Title: Going Down in Style
"Do you think you could teach me about sex?" Faith stopped in mid-swing, the punching bag that she'd been abusing taking the opportunity to come back and smack her in the mid-section, and as the air left her lungs in a huff she looked up at Fred questioningly.
"Teach you about what?" she asked, trying to keep the squeak out of her voice. It wasn't something that she'd expected, obviously, and wasn't exactly sure how she was going to work her way out of this one.
"Well, like before. You know, when I wanted to learn more about kissing because I hadn't really done it before and I wanted to make sure that I was good at it before I went and tried it with Wesley. I want you to teach me about sex, just like you did with kissing." Earnest green-gold eyes were staring up at her trustingly and Faith reached out blindly for a towel that she was sure she'd dropped nearby earlier.
"Uh, Fred, I don't know…" she started, only to be cut off by the other girl.
"I mean, you know how to do it obviously, since you get so much practice and all with Cordelia," Faith had to smile at that. Ever since that first date, they'd grown even closer. Occasionally, when all was quiet up front, she'd even been able to coerce her all-too-willing lover upstairs for a little mid-afternoon rendezvous. "So I was thinking that you'd be the best person to ask, you know, especially since you helped me out before. And we are friends, and that's what friends are there for, to ask questions and to help one another out and…"
"Fred, I'm not going to sleep with you," Faith said, perhaps a little more sharply than she'd intended.
"Oh, well," the other girl stumbled, blinking rapidly, "I wasn't expecting you to actually… I mean, that is, I didn't think that we'd…"
"Oh, okay." Faith breathed a sigh of relief at that. She was fairly certain that Cordy wouldn't be too happy with the 'It was all for the sake of knowledge' reasoning behind a liaison with Fred. Not that she'd actually sleep with Fred, for numerous reasons, the main one being that she had absolutely no desire to be with anyone other than her lover.
Silence fell between the two girls, one blushing furiously while the other was caught up in the joys to be had in a new relationship. But then Faith noticed that Fred had started to fidget quite a bit, and she broke herself free.
Clearing her throat, she sought to clarify. "Just exactly what do you want from me then? Pointers?"
As far as she was aware, the physicist's fledging relationship with Wes was moving forward with about the same amount of speed as an ancient glacier, so she couldn't imagine that the pair would be anywhere near the copulation phase. But, how was she to know what went on behind closed doors? She certainly hoped that the others didn't know what went on behind hers, though she imagined that they had a fairly good idea. Ah, but what they didn't know about their beloved Seer…
"No, I was hoping that you could… could… help me sort a few things out," Fred replied, blushing deeply. Her eyes slid downward to fasten on a particularly fascinating nail in the baseboards, and Faith sighed. For once in her life the other girl was actually being rather closed-mouth, and just this once it was infuriating.
"And what do you need me to help you sort out?" she prodded, reminding herself to be patient with her friend.
"I was hoping that you could show me what you and Cordy do," the other girl said in a rush, and it took a few minutes for the words to sink in to the Slayer.
"Fred, I thought I explained that I…"
"I don't want to sleep with you," the embarrassed girl burst out, her face so red now that it challenged the glow of a ripened tomato, and Faith tried not to let the words in any way mess with her ego.
"Why would you want to know about what Cordy and I do?" she asked finally, extremely confused. "I mean, sure it might help out a little with you and Wes…"
"Its not for me and Wesley. I think that Wesley is interested in someone else and I… well… think that I'm not really interested in Wes," she finished, stressing the last word.
"Not really interested in Wes?" Faith repeated, brows beetling together in confusion. "Wes is interested in someone else? Who?"
"I… I don't want to say," Fred stuttered, shaking her head rapidly from side to side in an attempt to underscore her reticence.
"If he's led you on, if he's been playing with you…" Faith growled, feeling her anger rise.
"No, no, nothing like that," Fred broke in, grabbing the other girl's arm only to be momentarily distracted by the play of muscle beneath her palm. "Anyway, I don't think I'm interested in Wes either."
Again she stressed the name, and Faith tried once more to put it together. "So you're not interested in Wes and you want to learn more about what C and I… do… Fred?"
The Slayer looked up with a question in her eyes, startled when the other girl blushed even further and smiled up at her shyly.
"Uh, so you're… that is… I mean… You want to know what things are like between Cordy and I for your own personal use?" Faith drawled, slowly beginning to put it all together. "So that you can put the moves on some hottie chick that you've not been telling us about?"
"No," Fred scoffed. "I haven't been hiding anyone. I just think that… well, you know… that maybe one day I'd like to. Put the moves on some hottie chick, that is."
At that Faith threw back her head and laughed, the sound filling up the room. "Yeah babe, I can show you what Cordy and I do."
That was how Faith and Fred ended up renting porn. What Cordelia said when she returned to her apartment after work to find her lover and the normally demure little physicist watching with rapt fascination as a generously endowed woman explained the many uses and benefits of a strap-on is something that probably shouldn't ever be repeated.
