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by Bobbi Manuel


Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Note: Set after Season Seven
Oral's Notes: All the music from this fic can be heard on the Tuneage Player starting at song number 201. More songs will be added per each update :)
Author's Notes: The wonderful new banner the story is now sporting was done by the amazingly talented aliceinwonderbra. aka. FindHope. She writes, she banners, she does it all. Thank you! : ) : ) : )

Dedication: Okay guys, this is it. I want to thank everybody who read the story and an extra special thanks to everybody who fed me back. I really appreciate it and I'm wicked happy you enjoyed the story. I also want to thank a few individual people for helping me get this story written:

Thank you, Kelly, for the original arm twisting five years ago and for being so enthused about the story. I should have known better when it comes to you.

Thank you, Monica, for always being interested and willing to read the early drafts.  Your support and friendship are greatly appreciated. Way more than the usual to you at all times.     

Thank you, Sal, for the editing, friendship, and encouragement.  You always take the time and I'm more than forever grateful. Fingers crossed, buddy!

There are two people who went way above and beyond when it came to this story. They were with me every step of the way and they had to put up with me bitching, whining, and fighting for a year and a half, cruise break notwithstanding. They were both nothing but supportive and encouraging, always willing to listen, offer opinions, help me make decisions, and generally pump me up whenever I needed it. And I needed it a lot.

I couldn't have asked for better help, and the fact that they both still seem to like me now that the story is finally finished, well, there really are miracles in the world. Or maybe saints. Or maybe really good friends. I just know something saintly and good is going on with those two, okay?

Anyway, the biggest thank you I can think of goes to ABC and Gina, the Mighty Oral herself. You guys are amazing and I feel nothing but lucky to have you both in my life.

And a final thank you to my two favorite Slayers:

I couldn't have done it without you, Fuffy. :x


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Chapter One

Angels Would Fall

Yeah, so it's another day of the same old, same old. I can't do a thing but smile and nod, and act like everything's fine. And I guess for the most part, everything is fine. It's all systems go, flyin' high and livin' right. These are the good times for sure. 

Sunnydale's in the rearview mirror and the First is the Last, or at least it's way back in the middle of the pack with all the other losers and wannabes. The Slayer kicked its ass but good, and sure she had plenty of help, but nobody's kidding anybody that it wasn't Buffy who was standing tall and strong when the dust settled. Okay, as tall as she could for a midget.

I laugh 'cause I crack myself up, and she smiles at me thinking I'm even remotely listening to what she's saying to Willow and Giles. It's not that I never pay attention to her, man, that's like all I do, but whenever I can I just tune out and stare at her without anybody knowing that's what I'm doing. It's my hobby, my past time, and I handle it like a pro 'cause I'm an expert at it.

Things could be a lot worse, not even gonna pretend they couldn't be, but they're still pretty shitty when it all comes down to brass tacks. I make the best of it though because that's what I do now. I don't get bitter, I don't get violent, I don't go crazy with the pain. I don't try to kill whoever she loves and I don't bust her boyfriend's hand when I have to shake it. I don't poison the beer I get for him while he's holding her close, and I barely even flinch when she sighs and leans her head on his shoulder like everything's all hearts and flowers.

When we go out, I just sit there and sip my drink while she dances with him. I smile when she sets me up with some guy, and I go out with them every time because it makes her happy. Sometimes I even go back to their place and screw their brains out if I'm in that kinda mood. Then I shower and take off while they're still sleeping the sleep of the expertly fucked, and I couldn't pick one of them out of a line-up if you paid me…not even while I'm doing them.

I always head back to mine bright and early, which is right next to hers in our cozy renovated hotel suites, and I just let her guy go past me wearing his happy, satisfied smile, his shirt buttoned up wrong like a love struck four year old. I don't slam his head into a pasty smear on the wall like I wanna, I don't snap his spine and toss him down the stairs when I catch them kissing goodbye at her door. I just keep my face looking friendly and she always looks at me after, all happy when she sees I'm just getting in.

