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Your Most Bearable Option

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They'd decided sides of the bed, made sure the hot water worked, and decided to worry about unpacking clothes and toothbrushes and all that stuff until later.  Which meant they were settled in.

Buffy was too fried from the events of, God, it was just a couple days ago, to leave the room, but too wired from those same events to do the customary post fast-food starch nap.  Ditto Faith.  So she was laying back and watching Faith pace someone who'd die if she stopped moving.  Like some kind of sexy shark.  A sexy shark who was going to be sleeping just to her left on a mattress that really wasn't that big.

"You didn't room with Principal Cutie, huh?" she said, immediately regretting the topic.

"Nah.  Need a clean break."

"Not good enough for a repeat visit?"  Buffy was listening to what was falling out of her mouth and prayed for a sudden attack of aphasia.

"That's the thing.  I finally had good sex with a guy.  Like, we actually, you know, figured out what we wanted, and paid attention to each other, all that stuff you're not supposed to expect.  I was pulling on my pants, thinking, oh, thats what it's like, feeling really glad I'd done it, and you know what?  I decided I was good.  For the foreseeable future.  Got my diploma in men, and put it in storage rather than frame it."  She slapped her hands together twice in the universal that's that motion.

"I guess I want to say good for you?"

"No, it is good for me.  I'm sick of running around like a chicken with its head cut off."

Buffy had no idea what Faith meant.

"I mean I have to actually think about what I want, before I just go and do something.  Or someone."

"So..."

"So I'm here.  Not there."

Buffy had heard the implicit with you, not him in that, and wasn't sure whether or not that was good.  Part of her just wanted to curl up on Faith and be there, rather than in the past 72 hours, or in all the wild stuff that built up to them.  And part of her wasn't ready.  She was at the edge of a diving board, looking at the water, thinking about how high up she was, and how cold the water was going to be, and she guessed this whole swimming metaphor was coming from the fact that for the past hour, all the potentials--not potentials, slayers.--would not shut up about whether they should stop at a hotel with a pool.  Dawn and Giles had ruled in favor of a pool.  Not that any of them had brought a suit.  It was entirely within Faith's M.O. to propose late-night skinny-dipping.  Or maybe that was wishful thinking.

Buffy didn't say any of this.  Buffy said, "And here you are."

"Here I am."

"You are here."

"Here is me."

Buffy laughed and shook her head.

"Yep.  You bring a deck of cards?"

And there went Buffy's brain again, speculating about Faith suggesting strip poker.  Which she'd have to think about some other time, because she didn't actually bring a deck of cards.

"No dice," she said.

"You mean no cards."  If Faith was making dad jokes now, then she really had changed.  "The boob tube it is, then.  You click around.  I'm gonna step out on the balcony so I can fart a little. Maybe more than a little.  That burger is sitting like a brick.  A real fidgety brick."

At least Faith had finally said something unsexy.  "You could have kept plausible deniability if you'd just said you needed some air."

"Yeah, I don't know what that means."

"Also, I warned you.  I used to work at one of those.  I know whereof I speak."  Thanks for that turn of phrase, Giles.

"You told me it was, and I quote, a giant wad of mystery plant drenched in ungodly amounts of beef fat.  I had to know what that tasted like.  You brought this on yourself.   Well, actually on me, but let's pretend that you're the one who has to face the consequences."

"Depends on the ventilation."

Faith scouted around for vents and fans. "Yeah, I think we both go down together this time.  Sorry in advance."

"Was it worth the trouble?"

"Nah, not really."

"I told you that too.  As regional chains go, it's not exactly In-n-Out."  Buffy prayed again to the gods of accidental speech, this time that Faith wouldn't make a poop joke out of In-n-Out, and that they could therefore move on to talk about, well, literally anything else.

"Tasty Burger's the holy grail of those places, anyway, and it's a Boston exclusive."  The gods of accidental speech were merciful gods, and apparently buddies with the warring gods of the East and West coasts.

"I still say you're making that name up.  I will never believe that a burger place just calls itself Tasty Burger, and also never believe that any burger place that just calls itself Tasty Burger would produce a burger that is, in fact, tasty."

"Yeah, keep being wrong."  Faith stepped out and shut the sliding glass door behind her.

Buffy flipped around.  Soaps, infomercials, Judge Judy who for some reason frightened her, Doctor Phil, same, a version of Goodfellas with all the swears edited out, and music videos that made her feel old and out-of-touch.  She shut it back off.

Apparently Faith had exactly one cycle of basic cable channels worth of gas in her, because she walked in pretty much right then.  She tossed herself onto the bed.

"Shoes!  Shoes on the bed!"

"Sorry."  Faith set to unlacing.  Tough-girl boots sure looked like a lot of work.  Buffy still kind of wanted her own pair.  Maybe a matching pair.  Or maybe she wasn't ready to take that step with Faith yet.

"Nothing's on."