"So Fred is thinking of switching sides?" Cordelia asked later… much later… when she'd finally calmed down. Fred had been ushered back to the hotel room, Cordelia had been left alone with the video tapes just long enough for her to decide that they needed to try out some of the things that the ever so instructive lady had been talking about, and Faith had found herself on her back only seconds after she'd walked back into the apartment. Not that she'd minded, really, though she was fairly certain that one of Cordy's neighbors had called the cops on them for disturbing the peace. Good thing the L.A. police force far too busy to investigate those things.
"Uh-huh," Faith replied, rolling over on her stomach, wincing as tender flesh hit the mattress. "And she told me that she thinks Wes is interested in someone else, but she won't spill who it is."
"Someone else? Who someone else? There's not anyone else around that Wesley knows to be interested in," Cordelia scoffed, one hand dropping down to idly scratch her lover's back.
"There's always Gunn," Faith said teasingly, resisting the urge to arch her back like a cat at the feel of Cordelia's short nails teasing over her flesh.
"Gunn?" the Seer asked, snickering at the picture of the two together. Stiff as a board, overly starched to his bones British Wesley and baggy jeans wearing escaped from the 'hood Gunn? As if it wasn't hard enough to picture the boys together even absent that, the thought of the two opposites together made her laugh. "Please. Could there be any two people that were more different?"
"Uhhhhhh… us," Faith drawled, snuggling closer to the warmth of the woman beside her. "We're not exactly two peas from the same pod, sweetheart."
"Yeah, but… no… I just don't see it. Wesley and Gunn? I sincerely doubt they're…" Cordelia trailed off, shaking her head in disbelief at the simple thought of it.
"That they're what? Queer? Please, C, like you can tell just by lookin' at someone," Faith snorted, running her eyes up and down the other girl's body pointedly.
Leaning over to bite Faith's shoulder teasingly, Cordelia murmured, "I still don't see it."
"Keep that up and the only thing you'll be seeing is the ceiling," Faith growled warningly, cutting her dark eyes up at her gloating lover.
"Oh really," Cordelia replied provocatively, slowly biting down on the same patch of flesh once more.
Before she could even blink, Faith was on top of her, looking down seductively as she lowered her mouth to the other girl's neck.
"Uh-huh, because baby, this time I'm on top."
Angel was standing over her, a shy smile on his face, and Cordelia spun around in her chair with a sigh.
"And you're hovering over me because…" she asked pertly, a fake bright smile flashing his way.
"I need you to talk to Fred for me," he said in an overly-friendly voice which didn't at all bode well for anyone involved in whatever he was cooking up.
"Talk to Fred about…" she drew out, looking at him expectantly.
"Well, she's seemed a little out of it lately and I think…" he started, only to be cut off as Cordelia waved at him dismissively.
"Oh, I know what's going on," she said, breathing a sigh of relief. Fred was merely contemplating life on the other side of the fence, nothing to be worried about.
"And you haven't done anything about the problem?" Now Angel seemed affronted, and after examining his statement for a moment, so was Cordelia.
"Problem? You think it's a problem?" she fumed. Of all the things that she might have expected to come out of his mouth, this certainly wasn't one of them. Why that closet homophobe…
"Don't you?" he asked, his voice hitting a high register in indignation.
"Absolutely not, and you should know better than to even say something like that to me." Cordelia was on her feet in a flash, arms crossed tightly over her chest as she glared at the object of her ire.
"Well, excuse me," Angel exclaimed, his arms coming to cross over his chest in a mirror of Cordelia's pose. "I wasn't aware that you were a proponent of drug use."
"I'll have you know… Wait a minute. What're you talking about?" Cordelia stopped in mid-rant, tilting her head to the side in confusion. "You think Fred's on drugs? I mean, she's always been a little spacey, but I don't think that she's been hiding a major crack habit from us or anything."
"Well, I know she is," Angel protested, nodding his head in conviction. "Everytime I see her she's smiling and humming and singing that she doesn't want to do things because she's high."
"Because she's high?" Cordelia repeated, then smiled when understanding hit. "Oh that… that's nothing. Its all Faith's fault, really."
"Faith gave Fred drugs?" The vamp was slowly becoming increasingly frustrated with his confidant's lack of upset over this issue.
"No, she gave her Afroman," Cordelia explained patiently.
"Are you speaking in some kind of secret code that I'm not aware of here? What the hell is an Afroman?" the clearly irritated man nearly shouted, only to be shushed by Cordelia.
"Not a what… a who. You know, the singer. Faith just loves that song of his 'Because I Got High' and apparently she's made a copy of the CD for Fred," the Seer elaborated, watching as confusion gave way to tentative understanding.
"So she's not on drugs," he checked, narrowing his eyes.
"I can assure you. She's not on drugs." With a small shrug of her shoulders, she dismissed the concern, much as Angel would have done had he actually used his brain before coming to speak to her.
"Oh, then what were you talking about?"
Cordelia froze for a moment, then quickly remembered that she wasn't dealing with the most observant man on the planet. "Its just a girl thing, I'm sure," she said, tongue in cheek.
"Oh… a girl thing," Angel repeated, trying to look like he was really cool about whatever that might be. "I see."
