It's all about pride.
People talk as if pride were a bad thing, and you know what sort of people say that? Losers and dweebs.
When you're the best, when you're the queen, you know it, and that's pride. When they take everything from you, and you're still the best, and will take it all back one day, that's pride too. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so.
Mr Loser Librarian looked at me in that superior English way one day and said I should read Nietzsche. And he does know about books, no matter how much tweed he owns, so I did. Nietzsche- dead German guy with stupid moustache - and I did not even see the point, because everything the book said was stuff I knew already. You do what you do, because you're the best, and only losers try to make you feel bad about it. Yadda, yadda -don't need Zarathustra to tell you that.
So I fell for a loser, but he was my loser, and looked hot if I dressed him, so I was proud of him. What I do is what I do, what I wear is what I wear and who I go out with is who I go out with, and I am proud of it. While he was going out with me, he wasn't a loser, because I don't go out with losers. He just had his own kind of style - which, OK, involved lame jokes and not being very bright - but he was sweet when he kissed.
Later, I found him doing smoochy face with his nerdesque witchette, so I sent him away - because I have my pride, and forgiving is something else that's for losers. I burned my photos of him, and I tried to make at least one cutting remark every day, because no-one cheats on me.
Losers say pride comes before a fall, and I'd say that shows how much they know, except I've got a six-inch scar on my stomach and back to prove them right that once. But on me scars look good. I was never going to be Miss Swimwear anyway- I'm a serious actress and you need to know some pain. You accept who you are, and you accept where you've been.
And you don't whine. I was not going to hang with loser Xander and little witchy friend, which meant that I couldn't hang with Buffy much either. Unless she asked me to drive her somewhere, because hey! slayer-girl can't drive and has to be places where she can save the world, and I have my priorities straight. .
I went to the library, sometimes. It's where they keep the books, and Giles never did anything to hurt me.
I didn't have the sheep anymore - poor dim Harmony saw to that. The superior person really does not need sheep.
Father lost his money and went to jail, but somehow it wasn't in the papers. I had the car, and my clothes, but no new ones; and I was staying with Mother in this scuzzy little service apartment her aunt paid for. I wasn't going to be be going to Columbia, after all. So, euww, New York was so nineties. And when it was Christmas, we went to stay with her aunt, and told everyone we were going to Aspen, because no-one was going to be allowed to be sorry for poor Cordy.
No-one noticed anything, ever, and they make jokes about me being insensitive. I wore old clothes to school, and they didn't notice - OK not old, old clothes, but clothes I'd bought and which didn't make the cut - too I'm-looking-for-a-pimp or too CPA-with-identity-problems.
There was weird stuff too - real weird, not just Sunnydale weird. Miss Put-on-my-necklace and make a wish - what was her deal? And, later on, suddenly Willow is a vampire, and suddenly she isn't? What was that about? I think I did some dumb stuff round then, but the dumbness that doesn't kill you, makes you smarter.
So, I wasn't dating, and was being get-high-grades, don't-say-dumb-Cordy-stuff in class girl, and I was doing the dress store bit. And I was waitressing... If runaway Saint Buffy could put up with plate-grease on her hands and the smell of stale washing up water, I could too. How hard could it be?
I couldn't work anywhere the sheep went - that would be too gross and humiliating; I got a job in the bad part of town, not just Bronze bad, in the diner up past the docks. No-one went there but sailors and the whores and bikers from the Fish Tank. Devon, Oz and the band came by one night, but I put my finger on my lips and Oz winked at me; he seemed to have forgiven Willow, more fool him, but he wasn't about to squeal on me.
He has secrets of his own to keep, big hairy ones.
And Devon was just out of it, as usual.
My car wouldn't start; it was two in the morning. Bill the Cook offered me a ride - as if! Like I was going to even be in a Volkswagen, let alone be seen in one. His hands found my ass too often across a busy diner. I have my pride.
You don't walk through Sunnydale at night -not in the bad part of town, and, as that goes, there aren't any good parts, really. Not without precautions, anyway.
I went in the trunk, and got the precautions - holy water, cross, a couple of stakes, shoulder bag to carry them. Just a bag - not a fashion statement. Priorities, right.
And, wouldn't you know it, I'd hardly got two blocks when I heard that shuffling of feet and giggling in the shadows that means Mr. Toothy is about to be making his play. He was really low rent, worst part of town vampire, torn blue jeans and that yellow blazer never went with them, even in the eighties.
I reached in my bag for the bootle of holy water - I know we're not supposed to say it, but I love that sizzle sound, don't you? - and pulled out, oh god, hairspray.
