The Summer Friendship Series -- Boston -- By Pat Kelly

Summer Friendship Series:
Boston

RETURN TO BEANTOWN

"Faith." There was no response. "Faith, the stewardess is coming. Do you want peanuts or soda or something?"

The brunette nodded, staring straight ahead.

"I'll just put your tray table down...okay?"

More nodding.

Buffy slowly flipped the release, and eased the tray table flat. She accepted the peanut bags and the two cups of Coke the stewardess handed her, gave Faith hers, and started eating her peanuts. A few seconds later, she noticed that her partner hadn't moved. There went her shot at the Mile High Club.

"You can release the death grip you have on the armrests, now."

"Does it look like we're gettin' lower? I think we're gettin' lower." Faith spoke at last, staring out the window now.

"We're fine, honey." Buffy put her hand on Faith's shoulder. "Let go, will ya? Your knuckles are white. It might be a good idea to let blood get back to your fingers."

"How much longer?"

"An hour. Trust me, it's all right."

Faith removed one finger at a time, and then slowly raised her hands. She was waiting for the oxygen masks to drop down, but when they didn't, she took a deep, calming breath, and reached for her peanuts. She was having difficulty opening them.

"B, could you, uh...?"

"Sure."

Faith looked over across the aisle. Willow was asleep with her head on Oz's shoulder. How could she be so calm? It wasn't fair. As the blonde handed her back the newly opened bag of peanuts, the pilot came on the intercom.

Apparently she hadn't been expecting that, because she jumped, and the legumes went flying.

***

The four of them exited the jet way, and stepped into Logan International Airport. If Faith could have, she would've kissed the tile, thankful for being back on land, but she had to settle for kissing Buffy instead. They were one of the last people to get out, so when the crowd cleared, they caught sight of Joyce and Sarah waiting for them.

"You made it." Joyce sounded very relieved.

"We did." Buffy smiled. "And Faith was cool as ice the entire time." She winked at her girlfriend. "Hey Aunt Sarah."

Buffy hugged the woman who had the same hair color as her mother, around the same length too, but it was up. She was also three years older than Joyce was, yet she looked to be about twenty-five.

"It's been awhile, Power Girl. You've grown a whole inch in four years. I can't believe it." Sarah smiled, joking.

"Aunt Sarah!" She looked down at her feet; suddenly having childhood flashbacks of wearing a bed sheet as a cape, and attacking pillows with Mr. Gordo as her sidekick. And also not so great ones about her cousin, but she pushed them away, and concentrated on the short joke.

"Who are your friends?"

"Mental lapse. Willow, Oz, this is Aunt Sarah. Aunt Sarah, this is Willow and Oz."

"Hi!" Willow waved.

"Hey." Oz greeted.

"Pleased to meet you, guys." Sarah looked at Faith then, with an even bigger smile. "And I'm pretty darn sure that I know you from somewhere."

Buffy knew she didn't have to introduce them.

"You remember me?" The brunette asked, feeling her lips curve upwards.

"How could I forget a girl who used to explain to me the finer points of air guitar?"

"It's an art." Faith looked at Oz. "Takes less skill than actually playin', though."

"I don't know about that." He said. "It's a lot harder to master chords when you can't see the frets. Or hear how they sound. I respect your talent."

Sarah was highly amused by the brief exchange, and waited until she was sure it was over before continuing.

"Plus, you had a huge impact on my niece. I certainly can't forget that. And it looks like you still do." The slayers were blushing. They knew what she meant, but didn't know how to respond. "It's good to see you again, Faith."

"Thanks, Sar...Aunt Sarah." Faith smiled.

"Buffy, don't you have something to say to your aunt?" Joyce questioned.

"She thanked me on the phone, Joy-Joy. Try to relax." She pretended that she didn't see the look on her sister's face. "Well, what do you say we get your luggage and go celebrate the ending of your high school horror days?"

Oz, Willow, and Buffy exchanged glances. Sarah had no idea how well she had described those three years. The blonde stared at her mother, and then whispered to her friends as they made their way to baggage claim.

"Joy-Joy?"

"Power Girl?" Willow wondered, smirking.

"Not even I knew about that." Faith said.

"I was ten. It was a phase. It didn't last."

"It stopped when you were twelve." Sarah said, overhearing.

Willow and Faith were snickering, covering their mouths.

"Gee, thanks so much, Aunt Sarah. Are you gonna embarrass me the entire time we're here? Cause if you are, let me know so I can prepare." Buffy said sarcastically.

"Of course not. Only when you leave an opportunity open for me to take advantage of." The woman grinned like a Cheshire cat.

"I like her." Oz commented.

***

They entered Sarah's Victorian-style home in Boston's South End, an hour and a half later, with five boxes of pizza. Faith was, um...kind of hungry. Off to the left of the foyer was a living room with a big screen TV, Surround Sound stereo system, and a couch. Off to the right was a sitting room with a couple chairs and a grand piano.

"When did you move here?" Buffy asked, awed.

"About two years ago. To be closer to my company."

"Your company?"

"We make custom computer entertainment and VR programs. People tell us what they want, and we do it. We're not real big yet, but we're getting there. Customers pay a nice chunk of change, which is why I'm able to afford this place."

"You know computers? And Virtual Reality? And programming?" Willow was excited.

"I'm an MIT grad, Willow."

"MIT!" The redhead squealed.

"And it helps when you know people in the industry. Always good to have the inside track. Some of the VR technology that's being developed is incredible." Willow's eyes were glazed over. "I'll show you my setup after we eat. Whole room full of the latest stuff, but my electric and telephone bills are through the roof." Sarah smiled.

"She won't see the light of day the entire vacation." Buffy shook her head.

"Could see it virtually." Faith pointed out.

They took a shortcut through the living room to get into the large kitchen/dining area. Complete with the necessary appliances, and some unnecessary ones. Like a milkshake maker. But Faith's eyes were immediately drawn to the wet bar. Anyone who lived this good had to have decent alcohol. Not like she was planning on getting drunk or anything, but it was nice to know she had the option.

The six of them sat down at the circular glass table, and ate in relative silence. It was hard to talk when their mouths were full. Willow ate hers the quickest, and looked at her host with hopeful eyes. Sarah took the hint, and led the younger female to her technology haven.

"Aren't you going too, Oz?" Joyce asked.

He shook his head. "She's in her zone now. Nothing else gets through. Once it passes, I'll be recognized." Oz rose. "Think I'll explore upstairs till then."

When he left the room, Joyce turned to the remaining girls.

"The basement is a bedroom. Sarah had it redone."

"You're telling us...why?" Her daughter wondered.

"Cause it's ours, Power Girl. Dense as a fog, you know that?" Faith quipped. She got up, pulled Buffy out of her chair, and flung the blonde over her shoulder. "Let's check it out."

"Faith, put me down!"

"Which way's the basement?"

"Go out the opposite side of the kitchen that we came in, go down a small hallway, turn right, and door." Joyce answered.

"Mom, make her put me down!" Buffy yelled, kicking her legs.

"Hey, you wanna fall?" The brunette asked. "We're gonna be goin' down steps, and it wouldn't be the brightest idea to struggle, B. Damn, how much pizza did you have?"

"When I get back down on the ground again, you're gonna be in *so* much trouble!"

"Yeah, yeah."

Joyce sat at the table alone after watching them go, and saw that there was still food left. Helping herself to the wet bar, she got out a bottle of wine, and prepared to enjoy herself. She was on vacation, damn it, and she decided to take her sister's advice and relax. After all, she wasn't the one paying for all this.

***

"I love being in trouble." Faith grinned as Buffy eased her to a sitting position on the Queen sized bed, and began to kiss her.

"I'm tough but fair."

Buffy pulled Faith's jacket off, and maneuvered her way onto the mattress.

***

Oz found his way up to the private deck, and sat on one of the lounge chairs. He was looking at the cloudless sky, and his eyes were drawn to the half-moon. It was a good thing they were only here for two weeks, because any longer, and he could be getting hairy without a place to lock himself up.

In Sunnydale, his werewolf side was simply a nuisance. Something he had gotten used to and had learned to deal with. But he didn't plan on staying in that town for the rest of his life. He wanted to maybe cut a record deal and play professionally, but at the moment, he couldn't do any of that. It would be hard to find a way to protect people from the wolf. Especially if he got really lucky and started going on tour.

Well, there was no use in worrying anymore about it. Standing, he decided to see what Willow was up to.