"You wish," Cordelia muttered under her breath, then turned away from her ever so confused boss with a smile.
"Soooo," Faith drawled, leaning one hip up against Cordelia's desk, smiling down at her girlfriend. The Seer had a pencil tucked behind her ear and cute little glasses perched on her nose and Faith thought that it was by far the most adorable thing she'd ever seen.
"So what?" Cordelia asked expectantly, arching a brow up at her grinning lover.
"So what're we doing tonight?"
Cordy sighed then rolled her shoulders, popping several vertebra. "I don't know what you're doing, but I've got to stay here and finish some research."
Faith pouted, sad brown eyes focusing on her companion's desk calendar. "But…" she started, only to trail off.
Sometimes she didn't understand her lover. At times she was one of the cockiest people Cordelia had ever known, strutting around the place like she was the best thing to come through the lobby of the Hyperion in years, while other times she was almost like a lost and lonely child, watching the Seer with dark, brooding eyes when she thought the other girl wasn't looking.
"I just thought… you know, its been four months and I thought… I don't know, that we could do something. You know, to celebrate," Faith said breezily, pushing away from the desk. "But, you know, its no big deal. I mean, I can't expect you to be with me every night…"
With a sigh, Cordelia pushed back away from her desk. Taking her glasses off with one hand and rubbing the bridge of her nose with the other, she ran back through what the other girl had said, piecing together the disjointed parts in hopes of finding a coherent statement. Then it hit her… four months. They'd been together four months now.
It didn't seem like it had been that long, yet she couldn't believe that it had only been four months. They'd been nearly inseparable since that night. Faith had appropriated half of her closet and a key to her apartment and spent most of the week in her bed. The few times that they didn't stay at her apartment, she crashed here at the Hyperion and had stashed away enough emergency outfits so that the others weren't aware of when she stayed over. Not that they didn't know the nature and extent of her relationship with Faith. If they hadn't figured it out by now then they were either the stupidest people on the planet or blind, and she was fairly certain that none of her co-workers were either. She just didn't want to flaunt her private life, and so accordingly tried to keep her relationship with Faith somehow hers, not available for general consumption by her friends.
The four months had been, well… interesting, to say the least. Living with Faith was never boring, whether it was waiting up half the night worried until she stumbled in, a few bloodstains marring the previously clean surface of her shirt, or dealing with a woman who was still half-girl and who still loved to play her beloved PlayStation II, or whether they were indulging in their much more fun nocturnal, and occasionally diurnal, activities. Lorne had been right… innocent wasn't a look that suited her.
Faith was also surprisingly settled. She'd adapted to a stable relationship with remarkable ease, something which had frankly shocked the Seer. In fact, she seemed to be much better at it than was Cordelia, who still couldn't bring herself to utter those three little words that the other girl appeared to be able to offer her freely. Before she left in the afternoon for work, at the height of her pleasure, before rolling over and drifting off to sleep she'd say it. "I love you."
It wasn't that Cordelia didn't feel the same way… she just didn't feel as comfortable expressing it. She was afraid that if she said the words and made it real that something would happen to take it all away, so she held back, even against the pull of disappointed dark eyes that wanted nothing more than to hear the sentiment repeated. Soon, though, she'd do it…
"We can do something when I finish up here," she said finally by way of reply, stopping the retreating girl in her tracks. Faith had managed to make it half-way across the lobby, the stiff set of her shoulders the best barrier she could throw up in the face of having her offer rejected.
"Not if its too much trouble. You'll probably be tired," she threw back over her shoulder, clearly sulking, and Cordelia made her way over to the other girl. Placing slim hands on shoulders covered in a thick layer of black leather, she turned Faith around, planting a soft kiss on her lips.
"You'll never be too much trouble. Really, I want to see you tonight. I just need to finish this, okay?"
Faith nodded shortly, then smiled. "Yeah, I'll go out and see if I can't take care of some business myself."
Grabbing hold of the Slayer's lapels, Cordelia pulled her closer, giving her another kiss. This one was longer and a bit deeper and when they pulled away, Faith's smile was much wider.
"You be careful," Cordelia teased. "I'm too young to be a widow."
Faith snorted at that, then turned and walked out the front door, leaving Cordelia there to finish her work. She did so sooner than she'd expected, having used her mental timekeeper to determine that Faith would probably give her about two hours before returning. That meant that she still had at least a half an hour, and the Seer decided to make good use of it.
Locking the front door, knowing that Faith had a key and would be able to make her way back in without problem, she headed upstairs, sneaking into the Slayer's room. There were candles scattered about, used initially to chase away the musty smell of a room that had been closed up too long, left there now because Faith had discovered that she liked the softer light. So, finding the other girl's Zippo in the drawer where she always kept it, having given up smoking when she realized that it was impeding her ability to slay, Cordelia went around the room until it was ablaze with the glow of countless lit candles.
Deciding that it was a nice effect, Cordelia moved on to the next item on her agenda… herself. Running a brush through her hair to remove any of the tangles that might have developed during the day, she contemplated what to wear. The few things that she had at the hotel were mainly the necessities, nothing especially exciting, and after running through her work-place wardrobe mentally, she decided not to wear any of it. In fact, she decided that she just wouldn't wear anything at all.
