her. “It’s important, what you do, I don’t want you to stop. Just, can’t you do it from here? Not just for me, I think it’d do the other girls good to have you around.”
“Always plannin’ ahead, B.”
“Sorta my job these days.”
“Yeah, guess I’m movin’ in,” Faith couldn’t help smiling at the thought. “Movin’ kinda fast, aren’t we?”
“I don’t wanna lose another day.”
“Yeah. You know, we got a hell of a story here, B. I mean our first night together, we were frickin’ cave people. That’s wicked freaky, even for us.”
“It’s kinda cool,” Buffy said. “It’s like we get to have two first times, one for cave-us and one for us-us. And,” She hesitated, her cheeks turning a delicate pink, “I think I want us-us to be now.”
“Now? Buffy, we’re in a frickin’ dungeon, we’re banged up to hell and gone. You’ve got blood in your hair, B! You want our first time to be like this?”
“I want our first time to be in the place where I said I love you,” Buffy said, brushing Faith’s hair back from her face and tracing the edge of a bruise on her cheek. “We’ll have time for soft sheets and candles and bubble baths, but we’re never gonna have this morning again. Make love to me, Faith. Please.”
Faith kissed her, one hand stroking her cheek. “I swear, I’m gonna get it right this time, B, whatever it takes.”
“I know.” Buffy kissed her back, pulling the blankets up over them. After a moment, one of her hands snaked out from under the covers and grabbed what Willow had left for them.
Faith giggled as she realised what Buffy was doing. “Buffy bad!”
“Buffy very bad,” Buffy laughed. “Faith lucky.”
“Five by five.”
A faint, high-pitched buzz came from under the blankets.