See Chapter One for Disclaimer.
Buffy hadn’t actually thrown up, a small mercy for which she was profoundly grateful. Faith hadn’t laughed at her either, even when she’d hung over the rail for several minutes, teetering on the verge of tossing her cookies into the Pacific… for which she was also grateful. It had still been painfully embarrassing, though; there was no avoiding that one. Now, as she sat on the cushiony bench, looking around at the stars and the moon and the gently moving ocean, she wondered what she was going to do next. I’m worn out,
was the thought that floated through her mind, when she’d gathered enough energy to think at all. Totally, completely wrung out. Too much information, too much to try and get straight in my head….
She closed her eyes, letting the rocking of the boat add to the weightless drifting sensation she was already feeling, thanks to the emotional exhaustion that had set in. She felt like she could sleep for a week, and at the same time there was no pull of sleepiness. She was caught in between, drifting, like the boat was drifting….
“Here you go,” Faith said, emerging from the cabin below with a glass. On her way back along the deck she paused long enough to scoop up Buffy’s blanket. When she reached the stern, where the older girl was sitting, she handed her the glass, and deposited the blanket on the bench beside her.
“Thanks,” Buffy murmured, sipping cautiously. It was only water, and she drank it slowly, trying not to stress her upset stomach. While she did so, Faith sat down a few feet away, at the steering wheel arrangement, and started flipping switches. “What’cha doin’?” Buffy asked, hoping there were no more surprises in store. She’d had enough already to last her a good long while.
“I’m taking you back,” Faith answered, even as the low rumble of the diesel started up below them. “It’s gettin’ late; time I got you home.” She didn’t look over at the blonde Slayer as she was speaking, and Buffy wasn’t sure if it was because she actually needed to watch the gauges so intently, or if she just didn’t want to look at the older girl. When the water behind the boat began to churn with a white wash, Faith spun the wheel, brought the boat slowly around, and aimed them towards the lights of the town. Buffy set the empty glass aside, and wrapped the blanket around her bare shoulders. At some point she was going to have to go back below and change, too; her mom would ask some tough questions if she came home in the wee hours wearing a bathing suit.
They were both quiet for a while after that. It was restful, after all of the talking and glaring and shouting of the last couple hours. For a time, it was enough to just sit and watch the waves go by, and the lights grow slowly closer. The blanket was good too, Buffy found. Being warm again made things considerably better all by itself. Sooner or later, of course, she just had to turn her head and look at Faith. The girl was busy watching where they were going… or pretending to, at least.
“Tell me,” Buffy said, almost without meaning to. Faith glanced over at her.
The older Slayer shifted a little, and wrapped the fluffy blanket around herself a little more securely.
“What you wanted me to say, when you kept asking me what I thought of you.”
Faith frowned, looking back to the view out ahead.
“It kinda defeats the purpose, if I answer it for you.”
Buffy shrugged, still feeling tired and not-tired, floaty and detached, yet intensely interested in what the girl had been trying to get at, with that same question over and over.
“Go ahead,” she said. “I freely admit the defeat. I’m embracing my defeat, here.”
A minute or two passed, with Faith not moving and not speaking, and Buffy had begun to wonder if she would ever get her answer when the girl finally half-turned to face her.
“It’s nothing wild, B; I wasn’t waiting for you to start quotin’ Shakespeare at me or anything. I just wanted….” She didn’t know what to do with her hands; Buffy watched as they started on the wheel, then moved to crack her knuckles, then grabbed a length of her hair and started twisting it absently while she steered the boat with her knee. “All I wanted was to know that you didn’t think I was some kind of charity case; the runaway from Boston that you had to make room for, the one you only invited to your house because your mom made you. I knew enough about you to know that you could never want somebody like that.” She looked down, at a random, blank spot on the deck for all that Buffy could tell, and her voice grew softer. “I mean, yeah, you cared about me when you thought like that, but it was just that same ‘I’m a Slayer, I care about everybody’ thing, not what I really needed from you. I wanted you to see that I’m strong too, that if you and me did get together it wouldn’t be like you were doing me a favor, it would be one strong person loving another one.” She looked up at Buffy. “That make any sense to you?”
