leonhart_17: ([btvs] buffy/faith - dance)
[personal profile] leonhart_17
Title: Something to Talk About pt XV
Rating: PG/PG-13
Disclaimer: Not mine, don't sue...
Summary: Faith's having a little trouble remembering what happened last night... fortunately (or unfortunately), there were witnesses...



Willow groaned as she rolled over, the light from the hall drawing her attention as Faith stumbled into their bedroom. It wasn’t like the Slayer to be noisy, especially when she was sneaking in after three in the morning, and the redhead sat up. “What’s wrong?” Willow asked, keeping her voice down while one hand unconsciously rubbed her swollen baby belly. “Are you okay?”

Faith nodded, one hand over her mouth as she tried to restrain a laugh. “I think I’m a lot drunk, babe,” she confessed. “Sorry.”

Willow clicked on the lamp and the brunette hissed, covering her eyes rapidly. “You’re drunk?” Willow questioned in surprise.

“Are you mad?” Faith asked, distractedly trying to kick her boots off while she walked and stumbling into the wall.

“You didn’t invite me,” Willow said, petulance surprising the Slayer. “I can’t drink, but you still could have asked me!”

“Good things happen when we drink together,” Faith mused, speech slurred just slightly. “Should have called you. Then maybe we’d be taking each other’s clothes off instead of my stupid boot being stuck.”

Willow watched Faith kick one foot in an attempt to make her boot dislodge, but the hopeless tangle of knots made it clear that the effort was futile. “Sit down,” Willow directed impatiently, grumbling under her breath as she slid slowly out of bed and went to work on the Slayer’s footwear.

Her wife was obviously annoyed and Faith pushed her hair back from her face as she tried to regain control of herself. “Will…” She jumped as there was a sudden pain on her ankle and her foot jerked from Willow’s hands. “Oww!”

“What?” Willow asked, catching the booted foot again before she accidentally got kicked in the face. There was no way she wanted to explain that one to Buffy or Xander. “What hurts?”

“My ankle,” Faith said, frowning in confusion as she leaned forward to rub it through the boot and sock.

“Did you fall down?” Willow asked, her annoyance starting to become concern. “Be still,” she ordered when Faith stubbornly resumed trying to kick her footwear off. Willow’s hands were gentle as she finished with the knots and carefully opened the boot and guided it off. “There’s a bandage,” Willow said, frowning up at her wife but only getting an oblivious look in response. “What did you do?”

“I don’t know!” Faith said, shrugging. One hand reached for the taped edge, but Willow slapped her hands away and slowly peeled the bandage back herself.

“Oh my God!” Her jaw dropped. “You got a tattoo!” Willow yelped, giggling after a moment.

Faith slapped one hand unconsciously to her armband before she realized the truth. “What?! What is it?!”

Willow jumped up to get the bedroom light, scurrying back to check it more closely. “It definitely looks like…” She was too close to laughing again to finish the statement, but her eyes were amused as she looked up at Faith from between her knees.

“Willow!” Faith whined sharply. “What is it?!”

“It most definitely looks like you have a tree on your ankle,” Willow informed her smugly, reaching down tentatively to touch just above it.

The Slayer frowned, confused. “A tree? Why the hell would I get a tree tattooed on my foot?”

“It’s a Willow tree,” the redhead told her, voice softer.

Faith blinked, curling her right leg up beside her on the bed so she could get a look at the outside of her ankle. Sure enough, there was what was unmistakably a Willow tree on her leg, starting about an inch above the bump of bone on the outside of her ankle with the roots spreading down to the side of her heel. “Holy shit,” she said softly. “I got a tattoo.” She tried a hopeful smile. “Well, do you like it?”

Willow was quiet for a long moment, each second making the tension grow. She sat up clumsily on her knees and leaned forward to drag the tip of her finger around the new mark on her partner’s skin. “It’s beautiful,” she finally whispered, lifting an eyebrow at Faith as she looked up at her. “Why did you get it, though?”

The Slayer shook her head. “I do not remember,” she admitted. “B was there, I think. It’s fuzzy.”

Willow sighed, shaking her head. “Fine, but we’re talking to your drinking buddies tomorrow and figuring out what the hell happened tonight.”

“Yeah,” Faith agreed hoarsely. Willow’s hands stripped off her left boot and the Slayer stretched slowly, hesitant to move. “Should I stay or…”

“Get in there,” Willow ordered impatiently, shoving Faith back onto the mattress and leaving the Slayer to shimmy out of her jeans and into some shorts while she went to turn off the lights. “I should make you sleep on the couch, waking me up at three in the morning because you went out and got drunk without me,” she muttered as she stalked back to the bed and let Faith pull her back against herself.

