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Buffy found the crossbow and arrow just where they'd stashed them. The warehouse was quiet…good news for Buffy, bad news for Faith. All she needed to do now was find the Cameris Stone, and thanks to the snooping around they'd already done, she knew exactly where it wasn't.

There really weren't that many options left when she thought back to Giles' hand drawn map of a standard warehouse. He had pointed out a few probable spots and using the process of elimination, Buffy believed  she had a pretty good idea of where she needed to go. Getting there undetected was a lot easier said than done because her injuries were making everything a chore: breathing, walking, moving, carrying a crossbow, all of it was so not fun.

She knew Willow and Dawn were safe by now, Faith would have let nothing stop that from happening. But what about Faith herself? She was probably fighting for her life and Buffy desperately wanted to reach out to her, but she didn't. She couldn't risk distracting Faith even for a second, the best thing she could do for them both was to focus on getting her own task completed.

She had to destroy the Stone, and she was only going to get one shot at it. She crept forward as carefully as she could when she saw the faint glow of firelight ahead. As she got closer, she saw the Stone shimmering and shining, seemingly with its own light.

Six exceedingly fit vampires were guarding it, a lot under even normal circumstances, and this was so very far from anything resembling "normal". There was no way she could engage them in hand-to-hand combat. Right now she wouldn't last ten seconds with Gachnar, so she was going have to take the shot from where she was.

She painfully maneuvered herself into position, loading the arrow made out of whatever Willow had conjured up to break stone. Paper covers rock, so evidently she had a paper arrow. She almost got the giggles, and she knew either the pain was making her crazy or she was using humor to lessen the tension in an "off the charts" tense situation. Most likely, it was both.

There seemed to be no good location to take the shot from. The guards were walking around and getting in the way, and the angle was all wrong. She shifted and then she had it: a clear sightline. Unfortunately, there was a little problem with that.

In order to have the right angle from which to take the shot, Buffy had to put all of her weight onto her broken ribs. She tried to take careful aim, but the pain had her sweat pouring into her eyes and her hands trembling violently. She could think of nothing but the pain and she couldn't stand it…She had to move.

She forced herself to stay right where she was. She closed her eyes and centered herself, digging as deeply as she could to find her strength. She cleared the pain from her mind, she cleared everything from her mind except:

"I am The Slayer."

She repeated it over and over in her head, and her hands steadied as the pain receded into the distance. She squeezed off the shot before she'd even opened her eyes, but the arrow's aim was true. It had no other choice because Buffy really was "The Slayer", and it collided dead center with its target.

The Cameris Stone blew into thousands of tiny pieces on impact, light and energy exploding outward. The two closest vampires were instantly incinerated, and the entire warehouse was briefly illuminated before once again falling back into darkness. Buffy heard the cries of rage and disbelief all around her.

"Slayer! Slayer, you will die for this!"

Maybe, but they had to catch her first, and she had no plans to make that easy for them. She just needed to avoid them long enough to…She was hit from behind and fell hard to her knees. Her ribs screamed in protest, but she did her best to ignore their complaints.

She rolled onto her back and lashed out with her legs, taking the vampire down with the force of her kick. She staggered awkwardly to her feet and ran, or more accurately, stumbled away.

"Get her, you fools! She's hurt!"

She turned a corner and slid into a gap between two crates – there was nothing like the old standards – and she watched as the vampires rushed past her. There were too many for her to count and Buffy knew Faith had no chance at all against that many, not by herself. And she would be by herself because Buffy wasn't going to be able to offer her any assistance, not when she was as injured as she was.

But that wasn't what she needed to be thinking about right now. Right now she needed to assess her current situation. She was relatively safe for the moment. She was wedged in, and they wouldn't be able to reach her easily. She could catch her breath and get ready to defend herself in the cramped space. Maybe it would work if she could just…

She was lifted by her hair and pulled from her hiding spot. The vampire grinned as he held her dangling aloft in the moonlight for a moment, then simply tossed her into the air. She twisted her body, frantically searching for a less painful way to land. There was none.

