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by Queen Zulu

Time Line:
Bad Girls
Summary: Faith's killing in the alley may destroy her relationship with Buffy.

You put your face in front of mine
All but hiding desperation

Hunger leaks out of your eyes
Whetting me with dark temptation

It wasn't like Buffy hadn't skipped class before. It wasn't even the first time she'd skipped a test.

Climbing out the window while the teacher's back was turned was new, though.

But Faith's grin was a challenge and a dare, her raised eyebrow accused Buffy of being chicken, and the little heart she'd drawn in the mist of her breath--well, it didn't mean anything, just that there were vamps to slay, but something about it prickled at her and made her jump up, filled with a strange, dark energy. She barely even noticed Willow's protests and Xander's gape, just did what she had to do--climbed out and followed Faith.

Faith was leaning back against the warm brick wall, her smile wide and lazy and showing off her dimples. She tipped her head back and leered at Buffy, smoothly, blatantly, again with the daring--now, daring Buffy to call her on checking her out. Buffy didn't say anything this time because she'd never had the nerve to say anything before. The first time she'd noticed Faith's eyes doing the leisurely once-over, she hadn't believed it; now, it was just par for the course, just Faith, and Buffy shivered under the appreciative weight of her stare and ignored it.

As much as she could.

"Come on, girlfriend, we got vamps to slay," Faith said, and led the way. She was walking way faster than she needed to. They both were. Buffy was psyched up on the feel of Faith's eagerness, the amazing high of anticipating the slay. Adrenaline pumped through her and she fought not to break out into an exultant run, knowing that Faith would match her, would challenge her and push her until they were breathless and aching and yet still filled to the brim with that strange desire. It was partly the Slayer-instincts in her that ached for the kill, and partly it was the way Faith--

Well, it was a Slayer thing. Even Willow wouldn't understand the death-need of it, the way every vamp exploding into a choking cloud around her stake made her almost complete. Almost. It was a thing she sort of understood about Angel--he felt the same way about blood. Every time he drank from his little hospital blood-packets, he was doing what the demon inside him demanded--almost.

The demon wanted more. The demon wanted death and pain and the hot spurting feel of a torn carotid artery, pumping out bittersweet blood in time with the last of a victim's screams. Angel was burying a part of himself, denying that he still wanted that. But she knew he did--she could sense it, every time his kisses moved over her neck and he would jerk away like she burned him. And he would end it, there, tell her it was late, she should be sleeping, and she knew that when she was out of sight he would be running--running away from her. From her blood.

And until Faith arrived, Buffy had been running as well.

She'd hated that death-lust inside her. She pushed it aside and pretended slaying was only a job, a chore. She'd hidden the quick thrill of killing underneath a barrage of puns and quips. Like it didn't mean anything. Like she wasn't living for it, with it, in it.

Almost. Because she'd never given in completely. Not yet.

Sometimes, in the beginning, when she was out slaying with Merrick and then Giles, she would make her kill and then turn to them only to see them staring at her strangely, like they were wondering about her.wondering what she was truly feeling. They were probably looking for signs of it, whatever it was--the desire that filled her in hot, shuddering waves after a long night's patrol. The desire she fought against when she was alone, in bed, in the shower.

Not that there was anything wrong with it, just--she wasn't like that. She wasn't.

Oh, but Faith was.

She sauntered along the street like a goddess lowering herself enough to appear on the earth. She was wearing leather like a second skin, even in the California heat. She was probably wet with sweat inside those pants, although the filmy barely-there shirt might be compensating. Every couple of blocks she'd drop back two steps behind Buffy for a moment, and Buffy could practically feel her eyes, like hands, roaming over her ass and then down between--

Faith had taught her that the slay-lust wasn't bad, wasn't evil, in the same way that Angel's need for blood was. But Buffy knew she was the better slayer because she kept it under control. Faith was wild and careless, chasing down her high however she could, no matter what danger she put herself in. Kendra had been the exact opposite--too controlled, like a Watcher's experiment in trying to rein in a Slayer's natural tendencies. And those two extremes tore at Buffy, like one big tug-of-war, the wanting on one hand and the caution on the other.

The more she slayed with Faith, though, the more the desire was winning. Right now--right at this exact moment--she knew that if a vampire appeared, she would stake it with a smile on her face and a quivering pleasure curling between her legs.

"Here," Faith said. She was holding a stake, its grip shiny with long familiarity in her hands. She was pointing at a manhole cover, and all at once Buffy felt like she'd been doused in ice water. Clarity and prudence returned.

"How many?" she asked.

"Six, I think," Faith said. "Come on, don't tell me you're scared?"

"Six to two? In the sewers? And you're not even sure--it could be more."

Faith shrugged, that devil-may-care gesture, and flashed another dimple-showing grin. She looked Buffy up and down again, slowly, lingering in all the right places. "I may not die happy," she said. "But it will have been close." She kicked the manhole cover off. It hit the pavement with a grand, ringing clang that would probably warn every vamp in a mile-wide radius. "Your call, girlfriend," Faith said, and dropped down into the sewer.

Lust and fear. Being good or being free. Sounds of combat drifted up, Faith's voice yelling curses, and before Buffy could make a rational decision, she was falling into the dark.

A vamp was on her immediately, huge and incredibly strong. Buffy felt the tightness in her gut that screamed danger at her, that told her she was surrounded, that was her Slayer-self tensing at the feel of vampires. She lashed out with a kick to his kneecap that sent him stumbling back with a growl. She launched herself at him, her punches exploding in his face, his ribs. She felt the crunch when she broke his nose, blood streaming down his face. His tongue darted out to lap at it, and he grinned at her, showing fangs. Buffy grabbed him when he rushed her and sent him over her hip, flying into the concrete wall. Before he could rise, she slammed her stake into his back. She felt it in slow motion, as it went through his clothes, piercing his skin, slipping through the bands of muscle, cracking a rib--and, finally, sinking into his heart. With a sound like a sigh, he dissolved into a dusty skeleton and then into nothingness.

And it was good.

She was grabbed from behind next, thick arms cutting off her breath and squeezing her ribs. She drove an elbow backwards, then leaned forwards to throw the next vamp over her head and down on her back. He leapt to his feet and swiped a punch at her that caught her high on her right cheek. Her eye watered, but not enough to blind her, and she swung a roundhouse kick into his temple, knocking him for a loop. He grabbed at her feet and pulled her to the ground beside him, and she cracked her elbow on the slimy shit-smelling floor. She scrambled closer to him, switching her stake to her other hand, wrestling him until she had his hand up behind his back. She twisted, hard, pressing at the same time, and felt more than heard the dull snap of his collarbone. He howled, all the fight gone out of him, and she drove her stake home. She was left sitting in his dust and a pool of filthy who-knew-what, in her favourite pants, no less. Her Slayer-rage was trying to emerge, clawing at the cage she'd imposed on it, but she forced herself to stop and see what was happening.

Faith was fighting the last vampire, and taking a beating. The tight confines of the sewer were no place for her wide, sweeping style, and she'd already taken the short end of the stick from the three she'd fought first. Buffy waited until she saw an opening and shot to her feet, her stake already pointed in the right direction, and she impaled the vamp when Faith's kick sent him flying backwards.

