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Chapter Fifteen: Safe
Whistling softly under her breath, Faith sauntered past the straggling high schoolers who were still rummaging through their lockers for some lame excuse to put off going to class. It was the ultimate walk of shame, and Faith was loving every second of it. She was a Slayer, she was hot, she smelled like sex, she was soaked in Buffy's juices, and she had every reason to be proud. A stocky nerd dropped his Trig book and Faith winked at him before she disappeared into the library.
“I'll be right with you,” Giles called from somewhere in the stacks.
“No worries,” Faith replied, “Just grabbin' my stuff.”
“Oh, are you leaving?”
Faith grabbed the brown leather dufflebag from behind the checkout desk, “Yeah, figured I'd head out and grab a bite to eat. Besides, I got the basics already. Head and heart shots will take them out just like most things, so an arrow'll work just as good as my stake did.”
“Alright, but please do be careful, Faith,” The worry in his voice made her smile, “It wouldn't do for you to become another of their victims without our knowledge. We were quite fortuitous that Joyce found Buffy when she did and you were able to assist her before things got out of hand.”
Faith fidgeted with the strap of her bag for a moment, then she glanced up as Giles came out from between two of the stacks, “Thinkin' maybe she'll catch it if anything's off with me, too, G.”
“Oh?” Giles met her gaze, smiling cautiously, “Are you--”
“She asked me to stay with them,” Faith shrugged, “Came at a good time, ‘cause the manager of the motel decided to up the rent, and the price was a bit steeper than I'm willin' to pay.”
“Well, perhaps it's for the best, then,” Giles nodded firmly.
“Yeah, we'll see,” Faith grinned, shaking her head as the late bell rang, “Later, G.”
The hall was empty when Faith exited the library. She knocked gently on the door of the janitor's closet, hearing Buffy's breath catch. Faith eased the door open and glanced inside cautiously. The top of a blonde head was just visible behind a stack of dark blue plastic chairs. Faith chuckled.
“The coast is clear, B. Let's get you cleaned up.”
They were in the girls' bathroom down the hall from the janitor's closet. They had both gotten cleaned up as best they could with Faith's soap using the tiny sinks across from the stalls. Faith had offered to loan Buffy a pair of olive green cargo pants, which she'd gratefully accepted. The pants were still slightly baggy even with Buffy's mock turtleneck tucked into the waistband.
“Why did you have this stuff with you anyway?” Buffy plucked at the front of her pants.
“Manager was an asshole, decided money wasn't enough for rent,” Faith shrugged casually.
“Oh, God, Faith,” Buffy was horrified, “He didn't try to...”
The thought sent a surge of anger through her and she couldn't complete the sentence. She was beginning to think she really should talk to someone about these urges she kept having. She was becoming so completely possessive of Faith that she ached to do something, anything , for her. It was one thing when she was focused on feeding Faith or...well, fucking her, but right now...she wanted to break the Downtowner manager's back and leave him stranded outside after sundown.
“Nah, B, Frankie ain't got the balls to try anything. I just got sick of him comin' on to me.”
“Oh,” Buffy said softly, almost disappointed, “So, where are you going to stay?”
In the mirror, their eyes met for the first time since they entered the bathroom. They'd both been so careful not to look at each other while they were washing off. One look, one touch, and they'd have stopped caring that there were things they were supposed to be doing. Now, Buffy watched in bemusement as something that looked a lot like embarrassment flashed across Faith's features.
“Your mom seems pretty set on me stayin' with you guys, actually,” Faith said, and she almost managed to make it come off as careless as she was trying to appear.
Buffy paused, turning to face Faith with a thoughtful look. Joyce had evidently cornered Faith this morning after they dropped Buffy off. Buffy considered how she felt about it, separately from the Slayer. She wanted Faith with her, in her life, in her house, in her bed...and she realized with a start that sometime between now and waking up with Faith, she'd accepted it as an inevitability.
A small smile played at the corners of Buffy's lips, “And what do you think about that?”
“Could be cool,” Faith shrugged again and added, “If, y'know, that's alright with you, I mean.”
“Oh,” Buffy smiled coyly, “I think I can cope with it.”
“So, uh, what are we goin' to do about the Incubus?” Faith changed the subject.
