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“Could you guys maybe do that again? Slower this time?”
Buffy eyed Xander for a moment, speechless. It was a simple kiss, their lips barely even touching in greeting, and he was acting like they’d just thrown down on the floor of the Bronze. Faith’s lips teasingly brushed the side of her neck and Buffy felt a sultry half-smile spread across her lips. Leaning back into Faith, she rolled her head and glanced over at Cordelia in silent appeal.
“Keep it in your pants, dweeb,” Cordelia said scathingly.
“What? Ow!” Xander cringed away from her as she slapped him in the back of his head twice for good measure, “Ow! Stop! I can’t help it!”
Buffy was sitting yoga-style on the couch, chewing the end of her pencil as she struggled to concentrate on her American Lit. essay. The source of her distraction was sprawled on her belly in the floor, her bare feet kicking in the air behind her as she played some video game. Buffy thought she said something about Grand Theft Auto and a PlayStation, but she wasn’t paying attention then either. She glanced up from Faith’s yellow cotton-clad ass to find her mom standing in the archway of the dining room. Joyce was staring at a piece of paper, frowning, and Buffy got a bad feeling.
“Buffy, why is last month’s water bill twenty dollars over?” Joyce asked, missing the exchange as Faith glanced over her shoulder at Buffy and they gave each other wide-eyed looks.
Wesley wasn’t going to last long. Buffy could tell. Faith was pushing every button he had, and even Buffy couldn’t withstand that for long. Sighing, Buffy reached out and grabbed Faith’s chin, pulling her around and kissing her. Distantly, she heard the noise of a book clattering on the floor.
Pulling back, she shrugged at his shocked look, “Sometimes it’s the only way I can shut her up.”
“Uh, B,” Faith said hesitantly, “I don’t think the boy watcher knew about us.”
“Oh,” Buffy muttered, then she smiled unapologetically, “Oops?”
Buffy wanted to kill him. Wesley wanted Faith to go undercover to follow the Deputy Mayor’s lead? He wanted to send Faith in somewhere that could get her killed? The tension coiling under her skin snapped abruptly when Faith’s hand settled on hers, entwining their fingers tightly.
“I got this, B,” Faith smiled uncertainly and it hit Buffy’s heart, “Don’t you think I can handle it?”
How did it come to this? She was brandishing a knife at her girl’s best friend, and she was angrier than she remembered ever being. She’d known it was going to end up cutting deep when she gave in, but she hadn’t thought it would be like this. Faith met Willow’s green eyes and forced herself not to think about wheat colored eyes and slow, deep morning kisses that lasted for hours.
“Let’s see what we can do about that.”
It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. God, she still wanted to kill Wesley. Maybe they should’ve told Angel about the plan at the start, but she hadn’t thought he’d try to kill Faith. Buffy pressed her lips to Faith’s forehead, her eyelids squeezed shut tight, as the tears burned a path down her skin.
“Please wake up,” She whimpered. “I can’t do this without you.”
The quad disappeared around them. All she could see was her. Faith was staring at her from the steps, and Buffy was hit with a tidal wave of want. She was alive, and real, and she was...awake.
“You’re awake,” Buffy breathed.
“Yeah,” Faith agreed hoarsely, “So it seems.”
“Why--why didn’t they call us?” Buffy stammered, “The hospital was supposed to--”
“I told them not to,” Faith interrupted, “They kind of had to listen to me.”
“Why would you do that?” Buffy asked, injured.
“Eight months, B,” Faith laughed humorlessly, “I wasted eight months of my life, and for what? For you to move on with the asshole that knifed me? For you to move on to the next beefstick?”
“I love you,” Buffy whispered, horrified.
Faith felt her the minute she entered The Bronze. The Slayer crawled across her senses, demanding attention, and Faith shoved that feeling down, hard. She forced herself to focus on the little blonde pressing against her, touching her intently as they danced closer and closer. Suddenly, a huge hand clamped down on her shoulder and Faith glanced up murderously into Xander’s dark, angry eyes.
“Faith, stop it, okay?” Xander was almost in tears, “Look, just listen to me for a minute, and then you can take another minute to kick my ass, ‘cause we both know it’ll be embarrassingly easy.”
“Make it fast,” Faith snarled.
“She sat there every night for almost eight months, two hours a night, every night,” He said raggedly, “I couldn’t even go in there anymore, ‘cause I’d look at her clinging to your hand like a lifeline and it tore me up inside. Joyce had to stop going ‘cause she couldn’t take it anymore.”
