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Chapter Nineteen

Morning came quickly and Faith, who had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room, was woken by the bright sunlight streaming in through the windows. After she, Buffy, and Kennedy had gotten home, she found out from Kennedy that she and Willow were in the middle of a rather big fight. Faith offered up her room to Kennedy and ended up alone on the couch in the living room. Buffy had already gone to bed at that point and she was left with no other option than to sleep on the couch or make the trek to the apartment. She'd been too tired to care and she woke up feeling rather refreshed despite the tension that was building in the side of her neck.

"Don't you have a bed?" Dawn asked her as she stood at the end of the couch staring down at her with her arms crossed over her chest.

"Yeah, I got a bed. Gave it up to Ken last night," Faith muttered as she stretched out as much as she could on the short sofa and sat up slowly. "Haven't seen ya around much, Dawnie."

"Haven't been around much, Faithy."

"You going back to school or what?"

"Been taking some classes to get caught up," Dawn replied, sounding as uninterested in the conversation as she looked. "Giles told me about this whole thing with Julie. Do you really think she's going to be a threat?"

"Yeah. Even if it turns out to be something stupid like she really is fuckin' crazy and just playing with us."

Dawn sat down on the opposite end of the couch, reached for the remote, and flipped on the TV. "What's going on with you and Buffy?"

"What're ya talkin' about?"

"You better not hurt her again, Faith. There's nothing stopping me from trying to kick your ass if you do."

"Not planning to, kid."

"But," Dawn sighed as she turned on the TV and began flipping through the channels, "I've seen the way she looked at you the other day. I haven't seen her look at anyone like that in a long time. Sometimes she used to look at Riley like that, but it's different with you."

Faith just nodded, not quite sure what to say and still not quite awake enough to be having this conversation with Dawn. She'd half expected Dawn to tell her off, to tell her to leave Buffy alone and find someone else. She expected a major freak out as well, but none of those things were coming, unless she was mistaken and this was all just the build up towards one. With Dawn, she could never be sure of just what to expect from her.

"If this was a month ago," Dawn stopped on the local morning news and lowered the volume on the TV, "I wouldn't...no, I couldn't accept this. You've changed. A lot. Everyone has. Willow told me it could be the effects from the barrier spell, but I think it's something else."

"What else would it be?"

"Something that would have happened no matter where we ended up, here or somewhere else. Face it, Faith. You've always wanted my sister," Dawn said. She kept her voice low and firm but her eyes took on a glint that showed she was genuinely happy. "You've always wanted her and never could have her before, but now...now you have her, right?"

"Why are you so interested in me and Buffy?"

"Because she's my sister and it's been way too long since I've seen her this happy. And," Dawn paused as she smirked at Faith, "I don't think I've ever seen you this happy before either. Okay, technically I actually know I haven't, but you know what I mean, right?"

"I know."

"This is me giving you the whole approval thing," Dawn said with a smile. "Just...keep the PDA more private than public, okay? I really don't think I could handle seeing you and Buffy...you know."

"Couldn't handle me doing what?" Buffy asked as she walked into the living room.

"PDA with Faith."

Buffy looked over at Faith with a raised eyebrow as she stood near her and crossed her arms over her chest. "You told her?"

"No," Faith laughed as Dawn got up from the couch and practically ran out of the living room. "She just started talking about you and me, B."


Faith reached out and pulled Buffy down onto her lap, smiling at her as she leaned in and gave her a soft kiss. Buffy tried to squirm out of her lap, but Faith held her down as she deepened the kiss, eliciting a small moan from Buffy as she did. She pulled back when she heard footsteps descending on the stairs and let Buffy get up from her lap as Xander walked into the living room, sleepily rubbing his eye as he yawned loudly.

"Coffee?" Buffy asked Faith as she motioned to the kitchen.


"Do I smell or something? Why does everyone leave whenever I walk into the room?" Xander called out after them as they quickly walked into the kitchen.

"Oh god," Buffy laughed quietly as Faith grabbed a hold of her and crushed her lips against hers. She could feel Buffy's excitement and arousal as her hands slid down her back and gripped onto her ass. Buffy pushed her back with a groan and shook her head no. "Coffee first, Faith."

They'd both been oblivious to the fact that they were not alone as alone there in the kitchen as they'd thought. Buffy's face flushed red when Giles cleared his throat, looking rather uncomfortable at having witnessed the kiss between them. Dawn was standing by the fridge, giggling with Willow as Buffy walked past them and grabbed a mug out of one of the cupboards. Faith stood there where she was, unable to wipe the smirk off her face as she slowly licked her lips and kept her eyes on Buffy.

She could see the embarrassment Buffy was feeling, possibly even a bit of shame, that they'd had an audience. Even though the day before Buffy had wanted to tell everyone about them, they hadn't gotten the chance to just yet. Faith knew this wasn't how Buffy wanted the others to find out about them, but she also knew it was too late now. It felt weird to stand there in the kitchen with the others staring intently at her and then over at Buffy almost as if they were trying to figure out just what was going on between them.

Faith grabbed a mug from the same cupboard and walked over to where Buffy was still standing by the coffeemaker. She smiled at her a little as she placed her mug on the counter next to hers and still couldn't take her eyes off of her for more than a second at a time. The sweatpants she'd cut into shorts weren't helping either and she leaned back a little as her eyes swept over Buffy's bare legs and the ass that was accentuated by her tight shorts.

"How did things go last night?" Giles asked, breaking the heavy silence.

"Okay," Buffy said quietly, her voice barely above a whisper as she stared at Faith.

"Sam told us pretty much what we already knew or guessed," Faith said as she tore her eyes off of Buffy to look over at Giles. "We're also doing this our way now."

"And by 'our' way you mean what exactly?"

"No more reporting to Sam about patrol, that kind of shit. We're still gonna get paid too," she said with a smirk as she picked up the mug Buffy had filled for her and walked over to the table to sit down.

"I see," Giles replied, smiling a little at her as he picked up his cup of tea and took a tentative sip. "I suppose this will benefit the three of you in the long run. Henry has informed me that Sam pays those who work for him rather well."

"Ever wonder where he gets the cash?" Faith asked as she watched Buffy walk over to the table and sit down in the chair next to her. "I mean, he's gotta get it from somewhere, right?"

"You live for more than a hundred years and see what kind of money you have in the end," Buffy muttered under her breath. "I still don't like this. Any of it. We have to find a way to deal with Julie. Now."

"I'm working on finding a reversal spell to strip them of their immortality along with the spell to find out just where the gem of Amara is on Julie," Willow said as she joined them at the table. "I've been talking with Laura about the barrier spell. She's given me a bit of information on how it works and how things are going to end up as the spell breaks itself apart."

"And how the hell do ya know you can trust her?" Faith asked, scoffing at Willow as she shrugged her shoulders. "How do ya know she ain't tellin' you shit that's not even true?"

"I don't," Willow retaliated as she stared hard at Faith. "But there are spell books, the same ones that Julie used when she—"

"Don't give a flyin' fuck, Willow. Far as I'm fuckin' concerned, you can't trust any of 'em. No, correction...you shouldn't trust any of 'em!"

"Faith..." Buffy said softly as she placed a hand on her knee and gave it a gentle squeeze. She mouthed 'don't' before Faith could even get up from the chair. The sudden burst of anger she had felt just melted away under Buffy's touch.

"What are we going to do, then?" Willow asked. The others all looked around at each other. "We can't just sit around waiting for one of them to make a move, can we?"

"Unfortunately, at this time we may have no other choice but to wait it out and see what unfolds over the next couple of days," Giles said quietly. "For now, we go about doing what we've been doing all along. Faith, a word?"

Giles stood up from his chair and motioned for her to follow him out of the kitchen. She just looked over at Buffy for a moment before she got up and followed Giles into the living room. Xander was lying on the couch watching TV with Andrew and both of them nearly leapt to their feet and ran out of there when Giles gave them a look. Faith sat down in the chair by the window while Giles sat down in the other and let out a heavy sigh as he removed his glasses and tiredly pinched the bridge of his nose before turning to look at her.

"Before you say anything, I want you to know that we can't afford to put ourselves into any danger when it comes to Julie. I don't believe you realize how powerful she is even without her having her full power yet. You are acting irrational and paranoid, Faith."

"Am I? Whatever."

"You are right when you say we shouldn't trust any of them, but that does not mean you get to start calling the shots, making demands with Sam, who may very well be one of our true allies."

"You think the same thing about Henry, but who the fuck are we supposed to believe? Which one's the good guy and which one's the bad guy?"

"Perhaps neither is quite so clearly one or the other," Giles suggested. "You do remember what I told you about keeping your head together for this?"


"Then please put a halt to this capricious behaviour. Stop acting before thinking."


"Now er...I'm not quite sure how to ask you this, but..." he coughed as he looked uncomfortable all of a sudden. Faith just smirked as she stared at him, waiting for him to continue even though she knew he'd ask her about her and Buffy. "What exactly is going on with you and Buffy?"

"What's it look like?"

"Are you two...er, intimate?" He asked, fumbling over the words as a deep red blush flushed his entire face and neck. Faith smirked wider as she leaned back in the chair and just shrugged nonchalantly.

"Y'know what, G? Best you ask Buffy about that."

"I only ask because I am concerned. With the barrier spell and the effect it has been having on you three, I cannot stress enough how careful we must be about this entire situation."

"I know that. Just can't shake the feeling they're all fuckin' playing us—stringin' us along and settin' us up and then when they get us distracted enough, the shit is gonna hit the fan at full force. I don't trust any of 'em and Sam knows it now."

"I understand where you are coming from," Giles said calmly. "Faith, we had no idea what we were walking into when we arrived here. If it hadn't been for Angel—"

"We still wouldn't know, right?" She asked before he could even finish. "Thought he was sticking around for a couple days?"

"He is still here. He's been scouting for information for the past couple of nights."

"So what the hell are we gonna do then, G? I can't just fuckin' go along with their games. That's not how I fucking deal with shit and you know that. And again I'm gonna ask you, what the fuck does it matter if there's something goin' on between me and Buffy?"

"None of us can afford the slightest distraction and I'm afraid this developing relationship between the two of you is precisely that."

