Without Sinners, would there be Saints?
It is hot.
Which isn't really surprising as it is summer and they are in the desert. With a broken car and no way to call for help. Faith’s cell got drenched in demon goo back in Vegas and Buffy’s battery is dead.
Shaking her head the blonde squeezes the cell phone until it’s nothing but a heap of useless plastic and metal before throwing it out into the desert. It lands in a glittering tiny heap almost out of sight. The expected satisfaction doesn’t come, judging by the small slayer’s face.
She climbs to her feet with the ease of someone who is used to much faster movements and steps up to where Faith is fiddling beneath the open hood. She once worked a summer at her uncle’s place, crawling around under broken, dirty cars, but she doesn't really understand anything about engines. Or maybe she forgot it. There were more important things to remember for a while.
B leans with her hip against the side of the car, arms crossed in front of her. Her hair sparkles golden and her skin is the colour of the desert around them. She looks like she belongs here, like some long forgotten golden goddess. Even in the noon time heat she is still dressed properly, unlike Faith. She’s wearing faded jeans with the knees torn out and a black tank top that would look like sin on the brunette. It perfectly matches Buffy’s good girl look, though. Her feet are adorned with shiny new boots, untouched by the sand.
All in all the blonde looks a little bleached and beautiful and petite and clean and good.
Faith on the other hand looks like sin on heels. She started the day in a red top and a black pleated skirt with matching boots. An hour ago she took her favourite dagger to her clothes, leaving the skirt so short it barely covers her ass and the top now strongly resembles a bra. She’s dark haired and pale and hot and sweaty, looking like a sinner stranded in the endless desert, a black and white and red mistake in the middle of endless golden sand and blue sky.
She used to think that this would be the perfect situation. B, the heat, few clothes and no-one around. She knows better now. A shower, that’s what she imagines vividly now. Of course she wouldn't mind having B with her in the shower, but mostly she daydreams of water now. Cold water.
However, there a three things Faith lives by these days. Three laws that her life is based on. (1: B is a good girl. Faith is a bad girl. 2: B does the right thing. Faith wouldn’t know the right thing if she had wild sex with it all night long. 3: B is straight as a rod. Faith is straight as a circle.)
These are the three pillars her life is built on and she’s learning to accept what she can’t change. She’s learning to deal. B is a desert goddess and she’s the lowly Sinner lost in her heat, melting, drowning, dying. She’s darkness and blood and faded bones and she doesn’t belong in the realm of the sun.
She sighs in frustration, throwing her tool down with a clank. Buffy raises an eyebrow at her and asks, “Any news?”
Faith nods, smoothing the sweat drenched remains of her skirt in place. “Yeah. I know what the problem is.”
“The engine,” she deadpans, face straight. She still knows how to aggravate the blonde, though.
B frowns at her, just like she should and wonders out loud, “So what do we do now?”
“Pack our things and go looking for a phone that works?”
B just nods.
Two hours later finds two slayers, each with a duffel bag slung over their shoulder strolling down the side of the lonely highway. Well, B is strolling, hands in her pockets, sunglasses perched on her cute little nose. At least her boots are dirty now. Faith walks beside her, thinking of showers and baths and waterfalls and Antarctica. It doesn't really help.
When she was little she used to believe that the flickering air on the road ahead was water. She believed that the road was really a river and the water was running ahead of them, trying to escape the heat. Now she knows better, but still she imagines diving into the road like it’s water, feeling the cool liquid run over her too hot body.
She wonders if B ever believed in such things as fleeing water and liquid roads. Some days she’d like to ask.
Do you believe in fairy tales? What do you see when you dream? Who do you remember when you stare right through me? What makes your heart beat faster and your head spin? What is the drug you would die for? Where is the place you dream yourself to when things get too much? What do you see when you look at me?
But she never does. It’s not her place.
Ten years ago they turned Sunnydale into a big freaking crater. They activated all the slayers around the world. Four years ago Willow called them back from an apocalypse in South America with a worried voice. Three years and three hundred forty five days ago she sat across from them, biting her lip, stacks of notes in front of her and Giles worried face hovering in the background.
“There’s something I have to tell you.”
Her hair glinted in the sun like ripe apples and her face was pale. Faith looked at Buffy and B looked at Faith and they shrugged before turning back to the witch. How bad could it be?
Almost four years later they learned to deal, to accept, to not rage and rant. They learned to be friends again, but there are things that Faith knows they will never share. They might be stuck with each other for eternity because of Red’s spell, but that’s it.
They are partners, sisters in arms and sometimes they are friends. Faith knows better than to ask for more.
B is a good girl and she is not. They walk on safe ground, neither of them attempting to take that one step into the unknown. They won’t break again.
And so Faith doesn't ask. It’s not her place.
