The sounds of the latest battle were drifting back into silence as the Slayers stood alone once again. They had been out in the night for just over an hour and it had been nonstop action the entire time. They were on a specific mission, but due to all of the unusual activity, it was taking them twice as long to reach their destination.
"Damn B, what's with the shitstorm tonight?"
"I have no idea, but it sure is fun!"
"Yeah, 'specially with our Slayer radio turned on."
Buffy's smile couldn't have been any bigger.
"Hearing you yell 'duck' in my head, then watching you behead that demon sneaking up behind me…It was so totally sexy."
"Glad you didn't think: 'Donald' or 'Daffy'?"
"I love that we can hear each other's thoughts now."
Faith looked nervous, although she tried to hide it.
"Wicked cool...Good to have some boundaries too though."
"Yes Faith, I know. I signed the privacy agreement, didn't I?"
"Yeah, eventually. Thought I was gonna have to lawyer up."
Buffy rolled her eyes:
"You got your way, but you can kiss the prenup goodbye."
Faith took her by the hand and dragged her along:
"Guess you're gonna take me for millions then."
"Count on it, F. Everything you own is going to be mine."
"Already is, B."
Buffy pulled her back to deliver a quick peck to her cheek.
"You are so sweet…and that is also very true."
Faith grinned and started walking again, holding tight to Buffy's hand. There were no more attacks and in just a few minutes they'd arrived at the desired location.
"Think this is it, but where's the… Gotcha, fucker!"
Faith pointed to the landmark.
"There's the busted down tree, just like Red said."
Buffy's response was way less than enthusiastic:
Faith let go of her and began examining the area.
"And here's their mark. Definitely the right cave."
Faith looked at her:
"Hey c'mon, B. Not like I'm not too fond of caves either."
"Yeah. So how many did Will say there were?"
"Least twelve, probably more."
Buffy blew out a big breath:
"Yeah, it's a lot. Tell ya what B…you hang here so ya don't get hurt, and I'll handle it all by myself."
"That's still not funny."
"Okay look…gimme your word you'll stay put and I won't slug ya."
Buffy raised her axe menacingly:
"You keep it up and I'm going to slug you."
"Alright, Slayer, so what's your plan?"
"I think we should wait for some back-up."
"Already here, luv."
He emerged from the shadows, a cocky smirk on his face.
"Yes, I knew that, Spike. I was going for dramatic effect."
"Oh, sorry. Wasn't privy to the inner workings. Start over?"
"Hey, you guys wanna flirt on your own fuckin' time? Like to get home, got a hot date."
Buffy's face went all dreamy in a second:
"You are just so..."
"Can barely wait myself, Dark One."
Faith's surprise was evident, then the realization rapidly crossed her face.
"Shit , I forgot! 'Babylon 5'! That tonight, Junior?"
"It is. Still fancy a spot of company, yeah?"
"She has company. I'm all the company she nee…"
"Hell, yeah! S'posed to show a shitload of outtakes and bloopers too!"
Buffy stood there totally ignored like the third wheel she suddenly was.
"Brilliant! Hate it when they don't include extras. Like they don't give a piss about us real fans."
Buffy's aggrieved sigh was barely audible over the sound of Faith and Spike's exuberant high five.
"I guess I can hang out with Willow while you two watch some lame TV show."
"'Lame'? 'B-5's' a fuckin' classic!"
"Whatever. Let's go slay so you two can go be bigger nerds than Xander."
Buffy had never seen either of them look so horrified:
"Jesus, what the hell were we thinkin'? Gotta have Xander!"
"Absolutely. Not gonna be right without Master Carpenter!"
Buffy spoke sadly:
"My quiet, romantic evening is dying right in front of my eyes."
Faith turned to her:
"Me. You. Plans. Romance."
"Oh…uh...yeah, we had plans."
"Yes, we did, and it's nice of you to finally remember."
The look on her face made Buffy wish she had a camera. It was the perfect mixture of guilt and disappointment, disappointment she was doing her very best to hide.
"Yeah, okay, B. So I guess I'll pass up the biggest thing TV's ever seen, just so we can spend some time together."
"You will? Oh Faith, you're so good to me. It's sounds just perfect, thank you, baby."
All was quiet…for about ten seconds:
"Fuck B, c'mon! It's 'Babylon 5', you can't be serious!"
"It's a once in a lifetime thing, leastways this year. I can't…"
"…miss it! I gotta see it! Please, B?"
"Gotta get it firsthand, not like I can watch it later and…"
Buffy's yell penetrated Faith's rising hysteria.
"Of course you can watch it, I was just kidding."
"You were? Really, B?"
"Yep, you can make it up to me later."
Faith hugged her almost violently.
"You're the fucking greatest!"
She kissed Buffy, then readied her weapon:
"Well c'mon, you guys! Let's kill these assholes, grab Xander, and head home!"
Then she was off and running full speed into the cave, forcing Buffy and Spike to hurry after her.
"Faith, wait up! A little caution might be good here!"
"Bit excitable when it comes to caves, isn't she? Just goes all pell-mell. We s'posed to wait here 'til the screamin' starts?"
"That's still not funny, Spike."
"Well, sorta is."
"Besides, you're the one who got her all pell-melly in the first place and ruined my quiet night."
"Sorry, Slayer, but it is a classic."
They finally caught up with Faith who was already in the middle of a fight that was quickly picking up steam. Buffy killed the first demon that rushed her, talking the entire time:
"Why you'd want to watch that stuff…Don't we see plenty of it every night?"
"You know: monsters, demons, blood, guts…Hello, are you two in there?"
"B, 'B-5's' sci-fi, not horror."
"There's a difference? Whatever."
