Title: Going Down in Style
Archiving: It'll be at http://www.realmoftheshadow.com/harper.htm, as will the first part to this, which you really should read before you read this one, otherwise it won't make any sense. As before, to the lists that auto archive, welcome to it. Anyone else, drop me a note and I'll probably say yes.
Posture: This is a sequel to 'Wild Women Don't Get the Blues', partly because some people asked and partly because I felt like the other one was lacking something. So, here you go, another helping. Hope you don't pass out from sugar shock.
Disclaimers: I don't own anything, not the show, not the characters, not the rights to make the characters do anything. nothing. I use them without any intention of infringement, though, so no harm, no foul.
A/N: I screwed with a lot of things in this one, most prominently things that were probably laid out pretty clearly in the actual series. Since I not only don't know what happened because I didn't see it and don't think that what really did occur would fit in with my plot, I changed it. My changes aren't until the end of the fic, though, so if the idea of a deviation from the canonical arc is abhorrent to you, I'd guess that you could read 7/8ths of this without offending your sensibilities. It's unbeta'd, as per usual. Thanks for the wonderful feedback I got for the first part. I'll be responding to all of it shortly. If you'd like to send feedback about this one, I'll be at the same place awaiting it anxiously. Check me out at Xfjnky2@yahoo.com.
A clean slate, a fresh start. In theory, that was something good. It meant that all of the mistakes of the past were supposedly wiped away, that there was nothing lurking in the background to mar the unblemished potential perfection that the future promised. Only, somehow it didn't quite work out like that.
There was, of course, the knowledge that no matter how much you say the past doesn't matter, it does. Even if you forget about the things that happened, if you erase them from the blackboard of your memory, there's still that fine dusting of chalk left over, covering everything. Just like, in many ways, the events of days that you push to the back of your mind still linger on, effecting the way you see the world, the way you react to people and situations.
At least, that was what Faith was realizing. She hadn't ever really anticipated escaping her past. Everyone talks about it and self-help book gurus map out intricate plans of attack for doing it, but there's still that little bit of you that's so intrinsically linked with whatever you're trying to forget that it throws everything just that little bit askew.
It had been almost a week since that soft kiss, since the promise of a tomorrow without painful reminders or preconceived notions. A great week in many respects, if only because she felt like she could walk around the hotel without having to worry about skulking out of the way of people who had made it painfully obvious that she was unwelcome. Not that she'd ever really let it bother her before, of course, since she'd long ago learned to shed the sideways glances and covertly hostile looks like water off a duck's back, but it still felt better to be treated more like a resident than as a hostile intruder.
She'd even begun to make amends with Wes. Well, perhaps it wasn't due to her so much as it was due to his preoccupation with other things, namely a perky little physicist who had finally broken the stalemate between them, but there had been a few occasions when the two of them had actually managed to have civil conversations. Not that she was particularly interested in the health benefits to be derived from drinking hot tea, but every once in a while you've just got to pretend.
Cordelia was another arena that had suddenly opened to her. Well, reopened would be more like it, though from the awkward attempts at conversation it was clear that most parts of the stadium were still closed for repairs. Besides, something always came up, breaking in on the fledging roots of an exchange and tearing them away in favor of something more pressing. A demon, or a vision, or any number of things that made itself more urgent.
Which brought to light something new, something that she'd noticed from afar but hadn't really let herself participate in, always hanging out at the fringes because that's where she'd been relegated. Having never actually gotten close enough to Cordy to see the extent of the damage during one of the few other episodes she'd been witness to had left Faith completely unprepared for the impact that one could have when viewed up close.
It had been yet another slightly stilted conversation, this one about a television show that neither particularly watched but that had managed to make headlines for some sweeps week stunt or the other. Despite the ragged stop/start nature of the tete-a-tete, it had, at the very least, been a positive interaction. Until, that is, she'd noticed the other girl's eyes grow glassy, had heard her voice trail off until it was finally gone completely. And then Cordelia herself was gone, her head snapping back from the pain, random facts being thrown out past the barrier of hands that were cupping her forehead in agony, and the dark Slayer realized that she'd never before felt as helpless as she did at that moment.
There was nothing for her to do other than call for the others, to stand by awkwardly as the rest of the gang swung into action. Angel scooped the slumped Seer up into his arms, cradling her head against his chest while Wesley grabbed a couple of aspirin and a bottle of water. Fred appeared from somewhere, apparently drawn by the commotion, and stood off to the side by an impotent Faith, wringing her hands as she looked on with wide, concerned eyes.
They'd gotten the information that had used Cordelia as its conduit and averted the disaster, this time with added help from a Slayer who felt the intense desire to do serious damage to the nearest deserving target. Part of her had wanted to stay back at the Hyperion, to take the other girl's head and run her fingers through shiny chestnut hair until she'd soothed Cordelia to sleep, protecting her from anything and everything that might imagine that it could intrude, but she'd realized quickly that not only was that a futile thought, it was an impractical one. She just wasn't the type to sit around playing nursemaid, wasn't the nurturing, comforting Florence Nightingale of the greater Los Angeles area. She was the Slayer, and that meant that her job involved quite a bit less good bedside manner and quite a bit more physical labor.
By the time they'd gotten back Cordelia had retired to her apartment. Fred told Faith later that she always did that, that the visions left the other girl with intense migraines that nothing but darkness and bed rest could fix. So, she hadn't gone down to the defunct kitchen and whipped up chicken soup, hadn't hied herself over to Cordy's place with a wet rag and a cup full of chipped pieces of ice, and hadn't found anything else to do to occupy her time other than mope. Of course, she gave that up after a few minutes because moping really was tiresome. She hit the streets instead, prowling through as many dark alleys and deserted parks as she could find, dusting a significant number of vamps, until daylight broke.
Trudging back into the foyer of the hotel, telling herself that she was just too wired up to go to bed, she'd plopped down in Cordelia's chair. Almost half an hour later, after she'd had the opportunity to peruse the other girl's internet bookmarks, after peeking at every single post-it note that she could find, and after rearranging the pens for the fourth time, she'd heard a throat clear above her and looked up, smiling guiltily when she saw the Seer there, one elegant brow arched in question.