***

Willow was in the middle of a forest clearing, sitting on a large rock. She could hear birds chirping, see flowers of every single color, and if she let her imagination take over completely, she could smell the pine-scent of the trees. A small, wolf cub was approaching her, and she smiled at it.

Things started to flicker then, and the world disappeared. Taking off the helmet, she handed it back to Sarah.

"Wow."

"I'm glad you think so. That one's still got a glitch or two in it. Can't figure out why." She unzipped the back of the black, body suit that Willow had been wearing, and the girl stepped out of it. "I think it might be the computer's processing speed. The cub is the most complex model in the program."

The hacker stepped off the VR platform and over to the computer screen that controlled it.

"But your processor's a thousand megahertz. Super-computer, right?"

"Not super enough I guess." Sarah smiled. "Maybe you could help me figure it out."

"Really?"

There were three other computers in the room, all the same. More RAM and megahertz than Willow could ever afford. And they were hooked up to ISDN lines. She was jealous. Sarah had CD burners, ZIP drives, voice activation...so much technology. She could live here.

"Absolutely. Buffy told me you're a computing genius."

The redhead blushed. "I'm okay..."

"That was one of the more serene worlds we're working on. Unfortunately, people want violence rather than beauty."

"That's sad." Willow frowned. "But, I mean that was...wow. I could see my hands."

"Body suits aren't cheap, which is why they're not really used in gaming places. Publicly, anyway. It's like motion capture, only along with your movements, it has tiny cameras that tell the computer what you look like. So when you looked at your hands out here, you saw your hands in there. There is a slight delay, though."

Once she started talking about her work, her nerdish side clashed with her cool side, and she couldn't stop talking. Oz came into the room, however, and she was able to shut up.

"Radiation central." He commented.

"Oh, it's so great, Oz." His girlfriend was clearly in heaven.

Sarah noticed him stroke her hair. Hiding a smile, she went to make her exit.

"Feel free to try things out." She said to Willow as she walked away.

***

"Helping yourself to a drink, Little Sis?" Sarah asked, sitting next to Joyce.

"Yes, as a matter of fact." She took a sip. "This house is beautiful, but it's too big for you."

"We've been over this. I'm fine. I own my own business, I make a decent living...perfectly fine." She took her sister's glass. "Let me have some of that."

Sarah downed what was left of the drink, and Joyce refilled it.

"You may be fine, but are you happy?" The younger woman asked. "What happened to Lauren?"

"She took a teaching job at some university in Hawaii. Marine Biology."

"And you didn't go with her? Must be gorgeous there."

"I'm a city girl, Joyce. You know that. I'd feel isolated from the world on an island."

"Looks like you're doing a fine job isolating yourself right here."

"I don't really feel up to another lecture." Sarah sighed; undoing the clasp in her hair and letting it hang down. "I'm social, I have parties here all the time. That's what I'm known for."

"Okay, I'll drop the subject."

"Thank you." The tapping of her nails on the glass was the only thing either of them heard for a few minutes. "Talked to them lately?"

"Dad's back in the hospital. Chest pains again. Mom's being stubborn with the doctors. As usual."

"Runs in the family." Sarah smirked. "Wonder if I'll ever get to speak to them again."

"I've told them everything you're doing. It wouldn't hurt much to call."

"No, it'll hurt a lot." Sarah glanced around the kitchen so her sister wouldn't see the sadness in her eyes. "Where'd those two go?"

"The basement." Joyce regretted saying that as soon as she saw the glint. "Leave them be."

"I'll give them warning first." Joyce glared. "What? I want to live vicariously through my niece, it's my house, I'm older, and you can't tell me what to do."

"You still have no idea what maturity is, do you?"

"I don't even know how to spell it."

***

Currently, the slayers were lying in bed, barefoot, wearing robes they found in the bathroom. It was a big basement. They were happy to see a television, and even more thrilled to find a PlayStation in the cabinet the TV sat on top of. The two of them were in the middle of a hockey game. It was very competitive; fingers were mashing buttons relentlessly. Some people smoked after sex, but they played video games.

"What are you? Blind?" Buffy screamed at the digital referee. "That was tripping! Penalty!"

"He can't hear you, B." Faith chuckled.

"I could yell at you instead."

The brunette backed off. "No thank you."

"Okay then." Because she wasn't paying attention, Faith was able to deke past the defenseman and score. "Damn you."

"Nobody likes a cusser."

"When did you get such a dirty mouth?" Sarah asked, coming down the steps. Buffy remembered that her and Faith's legs were somewhat entwined, and moved to separate them. "You look comfortable. Don't move on my account."

"Huh?" The blonde asked.

"This is what it looks like, right? Footsies?"

"I *don't* play footsies." Faith insisted.

"Look, Aunt Sarah, I can explain..." Buffy said quickly, not really having a plan.

"Sweetie, it's all right. We're both on the same team."

"Actually, we kinda drafted each other." Faith said. "Rookies."

"Work both sides of the plate, huh? Well, nobody's perfect."

The younger girl laughed out loud. Buffy held up her hand.

"You're..." She pointed to her aunt, then looked at her girlfriend. "And how come it seems like you knew?"

"Didn't you know?" Faith wondered.

"So you did know."

"Yeah, I knew."

"Why would I know? How'd you know?"

"Your mom knew, so I figured -"

"Mom knows? She knew? And I didn't know?"

"Why wouldn't she know?"

"I don't know."

"Did you want to know?"

"It would have been nice to know, yes."

"Well now you do. Know."

"I know that I know now. Thanks."

"I just making sure that you knew that you knew."

"It's nice that you knew to think to check to see that I knew, but I know."

"What were we talkin' about again?" The brunette had forgotten. "I know I knew two seconds -"

"You're both very confusing." Sarah commented.

"We know." The girls echoed.

Buffy took a breath. "All your life?"

"Never been traded."

"Just don't hit on her. That's all I ask."

"Is that really what you think of your aunt? A dirty, old woman?" Sarah asked with a laugh.

"I don't see one wrinkle, and I don't put anything past you."

"You should thank me. One, for giving you the basement, and two, I knew," They all winced, "I *saw* you two four years ago, and I could tell where you were headed. I could've put money on it."

"Listen to that. She's takin' the credit." Faith said.

"If I hadn't let you sleep over, Faith, you wouldn't have been able to have those practice sessions." The slayers reddened. "Didn't think I knew about that, did you? And look at you now. Like you've been together for years. It's so sweet."

"We even have the same job."

"Really? What do you do?"

"Slay -" Buffy nudged her side. "Slay-ves to...the clown. Slaves to the clown. We work at McDonalds."

"So tell me everything . How did you finally -?"

"Well," Buffy began, "I was looking for a vampi -" Faith nudged her that time. "Van tires. Mom needed new tires for her van, so I was looking for some. Tires."

"I thought she had a Jeep Cherokee."

"That's right. That's absolutely right. See, I didn't realize at the time that I had gone looking for the wrong kind of tires..."

This was going to take awhile.

***

The night seemed to go on forever, but finally, everyone had gone to sleep. The following afternoon, everyone had gotten up except the two basement dwellers. Joyce had decided, based on motherly routine, to go wake them up. Sarah trailed behind her sister.

"They can sleep, Joyce. I'll be happy to show you, Willow, and Oz around the city."

"They were just so excited about being tour guides, that's all."

"Plenty of time for that."

Both women made their way to the basement anyway, and halfway down, they both stopped and looked at the sight before them. Sheet up to the base of their shoulders, the girls were lying on their sides. Faith was hugging Buffy's body against hers, arm around the blonde's waist. Buffy fit perfectly in the position, and her hand was grasping Faith's free one. They were still deeply asleep.

It was so pure. There was so much love there, and even though they weren't the overly mushy types, it was plain enough to see in one simple embrace what a thousand lovey-dovey words couldn't come close to expressing. If everyone in the world were able to see this, sexual preference wouldn't be an issue even again.

"Damn. I really should have bet money on it." Sarah whispered, pretty sure tears were starting to form. "Look at them. You can't tell me you want to disturb that."

"How could I?" Joyce had seen them asleep many times, but she never really looked at them. It left her with a lump in the back of her throat.

"Why don't we just have a picnic in the Commons, and leave them a note? They know their way." Her sister nodded, and they turned away to walk quietly back upstairs. "Did they really see each other again at Pep Boys because Faith worked in the tire department? Does Pep Boys even have a tire department?"

