The tree was longer than the jeep by a lot, but much to Buffy's amusement, Faith was still determined that it was 'The One'.
Between them, they fastened rope to the thick lower branches and hauled it back to where Faith had parked. It had been surprisingly easy despite the mass of the thing, but they had still done it in silence, the only sound the swishing of snow as the giant pine sailed through the deep drifts.
Now Buffy was watching from a safe distance while Faith tied the tree securely to the jeep. A little too securely, there was no way Faith was going to get most of those knots undone again. She wanted to sit in the jeep, out of the rising wind, but was too worried that the weight of the trunk might prove too much and the roof would cave in on top of her.
Happy that all her bondage play had finally paid off, Faith got in the jeep and Buffy breathed a sigh of relief. Great, now they could finally get back home, where there was food, and warmth and people that were still speaking to her. She couldn't wait.
Faith turned the key and the engine roared into life. Buffy hopped in and fiddled with the heater to try and warm the ice box up, she didn't really pay attention as Faith put it in 'drive', but the sounds of their snow chains rattling, and the extra loud roaring of the engine made her look up with a frown.
Faith gunned the engine again.
"Why aren't we moving?" Buffy asked warily.
All of Faith's concentration was on the car, but she muttered. "Snow's too deep." She pressed the accelerator hard again.
Alarmed, Buffy twisted around to look out of the back window. Where it wasn't obscured by the tree she could see a flurry of white spurting up, like white wood chippings from a chipper.
"Faith, stop! You're digging us in deeper."
Faith did stop, but her mood clearly wasn't improving. "Get out and push," she demanded, running a hand through her damp hair. When Buffy didn't move, she added, "Now would be good, Blondie."
"I'm not pushing this thing. It's your stupid tree that's the problem. Take it off and we'll spring right back up."
"What do you think we're stuck in? Marshmallows? Snow don't spring back up, B."
Buffy wanted to believe that Faith was trying not to smile, but if she was, she probably didn't have to try very hard.
"Why aren't you pushing yet?" No, probably not very hard at all. Buffy always had the feeling that for every two steps of progress she made with Faith, she still always ended up ten steps back.
"Why can't you push?"
"Because I have to steer." Faith pointed out to Buffy who was apparently five years old, judging by her tone. "If I let you steer, you'll put us in a tree."
Buffy laughed sarcastically. "Newsflash Faith, you already put us in a tree." She pointed to where the trunk was visible through the windshield, poking up and out like a misshapen Rhino, and to the back where the uppermost branches were hanging down in the snow.
"Bite me." Now that was more of a smile, a scary smile, but definitely an improvement.
Buffy figured she could work on it. "Lose the tree, Faith, please. If we go now we can still get to a lot before they all close." Buffy glanced at her watch. "But we have to hurry. You can pick any one you want."
"No." Faith's foot pressed hard on the gas again and more white sparks flew up from beneath the back wheels.
"I'll get out and push if you get rid of it, I promise, without a single complaint," she tried.
Faith swiveled in her seat to face the blonde, her deep brown eyes were sparkling, and her tone was as close to pleading as she would ever let it be in front of her. "Damn it Buffy, I want this tree, already. It's . . . it's . . . " Faith struggled for a word. ". . . It's like the ones on the Christmas cards," she finished lamely and turned away again.
"They don't make Christmas cards this big Faith," Buffy pointed out, but she was weakening, she knew it. She'd never seen that look in the brunette's eyes before. Dawn's, Willow's, Xander's, definitely her own, but never Faith's.
"It'll look awesome when it's decorated, then you'll see." Faith pushed open the driver's door, letting in a rush of frosty air, and climbed out obviously giving up on Buffy's help. She kept one hand on the steering wheel and put her other shoulder to the door frame and pushed her weight into it.
Buffy felt the car rock, but it didn't achieve anything else. Faith was about to give it another try when she just couldn't take it any more.
Pushing open her own door, the blonde jumped out and went to the back of the jeep. Even that didn't earn her a proper smile; what did she have to do? "On three?" She asked as she situated herself carefully between the floppy branches hanging all over the place.
"One, two, three." Faith said quickly and they both put all their weight into clearing the car of the deep welts the tires were trapped in.
The jeep started to move forwards, one foot . . . two foot . . . three, and Faith let out a little whoop of excitement, but it was premature. Buffy's boots slid out from under her and she fell to her knees, gave a little scream and curled into a ball as the jeep began rolling back again, with her underneath.