The skeleton exploded into dust between them. Faith stared at her through the fading cloud of grit, her face twisted into an almost-snarl, her chest heaving with her rasping breath, her hands twitching around the stake she still held. Buffy was shaking, the slay-lust shrieking through her body, the ferocious energy singing like fire along her nerves. She held herself still with an effort, but she couldn't stop herself from staring at Faith, the dull flush climbing her cheeks, her pupils dilated to their full extent here in the sewer's dimness. Buffy could feel the connection between them flaring brighter than it ever had, sending cascades of ecstatic sparks down her back. She was wet with desire, and she could smell it in the air, feel it in the way that Faith's eyes were moving over her. There was something horribly, wonderfully wild in Faith's gaze.

Something that said, I want you.

And something in her wanted to answer.

Instead, she asked, "You hungry? We could maybe grab some burgers."

Faith's glance flicked away. "Yeah. That's cool." Her voice was low and husky. When she looked back, there was only the usual lazy appreciation in her eyes. Just Faith. Just good friends. Nothing strange going on with them, not that there was anything wrong with that, it was just that she--well, she wasn't like that. It wasn't even an issue. Which is why she didn't even really need to be thinking about it.

Buffy felt a surge of--something--go through her, as she bottled up all her Slayer instincts once more. Probably it was relief. She was relieved. She loved Angel; even though they could never--well, but that wasn't the point. She loved him. Not that that had anything to do with.this. There was no connection at all between the way Faith looked in her tight leather pants and cleavage-baring tank top and Buffy's relationship with Angel. So, of course it was relief.

Because it sure as hell wasn't disappointment.



Part 2

You can read me like a trashy book
I'm barely keeping in these rages

So far, so clean, but I'm torn between,
See, I'm torn between these pages, pages.

I can hear the angel on my shoulder
And the devil on your lips.

The music throbbed through the walls of the Bronze, the deep bass drumming an impossible-to-sit-still-for beat. Faith grinned over her shoulder at Buffy as they swung through the doors, already dancing as she pushed through the crowd to get closer to the speakers. The hot press of dance-sweaty bodies warmed her after the cool night outside. Buffy let Faith shove open a space for them to gyrate within the heavy Friday night crush. The thunderous blare of band and audience felt like a solid thing, inside her, pulsing in time with her blood, and Buffy gave herself up to the music. She moved on instinct, feeling the brief brushes of warm strangers against her mostly-bare skin. The heat and the flashing lights whirled together, feeding a frenzy within her to move, to touch, to dance as hard as she could until she was panting for air.

Faith lifted her hands through her hair and slid them down her body to the music's pounding rhythm, inviting everyone within fifty feet to check her out. She led their eyes down from the black silk cloth she'd worn as an excuse for a top, to her tight-in-all-the-right-places leather pants, to the heavy combat boots that didn't match the outfit so much as they matched Faith. Buffy could feel the room gasp...or maybe it was her, releasing a breath she hadn't known she was holding.

Boys surrounded them, but somehow Faith's elbows managed to slam into them if they got too close. Still, the guys crowded in, but they were only obstacles to dance around, touches to avoid. Buffy closed her eyes and ignored them, stamping her heels down on their toes if they tried too hard to cop a feel. Even dancing blind, she knew every time it was Faith's fingers stroking up and down her bare back, Faith's hand settling on her hip to guide her closer for a second, for a beat, for an eternity. Every now and then, the animal fervor of the people around them pressed them together, so closely that Faith's swaying hips might ram into her ass, randomly, accidentally, the brief friction making her tremble. Even in the breathless heat, Faith's touch sent shivers through her.

But that was just the Slayer connection. If it weren't for that, Buffy could be dancing with anybody. It could have been Angel...and she was beginning to wish it was. She wanted to--well, to see him. She hadn't dropped in on him lately, and they hadn't even gone on a date since that disastrous French lunch movie. Buffy shoved away the guilt that thought provoked. Tonight was about fun.

And, really, Faith was miles ahead of Angel in the having-fun category.

Buffy felt the jangle of her vamp-alarm and opened her eyes, searching for the source of the sudden tension low in her stomach. Faith was looking, too, but she didn't pause in her dancing--if anything, her movements became even sexier. She was perfectly happy seducing the undead before staking them. Buffy twisted around, peering into the dark corners of the room, wondering where the danger was.

Angel was standing in the shadow of one of the pillars, watching her with a frown on his face, his shoulders hunched. As soon as he noticed that she'd seen him, he moved as though to leave. Buffy rushed across the floor, dismissing the boys who'd glommed on to her during the dance.

She jumped up on Angel, wrapping her legs around his waist and locking her ankles. "Hey! You're not leaving, are you?"

Angel glanced over at Faith. "I saw you making friends."

She clasped her hands behind his neck. "I like you." She leaned in for a kiss, the coldness of his lips and tongue contrasting sharply with her pent-up heat. Her body was going crazy, the scratchy-twitch of her Slayer part demanding that she kill it kill it killit killitkillit, the pre-slay adrenaline flooding through her, mingling with the damp ache between her legs. Buffy gripped him tighter with her thighs, deliberately humping him right here in the middle of the Bronze. She felt him stir against her crotch and did it again. He was getting harder, but he stopped cooperating in the kiss and dropped his arms from around her waist, so that only her strength kept her clinging to him.

"You're not afraid of little old me, are you?" she asked.

"Buffy..." He was frowning fiercely at the air beside her left ear, his voice strained. "You know I can't..."

"I can sense this is a business trip." With a pout and a sigh, she released her legs and slid down him, feeling his erection pressed against her stomach.

Angel stepped back. "We'd better sit down."

Buffy turned her back on him and headed for the couches. Angel followed her, and she tried to bury the feeling that a vampire was creeping up on her. What the hell was going on with her Slayer instincts? Angel always set off her vamp-dar, but never this much. Her goddamn spidey sense couldn't tell good from evil, just vamps from humans, and right now that was doing more harm than good. Her stomach was doing flips, and she wished she were holding a stake--and it was just Angel.

Angel dragging along his matched set of emotional baggage. What did he think, that she didn't know exactly what the risks were if she asked him to--well--help her out? She wasn't ignorant. She knew damn well there were things they could do that wouldn't make him too happy. Hanging out with Faith was an education and a half as far as that went. But what could she do? Just grab him and whisper in his ear exactly what she wanted?

She snuggled next to him on the couch and wondered if she had the nerve. Faith would. Hell, Faith could probably give Angel pointers. Heat surged through her at the thought. Okay, she could admit it, she was horny. One dance, one kiss, an afternoon of some pretty intense slaying, and she was ready to jump out of her skin.

Before she could say anything, Angel shifted to the far end of the couch. "It's Balthazar," he said.

"Dead demon," she answered. Faith was dancing with some random guy now, hanging off his neck, her head thrown back as she rode his thigh. Angel could be carved out of some broody rock for all it looked like he cared about being here. "We have his amulet."