Joyce thought a minute, using all her self-control to not burst out in laughter.

"That's the way they tell it, Sarah. That's the way they tell it."

***

Buffy and Faith made their way upstairs at around one o'clock to find the house empty. Showered, dressed and ready to start the day (even though it was more than half over, the day didn't begin until they were awake as far as Faith was concerned); it appeared as though everyone had started without them. Or something less pleasant had happened, which they refused to consider.

The brunette headed straight for the fridge, and the blonde went straight for the phone, repeating the numbers "911" in her mind. Inside the fridge, there was a note addressed to Faith, and attached to the phone was a note addressed to Buffy. They met each other at the kitchen table.

"She knows us too well." Faith said.

"Freaky."

"Picnic in the Commons, right?"

Buffy confirmed what her note said with a nod. "Let's motor."

"Probably ate all the food." Faith grumbled.

"Nah. They all know about your bottomless pit. They'll save." Her partner lightly punched her arm as they left the house. "Where do you think they're sitting?"

"I'm gonna take a wild guess, considering it's pretty damn hot, and say under a..."

"Tree." Buffy smiled, finishing the sentence.

After four years, they were going back to their tree. The spot they had claimed as their own. The memories of younger days were coming back in a rush, and they walked a little bit faster.

***

(Faith never thought of herself as a "Tag" type of girl, but then again, she had never had anyone to play it with before. Buffy was "It" at the moment, and was chasing her all through the large park. It struck her as somewhat odd that a girl going into high school would still play such a silly game. Especially with her. She didn't have time to think much about it though, because she was currently the prey.

When she reached an old, large oak tree, she wasted no time in scaling its branches all the way to the top. She sat there with a grin as she viewed an out of breath Buffy halted at the base of the tree, looking around in confusion. The blonde girl was so much fun to be around, and fun to tease too.

"Up here!" Faith called finally.

Buffy looked up. "What are you? A monkey? Get down here so I can tag you."

"You really think that's gonna work?" Faith laughed. She had recently discovered how good laughing felt. "You come up here."

Buffy crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't climb."

"Don't climb? What do you mean you don't climb?"

"I mean, I *don't* climb. I don't like heights."

"Afraid, huh?"

"I am not." Buffy stated adamantly.

"Oh yeah, you're wicked scared." Faith knew if she goaded her just a little bit more, Buffy would come up. "Come on, Bee."

"Huh?"

"Your shirt. It's got a big bee on it."

Buffy looked at it. There was a cartoon-like depiction of a smiling bee on the front of it, sitting happily on a flower. She hadn't really noticed when she picked out the shirt to wear earlier. Where her mom got the idea that she liked these kinds of clothes was beyond her.

"So it does."

"Well don't you know that bees fly? They go up high and stuff. Their hives are in trees."

"There's no hive in this one. I don't have any reason to come up."

"Bees sting their prey, right? I'm your prey. So come on and sting me, Bee." She still wasn't budging. "Wuss."

Buffy climbed the tree without another thought. Hand over hand, up higher and higher. Nobody called her a wuss. When she reached Faith, she slapped her on the shoulder.

"You're it."

Faith rubbed her slapped spot. "That stung."

They just kind of looked at one another for awhile. Not making the other uncomfortable, just...looking. In these moments, the whole world got blocked out. It was intense, but once the spell was broken, the feeling they couldn't quite place was pushed aside.

Something occurred to the brunette then, blinking and ending the trance.

"Bee, Buffy. That's the first letter of your name. B."

"When did you get so bright?" Buffy asked sarcastically.

Faith scrambled back down, out of the tree, the game forgotten for now. Buffy followed her, although more cautiously. On the ground, the brunette pulled out a Swiss Army knife that she always carried with her, and pulled out the blade. She started carving the bark. Buffy switched her gaze from observing the other girl, to the pond and bench off to the side of the tree. It hit her that this was the place they had first met.

When she looked back, Faith was done.

'B FLEW HERE 2DAY' Was carved there now. Buffy took the knife and added to it. ' + FAITH GAVE HER (shape of two wings) - 7 '95'

In the back of their minds they wondered why it was so easy for them to carve into the tree, something that surely would have taken a great amount of effort by someone else, but they really didn't dwell on it. Faith put the knife back in her pants pocket, and returned the earlier slap she had gotten.

"You're it, B."

The blonde smiled at the nickname, and took off after her retreating friend.)

***

Oz, Willow, Joyce and Sarah were sitting on a blanket, eating, when Buffy and Faith ran past them.

"What are they...?" Joyce trailed off, as Oz and Willow had already gone to follow them.

Sarah grabbed the blanket and the basket, and went after her sister, who was going after the kids. She caught up with Joyce, and they found the rest of them standing underneath an old oak tree. Buffy and Faith were bent down running their fingers over the bark. Willow crouched beside them.

"Something evil?" The redhead asked the slayers quietly.

"What?" Buffy asked. "Oh. Cause of the running? No. Nothing bad. This is our tree, Will."

"Your tree?"

Faith pointed to the trunk. There was something written there.

'B FLEW HERE 2DAY + FAITH GAVE HER (shape of two wings) - 7 '95' It said.

The brunette scaled the tree.

"You." Faith pointed to Buffy. "Climb up here."

"I don't climb." The blonde responded.

"Don't climb? What do you mean you don't climb?"

"I mean, I don't climb." She thought it over, and a huge grin spread across her face. "But...in this case, I'll make an exception."

She joined the brunette up in the branches, and Faith covered her shoulder.

"I don't wanna get stung."

"You're not my prey anymore. You're my honey. And bees love honey, don't they?"

"So I've heard."

Joyce called up from below. "What are you two doing?"

"Flying, mom. Just flying."

"Well how about landing? That is, if you're hungry."

They didn't even climb back down. They jumped, both of them landing squarely on their feet. It almost gave the two women heart attacks. Backing up against the trunk, Faith accepted Buffy into her arms as the blonde leaned against her. Joyce handed them each a sandwich, and they began to eat.

"Hey, Aunt Sarah, you got a knife?" Faith asked suddenly.

"Actually, I do. On my key-chain." She said. "Why?"

"Just need to borrow it a sec."

Sarah handed it over, and Buffy shifted so Faith could turn around. She watched her girlfriend write, and smiled broadly when she was finished.

The words, 'OUR 2ND FLIGHT - 6 '99' were there, etched in the middle of a heart. Faith turned back around quickly, covering it so no one else would see, and they went on eating their lunch.

 

TIES

The house had a workout room, and that's where Buffy and Faith were now. The older one was doing pushups, and the younger one was jabbing a punching bag. It had been a week since their arrival, and they had been all over. They followed the Freedom Trail and saw Paul Revere's House and the Bunker Hill Monument.

They had gone on Duck and Whale Watching Tours, had seen Cheers, Beacon Hill, Harvard Square, and had even gone outside the city to Lexington and Concord, where the "Shot Around the World" was heard. Their friends enjoyed it, but it quickly got boring for them.

They were running out of things to see, so while Sarah and Willow were doing computer stuff (Willow was going to get to see the company tomorrow), and Oz was on the deck working on a new tune, the slayers decided to train. Giles would've been proud.

There had to be something else to do, something tourists wouldn't, but they weren't coming up with anything. They could have sat underneath the tree for the whole rest of the vacation, but there were other people to consider.

Faith, breathing heavily, ceased her punching. "What about the 'The Hammer'?"

"I'm not taking Willow to a bar. Especially *that* bar. Those people were insane."

"But you went when I took ya."

"That's because I was a na�ve tourist and worshipped the ground you walked on." Buffy finished her last pushup, grinning. "I know better now."

The brunette shook her head, and got into a fighting stance. "Sparrin' time, B. Let's go."

"You're on."

***

THUMP. Silence. THUMP. Longer silence. CRASH.

"Maybe I should go make sure they're all right." Sarah said, leaning over Willow's shoulder as the redhead typed at the computer.

"They're fine. They're just...really into fitness."

"It's good to have the drive to stay in shape -" THUMP. CRACK. "I guess."

Willow smiled. "That's one thing they have a lot of. Drive." She turned her attention to the computer screen. "I think we should try to allocate more RAM to..."

***

Faith had Buffy pinned against the wall; she was holding her arms. This was where they usually called a draw, but Buffy had other ideas this time. Using all her strength, she ran forward, freed her arms, and pushed her partner into the opposite wall. Now she was the one with the upper hand.

