Faith stood hidden near the side of Sunnydale High listening to the gang�s new topic of discussion. It was about SAT scores. She knew that wouldn�t matter at all soon, so she was just enjoying listening to the pointless conversation.
The most amusing part was Willow�s nervous and sad voice while she complained about how she only got a 740 on the verbal section. The rest of her friends� thought it was just her academic anxiety, but Faith knew it was because of her threat.
She had shown up as much as possible. And every single time, Willow became unraveled. Faith guessed she hadn�t told anyone, and knew she wouldn�t. She knew Willow would be easy to control. Unfortunately, it didn�t have the lasting effects she wanted. As soon as she was gone, Willow would seemingly forget about it, or as soon as Buffy kissed her or soothed her nerves, it was all forgotten.
She needed to step up the process. It was time to hurt Buffy. Faith knew how she wanted to do it, but the situation she wanted hadn�t presented itself yet. Listening closer now, she heard that Buffy got a high score on her test. For just a second, Faith was envious and even somewhat jealous of her. But just for a second.
Taking one last look, she walked off, hearing the tail end of the conversation.
"This is great. Now you can leave, and never come back," Cordelia said, talking to Buffy.
They stared at her.
"Well, I mean that in a positive way. Get out of Sunnydale. That's a good thing. What kind of moron would ever wanna come back here?"
At a night, at a small playground, a long, black car crashed through the 'Welcome to Sunnydale' sign and screeched to a halt. The driver�s side door opened and a liquor bottle fell out and smashed to pieces on the pavement.
Spike slid off of his seat and hit the street flat on his back on top of the broken glass, drunk. He lifted his head unsteadily and tried to raise himself to his elbows.
"Home, sweet...home," he said, slurring his words, chuckling.
He passed out and collapsed back to the pavement.
Willow was standing with Buffy at her locker. She wasn�t paying attention to what Buffy was saying. She was absorbed in her own thoughts. Her number one thought was - What does Faith want?
She and Buffy both knew that Faith wasn�t exactly on the straight and narrow path, but after her story they both pushed back their suspicions.
�And why�d we buy it? Cause she was good.�
They both bought into her sap story. That was their flaw. They always looked for the good in people before the bad. And Willow knew that Faith was definitely on the bad side. She didn�t know what Faith�s plan was, but she was pretty sure it had something to do with Buffy.
�I hate not telling her.�
She was afraid of what Faith would do to her. She didn�t want to be. She knew if she told Buffy, she would do her best to protect her, but Willow was afraid that wouldn�t be enough. Faith had fooled all of them so far. What would happen if she told Buffy? Faith would probably concoct another story, and she�d end up in a hospital.
"�I just�I never expected to do that well," Buffy said.
�What were we talking about again? Oh�SAT�s.�
"I told you that you weren�t a moron, didn�t I?"
"I guess I should know by now that you would always tell me the truth."
"Are you okay? You�ve been distracted lately."
"Yeah. Just tired."
Buffy shut her locker and they started walking down the hall.
"But 1440 is a great score, Buffy. You can easily go to UC Sunnydale, or any other college you want to go to."
"Oh�well at least we can�"
"Get a place like we planned?"
"Yeah." Willow smiled.
"I have to patrol, but afterwards, did you wanna catch a movie?"
"Sure. I have a paper due next week, so I�ll be in the library researching."
"I�ll come get you."
Spike walked into his old factory carrying another liquor bottle. The place was scorched, and completely destroyed. He strolled through the area, stepping over the strewn chairs, while he mumbled to himself.
He went down the basement steps, in a drunken haze.
"Drusilla! I'm home!" He yelled happily.
When he reached the bottom he broke out into a fit of giggles which turned to sobs. Wiping his nose on his sleeve, he saw what was left of the burned bed and stepped up to it, steadying himself on a pillar. He tossed the bottle onto the bed and stepped around the column.
He caught sight of Drusilla's doll collection that didn�t survive the fire piled on her dresser, all scorched. He reached for one and picked it up. He stared at it.
"Why did you do it, baby? Why did you leave me? We were happy here."
He tried to suppress a sob and shook it off, and put on his game face. He roared and threw the doll hard at the floor. He spun around, looking for something to smash it with. He found a tall iron candlestick, grabbed it and started to swing at the doll.
"You... Stupid...Worthless�Bitch! Look what you've done to me."
Faith followed Willow after school was out. She had gone to the magic shop. Faith went around the back entrance, and saw Spike looking at the shelves. She saw him glance at her, but his attention was focused on Willow.
�Who is this guy? He�s cute.�
"Blessed be." The shopkeeper said. "What can I help you with?"
"I need to get supplies for a protection spell. It�s for a friend. Early birthday present."
"Well, let me just grab the necessary items then."
The woman grabbed a few bags of different powders off the shelf behind the counter, and rang them up on the register. Putting the items in the bag, she told Willow the total. Willow handed her the money and walked out.
Faith started to go out the back, when she saw the shopkeeper come back where she and Spike were.
"Now did you find �" The lady started.
"I got a better idea." Spike said as he drained the woman.
He looked back at Faith.
"Nice work." She said, and walked out the door.
Mayor Wilkins was practicing putting in the company of his assistant, Allan. He tapped the ball, and it came at the practice hole in a nearly perfect straight line, but just missing its target.
"Oh, look at that! Every time, cuts to the left."
He got down on his hands and knees to check the lie of the floor.
"See, and it's not the carpet. It's me. I swear, I would sell my soul for a decent short game. Of course, it's a little late for that. I don't suppose I could offer your soul, huh? Really help me on the green."
Allan gave him a shocked look.
"I'm just funning. So, we have a Spike problem, do we?"
"He's been spotted back in town."
The Mayor shot again, but this time, the ball came up short.
"And there was an incident at a magic shop in broad daylight. Police had a hell of a time covering it up."
"Well, yes, y'know, he was up to all sorts of shenanigans last year. We had a world of fun trying to guess what he'd do next."
The phone rang.
"Excuse me." The Mayor said, walking over to get the phone.
"Hello�Faith!�How�s my girl?�Really? You know, we were just talking about that�well, if you have something in mind you just say the word�Oh I�m sure I can find something to keep our British friend busy."
He hung up.
"Kids. They�re always one step ahead."
"Should I have Mr. Trick send a... committee to deal with this?"