"He's not as dead as you think," Angel said. "Word on the street puts him in the packing warehouse on Devereau. I spoke to Giles, but he said you gave the amulet to someone."

"Ah-ha!" Wesley stepped in front of them, hands on his hips. "There you are!"

Buffy leaned sideways so she could see the dance floor behind him. Faith was practically raping that scrawny idiot she was dancing with.

"...and I think we ought to establish that if you're going out slaying, you leave me a number at which I can contact you."

Buffy glanced up at Wesley. She seized him by the lapel and yanked him closer, ignoring his girly shriek. She pulled the amulet out of his pocket.

"Walking around with that thing is like wearing a target," Angel said.

"I'll keep it safe...actually safe," Buffy said, with an irritated look at Wesley.

"It might be better if I took it," Angel said. He sounded like he was trying to reason with a two-year-old.

Fury slid through her, and Buffy clenched her fists around the amulet, feeling the diamonds digging into her skin. "You don't think I can handle it?" she said sweetly.

Angel's lips thinned with anger. "You've been acting reckless lately," he said.

Buffy glared at him. "Reckless?"

He refused to meet her gaze. "Not like yourself." He paused, scowling at the dance floor. "More like Faith."

Fury boiled over, but Buffy refused to let it show in her voice. "I'll do some recon on Balthazar."

Wesley looked back and forth between them. "If I may...Balthazar is dead. Am I the only one who remembers that?"

They both ignored him. Angel stood up. "I'll tell Giles where you're going, then I'll join you."

"Don't rush on my account."

"Buffy..." Angel sighed. "Why torture ourselves when we know what a loss of control would mean?"

Buffy stared at him for a moment, then brushed past him to grab Faith off the dance floor. She felt him leave out the front door by the fading ping of her vamp-dar. Did it never occur to him that maybe she'd like to lose control for once? She wasn't the one who had to worry--her soul was firmly attached. This afternoon in the sewers she'd nearly let herself be carried away, losing herself in the slaying. Hours later and she was still on the knife-edge of the struggle, the killing-need and the hot crashing want of the dance balanced against the sensible good-girl she was supposed to be.

And at this rate she was going to be that sensible supposed-to-be person forever.

Well, fuck that.

"Faith!" she yelled over the music. "We gotta go!"

Faith grinned at her, still hanging off her partner's neck. Buffy grabbed her by her free arm and gave a half-serious yank to detach them. The guy protested, but Faith only waved and said, "Call me!"

Buffy shouldered her way through the throng, pulling Faith by the hand even after she started following voluntarily. They stepped out into the relative cool of the alley and Buffy dropped Faith's hand, trying to shake the tingles. She paced while Faith leaned back against the door and lit a cigarette.

"You doing okay, girlfriend?" she asked. "You're looking tense."

Buffy wanted to jump up and down to get rid of some of the excess energy that Angel's appearance had caused. Instead she kicked a trashcan, nearly putting her foot through its side and sending it crashing into a wall twenty feet away. "I'm fine."

Faith nodded and blew a smoke ring. "Okay, no big, I was just asking. So what's the what?"

"Balthazar's still alive. We're going to take a look."

"Just a look?"

Buffy whirled around. How could Faith be so calm after all this--the slaying, and the dancing, and--and everything? Why was she suddenly the one who couldn't stay still for two seconds? But the tip of Faith's cigarette was wobbling, and she was smiling like she couldn't stop, her eyes gleaming underneath the kohl-dark makeup and the alley's shadows. She took another drag, her breath coming in a quick, shuddery sigh.

"Yeah. Just a look," Buffy said. "We're not going to do anything reckless."

"I shoulda known," Faith said.

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

Faith shrugged and pitched her butt in a shower of sparks. "Just that you're all about the window-shopping, B."

"We'd need more fire power than none," Buffy said, trying to hold down the rage that kept wanting to take her over. She did not need any of Faith's insinuations. Not now. "And Angel's going to join us later."

"Who-fucking-hoo," Faith said. "Let's motor, then."

Buffy led the way to Devereau, not paying anymore attention to their route than necessary. She couldn't think--she was too busy playing over her conversation with Angel, and it blurred in her head, cut through with the static of her stupid (kill it) vamp alarm.

Faith touched her arm and she nearly answered with an instinctive punch. She caught herself at the last instant, and Faith smiled faintly.

"Check it out, B," she said, pointing. "That is too good."

Buffy raised an eyebrow at the sign that read Meyer's Sport and Tackle. "You're not seriously going to..."

Faith was already across the street. With a powerful kick, she shattered the main display window and climbed in through the sharded glass. Buffy stayed where she was, paralyzed. She hated the itchy danger-feel of being without a stake, but she'd meant for this to be recon only. She knew she was too close to the edge, and if she got her hands on a weapon then there would be no more excuses, no more holding back.

You've been acting reckless lately.

"When are you gonna get this, B?" Faith called, appearing at the window with a long-bow in her hands. "Life for a Slayer is very simple: want...take...have."


Buffy walked across the street and ducked under the slivered remains of the plate glass window. Faith grinned at her, already tucking a pair of nunchucks into her pants.


The knife case shone under the display lights. Buffy stepped up to it, and her fist shot out before she was aware, smashing the glass and catching the knife as it fell.


"Now how about slaying that Baltha-whatzit?" Faith asked. "New Olympic category? Most dead vamps in one day."

You haven't been acting like yourself...more like Faith...

Buffy stared at the knife in her hand. "Tomorrow...we'll have Giles and maybe even Willow--she's got these protection spells she wants to try..."

"Fuck that," Faith said. "You want to put 'em in danger? You said Angel was gonna back us up."

We know what a loss of control would mean...

Buffy gripped the knife's handle. "Are there more of those arrows?"

Police sirens wailed in the distance, getting closer.

"Come on, B, let's get out of here," Faith said. She grabbed Buffy's hand and hauled her out, running back to the shadows of the alley across the street.

Buffy looked back once, to see two cops drawing guns as they entered the store. Then she was running at Faith's side, the knife's grip steady in her sweaty palm. There was no guilt--there was only the Slayer. She matched Faith's stride, tried to pull ahead, but neither one could outrace the other. Excitement thrummed through her, like a dance beat, like lightning; electric and terrifying and something she was finally ready to move with. A hot spurt of sparks swept over her every time Faith brushed against her. In all the world, there was only the two of them, hot and quick and real, want meeting want.

Buffy's spidey sense jarred her an instant before the first vampire dropped down from the fire escape above them. There was no thought before action: she and Faith moved in tandem, kicking his feet out from under him and slamming an arrow into his chest a second later. Faith was laughing, breathless, as the breeze whipped the dust away, and Buffy found herself doing the same. This felt good; this felt right; and Faith's eyes were wide and dark and Buffy could nearly count her heartbeats by the pulse jumping in her throat.

"If they keep coming one at a time this is gonna be a piece of cake," Faith said, bouncing on her toes and making mock-thrusts with her arrow.

Buffy nodded, took a deep breath, smelling the sea and the stink of the packing plant and the gravedust of the dead vamp. "Next one's mine," she challenged, and sprinted off down the alley, Faith at her heels.