"Little extra fire today?" Faith asked with a grin. "That was pretty slick."

"Thank you." Buffy smiled, sweat cascading down her forehead. She then kissed her girlfriend, officially ending the sparring session. "I love being happy. It's a good thing, don't you think?" She freed the brunette.

Faith grabbed a towel off the floor, rubbed her face with it, and tossed it to Buffy. She sat on the black, leather seat that was next to the bench-press, and immediately slouched.

"Definitely. Marry me?"

Buffy smirked. They had gone through the same routine every day since they blew up the school, each taking turns proposing.

"Got a ring?"

"Nope. Don't got any cash, either."

"Guess you're out of luck then."

"Damn."

They weren't going to rush it. One of these days there would be a ring, and it would be a surprise. A very pleasant one at that. The blonde laid flat on her back, down on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. She thought to herself for awhile.

"We take them to the house."

"Wanna be more specific?"

"The one with Casper's angry cousins."

Faith grinned. "Now that's an idea."

***

Awhile later, the four friends were sitting in the hot tub on the deck, and three of them were trying to convince Willow to go to the house. Well, Buffy was trying to, but she kept getting distracted looking at the brunette in a bikini. It had dawned on her that they had never seen each other like this. In some ways, it was better than seeing each other naked.

Buffy shook her head. "No it isn't." But Faith was gorgeous on a whole new level now. It was during these moments that she realized just how pathetically in love she was.

"Huh?" Willow asked, not understanding where that statement had come from.

Faith started talking, and inside her sister's bedroom, Joyce chose then to move away from the sliding screen door that led out to the deck. Sarah was sitting on her bed, watching the news on the television in the room. The prison photo that came on the screen got Joyce's attention as well, and she sat down to listen to the female anchor.

"...Was serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife, which occurred in May of 1997. Sketchy reports around the time of the arrest say that he had a daughter by the name of Faith, but she was never located, and hasn't been seen since. Authorities have asked all stations in the area, including this one, to tell this woman that if she sees this newscast, to come in for questioning.

"They are keeping the circumstances surrounding his escape under wraps, issuing only this statement.

"Quote, 'All of our department's resources are currently working around the clock to bring this man in.' End quote. It is advised that if you do see Jack Adams, to not approach him, as he is considered extremely dangerous. If you have any knowledge of his possible whereabouts, please call..."

Sarah hit 'OFF' on the remote, and looked at her sister, wide-eyed. Joyce went over to the door, and opened it, stepping out onto the deck.

"So, are you in or not, Will?" Her daughter was saying.

"But they're real ghosts." The redhead said.

"It'll be exciting."

"Slayers are supposed to fight ghosts. You wanna go hang out with them. I don't like this picture."

"We're off duty, Red." Faith said. "And lean back. Maybe the jets'll loosen ya up."

"Oz, help!" She hoped he would come to her defense, but instead, he eased her back into one of the seats, and the jets started working her neck and upper back. She hissed from the sensations. "Ooh."

"Give her five minutes. Then we ask again." Buffy smiled, leaning back as well, and closing her eyes. Then she heard the unmistakable sound of her mother clearing her throat. They all turned. "What's up, mom?"

"Um...Faith?" The older woman said, not really comfortable.

"Yeah?" The brunette didn't like the sound of Joyce's voice.

"Can I talk to you...for a minute?"

***

("Are you going to tell Daddy where you were last night?" Jack asked as gently as he could in his drunken state.

He and his daughter stood at the top of the steps that led to the basement. She stood on the inside; he stood on the outside. Taking a swig from his bottle, he waited for the answer. Faith shook her head. That was her time. Her father's eyes darkened.

"Strip." Jack ordered. "Strip, you little whore!"

Faith didn't even consider arguing. Shaking, she silently stripped down to nothing. He ran his fingers down her body.

"Nobody would want a bitch like you, except me. Nobody. Understand?" She nodded. "I love you, and you're damn lucky." She nodded. "You're mine. My slut."

"Thank you, daddy." She said meekly.

"Did I say you could speak?"

Jack crushed her throat with his hand, and then smashed the bottle into his daughter's forehead. She lost her balance, and tumbled down the flight of stairs. She was sprawled on the cold, damp floor, forehead bleeding, and completely naked. Not to mention that her whole body was aching, and she couldn't tell if things were broken or not.

"You're gonna show me just how much you love me, later." He called down to her.

Faith heard the basement door slam shut, and the lock click into place. She sat in the darkness, and didn't dare cry.)

***

Buffy was next to Faith in Boston's Police Department, her hand on the brunette's back. Her girlfriend wasn't doing so well, and the plastic chairs which they were sitting in, weren't helping anything. Joyce stood behind the two girls as the detective took a seat at his desk, and for the younger slayer, there was only one thing running through her mind.

Why couldn't he be dead?

"I'm sure this is a trying time for you." The detective started saying gently, opening a file folder that sat in front of him. Faith shrugged. "Two years ago we couldn't find anything on you. Birth certificate, nothing. We check yesterday, in what we thought would be a pointless attempt to get some kind of lead on your father, and we find everything. Strange. But, we were still switching from hard copy to digital then, a lot got shuffled around."

The slayers looked at one another. The Council must have been keeping Faith's records inaccessible, but when they quit...well, they could do the math.

"Are you aware of what your father has done?"

"I was there." The detective raised his eyebrows. "We didn't have the tightest relationship. I was afraid, so when he passed out, I finally got the guts to bolt."

"And you didn't think to call 911?"

"The guy made my life a living hell. I just wanted out. Do I need to get in depth?"

He looked sympathetic. "When we found him, he was just coming to. The neighbors were complaining about the lack of noise."

Faith held back a laugh. "It's Southie."

"So I don't suppose you have any idea where he might be."

"Nope."

"She's been staying with me." Buffy interjected.

"And you are?" The detective asked.

"Buffy Summers."

"And you, ma'am?" He looked up at Joyce.

"Joyce Summers. Buffy is my daughter."

"Are you a native of the area?"

"No, we're from California. Here on vacation."

He sat back in his chair.

"Look," Faith said, "we're friends. Good friends." She suppressed a grin and felt the blonde squeeze her hand. "We met a couple years ago, and before she left, I got her address. When I took off, that's where I ended up. He doesn't even know I'm here. Really bad timing, I guess."

"This brings up a whole other problem. You've gone two years as a minor without a legal guardian?"

"My whole family's screwed up. They wouldn't have been any better. Don't pull this legal crap on me, cause I know what my best interests are, and I've got good people lookin' out for me."

"It says here," The detective was reading the file, "that your date of birth was September 7, 1982."

"She'll be an adult in three months then, right?" Buffy asked. "Can't you just let this go?"

He sighed, but did notice the pleading look in the blonde girl's eyes.

"How much longer will you be in the city?"

"About a week." Joyce answered. "I can give you my sister's number and address. That's where we're staying." She started to write on a small notepad that she had in her purse.

"I'll leave it at this for now. If you can think of anything that may help, give me a call at this number." He gave Faith his card. "I would offer you protect -"

"Don't need it." The brunette cut him off.

"But that's what I thought your answer was going to be. Just watch yourself. As for your situation..." Three women stared at him, telling him silently that there was only one answer, and that he better pick the right one. And he thought his wife's 'Look' was powerful. "That was never part of our discussion."

Buffy sighed, and the two of them started to get up.

"How did he escape?" He was hesitant. "I'm not gonna leak to the press."

"No one knows. The bars were torn clean off his cell, and two guards were found with severe neck wounds. He must have had help, but it doesn't make any sense."

Faith had gone pale. "Thanks."

***

Back at the house, Willow put the phone down, and stared at what she had just written. Turning to her boyfriend, she bit her lip worriedly.

"Right now, going to a haunted house sounds pretty fun."

Sarah walked into the sitting room. "Who was that?"

Oz answered for his girlfriend. "Wrong number."

***

(Faith stood over the stove in her kitchen, boiling water for the spaghetti. Her father and mother were sitting at the small, wooden table. They could stay in chairs, so they were apparently only mildly drunk tonight. The brunette reached up into the cabinet to grab the box of noodles.

"Where's my dinner? I expect it to be on the table when I wake up." Jack growled at her.

She flinched, and in her mind she was thinking, 'Don't you mean, regain consciousness?' Instead she told him,

"It's comin', Daddy."

