It Takes Two
by Alan Hitchen
Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: BtVS belongs to Joss Whedon and others.
Information: Set after Angel: Sanctuary.
Thanks: To LJW. She knows why.
Thanks Also: To Keg Cider. For encouraging me to continue after the first chapter. And to everyone else who has given me feedback.

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PART 1. NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE.

After her release from custody Faith has returned to Sunnydale. She is now standing underneath Buffy's window. She is drunk.

"B!" she says in a stage whisper.

"Buffy!" she says louder.

"BUFFY!" she shouts.

"COME OUT, YOU BITCH!" she roars in pain and anger.

Buffy's head appears at the window. "You!" she says commandingly. "You pipe down and I'll come down."

Shortly after she emerges from the back door to confront Faith. With face set in stone she asks curtly, "What do you want?"

Faith sways like a sapling in a strong breeze, struggling to form the words she has rehearsed in her mind for so long.

"I... I want your forgiveness, or at least a chance at it. Please don't shut me out, B. Give me something to hold on to," she implores with outstretched arms. "Please..."

"No," is Buffy's harsh reply.

Faith reacts as if she has been doused with freezing cold water. Her expression hardens into a mask of despair, her hands dropping uselessly by her sides.

"I've got a gun," she says, suddenly producing a snub-nosed revolver from her jacket pocket. A flash of fear crosses Buffy's eyes. "It's not for you," Faith informs her as she pulls back the hammer on the pistol.

"Go ahead, see if I care," Buffy responds coolly, folding her arms in final confirmation of her rejection.

Faith closes her eyes, raises the gun to her head and pulls the trigger. There is a jerk, a flash, a bang, and for a moment Faith thinks she is dead. Then she opens her eyes and Buffy's anxious face swims into view before her. She is holding Faith's gun arm aloft.

"So, you do care," says Faith, letting the gun fall from her grasp as Buffy brings her arm back down to her side.

"Yes," Buffy replies, voice trembling with suppressed emotion.

"I love you," Faith says, hoping that somehow this might explain everything but knowing that it does not.

"Yes, I know," comes the unexpected reply from Buffy.

"You do?" Faith is puzzled. "Why didn't you say?"

"It was never the right time." Buffy adjusts her grasp of Faith's arm to hold her hand in a gesture of friendship. "Perhaps it is now. Come on. You need a strong black coffee," she says, gently tugging Faith towards the half-open door.

Faith holds back, forcing Buffy to turn to her again. "All I need is you, B."

Buffy sighs. "I saved your life just now. According to the Chinese, I now belong to you. Do you think you can handle that responsibility?"

"I'll try," says Faith uncertainly, not knowing what Buffy is offering her. "I only want a chance to show you that there is another Faith. The one that always hid behind the Slayer. The real Faith, the one that feels, and hurts, and loves, but who could never show it - until now."

"I'd like to meet that Faith." Buffy breaks into a welcoming smile. "Come in and introduce her to me."

"Sure thing, B." Faith allows herself to smile back. "Sure thing."

PART 2. THE DAY AFTER.

The next day Faith woke. She was feeling as rough as a roofer's glove. Slayer healing can deal with physical injuries pretty well, but hangovers are a different matter.

She gingerly opens one eye, then two. She is in Buffy's bedroom, in Buffy's bed; she is naked. She slowly turns to see if Buffy is there with her - she is not. Faith is disappointed. A tinkling of crockery alerts her and Buffy enters the room with a breakfast tray.

"Good morning," she says with excessive brightness.

"Ugh!" is all Faith can manage at first, but after a restorative cup of coffee and a couple of extra-strength Excedrin, she begins to feel almost human again.

"So, can the cavegirl speak now?" enquires Buffy playfully. She is sitting on the edge of the bed and trying hard not to stare at Faith's bare breasts.

"Yeah, B, um, about last night, things are a bit hazy, what happened?"

"Not much. You came in, sat down, and were fast asleep in seconds, so I put you to bed." Reacting to Faith's expression she explains. "I slept in Mom's room. She's off on a buying trip at the moment."

"Oh," Faith says with some relief, as she knows that Mrs S will be tough to deal with. "And my clothes?" she asks.

"They were filthy, so I put them in the machine to wash."

"Thanks, Mom," Faith says, smiling on the surface while the unbidden words strike a chill into her heart. How long has it been since she had a mom of her own to thank? It seems like forever.

"You're welcome." Buffy smiles back. "If you're feeling well enough I thought we'd go on a picnic later on today."

"Picnic?" Faith tries to concentrate as she pushes the thoughts of her mom to the back of her mind once again.

"Yes, I'd like to spend the day at the beach with you, and seeing as you've got nothing to put on..." Buffy turns to her wardrobe and produces a summer dress. "...I'd like you to wear this."

Faith protests. "A dress, but that's so..."

"Girly," Buffy finishes the sentence, grinning from ear to ear.

"Yes, girly," Faith agrees, "but for you, I'll look girly." For you, anything, she says to herself.

Later, Faith admires herself in the mirror, even she has to admit that girly is a good look on her.

"You're beautiful," says Buffy as she looks over Faith's shoulder. Faith blushes. "Has no one ever told you that before?" Buffy asks.