The next vamp came at them faster, the third and fourth attacked together, the fifth got in a lucky kick to her ribs that nearly knocked her wind out. Buffy's body buzzed with the constant sense of vampires lurking. She'd just staked the sixth when a hand landed on her shoulder, and she automatically bent over and yanked the arm, sending another vampire flying into a dumpster. Faith raised her arrow and plunged it down towards the vamp's chest when Buffy saw his face.

"Faith! No!" she yelled.

Too late.

The dust seemed to erupt in slow motion, starting where Faith's stake plunged into his heart, expanding in a clogging storm of powder, skin and then skeleton exploding into nothingness, and the last thing Buffy saw was the agonized look on Angel's face before he died.



Part 3

She says, "Where is the place that the good souls go?
Where they take away, take away, the pain that they know?

Where are the angels, angels, angels?"

I cannot tell you, my little darling.
All my faith has fallen, fallen, fallen.

The world slammed to a standstill.

The alley was empty. There was no sign, no evidence, nothing to show that Angel had been there a moment before. There was only a drift of ash in the wind; a scent of dead roses and freshly turned earth. The smell of cemeteries. Angel's smell.

Faith backed up a step, holding out her empty hands. The arrow had dusted as well. "Jesus, B--Buffy. I--I didn't know--"

Buffy stared at the oil-stained dumpster, the indentation in the metal where Angel's body had slammed into it--where she'd thrown him. Her chest burned, her heartbeat pounded in her wrists like a hammer. She couldn't breathe. She hurt, every bruise or slash clamouring for attention. She shook her head, slowly, once, twice, then turned to look at Faith.

Faith stared back at her, her eyes wide. Something there. Regret, yes. And...fear. But, also--pleasure. The death-lust.

Slayer. Vampire. Dead vampire.

Buffy crouched down beside the dumpster and reached out to touch the ground where he'd been. Her fingers were shaking. The grime coating the asphalt felt slick, gritty, cold. The wind kicked up sharp gusts of dirt, chilling her now that she wasn't running. The feel of vampires lurking was fading, was already gone. No more Eliminati, not tonight. They'd go back to their master and tell him how they'd lost, again. The satisfaction in that thought seemed very far away.

"Buffy--shit, I'm sorry--"

A touch on her shoulder. Warm. Trembling.

This time she did nothing to stop the instinctive attack.

She launched herself out of her crouch and smashed a right uppercut into Faith's jaw. The shock on her face was almost comic, filling Buffy with a vicious gratification. This was desire. She wanted to hurt, to destroy, anything, everything her body was begging for. She plowed her fist into Faith's gut, doubling her over. Pleasure thrummed through her, a vibration too deep to hear. Buffy grabbed Faith's head and pulled it down, bringing up her knee into her face.

She missed. Faith shoved her leg aside, spinning her around, then kicked the back of her knee and dropped her on her back. Pain flared, pale next to the red glare of her fury. Buffy flipped to her feet and drove forward with a kick that clipped Faith's thigh even as she was backing up. Seeing Faith limp filled Buffy with a savage joy, spurring her forward. Faith's hands were up defensively, a bruise already showing on her chin, almost as dark as her makeup, her lower lip swollen as if with kisses.

Buffy rushed her, throwing wild punches, not caring where they landed. Pain roared in her knuckles with every hit, satisfying yet feeding her hunger. Faith blocked most of them, making no attempt to fight back, only to thrust her away. Buffy fought blind, the world blurred by tears. Cold air corroded her lungs, and she couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe. Lust stormed through her, every wish she'd never made, every urge she'd never given in to. She snapped a kick at Faith's chest, but Faith caught her foot and pushed, sending her sprawling again.

Faith bent over, one arm hugging her ribs, panting. "Buffy--what the hell..."

Buffy wanted to stop, and she wanted to go on forever. Faith watched her like she was a rabid dog. Buffy lay on the ground where she'd been thrown, sobbing. Faith wasn't--wouldn't let herself be--a part of this. Her eyes flicked from side to side, searching for an escape. Behind the bruises, her makeup was smudged and running. The wind whipped at her hair, leaving it a dark curly tangle. Faith clenched her hands into fists, but she was quaking, her whole body trembling. Not with fear. No. She wasn't afraid.

Faith was holding herself back.

Furious, Buffy scrambled to her feet and lunged at Faith, crashing with her into the wall, their bodies pressed together. Faith's breath exploded out, a wash of cigarette smoke. They were both slick with sweat, smeared with the alley's filth. Buffy held Faith's upper arms, her fingers digging into her flesh, shivering as each harsh pant brushed Faith's breasts against hers.

Buffy squeezed her eyes shut, leaning her forehead against Faith's shoulder, her tears hot against their chilled skin. Faith was still, but her breathing grew ragged, the tension melting out of her muscles. Buffy bit her lip, concentrating on the electric feel of her silk top sliding across her nipples as they moved. With a sound--some sound, a whimper, a word, Faith's name--Buffy turned her head and nipped at the pulse fluttering in Faith's neck. Faith jerked, and Buffy's hands tightened automatically on her arms. There would be bruises there, the shape of her fingers, but Buffy was long past caring.

She let go with her teeth and sucked at the spot, moving her lips over Faith's neck and jaw. Faith moved her head, not trying to get away, but not trying to get closer, either. Anger drifted beneath Buffy's desire, a dark undercurrent, and she bit Faith again, harder. Faith's breath burst out next to her ear, making her shiver. Her mouth glided lightly over the bruise from her first punch, moving away again. Buffy flicked her tongue out, feeling the heat of blood throbbing through Faith's puffed lip.

"Buffy..." The word was whispered nearly into her mouth.

Buffy froze. Faith pulled back a hair's breadth, her eyes only reflected pools in the darkness. "What the hell, Buffy? Why are you fucking with me?"

Buffy moved closer, pressing Faith harder against the wall, feeling the frantic gush of pleasure between her legs. "Because I want to."

Faith turned her head, looking away. "The hell you do."

Buffy let go of Faith's arm and snaked her hand down her front, over the zipper of her leather pants. Squeezed. "Tell me you don't get off on this," she said. Mocking. Harsh.

Faith grabbed Buffy's arm and swung her around, too fast for Buffy to respond, trapping her in a full nelson. Buffy lurched forward. Faith followed the motion and then hauled her back. Buffy threw her head into Faith's face, but Faith ducked away. She squirmed madly in Faith's arms, fighting and writhing. She didn't know what she was struggling for, to escape from Faith's hold or to get as much friction from the encounter as she could. She panted out curses, thrusting her ass into Faith's crotch. Finally, exhausted, she stopped, fighting her desire to melt backwards into Faith's solid strength.