"Maybe if you were more goddamn responsible, I wouldn't be waiting right now."

"I'll do better next time."

He stood up with such force, that his chair went flying back into the wall.

"Don't you dare shut me up!"

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry doesn't get me food any faster, does it?"

He backed her up against the stove. Faith could smell the alcohol on his breath.

"You want your dinner, Jack?" His wife asked. "Then let her make it."

"Ain't nobody talkin' to you, Christine!" Jack yelled into his daughter's face, and looked at the pot.

Faith risked giving her mother an appreciative smile.

"I'll slap that right off your face, girl." Christine promised.

Jack was gripping the handle of the pot now.

"Think it's ready."

"No, you have to give it -" Faith started saying.

"You don't think so, huh? Then we'll just have to test it."

He backhanded his daughter to the ground with his free hand, and then poured the scalding hot water all over her. Most of it landed on her face, and she covered it, screaming.

"Hot enough?"

Jack added insult to injury by kicking her in the ribs and walking away. Christine came over then, and looked down on her creation.

"You bring this on yourself. If you weren't so worthless, everything would be five by five.")

***

Joyce, Buffy, and Faith came into the house, and immediately sat themselves down on the couch in the living room. The vacation was hitting a serious low. Faith's father was out of jail, seeming to be freed, or taken, by --

"Vampires." Willow said, rushing into the room with Oz.

"What about 'em?" Faith asked first.

"Called. Said they'd been watching us since we got here..." Oz trailed off.

"And?" Buffy asked.

"They have your father, Faith." Willow said quietly. "They said that if you wanted to see him alive again, you'd, and I'm quoting here, 'come back home and get him'."

There was a dead silence as they waited for the younger slayer's response. She started laughing.

"Vamps aren't too bright, are they? They think I care if that..." Faith closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, anger shown in them. "If that son of a bitch lives or dies? I don't know why the hell they wanna get to me, but I'm not playin' their game."

"Playing whose game?" Sarah asked, coming in.

***

A couple minutes later, Faith was lying on their bed down in the basement, playing a video game, and Buffy was pacing. They had talking to do, and left Joyce to explain things to Sarah. Another person was going to know their secret. It didn't seem to matter at the moment.

"Stop movin', will ya? I can't see." Faith complained.

"Faith..."

"If you're gonna say what I think you're gonna say, I'll save you the trouble of wastin' your breath. No. N.O. The best I'll do is call that cop and tell him where he could start lookin'."

"You know they can't handle vampires." Faith didn't speak. "I realize your father isn't a great person...I think he's scum for hurting you, but -"

"Then why -?"

"Cause, scum or not, he's human."

"Not to me."

"He did horrible things to you, I know--"

Faith turned her head sharply, looking at her girlfriend.

"You don't know. You'll never know. I gave you a general overview, but there was more. A lot more."

"You think I don't get that? Sometimes I picture what he might've done, things I think were just made up by my way overactive imagination, and then I think...it probably really happened."

"Should try imagining more pleasant things, B."

Buffy was standing in front of the TV, and Faith reached her hand out to grab the waistband of the blonde's pants.

"No, not now." Buffy said, backing up. "Did I just say that?" She took a deep breath. "Please don't turn into a brick wall on me. We don't do that with each other, and I couldn't take it if you did."

Faith buried her face into the mattress, and dropped the controller on the floor with a groan. Buffy sat next to her.

"Sometimes I wish I had the scars still. The burns. The cuts. To show you the results, but then...then you probably wouldn't be able to look at me. Or..."

"I'd love you no matter what you looked like. You could be -"

"That was comforting enough. You can stop there."

"Good." The older slayer sighed.

"He's my dad." The brunette said so quietly, Buffy could barely hear. "He's a murderer, a drunk, abusive, pathetic...but he's still my dad. And that's why, even as much as I want him dead, even after everything he did, I still love him. How screwed up is that?"

"Not as screwed up as you think."

"But I don't love him enough to save him. I can't. I got away from him, and if I go to his rescue...it's like I'm tellin' him he still has power over me. Or that I appreciated his 'love.'" Faith spat. "No way."

"If he dies, he doesn=t get to suffer in jail. You want him to suffer, don't you? I know I do." Faith sighed, nodding. "And you're a slayer. You have to kill vampires. If they kill him, they'll just move on to someone else. I know you don't want that."

She shook her head. "Course not. Seeing him...I just...I'm afraid. Afraid I'll revert to that submissive...daddy's little toy."

"You won't. You're strong, stronger than he is. And not just cause you can kick his ass. You have been for a long time. I'll be right there with you. Promise."

"Kiss me."

***

"Vampires. They hunt vampires." Sarah said, holding her cup of coffee loosely.

Joyce sat across from her at the table. "I didn't believe it either."

"Are we talking about Dracula?"

Willow and Oz were leaning up against the sink.

"No." The redhead shook her head. "He's just a myth. I think. Pretty sure. Yeah, I'm sure."

"And there are vampires all around the world? Even here, and they've got Faith's father?"

"Pretty much the basics." Oz confirmed.

"Oh, but don't worry. They're only really a big problem in Sunnydale. As long as you make sure you know who you're inviting in, and stay in lighted places, you'll be right as rain." Willow frowned. "Did that last part make sense?"

"You always make sense."

"I do?" His girlfriend smiled. Joyce looked at the girl, and Willow put on her serious face. "Sorry."

"Are you okay, Sarah?" Joyce asked. Her sister hadn't said much.

"I think I'll just sit and think for awhile."

"That's a good idea." Buffy said, walking in with Faith. "And they'll stay with you till we get back, then we'll answer all questions. Well, most questions."

"If you're going vampire dusting, we could be backup." Willow offered.

"I'd say yes, Red, but where we're goin'...it's not the safest place. You think vamps are bad? Some of the people are worse." Faith explained.

"Think I'll take the slayers' advice on this one." Oz said.

"Uh...me too." The hacker agreed quickly.

"Stake count." The blonde said to her partner, looking in her jacket. "Three."

"Same." Faith nodded.

"Be careful." Joyce said to the two girls.

"Always." Her daughter said.

"Faith? I hope he's okay." The brunette gave a fake smile.

***

(He wasn't even trying to hide it this time. Right in the middle of what Faith could call "the living room." Her shirt was off, and the only article of clothing that was still covering her chest, was a black bra. Jack was standing over her, undoing his belt. She had learned to numb her body when this happened. The pain would be felt after it was over with.

Wrapping part of the leather belt around his fist, he started taking practice swings.

"You get off on pain, don't you? Masochistic bitch." He nodded in the direction of her bra. "Take it off. I'm starting with your tits this time. At least, I think that's what they are."

Faith started to unclasp.

"Not tonight." Christine said, grabbing hold of her head. She had a nasty headache. Jack laughed, and kept swinging. "Not tonight. You're a perverted bastard, Jack, and I don't feel like watching."

"Nobody's makin' you." He barked, turning around. "Do you want it?"

"Don't threaten me. Goddamn, I hate being sober."

"I don't threaten, Christine. Hey, maybe I've been going about this all wrong. She did come out of you, after all. It might not be all her fault that she's a trashy whore."

"You helped make her."

"How do I know I did? Whose is she? Who'd you fuck?" On the floor, Faith sat up. "I didn't say you could move!"

"For the last fifteen years? Myself."

He invaded his wife's personal space. "Oh, I see the resemblance now. I shoulda taken care of the source back then. I wouldn't have to put up with either of you if I had."

"You wouldn't."

"Why not?"

"You're a piece of shit who never follows through, that's why."

"Oh yeah?"

Jack coiled the belt quickly around Christine's neck, and started squeezing. When she started turning blue, he stopped, and began using his bare hands. His eyes were wild. After several minutes of gasping and choking sounds, the life left Christine Adams' body. He let her drop to the floor, and faced his daughter, who had curled herself into a ball.

"You're...n...nex..." He was sweating heavily, his adrenaline rushing. Before he could get it all out, Jack's eyes rolled up inside his head, and he collapsed to the floor, unconscious.

Faith didn't move until about ten minutes later, when she heard a knock on the door.)

***

They got to the rundown shack Faith used to call a home with minimal incident. The gangs hung out on the corners, but as soon as they saw the slayers' "try it" looks, they backed off. That didn't make Southie any less frightening, though. People were drinking on steps in front of housing projects, yelling, fighting...it was not a nice place. Buffy couldn't believe Faith had to grow up here.

