Hi guys, this is the last chapter of Love is a 4 letter word. I hope everyone's enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. This episodes been a lot of fun for me getting to mess with them all :). Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a review, there have been a lot and you would not believe the size of the smile that gives me.
The dormitory had fallen silent after the Slayers' exit. Reece was staring thoughtfully into a mirror at the bruise on his cheek and gently rubbing the stinging, red skin of his throat. Dawn stayed under the covers to pull on her underwear and pants, only emerging to grab her white shirt that had been thrown on to Peter's old bed.
When she was fully dressed, she turned to Reece's back with a nervous chuckle. "I thought Buffy was going to go apocalyptic when she saw us, but she was pretty cool, don't you think?"
"Yes; she left the violence to her monkey-boy," Reece said, not looking around.
"Don't call Xander a monkey-boy," Dawn countered, frowning at Reece's tone.
"I believe, when I'm the one with the hand print on my throat, I have the right to call the bugger responsible anything I like."
"I'm sorry," Dawn winced as she saw just how sore his neck looked. No wonder he wanted to lash out a bit, and he'd been good enough to not make a thing out of it while the others were here. "Did he really hurt you?"
"No, I'm fine, leave it." Reece assured her, stepping away from her as she tried to touch the red-blue blotch on his cheek.
Dawn dropped her hand, stepping back, hurt by the curtness of his words. "Sorry."
He sighed deeply, and finally looked her in the eye again. "No, I am. This was a mistake, my mistake."
"What?" Dawn whispered, not understanding.
"It's not you, Sweetheart," Reece promised, speaking softly as he took her hand and lead her back to the bed. They sat down next to each other. "Tonight was really…" he smiled shyly at her, "… really nice, but this was too soon for us to get so… close. It's my fault, I should have been stronger, but you're so…" he smiled again, not so shy this time, and Dawn automatically smiled back. "But you being gorgeous is no excuse for my behaviour," he continued seriously. "God only knows what Mr Giles is thinking of me right now, and your sister..!" Reece stood up and began to pace. "They need to be able to trust me, and I don't think they're going to find that very easy after what they walked in on."
"Reece," Dawn stood up, getting in the way of his pacing. "It'll be fine. Buffy won't stay mad for long, she can't; and Giles doesn't get a say in who I spend my time with. He's Buffy's Watcher, not mine."
"Perhaps you're right," Reece nodded carefully. "But I'm not prepared to take too many chances where your sister is concerned, Sweetheart. I think its best if we cool it just for a little while, let her calm down about it, what do you think?"
"I think I don't want my sister dictating who I can sleep with, not unless I get to veto some of her partners too." Dawn fidgeted on the spot as some invisible hot thing poked at her deep between her legs. That was… ow! She sat back down on the edge of the bed to try and lessen it.
Reece looked at her, piqued. "Great, well, while you fight that battle, I'll be fighting the one to keep my place here as a Watcher cadet. If we both win, I'll meet you for a victory beer, but you'd better go now."
Dawn stood up again, ignoring the soreness in her thighs and other tender places. "Alright. So how long do you think we should lay low for?"
"Well, that depends," Reece didn't add more as he walked her to the door.
Dawn stopped just shy of the threshold, "On what?"
Reece chuckled under his breath. Stroking a thumb down Dawn's cheek, he leaned in to give her a short, sweet kiss on the lips.
"I had a wonderful night, Dawn, we should definitely do it again some time," he promised, and after one last kiss on the cheek, he opened the door for her.
Dawn walked outside, turning to look back at him as soon as her feet touched the grass. "This feels weird," she admitted. "I kinda feel like I'm never going to see you again."
"Don't be daft," his chuckle was louder this time, "I'll see you in the morning for breakfast."
Dawn smiled, shaking away the strange paranoia that had washed over her. It was all Buffy's fault for barging in like that. Dawn had been hoping to lie in Reece's arms for a few hours, acclimatising to her new status as non-virgin. But as it turned out, she'd been catapulted into the new role and now everyone knew, and Reece was freaking out. Not surprising with the way Xander had acted; and Faith had threatened him.
"Okay, see you in the morning."
Reece pulled the door closed after she'd gone and ran his hands through his hair, smiling.
That had been fun. Pity the whole damn house had run in on them, it would have been interesting to see how long he could keep Dawn quiet about it.
He returned to the small mirror he'd propped up on his locker and looked at the bruise again. It hadn't really hurt that much when Harris had punched him. Either the adrenaline at being caught had lessened the sting or the older man had been holding back. It ached now though. He'd like some ice to put on it, but wasn't going to risk going into the house tonight.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, he wondered just how much of a mess he'd made for himself here. It depended on what he did next, he supposed. If he played the dutiful and smitten boyfriend to Dawn, old Rupert probably wouldn't do anything at all, and it would most definitely piss off her bitch of a sister.
