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Chapter Five


I'm watching B play catch with Dawn, Willow, Xander, Andrew, and a Frisbee. I was gonna play, but really, how many people do you need? B frowned at me when I said I'd just hold the blanket down with my ass, but she didn't push me. I wasn't being pissy or anything, I just felt more like watching her move around than joining in.

We're at the park and pretty girls are skating, riding, and walking by in not many clothes, but I haven't looked at one. What's the point? The best girl in the whole fucking world is standing right over there making some incredible catches while she pretends anybody's got a shot at being as fucking fantastic as she is.

We celebrated our six month anniversary two days ago and it was perfect. We ate breakfast in bed, skipped out early for us, and went shopping for clothes and comics. Then we had a tasty lunch followed by more clothes shopping and a quick stop to pick up my new knife and the surprise crossbow B had ordered for me.

Dinner was so romantic I shoulda puked instead of loving every second of it, and B loved the bracelet I got her. We went for a walk after down by the lake, holding hands, kissing, and copping a feel as much as we could. Then we had the best patrol ever and it's sure nice when the bad guys work so hard to make us happy.

We slayed our asses off, then B was on me the second we got home. We had some hot sex followed by a shower with some even hotter sex, then it was bed and more great sex until we went to sleep. She's without a doubt the best I've ever had and it's like that every single time.

She's all sweet and tender, until she's a bitch who wants to bust me in half. She stays right with me stride for stride…who the fuck am I tryin' to kid? Sometimes B blows right past me and I gotta pick up my game just to break even. And talk about a quick learner; she's been giving me lessons for a long time now.

We still can't get enough of each other. She touches me and I'm completely turned on. Hell, she even just looks at me and I want her. The best is it works both ways, and one of our favorite games is to drive each other fucking crazy in the worst possible places.

She's like a master at it – these little sneaky touches, the way she moves, the looks she shoots at me, the way she smiles when she sees the effect she's having. We'll be sitting next to each other at the big table doing some research and B's hand will start wandering. I'll jump in my seat like I've been electrocuted and everybody will look at me like I'm a freak.

B never even glances my way, just keeps reading and looking all calm. I do it back to her when I get a chance and she's like ice, never moving, flinching, or paying any kinda attention to me. But then the second we're outta sight, she's got me in the nearest closet or empty room with her tongue in my mouth and her hand in my pants.

It's wicked hot and I love it when she gets like that…like she can't wait to have me. I like when we take it slow too, all soft touches and gentle, like we think the other person might break if we're not careful. It's not fucking then, no way, but I suppose it never has been, least not from my side of it. It's making love, plain and simple, and the fact that I can figure that out is nothing short of amazing.

I mean, I don't make love, not ever before anyways. I always just get off and get out, no looking back, but of course I never wanted that with B. And I know I love her, so no surprise on my end that I make love to her. But it's hot love, not some "once a week or only on special days" sex like an old married couple. It's still plenty down and dirty, even though I've never touched her without loving her. I can't imagine it ever going any other way.

The mystery comes in from her side of it. I think B's making love to me too, but thinking isn't exactly knowing. I mean, she calls it "making love", but she also says we're "sleeping together" when what she really means is we're fucking each other blind. They're just expressions everybody says, not statements that tell the truth, so I don't really know for sure if she…


I look up and this hot as hell blonde chick is smiling down at me.

"I don't mean to bother you, but could I sit here a minute? I was jogging and I twisted my ankle."

As lame as her story is, she does look like a jogger. She's got an iPod on and the outfit's right, somebody else would say: "Waaay right".

"Yeah, sure. It's a double blanket."

Which didn't seem all that big when she dropped down not too far from me. She had the whitest teeth I've ever seen, and her smile blinded me at first from seeing she had her hand out for me to shake.

"I'm Erica."

"Hey. Faith."

She kept smiling and held my hand a little too long. Terrific, just what I needed. I was hoping her ankle was gonna feel better real soon because she was making me kinda face away from B and I was worried I was gonna miss a really great catch.

"Wow, it's sure a beautiful day, isn't it?"

"Yeah, real pretty."

She smiled bigger like I said she was real pretty, which she was, but I didn't.

"Do you come here often, Faith?"

"Not as much as I'd like."

She laughed like it was funny and touched my arm.

"Me either, but I'm thinking that should change. Do you run?"

"Only when I'm chasin' somethin."

She laughed like I was the best stand-up ever and her hand came back, but this time on my thigh.

"We could be jogging buddies. Want to meet here tomorrow at…"

The Frisbee caught her right on the forehead. She let go of me, her whole body jerking back.


There was a red mark from where she got tagged and she rubbed at it, trying to shake it off.

"Sorry, I guess it got away from me."

She was still rubbing, but she did her best to smile as she looked up at the voice:

"It's okay. I can't throw those things very good either."

