It Starts With Faith Season 4 -- Chapter 32 by Dreiser

TITLE: It Starts With Faith 
CHAPTER: Thirty 
AUTHOR: Dreiser 
EMAIL: dreiser0@earthlink.net 
YAHOO I.D.: dreiser3
MY REALLY LONG HOMEPAGE ADDY: http://www.angelfire.com/anime2/superhighway/Dreiser/dreiser.html
ISWF ARCHIVES: http://www.altfic.com/    --    http://www.geocities.com/shaych3/dreiser.htm 
MAILING LIST: Well, it's not really a mailing list for this fic series but just for F/C pairing in general. Check it out! http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cordyhasfaith
CONTENT: F/F romance. The stars are Faith/Cordelia. Don't like it, don't like them, please don't read the fic. 
SUMMARY: An alternate reality series that places Faith as the one true slayer aka the chosen one for her generation. 
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but my wind up Mokona toy which is the most kawaii thing I've ever owned.
DISCLAIMER DUEX: After three years of writing this monster, here it goes. Do not archive the fic without permission. Likewise, the originals, dinky as they may be, are my creations. Ask before you play with my toys, used and worn out as they might be. Heh.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This really has nothing to do with anything but I think one of the things I love the most in the world are radio stations on the net. The variety is just too good for someone like me. One minute I'm groovin' to J-Pop and the next to Paris Techno. Yeahhhh. lol.

It Starts With Faith
By: Dreiser


-Thirty Two-

"You're going to be late."

Ignoring Cordelia's words, Faith pressed closer to her girlfriend and wound her fingers into the taller girl's hair. Giving a sensual smile, Faith murmured, "I don't care."

"Liar," Cordelia said plainly, arching an eyebrow. She rested her hands lightly on Faith's waist and leaned down to whisper in her ear, "You're too good not to care."

"I care a little then," revealed Faith in husky tones. "But somehow not enough to make myself let go of you."

"Hmm," murmured Cordelia, studying Faith closely. Tilting her head to one side, she said, "Then I guess I'll just have to do it for you."

In an easy movement, she moved her hands up to cover Faith's and pulled herself away from the Slayer. Once a degree of space had been established between them she turned around to reach for the Slayer's back pack.

Handing it over, Cordelia smiled sweetly as she said, "Have a good day at school."

"Why do I suddenly got a feelin' of deja vu and wanna call you

G-man?" Faith asked in dry tones.

"I have no idea," said Cordelia playfully. "But," she drawled as she moved closer to the Slayer. "Would he do something like this to wish you luck?"

Before Faith could answer, Cordelia moved in to capture her lips in a passionate kiss. Causing the Slayer to drop her back pack on the floor with a thump, her hands pulling the other girl closer as they kissed.

When they parted, Cordelia smiled again and kissing Faith lightly on the cheek she murmured, "Be yourself."

"I thought I always was?" Faith asked, her brow furrowing as she studied her girlfriend.

"You are," Cordelia agreed, cupping Faith's cheek. "And that's why I know you'll impress the hell out of everyone today. But remember," Cordelia's voice dropped to form a rumbling growl that was incredibly sexy. "You're taken."

"How could I ever forget?" said Faith, grinning. Standing on her tip toes, she whispered against Cordelia's lips, "To top it off� why would I wanna forget?"

The couple indulged in yet another involved kiss before Cordelia playfully moved out of Faith's grasp as the dark girl looked at her with a slight pout.

 

"Don't be that way," said Cordelia, laughing. "You really don't want to be late on your first day, do you?"

"No," said Faith, heaving a sigh. Looking resigned with her fate, she reached for her back pack and smiling at her girlfriend, she said, "I'll be back by three at the latest. But I'm betting I'll be home before then, it being day one and all. Some Profs might actually be nice about that."

"Mmm," Cordelia murmured, reaching out to play with the bottom of Faith's ponytail. She had convinced the dark Slayer to put her hair up yet again and was hoping that the trend would continue. Faith just looked too cute with her hair pulled back. "Maybe I'll get out of class early also. We can patrol before hitting the Bronze with the others. You know, to celebrate our first day."

"That sounds great," Faith commented with a smile. She began to turn and leave but paused to immediately walk back. With a face of determination, Faith stopped in front of Cordelia and looked up into hazel eyes. "I love you," said Faith, her voice quiet and true. A gentle hand cupped Cordelia's cheek as Faith captured her lips in a loving kiss. "And I'll be back soon."

With that, Faith strode out the front door with such speed that Cordelia could only think the Slayer wanted to leave their house before she changed her mind again. Shaking her head fondly, Cordelia was about to go into the kitchen and clean up Faith's breakfast when a knock sounded.

Hesitantly walking towards the front door and positioning herself so any stray beams of sunlight wouldn't hit her, the tall vampire pulled the door open. "Hello?" said Cordelia, poking her head carefully in front of the door.

Seconds later, Cordelia was barely able to take in the sight of Faith's mischievous expression before she proceeded to kiss her girlfriend senseless. When they breathlessly parted, Cordelia looked a bit dazed.

Then she looked reprimanding, but only a little.

"Class," reminded Cordelia, tapping Faith on the nose.

"Sorry, sweets," said Faith impishly. "I just needed one last moment of inspiration."

"Uh huh," said Cordelia dryly, her expression humorous as she folded her arms across her chest. "Did you get it?"

"I feel very inspired," Faith drawled, forming a particularly naughty smile. "But I could feel more�"

"Ah ah," Cordelia shook her index finger at the Slayer and tenderly clasped her shoulders to turn Faith around. "You have classes to attend. So start attending already."