Still, it seemed like a lot of bother, now the chase was over.
Buffy saw Dawn come out of the dormitory and turned to face her, crossing her arms, and looking as stern as she could. Not that Dawn could probably see her effort properly in the dark.
Dawn looked for a second like she was going to ignore her and walk straight past, but then obviously thought better of it and came to stand in front of her.
"Is this where you yell at me?" she asked, sounding bored. "Because if so can you make it quick, 'cause I really just wanna have a bath and go to bed."
"Feel dirty, do you?" Buffy asked, keeping her voice neutral.
"No, just…" Dawn shook her head, deciding to say no more. "So… the yelling… come on."
Buffy bit back her anger at the attitude on display. Faith had been right; making Dawn mad wouldn't get anyone anywhere. What was it Willow had once said? You catch more flies with Twinkies.
"I'm not going to yell, Dawnie, but I am going to say that you made a very adult choice tonight and you… not so much with the adult yet. I know you're mature for your age, but you are still not at the age where the decision you made is right…" Buffy struggled over the right words to use, trying to remember what her mom had said to her so that she could do it better.
"You were my age," Dawn countered.
"No, I was a… good, nearly, six months older and…" Okay, she was losing it here.
"Okay, well I bet Faith was way younger than me," Dawn said rudely, waving at the brunette standing behind Buffy.
"Yeah, damn straight I was," Faith chuckled. "But do you really wanna walk my path, Twinks?"
"Uh, no," Dawn muttered quietly.
"Then listen to your sis."
Dawn looked away.
"Dawn," Buffy began again. "Listen, I'm not mad at you, okay? Well, actually, I am a little, because you should know better, but then maybe you don't because of your age, but… not all guys, even human ones, are nice."
"I'm not a kid, Buffy. I know there are assholes out there. Reece isn't one of them. You can't see it, because you don't know him as well as I do."
"Okay," Buffy said quietly.
What was the point of arguing anyway? Dawn had done what she had done whether Reece was a nice guy or not. Time would tell which of them was right. Buffy hoped she was the one who was wrong, for her sister's sake, but there was a little tiny bit of her that wanted to be right; so that she would be justified in Dawn's eyes for putting her through this in the first place. If she was wrong, Dawn might never trust her judgement again, and, damn it, she was the older sister, and she was her guardian even if Faith said it was a negative. If Buffy was no longer found worthy of respect, well, it wasn't too late for Dawn to drop out of school and become a delinquent.
"So I can go?" Dawn asked impatiently when Buffy didn't add anything.
Buffy nodded, but grabbed Dawn's arm as she was about to walk away. "Just remember that I love you, okay, and you can talk to me, about anything, anything at all and…and I'll listen, and I won't get mad."
"Uh, okay," Dawn seemed a little surprised by the emotion in Buffy's voice.
"I'm sorry you didn't feel you could talk to me about how you were feeling," Buffy went on. "About the wanting to… well, you know, but in future, if there's anything you want to discuss or…or just give voice to your thoughts with little to no input from me, I'm here."
"I can't come to you with everything, Buffy."
"Yes you can, even if its something you think is embarrassing; chances are I've already been there and picked up the health leaflets…"
"Buffy!" Dawn hissed, her eyes darting to Faith, who was doing her level best not to laugh.
"I mean it! I'm not mom, and I'm not some wrinkly old guardian either. I know our roles have been kind of abnormal these last few years, but I'm still your sister. You used to come to me with every question you had, I just want you to know you still can, okay?"
"Okay," Dawn felt she should be discomfited by the open sentimentality Buffy was displaying, but it was such a rare thing these days... She felt her eyes tear up as she gave her big sister a shaky smile. "Thanks. You can come to me too."
Buffy chuckled, more so as the taller girl gave her a sudden swift hug. "Yeah, well, you never know, it might happen. Now go take your bath."
Dawn nodded and started to walk back to the house.
Dawn looked back at Faith.
"Grab the table salt on your way up and dump a load in the bath," Faith advised. "Helps… ya know, down there."
Dawn frowned in confusion, but nodded a few times and left.
Buffy waited until the back door shut behind Dawn before she asked,
"Does the salt really help?"
"Supposedly. It's a tip my Watcher gave me."
"Wesley?" Buffy laughed.
"No, doofus, my first Watcher. Alicia." Faith came closer and the two stood there, almost toe to toe, but not touching.
"Alicia's a pretty name."
"Yeah, she was a pretty lady," Faith said wistfully.
Buffy's nose wrinkled a little. "And you had sex with her? Did the Council know? 'Cause I bet they went…"
"B, I did not have sex with my Watcher! Any of them. Gross me out why don'cha."
"But you just said…"
"That she gave me the tip, yeah. I wasn't screwing her though; she just knew I was screwing other people."
"Oh," Buffy said quietly, looking down at their feet. "I guess you've had a lot of, uh… partners, huh?"
