Back to the Beginning: Can't or Won't
by Amanda
Rating: NC-17

Disclaimer #1: No copyright infringement intended to Joss, ME, FOX, WB, UPN, etc. I bow before the brilliance that belongs to the creators, please don’t be angry that I wanted to play. No malice intended.
Disclaimer #2: Lyrics below from Warlock, by Skinny Puppy. I was bopping my head listening to this song when the “theme” for this part came into my head, SO, thanks to them.
Date: 070902- 071202
Spoilers: All of Season Six.
Note #1: This is the fifth of a series, read the others first.
Note #2: If it is written in italics it is the character’s thoughts. (or dreams, but you can figure those out). Flashback is in < > (still hate them, but needed to write this one down).
Note #3: Going out on a limb here. Don’t hate me for molding this Faith into something…
Note #4: Why can’t they just be happy, rolling around naked and in love you ask? I suck at PWP, that’s why and so I have to dwell in childishly thought up plots, which = boring. I will leave the tantalizingly yummy fics to the writers that excel at it, (bows before Sway & Nikita & Michele, & heck everyone else).

“NOW IS THE ONLY THING THAT IS REAL
…. self confessed criminal, tore pen in vain, instant still spellbound, game stock talk back rock, reencounter incident subsistence inexistent, non committed, unwitted, oblivious, habitual resistor, buff the stuff, roughed up edge, fluent nudge, pre-collect ignition motivation inexistent, wasted views that’s all they see, … abusive recluse, too late for me, make shifting peace, settling, crazy things keep your eyes open, soft spoken changes nothing… retold impressed by possession, insiders know refresh detained contest off and pure, sure tonight it feeds itself, freeze in time or shadows climb distracting override, instincts evolve and try over and over, wasted truth why call at all, blue hot lines eventual decline, with the right attitude you will succeed, blue resent that discontent, sidestep, define the state of things, so far,”
~warlock, by skinny puppy.

*****

She was lying on her back, staring up into the sky, watching as the black turned to deep blue, and the stars got progressively lighter. She was sore everywhere, but it didn’t seem to matter all that much. All that Willow wanted to do was to lay there looking at the stars, feeling the peace and calm that was Tara, that was still dancing in her heart.

A dark figure leaned over her. Pale skin, still marred by cuts and bruises was framed by raven hair. Willow looked up into Faith’s brown eyes and wondered, for not the first time, how people couldn’t see how kind she truly was. How people could take her aggression, her presence and think that was all there was to her. Willow could feel the goodness in her.

“Boy am I glad to see you.” Faith said.

“Really?” Willow asked, with a grin. She listened as Faith squatted next to her, and the Slayer’s knees popped.

“Oh, hell yeah. I had visions of having to search for Willow bits all over the place, and I forgot to bring a bag to put you in.” She said grinning. The moonlight caught in her eyes, making them sparkle impishly.

“Faith.” Willow sighed.

“Tellin’ you like it is.” She helped Willow sit up slowly, and then ripped off some of her tee shirt and used it to wipe away some of the blood that had collected on Willow’s face from her bleeding nose. “So how’d you do it?” She asked, sitting back looking at her clean up job.

“Tara.” Willow smiled.

“Like Ghost Tara?” Faith asked.

“Like memories of Tara.” Willow grinned.

“Oh.” Faith said, rubbing her palms on her thighs, nervously.

“I am going to be alright.” Willow declared.

“Damn straight you are.” Faith added.

Willow held out her arms. “But I can’t walk.” Faith lifted her into her arms, and waited for her to settle.

“You know, I think you just like being in my arms.” Faith joked as she began walking them out of the meadow.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Slayer. You stink.” Willow giggled. Around them the sounds of morning began filling the air.

*****

The whole gang was there when I got back with Red. She had been quiet during the hour it took me to carry her back. But that was okay by me. I needed some babble free time to think about everything that had happened that night. It was almost too much to believe. I mean, this couldn’t be real, right? Defending the Hellmouth - well really Red did all of that, but lots of dead vampires, lots of pulled muscles and cuts, and lots of kissing. Well okay, maybe not a lot of kissing, but way more than I was used to, and with B no less.

The question I kept asking myself was; what did it mean? Was it her hormones and stress? Did she just need a little bit of courage, and there was no JD in the house? Did she want something more from me? And did I want more from her.

The years spent in prison, I dealt with the unrequited love thing. I mulled over things in my head again and again, playing them differently. What if I had tried sooner, before Angel came back? What if I had fought harder for her to be with me instead of him? But I always came back to the same place. No matter how much I loved that girl, no matter how much I needed her; it had always been up to her. She said no. And when that hit me like a ton of brinks in prison I decided. I did not love her anymore. I let the anger and hate for her grow, as strong as the love had been.

Tara once teased me, telling me that B would always be my obsession. That I was going to love her and hate her forever. I, of course, told her she was full of shit. Gently and carefully, Tara told me that it was a fine line between love and hate. It was all about passion. She was right there. Definitely some passion.

But now? Sure we had kissed, but that was it. Sure, earlier, in the basement of the new school, after she kissed me so hard I thought my head was going to burst, I wanted her. I wanted to touch her and taste her, have her for once SCREAMING my name. But now? The adrenaline was gone from my muscles, the fight was over, and the world was saved yet again. So now, did I still want her?

“Hey.” Xander said as he opened the back door for me. I turned so I wouldn’t smack Red’s head on the doorframe.

“They all here?” I asked, moving through the kitchen. In the living room I found all of them, sprawled here and there. B was holding Kiddo on her lap as she slept. She gave me a wide smile, and I turned away, setting Red down on the couch that Giles had just gotten up from.

Did I still want B? Hell yeah. Could I let myself ever care about her again? I didn’t know.

*****

Dawn was still asleep in her lap, as Buffy leaned against the wall. Willow was sitting up on the couch, drinking some tea that Giles had offered. Xander was there now, and had finally stopped complaining that he missed all of the fun. Buffy looked across the room. Faith was standing far away, by the front door, her arms cross, her head slightly down. She wasn’t looking at any one, her eyes just down at the floor. Buffy wondered what she was thinking. She hoped she was thinking about her. Buffy wanted to get up and walk over to her and pull her into her arms, and just hold her. Tightly hold her.

Sure she had been acting like the Buffy-Bot for months, walking around empty. The only time she felt anything was when the lust for the kill or the sex was taking her over. She looked over at Faith again. She knew what it was like. Faith had intimate first hand knowledge of what it was like to be consumed by the nothing. But it was clear that Faith had beaten it, learned to control it. And Buffy wanted the same thing, and already she was feeling better. She had pushed Jane away, realizing that the poor young girl was simply a replacement for the beautiful woman standing across the room from her. Just those few kisses, in them Buffy had felt a memory of something she had once known, and desperately wanted again. While they were waiting for Faith to come back she had thought about it. Trying to decide exactly what she felt, what she was still feeling for the other Slayer. What Buffy wouldn’t give for everyone to just not here, so she could walk over, cup her palm under Faith’s chin and raise her head, to look into those eyes?

“…then Buffy said you just poofed.” Xander was talking and she turned her head when she heard her name, zeroing in on the conversation.

“Right.” Willow said and took a sip of the tea.

“So Wills, where did you poof to?” Buffy asked. She noticed that Faith looked up when she spoke. Buffy met the Slayer’s eyes, and they both just looked, searched for something. Gently she smiled, and Faith looked away again.

“I teleported.”

“You what?” Xander asked. “I thought you were no magic Willow.”

“I figured it out, guys. It wasn’t the magic that was bad, it was the dark magic that I couldn’t control.” Willow began.

"You do realize-" Giles started, but Willow set her hand on his leg.

“No, see, I do realize. I figured it out. So calm down Xander, I’m not all dark and brooding and psycho.”

“We got enough of that with her,” Xander leaned his head towards Faith. He had whispered to Willow, but Buffy had heard, and she saw Faith tense, knowing she heard too.

“Xander!” Buffy yelled.

“Sorry.” He looked at Faith, “Sorry.”

“Whatever.” Faith pushed off from the door. “I am going to get some sleep.” She opened the front door and walked out. Willow watched her, eyes rounding and then she looked back at Buffy. The red head was pleading with Buffy to do something.

“Holburn?” Buffy asked, trying to get out from under Dawn.