Faith yelled out:
"Ow! Fuckin' bastard."
A head rolled past Buffy's leg.
"B, it's way different."
"Yeah, apples and oranges, Slayer."
Buffy spun, slashing a charging demon almost in half.
"And again I am all with the 'whatever'."
"Stop sayin' 'whatever', B…Shit! Little back-up'd be nice now!"
Buffy decapitated one of the two demons Faith was struggling with, and she quickly killed the other herself as she turned to Buffy.
"B, this is important. Ya can't keep running around mixin' up…"
Buffy ducked as an axe whizzed past overhead, stopping the demon who'd been charging her in its tracks. Faith tossed her own axe into another demon, then grabbed the handle of Spike's, pulling upwards as she turned. The demon sliced neatly and grossly in half.
"…two separate deals. Hahaha! 'Two separate'…get it, B? Anyways, gotta know the diff so…"
"So what? I'll be able to communicate with any geek I meet?"
Buffy leapt into the air as two demons converged on her, spinning into a somersault that landed her safely off to the side. Faith used the now free axe to lop off both of their heads with one swing.
"Yeah! Gettin'em two for one over here, Junior."
"That's lovely…Think I could get my bloody axe back? Bit weaponless now."
"Oh fuck, sorry. On our way!"
Faith took point, knocking demons off balance and into the sharp blade of Buffy's axe. When she reached Spike, she buried his weapon into a demon who seemed to be trying to rip the vampire's head from his shoulders.
Spike sprung to his feet, his grin not obscured by the blood oozing down his cheek, and punched the remaining demon hard in the face. It went reeling back into the cave wall, apparently dazed.
"Swelling better be gone in thirty so I can see the telly properly."
The demon roared and charged, but Buffy grabbed it before it had managed to take a full step. They exchanged a series of vicious blows while Faith and Spike simply watched with appreciation, and then Buffy managed to snap its neck with a powerful twist.
"All I'm saying is that it's a little on the embarrassing side to know two people who think it's life altering to know the 'diff' between sci-fiction and horror."
Faith froze in the middle of retrieving her axe:
"What the hell?! Did you just say 'sci-fiction'?!"
"She bloody well did!"
"Why, is that wrong?"
That look of horror was back on their faces, and Buffy had no idea what she'd said that was so awful.
"You're kiddin' us, right , B?"
"I don't get it, what did I say?"
Faith ripped her axe from the dead demon.
"Oh fuck me…B!"
"What did I say?"
"Dark One, how the hell you put up with…Whoa mate, party's over."
A demon charged from the cave depths, only to have Spike decapitate it with very little effort.
"Lost his head, he did."
Spike and Faith stood side by side, laughing together and high-fiving like his joke wasn't the lamest thing Buffy had ever heard.
"So what was ya sayin', Junior?"
"Was wonderin' how you put up with the Slayer."
"It ain't easy, trust me."
A new wave of demons poured out of the blackness at the back of the cave.
"Aw, fuck. Who are these guys?"
"I say we let the blighters go. Already taught'em a lesson, right and proper."
"Yeah B, we don't got time for this shit. Can always come back tomorrow and…"
Buffy's voice was all steel:
"Tonight. It's our job."
One glance said it all and Faith turned to face their new opponents.
"This fuckin' sucks!"
"It's not my bloody job. Fact is, I'm s'posed to be fightin' with'em."
"Well William, I guess we all have our crosses to bear."
He sliced a demon across the throat, and as it staggered back from him, Faith cut off its head. She shoved the body into two approaching demons causing them to lose their balance, and Buffy dealt each a fatal blow before they could recover.
"That some kind of threat, Slayer?"
"Fuckin' destiny sucks!"
"'Cause that's a pretty low blow, even for you. Maybe I'll just head home for a cuppa, leave you two birds to…"
Buffy was at the end of her patience:
"Would you two please shut up and concentrate?!"
They answered togther:
"We are the One."
"What? That doesn't even make sense…OW!"
She punched a demon in the face, then spun in the same motion to grab the one holding onto her. She tossed it over her shoulder into a wall and Spike quickly eviscerated it with one powerful slice.
"Look at it this way: The faster you two quit fooling around, the faster you can get to 'Dorkfest, the Sunnydale Edition'."
They both grinned.
"Good point, B!"
"Yeah, finally makin' sense, Slayer."
"Then can we please get to work?"
"What we're here for, pet."
The battle picked up as the demons kept coming, and the good guys had their hands full. When they finally had things under control again, Buffy decided to make Faith even happier:
"And you can stop with all the scheming. Dawnie can skip her punishment and watch too."
"Ow! Bloody hell, that hurt! Need an assist."
Faith yanked a demon off of him and hurled it back towards Buffy. She killed it with barely a glance and moved on to the last demon left standing.
Again Faith and Spike stood back, watching with admiration and pride as their favorite Slayer did her thing.
"Good news, Junior! B says Squirt can watch too!"
"Now we're talkin'! Nibblet loves 'Babylon'!"
"Yep, it's all five by five. Been tryin' to think of a way I could get B to let Dawnie into the mix and…Buffy Summers! That's a total 'Privacy Agreement' violation!"
Buffy stabbed the last demon through the heart, then did a fancy back flip with a twist, landing right in front of Faith. She kissed her and when she pulled away, her smile was the smile of a smartass.
"Yeah, it is. I guess it ain't easy, F. Better call a lawyer."
Willow stretched and yawned. She loved waking up early when the house was quiet and there was no apparent danger lurking on the horizon. She let her mind drift to thoughts of Tara as it always did first thing in the morning, every morning. She smiled despite the ache that was still with her. Tara…
She was gone, but not from Willow's heart. There she was ever present, so present Willow doubted there would ever be space for anyone else. That thought made her sad. She didn't want to be alone for the rest of her life, and she knew without any doubt that Tara wouldn't want that for her either.
