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by Antigone6


A/N: This story is a definite labor of love for me. I started it a few months ago in the middle of my second period class, just doodling on the back of a notebook and writing out random phrases, sentences, plot ideas. Then, it took form. I would write a chapter every few days. Each part is named after song I was listening to when I wrote it. I hope you all like it, because I've had a blast writing it.
Oral's Notes: No email address for Antigone6. Please leave a review at Fanfiction.net

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Part 1 : Paradise Not For Me

I can't remember
When I was young
I can't explain
If it was wrong
My life goes on
But not the same
Into your eyes
My face remains

Sometimes, when it's late and there is silence except, maybe, for the occasional cry or shout from some nightmare or the squeak of springs as someone turns over on a thin cheap mattress, Faith feels like she's been here since the beginning of time. It is those times when all she can remember are the sounds of metal clinking against metal, and being grabbed hard, pulled in and shoved down on cold tile by some ignorant inmate who is always surprised by her strength and reflexes. All she can do is routine. She wakes, she works, she eats, she exercises, she smokes, she eats, and she sleeps. It all repeats over and over, day in day out. She reads, when she is allowed into the library of the Los Angeles County Women's Penitentiary. Her favorite books are the ones she remembers from grade school. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe; The Indian in the Cupboard, The Borrowers. They are the only children's books in the library and she reads them cover to cover, alternating between each secret world.

On the nights when she can't remember life before bars, she goes beautifully numb after awhile. She's frozen in her bunk over a snoring inmate whose name she always thinks is Cindy, but is in fact Laura. Three years and she still can't recall the names. She can't move on those nights, becoming a claustrophobic trapped inside her body. The numbness takes her over and after a long while, faces materialize, events recall themselves, and she remembers. Oh yes, there was life before LAC Women's Pen...and it was Hell. She feels all of it again--wood, sharp and pointed, piercing human flesh; blood coating her hands, *I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I...*; running, screaming, praying to something she can't identify because she was never taught religion but God she needs it now; and hazel eyes on a heart shaped face framed by blonde hair. And the numbness subsides with that last image of a girl she will never see again.

Her heart always pounds as memories fade into oblivion once again and she settles herself back into the peaceful ignorance of non-remembrance. The prison shrink calls it memory repression. Faith calls it smart. She doesn't remember, because it makes the next rest of her life a little more bearable. Because she's most *definitely* here for the rest of her life. So...she forgets, until those nights when it's silent and the numbness settles in and there are no pretend worlds to live in. And it's good, for now, until she sees that face again. But until then, Faith is fine with forgetting.


Part 2: Fear

but I fear
I have nothing to give.
I have so much
to lose here in this lonely place.
Tangled up in your embrace
there's there's nothing I'd like better than
to fall.

-Sarah McLachlan

It was a Saturday when Faith had a visitor she had never seen before. In the three years she had spent in prison, she had three visitors. Every month, twice a month, Angel visits. For about three months he never showed, and that's when Wes came. She had been surprised to see him, and wondered if he wanted an apology or something, and she'll always remember the fear that gripped her at that moment when she really got a good look at him. Was someone dead? Again? But no. Angel was missing. Missing. "How the fuck do you lose a vampire?" She had demanded into the mouthpiece of the phone, "He's not easy to miss."

"I've not been in connection with Angel in months." Wesley had bit back, "I just thought it would be right to tell you. Goodbye, Faith."

He had left then without another word. Faith worried for weeks until Angel showed again, looking like Hell, but there at the least. He hadn't explained, hadn't offered up any clues. Just asked the usual questions and left. Faith knew, vaguely, of Connor. Angel had been happy, those first two months with his son. Then, Connor was gone from Angel's life, and soon after, Angel was gone from Faith's. Her other visitor had come twice. Xander had visited once to tell her Buffy was dead. Then, he had come once more a few months later, to tell her Buffy was back. That was over a year ago. Back, had been the word he used, not alive. Faith had wondered about that ever since, but when he had told her, so bluntly, she had just felt so giddy all she could do was laugh until he left her, slumped over the table, laughing/sobbing into her hands.

Today, it was a man in tweed. "My name is Vincent Daye. I am from the Council of Watchers...what is left of it."

Faith's ears perked up, "What's left of it? What happened?"

"You know, I assume, what has been happening? Surely you aren't that cut off from the world?"

"Yeah-yeah, I saw...I mean...there was fire. In the sky, like rain. A few nights ago. And there's been this....this...feeling. I don't know. Tell me what's happening." Her voice is higher than it usually is, and she curses herself for letting herself be bothered by anything...especially in front of a Watcher.

"The world is ending." Vincent said simply, "And it shouldn't surprise you that it is stirring in Sunnydale as well as Los Angeles."

Faith sighed, "Is everyone alive?"

"If you are referring to Ms. Summers, yes. She is alive. But the Council Headquarters was destroyed, taking with it most of our Watchers and our resources. Several Slayers-in-Training along with their Watchers are dead. Right now, your Ms. Summers is housing many of the remaining Slayers."

"What's doing it? What caused all the fire?"

"The firestorm was the doing of a different evil...It is of no significance to you. The First is going to flatten Sunnydale, and probably open the Hellmouth in the process. You are needed there."

Needed. Faith gulped in air, "The First? But...Buffy killed it. I remember because...it snowed..." Faith leaned back in her chair, the memory hitting her hard. Standing on the porch with Joyce, little flakes of ice falling from the Southern California sky. She shook her head, hard.

"The First is invincible. It can be contained, but never defeated."

Faith closed her eyes and bit her lip, "What can I do?"

"Help them. I've arranged, with some of the Council connections, to have you released."

And suddenly, Faith didn't really care how or why or when...because Vincent Daye was holding up a clear bag of Faith's clothes, and not a stitch was prison blue.

"Sign me up." She said, eyeing her denim jacket from behind the Plexiglas.


When she stepped off the bus and into the depot, Faith could feel it. Power permeated every inch of this town, and it sunk into her skin and clung to her hair. She always felt it in Sunnydale, the darkness and the death. It was a rush and felt...wrong, but so powerful she never cared. Until now. Now, she could sense The First. The life was being sucked right out of Sunnydale.


She turned and was almost knocked over by the face she met. Buffy stood, as always, a few inches shorter than Faith. Her hair was different than the last time they'd met. Her face, too. She looked older, and very, very tired.

"Hey, B." She said, her voice coming out strained. She had waited for this for two days. Waiting for the coldness, the rigid acceptance, Faith braced herself.

"I'm glad you came." Buffy said softly, "We need...I need your help."

Faith smiled lightly, "I'm up for some ass kicking."

"Good. Where are your bags?"

"Uh..." Faith blushed, silently cursing her own blood flow, "I don't really have...I'm kind of possession-less."

"Oh...Oh well. You can borrow some of my stuff, or Anya's or Willow's." Buffy motioned for Faith to follow her out of the depot, talking as they walked, "We have a lot of work to do and next to no time. It's really cramped at the house; I have four Slayers-in-Waiting living there, along with the entire Scooby gang."

Faith nodded. They reached a silver car, "Wow. Did they start paying you or something?"

"It's Xander's." Buffy explained, unlocking the doors. After they had both climbed in, Buffy said, "He's making beaucoup bucks building the new Sunnydale High."

"Wow. What else has changed? I get details and updates about LA all the time, but I'm clueless to Sunnydale."

"Uh...I died, but you...um...knew that." Buffy pursed her lips.

"Xander told me."

"I know."


There was a very long silence, in which Faith wondered if Xander had told Buffy the details of her reaction to Buffy's death, which was most definitely not her finest moment. But then, Buffy spoke again.

"Last summer, Willow's girlfriend was killed."

