Summer Friendship Series 1-4 by Pat Kelly
by Pat Kelly

1
LIKE�FATE

Buffy was leading the gang around the side of the Bronze; a little suspicious about a couple that had just exited the club. More specifically, she thought that the guy was a vampire. It was nice to be with her friends again. She had just recently returned to Sunnydale after leaving for the summer. To break it down, she left because of certain "issues" and guilt that she felt she couldn't deal with if she had stayed.

Skewering her souled vampire boyfriend and sending him to Hell is what had occupied her mind the most, but there were also numerous other reasons for fleeing the town. Her belief that she caused her best friend to end up in a coma (by not being there to protect her), the fact that she had been expelled from school, and that her mother had practically thrown her out of the house. Then, of course, she had allowed her watcher and father figure to be taken and tortured for hours.

When she had come back, she realized just how much she had hurt everyone. Her mother had been worried sick, her watcher had been flying all over the country searching for her, and her friends thought it was their duty to slay vampires in her absence. They were risking their lives doing her job. Talk about friendship. And to top it all off, she wasn't there for her best friend as she went through the biggest change ever in her life. It had been a big summer.

It was rocky at first. There was yelling, crying, and arguments. Hesitation, distrust�which Buffy realized she had brought upon herself by going missing for three months. But that was slowly being put behind them now. They were becoming the Scooby Gang again, and she felt good. Supported. She thought she could deal with things on her own, but all she learned during her "away time", was that she couldn't run from who she was.

Being around people who cared about her was helping her heal a lot quicker than her excursion had. And she'd never try to escape her problems again. She made that promise to herself. Her mother had welcomed her back to the house with open arms, and she was no longer expelled because she had been there to face things head on. And to not be afraid of the outcome.

Kind of like what she was going to do with this vampire. Face him, and not back away. If she could find him and his human date before something bad happened.

"Where'd she go?" Buffy asked her friends.

"I bet it's nothing. They're probably just making out." Cordelia said.

They heard a girl scream and some loud, clanging noises. Xander gave Buffy a stake.

"That's not what making out sounds like, unless I'm doing it wrong." Willow said to her boyfriend Oz.

The gang moved around the back of the building, and saw the vampire move in to bite his date. As Buffy was going to rush in and stop him, a brown-haired girl seemingly appeared out of nowhere and grabbed the unsuspecting vampire by the neck. She then pushed him away, and elbowed him in the face. He staggered back and regained his balance, as she jumped onto a crate. She did a jumping roundhouse kick to his face, knocking him to the pavement.

The girl approached the group with a smile, and then focused on Buffy with a look of disbelief.

"Buffy?"

"Faith?" Buffy questioned, with that same look.

The vampire came up behind the girl the gang now knew as Faith, and grabbed her by the shoulders. She snapped her head back, head-butting him in the face. She grabbed onto his arm.

"This is too cool."

She twisted the vampire around and shoved him into the section of chain link fence.

"I'm gonna go out on a limb and say there's a new Slayer in town." Oz said.

"Yeah, and Buffy knows her." Willow said.

Faith kneed him in the gut from behind. The vampire whirled around trying to backhand her, but she ducked. She then punched him in the gut and then again in the face. Everyone just watched her fight. She did a high kick to the vampire's jaw, grabbed onto his shirt and threw him to the ground. The vampire did a front roll to control his fall while Faith turned to Buffy, pointing to the stake.

"Mind?"

Buffy handed it over, smiling. She couldn't believe it.

The vampire used the momentum of his roll to get back to his feet and ran at Faith, throwing a punch. She ducked, hooked her hand on his shoulder, turned him around, and pushed him back into the fence. She raised the stake and jammed it into his chest and took it back out. The vampire turned to dust.

Now that the danger was gone, Buffy gripped the brunette in a hug. Faith returned it, while handing the blonde back her stake. They separated, and Buffy was trying to find words to form a thought.

"Oh my God�when? How? What?" Buffy asked.

"Forgot 'Who' and 'Where'." Faith said with a grin. "This place got food? I'm starved."

"Yeah�come on." They started moving, Buffy dragging Faith by the hand. She remembered her friends, and was instantly apologetic. "Sorry, guys. This is Faith."

"Hey." The gang chorused.

"How's it goin'?" Faith asked in greeting.

"We'll explain." Buffy promised, seeing all their puzzled expressions.

"Good enough for me." Xander said, eyeing the new slayer while trying not to salivate too much.

They all began to head back into the Bronze.

***

Xander had insisted on welcoming the new arrival by showing her the delicacies that the Bronze had to offer. While they were getting grub, that left Oz and Willow together on a couch, Buffy across from them in a loveseat, and a disgusted Cordelia sitting by herself on yet another couch. The redhead took the opportunity to lean forward and question her happy friend.

"So? Where do you know her from? Is there a slayer camp?" Willow asked.

Buffy was amused. "I had no idea she was a slayer until five minutes ago. So no. No slayer camp, Will."

"Oh." The hacker was even more confused than she was before.

Xander and Faith were returning, him leading the way. He reached the group first, and sat beside his girlfriend. She slapped his arm. He rubbed the attacked area, and looked at Cordelia with a "What?" expression on his face. Faith sat on the arm of Buffy's loveseat, and took a bite out of a muffin she had purchased.

"Explanation time, I guess?" Buffy asked.

Four nodding heads answered her. And Faith, her mouth full, gave a thumbs up.

"It was five, no four, years ago. Right?" Buffy waited for confirmation.

"You told me you were going into 9th." Faith answered. "This all happened before we were drafted."

Xander, Cordelia, and Willow were a little slow.

"Pre-Slayer days." Oz cleared up.

"Ohhh." The enlightened trio made "continue" gestures.

"Yeah. So it was the summer just after I had graduated 8th grade. I was gonna be starting Hemry in the fall. My parents weren't divorced yet, but they still fought a lot." Buffy sighed.

"So they did break it off, huh?" Faith asked, and Buffy nodded. "Man, sorry, B."

The blonde shrugged. "It's not like either of us could of done anything to prevent it. Anyway, we went on our last family vacation that summer. My aunt had a house just outside of Boston, and invited us to stay with her until I had to start school.

"Then, my mom and dad were still trying to work things out, and they figured if they got away from LA and just had a few months to themselves, they could find the�whatever, that made them fall in love and get married in the first place. And it looked like it was working. They were happy, I was happy�but because I didn't have to worry about them fighting, I got bored."

"Boston's where all the cool stuff was." Faith said.

"I was big and tough at fourteen, and I wanted to take the bus into the city."

"So you begged." Xander said.

"You can still get away with that at fourteen if you don't overdo it." Buffy said with a smile. "My aunt came on my side,"

"As all good relatives should." Willow agreed.

They didn't notice Faith's sad expression.

"- and she said that Boston was a really safe place, yadda yadda, and they caved. I got money to go and to get back. I had to be home at 8:30 though, so I had to get on the 8:05 bus to make it in time." Buffy looked at Faith. "Wanna take over?"

"Thought you'd never ask, B." Faith said, smiling. "I lived in Boston. I was thirteen, and home was�boring," She hesitated there, "so I walked around, got to know the hotspots. I was in the Commons one day, and I saw this blonde girl feeding some ducks in one of the ponds." She grinned. "I had nothing better to do, so I went up to her."

"And you just hit it off?" Cordelia asked.

"Pretty much." Faith said. "It was cool having a friend. I was a loner, I guess, and we clicked. Hung out while she was there. I was so amazed that she was going into high school."

There were chuckles from the listeners.

"We didn't just hang out. I went to the city every day. She took me everywhere. We were inseparable. I even got her to come to my aunt's house for dinner." Buffy explained further.

"Best I ever ate." Faith said as a compliment.

"I never got to see your home, though."

"It was nothing special." The brunette dodged.

"Is there more?" Xander asked.

"Uh�nope." By the look on Buffy's face, and the grin on Faith's, there was more. But she wasn't going to go into it. "I left the last week of August, we said goodbye, and never saw each other again. Until now."

"This is so neat. Meeting up four years later, both slayers�like it was fate." Willow said.

"When did you know?" Buffy asked Faith, remembering her questions that had gone unanswered.

"My watcher looked me up 'bout two years ago. She told me all the mumbo jumbo, that the slayer that was already on the front lines had just moved to a place called Sunnydale, and that I was gonna train and take care of the local vamps till I was called up to the major hellhole."

"This is the hellhole, all right. Welcome to it." The blonde slayer said sarcastically.

Faith smirked. "She told me your name, but I didn't think it was the same 'Buffy' till I saw ya."

"How many people do you think have the name 'Buffy'?" Cordelia asked.

That remark got a glare from the older slayer.

"She must have been called after Kendra died." Willow thought aloud.

Buffy looked away.

"Kendra?" Faith asked, the name not ringing any bells.

"See, a new slayer isn't called until the current one dies," Xander said.

The brunette was shocked. "You died, B?"

"Temporarily. But Xander brought me back." She smiled at her friend.

"Like I'd let you leave us." He smiled back. "There was this major mix-up and Kendra, the 'new' slayer was sent here -"

"She died." Buffy said simply, cutting off any further discussion of the deceased slayer.

"Your watcher send you here?" Oz asked, getting to the point.

"Something like that." Faith answered, avoiding the topic. She looked down at the empty plate she had been holding. Her stomach growled, and they all heard it. She grinned then. "Isn't it crazy how slaying always makes you hungry and horny?"

Everyone coughed, and Buffy turned red.

***

Later, Buffy opened the front door to her house, and let Faith in.

"We'll talk to Giles tomorrow, and figure out stuff. You can stay here for as long as you�stay in town." Buffy offered. She hoped the brunette would be around for awhile.

Faith was looking around the spacious house.

"B, really, I got a room at this motel. I don't wanna be--"

Buffy shook her head. "That motel was built for roaches. I'm not letting you live there. If you have clothes, we'll just get them tomorrow sometime. Mom'll want to see you again."

They headed into the living room. The slayers weren't ready to sleep, so they sat on the floor, and Buffy made sure to snag the remote so they could see all the good infomercials bound to come on.

"She owns a gallery here. She goes to auctions to buy new pieces. I think she's in Washington right now."

"Oh." Faith said quietly.

The Bostonian backed up and sat against the couch. Not realizing it, Buffy positioned herself so she was leaning back against her old friend. Faith realized it first, and started to laugh. Once it dawned on Buffy, she joined in.

"Old habits die hard, I guess." Buffy smiled.

"That tree. Damn. I almost forgot."

"We sat for hours under there. I wish things could be that simple again."

"You and me both." They were lost in their thoughts for awhile. "So does Buffy Summers have a guy?"

"I did." Buffy responded, pain in her voice.

"Entering bad territory." Faith held her hands up. "Backing out now."

"No�it's okay. We always told each other everything, right?"

"Yeah�" Faith said, trying hard to erase the guilty tone from her voice. "We did."

"What's your stance on vampires?"

"Uh�stake, heart, ash�next please." Faith said without hesitation. "Do you use a different method or something?"

Buffy took a deep breath, and explained the whole "Angel" situation. The curse, their "getting together", his evil escapades, and sending him to Hell. Faith sat in a stunned silence for several seconds.

Buffy shrunk, waiting to be reprimanded. "I'm a bad slayer, I know."

"Jesus Christ, Buffy." Faith breathed. "No wonder they respect you so much. They hate your guts, but they respect ya."

"Who's they?"

"The watchers. Well�mine used to talk about you." There was hurt on her face as she said that, but she shook it off. "You're a hot topic."

"How come that doesn't make me feel good?" Buffy asked rhetorically. "So you don't hate me?"

"Nah. You kiddin'? Going through that�damn." She squeezed her friend's hand. "I don't know if I could make that choice."

"It was the right one. I know that now."

"How was he?" The brunette asked with a grin, trying to get on a more pleasurable topic. "Bet you got rid of that undead chill."

"It was pretty incredible." Buffy blushed, the memories still vivid in her mind.

"Did it just get hotter in here?"

She elbowed Faith lightly. "How about you? Guy?"

Faith didn't know if she should tell her or not. But she would probably find out soon enough, so it was better to just say it now. Buffy wanted an answer; she'd get one.

"I've *had* several, yeah." The blonde was quiet. Faith took that to mean that she was disappointed in her. But they weren't thirteen and fourteen anymore. "Things change, B." She shrugged nonchalantly.

"You never loved any of them?" Buffy asked finally.

"Hard to do when you kick 'em out the day after." It was quiet again. "If you want me to go�"

Buffy turned so she was looking at her fellow slayer, and gripped her arm, to keep her from moving.

"Do you really think I'd�I don't want you to go anywhere." They just sat there, looking at one another, until the trance they had found themselves in was broken. "You tired?"

***

The girls went up to Buffy's room, and the stuffed animals covering the bed amused Faith. She picked up the pig that sat above the rest on top of the pillow, as she sat on the mattress.

"I can't believe you still have this. Not that I have anything against Mr. Gordo."

Buffy was ruffling through her closet, looking for pajamas to change into, and chuckled. "He came everywhere with me. My protector."

She found a large nightshirt, and retrieved it while she kicked off her shoes. Then she slipped the straps of black flower-covered dress off her shoulders, and let it slide down to her ankles, leaving her only in a bra and panties, which Faith couldn't help but notice.

She whistled. "Filled out quite a bit in four years, I see."

Buffy put her arms over her chest in embarrassment. "Geez. I didn't even realize."