Ideally, what Willow wanted was what her best friends had found for themselves: someone to love and build a life with. The problem was that she had no idea how to find that special someone she could love. It was hard to deal with, wanting something that seemed so far beyond her reach…especially when for her there was only Tara, and Tara was never coming back.
Willow tried hard not to dwell on what she didn't have and to concentrate instead on what she was able to call her own. She had friends who loved her, even after everything she'd done. She lived in the house that had always felt more like home to her than anywhere else, and she was surrounded by love and forgiveness and the people who wouldn't hesitate to give their lives for her.
Those were things to be treasured, the kind of blessings that most people never got, and Willow was grateful for it all. There was no sense in feeling sorry for herself; it didn't help anything and just made her feel worse…and Tara wouldn't want that for her either.
She was pulled from her gloomy reverie by the sound of laughter from the room next door. She knew what that sound meant, it meant Buffy was terrorizing Faith. Buffy, so not a morning person by any stretch of the definition, loved aggravating Faith as early as possible until she made her blow a gasket. She would just keep at it until…
"…fuckin' hell are you doin'?! Go away!"
Gasket blown, mission accomplished. Then all was quiet and Willow was pretty sure just how Buffy was making it up to Faith. They were so in love, and that thought never failed to make Willow smile. She was happy for them both and she loved the change in Buffy. She also loved Faith for being the one to make it happen.
Gone was the hard and increasingly distant version of her friend. Buffy was "Buffy" again: happy, relaxed, and fully engaged in life. She had finally found peace and security and no one deserved it more.
The laughter began again, and then the sounds of a struggle spilled out into the hallway:
"Fuck you, B. Let ya win."
"You are such a liar. I can take you any time."
"Yeah, right. Like I've never won."
"You haven't…not when it counted."
"So full of shit, B."
"Fine, name one time."
Willow listened, she could almost hear Faith's brain working feverishly for an answer.
"Ah, the loser's lame comeback."
"Lemme go and you'll see a comeback."
Buffy's voice was cocky and teasing, and it had to be irritating Faith to no end.
"Why? Can't the big bad Slayer get herself loose?"
"When I get outta this…"
"…it will be entirely up to me. You see, F…I own you."
The frustration was plain to hear in Faith's voice:
"Not even awake yet! No way is this fair."
"Aww…poor widdle, Faithy. She's being treated unfairly. Wah! What a little crybaby you are."
"I am so gonna kill ya."
"Hmmm…maybe, but not today."
"Yeah? Well better start prayin' now 'cause when…..Mmm, that's cheating, B."
"No, that's 'kissing', F."
Faith's moans were easily audible despite her attempts to stifle them.
"B…gotta stop doin' that…"
"Okay, I'll just head over to the other side now."
Buffy hit every sensitive spot on Faith's neck.
"Shhh…you're going to wake everybody up."
"Well if you'd…Jesus…if you'd stop…Fuck!"
"Now Faith, you know I don't like to call it that."
"Will you just get me off…I mean, get off me!"
Buffy's laughter rang out:
"See? You do have a one-track mind. Now if you would have just admitted that at the beginning, this little show of force wouldn't have been necessary."
"You are such a bitch."
"Uh-oh. I was going to let you up, but that comment tells me you need a severe attitude adjustment first."
"B c'mon, we're layin' in the hall! Would you knock it off 'fore Squirt hears?"
A slightly muffled voice could be heard clearly:
"Too late! Could you guys get back in your room?"
"I'd like to Dawn, but Faith refuses to budge."
"Squirt, she won't let me up…Help!"
"Right. Like I need the image of you two playing some weird sex game burned on my retinas."
"Yeah F, stop trying to corrupt my baby sister. Besides, why should a big strong Slayer like yourself need reinforcements?"
"Okay B, been a real barrelful of monkeys. Now wanna…"
"Morning, ladies. Was wonderin' who wants French toast?"
Dawn shot out of her room, leaping over the prone Slayers with a fair amount of grace:
"Count me in!"
"Always do, Nibblet."
He smiled affectionately at her, giving her a small squeeze.
"Hey, little fuckin' help down here!"
Spike and Dawn ignored the Slayers completely.
"Question is: does the Witch wants some?"
Willow came out of her room, fastening her robe:
"Yep, place me in the 'hugely wanting' column."
"Then all 'round, is it? Right! So who's gonna make it?"
Willow slugged him lightly on the arm.
"Spike, you're the one who's asking if we want some!"
"Askin', not offerin'. 'Sides, we all know you make it best…C'mon, Will."
She looked at him and rolled her eyes.
"Okay, fine, I'll make it. You're unbelievable, Spike."
"Yeah, am quite somethin', aren't I?"
Faith tried again:
"Excuse me, anybody notice I'm pinned to the fuckin' floor by this maniac?!"
Willow barely spared her a glance:
"We noticed, we were just trying to give you two some privacy."
"Ha ha. Real funny, Red. Buffy?"
"Hmm…yes, I thought it was amusing."
"No, I meant get off!"
Spike immediately clamped his hands over Dawn's ears.
"Hey, not in front of the Nibblet here! What's the matter with you?"
Dawn struggled to keep the grin from showing on her face:
"Yeah, you guys…Get a room!"
With that, the three of them went laughingly downstairs, and Buffy turned her full attention back to her prisoner.
"All alone at last. Now where was I?"
"Drivin' me nuts."
"That's right! Let me get back to it."
Buffy mercilessly tormented every spot she could reach, and it wasn't long before Faith was moaning and struggling to break loose.