“Oh, yes, of course.” He kneeled and pulled Dawn into his arms. She murmured and then turned to bury her face into his neck. “Oh my, well, okay.” He settled down with the young Summers wrapped around him. Buffy stood up and walked quickly out the door. Faith was standing at the front gate, a hand resting on her back, her head bowed.

“Faith?” Buffy asked, as she stepped up next to the girl. She straightened up.

“It’s cool B. I’m just a little tired.” She offered.

“Please don’t go.”

“I need sleep.” Faith said and pushed open the gate.

“Stay with me? You can, I mean.”

“No, Buffy.” She turned onto the cracked sidewalk, her head still hanging low.

“What happened tonight, Faith, I have wanted that for a really really long time.” Buffy offered as Faith walked away. Buffy couldn’t let her just walk away. Not again. “You said you were going to help me Faith.” Faith faltered in her steps. Buffy knew she had her with that. “I thought you meant it. I thought you of all people would know how badly I need you.” Faith turned around, her eyes searching Buffy’s face.

“I.” Faith stopped and held her hand up, silencing Buffy. “I know exactly how it feels B. Remember I was right where you are now, and I needed you.”

“But you didn’t know how to ask. I do. I am asking. Faith, will you help me?”

Faith nodded.

“I know none of this is fair, that I should never ask you for this, not after everything that I didn’t do for you. You know Faith,” she stepped closer to the younger girl. “I like that you didn’t say you were sorry, I like that I didn’t say I was sorry. I think we both know that there is nothing that can make up for what both of us did. And I am not talking about you killing Allan, and I am not talking about the Knights of Byzantium that I killed.” Faith flinched, and Buffy realized that the other slayer had not known. She waved her hand, “That we can talk about another day. But what I was saying, this is about you and me, Faith. What we did emotionally to each other. I clearly broke your heart, and you made me a victim. I don’t know if we can ever truly get past that.” She was standing in front of Faith now. “I do know that in those kisses,” she ran her hand up Faith’s arm, “God it was like feeling the sun for the first time.” Buffy smiled dreamily. “I felt so much of everything.” She opened her eyes again, slowly, looking at Faith. “I felt you.” She cupped her cheek. “I need you Faith. For a million different things I need you. Selfish as that sounds, it is true. I just don’t want to take, either. I want to give you what you need too, whatever it is.”

Faith’s lips opened, like she was going to speak, but then they snapped shut, and she shook her head, looking exhausted. Buffy leaned forward, just lightly brushing their lips together.

“You need to stay here. I am wired, so you can have my bed.” She tugged on Faith’s hand, and the girl relented, walking behind her.

*****

I felt my brow furrow. She was making me feel, making my heart speed up. Last time I felt love for her, she broke my heart and I freaked out and lost myself. I didn’t want to let that happen again. But I was still letting her drag me into her house; I let her push me in the direction of her room. I walked up the stairs, looking back once, to she her smiling up at me. My stomach jumped. I couldn’t do this; I couldn’t let myself love her.

I sat on the edge of her bed, cupping my face in my hands.

What had really set me off? Made me go over the deep end? Was it her turning me down, not once but twice? Was it her hearing my declaration of love, something I have NEVER done before, and not saying anything about it? Did that shattered me? It could have been all of those things. If it were only B, and that, it would have played differently. It was everything back then really. It was being shunned by the Scoobies, it was being betrayed by a wack-job-reject-Watcher, and then betrayed by Wesley. It was being treated like spare parts, like the rusty axe that you knew still cut, and you used it and put it away, knowing that you really should take it out more, maybe polish it up, sharpen it, but there just never seemed to be time. It was feeling like I had my whole life, that I was just there to be used, then put away, ignored. From my Mother and Father I learned the craving for being needed. For wanting someone to need me. And I was needed. Everyone needed me. B needed me to fight with her when it was a little tough, Xander needed me to fulfill his Slayer fantasy, and Wesley needed me to prove to the Council he could be a Watcher.

But they only needed my body.

That was it, wasn’t it? Not being valued and needed for who I was inside, but instead just a tool. Always a tool. My entire life people looked at me, and all they saw was this body, and thought about how they could use it. Even though my mind was screaming, “what about me?” What about my emotions, what about that? Who ever asked me what I was feeling, and actually wanted an answer? In the beginning, with the Mayor, he put me on a pedestal, telling me I was the one he wanted, that even if B came begging he would turn her away. That had felt fucking amazing. Until I realized that he just wanted the Slayer, the body, the tool.

When I cracked, really cracked, was when I begged Angel to kill me. To kill the body. On some weird level I was praying for a release from it, from the baggage I carried with it. Because in heaven or hell, wherever I ended up, it would just be the me inside.

What I went through was clearly different than what B was going through now. She was always the whole of her parts, everyone knew that. When they asked her how she was feeling, they waited for the answer. They wanted to know. All she was fighting now it seemed was her true nature. She needed to accept who Buffy Summers truly was, not what everyone wanted her to be, expected her to be. She wasn’t all innocent and pure. Like I always said, there is no such thing as innocent. She loved the shadows, liked the feel of the mud under her hands. That was who she was. B would never be truly happy until she accepted that.

Ah, but the problem. How could I help her to do that? Sure I promised, and I wanted to see it, wanted to see her rise above this confusion and emptiness, the thing of it was, I didn’t know how I could. Maybe she needed Spike to come back. He was everything she needed. Darkness, passion, power. All wrapped in a pretty package, with the acceptable bow between his legs.

It was clear to me that what B had going on with Jane wasn’t about two women, it wasn’t about being gay. It was about dominance. Spike would submit to her, just like Jane did. If she was expecting the same from me, she was sadly mistaken. I wouldn’t do that, not even for her, not for anyone ever again.

*****

Buffy sat down next to Willow on the couch, looking out the open front window just one more time. The sun was coming up, and it was a new day, and Faith was upstairs in her bed.

She tried to concentrate on the conversation around her, but all she wanted was to see Faith, talk to her more, to explain, to tell her how sorry she was for ever hurting her in the past, and that she wanted to make it all better, wanted to move forward.

“So I got all of that energy inside of me.” Willow was going on.

“Was it neutral?” Giles asked, rubbing his forehead.

“Yeah, and that was when I knew that I could actually use it. Not to be all evil and destroy the world,” Willow sighed, “But to help myself.”

“But the earthquake?” Holburn asked.

“That was me, imploding.”

“What?” Xander exclaimed. “You aren’t in little pieces.”

“I know.” Willow smiled. “I let the Key’s energy collide with the dark magic that was still inside of me. And well, earthquake.”

“You are a powerful witch.” Holburn mused, shifting Dawn on his lap.

“Was, was a powerful witch. Our Wills is a magic free girl.” Xander beamed.

“No, I’m not.” She said softly.

“Willow.” Giles hesitated.

“It’s okay. I figured it out. What Tara was trying to tell me all along, but I was so caught up that I didn’t want to hear it. I am still a witch Xander.” She stood slowly. “And yeah, I am still really powerful. But I can control it.”

“No you can’t.” Xander protested.

“Yes I can, and I will.”

“This is bullshit.” Xander stood.

“That is quite enough.” Giles stood. “It has been a long and tiring day, and I believe it is time for us all to depart.” He walked over to Willow, setting his hand on her shoulder. “I will be leaving tomorrow, but hope you consider my offer.”

“Offer? What offer?” Buffy asked, shocked.

“Giles invited me to come out to England in the fall, do some studying with the Council, bum around Oxford.” Willow shrugged like she was talking about going to the supermarket, not across to another continent.

“Oh?” Buffy said.

“Don’t worry Buffy, I am still thinking about it.” Willow grinned.

“Yes. Do so.” Giles pulled her to him tightly and whispered in her ear. “Please take care, I know that this will be a painful time for you, but they are all here for you, and love you and will support you. Do be careful with the magic. I know that Tara’s spirit will guide you.” Buffy heard all of it, with her Slayer hearing. She smiled. “I love you Willow.” Giles concluded and kissed the red head’s cheek. Upon releasing her, Willow sat back down on the couch.

“Xander, walk with me?” Giles asked.

“Where? I thought you had been staying here?” He asked.

“Xander, walking you home is the pretext so that we may discuss a few things.” Giles shook his head walking past. Holburn came down the stairs, and leaned over to Buffy.

"I am very sorry that I went into Dawn’s room, Buffy. But I feared that nature called, and well-" She set her hand on his arm.