"Hey, it's not like we don't come with the same accessories. I don't mind. Hell, show it off. Nothing to be ashamed of."

The blonde flushed, and she slipped the shirt over her head. "Uh�thanks. You want clothes?"

"Wanna see me strip, B?" Faith teased. Buffy cleared her throat. "No, I'm good."

"Oh�okay. Then let me just get you a pillow and blankets so you can be more comfortable�on the floor."

"Cool." Faith said, studying a teddy bear.

"I'll just go�to the closet. That's in the hall." She pointed out the door, to make it clear where she was going.

As Buffy vanished, Faith got up and looked around the bedroom. She saw all the pictures of Buffy and her friends on the mirror above the desk. They seemed like good people. She always knew that Buffy was the type to get a close circle of friends, and she could tell that they had been through a lot. She noticed that there was a small picture book on the desk, with a Dog Beanie Baby sitting on top of it.

Faith began flipping through it. The pages were filled with photos of them from that summer. Buffy had brought a camera with her, and insisted on taking pictures every five minutes. They were good times. Faith smiled. Had she really been that innocent? Well, in actuality, she wasn't innocent back then either, but in the Commons, with Buffy, she certainly felt that way.

She situated the book back where it was, and saw the ice skates hanging off the chair.

"That ice skating thing ever pay off?" Faith asked.

"Nope. Never got the Gold." Buffy called from the hallway. "Only time I ever really used them was when my dad took me to the rink. Let me put it this way, the blades are pretty dull now."

"Bummer."

"Hey, what did your family say when your watcher came to you? Did they believe it?"

Faith was instantly speechless. She had to come up with something.

"Oh�you know how it is." Faith cursed softly, and shook her head. "Brilliant."

Buffy came back in with a few blankets and pillows. "Yeah." Faith was hiding, and Buffy was a little stung by that. "I�I didn't know how cushion-y you liked your pillows, so�"

"Much obliged, B."

"No problem."

They cleared a space on the floor, and sat up Faith's sleeping area. Once that was done, Faith laid down and Buffy hopped into bed, careful not to disturb her animals. She grabbed Mr. Gordo, and turned off the light. After a minute she tossed the pig down to Faith.

"What's this for?"

"He told me he wants to keep you company."

"Think he likes me?"

"Mr. Gordo doesn't sleep with just anyone, you know. I mean -"

"I get it." Faith smiled in the dark. "Thanks."

The brunette slayer couldn't sleep, and neither could the one above her. But Faith felt guilty, that's why she couldn't enter into slumberland. As much as she didn't want to, she had to tell Buffy about her family life. She should have told her four years ago, but was too ashamed. And it had been eating away at her ever since. She never felt like she could talk to anybody about it, and by the time she had gotten close enough to Buffy, and worked up the courage, the blonde had to leave Boston.

"Hey, Buffy?"

"Yeah, Faith?"

"Still wanna know about my folks?"

"I'd like to�but you don't have -"

Faith cut her off. "Yeah, I do. You told me everything about you. About your dad and mom fighting, how much you hated it, and I was I kid you had just met. I owe it to you. And I need to. I don't feel comfortable enough with anybody else."

Buffy reached for her lamp.

"Could you leave it off?" Faith asked.

"Sure." Buffy leaned over, so she could see the other slayer. "Go ahead."

"They�they were alcoholics. Way beyond any AA, 12 step program. My dad used to pound on my mom, but once I got old enough to speak, he stopped with her, and they both started on me. They finally had a hobby they could do together, I guess."

Faith took a deep breath. "But I healed quick. Didn't know at the time that it was cause I was slayer, though. Since the bruises went away pretty fast, they started using things other then their fists. Belts, a bat�whatever they were still sober enough to pick up. Went on until I was a little older, then my dad decided to teach me sex ed. Just until he got off. But I won't go into details."

"God�" Buffy breathed.

"But wait, there's more." Faith said, mocking every game show host on the planet.

"Faith -"

"Let me say this."

"Okay." Buffy said softly.

"That all went on pretty regularly, and then uh�I met you. I was able to go out during the day, cause they had massive hangovers, and I had to get them a new beer supply."

"I always wondered what was in that bag."

"Now you know. Anyway, those few times I slept at your aunt's�I had to be a little bit more sneaky."

"What if they caught you?"

"Spent the day in the basement."

"I'm sorry." Buffy said guiltily. "I wouldn't have asked if -"

"Hey, it was worth it. You left and�I went through 8th grade. I'm still surprised they let me go to school. Probably cause they got sick of me. I went all the way to the middle of ninth, and they made me drop out. They were so wasted that they needed me to do everything. Cook, clean�and when I wasn't doing that, they were dishing it out.

"When I was fifteen, that's when everything changed. My mom musta realized a father screwing his daughter was wrong, and during one of the rare times she was in full control of herself, she tried to stop him. He�uh�strangled her to death, and then passed out. The next morning she was still lying there when my watcher showed up at the door.

"I didn't ask any questions. I just knew she was my only way out. And I took it. I never saw my dad again. When my watcher told me what I was, the strength I had�I've been taking it all out on vamps ever since. And I toss so many guys out, and don't stick around�"

"Because you're doing to them what you couldn't do your father."

"I never knew I could be satisfied too. That's the end. I'm just a slutty headcase, produced by an All-American couple."

***

There was quiet.

"Here comes the pity."

Buffy waited a few seconds, and then switched on her lamp. When the light came on, she slid off her bed, and sat beside Faith on the floor. She shook her head.

"I don't see that when I look at you. I see my friend, who gave me the best summer of my life. I see a very strong person."

"I sat back and did nothing. How is that strong, B?"

"You're here, aren't you? You survived. And of course you didn't do anything. They were your parents."

"Yeah, and they really acted like it too. What parent calls their kid a whore and a bitch?"

"A parent that has lots of problems. None of which you caused. You didn't believe what they said, did you?"

"After you hear it enough- -"

Buffy pulled Faith up into a sitting position and grabbed her by the shoulders.

"Listen to me. You proved them wrong. You're a slayer who destroys the forces of evil. You're a good person, and I like you. I think you're nice, and brave, and funny. That's who you are. Okay?"

"If you say so." Faith looked at her hands. "Look, do me a favor? Don't tell your friends or your watcher, okay? Just between you and me."

Buffy nodded. "If that's what you want."

Faith needed to get off her past. "Hey. Remember at your aunt's when we 'experimented'?"

Buffy giggled. "Oh my God. Kissing practice. So we'd know what we were doing, when the 'older boys' asked us out." Something occurred to her then, and her expression changed. "Did that make you uncomfortable? I mean, did your dad -?"

"No. I was too dirty to kiss, according to him."

"Bastard. Not that kissing your dad that way is something you'd wanna do, but--"

"Yeah, well�you were my first."

"I'm honored."

Faith had a wicked-looking grin on her face. "Wanna do it again? For old times sake?"

Buffy's eyes bugged out. "You serious?"

"Why not?" Faith challenged.

The older slayer couldn't back down from a challenge. "For old times sake."

They were both waiting for the other to make the move, but the longer they waited, the more important this act seemed to be. Buffy found herself studying Faith's face, and looking underneath the pain that was on the surface. What she saw then, was a seventeen-year-old girl, who she had had feelings for since she was fourteen years old. But she had been too young to comprehend it then. The kissing had been quick pecks on the lips, followed by laughter. But they seemed to both enjoy it. Beyond the game.

Faith was the only one, even now, that she had been totally open and revealing about her life with. She only told Willow bits and pieces of her childhood, but Faith knew it all. That was the summer that she had just let it all out, and now that Faith had opened up to her, it was if things were finally coming together.

She reached her hand out, and brushed a lock of stray hair behind Faith's ear. It was like she wasn't in control of herself.

"You know what else I see when I look at you?"

"What?" Faith asked. Buffy could barely hear her response, and knew the brunette was feeling it too.

"Someone who I happen to think is very beautiful. You've always been beautiful."

Cutting off any words from Faith, Buffy leaned in, and captured her lips. Once they both got over the shock that the kiss wasn't simply a friendly peck, they just continued sitting there, learning each other's mouths, the contours of lips�when they broke off, Buffy noticed Faith crying.

"What is it?"

"That one�kiss�meant more than..." Faith started to sob. Everything hit her all at once, and Buffy was there to embrace her, as she started crying too. "Years building up a tough, bad ass exterior, and it gets torn down in one night."

"It's our secret. No one else has to know. Just you and me, right?"

Faith nodded into Buffy's chest, feeling happier than she had felt in a long time. The last time she felt even remotely close to happy, was the summer of her thirteenth year. It was one of those "full circle" things. No, it was like�fate. When they ran out of tears, they fell asleep next to each other. Buffy never got back into bed.

 

2
CLEANSING

The alarm clock on the bedside dresser woke Faith up first. She craned her neck with a groan, to see that the clock read 6:30 A.M. She hit it, and Buffy awoke with a start.

"Is there a reason you wanted to be up this damn early, B?" Faith asked, puzzled.

"School."

Buffy immediately snapped into her pre-school, early morning routine of rushing to the bathroom to practice good hygiene habits, getting dressed�the basic necessities. When she hurried off to do that, Faith fell back onto the blankets in relief.

"Have a good day." Faith called. "I'll just count some more sheep."

"Oh no you won't. Giles is the librarian. You're coming with me. It's a brand new day for you and the sheep. They need to get sheared, and you need a shower. So get a move on."

"I haven't been domesticated in a hell of a long time, okay? I'm not a morning person."

Buffy came back into the room wearing a towel. "Domesticated? When did you become a dog?"

"You know what I meant." Faith growled slightly.

"Take the first shower. It'll wake you up."

Faith walked out into the hall, but then peered her head around the corner, back into the room. "About last night�what happened�"

"Talking or�?"

"Not that part. The other�look, if you just wanna forget it, I won't hold anything against ya. It was pretty heavy last and�uh�thanks."

"Thanks for sharing. It meant a lot to me." She paused. "Okay, the�kiss. I don't wanna forget it, and don't regret it. Hey, that rhymed." Buffy smiled, pleased with herself. "I don't know where we're going, but�"

"Just as long as it's not some rebound deal. Cause of Angel and everything."

"Honestly? It helped. I've been thinking about him so much, but he's gone. It's not healthy. When we�that's the first time in months that I haven't felt alone. It felt good. I felt good."

"Whoa." A simple 'no' would have sufficed. "So that's a negative on regret, right?"

"Yep." Buffy said with a nod.

"How do you feel about conserving water then?" Buffy was agape. "Gotcha."

Faith winked, and went to get her shower. A speechless Buffy just sat shaking her head in disbelief, with a goofy grin on her face. After about fifteen minutes, Faith came back into the room, her hair wet, with a towel around her, when they both knew she could have easily dried off in the bathroom and put her clothes back on. The blonde found herself very parched just then.

"It's all yours." Faith watched Buffy scurry away as quickly as she could. She laughed out loud. Listening for the sound of water next, she grinned widely when she heard Buffy's yelp of surprise. "Like you didn't need a cold shower!" She yelled.

***

They entered the library at quarter after seven to find the whole gang lounging there, enjoying doughnuts that Xander had purchased. As soon as he saw the two slayers, he grabbed two doughnuts, and handed them to the girls. Faith readily accepted the Krispy Kreme, and seemed to experience almost orgasmic pleasure in eating it.

Xander cleared his throat. "Morning, ladies." He greeted them. Giles exited his office then. "Giles, you gotta hear this one story."

Buffy looked at the angry expression on Cordelia's face.

"Xander, are you trying to piss off your girlfriend?" He noticed what the blonde had noticed, and went to sit back down. Buffy whispered to Faith. "And you're not helping."

"Is it my fault that I really like doughnuts?"

As they went to sit down, Buffy promised herself she wasn't going to laugh. It wasn't humorous. But Faith really knew how to respond to things in a way that caused her to go into shock, and then to want to laugh hysterically. She couldn't. Her friend was in the doghouse, and her other friend was not happy with him. Laughing would have been in poor taste. It was hard not to though, and Faith knew it.

She sat in between her fellow slayer, and Willow.

"Hey, Red." Faith said, addressing Willow. "Everything five by five?" Willow's face was blank. "Good? Fine? Okay?"

"Oh. Yeah. Thanks for asking." The redhead smiled. "And yourself?"

"Can't complain."

"Did you two have a good night?"

The slayers looked at each other.

"We had a night all right." Faith said.

"Sure did." Buffy agreed.

The brunette looked at Oz. He was sitting next to Willow, completely calm and relaxed. He looked like one of those people who always took things in stride.

"Is he mellow as a rule?" Faith asked quietly.

Willow nodded. "It's why I love him. I'm pretty�jittery a lot, and he relaxes me."

"Bet he does." Faith said suggestively.

The hacker blushed. "I didn't mean�we haven't�"

"It's okay, Will. Just take deep breaths." Buffy said to her friend, rubbing her back.

Faith had just learned how innocent and inexperienced Willow was, and how close the redhead and the blonde were. Sexual innuendoes apparently weren't the hacker's cup of tea, and the last thing she wanted to do was alienate herself from these people. If Buffy was friends with them, she wanted to be friends with them too. She'd just tone it down. Well, she'd try, anyway.

"Sorry, Red. I was just messing with ya." She offered in apology.

"No, it's fine. We're just waiting for the�right time."

"You should. Looks like you got a good thing going." Giles approached the group carrying a newspaper, and Faith looked him up and down. "Who's the stud?"