"Okay, here's the deal: I'll let you up and we'll go downstairs and peacefully enjoy a delicious breakfast."
"Suppose that could happen…in some other reality."
Buffy shook her head sadly:
"I was afraid of that. Well, the second option is that we stay here forever."
To emphasize her point, Buffy's mouth explained it all to Faith's breast right through her tank top.
"Shit! Gotta be a third option."
"I could let you go and run like hell."
"Fuckin' right you better run."
"God, you are such a grouch in the morning. You know what I think it is? I think you're getting up on the wrong side of the bed."
"Ya do, do ya?"
Buffy delivered a soul searing kiss, complete with a seductive swaying of her hips that drove Faith right out of her mind.
"…Give ya a head start."
"Thanks, I appreciate…No, wait, I think I'm gonna go with option # 2."
"Get comfy, F. I sure am."
After some serious negotiations, the Slayers decided to go with Option # 4 which consisted of wild, passionate sex in their bedroom. They dozed back off, then got up and enjoyed a relatively calm and kept warm breakfast.
When they were done eating like pigs, Faith went off to take a shower, and when she came back downstairs, she found Buffy and Willow hard at work in the kitchen. Buffy smiled when she saw her:
"Wow, you look nice. Are you going out?"
"Yeah B, I got somethin' I need to do."
"Do you want some company?"
"Yeah, but I gotta do it by myself."
Buffy tossed the towel on the counter and walked over to her. Her arms encircled Faith's waist, pulling her closer.
"Is everything okay?"
"Five by five."
Buffy's eyebrows rose when she heard the familiar expression, and Faith hurried to explain:
"No, for real. I'm just a little wired, but I'm good."
"So why are you so nervous?"
"It's just…I shoulda done this a long time ago."
"Are you sure you don't want me to tag along?"
Faith grinned and kissed her lightly on the forehead:
"Always want ya taggin' along, B, you know that. But this is a solo mission, okay?"
"I'll tell ya all about it when I get home."
Buffy reached up and caressed her face.
"I'll be here."
"Won't take more than a coupla hours."
"Take as long as you need, I'll still be here."
Buffy started to return to her post, but Faith grabbed her by the arm and hauled her back. She kissed Buffy passionately, lovingly, and when they broke apart, she didn't let Buffy go far.
"I love you, B."
"I know that, and I think I'm starting to feel something for you too."
Faith laughed and released her.
"What about me, Faith?"
Faith turned towards the sink.
"Course I love you too, Red…'specially since you're doin' the dishes. You clean the bathroom, promise I'll drop B just like that."
Buffy smacked Faith hard on the shoulder as Willow responded:
"Ooh, be still my heart."
"Trust me, Red…I come after ya, ain't nothin' gonna be still on ya."
Willow flushed the reddest Buffy had ever seen her flush.
"F, stop picking on Will."
"She started it."
"Fine, I'll play all pussywhipped. See you sexy broads later."
She blew a kiss to them on her way out the door, and Buffy and Willow went back to doing the dishes.
"So Buff, that was a little on the mysterious side. I wonder where she's headed?"
"I think I know. There's one last thing she needs to do to put the past behind her."
Willow took the last pan from Buffy and began rinsing it.
"Oh. What does she need to do?"
"She still needs to make amends with someone."
"Here…I uh…I got you these. Squirt says they're your faves, and I'm thinkin' I need all the points I can get."
Faith laid the daisies gently on the grave.
"Know I shoulda been here a lot sooner, but I was scared. Kinda thinkin' maybe you're not too jazzed about everything."
She sat down, off to the side of the grave.
"Wow, sure got a nice view here. Way peaceful. I know everybody comes here all the time, B's asked me a shit…a lot, but I just couldn't. 'Sides, thought the first time at least, we oughta be alone."
She turned to look at the headstone:
"Wanna start by apologizin'. You were nothin' but good to me, and I repaid ya by hurting you and everybody you cared about. And the truth of it is, if B hadn't come in when she did…God…I woulda…"
Her voice broke and it took her a few minutes to compose herself.
"Still remember when I first met you. You were like some mom out of a book or somethin'. Nothing like nobody'd I'd ever seen in real life, couldn't believe how nice you were. I could see right off how much you loved your girls, but fu…It was hard to believe what I was lookin' at, ya know?"
She tilted her head back to feel the sun on her face.
"Helluva way to repay your kindness. Guess there's no point in doin' the big rehash, both know what went down. I just wanted you to hear me say how sorry I am for all of it. Got no excuses, no good reasons either…I was just evil."
She turned to look at the headstone again.
"It's weird, but it's almost like I can hear ya, Mrs. Summers. Wishful thinkin', I guess, but stranger things have happened. Anyways, I never forgot what ya said when I was in B's body. Here all this crap had just gone down, I almost killed you, and all you had to say was you'd never believe I liked bein' like that. Said I must be horribly unhappy, and after everything I'd just put you through, I could still see the sympathy in your eyes…"
She sat silently for several moments.
"You were right on the money. No way was anybody more unhappy than me…Just want you to know that I love Buffy and I love Dawnie too, and I promise to make sure they get what they need to be happy."
Faith stared up at the sky, watching the clouds roll by.
"They sure are great people, real credit to you. You were a great mom, they're the proof of that. They both love you, still talk about ya all of the time. Hell, the whole gang does. Guess you were like a mom to all of'em…Screwed myself right out of that, didn't I?"
The breeze picked up and Faith adjusted the daisies.
"I'm hopin' wherever you are, you can see inside my heart. Don't want ya worryin' I'm gonna go nuts again and hurt your girls. I'm never gonna hurt'em again, I promise you that."
Faith felt the tears begin to fall, and she let them.