Buffy hit the concrete floor in a heap, actually seeing stars.

"Slayer, you will suffer greatly for your interference. Chain her!"

She struggled as she was hauled roughly to her feet. Her captors quickly lost patience with her attempts at resistance, and they punched her repeatedly. Her efforts grew more feeble, and as she lost consciousness, she prayed that Faith would stay away. Her last thought before sinking into unconsciousness was of snowballs in Hell.



As Buffy came to, she became aware of pain. Her arms were pulled up over her head, manacled to the ceiling in some little room. Her feet did not quite touch the floor, putting all of her weight heavily on her arms. It was an uncomfortable position at any time, but with several broken ribs, Buffy was in agony.

She could hear her labored breathing and she could feel it too. She didn't know how long she could stand it, but she had the feeling she was going to find out. She gathered all of her courage, braced herself, and pulled downward as hard as she could.

The chains didn't budge, but the pressure she put on her ribs caused her to cry out. The door opened almost immediately, and the head vampire and a few others strolled in.

"Slayer, how good of you to rejoin us at last."

"…Didn't want…to miss…a sec…ond."

"You've ruined everything. Our work of over two hundred years, all of our dreams, everything turned to dust because of you."

"So have…most…of you."

He hit her then, a blow to the face that sent her spinning around in the chains.

"We won't kill you slowly, Slayer. There is no word for how long we'll take. You will beg to die and still you will live on. When we decide to end your misery, I will drink your blood from our most sacred chalice."

"Heard…it's a…real…treat."

"Then I will turn you."

Buffy couldn't help the fear that swept over her at the thought.

"Hmm…I smell terror. Why does that frighten you? It would be a great honor, the first of your kind so defiled and the first female member in our ranks."

"Sounds…nice…but have…to be…on my way…now."

"Oh no, you can't run off. There's plenty of time before you're sired, and we all want to hear you scream and beg. And trust me Slayer, you're going to do nothing else."
He turned to his crew:

"Secure her legs, I want to see her face at all times."

Two vampires approached her and one made the mistake of getting a little too close. Yelling with the pain, Buffy swung her legs up and around his neck. She tightened her grip, and with a loud cracking noise, she twisted his head from his body.

He disintegrated as the others looked on in horrified shock.

"He was my favorite!"


He punched her in the ribs and she blacked out. When she came to, her legs were shackled with about five hundred chains each, and apparently it was true after all: a picture really was worth a thousand words, or in this case, a thousand chains.

The biggest problem with all of the overkill was that the added weight of the restraints was increasing her pain, and breathing was now becoming a serious issue.

"Not feeling too well, Slayer? Well, it's just the beginning."


"Do you think perhaps you could stop fainting all the time?"

"You know…how…us…girls…are."

He stood and approached her, his smile not the slightest bit friendly.

"Now, now, don't be modest. I want to see firsthand just how tough a Slayer really is, so while preparations are being made for, shall we say more 'creative' tortures, why don't we start off with a good old fashioned beating?"

"Not at…my…best but…think…I can…give…you…a good…one."

"Ah, a sense of humor, how delightful. Let's see how long you can keep it."



Buffy hung limply in her chains, the only sound in the room the excruciating gasp she emitted with each and every breath. She tried to reach out to Faith through their Slayer bond, but the pain prevented her from concentrating. In fact, the pain was quickly becoming her whole world, and it was not a good place to be.

She was alone for the moment, and she was thanking God for that small mercy. Francisco was a monster, and he really knew how to make it hurt . Buffy was wishing she could return some of it to him, but as that didn't seem likely any time soon, she instead tried to pull herself loose again.

The results were still the same. The chains didn't budge, she did Francisco's job for him and cried out, and they heard her and reentered the room. They were all smiles and fun and games, and this time they brought a device with them. She had no idea what it did, and not too surprisingly, she didn't want to know.

"Slayer, good morning! The sun will rise soon on what was to have been our Sacred Day. Instead our quest has failed because of you."

"Hold...your a…pplause."

"We will not stand in the sunlight, now or ever."


