Chapter 10

Author notes: Eh not so sure I like this ending…

As Buffy froze, her eyes darting between the stirring Slayer on the floor at her feet and the doorway to the kitchen- her potential escape- she found her heart was beating faster than ever. She couldn't think of what to do, what she should do…she could only stare in horror, hurriedly pulling her robe more tightly around herself just as Faith opened her eyes.

Faith's eyes were only partly open at first, narrowed into little slits that only showed a small sliver of slightly cloudy brown. She wrinkled her features tightly, as if in reaction to the light of the kitchen meeting her vision, or else at some pain her head that was probably equal to or worse than Buffy's, since she had probably drank much more than her before finding her in her house. Groaning slightly, she began to stir up, her eyes opening a little wider as she looked around herself, slowly at first, with clear bewilderment, then more urgently, her eyes widening as the connections began to light themselves in her pupils. She looked from the floor beneath her to her nude body to Buffy's robe, then up at Buffy's face, which was stiff and slightly distorted with her shock, and then back at her unclad body. Her face paled rapidly, shock flooding her features as well, and when she spoke, her voice was hoarse, shaking slightly.

"Oh what the fuck…what the hell did I…did we…"

Not finishing her more colorful echoing of Buff's own thoughts. Faith scrambled to her feet rapidly, snatching up her clothes and beginning to put them on so rushed that she almost put her pants on backwards, and she didn't bother with her borrowed bra or underwear. Her face still stunningly white, her features seeming almost comically exaggerated in size by her shaken demeanor, she started at a stumbling pace that was nevertheless fast toward the kitchen entrance, clearly intending to flee.

Buffy's eyes widened even more at this, and without thinking any further about it, she found herself calling out to her quickly, trying to stop her before she got any further away.

"Faith, wait! Don't go- not yet, anyway…"

"Yeah right," Faith muttered, not even taking the time to glance in her direction as she moved past her, just barely pulling away from brushing past her in time in her almost panicked hurry to escape. "Like I could really stay after- like you even want me to…"

"Of course I do!" Buffy blurted, and she was as astonished as Faith was by the words that had left her mouth. As Faith halted abruptly in her tracks, turning around slowly to stare at her, Buffy felt herself flushing furiously and hugged her robe more securely around herself.

Where had that come from?! She hadn't meant to say that! She hadn't meant to- she didn't-

But she had meant it, a persistent, infuriating little voice in her head prodded her. You know you meant it, Buffy, even if you didn't mean to say it…and you know what that has to mean, even if you don't want it to…

Buffy took a slow, shaky breath, looking away from Faith quickly as she fumbled for an alternate reason for her words.

"I mean…you can't go, Faith, you, you don't have anywhere to go, or anywhere to stay…you don't have any food or money…"

"I'll manage," Faith interrupted tightly, and she too would not meet Buffy's eyes. "I always have. And like you care anyway B…I know you can't wait to have me outta your hair. I don't know what's with the stalling game here, unless you just-"

"I DO care!" Buffy burst out with, again without planning or even being conscious of thinking the words that seemed to come out all on their own. She felt herself going even redder in astonishment at herself, the heat travelling from face down to her chest and arms as well. She could not believe herself…and yet she could not stop herself from going on.

"Faith…Faith, don't go. I want you to stay…I…I want to help you."

Faith just stared at her. She was not moving towards the door anymore, but this was more from stunned incredulity at Buffy's words than her belief in them. Finally she swallowed, her full lips unconsciously thinning out into a tightly pressed line, and when her eyes met Buffy's, the older Slayer's chest hurt to see their barely controlled emotion.

"I know you remember what I did," Faith said, and her voice was hardly more than a whisper, the pain in her eyes obvious for anyone to see. "Not just yesterday, and that was bad enough…but before that…everything…and I know you don't really think it's all okay. Everyone and their mother's gonna be lookin' for me now, and they're all gonna want either to kill me or to haul me off to jail. I know you just want me to stay 'cause you still think I'm a psycho murdering bitch…"

Faith swallowed again, her eyes darting away, and then she looked back at Buffy again, lifting her chin with deliberate but forced confident evenness.

"I'm not anymore, B…I'm not gonna do that, I'm not gonna kill anyone, so don't worry. I'm just gonna go away, and stay away, so you don't have to try and make me stay anymore."

She turned away again, but she was moving much less quickly now, as if she were half hoping- or maybe even fully hoping- to be stopped. Which Buffy did immediately, grabbing her arm and holding it gently but urgently, forgetting all her horrified protests from her initial awakening as she tried to make Faith look her in the eye.

