But Willow wasn't like most people, and when she called an emergency meeting of the Sunnydale gang three months after they'd closed the Hellmouth, they knew that the honeymoon was over.
Most of the gang resided in Cleveland now, save for Giles who was busy building a new and improved Watcher's Council in England. He had encouraged everyone to go to Cleveland, seeing as that it had a Hellmouth that needed protecting and they were used to being the protectors.
Even though it was still work, it was much less intense than Sunnydale had ever been. After word spread around Cleveland that the slayer and her friends --who had fought the apocalypse in Sunnydale - were in town, demonic activity slowed to a near stop. Nothing left that a few nightly patrols per week couldn't take care of.
Buffy, for the most part, was content with her new life. She and Dawn lived in a small two-family home which was within walking distance of both Willow and Kennedy's apartment and Xander's fixer-upper house. Dawn was back in school, as was Buffy who was taking a few night courses per week while working at a local café.
Being a barista girl had never been her dream job, but it helped to maintain the bills that her small stipend from the Watcher's Council didn't cover.
In an unlikely series of events, Faith ended up renting the other half of Buffy and Dawn's house. Sure she was surprised when the gang had expected her to tag along with them rather than take a trip back to prison, but she was even more surprised when Buffy had told her about the newly available living quarters.
“Dawnie and I love it here. There's a back porch that has a perfect view of the sunset, and a nice big tree for taking little naps under on those deliciously lazy days when I'm ignoring phone calls from Giles, Willow, and work,” Buffy had told her.
“Sounds great. Too bad I didn't hear about the place before you did,” Faith responded with a small grin, “I woulda stole it right out from under those little things you call feet.”
“You would've deprived us of our back-porch sitting? And the naps?” Buffy asked, feigning hurt.
“In a minute,” Faith answered jokingly. “I'm picky `bout where I live, B. No more hotels, no more prison cells. That means I wouldn't mind stepping on the occasional toe and biting or pulling hair to get the perfect place.”
“Hmm. That almost makes me reluctant to tell you that our neighbor is moving out in two weeks and our landlord is looking for a new tenant,” Buffy had answered back easily, wearing a grin that matched Faith's.
“Almost?” Faith asked before taking a long swig on her bottle of Pepsi.
Buffy chuckled and reached into her pocket, pulling out a small piece of paper. She handed it over to Faith, still grinning.
“I already told him you'd be interested in the place. He's expecting your call.”
Faith smiled as she looked at the small scrap of paper. “Thanks, B. Yunno, you're actually a pretty decent chick when you're not busy tryin to beat the hell outta me.”
“Does that mean you'll not try to kill me anytime soon? Cos I've got an appointment to get my hair cut at this great salon and they'll be really upset if I'm late due to hospital visits or unplanned death,” Buffy said, tongue-in cheek.
“Nah,” Faith said easily. “I think you're safe for a while. Your good deed bought you a few months of guaranteed no kill-age.”
And that was pretty much how it all ended up. Or how it all began. Faith moved in two and a half weeks later. She spent lots of time with Dawn, who thought it was great to finally have a friend of her own that wasn't dedicated to Buffy over herself. Buffy spent much of her free time becoming reacquainted with Willow and Xander, catching up on time with them that was lost over the anarchy of the previous few years.
Buffy alternated nightly patrols with Kennedy and Faith, this way each of them got a couple of nights off each week. Most of the time, however, Buffy and/or Dawn ended tagging along on Faith's patrol nights and vice versa, as the three of them had developed a bond in living so close to one another.
While Buffy was waking up at the crack of dawn to get ready for work, Faith was usually just walking in the door from her night shift at a local bar, The Bradford. Instead of going into her own house, Faith would always sit and have a cup of coffee with Buffy, despite the fact that she'd be going to sleep soon after Buffy left. The caffeine didn't bother her. She was just happy to finally have . . . friends.
By the time that Buffy finished her eight hour shift, she'd come home to find Faith and Dawn playing Grand Theft Auto, sprawled across her living room floor.
“With as much time as you spend here, you should just move in,” Buffy joked with Faith on a daily basis.
“Nah, separate living space is the way to go, B. Makes you miss me more when I leave.”
“Speaking of leaving,” Buffy would say as she'd hold the front door open and would stare at Faith.
Faith would get up from the floor without incident, except for Dawn's whines that she could do her homework later, and walk past Buffy and through the door with a grin on her face.
“Don't worry, B, I get it. You want me to leave just so you can start missin' me. I'm onto your game.”
“Later,” Buffy would reply, a smile on her face.
“Yep,” was Faith's answer, knowing fully well that they definitely would see one another later. Between watching the sun set with Buffy and Dawn, group patrolling, and late night movie marathons, they were pretty much always together. Later would always come, and Faith always looked forward to it.
Buffy, Dawn, and Faith got to spend even more time together, including a somewhat reluctant Kennedy, when Willow was called off to Los Angeles to help Angel out with a few things. No one liked that he was working for Wolfram & Hart, but they knew that he wouldn't get into something that he couldn't handle.
They just hoped that the power wouldn't corrupt him as it had so many people before him.
A month or so prior to Willow's trip, they had found out that Spike had come back in a slightly less than corporeal form. At first they were concerned that it was The First acting up again, but a few spells by the Coven in England proved that it really was Spike, and that he really was a ghost for some unforeseen reason. He wasn't supposed to be a ghost. Something had gone wrong when the Powers That Be brought him back.
