Secret Slasha — The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha — The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

Rome, 16:42
By Faithtastic
For Julia

Faith stands out on the balcony, watching the sun set over the domes and spires, the lights of the Colosseum visible in the distance. She jams a cigarette between her lips and flicks the lighter, flame flaring for a few moments before she snaps the lid shut. Elbows resting on the wrought iron balustrade, she takes a long draw.

From inside she can hear Andrew arguing with Xander. Something about Optimus Prime and Megatron that she doesn't give a flying crap about so she tunes it out and instead lets the sounds of the city wash over her: car horns, motorcycle engines and male voices catcalling loudly from the cafe on the street below. It's cold out, goosebumps forming on the exposed skin of her forearms, but she doesn't want to go back inside to geeky discussions about fucking Transformers or ancient Sumerian texts that will inevitably trail off into awkward silence when she slopes back into the room.

She's had enough of the wary looks that everyone gives her. They don't trust her, still, after everything that's gone down. Makes her wonder why the hell B invited her here and why the hell she accepted. Given the alternative -- Christmas in her freezing apartment with a microwaveable roast dinner for one and It's A Wonderful Life on the shitty portable TV -- it'd seemed like a good idea, especially since the flights were on someone else's dime. Now she isn't so sure.

It's a few minutes before she becomes aware of someone behind her. Tries to act casual as she turns around, still slouching against the railings. She plucks the cigarette from her lips and exhales a deliberately slow plume of smoke out the corner of her mouth.

"Hey," Buffy says, eyes shadowed. She's hugging herself, obviously feeling the chill, and Faith doesn't even try to avert her gaze from the other girl's chest, nipples clearly visible through the thin material of her shirt.

"I needed some air."

"Oh, okay," Buffy says and gestures behind her, "I guess I'll leave you to it."

Buffy turns to go but Faith finds herself speaking. "Wait."

The blonde gives her a quizzical look and Faith squirms slightly. "Could use some company?" It comes out sounding more desperate than it should have and again Faith tries to school her expression into indifference. She shrugs. "If you want."

There's the barest hint of a smile on Buffy's lips and Faith feels like cursing herself for how obvious she is around Buffy, how clearly B can see through her. Back in Sunnydale, training Potentials and fighting Caleb and the Turok-Han, there was no time for any of this awkwardness but, now, it's like they're in this weird and confusing place between friends and not-friends and Faith doesn't know where the boundaries are.

"Sure, I'm just gonna grab a coat though." Maybe she saw Faith staring at her breasts. Either way, Faith smirks and waits for the blonde to return a few moments later wrapped in a knee-length wool coat.

"So, what do you think of Rome?" Buffy begins conversationally.

Faith stubs out her cigarette and flicks the butt over the side of the balcony, ignoring the slightly admonishing glare that Buffy directs her way. "It's foreign."

At that, Buffy snorts and shakes her head. "Wow, that's... amazingly insightful, Faith."

Despite herself, Faith grins. "You know me." She ducks her head slightly, looking away from Buffy's amused expression. "Anyways, it's my first time outta the US. Never had a passport before."

"You're a tourism virgin?" Buffy says, her mouth gaping in mock surprise. "Now there's a word I never thought I'd use in a sentence about you."

"Real funny," Faith says sarcastically and reaches into her back pocket for the pack of Marlboros. "And, yeah, it's kinda sad but dear old mom never would dip into her booze fund to take me anyplace more exotic than Disneyworld."

She lights up another cigarette and focuses her attention on the smouldering tip, aware of Buffy's eyes on her. Looking at her with pity, most likely.

"Actually, I'm jealous. Mom never took me and Dawn to Disneyworld."

Faith glances sidelong at Buffy and smirks at the pout on the blonde's lips. "It's a lot like Sunnydale. Only difference is the perverts in costumes don't have fangs."

"Hmm, Mickey Mouse is kinda demonic looking though," Buffy muses. "Wonder if Giles has any references in his encyclopaedias about Walt Disney."

Faith gives a low, throaty laugh then takes another drag on her cigarette. "Stop. We're starting to sound like Geek and Geekier in there," she says, jerking her head towards the apartment. "I came out here to escape that."

"And I thought you were avoiding me," Buffy says in a soft voice, her eyes rooted on the street below. "This is the most we've talked since you got here - actual whole sentences and everything. Some might even call it a conversation."

Seems like the most Faith's talked in six months, period. After Sunnydale Faith went to ground until Willow worked that hacking mojo on her criminal record, which was her reward for not fucking up like everyone expected her to. She'd had no contact with anyone connected with B until a phone call out the blue last week.

"Then you thought wrong," Faith says, dislodging the build-up of ash on the end of her cigarette with a tap of her finger before sucking another lungful.

