Marion was still laughing her ass off.
"Oh my God, Brian, I can't believe you hung in there after all of that."
"At the time, I couldn't believe it either, but I was just so crazy about Dawn back then."
"Excuse me? 'Back then'?"
He pulled her closer, wrapping both of his arms around her as she tried to hide her smile.
"You know what I mean."
Marion had her laughter under control, but she was still completely amused:
"Well, while I can understand your love for Dawn, I think Faith summed it up perfectly: 'Balls of steel', for sure."
"And I definitely needed them. See, I thought since I'd made it out alive that night, it was all going to be smooth sailing from then on. It was too, for a few months, but of course I didn't have the first clue what I was getting into. I might have had 'balls of steel', but I also had…"
"Shit for brains."
Everyone laughed at Faith's sum-up, but Marion was a little confused.
"Why? Everyone liked you, what could…Oh, you still didn't know about Slayers."
"Nope, and I guess you could say it came as a pretty big surprise."
Dawn kissed the underside of his jaw as she leaned into him:
"I was going to tell you one day."
"Like when I was sure I had you under my spell."
"In that case, you could have told me in Mr. Petersen's class when you gave me your last stick of gum."
"Talk about a set-up. I kept having a 'last piece' for two weeks, just hoping you'd ask me for it."
He bent down closer to her.
"Well, however it happened, I've been yours ever since that day."
They kissed until Spike broke it up.
"Ah, young love. So lovely…Now wanna tell the story 'fore we all gag?"
Dawn lingered another moment before turning to Spike:
Brian got right back to the story.
"Anyway, one second we were just a guy and his girl out on a date, then the next thing I know…"
"Fuck, the look on your face, Big Boy!"
"Yeah, I was having a little trouble…processing."
"'A little'? B, 'member when we…"
Buffy began laughing, her arms resting on Faith's knees.
"Oh yeah, then when we…"
The Slayers went crazy laughing, leaving everyone else waiting.
"Girls, help an old broad out with at least the occasional complete sentence."
Faith regained control first.
"Sorry, Mrs. G-Man. You start it off, Squirt. No clue what the fuck was happenin' 'fore me and B showed up. Guess you two were busy kickin' the gearshift."
"Faith, they had car trouble!"
"People call it all kindsa shit, B. Let's see, there's: 'Doing the Did…Ow!"
"Stop it, and let Dawnie tell the story."
Faith rubbed her thigh.
"Damn, Blondie, don't gotta bust me up."
Dawn leaned forward excitedly, all eyes upon her.
"So we were driving to Brian's house after the game, and all of the sudden, the car started making this really weird noise. He could barely steer it off the road before it totally conked out. The second I heard that sound, I called home. I don't know why, but I just had a bad feeling about it."
Brian interrupted with a rueful laugh:
"I couldn't believe she did that. I didn't know anything about cars back then, but I had big plans to do the 'guy' thing. I was going to poke around under the hood, make sure to smear a little grease on my face so I'd look all manly, and then explain to the little lady that it was just unfixable. We still had three hours before my parents were due home, so my main concern was getting her to the house as soon as possible."
Faith grinned as she lightly shoved Buffy.
"Told ya teen sex was in there someplace…Ha, missed me, Slay…Ow!"
Dawn ignored them.
"I started digging through my purse to see what I had. I gave him a cross, and you should have seen the look on his face. I only had four little bottles of holy water, so I was hoping Buffy and Faith were going to show up fast. My biggest problem though, was keeping him inside the car."
"It all seemed so crazy. Crosses and bottles of water? It didn't make any sense, and I couldn't understand why we couldn't just walk to my house. But Dawn was so serious that even though she seemed insane, I couldn't just ignore her."
Dawn patted his leg.
"So there we were, sitting in our broken down car arguing. It felt like we were in some cheap horror movie and the audience was screaming at my boyfriend not to get out because they knew if he did, he was going to get killed."
"Well in my defense, it wasn't the run-of-the-mill situation I thought it was."
"Very true, honey. So there we sat: me ordering him to stay in the car, him 'Mr. Determined' to get out, and the audience screaming at us while we waited for the cavalry to show up…"
"No Brian, we need to stay in the car."
"But why? It's a beautiful night, and my house is less than half a mile from here."
She laid her hand on his forearm.
"Do you trust me?"
"Of course I do, but what's that got to do with…"
"Then please just stay in the car."
They both jumped at the tap on the window.
"Hey, did you kids breakdown?"
"Yes sir, we did. I'm not sure what the problem…"
He started to open the door as he explained their situation.
"Brian, don't open the door!"
He stopped and turned back to face her when he heard the urgency in her voice.
"Dawn, what is going on? I'm like three times bigger than him, and he seems like an okay guy. Just let me…"
"Open it, kid."
Brian turned back to the man.
"Just make it easier on yourself and open the door."
Brian didn't move. He was puzzled, but he knew for sure he didn't like the man's attitude.
The stranger laughed as he jiggled the door handle.
"Okay, maybe it won't make it easier for you, but it sure as hell will for us. Now open the damn door!"
"Dawn, what's happening? How did you know?"
"Here, throw this water on them if they get in and touch them with this cross. Hit them with it if you have to, but hang onto it. Don't panic, Buffy and Faith will be here soon."
"And what can they do? There are six…no, seven maniacs out there!"
Before she could answer, the window on Brian's side exploded. A hand closed around his throat, and he struggled to pull it off. It didn't budge, not until Dawn laid her cross on top of it.
"Dawn, what are these guys?!"
"We're okay, here comes Buffy…and there's Faith!"
Brian honked the horn and yelled out a warning:
"Buffy, Faith, run! Call the cops!"
It was good advice, and they took it…at least the first part.
They ran toward the car, and all of the assailants turned to face the newcomers. Over Dawn's objections, Brian got out of the car. He was scared, but he couldn't just sit there while Buffy and Faith were in danger.
Faith was closest to him, and she was surrounded by four of the men. She didn't seem scared, not in the slightest, in fact she was smiling. When Brian caught a glimpse of her face in the glow of the streetlight, he took a step back.
She had the same crazy look on her face he remembered so well from their first meeting months ago, only now it was a million times more intense. He had thought she was frightening then, but he'd had no idea. She was absolutely terrifying.
One of the guys rushed her, and she punched him in the face. He sailed backwards as if shot out of a cannon. She ducked another blow aimed at her head, and then jammed a sharp stick into the guy's chest. He turned into dust.
Before Brian could react to that impossible-to-believe happening, Faith leapt high into the air, landing right next to him. She shoved him roughly to the ground just in time for him to miss having the back of his head caved in by a guy swinging a tire iron.
Faith caught the weapon in mid-swing, yanked it from the man's grasp, and in one fluid motion rammed it right through his neck. He understandably tried to scream, but no sound came out. He went down and Faith bent over, stabbing him right in the heart with her stick. Again Brian watched a man turn into dust, so close this time that some of the ashes blew onto his leg.
Another attacker hit her in the back with a shovel and she went down hard. The man raised the tool high over his head as he prepared to bring it crashing down onto her skull, and Brian tried to rush to her rescue. He was way too slow and never even made it out of a sitting position.
There was a strange whistling sound as one of the sharp sticks went flying overhead. It stopped only after impaling itself in the shovel guy's heart. He dropped his weapon and looked down, clearly surprised by what he saw. Faith grinned up from her spot on the ground, and then just like that, he was dust too.
She did this incredible flipping thing and landed on her feet. She didn't appear hurt; it was as if getting clubbed with a shovel was merely a minor annoyance. She cleared the car like it was a low hurdle, and headed over to Buffy.
Brian eyes nearly popped out of his head as he took in the scene she was rushing to. Nice, friendly, tiny Buffy was beating the hell out of the final two guys. They charged her from two different directions, and at the last second she jumped high into the air.
She somersaulted as she went, landing behind the one on the left. She wasted no time and shoved another pointed stick into him, and he poofed into dust just as the others had done. Brian saw her face clearly then, and her expression, while different than Faith's, was no less scary.
Buffy was calm, business-like, and her eyes were totally devoid of their usual warmth. There was no kindness, no compassion, no nothing but death in her gaze, and the sight made Brian shiver.
He wasn't the only one who was scared. The last remaining attacker was backing away slowly, pleading as Buffy and Faith converged on him.
"Our mistake, okay, Slayers?"
"It's okay with me, how 'bout you, B?"
"I'm fine with it."
"I'll leave town, never come back."
Faith's voice sounded confident:
"Yeah, you're definitely leavin'."
The man almost fell as he kept backpedaling.
"It was a mistake."
Faith grinned, but it was far from friendly:
"Biggest one ever. Slayer's sister's in that car."
"Oh God, we didn't know! I swear to God, we didn't know!"
Buffy spoke calmly, and again Brian felt the chill:
"I'm pretty sure God isn't listening to you."
"I'm sorry, really I am."
Buffy's head tilted as if she were thinking it over.
"You know, I think I actually believe you."
"You do?! Thank G…whoever."
'The problem is though; we can't just let you go. You'll only end up killing someone else."
"No, no I swear I won't! I'll just take a little blood, just enough to get by."
"You or me, B?"
"All yours, F."
