The Best Policy
Faith woke up with a hangover.
That wasn't unusual. She'd had plenty of hangovers, ever since she'd first tried to figure out what her mom saw at the bottom of a bottle, when she was twelve. So the fact that the bright white light glaring through her closed eyelids felt like nails driving into her brain wasn't a surprise. The thump-thump of pain following the rhythm of her pulse and the vomity taste in the back of her mouth wasn't new either. And the fact that she couldn't remember how she'd gotten here--wherever here was--well, that had happened a time or two. She only hoped she'd dragged whoever was breathing on her arm to her bed, so she could kick them out, rather than doing the Walk of Shame herself.
She lifted a hand to her face and tried to push her eyeballs back into their normal position in her head. She wasn't ready to open her eyes. Didn't her room have blinds? And had they been so drunk as to leave all the lights on? It was a fucking inferno out there.
There was a groan from the someone drooling on her sleeve.
Faith knew that voice. Even groaning in pain. Hell, especially groaning in pain. But there was no way it was her--
Faith blinked and tried to focus. They were both lying on the bare floor, in a bare room, with bare walls, bare ceiling, bare everything. White light flared from every surface.
Faith growled and shoved Buffy away from her. It was coming back. Buffy's face was battered and bruised. Faith could feel matching bruises on her own face, and the colossal fight she almost-sort-of remembered would explain a lot of the throbbing from her body telling her she was hurt, bad.
Buffy groaned again and pushed herself into a sitting position, hiding her head between her knees. "Turn off the light..."
"Would if I could, believe me." Faith put a hand on the wall and pulled herself to her feet.
Buffy looked up at the sound of her voice, then winced as the light hit her straight in the eyes. "Oh, don't even tell me. Another weird Slayer dream. Could you get out of my head for one night?"
Faith grunted and ignored her. All the walls were the same, white plastic, no joints, not even the corners. One tiny grate in the ceiling, for air, she supposed, because she couldn't even find a door. Even if they managed to tear out the vent, there was no way either of them would fit through it. They were trapped.
Faith slammed her fist into the wall. "Hey! Hey out there! Let me out!"
Buffy covered her ears with her hands. "No. No yelling. No banging. Please."
Faith leaned her cheek against the plastic. At least it was cool, far more than her skin. "Ugghhh..."
"This is--" Buffy started, then stopped abruptly.
Faith turned around and slid down the wall until she was sitting on the floor across from Buffy. "This is what?"
Buffy shrugged. She stared at her hands.
Faith made an impatient sound. She wasn't about to wait for Buffy to make up her mind about what insult to use next. "Looks like I got you good," she said instead.
"Wrong," Buffy shot back. "We were each other then, so this--" she pointed to her face, "--was me getting you."
"Well, then I can feel that I kicked your ass," Faith said. "I broke about three ribs, I bet. And what the hell did I do to your--er--my head?"
"With the slamming it against the floor? Gee, I don't know."
"What the hell happened?" Faith knocked one knuckle against the wall. It made a hollow sound, but she knew she couldn't bash through it--not now, while she was hurt, and not even when she was in top form, probably. People who caged Slayers usually knew what they were doing.
"We're in the Initiative," Buffy mumbled, then stared at Faith in confusion. "I mean, I think we are."
"You sounded pretty sure."
"Yeah...I've seen their demon cages before. This is like that, except no door. But it doesn't make any sense. Why would Riley lock me up here?"
Faith snorted. "But me--that makes sense."
"Well, with the murdering--" Buffy shook her head. "I mean, okay, Alan Finch was an accident, but Lester was really all you, so--"
"Whoa!" Faith sat up straight. "Back up the blame-train, there! Did I just hear you admit that killing Alan was an accident?"
Buffy blinked and started to shake her head 'no', but she said, "Of course, we were both being reckless. It was really my fault as much as yours. I threw him at you. We both thought he was a vampire..." A horrified expression crossed her face. "What am I saying?"
"Sounds like about the way I remember that night," Faith said dryly. "Sounds like you finally got that 'Look at my perfect moral code' stick out of your ass."
"I never had a stick..." Buffy rubbed her temples. "I mean, not a literal stick..."
"I was using those wacky metaphors you college students get so excited about," Faith said. She studied Buffy. "You really didn't want to say that, did you?"