Peering over her shoulder, Faith gave a pathetically cute pout which Cordelia chuckled at. "Stop that," she scolded softly. "You know I'm right."

"All right," Faith grumped, allowing Cordelia to push her out the front door. "I'll go to class."

"That's my girl," Cordelia said, kissing the back of Faith's dark locks before the Slayer moved fully into the sunlight. Hugging her girlfriend, she whispered, "I love you."

"I love you too, sweets," Faith said, looking up at Cordelia with earnest brown eyes. "Always."

And as eyes met eyes, they kissed again and again and again and again and� well, finally after five minutes they stopped kissing. Mostly because Cordelia was positive that Faith would be late for her first class of the day.

After the long awaited parting kiss, Faith pulled away from Cordelia and wore a jaunty smile. "I'll be home real soon," she promised. "Till then don't be bored."

"I'll do my best," said Cordelia with a chuckle, watching from the darkened doorway as Faith bounded down their steps and got on Lil' Butchy.

Once Faith and her motorcycle disappeared from sight, Cordelia moved back inside the house. Thinking that she'd go back to the task of cleaning up the dirty dishes used for breakfast.

Then the doorbell rang.

"Faith," said Cordelia affectionately, wiping her hands on the nearby dish towel and resting it on the counter. As she opened the door, she chided, "You said you were--"

Cordelia froze in the middle of her sentence on seeing someone who was most definitely not Faith standing on the high porch to their townhouse. It was someone she thought she might never see again.

That thought alone� was enough to make her heart ache with such pain she thought it was breaking. Despite how it made her feel she also thought it was best this way.

It was best they didn't know who she was now. That they didn't know what she had become.

A monster.

"Cor," Maria's tones were rough with emotion. She studied the girl for a long moment then produced a thin letter from out of her jacket and held it up. "Do you want to explain why you sent this?"

Staring at the letter, Cordelia knew instantly what it was. "I� I just wanted you to have enough," she said. "It's the least that I can do. I thought--"

"I don't need this," Maria continued, pressing the letter into Cordelia's hands who stared down at it. Her face filled with self loathing on hearing Maria's cool tone of voice. That was when warm hands cupped her face and looking up, Cordelia was met with kind brown eyes. The eyes of woman who raised her, who loved her no matter what, and it seemed, always would. "I just need you."

Sobbing as she felt Maria's arms encircle her, Cordelia moved into the older woman's embrace. She never thought she'd see her again much less be able to feel her. To feel the love, the support, that she gave so freely.

And here Maria was, back in town simply because of what she'd done. Because the lawyers at her father's firm had been less scrupulous than she gave them credit for.

Funny how things turn out sometime.

---

No matter what, waking up in the morning is never fun. Especially not for Buffy Summers.

Simply because Buffy, more than anyone else, hated waking up. Quite frankly, she enjoyed sleeping more than anything in the world. Which is why she very grumpily stomped over to her alarm to turn it off that morning.

Though, technically, at eleven a.m., you could almost call it afternoon. Stretching with a yawn, Buffy focused on the slumbering figure on her floor and realized that there was probably someone who loved sleeping more than her.

Her close friend and temporary roomie, Xander Harris.

The temporary roomie part coming from the fact that Xander knocked on her door at about one a.m. looking all too pathetic as he held a pillow in his arms. Apparently his roommate Mikey was holding quite the welcoming party for the new students. One that Anya endorsed and that meant it wasn't about to end any time soon.

And Xander, just like Buffy, liked to get his sleep. Knowing this, Buffy couldn't do anything but say yes to letting him sleep on the floor of her dorm. Especially after how he turned bright red when she asked why he couldn't just stay with Amy. His girlfriend being a more logical choice in Buffy's opinion.

 

His explanation had been quick and stammer filled but basically Xander said he didn't think it would make Tara feel very comfortable, him staying with them. Besides, it wasn't like Buffy's roommate had showed up yet.

This logic making sense, Xander slept on her floor.

Recalling last night's events, Buffy frowned and looked over at the right side of the room. The bed was a rumpled mess that would imply someone had indeed slept there but once again, there was no sign of her roommate.

Buffy was starting to wonder if they really existed.

Or maybe the dorm was haunted and her roommate was a ghost. Shaking her head at this thought, Buffy said dryly, "I think I'm starting to lose it." Sighing, she walked over to Xander and nudged him with her foot. "Wake up."

"Hrm?" Xander grumbled, peering at her through lidded eyes. "What is it, Buff?"

"It's morning," Buffy informed, turning her back to him and walking over to the sink and retrieving her bag full of shower supplies. "We've got class pretty soon."

"You've got class," corrected Xander with a yawn, pushing himself up into a sitting position. "My intro to drama class doesn't start until two. I can still sleep."

"Don't you have anything before that?" Buffy frowned. "I thought you had your film class and some gen eds."

"Yeah, English and Math," Xander nodded, giving yet another sleepy yawn. "On Tuesdays and Thursdays. I just have good ole drama class today."

Facing Xander with a deadpan expression on her face, Buffy stated plainly, "You suck."

"Doesn't matter, I get to sleep," said Xander, rising to his feet and rubbing the back of his head. Bending over to pick up his pillow he said, "I'm gonna check if Mikey's left. If he has, I'll crash there but if he hasn't�" Xander faced Buffy with his very best puppy dog expression.

"Fine," Buffy rolled her eyes. "You can sleep on my comfy floor for as long as you want. In fact, when I'm not here, go ahead and take the bed. Just don't scare my roommate if she ever shows up."

