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Book One: Evasion

by Amanda
Rating: NC-17

Note: A lot racier than the others. Some W/T. Some B/F (sort of). Also some quasi non-consensual sex, & violence (you have to get sad before you can appreciate happy). More borrowed dialogue, season 6.

He wished she would be still. Since she came in to meet him she had been moving all over the room, pacing like an animal. It was beginning to unnerve him, and he was getting afraid. Her reaction would probably not be a good one.

"SPIT.IT.OUT." She yelled at him suddenly, and he shivered.

"Quite, right." He locked eyes with her. "It is true."

"Which fucking part?" She laughed.

"You altered the spell that Willow was performing, you gave up part of your spirit to Buffy. If you had not, then, then-"

"Buffy would have come back a demon and Soul-boy would have killed her. I get that. But what does it all mean to the Council?" She was pacing the living room now, running her hands over her thighs.

"Could you stand still?" He pleaded.

"Can't, feel like I am back in a cage, like I am being held. Can't stop. Just talk." She said, angrily.

"The Council would like you to return to the hospital. We will keep you."

"Right." She hissed. "Come back in the morning. About nine." She said, moving to sit on the floor.

"Just like that?" He asked. She grinned up at him, her cheek dimpling.

"Nope. I won't be here in the morning." The grin widened. "But you knew that. See, G-man, this is how I am seeing things. The problem with me before was that there were two Slayers when there should only be one. Then there was one. And now, now there is one - just in two different bodies. So the way I am seeing things, there is no longer a problem. I will no longer be tempted to do evil, well, no more than anyone else, and that I can handle. Also I see that the Council, they are scared. And they should be. They fucked it all up, and it is falling apart around them. I will not allow them to hurt her again. I know you knew this is what I was going to say." She smiled softly at him.

"I was thinking you might feel this way."

"See, I am not stupid. And I know I can't stay here either. So don't worry, I am gone in the morning."

"Where will you go, Faith?" He asked, and he was sincere, and a little relieved.

"Away. Far enough to not be a distraction close enough to help if I am needed." He nodded at her and then stood. "Will you tell Blondie, thanks for me?" She asked after him.

"Of course." He opened the door, and then turned. "You have really done something here, when you were needed. I appreciate that. And, erm, Faith I forgive you." He smiled softly, and then left the room, closing the door behind him. She sat there for a moment, before resting her cheek on the bed, and closing her eyes, praying that morning would come soon.

*****

"Will?" Buffy asked as she entered the kitchen that morning. Willow was sitting at the kitchen table, holding a mug of coffee, her eyes moving over the stacks of mail before her. She looked up with tired eyes.

"Hey, Buffy. How are you feeling today?" She asked, watching her best friend as she moved over the coffee pot and poured a cup.

"Just like the old Buffy, grumpy in the morning." She said sitting down at the table. "What are you doing? Thinking of using bills to wall paper in here?"

"Maybe a good idea." Willow mumbled, and then looked over at Buffy.

"Oh, no, I know that look. What's wrong?"

"When you were gone, erm, the thing is, there wasn't as much money as everyone thought." Willow said, looking worried. Buffy shrugged. She had never had to think about money before; her Mom had handled all of that. And even after her Mom had died, she had been so caught up in saving the world from Glory that she never took the time to think about bills, and responsibilities.

"Just tell me Wills, rip it off like a band aid."

"Here." Willow handed her a bank statement, and watched as Buffy's eyes rounded in shock, and then as they narrowed into a squint. Very slowly Buffy set the paper down, and closed her eyes. She never knew there could be so many numbers behind a minus sign. "Buffy?" Willow asked, concerned as they had sat for five minutes not speaking. Neither of them noticed Tara standing in the doorway, watching them.

"One word comes to mind." Buffy grumbled. "Fuck." She stood up swiftly. "I guess I just need to get out there and get a job." Buffy was in full Slayer mode now.

"I am sorry, Buffy. Just with the house, and the insurance from your Mom." Slowly Tara backed out of the room, she had somewhere to be.

"It's okay Wills. I should have paid more attention, I will fix it. This is what I do." She walked out of the kitchen.

*****

The door opened, and Faith nearly slammed into Tara, who's hand was up to knock. Both girls stopped and locked eyes. Tara noticed immediately the change in Faith. She looked like she had never seen her. The dark hair held light curls around her shoulders; her skin was pale, but healthy. Her deep brown eyes were surrounded in smoky powder, making her look mysterious and exotic. Slowly her shockingly deep red lips turned up in a smile. This was the Faith that Tara had never known, when she was in her prime. Strength and confidence was radiating off of her. She was absolutely beautiful.

"Hey." Faith said lightly, dropping her bag to the ground.

"Leaving without saying goodbye?" Tara asked, trying to regain her composure.

"Better this way. Besides Blondie, I am known for my ability to run." She put her hand on her hip, and looked Tara up slowly. "What are you doing here?"

"Mr. Giles called me." Tara said, knowing the younger girl was leaving, but not wanting her to go. "I, I don't want you to go."

"What, getting all soft on me now?" Faith laughed.

"No, well, no. It's just I am not sure what really happened to bring Buffy back, and I am worried that if you go out there, something could happen, and you would be alone."

"Tara," Faith cupped the other girl's cheek, in a tender, friendly way. "I have been alone my whole life, it's nothing new." She dropped her hand and smiled again. "I'll be five by five." She stooped to pick up her bag again. "You don't need me here anymore. The number one Slayer is back in town, itching to save the world again. Sunnyhell will be just hunky dory. So I gotta motor-vaite." She took a step forward.

"Where will you go?" Tara asked softly. Faith shrugged. "What if she needs you?" Slowly Faith looked at Tara, locking eyes.

"She will never need me. I am nothing to her. It's better that she believes I am dead, got it?"

"But what if she does need you?" Tara asked, more firmly.

"I will call you every once and awhile." Tara nodded, and with that Faith walked down the hall, and disappeared into the shadows.

*****

"I am back!" Buffy whispered as she moved between a group of three vampires, smirking at them.

"Well, well, well. It is the little Slayer." The vampire hissed back.

"Hey, what's with the stature comments? I did not harp on the fact that none of your clothes were made in the past decade, now did I? Let's keep our opinions to ourselves, and I will kill you quickly, and then go get a mocha, kay?" Buffy said leaping forward, hitting him with a double punch to the chin, sending him flying through the air. She back kicked one who was coming up behind her. She moved too late, and got a punch up the side of the head. "Okay, Ow." She said, and moved her tongue along the inside of her mouth, all her teeth were still okay, but she could taste blood from her cut inner cheek. She spat on the ground, with a low growl in her chest. Buffy could feel something twisting inside of her body, strengthening and getting ready to snap. Another fist hit her chin, and she smiled wickedly, flipping over one vamp, and staking him while she was moving through the air. She rolled onto the ground and flipped up, throwing the stake like a dagger, and it hit another. Another one, grabbed her waist, and she flipped up, locking her thighs around his head and twisted with all of her strength, hearing and feeling his neck snap. God it felt like it had been so long since she had felt like this, feeling the primal energy moving through her limbs, her blood. She was The Slayer, and she loved it. He dropped to the ground and she staked him. Only the leader was left, and he was on his knees on the ground, backing away.

"Sorry, Slayer, really." He was pleading. Buffy just growled at him and moved forward, but suddenly he poofed.

"Well that was disappointing." She mumbled, seeing Spike stepping out of the shadows. He slipped his stake away. "Trying to ruin a girl's fun?"

"Just keeping you save, Luv." He replied.

"Keeping me safe?" She asked with a laugh, turning from him and walking away.

"This is your first night out, and well we all wanted to make sure you were okay." He jogged up beside her.

"Did it look like I had any trouble?" She was still high on the adrenaline of the kill, and her senses were all freaking out with Spike so close to her.

"None, pet. None at all. You were a real killing machine, made me proud it did." He said.

"Proud? Now you are taking credit for my slaying?" She looked at him over her shoulder. "Go back home Spike, oh, and stop sulking under my window. It's not going to work." She took off, walking more quickly towards downtown Sunnydale. A nice hot mocha would be her reward for slay well done.

*****

The bus rocked from side to side, kind of like being on a boat. But this boat was heading north, at about seventy miles an hour. It was quiet though, and for that I was happy. Night trips were the best, people and kids tended to sleep. I looked out the window again, and wondered how B was doing. With me out of the picture I am sure G-man would let her patrol again, and she would need it too. If she was anything like I was when I did it the first time after such a long while. It had been exhilarating, and amazing. Kinda like a religious experience. It defined in that moment, with the dust moving around me that I was doing what I was built to do. Slowly I felt a smile on my face. My destiny, her destiny, separate but the same. Maybe this redemption shit was working, cause I was feeling pretty damn good.

*****

So she was broke, and had dropped out of college. But come on, this was Sunnydale, she saved these peoples' miserable lives on a daily basis. Why was it that no one would give her a job? This was just so not right, so crazy. Buffy was pouting, after asking Giles why the Council wasn't paying her for her slayage.

"You are the oldest living Slayer Buffy, this is unprecedented. The Council was not prepared for this eventuality."

"Um, why can't they just cut a check?" Anya asked, from where she was busy counting the money in the register. Buffy pointed to her.

"Exactly!"

"It really is not that simple." Giles took off his glasses and began cleaning them. The phone rang, and Anya answered.

"Magic Box. Who? Well this is a place of business, not an answering service." Anya was saying gruffly.

"Who is it?" Giles asked, moving to the phone.

"It is for Tara." Anya said, looking over at the two witches who were playing footsies under the table.

"What?"

"Some girl on the phone asking for you." Anya said, and Tara walked over to the phone, after shrugging at Willow. "This is a place of business you know." Anya said annoyed, and Tara took the phone.

"H-Hello?" She asked, feeling all eyes on her.

"Hey, Blondie, you missin' me?" It was Faith. Tara turned away from the group, embarrassed.

"Tara, who is it?" Buffy asked, leaning towards the phone.

"Say it's Amber." Faith said. "Amber from your trig class. I am out sick and need your notes."

"I-it's Amber from trig class. Needs my-my notes." Tara said, and every one shrugged at her. Buffy turned back to Giles.

"It's not like I can get a normal job. The only place left is Doublemeat Palace. They offered me the job, and it's only minimum wage, but Giles I so don't want to!" Buffy whined.

"Blondie, what in the hell is B going on about?" Faith asked.

"I- erm, well."

"Make it easy on you. Just yes or nos."

"Okay."

"Is she serious about having to flip burgers?" Faith asked, her tone drawn.

"Yes."

"So she ran out of insurance money from when her Mom died?"

"Yeah," Tara said sadly.

"Can you get me her bank and account number?"

"Why?" Tara asked, shocked.

"Yes or no, Blondie." Faith laughed.

"Maybe."

"I will call you tomorrow here, at ten am."

"No."

"I am far away Tara, but I can still kick your ass." Faith grumbled.

"Make it eleven," Tara said softly.

"Got it. Tomorrow eleven. Blondie?"

"Yeah?"

"How is she?"

"Okay, better."

"Thanks." Faith hung up, and Tara looked back over the room. What was Faith planning?

*****

"Fuck me!" Willow exclaimed as she was flipping through the bills. It seemed like even more were coming in now. But that wasn't what set her off. Tara looked over her shoulder, and her eyes rounded.

"Baby, what does that mean?" Tara looked again, and a sad smile moved over her lips. It had been two weeks since she had spoken to Faith, and now it all made sense. She wasn't sure how it had happened, but if it was true, Faith was amazing. "Is, is that real?"

"I don't know how it could be, but hey, this is the hellmouth, you never know." Willow stood and walked to the phone. "I am going to call the bank and check."

"I hope it is true. Can you imagine the look on Buffy's face?"

"She'll faint, and then I will faint." Willow laughed and dialed the bank's number. She spoke to someone, and was making notes. Tara stared listening. "Oh. So, erm, okay. And you are sure about this? Well okay, I mean you have the copy of the check. I know, a big difference. Yes, oh. And who was the check from. Who?" Willow wrote some more. "Okay, no that's it." She hung up the phone, her skin pale, her eyes round. "Tar, it's true." Willow sat down heavily on the floor, and Buffy came in.