“It’s okay.” Buffy grinned.

“Ah, good. I am off then. See you in the morning, err, later morning, Rupert?”

“Quite. Perhaps four hours?” Giles looked at his watch as the two men walked out the front door, Xander trailing behind. Buffy turned and dropped onto the couch next to Willow. The Wicca set her head on Buffy’s shoulder.

“Faith sleeping?” She asked.

“I think so.” Buffy closed her eyes for a moment, sensing the house. "Yupe, two sleeping beauties upstairs."

“Buffy, do you love her?”

“Willow? What are you talking about?” Buffy exclaimed leaning away from her friend. Willow raised her head.

“I saw the way you two were all looking at each other when she brought me back to the house. My little Sapphic nose smells something. So spill!”

“Um, weird visual place.” Buffy shook her head, clearing her thoughts “What is there to spill?”

“Something happened Buffy Summers, and I as your best friend am calling you on it. I am using my best friend card.”

“We kissed.” Buffy confessed.

“Ah.” Her eyes rounded as she spoke.

“More than once.” Buffy smiled.

“How was it? Was it all passion and fiery, you know, a toe curling kiss? She certainly has the lips for it, I mean have you seen the way they just sit there begging to be - okay not that I ever thought about her in that way. Maybe a little lie in there, I mean, Buffy, you have looked at her right? She is walking sex. No, I wasn’t meaning I wanted to have sex with Faith, just that she is sexy, yeah.” Willow took a deep breath. “I just kept falling deeper in that hole.”

“Yes. You did.” Buffy bumped her with her shoulder. “But I think I got it. Faith is hot,”

“Oh, yeah.” She cringed. “Sorry, will silently stay in my visual happy place.” Willow made a Zipped motion over her lips.

"You know Will, for about half a second the other day I thought that maybe the two of you had, you know-"

"What do I know?"

“You know, something going on.” Buffy wiggled her eyebrows.

“Me and Faith?” Willow smiled. “Buffy, I may think that Faith is breathtakingly beautiful, and that body just begs to have whipped cream licked off of it; ahem. There is no spark. Not between us. Nope, just good friends. Strictly platonic - and I mean that in the most literal sense, not in the kissing Xander platonic sense.”

“Okay, Wills, gotcha.”

“So you kissed?” Willow asked, pulling the conversation back around.

Buffy nodded.

“Was it?”

“It was. Wow and amazing, and anything else you can think to say.”

“So what will you do now? Will you start dating?”

“I don’t know Willow. I think, well, I mean, maybe it was a heat of the moment thing.”

“What?!”

“You know, end of the world is coming, kiss me. A one time thing.” Buffy’s shoulders slumped.

“Faith isn’t like that.”

“I am.” Buffy frowned. "I am still really confused Willow, not sure what is going on. I mean I am just coming to terms with the fact that I probably wasn’t in the REAL heaven. And that all of the things I have been doing to myself over the past year."

“Whoa. Wait a second. What things?”

“Things, Will.”

“Tell me about said things. Are there more things? I mean more than Spike, and for the record, eew.”

“There was more than just Spike. A lot more. But, I um, would rather not talk about that.” She rubbed her chin. “Where is Spike anyway?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. I hope he never comes back. And for his sake I hope he stays away. Faith will dust him.”

“I thought you guys liked Spike.”

“Buff, he was a vampire, sure so was Angel, but Spike was, just. What I mean to say is that. Okay. Honest Willow. He was a fucking looser who only wanted you because you were the slayer. Sure he said he loved you, but please. Trying to rape you in the bathroom, no, there are lines that are not to be crossed, and he did. He rubbed right through them. So I am glad he is gone, and don’t want him to come back.”

“Look at you, impassioned Willow. I like it.” Buffy hugged her. “You have come a long way, since, erm.”

“I know. I just needed some guidance.”

“How are you?”

“Some days are better than others. I won’t say there aren’t nightmares, and a whole lot of tears. But this isn’t about me, and loosing Tara. This is about you.”

After Willow left, Buffy went up to her bedroom. She stood in the doorway for some time, arms crossed looking at the figure in her bed. Faith was lying on top of the blankets, fully clothed. One hand was tucked under her head, the other laying open on the bedspread. Buffy pushed off the wall, closing the door behind her as she walked closer. She softly sat on the edge of the bed, and moved her finger over the back of Faith’s hand.

“So strong.” She sighed. “Don’t understand it, don’t know why, but I need you so much, Faith.” Buffy leaned down and kissed Faith’s cheek. As she leaned back she noticed Faith’s eyes were open and alert, like she had never been asleep. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Faith said, moving to sit up. “About me helping you.”

Buffy looked at, searching her eyes. The tone was one filled with a definite ‘But’.

“I don’t know how I can help you.” Faith shrugged. “What I went through and what you are going through are way different.”

“I know what I am feeling, Faith.”

“So then tell me. Lay it all out, B.”

“When I patrol I am hunting. I can see that now. The thrill of chasing a vamp. I mean, I even let them get away so I can chase them sometimes. When I am just being, like earlier, I was sitting out there with Dawnie, and I just felt stagnant. Like there was something I should be doing, and it wasn’t sipping lemonade with my sister. I should be hunting.” She paused. “I don’t just hunt demons.” Faith nodded for her to go on. "I have found myself, not all the time, but sometimes, out hunting for, erm, a well-"

“A fuck buddy. I get ya.” Faith completed her thought.

“Crude-much? But yeah, I guess that is right.”

“What about Jane?” Faith asked.

“I can’t find her.” She sat up straighter, "Ah, not that I have been looking. I mean, with what is going on here-"

“B, I understand your relationship with her. I do. I think the problem here is that you don’t.”

“I do, I totally get it. And that’s why there is nothing going on between her and I.”

“Huh?”

“I know she was just a replacement for you.” Faith looked shocked. “I used to go to your apartment. I had no idea that Tara lived there. But I had come back, you know, and then told everyone that I thought I was in heaven. I was just feeling so lost, floating around, not feeling anything. It dawned on me one night. That what I was missing was you. So I went there and just stood, looking up at the roof, replaying that night in my mind. Over and over, each night I went there. You ever think about that night?”

“All the time.”

“I wonder what I could have done differently, you know? If I had been thinking at all. You gave me the perfect out, but I didn’t take it. You were right what you said the other day. I wanted to punish you. I wanted to hurt you. Lashing out, trying to push down the confusion and the feelings.” She sighed. “But I went every night for a while. One night this tall, dark haired figure came out of the fog, and I just let go. For that one night I let go.” She took her hand. “The whole time I was thinking about you, it was you and me.”

Faith swallowed deeply, and Buffy noticed just the faintest hint of color at the bottom of her cheeks. “So what changed? I mean between you and Jane?”

“When I woke up in the morning, seeing her face, knowing she wasn’t you, that kinda sealed the deal. I couldn’t do what I did again. Unfortunately, Spike came along, and just loved the fact that I was laying in bed, naked with a woman.”

“So you did what came natural.” Faith grinned.

“Big orgy. Yupe. But it changed. I knew what she was, and I used her. I used her as much as I used Spike.”

“What did you use them for?”

“I controlled them.” Buffy started and then stopped. She felt nervous talking like this, but she told herself, who better to understand than Faith? Faith waited. “Nothing in my life made any sense, it felt like it was all happening around me and I had no control over it. I hated that feeling. But when I was, with them, I was in control of the situation. Am I making any sense?”

“Perfect.” Faith rubbed her inner forearm absently. “I did that too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, but not with the sex.” She shrugged. “I would cut myself.” She waited. “HS tells me that it is about control too. When you feel like everything in your life is out of your hands, and you are just going with it, we need something to make us feel like we are actually there, in life. So I would cut myself. I controlled where, I controlled how deep, and I controlled how long I bled.” Faith shrugged “Just like you controlled who came, and when, and how.”

“You did see me.” Buffy looked down ashamed. She never knew she could be so aggressive sexually, but she was when it came to Jane. It was something she never knew she was capable of. Faith’s admission was not a surprise, Buffy had noticed the faint white scars on the inside of her forearm before. Only now she better understood.

“I saw enough to know that you were in complete control.” Faith nodded.

“I don’t need that from her anymore, Faith. I don’t want it.”

“You do need it, sometimes, B. And that is okay.” She ran her finger over Buffy’s cheek. “Problem is, I can’t give that control up to you.”