The Slayer pressed a kiss behind her ear, but the redhead swatted the arm at her waist. “I don’t think so! You don’t get smooches for getting drunk and getting a tattoo!” she denied in a hissing whisper.

“But it’s a tattoo of you, basically,” Faith reasoned, trying again to land a kiss. “It’s sweet, right?”

Willow couldn’t help snuggling back against her wife at the reminder, Faith’s arms squeezing her gently, slipping one hand gingerly under the witch’s t-shirt to stroke over their baby. “It is sweet,” she acknowledged. “But you’d get more points for it if you hadn’t gotten it because of a drunk dare with Buffy.” She smiled. “Although, if you managed to get her to get a tattoo, that gets you some points back.” Faith smiled against her neck, lips moving down toward her shoulder. “Not sexy points,” Willow denied her flatly, drawing a frustrated sigh from Faith.

“Fine,” the Slayer groused. “We’ll figure out what happened tomorrow and maybe you’ll owe me.”

“Maybe,” Willow acknowledged. “If so, you know I’m good for it. Now, go to sleep. And you’re on diapers tomorrow.”

“Fine,” Faith said again, grateful that the punishment wasn’t too bad. “Night Will. I really did miss you tonight.”

“I missed you too,” Willow said, relaxing back against her partner and letting her eyes close.

Faith was jerked out of sleep by little knees in her side, her son catapulting himself into the bed. “Oof, Jack, why?” she grunted, rolling onto her back as he climbed onto her stomach, his knees on her ribcage.

“Mama!” the little boy yelped. “Missed you!”

“I missed you too, bub,” Faith said, breath knocked out as he bounced on her chest again. She patted his little butt gently. “You eat good at dinner last night? What did Mommy make?”

“Skettios!” Jack said happily. Spaghettio’s were his favorites.

“Is your sister up?” Willow stirred beside her and rolled over to put her head on Faith’s shoulder, her arm sliding over her wife’s waist right behind their son while her leg curled over Faith’s knee.

Jack nodded, grinning. “School.”

“You two want breakfast?” Willow asked sleepily. “Because Mama would be happy to make it for you, wouldn’t you, babe?” Her hand scratched lightly at the Slayer’s tight stomach. She tilted her head up to look at Faith, checking on her.

“Yeah, whatever you want, kiddo,” Faith agreed. “Mommy, you want something special?”

Willow smiled, shaking her head. “Just find whoever you were with last night and get them here,” she said.

Faith sighed, her hopes for getting off lightly disappearing. “Okay,” she agreed, kissing the witch gently on the forehead. “Ready to eat, buddy?”

His answer was a bounce off of her, bouncing once more on the bed before he hopped to the floor. He made an excited ‘ooh’ noise as she sat up and put her feet on the floor. His hand slapped to her new tattoo and she suppressed a groan at the sudden twinge of pain. “Wha’sat?” he asked cheerfully. “Drawring?”

Willow giggled behind her and Faith rolled her eyes over her shoulder. “It’s kind of like a drawing, Jackie-boy. But it doesn’t come off. Do you like it?”

He considered, scooting closer on his knees to look at the tree on his mother’s ankle. “Cool,” he declared, nodding. “Whas it?”

“It’s a Willow tree,” Faith told him, leaning over to look at it herself.

“Mommy?” Jack asked, blinking up at the redhead as she slid over into his sight.

Faith nodded, her head next to his. “Just like Mommy.”

Willow watched their matching curly brown heads lovingly, adoring their son and the many things he had in common with Faith. He had the Slayer’s fearlessness and a lot of her temperament. Faith had been afraid of their kids being like her, but Joy idolized Faith and Willow was glad that their son had gotten so much from her partner. “Cool,” Jack declared again. “Hungry, Mama!”

“Okay, okay, we’re going,” Faith said, pushing herself up. “I’ll make some calls too.”

Willow smirked to herself as she laid back in the bed. “Thank you,” she called as her Slayer followed their son out of the room. She caught a glimpse of Faith’s new leg art and was unable to stop a smile. Drunk or not, she did find the idea that Faith had something that directly depicted her permanently in her skin endearing. Her wife had never been very vocally affectionate and she honestly liked that about Faith. This gesture was a much more Faith-like thing to do. And she couldn’t help appreciating it.

She took a few more minutes to wallow in bed, rolling into Faith’s half of the bed and burying her face in her partner’s pillow. The sounds of Faith and Joy talking drifted up the stairs and through the open door, Jack’s laughter punctuating the morning and drawing a smile to her lips. Her family was amazing. Her curiosity about the night before couldn’t be quelled though, and she sat up with a sigh.

