by Bobbi Manuel
Rating: NC-no clue
"Epic-logue" was written pretty soon after "Voices" ended. My sisters didn't want to let the story go, it was the only new "Buffy" we had at that point, and they wondered what happened in the future. There were also a few things that came up during the story that I never really addressed, and my two readers were demanding that I address those things now…then.
So I wrote "Epic-logue". It's different than "Voices", not at all angsty or dark. It's basically just a lighthearted comedy that answers my sisters' questions. I also used the opportunity to write out some of the scenes I had floating around in my head that I couldn't quite fit into "Voices".
As a warning: there is a pairing in here that a few people have mentioned they don't particularly wike. Any and all references are quite mild and brief. I'm strictly a Fuffy fan and I don't care about any other pairings. I was writing for my audience and well, the three of us didn't have any problem with it and still don't. Hopefully if it bothers you, you can get past it and enjoy the story anyway. Fingers crossed…I'd even bat my eyelashes at you if I thought it would help : )
Credit for the title goes to my sister Julie. I was referring to it as the "epilogue" and she said: "It's over two hundred pages long. That's not an epilogue, it's an "epic-logue". Yes it is.
Ten Years Later…
Faith knew they were close, her Slayer sense told her that much. She desperately wished she had a weapon, but she had nothing. Christ, she was pushing thirty-five…she should know way better by now.
The best she could do was to keep her eyes roaming, looking for any sign of movement that would tip her off as to where the attack was going to be coming from. So far she had no clue, but at least she was familiar with the layout of the building and could concentrate on the likeliest areas for an ambush.
She crept silently down the hallway, inching her way along as carefully as she could. The tension was becoming unbearable: couldn't they just attack already? She knew it was all part of their strategy; they wanted to unnerve her, keep her off balance, and force her to make a mistake. They were doing everything they could to gain the advantage.
Okay, fine, it didn't look good for her, but so fucking what? She was a Slayer, and a damn good one at that. She was tough and smart, and she wasn't going down easy. She was deadly, and if they managed to take her, she was going to make sure they came right along with her.
But where the hell were they?
She kept edging forward, hanging onto her courage as tightly as she could. She wasn't just some dumb chick in peril, she was Faith, the Vampire Slayer, a powerful force to be reckoned with. She'd faced worse odds and lived to tell…
They burst from their hiding places like the well-oiled team they were, and they brought Faith down, and brought her down hard. One smashed their weapon directly into her face, effectively taking her breath away as the other skillfully cut her legs out from under her.
The blows came fast and furious, delivered at a speed that seemed inhumanly fast. Her opponents were relentless, and Faith had to face the truth: she could not win, and they all knew it.
Just as that reality sunk in, the taunts began:
"Can't make me!"
The blows stopped as the pillows were tossed aside to be replaced by four hands. They unerringly zeroed in on her most ticklish spots.
Faith knew she was on the verge of total surrender. She was laughing so hard she could barely breathe, and there wasn't the slightest sign of mercy anywhere.
"Say 'uncle', Aunt Faith!"
"Alright, alright! Uncle Aunt Faith!"
Her conquerors collapsed on top of her as they celebrated their victory:
"We won again, Joyce!"
"We're so great, even a Slayer can't beat us!"
"Yeah, we're…we're invictible!"
"Think ya mean, 'invincible', hotshot."
"Well whatever you call it, we always beat you and Aunt Buffy."
"Don't I know it. B I can understand, she sucks. But me? Usually all invictible and stuff."
The three of them lay sprawled comfortably in the upstairs hallway as they took a break. Their battle had started in the basement and had been waged all throughout the house, and Faith was desperately hoping that Buffy wouldn't notice the mess they'd made in the bathroom.
"Aunt Faith, can we watch a movie tonight?"
"Sure. What'd ya have in…"
"No! Aunt Buffy promised we could play 'Monopoly' tonight!"
And then came the argument:
"Nobody likes playing with you, Joyce. All you care about is getting all the money, just like Mom!"
"Well, that is the point of the game…Rupert."
"Don't call me 'Rupert'!"
"That's your name, stupid."
"My name's Alex! I mean, 'Ripper'!"
Faith sat up to get between them, but they kept going like she wasn't even there.
"Grandpa just said that to make you feel better about having such a crappy name."
"Whoa! Rupert Alexander's a really cool name. Trust me when I tell ya that 'Ruperts' are always the best guys ever. They're smart, brave, handsome as hell, and real babe magnets when they get older. And ya both know how great your dad is. Rips here is gonna be somethin' if he's anything like his namesakes."
Both kids were listening to her, their argument forgotten for the moment.
"What about me, Aunt Faith?"
"Same deal. No way you can do any better than Joyce Tara. They were both…"
"Were they both 'babe magnets' too?"
Faith laughed as she looked at him, and he grinned back at her looking exactly like his father.
"Well smartass, as a matter of fact, your Aunt Tara was. Joyce coulda been, she was definitely hot enough."
Crisis averted, both kids were pleased with their names and each other.
"Ripper, can we please play 'Monopoly' tonight?"
"Okay. It's always fun when Aunt Faith's the banker. Remember that one time you kept cheating, and Aunt Buffy got really mad at you?"
Faith smirked as she recalled that night.
"Yeah, B sure got her panties in a bunch, didn't she?"
Joyce was on her feet, twirling in a tight circle as she tried to make herself dizzy:
"She got so mad, she threw all the money at you!"
"Yeah, Aunt Faith, then she threw the whole board!"
They ran over to her as she reached the top of the stairs, and gave her a big hug.
"Now that's the kind of welcome home I like. So did you two miss your favorite aunt?"
"Lots and lots. Right, Ripper?"
"Yeah. Did you bring the ice cream and pizza?"
Before she could respond, they were running down the stairs without so much as a backward glance.
Buffy laughed and walked over to Faith. She offered her a hand to help her up, and for a second Faith thought about pulling Buffy down on top of her instead.
Faith let out a dramatic sigh as she let Buffy pull her to her feet.
"Why ya gotta ruin all my fun, B?"
"I don't think that's fair to say to the woman who hid some fudge ripple in the freezer for you."
"Yeah? I take it back, you're the best!"
"That's what I thought. So did I hear we're playing 'Monopoly' tonight?"
"Little J says you promised."
"I did, but she caught me right when I was waking up."
Faith pulled her closer.
"Wondered what went wrong. Tell ya B, game sure brings out the demon in her."
"Don't ya get it? I said, 'It sure brings out the…"
"Yes, I got it. It is amazing that she's so much like Anya."
"Not exactly the word I'd go with."
Buffy kissed her neck lightly, her lips right on Faith's sensitive spot.
"And she's so serious when it comes to money."
"Again, gotta say other choices lookin' for attention."
"Freaky, scary, fucking nuts."
Buffy kissed her on the lips this time, teasingly pulling back when Faith tried to deepen it.
"Well I just hope we can avoid bloodshed tonight."
"Yeah, well, wishin' us lotsa luck."
"I didn't think Alex would go along with it."
"Ah, Rips is fine…leastways 'til she makes him cry."
She pulled Buffy back to her forcefully, and made her deliver a proper kiss. It took a couple of minutes before Faith was satisfied and allowed Buffy to step away.
"Shit, they're pretty quiet down there."
"And that's never a good sign, is it?"
Buffy tried to be optimistic:
"Maybe they're just really enjoying their pizza."
"Probably got their ice cream on it. Don't know why Squirt taught'em that."
"And who taught her?"
Faith tried to look innocent.
"Why ya lookin' at me? How the fuck do I know what Red was doin'?"
Buffy laughed as she rolled her eyes.
"I suppose we should go stop them."
"X-Boy and Vengeance Girl are back tomorrow, I say we let'em live it up while they can."
"Do you think maybe we spoil them too much?"
"No such thing."
Buffy hooked an empty loop on Faith's jeans and pulled her close again.
"You are such a softie."
"What do ya want me to do? Go down there and beat'em?"
"I'm pretty sure there are all kinds of options between spoiling them rotten and beating them."
"Look, far as I'm concerned, they get whatever they want. They're great kids and…"
Alex's voice floated up the stairs, as did the sounds of muffled laughter.
"Me and Joyce found your fudge ripple."
"Better not be eating it."
Faith turned to Buffy with a smug look on her face:
"See what I'm sayin', B? They know where the line is."
"…because we just finished it!"
The laughter started again as Faith yelled out:
"You two better be shittin' me!"
The laughter got louder, and Joyce could barely speak:
"How do you spell that?"
"Don't worry about that, worry 'bout what's gonna happen when I come down there."
"Aunt Dawn told me and Joyce you taught her a buncha words when she was a kid."
"Yeah? Well, Squirt's a fuc…She's a godda…She's liar!"
"And we're learning bunches too, right Alex?"
Faith took off running down the stairs and when Buffy caught up to her, she saw that she was chasing both kids around the sofa.
"When I catch you little clowns…"
"Can't catch us!
"No mercy if I do!"
Joyce continued running, but Alex peeled off and ran over to Buffy. She picked him up and they stood watching as Joyce tossed a pillow at Faith.
"That's it! 'Monopoly' gonna be all me."
"You're goin' down hard tonight, kid."
"I don't think so."
"Gonna make ya sorry ya ever messed with me."
The chase continued as Joyce took off for the kitchen, screaming and giggling all the way.
"Yes, Alex? Sorry, I meant 'Ripper'."
"It's okay if you call me 'Alex', Aunt Buffy, but nobody else."
"Thank you. So what were you going to say?"
"Oh yeah…Aunt Faith doesn't scare anybody."
Buffy chuckled and brushed the dark hair back from his forehead.
"I know honey, but she likes to think she does."
"Well, she does scare bad guys a lot, but not us."
"She's silly like that."
"Are my mom and dad coming home tomorrow?"
"Yep, won't that be neat?"
He casually slung his arm around her neck, his face serious:
"Yeah, 'cause I really miss them, but we always have lots of fun when we're with you guys."
She felt tears welling up:
"We love having you here, Alex, and we always will."
He rolled his eyes at her.
"We know that. Can we maybe have a 'Super Monopoly-a-thon'?"
"That's a great idea."
She kissed him on the top of the head and stood him back on his feet.
"Tell you what – you and your sister run next door and ask Aunt Willow. I think she's home."
The battle spilled back into the living room, and with a tricky move by Joyce that ended in a huge flourish, Faith was conquered.
"When I get loose, Little J, you're gonna be sorry."
"I guess I can't let you loose then."
Faith was face down on the couch and Joyce, all 54 pounds of her, was pinning her immobile by sitting on her back. She was also laughing like a crazy person while Faith struggled to break loose.
Buffy smiled, she couldn't decide which little girl was cuter.
"Joyce, you and Alex go tell Aunt Willow we're having a 'Super Monopoly-a-thon' tonight."
"We are? Yea! Come on, Ripper!"
She leapt off of Faith, grabbed Alex's hand, and sped for the door. She barely glanced back over her shoulder.
"Aunt Faith, I release you from my gravity crusher…for now!"
"Thanks, tough girl."
The kids ran out the door...
…slamming it as they left.
"Too late, B. Guess you're slowin' down with age."
"Pardon me, if I hadn't stepped in, Joyce would still have you trapped on the couch."
Faith straightened the pillows and stuck the sofa cushions back where they belonged.
"Ya know, she's gonna be a good fighter, for real. Got fuckin' awesome reflexes and she's…"
"Almost like a mini-Slayer."
"Well, yeah, plus she's smart and…"
"Adjusts to whatever goes down pretty quick."
"All she needs is some training and…"
"…she'll be more than able to hold her own."
"Shut up, B."
Buffy laughed at the fake scowl on Faith's face.
