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by aliceinwonderbra
(aka Find Hope

Rating: R
Summary: According to Go Ask Malice (which I didn't actually read and will probably butcher), Faith's birthday is December 14, 1980. This story begins with Faith's cruciamentum and then takes liberties with the Season 3 canon. 
A/N: Thanks to Retz and CookiesAreAlwaysFood for their patience and assistance.
Oral's Notes: Added email address for Author. Click onto her name, and send her some love :)


Part One - Friday

Rupert Giles clutched the cordless phone tightly to his ear while pacing back and forth through his office. "I don't believe it's necessary." He paused abruptly to listen to the voice on the phone. His fingers tightened reflexively around the plastic as if he could strangle the caller through the line. "Because it's barbaric!" He insisted.

"Giles!" Buffy and her friends could be heard entering the library, Xander's laugh louder than his two female companions. Giles covered the receiver with his palm. "Just a moment!" He called toward the kids, and quickly closed his office door. Uncovering the phone he tried again, "The cruciamentum is absolutely--" Interrupted again, he stopped, his brow furrowing in frustration. He listened for several long moments without speaking. Finally he sighed regretfully. "Very well." He could see Willow and Xander sitting at the table now, the former pulling textbooks from inside her purple backpack. "Yes, I understand." He clicked off the phone with a sigh and opened his door. Sliding his glasses from his nose, he began to polish them as he left the office. Trying to clear his face of his troubled thoughts, he smiled slightly and joined them in the main library.

Xander was leaning toward Willow, trying to see what she was looking for in the bag. The redhead coughed lightly, her face turning pink. "Uh, Xander,"

"Right!" He rapidly aligned his back with the stiff wooden chair. "Keeping a friendly distance. A distance that friends keep!"

Buffy smiled tiredly at the two of them from across the table. "It's okay, Xand. I don't think Cordelia and Oz are lurking in the stacks trying to catch you."

Giles leaned casually against the counter, not really paying attention to their discussion, but instead worrying over the conversation he had just finished.

Willow was still pink but trying to steer the conversation away from her and Xander. "Any sign of Angel, Buffy?"

The slayer shook her head, dropping her eyes to her hands. "No," She sighed. "As far as I can tell he made good on his promise to leave town."

"Good!" Xander chimed enthusiastically. Off their dirty looks, "I mean, err, good. For Buffy!" He fumbled. "Because… you said you didn't want to see him anymore!" He finished triumphantly, pointing one finger in the air in a "Eureka!" pose.

Willow gaped at him disapprovingly for a moment before turning sympathetic eyes to her friend. "Are you doing okay?" She brightened. "Because if you're not, we could have a girls' night!"

"Girls' night?" Faith's gravely voice interrupted them as she sauntered into the library. Hopping up on the counter in one quick movement, she landed next to Giles.

The librarian startled and stood up straighter. "Faith. Hello."

She smirked at him. "G." Glancing at the three friends, "B. Guys." Her gaze turned lazily toward Willow. "Girls' night?"

The hacker flushed again, her fingers twisting nervously in her lap. "Yeah, to ease the post breakup sadness."

"Will there be pillow fights?" Xander asked hopefully. "And nighties that get tangled and removed during the pillow fights?"

Buffy stifled a smile. "Girls' night, Xander."

"Yeah, no boy cooties allowed!" Willow reaffirmed.

Faith jumped from the counter and moved to drop herself into the chair beside Buffy. "Never figured you were that into girl cooties, Red, but hey, I'm down if you're down."

Willow sputtered, her eyes widening in horror at having walked into the sexual innuendo. Buffy's eyes rolled and she gave Faith a long suffering smile. "Do you want to come or not?"

"Will there be pillow fights?" Faith asked, imitating Xander's hopeful voice.

"No!" Cried Willow vehemently. "Just ice cream, and boy talk, and movies, and maybe crying." Her cheeks started returning to their normal color.

"There won't be any crying." The blonde slayer replied patiently, with a pointed look to Willow. "I'm fine, Will, really." She tried to smile brightly and was semi-successful. She looked toward the other slayer expectantly, "So?"

"Eh," Faith replied noncommittally, casually picking up a book from the table and leafing through it with disinterest. She gazed at Buffy from the corner of her eye, trying to gauge whether the other slayer was actually sincere in the invitation. Things between the two of them had been tense ever since Faith had found out the blonde slayer was hiding her recently returned from hell vampire boyfriend. And then there was the Gwendolyn Post thing. Buffy had come by the motel room later that night and their conversation had been replaying in Faith's mind ever since. The blonde slayer wanted Faith to trust her. "I'm on your side." She'd said with what seemed like sincerity. Faith had almost believed her, even called out her name to draw her back. She'd stalled, freaking herself out as she thought of the words to respond to Buffy. Even if the other slayer was lying when she said Faith could count on her, lying was more effort than most people had made with her. But looking at Buffy's expectant face, she couldn't force herself to say anything. If she did, she'd be letting Buffy in. And Faith had learned, was still learning after this shit with Mrs. Post, that vulnerability never helped anything. "Nothing," She'd replied, and ignored the way her stomach clenched when she watched Buffy pad lightly down the stairs and disappear up the street.

The blonde cocked a challenging eyebrow. "You got something better to do?"

Faith felt herself bristling. Bitch. Did she think Faith couldn't have something better to do? She gave Buffy a dismissive eye roll and leaned back in her chair, propping her feet on the smooth library table. Ignoring Giles's disapproving cluck, she replied, "Anything I do would be better than that, B."

Willow looked relieved, but tried hard not to show it. Buffy, on the other hand, appraised her counterpart for a long moment and then tried to switch tactics. "Come on," She wheedled. "It could be fun." Turning to Willow, "Right, Will?"

"Yeah, super fun." Willow responded, without a hint of enthusiasm. It was clear she'd just been expecting this girls' evening to include her and Buffy.

Off Faith's skeptical look, Buffy dipped her head so their eyes met. "I want you to come." She said firmly.

Faith was surprised, but she covered it well. Forcing down the sudden urge to smile, she found herself nodding. "Alright. I'll be there."

Buffy nodded affirmatively. "Good." She turned to her friends. "Lunch now? Growing slayers need their…" She gestured loosely.

"Meatloaf?" Xander asked, with a sympathetic wince as he climbed to his feet.

The blonde frowned and sighed. She looked to Giles dramatically. "If only I had a watcher who understood my dietary needs and would write me a pass to leave school grounds for lunch."

Giles seemed lost in thought as the four teens all shuffled to their feet and prepared to leave.

"Giles?" Buffy waved her hand helpfully in front of him.

"Hmm?" He glanced up surprised. "Yes, Buffy, quite right."

Her expression was exasperated. "You weren't even listening to anything we've been saying."

"Of course I was!" He insisted, and then looked at them in alarm. "You're leaving?"

Xander patted his arm carefully as he passed by. "Should we be concerned about how many times he's hit his head?"

Ignoring the boy, Giles cleared his throat. "Err, Faith, if you would, I'd like to speak with you a few minutes."

Buffy and Faith both looked surprised. The blonde slayer waved confusedly to her counterpart. "I'll meet you tonight then? Early patrol and then girls' night at my place?"

"Sure, B." The brunette responded and watched longingly as the other Scoobs made their escape from the library.

"Well," Said Giles, reaching under the library counter once the doors had swung shut behind the others. "I've been meaning to talk with you about meditation. I have some crystals here that might be useful…"

Faith sagged dramatically against the counter, wishing she'd stayed out of Sunnydale longer.



Buffy walked gracefully through the cemetery, her black boots making barely a whisper on the deteriorating grass underfoot. Faith was a few yards behind her, making quite a bit more noise as she scanned the horizons for any threats. Things had gone this way for most of the evening, with each girl lost in her own thoughts.

Most of Buffy's thoughts centered around Angel. The blonde would not have categorized them as thoughts per se, but more like an intrusive squeal of pain that she could not shake no matter how she tried to will herself to think of something else. True, she had told Angel they couldn't see each other anymore. But somehow she still felt hurt that he'd decide to move on from Sunnydale and see where else he might do some good.

And then there was this tension going on with Giles. Buffy could understand why he was angry that she'd kept Angel's return from them. She'd just been unsure what to do, and she hadn't wanted to upset the gang and have them jump to conclusions like she knew they would. Of course they did anyway, and Xander and Faith had—Wait. Where was Faith?

Glancing behind her, Buffy noticed her slaying partner was moving a little slower than usual. "You okay, Faith?" She called back.

Faith shrugged nonchalantly and picked up her pace. "Five by five, B."

"You just look a little tired or something."

For Buffy to notice, Faith must have looked a lot worse than that. Buffy hardly even seemed to notice Faith was there, let alone look at her for long enough to notice something was wrong. Faith wasn't sure what she'd been expecting when she'd been on her way to meet the other slayer. But whatever it was, it hadn't happened. The infamous Buffy Summers was actually pretty self absorbed when you thought about it. Far from being happy to have another slayer around, Buffy at worst seemed resentful of her presence and at best indifferent. True there were times when Faith thought she saw a spark of something more in Buffy's eyes, like after a particularly hard kill when they'd gaze at each other for a moment, huge grins plastered on both their faces. Or dancing in the Bronze when Buffy'd flip her hair back and look up at Faith through her eyelashes. And Faith would think, Finally. Here it is. And she'd feel her lungs lung tighten in her chest as she smiled back. But then Buffy would glance away and her eyes would wall over like Faith went back to not existing. Faith looked at her back now, curiously. "Little run down tonight." She admitted.

Buffy stopped walking and glanced at her, concerned. "Maybe you should go to a doctor? Slayers don't usually get sick." She paused. "Well, I don't."

Faith's eye roll displayed her irritation. "Yeah, B, you're just about perfect, aren't you?"

The blonde slayer started walking again, biting back her snide response. She tried again, "Just wanna make sure you're okay, F." She smiled as she spotted three vampires ahead of them, moving through the graveyard. "I don't wanna lose my other half."

Faith glanced at her quickly, her face startled but pleased. But Buffy was already picking up her pace, her hand reaching in her jacket to clutch her stake. "Giles'll kill me if you get eaten on patrol."

The dark slayer scowled, pulling out her own stake. "Don't worry, B." She replied, forcing her tired muscles to move faster than Buffy's. "Not plannin' on getting eaten til later."

Buffy's mouth fell open as the other slayer darted in front of her, running at full speed toward the vampires ahead of them. "Do you ever NOT think about sex?"

"Nope," Faith replied. She had reached the surprised vampires and was sailing through the air. Her left foot connected solidly with the closest demon's chest, sending him tumbling to the ground. Buffy barreled in behind her, making quick work of the first vampire and focusing her energy on the third member of the trio.

"So when are you planning on doing that?" Buffy called in Faith's general direction, trading blows with the vampire in front of her.

"Doin' what?" Faith inquired, just before catching a hard cross to her cheekbone. She stumbled slightly before righting herself and throwing out a kick that should have shattered his knee. But it hardly seemed to slow him down, and Faith quickly threw out a flurry of punches to his chest.

"Getting eaten." Buffy yelled back, embarrassed that she was following this conversation anywhere. "You're not getting out of girls' night!"

The vampire hissed and reached for Buffy's throat as she was waiting for Faith's response. "Slayer," He growled. "I can't wait to taste your bl--"

"Do you mind?" Buffy cried, stopping his speech with an accompanying punch to his solar plexus. "We're having a private conversation here."

Several feet away Faith evaded an ill planned dive from her vampire, and watched as he stumbled to the ground. "Well, B, I've seen movies. I know all about these girls' nights." She grinned over to Buffy as her demon climbed unsteadily to his feet and prepared to relaunch himself at her. "Thought you and me'd wait for Red to pass out. Work out some of the post slay jitters." Her eyebrows waggled.

Buffy cleanly staked her vampire and smiled as his shocked face disintegrated. "I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you."

As she looked up, Faith stepped through the dust of her own vampire and stopped inches from Buffy's face. "Oh I won't, B." She purred. "I'm sure you smell, and taste, just fine."

Buffy flushed a horrified red, her mouth hanging open.

Faith sheathed her stake in the pocket of her tight black jeans. "Gonna take your silence as a ‘yes'." She smirked.

Shaking her head indignantly, Buffy found her voice. "Well, then you're gonna be a little disappointed tonight, Faith."

Shrugging, Faith started to walk toward the cemetery's open gates. "We'll see about that." Once Buffy was behind her, Faith let her shoulders sag forward. She was tired. That fight had taken more out of her than it should have. She flexed her fingers experimentally. Even her hands felt kind of worn out. Suddenly, she stumbled on the pathway and reached out her hands reflexively to catch her fall. Strong hands with freshly chipped pink nail polish caught her under her elbows and righted her into a vertical position.

"Are you okay?" Buffy's brow was creased in concern. One hand dropped but the other remained on Faith's right arm as if afraid she would fall over without the assistance.

"Fine, B." The brunette slayer glanced pointedly at Buffy's hand on her arm. "If you couldn't wait til we got back to the house, why didn't you just say so?"

Buffy rolled her eyes, but otherwise ignored Faith's statement. "I think we should get you checked out Faith, you don't seem yourself."

Irritably, the dark slayer tried to shake off Buffy's lingering grip. "Told you, B. I'm five by five. Now let's get back to your place. Red's probably waiting for us."

Buffy frowned but obligingly released Faith's arm. The brunette slayer started walking again in the general direction of Revello Drive.

"Faith?" Buffy's hand was warm as she reached out to grab Faith's fingers.

"B?" Faith gave her an exasperated look.

"Can we at least mention it to Giles?" Buffy smiled at her cajolingly. "You did say you were a little tired."

"Fine, B. Whatever. Can we get moving now?"

"Sure." Buffy said, happy to have gotten her way. She didn't immediately release Faith's hand, which the brunette slayer found odd.

"I know the way," She said pointedly, lifting their joined hands and then allowing them to drop back between them.

"I know," Buffy replied, walking beside her now. She gave Faith's hand a gentle squeeze. "I just—I meant what I said the other day, Faith." She looked at the other slayer carefully. "About being on your side." When Faith didn't reply, she sighed and loosened her grip. "I just want to make sure you're okay."

Now Faith was the one not letting go of Buffy's hand. She squeezed it for a moment, hesitantly, looking down at where their fingers knotted together. Buffy's little pink nails looked so innocent next to Faith's jagged blood red ones. "Okay." She said simply. The two walked in companionable silence for a few minutes and then, "I am feelin' a little hungry, B. How about that late night snack we talked about?"

Buffy laughed and pulled her hand free to smack Faith's arm. The brunette grinned back, and their laughter echoed quietly down the sleeping street.



Quite a bit later, the two slayers sat with Willow on the couch in Buffy's living room. The credits had begun rolling on the romantic comedy playing on television, but no one was paying much attention. Buffy and Willow sat on one half of the couch, the latter smooshed comfortably into the former's side, the two of them wrapped in a blanket. Faith was slumped on the other end of the couch, snoring softly with her head resting against the arm of the sofa. Her thick-soled boots jerked against the coffee table top as she dreamt. Willow snaked her hand into the popcorn bucket sitting on Buffy's lap. "Should we wake her up?" She whispered loudly before tossing the handful of popcorn in her mouth.

"I guess so." Buffy replied uncertainly. The two girls stared at the sleeping slayer. Faith's mouth gaped open slightly and her face was free of lines or tension. Only her eyes moved, shifting rapidly under her closed lids.

"She looks so… normal."

Buffy glanced back at her. "I know. I've never seen her so--" She was interrupted by a mumbled moan coming from Faith's mouth. The brunette's lips perked in a wistful smile.

They both flushed, afraid Faith was waking up. When she didn't stir for another moment, Willow offered, "Relaxed?"

"Yeah," The slayer agreed. "Relaxed."

"Maybe we should leave her here."

Buffy hesitated. "She'd probably be more comfortable in my room."

Willow frowned despondently. "Why is she so tired anyway? She doesn't do anything all day, except probably sleep."

"I don't know, Will." The redhead didn't miss the look of concern on her friend's face. "She said she's been feeling tired, and she seemed a little off. I told her we should talk to Giles. It's not normal for a slayer to get sick. Or at least I don't think it is."

