CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE - AGREEMENTS
It was dark around her, though not disturbingly so. The warmth that surrounded her, however, had a faintly unpleasant feel to it – hot, damp and sticky. She noticed a weight on top of her, or maybe she was lying on her side and it was just something that was pressing into her front – it didn't really matter. She felt some silkily-soft, in some spots slightly itchy, material covering her face partly.
She didn't consider all these sensations irritating enough to do something about them. One thing that alarmed her, though, was the dull, even sound that invaded her ears. Something that in one second sounded like grunting, in the next like wheezing, here and there with some sighing in the mix. Now if she only knew what that was…maybe some kind of weird wind.
The weight on top/next to her that suddenly moved, shifted its position, seemed to validate this hypothesis. It must have been moved by the wind – the wind that now sounded like a low hum and appeared to be further away. But then it was gone, as abrupt as it had appeared. All she sensed now was…
Silence. Darkness. Warmth. Tickling silkiness.
A stinging pain on her cheekbone.
Her eyes snapped open and all of the sudden she was wide awake. She needed a few seconds to find her bearings, but then it all made sense.
They were lying on the couch. Willow, who was half on top of her and half on her right side, turned out to the weight that she had detected earlier on. Somehow the redhead's right calf had found its way under Faith's left one and was now practically lodged between it and the couch – she couldn't possibly get up without the slayer's assistance, and neither could the brunette herself.
The warmth that she had felt while asleep, and still felt right now, was provided by the blanket that Willow had drawn around them tightly.
The sounds were gone, but she had a feeling that the distant hum had come from Willow, the other stuff…Faith figured that she had probably heard herself snoring - it wouldn't be the first time that something like this had happened to her.
Faith brushed the silky yet slightly annoying material out of her eyes and could now identify it as Willow's beautiful red hair. She lifted the pink dingus that still covered her left eye partly, the dingus that had caused her pain…and guess what – it was simply Willow's limp right hand; her girlfriend must have hit her cheek accidentally when she had shifted her sleeping position.
She kissed the little offender and put it back down on her cheek. Then she felt around with her right hand and found that this one was safely drawn around the redhead's shoulders. No chance of her crashing to the floor…
She turned her head to look at her girlfriend and found her still asleep – it seemed like that, at least. Willow's face was turned towards her, she seemed to be dreaming, though she was not dream-talking, which meant that she wasn't in the waking-up stage. That much Faith had learned about Willow already.
Unless she's already awake, Faith smirked mischievously.
She moved her left hand to caress the freckled nose, cheeks and eyelids, but found herself not being able to touch the soft skin, since her arm was stuck between her body and the couch. She tried to move her torso a bit to get closer to Willow; a sharp pain in her neck area and back kept her from her goal, however. It took her only two seconds to seek out the culprit. Great. Stupid couch. Those things – not recommendable for sleeping. Even my motel bed was more comfortable.
But before she could come up with any other plan to get closer to the redhead, this one moved again and drew her arm around the slayer's neck, snuggling even closer herself. Faith was still not sure, if the redhead – in her asleep state – just happened to decide to move just then, or if an already awake Willow was just fooling her, pretending to be sleeping. Only one way to find out.
Now that they were practically nose to nose, Faith had at least the opportunity to nudge and nuzzle the hell out of Willow. And she did.
First she let her right arm slide just a little higher, until she could reach the red hair with her hand. Since Willow was practically clinging to her, she didn't have to wrap her arm around her anymore, afraid that the redhead might fall off the couch.
She combed through the hair for a while, even tickled Willow's neck and the back of her head and waited for a reaction. Which didn't come. And thus she edged closer, prodded Willow's nose with hers, circled it, gave her an Eskimo kiss. No reaction. Faith pouted. She kissed her on the lips lightly. Repeatedly. Still no reaction. If Willow was really awake already, she showed incredible self-control; but even if she had still been sleeping, Faith's ministrations should have woken her up by now.
Faith decided it was time to whip out the most ultimate weapon, the thing that she knew would wake up Willow. She moved her face as close to her girlfriend's as possible, put her mouth over the redhead's cheek and blew out, letting the trembling movement of her lips tickle the other girl's skin.
When she heard the other girl exhaling in short intervals, indicating almost soundless giggling, she knew that she had reached her goal. She leant back, just in time to see the smirk on Willow's lips.
The redhead, however, didn't plan on opening her eyes any time soon.
"You still asleep?" Faith asked after a while, watching the obviously awake Willow closely.
"Mm-hm," came the redhead's mumbled reply as she snuggled closer, also wiping her cheek on her slayers shoulders while doing so.
"Okay," Faith returned and decided to let her girlfriend cuddle a little while longer. This wasn't all bad; except for the fact that the uncomfortableness of the couch was really starting to bother her, the slayer enjoyed this moment. This doing nothing else but snuggling. She remembered last night. There hadn't been as much down-and-dirty moments as in the previous night, which was okay. There had been some at first, Willow couldn't wait to get Faith naked yet again, and Faith felt the same about Willow; the snuggly moments, however, had taken priority.
Luckily one of them had turned the music off at some point, because even a beautiful song can get annoying after a while; and they didn't want that.
After deciding that she was supremely happy, in more than one way, Willow had pulled a blanket over them both and had fallen asleep in Faith's arms. The slayer had been equally as happy, though she could have gone on a good long while longer. She simply had to content herself with cuddling until sleep overcame her as well.
Now, happy Faith watched as the little one finally had 'slept' enough and opened her beautiful brown-green eyes.
"Morning, sleepyhead," the slayer grinned.
"Morning," Willow replied and grinned herself.
The redhead seemed to seriously think about, until Faith gave her a stern look; she drew the brunette closer to her and kissed her. "Yes, very."
"Good to hear," Faith smirked. Willow let her hand wander up and down Faith's arm, the one that still couldn't quite reach her. "You know...you hit me," the brunette pouted after a while.
"What?" the redhead exclaimed shocked. "I didn't...," she was about to defend herself, saying that she would never do any such thing, but the look on Faith's despite-all-this-still-amused face told her that the slayer was probably telling the truth, "when?"
"A couple of minutes ago, I guess you were still asleep. Well, I was too, at that point...but then you moved and the next thing I know, something slapped me," she deliberately glanced down at the hand that was still resting on her arm.
"Where...?" Willow asked with a pained look.
In less than a second, the culprit was back on Faith's cheek, this time in a pacifying movement. "It's sorry. See?" Willow's hand lingered on her cheek for a long time.
"And it's forgiven," Faith smiled softly and kissed her girlfriend again. "So...what do you wanna do today? Think the others will show up again?"
"Nah, I think we're good," Willow replied to Faith's second question. "We could just hang out, you know. Watch TV, surf the net, talk...snuggle...have sex?" she grinned.
"You can't get enough, huh?" Faith chuckled and buried her not-so-tied-up hand in Willow's hair again.
"Surprised?" Willow gave her a challenging look.
"Nope. I guess you learned that from the best," the slayer showed a self-loving smirk.
"Yeah, yeah," Willow rolled her eyes.
"But before we do that...can we get up, please?" Faith asked and allowed a little bit of pain to show on her face.
"Oh, you hungry?" Willow misinterpreted Faith's expression.
"No...Well, okay, maybe that too, but...actually, a couch isn't really the most comfortable thing to spend your nights on. Why do you think I didn't move in with Giles?" she joked.
"Not because of me?" Willow pouted as Faith assisted her in freeing her leg.
"Course not…," the brunette replied, watching as the witch got off her. But as she saw her standing there, with the blanket in her hand, covering absolutely nothing of her gorgeous body..., "...on second thought..."
Willow laughed and took hold of the arm that Faith held out to her.
"I swear, next time we're gonna have to…do…that…somewhere else," the slayer grumbled as she got up from the couch slowly.
"Hey," Willow smirked, "but at least we didn't break it."
Everything was quiet in the unlit room. The roller blinds were closed tightly. A figure on the floor, which turned out to be Allan Finch, started to move slowly. He looked about himself disoriented, his face… as normal as always.
He felt his neck, searching for a wound. The wound was there, so he hadn't imagined last night's happenings. Although he had already been sure of that when he had woken up on a floor in a room in what he just knew was City Hall.
To say he panicked a little would be an understatement. He had been bit… Did that also mean …Trick had turned him into a vampire?
He felt his teeth and forehead to get a clue. But there was nothing there – which didn't necessarily tell him about his state.
Before he could look into it more, could maybe try to vamp out, the door opened and one of the Mayor's vampire employees checked on him. "Good morning, Allan," he greeted in an overly cheery and friendly voice.
After their shared shower, during which Willow also managed to get some of the kinks out of the slayer's neck and back, they went into the kitchen to make some breakfast. Nothing fancy, just a little bit of toast with peanut butter and/or jelly, some waffles that Willow had dug out from the depths of the cupboard, cereal and cocoa.
Willow was already sitting on the god-awful, really-uncomfortable-for-sleeping-purposes living room couch, when Faith entered the room, holding a box of cereal and a milk carton in her hands.
Both of them hadn't bothered to put on more than just T-shirts and panties; probably wouldn't stay on for long, anyway.
"Say, did you ever look at those cereal things closely?" Faith asked as she sat down next to Willow, set down the milk carton on the couch table and buried her legs under the blanket that the redhead had already crawled underneath.
"Except for checking what flavor they are, no. Why?" Willow inquired, just as Faith turned the carton around and showed her the backside.
"There. Instruction manual."
"With piccies and everything," Will raised her eyebrows. "They seem to have those for everything now, huh? I mean, I'm used to those weird warning notices…"
"You know, 'Warning: container will be hot after heating' or 'Do not use while sleeping'… or 'Caution: contains nuts' – on a packet of peanuts, of course."
Faith chuckled, "Right, I almost forgot about those. So, you want any?" she pointed toward the cereal.
"Hm, maybe later," Willow replied.
"Okay," Faith shrugged, "but I'm gonna try this now. Let's see if I can do it right," she started as she positioned one bowl in front of her. Then she pulled the plastic bag, containing the cereal, out of the box and handed the box over to Willow. "Here, you're gonna tell me what I gotta do."
The redhead complied with a grin. "Alright. First, 'Do not fill the milk into the cereal container'."
"Oh, damn, I was just about to do that," Faith rolled her eyes dramatically.
"Second, 'Pour the desired amount of cereal into a bowl'," Willow read and Faith did as told. "Third, 'Add an optional amount of milk or yoghurt'."
"That's it?" the slayer grinned.
"Yeah, that's all there is."
"Good," Faith took a spoon and stirred the mixture a little before filling some of it on the spoon and moving closer to Willow. "First open mouth, then dump the goodies," Faith continued the game, feeding her girlfriend at the same time, "remove the spoon, close mouth and chew."
Willow abided all these instructions dutifully.
"How is it? Did I do it right?" Just when the redhead was about to reply, with her mouth still full, Faith raised an admonishing finger. "Swallow."
Willow had to work hard to not to choke on the cereal, she had to laugh so hard. Finally she managed to gulp it down and reply. "It's good, you could become a master chef, you know, even without instruction manual," she grinned. "But not all of them have something like that on them," she pointed to the backside of the box, "I think it's just that one brand."
"Ah. Oh, well, at least something to make fun of," Faith countered and began to spoon the cereal herself. Willow grabbed one of the waffles and nibbled on it.
"So… what are you gonna do this week?" the redhead asked after a couple of moments. Willow knew what she was doing next, but she had absolutely no idea how Faith's weeks usually went.
"No idea," Faith thought about it, "guess I'll spend most time at school and bug you guys," she snickered.
"Ah," Willow nodded. "But while you're at it…I think there's something else you can do," she continued when Faith gave her a prodding look, "Well, it's almost end of term and that is usually the time when students suddenly find out that there is a library at their school; and in their desperate last-minute-attempt to improve their grades somehow…," she stopped when she saw the slayer looking at her amused. Yes, Willow talking about the weird behavior of stressed out high school students in times of exams was a funny thing to witness. "Anyway, I'm sure that Giles could need a hand in the library."
"Fine by me."
"Plus… it's the week of the full moon, so…," she started, not really sure if Faith was up for Oz-watch.
Whoa, hey, I wasn't signing up for Day School… "24/7 work…? Well, okay, I'm not gonna pout and whine, and Oz-watch is fine with me, but…24/7 work…?"
"No, don't worry, I guess, we and Giles and the others will probably take turns."
"'We'?" Faith smirked.
"Could be I happen to stop by in the middle of the night," Willow replied deliberately slow, "for some sort of research project…"
Faith knew that Willow was joking about the 'wink-wink' research project; making out with her girlfriend in front of her ex-boyfriend's eyes was definitely not on the redhead's agenda. But the sentiment was still appreciated.
"Research project, huh?" Faith asked in a low, provocative voice. "Been working on that long?"
Willow thought about it, "Hm, a little over two weeks now."
"Found out interesting things so far?"
"Some." Definitely working on finding out everything I can.
Abruptly, Willow remembered something that she had read a couple of days ago, something that was indirectly linked to Faith. "Hm…remember what I called this?" she asked as she touched the hollow of the slayer's throat with her index finger.
Faith wrecked her brain, thinking back at their first night, "Sorbet…sorbili…something…"
Willow grinned, "Well, 'sorbilia' or something roughly means 'to suck' in Latin."
"Get out of here," the slayer laughed out loud.
"Don't know what 'maphonensis' means yet, but it could be something like that as well…,"
Willow replied, her finger not leaving Faith's throat. "Or not… I don't… know…"
When she saw the intense look on Willow's face, a thought came into Faith's mind. "Wanna make use of that knowledge you do have? You look like it," she addressed the dreamy expression in Reddie's face.
Willow didn't need to be asked twice. She put down her toast and took the bowl out of Faith's hand.
One second later, the brunette felt yet again how forceful the little Wicca could be when she really wanted something. Half lying on the couch with Willow attached to her neck, Faith suddenly protested. "Wait, Red, not the couch, please."
"Oh," Willow got up quickly, understanding the meaning behind Faith's words. "Bed?"
"Bed," Faith confirmed and followed suit.
They looked at the food briefly, the cereal would be slobbery by the time they were done, but that wasn't really important for them. The hunger for food had been replaced by a hunger for something else.
Willow ran ahead, with Faith close behind. The slayer was surprised when her girlfriend made a left turn and entered the brunette's room instead of rushing into her own. But Faith's room had definitely advantages: no Amy and no big panorama windows that needed to be taken care of first.
Squealing and giggling could be heard as two bodies plopped down on the bed.
Finch was dragged into the Mayor's darkened office by two of this one's lackey vampires. Richard Wilkins, already expecting him, acknowledged his presence with a short glance. "Sit down, Allan," he ordered.
When the man didn't comply immediately, one of the lackeys grabbed him by the shoulder and shoved him into a sitting position in one of the chairs by the Mayor's desk.
"Did you rest well?" Wilkins inquired, at the same time trying to bring order into the not-really mess on his desk.
Finch didn't reply. He was… He hadn't forgotten, what had happened before Trick had attacked him. He knew that he had a deal with Buffy and Mr. Giles and all the others to provide them with information about the Mayor's plans – to help them stop the Ascension. And he knew that the Mayor had gotten wind of this deal as well.
"You know, you're going to have to talk to me at some point, so why don't we start now?" the Mayor tried again.
Finch just nodded in response. Of course he hadn't rested well. His neck was stiff and, more importantly, injured. And he still was not one hundred per cent certain, if he was really alive or not…
"See? Wasn't so hard, was it?" Wilkins chuckled acknowledging Finch's reaction and got up from behind his desk. "Now, Allan…," he stressed the name deliberately, "I have to say, I am very disappointed in you," he started to pace the length of his office. "I can't see why you felt that you had to go about behind my back. I would have kept my promise of sparing you after my Ascension. So what on earth made you seek contact with the slayers and tell them about my plans?"
He looked at the man intently, but this one still didn't reply, just looked at him, very well knowing that he couldn't harm the soon-to-be demon in any way. He just wished he knew what to do.
"Fine. If you don't want to tell me about it just now, that's okay, you don't have to. But, still, you have to make up what you did to me. I'll give you a chance to make it all better," the Mayor cackled maliciously and put his hand on his deputy's shoulder. Then he bent down and whispered in his ear. "If you don't play along, I'll ask our dear Mr. Trick to finish his job. And believe me, I would give him permission to kill you… just in case you were thinking about that other alternative."
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO - REVELATIONS
Early mornings – Faith hated them. And getting up at 6.30 a.m. was definitely early, at least according to her standards. Willow had let her sleep as long as possible, knowing that Faith could react grouchy if one woke her too early.
However, a cold shower and three cups of coffee later, Faith was perky enough to take on this day; almost a little bit too perky for Willow's taste, who swore to trick Faith into drinking at least one cup on decaf coffee the next time.
Because even if Willow herself was no morning grouch, hyperactivity this early in the day was something that made her more lively herself – one reason for Buffy forbidding her to drink this beverage; it tended to make her even more babbly and squeaky than usual. Not that this was a bad thing per se, it just could get on your nerves sometimes.
And witnessing this in another person for basically the first time, made Willow understand Buffy's caffeine-embargo. On their way to school, Faith babbled on and on about everything and nothing; occasionally she allowed Willow a comment to a certain subject, though the redhead was okay with just listening – her babbling girlfriend didn't bother her...yet. And once she got her hands on the decaf, Willow was certain that she would not-bother her even less.
Fifteen minutes later, they entered the library; Faith had at least cooled down a little bit, maybe the effects of the coffee were already starting to wear off.
"Dropping off Miss Lehane for her first day," Willow informed any possible inhabitants of the library – meaning, of course, Giles, whom she knew would be here by now.
Faith almost jumped at the use of her family name, having nearly forgotten that Willow knew about it. The little redhead had gotten her will yesterday and had talked Faith into a long hour of clearing several things up and getting to know each other a little better – Faith's last name had been just one of those many things.
Another one… took Willow by surprise, and that is an understatement. When the topic of middle names came up, and the redhead readily stated her middle name to be 'Danielle', Faith in return told her that her middle name was… 'Faith'. Faith confessed that she had reasons for not going by her first name, but when Willow wanted to know more, the brunette began blocking and Willow backed up quickly.
Eventually Faith would tell her what had happened; she knew that, though Faith had not promised to tell her…something Willow hadn't asked for either.
But… she had asked her girlfriend what her real first name was, and Faith had let her in on that secret… although, a little more lightheartedly again, swearing to tickle Willow to death if this one told anyone about that name. Because she had never liked it to begin with, anyway, even without the later, specific reasons that made her not like it.
When it came to birthdates, Faith was more open again, and they realized that they were born in the same year – were about one year younger than the rest of the Scoobies, except Oz, who was two years older. Faith, however, was still much younger than Willow. Exactly eight months and nineteen days, when it isn't a leap year. 'If you were born eleven days later, you would have been a Christmas prezzie,' Willow had theorized and had kissed a grinning Faith on the cheek.
Willow had confessed that she liked her prezzie and everything she knew about it by now, even though she knew that the details she didn't know about yet would be less than comical. What she especially liked was the slayer's last name; it was one of those that outsiders would tend to pronounce wrong upon reading it for the first time, but sounded great, once you knew how you should voice it.
Giles, the all-knowing librarian, who was also on top of the pronunciation of said name – quite contrary to Wesley – came walking out of his office when he heard Willow. "Yes, excellent," he smiled and walked over to his new 'employee'. The redhead had called him last night to prepare him for the dark-haired whirlwind that was going to scurry through his library in the following weeks, of course pursuing a solely useful purpose.
"Okay, I gotta run, I'm a bit late today," Willow said, looking at the clock on the wall.
"My fault," Faith shrugged with a grin.
"I'll check in during lunch break," the redhead laughed at Faith's comment – which was true – and exited.
Giles and Faith had started their "work" day with a cozy cup of tea, though the slayer would have preferred coffee. The combination of the not-so-exciting job of a librarian and the soothing effects of tea was still a mystery to her. Or maybe it was only one of those British things; her watcherused to infuse her with tea as well, but with the purpose to sedate her…
And this fact had made her observe Giles more closely and suspiciously. Maybe Giles feared that his 'lively charge' would cause havoc in his most of the times oh-so-quiet library.
The Englishman had caught her wary expression and had reassured her that unfortunately tea was the only thing that he had in his office right this moment; following this, he had promised to organize some coffee for her tomorrow. Faith had accepted this with a genuine smile.
Giles allowed her 'flexible work time', meaning she could come in whenever she wanted and work as much or as a little as she wished – it wasn't like she really got paid for this, it was just some sort of occupational therapy for her and a way to help Giles out.
After their cup of tea, Giles had given her the tour through the library, explained the card index to her – something that, until now, Faith had no idea about what it was for, but was surprised at how easy it was actually constructed…at least, once you knew how to read it.
He showed her the stacks and gave her the inside scoop on the shelving system, and last but not least…introduced her to the most dreaded part of his job – the booking device that was directly linked to the computer. Faith herself wasn't a whiz when it came to computers, but it was safe to say that her knowledge in this department was much more profound than Giles's. Thus the librarian made a mental note to let her handle the majority of the computer-related parts of his work. The brunette didn't mind; in the last few months, she had gotten pretty good insights on his uneasiness around this thing.