"No one that mattered," Faith replies. She turns to face Buffy. "What are we doing?" she asks, totally unsure of herself and of her place in Buffy's affections.

"We're going to the beach for sun, sea and sandwiches, but above all, fun."

"Fun?"

"Yes, fun. You know, the things friends do together for amusement."

"Friends?"

"Must you repeat everything I say?" says Buffy in feigned annoyance. "Look, I hated us being enemies. We can at least be friends," she says, then more cautiously, "and maybe something more - if things work out between us."

Faith begins to speak but Buffy cuts her off with an upraised hand. "One step at a time. Friends first, okay?"

"Okay," Faith replies happily, "friends it is."

PART 3. ON THE BEACH.

The sea is deep blue; the sand is golden yellow. The beach bustles with happy, smiling, laughing people enjoying themselves under the hot sun. To Faith, however, the beach is deserted. There is only one person on it that concerns her - Buffy.

She watches with child-like curiosity as Buffy unfurls the beach blankets and unpacks the carefully prepared picnic that she has made for them both.

She examines Buffy's carefree expression and wonders what she is thinking. Why is she so happy? Could it have anything to do with her? Why did she save her? She has to know. She has to ask.

"B."

"Mmm," Buffy replies absently.

"B, I need to know."

"Know what?" Buffy says with a dazzling smile as she stops her work to concentrate on Faith.

"Why?"

Buffy grimaces as she realises what Faith is asking. "I don't want to talk about it, not here, not now, maybe not ever."

"Please," Faith entreats.

Buffy looks at her and her heart melts. She's never seen anyone so desperate for acceptance, for understanding - for love - and as much as she would prefer not to, she has no choice but to tell Faith what she was feeling that night.

"I was tired. Tired of being angry - hurt - afraid. Just waiting for the day that you'd turn up again was a strain I could barely tolerate. I'd got to the point that I was half-hoping you might kill me, and then at least it would've been over. But I couldn't let you die. I couldn't let it end that way. I couldn't have lived with myself if I'd let you do that."

Faith is horrified and deeply ashamed. She looks away, unable to meet Buffy's piercing gaze. "I... I... don't know what to say - what to do. I can't ever make it right for you - for anyone. I can't change the past."

Buffy reaches out to touch Faith gently on the shoulder. "I know. What's done is done. I've done things I regret too. You know, I still have nightmares about the stabbing."

Faith's head jerks up. "I forced you into that. It was all my doing. All my fault."

"No, not everything," Buffy says kindly. "But, look, the past is the past, it never changes, no matter how hard we try. We can only live in the here and now and hope for a better future."

Faith looks away again. "My future is all used up."

"That's an interesting phrase, but it's not true. Faith, I want to be your friend. I want to help you in any way I can."

"Why?"

"Because I know you're not half as bad as you think you are. Because when I look at you I see me, or what could have been me. And because I need you."

"You need me?"

"Yeah, I do. I can't explain that, but I do need you."

Need is not the same word as love, but for Faith, it's as good as. She looks up hopefully and finds Buffy is smiling again.

"Now we've got that out of the way, do you think we can have our picnic now?"

Faith relaxes, smiles a little, and replies in the affirmative.

"Okay, B, let's eat," she says, taking the sandwich, and the friendship it represents, from Buffy. It tastes good.

PART 4. THE UNFORGIVING MINUTE.

On her return from a buying trip, Joyce Summers quietly enters her house and makes straight for the kitchen.

"Hello, darling, I'm back," she announces. The young woman in the kitchen turns to face her. It is not Buffy.

"Faith," Joyce exclaims in sheer terror. She rapidly casts her eyes about for any weapon she can use against this she-demon.

Buffy enters the kitchen from behind and instantly sensing her mother's distress, moves between the women to calm things down.

"It's okay, Mom. Faith is here as a friend, not an enemy," she explains.

Joyce can scarcely believe what she is hearing. "Friend?" she says with incredulity.

"Yes. Friend," Buffy insists. "She came to ask for our forgiveness. I have given her mine. Now I'd like you to hear her out, and then perhaps you too can forgive her."

Since they last met, the very thought of Faith makes her skin crawl, but Joyce steels herself to stand her corner and to fight for her daughter. She plasters a mirthless rictus on her face that she hopes Buffy will take for a reassuring smile before speaking.

"All right, Buffy," she says calmly. "I'll talk to Faith, on our own, if that's okay by you?"

"Sure, Mom, I'll leave you to it."

Buffy turns, gives Faith a comforting pat on the arm, then slips out of the back door to pace the lawn impatiently.

"So, Faith," says Joyce. "You've fooled Buffy once again I see."

"No, I.."

"Shut up! I'll do the talking and you'll do the listening."

Faith is astonished by the agresssion displayed by this normally mild-mannered woman and falls silent, head dropping to avoid the angry glare.

"I don't want to hear your lies, your excuses, your anything. I just want you gone. Away from here, away from Buffy, away from all decent people."

Faith shudders as each stinging word slams home, but raises her head again to state her case as best she can.

"I'm sorry, Mrs S... Summers - for everything. I never wanted to hurt anyone - least of all Buffy. You see... I love her."

