Five Futures Of Alcohol And Sex
by Kyra Cullinan

i. body shots

"Fuck it all," Faith said. "Let's go to Mexico." So they did.

Left a note to keep Giles from freaking: be back later, scrawled hastily on the back of a receipt. And they will. They just maybe don't know how much later.

They took inventory of their resources on the way: three stakes, a few hundred dollars and a ridiculous proportion of halter tops. The essentials, Faith said.

The town is on the beach, full of loud, tiny clubs packed with locals and a handful of gringos. They dance hard, covered in a sheen of sweat, feeling the hot press of bodies around them. Take tequila shots like they're water, the fluidity and motion of salt, drink, lime. Later, body shots, Faith's mouth hot on Buffy's collarbone, her own tongue tasting the skin of Faith's cleavage, the burn of liquor sliding down her throat followed by the fleshy, tart give of fruit between her teeth. Over and over ‘til Buffy's wrapped in a numb, alcohol-induced haze which is shattered in the dirty hotel room by Faith's tongue snaking through her wet folds. Buffy tilts her head back, rests her thighs on Faith's shoulders and blithely ignores the shouts which even through the language barrier are obvious orders to shut the hell up.

Buffy discovers she really, really likes the way Faith twists under her, the arch of her back and the flutter-squeeze of muscles around Buffy's fingers. Likes how biting down on whatever flesh she can find, shoulder or wrist, only makes Faith wetter.

These nights, through the rush of adrenaline and bass, it's easy to pretend everything's like it used to be. During the day, while they practice what she calls the art of zen tanning, it's harder not to remember they're older, different, wearier. Until Faith rolls over and grins at her, that flash of recognition, of I-know-what-you're-thinking that she's never achieved with either Dawn or Willow, and she remembers yeah, things are different: no hellmouth or responsibilities or watchers or inevitable destiny. Just them and the heat and the slick easiness of an unplanned future.


ii. beer

"You know this doesn't mean anything, right?" Buffy says and Xander grins that crooked, self-deprecating smile.

"Yeah, even I can pretty much figure that one out," he says, and his hands are big on the small of her back and his mouth is wet and close.

The monastic, anguished grieving routine makes no sense to her, and she guesses Xander agrees. It's astonishingly easy to fall into each other's arms, to slip into an intimacy that's comforting despite its lack of meaning. It's much harder to actually excise their less shallow ghosts, to get over what they've left behind, what they've lost.

Everyone is gone. The smart people to England – Giles, Willow and Dawn – and the exuberant ones to Cleveland, where Faith and Wood are shepherding the new generation. It left the two of them with the wreckage of their former, vanished lives, baggage of dead lovers, and a sincere lack of drive. Florida has an endless, astonishing supply of construction opportunities for him and sun and languid days for her and is both like and unlike Southern California enough to be manageable for them both.

He doesn't look at her with the adoration of highschool, and she doesn't want him to. Their lives are far more tangled together now, too much history pulling them close, tightening around them, tying them together. They have sex during the day, sunlight across his back or her breasts. He is good in bed, practiced, solicitous. When she thinks to look in his eyes, she sees that he's not thinking about her exactly as much as she isn't about him.

She misses Sunnydale with a fervor she never expected; she knew who she was there. She had a role. Now she's obsolete, unnecessary and she thinks she understands him more than she ever did before. He brings home Cuban food, black beans and fried plantains and she watches him break the last piece of bread and offer her half. He has a glass eye now, one that looks very close to normal, and to look at him you'd never know he lost anything. She takes the bread.

It's not love, nor much like it, but she knows she'd miss him, that her bed would be cold without him there. And it's all very easy, too easy, to curl up and watch sitcoms inside the whitewashed condo walls while the humid night presses against the screens; to shift as he comes in and hands her a beer, the bottle sweating in her hand. To watch the way he twists off the cap before he gives it to her, like she couldn't do it herself, like she's a normal girl. To curl into his arm and let the bitter weight of the beer slide down her throat and listen to his heart beat.


iii. strawberry daiquiris

This relief is a familiar feeling, cyclical, comforting. If she could chart their friendship, it would be a series of peaks and valleys, the low, bad spots followed by making up, making things right between them again. The simple reassurance of it, as far back as Buffy can remember, and she's not going to try to analyze the relative healthiness of that when Sunnydale's demise is still throbbing in her mind, so surreal and unbelievable. For now she's just glad to see Willow smiling again, to be able to smile back and actually mean it.

They've been paired off, split into their own duo like all the other Sunnydale survivors, on the hunt for newly called Slayers. ("Phase One of The Slayers of the Future!" Andrew had said before Xander rolled his eyes and dragged him off.) It's a good match; Willow guides and Buffy explains and packs the bewildered girl off to L.A. for training, and in between there's the road and maps full of funny town names and a sense of slow, easy unwinding. And the locator spells are sexy, filling her with a soft, tingling ache. Makes her think Tara was on to something.

They giggle their way through bars in Houston, Vancouver, Madison, ordering sweet, cold drinks that leave Buffy with brain freeze and flush Willow's face. Make up fake names for the creepy guys that hit on them, and the first time Willow's foot bumps Buffy's under the table it's an accident, but when Buffy reciprocates it's not. Brushes her toes up Willow's ankle half-hesitantly and they're both laughing and it's mostly to discourage the lecherous businessman who won't buzz off, the way Willow's fingers tangle in the short hairs at the nape of Buffy's neck and make her shiver.

Later, in the hotel room, both of them drunk and silly, it's more about how uncomplicatedly good it feels to have Willow's mouth hot on her neck, the allure of running her tongue over Willow's hipbones, the newness and familiarity of it all at once.