"Uh�this is Giles. He and 'stud'�as in�same sentence? That's like two things that don't�go together. English? Yes. Tweed? Yes. Stud? Well�which one of these three doesn't belong?" Buffy looked up at Giles. "Er�no offense."

"Right. None taken." He turned his attention to the slayer doing all the flattering. "Ah, hello. You must be Faith."

"I must be." She whispered in Buffy's ear. "Relax, B. He's got nothin' on you."

That comforted Buffy, oddly enough.

"Willow told me that your watcher is at the retreat?" Giles continued.

"Yeah�yeah she is. How come you didn't go?"

"It's in the Cotswolds. It's a lovely spot. It's very s�serene. There's horse riding and hiking and punting," He smiled, lost in his thoughts, as he walked to the other end of the table, "and lectures and discussions. It�it's...it's a great honor to be invited." He cleared his throat. "Or so I'm told."

"Nah. Forget it. While they're all sitting on their asses drinkin' tea, you're here saving the world. Screw 'em."

"Yes, well, all that aside, it was rather fortuitous that you arrived now."

"Something evil." The gang echoed as one voice, and then let out a collective sigh.

Faith raised her eyebrows.

"I don't know how big it is." Giles went on. "It may be just the usual -"

"Vamp hijinks?" Xander asked.

"I've always wondered what a vampire circus would be like." Oz said, out of the blue.

"Human audience participation would be a big part, I bet."

"Oh! I know! Cause of the blood." Willow said, getting it.

"The good thing is that they're already pale, so the ones playing clowns wouldn't have to put on that stupid white makeup. It destroys the pores, you know." Cordelia contributed.

"The funny cars are still a mystery to me." Oz said.

Giles shook his head, and held out the paper to Buffy. She reached over the table, and grabbed it. "Two people have disappeared from the Sunset Ridge District."

Faith was looking it over with the blonde. "First co-op slayage. I'm there."

"I'm ready for it."

They high-fived. And then the bell rang.

"The only drawback to school." Xander said.

"What?" Faith asked.

"Class." Oz answered.

"You guys have it easy. I've gotta take that health-science makeup." Buffy said, groaning. "Anyone wanna give Faith the tour while I'm occupied?"

"I will!" Xander volunteered.

"We will." Willow said, knowing if Xander went around school with Faith, alone, that Cordelia would kill him.

They all got up, and Faith followed her guides. Buffy was moving slower, in no rush to go test.

"Faith?" The brunette turned around. "Be good?"

"For you, B? Anything." She answered sweetly. Too sweetly. Faith grinned, turned back around, and started to walk out. "Enjoy that health test."

***

Buffy smiled, and when she and Giles were alone in the library, she started to move.

"Can I talk to you for a second, Buffy?"

She stopped. After all, she *did* want to stall for as long as possible.

"Sure, what's up?"

"You seem pleased that she's here." He started off by saying.

"We go back." Buffy said simply.

"I can tell. And I'm happy to see you in good spirits, but there's something I think I should tell you."

"Uh oh."

"Before you came in, I was on the phone with the Council, and I asked them about Faith." Giles said. "It's protocol to notify them if a slayer comes to an area without being accompanied by a watcher." He made sure to add.

Buffy frowned. "Are they making her go somewhere else? Because -"

"No, it's not that. I've asked them to allow her to stay, actually. Given your friendship, I told them that I believed it would be beneficial to you to have a partner you know and trust. Especially here. I'd become her watcher as well as yours. They're thinking it over."

"Oh. Good." She smiled. "But what will her watcher say?"

"Well�according to the Council, she was invited to the retreat, but it started a week ago."

"And?"

"She never arrived. They looked into it and apparently, about two weeks ago, she was murdered by a vampire that had settled in the area around Boston."

She let it sink in. Faith's watcher was dead? Why didn't she tell her?

"So Faith wasn't called because of Kendra?"

"No." Giles shook his head. "The vampire's name is Kakistos. He's very old and very dangerous. So old in fact, that his hands are cloven."

"You're drifting, Giles."

"Sorry. The Council says that he's recently disappeared from Massachusetts. More than likely, Faith is the reason for that."

Buffy drew in a breath. "She's been on the run."

***

When Buffy and Faith returned home after the school day was over, they found out that Joyce had come back after being very successful at the auction in Washington. It took her a minute to realize who Faith was, but once she remembered, she started talking the brunette's ear off. Faith being a slayer was just too perfect, in her opinion.

They were sitting at the dining room table eating cheeseburgers and homemade fries now. Faith couldn't get enough.

"Safety in numbers." Joyce said, nodding. "I like that idea."

"Me too." Buffy said, staring at Faith. "I think I'm just gonna call her the 'Superhuman Vacuum Cleaner' from now on."

Faith looked up from her food. "Bite -" She remembered that Buffy's mom was in the room, and stopped abruptly.

Buffy smirked. "So�she can stay here, right mom?"

"As long as she wants. I can clean out the storage room so you could sleep in there, Faith. I remember a bed being in the room when we moved in."

"Don't worry about it, Mrs. S. I think I can stand bunking with Buffy."

"Gee, I'm touched." Buffy said sarcastically. "Well, now that it's official, we can run by that motel and get your stuff after work."

"Sounds like a plan, honey."

Joyce found the banter amusing, and decided it was time to make her exit. She stood up. "I'll just clean this up."

"I'll help." Buffy offered, beginning to rise.

"No, just sit. Relax. You should conserve your energy."

"Really, it's cool. I'll help too. It's not like washing plates and cups is that complicated." Faith said.

"Sit." Joyce said forcefully.

"Got it." The girls said together.

The elder Summers gathered up the dishes, and then made her way to the kitchen. They sat in silence, and Faith started wondering why Buffy looked so distracted all of the sudden.

"Why so off?"

"It's nothing."

"You know I'm not gonna get off your back until you spill."

"It's�" Buffy sighed.

"Come on, B. Patience is not one of my virtues. Not like I have that many in the first place -"

Did she really want to do this now? It was bugging her, and Faith wanted to hear, so�

"Fine." She'd be direct. "How come you didn't tell me about your watcher?" Faith's eyes went wide. "Giles talked to the Council."

The younger slayer closed her eyes, and then got up, rubbing her hands together.

"So�ready to stake?"

"Fai -"

She moved to Buffy's chair. "Not here."

***

The slayers made their way to the district where Giles and the paper said the disappearances had occurred, and were currently patrolling an alley that was littered with construction equipment. Faith was nervous, so she was twirling her stake as she walked. Buffy decided to broach the subject again.

"Did you not trust me? I would have understood. I do."

Faith was quick to shake her head. "That's not -"

"Because, you know, my first watcher got killed. I found his body."

This caused the brunette to stop. "Really?"

"Yep. In LA. It was hard. Back then, he was the only one who got what I had to do for a living. Couldn't tell anybody else. When I lost him, I didn't want to slay again. Oh, I dusted the vamp that killed him, and the gym along with it, but I was anti-stakes after that. Until I met Giles and learned that I couldn't run from the destiny thing, that is.

"And I was this close," She brought her thumb and her forefinger close together, "to losing him because Angel decided to work on his torturing techniques." She shuddered. "My point, is that sometimes, no matter how much we want to, we're not always gonna be able to save everybody."

Faith was quiet, absorbing what Buffy had said, and thinking about what she was going to say.

"I was gonna tell you last night, cause I knew you were gonna find out anyway, but by the time we got off my childhood, I was pretty drained. But I don't think you really get it. You couldn't. Not totally. G told you about Kakistos, I guess?"

"Yeah, he did."

"Well, I was there when he did it. I watched as he sliced her up. Played with her. Bad mind visuals, B. And they're still fresh." She made her hands into fists. She started squeezing them tighter and tighter, and they started to shake. "She was the only authority figure I knew besides my parents. There was a major diff there too. She taught me how to defend myself, and they taught me not to.

"I got close to her. Well, not close, close. She was still a watcher, and she kept her distance. Which was cool, cause she never crossed any lines. But I respected her. I liked her. I went out after slaying and picked up a guy or two sometimes, and came back early in the morning. I think she wanted to say something, but she never did. There were rules against getting personal. I don't know if I woulda listened or not.

"But I always did my job, so she never had to scold me. One night on patrol I musta dusted the wrong vamp though, cause the night after, I was being chased by this freaking huge�"

"It was Kakistos?" Buffy asked gently.

Faith nodded with a sigh. "He got really good shots in, messed me up pretty bad. I was scared as hell. I don't know what was going through my head, or how I got away, but I ran back to the apartment where we were staying. Crying like a river, wasn't pretty, I told her everything. I broke."

Faith stopped, and chewed on her lip.

Buffy walked up to her. "This is the bad part, isn't it?'

"Kakistos�'convinced' the owner of the place to let him in, got the key to our room, and killed him. He surprised the hell out of us, and had himself a party. He started on her, and I couldn't move�I just couldn't." Her voice croaked, and silent tears went down her cheeks, as she was quiet, remembering. "I should've stopped him. I was right there."

"You're only human. You were scared, and you saw someone who was good to you�being...you froze. Anyone in your position -"

"But I'm not anyone! I'm a slayer! Freezing is something you're not allowed to do."

"I'm sure she doesn't blame you."

"You don't know that!" Faith said, raising her voice. She saw Buffy flinch, and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry."

"You can st -"

Faith held up her hand. "When he was done, he looked at me. I snapped out of it, smashed the window, and cut up the side of his face with one of the shards. I think I sliced his eye too. I should've killed him, but I just jumped out."

"You would have been dead if you didn't. It was the right thing to do." The brunette didn't respond. "You've been running ever since?"

"When I remembered that she had said your name, and where you were, I knew I wanted to get here. I wasn't sure it was you, but when I saw it was�" She smiled for the first time since starting her story. "Anyway, I don't know if I lost him or not. I'm just tired, B. Of running, of moistening my eyeballs�"

"If he's here, we'll take him down. You won't have to go anywhere."

"Thanks." Faith said softly, as Buffy gripped her in a hug.

It hurt, but it was out. She had finally told someone. Told someone she trusted, and knew wouldn't judge her. There were no secrets left between them, and it was a relief not having to feel so much weight on her shoulders anymore. Buffy had volunteered to share it with her.

Not in so many words, but Faith got the message. She considered telling Buffy that she shouldn't have to take on her baggage, but it would have been pointless. So she'd just be grateful. They separated then, and looked into each other's eyes, just standing there.

"What is this?" Buffy asked. "Happening between us?"

Faith shrugged. "I don't know. But I like it."

Buffy nodded in silent agreement. That same feeling from last night was back again, but this time Faith was the one who did the initiating of the kiss. She didn't want to feel sad anymore, and when they touched, it was just as good as the night before. Almost cleansing. And they got even closer.

They got lost in it, the feeling of peace, of�pure happiness. Buffy started to put her arms around Faith's neck, and as she did, she felt Faith stiffen. Wondering what was wrong, she heard the growls before she turned around and saw their source.

"Goddamn it." Faith cursed.

"I really hate it when my makeout sessions are cut short." Buffy said with anger, preparing her stake.

"Then let's get this done. Cause I was nowhere near finished."

"Promise?" Buffy asked, and was happy when Faith nodded.

With that, they went to face their fanged foes.

***

The first vampire Buffy came into contact with, she punched in the gut, which sent him flying onto his back. One of his cohorts came in next, and took a swing at her, which she ducked.

"I wanna play too, boys." Faith complained.

She grabbed the first vampire that had attacked Buffy, stood him up, and did a front kick to his face, knocking him down again. She ran over then, and grabbed a trashcan.

Meanwhile, her partner was still dealing with the other one. Buffy blocked his wide-arced punch and quickly blocked the one after that. She went on the offensive, and her fists connected repeatedly with his face and gut. Not wasting a second, she gripped his head, and twisted it. He rolled onto his back, falling down, and she staked him.

"How you doing?" She called to Faith over her shoulder.

"Oh I'm enjoying myself." The brunette hit the vampire she was battling, who was struggling to get upright, over the head with the can. He didn't go down, but he was dizzy. "You?"

"I'm just -" Another vampire ran in and punched the blonde in the face. He went behind her, kicked her back of her legs, which made her knees buckle and made her, fall to the ground. "Peachy."

Faith, still gripping the can, pushed her vampire into a sheet of drywall. The board broke and fell on top of him, causing him to fall over. She was tired of throwing him around, so she commenced with the dusting. Yet another vampire rushed in, and tried to dive for Buffy, but Faith caught him by his shirt collar, and stopped him.

"Where the hell are they coming from?" She asked

"Don't know," Buffy kicked her leg up and hit her opponent's jaw, causing him to stumble back, which allowed her to get back up. "And right now, I really don't care."

"I hear that."

Faith's opponent head-butted her, causing her to lose her grip on his shirt. He turned around, and she tried to shake the cobwebs away. He kicked her in the side and she bent over a little, but she bounced back, and kicked him in the stomach. He fell back into a pipe that was hanging behind him. She was now pissed at him, and she was going to make him feel just how pissed she was.

"Tsk, tsk. Hitting is bad manners."

Buffy's vampire attacker barreled into her, and threw her on top of a stack of plywood. Her head hit the wall behind it, but she quickly got to her feet. The vampire jumped onto the stack, which was a mistake. Buffy planted her foot hard into his stomach, and he flew back, landing on a dumpster and then rolling down onto the ground.

