TWELVE: ALMOST HEAR YOU SIGH
It had just kind of slipped out.
Because Faith hadn't meant to say it. Hadn't even been thinking about it.
But, when it happened, it just seemed like ... it was the right thing to say.
And then her mind got clear again and she froze. And Willow got this look on her face like What the fuck? Or maybe something more like Did I just hear right? Because, even if she was kinda thrown by it, Willow would usually save the F-word for when she was really pissed off or upset ... except for other certain times when she said it was okay to use it (and even then, she still didn't use it that much).
But, even though it had happened during of one of those 'other certain times', the look Willow was giving her wasn't that kind of an F-word look. So, no, it was probably – no, definitely – a Did I just hear right? look.
Which maybe Faith couldn't really blame her for.
Before Faith, Willow had never kissed anyone who smoked. Okay, she'd only kissed four people before, but none of them had smoked. And whaddaya know, the icky warning that it was 'like kissing an ashtray' turned out to be just a catchy ploy to ... what? Stop people kissing people who smoked? Because the people who actually did the smoking didn't seem to care about this slur on their character, probably because they weren't the ones being threatened by warnings about bad kissing experiences that apparently resembled smooching a receptacle for cigarette butts. So they had nothing to worry about. Anyway, in Willow's personal experience, kissing someone who smoked was not like kissing an ashtray. Not that she'd ever kissed an ashtray before. But, she was pretty sure that if she did, it wouldn't be anything at all like kissing Faith because, hello, wow ...
"Motherfucker!" Faith crumpled up the empty pack and tossed it into the garbage bin beside the kitchen door.
Willow winced, while Buffy pretended to be shocked.
"Charming!" Buffy said.
Faith looked at them. "You'd think at least one of those fuckin' newbies would have one fuckin' pack stashed away someplace. You know, for sneaking a sly one behind the gym?"
"Nope, you're on your own, Faith," said Buffy.
Willow picked up her coffee and pushed the cookies a little closer to Buffy, who was so busy watching Faith spaz out over an empty cigarette pack, her hand kept missing the plate.
"Well, fuck them, 'cause —"
"Faith," Willow said. "Does every second word have to be ... that word?"
Buffy's hand had found a cookie, but it stopped halfway to her mouth.
"Don't start with the holier-than-thou shit, Willow, not now," Faith said, her voice low, with that kind of jokey-menacing thing going on that a person had to be kind of careful around. Then she smiled sweetly (and, again, you had to be careful) and, folding her arms, leaned back against the counter behind her. "Anyhow, never heard you complain about my 'fucks' before."
Buffy gave Willow a look that could have been either Can you believe what a moronic, immature thing that was to say? or else I just can't imagine what you see in Faith because she's such an immature moron.
It was a close call.
"Ooh, you're such a badass," Willow said.
"You're such a dyke," Faith said back.
Buffy was still holding onto the cookie, as if it was a miniature frisbee she was about to throw. "That's really nice, Faith," she said in a tone of voice that, for a second, made Willow think about the Buffybot. "I'm very impressed."
"Relax, B. I'm just kiddin'."
"Go to the store, Faith," sighed Buffy, who still hadn't put the cookie in her mouth. "And pick up some milk while you're there."
"Sure, whatever." Faith stood up straight again and crossed the floor to the breakfast bar before stealing Buffy's cookie from right out of her hand and exiting the kitchen, laughing to herself.
When they heard the front door open then close again, Buffy looked at Willow.
"I know she doesn't really mean anything by it, but doesn't it, you know ..." She trailed off with a shrug.
"What, Faith with the 'hey-remember-I'm-a-bad-girl-really' routine? C'mon, Buff, you just said it yourself – she doesn't mean it when she gets like that. Except when she does mean it. But, you can usually tell the difference." Willow paused. "Most of the time." She looked down at her cup of coffee for a second, then looked up again with a wry smile. "I was gonna ask her to think about quitting, but maybe not such a good idea?"
"If you do, let me know so I can move to another state."
Willow shrugged. "Anyway, it's not like kissing an ashtray or anything."
Buffy looked at her for a moment, then nodded. A little sadly, Willow thought.
"I know," Buffy said, and picked up a fresh cookie.
"I'm worried about Buffy."
"Whoa, there's a shocker."
"I'm serious. I think maybe she's, you know, lonely or something."
"How the hell can she be lonely around here? Think I got more time to myself when I was in the pen. Not that I wanna go back or —"
"No, I mean lonely like boyfriend-lonely."
"Do you think maybe she's ... I don't know ... too choosy? I don't mean like she should just go out with any guy who happens to ask her, but —"
"When your last guy tries to rape you then ends up livin' in your basement, maybe it makes you kinda choosy."