Allan Finch's uneasiness was of a different nature, but most likely more intense than Giles's. He had spent the last two days in City Hall – involuntarily. Since he had lied to Trick about having family, there was no one, who really missed him. The only thing stilling his uneasiness some was the certainly that he was still alive. Not undead, but alive. Human.
The mayor had forced him to give him information about the slayers and their band of researchers, to tell him everything he knew about them and everything that he had told them about him.
Wilkins wasn't angry at Finch, since the most important details still seemed to be lost on the Scoobies – and to Finch himself; however, he was working on a way to throw the slayers off his scent somehow, or expand his advantage in some other way.
And Allan… would play a pivotal role in this scenario now; both, he and the Mayor were aware of that.
Whom he was going to help, was the question. He had something to fear, that was certain. The Mayor could kill him off, in case he decided to sell him out to the Scoobies, which would leave him no chance to help them any more in stopping the Ascension… The Ascension that would literally be followed by hell on earth – a paradise for the then ascended Mayor, quite the opposite for everyone else. He had heard enough to know how the world would really be like after the Ascension.
Now was the question, if he should risk his own death providing the Scoobies with further, maybe not even essentially helpful information, or if he should find another way.
Tuesday had been an unusually uneventful day in the lives of the Scoobies. Faith had gotten more familiar with the library and had actually started to enjoy her job, especially the work with the card index. Lunch break had been spent with Willow and her college admission packets, which Giles had wanted to have a closer look at. She had proudly shown him her brochures from Oxford, Cambridge and St. Andrews, the ones he, of course, had been most interested in.
Giles had practically beamed with pride upon thinking that Willow might go to Oxford, his alma mater; Faith had been equally proud of her brainiac, but didn't show it that much, not only because she had no idea how Willow's choice of college would affect their relationship. She knew that she couldn't leave Sunnydale, but she didn't want Willow to stay here just because of her – it wouldn't be fair to the redhead.
She had no idea if she would be any good at long distance relationships; hell, she was only starting to get a handle on this relationship-thing, but one thing she knew – she didn't want to give up Willow, and unless an unforeseen catastrophe happened, she hoped that she wouldn't have to. But they would still have to discuss their situation post-Willow-graduation at some point – Faith just hoped that it wouldn't have to be so soon.
When the guys had gone back to their classes, Faith had confessed her feeling in Giles that she knew that the redhead would become something big someday. The librarian had mistaken the beaming yet distressed expression on the girl's face and thought that she had been reminded on her own school days. He was familiar with her file, and after having talked to Wesley and the council psychiatrist was convinced that Faith could excel in school if one gave her the chance to.
He hadn't let her in on his plans, though, he needed to clear a few things up with Wesley, his only working link to the council, before he went and eventually disappointed Faith.
Tuesday had also happened to be the night before the full moon, which meant Faith was on Oz-duty. Willow had come by after school and had accompanied her girlfriend in the library as long as possible, doing her homework and studies there, while Faith had been busying herself with whatever came to mind: mostly browsing through some books and carving new stakes – some of them turned out to be true works of art, as Willow had pointed out upon closer inspection.
When the inevitable had come to pass and Willow had to go home, it had been one hour before midnight. But of course Faith hadn't let her girl walk home alone – a grumpy Buffy, who had been almost ready for bed after going on patrol without her slaying partner yet again, had been called to pick Willow up and escort her home safely. Oz, in full-blown wolf mode, had howled consentingly.
After Willow's departure, Faith had spent the rest of the night trying to stay awake. Oz's two-o'clock-feeding had been the most exciting part of the after-midnight shift; however, the werewolf had been cooperative enough for her to not having to use any violence on him.
By the time Giles had shown up, shortly after sunrise, Faith had almost fallen asleep. The librarian had told her to go home and sleep in. And the slayer had done as asked – at least she had gone home; but sleeping in had been only the second point on her agenda. Number one had been…crawling into Willow's bed and snuggling with her. Of course, this activity had soon resulted in her drifting to sleep, anyway.
Shortly after, maybe about two hours later, the redhead had to literally fight her way out of the brunette's claws, and had only succeeded when the other girl had rolled on her back ungrudgingly. The redhead had noticed that Faith was…not really wearing much of anything, Faith must have been tired enough to not care about something like that. Willow had hastened to pull the blanket over her girlfriend, not knowing how long she could stand that sight before she started to seriously consider skipping today's classes.
Faith had no idea how late it actually was, when she finally woke up and was surprised to find out that it was hardly 11 o'clock. She drank two cups of the coffee that Willow had brewed for her…and which tasted a little peculiar today…before leisurely making her way to school.
One more cup of coffee at the library – which strangely had a much stronger effect on her than Willow's had, she made her way into the stacks to shelf some of the returned books.
"Giles?" Faith neared his office after maybe half an hour of 'work'.
"Yes?" Giles asked, getting up from behind his desk, where he was reading in one of his musty, old books, approaching her.
"I, um…," she fidgeted around a little, not sure if she should do what she is about to do, "I wanted to ask, if I could borrow some money from you," she finally got out, looking at him with little girl's eyes. Normally she wasn't that kind of person that asked others for favors, but this time it was important.
For a second, she had thought about hitting up Wimpy, since he was her 'actual' watcher, or resort to her usual 'organize-money'-methods; however, she thought that she'd have a shot at Giles first.
"Oh, yes, of course," Giles rejoined immediately. "You and Willow are having money trouble, I assume," he prodded, mentally kicking himself for not having thought about that sooner.
"Oh, no, that's not it," Faith hurried to negate this, "…at least not yet," she added on second thought. When Giles looked at her questioningly, she went on to explain, "Actually…I wanted to buy a little present for Will, you know, I wanted to… you know, reciprocate for her letting me live with her."
"Ah," Giles smiled, liking the idea, "very good". Faith sighed relieved when she received the positive response. "However, if you should experience money issues sometime, don't be afraid to ask," he said before turning around to go back into his office, presumably to retrieve the money.
"Thanks," she replied and made a move to follow, just when the library doors swung open.
"Oh, hey, it's our two favorite little librarians," Buffy declared as she and Willow came closer.
"What are you two doing here?" Faith exclaimed surprised; she wondered if she had missed the ring of the school bell while wandering through the stacks.
"Well, remember what I told you?" Willow addressed Faith, "Students? Some of them tend to go into the library occasionally…"
"Oh, right, that weird species," the brunette made a mocking gesture to slap her forehead.
Buffy shook her head amused, "Anyway, we're just stopping by for a…well, book," she said, deliberately eyeing the stacks.
"Yeah, for study hall later. We wanted to cram a bit for a test," Willow added.
"Ah, I see," Giles remarked and went into his office.
"Well, which one?" Faith asked, going over to the card index, "I think by now I know how that thing works," she added, very eager to help – the main reason for this, of course, was wanting to impress Willow.
The redhead laughed when she saw Faith standing behind her new toy, "You're adorkable. But, thanks, I know where to find that book," she mentioned quickly before going up the stairs.
Faith had no time for being disappointed; Willow's reply still rung in her ears. Adorkable?…
No one had ever dared to call her that, but then again, it wasn't like she had ever heard that 'word' before. "'Adorkable'!" she turned around quickly and moved to run after the redhead that had already disappeared into the stacks. "Run for your life, Reddie, 'cuz once I catch you, I'll show you adorkable!" she threatened and sprinted up the stairs.
You could hear Willow laughing from afar.
"They're getting weirder…," Buffy turned towards Giles laughing, the watcher just… 'watched', marveling at the chemistry that his younger slayer and his young witch in training seemed to have.
"Ha! Gotcha!" Faith said seconds later, catching up with Willow in one of the isles in the back of the library.
"Well, I wasn't really trying to get away," Willow smirked as she turned around to face Faith.
"Morning," she kissed her girlfriend square on the mouth.
"Morning," the brunette answered. "I didn't wake you today, did I?" she asked, referring to when she had gotten home today.
"Nah," Willow negated this, "it was nice…to wake up with someone snuggled up to you." Someone naked…, she thought to herself, loving the mental image.
"Loved to be of service, then. But I hated to let you go so soon," Faith pouted, "I tell you, tomorrow you'll really have to walk around with me attached to your back," she remembered herself waking up all alone in the big house.
"Well, that's gonna be hea…uh…," Willow stopped before the bad word could slip out, "difficult, but I'm gonna try," she batted her eyes dulcetly.
Faith not quite forgave her the near-but-maybe-even-intended-faux-pas, "I'll just make myself extra heavy for you, then," and returned the look. "So, didn't you say that you wanted a book or something?"
"Oh! Right, I did!" Willow looked around quickly, having forgotten about that already. Wrong isle. She rushed through the stacks with Faith on her heels, stopped abruptly when she found the shelf that she had been looking for… and felt Faith bumping into her. "Tomorrow," she laughed, "Tomorrow you can cling to my back, not today."
"Sorry, guess I'm practicing," Faith grinned and threw her arms over the redhead's chest from behind.
"Okay," Willow replied, ignoring the slayer's arms while her eyes scanned the shelf, looking for the desired book. After a couple of seconds, her arm reached up and took one book from the uppermost shelf.
"Why did I have the feeling that it had something to do with chemistry?" Faith asked as she read the book title over Willow's shoulder.
"Hm…don't know. Maybe because you figured out the layout of the library already?" Willow replied with a sideways glance. Off Faith's And?-Isn't-that-something? look, she continued, "Which is cool. Most students don't even know that…especially not after two days. Well, okay, they aren't geeks, you know," she grinned and nudged Faith with her elbow.
"I'm NOT a…," Faith started with a faintly offended look.
"That was a compliment!" Willow hastened to pacify, "I like geeks…sorry…"
"Oh…," Faith replied; but after thinking about it a little while, she started to pout, "still doesn't make me feel any better…"
"Aww," Willow sniffed in sympathy, "maybe I can do something about that," she put her hand behind the slayer's head and kissed her on the cheek. "Better?"
"Hm…no," Faith countered, still pouting.
"Okay." The redhead's hand applied more pressure to the brunette's head, forcing her to face her. Then she kissed her full on the lips. "This better?"
"A little," Faith confirmed. This time she initiated the kiss, keeping her arms around the witch's shoulders firmly, leaving Willow no chance to break the kiss. Just when her girlfriend was on the verge of suffocation, Faith had mercy and released her lips. "This is better," she grinned.
"Well, as long as you're happy," Willow replied out of breath.
"Maybe…'happy' isn't the right word," Faith thought and moved her hand to Willow's face, "not yet, anyway," she continued and kissed her girlfriend greedily.
Giles walked through the stacks, looking for Faith and specifically Willow. Buffy had told him to inform Willow that she had already gone ahead, heading towards her, and also Willow's, next class.
When he heard some giggling from one of the back rows, he went there. He wondered why Willow was still lost in the depths of the stacks – this wasn't like her, she was mostly one of the first to arrive at her respective classes; today she was close to being late.
But as he rounded the corner, he had to realize that Willow apparently had some more interesting things on her mind…or more specifically, on her neck.
His eyes were fixed on the two people that had their backs turned to him, literally speaking, and the rest of the world, figuratively speaking, right now. Faith had her arms around Willow from behind and was nibbling at this one's neck gently… as far as he could tell. He couldn't see what Willow was doing, but he could hear approving noises, encouraging the slayer.
The signs were rather unambiguous. Giles… had just stumbled in on a very intimate moment between two lovers.
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE - SHIFTING
Giles stared for a minute. Openly – yet unnoticed by the couple.
When he had finally recovered from the initial shock, he retreated as silently as possible, trying to wrap his mind about the idea of Willow and Faith as a couple…or at least the idea of Willow and Faith sharing caresses. However, it didn't look as if they were doing that for the very first time, so 'couple' might still be the more appropriate label.
He remembered the last time that he had found the redhead…having fun in the stacks. Back then, it had been with Xander; and reconsidering his newest discovery…that sight had been far less shocking, though the conversation he had recently heard the two girls having about 'physical education' and finding inappropriately appropriate broom closets to make out in should have been a clue, he thought as he walked back the office area.
Willow and Faith hadn't noticed anything; they only had eyes…or lips and hands…for each other. Willow had now turned around in Faith's arms, giving Faith the chance to kiss her more directly again.
After awhile the slayer's right hand moved lower, until it reached the redhead's left one that was inconveniently pressing the chemistry book into her side. "Lose the book, sweetie," she mumbled against her lover's lips, rather wanting to feel her girlfriend's hand than a book cover at her flank.
The redhead chuckled as she broke the kiss and stepped out of the slayer's reach.
"Hey, I didn't mean it like that…," the brunette sniffed disappointedly and made a move to follow.
"Sorry," Willow replied, "but I gotta go, anyway. We can finish this another time, okay?"
"Fine," Faith pouted, "get your 'adorkable' self out of here, then," the pout turned into an evil smirk, "before I do something to keep you here."
"Alright. Later," Willow fled as quickly as possible; she knew that she wouldn't have a chance, if the slayer really tried to keep her there, but Faith had mercy and let her go ungrudgingly.
Willow sprinted down the stairs and handed the book over to Giles, who checked it out at a remarkable speed… for a librarian with computer-phobia and a strong urge to polish his glasses.
Willow told him that she'd check in again after study hall and hurried out of the library to get to her class in time.
When she was gone, Giles ripped off his glasses and cleaned them vigorously, wishing that Willow would have found another snogging place. After all, the stacks of his library weren't meant to make out in.
Faith, who just re-emerged from the depths on the library, missed this gesture.
Funny – didn't I tell Oz last week that 'Next time we'll just go into the stacks'? Gee, guess I was right…, Willow grinned, as she ran to reach her next class in time.
She entered and found her place right next to Buffy – two minutes before the beginning of the lesson, as a quick glance at the wall clock told her.
"I swear, I was just gonna go up and check if she did something to you," Buffy commented as she watched Willow unpack rapidly. "What took you so long?"
"I, uh…," Willow laughed nervously, "we were just…you know, Faith wanted to find the book…a-and I let her…a-and, oh, bad idea, took longer than I thought...especially since we got all turned around, and even I got confused…but I only noticed that when I started looking for the book…"
"Happens to the best of us, huh?" Buffy smirked mischievously.
"Anyway…," Willow continued, ignoring the barb, since the blonde seemed to buy her story at least, "now I'm here – with book."
Buffy made a face, remembering what having the book meant for her – she still hated chemistry. "You should've let her look for a little while longer. Say two…or three…years?"
"I think she would have found it sooner," Willow laughed, "she's smart, you know. Just a little out of it sometimes."
"Hm," Buffy shrugged.
"Guess that could be a slayer thing," the redhead teased her best friend back.
"Hey!" Buffy pouted. But any possible comeback of hers was stopped as the teacher came in.
"Faith," the librarian said when he saw her coming down the stairs, getting her attention.
The slayer walked over to him and saw Giles pulling out his wallet with an extremely peculiar expression on his face, which Faith couldn't quite place and therefore decided to ignore it.
He handed her a couple of bills, which, upon seeing it, made her screech, "Seventy bucks!"
"Oh, it's not enough?" Giles asked, confused for a second, wondering exactly how big this 'little' present was that Faith wanted to buy.
"No! I mean, yes! ...Or no…it's more than enough…," she looked at him with perplex yet thankful eyes, "I'll give you back the rest when I'm done. And payback in installments, okay?"
"By all means, keep it," he nodded and moved his hand awkwardly, as if he wanted to pat her shoulder. "And don't be afraid to ask me for money, if need be," he tried to smile, "o-or advice…or anything, really. I'm always here for you."
"Okay…thanks." Faith tried not to read anything in his behavior and thought that it was probably better to ignore it.
She smiled briefly, before an uncomfortable silence started to spread out between them. Giles worked hard on avoiding to stare at what he believed was now Willow's 'girlfriend' or at least 'love interest' – the situation was still a little hard for him to comprehend; Faith simply stood about awkwardly, looking for something to do or say – Giles's was starting to become a little unnerving for her.
"Shall I…Shall I do the labeling and indexing for the new books?" she finally asked and pointed over to a pile of books that was sitting near what Giles liked to call 'the dreaded machine'.
"Oh, yes, that is a good idea," Giles replied and only one second later, Faith was already sitting behind the computer and opened the library's book catalogue with a few mouse clicks.
Both were glad that the oppressing silence was finally gone.
"D-Do you know how it works?" Giles asked the brunette.
"I'll ask you if I need help, okay?" Faith smiled. On Monday, Giles had given her some fuzzy instructions about how the labeling and indexing was supposed to work. She could tell that he really wasn't fond of computers, since she had only understood half of what he was trying to say and show her. But Faith wouldn't be Faith if she hadn't engaged her own private computer expert in giving her a more detailed and understandable introduction into that subject last night.
"Good. I'll be in here, if you need me," he said, walking into his office.
Once he was out of her sight, Giles took off his glasses and sat down in his chair. He leaned back and massaged the bridge of his nose, keeping his eyes closed for long moments. He hoped that his newfound awkward behavior towards Willow and/or Faith wouldn't become too obvious to them or the others. He had no idea, if their involvement was a matter of common knowledge or if he just happened to stumble in on a secret – and right this moment, he wasn't too keen on finding out.
As promised, Willow came back later, with Buffy and Xander in tow. The gang spent some time in the library, doing homework and other work that needed to be done. Giles kept away from the group for the most part of the afternoon, busying himself with organizational matters.
The mayor's activities seemed to be reduced to a minimum, Finch hadn't called them yet with possible new info – which meant there was nothing much to do at the moment. Consequently, all of them called it a day early…all of them, except Faith, who was on Oz-duty again.
This time the brunette had made Willow leave before sunset, not wanting to take any risks. The night was…long and…boring, just like the last one had been; Werewolf Oz wasn't the most exciting party animal to be around, he spent the larger part of the night sleeping, dozing or eating. Well, even in the short time before he had wolfed out, there hadn't been much interaction between them. It wasn't awkwardness… it was more a kind of mutual respect. Friendly, though, not fearful or aggressive. Ex-boyfriend and now-girlfriend, who were actually getting along…somehow… neither of them was sure, how often such a thing really happened. Of course, Oz's innate taciturnity and Faith's equal tendency to not talk if there was no real need to also added to the lack of communication.
Maybe they would have a talk at some later time, but now the need wasn't there.
Since this was still a library, Faith still found something to keep her occupied throughout the night. Some books in the section on Northern American history caught her interest and she browsed through several of them. Up until that point, at which she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer and fell asleep, snuggled up in the comfy chair that served as the library's reading area.
When Giles entered the library a couple of hours later, he found two sleeping teenagers. One of them was snoring in the book cage, the other one was murmuring something while sleeping in a chair up the stairs.
The watcher briefly checked on Oz and noticed that he was already back to his human self. After unlocking the cage's door, he went over to the brunette.
He crouched down in front of the slayer, getting ready to wake her. Just when he was about to shake her lightly, she mumbled, "Honey, can you tell that stupid sheep to get off my feet? I need to pee."
Giles watched amused, as Faith fought with the armrest of the chair, supposedly the thing that resembled the sheep in her dream. The brunette was sleeping, that much was certain, and Giles felt bad for having to wake her. But he thought that it would be better to wake her and make her go home, into a real bed. "Faith," she shook her gently.
"You're the smart one – I don't speak its language," the slayer glowered and clutched the book she was holding. Giles had an idea who 'the smart one' in Faith's dream could be, and after one night of sleeping on it, he was starting to cope with it. He might not approve of the relationship…yet – most 'parents' have initial problems with new partners of their 'children', regardless of which sex this partner was – but he was not entirely against a relationship between the girls.
"Faith," he ventured again, trying to take the book out of her hands, thinking that this could be a way to wake her up.
"No…," Faith gripped the book even tighter, "now it's eating my pillow! What did you say?"
she whined and did her best to keep her 'pillow' from its inevitable fate.
"Faith, you're dreaming," he finally stated the obvious.
"I am?" It was not very clear, if Faith really identified this statement as coming from Giles or if she associated it with her Dream Willow. But when she opened her eyes slowly, he knew that she had heard him.
"Oh, Giles," she rubbed her eyes, "morning." She let him take the book from her and set her feet down on the ground, "Sorry…guess I fell asleep," she looked at him with an apologetic expression. "But only for," she glanced at the clock, it was shortly after seven, "oh…two hours."
"Oh, please, this is entirely understandable," he calmed her nerves. "Go home, try to get some more sleep."
"Alright," Faith nodded, glad that he wasn't mad at her, "but I think I need to go the bathroom first," she grinned and waved goodbye before heading out.
Faith entered the house just in time to hear Willow's alarm clock go off. She knew what this meant, her having to catch up on her sleeping and Willow having to go to school – it meant even more hours of not being able to do couple-y things like snuggling and sleeping together…even if it was only in a sleeping kind of way.
But she wasn't going to take that and therefore sprinted into Willow's room and into her bed before the redhead could even think about getting up.
"Now where do you think you're going?" Faith grinned as she pinned the yelping wicca to the bed. She was still tired, but didn't let this keep her from spending at least some awake-time with her girlfriend.
"Argh, jeez, you startled me!" the barely awake redhead tried to sound grumpy, but it came out amused nonetheless. It doesn't happen every day that you get jumped by a slayer in your waking up stage.