Faith didn't even register the two punches her vampire hit her face with. She blocked his next two attempts, and then backhanded him. Grabbing him by his shirt, she threw him onto a couple more sheets of drywall. They snapped. She ran up to him, and punched him in the face some more.

Buffy was busy with her opponent, and flipped him so he landed on a large duct pipe, which crushed underneath him. She looked over at Faith, who was getting ready to finish the job. The other slayer had raised her stake, but the vampire had to get a few last words in.

"For Kakistos we live! For Kakistos you'll die!"

Faith's eyes bugged out. He *was* here. She turned her stake around, and in a mixture of fear and anger, she began pounding the vampire's face with it.

"He. Won't. Beat. Me. You hear that, you bastard?"

Another vampire appeared almost out of nowhere, and began double teaming Buffy with his buddy. He grabbed her by her jacket and threw her to the ground. She landed on her stomach near a two-by-four. One of the vampires, she couldn't tell which, grabbed hair and yanked, while the other one began kicking her in her side.

"Faith!" She screamed.

The younger slayer turned her head, and saw how much trouble her partner was in.

"Damn it!" She should have been paying attention. "Buffy!" She turned back towards the vampire underneath her. "Correction. He won't beat *us*." It was ash in an instant.

She ran at the one kicking the blonde first, and pulled him away. When he was out of the picture, for the moment at least, she elbowed the other one in the face. Grabbing the two by four, she staked him fast, and with deadly accuracy, she threw the piece of wood right into the other one's heart. As the dust settled, the wood hit the pavement.

Faith pulled Buffy up. "Thanks." She said, very grateful.

"You okay? I should've -"

"You saved my life. And we're both *not* mortally injured. We survived. K?"

"He's here." Faith's voice was small.

"I heard. And it'll be okay." She reached for Faith's hand. "We'll think of something. Why don't we just go get your stuff at the motel and call it a night? Giles and the gang can research and figure out where Kakistos might holed up at, tomorrow, and that way, we can have an element of surprise. Sound good?"

Faith nodded, and she left the alley with Buffy, a very firm grip on her hand.

***

They walked to the apartments that were near the edge of town, and Faith led Buffy to her room. The blonde shut her the door behind her, and Faith hurriedly started to pack.

"Man, am I glad I'm gettin' outta this hole."

"I don't know much health codes, but this place has got to be breaking all of them."

Buffy sighed, as she watched her friend pack. Faith's admission about her watcher, and her feeling like she didn't do her job, got the older slayer thinking about the people she couldn't save. She just started speaking the names aloud, as they popped into her head. She didn't even realize it.

"Jesse�Principal Flutie�Ford�Miss Calendar�Kendra�Ricky�not to mention the tons of others that I *didn't* know and never even met. God."

Faith had been listening. "Ever stop hurting?"

Buffy realized that she was being asked a question. She shook her head.

"I wish. But that's the life of a slayer. I look at my friends, and they remind me why I can't stop. They're braver than I am, anyway. They're not slayers, but they still risk their lives just to watch my back."

"Lucky." She continued to stuff clothes into a bag.

"They're your friends too, you know. Plus, now we've got each other for motivation, right?"

Faith smiled. They were her friends? That was a nice thought.

"Think I'm gonna like it here." She paused. "How'd�how'd that principal die?"

"Um�eaten."

There was shock on the brunette's face. "By what?"

"Bunch of students."

"Maybe dropping out wasn't such a bad thing, after all. I mean, I heard that education wasn't the best thing going for the country anymore, but�wicked gross."

"Tell me about it."

Faith finished packing, but then there was a knock on the door. The slayers exchanged a look, and Faith looked out the peephole to see that it was the manager. She opened the door, annoyed.

"I'm checkin' out, so you can stop taking time out of your busy schedule to -"

That was when she noticed that Kakistos was standing behind the manager, holding his body up. The disfigured vampire dropped the dead man, and licked his lips.

"Faith."

***

Kakistos roared and grabbed Faith by the neck. She reached up and got a hold his wrist to try and pull him off, but it wasn't doing any good.

"No!"

Buffy got in between them, and pulled Faith back into the room. Kakistos had to let go, and she slammed the door on his arm. He yelled in anger, removed his arm to keep it from crushed any more, and Buffy shut the door. She then quickly locked it, and slipped the safety chain into place.

"I really hate d�j� vu." Faith said, shaking.

"Let's get--" Kakistos punched through the door and tried to reach for Buffy. "Out of here."

Faith grabbed her head. "Why won't he just leave me alone!"

"Cause he's someone who wants to kill you! So escape now!"

The brunette grabbed Buffy's hand and pulled her away from her enemy. She wasn't going to let him kill Buffy. They ran into the bathroom just as Kakistos kicked in the door. Faith smashed the window that was in there, and jumped out. Yep, it was definitely d�j� vu. Buffy was right behind her.

They grasped hands again when they hit the ground, and ran, taking a left at the end of the alley they were in. Faith glanced behind her, and saw Trick leading four vampires. He was Kakistos' lackey. No wonder the ancient vampire was always able to find her. Trick was the more up to date one. He had all the connections. She cursed. One member of his group followed them, and she lost track of the others. They ran faster.

There was a warehouse up ahead. Buffy crashed through one of its windows first, and then Faith followed suit. They got to their feet, and were instantly on guard.

"Thanks for back there." Buffy said, winded.

"It isn't over yet, B." Faith was trying to get her bearings.

"But it will be."

"No."

"Yes."

Faith pointed over Buffy's shoulder, shaking, feeling her toughness slip away again. Buffy turned around and saw a pile of bodies lying in a corner.

"This is his place." The younger slayer realized.

"He drove us here."

One of the vampires appeared at an entrance close to them, and growled. They immediately ran further into the warehouse, both hating feeling like prey. Two more came in a side door, and cut the slayers off. They halted, and Buffy saw a bucket by her feet. She put her foot in, kicked it into one of the vampire's faces, and he fell backward over a chair. She did a spinning kick to the other vampire and a side one to another vampire coming up behind her. He collapsed onto a table.

Kakistos walked into the building, eyeing Faith predatorily. Buffy stood up on the table, and kicked the vampire off. She picked up a crowbar that was sitting there, and swung it at another vampire, female, that was coming at her. She knocked it down, and tossed the crowbar to Faith, so she could defend herself.

"You can do it!"

Faith caught the crowbar, but Kakistos knocked her into a bunch of large wooden beams that were leaning against the wall, before she could do anything. The beams fell down around her, and Kakistos reached down, grabbed her shirt, and picked her up.

"No!" She screamed, as he punched her hard in the face.

Buffy had gotten off the table, and round-housed the vampire that she had just kicked off of it. She staked him, and saw that Faith was in serious trouble. Kakistos hit her hard enough to knock her from his grip, and to the floor. Buffy ran to attack him, and round-housed the back of his knee. She spun and tried to backhand him, but he blocked her. She spun around again and connected with a second, successful, backhand.

Faith watched the fight, and also saw Trick watching too. The female vampire that Buffy had hit with the crowbar, got up finally, and joined him. She couldn't hear what they were talking about, but a minute later, they were leaving. She focused back on Buffy.

The blonde tried to stake Kakistos, but the stake didn't go through. He retaliated by grabbing her hair, and throwing her back against the wall. Buffy came right back at him, and threw a hard punch to his face. He countered, but she ducked and tried to stake him again. Strike two. He shoved her back into the wall again, and was prepared to end her life. He had had enough.

"I guess you need a bigger stake, Slayer!" He laughed deep in his throat.

Faith was sick of it all. Buffy was fighting a battle she shouldn't have had to. Her battle. She was going to kill him now. No more running. The d�j� vu was going to stop.

She saw that one of the beams had a sharp, broken end, and she picked it up. Before Kakistos could do anything else, she shoved it through his chest, and he crumbled, wasting away to ash. Faith let the beam clatter to the ground, and Buffy came and stood by her.

"Damn." The brunette said, out of breath. "He trashed my wardrobe."

"That's what credit cards are for, my friend." Buffy allowed herself to grin. "Hungry?"

"Starved."

***

Later, Faith was crashing on the couch. Buffy was in the kitchen, making the third bag of microwave popcorn of the night. They had eaten two already. Physically and emotionally exhausted, there would be no more long talks tonight, and hopefully, no more for awhile. Everything was taken care of. The truth about her past, about her watcher, and she had faced her fear, and killed Kakistos. Had gotten her revenge. Now she could truly settle into Sunnydale.

The phone had rung, and Faith guessed Buffy had answered it. A few minutes later, Buffy came into the living room carrying another bowl of popcorn.

"That was Giles. You can stay." Buffy smiled, and Faith got a little bit comfier on the couch. She'd be sticking around. "But they're trying to find a watcher for you. When they do, the person's gonna come here."

"Can't win 'em all." Faith shrugged. She happened to like Giles.

Buffy sat next to her, and handed over the bowl. The inhaling began.

"Um�uh�" She stuttered after a couple minutes of eating.

"Yesss?" Faith hissed playfully.

"I just remember�that we were uh�doing something before�and -"

Faith sat the bowl on the table. "I always keep my promises, B. Where's your mom?"

"Sleeping soundly."

"Just what I wanted to hear."

The kissing then commenced.

"This feels�" Buffy said, but trailed off as Faith planted soft ones all over her lips.

"I know." Faith said, nodding. "So shut up, and we can keep doing it."

Not another word was said.

3
RELATIONSHIPS

Faith and Buffy stood in the library, training. The brunette had pads on her hands, and the blonde was punching them again and again. A lot had happened since the death of Kakistos. They had suspected that Oz, in his werewolf form, had possibly killed a few people after escaping from the book cage. As it turned out, it wasn't him. One of the students, Pete, was playing scientist, and one of his chemical mixtures brought out the animal in him.

He killed those people, and his girlfriend, Debbie. There was something else that had come out of whole ordeal though. Angel had come back, and he wasn't the same. It was like Hell had stripped him down to nothing more than a vicious, primitive beast. Before she knew that Pete was the killer, she had chained Angel up in the mansion just in case.

Pete had been about to kill her, but Angel returned to himself (that's the only way she knew how to put it), and saved her life. It was all overwhelming her, and hitting things, helped her keep her mind clear. And to top it all off, the Homecoming Dance was coming up, and she didn't have a date. Not to mention that Cordelia was on a "Queen Crusade", and it was making her sick.

"He still on your mind?" Faith asked, putting her hands down, and slipping off the pads.

"How can he just show up like that again? I was dealing, doing the moving on thing, and then�BANG. Life throws Buffy another curve."

"Just be lucky it didn't throw you a high one. You woulda been knocked on your ass." Faith joked. Buffy wasn't in the mood. "Sorry, sorry. You're not gonna go back�with him, are ya?"

She wasn't. She promised herself that. Besides feeling good knowing that she didn't kill him, or condemn him to Hell for eternity, her and Angel were in the past. There was too much risk. Too much had happened. There was a difference between reading about his evil self, and experiencing it.

She, and the person in the library with her, were heading towards something really good more and more each day. It was new, and it was nice. With Faith, all she felt was contentment. There weren't any strings attached. They were just two *people*, who had gone too far to turn back now. Not that she wanted to.

She couldn't really define what they were yet, but she wasn't going to give it up.

Buffy shook her head. "I'm just gonna help him get better. I owe him that."

Faith sighed in obvious relief. "You should tell them. It'll come back to haunt you later if you don't."

"I can't. They hate him."

"Can you blame 'em? When you showed me him chained up, he didn't look like 'Mr. Congeniality.'"

"He's getting better." Buffy insisted.

"I know. He's sane again, and I'm sure he's a good guy when he's�got a soul." She said softly. "Gotta hand it to ya. He's definitely got the hunk factor going."

Buffy took a sip of her water, and gave a half-smile.

"Yeah, he does. But I'm starting to like curves a little more than ripples."

"B! You naughty slayer you!" Faith grinned, and stepped close to her partner. "What about that dance? You got the tix, right?"

Buffy nodded. "Gang's getting a limo." She sighed. "I don't even know if I wanna go anymore. Showing up dateless is like writing the word 'LOSER' on your forehead."

Faith leaned in, and spoke into the blonde's neck.

"Don't get all ant-social on me. We'll go together."

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "You really want to -?"

The younger slayer nipped at the older one's neck. The result was a sharp inhale of breath from the blonde.

"Come on. I'll even wear a dress. That incentive enough?"

"This I gotta see." Buffy grinned, and gave Faith's backside a slap before she started walking out of the library. "Good workout."

"You're gettin' fresh with me, B."

"You saying you don't like it?" Buffy asked as she pushed through the doors.

***

It was lunchtime in the cafeteria, and Buffy, Willow, Oz and Xander were sitting at a table. Cordelia was around, campaigning. After Buffy had finished training, she had gone to get a recommendation from her junior year Contemporary American Heroes teacher, Ms. Moran. It was another one of Principal Snyder's terms, so she could remain in school. It didn't go like she had hoped.

"I can't believe it. My favorite teacher, and she didn't even remember who I was. I'm like a non-person." She said, depressed. She turned to Oz and waved her hand in front of his face. "Am I invisible? Can you see me?"

"Big as life." Oz responded.

She felt hands go around her neck a second later. She smiled.

"Hi, Faith."

Faith pulled her arms away quickly, and moved so she was looking at the blonde's face. "It is you, B? I didn't see you there."

"Ha, ha, ha."

The brunette pulled up a chair, sat down, and stole one of Buffy's tater tots.

"What's up, guys?"