Willow didn't reply and the two girls continued watching the slumbering slayer for several more minutes. "I guess we should clean up." Buffy said finally, kicking the blanket off her legs and standing up. She reached out a hand to Willow and hauled her off the couch as well. Faith didn't stir as the two girls began filling their arms with glasses and empty bowls. Buffy padded quietly into the kitchen, with Willow following behind her. "So," she asked, as they settled their dishes into the sink. "Any change on the Oz sitch?"

Willow's redhead shook back and forth. "No. He says he needs space."

"Well, that's probably good." Buffy started the tap running and set about to rinsing their dishes. "Space can be good when it leads to… Less space."

"What if he doesn't ever want to talk to me again?" Willow slumped sadly against the breakfast bar, dropping herself despondently onto a stool. "I mean, he shouldn't talk to me again. I'm bad. I'm a, a…" She paused. "I'm a shameless hussy!" She finished guiltily.

Buffy glanced back at Willow as she continued moving the dishes into the dishwasher next to her. "Oh Will, that's not true. You made a mistake that's all."

"Yeah." The other girl huffed. "A mistake that got Cordelia impaled and hurt Oz and now mine and Xander's friendship is even weird."

"Well, as mistakes go, it wasn't the smallest one." Buffy smiled supportively to take the sting out of her words. "But it wasn't the biggest one either. Oz loves you and he'll want to talk to you again. He just needs a little time."

"Maybe." Willow replied, unconvinced. Trying to change the subject she studied Buffy's back. "How are you doing? With the whole Angel thing?"

Buffy's shoulders stiffened but she answered her friend in a bright voice. "I'm okay. I mean, I told him we couldn't see each other anymore and now we won't." She finished quietly, "He only gave me what I asked for."

"Yeah," Willow said gently. "But was it really what you wanted?"

"I don't know, Will." Turning the sink off, Buffy wiped her hands on her jeans and turned toward her friend. "I think it's for the best either way."

Willow nodded enthusiastically, eager to support Buffy in her seeming calm. "Maybe sometime later, when everything isn't so fresh." She smiled gently. "I know Angel loves you, Buffy."

The slayer nodded sadly, not meeting her friend's eyes. Footfall could be heard approaching the kitchen and then Faith appeared in the doorway, blinking groggily. "What'd I miss?" She asked.

"Well, most of the movie." Buffy teased.

The brunette rubbed her eyes tiredly. "Sorry. Was it any good?"

"Not really." Buffy said at the same time as Willow replied, "It was okay." Buffy shrugged. "Yeah, it was okay. Nothing to write home about."

"Good." Faith nodded. "So what now, we braid each other's hair or some girly crap?"

Willow looked vaguely horrified at the idea of touching Faith or having the dark slayer touch her. Buffy chuckled. "I'm actually pretty tired." She glanced at her friend. "Unless you wanna stay up Will?" She cocked her head slightly in Faith's direction, widening her eyes at the pale girl.

"Well, I--" Willow paused, catching the hint. "Have never been so tired in my life!" She finished dramatically, awkwardly pulling off a fake yawn. "Yep, that movie, wow, it really took a lot out of me."

Faith looked at her weirdly before nodding. "Yeah, okay, I'm kind of tired, too."

Buffy pushed off the counter and led the way up the stairs to her bedroom. Entering, she flicked on the light and walked to her dresser. Willow entered behind her and started rifling through her overnight bag for her pajamas. Pulling them out, she grabbed her toothbrush and headed down the hall to the bathroom. Buffy pulled out her favorite pajamas and turned back to face Faith. The other slayer was standing next to Buffy's bed, shimmying out of her jeans. Once they were on the floor she quickly stepped out of them and peeled off her socks. "Uh, Faith?"

The dark slayer looked up, standing in a tank top and skimpy black panties. "What?"

"Didn't you pack pajamas?" Buffy asked, flustered and staring at the ground.

The other slayer shrugged. "Don't have pajamas, B." She grinned at Buffy's obvious discomfort.

"Oh, uh…" Buffy tossed her pajamas in Faith's general direction. They landed with a soft thud at the slayer's feet. "You can borrow these."

She looked up as Faith bent to retrieve them. The dark slayer wrinkled her nose. "You want me to wear these? They have dancing bananas on them."

Buffy folded her arms defensively across her chest. "So?"

"So they ain't really me."

"Just wear them." The blonde barked, turning back to her dresser to find pajamas for herself. She heard Faith's low chuckle and the sounds of fabric sliding on. Once she thought it was reasonably safe, Buffy turned back to face her counterpart, clutching another set of pajamas to her chest. Faith glared at her from the other side of the room, now clad in cotton pajama bottoms and a tank top with dancing bananas on it. Buffy smiled at her, somehow resisting the urge to laugh.

"Well, let's see how much better that pair is." Faith gestured toward the pair Buffy held.

The blonde slayer glanced helplessly toward the door, but Willow had not returned yet. Not wanting to appear embarrassed she set her bundle down on the bed and unbuttoned her jeans. Glancing up, she noticed that Faith was watching her, an interested look apparent on her face. Blushing, Buffy forced herself to lower the zipper and slide the jeans down her legs. Faith's eyes moved slowly from Buffy's face down over her torso to caress her uncovered hips and thighs. The slow smirk on her face let the other slayer know she was enjoying what she was seeing. Buffy quickly picked up her pajama pants and all but jumped into them.

Faith swallowed hard and then forced a salacious grin. "Pink panties, B. I'm not surprised." She cocked an eyebrow at the other slayer. "Got a matchin' bra?"

Determined now not to let Faith get the best of her, Buffy peeled off her long sleeved white t-shirt, and then the tank top underneath it. She was indeed wearing a pink bra, although this undergarment had white polka dots on it. Faith chortled to herself, moving now to settle on the sleeping bag laid out on Buffy's bedroom floor. She gazed up at Buffy, watching the blonde slayer's cheeks flush redder.

Buffy pulled her pajama top on, finally feeling more comfortable now that she was fully clothed again. Willow returned to the room, looking surprised to see the two slayers both changed in her absence. She placed her neatly folded clothing on top of her overnight bag and sat down cross legged on Buffy's bed. Buffy pulled her hair into a messy ponytail. "I'll just go brush my teeth." She said, and made a quick escape into the hallway. She stalked toward the bathroom feeling jittery. Faith's sexual innuendos were one thing, but the way she sometimes looked at Buffy made it seem, well, a little too real. The blonde slayer felt wound up, irritated and uncomfortable. But also confused. Was Faith playing her usual games or did she actually, kind of, maybe find Buffy attractive? Shaking her head as if to clear it, Buffy pulled her pink toothbrush from the stand on the sink and squirted some toothpaste on. As she was finishing brushing and leaning over to spit, she felt someone enter the room behind her. She looked up abruptly, catching Faith's gaze in the mirror when she felt the other slayer place her hands on her hips and brush against her from behind. Faith let go as she moved past Buffy, settling herself next to her at the sink.

"Forgot my toothbrush." She shrugged innocently.

Wordlessly, Buffy rinsed out her mouth and then opened the cabinet. There was a new toothbrush still in the package sitting on the shelf, and she grabbed it for Faith. "Here you go."

"Thanks," Faith seemed genuinely surprised, as if she had been expecting Buffy to order her to use her finger. Buffy nodded in response and left the bathroom.

Back in the bedroom, Willow was propped against the headboard of Buffy's bed, her hands folded neatly in her lap. "Everything okay?" She asked curiously.

Buffy beamed at her. "Fine, Will." Walking to her dresser, she pulled her ponytail holder out and quickly ran a brush through her long hair.

Faith returned as she was finishing, and dropped herself unceremoniously to the floor, atop the sleeping bag.

"Why don't you sleep in my bed?" Buffy offered generously, forgetting her irritation at Faith's wandering eyes. The other slayer had looked pretty exhausted after patrol, and Buffy was concerned that something might seriously be wrong with her.

Faith again looked surprised, but she climbed to her feet anyway. "Thanks, B." She muttered, climbing onto the bed next to Willow.

The redhead flushed and looked uncomfortable. "Uh, Buffy," She said, standing up quickly. "I can sleep on the floor."

Buffy smiled. "Don't be silly, Will. You're a guest."

"Oh no," Willow shook her head vehemently. "You know my mom always says you're only a guest the first time you come over and after that you're just, umm, not. A guest, that is." Off Buffy's confused look, "And plus! I'm sure you're tired. I mean patrolling right? Whew. I bet that was something!" She smiled nervously at Buffy, glancing toward the bed where Faith was watching her with a smirk in place.

"Okay, Will." Buffy replied slowly. "Thanks I guess." She settled herself into Willow's recently vacated spot, reaching onto the bedside table to flick off the light. "Goodnight guys."

The room was quiet for a long time, and during that time, Buffy could hear Willow's heart beat slow down and her breathing deepen. On the other hand, she could feel Faith was still awake. The brunette slayer lay unmoving beside her, but Buffy could hear that her breathing was too regulated to be genuine. As she was thinking about asking whether the other girl was alright, Buffy felt a warm hand skate onto her hip. She startled, but didn't say anything. The hand remained largely in the same place, although she gradually became aware that two of Faith's fingers were under her shirt, touching her side lightly. Slowly, Faith's hand meandered fully under Buffy's top and onto her stomach. The blonde whipped her head around to face Faith in the darkness.

The other girl grinned. "I'm feelin' a little hungry, B, how ‘bout you?" She shifted closer to Buffy, bringing their faces within a few inches from each other.

"Faith." Buffy whispered back dangerously. "If you want to use that hand ever again, you'll get it off me."

Faith laughed quietly, but she removed her hand. Her fingertips trailed across Buffy's tensed stomach until she dropped her hand at her side. "Night, B." She said, exhaling comfortably, back on her own side.

"Night." Buffy replied, closing her eyes and thinking about what a long night this would be.



Buffy woke up early the next morning. The light coming through her window was bright, and she cautiously opened her eyes. Soft snoring came from the floor, where Willow's red hair was spread out over her pillow, shining in the sun beams. Faith lay beside her, curled on her side towards Buffy. Her knees were curled upward, resting against Buffy's thigh. Her left arm disappeared underneath Buffy's pillow, her right palm resting on her upper arm. Buffy smiled slightly to herself. Faith looked better than she had the night before. The bags under her eyes had all but disappeared, and the brunette looked quite peaceful. "Faith," Buffy whispered, turning on her side to face the other slayer.

The dark slayer's eyes snapped open abruptly, and her right fist was suddenly flying toward Buffy's face. The blonde reacted on instinct, reaching up to catch Faith's fist in her hand. They stared at each other for a moment. Faith looked surprised that she had tried to clean Buffy's clock, but the blonde had already forgotten about that and was surprised at how easily she'd stopped Faith's hand from connecting with her face. "Sorry, B." Faith said sheepishly, trying to pull her hand back from Buffy's grip. Buffy didn't immediately let go and Faith frowned, pulling harder. "What the hell?" She demanded, suddenly sitting upright, although her hand was still immobilized.

Buffy sat up too, as did a dazed Willow, whose sleepy eyes appeared over the side of the bed. "You can't get your hand back?" Buffy asked gently.

Faith pulled hard but she wasn't able to disentangle herself. "What the hell, B?" She repeated, struggling angrily.

Buffy released her fingers, and the dark slayer nearly tumbled off the bed as her struggling paid off. Catching the bedspread, she dragged herself into a sitting position. Buffy gnawed her lip worriedly. "Something's wrong." She said, looking at the other slayer in concern.

"What're you talking about? What's going on?"

"Hit me." Buffy ordered.

"What?" Willow cried from the floor, but Faith was just looking at the blonde slayer incredulously.

"Seriously," Buffy offered. "Hit me, as hard as you can."

Faith shrugged, not about to pass up a chance to display her skill, even if Buffy was acting strangely. She cocked her right fist and aimed for Buffy's shoulder. Her hand nearly sailed by, but managed to clip the edge of Buffy's shoulder, although the slayer wasn't moved in the slightest.

Faith grimaced in pain, pulling her hand back against her body. Buffy watched her, wide eyed. "Something's wrong." She repeated. "We have to talk to Giles. Now."



Part One - Saturday

After a hurried phone call to Giles and some frantic changing of clothes, the three girls trooped into Sunnydale High's library. Xander was already seated at the table. "On a Saturday?" He cried accusingly, upon setting eyes on them. "Is it the end of the world? Because that's the only reason we should be in school on Saturday." Beside him, Giles sighed and rubbed his forehead vigorously. He had clearly been subjected to Xander's opinion on Saturday meetings for too long.

The librarian gazed up at them and addressed Buffy. "I'm afraid Xander is correct in his assumption that it would be the end of the world before you'd give up your Saturday. You said it was a matter of some urgency?"

"Actually what I said was ‘Giles! Meeting! Now! Bring donuts!'" Buffy repeated her earlier statement.

Willow peered over her shoulder. "I don't see any donuts." She whined.

Giles gestured vaguely toward the counter, where a box of donuts sat open, minus two jellies which had mysteriously disappeared. Faith snagged a glazed, and settled next to Xander at the table. She chewed her first bite with less than her usual enthusiasm before answering Giles's inquiry. "Something's wrong with me."

Giles looked surprised. "What do you mean?"

Buffy interrupted, her face concerned. "She was tired on patrol, and kind of clumsy. This morning she tried to hit me and it might as well have been Xander for how much effect it had."

The aforementioned male frowned at her. "Thanks, Buff."

She waived at him apologetically. "Something's wrong with Faith's powers, Giles. We have to figure out what it is."

"Yes, well." The watcher cleared his throat and stood up. "I'm sure it'll work itself out."

Faith's chewing slowed, and she turned her gaze toward the tabletop. Why had she let Buffy talk her into coming to see Giles? He didn't give a damn about what was going wrong with her. If it were Buffy, then he'd care. Would probably call an immediate research meeting and lay her on his couch fluffed up on pillows.

"What?" Buffy cried incredulously. "Giles, you're not listening to me. Faith's strength is gone. It's like she's a normal human."

"She's probably just a little sick, Buffy." He said reassuringly.

"Thought slayers don't get sick." Faith interjected, trying but not quite succeeding to mask the concern in her voice.

Giles again looked unconcerned, rising from the table to help himself to a donut. "Usually that's the case, but of course slayers are still human; it's possible to become ill. It's likely just a case of the flu. Buffy, you remember you had the flu once."

"Yeah," Buffy conceded reluctantly. "But this is different than with Der Kerouac."

"Der Kindestod." Giles corrected absently.

Ignoring her mistake, the slayer stared at her watcher in concern. "Giles, this is serious. Faith doesn't have a fever and a sore throat. Her power is gone. She isn't sick. It's something else."

Faith nodded in agreement. "I still feel like me, I guess. But my strength is gone and even my balance is shot."

"Something's draining your mojo!" Willow offered sympathetically. "A slayer mojo draining… flu." She paused. "Oh! Or demon." Looking at Giles, "Could it be a demon?"

Giles nodded reluctantly. "I guess it's possible."

"Research?" To her credit, Buffy managed to keep the utter lack of enthusiasm from being overly obvious.

"No, that's alright!" Giles assured them quickly. "I'll tell you what; I will reach out to some contacts in the council, see if they've heard of anything like this before. Give me a few days and I'll have an answer for you."

"Thank you!" Buffy said, relieved.

"Yeah," Faith muttered angrily. "A few days doesn't matter, right? Some vamp guts me, who cares? I'm just the backup slayer, right?"

Giles frowned. "Of course not, Faith."

Buffy gaped at her fellow slayer in dismay before walking over to stand behind her chair in solidarity. "No one thinks that." She murmured quietly. "Giles will find out what's going on."

"I will." The librarian vowed. "In the meantime, be very careful on patrol. In fact, Faith, you may want to skip patrol all together." He smiled kindly. "Stay home and get some rest."

Faith's boots hit the floor hard as she ungracefully stood up to protest. "Not happenin', G."

Buffy looked at her sympathetically. She couldn't imagine how it must feel to suddenly be normal again, after having experienced being a slayer. "It's okay, Giles. We'll be fine."

"Will and I will go too," Xander offered. "Give you some extra back up."

Faith arched her eyebrow skeptically. "Sure, we need somebody to hide until it's over, you're our man."

"I'm your man." Xander nodded happily. "Hey, wait!"

Smiling at them, Buffy turned back to her watcher. "See Giles, we've got it covered."

"Alright." He said worriedly.

"Now that that's settled, maybe Faith should stay with someone until this is sorted out?" Xander suggested, obviously thinking of his own house.