She is torn out of her wet dreams by B’s voice announcing, “I think I see civilization.“
Faith never noticed how similar Civilization and Hallucination sound. Funny that.
Civilization turns out to be single shabby building on the right side of the road. It looks gloomy and dangerous against the backdrop of the sinking sun and the dark slayer wonders what drives someone to build a house in the middle of the desert, with no-one around in a fifty mile radius. Then they come close enough for her senses to kick in and she knows.
“B this place stinks of demons. I ain’t going it there.”
The smaller girl rolls her eyes and informs her sister in arms, “Even demons use phones and I’m not walking another step today.” She pouts. “My new boots are dirty and my feet hurt.”
“City girl,” Faith accuses.
The brunette glowers. “The sand gets everywhere.”
“I told you wearing a skirt was a bad idea.” She smirks her evil little smirk that makes her looks anything but evil and a world of sexy. Faith groans.
“I am not in the mood to fight hungry and horny demons that have been stuck in the desert alone for god knows how long. And the place looks packed.” She points at the dusty parking lot filled to boot with pickups and cars with blackened windows.
B actually growls as she grabs the other girl by the hand and says, “In all the fourteen or so years I’ve known you, you never once weren't in the mood to fight. Stop balking.”
Faith gives in, stops digging her heels into the dirt and follows willingly, too amazed that her tiny goddess is willingly walking into a dank and dirty demon bar to protest any more.
And what makes a Sinner a Sinner, what a Saint a Saint? Who defines Sin? Are we all born as Saints whose nature dedicates how far they fall from grace?
Faith gets herself a beer while B runs off to call Gunn in L.A.
Everyone else is either on the wrong continent to help, or too busy to be bothered. Sometimes it’s as if at one point everyone just stopped worrying about the Chosen Two.
They are immortal, they have each other and they have access to the Council funds. What more do they need?
Faith would say: Nothing. But she knows that B is sad that her family is slowly breaking away from her. They last time they visited Xander and Dawn in Brasilia she cried as she discovered wrinkles in the face of her best friend.
But she’s the good girl and she does the right thing and in this case the right thing is to leave them to their demon free lives while she is forever stuck with a girl that once tried to kill her, hunting down the evil in this world. The key word in that sentence being forever.
Finally the blonde comes bouncing over to the table Faith chose, as far away from the other patrons (a wide variety of demons covering everything from vampire to humanoid to a multicoloured blob of slime with eyes and twelve feet taking up two whole tables and drinking from three bottles at once) as possible.
She looks like she took a quick trip to the bathroom after making her call. Her face is scrubbed clean of dust and makeup, her clothes are less dusty. She smiles at Faith as she sinks into the booth. She doesn’t bother to look around, doesn’t seem to mind the multiple stains on the table in front of her.
“Gunn says he’ll send someone to pick us up by morning and he’ll take care of the car. Anne says hi.”
Faith nods. “So where are we spending the night then?”
B frowns as she suggests, “Well, how about that nice little hotel just around the corner? Oh wait, no, there is not hotel around the corner. Damn. We’ll have to stay here.”
It’s the brunette’s turn to frown violently. “I didn’t think you’d want to stay here.”
For a long moment the older slayer stares intently at Faith, making her feel like she did at sixteen after she killed the wrong guy and B looked at her. Looked at her like she was something interesting, like a speck of dirt on your favourite shirt. There, surprising, but utterly unwelcome. It’s why Faith will never ask the other girl all those questions.
Then suddenly Buffy turns to a deep purple demon with five tentacles as it – he – passes their table. He has five tentacles and each holds a tray. B orders a beer.
Then she looks back at the younger slayer, serious expression of her face. “Why do you always do this?”
“Do what, B?”
“Treat me like I’m some sort of Saint? Like I’m better than anyone else?”
Faith feels her face go a little blank and her eyes turn a little colder, because she didn’t think that B noticed. Her whole world is built on the fact that B never notices anything about Faith unless Faith wants her to. Because she’s the good girl and good girls don’t bother with the bad seed.
“What do you think,“ she bites out.
Purple sets the beer in front of the blonde and leaves again without a word (Faith isn't sure he can speak at all, she didn’t see a mouth anywhere). Buffy takes a healthy swig, her eyes never leaving the other girl.
She sets the bottle down almost soundlessly, leaning her elbows on the dirty table and bending forward until her face is as close to Faith’s as it will get. In her green eyes the brunette sees sad resignation and acceptance overshadowed by a flicker of challenge, of the vixen Faith once believed to have found in the teenaged version of the other girl.
I’m not. And suddenly she pulls back, grabs her beer and climbs to her feet in a single smooth motion. I’m not. Faith scowls darkly as the other slayer walks with a sway in her step over to the pool table. She leans against the wall, giving Faith her back, watching a humanoid with blue horns and a swishing tail financially ruin his two headed opponent.