“Oh, but I didn’t mean that. I meant that I don’t feel so out of control anymore.”

“Really?”

“Yes really. You are helping me so much.”

"That’s me, being all helpful." She grinned, and Buffy wanted to kiss her cheek, but didn’t.

“Speaking of which. Did I tell you that Xander and Anya are back together? And I mean in the biblical sense?”

“No shit?” she chuckled. “Finally the boy seals the deal. So how did he tell you?”

“Actually I interrupted.”

“B, you naughty voyeur.”

“Not like that! I called Anya, and she appear, a little disheveled.”

“You mean naked?”

“Yeah.” The conversation had turned from serious to just talking, and that was nice. All of this was nice. Buffy closed her eyes, just feeling Faith sitting next to her, feeling like she was going to be okay, and Faith was going to be okay.

“B?” Faith asked after the long pause.

“Hmm?”

“I always wondered. Do her curtains match the carpet?”

“Faith!”

*****

Faith was eating her second bowl of cereal, watching Dawn pushing her spoon through the now chocolaty milk. That cereal was soggy and Faith knew Dawn wouldn’t eat it. That much was clear from her smirk. Giles was taking in the scene, amused. He glanced at his watch again, wondering when Buffy would be coming down stairs. He needed to leave soon, if he was to make his flight back to London on time.

“So, Kiddo, how are you feeling?” Faith asked leaning forward.

“Normal.” Dawn pouted.

“And that’s bad?” Faith laughed out.

“It could be worse, I could be dead.”

“No way. B would never let anything happen to you.” Faith finished her last bite of breakfast, and stood to take her bowl to the sink.

“Giles, if I am not the Key any more, what am I?” Dawn looked up at him.

“You are Dawn Summers.” Buffy said as she came in the room, and Giles sighed thankful that she had come to his rescue. He had been unclear on how to answer that request, as he was not even sure what the effect of the spell would have had on the young Summers.

“But am I really not the Key?”

“You could always take her to L.A.” Faith shrugged turning back to the group.

“Why?” Dawn asked.

“There is this demon, Lorne. He can read your soul, your future. Maybe he can tell you guys what is happening inside of Kiddo.” Faith offered, shrugging her shoulders.

“No.” Buffy crossed her arms.

“Just a suggestion, B.” Faith replied.

There was definite tension between the Slayers, but Giles knew that he had no time to play councilor to them. The back door opened and Holburn stepped in.

“Mr. Giles, ready when you are.” He said with a drawn smile. Poor boy was exhausted, that much was clear from the circles under his eyes. He sighed heavily. He had said his goodbyes to Xander, Anya, and Willow last night. This was what he was dreading, saying goodbye to the girls he thought of as his own.

Faith stepped up to him and squeezed his arm. “I will get out of the way of family time. I just wanted to wait to tell you thank you.”

“Faith?” He questioned.

“Even though, well, we all know who I am and what I have done. Still, you trusted me with them.” She looked over to Buffy and Dawn with a shrug. “That meant a lot to me. So thanks.” She cleared her throat. “Yeah, okay. I gotta go.” She stepped away, and he watched the emotion playing out on her face. She had changed so much. Granted the girl had much more growing to do, but she was making progress and he had no doubt that Holburn would be a good influence on her. Staying here on the Hellmouth where she was needed was the best thing for her. “Don’t drink too much on the flight.” She grinned widely at him, and then walked to the back door. Giles noticed Buffy was tracking her with her eyes, taking in the younger Slayer’s every movement. Yes, something had happened. He smiled.

“Faith, will you met me at the new house after work?” Holburn asked softly.

“Sure thing, watcher man.” She was still grinning as she walked out the back door.

Giles looked to Buffy, who still transfixed with the departing Faith. He had the urge to snap his fingers at her, but did not. She seemed to come out of it on her own, and was suddenly in his arms, clutching him.

*****

“Am I going to be okay?” She mumbled into his chest.

“It all depends, do you think you will.” He held her shoulders, pulling her back to look her in the eye. “It is all up to you Buffy. You control whether you view the glass half empty or half full.”

Buffy rolled her eyes.

“I am being quite serious you know.” He tapped the end of her nose, a gesture he rarely braved, but knew would be allowed as he was soon to be half way round the world. “You control the theme of your life. You shape it by your attitude. If you keep going on thinking that everything is unfair, that everyone is out to get you. That is how your life will feel.” She huffed. “I know you don’t want to heard this, Buffy, but I think you need to hear it. You life is going wonderfully, better than I ever believed it could. There is so much for you to be thankful and happy for. I want to see you grow even more, become even happier.” He hugged her again strongly. “I am so proud of you.”

*****

She opened the door to see Faith standing there, grinning with her arms crossed. She hadn’t expected to see the Slayer so early. After years of knowing and living with Buffy, Willow thought she knew a Slayer’s sleeping habits.

Just another example of how different Faith and Buffy are.

“Hey you.” Willow said, opening the door wider, and Faith strolled inside.

“Hey.” She looked around the room. Willow had cleaned up most of the debris from the fight. Though there was still some evidence of it. “Shit.” Faith walked over to the window, tapping a piece of broken glass that was jutting out from the frame. “Sorry about this. Get me the bill when it’s fixed, I will take care of it.” Faith said.

"Faith, you can’t afford-" Willow protested.

“Sure I can. Just get it to me.” She walked into the living room and sat heavily on the couch.

“The Council pays that well?” Willow asked smiling.

“God, no.” She laughed. “But what they give me, and what I get from work, no problem.”

“Work?” Willow asked.

“Shit, right work. I have to go.” Faith sprung up from the couch.

“This just isn’t fair.” Willow mumbled.

“Excuse me?” Faith stopped halfway to the door.

Willow gulped, seeing Faith’s scowl. “Heh.” Willow faltered. “You, job, big mystery.”

“My job is a mystery?” She grinned.

“There is a pool.”

“Shut up!” Faith laughed. “You are betting on where I work.”

“Yes.” Willow nodded, partially ashamed.

“Tell me.” Faith crossed her arms.

“Xander was thinking, Stripper.”

“No.”

“Bouncer?”

“No.”

“Butcher?”

“No.”

“Bartender?”

“No.” Faith sighed. “God, shows what you guys think of me huh?”

“I thought maybe you were a waitress.” Willow shrugged. “So tell me, please?”

Faith sighed. “I shouldn’t.” She stepped closer to Willow. “You laugh, I will hit you. Are we clear?”

“Crystal.” Willow nodded, beaming inside. She had no idea what it could be.

She glanced at her watch. “Ugh. Fine. I work over at St. Michael’s.”

“A church?” Willow was dumb struck.

“Sort of. I cook.”

“For the priests?”

“No. I cook with a bunch of other people, for the soup kitchen they run in the evenings.” Faith’s shoulders dropped. “Happy?”

“Um,” Willow was speechless. Faith was helping people. Why had they not thought of that?

“Okay. I really have to go.” Faith turned and walked away.

“Um, Faith?” Willow asked as the Slayer opened the door. It dawn on her that she forgot to ask before.

“Huh?”

“Why did you come over, I mean, not that I don’t like to see you and all of that, especially after you carried me about ten miles in your arms last night, again thank you for that, but there seems to be something wrong, and I mean, is there something wrong? I am pretty good about helping out when things are wrong. Unless you are here to talk about the magic. Did Xander tell you that I shouldn’t do magic? That’s it, he sent you over here to beat the magic out of me. But maybe it is something else all together. Goddess, is something wrong?” Willow blurted.

Faith laughed lightly, shaking her head. “I wanted to talk, but it wasn’t anything important.”

“You can come by later?” Willow offered, but it came out sounding more like a question.

“Sure.” Faith nodded, and slipped out of the apartment.

I wonder what she wanted to talk about? This is Faith, and Faith and talking did not go together. Ooh, maybe it was about Buffy?! Willow grinned.

*****

“And how was your day?” Holburn asked as Faith stepped onto the porch. The sun was just starting to drop in the west, and it made the temperature rise. He wondered, not for the first time, how she managed to look so at ease dressed in those tight fitting clothes.

“Same shit, different day.” She shrugged. “So, I am here.”

“What do you think of the house?” He asked tentatively. He had hoped to discuss it with his Slayer sooner, but things had arisen. Mr. Giles informed him that waiting for anything in Sunnydale was a bad idea, as apocalypses and other catastrophes were always popping up.

