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Chapter Nine

The next four nights were spent in the neighbourhood around the Hellmouth. There was no activity, suspicious or otherwise. There was no mention of the way Buffy had slipped her hand into Faith's that first night without a word and there was no mention of what had transpired between them before that either. There was only awkward eye contact and small, shy smiles exchanged whenever they looked at one another. Faith wasn't one for those shy smiles, but she couldn't help it whenever she just looked at Buffy and saw something more there.

The something more she was still refusing to fully accept, to really believe was actually there and not just a figment of her imagination, always wary of that imagination being just a bit over-active. In the last four days however, they'd all gotten into what she dared called a somewhat normal, steady routine. She was always the last one up, the last one to eat breakfast, and she always ran down with a piece of toast, a bagel, or a pancake shoved in her mouth as Giles told her to get a move on with her training. Why she was obeying his `rules', she really didn't know, but she really hadn't questioned it either. She wondered if it had to do with the years that she'd spent in prison. She knew it did, at least it had something to do with that.

This morning had started off just like the last couple of days. She woke up just before ten, dressed in sweats and a loose fitting t-shirt. She pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail and went downstairs to get coffee, have a cigarette, and eat some breakfast before a couple of hours of training with Buffy and Kennedy. Dawn, Xander, and Andrew were in the living room watching TV just as they were almost every single day now, none of them having anything better to do. Giles was sitting in the one armchair by the window, reading the morning paper and sipping what Faith knew was most likely his fifth cup of tea that morning.

"Morning," Willow said cheerfully as Faith walked into the kitchen and headed straight for the coffeemaker

"Hey," she muttered under her breath in reply, smiling over at her despite how so not awake she was. "Are Buffy and Kennedy already downstairs?"

"As always."


"Are you feeling okay?" Willow asked as Faith poured herself a cup of coffee and leaned heavily against the counter. "Just feeling a little tired, aren't you?"

"Add boredom to that," Faith replied with a forced laugh. "Sometimes just wanna drop everything and fuck off for a couple days, find the fun."

Willow shook her head, stifling a laugh since she knew Faith was partly joking. Things weren't just falling into a routine there with everyone; they were all slowly falling into a comfortableness that had never been there before. Even Andrew was finally getting along with everyone, at least until he started annoying Xander, and then it was pure hilarity for everyone else not involved. Faith had found her center, found a way to curb some of the anger that still fluttered to the surface at times.

Faith stood there and sipped her coffee, listening to the sounds of fists hitting the punching bag down in the basement. Kennedy came upstairs, looking completely worn out as she sat next to Willow at the table. Their public displays of affection had been unashamedly increased and it was at the point where everyone was continuously telling them to get a room. Faith just smiled at the two of them and headed downstairs, leaving them alone in the kitchen. Seeing them all touchy-feely made her yearn for it herself, but she hadn't had the desire to go out and find someone to satisfy those urges. She didn't even have the desire to call Julie despite how intense their second time together had been.

She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and sat down, watching as Buffy pummelled the bag repeatedly without breaking her rhythm. The small radio they'd brought down played old classic rock, setting the beat for Buffy, and Faith couldn't take her eyes off of her. The look of focus Buffy had was intense and she cocked her head to the side a little, her eyes drinking in the fluid movements of her body, waiting for Buffy to notice that she was down there watching her. As soon as her thoughts began to tread into dangerous territory, she cleared her throat as she stood up and placed her empty mug on the bottom step.

"About time you decided to get up," Buffy laughed as she turned to look at her. She grabbed onto the bag to keep it from swaying, taking in a deep breath as Faith just shrugged her shoulders and walked over to the mats to stretch. "Did you happen to talk to Giles yet?"

"No, why?"

"We're taking the night off," Buffy smiled as she joined her on the mats. "Kennedy managed to convince him, since there'd been no activity around the Hellmouth lately, that we deserved a night off."

"Right, cos we've been working so fuckin' hard the last couple of nights."

"One night off then we're going to start with what Giles is calling a regular patrol schedule," Buffy said, rolling her eyes as Faith laughed dryly at that. "I don't like it any more than you do. You get the feeling that something still isn't right around here?"


"Is something bothering you?"

"Me? No. Why do you think that?"

"You aren't really..." Buffy paused, looking as if she was trying to find the right word. She just shrugged as she watched Faith stretch out. "You're bored, aren't you?"

"Of course I am," she smiled, wondering when Buffy started to figure her out. "Living on a Hellmouth isn't supposed to be boring. That alone is scary as fuck. Don't even know what's gonna end up happening once things really start to blow up around here."

"Whatever does happen, we'll be ready for it."

"Sure fucking hope so," Faith said under her breath as she stood up from the mats slowly, her muscles stretched and ready, aching for a few good hours of training.

Before she could ask Buffy if she wanted to spar, Buffy was already headed up the stairs. She let out a soft, heavy sigh as she grabbed the tape and wrapped up her hands. She cranked the volume on the radio and began working over the bag, quickly finding a rhythm that burned her muscles in a way that felt good. The only time she was able to let go of the thoughts running rampant through her mind was when she lost herself in the rhythm of pushing her body to the max. The last fifteen days had been full of vicissitudes, self-discovery, and finding that the path to redemption would be touch and go for a while.

For hours she was down there alone, lost in her own world, the sounds of the music on the radio and the rapid beats of her fists hitting the bag keeping her focused. She loved to push herself to the max and the beads of sweat that rolled down her torso and soaked into her shirt was evidence her body was being put through quite a workout. She stopped after a couple of hours, her fists sore, her muscles aching, and her stomach growling.

Nearly everyone but Buffy was in the kitchen getting dinner ready when she walked upstairs. She grabbed a beer out of the fridge and headed upstairs, wanting nothing more than to have a nice hot shower before she ate. She went to her room first, taking small yet frequent sips of her beer as she walked down the hallway. She left the door open and placed the half-empty bottle of beer down on the dresser. A night off meant they could all do what they wanted and despite the pleas her body was giving her to go out and find some proper release, she didn't want to do anything but lounge around the house. She had to laugh at herself, knowing how much it wasn't like her to want to spend a night at home.

She finished off her beer and grabbed a change of clothes before she headed for the bathroom to take a hot shower. Buffy was talking quietly on the phone in her room as she passed by the partly closed door. From the little bit she overheard, she realized that Buffy was talking to Angel, filling him in on the things that had happened, or the lack of in the last few days.

Trying to keep all her thoughts at bay, she had a quick shower and headed downstairs to eat. Staying lost in her own little world, she grabbed a big bowl of spaghetti and sat at the table, barely listening to the others as they talked quietly. Buffy joined them when they'd nearly finished eating, choosing to sit next to Faith instead of in the empty chair next to Xander across the table. She ignored the look Kennedy shot her way as the others began to clear the table, focusing on Buffy instead and smiling a little when she caught Buffy staring at her while trying to make it not so obvious that she was.

"Are you...going out tonight?" Buffy asked softly, barely heard over the clatter of dishes and the water running in the sink. "I thought maybe I'd take you up on your offer from before."

"What offer?"

"About finding the fun," she shrugged, moving the spaghetti around in her bowl with her fork. "I thought with our night off maybe we could go to the club we went to the other night."

"Sure, B. Was kind of thinking of staying in tonight, but hell, if you want to find the fun I'm down for that," Faith grinned as she leaned back in her chair and looked over at Kennedy and Willow for a split second. "We should get everyone to come out, y'know, make it a group thing."

In truth, though she could barely admit it even to herself, she was petrified of spending too much time alone with Buffy. She didn't want to turn down Buffy's offer to hang out since she was obviously putting in some effort to further establish their growing friendship. She kept asking herself what's the worst that could happen if they did decide to go out to the club together, just the two of them, and the answers her mind came up with sent her to a place she'd been fighting not to slip into for days.

"Uh, sure," Buffy finally said after she'd taken a few bites of her spaghetti before pushing the bowl aside. "That girl you uh...you know, is she going to be there?"


"Because it's kind of...awkward and..." Buffy looked away from her as a slight blush crept over her cheeks. "I don't want to go out somewhere with you if someone is going to be all over you," she whispered under her breath, the blush deepening as she allowed herself to look back over at Faith.

"Well, we could always go somewhere else, no big deal, B. Big city and all, there's bound to be plenty of clubs we can hit up."

"Are you two going out tonight?" Kennedy asked from where she and Willow stood at the sink, washing and drying the dishes. "If you are, we are so going to hit up this club I read about in the paper this morning. It just opened and the best part is..." Kennedy chuckled as Willow poked her hard in the stomach, warning her not to continue.

"What's the best part?" Buffy asked, her curiosity now piqued and the blush over her cheeks fading fast.

"Uh, from the description that was written up, looks like it'd be much like the Bronze," Willow said quickly before Kennedy could say a word. "We do need to find a place just to go find the fun every once in a while and it might not be the Bronze, but...what I'm trying to say is..."

"We need a place to hang out outside of the house," Kennedy finished for her, smiling as she leaned in to give her a sweet, chaste kiss. "So, you two up for checking it out?"

"Why not?" Buffy replied, looking right at Faith as if she was waiting for her to agree.

"Sounds fun," Faith said finally, smiling over at Kennedy and Willow before looking back at Buffy. "Looks like we'll definitely all be finding the fun tonight."

"Looks like."

The club they'd planned to go to was packed, it being opening night and all, and when they saw the line to get in, they decided against it and headed to the small bar across the street. It was quiet in there aside from the baseball game playing on the TV and a few patrons that were likely regulars there. They sat at a booth near the back and ordered a round of shots and a pitcher of beer. Xander and Andrew had decided to tag along with them and nobody had protested against the two of them coming out with them.

The booth was just barely big enough for the six of them to squeeze in together. Faith ended up on the edge next to Xander, trying not to feel slightly disappointed that Buffy had chosen to sit across from her next to Kennedy and Willow. They made small talk, mostly talking about what they'd do throughout the summer ahead of them. Despite them living on a supposedly active Hellmouth, they wanted to try to live normal lives, as least as normal as they could considering the circumstances. Xander started rambling on about how they should all go camping one weekend and that caused all but Faith to groan in protest.

"Well, Faith," he smiled at her as he casually draped his arm over her shoulders, "looks like it's just you and me one weekend with nothing but nature, the stars at night, and a case of beer to split around a roaring campfire."


"It'll be a good bonding experience, don't you think?"

"For sure, Xand," she said, feigning an enthusiastic smile as she shrugged his arm off of her shoulders. "Y'know, it's been god knows how fucking long since I've been camping."

She smiled at him, holding back that fear she had of opening herself up to others. She'd realized a lot over the past couple of days that nobody really knew her; they only just assumed that they did. It'd always been hard for her to open herself up and talk about normal things in her life and in her past. Talking about her sexual endeavours and crazy experiences was not filed under opening herself up and talking about herself, not in any meaningful way.

The conversation went on without her, Xander trying to convince the others to come along on their nearly non-existent camping trip. Faith knew that as the days passed their actual periods of downtime would be few and far in between. By the time the pitcher of beer was finished, Faith felt the strings of boredom begin to tug at her nerves and she got up from the booth and pulled Xander with her over to the lone pool table at the far end of the small bar. He said nothing as he racked up, smiling a little over at her as she stood at the other end of the table and fiddled with the pool stick in her hand.

The first game went by quickly, Faith letting Xander win since she wasn't in the mood. She wasn't feeling the atmosphere of the bar. It was far too tame for the burning desire inside of her to get out there and get a little wild. Those days were far from over for her, yet the other desire to actually go out and enjoy herself in one of the many ways she loved to was gone. It caused a rush of thoughts to flood through her mind as the two of them joined the others back in the booth. She didn't know what had happened in the last two weeks, but she knew something had changed inside of her. She was losing her old self and finding someone else there under all the layers she hid behind all the time.

Her eyes kept meeting Buffy's as the others talked and laughed quietly. It was too surreal for her to see the things she'd been seeing every time their eyes met over the last couple of days. There was definitely desire there in Buffy's eyes, and she had to try to convince herself not to figure out why. The small, shy smiles they'd shared was unravelling something between them, something that she knew went far beyond the planes of friendship.

It was too much just to sit there across from Buffy and she stood up quickly, ignoring the questioning glance that she received from all of them as she made her way to the bar. She sat down on the stool at the end and motioned to the bartender to bring her a cold beer. The old man just smiled warmly at her as he placed the bottle of Budweiser down in front of her.

"Can I get a shot of Jack with this?" Faith asked before he turned to walk away. He returned with the bottle and poured her a shot slowly, his hand shaking as he looked as if he struggled to control it. "Thanks. Can you leave the bottle? Just add it to our tab."

He nodded as he left the bottle there in front of her, picked up the worn and tattered rag, and walked over to the only other patron currently seated at the bar, a man a few stools down the bar. They talked quietly, but it wasn't hard for her to pick up on their conversation loud and clear.

"You heard about the Slayers coming to town?" The man in the dark trench coat asked the bartender quietly. Faith watched out of the corner of her eye as the old man nodded his head. "Things have calmed down around here since they've shown up. Saw them the other night wandering the area that's been c0ndemned."

"This is relevant information to me, why?"

"You see, I've got a couple of friends who don't like that they're here. well," he chuckled as he looked over at Faith for a moment before lowering his voice a little more, "I wouldn't call them friends exactly, more like the enemies I like to keep close to keep the peace around these parts. They don't like the fact that this city has three Slayers living here."

"You heard about Sunnydale then, I suppose?"

