Fighting Like A Girl
Woow! I thought when I woke up in a scuzzy motel room. What happened here? There was a small dark woman naked and asleep in bed with me. Disturbing, much.
Then I remembered. The woman was Faith and we really hadn't done anything. Not really. It doesn't count if you're both cute and nothing happens, right. It is kind of skanky, but not actually gay.
Except for the way that kissing her had felt.
Except for wanting it to go on.
Except that holding her had made me want to do more.
Except there was a worryingly warm feeling as I looked down at her sleeping, a wanting to lick those eyelids or run my finger along those eyebrows or butterfly kiss those cheeks. That was all; I didn't want to pull her to me and feel her breasts become warm and attentive against mine.
Nothing in my life was going to change over this. I was still Queen C, mistress of dating, for whom boys stand on line.
Then she opened those dark eyes and for a second I thought - that girl is going to get wrinkles if she doesn't remember to take off that eye shadow before she goes to sleep - and then I realised she just has dark lashes and deep eyes and somehow makeup only adds to the shadows already there, shadows you could lose yourself in.
'So, C,' she said. 'Up for breakfast? Or does that mean missing computer class or important locker rearranging?'
'You have to train,' I said. 'Hours of fun hitting Mr. Tweedy on his body pads and memorising demon flash cards and finding out interesting things to do with sharp objects. Gosh, I really envy you and Buffy your calling, and having to hang out with each other so much.'
'She's kind of cool, B, though,' Faith said. 'In an tight-assed sort of way.'
I thought of all that had gone wrong in my life, and the times Buffy had saved it, and I said,' Yes, she's kind of cool.'
Faith looked at me earnestly - heartbreaker look through dream lashes.
'You guys hang out, sometimes,' she said with a little catch in her voice that made me want to stroke her forehead well into the next century. 'You haven't ever - slept over.'
'What is your teen love drama?' I said, feeling myself flooding back into me. 'I don't sleep over. Not with her, not with anyone. This is not my life.'
She smiled a tight soft moist smile. 'Sorry, C. Just checking things out.'
Then she reached out her small strong right hand and I took it and forgot to be even slightly mad.
I hardly ate a thing, conscious of all that pizza; she somehow found space for a stack of pancakes, six rashers of bacon and two eggs sunny-side up. Truly, Slayers are not as the rest of us.
It worried me that watching her eat made me feel tender inside. She liked to eat, bless her.
I hoped what I felt was like being someone's mom, but somehow I doubted it.
My car was still parked outside, and it still wouldn't start. I had no money for towing and I needed to get to school sometime before lunch.
Faith bounced round to the front of the bonnet, shadowboxing imaginary enemies as she went.
'Open the hood, C,' she said. 'I know a bit about cars.'
And she seemed to - because she prowled around, looking at things from different angles for a bit, then went into the trunk for a more or less clean piece of dirty rag I kept there for the look of the thing, and pulled out a bunch of screwdrivers and pipey things from somewhere in there that I didn't even know was there, and made those tsking noises that people who work in garages always make - nice touch that! - and suddenly did some sort of Slayerish dart and twirl and hit something and fiddled with something.
'That should have fixed it,' she said.
I turned the key. It had. She stood there in the sunlight flashing her teeth at me and what got to me most was that somehow she hadn't got any oil on her hands or on her T-shirt, but that somehow there was the cutest smudge on her left cheekbone.
Let's not even think about it, I thought.
She did one of those strange swing-leap things and was in the next seat to me.
'Come on,' she said.' come on, C. Time's wasting. Drive.'
So I did, and I took the long way round, through the docks and out into the early morning suburbs where people with normal lives were still taking in the paper and the milk, and kids were getting onto school buses. And Faith threw her head back and laughed into the wind, and I never wanted it to end.
'Drop me here,' she said, a little way from Sunnydale High. 'I need to run.'
So I pulled up and like that she was gone.
I hated that she could be gone so fast, and not a chance to say goodbye. What if I had wanted to kiss her goodbye, or something? Not that I did.
What had been nice about it all was just being touched, just for touching. I've let lots of guys touch me, but it's like we are using each other. They make me cool, I make them cool; it's all for other people.
Xander was different, kind of, but his mind was elsewhere, mostly. I was second or third best, not where he wanted to be, just what would do. Kindness is for wimps, but it counts for something.
Faith was different; it was like there was no baggage, no expecting, no thoughts. Just soft lips and hands.