Or at least that's what Willow was busy trying to explain as the gang sat around Xander's living room with Giles keyed in on speakerphone.
“What do you mean he's not supposed to be a ghost?” Buffy asked, her arms crossed over her chest. “He certainly can't be fleshy. I pretty much witnessed the blazing finale.”
“Well, as helpful as he was in closing the Hellmouth, that wasn't Spike's destiny,” Willow explained. “Angel was supposed to wear the amulet. It should have been Angel that died wearing it.”
“That shouldn't matter though,” Buffy continued. “He did wear it, and he did die. His being ghostly now shouldn't pose big enough a risk to call in the troops.”
“That's where you're incorrect, Buffy,” Giles chimed in over the speakerphone. “Surely under any other circumstances, it wouldn't have mattered. However, there is a prophecy . . .”
“There's always a prophecy,” Buffy interrupted, rolling her eyes.
“Does anyone else feel like we're in a scene from Charlie's Angels?” Xander quipped.
“Perhaps,” Giles continued in response to Buffy's interruption, “but this prophecy should have been obsolete. We've changed the future enough times to render it useless. However, when Angel gave the amulet to Spike, he returned to Los Angeles and took over Wolfram & Hart. The Powers That Be recognized this as a loss of another champion, one to death -- Spike, and one to the forces of evil -- Angel.”
“Hey,” Faith cut in, “big A knows what he's doing. Just cos he's the big guy at Wolfram & Hart doesn't mean he's the next big bad. He's using his resources to do good.” She couldn't help but defend Angel. He was one of the few people that had always been there for her
“True,” Giles responded. “But in accepting such power, he has lost his status as a champion of good in the eyes of the Powers That Be. Wolfram & Hart continues to grow exponentially as an evil entity, despite the good that Angel is trying to do. At the rate in which its power grows, it's only a matter of time before there's another showdown between good and evil. Another epic battle. The Powers are merely trying to establish that when and if such a time arrives, they have their champion at hand.”
“And that's where Spike comes in,” Xander stated rather than asked.
“Correct,” Giles responded. “He was supposed to come back, unscathed. Ready to fight -- and die -- for the cause of the greater good.”
“'Cept he can't really make with the big damage if he's busy falling through floors and walking through walls,” Faith added from her place behind Buffy, her position a small sign of solidarity and support.
“Also correct,” Giles responded.
“Which is where I come in,” Willow said with a nervous smile. “I've been in contact with the coven, which has passed on some magicks and spells to restore Spike's corporeal form. All we need is a few items and ingredients and I should be able to whip up a body for him in a jiff.”
“You sure about that, Wills?” Xander asked, taking a few steps closer to his friend. “Remember back when I got you that Easy Bake Oven? You had all the ingredients and the manual and everything laid out for you and I was still sick for a week after eating that fudge.”
“It was cake,” Willow said shyly, defending her cooking. “Besides, magic is different from cooking. Magic I can do, especially under the guidance of the coven.”
“So, why the meeting then?” Buffy asked, convinced that there had to be something more to it if an emergency meeting of the Scooby gang had been called.
“The spell will be a piece of cake,” Willow began and glared when it looked like Xander might bring up the Easy Bake Oven incident again. “It's the ingredients and items needed for the spell which is the difficult part.”
“So hop on your broomstick and take a ride over to Hogwarts or something, Red. You've never had a problem with getting the goodies before,” Faith commented, her arms crossed over her chest.
“If it was that simple, I would've taken care of everything while I was in LA instead of coming back here and getting everyone else involved,” Willow responded. “I can get the stinky herbs and roots, but I'm lacking the vessel in which the ingredients need to be burned. I need the Urn of Osiris.”
“The Urn of Osiris?” Xander chirped in, his voice an octave higher than normal. “The same Urn of Osiris that was destroyed when we brought Buffy back?”
“The one and only,” Willow answered, looking guiltily over at Buffy.
“I see two problems here,” Dawn said from her place on the floor. “One - That one and only urn? We kinda killed it. And two -- That one and only Sunnydale? We kinda killed it, too.”
“Actually, Dawn, that's incorrect,” Giles chimed in.
“Actually, Giles, you're incorrect,” Dawn answered back, her eyebrows raised. “I have ALWAYS wanted to tell him he was wrong!” She gushed, looking over to Xander who wore a proud smile. “I watched them both go kablooey.”
“For all intents and purposes, you're correct,” Giles said. “The urn was destroyed, and Sunnydale is indeed gone as well. But Willow has found a way to obtain the urn, which is where Buffy and Faith come in.”
“Is it time travel?” Xander asked excitedly. “Are they gonna go back in time to the night Buffy was resurrected and swoop in and save the urn? Cause not only would that be really convenient, but also pretty darn cool.”
“I actually thought about that. The going back in time, I mean,” Willow said excitedly. “If I could go back to Sunnydale before it got all implode-y, I could use a spell to conjure up a new urn. So long as the remains of the existing urn were there, I could've just done the spell, made a new one, and been back here before you could say hootenanny.”
“But the remains were destroyed, along with everything else,” Buffy said rather than asked.
“Yep, pretty much.” Willow said, deflating just a bit.
“So then what's the big plan?” Faith asked as she moved around the couch and plopped down next to Buffy. “Cos really? - not feeling big with the warm and fuzzy at the thought of rappelling into a big crater and fishing around for dust in a dust stack.”