“It’s big.” She looked up appreciatively.

“Yes. It is. Plenty of room.” He had to be careful.

“For?”

“A training room, a library.”

“A regular Slayer central then huh?” She grinned, seeming to like the idea.

“That is what I was hoping for.”

“Right.” She dragged out.

“A few months of construction and it will be ready. I only need to find someone reasonable.” He mused.

“Xander.”

“Pardon?”

“He does this stuff. Building stuff.” She shrugged, noncommittal as always.

“Well that is good news. I will discuss it with him tonight.”

“So, okay, are we done?” She was fidgeting, it was ever so slightly, but Holburn picked up on it.

“I want you to live here, with me Faith.”

“Sorry, tweed, I don’t sleep with the boss.” She grinned. “Did I just say that?”

“You did. And that is not what I meant.” He returned her smile.

“What did you mean then?”

“A lot of room in this home, just as you said. I was thinking of having separate quarters built for you. Possibly in the attic.” He nodded to the high turrets.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Wicked.”

*****

I didn’t want to see her tonight. It was too soon. I had spent most of today trying to understand what was going on inside of my head. I knew I wanted her, but I mean, come on, what else was new. Wanting someone was okay. I could fuck them and then move on. But not B. There was something more I wanted from her, something more I always wanted. It wasn’t just her body, it wasn’t just the physical. There was something else I wanted from her. And that just scared the hell out of me. I did not want to be feeling this way.

So I went out to patrol, and of course she found me. We just seemed to meet in the middle of the cemetery, walked right up to each other. And that was where we were. Standing here, staring.

God she looked so good tonight.

Loose skirt, high leather boots, and tight top. I felt my jaw clench as I roamed my eyes over her body. I knew I could pull her against, me, taste the gum she was absently popping in her mouth. She wouldn’t stop me that was clear. But it wouldn’t be enough. It would break my heart again.

“Hi.” She said softly.

“Hey.” I looked down at my boots, noticing a few new scuffs. I’d have to buff those out later. “Dawn doing alright?” I offered. If we had to do this talking thing, I wanted to talk about anything other than what had happened last night.

“Same Dawn. Wanted to come out on patrol.”

“So where is she?” I asked.

“Home. I said no.” Buffy caught my dancing eyes, and held them. “I was hoping to find you.”

“Oh.” I felt a ripple through my stomach, overriding the butterflies that settled when she looked at me. A Vampire. THANK GOD. “You feel that?”

“Yeah, but it’s a young one.” She acknowledged.

*****

She stood beside a tree about two hundred yards away from them, twirling a bit of hair between her fingers. Things were so much better now. She could feel the low humming of the power coming off of the two Slayers as they stood talking. Before she was turned, Jane could feel the power of the Slayer in an embrace, in a hand clutching at her. But this? She grinned. This was exquisite.

Look at them. A trick of the eyes. Seeming so normal, so frail. But so strong, so angry. All a trick. She sang in her mind. Her Sire had warned her not to approach the Slayers, that she was not strong enough yet. But soon she would be. Soon. And Jane had vowed to have both of them, either with her forever, or dead.

*****

“Should we go over and check it out?” Faith asked. But Buffy didn’t want to move, she wanted to stay here and get Faith to talk to her. To talk about them. Faith had effectively maneuvered around talking about them this morning, and Buffy had let her, but she needed to talk now.

“Naw. Feel it? They’re leaving.”

“I would. Two Slayers? Don’t want to fuck with that.”

Buffy grinned at the pride she heard in Faith’s voice. She took a step closer and moved to set her hand on Faith’s arm.

“Faith,” she said softly. The girl backed away, and all Buffy was given was her fingertips brushing down her strong forearm.

“I, I,” Faith stammered and looked behind her.

Nothing there to help you, Faith.

“We need to talk.”

“NO.WE.DON’T.” Faith said loudly. “See you later B.” She turned on the heel of her boots and quickly walked away.

“Please don’t go.” Buffy whispered sadly.

*****

What is wrong with me? B wants me, that is clear, but why does she want me? God should it even matter? I mean this is Buffy Summers!

She could lie on the ground and order me to make her come and I should do it in a heartbeat. That was what people did when she offered herself. You took the offer.

I stomped away, wondering for the thousandth time that day what was wrong with me, and why I was holding back.

*****

“Giles is really gone this time, yes?”

“Yes, An, he is gone. Um, why the sudden interest in Giles?” Xander asked, rolling to his side. He looked over at the demon, the demon he loved, as she lay on his bed, the sheet just barely covering her naked breasts. They had just spent an hour relearning the others body, and were both thinking, looking at the ceiling. He was wondering how he had gotten so lucky that she still loved him, wondering when would be a good time for him to ask her to move back in. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe she was nervous, that was why she was wondering about Giles.

“Oh, sorry. I know it was inappropriate for the setting, and the whole, no talking about other people while naked rule.” She sighed. “I was thinking about my day, putting every memory in the right place, and I was stuck on him.”

“Stuck on Giles huh?”

"No. Not like that. It's just, I was getting used to owning the shop, and he came back, and well then the shop was destroyed, and I wasn’t-" She rolled over and looked at him. “Xander do you love me?”

“What? Of course I do. I never stopped.”

“You know that you hurt me. I mean really really hurt me.”

“I know, Anya, and I will do anything to make it up to you.”

She snorted, rolling onto her back again. “I doubt that.”

“But, I.”

“Please. I wanted to get married, I wanted to spend the rest of the mortal life I had with you. You didn’t. You left.”

“I was afraid of turning into my parents, of being so unhappy, making you unhappy.” He sighed.

“How can you think like that? I mean, going through life worrying about what you might or might not do.” He felt her take his hand, and Xander took that as a good sign. “Loving someone is about taking that risk, about being with them through what happens. About not being afraid of what might happen years from now, but looking forward to being there, regardless. So I have to wonder, if you really did love me.”

“I don’t know how many times I can say that I am sorry.” He squeezed her hand.

“I don’t want sorrys, and I don’t want promises, not anymore.”

“What do you want?” He turned looking at her profile. She would always be the most beautiful woman in the world to him. Nervously he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Let’s take it day by day. That’s all I can do.” She sighed.

“Thank you.” He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, before sliding his arm under her pillow, pulling her close.

*****

“You still love her, don’t you?”

I snapped my neck, turning to stare at Red. We were sitting on the couch in the apartment, me sipping a beer, her drinking tea. I had come over, hoping to put enough distance between me and B, at least until I sorted my head out. I had thought it was weird, to be sitting there just talking about Tara, and about magic with Red. I mean, never in a million years did I ever think I would have her as a friend. But there we were. And then she drops that bombshell of a question on me. “You don’t know what you are talking about.”

“I think I do. I know something is going on. They way she is looking at you, and I know I caught you looking at her too.”

“I am not.” I sneered.

“You are. I know about the smoochies.” She said softly, and I rolled my eyes. Of course.

“So what?” I snapped.

“So what is your problem?” Willow asked, turning to really face me.

“My problem is she fucking broke my heart.” I growled, and drained the rest of the beer, setting the bottle on the coffee table. I did not want to talk about this.

“Why didn’t you fight for her though? I never understood that. Don’t give me that look. I knew you were into her, why do you think I was so jealous? It was like everything was moving on fine between you two, and then everything just blew up.” She knew? Well I guess me drawing hearts on the window wasn’t the most discreet thing I had done.

“Something almost happened.” I ran my hand over my face. I was going to tell her this? God. “Almost, but Angel showed up, and then we went out slaying, and then I stabbed Allan.” I sighed. “No time to fight for her. And if she didn’t want me for being a girl then she sure as shit wouldn’t want me being a killer.”

“But she wants you now.”

“Right.” I scoffed.

“If I am right, and she does, Faith, what is stopping you?”

Oh, if you only knew Red. If you only knew how disastrous my experience with women was.

<I woke to fingers running ever so softly over my face and neck. Whispering touches moving from my jaw over my chin, down over the top of my chest. Even slightly awake I was aching to feel those fingers on my lips, feel the fingers move down to pinch my nipples, but they teased and danced away.

Slowly I opened my eyes. “Morning.”

“God you are beautiful.” The fingers kept dancing over my flushed skin.

“Sorry I slept late.” I pushed back the blankets, but was held down by the fingers, moving over the length of my stomach that was exposed between panties and my tank top.