"No need." Faith replied coolly. "I've been on my own before, even without slayer powers. Don't need a babysitter."

Buffy stepped a little closer to Faith. "You sure? Because you could stay with me."

"Yeah, B. I'll be fine." Faith glowered.

"Xander may be right." Giles looked as though this admission pained him grievously.

"Thank you!" Xander beamed.

Inclining his head to Xander, the watcher continued. "Better play it smart and stick together in case this is the work of a demon." He turned to a displeased Faith, who was glaring at Buffy. "Faith, err, would that be alright?"

Shaking her head already, the dark slayer released a long suffering sigh. "Whatever."

"Good!" Buffy chirped brightly. "Then it's settled. Faith, let's go by your place and grab some stuff. Like pajamas." She finished pointedly. The blonde slayer's face fell when her counterpart gave her a half hearted smirk and made a quick exit from the library.

Buffy watched her go, and then turned her watcher. "We have to find out what's going on, Giles. You know Faith; she won't back down from a fight. She's going to get hurt."

Giles looked uncomfortable but quickly agreed. "I will do some checking with the council, Buffy. I'm sure by next week Faith will be just fine."

"Okay," Buffy said, unconvinced, but managed to smile at her two best friends. "See you guys tonight?"

"Yep, we'll be there." Xander confirmed.

"And ready to slay!" Willow agreed.

Smiling indulgently back at them, Buffy clarified, "Well, maybe just ready to run away in case of baddies."

"That too." The redhead smiled. She walked over and linked her arm with Buffy's. "Come on, let's see where Faith got to."

"Actually, Will," Buffy smiled apologetically. "Do you mind if I handle this alone, and just meet you guys later?"

"Oh," Willow said, trying not to sound disappointed. "Sure, it's kind of a slayer thing anyway. We'll meet you later."

"Thanks." Buffy patted her arm and then headed out of the library. She picked up her pace into a light jog as she left the main school building. Faith, of course, had not gotten very far. Buffy dropped into a walk beside her, leaning over to casually bump her shoulder against the other girl's. "Hey," She murmured.

The brunette gave her a head dip and continued in the direction of her apartment. They walked in silence for a while. Buffy wasn't sure what she could possibly say that was going to make Faith feel any better. The other slayer was always excited to go on patrol. She seemed to have an innate love of the hunt that Buffy wasn't sure she herself had experienced. To her, slaying was a chore. Something to fit in between school, friends, and sneaking away for smoochies with Angel. Angel. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, trying to stop the tightness she felt deep in her chest. This was not a good time to think about Angel and start wallowing. Faith was dealing with… Whatever it was they were dealing with.

Buffy glanced at Faith's solemn expression from the corner of her eye. "You're not the back-up slayer, you know." When the brunette didn't respond, she cleared her throat nervously. "I, umm, I can't even begin to imagine what you're dealing with here. But whatever is causing this, we'll figure it out. You're one of us now, Faith." In lieu of a response, the dark slayer kept plodding along, her face blank. Buffy sighed. "Which of course you would know from how I've been such a great friend since you got here." She muttered under her breath. "But what I'm trying to say is that I wanna be here now. If you wanna talk or anything." When she finished, Buffy reached out to grab Faith's arm impatiently. "So do you?" She asked, as Faith stopped and looked at her in confusion.

"Do I what?"

"Want to talk."

"About what?"

Exasperated, Buffy sighed. "About you know, what's going on." She gestured loosely into the air between them and looked earnestly into the other girl's eyes. "I know you probably think I don't care about you. Because of everything with Angel and well… I don't know, just everything. But, Faith, I do. I guess I was just… Surprised maybe. By you coming here and by you being so… Faith." Buffy smiled gently. "But I think once we deal with all of this stuff, well, we could have a really great thing going on here. I mean, two slayers, how awesome is that?" The blonde slayer stopped rambling and beamed at her counterpart, satisfied that she had gotten her point across.

The confusion in Faith's face slowly melted into a look of surprised excitement. She stepped a little closer to the shorter girl and tentatively brought her hands up to rest on Buffy's biceps. Faith squeezed tentatively. "B, I, uh," She stammered. "Shit. I don't really know if I can do that. I mean I've never really tried." She bit her lip and a small smile escaped around her gleaming white teeth.

"Oh," Buffy's smile faltered. Faith didn't have friends wherever she came from? And wasn't sure if she could have one now?

"Don't look like that," Faith said quietly. "Didn't know you wanted it to be like that, B…" She trailed off, unsure how to finish. Instead she cursed softly under her breath, and yanked Buffy in close to her. The stunned slayer let out a small grunt of surprise when Faith's mouth suddenly covered hers in a tentative kiss.

Buffy was not immediately clear on what was happening. Instead her brain took a long moment to process the event. She was being kissed. By Faith. Who was a slayer. And also a girl. A girl was kissing her. Faith was kissing her. And Buffy was kissing back? She opened her eyes in alarm and gently put her hands to Faith's hips, planning to push her away.

When Faith felt Buffy's small hands land clumsily against her sides, she smiled against the other girl's lips and stepped closer. One hand slid around to the back of her waist and pulled their hips flush together. The other snaked upward to cup Buffy's cheek carefully.

Shit, Buffy thought, as her stomach pressed into Faith's. What was happening here? She gripped Faith's waist harder, intending to pull away from her. Before she could, Faith released her, her right hand joining its mate at Buffy's hips. Their faces remained closed together, Buffy's surprised hazel eyes staring back into Faith's pleased brown gaze. "Been wanting to do that for a long time," Faith quietly confessed, her flushed cheeks glowing.

"Oh," Said Buffy awkwardly.

"Yeah," Muttered Faith, starting to realize something wasn't right about this situation. She took a large step back from Buffy, who quickly averted her eyes and started walking again.

"Guess we should keep moving." The blonde mumbled.

Flushing angrily, Faith put some speed into her walk and tried bypassing the other slayer. "Look, I'll just meet you on patrol later."

"Huh?" Buffy matched pace with her easily. "Are you sure?"

The dark slayer rolled her eyes. "Yeah. I need a little break from movie watching and powwows with the A Team."

"Oh," Replied Buffy, hurt. "Okay."

"See ya." Faith jerked her head in Buffy's direction and then kept moving toward her motel as the other slayer slowed to a halt behind her. As she neared the motel, the brunette could feel herself getting angrier and angrier. What the fuck had she been thinking, kissing Buffy? Yeah, B had said she wanted Faith. Had said they'd had something great even. But then as soon as she acted on it, the prim and proper little slayer acted embarrassed it had even happened. She should have known Buffy wouldn't handle this shit. Probably thinking about her fucking vampire the whole time, Faith thought bitterly. Buffy could give it up to a dead demon, but just kissing Faith was enough to completely repulse her. The slayer rolled her eyes as she strode up to her door, angrily jamming the key into the flimsy lock. Once the door was safely closed behind her, she raked frustrated fingers through her messy hair. I can't believe I have to spend the whole night with her.



I can't believe I have to spend the night with her. Buffy thought anxiously, as she and Faith walked into her house later that night. As promised, Faith had been aggressively stomping around their first cemetery of the night when Buffy arrived with the Scoobs in tow. Willow and Xander had been clearly uncomfortable with the tense silence between the slayers, and the patrol was heavier on the danger, lighter on the banter than it usually was when the gang was together. Now patrol was finished and the two slayers were retiring to Buffy's house, much to Faith's obvious resentment.

They climbed the stairs together in silence and Buffy paused as they entered her room. She eyed her double bed speculatively. "I can sleep on the floor," She offered feebly, her cheeks flushing red.

"Don't worry, B." The other slayer sneered back at her cruelly. "I won't touch you."

"I wasn't saying that." Buffy stammered. Great job, Buffy. Make her feel like a freak.

Rolling her eyes, Faith crossed the room and put her bag down to begin rifling through it.

Feeling upset herself, Buffy huffed and grabbed her pajamas from where she'd discarded them this morning, stomping out of her room and to the bathroom. Who did Faith think she was? Out of nowhere, the other slayer had grabbed and kissed her and then she acted put out that Buffy wasn't into it? And she'd said she didn't even want to be friends either!

Buffy stripped off her clothes angrily, leaving a thin coating of vampire dust over the bathroom rug. Suddenly she froze, one leg still tangled in her jeans. Oh, God. Faith had thought she was saying—Oh, God. Oh, God. The other slayer thought Buffy was hitting on her! The air seemed to move around her and she grabbed the countertop as she realized she was falling sideways over her crumpled pile of denim. Struggling out of her pants, the slayer began pulling on her pajamas robotically. She paused again, this time while pasting her toothbrush. Faith thought Buffy was hitting on her, and her reaction was to kiss her. So…



Faith liked her? Like a light bulb had suddenly illuminated her brain, Buffy's memories started to fit together in a now complete puzzle. Faith asking her to go to Homecoming together. Faith's fingers entwining with hers on the dance floor at the Bronze. Faith's eyes flicking her up and down when they met for patrol at night. The quick tempo of her heartbeat whenever Buffy pinned her during sparring.

A light knock on the bathroom door startled her and she squeezed a huge glob of toothpaste out onto the counter. "Crap!" She muttered. "Uh, yeah? I mean, come in."

Joyce peered through the doorframe at her. "Hi, honey."

"Oh." Buffy smiled. "Hey, mom. Did we wake you up?"

"No, just wanted a drink of water." Her mother entered and smiled softly while smoothing her hand over Buffy's rumpled hair. "How was patrol?"

"Okay." Buffy shrugged noncommittally, grabbing some tissues to wipe up the streak of toothpaste she'd left behind.

"And Faith's sleeping over?"

"Mhmm." Buffy pasted her brush again, more carefully this time.

"No fooling around tonight, okay?"

The tube jerked in her hand and a line of toothpaste bypassed her brush to land in the sink. "What?" Buffy stammered. "Mom, we're not—I mean, it's not like that."

Joyce finished filling her glass with cool water and gave her daughter a long suffering look. "Every time you girls start sparring in the house, something gets broken! I'd like to just go one week without replacing any of the furniture."

"Oh," Buffy was relieved. "Sure, no sparring."


"Promise." Buffy smiled broadly when her mother patted her arm affectionately.

"Okay. Goodnight, baby."

"Night, Mom." Closing the door behind her mom, Buffy quickly ran through the rest of her before bed routine. She would talk to Faith when she got back to the bedroom. They'd straighten this out and then get back to, well, whatever they usually did. Buffy gathered her dirty clothes into her arms and tossed them into the hamper. She made her way quietly back to her bedroom, careful not to disturb Joyce.

Inside, Faith lay curled on one side of the bed. She wore the pajamas Buffy had leant her the night before. The anger simmering in her blood all night had faded. Truth be told, she wasn't even thinking about Buffy Summers and the mind fuck she'd pulled on her earlier that night. Something was very seriously wrong with her, she knew that now. Patrol had been slow, but even with that, she felt exhausted. The cuts on her knuckles she'd gotten from waling on some newbie in Restfield had already healed, but her thoughts lingered on how much her hands had hurt when she was doing the punching. And it had barely affected the vamp! If Xander hadn't chosen that moment to appear behind him with a stake and miraculously pierce the demon's heart, he would probably have overpowered her.

Faith loved being a slayer. She loved feeling strong and kicking ass. And she loved that, for the first time in her life, she felt like she was doing something. Like all the times teachers had seen her unwashed face or her too small clothing and looked at her with pity were behind her. She didn't care anymore about the times the cops would show up and chase her and the other kids like her off the corners at night, whipping out at their thin limbs with their nightclubs and telling them to get lost like so much trash. She was better than that now. There was one slayer in the world, and she was it. Until of course she found out there were two. Still, two was not such a bad number. Depending on who your number two was.

But what if whoever picked the slayers realized they got it wrong with her? This could just be them fixing their mistake. If she wasn't a slayer, she'd go back to being some forgotten kid with an absentee parent whose cocky mouth had gotten her into more scraps than she cared to remember.

The bed dipped behind her as Buffy settled herself in on the other side of the bed. The blonde sighed heavily like maybe she wanted to start a conversation. Faith realized in dim horror that hot tears had started to slide down her cheeks. She froze, willing her breath steady and squeezing her eyes shut in an attempt to keep any and all moisture from escaping. Faith absolutely hated to cry. Whenever she felt even the slightest prick of tears under her eyelids, she'd head right out and find a distraction. A man, a fight, a bottle of Jack, whatever it took to take her away from herself. But here she was, trapped in Buffy fucking Summers's bed and starting to cry like a fucking girl. The dark slayer forced herself to calm down. She'd be damned if she'd let Buffy know she was crying. The day had been bad enough without adding this to it. Unfortunately, she discovered that her shoulder had betrayed her and was trembling when she heard the blonde's startled intake of breath behind her.

"Faith," Buffy called gently and scooted closer to into her personal space. Buffy's warm palm skated hesitantly onto her shoulder. Faith ignored her and ordered herself to stop crying. Her chest swelled with anger when she felt a low sob start to build in her throat. "Oh, Faith," Buffy whispered, "Com'ere." The dark slayer tried to resist, but Buffy's strength pulled hard against her shoulder until she had to relent and drop onto her back. Firm fingers reached for her right shoulder and tried to pull her forward so the two slayers would face together. Faith let her body go dead weight. She didn't need Buffy's pity.

"Leave me alone." She muttered.

Buffy looked pained and she stopped trying to pull the other girl toward her. "I can't do that." She replied quietly. But she didn't resume her struggle to turn the brunette's body. Instead she settled for leaving her left hand tucked in the crook of Faith's elbow. Letting her head drop onto the pillow next to the other girl's, she laid there silently.

Faith desperately wished she were anywhere else in the world. As a child, she'd learned quickly that crying solved nothing. Her mother never came to hold her, never cradled her or rocked her or even told her she was okay. No hands ever reached to push her damp hair from her face or smooth down her back comfortingly. So she'd learned not to bother crying. She'd learned that the less you expect from people the better off you'd be. They were by and large assholes who were only interested in themselves, and the less weakness you showed in front of them, the better.

Diana had been different. Her general British stuffiness was there, like with any watcher, but when Faith had done a particularly skilled move in training, or had said something that amused her, Diana's delicate hand would briefly land on her shoulder, each squeeze a congratulation, each pat a sign of her pride in Faith. The time she'd lived with Diana had been the only time in her life that Faith had ever felt like she'd belonged anywhere. Or that anyone cared for her. But now Diana was gone. She'd been ripped to pieces by Kakistos while the terrified new slayer could not save her. Diana was gone and Faith was left with nothing, all over again.

Thinking about her failure to save her watcher really wasn't helping the situation. The sounds of Faith's muffled crying filled the room and she brushed off Buffy's hand to impatiently wipe the tears off her face. It was then that she saw in the moonlight the glint of tears tracking down Buffy's face. Faith covered her face with both palms. She didn't know how to do this. If Diana had been the one witnessing this pathetic breakdown maybe it would be different…

She's dead. Faith's inner monologue was furious. You let her die. Her chest ached as she swallowed hard over the lump in her throat. She had no watcher, no family, not one fucking person in the entire fucking world who gave a shit about her. Even the council who should have cared hadn't bothered to assign her a new watcher. And it was so obvious that Giles thought of her as the expendable slayer. It was like she was right back where she was before Diana had found her. Except… Now she lay in the darkness with Buffy crying quietly into wayward strands of Faith's hair. The other slayer was holding onto her arm and she was crying, because Faith was hurt. Maybe B wasn't just blowing smoke up her ass with all that talk about being able to trust her. The brunette felt a louder sob bubble in her throat, and this time when Buffy's strong arm snaked across her and pulled forward, Faith let herself be moved. As the blonde slid both arms around her and pulled her in close, the dark slayer's sobs increased to the point where they were almost screams. Her arms folded around Buffy's tiny waist, fists knotting in her pajama top.

"Okay," Buffy whispered, smoothing her hair back from her hot face. "It's okay, Faith, it's okay."

Faith's headshake was frantic, her tears soaking into Buffy's shirt and leaving her skin hot and sticky.

Unsure what to do, Buffy just held on as the other girl shook in her arms. Faith's broken cries eventually trailed off, but she remained in Buffy's arms, her head tucked beneath the blonde's chin. "Gotta get ‘em back." She muttered finally, as if to herself.

"We will."

"Gotta get ‘em back." Faith repeated, her voice hoarse. "If I'm not a slayer anymore, I'm just… Nothing."