"Poor baby. Hey, is Giles home yet?"
"Don't think so, but Marion hauled it in about an hour ago. Never saw her motor back out."
"Good, I'll call and tell them to come over tonight."
"Forget it. Got some of Giles' magazines again, so I'll ask her when I run'em over."
Buffy headed into the kitchen to see if Faith had done the dishes.
"Do you know if Dawnie's working?"
"Not tonight. Her and Big Boy were plannin' to come over."
The kitchen was spotless, and if she loved Faith for nothing else, her willingness to handle the kitchen chores would always keep Buffy smitten.
"That's perfect. So…"
"So go ask Marion."
"Man B, sure are bossy."
"I am not!"
"Uh, yeah, you are."
"Well, excuse me for being well-organized."
"Okay, but means I can't let the 'bossy' thing go then."
Buffy gave her a pouting look:
"So first you call me a baby, now I'm too bossy."
"Facts are facts, Blondie."
"Fine, here's a fact for you: you get no kisses from me."
"Don't want one anyway."
Buffy wasn't buying it, but she played along.
"Nope, need a lot more than just one."
Faith caught her before she'd managed to get two steps away. She pulled her back roughly, slamming Buffy against the counter.
"Where ya goin'?"
"Away from you."
"Don't think so."
Faith leaned into her and began moving seductively:
"Fact is, B, I'm never gonna let ya go."
Buffy moaned as Faith's lips trailed down her neck and her hand found its way under her shirt.
"'Sides, smart money says you don't wanna get away either."
Buffy was lost, just that fast. Faith's smoky voice was sending chills down her spine as it whispered into her ear, and the fingers stroking teasingly just above the button of her jeans had Buffy totally turned on.
"So, B…'bout those kisses…"
"I…I can spare…maybe a thousand."
"Nowhere near enough, but it's a good start."
Their lips met and they melted into each other as the kiss intensified. Faith felt like she couldn't get enough…would never get enough of Buffy.
Suddenly the kitchen door flew open and Faith pulled away quickly with a frustrated growl.
Alex's was practically yelling with excitement:
"Aunt Willow said to say that they'll be here with…with…bells up! Can we go to the mall with her?!"
Buffy grinned sexily at Faith.
"Gee, I don't know. What do you think, Faith?"
"How long ya gonna be gone for?"
"All day! She's gonna take us to the movies too!"
He turned to go, then spun back to them with a concerned expression:
"You guys can come too, that way you won't have to be alone for so long."
"That's sweet, but we'll be okay…won't we, Faith?"
"Gonna be tough, but got a buncha housework we need to do. You guys go have a blast. Ya need some money?"
He was now bouncing in place with his desire to get going.
"No. Aunt Willow said it's her treat. Bye!"
The door slammed shut.
"So, you and me all alone, Slayer. Any ideas how we can pass the time?"
Buffy didn't even crack the hint of a smile.
"Well, the house does need a good cleaning, the weapons too, and I've got several books I've been meaning to…Faith!"
She threw Buffy over her shoulder and took the stairs two at a time on her way to their bedroom.
"Oh, good idea, F. We really do need to paint the hallway."
"Fuckin' laugh riot, B."
"I am, aren't I?"
"You're also mine."
"That's true as well."
Faith slung her down into her arms, cradling her like a baby.
"I still love you."
"Of course you do."
Faith lowered Buffy to her feet, but she didn't let her go. They kissed and when they pulled back, Buffy smiled at her.
"I still love you too."
"Gonna have to prove it, B."
Buffy shoved her back onto the bed:
"I love a challenge."
"Know ya do."
"And I love to make you scream."
"Gotta say I kinda enjoy it too."
Faith folded her arms behind her head as she watched Buffy slowly removing her clothing piece by piece. When she was naked, she crawled up the bed, hovering over Faith and looking so hot, Faith felt like she was going to ignite.
Buffy leaned down and swirled her tongue around Faith's breast, kissing the rock hard point that was poking up against her shirt.
Faith reached for her, but Buffy pinned her hands to the mattress:
"Wait your turn. I've still got 999 more to go."
The doorbell rang at 4:45, and Faith opened the door to reveal a gigantic young man filling the doorway. He was easily 6'4, 250 pounds, and not an ounce of it fat. His hair was black and curly, and his eyes were a piercingly light blue.
"'Bout time, Big Boy!"
They hugged and he lifted her off of the ground, kissing her cheek before putting her back down.
"The door was locked. Am I the first one here?"
"Yep. Hey, where's the missus? She's comin', right? Damn, she can't work 24/7, plus we haven't seen her for…"
"Easy, Mom, she'll be here. She just had to wrap up a few things at the clinic."
"But she's comin' for sure?"
"Yes, so stop worrying."
Buffy nearly squealed with excitement as she walked down the stairs:
"Brian! Welcome home!"
They hugged and she kissed him on the cheek as he bent over.
"Where's Mrs. Bradford? Isn't she still coming?"
"Geez B, she's just runnin' late. Wanna bring it down a notch?"
"Thanks for the advice, F, since I'm sure you already covered it for both of us. Brian, tell me you're all done leaving town for a while."
She linked her arm with his and they followed Faith into the kitchen.
"I'm past done. Xander's promised no more out of town sites for at least five years."
"Squirt'll be happy to hear that. Drove us nuts while you were gone."
"I'll bet she did, I hated every minute of it too."
He sat down on a barstool and breathed in deep.
"Mmm…Faith, it smells delicious in here."
"Thanks, pretty much got…"
"How do you know I didn't make it?"
Brian looked at her and laughed:
"Hey, I made the ice!"
"I bought the ice!"
Faith kissed the top of her head as she shoved her away from the stove.
"Anyways, got everybody's faves goin' and…"
"Do you need any help?"
"Day late, pal. Just keep it parked."
"That's what I was hoping you'd say."
Buffy handed him a drink.
"…See that ice in your glass, mister?"
"I can't quit looking at it. It's the best ice I've ever seen, just beautiful, Buffy."
Faith rolled her eyes:
"Sit down, ya little baby. So Big Boy, when'd ya haul your big ass home?"
"I got in about 9:30 last night, and I've got to say, Dawn was…"
The kitchen door flew open.
He bent down and swept both kids high into the air, spinning them around a few times, then laughing as they wobbled when he stood them back on their feet.
"How are two of my all-time favorite kids?"
Joyce recovered first:
"We're great. Did you bring us anything?!"
"'Bring you anything'? Now why in the world would I bring you anything from Sacramento?"
Alex jumped up as high as he could after each word:
"Well, there just might be something for each of you in the backseat."
They ran out the front door, screaming with excitement all the way.
The slamming door vibrated the pictures on the wall.
"…slam the door. Why do I continue to bother?"
"'Cause you're not a quitter and hey, maybe one day, B."
Willow entered through the kitchen door, bags in front of her face and yelling as loudly as she could:
"We're home! Oh sorry, didn't see you guys…Brian!"
He was still taller than her when he was sitting on the barstool, but it made hugging and kissing him a lot easier.
"Welcome back! You were gone way too long."
"I know, but we had some structural problems and Xander's mean to me."
Willow nodded understandingly.
"He's like that sometimes. Just make sure to keep him away from your 'Barbies'."
Buffy got up to look in the bags Willow had placed on the counter, and Willow quickly slid into her vacated seat.
"Ooh, our red utensils!"
"Yep, I checked the kitchen place just in case, and there they were."
"Sure. Does that mean I can keep your seat without a fight?"
Buffy was already engrossed in trying to liberate the utensils from their plastic prison packages.
"You can have anything you want, my very bestest best friend ever."
Willow turned back to Brian, smacking him excitedly on the shoulder:
"I'm so glad you're back. Are you glad you're back? I'll bet Dawnie's way glad you're back. She's probably the most glad about the whole back of you!"
"Jesus Red, we got it. Everybody's glad he's back."
"Will, did you happen to have any coffee at the mall?"
"What? Coffee? Me? No Buffy, I mean I didn't…not. No coffee had!"
Faith looked up from the salad she was tossing:
"Just 'fess up and we'll go easier on ya."
"There's nothing to 'fess' up to! I had no coffee…Buffy, smell my breath."
Buffy stayed where she was.
"I believe you."
Willow's relieved expression didn't last long though because once Buffy had the spatula free, she turned her full attention to her bestest best friend.
"Okay, so that means it's something to do with the kids then. What did you get them?"
"Got us a winner, B. She's turnin' colors."
"Shut up, Faith!"
Buffy walked over to stand next to her.
"Spill it, Red, 'fore we turn Big Boy loose on ya!"
Willow glanced up at Buffy.
"They're such good kids, and they're so cute, you know?"
"I know. Just say it, Will."
She looked like she wanted to be anywhere else.
"Well…um…I bought them pizza and ice cream."
"I know, Buffy, I know!"
"How the fuck are they not pukin'?"
Buffy was shaking her head in disbelief:
"They must have some special skill or something. Thank God their parents are coming home before we kill them."
Willow was clearly guilt stricken.
"I know I shouldn't have let them, but they were just so adorable, I couldn't say 'no'."
"Don't feel bad, Red, B's got the same problem. Was just tellin' her this afternoon she's spoilin'em rotten."
The front door slammed and the kids came running back into the kitchen. Joyce smashed into Brian with a fierce hug.
"Thank you so much! I love it!"
Alex, not to be outdone, barreled into him too. He squished Joyce, but she didn't seem to care.
"I love mine too! But um…it's on the roof."
"Guess that means it flies pretty good then."
"Oh yeah, it's awesome!"
"Okay you two, upstairs and…"
"But Aunt Buffy, it's on the roof!"
"And we'll get it down, but I want you to go brush your teeth first."
Joyce went without a word, but Alex just stood there, and Buffy knew what that meant. The look on his face was just like the look Xander got whenever he was about to pull some lame joke out of his hat.
She stopped him before he could even start.
"Yes Ripper, when I say 'brush your teeth', I mean each and every tooth."
He was shocked that she had read his mind.
"How did you know what I was gonna say?"
"Because I know your father."
"Never mind. Just go brush all of your teeth."
Willow leaned across the bar and snagged a bag of chips and the bowl of dip that Faith had just removed from the refrigerator.
"Have you guys heard from Angel and Cordy?"
"Yeah, Queen C gave me a wake-up call this morning."
"Mmm…this dip is delicious…So they're enjoying their honeymoon?"
"Pretty safe guess. Cordy says he's incredible in the sa…"
"Stop right there! Way too much information."
"Kids are upstairs, B."
"I meant too much info for me."
"Oh man, okay. Anyways Red, Cordy sends her thanks again and again and again…if ya catch my drift."
Buffy rolled her eyes as she stole a dip covered chip from Willow's hand.
"Faith, a dead person could catch your drift."
"Yeah, B, I got me some wicked communication skills."
Brian dug a handful of chips out of the bag and scooped up some dip.
"Excuse me, but can I interject into this 'ladies only' discussion?"
"Sure Mr. Squirt, you're like one of the girls anyways."
He ignored her and turned to Willow:
"I never did get the full story on how you managed to do it."
Willow's eyes were following the bag of chips that had now become Buffy's property.
"Make Angel's soul permanent? It was weird. I happened to run across this spell I already knew and it just clicked that with a little revamping, pun intended, it might work for Angel. Giles helped me figure out what changes to make, then presto: that sucker was anchored!"
"Well, it's really incredible."
With one last look, she resigned herself to the loss and snagged a cherry tomato from a bowl.
"It was pretty easy once I knew what I was doing.
"Way Cor tells it – you're not the only one who knows what they're doin'."
"What, B? Just sayin' Cordy says he can go all…"
"Faith Summers, stop talking right now!"