"Nothing but a crater in the ground. Heard they fought the First evil and won. Their luck is bound to run out eventually. Just thought you'd like to get the heads up that these friends of mine are looking for a way out of town. I was told you were the man that could help them."

"I'm sorry," the old man said as he shook his head and wrung the tattered rag in his shaking hands. "I no longer do that line of work. My loyalties lie here and with my wife. I cannot put her life in danger any longer. You can tell your friends they can find their own way out of town."

"See, Henry, that's the problem. There's something else out there now that won't let them leave," the man said under his breath as he leaned over the bar a little ways. "I've heard your wife was the one to cast the barrier around the Hellmouth. You don't suppose she's behind this latest...setback, do you?"

"Laura isn't...she hasn't for quite some time, not since the barrier spell was cast. I'm sorry, Sam," the bartender sighed as he looked over at Faith, the glint in his eye almost speaking the words he couldn't say. "Why is it that you care to help those friends of yours now when you never bothered to in the past?"

"Because they are bound to become a problem and we can't have that now, can we? Been quiet around here lately and it's become even more so with the arrival of the Slayers and the people are starting to notice that something is...off. Even those down at the station know that something is wrong."

Faith didn't like this guy. He was human and she was sure of that, having not felt any vibes coming off of him other than the ones that screamed `traitor' and `liar'. She poured herself another shot as Kennedy came to join her at the bar, a pointed glance telling the other girl to keep quiet as Faith continued to listen to the conversation unfolding a few feet away.

"Henry, I'm telling you, I don't like this. Word has it that having the Slayers in town is going to cause a lot more trouble. More than any of us have seen on our lifetime."

"And what do you suggest we do about it then, Sam?"

"Find a way to get them out of our town before things get really bad. We handled it before they came here just fine."

Kennedy looked at Faith with wide eyes, looking as if she wanted to say something but instead grabbing the shot glass sitting in front of Faith, filling it up before quickly throwing it back. The man sitting on the stool placed a card on the bar, sliding it across to the old man still wringing the tattered rag in his hands. He stood up slowly from the stool, staring both Faith and Kennedy up and down before he headed for the door. The old man dropped the rag on top of the counter, sighing out loudly as he looked over at the two of them.

"I suppose you heard everything," he said quietly as he walked over towards them and placed a second shot glass in front of Kennedy. "I don't think he knows who you are."

"And who are we?" Faith asked, raising an eyebrow when he laughed stiffly.

"The Slayers."

"How do you know that?"

"Because I have the uncanny ability to know these things," he replied with a smile. "My wife, she saw you before you came here and she was anxious to share her vision with me, of course. Unfortunately, with the visions, names are never there. I am Henry."

"Faith," she said as she reached out to shake his hand. "This is Kennedy and the blond haired chick over there, that's Buffy." Henry inclined his head briefly before stepping away briefly to serve a few customers who were now walking up to the bar.

She'd always been fairly good at reading other people; it was one of those hidden talents she'd had for as long as she could remember. The only person she'd never been able to read was Buffy and even that was slowly starting to change. They needed a snitch, as she had put it before, and she got the feeling that Henry would be the one they'd come to for information when the endless hours of researched turned up nothing. How she got all of that, she wasn't sure, but she always went by her gut instinct despite the occasional times when it got her into nothing but trouble.

"So, who was that you were talking to?" Faith asked after Henry had served the few customers their drinks and returned to them.

"Brother," Henry replied with a solemn voice. "He...it is a rather long story."

"Got lots of time for stories," Faith replied as she reached for her beer. "How many do you figure know that we're here?"

"Enough. I've heard things and not just from Sam, but also from others that come in here. Seems a lot of those around here aren't too happy you've shown up," he said under his breath as a few of his customers left. He nodded a goodbye in their direction before looking back at Faith and Kennedy. "The police here have been handling things for as long as I can remember. There was a Slayer here once, many years ago. She was turned after she'd been here for several weeks and ever since then no other Slayer has ever come. Not one."

"Never?" Kennedy asked, looking at Faith for a moment as if she was bored. "So, we got some Slayer who is a vampire running this town?"

"Not anymore," Henry replied quietly. "She was taken care of years ago. The ones who ran the tunnels with her are still around. Nobody can seem to track them down. Sam knows of one of them, but even I am not so sure about my own brother's intentions. As far as I know he's been helping them get out of town, but since you three have arrived, there's a mystical force preventing them from leaving."

"Does this have anything to do with the barrier that is around the Hellmouth?"

"It does," Henry nodded. "My wife is responsible for the barrier itself, but we believe over time it's expanded and taken a life of its own. We have no idea why it would keep them from leaving, but it has. It's also prevented more from coming into the city."

"How is that possible?" Kennedy asked as she took a seat on the stool next to Faith. "I know anything is possible, but how is that possible?"

"Magic has no bounds," Henry said softly. "My wife and the coven she grew up in are very powerful. They've done things no others ever have, things no one ever believed was possible. It isn't dangerous, the barrier, if you were wondering. It has no affect on humans."

Faith looked back at the booth, watching Buffy and the others laugh as they tried to finish off the beer in the pitcher. The rational side of her told her that now wasn't a good time to learn all of this. Buffy looked over at her and smiled sweetly, the glaze in her eyes telling Faith she was definitely feeling a little more than just tipsy. She fought back the laugh as she turned back to Henry.

"You know this place inside and out, don't ya?" Faith asked him, keeping her voice low despite the lack of other patrons around them.

"I do."

"Would you be willing to work with us, help us out when we need it?"

"I could, yes," he smiled at her as he reached for another bottle of beer and placed it down in front of her as she finished hers off. "And your drinks tonight are on the house."

Henry gave her a small card with an address and a number on it. She flashed a smile, mouthing a thank you as she grabbed her beer and pulled Kennedy off of the stool. They went back to sit with the others at the booth and once the laughter had died down she told them what had just went on with Henry. It was sobering for the others, just as it had been for her having heard the things that Henry's brother had said. They didn't let it bring a halt to their night, though, and the conversation soon changed from the more serious things back to Xander trying to convince the others to do the camping trip he had his heart set on. Faith just sat there and thought about everything.

Everything happened for a reason. Every little thing that happened always caused a ripple effect of sorts. Having ended up there in the bar instead of at the club as they had planned had happened for a reason. If they hadn't decided to skip the club due to the line outside the door, they wouldn't have ended up there in the small bar and they wouldn't have ended up finding out things they would have never found out otherwise. She knew they would have come across Henry or his brother Sam at one point or another, but her gut instinct told her it was better that they had tonight.

They stayed until Henry closed the bar for the night and the walk back to the house was quiet, the rather cool night air sobering them up just a little. Faith stayed back a few paces from the others, smoking the last cigarette in her pack slowly and keeping her eyes on Buffy as she struggled to walk straight. She had to try to suppress the laughter when Buffy and Willow clung to each other, both of them giggling as they nearly fell to the ground.

They lucked out, making it back to the house without any incidents. None of them were in any shape to fight if they had run into any vampires or demons. Whether that was pure luck or the vampires and demons were running scared, Faith knew better than to count on them getting that sort of break ever again. They'd been stupid, but they were alive to tell the tale and she vowed that next time they'd arrange for some transportation. Everyone headed for bed, but Faith stayed down in the living room, sitting on the chair by the window in the dark and just staring outside.

"Hey," Buffy said softly as she sat in the chair next to her. "What do you think about the deal with Henry?"

"Seems like a good guy," Faith shrugged. "He'll help us out."

"How are you so sure? How can you just trust someone you've just met?"

"Going by my gut instinct, B. If I end up being wrong, you have full permission to kick my ass."

Buffy just nodded her head, staring at Faith in the dark room as if she was waiting for her to say something else. Faith only shifted in the chair, trying to get comfortable and finding it nearly impossible to under the intense gaze she found herself subjected to. It took everything she had to keep from looking back at Buffy. She wasn't so sure how much longer she could hold herself back without making a move. Those thoughts and those feelings were getting stronger with every day that passed and she was no longer strong enough to fight what she felt. She wanted to talk to Buffy about what was unfolding between them since she knew there was something more happening than the two of them just trying to be friends. They could never be friends and she was beginning to realize why.

"You've been pretty quiet all night," Buffy said softly, waiting for Faith look over at her before she continued, "I kept thinking maybe you weren't having fun. Wasn't tonight all about finding the fun?"

"I had plenty of fun, B. The whole thing with Henry was kind of sobering."

"Giles is going to need to know what happened tonight."

"Yeah," she replied as she closed her eyes and slouched down in the chair, still trying to get comfortable. "Gonna just wait until the morning to tell him."

"I don't think we should...do this too often," Buffy groaned as she held her head in her hands. "Now I remember why I hate drinking."

"So why do you do it then?"

"I don't know," she laughed softly. "I think there's a part of me, this little part, that just wants to be normal and act like someone my age. You know, minus the keg parties and everything."

"You aren't gonna be sick, are ya?" Faith asked as she watched Buffy rock back and forth slowly. "B? If you're gonna be sick..."

"I'm fine. I didn't drink that much, you know."

"Maybe you should just go to bed then?"

"I'm not tired."

"Right," Faith sighed as she stood up slowly. "I'm gonna make some coffee. Do you want a cup?"

"Sure," she smiled as she tried to stand up, promptly falling back into the chair. She reached out to Faith and they both laughed quietly as Faith pulled her up to her feet. "Maybe I did drink a little more than I thought I did."

"Yeah," Faith said softly as she wrapped her arms around Buffy's waist to keep her from falling back onto the chair. She took in a sharp breath and tried to control the shiver that ran down her spine as Buffy wrapped her arms around her and tried to steady herself. "Are you sure you're okay, B? Maybe you should just go to bed."




Faith took a deep breath as Buffy's fingers stroked the back of her neck lightly. Her mind was screaming `not like this', but the rest of her knew what it wanted. She cursed to herself under her breath, wondering when she'd ever have control over her raging libido. All it ever took was a warm body pressed so close to her and that was it. She couldn't do that with Buffy. They were both drunk and she knew if Buffy remembered in the morning that things would be nothing short of awkward between them. There was even a possibility of Buffy really kicking her ass, kicking her out of the house, telling her she never wanted to see her again…and then there was the possibility that Buffy wanted this as much as she did. Their lips were so close that Faith could feel the warm breath every time Buffy breathed out.

She was lost in a trance, mesmerized by the way Buffy was staring into her eyes and the way she kept lightly stroking her fingers over the back of her neck. Her breathing was ragged as she struggled to control her urges. She couldn't. Not now, not like this. She dropped her arms from around Buffy with a heavy sigh and reached for Buffy's hands still around her neck and pulled them away. She wanted to say something. She knew she had to say something, anything, but the words were failing her as she saw the disappointment flicker in Buffy's eyes even in the darkness of the room.

"I can't do this."

"Do what?" Buffy asked, her voice barely above a whisper as she stared at Faith, her body swaying slightly as she tried to stay still. "You can't do what, Faith?"

"This," she said as she pointed to the space between them. "I can't do this, Buffy."

"Do what? Faith, I...tell me what you can't do because you lost me about five minutes ago."

"Five minutes ago I almost kissed you," she said under her breath as she headed for the kitchen, biting her lips suddenly and hoping to hell that Buffy hadn't heard her.

"You almost what?" Buffy asked as she followed her into the kitchen. "Faith..."

"What, Buffy? What do you want me to say? I can't fucking do this."

"Do what, Faith? What can't you do?"

"Are you serious? You realize what almost happened in there?"


"We're supposed to be friends, Buffy. Friends. Not...anything else."

"We are friends, aren't we? We're working on that, right?" Buffy asked as she moved closer to Faith, backing her up towards the wall near the fridge. "I'm not supposed to feel this way about you either."

"Feel what way?"

"Like I want you," she said softly, her eyes slowly meeting Faith's as Faith backed right up against the wall, feeling as if she was trapped. "Like I want to kiss you."

"This is just the alcohol talking, Buffy."

"What if it's not?"

"It is," Faith said shakily. "It has to be. No way in hell would you ever want me if you were sober."

She laughed in disbelief as Buffy stepped back from her. She knew she was right. She had to be right. The alcohol was clouding Buffy's judgement, making her feel things she never normally felt before. Her heart was racing as Buffy stepped towards her again and reached for her hands. She was shaking too and her eyes were brimming with tears as Faith looked at her. She tried to come up with reasons why Buffy was acting this way aside from the alcohol. Maybe being lonely was getting to her, maybe she was just settling for what was there instead of finding something real with someone else.

"Buffy..." she whispered as she let go of her hands. "Don't do this. You're gonna wake up tomorrow and it's gonna go back to the way it was and you're gonna forget this. Don't fucking play this game, okay?"

"I'm not playing any games, Faith. I know it's...new for me to feel this way, but the last couple of days I just...I feel something different. I told myself when we left Sunnydale behind that I would stop running from the things that feel right, that feel real."

"This is not real."

"No?" Buffy raised an eyebrow was she stepped even closer to Faith, their bodies just inches apart. "Feels pretty real to me. Faith?" Buffy reached up and gently ran her fingers over her jaw, turning her head so she'd look at her. "Why are you afraid of this?"

"Cos, B. It's not gonna be like this tomorrow. This is just...a mistake. You're confused, you're lonely, and you're drunk. If this is how you really feel then we'll talk about this tomorrow and if it's not, we'll just forget about this, okay?"