"Actually, I've been wanting to say it for a long time, because the way I treated you after that was probably didn't help you, and then we were enemies, and then you were in a coma, so it was kinda hard to have a heart to heart talk with you, which I really wanted, but it was like if I visited you then you were right and I didn't want to believe that because it was easier not to," Buffy said quickly. Then she opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, coughed, cleared her throat, and swallowed hard. "Ack!"
Faith felt her headache fading as Buffy's discomfort became clearer. "You're under a spell or something," she crowed. "You're telling the truth!"
"You're--" Buffy's throat worked hard for a moment. "--probably right."
"Oh, man, this is so..." Faith blinked, and choked on the word 'cool'. "Awful," she finished.
Buffy's eyes widened.
Faith winced and slapped a hand over her mouth.
"You are too!" Buffy said. "How do you like them apples?"
"I don't," Faith said tightly, and closed her mouth again. She crossed her arms and glared at the wall to her right, trying to ignore Buffy. She wanted to punch the wall again, but that would probably result only in bruised knuckles, and she was bruised enough as it was. Finally, she asked, "Why the hell would your boytoy lock us up and put us under a truth spell? Why not just send bad old Faith to prison and take Ms Perfect back into his loving arms?"
"He's not--" Buffy stopped and sighed. "Never mind. I mean, it's probably because they don't know if Willow's reversal spell worked. It was handmade, you know, not one of the Mayor's fancy gadgets. If we were both out of it when they found us in the church..."
"Then they wouldn't know if I was you or you were me," Faith finished. She peered at the ceiling. She didn't see any cameras, but maybe that didn't mean much. "Do you think they're watching?"
"Of course they're watching," Buffy said, with a little too much hope in her voice. "They're the government. It's what they do--like the X-Files."
Faith eyed her. "Right. Then why haven't they rescued you yet? I think it's pretty clear who's who, now."
Buffy shrugged. "I don't know."
"Huh." Faith studied her for a moment longer. Buffy fidgeted under her stare.
"Do you love Riley?" Faith asked.
"No," Buffy said simply. Then her eyes went wide. "Shit! Faith! That's not fair! He's probably watching...oh, my God. I'm sorry," she called to the ceiling. "This is dumb. Of course I love--" She stopped. And glared at Faith. "You are going to regret that."
"I'm sure I will," Faith said. And she was. "He loves you, he told me when I was you. What about Angel?"
"Not anymore..." Buffy groaned and rolled her eyes at herself. She leapt to her feet. "Would you stop?"
"No," Faith said, the word torn from her throat before she could think. "Even if it kills me. Which it probably will."
Buffy stalked across the room to her--all of five feet from one wall to the next. "If you ask me one more question, I'll--"
Faith grinned up at her. "Kill me?"
"Ask me questions back?"
Buffy's eyes lit up. "Yes. Mean ones. The worst sort."
"You wouldn't know what to ask," Faith said easily, settling down as comfortably as she could. Which wasn't very. But, if she couldn't tell a lie, she could still hide things behind her body language. All she had to do was keep her mouth closed as much as possible and look confident, and Buffy would give up. Eventually.
Buffy started pacing, tracing her fingers along the perfect surface of the wall. "There's got to be a way out," she said.
"They're probably sleeping," Faith said. "They'll watch the tapes in the morning, and you'll be free, and I'll be--I don't know, killed, or whatever these Initiative dudes do when they're not too happy with what's going down in their town."
"They don't kill things," Buffy said, still examining the wall. "Or people. But they lock them up and do experiments on them. It's horrible. I hate the whole thing. It's cleaner just to dust vamps. Spike's the worst of all. He can't hurt humans anymore, and he's just pathetic."
"Another vamp on your side? Man, you must really get off on banging the undead."
Buffy made a face. "Me and Spike? God, I'd kill myself. Anyway, I never--" She stiffened.
Faith felt her heart stop. "Never?"
"No." Buffy's voice was empty and cold.
"I told you, no!" Buffy punched the wall. "Ow!" She turned to Faith, anger blazing in her eyes. "What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you during sex?" she asked nastily.
Faith sagged against the wall. Oh, God, no... "I was thirteen. It was my mom's boyfriend of the week. He was drunk. So was she. She didn't care, she didn't even notice. He pulled me on to his lap..." Faith felt her breath burning in her lungs. She tried to swallow her words, but they forced their way past her teeth, bubbling out, unstoppable, disgusting. "...his dick was hard, he put my hand in his crotch, and then--on my bed--he raped me. It, it hurt--worse than--anything--not even watching Kakistos kill my Watcher was that bad--and, he--said I'd never be any better, that I was a whore from the start, and--fuck, Buffy--" She finally managed to shut up, tears streaming down her face. Buffy was staring at her, horror written all over her face.