It had been a crazy night, meeting on the corner, just a block away from my apartment, making the agreement, and then coming up here, to this room. It was cheap, but that was okay. Last night, when I touched her, when I felt her body sweating and twitching underneath mine, there had been nothing else in the world. Just her, just the fact that she was a woman, and so perfect. It was completely new, and just seemed better than anything I had ever felt before.

“So soft.”

The fingers moved down and cupped my sex, which was soaking, and aching. My legs opened automatically and the fingers now moved in a circular rhythm over my clit. God that felt good. Her other hand pushed up my tank top, revealing rock hard nipples, and her lips came down.

“I just want to bite.” She hissed before doing just that.

I moaned, arching into the mouth and hands, wanting nothing more than to feel hot flesh on mine, to feel the closeness of another body. It seemed like I had been waiting my whole life for this.

"Please," I moaned, and pushed down the panties myself. The fingers continued their low rolling over my clit, rubbing not too hard, not too soft, not too slow not too fast, just enough to not be enough, and keep me on the brink. I felt stuck. Rolling my hips trying for more pressure, but my core ached. “Please.” I moaned again, “Please go inside.”

The hand pulled away, the lips pulled away from my breasts. “You take too long to come. And my arm hurts.” She said, rolling off the bed, walking away and slamming the bathroom door. I closed my eyes, feeling my heart thundering in my chest, wondering what I had done wrong, what had I said wrong. I replayed all of it, the waking up, the just letting my body move on its own. Was it my fault that after years of shutting down emotionally, only concerned with getting whomever I was with off fast so I could be gone, turned into neglect? That my body took forever to climax with another person? It must be.

I felt a tear straining at the corner of my eye, wanting to escape, but blinked it back. I cried for no one. And she certainly didn’t cry for a fucking trick.

I rolled off of the bed, pulling up the blankets, habitually straightening them. Then I dressed, hearing the shower on in the other room. On came the jeans, and the boots. I found my jacket on the other side of the bed, and pulled it on. She had left a fifty on the dresser, and I picked it up as I walked past, heading out the door.>

No, Red didn’t need the details. It was just a trick, and it had been a long time ago in Boston.

“I was with a woman, once.” I said, swallowing thickly, the memory having tightened my throat. Red sat up, attentive. “It didn’t go well at all. Actually.” I laughed of my nervousness “It was a disaster. But I thought with B it would have been perfect.” I locked eyes with Red, “But it wasn’t. It was even worse.”

*****

It was quiet in the kitchen. Willow looked at Faith, who was sitting on the counter, with a hand full of M&Ms, studying them before tossing them in her mouth. A smiled curled on her lips. She noticed Buffy looking through some paperwork that the School Board had sent over to her. It was amazing, that Buffy Summers was now the librarian of Sunnydale High School. Willow noticed was Buffy looking up to catch glimpses of Faith. Playing matchmaker would be a snap, the redhead thought. After talking last night, even though Faith had left out a lot of details, it became clear to Willow that the only thing holding Faith back was fear; fear of rejection, fear of being hurt again.

“Faith?” Willow asked, and the brunette snapped her head up, quirking an eyebrow. “Weren’t you going to pick up Dawn for patrol?”

“Right. It is that time, isn’t it.” Faith hopped down from the counter. “Um, B, are you still sure this is okay?”

“More than okay. If you can handle her, then please, by all means.” Buffy smiled.

“Okay. I’ll bring her home after about one or so.” Faith said, walking towards the back door. “See ya.” The door slammed behind her. Willow looked up, catching a lazy smile on the blonde’s lips.

Buffy really likes her! I knew it!

Grinning Willow asked, “Hey Buffy have you ever noticed how Faith eats M&Ms?”

“What?” Buffy asked dreamily.

"You know, she eats all the brown, then red, then-"

“Yellow and then blue, leaving the green for last.” Buffy said, and then turned to Willow, blushing. “Uh, yeah. I noticed.”

“I think it is kind of cute.” Willow smiled.

“Don’t let Faith hear you say that.” Buffy leaned forward. “But you are right, it is cute.”

“Buff?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you like Faith?”

“Of course.”

“No, Buffy. I am serious, I mean as in like, like.”

“God, are we in High School again?” Buffy laughed, but then her smile fell. “I really, I mean. Wills there is something there, something inside of her that I am drawn to. But she refuses to talk to me about us, about anything the past two days.”

“She is scared.” Willow confessed.

“Why?” Buffy set down her pen and looked at her best friend, honestly hoping for the answer.

“Buffy you broke her heart. That isn’t something she can just forget.”

“I know.” Buffy sighed. “I don’t know how to get through to her. It’s like I can tell that she wants to be with me just as much as I want to be with her, but she is stopping herself.”

“She is.”

*****

They were walking through Restfield Cemetery. Dawn had been so excited, to be able to patrol with Faith. But they had been walking for hours. Faith walked around a lot more than Buffy. Her feet were tried from standing all day at her retail job at the tee shirt store in the mall, plus Faith had said less than five words in the past two hours. She was brooding and it was driving Dawn crazy.

“Ugh!” Dawn threw her hands in the air. “So what is your problem?”

“What?” Faith asked, stopping.

“Buffy was crying half the night.”

“And that is my fault?” Faith asked, setting her hands on her hips.

“She was sobbing your name, so yeah, it’s your fault. Don’t you love her anymore?”

“Ack.” Faith choked.

*****

She didn’t want to stay home, waiting for Faith to come back with Dawn. She was fidgeting. She had decided to go out and patrol. Just a little action to take the edge off, and she had found it a block away from her house.

A huge scaly demon was choking a young high school kid a few doors down from the bar. The demon was talking in some weird language.

“Hey, I think you were looking for me.” Buffy tapped the demon on the shoulder.

“No, want him.”

“Well I was looking for you, big guy.” She grinned punching him square in the face.

*****

“Um, Dawn.” Faith tried to speak, but was still red from choking on shock. “What in the world makes you think that?”

“It is so obvious that you had it for her when you first came to town. I mean, in all reality I wasn’t here, but the memories I have, of sitting on the stairs and watching you two sitting on the couch, you holding her hand sometimes. You think the monks would have made those memories up? Don’t think so.” Dawn poked her finger into Faith’s chest. “So what is the deal? You love her and then you don’t? You can just turn it on and off?”

“Don’t you want her to get back with Spike?” Faith asked, squinting.

“If you weren’t around, sure. Spike has always been my replacement Faith. The leather, the bad attitude but the softy just underneath. I mean, come on! He is so you, well, without the erm, breasts. I mean. Totally different, you guys are totally different.” Dawn stammered stepping back.

“Listen, Kiddo. Things with me and B are,” Faith stopped.

“Are?” Dawn pressed.

“Behind you. Two of them. Let’s play.” Faith grinned and rushed past Dawn, who scowled, that they had been interrupted.

*****

She tasted so good. That was all that Jane could think as she lapped again at the throbbing center before her. Cold thighs rubbed against her cheeks as she moved her entire head over and over her Sire’s clit. They had been doing this for hours. Jane feasting on her, not wanting to leave the fount she found here. As her teeth pinched the hard bundle of nerves the woman below her howled, coming hard. Smiling Jane lifted her head up and looked into the deep eyes that were boring down on her.

“You are quite good at that.” Her Sire appraised.

“Lots of practice.” Jane licked her lips.

“I can see that.” She smiled, and patted the bed next to her. Jane crawled up the body and lay down, resting her cheek on her Sire’s shoulder. “And what, sweet Jane, can I ever do to repay you for tonight?”

“Help me get the Slayers.” Jane replied without a seconds thought.

“Oh, that is a given.”

Jane thought, running her fingers over the rich brown skin. What did she want besides that? She was immortal, she was strong. She was safe.

“Tell me your name?”

“Ah.” The woman sighed. “You can call me Veronica.” She kissed the top of Jane’s head. “You my dear are my first child, and I must say, I am pleased.” She pulled Jane into her arms. “So pleased that we are going to get the slayers.”

*****

“Thank you, Slayer.” The boy said, rubbing his neck. “He was going to kill me.”

Buffy looked down at the quickly disappearing blue sludge that was the demon. She loved the ones that decomposed on their own, less work. She turned to the boy, just realizing what he said. “Yeah, well. Don’t know what you meant by a Slayer.” Buffy tried to play it off.

“My kind knows all about you.” He smiled standing.