He leaves for work and she comes over to me, excited and wondering if maybe this time it's the one. Yeah, it's definitely the one alright…standing just inches from me all blonde and clean from her shower, flushed with happiness and hope and looking like life is finally good for her. Her hair's always wet and tangled, and as she leads me to my room so we can do the "girlfriends" talk, I want to run my fingers through it to straighten it out for her. Or maybe let my hands get trapped so I can yank her closer to me and hold her there for the rest of my life.

The energy she puts out kinda snowballs and I usually get pretty jazzed myself, I can't help it. She's so happy for me, so hoping for something good to come my way, and as pathetic as it is, having all of her attention focused on me just gets me going. We sprawl on my bed while we talk, and I milk it. I lie my ass off to keep her excited for as long as I can, then let her down easy while I make us breakfast and admit it was just another guy to me.

She nods looking a little sad, but she's Buffy and she always perks right back up saying next time will definitely be the one.

"Yeah, next time for sure, B."

I never confess that most times I just ditch my date ten minutes into it so I can go slaying, and I don't tell her that when it's a really bad night, I skip the slaying and find a dark bar to drink in while I pass the time. She doesn't need to hear any of that, so I lie and that happy look stays on her face a lot longer than the truth would ever let it.

My feelings for her always threaten to blow my heart apart when she leaves, and I let them burn and ache and shred while I smile and watch her walk away from me again and again. She doesn't see it, it never crosses her mind that there could be something else between us, and nothing I can ever say or do will ever change that. I guess that's not exactly true, I mean I could definitely say or do something to wise her up, but it wouldn't get me what I want and need from her. It'd just mean I could kiss our friendship goodbye.

Buffy's just not into girls, so all there is for me is to be her friend, a shoulder she can lean on, an ear she can bend, and somebody who will always support her whenever she needs it. Of course I also tell her when she's outta line too, and I don't let her run over me. I stand up to her when I need to or when she needs me to, and she usually takes it pretty good.

Even when she's pissed off at me, she treats me with respect. We argue about stuff all the time, but Buffy will admit when she's wrong and she'll also admit when I'm right, and what usually happens is we sort of end up mixing our ideas together when it comes to Slayer business. The personal stuff gets hammered out without either of us taking permanent offense, although we can get a little rough with each other sometimes. I admit I make that happen a lot more than it really needs to.

It's just that I like when all of her fire and passion is directed at me. Her chest starts heaving, her eyes get so green when she's pissed, and I love the way her lips move as she lets me have it. Her skin glows and her muscles flex, and the only way to describe it is to say that she looks like one hundred percent Buffy. It's a beautiful sight to see, and I need that from her sometimes, no matter what I gotta do to get it.

It never goes anywhere too shitty because we're friends now and we both value that like nothing else. We worked hard for it, me probably more at first just getting her to give me another chance, but she did her share of the down and dirty too. As soon as it was clear that I was on the level, she started working at it. She had to learn how to open up again and move on, and not just with me either.

Buffy had closed herself off and from what I'd seen, I didn't exactly blame her. But no way could she keep living like that…not if she was gonna be happy. All kindsa crap had gone down in Sunny D, the kinda stuff that can fuck people up forever, but once they all got away from there, every one of'em stopped acting so crazy. Giles figured out that the First was kinda usin' the Hellmouth to jerk off with, and after a buncha "talking shit through", things settled down and went back to normal.

Of course "normal" for the Scoobies meant something way different when it came to my sitch. B and me didn't have years of love and trust to lean on, and Buffy still had trouble with me, go figure. She asked me flat-out to give her some time, saying she needed the chance to get used to me, to figure out how to trust me again, and I could understand that.

I'd fucked up with her so bad before, it more than made sense that she needed to see a shitload of proof that I wasn't a maniac anymore. We had to learn how to be friends all over again, and there was no magic shortcut that could make that happen overnight.

I told her I didn't really even know how to be a friend before, and she admitted she could have done a lot better with me the first time around. We called it water under the bridge and moved on, each of us trying our best to make it to the other side. It was bumpy at first, rocky as hell in some places, but B was as good as her word. She fought it out with me and herself, and when she was ready, I made the most of my chance.