Buffy sat down in the sliver of space between us, making my new buddy scoot back even further.

"I throw them just fine."

Erin mighta been smokin' hot, but she sure wasn't what you'd call the sharpest blade in the weapons chest.

"I'm Erica, and Faith and I were…"

B's eyes looked like ice.



"There is no 'Faith and you' and there never will be. Go away now."

She finally looked at B full on and she was up and moving, just like that.

"Uh…Thanks for the…Bye."

She took off jogging or running for her life, depending on your viewpoint. I just know she never looked back as she hauled ass, her ankle working fine.

"Hi, B."

"So what was that all about?"

"Was about her tryin' to get in my pants. What'd it look like from where you were?"

She wasn't amused at all.

"It looked like you were trying to get your ass kicked in the park."

"Yeah? I didn't get that vibe…Ow!"

She pulled me to her with an iron grip on my arm. Her eyes were snapping and popping, and she woulda been scary if she wasn't so fucking hot.

"Buffy, throw it back! It's boring just standing…"

She grabbed the Frisbee off the blanket and tossed it to Andy without looking away from me.

"I don't like other women pawing all over you."

"Okay. So where ya stand on guys pawing…"

B was done trying to talk it out. Her mouth took mine, that's the best way to explain it. Her lips were rough, hot and hard, and her tongue was in my mouth without any teasing. Her hands were gripping me tight, 'specially the one tugging on my hair. Buffy wasn't fooling around.

When she edged back, she looked calmer, but still wicked intense. I probably looked turned on because I totally was.

"B, Alice was just some chick who was seein' if she had a shot, which she didn't. I already can't even remember what she looked like."



"Her name was 'Erica'."

"Whatever. Who gives a shit about her? You on the other hand…"

"Buffy, we're going to lose if you don't come back!"

Andy sounded like he was gonna cry and Buffy yelled over to him:

"I'll be right there, Andrew!"

She leaned in closer to me:

"You're on your own again."

"Trust me, B: This time I'll kill somebody 'fore I let'em sit down."

"That sounds like a good idea, especially if they laugh like a Pez dispenser."


"I'm coming!"

She kissed me again, this time all soft and sweet, until she nipped at my lower lip as she pulled away.

"Don't make me come back here, F."

I gave her a salute and watched her ass all the way over to Andy. He hugged her as he filled her in:

"Okay, we're down by eight."

"Andrew, I was gone for two minutes. How could you…"

"I panicked! You know I don't do well under pressure. Just fix it!"

She said something to him I couldn't hear and the game got going again.

I was tingling all over because "Jealous B" is one hot bitch. I like her like that, when she claims me as hers. I couldn't be happier with her doing it, hell, I couldn't be happier in general.

We're a couple and everybody knows it, even the never to be seen again Angela. We do everything together and when we have to be separated for very long, we both hate it. Life is good, life is perfect, and it's way more than everything I've ever wanted.

I sleep in the same bed with Buffy almost every night and we wake up together almost every morning. We usually start the day off with sex, which yeah, am I ever livin' right. We eat meals together whenever we can, watch TV, have sex, go out, slay, train, have sex, shop, listen to music, argue, make up, have sex, clean weapons, whittle stakes, pretend to do research and other boring Slayer shit, hang out, have sex…It's working just great.

Buffy is beautiful all the way around. Anybody can see the surface shit – she's drop dead gorgeous no matter what angle you look from. Everything about her's just perfect, kinda like one of those works of art they keep someplace special. But not B, she's out in the open, just wandering around saving the world and living her life. The best is: now she's livin' it with me, so I can not only look, but I can get grabby whenever I wanna.

I don't blame anybody for looking her up and down and back again, because yeah, she's got it goin' on. But the most beautiful thing about her is what's on the inside, and to get an eyeful of that, you gotta know her.

B's good, right down to the core. You can count on her to save your life, cut ya a break, or just give you some company when you're down and alone. She's tough as nails when she's gotta be…just ask any demon she's killed without a look back, but she's also got the biggest heart of anybody I've ever known. Buffy cares, she cares more than anybody ever has, and it's that and her courage that makes her such a fucking hero.

No way to know for sure when she's checkin' out for good. I'm hoping it's in her sleep when she's like 99, but she's probably gonna be saving somebody when she gets it. Knowing B, she'll be tryin' to stake some vamp with her outfitted walker, and she'll probably soak her dentures in holy water at night just in case.

What I do know for sure is I feel lucky to be with her. Guess that's how everybody who's ever had her must have felt. In the morning when I feel her hands on me, all soft and warm like I'm the most precious thing in the world, I could die right then. It's all I need: to feel that Buffy wants me, to feel like she was just waiting for sleep to be over so she could be with me again.