He grabbed her by her chin, squeezing hard where her jaw was already purple.

"What we do have however, is a new toy for you to play with."

"……Great…love pre...sents."

She put all of her being, everything that she was, into the promise she'd made to Faith. As she discovered what the new "toy" did, she recited her promise over and over in her head.

**Better hurry, F.**



Faith silently entered the warehouse. She was a little banged up…okay, she was  a lot banged up. She was bleeding in way too many places to count, she suspected she had a few broken bones, she was covered in vamp dust, and her clothes were hanging on her in tatters. She wasn't feeling a thing though, her whole focus was on Buffy.

She'd tried contacting her through their Slayer bond several times, but all she could sense through that was escalating torment. There was no way to break through it for now, so she let it go.

It wasn't as easy to navigate the warehouse unseen with the daylight fast approaching, but it was still a dark and shadowy building. She took her time and kept getting closer to Buffy; avoiding most of the guards and dusting the ones she knew she could silently take.

She wove around the crates, equipment, bodies, and other debris like a ghost, and when she finally found her, she hid far enough away to avoid detection, but close enough to hear what was going on. She clearly heard every word of the next exchange:

"Slayer, the pain you're feeling? It's nothing compared to ours. Two hundred and twelve years of searching, all gone because of you."


"No? Then let's start again, shall we?'

There was relative quiet for a while, and then Buffy was screaming.

It took every ounce of Faith's strength not to run to her, to just sit there hidden among the crates as she listened to Buffy's suffering. Faith knew she had to wait, it was their only chance, but it was the hardest thing she had ever had to do.

After a long time, the screaming stopped. Faith heard them laughing, then heard the slaps they delivered to bring Buffy back to consciousness.

"Slayer, could you please stop passing out? We're just getting to the good part and you're ruining it. Where's that legendary Slayer strength?"

The fact that Buffy's only response was a weak groan scared Faith shitless. Buffy was famous for her smartass comments no matter what was going down, and if she wasn't saying anything, she was in serious trouble.

Before Faith could really process this new information, Buffy was screaming again. Neither of them could take much more, but how much time had really passed? It felt like plenty, but Faith knew it wasn't enough and so she sat still.

Buffy's cries went on for a long time with barely a break in-between. Faith was crying too, the tears streaming down her face. She was also sweating profusely and starting to shake, and she knew she had to regain control of her emotions. Losing it was not going to help them…she had to toughen up and she had to do it right now.  She decided to wait for one more scream session, then she was going to make her move.

Now this was the part when most people would have had a problem with the whole 'no plan' thing. Not Faith. She had said at Giles' house that she was fine with everybody winging it, and now here it was.

It never entered her head to worry about the Scoobies. She was trusting them with Buffy's life and with her own, and she had no doubt that they'd be entering right on cue. She had no idea what they were going to do, no idea when they were going to do it beyond her own gut feeling, but she did know they'd be there in full force. They were rock solid, and there was no one else she wanted watching her back. They would be there and they would be ready.

Buffy started screaming again and Faith sprang into action. She threw two stakes at once through the open doorway, dusting two vamps from behind. She quickly flung a knife into the nearest vampire's throat, and he dropped to his knees gurgling as he tried to pull it free.

Warning cries went up, footsteps came running, and Faith slipped back into the darkness with her battleaxe at the ready. A couple of minutes passed before she heard the head guy calling out:

"Slaayer…Oh, Slaaayer…Come out, come out, wherever you are. I've got something here I think might belong to you."

She peered out from her hiding place to see Buffy being held by her neck, her feet dangling well off the floor. Her face and arms were smeared with blood that dripped as it made a gory puddle on the floor all too quickly.

Faith caught a flash of white on her arm…Jesus, was that bone?

"Slayer, don't you want this?"

He shook Buffy lightly to emphasize his point.


He licked some blood off of Buffy's cheek.

"Mmmm…you don't know what you're missing. She tastes delicious."

He took another swipe and laughed when he still received no response.

"Okay, maybe you don't have a visual. Let's try audio."

