image of woman sitting in armchair writing

Burning The Bridges series

2. My Favourite Game

Lyrics from 'My Favourite Game' by the Cardigans. © 1998 Stockholm Records

The bus was pretty much empty. Just as well because the air conditioning was fucked. She'd tried to sleep some but these seats were so damn fucking uncomfortable and she couldn't stop thinking about the way Joyce Summers had tasted on her lips. It wasn't like her. She was get some, get gone gal. She didn't need these stupid, pointless emotions cluttering up her mind. So she popped in the earphones and turned the volume up full on her stereo. She'd taken it from some guy she'd mugged at the bus terminal, along with the cash from his wallet. The cash which was funding this little excursion. It was wicked easy to do these things now. The first time, she'd felt a little guilty afterwards but, fuck, when you've killed someone, you don't feel remorse for the petty things. Remorse is for wimps. Not for Faith. Yeah, just call me Miss Demeanour, she thought with a smirk.

I don't know what you're looking for
you haven't found it baby, that's for sure
you rip me up and spread me all around
in the dust of the deed of time
and this is not a case of lust, you see
it's not a matter of you versus me
it's fine the way you want me on my own
but in the end it's always me alone
and I'm losing my favourite game
you're losing your mind again
I'm losing my baby
losing my favourite game.

Her lips were tugged into a smile when she saw it, the sign: Welcome to Sunnydale. As soon as she got off the bus she headed straight for her old apartment. As she'd suspected, Sunnydale's finest were still staking out the place. She wasn't up for a confrontation with the cops, not yet anyhow... Which only left her one option; since Joyce was out of town, Buffy would be house-sitting. And, hell, she felt like shaking up a little bit of fun. She could just imagine the look on B's beautiful, self-righteous little face. With a renewed swagger in her step, Faith headed for the Summers' house. She turned up the stereo again.

I only know what I've been working for
another you so I could love you more
I really thought that I could take you there
but my experiment is not getting us anywhere
I had a vision I could turn you right
a stupid mission and a lethal fight
I should have seen it when my hope was new
my heart is black and my body is blue
and I'm losing my favourite game
you're losing your mind again
I'm losing my favourite game
I've tried but you're still the same
I'm losing my baby
you're losing a saviour and a saint.

****

They sat in the kitchen, Buffy had made camomile tea but their mugs both went untouched. Faith couldn't help but notice all the little touches that were Joyce, the drapes, the mugs themselves, the ornaments that adorned the walls. It was very middle-class, refined with tiny flourishes of creativity. It was very Joyce. She pictured the woman here, drinking coffee while poring over the morning papers or preparing dinner, entertaining neighbours. Fuck, she didn't know if Joyce even did any of that stuff but Faith got some satisfaction out of imagining it. She wondered, perversely, if Joyce had ever screwed anyone in here, while Buffy was at school, or now because Buffy was living away. I need something stronger than this, she thought as she eyed the pungent brown liquid in her mug. She craved the burn of Jack Daniels sliding down her throat. But she kept the mug in her palm, just so she could feel the heat of it. Because it made this seem more real. A couple of days ago, she'd been out to waste Buffy and now here they were, sitting down, having tea together. Ironic really, considering she'd told Buffy that's exactly what they wouldn't be doing.

Buffy was watching her, she could feel it. She could always tell when Buffy was looking at her. Instinctively, like some kind of slayer sense. It'd been too easy. All she had to do was give the blonde a flash of her big brown doe eyes and Buffy had crumbled. She saw in that instant that she was forgiven. B had always been a sucker for that 'I was bad but I want to be good, please help me' routine. Angel had it down to a T. And that Riley guy, well, he was fuckin' Bambi.

She remembered screwing him. He was okay, she'd had worse. She'd done it mainly to mess with Buffy's head but also because it brought them that little bit closer. She'd had what Buffy had had. With Joyce, it was the same. But that was even more fucked up. When she'd sucked on Joyce's breasts, all she could think was that those breasts had suckled Buffy. It was wicked sick but it had really turned her on. At least, that's how it started. At first it was all about getting back at Buffy but then she had actually enjoyed it and that was everything to do with the older woman. Joyce had touched her like she really cared and she didn't know how to deal with that. No one had ever touched her that way.

Buffy watched Faith, just sitting there, silent and calm. She hadn't seen Faith like that in a long time and she couldn't take her eyes off the dark-haired girl because she had this feeling that if she did then Faith would gone when she looked back. She was having difficulty believing that Faith was really here, real, awake and breathing. Not the apparition she'd seemed when she'd first come out of her coma. A little paler than Buffy remembered but fidgeting as usual. Faith was never still, like a human bundle of restlessness. When the other girl had turned up on the doorstep, Buffy's immediate reaction had been to reach for the nearest blunt object but then she'd noticed that empty look in Faith's eyes. She knew that some change had occurred in the other girl.