"I don't want to kill you, Faith… no one wants to…and I…I'm not trying to make you stay just because… you…you mean it though? You're not going to… you aren't… you won't…"

"Just because I was drunk doesn't make me a liar, B," Faith said quietly, and Buffy's breath caught to hear the serious tone of her voice, to see the complexity of feeling sparking in her eyes that she could not quite conceal.

"But," Faith concluded roughly, her posture stiffening, "that doesn't change anything…"

She pulled away from Buffy's hand abruptly, once more turning toward the stairs…but Buffy grabbed her arm again, almost desperately this time. She couldn't just let Faith go, even after- maybe especially after- what had happened. She couldn't let her go, without knowing where or how she would be, without…

She just… she couldn't let her go, she realized with a sudden, heavy clarity. She just couldn't let her go…

"Faith, don't go," she told her, and as she held her arm, it was her voice now that was a near whisper. "Please, don't go…"

Faith's lips pressed together tightly once more, and her shoulders drew together; looking at her, Buffy was given the impression that she was caught somewhere between running, as far and hard as she could…and drawing closer to her, leaning more firmly into her light touch…

"I have to," she said at last, but the conviction in her tone was not strong. Something in her eyes made Buffy think that she was hoping, praying to be told otherwise…and that Buffy was the only person who she might be able to bring herself to listen to.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Buffy tightened her hold on Faith's arm slightly; she was not holding her hard, but rather, firmly, with a gentle sincerity that unconsciously reflected her thoughts. Now having entirely dismissed, almost having entirely forgotten, her reservations, she looked into Faith's eyes, trying with her softened gaze, in addition to her physical contact with her, to make her understand what Buffy herself was only just beginning to.

"No, Faith, you don't," she said softly. "You have to go…and…and I wasn't lying either…"

As the implications of what she was saying began to sink in, something darkened in Faith's eyes…as her breathing began to increase in speed and intensity, Buffy could hear it, rasping, uneven. The brunette swallowed, glancing down at Buffy's hand, and Buffy knew that she wanted to pull away…and yet, she didn't do so.

"You know what I am, B," she said in a low voice, and Buffy realized then that she was shaking slightly, actually trembling…even as Faith tensed, trying to stop, her efforts only made it worse. "Even…even if you meant that…I couldn't let you. I-"

"Yes," Buffy interrupted her, her voice pitched very soft, and she stepped closer then, still holding the other girl's arm in one hand. Her stomach tightening with anxious anticipation of what she was about to do, she slowly reached to cup Faith's cheek with her other hand…

She could feel Faith's jaw muscle twitch in shock beneath her hand, and she blinked quickly, her eyes suddenly glittering… but as Buffy continued to look into them, she made herself keep her hand firm on Faith's face, made herself keep her voice steady.

"Yes, I do know who you are, Faith… and no, it isn't your choice to let me do anything."

Buffy didn't know here all this was coming from, all this daring, this sureness of words and actions… all she knew was that it felt right. As she continued to search Faith's eyes, seeing their chaotic swirling of doubt and fear, self-loathing and guilt, shame and hope, she dimly was aware of mirrored feelings, still a part of her…and in that moment, she let them go, leaning forward to gently capture Faith's lips with her own.

As soon as her lips touched Faith's, a strong near shock went through Buffy, something she had not at all expected…but more so than that, she felt a rush of freedom and carelessness come over her, even better than anything she had felt from the beer.

As she kissed Faith again, more firmly this time, Faith was stiffening, not responding, not returning her kiss. She could hear the younger girl's heart knocking wildly in her chest, could hear her heavy, almost uncontrolled breathing. Panic was coming off of Faith so strongly Buffy could almost smell it, along with a strong guilt that seemed to have overridden any instincts to move away.

Concerned, Buffy started to move away…but then Faith's arms were going around her, and she was kissing her with an almost desperate neediness, as if certain that it could be denied her in any moment. And as Buffy felt the first of Faith's tears fall silently from her cheek to Buffy's own, she knew that Faith wasn't going anywhere.

Everything else could be dealt with in its own time…for now, all Buffy could think to do was hold Faith, kiss her, show her just how much she wanted her to stay…even perfectly, completely sober.

End

Author notes: Not too sure I'm happy with the ending…seems too similar to a zillion other Buffy/Faith stories I've written. But hey, that's the way it should have gone in canon as I think you all would agree *wink wink* Soooo now I'm going to write probably one or two oneshots and then get back onto Bonded.