"Oh, poor baby," Faith purred and used the hand that she didn't need, since she was basically sitting on Willow, to comb through the fiery red hair. The little girl nestled her head into the warm hand with a soft smile. Moments later felt her eyes drifting shut again.
"Don't you fall asleep on-slash-beneath me," she heard the warning voice, which seemed to be a little further away than she actually thought it should be, considering that Faith was right on top of her. "I don't wanna be held responsible for…whatcha call it?... 'marring your unblemished record'?"
This was too funny – hearing those words out of Faith's mouth, especially with the almost perfect imitation of her own voice. Willow giggled, "Well, then you have to do something about it," she suggested with her still closed eyes.
Faith seemed to obey. Willow felt how the weight on her shifted, felt Faith laying herself fully on her. Seconds later, she felt soft lips kissing her – forehead, eyelids, cheeks, nose and finally mouth.
Willow didn't seem to be opening her eyes any time soon; she only puckered her lips to provide her girlfriend with more contact surface.
But Faith didn't go on smooching. Instead she leaned up on her elbow and looked and the funny freckled picture with the pursed lips. "You're so cute," she whispered, tickling the lips with her fingertip.
"Don't tell me that too often, or otherwise I'll get all bigheaded," Willow laughed.
"I don't care. You're cute," Faith repeated her thought and snuggled closer, however, never forgetting that she was actually trying to keep Willow from going back to sleep. She used the thumb and index finger of her right hand to pry the redhead's eyes open. "And hopefully awake."
"Yeah, I'm awake," Willow removed the intrusive fingers from her eyes and turned to face Faith. "I guess I need a shower."
The brunette sniffed and shook her head, "My slayer senses say you're okay."
"Well…either you're a suck-up or your slayer senses are sleepy," Willow smirked. "Let me get up, okay?" Unlike Faith, she didn't have the physical strength to get up with another person still on top of her.
"Can't we snuggle some more?" Faith whined.
"Sorry, no," Willow stood…or rather 'lay' firm.
The slayer sighed overdramatically and rolled on her back, giving Willow the opportunity to get up. The redhead did, but she didn't head off into the bathroom right away; rather she assisted in getting Faith ready for bed.
She pulled off the slayer's sneakers, noticing how quiet the other girl had suddenly become. She didn't know if it was sleepiness or grumpiness, or a mixture of both. "Get some sleep," she suggested.
"Slept in the library for a whole two hours," Faith replied stubbornly with her arm thrown over her eyes. It was clear that she was, slowly but surely, starting to hate this situation, but she also knew that her 'slept for a whole two hours' argument wasn't enough to convince Willow that she was well rested.
"Alright," Willow replied and for a second Faith thought that she had misjudged her. "Get some more sleep," Willow grinned and unbuckled Faith's belt to pull her pants off.
Faith grunted, "This sucks," and rubbed her sleepy eyes with the back of her hand. But despite the 'suckiness', she was cooperative enough to lift her butt and let Willow get rid of her jeans. When the redhead noticed that Faith was actually wearing underwear, she almost wanted to check if the other girl had temperature; this was just unusual.
"I know," Willow answered, helping her girlfriend under the still warm blanket. The 'breast girl' decided to not take off the slayer's shirt, knowing where this could lead. "But look on the bright side. One more night and this'll be over…for a month…"
"Okay," Faith mumbled, still not happy, but Willow's body warmth, which still emanated from the sheets, seemed to pacify her some.
"See you later, okay?" Willow kissed her cheek.
"Miss you," the slayer replied, already half asleep again.
Willow showered quickly, before brewing the special 'Faith-coffee' and heading off to school. She herself was happy that the temporary 'working in shifts' that she and Faith had to put up with at the moment would be over tomorrow. Because as stupid as this might sound – even after not even one week of living together and sleeping in the same bed, she missed their shared nights. And the previous exchange showed her that the slayer felt the same.
But maybe Giles would have pity with her and let Faith spend the night at home.
Just as she had done yesterday, Faith got up around noon, slurped the Willow-made coffee and went to the library. However, Giles had already done most of the work of the day, so Faith was free to scamper about as she pleased.
Giles watched surprised as the slayer went straight into the Northern American history section again and buried her nose in the books. Had he known, he would have simply put her little pile of books on the card index – that way she wouldn't have to go look for them one more time.
But Faith didn't seem to mind. In fact, she came down the stairs a few minutes later, and upon seeing Giles sitting at the large wooden table, reading a newspaper, she asked, "Hey, Giles, did you ever check out this one?" she held up a dictionary of US-American history.
Reading the title, Giles replied, "Unfortunately, I can't say that I have."
"Oh, well," Faith shrugged, sitting down, "you should, some time. It's pretty interesting. There's something about the meaning of the states' names in there, for example."
"Oh?" he provoked her into going on. At any rate, Faith seemed far too enthusiastic to stop her from continuing, anyway. And he didn't want to stop her, either; spending some more time with her in the last few days, had changed his view on the young girl. He had never thought that she was really one for books, but found out that – once you made her spend some time near some of those – she could be a little book cracker. A little, not-really-unexpectedly smart book cracker. There were almost Willow-y traits to be noticed when one watched her handling books and other 'library-al' items in a seemingly unwatched moment. A very peculiar thought – as Giles had come to realize since yesterday.
"Yeah, like Virginia. 'At the end of the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I of England, who was known as the "Virgin Queen" because she never married, gave the name Virginia to the whole area explored by the 1584 expedition of Sir Walter Raleigh along the coast of North America'."
Giles nodded, actually having heard that before. He didn't know much about American history, but he knew about some aspects that her influenced by his Britons.
Faith turned some pages. "And Massachusetts means probably 'The place of the big hills', 'generally taken as a reference to the Great Blue Hills, visible from the I-93 beltway south of Milton', though there are also other explanations sometimes," she went on. "Huh. I dimly remember having heard about that in school."
Giles smiled good-naturedly; it wasn't often that he heard the word 'school' out of her mouth. "Did you ever think about…going back?"
Faith knew what he was talking about, without him having to utter the word. "Sure," she replied immediately. "I mean, it would be kinda cool to have something…you know, in case I survive long enough to actually graduate…"
The watcher nodded in understanding. He couldn't promise her that she would ever hold a diploma in her hands, but he was still looking into giving her at least the chance to. The positive reply from the slayer only confirmed his assumptions.
The brunette didn't want to dwell on possible death-thoughts for long and decided to switch back to the original topic. "Wanna know another?"
"California means either 'earthly paradise' or… here's the fun one… 'is apparently a combination of the Romance language roots cali- "hot" + forn- "oven". Spanish missionaries referred to the land in Latin as a calida fornax "hot oven"'" she looked at him expectantly.
"Which makes me wonder about the fire places in Californian homes," Giles took the bait and raised his eyebrows surprised. He had studied Latin at university, but if it wasn't for Faith and her book, he never would have thought about this strangeness.
Faith's eyes widened and she sat up straighter in her chair, "I said something like that to Will that night when we…," she stopped, rearranging the statement that could have given her relationship to the redhead away, "I mean, last week, when I moved in with her."
Giles nodded. He had no idea what Faith wanted to say originally, but knew that she probably feared to give something away. "I guess only non-Californians just don't understand that," he smiled, eliciting an assenting laughter from the slayer.
The library doors opened and they watched as Xander, Willow and Buffy entered.
"Hey, Dakota!" Faith exclaimed cheerily… then faltered. "Dakotas… Damn, why are you more than one? I don't know what the plural...," she looked at Giles for help, but he only shook his head.
"Maybe it's a singularetantum?" Willow suggested, and consequently bringing Giles to raise his eyebrows in thought; it was little likely that the Sioux don't have a plural for the word 'friend'; he was only mildly surprised that Willow knew about 'Dakota' at all – he knew that she was interested in a lot of things.
Faith didn't know what a singulare…thing was, but she had a mild idea.
Buffy and Xander, on the other hand, having understood neither the 'Dakota' exchange nor the talk about the 'singularetantum', simply looked at each other with questioning eyes. "I give up," the young man said finally.
The slayers spent some part of the afternoon training in the library, while Willow helped Xander with his algebra homework.
Actually-in-charge-Wesley was busy with something else. Nobody really missed him and his weird training instructions, anyway…except Cordelia, who came in briefly, checking if he was there. She looked as if she wanted to ask him something important, and upon hearing that he wasn't there, she left disappointedly.
Faith and Buffy had their own training style; from previous training sessions and a few months of patrolling with one another, each slayer knew the strengths and weaknesses of the other one, which made their training much more efficient than it would be with a watcher in charge.
Buffy held up some pads and let Faith practice some punch moves. They had been practicing for almost an hour already and were correspondingly sweaty.
In the time that Xander needed to follow the explanations that she had given him and answer the tasks, Willow spent watching the slayers train. She was captivated by the sight, not so much by watching Buffy, of course. By watching Faith – and not only because of the tight black cycling shorts and the white tank top.
It was the contrast in Faith that fascinated her. The contrast of the little snuggle-addicted, grumpy-when-not-getting-what-she-wants and can-be-that-gentle-it-drives-you-nuts girl on the one hand and the badass with the tattoo and a punch so hard it could knock out a 300 pound giant immediately on the other.
Black and white, just like her clothes.
Faith felt the eyes that were practically burning holes into her back – and she loved it. She was used to being watched, but being watched by her girlfriend was definitely more exciting than anything she had experienced so far.
Giles noticed the way that Willow was looking at the brunette slayer, and with his newfound knowledge, he understood. He knew that he – deep down – wanted to find out about the exact proportions of the relationship; from a parent's point of view, but also from a watcher's.
"Um, W-Willow?" the watcher asked, averting the redhead's attention for a moment, "May I have a word with you?"
"Yeah, sure," the little witch got up from where she had sitting in front of the long forgotten school work and came over to him.
Upon hearing the exchange, the slayers interrupted their training briefly and watched, before Faith returned to her fighting stance and waited for Buffy to bring her pads into the proper position again. "Ready?"
Buffy just nodded and seconds later felt Faith striking at her again.
"What's up?" Willow asked as Giles led her into his office. Giles opened his mouth, not fully sure what words would come out of it.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR - HANDLING
"What's up?" Willow asked and looked at the watcher with questioning eyes.
"I, uh…," Giles thought for a moment, reconsidering if he should address the matter that had been on his mind since yesterday or not. He did not necessarily want to disturb Willow and Faith with his maybe-knowledge. So he decided against it and tackled one other current matter. "I… wanted to ask you how far you have come with, um, decrypting the disks Mr. Finch has given to us."
"Oh. Oh, yeah," Willow replied, as if she suddenly remembered that those even existed. "I'm halfway through with the decryption. I was just a little busy lately, so I…didn't have much time to work on them… with… Faith moving in and all, and exams only a few weeks away," she explained apologetically. "But I'm almost finished with getting through to the Mayor's files. I think I found the program that will help us with that." She hadn't found any specific program that would help her, but she knew that Giles didn't know much about computers, much less the hacking of said machines. But she knew how she had to proceed to possibly get through to the desired information. And she knew that she would work on this tonight, because she felt at least a little bit guilty… about spending more time with Faith-related things instead of anything else.
To some extent, Giles seemed to feel Willow's guilt. "I didn't mean to rush you, but it's still good to hear this," the watcher smiled reassuringly. "We need to start preparing for the Ascension, and any other possible attacks the mayor might have planned before that."
"I get that," Willow confirmed resolutely. "And, really, I'll try to have it done by tomorrow, okay? I think it'll only take a couple more hours."
Unlike the previous nights, Giles volunteered for Oz-duty that night. He said that he had some work that he wanted to take care of.
Giles knew that having Faith at home might keep Willow from focusing on her work fully, but had enough… well, 'faith'… in her to not shirk her responsibilities over this.
And Willow knew what she had to do. She put her girlfriend, who was already starting to sulk, off. Great, now Faith didn't have to work the night shift anymore, but still couldn't spend some real quality time with the redhead.
Fortunately Wesley called during that critical period and informed Faith that he wanted her and Buffy patrolling tonight…which made Faith even more miffed, though she normally liked going on patrol.
Willow, however, managed to cheer her up with the promise that she'd be done with the work by the time Faith returned, and that they'd have the rest of the night to them. She even gave the brunette her word of honor when this one kept looking at her and her work rather skeptically.
Faith left reluctantly, but with the redhead's words in her ear that they'd have their night together the earlier she returned home.
Now, if she could only find the blonde slayer. She checked in with Joyce, who told her that Buffy had left to go to the movies with Angel about two hours ago.
Since her mind was now solely on finding B, patrolling some, and heading back home to have Willow-time, Faith sprinted down main street Sunnydale to head the other girl off, before this one could head into an unknown direction . Because this was not what she needed right now – to spend more time out here than necessary, just because she couldn't find her blonde counterpart. She noticed that she had arrived just in time, in more than one way, when she saw them – B and soulboy – standing on the middle of the street.
"See? Safe as houses," her slayer hearing picked up on the vampire's whispered words as she neared the couple…which was busying itself with smoochies.
Quite intense smoochies that elicited a, "Check out the lust bunnies!" from the amused slayer. Amused, but also a little jealous. She wanted smoochies. Soon. But with neither of them. And not necessarily in public.
The couple broke the kiss reluctantly and Buffy turned around to face the other slayer. "Patrol?"
Faith nodded. "Wimpy called. They want us down by Mercer."
"Okay," Buffy replied. Leaning up to her boyfriend to elicit another kiss, she said, "Goodnight." You could see that Buffy was not happy either to leave her lover here and now, and Faith understood that feeling very well. But if getting home again as soon as possible meant separating the couple for now… she'd just have to be a little bit selfish.
"I'll see you soon," Angel spoke, begrudgingly breaking the hold on his girlfriend's hand.
"Don't worry, big guy," Faith replied, linking her arm with Buffy's. "Just keeping her warm for ya." And with a mischievous wink, she dragged Buffy along. After patrol the blonde could go right back to her lover to let him, well, keep her warm… for all she cared.
Faith and Buffy made their way to the cemetery, silent for a couple of minutes. They couldn't shake the feeling of someone following them, but every time they looked around, the streets around them seemed to be empty.
Shaking the feeling off, Faith finally started a conversation. "So what movie did you watch? The 'Banquet d'…whatsit' one?"
"Yeah," Buffy replied, internally already hoping that the other slayer wouldn't ask anything about it.
But Faith – being as inquisitive as ever, understandably – didn't oblige. "Cool. What's it about?"
They entered the cemetery, and getting past the rusty remains of the gate gave Buffy at least some time to think. "Well, uh…I don't know…how to…"
Faith gave her a confused look. It couldn't be that hard to tell her about the content of the movie, right?
"Well…," Buffy laughed nervously and thought about the least embarrassing way to get the content across. "Uh…how old are you again?"
"Sixteen," Faith replied, as if it was a matter of common knowledge…as if she was only stating the obvious.
The blonde looked her over for a second. Faith did look like a lot of things – but definitely not like a girl of sixteen years of age, though the brunette had hinted at this when they had talked about Buffy's Cruciamentum. "Right… that means you're legally… not old enough to see that one…"
Faith did a quick double take. "I'm shocked! You're making me curious, B!" Buffy watched closely, as the thoughts ran through Faith's brain. Knowing Faith a little, she knew what that girl had to be thinking right now. "Guess now I need to find someone old enough to go with me. Xan's eighteen, right?" she gave her friend a mischievous look.
"Don't you dare to drag him into this," Buffy grinned in return. "Will, neither. Oh, well, she's only seventeen."
"I know." For a second, the mischievousness in her attitude was gone; call it the 'Willow effect'. But when another thought entered her brain, her Willow-obsession got pushed back – but only for now. "But I could ask Giles or Wimpy. Isn't 'watching' part of their job description?"
Buffy decided to not answer Faith's remark. She knew that the younger girl could play this game indefinitely… at least as long as someone countered her comments, but if no one did…
The blonde went back to thinking about Angel and their relationship situation.
Faith, of course, noticed this. She had her own thoughts about the two of them, but figured 'love makes you do the wacky'. Judging Buffy's choice of relationship, while she herself was doing her best to hide her relationship with Willow, was probably not the best idea. But at least her and Will had one problem less – she couldn't help but wonder how poor Angel handled the X-rated movie; and Buffy herself wasn't made out of cold… desireless… stone either.
"Gotta tell you, B, the will power thing? Nice job," Faith stated in mild admiration.
"Thanks," Buffy replied absent-mindedly. "What?"
"The 'close but no cigar deal' with Angel," she explained. "I don't know if I could handle, you know, the way you're not handling it."
This statement was not a hundred per cent true; she knew… that she wouldn't be able to handle it. She had noticed that she could live without the cigar for a while… but definitely not without the handling…
Some funny fantasies started shooting through her brain. Involving a certain redheaded cutie… and an artificial cigar. Not that this was the first time that she had those fantasies, but it kept getting funner and more intriguing the longer she thought about it.
She hadn't talked to Willow about her thoughts yet, but knew that her girlfriend had already stumbled over her… toy collection. It would only be a matter of time before one of them – presumably Faith herself – would bring up the subject; and more importantly, would start to work on walking thattalk.
'Walkless' Buffy replied a little tersely, "Faith, when it comes to Angel, do me a favor." The blonde noticed something behind the other girl and changed her wording, "Duck!"
Faith reacted fast as lightning, ducked and looked behind her to see Buffy punching a short 'guy' in striped shirt and black hat square across the jaw.
"Ow! Ooh! What are you, nuts? Going around punching people?" he whined as Faith jumped up and backed him against the wall of a crypt.
Buffy pulled off his hat to reveal pointy ears and two horns growing out of his forehead, Faith kept her hold on his collar. "People?" the blonde asked.
"So what, I'm a demon. That makes it okay?" Both slayers raised their stakes threateningly.
"Hold it, whoa!" the little demon threw up his hands in defense. "Stake me now, and you never find out what I got for ya. Huh? Think about it. Demon seeks Slayers, highly unusual?"
Buffy shoved his shoulder lightly, while both girls lowered their weapons, prodding him to go on. "Talk fast," Faith said.
"How would you like to get your hands on the Books of Ascension?" he waggled his eyebrows expectantly.
"Books of Ascension?" Buffy asked surprised; she had heard the watchers mentioning those, and that it apparently was extremely difficult to get your hands on them. And the little demon seemed to offer them – possibly the most vital information about the mayor's plans – on a silver platter. The slayers looked at each other briefly, trying to figure out, if one could trust that little guy.
"More info, please," Faith stated.
"Hey, hey, read 'em and weep. That's all I got to say. Tomorrow, I get the books. Meet me here and if the price is right, well, I give the books to you."
Buffy was ready to give it a try; however, paying for it didn't seem to be an option for her. "Not really looking to trade with a demon."
"And if this were still a barter economy, that would be a problem. I want cash, princess, five large for the whole set," the demon barked his reply.
"So you can buy, I'm guessing here, some skin care products?" Faith added, equally unwilling to disburse, and five thousand dollars was more than just a little much.
The demon chuckled, only mildly amused. "Plane ticket. Out of the Hellmouth before its 'Adios, Slayer Loco'. So, five Gs, what do you say?"
Faith pulled out the stake again. "You know…I don't really wanna stake you," she looked at it, using the double entendre on purpose, "but if you come back tomorrow, I'm sure we'll have some more adequate weapons ready. So…if I were you, I would rethink my position on the five grant," she looked at him threateningly.
But halfway through her threat, the demon had already become scared, jumped between them and skedaddled.
Faith made a half-assed move to follow him, but Buffy stopped her. "Oh, let him go. Scaring him to death before we get the books wouldn't do us any good. Besides, I don't think he falls into the 'deadly threat to humanity category'."
"Not a threat, but if the Mayor gets wind of the books before we get them…," Faith thought, getting a little worried.
"We'll tell to Giles about it tomorrow. See what he'll say," Buffy offered.
"Sure we shouldn't be talking to Wimpy about this?" Faith grinned, despite the situation.
"Okay, he can listen too," the blonde laughed. "Come on, let's go home. I'm kinda beat."
"Huh. Why? There wasn't even any real handling, as I recall," she smirked. "But, uh…maybe you're planning on taking care of that at home, huh?" Faith couldn't help but tease. Or 'home' didn't mean the Summers' home, but the home of a souled vampire.
"You're evil," Buffy replied, blushing.
"This from the girl who just watched an X-rated movie in public," the brunette went on teasing.
"I wasn't…t-that was Angel's fault," Buffy stalked ahead, clearly feeling uncomfortable with the other girl.
"Yeah, yeah," Faith mocked, knowing very well that it most likely wasn't her fault; little Buffy was way too innocent for something like that…probably.
The brunette had no idea if Buffy had really 'handled' the situation that night or not; Faith, however – had, without the help of any battery-operated/artificial devices, and without having been worked up by a movie, but with the generous help of Willow, who had kept her promise and had finished her work by the time that she had came home.
It had been a good way to start the day; well, almost… the show had ended shortly before midnight …but it was a good way, nonetheless.
Faith was ready to face this new day, the day that she wanted to put some of her plans into action, some a little older, some very, very new.
She got up about one hour after Will, showered, drank the still funny-tasting coffee, and called Giles to tell him that she would probably be there around 1 pm. Then she left.
