Buffy's back hit the wooden floor, and immediately afterward Faith's ass hit her stomach, driving the air from her lungs with a loud whoosh.
"Faith!" she gasped in some vain hope of getting sense into her.
They couldn't have a fight in the middle of the bar. What would the locals think when they started kicking each other through windows?
"We're through?" Faith shouted in Buffy's face, seeming happy to kneel astride her, grabbing big handfuls of Buffy's top and winding it around her hands, making the material taut and the modest neckline... less modest.
The borrowed short skirt was riding up Faith thighs, like right up her thighs. It probably wasn't really the time for Buffy to notice stuff like that, but with the way Faith was straddling her, it wasn't easy to not notice. Untangling one fist from the front of Buffy's tank top, Faith pointed at Xander as she shouted, "We're through so you can make out with him?"
"You made out with him!" Buffy gestured at Robin who was just getting back to his feet. She tried to push Faith off, but it was like trying to move a house. "Don't act like the injured party here, Faith, because that's me!"
"Oh yeah, you're so frickin injured!" Faith shouted back. "You've been carrying on with Xander behind my back and I'm the one in the wrong?"
"I have not, and anyway, you started it," Buffy shot back, deciding it was only fair if she balled her fists in Faith's halter neck too.
"Gee Buffy, grow up why don't ya?"
"Me grow up?"
Over Faith's shoulder, Buffy could see help was on the way, not that any help was really needed. The two of them weren't doing much more than letting their knuckles get to second base; even the shouting match was too ridiculous to be scary.
Still Xander, perhaps feeling guilty even though he had no reason to, was reaching towards them. "Faith, let her go. If you're going to be pissed at someone, be pissed at me."
"That makes sense," Kennedy said, and Buffy realized they'd formed a ring, shielding them as much as possible from the eyes of the other patrons. "Why have her pound on a quick-healing Slayer when she can pound on a slow-healing normal guy."
Scowling, Faith used Buffy's breast to push herself back to her feet. Buffy bit her lip to hide her quivering smile and was too slow to let go of Faith's top. Only as she felt it give when it shouldn't did she remember it was hers.
"Do I look like I'm pounding on anyone?" Faith demanded, her hand snaking out and catching Xander by the front of his shirt even as she got in Kennedy's face.
"Not yet," Willow moved closer to Kennedy. "Not sure I'm willing to wait until it's too late though, Faith."
"Really?" Faith sneered. "And here was me thinking that was your specialty these days."
Faith kept sneering at Willow, apparently having forgotten she was holding onto Xander. Buffy couldn't help thinking everything had been better before anyone came to her rescue. Faith had been sitting on her! Why had they thought she needed anyone to intervene?
"Hey, weren't we in the middle of an argument?" she called up, hoping to entice Faith back down.
Faith didn't even look and Buffy wondered how much longer she could feasibly lay on the ground, waiting with no obvious reason.
"What's going on?" Kennedy's confused eyes went from Willow to Faith and back again.
"You should ask your girl," Faith tilted her head at Willow.
"Faith, I'm warning you." Willow glared at her, but Faith just smirked back.
"Well?" Kennedy asked Willow, seeming more bemused than angry. "What's she talking about?"
Buffy saw Willow's hand start to move by her side. It was subtle, no one else had noticed it yet, but she recognized it immediately. Magickal burns tended to imprint on your memory that way.
"Will, no!" Flipping herself to her feet, Buffy dove in front of Faith just as the stream of energy left Willow's hand.
Willow's eyes went wide and she physically thrust her hand backwards as far as her shoulder, remarkably pulling the magick back with it. "Damn it Buffy, move!"
"You think I'm out of control!" Faith exploded, actually shoving Buffy to one side to get closer to Willow, dragging Xander with her.
"Civilians, civilians around!" He tried to whisper quietly but his urgency wouldn't allow it.
Willow's hand prepared itself again, blatantly this time. Faith didn't hesitate in coming forward but it was Kennedy who stepped in the way this time.
"Willow! What are you doing? What did you do that was so bad?" Kennedy asked fearfully.
"Nothing." Once again, Willow retracted the magick and took hold of her girlfriend's shoulders, her eyes distraught. "Nothing!"
Kennedy shook her head, "I'm sorry, but I don't believe you." She stepped back, away from Willow.
"Kenny," Willow pleaded, her eyes a watery green.
"She kissed Oz," Buffy found herself blurting out, upset by Willow's easy use of magick.
"You did what?" Kennedy stepped back again, her eyes stony, her fists balling at her sides. When Willow didn't deny it, she sneered, "Well I kissed Buffy this morning, and you know what? It was great."
"Kennedy!" Buffy hissed angrily as Willow turned to her in disbelief, she no longer looked near tears as her eyes narrowed, and Buffy could swear they were getting darker.
"You did what?"
It was Faith saying it this time, and she shoved Buffy hard for good measure. Before she could follow, to shove her again, a jet of something greeny-blue shot between them. The music distorted radically as one of the big speakers melted.
As all eyes turned to it, Giles came swiftly into the middle of them.
"Just what on earth do you think you are all playing at? Willow, what's gotten into you? Buffy, Faith stop behaving like children for once in your joint existence. Get outside now, the lot of you. Kennedy, stop looking so horrified, it's not like you haven't seen magick before! Willow, stop crying this instance and do as I say!"
Giles said all of this in as hushed a whisper as his anger would allow. When no one moved, he got physical and pulled Faith's arm so hard that she finally let go of Xander's shirt.
"My hero," Xander exclaimed, and kissed Giles hard on the mouth.
Buffy's eyes bugged out as she stared and they nearly fell out altogether when she realized that, for a few seconds at least, Giles was kissing him back!
The boys dormitory was really quite cozy. The debris left lying around by the departed cadets made it more homely than it would have been with just Reece's precision tidiness and Craig's scant possessions.
Reece had found two old desk lamps down in the basement a few days before and they offered a much nicer ambiance than the overhead fluorescents. Music would have been good though, Dawn decided, as the sound of her pants zipper going down cut through the romantic mood.
She hesitated, pulling her lips shyly from Reece's as she grinned nervously.
"Do you want to stop?" Reece asked, his breathing labored.
"No," Dawn said honestly.
She'd thought about stopping after Reece had gently shucked her shirt from her shoulders before skillfully removing her bra without looking. She'd never been so naked with another human being outside of gym showers before and that was when the big wave of embarrassment had hit her.
Reece had asked her then if she was okay, noticing that the blush in her cheeks wasn't purely from arousal. Her timid 'no' then hadn't been entirely truthful, but as soon as his hands had touched her newly bared skin and he'd kissed her again, she had been glad she lied.
That had been half an hour ago, and for maybe half the time since, she'd been on edge waiting for him to push her further. In the end it had been her hands straying tentatively below his waist that encouraged him.
Until the sound of her zipper brought reality home.
"I... I don't want to stop," she looked up into his eyes, her hands on his bare chest. "But what...? I mean, what do you...?"
He cut her off with another tender open kiss and when he pulled back, he looked seriously into her eyes.
"I'm not looking for anything," he promised her, smiling. "But I am enjoying myself. I'd have to be a fool, or gay, if I wasn't. But if you're tired, or you just want to stop, that's fine by me. And if you don't..." He kissed her again, his teasing tongue tempting her. After a few seconds, he murmured, "Whatever you want, Dawn."
Reassured, Dawn set her lips back to his, wanting to devour him some more as she splayed herself under him. As she felt his hand slide into her pants, she sucked in a quivering breath and thrust her tongue deep into his sweet mouth.
"Xander?" Giles tried to speak past his young friend's lips, but Xander's mouth was insistent. "Xander," he tried again, this time lifting both hands to gently pry him off.
Xander pulled back, a lop-sided grin on his face. "What's up?"
"What's up?" Giles asked, incredulously.
"You kissed Giles!" Buffy smacked Xander hard on the arm.
"Ow! What? No I didn't," Xander chuckled nervously, looking around to see everyone - and not just their friends - staring at him in amazement. "Did I?"
"You don't remember?" Giles asked, concerned.
"No, no I remember," Xander turned his troubled gaze to Giles. "I'm just blanking on the why."
"Because you wanna play hide the pickle with him maybe?" Faith asked gently, as if she was genuinely trying to help jog his memory.
"No!" Xander shook his head, mildly disgusted. "I mean the G-man's a stud, and if I was looking for a sugar daddy, but... No! I was just really pleased that he got you to let go of my new shirt before you ripped it, and then I thought 'I'd love to see the look on Giles face if I pretended to go all damsel in distress on him'."
"You mean this look?" Giles asked mildly, pointing to his bemused expression.
"Yeah," Xander's chuckle lost its strength quickly. "But it was just an idle thought; I was never actually going to do it!"
"And yet you did," Giles said quietly.
"Okay, I'm way past the point of confused here," Buffy folded her arms, staring at Xander. "Why would you kiss Giles if you didn't want to kiss Giles?"
"I don't know, the same reason I kissed Andrew this morning, maybe?" Xander answered without thinking. Cringing, he added, "Honestly, I'm really not gay."
"Well that's obvious," Faith snorted.
Xander shot her a look, "Remember who has yet to decide on your hourly rate, missy!"
"Did you just call me missy?"
"Maybe you're experimenting," Kennedy suggested. "But subconsciously, because you're not ready to consciously admit it."
"But why with Giles?" Buffy asked in such a disbelieving tone that Giles felt compelled to remind her of their little flirtation earlier.
And then it hit him and it took him but a second to piece it all together: Buffy and Xander both showing an unexpected interest in him, his immediate arousal in both instances when normally he would have been appalled. Xander and Buffy kissing on the dance floor. Willow kissing Oz hadn't seemed that outlandish, but surely Kennedy and Buffy could be classed as such. And he was sure - although he's done his best to dismiss it as a trick of the light - he'd seen Buffy and Naomi acting very oddly together from his bedroom.
"Oh dear Lord," he muttered. "We're all under a bloody lust spell!"
As everyone looked at him with varying degrees of worry, he ordered once more. "Everybody outside."
This time they complied, and no one spoke again until they were standing on the cool, deserted street.
"We're under a love spell!" Xander exploded at once, starting to pace. "When will people stop messing with love spells around me?"
"Not a love spell," Giles quickly corrected him. "A lust spell."
"That's better?" Buffy demanded, as angry as Xander.
"Yes, actually," Giles nodded. "They're not nearly as dangerous, although somewhat more disruptive, as tonight has shown."
"More disruptive than the whole female population of Sunnydale chasing me down?"
Giles hesitated, "Disruptive in a different way."
"So it's a spell?" Kennedy asked. Shooting Buffy a look of relief, she turned to Willow, demanding, "Was it you?"
"What?" Willow had been silent ever since Giles had broken up the argument on the dance floor. Her cheeks were still stained with her tears and she had the hollow, washed out appearance that came from using magick aggressively. "No. I don't know anything about it."
"So you didn't cast a spell to make Oz kiss you this morning?" Kennedy continued doggedly.
"No! I would never do that!" Willow looked ready to start crying again.
Kennedy looked away, not saying anything else.
Robin had also been staying quiet ever since Faith had knocked him flat on his back. Aside from seeing his date obviously smitten with somebody else, his pride was most likely severely injured.
"So who did cast it?" he asked now, looking grave.
"Beryan," Buffy said confidently. "She's pretty darn pissed at us right now."
"Who's Beryan?" Faith asked. "And please tell me she's not a mere mortal so I can kick her ass."
"She is a mortal," Willow said, her voice still sniffily.
"Just not so much with the mere," Xander added.
"I don't think it is her, though," Willow continued. "I mean, she was pretty mad, but only at the Watchers, and you Buffy, after you pissed her off. But I don't think she'd cast a spell over all of us."
"Besides, this isn't her style," Xander agreed. "If she wanted to get us back, she'd just make the carpets suck us down into oblivion or have our pillows suffocate us in our sleep."
"She sounds like one twisted bitch," Faith mused.
"Not really, she's just into practical magic," said Willow. "It has to be someone else. I've read that certain lust spells are sometimes used as mild vengeance spells; they're meant more for causing annoyance than any real harm."
"Okay, I think it's safe to say we're all annoyed right now, so maybe you're right," Faith began. "But how is that? I don't normally find lust all that annoying, generally I'm all for lust, ya know?"
"Yeah, we know," Buffy muttered, and then did her best to look innocent when Faith looked her way.
"It's the confusion," Giles explained. "There are several types of lust spell. Some are meant to be used on an individual for obvious reasons, others are meant to be used on small groups of people, for orgies and such like."
He felt like he should be embarrassed, and knew it was the lust spell that was making this topic so easy to discuss.
"Orgies?" Buffy asked nervously. "Please tell me no one in this small group of people is thinking that?"
"Always the prude," Faith muttered.
Buffy shot her a hurt look and Giles hurriedly continued,
"Others are used for a more widespread purpose. With the correct measure of ingredients and a more precise invocation, it's possible to induce a strong feeling of affection and unreserved passion among a great many people. It's a wonderful feeling, rather like being on ecstasy, so I'm told."
"You've tried X?" Faith didn't believe it.
"Of course not."
There was silence for a beat and then Xander crowed, "You did the orgy one, didn't you!"
"Oh God, please no!" Buffy put her hands over her ears.
Giles sent Xander a hard stare but didn't deny it. "Lust spells can be very powerful, and they're the exception to the rule in that the more generalized they are, the more power they contain. Apparently - although I've never found anyone who can actually verify it - a chaos mage was responsible for the free-love era of the sixties. He cast a spell that got away from him and a whole generation received the benefits... and the repercussions, of course."
"Really?" Kennedy smiled slowly. "That's actually kinda cool." When people looked her way, surprised, she added, "Being able to make a whole generation happy and loved up - who here thinks that isn't cool?"
"Wasn't the Vietnam war in the sixties too?" Faith asked.
"And that brings us to the repercussions," Giles began.
The door to the bar flew open, making them all jump, and Alex came out quickly, slamming the door behind him again.
"What on God's green earth happened in there?"
Giles stepped up to the man. "There was something of an altercation, which is why we are all outside cooling off."
"Something of an altercation? My cuz said you were all fighting, and kissing—" Alex looked warily between Giles and Xander, "—and that you melted his speaker."
"We weren't all fighting," Giles drew his shoulders back indignantly.
"And we weren't all kissing," Kennedy shot Willow a look.
"But how did you melt his speaker?" Alex went straight to the heart of his perplexity.
There was silence as everyone looked at each other, waiting for someone else to come up with a viable theory.
"There were a lot of wires and plugs and stuff," Buffy said at last. "Maybe your cousin accidentally overloaded something."
"He's an electrician, Buffy," Alex reminded her, exasperated.
Willow burst into noisy tears, and when everyone looked at her, she wailed, "I'm sorry!" and ran off towards the diner.