The guy tried to run, but Faith moved so fast, Brian could barely comprehend what he was seeing. She knocked him to the ground and pummeled him for a minute, her rage frightening even at a distance. With a visible effort, she suddenly reined herself in:
"Keep your fucking hands offa Dawnie!"
She rammed her stick into him with such force, it exploded into splinters as it impacted with the pavement.
Buffy was at the car asking Dawn if she was okay, and Brian was still sprawled in the now deserted street.
"Big Boy, ya alright?"
He hadn't seen her approach and he looked up to see Faith with her hand extended, offering to help him to his feet. He scrambled back.
"It's okay, you're safe now. Squirt, your guy's freakin'."
Dawn ran over to him, followed closely by Buffy.
"Brian? Brian, it's okay, just breathe, okay? In and out. In and out. That's right."
"…Were those…Were those vampires?"
The word: "vampires" came out with a hint of hysteria, and his voice cracked. Dawn crouched down and held his hand in both of hers.
"Yes, they were."
"He called Buffy and Faith 'Slayers'."
"Yes, he did. Brian, Buffy and Faith are Vampire Slayers."
"Oh…well, I guess that explains how they could kill them all."
He was clearly in shock, and Buffy crouched down next to Dawn:
"Brian, it's a lot to take in. Why don't we go back to our house and talk about it? Come on…"
"Okay, Ms. Buffy. Thank you, Summers."
Faith had busied herself with checking out the car, and she slammed the hood as they approached.
"Just a loose wire. Good to motor now."
They all piled into Brian's car and Faith drove them home. When they got there, Buffy made the coffee while everyone else sat quietly in the living room. They drank the first cup in silence, and it wasn't until she began pouring the refills that Buffy spoke up:
"Brian, do you want to talk now?"
"Yeah, I don't think I feel so crazy anymore."
"We understand, it's quite a shock."
Dawn sat next to him on the couch, and she held onto his hand reassuringly as he gathered himself to begin.
"So could someone please explain what I just saw?"
Buffy sat back down in her chair and looked at Faith who nodded for her to carry on.
"Faith and I are the Slayers. We kill vampires and…other things, but we can get into all of that another time. Anyway, we were chosen by some force to have special powers that let us do the things we did tonight."
"Like kill vampires."
"That's right. We're stronger, faster, and tougher than regular people. It's supposed to be a secret, so I'm going to have to ask you not to tell anyone. I know that'll be hard, but it's the best thing for everyone."
He sat quietly, clearly trying to get his mind to accept what she was saying.
"So you and Faith are Slayers…of vampires…and…other things."
"And you're super strong?"
"Yes, we are."
"…So that's how you could lift that bookcase like you did the first time I came here."
She smiled her best "Buffy" smile at him, hoping it would help put him at ease.
"Yep, that was definitely Slayer strength in action. My bad."
"So Spike's a Slayer too?"
Faith burst into laughter.
"Junior? Oh fuck, that's classic!"
Brian was clearly confused:
"But he carried that bookcase down into the basement like it was nothing and…"
"Junior ain't got the right plumbing."
Buffy took over again:
"Brian, only women can be Slayers, and there's usually only one at a time."
He looked between Buffy and Faith and then to Dawn, then back to Buffy again.
"But you said both of you are…"
Buffy couldn't believe how convoluted the "simple" story was when explained to an outsider.
"We are. I was the Slayer first, then I died.…just for a few seconds…but it was long enough to get another girl, Kendra, called. When she died, Faith was next in line."
"So when the Slayer dies, somebody else becomes her?"
"Yep. As retirement plans go, it's not exactly the best."
"Then how could Spike lift the bookcase like he did?"
Dawn held his hand tighter, and rubbed his shoulder soothingly:
"Brian…Spike is a vampire."
"It's crazy, Bri, I know."
"Spike's a vampire?"
Dawn shifted around until she was in front of him and practically sitting on his lap.
"But he's not evil, he's got a soul. And even without one, he wasn't really evil…at least not for a couple of years, sort of."
"…So Spike drinks blood and sleeps in a coffin?"
"Well, he only drinks pig's blood and…"
"Junior sleeps in a bed like a lazy ass."
Brian was clearly having trouble absorbing the information.
"And he drinks pig blood?"
Buffy sat down on the arm of Faith's chair:
"Spike doesn't feed from humans anymore. Are you okay, Brian? You look a little pale."
"I don't know. I feel like…like you just told me vampires are real. I know it's true, I saw them and it really explains a lot about this town…I guess it explains a lot about all of you too."
Buffy nodded understandingly and stood back up:
"Faith, could I see you in the kitchen, please? You kids just try and relax, we'll be back in a few minutes."
The second the Slayers entered the kitchen, Faith was looking in the refrigerator.
"Fuck, definitely feelin' that slay. Aw shit, no pizza left. So what's up with the sudden location change?"
"I thought maybe Dawnie could calm him down if we gave them some privacy."
"Smart, B. Little one on one action's gotta…"
"Please, let's not analyze it too far. I think I did pretty good just acknowledging that maybe they needed to be alone."
Faith's grin was all sex as she began stalking Buffy across the room.
"Wanna analyze why I need to be alone with you?"
"Hmmm…I guess maybe that would be okay."
"'Cause you know, not just slayin' that gets me all 'unh'."
"Really? What else does it for you?"
Faith pushed her back into the counter as she leaned her body into Buffy's.
"Lemme give ya a demo."
Buffy eventually pulled away from Faith, trying to do her duty despite everything in her wanting to stay right where she was.
Faith's lips kissed along Buffy's neck as she nuzzled in:
"Know I haven't."
Buffy pushed her away, and it sounded like Faith actually growled under her breath.
"Faith, do you?"
"Think they'll let us know. Gotta tell ya though, B, I'm proud of you. You're takin' that stick outta your ass a little further every day."
Buffy glared at her.
"…How much do I want to smack you sometimes?"
"Not as much as ya wanna fu…"
"And Squirt works her magic!"
Buffy punched her shoulder.
"Shhh! Not one word or you're on the couch tonight."
Faith thought it over.
"Quiet as a dead mouse here."
They went back into the front room, and Brian was definitely feeling much better.
"I'm sorry I was being so stupid, it was just kind of a shock. But Dawn's explained everything to me now and…"
"Bet she has."
"F, I'm not kidding."
Buffy turned her attention to Brian:
"You don't need to apologize, it's been a crazy night. Is there anything I can answer, anything that isn't quite clear?"
"It's just…Well I saw both of you in action, but you guys are so little. I don't get how…"
Faith walked over to him.
"Alright, Big Boy, gimme your best shot."
"Let me have it."
"I can't do that! What if I hurt you?"
Faith smirked cockily at him:
"Trust me, not ever gonna happen."
Faith hauled him to his feet.
"Listen kid, not ever gonna wrap your head around it otherwise. Just do it."
He looked at Buffy and then Dawn, who was nodding.
"Bri, you should do it. You won't hurt her."
"But what if..."
Faith tapped him on the shoulder.
"Hey, stop with the guessin' and find out."
"Are you guys sure?"
"As shit. Now let'er rip."
He looked at Dawn one last time, and then he let it go. His fist was stopped an inch from Faith's face as her hand gripped his. Despite the force behind the blow, she didn't appear to be straining in the least.
"That all ya got?"
He struggled with all his might, but he couldn't move his arm at all. After a couple of minutes, she forced it back to his side, picked him up, and tossed him onto the couch.
She was grinning as she plopped down in a chair:
"Yeah, that's what they all say."
"Buffy, are you like that?"
"Yep, except I'm stronger, faster, just better all-around."
"You fuckin' wish!"
Buffy's smile was sickeningly sweet.
"I don't have to 'wish', I know."
"You're such a goddamn liar!"
"Poor baby, so jealous."
"I can't believe the shit you're spoutin'."
"They're basically the same."
"Okay. So, any other secrets I should know about?"
"Uh…I'm definitely not a Slayer."
"Does that mean there's something else?"
She answered somewhat nervously:
"Well…technically I'm not quite the age you think I am."
His smile was nothing but relieved.
"I'd say that's pretty minor compared to all of this other stuff."
"Yeah, keep that thought and I'll tell you about it some other time."
She snuggled up against him:
"Are you still…you know."
He made her look at him.
"Always. So vampires and other things are real, your sister and her girlfriend are superheroes, and a vampire lives in your basement. Big deal! My dad snores really loud, my mom has a fake tooth, I like 'The Bee Gees', and our dog drinks out of the toilet. I've got my secrets too, you know?"
She grinned at him:
"Not anymore you don't. I think you just spilled all the beans to me."
"Oops, I guess I did. Well, with so many secrets between us, I guess that means we have to stay together."
"I like the sound of that."
They kissed, then looked over at Buffy and Faith.
"Do you think they'll stop arguing any time soon because if it's okay, I'd like to spend the night here. You know how my mom always spots when something's going on with me? I kind of need a little more time if I'm not going to spill the beans to her too."
"That's a good idea. Nobody needs the 'Mom Radar' right now. I'll get some blankets and pillows, you try and get their attention."
He chuckled, more like himself now that he'd gotten a handle on things.