Buffy shook her head as she stepped away slowly, turning her back to Faith as she wiped away the tears that fell. Faith felt the pang in her heart pull her down and she felt her own tears about to fall. She couldn't let this get to her. It was just a mistake. The alcohol was playing games with both of their feelings and Faith didn't want things to go this way. She couldn't let things go this way and ruin the friendship they were slowly building together.

No matter what she felt for Buffy and how much she did actually want her, she had to wait until they were sober and talked about it first. She was about to push herself off the wall when Buffy turned back to look at her and before she could even take a breath, Buffy's lips were on hers, kissing her so softly as if she was unsure. She didn't push Buffy away as she melted with the tender kiss. She just wrapped her arms around her and kissed her back in yearning.

Forgetting what consequences the next day might bring, Faith just let herself get lost in the kiss she'd never thought would happen between them.

Chapter Ten

Thunder rumbled loudly, shaking the house as the rain came down in buckets. Faith pulled the pillow over her head, trying to drown out the storm. It was far too early to be awake. Her internal clock told her it wasn't even five in the morning. With the second loud crack of thunder she pulled the pillow away from her head and tossed it to the side, sighing out loudly as she laid there and stared up at the ceiling.

The kiss had haunted her since she'd gone to bed. The feel of Buffy's lips and her insistent tongue was still there, just faintly. It caused an ache in her body, making her crave more. Never had a kiss made her feel so full before and that alone scared her. She was still convinced that when Buffy woke up she'd regret it; that she'd tell her it was just a mistake and would blame it on the alcohol. She wanted to feel angry with herself for allowing it to happen, for kissing Buffy back the way she had, but she couldn't when it had felt so right.

She sat up in bed and kicked off the sheets, the dampness of the storm making her room feel hotter than it normally did. She could already feel the small beads of sweat rolling down her back, making her uncomfortable and restless. Even as exhausted as she was, she knew that getting any more sleep would be next to impossible. She never slept well during storms, not for as long as she could remember. She closed her eyes as she heard a soft creak out in the hallway and footsteps descending the stairs. She knew it was Buffy as she could just feel her. Something about the kiss had intensified their connection. She'd felt it as soon as the alcohol had worn off just a few hours before and that alone scared her.

As soon as she could smell the fresh coffee brewing down in the kitchen, she got out of bed and pulled on the jeans she'd worn the night before along with a fresh t-shirt. She opened the door, jumping back at little when she saw Buffy standing there with two mugs of coffee in her hands.

"I thought you might have been awake already," Buffy said softly as she handed Faith a mug.

"Thanks," Faith said, walking over to sit on the unmade bed with a small smile on her face.

"I was hoping that maybe we could talk."

"About what?"

"About last night."

Buffy stood in the doorway as if she was unsure whether to come in or just stay where she was. After a long moment she stepped inside the room and slowly closed the door behind her, the soft click as the door shut sounding louder than it should have. Buffy looked over at her before opting to stand by the dresser, keeping some distance between them. Faith could feel a sense of nervousness coming from her and it made her feel nervous since it was the one thing she'd never felt coming from Buffy before. She was having trouble reading her too, as she always usually did, and she was unsure of what would happen once Buffy did start to talk.

Faith sipped her coffee slowly, trying to figure Buffy out. She knew she was nervous, that was a given, but there was something else there she couldn't quite put her finger on. Buffy kept looking over at her, but the instant their eyes would meet she'd quickly look away. Faith found herself staring intensely at her as she listened to the storm raging outside and the only thing she could think about now was the way Buffy had kissed her, the way Buffy's lips had felt upon her own. She'd kissed a lot of people before, but none of them had come close to the way it felt to be kissed by Buffy. It was forever burned in her memory and would now always be the first thing she thought of any time she so much as looked at the blonde.

"I don't even know where to start," Buffy said finally, her voice barely above a whisper. "I don't even really know what to say."

"Well, you did come in here to talk, didn't you? I'm sure you knew what you were going to say before you came in here."

"Last night was..."

"A mistake?" Faith finished for her, the words feeling sour as they rolled off her tongue. "It's cool, B. Mistakes happen."

"No," she said as she shook her head. "It wasn't a mistake. I've been lying awake all night trying to convince myself otherwise. I just...I don't understand what is happening between us, Faith. It's never been like this before."

As she chewed her bottom lip, waiting for Buffy to continue, Faith knew that for the duration of this conversation she'd be holding back a lot of things for the sake of their friendship—or at least for the sake of whatever was left of it. She was afraid to say anything right then, worried that whatever she said would come out entirely wrong. She shivered as another crack of thunder ripped through the sky and shook the house.

"Faith, last night I...I'm not going to blame it on being drunk," Buffy said quietly before lifting her mug and taking a sip of her coffee. "I keep asking myself why."

"And what answers have you come up with?"

"I really don't know. I feel so confused right now."

Faith sighed as she stood up from the bed and walked over to the window, opening it a crack to let in some fresh air. She leaned against the windowsill as she stared over at Buffy, wanting to tell her she felt just as confused, but she wasn't so sure how to get the words out. She could tell from the way Buffy spoke, the way her eyes darted around the room, and the tenseness in her body that she was having a hard time just talking to her about this.

"Look, B," Faith said, lowering her eyes to the mug she held with both hands as she tried to calm the rapid beating of her heart, "we don't have to talk about it if you don't feel comfortable."

"We need to talk about this. We are talking about this."

"We've never been able to just talk about anything. What makes you think that talking about the fact that you kissed me last night is going to be any easier than just talking about general bullshit?"

"You kissed me back."

"I know I did. I shouldn't have."


"What what, B?"

"Why do you say that you shouldn't have kissed me back?"

Faith let out a deep breath, shaking her head as she turned to look out the window. "Cos it's ruining our friendship, Buffy. All I've ever wanted was to be friends with you, to be a part of your life. I fucked that up once already and I really don't want to go through all of that again."

She didn't have to look at Buffy to know that she had tears in her eyes. She could feel her own tears burning, threatening to fall, and she took in a few deep, shaky breaths as she tried to stop them from falling. She was opening herself up, letting down those walls she'd built so securely around herself, and she hated how vulnerable it made her feel. She hated that her heart was aching, disagreeing with everything she was thinking about. She hated that she couldn't even look at Buffy now, afraid of what she'd really see.

"It isn't," Buffy said softly as she walked over to her, approaching her tentatively as if she was afraid of how she would react. "Maybe talking about it so soon wasn't such a good idea."

"Maybe. I didn't expect you to want to talk about it at all, actually."

"You really don't know me, do you?"

"No, I don't."

"That's mostly my fault," Buffy laughed as she leaned against the windowsill next to Faith. "We don't know hardly anything about each other, so it's kind of a two-sided deal here."

"Can't expect to get to know someone overnight. Those things do take time."

"I know and I...what I wanted to say is...you've really changed, Faith."

"Not really."

"You have," Buffy smiled at her as she reached for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Before she could say anything else, thunder ripped through the sky and Buffy let go of her hand. The power flickered before going out and Buffy let out a frustrated groan. "Great."

"Not used to storms, are you?"

"Not anything like this, no."

Faith knew that their talk was over for the time being. She was relieved, as she'd never felt so damn nervous in her life. She wasn't a stranger to being nervous around Buffy, but after the kiss they shared it had just intensified ten-fold. They stood there side by side for a few long, quiet minutes that felt like hours before Buffy walked towards the bedroom door, stopping to look back at Faith for a moment before opening the door and walking out. Faith let out the breath she felt like she'd been holding for the last ten minutes and closed the window as the rain started to come inside.

She stayed up there alone for a while, thinking about what they'd talked about. It was nearly impossible for her to wrap her mind around the fact that Buffy didn't regret the kiss they shared. She really did expect her to flat out tell her it was a mistake before proceeding to kick her ass until she was nothing but a bloody pulp on the floor, wishing Buffy would just finish the job and kill her, put her out of her misery. She had to laugh at the over-dramatic thoughts she was having. Maybe she was stretching things too far from what they really were. If she was, she was only doing it because this whole thing scared her more than anything else had ever scared her in her life. This whole thing with Buffy, that underlying crush she'd had on her since the first time she met her, was growing into something more. She could just feel it.

There was no sense in trying to bury those feelings, especially not with them surfacing constantly with just one look. She finished off her coffee and headed downstairs, hoping to find a few minutes alone before everyone else woke up for the day. However, with the storm still raging and the thunder booming through the sky every other minute, she'd be amazed if nobody else was awake yet.

She stopped in the doorway to the kitchen as soon as she saw Buffy standing by the sink and staring out the window, body shaking slightly; a sure sign that she was crying. Unsure of what to do, she almost backed out of the kitchen, but Buffy suddenly wiped at the tears on her face before turning to look at her. She had a sinking feeling that maybe it was partly her fault that Buffy was upset, but she wasn't sure as to what she'd done.

"You okay?" Faith asked softly as she walked over to her. "B? What's wrong?"

"It's stupid," she said as she let out a choked sob before she turned her back again and gripped the edge of the counter near the sink. "It's nothing, Faith."

"You sure about that?"

"I think I'm just...that talk we had, it so didn't go the way I thought it would."

"And how'd ya think it'd go, B?"

"I told you, it's stupid. I don't even know why I'm so upset," she laughed coldly as she furiously wiped away the tears that streaked down her cheeks.

Faith smiled a little as she leaned against the counter next to her and playfully bumped her hip into Buffy's. "Tell me, B."

Before Buffy could say a word, Kennedy walked into the kitchen, grumbling under her breath how it was too damn early to be awake. Buffy stepped away from Faith, pouring herself another cup of coffee and motioning for Faith to put her mug down on the counter. Whatever Buffy was upset over specifically, it had to do with the talk they'd just had and she couldn't help but feel a little disappointed that they'd been interrupted. Buffy managed to compose herself enough for Kennedy not to notice she was upset and she walked out of the kitchen without a word or a glance at either of them.

Kennedy was still half-asleep as she fumbled in the cupboard for a mug and poured herself a cup of coffee. She looked over at Faith and raised an eyebrow as she hoisted herself up on the counter before taking a small sip of her coffee.

"I didn't interrupt anything, did I?"


"Looked like you two were having some intense conversation," Kennedy replied with a smirk that Faith wanted nothing more than to slap her for. "Oh, wait…you were being sarcastic, weren't you? It's way too early for that shit, Faith."

Faith chuckled as she turned to look out the window. "Damn, this storm doesn't look like it's gonna let up any time soon, huh?"

"And the master of changing the subject is..."

"Shut up, Ken."

"I've hit a nerve, haven't I?" Kennedy snickered as she shook her head. "You know, I'm only going to say it one more time—you and Buffy need to fuck that unresolved sexual tension out. You two won't be the only ones benefiting from it. The whole house will. You know I'm right, Faith. I'm always right about these things."

Faith ignored her, knowing it'd be better for her to do that than fuel Kennedy even more. Kennedy only laughed as she slid off the counter, winking at Faith as she headed out of the kitchen and left her in there alone. She just shook her head and headed for the living room to join the others as soon as she heard them all coming downstairs. She needed to tell Giles about the bartender from last night. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the card Henry given her and sat down in the chair next to the watcher.

"Found us a contact last night," she said to him as she handed the card over. "This man named Henry, his wife is the one who put up the barrier around the Hellmouth."

"Oh really?" Giles asked, his face registering surprise as he looked at the card. "Well, this is interesting. I am familiar with Henry—not first-hand, but rather though some colleagues of mine. His wife was once a very powerful witch. I was not aware he was still here. What has he told you?"

"That the vamps and demons can't leave. There's another barrier preventing them from leaving the city all together. His brother Sam helps them escape, or he used to, I don't know. I was getting bad vibes from the guy."

"Sam, that's right," Giles sighed. "How did you meet Henry?"

"Went out to a bar last night and he was there. I overheard him and Sam talking. He knew who we were."

"As would be expected. His wife is a powerful psychic as well. She would have seen us coming long before we actually left Sunnydale."

"So, are we gonna figure out why his wife placed the barrier around the Hellmouth, or do you already know why?" Faith asked, wanting to know and feeling a little disappointed that Giles already knew about Henry.

"The rumours have it that she cast the barrier nearly fifty years ago to diminish the amount of activity here. It had the desired effect, but it didn't actually keep anything from coming or going; it merely diminished the Hellmouth's `attraction', if you will. If what you say is true about nothing being able to leave the city, the spell has expanded on its own. We should be cautious about this situation. If there is such a barrier preventing those from leaving, I'm afraid that means you three will not be able to leave as well. This is going to cause a ripple effect of sorts."

"What kind of ripple effect?" Buffy asked as she joined them, sitting on the arm of Faith's chair. "Is it dangerous, Giles?"

"Not as far as I know, but there's still so much more that we need to know. From the looks of things, Henry and his wife are the only ones who can provide those answers. As soon as the power is back on, I will get in touch with them and set up a meeting."

"Giles?" Willow looked up from where she was sitting on the couch with a large book open in her lap. "This barrier wasn't just cast to keep the Hellmouth cloaked. It's been opened once before. By a Slayer…or a former Slayer."

Buffy looked down at Faith, her eyes wide as Faith barely flinched at the information. "By a Slayer? A rouge Slayer?" Buffy asked as she looked over at Willow.

"She was turned shortly after she arrived here to watch over the Hellmouth," Willow said as she flipped a few pages. "She's no longer around according to this book, but something seems off. It just says that she disappeared, not that she was killed."