The Slayer nodded, slowly.
“Yeah. Yeah, I get that.”
Faith nodded back, and looked forward again, putting a hand on the wheel to keep it steady.
“So that was it, basically. It would have been both of us in it together; nobody surrendering, nobody giving up who they were. Nobody would have had to lose.”
Buffy’s head came up, and she regarded the girl uncertainly.
“’Would have been’?”
One of Faith’s shoulders came up in a sort of half-shrug.
“I’m not going to hit you over the head with it anymore, Buffy. I tried to make you see, I talked ‘till my voice is almost gone, and all I got was you, so sick about the idea of bein’ with me that you were ready to throw up on my feet.”
Buffy could feel her eyes get wide, and a sudden burst of panic dispelled the calm lassitude that had gripped her. Hey, wait a second! That’s
not why I was almost sick! That was me, trying to cope when so much I was sure about turned out to be ass-backwards and inside-out!
Her immediate, gut-level instinct was to try and talk to Faith, to explain all of that, and promise that from now on she would at least try and give whatever lay between them a chance to develop. Maybe it would turn into something serious, maybe it wouldn’t… given time they could find out which and go from there. She wanted to promise that… only Faith had heard too many empty promises from Buffy, hadn’t she? What good would more words do, after everything that had gone before? She considered that, and as she did the panic faded away. Words won’t do any good. This is too soon, I wanted to think about it for awhile, to figure out what this will mean to me, and what it’ll do to what I have with Angel. I can’t wait, though, or she’ll shut me out for good and there’ll never be another chance. No more talking; time to shut up and show her, instead.
With that, as simple as that, she unwrapped the blanket from around herself, and scooched over, across the four or five feet of bench seat that separated them. While Faith looked down at her with an expression of total confusion, Buffy sat herself right up against the girl’s side, carefully redoing her blanket so that it was wrapped around both of them. After all, Faith was still wearing nothing but her bikini top and cutoffs; she had to be a little cold. Once that was done, the blonde girl leaned into her a little, testing to see how they fit in that configuration. It worked out pretty well; the side of the taller girl’s shoulder made an excellent place to rest Buffy’s head.
Faith sat there, absolutely rigid and unmoving.
“Uh, Buffy?” she asked, after a few seconds.
“Mm?” the older girl answered, still drinking in the sensations of being this close to her. She’s not cold at all; she’s warm.
“B… what are you doing?”
Buffy shifted a little; Faith’s right arm was kind of in the way, sitting like that. She took hold of it, and moved the unresisting limb so that it lay across her shoulders.
“Snuggling,” she said, in reply to the question. “Sort of an experimental snuggle, actually.” She shifted again, and sighed softly. There, that was perfect. Faith was just enough taller to allow Buffy to fit under her arm, and it somehow didn’t matter at all that there was a lot of skin touching skin, with the minimal clothing they were both wearing. This is nice. She’s smooth, and soft too, when she’s not flexing.
The younger Slayer wasn’t flexing any muscles, but she was
as motionless as a statue.
“Buffy—“ She swallowed, and it was interesting to actually hear that, along with the powerful beat of the girl’s heart, before she went on. “Buffy, the one thing; the only
thing in the whole world that would make me want to kill you… is if you are fucking around with me right now.”
She didn’t doubt that for a second, and yet Buffy wasn’t worried. It was incredibly strange, being so close to Faith, yet at the same time, it was a giddy, safe-seeming place, too.
“I’m not. Fucking around with you, I mean.” It would have been easy enough to look up at the girl, though she didn’t. Because to do so would have meant moving her head away from Faith’s body, and she didn’t want to do that. The heartbeat she was listening to sped up just a bit.
“How am I supposed to trust you, now, when you tried this same shit earlier?”
She had no idea.
“I don’t know,” Buffy admitted. “Because I’m asking you to?” She felt Faith shake her head.
“Not sure that’s enough. I don’t….”
Buffy waited for her to finish, for what felt like a long time.
“It’s the best I can do,” the blonde Slayer said, to break the silence. “I’m not going to promise you anything, except that I’m willing to give it a chance. I…” She bit her lip, and reexamined her resolve. It was still there, and it felt strong. “I hope you will too.”