“Most of us know of or have had encounters with other dimensions. I don't need to get into the mechanics of it, right? Cos it's actually pretty nifty,” Willow said, looking around the room from person to person to see if anyone looked interested. Seeing nothing but glares, she continued. “Right, we'll skip the physics lesson. Basically, there are countless other dimensions out there. We all exist in them in some form or another. There are infinite possibilities of who we are and how we live, but it doesn't change the fact that there is a Buffy Summers in every dimension, and a Sunnydale in every dimension . . .”
“. . . and an Urn of Osiris in every dimension,” Buffy finished for her.
“Right,” Willow said with a nod. “The plan is simple in its basic form: I conjure up an orb that will let the both of you travel between dimensions. You go to a dimension that's similar to ours -- you know, where there's a Sunnydale that isn't overrun by demons or squirrels - you find the Urn, and you bring it back.”
“If it's that simple, why can't just one of us go?” Faith asked, her brows slightly furrowed.
It was Giles' turn to speak up again.
“There is no way for us to properly research which dimension you'll be traveling to. Unfortunately, we'll be sending you into the situation completely blind. Willow can pinpoint the Sunnydale location and send you to the general vicinity, but we won't know what you'll find when you get there. In the event that you get there and are faced with a corrupted and dark Sunnydale, you'll stand a better chance of being successful if you go together.”
“You hear that B?” Faith said, taking a glance over at Buffy. “Things get hairy and you get to play bait while I make a run for the money.”
Buffy couldn't help but grin a little at Faith's words.
“Please,” she said. “You are SO the bait. Besides, I run faster.”
“I'm gonna ignore that comment about the running for now seeing as that I probably would make better bait. No one can resist this,” Faith said with a grin as she indicated her body.
Xander couldn't resist the opportunity to jump into the conversation.
“Would you say that you're the master bait?” He quipped, but suddenly shrank back in his chair at the glares he received. “I'm just gonna be quiet now.”
“Thank you,” Giles said, his slight grimace at Xander's bad joke almost audible over the speakerphone.
“When would all of this go down?” Buffy asked, getting back to the matter at hand. As much as she appreciated their ability to keep things lighthearted, she knew that she'd rather get things taken care of quickly so that she could get back to her normal life. A life that no longer consisted of hopping through portals and stealing magical artifacts to save the world.
It was all a bit played out, at least as far as Buffy was concerned. Killing a couple of vamps a few nights per week almost made her think that her life was normal now. Or, at least as normal as it was ever gonna get.
Surely inter-dimensional travel put a small kink in her quasi-normal life.
“We can do it whenever you and Faith are ready, though the Powers seem to be itching to have their champion back as quickly as possible,” Willow answered. “They can get a bit cranky when things don't go their way.”
“Right,” Buffy said, fully in business mode again. “Then I say we get a jump on this and get the Powers what they need so we can get back to our new and improved and slightly less slay-ey lives. Giles, any chance you'll be making a cameo in this fun-fest?”
“I wish I could be there, at least for old time's sake,” he answered softly. “Unfortunately, I have some pressing matters here in England that must be tended to. However, I have complete faith in Willow's ability to get both you and Faith there and back unscathed. You'll let me know things went well upon your return?”
“You betcha, G,” Faith said with a smile. “Anything we can get for ya while we're there? A tweed suit that you were particularly fond of, or a book or somethin?”
Giles paused for a few moments, choosing his words carefully.
“Just be careful, girls, and come home safe.”
A moment later the line clicked off and Xander reached over to turn off the speaker.
“How long is the prep time gonna take for this, Wills?” Buffy asked as she stood and stretched her tired muscles.
“I just need to stop by the garden shop in the morning and get some wormwood and acacia bark and I should be set to conjure the orb. Once I do that, we're good to go. I'd say maybe a day, two tops.”
“Great,” Buffy said. “Just tell me when and where and I'll be there.” Something occurred to her then. She turned to Faith, “Hey . . . are you onboard with this? I'm sure that Kennedy could fill in if you don't want to or if you're busy or anything . . .”
Faith took that opportunity to stand as well, pondering Buffy's words.
“I'm five by five, B. Always said I'd like to travel, see the world. Parallel dimensions gotta count, right?”
Buffy smiled, happy that Faith would be joining her. “They've gotta count for something.”
A day and a half later, Willow, Buffy and Faith were stood in Buffy's kitchen going over the general plan.
“Plan? I thought you said it was simple,” Faith said. “Use the orb to get where you tell us to go, find the Urn, and come on home. Is the last-minute meeting really necessary?”
“There are a few details that we should touch upon, yes,” Willow said, hedging around the particulars.
“Willow?” Buffy asked slowly, studying Willow's face. “You have guilty face. Why do you have guilty face?”
“There are a couple of things I may have failed to mention,” Willow said shyly. “Just . . . little things, really.”
“What kind of little things?” Faith asked, looking rather menacing.
“Well, like . . . if you break or lose the orb, there's a chance that you'll be stuck there. Like, forever stuck there.” She looked anxiously between Buffy and Faith who stared at one another.
Faith reached into her pocket and took out the orb, handing it over to Buffy.
“You carry it,” she said, eyebrows raised.
“Gee, thanks,” Buffy said dryly, easily pocketing the orb.
“And,” Willow continued, earning a glare from both girls, “you can't run into your otherworldly selves. It would be bad. Catastrophic bad.”
“What? Why?” Faith asked, looking worried. “You guys know me, I usually go looking for trouble. I mean, now that you told me not to, I won't, but I can't promise that the other me isn't gonna come looking for us. I'm not the brightest crayon in the box, no matter which dimension you find me in.”