"Henry said she'd been taken care of," Faith said softly. "He never said much else. He did say that the mystical barrier that's preventing the baddies from leaving only popped up around the city when we got here. You think it has something to do with us?"

"We can't know for sure," Giles said as he got up and pulled a few books off the shelves. "In the meantime, we'll need to research more about the Hellmouth here."

"B?" Faith smiled as she looked up at Buffy. "Want to go down and spar for a little while?"

"Sure," she smiled right back, knowing exactly what Faith was doing: namely, getting them out of having to research with the others. "Kennedy, are you coming?"

"Nah, I'm going to stay up here for awhile; you two go," she replied, winking at Faith as she took one of the books Giles handed to her.

Faith and Buffy headed downstairs, neither of them saying a word or barely even looking at one another as they walked down to the dark basement. Buffy just sat down on the bottom step and let out a soft sigh. Faith looked back at her, shrugging as she walked over to the mats and sat down. She knew they wouldn't actually spar as they said they would, but she had a funny feeling that their talk that had started and ended abruptly in the kitchen wouldn't continue unless she brought it up.

"What do you think the deal with Henry and his wife is?" Buffy asked her quietly, breaking the silence between them, but not the tension. "You didn't get any bad vibes from him last night, did you?"

"Only from his brother. Seems a little bit too shady."

"Yeah, I wouldn't know."

"Was just luck I overheard that conversation last night at the bar, B."

"I know. I should be concerned about this, but I'm not."

"No? How come?"

"Because all I can think about is last night and our talk," she replied quietly. "Faith, I really don't know how to feel right now, or what to even think. I feel like I'm losing it because all I can think about now is you. How stupid is that?"

"It ain't stupid."

"I just feel like I'm all over the place right now. I couldn't even sleep last night," Buffy said, her voice cracking slightly as she fought back the tears. "I'm getting upset over this, Faith! I don't know why it's getting to me."

"Probably cos you never thought something like that would happen," Faith replied with a shrug. "I told ya, B. It's not a big deal. It was just a kiss. It's not like we did anything else."

Faith knew that a kiss between the two of them was not just a kiss; it was a hell of a lot more. Buffy seemed to know that too and she couldn't blame her for being so distraught over it. She got up from the mats and sat next to Buffy on the steps.

"B, look at me," she said softly as she waited for Buffy to look over at her. "Things are really fucked up right now and I get why you kissed me. You've been lonely for way too long and you just wanted..."

"No, this has nothing to do with me being lonely."

"Okay," she frowned as she ran her hand through her hair. "Then why?"

"I don't know, I..."

Faith leaned in and lightly kissed her before she could say another word. She wasn't sure what made her want to do it, either, but she did. She'd never questioned herself with anyone else, but with Buffy it was different. It'd always be different and complicated. She pulled back from the chaste kiss after just seconds and looked into Buffy's eyes, seeing so much more than the desire she'd been seeing over the last couple of days. It scared her, but she shook it off and smiled a little at Buffy as she reached for her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"What was that for?"

"Trying to help you figure out why," Faith replied. "So, did it work?"

"Faith..." Buffy trailed off as she stared at her before lowering her head as the blush crept over her cheeks. "God, I feel like such a moron."

"Why, B?"

"Because I want more."

"More of what?" Faith asked, having a feeling what she meant, but needing to hear it for herself.

"Everything," Buffy whispered as she looked over at her and smiled shyly. "God, I've never...I've never done this before, but all I can think about is how much I want to be with you. It's crazy for me to feel this way, for way too many reasons too, isn't it?"

She wanted to tell Buffy it wasn't crazy, that it was okay to feel whatever she was feeling despite knowing that yes, it was crazy for her to feel more than friendly feelings for her after all they'd gone through together. She licked her lower lip, debating whether to say anything. She barely took a breath before Buffy leaned in and kissed her softly, both of them sighing contentedly as their lips met. Faith was holding herself back, not wanting to dominate the kiss, allowing Buffy to take it however far, fast, or slow she wanted to. She almost felt like pinching herself to make sure she wasn't dreaming all of this, but she completely lost her train of thought as Buffy ran her tongue over her lips, waiting for Faith to take the offer to deepen the kiss.

They kissed for what felt like hours. It made Faith weak in the knees despite the fact that she was sitting down. She'd never quite been kissed that way, so tenderly, so deeply, and so full of passion. It had always been hard and fast with her in the past, but here with Buffy it was something else entirely.

"Oh god, what are we doing?" Buffy whispered as she broke away from the kiss, panting slightly as she tried to catch her breath.

"Ain't it obvious, B?" Faith said, unable to stop the smirk from creeping over her lips as Buffy pulled her in for another kiss.

Faith had that lingering feeling that everything would come crashing down and end rather badly between them, but it didn't stop her from kissing Buffy with everything that she had. Her hands were aching to roam over Buffy's body, to feel her soft skin beneath her fingertips, but she knew that was one step too far too fast, not just for Buffy but also for herself. Faith pulled back from the kiss, licking over her kiss-swollen lips as she smiled at Buffy.

"Okay wow," Buffy laughed softly. "That was even better than last night."

"Yeah? You still don't know why, do you?"

"No," Buffy grinned, looking a little more confident and sure of herself as she ran her fingers over Faith's thigh slowly. "Maybe we could...do it again?"

"I'm not gonna say no to that, B, but don't you think we should try and figure out what's going on between us before we..."

"I don't know what's going on between us," Buffy said, cutting her off. "I just know that after that kiss, it just felt right. That's why it feels so crazy to me because it feels right to kiss you. It feels like..."

She stopped when the basement door opened and Faith groaned in frustration as Kennedy came down the stairs. One of these days she was going to end up hurting Kennedy for interrupting her and Buffy when they were having a moment together. She just forced a smile as Kennedy sat on the steps behind them and groaned softly.

"Research is so fucking boring," she muttered as she looked down at them. "I should've just come down with you two before. I want to gouge my eyes out."

Faith chuckled as she looked over at Buffy, who did not look pleased that they'd been interrupted yet again. They sat down there in complete silence for a while before going back upstairs to join the others with hopes that they wouldn't be forced into researching with them. The power was back on by then even though the storm was still raging outside. Giles told them as soon as they'd joined everyone in the living room that he'd gotten in touch with Henry and that he and his wife would be coming for dinner that night.

Faith ended up going out on the front porch alone, standing by the railing and watching the storm as it raged on overhead. She felt like she was floating from that kiss she'd had down in the basement with Buffy. It had never felt like that for her before and her mind was swimming, questioning why it hadn't. She kept asking herself how Buffy could suddenly have these feelings for her, why she even wanted to kiss her—and wondering just what Buffy had meant when she said she wanted everything.

She had what felt like a permanent smile etched over her lips and she couldn't quite shake it. Buffy was right when she said that it felt right to kiss her. She'd felt the same thing too. Now she was starting to see why Buffy thought it was so crazy to feel this way. They'd never had these types of feelings for each other before and there was more than just a friendship building between them—so much more. As much as it scared Faith to think of what more it could turn out to be, she could feel the hope building in her that it'd be something neither of them had ever experienced before with anyone else.

There only was one thing she was afraid of—the fact that she knew she'd end up hurting Buffy when she couldn't give Buffy everything she wanted. It was different than it had been when Robin was still alive. He didn't intimidate her with the prospect of a relationship. With Buffy she was scared shitless because it was Buffy.

"Did you want to be alone?" Buffy asked softly as she stood in the open doorway.

"Nah, I was just thinking and watching the storm."

"Thinking about what?"



"Nothing bad, B," Faith chuckled softly as Buffy stood next to her. "Kind of know now how you've been feeling cos I'm feeling it too."

"Downstairs, before Kennedy came down, I was going to say how this feels so fast and how it's just...how we've kind of just jumped headfirst into the unknown since last night. I'm scared of what I'm feeling, Faith. I'm really scared."

"I am too," she whispered softly, keeping her eyes up on the sky above as the lightning crawled over the black clouds in the sky.

"This is..."

"Crazy, I know, right?" Faith chuckled as she casually reached for Buffy's hand and intertwined their fingers as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to do. "Where do we go from here, B?"

"I really don't know."

"Shit," she muttered under her breath. "I have no idea either. Never been through something like this before. You're honestly the last person I ever thought I'd..."

"You'd what?"

"Have a chance with," she finished under her breath, not daring to look over at Buffy as she spoke to see her reaction. She didn't need to look at her to know that she was smiling. She could just feel it. "I don't know what you want from me, Buffy, and that's what scares me the most…not knowing that. I don't know what I can offer you that nobody else can. I've never...done this before."

"Done what exactly?"

"This," Faith said as she motioned between them, still not looking at Buffy. "Whatever this is, I've never done it before."


"So tell me, Buffy, what is it that you want from me?"

"I really don't know, Faith."

Faith let out an exasperated sigh as she looked down at their still-joined hands. She smiled a little to herself as she lifted Buffy's hand and placed a gentle kiss upon it as she turned to look at her. Her heart felt like it leapt into her throat as she tried to find the right words to say. She'd never been good at saying the right thing, but she wanted to try. She had to try.

"Whatever is happening between us, maybe we should just let it happen and see where it takes us?" Faith's voice was shaky, but as the words came out she knew she was sure of them.

 "I can deal with that."

"This is just fuckin' crazy, Buffy. I just can't seem to wrap my head around this whole thing. How the hell did this happen?"

"I don't know. I've been asking myself that since last night. Maybe it's all the time we've been spending together since we left Sunnydale? We never spent this much time together before."

"We've never gone this long without fighting, either. You don't think this is a sign of an apocalypse coming, do you?" Faith chuckled softly. Buffy just gave her a look before she laughed along with her.

"I really hope you aren't right, Faith. We just had one hell of a fight against the First. I don't think I'm ready for another one just yet."

"I don't think any of us are."

"So," Buffy breathed out softly, "we're just going to let this happen? How do we do that?"

"I really don't know. Shit, this is one of those things you wish you had the answers to, yet you know that you won't get the answers if you look too hard for them. I'm really starting to feel like I've stepped into another dimension where this," she said as she looked down at their joined hands, "happens all the time, like it's the most perfectly natural thing in the world to happen to us."

"Maybe it is and we've done nothing but fight it and deny it all this time?"

Faith blinked, not sure if she was hearing what Buffy was actually saying or if she was just hearing what she wanted to hear. She couldn't get over how much everything had just changed between them virtually overnight. In her world, things like that never happened to her. Ever.

They stayed out there and watched the storm together until mid-afternoon, when the last of it finally passed them by. No other words were said, only small, shy smiles exchanged whenever they looked at each other at the same time. Faith kept fighting that urge to kiss her again, wanting for once in her life to take things slow. The last thing she wanted was for them to pursue whatever was unfolding between them and for her to end up breaking Buffy's heart. Nobody had ever made her feel this way and never had she been so worried about hurting anyone else that way, either. The changes she was going through, what Buffy was going through—it was all happening so fast and she wanted to take a giant step back before they were in so far, so deep, that they couldn't pull themselves out.

After a long, lazy afternoon, they all ended up in the kitchen cooking dinner for Henry and his wife. Giles was rather excited to meet the man and Faith couldn't blame him. They needed contacts there in Cleveland that knew the workings of the underground and where to go to find out vital information. They couldn't rely on research or what was left of the Council, that being essentially a bare handful of Watchers even Giles suspected weren't entirely on the good side of things.

Those long, lingering gazes and small, shy smiles continued between her and Buffy up until Henry and his wife showed up at the door promptly at six o'clock as planned. She ended up in the kitchen with Xander and Kennedy, sipping on a cold beer and listening to the rapid conversation unfolding in the living room. Giles and Henry did most of the talking, sharing stories and making plans to have Henry be a part of a weekly meeting between all of them. Kennedy just rolled her eyes and grabbed another beer out of the fridge, shaking her head in disbelief as she joined Faith where she sat on top of the counter.

"How the hell do we know we can trust this guy?" Kennedy asked as she twisted off the cap and took a sip. "Seriously. We just met the guy and Giles is all buddy-buddy with him?"

"Just give the guy the benefit of the doubt `til he gives us a reason not to trust him," Faith replied quietly as she picked at the label on her bottle. "He knows a lot of things any mere normal human being wouldn't or shouldn't know."

"Whatever. I still say we shouldn't trust the guy until he gives us a damn good reason to."

"Is that the way you are around everyone you just met?" Xander asked Kennedy as he walked up to stand in front of them, staring at both of them for a moment before he let out a heavy sigh. "Maybe you are right, Ken. Maybe we shouldn't trust him until he gives us a reason to. The others don't seem to think that way."

Faith was torn, not knowing how to feel about Henry and his wife Laura. From the bits of the conversation she could hear, they were just an old, sweet couple who had lived their whole lives there in Cleveland, always knowing about the creatures that went bump in the night and lurked behind every dark corner. Willow and Laura were talking spells, as expected, and she could hear the excitement in Willow's voice when Laura told her she'd teach her more than she ever thought she'd be able to know.

Whether they could trust them or not, they seemed to have the potential to fit easily into the tightly knit group they had formed since they arrived there. Despite all the little circumstances and the things that were unfolding—not just between her and Buffy, but also with the Hellmouth and everything related to it—things were going rather good. It made her feel restless because she knew that whenever things were going good, something bad was bound to happen eventually.

And she had that sinking feeling she couldn't shake off that their luck was definitely about to run out.