"Couldn't she just have unmelted it, instead of being such a drama queen?" Faith muttered under her breath.
"Faith," Giles warned softly, louder he addressed Kennedy, "Perhaps you should go after her?"
"Perhaps she can bite me," Kennedy shot back sullenly.
"You kissed someone you shouldn't have today, too," Buffy reminded her.
"Yeah, it was you, B!" Faith took a step closer to her. "You forgot to mention that when you were making a big song and dance about me screwing with my parole officer, didn't you?"
"Yeah, well, maybe if you hadn't acted like such a little pussy last week, Buffy wouldn't be coming to me for a..." Kennedy staggered back under Faith's blow, her hand going to her punched nose.
"Don't talk about her like that!" Faith warned, pointing her finger.
"For attention!" Kennedy shouted, shoving Faith hard in the chest. "I was going to say: for attention!"
"I didn't come to you for attention," Buffy snapped at Kennedy, deliberately getting in her face to prevent Faith attempting a second attack. "I didn't come to you for anything."
"Maybe not, but if I hadn't stopped you, you'd have been trying to in no time." Smirking, Kennedy added, "To come, that..."
She staggered back again, and this time there was blood dribbling from her nose.
Buffy turned on Faith, pushing her backwards. "What is wrong with you? You can't just go punching people over my shoulder."
"I was defending your honor," Faith pushed her back. "Which is more than you've ever done for me."
"That's 'cause I'm not a Neanderthal..."
Buffy lurched to the side as Kennedy knocked her out of the way. With her fist cocked and a gleeful, bloody smile, she released her tension on Faith's nose - hitting a lot harder than Faith had.
Giles motioned for the men to stand back a little as the three women launched into a three-way scuffle, all fighting each other at once.
"Shouldn't we stop them?" Robin asked.
"Well unless you have a tranquillizer gun handy, I'm not sure how," Giles admitted, wincing as Kennedy caught an elbow in the stomach from both elder slayers simultaneously.
"It's like watching a cartoon," Xander said in awe as Buffy tried to make an escape from the brawl only to have Kennedy drag her back in by her hair.
All three men jumped as Alex suddenly bellowed over the noise of the cat fight.
When the metaphorical dust settled, Giles almost chuckled at the Slayer hierarchy.
Buffy had Faith in a headlock, who in turn had Kennedy in a headlock, and all three were now looking up in guilty surprise.
Alex was waving his deputy badge about.
"As I was saying," Giles sighed heavily. "Repercussions."
"Welcome home, Faith." Buffy was giggling so hard she couldn't seem to stop as the metal gate clanged shut on them. "Don't ever say I don't go out of my way to make you feel comfortable."
"I can't believe I'm in the Drunk Tank," Kennedy rolled her eyes. "I only had a mouthful of beer all night!" she shouted through the bars, before cracking up with Buffy.
"Guys, this isn't funny," Faith growled at them. "I'm on freaking parole!"
Buffy and Kennedy both did their best to sober up and take the situation seriously, but one glance at Faith's freaked out expression sent them both back into giggles.
"Is this really necessary?" Giles asked.
"Yes," Alex said shortly, as he filled out the paperwork.
"On what charge are you holding them?" Robin asked authoritatively.
"You were there when I read them their rights," Alex answered tersely, "Street brawling, disturbing the peace, causing a public nuisance..."
"We were the only people out there, Alex," Xander reminded his friend.
"They were shouting and swearing in the street," Alex said, not looking at him. "Right in front of people's houses; I'm sure someone was disturbed. And they were being a nuisance to me, and I'm a public official."
"Please, Al," Xander coaxed. "Just slap them on the wrist and let us go?"
"There's also the matter of damage to private property," Alex continued as if Xander hadn't spoken. "I'm not gonna make any guesses as to how you did that. In fact I don't even want to know, but speakers don't come cheap."
"Are you asking us for a bribe?" Robin chuckled.
Alex gave him a stern look. "I can legally keep those three here all night, but I don't want that hassle, so as soon as Sam knocks off for the night, they can go home. The speaker belongs to my cousin and I don't know what he wants to do about its damage yet, but as a gesture of goodwill, it might be nice if one of you went and spoke to him. Either way, I'm gonna have to ask all three of you to leave now 'cause I'm going back to the party."
They filed out of the door, leaving Alex to have a word with Sam.
"So what's the first priority?" Robin asked, as they began walking back towards Barnies. "The speaker or the spell?"
"Willow," Xander said firmly, "is my first priority. "We don't know where she ran off to, or if she's okay, and it's been half an hour."
"Has she... has she been back on the magick for a while?" Robin asked, sounding both fearful and compassionate.
"No! This isn't... that," Xander shook his head. "Tonight had to be something to do with the lust spell; it loosened her inhibitions about it or something."
"You may be right," Giles agreed. "But I think her encounter with Osiris last night might have something to do with it as well."
"You mean when she brought you and kids back?" Xander asked.
"Yes. The power she gathered for that must have been enormous and it takes awhile to... to let it ungather. Tonight, when the spell enhanced her annoyance, the magick would have been just at her fingertips. I honestly believe it wasn't something she resorted to tonight, so much as a reflex action - the first time at least, and after that, well; the nature of addiction takes over.
"Okay," Robin nodded. "That all sounded truly scary, and over my head. So I'll let you two deal with that, while I go see the boy about the speaker."
Giles called after him, "Tell him we'll buy him a better one if he can find it within himself to forgive us."
"See, now I knew someone would be bribing someone before the end of the night," Robin grinned.
"Yes, well it's better than reading 'Watchers Council destroys father-to-be's livelihood' in the local bloody rag tomorrow," Giles grumbled.
"Also, better not to piss off the guy who offered to come fix our electricity problem in the morning," Xander added. "I'm going to find Willow."
"Xander, don't stray too far," Giles cautioned. "Heaven knows what might be lurking around here, especially on a full moon, and when push comes to shove, Willow can defend herself a darn sight better than you can."
"Okay. What are you going to do?"
"Sit in the truck and try to figure out this spell nonsense," Giles sighed.
The living room was alive with the sounds of heavy breathing and subtle grunts; every now and again the couch made a squeaking noise.
Craig was in seventh heaven; he was a pig in clover; he was a cat with a bunch of canaries willingly walking into his open mouth.
"You're a great kisser," he murmured against Andrew's lips.
"I am?" Andrew mumbled back. "Cool."
Craig smiled, "Mmm, glad you finally came to your senses. I thought I was gonna have to look and not touch my whole holiday."
"I guess I just wasn't sure until today," Andrew admitted.
Together they slid sideways on the couch until they were laying down facing each other. Craig's hands raked through Andrew's short hair, pulling his mouth up to meet his again, as Andrew's hands disappeared bravely beneath Craig's white t-shirt. Their legs tangled together and the couch creaked more frequently, giving the impression that something less innocent was taking place.
Craig suddenly had a sinking feeling.
"Wait a mo, Andy," he said, half sitting up.
"What's wrong?" Andrew looked worried.
"Are you saying you weren't sure you fancied me until today?"
"Um, no, not that. I just didn't know... I'm not good at taking plunges, or... or leaps. I'm much happier when I have a manual, or someone to show me how it's supposed to work. And... you don't come with a manual and what if I get it all wrong and I can't make you... work right?"
Craig laughed in relief, "I do have a manual," he told a pouting Andrew. "It's programmed into me and you just have to use the proper voice commands to access it."
Andrew relaxed against him again, smiling. "Okay, I get it. But it feels awkward, having to ask all these questions I should already know the answer to."
"Who says you should know everything," Craig kissed him. "If I wanted a jaded know-it-all boyfriend, I'd be with a bloomin' cadet."
"Boyfriend?" Andrew asked in a voice that held the same twang as the couch springs.
Chuckling, Craig rolled on top of him, giving him the answer non-verbally.
Five minutes of breathless making out later, Andrew's hand boldly dropped to the ass of Craig's jeans, dragging a moan from the English boy.
"Is this okay?" Andrew asked timidly.
"Yeah, but..." Craig gave a pained sigh as he mentally cursed himself. "Maybe we should take it a little slower." Reluctantly he took Andrew's hand in his own, and pulled it up to his chest. "Just for now?"
"But I want to," Andrew promised him earnestly.
"I don't doubt it, but just trust me on this, yeah?" Craig answered mysteriously
Back in Sunnydale, Dawn had heard plenty of her friends speak in hushed, giggly tones about their de-virginization. The stories told by these fifteen and sixteen year olds varied from the outrageous to the ridiculous, giving Dawn the impression that most of her classmates were at least as clueless as she was about the whole thing, and a few of them were out and out liars.
Still, she'd had to get her information somewhere. Buffy had always been too busy, Mom wasn't around anymore and the sex-ed class the school provided was a joke. So she'd listened to the girls around her talk and show off and came to the conclusion that most first times probably fell somewhere between: 'It hurt like hell; I'm never doing that again' and 'Insert-name-here was so romantic and great and read me love poems while we did it blah-blah-blah'.
Reece wasn't reading love poems, but he was making her name sound like poetry as he breathed it over her skin.
And it didn't hurt, not really. It was uncomfortable, but only a little, and even that went away as Reece murmured beautiful nothings to her, stroking her cheek with his thumb, being as tender as he knew how to be.
Xander walked along, his fingers tapping his thigh in time with the faint music he could hear coming from Barnies. The main street was an oasis of bright street lighting and the alleyways between the houses were black holes into the surrounding darkness. Xander stared hard into them as he passed, but couldn't make out anything at all. It was a possibility he'd have to check out these forbidding portals to the back streets - where he'd been attacked by some dinky yet dangerous local tearaways - but he'd check the well lit places first.
The diner was still open, white fluorescent light poured from the plate glass windows, reflecting on the few cars in the parking lot. Xander bee-lined for it, sure this was where Willow would have run to, but he could see no customers inside, only the staff in various degrees of slacking off as they talked with one another.
Annoyed that his watertight theory hadn't paid off, Xander turned to face the street again, frowning as he contemplated venturing into the alleys. That was when he saw their car, parked off to the side near the closed general store, and the figure hunched over in the driver's seat.
He stood there, wondering how best to approach the situation, and then turned and walked into the diner.
Five minutes later he opened the passenger door of the car, startling Willow. She looked over at him, tensed as she hurriedly wiped tear tracks from her face with her sleeves. He slid awkwardly into the car, being careful so as not to spill either of the large hot drink takeout cups.
"So did Kennedy send you to break up with me?" she asked, her voice hoarse from her crying. "She can't even bear to face me for that long, huh?"
"No, she didn't send me." He handed her one of the drinks. "It's cocoa, not coffee. Figured caffeine wasn't a good idea right now."
"Scared I might destroy the world on a caffeine buzz?" she asked sullenly as she took the cup."
"Nope. Caffeine-buzzy Willow can't sit still long enough to destroy the world." He gave her a tentative grin as he pulled his door shut with a solid thud. "I just remember it doesn't go so well with the old magickal come downy-ness."
"Thanks," she finally said.
The car became a box of silence as Willow stared at the little red blinking LED of the immobilizer.
Xander looked out of the windshield and the passenger window. It was so quiet out here at night. He'd gotten more or less use to the stillness of the camp's grounds after dark - well except for when Pixies and Werewolves were out to play anyway - but here in the center of the town it still seemed weird. The majority of the Sunnydale populace had known better than to wander the streets at night - even if they hadn't really known why - but it had never been this empty before midnight.
He took a sip of his drink, burning his tongue, as he tried to decide what to do or say next. Was this one of those moments when just sitting here in silence was enough? Just his presence enough to make his best friend feel better? It didn't seem so. Willow was still sitting hunched up, she wasn't crying but her mouth was turned down so severely that she looked like she was wearing sad clown make up. Acting like the cup she was holding was just a hand-warmer, not something she actually was supposed to drink from and enjoy.
"So what makes you so sure she wants to break up?" His voice sounded too loud after the long quiet minutes.
Willow must have felt the same as she jerked her head towards him, her frown deepening.
"Why wouldn't she? I kissed Oz. I... I used magick for something I shouldn't have." Her voice was flat and distant. "Tara only needed half of that to leave."
"Kennedy isn't Tara," Xander said softly.
"I know that! Why do people think I need reminding of that?"
"Okay, easy Will, I just meant Kennedy doesn't have the same history with that side of you as Tara did. Tara didn't just up and leave, did she? There was a long build up to it from what I remember. And I know you're not going to make those same mistakes again, so Kennedy won't have any reason to do what Tara did."
He was surprised his voice came out so confident; not because he didn't believe what he'd said, but because of the way Willow's eyes were burning into him as he spoke.
"How can you be so sure?"
"Aren't you sure?"
Willow licked her lips, looking down at her cup. "I wasn't going to hurt anyone tonight. I was in control, not that other bad part of me, the part that doesn't even do control. Me. I knew what I was doing. I just wanted to give Faith a little zap, just to make her shut her up, just so she'd know not to mess with me like that again."
"And Buffy? You just wanted to give her a little zap too?"
"Yes," Willow said resolutely.
"Willow, you melted a speaker!" The words rushed out on a disbelieving chuckle.
"Yeah, well, speakers are made differently to people. There's no rule that says Buffy or Faith would have melted just because the speaker did!"
Xander smiled at her, "Yeah, well, you're the magick expert."
Slowly, Willow gave him a wavery smile in return and took a sip of her drink.
"Either way I was wrong to use magick like that, and I'm glad I only zapped a speaker."
"Bet you won't be when Giles deducts it from your salary."
"Not high on my list of worries right now," she admitted, frowning again. "So where is Kennedy? I was expecting her to come after me."
Xander laughed, "Well she might have, but she got a little detained."
"She's in the slammer."
"Huh?" Willow said again with more emphasis.
"After you ran off, she sort of got into a fight."
"Yeah, and Buffy."
"They beat her up?" Willow's voice went high with agitation.
"No, not exactly, they all sort of started beating each other up," Xander explained, grinning. "They got into an argument about all the kissing and... to be honest - even though I was standing right there - I don't know quite what happened, but Faith punched Kennedy and Buffy had a go at Faith and then Kennedy had a go at Buffy and then Kennedy punched Faith." He sat back and slurped up some of his cocoa, feeling exhausted from recounting the hectic event. "And then it all went blurry."
Willow sat in stunned silence for awhile. "How did she end up arrested?"
"Alex was there, remember? And I guess it pissed him off." Xander thought about it. "Or he was already pissed off with his night being disrupted by all of us. Or he was pissed off because he realized Buffy was using him to make Faith jealous. I don't know, but officially he booked them for affray, and causing a public nuisance; which I don't know about you, but I thought was pretty funny."
"Them?" Willow asked.
"Oh yeah, Buffy and Faith are behind bars with her."
At that, Willow couldn't help but chuckle, but she squashed it quickly with a look of genuine concern.
