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Burning The Bridges series

5. Little Masochist

Buffy rolled over as she slowly roused from sleep. She opened her eyes, warmed by the expanse of bare male back that filled her vision in all its broad shouldered glory. She'd called up Riley last night, as soon as she got back to the dorm, knowing that Willow would be staying over with her friend Tara. She needed to see him, feel him. She had to drive the image of Faith from her mind, Faith kissing her in the club then later that night kissing her mom. It was still so vivid in her mind. She'd gone after the other slayer, to apologise, to explain. She hadn't wanted to leave things like that between them. So she used her key to get in, she figured her mom would be in bed asleep. Instead, they were there, together, in Buffy's room. Kissing. More than that, her mom was touching Faith with familiarity. Like they'd done that before. So she ran. Riley had come over immediately, concerned by her call in the middle of the night. He'd believed the line she'd told him about being lonely. He was so trusting, so devoted. That's what she loved about him; he never questioned anything. His love was unconditional.

With a sigh, Buffy got out of bed and grabbed a towel. As she did so, Riley awoke with a small groan. "Shower," she said with a smile and he nodded, returning it.

It seemed almost as soon as she was gone there was a soft knock on the door. Throwing off the covers and pulling on his sweatpants, Riley padded towards the door and opened it. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes to see a tall woman with curly blonde hair standing there. She looked nervous and took in his appearance in one sweep of her steely blue eyes. "Is Buffy there?"

"Uh, she's in the shower," Riley blinked.

There was an awkward pause between them. Obviously he had no idea who she was. "I'm Joyce, Buffy's mother."

Riley stiffened, suddenly uncomfortable in his toplessness. "I'm Riley." He remembered his manners suddenly and held out his hand which Joyce shook demurely. "Pleased to meet you. Uh, come in. She's in the shower, she'll be back in a couple of minutes." He stepped out the way to allow Joyce in and quickly located his T-shirt which had somehow found its way on top of the TV set last night. His cheeks burned as he remembered the haste in which he and Buffy had shed their clothes.

Joyce surveyed the room. She'd never seen Buffy's room on campus before. It was tidy at least, she noted with her critical mother's eye and tried to avoid focusing on the rumpled sheets. Riley did likewise. The silence was thick with awkwardness. "So..." Joyce began eventually when she could stand it no longer, "Buffy tells me you're a teacher's assistant."

"Yeah," Riley seized upon that conversation opener eagerly, "I was helping Doctor Walsh in Psych." He paused, frowning slightly. "Until she died, that is."

"I heard about that. How awful."

Just then they heard the door handle turning and Riley rushed to open it. Wearing only a towel, Buffy was met by the sight of Riley, now clothed. "Hey you," she murmured and pulled his head down for a long kiss. She reached for the hem of his T-shirt.

He quickly broke away, covering her hands gently with his own, his face pink with embarrassment. "Uh, Buffy... you're mom's here."

The blonde's head snapped to the side to stare at her mother where she stood leaning against her closet. Her mom looked just as uncomfortable as Riley did. They were going to get on well, she thought ruefully, or they might have.

"Buffy..."

Buffy continued to stare, her eyes cold. "I don't wanna talk to you." She walked over to her dresser, replacing her toiletries.

Joyce gave Riley a pained smile. "Could I talk to Buffy alone, please?"

"Yeah, sure. Of course." He moved towards the door, knowing when he wasn't welcome.

"No, stay," Buffy said sharply and he stopped, glancing between the two blonde women, sensing that this was nothing to do with him.

Joyce glared pleadingly at her daughter. He looked to Buffy. "I should go," Riley said. He really wanted to go.

"No," Buffy approached him and slung an arm around his waist. She stared at her mother in challenge. "Whatever she has to say, she can say it in front of you. We don't have any secrets from each other. Remember?"

"Okay," Riley replied slowly. There was some underlying conversation going on here that he had no idea about but was being forced to bear witness to.

Joyce ran a hand through her hair and sighed heavily. "You're making this very difficult for me."

"Good. It's more than you deserve."

The older woman closed her eyes, searching for words. "I'm sorry that you saw what you did."

A humourless smile crossed Buffy's lips. "Are you sorry because you kissed Faith or because I saw you?"

At this development, Riley's mouth fell open. Buffy's mother and Faith? He still felt guilty about sleeping with Faith while she was in possession of Buffy's body. No matter how much he tried to convince himself that it wasn't his fault, that he didn't know, he felt on some level that he should have known. When Buffy told him about all the things that Faith had done, he couldn't believe he hadn't seen it. But his indiscretion was minor compared to this. He couldn't imagine what was going through Buffy's mind now.

"It wasn't how I wanted you to find out," Joyce admitted.