Chapter Eleven

Faith was quickly becoming used to being the first one awake so early in the morning. She'd never been a morning person, nor had she ever gotten into the habit of sleeping for a few short hours then waking up to start the day before the sun barely peaked over the horizon. With so much going on, with the Hellmouth, with Henry and his wife, and then with Buffy, her mind was always going, never stopping long enough to allow her to get more than a few short hours of sleep at a time. It was starting to show, the fatigue. The dark circles under her eyes and just the way she walked, feeling sluggish and not quite with it.

She'd gone all day without spending a moment alone with Buffy. She was okay with that. They both needed space and some time to figure out just what had transpired between them over the last day and night. She'd spent a lot of time throughout the day down in the basement pummelling the heavy bag repeatedly until her whole body ached. The whole time she kept trying to piece together how everything happened between her and Buffy, how they ended up where they were now.

She knew she shouldn't be worried about her relationship with Buffy when there really wasn't anything going on. So they'd kissed a few times; in her head that did not equal any kind of a relationship. They were barely even friends. Well, they were friends, but her friendship with Buffy wasn't the same as the one she had with Kennedy, or even Xander. It was just easier with Kennedy and Xander, the banter that flowed between the three of them was completely natural and effortless. She felt comfortable around Kennedy and she felt like she could truly be herself around her without worrying about rubbing her the wrong way. It was the same with Xander despite their own little bit of rough history together.

Dawn hadn't been around much, always off doing her own thing somewhere. Faith hadn't really noticed her absence, but she'd overheard Dawn and Buffy talking that morning about her going to summer school to catch up before the fall. She figured that Dawn, since she hardly spent any time at the house, was off trying to make friends in the city, trying to start over with her life just as they all were.

The thing with Henry and his wife was starting to bother her despite her initial ease with it. Giles and Henry had spent nearly the entire morning going over the books that had been there at the house when they all arrived. Even over the sounds of her fists hitting the leather and the music that played classic rock, she could hear the two of them discussing volumes of books one had that the other did not. She still wasn't getting any bad vibes per se from Henry; he was sweet and he did know a lot about the Hellmouth and the history surrounding it, at least the history of it for the past nearly seventy years. Still, sometime around mid-morning she'd begun to have nagging little doubts, feeling as if there was something off about him that she couldn't quite put her finger on.

She found herself lured upstairs at the first whiff of the super-intoxicating aroma of steaks cooking on a barbecue. She walked through the kitchen, where Dawn, Willow, and Buffy were throwing together a summer salad, and headed right out back. Xander was manning the barbecue, accompanied by Giles and Andrew, as Kennedy stood nearby with beer in hand. Kennedy motioned to the cooler on the patio and Faith helped herself to a cold beer, smiling as she leaned against the side of the house.

"When did you get that?"

"This?" Xander asked, smiling over at her as he motioned to Giles. "Convinced him we needed one and Henry hooked us up with a deal. Who knew the guy had so many worthy connections? How do you like your steak cooked, Faith?"

"Medium rare," she replied with a smile as Kennedy moved to stand next to her.

"Nice workout?"


"You were down there all day," Kennedy said as she pointed out the obvious. "How come?"

"Just felt like it," she replied with a shrug. "Sometimes I gotta get lost in my own world and that's the only way I know how to do it."

"Giles invited Henry and his wife for dinner. Apparently they have a daughter," Kennedy said quietly as she rolled her eyes. "She's our age. Didn't catch a name when Henry was talking about her. She's also a witch like her mother."

"Oh really?"

"That's what I've heard. Guess we'll find out as soon as they get here," Kennedy replied just as the back gate opened and Henry walked through. "Which would be right about now. Talk about timing, huh?"

Faith looked over at the gate and her eyes went wide in shock as she saw Julie walk in behind Henry and his wife. The only thing she thought of as Julie looked over at her was `oh shit'. She never planned to see her again unless she went to the club and she just happened to be working that night. She drank back nearly all of her beer as Julie followed Henry and Laura over to greet them. Julie only flashed Faith a sweet smile as Giles made quick introductions.

Kennedy recognized her yet didn't say a word as she offered to take her inside to meet the others. Faith was trying to figure out why she didn't figure out that Julie could possibly be related to Henry and Laura. She looked so much like Laura with the long brown hair and striking green eyes and to see them side by side, the similarities were uncanny. She tried not to act as if she was freaking out and thinking of the worst that could come out of this whole situation. She calmed herself down a little as she got another beer out of the cooler and went to sit down at the picnic table to have a cigarette.

She could hear the laughter coming from inside the house and something about it just made her skin crawl. It wasn't jealousy—that much she was certain of—but there was something there that definitely felt off to her. She cursed silently to herself, wondering why she even thought she could trust Henry in the first place. Maybe it was the honesty he showed that night in the bar, the softness in his eyes, or the easy, carefree laugh he had. Whatever it was, she just couldn't figure it out, she couldn't figure him out. She rubbed her forehead in frustration, trying to quiet the thoughts in her head for a couple of much needed minutes of peace and quiet.

"So," Julie said as she walked over to the picnic table and sat down next to Faith, "you don't call for round three. I'm hurt."

"Yeah, whatever."

"I get it. One night stand. You came back for seconds and that was that," she said coldly as she rolled her eyes. "And don't worry, your friends don't know unless you've told them."

"Did you want something?" Faith asked, trying not to let Julie get to her. "Cos if you didn't want something and all you wanted was to come and try to fuck with my head, then," she sighed as she motioned for her to leave, "I'd appreciate it if ya just left me the fuck alone."

"Harsh," Julie laughed. "I wasn't coming to fuck with your head. Look, my father told me to play nice since he honestly believes we can all help each other out here. I'm more than willing to look past what happened between us for him."

Faith took a long drag of her cigarette and stared at Julie long and hard. She saw too much of herself in her, that cocky arrogance she usually had but had lost somewhere along the way. She saw the confidence in Julie, the same confidence she'd been lacking lately. When Julie lightly ran her fingers over her arm, she felt the goose bumps form in their wake. She wanted to slap Julie's hand away, tell her she wasn't interested, but her body was reacting and stopping her from saying a word.

"I was really hoping you'd call again, Faith."

"Not one to..."

"It might have been a quick fuck the last time, but damn it makes me so hot just thinking about it. I have to say I was quite surprised to see you here. You were the last person I thought I'd see today."

"Julie..." Faith trailed off as she turned to look at the others near the house. "Stop."

"Why? Nobody is paying a speck of attention to us, Faith."

"That's not the fucking point," she said sharply as she stared at her. "I'm not interested, Julie."

"Can't blame a girl for trying, can you?" Julie chuckled as she raked her nailed over Faith's lower arm before she pulled her hand away. "If you ever want a repeat, maybe something with James and me again..."

"I told ya," Faith said through clenched teeth, "I'm not interested."

"Okay," Julie smirked as she moved down the bench a little to give the two some more space. "I'm not one to beg, nor am I one to cling. You know what you want, Faith, and once you give in to it, you know where to find me."

"You can't give me what I want," she said under her breath as she took one last drag of her cigarette and dropped it in the empty pop can near her feet.

"Oh no? You got a thing for that brunette—Kennedy, was that her name?"


"The redhead?"

"Fuck no," Faith said, unable to stop the laugh that came out.

"What about the other one, the blonde? Buffy?" A crude smile formed on Julie's lips as Faith shot her a glare that warned her to back off. "She really doesn't seem your type, Faith."

"You don't know me so where the fuck do you get off telling me what my type is?"

"Just calling it how I see it," Julie smirked as she ran her fingers through her hair. "You fuck her yet?"

"No. Not like that's any of your fucking business."

"Are you going to fuck her?"

"Fuck you."

"You already did. Twice."

Faith clenched her fists in her lap, breathing heavily as she struggled to control her anger. Over and over again she was telling herself that somehow Julie knew how to push her buttons and that was exactly what she was trying to do. Just before she could say anything, Kennedy walked over and sat down across the table, placing a bottle of beer in front of each them. Faith let out a sigh of relief, not knowing how much more she could have taken of the head games Julie was trying to play with her. As soon as Julie excused herself and went to join her parents in the discussion they were having with Giles, Kennedy leaned forward and motioned for Faith to lean in.

"What the hell is she doing here?"

"She's their daughter," Faith shrugged. "Fuck if I knew that."

"This is crazy," Kennedy muttered as she peered over Faith's shoulder to look at Julie. "You do realize she's a pretty powerful witch, don't you?"

"Yeah, I got the memo."

"Better not fuck around with her anymore, Faith. Who knows what she'll end up doing."

"You mean besides the fucking head games she was just trying to play?" Faith asked, rolling her eyes as she leaned back and took a sip of her beer. "When the hell did everything become so fucked up?"

"What do you mean?"

"With the Hellmouth, with Henry, with Julie, with Buffy...with fucking everything!"

"You didn't feel this coming, did you?" Kennedy asked, tittering when Faith shook her head no. "You thought all you felt when we were on our way here was the evil, right? Well, Will said it was so much more than the evil we could feel. It's kind of like...not really psychic, but we could feel the changes that were about to happen."

"This is the kind of stuff I just don't understand sometimes, Ken. Just for once I want things to be simple. Fat chance in hell anything is ever gonna be simple for any of us though."

"You aren't going through this alone, just keep that in mind," Kennedy said softly, offering her a smile to try to break the tension Faith was feeling. "Don't let that little bitch get to you, okay? So you fucked her, doesn't mean she can fuck with you, right?"


"Besides, if she tries fucking with you again, her ass is gonna meet my foot," Kennedy laughed as Faith laughed right along with her. "Serious, Faith. Nobody fucks with my friends and gets away with it."

She'd known from that night after the fight against the First that she and Kennedy would become close friends. Their lives to that point couldn't have been more different, but their attitudes were so perfectly matched that it was impossible for them not to get along. She could only smile at Kennedy, nodding her head with a silent thank you for her wanting to take a stand against anyone who wanted to try to fuck with her. She'd never had friends like that before. She'd never had friends at all, really. She'd missed out on all those times people had tried to be more than just an acquaintance or a fuck buddy to her, but she didn't want to dwell on the past for any longer than was necessary.

They enjoyed the quiet alone together until everyone joined them around the picnic table. Seating was an issue, so as soon as Faith had gotten herself a plate of food she went to sit under the tree with Kennedy and Xander. She caught Buffy looking over at her, clearly debating whether to sit at the table with the others or join them under the tree. Faith motioned for her to come over to join them, and she watched as Buffy furrowed her brow, still thinking, before she picked up her plate from the table and walked over to sit down with them on the grass.

"We're all heading out to the bar later," Xander said to Buffy as she picked at the food on her plate. "Are you coming with us?"

"Sure," she smiled as she looked over at Faith. "I just don't want to drink too much tonight. I'm afraid I'll end up becoming a raging alcoholic if we keep this up. I never drink, ever, yet the past couple of weeks I've done nothing but drink with you guys."

"So have a diet Coke or whatever," Faith muttered under her breath. "You are missing out on the whole point of this drinking thing anyway, B. It's bonding. We're all bonding."

"Over alcohol?"

"Why not? Loosens the tongue, breaks the tension," Faith shrugged in reply and she lifted her beer bottle and clinked it against Xander's and then Kennedy's.  "It's all about relaxing and having some fun, B. Don't worry, we won't let you become a raging alcoholic."

"Who all is going out tonight?" Buffy asked as she still only moved her food around on the plate, not having taken a single bite yet.

"Just the four of us," Xander replied with a mouthful of food. "Will has plans with Julie. They're going to bond over magic or whatever. Oh! And you know what the best part about going out to Henry's bar is?"

"No, what?" Buffy asked, feigning interest yet unable to keep her eyes from wandering over to meet with Faith's.

"Free drinks all night long," Xander beamed as he and Kennedy gave each other a high five.

"What about patrol?"

"What about it, B? Giles told us it'd be better not to be out there every night after what he and Henry discussed. The less we're seen, the more we'll bag on nights we're actually out there. Gotta admit, though, the nights we have been out have been fucking boring," Faith chuckled as she licked over her lips, watching Buffy watching her and unable to keep the smile away.

"Right," Buffy said softly as she broke the rather intense gaze to look down at the plate of food in her lap. "Why are we even eating outside?"

"Summer barbecue tradition, plus it's a beautiful day," Xander said rather too cheerfully. "Better get used to it, Buff. Got a funny feeling we'll be doing this all summer long."

Faith couldn't help but study her reaction. She didn't look too into it, which was understandable seeing how she wasn't used to such `tradition' at all. It made her realize just how much she and Buffy had missed out on since becoming Slayers. The weight of the world on one's shoulders was a burden that made living a normal life next to impossible. Faith had figured with all the Slayers in the world now that things wouldn't be the same as they'd always been. Sure there'd been small changes, but they seemed almost unnoticeable and frankly she wanted more—she needed more—and she could see that was what Buffy was longing for as well.

"You gonna eat or are you gonna sit there and play with your food, B?" Faith joked as she nudged Buffy's leg with her foot. Buffy shot her a look, laughing as she flipped her off.

"Shut up, Faith. I'm not that hungry."

"I was just joshin' with ya."

"I know."

Faith caught the look Kennedy shot her way, a mix of confusion and surprise at the easy and playful banter between her and Buffy. They finished off their food without much further talk and Xander offered to take their empty plates—and Buffy's plate with her still-untouched food—back inside for them. Faith stretched out on the grass as the late afternoon sun poked through the leaves on the tree. It was relaxing to find a moment like this, as they had always been so few and far between as to practically not exist.