"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Summers, for all of it. Wish I could make it up to you somehow."
She stared off into the distance, crying softly.
"Crazy I know, but sure seems like I can hear you…I'm thinkin' where you're at the whole gay thing doesn't matter much, hopin' the homicidal maniac doesn't either."
She closed her eyes, but it wasn't long before she nodded.
"Yeah, I remember. Was the first second I saw her. Was killin' this vamp in an alley behind the Bronze, looked up, and there she was. I just saw her and knew. Craziest damn thing, love at first sight. Always figured it for a crock, but then there she was."
Her eyes opened, but she kept talking.
"She's so wonderful, can't believe I got so lucky. She saved me, gave me all the happiness I've ever known. I just feel so at peace when I'm with her, and she makes me feel like I'm somethin' good. Thinking that's all 'cause of the love you gave her, now she's spreadin' it around. Thanks, Mrs.…Okay, Joyce. That's tough enough, gotta work up to the other."
She rested her hand on the headstone, tracing out all of the words.
"Thought I'd start comin' here regular, just to talk and keep ya updated. I mean, if you're cool with it? Jesus, I'd think I'm goin' nuts, but it doesn't feel like that...How 'bout 'Mrs. S'? That's a good compromise. Maybe I oughta just shut up and let us enjoy the view."
Faith looked out across the rolling expanse of grass.
"Yeah, it's pretty. Sunshine like this always makes me think of B. She's all golden and warm, so beautiful… like sunshine. And when she smiles, it's like the whole world just lights up. She's so special, there's no one even close to her, ya know? Geez, course ya know. Okay, really pipin' down now for real, Mrs. S…"
Faith sat without speaking, but after a minute she laughed and a huge smile lit up her face.
"Cripes. Yeah, okay, you win. Can sure see where B gets her stubbornness from…Mom."
Buffy was ready to kill Faith and kill her dead. For three days she'd been bouncing off the walls with excitement, and she had driven Buffy right to the edge. Now the big day was finally here, and Buffy would never be happier to see Cordelia Chase in her whole life.
Cordelia was spending the week with them, no crisis, just a vacation, and Faith had literally been counting the minutes until she arrived. She had also been obsessively going over and over their preparations:
"B, she's got Red's room, right? Is it all ready? Red's okay with it, right? Fuck, is Squirt? They gotta bunk up for the whole week…Shit, maybe I shouldn't have asked'em to…"
"Faith! Please calm down. They're perfectly fine with it, in fact they're giddy about it. Everything's ready and everyone's fine. Just try to relax, please."
"You're right. Okay, totally chilled here...Shit, did we remember the Diet Dr. Pepper? That's her fave and she likes it with a shitload of ice!"
Then she was off and running to the refrigerator, and Buffy wanted to slam someone's head into a wall. At this point, either Faith's or her own would work equally well.
She watched from her spot in the chair as Faith ran to look out the front room window for the tenth time in the last sixty seconds, and she knew what was coming.
"Wasn't she s'posed to be here by now?"
Yes, Cordelia was dead now. Despite all of the grief she felt, it did make a nice change of conversation because Buffy had had her fill of discussing sleeping arrangements and the proper presentation of favorite sodas. She knew she was no expert on the topic, but she had heard that a shitload of ice was absolutely crucial, at least in classier circles.
"Faith, it's daytime and she's only four minutes late. Besides, it's Cordelia and she can more than handle…"
"Yeah, but we live on the freakin' Hellmouth, ya know?"
Buffy walked over to her and slipped her arms around Faith's waist from behind. She rested her chin on Faith's shoulder and kissed her softly on the neck as she spoke in her calmest voice:
"I think I've heard something about that, but I repeat: It's daytime, she's barely late, and she's Cordelia. She can take care of…"
Faith almost pulled Buffy's arms out of their sockets as she ran out of the house. At the speed she was going, Buffy half expected her to run right through the door leaving just an outline of herself behind, but Faith somehow managed to fling it open before she exited.
She watched through the window as Faith lifted Cordelia off her feet with the force of her hug, and Cordelia seemed just as excited as she returned Faith's embrace. Faith spun her around like she was never going to let her go.
Buffy was glad she was no longer the jealous type, because now Faith was carrying Cordelia into the house like she was royalty. She deposited her rather delicately onto the couch, then stood back beaming at her like she was the greatest thing since synchronized slaying.
"Thanks so much for letting me stay here all week."
"It's no prob…"
"Where the fuck else would ya stay? Family stays with family, right B?"
"Absolutely. Can I get you something to drink?"
Faith sat down on the couch next to Cordelia.
"Yeah Queen C, whatcha want?"
"Do you guys have any Diet Dr. Pepper?"
"Of course, let me get you some."
Buffy went into the kitchen to get the drink that signaled the official start of "Hell Week". She let out a deep breath and said a silent prayer that she could make it out alive. God, Cordelia in her house for one full week. Seven never ending days and nights of sheer…
"Excuse me Buffy, could I have ice with that?"
"Yeah B, load'er up!"
"No problem!...A shitload of ice coming right up."
"Buffy, can you bring me a root beer?"
"Me too! Squirt's got a good idea!"
Buffy pulled out two bottles of root beer.
"Buffster, is there any ginger ale?"
"Yep, Prince Charming has arrived!"
Buffy couldn't help but roll her eyes.
"Anya, what would you like?"
"Just bottled water, but only if it's…"
"We only buy the kind you like, and I know how many…"
"…Fiji with seven ice cubes!"
"…cubes. Yes, thanks so much for the info, Anya!"
"You're very welcome, Buffy, and thank you for the refreshment!"
Buffy banged her head against the refrigerator.
"Buff, was that a 'yea' or 'nay' on my ginger ale?"