"Why don't you take care of that Spike problem? A committee, like you said. Gotta give my Faith time to work."
"As good as done."
The Mayor lined up for another shot.
"That's swell. Fore!" The shot was directly on target. "Hey!"
Later, at the library, Willow was studying. Putting the book down, she rubbed her forehead.
"Brain overload�" She said aloud.
Giles had gone home a half-hour ago and told her to lock up before she left. She had a lot on her mind. School, Buffy, and trying to avoid getting killed by Faith. It was too much for her to handle.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and started reading again. She became so absorbed, that she didn�t hear Spike come in from the stacks up the stairs.
He quietly came down, and stood behind her. With unnatural speed, he clamped his hand over her mouth, and pulled her out of the chair. She was kicking wildly, and as they approached the stacks, she kicked several books off the shelves.
"I�m gonna borrow you for a little bit. You don�t mind, do you? We�re gonna be best friends."
He took her out the way he came in. Outside, Faith started following them.
"A spell. For me. You're gonna do a spell for me." Spike said to Willow back in the basement of the factory. Willow was sitting on the bed.
"Uh, what kind of spell?
"A love spell! Are you brain-dead? I'm gonna get what's mine. What's mine. Teach her to walk out on me." He drank from yet another bottle. "What are you staring at?"
"Nothing," Willow said, averting her eyes from Spike�s drunken form.
"You can do it, right? You can make Dru love me again? Make her crawl!"
"I�I can try."
He grabbed her neck. "What are you talking about, trying? You'll do it!"
"Yes, I'll do it!" She held back tears, but she was visibly frightened.
Breaking the bottle against the bedpost, he threatened her with the sharpened edge.
"You lie to me, and I'll shove this through your face! You want that?"
"Right through to your brain!"
"No, please, no." She was crying now.
He calmed down and sat next to her.
"She wouldn't even kill me. She just left. She didn't even care enough to cut off my head or set me on fire. I mean, is that too much to ask? You know? Some little sign that she cared?"
He paused, and took a deep breath.
"It was that truce with Buffy that did it. Dru said I'd gone soft. Wasn't demon enough for the likes of her. And I told her it didn't mean anything, I was thinking of her the whole time, but she didn't care.
So, we got to Brazil, and she was... she was just different. I gave her everything: beautiful jewels, beautiful dresses; with beautiful girls in them, but nothing made her happy. And she would flirt! I caught her on a park bench, making out with a chaos demon! Have you ever seen a chaos demon? They're all slime and antlers. They're disgusting."
He stroked Willow's hair.
"She only did it to hurt me. So I said, 'I'm not putting up with this anymore.' And she said, 'Fine!' And I said, 'Yeah, I've got an un-life, you know!' And then she said... she said we could still be friends. God, I'm so unhappy!" He started sobbing on her shoulder.
"There, there." She said softly, patting his knee.
"I mean, friends! How could she be so cruel?" He looked at her neck, game face on. "Mmm. That smell... Your neck...I haven't had a woman in weeks."
Willow jumped up in fright.
"Whoa! No! Hold it!"
"Well, unless you count that shopkeeper."
"Now, now, hold on! I�I'll do your spell for you, and, and, and I'll get you Drusilla back, but, but there will be no bottle-in-face, and there will be no 'having' of any kind with me. Alright?"
His face went back to normal.
"Alright. Get started."
"Now, I'm not a real witch, you know. I�I don't know if this is gonna work right away."
"Well, if at first you don't succeed, I'll break one of your fingers and you try again."
"This isn't enough." She said, looking through the supplies on the bed.
"Well, there are other ingredients, and a�book. I need a spell book. This isn't it."
"You've got one, though, at home?"
"Not at home. The library."
"Why didn�t you tell me that before?"
"I had a hand over my mouth keeping me from speaking."
"I�ll go get it. Don�t bother trying to escape. It�s locked from the outside."
He went upstairs, went out the door, and it slammed shut behind him. Willow finally relaxed some. A few minutes later, though, the door opened again.
The door slammed shut, and Faith came down the stairs, carrying a knife.
"Hey, Red. What could you possibly be doing here?"
Buffy entered the library. She looked around for Willow, but instead she saw Spike. He was throwing books down on the floor in frustration. She ran up to him, and slugged him in the face.
"You shouldn't have come back, Spike."
"I do what I please."
He tried to grab her arm. Instead, she moved to the side, grabbed his arm, and started to pull his arm out of its socket. She kicked his legs out from underneath him, and he fell. Not wasting any time, she grabbed the stake she had in her hair, and prepared to use it.
"You took Willow?"
"You do me now, you'll never find the little witch."
"Where is she?"
"Doesn't work like that, peaches. Your friend's gonna work a little magic for me. She does my spell, I let her go."
"You're not famous for keeping your promises, Spike."
"Well, you wanna tag along, that's fine. But you get in my way, and you kill the redhead."
Buffy punched him again.
"Oops. I slipped."
"What�re you doing here?" Willow asked Faith.
"Keeping tabs on my new favorite toy."
"Who? Oh�that would be me."
"And here I thought you were intelligent."
Faith walked closer to the bed, and ran her knife along the bedpost.
"I haven�t said anything. I�ve been good."
"Yeah, I guess you have. It�s just, I figured that if I let you know that I�m not exactly on the light side, not to mention choke you to death and threaten your life, it would�ve had more of an effect."
"If you want me to be more frightened, I can do that. No problem."
"See, the problem is, that as soon as you lay eyes on Buffy, every other thought in that head of yours just vanishes. Frankly, it makes me want to vomit."
"So why are you doing this to me?"
"I want to make Buffy suffer. I thought that you would push her away. And the fact that you knew something and couldn�t tell her, it would strain your relationship. It hasn�t worked."
"So now what?"
"Extreme measures. Time to speed things up. As soon as Buffy and the bleached vampire get back here, I�ll make sure she suffers."
Buffy and Spike were walking down the street, on their way to the magic shop. Spike suddenly stopped and grabbed his head.
"Look, I just need a few supplies, and then I'll take you to...Oh, God."
"What's wrong? Not that I care."
"Oh...My head. I think I'm sobering up. It's horrible. Oh, God. I wish I was dead."
Buffy pulled out a stake. "Well, if you close your eyes and wish real hard..."
"Watch it!" He warned.