"I, uh, was just…. uh, looking for a pen," Faith had offered, shrugging her shoulders in a gesture of what she hoped appeared to be innocence.
"Well, they'd be there in that big coffee mug. Since there's about twenty or so of them, I imagine that I can spare a few," Cordy had answered, the slightly smug note in her voice letting the other girl know that her little cover-up hadn't been nearly as successful as she could have hoped.
Ignoring that, rising nonchalantly from her chair and raising her hands above her head in a stretch that arched her back, letting out a yawn that threatened to break her jaw, Faith had made plans for a hasty departure.
"Good. Got my pen, so I suppose I can head on up to bed now," she'd offered, holding up the Bic in question, slipping easily past Cordelia, who still hadn't moved.
"Nice to know I could be of help," the Seer had replied, amusement coloring her tone. She'd watched as Faith walked across the lobby, caught every little glance back that the Slayer didn't do a good job of hiding, until finally the other girl was in the elevator, offering a small wave before heading up.
Plopping down at her desk, Cordelia had smiled broadly. She had the sneaking suspicion that Faith had been waiting on her, and that made her feel very, very good inside.
Back in her room, Faith had fallen into bed, burying her face in her pillow in a belated gesture of embarrassment, pen still clutched tightly in hand.
All of that had been two days prior, though, and without exhaustion as an excuse, Faith had to face up to the fact that she was just simply acting like a chicken. It wasn't like her to sit around, but there were a lot of variables to this particular situation that she just wasn't sure about. As promising as the guarantee of a clean start had been, it didn't mean that her dating skills had improved as a result. And there was the crux of it… dating. In all her life, Faith wasn't sure that she'd ever really dated anyone. There was Buffy and their fun-filled nights of cruising cemeteries, but somehow she didn't think that counted as dating, particularly since one half of the couple wasn't aware that they were part of it… the imaginary couple, that is.
But, she wasn't going to pass up the chance she'd been handed, which meant that she was going to have to get off her butt and do something, namely ask Cordelia out. Wesley had started paying her, so money wouldn't be a problem. She certainly wasn't going to be opening up a money market account any time soon, but at the very least she'd be able to offer an evening that consisted of more than squirtable cheese on Ritz crackers and the Letterman show.
Cordelia was sitting at her desk as Faith made her way down to the lobby. Instead of heading straight over, though, she strolled to the front door, peeking out to make sure everything looked okay. After deciding that they weren't in any imminent danger of being invaded by anyone, she made her way over to Wesley's office, just to check and see if the ex-Watcher was up to anything that needed her attention. Surprisingly, he wasn't there, so without further recourse she moved slowly to her primary destination, whistling quietly as she crossed the wide expanse of tile between herself and the object of her affection.
"So," she said, leaning on the counter when she finally reached it. The racks of business cards directly in front of her looked a little crooked, almost in desperate need of her immediate attention, and Faith began to straighten them out as she waited.
Cordelia had watched the other girl's trek through every part of the hotel lobby that maintained a safe distance from her desk, had followed with her eyes the final leg over to where Faith was standing now, noting the disjointed quality of the Slayer's walk, her ears picking up on the low, off-tune whistling. She'd pulled herself up straight in her chair when the other girl finally reached the counter in front of her, and when Faith had began to speak, she'd waited impatiently to hear what she was going to say. And waited, and waited, until she finally decided that those two letters strung together were the only ones that she was going to get.
With a sigh, she struggled to keep herself from rolling her eyes. "Sooooo," she prodded, looking at the other girl expectantly.
After about a half a minute, her patience was rewarded. "So I was thinking," Faith drawled, leaning her elbows on the counter and turning dark eyes Cordelia's way.
Again, the Seer waited, refusing to give in to the urge to jump up from her chair and literally rip the words out of the other girls mouth. "You were thinking…"
"Yeah, I was thinking…" Faith started, only to trail off again. Noting the look of growing impatience in Cordelia's eyes, she cleared her throat, then tried again. "I was thinking that… well, that maybe you'd like to, I don't know, get together and do something sometime."
Feeling profound relief at being able to finally get the words out, she smiled brightly. This dating thing wasn't too hard, once you got the hang of it.
Resisting the urge to cry out with joy that Faith had finally worked up the chutzpas to get it out, Cordelia merely nodded, throwing the other girl a small smile. "Yeah, I think I'd like that."
"Uh, tomorrow night maybe?" Faith added, bolstered now by her apparent run of good luck.
"Tomorrow night's good for me," Cordelia replied nonchalantly, flicking her short hair back over her shoulder in a move that had been ingrained in her almost since childhood. It bared the slim column of her throat and showed her shoulders off to perfection and Faith watched with no small amount of yearning.
"Good then. Tomorrow night. Should I… I mean, I don't have a car or anything, but I'm sure that Angel would let me borrow his… That is… Do you want me to pick you up?" she managed to get out, and Cordelia refused to smile at the other girl's uncharacteristic verbal clumsiness.
"If you can get the car then that'd be great," she answered, struggling to keep the excitement out of her voice. Since giving up the anger that had been holding her back from exploring a relationship with Faith, she'd been waiting, in what appeared to be vain hopes, for the other girl to make a move. It'd gotten to the point where she thought she was actually going to have to take charge of the situation herself, but was glad now that she'd waited. It was so much more exciting to be the pursued, and after the way things had ended the last time they'd been together, she felt she deserved it.
Moving slowly backward, her dark eyes still locked with hazel, Faith had nodded, twin dimples slashing down her cheeks. "I'll just go ask him then."
The fractured mirror that took up a large portion of one wall of her room reflected back hundreds of images of herself, but Faith couldn't tell if a single one of them looked the way it should. She had a date, a date with Cordelia, and she wanted to do it right. Accordingly, she'd actually gone shopping, had forced Fred into going to the mall with her and sorting through racks and racks of clothes in the seemingly vain hopes of finding something half-way decent to wear. Finally she'd decided on the tight red dress that she was currently wearing. She'd tried on black dresses and brown dresses and even a fucking bright yellow dress, but none of them seemed to work for her. Yeah, she'd wanted to go for the good first impression thing, which she somehow figured meant that she shouldn't show up in the same pair of leather pants that she'd been wearing for years, but standing there in a conservative little black dress had just seemed so completely fake.