"What's true? Oh, no, you on the floor pale! What is happening now?" Buffy asked moving to Willow. She looked up at her best friend, her eyes moving and her lips trying to speak. She handed Buffy the piece of paper. Buffy looked at it.

"Who is Anne Adams?" She asked, and then looked. "What do five zeros mean? I mean, do they mean what I think they mean?" Buffy looked at Willow, who nodded. "Fuck me." Buffy sat down on the floor as well.

*****

Another night of patrol and she could feel eyes on her. She knew who it was, and she really wished he would stop. It was a slow night, and there seemed to be nothing going on. She moved past a crypt and then stopped. She remembered this place. A few years back, they had all helped Oz build the cage inside, to help keep him away from everyone for those three days a month. But it wasn't the memory of Oz that stopped her. It was something else, like her instincts all went crazy with bells and alarms. She opened the door and stepped inside. The cage door was open, and inside there was nothing. But the whole cage reeked to her, that same deep smell that she had caught little whiffs of here and there when she had first come back from the dead. She paced around the cage.

"Stop spying on me." She hissed at Spike, and he came out of the shadows.

"Not spying." He said with a shrug.

"No just stalking." She took a deep breath.

"What is it?" he asked.

"I am not sure." She shook her head. "Nothing I guess." She looked back at him, through the bars. "It'll never happen you know." She said sadly, not over what she had said, but more for the pain that moved over his features.

"Why? You want it just as badly as I do, you are just afraid to come and get it." He said, moving closer.

"I don't want you." She said, crossing her arms.

"Right." He smirked. "You want to save yourself for that poof of a grand-sire of mine. How long will you wait?"

"I don't want Angel either."

"Is it the soldier boy then? He won't be coming back here."

"No one knows that for sure." She stepped forward and touched his cheek softly. "I don't need to want someone else to not want you, William." She said and moved away from him.

"I can feel it in your bones, Slayer. You want what only I can give you."

"No." She walked out, back into the night.

"I will make you understand then," he said, leaving behind her, but not following this time.

*****

Tara read the letter again, as she sat in the corner of the Magic Shop. It was short. Faith just wanted to make sure that Buffy had received her gift.

I know it must have been a little freaky, I hope she just accepts it as a gift from the PTB or something. You wondering if I robbed a bank? I didn't. When I slipped into the coma, the Mayor, I think he knew he would loose to B, so he wrote up a will and left everything to me. I forgot about it until I decided to leave Sunnydale. The money was never mine, and I don't need it. I got all I need with me. Want. Take. Have, or something like that. She needs it, she has responsibilities that I don't.

Okay, so that's it for now. I gotta stop thinking about her, and about everything. It is making it too hard for me to get away, and move on. I am doing good, just know that.

Tara folded the letter and put it away when she watched Willow and Buffy come into the shop. They were laughing about something, and it was nice to see. Things were really getting back to how they were before Glory came into their lives. Buffy walked up to the counter in front of Giles and leaned over, locking her eyes on him.

"Giles?"

"Um, yes, Buffy?" He asked, still looking over some shipping manifests.

"Something has been bothering me."

"What?" He looked up at her. "Are you feeling alright?"

"Oh, sure. Just peachy. But, question." He nodded for her to go on. "When the dimensions were opened, they were opened for awhile before I closed them, I mean, I saw some nasty beasties escape."

"Quite."

"What happened to them?"

"What?" Giles exclaimed a little loudly.

"Wills tells me that you all were patrolling, and there was only some random newbie vamps to deal with. What about the other big badies, demons and the rest? Where did they go?" She was looking at his face trying to read him, and it was clear to her that he was stalling. A squeak came from the corner, and Buffy moved her eyes to see Tara looking nervous. Buffy found that interesting.

"They, erm, must have moved on. Perhaps Spike dispatched them?" Giles took his glasses off his face.

"That's what I was thinking too." Buffy said and moved back into the room, towards the table. She passed Tara, and stopped dead in her tracks. This was the second time she sensed something around Tara. She looked the girl over, and slightly inhaled. Buffy knew she wasn't crazy. She sat down at the table facing them all, and drummed her fingers on the table, thinking. It seemed so obvious suddenly. She was shocked, scared, mad, and confused. She looked at Giles, and then Tara. Tilting her head she locked eyes with Giles. "Giles?"

"Hmm."

"Where is the new Slayer?" Giles looked at Tara, who backed away, just enough so Buffy caught it.

"Pardon?" Willow sat down beside Buffy, while Giles spoke.

"That's right." Willow said. "I totally forgot." She looked angry with herself for forgetting.

"So did I, Wills. So Giles, where's the new Slayer?"

"New?"

"Right, duh. Faith died, and so the other should have been called. She should have been here in Sunnydale when Buffy, when you were,"

"Dead, it's okay to say Willow." She grinned at her friend. "So is that it? There was a new Slayer in town, doing the lone wolf thing, taking out the baddies?" Buffy looked up, watching Giles. "It makes sense now."

"Hmm?" Giles was squirming.

"I can sense her, around at certain places."

"Sense?" Tara asked softly.

"Smell her. So where is she?" Buffy slowly got up, daring him to lie to her again with his eyes, glaring at him. "Where is this brand new Slayer?"

"Not here." Giles said.

"Tara, will you tell me the truth?" Buffy asked, not looking at her.

"I want to," the witch said softly.

"Buffy, what is going on here? Why would Tara know?" Willow asked confused.

"Tell me, if Faith is dead, where is the new Slayer?" Buffy said more loudly this time. No one spoke. "I am not stupid, Giles. I thought it was strange, that I didn't feel it when she died. Was that because she never did? Faith isn't dead is she?"

"No she is not." Giles said sadly.

"She's not? Great! Just what we need." Willow moaned.

"Sh-she won't hurt anyone," Tara whispered.

"Tara you don't understand, Faith, she is crazy. She tried to kill all of us."

"She could have if she wanted to, she didn't have to try. But she isn't like that anymore."

"Right." Willow scoffed at her lover.

"She isn't." Tara said more firmly. "She saved all of us more than once when Buffy wasn't here." Buffy herself was walking towards the training room; she turned and looked at Giles.

"Don't you ever lie to me again." She hissed. "Where is she?" She asked Tara. The witch took a step back, and Buffy moved on her quickly. "I can smell her on you, Tara. Why is that?" She whispered in the witch's ear. No one but the two of them heard. Slowly, Tara took the letter from her pocket and handed it over. Buffy took it without looking, and then left the room.

"You two have some explaining to do!" Willow said angrily.

"I want a meeting here in an hour, with everybody. I want to know everything." Buffy yelled as the door closed behind her.

They all were seated around the table, and Giles dropped three books down. Tara recognized them, and her eyes rounded and she looked up at him shaking her head.

"She, she wouldn't want everyone reading those." Her voice was a scared whine. Xander grabbed the top one.

"Who wouldn't want us to read what?" He asked. Tara looked at Buffy, pleading with her, trying to get the Slayer to read her mind.

"So what are these?" Buffy asked, but she recognized one. These where Faith's. The perfume she had smelt was all over them. She was upset with herself for not recognizing it before. Or maybe she had, and it was too difficult to actually accept it. Tara was pulling the books away from Xander.

"Journals, and these should NOT be read by all of you."

"Tara, how else can we expect them to understand Faith?"

Xander jumped up from his chair.

"Faith? What do you mean Faith? She's dead, in hell, burning for eternity, what is to understand?"

"Tara put the books down." Giles said, and the witch backed up towards Buffy, and looked at her pleading with her.

"Tara, baby, why do you care about her? About this?" Willow was hurt by her actions.

"Probably lies any way." Xander said.

"Do you really want them all to know?" Tara locked her eyes with Buffy. The Slayer was shocked to see tears in the corner of her eyes. "Do you really? If everyone here knows these things, things she has kept private, and dealt with on her own for her entire life, do you know how she will feel?"

"She never considered our feelings in the past, why should we hers?" Xander said, but by now Buffy understood. She had only read one of the books, what if there was more. Could she handle everyone knowing that the rogue Slayer had feelings for her? But there was no way to go back from here. It had been set in motion. She dropped her eyes, and Tara groaned, throwing the books back on the table.

"Before you read these, I demand that you explain to them Mr. Giles."

"Explain what? That she is a freak who faked her death to come and stalk us?" Xander asked venom coming from his tone.

"She did no such thing." Giles said sitting down. "She stayed in prison, and was prepared to stay there for the rest of her life."

"Hurray for her. Why isn't she still there?" Willow asked.

"The Council." Buffy said softly, guessing, but knew it to be true.

"Right." Giles began explaining to them the condition Faith had been in when she was removed from prison, and everything that was done to her, under the watch of the Council. The group sat in disbelief at a lot of what was said. When Giles was finished, explaining that Faith had left three weeks ago, and he did not know where she was, then they began reading together her journals. But not all of them. Giles had accepted Tara's request, that the journal that was written of her childhood would not be shared with everyone.

*****

She was swinging her arm, up and down, up and down. The stake was making a soft whistle as it moved through the night air, and it comforted her, that soft and silly sound. At least it was something that she could concentrate on, instead of allowing her thoughts to be heard.

It had been a long day, reading and rereading words she never wanted to see, learning things that she never wanted to know. She had to admit to herself, knowing so much more than she had this morning, it wouldn’t be as easy to hate her sister slayer. But Buffy wasn’t ready to forgive any thing, Faith had betrayed her trust, taken things from her that no one else had. Yet she had to admit, with the new knowledge came every human emotion that she thought she had lost when she was brought back. Sorrow, Joy, Hate. She was beginning to accept the numbness of life, but now she was feeling again, though with each step Buffy took, and with each movement of her arm, the feelings were becoming echoes. She could deal with echoes, knowing soon they would be gone.

The group had left the Magic Shop quietly, when the reading was done. She thought that Xander was the most sullen, probably a little embarrassed over the entries that pertained to him. Buffy had thought it strange that he denied none of what Faith had mentioned about the night she strangled him. In the past he had always defended himself, stating that he had never done anything to her, never said anything to set her off. But they all read how he ignored her words and kissed her, trying to sleep with her again. And that was what set her off.

Buffy had been mildly embarrassed when she had shared the letter that she had taken from Tara with everyone. How easy could it have been for all of them to read that Faith, the evil Slayer, was not only in love with Buffy, but wanted to repent for what she had done, and oh, by the way, here’s millions of dollars, no questions asked, just giving it because you need it more than me. That action in and of it self, made a lot of the past actions seem hollow. Like Faith really wasn’t as evil as they always thought. Maybe she just was a hurt and scared little girl when she had come to Sunnydale, and none of them knew how to handle her. Buffy did not know all of Faith’s past, but she knew that there where shadows, a darkness that none of them knew. Well it was clear that Tara knew.

Tara.

Willow was livid with her partner at the discovery that she had been helping Faith, and Buffy could see a wedge moving between them. She hoped that after reading that Willow would understand more. Tara was good, Tara was trusting, and Tara was forgiving. That was all Tara. Buffy could not fault the girl; she had once felt all of those same things for Faith. But not now. Now she was feeling nothing again.

*****

“I can’t believe you lied to me Tara!” Willow exclaimed as soon as she closed the bedroom door behind them. Tara sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at her hands.

“I, n-n-never lied.” She said softly.

“You never told me either.” Willow exclaimed. She was fuming. How dare her lover keep that psycho killer a secret?

“You never told Giles of the Spell for Buffy, does that mean that you lied to him as well?” Tara snapped, tired after an emotional day. It had been painful reading those journals again, hearing again of the abuse heaped upon the poor girl. Everyone had left the Magic Box stunned, but Tara knew if they had even read part of the other journal none of them would still be mad. But she would do everything in her power to keep that knowledge from them. If any of them wanted to know that, they would have to ask Faith herself. Those words, memories were too damning and too private for them to know without her consent.

“That is completely different.”