Joy gave her a grin as the redhead entered the kitchen. “Mom, can I get a tattoo too?” she asked immediately.

“Absolutely not,” Willow answered flatly, taking a seat at the table.

“Mama’s got one!” Joy protested. “More than one now!”

“Mama’s got a lot of explaining to do about that,” Willow said, giving her daughter an arch look. “Now, you’re going to miss the bus. And you’re too young to get a tattoo. We can talk about this later. Like in seven years when you’re eighteen.” Faith had gotten her first tattoo at younger than eighteen but there was no way she was going to mention that to their daughter.

Joy’s eyes narrowed, but she nodded. “Fine.”

Faith put a plate down in front of Willow as she took the seat beside her. “Thank you.” Willow gave her a smile. “This is my favorite,” she said, looking down at her omelet. “Very nice, babe, but I’m still going to need to talk to whoever you were with last night.” She cut into her omelet with a smile for the plate and started eating.

“Last night? What happened last night?” Joy asked curiously, forgetting about her desire for a tattoo for the prospect of drama. “Mama, what did you do?”

“Got a tattoo,” Faith answered quickly.

“And what else?” Joy asked cheerfully, glancing between her parents.

Willow took a sip of her coffee while Faith stayed silent. “She doesn’t remember,” the witch answered finally. “That’s why you shouldn’t get drunk.”

Joy rolled her eyes just as the school bus honked from the curb. “Yeah, yeah, I know,” she agreed, slurping the last of the milk from her cereal bowl and rushing to put it in the dishwasher before she grabbed her backpack and dashed out the door with a called ‘goodbye’ over her shoulder.

“You didn’t have to tell her that,” Faith commented. “Now she’s going to think I’m a drunk.”

“You’re not a drunk,” Willow disagreed with an eye roll. “She’s not going to think that. You’re as close to perfect as possible for her. She wants to be just like you.”

Faith nodded, sighing. “So it’s really not great that I got a drunk tattoo last night.”

“Maybe not, but it’s done now so the best we can do is talk to her about it,” Willow reasoned. “She’s a good kid, Faith. Because you’re a good parent.” She took another sip of her coffee and stole the front section from the newspaper. “Now, what time are your little cohorts getting here?” she asked as she flipped it open and started to read.

Faith picked up the sports section and glanced at the witch. Willow was too calm and it unnerved her. “Um, B said she’d round everybody up and get them here in half an hour?” she said, tone making it sound like a question.

“Good. Thank you, sweetie.”

Willow didn’t look up from her paper and Faith leaned back into her seat. It took her a few minutes for the silence to be stifling and she sat forward again. “Will, are we okay?” she asked hesitantly. “Cause you’re not really looking at me, and…”

“We’re fine,” Willow said, still not moving her eyes from the newspaper.

“Really convincing,” Faith sniped, growing frustrated by her partner’s short answers. “If you’re pissed, just get pissed,” she complained.

Willow looked over the edge of her article at her wife. “I’m not pissed,” she said simply. “I don’t blame you for going out and having fun. I hope you did have fun,” she said earnestly. “I’d be pissed if you had somebody else’s name tattooed somewhere all of a sudden. But you don’t. So I’m not pissed. Would you rather I be pissed?”

Faith considered that, grinning slowly. “Technically it’s not your name. It’s a tree that happens to share your name.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “Unless the Willow suddenly became your favorite tree I think everyone is going to know what that is supposed to mean,” she pointed out, watching the Slayer’s face for a reaction. “And honestly, babe, if that bothers you, I’m not going to be hurt or offended if you want to get it removed.”

Faith stayed quiet for a moment, lifting her right leg into Willow’s lap so that they could both see the new tattoo. “Do you want me to get it removed?” Faith asked. “Because I kinda like it.”

Willow looked at the tree, smiling softly. “I think it’s sweet,” she admitted. “And I like it too.” She lowered her paper to stroke one hand over Faith’s ankle. “Does it still hurt?”

“Not really,” Faith said, shrugging. “I need to put some lotion on it so it doesn’t fade, though.”

“Go get it and I’ll do it,” Willow offered, giving her partner a smile as Faith grinned at her. The Slayer stole a kiss before she ran off, seemingly suffering no ill effect from her overindulgence. Willow put the paper down on the table and Faith placed her foot back in Willow’s lap as she reappeared with a bottle of lotion. “Is the ink going to bleed at all since you were drunk when you got it?”