When we make love at those times, I take her slow because I wanna make it last forever. I wanna get lost in her, make her feel just how much she means to me, make her understand there's nothing anywhere that will ever make me happier. I want her to know without any doubt how much I love her, how I'll always love her even when I'm gone and my body's turned to dust. Whatever makes me "Faith" will never stop loving her, and that's the truest thing in any universe.

Our first time together, well I'm never gonna forget that. Never, not even if I make it to an old lady and I'm droolin' all over myself and don't know my own name. That's gonna be the memory I take with me, even if I end up in Hell. No matter what the Devil does to me, no matter how bad it gets, I'm gonna be smiling nonstop 'cause me and B. Nobody's taking that away, not ever. It's mine, she was mine, and I won't ever let go of it…no matter what.

Yep, I got a grip on the brass ring for sure, but there's a small problem. Well, maybe "problem" is too big a word. It's just that I don't think Buffy loves me, at least not as much as I want her to.

I know she loves me, she's had a "friend' love for me for a long time. But we've moved it on and yeah, it's different for sure, but….I'm feeling it now – that thing all her boys have felt since Riley, and it fucking hurts.

I'm this close, but I can't figure out how to get any closer. There's something there, maybe it's something in me stopping her or maybe it's just that I can't really give her everything she needs after all. I don't know, but I know it's there, and I'm not laughing now at the guys who tried and could never win her over. I feel for each and every one of them, and it keeps me awake sometimes when all I wanna do is sleep.

She'll be with me, all satisfied and curled up tight, a tiny smile on her face as she drifts off, and I'll be laying there trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong. I don't have enough experience with love to know what end's up half the time, but no way am I gonna go down without a fight. Not if I can help it anyway.

Buffy is everything to me. She's made me happier than I've ever been in my whole life and way happier than I deserve to be. But something is…it's off, and I don't know how to set it right. It's not the sex, that I know for sure, and it's not that I don't care about her enough or that she doesn't appreciate me.

B gets me, and just like when we were friends, she knows how to handle things. I get in moods even though I try not to and B lifts me right out of'em. She gets me to talk more than I ever have and it feels good sometimes, like I'm dumping some of the shit off my back and leaving it for dead by the side of the road. She always listens and I can see she's hurting for me, but she hangs tough. There's no way I can ever thank her enough for facing that stuff with me.

Sometimes when she looks at me, it makes my heart stop because it's so warm and so "Buffy". She holds my hand for no reason, teases me when I'm being stupid, and smiles when I'm being cute. She runs a bath for me when I'm sore or tense, she makes me sandwiches when I'm hungry but too tired to move, and she knows when I just need to be quiet and hold her. Going by all the obvious signs, B can't get enough of me, and that is the fucking miracle of fucking miracles.

But I still feel something and I can't shake it no matter how hard I try. I keep hinting around, but she never seems to pick up on what I'm trying to get at. She just smiles and kisses me or maybe edges closer, and I'm lost. Besides, it's not like I wanna rock the boat or talk it out, that's never been my thing. But I'm getting scared now, like this thing's gonna get bigger 'til it blocks our view of each other. Then we're gonna be fucked and I can't even bear the thought of that.

Enough of this shit. I lean back on my arms and turn my face up towards the sun. The game's wrapping and Andy's doing his best to trash talk. Talk about embarrassing. He's telling the losers they're so lame they couldn't name all six "Star Wars" flicks in order if he spotted'em two.

Willow looks like she couldn't name any of them if he told her all six, Xander looks offended, and Dawn looks like she's not gonna take the insult layin' down.

"Who even cares what they're called? They're all stupid anyway. Besides, if you hadn't had Super Freak on your team, you wouldn't even be able to name 'The Lord of the Rings Trilogy'!"

Whoa, two low blows and they were off to the races and the vendor guy. B sat down next to me as Xander asked if I wanted anything.

"Could down a big ass coke."

"Two Slayer cokes coming right up, one diet."

He turned to Red:


She grinned and hooked her arm through his, and they followed at a safe minimum distance from the two nut jobs ahead of them.

"It's Frodo!"

"Frobdo, Frog Dough, no one cares but you Andrew!"

I shook my head and laughed:

"Man, B, how are they not a couple?"

"Maybe because Will's gay?"

"Yeah, them too, but I meant Squirt and Andy."


"What? Just look at'em. If those aren't sparks, I don't know what are."

"He's gay!"

I laughed at the freaked out expression on her face.

"Stranger things have happened, B, and ya gotta admit…"

"Stop! If you ever want to have sex with me again, you'll shut up now."

"Okay, don't gotta pull out the big gun. Was just pointin' out the obvious."

She leaned over to kiss me:

"Silence or you're on the couch."