"I'm sorry," she said. "Faith, I'm so sorry."
Faith wanted to throw her apology in her face, to deny it helped, but instead she whispered, "Thank you."
Buffy dropped to her knees beside her, and pulled her into her arms. "I didn't--"
"You meant to," Faith said, when Buffy didn't finish. "I made you mad. You wanted to hurt me."
"Yes." Buffy hugged her tighter. "But I shouldn't have. I thought--Xander--"
Faith gave an empty laugh. "Xander meant nothing to me, not like that, anyway."
Buffy leaned back, releasing her. "Maybe we should just, um, not talk."
Faith brushed her tears away. "I didn't know you knew how to do that."
"What, do the bitch thing?" Buffy smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Believe me, I could have taught Cordy lessons, back when I lived in L.A. I'm not perfect, you know."
Faith shook her head. "I always thought you were. Even when you weren't."
Buffy opened her mouth--Faith could practically feel the words, "What do you mean?" about to escape--and then she shook her head and went back to her side of the room. Not talking was definitely safer, and Faith released a breath at how close Buffy had come to learning everything.
Faith tried to watch her without being obvious about it. Already their bruises were fading, giving Buffy a sickly green-yellow tinge around her eyes and on the right side of her jaw. Faith shifted as her ribs reminded her she hadn't escaped her own punishment. Buffy was sitting quietly, apparently determined to escape without any more big truths being revealed.
But Buffy had hugged her. And said she was sorry. And that she knew not everything about last year was Faith's fault. So what else might she say if Faith asked? This was probably her only chance to figure out what went on in Buffy's head. Even if it meant risking something of her own.
"We could take turns," she said.
Buffy blinked. "What?"
Buffy's eyes narrowed. "Anything is...anything."
"Yeah." Faith forced herself to meet Buffy's eyes. "It is."
Buffy nodded cautiously. "Okay."
"You first," Faith offered.
"I asked two. You got one. So. Your turn." Faith forced her hands to uncurl, relaxing from the automatic defensive position she'd adopted as soon as she gave control to Buffy. She should really stop doing that.
Buffy licked her lips. She was being just as careful as Faith, now, after what her last question had revealed. "What was the first thing you did to my body?" she asked.
Faith felt her face burn. "I had a bath." Maybe that would be enough. She gritted her teeth. It wasn't. "And I fucked myself until I couldn't lift my arm."
"Oh." Buffy considered that, her face going red to match Faith's. "Um. I thought I felt...uh. Oh God. Never mind."
"Yeah." Faith tried to push away the idea of Buffy's body, still feeling satisfied, after what she'd done to herself--to them--to Buffy. It was really not the thing to be thinking about when she might blurt out the truth about how she was feeling at any point. Because right now, the answer was horny. "Well." Faith picked at a nonexistent imperfection in the floor with a fingernail. She'd had most of her big questions answered. Buffy didn't love Riley or Angel. But there was one more thing she had to know, which was why she'd offered herself up to Buffy's questions. "So. Do you hate me?"
"For that? No. It's weird, but, okay...not the question you were asking, I know." Buffy paused, and found her own spot of floor to pick at. "No." She pursed her lips, frowning as she thought about her words. "No. I knew we were pushing you away, and we never did anything to help you. I blamed you for Alan. When you shot Angel, I wanted to hate you, but I ended up hating myself."
"Yes. For stabbing you. And, hey, turn-jumper!" Buffy gave her a mock glare. "I get two."
Faith rolled her eyes. "Fine."
"All right. First. Are you afraid of what I'm going to ask you?"
"Yes." Faith spread her arms, as if opening herself up to attack. "Terrified. Of course."
"Hmm." Buffy took a deep breath. "Okay. Why?"
Faith opened her mouth and said the last thing she wanted to say. "Because I think you're going to ask how I feel about you. And I don't want to tell you. It's easier beating you into the ground than telling you."
Buffy nodded. She seemed to grow smaller in her corner, hugging her knees.
Faith waited for a long moment before she realized it was her 'turn' again. She'd half-expected Buffy to go on and ask her exactly what she'd feared. This was a really dumb idea. She shouldn't have started it. She didn't even know what she wanted to ask next. And, if she didn't take her turn, then maybe this little game couldn't continue. She climbed to her feet and started pacing, feeling like the lions she'd seen in the zoo once, trapped, with nothing to do but repeat the same old motions, with no escape, no hope. Buffy's questions were just one more trap she'd walked right into. Stupid.