"It's okay; I don't think Al is going to throw the book at them or anything. Like I said, he was just pissed off. He knows Faith's on parole, and I can't see him deliberately trying to screw her over."
"I hope not."
"You haven't expressed any concern for your best friend's incarcerated condition," Xander noticed idly.
"Buffy can handle it," Willow finished her drink and set the cardboard cup down on the dash. "Besides, she all locked up with Kennedy; I'm sure they're both very cozy."
"With Faith in there too?" Xander raised an eyebrow and Willow looked away irritably. "We're under a lust spell, Will. That's all the kiss was about."
"Whatever," Willow murmured.
"So you're mad that Kennedy kissed Buffy while under the influence; are you going to break up with her?"
"Of course not. It's just, if it really was just because of the spell, why didn't she tell me?"
"Why didn't you tell her about Oz?"
"Because I didn't know it was because of a spell, and I was worried she'd think it was more than just a kiss, that I wanted to get back with him, and it just seemed more sensible not to open up that avenue of thinking for her. But it doesn't go both ways," she said before Xander could point out the obvious. "If she'd told me she kissed Buffy on a spur of the moment wild impulse and she didn't know why and she never meant to, then I..." she trailed off, staring out of the windshield. "I'd have at least given her the benefit of the doubt."
Xander wasn't sure what he was supposed to say. Everything he thought of saying sounded condemning, or at the least, condescending, and that wouldn't help. He didn't understand why Willow was so convinced Kennedy wanted to dump her for her indiscretion, especially considering Kennedy's own.
Obviously Willow and Oz had history, but - despite what Oz might be thinking, and Xander was damn sure not going to mention that right now - it was ancient history. It was like, if Cordelia had lowered herself enough to kiss him last year because of a spell, it wouldn't have changed the fact that he was in love with Anya and only really wanted to be with her.
A question suddenly burned in his mind, one that hadn't even occurred to him before now, mostly because he thought he already knew the negative response without asking, making it moot and uninteresting.
"Willow, are you in love with Kennedy?"
"I.. I, what? Did ya... did ya go to crazy land to get that idea?"
"It's not a crazy idea," he replied firmly. "Not even close. Are you?"
"I... I don't know," Willow looked at him with wide anxious eyes.
"Okay that either means you're not, or you're lying. Which is it?"
Willow looked away from him, breathing slightly heavily, like she'd just been running.
"I'm not sure; I never thought I could be, I just know... I don't want to lose her."
Boudenver's sheriff's office consisted of one sheriff, three deputies, one front room complete with reception desk, one office slash tea room and one room used for questioning prisoners - and built long before two-way mirrors were even invented - a rest room, and, of course, the jail cell.
Buffy was now an expert thanks to Deputy Sam - apparently permanently stuck with desk duty these days due to a crossbow accident the month before - being as bored as hell; and because boredom likes company as much as any other emotion does - he'd spent an hour telling them all about the building from its construction, many years before he was born, to the present day.
It was worrying that a twenty-one year old as cute as Sam could be so boring, or maybe it was all part of their punishment. Thankfully he'd eventually gone to phone his girlfriend and left the three slayers alone.
The cell was also boring, with only two features to make it homely: a toilet plumbed into the corner - no cubicle or even a curtain for privacy - and a low wooden cot covered in cigarette burns that ran the length of the back wall.
Currently Buffy was sitting in the middle of the cot; her legs crossed comfortably, her elbows on her knees, as she looked about, trying to find anything interesting to start a conversation about. Anything would do to break the suffocating silence of Kennedy's sulking and Faith's brooding... or maybe it was Kennedy that was brooding and Faith was sulking, Buffy wasn't sure, but she'd had enough.
"You know, this is the nicest jail I've ever been in," she said eventually. "Clean, peaceful, totally vomit-less and without the usual urine-y smell... nice."
"I have an aunt Ureenie," Kennedy said, her voice flat with disinterest, her blank gaze still staring through the bars at nothing.
"Been in a lot of jails, have you?" Faith asked with sarcasm.
"A couple," Buffy shrugged, not rising to the tone. "When you burn down your school gym, they don't just give you detention."
Faith made a huffing sound in amusement. "S'pose not."
Buffy tilted her head down and to the left so she could look at Faith. "So was your cell anything like this?"
Faith lifted her eyes to the ceiling, sighing, as if she wasn't going to reply. She rubbed the back of her neck a few times and then, looking around herself, she gave in.
"Not really. Smaller for one thing. Less bars, more wall. Two bunks, a wash basin. The toilet had like this little partition wall bit, we had a locker each." Faith paused, trying to remember all the details of home. "There was a window - barred, of course. Janey had all her pictures of her family and friends stuck to the wall, I had one of..."
"One of what?" Buffy asked, tucking some dark blonde hair behind her ear.
Faith laughed, shaking her head. "One of Cordelia's photos."
"You had a photo of Cordelia?" Buffy's back straightened in surprise; it was so unexpected, curiosity outweighed any jealousy.
"No, I had a photo of Cordelia's," Faith corrected. "Of you guys back in high school. I asked... When I first went back, I asked Angel if he could get me... Apparently that was the only one he could find."
"You asked for a photo of...us," Buffy asked shyly, her lips curling into a smile.
"Yeah, Willow looks wicked hot in it," Faith wiggled her eyebrows.
Kennedy's head shot around and she glared at Faith.
"Wind your neck in, K-dawg, I was kidding," Faith placated her, before slyly adding, "Everyone knows Xander was the hottie back then."
Buffy shook her head, giving Faith a withering glance as she jumped up from the cot and paced to the bars. So much for thinking they were getting somewhere. Faith just couldn't be honest for one second...
"'Course, both of them pale into the shrubbery with B being in the photo," Faith said, as if quietly continuing a conversation with Kennedy. "Not their fault, just hard to compete against that kind of beauty, you know?"
Buffy pressed her forehead against the cool bars, hiding her smile.
"It scares me," Faith kept the same quiet, even tone. "All that beauty. I can't handle it. All I know how to do is fuck it up, turn it into some ugly fuckin' thing no one wants, 'cause then I feel like I'm on the same wavelength, ya know? Feels like it's something I might deserve, once it's broken."
"So, when you ran," Buffy started softly, still staring through the bars. "Were you trying to break me... or us? And don't feel you have to hold back, Faith, either answer will hurt the same."
"I wasn't consciously tryin' to do either," Faith sighed. "But that's my point; I can do this shit without even tryin'. Think about what I could do if I actually invested myself."
"Well maybe," Buffy turned, leaning back against the bars, so she could stare hard into Faith's eyes. "You could have invested yourself into making us work, instead of being too scared to even give it a shot. Do you know how I felt when Giles showed up last week without you?"
Faith shook her head, "Relieved, if you had any sense."
"Wrong answer. I felt ten times worse than I did when you told me to piss off in California; a thousand times worse than when I woke up that morning and found you not there. Because I at least understood your reasons then. I hated that you left me in LA, but once I knew, I was so proud of the decision you made even though I didn't like it. And I get why you didn't want me staying in Stockton; it hurt so much, but there was logic to it. But... but running from Giles, disappearing for a week, risking your parole... why, Faith? Why put your future at jeopardy like that? Why screw Giles like that? And Angel, and Gunn?" Buffy shook her head in despair. "Why hurt me like that?"
"I had my reasons, B, okay?"
"So fucking far from okay, F!" Buffy shouted as she pushed herself off the bars and stormed closer. "If you didn't want to be with me, you should have come back and told me, like an adult..."
"That wasn't it!" Faith shouted. "Yeah, you were top of the list of reasons, but not because I didn't want to be with you! I just don't know how. And I was scared of screwing it up."
Buffy started laughing, but there was no humor in it. "So you thought you'd give yourself a head start? Being scared is not a reason, it's an excuse; an excuse for being a complete idiot, for being the way you've always been - thoughtless and selfish."
Faith jumped to her feet, angry now, "Hang on a damn minute, B, you don't know what I went through in prison. You don't know what was going through my head before I took off, and you don't know a thing about what I've been thinking or feeling or doing for the past week. In fact you don't know a damn thing about me..."
"I think I know you pretty well."
"No, you know the bits you've seen, the bits - good and bad - you experienced with me, but that's it! You think my reasons are stupid? That's because you don't like 'em, because you can only see how they relate to you. You're not even taking a second to think how they relate to me! Not even wondering why I might have these reasons in the first place."
"Faith, I know you're damaged g...!" The blow knocked Buffy's head back and she staggered, landing on her ass on the stone floor.
Kennedy was on her feet in a second. She'd been doing her best to stay out of the argument, not moving or adding any of the wise-ass comments she was coming up with, as she let her elders have the row she knew they desperately needed to have. But she was up now, ready to wade in and do her best to break up anything physical.
It didn't look like she was going to have to as she watched Faith recoil with guilt, holding the hand she'd punched with as if it hurt, or as if she was making sure it didn't lash out again. Buffy stayed on the floor, one hand to the bruising already coming out on her cheek, but she didn't look mad; she looked as guilty as Faith did.
"I'm sorry," Faith was the first to apologize, albeit barely audibly.
"No, I am," Buffy's voice was soft too. "I shouldn't have said that."
"Well, it's the truth," Faith sighed, sinking back down on the cot.
"No, Faith, it's not," Buffy shook her head, getting slowly to her feet. "I was just trying to hurt you."
"Yay me," Buffy said dejectedly, making Faith chuckle softly.
Buffy sat down next to her. "And you were right, my own perceptions are kinda coloring your exc... reasons, and it's not fair of me to give you a hard time until I've at least given you a chance to explain them, properly."
Kennedy sat back down on the far end of the cot. She wasn't even sure the other two had ever noticed her standing up.
"So you're still gonna give me a hard time after I've explained?" Faith asked with a small smirk.
"That depends on whether I still think they're stupid," Buffy smirked back, giving Faith at least the hope that she was joking. "How properly you explain them will probably go a long way in deciding how hard the time I give you is."
"If you can spare the time, I'll fill you in on every thought and action that lead up to my decision to run - which, just for the record, I know was a really stupid decision to make - I'll give ya the whole nine yards: psyche reports; case studies." When both Buffy and Kennedy looked at her quizzically, Faith added with a grin, "Sorry, been institutionalized for way too long."
"I can spare the time," Buffy smiled. "In fact, I'll have to check my diary, but I think I can offer you the foreseeable future, at least, to state your case."
As Faith's laughter died away, she spoke seriously again. "This sounds like it should be the lead up to a big happy ending, but it's not even close, is it?"
"I don't think so, no," Buffy agreed, sadly.
She would like to lie, to insist this was where happiness began, but that wasn't the feeling her gut was giving her, and Faith saying it aloud only cemented it.
"I was serious before, Buffy, when you visited me. I didn't know what I was going to do when I got out and I still don't. I've got a hell of a lot of shit to work out, some of it by next week, and I don't know if I can do it all how I need to, and make things up to you too."
Buffy looked down at her lap
"Hey!" Faith snapped out, making Buffy look up again. "I'm not saying I don't want to be with you. The only thing I'm clear on right now is that I do want to be with you, so don't start thinking the wrong thing and making this harder for us."
"So what does it mean, Faith?" Buffy asked, suddenly impatient. "You want to be with me, but only if I put up and shut up and stay out of your business?"
"Jeez, B, no!" Faith stood up from the cot and walked to the bars. She didn't look out for more than a second before she turned to lean against them, folding her arms. "I want to be with you, period; and you know damn well I wouldn't say that if I didn't mean it."
"Do I?" Buffy asked quietly.
Faith's eyes went from open and honest to narrow and angry really quickly. Buffy held her stare. "Fine, don't believe me. So what is it you want? Why are we having this conversation if you've already written me off?"
"I'm not writing you off. I just... You can't expect my hills to be alive with music after everything you've done..." Faith started to interrupt, but Buffy kept talking. "Leaving me in LA, clueless as to where you were for six weeks. The way you treated me when I finally found out where you were and took time out of my life to rush straight to California to see you. And you said yourself; I don't know what you've been up to for the past week."
"I haven't been up to anything!" Faith's voice rose. "I didn't break a single law all my way here. Well, except for violating my parole conditions," she admitted more reasonably.
"But you were supposed to be up me!" Buffy shot back, before backtracking hurriedly. "I mean, up to me, up with me... You should have been with me," she clarified firmly.
Faith had started to chuckle at Buffy's mistake, but it melted into a soft smile that highlighted the cuteness of her dimples and the gorgeousness of her face. "I know."
Faith's smile, the look in her eyes, the simplicity of her answer, they all went a long way in salving Buffy's anger. She rolled her eyes, trying to suppress her grin as she realized just how dangerous Faith's smile could be.
Dangerous in the sense that it could probably get Buffy to do exactly what it wanted her to, or more precisely, exactly what Faith wanted her to. And judging by the way Faith was now starting to grin, she'd already cottoned on to the effect she could have.
No, that wasn't the way this was going to happen. Faith was not forgiven just because her smile, and her eyes, and her voice, and her body and her... herness, made Buffy forget why she had every reason to be angry. Faith had gotten off extremely lightly for ignoring her parole conditions for a week - thank God - leaving it up to Buffy to make the consequences of her actions severe enough that she wouldn't consider 'taking off' to be the easy way out in the future.
"I can't get over this just like that, Faith. It's been five months of hell for me, and maybe that isn't what you intended, but that's what it has been... and I can't just pretend like it hasn't."
Faith didn't speak; her smile looked less sure now.
Buffy continued, "Having you here, now, it's like, I don't know, getting the pony, winning the lottery, all that... and I want us to have that happy ending, Faith, I really do. But... I just can't let go of all the bad endings over night."
Faith left the bars and walked over to Buffy, but instead of sitting on the cot next to her, she dropped to one knee.
"Don't worry, I'm not proposing," Faith smirked as Buffy leaned back, confused. She reached gingerly over to take one of Buffy's hands.
"I'm not going to explode," Buffy promised, noting Faith's cautious attitude.
"I know, I'm just not real used to this." She held Buffy's hand more firmly, running her thumb once over the knuckles. She gave Kennedy a cursory glance and found her looking the other way, giving them as much privacy as was possible in the cell.
"The thing is B, I don't expect you to get over this over night. I'd like it, sure, but I'm a realist, ya know? I've got a lot of making up to do, not just to you, to everyone, but mostly to you, and not just for the last five months. And I'm gonna do it, I hope, whether you believe me right now or not..."
Buffy quietly interrupted, "I want to believe you."
"But I can't do what I need to do to make us right, right now. I can't do it properly at least, not when I have all this other stuff I have to concentrate on. And this isn't me trying to cop out. If I don't do what Deb D tells me to when she tells me to, then things between us don't stand a chance anyway."
"I get that," Buffy squeezed Faith's hand.
"So I guess I'm asking for time too," Faith said seriously.