"You�ve probably just got her locked up in the factory."
"Well, hey, how thick do you think I am?" He stuttered.
"Fine. Can we just get this over with?"
She started down the road again. Spike followed close behind. When they reached a corner, he stopped at a bench.
Buffy put her hands on her hips.
"We killed a homeless man on this bench. Me and Dru. Those were good times." He sat on the bench, and started to chuckle. "You know, he begged for mercy, and you know, that only made her bite harder."
"I guess you had to be there," she said.
"So, I guess you offed Angel."
"You don�t seem too upset."
"What can I say? I�m a fast emotional healer. Can we get to Willow now?"
"You seem pretty set on finding her. You know I have her alive, so why�s it so important?"
Buffy looked around.
"Bloody hell. You hooked up with her."
"I�m just�well, if I had known she was that important to you, I would�ve used her in a more creative way, is all."
"If you did that, you�d be dead by now. Here�s the shop. Let�s go."
Spike looked at her, and laughed. They went in, got the supplies, and walked back out to the street.
"So let me ask you something. Why her?" Faith asked.
"She�s everything you�re not."
Faith laughed, and stood in front of Willow, who was backing up.
"You�ve got guts. Don�t you ever get tired of Miss Goody-Goody? The Dark Side�s a lot more rewarding."
"Why do you want to hurt Buffy?"
"Cause she�s everything I�m not. Plus, I was assigned a job. It�s gotta be carried out."
"Who do you work for?"
"I ain�t telling. I do know that ever since I met him, I�ve gotten everything I ever wanted. I�m not giving that up to fight demons who will eventually win anyway."
Faith ran the knife along Willow�s shirt.
"Why will they win?"
Faith just grinned.
They started to walk. Both of them were carrying a box of supplies.
"Okay, Spike, we got the stuff. Where are they?"
"What's your hurry?"
"My hurry is my intense desire to get you out of my life. You tend to cause trouble."
"I'll be out of your life in a few short hours. No trouble at all."
Without warning they were confronted by a group of vampires. Their leader stepped forward.
"No trouble at all," Buffy said to herself.
"Lenny. How have you been?" Spike asked.
"Better since you left. You should have stayed gone."
"Is that right?" He tossed down the box he was holding.
"You know, he was just leaving. Don't you start anything." She said.
"This pissant used to work for me."
"You can walk away from this." Lenny said to Buffy.
"I die, your girlfriend dies."
"Sorry. I�m staying."
They ran back into the magic shop, and Buffy shuts the door. Once inside, Buffy headed behind the counter to find a weapon. Spike grabbed one of the bookcases and slid it over against the front window. Behind the counter, Buffy smashed the shopkeeper's chair, and picked up the legs to use as stakes.
She came back out from behind the counter and tossed Spike one of the chair legs. They got in fighting stance and waited for the already teetering bookcase to give and the vampires to storm into the shop.
"This should be a kick," he said.
"I violently dislike you."
Suddenly, the back door was kicked in, and a vampire came inside. Buffy turned around to face him, and he lunged at her. She ducked and got underneath him, lifted him and sent him flying over her head and onto a table arrayed with books and candles. Two more vampires rushed in, and Buffy knocked over the second bookcase, barricading the back door, as well as putting the two vampires that had just entered, out of commission.
The first vampire got off of the table and tackled Spike into a wall of shelves filled with jars. Several of them broke and Spike and the jars crashed to the floor. The two vampires trapped under the bookcase were struggling to get free. Buffy saw their chests were still exposed, and staked them.
She went over to Spike�s attacker just as the bookcase gave on the backdoor, and staked him. Lenny came in, scanned the room, and headed straight for Spike. Behind him another vampire ran in, and Buffy rushed to engage him.
She roundhouse kicked him in the face and tried a backhand punch. He blocked the hit and wrapped his arm around hers and yanked her arm downward. She yanked back up and pulled her arm free, and punched him twice in the face.
Lenny reached Spike and immediately punched him hard in the face, making him jerk aside but not fall.
"Yeah. I heard you'd gone soft. Sad to see it, man," Lenny said.
"Yeah, like baby food."
"Well, then, let's give baby a taste."
Lenny tried to punch, but Spike ducked and punched him instead. Spike spun around and backhand punched a vampire coming up behind him in the face, which fell immediately. He ducked another punch from Lenny, grabbed onto Lenny�s jacket, and pulled him around roughly and smashed his face into the table. He did it repeatedly.
"Baby like his supper? Baby like his supper?"
Buffy was still fighting with another vampire. She shoved him into a shelf, and he stumbled backwards. Before he could recover his balance, she staked him. There was one other vampire in the store, and several others out front. Examining the shelf closer, Buffy saw several bottles of holywater.
Spike flipped Lenny over onto his back, and raised the still unused chair leg.
"Why doesn�t baby have a nap?" He shoved the leg right into Lenny�s chest, and he turned to dust.
Buffy grabbed several bottles of holywater. Spike saw her and came to get some as well. On the way, he staked a vampire that was just starting to get up, through the back.
They both started chucking bottle after bottle at the oncoming vampires. Eventually, they all ran away.
"Now, that was fun."
Buffy gave him a disbelieving look.
"Oh, don't tell me that wasn't fun. Oh, God! It's been so long since I had a decent spot of violence. Really puts things in perspective."
"Could we just do the damn spell now?"
"Oh, sod the spell. She�s at the factory."
Buffy gave him a �I can�t believe you put me through this� look.
"I'm really glad I came here, you know? I've been all wrong-headed about this. Weeping, crawling, blaming everybody else. I want Dru back, I've just gotta be the man I was, the man she loved. I'm gonna do what I shoulda done in the first place: I'll find her, wherever she is, tie her up, torture her, until she likes me again."
He smiled. "Love's a funny thing."
Back in the basement of the factory, Willow and Faith hear footsteps upstairs.
"Now who could that be?" Faith asked. "Showtime, Red."
She pushed Willow down on the bed and started kissing her. She situated her knife under Willow�s neck. Faith held Willow�s head just enough, so her neck wouldn�t get sliced on the blade.
"Look like you�re starting this, or you�ll get sliced and diced. Got it?"
Willow, reluctantly, put her hand on Faith�s head. The door opened from above, and Buffy started to come down.
"Willow are you�Oh my God."