"This your way of saying you don't approve?"

"That is not what I was saying. Right now, I need you all focused and ready for whatever will come next. Willow is working on the spells that will help us end this and in the meantime I need for you to go along with it—no questions asked and no rash decisions. No impulsive actions that will cost us every little bit of progress we've managed to make in the last several days."

Faith groaned as she closed her eyes, hating the feeling of being talked to as if she was a child being scolded by a parent. She respected Giles and his concern, but this was pushing at the boundaries of going too far. The day had already been ten shades of weird for her and she'd barely been awake for half an hour. She wasn't sure how much more she'd be able to take before she snapped. Her emotions were high strung lately, mainly because of the Hellmouth, but she knew it was also because of what she was feeling for Buffy.

She couldn't wait to get her hands on Julie. More accurately, she couldn't wait to watch her turn to dust and float away in the wind. She couldn't wait to see the last look on her face before she did just that either. She wanted to stop Julie before she got close to doing anything, but from the looks of things it wasn't going to happen that way. She said nothing to Giles as she stood up and headed up the stairs to her room. She had to try to clear her head of all things Julie along with Dawn's little confrontation, the kiss seen by everyone in the kitchen, and—last but not least—the conversation with Giles that currently had her anger at a boil deep inside her.

Luckily, Kennedy was absent when she reached her room. Deciding the best therapy was a few hours of working out in the basement, she stripped out of her clothes and pulled on a pair of baggy sweats and the tank top that sat on the floor crumpled in a ball. She grabbed a hair elastic and pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail as she walked out of her room, nearly colliding with Kennedy as she sleepily trudged down the hallway.

"Walk much?" She groaned as she stared at Faith. "And thanks for letting me crash on your bed last night."

"Sleep in there whenever ya like," Faith replied as she headed for the stairs. "Gonna take all my shit over to the apartment later."

"So you are moving out then?"

"For now."


"Need my space."

"What about Buffy?"

"What about her?" Faith asked, stopping before she reached the top of the stairs. "Not like it's gonna matter if I'm here or not."

"It'll matter to her, Faith."

"Whatever," she mumbled as she headed down the stairs, trying so hard not to let Kennedy get into her head and mess up her already very highly strung emotions.

She headed straight down to the basement, not caring she still had a nearly full cup of coffee still sitting on the kitchen table and most likely past that warm enough to drink stage. Buffy was already down there warming up, stretching out on the mats with the radio blaring. Faith just stood at the bottom of the stairs watching her. Buffy turned to look at her as she stood up from the mats, saying nothing as she beckoned Faith to come over to where she stood.

She knew that look in Buffy's eyes all too well now. She was ready for an hour of sparring no holds barred. She could feel her whole body just tingling as she slowly walked over to Buffy and before she could even blink, she was on her back on the mats with Buffy on top of her, pinning her down.

"You really aren't trying today, are you?" Buffy asked softly as she leaned in close to Faith until their lips were barely touching. "Come on, Faith."

Faith chuckled as she stared into Buffy's eyes for a moment. She got her hands free from Buffy's grip and pulled her in for a kiss. She kept it short and sweet and flipped Buffy over onto her back, smirking as she sat astride her and pinned her hands against the mat by her head.

"You really don't like anyone topping you, do you?" Buffy asked, her lips curling into a salacious smile as Faith shook her head no. "Didn't think so."

Buffy managed to throw her off of her and flipped onto her feet. Faith loved it when she got into it like this. In some ways she found it nearly as satisfying as sex. It made her entire body feel as if it was on fire and she just couldn't get enough of it. They circled each other for a few minutes, both looking for an opportunity to attack. Faith's mind was far from sparring now as she watched Buffy slowly lick her lips.

"We gonna do this or we gonna fuck around, B?"

Buffy laughed as she tackled Faith to the floor. Faith grabbed on to Buffy's hips as Buffy kissed her feverishly. She could feel the desire running through Buffy and it urged her on. They were so into the kiss that neither of them were aware they were no longer alone until the music stopped suddenly. Buffy nearly jumped off of Faith as they both turned to see Giles standing there not looking very amused at all. Buffy looked down at Faith, reached down for her hand, and pulled her to her feet.

"We were just—"

"Fucking around," Faith finished for her as she shrugged, acting as if it were no big deal. "Sparring gets kinda boring when it's the same shit all the time."

"This is what I was talking about when I said that you two are a distraction to one another."

"A distraction?" Buffy scoffed as she folded her arms over her chest. "We were just...messing around, Giles. Kind of got a little...out of hand, but these things happen when we..."

"Enough," Giles sighed as he stared directly at Buffy. "I am very aware of your relationship with Faith now, but with Julie being as unpredictable as she's proving to be, I do not think that now is a good time for you two to explore whatever it is that's going on between you."

"Excuse me?" Buffy laughed bitterly as she watched Faith casually begin to make her way to the stairs. "I get caught making out with her one time and you're acting like I'm not going to be able to keep my mind focused enough on trying to find ways to take out Julie. You're wrong, Giles."

"Be as that may, you should be training, not—"

"Making out like a couple of horny teenagers?" Faith offered as she reached the bottom step. Buffy just shot her a look and rolled her eyes as Faith sat down on the steps. "What, B?"

"Nothing. Just forget about it."

Giles let out a heavy sigh as he leaned against the workbench. "I'll need you two to be more focused on things from here on out. We cannot afford any distractions until we've dealt with Julie. There is no way to know what she will do or when and we'd best be prepared for whatever she may throw our way next."

"What's going on?" Kennedy asked as she came down the stairs with three bottles of water. "Am I missing out on an important meeting or something?"

"Nah," Faith said, taking one of the offered bottles of water from Kennedy as she stepped past her. "Giles caught me and B fucking around instead of training."

"Oh really?" Kennedy laughed as she tossed a bottle over to a very flushed Buffy.

"Shut up, Kennedy," Buffy muttered under her breath as she opened the bottle of water and took a sip. "What did you come down here for anyway, Giles?"

"I came to check in on you because I suspected you might not actually be training. It would seem that my suspicions were indeed well founded."

"We are not children!" Buffy exclaimed as she stalked over to the steps and sat down next to Faith. "We don't need you checking on us just because you have suspicions that we're not actually training."

"I realize that you are not children," Giles replied. "However, I am responsible for your training and I do not want any of you to become careless because you are distracted by your, er...attraction to one another."

Faith just looked at Buffy, trying so hard not to burst out laughing. Buffy looked terrified and embarrassed as she looked down at the floor. Faith knew she could definitely chalk this day up as one of the most fucked up days she'd had in a long time. Things were just a little too weird for her and it seemed like things were going to continue that way throughout the rest of the day. She wanted to take a stand, tell Giles off for the way he was talking to them, treating them as if they were nothing but children caught doing something they weren't supposed to. As her amusement at Buffy's discomfort faded, she felt her anger boiling up again and she breathed in and out slowly, trying to calm herself down as Giles turned away and began to converse quietly with Kennedy.

"I hate this," Buffy whispered as she lifted her head and looked over at Faith. "He's treating us like a couple of kids."

"Not your fault you couldn't control yourself around me, B."

"Faith... how can you act like nothing just happened?"

"You freakin' out cos Giles caught us?"

"Freaking out is an understatement. I'm beyond freaking out!"

"It ain't the end of the world, B. Everyone already knows about us."


"What, ya didn't wanna tell anyone?" Faith asked, furrowing her brow as she leaned forward a little, trying to get Buffy to look at her. "You said yesterday mornin' ya wanted to tell everyone about us."

"I know what I said, Faith," she snapped, her voice so cold it made Faith shiver. "Maybe we should've just trained like we're supposed to. It's not my fault I can't..."

"You can't what?"

"Stop thinking about you," she whispered as she finally looked over at her again. "Yesterday was all sorts of wow and then some and today..."

"Is all sorts of fucked up and then some?" Faith asked, smiling a little as Buffy let out a short laugh and nodded her head. "Just don't let it get to ya, B. Look on the bright side of things for a minute here."

"What bright side?"

"Everyone knows," Faith said softly. "They all know and really don't care. That's a good thing, right?"

"Yeah," Buffy shrugged as she looked over at Giles and Kennedy. "I guess it is a good thing."

Faith laughed as she put her arm around Buffy's shoulders. "It is a good thing. Look, Giles just has this stick up his ass over this whole deal. This whole thing with us just kinda came outta nowhere and like sideswiped him. Gotta look at it from his view, B."

"Okay, rational Faith is a little scary."

"Buffy? Faith? Will you two please leave the talking for later and get back to training?" Giles said before Faith had a chance to retaliate for that comment. "And this time, please train properly. We cannot afford to slack."

"Fine," Buffy said as she stood up and motioned for Faith to follow her over to the mats. "We'll train properly this time."

"We'll sit down later before you head out on patrol and discuss what we'll do next. In the meantime, please try to keep your priorities in order and stay focused on the things that are most important," Giles said pointedly as he walked over to the stairs.

Kennedy was already at the bag, kicking and punching it without breaking the rhythm she'd set for herself. Buffy stood on the mats waiting, narrowing her eyes at Faith until she finally got up from the steps and walked over to her. She just walked right past her and over to the radio, flipping it on and filling the quiet basement with the sounds of hard driving rock. Turning around, she cracked her knuckles and smirked at Buffy, blowing her a kiss as she strode over to her.

"What are you waiting for?" Buffy asked, teasing her as they began to circle one another.

"Not a thing, B. Let's dance."

Faith wasn't surprised in the least to find Julie at the apartment when she went there late in the afternoon. She was alone this time, having convinced Buffy that she was just going to drop her stuff off and come right back to the house. Buffy of course wasn't happy that she really was moving into the apartment, but she said nothing to her when she walked out the front door. She dropped the duffel bag to the floor as she kicked the door shut behind her.

"What're ya doing here, Julie?"

"Dropped in," she replied cheerfully. "I thought maybe you and I could have another little chat. I figured you'd be here soon. Talk about perfect timing!"