She'd just folded up the last of the day's clothes when she heard the clomp of boots coming down the hallway. Looking around furiously to make sure that everything was as perfect as the short amount of time she'd had to prepare could make it, Cordelia rushed over to the bed, rolling into a lazy position on her side just as the door swung open to reveal her lover.
"C…" Faith whispered, her eyes immediately drawn to the figure on her bed. The soft light from the candles bathed the other girl in a golden glow, alternately hiding and accentuating her features, and the Slayer was sure that her lover was the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen.
"I've been waiting on you." Cordelia had pitched her voice as low as it would go, hoping that it would come out as seductive and not as if she'd been taking testosterone treatments, and was pleasantly surprised at the pitch she achieved.
Faith was across the room in a flash, shedding her clothing wildly until she stood by the side of the bed gloriously bare. Falling to her knees on the mattress, she crawled over to where her lover lay, her dark hair falling in a curtain over the both of them as she bent down to kiss the lips she hadn't stopped thinking about for the past two hours.
"I love you," she whispered, the words fading into oblivion as the Seer brought their mouths together firmly.
One minute they were sleeping, bodies wrapped comfortably around one another in a warm cocoon of flesh, and the next they were jerked rudely awake, the flick of the overhead light burning into eyes that hadn't had the time to prepare for it.
"Faith have you seen…" the voice trailed off, and the Slayer rolled over onto her side, shielding her eyes with one hand as she tried to make out the form of whoever it was that had burst in. It was Angel, who was shifting from foot to foot, looking sheepishly from the bed to the door and back again as if he couldn't decide if what he had to say was important enough to have to stay there any longer.
"Yes?" Faith prompted, pulling the covers up a little higher to cover her lover's naked torso, feeling the other girl start to wiggle awake beside her.
"Uh, Cordelia," the vampire finished weakly, doe brown eyes dropping to the floor.
"Is that who I think it is?" Cordelia muttered, rolling over so that her face was buried in the crook of a shoulder.
"If by that you mean a vamp who's had centuries to learn how to knock then you'd be right," Faith replied, shooting Angel a look meant to set him aflame where he stood.
"I mean a vamp who'd better have a damn good reason for bursting into your room or else he's going to find himself on the wrong side of a pointy wooden object," the Seer murmured, burrowing further into her hiding place.
Faith, meanwhile, was studying the man standing in front of her. Something seemed… well, not right. Usually he'd be stammering or stuttering or doing the best impersonation of an undead blush that she'd seen, but he wasn't. Instead he was just standing there, exhaustion sketched in every line of his form, from the slumped curve of his shoulders to the tight pull of his pale skin.
"C, I think you need to get up," she said slowly, aware that something was very wrong with this picture.
Intrigued, Cordelia pried herself away from the safe haven of her lover's shoulder, peeking up to see what was going on. Instantly she noted the grim set of her friend's features, and with a sudden sense of foreboding she sat up straighter, pulling the sheet closer around her body.
"What's wrong?" she asked, suddenly afraid to hear the answer.
"I've been trying to call you," was her only reply, the words oddly hollow.
The sense of unease grew at his words, the evasive non-evasion of someone who couldn't quite find the words to say whatever it was that they needed to say.
"What's wrong?" she repeated, her throat tightening. She wanted to get up and go to him, wanted to wrap her arms around his shoulders and pull out of him whatever it was that had her normally slightly depressed co-worker looking worse than she'd ever seen before.
"It's… It's… Buffy's dead," he managed to choke out finally, soulful brown eyes looking up at the Seer in the vain hopes that he'd somehow find what he needed there to fix the gaping hole inside of him. He didn't see it though, didn't see anything other than the sudden pang of compassion as she pulled herself up out of the bed, heedless of her nudity, and crossed the room to wrap her arms around him as tightly as she could manage.
At the touch he felt everything inside him break, felt the tears that he hadn't been able to cry before, that he hadn't even known that he could cry, rush down his cheeks in a tinge of pinkish pain. Strong arms tightened around the slim shape in front of him and he let his head fall to the soft skin of her shoulder, his entire body shivering.
"Oh baby," Cordelia whispered, running her fingers through his hair. "I'm so sorry."
As she continued to rock him, whispering words of solace and comfort, Faith just lay where she was, a look of stunned shock on her face.
Buffy was dead. Dead. Buffy. She was gone, dead, no longer here for… For what? For Faith to say she was sorry, to try and make things up, to try and forge some kind of bond that the small part of her brain that was still rational told her that they never would have had? Her one last chance at reconciliation gone, forever. Buffy was gone, which meant that she was alone, the Chosen One now. The Slayer.
Gone. Gone. Buffy was gone. There would never be a Faith and Buffy, never be the two Slayers fighting side by side, never be anything else between them. It was over, all over, and she hadn't even gone to Sunnydale to see the other girl. Hadn't apologized, hadn't told her that she had never meant for it all to happen like it had. Hadn't told it that it was okay that the other girl had gutted her, had stuck a knife in her belly and left her for dead. Hadn't told her that once upon a time she'd fancied herself in love with her. All unsaid, all meaningless, all nothing in the face of the sudden emptiness that was clawing away at her.