Her first stop was the local magic shop, where she bought something that was part of a matter of heart of hers. She hadn't been sure what to buy exactly, but the shopkeeper had been patient and cooperative.
Afterwards, she went into a kind of store, which she normally wouldn't be caught dead in; and if asked, she would most likely deny her knowledge about the exact location of one of those. Half an hour later, she came out, carrying a conspicuous bag that gave away more about the store's bargain than what was good for the slayer's dignity.
Therefore, she did her best to hurry home as quickly as possible.
But she only stayed there for a couple of minutes, hid the embarrassing bag in her closet and the magic shop item in the drawer of her bedside table. Walking over to her dresser, she pulled out a metallic item and stuffed it in the waistband of her pants.
When she left again, her destination was downtown Sunnydale, which still was only half a block away from main street Sunnydale, but was rarely frequented by mere mortals; since she didn't belong to this category…at least not a hundred per cent…she went there without any second thoughts or fears, soon closing in on the bar called 'Willy's Place'.
Faith descended the stairs that led to the bar. Entering, she immediately found all eyes on her. Not that this was entirely new for her, it happened sometimes that she suddenly found herself in the center of attention. But unlike bars or clubs, where the looks were mostly somewhere between fascinated and enthralled… in demon bars like Willy's they were apprehensive and cautious.
As on cue, about half the demons fled through the back entrance that led into the widely ramified sewers of Sunnydale… perfect for vampires to get through town during the day.
The rest of the clientele sat in silence, still staring at her, as if she were some sort of rare yet infamously dangerous animal; the rest of the clientele… except one floppy eared demon at a far back table that waved at her cheerily.
The brunette shook her head and smirked.
Back at Sunnydale High, the Scoobie Gang had just finished their biology lesson and was on the way to their next class.
Buffy had hoped that nobody would ever find out about her and Angel's little movie incident. However, she didn't bear in mind that Faith would tell her girl about it later on. Consequently, Xander got notice of it as well – and Buffy swore revenge; Faith would have to pay for giving the others a hook-in for jokes and double-entendre-y questions.
Buffy thought about her comeback very thoroughly. It had to be a good one. Maybe she would use tomorrow night's slumber party for her revenge – if she could come up the perfect thing by then.
Willow left a sulking Buffy and an amused Xander temporarily to tell Giles about the results of her last night's work. She had found out some interesting and pretty alarming things.
"Faith, sweetie," the demon came over and threw his crinkly, floppy arms around her, bear-hugging her, "it's been so long. I already thought something had happened to you."
After lifting her almost half a meter off the ground in his joy, he put her back on her feet, "No, Clemmie, I was just busy," she grinned.
Over Clem's shoulder, Faith had already seen the remaining demons relax upon seeing and hearing their affectionate behavior. Though back down on her feet, one meaningful look of hers in their direction immediately made clear that she was still the slayer and more than ready to do her job if necessary. Their demeanor returned to apprehensive immediately.
"Come sit with me. You up for a game?" he asked hopefully.
"Dude, she's gonna rip you off," another demon stage whispered, obviously talking from his own experience. Yes, Faith had more than one rep in Sunnydale's underworld: slayer and gambler, the latter one had mainly provided her with the rent for her motel room until last week. She was a good Poker player. She knew that Clem and his fellow demons preferred to play for kittens – though she never bothered to ask why. For her money was the only valid currency, of course.
Faith ignored the side remark by the other well-known demon – she had beaten him several times, in more than one way – and replied to Clem, "In a couple of minutes, okay? Just gotta take care of a little something first," she smiled.
The little something stood behind the counter, debating whether he should stay or run off.
"Hey, Willy," the slayer leaned on the counter top lazily, "I guess I need some info."
"I got the info," Willow said as she entered the library and headed for Giles' office, just in time to see him lifting his head from the desk full of forms and other paper work. "Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
Giles rubbed his eyes and put on his glasses, "It's, uh, it's alright, Willow. What did you find out?"
The redhead walked over and sat down in the chair next to him. "Well, I decrypted the disks and printed out what I could find on them," she handed him a folder, "I thought you'd want to check to see if it's important in any way."
"Wonderful," the watcher smiled at her genuinely. Sure, it meant more work for the sleep-deprived watcher, who rather wanted to be in his bed than here, but it was an improvement.
"But…here's the bad news," Willow continued, "the Mayor's files…by the time I got through the encryptions, the files were empty. Guess he saw me coming."
"Well, that's interesting… in a disquieting way. We have to find out if something is up; if so we have to take precautions."
"I'm sorry. Maybe if I had gotten through sooner, we could have found out something more," Willow apologized. Now the guilt was fully there; though she probably would never find out, when exactly the files had been emptied, if any possible information had still been there two or three days ago. She knew that Faith hadn't felt her guilt last night, though it had been there already. She hadn't wanted Faith to feel her guilt, and consequently blame herself for wanting to spend time with Willow – she had a feeling that Faith would do that.
"No, no, I know that you are trying your best," Giles interfered. "I-I know that it must be quite of a change, having to cope with a flat mate all of the sudden." Subtle way of addressing the Faith-subject.
"I think we're getting along fine." You know…sometimes it's challenging," she remembered yesterday's grumpiness-attacks, caused by too little opportunity for snuggle time, "but I guess it's better than living alone." As long as crises stayed away from them. Two – the 'lack' of 'twogetherness' and the guilt about too much 'twogetherness' – had been averted/suppressed last night.
"Yes, I imagine so," he replied, looking at her intently and waiting if she was going to tell him something more; he would never ask of his own accord.
Willow stared at him in return, wondering if there was more that he wanted to tell or ask her; there was something knowing in his eyes that she couldn't deny.
But Giles didn't ask and she wasn't keen on telling anything. "I'd better go. Class starts in a few minutes," she got up.
The watcher nodded, partially relieved that Willow didn't engage in that topic. "And I'll, uh, look through these files," he held them up.
"Okay," she made a move to leave, but turned around on second thought. "Oh, right, I guess I'll see you after class. Buffy and Faith have found out something on patrol last night." Apart from the fact that they are showing X-rated movies in the Sun Cinema."Something that might help us fight the Mayor," Willow knew a few of the details already, but figured that they could probably explain it better.
"Excellent," Giles replied and watched as she headed out, wondering what this something could be.
After 'squeezing' and/or punching the necessary information out of Willy, with the friendly help of her steel hammer fist, Faith settled down for a – for her successful – game of Poker with Clem and some other demons, one of which coincidently still owed her a favor.
She made the demon lead her to a hidden place, where she found the one last little something that she needed for today; well, she didn't necessarily need it, but it would make the last part of her mission a little more agreeable.
Her final destination was an apartment house near the bus station, compared to which the Downtowners Apartments – Faith's former home – almost had flair.
The slayer remembered the first time that she had been here all too well; the stench of urine and fast food had been the first thing she noticed when she stepped out of the Greyhound that brought her here. Not that she wasn't used to it; most bus stations looked and smelled the same all across the US, and probably all over the world. Because to her involuntary cross-country trip from the North East to the South West of the US, Faith had probably enough experience to judge.
She walked up the creaking stairs, stopped in front of apartment 324 and knocked.
"Just a minute!" she heard a startled voice shouting from inside, followed by some rustling and squeaking. The door opened about a minute later and revealed the little demon from last night, who looked a little stressed-out. "Hey! Slayer!" he yelped, recognizing her, "I-I didn't expect to see you here. It's not really tidy," he pointed behind him with his head, "but…uh, come in," he smiled politely yet frantically.
Faith entered and closed the door behind her. She didn't plan on staying long, she just wanted one thing. "You got the books?"
"Well, that depends. You got my money?" he asked hopefully.
Faith pushed the hem of her jacket back… and revealed the handle of a knife. The demon flinched visibly. There was the more adequate weapon that she had threatened to show him yesterday.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE - UNEXPECTED SURPRISES
Faith reached further back, past the knife, and pulled out a bundle of money that had been hidden in the back of her pants. The demon relaxed immediately and she handed it over to him.
"Five thousand?" he asked a little skeptically, undid the rubber band that held the bills together haphazardly.
"Count it, if you want," she said patiently, though internally simply wanting to grab the books and get out of here.
The demon looked at it briefly. "No, I-I guess it's okay," he replied. Noticing her look, he told her, "The books are over there," and pointed over to the bed.
Faith walked over and inspected the books. Five in number, huge tomes, ancient, but still in an acceptable condition.
"Are you okay with them?" he stood right next to her nervously, the money in his hands temporarily of little importance. Maybe it was just the knife in the slayer's waistband that frightened him a bit. "I-I know, they're a little worn in some spots, some slight foxing, but otherwise..."
"They're okay," Faith answered; as far as she could tell, there was nothing wrong with them. But her mind already raced ahead. There was one thing that she hadn't thought about when she had cooked up her ingenious plan – how was she going to get the books to the library safely and unnoticed?
Looking around, her eyes fell on a bag pack that rested near the bed. "You still need that one?" she asked.
"No, no, take it," he replied, glad that the slayer seemed to be peaceful; something that he wouldn't have expected from their last night's encounter.
She stored the books diligently, giving the demon some last advice. "I'd say you get out of here as quickly as possible… Oh, wait," she straightened up and pulled a bus ticket out of her back pocket, "here, one-way ticket to L.A.," she handed it over to him, "consider it a little bonus," she added and went back to packing. There went the rest of the money that Giles had given her.
"Hey, thanks," the little demon replied, liking the slayer more with every second.
"Okay," Faith shouldered the load after having packed the last one of the books and having checked the zippers and locks thrice. "So…guess…hope we'll never meet again."
"Same here. I mean, not that you're not nice and all, but I can't wait to get out this town. Not planning on ever coming back."
"That's good to hear," the slayer replied and sounded almost relieved…at least for a teensy weensy bit. She made a move to leave, but the demon stopped her.
"Hey. And… good luck," he came over and shook her hand.
"Thanks," she smiled gratefully; she knew that he was referring to the Ascension, of course. "Take care."
And with this, she walked out of the door and left the harmless little demon alone with his money.
"And you say this demon wanted cash? That's very unusual."
Wesley's words, mainly directed at Buffy, who had told him about last night's patrol, brought mild amusement to the others' faces.
The core Scoobies plus Wesley were assembled in the library; the teens were seated around the table, while the watchers stood at the door of Giles's office.
"Demons after money. Whatever happened to the still beating heart of a virgin? No one has any standards anymore," Giles mocked him – and the modernly unorthodox demons, and ate his banana.
"Well, he said the books were worth the price," Buffy repeated the demon's thoughts.
"So, we know about the Ascension already," Xander chimed in, "but are you sure that the books could give us any new info?"
"If you ask me, we should find out as much as possible," Willow added. "I mean, from what I have read in the…uh…," she turned to Giles with an apologetic look, "Marenschadt Text…"
"Yes," the watcher countered with a stern look. About two weeks ago, after they had gotten the first chunk of information from Allan Finch, Willow had, conscious-stricken, told him about her recent discovery in his book cabinet. She had known that Giles would be less than happy to find out about her snooping around in his Black Arts books, but the impending apocalypse hadn't left her much choice.
After a massive lecture, a forced promise that she would stay away from these books…and after Giles, just to be sure, had found another hiding place for the magic secrets that Willow was not yet ready for, they had luckily made up, though Giles still monitored her magical behavior carefully.
"Ascension – not a love-in," Buffy concluded, having heard enough about it already.
"I think you should meet with this demon, Buffy," Giles replied, coming back to Willow's valid reply.
"Yeah? Anybody got five thousand dollars?" she looked around the library, searching for the imaginary cash cow… which coincidently decided to pop up out of nowhere – in the guise of Cordelia.
The brunette approached the younger watcher, "I have something important to ask you," she started with a smile.
"Important? Let's start calculating those odds, people," Xander snarled at his ex-girlfriend's declaration.
Ignoring his remark, she gave her attention to Wesley again, "What are you doing tomorrow night?" Of short notice and very much unexpected for the watcher, probably, but today was the first day that she had seen him for days.
"Uh, I, uh," Wesley stammered, preparing for his finagled explanation, "as always my sacred duty as a Watcher prevents me from, ah...," Giles looked at him expectantly, waiting for whatever may come. Wesley caught the look, of course, "Why?"
Glad that Wesley didn't turn her down right there and then, Cordy continued, "I have a paper to write for English and, uh… you're English, so I thought...," seeing the skeptical looks of Buffy and Xander, she snapped, "What? Is it so wrong to be getting an insider's perspective?" Refocusing on Wesley, she added, "I study best in a good restaurant, around eight-ish? Think it over?"
Wesley opened and closed his mouth in short intervals, wrecking his brain for a possible reply… a reply that seemed to be out of reach right this moment.
Cordelia exited, but not before letting her posture demonstrate that she really meant it.
"And on the day the words 'flimsy excuse' were redefined, we stood in awe and watched," Xander stated amused.
"Right! Books of Ascension, Mayor, slaughter," Wesley wrung his hands and tried to concentrate on the problem at hand. "Tell you what. Why don't we try to find this demon sooner rather than later? Perhaps persuade him to lend us the books free of charge."
"I think Faith might be useful in that persuasion part," Buffy replied.
"Hm, I imagine so," the young watcher countered with a smug smile, "Where is Faith, anyway?"
"Present," the quintet was startled when they heard the low female voice from the doors that Cordelia had exited seconds ago. Giles was surprised – it was shortly after 1 pm, Faith had kept her word.
The brunette walked over to the counter and dumped an apparently quite heavy backpack on it. "What's up with CC? She seemed pretty happy with herself," she pointed over her shoulder with her thumb. "She even said 'hi' to me!" she said this, like it was the most shocking revelation ever. But considering the usual encounters of the two brunettes…it probably was.
"She just convinced Wesley to do the homework for her," Xander grinned, with a wink that hopefully portrayed what he really meant.
Faith, being her, of course, understood the implication, "Hm, and what's that? Something biological?" she smirked.
Wesley did his best to stop the blush from appearing on his face; Giles watched amused.
"Well, since you're here now," Buffy started, getting up from her chair, "ready to track down this demon?"
But before Faith could reply and tell them that tracking down the demon wouldn't be necessary anymore, the younger watcher chimed in, happy to be able to focus on the matter at hand again, "Y-Yes, very…very good. First we need to find out where he resides. If these books are important as he says, he has good reason to hide. Finding him is going to be extremely difficult."
"Hey…," Faith started, trying to get their attention.
"I think we'll go to Willy's first, find out if he knows anything," Buffy offered, apparently not having heard Faith.
"Alright, good plan," Wesley concurred.
"Guys, can I…," Faith tried again. She felt propelled back into last week's 'I-got-kicked-out' situation, what with everyone talking and deciding over her head.
"Though I think you should call us once you found anything," Giles continued, "or inform Angel in some way."
Faith sighed, for several reasons, but only Willow and Xander, who were still sitting at the table, seemed to notice.
"In this case strength in numbers is probably the safest option; we don't want anything to happen," the older watcher finished his thought.
"Okay," Buffy replied, half turning to the doors to leave. On second thought, she headed towards the bookcase, "Oh, almost forgot. Weapons."
"B, it's okay, I already got…," and suddenly Faith had the attention that she had wanted, only now she got meek, "…the books…," she continued, observing the others' reactions carefully.
Xander's jaw dropped and was now practically resting in his lap; Willow blanched visibly, and Faith just knew that there must be some horrible 'How-Faith-got-hold-of-the-books' scenarios running through the redhead's brain.
Buffy elicited an "Oh," that sounded almost disappointed.
Giles finally understood why Faith had called and told him that she'd come later; however, this did nothing to diminish the worried expression that had appeared on his face upon hearing what the slayer had been up to. "Faith, this would have been a job for the both of you," he scolded her, mildly though, the relief upon seeing that the brunette seemed to be physically okay, outweighed this.
Wesley, on the other hand, seemed slightly more enraged. "I don't understand what you've been thinking. You could have…you could have gone and gotten yourself killed. Without informing me!"
I appreciate the sentiment, Faith shrugged, but didn't utter her sarcasm out loud.
Buffy had to fight back a scoff upon hearing Wesley's words; the guy couldn't even express concern properly. "What he wanted to say – you should've waited for me," Buffy translated, basically repeating Giles's thought.
"Sorry," Faith replied wholeheartedly. "But I-I thought the earlier the better, you know? And I didn't want to drag you out of class… again," Giles looked Buffy surprised when he heard this, "cuz, you know…Well, anyway, I knew where to go to get the address info – Willy's – and then I looked up the demon. I guess you could call it a sneak attack, and, well…here we are – me and the books…," she went on and on, Buffy started to grin amused, "I mean, it's not like anyone would think that I'm walking around with the Books of whatnot in broad daylight, so I guess I was pretty safe...and…"
Buffy chuckled, "Okay, okay, apology accepted, Miss Babble Queen," the blonde finally stopped her fellow slayer and neared the counter, "you definitely spend too much time with Will."
Xander chuckled, remembering that he had thought almost the same thing during their broom closet encounter last week, Willow smiled due to the reference, for once not trying to shrink back in her chair. 'Too much time?' Never! she thought to herself, her eyes conveying her thought to Faith. The dark slayer grinned upon seeing the redhead's look.
Giles observed the interaction between them, but kept his thoughts to himself.
Buffy grabbed the back pack and brought it over to the table, Faith following at her feels.
"Well, now that they're here, we can at least unpack them, huh?"
"So, how'd you do it, Faith?" Willow asked, "Did you…you know…?" Between coming home and… 'handling', they had talked about the little demon that would most likely fall over dead, if one really startled him, for example with holding a knife to his throat.
"Nah, the demon's still alive," the brunette replied quickly, "I paid him."
"What?" five people yelped at once.
"Calm down! You never heard of funny money?"
"Okay, I'm not even sure I want to know what you're up to when none of us are around to supervise you…," Buffy sighed exasperated and unzipped the back pack.
"The only real thing I gave him was the bus ticket to L.A.; I'd say he's probably gone by now," Faith continued, helping Buffy to lay out the books on the table. "Never coming back."
"Can we start at the beginning?" Xander opened his mouth, "I want to hear the entire story," he smirked.
In the following minutes, Faith told them all about her today's mission. About floppy eared demons with big, big hearts – metaphorically speaking, Kitten Poker – not metaphorically speaking, a vampire that was still owing her a favor…and had contacts to money copiers …and a demon that had been gullible enough to accept her fake money without even checking – thank God, Faith would have hated to kill the little guy.
After some hours of researching and taking a closer look at the books, Giles…no, Wesley, of course, sent the gang home for the weekend, the slumber party weekend, to which the watchers weren't invited as a matter of course.
Giles already knew that he would spend the weekend with his nose in the books; Wesley was seriously thinking about canceling his…p-p-private lessons with Cordelia, just to do the same.
Faith stored her knife in her bureau again, right there, where all the other 'dangerous' weapons lived. She walked over to her bedside table to check up on her magic shop purchase; just when she had opened its drawer enough to peek in, she heard Willow walk into her room.
"Hey, Reddie," she pushed the drawer shut with a swing of her hip and faced her girlfriend.
Willow had been unusually quiet on their home, lost in her thoughts. It must have dawned on her, what being in a relationship with a slayer – especially a dark-haired-always-in-for-some-action kind of slayer – could mean. An ever-present fear that something might happen.
The redhead had her arms crossed over her chest and simply looked at her pensively.
"Okay, if you wanna lecture me, go ahead. I guess I deserve it," Faith threw her arms in the air, knowing that she would be equally worried, if she herself was her girlfriend and had to hear about her perilous behavior.
"No, no lecturing," Willow started and unfolded her arms slowly. She walked over, sat down on Faith's bed and looked at her girlfriend.
Faith returned the look, still waiting for Reddie to go on; she knew that the redhead had more to say than just that; she had – as Buffy would call it – her 'but'-face on.
"But…," there it was, "I want you to be more careful," Willow took Faith's hand and made her sit down as well, "okay?"
"Nothing happened, sweetie," Faith played down her behavior. She knew that anybody who heard of her recent adventure would tend to consider it reckless, no matter how hard she tried to convince them that her mission was harmless. Though Faith herself had to admit that she had been pretty damn lucky.
"That's not good enough." A true statement.
"I know," Faith replied and bit her lips when she saw the tears what were creeping into Willow's eyes.
"I can't promise you anything," the brunette started slowly and noticed the redhead getting more desperate with every second, "but I'll do whatever I can, okay?" she squeezed her girlfriend's hand, "You don't have to worry about me."
"I don't wanna lose you." She would have never picked up on the reply, if it wasn't for her slayer hearing.
The tears came and Faith hastened to pull Willow into her arms, embracing her as tightly as possible without hurting her in any way.
Willow's words resounded in her head. 'I don't wanna lose you.' Never in her life had someone cared about her enough to say something like that to her, and this thought made her happy and sad at the same time.
"You'll never lose me. I'm like a tiny little freckle on your skin, you know. Once it's there, it's there to stay," she hoped to lighten Willow's mood a little with that reference.
And, indeed, Willow chuckled a little. "Sometimes they're annoying, you know. Some of them seem to have a mind of their own," she pressed her hands into Faith's sides, hoping that she'd understand the comparison.
"True. But that's what makes them lovable. Would be boring otherwise, right?"