"You don't know what the hell you want," Faith whispered into her ear, her voice rough. "I just fucking staked your boyfriend after you threw him at me. You think you can screw me over?" She loosened her hold with one arm, slithering her fingers down Buffy's front, mimicking her actions from before. Her hand pushed beneath the waistband of Buffy's pants. Buffy gasped as fire shot through her. Faith's fingers slipped easily into her soaking pussy, rubbing small, gentle circles around her clit with her thumb. Buffy twitched and moaned, twisting closer to Faith's hand. She could feel her orgasm building quickly, its sweet, hurtful edge knifing through her thighs, her stomach. She opened her mouth to scream--

And Faith pulled her hand away. She shoved Buffy and stepped back at the same time, so that they stood facing each other. By whatever instinct, they were both crouched into fighting stances, fists raised. Faith lifted her hand to her mouth and sucked Buffy's juices off her fingers one at a time, watching Buffy's eyes the entire time.

"Bitch," Buffy hissed, vicious with frustrated longing.

"Whatever, girlfriend," Faith said. "How would you feel tomorrow knowing you'd been fucked five minutes after Angel bit it?"

Buffy shrugged angrily. She hung on the brink of coming, needing something, anything, to get her off. Needing Faith. She was still coiled, tight, ready to lash out in any direction. Most likely, Faith's direction. But the cold and the standing were bleeding away the slay-lust, and she was falling. She tried not to look at the empty space near the dumpster. "Where do you get off telling me what to feel?"

"I don't," Faith said. "And believe me, I'm not happy about it." She relaxed, slowly, keeping a sharp eye on Buffy's fists. "This ends. Now."

Buffy dropped her fists. She let her head fall, and pressed the heel of one hand into her pelvic bone, shuddering. "Please, Faith..."

Faith stepped forward, backing her up until she was leaning back into the frigid metal. She looked Buffy up and down, the familiar wolfish leer. "What, B?" she asked. "You want me to fuck you? You want to come for me, you want me to make you scream?" She smiled, consideringly, her hand hovering a fraction of an inch above Buffy's collarbone. Buffy could feel the heat of her hands, her body, so close, so fucking close...

"Yes," she breathed, tilting her head back against the dumpster, baring her throat.

Faith's hand closed on her neck and squeezed, lightly, but with all the threat of her Slayer strength. "It'll end like shit," she said, stroking her thumb over Buffy's pulse. Her eyes were as dark as oil slicks, and Buffy could see her wavering--the lust, the wanting.

"I don't care," Buffy said. "Get some, get gone--that's your motto."

Faith's hand spasmed shut, cutting off Buffy's breath for an agonizing instant. She stepped back. "The answer's no," she said. "Not like this. Never again like this."

"I--" Buffy stopped, wondering what never again meant, then forced it out: "I need it."

Faith turned away. "Angel was a nice guy. I'm sorry. Maybe tomorrow that'll mean something to you. I'm taking you home, and if that means hauling your ass over my shoulder, then that's how it'll be."

Buffy shook her head. Her eyes skittered over the dusty alley ground, again. "I can't--"

Faith looked over her shoulder. "You need to."

Buffy slumped back against the dumpster, closing her eyes. She was sweaty and dirty and sore; she could still feel her body singing on its slay-high, the desire washing over her. And Angel was dead. Tears burned salty trails down her cheeks. She felt Faith take her hand, warm and solid, squeezing even though her knuckles were split and bruised.

"Buffy. It's time to go home."

Buffy allowed herself to be led.


Part 4

I stutter like a broken clutch
When you touch me too much

My tongue gets twisted in your twirl
You say I'm not your kind of girl.

What kind of girl should I be?
The kind of girl who doesn't see

That you're looking at me
Like you want to be seeing someone else

Somebody else.

The sun broke through the stained glass windows, splashing colour over the dark wood paneling of the church. It was empty and dim. Silent.

Buffy walked up the aisle, the train of her gown hissing over the carpet. Angel stood in the shadows by the altar, waiting for her.

She reached out for him, took his icy hands in hers. The priest blessed them, named them man and wife. She raised her lips to be kissed. Angel led her past the pews.

The double doors stood open. Blinding sunlight streamed through, white-hot, glaring. She tried to stop, but Angel only smiled and tugged her forward.

He disappeared. Buffy closed her eyes; she felt the puff of dust sting her face.

When she opened her eyes Faith stood beside her, holding her hand. They walked together into daylight.


Faith opened the hotel room's door. It was immense, gorgeous. Blood-red satin sheets covered the bed, wide bay windows opened above the town. Below them and far away, the setting sun faded into a molten bronze sea.

Faith raised an eyebrow at Buffy, then swept her off her feet, carrying her across the threshold.

Faith let her down and leapt into the center of the bed, stretching spread-eagled, black leather on red lace. Closed her eyes. Lay as quietly as death.


Buffy stood next to the bed. It was bare, white, stark. The slow hum of machinery was interrupted by the pattern of electric heartbeats. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Faith was pale and drawn, her arms hooked to IVs, her breathing a mechanical whoosh of air down a tube in her mouth.

Buffy reached for Faith. The knife she held stabbed deeply into Faith's flesh, and blood spurted from her stomach. The gray hospital room filled with its coppersweet stench. The sheets turned crimson.


"You killed her for me," Angel said. He stood on Faith's other side, holding her hand.

The knife was wet and slick in her hands. Warm with Faith's blood.

The heart monitor stuttered, blipped, repeated. Shuddered. Stopped.


The knife was a stake, and it sank into Angel's chest like a stone into a calm pool; the ripples were the dust of his death.

Buffy killed him, and when it was over, Faith was still dead.


"Buffy! Honey, wake up."

Buffy opened her eyes, squinting in the sudden flare of light. "Mom?"

Her mom sat on her bed, brushing her hair off her face with gentle fingers. "You were crying in your sleep. Bad dreams?"

Buffy rubbed her eyes, surprised to find her cheeks wet with tears. "Yeah," she whispered. "Dreams."

"How about some waffles? Nothing cheers you up like waffles." Mom smiled, but Buffy could see the worry in her eyes. "You and Faith certainly got back late last night. Not that I stayed up! And I'm not going to ask boring Mom-questions about your slaying."

Buffy smiled back, but her face felt stiff. She felt sick to her stomach, and the mention of waffles made her want to gag. She closed her eyes and lay back, covering her face with her arm. "I--I'm not too hungry."

"Are you sick?" Mom asked next, leaning forward to press the back of her hand to Buffy's cheek. "No fever."

"No, I'm just--not hungry right now." Buffy clenched a fist, concentrating on the pain of her fingernails digging into her palm. Why couldn't her mom just leave her alone? She could feel tears tightening her throat again, the scene in the alley playing out against closed eyelids. She felt drained, weak, empty; there was nothing left of last night's Slayer heat. She was back in control. She wanted to be relieved, but there was no room for it; all she could feel was the nothingness where the want had been.

"All right," Mom said. "But...if you need anything...?"

"Yeah," Buffy said, not meaning it. The weight lifted from her bed, and Mom left her room, closing the door softly. Buffy rolled on her side and let the tears come, fighting to keep quiet, hugging Mr. Gordo in a death grip. She wanted to be crying for Angel, for losing him, but the face that wouldn't leave her mind was Faith's...

Faith, bruised and hurt, looking up at her from the bottom of the porch steps while Buffy opened the front door. Faith, still standing on the lawn, leaning against the tree below her window as Buffy got ready for bed. Faith, glancing over her shoulder one last time as she left, her face pale in the moonlight, while Buffy sat on her windowsill and tried to wake up from a horrible dream.