Panting, she kept her face to the cold white stuff and counted her limbs in the darkness. She had four of them, thank God for that. As an extra precaution she counted her hands and feet too, all of them were attached and none of them were squashed. Buffy mentally took back the comment she'd made about Xander's manhood, when he'd insisted on getting the huge, high jeep to combat the evil winters they had this far north.
The blood had stopped rushing around her brain enough now for Buffy to hear Faith's horrified yelling.
"B? B! Buffy! Oh, fuckin' jezus . . . stupid fuckin . . . Buffy can you hear me?"
Buffy heard feet crunching around the vehicle and wiped some snow matted hair away from her face with freezing hands, and kept quiet.
"Oh my God . . . I'm so fuckin' . . . she's not dead, she's not dead, she can't be dead…not again for fucks sake . . . B?"
Buffy winced and curled up again as the car was rocked to the side. Was Faith trying to crush her to death? Why the hell wouldn't she just look under the car so Buffy could scare the crap out of her already?
The jeep rocked again, but with only Faith pushing it wasn't enough. Hands grabbed the underside of the bumper and tried to lift it up.
"B, speak to me please . . . what am I going to do? Stupid idiot tree's too friggin' heavy." She was muttering urgently to herself. "Why the fuck couldn't I . . .?"
Under the however many tonnes this thing was made of, Buffy was suddenly shocked into hitting the back of her head on some greasy, oily bit of piping. Was Faith crying? Rubbing at the bump she'd made, she listened harder.
"I'm sorry, sorry, I just . . ." The sound of a fist hitting metal echoed below. "You fuckin' wind me up B, but I shouldn't . . . damn, just be unconscious, not dead, please and I'll make it up . . ."
There was definitely sobs coming through loud and clear as Faith let her sentence run out in order to put all her strength into moving the jeep.
Whoops! Buffy pulled herself forwards on her tummy until she was out from under the main body of the car and mostly just tangled in the over hung branches. Faith managed to lift it again slightly and she realized she was closer to the wheels now and that probably wasn't good.
"Faith!" she called out.
The other Slayer was still mumbling frustratedly under her breath and didn't hear her.
"Faith!" She called louder.
"Buffy! Thank Christ, you're alive." Faith dropped to her knees at the back of the vehicle and started pulling the rough green pine needles apart.
Which was exactly where Buffy had wanted her, but shouting "Boo!" now was only going to get her a punch in the face.
When Faith could see her, and Buffy could see the outside world again, she slithered forward some more. Faith helped by pulling her arms and dragging her out.
"I thought the damn jeep had run you over." Faith told her, half laughing and trying to discreetly wipe at the wet trails down her cheeks.
"It did run me over," Buffy pointed out, getting to her feet and giving Faith a moment to get rid of the tears that she was feeling terrible about causing.
As soon as Buffy was up, Faith grabbed at her coat and pulled her forcefully into a hug. "Don't ever do that to me again, I thought I'd killed ya." She stepped back again, pushing lightly at Buffy's shoulders to put space between them once more, obviously uncomfortable. "And how would I explain that one to the Scoobs," she quipped to cover it.
"I'm . . ." Buffy tried to look Faith in the eye, but the brunette was avoiding it. ". . . sorry, I promise to never let a car land on me again."
"Why didn't you call out?"
"I . . ." Because you pissed me off and I wanted to scare you, just not quite that much. ". . . must have been dazed. Yep, that's it, I was dazed. I hit my head." Buffy rubbed her lump a little to emphasize and huddled up, putting her bare hands under her arms to try and keep the cold off of them.
"Do you think you need to go to hospital?" Faith asked, finally looking at her and not the ground again.
"No!" Of that Buffy was sure. There would be no hospital on Christmas Eve.
"Okay, well just get in the jeep and turn the heater back on. I'll just be a minute." Faith started fiddling with the tree.
"What are you doing?" Buffy asked suspiciously when Faith pulled out her pocket knife.
"Losing the tree."
"After the effort we've gone through so far? I don't think so." Buffy grabbed a handful of her sleeve and tried to pull her away from cutting the ropes.
"It nearly killed ya B; I don't want it in the house reminding me." Faith tugged her arm back to carry on sawing at the bindings.