"The blonde one? She was really quiet, kinda stuttery? The one I was mean to when--"

"When you were me. Yes. She was shot, so was I...Um, Willow kind of lost it and went a little bad."

"Always the quiet ones."

Buffy took her eyes off the road for a moment to glare at Faith, "She's recovering. Don't pick on her, she isn't the same girl you knew."


"Xander almost got married."

"No shit!" Faith looked over at Buffy, "You're kidding me."

"Nope. But, there was a thing...and it kind of didn't work out. Anya, who is at the house right now, was his fiancée."

"I missed...a lot."

"Mom died."

Faith fell silent. Angel hadn't told her...She blinked back tears that came unbidden to her eyes, "What? But...how?"

"It was a complication from surgery."

"But..." Faith swallowed hard, "I'm sorry. I just...Your mom was special. I liked her."

"Except for that time you nearly killed her?"

Faith looked from Buffy to her lap, "That was...I won't apologize, because that wouldn't do anything."

"I don't expect you to."

After that, they rode in silence. Faith began to recognize streets and buildings, until they finally pulled onto Revello Drive. The house was as she remembered. Ivy still climbed the walls, a porch swing still hung out front.

"One more thing." Buffy said, shutting off the ignition.


"Spike is living here. He has a soul. He's also kind of...out of it."

"Spike? The *vampire*? Christ, B, do you run a shelter for them now?"

"Vamps and convicts. That's my specialty." Buffy said, not looking at Faith as she started up the walkway.

Faith could hear them talking as the door opened, and she was suddenly very, very, frightened of the people she had betrayed--and all of them were in that house.


Part 3: Invisible City

But all of these horses
That you chase around
In the end they are the ones
That always bring you down
This invisible city
Where no one sees nothing
We're touching faces in the dark
Feelin' pretty is so hard

-The Wallflowers

"There have been increased vampire attacks in the hotspots around the caves." Willow was saying, scrolling through newspaper articles on her laptop while Dawn, Buffy, and Faith stared, searching for clues in the black and white text, at the screen. "The First must be gathering a following or something..."

"Or maybe the supernatural activity is what's doing it." Says Giles thoughtfully, "It could be working the vampires, not to mention other demons, into a sort of feeding frenzy."

Faith is sitting between Willow and Dawn, feeling very shut in and fidgety. Giles sat across from the four on the couch, Xander pacing behind him while Anya read from a pile of books that had taken over the living room. The Slayers-in-Training are variously reading or training. Faith allows herself a moment to watch them every so often. Their reactions to her had been strange. They had little knowledge of her, if any, and most of them wouldn't make eye contact. *Because, you're a murderer* something whispers in her mind, and Faith tears her gaze away from the girls. "What?"

"No one said anything." Dawn says, "Are you..."

"I'm fine." Faith says quickly, but Dawn scoots away from her on the couch. "So..." She looked upwards at the ceiling, as if staring through to the second floor, where Buffy had gone to check on Spike when they had first arrived, then to the chair where a skinny blond guy was tied up, "I've missed quite a bit, and I still haven't been introduced to scrawny over there. Can we take a break to catch me up a bit?" And it feels good to speak with the same confidence she did before...it's been three years since she said anything above a soft murmur and even longer since she knew what she was saying.

"That," Anya said, closing her book and getting up to cross over to the bound boy, "Is Andrew...Can I hit him?"

"No." Everyone but Faith chorused.

"I'm being held for no good reason." Andrew told her, "And my life has been endangered by these people constantly since I was dragged into this whole thing. They wouldn't even give me a weapon, and..."

Faith ignored him and turned back to the group, "Dork boy, check. What'd he do?"

"A lot. Let's move on shall we?" And Faith notices that Willow has closed the laptop and is standing by the boarded up window, staring off through the small crack, like she's looking for someone.

"We need to patrol." Xander is saying, and Faith realizes she's been watching Willow instead of listening.

"We definitely should." Buffy agrees, "Um...I don't want the girls coming. It's not safe. Xander, Anya, Giles, and Willow, stay here and make sure everything is OK. Spike can help in an emergency but...just leave him alone, OK? He's not...he isn't well. Dawn, I think you should get some sleep."


"No. You aren't patrolling. Just Faith and I. Get some sleep."

Faith swallows, her hands curling around a stake someone hands her. The feel of a stake is so familiar, not even a few years in prison can erase the sense memories. She tucks it in her jacket, another in the waistband of her pants, and yet another in an ankle strap that Buffy hands her.

"Are you up for it?" Buffy asks, looking at her in the eye like she's done a million times before.

"You don't get it...You killed a man."

"No, you don't get it...I don't care."

Faith grits her teeth and nods, "Five by five."

Buffy smiles at the old saying, "OK. Let's go."

Part 4: Slide

Staring at the same four walls, have you tried to help yourself
The rings around your eyes they don't hide, that you need to get some rest
It's all right to make mistakes you're only human
Inside everybody's hiding something


She fights the same, only harder, Faith thinks, watching Buffy while at the same time trying to stake a vamp of her own. Buffy still has the same inventiveness, but now it's personal, and she flies at the vampire at full throttle. *Like you used to* something murmurs, but Faith chooses to ignore the voice that has been haunting her all night. Finally, she slams the stake home, and is showered in dust a moment before Buffy does the same.

"You were really wailing on him." Faith said, inwardly fighting off the adrenaline that had reached a high she hadn't let herself tap into for years.

"Well...I guess I'm a little tense." The other woman admits sheepishly, "You're still doing good. Did you work out all the time or what?"

"Nope. I tried to stay away from it as much as possible."

There is a long silence. Faith held her arms around her waist, as if holding herself back with her arms. For a moment, Buffy wants to comfort her, a strange urge to touch her shoulder, her hand, something... then Buffy stops walking, angry at herself now, for weakening against the woman she hated, the woman who'd almost killed her "Faith, we need to clear a few things up."

"What?" Faith turns around, re-crossing her arms nervously. The prison shrink also said that Faith's need to fidget could be either a defense mechanism or ADHD that went untreated in childhood. Faith called it standing.

"You...you're only out because of the council. I didn't request you. You are still a murderer and I am still one of the people you tried to kill. This is not the good ole days. Got it?"

"I never thought it was 'the good ole days'. Were there ever any in the first place?" *Could've been...but you took care of that* Faith cringes against the hissing voice in her ear and the words from the one person whose forgiveness really matters to her.

"I just wanted to make myself clear."

*She'll hate you forever...*

"Do you hear that?" Faith asks, placing her hands over her ears. *You'll be a killer forever. Once a murderer always--*

"Hear what?" Buffy is staring at her, a tiny wrinkle between her eyebrows, just above her nose. "What are you trying to pull?"

"That voice." Faith snaps, "How can you not hear it?" *She thinks you're crazy. How far off is she?* "SHUT UP!"

"Faith, stop."

"I can't...it isn't me...it's--"

*Your mother said you were crazy the night you told her about the men with the strange faces...The ones that turned to nothing right in front of you. How far off was she?*

Faith is doubled over as the voice gets louder.

*Crazy Faith...Crazy. You belonged in that cage, didn't you? Yes...*


"B, I swear. It's...I'm not faking anything."

Buffy stares at her for a long moment, weighing the options in her head. She wants to be pissed off forever, to not care if Faith hears evil voices. But she has a job to do, she rationalizes. "The First."

"What?" Faith whispers, her hands dropping from her ears. For now, the voice is silent.

"The First, it's gotta be messing with your head." Buffy looks sympathetic for a moment, "What is it saying?"

"I...nothing it's, just, nothing." Faith shakes her head, "Why don't we get back. Giles probably wants to know.."