“Your kind?”

“I am an EEEEAWAAAAAAAAKJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJDSEEEEEEEEEE.” His mouth opened and instead of words it was a high pitch screeching noise. Buffy felt like her ears were going to bleed. She clamped her hand over his mouth, silencing him.

“Okay that is not ever going to happen again. Slayer hearing, and that HURTS.” She groaned.

“Sorry.” He smiled. “But you saved me, and my kind repay our debts.”

“No, that’s okay.” She backed away.

“I must. I will grant you a wish. You may take it with you, and use it when you want.” He smiled.

“I may be a Slayer, but I make some mistakes, what if I screw up my wish?” She asked honestly, recalling the many screwy wishes she had lived through.

“Ah, a safety word. Of course. You will wish your wish, and if you ever want to take it back, just say ‘Big Red’.”

“Big Red? You are kidding right?”

“No. I like Big Red gum, and I am giving you the wish, so the safety word is Big Red.”

“What happens if I say the safety word?”

“Everything goes back to where it was right when you made the wish.”

*****

“Dawn, don’t!” I called out. After finding a freshly risen vamp, I had shown off a bit, and vaulted over one of the tombstones. Easy as pie for me, but I had been doing it for years. I was stupid. I should have known that Dawn would try it herself. And there she was, arms down, body coming up, and I knew. I watched unable to move my eyes away, but feeling in my gut what was coming, the way she was falling, how she was going to land. Her right leg went forward, but only from below the knee. The sound of the bone cracking echoed through the night and over rode all the sound from the rest of the world. I felt my stomach lurch, the leg bent wrong. The crack echoed in my ears. God that was terrible.

*****

Buffy came out of the room, having watched them wrapping the cast on her sister’s leg. The pain was gone, due to the heavy use of morphine, and Dawn was babbling to the young intern. She eased the door closed behind her, looking up to see Faith pacing in the waiting room. Her head snapped up, and they walked towards each other, standing just slightly down an adjacent hall.

“Sorry B, I never meant for her to get hurt. I should have been watching.” Faith breathed out, her eyes round with apology.

“No it isn’t your fault. It was an accident.” Buffy said. She knew her sister was showing off, it had been no ones fault.

"But, I should have been-"

“Faith, no, it is okay.” Buffy said, cupping Faith’s neck in her hand and rising her face up to bring their lips together. Buffy was tired of waiting, of wondering what Faith was feeling. She pressed harder against the lips, and they opened against her. Buffy slipped her tongue into Faith’s mouth, searching, as she moved her other hand to Faith’s waist. A deep moan came from the taller Slayer, and Buffy felt her feet leave the ground as Faith’s arms encircled her waist and pulled their bodies together forcefully. Faith was kissing her back, and Buffy could feel it everywhere. Even her toes were tingling. The passion flowed between them, and the kiss became even more forceful, deep and hungry. The Slayers forgot the entire world for a second in that kiss. There was only the taste of them. Buffy felt like she could kiss Faith all night, forever even. Her feet touched the ground again, and Buffy felt Faith’s tongue pull at her top lip, gently feeling the inside of her mouth. Then Buffy felt it. Not the desire, that was clear, but the feelings, the emotions that Faith had been keeping locked inside of her. Buffy’s eyes felt like they rolled back into her head. Faith wrenched her lips away, and Buffy groaned, opening her eyes.

“I can’t.” She stuttered, and then ran away. Buffy watched her go, and noticed Willow standing in the corner. Her best friend's hand was at her throat, and her eyes shimmered with concern.

Buffy wanted to follow, wanted to beat some sense into the other Slayer if that was what it took. She looked back at the closed door. She couldn’t leave. She had to stay for Dawn.

*****

She was just sitting. That was it. Sitting. Ankles crossed over her bare toes that were painted a deep bruising red, legs covered loosely in off white flannel pants, white tank top that was thinned from years of washing. Elbows on her knees, palms up to cup her cheeks, her blonde hair slightly messed, framing her face. Her hazel eyes would occasionally blink as she watched Kiddo hobbling on her cast, moving in the kitchen, making breakfast for the two of them. She was just sitting, and I was standing, outside, looking in through the open screen door, feeling how hot it was going to be later in the day, because already the sun on my back was scorching. I was going to step inside, about five minutes ago, but seeing her, sitting, I froze.

I had been fighting it; I had been being really good about keeping any emotion locked away. But walking up the back steps, looking inside and seeing her, I was clearly not paying attention. Because looking at Buffy Summers I felt smacked dumb by love. I was in love with her.

It wasn’t supposed to happen, and it certainly wasn’t supposed to just appear. Love did nothing but hurt. Sure it felt like my heart was going to smash through my chest, dropping on the warping back porch boards. But if it did she could easily step on it. That was the whole problem, she would hurt me again, and I was freaking out about that. About her having that amount of power, to cut me with a look, or worse, no look.

Her head came up off of her hands, and she looked through the screen to see me standing there. Slowly a smile appeared on her lips, and she sat straighter. It was like she was moving in slow motion, through water, something like that. She unfolded from the chair and took the seven steps from the chair to the door. B stood on the other side, looking through the rusted screen looking at me as intently as I was looking at her.

What was she thinking? What was she feeling? I’d give anything to be able to get inside of that head of hers.

*****

She was shimmering. That was Buffy’s thought as she stood looking through the screen door. The morning sun shining behind her, setting off highlights in her hair. She looked different during the day, she always had. At night she slinked through the blackness, blending in with the shadows, in her leather. But during the day lately she looked so different, softer, if that was possible for Faith to look soft. Today she wore black jeans, not so tight; they hung low on her hips. A rust colored tank top. Her arms hung at her sides, but as she closed her right hand into a loose fist, the muscles of her forearm jerked, and rippled.

Buffy wanted to step through the door and envelope Faith in her arms. She could feel something to happening, she wasn’t sure what it was, but she could feel it. Buffy raised her hand, setting it on the grime covered metal mesh, looking intently at Faith. She let everything she felt inside when thought about Faith bubble to the surface, the feeling of safety, of oneness she felt when they slayed together.

Buffy set her palm on the screen and held her breath.

Slowly, Faith raised her hand, and set their palms together.

Buffy could feel the tingle running up an down her body, the hairs on the back of her neck raise, as Faith looked at her, as she felt the warmth of the hand on hers.

With a piercing glance, Buffy tried to make it clear, her emotions, where she stood. She wanted Faith to be part of her life, and more than just a friend, more than another slayer.

A gentle turn of the right corner of her lip, an almost smile. That was what Faith gave to her. Slowly the hand dropped, Faith turned, and began walking away. She moved slowly, over the dead grass. Buffy could hear it snapping under the boots as she moved. She wanted to call out, ask Faith to stop, not to go. But she knew better. This was all up to Faith now. It was her choice if she wanted to be with Buffy. They all told her this. After what she did to Faith, she didn’t blame her.

She would just wait.

*****

Two months later

*****

“Just call me Jesus.” Xander quipped as he sat beside Buffy on the front steps of Holburn’s house. She turned to look at him.

“Not amused.” She groaned.

"What? Carpenter-"

“Xander.”

“Right, sorry. Inappropriate humor better saved for when working with other grunting meat eating and sweaty men.” Buffy raised her eyebrow. “Can we just rewind time, let’s say five minutes?”

“Deal.” She smiled. “So how is it going?”

"Almost done. You should have seen the look on Faith’s face when she saw the-" Xander stopped, noticing the color drop from Buffy’s cheeks. He had screwed up again, and he knew it. There was a specific rule, no one mentioned either Slayer to the other. It had been like that for two months. It was personally driving him a little wacky.

“The what, Xander?”

“Um, sorry? What was I prattling on about?”

“Faith.” She sighed.

“Nope, no talking about Faith. Why would I? Hardly see her.” He shrugged. But he did see her. She loved what they had done with the training room, and now that they were almost finished with her apartment upstairs, well, Xander Harris had never seen her look so happy. But that was definitely something he would never say in the company of Buffy, not now that they were playing the whole North and South thing. Why couldn’t the two of them just talk?

“Really?”

“Yeah. Heard she was going to patrol early tonight, just after sunset.” Xander threw out there, knowing he might have caused something, but didn’t care. Faith had helped him get back with Anya. Even though she scared the hell out of him, he figured Faith deserved a chance with Buffy.