"Holy mother of GOD," she says, the first time Willow spreads her legs and licks her until she comes so hard she's half-crying. Willow grins that witchy smile and crawls up to lie half on top of her, warm, naked girlflesh pressing Buffy into the sheets, soft in all the same places, and how weird is it to share a bed with someone her own size for once? Buffy runs her fingers over the soft skin in the small of Willow's back and smiles into the dizzying kiss she gets in return. Tasting the headiness of herself on Willow's tongue through bittersweet traces of alcohol and fruit.


iv. gin

It rains all the time. Gray skies and damp air that she's entirely unused to, and she never realized how much her mood depended on the climate of southern California. Soft days, Giles calls them affectionately, and she pulls his blinds closed so she doesn't have to see outside. Looks at him, instead, and he takes off his glasses and gazes back.

Things are different from the start: usually they only leave after she sleeps with them, but he went away long before this. She has nothing else to lose from him so she pays careful, clinical attention to the way he gasps, the way his palm settles on her head as she takes him in her mouth. Learning him as a man, to forget him as her Watcher. A stupid mission, and impossible, but she pretends that if he's just a man she sleeps with, he won't be Giles who went away, who stopped trusting her. Who made her be the Slayer for so many years that now she's forgotten how not to be.

They are drafting the plans for the new Council, building it from the ground up with their joint expertise and she keeps her clothes in the room Willow used last summer and spends her nights in his bed.

He's neither her best lover or her worst. He fucks her hard, exactly the way she wants, and she wouldn't have expected that, if she thought to expect at all.

"I'll bet old Quentin is rolling in his grave right about now," she said the first morning after, and he chuckled at her.

"This is the way women and men have behaved since the beginning," he said, brushing his thumb over her nipple. "Watchers and Slayers are no different. It's hardly unusual." He tilted his head. "Didn't Faith ever tell you about her first Watcher?"

She blinked and shook her head and had something else to think about. She thinks a lot about Slayery concepts now, determined that things will be different for all the new girls she's drafted into the life she's tried so long to escape. She feels the weight of responsibility, of being on the other side of things, the side she hated and disregarded and left, taking only Giles with her. They argue about protocol, about the future, and she realizes she's never going to leave any of this behind. She can't leave it behind, and she half-hates him for trying to, for leaving, for suddenly making the choice for himself that he'd spent so many years telling her she didn't have. Feels it all dissipate, though, when he looks at her with all that stupid, timeless Giles love, affection that neither of them bothers to categorize. She is used to being looked at with adoration, found substitutes for it when he wasn't around to do so, and would never, ever admit that to anyone.

There's a cabinet full of glass bottles in his house here, and when she kisses him he tastes like their contents, harsh and adult. He pours two tumblers every night, without asking, and she hates the way it tastes and drinks it anyway. Hides her shudder and feels it burn on the way down, blurring reality, taking her away from everything.


v. wine

She will not kiss either of them. This is her very solemn plan and she repeats it over and over to herself on the way to L.A. That day, the last in Sunnydale, when she somehow managed to have Angel on her lips and Spike between her legs all in the same twenty-four hours was entirely too confusing for her to begin to process even now, let alone recreate. And jealous, sulky vampire – either one – is something she's intent on avoiding.

Spike truly is alive, which she hadn't really believed until she saw him, same familiar eyes on her. And behind him, Angel, himself as ever, watching the both of them.

Dinner is sumptuous and it's obvious Angel's showing off his Wolfram & Hart connections. Glasses of wine older than anyone at the table, which is seriously saying something, and she drinks too many, unused to something so potent. Spike is obvious too, in his tense quietness which matches Angel's, the two of them attempting best behavior. The muted jibes are odd on them, and her head spins with the strangeness and the particular haze of red wine until she leaves to splash water on her face in the softly lit bathroom.

Comes back and things are suddenly a whole lot more complicated, because chairs have been thrown over and Angel has Spike pinned against the wall, forearm across his collarbones, and she always forgets how little Spike is next to anyone who isn't her. For a split second she thinks they're fighting, shades of Riley showing up, and she bangs the door open to stop them, and then realizes where, exactly, Angel's other hand is. They both freeze when they see her, Angel's hand still on Spike's crotch, Spike's mouth hanging open in an aborted gasp, like they expect her to either run out or light into them.

Instead, she sits down. Right on the floor and blinks because, wow. They break apart hastily, and she can see that they're both hard and both still glaring sideways at each other and ... everything is far less weird than it should be. And of all things for her to realize in that instant, it's that even in the freakiness of this moment, they're both hers, with the kind of intensity which might freak her out if she thought about it, if it weren't so natural by now. The man she loved and the one she never managed to get around to loving, and suddenly she gets it; wants them both with a rush that makes her dizzy. It doesn't stop her from standing up, though, and looking hard at them.

"Buffy, I –" Angel starts but she shakes her head and he stops, chagrined. She's trying to work something out, through the fuzziness in her head.

Angel is from a time when broken hearts were still new to her, and Spike from long after they'd become too routine. Both of them part of the life swallowed along with the rest of the town, the physical embodiment of the girls she's been. There's some kind of riddle here, like if she can have them both she'll figure out who she is, who she's becoming. Chart the path of her growing up to figure out where it's pointing.

Guilt is still playing across their faces when she walks over to Spike and kisses him very softly and purposefully on the lips. Breaks away before he can touch her or open his mouth and stands on her tiptoes to do the same to Angel. Just the smells of them each --

Buffy bites her lip and waits. Closes her eyes and breathes as they move to encircle her.


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