"I don't think you want me to answer that." Xander said, shifting in his seat.

"Dance fever." Willow said, glaring at her friend because of his immaturity. "Buffy says you're coming with us?"

"I plan to show the 'non-person' a good time." She turned to Buffy. "So, who's too blind to notice that you're gracing them with your presence?"

"Kiss ass." Buffy smirked. "An old teacher."

"Cheer up, will ya? She's just one person in five billion. And a teacher to boot. What do they know? Like he said, you're big as life to us." She looked at Oz. "Mind if I borrow your quotes?"

"They're not copyrighted." The guitarist said. "Though I've been thinking about it."

Willow watched Faith closely. She didn't feel threatened. No. Even though the young slayer was close with Buffy and was getting chummy with her boyfriend�no, she wasn't worried.

"You sure it's okay for you to be here, Faith? They might figure out you're not a student." Willow said.

She knew she was safe and that Oz would never, but maybe she was *a little* threatened.

"Nah, I should be cool for a few more minutes. Hey, I saw this teacher when I walked in. Young guy, cute."

"Mr. Roman?" The redhead questioned. "He teaches biology."

"That's just too perfect." Faith grinned. "Anyway, he reminded me of that one guy�you remember the dare, B?"

"Don't. I'm begging you." Buffy instantly remembered, and shrank in her seat.

"Tell. I'm begging you." Xander countered.

"Here's what happened." Faith smiled. "It was that summer, and we were walking down this street in Boston. We reached this breakfast place. Small, but nice. Had one of those big see-in windows to the right of the door. So we saw this guy -"

"The one that looks like Mr. Roman." Willow said.

"Yeah. He was just sitting at a table inside, drinking coffee and reading the paper. I turn to Buffy and dare her to go in and kiss him on the lips. Said there was five bucks in it for her."

"Which I never got." Buffy reminded her.

"Whatever. So first she won't do it. I have no choice but to call her a wuss, and then she gets all stone-faced, right? Storms in there, not saying a word to me. I watch through the window as she gets his attention. He's sitting, remember, so their faces are on the same level. He turns," She started to laugh, "she uses both her hands, grabs his face, and plants one on him."

"God." The blonde buried her face in her hands.

"But it doesn't end there. This woman comes from the other direction. She might have been in the bathroom, I don't know, but she walks over and catches 'em. Buffy's got her eyes closed, and the woman taps her on the shoulder.

"Her eyes shoot open, and she bolts out. I guess the chick was his girlfriend. I got the silent treatment the rest of the day."

"He had an engagement ring on. They were getting married." Buffy's voice was muffled by her hands.

"You vixen!" Xander exclaimed.

"I'm gonna kill you later. You know that, right?" The threat was directed towards Faith. She took a breath, and decided to talk about something else. "Hey Will, you wanna help me go dress searching tonight?"

Willow's face scrunched. "Ooh. Can't. I promised Xander I'd get him a respectable tux. Sorry."

"Are you saying I'm not respectable?" Xander asked in mock hurt.

"That's okay. He *could* use the help." Buffy teased.

"Hey!"

"Faith has to get a dress too. We'll just go. No big."

"Speaking of going, I think some of the faculty in here is gettin' suspicious. I'll catch you three later." Faith said, getting up. "B, see ya at home."

"Bye, Faith." Buffy said with a smile. The gang echoed her as Faith walked out.

***

She felt better. "Okay, I'm not even going to try to come up with a decent segue-way to get back to the original topic. Ready?"

"We're prepared." Oz said.

"Shoot." Willow said.

"At least I'm gonna be a picture in the yearbook, right?" Buffy asked.

"Uh, no, actually, you're not." Xander said in a low voice.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you, uh, missed the picture-taking."

Her eyes went wide. "When?" She looked at Oz. "Why?"

"We did 'em yesterday." Oz answered.

"Didn't Cordelia tell you?" Willow asked.

Buffy found Cordelia with her eyes, stood up, and headed over to her, a few feet away.

"'Faith has to get a dress too. We'll just go. No big.'" The hacker said, muttering her friend's earlier words.

"She did ask you." Xander pointed out. "We heard it."

"I know�but�she could've sounded more upset that I was busy." Willow said in a louder voice. "That didn't make much sense, did it?"

Xander and Oz just looked at one another. They heard the last part of Cordelia and Buffy's conversation then. The look on the blonde's face didn't seem happy.

"Sorry Cordy, but you have no idea who you're messing with."

"What? The Slayer?"

"I'm not talking about the Slayer. I'm talking about Buffy. You've awakened the Prom Queen within. And that crown is going to be mine."

The gang at the table was quiet until Xander found his voice.

"Anyone else scared?"

They all raised their hands.

***

It was Dance Night, and Buffy was waiting somewhat impatiently for Faith, who was in the bathroom, to finish putting on her dress and makeup. She was in her bedroom, already set to go. Her hair was up and she was wearing her color-coordinated ensemble of a bright red, spaghetti-strap dress, purse and shoes.

"We're on a schedule here." Buffy called.

"Oh yeah? Well I spent all day sitting in a damn chair, getting my damn hair done, and the damn eyeliner isn't cooperating, so your damn schedule's gonna have to adjust!"

Buffy grimaced. "You sound like Cordelia. Only, I don't think she uses 'damn' that much."

"Jesus, B. First, she's a rich kid who needs to be number freaking one at everything, and just cause I wanna go to this thing�don't compare me to her again."

"Okay, okay. What's second?"

"Why the hell did you stoop to her level and go gung ho on this Queen thing?"

"I wasn't stooping. I want to be remembered for something. Not for being a slayer and saving their lives, for just being me. Three years at Sunnydale High and to my fellow classmates, I'm either on their 'Hot and Wanna Have Sex With' list, or their 'Total Freak List'."

"You sure you don't have it mixed up? Maybe you're on the 'Hot and Wanna Have Total Freaky Sex With' list."

"Again, ha, ha ha."

"Fine. Let me ask you somethin'. In a year or two, how many of your classmates are you gonna remember?"

"Besides the ones I let -?"

"Say 'die' and I'll hurt you. Just answer the question."

"Probably�very few."

"Then if you don't wanna be known as a superhero, why should anybody remember you, if you're not gonna remember them? Who cares what they think? I told you already, your friends are. I will. Isn't that what counts?"

"Yeah, yeah�you're right." Buffy sighed. "But I still wanna beat Cordelia. She's just�a bitch! Well�not always, but lately."

"Hey, no argument here, but did anything I say get through?"

"She called me a crazy freak, sick, *and* pathetic, Faith."

"She what?" The brunette screamed from the bathroom. "Put her in her place."

Buffy simply continued. "Uh huh. And she tries to take *my* friends over to her side�and did you notice something strange going on with Willow and Xander?"

"A little paranoid maybe, but I thought that was the norm for this town."

Faith came into the bedroom then, and stood by the bed. Buffy was in awe. Her fellow slayer was wearing a shoulder strap black dress with a V-cut in front, exposing her chest to just above her breasts, and had a black choker around her neck. She had her hair up, but a few strands were hanging loose down either side of her face.

"Oh wow." Buffy choked out.

"Ya think?"

"Definitely worth the wait." She immediately put her arms around Faith's waist, and they proceeded to have the longest, most passionate kiss they had shared yet. Then again, every kiss seemed to top the one before it. "Gorgeous."

"You're not so bad yourself, B." Faith said, still reeling.

Buffy then noticed something just below Faith's shoulder. She stepped back.

"A tattoo? What is it?"

"Some kinda tribal arm band. I was on a spiritual kick."

"Can you get any sexier?"

There was a honk from outside. The limousine had arrived.

"Not right now." Faith grinned. "Look, you smudged your lipstick."

"Damn." The blonde said, touching the corner of her mouth.

"Get presentable. I'll be waiting."

***

Buffy got in the limousine five minutes later, to find herself sitting, no, not next to Faith, but Cordelia. She was puzzled as to why she was in the car with her, as well as automatically annoyed.

"What's going on here? Where's Faith?"

Cordelia was not happy with the situation either. Like it was a chore, she handed the blonde a card she had received when she had gotten inside the limousine.

Buffy sighed, and read it.

"'Dear Cordelia and Buffy,

"We won't be riding to the dance with you. We want you to work out your problems because our friendships are more important than who wins Homecoming Queen.

"Your friends.

"P.S. The limo was not cheap. Work it out.'"

She sighed again, and closed the card. "No wonder she ran out of the room so fast." She noticed a box on the floor, and picked it up. "They bought us corsages?"

"I took the orchid." Cordelia informed her, speaking for the first time.

"Okay." Buffy said, already in pain over the other girl's voice and her obsession over the littlest things.

They started driving, and she hoped they'd be at the Bronze soon.

***

At the Bronze, Faith found a distracted Xander and Willow standing together, but also apart. She raised an eyebrow. Was there something going on? She walked up and got in between them, and the three of them stood listening to the Dingoes play on stage. After a minute, the two Scoobs realized that they weren't alone. They stared at Faith, waiting for confirmation. The slayer still couldn't believe she had set Buffy up like that. She wanted her to be here.

"Taken care of. Cats are alone in the litterbox. I repeat, cats are alone in the litterbox." She said jokingly, as if she was speaking into a walkie-talkie. "Waiting, waiting�well, that bombed."

Willow seemed to emerge from the haze she was in. "It was funny. Really."

"Stand-up worthy. You'd kill at the Improv." He pointed to the stage. "He's a great guy, Oz."

"He wrote this song for me."

"Right...." Faith said slowly.

"I'm gonna get beverages. Requests?" Xander said, moving finally.

"I'm good."

Willow simply shook her head, and then the two girls were left alone.

"You don't like me, do you?" Faith asked the redhead.

The unfocused Willow suddenly became focused on the slayer, and her question. She looked nervous. "Uh�why do you�say that?"

"I'm pretty good at reading people."

"Well, you read wrong. The wrong page even. Why would I not like you?"

"Cause you think I'm trying to come between the friendship you and Buffy have."

"Are you?" Willow asked, knowing she had been discovered.

"You guys have been through one hell of a history. Probably shared some pretty gruesome stuff together. You get real close to a person when that kinda thing happens. I don't know a thing about your friendship, and even if I wanted to ruin it, which I don't, it'd be pretty damn impossible."

"But you guys have a history that's past our history."

"You and Xander have that thing going."

"What thing? We don't have a thing. We have absolutely *no* thing." Willow babbled and insisted.

"The friendship that started long before Buffy showed up?" Faith questioned, confused.

"Right." Willow forced a laugh. "That thing. Yeah, we've known each other since we were three."

"And she wasn't part of that. You think she's jealous of what you guys have?"

"No! Buffy knows that we�oh." It dawned on her. "Guess I've been a little irrational."

"Nah. Just a friend. Don't wantcha to hate my guts, that's all I'm sayin'."

"I don't. I have no desire to see your guts, so how could I hate them?" Faith laughed. "You two have just been spending a lot of time together, and -"

'That's cause we're usually making out�we're in no rush to tell anyone�and we have no idea what it is�especially not me�no, better leave that out.'

"You should hang out with us. Or us with you�whatever. You seem like a cool person, Red. Wouldn't mind gettin' to know ya."

"Okay." Willow agreed with a smile. "I'd like that."

"I'll leave you to�whatever you were doing�now."

***

The limousine had stopped in the middle of the woods, and the two adversaries found themselves being hunted. Slayerfest. One of Trick's games, apparently. After taking out the first hunter, a human, Buffy stole his rifle, and they had made it to a run-down cabin. She shut the door, and grabbed a chair to barricade it.

"We should be safe in here for a while. You need to find a weapon." She said as she looked out one of the draped windows.

"Safe? I'm not safe. I'm gonna die!" Cordelia was panicking.

"Yeah, you are if you just stand there." Buffy said nonchalantly, going around and pulling the drapes over all of the windows.

"I'm never gonna be crowned Homecoming Queen. I'm never gonna graduate from high school. I'm never gonna know if it's real between me and Xander, or if it's just...some temporary insanity that made me think...I loved him. And now I'm never gonna get the chance to tell him." Cordelia sobbed.

Buffy went over to her. "Yes, you are. We are gonna get out of here, and we are gonna head back to the library, where Giles and the rest of the weapons live. Then I'm gonna take out the rest of these guys just in time for you to congratulate me on my *sweeping* victory as Homecoming Queen."

Cordelia's blood was rushing to her face. "I know what you're up to. You think if you get me mad enough, I won't be so scared. And, hey! It's working! Where's a damn weapon?"

She started searching the drawers of table; Buffy saw a phone on it. The blonde called the library, getting the machine. In the middle of her message, the phone went dead, and cut her off. Buffy went back to the window and kept watch for trouble, as Cordelia continued to search.

"You really love Xander?" Buffy asked, a little surprised.

"Well, he kinda grows on you, like... a Chia Pet. That reminds me. Faith? She better steer clear of him. You can tell her I said that too."

"Don't worry. She's not trying to steal him."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Oh�just trust me." Buffy grinned to herself.

"All I wanted was to be Homecoming Queen, you know."

"And that's all I wanted, too, Cordelia." She sighed. "I spent a year's allowance on this dress."

"I don't even get why you care about Homecoming when you're doing stuff like this."

She turned her head. "Because this is all I do. This is what my life is. You couldn't understand." Buffy said, shrugging. "I just thought...Homecoming Queen. I could pick up a yearbook someday and say, I was there. I went to high school, and�for one moment, I got to live in the world. And there'd be proof. Proof that I was chosen for something other than this."