She wasn't that girl, the kind who wore silk and satin like it was a comfortable second skin, and some part of her had rebelled at changing herself just to fit into a mold that she was convinced she should fit into. So, she'd met herself halfway, choosing something that was classy enough to get her admitted to the finest restaurants but in a bright red that only someone with the right kind of attitude could pull off. Accordingly she looked… well, she wasn't sure how she looked, but Fred had seemed positive that Cordelia would like it and since the physicist's opinion was the only one currently available on the issue, she'd chosen to accept it.
There was a little red purse that she'd picked out to go with the dress because there simply wasn't room under the snug fabric to hide what little money she had left, much less a set of car keys, and she snagged it up as she walked out of her room, taking a deep breath of fortification as she stepped onto the elevator. When it opened on the bottom floor she grinned, amused at the sight of Angel, Wesley, Gunn and Fred milling around the hotel lobby as if it were commonplace for them all to be lazing away their time there on a Friday night.
All eyes looked up at her as she stepped out of the car, giving up any pretense that they might have been there for any other reason than to inspect her, and she walked out to the middle of the floor. Stopping there, she held her hands out to the side and turned around slowly, giving them all a good look.
"So, do I pass inspection?" she asked cheekily, her face breaking out into a wide, white smile, dark eyes glinting with humor.
"Faith, you look… well, stunning," Wesley stammered, for once not fidgeting with anything. He was too focused on trying not to drool to have any excess energy for nervous tics.
"Dig the date drag," Gunn added in, nodding his bald head in approval. He was just as impressed as Wes but had to protect his coolness factor by managing to not look like a blubbering idiot about it.
"Oh, wow, I mean, I'd seen you in it before, but wow." This was from Fred, who was alternately eyeing the beautiful brunette standing in front of them trying not to blush and her awestruck semi-boyfriend.
Angel chunked the keys her way, the metal disappearing in a flash of silver as Faith snagged them out of mid-air. "Try not to do anything that I wouldn't do," he offered, grinning widely. "And don't wreck the car, okay."
Faith rolled her eyes at him before stepping past her crowd of admirers. "I'd tell you to wish me luck, but I'm not gonna need it," she threw out cockily, shooting them all another big smile before stepping out into the cool L.A. night.
Once in the car, she fit the key in the ignition, wondering if Angel had completely realized yet that not only did she not have a license, but she hadn't been behind the wheel of a vehicle for close to four years. Deciding that she'd be better off if she was far away from the hotel when that little realization hit, she cranked the car, tuning the radio in to her favorite station, and pulled away.
It didn't take long to reach Cordy's apartment, which was good in a way and bad in a way. It was good because it meant that there wasn't a long drive that would give her plenty of time to build up a full compliment of neurotic fears, but bad in that it meant that those fears would undoubtedly hit sometime after she picked up her date. Pushing that knowledge to the back of her mind, she found the closest parking place that she could and made her way over to her friend's building.
Minutes later found her standing outside of the other girl's door, having followed a building tenant inside, and after taking in a shaky breath, she raised her hand and knocked softly.
There was the muffled sound of heels clicking on hardwood and the slide of bolts being thrown back and suddenly the door was open and Faith forgot how to breathe. Cordelia was standing there, a soft baby blue cotton dress molded to her lush curves. Her hair was pulled up, baring the elegant line of her neck, and her already long legs were made even longer by a pair of barely there heels. In a word she was breathtaking, and Faith struggled to find the words to let her know.
"You look… amazing," she said finally, hooded dark eyes meeting pleased hazel, full of appreciation.
"Yeah, you too," Cordelia replied, her voice soft. She felt nervous, awkward, and oddly like a teenager out on her first date.
"Uh, are you ready to go?" Faith stammered out, trying to keep her eyes level instead of letting them trace indiscriminately over the other girl's form, much as she wanted to do.
"Just a few minutes. Come on in while I finish up," the Seer answered, pushing the door wide open. Faith ducked inside, immediately taking in the clean, uncluttered lines of the apartment, the cheery, comfortable decorating scheme. It was a home, one clearly crafted by her companion, and for a moment she felt a small pang of regret shoot through her. Faith hadn't ever really had a home, certainly not like this one, and tried not to think about how much she would have liked it.
Cordelia had disappeared into the back which left her free to roam around, something she took advantage of. She was taking in the stereo, the television nestled in the confines of a mahogany entertainment center, when suddenly the remote control flew from its resting place on the coffee table and whacked her firmly in the side of the head.
"What the…" she exclaimed, only to have to stop in order to duck a flying couch cushion. A picture frame had levitated into the air, apparently preparing to hurl itself her way, when she heard the angry voice of her date.
"Dennis," Cordelia chastised, focusing her eyes on the picture frame until it slowly, sadly, lowered itself back to the table it had been occupying. "How dare you treat a guest that way?"
Lights flickered, and Faith started to inch her way back toward the door. "Dennis?" she asked weakly, not at all sure what was going on.
"She's changed, Dennis. She's not a threat any more." Cordelia was apparently talking to no one in particular, and Faith felt a ball of unease curl up in her stomach.
"Uh, C, mind tellin' me what's going on here?" she asked, confusion blanketing the words.
"Its Dennis. I think he feels like he has to protect me from you. But that's not true," the Seer said, stressing the last few words, obviously directing them toward someone that Faith just wasn't seeing.
"I can understand and appreciate that, C, but do you mind telling me who Dennis is?"
Cordelia merely looked at her for a moment in stupefaction. "What do you mean, tell you who Dennis is? Dennis is my ghost. I thought you knew that."
"Your, uh, ghost?"
"Yeah. He came with the place, and is usually very polite." Once again, Cordelia stressed the last few words.
"You have a ghost?" Faith was starting to calm down a little now. It had been disconcerting, finding herself on the receiving end of an attack from an unknown aggressor. While she hadn't heard of any Dennis and certainly hadn't known that Cordy was playing host to a ghost, it certainly wasn't the strangest thing she'd ever run across in her time.
"Uh-huh. And he's very, very sorry for throwing things at you. Aren't you, Dennis?"
The lights flickered on and off once more and Cordelia nodded in satisfaction. "So, we won't have any more trouble, will we?"