Faith shrugged, frowning a bit at the thought that her new favorite tree would fade at all. “I guess we’ll see, but it looks good so far,” she observed, leaning over to look at it. “Maybe I wasn’t that drunk when I got it.”

Willow arched an eyebrow at her, smirk lingering at the corner of her mouth. “So you might have been sober when you got a tattoo of a Willow tree?”

Faith tried a hopeful grin. “Would that get me any of those sexy points back?” she asked teasingly. “Because it didn’t bleed much so it’s a pretty fair bet that I hadn’t drank much at all before…”

Willow hesitated playfully. “Possibly, but we’ll wait for confirmation before I decide,” she declared.

“And you’re really not pissed?” Faith checked again, unable to help herself.

The redhead sighed, shaking her head. “No! What in our history together makes you think I’m going to get mad because you went out with friends and had a good time? I know I’m pregnant and can’t go out, but am I an uptight wife and you just never wanted to tell me?”

“No,” Faith said quickly. “You’re a sexy as hell wife. But I don’t normally go out at night and come home with tattoos.”

“We might have a problem if you did,” Willow admitted, smirking. “But you don’t, so it’s no big deal. As long as there’s no more I haven’t found yet.” She was blatantly teasing, and Faith matched her smirk.

“Well, you saw that there’s no more on my legs or arms,” the brunette said, holding out both arms in demonstration. “That just leaves…”

“Nice try, babe,” Willow cut her off, shaking her head. “I’m not groping you at the breakfast table. And Buffy’s coming over. She interrupts us enough already without us setting ourselves up for it.” She squirted lotion onto Faith’s leg and started rubbing it in, palm not staying just over the tattoo, but rubbing the Slayer’s calf and foot as well.

“I thought we weren’t setting ourselves up to get caught,” Faith said, voice hoarser than normal.

“Knock, knock!” Buffy called just then, and loudly from the doorway. It was obvious that she was expecting to be interrupting something, but Willow wouldn’t let Faith’s foot jerk out of her hands.

“Damn, B! You don’t think you could be a little quieter?” Faith grumbled and Willow sent her a look, glancing sideways at where Jack was obliviously devouring his breakfast in his seat. “Sorry,” Faith murmured, grimacing as she rubbed her temples.

“Does your head hurt?” Willow asked sympathetically, fingers still trailing over the brunette’s leg.

Buffy and several others trooped into the kitchen, the blonde putting a giant bottle of aspirin on the table with a flourish before she leaned over to tickle and play with her nephew. “I’ve brought something to help with that. How’s my little man this morning?”

“Good!” he squealed, squirming away from her and giggling.

Willow couldn’t help smiling as she watched her best friend interact with her son, the blonde always playful and affectionate with him. It was something both of their children had - the capability of charming everyone they met. It was a trait she was sure they’d gotten from Faith.

“I brought your Aunt Dawn to play with you,” Buffy announced, grinning. “Your Mama has some ‘splaining to do, so you two can go play outside with Bones, right?” The Slayer did her best Ricky Ricardo voice and Willow shook her head with a smile.

“Bones is slow!” Jack told her even as he climbed out of his chair.

“Bones is very old,” Willow corrected him gently. “But we love him, don’t we?”

“Yeah!” Jack yelped loudly, triggering a grimace from the rest of the hung-over women. Willow couldn’t help rolling her eyes and Faith poked her with a toe as she noticed.

“Go play quiet outside, bub. Okay?” Faith requested, one hand rubbing at her temples. “Thank you, Dawn,” she added as the younger Summers sister swooped Jack up and made him shriek with laughter again.

“Yes, thank you,” Willow agreed, giving her friend a smile as Dawn pulled the little boy over her shoulder and marched them out the door, the old dog following them slowly. “Ladies,” she invited the others to sit, not bothering to take Faith’s foot out of her lap.

Faith’s eyes surveyed the crowd and the chairs around the table and the number of Slayers in her kitchen and sighed. “Babe, we’re short chairs even if B pulls in the seats from the dining room,” she said gruffly, picking up her foot from Willow’s grip. “Come here.” Willow hesitated, leaning forward in her seat. Normally she didn’t have a problem with sitting on Faith, but in front of her partner’s compatriots and drinking buddies she was hesitant, not wanting to do anything to mess with Faith’s tough reputation. “Seriously,” Faith confirmed, leaning back in her seat and slapping the tops of her legs. “You can’t hit me as hard from here,” she said teasingly.

Willow narrowed her eyes down at her partner, but didn’t deny it. “Fine, let’s get this started, then.”

“Can we start with the tattoo?” Buffy asked much too cheerfully.