"That's not true." Buffy protested, shocked.

"Yes, it is."

"Faith," The blonde said, and she pulled back so she could peer into the other girl's face. "We will get your powers back. I promise you."

The brunette gave an unconvinced nod and pulled backward out of Buffy's hold. Once free she rolled to face the wall, putting more distance between the two of them.

Buffy stared at Faith's back. The other girl was taking deep, calming breaths now. This was obviously not the time to talk about what had happened earlier, no matter how much Buffy suddenly wanted to. But maybe Faith wouldn't mind answering just a few questions… No. Faith's upset. This can wait. But the blonde was so curious now, even though she wasn't sure she was ready to face the answers Faith would give. I'm not going to bring it up. I won't bring it up. "Faith?" She asked. Maybe just one question.


"Today when you, uh, kissed me--"

"Look, it won't happen again. Can you just drop it?" Faith coughed to hide the fact that she was still sniffling.

Buffy flushed. "I didn't know you were gay."

Faith muttered darkly. "I'm not."

"But you kissed me." Buffy repeated vacantly.

"Look, it's just you, okay?"

"What does that mean?"

"It means," Faith began loudly, then paused and lowered her voice. "It means you just make it like this for me, okay?"

"Oh," Said Buffy, not really understanding. Faith didn't like girls? Because she'd definitely seemed to like girls earlier. The other slayer's hands had been confident as they pulled her in closer, holding her back like they were made to fit there. "Faith?"

"What?" She practically barked.

Buffy gazed timidly at the back of her bedmate's head. "I just wanted to know how long."

Faith rolled to face her, irritation plain in her movements. "How long what?"

"How long you wanted to do it for?"

The dark slayer sighed. "I don't know. Maybe since Kakistos."

"Oh." Very intelligent reply, Buffy. She scolded herself. This conversation was not going as smoothly as she'd planned. Somehow she had to tell Faith that she wasn't interested. Flattered yes, interested no. The other slayer had pointedly closed her eyes now but even as she feigned sleep, her face was guarded. Tension was evident in her brow and her shoulders were stiff. The dark slayer almost always looked defensive, Buffy realized. Except for earlier today. That had been the only time she'd ever seen Faith look truly open or relaxed. The expression on her face after they'd kissed. Faith had been… Well, happy. The brunette's usual smile was bold and sharp, beautiful but cold. The one tonight had been different. It wasn't so wide as usual, more like a soft sweep of her lips upward. Only a bare hint of her teeth were displayed and her eyes were wide with undisguised pleasure. Buffy liked that smile. It seemed like maybe that was the real Faith, hidden under layers of eyeliner and diamond smiles.

And it wasn't as though the kiss had been bad exactly. "How about now?" She blurted out, surprising herself.

Faith lazily opened her eyes. "Huh?"

"Do you want to kiss me now?" Buffy clarified, suddenly feeling nervous. What am I doing?

Faith stared back at her for a long moment. Then she nodded, a muscle in her jaw ticking.

"Okay," Buffy breathed out, and she slid a little closer to where the dark slayer was lying.

Lying perfectly still, Faith felt her heartbeat start to speed up. She wondered if Buffy's slayer senses could pick that up. Probably. Fuck. Be cool, Lehane. She's just a chick. The other slayer's soft mouth pressed in on hers experimentally. Faith's eyes fluttered shut as she sank forward, trying to keep her movements slow enough not to alarm the other girl.

Oh my God. Buffy was experiencing a surge of butterflies in her belly as she leaned in, pressing more confidently into Faith's full lips. Maybe not butterflies. It was something bigger, like maybe pelicans. Pelicans setting off for a transatlantic flight in her stomach.

Her palms practically itched to slide over Buffy's soft skin and meet on the smooth muscle of her back but Faith managed to keep still. She had no idea why she was letting this happen again. In the morning B would probably act all goody goody hetero super slayer and Faith would be just as pissed as she'd been earlier that day. But Jesus, it was Buffy and what else could she do? Her patience was rewarded when the other slayer's warm fingers slid into the gap between Faith's arm and her side, and rested lightly against her back. With a muffled moan, the dark slayer grabbed the other girl and pulled their bodies flush. She was expecting to vie for dominance with Buffy, but was pleasantly surprised when her peach lips parted under Faith's gently probing tongue.

She exhaled hard when Faith's quick tongue darted against hers, faint traces of cherry lip gloss flavoring the kiss. Buffy's free hand made its way to Faith's dark hair, winding in and pulling the other girl closer. The slayer realized with surprise that she was smiling against Faith's mouth. She liked this. A lot. The thought might have been more alarming, but simultaneously she became aware that her breasts were pressing into Faith's scantily covered chest. "Mmm." She tugged hard on the other girl's hips, bringing them into hard contact with hers.

"Wow." Faith gasped, pulling back a little bit. "Trying to start something, B?"

"No." Buffy assured her nervously. Like what? No, no. She wasn't trying to start something. An hour ago she had been thinking of how to let Faith down easily. And now they were making out somewhat frantically in her bed. Faith thought she was ready to start something? "No." She repeated firmly.

The flicker of panic across her fellow slayer's face made Faith's stomach clench in disappointment. Stupid. Fucking stupid. Again, for the second time in one day she'd let Buffy play games with her. "Yeah," She muttered, extracted herself fully from the other girl. "Okay."

Watching her retreat, Buffy felt hurt. Apparently Faith didn't wanna kiss her unless she was going to get something more out of it. Angel had never been like that. Her heart seized. Angel. He'd hardly left Sunnydale and here she was making out with Faith. Faith of all people, who'd tried to kill him. She blinked hard, wiped her palm down her suddenly tired face. This was a disaster. Rolling away, she turned her back to face Faith's. It was a long time before she could fall asleep.



Part One - Sunday

Dawn was just beginning to creep through the gossamer curtains when Faith blinked slowly and entered wakefulness. She flexed her arms experimentally, hoping to feel stronger now than she had the day before. Nothing. Eyes squeezed shut in sudden anger and frustration, she clenched her fists tightly. Beside her, the other slayer gave a sleepy sigh and shifted in her sleep, bringing the back of her hand into Faith's side. Her brown eyes opened again to look at Buffy. The blonde didn't seem to be on the verge of waking any time soon. As silently as possible, the dark slayer slid from the bed and stripped off the borrowed pajamas she was wearing. Her black leather pants slid up her thighs like a second skin and she pulled her top on carelessly. Without a glance to Buffy, she picked her boots up and slipped out the door.

Fucking heater's screwed up again.Faith huffed in agitation when she stepped into the motel room. Nothing in this dump ever worked the way it was supposed to. The heat was too high or it shut off altogether. In the summer, the AC spewed out lukewarm air and the shower stung like needles as it drummed out hot water for no longer than four minutes at a time. She dropped her keys on the rickety table by the door and toed her boots off. Flopping fully clothed on the bed, she pulled one of the musty pillows in under her head. It was probably time to think about heading out of Sunnydale. Maybe she'd go up to LA for a while. Boston was out. She'd never go back to that place again. But there was no sense in staying in Sunnydale if she wasn't a slayer anymore. Buffy barely tolerated her as a slayer.

Buffy. Faith felt sick just thinking about the night before. Bad enough to cry in front of her but to let herself kiss the other slayer again? She was an idiot. An idiot for letting Buffy mess with her head like this. She didn't even blame the other girl really. Probably just felt sorry for me.Poor little Faith, stupid and weak and crying. B was just the type to go in for that shit. The girl was a sucker for a tragic headcase. The heat in the room was becoming less tolerable by the moment, and she sat up abruptly, flinging the pillow away from her. Screw this. She'd go get a shower and get out of here. Go check the bus schedules maybe. From there it was a simple matter of scraping together some cash for a ticket. Or if she got really desperate, hitching.

A knock at the door made her pause on the way to the tiny bathroom. "Yeah?" She called out, wondering who could be at the door.

"Faith?" Giles was calling, as she swung the door open. "Oh," He said, at normal volume. "Faith. I was going to see you at Buffy's but I happened to see you walking this way."

She nodded and leaned against the door frame.

"May I come in?" The watcher asked formally.

She shrugged and released the door, stepping inside and seating herself at the end of her bed.

Giles looked around uncomfortably, taking in the clothes tossed haphazardly and the scarred furniture.

"What's up, G?" The girl asked impatiently, wondering what could have made Giles show up at her residence for the first time.

"I was thinking perhaps we could do a little more meditation." He jiggled the paper bag in his hand.

Eyebrows arched skeptically, Faith shrugged. "Not really in the mood right now. Got a lot going on."

Giles flushed. "Of course. But centering oneself through meditation can be a useful technique for self discovery. You may have something internally working to block your powers."

"Really?" She asked, brow furrowed.

Giles swallowed hard and forced a reassuring smile. "It's quite possible."

"Okay." Faith agreed quickly, thoughts of her shower already forgotten.

"May I?" Giles pulled out a chair tucked under the table and shifted a couple magazines from it. Clearing a small space on the cluttered tabletop, he quickly arranged the grounding crystal. "Now, just like we did before, Faith. Look for the imperfection in its center."

Faith blinked to clear her head and then leaned in, studying the crystal. Was that the imperfection? It was tiny, shaped like a stake. Hmm.

Watching her slack jaw, Giles spoke quietly, "Faith?" Satisfied when she didn't reply, and he quickly reached into the bag for a small case. Inside was a pre-filled syringe. His steady fingers picked it up, along with an alcohol swab. He grasped Faith's slender arm and quickly swabbed a spot near her inner elbow. A few quick taps rid the needle of any air bubbles and he efficiently pressed it into her skin then depressed the plunger. When all the yellow fluid was gone, he removed the syringe and packed it away in the case. After stowing it back in the bag, Giles cleared his throat and waved a hand in front of Faith's face.

Blinking hard, she glanced to him. "What happened?"

The librarian shrugged cluelessly. "I thought you had gone into deep meditation."

Faith frowned. "I don't think so."

"Well," Said Giles quietly as he began to pack up the crystal. "We can always try again later. Nothing to be concerned about."

"Sure," The slayer muttered.

"Why don't you come to the library tomorrow around 10?" He suggested.


"Excellent. I should be going now."

"Yeah." Faith stood as he reached for the door. "Wait!" She stuffed her hands in her pockets. "Umm, have you heard anything from the council?"

"I'm afraid I haven't." Giles frowned apologetically. "Try not to worry. I'm sure I'll hear something soon."

Faith nodded in response and Giles stepped out, letting the door close firmly behind him. The moment he was out of the room, his shoulders slumped. By tomorrow evening, this would be over one way or another. As he ducked inside his car, he glanced in distaste toward his passenger. "She's coming to the library tomorrow and I'll inject her with the last dose."

"Good." The man agreed in a British accent. As Giles began backing out of the small parking lot, the Brit flipped open his cell phone and pushed a button for speed dial. "Hobson here." He said when it was answered. "It's in motion. The slayer will be ready for the test tomorrow." The council member called Hobson clicked his phone shut and placed it back in his inside jacket pocket. "That was Blair." He said conversationally. "Everything is proceeding as planned."

"Swell." Grunted the librarian.

"Oh, chin up, Rupert!" The other councilman teased.

Giles glared. "That girl is going to die. And it will be on our hands."

Shrugging easily, Hobson studied the passing landscape. "Then a new slayer will be called." Off Giles's disgusted look, "You know as well as I do that a slayer must have other skills aside from strength. She must be cunning and resourceful. The cruciamentum allows us to determine whether she is."

"At the expense of her life!"

The other councilman shook his head, unconcerned. "Possibly. While the loss of Faith would of course be regrettable, the council cannot afford to coddle the slayer. She is a weapon for the side of good. And a weapon is only useful when it functions correctly."

Giles gripped the steering wheel hard. "If anyone from the council actually maintained contact with the slayers anymore—"

"We've read your reports. I think some of your descriptions were "reckless" and "undisciplined," correct?"

"Well, yes, but—"

"Then we cannot allow that kind of behavior to continue unchecked. The fate of the world very often rests on the shoulders of the slayer, and she needs to be up to the task of saving it. If the girl pulls through this, she'll be a better slayer for it."

Giles considered for a moment, as he pulled to a stop in front of the decrepit Sunnydale Arms boarding house. "Or we'll have made murderers of ourselves."

The two men stared at one another in tense silence for a moment, before Giles noticed a thin bespectacled man stepping lightly down the cracked front stairs. "Blair?" He asked, jutting his chin toward the man.

Hobson glanced. "Oh, no. Come on out, I'll introduce you." The two men climbed from Giles's tiny car and the watcher stepped around the front to meet the two councilmen standing side by side. "Well," Said Hobson with a reserved smile. "It's about time for you two to meet. If all goes well with the test, you'll be working closely together, at least for a time. Giles, the council has assigned a watcher for Faith, to allow you to concentrate your efforts more narrowly on your slayer."

The man smiled nervously and extended his well-manicured hand. "Wesley Wyndham-Price. Pleasure to meet you."



Buffy had begun padding dejectedly down to the kitchen to scrounge up some breakfast when the phone began to ring. "I've got it, Mom!" She yelled, jumping the last three stairs and darting into the kitchen.

"Okay!" Joyce shouted affirmatively from the basement, where she was currently doing laundry.

Snatching up the handset, the slayer pressed it to her ear. "Hello?"

"Morning, Buffster." Xander's cheerful tone filled her ear.

"Hey, Xander."

"Just wanted to call and see how things were. Patrol last night was…"

"Nice?" Buffy supplied.

"If by nice you mean soul crushingly awkward, then yes."

She sighed. "Yeah. I know."

"So? How are things now?"

"Uh," Buffy moved to the cabinet, retrieving a bowl. "Faith's not exactly here."

"What do you mean ‘exactly?'"

"She ducked out this morning."

"What happened?"

"It's kind of complicated." Buffy reached deep into the pantry, searching out the Lucky Charms she knew were stashed somewhere.

"Well lay it on me. Complicated is my middle name."

"I thought it was Lavelle."

"And I thought we spoke about how we were never to speak of that again."

Buffy laughed, finally acquiring the hidden cereal box.

On the other end of the line, Xander was chewing his breakfast gustily. "So? What's the what?"

"Uh, I don't really want to get into it right now. It's just…"

"Complicated. I know. You said."

Buffy shook the box then peered inside sadly. Empty! "I'm sorry, Xand. I promise when I want to talk about it, you'll be the first person I call."

"Okay," He replied, mollified. "So are you going to look for her?"

"Xander, she snuck out of my house while I was sleeping. I may not be the big brain like Will, but I'm thinking that's a hint."

"Yeah," He conceded slowly. "But what if she goes out patrolling without you? She could get hurt."

"I know." Buffy sighed.

"How would you feel if you were the one losing your power?" Xander asked curiously, as the sound of a running tap filled the line.

Buffy considered, frowning. "I don't know. I mean, when I think of all the shoes I've ruined with demon's blood. And that vampire who scratched my brand new leather jacket, not to mentioned how long it takes to get the stink of sewer out of your hair—"

"Buff. Focus."

"Right. I'm focus girl." She paused. "I'd be wigged."

"So, you're going to look for her?" He prodded.

"Yeah. If she doesn't come by before patrol, I'll look for her tonight."

"You want some back-up?"

Buffy leaned against the counter, staring forlornly at her empty cereal bowl. "Always. I'll meet you and Will tonight at her place." The two friends said their goodbyes and Buffy gently clicked off the phone and set it down. She hoped Faith would come by sometime today but that didn't seem likely. What the hell was Faith mad about anyway? She was the one who only wanted to get in Buffy's pants after all. Really Buffy was still trying to come to grips with the fact that she had kissed Faith. She liked boys, in a pretty much exclusive way. But then there was Faith walking around all cleavagey and ‘five by five-ing' and talking about the color of Buffy's undies. This was all Faith's fault!

Her mother's entry into the kitchen interrupted her train of thought. "Whew." Exhaled Joyce with a smile. "You wear a lot of clothing for someone so small."

Buffy rolled her eyes and smiled back. "Yeah, yeah." Tossing the empty cereal box into the garbage can, the slayer retreated back to her bedroom. She had homework to finish. She would not be thinking about Faith.