“Oh?” Buffy asked. Xander grinned. Got her, hook line and sinker.

*****

She had spent the day with Faith, helping out at St. Michael’s. It was amazing to watch Faith as she moved around the kitchen like she owned the place. That she seemed to just know where everything was and how everything worked. Willow was no cook, that was for sure. But watching Faith, she made it all seem simple. Sure, Willow had been just a little nervous when Faith picked up a large chef’s knife and twirled it in her fingers as she walked to the large chopping block. Faith knew how to handle knives, that was for sure. Willow’s nervousness had subsided after Faith slaughtered five large onions in minutes, making delicate, small pieces. Doubly amazed that Faith did not shed one tear.

It had been Faith who brought up Tara that afternoon, as the two of them sat on the back steps of the rectory. Willow keeping Faith company as she smoked, and the dark hair girl brought up Tara.

<”How did you know you loved her?” Faith asked.

“I just did.” Willow shrugged. “I think I always did, but I was scared, you know her being this sexy female witch, and I so did not understand why I wanted to touch her all the time.” Willow laughed. Faith was still waiting for an answer though; Willow knew that she just wouldn’t ask again. “I don’t know Faith. It was just this feeling. When I would see her my stomach would flop. When I would think about her, about maybe I would get to run into her on campus or something, I’d get all nervous and sweaty. But I think I really knew when we did the spell, to find out what was wrong with Buffy, you know when you were in her body.”

“Yeah, I vaguely remember that.” Faith laughed.

“Right. We were doing this spell, and I had to completely trust her. It was a powerful spell, with all the sweating and panting.”

Faith grinned.

“Mind. Gutter. You.” She pushed Faith’s shoulder. “I looked into her eyes, I took her hand and I knew. I could feel it. I wanted to be with her, be near her, for the rest of my life.”

“I am sorry Willow. That she was taken from you. She really loved you. Even after she left you, um, she still talked about how much she loved you.”

“Thank you, Faith.”>

Willow kneeled in front of the granite marker, setting some daisies down beside her. She had picked them while strolling through the Meadows earlier, when she made the decision that it was time to come.

She had been under her parents guard when Tara was laid to rest, so she had not yet been here. After Faith took her to Buffy, she just hadn’t been ready. It wasn’t a matter of Willow being in denial, she knew her Tara was gone. She just wasn’t sure if she was ready to go look at a cold piece of stone and think of it as Tara. Tara was sunshine and warm breezes. She always would be.

The pain of loosing her, for the second time truly was unbearable to Willow. She had never given up hope that they were going to get back together after Tara left. Willow knew now that she had always handled the magic wrong, and handled Tara wrong. It wasn’t that Tara was jealous of the power Willow had, it was that Tara could see what Willow couldn’t or wouldn’t. That the magic was using her, and not the other way around. Only now could Willow understand that Tara just wanted what was best for Willow, wanting her to understand the very basic concepts of magic, and balance. She had gotten so powerful, so fast, that she lost the line between right and wrong, between patience and foolhardy rushing in.

This was Willow Rosenberg, school nerd, wearing funky stripes and corduroy. But when magic and Tara came into her life, she felt like she could become anyone she wanted. She could become someone powerful enough that people would pay attention that they would no longer make fun.

Before, Willow tried to place the blame of her introduction into the black arts on Glory. Why else would she have gone from making flowers float, and pencils twirl to snakes and flying daggers if not for a fucked up Hell God who dared to touch her Tara. Yet, over the coarse of a few months it had dawned on Willow, that it was all her fault. Yes it was true that Glory had sucked her Everything’s mind, reducing her to a lost, delirious shell. The action she took against Glory, that was all her. Tara would never have expected her to retaliate, but Willow had been enraged that something, someone dared to take away HER lover. None of it was about Tara, about getting even. It was about Glory taking Tara’s mind away from Willow. Her time and strength would have been better served in looking for a spell, looking for a way to bring Tara back, but her first priority had been to attack.

There was a darkness in her that she had never fully acknowledged, nor accepted. It was there, had always been. Was it a product of her up bringing? Having controlling parents whom in effect were never there? Was it a product of being ridiculed her entire youth, by the likes of Cordelia Chase and her lambs? Or was it simply something that was inherently inside of her. A darkness, an anger, a thirst for revenge? The black magic found its home inside of her, because she wanted it. She wanted the absolute power. And she never stopped to listen to Tara, or anyone else when they tried to tell her that it wasn’t Willow who was powerful, who was in control. It was the magic.

It had taken her killing Warren, torturing him with the slow entrance of the bullet from Buffy’s chest, basking in the delight of his pain, that made her see that something was terribly wrong. Even feeling detached from her own humanity, smirking as sweat rolled from his face, as the pain dilated his pupils, Willow felt that what she was doing was wrong. So she ended it swiftly, horribly wrenching his flesh from his body. If she had wanted to merely kill Warren, as punishment for taking her Tara, she could have done a spell and he would have been dead. She didn’t need to play with him in the woods. That was for the pleasure of the dark magic. That was when Willow knew that she had lost everything.

But by some miracle she had been given another chance. A chance to live again, to do something good. The remains of the black magic were gone from her body, and now she could only feel the slight presence of what she always had. A touch of white magic, a touch of the gift. She knew she could couple that with knowledge to help fight the good fight. Willow would be a powerful witch, not a vessel for uncontainable magics.

“Hey baby.” She traced engraving on the stone, thoughtfully. “I know you aren’t mad that I haven’t come to see you yet, but I want to say that I am sorry, just the same.” Willow sat back on her heels, looking over the surroundings. The lone willow tree in this cemetery was just a few yards off. Buffy had thought of getting this plot from Tara, it was the closest one to the tree. “Buffy picked out a nice spot for you. Close enough to see the tree, but not so close that we have to come and clean you off every day. Pesky birds. Oh not that I wouldn’t want to come every day, it is just that,” Willow stopped and set her hands on the warm grass. “You know what I mean.” She sighed. “I love you so much, Tara. I didn’t want to come here, I didn’t want to see. I was hoping, you know that you would come back to me, like you did before. But I know you can’t come back from this, no matter how much I want you to.” She lifted one of the flowers, rolling the soft petal gently between her thumb and forefinger. “You would tell me that it was your time if you could. That’s what Faith said. Sure I wanted to turn her into a snake for saying it. Oh, and no, I didn’t. Turn her into a snake I mean. She made a good point. That you were happy when it happened, and that really is the best time to go, happy, full of life and love, and in the middle of things. Those were probably the best days of my life. Basking in your love again. Being near you. I’ve never been happier. You can’t see my resolve face, but it is on.” She pointed to the look. “Tara, I will never not love you, and I hope I can be with you again someday. I’ll do my best, to end up wherever you are.” Willow’s smile fell, and she felt a wave of tears, and she didn’t care. Because the tears were okay, they were simply an expression of how she was feeling. “The best thing I ever did, in my whole life, was to let myself love you. Even though I was scared, and uncertain, I took the leap. It was the best decision of my life.”

*****

Buffy saw her first, walking slowly through the cemetery. She knew it was now or never. She was tired of playing the avoidance game, she wanted to lay all of her cards on the table and just tell Faith what she was feeling, and then force Faith to make a decision. She walked over to the other Slayer, who froze in her tracks.

“B.” She said softly.

“I want to be with you.” Buffy said firmly. Okay no small talk, just jump straight in.

“I can’t B.” Faith said sadly, looking down at her hands.

“You can’t or you won’t, F?” She snapped.

“I waited for you, did you know that? Back then? I have never waited for anyone else.”

“Well stop waiting,” Buffy replied.

“You think it is that easy? Do you know how much it hurt, that you would rather be with Angel than me?” Faith glared at her.

"But, I," Buffy started, but was cut off.

“He was dead, and cold. I wasn’t. You - ah fuck it B.” She threw her hands up in defeat.

“No!” Buffy actually stomped her foot to the ground.

“I can’t do this. Do you know how scared I am? How much you hurt me? I never opened up to anyone, I knew better. I did it any way though, for you. Goddamnit B I told you I loved you, and you let me walk away.” Buffy noticed Faith’s eyes glistening, but knew she wouldn’t cry. Faith was always too proud to cry. Why couldn’t Faith see that Buffy knew she made the wrong choice, and that if she could-

“Well you know what, Faith? I wish I could do it all over again! Starting on that night!”

...continued in Big Red...

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