Time passed, more than a little of it, before the slim, powerful body next to Buffy began to cautiously relax. When nothing went instantly, horribly wrong, she even went so far as to shift her arm so that she was holding the smaller girl gently. So gently, in fact, that she must have thought Buffy was made of porcelain, but it was a start. The tiny Slayer moved her head just a bit, to feel the wonderful texture of Faith’s skin against her cheek.Wow, look at this picture. This is me and her, sitting here, and neither one of us is hurting anyone, or running away from anything. That seems like a pretty good start, doesn’t it?
When she looked up from beneath her lashes, she could just make out Faith’s small, awestruck smile. When the girl took in a deep breath, slowly and carefully, to keep from disturbing the perfect moment, Buffy almost giggled.
Almost. Because it wasn’t really funny, it was just… good.
The lights ahead were resolving into individual points now; it wouldn’t be long before they were back home. It surprised Buffy when she realized that she was wishing it could have gone on for a little longer.
* * * * *
Buffy made her way up the steps from the cabin, emerging on deck wearing her own, dry clothing, and hair that had at least been brushed into some semblance of order. Faith, still wearing what she’s gone swimming in, was busy tying off the ropes that held the boat to the dock. The blonde girl took a moment to look around at the craft, which was easier now that it wasn’t moving and rocking out in the middle of the ocean.
“I really like this,” she said as Faith finished what she was doing and stood up.
“Thanks.” She moved over to Buffy, her bare feet working better on the smooth wood than the Slayer’s shoes. “You do
believe me, right? About him not needing this for any more demon deals?” She actually seemed a bit concerned as she looked down into the smaller girl’s eyes. “I’d hate to come down here tomorrow and find it trashed.”
The two of them were still trying to figure out how to act around each other, things were still a bit tense and uneasy, and yet Buffy couldn’t resist the urge to tease her just a little.
“I’m sorry, I really am,” she began, taking Faith’s hand in both of hers and drawing her towards the dockside railing. “But I think I’ll have to sink it, just to be sure.” The arm she was tugging along abruptly stopped cooperating, and she looked up at the dumbstruck girl. “What would you do if I did?” she asked, coyly, “What kind of payback should I be on the lookout for; my house burning down?”
Faith relaxed when she realized Buffy was only kidding, though she answered the question with all seriousness.
“I’d never burn your house, B.” She held the smaller girl’s gaze for several seconds, then a wide grin wiped the grim look away. “I’d burn down Willow’s
house; that’d teach you to mess with my stuff!”
Despite herself, Buffy laughed. When she turned and started the awkward step that would take her over the boat’s railing and across the small gap to the dock, Faith’s hand slipped from hers, and the Slayer found herself gripped lightly by the waist. The taller girl lifted her smoothly, and set her across so that she found her feet upon the dock almost before she had time to realize what was happening. It wasn’t something that had been necessary; either one of them could have easily leapt the width of the dock. It was simply a gesture, something a person did for their… date, like opening the car door or scooting in their chair at dinner.Date?
Buffy wondered, as Faith hopped lightly over to join her. Yeah, I guess it sort of was. And it sure was different from any of the others I’ve been on.
She looked up the length of the dock, towards the structures of downtown Sunnydale. It was still very quiet; this being nighttime on the Hellmouth, though the sun would be up before much longer.
“I need to get back,” she said. Faith nodded, even as she reached out, slowly, and recaptured Buffy’s hand with her own.
“Is everything… okay?” the girl asked, searching her face carefully. “Are you
Meaning, ‘have you changed your mind, again, now that we’re back’, Buffy translated to herself.She still isn’t sure if I’m faking it or not, and I can’t blame her, after everything I did tonight.
“I’m fine,” she assured the girl, and she meant it. “I had….” She couldn’t help the rueful smile that took over her lips. “I don’t know if it was fun;
there was too much shouting and name-calling in there for that.”
Amazingly, Faith flushed, and looked away in embarrassment.
“I’m sorry I called you a midget,” she said. Buffy shrugged the apology away.