"That is not a conversation we are havin' B," Faith said adamantly. "At least, not tonight."
"Okay," Buffy nodded, letting it go easily for now. It wasn't really a conversation she wanted to have any time soon either. Brightening, she said instead. "Come with me, I have something to show you." She took Faith's hand and started to lead her across the grass.
"Saw it last night, but that don't mean I'm not happy to take a second look," Faith grinned.
Buffy laughed, Faith was so not getting the whole 'going slow' thing. Taking her keys from her pocket she found the one for the training barn with a little difficulty, thanks to the poor light, but eventually she got the door open and pushed it wide.
"Ta da!" she announced. Inside was pitch blackness. Obviously Xander still hadn't fitted the door sensor. "Oops, hang on a minute."
In a moment or two she found the switches and flicked all of them on, dazzling their dark-accustomed eyes.
"Holy…" Faith didn't finish her thought as she walked deep into the room and turned around a few times on the spot, taking it all in.
"Isn't it?" Buffy beamed.
She'd known Faith would love it as much as her. Of course, Kennedy loved it too, but she'd never had the experience of trying to train between the study table and the card index in the Sunnydale High library.
"This is something else," Faith breathed, walking to the weight machines first and then over to peer into the well-stocked weapons cage, where lots of shiny new Slayer-toys were hanging up.
She hopped up onto the little raised stage area, walking across the wooden boards before stepping onto the training mats stacked along side. She stayed there for a moment, checking out the room from the higher vantage point and then, without warning, she jumped out towards the line of punching bags.
Faith's skirt floated up like a denim tutu while she was in the air, making Buffy grin, and then Faith's body twirled into a spinning kick, connecting solidly with the nearest bag and setting it swinging wildly, making Buffy grin even more.
Landing gracefully, Faith hugged the bag to settle it down, grinning at Buffy. "Nice facility, B. You planning on training a few Bat-slayer's in here?"
"Batman never had a trampoline," Buffy said, going to the corner where the stereo system was set up.
Early nineties dance music suddenly blasted from the speakers around the room, until Buffy quickly lowered the volume – after all it was well after midnight now.
"Are we gonna areobicize, B?" Faith gently mocked the music as she walked to where Buffy was.
"No, F," Buffy laughed, grabbing her hand and leading her to her favourite corner of the room. "We're going to bounce!"
"You're kidding me, right?" Faith looked at the trampoline like it was a torture instrument.
"Nope," Buffy jumped onto the stretchy surface. "Now get your ass up here, baby."
Faith watched Buffy, ready to refuse, but it only took a few moments of seeing the blonde getting all hot and sweaty and… bouncy, before Faith gave in and leapt up along side her.
Grinning with childish excitement Buffy grabbed Faith's hands and, well, bounced.
"There, done," Craig nodded to himself as the canary feather and pig-grease muck dissolved into a fine blue mist. "Assuming I did it right, the spell's over."
Everyone in the kitchen turned to Willow.
She was still looking into the sink where the de-spelling had taken place. The mug they'd used was a mess of ceramic gloop now, and with the open window the blue smoke was getting wisped away.
Craig was good, considering he'd had no actual training and had learnt the craft from reading exercise books Ethan had scribbled in during his education of the arts. It had taken Willow a few years before she'd been able to perform a complicated spell like this with absolutely no exploding utensils to show for it.
"Uh, yeah, it's broken," Willow nodded, noticing the attention. "Nicely done, Craig, although not so nicely cast in the first place," she added sourly.
Craig looked away, rinsing his hands of fat in the sink.
"Yes, well, it's very late," Giles said. "Let's all get to bed… separately," he added when Xander smirked at him. "And forget today ever happened."
Craig smiled until Giles, heading through to the living room, continued in after thought, "Except Craig's punishment; let's not forget that."
"Here, here," Kennedy said, shooting Craig a fierce look. "And you better hope we can forget about this."
"Yeah," Xander agreed. "The last thing we need is for today to have far-reaching consequences. If Dawn's pregnant, if Willow and Kennedy split up, if I'm permanently stuck gay and can never again truly appreciate Seven of Nine's bio suits… We'll make sure the punishment outweighs the crime. We may even make the punishment a whole crime in itself."
"I never meant for anyone to get hurt," Craig said softly. "That's why I chose this spell and didn't just blow you all up in your sleep."
Andrew was sitting on the floor next to Goorzar's box-bed. The little demon was still upset by seeing her daddy making smoochy face with Craig. Sitting in her box, she sucked on the cardboard and hugged one of Andrew's thighs with her long arms. He had a feeling he might have to share her box tonight, because she wasn't showing any signs of letting go.
"Hurt comes in many guises," he said solemnly, scratching Goorzar behind the ears.