“I see, completely different. Just like forgiving Angel for killing those people was completely different.”

“You don’t know what you are talking about, you weren’t here?”

“You are right, Willow.” Tara stood. “I wasn’t. I just know what you told me. Let’s see, Faith kidnapped you, held you at knifepoint. Angel kidnapped you, and knocked you into a coma. Faith accidentally killed Allan Finch. Angel purposely killed Ms. Calendar.” Tara was on fire now, just as angry as Willow.

“That was so different. Angel was Angelus then, he had no control.” Willow said. “Faith, she had control, the whole time. She could have stopped all of it, but she didn’t she was enjoying it too much.” Willow shouted.

“I know all about the soul spell, Willow! I know that right now Angel could do all of those things again, but he doesn’t, he keeps himself in check. Just like Faith did when she was here those months. Do you even know how many times she has saved you? All of you?”

“Goddess!” Willow threw her arms in the air. “Why do you care about her? She was playing you, Tara. You are too trusting! Too kind!”

“I care because I could have easily been her Willow!” Tara fell to her knees. “I could have been her.” She was crying and Willow turned to face her lover, and kneeled in front of her.

“You could never be a killer like her, Tara. Never.”

“You think she had a choice? Really? I made Giles tell me everything, when, when I found him beating her.” Tara sobbed.

“What?” Willow exclaimed.

“Yes, he was beating her, and she would have let him kill her. She was a shell. And he told me, the Council had known, from the Powers That Be, that it was a mistake for her to have been called, that there could not be two Slayers. They set things in motion to ensure that she fell to the side of Darkness. She didn’t have a choice. She fought against it, but they made sure she had no support, from anyone.”

“She had us.” Willow said softly, touching Tara’s hair.

“No.” Tara shook her head, looking at Willow’s softening green eyes. “Did you ever ask her to stay with you? Did any one? No. Did anyone ask her about her childhood? No. Did anyone ask her anything? No. You read it, and I watched you. All of you know what you did, and at the time it felt to you that was how it should be. Ever wonder why none of you brought her into the group, when you have done it so easily for me, for Anya?”

“Oh.” Willow said softly, and kissed Tara’s head. “But, but she tried to kill all of us.”

“You and I both know Will, if she wanted to, she would have.”

*****

I was smoking a cigarette, not something I always did, but felt like doing as I hopped from one foot to another beside the pay phone. It was raining softly where I was now, and I just bet that it was blue skies and warm breezes in Sunnydale. This place was cool, but the rain was murder on my leather pants. The phone rang a second time on the other end, and then a voice.

“Hello?”

“Hey Blondie.” I said smiling. “Everyone still alive and happy down there?”

“Ye-yes.” She was stuttering already? What was up with that?

“You okay?” I asked, and then faintly heard another click on the line. Someone else had joined our call. Now what in the world was that about, I wondered?

“I’m okay. Thanks for asking. You?”

“Five by Five. How ‘bout you Red? How you doing?” I asked, and heard a gasp on the phone. That about confirmed it.

“Faith, where are you?” Tara asked.

“Like I told you, Blondie, far enough away but close enough.” I sighed. Why wasn’t Red throwing down with the insults? “So does everybody know?”

“Know what?” Red asked, her voice shaky.

“That I am not calling from Hell? You know that I am alive and kicking?” I pulled hard on the cigarette, and then tossed it down. Smashing it underneath my boot heel.

“Yeah, we all know.” Red sighed.

“Sorry to disappoint and all, but I never knew they told you that. I thought you all knew when I got released from prison, with Mrs. S. and G-man being in court that day.” I exhaled. “If all is okay, I am going now.”

“Faith?” Red called.

“Hmm.”

“Don’t ever come back here.”

“Right. You're welcome.” I slammed the phone down and pulled my jacket tighter around my chest. I felt even more alone now. So they all knew, just great. I wished they hadn’t. G-man was right, it was better for their piece of mind, not waiting for me to jump out of the shadows at them one day. Now they would always be on edge, always worried. Shit I didn’t need to deal with that. Not when my life was starting to be okay.

*****

She could hear them arguing again. She thought that they had stopped, but something must have happened because they were doing it again. Dawn was sitting on the top of the stairs, her back to Willow and Tara’s bedroom. She wrapped her arms around her knees and dropped her head down. What good was it being the “Key” when she had no special powers, nothing she could do to cut the tension that filled the house. Before she would have daydreams of Buffy coming back home, and the house being filled with laughter and love, like it had been. And it would have been better, because Glory was dead; no super baddie was after her. It should have been perfect. But no. Now there was all this tension. Willow was mad at Tara for hiding Faith for months, Buffy mad at Tara, but not so much. Buffy. She was different. She tried to be happy and like she was before, but Dawn had noticed, when she thought no one was watching, her smile fell. And her eyes just weren’t the same.

“Goddess Tara are you blind? She is pure evil!” Willow’s voice shook the walls, and Dawn began rocking again.

“Hey, Dawnie, what’s happening?” Buffy was suddenly at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at her sister. She had a half smile, but when she noticed Dawn’s tears, her smile fell.

“They are fighting again.” She sighed, and Buffy came and put her hand on her sister’s shoulder.

“I am sorry.” Buffy said softly.

“You didn’t do anything, it’s them.”

“No!” Willow’s voice again, and both of them shivered. That one two-letter word was filled with vehemence.

“But it is because of me.” Buffy sighed.

“No, it is because of Faith.” Dawn looked up at her sister. “Do you think she really has changed?”

“I don’t know Dawnie.” Buffy looked to the closed bedroom, hearing the pacing of Willow and the soft sobs of Tara.

“When she was, um, bad. You know she was never really that bad. I mean she never hurt me; oh, well I wasn’t really around then, but my memories are that she was always nice to me.”

“She attacked us all, Dawn, and she kidnapped Wills.”

“But did she hurt anybody? Really?”

“No. Not us, just the two men she murdered.” Buffy scoffed, and then sighed, squeezing Dawn’s shoulder. “I have memories of you liking her, wanting me to give her another chance. And maybe then I should have. But Dawn, I didn’t then and I won’t now. She knows how I feel about her, and she feels the same.” Dawn looked up confused. “We hate each other, deeply. I think if we saw each other again we would kill, for real this time. I would kill her.” Something broke in the room.

“That is it WILLOW!” Tara screamed, and then the door opened. Tara looked at the two Summers girls with wide eyes, seeing them just a few feet away. She wondered if they had heard everything. And at that moment she didn’t care. “None of you understand her, and you are too selfish, too caught up in yourselves to even try. No one is completely evil. And certainly not Faith.” She exclaimed and then walked into the bathroom, slamming the door. Pictures fell off the wall.

Willow leaned on the doorframe. Her eyes were rimmed with red, and her face was flushed.

“She called.” Her voice was defeated.

“Why?” Buffy asked, crossing her arms over her chest. She wondered what Faith was playing now.

“She never got the chance to say.” Willow said, looking at her hands, “I kind of told her off, and that was the end of it. Probably wanted to gloat. Look at me, I changed so much, I saved your lives, and gave you millions of dollars and left town. I am such a hero now.” Willow groaned, looking at the bathroom door, and then looking at Buffy. “What should I do?” Buffy walked over to her best friend, setting her hand on her cheek.

"Tara is kind, and open. She let Faith-"

“Oh my God you don’t think?” Willow squealed. Buffy set her finger on Willow’s lips, to silence her.

“Stop. When you are with Tara you let your defenses down, everyone does. Maybe Faith did too, maybe she opened up to Tara, and Tara saw something there that none of us ever saw.” Willow rolled her eyes. “I am not saying what Tara did was right, but remember it was Giles who kept her quiet.”

“But why did she defend her the other day? And what was with her actually crying over a fucking journal?” Willow snapped, and Dawn groaned. “Sorry Dawnie.”

“We don’t know what was in there, Wills, and we don’t know about Tara’s.” Buffy stopped suddenly as the door opened, and Tara stepped out. Her eyes moved over the three girls.

“There is a lot that you don’t know. None of you do. I doubt any of it would matter to you, any of you. What would you care if a girl was raped? What would you care if she was beaten repeatedly? Would you care?”

“That doesn’t excuse Faith being an evil bitch.” Willow sighed. Tara’s eyes snapped to her lover, her once soft blue eyes were burning.

“I wasn’t talking about Faith.” Her voice was cold, empty. She moved past Buffy and Dawn, and out the front door.

*****

YUK! My skin crawled and I just wished there was a zipper on my back somewhere so I could peel it all of. I was covered in fish slime, and it was terrible. I knew Seattle would be cool, and there would be rain, and fish. But I never thought there would be a giant fishy demon thing. YUK! I locked the motel room door behind me, and started pulling off my ruined clothes. Everything was covered in fish slime and fish guts. I knew I wouldn’t eat fish, especially sushi for a hell of a long time.

*****

“Why do certain demons have to excrete when they die?” Buffy mumbled as she entered the house. She had spent all night tracking a new demon that was eating neighborhood pets, and she finally found it a few hours after sunrise. And boy did it stink when she killed it. Smelling drippy goo had poured out from its skin. Just disgusting. Dawn was watching television, and looked over, her nose squishing up.

“You stink!” She wailed.

“Yeah, I kinda know that already, Dawn.” Buffy turned to her sister, a wicked grin on her lips. She stepped forward, arms open, “Give me a hug?”

“Ahh!” Dawn screamed and backed up.

“Just kidding.” Buffy went back to the stairs. “Did Tara come back last night?”

“No, Willow is out looking for her. I hope they can get over this.”

“I know, me too.” Buffy said, now upstairs. She went straight to the bathroom.

After her shower, she walked around her room. It was the middle of the day, but she had no energy. She didn’t want to sleep, or eat, not really. Buffy felt tied in knots, and just needed something to release her.

She fell back in the bed and stared at the ceiling. Her hand knew what she needed before her brain realized that it was softly touching her thigh, moving over her stomach, slipping between her shorts and her skin.

*****

I was watching the sun moving across the ceiling of the motel room, lost in longing, and a little bit of sadness too. I always felt more alone after getting used to having people around. It was like that when I first went to prison. No one around anymore, even though I hated being around them at the time, they were all still there. And now, my self exile from Sunnydale, and I was missing everyone again. I hated feeling so detached from the world. I could exist or not, and it just wouldn’t matter.

My hands were on my bare stomach, and I felt my muscles jump. That was odd. I felt my body, listening to it. When did I go from good old-fashioned self-pity to being a little hot and bothered?

*****

Her back arched when she felt how aroused she was. She hadn’t realized until the moment her finger rolled over her clitoris. The sun fell through the window, onto the bed, onto her face. She knew what was needed now, how to get some release.

*****

It rolled through me again, a wave of desire, longing and need. Well I never was one to deny myself, I thought with a sad grin, slipping my hand down between my leather pants. I flicked my clit roughly, and felt a wash pass over me.

“God.” I groaned to the empty room. I usually only got this wet after slaying with Buffy. Mmmm. I rolled the name over my tongue as I let my fingers move over me. I felt my tongue move over my lips, which were full and my cheeks flushed. I arched back, slipping a finger inside, imagining someone, knees on either side of my cheeks.

*****

Behind her closed eyes she felt phantom lips replace the pressure between her two fingers stroking her nub. She slipped one, then two fingers inside her. She was imaging a faceless mouth on her, stroking her, bringing her closer. She was so wet, and so close to coming.

*****

Waves of pleasure were rolling over me now, and I couldn’t believe this was feeling so good. I clamped my eyes closed, feeling my mouth, imaging it doing things to her. God, I was so close.

*****

It was all so fast; she had never been able to do this so fast. Her hand was moving fast, thrusting in and then rubbing and then in again. Buffy’s back arched off the bed and a deep rolling sigh came from her lips “Faith.”

*****

The orgasm ripped through me, my eyes flashing open as I called out, “Buffy!”

*****

Oh. No. She thought as she slowly sat up on her bed. She could feel the heat moving through her body. It had been awhile, her being dead and all, that she had felt this feeling. But it was welcome; it was warm, and nice.