Again the lights flickered, and Cordelia smiled brightly. "Good, now that that's all taken care of, are you ready to go?"
"Uh, yeah. I think so," Faith nodded, eyes still casting around the room. She knew that it wouldn't help, that she wouldn't be able to see the ghost no matter how hard she tried, but that didn't stop the natural response to want to look for him.
Down in the car, after Faith had rushed around to make sure that she opened Cordelia's door before sliding into the driver's seat, the Slayer put the key in the ignition and took a deep breath. This was it, the beginning of her date, and she needed to make sure that she made it perfect.
"So, where're we going?" Cordelia asked idly, having made sure that her nonchalant date mask was firmly in place. She'd been pleased that Faith had managed to observe the social niceties thus far, but wasn't yet ready to show her approval. She wasn't one for fawning, no matter how beautiful her dinner companion was, and was determined to make the other girl work for it.
"I thought maybe dinner and then this club I know. They, uh, have a band, and I thought you might want to have a few drinks and listen to some music." It had taken Faith a long time to decide on what to do. Planning these things out was difficult. Not only did you have to take into consideration what little you knew about your partner, but you had to try and synthesize that into something that she would enjoy doing as well as something that wouldn't bore yourself to death. Frankly she was convinced that this dating thing was far too difficult.
Cordelia nodded her approval, and without even realizing it, Faith blew out a sigh of relief.
Chop Suey was a combination chop house, Chinese restaurant and sushi bar, and Faith hadn't ever really been inside of it before but had thought that it looked pretty cool when she spotted it on one of her nightly prowls. So, she'd called the place up and made reservations and now, sitting across the expanse of a spotless linen table cloth from an obviously pleased Cordelia, she was glad that she had.
Sushi wasn't anything that she'd ever really tried before, nor had the impulse to want to try, but her companion had ordered an appetizer of an array of different kinds and she was determined to at least try and act like she knew what she was doing. So, she'd taken out the set of polished ivory chopsticks that the waiter had presented them with, tried her very best to copy Cordelia's efficient manner, and followed every move that the other girl made. When the Seer poured a soy sauce into one of the small dishes and then clipped off a piece of the green stuff resting on the small wooden plate and worked it into the dark liquid, she'd done the same.
Actually picking up one of the artfully designed little rolls of rice and other stuff that she wasn't quite sure about was a lot harder than it looked when her date did it, but eventually Slayer coordination kicked into play and she managed to use brute strength alone to force the infuriating little sticks to hold one of the pieces together. Of course, her form wasn't quite as elegant as the other girl's but at the very least it managed to hold the bit of food in place long enough for her to dip it in the sauce and rush it to her mouth.
The sushi itself had been, well… interesting. It wasn't good, wasn't bad, wasn't really anything more than a slightly chewy mixture of vaguely tasty something. So, she'd dutifully eaten a few more, smiling as though she really liked them, until she'd just decided that she couldn't take any more.
There was a little pile of flesh colored shaved something on the corner of the plate which looked more like some type of mousse than anything else, and deciding that she'd round out her dining experience, she reached over, grabbed a sliver, and brought it to her mouth.
Cordelia had been watching in veiled amusement as the other girl covertly copied her every move, as she forced the chop sticks to conform to her demands, as she tried to look like she was enjoying the tasty little bites. It was beyond cute and she wasn't going to do anything to disrupt the show. That is, however, until Faith reached for the ginger. She'd been taking a sip of the sake she'd ordered when her date reached for the deadly stuff and before she managed to swallow the hot liquid in her mouth it was too late.
"Faith, no!" she said, watching as the Slayer started to chew. Seconds later she saw dark eyes bug and a frantic hand reach out for the glass of water that the server had brought out when he'd seated them. Faith gulped it down, her eyes watering furiously, and Cordelia had to stifle the urge to laugh.
"Jesus," Faith huffed out, reaching for Cordy's water glass and draining it as well.
"You're not supposed to eat that part," the Seer advised belatedly. "Well, at least not by itself."
"Thanks for letting me know," the Slayer rasped out breathlessly, her tongue feeling like it'd been scorched.
Cordelia couldn't help it. She laughed, unable to stop herself even when she saw the look of wounded pride on the other girl's face. "You're just too cute," she said finally, her voice breathy from lack of oxygen.
"Yeah, well, that's what I'm here for. Making a fool out of myself for your entertainment has been a lifelong goal," Faith muttered, fiddling with one of the traitorous chop sticks. The evil thing should have dropped whatever it was that she'd consumed before letting it reach her lips.
Reaching across the table, laying a comforting hand over Faith's loosely balled fingers, Cordelia smiled. "Don't be embarrassed. I thought it was adorable."
"Just what I've always wanted to be… adorable." Rolling her eyes, deciding that she was either going to have to shrug off her embarrassment or ruin the rest of the night for the both of them, Faith flashed the biggest grin that she had. "Well, at least we got that first crucial horribly embarrassing moment out of the way."
The server appeared then, whisking away the discarded appetizer dishes and replacing them with steaming entrees, and Faith considered the timing of the interruption to be perfect. Apparently the dating gods were looking out for her after all, providing the distraction of food just when she needed it the most. Or, at least just when she thought it would do the most good. Unfortunately that didn't seem to be the case because as soon as the server left, Cordelia reclaimed the hand that she had been holding prior to his interruption, once again letting shining hazel eyes burn into darker brown.
"Faith, you don't have to be perfect, you know. I'm having a wonderful time, and I'm far more comfortable here with you than I have been with anyone I've gone out with in the last three years. I don't want someone who is afraid to make a fool of herself or who doesn't know how to laugh it off when she does. I want someone who's real, someone who doesn't have to hide behind some false front, someone who can be with me and not have to pretend to be someone they're not. Someone like you," she finished, giving the fingers a small squeeze. "Now, let's eat. I'm starving."