“You're just gonna have to be extra careful,” Willow said cheerily. “It's one of the reasons why we're sending the both of you. One gets to play explorer while the other plays lookout.”
“This sounds like it's gonna be great fun,” Buffy said with a sigh.
“Everything will be fine, Buff,” Willow said, laying a comforting hand on Buffy's arm. “Just . . . stay away from your other selves. If all else fails, just stay away from them.”
Before Buffy or Faith could say or complain any more, Willow scurried out of the kitchen and into the living room where Kennedy, Dawn and Xander were waiting.
“Something tells me that we're in for some trouble,” Faith said as she leaned back against the counter, her arms crossed over her chest.
“Yeah, well . . . what else is new,” Buffy responded as she copied Faith's position next to her. “You sure you're up for this? We can always back out, let the Powers pick someone else.”
Faith thought about it for a few moments. True, she was enjoying their low-key life now. She didn't want to get stuck in some other dimension, and she was pretty sure that she didn't want to know what would happen if they ran into their other selves. Still, they were slayers. They had been chosen to do good; to save the world, no matter how many times they had done so before.
“I think we've gotta do it, B. Besides . . . maybe if we get it right, Giles will let us use some Council funds to take a trip or something. Some sun and fun after saving the world seems like an even exchange.”
Buffy smiled and turned to face Faith, holding out her hand.
“Sounds like a plan. Let's shake on it: we save the world, we take a vacation.”
Faith smiled back and took Buffy's hand, shaking it lightly.
“Deal. But I get to pick the place.”
“Fair enough,” Buffy said, smiling. Then she took a deep breath and exhaled loudly, finally letting go of Faith's hand. “You ready for this?”
Faith nodded her head as she stretched her limbs, readying them for whatever they would find once they went through the portal. “As I'll ever be.”
They needed to be sure to chant the words in the exact location where they landed, however, as any change in their stellar coordinates might send them to some random dimension that wasn't their own.
There were no other surprise warnings. The plan was official: travel to the dimension, locate the Urn, obtain it, avoid their other selves, and come home safe.
With the scrap of paper in her pocket, Buffy and Faith joined hands and said the words aloud. Moments later, a large white portal opened in front of them. They eyed the portal cautiously, then Faith looked back over her shoulder at Willow.
“If I come out on the other side with my ass on my front, you better be able to fix it,” she said jokingly.
“If you end up with your ass on your front, I'm taking a picture and using it on my Christmas cards,” Buffy replied, playfully elbowing Faith's side.
Faith looked at Buffy and grinned, “I knew you loved my ass.”
Buffy simply chuckled and rolled her eyes before casting a quick glance in the direction of her friends. “Wish us luck?”
“May the Schwartz be with you,” Xander said with a silly grin, his Spaceballs joke lost on everyone but Faith.
A deep breath later, Buffy and Faith walked through the portal and into the unknown.
Moments later, they found themselves cramped into a tiny bathroom stall. After a quick glance around the dank enclosure, they unclasped hands and Buffy shoved the orb into her jacket pocket.
“Well, at least we know this dimension has working plumbing,” Buffy said as she inspected the area.
“Yeah, not that dirty skanks know how to use it any better in this one,” Faith said with a grimace as she lifted her foot and used the toe of her boot to flush the toilet.
“Ughh,” Buffy replied and pulled her shirt up over her nose as she watched the contents of the toilet swirl down the hole. “Let's get out of here. The sooner we find the urn, the sooner we can go back home where the only person I have to worry about not flushing the toilet is Dawn.”
“I'm with you on that. Let's do this.”
Taking another deep breath, Buffy opened the shoddy metal door and peered out into the now familiar restroom.
“I know this,” Buffy said, her brows furrowed. She walked out of the stall and into the small restroom, making her way over to the sink area. “I can't believe it, this is the Bronze,” she said with a smile.
Faith casually walked out of the stall, looking around at the familiar walls and fixtures.
“Yeah, and it's still in desperate need of a makeover,” Faith commented, careful not to touch anything. She looked at the exit door and raised an eyebrow. “You think it's safe to go out there?”
Buffy turned and looked at the door, adjusting her senses over the loud beating of the music. She closed her eyes and focused, trying as hard as she could to feel any sense of danger. Vamps, demons, ex-boyfriends; anything that might give them a hard time.
After a few moments, she opened her eyes to see Faith doing the same thing.
“I'm not getting anything. Not even a tingle. How about you?” she asked.
Faith shrugged and opened her eyes. “Nada. Only thing I feel is you, and the intense desire to get out of this bathroom before I lose my lunch.”
“We all know you have an iron stomach, Faith. Remember that time you sat and ate a whole plate of spaghetti while you watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre? You didn't even . . . wait, hold on,” Buffy stopped herself as she realized something, “you can feel me?” she asked, her brows furrowed a bit.
Faith smirked, “Of course I can. Could from the first day I met you at the Bronze - umm, here, I guess.”
“Why can't I feel you? Am I missing something?” Buffy asked as she closed her eyes and focused again. “I think my slayer buzz is broken or something.”
Faith smiled as she watched Buffy's face go from determination to frustration, and then to surprise. She must have finally felt their connection.
“Ooh, tingly,” Buffy said as she felt their connection. “It's like goosebumps. How come I've never felt this before?”
“Maybe you just never tried before,” Faith said with a wink before she opened the door. She peered out into the club, checking for any signs of danger or of their other selves.