From Buffy�s perspective, it looked as though Willow was holding Faith�s head keeping her from pulling away from the kiss. Buffy ran back upstairs. Willow kicked Faith off, and shot up off the bed.
"Oh, Willow? No squealing."
Willow ran after Buffy, leaving Faith smiling.
Outside, Buffy was running down the street, and Willow was trying to catch up.
"Buffy! Wait up!"
Buffy stopped abruptly, and turned to face Willow. Tears were streaming down her cheeks.
"I spend an entire night, with Spike, just so I can find you. He�d taken you, and I was so worried about what he might�ve done. I thought you were in danger."
"I�ll have to check my dictionary again, because that sure didn�t look like your typical danger situation."
"I want to�"
"What? Go mess around with Faith? Go ahead, be my guest."
"I don�t want that. At all. I want to�explain."
"Do you notice how we�re not making any progress here?"
"You know I would never �"
"Yeah, that�s I thought. Guess I was wrong. Listen, you want to explain, you come get me. Until you do, well, I don�t think there�s anything more to say."
"Please�" Willow was crying now.
"Can you see how hurt I am? And the fact that you can�t even speak to me about what I saw hurts me even more. And the fact that I can�t hate you makes me want to scream. I love you so much it hurts," Buffy said, near sobbing.
She ran off, leaving Willow crying in the street.
"Me too." She whispered.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Faith watching her. When she turned around, Faith was gone.
Buffy was sitting on the couch at the Bronze. She looked over at Xander and Cordelia dancing, and then over at Oz across from her. She sighed. They knew what had happened, and they didn�t know what to say to her.
She didn�t even know what to say to herself. She tried to find an explanation for what she saw. She tried every angle; every reason Willow might�ve done what she did. She couldn�t come up with one. She couldn�t help feeling like she was leaving something out.
When she wasn�t trying to figure out why it happened, she tried being hurt, and then being angry. She was devastated. If she weren�t still alive, Buffy would have thought her heart had stopped. It was almost like Willow wanted to get caught. Like she knew that would be the one thing that would hurt her the most. But why would Willow want to hurt her? And the only other person was Faith. She couldn�t think of a reason for either of them to hurt her.
She knew Willow would not, ever, do what she did, freely. But how could Buffy deny what she saw?
�Don�t second guess what you know.� She told herself. �Kissing Faith was a very un-Willow thing to do.�
Buffy didn�t want to stay away from her, but she couldn�t be around her either. She knew there was probably a good explanation for everything, but Willow was the only one who knew what that was. Well, the only one she could trust to tell the truth anyway. But sadly, Willow didn�t seem to want to share.
She could easily confront Willow, of course. But she didn�t want her to feel like she was forcing her to her to say something ready she wasn�t ready to say. The last thing Buffy wanted to do was make her uncomfortable, and she knew how Willow got when she felt rushed. Buffy loved her, and one thing she learned about Willow was that you had to let her do things on her own. When Willow was ready, she�d tell her.
The song ended, Xander kissed Cordelia, and then she left. He came over, and sat next to Buffy.
"So, Oz how long has it been now?" he asked.
"A week I think."
They looked at her.
"I get it. Okay, guys? What do you expect me to do?"
"Talk to her would be a start," Xander said.
"I tried. She didn�t want to."
"Oz, how many times did she try?"
"This two on one confrontation. Whose idea was it?"
"It was mutual," Oz said.
"The ball�s in her end zone, or something like that. I�m here, all she has to do is talk."
"I�ve known Willow all my life, but somehow after only knowing her for three years, you know her better than I ever could. You know she�s loyal and committed to you," Xander said.
"Then why was she kissing Faith?"
"Maybe she didn�t have a choice," Oz said.
"How do you figure that? And if she was forced, why won�t she tell me?"
"Maybe she can�t," Xander said.
"What possible reason�"
"As much as I think a certain new slayer, is centerfold worthy�"
"Before he gets too off the subject, we think the problem is Faith. She�s not that mentally sound, if you ask me," Oz said.
"And what has she talked about ever since she got here?" Xander asked.
"You mean besides herself?" Buffy asked.
Willow was lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling. Her parents went away for the week. They asked her if she wanted to come, but she said that she needed to stay home. At this point, she wished she had gone, because the situation with Buffy hadn�t improved any.
And she knew that wasn�t Buffy�s fault. It was hers. Why wasn�t she telling Buffy? For what seemed like the fiftieth time, she ran down the reasons in her head. One, once she told Buffy that meant Faith would probably take her plan to the next level (which meant Faith would try to really hurt Buffy). Two, if Faith were able to come up with a clever cover story, she and Buffy would be even further apart then they were now. Three, she was afraid of what Faith would do to her.
�But Buffy can take care of herself, and she�s always kept me safe.�
But the other thing was that Faith seemed pretty confident. Whoever she was working for probably was pretty powerful. And as uninformed as Willow was, she couldn�t know whether Buffy could handle whomever it was that was running the show. And she didn�t want to put Buffy�s life in danger.
�But her life�s already in danger. Aren�t I helping to put her in harm�s way by not telling her about Faith?�
And the more she thought about it, the more she knew that was the truth. Inside, she was struggling with herself. She had a natural inclination to want to protect Buffy. And now that they were �involved� the desire to protect her had heightened a lot. She knew that right now, Buffy was safe. And Willow wanted to keep it that way. Although she knew that eventually, Faith�s course of action would be out of her hands, and she would go after Buffy no matter what she did.
It wasn�t that she thought that Buffy couldn�t beat Faith. Willow knew she could, in a one on one fight. But knowing first hand how sneaky Faith was, it was what might be backing Faith up that scared her.
�Too many thoughts.�
Out of all the thoughts she was having, one thing stood above the rest. And it was a purely selfish one too. She was miserable without Buffy. They had stopped talking all together. They were avoiding one another. The only time they were talking was in Chemistry, because they were lab partners. And even then they tried to talk to each other as little as possible. It was killing her inside.
Kissing Faith was something Willow had been trying hard to forget. It was disgusting to her. She felt violated. Using something as beautiful as a kiss for such a dark purpose, well, in her mind, that was the worst thing you could do. To make an expression of love so evil and dirty. She got angry just thinking about it.