Willow didn't reply to this and consequently Faith lifted her head to look at her. The tears were still there and Faith wiped them off with her thumb. She gazed her lover's face, their eyes finally locking. She sighed, "I love you, Willow Rosenberg."
Willow couldn't find the words to respond to this, thanks to the lump in her throat, but she knew that she didn't have to. The way Faith looked at her meant that the other girl knew that she was feeling the same. She loved Faith – despite the apparent quirks.
"And I love that you care about me enough to actually tell me something like this," she continued. "And if it don't makes you worry so much, then I'll be just happy to be the most rebelliously-obedient freckle you've ever seen," One last peace-offering from Faith, who kissed Willow on the cheek.
"Dumbass," the redhead grinned and nuzzled her cheek against the brunette's. Faith simply chuckled and held on tighter.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX - COME AS YOU ARE(N'T)
Joyce heard a knock on the front door and went to answer it. When she did, she saw a brunette and a redhead standing on her porch, smiling.
"Willow, Faith, come in," she smiled in return and made room for them to enter.
"Hi, Mrs. Summers," they greeted perfectly in sync.
Joyce closed the door behind the girls, just as Faith put the backpack that she was carrying down on the living room floor. She noticed how small the bag was. Since Faith was the only one of the girls wearing one, she wondered how they could have fit everything they needed for tonight's big sleepover in it.
Meanwhile, Willow had taken off her jacket and felt it being pulled out of her grip by a possessive brunette's hand. She knew this game well by now – Faith always wanting to hang up her jacket for her and taking it down again, helping her into her jacket and out of it – as often as possible. It was a cavalier-y behavior that Willow couldn't drive out of her girlfriend yet. Not that she was really planning on doing so; it was way too cute to be annoying.
Joyce saw the wordless interaction between the girls and smiled. She waited 'til Faith was done with hanging up her and Willow's jackets and led them into the kitchen. "Would you like some cocoa?"
"Yeah, thanks," Willow answered for both of them. As she walked by the table in the dining room that had already been laid, she asked, "Do you need any more help? With the cooking or anything?"
"No, that's okay, thanks. I'm almost done," Joyce countered, entering the kitchen and walking over to the cupboard to retrieve three mugs for the cocoa.
"So, where's B at?" Faith asked, hopping on one of the stools at the kitchen counter, seating herself next to Will. "She not…," she stopped mid-sentence to snatch a slice of red capsicum from a nicely arranged plate of capsicum, tomato, cucumber and other veggies that Joyce had prepared. She almost dropped her food item when Willow slapped her hand in an admonishing gesture, "…ouch…here yet?" she grinned and held her booty up for Willow to see.
Upon turning around and seeing Faith munching down on the vegetable, Joyce scrunched her eyebrows slightly. She put the mugs on the counter and explained, "No, she went out on a quick patrol and said she was going to pick up Xander, once she was done…," Joyce rearranged the fairly messed-up plate quickly, before going over to the fridge to start on the cocoa.
"Okay," Faith replied. Done with her snack, she sent a sneaking glance in the direction of the plate… however, didn't move a finger-y muscle, not only because Willow had covered her hand with hers, stopping it from doing any more naughty things.
Since Joyce had her head temporarily buried in the depths of the fridge, she didn't notice this interaction. She produced a box of milk and closed the door behind her. "So…uh, anyway, are you two getting along? I guess living together can be difficult when you're…," she stopped, choosing her words wisely. She knew they hadn't basically been living alone voluntarily, "…not necessarily used to it."
The lovers didn't know how often they had heard this question throughout the last week, but it wasn't annoying… at least not yet.
"Oh, we're totally cool," Faith replied, watching as Joyce retrieved a pack of cocoa from the cupboard and gave a bit of it in a jug.
"But… I'm parenting her just a little bit," Willow added. "Like slap her paw when it pinches something from a neatly arranged plate without permission and stuff," Willow grinned and made Joyce chuckle.
For this, she received a pouting look from Faith. "Well, someone has to…," she returned the pout and squeezed the hand under the table a little.
"Speaking of…," Mom started, pouring some milk into the jug, putting this one in the microwave and pushing a sequence of buttons. "Buffy told me about what you did yesterday, Faith."
"What did I do?" Faith replied.
"You know what…," Willow added slowly. She knew that Faith was trying to play out her innocent, ignorant little girl card.
"Oh, that…," the brunette sighed. Please not another lecture…though yesterday I didn't even really get one, so maybe today's the day…
"Be more careful…okay?" the blonde simply stated and Faith was surprised. Not even the most mom-like mom of her 'moms' did seem to live up to her name.
Her Giles-mom had cut her some mayor slack yesterday, her Buffy-mom had been more disappointed for not being able to go on the mission herself – but at least she hadn't lectured her; her most favorite of her moms – her Willow-mom – had been a fairly tough nut to crack, but eventually she had been able to convince her of her promise to be more careful in the future.
From Joyce's warning and anxious look, she judged that this one fell somewhere around the Giles-category. Faith didn't care how many people claimed the position as un-official Faith-mom right now, at least they made up for the one mom that hadn't cared.
Willow-mom tugged on her hand and made her face her. "You…you'll listen to her, right?" the redhead sounded fairly desperate and Faith could see a trace of tears in the big green eyes.
Joyce noticed it too and now also the touching between the girls. This wasn't really a surprise since Willow was cradling the brunette's hand in her lap by now.
"Promise," Faith replied fully determined and altered between looking at the women.
Willow nodded slightly; she wanted to get as much assurance from Faith as she could get, because she didn't trust the self-proclaimed 'rebel' one hundred per cent, despite or even because of her yesterday's speech.
"And even if I don't… let's just say, I give you all full permission to kick my then possibly de…," she changed her wording in the last millisecond, "…demolished ass."
As on cue, they hear the front door open and Xander and Buffy come in. Any probable replies to this remark would have to wait 'til later.
After the three 'girls' had drank up their cocoas and had put the intact-again plate of veggies plus other food items on the table, the group, now consisting of five members, sat down for dinner.
At some point, the discussion came to the Willow and Oz sitch that was still confusing Buffy to some extent.
She had seen them dancing at the Bronze but until now hadn't found the time to talk to Willow about it. Joyce, Xander and Faith listened attentively to anything that the redhead had to say. Joyce, because she wanted to collect as much evidence as possible, really not wanting to jump to any wrong conclusions; Xander, because he remembered the conversation that he and Faith had had, in which she told him about her feeling that those two would never get back together; and Faith…well, because she carefully listened to everything that Willow had to say, anyway.
Willow explained that they were right in the middle of going back to being friends and that the chance of them coupling up again was minimal.
Faith was the only one that had to play her surprise upon hearing the reply… well, one could also count Joyce, but she didn't even try to fake surprise since no one was paying attention to her as it was.
But then all attention turned towards her when she was told about the really new 'couple' of the group – Xander and Faith.
After a confused stare from her side and a grin on every single one of the others' faces, she was filled in on the little scheme that Faith had cooked up to keep Percy off her back. One more clue in the Willow and Faith riddle that Joyce was trying to solve.
After they were done with dinner, they split up for a moment. Willow helped Joyce with the washing up, and Xander and Buffy spent some time showing Faith something that this one had asked about last week.
However, after a few minutes, Xander excused himself to go to the bathroom, while Buffy went into the kitchen to get some snacks.
"Holy Jesus, sweet motherfucker!" the occupants of the house heard someone yell from the living room. It was an exclamation that was somewhere between a surprised squeak and a disbelieving yelp.
The only person there at the moment – Faith.
Willow was the first to arrive at the living room entrance, being as how she had been closest to it to begin with – and probably the most worried. All sorts of horrible scenarios were shooting through her brain about what had just happened to Faith. That she had hurt herself somehow, that some ghoulish demon had popped up out of the blue and attacked her…
She came in with angst written across her face, but what she saw confused her somehow.
The slayer was sitting on the couch, nothing appeared to be wrong…if it wasn't for Faith's wide open mouth and the even wider eyes that were intently staring at a picture she was holding in her hands.
"Faith?" she asked, and upon hearing her name uttered by her girlfriend, Faith's open mouth formed a tongue-y, teeth-involving grin as she slowly turned to face her.
However, before Willow could ask her about it or Faith could comment on her find, Xander appeared at the foot of the stairs and almost bumped into Willow.
Faith saw this and raised an eyebrow. Only now it dawned on her that every inhabitant of this house must have heard her. And as on cue Buffy met them seconds later and Faith cleared her throat. But Joyce's arrival embarrassed her the most, and she blushed an interesting shade of red. She quickly averted her eyes. "Sorry…" she apologized for her potty-mouth-attack – which she felt especially bad for since Joyce had witnessed it as well.
But the older blonde simply smiled kindly.
"So, you wanna tell us what brought on the outburst?" Buffy asked with raised eyebrows.
"Oh, right," Faith held up her brand-new discovery for everyone to see… and Willow immediately wished that the earth would swallow her right there and then.
In Faith's hands was a photo. Of Willow… or maybe not, Faith wasn't entirely sure. The girl on the pic was wearing relatively high-heeled boots, a black pantyhose, a short, black leather skirt that barely reached the mid of her thighs, a red shirt with remarkable cleavage that left the perfectly shaped abs that Faith knew so well by now uncovered. The girl's hair was done up and the face covered with more make-up than the redhead usually wore.
Faith had found the picture in the depths of Buffy's giant photo album, which, if one considered some of the pics could also be called 'B's Big Book of Badassly emBarrassing …uh, Bictures'…at least this was probably approximately the idea that was shooting through Willow's brain right now. She told herself that she should have known that showing Faith the album was a bad idea.
"So, what's this about? Vamp Willow? I thought vamps don't show up on photos," Faith looked at her friends, and especially the redhead in question, expectantly.
"Well, yeah, Vamp Willow," Buffy grinned and nudged the redheaded girl, whose cheek matched the color of her hair more with every second that passed.
"But not the vampire-y kind," Xander added…little helpful for Faith's taste. She looked confused.
"'Splainy'?" Buffy ventured, seeing Faith's lips move in an unsuccessful attempt to form words.
"Yeah, that!" the brunette nodded vigorously and with a raised eyebrow motioned for Willow and the rest of them to come closer and finally get down to it.
Xander walked up behind his redheaded friend, put his hands on her shoulders and made her walk over to the couch. Faith patted the cushion beside her and waited for her girlfriend to sit down. Xander took the seat on the other end of the couch, while Buffy sat down in the chair, facing them. Joyce went back into the kitchen to work some more.
"So?" the brunette asked, looking at each of them, but mostly at Willow.
"It was Buffy's fault!" the little witch blurted, trying to pull the hemline of the imaginary leather skirt into a proper and un-provocative position, well over her knees.
Xander and Faith observed her behavior amused, while Buffy switched into defensive mode. "It wasn't my…," seeing two pairs of knowing eyes on her, she changed her mind, "okay, yeah… Anyway, it happened on Halloween last year," Buffy started the explanation. "Some mojo happened, turned almost everyone into their costumes."
"I got to be a soldier," Xander chest practically swelled with pride when he let Faith in on this secret.
"Very cool," this one replied, not even bothering to find out more about the 'mojo' that was used. She has seen enough in her day to accept things like that without asking twice.
Buffy turned the page of the Album to reveal a group picture of her, Xander, Willow and Cordelia. "Angel took it when the whole drama was over."
"Oh, Cordelia was the only one of us that didn't change, by the way," Xander remarked, looking at his ex-girlfriend in her cat unitard.
"Well, Catwoman would have been the least favorite thing on my list," Buffy remarked, obviously not really arousing Faith's interest, since this one was studying the picture intently. Willow sat by her side, doing the same. At least this was a way to diminish her blush – averted attention.
"Not bad, B," Faith commented the blonde's seventeenth-century-lady outfit. "Maybe a little too…," she tried to demonstrate with her hands held away from her hips, what she meant to say, "…you know…bulgy… for my taste…"
"For Angel's too. I would've dressed up as something else, if I'd known this earlier," she still got that pouty expression on her face whenever she thought back at her own personal costume-disaster.
"Some kind of super heroine wouldn't have been bad in this situation," Willow added, the reason for why they were actually sitting here happily ignored... temporarily. The gang laughed at this and Willow changed her reply, "other super heroine, maybe. Come to think of it, you shouldn't have worn anything at all. That would have probably been best." Two brunettes looked at her surprised and a blonde cleared her throat. "Oh! I didn't mean…like…okay, shutting up now…," she blushed.
"No, no, no – no shutting up now," Faith countered, "you still have to tell me as what you dressed up here," Faith pointed with her finger to the photos.
"I was a ghost… but that's another story," Great, from one embarrassing situation into the next and back into the first one again…
"Uh…huh…," Faith drew out the sounds. "The ghost of what? A Dollhouse stripper?" Giles had asked the redhead almost the same thing, just without the Dollhouse stripper reference… he probably didn't even know of something called the Dollhouse. Xander momentarily wondered, how Faith knew…He knew that that kind of "Dollhouse" also existed… Not just the little house girls and their dolls play with.
Willow glared at Buffy, the originator of this look. The blonde caused it, and therefore should think how of a way out of this situation now.
"I guess that look means she wants you to answer, B," Faith laughed and addressed her fellow slayer, though never taking her eyes off her girlfriend. Knowing her Willow, she had a pretty good feeling that this one, right this moment, was torn between two options: burying her face in a pillow or alternatively hiding it behind her or even Faith's hair, and causing Buffy some serious pain, even if not physically. She had to fight the urge to take Willow into her arms and comfort her, despite the cuteness of the moment and the fact that… the outfit on the pic was somewhat appealing to her.
"It was a…sort of…," Buffy chose her words carefully, Willow's angry eyes still on her, "well…Halloween – 'Come as you aren't' – you know. And that's why I talked her into… you know… wearing… that… because I know that you normally wouldn't. But I actually thought it looked good on you," she shrugged.
"But you didn't, did you?" Faith asked her redhead gently.
"Well, at first, no," Willow confirmed and blushed again, "I felt totally embarrassed. A-And that's why I… you know, originally I bought another costume…"
Faith sucked in a breath of air, as the last piece of the puzzle finally found its appropriate place. "Ah…I get it, you covered it up it up with a ghost costume." She deliberately avoided the words 'hid underneath', since this aimed at a negativity of the situation that she didn't really feel upon learning this.
Willow simply nodded, torn between sinking deeper into the couch cushions and returning the soft smile that Faith was giving her.
"You know what?" Faith moved closer to the girl, whose cuteness grew with every second, and put an arm over her shoulder, "I would've done that too," she whispered into the redhead's ear, loud enough for the others to hear it as well.
Xander and Buffy knew that she was lying and consequently started to laugh. And Faith knew that even Willow knew this, though the redhead seemed to appreciate the thought, anyway.
"Though I gotta say," the brunette continued and Willow almost squealed in shock when she suddenly felt a Faith-y hand on her tummy, "I really envy that abs."
Affectionate behavior in front of the others. Willow still wasn't sure if she was comfortable with this or not. But before she could even make up her mind, the 'behavior' was gone and Faith sat next to her as if nothing had happened.
Luckily, Buffy and Xander didn't really seem to mind; they observed this without any second thoughts…although… "Looks like you got an admirer there, Will," Xander remarked jokingly, checking if Buffy got the same impression. The blonde's grin seemed to confirm this.
Faith shrugged, not trying to convince them otherwise. There was no need to deny this; admiration didn't necessarily equal 'Damn, I'm so very into that girl!' and therefore she thought herself and Willow safe.
Willow was surprisingly calm. Maybe it was the warm hand that was resting near her own. Maybe it was the fact that she couldn't detect any suspiciousness in her friends' attitude.
"But I don't even think you'll get her to wear anything leather-y or provocative anymore," Buffy continued the game, addressing Faith. "Or talk her into any other kind of kink. She's not the kinky type."
Just when Willow thought the high point of embarrassment had been reached, Buffy had to blurt out that comment. Knowing no other way out, she leaned forth and buried her beet red face in her hands.
"Awww…," Faith put her arms around Willow protectively, though she could also see some fun in Buffy's statement. You'd be surprised…meandered through her brain, as she remembered some of their nightly and/or early morning-ly encounters – and especially some of the naughty comments the mouth of the little redhead had produced on those occasions.
Willow leaned in closer to Faith, calming down, hoping that she had had her fill of embarrassing and awkward moments for tonight. She had no idea that the worst part was still to come.
CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN - MIND GAMES
The following hours were spent with playing some of the typical teens-having-a-sleepover-games – Twenty Questions, Taboo and Trivial Pursuit, where they pitted slayers against Slayerettes and which resulted in a close win for the slayers, surprisingly…
Meanwhile, Joyce worked on some inventory lists in the kitchen, not letting herself be distracted by the kids in the living room.
Right now, they were playing Truth or Dare.
Already well into the game, it was Buffy's turn to quiz Xander, who, like most of them preferred the 'truth'-part of this game, and the blonde thought hard and finally came up with something that had been on her mind for a very long time. "Okay…is there really nothing that you remember about the time when you were possessed by a hyena?"
Faith scrunched her eyebrows in question and surprise, and earned a, "Don't ask," from Willow.
"Yeah, no, I don't remember a single thing…," Xander replied, hoping to sound convincing enough, "okay, I remember what you told me about the pig and that the other guys basically…," he noticed Buffy's disbelieving look, "…ate Principal…," he noticed the same look on Willow. He had accidentally spilled the beans in earlier talks and knew that this didn't go unnoticed by the girls. Sighing, he changed his statement, "Yes. Yes, I remember."
"This means, you also remember ambushing me in Herbert's room." Xander just nodded, awaiting further questions Buffy had in mind.
"Okay, my question…did you really mean what you were saying and…well, doing?" she finally asked him.
He knew that technically this question didn't count anymore, since Buffy had already had her one allowed question. But right now he didn't feel like dodging it, no matter how uncomfortable answering the question would make him.
Willow was surprised that Buffy of all people would address this subject. Faith had no idea what they were talking about; she didn't have Willow's advantage of having been filled in by Buffy after the event.
"Um…," he started, scratching his chin, "well, yes, I did. Though…I never would have expressed it that way in my normal state. You know that…right…?" he inquired, unsure about what exactly she wanted to hear.
Did she really want to hear that he was, or still is, interested in her? Or was this what she absolutely didn't want to hear?
But when she simply nodded her 'okay' and smiled, he sighed in relief.
Willow and Faith observed the situation curiously. Right now, the brunette didn't feel like asking them what had happened, though her imagination worked pretty good for her.
After a few moments, she nodded, encouraging him to choose the next victim.
"Um…Will, truth or dare?" he chose his best friend since kindergarten.
"Truth," the little redhead replied instantly. She rarely picked 'dare'; for her the 'truth' option always seemed to be the easier one. As long as it's not about recent developments, that is…I mean, not that I'm trying to hide 'me and Faith'…it's just that…Hey, why am I making excuses for myself…to myself…?
Xander's mind was rotating around a possible question, meanwhile. "Okay, how far have you gotten with Oz before you broke up?"
"Oh…," she started, and seeing Faith's curious expression, with raised eyebrows and everything, made her grin despite herself, "well…not that far, actually. We…he…," she looked at the expectant faces of her friends, "well, he always said that he wanted to wait till I was ready for more… but I never really had the courage to tell him that I actually was… you know… Except for that one time, maybe… so, we've never really done more than…"
"So, no more than kissing and light groping?" Faith asked, though she approximately knew how far the redheads had gotten. She still had trouble understanding what that guy had been thinking or not been thinking; simply looking at Willow made her all woozy. But on the other hand, she could also see how he didn't want to force her into doing something that she might not have been ready for.
"That… Yeah, that's about it," Willow replied, putting Faith's words into mental images. "Okay, I'm up. Buffy, truth or dare?"
"Truth," the blonde countered quickly.
"How many relationships have you had?"
When Buffy didn't answer for a longer period of time, but looked about pensively, Xander grinned, "That many, huh?"
"My exact thought," Faith chimed in and Willow nodded in agreement.
Buffy ignored her high-fiving friends. "No…just thinking about how exactly you define 'relationship'…," she pondered.
"Okay…How many guys have you had?" Faith changed the question for him and grinned mischievously, the provocative undertone intended.
"Ah, jeez," Buffy sighed exasperated and felt the other slayer's hand slapping her thigh. "Okay, relationships!" she stressed the word on purpose. "Let's see…well, there was Tyler when I was a sophomore, and that didn't even have Will and Oz dimensions," she compared it to what Willow had just told them. "Then…well, Owen…nah, don't think he counts. Neither Cam or Tom," she shuddered when she thought about them, especially the later one. "But Angel; I guess that was the first real thing."
"Mmm, you could say that!" Faith mumbled, chomping down on her popcorn. An admonishing redheaded witch's elbow in her side made her laugh.
"Anyway," Buffy ignored the little barney between the girls, "then there was Scott…"
Sleazebag! He so had it coming!
Jerk…though I liked him, I have to admit…
Only an idiot would dump a girl like her…
Oh, well, "and now there is Angel again, and that's about it," Buffy ended her explanations.
"As long as he keeps his parts to himself…," Faith gave her a look that was somewhere between warning and amusement. Warning – because she knew what would happen in that case; amusement – since she still wasn't over B and Soulboy and their X-rated movie adventure.