"Guess I never thought about that�" Cordelia admitted. "But hey, you've got friends, don't you?"

"That's what Faith said."

"I've never really had friends. Followers, yeah, and I get that it was my fault. I made the decision to go that way." She appeared to be sad. "When I started going out with Xander, and started hanging out with you, and Willow�I figured it could be my shot to find out what having friendships with people is like. But most of the time, I feel like I don't belong. I mean, I know I've given you all a hard time, but I just thought�"

"I didn't realize." Buffy said softly.

"May Queen, Homecoming Queen, cheerleader�I'm just doing the only thing I know how to do. Be popular. I don't really know how to be a friend."

The two girls lapsed into silence. They had a lot to think about.

***

Back at the dance, Faith was standing at one of the food tables, looking at Xander and Willow sitting back to back. Their mood hadn't changed one iota. Besides studying the two friends, she began to wonder why the limo was taking so long to get there. It was supposed to be�well, kind of a special night. She liked to think of it as a sort of�"first date". Though no one else would know that.

And for her, it would be her first *ever*. She had never had a date before. But Buffy wasn't here yet.

Oh wait. Something interesting was happening now. Willow and Xander were reaching for each other's hands slowly. Like they were trying to be discreet about it. Faith's eyes went wide. Did they cross that line? Maybe something went on the night before. The hacker had helped him get a tux. They could have gone back to one of their houses, tried on the formal wear�

Fingers were touching, and then just as quickly, they broke away. Oh yeah. Could she pick up sexual tension or what? She turned her gaze away from the pair with a smile, and found Giles standing next to her, helping himself to the food.

"You look very nice this evening, Faith." He complimented her.

"Right back at ya, Giles. Got that whole dignified, 'James Bond' thing workin' for you."

"Thank you." He said, smiling sheepishly. "I've�um�also been meaning to thank you for everything you've done."

"Everything I've done?"

"Being there for Buffy. You've made her happier than I've seen in quite a long while. When Angel�turned, I think a part of her�got lost. None of us truly understood what she was going through, and as much as we tried to support her, it didn't seem to do all that much good.

"My own�dislike, of Angel aside," He seemed very bitter. Maybe Buffy was right in not telling them. "She appeared to be very worn down, and her duty took so much of a toll on her, that I was concerned she'd never be the same person again. With you, I think she's found what she had lost. I'm just relieved, and extremely grateful, that your presence here makes her happy again."

Faith was overwhelmed. "I think that goes both ways between us. I know it does. I was lost for a long time too." She studied him. "You care about her, huh?"

He smiled. "As if she were my daughter."

Why couldn't she just have him as her watcher?

"Let me guess. That's why the Council had you blacklisted for that retreat." She said, angry with them. "Bastards."

"I think I'll refrain from commenting on what they may be."

"But you're not disagreeing." Faith noticed Giles' little smirk. "Don't worry, your secret's safe with me. Say, you haven't seen Buffy, have you?"

"No, as a matter of fact. I assume she and Cordelia are making progress with sorting out their differences."

"Or tearing each other apart."

"Also a very plausible possibility. I think I'll retreat to the library until the coronation. I want to be here when Buffy...well, however the thing turns out for her."

"Have fun."

She'd just go back to waiting.

***

Sometime later, after escaping the cabin before it had blown up, because of a grenade shot through the window of all things, Cordelia and Buffy had made it to the library. They found Giles unconscious on the floor, and the Gorch couple waiting for them. They were two vampires from Texas named Lyle and Candy, who were two more players in the game that were looking to kill them.

Cordelia had just managed to kill Candy with a spatula she had found back at the cabin.

"Candy!" Lyle yelled as she burst into ashes before his eyes. "Oh, Candy..." He began to head for Buffy, who was lying groggily on the floor, but Cordelia cut him off. "I'm gonna kill both you Slayers for this! You hear me?"

"I hear you, you redneck moron. You got a dress that goes with that hat?"

He was pissed. "I'm gonna..."

She didn't care. "Rip out my innards, play with my eyeballs, boil my brain and eat it for brunch? Listen up, needle-brain. Buffy and I have taken out four of your cronies, not to mention your girlfriend."

"Wife!" He screamed, as well as growled at her.

"Whatever. The point is, I haven't even broken a sweat. See, in the end, Buffy's just the runner-up. *I'm* the Queen. You get me mad, what do you think I'm gonna do to you?" She glared at him.

He waited a second, thinking it over. Then, he backed up with a nod.

"Later."

Giles started to wake up, and Buffy slowly stood, making her way over to a smiling Cordelia.

"That should teach him to mistake you for a Slayer." She smiled.

"This slaying thing's a piece of cake."

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "I appreciate the 'saving my life' thing you just did, by the way."

"No sweat." Cordelia made a 'forget it' gesture with her hand. "So�what now?"

"Friends?" She asked holding her hand out.

She realized how stupid she had been, fighting with Cordelia. It accomplished nothing, and they had both been wrong. They both didn't have all the facts before, and they didn't even take the time to get to know one another to even get the facts. Now Buffy felt that they had reached an understanding. And she had a whole new respect for her. Cordelia wasn't as superficial as Buffy thought, or as superficial as Cordelia thought herself to be. She was all for having a new friend.

The disheveled brunette looked at the petite blonde's hand. She slowly reached her hand out to grasp Buffy's, part in disbelief, part in fear. She had insulted Buffy and put her down so many times, but here was the blonde, the world saver, offering her friendship. Nobody had done that before. But could she do it? Be a friend? Finally, she stopped being a chicken, put her hand into the outstretched one, and felt Buffy grip it tightly.

Buffy smiled, and Cordelia found herself returning it. They both then heard Giles groan, and figured they had better see if he was okay.

***

Faith watched the stage as Oz and the Dingoes were finishing their set. In a few more minutes, they were going to announce the Homecoming Queen. Willow was coming up to her, and she found herself next to the redhead for the second time that night. Xander was hanging back near the bar.

"Does she tell you stuff she doesn't tell me?" Willow asked immediately.

'Yes, but I'm not gonna spill. Not unless she asks me too.'

"I don't know what she says to you." Faith shrugged. "And if she tells me things that she doesn't tell you, that's up to her. I have nothing to do with that."

"I didn't mean�I know you don't." Willow sighed. She didn't really know why she asked the question. Well, it was probably because in the midst of all her pondering, she had started to wonder. "But if she does, why do you think she wouldn't tell me?"

"If she does? I'm sure she has her reasons. Just like you have yours for not telling her."

The hacker's eyes bugged out. "Huh?"

"You and Xander lip-locked, right?" Willow looked around, and then back at Faith, pleadingly. The slayer held up her hands. "Not my place to snitch and none of my business."

"I can't tell Buffy. Or anyone." She whispered. "Hiding is wrong, but then�she may think I'm a horrible person�and Oz�he'd -"

"Take it easy, Red. You don't have to justify anything to me. Everyone keeps secrets."

"You won't tell?" Willow asked again, just to make sure.

Faith shook her head. "You'll handle it when you're ready. Or it'll just find a way to come out on it's own."

Willow frowned at that, but as long as the brunette was going to keep her secret, she was happy for now.

"Thanks, Faith." She smiled in relief. Devon was stepping up to the microphone on stage. "They're gonna announce the Queen. Where are they? What's keeping them?" She asked next, referring to Buffy and Cordelia.

Oz and Xander had made their way over to the girls, and had spotted their missing friends making their way through the crowd.

"I'm gonna go with mud wrestling." Oz said first.

"Oh, God!" Xander exclaimed as the two joined the group.

"What the hell -" Faith started to exclaim.

"Did you two do to each other?" Xander finished.

"Long story." Buffy said, too tired to go into it.

"Got hunted." Cordelia elaborated.

"Apparently not that long." She saw Willow look at them with a stunned expression. Buffy then looked at Cordelia, who was just as dirty and tired as she was, with a grin. "Tell you one thing though. You don't wanna mess with Cordelia."

Xander started to laugh, but his girlfriend's glare cut him off.

"No."

***

The coronation and the announcement were now over. The couples were back on the dance floor, the music now coming from a DJ, as the band had called it a night. The slayers were amongst the many dancing couples out there, arms around each other's necks.

"Bummed that you didn't win?" Faith asked.

The blonde thought. "It doesn't seem like that big of a deal now. It would've been cool, but having relationships with people are more important than any crown or how many people know my name, anyway. I made a new friend tonight. That was big. And I've had really good ones for awhile now."

"She finally gets it!" Faith said with a smile.

"And when I don't smell and look so bad, the kid who does the photos for the yearbook is gonna get a picture of Cordy and I together."

"Can you handle it being under the title 'Runner-ups'?"

"Hey, I'll be in there, and I'll have gone to high school. That's all I wanted." Buffy looked apologetic then. "Sorry I got attacked and was gone most of the night."

"I'm just glad you're alive, B. And I got to dance with ya. That's all *I* wanted."

Buffy leaned her head against Faith's chest.

"Think the gang'll figure out there's something more going on with us?"

"Pretty much a given now, I think."

"Good. I want them to know." Buffy said softly. "You're part of the Scooby Gang now, and I want them all to like you as much as I do. We *know* Xander does, and Oz likes everybody. But I think the chicks of the group need to hang out more. If�you're okay with that."

"Totally. The redhead and I were doing a little chatting earlier."

"Really? What about?"

"Learning more about each other stuff, that's all."

She wasn't going to say anymore. She and Willow had come a long way tonight, and her lips were sealed.

"I'm glad." The song was finishing up. "What do you say we find our friends and go play some min-golf?"

"Mini-golf?"

"It's open twenty-four hours." Faith gave her a look. "There isn't much to do here, okay?" The brunette pointed to her dress. "I've looked worse, believe me."

"You look pretty damn good to me."

They put their arms around each other's shoulders and started walking.

"Will you stop kissing my ass?"

"You think that was kissing ass? That wasn't kissing ass. Remind me to show you what *real* kissing ass is, sometime."

"You're�you're�damn it. I can't be mad at you when you're dressed like that." Faith just grinned, and Buffy huffed. "We're walking. Does this mean we're gonna do mini-golf?"

"I guess it does. Come on, blondie. Let's round up the troops."

They did just that, and then the whole gang went to the Pitch n' Putt, and began their first of many hours there. When they finally trudged home in the early morning hours, they were weary, but they also had a really good, enjoyable time together.

4
REVELATIONS

Willow, Xander and Cordelia were in the Bronze, sitting at a circular table, listening to the Dingoes finish up. Looking around, they were glad that kids were populating the club, and not their parents and teachers. Ethan Rayne teaming with Trick, that stupid candy, and those poor babies�it was all over. What wasn't over, however, was the attraction Willow and Xander felt towards each other.

They were so nervous, sitting there, and their anxiety increased as Oz came over. It was like all of the sudden; one kiss had changed fifteen years of friendship just like that. But why? Willow had Oz, and she loved him. She had gotten over her crush for Xander a long time ago, and he had never shown any interest in her before. It had to be a fluke. It had to be.

"Oz! Hey! Have a seat...except, we don't have any seats." The redhead said to her boyfriend.

"It's okay. I'll just scrunch in." He said.

They scooted over, and Xander leaned hard against Cordelia.

"Xander, why are you giving me a lap dance?" She asked him, making a face.

"What? I just like you." Xander defended himself weakly.

That's when Willow began to babble. "And that's very beautiful. I think it's great when two people like two people and want to be close to them instead of anyone else."

Xander agreed, and Oz found the babble cute.

"Yeah. Well put." The guitarist said. He pointed at Willow's cup. "Hey, can I snag a sip?"

"Sure."

She reached for it, but so did Xander. Their hands made contact, and when they felt the touch, they immediately retracted their arms. As they did that, their arms hit a tray of drinks a waitress was carrying, and knocked them all down. Xander jumped off his stool to get them, but he was way too late. The people watching clapped, and he tried to get out of the situation gracefully, by doing what he did best.

"Thank you! Thank you. Uh, we're here through Saturday. Enjoy the veal." Xander joked.

"Why are you guys so hyper?" Cordelia asked as her boyfriend sat back down.

"Who's hyper?" Willow asked.

"So�what does everybody think of Buffy and Faith?" Xander asked quickly.

"You mean do I think they're going out?" Cordelia asked.

Xander choked, and Willow went wide-eyed.

"It's a free country." Oz said.

"You think they are?" The hacker asked.

"You were at Homecoming, right?" Cordelia asked. "Hey, considering her last steady killed half the class, Faith's a big improvement. Good for them."

Xander needed to take a breath. "That is *you* in there, right?"

Cordelia didn't say a word. She just smiled to herself. Buffy came up to the gang a few seconds later.

"Hey, guys. Whatcha talking about?"

"You and Faith, oddly enough." Oz said.

"This was a topic of discussion?"

"I know. It's stupid." Cordelia said, tired of the topic. "Listen, I got us credit at April Fools."

"The dresses?"

"I returned 'em."

"How'd you convince -?"

"I have my ways." Cordelia said with an enigmatic smile.

"Cool. Thanks."

"So *are* you and Faith going out?" Willow asked, not able to drop it.

"Okay�yeah." She took a deep breath. "We are. Objections now please. Going once, going twice�" When they didn't come, she smiled.

"More power to ya, Buff. You get my thumbs up." Xander said, putting his thumbs up.