Buffy nodded, "Then I guess if we both just need time, this should be pretty simple. We just give each other time."
"You really think it's going to be that easy?"
"We'll just take things slow. We know we want to be together in the end, so we'll just hang in there until it's time, and then we'll be together."
Faith frowned, mostly from disbelief, "So that's it, we're good?"
Buffy shook her head, almost smiling, "Oh no, good is a long way off, but... we're on the road to good; we've just passed the first big freeway sign to good."
"Well, then, good." Faith's smile was infectious, and Buffy squeezed her hand again, feeling closer to good than she was prepared to let on just yet.
Kennedy leapt from the cot. "Finally!"
Looking up, Buffy realized Deputy Sam was back and unlocking the door. Kennedy risked getting herself re-arrested with the way she pushed past him to get out, but he was too interested in getting home to make a thing out of it.
Buffy followed at a steadier pace, and it was only when she was walking up the corridor to freedom, she realized Faith had never let go of her hand.
It was a sheepish group that met in front of Barnies again, shortly after midnight.
Giles was the first to break the oppressive silence, "I trust you all survived your incarceration with no lasting ill-effects?"
"We're good," Faith nodded.
"Just this side of peachy," Buffy nodded too.
"Bored out of my freaking brain," Kennedy muttered. "Listening to mush and mushier here."
"Yeah? Maybe you wanna shut your mush..." Faith started.
"Before one of us makes it mushier," Buffy finished.
"Shall we not start that again," Robin was the one to step in. "Not that a three-way cat fight isn't always fun, but we don't want to risk you all getting arrested, again."
"Yeah, the smart thing to do is to get home and figure out who's making us all lusty," Xander reminded them. "Before I start macking on Robin, or Will and Faith decide to give some free love a try."
"Don't even try it," Robin said with a grim smile. "All the magic induced lust in the world couldn't make you more attractive than one of the ladies here."
Nobody noticed the intensely heated look that Faith and Willow gave each other. Realizing what they were doing, they both jerked their eyes away.
"I do believe it would be prudent to get home as soon as possible, however. I think I already may know who our spell-caster is," Giles explained.
"Giles, I know you probably won't believe me, but I swear it wasn't me," Willow sounded panicky.
"I do believe you, Willow," Giles promised. "I think it's safe to say, whoever cast this spell did so out of a desire for revenge and not to gain any of the... physical benefits, shall we say, for himself. Therefore you have no motive, which makes me doubly sure that despite the careless use of your powers this evening, you are not our culprit."
Willow hung her head, feeling exonerated and chastised in the same sentence.
Xander, standing behind her, gently squeezed her shoulders and she lifted her head again, ready to re-engage in the conversation. Her talk with Xander had helped her realize that the only way forward was to... go forward. Dwelling on what had happened over the previous twenty-four hours wasn't going to move things to a better place - they would just sink into the swamp of her own fear, jealousy and self-loathing, making everything stagnant and stinky.
"So if it's not me," she said chirpily, with forward momentum in mind, "who is it?"
Giles shook his head slightly, blowing out an exasperated breath. "Let's all head home and sort it out once we're there."
"Uh, can Robin and I catch a ride?" Faith asked, looking up and down Boudenver's empty main street. "I don't like our chances of getting another taxi tonight."
Robin glanced at Faith, clearly surprised she still remembered he was there. He shot Buffy a look next and she looked away as subtly as possible. It wasn't that his look was angry, but it made her feel unjustifiably guilty, and it wasn't fair. Okay, so maybe she should have been upfront with him earlier, explained that she and Faith were a possibility, and then maybe he wouldn't be feeling so used and hurt now; but she hadn't known, not for sure.
So sue her for not wanting to risk humiliation by jumping the gun. The hurt in his eyes was Faith's responsibility, so why wasn't he looking at her?
"Of course, there's plenty of room in the back of the truck," Giles mentioned as he walked towards it.
"Or we have the car," Willow said. "There's room for two more besides Kennedy and I."
Kennedy shook her head, "You have room for three; I'm going with Giles."
"Kennedy!" Willow called after her, but the younger slayer ignored her, striding into the alleyway beside Barnies without looking back.
This time, when Willow's head slumped, it was harder to find the impetus to keep focused, but she squared her shoulders resolutely. "Okay, why don't Xander, Faith and Robin come with me, and Buffy, you go with Giles, that way he can fill you in on our mysterious magick user."
To Buffy, it made sense, but she was reluctant to follow the path of sense right now. She seemed rooted to the spot as she tried to find a reason less obvious than the obvious for why Willow's travel arrangements were a bad idea.
Faith had no such qualms about being sensible or obvious.
"No," she shook her head, giving first Robin a long look - assessing how blunt to be - and then turning friendlier eyes to the blonde. "I'm riding with B; we still have shit to discuss. Catch ya back at the house, Rob." She turned away. "So where's this car?"
Willow was driving and Xander had called shotgun, not that either Buffy or Faith minded. They sat in the back together as the car drove the pitch dark road to home. A foot of unoccupied car seat lay between them, but they were locked by their eyes - all they could really see of each other in the orangey glow of the dashboard lights - and the air between them was thrumming with a sexual charge. Buffy didn't know if it was the spell or them, but it was making her hot.
"So what did you want to discuss?" Buffy asked, quiet enough that Willow and Xander wouldn't hear over the low volume of the radio.
"Nothing." The full moon shone through the window, illuminating Faith's smile, before the car drove into the trees and the darkness got darker. "I just wanted to ride with you."
"I wanted to ride with you too," Buffy admitted.
On some invisible cue, they found each others hands. "Never figured you for a wanton hand holder," Buffy smirked, "But it's a nice surprise."
"Surprising myself herem" Faith admitted, squeezing her hand a little. "Need me some hot action, stat, B; to balance out all this innocent stuff, ya dig?"
"I dig," Buffy grinned. "But, as much as you are hot action personified, I'm pretty sure right now it's just the spell talking."
"What?" Faith asked, distracted as she slid her ass across the seat, closer to Buffy but not as close as either of them wanted to be.
"The lust spell, Faith, is aggravating our hormones."
"I'm not feeling all that aggravated right now."
"It's the spell, Faith," Buffy repeated, trying not to breathe Faith in as she sidled even closer.
"I'm fine with it."
"Maybe, but according to my map, Hot Action is the other side of Good."
"Or maybe," Faith offered as her fingertips trailed down Buffy's cheek to her chin. "Hot Action is the shortcut we have to take to get to Good."
Buffy took hold of Faith's fingers - now they were holding both hands - before Faith could swoop in and kiss her... because then she would be lost forever to her fate as Faith's bitch.
"...taking that shortcut could get us lost in the wilds of Is That Really All You're Interested In? Or stuck on the side of the This Relationship Isn't Working For Me, So I'm Dumping Your Ass highway."
"Wow," Faith nodded slowly. "The places on your map have really detailed names, huh?"
Buffy chuckled, "Sounds like it."
"Okay," Faith nodded some more, settling back a little as she thought something through. "If you're saying what I think you're saying - and, sweet Jesus, I hope you're not - then all the more reason to let this spell do its worst now, right, before Giles or Red breaks it and we lose the excuse."
"I'm not sure that kind of sense is the sensible kind," Buffy said slowly as Faith leaned into her again. "I'm supposed to be staying strong, not leaping on the first excuse that comes along."
"Well don't take this the wrong way, B, but you've obviously been going with the flow all day. Why the hell are you so determined to be strong now that it's me?" Faith sounded hurt.
"You're more important."
"Then all the more reason to give in," Faith breathed. "Blame it on the spell. We'll start fresh once it's broken."
"You're not supposed to be doing this," Buffy pointed out, but she was looking deep into Faith's eyes; mentally she'd already given in, how she was still holding out physically, she didn't know.
"Pushing each other is what we do best, B."
"So, I'm gonna kiss you now, and you're gonna relax and enjoy every second of it, okay?" Faith murmured, inching their faces closer. "No guilt, this is like a free play, doesn't even count to our overall score; just a chance to practice technique for when it really counts..."
Buffy, deciding she could take no more of the teasing proximity, cut Faith's babble off with her lips.
Buffy's hands slid around Faith's shoulders before they separated, one sliding down the length of Faith's side as the other curled around her neck, holding her close. Faith's hands cupped Buffy's cheeks, pushing her against the seat back as she moved to a semi-straddling position, completely forgetting the car wasn't moving along fast by itself. Buffy wasn't caring that they weren't alone either, this felt too good to stop. She wriggled on the seat, trying to get Faith to sit fully on her lap, as she opened her mouth to Faith's keen tongue.
"Ahem," the sound of Willow clearing her throat was filtered into Buffy's ears through Faith's fingers, but it didn't sound important, so she ignored it.
"Do you think they'll keep at it long enough to get Andrew's camera?" Xander's voice sounded a long way off.
"Tell ya what, you go get it, I'll stay here and, uh, keep watch, just in case they stop," Willow sounded breathless.
"No, you should go get it," Xander argued. "You'll be better at that than me."
"Where as no one can ogle quite like Xander Harris." Willow giggled.
"I have to play to my strengths..."
Reluctantly, Buffy claimed back her tongue, and even more reluctantly, gave Faith back hers, as she pulled back enough to whisper,
"I think they're talking about us."
"Probably, we are wicked oglesome," Faith grinned.
Buffy giggled; letting her lips brush against Faith's again. Nope, brushing would never be enough; full lip contact was the only way to go. She tilted her head back, moaning into the kiss as Faith pressed harder against her, rubbing, almost grinding; her skirt was short enough to be in the way and not in the way at once. Buffy's thumbs brushed the stiff hem, lifting it, her fingers taking a walk beneath...
"AHEM!" Willow and Xander asserted in unison.
Buffy's eyes opened in alarm and she pushed distance between herself and Faith. "Oh, right, yeah, stopping."
"Are you two pervs still here," Faith groaned irritably, un-straddling Buffy. "Don't you have a Magick abuser to apprehend?"
"Well, Buffy's usually our apprehender, and I have a feeling her apprehending ability is compromised when she's sucking your face, so...?" Xander shrugged, and then winced as Buffy cuffed the back of his head. "Blind side! No fair!"
"And I've grounded myself," Willow looked uncomfortable. "The lust spell is making me unstable - kinda obviously - so I'm not using any more magick until it's stopped, possibly longer if Giles is really mad at me."
"Well they say the hardest part is admitting you have a problem," Faith said amiably, opening the back door and jumping out of the car.
"I don't have a problem!" Willow snapped, getting out of the car too. "I had a problem, sure, but I'm over it. My abstinence now is just a precaution, and one I'm taking willingly, not a big cause for alarm, okay?"
"Sure, whatever," Kennedy muttered as everyone met up again at the front door.
Willow gave her girlfriend a pained look, Kennedy ignored her again. She'd been thinking about Willow non-stop all the way home and all the time she'd been locked up, but she was no closer to figuring out how to deal with it all. She wished finding out Willow had kissed Oz could have killed her feelings, stamped out the love she was starting to feel in earnest for the woman, because then it might not have hurt so much. But it obviously hadn't, because she was hurting like a bitch right now.
"So, Giles, who's the who?" Buffy asked her Watcher as he joined them. "Who do you want me to get all apprehendy with?"
Giles sighed. "It was remembering the Chaos Mage in the sixties that lead me to our current culprit. As Willow said, many lust spells are used as a mild form of revenge, and lust is a well known form of chaos - the affects it has on the mind and the body, the domino effect it can have on those around the accursed. For example, I doubt the guilty party ever intended for Robin or... or Oz to be drawn into the..."
"Get to the point," Faith and Kennedy said as one.
"Yes, of course, sorry," Giles cleared his throat. "Taking all of that into account, who is more likely to be responsible than a Chaos Mage looking for revenge? Or a Chaos Mage living under our very roof?"
The group gathered by the front porch were quiet as they looked around at each other; no light was being shed by any of them though.
"But Giles, none of us is a Chaos Mage," Buffy pointed out what she thought was the obvious.
"Not exactly, no," Giles gave a pretty terrifying smile as he pushed through the assemblage and opened the front door.
Craig's head popped up over the arm of the couch as the door burst open and half of the household stormed in - not looking happy. He got a bad feeling immediately.
"We weren't doing anything!" Andrew squealed in his ear as he saw his Lord and Masters entering.
"Oh for Heaven's sake." His Godfather glared down at him. "Put down the bloody boy and put on your shirt.
Yep, really bad feeling. Rubbing his ringing ear, Craig scrambled off the couch, leaving Andrew to clutch a cushion to his bare chest.
"He's right; we weren't doing nothing, just kissing. See? Belt still buckled." He pointed at it before scooping up his sweater from the floor. "Wouldn't disrespect your house like that Uncle Rubear."
"Don't talk to me about disrespecting my bloody..." Giles trailed off, looking furious. "I welcomed you into my home, despite your dubious reasons for being here, and this is how you repay my trust, is it?"
"I..." Craig wasn't entirely sure of what he was being accused. He didn't want to admit to anything he hadn't done, but then he didn't want to piss the old boy off any more than he already was either. "I'm not sure, sir, maybe if you told me what you think I did..."
"Why you little..." Craig ducked out of the way as Giles went to lunge at him, and then watched warily as the older man took a step back instead, trying to calm his temper.
"It's Craig?" He heard Kennedy ask.
"Well he does know some magick," Willow said next.
"Who is he?" Robin asked.
"Someone who needs his ass kicked so hard it doesn't pop back into shape until next week!" Craig gulped as he heard Faith cracking her knuckles.
"But why turn us back into horny teenagers?" Xander asked. "What's in it for him?"
Andrew shouted over the silence on one side of him and the irate muttering on the other. "Somebody tell me what is going on?"
Craig weighed up his options as he looked from Giles' fury to Andrew's confusion to the Greek chorus standing by the foot of the stairs - and realized he had none. Well, none that were appealing on any level.
"So, you know?" he started with. "Figured my little joke out, ay? Sorry. Probably not as funny for all of you," he apologized as he backed away from them. "But bad taste practical jokes? I can't seem to help myself. So I should probably seek some, er, outside... help!"
Turning he made a dash for the kitchen and then grunted as something landed on his back, slamming his forehead into the swing door. He staggered back, not staying upright under his own steam right away.
"Bloody Goorzar," he slurred, rubbing his forehead where it had made impact. "She 'ates me now."
"Not Goorzar." He was vaguely aware of being swung back around to face the room by his shoulders. "Better hygiene, better hair and way better at being pissed at you right now."
"Okay." He tried focusing; it wasn't all that easy to start with. "You caught me. Games up, Sonny-Jim. I'll come along quietly. Just... just let me lie down for a while."
"No," Buffy said firmly, keeping him on his feet.
"Why are you roughing up Craig?" Andrew demanded, springing to his feet. "Leave him alone."