Faith tried to argue; her intel was too good not to share.
"Aw B, it's interesting. Not like all of us have ever screwed a vamp and…"
Buffy was staring daggers at her.
"Okay. Later, Red."
The kitchen door burst open as Spike came running in, wrapped in a blanket. He threw the smoking linen to the floor and stomped on it.
"Bloody hell, can't we dig a tunnel?"
"Hey, feel free any time, Junior."
"Thanks so much, # 2. Real help, you are."
He tossed his coat onto the hook by the door, straightened out his clothes, smoothed his hair back, and then looked up with a grin.
"Hello, all. Nice to have you back, Oh Brian. Wankers ready to lose your shirts tonight?"
Willow grabbed another tomato, then frowned as Faith moved the bowl out of her reach.
"I think Joyce will probably be the one accumulating all of the clothes tonight."
"Sorry to disagree, Will, but I been playin' 'Monopoly' for about a hundred and fifty years now, so I think I…"
"Spike, 'Monopoly' wasn't even invented until some time in the 1930s."
"Must you be so smart about everything?"
"Yes, I must."
"Oh what, gonna be a smartass now?"
Willow smiled confidently:
"Yep, what are you gonna do about it?"
He stalked over and hauled her off the barstool, pulling her close as he kissed her.
"Just that. Know I love a woman with brains."
"Yes, I do."
He nuzzled her neck.
"You smell good. New perfume?"
"Uh-huh, the lady caught me off guard at the mall."
"Well it's drivin' me right out of my bloody mind."
They kissed again and everyone else pretended not to notice, until Willow's hands threaded their way through his hair. Faith finally spoke up:
"Think you two could hold off on doin' it in our kitchen?"
"Sorry, Dark One. Which room's available then?"
"What, Slayer? Was your lady who made the offer."
"I don't think that's how she meant it."
"Well, that's how I'm takin' it. 'Less you want your counter introduced to a new activity…"
Buffy was speechless, but Faith stepped up to the plate:
"What makes ya think it'd be new, Junior?"
"Good on you, but Will and I…"
Willow grabbed his hand.
"Spike, stop embarrassing Buffy."
"Me? Was her woman who just informed us they go at it on the counter!"
"Fine, Will, no more of the sex talk. Poor, delicate Buffy just can't take it."
Faith's grin was nothing but wicked:
"Wouldn't exactly say that, Junior."
"Do tell, # 2. Hey, why so red, Slayer."
"Shut up, Spike. You too, Faith."
"But B, Spike's askin' for info I'm happy to give."
Buffy looked at Willow:
"Can you please control your husband?"
"Yeah, about as well as you can control your wife."
"She's got ya there, B."
Buffy took a sip of her drink.
"You two are so annoying."
Spike's smirk was downright evil:
"But you love us anyway, pet."
"I wouldn't be so sure of that…either of you."
"Aw c'mon, B, we'll be good. 'Sides, oughta save your tantrum for the 'Monopoly' game. None of us wanna miss out on that."
"Fuck you, F."
"Thought ya didn't wanna talk about that?"
The front door opened and Dawn hollered out:
"Is there a doctor in the house?"
The response was instantaneous as Joyce and Alex ran down the stairs to greet her in the living room.
"Oh Brian, the old ball and chain's here. Remember now, Will and I have first dibs if this one ever coughs up the secret shaggin' location."
Buffy was mortified.
"Spike! Now you're talking about Dawnie…Will you stop it?"
"Is pretty funny, B. All this time and you're still so easy to wind up."
"Say Dark One, how exactly do you wind her up?"
Buffy huffed out her response:
"I'm going to see Dawn!"
She stomped out of the kitchen looking furious, but the second she had her back to them, she couldn't help but smile. They were always so funny when they ganged up to embarrass her.
She'd barely counted to three before she felt Faith's arms wrap around her from behind.
"I'm sorry, B. Not really mad, are ya?"
"I'm not sure."
"Okay, I guess I'm not. But you and Spike drive me crazy, especially when you work together."
"Awww…thought we were kinda cute."
Buffy turned to face her.
"Well yeah, I guess you're that too."
"Okay then there's the problem. You're all focused on the wrong thing."
"Is that right?"
"Would I lie to you, B?"
"In a heartbeat."
Faith's dimples deepened as she thought it over.
"Yeah, I would, but that's just part of the cuteness thing, right?"
"I'm so crazy about you, it probably is."
"Now we're back on the right track."
They shifted to the side as everyone else filed out of the kitchen and tromped through the dining room to welcome Dawn.
"Just kiss me and then we'll go see Dawnie."
Buffy leaned in, but the smirk she was looking at let her know it wasn't quite over.
"Got a better idea, B. Everybody's cleared out of the kitchen. Wanna go a round?"
Buffy shoved her away:
"Shut up before I kill you."
"Do I still get that kiss?"
"Please B, I'll be good."
"I don't think that's possible."
She turned to walk away, but Faith wrapped her up from behind again and pulled her backwards into the kitchen.
"It's not, but a kiss might help me be better."
Buffy didn't even try to resist. She leaned back into Faith, her hands coming up to cover the ones nestled just beneath her breasts.
"I really shouldn't encourage you."
"C'mon B, just one."
Faith's lips were already getting started, nibbling all around Buffy's shoulder and neck.
"Mmm…Well when you put it like that…I guess one couldn't hurt anything."
She turned to face her again, and as she leaned in for the kiss, Faith pulled back just slightly.
"Hang on a sec. Better move away from the counter, just to be safe."
"One day, F, I really am going to kill you."
"Ain't gonna be today though, B. Today we're in love."
"Yes we are. Now come here."
When their mouths finally met, Buffy nipped Faith's bottom lip. The slight pain made Faith chuckle, but she didn't pull away. She just let Buffy pay her back, and when Buffy's tongue began dueling with hers, she let her win.
They only broke apart when they heard another commotion erupting in the front room.
Xander and Anya walked in, surprising everyone.
"And you are?"
"C'mon, Daddy…it's me!"
"I'm sorry, little girl, but I don't recall anyone named 'Me'."
Anya was holding Alex in her arms, kissing him and asking him what he'd been doing all week, but she quickly turned to her husband:
"Xander, these are our children, Alex and Joyce. We love them more than anyone else in the world, even ourselves and…Oh, you were just teasing, weren't you?"
He swept Joyce high into the air, making her laugh and scream.
"That I was, my lovely wife."
"I'm sorry, I guess I ruined the game. It just made me nervous, like that time you kept pretending to have Alex's nose."
"Totally understandable, honey."
He put Joyce down, and she ran to hug her mother while Xander grabbed Alex and held him upside down.
Xander ignored him as he greeted everyone else.
"Hey, has anyone seen Alex?"
Xander swung him up:
"Oh, there you are!"
Alex hugged him hard around the neck and Xander kissed him. Joyce was holding her mother's hand, clearly happy to see her.
"Mom, how come you and Dad came home early?"
"Because we missed you, you little demons."
"And because your mother suspected a 'Monopoly-a-thon' might be taking place tonight."
"Don't be ridiculous, Xander……Is there a 'Monopoly-a-thon'?"
Joyce could barely contain her excitement:
"Mom, can I be your partner?"
"Isn't it your brother's turn?"
He squirmed to get down, so Xander kissed him again and let him escape.
"It's okay, Mom. Uncle Spike's gonna be my partner."
"Bloody right! Me and Tiny Carpenter are gonna tear it up tonight."
"Yeah, he's been playing Monopoly for almost two hundred years now. He's an expert!"
Anya wasn't buying it.
"Then why hasn't he ever won before?"
"Show her, Uncle Spike!"
Spike features changed into his vampire visage:
"Grrr…Stand back everyone, I'm wearin' my 'game' face!"
Spike, Faith, Joyce, and Alex began laughing hysterically, but the adults did their best to ignore him.
"Joyce, we'll have to teach your uncle and little brother a lesson. No one challenges the Harris women like that and gets away with it."
"I've got a new strategy that I think might work, but we'll have to go over it together so we don't get confused."
"I like the sound of that, honey. Faith, do Joyce and I have time to…"
"Got plenty of time."
"Great! Come on Joyce, we'll go upstairs so we can talk without worrying about being overheard."
They were off, with Spike and Alex in hot pursuit, and Faith took advantage of the noisy confusion to slip out the front door for a smoke. She waited a couple of minutes, and when the coast seemed clear, she reached into one of the planters and pulled out a cigarette.
Just as she put it in her mouth, the door opened.
"Damn Xander, scared the piss outta me!"
"Thought you were B, and sure not lookin' for a beating or a bitching tonight."
"But if you had to choose, which one would you rather have?"
Faith thought it over carefully.
"I guess the beating, 'cause it's less painful and doesn't last as long."
"Makes sense. I thought you stopped smoking a long time ago."
"Just do it once a day now."
"But didn't you tell Buffy you'd go cold turkey?"
"Hey, she's not the boss of me."
He nodded understandingly:
"I see. So she didn't manage to worm a promise out of you?"
"No way, was too smart to let her box my ass in. Course she finds out…"
"Your jig is up."
"Nail on the head."
They leaned on the porch railing side by side, staring out at the evening.
"So how was the away time?"
"Perfect. We had a blast. How were the kids?"
"Perfect too. Did the best I could, but ya know how B always spoils'em rotten."
He smiled, shaking his head slightly.
"Faith, how long is it going to take before you realize we all know what a big softy you are?"
"Was kinda countin' on at least a few more years."
"You are a first class nut."
They laughed, then stood in a comfortable silence as they watched the darkness approaching. It was going to be a perfect night, warm but with a breeze and not a hint of rain.
"And the reason for that is?"
"…Can't. B asked me not to."
He grinned as he turned to face her, his dark eyes full of affection and amusement.
"I see. Boy, you sure are a scary bad ass, all right."
Hey, shut up! You know how B is and…"
He couldn't help himself:
"Faith loves Buffy! Faith loves Buffy!"
She looked not the least bit upset.
"Sure got a pair on ya. Who's the pussywhipped fucker who hauled his ass home early so his wife could play a board game?"
"Well, it makes her happy, and it's…"
"Xander loves Anya! Xander loves Anya!"
He held up his hands in surrender:
"Okay, okay. Truce?"
She placed the cigarette back into the planter carefully.
He threw his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close for a hug.
"That's my girl. I don't like it when we're not united."
"Yeah, gotta stay tight. Got us two scary as hell wives."
"Amen to that. Pinkie swear to always back each other?"
They linked fingers, and held them up over their heads:
The front door opened and Buffy came strolling out.
"Faith, if you're all finished not smoking your cigarette, could you come in or at least tell me what temperature to put the ribs on? Do I do 'broil' or 'bake'?"
"What? No, stop! I'm doin'em on the grill, and you know you're not allowed anywhere near…Hey, how'd you know about…"
"Please F, the 'Privacy Agreement' expired years ago."
"The hell it did!"
"I'm sorry, baby, but yes it did."
Faith was pissed.
"First I'm hearin' and I don't agree to that at all!"
"Hmm…I guess you'll need a really good lawyer then."
"You better be kidding…"
"…'cause I'm not gonna…Oh. So how did ya know about…"
"You always look so guilty before and after, so I spied on you."
Faith looked like she was going to blow a gasket.
"You 'spied' on me?! No way is that right either! Xander, you're a witness!"
He glanced at Buffy, then Faith, then Buffy again.
"What? No! Hey we just…"
He was already inside.
"What about 'Motel', goddamn it?!"
"Oops, there goes your back-up."
"Guy's just fuckin' pathetic."
"Faith, you should know by now all I have to do is give him my 'Slayer' look."
