Buffy looked down hurriedly, concentrating on the last remaining strap.
"There, I've got it," she said too loudly, too cheerfully. Faith continued to regard her.
"Thanks, B," she said. And then, with no warning as to her intention, she leaned forward, kissing Buffy swiftly on the forehead. Buffy goggled at her, feeling a strong urge to touch the spot where Faith had kissed her. She could swear she still felt Faith's lips…
"What was that?" she managed to choke out, trying to sound normal, the way Faith would expect her to, but only succeeding in sounding half-panicked, even to her own ears.
"Nothin', B," Faith replied, grinning quickly, but there was no joy in her eyes. She almost seemed… disappointed. But surely Buffy was imagining that.
"You just looked so cute, couldn't resist. You know me, not too good with the impulse control. "
Faith stood up abruptly, jerking her head at Buffy.
"Hey, I really gotta pee, you comin' or not?"
Buffy stood slowly, nodding, trying not to think.
The two girls entered the small, shabby bathroom together, each heading into one of the two stalls. As Buffy heard the sounds coming from the other, she grew more intensely uncomfortable than before… for she was having a hard time refraining from forming visual images. What was WITH her- was Faith's constant sexual innuendos affecting her more than she'd thought or something? That must be it. The alternative… well, there just wasn't an alternative, that was all there was to it.
The two Slayers emerged from the stalls, going over to the one small sink to wash their hands. Faith glanced up at Buffy as if seeing her for the first time, laughing a little.
"Man, look at yourself, B. Finally learning to let your hair down," she said playfully.
Glancing in the mirror, Buffy realized what she meant. Half her hair, which she had pinned up with bobby pins, had come loose and was scraggling down her neck sloppily. She made a face at her reflection. She looked almost as bad as after an especially vigorous slaying.
"Well, geez, Faith, you could have said something earlier," she said, only pretending annoyance. She started to pull out the bobby pins that were half dangling, intending to take them out and fix them again, but a brief touch to her hands stopped her.
"Here, I'll do it, B," Faith said unexpectedly. "I know I never do much with my hair, but let me try to do yours again for you."
Buffy looked into the other girl's eyes, pausing. For some reason she was reluctant to let her… not because she didn't want her to, but because the very prospect of having Faith's fingers in her hair had just made her heart skip a beat. If anything, she wanted her to do it too much to let her.
Why? God, Buffy… you need to get more sleep, or more Vitamin C or something. It's just Faith. Faith, that's all- Faith!
When Buffy didn't respond, Faith looked away, turning her body slightly as well. Her tone was carefully casual, and she shrugged as if she could care less- but Buffy had seen the disappointment flicker across her eyes. The disappointment, and the hurt…
"Hey, whatever, you don't have to let me, I'd probably get it all tangled up worse anyway."
"No," Buffy said quickly, hating herself for her hesitance, for her utter weirdness today. "No, it's okay, go ahead. Just… just had a brain fart for a second. I'm okay."
The dark slayer hesitated, looking into Buffy's face with a slight, searching frown, her eyes clouded with something Buffy couldn't identify. Finally she nodded slowly.
"Okay… turn around, put your back to me. Face the mirror."
Buffy did as instructed, and Faith came up closer behind her; she could feel the younger girl's hand beginning to touch her hair with surprisingly gentle, careful movements, a tenderness that Buffy wouldn't have thought her capable of. She could feel the other girl extracting her bobby pins, running her fingers gently through the snarls. Faith was so close behind her that Buffy could feel the other Slayer's breasts occasionally brush her back, making her want to jump… but she held very still, nearly holding her breath. Buffy could occasionally feel the taller girl's breath, warm against the back of her head, and the combination of the feel of this and her hands in her hair, her very closeness, made the blonde almost shiver.
Buffy dared not look in the mirror, to see Faith so close behind her. Rather, she closed her eyes, almost as much to savor the experience as to avoid seeing her.
But why was she savoring it so much?
Eventually Faith's fingers stopped moving, and she slowly took her hands away, letting them drift, skimming down Buffy's neck and coming to rest with a light, uncharacteristic hesitance on her shoulders. Buffy felt her breath catch, and she opened her eyes, meeting the dark reflection of Faith's in the mirror. There was something about the way the other girl held herself so still, something subtle in her features… something that reminded Buffy of the way she had looked when Buffy had first met her. The way Faith had looked when they faced up to Kakistos, the demon that had killed her Watcher.