Faith took the remote.  "I'll find something.  I'm an expert.  Been doing this for years."  She flicked around.  "Jeez, yeah.  Okay.  So, your first best bet is a black-and-white movie.  The ones on right now suck.  Your next best bet is Dun-Dun.  That's Law & Order, classic, not Deeply Upsetting Topics Unit, but the one on right now is a new one, and the scripts pretty much suck after Adam Schiff leaves.  Your third best bet is weird.  That's much easier to come by in the wee hours.  Spongebob's fallen off the rankings, 'cause by now the reruns have driven all the good jokes into the ground.  We could just quote them at each other and be just as sorta-entertained."

Buffy actually couldn't.  The show was after Dawn's time, so her only experience with it was when Willow had grabbed her to quiz her on the accuracy of the Krusty Krab Employee Training Video episode.  It was actually pretty spot-on, and she'd spent the next couple weeks' worth of shifts wishing for her own I Really Wish I Weren't Here Right Now button.

Faith had kept listing things while that little fish yelled 'Hoopla!' on repeat in Buffy's brain, but she'd missed them.

"So that brings us to most bearable territory.  First on there is action cartoons."  She paused.  "Don't ever tell anyone I watch this stuff, okay?"

"I'm...not sure that's my thing," said Buffy.

"Yeah, I know, that's why I said most bearable.  Now, personally, if the guys are too beefy or the hair is too pointy or there's something they're trying to make you collect, I'm out.  Giant robots and superheroes can work.  Now remember, this does not count late-night anime.  Late-night you can get stuff with some edge and more than two brain cells to rub together, if you don't mind some weird fuckin' voice acting.  This is where I tell you again to keep your mouth shut."

Buffy didn't remember anything about late-night anime, but that was probably the Hoopla-fish.

"Here we go."

Faith had finally settled on a channel.  The hair wasn't un-pointy, but apparently it wasn't too pointy either.  Faith had a very detailed system.  "What am I looking at, Faith?"

"It's the X-Men, but they're in a normal high school."

"Why?"

"Kids like high school until they hit high school, remember?"

"Okay."

Buffy let it wash over her.  The plot was simple enough for her to forget what was happening.  And then a terrible realization hit her.

"Faith, I'm a grown woman.  I have had an office job, I have led an army, I've been the legal guardian to a kid sister, who, through mostly no fault of her own, is incredibly difficult to guard.  I shouldn't be getting the hots for an animated goth girl, should I?"

"You wouldn't be alone."

"I know.  I've met my partners in toon-lust.  That's why I'm pretty sure it's wrong."

Faith chuckled.  "I'm just happy hearing you say you've got the hots for a girl."

"Come on, you knew."

"Of course I knew.  Just didn't know if you'd put two and two together," she said, making V's on each hand with her index and middle finger.  Buffy looked back at the TV before she could see whether Faith would actually go there and make her hands scissor.  Because she would.

"Yeah.  For a little while now," said Buffy.  It had been seeing her again that year, thinking back to when they'd met, and realizing that, yeah, she wasn't kidding herself about what she wanted to do with Faith back then.  She didn't say so, for fear of some kind of smugness factor.

Still, when Faith put out her arm, Buffy leaned against her, let that arm go around her, took Faith's hand in her own.  It'd have been as intimate as it was no matter what, but with both of them in tank tops, the feel of Faith's arm over hers, skin to skin, had as much of sex in it than anything that had gone on between Faith and Robin must have.  Buffy could have stayed like that forever.

And then Faith sat bolt upright, pointing at the TV.

"Those bitches just jacked our fuckin' dance moves!"

"What?"

"Okay.  Kitty and Rogue were dancing for, I don't know why."

"You know their names?  How loyal of a viewer are you?"

"They're comic book characters.  You learn their names from, I don't know, osmosis.  Besides.  Rogue's powers--Rogue's your new girlfriend, by the way--are kind of a raw deal.  I can relate."

Buffy could relate to Faith relating.

"Anyway.  They were dancing, and I remember me doing that thing, and you doing that thing, and I don't know how it happened, if I should tell everyone to start researching demon animators or whatever, but that was us!"

"When were we dancing like that?  How do you remember it?"

"I did the whole heart-on-the-window thing and got you to cut school, remember?  It was gonna be our big day."

It was.  Then the tragic misunderstanding that happens when you get cocky happened, and then it got worse, a couple times, and then, somehow, they ended up back together in a hotel room, older and more worn out, and probably better than they'd been.

"Our big day."  Buffy smiled wistfully.  "What do you think would have happened?"

"I dunno, slap on the wrist from Wesley, Giles saying something rude to him, and then..."  she trailed off.  "Look.  We ended up here.  And we're okay with each other.  I think."

Buffy smiled. "Yeah.  More than.  You want to know what I think would have happened?"

"Sure."

"I think you would have kissed me."

Faith nodded.  "Good guess."

"I think," she paused to make sure, and yeah, she was sure, "I think I'll take that kiss now."

Faith obliged.  It was the kind of kiss you'd expect a kiss that overdue to be.  So was the next one.  And the next.

Faith pulled away, and turned to the TV.  "So this place doesn't have HBO.  And the next part, you know, if you're down?  I think the next part can't be on any stations we do have.  What say I turn this thing off?"

Buffy hit the power button herself.  This was way better than most bearable.  Maybe, just maybe, even better than a non-sucky black-and-white movie would have been.