Reaching blindly over the side of the bed she grasped a discarded tee shirt, sliding it over her head. Jeans followed, pulled from wherever they'd fallen when she'd worn them last, and when she was finally dressed, she got up the strength to look over to where Cordelia still stood, her body gently soothing the pain of someone who had ten lifetimes of pain inside of him. There were socks and shoes and a jacket and suddenly she was dressed, was ready to go somewhere, anywhere, away from here, from this room where the words just spoken hung far too heavily in the air for her to breathe.
Moving mechanically, she pulled a robe from the back of a chair, walking over to where the vampire stood with his leather jacket covered arms wrapped around the naked flesh of her lover. When he saw her there he backed away, embarrassment written clearly across his expressive features, and she slid the worn cloth over the other girl's shoulders, watching as it was belted, as all that flesh that she'd just found comfort with disappeared.
"I'm…. I'm gonna go tell the others," Angel rasped, straightening his shoulders in an attempt to reclaim some part of his self that he'd just lost. Not pride, not composure… nothing like that, because those things didn't matter when you didn't even realize that they existed anymore. No, he wanted the fake comfort of pretending that things were normal, that they were going to be alright.
Cordelia watched him go with sad eyes, her own tears mingling with his where the material of the robe had soaked them from the skin of her shoulder. She was in shock, both from the outpouring of emotion that she'd just witnessed and from the proclamation that an old friend, one that she'd always thought to be invincible, was dead. A dead Slayer, and suddenly she wanted to wrap her arms around the dark figure hovering to her left and never let her go.
Instead she just turned slowly, confusion written clearly across her face as she took in the other girl's appearance, from the heavy black boots up to the old faded tee.
"I've gotta go," was all Faith said by way of reply, her voice sandpaper rough, full of restrained emotion.
"Don't go," Cordelia whispered, one hand reaching out to run through disheveled dark hair, wanting to smooth back the tangled mess.
At her touch the Slayer flinched away, chocolate eyes narrowing. "Don't touch me," she hissed, wrapped too deeply in her own pain to see the pang of intense hurt that her words caused.
"You can't run away from this, Faith. Can't run away from me." Cordelia wasn't sure what was going on, but she knew that if she let Faith leave her now that things wouldn't be the same between them. If her lover left her now then there was something missing, something that she obviously couldn't supply, some way in which she was inadequate.
"You don't fucking understand, do you?" Angry, hard words and the barely restrained flash of mania in eyes that weren't even really seeing her, and the Seer became afraid. Afraid that something precious was slipping away.
"Of course I do. I've lost a friend too," she tried to comfort, taking a small step forward only to have the other girl stumble back away from her.
Faith shook her head, trying to clear it of the morass of emotions that were taking up too much room, blocking out her ability to see and hear and function. Cordelia was looking at her with concerned hazel eyes and all she knew was that for some reason this was something that her lover couldn't fix.
"More than a friend," she rasped. "She understood me."
Even though she knew that she shouldn't be hurt by the words, that they had their genesis in a pain that she couldn't comprehend, Cordelia couldn't help it. What was she, then, to this woman standing in front of her, the woman who had apparently been hiding the larger part of herself. Telling her lies and touching her body and all the time doing it only in half-measure, guarding away all these feelings for someone who hadn't even bothered to call since Faith had gotten out of jail. She'd been foolish to think that her lover was over the blonde, that she'd left all those feelings behind in Sunnydale. So here she was, Cordelia Chase taking home the second prize ribbon again, acting as the consolation prize for someone who was forever chasing after, but never capturing, number one.
"Faith, please, let me help you." Because no matter how much she hurt inside right now, she wanted nothing more than to wrap her arms around the stiff figure in front of her and absorb as much of the pain as she could.
"I just can't… I just don't want to be with you right now," Faith said, all trace of emotion and compassion and feeling wiped free of her voice. Then, unseeing eyes not even glancing the other girl's way, she walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her as she went.
Biting back a grimace as the mix of liquor she'd just thrown back burned its way down her throat, Cordelia reached for the next shot glass. There were three lined up before her, soon to join their other five compatriots in the graveyard of empty glassware. She was drinking Kamikaze's, the potent blend of alcohol settling rapidly over her consciousness like a calming, slightly hazy blanket. The loud thump of the bass of club music was moving soothingly through her body, the mix of voices and the clink of glasses and the blaring sounds of techno-whatever blending together to provide a nice background of meaningless white noise, and she fought back the urge to laugh with a joy born of bitterness.
It had been a spur of the moment decision to come here. After what had happened that morning she'd felt the need to know that she was desired, to know that she was beautiful, to know that she was wanted, and this had been the one place that had always offered that to her before. Here she wouldn't be second choice, wouldn't be the fall back girl. No, in this place, with its hot press of bodies and its overpowering essence of sex, she was top dog. In the short amount of time that it'd taken her to achieve a pleasantly mind-numbing buzz, she'd already sent a handful of admirers packing and the knowledge that there were more waiting in the wings, bolstering their courage to approach her, soothed any of the bruises her ego might have received.