He punched Buffy in her ribcage and then twisted his fist. Faith could see how much it hurt, but Buffy was refusing to make a sound. How she was managing to do that, well Faith had no fucking idea, but doing it she was.

Her continuing silence pissed Francisco off, and he dug in deeper and deeper, finally forcing her to cry out at last.

"Boy, she sure is a stubborn one, isn't she? Alright, Slayer, come out now or she's going to be screaming non-stop."

Faith waited, each second precious.

"Here's how it works: I make her scream…"

Buffy yelled again.

"…and when I get tired of doing that, I start pulling her ribs out one by one. We can see how long it takes her to die."

Faith laid down her axe and stepped out into the open. The light from the nearby torches illuminated her all too clearly, not really a good thing.

"Hey, there you are! Take five steps forward and get down on your knees with your hands linked behind your head."

She moved forward, but she didn't drop to her knees.


Buffy groaned and looked at her:


Francisco was enjoying himself immensely:

"Oh Faith, do."

Once more he twisted his fist into Buffy and again she cried out. Faith instantly dropped to her knees with her hands linked behind her head.

"Very good. It's nice to see you can already follow simple commands. Now be a good bitch and don't bite while we put on your new leash and muzzle."

"Fuck you, Frankie."

He began running his hand up and down Buffy's side, making her gasp and flinch.

"Bad Slayer. Let's not forget who your master is."

Faith's jaw clenched visibly with her effort to remain quiet.

"That's a good girl. Bring the chains for my newest pet!"

Faith sent her thoughts to Buffy:

**B…B! Gotta suck it up one more time. When it happens, get his hands off you and get clear. Can ya do it?**

**Sounds like I have to.**


**Consider it done then.**

**I love you, B.**

**I love you too, F. I'd really like to go home now.**

**Think we're about on our way.**

Suddenly a jeep came rumbling into the warehouse, flying in through the double doors Faith had left propped open…just in case.

Xander was at the wheel and Giles was riding shotgun, literally. He blasted the heads off of two vampires before they even had a chance to move, and Xander plowed the jeep right into the middle of the remaining Mystics, knocking them aside like bowling pins. Dawn and Willow were each leaning out of the backseat windows firing Super Soakers filled with holy water, and they were causing all kinds of pain and confusion.

Faith looked at Buffy who was smashing her Slayer elbow into Francisco's nose, splattering it all over his face. He let go of her as his hands reflexively went to his injury, and she fell hard to the floor.

Yelling with the pain, she rolled out of the way, stopping only when she'd slammed up against some crates. Faith smiled when she saw Buffy  punch her arm into one, creating a stake which she held firmly in her hand and at the ready. Fuck, she was cool!

Meanwhile Xander and Giles were giving a whole new meaning to the term: "drive by shooting". There was almost no pause between shotgun blasts because Anya was quickly and calmly reloading whichever gun Giles was not using. The look on Xander's face was priceless. He appeared to be a kid playing the greatest videogame ever.

Faith kicked a vampire in the balls, breaking his hold on her leg. She whirled and slid headfirst across the floor to her axe, popping to her feet with a smile that caused the two closest vampires to back away from her. Payback time had arrived, and she started it off by removing every head from every body she could find. She was working her way to Francisco, and when she got there……

He was issuing orders, but his troops were in a total panic and not responding well. As Faith neared, he pulled a knife and turned to face her:

"When this is over, you will both serve me!"

She kicked the knife from his hand, then swung her axe at his head. He ducked her easily, then realized his mistake when she let go of it and instead met him with her stake. She stopped a millimeter from his heart and twisted slowly, making him scream in agony as she smiled.

"Sure wish we had us more time so I could show ya what real torture's all about. Gotta get back to my girl though, but I promise: I'm gonna look you up when I get to Hell. Teach ya all kindsa stuff then, Frankie.…See ya soon."

He stared at her in terror, seeing something dark and evil in her eyes, and his last thought as he dusted was the hope that she was wrong about her final destination.  

Faith made her way to back to Buffy's side.

"Why…didn't…I do…that?"

"Gonna get you outta here, B."