She missed Buffy�s kisses. She missed just being near her and feeling completely secure and safe around her. She missed everything. She wanted to tell her so much. It might complicate other things, but at least they�d be okay. But that wasn�t right to her. There were things to think about, not just her own happiness.
She heard the doorbell ring. Hoping that it was Buffy, she rushed downstairs, and opened the door. Willow frowned slightly when she saw it wasn�t.
"Nice to see you too, Willow," Cordelia said, noticing Willow�s expression.
"Sorry, Cordy. I was just kind of hoping �"
"That I was Buffy?" She came in, and shut the door. "Well, maybe if we can straighten you out, she will be the one at the door next time."
"How is she?"
"Depressed, quiet, the usual. Same as you."
"So, I want to talk to you. You know normally if a relationship is on the rocks, both people are at least a little at fault. But you never heard that from me."
"I know I�m the one who needs to fix it."
"Then why don�t you?"
"Can you at least tell me about it?"
"It�ll put you in danger."
"When is my life not in danger anymore?"
"No, I mean constantly. And you won�t know when or where. I don�t even know if it�s safe to be talking about it this much."
"This is big, huh?"
Willow nodded. "And I don�t even know the whole story yet."
"Well, I may not be able to handle big stuff, but Buffy can. You know that."
"I don�t know if she can handle this."
"You have to trust her. She�ll know what to do. If not, her and Giles will work out something. And as much as I hate to say this, we�ll all be backing her up. If it�s as big as you say it is, she needs to know."
"Buffy told me about your date you had awhile ago. How you both said you were going to get a place to live together for college, and how you set a goal and everything. She said that she had her doubts about how things were going to end up, but you squashed them. She said you were confident.
"This is something that is standing in the way of that goal, and you have the power to get rid of it."
�She�s right. A goal is a goal. I�m sticking to it.�
"Hey, how come you never said anything about me and Faith?"
"We all know that wasn�t you. Even Buffy. She just needs you."
Buffy and Faith had come back from patrolling, and went back to Faith�s apartment.
"You�ve been awfully quiet, B."
Buffy gave her a look that could kill.
"You know why."
"Oh yeah, how is Willow?"
"How could you?"
"How could I what?"
"I was the kissed."
"Don�t give me that. You could have easily got her off you."
"What�s the big deal?"
"You knew we were together."
"You were? As I remember it, every time I asked you about that, you wouldn�t answer me. I wasn�t aware I was doing anything wrong."
Buffy laughed slightly. "So you did do it."
"I had to do something, I was being kissed."
"You didn�t have to respond to it." Buffy paused. "How did you find Willow anyway?"
"I was hunting and I was walking by the factory. I heard her scream, I went in."
"You could hear her? She was in the basement. Not to mention, locked behind a solid steel door."
"Slayer hearing, B."
"How come I don�t believe you?"
"Cause you want to don�t want to blame poor, sweet Willow for what happened."
Buffy started to walk out.
�Shake it up a little.�
"So, what hurts more, skewering your ex with a sword, or being separated from Willow?"
Buffy turned around sharply. "How do you know about Angel?"
"Your friends told me. So, what hurts more?"
Buffy punched Faith with all her strength. Faith fell, unconscious.
"I bet that hurts," Buffy said as she walked out.
Buffy walked down the street. She needed to get to Giles� house. She saw Willow coming towards her.
"What are you doing out here, Will?"
"Looking for you. I need to explain."
"I�m glad, but can it wait? I need to get to Giles."
"I need to know about Faith."
"That�s what I need to tell you."
Buffy stopped a second, thinking. Then she started again.
"You can tell me when we get there." Buffy smiled at her.
"Where is Faith anyway?"
"Unconscious on the floor of her apartment."
"So you don�t think she�s on our side?" Giles asked.
"I don�t think it. I know she�s not," Willow said.
"Go ahead, Will." Buffy encouraged.
"Okay. Out in the woods, the night of the dance, Faith was the one who took me. She said if I told anyone, she�d kill me."
Willow looked at their shocked faces, and continued.
"She thought that I�d push you away, because I knew something and I couldn�t tell you. When I didn�t, she decided to try something else. She must have followed me and Spike to the factory, and as soon as he left, she came in."
"And what I saw?" Buffy asked.
"She planned that. It was all to hurt you. The only reason I did it, and believe me Buffy I didn�t want to, was because she had a knife pressed to the back of my neck. I didn�t want to tell you because �"
"Because you didn�t want to put me in danger."
Buffy went to sit next to her on the couch, and hugged her.
"I�m sorry I didn�t come to you sooner," Willow said.
"So am I. I�ve been an idiot."
Giles waited a few seconds, and spoke.
"Why did you suspect her, Buffy?" Giles asked.
"She knew about Angel. Nobody told her, did they?"
"No, of course not," Willow said.
"Which means she has access to information," Giles said.
"She did say she worked for someone."
"How could the Council not know this, Giles?" Buffy asked.
"Well as I said, they lost track of her. To be quite honest, Faith was a problem to them in the beginning. When they lost track of her, I believe they were glad that they didn�t know where she was. Trying to find her was not a priority."
"How can you work for those people? How can I work for those people?" Buffy asked.
"That was a rhetorical question, Giles."
"What about Faith?" Willow asked.
"Don�t confront her just yet. If we do, she may panic, and who knows what may happen. Considering we know next to nothing about her plans, or whom she is working for, it would be unwise to provoke her.
"If she hasn�t figured out that we know what she�s done yet, she will. Until I can figure out the best course of action, just wait, and watch out for each other. Eventually, we will need to find out what she knows, but I will exhaust my avenues with the Council first."
"What will the Council do to her?"
"I�m not sure what they will decide. It is a rarity for a slayer to go rouge. My main concern is for Buffy�s safety. If you are her target�"
"I know," Buffy said.
Later, Faith regained consciousness just in time to hear her phone ring. Groggily, she made it up to her bed, and picked up her phone.
"Boss. Hi�Ooh." She grabbed her head. "It�s nothing. I just got a little knocked out�no I�m fine�it�s possible. She doesn�t strike me as the �slug somebody in the face for no reason� type�she could just think I�m a bitch right now, but I think she�s known that for awhile�well if she does know�her join the bad side? I really don�t see it happening� but�yeah, I�ll deal."
She hung up, and went to get ice for her head.
Willow sat on Buffy�s couch snuggled up against her.
"This week seemed like forever," Buffy said.