Faith staggers back from the force of the ferocious slap delivered by Joyce.

"How dare you!" she screams at Faith. "You can't even spell the word, let alone know what it means! You're a psychopathic killer, not a potential date for my daughter!"

Faith is utterly shocked by this assault and bursts into tears as Joyce continues to berate her with every foul and hurtful epithet she can bring to mind.

On hearing the commotion, Buffy races back indoors. "Mom? Faith? What's going on?" she asks, rushing to Faith's side.

At that moment Joyce knows she has lost the argument. Furthermore, as she watches her daughter aid and comfort the dark haired girl she realises something else. Maybe Faith doesn't love Buffy, but it's now very clear to her that Buffy loves Faith. She leaves the kitchen with senses reeling, unable to make any sense of it.

Faith's anguish subsides as Buffy's emollient words and warm embrace takes away the pain. "It's okay, she'll come around. You'll see."

"Oh, B. I wish I could believe you, but you didn't hear her, what she said," Faith whimpers. "She'll never forgive me. I'll do as she asks. I'll go. It'll be for the best."

"Oh no. You're not going anywhere. I failed you once before. I won't fail you again. And besides, I need you, remember?"

I need you. Faith knows what she'd like this phrase to mean, but what does Buffy mean by it? Faith's expression betrays her puzzlement. Buffy, seeing this, decides that actions speak louder than words and slowly presses her lips to Faith's in a tender and loving kiss.

"I need you," she says softly, eyes clouded with deep emotion. "Do you understand now?"

Faith nods in reply, unwilling to speak in case it breaks the spell that Buffy has cast over her.

"Okay then, let's find Mom and put her straight." Buffy suddenly chortles as she realises what she's just said.

Faith can't help but smile in response to the pleasant sound of laughter and vows, no matter what Joyce says, she is going to stay and make Buffy as happy as she can for as long as she can.

PART 5. THE APARTMENT.

"Are you sure about this, B?" questions Faith as they arrive at the door of her apartment.

"Sure I'm sure," Buffy affirms. "If you're not welcome at my house, then I'm not either. Besides, it'll give Mom time to think it over."

"Look, B, I don't want to come between you and your mom."

"You haven't," Buffy replies, placing her overnight bag on the floor. "Mom is Mom," she continues, "and always will be. She'll come around in the end," she states with confidence.

"Yeah. When Hell freezes over!" Faith points out, repeating Joyce's parting words.

"She didn't mean that. Anyway, are we going in or what?" Buffy gently chides.

Faith fishes about, produces a spare key from its hiding place, and opens the door.

"Well, here it is, home sweet home," Faith announces, ushering Buffy inside.

"I see the Mayor had the place fixed up," observes Buffy. "He really liked you, didn't he?"

"Yeah. I was kinda like a daughter to him, but that's all done with, B. This is just a place to stay."

"And the place I tried to kill you," says Buffy, looking out at the terrace with a stricken expression on her face.

"Hey, B. The past is the past, remember?"

"I remember," Buffy says regretfully. "I wish I couldn't, but I do. I'm so sorry, Faith."

"Me too," Faith replies, enfolding Buffy in her arms. "For lots of things, but not for this." She tilts Buffy's face upwards and claims her lips with a passionate kiss.

Buffy responds with a low growl of pleasure that reminds Faith of a cat purring. She would like to take things further, and from the look in her eyes Buffy would too, but Faith breaks off the kiss and changes the subject instead.

"So, you said something about me meeting the Scoobies?"

Buffy reluctantly emerges from her reverie. "Oh, yeah, I think we'd best start with Giles. At least his British reserve will ensure you get a hearing." Buffy smiles at this idea.

"He won't tip off the Watcher's Council, will he?" asks a suddenly worried Faith.

"No. They're not on speaking terms. Officially that is, he still has some contacts, but, no, he won't betray you," reassures Buffy.

"Okay then, let's go see him," Faith says enthusiastically, grabbing Buffy's hand and dragging her towards the door.

"Hey, not so fast," Buffy protests, tugging Faith back into her arms. "Thanks."

"For what?"

"For not pushing things too far too fast." She begins to stroke Faith's hair with her free hand. "And about my 'needing' you. I know you want to hear me say something else, to use a different word. But please understand, this is a whole new world to me, it'll take me some time to get used to it. But when I do, when I'm sure, I'll tell you how I feel. And then you'll know with one hundred percent certainty, okay?"

"Okay, B, but if you really don't want me to throw you on the bed and ravish you right here, right now, then we'd better hit the bricks, pronto!"

Buffy laughs out loud. It is a glorious sound that fills Faith with an indefinable pleasure she has never experienced before.

"Okay, Miss hungry and horny, we can at least get you something to eat along the way," says Buffy, propelling Faith out of the apartment. "What do you want, pizza or a burger?"

"Can't I have both?" Faith whines, as together they leave the building.

PART 6. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.

After filling the void in Faith's stomach, the two Slayers make their way to Giles' abode at a leisurely pace. As they turn a corner they bump into another couple coming the other way. Tara is startled to find her way blocked by a tough looking girl, whereas Willow is delighted to see Buffy standing in front of her. Then she sees Faith and her delight turns into disgust.