We're good friends now, and like good friends do, she worries about me. She thinks I'm lonely and she's right, so she keeps trying to find me "Mr. Right" and she's wrong. I'm her favorite charity project and she tells me all the time not to worry, that the person that's just right for me is out there and she's not gonna give up until we find him.  It makes me wanna kill her.

But I don't, of course. I just smile and nod and thank her for her fucked up concern, then do my best to look nothing but hopeful that she can pull it off. There's nothing else I can do, I'm in way too deep.

Sure, sometimes I'll swear to myself that I'm gonna leave her and never look back. We'll have a fight or I'll just get sick of watching her latest guy paw all over her, and I'll promise myself that come the next morning or Monday or the first day of the month, I'm scrambling clear. I've had enough and I'm gonna go start livin' a brand new life, damn straight I am.

But the best I can ever manage is to haul it for a few days, just tear off down the road to fuck knows where and hit some dives. I dance, drink, and make sure to get into as many fights as I can, then I head right back to her with my anger and sadness better under control. I know without a doubt that I'm trapped forever, that the same shit's gonna come to a head again somewhere down the line, but whatever.

I stopped kidding myself about that a long time ago, I just can't rock the delusional like I used to, and ever since I made it back onto the right track I try to be as straight up with me as I can be. I don't skimp on the truth; there's no sense in lying to me. I'm all I got, and denying how I feel, pretending I don't want what I want, running a con on myself… well, all of that shit just leads me to everything I never wanna be again.

It's important to at least let myself know the real deal because I don't talk to anybody else about how I feel, no matter how much I'd like to sometimes. These people I've thrown my hat in with are good people, but that's all they are. There's not a saint in the bunch, they're as human as you can get.

They slip up, make mistakes, try to help when they shouldn't, all the shit that in the old days I saw as them trying to hurt me. I know now that's not true, in fact it's the opposite of that. They all care about me in different ways and they always wanna help out whenever they can. That's great, but it's dangerous too. It makes me keep my guard up, makes me stay tougher than I really want to because I can't afford even a tiny slip-up.

For example: if I broke and let Red in on how I feel about Buffy, B would know in ten seconds flat. No way could Willow keep something like that to herself, even though she'd swear up and down that she would. And I know she'd feel like shit afterwards for spilling the beans, but she just wouldn't be able to stop herself. It's too big, too juicy, and how the hell could I expect her to keep something like that from her best friend anyway?

There's way too much involved to keep it under wraps. You got the general gossip angle which all by itself is pretty damn exciting, then when you toss in that it's gossip about me…Fuck, I can just hear it now:

"Faith is in love! That's exactly what I said! Faith is in love!"

Then you still gotta factor in that they're gettin' personal info about me which there's not a lot of, plus the added bonus of learning that I'm a girl who swings both ways. Then for the grand finale, it's the wicked clincher: I'm hot for Buffy Anne Summers.

Oh yeah, that's way too much to expect anybody to keep to themselves. Hell, fact is when I put it that way, can barely not blab it all over the place myself. And bringing Buffy into it? I can just see it now: heads exploding, rolling, spinning, and generally losing their shit…mine included.

So no way can I tell anybody anything, no matter how much I want to sometimes and no matter how much they'd wanna help me out. Some secrets just have to be kept and lived with. That's the way of the world or at least that's the way of mine, and there's no sense bitching about it or going crazy again. Buffy's not mine and she's never going to be. End of.

So I waltz around and watch her fuck everybody else, smile and try to keep the murder off my face. I nod at her latest boy toy, I let her touch me friend to friend, and I never slam her hard against the wall and fuck her until she can't walk. Sure, I get mad and moody sometimes, even though I try not to. I drink now more than I ever have, slay longer and harder than I used to even in the old days, all because it makes the nights pass a little faster. I go someplace way down inside me when it cuts too deep, when that rough blade starts digging and gouging and actually touching me.