"Yeah." Buffy looks like she might reach out and touch her, but doesn't, instead walking ahead. Faith follows, the voice saying nothing more, save for one soft phrase *Do you remember my face when you killed me, Faith?*


Redemption. Giles had deduced that The First was targeting those on a quest for redemption, or who have had guilt shoved upon them. Angel and Spike with their souls, Faith and all her guilt, Casey showing herself to a guilt-ridden Willow. It made sense that The First would target the weak first. And, to a large evil, those working towards redemption were weak. It had targeted Dawn's insecurities by appearing as Joyce and to the Slayers In Training as one of their own because they were scared already, so they would naturally seek to trust a member of their group. But an explanation didn't make anything stop. Faith has her own spot on the floor of Dawn's room, along with three slayers-in-training. The voice keeps talking, on and on. She shuts her eyes, screwing them up tight until she sees colors behind her eyelids.

*Open your eyes*

And she does, almost screaming when she sees the the face in front of her. Alan Finch, who is dead, dead for almost five years, crouches in front of her, resting his head in his hand. "I probably would've died, anyway, in the ascension." He says, holding her gaze with those same eyes that had looked up at her so long ago, filled with so much fear and disbelief as his blood poured from his chest. "But you know, at least then, it wouldn't've been in an alley. At least then, I wouldn't've been tossed in the ocean. Thanks, so much." He leans even closer, "You really are quite the masterpiece, Faith. No wonder the mayor loved you so."

Faith cries out, shutting her eyes again, wills it to just go away. When she opens them, there is no Alan Finch. One of the Slayers picks her head up from her pillow, "Are you all right?" She asks in a lilting British accent.


"If you say so." The girl's curly head drops back to her pillow and Faith closes her eyes.

*Well, gee.* a new voice says, *Look at my girl now.*

"No." Faith whispers, opening her eyes and looking up at the man pacing the room. He walks between sleeping bags and steps over sleeping Slayers, but they don't notice him.

"Well I must say, I'm not happy." Richard Wilkins says, stopping at Faith's feet, "I thought you would follow in my footsteps, take the Summers girl down. But look at you, Faith. Aiding her? That...that...bimbo? Don't you remember? She had Angel, whom you wanted so...But maybe you didn't. Did you, Faith? Was it Buffy you were so jealous of?" He crouches down, much like Alan Finch had appeared, "Or was it Angel you envied? Hmm? You wanted her, and you still do."

Faith closes her eyes, grinding her teeth until she is sure they will crack.

*You will never have her.*


Parrt 5: Ordinary Life

I can't go the distance...
But when you go you take me in an instant...
In this life, I'll give it time...
Cause its always pushing up from behind...
It'll be alright, it will be fine...
Its nothing more than ordinary life...
And I show you my sins, show me all your scars...
As we settle in, its written in the stars...

-Kristen Berry

The morning is very bright. The Slayers in Training are not morning people, and Faith watches them shuffle around the too-crowded kitchen, grabbing for juice and coffee. The pretty Brunette with Penelope Cruz Lips, what is her name? Kennedy. Right. She stares at Willow from across the kitchen, a look in her eyes that Faith recognizes all too well. Interesting.

Faith is doing some watching of her own. Buffy is on the phone in the doorway, backlit by the sunlight that comes through the kitchen windows. She looks the same as she had before, only skinnier. Sharper. She has lost a lot. Faith knows the feeling. She turns away quickly as Buffy hangs up the phone and looks around the kitchen. "That was Giles. He's found another Potential."

"As if we aren't crowded as it is." Dawn mutters into her Cheerios, her chin resting sullenly in her left hand.
"I have to go with him to the airport to meet her. She's from Russia, her name is Sonya. That's all we know."
Buffy continues, either not hearing or completely ignoring her sister. Faith feels sorry for the youngest Summers then, sympathizing with the second-fiddle feeling. "In the meantime, Xander and Willow are going to stay with you guys. Dawn, go to school. Faith, you're coming with me."

Faith nods silently, not making eye contact, but watching Dawn as she pushes away her cereal bowl and walks slowly out of the kitchen without a word. Poor kid.

Later, Buffy is driving *When did she learn to drive, anyway* Xander's car towards Sunnydale International and Faith is sitting as close to the passenger side door as possible.

"You okay?" Buffy asks after a good ten minutes of silent driving. Faith doesn't answer for a while. How can she? Oh yes, I'm peachy keen, what with the evil ghosts and whatnot. Lovely.

"I'm fine." Faith replies at last, "Are you?"


More silence. Faith wishes she could disappear into the door of Xander's (really nice) car *Since when does he have nice wheels?* and not be here, in this confined space, near Buffy with no escape. *Acute Claustrophobia* the prison shrink called it. It explained her sleepless nights, he said. She was claustrophobic. Faith agrees.

"So. What, uh, what's the sitch with Spike?" Faith asks, her voice trembling over the first few words. But what else can she do but make small talk?

"There's no sitch."

"But you screwed him?"

Buffy's hands tighten on the steering wheel, "Yes. But...that was last year. It's over."


"It *is*." Buffy snaps, "God."

"Sorry." Faith mutters, "So you aren't like, in love with him?"

"No." Buffy replies.

And she means it. She isn't in love with Spike. She likes him, now, sure. But love is not an option, no matter what. That's the way it is. She cares if he unlives or...becomes dust on someone's floor. She glances at Faith, noting the way the other Slayer's body scrunches into the corner of her seat, her hands pulling nervously at her seat belt.

"Are you sure you're ok?"




"What's the sitch with you and this redemption thing?"

"There is no sitch."

"Yes, there is."

Faith sighs and tugs at her seatbelt some more, "I am sorry for what I did. There's no way to make up for it, but I can try to reestablish myself as a normal member of society and move on from my past. I am rehabilitating myself. The End." She says it all in monotone, repeating what the prison shrinks have said to her a thousand times over.

"How very neat and tidy of you." Buffy murmurs, "So what's the real answer?"

Faith looks over at her, "I'm sorry. That's all there is, is that I'm sorry. I have nightmares, I think about that guy in the alley and the professor and you, and Willow. I think about Angel and Wesley. I think about everyone I fucked up in that two years. I don't sleep, I barely breathe most the time. There. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"No." Buffy whispers, "I...I don't know what I wanted to hear."


"What's prison like?"



"And boring. And dark. I miss life, however shitty it was. I miss real clothes and real food, and I really miss yo-- I miss a lot." She inhales and holds it for a moment, letting the air expel slowly.

"We're here." Buffy murmurs softly, pulling into the parking garage. "Come on."


Part 6: Twinkle

but, I can see that star
when she twinkles
and she twinkles
and I sure can.
That means
I sure can.

That means
I sure can
so hard.
So hard.

-Tori Amos

Patrol that night is not as eventful as the night before. Faith doesn't hear any voices and she doesn't see any dead people. She appreciates this. On top of that, there is next to no vampire activity.

"Well this is disappointing." Buffy says as they come up through the playground in the park, "I was really hoping to kill something tonight."

"Ditto." Faith says as Buffy sits down on a swing. She takes the one next to her, pushing a little with her feet so she swings slightly. "But...all in all, a good night for me. It's quiet."

"I'm glad." Buffy says, then "Look, Faith, I'm sorry for pushing about the redemption stuff earlier...and for saying what I said last night. I didn't know..."

"Don't worry about it. I deserve it, OK?"

"Maybe you do, maybe you don't."

"Whatever you say, B."

They watch the merry-go-round turn slowly in the wind. Buffy sighs, "I remember Hansel and Gretel being "dead" on that merry-go-round."


"A long time ago, mom went patrolling with me, and we found two dead kids...but they weren't real. It's a long very odd story. It basically ends with a big hairy guy and a rat."