The rest of the day was brutal - chem, and practice, and English, then French and history and gym. There are rooms tucked away in Sunnydale High and I went to them at break, rooms where people run away and hide, or do weird experiments; I needed sleep more than lunch, and I had no money for lunch. Then the dress shop, then the diner.
God, I needed to sleep. But at least the diner had coffee whenever I needed it, which was a lot, so I was awake, and kind of wired and kind of sick-feeling.
At least my car started, this time.
I half hoped that Faith would show, half hoped she wouldn't. I needed to sleep, needed to hold my life together, but I also needed to know what I was feeling by feeling it some more.
So I drove around slowly, because I needed to be careful, and because I needed to have a hope of spotting her if I passed.
Once you've heard the noise of people and other things fighting for their lives, you get so you can pick it out from the background noise. Up a back street, between two warehouses, someone was getting thrown around and someone was shouting in one of those demon languages that sounds like gargling with barbed wire.
'Oh, good, there she is,' I thought, and suddenly I wasn't even a bit tired.
I speeded up as I turned the corner, which wasn't sensible, because I ran splat! into something like smelly soap bubbles four foot high, if soap bubbles had teeth and squealed with lots of mouths as you made them go pop! And smelled even worse after they were goo on the floor than they had before. What is it with me and supernatural ick!
My car ground to a halt, bogged down in lemon-coloured slime that smelt of sewers.
Faith, wearing her leather jacket and her red top, was duking it out with some big horned guy with scales; she looked like she was handling it and I guess I'd just killed his backup because when he heard it go squelch, he said something which sounded very rude even in Demon, swung hard at Faith and as she dodged the blow backed away from her.
Then he reached in behind what had looked like one of the larger scales and pulled out a gun.
'Hey!' I shouted, because there wasn't anything else obvious to do. 'Leave my girlfriend alone.'
'Your what?' said the demon, turning so I could get the full ugly benefit of his leer. His horns were very pointy, very long and very silly-looking, I thought - he really should get something done about them.
I always think it is so rude when demons can speak English and don't; if they are giving you full-on 'I will destroy the world and your little dog too' rant, the least they can do is make sure you know what they are saying. I mean, we're not all Giles, right.
'You heard what my girlfriend said,' said Faith, kicking him very hard between his legs while he was distracted, and then giving him an forearm smash right between his tusks. He started to topple, then did something strange with the muscles of his legs and straightened up again.
'Nice try, girly', he said and backhanded her into some dustbins. She looked so little, lying there.
'Slayer,' he said, as if he was ordering breakfast, 'I am m going to eat your heart, and then I will eat your slut's.'
I'd had it with this guy. Or maybe the coffee had.
'You leave her alone,' I shouted and marched straight over and slapped his face. No-one calls me a slut, particularly not someone scaly and funny-looking.
'Ouch,' he said, as I reached up and pulled one of his horns. It came off in my hand, and trailed luminous pink yuck all over my jeans. One of his hands flew up to the stump, so I reached over and yanked at the other. It came off as well, more yuck, but obviously a lot of pain from the face he pulled.
'They were very ugly horns' I said to him. 'In the long run, I did you a favour.' Demon makeover, cool.
He started to go pruney and look pale. One of his tusks just dropped out of his mouth, and he started mumbling in Demon again. And moaning.
I pointed a finger at him, and said, 'That's rude when I'm talking to you. What is your problem? You pick a fight with my girlfriend and hurt her; I hurt you. You call me a name; I hurt you. That's how it works; get over it. And the same goes for your squishy pet; you shouldn't have let it run into the road. We have a leash law in this town, you know.'
When I jabbed him in the chest with my finger for the fifth or sixth time, my hand went straight through and suddenly he swirled away into somewhere else like dirty water going down a bathtub. At least the icky bits on my jeans followed him away, and the stuff all over my windscreen and tires.
Sunnydale would be a much better place to live if demon slime always did that, instead of sticking around in those corners no-one ever remembers to clean and starting to smell bad.
Faith got up and limped over. She reached up and pecked me on the cheek.
' Hey, C,' she said. 'Look at you, big girl. Three in two nights - that's practically Slayage, except you're such a lousy fighter. Still, lousy and lucky is better than good and not.'
