Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Author notes: Takes place seventh season, post "End of Days," pre "Chosen." Some time after Faith awakens from her bomb injuries and she and Buffy talk. Thanks to Lupo for sparking the idea in one of our silly conversations :P
Faith looked around herself quickly as she gripped the doorknob to Buffy's bedroom, making sure that no one was watching her make her entrance. The last thing she wanted was to be flagged down in her attempt to disappear, particularly by Buffy herself. She knew that Buffy had designated her room as strictly off limits to all; even if she had relented when Faith was recovering from Coma Number Three, post bomb-in-face-eruption, after Faith was on her feet, and particularly after Buffy had learned about the use she and Robin Wood had put her bed to, she had once again designated it a Buffy Only zone without exception.
Faith didn't care at the moment. She wanted- no NEEDED- a break, and even the basement was no longer safe from the wandering feet and shrill voices of barely pubescent potentials. She could hardly take a step without tripping over one of them, hearing someone call her name, or feeling polished, day-glo fingernails grasp her arm. Yeah, they were eager and kind of amusing, they were sweet kids for the most part, with potentials to be good fighters.
But they were so freaking NEEDY. They were just kids, and they all wanted something that they seemed to expect Faith to provide, be it reassuring words, a clap on the shoulder, a compliment on improved sparring techniques, or one of her many, occasionally edited tales of her adventures as a Slayer. In general Faith didn't mind giving what she could, but with this many, and this constantly, it was draining and unnatural for her. She'd never been good at playing the part of the big sister for long. She was much more accustomed to being a loner, to being on her own, and by herself whether she wanted or needed to be, and now she craved it so desperately she was willing, even eager, to face the wrath of Buffy to get it.
The potentials were all in the backyard now, being lead by Kennedy in some sort of training thing; it probably wouldn't be long before they all came storming back in and took over the blissful peace and quiet all over again. As it was she knew Anya and Andrew were wandering around somewhere, so she better move fast.
Slipping inside Buffy's room and quickly shutting the door behind her, Faith debated whether to lock it but decided not to push the envelope with Buffy too far. Besides it wasn't exactly Buffy's room she was retreating to anyway…no, she had her eyes fixed on Buffy's closet.
The idea was inspired. Surely no one would think to look for her there- what reason would even Buffy have to look in her closet in the middle of the day? The small, dark space that would probably seem uncomfortable or even claustrophobic to most would be soothing and relaxing to Faith; she was used to close quarters and time spent alone after prison, and she was actually smiling as she reached for the closet's doorknob, stepped inside and closed the door behind her, started to sit down among the dark interior.
Almost immediately she was greeted with a sputtering squawk, flailing limbs hitting hers, and with the realization that she had just sat on something warm, living, and human- something that was fighting back. As Faith pushed back at what was twisting and shoving at her underneath her, she accidentally grabbed a handful of long hair, and its owner screamed.
"What the hell?" Faith almost shouted, pushing back at the person clearly inside the closet with her and receiving another shout directly into her ear that momentarily made it echo as her hand connected with the person's upper chest. "Who the hell-"
"Get out of here!" the person yelped with equal parts anger and indignation coloring her tone, and Faith blinked, her hands lowering as she squinted, trying to make out the other form in the blackness.
"Buffy? Is that you?"
"YES, it's me, who the- Faith?" Buffy asked suddenly, some disbelief coloring her tone now as well. She stiffened noticeably under the other Slayer.
Now that she had gotten over her shock to find anyone, let alone Buffy, in the very spot she had been seeking, the humor of the situation was beginning to strike her, and Faith started to snicker as she replied.
"Yeah, it's me…" when she felt Buffy's body tense further and heard her let out an exasperated, huffy breath, she snickered again. "What are you doing sitting in your closet, B?"
"What am /I/ doing? Get off of me!" Buffy sputtered, and Faith laughed again, enjoying her flustered state.
"Don't think there's enough room with all your shoes and clothes and crap here, B. If we're both gonna be in here, looks like there's not much else option…damn, B, how many pairs of shoes does one tiny set of feet need anyway?" Faith remarked, trying to brush some of them aside and bracing herself for a punch straight in the face.
It would be worth it for a few moments' amusement at Buffy's obvious shock and discomfort; if she had been trying, Faith could hardly have planned a better way to cause it. Under what other conditions would she ever find herself alone in the dark in a small space with Buffy, sitting in her lap, no less?