"What's she doing here?" she asks Buffy in a voice dripping with icy disdain.

Buffy's face falls as she realises that Willow has forgotten nothing and is likely to be even less forgiving than her mom was.

"Excuse me, Tara, I need a word with your girlfriend," she says, hauling a protesting Willow across the road to speak to her in private.

Tara blushes and studies her shoes intently. Faith too is at a loss for something to say, but decides to break the ice with a simple introduction.

"Hi, I'm Faith."

Tara looks up in some alarm, but then realising that Faith is smiling at her, shyly smiles back and says, "I'm T-Tara." She looks at Faith strangely, then asks, "H-Have we met before?"

Faith's smile fades and she shuffles about uncomfortably. "Yeah. Though I was in Buffy's body at the time."

Recognition dawns on Tara's face. "So you're the Faith that Willow has warned me about?"

"Ya got me. I'm the big bad Faith."

"Y-You don't look so bad to me."

Faith is surprised. "You're the only one, apart from B, that thinks so." She pauses for a deep breath. "About what I said to you, when I was Buffy, I'm real sorry."

Tara pulls a face as she recalls the incident. "Y-You weren't very nice, but if you really are sorry, and I think you are, then I guess I can forgive you."

Faith displays a huge grin. "Really?"

Tara blushes again. "Y-Yes, really."

Meanwhile, across the road, Willow was laying into Buffy. "What do you think you're doing, Buffy?! This is Faith, the Slayer for the Mayor, she should be safely tucked up in prison, not walking the streets of Sunnydale!"

"I know how you feel, Will," Buffy says sadly. "But can't you give her another chance, for me, please?"

Willow folds her arms defiantly. "If it were anyone else but Faith. Given half a chance she would have killed us all. You know that. Heck, Buffy, she hurt you more than anyone."

"Exactly, Will, she hurt me badly. I can't forget that, but now that I know her reasons I find I can forgive it. She's changed, Will. Please give her the chance to make amends."

Willow frowns. "If it was anyone else but you, Buffy, I'd say no, but, if you're sure she's changed?"

"Will, I'll stake my life on it."

"Buffy," Willow states plainly, "you've staked all our lives on it."

Buffy winces, wants to say something, but can't find a counter to this point and remains silent. Seeing Buffy's distress, Willow softens her attitude.

"All right, Buffy, I'll talk to her."

They return to the other side of the street, only to find Tara and Faith are now deep in conversation. Willow shoots irritated glances at her girlfriend, and daggers at Faith, before interrupting them.

"Buffy tells me you have something to say to me."

Faith moves to face Willow and starts to speak. "Red." Willow's face turns to thunder. "Willow," she begins again. "I'm truly sorry for all I've done to you in the past, and I want you to know it won't ever happen again. So, if you can find it in your heart to forgive me I'll be forever grateful."

"I'll bet," Willow says sourly. "I'm only listening to you cos Buffy begged me, but if you really want my forgiveness I'm gonna need a whole lot more convincing, can you do that?"

Faith nods. "Whatever it takes, I'll do it."

"All right then, but step out of line and Amy the rat gets a companion, understand?"

"Sure," says Faith, attempting a friendly smile.

Willow remains unconvinced, and after a curt goodbye to Buffy, takes Tara firmly by the hand and quickly walks away.

"That went well," says Buffy.

"You think?" says a downcast Faith.

"Well, Giles will be a pushover in comparison," says Buffy, looking for the bright side.

"Whoopee!" is Faith's ironic reply.

PART 7. REVELATIONS AND RESERVATIONS.

"Tell me, B, am I really worth all the trouble I'm causing you?"

"Nothing worth doing is ever easy," Buffy admits. "But, yes, you are worth it. Anyway, it's not all bad news, you were getting on fine with Tara."

"Yeah." Faith gives Buffy a half-smile. "Tara's a nice kid, a bit shy, but nice. Red's got lucky there."

"You're right about that, Tara is very nice. You know, when Willow told me they were an item, I was kinda shocked at first, but they really do make a cute couple."

"And we don't?" Faith asks seriously.

Buffy giggles. "Cute is not the word I'd use to describe either of us."

Elsewhere, the 'cute couple' are having an argument. "...and what were you talking to her about anyway?" Willow demands of Tara.

"W-We were just talking about the time she took over Buffy's body, and how we uncovered the truth and fixed things up for Buffy to switch back." Tara's expression displays disapproval. "Y-You're being very harsh on her."

"Harsh!" Willow snaps. "You're not the one she was menacing at knifepoint!"

"Willow, you're missing the p-point. I can read her aura. Faith was entirely sincere when she said she was sorry. And there's s-something else."

"What?"

"She's in love."

"You're kidding," Willow snorts. "She's not in love with Riley, is she? Well, he is available now I guess. Though I still don't understand why Buffy broke up with him, after all it wasn't his fault."

"Oh, Willow." Tara smiles. "Your gaydar must need s-servicing."

"My gaydar? Even I didn't know I was gay 'till I met you. Hold on, are you telling me she's in love with you?"

"No, silly, think about it. When we bumped into them, who was Faith looking at, in the way that you look at me?"