They wanted her, wanted to be with her, and that made her feel good.
Another $20 earned her four more drinks, and she looked with pride at the stack of shot glasses that she'd already made her way through. When Cordelia put her mind to it she could drink with the best of them. All she had to do was take a deep breath, close her eyes, and let the nectar of escape flow past the back of her tongue and down her throat. She was good at it, had spent numerous nights fleeing whatever demon had been plaguing her, whether literally and metaphorically, and welcomed the comforting arms of inebriation with wholehearted abandon.
And, too, there was something about being surrounded by beautiful women and knowing that they wanted you that had always soothed her soul. Here, tonight, in a tight black dress that accentuated the fullness of her breasts, with the long length of her legs bared, she was the only person in the world that mattered. In this place there was no one to look at her with eyes that found something lacking, and even if they did, the rose-colored glasses of intoxication would take care of it for her.
She felt the urge to dance, to get out in the midst of that gyrating, teeming mass of sexy bodies and throw her hands above her head and let loose. So, that's what she did, making her way confidently to an open patch of dance floor, her hips immediately sliding into the groove of the music. The women were there instantly, one behind her and one in front, with one to the side of her looking for an opportunity to make her way into the thick of things. She could feel dozens of eyes tracing their way down her body, desiring her, wanting to be her, wanting to be with her.
Cordelia merely laughed, throwing her head back and baring her neck in a primal show of satisfaction. These women were hers. They wouldn't leave her, wouldn't yell at her or look at her with hurt eyes, and until she told them to go, she wouldn't hear the slam of the door behind them.
There were hands moving down her side, hands coursing over the taut plane of her belly, and she felt the blissful lassitude that comes with complete and utter intoxication. The lights were beautiful, moving across her sphere of vision in a cascade of glittering colors and the music was flowing around her body, carrying her along in its rapid current. There was a warm mouth on her neck, a hot tongue tracing the contour of her ear, and she turned to see who was so bold.
Blonde hair, hazel eyes, a pert little nose and a coy little smile and she could have been looking at Buffy fucking Summers herself. Only this girl wasn't Buffy. She knew where Buffy was, and it certainly wasn't here, dancing in this club. She didn't know where her lover was, but that didn't matter at the moment. All that mattered was the feel of slender fingers entwined with her own and the hot, frank look of sex in the eyes staring up at her.
"What's your name?" she asked, her voice clear despite the tremendous amount of liquor flowing through her bloodstream.
"Farrah," the girl replied, her soft voice barely audible over the boom and thump of pulsating techno bass.
"As in Fawcett?" Cordelia asked, a smirk making its way across her features at the look of confusion spreading through guileless green-brown eyes.
"Faucet?" the girl asked, brows scrunching in mystification. "I don't know about that yet honey, but you definitely do make me wet."
Frowning, shaking her head in disbelief before letting the words slip right on out of her consciousness, Cordelia gave the other girl's hand a tug. As they made their way off the dance floor, out past the bar and the grinning bouncer and into the crisp night air, she forgot about the vapid moue of lips that were too thin to be the right ones.
"Tell me Farrah… you want me, don't you?" She didn't recognize this husky tone, hadn't heard it in so long that she'd forgotten that it even existed. It had been a long time since she'd played this role, since she'd been the seductress, since she'd crowned herself queen of the world of skin and sweat and faces not important enough to be remembered.
The other girl nodded, grinning slyly. "Very much so."
"Do you understand me, Farrah?" Cordelia asked suddenly, watching with amusement as puzzlement warred with desire in eyes that should have been darker than they were. "Because I don't understand you. Does that bother you?"
Some part of her was aware that she was drunk, that she was walking a fine line, but she didn't care. Fuck it all, especially her conscience, that irritating little internal voice that kept trying to tell her something that she didn't want to listen to at the moment.
"Not really," the girl replied, not quite comprehending the significance of her exchange with the gorgeous brunette who had apparently picked her for the night but not really caring either. "Should it bother me?"
"Not at all, Farrah. Not at all."
The alarm clock was buzzing again and again, and Cordelia reached out blindly to slap it off only to discover that she was on the far side of the bed from it. Her hand had hit only bare skin, and with a groan she buried her head further in her pillow, trying to escape what had to be the most annoying noise she'd ever heard.
"Faith, turn it off, will you?" she whimpered, smacking dry lips together. It felt like she'd decided to dine on the finest Saharan desert sand the night before and was fairly certain that her eyelids were glued shut.
"Faith?" A voice that was pitched far too high to the be right one asked her, and with a sense of foreboding Cordelia rolled over. A long strand of light blonde hair fell into her range of sight, and she fought the urge to whimper, to bolt out of bed and vomit up all of the bile that suddenly rose in her throat. "Who the fuck is Faith?"