Craig looked over, not sure how to respond to that. Was Andrew angry at him? Or just indulging his flair for the dramatic? He rubbed at the back of his head anxiously. Punishment was one thing – and something he was hardly a stranger to – but Andrew having second thoughts was something worse.
"You know I never meant you to get caught up in it, yeah?" Craig walked over, but didn't get too close; Goorzar was eyeing him warily, and she had a long reach. "I know I set the spell on the whole house, but I didn't know you were going to be here – so it's not like I was targeting you too."
"I am part of the house! At least I like to think I am. And you knew I was here before you cast, so obviously I was going to be under it too."
"Yeah, but…" Craig fidgeted.
"It doesn't matter anyway," Andrew filled Craig's pause. "It doesn't matter whether I was supposed to be spelled too; you still cast it over my friends."
"Friends?" Xander grinned. When Andrew shot him a hurt look, Xander held up his hands. "Ah, just joking, of course we're…" he looked at Willow and Kennedy with a 'How-crazy-is-tonight' shrug. "…friends."
"I'm sorry," Craig muttered.
"It's okay," said Andrew, but the way he didn't look up made it obvious it wasn't.
"Can we talk outside or somethin'?" Craig persisted. Well aware that Xander, Willow and Kennedy were all still watching him aggressively, like he was going to pull another spell out of his bum to throw at them. Not likely, he only knew the one by heart anyway. "Please?"
Andrew looked up then, Craig's tone softening his resolve, but then he looked back down at the bundle clinging to him. "I shouldn't really leave Goorzie, she's still upset."
Andrew looked torn now.
Kennedy came over and squatted beside the box, stroking the dark sticking-up hair flat to Goorzar's head. "If you wanna go outside I'll take her." The demon had already looped her free arm around Kennedy's. "But you don't have to," she added, shooting Craig another glare.
"I don't know what to do," Andrew told her softly. "Everyone is so angry."
Craig backed away a couple of steps, feeling wretched.
"It'll pass," Kennedy glanced Willow's way, "I hope."
"But Dawn." Andrew whispered.
"Come on, Andy, we both know Dawn isn't complaining right now," Kennedy whispered back, nudging his knee and winking. "She's been after Reece since day one."
"He's not good enough for her!"
"You don't have to tell me, but as long as he doesn't screw her around…" Kennedy shrugged.
"He won't if he knows what's good for him," Xander said.
"I guess he likes her too, right, at least he seemed to all day, and obviously he must do or else he wouldn't have…" Andrew brightened a little. "So she'll be alright." He looked up at Craig. "I'll come outside for a minute."
Craig smiled and nodded, "Cool."
Andrew gently unhooked Goorzar's arm from his leg, her grip was less now that Kennedy was fussing her too. She pulled the baby onto her lap as Andrew stood up. Goorzar made a little whimpering noise as he did so.
"What upset her in the first place?" Kennedy asked.
"Oh she went ape when she saw me and Andrew kissing," Craig explained, putting his arm loosely around Andrew's shoulders as they went through the back door.
"Is that all?" Kennedy started to laugh until Goorzar, seeing Craig's gesture, started jumping up and down on her lap, shrieking. "Ow, argh, crap!" Kennedy yelled in pain.
The back door closed behind them – blocking off Goorzar's shrieks and Kennedy's screams – and Craig pulled Andrew a little way from the house.
"I'm really sorry," he said at once. "I never meant for you to get hurt, I swear. I never meant for anyone to get hurt, but I had to find some way to get back at Buffy and the rest. I figured this spell was the most harmless way to go. Dad always liked playing pranks on Uncle Rub… Rupert, said it was to get him back for deserting him all them years ago, I figured getting my revenge in the same way was poetic…"
"Willow and Kennedy might split up over this," Andrew interrupted him. "That's not poetic, that's just cruel and senseless."
"I never knew everyone was gonna go after people who aren't their significant others, did I? The notes just say it makes people randy, not adulterous! I'll take responsibility for Dawn thinking she was ready before she was, but not for Willow and Kennedy snogging other people! The spell might have made it easier for them, but they obviously wanted to cheat in the first place or they'd have been too busy shagging each other to do it!"
"How can you say that?"
"Easily, 'cause it's the truth."
"I shouldn'tve come out here," Andrew turned to go back inside and his eye caught the newbie Slayers returning from their patrol. Naomi was with them.
"Andrew, please?" Craig grabbed his arm, turning him back around. "Stay a minute. I'm not gonna apologise for casting the spell. It's what I came here to do, and I'd do it again, but I am sorry for the trouble it's causing Ms Rosenburg and Kennedy – I like them, I really do, and I think they're a great couple."
"You can't mean that, not if you're glad you did the spell."
"I do mean it, and… and, I'll tell you what, me and you, we'll make sure this doesn't break them up, right? We'll work together to keep them together. I'll do whatever it takes."