"Like that'll happen," Xander chuckled, heading out the door. "I'll see you later, Bufficus. Thanks for the help."

"No problem," said Buffy, smiling easily.

Her eyes were slowly drawn to her roommate's side again and she noted the one of the cases from yesterday was missing. The girl had to be a musician, why else would she have so many instruments? Studying the belongings thoughtfully, Buffy's eyes were drawn to her own desk and the flyer that sat on top of it.

Walking over to it, she picked it up and without knowing why, placed it on her roommate's bed. Perhaps she wanted to give a good first impression or perhaps she was simply being nice, something Buffy could be at times.

But no matter why she did it, Buffy left the flyer for Prophecy Girl's final auditions on her roommate's bed.

Then, feeling happier than she had in a long while, Buffy walked out of the room to take her shower and head off to her first class of the day.

Having done her good deed for the day.

---

"Why, Cor?" demanded Maria softly. "Why send me that check instead of telling me you're alive and safe?"

The two women had moved into the darkened living room and Cordelia sat on the far end of the couch with Maria at her side, holding her hands gently. Turning away from the older woman, Cordelia bit her lip, feeling the reason for her actions as she did so.

"Because," Cordelia said roughly. "I didn't want you to see me. You shouldn't be here, Maria. It's not safe."

"What?" asked Maria with wide eyes. "Why would you say something like that? Cor," Maria frowned, reaching up to clasp her chin and turn her head so their eyes would meet. "What's going on?"

Pulling her head back, Cordelia rose to her feet and kept her back facing Maria. "You really want to know?" she asked in stark tones.

"Yes," Maria said firmly. "Please, Cor. I have to know why you did this� why you let me think you were dead. I thought I meant more to you than that. I always thought of you as a daughter because I never had children of my own. I know I shouldn't feel this way but--"

"No," Cordelia interrupted, her voice teary. "I'm glad you do. For as long as I can remember I wished you were my mother. That's why I did this� why I don't know if�"

"Cor?" asked Maria, rising to her feet and walking towards the tall brunette. "What's going on? I know that you're hurting, I can see it. Just tell me."

Closing her eyes tightly, Cordelia said in stiff tones that rang of a deadly finality, "I'm a monster now."

"What?" Maria blinked in shock. Shaking her head, she said, "That's nonsense. You could never be�"

The rest of Maria's words trailed off as Cordelia turned around to face her, her features twisted into those of the creatures Maria recognized throughout the town.

Creatures who lived on the blood of humans. Monsters, yes. Monsters called vampires. And now� Cordelia was one of them.

"How�?" Maria asked in a bare whisper.

"It happened when I disappeared," Cordelia said, shifting back into her human features. "A powerful vampire changed me� blocked away my human soul so I became a monster. He was the one who killed mother and father. Not only that, he did so many more horrible things. Things that I helped him with�" Cordelia broke off in a sob, closing her eyes. "I can't ever make up for what I've done but being this� thing now, is punishment enough. That's why I sent you that check and didn't contact you, Maria. I didn't want you to see me like this. I just wanted you to be happy and safe, far away from me."

Studying Cordelia closely, Maria sighed deeply. "Do you honestly think so little of me?" she demanded.

"Maria?" said Cordelia with soft amazement.

"When I said you're like a daughter to me, I meant it," Maria said fiercely, stepping forward to hold Cordelia's hands in her own. "And like any good mother, it would take much more than this to get rid of me. Cor," she said gently, cupping the girl's cheek. "You're still yourself. I don't care what's happened to you, I can tell it's you."

"Maria," Cordelia whispered again, allowing the older woman to pull her in a loving embrace. "Thank you."

"Shh," Maria soothed, rubbing Cordelia's back. "You don't have to thank me for anything. I'm just telling the truth, that's all. Probably the same one as Faith."

Pulling back, Cordelia's eyes were wide as she asked, "How did you know that�"

"Faith was here with you?" Maria smiled wryly. "I watched her leave. That was quite the show you two were putting on. Good thing you don't have many neighbors or that sort of thing could end up on cable."

"Maria!" Cordelia exclaimed, blushing.

Chuckling now, Maria held Cordelia's face in her hands and murmured, "I love you and I'm here for you. Don't ever do anything like this to me again, got it?"

"I got it," said Cordelia hoarsely, nodding her head.

"Good," said Maria, beaming. "Now why don't you tell me what you and Faith have been up to. Besides buying this lovely home for yourselves."

Returning the smile, Cordelia launched into a very long and detailed story. One that she couldn't have been more happy to be telling.

Just because of who she was telling it to.

---

"Lunch, lunch, lunch," Amy repeated happily, a huge grin on her features. "This has been a great day, hasn't it?"

The blonde witch was walking with Faith and Buffy to the cafeteria where they were meeting up with Xander and Willow before heading back to classes. They all had a break at one thirty so that's when it was decided they'd eat lunch daily. Even Xander, who didn't have classes at all until two o'clock on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Exchanging a look with her fellow Slayer, Buffy smirked at Amy then said, "Yep, the greatest. Something tells me you really enjoyed your Bio class."

"I met so many nice people," Amy confessed, smiling at Buffy. "Most are pre med, just like me. We're going to form a study group."

"Already?" Faith raised an eyebrow. "Aren't you kinda jumping the gun, Amy girl?"

"Nope," Amy shook her head. "In fact, it's smart on our part. If we study from the start and get good grades then maintaining our GPA will be easier."

"My best friend," began Buffy solemnly, faking a whisper by covering her face with her hand. "The big nerd."