Then she shut up, because I grabbed her, put my arms around her, pulled her close to me and kissed her in relief. Seeing her down and hurt made everything simpler; there had been this ache in me for a moment until I saw her move. I'd spent the whole day worrying about things that just didn't matter - it wasn't about who I was, it was about what I wanted. And I wanted her, now, hard against a wall. She was alive and so was I and that was the important thing.
So I pushed her against the wall and ground myself against her. Guys had done it to me so often that I had never thought about how good it would feel to do it, and be let do it, and be yielded to.
'Ouch' she said, when my lips came off hers to breathe.
' Bruised ribs,' she explained.
'But don't stop' she said, not that I had.
Sometimes, when I find myself doing something for the first time, it's like I know the steps and the words and the moves, like I've been doing it forever in other lives or dreams I don't remember.
My right hand was between us, dancing its fingers around inside her jeans, darting in among soft hair and moistness and warmth and arousal, itself bruised between us like it was being squeezed for sweet juice. My left hand was round the back of her head feeling those small soft hairs under the sweep of her hair and stroking the strong soft cords at the back of her neck and that small delicate place behind her ears. She held me to her clutching us together like we were both drowning.
Kissing her was a rush like fast cars with the top down and wind slapping your face almost hard enough to bruise, or champagne biting at your throat and behind your nose with tiny bittersweet teeth, or dancing in your best tightest new dress with your feet slamming the floor to a beat that was precisely that of your heart.. She was everything I knew I loved and everything I had never had and never known I'd missed.
From the short staccato gasps of her breathing and the dark impressed amusement of her eyes, I got to know that she felt something major too.
'You don't hold back anything, C,' she said. ' I like that.'
I just stroked her harder, crushed into her some more. She had no idea, no idea at all of what I'd got, what I was holding back. She thought she knew all of me already, looking at me out of those damn cute wise eyes, and she knew nothing.
Something welled up in me like darkness and blood and a sob, and part of me relaxed into it like a yawn or a shiver. I felt weak between my shoulders and deep inside and round the back of my knees, but I didn't stop, I couldn't stop, until Faith gasped and sighed and shuddered and her hands beat on my back like they were beating a drum for a dance.
I pulled away. I needed so much to breathe something that wasn't the sweat and shampoo in her hair or the leather of her jacket collar or the soft new-bread sweetness of her skin.
'C,' she said with a smartass air. 'I'm impressed. Butch in the street, femme in the sheets I knew about, but you - you're always surprising me. You fight like a girlie - not complaining, mind you - and you fuck like - well, not like a girlie anyway.'
I wanted to slap her, but somehow I knew that was what she wanted, what she expected. Cool and superior was a game two could play, and it is a game at which I never lose.
I leaned back against the hood of my car and smiled at her. I had never wanted to smoke, but for once I could see the point of having something to tap absent-mindedly as I looked at her as she slouched against the wall.
' I wouldn't know about that, Faith' I said. 'How I do things is how I do them. I don't sweat it about how I'm supposed to. Not about important stuff.'
I could say things to her, looking down at her small wonderful face, that I'd never say to anyone else.
'Clothes and shoes and hair - they are a game I play to keep score. They are not who I am. Boys and dating and having the sheep around me - those too. The whole life and death thing - psycho vamp boyfriends and maggot assassins and monsters from the black locker-room - now, that's real. And Xander was sort of real, for a bit. Spike in my guts - that was so real it hurt. And you, in two nights, you seem to have become the realest thing there's ever been.'
'Shit, C' Faith said. ' Just when I think I've got it, you pull stuff on me. You say things that could make a girl cry. And, just so you know, I wasn't even a bit complaining about how you fuck. Sometimes, I just have to be a smartass. You know how it goes, being such a bitch and all; but cut me some slack and I'll cut you some.'
She strutted over to me and we kissed, on the lips like lovers, but like sisters too.
I didn't mind at all when she looked up at me with more mischief in her eyes, shaking her head.
'I thought I knew about hungry and horny, from me and B' she said. 'You though, C, you're something else. Am I going to have to fix you up with a kill every time I want to get laid? Coz like, hey, I'm sure we could work it out, but maybe I'd just like a date, some night, just to go dancing or something.'
I put my finger on her lips and then I reached into the car and flicked the radio on; it was some old guy with strings and horns and almost no beat, but it would do for a slow dance in a back street under the streetlight and the stars. We swayed gently in each other's arms and didn't have to think about slaying, or school, or friends; we just danced and held each other and were together.
That's how it was between us, when it was good.