She stepped far enough away from Buffy to keep her out of the fight, but near enough to protect her if anybody made a move in her direction. The remaining vampires stood frozen. They'd seen Francisco dusted with ease, and in their shock they were confused about what their next move should be.

Giles was impressed with Faith's strategy.

"Bloody brilliant move! Cut off the head, and the body dies. They've no reason to continue on with this now and…"

Every vampire rushed Faith, all screaming for vengeance.

"Fuck me!"

Xander hit the gas, running into several before they could get to her. The Scoobies began firing again, trusting that Faith could handle the vampires that were on top of her. She could and she did.

Bodies flew back as she flipped to her feet, and she wasted no time in staking the vamp who'd picked up her axe to use against her. She caught it in mid-air as he dusted, and she began swinging until there was only one vampire left.

He turned and ran. Where he was going since the sun was now up, was a mystery. Faith threw her axe sideways, neck high, and it caught him right before he cleared the doorway. The axe made a loud thud as it sliced into the doorframe and stuck there quivering,  but Faith barely registered the sound as she was already running to Buffy.

"B, don't move. I got ya."


"Stop with the talking. Gotta get you to the hospital."


"Too fuckin' bad, you're going. Guys in the front, me and B in the back. Means you three gotta cram into the cargo area. Xander, go open the back doors."

"…Faith? Faith, is Buffy going to be okay?"

Dawn was close to tears, like hysterical wailing crazy tears.

"Course she is. She's a Summers woman like you, and you guys are wicked tough. Guarantee she's gonna be fine."

"You promise?"

Faith hugged her and kissed the top of her head.

"I promise, Squirt. Now go get in."

Willow and Giles walked over, their faces full of concern. Giles crouched down to speak to Buffy, his handkerchief dabbing delicately at the blood on her forehead and cheek while Willow looked Faith up and down.

"What about you, Faith?"

"Not followin', Red."

"You're hurt too."

"Huh? Oh yeah, guess I am, but not feelin' a thing. Just wanna get B taken care of."

Giles nodded as he straightened up:

"Both of you need immediate attention."

 "Yeah, well you guys can patch me up at home."

She bent over and lifted Buffy as gently as she could.

"Sorry, B. I know it hurts."

"Happy…it's you."

Willow, Dawn, and Anya piled quickly into the cargo area. It was a tight fit, but no one complained. Faith laid Buffy in the backseat, then closed the door and got in on the other side. She delicately placed Buffy's head on her lap.

"This okay?"


"Gonna hold your ribs now. It'll hurt at first, but it's gonna help a lot, 'specially if we hit any bumps."


Faith placed her hands firmly on and around Buffy's ribs, and she winced when Buffy yelped and bit down hard on her bottom lip.

"That alright, B?"


"Let's move, Xander."

"You got it."

He closed the door on Faith's side and got behind the wheel as Giles slid into the passenger seat.

"And watch the bumps, okay?"

"I'll do my best."


"Shhh…We'll be there soon. Can we go a little faster?"

Xander met Faith's eyes in the rearview mirror:

"Not really, I think I totaled the jeep. Sorry, Buff."

""Kidd…ing?...Think…I'm…in…love…with you."

Anya's response was immediate:


"I was pretty great, wasn't I?"


"Yes Willow, I'm aware that I may be having trouble hearing properly. It's difficult with my knees wedged up against my ears, but I'm positive that Buffy just said she was 'in' love with Xander."

"She just meant that she loved him for helping rescue her."

"In just a 'friend' way?"


That seemed to set Anya's mind at ease.

"Okay then. I'm not happy about it, but I'll let it slide since she's so badly injured. She's probably somewhat delirious from blood loss anyway."

"I think that's very big of you, Anya."

"Thank you, Willow. I think so too."

Buffy was so glad to be out of the warehouse with everyone alive, she could have done a little song and dance. Well, at least she could have in her heart, her body wasn't going to be dancing any time soon.


"Yeah. No talking, B."

Buffy looked up into her eyes and saw they were filled with tears.

"Hey you…I'm…okay…all of…us…okay."