"There's a low window on the side of the house. It'll let ya into the basement. I'll go in the front." Faith instructed.

"Sure?"

"B..."

"See you inside."

Faith paced for awhile before going in. It was the same as she remembered it, and even as shoddy as it was, it still seemed intimidating. She didn't like that. What would he be like? What would she do? She became pissed at herself. There was no time to dwell. She had to be more concerned about how many vampires there were, and that Buffy had already gone in.

She moved slowly up the stairs, and opening the torn, screen door, she came face to face with a vampire.

"Bout time." He said.

"I'm sorry, did I keep you waitin'?" The brunette said sarcastically. "What's the deal?"

"You die." He smiled. "When we heard about Kakistos, and what you did, we've been waiting to get revenge. Our sire's hate for you has become ours."

"Family ties, huh?" Faith snorted.

"Kakistos was one of the old ones. Untainted by modern distractions. He was a true killer. Someone we all feared, yet respected. He was the greatest."

"Eh, not really." Faith was nonchalant.

"How dare you." He snarled.

"You talk like you've got buddies."

He nodded. "You won't attack me, because they'll kill him if you do."

"Who's going to kill him?" Buffy asked curiously, from behind them.

"What is -?" The vampire was shocked, turning his head to see the other girl.

"I love having the element of surprise."

Faith began punching the demon's face, one, two, three times. She brought her knee hard into his chest next, and he doubled over. Bringing both fists up and connecting with his chin, she snapped his head back, and staked his wide-open chest. Vampires were morons. They went through all that work, and it accomplished nothing.

"Where is he?" The younger slayer asked.

"Tied up. Basement."

Mustering up all her courage, Faith went past Buffy and down to the basement. Her eyes went directly to the man tied in the center of the room, and gagged. This wasn't him. This wasn't the monster. This was a sickly, stubble-covered, old-looking shell of a man. No muscle, no fat, she could see the outline of his bones. There were bags under his eyes, and they were wide with fear. She stood in front of him, bent down, and her fear evaporated.

"Do you remember me? Daddy?" He moaned into the cloth. "We saved your ass, you know that?

"So tell me, what do you think I should do with you? I mean, I have the power." She looked to be thinking. "Oh wait. You can't speak. Where are my manners?" She took the gag off. "Still wondering how I got any. How's prison?" She whispered in his ear. "Do they rape you? Where do they stick it? Do you like it? Bet the guards beat ya. Got any bruises? How's it feel? How's it feel?!"

She wanted to hit him so much. So much. But she held back.

"Please..." He croaked.

"Please what? Spare you? Don't worry, Daddy. I will. I wouldn't want to deprive any of the inmates of their bitch." She chuckled. "But also cause I'm better than you. I see that now. Say thank you. Come on, say it. Say it!"

"Thank...thank you."

She slapped him across the face, and tears started burning her cheeks. "Not good enough!" Well, it could've been a lot worse than a slap. "I'm just showin' how much I love you. Don't you feel loved?"

Buffy came up behind her girlfriend. Watching the family reunion, she could feel Faith's pain. Her partner was justified in everything she was doing, and Buffy had that same urge to really wail on the poor excuse for a man. But like Faith, she didn't. Verbal abuse and a little pain was enough. He was getting some of his own medicine, at least. He deserved it. Doing serious damage would make them like him, and they weren't.

"We should untie him and call the cops. He's not going anywhere." She said softly.

"See her? She loves me. Even as much as you tried to fuck me up, she loves me. You said no one else would. I proved you wrong." She looked into his eyes. "You're not worth my time anymore. You're goin' back to rot in prison, and when you die, you'll rot in Hell. I leave home this time, and I'll never think about you again."

God, that felt good. Faith didn't feel an ounce of guilt, either. She faced him and saw what he really was. Without alcohol giving him the boost that made it seem like he was powerful, to himself and to her, he was just a loser. It gave him a temporary self-esteem that he never truly had. And she didn't feel sorry for him one bit. She was done.

***

"Hi, Xander...Buffy and Faith? They got in about two hours ago...no, I'll tell them..." Joyce walked out the front door, and yelled up. "Telephone!"

When she heard her daughter's voice, she hung up and went back inside. She joined her sister in the living room.

"I called mom and dad. Mom talked to me for a little. Basic stuff. She avoided the issue even though I could tell she wanted to say something. I got a 'hello' out of dad. We're making progress." Sarah said.

"When did you do that?"

"Half-an-hour after the girls left. I guess I needed to take the risk. They are family, right?" She took a deep breath. "But then...Lauren called."

"I heard it ring. What did she say?"

"That she's doing really well, has a nice house...and that she wants me there with her. She says she's lonely."

"Sounds familiar."

"I told her she could see other people, that I wouldn't mind." Sarah continued on, not hearing her sister.

"Maybe she doesn't want to. You could have someone really special."

"I know I do. And I'm thinking about it, I guess, but there's work..."

"Couldn't you leave someone in charge here and still work from there?" Joyce asked. "You weren't considering this before...does it have anything to do with what Buffy and Faith told you?"

"Not the fact that they're vampire slayers. It's a good thing. I think it's pretty cool actually, and they obviously know what they're doing. And it doesn't make me love either of them any less.

"No, just the fact that there are *vampires* is creepy. I'm afraid that I'll just keep looking behind myself everywhere I go. But honestly, I think this was the excuse I was waiting for. To give me reason to leave. How many vampires could there be in Hawaii? I'm not a hundred percent decided yet, so don't hold me to anything."

"Would I do that to you?" Joyce smiled.

"Yes."

Sarah was going.

***

"Yes, Xand. We're in a hot tub...we're a little tense...I am not answering that...Where are you?...It sounds loud...Vegas?...Tell me you're not blowing all your money...okay, good...Willow and Oz?...Sleeping...yeah, I think that's what they're doing." Buffy spoke into the cellular phone as Faith grinned at her. "I'm glad you're having fun...oh, well you better not keep her waiting then...see ya."

She hung up the phone and stretched her arm out, so she could sit it on the table without getting out of the tub.

"Think the cops bought the story?" Faith asked.

"That you thought he might have returned home, so we went to check, saw him, and then called 911?" The blonde asked. "Good a story as any. They'll draw they're own conclusions about the chair and rope, I guess."

"Think they'll suspect us?"

"No." She shook her head. "That detective was the first guy there. He knew there was something we weren't telling him, but you could tell he didn't think we brought your father there. He knew to drop it, which was good."

"For us."

"Right." Buffy paused. "Are you okay?"

"I'm not scared of him anymore. We sent him back to where he should be. I feel pretty good."

"But?"

"But...I can't help thinkin', that if I hadn't met you, I could've turned out just like him."

"Even if we hadn't met, and I'm really, really glad we did, I know you would've been different."

"I'm not so sure." There was no need to go there though, because she had met Buffy, and her life was great. Except that she still loved him. She didn't want to, but she did, and didn't have a choice. "Whatever. I'm just glad you were there tonight."

"So am I."

Faith waded her way over to Buffy's side of the tub, and they wrapped their arms around one another. She might love her father, but she loved Buffy a lot more, and everyone else who was in her life. A life; there was another difference between them. Something he never had, and something she could have very easily.

"Remember you said there was another way I could get my diploma or somethin'?"

"It's a test. If you pass, you get high school credits."

"When we get back, I'm gonna do it."

"Then we could get Willow to...no, that's kinda wrong."

"What?"

"I was gonna say that she could hack into the Registrar's Office at the college and enroll you so we could go at the same time."

"As far as wrong things go, that's pretty low on the scale, B."

"Hmm...you're right." Faith kissed her. "I suppose you think this'll finish the job of getting me over to your side."

"Uh huh."

"Well I'm already there. But only cause I think you look incredibly sexy in a bikini."

Faith smirked. "It comes naturally. So does 'I love you'."

"Aren't you just adorable?" Buffy teased. "Love you too, honey."

The Bostonian narrowed her eyes. "That was a sappy moment. I don't have many, so don't tell anybody."

"Never." The blonde winked. "This is gonna sound corny, bordering on sappy even, but I feel tied to you, and I don't ever want to lose that feeling."

Gripping one another in a tight embrace, they stayed in that position for several seconds, the comfort of being close, enough. However, then their biological functions kicked in.

"This water's supposed to relax me, right?" Faith grinned. "Then how come I feel so hot?"