"Boy, your family sure is interesting. All you need now's a werewolf and a witch."
"Willow's a really powerful witch, and she used to date Oz. He was the guitar player in this really cool band, you would have loved them…Anyway, he's a werewolf."
Brian's hands began massaging his temples.
"Okay, so no mummies then?"
"Nope, no mummies. Oh, except Xander sort of dated one once."
"Can you bring back a couple of Tylenol too?"
"I'll bring the bottle."
She took off and Brian waited for his chance to get a word in edgewise.
"Fine, then we'll arm wrestle!"
"Oh my God, how old are you?"
"Old enough to kick your ass!"
"Right, like that's ever happened."
"First time for everything, Blondie."
"Dream on, F."
"What, too chicken to arm wrestle now?"
"I think that shovel hit scrambled your brain. If we arm wrestle, you're going to end up with a broken arm."
"Oh yeah, scared shitless here."
"Well, at least you have enough brain cells functioning to tell you to be afraid."
"C'mon Princess, outside."
"Excuse me, could one of you call my…"
"Why? Do you have some back-up out there?"
The Slayers jumped as did Brian.
"Jesus, Squirt! What's with the screamin'?"
Dawn was handing Brian a glass of water and two Tylenol.
"Could one of you pretend to be an adult and call Brian's parents? If it's okay, he'd like to spend the night on the couch."
Buffy gave him a friendly smile.
"I'll go call them right now, Brian."
"Yeah, Big Boy. This casa and all that shit."
"Thank you, both of you."
Buffy went into the kitchen with Faith smirking closely behind her.
"Ha, ha, B. No couch for me tonight, no matter what."
"There's always the floor."
"And who's gonna make that happen?"
"That would be me."
"You and what army?"
"I am an army of one, F."
"Pretty crazy little army, ya ask me."
Faith went to her and they kissed hungrily.
"God, you are so sexy."
"You got it goin' too, B."
"Let me call his parents, then maybe we should order some pizza."
"Yeah! I'm starvin'."
Buffy winced slightly as she reached for the phone.
"Hey B, ya okay?"
"It's no big deal. I think I pulled a muscle in my back and it's starting to tighten up a little. After I call, I'll see if I can work it out in the shower. I just hope it doesn't turn out like that one time when I could barely move all night."
Faith's hand began gently rubbing her back and Buffy moaned with pleasure.
"That's it, right there."
"Shit, I'm sorry, Buffy. No clue you were hurting that much. Tell ya what: go grab your shower and get in bed. I'll make the calls, then rub that stuff on ya. I can just crash on the floor like before so I don't jar ya all over the place, but can still keep an eye on too. Don't worry, baby…we'll get ya feelin' better."
"You are so sweet."
"Well, gotta look after my…"
Buffy's smile was huge and smug.
"The "Army of One" wins again!"
"You little shit!"
"You were begging to sleep on the floor."
"Fuckin' last straw, B! Make the calls, then I'm kickin' your ass!"
Buffy pulled her close, her hands finding their way under Faith's shirt.
"Okay, but I was thinking I'd make the calls and then we'd work out some kinks together in the shower."
"But if you think we should fight instead…"
"No, thinkin' your plan sounds way, way better."
Buffy's smug grin was back:
"Of course it does, I'm just better all around."
"No argument here, Slayer."
An earsplitting cry suddenly sounded out loud in the living room. Faith was on her feet and moving for the stairs in an instant.
Dawn and Brian barely even moved, they knew how Faith was, but Buffy couldn't resist teasing her.
"Faith, Anya's up there. You don't need to…"
Faith was gone, never hesitating for a second.
Buffy turned to Xander with an amused look on her face:
"So Xander, what exactly is Anya doing up there?"
"Well, after her 'Monopoly' rampage, I'd say she's out cold with one of the kids. She wouldn't hear a bomb if it went off."
"Hiya, Little Squirt. What's the matter?"
The monitor was clearly broadcasting every word.
"Your diaper's okay…Wanna get picked up? Don't blame ya a bit, c'mere."
There was the sound of rustling blankets, and then Faith was talking:
"Been practicin' your moves again? Yeah, I see ya got teddy right in the heart. Keep this up, you're gonna be replacin' your Aunt Buffy in no time."
Everyone was quiet, enjoying the chance to listen to Faith ramble on. She always forgot to turn off the monitor when she went to the baby, and eavesdropping on her was one of Buffy's favorite things to do.
"So what's with the wide-awake? Kinda late, course maybe you like the night. Who knows what genes ya got runnin' around in there. Still, gotta get your Zs if you're plannin' to grow up big and strong. Whoa, I feel it. That's a pretty big bicep for a kid your age. Guess you been workin' out on the sly again."
The baby was making the most adorable cooing noises, and just like always, sounded completely happy to be with Faith. She really had a way with kids, and it just made Buffy melt.
"Ya want a story, huh? Let's see, can tell ya about when you were born. Now that was a great night, one of the best ever."
They could hear Faith shifting around on the bed, settling in as she got comfortable.
"Was just like magic, ya know? One minute there was nothin', then there was this beautiful little miracle with us. Probably didn't seem like magic to your mom though, not with all the hard work she had to do. But hey, somebody's gotta do it. Better her than us, yeah?"
It sounded just like the baby laughed.
"Yeah, it's funny , but bet your mom wouldn't see it that way. Ya get older, we're gonna have to work out somethin' so ya know when to keep stuff on the QT. Can't be what me and Squirt used to keep B in the dark…Well, don't worry about it, I got your back."
They heard Faith deliver a kiss, and the baby giggled.
"Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, so me and B are waitin' in the 'Waiting Room', 'cause that's what it's for, and I could feel myself startin' to lose it. Just seemed like you were takin' your sweet time to get here, plus I was all worried about your mom. I was tryin' to stay cool for your Aunt Buffy 'cause she was wicked nervous too and I wanted to be there for her, not wind her up. So there I was, doing everything I could to fool B…"
The baby made a snorting noise.
"Yeah, I know. What the heck was I thinkin', right? Can never hide how I feel from her, it's like tryin' to stop the planet from spinning. Still, was givin' it my all, but like I said: you were goofin' around and time was just draggin' so slow. Tried to keep a lid on and look all calm and cool, but I finally lost it and…"
"Jesus fucking Christ! How long's this gonna take?"
"I guess as long as it takes."
Faith got to her feet and began pacing back and forth.
"Is this even normal? Ya think somethin's wrong?"
"I mean, what's the average? Seems like this is way longer, maybe we oughta…"
"Come sit down."
"'Sit down'? No fuckin' way can I sit down! Think maybe I oughta…"
"Please, Faith? I need you next to me."
Faith turned to look at her then, and blew out a huge breath. She walked over and she sat down, linking her hand with Buffy's and giving it a slight squeeze.
"Shit, I'm sorry, B. Know you're worried too...but don't be. It's all gonna be fine."
Buffy leaned into her:
"I know it is. I'm kind of surprised that I'm so calm. Maybe it's because I know Brian's parents can't get here until tomorrow and so I'm trying to be the grown-up, but I thought I was going to be all…"
Spike went running past the waiting room doorway, his coat billowing out wildly behind him.
They heard a loud crash.
"Who's the daft arsehole who left this in the hall? Not the place for it and...Better watch yourself, mate. More than willing to beat the hell out of a wanker like you…Yeah? Stand up and say that...Well, I don't much care if you are in a wheelchair…OW! Hands off 'fore I…Don't have time for…Watch the hair, you stupid git!"
He rushed into the room, somehow looking paler than normal, his hair ruffled, and something that appeared to be betadine smeared across his left cheek. There also appeared to be a piece of lime jello stuck to his eyebrow.
"She all right? Where is she? Any news?"
"Junior, what the hell happened?"
"Food cart in the way, then some annoying cripple threw medical supplies at me. So how much longer? Is she okay?"
Buffy tried to calm him down:
"Spike, everything's fine. Just calm down and…"
"Yeah, yeah you're right…that's right, Slayer. Good advice, not like this sort of thing doesn't happen all the time…Nothin' to worry about."
"…Least far as we know."
And he was off to the races.
"Spot on, Dark One. How long's it been, exactly? How much longer's it gonna go? We sure they know what they're about?"
"What do you think? Length of time mean somethin' good or somethin' bad? Has to mean somethin', right? Maybe I should head in and have a look-see. Not right the bastards are keepin' us in the dark like this."
"William, please…just come sit with us. Come on."
That got his attention.
"What? Oh right. I'm sorry, Buffy. Just that it's the Nibblet, you know? Course you know. Look, all's gonna be well, so stop with the worrying. She's gonna be fine."
They sat silently for another ten minutes and then suddenly the doorway filled with a grinning, but exhausted looking husband.
"It's a girl! A beautiful, eight pound, perfect little girl!"
"Little Bit did it!"
They all hugged at once, crashing into each other and laughing and screaming as they did.
"And four ounces! I forgot the ounces!"
Buffy pulled back to look at him:
"She's wonderful, she's perfect too! They said you can go see them, two at a time.
Spike was lighting up a cigar as he stood next to the "No Smoking" sign.
"You first, Slayers. Rest'll be comin' along any minute. I'll stay and give'em the news. Off you go now! On your way to see the wee one and her mum."