"I know, lucky us. Now stop with the talking."


"Shhh…we're almost there. Gotta be quiet, B."

Buffy was studying Faith's eyes, and something wasn't right. She looked upset, scared, and relieved, all understandable, but there was something else. Buffy raised her hand and placed it over Faith's.

"Easy B, don't push. Got just the right amount of pressure…don't I? Fuck, am I hurting you?!"

"No, feels…good."

"Okay, then just relax."

"Look…at me."

Faith's face closed off just like that and she turned her attention elsewhere:

"Xander, how much longer?"

"A couple of minutes if we make the light and the jeep keeps going."


Faith closed her eyes for a second, and when she opened them there was a smile plastered on her face.

"B, everything's good, okay? But ya gotta be quiet now."

Faith gaze had come close, but it hadn't quite met Buffy's, and now she knew what that "something else" was. It was guilt. Big, unfair, wrong, mean, nasty guilt.


Xander announced their arrival:

"We're here."

"Alright, B we're here. Stop talking now."

"You…didn't…didn't do…any…thing...wr…wrong."

"Buffy Anne Summers, will you just be quiet?! You can talk all ya wanna later. Right now you're hurting yourself, so shut up!"



Faith got out and went around to the other side of the jeep. She bent over and slowly lifted Buffy into her arms.

"Nah, fuck the stretcher, Giles. Just gonna carry her."


"Goddamn it, B, will you please be quiet?"


"…I know ya do. Best way to prove it's by shuttin' up for awhile. Please Buffy, just for now."





Buffy was worried. It had been two weeks now, and still she and Faith had not talked. At first it had been no one's fault, just the crazy situation they had found themselves in. The problem now was the end result. It was just the same no matter how they'd arrived there, and Buffy didn't like it.

She'd been treated and then come home from the hospital that same night…very much against everyone's wishes. All she had wanted was the comfort and safety of her own bed, but everyone else was scared and wanted her to stay in the hospital for at least a few days.

The argument had been raging for several minutes, and then finally Buffy had burst into tears. That ended the debate right then and there. As everyone kept insisting that Buffy needed to stay, Faith had simply said, "Fuck this".

She picked Buffy up and carried her right out the door, walking a gauntlet of angry and concerned medical personnel. Faith never even spared them a glance or a word, and thirty-four minutes later Buffy was safely tucked into her own bed, wearing her sushi pajamas with Mr. Gordo at her side.

She slept for almost three days straight, waking just a few times to drink and use the bathroom. It proved to be exactly what she needed. On the fourth day she awoke feeling much better. Her injuries, while still severe, had gone a long way towards healing themselves.

Sleep was something her body craved, and she spent the next several days in Slumber Land. Somewhere around the one week mark, she became more alert, and even though she could now stay awake for more than twenty minutes at a time, she still couldn't catch Faith.

While it was true that Giles had initially had Faith patrolling all night, several days had gone by and she was still doing it. She would return home after sunrise completely exhausted, fall into bed, and sleep until nearly sunset. Then she was out the door before Buffy could talk to her.

She was all business and Buffy knew what that meant. A few well placed questions to Giles confirmed all of her suspicions: Faith was patrolling like a crazy woman because she was following her own orders.

That was just great, wonderful in the way that was just the opposite of that, and Buffy was determined to put a stop to it tonight…tomorrow…whenever Faith finally came home.  She was patiently waiting in the darkness of their bedroom, and she was missing Faith in every part of her being. This whole thing had gone on long enough, whatever the reasons, and it was now time to deal.

It was 4:27 a.m. when Faith came into their bedroom. She moved so quietly, Buffy wouldn't have known she was there if she hadn't been looking at her. Buffy stayed silent, wanting to make sure there were no escape routes easily available. She waited until Faith was completely naked before she turned on the light.

"Jesus, B, tryin' to gimme a heart attack?"

"Sorry, I guess I should have said something."

"Did I wake ya up?"

"No, I've been waiting for you. We need to talk."

Faith's discomfort wasn't hard to see.

"Mind if I get dressed first?"