The passage of an hour found her schoolbooks still sitting in a messy pile on her unmade bed. Not thinking about the situation with Faith was harder than she'd imagined it would be. Sighing quietly, she slumped on her belly and propped her chin in her hands. How had everything gotten so crazy so quickly? She'd only meant to reach out to Faith and try to include her more with the gang. Clearly Faith had some sort of maxi-crush on her and was waiting for the slightest encouragement to act on it. That wasn't Buffy's fault. Whoa. Conceited much?Buffy frowned. Okay, maybe it wasn't a maxi-crush. But either way it didn't really matter did it? Buffy was straight. And not just a little straight. A lot straight. There had been boys before Sunnydale. Being popular, she'd pretty much had her pick. At least until everything had changed with her calling. Her friends abandoned her, not wanting anything to do with the freak who'd set fire to the gym. Her parents divorced, and although they wouldn't come right out and say it was her fault, it so obviously was. Then her mom dragged her to Sunnydale, and instead of being a fresh start, to her surprise she'd found another watcher and the Hellmouth. Just what every girl wanted from a new school. Thankfully she'd met Willow and Xander. And they were great friends, they really were. But they couldn't really get it, because they were normal. And Buffy wasn't.

But then there was Angel. Sure, okay, him being a vampire was kind of a drawback given that she was a Vampire Slayer. But to have someone who she could squeeze without hurting, who could watch her back, and understand when she showed up for a date with fresh dirt on her clothes and wooden stakes in her pocket… It meant something. Angel quickly meant a lot of somethings to her. And if she could be that in love with Angel, she had to be straight, right? And combined with the other guys she'd dated painted a pretty straight picture. Boys were definitely of the good in Buffyland.

She found herself gently touching the pillow on the other side of the bed where Faith had been sleeping just hours before. Boys weregood. But Faith was kinda good too. The slayer's cheeks flushed when she thought about the way Faith's hips had pressed hard into hers, while the other slayer swept Buffy's mouth with her tongue, kissing her so well she'd felt her toes tingle. Kissage with Faith was definitely in the good column. What happened after, not so much. She felt like an idiot for even going as far as kissing Faith now. Hadn't the other slayer told her many times about her ‘get some and get gone' policy? Obviously she was looking to do the same now. And if Buffy wasn't willing, Faith wasn't interested.

Irritable now, she sat back up and reached for one of her books at random. Forget Faith. She'd track the other girl down later on and make sure she was alright. If she was still angry, then she'd go her own way. If not, she could come back here and stay over and they could put this whole thing behind them. Either way, Buffy really needed to get some work done. That troll Snyder was practically salivating at the thought of expelling her again. Determined now, she flipped open her Spanish textbook. "I'm the slayer." She informed it sternly. "I can handle you." Smiling, she started to read the assigned exercise, pen poised confidently above her notebook. Her smile faded over the next ten seconds as the Spanish phrases made absolutely no sense to her. Sighing, she reached into the pile for her Spanish/English dictionary. "Buffy no gusta. No gusta at all."



Willow and Xander were seated on the front steps of her house, carefully spaced apart. The porchlight illuminated them from behind as the last glint of sunlight slowly vanished over the horizon. "Hey, guys." Buffy greeted, strolling up the walkway to meet them.

"Hey, Buffy!" Willow hopped eagerly to her feet, clearly anxious not to be alone with Xander any longer.

"Buff." Xander nodded in her direction.

"Ready?" Buffy asked, and the three back toward the street. "I'd thought we'd start with Shady Hill and work our way over to Restfield. Hopefully come across Faith on the way."

"How come Faith isn't with you?" Willow asked curiously.

"Long story."

Xander interrupted, "A bad thing happened, Faith bailed."

"Apparently not that long." Buffy frowned at him.

"A thing?" Willow's green eyes were concerned. "What kind of thing?"

"Just a… stupid thing." The slayer clearly didn't wish to elaborate further. Willow pursed her lips thoughtfully but let it drop. If Buffy wanted to tell her, she would.

"So anything going on with you?" Buffy tried to change topics, while idly flipping her stake around her fingers.

"Well," Xander informed them, "Mom asked me to run to the store. I saw Cordelia there and she almost ran me down in the parking lot."

The two girls winced sympathetically. "Yikes." Willow murmured.

"Nah, she meant to miss. I could tell." He puffed his chest out in mock assurance. "She loves me."

Buffy smiled. "Yeah. Well, if you see Cordelia in a car again, you should probably make with the running."

Xander nodded in resignation. "Maybe I should let her run me over. Cordy's kind of the ‘eye for an eye' type."

The three fell into a depressed silence that continued as they gradually neared Shady Hill cemetery. Located on the northeastern edge of town, it was one of Sunnydale's oldest cemeteries. There weren't usually many fresh graves to check out, but its hulking masoleoms made it an attractive stomping ground for vampires seeking out more permant dwellings. On their way they passed the long driveway leading to the Sunnydale Zoo where a few final cars were trickling from the parking lot. Xander shuddered involuntarily and looked away.

"Look at us," Buffy sighed as they entered the final block before the cemetery. "This is awful!"

Her two friends glanced at each other, looking for anything awful occurring with the other. "What's awful?" Willow asked.

"We're in a rut!" Buffy informed them dramatically. "We need to cheer up!"

Xander's and Willow's answering stares were skeptical and apologetic, respectively.

"I'm serious!" Buffy trotted a few paces in front of them and turned to walk backwards, easily avoiding disturbances in the pavement and maintaining her footing. "We're young! We're exciting! We should be out doing exciting things!"

"We are." Xander pointed out. "What could be more exciting than patrolling for the undead?"

"That's not exciting." Buffy corrected as they marched through the rusty arch of Shady Hill Cemetary. "We do this all the time."

"We make our own fun." Willow said with a pout.

"I'm just saying we need to drag ourselves out of this funk and really—" Buffy quickly shut up as she spotted a pair of large red skinned demons, concentrating deeply on the grave they were currently digging in. The slayer motioned silently for her friends to step behind the closest mausoleum, their footsteps disguised by the grunts of exertion falling from the demons' bloated purple lips.

The slayer's face was set in business mode now, and she shrugged off the backpack she'd been carrying with a whisper of cloth. "Okay," She murmured just loud enough for her friends to make out. "You two are going to stay here." She held up her hand as Xander started to protest. "I mean it, stay here." She slid open the zipper and unearthed some extra stakes. Handing one each to Willow and Xander, she reached in again and unearthed a hand held cross bow. Buffy handed it gently to Willow, whose eyes widened. "Don't shoot unless you have to."

The redhead nodded, her face drawn tight with worry. Buffy glanced at Xander for his confirmation nod and then crept silently around the side of the crypt. She was banking on the element of surprise and hoped that would turn the tide in her favor when taking on two large demons alone. She winced as she stepped on a particularly crackly twig and the closer beast's head darted up. "Orgut!" It growled to the other, who began to dig even faster. The first demon's seven fingered hands gripped the muddy graveside and it began to haul its huge body up.

"That's okay!" Buffy called, breaking into a sprint. "No need to get up; I'll come to you." She ran hard, arms smoothly cutting through the air as she cleared the distance between herself and the demons with breathtaking speed. Two yards from the grave's edge she kicked off into the air, the bottom of her boot connecting solidly with the thing's wide chin. Its head snapped backward and it let out a groan of protest. The other demon didn't pause in his efforts, confident that the first could handle this distraction.

Buffy whipped out the dagger she had stashed in her pantleg and frowned as the first demon recovered with hardly a delay. In seconds it was grasping the earth in his thick paws and hauling its red form up onto solid ground. Buffy waited until its first leg had cleared and it planted its second to stretch to its full height before making her move. She darted forward and brought her foot into its ribs, skewing its balance so that is crashed onto its side. Dropping to her knees, she held her knife in both hands and brought it down quickly, piercing the rough red skin of the beast's chest. Its wounded cry was high pitched and pained. She tried to yank her dagger backward to plunge it in a second place, but it was too firmly embedded and the handle broke off, leaving the jagged end of blade protruding from the demon's chest. Something whipped her in the face as the creature rolled away quickly, stumbling wearily to its feet. She realized with distaste that it had five long tentacles hanging down its back.

"Hate it when they have tentacles." She muttered to herself as she too quickly climbed to her feet. Thick black blood streamed from the wound, but the demon seemed unaware of that fact, as it gripped the blade's edge in its strong hand and yanked it out.

"Wavgr!" The other demon shouted and it sounded like a warning.

To Buffy's surprise, the moment the blade was free of its scaly skin, the demon dropped to its knees. The blood flow stopped completely and its form began to shake. Harder and harder trembled the fallen demon, until finally it stopped, its beady eyes rolling back in its wrinkled head. "Huh." Buffy said in surprised glee. "Didn't see that coming."

Her ankle was abruptly yanked from under her, and she found herself staring at the remaining demon, who appeared considerably angry. It grunted at her and tried slashing at her face with its black claws. Rolling away, she jumped to her feet. "Sorry," She shrugged, "Was that your brother? You guys kind of look alike." The demon roared and charged toward her.

"Okay," She admitted, easily dodging his girth with her speed. "He was a little better looking." As the demon swung around, the tentacles on its back came to life, lashing out in a cloud around the beast's face.

"Maybe a lot better looking." Buffy said in dismay, dodging the first thick appendage that reached desperately for her arms. She backed up several feet, putting the disturbed grave between them. A mental inventory revealed no further weapons save for a few stakes stashed in various pockets. The demon lunged for her quickly and she gritted her teeth when its claws tore into her shoulder. Tentacles were flying everywhere and she struggled to evade them while the beast threw punches toward her. She ducked to evade a direct hit and attempted to kick its legs out from under it. It seemed to anticipate her movement and darted right, away from her kick. The slayer bounced back onto the balls of her feet, hands raised warily in front of her body. She clutched a stake in her left hand, but couldn't get close enough to ram it into its chest with the tentacles whirling through the air.

It came at her again, and she took a hard blow to her cheek. Her face whipped to the side but she held her ground, hoping it would get close enough for her to plunge her stake into its chest. The demon grunted, and Buffy found that its tentacles were discreetly creeping around her. Abandoning her plan to stab it, she executed a back flip that planted her boot under the beast's chin. It stumbled back. Landed hard on its back in the defiled grave. Already it was grabbing exposed roots in the soil to haul itself back to its feet. Buffy's eyes fell on the grave marker. She darted to it and planted her palms firmly on its backside. "Sorry," She murmured, casting a guilty glance upward, and then she heaved the large stone into the grave. It tumbled, landing face down into the startled face of the red demon. Its arms moved weakly as it found itself pinned in the ground by the stone. She knew it was only stunned and had the strength to throw the stone off and come back after her. She leapt into the grave, landing with a resounding thud on its scaly stomach, and quickly jammed her stake into its chest. She yanked with all her might and the stake came free, leaving a gush of black blood in its wake. The demon under her began to shake violently. By the time she'd climbed from the hole, its body was still.

The slayer brushed the dirt from her clothes, irritated. At least Xander and Willow had stayed put like she'd told them to. Still brushing off, she jogged toward the mausoleum she'd left them behind. As she got closer, she could make out the faint sounds of a struggle. Breaking into a run, she rounded the edge of the tomb and took in the sight before her. A vampire in acid wash jeans clutched Xander to his chest. He was trying to go in for a killing bite but was currently being thwarted by frantic head butting by Xander. The vamp was also distracted by an irate Willow, bashing him over the head repeatedly with her empty crossbow. "Will!" Buffy called, moving toward them quickly. Willow looked up and Buffy made a clean "staking" motion with her hand. Wide eyed, Willow dropped the cross bow and pulled a stake from her pocket. Clumsily she rammed it into the vampire's back.

The vamp hissed and released Xander, who stumbled away. "You missed!" He growled through his clenched teeth and moved toward Willow.

"But I won't." Buffy called tauntingly, and seconds later a stake sailed through the air and lodged in his heart.

He looked at his chest and then back up to glare at her. Then he disintegrated and Willow was left alone, coughing.

"You guys okay?" Buffy asked, reaching down a hand to help Xander from where he'd landed on the ground.

"Oh yeah," Xander said casually, as Buffy hauled him up effortlessly. "No problem."

"We so had that." Willow echoed.

Buffy grinned back at them. "You guys were pretty tough."

Xander puffed out his chest. "Vampires everywhere cower when they see us coming."

"Well, the force of Willow's ‘resolve face' alone…"

"Exactly." Xander agreed, slinging his arm around Buffy's shoulders casually. "Where to now?"



They'd been through half of Sunnydale with no sign of Faith. From Shady Hill, they'd done an obligatory pass through the ground of Miss Porter's School and the convent conveniently positioned next door (three vamps for Buffy and one done in by Xander and Willow—vampires were oddly attracted to nuns). A backtrack through the mostly residential area near Willow's and Cordelia's houses was quiet, but some newbies were stalking teens as they walked through the woods affectionately named makeout park (two vamps for Buffy, one skinned palm for Willow when the slayer had to knock her aside to avoid catastrophe). Criss-crossing the town led them through the cemetery across from Sunnydale High, which was unusually empty, and the Mansion loomed huge and dark as it had since Angel had left Sunnydale last week. A particularly weird vamp was skulking outside the mental hospital, wearing the pajamas he'd been in when turned somewhat recently (accidentally dusted by Xander when the former patient ran without hesitation into his upturned stake).

They ran into Jonathan after that, coming out of a house nearby with a dark haired boy in tow. "Hey, guys!" He called, as the two came closer. A chorus of greetings was exchanged and then two groups parted ways.

"Who was that other guy?" Buffy asked curiously, as they headed down the street.

"Warren Mears." Willow told her. "He went to our school for like half a year, and then transferred out.

"I heard he tested out and went right to college." Xander interjected.

Willow nodded in agreement as they neared the opening gates to St. Michael's school. "Yeah, some tech school I think."

Buffy paused in her step as they passed the school's gates and cocked her head to the right.

"You want to check the graveyard back there?" Xander suggested.

"It's usually deserted." Buffy answered absently, but she still appeared to be waiting. Her friends waited expectantly for her to begin moving again. The small Catholic cemetery behind St. Michael's had run out of space for new graves quite some time ago and it lacked the ornate familial tombs that made some of the older cemeteries popular to vamps. Buffy almost never bothered to pass through but still… She had a nagging feeling that something was wrong here tonight. The slayer frowned, shook her head as if to clear it. She took one step forward, smiled sheepishly at Willow and Xander, and then she felt it. Her senses went wild, the tingling in her spine informing her another slayer was nearby. Faith was here. And she wasn't alone.

"Faith's here." Buffy said, turning on heel to jog through the school's gates. "There are two," She concentrated. "Three vamps with her."

Her friends flanked her and the three hurried through the shadowy schoolyard. The graveyard was behind the school, fenced in with tilted wrought iron gates. Buffy vaulted easily over, and didn't wait while her friends climbed over more carefully. St. Michael's lacked much cover, with the exception of some old trees and a small shed for supplies. The three were coming from behind the shed, their view of the shadows beyond partially obscured. As they rounded the dilapidated building, they stopped in their tracks.

Faith was several yards away and being held by two vampires. A third, obviously their ringleader, stood apart from the others, watching as Faith struggled against his lackeys' hold. Xander glanced at Buffy impatiently but she shook her head and held up a hand, signaling him to wait.

Three vampires against one slayer and three humans wasn't terrible odds, but they were starting off in the vamps' favor given that they were holding Faith captive. If they waited a few moments, maybe one of them would at least step away from the other slayer, giving Buffy a better opportunity to free her without injury. Or rather, without further injury. Faith was obviously running out of energy to keep on fighting the group of vampires. Blood was clotted under her bruised nose, and her clothes were filthy, as though she'd been rolling in the dirt. Although vamps held both arms, her left dangled uselessly beside her, obviously dislocated. She'd tried forcibly bouncing the weight of her body onto their toes and jamming her good elbow into their sides, but the two had held her arms unrelentingly, and now she stood between them, her shoulders squared in forced calm. Even from this distance, Buffy could see her rapid breathing and the tension in her face.

The lead vampire was wearing leather pants and a button down silk shirt, looking like every vampire cliché known to man. He folded his arms across his chest and stared amusedly into Faith's face. "That all you got?"

"Tell your buddies to get off me and I'll show you what I got." She shot back. Her grin was sickening, blood coating her teeth.

Leather pants smirked and put a hand to his chin thoughtfully. "What do you think, boys?" He asked of his companions. "Should we let her wear herself out a little more before we show her what we've got planned?"