Everyone went inside for drinks and to talk without getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes that were sure to appear as the evening turned to night. Buffy stayed out there with Faith and Kennedy, sighing softly as she lay back on the grass and stared up at the sky. Faith looked over at Kennedy, who winked at her in understanding before rising to go inside, giving the two some time alone. Faith couldn't help but smile to herself as she propped her head up on her elbow and stared over at Buffy, really allowing herself just to look at her. She'd always thought Buffy was beautiful, but in the late afternoon sunlight and with the way it streamed through the leaves on the trees around them, she was breathtaking. She wanted to tell her but she held it back, unsure how her honest words would make Buffy feel.

"What?" Buffy asked, smiling as she turned to look at Faith.


"You are staring."

"Does it bother you?"

"No," she replied, blushing a little as she turned onto her side to face Faith more fully. "Why?"

"Why what, B? Faith asked, feigning ignorance as a teasing smile curled over her lips.

"Why are you staring at me?"

"Cos I felt like it?"

Buffy laughed as she playfully kicked Faith in the leg. "Honestly?"

"Cos you're fucking beautiful," she said under her breath, feeling her own cheeks flush a deep red.

"You think I'm beautiful?"

"Yeah," she smiled at her shyly, watching Buffy's eyes sparkle with delight as she returned the smile. "What, ya got a problem with what I think about you, B?"

"No. I just...I never expected to hear you say that to me."

Faith picked at the grass in front of her, her eyes lingering on the ground in front of her, finding the situation awkward and strangely feeling right at the same time. Buffy reached for her hand while moving closer to her and Faith was honestly surprised she didn't flinch at the touch; feeling so off-balance had instantly made her jittery. She lifted her eyes to find Buffy staring at her intensely, their lips now mere inches apart as they both lay there on their sides.

"What're ya doing, B?"

"I don't know…I..." she sighed out as she laughed nervously. "How come you were avoiding me all day?"

"I wasn't avoiding you."

"Okay," Buffy said slowly as she raised an eyebrow. "You are driving me completely crazy. You do know that, right?"

"Oh yeah? How?"

"The way you keep looking at me," Buffy whispered as she ran her thumb over Faith's and smiled that half smile of hers that had always made Faith a little weak in the knees. "I just realized that you've always looked at me that way."

"What way?"

"Like you want me."

"That's news now?"

"That's a fact now," Buffy chuckled quietly as she licked over her lips. "I was just clarifying it to make sure I wasn't just imagining it."

She had to wonder if Buffy was acting like this because Julie was there. She wanted to ask her, but she decided against it as Buffy moved even closer to her, looking at her as if she was a little unsure of what she was about to do next. Faith leaned forward that last little bit, pressing her lips ever so softly against Buffy's, smiling when she felt Buffy smile a little against her lips too. She kept it light and rather chaste and she pulled back, trying not to act like the cat that just got the cream as she waited for Buffy to open her eyes. Just before she did, Faith leaned in to kiss her again, straying from a simple, light kiss to something a little more sensual, something a little deeper and more insistent.

She let go of Buffy's hand, smiling into the kiss as Buffy ran her fingers through her hair and pulled her in closer to deepen the kiss. She ignored the voices in her head telling her to stop, to take it slow, and she ran her hand over Buffy's stomach, waiting for her to stop her. When Buffy did nothing to stop her hand from sliding under her shirt, she began to slowly trail a blazing path upwards. She stopped only when the tips of her fingers brushed against the edges of Buffy's bra and she waited again to see if Buffy would stop her. She was so into the kiss as she gently cupped Buffy's breast, feeling the nipple harden beneath her palm that she didn't pay attention to the soft protests coming from Buffy for her to stop.

"Faith..." Buffy groaned as she stopped her from trying to kiss her again and yanked her hand from under her shirt. "That's...too far too fast."

"Shit," she sighed as she sat up and brushed off the grass and dirt from her clothes. "Sorry, B. I was just...into it."

Buffy nodded her head, blushing a little as she sat up and moved to sit next to Faith as they both leaned against the tree. "Don't be sorry," Buffy said softly as she turned to look at her. "It was...nice."

Faith chuckled, biting her lip from saying something stupid to Buffy and making her more flustered than she already was. She had to remember this was Buffy, that things weren't just going to jump forward and she'd end up in bed with her just like that. This was Buffy and even she knew that Buffy didn't just jump into bed with anyone, Spike being the possible exception to that rule. But she wanted more than just a night fucking her until she couldn't walk straight. She wanted everything if she could have it, despite everything scaring the shit out of her.

She wanted it to be easier just to talk to Buffy, but it'd take time. She was never one to voice her thoughts no matter what she was thinking about. She didn't know why she felt like a flustered teenager sitting there next to Buffy. She'd never been this way before, always exuding self-confidence no matter what situation she found herself in. It was always going to be different around Buffy. She had to tread those waters carefully and if she couldn't, she'd end up right back at the beginning with no way back to where they'd made it now.

"It's funny," Buffy said softly as she broke the silence between them, "I never thought you and I would end up this way."

"Me neither."

"I wasn't finished," she sighed as she shook her head slowly in disbelief. Faith muttered a soft apology and waited for her to continue. "Whatever is happening between us, it feels...real and different and it's making me scared not knowing where this is going. I thought before we came here that it'd be like it was before with us. But," she took a deep breath as she looked at Faith and smiled, "it's not the way it was before, obviously. I have no feelings of malice towards you. That all kind of disappeared when we left Sunnydale behind."

"Yeah? So what, you love me now?" Faith teased as she poked Buffy in the thigh. "You do, don't ya? You love me now."

"I wouldn't go that far just yet."

"So," Faith said as she let Buffy casually take her hand. "What does all this mean then, B?"

"Do we have to put a meaning to it right now?"

"Nah, I'm just curious is all."

"Curiosity killed the cat, Faith," Buffy winked as she chuckled quietly under her breath.

"You trying to confuse me too?"

"I think you already managed to confuse me."

Faith raised an eyebrow as she stared at her, holding back her laugh as she saw a mix of unknown emotions and thoughts in Buffy's eyes. She didn't bother to keep from smirking as she saw Buffy flush a little. Whatever she was thinking was getting her hot and Faith had never seen her so unguarded before.

Just when she thought they'd actually get somewhere with this conversation, or the lack of it so far, Kennedy came outside with a bottle of wine and three glasses. Faith was certain Buffy would move away from her, but instead she took the offered glass of wine from Kennedy once she'd poured her some and stayed right where she was. The sun was quickly falling beyond the horizon and it was quiet aside from the sounds of laughter coming from inside the house. Faith took a glass of wine for herself and took a tentative sip. She'd never been one to drink much wine, but found it pleasingly tasty.

"We're staying in tonight instead of going out," Kennedy said as she stared down into her own wine glass, looking rather bored out of her mind. "Willow and Julie are talking spells with Laura. It's fucking boring when you have no idea what they're talking about."

"I bet," Faith chuckled as she took another sip. "Does Xander know we're staying in?"

"Yeah. He's gone to the store with Andrew to pick up some beer and a few more bottles of wine. Oh, and Buffy," Kennedy said as she looked over at her, "don't be mad, but Giles let Dawn have a glass of wine with them inside. Something about how it was okay to have one glass with adults around."

Buffy only shrugged and rolled her eyes, not caring in the least about Dawn or anything else really. Faith could feel her trying to relax and she could hear the steady beat of her heart as she breathed in deep and slow. Faith kicked off her boots as she stretched out her legs, trying to get comfortable sitting on the hard grass with her back up against the rough bark of the tree. She dug her cigarettes out of her pocket and offered Kennedy one before she lit one for herself.

"Why do you smoke?" Buffy asked them both softly, though the question was aimed more at Faith. "It's disgusting."

"Just a bad habit I picked up, B. It relaxes me."


"Does it bother you?"

"No," she said quickly as she shook her head. "Just curious, really. And since when do you smoke, Kennedy?"

"Since always. Just smoke here and there. It's not like I'm a slave to the nicotine addiction like some people," Kennedy said as she looked right at Faith and gave her a playful wink. "Willow doesn't like it when I smoke either, but right now I could give a half shit what she thinks."

"Trouble in paradise, Ken?" Faith asked, trying not to laugh when Buffy poked her rather hard in the thigh.

"Yeah. Her name is Julie. Stupid fucking bitch," Kennedy muttered under her breath. "I'm over it, honestly. Will won't do anything with her. At least I hope she won't."

"She won't," Buffy assured her. "She isn't a cheater. You don't have to worry about anything happening."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Buffy. Wish I could actually believe it. You saw the way they were talking earlier. It makes me a little nervous to leave them alone."

"So then why are you out here?" Faith asked, unable to bite her tongue like she knew she should have. "Shouldn't you be inside making sure that Julie doesn't try to make the moves on your woman?"

"Like I said," Kennedy said, sounding rather annoyed as she glared at Faith, "it's fucking boring sitting there listening to the two of them talk about shit I don't know anything about."

"Tell me about it," Faith and Buffy both said together and the three of them burst out into nearly uncontrollable laughter.

Maybe it was the wine or the relaxing time they were having out in the back, sitting on the grass under the tree, or maybe it was something else. Whatever it was, it made Faith feel at ease, feel as if she really was home and that she was where she belonged. Things with Buffy were complicated at best, but not the usual complicated she'd grown so used to having over the years with her. It was a different kind of complicated. The type of complicated that just gnawed at her mind every second of the day and asked so many questions that would never be answered if she didn't ask anyone other than herself. She knew, though, that if Kennedy hadn't come outside when she did, she might have been able to open up a little and be a little more verbal with her thoughts to Buffy.

She listened to Buffy and Kennedy discuss a more practical training schedule that would work out better for all of them. She never once took her eyes off Buffy and even though she was listening, she wasn't really hearing the words. The wine was definitely getting to her head as she trailed a finger over the top of the glass and found herself completely mesmerized by the animated way Buffy spoke. She knew she'd been doing that a lot without realizing it, just staring at Buffy and trying to figure her out.

She finished off her glass of wine and leaned her head against the tree as she closed her eyes, trying to stop the world from spinning around her. It wasn't just the wine that had sent her on a tailspin; it was hearing Buffy speak and having the fresh memories of that kiss in her mind. It was just a kiss and even though she'd tried to take it that one step further, she was somewhat relieved that Buffy had stopped anything more from happening. Her self-control was fleeting, especially once she was in the zone, but she had to be different for Buffy. She had to.

Bits of the conversation she'd had with Robin came back to her. He had wanted to prove that he could be different for her while at the same time having her prove to herself that life wasn't all just about getting some and getting gone. She realized now she didn't need him to help her prove that to herself. She had Buffy whether Buffy knew it or not. She opened her eyes again when she felt Buffy's warm hand casually rest on her thigh and she could only smile a little as Kennedy reached over and topped up her glass.

"I'm gonna get another bottle, you guys want red or white this time?"

"Whatever, Ken," Faith said as she shrugged her shoulders. "Doesn't matter to me. Feeling buzzed already. Everything is gonna taste the same."

"It's not," Buffy said softly, laughing as she leaned into Faith and shook her head. "Is it just me or is it getting a little cold outside?"

"Cooling off a bit. You wanna go inside?"

"No," Buffy said as she looked up at Faith with a smile. "I'm good right where I am."

Her words were a little slurred, but Faith knew she wasn't beyond the point where she was too drunk. Faith kept feeling the need to pinch herself to make sure she hadn't fallen into some weird dream where everything felt real. Kennedy just winked at her as she grabbed the empty bottle and headed up to the house. She looked down at Buffy as soon as Kennedy had disappeared inside, gently lifting her chin to plant a soft kiss on her lips, catching her slightly off-guard.

It was too easy to melt into the kiss, to savour those seconds that ticked by as Buffy let her kiss her. She kept it light, fighting off that urge to deepen the kiss, fighting that urge to claim her with just a kiss. She was floating as she pulled back slowly, smiling as Buffy looked at her, her eyes slightly glazed over both from the kiss and the wine she'd drank. She sat there in slight awe, amazed at the affect a kiss from her had on Buffy. Never in a million years did she ever think she'd get the chance to kiss Buffy without having her ass kicked for trying.

"Are you okay with this?" Buffy asked softly.

"You are kidding, right?"

"This is all sorts of new, Faith."

"No shit," she smirked as she leaned in for a light kiss. "Definitely could get used to this, though, don't you think?"

"I think so, yeah."

"How can this be so easy?" Faith asked as she shook her head, still trying to make sense of it all.

"What do you mean? Are you talking about this?" Buffy asked as she motioned to the closeness between them. "I don't know, Faith. All I know is..."

"It feels right. Right?"

Buffy nodded and smiled up at her, giving her one last soft kiss before Kennedy came back outside with a full bottle of wine. Faith couldn't keep the satisfied smile off of her face as Kennedy sat back down near them and raised an eyebrow. She said nothing as she opened the bottle of wine and topped up her own glass before she leaned back on her elbows and stared up at the darkening sky.

Whatever really was happening between them, whether it would end up being a fling or something more, it was real and it did feel right. It felt so right that Faith had a feeling it should have always been that way, but there'd always been complications in the past. Too many of them and not all of them her own fault either. There was Angel there in the beginning, then her stint on the dark side. Then there was the time she'd spent in prison, during which she had to admit she did nothing but think of Buffy almost the entire time. She'd gone to prison not just for herself, but for Buffy too.