"Yeah, but we just pinkie sweared on 'Motel'! He's s'posed to be my go to guy when it comes to scary wives."
Buffy laughed and breathed in the delicious night air.
"And how many scary wives do you have?"
"Just the one, but trust me: she's like havin' at least ten."
"Only ten? That's almost insulting."
"Well, they're like ten really big ones."
Buffy laughed again:
"Are you calling me fat now?"
"Yeah B, that's right. You're fat, must weigh ninety-nine pounds soakin' wet."
Buffy pulled her close and whispered into her ear:
"Well, next time you make me wet, we'll stop and weigh me."
Faith jumped as Buffy's tongue swirled around the sensitive spot below her ear.
"Jesus, can weigh me right now."
"I'd love to, but you've got other responsibilities at the moment."
"Yeah, guess I'd better get the ribs rollin'."
She started to head inside, but Buffy spun her back around and wrapped her arms around her waist.
"In a second, but first I've got something important to say."
"Look B, haven't lit up a cigarette in like five years and…"
Buffy kissed her passionately.
"I just wanted to tell you that I am still so in love with you. There's not a day that goes by when I don't think about just how lucky I am that you love me."
"You're everything to me, Faith."
"Could say all that stuff right back to ya."
"So you're saying you love me too?"
"Yeah, maybe a little bit."
Buffy kissed each dimple, her tongue dipping delicately into the grooves.
"Really? Can you prove it?"
"This mean what I think it does?"
Faith let out a huge sigh:
"Okay Slayer, extra ribs and fries for you."
"God, you are really turning me on."
"Two desserts too."
"That's it, where's that scale?"
"I'm not kidding, F. I'm yours forever…"
"Damn right, you are."
"…as long as you keep the food coming."
"Food's not all I'm gonna keep com…"
The front door opened and out came Anya.
"Faith, I was just wondering if you were going to get the food started any time soon."
"Bet you're starvin' for a home cooked meal, yeah?"
"Yes, but no. It's just that we can't play 'Monopoly' until we get supper out of the way."
"Right. What the hell was I thinkin'?"
"You were probably thinking about sex since you're holding Buffy so closely. I hope the two of you can hold off until after Joyce and I have bankrupted you both."
Buffy nodded solemnly.
"We'll do our very best. Faith, do you need me to make something?"
Faith struggled to keep a straight face.
"Uh, sure. Might need some water boiled or even some more ice bought."
"Ha, ha. Just get in the kitchen where you belong, woman."
She swatted Faith on the butt, and Anya freaked out completely.
"What are you two doing?!"
Buffy looked around.
"You do mean us, right?"
"Why are you speaking to each other like you're a couple from a 1950s TV show? Is there a spell or a…"
"Whoa, easy Vengeance Girl. We're just kidding around."
"You are? Really?"
Buffy patted her on the arm.
"I promise you, Anya, there are no spells or bad things anywhere in sight."
Anya's relief was visible as she smiled big.
"Well you sure gave me a scare. I can't stand those shows, they're downright unnerving. Xander loves one called, 'Leave It to Beaver', but the mother on that program dusts the house in high heels and pearls while wearing a dress."
"Is wicked creepy when ya think about it."
"And the way the men speak to the women…I just can't imagine any of us allowing that. Even when Xander and I role-play, we..."
Buffy so didn't want to hear the end of that sentence:
"I know! We are women, hear us roar."
Anya nodded, clearly still thinking.
"Of course, if you were back in the '50s, sexism would be the least of your problems. I'm fairly certain they confined openly gay people to mental institutions back then."
Buffy continued trying to head her off:
"Wouldn't that be awful? To be in a mental institution just because you love each other."
"Might still end up there."
"Oh, I've already been in a few…not as a prisoner, but when I was a Vengeance demon and someone summoned…Oh, you meant you might end up there. I don't see why. Things just aren't like that anymore, and although both of you are very strange, you're also basically normal."
"That's nice. Guess I'd better get the chow…"
"Yep, you're just two average, homicidal, back from the dead, vampire loving, lesbian Slayers. Oh…um…Well don't worry, if the worst happens, I'll visit twice a week."
Buffy valiantly tried again:
"That's really sweet of you, but…"
"Oh what the heck, I should be able to say it after all these years. Buffy, Faith…I love you. Not in a gay way of course, because I'm quite satisfied with Xander's ability to handle all of my sexual needs. Although I don't suppose he could handle my lesbian ones…but I haven't had any gay urges, except for that one time we all stayed at that beach house and Faith just wore a bikini all week…I mean, wow!"
Anya gave Buffy the thumbs up:
"Go you, you lucky girl! Anyway, I think I'm just too fond of his penis to…"
"We love you too, Anya."
"Thank you, Buffy. Well, isn't this nice?"
"No way 'less it was over, could it get any nicer."
Buffy elbowed Faith a little on the hard side and gave her a warning look that was even harder.
Anya was beaming as she hugged them one after the other.
"And I mean it about the visits. I won't let either of you down, I promise."
"We know you won't, and that's what makes it all seem okay."
"That's the spirit, Buffy!"
"Yeah B, big inspiration to us all."
"I try my best, F."
Anya was vigorously nodding her agreement.
"Yes you do, Buffy. Even when you screw up, you're always trying your best. Okay, now that we've got all of that settled, can you get the supper started, Faith?"
"Sure. Gonna have your ass sittin' at the 'Monopoly' board in an hour."
"That's great! And your estimates are always so accurate, not at all like Xander's. He always claims he can maintain an erection for…"
"'Old Fuckin' Faithful' here."
Anya's look was puzzled:
"Are you by chance referring to that weird geyser thing that some people like to look at? Because I believe it's just called: 'Old Faithful'."
"No shit? My bad."
Anya patted her on the back.
"Don't let it bother you or slow down the dinner preparations."
She went back into the house, leaving the Slayers to stare after her. As the door closed, they could hear her announcing the evening's schedule.
"Not gonna be us headin' to the nuthouse, B."
"She's definitely in the 'see to believe' category."
"Yeah, and even then it's still: 'What the fuck?' Well, ya heard her, let's motor."
Buffy's practically did a double take, her mouth dropping open slightly.
"You're taking orders from Anya now?"
"Sure, but only when I wanna."
"So what's the incentive?"
Faith yanked her close again:
"Faster I get this shit done, faster I get you back in my bed. So move it, B."
"Wow, how very romantic. Be still my heart."
"Fuck romance. I just wanna fu…"
The front door flew open.
"Faith, I just got that 'Old Faithful' joke. What a very funny play on words. I'll just leave the door open since you'll be coming right in. The clock's ticking!"
She disappeared from view, this time leaving the door wide-open and the Slayers staring after her again.
Buffy nudged her:
"You were saying?"
"Just saying romance takes a hike after a few years."
Buffy was more than a little confused.
"What'd ya expect? Finally comes down to just hopin' for a good screw and a comfortable chair."
"And that's it?"
"Way of the world, baby."
Buffy wasn't happy to hear any of it.
"Well I don't like the 'way of the world'."
"Sorry. Nothin' I can do about it."
"Faith, are you coming in?"
"Right there, Anya!"
They headed for the door with Buffy slightly ahead of Faith, but just before she stepped through the doorway, Faith tapped her on the shoulder.
Buffy turned to face her:
Faith never said a word as she swept her up into her arms. Buffy squealed loudly in surprise, the sound causing Alex to run to the door.
"Dad, everybody, come look at this!"
Everyone crowded around the open doorway to see what was happening, but no one saw anything unusual. There was just Faith kissing Buffy with every bit of the love she felt for her, and Buffy giving back as good as she got.
"Dad, Aunt Buffy must be hurt!"
"She's not hurt."
"Then why's Aunt Faith carrying her?"
"Because they're playing and…Whoa there!"
Xander just managed to grab hold of him before he got outside.
"C'mon Dad, they won't care if I play too!"
"Normally they wouldn't, but this isn't that kind of playing. This is just between them for now, okay?"
"Will they let me play later?"
Xander lifted his son into his arms and grinned:
"Of course they will."
The kiss was still going, and everyone began chipping in with their two cents, clapping, whistling, and offering up plenty of good-natured catcalls.
"Slayers, heard there's a secret room available upstairs."
"Wow Buff, you sure don't look embarrassed now!"
"Perhaps we should all offer them some privacy?"
"Rupert, I'd say that's the last thing on their minds."
"Hey Buffster, should I call the fire department?"
"Me and Joyce are gonna play later, okay?"
"You guys are going to keep scarring me my whole life, aren't you?"
"We're wasting valuable time here, people!"
When the kiss ended, Buffy and Faith stared into each other's eyes for a long moment.
"Faith…what are you doing?"
"Wanna carry ya over the threshold again."
Buffy smiled and blushed at the same time.
"I thought you said romance fades, that it's just the way of the world."
"Stone cold truth, B."
Buffy caressed her cheek.
"Then how do you explain this, because it seems pretty romantic to me."
"Said it was 'the way of the world'. Never said it was ours."
"Can't blame'em, B. See, there's only one of you, and you're mine. Everybody else's just gotta make do."
"You are so sweet."
"Shhh…Don't want it gettin' out how much I love you……Hey, clear a path here! Gonna carry the most beautiful woman in the world into the house."
They all cleared a path and Faith kissed her again and smiled:
"Got me a rep, ya know?"
The evening was winding down comfortably. The kids were tucked safely into bed and the adults were safely gathered in the living room, reminiscing about the old days. Buffy sat on the floor between Faith's legs, and she smiled as she looked around the familiar room at her family.
She was thirty-six years old, the oldest Slayer ever, and she owed her incredible longevity to the very people sprawled all around her. They had brought her back from the dead three, no four times now, and they had prevented her death way more times than she could count.
The Council had it all wrong, big surprise there. Slaying was not a solitary calling, it was a job best done by a group of brave and dedicated people who loved each other, no matter what. And of course it didn't hurt a thing that one of those other people happened to be a Slayer too…her Slayer.
She leaned back against Faith and smiled as she felt the hand instantly caress her cheek. After all of these years, it was still just the same. Faith's love was in every look, it was in every touch, and it radiated from her in big warm waves that wrapped around Buffy and made her feel safe and happy and lucky.
Buffy's attention was pulled to Giles because he was laughing so hard he was crying. It was something he now did all the time, thanks to Marion. She was just perfect for him, a real blast of love and energy, and she held him completely captivated.
Technically, she held them all captivated. Everyone adored her and she returned that affection at full force. She fit with them like she'd always been there, and it seemed impossible that there had once been a time when she hadn't been a part of the family. There was no doubt about it: Marion was nothing but a blessing.
Speaking of blessings, Buffy looked over at Brian. His arm was wrapped around Dawn's shoulders, and she was cozily snuggled up against him. Her face said it all. She was happy and she was still madly in love. She was also twenty-nine years old, and how insane was that?
It was all too easy to recall her as a little girl, yet here she was – a full grown woman. Brian, of course, had no problem seeing her as that woman, he never had. He was such a wonderful man, and he was absolutely perfect for Dawn.
That was something Dawn had known from the start. She'd spotted him at seventeen and she had never let him go. When she was eighteen, she told Faith that she was going to marry him someday, and instead of laughing at her or trying to talk her out of it, Faith had agreed with her.
"Know that, Squirt. Big Boy don't stand a chance."
Not that Brian had ever seemed to mind…well, maybe that once. The memory made Buffy laugh right out loud.
"I fail to see how my flat tire can create such mirth, Buffy."
"It's not that, Giles. I was thinking about something else."
"And that's not all that flattering either."
She smiled apologetically at him:
Xander, never one to miss out on a laugh, prodded her.
"So? What's the funny, Buff?'