I try my best not to let it slice me to ribbons because it's always right there, she's always right there. With her golden hair, her sunshine smile, and her sexy as hell body that's all scrawn and power, decked out in the best "Buffy" clothes that any woman's ever worn. The most beautiful eyes ever made sometimes light up when they look at me, and she suddenly seems younger and like the person she should be if the weight of the world wasn't always pressing down on her.

I keep my distance when I can, but I'm like the dumb moth to the flame. Every time I know she's alone at night I head to her, doing whatever I can to disguise it as a "friend" thing while I get my fix and keep my secret. I sprawl on her bed with her, watching TV while I drift and swirl deeper into her spell. Because Buffy? She's always right there, so close I could reach out and love her if she'd let me.

But Buffy won't let me, she's not even aware of what's going on. She doesn't see how my hand shakes a little whenever she gives me the remote, doesn't notice how happy I get every time I make her laugh, doesn't understand how much I believe in God whenever she's wearing just a t-shirt and panties. She's got no clue how hard I fight to stop my eyes from raking all over her body and burning her to a crisp as they travel, she just "Buffys" along all Buffy-like while I sit and want and want and want and do my best to hold on.

Every day it seems to get a little tougher, to cut a little deeper, but there's nothing I can do about any of it. I can't leave her, I won't leave her, and so I play the game I need to and love her in secret. It hurts and it's rough, but it's what I've got and I take it.

Yep…brass tack, right up the ass. Welcome to my world.

The rope that's wrapped around me
Is cutting through my skin

And the doubts that have surrounded me
Are finding their way in

I keep it close to me
Like a holy man prays

In my desperate hour
It's better, better that way

So I'll come by and see you again
I'll be such a very good friend

Have mercy on my soul
I will never let you know

Where my mind has been
Angels never came down

There's no one here they wanna hang around
But if they knew

If they knew you at all

Then one by one the angels
Angels would fall

I've crept into your temple
I have slept upon your pew

I have dreamed of the divinity
Inside and out of you

I want it more than truth
I can taste it on my breath

I would give my life just for a little, a little death
So I'll come by and see you again

I'll be just a very good friend
I will not look upon your face

I will not touch upon your grace
Your ecclesiastic skin

Angels never came down
There's no one here they wanna hang around
But if they knew

If they knew you at all

Then one by one the angels
Angels would fall

Angels would fall

Sweet angels

I'll come by and see you again
And I'll have to be a very good friend

If I whisper they will know
I'll just turn around and go

You will never know my sin
Angels never came down

There's no one here they wanna hang around

But if they knew
If they knew you at all

Then one by one the angels
Angels would fall

There's no one here they wanna hang around

But if they knew
If they knew you at all

Then one by one the angels
Angels would fall

Oh angels, angels would fall

Angels would fall

-Angels Would Fall - Melissa Etheridge



Chinese Boxes            

Okay, this has so not been a good week. First Greg left me…Well, technically I left him first which is why he ended up leaving me, and then Faith did one of her disappearing acts. Maybe they ran off together, which is not my funniest joke ever because just the thought of it makes me want to kill her. And besides I know she'd never do that to me, she's not like that anymore, plus she hates Greg with a fiery passion. Even though she always tried to hide it, I could tell.

How do I put this? She always looked like she wanted to slam his head repeatedly into the nearest wall whenever she saw him, and he never once picked up on that. I don't think he thought they were pals or anything, but he definitely didn't think he was in mortal danger whenever she was around. He'd smile, she'd smile, and I'd wince and hope for the best.

I asked her once if she thought there was something wrong with him, but she actually looked surprised at the question.

"No, he seems…okay. Why? You think he's a demon or somethin'?"

I saw the way her eyes lit up with hope, and besides, it's not like I don't know when Faith doesn't like somebody.

Anyway, Greg was a nice guy, but it got all kinds of "blah", just like it always does for me at some point. He was pretty good in bed, I'm definitely going to miss that, and he was big and muscley and comfy to lean into. He made me feel tiny and girly whenever I needed to, although it gets harder to pretend about that the older I get. When you can beat every man in the world into a bloody pulp, it's not exactly easy to look to them for physical protection…and why I still want that feeling, I don't know. I guess it would just be nice sometimes not to feel like the strongest person on the planet, like I'm the one everyone else always has to lean on.