One of these days she'd tell Buffy everything. She'd let down all her walls and open herself up completely to her and she only hoped that Buffy would feel comfortable enough and be able to trust her enough again to open herself up too. But for now all she wanted to do was enjoy the night with the woman she never thought she'd have a chance with and the other woman who was quickly becoming her best friend.

For once her life was going good. She had people who cared, she was starting to feel like she was truly a part of their little family group, and she had Buffy. She was going to do everything she could to hold on to this part of her life. There was no way she was giving any of it up for anything.


Chapter Twelve

Things were about to get interesting and Faith could just feel the evil surrounding the city when she woke up bright and early. She looked over at Buffy, who lay on her bed next to her, and smiled to herself as she watched Buffy sleep. After the last bottle of wine they had come up to her room for a little bit of privacy. Despite wanting to take things all the way, Faith had held herself back. She was glad she did. She wasn't about to have Buffy doing anything she'd end up regretting.

When did she become so careful with other people's feelings? It was one of those things she couldn't just pinpoint to one incident or specific time. It was something that was changing in her day by day. She carefully got off the bed as to not wake Buffy and she groaned softly as she stretched out her stiff muscles. She grabbed a change of clothes and her towel off the back of the door and slipped out of the room, looking back for a moment as she heard Buffy sigh out as she rolled over and pulled the pillow close to her chest. She opened the bathroom door, chuckling softly when she looked down and saw Kennedy curled up near the toilet.

"Rise and shine," she laughed as she knelt down next to Kennedy and waited for her to open her eyes.

"Fuck," Kennedy moaned as she pulled the towel she had rolled up for a pillow over her face. "Do you have to be so loud, Faith?"

"Of course I do," she grinned as she helped Kennedy sit up slowly. "I take it the wine didn't sit too good with you last night, huh?"

"I am never drinking wine again."

"Yeah, me neither," Faith replied as she rolled her eyes, the sarcasm just dripping off her tongue.

"You and Buffy..." Kennedy groaned as she took a deep breath. "Did you and Buffy, you know, fuck already?"

"Nah," Faith replied as she shook her head and sat next to her as she moved to lean against the bathtub.

"But you two took off up to your room. One would just naturally figure you'd be fucking all night long."

"Just made out on the bed like a couple of horny teenagers," Faith chuckled as she shook her head. "Buffy is really doing a fuckin' number on me."

"No kidding. So," Kennedy grinned as she nudged Faith with her shoulder. "You two are definitely hooking up, aren't you?"

"I don't know if you could call it that. We've only kissed a couple of times."

"A couple? Jesus," Kennedy laughed as she shook her head. "Well, I say it's a start to a beautiful relationship…or at least one night of fucking each other's brains out before you realize you'd be better off as friends."

"You really think that?"

"No, I was just saying...in general, you know? Don't listen to me. I've got a hangover the size of...of the whole fucking country. My thoughts are a little scattered."

"I don't do relationships," Faith muttered under her breath as she traced over the hole beginning to tear in her jeans. "I don't even know if I want a relationship with Buffy. Hell, I don't even know if she knows what the hell she's getting herself into with me."

"You and Robin almost had a thing. You wanted something with him, didn't you?"

"I don't even know anymore, Ken. Maybe I did at the time cos there was just nothing else out there for me and nobody else that was willing to give me a chance."

"Buffy seems willing," Kennedy pointed out, smiling at Faith as she shrugged. "You really think she'd want to kiss you if she wasn't willing?"

"I don't..."

"Just stop," Kennedy said as she tried to stand up. She gave up with a groan when her body didn't seem to want to cooperate, deciding to stay right where she was. "Look, you gotta stop saying `I don't know' and you have got to stop questioning things when it comes to Buffy. Yes, I know you are doing nothing but asking yourself questions you'll never find the answers to."

"How the hell do you know what I'm thinking?"

"You are a lot more transparent than I think you realize you are, Faith. Sometimes all I have to do is look at you and I'll instantly know what you're thinking of. Lately it's all been about Buffy, about the Hellmouth, about Henry, and after last night...Julie."

"I hate that bitch."

"So do I. Willow sure has taken a quick liking to her though," Kennedy replied bitterly. "She just rubs me the wrong way, you know? Something about her bugs me."


"What do you think the others would think about you and Buffy hooking up?"

"I don't know," Faith shrugged. "I haven't really thought about it."

In truth, she had and she was scared what the others would think. Xander might not have much of a problem with it; then again, she wasn't so sure about him. Kennedy was different. She hadn't been there before when everything happened with her and the rest of the Scoobs. She didn't know how Willow would feel, but she was sure she wouldn't be too happy about it. Same with Dawn. It made her head spin just to think of the fallout that could happen if they were all against her and Buffy and whatever relationship was actually unfolding between them.

She knew that she and Buffy would have to seriously talk about the nature of their relationship, find out just what was really happening between them before anything else happened. She wasn't so sure how much longer she'd be able to hold herself back with Buffy. Kissing her had become an addiction in just a few very short days. She knew Kennedy was right about Buffy being willing to have something with her. Why else would she have wanted to spend the hours before they fell asleep making out on Faith's bed? She let out a heavy sigh as she ran her fingers through the tangled mess of her hair.

"You really don't know what to do when it comes to Buffy, do you?" Kennedy asked softly. Faith shook her head no and they both let out a soft sigh. "I don't know Buffy that well, but just keep doing whatever it is you two have been doing and let it progress however it's going to progress. Maybe stay away from drinking together for awhile, you know?"

"Yeah, cos that's all we seem to do on our downtime."

"We're young," Kennedy chuckled. "We do deserve to act our age especially when we all have the weight of the world on our shoulders. Plus you know alcohol is like truth serum. Loosens the tongue and takes what could be a tense situation and makes it...less tense."

Faith chuckled as she raised an eyebrow at her. "This is why I like you, Ken. You're easy to talk to and you lay it out on the line how it is. You never hold anything back with me and I appreciate that."

"Just like I'm going to keep telling you that you and Buffy need to fuck already. The tension between you two is just..."

"Just what?"

"Has it always been like that for you two?"

"Like what?"

"Not knowing what you want yet knowing it, but too afraid to take what you want because you fear how the other will react if you do. And if that made no sense, blame it on the hangover," Kennedy said with a smile as she stood up slowly and began carefully making her way to the door. "I'm going to get some sleep in an actual bed for a couple hours."

"Later, Ken."

"Right," she nodded as she stumbled out of the bathroom, closing the door behind her rather loudly.

Faith sat there for a few minutes trying to absorb what they'd talked about. Any other time she would have laughed it off, but Kennedy was her friend. Things were still complicated at best between her and Buffy, but something was making things easier for them and it had started with that first kiss a few nights ago. Buffy had taken the initiative and made the first move. Despite her own sexual bravado, she would have never found the courage to make the first move on Buffy because it was Buffy, not some random stranger she picked up in a bar or a club and would very likely not see again. She knew she had a lot of thinking to do and a lot of things to figure out. She knew she had feelings—deep feelings—for Buffy, she just wasn't sure how deep they went or what they meant just yet.

Love was a scary emotion for her to feel, especially when it came to loving another. Rather than let those thoughts consume her so early in the morning, she had a quick shower and headed downstairs to make a pot of coffee. She stood at the sink staring blankly out the window as she let her previous thoughts run rampant through her mind. It had only been a couple of weeks and she was letting old feelings consume her yet again. However, they weren't just old feelings, there were new ones too, and ones she just didn't quite understand.

She snapped out of the daze she'd fallen into when she heard Dawn and Buffy talking quietly as they came down the stairs. She quickly filled up the coffeemaker and switched it on, managing to duck out the back door before Dawn and Buffy came into the kitchen. She needed time alone to think and time alone in the house was hard to come across. It bothered her she couldn't just find her own space there without someone always being around one way or another. It was in moments like this when she asked herself why she even bothered tagging along with all of them.

"Hey," Buffy said softly as she stepped outside. "You okay?"

"Why wouldn't I be okay?"

"You weren't there when I woke up and I heard you and Kennedy talking in the bathroom."

Faith shrugged as she walked across the grass towards the picnic table and sat down. "I just needed some time alone, B. Not a big deal."

"I'm going to ask you one more time, Faith. Are you okay with this?" Buffy asked as she sat down next to her. "I know neither of us probably expected anything like this to happen, but it's happening and it's real and I can't shake the feeling that you are about to run away from this."

"What's this anyway, B? What's making me so damn nervous is not knowing what the hell is happening between us."

"Things are changing," Buffy whispered as she fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt. "I don't know why, but they are. I'm feeling things that I've never felt before and I know you are too."

"Still don't understand why," Faith muttered under her breath. "Guess it's just one of those things that happen, right? Fucked up thing is that things like this never happen to me. Ever."

"It doesn't mean that it never will happen," Buffy said as she smiled a little at her when she turned to look at her. "Faith, I know that you want to know all the answers. I want to know them too, but I think...for now we need to just let it happen."

"Tell me something, B," Faith said as she stared at her long and hard for a moment. "If the fight against the First never happened and I still came back, would it be like this?"

"I don't know."

"So why is it like this now?"

"Faith, can't we just..." Buffy sighed as she reached for her hand and intertwined their fingers as she moved to sit closer to her. "I know that the last thing either of us ever expected was for something more than friendship to happen between us. Maybe this is why we could never be friends before—because we have these feelings for each other?"

"What feelings?" Faith asked, not meaning to sound so cold. She groaned as she looked at Buffy, trying to figure out what was going through her mind. "What I meant was, what kind of feelings are you having, B?"

"Feelings, I don't know...I just know I want to...you know, and that scares me because I've never wanted to...with another woman before," Buffy said quietly, her face flushing a deep red as she looked away from Faith. "I don't know when these feelings started, okay? I just...god, I feel so confused and yet at the same time I..."

"You know what ya want but you're afraid to take it?" Faith finished for her, smiling when Buffy just nodded her head a little.

She wanted to tell Buffy just to take whatever she wanted, but somehow she knew that Buffy already knew that and was waiting until she was ready to. She laughed to herself, still trying to figure out how this happened, how Buffy ended up wanting to be with her. Nothing made any sense, but she knew it didn't really have to—these things just happened when you least expected them to. The one thing that did keep bothering her was the fact that this was happening with Buffy. No matter how hard she tried to make herself accept it, she just couldn't. This was happening with Buffy—Buffy of all people—and it was nothing short of brain flaming crazy for her.

Buffy was right about everything changing. They were all changing even if they didn't quite see how. She knew she had no control over the changes that were happening in her life and to her. She knew she had to try to find a way to stop letting her thoughts consume her and to simply let those changes happen. She also knew she had to find a way just to talk to Buffy, as hard as it was for her. How were they ever supposed to figure things out if they couldn't talk about it?

"Say we do this," Faith said softly, not daring to look at her just yet, "are we going to tell everyone else or is this gonna be some kind of secret between us?"

"Can't we just figure out what this is first?"


"This whole...gay thing...might not be new for you but it is for me. I don't know how to just tell everyone about...this."

"Who said I'm gay?" Faith asked, chuckling as Buffy shook her head and shrugged. "I swing both ways, B. Thought you figured that out by now. Now Willow and Ken is the pure definition of gay."

"Right," Buffy said with a short, sharp laugh as she let go of her hand and gave her thigh a gentle squeeze before she stood up. "We're going out on patrol tonight. What do you say about getting in a few hours of training after we have coffee and get some breakfast?"

"Is that gonna be code for `I wanna make out with you in the basement for a couple hours', B?" Faith teased as she got up and followed Buffy back to the house, not even needing to see her face to know she was blushing furiously again. "So, is it?"

"No...well, maybe," Buffy said quickly as she turned to look at her for a split second and winked before she turned to walk into the house.

Faith chuckled as she followed Buffy into the house, her smile quickly fading when she found everyone was now awake and down in the kitchen. She grabbed herself a cup of coffee and stood by the counter next to Xander and Kennedy, all three of them watching as Willow and Andrew cooked up a stack of fresh pancakes. The three of them exchanged a look, one that said `we're tired of eating the same thing for breakfast every morning'.

"You want to go grab something to eat at that little restaurant down the street?" Xander asked the two of them as he quickly finished off his coffee. "My treat?"

"Sure," Faith smiled as she sipped her coffee, it still too hot to drink it all down in one go. "Give me a few minutes, okay?"

"Ken, you coming?"

"Sure," she nodded, then flinched when Willow threatened to hit her with the spatula. "On second thought, I'll take up that offer another time."

"Looks like it's just you and me, Faith."

"Great," she laughed as she playfully punched him in the shoulder. "B, we'll get with the training when I get back."

"Okay," Buffy nodded, barely looking over at her as she engaged in a rather deep conversation with Giles and Dawn.

Before long she and Xander were walking to the small restaurant just a block away from the house. She'd seen the place before, but had never had the chance to go inside. They sat at a booth by the window and ordered a coffee while they waited for their breakfast to be made. Bacon, eggs, sausages, the works. Faith was practically salivating, dying for something more than just pancakes every morning. From the looks of it, so was Xander. The small restaurant was packed for a Friday morning and in some ways she was relieved with the amount of noise. She wasn't in the mood to talk about anything and she hoped that Xander would pick up on that fact.

She sat and watched as he fiddled with his patch and looked around the small restaurant, every once in a while emitting a soft, bored sigh. Their waitress served their breakfast about fifteen minutes after they'd sat down and they ate in utter silence, barely looking up at one another until their plates were cleared. Xander sat back and placed his hands over his stomach, smiling in satisfaction as the waitress came to clear their plates from the table.