"The word was 'yea'!…although a few others are springing to mind."
Willow yelled out next:
"Buffy, Cordelia's here!"
"Yes, I know! Do you want something to drink?"
"Coke girl, here! I mean, 'cola', not 'caine!"
"Got it!...Boy, it's a shame no one called Giles over for a spot of tea."
She did a double take as he entered through the kitchen door:
"That sounds lovely, Buffy. Thank you."
"Giles? What are you…"
"I rode along with Xander and Anya and forgot Willow's books in the car."
He smiled at her as he kept moving:
"Right, off to see Cordelia."
She went over the order as she put the teakettle on:
"Okay, Diet Dr. Pepper for Cordelia, two root beers for…"
"Slayer, mind heating up…"
"No problem, Spike."
He shut the basement door and headed into the living room.
She heard laughter from the group as she poured the pig's blood into his Arsenal mug and placed it in the microwave. She walked into the dining room so she could actually make out the words that had everyone so amused.
Cordelia was in the middle of some story about how Faith and Angel had chased after the wrong demon for two days, and Buffy snuck a peek at Faith. She was smiling and laughing, and she looked like she was all of five years old. She was just radiating happiness, and Buffy stood looking at her until the kettle began whistling and the microwave began beeping.
If anyone had told her when she was in high school that she would one day love Cordelia Chase, well, she would have still been laughing. Although she couldn't say she liked her, if Cordelia could make Faith look like that…she was getting extra ice and anything else she wanted all week long, courtesy of one incredibly grateful Buffy Summers.
It was the last night of Cordelia's vacation, and Buffy had to admit it hadn't been that bad after all. The two of them had gotten along just fine, and Faith had been deliriously happy all week. It was easy to see what a great friend Cordy was to her, and it was obvious that they understood and adored each other. Buffy loved seeing Faith so happy and carefree…Yep, it had been a very good week.
Buffy was currently in the living room gathering some stakes for the evening patrol, and Cordelia was ensconced on the sofa waiting patiently for Faith to appear. They were headed out for a night of fun, and Buffy was covering any and all Slayer business that might arise. She was ready to go, but she was determined to keep Cordelia company and provide some small talk first…just like a good hostess should.
Faith was still in the shower scrubbing off the dirt from their special late afternoon mission, and Buffy was feeling a tad bit guilty about the delay. She herself was already sparklingly fresh, thanks to the thorough cleaning Faith had given her. Buffy was clean, so clean a person could eat off of her, and they had…twice.
But two Slayers sharing a shower together after a tough slay, although fun for the Slayers, was not exactly conducive to finishing quickly…not the shower at any rate…and yet Buffy had insisted they double up, knowing full well what the consequences would be. The end result was an extra long wait for Cordelia, and Buffy was going to do her duty and make with the time killing small talk, even if it killed them both.
"It was good to have you here."
"I really appreciate you guys inviting me."
"So um…how are things…you know, in your life?"
"They're good, Buffy. How about you?"
"They're great, the greatest."
They were uncomfortably quiet for a few moments, and then Cordelia took a stab at it:
"Faith is certainly happy."
"Faith is wonderful."
"Yeah, she sure is."
"We still don't like each other, do we?"
"Okay, just checking."
They were quiet again, and this time Buffy went first:
"We do love Faith though."
"It's definitely ground of the common."
"But each other?"
"Not so much."
They both smiled.
"Cordy, do you think it's just some dumb leftover high school thing?"
"It sure sounds like something we'd do."
"Yeah, it really does."
"You're nothing but good for her."
Buffy's smile got even bigger:
"Thanks. It's the same with you and Angel."
"Well, that's something then."
Cordelia's eyes sparkled as she grinned:
"And hey, who knows. Maybe one day…"
"…we'll maybe like each other."
"Let's not hold our breath though."
"It's not high on my list of 'likelys'."
They were quiet again, but this time the silence was completely comfortable.
"So are you patrolling alone tonight?"
"Nope, Spike's coming with."
"Good. Hey, want to join us later?"
Buffy stood and stretched:
"Thanks, but no. It's your last night here, you guys should be alone."
"Okay, but if you change your mind…"
"Don't worry, Spike will keep me busy."
"I like him a lot."
"Yeah, he's great."
Buffy bent down to re-tie her shoes.
"Buffy, is there something going on between him and Willow?"
"Willow, your best friend."
"Um, this just in, Cordy: Will's gay."
"Right, and you're straight."
Buffy stood up, her eyes not really seeing as she thought about it.
"True…but no, they're just friends and big pains in the butt to each other."
"If you say so. He's really sexy though."
"Not going to get an argument from this girl."
"Oh right, I forgot."
Buffy checked her weapons.
"Okay, I should get out there. You guys have fun tonight."
"Oh please, if I can get her to go five minutes without singing your praises, it'll be a miracle."
"She does seem to like me."
"That's for sure…Um…Buffy? Are you really going to wear those pants?"
Buffy looked down at her legs, her face furrowed with concern:
"Why? What's wrong with…You're kidding me, aren't you?"
The look in Cordelia's eyes gave her away, even though her face looked completely serious.
"Yes I am, Buffy."
"It always makes Faith laugh."
"I guess maybe I should too."
"Oh no, I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself."
"Say 'goodnight', Cordy."
"Goodnight, Cordy. And don't worry, Buffy, I'll keep her safe."
Buffy looked her in the eye:
"I've got no doubt about that. Cordelia…thank you, for everything. There's really no way I can ever repay you, but I want you to know you're always welcome here."
"…You love her, that's more than enough repayment for me."
They were both choked up and Cordelia decided to lighten the mood:
"But boy, that's some reward: an offer to visit the Hellmouth whenever I want to."