Five minutes later the game ends and after Blue slipped his money into the back pocket of his admittedly nicely tight leather pants, B steps forward. She sets her beer down at the edge of the pool table and throws some bills down beside it.
“Forty bucks say I beat you.”
Blue gives her a once over that makes Faith want to march over there and rip his horns off. She doesn't though, because she can control her rage now. So she stays where she is and watches. She can control her rage.
He nods curtly, digging some money out and throwing it on top of the forty dollars.
“Fifty say you can’t and will dance with me once you lost.”
Faith is sure that Buffy will back out now, unwilling to dance with a demon, but she doesn’t. She’s acting like she wants to prove something. And she does. The brunette can’t decide whether to slap the other girl or watch her antics with a smile, waiting for the inevitable fall. Buffy is too good for this shit. She’s the desert goddess and lowly demons and humans are beyond her understanding. She’s better than them.
She’s playing a game, trying to prove that she can be bad, too. And rocks will fly. Faith snorts.
B nods, “Sounds good.”
The tiny blonde sacks the horned guy (Jake, his name’s Jake) in less than twenty minutes. There’s a small dance floor next to the pool table and the dancers (mostly vamp couples and a few demons broad enough to be their own partner) keep sneaking glances at the game. Seems that Jake doesn’t lose often.
And when he does he lights a smoke, inhales deeply, checks the slayer out again and doubles the money. B agrees.
They play three more games, the last two not for money but only that dance and every time Jake loses spectacularly. Faith, still sitting in their booth, watching from afar is slowly but surely doubting her own assessment. B doesn’t look like such a good girl right now, losing the last game of the night on purpose, because she keeps sneaking glances at his ass and seems to like what she sees enough to want to dance with him.
Her hips sway as she bends over the table, ass on display for everyone with a pair of eyes and she gives Jake a coy smile before accidentally letting the cue slip through her fingers and missing.
And maybe, just maybe, Faith thinks that this might be real after all. She remembers what Spike told her during those dark last days, stuck in a basement, about B growing up. She never believed it. And so she watches, because Buffy will fall like everyone else. The only difference is that she falls upwards instead of down. It’s what Saints do.
They stand side by side, sipping their beer until a song with a slow grinding beat starts and B sets down her beer, grabbing Jake’s hand like he isn't a demon but her date and they are madly in love and in junior high. She drags him out onto the tiny dance floor, laughing, her hips gyrating slowly to the music that pulses in Faith’s veins and head. It’s the kind of music that usually makes her itch to dance.
Tonight, for once, she’s happy to watch.
B turns so her back is pressed against Jake’s front. She pushes her ass back against him, causing him to whisper something into her ear. She lets out a laugh that sounds throatier than normal. Faith blames it on the smoke filled air and waits for B to have enough, for Jake to cross the line and cause the slayer to run scared. Because Buffy is good and only bad girls dance with horned demons like they want to fuck them.
Suddenly B reaches up and steals Jake’s cigarette from between his lips. She takes a deep drag, grins up at him saucily and throws the fag to the ground where she steps on it without breaking stride. Then slowly, ever so slowly, she exhales the smoke through her nose, before spinning twice and pushing away from the demon.
She dances over to the bar, orders another beer and finally, finally makes her way back over to where the brunette slayer still sits.
“I’m not used to seeing you on the sidelines, Faith, you alright?” She’s a little flushed and golden and she looks at Faith with dancing eyes.
It makes the other girl angry. “Ok, you’ve made your point. You’re bad. You can stop now.”
She growls the last bit, earning herself an annoyed look. “Why do you always think everything’s about you, Faith? I’m not trying to prove anything to you, nor anyone else. I’m having fun.”
“This is not your idea of fun, damnit!”
“And you know that how? I’m not a teenager anymore. I’ve grown up. I’m thirty-fucking-two years old, I’m a big girl now. Stop trying to make me into something I’m not just so you can feel justified in your actions.”
That hits hard and Faith just sits there, images of the angry golden goddess dancing before her eyes. B never uses the F-word. Never. Even back, before everything went wrong, she never cursed like this. Neverevereverever.
B is the fucking Saint and Faith is not. She’s the bad seed, the failure, the Sinner. She’s the black sheep because it’s what she does best. Because it’s what B needs her to be. Right?
Before she can retort Jake is there, leaning over their table. “That was a perfectly fine cigarette, Slayer,” he informs Buffy, who smirks.
“I know,” she says, “but smoking’s bad for your health.”
His blue tail flicks as he asks, “Is that so?” and Faith almost chokes because Buffy is flirting with a demon! Suddenly a thought occurs.
“Hold on,” she orders, turning toward Jake, “you know we’re slayers and you’re not trying to kill us?”