"Ah." Faith tries to remember is she was around for that, but finds that she can't. She thinks for a while, then "What happened to Joyce? I mean...how did it happen?"

"Well...where to begin, I guess. About two and a half years ago, they found a brain tumor. It was operable, and she got better...then she just...it was an aneurysm. I found her lying on the couch, and she was so cold..." Buffy looks down and blinks hard, "I was too late."


"She liked you, even when you kind of tried to kill her."

Faith smiles a little and shakes her head, "Your mom was a real lady, B. I wished she was my mom sometimes. On Christmas when she had me over for no reason, just to give me a good holiday...I wanted to be you so bad that day."

"Meanwhile, Buffy is off saving her boyfriend from a sunny death."

"OK, so maybe not that bad."

They both laugh and Buffy shakes her head, "And then it all just went to hell, huh?"

"Pretty much."

"I wish we had never gone out that night, Faith. I wish Alan Finch hadn't been in that alley. I wish so much had been different. I almost wish they had never called you. You would be a normal girl somewhere in Boston right now not--"

"That's not true, B. We both know that. If I hadn't been called I would've screwed up and either be in jail anyway or wind up dead in a ditch with a needle in my arm or something. It was bad before I got to Sunnydale and you know that so don't play the guilt card...And yeah, I wish it was different. Who knows how it would've went, right?"

"Yeah." Buffy reaches across the two swings and grasps Faith's hand. Faith looks over in surprise, then down at their hands. Hers with practically no fingernails to speak of, Buffy's somehow perfectly manicured despite all the chaos around her. As usual.

They stand up after a few minutes, hands still joined and they head down the path towards the park exit. Faith is very much aware of the soft palm against hers, and the not-so-subtle thumb tracing back and forth over her skin. It's a comfort thing, that tiny stroke against her skin and she wonders if her dreams had ever focused on such a tiny movement, because she sure as hell is now.

When they get back, the house is dark. The Slayers in Waiting are camped in the basement and second floor, leaving the kitchen, dining room and living room empty and wonderfully quiet.

"Well, despite the lack of slayage, I'm starving," Buffy says, letting go of Faith's hand and heading to the kitchen, "You?"

"Yeah." Faith replies, shrugging out of her denim jacket. She had borrowed one of the girls' clothes. She can't remember her name, there were too many to keep track of now. She just knew Kennedy and the new one, Sonya. Sonya; tall, Amazonian, pretty, with long blonde hair and sad aqua eyes. Faith could practically feel the power in the girl, just like all the other Potentials--but Sonya had it coming out of her pores in waves, and all of it was tinged with a guilty sadness. Faith can definitely relate.

"Ice cream?" Buffy asks, coming back from the freezer with a carton of chocolate chip cookie dough.

"Oh yes." Faith says, "I haven't had ice cream in...ages, maybe forever."

Buffy smiles and takes out two spoons.

After quiet and companionable eating, Faith suddenly looks over at Buffy, "Look, don't forgive me, OK?"


"Don't do me any favors, I don't want you to forgive me just because I got a little over-share-ish earlier."

"There hasn't been any forgiving Faith, there may never be. But I get it...Why don't you want forgiveness, anyway? Isn't that the goal?"

"I haven't earned it yet."

Buffy looks down at the ice cream and takes a bite, "After this thing with the First is over...I want you to stay. Earn it then."

"They'll send me back to the pen, B. This is all temporary."

"No. I'll get you out permanently. What's left of the Council can still make the Earth rotate backwards if they want...we'll keep you here."


"Faith, shut up, OK? If you want to earn forgiveness, take this chance."

"Fine." Faith takes another bite of ice cream and smiles, "This is so good."

"What do they feed you in prison?"

"Whatever it is, it ain't food. I've thoroughly enjoyed the food the past few days."

Buffy laughs for the second time in one day, "Sometimes, Faith, I see you."


"The you from those first few months in Sunnydale. I see her, sometimes."

"I can't see you, B."

"Neither can I." The blonde looks away, "Maybe I never will."

And then Faith just...does it. Reaches out, and puts her hand on Buffy's cheek, and turns her so they're facing each other...and kisses her. Leans over the counter, over the open ice cream carton, and just gently brushes her lips over the other woman's. Like she's done it before...like it's not just something flying out of left field, but from somewhere acutely left of left field. And, maybe even further out of the park, is Buffy leaning into her and kissing her back.

And then, it ends and Faith feels dread in her stomach. Oh. Shit. That fight or flight thing the shrinks talk about all the time is kicking in big time, and she's picking flight at the moment because Buffy is looking at her like that...like she's only looked at her once before, when Faith has blood on her hands and she's crouched in a dark alleyway, the same feeling of *what have I done?* in her chest.

"I'm sorry." She tries to say, but it doesn't get the chance because then Buffy is kissing her again, and using the fact that Faith had opened her mouth to speak to her advantage. Buffy tastes like vanilla ice cream and cookie dough. *Oh my god...Oh...* and she's really not sure what to do with her hands. That's usually not a problem for Faith. She's Faith for Christ's sakes, she's a pro at this. But this isn't Xander or some random girl (boy, man, woman, has it ever really mattered to Faith?), it's Buffy, and it's something she's wanted and she's just a little thrown off.

It all falls back into place, though, and her hands are in long blonde hair and she's half on her stool and half off, and it's all very surreal. There are people above them and people below them and a good third of those people would probably kick Faith's ass if they walked in...and she'd maybe let them because someone really needs to get her back to reality. The kiss tapers off into so many smaller ones until they are barely touching and both slowly open their eyes. And for a split second, Faith sees her in those eyes. For a moment, Buffy is 17 again and still so innocent despite it all. She turns back into the Buffy of the now very quickly, but that tiny glimpse is enough.


Part 7: Miracle

It's taken much too long
To get it right
Would it be so wrong
To maybe find someone
A miracle

-Vertical Horizon

Faith wakes up on the couch, while it's still misty grey outside. And, there are a pair of dark eyes watching her. She jumps gasping, "Jesus Christ!" As she opens her eyes to find someone watching so closely. Kennedy smirks and sits back.

"Good morning." She says cheerfully, "So. Tell me all about your crush on Buffy."

Faith stares at the girl, more than a little unnerved, "What?" She says dumbly, blinking the bleariness from her eyes.

"It's very obvious. I mean, to me anyway. I would know. So, you're gay?"

"What?" Faith repeats.

"You. Like. The. Women. Yes?" Kennedy speaks very slowly.

"I...did you want something?"

"I was just curious. I mean, the way you watch Buffy, it's all very Dawson's Creek."

"What about you? Lusting after Willow like you do?" Faith replies, one eyebrow raised. Kennedy flushes a little.

"Well...At least I'm making some progress with Willow...I'm kind of helping her."

"Right. Helping her what? Find her way between your legs?"

"Hey!" Kennedy snaps, "Watch it. Everyone else is afraid of you because of that whole murder thing, but I'm not."

"Whatever." Faith says, smiling a little. Kennedy reminds her of herself when she was called...tough, cocky, naive. "I'm just saying, people who live in glass houses..."

"Yeah. Fine. I was only asking. But now that I think about it, I really don't care if you ever get with Buffy."

"Well I'm not going to ever "get with" Buffy, Kennedy. So, there you go."

"What makes you say that?"

"It's just fact."

"I heard you guys talking last night in the kitchen, Faith. And, judging by the fact that everything went silent until I heard some nice awkward good night's, there was some R-rated happenings."

Faith stares at her again, once again slightly dumbstruck. "Kennedy, it's complicated, OK?"

"Oh, please. She wants you to stay. She practically asked you to marry her for God's sake."