Heh, maybe she better not let her mind go down that road just now.
To her surprise, the punch she had been expecting never came, but Buffy did give an impatient shove at Faith's shoulders.
"As many as are currently in my closet…Faith, get off me and get OUT of my closet!"
Faith tried, but in her awkward, fumbling maneuvers in the dark, ended up putting her hand on Buffy's upper thigh, putting her weight on it in an attempt to hoist herself up. When Buffy stiffened and sucked in her breath sharply, Faith was unable to tell if she was reacting in pain, barely restrained rage, or involuntary arousal…surely not the last one, of course it wasn't, but damn it sounded like it to Faith's ears anyway.
Regardless of what Buffy was actually feeling, Faith quickly stopped her efforts to get off her, discomfited, and deciding to cover it up by continuing to treat this incident like the joke it was. After all, it was pretty funny. Even if Buffy was gonna end up knocking out all her teeth before she got out of there.
"Kinda hard to see to do anything, B," she smirked. "Why are you sitting in the dark in your closet anyway…and do you know just how many jokes I could make out of this?"
"It would be hard to sit in the light in my closet when there's no light bulb or lamp or even a keychain flashlight in it," Buffy muttered sarcastically. "And you say even one of them, Faith, and I send you into Coma Number Four."
Faith laughed, subtly trying to figure out a way to ease her weight off of the other girl somewhat or to fully remove herself from her lap without looking like she was giving up or somehow caving to her will or orders. So far, she'd come up with nothing.
"Yeah, okay, well then why are you sitting in your dark, light bulb, lamp, and keychain flashlight free closet then?"
Buffy's body was taut beneath hers, and though Faith was careful not to lean back against her in a way that could seem at all cuddly or affectionate, to preserve a degree of her own comfort as well as to prudently save herself from an even more violent beating when it inevitably came in the future, she could still feel how very rapidly the other Slayer's heart was beating. If Faith hadn't been positive that Buffy was pissed off and embarrassed, it might have occurred to her that she was afraid.
"It's MY closet, Faith," she declared, as if that was a total and reasonable explanation.
Faith raised an eyebrow; the fact that she was even trying to defend herself rather than kicking her out on her ass as she had expected her to long ago must mean that the other girl was more embarrassed than she had thought. Damn, this could be fun…she wondered how far she could push this and immediately decided to find out.
"So, you often sit in your closet in the dark and stare at your closed door?" Faith smirked, and Buffy's voice dropped lower, definitely embarrassed now, before the usual defensiveness and volume returned.
"Maybe…Faith, get off of me!"
Instead of fumbling for the doorknob and opening the door, pulling herself to her feet and exiting the closet, as Buffy had no doubt hoped, Faith started moving to the right of the cramped space, trying to squeeze in with Buffy so they were sitting side by side. Buffy protested without words for a few seconds, sputtering indignantly without words as elbows and feet collided with Faith's attempt to move, but when her own attempt to open the door just resulted in her knocking heads with Faith hard enough for her to actually see sparks of color behind her eyes, she gave up, pressing against the left closet wall and hugging her knees to her chest in an effort not to touch Faith, seething. Even so, every time either moved even slightly, their shoulders brushed. Faith, still holding a hand to her sore head, laughed, trying to adjust herself into a comfortable sitting position.
"Damn, B, you've got one hard head…and you say we have nothing in common. Between your head and your closet dwelling-"
"Faith," Buffy cut her off, and Faith was surprised to hear no anger in her voice now, only a weariness. When she turned her head to look at her, though it was too dark to see Buffy's face, she could see the outline of her slumped shoulders in her form. "Faith, why are you still here? Why were you here in the first place?"
Faith was so startled by this seeming lack of anger, by this simple tired question rather than the aggressive insistence she was still waiting to occur, that she found herself answering truthfully and seriously, rather than with the flippancy she had meant to respond with, even though her tone of voice was casual.
"Needed a breather…some place where no one was gonna come barging in on me, since the girls are kinda driving me insane at the moment. More insane." She smiled over at Buffy, though she knew the other girl likely couldn't see her expression. "Turns out I was the barger though."
"Ya think?" Buffy asked sarcastically, but she didn't sound too pissed off. In fact, Faith could have sworn she was holding back a smile.