"I'm not a nerd!" Amy cried, offended. "I'm just grade conscious. Besides, you didn't tease Willow for being a big studier in high school so don't pick on me here."

"Don't have to worry about that anymore," Buffy laughed. "I doubt Will is going to have a lot of difficult tests with a major in music."

Faith and Amy locked eyes for a moment and forming a slow smile, Faith drawled, "Hey, Buff. You never did tell us. You finally got yourself a major or what?"

"Uhm," Buffy wore a sheepish expression, appearing as if she was searching hurriedly for an answer. That was when she noticed the nearby ladies room. "I gotta go!"

Watching Buffy dash away, Faith turned back to Amy and chuckled, "That was way too easy."

"It's almost disappointing," Amy agreed, making her way towards the cafeteria with Faith.

By the time the blonde Slayer made it there the two girls were already through the line and seated with Xander at a table. Frowning at this and the sheepish smiles they wore on their faces, Buffy muttered, "Figures."

The line was long and slow moving and to top it off, there wasn't any food that appealed to Buffy. Except this nice looking salad way in the back that try as she might, Buffy just couldn't reach due to her height and short arms.

Just when Buffy was about to give up on the salad and eat something less appetizing, a pair of long arms went reaching out, taking the lunch in slender hands. Turning around, Buffy looked into coffee colored eyes that had a humorous spark in them.

 

A girl with even blonde hair that stopped at her chin offered the salad to Buffy. "This is what you wanted, isn't it?" she said as she grinned and gave a wink.

"Yeah," Buffy said slowly, losing herself in the endless depths of the girl's eyes. "That's what I want�" Shaking her head, she took the food and stammered, "Salad! I mean, I want the salad! Yummy! It's healthy!"

"I don't know," the girl said, inspecting Buffy with sharp eyes while they moved through the line. "You're a perfect epitome of health. You should be more confident."

"I am confident," said Buffy, looking offended. "And I know I look healthy, because am I healthy. I just like how salad tastes along with the healthy qualities it has."

"Is that so?" A teasing smile played on full lips and the girl leaned forward, her breath blowing lightly on Buffy's skin. "What other qualities do you like?"

"In salad?" asked Buffy, frowning. "I like it to be fresh�"

"No," the girl laughed, it was a rich musical sound that caused shivers to run down Buffy's spine. "In people. I'm curious to know what kind of person you like, that's all."

Her eyes going wide, Buffy studied the girl who wore a charming smile and felt her heartbeat increase. Was she asking what she thought she was asking? And why did she like the idea of that so much?

"Three dollars and fifty cents."

Blinking at this, Buffy turned to face the cashier who wore a droll expression on her face as she repeated, "Three dollars and fifty cents."

Digging the money out of her pocket, Buffy handed it over while the cashier totaled up her companion's lunch which was nothing but a cupcake. "Speaking of health conscious things, that's sure not," Buffy commented.

"Now, now, just because I like girls who eat healthy doesn't mean I do the same thing myself," the girl replied, a wide smile forming. "I like to indulge while I can. So," she said lowly as they moved away from the line. "I have to wonder about the answer to my question."

Meeting playful eyes that held a humor Buffy hadn't possessed in longer than she knew, she found herself saying something entirely unexpected. "There are a lot of things I like about people, but I have to say that I'd really like someone who starts up conversations with complete strangers by getting them their food of choice."

"You don't say?" the girl smiled.

"I just said," Buffy agreed, smirking. "How about you?"

"And I already said," the girl said, returning Buffy's smirk as she leaned closer so inches separated them. "That I like girls who eat healthy. Especially the ones who can't reach their healthy food in line. I find it all too attractive."

"Buffy!"

Recognizing Willow's voice, Buffy looked quickly back at her friend standing in the cafeteria line. "Hey Wills!" she said. "I'll be right there!" She then turned back to the girl only to find her walking away. Frowning now, Buffy dashed after her, clasping her arm. "You want to know something I don't like? People running off on me."

"I was walking off," the girl replied calmly. "Besides," she tilted her head to observe Willow. "You're occupied."

"I'm not," Buffy protested quickly. "She's just a friend and�" Buffy frowned before she scowled at the other girl. "Why am I explaining myself to you anyway? You haven't even told me your name yet."

"My friends call me Vee," the girl said, smiling softly at Buffy. In a smooth but surprising movement, she leaned forward to brush her lips on the blonde Slayer's cheek. "I think I'd like it if you called me the same."

Her hand flying up to touch her cheek, Buffy watched in wonder as the girl walked away, turning to give Buffy one last bright smile. "Ciao, bella!" she called out, kissing the tips of her fingers that formed a 'V' as she waved them. "It was a pleasure meeting you. I hope to see you soon."

"Yeah, chow!" Buffy called back. Looking down at the salad she held, she said slowly, "I guess this is bella?"

"Actually that's salad."

Scowling at Willow who appeared at her side wearing an impish smile, Buffy said, "Very funny."

"I thought so," Willow kept smiling, even as she reached out to steal some carrots from Buffy's meal.

"Hey!" Buffy cried, whirling around to hide her food from the redhead before walking towards their friends. "This is my bella! You keep your hands off it, okay?"

Chuckling softly, Willow watched Buffy seat herself at their table and tried to decide if she really wanted to tell the blonde Slayer what the word meant.

After all, this way was so much more fun.

---

"Techno Pagan Limited, where witchcraft meets the world wide web," Jenny answered the phone.

Pushing up his glasses, Giles sighed softly before taking a sip of his tea. He simply didn't know where Jenny got all her energy from and he often felt was quite envious of it.

"You can't? Why not?"

