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My normal girl

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They decorated the beeper together, with nailpolish and stickers and string and beads and glue. It's still ugly, but less impersonal now. If there's one thing the beeper shouldn't be it's impersonal.

It hasn't beeped in three years, and sometimes Faith hopes that it's broken and They have lost track of her. She should be so lucky.

First time, years ago, that it went off, Faith cried. She'd still been pretty new to everything then, and India had been really nice to her. Like a big sister or something, showing Faith how to shoot and spar and stuff. Then, beep beep beep, bye-bye India, and the next girl was called.

And Faith had cried. Petra has let her have a cigarette and scotch to calm down, which was against pretty much every rule They had. Faith never thought of Petra as one of Them. For an old chick, Petra was kinda cool - a maiden aunt, if the other girls in line were Faith's distant sisters.

Next time the beeper came to life (three years ago now, hardly a day goes by when Faith doesn't have that in her head), Alonna had been worried at Faith's lack of caring. The two of them had been a thing for eight months, then, and Alonna had seen Faith swear and break things over matters as trivial as expired milk. But when the now-decorated beeper went off, beep beep beep, another one bites the dust, Faith had just shrugged, phoned in to Petra for a double-check, and gone out for pizza.

"What? I didn't like her, and she didn't like me. I'm not going to hug and cry and learn and grow because some ice-queen bitch got her neck snapped by a badass vamp," Faith had snapped when Alonna questioned her. "In fact, I'm happy for Kendra, she's probably off boinking her Watcher in some sacred ceremony right now." Then Faith had burst into a peal of laughter at the thought of getting into bed with powdery old Petra. Alonna had tried not to laugh, because she thought Faith should be more serious about the whole thing, but then Faith had done that thing where she got her thumb and pressed it against Alonna and then flicked it and twisted her wrist, and they were both gasping and laughing together.

Alonna's brother had died protecting her, and she'd never forgotten that for a second. She'd loved him, Charles with his calm smile and stupid jokes, and now her life had to be worth his loss. She pretty much thought it was, now, since she'd met Faith. They were good together. It was fun. Different cities and different seasons but the important things were always the same, Faith's mouth and hands and breasts and tangled hair and throaty laugh.

Faith likes to paint Alonna's toenails bright red and comb her hair and squeeze her into little pink dresses.

"My normal girl," Faith will say in wonderment when the makeover's done, because in their topsy-turvy life normality has become exotic. Alonna has no beeper, no Watcher, no dormant birthright. Faith envies and adores her.

Faith knows that girls in her position can expect to live quite a few more years after the final time their beeper goes off, but it won't be the same. And Kendra's lived three years of borrowed time already, how much longer can she last? So Faith lives each day like a girl under a sword. She thinks she's doing a pretty good job of it, cramming a whole life of love and fun and mayhem into a short space of time.

It's Halloween and they're going to a fancy dress party in the most fabulous seventies gear they could find in thrift stores. Ostensibly, Faith is the ho and Alonna's the sugar daddy, but in the end they just look like the two ripe laughing women they are.

"Nikki," Petra whispers, eyes lingering on Alonna, but then she shakes herself and smiles and tells the girls to have a good time. Later, Faith wonders who Nikki was, or had been, and why Petra's voice had been so dry and lost.

They have too many drinks at the party, bright cold fruity concoctions with various hues and tastes, and then they stumble off home singing slurred songs loudly to the dark and empty streets. Faith doesn't want to dick around with all that foreplay stuff, when she's had a few shots she always gets greedy and growly. Alonna has no problem with this at all.

They're on the bed and Faith's back is pressed against the pillows and she's arching when suddenly the dark behind her eyelids is all shot with lightning and her legs shake so hard she's almost biting through her lip. Her heart skips and stutters and she thinks she might be screaming a bit.

Then it passes and she's boneless, limp, and Alonna's grinning like a Cheshire cat.

"Good to know I'm appreciated," she says in a purr, curling up with her head on Faith's stomach.

Faith tangles her hands in Alonna's hair, and smiles softly, and then holds her breath as she waits long seconds for the sound.

Beep beep beep.