Faith just stood by the door with her arms crossed over her chest. Julie stood up from the couch and slowly approached her, smirking as Faith tried not to flinch when she ran her long, sharp fingernails over her jaw. Julie stepped back with a look of surprise as she looked Faith up and down.

"Oh, so you did fuck her after I left yesterday, didn't you? So, what, is she just another notch on the old bedpost there for you, Faithy?"

"You are a notch, Buffy is—"

"Aw, you are in love with her, aren't you? How sweet is that? Two Slayers in love. There's something that doesn't happen every day."

"What the hell do you want?" Faith asked, really not in the mood to deal with Julie and the sick little head games she was quickly figuring out that she loved to play.

"So," Julie said, ignoring her as she grabbed onto her arm, forced her over to the couch, and shoved her down. "You really are going to move in here, aren't you? How does Buffy feel about that? I bet she doesn't like it. Am I right or am I right?"

"She doesn't like it, but I need my space. Y'know how it is," Faith replied, giving up and going along with whatever game Julie was playing.

"I have a good feeling about you two," Julie laughed as she sat down next to Faith and smiled at her as if they were friends, two friends sitting down and talking like normal human beings. It made Faith's blood boil and she breathed in deeply, trying to calm her anger. "Sometimes love is just so right, you know what I mean, Faithy?"

"Yeah," she said through clenched teeth, forcing a smile.

"It's like what me and James have. Our love is just...eternal, literally. I have a feeling you and Buffy have something quite like that. But," Julie sighed as she stood up and began pacing back and forth in front of Faith. "But, this isn't what I came here for. See, I know you know everything now and I really don't like that. We were supposed to be friends, Faithy. What do you do as soon as your friendly not-so-neighbourhood vampire shows up and tells you these...things about me? You turn against me."

"We're not friends, Juliet."

"Again with the Juliet! I go by Julie now. Get with the freaking program!"

Faith said nothing as she watched Julie pace in front of her, a string of different emotions flickering over her face. Julie stopped after a moment and looked down at Faith, smirking as she shook her head and sat back down next to her.

"Do you even know why I want to open the Hellmouth?"

"No, why?"

"Because," Julie exclaimed as she grabbed onto Faith's knee and gripped it hard, making her wince just a little. "My soul was banished to the dimension between this world and Hell and I want it back. I need it back. If I can't get it back, I can't get my powers back. Do you understand, Faithy?"

"Crystal clear."

"So I cannot stress how important it is that you stay the fuck out of the way. I understand you are trying to save the world here, but I'm being selfish and doing this for my own good. You get that, Faithy?"

"Got it."

"I'm not opening the Hellmouth to bring forth the demons that I know would just love to be able to walk the earth and roam freely. You really understand that, don't you?"

"Told ya I did, Julie."

"Great," she smiled brightly as she finally let go of Faith's knee. "I'm glad we settled that between us. So, you keep doing what you're doing with my uncle and my father and just stay out of my way. Got it?"

"Get out."

"Do we or do we not have an understanding here, Faithy?"

"It's Faith, not Faithy," she nearly growled as she stood up and grabbed onto Julie, forcing her towards the door. "And we do not have an understanding, Julie. You open the Hellmouth and who the fuck knows what's gonna happen. You're gonna unleash Hell on earth whether that's your intention or not. God, you really are fuckin' bat-shit crazy, aren't ya?"

"Maybe I am," Julie laughed as she pushed Faith away from her and opened the door. "But you know something? It sure makes life interesting and a hell of a lot less...dull. For me it does anyway."

Julie left without saying another word and Faith just slammed the door shut, laughing as she kept herself from putting her fist through the wall. This was definitely one of those days when too much had happened and she was having a hard time dealing with the emotional backlash.

"Just fuckin' great," she muttered under her breath as she picked up her bag and headed for the bedroom.

She tossed the bag onto the bed and let out a heavy sigh, letting her thoughts consume her once again. She just looked down at the bed, still unmade from the day before, and she allowed herself—just for a moment—to think back to what had transpired between her and Buffy. Even she knew that it wasn't just a fuck. They'd made love and it was hands down the best moment of her fucked up life. It brought a much needed smile to her face and she walked out of the bedroom with only one thing on her mind: Buffy.

She was in so deep that even if she wanted to she wouldn't be able to pull herself out. Even with everything going on with Julie's family and her life in general, the only thing she really cared about was Buffy. She wanted to make sure that she didn't ruin it with Buffy. She didn't want to hurt her, to lead her on and not be able to be what Buffy wanted her to be, needed her to be. There were so many things, so many feelings she was experiencing that she couldn't quite find the right words to describe. She wanted to tell Buffy everything she was feeling, but again the problem with finding the right words was there.

She hadn't forgotten what Julie had told her about the Hellmouth, though. Before she let thoughts of Buffy consume her completely, she picked up the cordless phone sitting on the end table by the couch and dialled the number of the house, hoping to hell that Giles answered the phone before anyone else. Before the line rang even once, however, someone knocked on the door and she hung up the phone. She walked over to the door and opened it slowly, revealing an entirely different vampire.

"Faith," he said softly. "Can I come in?"

"Come in, Angel."

"Nice place," he said as he looked around before sitting on the couch. "Part of your deal with Sam?"

"Part of it, yeah. What're you doing here?"

"There's some information I've found out that I think you'll need to know."

"You tell the others yet?"

"Not yet, but I will before I leave," Angel said. He waited for Faith to join him on the couch before he looked at her. "You have to let her open the Hellmouth. Once she does, there will be four very crucial minutes where the gem of Amara will not be able to protect her, nor will the immortality spell she's under be in effect. You need to be there when she opens the Hellmouth and you need to take her out before she can get her soul from—"

"Yeah, I know. From the dimension between worlds. She just told me."

"It seems like you really don't need me here to figure things out—you seem to be doing just fine on your own," he said slowly as he stood up. "Don't hurt her. Love her like she deserves to be loved."

She knew he was talking about Buffy. How he knew about the two of them, she wasn't so sure. She could see the heartbreak he felt and she could feel just how hard it was for him to say those words. She flashed him a smile, a silent promise, assuring him that she wouldn't dare dream of ever hurting Buffy. How could she when Buffy was the only one she'd ever fallen in love with?


Chapter Twenty

The rain was torrential and after a brief phone call with Perry, patrol had been called off for the night. Rather than go back to the house Faith stayed at the apartment, sitting in the dark and watching the rain as it hit the window. Just before midnight Buffy came to the apartment, her clothes drenched and her cheeks stained with tears. When Faith opened the door she was greeted with a slap across the face by a very distraught and angry Buffy.

"What was that for, B?"

"You just leave and you..." Buffy sighed as she took off her jacket and let it fall to the floor as Faith shut and locked the door behind her. "I know you told me you were going to move in here, but I really thought you'd end up changing your mind or you know maybe I was reason enough for you to stay at the house."

"B, I told ya before I need my space. Sometimes I need to be alone."

"And I get that, really I do, but I...god, look at me. I'm a mess because of you!"

Buffy was shaking and not just because of her wet clothes. Faith wrapped her arms around her and just held her for a moment, closing her eyes and trying not to cry as she felt Buffy's hot tears against her neck. She pulled back just a little and reached up to gently wipe away Buffy's tears.

"Don't cry, B."

"I just...I hate this, Faith! We were doing so good and then you had to ruin it."

"Ruin it?" Faith frowned as she leaned in and gently kissed away the fresh tears that rolled down her cheeks. "B, I'm not ruining anything. Just cos I want my space doesn't mean you can't come here to see me. I'll even get ya a key, how about that?"

"It isn't the same."

"Ya gettin' all attached and clingy with me? Already, B?" Faith teased as she slowly began to back Buffy up towards the bedroom. "Better get you outta those wet clothes before ya get sick or somethin'."

Buffy just nodded and backed away from her once they reached the bedroom door. Faith tried not to breathe heavily. She tried not to tear Buffy's clothes off of her. That wasn't what Buffy had come there for. She told Buffy to borrow some of her clothes, whatever fit, and she went to the kitchen and threw on the kettle, glad she'd stopped at the store and picked up some instant coffee.

Faith flipped on a few lights as she made her way back over to the couch and sat down. She listened as Buffy moved around in the bedroom, a moment later walking out with nothing but a towel wrapped around her body and her wet clothes in her hands. Faith just peered over the back of the couch as she watched Buffy walk to the bathroom and disappear inside. She could feel her one-track mind coming back in waves as she closed her eyes and envisioned ravishing Buffy as soon as she walked out of the bathroom. The whistling of the kettle brought her back to her senses and she nearly jumped up from the couch as soon as Buffy walked out of the bathroom.

"Ya want a cup of coffee, B?"


"I don't have no milk or cream or nothin'," she said as she made her way to the kitchen. "Didn't ya find any clothes that fit?"

Buffy didn't say anything yet Faith could feel her right behind her. Her hands were shaking as she took the kettle off the burner and she closed her eyes as Buffy ran her hands down her arms slowly. She heard the towel drop to the floor with a soft thud as Buffy turned her around slowly, kissing her before she could say a single word or take a much needed breath. Buffy put Faith's hands around her before she ran her fingers up her arms slowly, goose bumps forming under her touch as she kissed her deeply.

Faith moaned softly as she ran her hands over Buffy's smooth back, feeling her muscles ripple under her touch. She wondered then if she was dreaming since the possibility of a naked Buffy kissing her in her kitchen wasn't very likely. Then again, Buffy was just full of surprises and she was only beginning to figure that out. She allowed Buffy to pull her back towards the bedroom ever so slowly as they kissed so deeply, so passionately, Faith wasn't sure she could take a breath even if they quit kissing.

Buffy stopped when she reached the bedroom door and pulled back from the kiss abruptly. Her eyes searched Faith's as if she was waiting for Faith to make the next move. She backed into the bedroom, beckoning her in with the sultriest look Faith had ever seen in her eyes. She struggled to regain some sense of cool as she followed Buffy slowly.

"Strip," Buffy demanded as she laid back on the bed and propped herself up on her elbows, watching Faith as she fumbled with the button on her jeans. "Now."

"B, what—"

"Strip, Faith."