One foot in front of the other, three steps one way, then back again. Buffy sat with her back to the corner, watching her silently. What did Buffy think of all this forced truth-telling? Was she worried about what Faith might ask? Was she angry? Buffy didn't hate her, but that didn't mean she liked her much.
It didn't mean she'd get the answer she wanted if she asked the only question she had left.
"Do you love me?" Buffy asked, out of the blue.
"Yes," Faith said, staring at the too-white wall, feeling strangled by the word. Buffy had tricked her the way she'd tricked Buffy, asking a question too quick for her to even think about the effect the answer would have.
"I thought so. I thought so then, too." Buffy stood up and put her hand on Faith's arm, stopping her pacing. "Faith."
Faith glanced up at the ceiling, where the cameras had to be--they were watching, maybe even Buffy's beefstick was watching, right now, and what if they barged in at the exact wrong moment? Buffy's hand tightened on her arm. Faith dropped her gaze and met Buffy's eyes. Green, and open, and honest (only because they had to be, maybe). "Go on," Buffy said. "Ask me."
Faith swallowed. God, Buffy was beautiful, the last of their mutual damage swept away by Slayer healing. Her hair was loose and messy from their sleep on the floor, and her clothes were scuffed from the fight. But she stared at Faith and waited. Knowing that she'd tell the truth when Faith got up her courage and asked. Knowing that Faith knew it too.
No more secrets.
"Did you ever think we could be more than just good friends?" Faith asked, hedging her bets to the last.
Buffy's face stayed solemn. "Yes."
"Were you afraid?" Faith whispered. "Of me?"
"Yes." Buffy pushed Faith's arm down, until they stood face to face, no space between them. Buffy looked up at her, and Faith saw desire there, where she had seen it before but refused to believe it could ever be.
One more question. Only one.
"Do you want me to kiss you?"
Buffy's lips parted, her eyes darkening. "Yes. Please."
Faith sighed, letting out all her tension, and moved her head down, and Buffy reached up to meet her, and then their lips touched, and--oh, yes. This was what she had wanted, always, since the very beginning. Buffy kissed her softly, but thoroughly, soft lips and insistent tongue, warm and wet and perfect. Faith felt the kiss like a revelation, singing through her body. "Mmm," she said, and pulled Buffy closer.
Faith kissed her until they had to breathe, and then released her only a fraction of an inch.
"You're...a really good kisser..." Buffy murmured.
Faith felt her heart swell. "The best you've ever had?" she asked mischievously.
Buffy hesitated. Then, with a smile of her own: "The best."
And they were kissing again. Faith held Buffy tight, holding her close, so that she could explore every part of her with her mouth, kissing her jaw and her throat, until Buffy moaned and found her mouth again. Buffy's hands scraped up her back and down again, a constant stroke that matched the pleasure surging up and down Faith's spine with every heartbeat.
And the Initiative burst through the door.
The perfect plastic wall cracked and parted. Riley rushed in at the head of a squad of beefed-up soldier boys. "Buffy!" he yelled.
Buffy backed out of Faith's arms. "Oh, so now you're watching," she said. "I could be dead by now, I hope you know."
"We wouldn't have let you fight--" Riley bit off his own words, probably realizing how badly he was coming off.
"What the hell was this?" Faith demanded. "Some psych test on your girlfriend, because she just happens to be a Slayer?"
"That isn't your concern," Riley said to her. "Take her," he said to the men flanking him.
"I don't think so," Faith said. "Don't you know about Slayer healing?"
"Riley, you are going to let her go," Buffy said.
"Why?" Riley said. "Because you think some drug-addled confession of love is real?"
"It feels real," Buffy said. "It's your truth serum, so I'm sure you'd know better than I would. But I'm saying it because if you don't let Faith go, she'll fight her way out. And I'll help her."
"Buffy, this isn't what you want," Riley said, a hint of desperation in his tone.
"Actually," Buffy said, "it is." She turned to Faith. "Believe me?"
Faith smiled at her. "Yes." For once. And now, for always. "Love me?"
Buffy took her hand, and glared until the commandos created an aisle for them to walk through. She pulled Faith out of the cell, away from the Initiative. "Yes," she said. "I love you."
And they found their way to freedom, together.end