She couldn't wake from reality, and her Slayer dreams were worse.

Did Faith have the dreams?

Don't think about Faith.

Why not? You nearly--if she hadn't--

Don't think about Faith.

Buffy threw Mr. Gordo at the wall as hard as she could. She had to do something, anything, to stop the thinking. She showered, got dressed, picked up Mr. Gordo and pushed some of the fluff back inside the split seam. She was still holding him, trying to keep him in one piece, when the doorbell rang.

Her heart leapt, wondering if it might be Faith. What could she say to her? And did she have time to change? But there were no Slayer-tingles, and then Willow's voice was greeting her Mom, and she remembered that Willow had been excited about meeting her today. Buffy closed her eyes and braced herself against Willow's happiness.

There was a knock, then Willow popped her head around the door, a half-anxious, half-hopeful look on her face. "Hey, Buffy!" she chirped.

Buffy tensed against Willow's cheerfulness, and smiled back. "Hi, Willow."

"Look what I brought!" Willow plopped down beside her, dropping a sachet of herbs. "Smell."

Buffy stared at the packet for moment. "Lavender," she said, trying to sound like she was interested. The tone fell flat, and Willow gave her a hurt look before going on as if everything was fine.

"It's a little something we witches like to call a protection spell," she said, putting on a big proud smile. As if Buffy had asked. "I might be the first Wiccan to do all my casting in minty-fresh scent!"

"That's great, Will." Buffy smiled again. She felt so fucking fake doing it. It was a wonder her face didn't crack and fall off.

Willow nodded, but all her puppyish enthusiasm was gone. "So...what's up tonight? With the slayage? Are we going after Balthazar? 'Cause Giles said--"

"No." Buffy fiddled with the woven bag. She looked up in time to see the hurt look flit across Willow's face again, though she tried to hide it. She probably thought Buffy was abandoning her. "No, I mean, I'm not going slaying tonight. I can't..."

Can't risk losing control again. Can't risk letting the Slayer take control.

Can't risk going out with Faith.

"But, Buffy, as long as you have his amulet he's going to come after you. I thought you and Faith checked out his evil lair last night, and we--"

Buffy pushed herself off the bed and walked to the window, staring out. Evil lair. Like it was all some comic book game, like it wasn't for real every time she patrolled, as if people didn't die because of her-- She realized she was crushing the herb-bag in her hand and felt tears start when she saw the scatter of dried leaves and cloth that was all that was left of it. "I didn't. We didn't," she said. No. I was too busy coming on to Faith to do my job.

Just a job. Just a fuck in an alley. Just Faith.

Willow stuttered out a few more "buts" and then settled on, "What were you--what were you guys doing then?" She sounded nervous, like maybe she didn't want to hear the real answer to that question--as if she knew what the real answer was. Or maybe all Buffy was hearing was the sad jealousy in Willow's voice, because she'd been out with Faith instead of her.

Buffy crossed her arms, holding herself tight, holding herself in. Nothing left to let go of. Nothing left of her. "We--Faith...she staked Angel," she said, her voice cracking. Accidentally! her mind insisted, but she didn't say it. And it was my fault. I did it. If I hadn't been so fucking reckless...

"Oh, my God!" Willow jumped up and rushed over to her, turning her around. "And I'm going on about protection spells...which are stupid anyway...I mean, I thought something was wrong, but--oh, Buffy, I'm so sorry. Are you okay? No, dumb question, of course you're not, and--oh. I suck at best-friendness. You can fire me if you want. But don't. No--I--what happened? Did Faith--no, shut up, offer silent sympathy, or--Buffy...oh my God..."

"She staked him," Buffy whispered, staring over Willow's shoulder, out at the lawn where Faith had stood last night. For how long? An hour? Two? Why? Because of what Buffy had--had done to her? She shifted, aware of a low heat starting between her thighs. Because of what they'd almost done. But...

Not like this. Never again like this.

"Buffy..." Willow peered at her, touching her arm. "Faith's--I mean, you know how she is. And you, I don't even know what to say. Is Angel really--gone gone? There's nothing we can..." Willow trailed off, gesturing vaguely to finish the thought, and shrugged. "A spell, maybe?"

"I never knew why he came back," Buffy said. What was the point? She killed him because she had to, and he came back. Something brought him back. There had to be a reason. Was it just so that he could die again, uselessly, stupidly?

"Here...sit down." Willow patted her gently, herding her to the bed. She sat down, and Willow faced her cross-legged, holding her hands. Buffy stared at their clasped hands. Faith's hands were warmer...stronger...and her touch was--

Buffy felt her face warm, and she pulled away from Willow's grasp. "I'm sorry. I can't--I can't think. I just--"

There was a sudden tingle in the pit of her stomach, and Buffy looked out the window again. Faith was striding across the lawn, her hands stuffed into her jeans pockets, staring at her feet. Her face was veiled by the long, loose fall of her hair. She took the porch steps in one leap. Buffy forced herself to stay still, not to go rushing downstairs. There was a long pause before the bell rang.

Willow raised her eyebrows, but when Buffy didn't go to answer the door, she just sat with her, being silently sympathetic. Buffy ignored her and listened while her mom let Faith in, Faith's polite but gruff responses, then the Slayer-soft footsteps on the stairs. There was another long pause while Faith stood outside the bedroom door and Buffy waited, straining to hear as much as she could. Willow stared at her as if Buffy was lost in thought.

Finally, Faith knocked. Willow jumped. Buffy squeezed her hands together in her lap, the Slayer-nearness sparks growing. There was no danger, no spidey-sense, and yet she could feel her body revving up, tickling anticipation through her. She cleared her throat. "Come in."

Faith opened the door and stepped in, glancing around the room with mild interest, like she'd never seen it before. Buffy stared at her hands.

Willow stood up and positioned herself between the two of them, trying to play the protector, as if she had a chance if the two of them decided to get into it. Buffy blushed at her lap and wished that Willow would leave, that she hadn't shown up, that Buffy hadn't told her anything about last night...but at least she hadn't told her everything.

"Hello, Faith," Willow said. Her voice was icy.

Faith's head whipped around. Buffy refused to look up, though she knew Faith wanted to meet her eyes now. To ask why the hell she'd said anything to Willow--and why she hadn't told the truth.

"Hey, Red," she answered, calmly enough.

"That's quite the shiner you've got," Willow said. "Bad luck patrolling?"

Faith cracked her knuckles. "You could say," she said, and this time her smoky voice was edged and hard.

Buffy risked a peek at Faith. Her eye wasn't really black, but enough that you could tell--especially if you knew how fast Slayers healed, and what it took to hurt them for longer than a day. Her lip was still swollen, too, only slightly, and maybe it was the sort of thing you wouldn't notice unless you were close...kissing-distance close. Her makeup didn't help, either, the dark eye shadow and the wine-red lipstick showing off her injuries more than hiding them. She was wearing black jeans and a red t-shirt under her jean-jacket, a lot less revealing than yesterday's clothes, but still tight and sexy and--

"So...you ready to motor, B?" Faith asked.