"By the Goddess, she's in love with Buffy!"

"And Buffy is in love with her."

Willow is astonished. "Are you sure?"

"As sure as I love you." Tara smiles again, and throwing caution to the wind, kisses her girlfriend in public to prove the point.

At Giles' place Faith remains hesitant. "Do we have to do this today?"

"We're here now, Faith." Buffy knocks on the door. "We might as well get it over with."

The door opens and Giles peers out. "Hello, Buffy..." He sees Faith. "Faith too, what a... pleasant... surprise," he stammers out. "Do come in."

Buffy glances at Faith as if to say 'told you so' then follows Giles inside.

"Wesley informed me that you, Faith, were, um, at large, as he put it. But he thought you were headed back to Boston."

"Yeah, that was the intention." She looks at Buffy and pulls a wry grin. "I changed my mind."

"So I see," Giles observes. "And what are your plans now, are you staying long?"

"I've never been one for plans. You should know that by now, G, sorry, Giles. I'm sorry for everything I did back then. I want to stay and help, if you'll let me."

"I'm sorry too, Faith," Giles replies coldly, "but I don't think that would be wise. It's a matter of trust, you see, and I don't trust you."

"Please, Giles," Buffy interjects.

"Are you absolutely sure about this?"

Buffy nods and reaches out to take Faith's hand to demonstrate solidarity with her fellow Slayer. "I'm very sure," she says.

"Very well," Giles replies after a long pause for reflection. "I still don't trust you, Faith, but I do trust Buffy, and I suppose, in time, I could learn to trust you again."

He pauses again then extends his hand in formal greeting. "Welcome back, Faith."

PART 8. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.

"Hurry up, pumpkin, your pizza's getting cold," Buffy calls out, as she settles down in front of the muted television and waits for 'Popular' to start.

Faith enters the room with two cans of Coke. "What did you just call me?" she asks with a hard edge to her voice.

"Pumpkin," Buffy replies innocently, wondering what Faith is bothered about.

"So, I'm a watery orange vegetable that sits on the ground and does nothing, is that it? You don't think I'm pulling my weight in this relationship?" Faith grumbles, as she crashes down into the chair, slams down the Cokes, and snatches up her pizza.

Buffy begins to look annoyed. "I never said that. I called you 'pumpkin' as a term of endearment. I like pumpkin pie. I love you."

Faith breaks into a huge smile. "You love me?"

Buffy rolls her eyes. Faith can be so annoying at times, but when she smiles Buffy can never be angry with her. "Yes, I - love - you," she replies with deliberate emphasis. "How many more times do I have to say it before you'll believe it?"

Faith laughs. "Oh, I believed you the first time. I just like hearing you say it."

Buffy throws a cushion at her head in response. Faith just smirks. A pause in the conversation follows as pizza is eagerly consumed by both of them.

"Anyway," Buffy resumes the discussion, "you call people by nicknames all the time, why complain when I call you by one?"

Faith shrugs, her face growing sad. "The only nicknames people ever gave me were terms of abuse. I use them to be friendly, but it doesn't work, does it? Everyone hates it. When I call them Red, G-man, or Mrs S, you can see it in their eyes, you can see them flinch," she says with regret.

"The thing is, Faith, you're right, your nicknames do irritate everyone, cos they remind them of why it is they don't like you. The old you," Buffy quickly adds.

"You think I should stop doing it?" Faith asks directly.

"No, cos they're gonna realise soon that you've changed - really changed - and cos it's part of who you are." Buffy rises, moves across to Faith, and sits down in her lap. "It's part of what I love." She kisses Faith teasingly, stroking her hair and caressing her body. "So, what do you say?" she asks.

"I say, call me 'pumpkin'," Faith happily replies before passionately returning the kiss. She then stands up, still with Buffy in her arms, and carries her off to the bedroom to finish what they have started.

They never did see that episode of 'Popular'.

PART 9. A QUIET NIGHT IN.

Buffy emerges from the bathroom, gets into bed, and snuggles up next to Faith, who is engrossed in reading an official looking letter.

"Come on, pumpkin, put it away now," says Buffy. "It won't disappear if you stop reading it you know."

Faith looks up at Buffy. "I still can't believe it. I knew I had the apartment free and clear, but I never thought that the Mayor would leave a will and give me money as well."

"Oh, yeah, always full of surprises was our beloved Mayor," Buffy says sarcastically, taking the letter out of Faith's hand and putting it on the night stand. She turns back to Faith, and with a serious tone in her voice asks, "Can I say something?"

"Sure, B, fire away."

"I was thinking. Seeing as we've got a place of our own, a little money put by, and now."

"A little?" Faith interrupts excitedly. "Hey, B, you can forget about your savings, we're set for life. No more crummy low-paid jobs for me!"

"Faith!" admonishes Buffy. "I'm talking."

"Sorry, honey, you go ahead."

"Thank you." Buffy looks quizzically at Faith, then asks, "You are happy aren't you, with me, I mean?"

Faith doesn't say anything, but smiles suggestively, leans over, and gives Buffy a slow lingering kiss. When they break apart, one look at the fire in Faith's eyes gives Buffy her answer.