So I let him have it, straight in the eyes, and I dropped the can, and then I got the holy water, and I poured it on him, which washed the hairspray further into his eyes, and euww what a smell. And he kept coming, and of course he couldn't see the cross, so I had to hit him across the knuckles with it, and then I fumbled and dropped it, but it hit his leg and he sort of fell over, and so I pulled out the stake and bent down and it was all too gross and so I shut my eyes and went for it and he went pop! quietly, the way they do.
Which was my first time, except as bait or throwing kitchen equipment or using sarcasm, none of which actually count.
It really is a rush - they always told me it was, but it hits you like a train. They lost, you won; you're alive, they're dust.
Then I sensed someone coming up behind me and I wheeled with my stake still in my hand, and I could have killed the world right then, I felt so cool.
'Chill out, C,' Faith said, swinging down from a fire-escape. 'No points for sense or style, but hey! you got it done. First time?'
I was still catching my breath. God, she was so trampy-looking in that white t-shirt and black leather pants and doing her eyes and lips like that, purple theme, black undertone, whip you for a fifty.
'Yeah,' she said. 'First time. You can always tell a virgin, from the breathing. Biggest rush in the world, though, ain't it? Better than sex, right? '
I found my breath and looked hard at her.
'Sorry,' she said. ' I mean, I thought you and Xander...Obviously not. So, C, how ya doing?'
I wasn't doing so well, once the first rush was gone. Somehow, he'd managed to scratch my neck and my hand in all that - vampire finger-nails, full of yuck and grave-dust; and I'd pulled my scar a bit, so it felt like it was tearing.
It all came and went, in waves, and sometimes I felt great and sometimes I felt like barfing. So I sat down, on the sidewalk, and tried to breathe some more.
'You need those cleaned, C, ' Faith said. 'My motel room's just around the block.'
Her room was just as scuzzy as you'd expect, but she did keep it neat, you had to say that for her. Everything was lined up and neat - she didn't even have an iron, so who knows how she managed to have everything looking so pressed? And the bed was soft.
'You can't go to sleep,' she said. ' Did you hit your head?'
'No,' I said. 'And I don't want to go to sleep. My head's too full of stuff - it's like I'd been drinking coffee and run a mile and was in my honey's arms and oww!'
She had grabbed my hand and poured something sharp and stingy on it.
'There's dirt in the scratch,' she said, and wiped at it slowly, so slowly, with a cotton ball. It stung and it tickled and it was soothing where she'd been. I was so hyper and so relaxed at the same time.
'This is going to hurt too,' she said, and splashed whatever it was on my neck. She wiped at that too with another cotton ball, and it felt good, so good, and I curved into her like I was a cat or something and she was stroking me.
'The good news,' she said,' is that it's a scratch and not a bite. The bad,' and she leant forward over my neck,' is that to get it really clean, I'm going to have to kiss you, hard right now.'
And she did, her lips moist and gentle and firm as they pressed against the soreness and made it sting and tickle and be wonderful.
I grabbed her hair and pulled her face up to mine and kissed her on those lips, and her tongue came questing between my teeth and mine pushed back at it like they were trying to make a braid. Everything was new and everything felt like home, proper home, I mean, not just the place where you currently live.
'Jeez, C,' she said, pulling away for a deep breath. ' Keen? Or what?'
I was in shock, or something. This wasn't me. I didn't kiss girls, not like that, and certainly not Faith. I pulled back a bit and found my face crinkling in anxiety and confusion, so I shut my eyes a second and took deep breaths and wondered what I felt like doing next - running away into the night or staying.
She pouted at me - cute, much; suddenly she was such a little kid and I had always thought her such an obnoxious hard-ass.
'Awww, C,' she said. ' Don't say you didn't mean it. You know you did. That was a proper kiss, and you're such a good kisser.'
I still didn't know what to do, but worse still was not knowing what to say, so I stalled by kissing her again, which was, OK, pretty much settling the question of what I wanted, at least for the moment.
Her hands were on the back of my head pressing me to her face, and my hands were suddenly stroking her back and around her shoulders like they had a mind of their own, and had lost it entirely. I was lost for air and lost somewhere I hadn't ever been, and suddenly I was flopping down onto the bed because I wasn't confused, I was exhausted and starving and fainting from both.
Faith looked down at me with concern.
'Oops. Sorry C,' she said. 'I guess it isn't just a slayer thing, after all. Getting hungry afterwards - makes sense, I guess. Energy burn thing.'
She went to the phone, then turned back to me.