Faith had been afraid then… actually, she had been terrified. But what was she thinking now? Why would she be afraid?
Why was Buffy suddenly afraid?
Suddenly Faith took her hands off Buffy's shoulders, backed up a few steps, smiling a smile that looked forced. Buffy turned to look at her, relieved… and yet somehow disappointed.
"Done, B. It looks crappy, but better than hanging in your face, I guess."
"No, it's fine, Faith," Buffy told her. "It's fine… it- it looks good. Better than fine. It looks…"
Her voice trailed off; she was only half aware and in control of what she'd been babbling anyway. The blonde Slayer could not seem to stop herself from staring at her darker counterpart, looking into her eyes… why had she never really looked into them before today? How could she not have noticed the complexity of emotions tangled inside them?
Buffy found herself reaching up towards Faith's face, meaning to brush a wavy lock of hair off the girl's face. But instead, she just seemed to be leaning closer, they were almost touching once more…
And then, Buffy couldn't figure out how, but they were kissing… she and Faith were kissing, their lips soft against each other's, almost like a breath, scarcely real at all. The taller girl's face was tilted down slightly to meet Buffy's, and her eyes were closed, she was trembling slightly. Their lips met again, longer, harder this time, and Buffy didn't know how or why or who had initiated it. All she knew was that she felt happy and dizzy and chilled and panicked and confused, all at once. Every conceivable emotion rolled through her as she leaned into Faith, almost as much to keep herself upright as from pleasure.
And then suddenly Faith was pulling away, backing up. One arm was still loosely around the smaller Slayer's waist, and she looked at it, frowning, seeming confused, disoriented… and for a moment, very, very young and vulnerable.
"What… B…" she started to say, and her voice was small, breathless.
"I don't know!" Buffy blurted, too loudly, and she pushed herself away from Faith and her touch. She could feel her face reddening, her heart hammering too fast, her pulse too rapid… she could still feel her lips tingling, the sensation of Faith's full lips on hers seared into her memory.
"I didn't mean it- we didn't mean it- right?" Buffy continued to babble, and her voice was high, almost frantic, as she quickly looked at Faith, then just as quickly looked away, ears burning.
They hadn't meant it… they hadn't! Buffy was straight! Nothing against gays, but Buffy herself wasn't one, she just wasn't. And there had just been that whole thing with Angel- that must be it. This was some kind of delayed reaction to their break-up- she couldn't take it to mean anything more than that. The weirdest rebound ever, that was all. It couldn't be more than that. Especially not with Faith, of all people. Faith was her friend, but she was so different- if she was going to be attracted to a girl, it wouldn't be her. It wouldn't be Faith!
But it was her… it was Faith…
"Faith," Buffy began again, awkward, nervous, unable to meet the other girl's eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't' mean-"
"Yeah, hey, it's five by five, B, don't worry about it," Faith interrupted her, and her words were nonchalant, casual. "It's okay, I get it. The whole thing with your evil ex, it's got you a little weird. I get it. Don't' worry, I won't go tellin' everyone if you won't. You think I want it gettin' around any more than you do? 'Cuz damn, B, you might ruin my rep."
Faith laughed, but something about it sounded off. Buffy ignored it, trying to smile at her gratefully and knowing it looked forced.
"Thanks, Faith. I- you-"
"Hey, I know my sexual vibe can be intense," Faith said playfully. "I'm just too hot for you to handle is all, and you couldn't resist. If you'd just get laid more often, we wouldn't have these problems, B."
"Oh sure, that's it, Faith," Buffy said sarcastically, giving the taller girl a shove. "Shut up, will you?"
As the two girls left the bathroom, Faith was laughing, smirking… but her tone sounded hollow, and all sparkle was gone from her eyes. Buffy couldn't help but be plagued by her own thoughts.
WAS that it? Was Buffy really attracted to Faith- sexually attracted to her? And if not… why the butterflies, the sparkage, the tingling skin? Why did Faith seem so pretty to her tonight? Why did she seem unable to stop remembering the feel of Faith's lips on hers… and why was she almost aching for her to do it again?