"Yeah, sorry about that…had to go somewhere though, those girls are like a swarm. Where else can you get away from them?" Faith shrugged, her shoulder brushing Buffy's, and Buffy pulled away as much as possible, pressing even closer against the wall quickly. Still, she responded, in kind with Faith's comment.
"No kidding….not to mention Andrew and his freakin' camera making a third Blair Witch sequel that's every bit as shaky and plotless."
"Has he tried to videotape you walking from behind too? Or sleeping?" Faith asked, and she saw Buffy nod with sudden animation.
"God, yes, the little peeper, I told him I'd personally rip out his film and strangle him with it if I caught him doing that again!"
"Good luck with that," Faith snickered. "I took them out when he was sleeping, broke them into little pieces, and fed them to the garbage disposal. I don't think he's noticed he's not actually filming yet…didn't you wonder why the sink's been screwy all week?"
"FAITH!" Buffy sputtered, but then she snorted in spite of herself, trying not to laugh. Faith smiled too, surprised, but not hating the sound, the way she could see Buffy's outline loosen in its posture.
"Seriously, B, if this is a private moment, I can just let you have this vast expanse of space all to yourself for the approximately two minutes it'll be before all the little girls come running in screaming our names," she offered finally, preparing to fumble her way out the door. She was certain Buffy would eagerly seize on this acquiescence.
But Buffy didn't. Instead, she heaved a sigh that Faith could see physically shuddering through her after a few moments hesitation, and then she shook her head…and there was a hint of amusement as well as resignation in her tone. Faith would swear it.
"Oh, what the hell…as long as you don't sit on my knees again…"
"Nah, those bony things about poked a hole through my ass," Faith laughed, but she had to quickly control her tone, to turn her face slightly away, just in case Buffy caught her shock even in the darkness on her face…or the rush of hope she could feel pressing close against her chest. Why or what, she wasn't sure, but it was there, and Faith couldn't bring herself to squash it down yet.
"Even my knees couldn't penetrate that much padding, Faith," Buffy retorted, and Faith's eyebrows shot up with surprised appreciation as she laughed at the joke at her expense.
"Damn, somewhere you sharpened that tongue along with your kneecaps, huh?"
"Thought I'd try to compete with that pointy head of yours," Buffy replied sweetly, and Faith snickered again, giving her a not-so-gentle shove to her shoulder with her own that Buffy once again startled her by returning in a manner that wasn't rough enough to send her careening through the closet wall. There had been no real malice or venom in Buffy's tone either, and to Faith, even with their tentative truce post Faith's coma stint, this was new and strange…but definitely something she was liking.
"So, do you really come in here and sit a lot?" she asked the other woman more seriously when they had settled again, postures more relaxed now, enough so that Faith noticed although Buffy's shoulder was faintly touching hers, the blonde had not pulled away.
"Not enough," Buffy responded with a sigh, and Faith smiled slightly, relating all too well.
"I hear you."
"Yeah?" Buffy said with some surprise, and though Faith could not see her face, she knew she had turned her head towards her. "First time for everything, I guess."
An awkward, slightly strained silence fell between them for the first time then, and Faith looked away, wrapping her arms more securely around her knees. She could still feel Buffy's warm, somewhat knobby shoulder against her own; she still did not pull away. After several moments Buffy cleared her throat, attempting to change the subject.
"So…you ready for this? The fight?" she asked quietly, and Faith shrugged, somewhat relieved to be redirected to safer ground…but also vaguely disappointed.
"Always," she replied, and again she felt Buffy's eyes on her, sensed her thoughtfulness.
"You're never nervous, are you?" she asked her quietly, sincerely, and Faith glanced over at her in surprise, giving a faint laugh.
"Nervous? No. Scared shitless? Sure, sometimes."
"Really?" Buffy's tone lifted at this clearly unexpected response, and she turned not just her head but also her body towards Faith, so their bodies crammed together for several moments before the women quickly readjusted themselves, heartbeats speeding. "You are, sometimes? You are now?"
"Sure," Faith shrugged, though at the moment, any fear in her heart was related far less to any battle than the fact that she was sitting with Buffy with their legs touching ever so slightly in the dark. "But that's when you hit all the harder."
Buffy took this in silently. Even in the darkness Faith felt her eyes watching her and squirmed slightly inside, wondering just how much she was able to read into that comment. After several moments, when Buffy spoke, she did not acknowledge Faith's remark nor try to turn their talk back into jokes or teasing. Instead she said in a quiet tone, "I'm glad you came back, Faith."