Like I could talk with her tongue down my throat and her lips sealed to mine. Like I'd want to.

When she leaned away, she didn't go far, she actually got closer. She turned around, her back against my front as she sat between my legs. She pulled my arms around her which almost made me fall backwards, but I used my Slayer muscles and stayed where I was.

She rubbed along my arms.

"Are you ever going to talk to me, Faith?"

"Just said I had to shut up."

"You know what I mean."

I didn't answer, what was I gonna say?

"B, I know you love me, but I don't think you love me enough. It's like there's somethin' stoppin' you. Hell, you've never even said it once."

No way was I gonna open up that can of worms, not unless I had to. I mean, I haven't told her I love her either…although I'd say it ten times a day if I thought she wanted me to. But to go first when everything tells me she doesn't feel the same way? Right.

Buffy's all about the "love" thing. If she's not saying it, well there's gotta be a reason, one I most likely never wanna know. And I'm not about to pull a "Greg" move and force the issue. I'm not a fucking idiot, although since I don't have a clue what to do, it kinda makes me one in another way.

I guess I took too long to answer because she let out a heavy sigh, then turned to kiss me on the cheek.

"I can wait, F."

Great, now we'll both be waiting. Wonder what day Hell freezes over.


Ah you, wake me with the gentlest touch
When you kiss me oh I feel I must have you

You have everything I need
Except a burning love for me

When I first saw you that day
I had to ask you stay

We talked and drank too much
Then our hearts softly touched

Now in us I do believe
Lover have I been deceived

Ah you, you come down like early rain
And you, wash away my every pain

And you, you have everything I need
Except a burning love for me

Well we've had this for a while
And when we make love you always smile

Still there's a distance I can't close
I'm in deeper and it shows…it shows

Well while our hearts are young and there's still time
Tell me what to do to make you mine

All mine…

Ah you, you walk outside and birds start to sing
Ah you, you look at me and know everything I feel

Grant me one wish and I'll be free
I want you more in love with me
I want you more in love with me

Ah you…

-You - Nils Lofgren



Sweet Side

Okay, Brick Wall…Faith. Faith…Brick Wall. I mean that both ways. Faith is being a brick wall and I'd also like to introduce her to one up close and personal. She's been weird, all closed off and defensive, something she hasn't done since we got together. I don't get it and as far as I know, it all came right out of left field…wherever that is.

I noticed it building just like I always do. She was getting broody, she didn't laugh or talk as much, and there are now a couple of new things I never noticed before when we were just friends. Which I guess makes complete sense since they're not the kind of things people who are "just" friends would know about.

Faith gets nightmares sometimes. In the beginning of our relationship she tried to blow them off, but I wouldn't let her. I could see how they upset her, how intense they were, and I knew that keeping it in was probably making it all worse. After a bit of a struggle, she told me she's had them forever.

"Since I was about nine or ten, I guess. They're always about me bein' a kid, bein' trapped back there in that life, unless they're about Sunny D."

She was pretty open about everything once she got started, which made me feel awful for her, even though I took it as a good sign for us that she was willing to talk about it with me. Because Faith doesn't just have bad dreams, they're not even really nightmares. They're nightmares on steroids, worse than any twenty horror movies combined, and they're like nothing I ever imagined somebody could have, let alone live through.

If she's lucky, they make her jerk awake. Sometimes she'll be crying, sometimes screaming, but the worst for me is when she's whispering my name, pleading with me to do something in the dream. Help her maybe, kill her…it's impossible for me to tell. She always says she doesn't remember, but I'm pretty sure she does.

They tapered off a lot after we'd been together for a while, but now they've come back at full force. She tries to act like they're no big deal, but it's clear that something's going on and it's not something good. The open, honest woman I've gotten so used to dealing with is nowhere in sight when it comes to this topic. Instead what I have is Faith acting like I'm not on the "need to know" list.

The other thing that's changed between us is that she wants more sex…which in our case means we're doing it practically 24/7. It's still off the charts great, but she seems different, desperate somehow. I don't understand why and when I ask her she says she doesn't know what I'm talking about. I can't tell if she's outright lying or really doesn't notice, but I do know she's keeping something from me and it's starting to have an effect on us.

I'm trying hard to be patient and not take it personally that Faith is keeping things to herself. I knew she was like that when I first got involved with her, and I can't expect anything else, especially when something's upsetting her. She's not ever going to be completely comfortable with revealing herself no matter who she's with, and I know that and accept it. I also know that she'll talk to me when she can and that I'll do whatever I need to do to help her get there.

I've never understood the desire to get involved with a person and then try to change them. Yes, there's always "stuff" to fix – like making a man wear different clothes or get his hair cut in a more flattering style. There's the toilet seat he always leaves up, the wet towels on the floor, his inability to see dirty dishes – the superficial things. But what I'm talking about is the core of a person, the things that make them "them". You can't change any of that and I don't think you should try to.