"I was just remembering when we first met Brian."
Everyone except Marion began laughing and talking at once.
"Come on, do we really have to bring that all up again?"
"But Bri, it was the funniest thing ever. Remember how scared you were of Faith?"
"Of course I do, I still am."
"Aww…c'mon, Big Boy. Ya know I love ya."
"Oh Goddess, remember how I was trying to get…"
Xander snorted with amusement:
"And then he spotted the scissors!"
"Christ, then Junior goes all…"
"Hey, was right nice, as I recall."
Brian couldn't help but chuckle:
"Eventually, but Spike, remember how you took me out on the porch for a 'man to man' talk?"
Spike's head tilted as a small lit up his face:
"Oh yeah…Made sure you were clear on the rules."
Marion's head was swiveling from person to person as she tried to keep up.
Willow began giggling.
"Remember how stupid Xander…"
"Hey, I was throwing down the distraction, you were the crazy woman!"
"I thought you were Dawn's 'special' Uncle Xander."
"I wasn't that bad!"
Marion finally butted in:
"I don't think I've ever heard this one before."
"No shit? Gotta fix that!"
Xander was nodding his agreement:
"You tell it best, Buffster."
"Yeah B, ya never skimp on shit."
Buffy sat up straighter.
"Okay, but get ready, Marion because…"
"Excuse me, Buffy, but since I've already heard this story at least twenty times and Xander comes off as quite stupid and unattractive, I'd rather go check on the children."
"Anya, could you…"
"Of course, Dawn. I'll alert you right away if there's a problem. If you don't hear anything, it probably just means I've fallen asleep."
"Screaming bad, silence good. Got it, thanks."
"You're very welcome. Well, all of you have fun telling your repetitive and pointless story again!"
She went up the stairs cheerily, and Xander jumped right in.
"Okay Buff, all clear!"
Dawn was already laughing:
"Buffy, start from when you first told me I had to…"
"Yeah, whole tale's really worth a go, Slayer."
Faith leaned forward eagerly, her arms resting lightly on Buffy's shoulders.
"Get ready to laugh your ass off, Mrs. G-Man."
Buffy began laughing the second she opened her mouth to speak, and soon everyone had joined in, helpless to stop.
"Shit. Alright, alright...c'mon B, just tell it."
"Okay. Well like most things that happen around here, this didn't get off to a very smooth start. In fact, it started off like a train wreck and just kept getting worse…"
"I am not playing around, Dawn. That's the way it's going to be."
"But it's not fair!"
"I think it's more than fair, but that's not the issue. If you want to keep seeing this boy, he has to come over. I want to meet him."
"Why? Are you going to date him?"
Buffy was trying hard not to lose her patience, but Dawn wasn't making it easy.
"We've already gone over this fifty times and my mind is not going to change. You can invite him over tonight if you want to, but you are not going out with him again until I meet him."
Dawn dramatically threw herself down onto her bed.
"I hate this! Buffy, I finally have something that's all mine, and I don't want everybody else in it."
"I'm sorry, Dawnie, but this is the way it has to be. And before you get going, it's not just because we live on the Hellmouth, it's not just because you used to be the Key, and it's not just because I'm a Slayer. It's normal for kids to introduce their boyfriends to their parents, and like it or not, in this kind of thing, I'm your parent."
"Right, 'normal'. Like how you introduced Angel to Mom."
Buffy sat down next to her on the bed.
"You are so not winning any points by bringing up my vampire boyfriend. All it does is convince me that I'm right."
"I'm sorry you don't like this, but I'm not giving in. I meet him if you want to keep seeing him."
Dawn buried her face in her pillow, and although her voice was muffled, Buffy could understand every word:
"Fine, but he'll never come back once he gets a look at this freak show."
Buffy rubbed her back soothingly.
"Dawnie, this 'freak show' is who you are. If he can't handle it, he's not the right guy for you."
"…Okay, I'll call him now."
She sat up looking miserable, and Buffy felt bad, just not bad enough to change her mind. She kissed Dawn on the forehead.
"You'll thank me if he turns out to be evil or…"
"What's that supposed to mean?! Like I can only attract an evil boy?!"
"That wasn't what I meant at all. I was just…"
"Get out of my room! I'm going to call him and then you can finish ruining my life. I hate everything!"
Buffy went downstairs where Willow and Faith sat waiting on the couch. Spike was standing somewhat impatiently, leaning on a chair from behind.
"Well, it could have gone better, but she's calling him."
"What's the little punk's number: 666?"
"Faith, let's not judge him before we even meet him."
Willow asked the obvious question:
"So when's the big day?"
"She's going to ask him for tonight."
"That's good, get it over with. Wanker's got another thing comin'…"
"…if he thinks he can pull this shit on Squirt. We'll find out what his game is…"
"…then we'll teach him what happens when you mess about with the Nibblet."
Buffy sat down in the other chair.
"Faith, Spike, could you please bring it down a notch or two? We don't even know if anything bad is going on here, and the odds are he's just a normal boy."
"Bloody hell! Nearly as bad as bein' a demon. Punks his age only want one thing…"
"…and that's never happenin' to Squirt. Guy's gonna treat her with respect or he's gonna learn…"
"…a whole new meaning of 'pain'. Not gonna just stand about and let some bastard get his hooks into Dawnie. He's…"
"…gonna pay and pay big. B, got an address? Fuck tonight, me and Junior'll pay him a visit right now."
Buffy stood up, her head swiveling back and forth as she looked between the two of them.
"Time out! What are you – the same person in separate bodies? Could we just wait and see what's really going on? He hasn't done a thing and…"
"That we know of! Well, 'bollocks' to the waiting, I say we stop him 'fore he gets a chance. No point letting his kind…"
"…get a fuckin' head start. Cough up the address, B, and consider it done."
Buffy turned to the other sane person in the room:
"Oh my God! Willow, a little help here?"
Willow tried a calming smile as she looked at them.
"You guys do seem to be assuming stuff that may not even be true."
They didn't appear to hear a word she said.
"Red, do some kinda spell and make him into a roach or somethin'."
"Yeah Will, go all black-eyed and let the blighter have it!"
Buffy stepped back into the conversation:
"Faith, Spike! No one is going 'all anything'. Let's just wait until we meet him before we kill him, okay?"
"Slayer, clearly the smart battle plan is to…"
"…nail this fucker 'fore he strikes. Not gettin' any younger here, B. Give us the address and the problem goes away."
Buffy had had more than enough.
"And if the two of you don't stop talking so crazy, you won't be getting any older either because I'm going to kill you. We're going to meet him and then we're going to decide what our next move is."
"No 'buts'. I've made the plan and we're all following it!"
No one said a thing.
Willow agreed instantly, but there was still only silence from the other two.
"Okay, I'm going to ask this one more time, and if I'm not answered, well let's just say I'm going to become extremely cranky. Do we all understand the plan we are all following?"
Faith and Spike understood exactly what Buffy was asking, they just didn't agree with her…and they weren't going to.
She began stretching and flexing as if loosening up for a workout…or a fight…and it was Spike who cracked first.
"Fine! She's your bloody sister. Whatever happens is on you."
"Jesus B, just take it easy."
Buffy nodded and started to return to her seat.
"But gotta tell ya, there's no way I'm lettin' this prick…"
"…step a bloody inch out of line. I'll make him regret he was ever born…"
"…and I don't give a fuck what ya say!"
Buffy stepped closer to them then, in full Slayer mode.
"I am warning you both right now…"
Dawn hollered down the stairs:
"Buffy? He'll be here at six!"
"…Thank you, Dawn. Does he eat anything special?"
"Bastard probably eats babies. Or puppies and kitties. Tell her that!"
"William, be quiet!"
"He likes everything except spinach, but then who likes that anyway?"
Buffy was still staring at Spike:
"No spinach, check."
"And I told him it'd just be you and Faith. I don't want everybody else here gawking at him."
Faith sat up straight at that news:
"And here's where it starts. The baby eater wants…"
"Not you, Dawnie, I'm talking to Faith. That all sounds just fine."
Dawn went back into her room, and the instant they heard her door close…
"Not seriously gonna agree to that, are you, Slayer?"
"Spike, what did I just tell you?"
"Obviously, I don't give a damn! Strength in numbers: 'Battle Strategy 101'. Startin' to think you're under a bloody spell!"
Buffy was fuming and she let out a small scream.
"Oh my God, I am so close to kicking your ass right now!"
"Geez, take it easy, B. And ask yourself – why's this freak tryin' so hard to separate us? Thinkin' we'd better be here in full force when…"
"Enough!!! Not one more word from either of you or I'm going to give you the beating of your life…lives…I'm going to…Spike, go to your room!"
He didn't budge, his stance nothing but aggression.
"Not the boss of me, Slayer. I go where I please, when I please, and I…"
He stomped to the basement, yelling at her the whole way and snagging a beer as he passed by the refrigerator.
"Gonna get us all killed! Well go ahead, I've got other things to do! 'Passions' is on in twenty. Not like I need to listen to some crazy, pigheaded bird…Out of your mind, you are!"
He slammed the basement door so hard, the two pictures hanging on the nearby wall crashed to the floor.
"B, Spike's right. We gotta…"
Buffy grabbed her none too gently by the arm and pulled her to her feet.
"Shit, wanna ease the grip? I'm…"
"Come with me."
"Not goin' anywhere 'til…OW!"
"Will, keep an eye on Crazy Person # 1?"
"Come on, # 2."
"Said I'm not goin' any…OW! That fuckin' hurts!"
Buffy never paused on her way to the front door.
"We're going outside."
"Will you let go of…Christ!"
"I'm not letting go, now come on."
They made it out the door, and Buffy marched her all the way to the sidewalk.
"Great, we're outside. Now what?"
"We're going for a walk."
It was obvious that Faith thought Buffy had gone insane.
"'A walk'?! Where the fuck to? We need to get ready 'cause in like four hours, fuck knows what's comin' to take a chunk outta Dawnie!"
"Barely got enough time to do the basics. I say Squirt shouldn't even be here in case he…"
Buffy kissed her long and hard and when they finally parted, Faith smiled slowly, clearly in a daze.
"Wow…That was…damn…B, gotta deal…Dawnie…"
Buffy rested her arms on Faith's shoulders, her hands playing with her hair.
"F, you're going nuts. Nothing's happened, he's probably just a normal seventeen year old boy. Dawn likes him, a lot, so let's try to stay calm, okay? You're getting yourself all worked up over nothing."
She kissed her softly this time, pressing their bodies close together.
"Look what a beautiful day it is. Take a walk with me."
"Yeah but…what if he's not a normal kid?"
"Then we'll be there and we'll deal with it."
Faith let out a big sigh and rubbed her hand over her face.
"Just don't like the 'keepin' it a secret' part."
"I know. She shouldn't have done that, but let's give him a chance."
"…Guess I was goin' a little overboard there."
Buffy kissed her again.
"Just a little bit."
Faith smiled and linked her hand with Buffy's.
"Okay, gonna stay positive."
"Good, me too."
They began strolling slowly down the sidewalk, Faith relaxing more with every step they took.
"Spike was pretty worked up."
"Willow's on it, she'll calm him down."
"Guy sure gets fired up."
"He sure does."
"Never seen nothin' like it."
Buffy laughed, but stopped when she saw that Faith was serious.
"Uh…yeah…it's definitely something to see all right."
"He just went off all half cocked and ya practically had to beat the crap outta him."
"Yeah……Faith, have you ever noticed you guys are a lot alike?"
"You and Spike."
"Me and Junior? Hey, I love the guy, but we're nothin' alike."