She wasn't sure what catastrophic danger running into their other selves could really present, but she was sure as hell going to follow Willow's advice and avoid them at all costs. Faith liked her life too much now to mess it up over a freak encounter.
Besides, she really wasn't sure that she wanted to meet herself in another dimension. Seeing herself all fucked up like she had been years before really wasn't big on her list of stuff to do. Sure, there was the possibility that her other self wasn't fucked up or a mess in this world, but Faith had to go with what she knew best. She had been a fuck-up, and she couldn't expect any better of herself, no matter which dimension she was in.
“It's all clear, B. No sign of us. Um, I mean the other us. The other . . . we?” She looked over to Buffy to save her from the state of confusion she was headed in.
“The other us,” Buffy stated with a nod, correcting Faith. “Good. We'll just steer clear of them and we should be A-OK.”
“Five by five,” Faith corrected Buffy with a grin.
“Keep it up and I just might leave you here,” Buffy said with a mock glare.
“Nah,” Faith said as she grabbed Buffy's hand and led them through the crowd and toward the exit, “ya can't live without me, B. Admitting it is half the battle.”
Both girls couldn't help but smile at their constant banter. It was comfortable, and they knew it was safe ground where they could both be themselves.
A short walk later through an almost identical Sunnydale, Buffy and Faith found themselves at an internet café. Buffy sat down at a computer and started to research the urn while Faith stood on guard for familiar faces. Faith was fine being left out of the research. She had always been more of the physical type and less of the brainy type. Buffy could do the research and she'd make sure things were safe.
Besides, unless Buffy thought that Faith could find the urn by losing endless games of computer Solitaire and Minesweeper, she was definitely the one to do the research leg of their journey.
“A-ha!” Buffy exclaimed as she stared at the screen excitedly.
Faith turned and glanced at Buffy. “You find it?” She asked casually.
“Not quite, but there's a big sale at the shoe store. Do you know how hard it's been for me to find comfortable boots since we left Sunnydale?”
Faith simply glared at Buffy.
“Okay, okay,” Buffy said, closing the internet window. “All work and no play makes Buffy a dull girl,” she said under her breath as she resumed her research.
“Yeah, well . . . all play and no urn makes Spike a permanent ghost, and you know how the Powers can be when they don't get their way,” Faith responded. After a minute, she continued as casually as she could. “Speaking of Spike, after he's back and having of a solid body, are you gonna kiss the new life goodbye and get all loved up?”
Buffy glanced up from the computer at that point and looked at Faith.
“A world of no,” she said evenly. “That's all a part of the past, and I left as much of the past behind in the hole that is Sunnydale that I could.” She paused for a moment, choosing her words carefully. “I like my new life.”
She took a chance and offered a small smile and was elated when Faith responded in kind.
“I like it too,” Faith said, smiling.
Their gazes locked for several seconds, a definite moment passing between them. The moment was cut short, however, when a small chirp sounded from the computer. Buffy looked back at the computer, her features instantly lighting up.
“Ooh! My search is done. Let's see…..” she said as she perused the information. “Okay, piece of cake. The urn is at an antiquities shop downtown. How convenient is that? We have . . .” she glanced up at the clock on the wall, “half an hour to get there before they close.”
“Sounds like a walk in the park, which -- well, if we're talkin Sunnydale - is actually a pretty dangerous place. You sure it's that easy?” Faith asked as she leaned over and looked at the computer screen over Buffy's shoulder. “We don't need to like . . . dig through a tomb and fight a fashion-challenged ancient vamp or something?”
Buffy merely shrugged and pointed toward the computer screen.
“There's the shop's inventory list, and there's the urn. Heck, we'll be able to stop by the shoe store on the way out of town,” she said, looking hopefully at Faith through her eyelashes.
“The look doesn't work on me, B. I'm impervious to your batty eyelashes and the pouty . . . the pouty . . .” seeing Buffy's pouty lip stick out, Faith stopped and sighed loudly, “. . . dammit. Fine, we'll stop at the shoe store.”
“Ha!” Buffy said as she stood up excitedly, pulling Faith up by her elbow. “The pout is your kryptonite, Faith. It's impervious to your imperviousness.”
Faith merely rolled her eyes and shook her elbow free of Buffy's hand. In a swift motion, she put her denim jacket back on and made her way out of the café with Buffy goading her the whole way.
Buffy had finally relented in her teasing when they reached the front door of the antiquities shop. She paused and waited for Faith to do her spy-like investigation of the shop from the sidewalk out front, making sure that there were no dangers present.
“How does it look in there?” Buffy asked as she peered in over Faith's shoulder.
“Like a junk sale at my grandma's house,” Faith replied evenly. “Who buys this kinda shit? Why does anyone need a painting of dogs playing poker? I don't get it.”
Buffy smiled softly and stole a quick glance at Faith, trying not to make it obvious.
“Well, in any case, the place seems to be safe,” Faith said, finally turning to face Buffy. “One old guy behind the counter, not getting any evil vibes from him or anything.”
“Great. The quicker we get this done, the longer I have to go shoe shopping.”
Ignoring Faith's glare, Buffy grabbed her hand and pulled her into the shop. Their entrance was signaled by the chiming of the bell that was tied to the door handle. The old man behind the counter looked up from his book and smiled at Buffy and Faith.
“Good evening, ladies,” he said with a friendly smile. “It's been a long time since I've seen you, Buffy.”