"Lead the way, Mr. Squirt!"
"You guys go, I'll stay with Spike and have a cigar. It's just through the doors, third one on your left."
"Brian, are you sure you…"
Faith took off running, dragging Buffy behind her. As they approached the door, they took a minute to settle down. There was no point in just barreling in like maniacs and scaring the baby.
They opened the door slowly, and the sight that greeted them had Buffy bursting into tears. Dawn was propped up in bed, cradling her daughter in her arms. She glanced up and smiled when she heard them entering the room.
Buffy was still crying as she ran over to her. She kissed the top of Dawn's head, then bent lower to press her lips softly to the baby's head.
"Oh Dawnie, she's the most beautiful thing ever. She's even cuter than you were, and everybody knows you were the cutest baby ever born."
Faith stood well back, ill at ease as she listened to them laughing and crying together. The baby seemed so small, and it was hard to believe it was Dawn's.
"Come here, Faith!"
"Nah, I'm good, Dawn."
"Faith, come on!"
"Don't wanna crowd the kid."
"Please? I want you to see her."
Dawn looked so happy and excited, Faith couldn't deny her. She moved up close to the bed, and after a few moments she delicately rubbed her finger against the baby's hair.
"I want you to hold her."
"What?! Uh no, that's okay."
"Here, just remember to support her head."
"Dawnie, don't think I should…"
But Dawn wasn't listening, and they carefully completed the handoff. Faith looked down in wonder at the tiny life she was holding so gently in her arms…Dawn's daughter.
The baby was beet red, her hair was black, and it was sticking straight up all around her head. She was just about the ugliest thing Faith had ever seen, and she was already completely head over heels in love with her.
"God Squirt, she's a fucking miracle."
"I know, I can't…Buffy, are you going to stop crying any time soon?"
"Probably not. How do you feel?"
"Sore and really tired, but I'm never, ever sleeping again. I'm just going to stare at her for the rest of my life."
"Hey, look at this grip!"
The baby had a tiny fist wrapped around Faith's finger.
"Shit, she's already strong as a Slayer!"
They all laughed, but they knew a part of Faith wasn't kidding.
Dawn cleared her throat:
"So, I think now's a good time for the formal introductions. The lady over here who can't seem to stop crying, is your Aunt Buffy. Usually she's pretty neat, so don't hold it against her that she's being such a girly girl."
"Hey, I am a 'girly girl' and proud of it."
"Now the woman holding you, well that's your Aunt Faith. She's wicked cool, but she will drive you crazy with the over protectiveness. I can tell you right now there's nothing you can do about it, so you might as well just get used to it."
"I'm not that bad."
Dawn rolled her eyes:
"Anyway, she's going to be your godmother, so brace yourself. She'll be misusing her authority all the time."
Faith looked up at Dawn, stunned by what she'd just heard.
"Well, she's got to have a protector, and you'll do it anyway. Brian and I figured we might as well make it official."
"Slayers, meet the newest Scooby…'Faith Anne Bradford'."
They reacted differently. Buffy started crying again and Faith did nothing but stare, her mouth hanging open slightly.
"Come on you guys, who else was I gonna name my daughter after? You've both been everything to me, and she has to have a good name to grow into, right?"
Buffy hugged her, and Faith looked down at the baby in her arms. Slowly she began smiling, and it didn't look like she was going to be stopping any time soon.
"Lots I gotta teach you, but first thing is we gotta get ya into fightin' shape. Not gonna be hard 'cause ya got that whole 'Summers woman' thing workin' for ya. Figure we oughta start by…"
As Faith rambled on, Buffy finally composed herself enough to speak coherently:
"Mom would be so happy."
"Are you kidding? I'd never even see the baby again until she graduated from college."
Buffy laughed, then became serious again.
"…The name thing and the godmother…"
"Buffy, you and Faith have always been my heroes, and you always will be. I hope she grows up to be just like both of you, I know I always wanted to."
"I love you, Dawnie."
Buffy knew from the look on her sister's face what was coming.
"You are such a little brat."
"Taller than you by a mile, Dwarfy."
They laughed and hugged again, then looked over at Faith and her goddaughter.
"…but that makes sense, yeah? Gonna be quite a ride for you. Your mom and dad are gonna be great, and ya already got a shitload of people who love you. Hey, gotta get ya a leather jacket. Need a real small one, but don't worry about it, I got it covered. You don't ever gotta worry about nothing."
When Buffy and Faith finally made their way back to the waiting room, they discovered that everyone else had arrived.
"Next! Gotta warn ya though, she's the cutest fuckin' thing ever!"
Anya smiled at Faith, then leaned over to whisper to Xander:
"Surely our children were the cutest or at the very least the equal of Dawn's daughter?"
"They were, honey, it's just an expression."
"Oh good, because I very much plan to love this baby, and if I had to be jealous…"
"No need to be jealous, you're free to love away."
"That's great news, Xander."
She snuggled happily into him, a big smile on her face.
Brian made the decision about who to send in next:
"Spike, Willow, why don't you…"
"…two go next?"
Everyone began talking at once, wanting to know how Dawn was, what the baby looked like, and on and on. The Slayers answered everything they could, and when there was finally a break in the action, Buffy pulled Faith out into the hallway.
"Well Godmother, feeling pretty good right now?"
"…Can you believe it? Me, of all people."
"Oh, I can definitely believe it. Who else would it be?"
"Just…I never coulda imagined that anybody'd ever…"
Buffy kissed her for a long time, and when they broke apart, Faith's eyes were glistening.
"I am so in love with you, Faith. You know that, right?"
"Mighta heard somethin' about it."
Buffy hooked the belt loop on her jeans, and pulled Faith right up against her.
"Wanna see somethin' about it?"
"Depends on who's gonna show it."
"That would be me: 'Anne'."
"Always did kinda have me the hots for Anne."
Buffy's hands squeezed Faith's ass, making her jump slightly.
"Let's go home and find out how hot."
"Don't gotta ask me twice."
They went up to Brian to say their goodbyes, and Buffy started crying again when he hugged her.
"Do you guys like her name?"
"We love it. Thank you, Brian."
He hugged her again, then grabbed Faith.
"It's the perfect name. My daughter's going to grow into it, and when she does, she's really going to be something to see."
"Kid already is."
He beamed; clearly he had the whole fatherly pride thing already mastered.
"Isn't she something?"
"Sure is. Listen, me and B are gonna motor, but Brian, namin' her after us, the godmother thing…Can't find the right words, probably never will, but I want you to know it means the world to me."
He hugged her again, this time lifting her right off the ground.
"I guess we're a long way from the 'bone cutting knife'."
"Aw, hell, I gotta hear about that now?"
He laughed and returned her to the floor, his face becoming serious as his eyes filled with tears.
"Dawn loves you both so much, she always has. I love you too, for who you are and what you've done. You helped my wife become the beautiful person she is today, and because of your love for her, I've got my family, my little girl. We owe you everything…Thank you."
Buffy was just about wailing, and Faith and Brian were crying as well. The three of them hugged, until Faith broke it up.
"Alright, tryin' to kill us here? You get back in there with your girls now. Me? Got a shitload I gotta plan out for Annie. This godmother gig's a lotta responsibility, ya know?"
Buffy had her sobbing under control again.
"We'll see you tomorrow. She really is beautiful, Brian."
"Yeah, Big Boy. Amazin' how much she looks like ya."
He couldn't have looked happier or more excited:
"Really?! Do you really think she…"
"Hell yeah, anybody can see it. Shape of her chin, and she's definitely got your nose. Throw in all of that thick black hair…"
"I noticed the hair! I didn't even think about…"
"Well fuck, go check it out, Daddy."
"See you tomorrow!"
He took off running, and waved without looking when Buffy hollered:
"Tell Dawnie I love her!"
"Damn, look at Mr. Squirt haul it."
They said their goodbyes to the rest of the gang, then linked hands and made their way to the elevator.
"So you think she looks like him? I didn't really notice any…"
"Fuck B, she don't look like anybody 'cept some pissed off old man. Was just makin' him happy."
"God, you are so sweet."
"Aww…c'mon, B. Still got me a rep, wanna help out a little?"
"Sorry, my bad. Boy, do I wish I had some Kleenex."
The elevator was empty when they got in. Faith pushed the button for the lobby, then pulled out a wad of tissues from her pocket.
"Here ya go, swiped'em from the cart in the hall. Thought they might come in handy."
Buffy blew for what seemed like forever.
"Man, B, you gotta be the biggest crybaby in the world."
"Shut up, it's a 'crybaby' time."
"What I can't figure's how somebody so freakin' tiny can put out so much snot…Ow!"
"Keep it up, and that's all I'll be putting out tonight."
"Geez B, don't go all nuts. Got big plans for us."
They exited the elevator and headed out to the parking lot.
"Well, plans don't always go the way we want them to, so I'd suggest you watch your step."
Faith's smirk made an appearance:
"Not scared, got me a backup."
"Oh, really? What's that?'
"See, there's this chick named 'Anne'. Girl wants me real bad, so if me and you can't work it out…"
"Just take me home."
They got on the bike, but Faith didn't move for a minute.