"I�m really sorry."
"You have nothing to be sorry for. You were trying to protect me, and I can�t believe you went through what you went through, for me. But I know now, and we�ll all deal with Faith. I won�t let her hurt you anymore."
"Or kiss me."
"That will not be happening again."
"Good. But right now, I want to kiss you."
"My parents are out of town."
"It�s lonely at home."
Willow smiled, and then kissed her again.
"I was hoping you�d say that."
"I think it�s time for me to join in."
Buffy switched places with her, and now she was delivering the kisses.
"Let�s never�" Willow said.
"Stay away from each other for a week�"
As Buffy�s kisses started to travel off Willow�s face, the front door opened, and Joyce came in carrying groceries. They pulled away quickly.
"Hey you two. I�m making a late dinner, if you�re interested."
"Thanks, mom," Buffy said.
Joyce went into the kitchen, and they got up.
"Damn." They both said, trying to hide their grins as they walked into the kitchen.
Her life was back to normal now. She was settling into routine once again. Things with Willow had settled, and they hadn�t heard from Faith for a week and a half. Which in her opinion was good. She didn�t want to have to deal with her just yet. Of course Faith�s lack of contact could also have meant she was planning something big to kill them all, but Buffy preferred to stay positive.
It was a regular patrol tonight. She was in the playground by the slide, and she heard a rustling in the bushes over to her right. Pulling out her stake, she decided to wait for whatever it was, to come to her. Just as she suspected, it was a vampire. It came running towards her.
�I never thought I�d think this, but one vampire? Come on, where�s the challenge?�
She ran up the slide, and just as she had hoped, he followed her up. She kicked him in the chest. He rolled down the slide. She had hoped that she would be quick enough to run down and stake him before he got up, but unfortunately, he recovered quickly.
"Wow, that was really funny looking! Could you do it again?" Buffy said.
"I'll kill you for that."
"For that? What were you trying to kill me for before?"
The vampire swung at her, but she ducked it and came up behind him. He faced her just in time to take a roundhouse kick in the shoulder. He swung again, but she ducked it and punched him in the gut, then rose back up and backhanded him in the head. Then she shoved him back and followed up with a half-spinning wheel kick, making the vampire stumble back and fall onto the carousel. She strode toward him.
"Okay, so here's the deal." She said, raising her stake.
Just as she was about to end the fight, an unexpected wave of dizziness hit her. She closed her eyes and stepped back unsteadily, in pain. The vampire seized the opening and rushed her, grabbed her by the jacket, swung her around and threw her onto a picnic table. She rolled off of it and onto the ground.
The vampire jumped on top of her, and she turned her head away in fright. He grabbed her right wrist with one hand and with the other grabbed her hand and twisted it around, hurting her and making her cry out. He pointed her own stake at her chest, and the vampire used his weight to slowly push it down at her.
"Lemme know if I'm not doing this right."
�What the hell is happening?� She thought as she tried to struggle against him.
Attempting to get him off her, she delivered a head-butt. He got stunned, stopped pushing on the stake, but was still on top of her. She slapped him hard in the face, and shoved him off. He rolled away, onto all fours. Buffy scrambled to get the stake, rolled back onto her back and braced the stake against her chest pointing upward. The vampire jumped to his feet and lunged for her, landing on top of her and impaling himself. He exploded into a cloud of ashes.
"It was like an instant headache," Buffy said to Willow later that night on the phone.
"Are you sick?"
"I don�t think so. This has never happened before. Ever."
"Maybe it was just a bad night."
"A bad night? I can�t afford that. The guy wasn�t even that smart. He was new, and he almost staked me." Buffy was frustrated.
"It�ll be okay. I didn�t mean to sound like I thought that this is nothing or anything like that, but when you�re upset and angry, I�m supposed to be calm and soothing. And vice versa."
"And you�re doing a good job."
"I hope so. Before you get too freaked, just talk to Giles tomorrow. I bet after you sleep, it�ll be better."
"I�m sure it will too. Luv ya, Will. Night."
"Love you more." Willow laughed into the phone. "Goodnight, Buffy."
Buffy stood by the table in the library concentrating on a target she set up against the railing of the stack level. She raised a knife and threw it. It glanced off of the target and hit the floor. Giles came into the library with his briefcase and a cup of coffee and headed toward his office.
"Bit early in the day." He said.
"Giles, something's wrong."
He saw the target with a few knives stuck awkwardly into it. None of them were near the center.
"Ah. Perhaps you shouldn't, " He started as Buffy missed another throw, "do that anymore." He put down his briefcase, and took a sip of coffee.
"On top of that, I got a bad case of the dizzies last night and almost let a vamp stake me. With my own stake!"
She threw another knife that was completely off target.
"I'm way off my game. My game's left the country. It's in Cuernavaca. Giles, what's going on here?"
"Well, perhaps you've got a bad flu bug or something."
"No. No, not sick. I can't get sick. My dad's coming to take me to the ice show. We do it every year for my birthday. If I cancel, it's gonna break his heart."
"Well, just, take it easy for forty-eight hours. You know, forego patrolling until you feel yourself again."
She picked up a couple more knives from the table.
"No. No, I just need to spend a little more time training."
She threw one that hit a reading lamp.
"An ice show? A show performed on ice. And how old are we again?" Xander asked.
They were outside eating lunch.
"I went to Snoopy-On-Ice when I was little. My dad took me backstage, and I got so scared�I�threw up on Woodstock," Willow said.
"Look, I know you guys think it's just a big, dumb, girlie thing, but it's not. I mean, a lot of those skaters are Olympic medal winners. And every year my dad buys me cotton candy and one of those souvenir programs that has all the pictures, and okay, it's a big, dumb, girlie thing, but I love it."
Willow gave her an understanding smile. She knew how much the show and her dad meant to her.
"It's not so girlie. Ice is cool. It's water, but it's not," Oz said.
"Ixnay on the caramel corn, though, if you go backstage," Willow said.
Buffy nodded in agreement.
"We're still talking party, right? I mean, some of us still love to relish celebrating in the birth of the Buff," Xander said.
"I dunno. I think it might be time to put a moratorium on parties in my honor. They tend to go badly. Monsters crash. People die."
"But eighteen is a big one, Buffy. I mean, you can vote now. You can be drafted. You can vote not to be drafted. But I can understand why a quiet birthday would be good." Willow grinned.