The point is we're over now, and he took it really hard and I hate that. I didn't want to hurt him, I never want to hurt anybody, but somehow it seems like they're all way more into me than I am into them. I try to hang in there, but I'm never totally satisfied with anyone. Faith calls me a ballbuster, well she did once and then I wouldn't speak to her for over a week, so that put a stop to that. I know she still thinks it, but at least I don't have to hear it anymore.

She should talk anyway. She blows through guys like they're Kleenex, then tosses them into the trashcan of discarded…Why do I even bother with the analogies or the metaphors or the whatever they're called? What I'm saying is that she has no room at all to talk about me, and I'd tell her that if she was anywhere around.

I hate when she does this, and it seems like she's been doing it a lot more often lately. She just takes off to God knows who and where without a word to anybody. Nobody hears from her until she just shows up again, acting like it's perfectly normal behavior for her to just come and go as she pleases. Then we have to get through this big awkward phase for two or three days before we can get comfortable with each other again.

The one time I seriously tried to talk to her about it, we had a big fight. She started right off being weird and defensive about everything I said, and before I knew it we were arguing about stuff that had nothing to do with anything. I was so mad by the end of the fight I almost hit her, despite the fact that we promised not to do that anymore. That was my bad for sure, but I swear she was doing everything she could to egg me on.

I just don't get her sometimes. I mean, I know her, I know her better than anyone else knows her, and yet sometimes I don't have a clue. She's usually crystal clear to me, yet there are all of these things she never lets me see. There are so many layers to her and no matter how deep I go, there's always something else underneath. She's an open book in some ways, and yet in other ways I don't feel like I know her at all.

But I trust her, that's never in doubt…which if I think about that objectively it really makes the kind of sense that makes none at all. How can I trust someone with her past who still keeps important things from me? But it's different somehow, she's different somehow. I know the stuff she keeps to herself is just "Faith" stuff, not "Crazy, Evil, Don't Trust Her" stuff. She's changed in every way that matters, and it'd be nothing but unfair to act like I don't understand the difference between secrets and private stuff.

It's hard to explain, but the simple version is: Faith has layers. I wish I knew them all, but I don't. However, the ones I do know? They're more than enough for me to trust her, respect her, care about her, and consider her my friend. That doesn't mean I don't want to know more, but it does mean that I've got enough to work with, which is way more than I ever thought I'd have from her.

The person she used to be is gone, replaced by a calmer, less likely to fly off the handle one, and I welcome that change. She doesn't think everything I say or do is somehow a personal attack on her, and she doesn't respond to my every move with a barely under control fury. She's finally let me see the real her and I like her…a lot.

Faith is nothing but likable when she wants to be, and it turns out that just being herself is more than enough for her to win everybody over. Oh sure, she can still be difficult and she still has a temper and can act without thinking things through, but she's also kind and considerate, and she's done everything she could to make amends with everyone.

Yep, Faith is completely serious about fighting for redemption and she gives Angel all of the credit for her transformation. I've never heard her say one thing about him that wasn't glowing, and to my big surprise, it was the same when she spoke about me behind my back. It wasn't long after my return home from Italy that I started getting a certain vibe from the Potentials, and yes, I know I need to stop calling them that.

They're Slayers now, and some of them were right there at the end of Sunnydale, living and dying and doing their duty even though it kind of got pushed on them. They're all like family to me now, even though Kennedy's still like some distant cousin I have to put up with every Christmas and Thanksgiving. Except in her case it's almost every day.

Anyway, the vibe. I'd be teaching a class some new technique or I'd be out on a newbie patrol doing some tricky move, and the girls I was with would always reference it back to something else…something else that had happened way before any of them had even shown up. They'd tell the story of my life back to me and I always sounded crazy heroic, even when I didn't quite remember it that way. I couldn't figure it out, and when I asked they all just smiled and moved on.