"Quite a night, B."
"Yeah, the best."
"Hey, did I tell ya the kid's got a grip on her?"
"No. How strong is she?"
"Well, gotta factor in she's only like an hour old, but still…"
Buffy laughed and her arms encircled Faith's waist as she kissed her neck.
"Can we also factor in that I want you so much, I can barely stand it?"
"Shit B, that's a given 'cause I'm sex on wheels…Get it? Pretty funny, yeah?"
Buffy rolled her eyes, then rubbed her cheek against Faith's back.
"Hysterical. Now take me home."
The third time was the charm, and the motorcycle roared to life.
Buffy was carrying a tray of drinks into the living room as Faith came down the stairs. She snagged a bottle of beer gratefully, tipping her head back and downing more than half the bottle in one swig.
"Man, does that hit the spot."
Buffy passed out the rest of the drinks, and Faith collapsed into a chair. Dawn watched her with amusement, but tried her best to keep a straight face.
"You sure were gone a long time. Was Annie being a handful?"
"Course she was, she's yours. All in the DNA, Squirt."
"Did you manage to get her settled down?"
Faith flung a leg over the arm of her chair:
"Sure. Just had to crack the whip a little, let the kid know who's boss."
"You really have a way with her, Faith. She always quiets right down whenever she sees you."
"Nothin' better than spending time with Annie."
Buffy turned to look at her, eyebrow raised:
Faith smiled with every ounce of charm she had.
"Aside from time with you. That goes without sayin', B."
Buffy walked over and sat on her lap.
"No, it doesn't. You have to say it, especially after last night."
"B, I'm positive. Nothing ever tops being with you, not ever."
"Hmm…I'm not so sure. I think I'm still a little scarred."
Xander's curiosity got the better of him:
"So what's this 'scarring' thing you did to the Buffster, Faith?"
"She's blowin' it all outta…"
"She couldn't put down a magazine until she'd finished an article."
"I was almost done! Had like half a page left."
"See why I'm complaining?"
Faith kissed her, then kissed her again.
"But ya gotta understand, B, was a way cool theory. This guy was sayin' Shakespeare and the Bible…"
Giles cleared his throat loudly and Faith looked at him guiltily.
"Oh shit. Yeah…Giles, forgot to tell ya your magazines landed here again."
"Yes? I was wondering where they'd got to."
"Dumb ass mailman keeps screwin' up the delivery."
"And I've noticed he only seems to have trouble with my magazines. Everything else finds the desired location without any difficulty whatsoever."
"Guy's just a fuck-up, I guess. Hold on, got'em upstairs."
She slid out to the side slowly, letting Buffy claim her seat as she went to go get them. When she was out of sight, the group burst into laughter.
"Giles, maybe we should just get her her own subscriptions."
"Don't you dare, Buffy. I very much enjoy her attempts at coming up with plausible explanations as to why my mail is read by her before I even manage to set eyes on it."
Xander polished off his bowl of chips and reached for Willow's.
"Geez Buff, does Faith know school's out? She studies more than I did in my entire academic career."
Willow pulled her bowl just out of his reach:
"She loves books, Xander. It wouldn't kill you to…"
"I believe we had this out in fifth grade. Yes it would kill me, and kill me dead. Now give me your chips before I get rough."
Willow held out, but Xander practically climbed on top of her to reach the bowl. The sight made Buffy smile, she loved it when they were completely immature.
"Faith loves to read, but I wouldn't hold her up as some kind of role model, Will. Especially not when it comes to her Slayer studies."
"Buffy, do you perchance recall the first time I brought Faith's…shall I say…'lack of enthusiasm', to your attention?"
"You mean at 'The Magic Box'? Oh my God, I wanted to kill her!"
Willow lost her chips, but managed to keep her drink from Xander.
"What's this? When's this? Spill, Buff."
"Don't you remember? Giles was on that kick that Faith and I needed to know more about the history of slaying and become…How did you put it, Giles?"
"Surely I cannot be expected to remember the exact wording of a conversation that occurred several years…"
"'It would behoove you girls to become somewhat versed in the fascinating world of demonology, including the vernacular of the ancient civilizations that by their very creation, render even their minutiae of vital importance in the here and now'. That's right, isn't it?"
"Buffy, I sincerely doubt that I would broach what is a greatly fascinating topic in such a dry fashion."
Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Dawn all laughed.
"You can doubt it all you want to, but that's always how you broach. Usually, I just hear 'blah, blah, blah, Buffy', but this one stuck because right around the use of the word: 'vernacular', Faith started trying to carve her brain out with a ballpoint pen."
Giles smiled at his Slayer.
"Perhaps her attempt to end her life should have tipped us off as to her complete lack of desire for the project."
"She obviously never had the slightest intention of going anywhere near the assigned work."
"And she got away with it for a long time too."
Giles took his glasses off, his eyes focused on the past.
"I'd been letting her slide, hoping she'd come 'round on her own, but finally I could wait no longer. I tried my best to handle the problem on my own, but all too quickly I knew I needed to bring you into it."
"Well as it turned out, she was way too much for either of us to handle."
Spike re-entered with perfect timing, having just finished his cigarette out on the porch.
"What's this then? Dark One's not all she's cracked up to be? Do tell."
Giles laughed and deferred to Buffy:
"You do the honors."
"I can't, Giles. I wasn't there when it got started."
"Oh yes, quite right, of course. I suppose the best way to begin then, is to say that I was most firm in my decision that enough was enough. I was determined to have it out with her, once and for all. I was no longer going to allow her to dissuade me as she'd been doing for weeks, and I was going to hold firm until the situation was properly resolved, no matter the chicanery employed."
He smiled as he looked around at the group.
"I'm still not sure to this day if I was delusional or quite simply a fool; I'll leave that for all of you to decide. Whatever the reason, I'd forgotten the most basic of all truths: 'Faith is Faith', and there is nothing that can ever alter that."
Everyone laughed, understanding exactly what he meant.
"I didn't realize until much later that I was totally out of my depth from the moment I opened my mouth. I believed then that I was in full command of the situation, that it was I who held her at a disadvantage. Clearly all of the blows to my head that I've suffered over the years had finally caught up with me, I've no other explanation for my foolish arrogance. I remember that I was utterly convinced that I was mere moments from having it all sorted to my liking, and so I…"
"Really Faith, I'm quite sure I don't understand your…"
"Aw c'mon, G-Man. Sun's shinin', birds are singin', and my girl's on her way. All's right with the world, ya know?"
Giles walked over to where she was sitting with her boots up on the table.
"While that may indeed be true…"
He gave her a look and her feet swung to the floor.
"…there is still a corner of your world that is nowhere near what it should be."
"Why ya gettin' so worked up?"
"I am 'so worked up' because we're discussing your Slayer training."
She flexed her arm:
"Feel that muscle. Not gonna find that on just anybody."
"Faith, I know you're in splendid shape, but your…"
"So, got that all squared then."
"…training involves more than just the physical. As you well know, you've been neglecting the mental and…"
She grinned charmingly at him.
"'Mental'? Been there, done that."
"I'm afraid you shan't joke or charm your way out of this, not today. I've been more than lenient, but this has to stop. You've put forth absolutely no effort when it comes to your studies and you've done none of the assignments, even though…"
"Why am I gettin' all the shit? Don't hear ya raggin' on B."
He sat down across from her.
"Yes well, perhaps that's because she's doing the required work."
"Yeah, B's a real suck-up alright."
"There is no 'sucking up' involved. Buffy is simply taking this seriously, something you would do well to…"
Faith stood up, sliding her chair back angrily as she stomped over to the counter.
"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy. What, wanna build a shrine right here?"
"Think ya oughta know your golden girl only killed two vamps last night, but me? Don't wanna brag, but I scored five. Not too shabby for the second-class Slayer, yeah?"
"Last night's kill count is completely irrelevant to the matter at hand."
"Oh, I get it, when I win it don't mean shit. Shoulda told me ya had the game rigged. Like to know when I don't stand a chance."
He arose with a sigh and walked over to her, the look on his face making it clear he wasn't buying a word of her performance.
"I shall not allow you to distract me any longer with your attempts to confuse the issue. We are discussing your refusal to do the necessary work and there is..."
"'Kay, here ya go."
"And this is?"
"Little somethin' to help ya forget. Plenty more where that came from."
He could not prevent the smile from crossing his face as she pressed a twenty dollar bill into his hand.
"Most amusing, but I must remind you once again that you are required to do the assigned work."
"Later Giles, okay?"
"Exactly how much later?"
"Ya know, when I'm old and close to death. Around your age."
"You are so very exasperating."
She went back and sat down in her original spot, her feet resting on the chair next to her as they awaited their chance to reclaim the tabletop.
"But ya love me anyways, G-Man."
"True, although right now the 'why' of it remains somewhat a mystery."
"Lemme know when ya get it figured. Perfect timing!"
The bell above the door chimed as Buffy strolled in:
"Talkin' to me or Giles?"
"Buffy, I'm glad you're here. Perhaps we can rectify this unfortunate situation with your assistance."
Faith was on her feet, just short of panicked:
"Whoa, no fair bringin' B into the mix!"