Before Faith can reply, there are footsteps thundering up from the basement and down from the second floor at the same time as the rest of the house wakes up.

"Hey." Dawn says, the first downstairs, "What are you guys doing?"

"Nothing." Faith says, glaring at Kennedy to get her point across: Say a word, and there will be pain.

It's a research day, and everyone is poring over piles and piles of old and musty tomes. Faith keeps noticing Dawn and her glances at the would-be Slayers, which are usually followed by glances of a different kind towards Xander. Once again, Faith thought, Interesting. Her own glances are directed at Bufy, who had been gone for a good part of the day, and hasn't spoken to Faith yet. Hell, she's hardly looked at me. The upside to Faith's day was the lack of ghosts and voices in her head. She considers this a good sign. It has to be a good sign, or I'll lose it completely. Oh wait, I've done that already...

After hours of research and no findings, the group disperses. Xander drives Dawn to the library, Willow and Anya go for magic ingredients with Kennedy and two other Slayers tagging along, while the rest of the trainees head to the basement to train. Buffy follows them down to check on Spike, and Faith almost feels jealous. Almost. She turns on the TV to a repeat of Friends and sprawls out on the couch. Good TV, yet another thing jail is sorely lacking. When they were allowed to watch TV in the activity room, it's never anything decent. Some trashy daytime talk show or Divorce Court, and even once, Little House on the Prairie. She can sing along to the Friends theme in her head, and it's almost like she's in her old motel room, lying in the dimness of the one lamp and watching the back to back repeats to pass the time.

Sad thing is, those were the good old days...Very pathetic. A set of footsteps are coming up the stairs, and Faith can see Buffy in the kitchen from where she's sitting on the couch. She just watches, waiting, until Buffy turns her head and looks at her. She always *has* done the deer in the headlights bit fairly well. Faith just stares back, not making a move one way or the other. Buffy turns slowly and starts into the living room.
"Hi." She says in that tiny voice she always uses when she's faced with some awkward situation. Faith recognizes it right away.

"Hey." She replies in her patented don'tgiveadamn tone, but really, she's not into it. It falls flat. Buffy stops by the television and crosses her arms casually.



"Look, about last night--"

"Oh jesus, don't do that whole 'it was just a strange moment' thing. I really don't want to do it that way."

"I wasn't going to." Buffy says, "I was going to say, let's not make it into some great big drama. It was what it was."

"Which was...? Enlighten me."

"A kiss. That's it."

"Oh, good. I was afraid you thought it was pink bunny rabbits eating your skull."

"You are really twisted."

"Thank you."

This breaks the tension a little and Buffy pushes Faith's legs out of her way and sits next to her. She watches the TV for a while and it's almost a comfortable silence, really. It strikes Faith as a good opportunity to ask some questions.

"So, what's up with little sis?"

"What do you mean?"

"She's not taking this whole situation very well, is she?" Faith watches as Buffy shrugs.

"She's OK. I mean, for a while, she thought she was a Potential, but it turned out it wasn't her. She took that a little hard, but I think it was just the shock of the two extremes in just one day."

"Or, maybe, she was disappointed not to be in the Slayer Club." Faith suggests.

"Are you kidding? Dawn knows that being a Potential isn't a good thing. She knows a Slayer's shelf life isn't great. She's seen what it all leads to."

"Yeah, but she's also seen Joyce suddenly treating you like a hero, your friends forming a little team around you, and now she sees you paying so much attention to these new girls, it's gotta be tough."

"If Dawn had a problem she'd tell me."

"Ah. Because being open and honest about the inner-workings of the Summers mind is just so common in your family."

"What does that mean?" Buffy demands, sitting up straighter and staring at Faith, eyebrows raised.

"It means you've never been one to show and tell. Hello, you hid Angel from everyone for over a month. You hold everything in until you just flip out. Shall I list all the incidences? Dawn's no different."

"You're really one to talk, Miss Poster Child for the Mentally Stable."

"I never said I was any better. I'm not the one with a major superiority complex."

Buffy stares at her, gape mouthed, "Are you trying to piss me off?"

"Yes. Am I succeeding?"


"Good. You're very cute when you get all huffy."

Buffy shuts her mouth and her glare recedes and she smiles, once again allowing that former version of herself resurface for a moment. They stare at each other for a moment, then as if it's all just a play and there are cues being followed, they lean forward at exactly the same moment and their lips meet. Well. Third time's the charm Faith muses in the back of her mind as Buffy's teeth graze her bottom lip. Faith shivers and her fingers curl around the lapels of Buffy's suede jacket. It doesn't last long, as footsteps stampede up from the basement and the two Slayers spring apart as if they've been burned. Faith catches her breath before wondering if she could just lock all the girls in the basement for the next ever.


Part 8: Not The One You're Dying For

Can't you see
It's not me you're dying for
Now she's feeling more alone
Than she ever has before

-Ben Folds Five

Faith wonders, as she and Buffy take the Trainees out for a quick patrol, when this became the norm. Wearing jeans, talking to non-convicts, watching TV, nearly making out with Buffy. The last bit is what she is the most confused over. It isn't so much the actual part where she kisses Buffy, but the part where Buffy actually responds in a way that is not beating Faith to a bloody pulp. Then, there's the fact that every time (all three of them) has reduced Faith to wobbliness, a feeling she hasn't had since she was thirteen and being felt up behind a 7-11 by someone whose name she really can't remember, which is depressing in itself when you ignore the fact that she is currently turned upside down.

Kennedy keeps giving her knowing looks, too, and it's pissing her off more by the minute. Faith has been straying from the violent side of herself so far. When she patrols, she holds back, it keeps her from getting that full-on rush of slaying and the fear of picking up where she left off before Angel put her on the path to redemption keeps her from letting herself go. But she's really wanting to haul off and slap Kennedy's smile right off her face.

"OK." Buffy says as three figures become visible ahead of the group, "Looks like a party. You all, watch Faith and I. Don't try to jump in. Just watch. Stay here, we'll draw them closer."

Faith follows Buffy up the path where two vamps are holding onto either arm of a young woman, doing the usual taunt-before-you-eat bit.

"I want you to go full force." Buffy says as they approach the vampires.


"Faith, yes. You'll be fine."

"No! B, I can't. I can't, I'll--"

"No you won't. I'll make sure you're OK."

Faith looks over at her, "Please."

"You need to do this, and not just for them to see you in action. You need to learn how to control it, and I can help."

Faith can't argue anymore, because the vamps have abandoned their former meal, who is now running off in the other direction while the vamps advance on the two Slayers, who run off towards the Slayers in Training, luring them close enough so that the girls could observe. Faith forces herself to ignore the part of herself that was screaming at her to just run away and launches herself at one of the vamps, and there it is. Her muscles hum and her brain is working in that familiar way. She knows what punches to throw, when to duck, where to land her kicks, and she's doing it all with every instinct she's always had, and God but it feels good. He's good, but she's better, just like it always was, and she has him pinned, and he's dust in under a minute. But it's enough, and she feels so high, the adrenaline really pumping. And she turns to see Buffy finish off her own vamp. The other Slayer looks at her and smiles.

"You did it." She says, "You were excellent."

Faith lets out the breath she hadn't realized she's holding and tries really hard to relax, "I...woah. It's...been a while."

Her knees are buckling but Buffy's catching her, and whispering "You're OK." very close to her ear. She pulls herself back up and Buffy is still holding her, and it's a tight hug now and Faith is letting her arms wrap around Buffy's slighter frame and Buffy is very softly placing a kiss on her neck.

"Wow." One of the Trainees murmurs and Kennedy nods.

"I knew it." She says, arms crossed.

Buffy and Faith back away and Faith takes a deep breath, "Just a little freaked out."