But, Oh. No. Why had she said that name? Why had she been imagining her mouth on her? What was going on? What was she feeling inside? Was there anything?

She walked over to her mirror, and looked into her hazel eyes, looking for something. Did she come back from Heaven all messed up in the head? She looked like the same Buffy.

“Maybe it was the spell?” She mumbled, and decided that Tara would just have to tell her exactly what the implications from this spell were.

*****

I rolled over onto my stomach, feeling the sun on my shoulders. That had been intense. Sure I had gotten myself off in the past thinking about B, but this was different, it was less a fantasy, it felt almost tangible. Was this a side effect from sharing the spirit of the Slayer with her? I wondered if Blondie would know.

I reached out and picked up the phone. But then set it back down. I shouldn’t bother her, or any of them. Probably just wishful thinking on my part, hoping that maybe she had felt something too.

But if I knew B, and I thought I did, I was pretty sure all she would ever feel for me was hate.

*****

“Okay, run that by me one more time. And finish by saying, ‘just kidding’.” Buffy said looking over at Tara. They were having mochas, iced, as the day was getting hotter.

“It has been checked and double checked, by the Council, and me and Mr. Giles. Faith was there when we did the spell, and she tried to help.” Buffy rolled her eyes, but Tara continued. “So due to her selfless prayer, her soul was split, and you were given half. That is why you felt her so strongly when you came back, could sense her around. And because it is a strong bond, it might explain why you can feel her sometimes. Though, I am not sure what you meant when you said you felt her?” Tara said.

“I was, um, never mind.” Buffy took a sip from her mocha.

Tara smiled weakly. “She wanted you back, more than any of us.”

“Why, to make my life miserable all over again?”

“Do you really think she would do that?” Tara asked.

“Tara, you are so sweet, but she has done it to us more than once.”

“But you know why.”

“Because she thought she loved me? Come on. That is such a cop out. She doesn’t love me, never had. She hates me, just as much as I hate her.” Buffy finished her drink.

“How can you even think that?”

“She has never done anything to show me other wise.”

“Faith showed you how to destroy the Mayor, she went to prison when you asked, she gave up her soul to bring you back from the dead. Naw, you’re right, she hates you.” Tara stood up. She took a step to leave, but then stopped. She knew she shouldn’t say anything, but she was tired of this game. She looked down at Buffy. “Thing is, I did some research. And it appears that one cannot give up half of their soul to someone just cause they ask nicely. Seems it can only be a selfless act from one soul mate to another. Funny that.” Then Tara walked away. Buffy’s eyes were wide, in disbelief. It couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t. She hated Faith. When she thought of the brunette Slayer, her whole body began to hum, her muscles tightened, and her heart started thundering harder. Those were all physical reactions to her preparing for a fight. Buffy looked back to the door that Tara had walked out of. What was that Witch playing now? Buffy didn’t think Tara had it in her to try and play her, but no one had thought she would have kept Faith being alive a secret either.

*****

A knocked sounded on the door. Willow heard it from where she sat at the kitchen table. A glance at the clock let her know that it was late, almost eleven. She pushed back from her computer, and picked up one of the crosses that were lying on the sideboard. The knock sounded again, softer this time.

“Coming.” She mumbled under her breath. She took the knob in her hand, and for an instant was afraid. What if it was Faith? What if she had come back to torture them all again? If it was that skanky whore, Willow thought, she was in for a world of hurt. Willow was no shrieking violet any more. She pulled the door open roughly, and found herself staring at Angel’s chest. Slowly she raised her eyes up to meet his.

“Hi.” He said.

“Hi.” She answered, stepping back, allowing him to come in. “Wait, are you evil?” She asked, laughing a little.

“Funny.” He said, and stepped inside. “We need to talk, Willow.”

“I know. But I don’t know if now is a good time.” She said, moving back to the kitchen, feeling him following her.

“Is there something wrong? Something evil?” He asked, moving to lean against the wall, crossing his arms. Willow sat back in her chair, and it was still warm.

“No evil, not really. I just have a lot on my mind, and fighting with you on top of fighting with everyone else doesn’t sound like a fun filled Friday night to me.” She set her chin in her palm.

“Fighting?”

“You know the whole, Tara hiding Faith issue.” She sighed, and watched him stiffen. “You knew about that didn’t you?”

“Yeah I did. I was hoping it wasn’t true though.” His eyes flashed yellow, but just for an instant, then moving back to chocolate brown.

“I thought you liked Faith.” Willow said.

“I wanted to help her. I know what it was like to get caught up in the darkness. So I wanted to help her, teach her how to redeem herself.”

“I am sensing a ‘but’.” Willow grinned.

“But,” he smiled too. “There was something, a while ago. A vision, I guess that Cordy had, and well, it made me think about things, and I decided I would no longer help her.”

“What was the vision? Must have been pretty bad.”

“It was.” Angel recalled Cordelia’s words to him. It was both of them, honestly, it was kinda eww. But it was sweet too. They were together, you know, kissing, and there was just so much peace and love. Angel, I think that Faith and Buffy are meant to be together, like soul mates or something. And the demon and the man in him both agreed that he would stop the two Slayers from ever finding happiness in one another.

Angel had hated Riley, for so many reasons. He was weak, mortal; he got to touch Buffy in ways that Angel had never known. But, Angel was always confident that the boy would never replace him in Buffy’s heart. He was just a man, and that was nothing compared to him. He knew it hurt at the time, when they were together, but Angel was comforted knowing that it could never last. But Faith, that was all together different. She was different than Angel, she had something that he never could have or understand. She was a Slayer. Because of that she could and would understand Buffy completely. Body, mind, heart, soul. She could easily destroy the love Buffy still had for him, and there was no way he would allow that. In his bones, the old vampire knew that he belonged with the golden Slayer. If he couldn’t have Buffy, then there was no way in this world or any other, that he would let Faith have her. Angel shook his head, clearing his thoughts. “It just showed me how she needed to be kept away.” Then he shrugged. “Then she was dead, and I think we all were relieved, and I forgot all about it.” He pulled out a chair and sat down across from Willow. “You do know it was Faith who affected the spell, right?”

“Yeah. Tara explained it to me. I so didn’t want to hear that. And not only because without her I would have brought back an incomplete Buffy.”

“I know. It feels wrong that she has half of Her soul.” They both shuddered.

“Will you and I, you know, be okay again?” She asked.

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Wills? You home?” Buffy’s voice filled the house as the door closed behind her. Angel turned towards her, expecting the smile on her face.

“In here.” The red head called out. Buffy entered the room, and her smile was barely there. But that did not deter him, and Angel stood and embraced her strongly. He felt her stiffen, but ignored it, on a conscious level. When he released her, to kiss her softly, she turned her face, and his cold lips settled on her cheek.

“Angel.” She said coldly, and then moved away. “Tara back yet?” Buffy asked.

“No. Was she coming back? I know the fight last night was pretty terrible. Did you see her? Is she coming back?” Willow stood up slowly, her eyes just a little hopeful.

“Yeah, we had coffee, talked about something,”

“Faith.” Angel growled, and Buffy turned to him.

“Yes Faith. See I wanted to understand, all of it. And I think I do now. Sort of.” Buffy pulled a book from her purse. Willow took it from her.

“Soul mates, and the Constant Struggle?” Willow read the title.

“You guys know that Faith and I are soul mates, right? Well I read some stuff in there and I was so relieved. That it isn’t like an instant, you are meant to get married type of thing. There have been some theories that true soul mates are in constant battle, as they are too much alike to do anything else. It makes sense why my hate for her runs so deep.” Buffy crossed her arms. There were theories like that, then there were others, others she did not want to read, and certainly did not want to think about.

“Good.” Angel said, and both girls looked at him. “That you hate her.” He tried to explain.

“You can’t stand the idea of her, can you?”

“After all she has done to you? Never. And I don’t buy her emotional reasoning either.” Angel grumbled. “It is all a way for her to mess with your head, Buffy. Surely you see that. She lays that heavy emotion on you, forcing you to deal with her emotions. It’s just like her trying to apologize. She is only saying it because if she does that forces you to forgive her. It’s all a game to her. I really wish she was not here.”

“She isn’t here.” Willow mumbled, flipping through the book, but then she looked up. “Oh, you mean not here as in dead. Gotcha.”

“I don’t want her dead.” Buffy said softly, getting glares. “I don’t.” She said, wanting to stamp her foot down, but didn’t.

“That’s a good thing, B-Buffy. We don’t know what would happen yet.” Tara said from the archway. They all turned to her.

“Tara?” Willow asked softly.

“Willow, we need to talk.” She looked back towards the stairs.

“Right.” She set the book down and followed Tara, looking over her shoulder. “Bye Angel.”

“We need to talk too, Buffy.” Angel said, taking her elbow in her hand.

“Fine, but can you not touch me?” She snapped. Her patience was running thin with Angel. He was acting weird, all jealous like. What in the world did he have to be jealous over?

*****

The bedroom door closed behind Willow, and she turned to Tara, who was pulling off her light sweater.

“I was so worried when you didn’t come back last night, Tara.” Willow said softly, taking a step towards her lover.

“I just couldn’t be around all of this.” Tara moved her arms around.

“The bedroom?” Willow asked, smiling gently.

“The tension.” Tara returned the smile. "I know you are mad, but-"

“I am sorry Tara, for what I said and how I acted. She just, gets to me, you know?” Willow sat on the edge of the bed. “Can we ever get back what we had?”

“We never lost anything Willow. I promise.”

“I just don’t understand. I tried to think about it all after you left, and I don’t understand.”

“You can only be so empathetic, Willow, and I know that.” She took Willow’s hand. “I know this is hard for you, but I think I might have a way to make you understand. Not just about Faith. But about everything.”

“Everything?” Willow looked concerned.

“There is a lot about my past that you don’t know. Not that I was hiding it, just that it was easier, you know, to try and forget.” Willow gently cupped Tara’s cheek.

*****

“There is something you need to know. Something I have known for awhile, but was afraid to tell you.” Angel began, looking at her pleadingly with his puppy dog eyes. It had been on his mind for a while now, and he was always thinking about how this conversation would happen. Angel had hoped the change would come, and then she would find out. But with Faith on the loose, he knew he had to just tell Buffy now. He knew that what he was about to say would lock her to him again forever. No one would be able to have her once she knew what he was about to say. And though part of him regretted saying it already, knowing it was cheating her, and might hurt her. He didn’t care. Buffy was his!

“What?” She asked.

“Buffy, one day I will be human again.”

*****

“What is it?” Willow asked.

“A spell. If you want to do it.”

“What exactly will I understand?” Willow asked.

“You will have all of my memories. You will see them, hear them. Some you might feel and taste. This is the dangerous part. Willow there are things here,” she tapped her head, “that I wish you would never have to experience, I’ve prayed that would never touch you. But if we do this, you will have the memories too, you will know them, and in a way have lived through them. They are not all good. I will try and control them, so you only see some, what you need to understand. But some others may get through.”

“Is it dangerous?”

“Only emotionally.” Tara sighed. To her that was the worst danger.

“Okay. Now?” Willow asked. Tara leaned in and softly pressed their lips together. It was a kiss of promise.

“Now.” She whispered and chanted the short spell, and then kissed Willow again. This time, Willow’s head fell back. It was just a second. But now her mind was full. Of everything.

*****

“Human?” Buffy sat heavily in the chair.

“Yes. It will be my gift, for helping the helpless. My redemption.”

“When?” Buffy looked up at him, eyes round, in disbelief. Could this be true, she wondered? And did this mean that she should love him again?

“I don’t know for sure. Any day, a week, a year.” A hundred years, he thought silently. “No telling. But do you know what this means?” He pulled her hands into his. “Buffy we can be together again, like it was meant to be.”

“Meant to be?” She whispered, thinking that she was suddenly more confused than ever. But why should she be confused? This was Angel, her first true love, and he might be human one day, and then they could be together. She was supposed to love him forever right? He was her first. Buffy looked him in the eyes, but saw nothing there but brown. No sparkle, nothing that used to be there when she used to look at him.