At first I thought maybe Xander had been telling Andrew stuff and as usual he'd "Andrewized" it, but no, that wasn't what was happening at all. What was happening was that Faith, the Potentials' best buddy and mentor, had been explaining to them in great detail that I was nothing short of a hero. A heroic hero. A heroic hero who did heroic hero things heroically. By the time I got home from Italy, I think most of them just assumed I'd walked across the ocean to return.

She told them about herself too, although her history isn't quite the same as mine. She didn't spare herself at all, and while I admire her honesty, I wish that she would learn to give herself a break sometimes. I mean, there are plenty of stories we could all tell about ourselves where we come off in a way less than flattering light, myself so totally included. None of us are all that keen on sharing those stories, but if we have to, we at least try to pretty them up as much as possible…but not Faith.

She tells them everything, all of the horrible things she did, and she answers every question they ask her without trying to hide anything. Faith makes no excuses, she faces up to it all.

"Not gonna bullshit, B. Did what I did, but that's not me anymore. Never gonna be neither."

She's right – it's not, and I know that. Faith is amazing and I have nothing but respect for what she's done. I never doubt her, I believe in her completely and without reservation. She's become dear to me, and the affection I've always felt for her is now all right out in the open. As a result, her defenses have fallen, well, a lot of them anyway, and I know for the most part she trusts me with herself.

I've learned how to get her to let me in if she's resisting, and I've learned not to push her to tell me things if I don't have to. She deserves her privacy just like anyone else, so I only go after her when she needs me to. I can tell what's important now and I pick my spots.

We still argue like crazy, but it isn't scary anymore. The sparks still fly fast and furious between us, but there are no more life altering explosions that try to kill us and everyone else in the vicinity. We've learned not to let anything go for too long, we like each other's company way too much for that anyway. When one of us gets snitty…and yes, okay, it's usually me who's the "Snitty Slayer"…we'll tease each other out of it if it's not too serious, apologize if we're the one in the wrong, or we'll just tell whoever it is to knock it off. They call it "maturity", I highly recommend it.

Everything's all good now except she isn't here, Greg is gone, Will and Xander are out on assignment, and Dawnie's on vacation with some of her college friends. My last hope is Giles, but he's being all Watchery and cross-referencing or something that I want no part of, which means it's just me all by my lonesome. That's normally nothing but a good thing since I usually never get enough "alone time", but then this isn't exactly a normal time no matter how I look at it. I suppose I could go do something normal like slaying, but it seems like such a huge effort to get dressed and go out. Besides, it's never any fun without Faith.

I guess I'm more depressed than I thought I was, which would explain why I'm already in my favorite pajamas for the night and planning to eat an entire pint of Rocky Road ice cream…for starters. I was also going to watch TV, but I don't feel like flipping through all the channels. I usually let somebody else do that, and I have to say that Faith does it the very best. She pauses long enough to let me get a look, then goes on to the next channel in a perfect rhythm. She always stops on the chick flicks without me having to beg her, and she lets me watch for a minute before asking if she can keep going.

She hates those movies with a passion, but she'll let me watch if I really want to. Just knowing that the option's there without having to go through the big battle all of my boyfriends usually put me through, well it makes me happy enough that I let her off the hook. Besides, Faith always manages to find something we both like, and that's the kind of TLC I could use tonight.

I'm not going to get it though because Faith had to do her mysterious disappearing act again. I wish she'd just tell me what it's all about, but no, she's got to be all "Closed Off, Angry Girl" about it. It's weird because she's never that defensive anymore about anything, at least not with me. But talk about a hot button. I might as well spit on the Celtics and say I hope the Yankees mop them at Fenway Garden.

It's like that time I walked in on her and Satsu fighting in the training room. Not training, not sparring, but fighting all out with no holds barred. One side of Satsu's face looked like raw hamburger and Faith looked psychotic. I couldn't believe what I was looking at.

"Hey, what's going on here?"

"What the fuck's it look like?"