She hopped up on the counter, carefully avoiding Buffy's eyes. She didn't know what to do with that look Buffy was giving her. Sure, Faith realized this thing between them wasn't just about sex, things were too complicated for it to be based on anything that simple. But at the same time, Faith felt exposed in a way that set her teeth on edge, and she desperately didn't want to react to that. If she let herself give into her natural instincts, she'd lash out and they'd be over before they began.
“I was thinking we'd go back to Lakeshore tonight and see if we can't track him from there. Failing that, we'll go to Willy's after we patrol and see who we can shake down for some info.”
Faith glanced up finally when Buffy's hand settled on her thigh, “Sounds like a plan.”
Buffy's features were still set in that soft, inscrutable look. She reached up and brushed the hair from Faith's eyes and Faith felt her breath catch. A moment passed, and then Buffy leaned in and kissed her gently. They broke apart and Buffy leaned her forehead against Faith's.
“I need to get to class,” Buffy sighed regretfully, “I probably won't see you until dinnertime. I need to make a stop before I can go home, and I don't know how long it'll take.”
“Where--” Faith cut herself off, immediately understanding.
“Angel's,” Buffy's thumb caressed Faith's cheek.
Faith tensed and withdrew from the contact, “Right.”
She may not resent Buffy's friends anymore, but him ? She wanted him turned to dust and ashes, and it wasn't just because he'd been with Buffy. He was a vampire. Everything in her screamed at the mere thought of him, and she had no idea how Buffy had actually slept with him.
“Hey,” Buffy murmured, guiding her to look at her again, “We aren't together, and you know why, but...he loves me. At the least, I owe him a head's up, so he doesn't get blindsided by us , Faith.”
“You know, Angel touched me like he thought I'd break,” Buffy said casually, “It drove me insane. I loved the way he worshiped me, but I wanted him to make it so I'd never forget.”
Faith's expression didn't change, “You still love him, too.”
“I do, Faith,” Buffy agreed easily, “But he scares me as much as, if not more than, this thing between you and me does, except with him it could be fatal for everyone involved.”
“So I'm the safe bet?” Faith made a face, “Thanks for tellin' me now.”
“Nothing about this is safe,” Buffy reminded her needlessly, “We could end up hurting each other as badly as he hurt me, except I won't have the reassurance that it wasn't either of us that did it.”
Faith swallowed the anguish of that truth, “So why bother tryin'?”
“‘Cause you make everything okay,” Buffy breathed against her lips, “You're the only person the Slayer wants, and I'm starting to feel like it's okay to need you.”
“I'm glad one of us is so comfortable, ‘cause this is scarin' the shit out of me,” Faith said honestly.
“Who said I was comfortable?” Buffy asked, deadpan, “I still feel like someone flayed me alive and wrapped me in a wool blanket before shoving a bared live wire in my hands.”
“Thanks for the imagery,” Faith said with a wince, then she added as an aside, “There was somethin' in those books about that. You'll probably be feelin' like that for a couple more days, ‘cause the energy exchange from me kind of gave your insides first degree burns.”
“Oh, well that's helpful,” Buffy gave her a fake, overly cheerful smile, “Find anything else useful in those books? Like, will the X-rated peepshow in my head ever stop?”
“Um, all of the livin' victims who were interviewed reported a lower sex drive after the feedings,” Faith shrugged at Buffy's alarmed look, “So, I'm thinkin' the peepshow is all you.”
“Oh, well, aren't I special,” Buffy made a face.
Faith laughed softly and Buffy rolled her eyes before kissing her again, passionately. Slowly, they tapered off until their lips were just resting against each other. Buffy sighed and Faith felt her heart clench with regret. It was temporary, but Faith wasn't ready for this moment to come to an end.
“What are we doin', B?” Faith asked shakily.
Their eyes met as Buffy pulled away completely, and the intense, bright smile she gave Faith was irresistible, “Assuming you mean this thing between us?”
“Yeah,” Faith agreed, “That.”
“Okay, well, in that case, we're stupidly falling in love,” Buffy shrugged at Faith's shocked look and her smile broadened, “Sorry, thought you got the memo already.”
“Yeah, that's what I thought was happenin' here,” Faith said slowly, “Nope, that ain't safe at all.”