Giles pushed him back to the couch without a glance, asking with exasperation,
"Please Craig; tell me this was a Revenge Thy Father scenario and not just a way into this ninny's knickers?"
Faith - the rogue, the murderer, the really good 'bad ass' glarer - came over. Craig found focusing a little easier, intimidation helping to clear the fog. She didn't stab him, but she did keep glaring, her face getting closer to his all the time. When his eyes were as open as they could be, she jerked closer,
His knees buckled at the surprise but Buffy kept him upright again.
"Gee, I can't believe this is the little shit that's been playing us." Faith tutted, reaching out to roughly, but not painfully, ruffle his hair. "Damn, B. Remember when the big bad's were actually big and bad?"
"I don't know, I kinda like the little bad's - they break with so much less hassle." Buffy gave Craig - who was a good couple of inches taller than her - a little shake that rattled his teeth.
"Okay girls," Giles cautioned them. "At least give him some space to explain himself."
Faith backed off completely, taking a seat in the armchair. Buffy kept a hold of him but relaxed.
"Well, Rayne," Giles crossed his arms... crossly. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
"I, er..." Craig looked up, ready to confess all.
"Whoa there." Buffy swung him around by his shoulders again, this time to face her. "Rayne?"
He gazed at her unsteadily, "Personally, I prefer Craig."
"Craig Rayne." Oh God, she didn't like what she was thinking, but... It was like one of those magic eye pictures. She hadn't seen it at first, but now she had, she couldn't stop seeing it. "Craig Rayne?"
"Yeah." He was grinning at her dopily, obviously amused by her retarded repeating of his name.
"Craig Rayne," she quietly repeated once more before the next few sentences exploded from her. "Ethan Rayne has a son? And you - you're him? You're Ethan Rayne's son! And you didn't tell anyone?"
"Well, Uncle Rubear knows."
She let go of him, her fists balling at her sides and it was an effort not to reach out and shake him again. She would feel better if he looked ashamed at being found out, or just a little embarrassed probably would have done. He was neither. His shoulders straightened as he took in her angry expression, and his eyes - unclouding - never wavered from her own.
"Well?" she demanded, because it was all she could think to say.
He looked like he didn't understand the question, and she couldn't blame him for that.
Eventually, he said, "I figured you would have known by now."
"Nope, this is a little on the new side," she said, poking a finger at his chest. "Because you never bothered to introduce yourself, and you can't tell me it's because you didn't think I'd be interested."
Craig seemed to think that over for a second before he held out his hand to Buffy. "I'm Craig Rayne. Son of Ethan Rayne and Rosanna Giles. It's a pleasure to formally make your acquaintance, Miss Summers." When she didn't take his hand, he let it drop back to his side.
She couldn't tell if he was trying to be funny or if this was a genuine attempt to undo his mistake, so she just stared at him, waiting to see what he would do or say next.
"Buffy, please..." Giles began.
"No! Don't 'please' me!" Buffy snapped at him. "He's Ethan's son! And you didn't tell me."
"Who's Ethan?" Faith and Kennedy asked almost together.
"You know, Ethan! Creator of Halloween monster mayhem. Producer of immaturizing candy. Turner of Giles into Demon-ness. His twisted, amoral coward of a dad!" Buffy ranted, her eyes never leaving Craig's.
Craig's own eyes narrowed at the insults, and he hissed, "You're lucky you're a woman."
Buffy blinked, his answer surprising her and gaining him a snippet of respect. She'd assumed he was restraining the anger evident in his eyes out of fear of The Slayer.
Andrew was suddenly up again, moving out of range before Giles could give him another 'sit down' push.
"We can't be held accountable for what certain misguided members of our families do. Even if they aren't always shining examples of humanity or they sometimes... influence us, maybe, we should only be judged on our own bad deeds."
"You're not exactly the best person to be preaching that, Andrew," Buffy reminded him. "Your low-life brother bred a pack of vicious Hell-hounds and set them on the Prom. You, on the other hand, teamed up with the evil-geek squad, tried to take over my town and people got killed, nearly me... again - that makes you worse."
"Why did you come here, Craig?" Buffy asked, getting back in his face. "And don't say it was to see Giles. You're Ethan's kid. Ethan, who is the enemy of Giles and as you've probably guessed - I'm not a huge fan, either."
"Why do you think?" Craig shouted at her. Suddenly tears of anger were making his dark eyes bright. "My dad's in Broadmoor because of you. Because of what you did! He's gonna rot in there and it's your fault. I had to do something. He's my dad!"
The room was silent after Craig's outburst as everyone looked at each other.
"What's Broadmoor?" Xander asked, eventually.
Craig wiped his eyes roughly and stared at Buffy, his chin raised angrily as he waited for her to answer.
"I don't know," she admitted before hazarding a guess. "Army detention camp, maybe?"
Clearly it wasn't the right answer; Craig's dark eyes burned like super-heated mahogany. A muscle ticked in his jaw as he took a step closer to her.
"You don't even know. Do you even care? Not by the bloody looks of it. Did you even for a second stop to wonder what the outcome of your little trick might be?"
"Strangely, no," Buffy snapped back. "And if you wanna talk about tricks - Ethan was the one turning people into demons just for fun."
"Being locked up in a filthy prison for the criminally insane for the rest of his life is a pretty high price to pay for a joke, don't you think?" Craig sneered. "It's not like he'd have ever left Uncle Rubear like a demon..."
Buffy cut him off. "I think you think too highly of your dad. Of course he would have left Giles like that. He was all ready to skip town when I caught him. And... Rubear?"
Craig looked embarrassed on top of furious; the tears came again. "Bitch."
"Don't you ever..." Buffy began, reaching out to grab the front of his sweater.
"Buffy, enough!" Giles shouted over her.
As Craig squirmed out of her reach, Giles grabbed him and held onto him tight. Craig struggled and Giles had to dance to keep his grip, but eventually he maneuvered them so that Craig's face was turned into his shoulder, and he held him there with one hand to the back of the boy's head.
"Enough," he repeated, gently. "Andrew's right. We can't be held responsible for the sins of our fathers."
The silence almost came back, only the muffled sobs coming from Craig keeping it at bay. Buffy dropped her gaze to the carpet, embarrassed. Others shuffled their feet. Andrew cleared his throat, opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again as he looked at Craig with distressed eyes.
Eventually, Willow spoke softly, "I'm all for only being judged for my own mistakes, but there is still the little matter of the spell."
"And that is all down to him," Buffy muttered in agreement.
"No," Willow shook her head quickly. "That's not where I was going."
"And besides," Faith shrugged, "sounds like we got off easy compared to his pop. Honestly, I spent a couple of weeks on the psych ward at Stockton... I'll take getting horny over that any day of the week."
Buffy nodded in sympathy, remembering her own times in hospital - both real and demonically induced. "You have a point. Horny's not so bad, but it sucks when everyone thinks you're crazy 'cause you see vampires."
"Ethan must have been bragging about his magick," said Xander. "That would have the same effect on doctors as claiming to kill vampires in your spare time.
"He wasn't bragging," Craig, still sniffing, pulled away from Giles. "He wasn't bragging! Your Government scientists experimented on him, and then when they couldn't find a button or a... a gland that controlled his power, they had him extradited back to England under false medical papers and army reports. He didn't even get a trial; they couldn't risk him telling the truth, he was just banged up."
"Sounds like a good conspiracy theory," Robin commented.
"Doesn't make it not true," Faith countered.
"And when you include the Initiative, it makes it very likely to be true," Buffy said quietly. "Riley told me Ethan would just be detained for a week or so and then deported. Seemed like a great way to deal with that pain in my ass; and I didn't think any further than that. Damn, how was I so naïve?"
"Buffy, you couldn't have known," Willow promised.
"Yeah, Buff, we all thought the Initiative were the good guys then," Xander backed her up too.
"No, I was the one that trusted them, you guys aren't to blame," Buffy said firmly. "And I should have had Riley check on Ethan after they tried to kill me."
"They tried to kill you?" Craig asked, rubbing his palms over his face.
Craig chuckled and Buffy glared.
Faith jumped back to her feet, "Okay, Brit-boy, don't push your luck. How about you break this spell now, or I'll lock you in a room with five extra horny slayers tonight; and remember... Slayer only comes in girl."
Craig wrinkled his nose, "I'll break it. The stuff's in the dorm. Come on."
"So, I get the why he messed with us now," Buffy began as they walked as a group through the kitchen. "But we are still gonna be talking punishment at some point, right? I mean... his dad's locked up and that sucks, but it's not license to sneak over here and set magick on us."
"We'll see," was all Giles said. Striding purposefully ahead, he had one hand on Craig's shoulder as reassurance rather than restraint.
"I think we should just forget about it once the spell is broken," Andrew wasn't very good at the purposeful stride; he looked more like he was gamboling on the periphery. "What was the spell anyway? Am I under it? I don't feel any different. Anyway, Mr. Giles, you can't send Craig home, not for avenging his Father. That's against, like, all the rules of destiny. Right, Xander?"
"Uh," Xander hesitated, before giving in to his inner geek. "Yeah; you can't mess with Father-avenging. Big no-no in the superhero codebook. Could lead to all kinds of trouble."
"What about Mother-avenging?" Robin asked, glancing - unnoticed - Buffy's way.
"That's more for super-villains and psychos," Xander shrugged.
"Oh, right." With a small smile, Robin said no more.
"You can't seriously be saying Craig shouldn't face a single repercussion, though," Kennedy checked. "I like the kid, and I don't know this Ethan guy, but I'm with Buffy - we can't just pretend it never happened. What sort of example is that to set?" "But no one got hurt, did they?" Andrew wheedled. "So..."
"No harm, no foul," Willow piped up, looking hopefully at Kennedy.
"There was harm, there was foul!" Buffy insisted. "I kissed Kennedy!"
Kennedy looked at her, hurt, and Faith started laughing.
"Not that kissing you was foul," Buffy backtracked, before giving up with a sigh. "I kissed Kennedy and now I'm being forced to have this conversation about kissing Kennedy - that counts are harm!"
"I forgive you," Willow said quickly. "Uh, Kennedy, that is."
"Me too, though, right?" Buffy checked.
"Well, I don't know, Buffy; you kissed my girlfriend."
Buffy groaned, and then looked up to see Faith suddenly close by her side. "What, gonna give me a hard time for kissing Kennedy too?"
"No," Faith smiled, and then, making sure everyone could hear her, added. "I just want you to know: I forgive you. Ya know, for kissing Kennedy, only a few hours after boinking me. Technically, that was pretty damn wrong of you, B, but... I forgive you."
"Because, B," Faith continued cordially, "everyone makes mistakes, some worse than other, granted, but they're still just mistakes, and forgiveness is divine, so I've been told. Letting go of that anger, all that blame, getting that unforgiveness off my chest... feels good. Wanna try it?"
"Not right now."
"You're already getting backseat privileges," Xander grinned. "What do you need forgiveness for? Holy, ow, mother of... Faith, that was my nipple!"
"Good; means I got what I was aiming for."
Craig stopped just outside the boy's dormitory. "You lot are going to shut up for one second while I break the spell, yeah?"
"Let's just get the stuff," Buffy pushed ahead and opened the door. "Then we can finally stop all these lusty shenaniga... ahhhh! Dawn, what are you doing?"
Considering the way Dawn and Reece were scrambling around on the bed to reach their clothes, it was a pretty stupid question. Oh God, her little sister had... and with...
Buffy's hand flew to her mouth, but whether to hold back her stomach or the angry outburst she could feel building, she wasn't sure.
Dawn shrieked her name, in that 'get out of my room' way she was so good at, but it wasn't going to work this time. For one, it wasn't her room, and even if it had been, this situation did not call for respecting one's baby sister's privacy.
God, she was going to kill her!
"Bollocks!" Reece muttered as he pulled his pants on as fast as he could.
"That's right, talk about 'em while you still got 'em, Buster," Faith was at her side, and it was only then that Buffy remembered everyone would have automatically walked in behind her.
No wonder Dawn was still screaming blue murder. This wasn't going to go down in the annals as the best first time ever. Still better than hers, though, Buffy thought.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Giles cuff Craig hard on the back of her the head. Good, saved her from reaching over to do it. The kid was yelping his innocence, and Giles grabbed him by the scruff of his sweater and physically dragged him from the room.
"Would you lot bloody clear out of here?" Reece demanded in his snobby accent.
Buffy blinked at his audacity, it was either that or tear his legs off, and then suddenly she was the least of his problems. Xander, coming from behind, launched himself further into the room, yelling threats as he bore down on Reece.
"Xander, stop!" Dawn yelled out, diving in front of him, defending Reece with just a sheet wrapped around her. "He hasn't done anything wrong!"
"Dawn, even though I am not looking at what you are not wearing, I find that hard to believe," Xander shouted, his eye firmly fixed on Reece.
"Feliece isram penees onise iseedies..."
"Willow!" Buffy turned to her. "What the hell?"
"I'm not going to hurt him." Willow was obviously concentrating hard. "I'm just going to turn his penis inside out."
Buffy, shrugging, turned away without comment as Faith started laughing.
"And you don't think that might hurt him?" Kennedy started dragging Willow from the dormitory by her wrist. "I'm all for kicking his ass, but not with magick!"
Buffy could hear Willow objecting, but their voices were getting further away.
Xander had managed to pull Reece - by the throat - out from behind Dawn.
"Buffy, do something!" Dawn squealed.
"Actually, if anyone's going to hit me..." Reece started before he had to turn his head quick. Xander's punch landed on his cheek. "Arrrh," he winced in pain. "I'd prefer it to be this git!"
Xander threw another punch that Reece just narrowly managed to dodge, and it was Xander's turn to wince as his fist hit the wooden wall.
"Okay, Xander, enough. Stop!" Buffy called to him.
Xander's hand was still around Reece's throat. He made an amusing gurgling sound as Xander turned to speak to Buffy. "You're not serious?"
"'Fraid so," she nodded. "I wish I was wrong, but by the looks of it, Dawn was a willing..." Buffy couldn't go on with that line of thought. "I guess we weren't the only ones caught up in the spell. Go on into the house for me and make sure they're breaking the damn thing in there. Willow will have the supplies."
Xander poked his finger into Reece's chest. "You know she's underage, right? You didn't just get lucky tonight; you committed statutory rape. Big night for the privileged Boy-Watcher, huh?"
"She's nearly seventeen, Dickhead!" Reece pushed his finger away.
"Uh, that's kinda my point... Dickhead!"
"Xander!" Buffy called him away before the punching could start again. "Please go."
Xander stared at Reece for a moment longer, slowly smiling until the other boy's eyes were darting from side to side, confused, trying to see what the joke was, and then he turned abruptly and walked away. Dawn didn't look at him as he left, and he didn't look at Dawn, but Buffy gave him a small smile in answer to the concerned rise of his eyebrow.