"Shit. Fuck, fuck, fuck, shit," Cordelia muttered, pulling herself up to a sitting position in the bed. Forcing her eyelids open, ignoring the pain of overly bright light against her retinas, she surveyed the scene in front of her. Bedsheets were scattered around in a tangled muss, half of them wound around one of her calves and the other half laying on the floor. There were tanned, toned legs stretched out beside her, and she followed the appendages up to connect them with slim hips and the smooth curve of a back that, while attractive, didn't belong to the person who should be occupying that half of the bed.
A slim arm reached out, finally shutting off the annoying chirp of the alarm clock, and Cordelia let her head drop down to her hands.
"Hangover, sweetie?" The girl, who Cordelia vaguely remembered was named after one of Charlie's Angels or something like that, rolled up onto her side and ran soft fingers up her bare leg. Jerking away from the touch, nearly falling out of the bed in her desire to separate herself from this girl, from what she'd done, the Seer turned blood-shot hazel eyes over to look at whoever it was that she'd apparently brought home.
"You've got to go," she rasped, wishing desperately for a drink of water. Something, anything, to wipe the taste of shame and betrayal out of her mouth. Her betrayal, the one that she'd just executed. Fuck, but she didn't know what to do now.
"What?" the other girl asked sharply, swiftly coming to the realization that this wasn't going to turn into some lazy morning of lovemaking. "No breakfast?"
Cordelia could feel the sticky residue of spent sex between her thighs, could smell the essence of a stranger on her sheets and for a moment thought that she might be physically ill. This was beyond bad and she didn't have a clue of what to do.
"You've got to go," she repeated, kicking off the sheet still clinging to her leg. Her feet landed heavily on the floor, but she didn't fall. Instead she immediately went to work, sifting out familiar from foreign clothes from the piles littering the floor, throwing the unknowns back at the women lounging on the bed.
"Good morning to you too," the blonde shot back, her voice sharp. Cordelia didn't care though, just kept searching for things that didn't belong to her. She heard the rustle of sheets behind her, heard the other girl start to shrug back into the now smoky, wrinkled outfit that she'd been sporting the night before.
"Oh my God," the Seer muttered, running a hand through her hair raggedly.
She hadn't found the girl's shoes, couldn't see where they could be in her room that she hadn't already looked. A sickening feeling of self-loathing was battling with nausea from the night before's left-over alcohol residue as she stumbled into the living room, still nude. Just as she reached over and found the shoes, snagging one from underneath the couch, she heard the rasp of a key in the lock and it took all of her strength not to give in to the weakness in her knees.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion, from the door swinging wide open to reveal Faith, still dressed in the jeans and tee that she had been wearing the day before, a white paper bag clutched tightly in hand, to the pad of bare feet as her colossal mistake entered from the other side. There was nothing she could do but stand there, shoes that didn't belong to her hanging loosely from her fingers as chocolate brown eyes took in her nudity before flicking over to the extremely rumpled figure of some stranger emerging from her lover's bedroom.
"Oh, you found them," the girl said brightly and Cordelia dropped the shoes, her throat swallowing rhythmically as she searched for something to say.
"Faith…" The Slayer's name came out of her dry throat as little more than a whisper, and the blonde looked up to see a glowering figure standing at the door. Deciding that quickness was the better part of valor, she scooped up her shoes and ran out, giving as wide of a berth as possible to the dark-haired girl glaring at her.
"I brought breakfast," was all her lover said, throwing the bag to the floor. It landed with a harsh crinkle of paper and Cordelia looked up from it to Faith's face. The other girl's jaw was clenched, her lips were pursed and thin brows were pulled together in a low line. Her eyes were unreadable dark pools of some unidentified emotion, and Cordelia reached out with one hand, the gesture futile against the expanse separating them.
"I'm so sorry," she said raggedly, not even bothering to offer up the disrespect that would come with a lie at this point. Her indiscretion was painfully clear and she felt her heart break wide open at the sight of a silver tear tracing its way down from the corner of one dark chocolate eye.
"I wanted to apologize," the Slayer said, her voice monotone, emotionless. "To say I was sorry about what I said. That I didn't mean it. That I needed you."
"God," Cordelia gasped out, nearly doubling over in pain as her lover's words cut through her.
"Who was she?" Faith asked finally, her voice eerily calm. Her hands were fisted at her side, fingers clenching spastically, and her body was held taut with tension.
"I don't remember her name. She was nobody," Cordelia admitted, her head dropping until all she could see was the floor beneath her feet.
"Nobody," the Slayer echoed, her voice apathetic. "You fucked me over for nobody."
"It wasn't like that," Cordelia began, pausing to wet dry, cracked lips with her tongue. It was a mistake, though, because she could taste the foreign flavor of the stranger on her flesh and it almost made her cry. "I didn't mean to…"
"You didn't mean to?" Faith repeated, and Cordelia could see a muscle in the other girl's jaw jump. "You didn't mean to go out and find some slut, didn't mean to bring her home and fuck her in the bed that we shared, or you didn't mean to get caught?"
"I… its… it was a mistake," Cordelia whispered brokenly, taking an awkward step forward. Faith's outstretched hand stopped her though, and she felt the hot burn of tears sliding down her cheek, scorching the skin.