"You know about what Spike did that time?"
"Did Xander tell you? Or Dawn? Huh? Faith? Did you hear what I —"
"Uh, I can't remember. Sometime last year. I mean, there's a house full of people sittin' around waiting for the big end-of-the-world apocalypse with nothin' better to do sometimes than tell stories, so, I heard some stuff."
"What kind of stuff? I mean, other than what Spike did?"
"I dunno ... Xander blowin' off his wedding ... Soldier Boy headin' for the jungle ... uh, something about a robot? Man, I'd 'a paid good money to see that."
"Spike had it built for ... you know."
"And again with the 'choosy'. I mean, Jesus ..."
"But we reprogrammed it and used it when Buffy died. Before we ... before I ... you know ... brought her back."
"Hey, you did what you thought you had to do at the time. It worked out okay in the end."
"Thanks. It's just, it was ... never mind, just ... thanks. So, d'you think we should be worried?"
"Uh, let's see ... there's that guy at the bank she kinda likes. He's nice and all, I guess. But, I mean — and for all I know, she might just be lookin' to boink the guy ..."
"You think so?"
"... but, if she wants to do the 'talking thing' too, which, let's face it, she probably does, she'll be wastin' her time. A lot of her time."
"How d'you mean?"
"Dude can hardly get two fuckin' words out straight. He's all H-how can I h-help you this morning? I mean, it'll be daylight by the time he actually gets round to inviting her 'in for a n-n-n-nightcap' and ... oh ... aw, fuck, I'm sorry, Will. I didn't mean anythin' by it."
"It's okay ..."
"Just bein' an asshole."
"No, really. Forget it. I know you didn't mean —"
"What a fuckin' asshole."
"Forget about it. Really."
"Yeah, right about now I'm willin' to bet you're thinkin' the whole 'boinking without talking' thing's maybe not a bad idea. Jesus ..."
"I think I'm beginning to forget things," Willow said. She put her hairbrush back down on top of the dresser as Faith came out of the bathroom.
"What kinda things?"
She told Faith what had happened in the library with Dawn earlier.
("Did you find anything yet?" Willow asked.
Dawn stopped pecking on the laptop keyboard and looked at her. "Sorry?"
"Did you find anything yet on Giles' new demon?"
"Um, I'm doing my English lit homework?"
"Oh, yeah. Right." Willow rubbed her eyes and went back to staring at the thin, yellowing pages in front of her.)
"I see," said Faith, stroking her chin and nodding 'wisely'. Willow could tell she was about to say something stupid. "You think you're losin' it 'cause you forgot something that a kid who didn't even exist four years ago, except we all think she did, told you?"
"It's not funny."
Faith sat down on the end of the bed and pulled off her boots. "So, does this mean if I ask you to loan me a twenty, you'll forget to ask for it back?" She stood up again and went over to the closet and, still chuckling, placed her boots neatly together on the floor, lining the toes up about an inch from the furniture's edge.
"You're not helping."
"Okay, okay, gimme another example."
"Well ... I can't think of one right now. Which, you know, could be an example itself ..."
Faith sat down on the end of the bed again. "You're not losin' your memory, Will. You were just tired."
Willow nodded. It was most likely too late by now for karmic payback anyway. She climbed into bed and picked up a book from the night table.
"Don't forget to turn off the light when you're done."
Willow looked at her.
"Just kiddin' with ya." Faith went back to unbuttoning her jeans and, when she was done undressing, pulled back the covers and climbed in beside Willow. Then she rearranged a couple of pillows and lay down, then sat up again, then moved the pillows around some more.
Willow put her book down. "If you're trying to ... distract me, I told you it's not the best time? I'm still feeling kinda —"
Faith's attempt to look offended sailed past 'cute' and landed somewhere between 'pathetic' and 'just really bad'. Which, okay, was still sorta cute.
"Jeez, Willow, you don't feel like it, well ... it's not all about the screwing." She paused, a little crease on her brow appearing, along with a small grin. "Man, did I just say that?"
It suddenly dawned on Willow that this wasn't the first time Faith had spent the night in her room without ... you know.
When did that happen?
Willow's mother called and told her she was attending a lecture nearby in a couple of days on 'the impact of virtual minority communities on the geographical and cultural awareness of teenagers' ethno-political inclusiveness' ... or something ... and that 'it would be nice' if they could meet for dinner.
"Are you gonna bring Faith along?" Buffy asked.
"Well, I sorta mentioned it to her ..."
"To Faith," Buffy checked.
"... but, she got this kinda frowny, confused look. Which I get, 'cause, you know, I've never even bothered mentioning it to my folks."
Willow looked at her. "Well, it's not like I can just introduce her as 'my new gay girlfriend' or anything." She made little finger-quotes, just to make her point.