Faith's first words had been, "B, I'm sorry." All the anger and hatred she'd held towards Faith had just dissipated at those simple three words. She wanted to stop hating Faith, she wanted to forgive and in that single moment, she did. Even more than that, she wanted to believe that Faith was truly sorry. When they'd switched bodies, she'd finally understood what it was like for Faith. There were no choices for Faith, it was all about survival. She could see why Faith thought there was no going back, why she had so self-destructively pursued the path she had. But here she was, in the kitchen, not running away.

In the silence that ensued, Buffy wasn't quite sure what to say. She'd rehearsed this conversation in her head so many times but all that practice was redundant in the face of reality. "Faith..." she took a breath, "why did you come back?"

The dark haired girl glanced up from her mug to stare into gorgeous hazel eyes. Oh, fuck, don't go there, Faith's mind warned her. "I wanna make it all up. Everything I did. I wanna make it up to you." And there was some truth to that, she was sorry...about some things anyway. Not all of it.

Buffy sighed. "It's not just about me - "

"Isn't it?" Faith interrupted. Oooh, you have no idea, girlfriend. It was all about Buffy, everything. She resented Buffy for everything that she had: the perfect mother, the perfect love, the perfect friends. Faith had nothing except that, the envy, envy so deep and intense that it felt like love. So in a sick fuck way she loved Buffy Summers. She could never have all the things that Buffy had but she'd consoled herself with some stupid tiny fucking hope that she might one day have Buffy. And not in the sisterly sense. She'd been crazy about Buffy, hell, she'd just been plain crazy. The love, the hate, the envy, they were all interchangeable but she had no outlet except through the slayage. Only one day, she'd gone too far and killed the Deputy Mayor, mistaking him for a vamp. Well, that was the end of her rosy Buffy'n'Faith fantasy. It was the end of the 'us' and back to the 'me'. Fuck up, such a stupid fuck-up.

"You can't blame it all on me," Buffy said, her voice raised slightly in anger. She closed her eyes, trying to calm herself. The other girl had a way of getting under her skin with minimal effort but she knew she had to control herself, she didn't want to push Faith away. Again. It was partly her fault. If she'd been there for Faith in the first place...

"I just wanna be honest with you, B," Faith said. She found that, deep down, she truly meant it. She wanted Buffy to know how much she'd hurt and hated and loved. How it felt to know that she wasn't good enough for Buffy Summers and her hangers-on. That her life wasn't worth shit, not when the sun obviously shone out of Buffy Summers' ass. They'd never accepted her. Fuck 'em. Well, technically she had, she thought with an mental smirk. She'd screwed Xander in the absence of the one she really wanted.

She'd wanted Buffy ever since she'd first laid eyes on her. Before then even. All she'd heard before she came to Sunnydale was how Buffy was this shit-hot Slayer, the Slayer, the Chosen One. She'd been surprised to find a pastel-wearing, butter-wouldn't-melt homecoming queen. Shit, with a name like Buffy, how could she have expected anything else? But Buffy Summers was wicked hot, in an innocent kind of way. Well, Faith wasn't innocent in any way and she got that low down tickle around the blonde. Sure, they'd flirted but Buffy had been crazy for a fucking vampire. How fucked-up can you get? And now corn-fed Iowa boy. Talk about talents going to waste. The funny thing was, B had no fucking idea about this power that she had. All she needed to do was smile and Faith was a goner.

Then she did, smile, and Faith felt her insides turn to mush. Damn, this was not what she was here for. She was here to stir things up, her favourite game. Wasn't she? Buffy was still smiling at her, those wide, sincere green eyes warming her from the inside. Faith wanted out of here suddenly, the mere presence of the blonde was suffocating. But Buffy's eyes held her still, trapped.

"Honesty is good. But we need to work on the whole trust thing," Buffy said. Tentatively, she reached across the table and covered Faith's free hand with her own. She was relieved when the other girl didn't pull away from the contact. They stared at each other in silence, dark eyes boring into light.

The sound of a key in the front door disturbed the moment. They heard Joyce's voice in the hallway and a bag being dropped heavily onto the floor. "Buffy, honey, are you home?"

"Let me handle this," Buffy said quietly to Faith, then, in a louder voice, "In the kitchen, mom."