“Start with whatever happened first,” Willow directed, forcing herself not to react when Faith’s hands settled on her lower back and knee. She’d decide whether she could melt or not after she’d heard the story.

*****

“Are any of you up for doing something after we finish here?” one of the girls asked from behind Faith, three of them crawling through a short sewage pipe.

“Let’s just get finished here,” Faith proposed, squinting as she tried to remember where she was supposed to turn. Buffy had given her directions for a pinch maneuver to keep the demon from getting away, but she couldn’t think if they should be going right or down at the next juncture. There was only a right turn available, and she led her team in that direction.

The pipe was only about five feet tall, so they were all having to hunch as they walked, moving slowly to keep the water sloshing around their feet from giving them away. They’d made it a few yards down the latest tunnel when Buffy’s signal came in the form of a sharp whistle and Faith and her girls rushed in. The fight was quick but brutal, numbers giving them the advantage. The elder Slayers, Buffy and Faith, hung back to oversee the battle, a test of sorts for some of their younger members. Only one even got injured, but it was a flesh wound and she declared that she was up for any kind of celebrating the others wanted to do.

“Whatever you want,” Buffy agreed with a grin as they climbed their way out of the sewers. “Faith, you gotta head home?”

“No, you have to come!” one of the younger girls protested immediately, voice supported by others. Faith had always been popular with the girls. “Please?”

Faith gave them considering looks and got several pleading glances from the group. “Fine. For a while at least.” She would never admit to being whipped, and beat anyone who said it, but it was no secret that she genuinely enjoyed her wife’s company. “What do you guys want to do?”

In a unison that had to have been practiced, they declared, “Tattoos!”

*****

“See, babe? Not my idea!” Faith said smugly. “And I was sober!”

“Story’s not done yet,” Willow answered back calmly, though she did cover Faith’s hand on her knee with both one of her own and drag it up her leg to hold it as she let herself lean back into the hand on her hip.

*****

Three young Slayers were under the needle, the others wandering around and trying to pick out their own designs. Buffy thumped her counterpart Slayer on the arm just over her armband as she sidled up beside her friend while Faith was perusing the displays on the wall. “Thinking about getting another one?” she asked, smirk audible in her voice.

Faith shrugged. “Dunno.” She glanced down at the piece on her arm, crossing her arms to reach it with her other hand and letting her fingers drag over the marked skin. “You got something you want to get?” she asked, arching an eyebrow as she looked sideways at Buffy.

“No,” Buffy denied easily. “I’ve never really had anything I liked well enough to have it on me forever,” she said, looking down at herself. “What about you? What’s this about?” she asked, poking Faith’s tattoo with a pair of fingers.

Faith laughed, looking down at the familiar marks. “Oh, I was young when I got this. It was mostly for hotness’ sake.”

“Makes sense,” Buffy said, joining her fellow Slayer’s laughter. “I guess it worked too. I mean, you did marry a hottie.”

“Right?!” Faith agreed, grinning. “So, you’ve never wanted one?”

“Nope,” Buffy confirmed again. “I figure I was enough trouble for my parents with the Slayer thing, any more rebellion and I don’t think Mom could have handled it.”

“You’re old enough to decide for yourself now,” Faith reminded her. “If there’s something you want to get, I’ll hold your hand,” she offered with a smirk.

The blonde rolled her eyes and shook her head. “No, thanks. You want to get a nice ‘I love Willow’ somewhere? I’m sure your old lady’ll love it.”

Faith rolled her eyes also, smirking. “Please,” she denied. “I’m not that big of an old married lady, am I? And I’d be happy to tell Will you’re calling her ‘my old lady,’” Faith teased.

“No,” Buffy said, smirking. “You’re not, actually. You know I just like giving you a hard time.” She elbowed the brunette lightly in the side. “You’d worry about me if I didn’t say something.”

Faith didn’t say anything but nodded. Buffy watched her counterpart’s face, waiting. “Hey, what if I did get a tattoo for Will?” the dark-haired Slayer asked after a few moments of consideration. “Think she’d flip out?”

Buffy shook her head, crossing her arms as she surveyed the wall of designs. “No, but what are you going to get? You’re not the type for big romantic gestures.” She glanced speculatively at her friend. “But I guess getting a tattoo that symbolizes Willow is something I could see you doing more than flowers and fancy dinner,” she admitted. “But nothing really overt. I can’t see her name on your shoulder or anything.”

“No, not that,” Faith mused, scanning the wall of designs. “It’s probably a dumb idea anyway.”