"So," he said as he leaned forward a little, "I was going to ask you what happened to you and Buffy last night."

"We just went up to my room to...talk."

"Talk?" Xander asked as he raised an eyebrow at her, definitely not believing the lie that she'd told him. "Are you sure that's all that happened?"

"What? What the fuck do you want me to say?"

"You didn't..."

"We didn't fuck, no, if that's what you're so worried about," Faith replied bitterly. "What does it matter what we did anyway?"

"You better not hurt her, Faith."

"I don't plan to."

"You think that none of us can see what is happening between you two? We all see it and I know we've all come to our own conclusions about what's going on between you and Buffy."

"And what's your conclusion?"

"You're falling for her. Hard."

"Is it that obvious?" Faith asked. Xander just nodded his head as he smiled a little at her. "Shit."

"Then there's the moon eyes she makes at you when you aren't looking, so you're not the only one being obvious about the something more going on between you two. So what exactly is going on?"

"Beats the hell outta me, man. I keep trying to figure that out myself."

"Have you and Buffy talked about this?"

"A little bit, yeah."


"Still have no idea," she laughed softly as she motioned to the waitress for a coffee refill. "You know that things with me and B are complicated at best. Why should whatever this is be any different?"

"Now you're making me confused," Xander laughed as he picked at the napkin in front of him on the table. "So, spill."

"Spill? There's nothing to fuckin' spill."

"Liar," Xander said, flinching as Faith clenched her fist tight. She winked at him, turning to smile up at the waitress as she poured them each a fresh cup of coffee. As soon as they were alone again, Xander leaned forward, smiling at her. "Spill it."

"Or what?"

"Or...I don't know, come on. Just tell me, Faith. Something happened, didn't it? You and Buffy didn't...you know?"

"Already told ya we didn't."

"Sorry, I'm just...curious."

"Right. Isn't everyone? Besides, a lady don't kiss and tell."

"Yeah, but you're no lady," Xander laughed. Faith kicked him under the table. "Ow! What the hell was that for?"

"We're not talking about this anymore, okay?"

"Fine," he groaned as he rubbed his shin. "I meant what I said before about not hurting her, Faith. You hurt her and I don't know what I'll do, maybe try to kick your ass and die trying. You know, I don't want to see you get hurt either. We're buds now and the last thing I want is for two of my friends to end up hurting each other because it doesn't work out in the end."

"Told ya already, Xander. I don't plan to hurt her. I've hurt her and everyone else enough in the past. I'm over that. And yeah, I know what you mean this time around too," she said softly and sincerely.

"Good talk," he laughed as he leaned back in the booth and sipped his coffee. "We should head back to the house soon."

Faith just nodded and finished her coffee, slipping outside to light a cigarette while Xander paid the bill. This whole situation with Buffy was making her tense and it was building in her like a ticking time bomb. She needed some kind of release and she needed it soon. Night was still far off and training never gave her the same kind of release that patrol did—or, say, rolling around in a bed with someone for a couple of hours, for that matter. Xander joined her outside a few minutes later, smiling at her as he motioned for her to start walking with him, this friendly silence lasting for the duration of the walk back to the house. She stayed outside to finish her cigarette and to find a few rare moments to be alone with her thoughts.

She headed straight downstairs as soon as she went inside and found only Buffy down there punching the bag half-heartedly while the music blared from the small radio. She stood there and watched for a couple of minutes, knowing Buffy was lost in a rhythmic trance and hadn't noticed that she'd come down quietly. Their connection was strong, but subtle; she knew it could only be felt if she singled it out. She leaned against the workbench and smiled as she tilted her head to the side, waiting, as she knew it wouldn't be much longer until Buffy turned around to look at her.

With a smug smile firmly in place, she grabbed the tape and began wrapping her hands slowly, never once taking her eyes off of Buffy. When she did stop and turn around, Faith was just standing there, deliberately looking uninterested despite the many lascivious thoughts that were going through her mind right then.

"Are you just going to stand there and watch or..."

"Was waiting for you to finish up," Faith replied before Buffy could catch her breath and continue.

"Are you sure that's all you were doing?"

"What else would I be doing?" Faith chuckled softly as she ripped off the roll of tape and walked over to the bag, stepping past Buffy as she moved away. Knowing what she was playing at was making Buffy slightly flustered, she raised an eyebrow as she motioned to the radio. "Ya wanna turn that up, B?"

She gave her a little wink before she turned her back and began to throw random punches at the bag to loosen up her muscles. She could feel Buffy's eyes burning into her. When she could feel Buffy standing right behind her, she slowly turned around while fighting to keep a smirk from slipping out.

"Is there something' ya wanted, B?"

"How is it that you always do this?"

"Do what?"

"Lure me in," Buffy whispered so quietly Faith could barely hear her over the music that blared from the radio. "Why?"

Faith shrugged, smiling as she took a step closer to her. She said nothing as she gently slid her hands over Buffy's hips and pulled her in closer. Her heart was racing, not knowing just how Buffy would react. She was waiting on Buffy to make the next move, to see just what she would do. If she was going to do this, she was going to let Buffy take the lead even if it meant they'd be moving forward at a snail's pace.

Buffy took in a shaky breath as she ran her fingers over Faith's arms lightly, hazel eyes rising up slowly to meet brown, and both of them quickly becoming lost within each other. Faith felt almost numb all over, though she certainly felt the goose bumps form over her skin under Buffy's fingertips. She could feel the heat coming from Buffy's body as she held her close and it made her senses, her hormones, the Slayer within her grow a little wild with need, with lust, with whatever else was there just under the surface. Buffy was feeling it too, it was ever so clear with the way she was just looking at her and the way she licked over her lips slowly before she sucked in a deep breath.

Faith had the feeling that no matter how many times a kiss between them would happen, or hours of making out like a pair of hormonal teenagers, it would always feel surreal and always feel like it was the first kiss all over again. She mentally had her fingers crossed in hope that this time Kennedy or one of the others wouldn't come down and ruin this moment between them. It was intoxicating with Buffy's lips mere inches from hers, just close enough to feel the hot bursts of air with every breath she let out.

"You're doing it again."

"What am I doing?" She asked softly as she slowly began to back her up against the nearest wall. She could feel Buffy's heart beating hard beneath her chest. She came to a stop when Buffy walked back into the wall and she manoeuvred herself so one leg firmly was placed in between Buffy's. "B? What am I doing?"

Buffy said nothing as she moved her hands from her shoulders and around to the back of her neck, both of them moaning softly as Buffy pulled her in for a deep kiss. It was the move she'd been waiting for Buffy to make and she knew she still had to fight to hold herself back. It was hard to think clearly with the way Buffy kissed her, nibbling her bottom lip every so often to give them a chance to catch their breath. It was hard to think clearly with the way Buffy ran her fingers over the back of her neck, the touch so tender it sent shivers down her spine.

"You know exactly what you are doing," Buffy breathed out as she looked up at her, stopping her from kissing her again.

"Do I?"

"I know you do because I don't."

"Last night was a whole different story," Faith whispered as she lifted her thigh slightly and pulled Buffy down. "I think you do know exactly what you're doing."

The moan Buffy tried to hold back made Faith's eyes open a little wider as she pulled her down a little harder onto her thigh, feeling the heat through the layers of clothing they both wore. Faith's muscles were straining, her fingers itching to roam, to touch Buffy, to make her come screaming her name. It was getting to be too much since she knew, she just knew things were already going a little too fast for Buffy. She stepped back, dropping her hands from Buffy's hips as she shook her head.

"What's wrong?"

"We should just...train for a little while."

"Faith?" Buffy looked confused, a little flushed and out of breath as she stayed there leaning against the cool cement wall.

"What? I came down here to train. Y'know, trying to be the good Slayer and do what I've been chosen to do. Can't do it without properly training day in and day out."

"Faith," Buffy said again, walking up to her as Faith began to tear off the tape on her hands. She reached out as soon as Faith had the tape off her hands, grabbing both of her hands and pulling her close. "We really should talk about this and try to figure out just what is going on, but..."


"Is it so wrong that all I seem to want to do is kiss you? Especially after last night, it's all I can think about today. I know that a few days ago things were different, really drastically different, and I get how scary this probably is for you too," Buffy said. She paused and took a deep breath, looking up into Faith's eyes, and all Faith could see was a storm of emotion in them. "Maybe it's because I'm lonely and I have been for so long now that I've fallen for the first one to really look at me. Or maybe it's because this—whatever this really is between us—should have happened a long time ago."

"You sure been spending a lotta time reading into this, haven't ya?"

"You haven't?"

"I have. Don't get me wrong. Fuck, B," Faith chuckled softly as she let go of her hands and ran her fingers through her tangled hair, "the first night you kissed me I thought it mighta been a mistake cos you'd been drinking and maybe you were just starting to feel a little too lonely for your own good. All I've been able to think about since then has been you and what all of this means for us."

"Maybe I was feeling a little lonely that night, but it's more than that. I look at you and I see something. What I see, I'm not so sure. I'd like to find out, have a second chance with you. Even after everything we'd gone through before…call me crazy, but I want us to forgive and forget and move on from that."

She thought she'd feel nervous talking about this, seeing how she'd never been in a situation quite like this before with anyone. But she wasn't. Buffy was making this easy for her, easy for her to let down some of her walls and just talk to her. She couldn't even hear the music coming from the radio anymore. She couldn't see the room around her. All she could hear was the sound of Buffy's heart beating just as rapidly as her own and all she could see was the way Buffy kept looking up at her.

She was lost within the depths of Buffy's intense gaze and the almost-numb feeling in her body increased. All of her other senses seemed hyper-aware, but all of her awareness had focused so tightly that she wasn't hearing or seeing anything other than the woman standing so close in front of her.

"If you were anyone else, B, it would be different," she said softly. "I wouldn't care how you'd feel in the morning. I woulda taken what I wanted, fucked you all night long, let you whisper sweet nothings into my ear, and I woulda been gone from your bed `fore you woke up. But...I can't do that with you. I don't want it to be that way with you."

"You see, this is one thing I've never seen in you before," Buffy smiled as she reached up and tenderly ran her fingers over Faith's jaw and lips. "You can't really blame me for wanting this either, can you? I remember the way you'd look at me before and to be honest it scared me and it still does, just not so much anymore."

"What changed?"

"I did. You did too."

Faith held back the words she wanted to say, not wanting to have the conversation turn around into something else than what it was. She'd never been so guarded of the things she said, nor had she ever been so careful about the effect the words she said would have on the one listening to her. Something in her had changed since she'd left LA to help them all in the fight against the First and she was only now beginning to really see all the changes she was going through. She felt this compassion inside of her she'd never quite felt so strongly before. She felt warmth that came from finally being a part of the only thing she knew she'd have as a family. She felt love, as crazy and farfetched as it was, when she looked at Buffy.

"You make me feel," she whispered softly, her lips brushing lightly against Buffy's as she closed her eyes. "You make me feel things I've never been able to feel before. Before, I thought Robin would be the one to surprise me, but I was wrong. You are."

Just when her lips finally pressed against Buffy's gently, she found herself being swept to the floor with Buffy on top of her, grinning down at her as she pinned her arms at her sides. She let out a laugh when she realized what Buffy had done, and before she could speak Buffy's lips captured her own in a soft yet passionate and deep kiss. She tried to break free from Buffy's tight hold and found it nearly impossible, but she wasn't really trying that hard. She felt Buffy smile just a little into the kiss before she pulled back just enough to look down at her.

At the sound of the basement door opening, heard even over the blaring radio, they both got to their feet. Faith did nothing but lick over her kiss swollen lips as Kennedy and Giles came down the stairs. She knew from the first look that the newest Slayer shot her way that they'd almost been caught and that Kennedy, at least, knew exactly what they'd been doing. Giles paid no attention to the awkward way Buffy stood near the workbench and sipped on the bottle of water she'd had down there. He barely looked at either of them as he walked to the back room, emerging a minute later with four long swords.

"Weapons training?" Faith asked, smiling as Giles handed her one of the swords and nodded his head. "Wicked. Where'd ya get these?"

"Henry," Giles replied as he handed Buffy and Kennedy their swords. "Now, it occurred to me the other day that Kennedy does not have proper training with various weapon types we use and I would appreciate it if the two of you, as the more experienced Slayers, would assist me in teaching her the proper way to fight while using them."

Faith nodded, running her finger over the sharp blade of the sword slowly. She had to clear her head of the thoughts still running rampant through her mind. She had to stop thinking about Buffy, about how good it felt to kiss her. She had to stop wondering just how far things would have gone if they hadn't been interrupted when they were.

In the end she was paired with Giles, fully knowing he didn't trust her enough to use the sharp pointy things when going against Buffy or Kennedy. Rather than try to convince him she wasn't still the reckless wild child of old, she just went through the paces with him, stopping every couple of minutes so he could try to explain to Kennedy how to counter-attack. She was bored out of her mind and that only brought back the thoughts she'd tried so hard to get rid of. Even through all the training, the gazes that she shared with Buffy didn't go unnoticed by Kennedy and Giles. Yet she didn't care.

Whatever really was happening between her and Buffy put a smile upon her face. If this was what happiness felt like, she didn't want it to ever change. She shook that feeling away that whenever something good happened in her life a world of bad would come crashing down. She wasn't going to let that happen. Not when she had something she'd never had before. Not when she had whatever really was unfolding between her and Buffy. It wasn't love, at least not yet, but she knew it could be. One day.



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