The one to Faith's left grinned back, merely shrugging. The one on her right laughed. "I dunno," He smiled. "Joey likes it when they struggle."

The vamp to the left, apparently called Joey, shrugged again and smiled wolfishly. "I do." He confessed to Faith.

"Ah hell," Leather pants answered, "So do I." Suddenly he lunged forward, stopping inches from Faith. "Something tells me this one is going to struggle a lot." He lifted a pale hand to her neck, cupping it lightly before letting it trailed suggestively down her body. He lingered at her belt buckle, tucking his thumb in the waist band of her pants.

Faith's bravado faltered for a moment and she flinched, pulling her hips away. Leather pants motioned for Joey to grip her hips, and brought his hands back to her waist. "You can scream." He offered to Faith. "Won't bother us a bit."

The situation was even worse now with all three of them crowding Faith, but they obviously couldn't wait any longer to approach. Buffy met Xander's eyes and jerked her head in the direction of the vamps. He understood and ran around the shed, coming out on the other side and already yelling. "Hey! Get the hell away from her!"

The lead vamp stepped away from Faith in irritation. "Mind your own business, kid, and get out of here."

"No." Xander clutched a bottle of holy water concealed in his hand. "I said let her go."

Leather pants laughed, and looked at his flunkeys. "Can you believe this kid?" He asked, incredulously. Snarling, he turned back to Xander, his game face bared. "Who's gonna make me, kid, you?"

"That'd be me." Buffy stated coldly from where she'd snuck up behind the other vampires. Her stake found Joey's heart and he took a last startled gasp. As he disintegrated she stepped in behind her fellow slayer. Buffy's arm slid around Faith's waist and she jerked her from the remaining vampire's hold. The brunette cried out as her arm wrenched painfully from his grasp. Buffy didn't pause, just practically threw the dark slayer behind her into Willow's waiting arms. She advanced now toward the empty handed vamp.

He rushed her, teeth bared and swung out in a vicious cross toward her cheek. His fist sailed through empty air as Buffy dropped to a crouch and knocked his feet from under him. He landed hard on his ass and she was astride him instantly, stake poised to kill. The vamps' hands wrapped around her wrist, stopping the downward motion. He bucked wildly, knocking her into a roll.

Leather pants watched these new developments with great displeasure. His dinner was being herded away by a redheaded girl, limping. He growled angrily in his throat and turned furiously to the boy who had interrupted them. Xander had made it to the bookbag with their weapons and was hurriedly loading a new bolt into the crossbow. The vampire stalked over to him and batted him away from the bag easily. Xander stumbled and fell, his arm throbbing as it broke his fall. Wasting no time, the vamp grabbed the front of his shirt and hefted him into the air, throwing him several feet away. Xander's head hit the ground with a dull thunk, and his eyes slid shut.

Satisfied that the boy would remain there until he was ready to eat him, Leather pants turned back to his friend and the blonde girl, who were grappling on the ground, dead leaves crackling under their bodies. The blonde had gotten the upper hand on the other vampire again, and was crouched over him, punching him repeatedly in the face. The leader strode over to them quickly. He gripped her hard around the waist and yanked her up.

Crying out in anger, she reached back and gripped behind his neck. Buffy yanked forward, forcing him to bend and allow her feet back on the ground. She twisted into a crouch, pulling him over her shoulder so he landed at her feet. She stomped on his chest. Hard. Leather pants gasped for unneeded breath and rolled to avoid her next kick.

Buffy was faster and as he rolled onto his knees, her boot flew between his legs and connected with his genitals solidly. He screamed in horrific pain and dropped to his side, clutching his crotch. Buffy whipped a new stake from inside her jacket and leaned over him. "You can scream." She sneered at him. "Doesn't bother me a bit." Her face was a mask of cold fury as her kick connected with the side of his face. The vampire rolled reflexively onto his back. He blinked in surprise as she dusted him.

She stood, eyes darting around for the last vampire. To her horror, he was almost to Xander's prone form. "No!" She muttered, breaking into a sprint. Before she could reach him, a cross bolt sailed through the air and landed with deadly accuracy in his heart. His ashes fell gently onto Xander. The slayer looked behind them in surprise. Willow stood gripping the crossbow, her face surprised.

"I got him!" She cried.

Buffy grinned back. "You were great, Will."

"Will?" Xander coughed from the ground. "What about Xander?"

Willow and Faith shuffled closer, the latter wiping blood from her bruised face. Still, she managed a weak smile. "He tossed you around like a doll, X."

"Thereby leaving Buffy free to get to you." Xander replied sensibly.

Buffy smiled and reached out to assist him to his feet. "You okay?" Her voice was concerned.

Xander touched the back of his head and winced, but his fingers came away blood free. "I think so."

"Then let's get out of here." Buffy suggested.



After leaving Willow and Xander at the readhead's front steps, Faith and Buffy started down the street together. Faith watched the other slayer surreptitiously. Buffy had barely looked at her since they'd left the cemetery. Faith was favoring her right ankle, and Buffy's pace had slowed to match her counterpart's, so their progress was agonizingly slow. This silence was starting to get on Faith's nerves. She could see the tension practically radiating off the blonde slayer. She'd known Buffy was freaked out about the kiss, well, the multiple kisses they'd shared, but this silent treatment was so old. "How long you gonna keep doing this?" She blurted out.

"Doing what?"

"Ignoring me. Acting like I'm some bad puppy you gotta teach a lesson to." Buffy opened her mouth indignantly to respond but Faith shook her head and finished. "Jesus, Buffy. You kissed me. Not like I forced you."

Stopping abruptly in her steps, the blonde slayer laughed suddenly. It wasn't her usual bright and airy laugh, instead it was cold. "That's what you think this is?" She covered her face wearily with her hands.

Faith cocked her brow challengingly. "Ain't it?"

"No!" Buffy cried, dropping her hands. "No, that is not it!" She stepped close to Faith for the first time since they'd started walking from Willow's. "This is about what the hell you were thinking when you decided to go out patrolling tonight."

Faith frowned angrily. "I was thinking I'm a slayer, B, that's kind of the job description. What, like I need your permission now?"

"You don't need my permission, but how about my help? Something's going on with your powers, Faith. But you're so damned stubborn that you'd rather go out and get killed and who knows what else just so you don't have to take help from me."

"'Cause you've been so helpful so far." Faith muttered.

Buffy flinched and dropped her eyes from Faith's face. Instead of being happy she'd finally shut the other girl up, Faith felt the hurt on Buffy's face like a punch to the gut. The feeling quickly faded when Buffy squared her shoulders and replied, "It felt pretty helpful to me when I came looking for you tonight and saved you from those vamps."

"I coulda handled it." Faith retorted, but her voice lacked conviction.

"Fine." Buffy said, noticing that people were starting to peek from their windows at the two of them. "Can we get out of here please? We can finish screaming at each other when we get home."

"I'm going to the motel." Faith informed her, starting to walk away.

"Fine." Buffy retorted, clearly angry. "Leave like you always do when something doesn't go your way."

Freezing midstep, Faith turned. "What the hell does that mean?"

"It means that when Giles wants you to train more on something, you take off. I call you out on being reckless when we're slaying and you ditch me for the rest of the night." She paused, then glared back at the brunette. "I kiss you, which was a huge deal for me, by the way, and when I'm not ready to I don't know, jump into bed with you right away, you sneak out in the morning."

"What?" Faith practically roared. "You think I left because you didn't put out?"

Buffy shrugged bitterly.

"Screw you, B." Faith turned and started walking again.

Buffy hesitated a moment and then scurried to catch up. "Tell me why you left then."

Faith shook her head angrily. "Forget it. Doesn't fucking matter."

"Stop!" Buffy demanded, quickly moving in front of the other girl. "Stop walking away and talk to me."

"There's no point. You just think whatever you want anyway."

Buffy put her hands out to block the other girl's movement but stopped short of actually touching her. Faith rolled her eyes but stopped, fidgeting angrily.

The two girls glared at one another for a moment. "Look, I'm sorry, okay?" Buffy finally said. "Just let me help you. What about your arm? You can't get it back in the socket by yourself."

"I'll manage."

Buffy huffed in exasperation. Why did Faith always make everything so much harder than it needed to be? She'd been completely reckless and selfish tonight, going out looking for vamps when she knew damned well she couldn't protect herself right now. She wasn't concerned about how anyone else would feel if she got killed. Or worse yet, turned. She didn't care how Buffy would feel. But trying to reason with her after the fact was clearly not working. Maybe it was time for a different tactic. "Can I come with you?" Buffy asked quietly.

Faith glanced over in irritation and surprise, which was quickly hidden under a mask of indifference. "I guess if you want to." She frowned. "But it ain't exactly the Four Seasons. I'd be surprised if there was even hot water for you to get a shower."

Buffy just nodded and kept her face blank. But secretly, she was pleased. If Faith was too stubborn to come to Buffy's where she'd be safe, Buffy would just bring the safety to her.



Faith hesitantly opened the door to her motel room. After Giles's surprise visit earlier, she'd straightened up a little, at least piled most of the dirty clothes in one corner and thrown out the pizza boxes. She was relieved to see the place looked mostly presentable and the temperature had settled somewhere shy of Hell for a change. She left the gritty overhead lighting off, instead flicking on the bedside light and plugging in the Christmas lights she'd strung around the room.

"I like the lights." Buffy offered quietly. Her mood had calmed considerately on the way over. Now she was thinking about how screwed up things were quickly becoming between the two of them. And what she could do to fix it.

"Yeah," Faith raked a hand through her matted hair. "Tis the season or whatever." She started shrugging her jacket off slowly.

"Here," Buffy stepped forward quickly and slid her hands over the jacket's shoulders. "Let me." The brunette stilled and allowed the other slayer to peel the denim carefully from her injured arm. Buffy draped the garment carefully across one of the rickety chairs. Turning back to Faith she spied her now uncovered shoulder. The bulge of her humerus was clearly obvious and looked intensely uncomfortable. Buffy offered a sympathetic wince. "You ready to do the shoulder?"

Faith nodded, seating herself in the chair with her injured arm facing Buffy. The blonde gently grasped her arm and bent her forearm upward at the elbow. Steadying it at a 90 degree angle, she began slowly rotating Faith's bent arm outward from her body until she judged she'd gone far enough. "Ready?" She repeated. Off Faith's nod she gripped the arm firmly around the elbow and pushed upward, allowing the humerus to pop back into its normal location.

Faith released the breath she'd been holding. "Thanks." She murmured.

"Sure." Buffy looked at her bloody face. "You have a first aid kit?"

Gesturing behind her, Faith said, "Bathroom."

Buffy found the kit easily, sitting in easy access on the small bathroom counter. It was stocked with antibiotics, peroxide, bandages of different sizes, gauze, tape, and pretty much everything someone enduring nightly injuries might need. A washcloth was folded over the towel ring, and Buffy ran warm water over it and then brought both her finds back into the main room. Perching on the edge of the bed across from the still seated Faith, she raised the wash cloth. The other slayer allowed Buffy to carefully wipe the dried blood from her face and unearth a gash in her lip and a still swollen nose. Buffy carefully applied antiseptic to the lip as well as a deeper cut by Faith's hairline. The cuts looked to be healing quickly, so she left them uncovered and packed away the supplies.

Faith had been silent through this activity and Buffy glanced at her, puzzled. The other slayer's eyes had closed and she'd fallen asleep sitting up in her chair. Her face looked strained, dark bruises under her eyes from the beating her face had taken. Still leaning forward, Buffy watched the steady rise and fall of the other slayer's chest. Thinking about how close Faith had come to losing her life tonight, she swallowed hard and gently pushed a few strands of hair away from the other girl's face. Standing up silently, she glanced around the room until she spotted an older model phone tucked on the bedside table. She dialed home quickly, hoping her mom hadn't already gone to sleep.

"Hello?" Answered Joyce.

"Hey, Mom." Buffy cupped the receiver and tried to keep her voice down. "It's me."

"Buffy? Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay."

"Are you on your way home soon?"

"Uh, I was hoping it would be okay if I stay at Faith's tonight. She got hurt on patrol and I kinda wanna keep an eye on her."

"Is she alright?" The concern was evident in Joyce's voice.

"Yeah, she'll be okay. Slayers heal fast."

"Are you sure you don't want me to come pick you up? Both of you? I don't like you girls being over there by yourselves."

"I'm sure, Mom. Faith's already asleep. I'll be fine, I promise."

"Okay, honey. If you're sure… What about school tomorrow? Will you be home in the morning?"

"Yeah, I need to get changed and get my stuff."

"Okay then, I'll see you in the morning. Be careful."

"I will."

"I love you."

"I love you too, Mom." Buffy gently replaced the receiver in its cradle. Faith was still slumped slightly forward, her body in a light sleep. She approached her carefully and shook her right shoulder. "Faith."

Faith snapped awake. "Huh?"

"You fell asleep." Buffy fidgeted beside her.

"Oh. Uh, sorry."

"That's okay." The blonde shrugged. "I told my mom I was gonna stay here tonight."

Faith looked at her curiously, then feigned nonchalance. "Yeah, okay." She kicked off her boots before climbing to her feet. "I don't have any pajamas, so…"

"Oh." Buffy said, blushing. "Right. That's okay. Uhh, do you have a t-shirt or something?"

Faith turned to rummage through the small amount of clean clothes tucked away in drawers, unearthing two t-shirts and handing one to Buffy.

Buffy accepted it in dismay. She'd been thinking of something larger.

"Sorry, B." Faith shrugged, watching her. "S'all I've got."

"It's fine." She smiled. Stepping around to the other side of the bed, she quickly stripped off her own dirty clothes and pulled Faith's clean shirt over her head. Without glancing at Faith, she slid under the covers on one side of the bed.

Faith's shoulder was still sore and she moved more slowly, peeling her stained and bloody tank top off and reaching her left hand behind her to unsnap her bra. She heard Buffy's sharp intake of breath behind her and smiled to herself.

"Faith!" Buffy cried, but not because she was impressed like Faith had been expecting. "Your back, does it hurt?"

"It's a little tender, why?" Faith tried glancing over her own shoulder to see her back.

Buffy moved across the bed, climbing to her knees on the edge, so her face was level with Faith's back. Her light touch skittered across the bruises marring Faith's back and the other slayer tensed. "You have some pretty bad bruises."

"Landed on a tombstone." Faith answered lightly. "Thought the shoulder broke the fall."

The two fell into silence as Buffy's fingertips traced the yellow and purple marks over the other girl's slim back. Faith stared straight ahead, struggling to keep her breathing even. The Christmas lights twinkled merrily around the room, and she absently reached out to flip off the table lamp, leaving shadows broken only by soft colored light. Buffy's touch became firmer, and her palms slid up over the angles of the brunette's shoulder blades, to cup her soft shoulders.

Swallowing hard, Faith noticed with some alarm that her own right hand slid over her exposed chest to touch Buffy's left hand on her shoulder. The world felt curiously surreal as their hands rested together and Faith watched the blinking lights form patterns on the smooth curves of her own body. Behind her, Buffy's breath hitched and then her cool cheek was pressed into the hollow between Faith's shoulders. The dark slayer's eyes slid shut, completely focusing on that one small sensation of the other girl's cheek lying on her battered skin. There was there the tiniest feeling of movement, and then… The edge of Buffy's mouth skated across her back. Faith trembled, still held in position by the other slayer's firm hands. The blonde's lips pressed fully against her, warm and soft for a moment over her spine.

Through her eyelids she saw only indistinct blinking and she imagined what Buffy's lips looked like, pink and soft and ghosting across her back. She exhaled roughly when the blonde pulled away, just enough so that when she whispered, Faith felt her breath tickling her. "You scared me tonight."

Surprised, Faith's fingers tightened where they lay atop Buffy's. "I'm sorry." She murmured back, still processing the other girl's words. Almost nothing scared Buffy.

Buffy was quiet for a moment, and she let her forehead press into the spot her lips had vacated. "I umm," Her fingers tightened over Faith's shoulders. "I don't want to lose you."

Faith's chest felt tight. She was saved from a response by Buffy moving. The hand on her left shoulder released while Buffy's grip slid lightly down her bare right arm, slipping into Faith's hand. She pulled, trying to turn the brunette toward her.