Buffy pursed her lips, determined to find something now that Faith had brought it up. She murmured something noncommittal and wandered off to search. She knew immediately when she’d found it, the Willow tree in grayscale jumping out at her off the page. Faith was talking to one of their girls, surveying the younger Slayer’s new tattoo, but Buffy dragged her out of the conversation without caring. “I found it,” she declared, pushing the book into Faith’s hands. “This is what you should get. It’s obvious if you know you and Will, but no one on the street would think anything of it.”

Faith blinked down at the drawing, brows drawing together in a frown as she considered it. It was a pretty thing, and like Buffy said, it wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone who didn’t know her. But it was pretty and that had never really been something she’d felt. She had no doubts about her own attractiveness, but Willow was the first one since Mayor Wilkins to say that she was beautiful. Pretty wasn’t something she felt like often, but it didn’t bother her. She knew who she was. More importantly, Willow knew who she was and still loved her, still wanted her, still had her children, and had still married her.

And Willow was pretty. She’d seen it even on her first jaunt through Sunnydale. The young nerd that she’d first known was adorable, almost overwhelming in her cuteness. And since then, she’d only become more gorgeous. The woman she was now was the most beautiful person Faith had ever known, inside and out. The tree she was looking at was a perfect representation of her own Willow, even if its prettiness wasn’t something she was used to herself.

“I think you’re right,” Faith said, surprising Buffy. “It’s very Will, isn’t it?” She glanced at her wife’s best friend. “She’ll like it, right?”

Buffy grinned. “Are you going to get it?” she crowed. “Faith, she’s going to love it!”

*****

“See? I was sober! Those points are mine!” Faith crowed, pumping a fist in victory. “You so owe me!” she said, not bothering to lower her voice since all of the others in the room had exceptional hearing.

Buffy exchanged glances with the other girls, grimacing. “You really don’t remember much from last night, do you?” she asked hesitantly, drawing sharp looks from both Willow and Faith.

“What happened?” Willow asked, eyes narrowing down at her wife.

*****

Faith put the tray of shots down on the table with a grin, gesturing for the others to take theirs. “Tats have stopped bleeding, time for drinking!” she declared, lifting her glass before she slugged it back. The rest of the group followed her lead and tossed back their drinks.

The crowd of women attracted attention immediately and it only took a few short minutes before a few of the younger girls were on the dance floor with partners. Faith didn’t need a partner to dance with, taking her drink onto the floor and enjoying herself, happy to let her hopeful suitors handle keeping her glass refilled.

She was more than tipsy when she returned to their table, even with her Slayer-aided constitution. Buffy and most of the others were still on the floor, but she caught one of the younger Slayers by the arm to steady her as the girl stumbled out of crowd. “Careful there,” she cautioned, hauling the other girl into a seat at the table. “How you doing?”

“Oh, I’m okay,” the other girl said, having to raise her voice to be heard over the thumping music. “I haven’t had that many drinks.” She gave her teacher a questioning look. “Are you okay?” She held up three fingers. “How many?”

“Three? Six?” Faith guessed, shaking her head and alternating closing one eye then the other. “You’re kind of…swirly right now.” She leaned closer to try and fix her fuzzy vision and managed to almost pitch herself out of her chair headfirst.

The other girl jumped from her seat to catch her and took the seat next to the drunken Slayer as a precaution. “Careful there,” she said with a laugh, repeating the brunette’s warning.

“You did good out there tonight,” Faith told her, speaking too loudly for how close they were sitting and the other girl gestured for her to lower her voice with a smile. “Good job!” she continued, almost whispering and drawing the other Slayer’s blonde head closer.

“Thank you.” She leaned over to breathe it straight into the elder Slayer’s ear, hand on her shoulder to steady her.

*****

“Bull!” Faith interrupted to declare. “There’s no way I was letting some girl whisper at me in some club. And if I was, it most definitely wasn’t flirting!” She looked up at Willow, shaking her head. “Babe…”

“Faith, shh. It’s okay,” Willow assured her, smiling calmly and patting her hand gently. “You wouldn’t do that.”

Buffy grimaced again. “It’s not over.”

*****

The conversation had drawn them closer unconsciously, the loud music in the club making it impossible to hear unless you were sitting on top of your audience. Their chairs side by side, Faith was regaling her willing audience with her favorite exploit stories, including finding Joy and the attack that had almost made her late to see Jack’s birth, her hands moving expressively as she told her stories.

The others had scattered, some still dancing, while a few had pulled willing partners into dark corners for privacy. The staggering amount of alcohol had made Faith dehydrated and thirsty, and she almost toppled as she slid off her chair. Her companion caught her, hauling the brunette’s arm around her shoulder and leading her toward the door.