Cordelia watched with secret amusement as Faith wielded her steak knife expertly, cutting the chunk of somewhat raw meat on her plate into perfect little squares. Picking delicately at her own dish of honey shrimp, she realized that the meal seemed to suit the other girl. It wasn't delicate, didn't conform to any kind of standards of propriety. No, it was a hunk of meat cooked medium, with a bright pink center oozing with fragrant juices, as horribly porn-esque as that sounded. Maybe it was more that she hadn't felt the need to pick away at a salad, hadn't worried about the PC-ness of ordering a slab of thick beef, hadn't been concerned that she wouldn't be able to look properly feminine and delicate with a knife in one hand and a forkful of meat in the other. She'd chosen a meal that she wanted to eat, to hell with appearances and what other people thought, and was enjoying it with the hedonistic bliss of someone who knew how to appreciate what really mattered in life.
"Looks good," Cordelia murmured, her eyes actually lingering far above the contents of the plate. Faith looked up, catching sight of the perusal, and grinned, cheeks dimpling engagingly.
"Wanna bite?" Suddenly there was a fork resting at her lips, the delicious hint of some type of smoky marinade teasing her tastebuds, and without further thought Cordelia opened her mouth. Strong teeth closed over the morsel, pulling it from the tines of the slowly retreating fork, and as she let herself fall into the pleasure to be had from the taste and feel of it all she closed her eyes, letting her head tilt back slightly, a whimper of enjoyment teasing out of her throat.
"God," Faith said, her voice husky as she took in the sight, "you can have it all if you want. Just so long as you let me feed it to you."
With a laugh, Cordelia opened her eyes, noting with pleasure the heavily lidded eyes, the languid lethargy of arousal coating the form of the girl sitting across from her. "I wouldn't want to deprive you of the pleasure of having it," she teased, spearing a plump, sweet shrimp from her own plate. Faith's eyes looked at it longingly, and with a smirk she extended her arm, bringing the bite to her date's lush lips.
Keeping their eyes locked, Faith grabbed the bit of seafood between her teeth, slowly pulling it into her mouth. A little drop of the golden sauce lingered on her bottom lip and without thinking Cordelia swiped it away, bringing the thumb that had captured the drop to her own lips, cleaning it with the tip of a pink tongue.
"Uh, C, I think that maybe I should stick with my food and you should stick with yours because, um, I'm not going to make it to the club if we don't."
That brought a smile to Cordelia's eyes and with a satisfied nod of her head, she agreed.
Dinner conversation following that was surprisingly smooth. They talked about the office, about television shows, about the fact that Faith had managed to get Angel's car away from the hotel before he figured out that she didn't have a license, both surprised by the comfortableness of the interaction. Cordelia interspersed the conversation with an occasional biting comment about an unfortunate fashion choice, and Faith found herself laughing along with the other girl, enjoying the repartee. It wasn't that Cordelia was cutting, just genuinely funny, with her traditional dryly sarcastic wit.
They'd ordered dessert when the bill came and Faith realized that as fun as this dating thing seemed to be, apparently she wasn't going to be able to do it more than once a month on her current salary. Not that it mattered, really, because money didn't mean anything to her. It was there some times and some times it wasn't, but regardless of the state of her bank account she'd always managed to make it through. So, throwing down a few greenbacks, she forgot all about it, returning to the much more delicious pleasure to be had in watching Cordelia enjoy the chocolate confection that she'd picked out.
Heads turned when they walked out of the restaurant, and Faith felt her chest swell a bit with pride. She was with the most beautiful woman there. Somehow she'd managed to work her way past everything that had happened before and had just taken someone that she never would've figured would've wanted to be seen in public with her out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, had shown her a wonderful time, and now was walking with her hand at the small of her date's back through a crowd of people who all wished that they could be her.
Cordelia had noticed the other girl's posture out of the corner of her eye, had seen the way Faith's face had lit up from within, and gracefully reached behind her, wrapping her fingers through those of the hand guiding her through the restaurant so that they were holding hands, walking side by side. It was a side of Faith that not many people got to see and even fewer realized existed at all. Walking with their fingers entwined and a bright smile on her face was a girl that appreciated the little things more than most anyone else Cordelia had ever met, probably because she'd never really had them before.
Once outside, Cordy tugged on the other girl's hand until Faith turned around, the look in her dark eyes a little shy. Faith wasn't sure why she suddenly felt awkward. Maybe it was because some part of her had been begging for approval all her life and right then, with Cordelia looking at her with a soft smile on her face, she somehow felt like she'd found it.
"Thank you for dinner, Faith," the Seer said, her voice low. "I haven't enjoyed myself that much in a long, long time."
As soon as she said the words, Cordelia leaned forward, her lips meeting Faith's for a soft, gentle kiss. Pulling away seconds later, the Seer reached up, tracing her thumb along the lush confines of a pouting lower lip, wiping away the smudge of lipstick that she'd left. "So, where to now?"
Faith cleared her throat in an attempt to find her voice again, supremely relieved when she discovered that she still possessed the ability to speak. "The Blue Monkey," she managed to get out.
Cordy arched one brow in amusement. "Where do you find these places?"
"Well, when a girl spends her nights roaming through the city looking for things to kill, she finds all kinds of interesting places."
Cordelia laughed at that, picturing the faces of anyone around them that had been standing close enough to hear what was actually an innocent statement. "Lead the way, then."
The Blue Monkey turned out to be a smoky little jazz and blues club hidden behind unassuming thick oak doors, and Cordelia turned to her companion in amusement as they submersed themselves in the dimly lit interior.
"You really seem to like this kind of music," she said when they were seated, leaning close to the relaxing brunette in an attempt to be heard over the tinny cry of a jazz trumpet. In fact, the band had a full complement of instruments, from a sax to a piano to a trumpet to a bass to a guitar, and the lithe coffee colored woman caressing the microphone had just the right amount of scratch in her voice.
"My Mom used to listen to old records over and over," Faith replied, her voice taking on a dreamy quality. "At night I'd lay in bed and listen to the music, the songs playing over and over again until I'd drift off to sleep."
She didn't add that the sound of the voices of the jazz and blues greats had covered up the noise of her mother and whoever she'd brought home with her in order to get enough money for a quick fix. She'd finally sold the old record player a little while before Faith left for good, using the money to pay for drugs that her body hadn't been able to buy any more.
Cordelia caught the sadness that had managed to slip, unbidden, into the other girl's voice but she didn't question, didn't push for more. Faith was an enigma to be worked through one slow layer at a time, and the way she figured it, they had all the time in the world.