Looking at his companion on hearing the ring of disappointment in her voice, Giles watched Jenny frown as she wound the phone's cord around her finger.

"That much?" Jenny winced, sounding sympathetic. She formed a slow smile and leaning against the counter, she drawled, "Are you sure this isn't a case of you chickening out on me, good Detective?"

There was a moment of silence then the familiar sound of Jenny's low, rolling, laughter washed over Giles. Shaking his head, he went back to reading the newspaper while the dark haired woman continued her conversation.

"It sounds like you're promising me a good time tomorrow," Jenny teased, giving a chuckle. "Oh? Well, you know I can always guarantee that." She chuckled again then said, "You should get going then." Pausing slightly, she asked, "Can I call you tonight? What? I happen to like having permission for some things. Of course." Jenny was quiet once more, this time for a much longer period then she murmured, "Me too."

Glancing up from his article, Giles observed the wistful smile on Jenny's features as she said, "Until then." After hanging up the phone, she caught Giles looking at her and immediately frowned. "Yes?" she drew the word out.

"You're dating Detective Lockley?" asked Giles, although it was more a statement than anything else.

"Not technically," said Jenny, sighing. "We were going to have our first date tonight but she just cancelled. She's buried in piles of paperwork. So it's been postponed until tomorrow. Why do you ask?" Jenny looked curious.

"I was simply wondering if this signals giving her more humane treatment on your part," Giles said calmly, taking a sip of his tea. "After all," he continued, peering at her with wise eyes. "You seem to torment her quite a bit."

"I don't torment Kate!" said Jenny indignantly.

"You tease her constantly when she rather not be teased," Giles informed, his lips moving into a small smile. "It's either called tormenting her or adolescent flirting. I'm sure you're familiar with the latter� where when a boy likes a girl, instead of saying so, he kicks her in the bottom."

 

"I've never kicked Kate anywhere," Jenny said darkly, her eyes narrowing at Giles. "Just what are you implying?"

"Nothing," said Giles, taking another sip of tea.

Eyeing Giles suspiciously, Jenny turned away from him and finally said, "Good."

"I'm saying plainly that you torment the poor woman for no other reason than that you like her," Giles stated.

"I don't torment her!" Jenny protested wildly, her cheeks turning red from the agitation she felt. "Why do you keep saying that I do? I only--"

"You only purposefully say things that you know will frustrate and upset her, merely to see her reaction," Giles interrupted smoothly. "If that isn't tormenting then I'm sure I don't know what tormenting is."

"Why are we talking about this?" muttered Jenny. "It's not like you care about my personal life or anything."

Giles closed his eyes and when he opened him, the expression he wore was solemn and it froze Jenny in her tracks. She hadn't seen him look like this in years.

"Janna," said Giles softly. "The two of us know each other� perhaps better than anyone else in the world. If you truly care for Kate then don't do this. Don't follow your old habits, they'll only push her away. I know that's not what you want but that is what will happen."

"Like I pushed you away?" Jenny said after a moment.

Mulling over this, Giles said, "Yes."

"I don't want to do that again," confessed Jenny, her voice hollow and her demeanor vulnerable.

Studying her closely, Giles walked over to Jenny, clasping her shoulders and turning her around to face him. "Then stop teasing her so bloody much, woman," he said in lightly humorous tones as he smiled.

"I'll try," Jenny said, giving a vague smile.

"No," Giles shook his head, firmly taking hold of Jenny's chin and locking their eyes. "Don't try, do."

"And since when," Jenny began in a slow drawl as her lips quirked up in a smile, "did you become Yoda?"

Returning the smile, Giles replied, "After I dated you."

---

Two pair of eyes bore into Willow with utter despondency and seeing them, she sighed heavily. "We're almost through," she said softly to Charlie and Derrick who wore a combined expression of relief.

"Hallelujah," said Charlie, making the sign of the cross while Derrick smirked at his actions. "Praise tha Lord! We have been delivered from the depths o' hell!"

"He really is a drama queen, isn't he?" Willow teased, commenting to Derrick.

"The biggest," Derrick nodded, smiling.

"Please," Charlie sniffed, regarding his band mates through lidded eyes as he folded his arms across his lanky frame. "You all can't even compete with this."

"Ohhh, Charlie's Miss Thang," Willow giggled.

"That's Mister Thang, thank you," Charlie corrected in overdone and snooty tones before breaking out into a grin.

"Is that so?" asked Willow, poking her head around him to look at Derrick who shrugged his broad shoulders.

"He likes to think so," said Derrick, sounding confidential as he leaned towards Willow. "But I know his secret. He's a sucker for Julie Andrews movies. Even told me that as a kid he wanted her to be his mom."

"Really?" Willow giggled, looking at Charlie curiously.

His pale ears turning bright red, Charlie coughed then focused his attention on fiddling with his spikey bracelet. "That was just one time and only because I was mad at my mom for not getting me a Nintendo," he confessed.

"And Julie Andrews would've gotten you one?" pursued Willow, smiling widely at the thought.

"As a six year old boy who had watched Mary Poppins and the Sound of Music repeatedly, I thought yes," said Charlie defensively, his ears still red.

"He's so cute," Derrick murmured. He smiled softly at Charlie before ruffling his sage hair.

Their conversation would've continued, most likely, if a loud but somehow polite cough hadn't sounded. Turning to look at the stage they blinked at the person there. Well, people, since there were two people standing there but all their attention was focused on one of them.

"Xander?" they said together.

"Hidey ho, musicianrinos," Xander drawled humorously, giving a small wave.

"I'm here too," said Amy, sounding a little offended.