"Don't do it on my account."

Faith's entire body seemed to blush, and she dropped her shirt…twice. She finally managed to fumble into her boxers and wife beater, then slid carefully into the bed, making sure not to jostle Buffy.

"So how was patrol?"

"Another dead night. Guess we got'em all."

"That's good to know. So when's Giles going to let you get some rest?"

"…No clue. How ya feelin'?"

Buffy displayed her arm:

"Giles took the stitches out today. We figured we didn't need the doctor asking a bunch of questions about my wacky healing abilities."

"Good call."

"And look: no scar either."

"How 'bout the ribs?"

"Much better. I can actually breathe and move without wheezing or crying, and the bruising's way less too."

Faith was looking nowhere near Buffy's injuries:

"Looks good. Gotta love the Slayer healing."

"I gotta love a Slayer too."

"Yeah…Night, B."

Faith rolled onto her side, facing away from Buffy.



"Could you turn back over? That wasn't the talk I was talking about."

"Oh, well kinda tired, so maybe tomorrow we could…"

Buffy touched her lightly and Faith jumped like she'd been electrocuted, After a few moments, she sighed and turned over onto her back:


"Are you?"



"Sure, all healed up days ago."

Buffy caressed her hair:

"You know that isn't what I meant."


"So, how are you? The truth now."

Faith didn't say anything for a couple of minutes, staring up at the ceiling before she finally answered.

"Hearing voices, tryin' to get past'em, looking for a way to face you…All that same shit."

"Have you been patrolling to avoid…"

"This talk? Yeah, I have. Made it in a little early tonight, so guess that's progress. Least it is when it's me."

"We'll get through this. It's no one's fault, just the fun of being a Slayer."


Buffy took her hand in hers:

"You did everything right, Faith."

"Party line, for sure."

"If you hadn't done it exactly like you did, we wouldn't all be here right now. You did what you needed to do to keep us alive."

Faith's eyes filled with tears:

"B…It was so hard to just leave you there, knowin' what was gonna happen to you. When I finally made it back, I had to just…I just sat there listening to you scream…….I couldn't do shit…I just had to let them…"

"I know, Faith. I remember how much it hurt when I heard you being tortured at the cave, how it made me feel. At least I got to run right in and kick ass, I don't know how you found the strength to wait for the right time."

Faith was clearly uncomfortable, but Buffy wanted her to hear the truth:

"I can't say I'm surprised though. You're the strongest person I've ever known, and once again you saved my life and the lives of the people I love. You had to do it just like you did, any little change and we'd all be dead right now. Thank you, Faith."


"Well, at least you're not running away from me."

"Yeah, more big progress. I am tryin' to deal here, B. It's just a lifetime I gotta get past, ya know?"

"I understand, and I know it's hard. As long as you're trying, I won't ever complain."

"Guess I'm just confused. Know I feel like shit."

Buffy leaned over her:

"Hmm, I think maybe I can help you with that."


Buffy began kissing her way slowly up Faith's neck to her lips.

"Hold on…B…Wait…"

"You really have the best bottom lip ever made."

Buffy's tongue traced around it, then she bit down and sucked it into her mouth. Faith groaned and fought to keep her hands on the bed.

"C'mon now, seriously…"

"I am being serious. It's like a work of art."


"What? You always cheer up when I do this."

"Yeah…definitely like it."

Buffy was now resting on top of her and her lips wandered to several of Faith's most sensitive areas.

"Well if you like it, what's the problem then?"

"Don't think…we oughta…You're still hurt and…"

"Open your legs."

"Not a good idea…Shit!"

Buffy's body was now between Faith's legs, and she rocked slowly from side to side.

"B, you're not…Don't wanna hurt you."

Buffy laughed:

"You're going to be way too careful to hurt me."

"Look, much as I want you…I mean, much as we want to…We need to wait."

Buffy had Faith's boxers pushed down slightly and her t-shirt pushed up. She licked around Faith's navel, and Faith began trembling.

Buffy nipped at her stomach, then looked up at her grinning:

"Faith, are you trying to resist me?"