"So you don't think you're…"
"B, c'mon! He's got a temper like nobody else, and he's all 'beat the shit outta somebody, ask questions later', ya know?"
Buffy started to argue, but she knew there was no point.
"You're right, what was I thinking?"
"No foul, no harm. You're just a little worked up, walk'll do us both good."
Buffy leaned her head down on Faith's shoulder, and Faith wrapped her arm around Buffy's waist.
"Sure is pretty out, yeah, B?"
"We got any plans to kiss on this walk?"
"No actual plans, but I'm all for spontaneous kissage."
Faith didn't need to be told twice, only pulling back when they began to go past what was proper on a "middle of the afternoon" neighborhood walk.
"Mmm…kinda dig this walkin' around thing."
"Weird to be doin' it in the sun, though."
"Yeah, but it's still of the good."
They began moving again, holding hands as they made their way down the sidewalk.
"And it's really nice to be just two normal girls out for a normal walk."
They continued on in silence as they took in all of the beauty surrounding them.
"It's not very exciting, is it?"
"Put it this way: I'd be tryin' the suicide thing if you weren't here."
"Come on, let's head back."
"Really? 'Cause a beer and…"
"'Passions' sounds good to you?"
"Is a wicked cool show."
"Home it is, then."
"Ya don't mind, B?"
"No, it'll give me and Will a chance to plan dinner."
"Great, but let's run. Timmy had a hex put on him, pretty sure the little bastard's goin' up in flames today!"
"Wow, how exciting."
"Bet your ass, baby!"
Faith took off running with Buffy muttering close behind her:
"Oh no, you're nothing like each other."
"Yeah, I said you run like an old lady!"
Buffy timed it perfectly and as they hit Revello Drive, she blew past Faith.
"Last one home makes dinner, F!"
"Like you could cook anything anyways."
"Hurry up, Grandma! Timmy fell down the well again!"
"That's 'Lassie'! Geez, don't ya even know your 'TV Timmys' from a hole in the ground…Get it, B? Fuck, I'm funny!"
Buffy wondered if clones really had to look like each other as she ran up onto the porch. She turned to taunt Faith as she landed next to her just moments later.
"I win! Boy F, this sure gets old."
"Barely beat me, B."
"But beat you I did, even though you had a head start, and I'm just saying that this winning all the time is getting old."
Faith grabbed her and pinned her against the door.
"Yeah? Well, so are you."
"Such a sore loser."
"I need a consolation prize."
Buffy's response came without delay:
"All runner-up contestants receive a free one year subscription to…"
"Screw that, this runner-up's demandin' a kiss."
"Oh, I'm sorry, but that would be in direct violation with…"
"Not looking to 'violate' anybody. Just a simple kiss'll get it done."
Their lips met, their tongues played, and their hands roamed. When they broke apart, Buffy smiled.
"I'm surprised you even want me since I'm getting so old."
"It's cool. Way more concerned you're such a moron about TV."
"I believe that just shows how truly intelligent I am."
She traced Faith's dimples with her finger, making Faith stutter:
"Nah, tr…trust me…says you're a moron about...."
Now Buffy's tongue was exploring the enticing little depressions, and Faith pushed their bodies even closer together.
"So you're willing to overlook my biggest flaw?"
"…Huh? Yeah, absolutely."
Another passionate kiss followed, and then Buffy smacked her on the ass:
"Okay then, go watch your show."
"Oughta make ya pay for teasin' me."
"But F, Tommy's on fire and fell in the well."
"Live it up, B. Later it's gonna be me doin' the laughing."
They went in and Faith snagged two beers. She winked at Willow and headed down the basement stairs.
"That you, Dark One?"
"Yeah, what'd I miss?"
"Nothin' yet. Pretty sure Timmy's kindlin' after the adverts though."
"Fuck Junior, that's gonna be somethin' to see!"
"Yeah, thing I wonder's if…"
Buffy closed the door, and Willow smiled from her spot at the bar. Her laptop was open in front of her, but she gave Buffy her full attention.
"Crazy Person # 1 is secure, Captain."
"God, could you believe that?"
"I know! It was like they were the same person."
Buffy grabbed a bottle of water for herself and a juice for Willow, then sat down next to her.
"I mentioned that to Faith, but she doesn't even remotely see it."
"He doesn't either."
"Do you think it's okay to leave them alone together?"
Willow nodded as she sipped her drink.
"I think so, at least while the show's on."
They sat quietly, each lost in thought.
"Buffy, do you want me to be here tonight…just in case?"
"No, Faith and I can handle whatever comes up. Besides, I'm almost positive that this boy is just that: a boy who likes Dawn. I'm not really expecting any problems."
"Wouldn't that be nice?"
"Yes it would, so I say let's all just stay calm and hope for the best."
Willow tried to project confident enthusiasm:
"We'll be calm as rain…No, that's right…Calm as paste."
"'Calm as paste'? Will, that makes the kind of sense that makes none."
"Sorry, best I could do on short notice. Besides, have you ever seen nervous or excited paste? I think not."
Buffy had to agree:
"Well, I guess when you put it like that…"
"And the main point here is that we remain calm."
Buffy finished off her water and looked longingly at the refrigerator.
"Exactly, because I think we're all just overreacting."
"Most likely, yep."
"Well, fear no more because I am issuing my famous 'Buffy Summers' guarantee."
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?"
Willow rolled her eyes.
"Nothing, it's just that whenever you issue your famous 'guarantee', all heck breaks loose…sometimes literally."
"That's not true!"
"Buff, I could list ten times in just the last couple of years alone."
Buffy decided to let it go and lobbed her empty water bottle into the sink.
"So what are you working on?"
Willow's face became animated:
"I recovered that stuff that somehow got lost!"
"That's great, Will. Does that mean I'm off the hook now?"
"Well, I didn't actually keep count, but I can tell you it sure felt like a million."
"This is serious, Buffy!"
"I know that."
"…But I just don't see why it's such a big deal. You got it back."
Willow was instantly furious:
"Thanks to magic! If you'd just stop being so stubborn, I could teach you how to…"
"But it's so boring, Will. I hate…"
"Oh, well I'm so sorry everything can't be as exciting as slaying!"
"I didn't mean that it's 'boring', just that it's…boring, and I don't see how you can get all excited over…"
"Oh, so now I'm boring? Thanks a lot, Buffy!"
Buffy's face was full of confusion:
"I didn't say you were boring! When did I say that? I just said that you like boring stuff that's boring. But you aren't boring at all, Will. You're just kind of weird."
Willow couldn't believe what she was hearing:
"Me? I'm weird? Oh, that's priceless! Have you seen you? I can't believe you have the nerve to call me…"
"Hey! Could you crazy people keep it the fuck down? We can't even hear the goddamn show!"
Faith slammed the basement door behind her as she descended the stairs again.
Buffy and Willow looked at each other.
"Dinner is going to be a huge disaster, Will."
Willow went over to the refrigerator and tossed Buffy another bottled water. She snagged the bag of pretzels that were on the counter, then sat back down at the bar.
"It's not looking good, is it?"
Buffy took a pretzel:
"If this boy turns out to be evil, Faith's going to kill him."
"At least it'll help her let off some steam."
"Maybe we should just put Dawnie in a protective bubble until she's thirty."
"Ooh, ooh, I could totally do that! It wouldn't even be that hard! There's this spell where you take…"
"Will, you know I was just kidding, right?"
"'Kidding'? Well yeah, of course I knew that…Putting Dawnie inside a protective bubble…Who'd think that was a good idea?"
They ate pretzels in silence, each lost in thought.
"We're all crazy people, aren't we?"
"The craziest of the crazy."
Buffy drained the last of her water.
"It's nice to have company though."
"It's crucial for staying sane."
"Okay, how would you go about doing that bubble?"
Willow's face lit up:
"First, I'd have to channel some major essence of Protection…Hold on, let me get 'Mangot's Spells'. It'll make it easier to explain."
She took off in a blaze of excitement, leaving Buffy alone at the bar and talking to herself:
"Oh no, Will, it's not boring at all. You go ahead, I'll just wait here and watch the paint dry while the clones in the basement watch little Tony get incinerated."
She grabbed another pretzel and waited.
At precisely six o'clock the doorbell chimed. Dawn shot out of her chair and ran backwards to the door, her eyes fixed pleadingly on both Slayers.
"Please you guys, please don't embarrass me."
She opened the door to reveal a very large and very handsome boy. He looked nervous, but smiled when he saw Dawn. As he bent down to kiss her cheek, Buffy and Faith got to their feet.
With a happy look on her face, Dawn pulled him into the room.
"Brian, this is my sister, Buffy."
He instantly extended his hand:
"Ms. Summers, I'm so happy to meet you. Dawn talks about you all the time."
"It's nice to finally meet you too, Brian."
Dawn was encouraged because despite the slight dig, Buffy had been perfectly normal, even gracious. One down, one to go.
"And this is Faith."
As Brian turned smiling to shake her hand, Faith unsheathed an enormous knife, holding it this way and that to catch the light on its gleaming blade.
"Uh…I...Um, it's nice to meet you, Ms…I'm sorry, I don't know your last name."
"'Faith' works just fine."
She continued holding the knife menacingly while smiling just as menacingly at him.
"That's…That's sure a big knife."
"Yeah, cuts through bone."
"Dawn, would you please take Brian into the kitchen and finish the salad?"
Dawn resembled nothing so much as a deer caught in the headlights, and Brian was plainly terrified with a side order of confused.
"…Sure, Buffy. Brian? Brian, come on, this way."
The minute they were out of sight, Buffy spun around to look at Faith:
"What in the hell are you doing?"
"Just gettin' my point across."
"And what 'point' is that? That you're a homicidal maniac?"
Faith sheathed her knife as she answered:
"Flexible point, 'cause that'll work."
"You said you'd give him a chance."
"Yeah, and I got my eye on him too."
"Well mine's on you, so behave or…I mean it, Faith."
They went into the kitchen to see the kids lobbing cherry tomatoes into each other's mouths.
"Now that's an interesting way to toss a salad."
Dawn giggled as Brian's last throw bounced off her forehead.
"You guys should have seen it, Buffy! Brian was like a real chef!"
Buffy smiled warmly, doing her best to relax their guest.
"So you're handy around the kitchen? Brian, you've come to the right place."
He smiled back at her, relieved that everything seemed normal.
"I've always helped my mom out, but I usually only chop vegetables. Oh, and I can make omelets too."
Dawn spoke up proudly:
"He's being modest. He does scrambled eggs, hamburgers, and real popcorn too!"
"Really? Well, again I say you've come to the right place."
He inhaled deeply.
"This all smells delicious, Ms. Summers."
"As much as I'd like to take the credit, I can't. It was all Dawn and Faith, I didn't even supervise."
His eyes darted nervously to Faith, but he stayed calm.
"Oh, well I sure can't wait to dig in."
"Why don't you go ahead and sit down while Faith and I…"
Faith already had her hand gripped tightly onto Brian's arm and was "leading" him into the dining room.
"You and Dawn go ahead, I'll show Brian the way."
Then they were gone, and Dawn started to follow until Buffy pulled her back.
"What are you doing? We can't just leave him alone with her!"
"Let's give them a couple of minutes. Maybe if she gets it out of her system, she'll stop."
"Unless she kills him first."
"Well, technically she'd have to stop then."
Dawn was not amused.
"So not funny, Buffy."
"Sorry. Look, we know she's not really going to kill him, so let's just get dinner on the table. Come on, the faster we finish in here, the faster we can get out there."
Dawn reluctantly turned away, hoping that Buffy was right, but still having major doubts. She couldn't really see or hear what was going on outside of the kitchen, not unless she went right up to the doorway and made it obvious that she was snooping. That tactic would probably embarrass Brian, and since she didn't hear any yelling or crying, she figured it was probably okay. Still, she couldn't help but wonder what was happening in the dining room.