“Why?”

“What?” Angel wondered, that was not something he expected.

“Why tell me now?” She pulled away from him again.

“You are back, and in pain. I want to give you some joy again.” He said.

“Oh.”

*****

Tara held her tightly as she sobbed. Tears were pouring down her cheeks, her whole body was quivering.

“Shhh, baby, shh.” Tara cooed. She wanted to know what Willow had seen, that it had worked. But she knew that right now Willow was in shock. They would talk, but it would have to be when she was ready.

*****

“You should be happy. This is what we always wanted.” He exclaimed, not getting her reaction at all. He used to be her world, and Angel was not happy that he seemed not to be.

“It is just something big. Huge even. A lot to take in, you know?” Buffy said, wringing her hands.

“I need to be with you, Buffy. You need to be my girl again.” He said softly, trying to fill his voice will all of the love he could. “Say you will be my girl.”

*****

“Oh Goddess, Tara!” Willow sobbed, pressing her face into the other girl’s neck. “I am so sorry. Oh Goddess I am so sorry. I didn’t know, I didn’t know!”

“It’s okay, baby. I am sorry too, that it hurts so much. Just lay down okay? We can talk about it later.”

“I just feel so terrible.”

“It’s okay.” They lay on the bed holding each other.

“I saw, her, when he was hitting her, and the cage, and” Willow was trying to talk through her sobs. “I saw the journal, when you were reading.” Willow’s green eyes looked up at Tara’s blue, searching for forgiveness, and she saw it there, along with love, and compassion. “Buffy!”

“What?” Tara asked softly running her fingers through the tears.

“She has to know, if she could see.”

“Buffy isn’t ready to see, Willow. She hates Faith, and thinks that Faith hates her.”

“But.”

“It is a very thin line between love and hate, baby.” She kissed Willow to quiet her.

*****

“Angel.” She sighed, feeling conflicted, and angry. He was demanding too much, making her feel too much. Couldn’t he understand the hell that her life had become since she was brought back? That all of these human emotions were so much stronger, so much more painful after living lifetimes in heaven without them? She looked up at him suddenly. Of course he didn’t know. He assumed like all of them that she was in a Hell dimension. He never asked where she was; he never asked what had happened to her. He had never asked how she was truly feeling now. He was putting all of this out in front of her, using it in the exact way he had accused Faith of doing it earlier. But Faith had never told her those things, had never burdened her like Angel was doing now. “Angel, I think you need to leave now.” She said softly.

“What?” he laughed out, disbelieving.

“You put all this on me, how did you say it? ‘Lays that heavy emotion on you, forcing you to deal with their emotions.’ Not right now, Angel. I can’t deal with you right now.”

“You have got to be kidding. Buffy, this is me! Angel, the man you love!” He exclaimed.

“No. You are the vampire I loved.” She said, making it clear he heard her. Then she motioned her hand to the door.

“You will come to your senses, Buffy.” He sulked and stepped out the door.

“I hope so,” she sighed and closed the door behind him.

*****

I stood looking out the filthy window of the apartment I was renting. The building was so old; it looked like the brick would crumble in a strong wind. But it was enough for me. A bed, and a toilet and a sink. I had been moving around the city, staying on one place for only a few days at a time. It was weird. After a few days I would feel this pain inside, like there was emptiness, like something was missing from myself. I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. I had been alone most of my life, but I had never felt it like I was beginning to now. What was so different now that it affected me in such a way?

I looked down on Jackson Street, watching crowds moving on the street, going into shops, or just walking. This part of town was familiar in a way, in the mix of people, in the smells from the shops. And that was weird too. I had never lived in a Chinatown before. I pushed back from the window. Twilight was coming, and there was a place I needed to be tonight.

The stadium hummed with life and activity. This place was new, but there was an oldness to it. Like much of this city, and it did remind me of my childhood. I sat on the hard plastic seat, watching the game in front of me. Remembering.

It had only been one time; I think I was about ten years old. My life then was so different. It was before I knew hunger, before I knew that the monsters hiding in the closet were real. It was before my dad had left.

He had taken me to the ballpark in Boston, and we had sat together, watching the Red Sox playing on the grass, and he had calmly explained to a naïve little girl what was going on around them. The excitement of the crowd, the other families surrounding us. My dad had been so happy that day. His brown eyes smiling at me, when I grabbed his hand, a little scared when a home run was hit, and the people around us jumped to their feet. “It’s okay, Faith. This is a good thing.” His deep voice had whispered in my ear. A good thing.

I smiled and leaned back, my eyes moving over the crowd. About three rows ahead of me I saw blond hair, a woman, clutching the thick arm of the tall man beside her. They both turned to each other, eyes meeting. I knew it wasn’t B, but that couldn’t stop me from looking at the couple, wondering if B was that happy now. I knew Beef stick was out of the picture, I hadn’t seen him around Sunnydale before she was brought back. Who would she move on to next? I knew Angel was still sniffing around, he probably always would be, you know, right there, waiting for his chance to get back into her heart. While I hated him, for being everything to her I never could be, I also had done a lot of thinking. I think I knew why he wanted her so badly. He saw her as a pure and golden thing, representing innocence, divine goodness. He felt that he needed to have that, to complete his redemption. What a fool. Didn’t he know that wasn’t Buffy? She was dark too, she had to be. She was a killer, same as me.

It was fully dark now, and I was moving through the crowds, stalking my prey. Two vampires trying to find their meal among the happy families. It was sacrilegious if you asked me. A baseball park was a place to build memories, to be with your family. There should be rules, just like in churches. But we all know that rules mean shit to the dead.

I followed as they dipped into a shadowy hall, stalking two young teens. There were too many people around to really get into a drag out brawl with these two. But crowds did offer me something. Cover. I walked up quickly to one of them, my stake clutched in my fist, but hidden under the sleeve of my jacket. I ‘bumped’ into one of the vampires.

“Oops.” I whispered as he poofed. The other turned to look at me, as I took his arm in a death grip. He wanted to slide to game face but knew better. I looked up at him, my eyes hard. “You shouldn’t be here.” I said and lead him against a wall, where with a sad smile I staked him as well. He fell to the ground in hundreds of particles. I heard laughter behind me, and turned, seeing a group of young women, coming out of the ladies room. They seemed so happy. Fast friends. I had watched the Scoobies, they acted like that. So at ease in one another’s company. Had I ever known what they felt like, that feeling like you were part of something larger than just you? Friends. A family. My chest really began to hurt now. I leaned against the wall, trying to breathe through the pain.

What in the FUCK was happening to me now?

*****

“Tara?” The voice sounded pained as she held the phone to her ear.

“Faith is that you?” Tara asked, feeling Willow stirring in the bed next to her. It was really early in the morning, and both witches had had a hard night.

“Yeah. Listen, sorry it’s so late. You know us Slayers, we work funky hours.” Tara could hear the strain in the other girl’s voice.

“What’s wrong?”

“The spell. What did it really do?”

“What do you mean?”

“Listen, Blondie I have been alone my whole life, and I have been okay with that, liked it even. But now? Now I can’t think past the pain, and the loneliness. I just can’t.” Faith’s voice cracked. Tara could hear her taking a deep breath. “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just go on?”

“I, I don’t know, Faith.” Willow leaned up on her elbow looking at Tara with her eyes wide. She set her head on Tara’s shoulder. “What do you mean, pain?”

“I feel so, so alone.” Faith’s voice cracked on the other end of the phone. “I, I really don’t think I can keep this up, this pain, this emptiness.” She was softly crying, but Tara could hear it. “I want to;”

“Faith you can’t do that.” Tara knew what the younger girl was getting at.

“But maybe it really would be better, you know? There would be a new Slayer, and she could be there in Sunnydale, helping out.”

“No. It can’t work like that.” Tara said.

“What is it?” Willow asked in a whisper, and Tara merely shook her head.

“Why not. I think it would work out just fine. I know all of you are freaking out, knowing that I am still alive, just waiting for me to show up and be all bad again. They will never forgive me, so it really is for the best if I just go.” Her voice was stronger now, resolute.

“You cannot kill yourself.” Tara said sharply, and Willow sat up quickly, moving to the bookshelf across the room.

“Yes I can.”

“You told me you tried before, and it didn’t work. Were those just lies?”

“No.” She grumbled. “So maybe I can’t do the deed myself. But I only need to make a mistake, like walk onto the freeway, and it should work out fine. Sure a little messy.”

“Faith, you can’t do it. You won’t.”

“Last time I checked this was my body and my life.” Faith hissed.

“You don’t want that. If you did you wouldn’t have called.” Tara watched as Willow flipped through pages in a worn book.

“No I called to make sure I wouldn’t mess anything up by doing it.”

“What?” Tara asked, and Willow looked up concerned.

“The other day, I um, well, I think I had this connection thing with B. It was real intense, and I know you said that I gave up part of my soul to her, so I, erm.”

“Oh!” Tara said waving at Willow and smiling. “Buffy did mention something. She said it was like a daydream.”

“I guess you could say that.” Faith chuckled. “I felt her, all around me. Wait, she said something to you about it?”

“Yeah. No details though.”

“Good. So what’s the what Blondie. If I jump from this window, and trust me it is high enough to do the job, would I hurt her?” Faith asked.

“I think it would. You two are connected, even more so than before. I really think, from everything I have found in researching it, that there is one Slayer, in two bodies. So if you were to, kill yourself.”

“She might die too.” Faith whispered.

“Yeah.” Tara said, and Willow sat down next to her, eyes softer than Tara ever remembered them being.

“Okay.”

“W-what will you do, F-faith?”

“Stay alive. I will just have to deal with the emptiness.”

“Is it just over her?”

“Naw. It is everything. I never was very close to the Scooby Gang, you know, but I got close to you, and I have seen how they are all there for each other, and it hurts, knowing there is no one there for me. That there never will be.”

"You don’t know that for certain. You could come back, and try-"

“No, Tara. No.” The phone line was disconnected, and Tara looked at the phone, and then cradled it.

“What was that? I mean I think I know what that was about? But why would she want to do that?” Willow asked.

“She is lonely, Will. She has no one.” Tara said sadly.

“Will she come back here? I know after what I saw last night, and thinking about what we all read, I can kind of see why she did it all, and I guess, given time I might be able to forgive her, but I don’t think anyone else will be as forgiving.” When Willow was on a roll, she was on a roll with the babbling. “Maybe if she was around, and could prove her self, that she had changed to everyone, maybe then things would get better. But trust and forgiveness are a long ways off. She did some terrible things, and. Shit. I am babbling.” She looked down at her hands.

“I love Willow babble. And it’s okay. She won’t come back.” Tara ran her finger over Willow’s cheek.

“Ever?”

“You sound disappointed,” Tara smiled.

“Well, ever. That is really a long time.”

“I think she will come back one day, but only if Buffy needed her.”

“Oh. So she really does love her?” Willow asked, still feeling weird inside thinking that Faith had feelings for Buffy.

“Oh yeah.”

*****

Singing! Cursed singing! This was just terrible, he thought to himself as he watched the goings on within the Bronze. At least they knew now. It was all due to a little pesky wish by the little one. Didn’t make it any less annoying though. I got to get away from all of this, Spike thought to himself, and left. He started moving down the street, but heard someone behind him. Stopping he was surprised to see Buffy.

“You should go back inside. Finish the big group sing. Get your kum-ba-yayas out.” He snapped.

“I don’t want to.”

“The day you suss out what you do want, there’ll probably be a parade. Seventy-six bloody trombones.” He snapped back at her, sick and tired of her emotionless voice, her dead eyes, and the way she played with his emotions.

“Spike,” she said gently, trying to calm him down.

“Look, you don’t have to say anything.” He said, hating her and loving her at once.

“I touch the fire and it freezes me,” she sang to him softly. What was she saying? He stepped toward her again.

“I died…” He was singing again, but didn’t much care.

“I look into it and it’s black So many years ago. This isn’t real But you can make me But I just want to feel Feel.” They were singing together now, and he knew what she was saying, and he felt his chest tighten, just as their lips met, and she melted into his arms. He would take anything she was going to give him. And if it were just a kiss, and this moment, he would take it.