"That never really goes well, does it?"

"Not so far."

"And it's never going to, so give it up."

Faith laughed:

"You are so fuckin' conceited."

"Maybe, but you are so my bitch."

"We gotta be careful."

"Speak for yourself, I'm going to do whatever the hell I want to you."

"Okay, but…"

"Good, now hold still while I rip this off."

Buffy tossed the torn boxers aside, then just hovered there smiling up at her.

"You know how you always get so wild when I do this? Well, you'd better not move, Faith…you might hurt me."

"B, let's wait. We'll cuddle, okay?"

"Too late, I'm already committed."

Buffy leaned in and Faith jumped slightly when she felt the tiny swipe.

"Ow, that really hurt."

"Ha, ha. But for real B, gotta promise to tell me if I…"

"Hey, F?"


"Shut the fuck up."



When the lovemaking was finished, Buffy fell asleep in Faith's arms right away. Faith laid there wide awake, a big smile on her face as she held her. She was so happy, just flying…but then she heard them coming for her.

They started off quietly, telling her she was a loser who couldn't be trusted and that she was bad luck for anyone close to her. She tried not to listen, but they wouldn't stop.

**She's way too good for a filthy slut like you.**

The voices had always made sense, had always let her know where she belonged. They understood her and they were asking her why she had just let Buffy scream.

**Because you liked it, you wished you were the one hurting her.**

They knew her, knew where to strike, and they were so loud now they blocked out everything else. They told her that she was evil and always would be. They told her that one day she was going to get Buffy killed, or more likely, end up doing the job herself. They told her that she was being selfish, that she had to leave Buffy for Buffy's own good.

**You have to go…Go now!**

Just then, Buffy snuggled in closer. She kissed Faith lightly just above her breast and her hand stroked tenderly along her scar. Back and forth, back and forth, and then finally her hand stilled as she murmured:

"You were right, you know. It is just skin."

She fell back asleep with her leg flung over Faith and her hand resting like it was right where it belonged.

Faith laughed then; what else could she do? The voices were suddenly way off in the distance, she couldn't really hear them at all. All she could hear now was herself and the woman who loved her:

"You were right, you know. It is just skin."

Yes, it was. Just scar tissue that had all faded until it didn't matter anymore.

Faith still sought redemption, even though she knew she would probably never get it. But she was going to fight for it anyway because the woman she held in her arms wanted her, believed in her, and Faith was never going to back down…not when Buffy loved her. She was going to fight until her last breath and probably even beyond. Faith was never going to give in.

Buffy Summers was the greatest Slayer ever, and she always won when it mattered. She had given Faith a life, but the funniest thing of all? Somehow while that had been going on, Faith had managed to do the same for her, and there was no power in the world that could ever make her take that away from Buffy.

The voices she kept lugging around? They could just go fuck themselves. She didn't need them anymore, didn't believe one word they said. They didn't know her, they didn't tell her the truth, and they sure as hell didn't have her back. They'd never helped her, never made her happy, never kept her safe, and Faith was all done listening to them.

She knew they would come back, but she also knew she was going to tell them to get lost each and every time they showed up. The Slayers were livin' large and they were going to keep right on doing it.

"Just try and stop us, fuckers."

Buffy stirred:

"Did you say something?"

"Nah, was just temptin' fate."

"Is that smart?"

"Probably not, but you ain't the only cocky bitch here."

"Don't I know it."

Faith tipped Buffy's head up just enough to kiss her.

"I love you, B. And ya know what?"


"You love me too."

Buffy was confused:

"Uh, didn't we already know this?"

"Yeah, but I can be stupid sometimes."

"Did you do drugs while I was sleeping?"

"Nope, clean and sober here."

"That's great. Now could we maybe get some rest?"

"Yeah, that works for me, B."

They both snuggled in, and it wasn't long before sleep came to claim them. Faith's final thought as she drifted off made her grin, especially when she realized a total "Privacy Agreement" violation was taking place:

**Faith and Buffy, sittin' in a tree…K-I-S-S-i-n-g.**




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