It turned out nothing was happening in the dining room because Faith had marched Brian right through it and back into the living room.
"So Mystery Boy, what's the game?"
"Yeah, where ya been? How come we never met ya before?"
She circled around him slowly.
"'Fore ya answer, oughta know I got a real nose for bullshit. Also got a wicked bad temper and no patience at all. Kinda combo that makes it rough on a bullshitter, but hey – all gotta make our own choices in this life. Now I'm gonna ask you again and you're gonna answer…what the fuck is your game?"
He had never been so scared in his entire life. She was tiny compared to him, and yet all of his instincts assured him that she could snap him in half without even breaking a sweat. His arm was still throbbing from the strength in her grip as she'd hauled him into the front room, and he needed no one to tell him that she was incredibly dangerous.
She seemed to suspect him of something, but he had no idea what she thought he'd done. He'd expected Dawn's family to be upset that they'd kept their relationship a secret for nearly six months, but pulling out a "bone cutting" knife and smiling at him with the scariest eyes he'd ever seen…She couldn't be this angry just because of that, could she?
He glanced desperately towards the dining room doorway, hoping against hope to see Dawn or her sister, but there was no one in sight.
"There's no game, Ms….Faith. We wouldn't have kept it a secret if we'd have known you were going to be so mad."
Now he was in trouble. He couldn't just rat Dawn out, but at the same time he was fully convinced that the maniac standing in front of…no, now behind him, would know if he lied.
"…Yes, it was my idea to keep it a secret."
Her head cocked to the side as if listening, and she raised her hand for quiet.
He couldn't hear anything over the pounding of his heart.
"Alarm bells ringin' clear as day."
She smiled at him again, and he began wondering if he could outrun her.
"Know what's ringin'em?"
"You are, Brian."
His normally deep voice came out with a squeak.
"Think it's smart to lie to me?"
"But ya are. Makes me wonder why."
"Okay, we're all…Guys?!"
Brian was running as he entered the dining room, and he knew the sound of Dawn's voice and her slightly panicked appearance in the doorway were the sweetest things he'd ever experienced in his entire life.
The terror was plain to see on his face as Dawn got him seated, and Buffy turned to glare at Faith. She refused to look anywhere near Buffy, instead focusing her attention on taking her own seat.
Dawn was chattering nonstop trying to distract Brian, and even after passing out all of the food, Buffy still couldn't catch Faith's eye. That was fine with her. She was more than happy to try another approach.
She kicked Faith's leg hard, but when Brian yelped in pain, Buffy realized his extra long legs were resting in between her foot and Faith's shin.
"Oh God! Brian, I'm so sorry!"
"…It's…okay, Ms…Summers. I don't…think…it's broken."
Buffy tried to spring into action:
"Dawnie, run upstairs and get the big icepack thingy, it's on my dresser. Just stay there, Brian, while I get some ice and…"
"No! Please don't leave us alone again!"
The smirk on Faith's face made Buffy want to kill her.
"Are you sure? We don't want it swelling."
He was still clearly in pain, but he wouldn't admit it.
"It's okay, it's already easing off."
Dawn looked morose as she watched the whole fiasco unfolding beyond her control, and they all ate in a tense and uncomfortable silence. When they were finally finished, everyone headed into the living room to "relax".
Buffy suggested that Dawn show Brian her room, and she watched him hobble painfully up the stairs behind her. The moment they were gone, she whirled around to Faith.
She was sitting calmly in a chair, her leg thrown casually over the arm as she played with her knife again. Buffy was so furious she could barely control herself, and she stalked over to rip the knife out of Faith's hand.
"Have you completely lost your mind? What in the hell are you doing?!"
"What am I doing? Fuck B, do you see this guy? He's…"
"He's just a young boy who's being terrorized by you."
"The fuck he is! He's…"
Buffy leaned down to look her in the eye.
"I'm not picking up anything demony…are you?"
Faith turned her head away, but Buffy grabbed her chin and forced her to meet her gaze.
"Hello? Slayer to Slayer…any tingles at all?"
"Then will you please stop? You've been threatening him for an hour now, I've broken his leg, and he still gets this dazed and goofy expression on his face whenever he looks at Dawn. Stop trying to find something wrong and let them be what they are: two kids who like each other."
Faith looked at her uncertainly:
"You sure he's okay?"
"As sure as I can be. Look, we can't protect her from everything. She's grown up here, she understands the dangers, and she's smart. I think we have to trust her and let her make her own choices. He seems okay to me, more than okay, and it's obvious he's crazy about her."
Faith was silent as she thought it over, and after a minute she let out a loud sigh.
"You're right, B. Okay, gonna head up and straighten it out."
"Well, it's not going to be easy. I mean, he's not exactly your biggest fan."
"Not right now, but I got charm comin' outta my ass."
"As that phrase so adequately proves."
Faith stood up, looking sheepish.
"Can I get a kiss, for luck?"
They kissed and Buffy could feel Faith's apology as they did.
"Shit, I'm sorry, B. Went all nuts again and fucked up."
"I know, it's okay. Just go fix it."
"I will, don't worry. Just holler for Squirt when I get up there."
"Okay. Fingers crossed."
She watched as Faith ran up the stairs…what a crazy evening it had been. Faith loved Dawn so much she had a hard time being rational, they all did.
Years of living on the Hellmouth had made every one of them wary and suspicious of everything. It was definitely an occupational hazard, but they couldn't let it ruin Dawn's life. That would be unfair, and based on tonight, it would also be insane.
Buffy had no doubt that Faith would either charm Brian or kill him trying…and that was probably not her best choice of words. Whatever, it was time to pull Dawn away.
"Dawn, could you come down here for a minute?"
"No thank you, Buffy."
"I just need you for a second."
"Dawn, please come down here!"
"Nope, I'll just…OW! Geez Faith, alright!"
Dawn walked slowly down the stairs, rubbing her arm.
"I am never speaking to either of you again."
"Dawnie, Faith's going to fix this right now. She lost her head before and she's sorry."
"Brian looked like he was going to pass out when he saw her. What was she doing?"
"She was protecting you."
Dawn sat down on the couch, her face incredulous.
"From Brian? Buffy, he's so sweet that's like saying you're going to protect me from a puppy."
"She just got a little paranoid, we all did."
"Well if she's going to fix it, she'd better do it fast. His leg's all swollen and he keeps asking me if she's ever done time for murder."
"I guess you'd better not answer that one."
"What? Oh yeah, I forgot. God Buffy, he's never gonna wanna see me again."
"Faith will fix it."
"How can she?"
"I'm don't know, but I've got faith."
Dawn groaned and let her head fall back against the couch.
"My life sucks so, so much."
Meanwhile, the atmosphere upstairs was a great deal less cozy. Brian noticed that Faith kept herself between him and the door, and he was wondering if he could throw himself through the window fast enough to avoid her. The frame looked really sturdy and it probably wouldn't give, even with all of his weight behind the impact.
He was trapped and he was scared, and he couldn't believe that Dawn had just left him behind to be killed.
"Brian, can we talk?"
He nodded, and she stood lost in thought for almost a full minute before she spoke.
"Dawn's really special to me."
She wasn't asking him for any answers yet, which was good because he doubted his voice was anywhere close to working anyway.
"Lotta stuff behind that, but the thing you need to know is that I love her…just as much as anybody's ever loved anything. I got a job that makes me suspicious and it makes me look for the bad in everyone. Took that way too far tonight."
He looked at her hopefully, but the fear was still all over his face.
"It's just that the whole sneakin' around deal made me think all kindsa stuff. Main thing I thought was that you were some kinda creep, but you're not, are ya?"
He had to clear his throat to get the words out:
"N…No ma'am, I'm not."
"Sneakin' was all Squirt's idea?"
"…Please don't make me say."
"Yeah, okay. Dawnie's had some rough stuff go down in her life, I just don't want her bein' hurt when she doesn't have to be. I get you guys are just kids and somewhere down the line this'll probably end. That's normal, just the way shit goes."
She suddenly seemed like a human being, and he found he could breathe normally again.
"What I gotta get from you's a promise you'll always treat her with respect. Can you give me that?"
"There's no other way to treat her, she's Dawn. And sure I'm just a kid, but I know she's special and I would never let anyone hurt her…not even me."
Her real smile was a really nice one, and it gave him a glimpse of the person Dawn was always going on about with such love and admiration.
She held out her hand to him.
"Look, I'm sorry about before, I was bein' an ass. No hard feelings?"
He took her proffered hand with no hesitation.
"No hard feelings at all, Ms….You really don't have a last name?"
"Like a celebrity thing."
"That's me, kid, all the way. Tell ya what…I'll grab the icepack and you head down and show'em I didn't kill ya."
"Will they be surprised that you didn't?"
She grinned at him:
"No more than we are."
The evening was going well, really well. Dawn and Brian were happily playing videogames, and Buffy and Faith were pretending not to watch them as they read the newspaper. At the moment, Brian was calmly explaining some special move to Dawn for the second time, and Buffy was very much liking what she saw.
He was patient and respectful, treating Dawn like a complete equal, and when she ended up trouncing him at the game a few minutes later, he merely laughed as she danced around him trash talking the entire time. He was gentle, funny, smart, and levelheaded, and he sort of reminded Buffy of Oz.
After about an hour they turned off the Playstation and sat side by side on the couch, laughing and talking about school and whatever else popped into their heads. Faith decided to make some snacks, and soon they were all enjoying Krispy Treats and ice cream.
What had started off as a major disaster was now sailing smoothly on its way to becoming a rousing success. Of course Spike chose that precise moment to make his presence known.
"Hello, all…Why, who's this?"
Brian was on his feet quickly, his hand extended:
"I'm Brian Bradford, sir."
"No! 'Brian Bradford', you say? The 'Brian Bradford'? Well, what a marvelous treat this is. Look everyone, it's 'Brian bloody Bradford', right here in the house, he is! Never thought I'd see the likes of this! So what's the special occasion, boy?"
"I'm here for dinner."
Spike's smile was not a friendly one.
"Now that's a right nice offer. Most times, got to chase my din…"
"Okay, that's it. Spike, shut up!"
"Don't you 'Nibblet' me. We finally got Faith settled down, we don't need you getting started. You can either sit here and be nice or you can leave. Those are the only choices."
He looked at Faith:
"Where we at, Dark One?"
"Yeah? Still looks like a wanker to…"
"Come with me!"
"Sorry Little Bit, not movin' an…OW! Hey, easy with…"
They disappeared into the kitchen for a few minutes, and when they returned, Spike seemed contrite. He walked over to Brian and offered his hand.
"Name's Spike. Sorry 'bout that. Fancy a smoke or a shot of whiskey?"
"I don't smoke or drink, Mr…You don't have a last name either?"
"'Spike' gets the job done. Little man to man on the porch then?"
They went outside, and Dawn looked at Buffy and Faith.
"You guys are too much! He'd better behave or I'm…."
"Wouldn't worry 'bout it, Squirt. Junior loves ya, he's just…"
The sarcasm dripped off of every one of Dawn's words:
"Of course, you're right, Faith. Besides, what could be worse than a 'bone cutting' knife?"
Faith was suddenly fascinated by the newspaper.
"Buffy, do you think you or I should go out there?"
"Let's give them another minute. Spike's going to have his say no matter what, but I think he'll be okay after the talk you just had with him."
Dawn looked a little uncertain, but she sat down.
"Boy, I never knew so many insane people loved me."
"Yeah, kinda cool when ya think about…Wow, big sale on paper towels."
