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by Shati


Rating: PG, sadly smutless
Summary: Post Chosen
Notes: Thanks to varadia for the beta!
Oral's Notes: No email address available for author. Please leave a story review at Live Journal


"So," says Buffy. "Cleveland."

"Yeah," says Faith.

It's been four hours since the plane landed. One for the drive back to Faith's, and one for a nap, and one for a shower, which is in no way excessive and Faith can just keep her raised eyebrows to herself. And one for standing in line for coffee. Or so it feels.

"Must be nice to settle." It's a good thing her scintillating wit is operating at full speed. Because otherwise this might be really awkward. "Aside from the Hellmouth."

The old lady just behind them gives Buffy a funny look.

"These kids today and their wacky band names," she says quickly.

Faith manages to muffle her snort of laughter, and they shuffle a few steps closer to the front of the line. "Look, Buffy," she says, "you're tired. I'm tired. We don't have to do the gossip thing."

"I think they're calling it 'the polite catching up thing' these days," Buffy says, and scans the coffee shop. They're getting odd looks, which is fair. Faith's got the tattoo-baring wifebeater and the extremely aggressive looking boots and the leather jacket tied around her waist, and Buffy is, well, she's wearing a floral-patterned pink halter top. Faith has always been able to cause floral-patterned pink halter top wearing in Buffy, like they're twins who refuse to be mistaken for each other.

Faith says, "Yeah, whatever. Is this line gonna move again anytime this century?"

"What are you getting?" Buffy tries to look at the menu, and finds that she has to stand on her toes, which the heels do not make easy. "I'm thinking some species of latte."

"I'm not getting anything," Faith says, and Buffy looks at her, surprised. "I don't drink coffee. And I especially don't drink this yuppie shit."

"Then why are you in line?" is all Buffy can think to say over the deafening silence of everyone within an offended five foot yuppie radius.

Faith shrugs. "You're getting a latte."

There are a lot of good and not-ridiculous reasons for Buffy to feel guilty around Faith. Dragging her into an upscale coffee place when she's not getting anything is not one of them. "I thought you were getting something," she says anyway.

Faith's smile is startlingly bright, white teeth and red lipstick. Buffy wonders if Faith wears that lipstick, these clothes, when she's not around Buffy, or if Buffy's presence changes Faith the same as Faith changes Buffy. "I'll have your leftovers," she says. "Tradition, right?"

They both look down, and Buffy wonders why language was even invented. Words tricky, fists clear.

"So, Giles fill you in?" Faith says over 4 am dinner.

Buffy swallows 4 am dinner, which is some kind of obscenely chocolate cereal, and says, "Kinda not. At all. He just said, 'Buffy, you're needed in Cleveland.' And a lot of other stuff about Andrew being the most exasperating person alive, but we're both already in the know about that." She takes another bite. "I think Xander's feeling threatened."

Faith's nodding. "No big. Just an ancient cult of demon warriors who got some world-ending prophecy and decided to take out the whole town." Faith takes a bite of cereal and Buffy a swig of orange juice (see, she's a healthy eater, take that, Dawn) before they even think to look at each other, and then there's a long moment and they start to laugh.

"No, it's just," Buffy's saying, and Faith's saying, "I was serious, it's not like it ever works," and Buffy's saying, "I know, I know, but the way you said it," and Faith knocks over the carton of orange juice and they lose it.

Five minutes later, they're soberly trying to figure out how to get the orange juice out of the cracks in Faith's kitchen's tiles.

"Just gimme the rag," Faith says, and swipes at the spill. "Jesus, B."

"Right, this is my fault." Buffy hovers anyway. "You were the one who used your supernatural reflexes to spill it."

"So it's mine," Faith says, and the laughter's gone.

Wrong word, fault.

It's another hour before the phone rings, and they both jump. Faith hangs up after a few minutes of terse yeses and nos. "We got our demons."

Buffy drains her cup and sets it down. "Where are they?"

"Your coffee shop," Faith says, dragging a trunk out from behind the table. "Apparently it's built over some kind of ancient . . ." She pauses, nonplussed. "Evil thing. Andy was a little too clear on the details, I tuned out. You really know how to pick 'em, B."