"Understandable." Buffy replies, "You're OK?"


"Time to move out." Buffy says, directing it at the Trainees, "Bedtime for all Slayers."

"I bet." Kennedy mutters to another girl who hides a giggle under her hand.

But they haven't gone more than a few feet when Faith is hit with a screaming rush in her head and she hits the ground, knees first. The pavement breaks skin through her jeans but it's nothing compared to the pain in her head.

Oh, so close, Faithie dear
the voice sings in her head. Faith squeezes her eyes shut, "NO!" Oh come on, babes, you didn't think I'd give up that easy. Please It's her mother, now, in her head, talking in that scratchy way of hers, acquired from years of cigarettes and booze and God knows what else. She's pretty, Faith. Skinny, but cute. Way too good for you. Maybe she buys this redemption bullshit right now. But what happens when the old you takes over? Hm? What happens with your little Buffy then?
Faith is vaguely aware of Buffy and the Trainees trying to help her up, but she can't even see through the pain and the voice.

She won't stick around, that's for damn sure. Back to the slammer you go my dear, and forgotten once again. The Council won't pull anymore strings, and chances are, Angel will give up on you the second time around. Poor fucked up little Faith will be nothing but a fading inmate.

"Shut up." Faith sobs, her hands over her ears.

*Oh come on, you know better than to hope for anything but what you really deserve. Don't tell me you actually thought you would lead the happy life with blondie in Sunnydale? You're trash, Faith. You will always be trash. Accept it."


Buffy is shaking her now, "Faith! Come on, baby, fight it. Faith, look at me."

And Faith can hear her now, and the pain is fading slowly. She called me baby she thinks offhandedly in the back of her mind, but now she's sobbing and Buffy is holding her, and it's all just a little too much, and she just goes black.


Part 9: San Andreas Fault

you'll be the brightest light
the world has ever seen
the dizzy height of a jet-set life
you could never dream

your future bright
beyond compare
it's rags to riches
over there

San Andreas Fault
moved it's fingers
through the ground
earth divided
plates collided
such an awful sound

-Natalie Merchant

Giles says there's no way to know why the First attacks when it does. Buffy watches Faith sleep in her bed, having blacked out back in the cemetery. She looks tortured even in her sleep. And Buffy wants to make it go away, and she doesn't really know why, and doesn't know if she really wants to know. All she is sure of tonight is that Faith matters, because she isn't what she was and she...

Spike knows. He gave her a look when she checked on him after she had taken Faith up to her room, and Buffy knew that he could sense it. Then, he had said, "You two. She's always wanted you, you know. And...you want her now. Don't you?"

She hadn't answered him, instead ignoring the statement all together and asking, "Any problems?"

"No." He had answered, "The First seems to like Faith a bit more today."

Buffy had nodded and left, and now here she is, watching Faith sleep. The radio is on, playing some old REM song. Downstairs, she can hear the Trainees eating dinner and laughing. Faith stirs every so often, sometimes making a small whimpering noise in the back of her throat, like she's afraid of something that only she can feel. Buffy would pay to know what the First is using to make Faith this way. If the damn thing weren't so intangible, she'd be kicking it's ass right now.

And why? She asks herself, Because it touched your Faith? Right. Admit it Summers. You are getting very much involved in something with Faith and you *like* it.

She hasn't forgotten her senior year--the parts not involving murder and a very psychotic version of Faith. She remembers the night Faith killed Alan Finch, how they had danced, the way the rest of the Bronze had blurred until all she saw was Faith, and how when they broke into the store, and were arrested, and when they broke about fifty laws in an hour, how she had wanted more than what was in that store. Want. Take. Have. Hadn't that been what Faith had said?

And isn't it about time to take?

Faiths eyes open slowly and she looks up at Buffy for a moment before she speaks, "This has to stop, this invading my head shit. I can't handle it, B."

"I know. What...what does it say, Faith?"

"I...don't remember."

"Yes, you do."

Faith closes her eyes and sighs, "It tells me that I should just give up and do what I was born for. Killing. That I'll never be good, that I'll always be nothing but trash....That I'll never have you. And sometimes it shows itself, as the Mayor, as Finch, and sometimes it sounds like my mother. Sometimes, it's you."

Buffy feels the tears well up but blinks them back. Faith looks very small and very unFaith and it gets her more than it should. "We're going to get it, Faith. And after it's over, you're going to stay here and you are going to be fine."

"I'd like to believe it, I really would." Faith whispers, "But let's face it, Buffy. The chances of defeating the First are slim to none...and even then what's to keep my old self from popping by to say hello? What if I snap again? I don't know how to--"

"Don't think about it now, Faith, or you're going to drive yourself crazy. Right now, we need to focus on fighting the First and keeping you safe."

"Why? I mean...what makes you care? Why are you not feeding me to the First? It's what you *should* be doing."

"No. Even if...even if you weren't getting better, I wouldn't let it just have you. And even if I didn't..."

"Even if you didn't what?"

"Have...feelings...I wouldn't just hand you over to the First."

"You said you had feelings."

"I did."

"For me?"


Faith let herself smile, "OK."


"Yeah, OK. That's what I said."

"Smart ass." Buffy mutters.

"You love it."

"I do."


Part 10: One More Addiction

Rip tide. We slide we ride on a deep forbidden sea
Under we go - so slow
And you're hanging onto me
And I say

Oh Oh one more addiction in my world
Oh one connection to let go
Oh floating down the river
Out of sight forever (From my world)
It's the only thing I know how to do

-Natalie Imbruglia

Faith wakes up with someone wrapped around her. She's closed in by blankets and Buffy, but it's very non-claustrophobic. She vaguely remembers falling asleep as Buffy crawled in next to her, and she remembers a warm kiss on her shoulder before she fell asleep. And now she opens her eyes and sees Buffy's sleeping face. Faith can't remember the last time she woke up to real sunshine with someone snuggled against her. Maybe she never has.

Now that she considers it, she hasn't. There are firsts for everything. Her head hurts, her left temple throbbing slightly, but she barely feels it tonight.

"Staring is rude, you know."

Faith jerks slightly, startled when Buffy speaks. The blonde laughs and opens her eyes, "Sorry."


"Sorry!" Buffy repeats, "But you were staring, I had to punish you."

"Uh huh. Thank you."

"Very welcome. Did you sleep OK?"

"Yes. No voices or visions."


"For now." Faith says. Buffy pulls her closer and their legs are tangled and their arms are wrapped around each other.

"We'll deal if it starts again."

"You mean when it starts again."

Buffy sighs and closes her eyes, "I'm sorry it's after you."

"Not your fault. It's just that pesky guilt that always get's you one way or another that's doing it."

"I wish I could just...Make it stop."

Faith's heart skips a little. She never expected this and the Somebody Pinch Me feeling is still very strong.

She doesn't say anything and neither does Buffy. Their foreheads touch and they just lie there. Buffy drops a kiss on Faith's nose, and Faith pecks Buffy on either cheek, then Buffy presses her lips to Faith's forehead, then Faith traces Buffy's jaw with her lips, then they finally meet mouth to mouth. At first it's a gentle press of lip to lip. Then Faith runs her tongue over Buffy's lower lip and Buffy gives her access, and their tongues meet and tangle and massage. Faith runs her hands up Buffy's tanned arms while Buffy lets hers roam under the grey tank top that Faith is wearing, stroking up and down Faith's back.

They shift and roll so that Faith is straddling Buffy's thighs and their kisses become harder, teeth biting down on swollen lips ever so gently and hands seeking out more skin to feel. Faith kisses hot trails down Buffy's neck and back up again, and they shift again, now kneeling in front of each other, and Buffy is pulling the grey tank top up and over Faith's head. Faith shivers as Buffy's eyes *drink* her in and then suddenly she is lying back and Buffy's fingers are splayed over the bare skin of her stomach and her mouth is on Faith's, then her neck, then Buffy's mouth closes over one dark nipple, and her tongue is...