Buffy hugged her and placed a kiss on her cheek:
"Yep, all complete with a shitload of ice."
"How can I resist?"
Faith came downstairs a few minutes later looking ready for a night on the town.
"Sorry, Cor. Took a little longer than usual."
"Sometimes women are like that."
Faith grinned at her:
"Yeah, well, all ready now. You?"
"Yep, I'm good to go. But are you sure you can handle being separated from Buffy for a whole five or six hours?"
"Wow, you're so funny tonight."
Cordelia stood up and put her jacket on.
"You know, I've seen some extremely in love people, but nobody as whipped as the two of you."
"Hey, can I help it she can't get enough?"
"Uh-huh, clearly the whip is swinging both ways."
Faith's face got that totally smitten look Cordelia was used to:
"Isn't she somethin', Cordy?"
"You know what? She really is. I was wrong about her, I just didn't get it before, but I definitely do now. She's special, Faith."
"I know. She's so cool and so fuckin'…"
"Hold it right there! Separate time's not 'separate' if you talk about her all night."
Faith struggled to snap back to the present:
"Okay, yeah, you're right."
"Duh, Cordelia Chase here."
"So where we headed?"
"It's your town now, you tell me."
"Know a coupla joints we could hit."
"I'm game for whatever."
Faith lit up with excitement.
"Great! Just lemme grab my sap."
"Hey, no more 'Buffy' talk."
"Damn, still rockin' the funny. Be right back."
She turned to run upstairs, but Cordelia's voice stopped her:
"She really loves you. The way she looks at you, the way she makes you feel…I like her way more than I ever thought possible. You absolutely struck gold with her."
Faith smiled happily:
"She really is fucking awesome, Cordy."
"She really is."
"Okay, hold on a sec."
Then she was pounding up the stairs to get her sap, and Cordelia had to laugh. What kind of woman was she friends with?
Faith didn't bother with the last few steps and just leapt to the floor.
"Now this first place we're gonna hit, you gotta pretend you're my girlfriend if we wanna get in."
"Oh boy. You know, I've heard about lesbians like you, always trying to convert every straight woman you see."
"Just the hot ones. C'mon Cordy, I only need two more of ya, then I get the toaster."
"One kiss only and no tongues. And be careful of my face, I just spent a week's salary on it."
"Ya mean like a facial? B just did one of them cheap home deals. Money's good now that Giles got those Council pricks to start forkin' over some dough, but B figures why waste it? Not like she even needs one anyway."
Cordelia saw that the totally smitten look had returned, so she decided to have some fun:
"Oh no you didn't!"
"Did you just imply that Buffy looks better than I do?"
"Me? No, course not! C'mon, you're Queen C, everybody knows the score."
"Well I'm glad to hear that, because you can explain it all to Buffy before I leave tomorrow. I want everybody clear on this."
"What?! …I mean, yeah, cool…I can…um, that's no problem, ya know? I..."
Cordelia watched with amusement as Faith's face turned every color imaginable. There was nothing funnier than watching her try to lie…but it was time to let her off the hook.
"You Faith, are the worst liar. How you ever thought you could pull off being a double agent for the Mayor, well, there's all the proof you need that you were crazy. No wonder Buffy saw right through you."
"Hey, can I help it if I'm better at bein' a straight shooter?"
"'Straight'? Right. Let's get going, but I'm warning you: if I have to hear about her splendor more than five minutes every hour, I'm going to beat you silly and pick-up the first woman without a mullet that I see in this skank bar."
"Aw c'mon Cordy, you know how much I love ya."
"Yes I do, and that's all that saves you. God, I wish you had a brother. One with your looks, but a lot more money than you…and a decent car…and beachfront property…Oh well, at least you've got a sap."
"And she's really somethin', Cor."
The phone rang, jarring Buffy out of a sleep she'd just happily fallen into. As she rolled over to answer it, she glanced at the clock: 3:23 a.m.. Her heart sped up. At this hour, it could only be bad news.
"Hey, it's me."
"Angel, what's wrong?!"
"'Wrong'? Nothing's wrong, why do you…Oh Buffy, I'm sorry. I was doing paperwork and lost track of the time. I got bored so I thought I'd just call and say: 'Hi'."
"Well 'hi', and thanks for the death scare."
"Sorry. So how's everyone doing?"
She got her pillows arranged and leaned back.
"Great. Faith and Cordelia are still out, I guess they're really tying one on. Maybe even two."
"Glad they're having fun. Cordy really misses her, so do I."
"Faith misses you guys too…You can't have her back though.'
"Figured that was out of the question. You sound good."
Buffy snuggled in further, pulling the covers around her.
"I am the best ever. The very best of the best. I love her so much, Angel, she's changed everything for me."
"I'm happy you two finally worked it out."
"It wasn't easy, was it?"
"No, but then it never is with complicated people."
"You should talk."
"I am, Buffy."
Buffy stared at the phone for a second.
"Oh my God, was that a joke? It was lame, but it was a joke and a smartass one at that. Oh Angel, you're getting a sense of humor!"
"Faith and Cordy have been giving me lessons."
"Two excellent teachers, for sure."
"Anyway…Faith is so happy, Buffy, and it's all thanks to you."
Buffy shook her head even though he couldn't see it:
"Actually, it's all thanks to you. I should have said this before now, but better late than never, right?"
"Buffy, I've told you, you don't need to…"
"Not this time, Mister. I'm saying it."
He sighed, resigned to finally letting her speak her peace.
"I've never really thanked you properly for not giving up on her. I'm not sure how I'd do that exactly…maybe throw a parade in your honor?"
"I hate parades."
She ignored him.
