Somewhere along the way, it turned into one of their rituals.
Maybe if Faith hadn’t let him tag along that first time, things would have been different. Not better. She’d finally learned that the two weren’t the same. But different, definitely. Because then Wes wouldn’t have been there when Arnie the Tattoo Guy held up the mirror to show her the small bird on her shoulder blade. And he wouldn’t have gone out with her afterward when she absolutely had to kill something. And he wouldn’t have been there when she’d lost control and practically tore a vampire in two because his skin happened to be the exact shade of bitter chocolate as Robin’s.
Wes refused to leave her side that night. Somewhere around dawn, Faith finally broke down and cried.
The next tattoo was his.
Faith was hanging out with him and Gunn in his fancy new digs at Wolfram and Hart when the message arrived. She didn’t know who the hell Virginia Bryce was, but the way Wes went even paler and the way his voice grew soft when he asked them for privacy told her enough. He stayed locked inside his office until well past midnight, and when he finally emerged to find her lounging outside his door carving stakes, Faith hadn’t said a word.
She simply took him by the hand and led him straight to Arnie. The result was an ornate V done in blood red low on his hip. The location was her choice.
“So nobody has to know but you,” Faith said, looking Wes right in the eye.
He smiled. For the first time since getting the news the girl was dead.
He didn’t even bother to ask her to stay that night. Faith followed him home, followed him in, and never left.
There were others, of course. There would always be others. Not everybody merited a special brand, but often enough – or too often, if either of them was pressed – another announcement would be made, or another mission went wrong, or another message was left in Wesley’s voicemail. And they would go out after sunset, fingers loosely linked, neither saying a word until they got to Arnie’s and told him what they wanted.
She wasn’t surprised that Wes got more than she did. She was surprised when he insisted on getting a matching B on his arm when Buffy was killed in Rome.
The one to hit him the hardest, however, was Fred. Though Faith had always liked the girl, they’d never clicked the way Wes had always wanted. How could he understand that Faith felt threatened by a too-skinny, too-brainy, ex-object of his affection? It didn’t matter that she was the one in Wesley’s bed now, or that nothing more than a kiss had ever happened between him and Fred. Fred was the model upon which he judged all women, she felt.
And then she was dead.
And Wes had had to be the one to kill her again when they faced down the god who’d stolen her body.
He’d disappeared for days after that. At first, Faith let him go. She’d even held Angel back when he’d insisted on going out and looking for him. But then three days stretched into four, and the bed they shared got bigger and bigger, and Faith broke her own vow to give him space by ransacking the city looking for him. It was the afternoon of the sixth day that she found him in the basement of the Hyperion, staring at an empty, blood-stained table.
“You should go,” he said, his voice a soft monotone that brought goosebumps to her bare arms. He never looked up. Never blinked. “You have your whole life in front of you.”
“Yeah.” Crouching at his side, Faith skimmed fingertips over the beard he’d grown in his absence. “And it’s right here, slugger.”
The empty eyes that turned to her made her ache. “I’d really rather not have to kill you, too.”
“You’re not untouchable, Faith. You will die.”
“So will you.” Faith grinned. “And then I’ll tell Arnie to put my tat for you exactly where everybody will know what a pain in my ass you really were.”
A ghost of a smile dispelled some of the shadows, and Wes allowed her to haul him to his feet. “I believe that’s my line,” he murmured. “You have the uncanny ability to try the patience of a saint.”
“See, now, in Slayer-talk, that’s called keeping your Watcher on your toes.”
“Is that how you see me?”
Stretching, she pressed a kiss to his mouth that lingered not nearly long enough. “No, Wes. That’s what you are.”
That night, when they returned to his apartment, Faith undressed him with meticulous care. She kissed the various letters imprinted upon his skin, around the newly etched taco hidden away low on his abdomen, along the scars that anointed his trials. She even traced trembling fingers over the fading marks she had caused, oh so many lifetimes ago.
Wes pulled her to her feet before she could take it further, crushing her to his chest.
He didn’t ask her for more. He didn’t ask her for solace. He didn’t ask her for assurances, about her feelings, about her longevity, about anything.
He didn’t have to.
It was all there, written upon their skin.