Faith tangles her fingers in blonde locks and moans and arches her back. Buffy repeats it on her other breast, sending shocks of pleasure through Faith and it's all *so good*. Buffy's top is gone and Faith is cupping smaller, perfect breasts and running her thumbs over pink nipples. They kiss very gently and Faith pushes up, and turns Buffy around, pushing her back against the pillows.

"God..." She whispers, looking down at the woman she had wanted for so long, lying there under her with kiss-swollen lips and hazel eyes burning into her.

Buffy runs a finger down Faith's cheek and her thumb over perpetually red lips. "Yeah," She says in response.

Faith leans down and kisses her, then down her neck and between her breasts, and down her flat stomach to the waistband of UC Sunnydale boxers. Her fingers hook under the elastic and she pulls them down tan legs very slowly, discarding them on the floor and looking back up at Buffy. She runs her hands up those impossibly smooth legs and kisses the inside of each knee before parting them and kissing down the inside of Buffy's right thigh. Buffy's hands knot in the comforter as Faith teases closer and closer to her center.
Faith nips at the creamy expanse of skin one more time before tasting her finally. Buffy gasps and holds back a moan as Faith's tongue touches her clit. She bucks her hips but Faith holds them to the bed, continuing her slow assault. Buffy lets out a cry of pleasure as tiny bolts of electricity flow through her.

"Faith..." She pants, "Oh..."

And Faith remembers this from her dreams. Buffy writhing under her, the taste of her, the warmth of her skin. But it's real, and she's not going to wake up from it. She teases with her mouth and her fingers find their way tracing up Buffy's thigh. Two fingers slowly thrust inside her and Buffy cries out again, trying to stay quiet, remembering the other people sleeping not too far away. If they are sleeping, that is. But Faith is drawing it out and it feels so...

Faith's fingers thrust faster and her tongue works over Buffy's clit and she can feel it building under her fingers as Buffy's muscles tense.

Where did she learn that? Buffy wonders as Faith's tongue does something to her...and she's so close. And Faith does it again and Buffy is lost as her orgasm hits her hard. Faith draws it out until Buffy is sure she's going to implode. Then it very slowly fades and Buffy is breathing hard, and Faith is moving up her body.
"Oh my God..." Buffy pants out, "That...You..." Faith nuzzles her neck and adjusts the covers around them. Buffy tugs her close and they are back the way they started, forehead to forehead.

"I've waited a very long time to do that." Faith murmurs, and she's more than shocked at what Buffy says next.

"I know the feeling."

Part 11: Heaven

Soon, come soon
Sweet so sweet
Fall inside
Between the sheets

This could be
Heaven right
Here on earth
This could be Heaven


"This should be much weirder." Buffy says, her lips close to Faith's ear, their hands entwined under the covers.

"It should be." Faith agrees, "I should be rushing out right now. Places to be, people to do...that's the drill."

"Was that how it always was?"

"Yes." Faith says, "Since I was 12, it was fuck and run...it's easy that way. There's no holding, no talking, just sex and a quick getaway."

"You were 12?" Buffy gasps, "Jesus, Faith."

"Yeah, around that. I was a Liz Phair song waiting to happen."

"How does a 12 year old get into that level of..."

"Not intimacy, B. I've never had intimacy. And it sure as hell wasn't a choice to start at twelve. It was someone else's entirely. Hence the running."


"I'm over it."

Buffy slides closer to her anyway and a few brief tentative kisses later says, "Don't run this time."

"I wasn't planning on it...besides, all my clothes are in the laundry. Can't run naked...well...I have before. But not really liking the idea as of now."

Buffy laughs and Faith smiles at her and looks over at the clock.

"It's almost 6:30."

"I have to get Dawn to school." Buffy says with a pout. "I don't want to move. I want to stay in bed all day and pretend the world is just perfect."

"How much longer till we have to move?"

"Maybe 15 minutes."

"Can't we just let her off school? Tell the Slayers to take a day off? Send them all to the zoo?" Faith suggests, "Ooh! Maybe we could lock them in the basement with Spike. I've thought about it, and I could take them."

Buffy laughs and shakes her head, "Look at you, with the jokes. Watch it, you might become, *gasp*, cheery. Jolly, even."

"I wasn't joking." Faith replies with a grin. "But...I suppose we should get somewhat dressed."

Buffy nods and extracts herself from Faith, hanging half off the bed and grabbing up their discarded clothes. "Up." She orders, and Faith sits up. Buffy pulls a tank top over the other girls head and Faith takes the other clothes from Buffy, repeating it with the remaining shirt. She slid the shorts over Buffy's legs very, very, unnecessarily slowly, then leaned in for a quick kiss.

"We've put on the wrong shirts." Buffy says when they stand up, arms around each other, "How very subtle and sneaky of us."

"They won't notice." Faith says, "And if they do...Well, what if they do?"

"Truth. I never told anyone about the *thing* with Spike, and that turned out horribly wrong. This time, honesty. But only if they ask. Let's not get Xander's feathers ruffled just yet."

"Is this a *thing*?" Faith asks, eyebrows raised, and she really does want to know. Because what if it's just a *thing* and she turns out like Spike, stuck in the basement while Buffy's two floors up with someone else entirely, without so much as a by your leave? What if that's all it is?

"No...this is something else." Buffy says, "Dunno what." She kisses Faith one last time, then reluctantly moves away. "Come on...you get to see how well I do as the mother figure. Save the critique for later." She winks and disappears from the room. Faith looks at the bed one last time before following her out.

The day is long but there are no visions, no voices in her head. There is research, and patrol, and training. The Potentials are improving, beginning to work like on large, well-oiled machine. As Faith watches them run through drills on the back lawn, her head is pounding with a massive headache, but she can't help but feel proud of these girls who are so much a part of her. They *are* her, or what she could have been, and she feels connected to them. The fact that this group of veritable machines will dwindle to only one after she and Buffy have fought their last fights is the only thing keeping her from getting attached.

Her eyes land on Kennedy and her eyebrows draw closer together. Something about her draws Faith in for a moment, and she feels something different...something strong for a split second.

But then it's gone, and her head is hurting a little more.


Part 12: All Is Not Lost

If you ever think all is lost
I'll be counting up my demons, yeah,
Hoping everything's not lost
Everything's not lost
When I'm counting up my demons
There's always one for everyday
With the good ones on my shoulder
I drove the other ones away


Faith feels someone shaking her, very gently. Her eyes open slowly, her vision blurry. She blinks, feeling pain in her head behind her eyes as she tries hard to shake off the heavy sleep.

"Faith? You OK?"

Buffy's voice is echoing, and Faith forces herself to clear her head, and the blonde's face comes into sharp focus.

"Yeah...I'm good." She replies groggily, "What time is it?"

"About 11...Look, there's something going on. Willow found a spell to force The First to take corporeal form." Buffy's words are rushed and she's getting undressed hurriedly, changing into clothes she can fight in.

Faith's brain isn't processing as quickly as it usually does, and it takes her a moment to say anything, "What? So you can fight it?"

"Yeah. And whatever form it takes...if I kill it, I kill The First with it. We hope." She looks over at Faith, who has sat up and is running a hand over her eyes, "What's wrong."

"Headache. Must be residual from the visions and all. It's pretty bad."

"You should stay here."

"No. Don't sweat it, B." Faith protests, standing quickly. But her head pounds in reminder and she is suddenly nauseous. She sits back down quickly, clothing her head, "Ow."