Faith wasted not a second more as she stripped out of her clothes as quickly as she could. She crawled up onto the bed, placing one leg between Buffy's as she leaned down and captured her lips in a fierce kiss. She wanted to know what had gotten into her, why she was so bold in taking what she clearly wanted, yet the words never came as she found herself being flipped onto her back.

"Ya ever hear of foreplay, girlfriend?" Faith chuckled as Buffy began kissing down her neck, nibbling at the skin gently as her fingers roamed over her stomach and tentatively made their way to her aching nipple. "Fuck, B. What's gotten into ya?"

"You soon, I hope," Buffy chuckled softly as she trailed her lips back up Faith's neck and over her jaw.

"You went out slayin' before ya got here, didn't you?"


"All worked up and needin' that itch scratched," Faith purred as she ran her hands down the length of Buffy's body as Buffy sat astride her and leaned back to stare down at her. "Didn't think you were..."

"Were what?"

"All dominating when you got that itch that needs scratchin'," Faith chuckled as she trailed her fingertips over Buffy's hips slowly. She sat up and wrapped her arms around Buffy, keeping her close as she licked and sucked her neck softly. "Gotta tell ya though, B, it's fuckin' hot."

"After the other morning..." Buffy groaned as Faith gripped her hips and ground her hot, wet pussy into her own. "I...oh fuck..."

"You what, B?" Faith asked, gasping softly as Buffy dug her nails into her shoulders. "Ya wanted more of this?"

Faith ran her fingers from her hip to her pussy, plunging two fingers deep inside of her without warning. She resisted the urge to kiss her, opting instead to watch her as she closed her eyes tightly and let out a feral moan. She could feel Buffy needing the release she knew she could offer her and she pulled her down with her as she lay back on the bed. Faith bit her lower lip as Buffy trailed a hand down her body, stopping when she reached her hip and let out another low, feral moan as Faith quickened the pace of the fingers fucking her hard and deep.

Buffy stared into her eyes as she ran the tip of her middle finger the length of Faith's slit, biting her lip as she felt how wet she was for her. Faith tried not to thrust her hips up into Buffy's hand as she slowly slipped her finger inside of her. She wasn't nearly as bold as she'd been the other morning, but Faith was far from complaining as wave after wave of pleasure coursed through her body. Buffy closed her eyes, her body shaking as her orgasm rippled through her body.

It was quick and despite that fact, Faith found herself completely spent even though she hadn't found her release yet. Buffy on the other hand wasn't and she kissed Faith quickly before trailing her lips and tongue down her neck and over the top of her breasts. Her skin felt like it was on fire as Buffy took a nipple into her mouth. Faith moaned softly, forcing her eyes to stay open as she watched Buffy lick and suck on her nipple while she rolled the other one between her fingers.

The lights flickered as thunder ripped through the sky and Faith lost the fight in keeping her eyes open as Buffy nipped and sucked her way over her breasts to her other nipple. Her heart was racing as Buffy kissed her way down her stomach, stopping just for a moment to look up at her.

"B, you don't—"

"I want to," she whispered as she placed soft, wet kisses along the inside of her thigh.

Faith saw the look of uncertainty in Buffy's eyes as she spread her legs slowly. Her eyes roamed over Faith's body and she sucked in a deep breath as she ran her fingers over Faith's glistening folds. Faith could hardly contain herself, her breath coming out in short, sharp gasps as Buffy cautiously ran her tongue the length of her slit, teasing her, slowly becoming more comfortable at what she was about to do. Faith threw her head back against the mattress as Buffy dipped her tongue inside her hole, gasping as she struggled not to grab on to the back of her head and force her into her pussy. She gripped the sheets, feeling them rip as Buffy circling the tip of her tongue over her overly sensitive clit.

"Oh fuck," she sighed out as she leaned up a little to look down at Buffy. "Just like that, babe."

The room fell into darkness as the power flickered off and Faith let go of the shredded sheets, placing her hands on the back of Buffy's head and encouraging her to keep going. She was so close, she could feel it building deep inside of her and she let out a soft sigh as Buffy lost the last sense of nervousness she had and sucked on her clit hard, forcing Faith's hips to buck up wildly against her. She went wild then, fucking Faith's hole with her tongue as deeply as she could, moaning as Faith came quickly, her whole body tensing as she let her orgasm course freely through her body.

She pulled Buffy back up on top of her, smiling lazily at her as she tucked her hair behind her ears. "Shit, B. That was fuckin'..."


"Hot," Faith finished as she closed her eyes, smiling as Buffy moved to lay her head down on her chest.

"Can I stay here with you tonight?"

"Of course. Not quite finished with ya yet," Faith chuckled as she softly stroked her fingers up and down Buffy's back. "Gotta say I didn't quite expect you to want to..."

"Want to what?" Buffy asked as she lifted her head and looked into her eyes. "Do this again?"

Faith nodded and Buffy smiled as she leaned in to kiss her. She kept it short and sweet and laid her head back down on Faith's chest, sighing out contentedly as she lazily ran her fingers over the underside of her left breast.

"Yeah," she said finally, closing her eyes and trying so desperately not to give in to the pull of sleep.

She wanted to spend all night fucking Buffy, making love to her, worshipping every inch of her body until she couldn't stand it and begged her to stop. She knew they should be focused on everything else happening instead of each other, but for a moment Faith really didn't care. The world could end and she'd die happy with Buffy in her arms. It was a scenario she'd only ever dreamt of before. For it to be a reality, for Buffy to really be there in her arms, it felt almost too good to be true.

She wasn't sure how long she'd lain there thinking of Buffy before Buffy's soft, lazy touches became a little more insistent. She looked down at Buffy, smiling as Buffy lifted her head to look into her eyes. Even in the darkness she could see every inch of her, falling harder and deeper in love with her with every second that passed by.

"What are you thinking about?" Buffy asked softly.

"You. Always thinking about you, B."

"You're really sweet sometimes, you know that?"

"Sometimes, yeah."

"You know what I keep thinking about?"

"What, B?"

"How amazing it is when I'm with you, even when I'm just lying here all..."

"Naked and trying to cop a feel?" Faith asked, smirking as Buffy pinched her stomach. "Sorry, B. I really couldn't resist."

"Of course not," she laughed as she laid her head back down on her chest and sighed softly. "But you know what I mean though, right? How amazing it can feel just laying here with you. I've never...it's never been like this with anyone else. Not with Angel, not with Riley, and definitely not with Spike."

"Feelin' the same way, B. Definitely can get used to this," Faith smiled as she kissed the top of Buffy's head softly. "Did Angel come by the house tonight?"

"Yeah, he did, a couple hours ago. To say goodbye and talk to me...about you. You know what he told me, Faith? He told me to be patient with you. I think I've been pretty patient with you so far, right?"

"Oh yeah," Faith replied. "Coming here in the middle of the night to fuck, that's pretty patient, B."

"Well, that kind of just happened. It wasn't like I—"

"You don't have to lie or anything, okay? If you came here to fuck just say it. Ain't like I'm gonna complain about it. You went slaying, you were feeling all worked up and you thought to yourself 'gee, I wonder what Faith is doing right now. Maybe she wants to spend the night fucking 'till neither of us can walk straight'."

"Faith!" Buffy laughed as she moved more fully on top of her. "I didn't think that! Well, okay, it may have come close, but not quite those words. I really was upset you'd left. I don't even know why it's affecting me like this. This is all still new and—"

"Maybe its cos you're in—I mean you're feelin' these things for me you never felt before, so I guess it's pretty fuckin' natural that me leaving to move in here is gonna make you shed a few tears."

Faith winced slightly at having almost said that Buffy was in love with her. They weren't even near that point yet or at least she didn't think they were. It wasn't as if she had a lot of experience with love or being in love with someone. She knew how hard it was for Buffy to love someone else and how she'd never be able to love so easily, so freely, after all she'd gone through with Angel and then with Riley. She'd been told stories, mostly by Xander, about Riley and the more she heard about his and Buffy's relationship, the more she realized she hadn't been in love with him the way she probably tried to convince herself she was.

"You're doing it again."

"Doing what, B?"

"Spacing out on me," she chuckled softly as Faith rolled them over onto their sides. "You really do it a lot, don't you?"

"Yeah, ever since I was in prison—I had nothing but time on my hands to think. It's kinda like torture you can't quite escape from, being lost in your own thoughts. It's different now cos all I seem to think about is you and the shit that's going on with Julie and her family and then with Sam."

"You still don't trust him, do you?"

"Don't trust any of 'em, B. Can't really complain much, though. I mean, I got a place of my own outta this deal and money in my pocket. Doin' better for myself now than I ever have my whole life. Startin' to think that coming here was the best thing I could've done. Shit, I got you outta this whole deal too."

"Yeah, you did," Buffy smiled at her as she leaned forward and gave her a soft, light kiss as they intertwined their legs and moved closer together. "Why can't every night be like this from here on out?"

"Dunno, B. We got the weight of the world on our shoulders and with Julie, we can't know what's gonna happen next. Just thinkin' that for now, just for tonight, we can forget about all that shit and worry about what we're gonna do next in the morning."

"I'm thinking I like that plan. I kind of also like this," Buffy whispered as she ran her hand down Faith's back and stopped when she reached the soft curve of her ass and gave it a little squeeze. "I don't know why I'm so comfortable with you like this. It just feels..."

"Like we should've always done this?"

"I was going to say perfect, but that works too. How come we've never been able to talk like this before?"

"Maybe cos we've never laid in bed naked and basked in the afterglow together? Are you normally this chatty after you..."

"Fucked? No, not really."

"I'm startin' to think that you hanging around with me ain't such a good thing. Clearly I'm a bad influence on ya," Faith chuckled softly.


Faith groaned as Buffy pushed her onto her back and kissed her passionately. She smiled into the kiss knowing it was going to be a very long and sleepless night.

The first rays of the morning sun shone in through the window and the smell of rain still hung heavy in the air. Faith crawled out of bed, careful not to wake Buffy as she grabbed some clean clothes, pulling them on as she walked out of the bedroom. Every inch of her body was sore in an achingly amazing way. Never had she been able to find another who could keep up with her in bed and she'd found her match in Buffy and then some. She put the kettle on the stove and turned on the burner before she headed out onto the balcony for a much needed cigarette.