"We're working on that," Buffy replied and didn't even blush saying it. "Okay, my turn, Faithie," she said with a gleam in her eyes.
"Right, truth," the brunette nodded.
Buffy thought hard about what she could quiz her on…Gotta be something…oh, speaking of 'keeping one's parts to oneself'. "Have you ever had sex with a girl?" Buffy asked her fellow slayer. Right next to her, Xander didn't even try to keep a faint leer out of his expression upon hearing this.
"Yep," Faith replied without thinking twice. To her, this seemed to be an open secret, anyway. Willow knew about it, even though she had never explicitly told her – the reason for Willow's not-freaking upon hearing Buffy's question.
"Care to elaborate?" Xander prodded.
"Nope," she countered, answering as quickly as she had seconds ago. Reaching into the bowl of popcorn, she noticed Xander's disappointed look. "Just gonna say that it's different than with guys – in a good way," she offered and winked at her seven-minutes-sexual partner playfully. If he really wants to know…
Xander understood the side blow but ignored it; the other stuff was way more interesting. "So, you do this a lot?"
"Okay, first, we're not playing 20 questions anymore, buddy. And, second, it wasn't even your turn asking me," Faith grinned.
"Fine," the male brunette replied, already planning to… maybe… quiz Faith more on that matter the next chance he got. Or maybe not; he didn't wanna risk getting smacked.
"Hm…," Faith decided whom of her friends to pick next and turned toward her girlfriend, "Reddie!" she grinned, "Truth or dare?"
"Truth," Willow replied automatically, though she knew that Faith would never dare her to do anything embarrassing or nasty on purpose, she still preferred 'truth' – it was kind of a habit. She just hoped that the not embarrassing or nasty criterion would also apply to the 'truth' category.
Faith thought for a second, trying to come up with something that she didn't know yet. "Oh! Who was your first kiss?"
Willow relaxed instantly; this was an easy thing to answer. The others were surprised, though; they noticed that Faith seemed to cut the redhead some extra slack, since her questions were usually much more challenging. "Okay, the first real one was Oz," Willow started, though the first really really real one was you…, she smirked at Faith, thinking about the night that had started all this. The slayer understood the look. "But I think there was also something with Jonathan in kindergarten…," she thought hard, trying to remember the exact event. Shrugging, she finished "Guess it doesn't count, anyway."
"Wait. That short guy from school?" Faith grinned, just trying to imagine the two of them together. Xander had no imagining to do, being as how he had been there.
"Well, he wasn't that short, then…no, wait," Willow frowned." I mean, I was short too, but…you know what I mean…"
"Size didn't matter, huh?" Faith muttered, very dryly, joking. Xander almost spit out the gulp of coke he had just inhaled, while the other girls started laughing.
"Anyway, Will's up," Buffy announced.
"Okay, um…Xand, truth or dare?"
"Truth," the man replied.
Willow thought for a bit, and eventually came back to a topic that Buffy had addressed earlier, "If Buffy would let you kiss her right now, would you do it?"
Buffy pondered if Willow would have made him kiss her, if he had chosen 'dare' and was interested to hear Xander's answer.
Something clicked in Faith's head and thought that she had maybe finally understood what the others had been talking about earlier.
Since his attraction for her was an open secret… well, not even a 'secret', per se – since it was common knowledge – Xander felt no need to try to answer with anything but the truth.
"Yes, absolutely," he told them, with the comfortable knowledge in the back of his mind that it would never ever happen anyway.
He didn't really have the hots for her anymore; his mind was mainly on Anya lately. But still…if there was the really real impossible possibility that a kiss between them would happen, then, by golly, he would use his chance. That much he knew.
Buffy sat there, thinking. After a few seconds, she muttered a, "Ah, what the hell," grabbed Xander's face and put a brief and modest kiss square on his lips.
"There, better," she grinned and sat back, reassuming her original position.
Aiaijauwhoo…Xander's mind was stuck in a loop. He was staring ahead of him, suppressing the urge to feel his lips with his hand to make sure that this really had happened just now.
"You're up, Xan," he heard one of his girls saying, but for the love of…everything couldn't tell which one it was.
Yeah, 'his girls'. Now Buffy belonged to this club too, the unilateral kiss qualified her…at least, partly. Willow belonged to it just a little it more, leastwise back then, they both knew it was about to happen and both were prepared, despite knowing that what they were doing was wrong. And Faith…she probably belonged into her own club, anyway. Or should get a full member club card.
"I'm think you broke him, B," said brunette smirked, watching in-trance-Xander along with the other girls.
"Right. I'm…it's my... turn," he suddenly snapped out of it. "So…Faith."
"Truth," she replied instantly.
Still a little occupied with his 'his girls' thought, he had an interesting idea. "Oh …have you ever played strip poker…and lost?" he tried a little smirk, already preparing himself for Faith's comments and the possible images that this might create in his mind. Faith and girl-sex could come later; there was still time.
Faith grinned due to his imaginativeness. "Um…yes, I've played it several times," the brunette started. "Lost once. Well, at least, almost – I managed to keep two articles of clothing…," she winked.
Xander's mind raced, thinking about this and the two pieces of clothing. From his apocalyptic-nightishly encounter with her, he knew what she might…or rather, might not be talking about…
Wait, two? She normally doesn't wear…Does she mean – no, that would be only one piece…, Willow thought, her brain set to the same task as Xander's. Ah! Got it! ...No, wait…or, yeah. I mean, she usually wears those…but she could also mean…that…and one of those…, Willow nearly lost it over the sheer variety of possible combinations.
"But – word of advice," Faith continued, "never play that game with a horde of demons. Cuz you never know what exactly you'll get to see then. Most likely…things…you never thought about and can't ever forget for the rest of your life once you've seen them."
"Okay, no details, please," Buffy held up her hands in defense. God, girl, why do you play that with them and…well, why…?
"Fair enough," Faith agreed wholeheartedly. Willow and Xander simply looked on with a weirded-out expression, and thus her next victim was easily found. "Alright, B, truth or dare?"
Hm, we should rename that game; call it 'truth or truth', maybe, Faith thought, remembering the last dozen questions. Not that she didn't have any more questions to ask the others…
"Okay, was it fun getting down and dirty with Soulboy?"
Faith had asked her that question once before and Buffy had dodged it, and therefore the blonde could see how the younger girl saw her big chance right now. "Okay…," she thought for a bit, looking for a possible way for not having to tell the truth, but Faith's stare showed her that this one would detect any lie concerning that subject. "Well, thinking about it about a year later…it wasn't really…pleasant," she stated, not sure if she had chosen the right word.
Three pairs of eyes looked at her, some expectantly, some mildly surprised, but all of them were awaiting further explanations.
"I mean, he was nice and gentle and everything…but also…I mean, until then I had never really noticed how cold he actually is – physically, I mean…and all of him. And that's mostly what I thought about during the entire process…unfortunately. Plus the outcome was…well, you know how it ended, so…not really sure, if I should call it fun…"
"So you wouldn't do it again, if he couldn't lose his soul over it?" Faith asked.
"I didn't say that…," Buffy contradicted with a grin. "I think we'd find a way to make it more…more…"
"'Pleasant'?" Xander offered, picking up her original wording.
"Uh-huh," the blonde replied, already thinking about how they could do that. But until now only heating blankets came to mind. "Oh, well, anyway, I'm up. Okay, Will, truth or dare?"
"Truth," Willow replied yet again.
"You know what? I mean, I've never played this game before, but…," Faith chimed in, "shouldn't we have a 'dare' in here at some point?"
"Fine…Dare," Willow changed her decision, already fretting what might come. She knew that she would most likely make Faith pay, if it was something bad.
Most likely the first chance she got; most likely right after her dare was over. Thinking about the possibilities she had, she almost didn't hear Buffy's dare. "…to kiss…Faith."
"Wait, sorry, what?" Willow squeaked.
"What?" Faith muttered at the same time. She had heard it all. 'I dare you to kiss Faith.' Looking at her girlfriend's shocked expression, she couldn't help but think that maybe she should have kept her blabber shut this time.
It was hard to tell, which of the lovers most qualified as the deer caught in headlights right now. But probably Willow just a little more than Faith. Consequently…"What did you just say?" Willow asked her blonde friend again, trying to figure out if she maybe – hopefully – heard wrong.
"Oh, you heard me," this one replied. "Kiss."
When Willow didn't move for a long time, and Faith sat beside her, looking almost as shocked as the redhead felt, Buffy continued, "Well, come on, guys, it's not that big a deal."
This didn't seem to help, since the girls still hadn't moved one millimeter.
Willow didn't know if she wanted to laugh or to cry, she could hardly handle this situation.
Faith knew more than her Will. She knew that she was in some serious trouble.
To make the matter even worse, Buffy invested herself in some advertising. Addressing Willow, she said, "I mean, just look at those lips – they were made for kissing," she nodded her head in Faith's direction.
Befuddled, the brunette took in Buffy's words, wondering about the girl's mental state and/or attracted-ness towards her… or sexuality even. And she wondered where the blonde's idea had suddenly come from. Maybe she and Will had acted a little too lover-y earlier tonight and had put funny thoughts into the blonde's head.
Xander watched the not-interaction between his two friends and decided to have his word in here as well. "Plus, I mean, Will's a pretty good kisser," he prompted Faith to act, since it didn't seem that Willow would be doing anything about it in the near future.
"It's not a big thing," Buffy stated again, rather not stating that she had just done the same with Xander and it didn't bother her.
At first, Faith wanted to yell at them, telling them that they had no idea what they were talking about. They had no idea, how much a kiss really meant to Will. It wasn't just a thing for her to do and then simply move on as if nothing had happened at all.
However, she decided to follow through with her second impulse. Just kiss the girl and end the torture for her. She felt that Willow couldn't handle the expectant stares from the others much longer.
She sat up on her heels and leaned over to Will.
Willow was startled out of her shocked state when she noticed Faith nearing her. She had an idea what Faith was intending to do, saw the softness in her eyes and the tentative movements.
Faith's eyes seemed to whisper, You don't have to, if you don't want to, honey; the warm hand on her arm was doing nothing more than holding it, maybe trying to calm her, maybe trying to provoke her into a little peck. Faith knew that this would be enough for the naughty blonde that was sitting three feet away, looking on.
But Willow simply…this was not how Willow had imagined their first kiss witnessed by the Scoobies to be like. The others, minus Faith, only saw this as a game; Willow however, didn't. And the comments from B and X weren't helping her any. This wasn't a 'no-big-deal'-game for her anymore.
She saw Faith's eyes, her lips, felt the stares of the others on them, felt the heated tension in the room and… this was it, she couldn't handle it.
She jumped up, bringing Faith to loose the hold on her arm.
With tears in her eyes, she whispered an, "I can't," and turned around to run up the stairs.
Faith sat. Her hand still in the position, in which she had been holding Willow's arm seconds before. Obviously, her mind wasn't yet processing what had just happened and was still happening.
All she knew was - this is not what she had expected to happen.
CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT - CUDDLE-ME-SOME
"Will, wait…," Buffy called after her friend desperately, but only heard a door slam shut a few moments later. She looked at a speechless Xander, who didn't look like he would move any time soon.
She got up to go after the redhead, wanting to see how she could help and what actually caused her reaction, but Faith – finally coming out of her state of shock – stopped her. "Leave it, B," she stood up and cut Buffy's move short with a firm hand on the blonde's chest, "I'll take care of her."
Buffy wanted to say something else, but Faith's warning look made her rethink that action.
"Next time…better think before you ask something like that of her, okay? I thought you knew her," she directed the statement at both of them, since Xander had obviously supported Buffy's dare.
The brunette turned around to walk up the stairs, already dreading whatever she would get to see up there. She wished that she would have had her own words in mind before she commented on the fact that there were far too few – or rather, no – 'dares' in their game.
Joyce rounded the corner to the foyer, just in time to see Faith disappearing into the upper hall. Having heard Buffy shout, the door being slammed shut and the last part of Faith's words, she was more than worried. "What happened?"
The friends barely shrugged, really not knowing how to answer this question.
Faith stopped when she had reached the top of the stairs, listening and looking around. Seconds later, she could make out a soft sobbing noise coming from Buffy's room. This wasn't a surprise – she had expected Willow to go there; the blonde's room was basically her third home, after her own one and the school library. It was some sort of safe harbor for her…or at least it was safer than the living room could be at this point.
She walked up to the door and opened it soundlessly. The light of the hallway pierced through the otherwise unlit darkness of the room. She saw Willow – standing near the window, facing it – reacting to the light, but not turning around.
Faith didn't know if Willow had noticed that it was her or not, and so she approached her as unintrusively and cautious as possible. The sobbing had almost stopped, yet she still saw a faint trembling.
She finally reached her, stood half-behind her and put a hesitant hand on the witch's arm. Faith almost groaned in relief when she felt her girlfriend tugging on her arm, drawing her close.
"Oh, honey…," she mumbled into Willow's shoulder as she wrapped her arms around her protectively. Nothing followed this utterance, and that was okay. There was no need to say anything more.
"Stupid…," her slayer hearing picked up long moments later. She noticed Willow shaking her pretty head and clinging to the hands that were hugging her waist firmly.
Faith misinterpreted the redhead's comment and tried to justify herself. "I'm sorry, Will. If it wasn't for me and my big mouth…"
"Not you," Willow hurried to explain. No thought about 'making Faith pay' for basically talking her into choosing 'dare' was left in her mind. She nestled closer to the slayer, welcoming the comforting arms around her.
"Oh…," Faith murmured, partly relieved, partly thinking who else Willow could be or would be talking about. Buffy and Xander. "They're not, you know. They just... couldn't know," she replied in an attempt to keep her own anger at their friends out of her voice.
Right now she didn't even care if anyone saw them standing here like this – at least this would explain Willow's reaction downstairs to them.
Willow sighed. "I was talking about me."
Faith grimaced; this remark came more than unexpected for her. She wasn't sure if she really understood what her girlfriend wanted to say.
She put her hand on Willow's shoulder, putting only minimal pressure behind it, hoping that it would be enough to make the redhead face her.
To her surprise and relief, it worked. Willow turned around and she could see the tear-stained face and the now barely trembling lips.
Willow noticed the questioning-relieved-confused-mellow look on her lover's face. Since she didn't know what else to do about it, she simply pressed her forehead against Faith's and exhaled quietly.
The brunette nestled her right hand against the witch's cheek and caressed the lips with her thumb. With pleasure, she took in how the little one was giving it a soft kiss.
Faith thought about what she should say, if she should ask what Willow meant when she said 'I was talking about me' or not. She was thinking hard, weighing her words and actions carefully.
This was a very new situation for her. This trying to comfort someone, specifically her partner – because even though Willow had calmed down a bit, she was still not looking very happy, understandably.
Faith hoped that she had done well so far. At least, so far Willow hadn't started crying again.
Well, so far you haven't said much, so it's no wonder she isn't crying… Oh, stop it! You can do this. Just don't say anything stupid…
Suddenly she noticed that Willow had been clutching something in her arms the entire time, holding it as though it would protect her. The brunette questioned why she hadn't seen it sooner, but figured that the fact that she had now at least gave her a relatively save start into a conversation with her girl.
Putting her arm around the witch's shoulders, she reached for the stuffed animal piggy in Willow's hands. Willingly, the redhead let her take and inspect it.
Faith looked at the cute thing and smiled faintly. "Now, who is this?" she started slowly, "Pigglesworth, Piglet, or something?"
"That's Mr. Gordo," Willow informed her and looked at her briefly with the hint of a smile.
"Hm." Faith raised her eyebrows, wondering since when B spoke Spanish. Because the name sounded awfully Spanish to her, even though she had no idea what it meant. "So…is he your friend?" Um…slayer…what are you trying to do…?
Willow tilted her head looking at the pig. Right this moment, she was wondering the same thing. But playing along, she nodded.
"Mmmm, ruff ruff," Faith muttered and made a move to make the piggy walk up Willow's chest.
Willow laughed. "Why is he barking?"
"Well, I don't know…never learned to 'oink', I guess," Faith's face formed a pensive expression. "But at least you're smiling again, so, good on him."
The redhead reached for the stuffed animal again, but stopped when she heard a 'grrr'-ing sound, supposedly coming from the piggy, though she knew that it actually came from her girlfriend.
"Weirdo," she grinned, grabbed the pig, anyway, and lay it down on the nearby bed.
Still impersonating the Mr. Gordo-dog, the brunette whined softly, imitating dog-piggy's feelings of being left out and the lack of Willow-y body warmth.
However, Willow wasn't as mean as to refuse exactly that to both of them. And thus she pulled Faith into a tight hug, which lasted for a few moments.
"You know that I'm stupid, right?" the redhead finally mumbled into the crook of Faith's neck, still not letting go of her.
"Well…'stupid'…isn't what I'd call you, you know…" she prodded, encouraging Will to explain what she was really referring to. She caressed Willow's red hair and waited.
"Oh, please…," the witch raised her head and looked at the brunette at last, "I overreacted. I mean, really really overreacted."
"Oh, well. Happens to the best of us, sweetie," Faith replied and nudged Willow's nose with her forefinger. So Willow had been upset for the reason that Faith had assumed.
"But Xander and Buffy must think that I've totally lost it," she wiped some of the remaining tears off with the back of her hand.
Faith thought about telling Will what she had said to their friends after the redhead had fled upstairs, but eventually she decided against it. "They'll get over it. It's not like they haven't acted crazy at least once in their life." Like, maybe, tonight…?
"Mmm, true," the redhead grinned once again. Looking deep into Faith's eyes, she remarked softly, "Hope you know that this has nothing to do with you." Faith nodded instantly and Willow went on. "I-It was just…I didn't want them to see us kissing and think that it means nothing. 'Kiss! *Bam*. Alright, who's next', you know?"
"Oh!" Faith was surprised. Now she didn't only know that Willow had been referring to her overreacting earlier, now she also knew the reason for it. And it made her fall in love with this girl all over again. "A kiss means a lot to you, right?" This question was pretty redundant, since Faith knew the answer to it already. She respected this attitude to the highest degree; she herself had been very careless when it came to that – but this had been pre-Willow. Now she was much more aware of the importance of this comparatively small token of affection.
Willow nodded and felt how Faith put a finger under her chin, tilting her head. She knew what the brunette had in mind and welcomed the lips that were brushing against hers seconds later.
Tender. Conciliatory. Barely more than a tickle against her lips.
When they broke apart again, Willow's vision was blurred. Only this time, it were happy tears running down her face, not upset ones.
She blinked a couple of times in order to clear her vision. Upon succeeding, she could see two big deep-brown eyes, whose attention was solely on her.
"You ready to head down again?" the brunette asked. Willow looked at her for a couple of seconds, without replying. "Well, if not…I could ask Mr. Gordo to come back and cuddle you some more," she suggested with a pout.
"No, no, that's okay," Willow nodded. However, feeling her face again with her fingers, she got an 'uh-oh'-expression. "God, I must look like a wet rat…"
Faith smirked a little as she assisted her in wiping the last remains of tears away. "Oh, definitely!" But when she saw Willow getting even more distressed, she hurried to correct herself. "Kidding, Will. You look lovely."
"Liar," the little redhead glowered.
Faith thought about this briefly. "Well, yeah…but, no, I think you look presentable enough."
"Okay," Willow sniffled one last time and snuggled closer to her slayer. Just for a few short moments. Faith cradled her in her strong arms, relieved due to the successful aversion of a possible Scoobie crisis.
They disentangled themselves and turned to walk towards the hall. Faith put an encouraging hand on the small of Willow's back and kept it there until they reached the upper landing of the stairs. She lost her hold on the redhead only when they were entering the others' field of view.
"Will…," an anxious Buffy immediately exclaimed when she saw the redhead descending.
The blonde's reaction upon seeing her friend was quite understandable, since she still didn't know what she had done wrong. Her mom and Xander wore similar expressions.
Willow reached the foot of the stairs and rushed towards Buffy instantly, pulling her into a tentative hug.
"Sorry, Will," Buffy said softly, at any rate relieved that Willow was apparently offering peace. At least, she had come back.
"No, I am," the redhead replied. "It's just…you kinda threw me off…"
In the meantime, Faith had joined Joyce and Xander, who were standing nearby. Her face was rather neutral, no sign of anger at or harmonization with her friends. However, when Xander put an arm on her shoulder and looked at her with a mixture of apprehension and mild guilt, she smiled at him reassuringly.
Moments later, Willow came over to Xander and repeated the gesture. This without saying anything.
Buffy looked quizzically at Faith, who seemed to hover near Willow as if she was her new bodyguard. But this was not what puzzled her; it was more the fact had been able to calm Willow down. Not that she thought Faith wasn't capable of something like that…it was just new for her.
Like many things about her. Only did these things almost exclusively deal with Willow. When the redhead wasn't anywhere in sight, the slayer was still her usual self – full of innuendoes, jokes about the fun of slaying, et cetera.
Faith caught her look, but thought nothing about it.
"Is everything okay again?" Joyce asked when Willow and Xander broke apart. "Or do we need to get the sleeping bags from the attic?"