Buffy stared at her harshly. "Oh? So you were planning on telling me? God, how long has this been going on?"

"Not long. But the details aren't important," Joyce replied, and saw the incredulous expression that crossed Buffy's features. "What I mean is that I... care a great deal for Faith. I really think I can help her through the trouble she's been in."

Buffy snorted. "The cops could help her a lot more," she shook her head in disbelief. "Mom, if you cared one tiny bit about me, you wouldn't be doing this."

Joyce was silent for a moment. She looked at Riley and found no sympathy there. "Don't ask me to choose, Buffy," she said finally.

She saw the tears filling Buffy's hazel eyes. "You just did," her daughter whispered softly.

With that, Joyce saw the walls that went up in her daughter's eyes. She knew there was nothing she could say to make it better. Maybe later, much later, Buffy might become accustomed to the idea. God, who was she kidding? The older woman gave a weak smile and let herself out.

****

Unlocking the front door, Joyce stepped inside and closed the door. She leaned back against it for a moment, her eyes shut. She felt like she was walking on air, still stung by Buffy's words. She was still having trouble grasping the reality of the situation herself. Here she was, a woman on the wrong side of forty, indulging in an illicit affair with a girl young enough to be her daughter, a girl who had feelings for her daughter. Not only that, a girl wanted for questioning for at least two murders. This was definitely material worthy of the Jerry Springer show. How on earth did my life get so complicated, Joyce despaired silently.

She could hear the television blaring from the lounge, cartoons by the sound of it. Collecting herself, Joyce wandered through to find Faith lounging on the sofa in her black, flowery robe, a tube of Pringles in hand. Despite this morning's argument with Buffy, she felt a smile form on her lips. Perhaps it was the look of intensity on the dark-haired girl's face, so engrossed was she in the escapades of Dick Dastardly and Mutley. "Hey," Faith said, looking up briefly from the flickering screen. Or maybe how ridiculous Faith looked in that robe. She wondered briefly if she looked as silly wearing it. No, she reassured herself, you're suitably momsy enough.

Shaking those inane thoughts from her head, she settled down beside Faith on the sofa. She'd barely sat down before the young woman was all over her. "What are you doing?" Joyce sighed as Faith nipped her way up the older woman's throat, over the faint lines that betrayed her age, before running her tongue over the diamond stud in Joyce's earlobe.

"Do you need me to draw you a diagram?" the dark-haired girl murmured next to Joyce's ear, sending an involuntary shiver thrumming through her body.

Joyce exhaled sharply. "Faith, I'm not in the mood." She was so bone tired of it all, of trying to justify her actions. She was a grown woman with the spectre of middle age on the horizon. She was more than capable of reaching her own decisions and accepting the consequences. She wasn't prepared to be lectured by her nineteen year old daughter. Certainly not when Buffy had made a few questionable life choices herself. Dating a vampire... she was still mystified by that.

The soft, full lips immediately left her neck and Joyce regretted the harshness of her words. Faith stare's was strained though she was trying to mask it with her usual tough-as-nails attitude. "Just wanted to make you feel better," she shrugged and turned her attention back to the TV. The girl was so easy to read, almost incapable of hiding her emotions. Not necessarily a bad thing, Joyce mused, unlike Buffy who had kept so many secrets from her. She turned to face Faith, reaching out to touch her shoulder gently.

"You do," the older woman assured with a soft expression. "Come here." For a long moment Faith looked as if she was about to bolt. The indecision played freely across her face and Joyce wondered at all the things that had happened to this girl to make her so scared of genuine intimacy. Well... she was well aware of what had happened to Faith but she was curious about the girl's past, prior to arriving in Sunnydale last year. She wanted to know about Faith's family, in fact, everything about this marvellous young woman who seemed to possess an absolute confidence that belied her true insecurity. When one scratched below that tough exterior there was a very damaged girl who craved acceptance. "Faith?"

Faith seemed to reach some resolution because she shifted towards the older woman and into her embrace. She held on like she was drowning, inhaling deeply the flowery scent that Joyce favoured, the lingering scent of expensive shampoo as she buried her nose in loose blonde curls. The perfume, the warmth, it surrounded her. For the first time in her life she felt... content. Joyce pulled back to look at her and suddenly she was hit, like bam, with emotions that she didn't know how to deal with. When Joyce smiled at her, she felt very close to tears. Hell, she hadn't cried in years. And she wasn't about to start now. She looked away, tried to blink away the hotness behind her eyes but Joyce's hand came to her cheek and forced her to look back.