"Oookay," says Buffy. "So, that's a 'yes' then. You know I'm very happy with you," she says silkily, her hands tracing erotically over Faith's bare skin, producing shivers of excitement in her girlfriend.

"Yeah, B, where's this going?" Faith asks impatiently, hoping that Buffy will stop talking soon so they can make love.

Buffy turns again to the night stand and opens the drawer. "I was going to ask you this in a more romantic place, but I think our bed is good enough."

"Ask me what?" queries a baffled Faith.

Buffy produces a small box which she opens in front of Faith. It contains two matching gold rings.

"I couldn't decide on an engagement ring. So I got the wedding bands instead." She looks into Faith's astonished eyes. "I love you, Faith. I want to be with you always. Will you marry me?"

Faith looks like she has just been struck by lightning. Choked by a rising tide of emotion she can barely make herself speak.

"Yes," she says, almost in a whisper, tears of joy rolling down her cheeks. "I'll marry you."

PART 10. CHANGE OF HEART.

Some time later, at the apartment, there is a knock at the door. Buffy runs to open it, complaining under her breath as she does so.

"Forgotten your key again, Faith. On one of these days I'll..." Buffy opens the door and is taken aback to see someone else standing there. "Oh, it's you, Mom," she says in surprise.

Joyce smiles weakly at her daughter. "Hello, Buffy, it's nice to see you again. can I come in?" she asks hopefully.

Buffy's surprised expression grows dark. "I'm sorry, Mom. This our apartment, if you still can't accept us being a couple... then you're not welcome here."

Joyce's face falls. "Oh, I see," she says disappointedly. "I understand, I'll go."

It pains Buffy so much to see the hurt on her Mom's face that her resolve weakens. "No, don't go. I've missed you. Please come in."

Joyce smiles and enters the apartment saying, "I've missed you too, honey."

"Please, sit down, can I get you anything?" says Buffy, playing the dutiful hostess.

"A hug would be nice," says Joyce. Buffy happily complies with the request, then steps back to look at her Mom closely.

"If you haven't accepted us, why are you here?" she asks suspiciously.

Joyce frowns. "Willow told me you were getting married soon."

Buffy sighs in resignation. "And you wanted to stop me, is that it?"

"Yes... No... I don't know, Buffy, I really don't." She begins to cry softly. "I'm so afraid of losing you."

Buffy holds her tight and says in soothing tones, "You haven't lost me. I'll always be your daughter."

"Yes," Joyce whimpers, "but for how much longer?"

A puzzled Buffy asks, "What do you mean, Mom?"

"No parent should outlive their child," Joyce answers, her voice cracking with emotion. "Since I discovered you were a Slayer I've lived with this dread prospect every single day. These last six months without seeing you, knowing that I might never see you alive again, have been sheer torture. I know that's my fault, but I did hope you would see sense, leave Faith, and come back home to me."

"Mom, that's not gonna happen. I love Faith and she loves me. I'm gonna spend the rest of my life, short as it may be, with her. It's as simple as that."

"I know. I foolishly came here to ask you to reconsider one last time, and if you still said no, I'd walk away. But I can't do that. I can't not see you again."

She inhales deeply, struggling to remain in control of her emotions. "I still don't approve... but I will accept it. I only ever wanted to see you happy," Joyce concludes, before dissolving into a flood of tears.

Buffy holds her mom close and cries along with her in joy at their partial reconciliation.

PART 11. SEEKING APPROVAL.

The doorbell at 1630 Revello Drive rings out loud and clear. Joyce answers the door wondering if it will be Buffy. She is nearly right - it's Faith.

"Hello, Faith, is Buffy with you?" Joyce asks hopefully.

"No," Faith replies apologetically. "This is a solo mission. Can I come in?"

Joyce gives way to allow Faith to enter. "Please take a seat. Do you want anything to drink?" she asks politely.

"A Coke please, Mrs S."

Joyce freezes at the use of the nickname. Faith realises her mistake. "I'm sorry, Mrs Summers. Look, forget about the Coke. Could you sit down please. I need to talk with you," she says earnestly.

Joyce unfreezes and moves to sit opposite Faith. "You can call me Joyce," she announces, a flicker of a smile on her face.

"Joyce," Faith says firmly. "Buffy sent me here. Somehow I've got to convince you I'm worthy of her. Your approval is very important to her, and she is very important to me. So, here I am."

Joyce regards Faith curiously. "How do you propose to convince me?" she asks matter-of-factly.

"I dunno," Faith admits. "I've only got my clumsy way with words and six months worth of track record to back me up." She grins wryly. "I guess that'll have to do."

"Well, you're lucky, Faith. You have something else," is Joyce's unexpected reply. "You have friends."

Faith looks confused. Joyce raises an eyebrow. "They didn't tell you then?"

"Who didn't tell me what?"

"Willow and Tara have been giving me constant updates on your progress. They, and by they I mean the whole Scooby gang, are very pleased with you, Faith."

Faith is astonished. "They never said... I knew Blondie liked me... but Red and the others. They've always been so... suspicious of me. I didn't know," she finishes lamely, head dropping in embarrassment, not knowing what to say next.

Joyce breaks the silence. "Willow tells me you're getting married. Can you tell me why?"