"Naughty, Willow! You know, I think a little reflecting would do me good," Buffy said pulling Willow onto her lap.
"Where is it written that quiet reflection can't be combined with cake and funny hats?" Xander asked, not picking up on anything.
"And that comment is exactly why you�re uninitiated," Oz said.
Buffy and Willow started giggling uncontrollably. Oz whispered to him.
"Oh," Xander said, turning red.
Later, at Buffy�s house, a large birthday floral arrangement was on the counter in the kitchen, with a helium balloon and card. The tickets to the ice show are attached. Joyce was at the stove making dinner. She heard the front door close.
"Present." She said looking at the flowers. "Ooh, present."
"They're not�they're from your father."
A deeply hurt expression showed on Buffy�s face as she saw at the tickets and card.
"His quarterly projections are unraveling and he can't afford to take off right now. He promises to make it up to you. It's all right there in the letter."
She folded up the tickets and the card without even opening it.
"If you want, I could ask somebody to cover for me at the gallery. I mean, if you want me to take you."
"No, that's not necessary. I was just thinking it might be nice to have a quiet birthday."
The same night at the library Buffy was training with Giles. Part of her training was to identify certain crystals and to learn their mystical properties. He got out the crystals and carefully laid them out on the table. Buffy sat and watched him.
"You know, it's not just cartoon characters. They do pieces from operas and ballets. Brian Boitano, doing Carmen, is a life changer. Oh, he doesn't actually play Carmen, but a lot of sophisticated people go."
"Yes, I think we should start with the grounding crystal again."
He sat the largest blue crystal on the table in front of her.
"You know, it's usually something that families do together."
"Now, look very carefully for the tiny flaw at its core."
"If someone were free, they'd take their daughter or their student...or their Slayer." She said, looking at him.
"Hmm? Yes, but, Buffy, I think we should concentrate now. Now, look for the flaw at its center." He was avoiding her attempts.
She gave in and started to concentrate on the crystal. At its center was a small stake-shaped flaw. Buffy slowly entered into a trance. Giles leaned over further and looked at her.
Seeing that she was firmly caught in the crystal's trance, he pulled a small case from his briefcase, set it on the table, and opened it. Inside was a hypodermic needle, a test tube full of a clear yellow liquid and an alcohol-soaked gauze pad. Keeping a careful eye on Buffy, he took the pad and leaned toward her. Taking her arm, he pushed up her sleeve and wiped the pad on a spot near the inside of her elbow.
He filled the syringe, and squirted out the fluid to get rid of any air bubbles. He took her arm in one hand and with the other, stuck in the needle. Slowly, he depressed the plunger, and she didn�t move at all. He pulled the needle back out. He quickly he put everything away, and sat on the table. He then waved his hand between Buffy and the crystal. She came out of the trance.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I zone out on you? It's just... I'm nursing that flu bug."
"It's best to take care of that. Perhaps we should..."
"Call it a night? Yeah, that's a good idea. Thanks."
She got up weakly and walked out of the library.
Outside near the courtyard, Buffy and Willow were walking down the steps the next day.
"He didn�t even have the decency to call and tell me himself. I told you he was glad to get rid of me."
Willow didn�t know what to do or say. She would�ve hugged her, but she saw Snyder eyeing them across the yard.
"Oh, Buffy. I�m sorry."
"I�m not a bad person, am I? I mean, all I wanted was one day. It�s tradition!"
Buffy looked over and saw Cordelia looking at a quarreling couple. Buffy shifted her gaze too, focusing. It was a heated argument from what she could tell, and then the guy grabbed the girl�s arm. Buffy had to step in.
"Hey! I'm not through here." The guy said to his girlfriend.
Buffy grabbed his arm.
"Oh, I beg to differ."
She tried to yank at it, but she had absolutely no strength. He scoffed at her and nudged her away hard. She fell backward, stumbling onto a bench and rolling off onto the ground. Cordelia came over, angry, and shoved him away.
"What is wrong with you?" she asked, hitting him repeatedly in the chest.
"God, the chick started it!"
Willow got down to her knees to help Buffy up.
"Are you okay?"
Buffy and Willow rushed through the halls and caught up with Giles.
"Okay, I just got swatted down by some no-neck and rescued by Cordelia. What the hell is happening?" Buffy asked.
"I'm sure it'll sort itself out."
She and Willow were both shocked by his calm reaction.
"You're not getting the big picture here. I have no strength. I have no coordination. I throw knives like..."
"Damn it, Giles! She needs to have her strength! She has a job to do, and she is in serious danger like this. How can you be so�not caring!" Willow said, a little louder then she intended.
"Look, Buffy, Willow, I assure you, um... given time...we'll get to the bottom of� whatever's causing this... anomaly."
"Yes. I give you my word."
The two of them continued walking down the hall, leaving Giles behind.
"Wow, Will. Where�d that come from?"
"I have no idea. I�ve never�he was just pissing me off. He sounded like Xander!"
Buffy put her hand on Willow�s back, the closest contact they could show, smiled, and kept walking.
In an old boarding house, Giles was talking with a Council representative named Quentin Travers. In the room opposite the one they were sitting in, a coffin-like crate was in an upright position, shaking.
"You're having doubts." Quentin stated. "Cruciamentum is not easy...for Slayer or Watcher. But its been done this way for a dozen centuries. Whenever a Slayer turns eighteen. It's a time-honored rite of passage."
"It's an archaic exercise in cruelty. To lock her in this...tomb...weakened, defenseless. And to unleash that on her." Giles stared at the crate in the other room. "If any one of the Council still had actual contact with a Slayer, they would see, but I'm the one in the thick of it."
"Which is why you're not qualified to make this decision. You're too close."
"That's not true."
"A Slayer is not just physical prowess. She must have cunning, imagination; a confidence derived from self-reliance. And believe me, once this is all over, your Buffy will be stronger for it."
"Or she'll be dead for it."
Later, he was on his way out, trailed by Quentin.
"Rupert, if this girl is everything you say, then you've nothing to worry about."
Giles left without saying a word.
After Giles left, loud screaming started to come from the crate. Reluctantly, two men, who were Quentin�s assistants, went over to the crate. One of the men opened the lock and removed it. He pulled open the latch and jerked open the crate. Inside was a very angry vampire secured in a straightjacket and strapped to the back of the crate with a metal band across his forehead.