The city was just waking, ready to start yet another day. She looked down at the people on the streets wondering what they'd think if they only knew they lived on a Hellmouth. Most wouldn't believe it—would choose to actively disbelieve it—and others would run scared. It was how she felt at times, wanting to run away from this life just to find something normal. Her life would never be normal, though, and she'd accepted that a long time ago. But with Buffy she was finally getting a taste of what normal could be like.

She sighed and put the unlit cigarette back into the pack, suddenly not feeling that craving overtaking her as it usually did. She walked back inside to find Buffy dressed in the clothes she'd worn the night before and sitting at the small kitchen table stirring the instant coffee crystals into the mug of hot water in front of her.

"We should probably head to the house soon," Buffy said quietly as Faith leaned down to kiss her. Buffy stopped her before she could and Faith groaned as she straightened and walked over to the cupboard to pull out a mug for herself. "Um, everyone might be a little worried. I didn't exactly tell anyone where I was going last night."

"Whatever, B."

"Are you okay, Faith? You're acting a little weird."

"Tired is all," she said with a forced smile before she poured some of the hot water into her mug and walked over to the table. "Long night. Y'know how it is. Makes me a little cranky when I don't get enough sleep. Ever since we found the seal I haven't had a full night's sleep."

"Me neither, but I don't think last night was because of the seal, it was more because of...well, you know."

"You can't even say it in the light of day, can ya?"

"Say what? That we just spent the entire night fucking?" Buffy asked, raising an eyebrow as Faith stirred in a spoonful of the instant coffee. "I think it was more than just fucking, Faith."

Faith shrugged, afraid to agree with her since she knew she was right. It had been more than just fucking. Fucking she was good at, it didn't make her scared and it didn't make her think. They'd made love, all night long, barely stopping long enough to catch their breaths before they were right back at it again. The morning after thing was something she still wasn't quite used to either, but one look into Buffy's eyes and it just felt right.

"What did Angel tell you last night exactly?"

"Oh, we're changing the subject?" Buffy asked, rolling her eyes as she lifted her mug and took a small sip. "He just told me about Julie, her plans to open the Hellmouth, and how there's a specific time period when we can take her out."

"There is no we, Buffy. It's me. I'm the one that's supposed to take her out."

"Yeah, I know that, Faith. He also told me there's a chance that if she does open the Hellmouth and we stop her, that anyone within ten feet is going to be sucked into the portal that's under the seal. A world between worlds. The details are a little sketchy still, but I'm sure Giles is all over it."

"I just want this thing to be over with," Faith said under her breath.

"And you think I don't? For once I'd like to go an entire month without having to deal with an apocalypse or a crazy Slayer vampire hybrid that is planning to open the Hellmouth to get her soul back. I just want things to be..."



"Me too, B."

"Do you think things ever will be normal for us?"

"For us? Never. After last night, though," she smiled as she licked over her lips slowly, "I got a little taste of what normal could be like. Also got a little taste of something else too."

After spending all night together, she thought it'd be impossible to make Buffy blush again. She grinned as she watched Buffy's cheeks flush, then stared down into her mug as she shook her head. They sat there in oddly comforting silence as they drank their coffee. Buffy kept pulling a face of disgust with every sip she took, yet she still drank it until it was gone.

It was after ten before they reached the house and from the looks of things and the countless books that were spread out on the kitchen table, Faith knew that they were all in full-on research mode. Even Andrew had his nose in a book and he barely looked up at the two of them when they walked in through the back door. Everyone else, however, looked over at them for a long few moments. Faith knew they each had their questions as to where Buffy had been all night and she wasn't going to be the one to answer any of them. Their relationship was no secret and yet she wasn't so sure how Buffy would handle the others finding out about their bedroom activities.

"Where were you?" Dawn asked as Buffy sat down at the table next to her. Faith opted for standing by the counter, folding her arms over her chest when Kennedy shot her a knowing glare. "I thought you said you were going out slaying and nobody heard you come back."

"I went to see Faith," Buffy replied quietly, her eyes drifting over to meet with Faith's for a moment. "Besides, what does it matter if I'm gone for the whole night instead of just most of the night?"

"It matters because nobody knew where you were!" Dawn exclaimed, looking furious and slightly amused at the deep blush creeping over Buffy's cheeks. "Next time just tell me you're going to spend the night with Faith. I hate worrying about you."

"You're the little sister, Dawnie. You shouldn't be worrying about me. It should be the other way around."

"If you two will stop bickering for one moment, I believe we have some information pertinent to Julie's plans that you and Faith will need to know," Giles said as he looked at Buffy then over at Faith. "It seems that this Hellmouth isn't quite like any other Hellmouth in the world."

"There's a portal that leads to a world between worlds," Buffy sighed. "We already know this."

"It's not quite that simple, Buffy. If you two are anywhere near the seal if—or when—Julie manages to open it, you will be sucked into the portal—"

"Again with the things we already know," Buffy said as she rolled her eyes. "Anything else, Giles? Anything you know that Angel didn't tell us last night?"

"Er, there is in fact," he replied as he closed the book that he had open in front of him. "There is a reason it has to be you that stops her, Faith. Because you carry the Slayer line, your essence is stronger. Julie can feel this and despite her...nature, she feels as if she can connect with you on some level. She likely won't fight you because of this and this will create a better opportunity for you to take her out."

"So," Faith said as she hoisted herself up onto the counter and reached for a banana out of the fruit bowl, "what's the plan then? I'm tired of sitting around waiting for her to make a move."

"Tonight you will locate her and attempt to ascertain what her plans may be."

"And how am I supposed to do that?"

"Oh!" Willow said as she looked over at Faith. "Her friends, her...minions or whatever, they'll be at Henry's again. She'll find them."

"How do you know this, Will?" Buffy asked. "Oh right, you were—or are?—kind of friends with her…"

"Before Angel told us about her, she confided in me about Vera. I'm kind of thinking that it's not just Julie we have to worry about."

"So Vera's a threat too? Just fuckin' great," Faith muttered as she slowly peeled the banana and took a bite. "What is she, some kinda witch too?"

"No, not exactly," Willow said as she looked around at everyone in the kitchen. "She is protected by the immortality spell, though, and then there's the fact that she's a vampire too, a very strong one. Whatever kind of spells Julie has done has made them—"

"Like the uber vamps?" Andrew asked excitedly. "We've faced them before. We can take her out, right?"

"No, not like the uber vamps, but strength wise, yeah," Willow nodded. "There is one thing. If Julie and the others find out what we're up to and that we really have a plan to stop them—"

"What fucking plan?" Faith asked as she hopped off the counter. "We have no fucking plan. We may have some information, but sure as hell no fucking plan that's gonna work!"

Buffy got up from her chair and walked over to Faith. She placed her hands on her shoulders and gave them a gentle squeeze. "Calm down," she whispered, ignoring the stares they were getting from everyone. "We'll have a plan soon, Faith."

"I'm calm," she replied, slowly feeling the aura of calmness just through Buffy's touch. She still wasn't quite used to feeling what Buffy felt, these effects that were brought on by the barrier spell.

"Let's just sit down and figure out what we're going to do, okay?"

Faith nodded as Buffy leaned in and planted a light kiss on her lips, both of them smiling a little before they pulled apart. She ate the rest of her banana, watching Buffy as she walked back to the table and sat back down in her chair. She could still feel the sense of calm and it made her wonder how Buffy could be so calm when they didn't have a damn clue what they were going to do.

Giles and Willow went through the piles of books laid out on the table while they all discussed ways to take Julie out without her friends getting in the way. Buffy and Kennedy were going to go after Vera, Nick, and James while Faith made sure Julie didn't get close to opening the Hellmouth. She didn't like the plan, but it was all they had so far. The more they talked and planned things out, the more anxious Faith was starting to feel. She just wanted to take Julie out long before she even had the chance to get close to the Hellmouth and open the seal. She had no chance in hell of taking her out, though, not with the Gem of Amara and the immortality spell that rendered Julie invincible.

Faith was hit by an unknown invisible wall and her gut instinct told her to find Julie now. She headed for the front door with Buffy and Kennedy hot on her heels, stopping to open the panel in the back of the front hallway closet and begin pulling out every weapon they had.

"Faith...what are you doing?" Buffy asked as she started packing the weapons into one of the duffel bags. "Faith?"

"Gotta find her," Faith said quickly as she pulled the last axe out of the closet and shoved it into the bag. "Don't ask me how or why, just got his feeling we gotta find her now."

"Faith, stop," Buffy sighed as she stopped her from walking out the front door. "This is not a plan!"

"This is all we got, Buffy. We do this now or we risk everything. We risk having a once powerful witch opening the Hellmouth, taking back her soul from the world between worlds. We risk unleashing Hell on earth and I haven't gotten this far in life to lose everything now."

"Faith," Kennedy said as she reached out and grabbed onto the strap of the duffel bag. "I'm with you all the way. If you think we can do this now, then we're going now."

"We don't even have a plan!" Buffy said as she followed the two of them out the front door. "Stop, Faith! Just stop and think for a minute here. What are we going to do when we find Julie?"

"There is no we, Buffy. I have to take her out myself. It's the only way."

"No, it's not the only way."

"It's how it has to be," Faith said firmly. "You and I both know that, B. It's gotta be me. Why? Who the fuck knows, really. But if Giles tells me it's gotta be me then it damn well is gonna be me who takes the bitch out."

She started walking, heading down the front path towards the street. Buffy didn't try to stop her this time, instead simply joining Kennedy as they both followed her. She led the way to the deserted neighbourhood surrounding the Hellmouth without saying a word and without even looking back at Buffy and Kennedy. She stopped when she reached the store where the Hellmouth resided below. The buzz filled her, drove her on, but she stopped and turned to Buffy slowly.

"Stay out here."


"Just stay out here," she snapped as she dropped the bag to the ground and pulled out the axe. "Julie is there. I can feel it."

"Faith, just stop. You are not going in there alone," Buffy said as she grabbed onto Faith's arms. "I cannot let you go in there alone."

"Buffy, it's gotta be this way."