"Angel, If it wasn't for you, I never would have given her another chance…there wouldn't have even been anyone to give that chance to. You saw the 'real' her, and you never gave up. You're responsible for all of this, and I can never thank you enough."
She knew he was embarrassed, but she didn't care. It was all true and he needed to hear it.
"You don't have to thank me, Buffy, you know that. I guess it just helped that Faith and I have some things in common."
"You know, I've noticed that."
"She's just amazing and…"
"See? One of the things you two share."
"…she deserves to be happy."
"Another 'share' thing."
He cleared his throat.
"You deserve to be happy too, Buffy."
"That's good, because I am, and I'm not planning any changes any time ever."
He smiled because she was funny and cute and Buffy.
"You know Angel, this could have been so awkward at best, but you never once…"
"I'm a big believer in fate, and it was pretty clear right from the start that you two felt something for each other. Every instinct I had told me she was competition the second I saw you together. Then that night when you were dancing…Nobody goes at it with that much passion unless there's something there. If I had any doubts, those got cleared up in L.A. when she went to jail. It was obvious you were all she could think about."
"A lot of people say they saw it. I guess I was an idiot."
"Well, you did have a big handsome man clouding your view."
"No, Spike wasn't in the picture yet."
"Spike?! I meant…Oh, that was a joke, wasn't it?"
"Not my best, but yep."
He chuckled, but quickly became serious.
"So um…do you know if Cordelia's still coming home tomorrow? She doesn't have to, but the office just doesn't run right without her."
"She's coming home, but based on the fact that she's not here yet, I wouldn't expect her too early."
She could tell that was happy news because his voice lightened immediately.
"Whenever's fine, just curious."
"Just missing her, you mean."
"Well, the place is kind of dead without her."
"And Buffy's letting that joke potential fly by untouched."
Buffy laughed at his confusion:
"Never mind, too advanced for you right now. But you keep up with your lessons, maybe one day."
He carried on, used to feeling slightly bemused when it came to Buffy's sense of humor.
"So you don't think there's any chance Cordy's going to stay?"
"No, she's been talking about...L.A. way too much. Go ahead and take her, but you still can't have Faith."
"Would you mind asking Spike to come back with her? I've been calling him, but there's no answer."
"He's spending the night at Xander and Anya's. Some big renovation."
She could practically see the confused look on his face.
"Spike knows construction?"
"Nope, Xander needs him to hold up a wall."
"Is there a big thing going on?"
"Not really. I just kind of need him to hold up a demon wall for me."
"That's great! He's been complaining about how bored he's been lately, some demon killing will perk him right up…There will be killing, right?"
"Plenty of Gorlok demons for all."
"He'll be so happy."
"Speaking of being right…"
"We were? Who? When? Is it me? Am I right?"
He laughed again, leaning back to put his feet up on his desk.
"Yes, it's you. You were right about Spike."
"Well, I don't like to brag, but..."
"Know somebody for over a hundred years and they can still surprise you."
"He's a good man."
"Yes, he is…Wish he'd stop calling me 'Peaches' though."
Buffy laughed, picturing the scowl she knew was on Angel's face.
"He's a good man, Angel, but he's still Spike."
"Yeah I know, no mercy in sight."
She yawned loudly:
"It's my fault. You'd think a creature of the night would have this down by now."
"Oh well, nobody's perfect. I'll make sure to pass your messages along."
"Thanks. Can you add one more and tell Faith to give me a call? I haven't heard from her all week."
"I barely have either, that's why I'm so sure Cordy's leaving tomo…"
"What's that noise?"
Buffy got up and walked over to the window.
"That would be Faith and Cordy returning home."
"Are they screaming?"
"You say 'potato'. They're singing 'Like A Virgin' at the top of their lungs."
"Are they drunk?"
"That's what I'm hoping for. In her right mind, Faith hates Madonna, so she's either drunk or Madonna's done some sort of spell on her….which isn't all that farfetched when you think about it."
"What's wrong with Madonna? I've never heard any rumors about her."
Buffy' voice sounded amused:
"Now Faith can't find her key, even though I can see she's holding it in her right hand. Great, now Cordelia's yelling at her."
"What's she saying?"
"Listen for yourself."
Buffy had the window open and she held the phone out:
"DICK KOWN THE DUCKING FOOR!"
"I guess I'd better go, Angel."
"Oh yeah, loads of fun coming right up. Bye!"
He heard her trying not to laugh as she leaned out her window:
"Faith! Faith! You stop right there! Don't you dare kick that door…Faith! I mean it! Stop! I'll be right there! Do NOT kick down the door!"
He was nothing but amused when the call was finally disconnected. He could just see the scene that was now taking place in Sunnydale.
Faith and Cordy drunk, happy, irritating, and uncoordinated. Buffy doing her best to get them up the stairs and into bed. Faith telling her over and over and over again just how much she loved her. Buffy finally throwing one girl over each shoulder and trudging upstairs with them. Whether or not the front door was damaged, well, he figured that one was fifty/fifty.
He sat back and thought about Faith. She had a home now, a home with family and friends who loved her. She had someone who was head over heels in love with her, and always would be. She had a life now, a great one, and he could take some of the credit for that.
Reclining in the soft glow of his desk lamp, he knew that of all the things he'd done in his long life, this was the one that made him most proud. He'd helped Faith find her life and he'd helped Buffy find true love. He'd helped the Slayers find happiness, and he knew there wasn't a vampire dead or undead who could say that.
He'd refused to let Faith go because he'd seen something in her. He had fought for her and he had won, and she had become the person she was always meant to be. He'd done okay…Hell, he'd done good.
The smile on his face was huge…Now if Cordy would just come home, he'd be one wicked happy Soulboy.