She never even glanced at me as she continued to tenderize Satsu's cheek. The blood sprayed out and Satsu said something low under her breath in Japanese.

"Stop it, both of you!"

I stepped fully into the room, ready to get between them when Faith turned to look at me:

"Mind your own fucking business for once and…"

Satsu took that moment to kick Faith in the back and send her smashing hard into the horse thing. She toppled over with it and I knew what was coming. I hurried over to Satsu, desperate to save her life.

"Get out of here!"

"I'm not scared of her, Buffy. If she wants to…"

While Satsu was busy trying to impress me with her bravery, Faith stood and picked up the horse. She held it above her head for a second, then hurled it into the wall. It smashed into chunks of wood and bits of plastic, and when her eyes lasered in on Satsu, even I wanted to take a step or ten back.

"Fine, fucker, ya wanna play? Let's fuckin' play."

I shoved a suddenly terrified Satsu out the door to the safety of the hallway, and shut it quickly behind her. Faith didn't care, she went after her or would have if I hadn't been standing in her way.

"Move, Buffy!"

"No, just calm down."

"'Calm down'? Calm down?! You see what that little bitch just did?"

I had my hands on her forearms and I was trying to get her to look at me.

"Yes, but I want you to calm down anyway."

"Soon as I bust her fucking neck I'll calm down."

I shifted with her as she tried to go around me, my hands still holding onto her.

"Faith, please. Besides, if she's as smart as I think she is, she's already long gone."

"I'll find her, don't worry about that."

"Just calm down."

She was still mad, but as my hands rubbed slowly up and down her arms, I could see she was regaining control of her temper. She blew out a loud breath and her eyes finally met mine.

"Can let go now, B."

I did and she stomped across the room to grab a towel.

"So what was that all about? I thought you guys liked each other."

"Yeah, well she said somethin' she shouldn't have."

I waited, but when it became obvious that she wasn't going to tell me, I asked.

"So what did she say?"

"What's it matter?"

"It matters because there's Slayer blood on the floor and you were going to kill her."

Faith threw her towel down and rolled her eyes at me.

"Wasn't gonna kill her 'til she cheap shotted me."

"And the blood?"

"Look B, she'll heal and maybe next time she'll think before she runs her mouth about you."


Faith was clearly at the end of her sharing time, but I definitely wanted some answers, especially now that I knew they involved me. She busied herself with wiping the blood up by sliding the towel around with her foot, then kicking it into the trashcan when the floor was clean. She hung a fresh towel around her neck and picked up her keys.


"Wanna know what she said? Go ask her."

I caught her arm as she tried to walk past me.

"I will, but first I'm asking you."

She shrugged me off.

"She's got the hots for you, alright? And I didn't wanna hear about it today."

"What? Satsu? Did she actually say that? In actual words?"

"Didn't need words, I can tell. She started up with her usual: 'Well, Buffy says' and 'Buffy wants' and 'Buffy always does it this way', so I told her to save it for when she's rubbin' one out  in her room."

"Faith, that doesn't mean…She doesn't have the hots for me, she's just the best of the Poten…Slayers and she wants to…"

If I'd thought Faith was mad before, I'd underestimated her by about a thousand levels. She grabbed my upper arms hard enough to hurt and yanked me to her. Her face was about two inches from mine and I couldn't focus as she snarled out the craziest sentence ever:

"She wants to fuck you fifty ways from Sunday."

I didn't make a sound and she just stared into my eyes for a few seconds, then let go. She shook her head in disgust, at what I'm still not exactly sure, and turned towards the door. As she started walking away, she said two words so softly I almost didn't hear them.

"Fucking idiot."

For some reason I didn't think she meant me, but she was gone before I could ask.

She avoided me for two days, then Greg and I went away for a three day weekend. When I got back, everything had returned to normal. Satsu and Faith seemed friendly enough again, and Faith treated me just like she always did. Satsu blushed whenever we were in the same room, but that only lasted about a week until it was obvious I wasn't going to bring anything up. After all, what could I have said?

"Hey Satsu, is it true you want to fuck me fifty ways from Sunday? And why not the other six days?"