It's disrespectful, downright mean even, and I'm not about to do that to Faith. Besides, what would I really change about her if I could? Sure, I'd like her to be more open sometimes, but I know why she isn't and I would never try to take that away from her. She closes off to feel safe and I get it, I understand.  And when she does open up to me, when she lets me see the real her…I treasure that gift every single time.

I remember when we first became friends. She'd apologized to me the day after the fall of Sunnydale and even though a big part of me wanted to brush her off, I didn't. I told her I appreciated what she'd done, how she'd come back to help, and I also told her I needed time, a chance to shift gears where she was concerned.

She surprised me because she took it so well, telling me she understood and appreciated that I might be willing to give her another chance someday. She got that I wasn't trying to punish her or anything like that. I just needed time to remember that when she wasn't crazy, I actually did like her. I needed time to learn to trust her again, to trust myself, and she gave it to me without any hesitation. It was obvious that she knew the damage she'd done, that it had to be repaired before we could even think about moving forward.

With the air cleared as much as it could be, life went on. Dawn and I spent some time in Italy, but that got old fast and it wasn't long before we headed home to Cleveland. I quickly settled into my new life on Hellmouth #2, and this time there were all kinds of Slayers to help, including Faith. The old and the new mixed perfectly, and the Slayer Academy ran like clockwork. We all had our jobs, our roles to fill, and we handled every situation as it developed in the best possible way. 

Which was how I found myself, several months later, on a road trip that lasted nearly five weeks. I was trying to track down some demon that was of course, planning an apocalypse, and for some reason he wasn't big on staying put and letting me kill him. People would teleport in and out to assist, but it was basically just me all by my lonesome with lots of quiet time to think.

When I finally got home, I was given a Slayer's welcome. Dawnie even made me a big breakfast, which I ate like a pig. It was still pretty early in the morning when I finished, so I went to luxuriate in my own bed. My nap went a little long and it was late in the afternoon when I woke up. I took my time and when I was finally ready, I opened my door to head downstairs. Faith was just going into her room and we both kind of froze as we stared at each other…and talk about awkward.

"Hi, B. Heard you got back."

"Yep, I'm big with the backness."

I wanted to wince I sounded so stupid, but she just smiled.

"Well, it's good to have ya home."


I walked to the stairs and just as my hand touched the railing, her voice stopped me:

"You maybe wanna come in?"

It was a bizarre offer. Faith and I weren't friends, and we certainly didn't hang out in each other's rooms. I don't know why she asked me that and I don't know why it made me smile so big as I turned back to face her:

"I'd love to."

We spent the rest of the day and most of that night together: talking, eating, and drinking way too much. We laughed like crazy people over all kinds of stuff, watched movies, gossiped about everything that had gone on while I'd been away, and I couldn't remember the last time I'd had so much fun.

It was all so natural, so right, like finally the past had decided to leave us alone and let us move forward. Faith and I became friends from that day on, and it's been nothing but great ever since. Of course being lovers has been even better, in fact I'd say it's been downright perfect.

But lately things have been really strange. She's starting to look sad, even though she hides it and hides it well. In fact, she hides it so well, it's just me who seems able to see it. Everybody else keeps telling me how happy Faith and I look, and we do, we are. I know I've never been happier, apparently the "Honeymoon" phase is going to last forever for me. Everything she does makes me happy and I just can't get enough of her.

She's such a good lover and when it's done, I love snuggling up to her and just basking in the biggest afterglow any woman's ever basked in. I can never stop smiling afterwards, it's just that good, that special every single time. It's the craziest thing, surely some of the thrill should have worn off by now, but it hasn't. Faith makes me feel crazy happy, and I can't imagine it ever being any other way.

I love hanging around with her, just watching her do the everyday things that life demands. She's skilled at everything: cooking simple, but tasty meals, repairing leaky faucets, getting blood stains out of our clothes, doing sewing repairs, folding even the fitted sheets flat, and against my will she's even managed to teach me a couple of things along the way.

So sue me because I don't really want to learn, I'd rather watch her do it. She's so sexy and confident and efficient and sexy and sexy. The way her hands move all strong and graceful, her face all serious as she concentrates on what she's doing, her triumphant yell when she finishes. And yes, it's all about sex for me when it comes to Faith, even when there's no actual sex anywhere in sight.

Although that's not really true. As much as I love sex with Faith, I also love just talking to her. It's something I've gotten used to over the years and I would never want to be without it. She's got such a unique way of looking at things and she's really smart too. I count on her all the time for good advice and an honest opinion, and that hasn't changed since we've become lovers.