He looks at her like she’s being dense before turning to B. “So that’s the good one, eh?”
B laughs and shakes her head, “Actually she’s the wild one. Just a little naïve sometimes.”
Naïve? It that what Faith is? She’s always prided herself in being jaded since she was twelve. And now suddenly Miss Goody-goody calls her naïve?
“I repeat, why aren’t you trying to kill us?”
He points at the door, vaguely. As he realises that Faith isn't that easy to satisfy he salutes B and quickly leaves their table.
“What’s got the freaking door got to do with it?”
B shakes her head once more, “Not the door. See the bones next to it?”
Faith squints until she recognizes …something next to the door as two crossed bones, tied together with something that looks like hair. The whole thing is painted an oily green and looks pretty disgusting.
“They signal that this is a neutral place. Blue means no weapons, green means no fighting, red means watch your back or someone’s gonna stab it.”
“How do you….” She trails off, because the question is stupid. She knows. Knows who dragged her golden Saint into the seedy underbelly of the beast.
B nods wistfully, but the pained lines around her eyes are missing. “Spike,” she confirms.
They sit in silence for a moment, before Buffy suddenly jumps to her feet and orders, “Let’s dance.”
Faith lets herself be pulled to her feet and follows the other slayer, willingly as always, out onto the dance floor where the beat still grinds and the bass rolls through her body like high tide, like a wall of liquid sound, like Buffy.
Buffy who just stands there, waiting for the brunette to make the first move, for once not moving away when Faith reaches out a hand. She reaches out and slowly, tentatively settles it on one slim golden hip. It’s warm where the black shirt slipped up and she can feel a fine sheen of sweat on the bare skin. And then she starts to move, slowly. B moves closer, pushing one shapely leg between Faith’s longer ones and stretches up to whisper, “I won’t break, F.”
She smiles that smile that haunted her face for years after Sunnydale, that slow, careful smile that makes Faith think that no-one can break what’s already broken. Broken like her. They are both broken beyond repair and maybe this is real after all.
And so she nods and they dance.
It’s four a.m. when the music finally stops and they leave the dance floor. They danced with Jake and some vamps, nameless, faceless corpses, never letting go of each others’ hands. Jake is the only one that matched them hour for hour, dancing with them, flirting, letting go.
And Faith doesn't think she’s ever seen B laugh that much in all of the last four years. She moved, grinded, swayed, and throbbed all night long with a stranger with a tail and the Sinner.
And now, as they clear the dance floor, Jake falls into the next best booth, his fangs catching the light as he grins up at the two slayers. Buffy looks at Faith quickly before shrugging and sitting down beside him, drawing the taller girl with her. Faith smiles as B curls into her side, eyes closed.
Something happened here tonight, she knows and one day she’ll figure out what it was. But for now, she’s determined to enjoy the results.
Jake is fast asleep within seconds, exhausted from keeping up with two seasoned predators all night, but Faith senses that B is still awake.
She wraps an arm around Faith’s waist, her head sinking down to rest on her thigh. “I had fun tonight,“ she mumbles, “but my feet are killing me.”
Faith chuckles. They fall silent again and stay that way for a while.
“Hey B,” she finally whispers, quietly because for some reason she cares about not waking their new friend up (Faith never had a blue friend, she realises, and certainly not one with a tail).
Buffy’s eyes open and turn upwards in a tipsy way that reminds Faith how much beer they drank tonight. “Yeah?”
“Do you believe in fairy tales?”
She blinks and frowns confusedly for a moment and the brunette slayer is sure she can hear her heart stop. But then her forehead smoothes and she closes her eyes again. “I used to, when I was little. My dad used to tell me about fairies and angels and…”
Faith falls asleep listening to Buffy talk.
The next morning Jake grabs B’s wrist and writes a number on her forearm in bold black letters that probably won’t wash off for a week. Then the girls grab their things and slowly make their way out of the bar, back onto the street where Buffy grabs Faith’s swinging hand in hers.
They simply start walking into the sunrise, because standing still isn't any more comfortable than moving and all the time their hands remain clasped.
The sun is almost up and the sky is painted in baby pinks and blues when a sleek black car appears on the horizon. The headlights blink at them one, two, three times and suddenly B tears her hand out of Faith’s. She runs towards the car like a child, laughing and spinning in between steps, her hair and arms flying around her, duffel bag forgotten at Faith’s feet.
Her hair still sparkles in the light and her skin is still golden brown but her boots are dirty from all the dancing and there’s a beer stain down the front of her jeans. She’s dusty from head to toe and sweaty and sticky and altogether human. The golden desert goddess has come down from her throne looking a little worse for the wear but happier than she’s been in a long time.
She whirls around waving and shouting something against the wind, motioning for the other girl to catch up.
And if there are no Sinners and no Saints and we all fall the same way, does that make us all equal?