Deep Talk In The Shallow End
Dropping the car keys into her bag, Cordelia walks the short distance up to the screen door. Well, she's been to worse places - sewers and demon dimensions to be exact - but she never thought she'd set foot in a trailer park.
The dust swirls around her feet in the breeze and she can hear the sound of a television set blaring beyond the door. She can just picture the occupant sitting around in a worn old armchair in a wifebeater, drinking beer in the afternoon, and tries to ignore the little shiver that travels down her spine at the thought of it.
Taking a breath, she knocks firmly on the door and waits.
A few minutes pass, and as she's about ready to turn her back and return to the car, the door swings open.
Faith stands there, one arm braced against the doorframe, squinting against the afternoon sun. No beer in hand but the white wifebeater clings snugly to her breasts, exposing that familiar barbed wire tattoo on her arm and the few scars that criss-cross her skin.
"So you found me," Faith says flatly, raking messy hair away from her face.
"It wasn't hard. We only had to follow the trail of demon corpses."
Faith gives a half-snort, half-laugh, eyes flicking briefly over Cordelia in a way that makes her skin prickle. "You wanna come in?"
"Not really but I'm worried about being mugged if I stand here for too long."
Cordelia slips past Faith quickly. Wonders if she should've accepted Gunn's offer to come out here with her after all. Because no matter how many times she's told Faith's a reformed member of society, the memory of an elbow connecting with her face is still present and correct. Not to mentioning the torturing of one of her closest friends.
Inside, the trailer isn't what she expected. Neat and tidy, if basic. Through a doorway she sees the bedroom and sheets with hospital corners. The tv set flickers in the corner, tuned to some trashy talk show. That much Cordelia finds strangely comforting.
Faith remains standing beside the door, awkward, her fingers hooked into the belt loops of worn jeans. Cordelia notices for the first time how long the other girl's hair is now, halfway down her back and tousled like Faith's stepped out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting and into the modern world.
"You heard about Buffy?" Cordelia asks without preamble.
Faith nods once, dark eyes unreadable. "I got a letter. Then some hacks from the Watcher's Council came sniffing around my door." She walks over to a couch that's seen better days and sits. Reaches for the packet of Marlboros on the ring-marked coffee table and lights a cigarette, taking a long drag. "How's Angel? Haven't heard from him since, well, fuck, I can't remember."
Cordelia shrugs, her shoulders rigid. "He took off months ago."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that." Cordelia doesn't even try to hide her annoyance at the fact. They were friends, she thought he at least owed her... something. "He'll be back but, in the meantime, demons to kill and evil lawyers to foil. The world doesn't stop."
Faith looks at her, resting the cigarette on the overflowing ashtray, and pressing the mute button on the tv remote. "That why you're here?"
Cordelia's eyes are on the television set, focusing on the catfight that appears to be unfolding while the talk show audience whips itself into a frenzy. "Let's get this straight, Faith." Her dark stare settles on the other girl. "We don't need you, but Wesley seems to think it'd be useful to have you around. God knows why after what you did to him but he's evidently more forgiving than I am. You're not replacing Angel. You could never replace him."
Triumphant silence as Cordelia watches pain flicker across Faith's features. "Well," Faith says finally, her eyebrows furrowing, "when you ask so nicely... how could I refuse?"
"Don't fuck with me," Cordelia snaps coldly. Takes a few steps towards the couch and stares down her nose at Faith, folding her arms. "I'm offering you a job, a place to stay, and a chance to - maybe - make up for your mistakes."
Faith narrows her eyes. "Look at you. Poor little rich girl playing dress up as a martyr." She rises slowly from the couch and smirks. "Think you're a hero now, huh? You wouldn't last five minutes in jail."
The scars on Faith's arms stand out starkly in the daylight streaming through the window and Cordelia has the inexplicable urge to touch the marred skin. She clenches her hands by her sides instead. "Maybe. Think you can manage five minutes in the outside world?"
The smirk falters and Faith looks away. "I can't - "
"You're the Slayer. You don't get to live the quiet life."
Faith looks at Cordelia with something bordering on surprise. "Since when did you become all about fighting the good fight?"
Cordelia's smile is tight and false but her voice is steel. "Let me tell you something about me. Wolfram and Hart took my life, fucked around with it, and left me lying in a hospital bed with visions so painful I thought my head was gonna explode. I may be a lot of things but I am not a victim and I don't enjoy feeling helpless."
"That makes two of us."
"Then stop hiding out here in the back of trailer trash beyond. Come back to LA." Cordelia takes a step closer. "Prove me wrong."
They stare at each other for a long moment, some unspoken challenge passing between them.
It's Cordelia that closes the small distance between them and the only thing that really registers in her brain is the brush of Faith's full lips against her own. Taste of Faith's slutty dark red lipstick and the coolness of saliva on her mouth.
She reaches for Faith, stroking down the length of her arms, skimming those scars with the palms of her hands. Well, she has a few battle scars of her own too.
Faith's hand slips through Cordelia's hair, fingers trailing over the nape of neck, making the lower half of Cordelia's body liquid with that simple touch. Her mouth opens to the gentle press of Faith's tongue and she sinks to the couch under the more insistent press of hands on her shoulders. Knows that she should stop this, push the other girl away or something, because it's Faith practically sitting in her lap, Faith kissing her throat, Faith's hand working its way inside her jeans. She shudders at the contact, tilting her hips upwards, arching towards Faith's invading fingers.
The orgasm comes hard and almost embarrassingly quickly.
Faith sits back with a lazy smile on her face, reaching for the hem of her shirt, but Cordelia reaches for her wrist, stalling her. She isn't prepared for this, whatever the hell this is. Certainly, not what she came here for. "We need to get going. If you're coming."
"Just let me pack some things."
With that, Faith rolls off her and disappears into the bedroom.
Cordelia breathes a sigh of relief, uncomfortably aware of the dampness between her thighs. Turns her head to the side to see through the crack of the bedroom door, Faith shucking her top and the mapwork of pale marks on her back. Wonders what texture that skin would be under her lips and whether Faith would flinch or moan.
The sight makes Cordelia think of Buffy, broken and dead, who seemed invincible and forever the girl with the bad dye-job whose fashion sense she'd mocked all through high school. Gone. And she doesn't - though she'd never admit it - want to see the same happen to Faith.
But it's not about what she wants, is it? Ambition and coveting the good life is something that she used to do. Making do has become her personal philosophy - if that includes sometimes splurging on a nice pair of shoes and occasionally getting laid, then so be it.
Faith comes breezing back into the room, a leather sports bag in hand.
"You got everything you need?" Cordelia asks, pulling herself to her feet.
"Almost," Faith says, her voice a low murmur. She hooks a warm hand around Cordelia's waist, tugging her close. "But there's gonna be time for that later."
"Plenty," Cordelia says, unable to meet the other girl's eyes.
As they get into the car, and Cordelia slips on her sunglasses, she can't shake the vague Thelma & Louise-ishness of the situation. And it's only by the thinnest of margins that she stops herself from grabbing Faith's hand as she puts her foot down on the gas.
No helicopters on their tail and no cliffs to drive off but somehow she can't seem to swallow the uneasiness that clogs her throat as much as the dust.
For now they'll make do without Angel.