"Come on. Come on." Quentin said.
The man stepped over to a table and pulled two pills from a bottle. He put them on a spoon that was secured to a long bar. The second man stood behind him with a glass of water also on the end of a long bar. The man with the spoon reached it up to the vampire's mouth.
"Kralik, your pills. Open your mouth."
He opened his mouth just enough, and the man nudged the spoon in, turned it to drop the pills in, then quickly retreated. The second man stepped up with the glass of water and angled it for Kralik to drink. He gulped deeply, spilling water down the sides of his mouth.
"That's enough. Close it up." Quentin said.
In the library, the gang was researching Buffy�s condition, absent Giles.
"Aha! A curse on Slayers," Willow said, and Buffy looked up, hopeful. "Oh, no. Wait. It's lawyers."
"You know, maybe we're on the wrong track with the whole spell, curse and whammy thing. Maybe what we should be looking for something like, Slayer kryptonite," Xander said.
"Faulty metaphor. Kryptonite kills," Oz said.
"You're assuming I meant the green kryptonite. I was referring, of course, to the red kryptonite, which drains Superman of his powers."
"Wrong. The gold kryptonite's the power-sucker. The red kryptonite mutates Superman into some sort of weird..."
"Guys? Reality?" Buffy asked.
"I know you are, definitely, without a doubt, gonna get your powers back," Willow said.
"But what if you don't?"
"Okay...if I don't get my powers back, then I don't. I'll deal. Honestly, I don�t know what I�ll do."
"Actually, this could open up so many..."
Giles came into the library, and Buffy ran up to him.
"Did you find anything?" she asked him.
"Uh, no. Not yet."
Buffy sighed, and picked up her red-hooded jacket and started for the door.
"I�m going home."
Willow ran over to her.
"Buffy stay over at my house. It�s closer�and safer."
"What about your parents?"
"They went to a retreat in Lake Tahoe or something. They came back long enough to give me a new food supply and then left." Willow looked sad for a minute, and then smiled again. "Anyway, I won�t take no for an answer."
"You talked me into it." Buffy smiled.
They were sitting on Willow�s bed, and Buffy was crying.
"My dad ditches me, I lose my strength, what have I done?"
Willow held her close.
"You didn�t do anything, okay? None of it is your fault."
"I must have done something. This is probably what happens to slayers who don�t read the handbook."
"Then it�s Giles fault for not giving you the handbook in the first place then."
"I�m not gonna blame him."
"Don�t blame yourself either. Please?"
Buffy sighed, and lay down on the bed. "What else can I do? I can�t do my job. I�m weak."
"You know that�s not what I meant. Most of the time you�re stronger than I could ever be. I just�I feel�incomplete. I know I�m more than the Slayer, but it�s still a big part of who I am. I always keep talking about wanting something more normal, but now that I have it, I don�t want it anymore. I�m not me like this, and I�"
Willow lied down beside her.
"I want to forget. I want to be strong. I just want to be loved."
Willow, brushed some stray hairs off of Buffy�s forehead, reaching for her soon-to-be lover�s shirt.
"I can do that," Willow said smiling. "You know, right now, we�re both equal."
"Yeah, we are." Buffy ran her hand down Willow�s sweater.
"I wanted to do this when we both needed it. I dreamed we�d both be going into it this way. Completely equal. Like it should be. I want to love you in the best way." She started to unbutton Buffy�s shirt.
"I need you to love me," Buffy said quietly.
A tear of happiness ran down Willow�s face, as she kissed Buffy.
"Are you scared? Cause I don�t want to rush you �"
Willow put a finger to Buffy�s lips.
"I want this just as much as you do. I want to give this to you. I need to forget too. I just want to be with you. To be able to love you like this."
Buffy gave Willow a loving kiss.
"Will you let me make love to you, Buffy?"
Buffy nodded. "I need your strength."
She felt Willow pull away a little.
"I'm not strong." Willow whispered, but Buffy shook her head.
"You are. I told you that you were stronger than I was. Trust me. Give me your strength, Will�"
Then there was silence. Buffy was afraid she'd scared Willow off, but then she felt Willow's arms go around her, and felt soft lips against her ear.
"We'll be strong together."
Gentle kisses, gentle lips moved over her, making her sigh with need, with passion. Buffy turned her head, caught Willow's lips with her own. She wondered if Willow would resist, because they both knew that this kiss was just the beginning. Once they started, there was no turning back. There was none; only Willow's mouth parting. They had kissed before, but this, this was deeper. It reached down to the core of their very being.
"I love you, Will�"
Willow�s delicate hands reached under the soft fabric of her shirt, touching her while slipping off her shirt. They were definitely female hands. �Willow�s hands�. Buffy arched with pleasure at Willow's touch. She had the briefest memory of Angel flash in her head. Being with him was harder, more rushed, not like this sensation. He was full of passion, but he was cold and they never connected fully.
Willow was warm and Buffy could feel it. Their heat was an instant connection. There was nothing hidden. There were no worries. They were free. They were slow, loving, preserving their first time. Buffy was drowning in the love and bliss that she felt coming through Willow�s caresses.
As she returned them, she began to understand just how perfect they were together. They were made for each other. Not for anyone else. She was Willow�s and Willow was hers. As she continued, she was amazed at the extent of the connection they now had. It wasn�t just physical, but emotional as well. She had forgotten everything else. She knew she would, and now she felt like she could see all the way down into Willow�s soul.
Only Willow. There was an immense understanding of each other that was occurring between them, and along with the physical pleasure, it was overwhelming. And beautiful. Buffy knew it was permanent; it wasn�t going to end when they stopped. It was going to last forever.
All ability to think clearly was gone now. All they felt, all they knew, was the cool air on their skin, and their hands exploring one another. It was endless. Curved bodies lying close, lush hollows and peaks to explore, not only with their hands, but with their mouths as well. Soon all they heard was murmured sighs as the ecstasy intensified.
Hearing Willow�s cries of joy, Buffy realized she was close too. They went over the edge together, and felt their strength meld together and held one another as they rode out the whirlwind of emotions threatening to overtake them both. As they came down, Buffy knew she would never ever love anyone with such intensity again, and thanked whoever had placed Willow in her life, over and over.