Buffy stood there, staring at Dawn, who was staring fearfully back, very quiet now.
Buffy gave a little shrug. "I don't even know what to say to you right now. I thought you had more respect for yourself, more respect for me; I guess I don't know you that well after all."
Reece was standing by the bed, buttoning his jeans. "Now with all due respect..."
"With all due respect, pal!" Faith spat in his direction. "You might wanna keep it zipped. Buffy might be above ripping your dick off, but I sure as hell ain't."
Reece nodded as he reached for his shirt, for once without his usual arrogance.
"Buffy, I'm sorry," Dawn said. "I do respect you. But we like each other, and we just got carried away. It's no big deal..."
"No big deal!" Buffy exploded. "How about teen pregnancy? How about STD's? Ya think they're no big deal? Because there are thousands of girls your age that would say differently!"
"We were careful," Dawn shot back.
Buffy looked away, pursing her lips. She'd already spotted the open condom wrapper on the top of Reece's locker.
"You know condoms are only like 97 effective, right?" Faith asked casually, her gaze traveling around the mostly bare room.
"They are?" Dawn gave Reece a slightly worried look.
"Plus they split all the time," Faith continued.
"It didn't," Reece assured her.
"But it could have," Dawn sounded suddenly angry with him. "You didn't tell me that!"
"You didn't ask," he replied calmly.
"Well I didn't know they could!"
"How's that my fault?"
Faith gave Buffy a wink, but Buffy wasn't ready to smile about this yet.
"Enough. Dawn, get dressed and... say goodnight. I'll be waiting outside."
Buffy looked at Reece, wanting to hit him herself, or at least say something so threatening he'd never even look at Dawn again, but it was a little late for that. He'd already done way more than look. And now it was up to Dawn what happened next, hopefully anyway.
"Five minutes, Dawn," she added quietly before leaving the dormitory.
Faith was right behind and when Buffy stopped a few feet from the door, she bumped lightly against her back. Buffy felt arms come around her waist to gently squeeze her. Faith's chin fit perfectly on her shoulder.
"Not really," Buffy admitted. "I'm just so angry, at myself mostly, and that makes me more angry, 'cause why am I to blame, you know? I didn't arrange for the cadets to come over here, I didn't make Reece so muffinly, I didn't give Dawn sixteen year old hormones, I didn't cast a lust spell over everyone..." Buffy ranted. "So why do I feel like I let her down? Like I let Mom down?"
"I don't know, but you shouldn't." Faith's voice was soft in her ear. "She's a big girl now, B, if she hadn't gotten her cherry popped tonight, it woulda just been some other night."
"Could you be less crude please?"
"Sure," Faith shrugged, "But I don't really get what the big deal is."
"She's my baby sister!" Buffy spelled it out for her in a hiss, pulling away from Faith's arms and turning to face her. "And I let her sleep with that bastard in there."
"First of all, you didn't let Dawn do anything, she did it all by herself; well, I'm sure the bastard did some of it..." seeing Buffy's expression, Faith raised her arms in defense. "...Okay, no need to go there. Second of all, it ain't really your place to let or not let Dawn do anything..."
"I'm her guardian!"
"No, you're her sister, and that's worth ten guardians from where I'm standing." Faith walked to the picnic table and hopped onto the top, letting her feet rest on the bench. "Think about it, who would you have listened to at sixteen? Your cool, experienced older sister, or your strict, stuffy, rule-making guardian?"
"I'm a cool guardian," Buffy pouted.
"No, you're a cool sister." Faith motioned for her to sit on the bench too. "I had you looking over my shoulder for a while there, B, so I can tell ya first hand that when it comes to you being the law-enforcer, ya suck. You get that nice thorny stick up your ass and you let us lesser mortals have it."
Buffy walked up to the bench, but she didn't sit down.
"Is this all part of you making things up to me? Because if this is the best you've got, it's going to be a long time before we... meet between the sheets, as they say."
"Damn!" Faith chuckled softly, and suddenly a hand snaked out, catching Buffy by the front of her pants and drawing her closer. "Obviously you forgot the bit where I said how cool a sister you are."
Buffy didn't fight it, letting herself be pulled closer to Faith; it was such a nice place to be. When her knees bumped the edge of the bench between Faith's legs, she let her wrists hang over Faith's shoulders.
"Yeah, I'm such a cool sister I left Dawn alone after midnight to be taken advantage of by that jerk. I should never have let her go out with him."
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure that would have stopped her," Faith said sarcastically. "I mean, tell a teenage girl not to go out with a guy that freakin' studly and she's goin' to listen for sure. Right after she does all her homework and eats all her greens."
Buffy frowned, "Dawn does do all her homework."
"Then count your chickens and be satisfied," Faith laughed.
"You did a good job, B! Little sis is smart; capable; she can look after herself and she can look after other people. She was a freakin' rock back in Sunnydale, babe. You were too stressed to see it, maybe, but her game was tight. That's because of you."
Buffy shook her head, ready to protest, "No, it's Mom; if Dawn's everything you say, and I hope she is, it's down to Mom. I've barely been able..."
"Buffy," Faith said softly, using her full name because she knew it would get her more attention. "Joyce was a great mom, but, you said yourself, you've been the lil' brat's keeper for a while now, and... she's not in care, she's still in school, she... can handle a sword," Faith shrugged. "You should be proud of yourself; I know your Mom would be."
Buffy kept her mouth closed tight against the smile trying to shine through, her lips twitched a couple of times and in the end she gave up. She bit her bottom lip, her head swaying slowly from side to side.
"How am I supposed to stay mad at you when you suddenly come out with things like that, huh?" she asked, hooking her wrists comfortably behind Faith's neck.
Faith gave a small laugh, her arms sliding around Buffy's waist, "I was being serious; not trying to score forgiveness points."
"I know," Buffy smiled. "That's what got you such a high score."
Buffy interrupted her with a kiss, her lips gently pressing into Faith's, soft, slow, enticing but entirely chaste. All the same, when she lifted her head to look into Faith eyes, they were darker than the sky above them with arousal.
"...kay," Faith finished, licking her lips. "Um, B? Don't think that 'slow' idea we had is gonna work out so well for me now."
"That's too bad, 'cause it's working just fine for me," Buffy lied, smirking. "And despite your wonderful speech, it doesn't change the fact that my sister lost her virginity tonight with a complete jerk - and I still have to deal with it."
"Deal with what, B?" Faith groaned. "We agreed, she was gonna do it some time. So she did it now instead of next week or next year. She had the sense to be careful, so there's nothing to deal with!"
"Didn't you hear me? He's a jerk!" Buffy insisted. "He's worse than a jerk, he's an..."
Faith interrupted her, "Yeah, well, when are you going to get it, B? Most men are."
"That's not true, there are good guys out there, and I don't want my Dawn ending up with a jerky one, okay? God, I handled tonight all wrong." Buffy pulled out of Faith's loose embrace and started to pace. "And I can't believe I left her in there with him. What was I thinking? It's been way more than five minutes. I should be dragging her out..."
Faith stepped off of the bench and caught her arm just as Buffy was about to head back to the dormitory door. "And what's that gonna achieve? You'll be mad, she'll be mad, and then she'll start doing things just to spite you."
Buffy tried to pull her arm away, "Yeah, well, what if she's in there right now, thinking she's doing things with my permission!"
The dormitory had fallen silent after the Slayers' exit. Reece was staring thoughtfully into a mirror at the bruise on his cheek and gently rubbing the stinging, red skin of his throat. Dawn stayed under the covers to pull on her underwear and pants, only emerging to grab her white shirt that had been thrown on to Peter's old bed.
When she was fully dressed, she turned to Reece's back with a nervous chuckle. "I thought Buffy was going to go apocalyptic when she saw us, but she was pretty cool, don't you think?"
"Yes; she left the violence to her monkey-boy," Reece said, not looking around.
"Don't call Xander a monkey-boy," Dawn countered, frowning at Reece's tone.
"I believe, when I'm the one with the hand print on my throat, I have the right to call the bugger responsible anything I like."
"I'm sorry," Dawn winced as she saw just how sore his neck looked. No wonder he wanted to lash out a bit, and he'd been good enough to not make a thing out of it while the others were here. "Did he really hurt you?"
"No, I'm fine, leave it," Reece assured her, stepping away from her as she tried to touch the red-blue blotch on his cheek.
Dawn dropped her hand, stepping back, hurt by the curtness of his words. "Sorry."
He sighed deeply, and finally looked her in the eye again. "No, I am. This was a mistake, my mistake."
"What?" Dawn whispered, not understanding.
"It's not you, Sweetheart," Reece promised, speaking softly as he took her hand and lead her back to the bed. They sat down next to each other. "Tonight was really..." he smiled shyly at her, "...really nice, but this was too soon for us to get so... close. It's my fault, I should have been stronger, but you're so..." he smiled again, not so shy this time, and Dawn automatically smiled back. "But you being gorgeous is no excuse for my behavior," he continued seriously. "God only knows what Mr. Giles is thinking of me right now, and your sister...!" Reece stood up and began to pace. "They need to be able to trust me, and I don't think they're going to find that very easy after what they walked in on."
"Reece," Dawn stood up, getting in the way of his pacing. "It'll be fine. Buffy won't stay mad for long, she can't; and Giles doesn't get a say in who I spend my time with. He's Buffy's Watcher, not mine."
"Perhaps you're right," Reece nodded carefully. "But I'm not prepared to take too many chances where your sister is concerned, Sweetheart. I think it's best if we cool it just for a little while, let her calm down about it. What do you think?"
"I think I don't want my sister dictating who I can sleep with, not unless I get to veto some of her partners too." Dawn fidgeted on the spot as some invisible hot thing poked at her deep between her legs. That was... ow! She sat back down on the edge of the bed to try and lessen it.
Reece looked at her, piqued. "Great, well, while you fight that battle, I'll be fighting the one to keep my place here as a Watcher cadet. If we both win, I'll meet you for a victory beer, but you'd better go now."
Dawn stood up again, ignoring the soreness in her thighs and other tender places. "Alright. So how long do you think we should lay low for?"
"Well, that depends," Reece didn't add more as he walked her to the door.
Dawn stopped just shy of the threshold, "On what?"
Reece chuckled under his breath. Stroking a thumb down Dawn's cheek, he leaned in to give her a short, sweet kiss on the lips.
"I had a wonderful night, Dawn, we should definitely do it again some time," he promised, and after one last kiss on the cheek, he opened the door for her.
Dawn walked outside, turning to look back at him as soon as her feet touched the grass. "This feels weird," she admitted. "I kinda feel like I'm never going to see you again."
"Don't be daft," his chuckle was louder this time, "I'll see you in the morning for breakfast."
Dawn smiled, shaking away the strange paranoia that had washed over her. It was all Buffy's fault for barging in like that. Dawn had been hoping to lie in Reece's arms for a few hours, acclimatising to her new status as non-virgin. But as it turned out, she'd been catapulted into the new role and now everyone knew, and Reece was freaking out. Not surprising with the way Xander had acted and the way Faith had threatened him.
"Okay, see you in the morning."
Reece pulled the door closed after she'd gone and ran his hands through his hair, smiling.
That had been fun. Pity the whole damn house had run in on them, it would have been interesting to see how long he could keep Dawn quiet about it.
He returned to the small mirror he'd propped up on his locker and looked at the bruise again. It hadn't really hurt that much when Harris had punched him. Either the adrenaline at being caught had lessened the sting or the older man had been holding back. It ached now though. He'd like some ice to put on it, but wasn't going to risk going into the house tonight.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, he wondered just how much of a mess he'd made for himself here. It depended on what he did next, he supposed. If he played the dutiful and smitten boyfriend to Dawn, old Rupert probably wouldn't do anything at all, and it would most definitely piss off her bitch of a sister.
Still, it seemed like a lot of bother, now the chase was over.
Buffy saw Dawn come out of the dormitory and turned to face her, crossing her arms, and looking as stern as she could. Not that Dawn could probably see her effort properly in the dark.
Dawn looked for a second like she was going to ignore her and walk straight past, but then obviously thought better of it and came to stand in front of her.
"Is this where you yell at me?" she asked, sounding bored. "Because if so can you make it quick, 'cause I really just wanna have a bath and go to bed."
"Feel dirty, do you?" Buffy asked, keeping her voice neutral.
"No, just..." Dawn shook her head, deciding to say no more. "So... the yelling... come on."
Buffy bit back her anger at the attitude on display. Faith had been right; making Dawn mad wouldn't get anyone anywhere. What was it Willow had once said? You catch more flies with Twinkies.
"I'm not going to yell, Dawnie, but I am going to say that you made a very adult choice tonight and you... not so much with the adult yet. I know you're mature for your age, but you are still not at the age where the decision you made is right..." Buffy struggled over the right words to use, trying to remember what her mom had said to her so that she could do it better.
"You were my age," Dawn countered.
"No, I was a... good, nearly, six months older and..." Okay, she was losing it here.
"Okay, well I bet Faith was way younger than me," Dawn said rudely, waving at the brunette standing behind Buffy.
"Yeah, damn straight I was," Faith chuckled. "But do you really wanna walk my path, Twinks?"
"Uh, no," Dawn muttered quietly.
"Then listen to your sis."
Dawn looked away.
"Dawn," Buffy began again. "Listen, I'm not mad at you, okay? Well, actually, I am a little because you should know better, but then maybe you don't because of your age, but... not all guys, even human ones, are nice."
"I'm not a kid, Buffy. I know there are assholes out there. Reece isn't one of them. You can't see it because you don't know him as well as I do."
"Okay," Buffy said quietly.
What was the point of arguing anyway? Dawn had done what she had done whether Reece was a nice guy or not. Time would tell which of them was right. Buffy hoped she was the one who was wrong, for her sister's sake, but there was a little tiny bit of her that wanted to be right; so that she would be justified in Dawn's eyes for putting her through this in the first place. If she was wrong, Dawn might never trust her judgment again, and, damn it, she was the older sister, and she was her guardian even if Faith said it was a negative. If Buffy was no longer found worthy of respect, well, it wasn't too late for Dawn to drop out of school and become a delinquent.
"So I can go?" Dawn asked impatiently when Buffy didn't add anything.
Buffy nodded, but grabbed Dawn's arm as she was about to walk away. "Just remember that I love you, okay, and you can talk to me, about anything, anything at all and... and I'll listen, and I won't get mad."
"Uh, okay," Dawn seemed a little surprised by the emotion in Buffy's voice.
"I'm sorry you didn't feel you could talk to me about how you were feeling," Buffy went on. "About the wanting to... well, you know, but in future, if there's anything you want to discuss or... or just give voice to your thoughts with little to no input from me, I'm here."
"I can't come to you with everything, Buffy."
"Yes you can, even if it's something you think is embarrassing; chances are I've already been there and picked up the health leaflets..."