“But we're doing it anyway, aren't we?” Buffy asked softly.
Were they? Hadn't they been doing it since the first time their eyes met outside the Bronze? That was what made Faith so raw inside all this time. She'd been craving Buffy since before they met.
Faith thought about that as she hopped off the counter, and then she shrugged as she grinned recklessly, “The Slayer takes what she wants, B.”
“Buffy,” Angel breathed.
His voice made her chest ache like it always had, except Buffy realized with a faint sense of shock that the reverence in the way he said her name didn't make her want to cry this time. Since he'd come back, she'd felt the pressure building in her chest, and she'd been so afraid that she would break down every time they saw each other. Now, it was like the pressure had just evaporated, and Buffy felt like she could finally breathe in his presence, even with the Slayer's agitation.
“Angel,” She smiled sadly, “Are you okay?”
“Can't complain,” His gaze flickered away, “How was school?”
“It was school,” Buffy chuckled wryly, “Were you able to get any rest today?”
He'd been having nightmares since he came back. He never talked about them, but Buffy imagined they were horrible memories. She swallowed the guilt and watched as he fidgeted with a small, leather bound book, opening and closing it. After a moment, Angel froze and his gaze snapped up to meet hers, causing Buffy to curse inwardly as she recognized the faint twitches in his face.
“Some,” He answered, and then he added almost casually, “You were bitten by an Incubus?”
“How did you--” The question was reflex and she stopped herself abruptly.
“I can smell his saliva,” He tapped the side of his nose with a corner of the book and then shifted uncomfortably as Buffy moved further into the room, “Have you spoken to Giles today?”
“Yeah,” Buffy said slowly, hesitating by the couch, “I stopped by the library during lunch.”
Angel was acting even more nervous than was the norm these days. It took her a moment to recognize the source of his discomfort. Buffy stopped moving entirely and wrapped her arms around her waist, looking down at the toe of her white tennis shoe. She didn't know how to tell him that he'd have probably been safe even if she and Faith hadn't...thoroughly taken care of it.
“So, you and Faith--I mean, you...fed?” Angel asked awkwardly.
“Yeah, Faith came to the rescue yesterday,” Buffy mumbled uncomfortably, and when she heard his pained intake of air, she looked back up at him, stammering, “I--I'm sorry, Angel.”
How was she supposed to explain it? Loving him was tearing her apart before this thing even happened. The Slayer wanted him dusted, and Buffy...she just wanted him gone . Maybe turning to Faith now was a copout, but somehow Buffy couldn't find it in herself to regret that part of this.
“It's--you have nothing to apologize for, Buffy,” Angel's eyes were shuttered as he swallowed tightly, “We can't be together the way we were. I think...I think I already knew that.”
“I'm sorry,” Buffy repeated softly, achingly, “I know you still love me, but I...”
“Hate him ?” Angel suggested wryly, “Yeah, me, too.”
He just stood there, so utterly still, so completely expressionless, and Buffy had never been more aware that he wasn't human than she was in that moment. Strangely enough, Buffy felt grateful for that. She thought it might have hurt more if he'd shown her that he felt as miserable inside as she did right then. As it stood, Buffy wavered imperceptibly as she was flooded with relief and guilt.
“So, um, that's why I came by. I just wanted to give you a head's up,” Buffy smiled weakly, “I mean, I didn't want you to get blindsided when you found out.”
“When I found out?” Angel looked puzzled, then he realized, “You and Faith are together now?”
“I think we're giving it a try,” Buffy said softly and shrugged, “It's probably stupid. I mean, she's moving in with us, too, and we're probably going to end up at each other's throats, but...yeah.”
“Yeah--I mean, no, maybe it will turn out okay for you, Buffy,” Angel shook his head, almost smiling but not quite managing it as he added, “You and Joyce will be good for her.”
“Yeah?” Buffy asked hopefully.
The guilt felt heavy in her stomach. It wasn't fair of her to talk to him about her, and she was about to apologize when Angel did smile at her. It was almost...affectionate. The sight brought tears to her eyes and she realized she really needed to go. It was too soon for them to try to be friends.
“She'll be good for you, too,” Angel called after her softly, “If you'll let her.”
To Be Continued in Chapter Sixteen
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