"Oh, really? Well I don't think it's fair for you to keep…"
Buffy stood between them, her hands up.
"Hold it, guys! I'm not following, and although I freely admit I'm still freaked by that way, way disturbing joke, I think anybody'd need a little more info here."
They were both quiet for a moment, and then they both started explaining at once:
"Giles is trying to change the fuckin' rules!"
"Stop! One at a time, please. And for the record – I was talking to Faith when I said the 'sexy' thing."
"Look B, gotta motor or we're gonna be late. I'll explain it on the way."
She tried dragging Buffy by the arm, but Buffy wasn't moving.
Giles didn't hesitate for a second:
"Buffy, Faith is not studying, not a whit, all despite the fact that the three of us agreed to extend your Slayer training into the realm of…"
Faith let go of her arm and walked off to what she hoped was a safe distance.
"She turns in none of the assignments, cannot answer even the most basic of questions about the material, and worst of all, shows not the slightest bit of regret for her atrocious performance."
Buffy turned to look at her:
Faith was scowling fiercely at Giles:
"Bet ya got the shit kicked outta ya at recess every day."
"I fail to see how my childhood struggles are at all relevant."
"Faith, what is he talking about?"
"How the hell should I know? C'mon, if we don't haul ass, we're gonna miss the trailers."
Buffy's arms were folded across her chest and she wasn't budging. Faith risked a quick glance and saw that her eyes were smoldering. She contemplated making a run for it, but Buffy was already speaking:
"I want an answer, Faith…right now."
"Perhaps I should leave you girls alone?"
"Why didn't ya figure that five minutes ago?"
Buffy's voice was calm and measured:
"I think that would be a good idea, Giles."
Faith slumped back down into a chair, not looking forward to what was coming.
"I shall be in the training room then."
"Feel free to play in traffic if ya get bored."
He left and Buffy's gaze zeroed in on Faith.
"…Look, so I'm not 'Student of the Year'."
"I seriously doubt anyone's asking you to be. The issue here is that…"
"B, c'mon! That shit's so fuckin' boring, and I couldn't care less about any of it."
"So what have you been doing?"
Buffy leaned in close, her hands gripping onto the armrests of Faith's chair.
"Oh, you're following me just fine. All those times you had me leave the house because you needed to be alone to concentrate and study properly…What were you really doing?"
Faith forced herself not to squirm.
"Callin' me a liar now?"
"Are you telling me that you were studying?"
"Said so, didn't I?"
Buffy leaned in even closer:
"What exactly were you studying?"
Faith had nowhere to go. She was already tilted back as far as she could tilt, and Buffy's face was just inches from her own. She swallowed hard.
"Aww…B, movies, 'member? Popcorn, Twizzlers, feelin' each other up in the dark."
"I was watchin' TV, alright?"
Buffy's face flushed and she let go of the chair to stand upright.
"You made me leave the house so that you could watch TV?"
"No! Yes! No! B, way rather have been with you, ya know that. It's just…well, if I'd have let ya stay, you'd have made me do the homework."
"So you made up a reason to run me out of the house so you could…"
"Look, you're puttin' this in the worst possible way."
Buffy was furious, her arms folded over her chest again, her voice terrifyingly serene.
"Really? Well please, enlighten me, Faith. Tell me what I have wrong."
She had nothing wrong, so Faith decided to bring a little humor into the situation.
"Well, I wasn't just watchin' TV."
"No, sometimes I was studyin' the back of my eyelids too."
Buffy looked at Faith like she was a vampire getting ready to drain a little kid…a little kid who was a nun…and a puppy.
"C'mon B, just tryin' to lighten it up a little."
"You're doing a fantastic job, F."
"Look, let's get some perspective here. Not like it's the end of the world or like the Records Guy is cruisin' the streets."
Buffy didn't say a thing, and the expression on her face never changed as she stared at Faith for a long moment.
"So the reading bored you, did it?"
"Fuck yeah, that's shit's like…"
"And that made it okay for you to lie to me?"
"Yeah...I mean, course not, but no way was I gonna…"
"Tell me Faith, how come it was all right for me to do the 'boring' reading?"
Faith became inordinately interested in her pants as she searched thoroughly for any signs of lint.
"Do you think I've been enjoying it?"
"No, not sayin' that, but…"
"…Well shit, B! How's it my fault if ya ain't got the balls to…"
Buffy blew a gasket:
"'To' what? Be a big lying liar?"
"Call it what ya wanna, but I'm just not into bein' 'Watcher's Pet', ya know?"
"You're not? Oh, that's rich."
Buffy's voice became sickeningly sweet:
"Giles, I just finished 'Hamlet'. Oh Giles, I really dug T.S. Eliot! Giles, do you think I'm smart enough for James Joyce? Do you, Giles? Do you?"
Faith leapt to her feet, pissed off beyond belief.
"That's not about bein' 'Watcher's Pet'! It's about…it's about…bein' 'Giles' Pet'! Whole different deal."
"That's pathetic, and there's no difference at all!"
"Course there is! I'm not tryin' to be 'Little Miss Perfect' when it comes to…"
"Go to hell, Faith. And congratulations on finally learning how to lie worth a damn. You must be so proud."
"Yeah? Well congrats to you for being so stupid ya can't…"
"My goodness, what is all this shouting about?"
Giles looked stunned as he rushed to stand between them.
"I'm not so stupid that I'm going to the movies with you!"
"Fuckin' fine with me! Like I wanna sit next to your butt kissing ass for two hours!"
"Better than your big lying butt, you asshole!"
"Wow, real witty, B. Hey, maybe you'll get a big gold star or a cute smiley face."
"Well if I do, I'll be more than happy to shove it up your…"
He grabbed each of them roughly by the shoulder.
"Buffy! Faith! Stop it this instant! Both of you sit down…Now!"
They huffed back over to the table and sat down on opposite sides, neither looking at the other.
"There is no cause for such rancor between you. I simply wanted Faith to agree to start applying herself to her studies. By no means was I intending to start an all-out brawl."
"Yeah? Then tell 'Miss Goody Two Shoes' here to…"
He slammed a book down on the table and his voice echoed throughout the empty shop. Both Slayers fell silent and had the good grace to look somewhat cowed.
"There is absolutely nothing to be gained from this sort of behavior. I think it best if the two of you talk this out in a calm and reasoned…"
"Not talkin' about shit with her!"
Giles sighed as he began cleaning his glasses. They could both be so stubborn at times.
"Yes, fine. Perhaps talking isn't quite ideal at this juncture. I seem to recall you had plans to take in a movie, well that might be just the thing. You can both sit quietly and focus on something besides yourselves until you've managed to recall that you do in fact, love one another most fervently."
There was only silence until Faith spoke up:
"Guess I said some outta line shit. I'll go if you will, B."
"…Well, it's not like it would kill me or anything."
He jerked them both to their feet.
"Off you go then! Enjoy the show!"
He practically shoved them out the door, having experienced more than enough of them for one afternoon.
"S'posed to be a kickass flick. Tell ya what B, gonna get ya some 'Duds and some Twizzlers."
"Will you throw in a super-large popcorn and a jumbo Diet Coke?"
Faith pulled her close:
"Whatever ya want, baby."
"You are so sweet."
They kissed passionately, all signs of anger forgotten.
"C'mon B, gotta motor."
"Goodbye, girls. On your way now!"
Then they were gone and Giles felt nothing but relief as he shut the door.
How they had managed to escalate so quickly into a screaming match was completely beyond him, as was the fact that they had just as quickly made up. All of it made his head spin, but he supposed it didn't really matter. It was all sorted out now, and he was sure that the headache their bickering had created would fade in the delightful silence of his now empty shop.
He picked up a broom and began sweeping, smiling because all was right with the world and…
"Oh, bloody hell!"
She'd done it again. Faith had somehow managed to extricate herself from a difficult discussion, and she had actually maneuvered him into insisting that they attend a movie…her original plan. What a devious little sneak she was, and she'd outplayed him every step of the way.
He continued sweeping, shaking his head in wonder. So that really had been a cocky smirk he'd seen flitting across her face as she'd made good her escape. He thought perhaps he had misinterpreted her look, but he knew better now.
She was a master at her craft, and the only question remaining was how long it would take Buffy to realize just how artfully they'd both been manipulated. Faith had mentioned something about both Twizzlers and MilkDuds…It would be a very long time, if ever, before Buffy caught on.
Giles marveled at Faith's skill, and he truly believed she should offer a course on the subject. The thought of her standing in front of a large classroom teaching "Evasion and Distraction101" amused him to no end.
His sweeping finished, he sank gratefully into a chair, smiling as he wiped away the faint scuff marks that her boot heels always left behind on the tabletop. His Slayers were quite the handful, nearly impossible to control and both more than formidable opponents when they chose to be. Still, he knew he was the luckiest Watcher in history, and he loved them both more than he could ever explain.
"Just accept it, old man. They've your heart and they're never giving it back. Oh well, there are worse things in the world."
Faith came back downstairs, Anya trailing behind her.
"Brought Sleeping Beauty with me. Here ya go, G-Man. Gonna love the article on…What's so funny?"
Everyone was laughing and looking at Faith, and Xander couldn't resist:
"We're just trying to picture you studying like a good little Slayer."