Joyce walked breezily into the kitchen and the smile that had adorned her face quickly faded. The colour just seemed to drain from her face. She stared at Faith, then down at the entwined hands resting on the tabletop. Faith noticed that shift of Joyce's gaze and smirked. Interesting, very interesting...

"Buffy?" Joyce swivelled her stare towards her daughter. "You invite her into my house after what she did?" Incandescent fury was written plainly across Joyce's face, her eyes blazing. She didn't really give a damn about what Faith had done, she was simply incensed by the dark-haired girl's calculated intrusion into her home, and her life.

"Mom, she's changed," Buffy began carefully.

Joyce folded her arms across her chest. "Is that what she told you?" She didn't allow Buffy to answer. Frankly her mind was reeling out of control. "How can you believe that? She's a liar, a thief and a murderer." Buffy winced at that blunt breakdown of Faith's misdeeds. "Really, Buffy, you can be so gullible sometimes."

"Mom..."

Joyce cut her off. "This is my home. I won't have you harbouring criminals here." She took a ragged breath and ran a hand through her recently wind-tousled hair. "I want to talk to Faith alone. Go to your room, Buffy."

The blonde gave a pleading look. "Mom."

Joyce shot her a glare that brooked no argument. Buffy stood silently, glancing between her mother and Faith, trying to communicate her support to the dark haired girl through her eyes. Faith gave a small smile.

When Buffy had disappeared up the stairs and they heard the faint click of her door being shut, Joyce brought her hands down angrily on the table in front of Faith. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" She couldn't believe Faith would have the audacity to show her face around here. She re-evaluated that opinion. It was exactly the sort of reckless thing Faith would do. For a brief, panic-stricken moment she wondered if Faith had told Buffy about their encounter. No, Buffy would've staked her on sight.

Faith smirked in that infuriating way of hers. Joyce wanted to wipe that smirk from her face. "I said I'd be seeing you. I always keep my promises," the dark-haired girl responded, leaning back in her chair.

"I want you out of my house and I don't want you associating with my daughter," Joyce said firmly, enunciating every syllable.

Faith gave a full-lipped grin. "What's the matter, Joyce?" She reached across and stroked the back of the older woman's hand. Despite her shaking anger, the touch sent an electric tingle straight to Joyce's groin. "Jealous?"

"You're a piece of work," Joyce said, eyes narrowed in thiny-veiled disgust. "She'll see right through you."

"Is that so?" Faith said, still stroking Joyce's hand absently. She could see that Joyce was riled, mainly with lust. So fucking easy. "Well, you'll just have to make sure she doesn't because then I might just have to tell her how killer you are in the sack. From first hand experience."

"You bitch."

"And you love it," Faith smiled sexily. She walked her fingers lazily up the older woman's arm, watching the goosebumps rising on the soft skin. Joyce exhaled slowly, staring intensely into Faith's dark eyes, noticing for the first time the tiny flecks of light brown in the irises. Impulsively, she leaned in and covered Faith's mouth with her own, kissing her hard. She felt Faith's fingers sink into her hair, pulling her mouth harder against the girl's. They broke abruptly as they heard Buffy descending the stairs. Evidently, Buffy had decided that it was safe to come downstairs again, having not heard any crockery flying. Joyce's eyes watched her daughter's approach. "Meet me tomorrow at the gallery. One o'clock. Don't be late, I won't wait for you." Her eyes met Faith's again briefly.

Well, shit. Joyce still wanted some wicked horizontal action. Faith smiled then turned in her chair to look at Buffy standing uncertainly in the doorway. She looked so fucking hot. God, this was fucked up. But a total blast. "Mrs S. and I have come to an understanding. In fact, she's invited me to lie low here for a while." She could feel Joyce's eyes boring into the back of her head. She almost laughed out loud. "She said I can take your room." The icing on the cake. Surely Joyce's head would explode any second now.

Buffy raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Well, that's great." The blonde smiled and looked to her mother for confirmation. Joyce managed a nod and gave a pained smile. "So, wanna patrol with me, Faith?"

"Sure would, B." Faith winked at Joyce while Buffy grabbed her coat. The older woman cast a murderous glance at her.

****

As they were patrolling that night through the cemeteries, Buffy finally worked up the nerve to speak what was on her mind. "So what exactly happened in there? I mean, what did you say to change her mind?"

"Let's just say that I promised to be a good girl," Faith said with a mysterious smile. Buffy was staring at her skeptically, not quite sure how to take that. Shit, B looked so damn cute when she was confused. "It's cool. We're five by five."

Continued in The Flaw In The Plan