Dawn stared angrily at Faith, who was now totally hidden behind the paper.
"I'm giving him two minutes, Buffy, then I'm going out there."
Meanwhile out on the porch, Spike was more than aware that the clock was ticking.
"Right to the point: Dawn likes you, seems the Slay…Buffy and Faith seem to as well. Most likely means you're all right. No way to know that for sure, but there is one thing I do know with absolute clarity."
Spike's almost genial attitude was gone, and in its place was William the Bloody:
"You hurt her, I'll hurt you ten times worse. Step out of line, I'll put you back in harder than you could ever imagine. Don't do idle threats, this is the only warning you'll ever get. We understandin' each other?"
"Yes sir, we are."
"Good, that's all settled then. And there's no need to call me 'sir', Spike's good enough. Now let's get back inside 'fore one of the ladies comes out here to kick my ass."
With the newest potential disaster averted, the night carried on until it began winding down peacefully.
Buffy liked Brian, and despite their earlier misgivings, so did Faith and Spike. It became perfectly clear that he was smitten with Dawn, and she was obviously head over heels about him. The whole thing was…well, it was cute.
They were all hanging out in the living room, and things were now going just fine. Brian had finally lost the look of terror he'd sported since meeting Faith, and he was now at ease and comfortable. After elevation and a judicious application of ice, his leg had finally returned to roughly its normal size.
The kids were happily trading gossip back and forth, Faith and Spike were happily arguing over which episode of "The X-Files" was the best, and Buffy was happily studying Dawn and Brian. It sure looked serious to her, but how could that be? They were way too young to be in love and…
She realized just how stupid that was. She only had to remember herself at that age to know that they were plenty old enough. Okay, so it was happening, and she promised herself that she was going to stay out of it as much as she could.
It was Dawn's life, and she had every right to live it as she saw fit…within reason, of course. Technically she was only about five years old, and Buffy was pretty sure that meant she had the right to keep an eye on her. Maybe it wasn't the kind of logic that would hold up in court, but here on the Hellmouth it was rock solid and airtight.
The doorbell rang, interrupting her thoughts. Apparently she was the only one who could hear it because no one else even pretended to make a move to answer the door.
"Oh no everyone, really, I insist. You all stay put."
No one even vaguely acknowledged her as she walked to the door, muttering under her breath. When she opened it, there stood Willow and Xander for some completely inexplicable reason. They were struggling with a large bookcase, doing their best to slide, drag, and carry it up to the doorway.
The look of relief on Xander's face was palpable.
"Oh, thank God it's you, Buff. Here."
They shoved it at her, and Buffy instinctively grabbed on and carried it into the living room. She sat it down, then stood back, checking it out with undisguised admiration.
"Xander, did you do this? It's beautiful!"
Spike was up and shoving Buffy off to the side.
"Hands off, Slayer! Mine, yeah?"
"Yep, it's all yours, Spike."
"Thank you, Xander."
"You're welcome, sorry it took me so long."
Spike was running his hand along the smooth top shelf, while he bent closer to examine the scrollwork.
"No need to ever apologize for craftsmanship like this. Nice and heavy too, just what I need."
Faith couldn't take it anymore:
"How's Junior rate a handmade present?"
"Oh, pardon me, # 2. Bloody books are sittin' on a collapsed TV tray, mind if I get a proper case?"
"Guess not. Sure's a beauty though."
Xander grinned at her:
"I could make you one too if…"
"Yeah? That'd be great!"
"You got it…or you will when I get it done."
Spike hoisted up his new possession and headed for the basement.
"Thanks again, Master Carpenter."
"I'm glad you like it."
"Bloody love it! Night, all."
And with that he disappeared from view, and it was only then that everyone noticed Brian's mouth was hanging open in complete disbelief.
"How…how did he pick that up like that?"
"He's very strong. Hi, I'm Xander Harris. You must be Brian."
"Yes, I'm Brian…But Ms. Summers picked it up too, and she's…"
"Hi Brian, it's nice to meet you. I'm Willow."
"Nice to meet you…But Ms. Summers swung it around like it…"
Brian was nothing but bewildered and Xander took charge.
"So, you're a big guy. How much do you go for?"
"…weighed nothing to her and…Excuse me, Mr. Harris?"
"Just call me 'Xander' or 'Your Majesty'. So?"
"I'm sorry, what was the question?"
"How much do you weigh?"
"Wow. Do you eat a lot?"
"I'm just saying I'll bet you really pack it away."
It seemed impossible, but Brian looked even more confused.
"I usually have a pretty good appetite."
"I see…Do you like cartoons?"
"'Looney Tunes', I guess."
"Ahh, the classics. Good choice."
He began turning away, but Xander grabbed onto his arm.
"Can you sing?"
"Can you sing, Brian?"
"Not very well."
Xander's laugh was the laugh of a maniac, and Brian had begun to sweat.
"What's your G.P.A.?"
"'3.5'?! What are you, the male version of a bookworm? What do you call that?"
"I don't know."
Xander leaned in closer:
"You 'don't know'…Can't you figure it out with all those brains of yours?"
"I…Maybe a 'bookworm'?"
"Yeah, that's it: a 'bookworm'! Are you a bookworm, Brian?"
He caught a sudden flash of movement and turned his head just in time to catch Willow rushing at him with a pair of scissors. He leaned away from her, more startled than scared, at least for the moment.
"What are you doing?"
Xander took over again as Willow smiled and tried to look innocent.
"How come you didn't answer the question, Brian? Do you have something to hide?"
"Me? No! It's just that…she was lunging at me with those scissors."
"Will, were you scissor lunging?"
She gave Brian her best friendly look:
"Nope, I just thought I saw a spider."
Xander nodded like that settled the matter.
"So Brian, I was asking if you're some kind of brainiac."
"Not really, I just think grades are important."
"Do you really expect me to believe they're more important than 'Looney Tunes'?"
"Yes…no…What was the question, Mr. Harris?"
Again he caught movement, and again it was Willow trying to maneuver her way closer. He stood up and backed away towards the front door.
"Dawn, I think I need to go."
"Do you have to?"
"Yes, I really do. Uh… thanks for a……time."
She stood up then:
"Maybe we could…"
"I'll call you."
Dawn's shoulders slumped:
"I understand. Goodbye, Brian."
He was out the door and running to his car. He literally peeled out, never so much as glancing back, and Dawn just stood there watching until his taillights were out of sight. She slowly closed the door and made her way back into the front room.
"Well, that went well! Faith, don't you think that went well?"
"Hell no! Was like a fuckin' train wre…Yeah B, it sure did go well. Fact is, never seen anything go so well!"
Dawn held up her hand to stop them.
"He's gone and he's never coming back. He'll probably never even speak to me again, so thank you all so very, very much."
She ran up the stairs to her bedroom, sobbing loudly as she went. They all flinched when they heard her door slam shut, and Buffy turned to face the group. She was absolutely livid.
"Willow, Xander, what in the hell were you trying to do?!"
Xander pointed at Willow.
"It's her fault, Buffy! I was just being 'Distraction Guy' so she could get a lock of his hair!"
Buffy looked at him disgustedly:
"I'd say you were a lot closer to being 'Moron Guy'!"
"Hey, I wasn't the one waving the scissors all over the place like a serial killer!"
Buffy turned to Willow who was doing her best to blend in with the curtains.
"And why did you need his hair?"
"Um…All the spells I wanted to try need some."
"Well, you were quite the team. Xander acted like he'd been hit in the head too many times, and you made it clear why they say 'never run with scissors'. Combine the two of you with Faith and Spike, I'd say Brian thinks we're all crazy, dangerous, and more than a little obsessed with sharp objects."
No one was talking or even looking at Buffy.
"Did anybody notice that Dawnie's now crying like her heart's been broken? We all just drove a nice, smart, serious, gentle, responsible boy away from her. Great job, everybody!"
Spike came sauntering back into the room:
"Hey, what's all the uproar? Can barely hear the telly and…Whoa, what's that look for? Hang on now, no reason to be mad at me, Slayer. Settled right down, I did. Come on now, Buffy, I was…"
The phone rang, breaking the uncomfortable and somewhat dangerous tension in the room. No one moved, afraid of drawing Buffy's attention their way. After three rings, she stalked over to answer it herself.
They all saw the look of surprise flash across her face, but before anyone could question her, she began smiling.
"We are too. Hold on and I'll get her."
She covered up the phone, then hollered:
"I don't want to talk to you!"
"Brian's on the phone."
She came flying down the stairs.
"What?! He is?! Really, Buffy?!"
"Yep, and he wants to talk to you."
"Oh my God! Give it here! No, wait! I'll get it in my room!"
She ran back up the stairs, then screamed down:
"I've got it, hang up!"
Buffy gently replaced the phone in its cradle.
"So B, what'd he say?"
"He asked if he could speak with Dawn."
"Poor Nibblet, it's the break-up call."
Buffy shook her head in wonder:
"No, it isn't. He thanked me for dinner and said he was looking forward to doing it again."
"Get the fuck out, B."
"He really did."
Faith high-fived Spike.
"Alright! Balls of steel for Big Boy!"
"Yeah, Oh Brian might turn into good enough for Little Bit after all."
Willow spoke up quietly:
"Are we positive? Because there are a few spells I can…"
Buffy could not believe what she was hearing.
"Willow Rosenberg! No more spells, I mean it!"
Xander had Buffy's back.
"Yeah Will, let's just be happy we dodged a bullet. I'll have a little man to man with him later and…"
Buffy stopped him right there.
"Okay everyone, listen up! This stops right here and right now. No more spells, no more talking tos, no more knives, no more anything. Understood?"
It was the proverbial pin dropping silence, and so not what Buffy wanted to hear.
"I want an answer from each and every one of you, and I want it now!"
"Fine with me, B."
Dawn came hurtling down the stairs again.
"We're going to the movies tomorrow night!"
"That's great, Dawnie."
"Guess what he said, Buffy. Guess!"
"I can't. What did he say?"
Dawn was so happy, she looked like she was going to explode.
"He said he always thought I was special, but now he knows it for sure. He said since I have so many people who love me so much, I must be extraordinary. He called me 'extraordinary'! Can you believe that?!"
"Yes I can, because you are. Listen, we were all just talking and we're really sorry about the way we acted tonight. We can all promise you right now…"
"Are you kidding? Brian said it was the craziest time he's ever had, that he's never seen anything like you guys before. He said you're all really interesting…well, he also said you seem sort of unbalanced too, but he's okay with it."
"Yep! Anyway, I'm going to bed!"
She whirled around the room, kissing each of them goodnight. Then with a high-pitched squeal of delight, she was off and running back to her room. The door slammed shut again, then all was quiet until Faith spoke up:
"So how fuckin' cool is that? See, B, you way overreacted. Little intimidation was just what the kid need…Geez, that the time? Gonna turn in."
Buffy stared at her until she was out of sight.
"Now don't worry, Slayer. All in all, you handled it okay. She's your baby sis, no one blames you for gettin' all riled when some boy comes sniff…Night, all."
Buffy stared after him too until he'd disappeared from view and she heard the basement door close.
"You were right, Buffy. That really did go well! We handled it just right and uh…Bye, Xander!"
As Willow went up to bed, Xander leaned in conspiratorially:
"Just between us: I'm always available to play man of the house if you want this kid set straight on any…Okay then! Night, Buff!"
He was out the front door and in his car within moments.
She watched him until he drove out of sight, and then she closed and locked the door. She went around turning off the lights, shaking her head at what a bunch of crazy idiots they all were. And the biggest problem? She fit right in with them.
Buffy climbed the stairs smiling:
"Good luck, Dawnie. You're going to need it."