“Oh, yeah?” Faith sneered, shoving him harder against the brick wall in the alley outside of The Bronze, “Then where was she when I woke up? Did I close my eyes for a second and miss her?”
“Someone tried to rape her,” Xander said bluntly, and when he saw that she’d registered what he said, he continued, “He gave her some drug and it almost fuckin’ killed her ‘cause it did somethin’ mystical to the Slayer. Where was she? She was puking her goddamned guts out for two weeks, Faith. Where was she? She was locked in her room, spellbound to her bed, alone, ‘cause she kept slipping into delusions where she was convinced we were the monsters under the bed.”
“What?” Faith breathed dangerously.
“Yeah, Parker fucking Abrams tried to rape her,” Xander sneered hatefully, “So think about that before you keep rolling down this road you’re on. You go back inside that club and find that little bitch you were grinding on, and you’re dead to us, do you hear me? Fucking dead, Faith.”
It was like she was just waking up again, and suddenly that rage was all Faith could feel as she forced herself to release Xander. Her eyes slammed shut as she struggled to find something that made sense, anything, and she did...wheat colored eyes, slow morning kisses, and a love that scorched her senses. Faith’s eyes snapped open and she met Xander’s gaze intently. Her voice, when she finally spoke again, was an animalistic growl that demanded to know everything.
“Who the fuck is Parker Abrams?”
“So, I’m kind of an asshole.”
“You don’t say,” Buffy rolled her eyes.
They were locked in the storeroom at the Bronze. Buffy wasn’t sure who the culprit was, but considering the look Willow gave her before she followed after Faith, she suspected she knew. She was almost proud, except she was locked in a room with Faith. She was locked in a room with Faith, while they were fighting, and they were fighting because Faith was a grade-A bitch.
“Look, B, I’m tryin’ to apologize,” Faith growled, “Cut me some slack, yeah?”
“I’d rather leave you hanging on that rope, thanks,” Buffy said sarcastically.
“Hey, knock it the fuck off,” Faith grabbed her wrist and Buffy rounded on her, tensing up in preparation for a real fight, “How was I supposed to know? I wake up, and I go two weeks with nothin’, not a word, from you, your mom, or even our friends. Not even some lame ass flowers.”
“You could have given our relationship the benefit of a doubt,” Buffy said roughly, “Instead, you break into our house, scare the Hell out of mom, and then you embarrass me at school!”
Faith let go of her abruptly, looking at the cement floor as she crossed her arms over her chest defensively, “I never meant to scare Joyce. I just wanted my shit.”
“Oh, but you meant to embarrass me?” Buffy huffed, mirroring Faith’s pose.
“No,” Faith scowled fiercely, “I just wanted to talk, and then you started talkin’ and I got pissed, alright? Seriously, B? Not even some of those lame ass girly flowers you know I hate?”
Even weeks later, Buffy was still angry. She’d been having enough trouble at school since Parker ran his mouth, and then Faith showed up, adding more fuel to the rumor mill by running her mouth. She was still hurt because of the way Faith had been keeping her distance since she woke up, but Faith was so cute when she scowled. Buffy uncrossed her arms and moved closer to Faith, giving her a tentative half smile as she reluctantly gave into the insistent craving that never went away.
“The flowers are really bothering you, aren’t they?” Buffy drawled.
Faith made a face and reluctantly admitted, “Maybe.”
“They do die eventually, y’know,” Buffy raised an eyebrow as she explained calmly, “The nurses probably threw out that last bunch I brought by a couple of days before you woke up.”
“Oh,” Faith muttered.
“Yeah, oh,” Buffy teased.
Buffy’s hands settled on Faith’s hips at the same time that Faith reached out to wrap her fingers around Buffy’s upper arms. Buffy closed her eyes as they blurred with fast, furious tears that hurt. A sob broke free from her chest and she went willingly when Faith pulled her into an embrace. Burying her face in Faith’s chest, Buffy fell apart as something inside her finally released.
“Two weeks, though, B?”
They were settled on the cement floor of the storeroom. Buffy was seated between Faith’s thighs, and Faith had her denim-clad legs wrapped around Buffy’s hips from behind. Her arms were wrapped around Buffy’s sides, clamped over her crossed arms and her chest. Their hands were laced together, and the position was as awkward as it looked, but neither of them cared.