"Faith, I mean it. I have everyone to back me up, and you're no good to me if you're in this much pain."

Faith sighs heavily, "I don't want you to go alone."

Buffy sits next to her and takes her hand, "I won't be alone. I want you to stay here and sleep the headache off."

"I don't--"

"Please, Faith. You could get hurt if you're distracted."

There is a long pause, but Faith nods slowly, "OK. I'll...I'll stay."



Buffy looks around the caves, "Clear. Willow, are you sure this is going to work?"

"I'm about 90 percent." Willow replies, already knelt down to set up. "Make a circle."

The Potentials, Xander, Giles, Anya, Buffy, and Dawn all drop to their knees in a circle with Willow at the north most side of the caves. As she lights eleven candles and hands them to each person, Buffy feels her muscles tensing, adrenaline buzzing through her. Her head only echoes, *This is it...this is it...*

And as Willow begins to chant, and the walls begin to rumble, she smiles.


"It's started."

"It has."

"She won't do it."

"She *will*."

Cordelia sighs, "LOOK, I know Buffy Summers and love always clouds her judgment."

"Be patient, and watch."

"Hey, when do I get to go home, anyway? I mean, what the Hell was up with giving my body to some evil thingy?"

"That is irrelevant tonight."

Cordelia sighs again and watches, her heart tightening for the tiny blonde Slayer she knew so long ago.


Buffy looks around in alarm as the walls still and Willow falls forward, grabbed by Xander and Giles, and steadied against a rock. There is no change save for the disappearance of any flames on the candles. The First has not appeared. Then, she hears fast footsteps jogging into the caves.

"Hey, B. I miss it?"

Buffy stands quickly, "Faith, I thought--"

"I took an aspirin." Faith shrugs, "I'm good. So where is it?"

"It hasn't showed."

Buffy is about to say something when Dawn interrupts, "Buffy."

"Not now. Faith, I really don't think--"


"Dawn, wait. I mean, you're head--"

"Buffy it's not Faith. I can feel her---she's not natural."

Buffy turns to her sister, a skeptical expression on her face, but before she can say a word, Faith--or whatever it is that has become Faith, has hit her, hard. She hits a wall and the air is knocked out of her. Faith's eyes glow black and she advances forward.

"Yeah." She says, "Lil sis is right. I'm not Faith. Technically. So, um, when are we gonna commence with the festivities."

Buffy stares at *it*, anger flaring up more and more intense as she thinks of this thing taking Faith's face. *You touched what is mine*

"But it only takes the form of dead things." Anya says somewhere to the back.

"Faith's alive." One of the Potentials states, "What's happening?"

But Buffy doesn't hear. She launches herself at what-is-not-Faith with a war cry, landing a hard kick to it's jaw. It stumbles back, still smiling.

"Ouch, B. And to think just last night you were on me like white on rice. I seem to remember something along the lines of:" and it's voice becomes Buffy's "Oh...Faith...OhGod..."

Now everyone is looking at Buffy, slightly stunned, except for Kennedy.

"Shut up." Buffy grinds out, launching a rain of punches and kicks at it. The First in corporeal form has the strengths and weaknesses of the form it takes--which explains choosing a Slayer. It responds as Faith would, with Faith's style and Faith's strength. And Buffy doesn't want to hit Faith, she doesn't want to kill this thing that looks like Faith. But the knife in the waistband of her jeans is cold on her skin. And after the longest fight of her life, or what feels like it, she has the knife in her hand. Faith's knife, which is ironic now that she thinks of it.

Faith's face, the face that *isn't her*, is bruised and bloody. And she is staggering. "Go on." She spits, "Do it. Kill me. Can you handle that, *Buffy*? Kill the person you luuuurve?" The First pulls that last word out and adds a look of disgust, "I mean, you did it to poor old Angelboy. Can you do it to me too?"


And she throws it with perfect accuracy at It's throat. Blood spills like waterfalls and Faith's body begins to glow, and fade, then disintegrate. And they all fall as the force of it knocks them over. When it ends, the knife falls to the floor, clean of any blood.

"She did it. I can't believe..."

"Believe. Now...about your return to the lower plane--"


"That was so cool!" Kennedy gushes as they enter the house, three hours after they left it, "I mean, you kicked it's ass even though it looked like Faith! That was so...I dunno--"

"Yeah, so what's this Oh God Faith stuff?" Xander asks with a quirked eyebrow. Buffy rolls her eyes.

"They're orgasm friends now. Duh." Anya rolls her eyes as well.

Buffy laughs, "I'm gonna go tell her...Maybe her head feels better now that the First is gone."

Buffy runs up the stairs as everyone else moves further into the house, variably collapsing on furniture and making a beeline for the kitchen.

"I thought we'd be more important in this whole thing." Kennedy commented, "I mean...it *was* after us."

"Yeah, Buffy is such a spotlight hog."

"Hey, that's my sis--"

But an anguished scream cuts Dawn off before she can defend Buffy's credibility.

Buffy knocks lightly on the door to her room before entering. She finds Faith lying down, curled under the covers.

"Hey. Faith. Sweetie, wake up." She calls softly, coming closer to the bed, "Hey." But as she sees more of her lover's face, something isn't right. She reaches out and touches a bare arm that has extended over the pillows. The skin is cool, too cool. "Faith." she whispers, "Come on. Wake up." She shakes her lightly, but the limbs just move like a doll's. "Faith, wake. up." she repeats, tears already on her cheeks and her throat tightening.

But Faith doesn't wake up. She is so cold, and still, and she's....not there anymore. And Buffy falls to the side of the bed, hard on her knees, and she screams.

Part 14: Always

In a haze, a stormy haze, I'll be round
I'll be loving you always, always.
Here I am and I'll take my time
Here I am and I'll wait in line always


The autopsy report read:
The cause of death seems to be a brain aneurysm caused by distress stemming from a large mass. This mass, which seems to have started to the left of the cerebrum by the amount of stress on the brain and then grown to the right more recently, has been identified as a cancerous brain tumor. It is my professional opinion that, by the placement of the starting point of this tumor, that the deceased may have experienced increased violent urges and a confusion of right and wrong coupled with any number of personality disorders during the first stages of development. The newer parts of the mass, however, could be a source of hallucinations and delusions. It is my opinion that this mass began formation anywhere from four to six years prior to death, not causing any noticeable change until approx. two years into it's development.
Other than this anomaly, the deceased was in amazing physical health, with muscle mass far exceeding the norm for a female her age and an extremely healthful heart and lungs.

At the time of death, the deceased probably experienced intense nausea and head pain.



But no one was thinking about it right now. Not about how the First probably never *had* attacked Faith, that it was perhaps the delusions and hallucinations. Or that way, way, way back maybe it wasn't *her* killing people, but chemical imbalances caused by the tumor that killed her. Instead, they were a few floors up from the morgue where Faith's body still waited.

Dawn lay sobbing over Xander's lap as Giles signed the consent forms. That morning, almost three days after Faith died in her sleep, Buffy was found in the same bed, an empty bottle of liquor next to an also empty bottle of sleeping pills. She had already slipped into a coma, and had been on life support for an entire day.
She was expected to never recover from a vegetable state. And now they would turn the machines off.

And while everyone cried, and Giles left for some corner where he could grieve for his Slayer, the machines were turned off, and the monitors began to beep in alarm, until a slow, flat hum signaled the stop of her heart.

And while everyone else grieved, Kennedy felt something. Her hands tingled and her brain began to race, and she felt a pull on her body. And she was feeling what it's like to be Called. She looked down at her Slayer's hands and cried.

In a haze, a stormy haze, I'll be round
I'll be loving you always, always.
Here I am and I'll take my time
Here I am and I'll wait in line always



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