Buffy tensed. "What?"

"Last I checked, we still had one not-so-dead demon to make deader," Faith said.

Willow's gasp was almost to soft to hear. Buffy and Faith both did.

"Balthazar," Faith said, quietly. "You're not leaving all the fun to me, are you?"

"Fun?" asked Willow. "You still think that you're going out there to get hungry and horny?"

Faith shrugged and stared at Buffy.

"Buffy's not going," Willow said. "And after--after last night I don't think you should even be here, let alone asking her to go with you! You--you're--well, I'm not going to say what I think, because I'm nicer than that, but I think you should leave."

Buffy felt Faith's anger growing, a match for her own, as if their connection was more than just a warning system. She could feel Faith's muscles straining as she flexed her shoulders, the dark energy moving through her. It filled the empty places inside her where she'd carved away at the limits of her control, and Buffy found herself leaning towards Faith. She wanted to touch her again--she wanted to slay again--she wanted.

"Fine," Faith said. "But if I go alone--I might die..." She raised an eyebrow at Buffy, then turned on her heel and walked out of the room.

Willow gave Buffy a look, and followed Faith down the stairs.

Buffy snuck to the half-open door, where she could watch them without being seen, and listened.

"This is not the time for your games. Buffy needs help." Everything in Willow's voice implied that Faith was not the one to be offering it.

Faith stared at her for a long moment. "I think you're wrong."

"I'm her best friend. I've known her--"

"You don't know about this. This is a Slayer thing."

"Yeah? Who's wrong now?" Willow crossed her arms. "Faith, maybe you can shut off all the emotions that you want. But Buffy's not like that."

Faith glanced back up the stairs, and Buffy knew she knew that Buffy was listening. "Okay, listen, Red, let me explain it to you the way I see it. Buffy has always let Angel live because he's good. But he was still a vamp, and one slap-and-tickle too many and we'd all be out gunning for him. This is what Slayers do, and if I hadn't, she would have--maybe not now, but some time. It happened before, it could happen again."

Willow shook her head. "Just because you dusted him doesn't make the problem go away."

"It does for me."

"You don't get it, Faith. You killed her soulmate."

Faith snorted and moved to the door. "No, Red, you don't get it. I...don't...care."

And the door slammed behind her when she left.



Part 5

I've been swallowed up by greed,
I've been spat upon by lust.

If they ain't playing with your money,
they're playing with your trust.

And I'm trying so hard to stop sitting still
To gather the juice that's been spent or been spilled

To find a spark in myself that hasn't been killed
Cause if Death doesn't get you then Life surely will.

Willow came back into the room, looking like a puppy that knows it's done wrong, but hoping to be forgiven anyway. Buffy stared through her. She wanted to pretend that none of this was happening, that she was a normal girl without a Slayer's senses, a Slayer's desires.

It was impossible. She felt like someone was shuffling across the carpet and then poking her--she twitched with each staticky spark, her nipples hardening with unwanted excitement. She hunched forward, as if hiding her arousal from Willow could somehow erase it from her mind.

"Faith left," Willow said, sitting beside her. "Do you want me to stay with you tonight?"

Buffy shook her head. "No..."

"I don't think you should be all by yourself," Willow said. "It doesn't have to be all about--I mean, I could just tell your mom it's a sleepover. And if you needed anything..."

"No." It came out stronger this time, and Willow winced. "I mean, I--I just want to be alone," Buffy said. "For tonight, Will, okay? I don't need anything, I don't--it's not you; it's--I can't be around people right now. It's too soon."

Willow nodded cautiously. "Okay," she said, in a tone that was anything but okay.

Buffy knew Willow wanted more reassurance than that. She wanted Buffy to comfort her, to convince her that everything was going to be just fine. Add that duty to the Slayer's calling: make sure everyone was feeling empowered in their ability to help her. Which wasn't fair. Willow didn't mean it like that--she was trying to be a best friend, as she saw it, and make sure Buffy wouldn't turn Juliet the instant her back was turned. But more than anything it felt like an obligation. As if not being okay meant failing some test of friendship.

"Thanks," she said, and turned back to the window.

Willow got up, and hesitated for a long moment. "Well...I'll see you, then. Monday? For school?"

Buffy nodded. The sparks weren't going away. She rubbed her arms, where all the little hairs were standing up.

"Okay, well...bye." Willow gathered up her protection spells and left the room with one last pleading look back, closing the door behind her.

As soon as she was gone, Faith swung herself up into the tree and leapt to the roof. She pushed the window open wider and dropped inside, as lightly as a panther. She tossed her jacket aside, restlessly flexing her hands. All the air seemed to go out of the room as Buffy watched her approach. The brief static sparks came quicker, closer together, until her body hummed like a live wire. She forced herself not to squirm under Faith's predatory gaze, not to cross her arms to hide the rapid rise and fall of her chest. And the fact that she wasn't wearing a bra.

"So you want to be alone?" Faith asked, placing one fist on either side of Buffy's hips, invading her personal space. She leaned forward until there was only a breath between them.

"Faith..." Buffy wanted to explain, but the words wouldn't come. They were lost in Faith's eyes, that dark angry stare. Worse than angry. Hurt. Betrayed.

"Because I fucking well wouldn't want to mess with what Saint Buffy wants," Faith said. "She's so fucking perfect, what she wants must be what's right."

Buffy pulled away from Faith, her breath catching in her throat, moving backwards on the bed. Not enough to get away. Not nearly enough...and she refused to think about why she wasn't running, fighting, escaping. Faith followed after her, as Buffy knew she would, and shoved her sharply down on her back. Buffy twisted out from beneath her, pushing back. Faith lay half on top of her, grabbed her wrists and pinned them above her head, squeezing hard enough to hurt. Not hard enough that Buffy couldn't break her hold, if she tried.

She didn't try.

"What she wants isn't always so perfect, though," Faith muttered, her eyes raking Buffy's body, her warm weight holding Buffy down. Her clothes smelled like smoke and sweat, her hair like cheap bar soap. Buffy closed her eyes and turned her head, as if that much denial could save her--as if everything could be right again if only she could believe this wasn't happening.

But it was, and she wanted it, and Faith knew it. Faith grasped her chin and turned her back, waiting for Buffy to open her eyes. When she did, Faith let go. Her hand drifted lower, to explore underneath the hem of Buffy's silky tank top, brushing feathery strokes over her stomach and side. This chaste touch was even more exciting than yesterday's rough intimacy, and now she couldn't blame their slaying for the tight, shaky delight building somewhere south of Faith's roaming hand. They stared at each other, Buffy's lungs working in short, sharp pants, Faith's deeper breaths pushing her breasts into Buffy's.

For a long moment it seemed that Faith would go no further, or would ask before she did, but then her eyes darkened with lust or anger or the memory of last night, and she squeezed harder at Buffy's trapped hands. Faith kissed her, her lips almost violent, and yet somehow soft. Buffy arched off the bed, her head held between her raised arms, her body trapped by Faith's tender hand and Faith's leg overlapping hers.