No, I couldn't say that, so I just ignored the whole thing, and before too long it was just like it was supposed to be at Slayer Central: The Cleveland Years. Problem buried, if not solved, and Faith had to be crazy anyway. Satsu still hasn't ever given me the slightest indication that she's interested in me in any way other than my Slayerness. I don't even think she's gay.

But that's so Faith, getting all worked up over something that only she thinks is true. She gets so furious over nothing sometimes and lately she's been more broody than usual. She's still nice to me, but it's like her mind is always on something else. I've tried to find out what's bothering her, but when Faith doesn't want to talk, she just doesn't talk. I'm the only person I know of in the world who can ever get her to bend when she doesn't want to, and she always makes me work for even the tiniest bit of progress. But whatever's bugging her now, well, she's not budging.

She's complicated, and most of the time I just have to take the scraps she gives me and try to figure out what they mean. I've gotten pretty good at it, most of my guesses are usually on the mark, but then some things just aren't possible to know because that's how Faith likes it. It makes her feel safer, I think.

She's told me a little bit about her childhood, where she grew up and what it was like. I can't believe some of the stuff she's shared with me, and I've never known anybody before who was abused as a child. I do my best to stay calm when she tells me about the beatings and neglect because I know she would be way too uncomfortable if I did otherwise.

So I stay in control until she leaves to head back to her own room, then I turn off my light and there in the dark I let myself cry for her. Because no matter how still she holds her body, no matter how blank she makes her face look, or how calm and even she keeps her voice when she tells me it's no big deal, I can see the pain and sadness in her eyes. She always looks so lost and alone, just like a little girl who doesn't know why, and I want so much to hold her and tell her that everything will be okay.

But Faith doesn't allow hugs, at least not when they're meant to comfort her. Oh, she holds me all the time when I need it, and I have never not felt better when I'm wrapped up tight in her arms. It makes me feel understood and it makes me feel safe, like someone will always be there to care. I want so much to give that feeling back to her, to make it nothing but clear that my friendship for her is forever, but she just won't let it happen. The few times I've tried to do what feels right, she's been out the door before I could even get my arms spread out all the way.

It's so frustrating being friends with her, but it's so easy too. She's always there and ready to listen, always pumping me up when I'm down, always making fun of me until I have to laugh at myself and my bad mood disappears. She's good to me, she gets me, and I love when she's around.

But Faith is a puzzle, maybe one that can never be solved, but that doesn't mean I won't keep trying. She's like a sunset or water moving…or maybe she's like a sunset on the moving water. I just know she shifts and changes, the light always hits her in a different way from minute to minute, and I'm either fighting to see through the glare or marveling at the beauty and peace she provides.

I also know that no matter what, I'll always be there for her just as much as she'll let me be. I'll keep trying to slip in some physical affection whenever I can get away with it; maybe when she's sleeping or drunk. "Stealth Hug" Buffy is ready and waiting for her every chance.

The window seat's calling me, not actually by name but as close as an inanimate object can get. I'll just sit here and stare out at the night as I eat more ice cream than I can comfortably handle, and I'll try not to think about anything. Not about Greg, not about how hurt he looked, not about why I can't seem to find love and keep it, and not about where Faith might be tonight.

I just love alone time. It's awesome.

You're like Chinese boxes
One inside the other

Inside the other
One inside the other one

You're smoke and mirrors, plastic flowers
Magic spells, misdirection

Smoke and mirrors, plastic flowers
How am I to know

How am I to know
You're like all four seasons

One becomes the other
Becomes the other

One becomes the other one
You're daffodils and summer showers

Turning leaves, all this snow
Daffodils and summer showers

How am I to know
How am I to know

I try and piece together clues and possibilities
I trim then sometimes into shapes I think they're meant to be

Still you get the best and whatever else is left of me…still
How am I to know

How am I to know
You're like Chinese boxes

One inside the other
Inside the other

One inside the other one
One inside the other

Inside the other
One inside the other one

-Chinese Boxes - Kim Richey



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