"No," she said as she shook her head. "It doesn't have to be this way. What happens if she hurts you or kills you, Faith?"

"She won't."

"I'll stay out here, keep an eye on things," Kennedy said as she pulled out the second axe from inside the bag. "Faith, just be careful, okay?"

Faith nodded as she pulled away from Buffy and headed around to the back door of the old boarded up store. She kicked open the back door and headed straight for the stairs, noticing right away that there was a makeshift ladder leading down where the stairs had fallen apart before. Buffy was right behind her and she let out a soft sigh as she turned to her.

"I'm not letting you do this alone," she whispered as she pulled her by her shirt away from the basement door. "After last night, I can't let you do this alone. I'm not losing you now, Faith."

Faith frowned as she pulled Buffy closer to her and laid a gentle kiss upon her lips. "You ain't gonna lose me, B."

"Why does it feel like I will?"

"You ain't gonna lose me, Buffy," she said again, knowing no matter how many times she said it, it just wouldn't sink in.

Faith wondered why she feared it so much, why she feared she'd lose her. It was love talking and with love came that fear no matter what the situation was. She wanted to tell Buffy how she felt, that she was falling in love with her—or that she'd already fallen in love with her and was still falling hard and fast. Instead of saying the words, she just stared deeply into Buffy's eyes, trying to convey her emotions through a simple look.

Before their lips could meet in what Faith feared would be their last kiss, they heard the sounds of chanting coming from the basement. Buffy stopped her from pulling away and kissed her hard and whispered words of love she could barely hear over the rapid beating of her heart. She smiled, giving her one last kiss, never wanting to stop, before they both climbed down the ladder and landed on their feet.

Vera and Julie, along with Laura and Henry, stood in a circle around the seal. They hadn't been noticed just yet and Faith motioned for Buffy to take the left. She wasn't informed too well on the spell, or any spells in particular, but she was pretty sure they'd just begun. Julie put up her hands, stopping the others from chanting as she turned to look at Faith.

"Well, well," she chuckled as she walked over towards her slowly. "Look who decided to crash the party. How did you know the party had already started?"

"Gut instinct," Faith shrugged, gripping the axe tightly in one hand. "Plus y'know, shared essence or whatever."

"Right," Julie sighed as she shook her head. "I almost forgot about that. Is that why you came back for seconds, Faithy?"

Faith flinched at her words, looking over at Buffy as she flanked around the left, approaching Vera cautiously as if she was waiting for Vera to make the first move. Buffy barely moved, barely looked over at Faith and Julie. She could feel her palms begin to sweat as Julie got dangerously close to her.

"You can't stop me," she whispered as she leaned in to Faith. "You know that you can't stop me."

"Sure I can—and I will."

"You're too late, Faithy. We've already begun. The barrier spell has been broken. All that's left is opening the seal. It's a pity—we need a few drops of blood to open it and it seems none of ours works. Looks like it's going to have to be yours or hers."

Faith watched out of the corner of her eye as Buffy and Vera began to fight while Henry and Laura continued chanting in a foreign language. She was ready for the fight of her life and once the seal was open she knew she'd have the chance to take Julie out. It was nothing more than a waiting game now. It was all just a game. Life was a game and Julie was going to take her life in her hands if she let her guard down for just one second. As soon as she saw Buffy being flung across the dark basement, she sprung into action, swinging the axe at Julie as the ground began to shake beneath their feet.

"Too late, Faithy. It's begun," Julie laughed as she swung at Faith, knocking her unconscious and sending her into a world of silence and darkness with just one single blow to the side of her head.



Chapter Twenty-One

aith wasn't sure how long she'd been knocked out for, but the pain was excruciating when she managed to open her eyes. Her addled senses could vaguely make out Buffy fighting Vera—since Julie hadn't jumped in she figured it had only been a few moments. Before she could even try to shake off her disorientation and clear her head, Julie walked over to her and grabbed her by the hair, pulling her to her feet.

"What's the matter, Faithy? One blow and you KO on me? Aren't you supposed to be a Slayer?"

"Fuck you," she said through clenched teeth, ignoring the pain as best she could as Julie let go of her.

The ground still shook beneath their feet and she blinked away the tears that stung at her eyes, struggling to see just what was going on. Laura and Henry were still chanting softly, the ground shaking in time to every word they spoke. She still gripped the axe tightly in her left hand, but with the ground shaking and her head spinning, she couldn't quite get it together. Julie circled her, chuckling softly as she looked her up and down.

"Looking a little worse for the wear there, Faithy. Pity. We've barely even gotten started here. You are still too late, unfortunately. In a few minutes, dear mother and father are going to have the seal open."

"Faith!" Buffy groaned out as Vera sent her flying across the basement and into a stack of wooden boxes.

Anger overtook pain and exhaustion, adrenaline finally cleared her muddled head, and she lunged for Julie. The axe was knocked from her grip as Julie kicked it away and threw a hard right hook that sent her flying backwards and into the hard concrete wall. She reached for the knife strapped to her leg and unsheathed it quickly as Julie lunged for her. She took a swipe at her, both their eyes going wide when the skin on Julie's shoulder was sliced open.

"Now, Faith!" Buffy yelled out as Vera pulled her out of the pile of broken wooden boxes. "You have to do it now!"

Faith groaned as she tried to grab her axe, knowing the knife was nearly useless in this fight. Julie was taken aback, clutching at the wound on her shoulder as she shouted at Henry in a foreign language. She went after Julie again, using every bit of strength she had left. She could just feel Julie getting weaker with every blow but she couldn't stop trying to look over at Buffy and Vera as they both struggled to get the upper hand. She knew should be concentrating solely on Julie—after all, Buffy had proven many times that she could handle herself, but this wasn't their normal everyday type of situation.

The ground stopped shaking for a few moments and it gave her half a second to throw Julie to the ground. She ignored the leer Julie gave her as she straddled her, grappling with her and finally pinning her hands to the floor above her head.

"Fancy another go, Faithy?"

"You're dust, bitch."

"You wish. You seem to forget that the Gem of Amara protects me."

Faith captured her wrists with a single hand and then jammed her finger into the wound in her shoulder, causing Julie to let out an anguished scream. "Oh yeah? Looks like it doesn't work anymore," Faith chuckled as she twisted her finger again, causing Julie to let out another scream.

"You bitch! What did you do?"

"Nothing," Faith replied as she pulled her stake out of her back pocket and pressed it against Julie's chest, not quite ramming it in just yet. "Seems like this spell you guys did that took down the barrier made everything—what's the term I'm looking for here?—fuck up. And now you're fucked."

"Not as fucked as you two are going to be," Julie said through the wicked laughter that came out of her mouth and just wouldn't stop.

With a sudden burst of strength, she shoved Faith off of her and they were both on their feet in seconds. Henry and Laura were chanting louder now and the ground began to shake more violently. Faith gripped the stake in her hand as she threw a hard punch at Julie just in time to see Buffy use her axe to sever Vera's head.

"Oh hell no," Julie screamed as she ran towards Buffy, pure anger flashing in her eyes, anger so strong even Faith could feel it just at the edges of her soul. "I'm going to fucking kill you, you bitch!"

"Faith, we need help," Buffy shouted at her as she ducked out of Julie's way. "Faith!"

Faith didn't listen to her as she strode over to Julie, grabbed her by her wounded shoulder, and shoved her back. "This is between you and me, Julie."

"Then what are you waiting for?" Julie asked, laughing as Faith took a swing at her. "Kill me! Isn't that what you're supposed to be doing right now?"

"Buffy, we need Willow here now. She's the only one who can close the seal."


"Get her here now, B! I'm gonna finish this bitch off and when I'm done, those two are next."

Buffy scrambled up the ladder, leaving Faith down there alone. She was guessing there was less than a minute left before Julie was invincible once again, but she didn't worry for one second that Faith couldn't take Julie out. She was weak and growing weaker by the second, the clock was ticking as Henry and Laura continued chanting.

"What...are...you...waiting...for?" Julie grunted between the hard blows Faith threw at her. "Kill me!"

Faith was caught by her fist square in the jaw and she spit out the blood as the anger flowed more freely through her. It was like a drug and it gave her a rush like no other. She knew now wasn't the time to try to suppress that anger and try to keep that darkness inside of her away. She could use it to her advantage and she knew she had to do it now.

They fought for those last precious seconds, trading blow for blow until Faith finally had her pinned to the ground. Julie blew her a kiss before Faith rammed the stake through her heart and watched as she crumpled into a pile of dust beneath her.

"Juliet!" Laura screamed, breaking out of the trance she and Henry were in. "What did you do? What did you do?"

Faith glared at her, watching as Henry struggled to hold her back as Laura pulled out a dagger from the bag near her feet. She wiped the blood from her split lip and bent down casually to pick up her axe from the floor. Over and over in her head she had to remind herself that Henry and Laura, as human as they seemed to be, weren't. For a witch and an immortal, Laura was quick, but Faith was quicker.

"You think you and your family would have figured out by now that we're just that much ahead of the game here," Faith chuckled as she swung the axe at Laura and instead of blood, she vanished into a pile of dust. "Are you kidding me? Aren't vampires supposed to be the only ones to turn to dust?"

"All joking aside, Slayer," Henry growled as he took a few steps towards her. "You think Juliet was the only one in our family who had a piece of the Gem? I'm assuming that little tidbit of information never reached you."

Henry proved at that moment to be much quicker than Faith expected him to be and he grabbed her axe and placed the handle over her throat as he shoved her up against the wall. He was stronger than she expected him to be too and she struggled to breathe as she tried to push him off of her.

"All my Juliet wanted was her soul back, we all did. We were going to close the Hellmouth as soon as we got what we've been striving to get for years now. Funny," he chuckled as he pressed a little harder, "it was the witch who found the spell."

"Willow?" Faith choked out as she held onto the handle of the axe and tried to shove Henry away from her again to no avail.

"Yes, Willow. Too bad you'll be too dead to thank her for us."

"Funny, I thought you were supposed to be the good guy."