Faith's tongue stabbed into her mouth, and Buffy gasped with surprise. It had been so long since she'd been kissed by someone living. The heat of Faith's mouth took her breath away. She expected Faith to taste of cigarettes, but instead her breath was sharp and minty. Faith pressed her more firmly into the mattress, her hand moving higher, one finger sliding along the underside of Buffy's breast, into the soft hollow of her armpit.

Cautiously, Buffy allowed her tongue to meet Faith's, closing her eyes to better concentrate on the feel of the kiss. It was almost like sparring, in some strange way--circling and maneuvering for position, seeing who could come out on top. She was sweating and panting and nothing but sensation and desire, and that was like sparring also--at least, sparring with Faith. Faith's hand circled back again, higher this time, pushing Buffy's shirt up to her collarbone.

All of the sudden Faith's fingers pinched her erect nipple, hard. Fire and pain exploded inside her. Buffy bucked off the bed, her shout muffled by Faith's mouth. She reared up into the kiss, fighting a little to twine Faith's tongue firmly around hers. She wriggled, trying half-heartedly to free her arms, but Faith's grip was steady on her wrists. Her fingers grew gentler on Buffy's breast, soothing the hurt, leaving only the hot throb of pleasure. It spread, joining the slick wetness between her thighs, where Faith's strong leg rested against her pussy.

Buffy bucked up again, slowly, but more forcefully, and Faith gasped into the kiss. Her hand started moving downwards again, over Buffy's stomach, descending to where they were nearly joined together, and Buffy writhed, waiting for it, waiting.

They both heard the sound at the same instant--the creak of floorboards under someone's feet. Mom, coming upstairs. Buffy moaned, once, a frantic sound that Faith ignored. The footsteps came closer--the top of the stairs--down the hall--Buffy whimpered again, more urgently, as they heard the footsteps approach the room. For a moment it seemed that Faith wouldn't stop, that the insistent, bruising kiss would never end and Mom would walk in on them and--

Faith growled and rolled off her. Buffy barely had enough time to sit up and yank her shirt down before her mom opened the door. Buffy held her breath, her face flaming. Faith lay behind her on the bed, her head propped on her folded arms, the mask of indifference firmly in place once more.


"Yeah, Mom?" Buffy wiped the back of her hand across her mouth, a quick, furtive movement, rubbing away any trace of Faith's lipstick.

"I wanted to see how you were doing...any better since this morning?"

Buffy nodded. "I'm fine. But there's a demon--Faith and me are getting with the slayage tonight. We won't be late."

Mom smiled knowingly. "Ah. Of course. You're going out slaying."

"Yeah," Buffy said, suddenly going cold. Had her mom heard them? Why the wink-wink, nudge-nudge agreement? "What do you mean?"

"Not going out to the Bronze again?" Mom asked, raising her eyebrows. "Because it occurs to me that the battle of good and evil is an excellent excuse to get out of having a curfew, don't you think?"

"Oh--yeah--great," Buffy said, with an uneasy laugh. "Good one, Mom. I'll have to use that one of these days. Destiny."

"Hmm," Mom said. "Well, you be safe. Nothing too dangerous."

"Don't worry, Mrs. S," Faith said, not getting up. "I'll keep an eye on her."

Buffy wondered if that was a promise or a threat. There was nothing in Faith's voice to suggest she'd meant anything more than exactly what she said, but on the other hand, it was Faith. And maybe she thought that this, between them, meant something; but Buffy wasn't so sure.

Mom shook her head, leaning against the door jamb. "I meant both of you, Faith." She eyed Faith affectionately. "Okay. Enough mothering. I guess you two know what you're doing. I'll see you tomorrow."

When she left, Buffy sprang up as if the bed was on fire. Know what they were doing? She had no clue what was going on, or why she'd let Faith go so far, or why she'd been such an active, willing participant--knowing what she was doing was about the last thing on her personal list of achievements. How could she go out slaying like this? She'd--she'd lose control--worse, she'd lose herself; and someone could get hurt or killed--

And someone had. How could she forget that? Forget Angel? A day later and she wanted nothing more than to see where Faith would take this, if only they weren't here. In her room, where she'd so often kissed Angel goodnight--in her room, where her mom had very few worries about walking straight in. If only it weren't them--if she never had to face Willow or Giles or worse, Xander--if she'd never known Angel, or thought, childishly, that she'd found true love--if only--

With a disgusted noise at her own thoughts, she started digging through her drawers for an outfit more appropriate for slaying. No matter what the danger to herself, Faith was right--she couldn't send her to Balthazar alone. If Faith died--

But her brain stuttered away from that thought.

She found a bra and a thicker shirt, and turned around, about to order Faith out while she changed, then realized how useless that would be. Acting before she could think about it, she stripped off the tank top.

The swift hiss of Faith's breath stopped her and she looked over. Faith had sat up and leaned against the headboards, and was watching her, but she was bright red. If it had been anyone else, Buffy would have thought she'd embarrassed them, but Faith? She blushed herself and quickly put on her clothes. She thought about changing her pants, as well, because right now she was in serious need of some new panties...but no matter how cute an embarrassed Faith was, Buffy wasn't ready to go that far. Faith was frankly staring at her, breathing hard, and now she was cupping herself over her jeans and rubbing, slowly, rhythmically. Their eyes met, but Faith didn't stop...in fact, her hand sped up, pausing every now and then and her whole body would go still for an instant and she would release a short, sharp sigh.

Buffy didn't know how it happened, but she was on the bed again, and this time Faith was beneath her, and her hand covered Faith's. She let Faith guide her, but used the angle and her better leverage to apply more pressure. She watched the small twitches in Faith's expression, the open, hungry look in her eyes. When Faith tried to go faster, Buffy pulled her back, keeping the steady rhythm.

Faith grunted and lifted her hips, her eyes sliding closed. Buffy touched the cleft in the middle of her lower lip and Faith looked at her again--now, desperate, her hand limp beneath Buffy's.

This was entirely within her hands, literally, and she didn't know if she could--

But Faith didn't give her time to think. She surged forward, burying her lips on Buffy's neck, sucking and biting, humping Buffy's hand wildly. Buffy gasped, tipped her head back, matched the movement of her hand to Faith's frenzy, felt the liquid heat through the crotch of Faith's jeans. Faith groaned, one long release of air, and rested leaning against Buffy, both of them sitting facing each other on the bed.

When she looked up, a single strand of dark hair, sweat-dampened, trailed across her cheek, and Buffy brushed it aside. This close, she could see that the last of Faith's black eye and swollen lip were healed. And Balthazar awaited them.

"I'll go with you," Buffy said.

Faith pulled her closer and kissed her. It was shorter, sharper, sweeter than before. It felt good; it felt right; it felt like giving in, giving up. It felt like forgetting.

"I'm scared," she said, eyes closed, millimeters from Faith's lips--imagining a million different scenes, not knowing if she wanted anything other than this.

"I know," Faith replied, and her kiss told Buffy that she was scared too.

Buffy didn't know whether they were talking about Balthazar or them: one, the other, or both.

And maybe, in the end, it didn't matter.

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