"Buffy!" Dawn hissed, her eyes darting to Faith who was doing her level best not to laugh.
"I mean it! I'm not mom, and I'm not some wrinkly old guardian either. I know our roles have been kind of abnormal these last few years, but I'm still your sister. You used to come to me with every question you had, I just want you to know you still can, okay?"
"Okay," Dawn felt she should be discomfited by the open sentimentality Buffy was displaying, but it was such a rare thing these days... She felt her eyes tear up as she gave her big sister a shaky smile. "Thanks. You can come to me too."
Buffy chuckled, more so as the taller girl gave her a sudden swift hug. "Yeah, well, you never know, it might happen. Now go take your bath."
Dawn nodded and started to walk back to the house.
Dawn looked back at Faith.
"Grab the table salt on your way up and dump a load in the bath," Faith advised. "Helps... ya know, down there."
Dawn frowned in confusion, but nodded a few times and left.
Buffy waited until the back door shut behind Dawn before she asked,
"Does the salt really help?"
"Supposedly. It's a tip my Watcher gave me."
"Wesley?" Buffy laughed.
"No, doofus, my first Watcher. Alicia." Faith came closer and the two stood there, almost toe to toe, but not touching.
"Alicia's a pretty name."
"Yeah, she was a pretty lady," Faith said wistfully.
Buffy's nose wrinkled a little. "And you had sex with her? Did the Council know? 'Cause I bet they went..."
"B, I did not have sex with my Watcher! Any of them. Gross me out why don'cha."
"But you just said..."
"That she gave me the tip, yeah. I wasn't screwing her though; she just knew I was screwing other people."
"Oh," Buffy said quietly, looking down at their feet. "I guess you've had a lot of, uh... partners, huh?"
"That is not a conversation we are havin' B," Faith said adamantly. "At least, not tonight."
"Okay," Buffy nodded, letting it go easily for now. It wasn't really a conversation she wanted to have any time soon either. Brightening, she said instead. "Come with me, I have something to show you." She took Faith's hand and started to lead her across the grass.
"Saw it last night, but that don't mean I'm not happy to take a second look," Faith grinned.
Buffy laughed, Faith was so not getting the whole 'going slow' thing. Taking her keys from her pocket she found the one for the training barn with a little difficulty, thanks to the poor light, but eventually she got the door open and pushed it wide.
"Ta da!" she announced. Inside was pitch blackness. Obviously Xander still hadn't fitted the door sensor. "Oops, hang on a minute."
In a moment or two she found the switches and flicked all of them on, dazzling their dark-accustomed eyes.
"Holy..." Faith didn't finish her thought as she walked deep into the room and turned around a few times on the spot, taking it all in.
"Isn't it?" Buffy beamed.
She'd known Faith would love it as much as her. Of course, Kennedy loved it too, but she'd never had the experience of trying to train between the study table and the card index in the Sunnydale High library.
"This is something else," Faith breathed, walking to the weight machines first and then over to peer into the well-stocked weapons cage where lots of shiny new Slayer-toys were hanging up.
She hopped up onto the little raised stage area, walking across the wooden boards before stepping onto the training mats stacked along side. She stayed there for a moment, checking out the room from the higher vantage point and then, without warning, she jumped out towards the line of punching bags.
Faith's skirt floated up like a denim tutu while she was in the air, making Buffy grin, and then Faith's body twirled into a spinning kick, connecting solidly with the nearest bag and setting it swinging wildly, making Buffy grin even more.
Landing gracefully, Faith hugged the bag to settle it down, grinning at Buffy. "Nice facility, B. You planning on training a few Bat-slayers in here?"
"Batman never had a trampoline," Buffy said, going to the corner where the stereo system was set up.
Early nineties dance music suddenly blasted from the speakers around the room, until Buffy quickly lowered the volume - after all it was well after midnight now.
"Are we gonna aerobicize, B?" Faith gently mocked the music as she walked to where Buffy was.
"No, F," Buffy laughed, grabbing her hand and leading her to her favorite corner of the room. "We're going to bounce!"
"You're kidding me, right?" Faith looked at the trampoline like it was a torture instrument.
"Nope," Buffy jumped onto the stretchy surface. "Now get your ass up here, baby."
Faith watched Buffy, ready to refuse, but it only took a few moments of seeing the blonde getting all hot and sweaty and... bouncy, before Faith gave in and leapt up along side her.
Grinning with childish excitement Buffy grabbed Faith's hands and, well, bounced.
"There, done," Craig nodded to himself as the canary feather and pig-grease muck dissolved into a fine blue mist. "Assuming I did it right, the spell's over."
Everyone in the kitchen turned to Willow.
She was still looking into the sink where the de-spelling had taken place. The mug they'd used was a mess of ceramic gloop now, and with the open window the blue smoke was getting whisked away.
Craig was good, considering he'd had no actual training and had learnt the craft from reading exercise books Ethan had scribbled in during his education of the arts. It had taken Willow a few years before she'd been able to perform a complicated spell like this with absolutely no exploding utensils to show for it.
"Uh, yeah, it's broken," Willow nodded, noticing the attention. "Nicely done, Craig, although not so nicely cast in the first place," she added sourly.
Craig looked away, rinsing his hands of fat in the sink.
"Yes, well, it's very late," Giles said. "Let's all get to bed... separately," he added when Xander smirked at him. "And forget today ever happened."
Craig smiled until Giles, heading through to the living room, continued in after thought, "Except Craig's punishment; let's not forget that."
"Here, here," Kennedy said, shooting Craig a fierce look. "And you better hope we can forget about this."
"Yeah," Xander agreed. "The last thing we need is for today to have far-reaching consequences. If Dawn's pregnant, if Willow and Kennedy split up, if I'm permanently stuck gay and can never again truly appreciate Seven of Nine's bio suits... We'll make sure the punishment outweighs the crime. We may even make the punishment a whole crime in itself."
"I never meant for anyone to get hurt," Craig said softly. "That's why I chose this spell and didn't just blow you all up in your sleep."
Andrew was sitting on the floor next to Goorzar's box-bed. The little demon was still upset by seeing her daddy making smoochy face with Craig. Sitting in her box, she sucked on the cardboard and hugged one of Andrew's thighs with her long arms. He had a feeling he might have to share her box tonight, because she wasn't showing any signs of letting go.
"Hurt comes in many guises," he said solemnly, scratching Goorzar behind the ears.
Craig looked over, not sure how to respond to that. Was Andrew angry at him? Or just indulging his flair for the dramatic? He rubbed at the back of his head anxiously. Punishment was one thing - and something he was hardly a stranger to - but Andrew having second thoughts was something worse.
"You know I never meant you to get caught up in it, yeah?" Craig walked over, but didn't get too close; Goorzar was eying him warily, and she had a long reach. "I know I set the spell on the whole house, but I didn't know you were going to be here - so it's not like I was targeting you too."
"I am part of the house! At least I like to think I am. And you knew I was here before you cast, so obviously I was going to be under it too."
"Yeah, but..." Craig fidgeted.
"It doesn't matter anyway," Andrew filled Craig's pause. "It doesn't matter whether I was supposed to be spelled too; you still cast it over my friends."
"Friends?" Xander grinned. When Andrew shot him a hurt look, Xander held up his hands. "Ah, just joking, of course we're..." he looked at Willow and Kennedy with a 'How-crazy-is-tonight' shrug. "...friends."
"I'm sorry," Craig muttered.
"It's okay," said Andrew, but the way he didn't look up made it obvious it wasn't.
"Can we talk outside or somethin'?" Craig persisted. Well aware that Xander, Willow and Kennedy were all still watching him aggressively, like he was going to pull another spell out of his bum to throw at them. Not likely, he only knew the one by heart anyway. "Please?"
Andrew looked up then, Craig's tone softening his resolve, but then he looked back down at the bundle clinging to him. "I shouldn't really leave Goorzie, she's still upset."
Andrew looked torn now.
Kennedy came over and squatted beside the box, stroking the dark sticking-up hair flat to Goorzar's head. "If you wanna go outside I'll take her." The demon had already looped her free arm around Kennedy's. "But you don't have to," she added, shooting Craig another glare.
"I don't know what to do," Andrew told her softly. "Everyone is so angry."
Craig backed away a couple of steps, feeling wretched.
"It'll pass," Kennedy glanced Willow's way, "I hope."
"But Dawn," Andrew whispered.
"Come on, Andy, we both know Dawn isn't complaining right now," Kennedy whispered back, nudging his knee and winking. "She's been after Reece since day one."
"He's not good enough for her!"
"You don't have to tell me, but as long as he doesn't screw her around..." Kennedy shrugged.
"He won't if he knows what's good for him," Xander said.
"I guess he likes her too, right? At least he seemed to all day, and obviously he must do or else he wouldn't have..." Andrew brightened a little. "So she'll be alright." He looked up at Craig. "I'll come outside for a minute."
Craig smiled and nodded, "Cool."
Andrew gently unhooked Goorzar's arm from his leg, her grip was less now that Kennedy was fussing her too. She pulled the baby onto her lap as Andrew stood up. Goorzar made a little whimpering noise as he did so.
"What upset her in the first place?" Kennedy asked.
"Oh she went ape when she saw me and Andrew kissing," Craig explained, putting his arm loosely around Andrew's shoulders as they went through the back door.
"Is that all?" Kennedy started to laugh until Goorzar, seeing Craig's gesture, started jumping up and down on her lap, shrieking. "Ow, argh, crap!" Kennedy yelled in pain.
The back door closed behind them - blocking off Goorzar's shrieks and Kennedy's screams - and Craig pulled Andrew a little way from the house.
"I'm really sorry," he said at once. "I never meant for you to get hurt, I swear. I never meant for anyone to get hurt, but I had to find some way to get back at Buffy and the rest. I figured this spell was the most harmless way to go. Dad always liked playing pranks on Uncle Rub... Rupert, said it was to get him back for deserting him all them years ago. I figured getting my revenge in the same way was poetic..."
"Willow and Kennedy might split up over this," Andrew interrupted him. "That's not poetic, that's just cruel and senseless."
"I never knew everyone was gonna go after people who aren't their significant others, did I? The notes just say it makes people randy, not adulterous! I'll take responsibility for Dawn thinking she was ready before she was, but not for Willow and Kennedy snogging other people! The spell might have made it easier for them, but they obviously wanted to cheat in the first place or they'd have been too busy shagging each other to do it!"
"How can you say that?"
"Easily, 'cause it's the truth."
"I shouldn't have come out here," Andrew turned to go back inside and his eye caught the newbie Slayers returning from their patrol. Naomi was with them.
"Andrew, please?" Craig grabbed his arm, turning him back around. "Stay a minute. I'm not gonna apologize for casting the spell. It's what I came here to do, and I'd do it again, but I am sorry for the trouble it's causing Ms. Rosenberg and Kennedy - I like them, I really do, and I think they're a great couple."
"You can't mean that, not if you're glad you did the spell."
"I do mean it, and... and, I'll tell you what, me and you, we'll make sure this doesn't break them up, right? We'll work together to keep them together. I'll do whatever it takes."
"I don't know," Craig admitted. "But I vow that I'll do it. Just... don't break up with me here before we've even given it a go. I'm stuck here whether I like it or not right now, and I can tell you truthfully that if you hate me, I won't like a second of it."
"I don't hate you," Andrew said quietly. "You promise you'll help make it right?"
"I'll do anything." Craig drew his finger in a cross over his heart for good measure. "They won't break up while I'm here."
"Okay," Andrew finally relented with a small smile.
"Nice one." Craig took a deep breath and blew it out noisily. "You had me really worried there."
Andrew smiled and Craig took the chance on leaning closer and giving him a quick kiss. He pulled back to gauge the reaction; Andrew's smile had grown and his eyes had gone all dreamy again - Craig loved that - so he moved back in for a longer kiss.
Five minutes later, Andrew had to lean away to yawn.
"Sorry," he murmured. "It's just really late."
"Yeah it is," Craig agreed, stifling his own yawn. "Probably time to call it a night. There's another day tomorrow."
'Well, obviously,' Andrew thought. Aloud, he said, "I'll walk you to the dorm."
It was pretty silly really, seeing as the dorm was only a couple of hundred yards away, but as Craig slipped their hands together, Andrew knew why he'd offered. He wished he didn't still feel so attracted to the English boy after what he'd done, but... he did, and Kennedy had pretty much given him permission to accept Craig's apology... that counted for a lot.
The girls had gathered outside their dormitory. The giggled conversation of the hyped up slayers carrying easily to the two boys walking across the grass. They were always like this when they got home at night.
"There's post-patrol chips and yogurt in the fridge, ladies," Andrew called over to them.
"What, nothing hot?" Rona asked.
"We've no power," Cici reminded her, more pleasantly than Andrew probably would have.
"Yeah, whaddya expect, Andy to cook ya a pizza over a camping stove?" Alison laughed.
"Do we have a camping stove?" Naomi asked, waving hi to Craig as she spoke. "Because that would perhaps come in handy."
"No idea, but I bet we have Marshmallows" Vi piped up. "We could make smores over the fire in the living room.
Miranda nodded her appreciation of that idea. "Yes, but we need a towel this time, I don't want to make Mr. Giles mad again with mallow on the carpet."
"I was thinking something a lot more filling," Rona complained.
"Sorry," Andrew shrugged.
"Actually, I'm really kind of starving too," Alison rubbed her stomach, pulling a hungry face.
"I am rather peckish..." Naomi started. When everyone turned to look at her, she added, "Not only Slayers need to eat, you know. It's just; generally speaking, the rest of us can survive without devouring an entire cow every meal."
"Stop talking about cows," Miranda complained. "Now I'm craving burgers!"
"I have patties," Andrew said, "but you'll have to eat them raw!"
"Please, Andy," Cici unexpectedly turned to wheedling. "Surely there's enough fuel in the generator to fry us just a few hamburgers... each."
"Xander said it was to be used for lights only tonight," Andrew protested.
"Please?" Cici said again.
It looked suspiciously like she was batting her eyelashes at him; he wasn't sure because he'd never seen the act up close before. Suddenly there was a chorus of 'Pleases' around him and he could feel the wind from so many eyelashes going up and down on his cheeks.
He looked helplessly at Craig, who grinned at him. "They got super-strength; you might wanna keep them happy first."
"Okay," Andrew finally relented. "Come on girls, I think there are some micro-fries in the freezer too."
Craig caught his attention as he was about to head back to the house. "Hang on a minute, mate."
Andrew wandered over to him, a little confused why he was being called back. "What's wrong?"
"You forgot to say goodnight." Craig kissed him on the lips and catcalls went up behind them as the girls watched.
"Andrew's got a boyfriend!"
He pulled away fast, embarrassed, muttering to Craig, "I hate Slayers when they've just been slaying! Goodnight." Louder, he added, "Whoever sang that isn't getting any fries!"