Buffy nearly froze mid-step, but Faith urged her along, whispering to just go along with it just barely loud enough for Buffy's slayer hearing to pick up.
“Time does fly,” Buffy said nervously.
“How did that last gift work out for you?” he asked, stepping around the counter. He obviously was quite comfortable with her, but Buffy couldn't seem to relax.
“The last gift?” Buffy repeated back, sounding confused.
The old man just chuckled and adjusted his perfectly round spectacles, “The vase, for your mother. Did she like it?”
Buffy's eyes widened at that. “For my mother?” she asked, knocked almost completely back by the thought of her mother happy and alive and well in this dimension.
“Yeah, you remember that, Buffy. The vase for your mother,” Faith said, trying to look into Buffy's eyes. After a moment or two, Buffy moved her gaze from the old man to Faith and promptly understood Faith's look.
“Oh, right . . . the vase,” Buffy said with a nod. She looked back to the man and smiled. “She loved it. Raves about it to all of her friends.”
“I'll bet she does, that vase was a beauty,” the man commented brightly. “So, what brings you here today? Surely you and Faith aren't buying something for yourselves.”
Buffy looked over to Faith who merely gave her a semi-puzzled look back. He knew Faith too? How exactly was that possible? Unless, of course, Buffy and Faith were friends in this dimension as well. Actually, it didn't seem that unusual, seeing how close Buffy and Faith had become in their own dimension.
“You've got us there,” Faith answered quickly, trying to be as lighthearted as possible. “We're actually looking for something for Buffy's gram this time around. Yunno . . . something special.”
The old man frowned then and looked towards Buffy.
“Didn't your grandmother just pass last week?”
Buffy's eyes widened. “Umm, yeah. Yes. Poor Grandma, bless her soul. She's with Pops now,” she said, quickly glancing over at Faith for support.
The old man nodded and lowered his head for a moment, a solemn look on his face.
“Actually, we really are looking for something for Grams though. She always was dead set against a big funeral, so . . . we're gonna have a small service, scatter her ashes. Buffy's been put up to the task of finding an urn to be the temporary home.”
As if it were even possible, Buffy's eyes widened even more.
“Of course,” the man answered and walked across the shop to an ornately decorated shelf where a few urns sat.
Immediately, Buffy recognized the Urn of Osiris sat smack dab in the middle of the shelf.
“That one!” she exclaimed, pointing at the urn in question. The old man jumped at her excitement, so Buffy tried to cover. “That one is lovely. Grandma would love it.”
The old man reached up on the shelf, his wrinkled hands grasping gently around the urn, and he held it out for Buffy to inspect.
“This one is quite exquisite, but . . .” he looked at the urn with his brows furrowed slightly, “perhaps it's a bit small.”
Faith realized the fatal flaw in her plan then . . . the urn was a very small one, barely able to hold more than a cup or two of contents.
“Well . . . Grandma was really small,” Buffy countered, taking the urn gently in her hands. “It runs in the family. We're tiny.” Seeing the skeptical look that both the man and Faith were giving her, Buffy pouted just a little. “Some of us freakishly so.”
The old man simply offered Buffy a small smile and took her hand, leading her back toward the counter.
“If that's the urn you think she'd like, then that's the urn that you'll get.”
He took the urn from Buffy and wrapped it carefully, a way to ensure that it wouldn't break in transit. If he only knew how far that urn was being transported . . .
Fifty dollars and an awkward hug or two later, Buffy and Faith made their way down the street toward the shoe store with their package in hand.
“It coulda been worse,” Faith commented as she kicked a small rock along the sidewalk.
“Worse?” Buffy asked incredulously. “My make-believe grandmother just died and I bought an urn for her that wouldn't even hold her right leg. I'm a horrible granddaughter,” she said with a guilty smile.
“Yeah, well . . . at least we got what we came for. All we have to do now is get your boots and . . .” Faith's voice trailed off as she and Buffy reached the door to the shoe store, only to discover that the store was already closed.
“Well, this dimension just sucks,” Buffy said as she grabbed the pad lock on the door and jiggled it gingerly. “What kind of shoe store closes before 5:00pm? It's wrong. This dimension is unnatural.”
“It's not so bad,” Faith said as she looked around the busy street, couples and families bustling along as they finished their shopping for the day. “At least we know we're friends in this dimension. Kinda woulda sucked if we found out that we weren't friends at all, or even worse, enemies.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Buffy said, deflated. “What a bummer. I was totally psyched, too.”
Faith watched as Buffy winced painfully as she wiggled her feet around in the constraining and uncomfortable boots she was wearing. She didn't like seeing Buffy upset. There was nothing more that she loved than when they could just be happy and easy going. It made her feel like she was home.
“Hey, I've got a potentially horrible idea,” Faith said, causing Buffy to look up at her with a small pout on her face. “How bout we make a small detour on the way back to the Bronze?”
“What did you have in mind?” Buffy asked.
Faith smiled and started walking slowly again, urging Buffy along with a nod of her head in the direction she was walking in.
About fifteen minutes later, Buffy and Faith made their way through an eerily familiar neighborhood.
“This is unbelievable,” Buffy said as she gazed around the small street. “Every house is exactly the same. Same colors, same landscaping . . . same everything. I feel like we're back in Sunnydale. Our Sunnydale.”
“It's defo a bit trippy,” Faith said and she watched Buffy from the corner of her eye, trying not to make it apparent that she was watching her. “Wonder if all the same people live in the houses.”