"I don't know," Craig admitted. "But I vow that I'll do it. Just… don't break up with me here before we've even given it a go. I'm stuck here whether I like it or not right now, and I can tell you truthfully that if you hate me, I won't like a second of it."
"I don't hate you," Andrew said quietly. "You promise you'll help make it right?"
"I'll do anything." Craig drew his finger in a cross over his heart for good measure. "They won't break up while I'm here."
"Okay," Andrew finally relented with a small smile.
"Nice one." Craig took a deep breath and blew it out noisily. "You had me really worried there."
Andrew smiled and Craig took the chance on leaning closer and giving him a quick kiss. He pulled back to gauge the reaction; Andrew's smile had grown and his eyes had gone all dreamy again – Craig loved that – so he moved back in for a longer kiss.
Five minutes later, Andrew had to lean away to yawn.
"Sorry," he murmured. "It's just really late."
"Yeah it is," Craig agreed, stifling his own yawn. "Probably time to call it a night. There's another day tomorrow."
'Well, obviously,' Andrew thought. Aloud, he said, "I'll walk you to the dorm."
It was pretty silly really, seeing as the dorm was only a couple of hundred yards away, but as Craig slipped their hands together, Andrew knew why he'd offered. He wished he didn't still feel so attracted to the English boy after what he'd done, but… he did, and Kennedy had pretty much given him permission to accept Craig's apology… that counted for a lot.
The girl's had gathered outside their dormitory. The giggled conversation of the hyped up slayers carrying easily to the two boys walking across the grass. They were always like this when they got home at night.
"There's post-patrol chips and yoghurt in the fridge, ladies," Andrew called over to them.
"What, nothing hot?" Rona asked.
"We've no power," Cici reminded her, more pleasantly than Andrew probably would have.
"Yeah, whaddya expect, Andy to cook ya a pizza over a camping stove?" Alison laughed.
"Do we have a camping stove?" Naomi asked, waving hi to Craig as she spoke. "Because that would perhaps come in handy."
"No idea, but I bet we have Marshmallows" Vi piped up. "We could make smores over the fire in the living room.
Miranda nodded her appreciation of that idea. "Yes, but we need a towel this time, I don't want to make Mr Giles mad again with mallow on the carpet."
"I was thinking something a lot more filling," Rona complained.
"Sorry," Andrew shrugged.
"Actually, I'm really kind of starving too," Alison rubbed her stomach, pulling a hungry face.
"I am rather peckish…" Naomi started. When everyone turned to look at her, she added, "Not only Slayers need to eat, you know? It's just; generally speaking, the rest of us can survive without devouring an entire cow every meal."
"Stop talking about cows," Miranda complained. "Now I'm craving burgers!"
"I have patties," Andrew said, "but you'll have to eat them raw!"
"Please, Andy," Cici unexpectedly turned to wheedling. "Surely there is enough fuel in the generator to fry us just a few hamburgers… each."
"Xander said it was to be used for lights only tonight," Andrew protested.
"Please?" Cici said again.
It looked suspiciously like she was batting her eyelashes at him; he wasn't sure because he'd never seen the act up close before. Suddenly there was a chorus of 'Pleases' around him and he could feel the wind from so many eyelashes going up and down on his cheeks.
He looked helplessly at Craig, who grinned at him. "They got super-strength; you might wanna keep them happy first."
"Okay," Andrew finally relented. "Come on girls, I think there are some micro-fries in the freezer too."
Craig caught his attention as he was about to head back to the house. "Hang on a minute, mate."
Andrew wandered over to him, a little confused why he was being called back. "What's wrong?"
"You forgot to say goodnight." Craig kissed him on the lips and catcalls went up behind them as the girl's watched.
"Andrew's got a boyfriend!"
He pulled away fast, embarrassed, muttering to Craig, "I hate Slayers when they've just been slaying! Goodnight." Louder, he added, "Whoever sang that isn't getting any fries!"
Craig watched Andrew head back towards the house with the girl's hovering like knats around him – all teasing him at once.
Smiling, he blew out a shaky breath, tilting his head a second towards the stars before looking back at the door for a final glimpse of Andrew.
That had been too close. How he'd dodged that bullet he didn't know. Thank God Andrew was the forgiving kind, because if he wasn't, Craig might have never forgiven himself. He should use his brain once in a while. As soon as he met the bloke he should have just forgotten about the spell, should have known it would backfire on his arse – hadn't Naomi been telling him that ever since he'd mentioned it? To think he'd come all this way and found the one thing he couldn't seem to find back home, only to chance it all on some stupid revenge.
He hadn't known though, had he? Until this morning he'd thought he would be back home by now, and Andrew had been reticent with his feelings to say the least until the spell shook the truth from him with a bang. So if it wasn't for the spell, he might never have gotten a chance with Andrew anyway.
"I'm just glad it's over," he announced to the empty garden; smiling as he scrubbed his hand over his hair a few times.
