Cordelia stopped writing and put her pen down in the valley between the pages of her textbook. She listened intently, her head cocked toward the door of her room. The house was quiet. She got out of her chair and went to the door. She opened it a crack. A faint, clear clinking sound carried up the steps. Cordelia closed the door and went back to her desk. She bowed her head and began writing again, pressing down with the pen until the tip tore a hole in her notebook paper.

***

Faith hadn't lied; she wasn't talking about the Bronze. They arrived at a battered-looking house in a very seedy area of Sunnydale. Xander knew it was very seedy because it was eight blocks away from his uncle Rory's house, which was simply seedy, and the neighborhood was definitely not moving up.

The peeling wooden siding vibrated as they walked up the tilted steps to the sagging plank porch. Faith smirked as she looked up at the bare yellow bulb. "Just like fucking home," she said, banging on the door. A blast of warm, fetid air, thick with humidity and trembling with the strains of over-amped nu-metal, washed over them. A guy wearing a leather vest and no shirt over a massive gut and impressive body hair glared out at them.

"Private party," he growled, or tried to. His slurred speech and rather unfocused stare rendered him less intimidating.

"I'm a friend of Jimmy's," Faith said as she pushed past him. The guy nodded and reeled back into the seething mass of bodies packed into the small living room.

"I'm glad you're a friend of Jimmy's," Xander yelled into Faith's ear. She shook her head without turning toward him.

"I'm not, but there's always a Jimmy at a party like this." She grinned. "Looks like a wicked good time. Wanna dance?"

***

Faith had Xander by the hand, pulling him toward the back door. They pushed through onto the back porch. Sweat molded Faith's tank top to her upper body. Her arms and face glistened in the moonlight and steam rose from her. "Great party, huh?"

Xander sat down on the steps. "I guess. You know some pretty scary people, Faith."

Faith sat beside him. One hand reached over and began kneading his back. "Your shoulders are tense."

Xander glanced at her. "Well, I do a lot of shrugging and flinching."

"Why?" She leaned toward him until her nose almost touched his. "You spend all your time waiting on Buffy or Cordelia. You ever get tired of that?"

He swallowed with great difficulty. "Sometimes."

She brushed her lips against his. "I think you spend too much time waiting." She pulled away and stood up. "You ready for some action?"

***

Faith leaned against him as they went up the steps to his house. Xander did not find the warmth of her body pressed against him to be unpleasant.

"I, uh, I think we're in luck," he said, opening the door. "My parents seem to be gone."

"Perfect," Faith purred as they crossed the threshold. "All alone in a big ol' house."

"Yeah, well, about that... How alone do you want to be? I mean, I can understand if you need some time to yourself. After all, big fight like that... I'm babbling, aren't I?" Xander pushed the door closed behind them.

"Yeah, you are," Faith said, and kissed him. Not just on the lips, either; this was a full-contact total-body all-along-the-watchtower kiss. When she stepped back, Xander slumped against the door, head swimming.

"Would you like something to drink?" he asked, his voice weak.

"C'mon," Faith said in a husky voice, "do you really think I came all the way to your house for a Coke? There was plenty to drink at the party."

The best Xander could do was a shrug.

"Now, listen," Faith said. "I'm assuming that your bedroom is at the top of those stairs. I'm going up those stairs--" she took a step back, a small smile curving her lips, those beautiful, wine-red lips "-and I'm going to find that bedroom." She took another step back, and her hand slid across her belly. Mesmerized, Xander followed that hand as it deftly undid the top button of her jeans. "I'm going into that bedroom--"

"Listen," Xander said, "this sounded like a great idea at the party, but now--"

"-and you can join me or..." Faith reached the stairs and began to ascend them, moving slowly backwards, her eyes never leaving him. With each step another button on those jeans came undone. Xander swallowed hard; there weren't that many steps. Her jeans fell in the middle of the staircase. Faith arched an eyebrow. Xander knew he should say something, anything, and he tried, but it would be so much easier if he could just catch his breath, and if those damn drums would stop! Who was playing drums anyway? He realized that what he heard was his own pulse. He opened his mouth. All that came out was a slight croak.

Something flew through the air, landing at the base of the stairs. Xander shuffled forward like a robot and picked it up. A black bra dangled from his fingers. He looked up. He noticed a shirt hanging from the banister. Faith stood at the top of the stairs. She smiled, a grin full of promise and lust, then turned and went into the bedroom.

Tribal pounding filled Xander's head as he began to climb the stairs.

***

End of "It Is What It Is What It Is"