"You guys drunk?"
Marion managed to stop laughing long enough to explain:
"No dear, Buffy and Giles were just telling us how hard you worked to avoid your Slayer studies."
"Well laugh all ya wanna, but that shit's so dry it's like the fuckin' desert."
Giles interrupted confidently:
"But I believe I was right, you've found it quite useful over the years, yes?"
"Yeah G-Man, helps me sleep at night."
"Faith, I am your Watcher, and I know it must have come in handy at some point."
She wasn't giving an inch.
"Lemme know, ya ever figure it out. Anyways, here's your magazines."
He took them from her with an indulgent smile.
"Ah, so that's what they look like."
"Hey, already tore the mailman a new one. Not my fault we all live smashed together, take it up with Red."
Willow sat up straight, her voice indignant:
"Hey, there will be no 'taking up with'! I think it's worked out very well."
Anya was fully alert, her favorite topic dead ahead.
"Willow, speaking of 'working out well', we need to go over your quarterlies. Your portfolio's really strong, but I think I can…"
Willow winced, clearly wanting to talk about anything else.
"Gee, I think I'm feeling Faith's pain when it comes to Slayer studies."
Anya could not believe what she was hearing.
"Xander, is she comparing the exciting world of investment with boring Slayer stuff?"
"Brace yourself, honey…I think she is."
"No I'm not, Anya, not exactly. But I guess maybe in a way…"
"Have you gone insane? Did I not make it clear that you're accumulating money hand over fist?"
"You did, but I…"
Buffy piped up:
"What does that mean anyway: 'hand over fist'? I don't get it at all, why would your hand be over your fist if you…"
Anya was completely exasperated:
"It means she's making lots of money and thanks to my ten percent commission, so am I. Willow, could you please try to show some interest like a normal, responsible person? A huge part of my happiness is riding on this."
"Um…okay, just not tonight, okay?"
Willow said nothing and Giles took advantage of the momentary lull in the conversation.
"Pardon me, but could one of you construction experts take a look at our front steps? They appear damaged in some fashion, but I've not the expertise to ascertain the exact nature of the problem."
"Xand, Big Boy, steps are fucked up. Fix'em."
Brian smiled as Faith squished herself into the chair with Buffy.
"I've got some time tomorrow, Giles. I can at least take a look."
"That would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Brian."
Willow's smile was huge:
"Now see how convenient that is? Because Brian lives right across the street, he can just pop over and take a look."
"Yes Willow, I'd say your grand scheme has proven to be the most successful of endeavors, unusual a solution though it remains."
"Scooby compound's workin' for him, Red. How long I gotta translate for ya, G-Man?'
Before he had a chance to answer, a commotion erupted in the Slayers' chair.
"Quit squirmin', B!"
"You're crushing me, do you mind?"
"Nah, I'm fine with it."
Buffy tried to slug her, but her arms were pinned. Faith let her struggle, then with a grin finally hauled Buffy out and onto her lap.
Faith leaned down and kissed her.
"That take care of it?"
Buffy punched her in the shoulder.
"No, but that does."
Giles finally had his chance to respond:
"I'm unaware that I'm in need of a translator. I believe I'm more than adequate at expressing myself in a manner which is…"
"As dry as that Slayer shit you keep rammin' down our throats. Wouldn't kill ya to talk English sometimes."
"No, I suppose you're right…Faith, shut up."
Everyone laughed, Faith most of all. She loved teasing Giles, loved making him lose his stuffiness.
"There ya go, G-Man. Right to the point."
"So did we all agree that my idea was perfect and brilliant?"
All eyes went to back to Willow who was waiting hopefully. Giles smiled fondly and spoke up to set her mind at ease:
"We did all agree, Willow, without reservation. Your idea was capital, just magnificent, truly."
"Speaking of 'capital'…"
"Goddess…Tomorrow Anya, I promise."
"All right, but I can't imagine how you're going to sleep tonight."
"I can't either. Hey Buff, remember when I first told you that I…"
"Was a bazillionaire? Yeah, it's kind of hard to forget."
"Excuse me, I'm not familiar with that term. How much money does a person need to be considered a…"
Xander pulled her close, his lips grazing the back of her neck.
"It's just a made up word, An."
"Oh. I wish you wouldn't do that, Buffy, not when it relates to money."
"I know. Sorry."
"Don't worry about it, we all make dumb, insensitive mistakes. Xander, I liked that kissing thing you were doing."
Without a word, his lips returned.
Marion downed the last of her beer and spoke up:
"So Willow, how exactly did you get the idea in the first place?"
"Well, Spike and I…Hey, wake up!"
"Huh? Oh, sorry, must have nodded off. Bit knackered what with the wee ones and the extra slaying of late."
"That what you're callin' it?"
"In addition to assisting you birds with the hands-on, Dark One, I've also taken on a supervisory role. Right nice if you ask…"
"More like a 'sit on your ass while me and B do everything else' role."
Spike was suddenly wide-awake.
"Pardon me, who was it who killed that Tenthra demon last night?"
"Uh, that'd be Buffy."
"Okay, yes, technically. But who softened him up first?"
"Yeah, lettin' him pound the piss outta ya was a big…"
"That's it! Wanna go a few rounds right now?"
"Sure, but gonna need somebody on your team if ya wanna last more than five seconds."
That hurts, Dark One."
"Just bustin' your balls, Junior."
Marion returned them to the topic at hand.
"So Willow, you were telling us how you got your great idea in the first place."
"Oh, right. Well, Spike and I knew we should move out, but we didn't wanna go far. Then I thought of buying the house next door, and then the whole thing just sort of snowballed from there."
Spike chimed in:
"She told me the idea and even though it seemed a tad crazy, seemed like it could work too."
"I thought I'd better talk to Buffy first, I mean it was her house I was trying to crowd us all around. I remember I was really nervous because I didn't know how she was going to react, so I waited until I could catch her in a good mood and…"
Buffy walked in the front door to find Willow waiting for her.
"Uh-oh, what's with the serious face?"
"What? No, there's no 'serious face', see? I just want to talk to you."
"There's no 'uh-oh' either. I mean, there's nothing bad 'uh-oh'."
Buffy looked around, completely unconvinced.
"Honest Buff, nothing's wrong. Come on, let's sit down."
They sat at the dining room table, and Buffy began fidgeting right away.
"Okay Will, I know I shouldn't have eaten the last…"
"…but I was starving and I hurt my leg slaying and the dog ate my homework and my grandmother died and I knew you'd blame Faith."
"Hello? Would you please let me talk to you?"
"So you're not mad?"
Buffy smiled big then and relaxed.
"Great! So what's on your mind, Will?"
"Okay, remember that software I designed last year?"
"Who could forget, plus with the huge party to celebrate the genius of you, you genius, you. Boy, that sure was a lot of work trying to get everything…"
"Buffy, for you – maybe not so much with the actual talking right now, okay?"
Buffy pantomimed locking her lips and throwing away the key, and Willow continued.
"So anyway, it turns out that it's made me a lot of money. By 'a lot' I mean 'ginormous'."
"Of which you deserve every penny because what you invented does something really important and confusing. And while it's true I'm way too stupid to understand exactly what's involved, I'm still crazy proud of you for…Oh come on Will, I have to be allowed to throw out the occasional compliment…Shhh."
"And then I asked Anya for her help."
"Anya? But all she's good at is making money and loving Xander…Will, tell me you aren't making wild monkey love with Xander?"
"Apparently that lock wasn't coded for Slayer strength."
Buffy grinned apologetically:
"Sorry. Shutting up for real…again."
"Anya ended up investing some of my money for me, and it turns out she really does know what she's doing."
"Color me unsurprised over here."
"And she's not just good at it, she's a real master."
"So Anya walks the talk or talks the walk…That makes the kind of sense that makes none."
Buffy was completely lost in thought:
"She walks, then talks? That can't be right…Do you know which…"
Willow's irritated glare stopped Buffy in her tracks.
"Oops, sorry, Will. Being quiet now."
She waited a beat and when Buffy was indeed quiet, she plowed ahead.
"The bottom line is that everything she did worked, it really, really worked."
"That's cool…She walks the line…that's a song, right?"
"I have a lot of money now, Buffy. 'A lot' a lot."
Buffy smiled and patted her arm:
"Well don't worry, I don't discriminate against the wealthy, at least I don't think I do. I mean, I've never really known someone who had money, so I guess it's possible I could get all jealous and cranky about it. But then you are Willow, so that's probably always going to outweigh everything else."
"I bought you something."
"You did? Is it that sweater I saw at…"
"No, it's bigger than that."
Buffy's eyes lit up, her excitement easy to see.
"You didn't? Did you? You bought me that dress? I am so going to…"
"I paid off your mortgage and all of your school loans."
"…make Faith get dressed up and take me to…What?!"
"I caught Dawnie up too, and I've set-up an account for the rest of her education. Med school's not gonna be cheap."
"You what? When? How? You can't do that, can you?"
Willow looked nervous, but she kept going:
"Well, I already did it, so I guess I can."
"But that's a lot of money! You can't afford that…can you?"
"Trust me Buff, I can definitely afford it."