Faith raises her head, a big grin on her face. "That's easy. Buffy asked me, and I said yes," she says, beaming with pride.

"So, when is it to be?" Joyce enquires.

"That's not settled yet. Buffy had hoped that you'd make it up with her, me, us, and then we'd get married. I guess Willow said something, huh? Why else would you suddenly come calling?"

"Yes," Joyce concedes. "Willow did say something, and I called in on Buffy to stop her going through with it."

Faith suddenly looks as hurt as she was on the day Joyce slapped her. "Buffy didn't tell me that. She said you'd been sort of reconciled, and I just needed to impress you to seal the deal."

"Would you still have come here if you knew I was against the wedding?"

"Yeah, I would," Faith says defiantly. "For Buffy I would. I love Buffy and I'd do anything she asks. But I don't want your approval. I don't need your approval. All I want and need is Buffy!"

She looks at Joyce's stern expression, realises she's blown it, but no longer cares.

"You really do love her, don't you?" Joyce asks softly.

"Yeah, I do, and if you loved her like a mom should, then you'd come to our wedding, not for my sake, but for Buffy's."

Joyce lets out a sigh, her eyes closing in thought. After a while she opens her eyes again and speaks, "Very well," she says. "I'll come to the wedding, and, Faith, for what it's worth," she adds, suddenly breaking into a warm smile. "You have my approval."

PART 12. THE HAPPY EVENT.

"I'm bored. Can't we go home and have orgasms now?" Anya whines at full volume.

"Not yet, Honey, we're here for a wedding, remember? That's why we got all dressed up, and besides, we've only just arrived," Xander patiently explains to his petulant girlfriend. Anya simply snorts in reply and stamps off in a huff.

Xander turns and smiles sheepishly at Willow and Tara, no explanations are necessary. "I suppose it'll be you next?" he enquires of the couple.

"Oh, we're already married." Willow smiles sweetly and reaches out for her beloved's hand.

Xander is rendered nearly incoherent with surprise. "What? When? Where? Why? Who?"

Tara giggles at Xander's confusion, then explains, "Not so long b-back. When we felt it was the right time. It was a p-private ceremony. At the mystic glade, where we asked all c-creation to bless our union. It was wonderful," she says, turning to smile adoringly at Willow, who returns the loving gaze.

Xander looks at the blissful couple with envy. He thinks perhaps he and Anya could give marriage a go. And with that thought he goes off to find her, to see what she thinks about the idea.

As Hank and Joyce mutter quietly together in one corner of the master bedroom, Giles has a final word with 'his girls' as he likes to think of them. "Just remember, this is your day and we're are all here for you, so just enjoy yourselves," he says kindly.

"Oh, Giles, what would we do without such wise advice?" says Buffy with a wicked grin. She hugs him close and kisses his cheek. "Thanks for everything."

"And that goes for me too, G-man," says Faith merrily. "Thanks for giving me away."

"It's entirely my pleasure." Giles smiles at Faith. "And speaking of which." He looks at his watch. "I think we'd better get started. He extends his elbow towards Faith, for her to link arms with him, as Buffy moves beside her proud father to do the same. Joyce hurries ahead of them to make sure everything is ready to begin.

Buffy with Hank and Faith with Giles emerge from the house into the garden, where a select gathering of friends and family are eagerly awaiting the brides to be.

There is a ripple of approval as everyone catches sight of the two beautifully turned out women. Faith of course would have got married in jeans and a tee-shirt, but Buffy would have none of it. A pretty dress is what she wanted Faith to wear, so a pretty dress it was. And with the right hair and makeup Faith looks as stunning as Buffy intended she should.

They meet in front of the celebrant, who conducts a simple non-religious ceremony, in which both parties declare their love for each other, and their desire to be joined together in enduring bonds of fidelity is symbolised by the exchange of rings.

After the concluding kiss, and the applause of the audience has died down, Faith unexpectedly announces she has something to say.

"Buffy, you know I'm not one for fancy words or public speaking. Which is why we agreed to keep this ceremony as plain and simple as possible. But I need to tell you how I feel at this moment, now we are together."

She pulls out a crumpled piece of paper from its hiding place and begins to read the words she has taken weeks to compose. Her eyes anxiously flicking up to gauge Buffy's reaction as she speaks.

"I love you not only for what you are but for what I am when I'm with you;"

"I love you not only for what you have made of yourself but what you are making of me;"

"I love you for putting your hand into my heart and passing over all the foolish things you can't help but see there and instead drawing out all the beautiful belongings that no one else had looked far enough to find;"

"I love you because you are helping me to make of the lumber of my life not a tavern but a temple, out of the work of my everyday life not a reproach but a song;"

"I love you because you have done more than any creed could have done to make me good and more happy than any fate could have done to make me happy;"

"I love you because you have done it all by simply being yourself;"

"I love you because you are you and you chose me;"

"I love you, Buffy Summers, and I always will."

They embrace, and at that moment are closer than any two people could be and yet be separate individuals. There are no words to express Buffy's absolute joy. So she says it with a kiss, and as the joy is shared in this wordless act of love, there are no two happier people on earth.

PART 13. FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

Almost a year later, at the Expresso Pump, at a corner table.