All he had to do now was make sure Ms Rosenburg and Kennedy stayed together, Dawn wasn't pregnant and Xander Harris returned to straight and then he and Andrew stood a fighting chance. Should be a doddle, providing his punishment wasn't a ticket back to London. It would be just typical of his life that now he wanted to stay he would be made to leave.
Well, whatever, he'd deal with it in the morning.
After taking one more deep breath, he let himself into the boy's dormitory. Reece was still in situ, lying on his bed with his shirt off, smoking a cigarette. Craig nodded to him, but said nothing as he started to get undressed.
"Gather I have you to thank for this," Reece drawled, pointing to the nasty looking bruise on his cheek. "What d'you do to bring them all running in here anyway?"
"None of your bloody business," Craig muttered.
"Tell me or I'll give you a matching one."
Craig chuckled; it was going to take more than Reece's threats to ruin his good mood tonight. "If you must know, I cast a lust spell over the house."
Surprisingly, Reece burst out laughing; "Really?" he shook his head in amazement. "We all knew you were up to something, but… Guess I have more to thank you for than I thought, Rayne."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'm supposing it was your little spell that loosened the delectable Dawn up for me. I admit I was pleasantly surprised she gave it up so quickly, I was expecting a few more weeks of hard work first."
"Romantic," Craig sneered. "So does this mean you and Patricia have split up? The belle and the bastard of the Berkshire Hunt circuit done for good? Can't say I'm shocked, long distance relationships aren't easy, and I can't see her being prepared to wait for you. Not when there are so many tastier fish in the sea."
"Nope," Reece took a thoughtful pull on his cigarette, smiling up at the ceiling. "Pat's waiting for me back home. She wanted to come, but thank God, the silly bitch won't leave her horses."
Craig frowned, "But what about Dawn?"
"What about her?"
"Well… you shagged her, surely you like her? I know, for some unknown reason, she really fancies you."
Reece chuckled, "Of course I like her, you Pratt, and you're right she is rather sweet on me. Hard to resist that. That Cici is a bit of alright too, don't you think? Oh I suppose you wouldn't, would you? But you have to admit she's a looker, tall too, plenty of leg, wouldn't mind doing her while I'm here…"
As Reece went on, discussing his next conquest and the one after that, Craig lay back on his bed, wishing he smoked so he could calm this sudden anxiety in his chest. He wasn't as out of the woods as he thought he was. This was the card that was going to collapse and bring the fragile house down.
Dawn wasn't going to get pregnant, she was going to get duped and then dumped – and, in the eyes of Andrew, it was going to be all Craig's fault!
"It's not that I mind, really," Willow said, staring at Goorzar. "But this isn't going to become a regular occurrence, is it?"
Kennedy softly shut the bedroom door, blocking out the giggling coming from the living room. Giles would be regretting taking the downstairs bedroom tonight!
"It's just, I've heard that puppies, when they get used to sleeping in the bedroom, they refuse to give it up," Willow went on, still regarding the baby demon sitting in her box, staring back at her.
"She's not a puppy, and I said, it's just for tonight." Kennedy faced away from Willow, who was already in bed, as she got undressed. "You know she wouldn't settle downstairs without me."
The bruises Goorzar had given her during her major tantrum were a shiny blue against the background of yellow Buffy and Faith had given her. The long scratch on her cheek was stinging a little, courtesy of Goorzar's fingernail. Kennedy wondered how difficult it would be to trim them – nail scissors probably wouldn't cut it.
"I read somewhere it's not even a good idea to let babies, human ones I mean, sleep in the same room as…"
"Fine!" Kennedy irritably started to pull some heavy-duty pajamas on; Willow had never seen them before. "I'll take her back down and sleep in the kitchen with her."
She didn't know why she was in this room right now anyway. She should have made herself up a bed in the girl's dormitory, but it was so late she wasn't thinking straight.
"Baby, no," Willow jumped out of the bed, moving swiftly to stand in front of her girlfriend. "Goorzie's fine, and… and anyway, I'd rather risk her getting used to sleeping up here than you getting used to sleeping down there."
Kennedy stood there, undecided. Willow reached out to gently touch her cheek, and Kennedy sharply pulled her head away.
"Sorry," she muttered to the pain in Willow's eyes. "I'm just tired, and… sore."
"Then come to bed, baby, please?"
Eventually, Kennedy nodded, "Okay."
She backed up to the bed and got under the covers, pulling them up to her chin. As Willow slipped in beside her, she turned onto her side, facing the other way.
"Could you put the light out."
The light clicked off and the two of them were silent in the darkness for a long time. Despite Kennedy's tiredness, she couldn't feel sleep coming.
"We should talk?" Willow said quietly.
"I don't want to… not tonight."
"In the morning?"