Buffy burst out laughing until Faith shot her a hurt look.
She stopped laughing abruptly. "Okay Faith, the tree doesn't want me dead, it's just a tree. If anything, it's my boots that want me dead and if you like, I'll leave them in the garden for Christmas." She looked down at her new pink winter boots. That'll teach me for choosing cute over chunky grip, she decided.
Faith stopped cutting and looked back at her. "Thought you didn't like the tree?"
Buffy smiled. "It's growing on me, hell it nearly grew into me," she chuckled. "And I don't know, sometimes the harder you have to work for something, the more you grow to like it."
Faith turned to face her fully now, snapping the knife shut and putting it away. "Is that a metaphor for us screwing?"
Buffy smirked and said nothing.
Faith spoke again, pretty seriously. "Thing is Buffy, sudden changes of heart and grand gestures don't exactly get us any farther than where we are right now."
"Is that a metaphor for us screwing?" Buffy returned playfully.
"No," it was Faith's turn to smirk, "I was talking about getting the tree home."
"Oh." Buffy shuffled her feet in the heavy snow. Looking up brightly she said. "Well we can try pushing again, but this time, I want to run you over."
No one else got run over, but a park ranger man did drive by to see what all the commotion was about and kindly pulled them out of the drift and on to the road.
He also not so kindly lectured them on cutting down trees with out permission. He'd let them keep it because it was so late, and they probably wouldn't be able to get another this late, but he did charge them eighty dollars for it.
Faith had told the old guy to stick it and was all prepared to cut the tree off the top of the jeep and dump it on the side of the road instead, but Buffy had told her to shut up and sit still. After all, it would have cost them more than that to get someone to tow them out of the hole they'd dug for themselves.
Between them they had the correct money and then they were off. It wasn't long before they were out of the main body of the forest and back on the relatively clear road home. The heater was blaring out hot air and the radio drowned out the swishing sound the top of the tree made as it dangled on the slushy tarmac behind them.
Buffy looked over at Faith in the light from the dash-board. The other Slayer was staring fixedly out of the windshield, the light snowfall made visibility a little off and she was giving it all her attention.
She thought about turning the stereo down and making conversation, but with her luck tonight, she'd probably cause Faith to become distracted and they'd crash.
She didn't know what to say anyway, and Faith most likely wouldn't want to talk about anything serious, like, what was going on with them? Or what did she want to be going on with them?
Buffy was so busy thinking about conversations she couldn't have with Faith that she didn't even realize they'd pulled into the long drive-way to home until Faith reached over and flicked the radio off all together.
"Everyone's probably back, so if we're gonna do the talking thing, we should do it now."
Okay that threw her for some reason because all she came back with was: "What talking thing?" And then kicked herself.
Faith sighed. "Fine." And put the music back on.
Buffy hit the button to turn it off again. "Do you like me, or am I just a shag to you?" She blurted, looking at the radio button that had broken off under her fingers.
"Shag?" Faith laughed, and stopped the car completely. "Did you and Giles body-switch, because that's going to affect my answer."
Buffy turned awkwardly in her seat. "Faith, I'm serious!"
Still laughing, Faith said: "No one says shag seriously."
"Fine." Infuriated, Buffy yelled really loud in the confined space. "Am I, or am I not, just a fuck to you?"
Faith had leaned back against her door at the outburst, eyebrows raised. "I'm right here, B." Realizing the blonde had a right hook with her name on it, Faith got serious. "That depends on what you want, Buffy. Three months ago you told me you wanted nothing, and you've avoided every attempt I've made since then to spend time with you."
"You haven't made that many attempts."
"Yeah well I got sick of you making up excuses not to be around me. Believe it or not, I can take a hint."
Faith was very calm and still right now, almost relaxed as she gazed at her, it was Buffy who felt like fidgeting and kept feeling the need to look away out of the window and back, down at her lap and back.
Buffy swallowed the dryness in her mouth. "I . . . I needed time to . . . to think about it. I wasn't sure . . ."
Faith cut her off. "I think you've had long enough to think it over. It didn't take you five years to decide if you liked Farm-boy or not, did it? You can't blame me for thinking you just wanted sex . . ."
"Wait a minute, five years? Where were these five years that I had?" Buffy interrupted her, brow creased in confusion.