“Where’re we going?” Faith questioned, taking a refreshing breath of cool night air as they made it outside. “That’s better.”

“You need to get some water and fresh air,” her fellow Slayer answered, checking her watch. “And it’s late. Your wife is going to be missing you, isn’t she?”

Faith blinked, nodding. “You’re right!” she declared loudly. “And I missed dinner,” she said, the statement making her laugh. “And story time.” That announcement made her frown and she scuffed the toe of her boot on the sidewalk. “Shit,” she muttered, the fresh air doing wonders for her constitution. “Listen, let’s get us some water from the diner up there and I’ll get you home,” she suggested, grateful to get a nod.

*****

The story paused and Faith glared at the assembled others. “What’s so bad about that?” she wondered. “It’s not like Will didn’t notice that I was wasted last night when I got home. I took that girl home and went home myself, right?”

“That was one-thirty in the morning,” Buffy said slowly. “What time did you get home last night?”

Willow and Faith exchanged glances. “Almost three,” Willow answered, though she laced her fingers through Faith’s on her leg as she shifted herself on the brunette’s lap.

“Will, you know I didn’t…” Faith started, frowning at the blonde Slayer.

“I know you didn’t,” the witch confirmed, kissing her forehead softly. “Buffy, what happened after that?”

Her best friend grimaced again, shrugging almost guiltily. “I don’t know. Faith leaving was the last thing I saw.”

“I was at the diner, though,” one of the others spoke up shyly, raising her hand hesitantly as Faith’s glare turned in her direction.

*****

Faith played absently with the napkin dispenser while they waited on their waters, trying to force the alcohol out of her system through sheer willpower. She didn’t really think Willow would have a problem with her going out drinking after work, but it’d been a long while since she’d come in drunk and she didn’t want any more of her pregnant wife’s wrath than she had to get.

Her drinking buddy was sitting next to her at the counter, leaning forward on her elbows and letting her head hang between her arms. “It smells like cigarettes in here,” she complained, still speaking too loudly unconsciously.

“Christ, I want a cigarette,” Faith declared suddenly, slapping the pockets of her jacket unconsciously only to find nothing.

*****

“You smoked?” Willow interjected, voice sharp.

Faith blinked, surprised that the smoking was getting the same sharp reaction as her mysterious tattoo had the night before. “What?! No! I don’t think so! I don’t remember!” she protested. “You’d have smelled it on me, right?”

That reminder seemed to calm the redhead and she nodded. “Okay. That’s true. But I’m tired of all this back and forth storytelling,” she declared. “There’s obviously something that happened that you all think is going to upset me, so just jump to that. No more extensive details.”

Her eyes raked across the group in her kitchen and Buffy nodded, giving them a weak smile. “They kissed,” a voice said quickly, trying the verbal equivalent of ripping off a bandage in one go.

Faith’s jaw dropped at the same time that Willow’s eyes widened. “No way in hell!” Faith declared loudly, meeting Willow’s eyes as the witch looked down at her. The Slayer’s hands tightened where they were, unconsciously holding the redhead in place on her lap. “Willow…”

“Okay, I’m going to need a few more details than that,” Willow said slowly, her voice remarkably calm.

“Miss Faith pushed her right off and left,” someone else chimed in, voice trembling.

Faith let out a deep breath of relief, brown eyes locked on Willow’s as she pleaded silently for trust. The witch gave her a small smile and a soft kiss. “Then where were you for another hour?” another voice asked, breaking the couple’s stare.

Faith glared harshly, brown eyes surveying the group of Slayers. “Who’s this chick that supposedly kissed me?” she questioned instead. She refused to believe that she’d been the one to initiate anything but an ass-kicking. She’d never do that to Willow. “None of you kissed me,” she stated confidently after getting eye contact with everyone in the room.

“She’s not here,” Buffy said. “Didn’t want anyone getting turned into a newt,” she joked weakly. She bit her lip. “Also, she might be in the hospital with a concussion.”

“You hit her?” Willow asked, tone surprised in spite of knowing exactly who her partner was. Of course Faith would knock out someone who’d tried something. She mentally cringed to think about what would have happened if someone had kissed her and Faith had been there.

Buffy lifted a hand slowly. “I might have thrown the first punch,” she admitted sheepishly.

“I thought you didn’t see past me leaving the bar,” Faith accused, eyes narrowed.