"Me?" Henry laughed coldly. "Afraid not, Slayer. It's such a pity those gut instincts of yours have been dead wrong, isn't it? Oh yes, I do believe you also thought at first that Sam was the bad guy, and you were oh so wrong about that, weren't you? Well, mostly wrong—he's not exactly a good guy either. Always looking to make a quick buck, but he pays his pawns well."

Faith felt her lungs just bursting for air and the excruciating pain in her head from where Julie had hit her before wasn't helping her stay too conscious. She closed her eyes, willing away the pain enough to gather the energy she knew she possessed to get Henry off of her. She sighed out in relief when she heard Buffy come back down the ladder and opened her eyes in time to see the other Slayer force Henry away from her. Giving up on fighting them, he instead scrambled away toward the seal.

"He's a—"

"Faith," Buffy said shakily as she held her up against the wall to keep her from falling to the floor.

"He's a vampire," she whispered as she brought her hands up to her throat. "Just a few seconds left, B."

The seal began to open as Henry knelt near it, now completely ignoring them as he chanted quickly and loudly, determined to finish what he had started. Buffy let go of Faith and ran for him. Within seconds a hard swing of her axe decapitated him and he crumbled to dust as Faith slid down the wall to the floor, clutching her neck and struggling to breathe.

"Faith, baby?" Buffy whispered as she knelt down next to her and gently cupped her face, turning her so Faith would look at her. "How bad are you hurt?"

"Head hurts like a bitch," she chuckled softly, trying to force a smile to reassure her she'd be okay. "Where's Willow?"

"She's coming. She'll be here real soon. Kennedy took out the other two vamps outside."

"Brats got some wicked skills after all."

"It's open?" Buffy whispered as she looked over at the seal as the ground stopped shaking and the seal opened up completely. "Oh god, we've got to get out of here, Faith."

"B, just—give me a minute here."

"Guys?" Willow called out as she approached the basement doorway.

"It's safe, Will! Buffy replied the muttered under her breath, "as safe as it can be considering there's a doorway open to Hell."

Buffy checked the gash on the side of Faith's head and it wasn't until she moved away the hair that Faith really felt the pain. Whatever Julie had hit her with had been more than just a fist. Faith could feel the warm blood trickling down her scalp now and Buffy pressed the palm of her hand against the gash to try to stop the bleeding.

"Fuck that hurts."

"It doesn't look too deep," Buffy said as she moved to sit down next to her. "We need to get out of here now, Faith."

"What about Willow?" She asked as she looked over at Willow climbing down the ladder. "Can't be too safe for her to be here alone."

"I can handle myself," Willow said as she walked over to them. "How badly are you hurt, Faith?"

"S'nothing," she shrugged as she pulled Buffy's hand away from the side of her head. "Just a little scrape."

"Can you close it?" Buffy asked Willow as she pulled out a spell book from her bag. "Will?"

"I can, I just need a little bit of time. Also? A little scared of what might come up outta there," she said as she pointed to the seal. "A little might be an understatement here."

Faith groaned softly as she reached up and placed her hand over the wound and watched as Willow tentatively approached the open seal. Buffy stayed right by Faith's side, checking her for any more injuries.

"B, I'm fine," she whispered as Buffy reached up and wiped away the blood that trickled from her split lip.

"As soon as I get you home..."

"You're gonna play nurse?" Faith asked, chuckling when Buffy just rolled her eyes. "Could get ya one of those sexy little outfits to go with the whole act too."

"Faith, stop," Buffy hissed as Willow looked over at the two of them and laughed quietly. "God, I can't believe you'd be thinking about that—wait, of course you'd be thinking about that. How could I ever doubt that for a second?"

"Lots going on today," she shrugged as Buffy slipped her hand into Faith's. "Happens."

"Guys?" Willow said as she placed a few candles around the floor by the seal. "Can you save the talk for after I do this spell? You do want the Hellmouth closed as soon as possible, right?"

Buffy and Faith just nodded their heads slowly as Willow began to light each candle, chanting softly under her breath as she did so. Faith turned to look at Buffy and smiled as Buffy let out a soft sigh. For a minute there they seemed to forget all the dangers that were there as long as the Hellmouth was open and all they could focus on was each other. They forgot what could happen if Willow couldn't close it in time, if the portal got out of control and sucked the both of them in.

"Did you know that Henry was a vampire too?"

"No, but I should've," Faith replied quietly. "Instinct's been thrown off since we got here. Then again, my instinct's never been all that fuckin' good, I guess."

"Don't say that. We got here just in time because of you."


"Guys!" Willow snapped as she looked right over at them. "Quiet, please! Thank you."

"Bitchy witch," Faith muttered under her breath and Buffy stifled a giggle as she tried to help her to her feet.

"Are you going to be able to fight if anything comes out of there?"

"Yeah," Faith nodded as she bent down to pick up her stake and her axe. "Ready and waitin', B."

She grabbed on to Buffy as the ground began to shake again, a little less violently than it had before. Faith could hear the commotion of a fight above them and then the sound of a window shattering followed by Kennedy cursing loudly. She and Buffy both began to make their way over to the ladder, but before they could get there they were both suddenly sucked back by a force that knocked the wind out of them. Faith tried to grab onto something, but there was nothing but the dusty concrete floor.

"Willow, close it now!" Buffy shouted as they were both pulled into the seal and encased in complete darkness in seconds.

Faith reached out, dropping the axe and her stake as she grabbed onto nothing but air. She found it hard to breathe as they fell down into the darkness, the portal from what she could guess. She felt Buffy grab on to her and hold her close as the darkness opened up into bright orange light and they fell through the sky. Faith looked down, wondering if they were falling to their death, and all she saw was what looked like water below.

Any other things running through their minds suddenly took a back seat to simply surviving the fall. Buffy let go of her just before they hit the warm, muddy water. Faith surfaced quickly, sputtering as she tried to catch her breath and looked around for Buffy frantically, trying not to panic when she didn't see her.

"Buffy?" Faith yelled as she treaded the dirty water, looking around for Buffy as she also looked for any sign of land or even a boat around her.

She looked up to the sky, the once bright orange flow now just ever so faint. The air was sticky and hot, the smell of blood and fire filling her nostrils as she tried to take a deep breath. She saw Buffy surface about twenty feet away and she swam over towards her, every muscle in her body aching as she swam against the hard current. Buffy looked deathly afraid and it was the first time Faith had really seen that in her.

"B, you okay?"

"Been better," she coughed as she turned around a couple of times. "Where the hell are we?"

"That dimension...the world between worlds, maybe. Fuck if I know, B."

"We need to get out of here," Buffy said as they felt the current pulling at them. Buffy reached out for her, holding onto her hand so they wouldn't drift apart. "Something tells me this isn't just water."

"I don't see anything around here, B. We're pretty much fucked."

"We're not," she said, pulling Faith a little closer to her as they both treaded to keep their heads above the water. "The fight we just had, now that was fucked. You get the feeling it just went...too quickly? Why is it everything happens too fast to process it?"

"B? You're freakin' out. We'll be okay," Faith said, trembling a little and not entirely sure if she believed the words coming out of her own mouth.

She pulled her in for a quick kiss, breathing heavily as Buffy pushed her away. "Faith, how can we be okay? We don't even know where we are. We're stuck floating in this poor excuse for water with no land in sight. How the hell are we going to be okay?"

"We got each other," Faith whispered. "As long as we got each other, we'll be okay, won't we?"

"Did we switch personalities instead of bodies this time?" Buffy asked, laughing softly as she stared into Faith's eyes. "I've never seen you so calm before."

"I am far from fucking calm right now, B."

They said nothing more as they floated for what felt like hours, letting the current take them wherever it would take them. Faith tried not to think at all about anything, finding it too suffocating with the thoughts in her otherwise pounding head. After what seemed an eternity, she spotted the faintest outline of land ahead of them. She let out a sigh of relief, nudging Buffy and motioning for her to look ahead instead of up at the sky as she had been for the last while.

They began to swim for the shore, both all too eager to get out of the warm, pungent water that smelled more and more like dirt and blood with every minute that passed. Faith felt like crying with relief as they reached the rocky shore, even though her lungs were about to burst from the wave of heat that washed over them. Buffy laid on her back on the smooth rocks, practically sobbing as Faith crawled to lie next to her.

"God, it's fucking hot as Hell," Faith groaned as she sat up to look out over the water. "Think that's where we're at?"

"This isn't Hell."

"Can't be too sure about that, B."

"No, this isn't Hell. Believe me when I say that I know that this isn't Hell, but it's close."

"So, what are we, like…dead?"

"No," Buffy said as she reached out and pinched her leg. "If we were dead, it wouldn't have been like that."

"Right. You would know."

"We're not going to start fighting again, are we?" Buffy asked, rolling her eyes as she sat up next to Faith. "God, I really hate it when we fight, but its different now it's like we're actually a..."

Faith knew Buffy couldn't say it. Either that or she was trying to figure out the right words to say. Wherever they stood with their relationship should be the last thing on their minds, but it wasn't. It was front and center, demanding every ounce of attention it could grab on to. Everything would always come back to it being about the two of them and wherever their relationship stood at the time. No matter where they were, what kind of fucked up situation they found themselves in, it'd always end up the same way.

"Actually a what, B?"

"Uh...a couple?" Buffy offered, shrugging as Faith stared over at her.

"Right, cos we're together now," Faith smirked as she put her arm around Buffy's shoulders. "Feels kinda weird."


"Y'know, you and me," Faith said softly. "Never thought it'd ever happen and now that it has, feels like I need to be pinched to make sure I'm not dreamin'."

"You want me to pinch you?" Buffy laughed as she shook her head before resting it against Faith's shoulder. "What are we going to do, Faith?"

"You can start by pinching me."

"No, I meant about being stuck here. What are we going to do? We can't stay here."

"'Less ya learn how to fly, B, we ain't gettin' back up there," Faith said as she pointed to the orange sky. "Oh—you meant from right here, didn't ya?"

"Can't be too safe out in the open when we don't even know what's out there."