"He agrees!" cried Willow happily, bouncing to her feet and clapping her hands, looking at Charlie and Derrick. "I knew he'd agree!" Facing Xander again, she continued, "That's why you're here, right? You're joining the band?"

"Wow," Xander blinked. "Willster's in babble mode about me trying out for the band."

"And�?" Amy drew out.

"She's never been in babble mode for me about anything," Xander said, looking at his girlfriend. "She must really be excited about this or something." Studying the band for the first time, he noticed their weary faces. "Did you guys have some crappy people show up for final auditions?"

"The crappiest," they answered together.

"They're talking in sync," said Amy thoughtfully. "That's never a good sign. It means they must really agree."

"Definitely," they sighed.

"It's fascinating yet creepy," said Xander. Shaking his head, he grinned before he walked over to the drums that they had set up. "These are really nice."

"Xander?" said Willow, puzzled. "What are you doing? You're in� you don't have to play for us. We'll just see whoever's left. Tomorrow we can have our first practice session to see how we play together."

"That's not fair though," Xander said, his eyes solemn. "I don't want you guys just giving me this because I'm you're friend. I wanna show what I can or can't do before you go and let me in your band. It's the right thing to do."

"Faith turned him into a boy scout," Amy smirked.

"I'll have you know I was a cub scout long before I ever met Faith-a-lina," said Xander, smiling.

Meeting their eyes, the three band members seemed to shrug internally before Derrick looked to Xander. "Go for it," he said. "We want to hear."

Nodding his head, Xander gazed at Amy who smiled at him softly as a sign of support. Feeling his confident rise at this, Xander sat down at picked up the drum sticks. He released a huge breath of air then began to play.

Xander wasn't Vince.

He couldn't ever be Vince, with his alternating fast beats and slow slams that could reverberate deep in your soul as you listened. Xander couldn't ever do that. He could only play his own music, in his own style.

One that was much different than Vince's with it's erratic energy and wild beats that captured a frenzied spirit that threatened to sweep its listeners away. It was a style much different but just as good as Vince's.

Which was why when Xander finished playing, the members of Prophecy Girl had absolutely no doubts about just who they wanted for their new drummer.

Finishing with a flourish and an easy grin, Xander pushed his hair out of his eyes. "Well?" he asked, breath heavy.

Willow exchanged a look with Charlie and Derrick who matched her wide smile as they nodded. Turning back to Xander, she grinned. "Welcome to the band," she said.

Smiling happily, Xander looked at Amy who beamed proudly at him then back at his new band mates. "Thanks you guys, for giving me a chance," he replied.

"Are you kidding?" said Derrick dryly. "You kicked ass, man. We should be thanking you."

"Yeah," Charlie nodded. He paused to form his usual mischievous face then added, "Plus now we have our token straight guy in the band. We need that."

Releasing a low groan, Xander smirked at Charlie then formed a long suffering expression. "I should've known, you only want me for my sexual orientation."

"You want to stick around to hear the others and know the true extent of our pain?" asked Willow.

Xander and Amy considered this for a moment then Amy reached over to grab Xander's hand. "We have to go," she said firmly. "He's buying me food now. Aren't you?"

"Yes," Xander said, nodding his head and sounding robotic. "I'm buying her food."

Chuckling at this, Willow murmured, "Well, have fun buying her food, C-3PO."

"Hey!" Xander exclaimed huffily. "I'm not C-3PO. He's the gay robot. I'm the token straight guy, remember?"

"Sorry," Willow drawled. "R2D2 then?"

"Much better," Xander said, dusting off his hands.

Rolling her eyes, Amy pulled Xander off stage and out of the Bronze. "Later Will!" she called.

"Later!" Willow replied, smiling easily as she looked over at Charlie and Derrick. "That was infinitely more fun than most of our auditions today."

"Yeah, maybe because Xan's good," Charlie snickered.

"And because he wasn't here due to you being such a," Derrick paused, forming an exaggerated frown while he looked at Charlie. "What did he say again?"

"'Red haired siren of the stage,'" Charlie grinned widely.

"Oh Lord," Willow groaned, rubbing her forehead and getting a headache just remembering that guy. "He was a total nutcase. Thank god you two were here with me. If you weren't I think he would've tried something."

"We are intimidating," said Charlie, puffing up his thin frame, making him look completely ridiculous. Peering at Derrick underneath long eyelashes, he said, "I'm butch."

"You wish," said Derrick fondly, pushing Charlie lightly on the side of the head.

"Hey Frank," Charlie greeted the owner of the Bronze who walked into the room. "Anyone left?"

"Just one to go," informed Frank with a smile. "You guys sticking around afterwards or not?"

"Dunno," said Charlie thoughtfully looking at first Derrick then Willow.

Reaching for Charlie's hand and rubbing his thumb gently, Derrick said, "I could be persuaded to dance."

"Lucky me," Charlie said coyly with a grin. Turning to Willow, he said, "How about you, Red?"

Forming a slow smile, Willow said, "You don't have to persuade me at all. I'm in."

"Excellent!" declared Charlie. Looking over Derrick's shoulder at Frank, he said, "We'll be back tonight to have some boogy woogy fun."

"Why wait until tonight?"

Simultaneously, three pairs of eyes fixed on the new person in the room. A pretty blonde with hair cut even to her chin and a sexy smile on full lips. In her hand she held a small black case. Resting it on the stool that was on stage, she opened it and pulled out a trumpet.

Within moments, their ears were met with the sound of a funky ska version of the Boogy Woogy Bugle Man From Company B and as they listened to it, their current state of emotion couldn't be described as anything but shock.