“I think that's a no,” Buffy said as she stood in front of her former neighbor's house. She pointed toward the large garage where two small children were chasing one another on big-wheels. “There used to be an elderly couple that lived there.”
“So, houses are the same but the people are different?” Faith asked.
“Looks that way at least.”
They walked the last few steps up the sidewalk until they were stood at the walkway that led to the front door of Buffy's former house. Buffy looked at the house wistfully, a mixture of happiness and sadness passing across her features.
“It's kind of bittersweet,” she said, her gaze transfixed on the house.
“How so?” Faith asked quietly, watching the emotions play across Buffy's face.
“I get to see it, but I can't have it,” Buffy said sadly.
“Yeah, I know all about that one,” Faith said, suddenly finding her boots quite interesting. When she finally willed herself to look up again, she saw Buffy walking down the walkway towards the house. “Whoa whoa whoa, what are ya doing?” Faith asked as she jogged up to Buffy, stopping her with a firm hand on her shoulder.
“What does it look like I'm doing?” Buffy asked, moving Faith's hand off of her. “I'm getting a closer look.”
“B, does that sound like such a good idea? Remember Red's warning, about the badness? The catastrophic badness?” Faith reminded Buffy, firmly planted on the walkway as Buffy made her way up the porch steps.
“We already know that different people live in the houses, Faith. What harm can it do if I just take a peek in the window?”
“And what if your mom is looking out the window just as you're looking in? Fuck, what if you're inside the house? The other you, I mean. What if you spontaneously combust or something? What do I tell your sister and the gang? Hey Dawnie, I totally took Buffy through the old neighborhood and she blew up into a gabillion little Buffy pieces. Oops, my bad.” Faith ranted on, clearly agitated. She didn't want their mission to get screwed up, seeing as how easy they had had it up until that point.
She didn't want to be a failure anymore. More importantly, she didn't want to find out what happened if they ran into their other selves. There was no way she could go back though that portal alone if Buffy decided to get explodey.
“Blah blab blah,” Buffy mimicked Faith as she peeked in through the front window of the house. “Doesn't look like anyone's home. And hey, what happened to the daring girl that used to jump into situations headlong?”
Faith straightened up and took the few steps up the porch so that she was stood next to Buffy now.
“She grew up, B. And I really suggest you think this over before you make a mistake we all end up regretting.”
Judging by the tone in Faith's voice, Buffy realized that she had offended Faith. That was the last thing she had meant to do. Frustrated, she stood back from the window and faced Faith, a pleading look on her face.
“I need this, Faith. I never got to . . . I need closure. I need to see it one last time so I can say goodbye. Just . . . please, just let me have this.” She reached out and took Faith's hand in her own; a gesture she hoped would make Faith see how sincere she was.
Faith stared into Buffy's green eyes for a few moments before sighing deeply.
“Be quick. We don't know how long we have. And if you think I'm sweeping up all the pieces of you if you go all kablooey, you've got another thing coming.”
With a grateful smile, Buffy led Faith to the front door. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on sounds inside the house, but the only thing she could feel and hear was the hum of her connection with Faith, made stronger by their joined hands.
“Sure, I don't pick up on the connection thing for six years and now that I do, I can't drown it out. Does it buzz this loud for you?” She asked, almost annoyed.
“Yep,” Faith answered with a grin.
Focusing once again, Buffy shrugged her shoulders after a minute or so. “Nothing, I don't feel anything from inside the house. I think it's empty.” Trying her luck, she turned the door knob and was surprised when it turned easily. “Jackpot.”
And as if it was her very own house, Buffy walked into the front door and immediately began checking the place out. She jogged up a few of the stairs, peering around the corner before she jogged back down and into the living room.
“Wow, twilight zoney. This is almost exactly like my old house. Pretty sure this one hasn't been put back together a hundred times though.”
Faith looked around nervously from her spot just inside the doorway. “Yeah, that's great. You ready to go?”
Buffy stopped and looked over at Faith, laughing softly. “I've never seen you this uptight the whole time I've known you. Relax Faith,” she said as she took a few steps towards her. “We're alone here. I'm gonna do my explorer thing and we'll be back home before you can say wicked.”
Faith narrowed her eyes at Buffy, who happily bounced through the front hall and into the dining room. Buffy disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Faith stood alone in the front hall.
“Hey, don't worry, B. I'm sure a little B&E will look great on your resume,” Faith said to herself.
Just then, she heard a noise come from upstairs. Before she could signal to Buffy, she saw a very familiar blonde come bouncing down the stairs.
“Hey baby, you're home early,” the other Buffy said as she leapt from the last stair into Faith's arms. Before Faith could react with the shock she was feeling, she felt a soft pair of lips on her own and a strong pair of hands groping her ass.
“Ahh hah whoa,” Faith said as she let Buffy down onto the ground and tried to take a step back.
“Mmm, I love it when you play coy,” the other Buffy said with a devilish grin before leaping up into Faith's arms again, kissing her nice and deep this time.
Faith tried not to react, using every ounce of strength she had to be a statue, but Buffy's persistent lips and tongue were unrelenting and she finally gave in. She wrapped her arms around the other Buffy and kissed her long and deep, earning a moan from the girl.
It was then that Faith heard a slight gasp come from the living room. She opened her eyes to see her Buffy stood there with her hand over her mouth and her eyes opened wide.