"It was Tara's idea to persuade the 'powers that be' that we'd done enough slaying. To let us retire and live normal lives. I never thought they'd agree, but they did. Two new Slayers were activated and we were stood down. Faith was so relieved." Buffy smiles thinly at this recent memory.

"And how do you feel about it?" Xander asks, sensing the undertone of unease in her voice.

"Guilty," Buffy replies frankly. "I've shucked off my responsibilities onto some sixteen year old kid. I know how I felt when I was told I was Chosen. Pleased I was not, but the previous Slayer was dead, and that was that."

She shrugs. "Someone had to do the job, and that someone was me, resignation was not an option then."

"But you've earned it. You've saved the world more than once, you deserve retirement," Xander says warmly.

"Thanks." Buffy smiles shyly, then changes the subject, "But this isn't why I asked you to meet with me. Now that Faith and I are ordinary people once again we want what we never dared think about before. We want a child. We need a father. We thought of you."

"Ah," Xander replies. "I'm happy you thought of me, but that could be difficult, and not just because we've drifted apart recently," he says with a hint of bitterness in his voice.

Buffy is stung by that comment as it is true that she has seen very little of Xander and Anya since they got married. "Anya's jealousy?" she asks, ignoring the point being made.

"No. That's no longer a problem. Since she got the ring and the certificate that says that I'm hers, she's really mellowed." He smiles. "She didn't turn a hair when I told her I was coming here to see you."

The smile fades and he sighs heavily. "The thing is, we've been trying for a child of our own. I was always a bit worried as we'd been careless in the past and nothing had come of it. So, after six months we both got checked out."

He is suddenly near to tears. "All those years as a vengeance demon has fried Anya's reproductive system. She can't have children. Imagine how she would feel if I fathered a child with you or Faith?"

"I'm so sorry," says a deeply saddened Buffy, reaching out a hand to comfort him. "I'd not have asked if I'd known."

"Yeah, well, it's one of those things you don't want to broadcast. We'll get by."

He forces a weak smile. "Look, I'm sorry I can't help you, but there's always artificial insemination by donor, isn't there?"

"Yes, but we wanted a father who would take an active role in parenting, not an anonymous donor. Still, I suppose we can work round it somehow," she says, drinking her coffee and thinking of how she is going to break this news to Faith.

*****

One year later, at the apartment.

The baby cries lustily. Faith pokes Buffy in the back. "Your turn," she says.

Buffy groans, "You're the mother. You go."

Faith replies, "You're the 'father'. You go. It's your turn!" she insists.

Buffy groans again, levers herself out of bed, and stumbles off to tend to their child. "And I thought slaying was hard work," she moans.

*****

Fifteen years later, at 1630 Revello Drive.

"Leanne Jane Summers! Where do you think you're going?" Faith calls out to her daughter, as she spies her furtively heading for the back door.

"To the Bronze, Mom, I did tell you."

"And I told you, no, not on a school night," Faith states firmly.

"Oh, Mom, I'm not a kid anymore, I'm fifteen!" Leanne whines in reply.

"Leanne, when I was fifteen my mom was too drunk to care what I did. I hated her for that. But you are MY daughter and I DO care. Do you understand? I set these boundaries for you, not to spite you, but because I love you."

"Oh, Mom, that's so gross," Leanne says, her smile conveying the complete opposite.

Faith sighs. "All right, have you got your stake, cross, holy water?"

"Yes, Mom," Leanne replies in that bored tone unique to teenagers.

"Okay then, but be careful, and be back by ten."

"Oh, Mom!"

"Ten-thirty max! Don't make me come get you," Faith warns.

"Okay, Mom, you're the greatest," Leanne says, hugging Faith and giving her a peck on the cheek before dashing out.

No sooner has she gone than Buffy is arriving, collapsing onto the sofa, where Faith joins her.

"Sorry, hun, another killer day at the office, damn IRS audits!" she says, before kissing her wife 'hello'. "Was that Leanne I just saw running down the street?"

Faith kisses Buffy back before answering. "Yeah, off to the Bronze again."

"But didn't we..."

"We did. But we have to let her have some freedom and trust that she heeds what we've taught her."

"She will," Buffy replies reassuringly, then suddenly becomes thoughtful. "It's just a pity Mom didn't live to see her grow up. She was very proud of you, Faith, and your parenting skills. I know I am."

Faith goes pink. "Well, at least I knew what not to do, but don't be so modest, you may not have given birth to her but you've been the best mother any child could wish for."

Buffy kisses Faith. "Thanks, pumpkin, things didn't turn out so badly, did they?" she says, her eyes drifting towards the table with the framed photographs of the Scooby gang and recalling past events.

"Giles returned to England to help reform the Watcher's Council and now lives in quiet semi-retirement. Willow and Tara followed him over, and do consultancy work for the Council when they're not busy with their own interests. Cordy and Angel are still together, still fighting evil in LA. Xander and Anya moved to Oakland and adopted David and Christine. All in all, not a bad result for the good guys."

"Yep, who'd have thought we'd have a happy ending, certainly not me."

Faith laughs and Buffy joins with her.

A happy ending indeed.

The End

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