Shock that someone like this would be in their town, shock that they would audition for their band, and shock that another person of talent was playing before them.

The girl finished the song with an elegant flair and resting the trumpet at her side, her face was flushed. Arching one blonde eyebrow, she asked, "Did you like it?"

"That was amazing," said Willow quietly, rising to her feet and walking towards the girl before she knew what she was doing. There was something vaguely familiar about her, like they had met before, but Willow was sure they hadn't. Just because if they had, she was positive that she wouldn't forget. "But we're looking for a drummer, not a trumpet player."

"I know," the girl said. "I heard what he said and couldn't resist. It was too good an opportunity." Putting away the trumpet, she turned back to Willow. "But I can play the drums. I had my trumpet with me because of school." She studied Willow closely then her eyes widened. "I haven't introduced myself have I?"

"Nope," said Charlie, resting his chin in his hands, eyes raking over her. He was curious about the girl, mostly because she seemed to have the same musical tastes he did. Anyone who liked ska had an edge with him. "Your music sorta did the intro for you though."

"Maybe," the girl chuckled, her voice rich. "But I think I should still tell you my name. I'm Veruca Tagliacozzo."

Sighing as he noticed Charlie's interest, Derrick shook his head then smiled at the girl. "Derrick, bass guitar," he said as he pointed at himself. "The big dork next to me who plays lead guitar is Charlie. And last, but not least, the pretty redhead is Willow, our singer."

"I know," murmured Veruca, gazing at Willow who blinked at this attention. "I've seen you around campus," offered the blonde in way of explanation.

"Oh!" Willow said, feeling relieved that Veruca wasn't another obsessed stalker. "You go to UCS? Wait�" she trailed off as she frowned. "Veruca Tagliacozzo?"

"You said my name right," Veruca breathed, her eyes turning as wide as saucers. "Nobody's ever said my name right. No one! Not even teachers."

"Really?" asked Willow, grinning. "It's not that hard. I mean, at least if you know Italian somewhat, which I do. My parents travel a lot, not that I'm worldly--"

"Whoa, shhh," Veruca drawled slowly, smiling as she pressed a finger gently against Willow's lips. "It's all right I was giving you a compliment, you know."

"You're my friend's roommate," Willow whispered. She was trying to ignore the fact that Charlie and Derrick were watching them with utmost interest and that when Veruca touched her it burned but in such a very good way.

"What?" asked Veruca, tilting her head to one side.

"My friend," continued Willow. "You're her roommate. She showed me her assignment at the dorms. But," she frowned now. "She's never met you. You're, uhm�"

"Not around," supplied Veruca wryly, giving a smile as she ran her fingers through her blonde hair. "I float in and out of the room. I think our schedules are just different. So," she said in low tones, leaning closer to Willow. "You know my roomie. What's Elizabeth like?"

"Actually, she likes to be called--"

"Red! Can you c'mere for a sec?"

Turning to look at Charlie who wore a serious expression on his face along with Derrick, Willow nodded, curious as to what they wanted. Walking over to the two boys, she said, "What's up? Is something wrong?"

"She's good," said Derrick. "I liked her playing a lot."

"Yeah," agreed Charlie. "Real good and we haven't even heard her play the drums yet."

"And�?" Willow blinked. "We already told Xander he had a place with us in the band. You don't want to go back on that promise, do you?"

"No way!" said Charlie emphatically. "But," he looked over at Derrick rather helplessly.

"Think about it," Derrick started. "We talked about wanting a new sound, right? Maybe if she's with us we'd get a better chance at developing that."

"I guess," said Willow slowly. Looking up at Veruca who was now standing in front of the piano Willow used when they played at the Bronze, she admitted she'd much rather say yes than no to the blonde. "We should ask her."

"Cool," Charlie grinned. "Yo, V-Babe!"

Veruca arched an eyebrow at Charlie then repeated in extremely droll tones, "V-Babe?"

"Veruca," Charlie giggled nervously. "Sorry, sorry, I'm not so good with the women folk. Anyway� I was sorta wondering what other instruments you can play."

Interested by the question, Veruca tilted her head back to look at the ceiling and made the mental list before she said it all out loud. Still doing this, her resonant voice began, "Banjo, bassoon, drums, flute, French horn, guitar, harmonica, harp, kazoo, oboe, piano, piccolo, recorder, saxophone, trombone, trumpet, viola, violin, xylophone." Moving her head to stare at everyone who all wore the same stupefied expression, she said, "And others."

"Others?" Willow squeaked.

"To be perfectly frank, my family has money and is often bored," Veruca said, looking a bit sheepish. "My Gran taught me how to play the piano and when she found out I had some musical talent� well, they went sort of crazy with it. I think that they've probably bought me every instrument known to man. Why they did it, I have no idea. Some of them I took lessons to learn how to play, others I didn't." A very naughty smile spread across her lips. "It did keep me out of trouble. At least for awhile."

"I like her," Charlie cooed. "She's saucy!"

Chuckling at this, Derrick looked at Willow who appeared to still be in shock about Veruca playing so many instruments. "Red," he called softly. When she looked at him he smiled. "What's the call?"

Seeing how the two boys felt by just looking in their eyes, Willow sighed and shook her head. Turning back to face Veruca, she smiled and said, "How would you feel about being something other than our drummer?"

"Like what?" Veruca asked, frowning.

"A musical jack of all trades?" Willow said. "We've been wanting to develop a new sound and if you play all those instruments as well as you play the trumpet, we're set."