"Maybe." Kennedy snuggled her head deeper into her pillow. She could hear Goorzar's heavy breathing – at least one of them was getting some sleep. Suddenly she blurted out, "Did it mean anything?"
"No!" Willow's voice rang out clear in the dark room, like she'd been waiting for the question, maybe she had been. "Nothing."
"I have never been more really of anything in my life."
"Okay," Kennedy nodded, her cheek – damp now there was darkness to hide it – sliding on the pillow. "Okay."
Buffy closed Dawn's bedroom door and walked along the landing to her own room. Normally she'd have taken the short cut through their shared bathroom, but Faith was taking a shower – being all hot and sweaty after their hour long bounce-competition, which she so would have won if Faith hadn't gotten all handsy and caused them both to bounce over the side – and Buffy wanted to give her some privacy…
Okay, that wasn't strictly true; she just didn't want an eyeful of naked Faith just before they shared a bed. It was going to be difficult enough to hold onto her resolve as it was.
Sitting at her vanity table, Buffy took her time drying her hair, listening to the water running next door. When it finally shut off, she had butterfly-stomach, but she didn't really know why.
The door to the en suite opened and steam poured into the room. "Lil' sis okay?"
"Uh huh, she's in bed. It wasn't easy, but I fought the urge to lock her in. Did you find the pajamas I put out?"
"Uh, yeah," Faith drew the word out very slowly.
Buffy swivelled her butt around on the stool and started to giggle. "Oh, Faith, you're adorable!"
"Yeah, see, that's the thing," Faith frowned down at the flannel pajamas she was wearing. "I'm not really looking to be adorable right now, B. I've done that already, up until I was, like, eleven. Now I just wanna be… hot."
"No," Buffy said sternly, turning back to her mirror and picking up her hairbrush. "If you're staying in my room until yours is free again, you are not allowed to look hot at bedtime."
"But… It's my natural state of being." Faith walked over and stole the hairbrush out of Buffy's hand. "I can't help it?"
"And you can let it run free for all of the time we are not in this room together during the hours of darkness; but when we are… you wear the pajamas." Buffy tilted her head a little so that Faith could brush her hair.
"You're giving me a hotness handicap?" Faith grumbled, taking no notice of Buffy's hair in favour of running the brush through her own a couple of times. "That's gotta be discrimination of some kind."
Noticing in the mirror, Buffy sighed; the thought of Faith making a sweet gesture like that was a little far-fetched; she should probably just be thankful for the hand-holding for the time being.
"They have elephants on them!" Faith pointed out, not feeling her concerns were getting the appropriate attention.
"I know, they're mine," Buffy reminded her, grinning.
"And the elephants are… doing ballet?" Faith was holding the shirt out from her tummy to have a proper frown at them. "Some of them are wearing tutus!"
"Again, I know." Buffy turned on the stool again and snatched her brush back. "Faith, did you bring any pajamas with you?"
"No, I didn't bring anything with me, my bag was stolen."
"Then maybe you should just be grateful I'm lending you some, huh?"
"Yeah, well, I didn't have any in my bag either. I don't own pee-jays. I can't sleep in Pee-jays…"
"Well, you're gonna," Buffy countered, standing up.
Faith stared defiantly back at her. Buffy held her stare. Faith moved one hand to the top button of the pink flannel elephant-embossed shirt.
Buffy pointed the brush at her, "Leave it, or go sleep in the bathtub."
The top button was pulled undone. Faith didn't say a word as her fingers moved down to the next button.
Buffy pursed her lips, her eyes drifting between Faith's rebellious stare and the second button.
"If you undo that…" Buffy began.
The second button popped out of its hole; Buffy's lips re-pursed, her eyes acting like she was watching a vertical tennis match. There was a wide V of bare skin showing now, the point ending between Faith's breasts. Already her fingers had moved down to the next button.
Buffy swallowed hard as the third button came undone, causing the shirt to fall open both sides. Buffy felt the room getting very warm and she took a sharp breath, digging deep for the resolve she needed.
"Still think I look adorable, B?" Faith asked, her voice low and smoky.
Buffy's eyes went back up for the first time in several seconds. "Yes," she smirked. "And I also think you're gonna look pretty stupid sleeping out in the corridor. So do them up or…"
Faith popped the fourth button and Buffy stepped forward, smartly smacking her knuckles hard with the back of the hairbrush.
"Ow!" Faith pulled her stinging hand higher up her chest.
Buffy chuckled as she walked to the other side of her bed and grabbed a pillow. "Here ya go," she threw it to Faith. "And you might wanna do you're shirt up; gets pretty chilly out there at night."
"You don't mean it?" Faith stood clutching the pillow, growing less sure of herself as Buffy went to the door and opened it wide.
"Do I look like I don't mean it?" Buffy smiled, gesturing at the door. "Go on, hurry up, I'm tired."