“I got to the diner in the aftermath,” Buffy said, shrugging. “She was running her mouth. I didn’t want Will or Joy to hear anything like that from anyone… I got pissed.” Her shoulders were around her ears and she tried a smile. “I know I give Faith a hard time, and I jump to conclusions about you two myself, but Faith has never done anything to hurt you, and what that girl was saying - I know Faith would never do that. So I hit her…”

“If B thought it was my fault I’d be in the hospital too,” Faith pointed out reasonably, snagging onto that new hope.

“Faith, honey, you don’t have to convince me of anything,” Willow said. “I know that you didn’t do anything wrong here.” She gave her Slayer another soft kiss before she turned her eyes to her best friend. “And I appreciate you defending us, it’s actually really sweet, but do you think you should have hit one of your own students?” she asked, arching an eyebrow at the blonde as she shifted closer to Faith and let herself finally relax into Faith’s body, the move intended to comfort her partner as much as herself.

Buffy shrugged again. “She was being a bitch,” she said candidly. “You’re my best friend, Will. And Faith’s…well, Faith wasn’t there or I’d have been breaking up a fight.”

The brunette nodded resolutely, expression serious. “Damn right,” she muttered, ignoring the swat to the arm that Willow gave her. “What? I’d beat her ass if I could remember any of this,” she insisted. “Why can’t I remember anything?”

“You were pretty wasted,” Buffy said, smiling ruefully as she leaned forward, elbows on her knees.

“And where’d you go after the diner?” one of the younger girls spoke up, unable to stop her curiosity.

Faith was silent, trying to think, and the others watched her impatiently. Willow was struck with a sudden idea and she jumped up from her seat in Faith’s lap as swiftly as she could manage. “Stand up,” she directed quickly, dragging Faith up by the front of her t-shirt.

“Babe, what?” Faith questioned, surprised by the witch’s hands pushing her shirt up her stomach. “Whoa!” she yelped. “We’re in the kitchen!”

“And there are people here!” Buffy added her protest loudly, slapping both hands over her eyes.

Willow ignored them both, pushing Faith’s shirt up to her ribs as she circled the Slayer. “You got in a fight,” Willow declared, poking a bruise on Faith’s back. “A tombstone hit you here.”

Buffy’s eyebrows rose and she stood up to check it while Faith did her best to crane around and see it for herself. “That’s what it looks like,” Buffy agreed, patting her friend on the shoulder. “Did you hit your head too? Maybe that’s why you can’t remember much,” she suggested.

“Sit down,” Willow directed, dropping Faith’s shirt to push her back into her chair with both hands on her shoulders.

“Okay, bossy!” Faith said, her smirking smile belying her complaining words. Willow gave her a grin in response and her fingers laced gently into wavy brown hair. Faith hissed helplessly when her lover’s fingers found a laceration behind her ear, the scrape already healing thanks to her supernatural abilities. “Okay, so that explains that, right?” she asked, looking up between Willow and Buffy. “I got in a drunk fight and knocked my head.”

“You’re lucky you didn’t get killed,” Willow pointed out, tone stern. She’d never doubted Faith’s devotion to her, not even in the process of determining what had happened the night before, but the revelation that her partner had been fighting while drunk and come home with no memory of what had happened to her chilled the witch in a heartbeat.

Faith and Buffy exchanged glances, the blonde retreating quickly and dismissing the younger Slayers. “Babe, Willow, nothing happened to me,” the brunette started slowly, knowing that the witch wouldn’t merely accept her reassurances. “I’m sorry,” she said preemptively, seeing Willow’s mouth drop open to protest.

“You don’t just get to say that!” Willow denied, shaking her head. “I can’t lose you, Faith. Not like that. Not in a fight, either, but especially not because you wandered off alone, drunk, and got yourself killed. I just can’t lose you.” Her voice was deceptively calm, only the faintest edge of anxious hysteria in her tone.

Fortunately, Faith knew her witch very well and knew that she would regret belittling her wife’s concern. Willow had lost too many people she loved to be able to laugh it off as a funny story. “Come here,” she coaxed, keeping her voice low as she drew the redhead back onto her lap. “I’m right here, Will. I’m not going anywhere. I won’t do that to you again, I swear.” She leaned her head forward against the witch’s arm. “I’ll be careful.” She leaned back to try a smile. “No more getting drunk unless I’m with you and I’m trying to get lucky, okay?”

Willow couldn’t help laughing, Faith’s charms working as well as they ever had on her. “Deal.” She leaned down for a slow, deep kiss. “But you know you don’t have to be drunk to get lucky.”

“I know, but sometimes it’s fun to be nostalgic,” Faith teased, leaning up to take another kiss.

[part 16 here]
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February 2012

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