"It is a HOT tub, Faith."

"Just go with me on this, B." Faith sighed.

"Um...k." Buffy said, touching Faith's forehead and using her best, 'fake worry' voice. "You're burning up. Oh no. Whatever shall we do?"

"I think I should dry off. Might need some help, though."

"I can do that."

ALONE

"Lower! Lower! Jesus, I know you have better technique than that! Ooh! Oh! Go...right there! Yes! Plunge it in deep! Yes! Yes!" Buffy screamed frantically at the computer screen.

Faith was virtually boxing Mike Tyson, and she had just knocked him down. They both counted along with the referee, and when he reached ten, Buffy jumped up, and Faith pulled off the helmet with a grin.

"I whooped his ass!"

"Yep." Buffy smiled, helping the brunette out of the suit. "You're ready to rumble any boxer out there."

"Good thing he didn't try to bite my ear off, freakin' psycho." Faith cleared her throat. "Guess who called while you and Willow went to get ice cream yesterday?"

"Who?"

"Giles. Sounded like he had a woman stashed away in the background."

Buffy's eyes bugged out. "You're making that up."

"Nope. 'Fraid not."

"What did he say?"

"Just said he hoped we were havin' a good time, and that he'd see us tomorrow night."

"Did you ask -?"

"I didn't bring up the chick, but there was definitely one there, B."

"We leave home for two weeks and he has a gir...I can't even say it."

"When are you gonna realize he's a guy with needs?" She poked Buffy in the chest.

"Eew."

"He's had sex probably." Buffy began walking out the room. Faith followed closely behind her, grinning. "And I bet he's got a wide, muscular chest..."

"Go any lower and I'll..." She started reaching to cover her ears.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again. He isn't *hard* on the eyes."

"If you're so attracted to him, why don't you just marry him?"

"So we're in kindergarten now?" Faith was getting the silent treatment. She hated the silent treatment. "Oh come on."

Nothing.

"Buffy!"

***

A week had passed since the incident with Faith's father and Kakistos' lackeys, and their two-week vacation was up. They'd be leaving tonight. That is, if they could find Buffy. After Faith had teased the blonde about Giles the day before, Buffy said she was going for a walk, in that mock, hurt tone of voice that had no effect on Faith anymore. She knew the routine.

She was supposed to give Buffy a few minutes head start, then follow her and they would "make up." They never actually fought of course, but everyone knew that make up kissing, and make up sex couldn't be beat. At least according to Seinfeld. So Faith followed standard procedure, and knew Buffy would be at the tree, only there was one problem.

Buffy *wasn't* at the tree. Nor was she at any of the places they used to go to when they were younger. Faith was worried. Buffy messed around, but not for this long. It had been a day for crying out loud. Nobody had seen her. Not Willow, Oz, Joyce...Buffy hadn't been by Sarah's offices, either. This was not good at all. First her father, and now Buffy had vanished.

She vowed never to take a vacation again. Ever. Faith decided that she had one more option left, and it wasn't going to be pleasant. She was searching for the quickest way to get in touch with Boston's seedy underbelly. At the moment, she was standing outside "The Hammer." It was dead during the day, so she wouldn't have to deal with any problems, and if the same guy she had known four years ago still ran the place, she could get information easily.

Entering the establishment, the sight was pretty much as she expected. There were hangers on from the night before, asleep with their heads on table, or people just waking up with hangovers. She approached the bar, and Nick was behind it, cleaning it off. He was an okay guy. When the distributor was out of beer, he used to give her a supply she could take back to her parents.

He looked tough, and he was, but he had a soft spot too. Earring, well built, tattoos all over his arms, moustache and stubble covering his face, and his long brown hair was hanging down the back of his leather jacket. Hearing the door open and the footsteps, he looked up. When he looked up to see who it was, he half smiled, half smirked.

"Well, well, well. Look who grown up." Nick said. "Faith, I'll be damned. I heard you were back in town, didn't really believe it."

"People been talkin' about me?" Faith asked, sitting on a stool.

"They seen ya on the street. You were my only Coke drinkin' customer. Sticks out in a place like this."

"Doin' okay?""

"Place doesn't wanna die." He said hoarsely, and lit up a cigarette. "I get by. What're you here for?"

"Lookin' for someone. Don't know if you remember, but I brought a blonde girl in here one time."

Nick thought. "Yeah, I remember. She was into you."

"We hooked up again few months ago, came here for some R'n'R. Supposed to get outta here tonight, but she disappeared. You hear anythin'?"

He leaned over. "Back. Be careful."

"Thanks, Nick." She slid off the stool, and headed for the back room of the bar. She could hear voices inside. Opening the door, she saw Taylor's gang standing over a table going over their haul. Car radios, VCRs, cheap TVs...petty stuff. "What's up, fellas?"

Faith walked inside and kicked the door shut behind her as the six people turned to see who was interrupting them. Taylor's eyes went wide with fear, but he pulled a gun out of his jacket, and started aiming it. Faith ran to him, grabbed his wrist, twisted, and the firearm dropped to the ground. Taylor was in pain.

"Empty your pieces. Now." The five others revealed their guns, and took the magazines out. "Kick 'em over to the corner. Knives too."

Faith waited for them to comply, and then released her grip on Taylor.

"What the hell do you want, Faith?" He hissed.

"Answers. I saw you eyein' us last week."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Be smart, Tay. Last week, Southie, my old place."

"We were there, yeah. So what?"

"Tell me where she is."

"We don't know nothin'." He said smugly.

She didn't have time for this. Faith slugged him, and he fell on his back. Then she sat on his chest, and grabbed the lapels of his jacket.

"You get one more chance. Tell. Me."

"All right, all right. Few days ago, these guys in uniform -"

Faith raised her eyebrows. "Uniform?"

"They looked like army or somethin', I dunno. They were askin' around, showing people pictures of your girl. Wanted to know where they could find her. I happened to know a guy who knew a guy..."

"And you told them?" She seethed.

"Hell yeah. They said they'd clear our records, get the cops to take the heat off. And I really don't like you."

"So you decided to piss me off? Bad idea."

"Look, they never said what they wanted with her, okay?"

Faith raised her fist, and Taylor squeezed his eyes shut. He only opened them when he heard the door slam shut.

***

Willow saw Faith from her position at one of the computers in the "technology room" of the house. The slayer trudged over to her, and didn't look very happy. The redhead then thought that if Oz had disappeared on her, how she would feel. Completely devastated would just about cover it. And Buffy was her best friend. She wasn't doing very well either.

"Any luck?"

"Uncle Sam has her." Faith muttered.

"Huh?"

"Never mind. He was jerking me around, anyway."

"Oh." Willow frowned. "Mrs. Summers and Sarah called from the police station. The cops can't file a missing persons report until after forty-eight hours."

"We don't have that long."

"I know, and they even talked to that detective you and..." She trailed off when Faith's eyes saddened. "He didn't budge, and nobody likes a non-budger."

"What else can I do, Willow?" Only on rare occasions did Faith use her real name. "It's not like I have any other sources I can check."

"Wait and see if she phones?" Willow suggested, and the brunette stared at her incredulously. "What I mean is...she can take care of herself. And she can be hard to find when she wants to be, uh, hard to find. There was that whole three-month side trip thing."

"Why would she, though?" Willow had no answer. "Something's not right."

"I guess you can tell that being a slayer and all."

"Doesn't really have anything to do with bein' a slayer." The hacker's lips formed an 'O'. Faith leaned towards the monitor. "Is there any way you can check to see -"

"There was nobody matching her description in the morgue." Willow assured her.

"I was gonna say, if the military had come into town." Buffy being dead was a possibility she had blocked from her mind, and paled now that she had been forced to consider it.

Willow blushed. "Uh...anything specific?"

"Just 'anything' will do."

"Sure, but it could take a little bit." She realized then how tired the young slayer looked. "You should get some sleep. I'll wake you if I get something."

"Thanks." Faith smiled a little. "Hey, where's Oz?"

"Buying double-mint chocolate chip. It soothes my nerves. Underneath this calm and collected exterior, I'm as scared as you are."

"That's actually kinda comforting."

"Glad I could help."

***

Buffy was woozy, and had no idea where she was. Couldn't remember what had happened, either. She just kept fading in and out, occasionally hearing voices, but beyond that, she couldn't really think or feel anything. Before she slipped back into full unconsciousness, she could make out two phrases.

"Wanted her off guard", and "New experiment."