"You don't mind, do you? I mean, I never even asked you if you liked it," the Slayer said suddenly, realizing that she hadn't even considered the possibility that Cordelia might not enjoy coming to a place like this. The thought made her shoulders tense up, and she searched the other girl's face worriedly.
"No, I like it," came the reassuring reply, and Faith relaxed back against her seat once more.
"Oh, that's good," the Slayer said, breathing a sigh of relief. Then, in a frenzy of uncertainty, she sat up again, body once again tight. "Do you want me to get you something to drink?"
"Maybe later," Cordelia murmured, reaching down to once again take her companion's hand in hers, rubbing a soothing thumb over the soft skin she found there.
They'd been sitting there, enjoying the music for close to half an hour, when the singer cast seductive dark eyes over the room. She leaned closer to the microphone, and in a sultry voice spoke directly to the waiting crowd. "We're going to slow things down for a little while. I want to see you all out on the dance floor, otherwise it means we're not doing things right."
The band segued into the opening strains of "When Its Sleepy Time Down South" and Cordelia looked at Faith with wide, pleading eyes.
"You want me to dance?" the Slayer asked, brows lowering as she prepared to refuse.
"Please," Cordelia pouted, tugging on their joined hands. Couples were already spilling out onto the dance floor, bodies wrapping around one another, and she desperately wanted to join them.
Faith looked from the dance floor to Cordelia and back again, every muscle in her body insisting that she remain seated exactly where she was, but despite that felt herself being pulled from her chair, being led by the hand out to a clear spot on the floor. Then Cordelia turned to her, wrapped her arms tightly around the Slayer's neck and lowered her head to the other girl's shoulder, warm puffs of breath teasing Faith's sensitive skin, and she forgot why it was that she didn't want to be out there in the first place.
Her arms sneaked around the Seer's slim waist, pulling their bodies even more closely together, and Faith closed her eyes, letting the soft crooning voice of the singer wash over her as they moved together slowly. She was caught up in a cocoon of soft, sweet smelling skin, with the taller girl's soft hair tickling the side of her face and the tender press of heavy breasts against her own and suddenly dancing became her new favorite activity.
She wasn't sure how long they stayed out on the dance floor but when Cordelia finally looked up at her, it was with eyes gone dark with arousal. And there, in the middle of the throng of people swaying beside them, each caught up in the net of seductive, tripping notes and a voice made out of pure Georgia honey, the Seer leaned forward and kissed her again, just another light press of lips that signified far more that just the need for a little show of affection.
"You're so beautiful," Cordelia whispered as she pulled away, long fingers coming up to smooth a strand of silky long hair back behind the delicate shell of the other girl's ear.
"Not nearly as beautiful as you," Faith husked, silently reveling in the compliment. She knew she was attractive, could tell from the lust in eyes that tracked her movements that others found her appearance pleasing, but no one had ever really told her that before when there wasn't something that they expected to gain from the words. Cordelia had said it simply because she believed it, and the rush of emotion that the sentiment brought with it hit the Slayer in an unexpected rush.
They stayed until the bartenders gave last call, simply swaying together under the caress of an anonymous blues singer's voice. Stumbling out of the bar, hands once again pressed tightly together, Faith realized that she was really, truly happy. Following closely on the heels of that revelation was the knowledge that she was in deep, deep trouble.
The drive back to Cordelia's apartment didn't take nearly long enough, and sooner than she wished the Slayer was throwing the car in park and pulling the keys from the ignition. She followed Cordelia to the front of her building, up to her floor until they stood in front of the door to her apartment. The Seer managed to fit her key in the lock without dropping it, something that she wasn't sure she was going to be able to do under the erotic scrutiny of dark chocolate eyes. When she finally swung the recalcitrant piece of oak open, she turned to capture Faith's gaze.
"Would you like to come in for a little while?" she asked, hoping that the nervousness that she was feeling wasn't too evident in her voice.
Faith smiled gently, then shook her head. "Not tonight," she husked, the desire clearly evident in her tone wiping away any sting that the words might have had. "Maybe next time."
"But you'll at least kiss me good-night," Cordelia whispered, her voice suddenly disappearing in the face of the night's ending.
A slim hand slid up her arm and over her shoulder, winding its way into the mass of hair she had pulled back at the nape of her neck, pulling the Seer forward until their lips met in a soft, wet caress. This time there was the gentle flick of a teasing tongue against her flesh and Faith opened up to let the questing organ in. Pressing closer, her mouth opening wider, she deepened the kiss until she realized that she hadn't remembered to breathe for longer than was wise. Pulling away reluctantly, planting several chaste little kisses on the swollen lips in front of her, the Slayer pushed down her burgeoning arousal.
"I think its time for me to go," she said breathlessly, closing her eyes as she struggled to get herself back under control.
"Okay," Cordelia rasped out, well aware that it wasn't the most elegant dismissal that she'd ever offered, but unable to come up with more at the moment. Deciding to retreat to the relative safety of her apartment while she still had her wits about her, the Seer turned to disappear inside, only to be brought short by the tug of a strong hand on her wrist. She turned around to see Faith looking at her shyly.
"C, do you think its too early to tell you that I think I'm falling in love with you?"
Cordelia only moaned, jerking her arm forward and bringing the still attached Slayer with her. Using her free hand to slam the door shut, she nearly fell on the other woman, her lips once again meeting the ones she'd been desiring all night. "God Faith," she managed to mutter, not breaking contact with the other girl's mouth, "I don't want you to go."
Faith didn't really want to go either, so she allowed herself to be pulled down the dark hallway and into the bedroom, losing her shoes somewhere on the way back. Cordelia didn't bother to flip on the light when the got there, just tugged desperately on the straps of Faith's dress until she realized that the garment wasn't going to go anywhere until she found the zipper. But that hot mouth was still on hers, making it hard to think, and her fingers slipped against slippery fabric until she grew frustrated with the attempt and broke the kiss. Spinning the bemused Slayer around, she grabbed the zipper tab between two fingers viciously, tugging down until she bared all of the smooth skin beneath, her lips falling to taste the silky flesh bared by the vee of the fabric.