"Well, we know how to get there fast, thanks to me," Buffy says. There's a stake in her purse; she pulls it out, settles her fingers around the sanded wood. Mr. Pointier, name courtesy Willow. "Besides." She flashes Faith a grin. "Demons have good taste."

Faith's smile startles her again. "Sometimes."

"Sorry to bust in on you like this," Buffy says, as the door shatters under Faith's boot, and Faith says, "Blondie here's a real bitch without her morning coffee."

The demons look up.

They move.

The house is dark and chilly, and Buffy turns up the heat before she follows Faith up the stairs. She reaches for the light switches too, but her fingers are shaking more than she's realized, and she misses, stubs them against the wall, grabs a roll of paper towels instead.

Faith's slumped on the edge of the bed when Buffy stumbles up the stairs, into the room.

"You okay?" Buffy says.

"It's shallow."

The rain on the window is fracturing the light that passes through it, sending ripples of shadow over Faith's skin, her face, her hands, her mouth. Over the patter of drops hitting the glass Buffy can hear her breathing: fast, but steady.

"I brought paper towels," Buffy says, and settles on the bed. The mattress shifts underneath her, lifting Faith, and she nearly leaps off it in a jolt of terror; she's wrecked the balance.

Crazy. It's just a shallow cut, and they're both acting like --

Faith tries to pull the tank top off, but the wet fabric clings to her skin, and her fingers are shaking just as hard as Buffy's; they catch on the beltloops of her jeans. "Fuck," she says, and Buffy reaches forward to help. When her fingers brush Faith's they both freeze in place.

Buffy doesn't look at Faith, keeps her eyes on their hands, but she can feel Faith's breath on the side of her neck.

"Buffy," Faith says: warning, question, answer.

There's always been something hanging over them, Buffy thinks, and covers Faith's hand with her own. Between them. Bodies. Dead, resurrected, stolen. Now it's Faith's. She should probably say something, but there's rain pattering outside the window and her shirt is sticking damply to her back and there's heat radiating from Faith's chilled skin and Buffy's throat is too tight to speak.

Slowly -- so slowly, like she's trying not to startle Buffy, or maybe herself -- Faith curls her fingers around the hem of her tank top, and lifts Buffy's hand with her own when she peels the fabric up.

Her stomach is rounder than Buffy's, paler, goosebumped and streaked with sweat and rainwater. Buffy sees the cut, still bleeding but sluggishly and shallow. The blood's mixed with rain, and when Faith twists to reach for the roll of towels it drips scarlet onto the white sheets, and Buffy thinks dizzily that she has seen this before.

She pulls her hand away, and Faith wipes at the blood. It's not dry yet, diluted by the rain, and it scrubs off easily enough. Beneath it a white line streaks across Faith's belly.

Faith looks up at the same time Buffy does, and they stare at each other in the dim rainwashed light.

Slayers, she thinks. Manus. The hand.

Her palm is just wide enough to cover the width of the scar.

Outside, the rain keeps drumming, but it's steadying. Familiar. She's sat just like this on a narrow bed with the rain outside humming against the windows, touched hot damp bare skin, and this isn't --

"Buffy," Faith says again, quieter.

"It's okay," she says. Which is a stupid thing to say, but it's all she can think of. She presses down, not hard, and her fingers, still moist from Faith's, glide right over the slippery skin. The scar feels -- small. Such a thin line.

"I've never seen it before."

Faith's eyes are shadowed. "Not even -- ?"

The body switch. "No." She hadn't had a chance. Probably would have avoided it if she'd had.

"I did."

It sounds like a confession, and Buffy has no idea how to answer that, so she traces the shape of the scar into Faith's stomach, and thinks, when she hears Faith's indrawn breath, that maybe --

It takes her two distinctly ungraceful tries to get the halter top over her head, and Faith is staring when she finally succeeds. "Buffy --" she says. "We don't have to --"

It's such a silly thing to say. "Well, I know that."

Faith is looking at her intently. "It's your choice."

"No," Buffy says, "it's yours." Too many years, too much between them, behind them, hanging over them, but that's -- okay. She bends her head, and Faith's scar tastes like nothing at all. Like something washed clean. "I've chosen."




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