"My God Willow, how much money do you have?"
She looked down at the table as Buffy waited patiently.
"Um…Well, I was really well off, then Anya like quadrupled it…about ten times. She just kept making more and more, and now I guess you could say I'm filthy rich."
Buffy leaned over to hug her.
"I'm so happy for you, Willow! You totally deserve it!"
"Yep, it's a happy thing, for sure."
Buffy sat back with a worried look:
"I really appreciate it, but it's an awful lot of money we're talking about. Are you sure you have enough to pay the mortgage? And Dawnie's college is…"
"I have way more than enough, honest. And besides, after everything you've done for me? Talk about somebody who deserves something."
"I don't know about that, it's not like you haven't done more than your share of stuff…But okay, if you're positive."
"I so totally am."
"Wow…Thank you, Will."
"I paid off all of your bills, bought you and Dawnie new cars, and got Faith a motorcycle."
"But that's it!"
Buffy was stunned, and it took her a minute to respond.
"It's too much, we can't let you…"
"But Buffy, what fun is it to have money if you don't get to buy stuff for the people you love?"
Buffy sat there, clearly thinking it over.
"…That does make sense, I guess, and I really could use a new car…and Dawnie does need her own with those crazy hours…Okay, again with the thanks and hugs!"
They hugged and Buffy kissed her on the cheek.
"You really are the best friend ever, Will."
"Nope, that's your title. I'm just the richest friend ever."
They both laughed, but then Willow reached out for Buffy's hand, her face serious:
"Buffy, I'm so glad I get to do this for you. You've been so good to me since I met you, always there whenever I've needed you, always forgiving me and believing in me…I love you so much."
Buffy felt the tears welling up:
"I love you too, Willow."
And then it was another round of hugging, all complete with crying, until Buffy's important question broke it up:
"Red? Yep, the very reddest of red."
"Oh God, I'm so excited! I can't wait to see it!"
"It's going to be delivered soon, Dawnie and Faith's too, so that's why I figured I'd better tell you now."
"Dawnie is going to go nuts, Faith too. Okay, so what did you get everybody else?"
Willow flushed, clearly embarrassed.
"Well, I paid off everything for everybody."
Willow nodded nervously.
"Marion helped me figure it out. I'm kind of worried about his reaction when he finds out."
"He'll be touched, Will…Of course at first he'll just be all English and pissy, but once he gets that out of the way, he'll be okay."
"That's kind of what I figured, and Marion said she'll run interference."
Buffy got up and got them both a can of Diet Coke from the refrigerator.
"Well if Marion's on your side, your worries are over."
"I also bought Angel's hotel."
Buffy paused in mid-drink.
"You bought Angel's hotel?"
"I tried to give him the deed, but he said I should keep it just in case. I guess that means I'm his landlord now."
Buffy leaned back in her chair, a huge grin on her face.
"I'll say this for you – when you go all out, you go all out."
"Yep, no sense in not doing it right."
They sat quietly as they drank their drinks, but Buffy knew the signs.
"What else could you have possibly done?"
"Will, please, I know you. I can tell there's something else, so just say it."
She was nervous, way more nervous than she had been earlier, and Buffy braced herself for the big news.
"Well…um…I had this great idea, at least I think it's great. I couldn't really ask anyone because I didn't want to ruin the surprise and I didn't want you to say no. But no one has to do it, I just thought it made sense, but I could be wrong, and even if I'm not, no one has to do what they don't want to do. But in case they ever do want to do it, I wanted to be ready and at least give them the option with no pressure whatsoever if…"
"Breathe Will, just breathe and tell me what you've done."
"……I bought the houses on either side of us and also the two across the street."
Buffy was so shocked, she sat unblinking for a minute.
"…You bought four houses? How? They weren't even for sale!"
"It's Sunnydale, so I made them a good offer and they all jumped at the chance to leave."
"Oh my God…I need to sit down."
"You are sitting down."
"You know what I mean. Have you told anyone else?"
Willow took another sip of her soda before continuing:
"We've been thinking about getting our own place for awhile now, but neither one of us was too crazy about leaving. This seemed like the best way to do it."
The stunned look still hadn't left Buffy's face.
"Willow…just how much money do you have?"
"I'm not exactly sure, but it's an obscene amount. I'm not just rich, I'm super mega rich, and I figured I should put it to good use instead of just letting it sit in the bank or wherever Anya has it sitting. I donated a lot, started some charities, and now I'm spending some on us too."
"Anya says I'm almost like a 'mogul', although I'm not all that clear on what that means exactly."
Now Buffy was confused.
"What does having money have to do with skiing?"
"She means the other kind, like Bill Gates."
Willow's nerves were making themselves known again because she still didn't have Buffy's answer.
"So Buff, what do you think about us having a Scooby compound?"
"Because if you don't like the idea, I can just rent them out or resell the houses…Well, not the one next door because Spike has his heart set on living there and so do I, but if you don't want us to…"
Buffy shook her head and emerged from her stupor.
"I think it's a fantastic idea, Will. I love it!"
"Really? You really do?"
"I absolutely do, and so will everyone else."
Willow's smile was huge.
"Wow, am I relieved! I mean, I thought it was a good idea, but…"
Buffy was barely able to contain her excitement:
"It's not a good idea, Will, it's a great idea! I don't know why we never thought of it before."
"Me either! It's going to make everything so much easier and safer."
"…Of course the fact that we couldn't afford to do it until you turned into Lady Moneybags…"
"Oh yeah, right. Boy, the lack of money is definitely the stopper of fantastic ideas."
Buffy went to the refrigerator again and came back with some more drinks and a container of homemade dip. She snagged the box of crackers from the counter as she passed, and carried it all to the table.
"Will, this is going to be so great! It's not like we aren't already living together or at each other's houses anyway."
"Right, and this way we'll all have our privacy and still have super easy access."
"When are you going to tell everybody?"
"Tonight. I just wanted to make sure you were good with it first."
"Well, I'm great with it! In fact, I'm downright 'peachy with two sides of keen' great with it!"
They both laughed and dipped their crackers into the dip.
"Mmm...Buffy, this is delicious."
"Faith made it."
"She's the best chef ever."
"Yep, that's why I keep her around."
"I think there might be a few other reasons."
"She might be good at a couple of other things…Will, I can't wait to see the look on everyone's face when you tell them."
"Again I'm a little worried about Giles' reaction."
"He might try to hold out for a bit, but I think he'll like the idea right away. It's smart, tactically, and it's convenient and will save us all kinds of time. The Watcher in him will love it, but the Giles in him will have to be convinced."
"Then I guess it's: 'Go, Marion!' time."
"Don't worry, she's more than up to the challenge. She probably won't even break a sweat."
They ate until they were stuffed and then Buffy pushed the bowl to the side.
"I can't wait to tell Faith. She's really been dreading the idea of you and Spike leaving."
"That's nice of you to say, Buffy, but I think you mean she's been dreading the idea of Spike leaving."
"They are pretty tight."
"Yep, they're practically joined at the hip."
Buffy looked vaguely nauseous.
"Eeww, Buffy! I didn't mean it like that!"
"I hope not."
"Anyway, we call first dibs. We want the house on the left."
"The Miller place?"
"Huh? No, the Hansons' house."
"Will, you said 'left'."
"Right, so they live on the right."
"I think you mean The Millers, Buffy."
"No, I mean the Hansons."
"I don't think so."
Buffy shook her head:
"I think I know the Millers from the Hansons."
"So do I and they live on the left."
"Okay, stop. Let's start over."
Willow spoke slowly:
"Okay. Spike and I want the house on the left."
"My 'left' left or…"
"Buffy, the kitchen left!"
"The left of the kitchen left?"
"Well, that's the Hansons' house."
Buffy thought it over.
"That's definitely the best choice. That way he can just run in here through the kitchen door."
"Yep, our thoughts precisely."
"Me and Spike's."
They began laughing just as Faith strolled in. She kissed Buffy and grabbed a handful of crackers.
"Hey guys, who's here?"
Buffy was still laughing:
"Abbott and Costello."
"Not even gonna ask. Anyways, whoever it is, sure got'em a wicked ride out front."
Buffy and Willow exchanged a look, but Buffy responded with a straight face:
"Yeah! Fuckin' love to have one of those, but way outta my price range. Hell, outta everybody's price range. Still, girl can dream."
"They say dreams sometimes come true, F."
"Not this kind, B. Hey Red, 'member a few months ago when I was showin' ya bikes I liked in that magazine?"
"That's my all-time fave sittin' at the curb, all re-done like fuckin' new."
"I'm not sure I remember exactly which one it was."
"Better get ya a look 'fore it's gone. Sure is a beauty, was sneakin' a peek on the way in. Got everything on it you could ever want…So who's the lucky bastard?"
"F, I think you'd better sit down."
Buffy pulled on Faith's arm, forcing her down into a chair.
"Think I can talk'em into lettin' me take it for a spin?"
Willow's smile was getting bigger:
"I'm pretty sure you can."
Faith stood back up.
"So where they at? And B, no gettin' jealous if I gotta turn on the charm. This is a once in a lifetime shot, so I'm pullin' out all the stops."
"No guarantees, F, but I'll try to control myself."