Faith stood there, hands squeezing the pillow tighter and tighter as she looked from Buffy's smiling, but determined, face to the open door and dark corridor beyond.
"Fine!" She scowled, throwing the pillow at Buffy with some force. She swiftly did her buttons back up, all but the very top one, which had been kinda choking her in the first place. "There, better?"
Buffy caught the pillow, laughing at her victory. "No, not better, just for the best." She closed her door again gently before chucking Faith's pillow back in place on the bed.
"From whose point of view?" Faith asked, perching her ass on the edge of the vanity table, she watched as Buffy brushed her hair through, like, fifty times or something.
When Buffy just smirked at her, she asked, "We don't actually have to wait until we're properly together before we beya know, properly together, do we?" Faith asked, looking worried.
Buffy thought about that, her eyes doing a quick Faith-inventory. God, she even made the elephant pajamas sexy when she was all pouty like that!
Buffy groaned a little, before taking a big, sensible breath, "Yes it does. I'm not saying it'll be the easiest thing in the world, but we should wait, I think, don't you?"
Faith shook her head. "Not really."
"Faith, you're supposed to be making stuff up to me!" Buffy came to set her hair brush down next to Faith's ass. While she was there, she took both of her hands in hers and bent her head to look into Faith's downward tilting eyes.
"That's why I need time, remember? So if you really think you're getting more than a kiss goodnight from me until you at least start that making up – which you don't have time for right now – then you seriously need to think again."
Buffy reluctantly let go of Faith's hands and went about finishing her nightly rituals: checking her stake was under her pillow, setting her alarm clock and pulling back the bed covers.
In the time it took to do all that, Faith was motionless and speechless, finally she asked, "What about last night?"
"Last night was a welcome home gift… to both of us," Buffy smiled, getting into bed
"Yeah, I really don't think this 'time' thing is gonna be easy, ya know?" A chuckled curled around Faith's words.
"Probably not, but whatcha gonna do?"
The brightness in Buffy's voice came from the effort it was taking not to pull her pajamas off and invite Faith to do the same.
Faith was right, this 'time' thing was getting harder every second, but Buffy really believed it was necessary. She wanted to take things slow; she wanted to build something worth lasting. If Faith didn't feel the same – and Buffy wasn't saying she didn't, but after the last week she wasn't going to assume anything – if Faith was only interested in the one thing, then it was better to find out sooner rather than later.
Faith grumbled something inaudible from the other side of the room.
"Are you coming to get your goodnight kiss or not," Buffy called to her. "Cause it's really late and any second now I'm gonna fall asleep whether I want to or not, and if you try and kiss me then…"
She left the threat hanging and Faith chuckled as she got to her feet, straightened her dancing elephant jammies and walked around to climb in the other side of the bed.
"Really, no sex?" Faith checked one last time with a small grin.
"Really," Buffy grinned back.
"Damn," Faith muttered.
Buffy giggled, moving under the covers until she was closer to Faith.
She felt more self-conscious laying next to Faith than she had the night before, not that she'd really had time to feel anything last night before things had turned heavy. All that she remembered thinking before she kissed Faith then was wanting to kiss Faith, and that had made things run pretty smoothly.
Buffy didn't have to look far to find that feeling again and she leaned forward, pushing up on her elbow to bring their faces closer. Faith was ready and eagerly met her lips.
It wasn't a quick goodnight kiss by any means, far from a sweet peck on the lips, although it was sweet… As Faith's tongue dipped into her mouth, Buffy's breath caught and she pushed her own up to meet it, feeling the connection all the way down to her toes.
'Oh God,' she thought from deep within her brain. 'Time better heal damn fast!'
Resolutely, she pulled away after another minute, although her hand stayed caressing Faith's cheek for a while longer. "I'm really glad you're home," she whispered.
Faith looked a little starry-eyed. "Can't say I'm sorry to be home; that was some 'goodnight'."
Buffy's smile was deliberately demure, "Yeah, well… sweet dreams."
She leaned over once more to give Faith a quick kiss on the cheek, before leaning back the other way to turn off her bedside light and curl up on her side of the bed.
Darkness filled the room right to the corners, but Buffy could hear Faith moving around, ruffling her pillows. She could feel the covers shift over her as Faith shifted under them.
Eventually there was silence apart from Faith's even breathing. Buffy smooshed her face into her pillow, embarrassed by the size of her smile even though no one could see it.
Rolling silently over to face Faith a little later, Buffy watched her sleeping in the faint light of the full moon coming through her curtains, the smile never slipping from her face, until finally, sleep claimed her too.
So there it is done. Feedback is, as always, welcome, so let me know what you think.
Life is a big ball of hectic at the moment, with many tangled threads, and so I'll be taking a short break from posting. Sorry about that, but hey at least I finished the episode first right? I'll post the teaser of the next episode House Party on March 1st. Sooner if possible, but definitely by then.