"You never were going to love me, were you?" the Slayer muttered, running a hand through her dark hair before giving Cordelia one last look, hurt eyes tracing over the long lines of her bare flesh. Then she was gone, moving through the still open doorway and out into the hall, pulling the door shut firmly behind her.
As the sound of it closing echoed through the apartment, Cordelia slumped down onto the couch, dropped her head into her hands, and sobbed.
Faith was gone. She'd packed up all her stuff and left the hotel, disappearing into the bright noon sun without a backward look. Cordelia had searched for her before giving up, had sat for hours in the room that the Slayer had just vacated, staring at bedsheets that hadn't been made when the other girl left.
She didn't cry anymore, having wept herself completely out of tears that morning. Instead she just sat silently, her mind running over and over everything that had happened. There were the memories of them together, dancing in a smoky blues joint to the sound of this generation's Billie Holiday hopeful wailing away behind them. There was a mental picture of Faith, lounging around on Cordy's couch in a tank top and her panties watching Cartoon Network when the Seer walked in after work, dropping her purse to the floor tiredly only to have the other girl rush over and swoop her off her feet and away to the hot bath that she had waiting. There was the reminder of countless wounds that she'd poured alcohol over then cooled off with a gentle stream of cool air because Slayer healing might mean that they were gone the next morning but it didn't necessarily mean that some icky demon infection didn't need to be warded off.
And then she'd ruined it all because she given in to her insecurities and rushed off to find meaningless reassurance from the one place that could never really have given it to her. She'd broken her lover's trust, had violated the sanctity of their relationship, had driven her partner off… all without ever once getting up the guts to let Faith know that she loved her.
"We're getting ready to leave, to go to Buffy's funeral." The sound of Wesley's voice, calm and low and soothing, broke over her haze of grief and she looked up at him, nodding weakly.
"I'll be right there." She certainly looked the part with her gaunt face and the dark circles under her puffy eyes and the unrelenting black that she would have felt like wearing anyway.
The drive was long, intolerable, with not a word spoken among the car's inhabitants. Angel was too wrapped up in his grief, Cordy in her regrets, and the rest realized that words just didn't have a place there.
They were half-way through the ceremony when she felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. Turning slowly, suddenly aware that she should have realized before now that Faith would come here for this, to see Buffy's body laid to rest, she caught sight of the dark Slayer. The only Slayer now, unless another had been called and they hadn't had word of that yet, not that her friends were hanging around in the circles that let that kind of information go anymore.
She waited until the priest said his final words before she pulled away from the crowd, her eyes scanning the horizon wildly. But, it was to no avail, and as she walked deeper and deeper into the heart of the cemetery, slowly becoming aware that she'd missed her one chance to make things right, Cordelia let the tears flow once more.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered, the words spirited away by a gust of unseasonably cold wind.
"Yeah, I am too." The Seer nearly jumped out of her skin at the words. Whirling, she caught sight of the one person that she'd been looking for, one lean hip propped up against the side of a thick headstone.
"God, Faith, I thought I wasn't ever going to see you again," Cordelia rasped, walking over quickly to stand in front of the Slayer. She was surprised that that the other girl allowed it, surprised that for once Faith didn't rebuff her or turn around and run.
"I just wanted to tell you congratulations. I guess you finally managed to even up the score," was all the other girl said, her words achingly distant, her eyes blank.
"It was never a game, Faith," Cordelia insisted, reaching up to cup the other girl's jaw with her hand. The Slayer's skin seemed abnormally hot, as if it were going to burn through her palm, but she didn't let go. "I love you."
Faith huffed in disbelief, pulling her jaw free from the other girl's grasp. "No… no, you don't."
Cordelia closed her eyes, gathering strength before opening them again, hoping that everything that she was feeling was written clearly across their depths.
"Yes, I do. I made a mistake, a horrible mistake, and I hurt you," she said, her voice trembling with the force of her emotions. "And I'm sorry… so, so sorry."
"How could you do it, C? How could you just betray me like that?"
Cordelia thought for a moment, trying to find the right words to explain what she'd done even as she knew there was no explanation. So, hoping desperately that Faith would remember the words that she herself had spoken, the Seer once again laid her hand against the Slayer's face. "I did something that didn't make a lot of sense, Faith, but I promise you, it doesn't mean that I don't love you because I do… very much."
Faith's jaw clenched at the words, a pang of hurt shooting through her bottomless dark eyes. "So what're you saying, C?"
"Give me another chance," Cordelia replied slowly, her words not pleading, but strong.
For a long time the rustle of the breeze was Cordy's only answer, and she could virtually see the cogs of the Slayer's mind whirling as she thought, as she decided the Seer's future. Their future.
"Clean slate?" Faith questioned finally, a spark of hope igniting where there had been only hopelessness before.
"Just a fresh start," the Seer qualified, leaning forward to place a light kiss on the other girl's lips. "I do love you, Faith. I'm sorry that I didn't say it before. I was… I was afraid."
For a moment she was terrified that the Slayer wasn't going to answer her, but then a bright smile broke out over those dark features and Cordelia felt something break loose inside of her, belatedly realizing that it was her fear.
"I love you too, C."