She's fascinating to me, and I love when she gets all fired up and passionate about something that's not really that big of a deal. It's so cute, and I admit I sometimes say stupid things just to get her going. I've been doing that for years and I'm not about to stop now, not when she looks so hot ranting and raving. Plus her voice is off the charts sexy, the sexiest voice I have ever heard in my life. It makes me shiver whenever I hear it.

She's just beautiful, inside and out. Brave and loyal, and so determined to make up for the things she's done in the past. I've tried to help her let that stuff go, but she can't and probably never will. Faith cares, she cares so much, and while I love that about her, it also makes me worry. When it comes to herself and certain situations, sometimes she cares too much and takes responsibility for things she has no control over. I definitely understand that urge and while a certain amount of guilt is unavoidable when you're a Slayer, Faith sometimes takes it to a painful extreme.

A couple of weeks ago, we lost a Potential. Mary was one of our best – smart, a good fighter, brave, and well on her way to becoming a fantastic Slayer. Vi had three girls out on patrol with her and they came across a nest of vamps. They were handling it; Vi's not exactly sure how it happened. One second they were down to just two vamps, the next a Hadra demon had a death grip on Sheila's neck.

He started twisting and Mary didn't hesitate. She tackled him and took them all down to the ground, loosening his hold on Sheila's neck. Sheila was able to turn enough to stab him in the brain right through his eye, Vi and Lori finished off the last of the vamps and mission accomplished, just another night on the job…except Mary didn't get up.

Her head had collided with a partially buried tree stump and she must have hit it just right. She died instantly. The other girls and Vi were a wreck, but they made it home with Vi carrying Mary's body all the way. I didn't hear about it until much later that night.

Will and I had been in Argentina looking for some special artifact that a group of demons were kind of keen on keeping. We had to stay radio silent the entire mission and when we had what we'd come for, Willow transported me right into my room. It was late and at first all of my concentration was on not vomiting.  Once that was under control, I saw Faith and the vomiting threat was suddenly a very real possibility again.

She was sitting in the window seat, a nearly empty bottle of whiskey dangling from her hand, an empty on the floor below her, and another on the table next to the couch. She didn't turn when I approached.



"What's wrong?"

She didn't answer and she flinched away when I touched her arm.

"Faith, you're scaring me."

She turned to me then, and when I saw her face I didn't let her shrug me off. I sat down and grabbed her hand.

"Baby, what's wrong?"

"…Got somebody killed tonight."

"What? Who?"

She tried to pull away from me, but I wouldn't let her.

"Mary, out on patrol."

I was instantly confused. I knew that Faith had called in a favor and that Vi was supposed to take over her patrol for the night. I thought maybe Faith had changed her mind or that maybe something big had happened and she'd gone out with them. Either way, Mary was dead and just like always when we lost someone, I felt the burning start in my stomach.

"What happened?"

Faith managed to get away from me and walked over to the couch.

"Not sure exactly. Vi and the gang were havin' trouble laying it out."

"What did you see?"

She looked up startled, then confused.

"Nothing, I wasn't there."

I walked over to her.

"Faith, it's not your fault."

"Yeah B, it is. I shoulda been there. Maybe I could…"

"Do you think Vi's a good Slayer?"

"Course I do. She's almost as good as us."

I edged closer.

"So if she couldn't stop what happened, odds are you couldn't have either."

"You don't know that."

"Neither do you. It isn't your fault, you're not responsible."

She sat down hard, taking me with her.

"Maybe I'm not, but it feels like I am. It was supposed to be my patrol, but I wanted to watch TV and just hang, so I…I got a kid killed because I was bein' lazy."

"With that logic, you'd never have a day off. Faith, you can't be everywhere all the time, and you know how dangerous slaying is. Don't do this to yourself."

She pulled me closer and kissed me, hard and wild, and I could feel her tears on my cheeks. When the kiss ended, she kept her arms wrapped tight around me.

"Could we just sit here for a while, B?"

"As long as you want."

She eventually fell asleep, I guess passed out would be more accurate, and after an hour I carried her to bed. I got her undressed, tucked her in, and when I was sure she wasn't going to wake up for a while, I went to Vi's room. I knocked quietly and it was Rona who opened the door.

"Hi, Buffy."

"Hi. Is Vi…"

"She's a mess. It's good you came."

I talked to Vi for almost an hour. She'd never lost anyone on a patrol before and of course it had hit her hard. I did my best to help her, but what could anyone say that would make any difference? She thanked me for coming and said she was going to try and get some rest. We hugged, then Rona walked me out.

"Are you staying with her?"

Rona nodded as she opened the door:

"Yep, best friend's job."

"I wish I could have been more help."

"Are you kidding? At least she's calm enough now to try to sleep."

Apparently that was my gift in situations like this.

"Where are Lori and Sheila?"