"I want it off… take it off," she commanded, kissing her way across the fluid muscles under her lips. Her own hands were tugging at the straps, trying to pull them free of slim shoulders, and she moaned in relief when the garment finally slid to the floor. Faith wasn't wearing much underneath, just a scrap of red lace, and Cordelia let her hands slide around until her palms were flattened on the taut expanse of the other girl's abdomen. Tracing the questing limbs upward, she cupped full breasts, her thumbs brushing eagerly against rapidly hardening nipples as she pushed aside the fall of dark hair flowing down the Slayer's back with her chin, giving her better access to the flexing tendons of the other girl's neck.
Faith was lost in a haze of feeling. It seemed that Cordelia was everywhere, her lips and her tongue and her exploring fingers capturing every single inch of her burning flesh, even though she was well aware that it wasn't possible.
"Cor…" she whispered, her arms raising to wind their way through the other girl's hair, pulling it from its confines until it was free. She was pressing instinctively back against the other girl's solid form, groaning in frustration as her skin came in contact with fabric instead of flesh. "Want to feel you."
The hands cupping her breasts fell away and a few seconds later she heard the rustle of cloth behind her. When Cordelia returned there was absolutely nothing separating their bodies but the scant little she still wore, and impatient hands pushed that down and out of the way.
Turning in the other girl's loose embrace, Faith brought herself face to face with her soon-to-be lover, taking in the intense look of arousal in simmering hazel eyes, the slight flaring of nostrils around the scent of the two of them mingling together. She was surprised when strong hands on her shoulders propelled her backward, but then she was sinking into the soft comfort of a bed and it didn't matter any more. Cordelia was stretched out on top of her, one slim thigh pressing against the junction between her legs, and the hard tips of aroused nipples were bumping against her own as their lips met once more.
It wasn't long before the hot cavern of the Seer's mouth made its way down her neck, nipping at the flesh it found on its way, until it was hovering over the taut nub of her nipple. Searing, harsh pants of breath burned into her flesh until finally those soft lips descended, sucking in the aching flesh. Faith's hands came up to wrap themselves in Cordelia's thick hair, her back arched and her mouth opened on a choked cry of encouragement. The sharp edge of teeth sliding over her skin brought with it another wordless moan, and she felt her legs part further in automatic response.
Cordelia grinned against the flesh she was teasing, pleased with the movement. She wasn't ready to move on yet, though, and kissed her way across the Slayer's chest to the other full breast, her tongue painting the skin along her path. Propping herself up on one forearm, she let the fingers of her other hand skim down the quivering muscles of Faith's belly to tease at the soft hair they encountered. The other girl's hips bucked wildly as she whimpered, and Cordelia released the flesh her mouth still held captive with a pop.
Faith was sure that she was about to die. She literally burned with arousal, and the teasing brush of the ends of soft hair trailing down her torso seared into her flesh. Then, arms that were far stronger than she remembered wrapped around her thighs, jerking her body down, and she reached up blindly, fingers wrapping around the spindles on the headboard as her biceps tensed in response. The broad flat of a tongue had insinuated itself between her swollen lips, lapping in long strokes against her sensitive skin, and with an incoherent cry her head snapped back, eyes opening though they didn't see anything.
Before she could prepare herself for it, two slim fingers were pressing into her, curling upward to rub against the spot designed to drive her wild, and that soft tongue had stiffened and was flicking roughly against the hard bit of flesh at the apex of her thighs. It was all too much and she cried out roughly, a hoarse shout pushing its way past her lips as she felt herself convulse, felt her hips freeze and then buck upwards wildly.
"C… Cor… baby," she huffed, giving up her death grip on the headboard to reach down and wrap her fingers through the other girl's hair, pulling her upward. She wasn't sure that her body could take any more stimulation at the moment, though from what she could tell her lover didn't appear to intend to stop any time soon.
"You… that… C…" she mumbled incoherently, attacking the other girl's neck with fervor. She was desperate to return the favor, her hands wild as they stroked down Cordelia's sides, as they came up to cup heavy breasts, her fingers pinching hard nipples.
Cordelia's answer was a deep, encouraging moan, watching through hooded hazel eyes as that dark head disappeared down her stomach to bury itself between her thighs.
Meanwhile, back at the Hyperion, Angel watched as Gunn stuffed yet another Cheese Puff into his mouth, washing it down with a swig of Dr. Pepper.
"You think they're alright?" he asked, his brow scrunched with worry. "Think they're having a good time?"
"They're fine, man. Stop worrying," Gunn replied, his tone bored. He was trying to watch the game, but Angel insisted on breaking into the sports analyst's commentary every few seconds to offer his own.
"Think they'll be back soon?"
"No," Wesley shot back distractedly. He had $50 riding on this game and if Angel didn't shut-up soon, he'd be forced to take drastic measures.
With a deep sigh, the vampire tried once again to become interested in the players running about on ESPN Game Night. "I hope she doesn't wreck the car."
There was something heavy pressing down on her back, but for some reason Faith didn't feel the urgent need to displace it. In fact, she didn't feel the urgent need to do anything but lay there and bask in the extreme satisfaction of deliciously sore muscles and heavy, lazy limbs. After a moment she realized that the weight on her back was warming the flesh there with rhythmic breathing, and she smiled widely.
Cordelia. She was in Cordelia's bed with the Seer sprawled out on top of her and some of the most beautiful sunlight that she'd ever seen was trickling through the windows to her left. Moving slowly, she rolled over so that the other girl flopped onto her back, then took advantage of the position to nestle herself in the vee of spread legs.
Hazel eyes fluttered open as a heavy warmth settled down over her chest only to be confronted with glowing chocolate orbs only inches away from hers. Blinking in confusion for a few seconds before finally realizing just exactly what she was seeing, Cordelia let a broad smile stretch across her features in reaction.
"Hey you," she whispered, surprised when Faith leaned down for a short, soft kiss.
"Hey you," came the reply, the other girl's voice sleepy soft and scratchy, and Cordelia felt the fire in her belly suddenly rekindle.
"You got plans for the day?" she asked breathlessly, drawing her fingers over the soft skin of her lover's hip.
"Not a one," Faith replied. Seconds later her eyes widened in surprise, her mouth opened on a gasp, and her neck arched as she felt long fingers bury themselves in her once more.