She hadn't meant it to come out sounding like a joke, since she really worried if the kids would still be okay with the sleeping arrangements, but the youngsters started smiling, anyway. Most likely out of relief.
"No, we're good," Faith replied, looking at Willow for assurance. Her nod confirmed this.
Following this, all five current members of the household settled in on and around the couch. Joyce had cooked some more cocoa and they watched a video.
Buffy, Willow and Joyce were sitting on the couch, while Faith and Xander sat on the ground, which gave Faith an opportunity to brush Will's leg with her head occasionally, an action the little witch enjoyed.
There was still a safety distance between the redhead and the blonde slayer, but the mood seemed to be okay otherwise.
When the movie had ended, the kids went upstairs to change into their night wear.
They were taking the whole 'sleep'over literal and really planned on sleeping some.
At the moment, Willow was in the bathroom, brushing her teeth, getting ready for the night.
She was already wearing one of her favorite pj's, the green and red chequered one.
Outside in the hall, she could hear not one, but two doors opening and someone stepping out.
"Hey, slayer, nice outfit," the laughing voice of her male best friend invaded her ears.
"Very funny," her girlfriend replied seconds later, obviously not very amused.
Xander still chuckled a bit as his voice got fainter and he presumably headed downstairs.
Curious to find out what Xander was referring to, she finished her cleanup, put her toothbrush in her tumbler and went to open the door.
Doing so, she saw a sulking brunette leaning against the doorjamb of the opposing room, holding a toothbrush in her hand. And looking her up and down, she realized why her girlfriend wasn't really a happy camper right now.
"Oh, God…," she blurted and put her hands over her mouth in a futile attempt to keep from giggling. She had no idea that letting Buffy pick out a pajama for Faith to wear tonight would end in such a catastrophe. At least, 'catastrophe' was probably the word hammering its way into Faith's brain right now.
The pj resembling the catastrophe was not only way more colorful and frilly than clothes the brunette usually wore…but, to make matters worse, it turned out to be a Muppets-pajama. Elmo, Oscar in his trashcan, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and even the Cookie Monster greeted from various spots of the item of clothing.
Faith walked past the redhead that was still trying to get her giggling under control. "Watch it, little girl, or do you wanna get spanked?" she warned, though not being entirely serious about spanking her.
At least not in the negative way in that one could interpret this concept. Willow's 'well-why-don't-you-try?'-wink might provoke her into giving the redhead a 'positive' spanking some time in the next days.
"Sorry," Willow smiled, calming down slowly, "but you just look so awfully cute…"
Or…Whoa…ohhh…she suddenly noticed that the pajama possibly wasn't as suitable for children as she had though it was. Because Faith's butt wore Cookie Monster's most famous utterance 'AWWWWM-num-num-num-num…'. Only problem – there was no cookie anywhere near that area...
Faith didn't notice Willow's surprised expression and maybe she hadn't even noticed the flourish on her tushie yet. She held her toothbrush under the water jet before applying some toothpaste to it.
After brushing for a couple of seconds, she mumbled, "Please tell me why an eighteen-year old would still wear something like that…"
Toothbrush in mouth didn't make it easy, but the redhead could still understand her. "Well, I don't know…," Willow replied. "Maybe we could start with why a sixteen-year old gave in into wearing it and didn't fight it tooth and nail," she grinned, leaning against the wall.
Faith rolled her eyes and refused to answer. Brushing her teeth had priority for her right now. Especially since she had no idea how to respond.
"But did you see what's on your…," she noticed Willow pointing towards her backside.
Faith turned around to get a look at it; but since she wasn't endowed with a giraffe's neck, she stood absolutely no chance.
She looked around and remembered the full-length mirror in Joyce's bedroom. She went there, with the toothbrush in her mouth and a Willow on her heels.
Stepping in front of it, with her butt facing the very handy invention, she looked over her shoulder and noticed the mirror-inverted imprint 'mun-mun-mun-mun-MWWWWA'.
It took her a moment to make sense of it, but eventually… "Oh, no…," she chewed on her toothbrush. Even thissupposed joke didn't make her feel any better about her outfit.
Willow giggled again, the look on Faith's face has priceless.
"Now be careful or else you might drool all over your pretty pajama," Willow admonished her playfully. "Which means, Buffy would have to give you a new one."
As quick as lightning, Faith sprinted over to the sink, spit out the remaining toothpaste, cleaned toothbrush and mouth and dried herself off. "Oh, thank goodness you told me," she replied. "I bet she has even 'cuter' ones hidden somewhere." Suddenly her pajama didn't seem so god-awful anymore.
But still… "Think this is B's revenge? For telling you about the movie?" Faith asked hopefully, as Willow accompanied her on the way out of the bathroom.
Willow thought about it; Faith's assumption seemed to be pretty much correct. Grinning, she replied, "See, I told you should have brought your own pajama…," gave the 'AWWWWM-num-num-num-num' a tentative squeeze and made her way downstairs where Xander and Buffy were keeping Joyce some more company.
"You know very well that I don't have one," Faith replied and followed behind.
CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE - SPEAKING OF… 'TRUTH'…
After a few more minutes of hanging out in the living room – Faith was wearing the by far fluffiest pajama of all of them – the 'fivesome' got ready for bed. By now it was 2 am.
The matter of who would sleep where tonight was easily decided: Joyce got quartered into Buffy's room for the night, Xander set up his camp in the spare room that usually served as a storage room for Joyce's gallery, and Willow, Buffy and Faith were to sleep in mom's big, comfy bed.
A quick brush and comb later, Xander headed towards his room, allowing Buffy her respective time in front of the mirror. Joyce had said 'good night' by now and was already in Buffy's room.
In the meantime, the twosome of cuteness had settled in into Joyce's bed already. At least, Willow had settled in already; lying on her back, she watched as Faith closed the door that lead out into the hall, before the brunette came walking over to her.
"You know what, Red?" the brunette ventured, as she finally crawled into the bed, joining her girlfriend.
"Hm?" the redhead replied as she turned to face her more fully.
"I like you in leather," Faith explained with a grin. The Halloween-pic with Ghost Willow was safely hidden in her jeans pocket; she hoped that no one would miss it that much, since there were about a dozen other pics of Willow in her skimpy outfit left.
"Don't you get any funny ideas," Willow admonished her girlfriend, "that Halloween was the first and the last time that I wore and ever will wear anything leathery. Besides, it was Buffy's fault…," she pouted.
"Uh…don't forget your vampire doppelganger, honey," Faith mentioned, ignoring the last bit of Willow's statement for now. "She had the leather thing going for her. And as far as I know, you wore her outfit too at some point, right?" she snickered and nudged Willow's chest with her finger.
"That was Buffy's fault too…she was the one with the 'really bad idea'! Twice!" the redhead exclaimed, for the first time really thinking about this strange coincidence.
"Hm," Faith took on a mischievously-contemplative poise, "maybe I should thank her for it."
"Whatever you're thinking – no!" Willow said vehemently. She knew that look on Faith's face all to well; it never meant anything decent, be it in a sexual or any other way.
"Aww, come on, Reddie," Faith whined, but Willow's look showed her that the redhead was serious about this, so she dropped any potential thoughts concerning that subject. "At least let me take revenge on her…for tonight, okay? For the 'daring' thing, not for the…," she sighed, "pajama…because that's…oh, well."
The little witch seemed to think about it for a moment, but then she sighed. "No, that's okay. They couldn't…I just overreacted, is all."
"But if they do something like that again, you'll let me," Faith requested hopeful.
"Deal," Willow replied, knowing very well that this wouldn't happen again any time soon; her reaction had probably scared their friends far too much.
Faith grinned at her, but the grin slowly morphed into a loving smile. She let her hand wander, nearing Willow's arm. "So…was it fun as a ghost?" she thought back to Willow and the covering-up of her intended outfit.
"Hmm…kinda no," came the answer after a couple of seconds. "It was more annoying than fun." Off Faith's prodding look, she went on, "I mean, I could walk straight through walls and everything instead of going around – and that almost gave Giles a heart attack… but that was it!" she grumbled disappointedly.
Faith nodded in mild understanding.
"It was weird, walking around without an actual body to walk with, you know," Willow continued. "It's hard to explain, but…you don't really have control over things. No sense of smell, no sense of balance…not being able to touch anything…," she reached out and captured Faith's hand.
"Okay, agreed, being a ghost – definitely not as fun as it sounds in the brochure."
Willow looked down at their hands, happy that she was able to touch things.
The only positive thing about Willow's ghastly costume – that much was still clear for Faith – was the fact that this way she got to see her girlfriend in that very unusual outfit. "You still got that outfit?" she asked with a smirk.
"The ghost or the other one?" the redhead countered, although she had a feeling that the slayer was referring to the latter.
"Dummy," Faith raised an eyebrow.
Willow was right. "Um…no. It belonged to Buffy, and if you want it, then you'd have go and ask her," she grinned. "But then you'd also have to explain to her, why you want it." She had a pretty good idea, what Faith had in mind. The idea didn't really appeal to her, but it wasn't entirely appalling, either. Maybe Faith just wanted a keepsake... apart from the one that no one but the slayer knew about at this point.
"You know…I'd probably come up with a plausible explanation."
"I do know that," the witch replied and shook her head at the same time. But then a little yawn escaped her lips, making Faith laugh quietly.
"Aww, you sleepy?" she smiled.
"Sorry, yeah," Willow admitted.
The slayer grunted, mildly disappointed. "You still awake enough give me a good-night kiss?" Faith asked playfully and pursed her lips.
Willow happily admitted to this one kiss. "Night."
Faith edged closer, "One more?"
The little witch smirked and kissed her again.
"One more?" Faith laughed, wanting to know how long she could draw this game out.
And again Willow kissed her briefly, though slightly under protest – not because she didn't want to kiss Faith or was too sleepy for that, but because they weren't in their own four walls and she didn't know when Buffy would decide to enter the room.
"Hmm…one more?" Faith begged, noticing Willow's fear of getting caught in the act. She knew that the other slayer was still relatively 'far' away from the room, but didn't plan on letting her girlfriend in on her knowledge. It was much more fun this way.
Again Willow leaned forth, capturing Faith's lips in a quick yet passionate and almost breathtaking kiss. The slayer whimpered in pleasure, but just when she was about to put her hand behind her girlfriend's head to deepen the kiss even more, this one finally had to come up for air.
"Okay, that was ten kisses in one," she gasped, "That's all you get." And not even Faith's playful pout could make her change her mind this time. "Behave," Willow instructed as she settled in with her back turned towards Faith.
But Faith simply… snuggled up to her girlfriend. "You know that I always… do… behave… myself…," the slayer whispered and spooned her redhead, with one hand on Willow's tummy. The other hand brushed Willow's hair away, allowing herself full access to the soft skin of her neck.
She puffed against it gently and made the little hairs stand on edge. Her hand left her girlfriend's hair and she let her index finger follow Willow's spine until it reached the small of her back and stayed there.
The slayer inhaled the soft Willow-y scent, which today was a mixture of the redhead's favorite cherry-strawberry shampoo and that yummy chocolate-mint-y lotion that Faith loved herself. She had let her Will use it this morning. "Mmmm," she mumbled. After Eight Willow.
Willow closed her eyes and tilted her head, providing her honey with a better access to her neck. With Faith's body pressing into her back, she almost forgot where exactly they were at the moment.
After snuffling and nuzzling for a while, Faith made a move to kiss the soft skin. Her hand didn't stay put either; slowly it found its way under Willow's pajama top.
"Mmm, Faith…," Willow purred as she felt the slayer's hand directly on her spine, moving higher.
"Hm?" the brunette smirked and let her hand meet its twin, which by now had made skin contact as well, on Reddie's tummy. The perfectly-shaped-makes-you-more-than-just-a-little-envious-tummy.
"Faith," the redhead tried again, this time more resolutely, since she noticed one of the hands creeping dangerously high.
"Something wrong, Sexy?" Faith teased as her hand cupped Willow's left puppy.
"Mmhmmm," the redhead replied with a mixture of protest and arousal in her voice. "Buffy… could walk in any second."
"Uh-hm…," Faith continued her ministrations, knowing how she could drive her girlfriend crazy. In one way or the other.
"Okay, remember that talk about the freckles yesterday?" came the warning voice, trying to remind her. Buffy walking in on them was… not really a welcome thought for her, especially after her own weird behavior tonight.
"Hm…nope," the slayer played dumb, though the conversation was all too vivid in her memory.
"You promised to obey… so… stop…," the redhead put her hand over Faith's, stilling it.
"You forgot the rebel part…," her girlfriend pinched her nipple with the fingers that still had enough room to move.
Willow tried to object, but…with every second that passed and the more Faith's left hand fondled her breast while the other one seemed to get into the game as well…a little further down…her mind started to forget what exactly she didn't want Faith to do.
"Hm…baby…," the young witch moaned as the sensations threatened to overwhelm her. Instead of pulling Faith's hand away, she used her own to keep it there and apply more pressure.
Faith was pleased when she noticed the reaction. She continued to kiss her neck and fumble her front and felt how Willow became more demanding with every second.
Willow enjoyed it, put her free hand on Faithie's 'AWWWWM-num-num-num-num' to pull her even closer.
The brunette giggled; oh, yeah, she knew how to talk and/or caress the other girl round. She gripped Willow tighter and pressed her body into hers. They both moaned as the moment got even more heated and Faith almost reached the most 'dangerous' spot on Willow's body.
Willow already prepared herself for the now-not-too-unwelcome assault, the one she knew was just a few seconds away…or not…?
Huh? Her eyes snapped open in confusion when she felt Faith pulling away, felt how Faith's hands were leaving the warmth of her pajama and her lips were leaving the sensitized skin of her neck. She turned around, just in time to see Faith laying down flat on her back. But before she had a chance to ask her girlfriend about what's up, the door opened and Buffy came in.
Willow understood. Oh, thank God, she thought, not concerning the fact that the blonde had come in, but because Faith had enough control – over fingers and over her slayer senses – to stop before they could have been 'caught in the act'.
Since the lights were already turned off, the blonde didn't have much to do except for crawling into the bed that the other girls already occupied. Faith lay on the right side of the bed, Willow right next to her, in the middle – luckily the bed was equipped with one single, but big and comfy mattress; sleeping in the gap between two mattresses wasn't really her most favorite pastime. Consequently, Buffy took the left side of the bed and lay down.
Nobody said a thing for a couple of moments. Buffy weighed her words – and deeds – carefully, not wanting to put her foot in her mouth one more time. Faith just lay there, not really thinking about anything at all, just a little occupied with sweet memories of what her hands had just done. Willow, however, was desperately trying to get her pulse and breathing – and everything else that was fairly out of order due to recent events – under control again.
Buffy noticed that something was up, but figured that Willow simply still felt a little uncomfortable around her. She finally decided on a relatively safe topic – safe, at least concerning her and Willow's relationship…or not…? "So…uh, Faith…are you gonna tell us about those two items of clothing?"
Faith lay there, one arm behind her head, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, while Willow's barely controllable thoughts and feelings got heated up anew upon hearing this.
The brunette laughed, "Well, I wasn't wearing a bra to begin with…and I don't usually wear…," she motioned with her hands, for the other girls to see, tracing the outlines of imaginary panties.
Willow's cheeks glowed, just thinking about that and she turned her head towards Faith to hide this from Buffy. The blonde herself was shocked upon hearing it; not only did the other slayer play strip poker with demons, but she also didn't even have the decency to wear panties when going out… or at any other time being…? Hope she's at least wearing some now…but I'm not gonna ask…oh, no! Uh-uh!
"And I had been clever enough to start with my shoes and socks," Faith grinned openly, "so I guess now you can figure out what I was talking about."
"Oh," Buffy grumbled. This was almost disappointing to hear, especially since it was Faith telling them this. She seriously had expected more from her. On the other hand… Faith had just been damn lucky; if she had lost one more game… the demons would have been presented with… more interesting bits and bits to drool or whatever at.
Willow was less disappointed, since she was currently busy mentally slapping her forehead; that possibility she hadn't thought about.
"Wanna tell Xan about this?" the brunette smirked, seeing the recognition on the other girls' faces.
"Hmmm…no…," Buffy replied, "we shouldn't ruin his fantasy, huh?"
This way the poor boy at least got to keep one of his fantasies; his dream of sleeping with Buffy, Willow and Faith at the same time…uh, in the same room with them…was officially ruined… for now.
"Liking that plan!" the youngest girl laughed and leaned over to slap the other slayer's hand in celebration of their (un)evilness.
During that process, certain parts of her body came dangerously close to her girlfriend's, who simply lay there stick as a poker, trying to not emit any bodily reactions that Buffy might unfortunately pick up on and might start asking questions about.
Faith seemed to be able to switch modes so easily; from almost seducing her in Buffy's mom's bed to acting as if nothing had happened at all to talking about her surprisingly fully-clothed strip poker event – and all of it in less than two minutes.
She – or rather her body – wasn't that easy at switching; it still had trouble controlling the throbbing between her legs. And the talk about Faith's clothing and the girl's closeness didn't help her any with that.
Buffy was troubled by the apparent taciturnity that Willow exhibited. She had hoped that Willow maybe would have something to say to the topic that she had brought up, but she hadn't and furthermore made a stand of not looking at her, and Buffy started to worry even more.
Had her blindfolded dare, despite Willow's assurance that everything was okay, ruined so much between them that her best friend would be unwilling communicate with her in any way?
Of course, she couldn't know what really was going on inside her friend's head.
And thus she turned to face her more directly and put a tentative hand on her shoulder. "Are we really okay, Will?" Buffy asked finally.
"Mm-hm," the redhead nodded and looked at her friend; she knew what Buffy was talking about and it was a welcome distraction for her. Faith propped up on her elbow to get a better look at both of them. "Sorry. I just…," Willow shrugged and shook her head, still feeling bad for reacting in this overdramatic way.
"No, I'm sorry. It was…we shouldn't have asked you to do that," Buffy squeezed her shoulder lightly and put on her most apologetic face.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her fellow slayer smiling down at the redhead softly. She knew that the brunette wouldn't have had any problems with kissing her friend, but she didn't know how she felt about Willow rejecting her.
"Yeah, not everybody digs that…admittedly…super hot brunette chick…," Faith accentuated every word and let her hand wander over her hip slowly, making sure that Willow got a perfect view of it, "that much that they actually want to kiss her right there and then." She purred, made sure that her statement burned its way into Willow's brain. But when she felt that the redhead was trying to keep her body from reacting to her words, she had mercy and addressed Buffy. "Next time you and Xan better keep your fantasies to yourselves."
Buffy blushed due to the involuntary-declaredly fairly present fantasies and the lascivious grin that the slayer was giving her. Faith felt her shoulder being shoved by the blonde, probably in a desperate attempt wipe that expression from her face and/or stop herself from blushing. However, it only amused the brunette even more.
Observing the interaction between the other girls, Willow couldn't help but laugh and thus brought the others' attention back to herself. Buffy was glad that the mood had lightened, Faith herself noticed that the blonde's mind was at ease again; nonetheless, she swore to herself to make the other one pay if she'd ever do something like that again.
They looked down at the redhead's grinning face for a little while longer, Buffy full of friendshippy love, Faith full of love of an entirely different kind. A perfect moment – at least for two of the three, since the youngest of them wanted to do one more thing.
"But…d'you what?" she looked at Buffy, "I think Reddie'd do it, if she really wanted to. And I'm pretty sure that she doesn't mind this," with this, she bent down and gave her girlfriend a not-too-girlfriendly kiss on the temple.
Willow smiled despite herself and put a tentative hand on the slayer's arm that was resting on her shoulder. Unlike she had thought, Faith's show of affection didn't throw her off again; understandable, it was a chaste kiss and came with warning.
Buffy giggled upon seeing the endearing behavior and rolled back on her back, with one arm behind her head. "You're lucky that she's not wearing that lipstick anymore," she told Willow, "otherwise you'd have an enormous lipstick-outlined smacker on your forehead. How'd you explain that to mom and Xan?"
Briefly Willow looked at the lips that would have been responsible for that enormous smacker, and its possessor that was still hovering over her. She knew that Faith usually used kiss proof lip stick which pretty much nullified this risk. She came back to Buffy's – perhaps rhetorical – question. "That maybe…I had a nightmare, rolled around in bed and accidentally hit Faith's lips with my head…?" she grinned.
Both slayers laughed at this.
When they calmed down again, Faith added another thought, "Or how about the truth?"
Willow froze instantly and her eyes went wide.
She desperately hoped that Faith wasn't thinking what she thought she was thinking. But the brunette reacted quickly with an almost unnoticeable headshake. "'It was Buffy's fault'!" she blurted in perfect Willow-manner.
"You're gonna rub it in my face for all eternity, huh?" Buffy pouted and pulled the blanket up to her chin.
"I'm thinking, yes," Willow replied, grinning at her girl that was finally rolling off of her and lying down.
"Alright, then. Night, you two," the blonde grumbled, noticing how Faith was pulling up her end of the blanket as well, consequently snuggling them all in.
The fun ensued seconds later with…
Faith giggled upon hearing this. "B" was used to Faith calling her that, so it didn't surprise her. What did surprise her, was the fact that Faith was already rubbing off on Willow this much. This was the second... no, third time she had heard Willow calling her that; and she could only imagine how often that happened when she wasn't around to hear it.