"They're in their room, Boss. Don't worry, they've got plenty of people with them."

"I guess I'll wait until tomorrow then."

"Yeah, probably be for the best."

We hugged.

"Call me for any reason at any time, okay?"

"You know we will."

"Okay…Goodnight, Rona."

"Night, Buffy. Thanks again."

When I got back to my bedroom, I stood by the bed watching Faith sleep. She looked peaceful, like I wished she could be, and I felt my eyes welling up. She needed to stop blaming herself for everything all the time, but a horrible childhood had trained her to always take the blame. And just like with anyone: the lessons learned in childhood were the hardest ones to unlearn, and they were the ones that stuck with her no matter how much she tried to shake them loose.

Besides, who was I to talk? My childhood had been nowhere near the horribleness of Faith's, and yet I found it all too easy to take the blame for that night's tragedy. Willow could have taken a lesser Slayer with her, but I'd wanted the chance to spend some alone time with her. It had been forever since we'd just hung out, so I used the mission as an opportunity for us to act like silly teenagers together.

That irresponsible decision had maybe led to the death of a Slayer who hadn't been much older than a teenager herself. Yep, there was definitely plenty of guilt to go around no matter how you looked at it, and it was nothing but a stupid, non-helpful way to think, for sure. But it's how I think and it's how Faith does too… only about a million times worse on the Guilt-O-Meter.

I snuggled into bed with her, wrapping her in my arms where I knew she would feel safe. I often wish I could go back in time and kill the people she grew up with. They'd abused her and they still do, affecting every part of her life and making her struggle to get past their beyond awful parenting.

The woman who gave birth to her…I refuse to call her a mother…is lucky she's already dead or I would go to Boston and beat her to within an inch of her life, probably even closer. But I can't do that, I can't do anything except be here for Faith now. So I hold her close and try to understand and talk sense to her when she needs it. I ride out the anger when it simmers underneath everything she says, I crash against the barriers when she struggles to create them, and I keep reaching for her until she finally reaches back.

Faith can't help it, but I know she tries. It happens whenever she feels really vulnerable and then has to build up a wall to hide behind. It's something she learned to do at a very young age and it's a difficult habit for her to break. She fights it and does her best not to let herself go too far, and for the most part I'd have to say she does a pretty good job.

I know when she gets like that it'll be a tough few days. She'll be too reckless on patrol, she'll drink more, she'll take the blame for whatever she can, she'll jump on everything I say, and she'll pretend nothing ever gets to her. She'll be rougher during sex and then when she starts to come out of it, she'll swing too far the other way.

She'll be too gentle, she'll let me say and do anything to her, and she'll feel guilty about how she's treated me. She'll defer to me when we're out on patrol, when we're in bed and everywhere else in between, until I finally can't take it anymore and I blow up at her. We'll argue and then it will be over, all back to normal.

It's something I understand because I've experienced it with her many times over the years. The only difference now is the sexual element that's been added, but it's not really that big of a difference…just more of the same with an extra level of intensity.

I hate when Faith gets like that, and not just because of how hard it is on me. What I hate the most is how hard it is on her. Before we got together, she would just take off for a few days if it got bad, which I suppose spared me from the whole lovely experience. I know she'd still go except I've made it more than clear that I don't want her to. I never wanted her to go back then either, I just had no way to stop her. I do now.

Sure it's difficult to deal with, but in another way it isn't at all. It's just Faith, how she feels she has to handle things and it's okay with me. She tries to be better about it, and in a lot of ways she's succeeded. The incidents don't happen as often as they used to and when they do occur, they don't seem to last as long. I take that as nothing but a positive and just deal with what I have to.

We all react differently to stress anyway. I still tend to do my thing which is not talk…or as Faith calls it:

"Great, time for a visit from the Ice Princess".

I know I do that, I've always done that, and being the Slayer and living on the Hellmouth just made it worse. I usually snap out of it in a couple of days and I try my best not to let it take control of me. But it's tough sometimes. I feel like I'm responsible for everyone's life, the people here with me and the innocent people all over the world who don't even know I exist.

It helps that there are other Slayers now, except I feel responsible for them having to be involved in the first place. And no matter how many there are, no matter how much I try to delegate, the simple truth of it is – I'm The Slayer, the one and only. Everyone still looks to me to be in charge, to lead, to decide. Whenever push comes to shove, it's me who has the final say.

That's just the way it is, and I don't know if it's from age and experience, although I'm also not ruling out Willow having done a secret  "Brainwashing" spell on me, but I can handle it now. I understand my role, my duty, and as time's gone by I've accepted it. Right or wrong, I'm the leader, and until I get dead and stay that way, that's who I'm always going to be.