They fall silent and Faith uses the opportunity to surreptitiously watch Buffy's profile as the other woman stares out at the cityscape, the sky a canvas of purples, oranges and blues. Even Faith might concede it's a breathtaking view but her attention's otherwise occupied by the woman standing beside her. It's the first real chance she's had to properly look at Buffy, standing still and without distractions, since she arrived. Buffy looks freer, somehow, without the weight of the world on her shoulders. In motion, Buffy's always been something to behold. There's this leonine grace to her movements. She doesn't fight dirty and reckless like Faith but with precision, like a perfectly calibrated weapon. Even just standing here there's something about her. And Faith hasn't been able to let go of it, this inexplicable thing that keeps drawing her back to Buffy. She feels it stronger than ever and mostly she just wishes it would disappear and let her move the hell on.

When intent green eyes turn Faith's way she realises that she's been caught staring.

"Are you checking me out?" Buffy says it so lightly that Faith almost wonders if she misheard.

Faith recovers her composure quickly. "Don't flatter yourself, B." She says, lip curling in well-practised scorn, dropping her cigarette and crushing it under her heel. Never mind that her hands are shaking slightly, which she's just going to put down to the cold if Buffy calls her out on it.

"Okay, my bad." There's a long pause, during which Faith's mind races trying to come up with some plausible excuse for getting out of here fast. She's seriously considering leaping over the balcony when Buffy pipes up again. "So I guess we'll just pretend this whole conversation never happened. Fortunately I inherited my Mom's amazing powers of repression."

Faith blinks, stares at Buffy wordlessly for a moment, and decides to take the plunge. "Okay, talking hypothetically here, what if I was?"

A small smile edges across Buffy's lips and she reaches into her coat pocket, producing what looks suspiciously like a sprig of mistletoe. "I'd say it was pretty convenient I had this lying around."

Oh fuck, real smooth, B. Swallowing her laughter, Faith tugs Buffy towards her by the lapels of her coat. Suddenly they are both very much in each others personal space and Faith can't even remember the last time they've been this close without knocking lumps out each other.

Faith can't help but grin. "You set me up for this, right? I mean, you knew..." Jesus. All along, Buffy fucking knew.

Buffy sighs. "I have eyes, don't I? Subtlety isn't exactly in your repertoire, Faith." Seemingly pushy and impatient, the blonde turns them around, pressing Faith back against the wall, now out of sight from prying eyes. Faith hopes the little huff of air that escapes her lungs when she makes contact with the cold stone disguises the way her breath hitches.

"So why now?" Faith asks, sliding her arms inside Buffy's coat and around her waist.

"Your hands are like ice," Buffy mutters but doesn't move away, instead resting her own hands on Faith's shoulders. "I'm single, you're single and things have been pretty quiet on the impending apocalypse front. I don't think there's gonna be a better time." The blonde gives a tremulous smile, one hand shifting to tuck a stray lock of hair behind Faith's ear. "And I don't wanna shut myself off from things because they scare me. Life's too short, especially when you've died twice already."

"But -- "

"Why are we still talking when you should be kissing me?" the blonde growls out through gritted teeth.

For once Faith knows better than to argue with Buffy. Their mouths collide with surprising force, a frantic mash of teeth and lips. It's as much a struggle for dominance as a kiss. The second kiss has a little more finesse and a lot more tongue. By the third they're both breathing heavily, the cold totally forgotten.

In the four years Faith's had to fantasise about this moment, she never once had B pegged as the instigator. But it's Buffy whose hands and hips are pinning her against the wall, Buffy kissing like she's the one who's been holding this back for years. It's almost more than Faith can handle and she can't suppress the groan that rises in her throat.

Just as abruptly as it started, the kiss ends. Buffy pulls back slightly, bringing her fingertips to Faith's mouth to trace the outline of her lips. That, coupled with the way B's looking at her, is making Faith's skin prickle with heat.

"Buffy!" Dawn's voice coming from indoors, just home from university. They put a respectful distance between them before Dawn pokes her head around the doorway. "Oh, hi, Faith. What are you guys doing out here? It's freezing!"

"Nothing," they say in unison, avoiding each others eyes.

Dawn gives them a suspicious look. "Well, come inside. I'm gonna make a start on dinner and I could use a couple of kitchen assistants. Hint, hint."

"You go ahead, we'll be right there," Buffy says, a little too eagerly.

Once Dawn's gone, Faith makes a disgusted face. "You volunteered us for kitchen duty? Thanks, B."

Buffy just shrugs and steps towards Faith again. "Every good deed deserves another."

"Oh yeah?" Faith smirks, eyebrow edging upwards. "What's my reward?"

The blonde smiles as she reaches out, hand gripping Faith's hip lightly. She leans in close, lips almost brushing Faith's ear. "Me."

With that, Buffy saunters back inside leaving Faith alone on the balcony. She tips her head back, looking up aimlessly at the sky, and sighs. This is gonna be a long evening.