Willow gave Faith a hard dig in the ribs, trying to bring the giggling to an end.
"Ow!" Faith laughed harder.
"Hey, if you two wanna fight, go ahead. But not in my bed," Buffy warned the younger girls.
"Technically, it's not yours," the brunette replied.
"Well, true…but you know what I mean."
"Yeah, we do," Willow replied with a smile. Facing her girlfriend, she breathed a soft, "Night, Faith." Suddenly she noticed how weird the following couple of hours were going to be. Lying together in one and the same bed, and not cuddling or touching in any other – harmless – way. They never did not touch when they were sleeping together.
"Night, Reddie," the slayer still grinned, though the redhead's pensive expression made her worry for a second. But when the lips started to form a little smile, she instantly relaxed.
A few minutes passed and Faith paid close attention to the sounds that surrounded her. More precisely, the sounds coming from the bodies next to her. One of them sounded still very much awake, with normal breathing and normal heartbeat; the other one's breathing had gotten shallower, the heartbeat had slowed down – this one was obviously asleep already.
Very slowly and without waking the sleeping girl, she turned around, until she finally lay on her stomach. She moved her left arm, raised it a bit and let it come to rest on the other girl's tummy.
Willow grinned in delight and held onto Faith's arm tightly, making sure that it wouldn't escape suddenly.
Without knowing it, Faith had done the thing that Willow had hoped for. Touch her. Now she could finally go to sleep. She felt a tiny kiss on her upper arm and fingers that continuously drew circles on her pajama-covered tummy.
Right next to them, sleeping Buffy didn't notice a single thing.
CHAPTER FORTY - IT'S ALL HUGS AND PUPP…UH, KISSES…
She knew she was asleep. She knew she was dreaming. Or at least that she had been dreaming. Now there were thoughts in her brain that didn't make any sense at all.
Well, okay, that alone wasn't really an unusual occurrence in dreaming.
But still it seemed weird to her. So much more illogical than most of her own illogical dreams. Plus, the voices…they sounded so far away, so far that they couldn't possibly originate in her own head.
"I'll even eat you without the plastic," she heard a relatively low voice mumble and tried to make some sense of it.
"Cookies!" another, higher, voice replied seconds later. "Look, I've got one too. It's blue, actually."
The sleeping person was trying to noodle if these two utterances were related in any way or not. Blue cookies? Well, okay. And did the cookies have anything to do with the plastic thing that the other person was talking about? One could almost come to that conclusion, 'almost' being the operative word…
"Hmm…Apollo 11 just landed, I gotta go," the first voice invaded her brain again. She couldn't tell how much time had passed since the last statement – an asleep brain always plays tricks on you when it comes to that.
The other voice grunted. Maybe approvingly, maybe disapprovingly. She had no idea.
But she was pretty sure that this statement was not in any way related to the other ones… Or was it…?
Again, a certain time span passed without any noise. She was almost back to her supposedly very own thoughts by now.
"Ah, that chocolate-y thing is trying to eat me! Do something, please!" the latter voice screeched, sounding fairly desperate.
Buffy's eyes snapped and instantly she sat upright in the bed.
She shook her head, trying to find her bearings at first.
There was no chocolate-y thing anywhere to be seen.
Her brain was still not thinking clearly, since she actually began to see a kind of weird and twisted sense in all these statements. The chocolate-y thing came to the earth in the Apollo 11…looking for something to eat…doesn't matter what it is or what it is wearing/what it is wrapped up in (or isn't, rather)…and the blue cookies are…a…oh, what the hell…doesn't make sense! She rubbed her temple with the flat of her hand.
She looked to her left and noticed that the other girls were still fast asleep, looking as if nothing had happened. And maybe nothing had happened; she wasn't sure – could be that she had still just imagined the voices.
However, out of the blue, Faith decided to speak up. "I'm a hot fudge sundae…," she mumbled into the pillow her face was half-buried in and it almost sounded threatening, though she had the hint of a smile on her lips.
Wait, a threatening hot fudge sundae…there's chocolate in there, right? And I think Will was the one afraid of the 'chocolate-y thing'. So, is chocolate-y Faith eating Willow now…? Oh! Bad thought! I should go back to sleep. Like, now…
She was about to lie down again, when she heard a little 'yum' noise from the redhead.
Hmm, Buffy chuckled lightly, so little Will not afraid of big bad hot-fudge-sundae-Faith…?
"Yeah?" Faith purred, maybe referring to Willow's 'yum', maybe not.
"Yeah," the witch replied.
"Okay." Satisfied with the answer, Faith let the matter drop.
A few more funny conversations and minutes later, Buffy finally managed to go back to sleep. By now, the other girls had moved on; no talking anymore, only synchronized snoring. This would almost be funny, if it wasn't that annoying. She always preferred talking to snoring – even if that meant illogic non-plus.
Willow was the first girl to awaken in the morning. She was half-lying on her side, half-lying on her back, facing Faith. Pleased, she noticed that Faith had maintained the possessive hold on her throughout the entire night.
She stayed in bed for a little while longer, watching the sleeping Faith; but eventually, her body urged her to get out of bed and go to the bathroom.
Reluctantly, she got a hold of the slayer's arm and slowly removed it from her waist. Faith grumbled in confusion, but apparently didn't wake up.
Now Willow's only problem was getting out of bed without really waking one of other girls, or possibly both of them. That was the disadvantage of being the one in the middle. She considered her options – crawling out on the foot end, she would probably take the blanket with her altogether, plus it would take the longest; therefore crawling out on one of the sides was the easier way to go.
Now…the blonde obstacle or the brunette one?
The decision wasn't actually that hard. For several reasons. One, she was more used to climbing up (and over) Faith to begin with. And two, it was definitely more fun than doing the same thing with the Buffy-obstacle. At least, if one asked her.
Slowly, she edged closer to the unsuspecting brunette, rolled around a bit and soon after found herself lying on top of Faith, who herself was still lying on her tummy.
The brunette noticed that someone was going on and smirked with her eyes still closed. Willow noticed this, but had no idea if she had woken the other girl. What she also noticed was the fact that Buffy was beginning to stir, and looking into her direction, she noticed why.
Despite her trying not to, she had taken a part of the blanket with her, leaving poor Buffy almost fully exposed to the cool morning air.
Willow wondered what would happen if Buffy woke up just now and saw her…practically sitting on Faith's butt. The funnest thing she could think of right now was shooting up to take a picture of that scenario.
But the blonde didn't wake up. All she did was giving the blanket a doughty yank and pulling it over herself again. Consequently, she made it easier for Will to slide out of bed fully, since now Faith and her were the blanket-less parties.
Willow stood up and watched as Faith lifted her head, turning it to face her again. Yes, the younger slayer was awake already, although barely so.
Leaning down, she tried to pull as much blanket over Faith again as possible. Content with the result, she gave the brunette a little kiss on the cheek, taken in with a soft murmur, before she headed off to the bathroom.
Willow had barely entered the bathroom, it had been maybe two or three minutes since then, when she heard the door that connected this room to Joyce's bedroom open and someone enter. Luckily she was already done… doing her business, so the intruder didn't bother her.
Just being in the midst of washing her hands, she looked into the mirror and saw who the little intruder was. Faithie closed the door and grinned mischievously, "So you wanna tell me…what that was all about?" she pointed behind her with her thumb. "I mean, not that I mind being tackled by my redheaded cutie in the morning, but…"
Willow smiled and shook her head, indicating that she was sorry, "I just needed to…you know," turning around, she pointed toward the toilet.
"Huh," Faith realized Willow's true reasons for rousing her. "But why didn't you just crawl over B, then? You know that way your way would have been much shorter," she mock-complained and neared her girlfriend.
"You know, I really thought about that," she laughed and saw Faith's pouting expression, "but you're just so much cuddlier…"
"Awww, suck-up," she kissed Willow on the cheek for this compliment.
The redhead smiled and watched as Faith came to a halt next to her at the sink. Pulling a scrunchie from her wrist, the brunette tied her hair together, just as Willow had done it with hers shortly before Faith had showed up.
Almost in sync, they brushed their teeth, but this really didn't stop them from talking.
"How was your night?" Willow mumbled.
"Oh, well, pretty snugly. After all, I had my Willow-Pillow right by my side," Faith grinned and showed off her newly 'polished' teeth. Spitting out the remaining toothpaste, she continued, "But did you ever notice that B snores?" She had woken up in the middle of the night and had noticed this.
"You're one to talk…," the wicca teased and repeated the slayer's movement.
"Hey, my snoring is cute…," she countered, but when she saw Willow's raised eyebrows…, "well, it is…okay, maybe not," she pouted. "But some things are cute about me, right?" she asked hopeful and didn't even know why she wanted to hear a positive answer to this question. She never had thought of herself as cute, not by far. But she knew that Willow saw something cute in her, and she simply wanted her to say it.
"Oh, definitely!" Willow obliged. "I mean…you're still wearing that pajama…"
The redhead should have known that she wouldn't get away with that remark. Millimilliseconds later, two extremely strong arms squeezed her tightly from behind and almost made it hard for her to breathe. "I'd take that back, if I were you…," Faith growled, but Willow could still feel that she wasn't being terribly serious about it.
"Just saying how it is. Besides, what do you wanna do about it?" Will looked over her shoulder challengingly.
Faith pretended to think. "Hmmm…I know where your ticklish spots are…and I could use that knowledge right here and now. And this…," she moved her hands threateningly close to said spots, "might lead to uncontrollable giggling and the probable waking of B, Xan and 'Mom', who'd consequently come a'runnin' and ask questions and…"
Uh-oh, horror-scenario! "Okay, fine! I'll take it back, your pjs aren't cute."
"Thanks," nodded and released Willow, but just to put her arm around her waist shortly after and walk her out of the bathroom into the hall.
As they walked down the stairs, Willow couldn't help but look at Faith's unusual-hairdo-ponytail, "You do have cute ears, though." The only times she usually got to see those was during her nibble-earlobe-attacks. And even then she not so much got to see them, but rather to taste them. But since Faith's earlobes were really yummy, as far as Willow was concerned, they also had to look cute.
"That's better," Faith smirked.
When the couple reached the foot of the stairs, they were surprised to already hear noises from the kitchen. It was still pretty early and therefore they had assumed to be the only awake people in this house.
"Morning, girls," Joyce said, as she saw them enter the kitchen.
"Morning, Mrs. Summers," Willow smiled, when she found the blonde already in the midst of breakfast preparations.
"Hey," Faith followed suit and took her usual seat at the counter. "Why are you up already?"
"Ah, well," Joyce shook her head, thinking, "I couldn't really sleep. I guess there is something about not sleeping in my own room that's just…"
"Oh, sorry!" Willow started, "If we'd known…we could have stayed in Buffy's room, the bed might just have been enough for the three of us…"
Joyce simply smiled nonchalantly.
"Why 'the three of us'?" Faith asked with a sly grin. "B could've slept on the floor." When she saw Willow's admonishing look, "or on the living room couch…," Willow still stared and Faith sighed, "Okay…I could've gone to Xan. He's my boyfriend, after all."
The other 'girls' seemed to be satisfied with that answer and laughed. Joyce wondered how much exactly Faith was being henpecked by Willow, usually the young brunette was more insubordinate and less compliant.
Dismissing the though with a shake of her head, she went back to work – which currently consisted of boiling eggs – while Willow sat down next to Faith. "Are you okay with boiled eggs?" she asked, as she put some water into a pot. "I don't really feel up for anything scrambled or omelette-like today."
"Well, I could help," Faith shrugged, "but that might as well result in…scrambled… omelettes..."
"She's really good at making those," Willow winked.
"And Reddie here is the local expert on pancookies," Faith teased back and saw Will sticking out her tongue at her.
Joyce watched them amused. If one knew that those two were involved…or at least was 90 per cent sure about it, it was almost impossible to overlook those teensy-weensy signs of affection. Even if it was only friendly bantering and teasing; of course, accompanied by looks too intimate to be just friendly.
"Maybe we'll save those experiments for another time," she grinned. "Oh, Willow, I think there is a jar of chocolate cream in the cupboard, if you want some for breakfast." She knew that Willow liked it especially.
Oooh, thanks, Mommy! Willow squealed, as she got off her stool. But when she took it out, she had to notice that it was almost emptied already. She grumbled softly.
"Empty, huh?" Faith pointed out, when she heard Willow's distress. "Well, gimme, then! And a spoon; I don't mind scraping the last bits out. Still yummy!"
Silently thanking her for that ingenious thought, Willow retrieved a spoon from the drawer and put on her most mischievous smirk, "First come, first serve, Faithie! But if you're lucky, I'll even leave some of it for you."
If not, I'll lick the remains out of your mouth, Faith returned the look and Willow seemed to be able to read the thought in her eyes, because she blushed just a tiny little bit.
For a while, she then busied herself with magicking the cream out of the jar, while Faith just kept looking at her…or the glass, or the spoon, or all of the above. Maybe her previous thought was still spinning in her head.
But then she grinned jollily, when Willow finally handed glass and spoon over to her.
Joyce had no idea why, but she thought now might actually be a good time to get some affirmation for her assumptions. One reason, of course, was that Buffy and Xander weren't here yet. "Can I ask you two a question?" she tried for the careful approach.
"Shoot," Faith replied instantly, mainly focused on her yummy chocolate. Right now, she didn't really care about the question that might come.
Willow, however, nodded cautiously. A question affecting them both?
"You know, I wanted to…well, let's say…I saw how you two behave around…," she hesitantly motioned with her fingers back and forth between them, "with the…and…," despite the stuttering, Willow paled, since she had an idea what mom was referring to, "and last night…and believe me, I'm not judgmental…and I just wanted to know if you…two are…you know…," she wrung her hands through the entire awkward sentence with no ending, not knowing what else to do with them.
For a few seconds there was silence.
Faith, not having had any cup of coffee yet to be able to think properly, needed some time to process Joyce's question. Playing Joyce's non-sentence over in her head, she let the spoon fall into the jar with a clang.
Willow didn't need to play the sentence over. For a second she thought about dodging the topic or pretending to not know what Joyce was talking about. But Mom's look showed her that none of those maneuvers would have any effect; at least no effect that would buy them more time.
And thus she slid off her stool and went over to Faith. This one gripped the jar just a little tighter when she saw her girlfriend approaching her with a loving smile.
Willow put her arm around Faith's waist and took the jar out of her hands, setting it down on the table. Taking Faith's hands into her right one, she confirmed this with a kiss that was barely more than a brush of her lips on the slayer's cheek, "Yes. Yes, we are."
Joyce observed all this with a mixture of amazement, gratification and happiness. Amazement about the ease with which Willow had just admitted her relationship with Faith to her, gratification for her finally having the confirmation of her assumptions, happiness for Willow and Faith.
"Will…," the slayer whispered and turned her head surprised, the use of Willow's nickname a sign of the confused state that she was in herself. There was no babbling or hyperventilation to be heard from the redhead – two things that she had been 100 per cent sure would occur if the little witch were asked about her relationship to her. She felt another kiss on the edge of her mouth and wondered even more…why was Willow suddenly so open in her show of affections? Was she finally ready to tell the others? No, that can't be it; she wouldn't have reacted like this yesterday, if she were.
And when Willow leaned back to look at her, Faith could see in her eyes that she was far from ready. The trembling flicker in her eyes – the one that was always there when they happened to touch this subject – was all too present. Mom had been just a… Well, Willow was a bad liar, just like Faith, so lying to her was not an option. The affectionate behavior had just been a way to calm her nerves.
"Do the others know?" Joyce interrupted the couple's moment begrudgingly, but she was simply too curious to find out.
"No," Faith replied, never taking her eyes off Willow; squeezing her hand reassuringly, she added, "and we kinda want to keep it a secret a little while longer, you know, wait for the right moment." It wasn't something that you should simply tell someone on the fly.
"I don't know if that moment will be so easy to find," Joyce opined as she came closer, "but…just so you know, I'll support you."
"Thanks, Mrs. Summers," Willow replied with a soft smile, a little more relieved and relaxed.
"'Joyce'," the blonde corrected.
"Joyce," the redhead tried again, with tears in her eyes, and felt herself being pulled into mom's arms and being cuddled for a long time. For her – and she knew that this applied to Faith too – Joyce was much more than just 'Joyce' – she was 'Mom'.
Faith stood about awkwardly. For her, touchie-feelies and all that were still a bit…well, she considered trying to sneak out. She was almost on her way already, but then the two other 'girls' opened their cocoon just a little bit and made her take part as well.
"Hey. What are you doing?" Buffy asked as she neared the kitchen.
"Waffles," Willow replied with her mouth full of… waffles, indeed. About half an hour had passed, since Joyce had asked Willow and Faith about the extent of their relationship.
Mom was in charge of the waffle-baking, while her kids watched on…and ate some of the waffles here and there.
Buffy went to the fridge to retrieve some orange juice.
"Hey, B, you wanna know something funny? Your redheaded friend here told me that I've got cute ears," she laughed and tugged lightly on Willow's ear in her turn.
"Oh, Will, I wouldn't have said that if I were you…," Buffy almost cringed; she had no idea, if it was a good sign that the brunette told her this. The concepts 'Faith' and 'cute' were…more or less…incompatible for…her…and probably more for Faith herself.
"What?" Faith smirked, "I don't mind. She can say something like that if she wants to," she turned her head to look at Willow and the ear she was less tugging on, but more caressing.
"So she's got privileges now?" Buffy asked as she walked over to the counter and poured some juice into a glass.
"You're not being jealous, are you?" Willow brushed Faith's hand away and looked her blonde friend, who was sitting down opposite her.
"Not really," the blonde grinned, taking a sip from her drink. "Would be interesting to know, how you came to talk about ears, though."
Willow looked at Faith for permission, before she retold the story. "Well…a certain brunette complained about having trouble sleeping, because another girl…," she looked at Buffy momentously, "apparently snored. And I told her that she wasn't really better when it came to that. And she…made an attempt to sell her snoring as cute, which it really isn't," Faith boxed her ribs for that and Willow laughed. "Anyway, then she wanted to find at least something cute about her, and since she wouldn't let the pajama count…I, well, said the first thing that came to mind."
Faith shrugged. Willow's explanation was pretty much correct.
"You had trouble sleeping?" Buffy exclaimed, half irritated, half amused, "I had trouble sleeping!" When the couple plus Joyce sent her startled-questioning looks, she added, more calmly. "I swear, you two are the worst sleep talkers ever… I never heard two sleeping people actually lead a conversation. I mean, it would have been fun, if it hadn't been in the middle of the night…"
"Oh…?" Willow started out cautiously. Sleep-talking can be good…or bad. Bad in the sense of maybe blabbering out things that you wouldn't normally talk about. "What did we say?"
"Oh, most of it wasn't really coherent. One of you mumbled something about 'new vegetarian cars'…and then there was something about barking Mr. Gordo…which by the way, is news to me…," the couple grinned at each, unnoticed by the other slayer that was still thinking. Joyce, however, noticed the exchange and smiled at them. "And…oh, at one point, Will was desperately trying to find her hand…I didn't really understand what you wanted to do with it, but, oh, well…"
Willow blushed. She really didn't know what she wanted to do with it, and she didn't know if she really wanted to know.
Faith laughed, thinking about things the redhead could have meant.
"Or that talk where Faith impersonated a chocolate sundae after you yelled something about being attacked by a big chocolate-y thing…no idea, if that was a coincidence or not…though you even made 'yummy' noises," she looked at Willow.
Willow vigorously nodded her head, confirming the coincidence-assumption, while Faith almost felt inclined to reply the contrary.
"And the last thing I remember is…ah, the puppy talk," Buffy raised her eyebrows.
"…talk…," the couple squeaked.
"Yeah. I think it was connected to Mr. Gordo, maybe, since Will said, she rather wanted to cuddle the puppies than the piggy. But you," she looked at Faith, "told her that they'll stay where they are, but that Will could play with them later. Then you both started snoring and I went back to sleep," Buffy finished her explanation and snatched a waffle from the plate.
"Oh," answered relieved. They definitely could have mumbled something more treasonous. This was nothing, and it wasn't even necessarily related to the human puppies…
"Wait…snoring girls?" sleepy Xander finally made an appearance. "My God, my ideal is ruined. Maybe I should ask Larry, if he's still interested in me."
"Oh, what a tragic loss to the girls' world," Faith put her hand over her heart dramatically. "You can't do that to us!"
"Yeah, well, maybe I'll think about it some more. I love my girls far too much," he grinned at the four ladies in the room, before the waffle plate caught his eye and he went over to help himself.
"Guess now it's official," Buffy exclaimed. "Breakfast's up."
After breakfast and some more trivial talk about everything and nothing, Joyce had an idea. They had to keep up with their tradition of taking a morning-after-sleepover-group-piccie. A piccie with four teenagers on it that looked as normal as any teenager in the world, not like slayer, slayer, witch and devoted slayerette.
And two of them – one sitting between her blond and her brunette friend on the couch, the other one kneeling behind the first one, with her head on the redhead's shoulder and her arms drawn around her other two friends – didn't necessarily give away the image of a two teens in love. Only the knowing eye really knew what was going on there.
|< Précédent||Suivant >|