The older woman leaned in and covered Faith's lips gently with her own, bestowing the softest of kisses. She wanted to show Faith that relationships weren't solely about sex, which was all the girl seemed to understand. She wanted Faith to know that to trust someone you have to make yourself vulnerable and that not everyone was out to hurt her. Faith's lips parted in an effort to deepen the kiss but Joyce held back, keeping it tender rather than passionate. Her hand came up to stroke fingers through dark wavy hair, petting silken strands. It was then that she felt hot tears spilling onto her cheeks, Faith's tears, and she broke the kiss to watch their progress, her heart swelling with a mixture of emotions. The dark-haired girl didn't protest as Joyce wiped away the tears with her thumb, just gazed with large, dark, watery eyes. "So beautiful," Joyce whispered over and over.

She stood, and taking Faith's hand, led her upstairs to her bed. As soon as the door was closed their lips met, mouths bumping and locking, kisses drawn from each other like breath. Parting her lips, Joyce let the girl's tongue invade her, the sandpaper softness teasing the roof of her mouth. Her hand curled around Faith's neck, pulling her closer, as if she could pull the younger woman into her heart by force. Their clothes were quickly shed in one continuous movement like the shedding of layers of skin. Faith pressed her back onto the white sheets, giving ardent attention to her neck. God, she loved to be kissed there. All too soon, the dark-haired girl abandoned that and sought a new prize, lips and tongue tracing a path between her breasts before moving back up to claim Joyce's mouth in a heated exchange.

Faith moaned into the kiss as Joyce drew her calf up to tangle between her own, excited by the mature stubble against her own flesh. Joyce's older scents filled her senses, the expensive youth-preserving cremes, her classy perfume like a drug in its proximity. She sunk her fingers into those luxurious blonde curls and was strangely pleased by the thought that Joyce would go white rather than grey as she aged. Faith felt the woman press her sex against her thigh and she smiled against Joyce's lips. Gladly obliging, Faith began kissing her way down the older woman's body again, taking her time to give Joyce's still pert breasts their deserved attention. It wasn't long before Joyce was squirming under her lips, manicured hands coming to her shoulders in an attempt to guide her further south. Fuck, she could smell just how bad Joyce wanted her.

"I love you," the older woman whispered, as Faith trailed wet kisses down her abdomen. She felt the girl pause and glanced down to see why Faith had stopped.

"What?" Faith exhaled, rising over her slowly.

Joyce smiled. "I love you," she repeated breathlessly, as if it was the simplest thing in the world. Dark eyes stared blankly at her.

"Don't say that." The words were below a whisper and Joyce strained to hear.

"Sorry?"

Faith's voice was rough. "Don't say that unless you mean it." She looked away but Joyce gently took her chin between thumb and forefinger and forced her to meet the older woman's eyes. The look in Joyce's eyes seemed to strip everything away, the hate, the guilt, the past. It all wilted away because for the first time in her life, someone actually loved her. Not because she could slay vampires, or fight demons, or because she willing to do anything for the sake of getting laid. Because she was Faith. She'd finally found the thing she'd spent the whole of her short life looking for. Only thing was, it wasn't the person she wanted giving it. Still, after all this time, it all came down to Buffy. The entire fucking world could confess their love for her and she'd still be chasing Buffy holier-than-thou Summers.

The older woman sat up. "I mean it," she said softly, caressing the tiny dimple in Faith's chin. "I'm falling in love with you." She gave a small laugh. "I can hardly believe it myself. But it's true." The dark-haired girl seemed to flinch every time she said 'love.' She frowned. "What's wrong?"

Faith said nothing. Merely stared down at her hands where they rested on Joyce's skin. A new kind of guilt came rushing over her. She didn't want to hurt Joyce, not anymore. It wasn't a game, not now that real feelings were involved. Shit, she actually cared about the woman, but the fact was, she'd always cared more about protecting herself. So she said nothing.

"Look, I don't expect you to feel the same. Much less say it. Just, trust me," Joyce reached down between them to entwine her long fingers with Faith's. She slowly brought the dark-haired girl's hand to her lips, placing tiny kisses on every inch of it.

Faith watched her, her chest tightening. She could hardly breathe. She wanted to love Joyce, her brain told her it was the sensible thing to do, the right thing. But when had she ever done the right thing? Even when she tried to be good it backfired on her. She'd always convinced herself that she was born bad. Maybe that wasn't true, maybe she'd just been dealt a shitty hand and she'd just used it because there was no other way. Now there was another way, Joyce was offering it to her on a plate. She wished Joyce would just let her get on with the fucking, that's what she understood, it's what she was good it. She wanted to fuck the older woman until she couldn't speak because then she wouldn't have to listen. She just couldn't deal with this.

So she did the only thing she could do. She lied. "I trust you," she smiled but it never quite reached her eyes. But, fuck, I don't trust myself. She let her eyes wander possessively over Joyce's lean body and smirked in appreciation. "Let me show you how much I trust you..."

Continued in Bliss Of Another Kind