*****

She had it. Really, the last straw had been placed on the camel’s back and he had fallen through the desert sand and was dead. Okay, wacky mental picture. But it was how Buffy felt as she paced back and forth in the living room. This was all crazy, and was happening around her and she felt as though she had no control over any of it.

Angel was going to be human, and he wanted her back. Okay. Angel Big love, Big loss. Big deal. She didn’t feel anything when she was near him, or thought of him anymore. But maybe she was just still adjusting.

Spike. He was evil; he was only not trying to kill her and her friends because he had a government chip in his head stopping him. He wanted her so badly he turned into a little puppy dog, mooning over her constantly. And last night, with the singing and the kissing. She had felt something in that kiss, warmth inside of her, a tingling like a distant memory, which she just could not completely place.

Riley. He left, but because he thought she didn’t love him, but she did, she just had shitty timing. But did she truly love him still? If he came back today would she be jumping for joy? She doubted it.

Why was this her life?

“Buffy?” A soft voice from the kitchen, and she turned slowly. Thank God! It was only Tara, not someone else wanting to profess their undying love for her. At least she hoped not. She felt a smile on her lips. Maybe she just needed time, she was making jokes again, and that was a good sign, wasn’t it?

“Hey.” She said, motioning to the taller girl.

“You okay?”

“Sure, why?”

“The hole you are putting in the rug with the pacing.” Tara smiled softly.

“Um, are we alone?” Buffy asked, crossing her arms.

“Yeah?” Tara looked nervous.

“Good.” Buffy nodded her head.

“Um, Buffy?” Tara said after about thirty seconds of silence.

“Oh! Right, talking out loud.” Buffy moved to sit on the couch. “You know, that, well, I was brought back from,” Tara nodded quickly. “Well, since I got back, I feel kind of, I don’t know. Wrong. Empty.”

“Empty?”

“Sort of. I feel like I don’t have any emotions.”

“But you do. You smile, I have heard you laugh.”

“Oh.”

“Here, I will test you. When you think of Angel, what do you feel?”

“Zilch.” Buffy sighed.

“Dawn?”

“Protect.”

“Spike?”

“Confused.”

“Willow?”

“Protect.”

“Xander?”

“Loyal.”

“Me?”

“Safe,” Buffy smiled at Tara.

“Faith.” Her smile fell.

“Tara,” she pulled out the girl's name in a groan.

“You feel some emotions then. It will just take some time. You were in euphoric bliss for a long time. All of this,” Tara moved her arms, “takes some adjustment. But you feel that we love you, right? That we are glad you are here? And that you are safe here?”

“I do.” Buffy leaned forward. “One more thing. Can you do that spell, to uninvited a couple of boys we know?”

*****

It had been two weeks. Two whole weeks since he had seen her last, since he had told her the great gift that destiny was going to provide him, and she had done nothing. Not called, not driven up to L.A. Nothing. Well this was not the way he was going to let things be. For too long he had just waited for her to make up her mind. That was not going to happen again.

It was a warm night, and the back door was open, leading into the kitchen. He walked up the steps quickly, and then found himself on his ass on the back lawn. He growled loudly. What gave her the right to uninvited him! He walked back up to the door and banged loudly on the frame. Instantly Dawn poked her head around the corner.

“Angel?” She asked, smiling.

“Hi, Dawn.” He moved his fingers in a wave. He still wasn’t too sure what to make of the little girl, or mystical energy or whatever she was. “Invite me in?” He asked, just itching to step forward.

“No can do, Angel.” She smiled, and he thought she might like her newfound power.

“What happened? Did Faith say something about me?” He snapped.

“Why would she have anything to say about you?” Buffy asked from over her sister’s shoulder. She was studying him.

“Why else would you keep me out?" He rounded his eyes. “Buffy, please, we need to talk. You haven’t called, or come. We need to talk about things.”

“Man, you and the boyfriends.” Dawn mumbled and backed away, deeper into the kitchen.

“What is there to talk about, Angel?” Buffy asked, leaning on the inside doorframe.

“Let me in.” He growled, but softly.

“Nope. I am really tired of you boys thinking that because you have the hots for me, that gives you free reign to be part of my life.” She said, crossing her arms again.

“Boys?” He scratched his head. “Buffy, have you been hurt? You aren’t making any sense.” She refused to comment further. “Listen, I have to go away for awhile. I wanted to make sure you were okay, and that you understood, you know, about what I said.”

“I heard you then Angel. You will one day be human. You don’t know when, or how, but you will be. I got it.” She said.

“So you will wait for me?”

“Um, probably not.” She said sarcastically. His face held his look of disbelief. “I will not wait for you indefinitely. I am not saying I am going to run out and find someone.” Why did she say someone, not some man; he mumbled to himself. “But I won’t sit around waiting and being unhappy either. How could you ask that of me?” She moved back into the room. “When you get back from your little trip, give me a call and let me know how it went. Okay?” And she was gone. Looking at his hand, he saw that his fist had been so tight that he broke the skin and blood was dripping onto the porch. He spun around, stomping out of the yard, flipping open his cell phone.

“Angel Investigations, we help the helpless.” Cordy’s voice said less than cheerfully.

“Cordy?”

“Angel, where are you?” She asked.

“On my way to New York. I had a thought. We need to find Faith. I am worried about what she might try and do to Buffy.”

“We have been over this, Angel. Faith has disappeared. The best I can do is hire someone to keep on eye on Sunnydale. But why don’t you just tell Buffy to call you if Faith shows up?”

“I don’t want her to ever see that girl again.” He grumbled, getting into his car.

“Afraid they may look deeply into each others eyes and get all mushy.”

“No!” He snapped.

“Um, joke. Hello, did you forget your sense of humor here? Oh, wait, what am I thinking, you never had one to begin with.”

“Good bye Cordelia.” He hung up the phone, and began driving out of Sunnydale.

*****

“That was weird.” Dawn said, sitting back down next to Willow on the couch. “Why would we not want Angel to come in?” She dropped her hand into the bowl of popcorn.

“He was getting all possessive or something.” Willow answered, then leaned closer to the younger girl's ear. “Besides, he really wants Buffy back.”

“But she doesn’t want to be back. I gotcha.” She chewed for a minute. “What about Spike? He’s a good guy though right?”

“Dawn, they are both good guys. Just they both happen to be obsessed with Buffy, and she just needs a place where they can’t get to her. You know, a haven.” Willow smiled at Buffy who came in and sat with them.

“I just hope when I am your age, I have normal boys obsessed with me. Is that too much to hope for?” Dawn asked with a wicked grin.

*****

After the movies, Willow went back upstairs. Tara had gone up earlier, saying that she was tired. But when Willow walked into the bedroom she was greeted by the twinkling lights of a dozen or so candles burning all over the room. She closed the door, and then felt hands on her hips, and Tara’s body pressed against her tightly. She sighed into the taller girl, feeling content.

“That was a long movie.” Tara said softly, brushing Willow’s hair away from her neck, before setting her lips down.

“If I would have known, I wouldn’t have watched the credits.” Willow babbled, running her hand over Tara’s as it gripped her stomach.

“I have missed you.” Tara murmured, moving her lips up her neck, to her ear. Slowly she pulled the lobe between her lips, sucking. “It’s been too long.”

“Mmhmm.” Was all Willow could get out. Her heart was thundering in her chest. Just feeling this close to Tara was arousing. But having those lips touching her, and the sound of the want in her voice was making her body react.

“Mm. That’s all you have to say?” Tara pressed her hips against Willow’s ass, grinding slowly.

“Goddess, Tara.” She moaned.

“Better.” Tara moved around taking Willow’s face in her hands and bringing their lips together. Her hands were in the soft red hair as the kiss deepened, and the passion was beginning to rise. Willow pulled away and inhaled deeply before saying,

“Bed. Naked. Now.” She began unbuttoning Tara’s blouse, moving quickly, instead of drawing it out. She wanted her lover, now. She was in no mood to be romantic and sensual. That would be for later. Tara was right it had been too long. The shirt fell to the floor, and Willow stared, mouth open at the sight before her. Tara’s chest was heaving, her nipples erect. She dropped her head hungrily, taking the left nipple into her mouth. Willow felt Tara’s hands on her body, pulling off her clothes, but she refused to release the glorious breasts in her hands and mouth. She loved these breasts.

Tara’s moans were driving her crazy, and she could feel how aroused she was. The heat in the room was building. Willow ran her tongue down Tara’s stomach, and then pushed her back onto the bed.

“Willow.” She whispered, and her shorts where pulled off of her. Tara knew that look of pure want in Willow’s eyes. She could feel it. Tara opened her legs, and arched her back, feeling Willow’s hair moving over her thigh. Her tongue was on Tara instantly, licking from top to bottom. Tara opened her legs wide, as wide as she could, loving the feeling of Willow’s tongue just inside her, and then she moved up, capturing Tara’s clit in her lips and sucked it into her mouth. Tara moaned loudly, and then looked back down her body at her lover, who was hungrily feasting on her. Willow moaned, and the vibrations nearly brought Tara to orgasm. “Willow.” She said, her hands pulling Willow’s mouth from her.

“What’s wrong?” Willow asked, out of breath.

“Nothing, baby. I just want us to come together. I want to look into your eyes.” Tara said, still tugging on Willow, getting her to move up the bed. Her hands moved over each part of Willow’s body as they lay facing each other.

“I want you.” Willow groaned, and felt what she needed, as Tara slipped a finger through her wet folds.

*****

“Oh, Goddess.”

Buffy stopped, her hand on the bathroom door, and turned her head towards the Wiccas’ bedroom.

“Oh, Tara, please,” yep, that was Willow, and she was moaning.

“I love you Willow.” Tara was moaning too. Buffy opened the bathroom door, wondering what had made them forget to do the warding spell. She had never heard them before, and once asked Willow if she and Tara ever did, you know, anything. Willow had blushed so deeply. It had taken some time for her to regain her composure, and then she informed Buffy that there was a spell, that would keep all sounds confined to one room.

“Harder!” Willow again.

Yeah, those spells are a good thing. It appeared that Willow was a screamer.

“Oh, Goddess.” Tara. Okay they were both loud. The bathroom door was closed. She really shouldn’t be hearing this. Buffy looked into the mirror, looking past her skin, her nose, just into her eyes. Those two loved each other so very much. But would she ever feel that again? Was this the price of her being brought back? Or worse. She tried to look deeper. Everyone said that the eyes were the doorways to the soul. Could Buffy see Faith in there, looking at her? If she was part of Faith now, was that why she felt nothing? Because Faith was simply incapable of feeling emotions?

That was silly, Buffy smirked. Faith was passion girl. Always had been. You could always read Faith’s emotions in her eyes.

There was a rhythmic knocking that joined the moans coming from down the hall. Buffy felt her face flush, realizing what was happening just a few feet from her. That they were. Okay, not good to think about that, or Faith, or anything else.

“Tara-Willow!” Shouted at the same time. Buffy opened the bathroom door and looked at their closed bedroom. The same time? How could they do that at the same time? Okay, bad visual there. She shook her head, she really was a stuck up prude.

*****

Buffy watched the two muggers, though human, still in need of a Slayer sized ass whooping running from the alley. Spike was rolling on the ground, holding his head and moaning. This was turning into another shitty night. First the witches and their marathon sex now this!

“Gah!” She exclaimed throwing her hands in the air. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I thought they were demons.” Spike blubbered. He stood, shaking his head, trying to obviously clear the pain away.

“Way to go with the keen observiness, Jessica Fletcher.” She snapped.

“Remind me not to help you.”

“More often.” Buffy rolled her eyes at him. Why couldn’t he hang out with the other demons and neutered vamps at Willy’s?

“Hey, a little sympathy for the man with the migraine here, can we?”

“Well, that’s what you get for attacking humans.”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, annoyed. “You’d think if the government was gonna put a chip in my head, they’d at least make it so I could attack criminals and that sort.”