Faith sighed as she looked around, knowing exactly what Buffy meant. They weren't safe there sitting out in the open. Who knew what could be out there lurking and just waiting for the right moment to attack. Neither of them had any weapons on them and Faith cursed under her breath for not holding onto her axe. It was too late to worry about that now, though, and she laid back on the rocks, pulling Buffy down with her and closing her eyes as the heat became nearly unbearable. Wherever they were, she had faith that Willow would get them out and bring them home. It was just a waiting game now.

Kennedy found Willow kneeling by the seal, sobbing uncontrollably and clawing at it, her fingers bleeding freely as a result of her frantic efforts. She pulled her up from the ground, trying to calm her down as she looked around the dank, dark basement.

"Where are Faith and Buffy?"

"Gone!" Willow cried. "They're gone!"

"Gone where, Will?"

"The portal, they...I couldn't close it fast enough and it pulled them in!"

"Shit," Kennedy muttered as she struggled to hold Willow up. "We got another problem, Will."


"I've..." she groaned as Willow fell to the floor on her hands and knees. "Whatever just happened, I lost my strength, Will."


"I don't think I'm a Slayer anymore."

Willow looked up at her with wide eyes and blinked away her tears as she got to her feet. "You...you aren't a Slayer? What?"

"When the ground stopped shaking I felt it. It felt like it just was sucked out of me. Hit me like an invisible wall."

"Oh goddess, this is not good," Willow whispered as Kennedy led her over to the ladder. "We need to tell Giles what happened and fix this. We need to get them back."

"We need to get out of here first," Kennedy said as she let Willow climb up the ladder first. "It's almost dark and I can't protect you like I should be able to."

Willow was sobbing uncontrollably the entire walk back to the house. Kennedy kept pulling her onwards to keep her from stopping for too long. The sun had completely set by the time they reached the front door and Willow collapsed to the floor as soon as they'd walked over the threshold. Kennedy left her there and ran to the kitchen, shaking uncontrollably as Giles looked up from reading the evening paper.

"We got a problem, Giles. A major problem."

"A problem?"

Kennedy sighed as she grabbed the paper from him, knowing he had no idea what had happened. For all he knew, they'd all just left the house. Nobody had told him what was going on and that they were going after Julie and her family to try to stop them from opening the Hellmouth.

"Buffy and Faith are gone."


"Gone," she said firmly as she fought back her own tears. "They got sucked into the portal inside the Hellmouth. They are fucking gone, Giles! We need to get them back. Now."

"You went after them? Without informing me?"

"Faith just...she took off! We had no other choice but to follow her!"

"Where is Willow? Did she close the Hellmouth?" Giles asked as he stood up, visibly shaking as he tried to remain calm.

"She did. Giles," Kennedy sighed as she followed him out of the kitchen. "We got another big problem."

"Which is?"

"I lost my Slayer strength."

Giles stopped and turned to look at her, all the colour in his face draining as he took a few deep breaths. "I feared something like this would happen," he said after a moment. "Willow?"

"Oh goddess," Willow sobbed as she laid on the floor by the front door. "This is all my fault."

"This isn't your fault," Giles said softly as he knelt down next to her.

"It is! I was too slow in closing the Hellmouth and when I tried to open it again, nothing!"

Kennedy tried to help Willow to her feet, failing as she didn't have the strength to pull her dead weight up from the floor. She sat down next to her instead and pulled her into her lap, rocking back and forth slowly as she tried to calm her down. Dawn, Xander, and Andrew came down from upstairs, all three of them looking confused as they saw the scene unfolding before them. Giles immediately went to the living room, going through the hundreds of books that lined the shelves.

"What happened?" Dawn asked as she sat down next to Kennedy. "Why is Willow so upset?"

"Buffy and Faith are gone," Willow cried. "They're gone!"

"Gone?" Dawn said, shaking as the tears sprung to her eyes. "They're dead?"

"No," Kennedy said as she shook her head. "Not dead. Stuck."

"Stuck where?"

"The portal inside the Hellmouth pulled them in," Kennedy said softly as she stroked her fingers tenderly up and down Willow's back as her body shook violently with every choked sob that came out. "They fought Julie and the others, but the Hellmouth still got opened. I wasn't down there so I don't know exactly what happened, but..."

"Oh god," Dawn trembled as Xander pulled her to her feet and wrapped his arms around her. "No! They can't be gone! What are you all waiting for? Get them back!"

"We may not be able to," Giles said as he joined them back in the front hallway. "Willow, what spell did you use to close the Hellmouth?"

"The one we...talked about...before..."

"Oh lord," Giles said, shaking his head as he walked over to the stairs and sat down slowly. "Andrew, would you please fetch me the bottle of Scotch I keep on the shelf? I fear I'm going to need a drink."

"Giles, I used the wrong spell, didn't I?" Willow asked as she fought to keep the tears away. "I used the wrong spell."

"We didn't know," Kennedy whispered as she continued tenderly stroking her hands down her back, her sobs becoming less violent and frequent as she took in a few deep breaths. "Will, we'll fix this. We'll get them back. They'll be okay."

"We can't," Giles said under his breath as Andrew came back with the bottle of Scotch. "Since we last spoke of using that spell, I have done some more research. The barrier was a powerful one and I believe the energies released from its dissipation combined most unfortunately with the closure spell itself. What has occurred is a ripple effect, if you will, which has essentially undone all spells ever cast."

"So we just figure out a way to—"

"No, Willow. There is no way," Giles snapped at her as he twisted off the cap and took a couple swigs right from the bottle. "We have nothing. Absolutely nothing."

"How can you say that?" Dawn yelled as she tried to get out of Xander's tight hold. "Find something and bring them back home!"

Giles just shook his head as he took another swig from the bottle and exhaled loudly. Silence fell, broken only by the odd gasp coming from Willow or Dawn as they tried not to cry. Giles handed the bottle to Andrew as he got to his feet and headed straight for the phone in the kitchen.

"They're really gone, aren't they?" Willow sobbed as she buried her face into Kennedy's shirt. "It's all my fault, Kenny!"

"No, it's not your fault. You didn't have a choice. You couldn't close it any faster."

"I could've! They were...talking and...oh goddess," Willow sobbed as she pulled back from Kennedy and furiously wiped at her tears that continued to fall. "They'll be okay. They have to be. They'll be okay."

Kennedy held her close, not knowing what to say or do to calm her down. Dawn clutched onto Xander, crying just as hard as Willow was. Kennedy just looked at Xander, both of them with tears in their eyes and fear of not knowing what would end up happening if they couldn't bring Buffy and Faith back. Kennedy wasn't too concerned about the fact she'd lost her strength. She'd have plenty of time to worry about that after they all figured out how they were going to get Buffy and Faith back.

The night was long and spent with all of them trying to find another spell to open the Hellmouth just long enough to pull Buffy and Faith out of the portal that led to the world between worlds. It was a valley of lost souls and barely any human being had ever survived there. By the first rays of dawn, they'd only found out about the dimension Buffy and Faith were trapped in. No reversal spells to undo the spell Willow had cast to close the Hellmouth. There was no way for her to find a way to reverse the effects of the barrier spell that had stripped Kennedy of her strength—along with every Slayer activated by the spell Willow had cast on the scythe—and no way to find out how to bring back all the spells ever cast in the world for centuries.

Chaos on earth was inevitable, as Giles had put it. There were just too many spells cast, too many cloaks and barrier spells around the other Hellmouths all over the world. Who knew what the fallout with the rest would be like? He'd spent most of the night on the phone, contacting the few remaining members of the Council, trying desperately to find some answers. Any answers seeing how no matter where they looked or how hard, they found nothing that would help them.

Kennedy helped Willow to bed and laid there next to her, finally allowing a torrent of tears to fall. Willow was still crying, a little less now, but the tears just never stopped. From the way everyone was acting, it was almost as if Buffy and Faith had died rather than being sucked into the portal and trapped in a dimension that wasn't quite earth and wasn't quite Hell. Kennedy couldn't—no, she didn't want to imagine what it could be like for them there. From the books Giles had found on dimensions like the one they'd been sucked into, it came pretty close to the proverbial worst nightmare.

The world they were trapped in had much more in common with Hell than with their own reality. Kennedy felt an empty space in her heart, the space that had been filled by her friendship with Faith and by having Buffy around and a part of her life. The void was stronger, deeper in the others, but it didn't mean she didn't feel the loss also.

Even as she laid there, trying to fall asleep next to Willow, she could hear Dawn in her room crying as Xander tried to calm her down and assure her that no matter how bad it seemed right then, they'd find a way no matter how long it took. She could only faintly hear Giles on the phone, yelling at whomever he was talking to. He was as distraught as Willow, frantically searching for answers that just weren't there. Kennedy closed her eyes tightly, feeling the hot tears burning past her eyelids as Willow snuggled closer to her.

About an hour passed before Dawn knocked on the bedroom door, not saying a word as she and Xander crawled onto the bed with them. They just needed to be surrounded by their family in a time where they felt completely helpless, lost, and alone. Much like Buffy and Faith probably felt where they were. Kennedy had no doubt in her mind that they'd fix this, that they'd fix everything, and that they'd bring them back home where they belonged. They needed them now more than ever. Andrew stood in the doorway, looking uncertain as Kennedy lifted her head to look over at him. She flashed a small smile as she motioned for him to come into the room and he joined them on the bed. It was much too snug a fit, but none of them seemed to care.

They all fell asleep eventually, none of them paying attention to the wailing sirens that filled the air, the fires that burned blocks away, or the people who screamed at each other after every gunshot that rang louder and closer. Chaos had erupted, just as expected, but in the safe haven of Willow and Kennedy's bedroom, they felt as if nothing could touch them past the pain they felt over having lost Buffy and Faith.

And in the faintest moments between consciousness and sleep Kennedy saw flashes of Buffy and Faith, covered in blood she somehow knew wasn't their own, clinging to each other, trying to control their fear of being in a world so alien and hostile that not even a Slayer would be able to sleep soundly.

She wished she'd been down there with them, just for a single fleeting moment. She wanted to be there with them, suffering wherever they were suffering. She didn't want to go back to being just another normal, useless human being. She wanted the power and the strength to flow through her body once more. She wanted to save them even if she didn't know how. Family was everything and in the end, she and the others would do everything to save the ones they loved. Absolutely everything and anything.





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