Craig watched Andrew head back towards the house with the girls hovering like gnats around him - all teasing him at once.
Smiling, he blew out a shaky breath, tilting his head a second towards the stars before looking back at the door for a final glimpse of Andrew.
That had been too close. How he'd dodged that bullet he didn't know. Thank God Andrew was the forgiving kind, because if he wasn't, Craig might have never forgiven himself. He should use his brain once in a while. As soon as he met the bloke he should have just forgotten about the spell, should have known it would backfire on his arse - hadn't Naomi been telling him that ever since he'd mentioned it? To think he'd come all this way and found the one thing he couldn't seem to find back home, only to chance it all on some stupid revenge.
He hadn't known though, had he? Until this morning he'd thought he would be back home by now, and Andrew had been reticent with his feelings to say the least until the spell shook the truth from him with a bang. So if it wasn't for the spell, he might never have gotten a chance with Andrew anyway.
"I'm just glad it's over," he announced to the empty garden; smiling as he scrubbed his hand over his hair a few times.
All he had to do now was make sure Ms. Rosenberg and Kennedy stayed together, Dawn wasn't pregnant and Xander Harris returned to straight and then he and Andrew stood a fighting chance. Should be a doddle, providing his punishment wasn't a ticket back to London. It would be just typical of his life that now he wanted to stay he would be made to leave.
Well, whatever, he'd deal with it in the morning.
After taking one more deep breath, he let himself into the boy's dormitory. Reece was still in situ, lying on his bed with his shirt off, smoking a cigarette. Craig nodded to him but said nothing as he started to get undressed.
"Gather I have you to thank for this," Reece drawled, pointing to the nasty looking bruise on his cheek. "What'd you do to bring them all running in here anyway?"
"None of your bloody business," Craig muttered.
"Tell me or I'll give you a matching one."
Craig chuckled; it was going to take more than Reece's threats to ruin his good mood tonight. "If you must know, I cast a lust spell over the house."
Surprisingly, Reece burst out laughing; "Really?" he shook his head in amazement. "We all knew you were up to something, but... Guess I have more to thank you for than I thought, Rayne."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'm supposing it was your little spell that loosened the delectable Dawn up for me. I admit I was pleasantly surprised she gave it up so quickly, I was expecting a few more weeks of hard work first."
"Romantic," Craig sneered. "So does this mean you and Patricia have split up? The belle and the bastard of the Berkshire Hunt circuit done for good? Can't say I'm shocked, long distance relationships aren't easy and I can't see her being prepared to wait for you. Not when there are so many tastier fish in the sea."
"Nope," Reece took a thoughtful pull on his cigarette, smiling up at the ceiling. "Pat's waiting for me back home. She wanted to come, but thank God, the silly bitch won't leave her horses."
Craig frowned, "But what about Dawn?"
"What about her?"
"Well... you shagged her, surely you like her? I know, for some unknown reason, she really fancies you."
Reece chuckled, "Of course I like her, you Pratt, and you're right she is rather sweet on me. Hard to resist that. That Cici is a bit of alright too, don't you think? Oh I suppose you wouldn't, would you? But you have to admit she's a looker, tall too, plenty of leg. Wouldn't mind doing her while I'm here..."
As Reece went on, discussing his next conquest and the one after that, Craig lay back on his bed, wishing he smoked so he could calm this sudden anxiety in his chest. He wasn't as out of the woods as he thought he was. This was the card that was going to collapse and bring the fragile house down.
Dawn wasn't going to get pregnant, she was going to get duped and then dumped - and, in the eyes of Andrew, it was going to be all Craig's fault!
"It's not that I mind, really," Willow said, staring at Goorzar. "But this isn't going to become a regular occurrence, is it?"
Kennedy softly shut the bedroom door, blocking out the giggling coming from the living room. Giles would be regretting taking the downstairs bedroom tonight!
"It's just, I've heard that puppies, when they get used to sleeping in the bedroom, they refuse to give it up," Willow went on, still regarding the baby demon sitting in her box, staring back at her.
"She's not a puppy, and I said, it's just for tonight." Kennedy faced away from Willow, who was already in bed, as she got undressed. "You know she wouldn't settle downstairs without me."
The bruises Goorzar had given her during her major tantrum were a shiny blue against the background of yellow Buffy and Faith had given her. The long scratch on her cheek was stinging a little, courtesy of Goorzar's fingernail. Kennedy wondered how difficult it would be to trim them - nail scissors probably wouldn't cut it.
"I read somewhere it's not even a good idea to let babies, human ones I mean, sleep in the same room as..."
"Fine!" Kennedy irritably started to pull some heavy-duty pajamas on; Willow had never seen them before. "I'll take her back down and sleep in the kitchen with her."
She didn't know why she was in this room right now anyway. She should have made herself up a bed in the girls dormitory, but it was so late she wasn't thinking straight.
"Baby, no," Willow jumped out of the bed, moving swiftly to stand in front of her girlfriend. "Goorzie's fine, and... and anyway, I'd rather risk her getting used to sleeping up here than you getting used to sleeping down there."
Kennedy stood there, undecided. Willow reached out to gently touch her cheek, and Kennedy sharply pulled her head away.
"Sorry," she muttered to the pain in Willow's eyes. "I'm just tired, and... sore."
"Then come to bed, baby, please?"
Eventually, Kennedy nodded, "Okay."
She backed up to the bed and got under the covers, pulling them up to her chin. As Willow slipped in beside her, she turned onto her side, facing the other way.
"Could you put the light out?"
The light clicked off and the two of them were silent in the darkness for a long time. Despite Kennedy's tiredness, she couldn't feel sleep coming.
"We should talk," Willow said quietly.
"I don't want to... not tonight."
"In the morning?"
"Maybe." Kennedy snuggled her head deeper into her pillow. She could hear Goorzar's heavy breathing - at least one of them was getting some sleep. Suddenly she blurted out, "Did it mean anything?"
"No!" Willow's voice rang out clear in the dark room, like she'd been waiting for the question, maybe she had been. "Nothing."
"I have never been more really of anything in my life."
"Okay," Kennedy nodded, her cheek - damp now that there was darkness to hide it - sliding on the pillow. "Okay."
Buffy closed Dawn's bedroom door and walked along the landing to her own room. Normally she'd have taken the short cut through their shared bathroom, but Faith was taking a shower - being all hot and sweaty after their hour long bounce-competition, which she so would have won if Faith hadn't gotten all handsy and caused them both to bounce over the side - and Buffy wanted to give her some privacy...
Okay, that wasn't strictly true; she just didn't want an eyeful of naked Faith just before they shared a bed. It was going to be difficult enough to hold onto her resolve as it was.
Sitting at her vanity table, Buffy took her time drying her hair, listening to the water running next door. When it finally shut off, she had butterfly-stomach, but she didn't really know why.
The door to the en suite opened and steam poured into the room. "Lil' sis okay?"
"Uh huh, she's in bed. It wasn't easy, but I fought the urge to lock her in. Did you find the pajamas I put out?"
"Uh, yeah," Faith drew the word out very slowly.
Buffy swiveled her butt around on the stool and started to giggle. "Oh, Faith, you're adorable!"
"Yeah, see, that's the thing," Faith frowned down at the flannel pajamas she was wearing. "I'm not really looking to be adorable right now, B. I've done that already, up until I was, like, eleven. Now I just wanna be... hot."
"No," Buffy said sternly, turning back to her mirror and picking up her hairbrush. "If you're staying in my room until yours is free again, you are not allowed to look hot at bedtime."
"But... it's my natural state of being." Faith walked over and stole the hairbrush out of Buffy's hand. "I can't help it."
"And you can let it run free for all of the time we are not in this room together during the hours of darkness; but when we are... you wear the pajamas." Buffy tilted her head a little so that Faith could brush her hair.
"You're giving me a hotness handicap?" Faith grumbled, taking no notice of Buffy's hair in favor of running the brush through her own a couple of times. "That's gotta be discrimination of some kind."
Noticing in the mirror, Buffy sighed; the thought of Faith making a sweet gesture like that was a little far-fetched; she should probably just be thankful for the hand-holding for the time being.
"They have elephants on them!" Faith pointed out, not feeling her concerns were getting the appropriate attention.
"I know, they're mine," Buffy reminded her, grinning.
"And the elephants are... doing ballet?" Faith was holding the shirt out from her tummy to have a proper frown at them. "Some of them are wearing tutus!"
"Again, I know." Buffy turned on the stool again and snatched her brush back. "Faith, did you bring any pajamas with you?"
"No, I didn't bring anything with me, my bag was stolen."
"Then maybe you should just be grateful I'm lending you some, huh?"
"Yeah, well, I didn't have any in my bag either. I don't own PJs. I can't sleep in PJs..."
"Well, you're gonna," Buffy countered, standing up.
Faith stared defiantly back at her. Buffy held her stare. Faith moved one hand to the top button of the pink flannel elephant-embossed shirt.
Buffy pointed the brush at her, "Leave it, or go sleep in the bathtub."
The top button was pulled undone. Faith didn't say a word as her fingers moved down to the next button.
Buffy pursed her lips, her eyes drifting between Faith's rebellious stare and the second button.
"If you undo that..." Buffy began.
The second button popped out of its hole; Buffy's lips re-pursed, her eyes acting like she was watching a vertical tennis match. There was a wide V of bare skin showing now, the point ending between Faith's breasts. Already her fingers had moved down to the next button.
Buffy swallowed hard as the third button came undone, causing the shirt to fall open both sides. Buffy felt the room getting very warm and she took a sharp breath, digging deep for the resolve she needed.
"Still think I look adorable, B?" Faith asked, her voice low and smoky.
Buffy's eyes went back up for the first time in several seconds. "Yes," she smirked. "And I also think you're gonna look pretty stupid sleeping out in the corridor. So do them up or..."
Faith popped the fourth button and Buffy stepped forward, smartly smacking her knuckles hard with the back of the hairbrush.
"Ow!" Faith pulled her stinging hand higher up her chest.
Buffy chuckled as she walked to the other side of her bed and grabbed a pillow. "Here ya go," she threw it to Faith. "And you might wanna do your shirt up; gets pretty chilly out there at night."
"You don't mean it?" Faith stood clutching the pillow, growing less sure of herself as Buffy went to the door and opened it wide.
"Do I look like I don't mean it?" Buffy smiled, gesturing at the door. "Go on, hurry up, I'm tired."
Faith stood there, hands squeezing the pillow tighter and tighter as she looked from Buffy's smiling - but determined - face to the open door and dark corridor beyond.
"Fine!" She scowled, throwing the pillow at Buffy with some force. She swiftly did her buttons back up, all but the very top one, which had been kinda choking her in the first place. "There, better?"
Buffy caught the pillow, laughing at her victory. "No, not better, just for the best." She closed her door again gently before chucking Faith's pillow back in place on the bed.
"From whose point of view?" Faith asked, perching her ass on the edge of the vanity table, she watched as Buffy brushed her hair through, like, fifty times or something.
When Buffy just smirked at her, she asked, "We don't actually have to wait until we're properly together before we be, ya know, properly together, do we?" Faith asked, looking worried.
Buffy thought about that, her eyes doing a quick Faith-inventory. God, she even made the elephant pajamas sexy when she was all pouty like that!
Buffy groaned a little, before taking a big, sensible breath, "Yes it does. I'm not saying it'll be the easiest thing in the world, but we should wait, I think, don't you?"
Faith shook her head. "Not really."
"Faith, you're supposed to be making stuff up to me!" Buffy came to set her hair brush down next to Faith's ass. While she was there, she took both of her hands in hers and bent her head to look into Faith's downward tilting eyes.
"That's why I need time, remember? So if you really think you're getting more than a kiss goodnight from me until you at least start that making up - which you don't have time for right now - then you seriously need to think again."
Buffy reluctantly let go of Faith's hands and went about finishing her nightly rituals: checking her stake was under her pillow, setting her alarm clock and pulling back the bed covers.
In the time it took to do all that, Faith was motionless and speechless, finally she asked, "What about last night?"
"Last night was a welcome home gift... to both of us," Buffy smiled, getting into bed
"Yeah, I really don't think this 'time' thing is gonna be easy, ya know?" A chuckle curled around Faith's words.
"Probably not, but whatcha gonna do?"
The brightness in Buffy's voice came from the effort it was taking not to pull her pajamas off and invite Faith to do the same.
Faith was right, this 'time' thing was getting harder every second, but Buffy really believed it was necessary. She wanted to take things slow; she wanted to build something worth lasting. If Faith didn't feel the same - and Buffy wasn't saying she didn't, but after the last week she wasn't going to assume anything - if Faith was only interested in the one thing, then it was better to find out sooner rather than later.
Faith grumbled something inaudible from the other side of the room.
"Are you coming to get your goodnight kiss or not?" Buffy called to her. "Cause it's really late and any second now I'm gonna fall asleep whether I want to or not, and if you try and kiss me then..."
She left the threat hanging and Faith chuckled as she got to her feet, straightened her dancing elephant jammies and walked around to climb in the other side of the bed.
"Really, no sex?" Faith checked one last time with a small grin.
"Really," Buffy grinned back.
"Damn," Faith muttered.
Buffy giggled, moving under the covers until she was closer to Faith.
She felt more self-conscious laying next to Faith than she had the night before, not that she'd really had time to feel anything last night before things had turned heavy. All that she remembered thinking before she kissed Faith then was wanting to kiss Faith, and that had made things run pretty smoothly.
Buffy didn't have to look far to find that feeling again and she leaned forward, pushing up on her elbow to bring their faces closer. Faith was ready and eagerly met her lips.
It wasn't a quick goodnight kiss by any means and far from a sweet peck on the lips, although it was sweet. As Faith's tongue dipped into her mouth, Buffy's breath caught and she pushed her own up to meet it, feeling the connection all the way down to her toes.
'Oh God,' she thought from deep within her brain. 'Time better heal damn fast!'
Resolutely, she pulled away after another minute, though her hand stayed caressing Faith's cheek for a while longer. "I'm really glad you're home," she whispered.
Faith looked a little starry-eyed. "Can't say I'm sorry to be home; that was some 'goodnight.'"
Buffy's smile was deliberately demure, "Yeah, well... sweet dreams."
She leaned over once more to give Faith a quick kiss on the cheek, before leaning back the other way to turn off her bedside light and curl up on her side of the bed.
Darkness filled the room right to the corners, but Buffy could hear Faith moving around, ruffling her pillows. She could feel the covers shift over her as Faith shifted under them.
Eventually there was silence apart from Faith's even breathing. Buffy smooshed her face into her pillow, embarrassed by the size of her smile even though no one could see it.
Rolling silently over to face Faith a little later, Buffy watched her sleeping in the faint light of the full moon coming through her curtains, the smile never slipping from her face until finally, sleep claimed her too.
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