“Yes, because muggers deserve to be eaten.” She glared at Spike, wishing he would just limp home and leave her alone. Slayers, prophecy, fighting alone. Did no one else read the handbook? “Just have to get your rocks off fighting demons.”

“There are other ways,” he leered.

“And to that, an extreme, ‘See you later’.” She turned; ready to get the hell out of here. She was tired of hearing it from him, tired of hearing it from Angel. Just plain tired of hearing it. Ugh. Spike was running to catch up.

“Buffy,” he called. She stopped and turned back at him with a sigh. His eyes were round and pleading.

“Spike…. It’s late, okay, can we just finish this another time?”

He took a few steps to be closer to her. “Oh, so you wanna jump right to kissing then, eh?”

"I am not kissing you Spike. Once was-"

“Twice.” He cut her off.

“But not again.” Never again, she repeated in her head, and started walking away again.

“You’re a tease, you know that Slayer?” Rolling her eyes she tried to block him out. Just hum yourself some happy little tune Buffy, don’t listen to the bleach bottle head. “Get a fellow’s motor revving, let the tension marinate a couple-a days, then bam! Crown yourself ice queen.” Why could she still hear him, she wondered.

“Need a few more metaphors for that little mix?” She grumbled.

“It’s only a matter of time before you realize I’m the only one here for you, pet. You got no one else!” He screamed. That does it. She spun on her heel, glaring at him.

“Again, no.” She said.

“I love you Buffy. No one else will. No one else can.” His face was tortured, and she could see that he truly believed that. But why couldn’t he see that she wasn’t going there? Not to a cold dead demon. Not again. She shook her head no. He rushed towards her, his coat billowing around him. But she wasn’t scared, he couldn’t hurt anyone. Or so Buffy thought, until her head smacked against the wall, with a sicken thud, and her vision clouded. “No one can ever give you what I can!” He moaned, pulling back his fist, and she felt it connect with her jaw. Buffy’s eyes went wide, as he kept hitting her. Spike was feeling no pain.

*****

“Buffy, you okay?” Dawn asked, seeing her sister coming into the house. Her face was bruised, and there was dried blood in her hair. It had been a long time since something had come along strong enough to do that to her sister.

“What?” Buffy asked, hanging up her coat. Dawn gestured to her sister. “Oh, strong vamp. I guess I am not up to one hundred percent Slayer yet.”

“But you are okay though, right?”

“Huh? Oh, sure. I will be right as rain in the morning I am sure.” Buffy shrugged moving towards the stairs. She really hoped she would be all right, but after tonight she wasn’t sure she would ever be right again. There was pain inside of her, deep, and she knew it wasn’t a physical pain. No this was emotional, and Buffy wasn’t sure that she liked it. After months of being in the void when it came to feeling things, this was another unwelcome change to being alive again.

“Buffy, are you sure?” Dawn asked from the living room.

“Yeah. Hey, what are you doing still awake? Isn’t this a school night?” Buffy, turned crossing her arms and giving her sister a scowl.

“Sorry, I was um waiting for somebody.”

“Somebody who?” Buffy asked.

“Spike was going to come over, he was going to, well.”

“Dawn! Do not invite him into this house. Do you hear me?” Her voice was that motherly screeching timbre that she and Dawn both despised.

“Jeez, I get it. You can’t handle that you love him, and you are taking it out on all of us.” Dawn grumbled, but Buffy heard her perfectly. She was down the stairs in a flash, looking up at her sister’s wide blue eyes.

“I do not love him. I will never love him.” She hissed. “Has he been telling you things? Trying to get you to put in a good word for him?”

“No.” Dawn wavered a little.

“Right. Listen Dawn, never forget what he is. HE is a demon, a monster.”

“He is better now. I mean, no soul like Angel, which is almost better, cause he can’t loose it when you guys,” Dawn rolled her eyes, “you know.”

“There will never be ‘you know’ Dawn. I mean it. Stay away from him.”

“No!” She stomped her foot in a way that only an infant should be able to get away with, but she still readily employed. “Spike is a Scooby. He worked with us all summer to save the people in this town. He is good.”

“Faith saved the people of this town.” Buffy growled, her stomach twisting at the name.

“He is my friend, and you can’t stop that.” Her sister howled and ran past her up the stairs. The house shook as Dawn slammed her bedroom door. Buffy released a breath she didn’t know she was holding. Why was everything so damn complicated in life? Why was it always about her?

*****

He sat in his crypt, looking down at his hands, flexing and unflexing them. Opening his palm and wiggling his fingers. Something had happened tonight, and he was unsure exactly what. But it had felt good to him. The feeling of her flesh beneath his fist. The smell of her blood in the air. It made his demon sing within him. But how was it possible? She was human, and he couldn’t hurt humans. So what had happened?

Spike had tried to attack a young girl on his way back home, and it had hurt, felt like his head was going to break in two. So maybe it was just about her, maybe he could just hurt Buffy.

He walked over to the chair and sat down heavily, lighting a cigarette. What had been so different? He didn’t want to hurt her, not really, he was just so enraged that she would not admit that she loved him, the kiss the other day proved it. She wanted him, but was just too stuck up to realize it.

“Balls!” He yelled. He loved her so very much. Wait a minute. He jumped up and began pacing. The entire time he was trading blows with the Slayer he was concentrating on his love for her. He wasn’t lashing out to hurt or kill. He was striking out of love. “Fucking brilliant! I love loop holes.” He grinned devilishly.

*****

Giles was absently running the feather duster over some articles on a shelf in the Magic Shop. He found himself doing that a lot as of late. Since her return, Buffy had been distant, barely noticing him, and even more rarely speaking with him. He assumed it was due to anger she felt for him hiding the truth of Faith’s death. But that still did not remove the sting he felt. The uselessness. It truly seemed like the group no longer needed him anymore. He certainly wasn’t working in his capacity as a Watcher. The Council was livid that he had allowed Faith to escape them again, but he had to agree with the young girl’s logic. He could not live with himself knowing they were keeping her in a cage, drugged, merely waiting for Buffy to fail, and die again. He had witnessed the change within her, and to him Faith was no longer a monster. If anything he felt evil, for doing what he did to her. He was not sure he would ever forgive himself. Beating her. Starving her. Humiliating her. As a man he had sunken so low. Both Rupert and the Ripper agreed on that point.

The bell sounded from over the door, and he noticed Anya’s face perk up as she looked at the potential customer, but just as quickly she went back to flipping through her magazine. It must be one of the children, he deduced, and peeked around the shelf. Buffy was walking down the steps. She looked better today. Her cheeks appeared a little fuller, her eyes just ever so brighter as she smiled at him. Oh, it had been too long since he had seen that smile, directed at him.

“Well, hello Buffy.” He said, setting down the duster.

“Hi!” She wiggled her fingers at him. “Watcha doing?” She asked, sitting on the table.

“Keeping myself busy, you know. Shop owner.”

“Co-owner.” Anya corrected, not looking up from her magazine.

“Right.” He conceded. Giving that girl half of the shop, when he thought he would be leaving Sunnydale had been a mistake. One of many he had made, and still had yet to, he believed. He turned to his Slayer, smiling softly, “And what do we owe the pleasure of seeing you today?”

“Just wanted to see my Watcher.” She said, happily. “You are still my Watcher right?”

“Yes, of course.” He beamed with fatherly pride.

“You aren’t Her Watcher?” She squinted at him.

“No. She is without a Watcher for the time being.”

“Probably a good thing. They all seem to end up dead or tortured.” Buffy scoffed under her breath.

“Rather unfortunate, but accurate yes.” He sat down at the table. “What can I do for you Buffy?”

“I was thinking about training. I kind of had my ass handed to me last night, and think I might be a little rusty in the being one hundred percent Slayer department.” She was looking distractedly at her nails. “Do think she and I split the powers? So we aren’t as strong as we were?”

“I don’t think so. It is a possibility. But prior to your, erm, death, we were training regularly. And I might be able to judge any short comings.” He said, still thrilled that she had come to him.

“Just what I was hoping for.” She jumped down. “Let’s go.”

*****

“Why are you never in school? You know the witches are going to have your hide.” Spike said as he sensed Dawn coming into the crypt behind him. He switched off the television and turned to look at her over his shoulder.

“Half day today. It’s all legit.” She said, tossing her backpack over by the marble sarcophagus. She turned to him. “Oh, but don’t tell Buffy I am here.”

“What, Big Sis doesn’t like you hanging with the Big Bad?” He stood and they began walking towards the ladder that led to the more homely part of his crypt.

“Something like that. But you are more of a Big Softy, than a Big Bad.” Dawn teased.

“Oh, really?” He growled, moving to tickle her.

“Yes!” She squealed running away. “So are we going to finish that book or what? I am getting into the Shakespeare guy.” She dropped on his bed, looking for the book they were reading together.

“Just you keep this to yourself. Don’t want the populous getting wind of my passion for sonnets.” He grumbled, taking the book from her.

“See, softy.”

*****

They were still in bed, though it was the middle of the afternoon. The sun was coming in from the windows, warming everything. Tara was running her hand over Willow’s hair, as the other girl lay curled on her chest.

“What are you thinking?” Tara whispered, content to be in bed, feeling warm and free.

“That I am stupid sometimes.” Willow mumbled, her breath tickling Tara’s naked breast.

“What?” Tara laughed.

“About Faith. Hello, I am supposed to be all smart and stuff. I never even guessed that she was only fifteen then. I mean she was so confident. You know, such a,”

“Slut bomb, I think was the term you used in the past.” Tara said patiently. Since doing the spell together last week, they had not really talked about Faith. But they weren’t fight either.

“Right. Feel kinda bad about that.”

“Why? She was a slut bomb. I knew that when she was in Buffy’s body.” Willow shot up looking at Tara in the eyes.

“You weren’t thinking that when she was here were you? Oh Goddess, you thought she was sexy didn’t you?” Tara kissed Willow gently.

“No. When she was here she was broken, sad, empty.”

“Sounds familiar.” Willow mumbled.

“Yeah, she was a lot like Buffy is now. But I think she is different. I mean, wanting to kill herself just for feeling alone. That is really different.”

“You are right there. I never even imagined she would be capable of that.” Willow set her head on Tara’s shoulder.

“Do you still hate her?”

“A little. Knife at throat kind of puts me off.” Willow sat back, “But,” she sighed, “I can learn to not hate her. Maybe even learn to forgive her with time. Feels weird.”

”What baby?”

“I feel bad for her.” Tara turned to Willow, looking at her searching. “I know what it feels like to love someone so much you would give up everything you have for that person.” She ran her finger over Tara’s cheek. “And to not be able to feel that love in return.” She kissed Tara’s nose, and then her lips. “Everyone deserves to be loved.”

“You don’t think Buffy ever would love her?”

“Buffy? No. No way. When she hates you, she really hates you.”

“She hated Angelus.”

“Again, apples and oranges.” Willow laughed, but then frowned again. “Maybe Faith could find someone else?”

“I don’t think she is capable of loving anyone other than Buffy.”

“Why do you say that?”

“From what I know about Faith, no one loved her, ever, no one really. The only person who ever came close was Buffy. But Faith thrives on passion, you know. She has to feel everything intensely. So it is okay to her to feel pain for loving Buffy, knowing she might never return the feelings. At least she is feeling something. It’s the same with Buffy right now. You know since she came back, she has been a little lacking in the emotions department.”

“But she is getting better.” Willow squeaked.

“Yes, she is. But she still feels some emotions strongly, and she is holding onto the hate she has for Faith, as a way to help her rekindle her other emotions.”

“I think I get it. Maybe it’s the heat, or the fact that the blanket just dropped, but I can’t think much past how beautiful your breasts are.” Willow mumbled huskily, leaning forward to claim one in between her lips.

“Vixen.”

*****

He was hitting her, and she was hitting him. She hadn’t been in such an all out fighting rage since, since the night on the balcony with Faith. And that just angered her even more. Filled her heart with such burning hatred.