***

Was this Boston's way of telling them that they weren't wanted here anymore? That they shouldn't have come back?

Those were the questions Faith was asking herself as she lied down on the bed in the basement. That's when she knew she was losing her mind. Thinking a city was trying to tell her something. Or maybe she was being taught some things. She learned that she had to face her father, and maybe now she had to learn how to live without Buffy for awhile.

She had done it for four years at one time, so why was it so hard now? Simple. Because things were different. It had only been twenty-four hours give or take, yet already, it felt like a part of her was dying. Ceasing to exist. She was still expecting Buffy to come hop on the bed and lie down beside her. All she wanted to do was hold her. She had never felt as much a part of someone as she did with Buffy, and being apart caused more and more of her heart to be ripped out.

There was guilt creeping in again, too. They both knew that their last conversation had been all in fun, though it did seem like Buffy had actually been a little jealous. But maybe if she had never brought it up, hadn't taken it so far, the blonde wouldn't have gone for a walk, and none of this would have happened. Faith cursed. She really had to stop blaming herself. It was Angel's influence, and it was a good thing he left, because she didn't want to have to tell him that Buffy was missing.

Deciding to get up, Faith walked over to the closet with a frustrated sigh. Opening it, she reached up to the top shelf, and grabbed Mrs. Gorda.

"Least you're not alone, huh?"

She reached in again, as far back as her arm would go, and felt Mr. Gordo. Taking him out, something else came with the pig, and it fell to the ground.

"Let's see what you were sittin' on."

She picked up the object, took the pigs, and went to sit on the bed. It was a picture frame, with a picture inside showing Sarah and another woman standing outside Sarah's old house. The other woman was cute. Short, black hair, blue eyes, one of those people who stuck out. Faith didn't have any idea who she was, though. She put it back, and laid down again with the stuffed animals at her side, intending to go to sleep.

But she didn't. Instead, she picked up the phone next to the bed, and dialed a number.

"Giles? Hey. You feel like talkin'?"

***

Was she moving? Felt like a truck, because she could faintly hear the engine. The haze was clearing; she was finally coming out of it.

"Another shot. Now." Someone was saying.

Buffy felt the prick of a needle, and her eyes were closing. It wasn't fair. All she wanted to do was get back to Faith.

***

"All I got were flights scheduled for officers coming home for Fourth of July weekend." Willow said later, as they were finishing packing in the living room. "You didn't sleep."

Faith shook her head. "That's it? We go back without her?" She slammed her fist into the nearest wall. "God, I feel useless."

Willow came up to her cautiously, and squeezed her hand. Oz walked in with more clothes.

"What about vampires?"

"She's too good. They wouldn't get the drop on her. Besides, I checked that out already. Giles talked to Willy, but if he knows somethin', he ain't spillin'."

Faith left the room them then, and headed up to Sarah's room. Her and Joyce were talking.

"How can I just leave?" Joyce asked her sister.

"It won't do you any good to stay here." Sarah said softly. "You need to get back to work, and the kids need to get home."

"You're right." She sighed.

"I'm sure she's all right, and Faith won't stop until she tracks her down. None of them will."

"We won't." The brunette confirmed from the doorway. "I swear, Mrs. S."

Joyce turned to face her. "How are you doing?"

"Not real good."

The older Summers understood the girl's pain all too well. She felt just as useless, and just as afraid. They gave one another a light hug.

"Guess I'll start putting some of the luggage in the car."

Sarah and Faith watched Joyce go, and then they looked at each other.

"I'll go to the cops again tomorrow." Sarah promised. "Get them to file the report. If she's here, they'll find her."

"Here's hopin'."

"My niece comes to visit me, and she disappears. And I thought I moved into a good neighborhood."

"It's not your fault. Nobody woulda nabbed her in Sunnydale, and that place is Evil Central." She thought to herself silently, that maybe that was the point.

"Do you think she's okay?"

"If I didn't think so, I wouldn't be able to move right now. She's tough."

"You need anything, you call me."

"Yeah...thanks." She faced the door, and then turned her head. "I saw a picture of you and your honey down in the basement. I think it was your honey."

"Lauren."

"I don't know why she isn't around or anything, but if you can get together again, do it. Bein' lonely sucks, and I haven't even been doin' it for long."

"Yeah, it does." Sarah said quietly.

"I might be stickin' my nose in, but if you love her, don't waste time."

***

At the terminal, the four of them sat waiting for the boarding call. Sarah had left after Joyce assured her that they'd be all right. The quiet became unbearable after awhile, and Faith feared that she would break down into tears if she sat still any longer, so she wordlessly got up and went for a walk.

Moving through the airport, she stopped into a souvenir shop she had seen on the way in. The usual stuff. Cards, pointless things like key chains, little toy cars, and teddy bears with T-shirts that said, 'I (heart) Boston'. Faith found herself taking off the 'oston' part in her mind, and thinking back to the tree in the Commons. She hoped that their second flight wouldn't be their last.

None of the items in the shop appealed at all to her, but she knew Buffy would love to have each and every one of them. They were different people, that was obvious, but they were also very much alike. Whenever they were together, those differences seemed to meld. They got each other in a way no one else ever would. It was just the two of them.

She wasn't just Faith, and Buffy wasn't just Buffy. They were Buffy and Faith. It fit. Maybe it was partially slayer related, because when they fought vampires, they always knew what the other was going to do. That's why they were so coordinated. Or maybe it was because they knew one another so well.

They met not knowing about their destinies or what was in store for them, so it wasn't like they only related on the 'slayer' level. There wasn't anything supernatural in terms of their relationship, they were...well, Faith couldn't really explain it. Cordelia had summed it up pretty nicely. They just "clicked." On so many levels. And that's how she knew they'd make it.

She couldn't pick out one single thing she liked about Buffy; she liked the whole package. Everything. She was remembering Seinfeld for the second time that day. The way the show exploited the littlest, everyday problem made her feel good, because she didn't have to worry about all that crap. She had to worry about big things like saving the world. Focusing, she remembered the episode where Jerry was fixing George up with one of Elaine's friends, and George asked all these questions.

"Does she have nice hair? Can you run your hand through it without getting stuck?"

Dumb, meaningless things like that. If anybody was in a relationship where they were so picky, or could only think of one or two things they liked about the person, it wasn't going to last. It wasn't like that with her and Buffy. She thought the blonde was attractive, and played up the sexual innuendoes, but it didn't matter if Buffy's hair was purple, or if one leg was longer than the other was, or...she'd stay with her forever.

This was so hard. She wanted her girlfriend back.

Going to the back corner, she saw one of those quarter machines. The ones with the round glass balls that had prizes inside. Just for the hell of it, she got a quarter out of her pocket, put it in the machine, and pushed the button. She took her prize. A light blue, plastic ring. That brought a smile to her face, and she liked to think it meant she should keep being positive.

Sticking the ring in her pocket, she headed out of the store. Turning to go back, she spotted a man that looked to be decked out in a full military get up.

"Son of a bitch." She muttered. "Hey!"

He turned around with worried eyes, and gave himself away. Then he started to run. Faith took off after him, pushing past people, knocking them down...she wasn't thinking, just going on instinct. She lost him at one point when he entered a crowd, and when it dispersed, she found herself standing outside a terminal with no departure or arrival time, and no airline name. But it was boarding, because the jet way door was open.

Getting closer, she saw the man moving down it, but before she could do anything, there was an airport personnel person closing the door.

"Excuse me, where's that go?" The slayer asked.

"Private runway. Military uses it, or the President, when he visits." The woman explained.

"And that plane -?"

"Jet."

"Whatever. Where's it going?" The woman glanced around nervously. "Please."

"California."

"Really?" She grinned.

***

Fifteen minutes later, Faith was in a window seat beside Joyce, staring out at the sky. After a few moments, she looked at the ring, holding it between her fingers.

***

Buffy didn't know what day or time it was, when she saw that she was in a white walled cell. Nor did she know where she was. The light was bright, and she had to squint until her eyes adjusted. Her slayer sense was going crazy. It was telling her that there were demons everywhere, but she didn't see any.

She walked up to the glass that let her see across the hallway. Everything was white in this place. Putting her hand on the glass, she felt a shock, and jerked it away. She hated being cramped, and even more, she hated being alone. Then again, maybe she had thought too soon.

A woman in a lab coat appeared, blocking her view.

"And here we thought you were a myth."

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