“You’re still on that?” Buffy sighed, aggrieved, “Well, next time someone gives me a date rape drug and it backfires, I’ll still come visit between being violently ill and just being violent.”
“Don’t even joke,” Faith said hoarsely, leaning her head against Buffy’s as a tear slipped down her cheek, unimpeded, “I can’t even...when Xander--”
She cut herself off and Buffy finished knowingly, “When Xander spilled the beans?”
“Yeah, that,” Faith said guiltily, “Look, don’t blame him, alright? He just wanted to help fix us.”
“I know,” Buffy said, squeezing her hands reassuringly.
Faith settled her chin on Buffy’s shoulder and pressed her lips to a familiar pattern of scar tissue on Buffy’s neck, just below her ear. She was still so angry, and she still felt a vague frustration at Xander for refusing to answer anymore of her questions. He’d told her if she wanted answers, she needed to fix things with Buffy. It took Faith a few more days to give in, but here she was...again.
“Who the fuck is Parker Abrams?” Faith repeated softly.
“Just a stupid frat guy I was stupid enough to try to be friends with,” Buffy shrugged weakly, “Doesn’t really matter. Campus police picked him up for doing the same thing to another girl.”
“It does matter, B,” Faith argued heatedly, “He can’t just get away with--with that.”
“I really don’t think he is,” Buffy laughed softly, “Besides, I almost bashed his head in with a tree branch when that crap he gave me hit, so I’m pretty sure we’re about even.”
“Oh,” Faith mumbled, confused, “Okay?”
“It was a thing,” Buffy offered, “The Slayer really didn’t like him, and he wasn’t expecting her.”
“Nobody ever does,” Faith couldn’t help laughing shortly.
“I’m still mad at you,” Buffy said abruptly.
Faith winced, “I know, B.”
“You really hurt me,” Buffy’s voice broke. “Avoiding me like that, and that girl--”
“I didn’t sleep with her,” Faith interrupted, tightening her hold, “I swear, I couldn’t--I was hurt, too, and I was lashin’ out at you, but I wouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry, for what it’s worth.”
“For what it’s worth, I am, too,” Buffy glanced over her shoulder, “I wanted to be there.”
“I know and I get it now, but I thought...” Faith’s eyebrows furrowed as she struggled to explain it, “When I woke up...you, Joyce, and Xan...I thought they were my friends, y’know. That stung, too.”
“They are, Faith. God,” Buffy’s eyes closed, “I was such a mess. Mom might as well have lost two daughters, and it was breaking Xander’s heart to watch what I was going through. I knew I was a wreck, and I knew what it was doing to them, but I couldn’t--all I knew was that you were gone, and the Slayer was so screwed up that I could hardly function unless I was in your room.
“They visited you when they could, with and without me, until that last month, when it got really bad. Parker was pressuring me so much, and Xander was trying to tell me I needed to move on for my sake, and I got so angry. I pushed him away, and mom backed off to give me some space. Faith, none of us wanted you to wake up alone, not even Willow or Giles. You have to believe me.”
“I do, B,” Faith said honestly, achingly, “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
Her shoulder was dislocated, again, but she was a little preoccupied at the moment with the woman stalking her with intent. Buffy’s eyes were glowing yellow and the sultry smile that stole across her coral lips was every bit as savage as the thing writhing underneath Faith’s skin. Faith knew exactly who was in the driver’s seat. Glancing around at the wreckage of Adam’s lab, she realized absently that they were probably about to bring the rest of the building down around them.
“What are we going to do now?” Dawn was about to add more, because she never just had one question, but then she cried out, “Ow! Knock it off, butthead! That freakin’ hurts!”
Buffy glanced over her shoulder, smiling brilliantly at her family as she took a deep, easy breath. Faith had her struggling fifteen year old sister wrapped in a headlock, scrubbing her dark head with her knuckles. Buffy shook her head at their antics, amused, and shot one last look back at the wreckage of Sunnydale before she turned and gave into that familiar craving. Taking a step forward, she abruptly lunged forward, tackling Faith and wrapping her arms around them both.
“Now?” She laughed freely, answering her sister-in-law’s question as she tickled her, “I’m getting you back for stealing my boots. Seriously? They have uber-vamp ashes on them, Dawnie!”
“Hey, look on the bright side!” Dawn protested, giggling fitfully as she tried to squirm out of Faith’s hold to escape from Buffy’s reach, “I could’ve left them there, and they’d be buried!”
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