Faith allowed Buffy to tug her around and the two were facing each other. Buffy's wide eyes were fixed on their joined hands. Slowly, she let her gaze move up, lingering on Faith's deceptively soft abdomen. Faith took a deep breath as the other girl kept looking upward, her gaze sweeping across her breasts, before Buffy looked up into her eyes. Faith stared back, wide eyed. She blinked unsteadily as Buffy's free hand settled against her bare hip. "Please," The blonde started quietly. "Don't do anything like that again."

Faith dipped her head in agreement and the hand at her hip pulled her forward so her knees bumped the bed and she moved shakily into the same position Buffy was in. The blonde's arm at her waist steadied her. They stared at one another for a moment, and then Buffy smiled softly and nodded her head as Faith had.

She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around the other girl, tucking her face into Faith's unruly hair. She still smelled peculiarly of dirt and copper, but her pulse beat steadily in her neck which was all that really mattered right now. Buffy smiled as Faith's arms folded against her waist, drawing them closer together, and she felt the other girl's warm breath against her neck.

Faith struggled to keep breathing normally, even though Buffy's hands were softly climbing and stroking her bare back. "Come on," She said quietly, before things could get too out of control. "Let's lay down."

They pulled apart slowly, and Faith noticed the way Buffy's eyes flicked over her breasts as the blonde lay back. Faith stood up for a moment to strip off her pants, still watching Buffy watching her. She climbed back in, and Buffy drew the coverlet over both of them. They lay facing into each other, and after a moment's deliberation, Buffy moved forward to lay closer to Faith. Her hand landed hesitantly on the dark slayer's hip.

"What are we doing, B?" Faith murmured, taking in the way the tiny Christmas lights illuminated Buffy's skin.

"I don't know." Buffy admitted. "You want me to move back to my side?"

Faith considered, and then sighed. "No, I want you over here with me, B. But I'm not so sure that's what you want."

"I want to be over here too." Buffy whispered.

"Okay," Faith said, exhausted. That was obviously not what she'd been getting at but she was too damned tired to force the issue tonight. "Stay here then."

Buffy moved closer when Faith's reached out and stroked her arm lightly. Her own grasp on Faith's extended so that her hand lay lightly against the small of the brunette's back. "Goodnight, Faith."

"Night, B."



Part One - Monday

Second period had only just ended, and Cordelia was already practically beside herself with irritation. That moron Harmony just wouldn't quit with the Xander Harris's castoff jokes. She'd always thought of Harmony as a sheep, but it was obvious to her that the bimbo had upgraded. She was the head sheep now, and her cronies laughed at whatever she said. Cordelia was getting through it day by day. She was Cordelia fucking Chase after all. The world had been her oyster. And it would be again. But just for today, she'd duck away for a while. She had to research that paper on Bosnia anyway. She ditched her third period and headed through the library doors. The place looked unusually deserted, and she stepped into the stacks where the history books were kept, nose wrinkling at the book smell. A casual scan of the shelf revealed a few books related to Bosnia and she dropped her bag with a sigh. Maybe it wasn't worth it to avoid Harmony for a while. As she was pulling the first book out, Giles's office door swung open and voices flooded into the main library room. Rolling her eyes, Cordelia stepped further back into the stacks. She was not in the mood for greetings.

"Are we straight on the plan then?" An unfamiliar voice asked.

"Yes," Giles sighed.

"It's very important that you not deviate from the course we've outlined." The other man reminded him. "The girl can never know the council had any role in this."

"I understand." Giles replied, impatiently. "Now please, Faith will be here any moment."

"Right." The man agreed. "If all goes well, I won't be seeing you again."

"Pity." The librarian deadpanned.

The man chuckled, and his moving back entered the space she could see from the stacks. He disappeared through the doors and she heard Giles moving back into his office. Cordelia stared vacantly at the text in her hands. What the hell was going on here?

"Yo, Giles, you here?" Faith sailed through the library's swinging doors, quickly moving from Cordelia's sight towards Giles's office.

"Yes," He replied. "How are you feeling, Faith?"

The slayer sighed. "About the same."

"Yes, well," He sighed. "Shall we try the exercise again?"

"You're the boss, G." Chairs scraped the floor. Cordelia was feeling quite curious now, and she inched forward, peeking out from behind the shelves.

Giles and Faith sat across from one another at the library table, with a huge blue crystal placed in front of Faith.

"Just concentrate." Giles instructed. "Look for the flaw… Do you see it?"

"I think so…" Faith trailed off, and Cordelia waited expectantly. The slayer did not resume speaking, and appeared to be staring at the crystal in awe.

"Faith?" Asked Giles gently, already rummaging through a small bag he'd placed on the table. He drew out a needle and quickly prepped it for injection. Cordelia's eyes widened. "Faith?" Giles called again, and then he pressed the yellow filled syringe into her arm.

When the syringe was empty, he replaced the empty instrument in his carrying case and brushed his hands together. Clearing his throat, he waved his hand between Faith and the crystal.

"Huh?" Faith sat back, rubbing her eyes tiredly. "I fall asleep on you?"

The librarian smiled indulgently. "That's quite alright. I know you've got a lot on your plate at the moment." He picked up the crystal and slipped it into the bag he'd placed the needle into. "Buffy tells me you had a difficult time on patrol last night?"

"I'm fine." She replied shortly.

Giles nodded as if he'd expected as much. "Well listen, I have good news for you. I've been in contact with someone from the council about your, err, predicament. They've sent over someone to work with us. I've arranged for us to meet him this evening after school."

"Okay," Faith quickly agreed. "Do they have any idea what's going on?"

"He said he had a few thoughts on the subject." Giles responded evasively.

"Okay," Faith sounded relieved. "That's great."

"Indeed." Giles smiled pleasantly. "Shall I pick you up around 4:30 then?"

Faith nodded. "How about B, is she coming too?"

Giles didn't falter. "Of course, I'll speak to her about it this afternoon."

The slayer climbed to her feet, pushing her hands in her pockets. "See ya tonight then."

"Alright." Giles got up too, tucking his bag under his arm and moving toward his office.

"Giles?" Faith called. He turned back to face her. "Thanks." She mumbled.

"You're welcome, Faith." He turned with a smile and walked into his office. Faith left the library as well.

Cordelia stood in the stacks, still clutching the text on Bosnia in her hand. What she'd just witnessed didn't make any sense. Giles was so… Giles. He wouldn't be doing anything to hurt Faith, right? Still, she'd seen Giles putting Faith in some type of weird trance and then sticking her with a needle full of something. At the very least she could mention it to Buffy. As much as she wanted to avoid that freak show. Cordelia shelved her books quietly. It was so hard being so concerned for others all the time. Carefully peering around the edge of the row, she could see that Giles's office door was closed. Cordelia picked up her bag and crept down the stairs. She breathed a sigh of relief as she made it through the library doors without confrontation. Now, to find Buffy…

"Well," Cordelia looked down several inches to see Principal Snyder smiling cruelly at her. "Do you have a pass to be out of class, Chase?"

"Uh," Cordelia smiled brightly. "I just had to stop for a moment-"

He held up a small hand. "I don't care. No pass, no excuses. Detention."

"What?" She cried. "But I-"

"Detention!" He barked again. "Now get to your class."

Fuming, she slung her backpack onto her shoulder and started down the hall. This is what happens when you try to be nice!


The last period of the day seemed to go on forever. Buffy was anxious for it to end so she could get to the library. Faith usually dropped by after school was over, and Buffy wanted to see Giles and find out if he had any new information about what was going on with Faith's powers. The clock seemed to move in reverse as she waited for the last five minutes to wind down. Finally the bell rang and she practically leapt out of her seat, almost knocking down someone who had stepped in front of her.

"Sorry!" Buffy said sheepishly, grabbing his arm to steady them both.

Oz shrugged her apology off, smiling slightly at her. "How's it going, Buffy?"

"Good!" She said automatically. "I mean, Faith's lost her powers and we don't know why, but other than that, things are good."

"Research party?" He asked, moving up the aisle so the two of them could file out of the room.

"Not really." She admitted with a frown. "Giles said not to worry and that he'd check on it with the council."

"Hmm," Oz hummed.

"Yeah, I guess it's kind of weird." Buffy noticed they were now in the hall, being jostled by kids rushing around to make their buses and escape from the school. "So," She said gently. "How've you been?"

Oz shrugged and offered her a gentle smile. "I've been alright." He looked around the hall for a moment then turned to meet Buffy's eyes. "How's Will?"

"She misses you." Buffy responded, eyeing him sympathetically.

Oz nodded as they fell into step among the throngs of students.

"I'm heading to the library now. She'll probably stop by, if you want to come with me?"

He considered for a moment. "Soon. I gotta do a thing right now."

"Okay." Buffy said and bumped his arm gently with hers. "See you soon then."



Buffy paced the empty library, wondering where the hell Giles was. He practically lived in the library. Why wouldn't he be here? Willow and Xander had headed for home on her urging. The slayer had elected to stick around a while longer, using training as her excuse, but really just hoping Giles or Faith would appear. It was actually kind of worrying that neither of them were around. She'd tried calling the motel, but Faith wasn't picking up the phone in her room. Buffy had waited still longer, hoping that meant the other slayer was en route, but the sun was starting to go down and she was still the only occupant of the library. Frustrated, she slipped on her coat and picked up her bookbag. She'd try calling Faith again when she got home, or she could always ask her Mom to swing her by there. There was no reason to panic. Yet.

Outside the air was cool, and she pulled her coat closed, nimbly buttoning up while starting toward her house. A van pulled over ahead of her, and as she walked by, a voice called out to her. "Buffy?"

It was Oz again, gazing curiously out at her. "You want a ride home?"

"Thanks," She accepted, hopping into his passenger seat.

"No problem," He said genially, pulling away from the curb again. "I was just on my way back from practice."

Buffy nodded and the two fell into silence for the rest of the drive. It wasn't necessarily uncomfortable, but for a talker like Buffy, it didn't exactly put her at ease either. She smiled as Oz pulled up in front of her house. "Thanks for the ride."

He nodded back and then gripped the wheel loosely. "I was thinking I might stop and see Willow before I head home."

Buffy couldn't restrain the grin overtaking her face. "Oz, that's great!"

He smiled a little too. "Yeah."

Buffy started to say something else but was interrupted by insistent honking originating from behind the van. Oz furrowed his brow and checked his rearview. "Cordelia's back there." He informed Buffy. "She looks mad."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Well, that's new." Hopping out of the van, she walked back to where Cordelia was climbing from her car. "Cordelia." She greeted cautiously.

"Finally!" The taller girl spat. "I've only been following you since Main. Didn't you see me?"

There was a soft slam and then Oz joined them behind the van, holding out Buffy's bag to her. "I didn't notice." He replied to Cordelia.

"So what's up?" Buffy redirected, accepting her bag from Oz.

"Well," Said Cordelia, feeling both pleased to have knowledge Buffy didn't and anxious about what she'd seen. "I don't even know why I'm trying to help you really. My life has been one humiliation after another since you got here."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Cordelia. Point?"

The brunette sighed. "The point is that I was in the library today and-"

"Willingly?" Buffy perked an eyebrow at Oz, who dutifully shrugged.

Shooting them a death glare, Cordy continued. "As I was saying, I was in the library today and I saw Faith come by. I was back in stacks so she didn't notice me and neither did Giles." She frowned, remembering the scene she'd witnessed. "He asked her to look into some crystal thing and then it was like she went into a trance or something. And then Giles took out a needle and injected her with something."

"What?" Buffy shook her head. "That doesn't make sense. What would Giles be injecting Faith with?"

Exasperated, the brunette shook her head. "How should I know? I'm just telling you what I saw."

"Was that it?"

"Actually, no. When I first came in, some guy was in Giles's office. He was English, stuffy. He asked if Giles knew the plan and said the girl couldn't know the council had been involved."

Pieces were clicking together in Buffy's head and she definitely did not like the picture they were forming. Giles? Giles was doing something to Faith?

"You said Faith was having problems with her powers?" Oz asked, concerned.

"It's like they're totally gone." Buffy admitted.

"So you think whatever Giles is giving her screwed them up?" Cordelia frowned. "Why would he do that?"

"I don't know." Buffy admitted, feeling sick. "But he wasn't at the library after school. And I haven't been able to get Faith on the phone." She turned worried eyes to Oz. "Do you think you could take me to her place?"

He nodded quickly. "Yeah, sure."

They turned to get back in his van, Cordelia behind them. "I'm coming." She said defensively when Buffy looked back. "You wouldn't even know about this if it weren't for me."

"Whatever. Get in then."

"Ew. You want me to sit in the back?"

"Cordelia. Get. In. The van."

"Okay, okay." The three climbed in, and Oz pulled off, driving quickly toward the motel.



Faith felt tense as she glanced at the silent watcher in the driver's seat. Giles had been right on time to pick her up. He'd said Buffy had promised her mom she'd be home for dinner, and Giles had offered to drop Faith off there after their meeting with the council representatives. It seemed weird that Buffy wouldn't have come with them. Since when did she care about being home for dinner anyway? Giles cleared his throat and Faith subtly rolled her eyes. Her skin was crawling. Rolling her shoulders back, she tried to force herself to relax. They were going to meet with the council. They'd fix this problem and she'd grab Buffy and be kicking vamp ass by tonight.

"So, Faith," Giles said conversationally. "Any change since I saw you earlier?"

The slayer shook her head impatiently. "Same as it's been."

Giles pressed his lips together for a moment. "Well, I'm sure the council will be able to assist us. In fact," He glanced at her, smiling quietly. "I think they may be assigning you a new watcher." Finally. He finished internally.

"Yeah?" She sat up straighter, more engaged now. If they were giving her another watcher, then it must not be something going wrong with the calling. There was another explanation and the council could figure out a way to fix it. She smiled broadly back. "It's about time."

Giles snorted in agreement.

Her grin was sharp and quick. "Not that I wanna get rid of you, G-man."

"Of course not." He replied dryly.

"Just that you're B's watcher."

"I understand, Faith." He guided them carefully out of the business district, turning toward the long stretch of road headed toward the university. "But I do want you to know if you should ever need my assistance," He cleared his throat faintly. "Well, I'll still consider you my slayer."

"Thanks." Faith muttered, surprised. The two rode in a not uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. "So where are these council guys anyway?"

"They're at the Sunspot Motel."

"Passed up the chance to stay at the SunnyD Motor Inn?" She shook her head. "Thought you British types had good taste."

The watcher smiled slightly. "I'm surprised they agreed to stay anywhere in Sunnydale. The council spares no expense when making travel arrangements."

Faith frowned. The watchers were living it up while she was staying in some flea bag motel a day away from eviction? Figured.

Suddenly the car jerked and Giles braked sharply. Faith glanced around them in alarm as he began slowly guiding the car to the roadside. "Uh, G? I dunno if this is the best place to stop." The brunette said nervously. Ahead, a boarded over building loomed, the last light of day fading quickly behind its broad frame. Shrubbery surrounded it, with overgrown tendrils creeping over its broken porch rails and snaking up the building's sides. A faded board sign sat out from the place, advertising rooms for let at the Sunnydale Arms.

"We'll be moving again in a moment." Giles replied confidently, putting the engine in park. "I expect it's just a flat tire."

Faith nodded tensely as Giles stepped from the car and pulled his coat tighter to his chest. He walked quickly around the car, checking each tire. Frowning as he reached the front driver's side wheel, he met Faith's eyes through the windshield. "A flat!" He called loudly. "We'll have to put the spare on. Can you pull the trunk release?" He headed for the back of the car as Faith bent over his seat to pop the trunk.

"Great." She muttered darkly. "So much for being out on patrol tonight."



At the Sunnydale Motor Inn, Buffy hammered on the flimsy door to Room 3 in frustration. Cordelia and Oz peered from the van's windows, wearing matching expressions of concern. "She's not here." Buffy sighed unnecessarily, slumping back into the passenger seat. She squeezed her fingers together helplessly. Where the hell was Faith? Had Giles taken her? Why? Why would Giles want to hurt the other slayer?

"We should check Giles's apartment." Cordelia suggested. Buffy and Oz both looked back at her in surprise. "What?" She said defensively.

"Nothing." Buffy replied. "You're right." Cordelia sniffed in agreement and Buffy turned toward the guitarist. "Oz?"

He nodded and the van lumbered through the parking lot. He turned left, heading further into town.

Buffy watched the passing scenery blankly. Worry gnawed at her insides. Had it really only been this morning when she'd woken up next to Faith?

The other slayer had already been awake when Buffy slowly blinked her eyes and yawned. "Morning, B." She'd whispered guardedly.