"Gee, thanks." She had a sarcastic edge to her voice. She looked at her redheaded friend. "So�Will, you wanna come?"

"But you said--"

"Slaying." Buffy laughed. "You came last night. Do you wanna come again?"

"Oh." Willow smiled, embarrassed. "Nah. That's okay. Glad you're happy." She squeezed her friend's hand, showing her support.

"Cordy? You feel like slaying?"

"Oh�I don't know." She sighed. "I'd probably just scare them off again. I mean, I'm sure word has gotten around about how dangerous I am." Cordelia said, still proud of herself.

Buffy shook her head, amused. "I bet."

Faith came up behind her then, and she put her arm around the brunette's neck.

"Yo, what's up?" Faith said to the gang. She nudged Buffy. "Hey, time to motorvate."

"They wanted to know if we were dating. I gave the affirmative."

Faith got a glint in her eye. "Yep. We're *really* good friends."

She ran her hand through Buffy's hair, slowly and seductively, and Buffy couldn't help but close her eyes as she felt the sensations. Then, the slayers took off. Willow and Xander watched them go, mouths hanging open.

"Jeez, you two. Get a grip." Cordelia said.

"That was certainly interesting." Oz said in his usual calm manner. "I almost felt an expression coming on myself."

***

Buffy and Faith walked through the cemetery looking for vampires. Giles had come along to see how the slayers functioned as a duo. It was one of the Council's requirements of him until they sent a second watcher to Sunnydale. He walked several feet ahead of them, and Faith was conversing with her partner quietly as they patrolled.

"You didn't get the slightest tingle, B? I don't believe it."

"No, I did not get a thrill out of seeing Giles revert. Can we please drop this?"

"But that T-shirt really showed off his muscles. And that whole rebellious 'tude�" Faith trailed off.

"I could have done without that."

"Loosen up, Summers. All I'm sayin' is that he'd be a lucky catch."

"For *women*. His age." Buffy insisted. She didn't like thinking of him that way.

"Hey, I find someone attractive, I notice, and point it out." She shrugged. "But I only look, don't touch. I reserve that special bonus just for you."

"And what a nice bonus it is." Buffy smiled. "You know�vampires!"

"I don't really take the time to get to know�oh."

Two vampires came at them from the side, and Giles was safe ahead of them, seeing the attackers, as he sat on a bench. The slayers dropped onto their backs, and the vampires each jumped on them, as they laid side by side. Faith rolled with hers, and got over top of him, while Buffy kicked hers off and stood up. The Bostonian pulled hers up, and threw him into a bench.

Buffy waited until her opponent got up, and then tried to punch his face. He blocked it, as well as her two successive ones. When he tried to retaliate though, she grabbed his arm, twisted and flipped him onto his back. Faith ran over by the bench, and grabbed her vampire's foot, as he tried to kick her as he was getting up. She pulled his leg up, and he lost his balance, falling backward to the ground.

Giles was drinking coffee to keep himself awake, and calmly took notes.

Both slayers waited for the vampires to stand. Buffy round-housed hers in the gut, and brought her fist to his face. Faith round-housed hers as well, but in the face. She then hammered her fist into his stomach, and readied her stake. Buffy pushed hers into Faith's, and the vampires stood back to back. They both plunged their stakes in at the same exact moment, and as the dust rained down, they gave each other a high-five. They walked over to Giles.

"Synchronized slaying." Buffy realized.

"New Olympic category?" Faith wondered.

Giles was about to comment on their performance, but a female voice spoke and interrupted him.

"Sloppy." She said. They all looked at the woman. She was British by the sound of her voice, and seemed kind of prissy. She was also dressed too formal and conservative for a cemetery. "You telegraph punches, leave blind sides open and, for a school-night slaying, take entirely too much time. Which one of you is Faith?"

"Depends. Who the hell are you?" Faith answered.

"Gwendolyn Post, Mrs. Your new Watcher."

***

The next day, Faith and Buffy sat next to each other in the library, glaring at the watcher that had arrived. She made fun of Giles, who was in there as well, insulting his collection of books and his English-ness, by calling him too American. She was entering their lives, and even though they had no choice, they still didn't like it.

"I'm telling you, I don't need a new Watcher. No offense, lady. I just have this problem with authority figures. They end up kind of dead." Faith said flatly.

Buffy grasped her hand.

"Duly noted, and fortunately, it's not up to you." Post said, devoid of emotion.

"Bitch." The slayers said under their breaths.

"You need a watcher, Faith. I am to act in that capacity and report back."

"Excuse me, Mary Poppins, you don't seem to be listening."

"Faith, if the Council feels that you need closer observation, then...we will all, of course, cooperate." Giles said, trying to diffuse the situation.

"The Council wishes me to report on the *entire* situation here, including you." Gwendolyn said, turning to Giles.

"Mm! Academic probation's not so funny today, huh, Giles?" Buffy asked innocently.

"There is a more pressing matter that needs our attention, whether you all like me or not. A demon named Lagos is coming here to the Hellmouth. Lagos seeks the Glove of Myhnegon. No record of this glove's full power exists, but we do know it is highly dangerous and must not fall into the hands of a demon. Lagos must be stopped."

"What do you propose?" Giles asked.

"Well, if it's not too radical a suggestion, I thought we might kill him."

"Bitch." The slayers said quietly, again.

"We believe the glove to be buried in a tomb somewhere, so Lagos will be headed for the cemetery."

"There is more than one in Sunnydale." Giles told her.

"Well, we'll just have to take them one at a time. Faith, with me please."

The brunette looked at Buffy and Giles. This wasn't something she wanted to do, and by the look of the blonde's eyes, Buffy didn't want her to go either. But Post had already moved from the table, and was standing by the doors, waiting on her. Faith stood from her chair, but before following her new watcher, she leaned down and gave Buffy a quick kiss.

When Buffy and Giles were left alone, he stared at her, as if waiting for an explanation.

"What?" Buffy shrugged.

***

That night, Willow and Xander were helping Giles research for the possible location of the glove Lagos wanted so badly. Well, they weren't actually researching at the moment. They were doing something completely unproductive, and bad. Making out in the stacks. Giles' footsteps were coming nearer and nearer to them, but they were too involved to hear.

"Willow, Xander..." Giles said, looking at books, standing just about two feet away from them. The two friends stopped immediately, and jumped up, nervous. "You can stop your, uh, studying. I've got what I need."

"What have you got?" Xander asked, trying to make his breathing even.

"The probable location of the Glove of Myhnegon. It's housed in the Von Hauptman family crypt."

"Yeah, that's that big one over at the Restfield Cemetery."

"Yeah, well, that's great, Giles. Um, how'd you find it?" Willow said, biting her nails.

"I looked." The watcher said, reading.

"Where's Buffy at?" Xander asked.

"Oh! She's in Shady Hill." Willow remembered.

"Well, I'll go check out this, uh, crypt."

"And I'll go tell Buffy." Willow offered.

"Yes, by all means, go." Giles said, giving them leave.

The two of them got out of there fast.

***

Buffy was nearing the end of her sweep at Shady Hill Cemetery, with no sign of Lagos or the glove, when Willow came running up to her, panting.

"What's the rush, Gus?" The slayer asked her friend.

"Gus? Where?" The aspiring wicca searched, until her brain shifted into gear. "Humor. Right." She caught her breath. "Giles says the glove's inside a crypt at Restfield. Hauptman. Xander's on his way there already."

"You mean the good guys might actually be a few steps ahead of the baddies for once? Should happen more often." Buffy said. "I'm almost done here. Then I'll go check it out. Wanna join me?"

"Sure." They started to walk again. "Uh, not to downplay my own slaying abilities, which in some circles are considered formidable, but shouldn't Faith be here?"

Willow could have sworn she heard her blonde friend growl.

"She was, but then Miss Biotch thought it would be 'better strategy' to separate and cover more ground. They went to another cemetery. I suggested Abendale, but I don't think Miss Biotch listened to me."

"You and Faith don't like Mrs. Post, huh?" Willow smirked.

"We've named her 'Miss Biotch'. Well, Miss 'Bitch', but I was censoring. I know you have this thing with cursing."

"Thanks."

"But no. We don't. She's ruining everything! Our routine, our style�grr." Buffy was seething.

"Do you love her?"

"Mrs. Post? Uh�I don't know if you've been listening, but, I don't even *like* her."

Willow giggled. "No. Faith."

Buffy smiled sheepishly. "Whoops. Yeah. I do."

"Really? Have you said it�you know�to each other?"

"Not yet. I think we're getting there, though. I hope we are."

"That's great�that's great. Loving somebody. I love Oz, you know. A lot." Willow stammered.

"Will?"

It was eating away at her. Willow felt so dirty. Maybe if she told Buffy she would feel better. She and Xander couldn't keep kissing, and maybe it would help to�

"There's something I have to tell you."

"What?" Buffy stepped closer to her friend

Willow kept her hands moving, shaking, as she spoke. "Okay. This will make me feel better, right? You know, I always consider myself a good person. Floss, do my homework, never cheat. But lately, and please don't judge me on this, but I want you to be the first to know that, that...Xander and I have been kissing," Buffy's jaw dropped, "and that there's a demon behind you."

Buffy glanced behind her, saw Lagos, and ran at him. She tried to kick him hard in the stomach, but he didn't even flinch. All it accomplished was knocking her equilibrium off, which made her fall. Buffy stood, quickly punched Lagos in the face, and spun twice, giving him two backhands. He blocked her elbow jab, grabbed her arm, lifted her, and dropped her to the ground.

"Don't...ow." Willow commented, hurting at the sight before her.

The slayer got up, and sidestepped as Lagos aimed his fist at her head, making him hit a cross that sat atop a headstone. Buffy immediately front-kicked him in the gut, and round-housed his face and crotch. When he bent over in pain, she saw the battle ax he had strapped to his back, and grinned. She snagged it, and as Lagos became upright once more, she swung the ax, and the blade sliced off his head. The body dropped to the ground.

"Yes!" Willow exclaimed.

Buffy came over to her. "So�you and Xander." The redhead cringed. Buffy wasn't going to say anything, and she didn't want to make her any more uncomfortable. It took a lot of guts for her just to say it. "Look�why don't you go tell Giles that 'His Ugliness' is dead, and I'll go get that glove. Some other demon may snatch it."

"That sounds like an idea." Willow said. "A good one too."

Buffy gave her a smile, and the girls went their separate ways. Cordelia, who had heard the girls and seen them walking as she drove, had stopped, planning to join them. Then she had heard Willow's admission, watching behind a bush, and got up to go, as well.

***

In Restfield, Buffy didn't find the glove in the crypt where Willow said that Giles said it would be in. She found it a little strange, but it wouldn't have been the first time Giles was somewhat off. And that was a shame, because Post would probably hound him about it. Not only didn't she find the glove; she also didn't find Xander. She assumed that when he didn't find the glove, he simply went home.

That sounded like a good plan to Buffy too. As she was leaving though, she realized she was close to the mansion. She hadn't seen Angel in awhile, and she thought she should check up on him. She could ask him about the glove too. It was worth a shot. She went there, it started off normal enough, and then he kissed her�just like that.

It came out of nowhere. After about two seconds, not even that, she pushed him off and turned her back on him.

"Oh, God�what are you doing?" She asked him.

"I don't know." He said, shaking his head.

"Shame on you! I told you I was with Faith! I never thought you would ever�"

"Do you love her?" He asked.

"Yes!" She screamed at him without hesitation. He wasn't expecting that, and it looked like he got punched in the gut. She was beyond caring. "I don't even know why I came�wait." She closed her eyes, and tried to calm down. "You wouldn't know where a glove of MickieMinnieMouse is, would you?"

"Myhnegon? I have it."

"How?"

"I was walking the other night, and I saw Lagos. He's a demon who -"

"Yeah, I killed him." She said, cutting him off.

"I knew he'd only be here for the glove, and I knew where it was. I took it so it wouldn't fall into his hands."

"Show me." He led her to a pedestal, where something was wrapped in rags. He carefully uncovered the object, and the glove sat there. "The world's ugliest fashion accessory." She commented, moving to touch it.

Angel stopped her. "No, don't. Once you put it on, the glove can never be removed."

"What's it do?"

"You don't wanna have to find out."

"Just�hang on to it. I gotta go. I'll tell Giles in the morning."

As she walked out, Xander moved from his spying spot in the garden, and rushed off.

***

Buffy came in the library the next morning to find the whole gang sitting at the table, apparently waiting for her. Faith was there also, absent Post. She breathed a sigh of relief for that. She happened to notice that Faith was looking at her worriedly, and that the rest of the gang wasn't very happy.

"Why the glum? I got the magic mitten thingy." They were all silent. "What's going on?"

"We know Angel is alive." Giles said. "Xander saw you with him. It would appear that you've been hiding him and that you lied to us."

"You didn't seem shocked." Oz said, looking at Faith.

"I�knew." Faith said quietly.

Willow was surprised, and somewhat offended.

"She knew? She knew and I didn't?"

"Will�" Buffy trailed off.

"Did you know she's been kissing him?" Xander asked the dark-haired slayer.

Faith looked at Buffy with a wounded expression, and then she headed for the doors. The blonde immediately chased after her, and Faith stopped at the doors. They stood there, speaking in hushed tones.

"He's wrong." She reached for her arm.

Faith shrugged her off. "You didn't kiss him?" Buffy didn't deny it. "Look don't touch, remember? I know you can't help but look, hell, neither can I, but -"

"It only happened last night. He started�and I stopped it. Right away. I swear. Us, being together, that's all that matters to me."