“Well, I’m sorry about a lot of things I’ve said.” She raised the hand Faith still held, and cupped the girl’s larger one in both of hers. “And no matter what else happened tonight, there were parts of it that I’m glad I didn’t miss.”
Faith nodded, and they stood like that for a minute, both of them looking down at their joined hands.
“Can I—“ The younger girl cleared her throat; her voice really was
rougher after all the talking and shouting they’d done. “Would you mind if I called you… tomorrow? Today, I mean?”
“I’d like that.” Then she frowned, worriedly. “Just, um; be careful if my mom answers, okay? And if Willow or Xander are around then I might not be able to talk. And try not to—“ She broke off then, when she realized that this wasn’t exactly the way to make her maybe-girlfriend feel wanted. Faith only nodded, though, not looking bothered at all.
Buffy smiled in relief, glad that every wrong move or word wasn’t going to lead to arguments and accusations. And speaking of moves….
She leaned in, and stretched her face up just a little. Faith wasn’t as tall as Angel, she didn’t have to lean over very far to accept the kiss Buffy had offered. It only lasted a moment… okay, maybe two. It was a nice first-date kiss, and even though she had the feeling Faith would have liked to go a lot further, the younger girl didn’t try to pressure her. That meant as much as any of the rest of it, to Buffy. She pulled back, and took a few breaths as she considered her feelings.Weird. Weirdweirdweird… and not un-nice, either. Kind of the other way, actually, though it’s going to take some getting used to.
Faith hadn’t moved; she might not have even breathed, while she waited for Buffy to think it over. The blonde girl pulled her head back down and kissed her again, and smiled when they broke apart for the second time.
“Be sure to call me,” she said, as she took the first step back.
Surrendering Buffy’s hands reluctantly, the girl gave her a slightly wicked smile in return.
“Bet your ass I will.” She hopped up to sit on one of the massive wooden pilings that supported the dock, and the blonde Slayer gave her a little wave before turning and heading up the long walkway.Wow. I’m not sure I believe I did any of that. I’m going to have to get Giles and Willow to check me for love spells, if I can think of a way to explain that without actually explaining it.
She didn’t actually think what she was feeling was anything of the sort, of course, it was just that you could never be too sure. Besides, she wasn’t
in love with Faith.
On the other hand, though…. I may not be in love, but I’m starting to think that you can get there from here.
When she got to the top of the walkway she started towards the street that would give her the shortest walk home… and she stopped. When she turned to look, Faith was still sitting on the piling, staring after her. When Buffy waved, the girl lifted one hand in reply, the flash of her smile visible even with the darkness and distance. Buffy turned away quickly to hide her own grin, and hurried off towards home.Wow.
* * * * *
Kira looked at Faith. Faith looked back at her.
“Better?” the young woman asked. Kira nodded enthusiastically.
“Yay!” She bounced in place for a few seconds, her feet drumming on the mattress in excitement before Faith’s grunt of pain made her stop and stare up in concern. “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot!”
The woman shook her head as she lightly touched the place on her side where the sudden movements had stressed her sore ribs.
“’Sokay; I’ll just go someplace quiet an’ die from this internal bleeding thing I’ve got going, don’t worry about me.” The girl’s eyes went huge, and she was on the verge of screaming for help before Faith could reassure her. “Shush; I’m kidding. I’m fine.” Kira relaxed, even as she scowled.
“I know.” She looked at the clock across the room. “It’s getting a little late, though; do you want to go to sleep?”
“No!” Kira stopped herself, and went on in a quieter voice. “I mean, unless you don’t feel like telling me any more…?” She sounded so plaintive that Faith could only shrug.
“If you’re not too tired, I can tell you some more, sure—“
“Good!” The little girl wriggled her way back into her spot, folded her hands across her tummy, and looked up at Faith. “What happened then?”
Faith shook her head.Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into, here?
“Well…. The next morning, which was really the same morning, just a few hours later on, Buffy was finishing her breakfast when the phone started to ring. Her mom was right there, since she’d been eating breakfast too, and even though Buffy moved as fast as she could, Mrs. Summers got there first, and picked it up. And then….”
* * * * *
End Book Two