"Well I know I wasn't around for much of them, but surely I didn't slip your mind that easy." Faith chuckled lightly, but seeing Buffy still frowning, she adopted the same expression and her tone turned sullen. "Okay," she said slowly, "I guess I did then, I thought you were just saying that because you hated me."
"Faith of course I never forgot you, but I don't understand what . . .?" Then she did, and her eyes opened wide as she gasped in surprise. "You don't mean . . .?
Faith blinked at her, looking shy for some reason. "You're serious, you didn't know?"
Buffy shook her head, giggling inappropriately. "Not a clue. All this time, really? She felt like preening, but decided now wasn't the time.
"Well, there's no need to make a big deal out of it," Faith replied moodily, not looking at her anymore. Instead she pulled the keys free of the ignition and played with them.
"I beg to differ, F. I can't believe…I mean, I just assumed this all started when we moved here. So . . . when?" She asked, coyly.
Faith still played with the keys rather than look at her, but she answered calmly enough. "You remember that night when your, um, mom was away and you invited me over for pizza after patrol? It was after the Watcher's did that thing to you."
The car was quiet while Buffy thought about it. "The sleepover? The night you brought a can of anchovies around and dripped fishy juice all over my pizza when I wasn't looking, you mean?"
Faith smirked. "Hey, how was I supposed to . . .?"
"Faith, you knew."
The brunette's dimples came into play. "Okay I knew, but I offered you my pizza straight after, didn't I?"
"Faith, you had ordered anchovy pizza! You just wanted mine as well." Buffy accused, still giggling. "It's just as well you can cook that good or else I would've kicked your ass for leaving me hungry."
Faith smiled at her. "Yeah, well it was while you were scoffing down my delicious spaghetti and meatballs that I realized that I, well, you know . . ."
"Aww, Faith, I never knew you were so domesticated, that's so sweet," Buffy teased, leaning across to pinch her cheek.
Faith batted her hand away before she could. "Shut up! It wasn't fucking sweet it was fucking horrible, and I can't believe you didn't even know!"
"I didn't, I swear."
"You're lying, you gotta be." Faith shook her head from side to side.
Buffy shook her own head. "I'm not, I'm sorry." She felt guilty as hell.
The night in question Buffy hadn't even wanted to spend with Faith. It had only been at Giles' insistence that she not be alone in the house until her strength had fully returned, and her mom's explicit insistence that she did not spend the night with Angel, that had forced her into asking Faith over. They'd had fun in the end, but Buffy would have chosen Angel over Faith in a heart beat if she'd been allowed.
"Huh." Faith broke the sudden silence. "I just thought you were too scared to acknowledge it, in case it upset your honey."
"Why didn't you just come out and tell me?" Buffy asked, still teasing. She knew she would have freaked if Faith had. "I mean didn't you want to . . ."
Faith wiggled her eyebrows.
"Oh my God, that's what all the grunting was about, wasn't it?" Buffy laughed.
Faith laughed too, but also distracted herself by putting the key back in the ignition and turning it. "Yeah well, I think I've had a gutful of memory lane for one day, and it's fricken' cold, so . . ." She started to move the jeep down the drive.
"So, you never answered my question," Buffy said, holding her hands back up to the heater.
"I don't want you just for screwing B, but," Faith turned her head to look Buffy straight in the eye as the jeep crunched slowly over the freezing snow, "I'm not here for you to just fill time with, okay? If you're just looking to see if the grass is greener, find someone else to experiment with, 'cause I . . ."
"That's not . . ." Buffy started to protest as they pulled up by the house.
"Buffy, hear me out . . ."
The jeep fell silent again.
"I'm listening," Buffy said gently.
Faith ran fingers through her hair, regretting it when they got caught in the damp tangles. "I . . ." Her words died in her throat and she coughed to cover it.
Buffy waited patiently and not just a little apprehensive. She wanted to stop Faith from saying what she was about to say, but at the same time she really wanted to hear it.
"I . . ." Faith tried again, as the front door was thrown open from the inside, letting a warm orangey glow spill onto the crisp snow. Dawn and Willow waved a greeting to the slayers.
". . . really suck at this." Faith finished and jumped out of the jeep, slamming the door closed behind her.
Buffy slouched back in her seat and closed her eyes. She let the breath she'd been holding whistle between her lips as she tried to find where the relief was supposed to end and the disappointment begin.
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