"How come?" Buffy said again.
"'Cause, you know ... it's not like that."
"Oh," Buffy said. Then, "Everyone else thinks it is."
"Well ..." Buffy began counting off on her fingers. "You hang out all the time ... you go away on all those vacation-type trips together ... she called you every night from Cleveland for those four days she was there ... you go out sometimes on what I assume are those things we humans call 'dates' ... when you go to the movies you do that pinkie thing Dawn told me about ..." Buffy switched hands. "... then there's all the sappy looks ... the little presents ... all the smoochies and the other stuff I so don't want to know about ... neither of you are seeing other people, and ... and ... she pisses you off!" Buffy smiled triumphantly.
"She pisses you off too," Willow pointed out.
"Different kind of pissed off," answered Buffy.
Faith came in through the back door of the kitchen with the little stone ashtray. She tipped the contents into the trash bin.
"Faith?" said Buffy, as her counterpart opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of water.
"Willow? Did you get me some of those —"
"Bottom shelf in the drawer on the right."
"Faith," said Buffy again.
"What's up, O Chosen One?" She closed the refrigerator door and turned round to look at Buffy.
"How would you describe Willow?"
Willow opened her mouth to protest but, somehow, nothing came out. Score one for curiosity.
"Uh, about this tall, red hair ..."
"No, doofus. I mean, say you're walking down the street, you and Willow, and you meet someone you know and they don't know Willow and so you have to introduce her ..."
"Who we talkin' about? 'Cause most everyone I know these days —"
"So, you're walking down the street, you meet someone and you say to them, Hi, how are you ... yada, yada, yada ... oh, and this is Willow, she's my ..." Buffy let the sentence hang.
"She's my what?"
"That's what I'm asking. What would you say?"
Willow felt herself start to cringe. "Buffy ..."
Faith glanced at her, then looked back at Buffy. "Is this for some kinda Cosmo-type quiz or something?"
"No," Buffy sighed. "I just want to —"
"'Cause I never score high on those things."
"It's not for a quiz, Faith. I just want to know. Willow is your ... "
Faith narrowed her eyes, suspicious. "Why d'you wanna —"
"Okay!" Willow snapped, startling herself. "We get it! You don't wanna answer the damn question!"
Faith threw her arms in the air, almost clocking Willow on the head with the bottle.
"Well, whaddaya want me to say? It's a stupid question." She gave Buffy a narrow-eyed glare, then, lowering her head, fidgeted with the bottle for a moment, before leaning on the counter with a deep sigh. When Willow didn't look at her, Faith began giving her little nudges with her elbow, a half-formed smirk turning the corner of her mouth up.
"Okay, I got it," she said to Buffy, then tilted her head to look at Willow again.
Willow continued to ignore her.
"Willow Rosenberg is the one ray of light ..."
"... in the otherwise dark and colorless ..."
"I mean it. Go away." Willow bit the inside of her cheek in an effort not to laugh. Maybe because she wasn't sure if she really wanted to.
"... bleak hole of an existence ..."
"I'm not listening."
"... that is my worthless, skanky, sucky life."
Faith laughed and said to Buffy, "That the kinda answer you were lookin' for?" She pushed herself away from the counter and left the kitchen, still laughing.
Buffy offered Willow an apologetic grimace. "Sorry, I shouldn't have —"
They turned as Faith stuck her head back round the kitchen doorway and looked at Willow. "You're still my girl, right?"
Willow's mother called again that evening. The lecture had been cancelled. She didn't mention dinner.
So, now Willow was looking up at her with that Did I just hear right? look on her face, although Faith was sure she was trying not to show it.
She felt the sweat between her shoulder blades start to dry up, shuddered at the prickly, cold, clammy sensation. Her arms were beginning to tremble too with the effort of holding herself up and trying to keep her breathing steady at the same time, trying not to panic. Forcing herself to ignore the unsteadiness long enough to ease herself away, she lay on her back, staring up at the dark ceiling.
Neither one spoke for what felt like at least a minute. From the corner of her eye, she could see Willow turn her head to look at her.
"Do you mean it?" Willow asked.
Faith shrugged. Well, she'd said it, hadn't she? "Guess so."
The confused, disbelieving expression softened. Then Willow smiled. "Me too."
Well … fuck.
AN: Once again, much appreciation is extended to everyone who read, reviewed, favorited, followed and/or PM'd me with further thoughts and comments. Hope you enjoyed it. The third - and final - installment of the Wickedgeekyverse, Out of Our Heads, should follow soon-ish. However, it turns out some parts are a little rougher than I'd remembered, so final editing might take a bit longer than I originally thought it would. In the interim, as with the last break, I'll be posting a number of one-shots.