"Hey," Buffy murmured back, taking in Faith's bare shoulders just peeking out from under the thin sheet. "How's your back?"

The brunette shrugged. "Feels okay."

"Let me see?"

When Faith rolled closer, settling on her stomach, the slim expanse of her back was unmarred. Buffy reached out, sliding her hand lightly over the other girl's smooth skin. "Yeah," She agreed. "Looks good."

Faith shifted onto her side, propping her head up on her left palm. "How's my face?" She asked, for something to say. She could tell the cuts and scrapes had knitted themselves back together.

Buffy gazed up at her, laying on her back. The other girl's dark hair escaped over her propped arm haphazardly. The off-white sheet draped low over the tops of her breasts, leaving slightly less to the imagination than some of Faith's less modest shirts. Worn thin from years of washing, the fabric did little to cover the shape of her body. Buffy's eyes found their way back up to Faith's face. Their eyes met. "Beautiful." The blonde murmured back.

Faith's smile was small and pleased. Tentatively, her free hand slid across the blankets to rest on Buffy's stomach. "Yeah?"

"Yeah." The blonde confirmed, settling her hand on top of Faith's. "What time is it?"

Faith glanced over her shoulder to see the plastic alarm clock resting there. The sheet came perilously close to sliding down her torso completely. "Almost seven."

Buffy sighed. "I gotta get going."


Buffy slid reluctantly out of the bed, finding her jeans and slipping into them. She frowned at the caked streak of blood down the left leg. Faith settled onto her back, watching unabashedly as Buffy yanked the borrowed t-shirt over her head and slid her own messy top back on. The blonde picked up her boots and came to sit on the edge of the bed by Faith. Lacing up, she glanced over her shoulder. "So, I'll see you later?"

"Sure." The brunette nodded.

"Okay." The blonde slayer finished knotting up her boots and tucked her pant legs down over them. Turning around, she leaned toward Faith. "I'll see you then."

Faith started to nod but was interrupted by the other slayer suddenly pressing into her arms. Buffy's mouth was quick but soft against hers and then the blonde was retreating, grabbing her jacket and heading for the door. "Bye!" She called, and was out the door before the surprised Faith could reply.

"Do you think he killed her?" Cordelia asked suddenly, ripping Buffy sharply out of her musings.

Appalled, she wheeled around to stare at Cordelia. "No!"

The brunette shrugged innocently. "Well he was stabbing her with needles a few hours ago, excuse me for thinking Giles is up to something!"

Oz winced but stayed out of the argument.

"Look," Buffy growled. "We don't know what you saw; we can't just jump to conclusions."

"Denial, much?" Cordelia shot back. "I know what I saw. He injected Faith with something."

Buffy wiped her hand down her face tiredly. "Which is why we're looking for them."

"Whatever." The cheerleader settled back into the van's seat, rolling her eyes.

"We're here." Oz piped in, and Buffy turned forward. The lights in Giles's apartments were off. "Doesn't look like he's here."

Buffy agreed, but got out of the van to knock anyway. When Giles didn't come to the door, she started back to the van in despair. They'd have to search the whole town now, and who knew if they'd even find them?

"What should we do now?" Cordelia asked as soon as Buffy got back in.

"I don't know." The slayer admitted, frustrated. "He could have taken her anywhere."

"Well, so we look everywhere." The brunette said firmly.

"Guys, his car isn't here." Oz pointed out. "He must have it wherever he is."

"Right," Buffy rallied. "Then let's go, everybody look out for Giles's car."

"We'll find her." Oz assured her. The van took off down the street with a squeal of tires, and an indignant shriek as Cordelia was displaced from her seat.



The spare tire was propped against the car's side, while Giles fumbled through an extremely disorganized trunk. Faith leaned against the driver's side rear door, arms folded angrily across her chest. "I know it's in here somewhere." Giles repeated for the tenth time, rummaging around for a wrench that would allow him to remove the lug nuts.

Faith kicked off from the door with an impatient sigh. If she had her slayer strength, she'd have ripped the lug nuts right off his damned tire. And then his little British head right off his neck. Kicking small rocks from her path, she walked a few paces away from the car. If Buffy were here at least she'd have gotten the tire off and they could have been meeting with the council guys and figuring out what was going on by now. She pursed her lips bitterly. We'll get your powers back, Faith. I promise, Faith. But now when they actually had a chance to do something about it, where was B? At home eating dinner.

A surprised cry sounded behind her, and Faith wheeled around. A vampire was clutching Giles around the throat, dragging him backward toward the old boarding house. "Giles!" She shouted, already forgetting her irritation. The slayer took off after them. The vampire noticed her and increased his pace, lifting Giles from his feet and racing toward the building.

"Stop!" She screamed uselessly, cursing her slow speed as she pushed her legs as hard as she could to close the distance between them. The vampire cleared the porch several yards ahead of her and disappeared into the dark house. Faith paused in the doorway, a sudden bloom of terror expanding through her chest. If she went in this house, they would probably both be killed. But if she didn't… Shit. She peered forward into the darkness. The hallway was draped in shadow, with looming doorways running into it on both sides. Behind her a car sped by on the main roadway. She could leave. There was nothing she could do after all except get eaten with him. And he wasn't her watcher; he was Buffy's. Buffy. The blonde would be devastated if anything happened to the librarian. Her fingers gripped the doorjamb. "Giles!" She called again, a touch of hysteria coloring her voice. Fuck. She fumbled in the back of her tight pants for the stake she always kept tucked there. Holding it defensively, Faith crept into the darkness.



The vampire paused in the front parlor, his hold on Giles loosening. The freed watcher fell to the floor, gasping for air. A rectangle of light fell over him, and Hobson stepped to him, extending a hand. Glaring, and still choking, the watcher grasped it and allowed himself to be hauled to his feet. "Sorry about that." Hobson grinned, not seeming apologetic whatsoever. "Have to make it real for the slayer, you know."

Giles freed his hand and raised it to the fabric burns forming on his neck. "Of course." He muttered angrily.

Hobson perked an eyebrow at the vampire still standing beside them. "Go on, Demitri. Don't you have a slayer to kill?"

The vampire gazed at him coldly for a moment and then turned on his heel and disappeared into the shadowy hall.

"In here," Hobson gestured and Giles followed him into a small dimly lit room. Another councilman closed the door behind the two and locked it firmly. "Blair." Hobson waved his hand in the man's direction and Blair nodded at Giles in greeting.

"What is this?" Giles managed, his voice hoarse.

"The old sewing room." Hobson seated himself behind a wall of television screens. "We've set up the house so that we can monitor her progress through the test, no matter which room she goes into." Blair took another chair and settled in to watch the monitors intently.

"And the vampire? How do you get him to play your little game?"

Shrugging, the councilman gestured for Giles to take a seat. "He has been a prisoner in our London office. We offered him his freedom in exchange for his assistance."

"You mean in exchange for killing Faith."

The two Englishmen exchanged amused glances. "Pull up over here, Rupert. We're about to see what your girl's made of."

On screen, Faith crept down the hallway, holding her stake aloft, not knowing Demitri waited in the nearest doorway. Giles closed his eyes against the sight as the vampire smiled and stepped into the hall.



"Damn it!" Buffy muttered as Oz turned and started down yet another street. They'd covered most of Sunnydale over the last hour. Cordelia was hunched forward in her seat so her face was between the two in the front seat, and all three were concentrating on scanning the streets for any sign of Giles, Faith, or Giles's little car. The shops beside them fell away to reveal the wide expanse of Rugg's field. In the darkness it was oddly deserted, devoid of the university students usually lounging or playing sports on its grassy surface. The long field flew by. They'd be at the Sunspot Motel in a minute and still there was no sign of them anywhere. What if he'd taken Faith out of town somewhere? She'd never find them.

"We're running out of town." Oz mentioned gently, as they stopped at the light of the next intersection. He turned on his left turn signal.

"I know." Buffy said tightly.

"That's it!" Cordelia cried, as soon as Oz began the turn.

Parked haphazardly on the road ahead was Giles's little yellow car. It leaned pathetically to the side with its front tire completely flat. The trunk stood open and there was no sign of Giles or Faith. Just ahead of the car loomed a huge abandoned building. Oz pulled quickly onto the shoulder and threw the van in park.

Buffy was out and running before he finished taking the keys out. She bounded up the stairs and slowed at the open doorway. Unearthing a stake from her pocket, she held its slight weight securely in her hand. If Faith was in here, she'd find her. And if Giles had done something to her… Well, she didn't know what to do about that yet. But something would be done!

Cordelia and Oz ran up behind her as she stood in the doorway listening for any noises to indicate where Faith and Giles might be. The slayer held up a palm toward them, slowing their approach. They finished the journey silently, both clutching makeshift weapons. Oz held a tire iron and Cordelia clutched an aluminum baseball bat in both hands. "Stay behind me." Buffy whispered, eyes hard. The two Scoobs nodded and the trio entered the hallway.



Faith was in the basement, crouched underneath the stairs. Doubled over, she panted hard, holding her aching side. The vampire had broken a rib or two with a solid kick to her side. She'd lost her stake somewhere along the way and now she found herself defenseless. She could hear him lurking elsewhere in the basement. Fucker was playing with her. Twice upstairs and once down here, he'd cornered her and she'd fought furiously against him, kicking and punching as hard as she could although she knew it wasn't really hurting him that badly. All three times he'd left a hole she could slip through, or flew backward harder than her kick warranted, allowing her to escape. She'd run all over this damned house, there was hardly anything that could be used as a real weapon. The knives were gone from the kitchen. The furniture could be broken into stakes, but she'd already had one of those.

Footsteps sounded closer to her hiding spot and she slid quietly into a crouch, her hand touching the floor for support. Something cool and metal moved under her fingers and she wrapped her hand around it reflexively to keep it from making noise. The object was cylindrical, and when she pulled upward it came easily. Some kind of pipe probably, about the length of her forearm, and heavy. It would do. A muffled laugh filled the air, very close by. Almost right above her head. She tensed, both hands wrapped around the pipe. Another step closer… She swung out with all her might, the pipe smashing solidly into the vampire's kneecap. His scream was strangely muffled, as though cotton filled his mouth, and then he was falling beside her. Faith raised the pipe and brought it down toward his windpipe.

Demitri caught her wrist with an enraged hiss, and twisted sharply. Gasping as white hot pain shot up her arm, Faith was forced to release the pipe and watch in horror as it clattered uselessly to the floor. The vampire yanked her closer, struggling to his feet again. "Get off me!" She shouted, kicking out at him. Her balance was impaired with the rest of her slayer abilities and a misplaced kick tilted her forward. The grip on her arm didn't move and she heard audible snapping as the bones in her wrist were crushed. She screamed so loudly that Demitri stepped back, dropping her arm. Faith pulled it against her side and swung out with her other arm, catching him across the cheekbone. He took the hit well, instantly snapping back toward her, this time driving a fist into her mouth. Her teeth ached and she clenched her jaw shut as stars swam in her vision.

Forcing herself to focus, Faith bent and darted forward, driving her shoulder into his abdomen. He sprawled backward, his head thudding against the concrete floor. An enraged growl sprang from his lips and he hissed open mouthed at her. To her horror, there was only a dark cavity where his tongue should have been. Faith recoiled momentarily, and the vampire used that to his advantage, leaping forward to pin her against the wall. His cold hands wrapped around her throat, squeezing harder and harder. The slayer struggled, her unbroken arm against his throat, trying to force him away from her. But it was useless. He was too strong. She felt hot. The strength in her limbs was fading.

Suddenly he was yanked forcefully backward, and his fingers dug into her throat as he tried to hold on to Faith. She fell from his grasp, dropping to her knees on the floor. Clutching her neck, she looked up to see what had interrupted her imminent death. Her vision was kind of fuzzy, but she was sure that vaguely blonde blob in front of her was Buffy. I'd recognize that ass anywhere. The other slayer was blocking Demitri's path to Faith, her slim form practically shaking with suppressed aggression. "B-Buffy?" Faith gritted out, her voice mangled.

Buffy didn't turn, her focus solely on Demitri, who had climbed to his feet. The vampire looked puzzled, and grunted at the interloper, starting to shift back and forth as though looking for a hole in her defenses.

The slayer maintained her ground, feet spaced widely apart for maximum balance. She smiled at the surprised vampire condescendingly. "What? Nobody told you there were two slayers in this town?"

Demitri's eyes widened and his face twisted in anger. Without warning he charged at Buffy, tackling her to the ground.

From the top of the stairs, Oz motioned for Cordelia to follow him, hoping to grab the injured slayer and get her out of the basement while the vampire was distracted. The duo crept cautiously down the stairs before the brunette grabbed Oz's arm, pulling him back up a step as Buffy and the demon crashed into the landing.

Demitri cursed himself for having played with the other slayer for so long. He could have eaten her and been free by now. But instead the blonde one was on his back, her forearm pressed across his throat like lead. He struggled frantically to remove her before coming up with a better solution. The girl was strong, but she was also small, and he would use that to his advantage now. He ran straight at the concrete basement wall, turning as he got close, so that the two of them sailed through the air and impacted hard enough to crack the cement. Buffy was stunned but her grip stayed sharp, and if anything she pulled back tighter against his throat. Enraged, he slammed them both backward into the wall repeatedly, Buffy's body taking the brunt of the impact each time. Finally her arm released and she dropped to the ground behind him with a groan.

Satisfied, he cracked his sore neck and spotted his quarry still under the stairs where he'd left her. Two additional humans crouched on the stairs. He'd eat them later. His prize was moving now, climbing shakily onto her knees. She froze when she saw him free of her friend's hold and Demitri smiled wolfishly. He took one step before Buffy's leg swept into the back of his knees, knocking him soundly onto his ass on the floor. She leapt on him, fists pummeling his face at a frenzied pace. There was no way to dodge the blows raining on his head, but he bucked wildly underneath her, disturbing her balance enough to knock her backward. She landed with her butt between his knees, and he pulled back and kicked her in the chest with both legs before she could escape.

Buffy was winded but she rolled quickly away and jumped back to her feet. The vampire was single minded, again trying to move toward Faith. Darting again in front of Faith, Buffy squared her shoulders. "You're starting to tick me off a bit." She volunteered to the approaching vamp. He stopped inches away, staring hungrily past her at the brunette. His vision was blocked when Buffy moved directly into his line of sight. "I'm going to kill you either way." She promised. "But if you touch her again, I'll make sure it hurts." Abruptly she tilted forward onto her hands, bringing her feet over her head and into his face and sending him flying across the room. She was moving as she landed, retrieving her fallen stake and going in for the kill shot.

But the vampire wasn't as injured as she'd thought and as she jumped astride him to drive it home, he brought his palm up into her chin. Buffy's head snapped back painfully and he followed it with a back hand, then kicked her off of him. Dazed, she couldn't move away before he was up on his feet and gripping her arm. In one swift motion, he'd spun her to the side and flung her face first into the nearest wall. Her hands extended defensively in front of her, but she still connected solidly into the concrete.

Demitri wheeled around, desperate now to finish this job and make his escape. He was met with a face full of burning holy water thrown by Cordelia. The tall girl screamed as Demitri's flailing arms almost clutched her and Oz lifted her off her feet to swing her out of range. He struck the vampire with the tire iron once, twice, and then a third time before the screaming vamp fell to his knees.

Faith had slowly been getting her breath back this whole time. And now she crawled along the floor until she reached Buffy's forgotten stake. She grasped it unsteadily, and pulled herself to her feet. Her legs felt like jello underneath her as she crossed to where Oz and Cordelia were scrambling to keep the vampire on the floor. Oz was smashing the tire iron down into the vamp's back while Cordelia was assaulting his sides with sloppy kicks. Faith practically fell onto Demitri's back, raised the stake above her head and brought it down as hard as she could with a guttural scream.

The three teens panted in the silence as vampire ash swirled in the air around them. The tire iron fell from Oz's exhausted fingers and clattered hollowly against the floor. He crossed the room to where Buffy was slowly coming around, and helped her sit up.

"Faith?" She asked, looking around frantically.

Cordelia helped Faith over and she slumped down next to Buffy. "Right here, B."

"You okay?"

"Yeah." Faith's smile turned into a grimace as she moved her wrist the wrong way. "You okay?"

"Yeah." Buffy smiled tiredly up at Cordelia and Oz. "Let's get out of here."




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