Faith released one hand from the other Buffy's lower back and waved it at Buffy, indicating the open door. Buffy simply nodded her head as Faith maneuvered herself and the other Buffy into the dining room. When she saw her Buffy make a run for the open door, she indulged in the kiss for just a moment longer before breaking away.
“That was nice,” the other Buffy said as she ran her thumb over Faith's lips.
“More than nice,” Faith said, resting her forehead against Buffy's for a moment. “Babe, do you think you can get me a drink? I'm kinda dry here all the sudden.”
“Of course,” the other Buffy said before placing a soft kiss on Faith's cheek. Then she kissed her way to Faith's ear where she whispered, “but I plan on getting you nice and wet later anyhow.”
Faith's eyes went wide yet again, not so much from the other Buffy's words, but from the way she squeezed her ass before she bounced into the kitchen.
“You already did,” Faith said under her breath as she turned and headed for the front door.
Just as she reached the open door, however, she saw a dark-haired figure walking up the walkway. Buffy, who had been stood on the front porch waiting for her, noticed the look on Faith's face and instantly turned around to come face to face with the other Faith.
Faith jumped back into the house, her back against the wall as she listened to the encounter outside.
“Oh, hi!” Buffy said a little too cheerily as the other Faith sauntered up to her.
“Oh hi yourself,” the other Faith said as she grabbed Buffy in her arms and lifted her in the air, causing Buffy to squeak. “Gimme some sugar,” she said as she lowed Buffy down flush against her body.
Before Buffy could process what was happening, she felt Faith's lips against hers, soft and needy and soft and soft . . .
She closed her eyes, knowing fully well that she had to go along with the charade of being the other Buffy, but was unable to fight it even if she had wanted to. She yielded to the kiss, letting the other Faith claim her with her lips and tongue. Faith's arms wrapped around her and she felt . . . safe. Like no matter what bad things existed in that dimension, she was safe right there where she stood.
Faith chose that moment to peek out the door, and she was suddenly transfixed on the image of her other self kissing Buffy. Her Buffy.
When she saw the kiss come to a close and the other Faith backing Buffy up to the house, Faith knew that she needed another escape route.
“Shit!” She mumbled under her breath as she headed the only other way out: through the kitchen where the other Buffy was and out the back door.
Faith half-jogged through the dining room and burst into the kitchen, causing the other Buffy to jump in surprise.
“You scared me,” the other Buffy said with a smile. She made her way over to Faith with a cold can of Pepsi in her hand.
Faith knew she had to go, but she couldn't resist the beautiful blonde in front of her. Taking the other Buffy by surprise yet again, she pulled her in for a quick kiss, letting her lips linger for just a few moments.
When she pulled back, she smiled at the other Buffy and took the can of Pepsi, taking a much needed drink from the can. Before Buffy could ask where she was going, Faith went out the back door and made a hasty exit around the side of the house. When she reached the front of the house, she peeked around the corner to see Buffy trying her best to get a very gropey Faith to go into the house.
“I'll be inside in two minutes, I promise. Go and look for the surprise I got for you,” Buffy said almost pleadingly. The other Faith took the bait and excitedly turned and went inside the house.
Faith took that opportunity to run up to Buffy and grab her hand, then pulled the shocked girl down the walkway and away from the house.
“Holy . . .” Buffy began, having a total lack of words.
“Uh, yeah,” Faith said, shaking her head.
“That was . . .” Buffy continued, still unable to put a sentence together.
“You're telling me.”
They all but jogged to the Bronze in complete silence from that point, neither able to find the words to say about what had happened. Still, they never let go of one another's hand the whole way.
As they made their way into the Bronze and through the busy crowd to the restrooms, Faith finally found her voice.
“You think they saw us? I mean . . . you think the other me saw me?”
“No, but she saw - and felt - a whole lot of me,” Buffy said almost shyly.
When they walked into the ladies restroom, they finally let go of one another's hands. An awkward silence came over them.
“We should get back, they're probably starting to worry about us,” Buffy said quietly.
“Yeah, definitely.” Faith agreed. As Buffy took a step to walk toward the stall where they had landed, Faith stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm. “B . . . Buffy, you know that wasn't me back there, right? That wasn't us. Right?”
She looked deep into Buffy's eyes, waiting for some kind of affirmation. She didn't want things between them to get weird. Something like this could bring a bit of awkwardness into their comfortable friendship, which Faith didn't want.
“Right,” Buffy said quietly, offering a nervous smile.
“Good,” Faith said, letting go of Buffy's arm.
They made their way into the stall, closing the door tight behind them. They tried their best not to touch too intimately, but being in such a cramped area didn't allow for much personal space.
“You got the orb and the Latin mumbo jumbo?” Faith asked.
“Yeah,” Buffy replied, reaching deep into her pocket. She reached out tentatively to Faith, knowing that they had to hold hands for them both to be transported.
Faith looked at Buffy's hand, then up into her eyes. After a moment, she took Buffy's hand gently in hers, both girls flinching slightly at the hum of their connection. Clinging tightly to the package, Faith closed her eyes and recited the written words with Buffy. A moment later, a large white portal opened up and swallowed them in white light.
No more than five seconds later, they heard the sounds of Willow, Xander, Dawn and Kennedy talking around them.
“Hey!” Willow exclaimed, hopping up from her spot on the living room floor. “You're back! And you have a package. Either Buffy went shoe shopping or you found the urn.”
Buffy and Faith looked at one another and then took a noticeable step apart.
“Oh yeah. We found the urn, and a whole lot more,” Buffy said, chuckling nervously.