"Why should I believe you?"

"Look at me. Am I lying to you?" The brunette wouldn't do it. "Am I?"

Faith finally looked into the other slayer's expressive hazel eyes, and could see that she was telling the truth.

"I just�God�I love you, Buffy and -"

"What?"

"You heard me."

"Do you�mean that?"

She had just said the three-letter word; it was out there. As soon as Xander had said they were�it was at that moment she realized just how much she cared for Buffy, and it just came out. She couldn't stop the words, nor could she form any more, right then.

"I gotta..."

Buffy knew it was better to let her go. They couldn't have the conversation now, anyway. She walked back to the firing squad. She waited for Xander to say something completely and totally insensitive, but Cordelia cut him off before he could.

"Say one word to her, one word�" She threatened him. "Just keep your mouth shut. You have no right." She was angry, and they all didn't know why.

"Cordy�" He tried, confused.

"Hiding Angel was wrong. Kissing him too. But people seem to be doing a lot of things they shouldn't be doing, and kissing a lot of people they shouldn't be *kissing*, lately." Xander was like a deer in headlights. "So don't you dare judge her."

Willow had the same expression on her face as Xander. She looked at Buffy, hurt.

"I heard you talking last night." Cordelia said, letting Willow know that Buffy didn't blab. "And you�you of all people, Willow."

"Okay, I got lost somewhere." Oz said.

"They've been going beyond the friendship line, Oz. As in, lips meeting." In typical fashion, Oz's face remained stoic, but there was a flicker of pain in his eyes as he looked at his girlfriend. He silently walked out of the library. "He's got the right idea."

Cordelia followed him.

"Oz!"

"Cordy!"

The friends chased after their respective others, leaving the library.

***

Buffy and Giles were the only two people left in the library.

"That was something, huh?" Buffy asked weakly.

Giles looked at her, hard. "You must've known it was wrong seeing Angel or you wouldn't have hidden it from all of us."

"I was going to tell you, I was. I�was just that I...I didn't know why he came back. I wanted to get answers."

"And you didn't believe I would help you find them?"

"I just�wasn't sure how you'd react and -"

"I would have known that you trusted and respected me." He said, feeling pain at the fact that Buffy didn't inform him.

"That's not fair, Giles." She said, defensive.

"Must I remind you that Angel tortured me...for hours...for pleasure?"

Buffy looked at her feet. "I didn't forget." She said softly, and then looked at him. "I should've told you. I'm sorry. It was a bad decision, but at the time, I was just doing what I thought was right. I don't know�it all happened so fast, and�I wanted to help him get -"

"He's a murderer, Buffy. You know that."

"I never told you what happened that night, did I?"

"What nig�?" His eyes widened.

"I was about to behead him, end it, and then he got his soul back. He had no clue what was going on, and Acathla's mouth was opening. He didn't remember, but I had to save the world. I shoved the sword through his gut, and sent him to Hell. Not the demon, but the man. The *person* I loved. I condemned him to Hell. I did that to him."

Giles was stunned. "Buffy�"

She ignored him. "He came back a few weeks ago. Hell had made him�like a beast, and I chained him up in the mansion. I didn't know what to do. Then he saved my life. Killed Pete. After everything, he still�

She sighed. "Anyway�he was back, but he was in so much pain�all I felt was guilt. *I* broke his curse, and *I* sent him to Hell, letting him get tortured there because he had a soul. I wasn't hiding him out of disrespect, Giles. I just wanted to help him, and I didn't think anyone else would. Why would they?

"Do you understand? I'm responsible. It was my fault. I owe it to him. Once I was sure he was�I was going to tell everyone�" She trailed off, exhausted.

Giles walked up to her, and she leaned into his chest as he embraced her.

"I understand."

"Please don't hate me." She said softly. "I couldn't stand it if you did. If I ended up with a watcher like -"

He laughed quietly. "I don't hate you. But you do understand why Angel�"

"You don't like him. He doesn't expect you too. I don't expect you too. Besides, I'm not liking him much right now, either." She broke off the hug. "Kissing me�when he knows�"

"So there's no risk then of him�ever�?"

"No." She shook her head. "Not anymore. We're over. Faith and I�"

"I gathered as much from�what happened." He paused. "I want you to know, that you can tell me anything. You don't have to be scared about how may or may not take it. And if you say that Angel is cured, then I'll take your word for it."

"I will. From now on. I promise." She smiled. "He's holding onto the glove."

"You may want to tell him to destroy it. I'd assume he knows the procedure. If he doesn't, I can give you book that outlines it."

"Okay. I think I need to do damage control with Faith first, though."

He smiled. "There's no rush. Lagos is dead. You made sure of that."

"What can I say? I know how to handle axes."

"Good luck with Faith."

Gwendolyn Post quietly walked out of the library, with a smile, after hearing every word. They didn't notice her at all.

***

Buffy returned home after school to find Faith not there. Her mother told her that Faith had come home for awhile, watched TV for a little bit, and then announced she was going for a walk. Buffy had been searching for her with no luck.

She didn't love Angel the way she used to anymore, and she didn't know if Faith really knew that or not. If she could find her, Buffy would tell her who she loved now, and she was pretty positive that Faith would like the answer.

"Looking for your girl?" Buffy turned her head to see where the voice was coming from, to see Cordelia driving slowly, following her as she walked. "Lift? Could probably search faster that way."

Buffy smiled, and got in the passenger seat. They started driving again.

"Xander find you?"

"Got lots of messages. I'm avoiding."

"How about Willow and Oz?"

Cordelia shrugged. "You're not going to try and defend them, are you?"

"Like I'm in a position to do that?" Buffy asked with a half-smile. "I'd just�try and hear them out. They're good people."

"I know. That's why it hurts so much." Cordelia said, sadly.

"Do you think that's what Faith's doing? Avoiding me?"

"Maybe." The brunette said. "But I'll tell you this. If I was a slayer, and my current honey's ex was a vampire and tried to steal a kiss, I'd use my super strength to -"

"Stake him."

***

In the mansion, Angel had already thought of destroying the glove. He was in the middle of creating the living flame necessary to get the job done. He was standing over a fire he had going in a small urn, and he surrounded himself by several different-colored powders.

"Exorere, Flamma Vitae. Prodi ex loco tuo elementorum, in hunc mundum vivorum."

He picked up some green powder into his hand, and dropped it into the fire. The flame turned green.

"Exorere, Flamma Vitae. Prodi ex loco tuo elementorum, in hunc mundum vivorum."

He picked up some red powder into his hand, and dropped it into the fire. The flame turned from green to red. He turned to get the glove then, but saw that a woman had been standing behind him. He eyed her suspiciously.

"What do you want?"

"Gwen Post. Mr. Giles sent me." She answered him.

"What for?"

"To help you destroy the glove." She headed to the table that had the urn. "Is that the Living Flame?"

"Yes."

"Look, I'm sorry to be so abrupt, but Lagos is on his way here now." She was lying; he knew it. Lagos was dead. "If you're performing the ritual incorrectly, it will only make the glove more powerful."

"Alright."

"Good. Where is the glove?"

"It's in the trunk."

He turned his back on her, going to move for the trunk. She then grabbed a shovel that was leaning against the table, and hit him over the head with it. He dropped to the ground. She hurried over to the trunk, but she couldn't break the padlock with her hands, so she used the shovel. It broke easily, and that's when Angel got up, his vampiric face showing.

"Okay...that hurt."

She had hoped he would've stayed out long enough for her to get the glove, but it didn't matter. Post snapped the shovel handle off, and created a stake.

"I believe this is your poison."

She swung at Angel's midsection, but he sidestepped. She swung again, going for his face, and he ducked. She tried once more, but that time he blocked it, and struck her in the face. She fell under his powerful hit, dropping to all fours. As Angel was walking up to her to go for a second round, Faith ran in, and tackled him to the ground. She didn't realize that Post was in there, and the woman took advantage of the distraction, heading back to the trunk.

Faith was just hitting him repeatedly, over and over. She wasn't saying a word, just fuming with anger at what he did. She had been thinking for awhile. About what she admitted to Buffy, and what to do. She believed the blonde, but she was still pissed at him.

She was hurt, and he was the cause. She intended to hurt him back. Angel couldn't knock her off. Faith was on an adrenaline rush, and she was taking advantage of that. After a few moments, she felt hands on her shoulders. She knew they were Buffy's.

"Faith! Stop!"

"Why should I stop, B?" She seethed, turning her head sharply. "Let me do this!"

Buffy pointed to something, and Faith looked. "That's why."

Post had gotten the glove, and was putting it on her hand. Cordelia had followed Buffy in, and knew instinctively that the woman putting the glove on, was a bad thing. She figured she could take her, so she ran over and was preparing a fist to knock her out. Post saw her though, and backhanded her hard to the ground. The glove's claws then clamped onto Post's arm.

"Finally." The woman said, psychotically. The slayers were now watching, and Angel had stood up. "Taou huogan maqachte milegaing!"

They moved to attack her, but then lightening and thunder crackled in the sky, and the wind began to pick up.

"Tauo freim!" She yelled, pointing her gloved hand at them.

Lighting shot out, and they dove out of the way.

"I knew she was a bitch!" Faith yelled.

"Angel, help Cordelia!" He ran over to the fallen cheerleader, as Buffy turned to Faith. "Can you draw her fire?"

"You bet I can."

"Let's take the bitch down."

Faith ran into a hallway, and kept running. Thinking that Faith would come out of the hallway at the other end of the room, Post aimed there.

"Tauo freim!"

A bolt shot out. Faith did appear where Post thought she would, but the slayer quickly dove behind the couch Angel had. Buffy ran to the window, smashed it with her elbow, and grabbed one of the shards. Post heard the noise, and turned in Buffy's direction.

"There's nothing you can do to me now. I have the glove. With the glove comes the power."

"I'm getting that." Buffy said, holding up the shard.

Post looked at her, eyes wide in surprise. The blonde threw the shard with all the strength she had, and it flew out of her hand fast, spinning quicker and quicker. It cut through the insane woman's upper arm, severing it, and the glove, from her body. The glove started to shake, and now that it wasn't attached to anything, the lightning it controlled came in through the skylight, and hit Post dead on.

She screamed and screeched as bolts continually hit her. Finally, she vanished in a bright, white light, and the stormy weather went with her. Buffy had had her eyes closed, and opened them to see Faith stand up from behind the couch. Angel got off of Cordelia, and helped her up. Faith walked over to her fellow slayer, and they watched as the glove unclamped itself from the arm it had been attached to.

"Ouch." Buffy said, grimacing.

"She deserved it. Great employees that Council has." Faith said sarcastically. Buffy looked at her. "Giles being the exception."

They looked back to make sure Cordelia was okay. The girl smiled weakly.

"How about you?" Buffy asked Faith. "You okay?"

"Yeah." Faith sighed. "You know, I wasn't going to dust him, B. I just wanted to beat the crap out of him a little."

"I don't blame you." Buffy had to grin. "Looked like you were doing a good job too." She paused. "Faith�"

Faith smiled. "I meant it."

Buffy hugged her. "I hoped you'd say that. Because I love you too."

"I've never had anyone love me before."

"You should have." She squeezed harder, tightening the hug. "I'd never intentionally hurt you. You *do* believe me�right?"

"Kiss me." Buffy was happy to oblige. "Oh yeah. I believe ya." The brunette was glowing. "Was I better?"

Cordelia came up to them. "Ready to get outta here? I know I am."

"I'll make sure the glove gets destroyed." Angel said.

"Thanks." Buffy said. She stared at him and tried to smile, but she was still a little angry.

The three exhausted girls made their way out of the mansion, and when Buffy was sure she was out of Angel's earshot, she spoke.

"Yes. You were."

"Good answer." Cordelia said, proud of Buffy.

***

The following day, Faith, Buffy, Xander, and Willow were sitting in the school lounge. Cordelia was sitting there also, at Buffy's request. Oz, however, was not. Everyone felt the uncomfortable-ness.

"Look at the lovebirds." Xander said. Faith glared. "Okay, don't look."

"You got me all worked up over..." She trailed off. "Who knows what coulda happened?"

"I'm sorry." He said, genuinely apologetic. "But don't you feel better?"

Faith grinned. "Okay. Maybe I do."

"Are we cool?" Buffy asked her friends.

"Yeah! Just seeing the two of you kissing after everything that happened�I trust you." Xander said.

"That won't happen again. Ever." She snuggled closer to Faith. "Willow? I'm sorry."

"It's�ok." But she looked distracted, like she really wasn't paying attention to what Buffy had said. She had a lot on her mind. "Cordelia -"

"Don't really wanna talk." Cordelia said flatly.

"How you feeling, Cor?" Faith asked.

"Physically? Still a little shaky, but I'm recovering."

Giles came over then, and they all shifted so he could have a seat.

"Let me guess. Gwendolyn Post, not a Watcher." Buffy said.

"I'll tell you what she was. A bitch." Faith stated.

"Oh. Definitely."

"Yes, she was. A Watcher." Giles said with a slight smirk. "She was�kicked out by the Council a couple of years ago for misuses of dark power. They swear there was a memo."

"I can't believe we work for those assholes." The brunette said. After about five minutes of silence, she started to get fidgety. "Anybody else sick of this place?"

They looked at one another and all wordlessly got up and left the building. There were two hours of school still left.

Continue to Parts 5-8

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