"Not a one?" Cordelia questioned, watching through the haze of arousal as Faith raised herself up on her forearms, supporting her weight so that she could rock slowly up and down on the Seer's hand.
"Well, I'm sure that I could be persuaded to come up with a few," the Slayer gasped in reply, struggling to keep her eyes open.
"Hmmm," Cordelia murmured, reaching up to bite at a particularly alluring tendon in Faith's neck before soothing it with a lazy swipe of the tongue, "maybe we could go get some breakfast or take a walk in the park or check out a museum or do some shopping…"
Swollen lips descended on hers, cutting off any further conversation and Cordelia laughed with the sheer joy of it all.
They didn't make it to breakfast until much later, and after the duo finally made their way out of the shower, they realized that the only thing that Faith had to wear was the dress from the night before. Cordelia took great delight in garbing the other girl in a pair of Capri pants and a cute little sleeveless button-up shirt that tied off at her midriff, even as Faith shot her looks designed to kill.
"What? I think you look adorable," she said with a smile and a soft kiss, and Faith couldn't do anything more than roll her eyes.
"Uh-huh," she grumbled, before lapsing into silence. She didn't know what to do now, didn't know whether she should ask if she could see Cordelia again that night or if that would be too pushy, so she stood there, shifting from one foot to the other, swallowing convulsively as she studied the wall in front of her with intense concentration.
"Faith?" Cordelia asked, growing concerned at the sudden change in the other girl's demeanor.
The Slayer drew in a deep breath then blinked, bringing her eyes up to meet questioning hazel. "Cordelia?"
"What's the matter? You're not… I mean, last night was…" the Seer trailed off, now finding herself staring at the floor as if it held the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe.
"No… no, last night was… incredible." Faith blushed at the slightly dreamy quality her voice had taken on, then struggled to straighten her shoulders and regain as much of her composure as was possible in the outfit she was currently wearing. "I just didn't… well… I don't… What do we do now?"
"Oh, well, I guess we just take it one day at a time," Cordelia replied nervously, nibbling on the corner of her lip.
"Actually I meant now, as in… well, now. Can I see you tonight? Is it too soon?" she clarified, watching as a bright smile broke out across her lover's face.
"You don't even have to leave if you don't want to," the Seer said, feeling a wave of relief wash through her. She'd been afraid that things had moved too fast, that Faith regretted what had happened.
"No, I definitely have to leave," Faith protested vehemently, looking down at the pink nightmare of a shirt she was wearing. "I can't wear this all day."
In the car on the way back to the hotel, Cordelia suddenly realized that if the others hadn't already noticed that Faith hadn't returned yet then they most certainly would when the two of them came strolling in together and Faith looked like she'd traded in her Maxim wardrobe for a more Cosmo look. Of course, there wasn't really anything she could do about it now since she'd already decided to accompany the Slayer, for some reason not wanting to let the other girl out of her sight, other than hope that everyone else had found something to occupy their bright Saturday… mid-afternoon.
It was, really, too much to hope for, and when they'd swung through the front doors to find everyone wandering aimlessly around the lobby, Cordelia had merely let out a resigned sigh and steeled herself for the coming scene.
"Oh, uh, hi." This was from Angel, who was lingering back out of the way of any stray shafts of sunlight. "Uh, glad to see you, uh, made it back okay."
He was obviously trying his best to avoid any mention of Faith's near 24-hour absence, and Cordelia could only hope that the others picked up on his cue.
"Yes," Wesley concurred, managing to only tweak the ear of his glasses once. Maybe it had something to do with the outfit. Faith was much less intimidating in sandals. "Not that we were wondering where you were, mind you, or at all afraid that something had happened..."
"Or that you'd wrecked the car," Angel threw in, then cringed at the glare Wesley sent his way.
"What the hell're you wearing?" Gunn blurted out, apparently no longer able to keep that observation to himself. "I mean, you go out in that ferociously hot little red number and come back looking like a Cordy-clone. Jesus, they say you start to look like the people you date after a little while, but don't you think it's a little early?"
Faith took offense at that, glancing down at her cutesy little shirt in outrage. "I didn't pick it out. Its her fault."
An accusing finger was pointed Cordelia's way, and she rolled her eyes. Nothing was ever simple.
"I told them you were fine," Fred said brightly. "All night they sat there, wondering if you were okay, wondering if you were having a good time, whining about how you were going to wreck the car, but I told them that they didn't need to give it another thought. They're having a good time, I said, and look, here you are, all shiny and happy and in one piece. You, uh, are in one piece, aren't you? Well, aside from the clothes. Just how did you lose your dress, Faith?"
"She didn't lose it," Cordelia ground out.
"Oh man, you didn't run into trouble did you? The car is fine, isn't it?" Angel asked worried, stepping forward to inspect them more closely before realizing quickly that it wasn't a very wise move on his part.
"Caddy's fine," Faith said with a wide grin, tossing the keys over to him in a high arch. "Great ride, really."
"Yeah," Gunn said sotto voce, elbowing Wesley in the side. "Its got a real big backseat."
"I mean, not that I was really worried about the car," Angel offered with a weak laugh. "Because I knew that you'd take good care of her."
"Angel, could you give it a rest about the car," Wesley mumbled under his breath, shooting Gunn an evil glare for his comment at the same time.
"Just what do you know about the backseat?" Faith asked, grinning widely, unlike Cordelia who was doing her best Medusa impersonation and sincerely hoping that her so-called friends would take the hint and turn into stone.
"Oh nothing, just have to sit back there some times," the big black man said flippantly, and Faith watched with no little incredulity as a deep red blush crawled up Wesley's cheeks. Interesting.
"Yes, well, the car is fine, the girls are fine, and I need to… go look at a new book that I'm researching," the ex-Watcher stammered, beginning to backpedal in the general direction of his office.
"So," Fred began, smiling shyly, "you two did have a good time, didn't you? I mean, you were gone all night, so you must've."
It was Cordelia's turn to blush furiously, at which Faith laughed, the dimples in her cheeks dipping deeply into her flesh.
"Yeah Fred, we had a great time. In fact, I'm hoping to do it again very, very soon."
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