But sometimes despite my newfound maturity and acceptance, it builds up on me – the pressure, the responsibility, the sense that not only is the fate of the world in my hands, but the individual lives of the newbies and the people that I love as well. The Scooby Gang is still with me, and for that I am eternally grateful. There is no way I could do any of this without them, but as the years go by, I think more often of the people who are missing, and I'm terrified that being around me is going to get every last one of them killed.

That's not a new fear, but sometimes when the pressure builds the "Ice Princess" likes to make her presence known. Faith will give me a day or two before she starts thawing me out, pulling me back to the warmth and the fire of living and loving and just being alive. It prickles at first, then tingles, and then all of the blood and feeling rushes back and I'm reminded that I can do this: I can be Buffy Summers and The Slayer at the same time. It works just fine for me, and whenever I try to forget that, Faith makes sure I remember.

But none of that's the real point here. Something is wrong and I don't have a clue what it is. Faith says there's no problem, but that's just stupid because I know her and there is a problem. I'm trying not to push her before she's ready to tell me, but she's kind of making it clear that she needs to be pushed. And I can do that if I have to; I've done it many times before. It's just that it's a lot easier on both of us if she decides to talk on her own.

I can't figure out what's going on, everything's perfect between us. The sex is still great, she still lights up every time she sees me, and we still love being together. I've been careful not to get too intense emotionally with her or make her feel trapped, and I think I've made it crystal clear just how happy she makes me. Our life together is as close to perfect as life can get…I'm lost here.

I guess it could be anything. I mean, I know everything doesn't revolve around our relationship, but it kind of does in a way. We're pretty isolated as Slayers. We generally work, live, and play with the people who are involved in the group. Faith has no outside family, neither do I…at least none we're in contact with. So that means our lives are pretty much all about our relationship, but not in a bad way. There's nothing about Faith and I that could ever be called bad.

Although her moods can change for seemingly no reason, there's always a reason. I know what triggers them and why, and I usually know what will settle things down for her again. But this is beyond that. She's not in a "mood", it's more serious than that. She's worried, and it's a big enough deal that her nightmares have come back with a vengeance. A screaming, crying, pleading vengeance.

I can feel her pulling away a little, like she's unsure if she should trust me, which makes absolutely no sense at all. Nothing has happened between us to make her feel like that, we've been fine, better than fine. Life is going just peachy with a side of keen…two sides of keen, and yet something's got her on edge. What that might be is a total mystery to me.

I'm trying to give her some more time, but I'm not sure how much longer I should wait. I don't want to pressure her, but I don't want her to deal with whatever she's dealing with all by herself either. She doesn't need to do that. I want to be there for her, and I want her to let me be without making it a big fight every time.

I suppose it doesn't really matter how we go about it. What matters is that we get the problem taken care of, not who goes first or does what.  Because my relationship with Faith is the best one I've ever had and I'm not planning on losing it any time soon. Not to her overdeveloped sense of guilt, not to her demons past and present, and not to anything else I just haven't thought of yet.

Whatever this is, we'll work it out. And it's not like I can't give her some more time to sort out her thoughts and feelings. She's got a lot to deal with, I just wish she'd let me in a little easier than she does.

Still, we do okay. I just need to chill and be a little more patient, just find my inner peace or my chi or my something stupid like that. In the time it takes for me to align my chakras, surely Faith will be ready, and if she's not, I will be.        

You run yourself ragged tryin' to be strong
You feel bad when you're doing nothin' wrong

Love got all confused with anger and pride
So much abuse on such a little child

Someone you trusted told you to shut up
Now there's a pain in your gut that you can't get rid of

No one heard your screams when you were nine
When bad dreams filled your summertime

So you don't always show your sweet side
You don't always show your sweet side
You don't always show your sweet side
You don't always show your sweet side

You're tough as steel and you keep your chin up
You don't ever feel like you're good enough

You had the blues ever since you were six
Your little tennis shoes and your pick-up-sticks

You were screamed at and kicked over and over
Now you always feel sick and you can't keep a lover

Every Christmas there were presents to unwrap
But the things you witnessed when you were five and a half

So you don't always show your sweet side…

Someone deserted you, the damage is done
Now you don't deserve to be loved by no one

Hands that would feed you when you were two
Were the same hands that beat you black and blue

You get defensive at every turn
You're overly sensitive and overly concerned

Few precious memories, no lullabies
Hollowed out, centuries of lies

So you don't always show your sweet side…

I've seen you in the kitchen cookin' me supper
I've listened to your bitchin' and I've watched you suffer

I still love you baby `cause I know you
Don't mean to do the cruel things you do

I've seen you sewin' buttons on your shirt
I've seen you throwin' up when your stomach hurt

I stick by you baby through thick and thin
No matter what kinda shape you're in

`Cause I've seen your sweet side
I see your sweet side…

-Sweet Side - Lucinda Williams



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