'Deep crust,' she asked, ' thin or stuffed? Veggie, or with just about everything?'
She could turn anything into a hint with a curl of her mouth and a droop of her painted eyelids, and I really didn't mind at all. I was being steam-rollered by cute.
I sort of zoned for a while and the next I knew she was holding my head up and feeding me not very nice water from a not very clean glass - it was probably the first time I ever knowingly drank Sunnydale water in my life. But, hey!, I'm try-anything girl. And it was nice to have someone show a little concern, for a change.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, blind panic was struggling with a sense that good times are to be had where you find them. After all, I am a superior person, right, cool in my bones- cheekbones especially - so whatever I decide to do, is cool.
There was a knock on the door.
Faith reached into the pockets of her jeans, counted out a few grubby notes and then looked at me, suddenly embarrassed.
I grabbed my bag and pulled out my bill-fold.
'How much more do you need?' I said.
'Five'll do it,' she said, so I gave her ten; after pizza, I would have to starve myself for several days anyway, so lunchmoney wasn't an issue.
Faith paid the man, looking thoughtful, but said nothing.
She came back over to the bed and dumped the box, and a couple of cans of Diet Coke, between us. Then she shrugged off her white t-shirt. Faith was never going to turn out to be sensible- sports-bra girl, but I was surprised, still. I guess Slayer Strength really does give you all over muscle tone. Her nipples were somehow cute too.
'Can't get grease stains out doing laundry in the sink,' she said, looking me in the eye and daring me to think of any other reason she might be showing me her breasts.'Can't mess up my best white top.'
I was so not going to let her psych me out, so I stood up, undid the buttons of my blouse - cotton, not silk, good enough for waitressing- one at a time, then took it off, and reached round to the back of my bra only to find Faith's hands on the fasteners before me.
'You can always ask me for help,' she said. ' Always.'
I was sitting cross-legged and mostly naked on a bed with another woman, also naked, eating pizza from the box with grease on my fingers and my lips and strings of melted cheese drifting everywhere and not enough paper towels and too much garlic and hot pepper and salami and flat diet coke dripping down my chin with the grease and the cheese.
I did not know what was going to happen next. Loss of control, much. And I was as happy as I had been with Xander in a cellar with maggots waiting outside the door to eat us. Maggots; string cheese - not a happy thought.
We finished the pizza and I started to feel less light-headed and more tired as well as covered in ick and not entirely sure what was supposed to happen next. Covered in ick - something follows logically from that - I know, let's have a shower.
'Let's have a shower,' I said. 'I'm all covered with ick, and you are too. Do I have that much cheese in my hair.'
'Can't wait to get me in the shower, C? I thought I was the one making the running here.'
' I meant, get in the shower, get hot and wet, get clean.'
'Hot and wet ?' Faith looked at me and did that thing with her eyes and lips again.
Sometimes, the most dignified thing a person can do is just take off the rest of their clothes, put them in a neat pile on the nearest available chair, and just get in the shower stall, pull the curtain across behind me and turn the shower on.
It was an old shower, and it came through cold, and I squeaked.
' You're such a girl, C,' Faith said. 'I'd have run it warm for you. Do you always squeak like that? When something hits you out of the blue?'
Then she said,' And you need shampoo, which is over here,' and got in the shower.
It was a small shower-stall, but somehow there was quite enough room for two, because we sort of fitted round each other neatly. I don't know quite what I expected next, but what we were actually doing was just rubbing shampoo into each other's scalps and wiping it away from each other's eyes and squeezing the sponge over each other's head and back and rubbing soap onto the bits of each other that in a small crowded space it was easier not to have to reach yourself.
It was a bit like Twister, only wet and with soap and shampoo, and comfortable.
Then the shower started making clanking noises.
Faith said,' Get out of the shower, quick'.
So I did, and she did, and the water ran red with rust, and she reached in and turned it off.
'It always does that,' she said. 'I hate that it does that.'
The motel towels were thin and scratchy - she threw me one and somehow I got dry, and was cold without my clothes and did not know what came next.
Faith looked at me, and then pulled a face of regrets.
'You've got school in the morning, high school girl. I've got training. Long day; no lie in.'
'And I've got to work after school,' I said. 'And hit the diner later. You're right. We need to sleep.'
'Right,' she said, looking at me with a question in her eyes.
'We all have our secrets,' I said.
'You can say that again, C,' she said, turning down the bed, and shifting the pizza debris to a table.
'We can do this again,' I said.
'At least,' she said, with another question in her eyes.
'There will be other nights,' I said.
'Count on it,' said Faith.