The night had started out fine. Simple patrol, dusting some newbie vamps, then making her rounds. Then Spike showed up, all Mister aggressive, with his “I can hit you now, look at me” cockiness. And she just attacked him. And before she knew it, here they were, in this abandoned house, beating the shit out of each other. As Buffy flew threw the air and smacking into the wall, feeling it splinter behind her, she wondered what was making this happen. Had they all lied to her, again? Was she not really human anymore?

“I love you!” He howled, as she slammed him against the wall. “And you will love me!” He grabbed her face in his hands, kissing her roughly. She could feel his teeth cutting her lips, hot blood mingling in their mouths and he was lapping it up. His hands grabbed her legs, squeezing them open with enough force to break a human’s bones. He lifted her, still sucking on her tongue. Fine, she thought to herself, feeling her insides freeze. He wants this. I will give him this, and maybe then he will leave me alone. Buffy wrapped her legs around his waist. Her hands unzipping his leather pants, and felt him, hard, ready in her hand. She roughly kissed him back, watching his eyes widen, as she slammed her body down on him, encasing him inside of her. The coldness of him burned, hurt. It had been so long since Riley had been inside of her; she must have tightened up again. Spike moaned against her, as they fell back, moving together, and fell through the floor, into the basement. Buffy barely noticed the pain. She was far away from herself, lost in the action of him inside her, hoping that this would bring the calm that she had brought when she had touched herself alone, in her room. Anything for a moment of emptiness, and peace, even this. She ignored his hand slapping her face, ignored his mumbled words of hate and possession, and just concentrated on his rhythm.

She felt empty again, as she rolled off of him. Looking around she noticed her clothes in tatters, scattered about the dusty basement. Part of her wanted to just lift up a beam of wood and slam it into his heart, to free herself from whatever sick game this was. But already, she could feel herself changing, becoming weak at the sight of him. Lying there, glistening white, muscular and hard. He was smaller than Riley or Angel, but had an agility that neither had possessed. Buffy was disgusted with even thinking about that. She stood and began pulling back on her clothes, not looking at him.

“So what now? You think you can go back to treating me like dirt till the next time you get an itch you can’t scratch?” He stood up, pulling on his pants roughly. But she wouldn’t look at him, so he paced closer. “Well forget it.” He pulled his belt from his pants and brought it down once across her back. “Last night changed things. I am done being your whipping boy.” He struck her again, and she just moved away, facing him.

“Nothing has changed. It was a mistake.”

“Bullocks! It was a bloody revelation!” He glared at her, stalking her like the predator he was. “You can act as high and mighty as you like… but I know where you live now, Slayer.” He licked his lips. “I’ve tasted it.” He moves to kiss her, but Buffy moved back, trying to regain some of her past strength. “I may be dirt…. But you are the one who likes to roll in it, Slayer. You never had it so good as me. Never.” He grabbed her face in his fingers. “And don’t forget who loves you, and who is the only one left who can hurt you.”

*****

“Hungry and Horny.” Tara chuckled to herself as she put the two sandwiches on a plate. It wasn’t just slaying that could do that to a girl. She and Willow had been working on spells all night. They had been so caught up in what they were doing, that it wasn’t until the sun began to rise that they noticed the time. And after a quick make out session, Willow had pleaded that she was starved. So Tara had come down stairs, demanding that Willow stay, as she was, naked on the bed. The blonde tucked some hair behind her ear, and thought again for the millionth time, how very lucky she was to have Willow. To have her strength, her passion, her companionship. They were perfect together. Tara moved out of the kitchen, but stopped hearing the door behind her open. She turned, smiling, knowing it was their Slayer.

“Long night?” Tara asked, before seeing Buffy. Her shirt was ripped, her legs cut and bruised. She looked terrible. “Buffy, what happened, you have bruises all over.”

“Fight.” Buffy mumbled, holding her jacket closed. Tara looked her over critically, noticing that there was a hand shaped bruise that just could be seen from under her skirt. On the inside of her thigh.

“Those aren’t fighting bruises.” Tara whispered softly, her eyes rounding in sympathy for the Slayer.

“Yes. They. Are.” Buffy said, and walked roughly past her. Tara watched her limp out of the room, wondering what had happened, and who had dared to hurt Buffy in such a way.

*****

I was sitting on the floor, another motel room. This time I was in the industrial district of the city. There was a little more action down here. Seems the vamps liked the warehouses for hiding places. And that was okay by me. I needed to keep busy. A busy Slayer was a happy Slayer. That was my new motto. Felt like getting fucking tee shirts printed with that on them.

I flipped open my journal and dated it. Man it had been a month since my little breakdown with Tara over the phone. Hadn’t called her since then. It hurt too much. And what was with all of these pesky emotions I was feeling all over again. Guilt, remorse, longing. Ugh. Made me miss prison and the damn Council and their padded room. At least there I was so out of it, that I felt nothing. I was nothing. Being back was tough. And I wasn’t the old Faith, not the one I knew and hated. This was a new one, and I was still having a rough time getting around the twists and turns that were now me.

Sure I felt it inside me, the badness dancing around taunting me like a kid on the playground with the last ice-cream cone. But I could keep it in check now. In the past, in Sunnydale, I felt the evil in me, hiding in the back ground, coming out when I let it, when I was beating something around real good. But then I didn’t know the safety word, I couldn’t control it. Not like I could now. And I had a feeling that it was all because of me not being all me anymore. Okay, that made no sense. I think it is because there is no longer Two Slayers, so the PTB aren’t messing with my ability to control myself. I have my conscious back. Been a long while, almost three years without it. So living with it is a little weird. But I can do it. I know I can.

I spin the pen in my fingers, wondering what I will write about today. I make quick note of the numbers of vampires I have slain, and then move on to more usual shit. Boring, what I ate, how I slept, watched the sunrise again. Blah blah blah. Anything I was thinking went onto the paper, as long as it had nothing to do with Blonde hair, hazel eyes, and an electric smile.

Buffy was a million miles out of my reach, and I needed to stop thinking of her, cause the pain was no fun at all.

*****

It was a look she had seen before on his face, and recognized it now. Tonight was the fourteenth in the repeat performances. The look he was giving her was that of lust; raw and angry. Nothing soft, nothing warm. It was his look for her, his desire to possess her. She turned away, the sickening feeling of her body reacting to him, as if by instinct. Wanting something warm and soft, why couldn’t her body understand that it would not find what it was seeking in Spike’s embrace? She set her hands on the railing, looking down at the club below them. She could see her friends, sitting smiling, laughing. She felt him take her hair in his fist, yanking her head back. Buffy felt tears welling in her eyes, but refused to release them. She heard his zipper come down, one arm snaked around her chest, locking like a vice, the other hand under her skirt, ripping her panties away with a flick of the wrist.

“You want this Slayer. You need this.” He growled against her neck, and he was inside her with a push. She hadn’t been ready, and it burned and hurt as he filled her. He was so cold, and she knew, no matter how long he stayed inside of her, he would never become warm. He nipped at her neck, moving inside of her. Buffy could feel the zipper cutting against her tender skin. His hips jerked up against her with hard and sharp motions, that were all about his desire, and his needs. She was feeling nothing of pleasure, no little echo that she had felt the first time. Ever since then she had felt no pleasure, no release. He was using her. “No one will ever love you like me, no one can. Who fucking would? You are a shell. You are empty.” He whispered rhythmically to his thrusts. “What would they say if they saw you like this, here and now, only purpose in this life to love me.” Buffy could feel him as he climaxed inside of her. He moved away suddenly, and she looked over her shoulder at him. She was greeted with a punch to her cheek. But still the tears stayed in her eyes. “Come by my place later. I am not done with you.” He turned away, and she watched him walked down the stairs. Buffy sighed, but then froze. Tara was standing at the other end of the landing. Tears were rolling down the witch’s cheeks. Buffy lowered her head in shame. She felt so used, and dirty. At that moment she wished for death, sweet release.

A gentle hand was on her face now, bringing her eyes up. Tara’s were filled with questions.

“Not now.” Buffy whispered.

“He has to stop.” Tara said.

“I can’t make him. I tried, but I just can’t. What’s the use? I think they are all right.” Buffy said.

“About what?” Tara’s eyes were full of compassion and understanding. That was what made Tara, well Tara. She was the safety, the unconditional love and understanding.

“I deserve it.” The witch pulled Buffy against her tightly, holding her, and rocking her. And it felt warm, and tender.

“No you don’t.”

“I must not be human Tara. How else can he do these things to me? I came back wrong. You lied, you all did.” Buffy shoved her away. Tara looked sad. “You lied. I am wrong.”

“No Buffy, he just found another way to do this to you. I swear to you, you are human. And you don’t deserve this. You were not meant to get torn from heaven for this. What he is doing is wrong, Buffy.”

“But there is no way to stop him. If I can’t, no one can.” Buffy scoffed, and ran from the ledge, needing to be away from all humans. She felt so miserable.

*****

I couldn’t sleep at all. Sure I had been up all night chasing baddies around town, but when I got back to the motel I just couldn’t sleep. There was like this weird pain inside my heart. I wondered, as I stomped down the sidewalks in the city, if I had been coherent in prison, if I would have begun to feel this then as well. I missed her desperately. Right at this moment I would take anything, her splitting my head open with an axe, just to see her, smell her. A fight would be welcome, because I would feel her touching me. But I doubted I would ever touch her out of anger again. She could rip me to shreds, and I would smile like a goofy kid, thanking her the entire time.

But I wasn’t just missing her. Even though thousands of miles separated us, something felt off about her. Wrong. When I was lying in bed, thinking about her and trying to sleep, it was almost like I was hearing her crying. Mournful and sad. It was just too much. Maybe I was trying to convince myself that something might be wrong, that she might in some small way need me. That was it. Faith is mind fucking herself, trying for an excuse to get back to Sunnydale. That was all it was. Nothing really wrong. Who was I trying to kid? The great and powerful Buffy would never need someone like me.

But that didn’t stop me from dialing the number to her house. It didn’t stop me from dropping in the quarters. It didn’t stop me from holding my breath waiting for someone to answer the phone. As I waited through the second ring, I noticed how filthy the pay phone was, how filthy my hand looked. Man, when was the last time I showered? I was really letting myself go here.

“Hello?” A voice answered. Young. Slightly annoying. It must be Dawn.

“Is Tara there?” I asked, trying to remove my accent, anything that would give me away.

“Sure.” I could hear her screaming Tara’s name. Wow, that kid had some lungs on her. I pitted all of them for having a teenager around. What was I thinking? The entire Scooby Gang was barely out of the teen years themselves.

“H-hello?” It was her.

“Hey Blondie. Man, kiddo has some lungs, doesn’t she?” I leaned against the glass wall.

“Oh, thank god you called!” She sighed in a rush. That freaked me. I straightened up.

“What is wrong Tara?” I asked.

“It’s Buffy.” She was whispering.

“God, no.” I moaned. “What is it? Master Vamp? Demon. Not another apocalypse.”

“No, no, not that.” She was breathing funny. I bet she was walking somewhere with the phone. I heard a door close. “It’s about her and Spike.” My heart dropped.

“Do not tell me she is giving it up to him. Please Blondie, my heart can’t take it.”

“Faith, it is bad. I, I, I”

“Say it!” I snap, not meaning to, but I know how she turns into a scratched record sometimes.

“I think he is beating her.” The air deflates out of me.

“Tara, she is the Slayer. What can he do? She could stake him.”

“But, Faith. This is different. She mentioned, that he is doing things to her, that she can’t stop. And, she wants to stop, but he has some hold over her or something.”

“You are telling me he is fucking her and hitting her?” I was stunned. I never thought B would be a victim. But she did say once that I made her one. Maybe this was my fault too.

“Right. You know how that gets. You get your head all messed up.”

“Are you sure?”

“I, I, I saw them, the other night. He was, erm, well, and he kept telling her that no one would have her but him.”

“He’s messing with her, when she is still hurting and vulnerable.” I growled. “Tara, I will be back tomorrow. I am getting a train now.”

“Come by the house. I’ll be waiting.”

“Okay.” I hung up the phone, shaking with anger and rage. Spike was dust the second I saw him.

...continued in Destiny...

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