Faith felt her lips curve into a smile involuntarily, her cheeks flushing in spite of herself, and as casual as she kept her tone, even she could hear the softness in it.
"Yeah, me too."
The silence fell between them again, but it wasn't awkward anymore so much as expectant…anticipant. With every passing moment it seemed that Buffy was closer and closer, her skin warmer, the closet smaller, darker, and tighter. She could hear Buffy's breathing, almost synchronized with her own, and she could swear she could also hear her heartbeat. She was very aware of her own, and she swallowed, wiping her palms against her legs.
"This is a really small closet," she said a little too loudly, trying again to shift her position, but every movement brought her in closer contact with Buffy…definitely not her aim at the moment.
"Yeah," Buffy agreed, and it seemed to Faith like she sounded a little breathless too. "Always said I needed a walk-in closet."
Was it just her imagination or did Buffy seem even closer now, like she was practically leaning on her? It definitely seemed hotter in here.
Faith licked her lips, trying to normalize her breathing, her galloping heart rate. Did it seem as though Buffy were watching her every move because she was, or was that just in her head? Could Buffy hear her? Could she sense how uncomfortable she was getting with every second- did Buffy know what she was thinking?
It was with that thought that Faith decided it was time to get the hell out of the closet, no pun intended.
She reached for the doorknob, standing up abruptly. But in her haste she momentarily forgot obvious facts, such as the location of the rod Buffy's clothes hung on. Faith smacked her head on it hard enough that the rod wobbled dangerously, almost breaking in the middle, and such sharp pain spiked through her skull that she was unable to make a sound or catch her breath. Multiple shirts and their hangers went tumbling, and Faith's knees buckled so that she fell once again, much harder and more heavily this time, across Buffy's lap.
Buffy had no such problems uttering sounds, and she yelped loudly into Faith's left ear drum yet again. She sounded a little pained, as if Faith's falling on her had jabbed her or knocked the breath out of her, or maybe just startled the hell out of her. Faith was distantly aware of Buffy's shoving various clothing articles and hangers off of them, trying to cast them to the side, as she rode out the apex of the pain in her head. As her thoughts cleared she struggled to sit up, to get away from Buffy- because dammit, the other Slayer was now way closer and touching even more of her, and the closet seemed that much smaller.
"Shit, I'm sorry, B…"
"Jeez, Faith, it sounded like you split your head open," Buffy remarked, and though there was some amusement in her voice, there was also some concern that froze Faith from trying to get up again. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fi-"
But before Faith could decide for herself whether the word she was about to utter was "fine" or "five by five," she felt Buffy's fingers hesitantly touching her face, fumbling their way over her cheek, jaw, and forehead, feeling blindly in the darkness up towards the top of her head. Faith went still, her heart pounding in her chest, blood rushing to her face at the feeling of those hesitant but persistent fingers, so light and warm against her skin. When Buffy's hand brushed the rising bump, Faith didn't flinch. She barely felt any pain. She held her breath, waiting for what was to come for her next.
"You really are gonna kill yourself one day, the way you knock that fragile skull of yours around," Buffy said with a smile in her voice, and she didn't move her hand from Faith's head.
In fact, her fingers were slowly stroking over the lump…and Faith didn't dare move, even as the fear she had mentioned earlier got that much stronger. Hitting all the harder was not a thought in her mind as she struggled to gather her thoughts, to gain control of her body, to not notice that she could definitely hear Buffy's heartbeat now…that the other girl was definitely breathing faster.
"I'll…I guess I'll get out of your hair now…" Faith muttered, and she reached out slowly, fumbling and grasping the closet door. She even pushed it open slightly so a crack of light filtered inside, illuminating Buffy's face beneath her…a face, she realized, that was very, very close to her own. A face that was eyeing her with great seriousness and determination…a face, Faith realized suddenly, that greatly resembled her own when she had steeled herself for battle.
A face that meant hidden fear.
"B," Faith started, her voice soft, uncertain. Neither girl moved away, and Buffy herself was not speaking, did not release her hand from Faith's head. "What…"
But then their faces were inching closer, their lips meeting first tentatively, then with greater assurance as Buffy's hand remained gently resting on Faith's head, Faith's body close to hers. And another hand covered Faith's on the doorknob, slowly pulling the closet door shut.