Appearing intrigued at this concept, Veruca studied Willow with lidded eyes before she smoothly walked towards the edge of the stage and jumped forward with a thump. Walking to Willow, she stopped in front of the redhead and held out a tapered hand.

"Just call me Jack," said Veruca in rich tones.

Taking Veruca's hand in her own and trying not to notice the jolt of electricity she felt as skin touched skin, Willow smiled, "Welcome to Prophecy Girl, Jack."

"Thanks," Veruca returned the smile warmly. "I think that I'm going to enjoy myself here."

All things considered, that was an understatement of the highest level on Veruca's part.

---

"That was fun," Faith muttered to herself as she climbed up the ladder to the murky sewer and towards daylight. A fast peek around assured that no one was watching and she climbed out, wiping her hands on her jeans.

For nearly two hours Faith had been hunting through the sewers, looking for the few of Kakistos' minions that were left who brought Cordelia such pain. Faith didn't like how seeing them had caused a breakdown in her girlfriend and to stop it from happening again, she'd kill every last one of them before they ran into the tall brunette.

Only today she didn't have any luck with that. After her last class ended, hours earlier than it should have thanks to it being the first day and having an extremely easy Professor, Faith decided to go hunting.

This wasn't something she could share with Cordelia. It would upset her too much, so all things considering, she had to do this alone. In secret. Which was exactly what Faith was doing.

Just that she didn't have any luck today. Almost two hours and only four kills. Plus the icky grime of the sewers.

Sniffing herself, Faith groused, "I stink."

And she did, literally. Still grousing, Faith made her way over to where Lil' Butchy was parked and hopped onto the bike and headed back to her house. Wondering just how she was going to explain her stinkyness to Cordelia.

Except when she got home and opened the door, smiling widely at just being in the place she loved most, Faith was met not with the sight of Cordelia but someone else.

Someone who she really knew she had no idea how to explain why she was so stinky to.

"Maria?" Faith began in clear shock. "When'd you�"

"Faith!" said Maria happily, pulling the stunned brunette into an easy hug. "How have you been?"

"Fine, but, you, how, what?" Faith sputtered.

"I think she's surprised," Cordelia supplied with a grin, moving into the room and looking at Maria.

"Really?" Maria teased. "I wouldn't have known." She was about to say something else, but her face constricted and she sniffed the air. Frowning at Faith, she put her hands on her hips and said, "Young lady, you smell."

Flushing bright red, Faith scowled, "I know!"

"Why do you smell?" asked Cordelia, moving over to her girlfriend only to scoot back on taking in the fumes.

For a response, Faith gave an altogether nervous laugh. One that made Cordelia and Maria exchange a look that said they weren't sure they wanted an answer now.

Which was just fine with Faith.

---

Buffy was alone in her dorm room.

Not that she expected it to be any other way. Maybe her roommate really was a ghost. That or just incredibly antisocial. Examining the contents of her closet, Buffy did a quick mental dress up before choosing to wear her black vinyl pants and red half shirt.

Dressing quickly, Buffy was standing in front of the mirror, pulling her hair back into a loose bun as a knock sounded. "Come in!" Buffy called out.

"I have a surprise," Willow announced, walking in the room wearing a mischievous expression.

"Yeah?" said Buffy curiously. "What's that?"

"This," Willow beamed, moving aside to reveal the form of a curvaceous blonde that was all too familiar.

"You?" Buffy and Veruca said simultaneously.

"Buffy?" Veruca asked, her eyes wide. "But I thought my roommate's name was Elizabeth."

"I like to be called Buffy," replied Buffy. A look of recognition glinted in her hazel eyes and she said, "Just like you like to be called Vee, am I right?"

Giving a rich laugh, Veruca smirked, "You're very right. Well, I'm definitely happy to have you for a roommate."

"Ditto," Buffy grinned. She darted her eyes to Willow who looked like she was in shock. "You okay, Wills?"

"How� what�?" Willow blinked.

"She doesn't seem okay," said Veruca lowly, moving up to cup the back of Willow's head and rubbing it. A pair of green eyes locked on her and Veruca leaned close to whisper softly, "It's fine. We're all friends now."

"Friends, right," said Willow slowly, in a daze from feeling Veruca's gentle caress.

"This is such a small campus," Buffy marveled. "Hey!" she exclaimed suddenly. "Did you get the flyer I left on your bed? Is that why you two are together?"

"Yes, I did," Veruca smiled. "Thanks for leaving it for me. It's going to be nice being in a band again."

"So you made it?" Buffy said excitedly. "Great!" She turned to Willow who seemed to be snapping out of shock, and said, "You feeling better?"

"A bit," said Willow sheepishly. Looking from Veruca to Buffy, she said, "I'm sorry, that was just sort of�"

"Strange?" Buffy offered wryly. "I'll go with that. At least I finally got to meet my roommate though."

"That's something," agreed Veruca in a low drawl, walking over to her side of the room and putting down her trumpet case next to her other instruments. Looking up at Buffy, she remarked, "You look beautiful, by the way."

"Thanks," said Buffy, a blush covering her cheeks. "We're all going dancing at the Bronze. In fact," said Buffy as she looked at Willow. "I was just about to call you."

"Lucky you, I'm here in person," commented Willow.

"Yeah, very lucky me," said Buffy, smiling. She turned to Veruca and said, "You up for some dancing?"

"Always," said Veruca smoothly.

Together, the three girls walked out the door, but not before Veruca offered her arm to either one. Their arms hooked in hers, Veruca murmured, "Lets dance."

And as she said this, neither Buffy nor Willow could prevent the shiver of desire that ran through them. Nor did they ever want it to end.

To be continued�

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