Two nights passed without another dream and Faith was growing restless as she usually did when she went a few nights without seeing Buffy. The storm had been raging for two days too, and it was making her feel agitated and cooped up, boxed in. Leah hadn't been home since she left for work, most roads having been flooded and closed until further notice. It gave her a little too much time to think and that was never a good thing, especially not considering the state of mind she was now in.
She'd cleaned the entire house, twice, out of sheer boredom. It gave her a chance to go just a few hours without thoughts of Buffy and the dreams and the meaning behind it all. Maybe Angel had been right before and she needed to get in touch with Giles, have him figure out if these were shared dreams or if they were in fact just a figment of her imagination.
Or maybe Buffy had figured out what she'd been trying to do for the last several months. She had tried to find out where she was, where Buffy took them during their dreams. It changed every so often; the room, the bed, the temperature, and the smells. It made her wonder if they went to wherever Buffy was living at the time. It was too much to hope for, though. Maybe the change in the dreams was just for that, change, with no other meaning behind it all.
Yeah, she was definitely losing it.
She grabbed a fresh bottle of wine and a glass and sat down at the kitchen table, watching the rain as it hit the sliding door glass. She had all the lights off aside from a single candle that burned on the table. Leah would kill her for using them. She was meticulous about little, petty things like that, and yet she just didn't care. With the candlelight and the storm raging outside and a glass of wine, she was able to relax. She wanted to call Leah just to talk to her, hear her voice even just for a couple of minutes. The phones had been out for the better part of the day and she couldn't even get a signal on her cell. She missed her, she could admit that much, but she couldn't let herself think of the deeper reasons why.
She wasn't in love with Leah. She didn't believe it was possible to be in love with two very different women at the same time. She didn't easily acknowledge that she even believed in love, but she knew that's how she felt when it came to Buffy. At least she could admit that much to herself for the time being. She knew Leah wouldn't stick around if she ever found out how she felt about Buffy. She couldn't lose her, though. Leah had become her rock in the past seven months and despite the relationship still being new and having moved rather quickly, she wasn't ready for it to end. Not yet.
"Thinking is not good," she muttered to herself as she reached for the bottle and topped up her glass. "Thinking is so not fucking good right now. It's just gonna make everything a hell of a lot worse."
She chuckled softly, shaking her head and feeling rather ridiculous for talking to herself. It wasn't like it mattered, she'd done it plenty of times before, but she really hated being alone now. Her inner demons always came out to play when she was alone for too long, and she was finding that two days was in fact far too long for her. Since she had started seeing Leah, they hadn't gone this long without seeing each other. It was truly starting to drive her crazy, trying to make sense of why she missed her so much, forcing down the answer that kept creeping up, wanting to be seen, to be heard.
A part of her really couldn't wait for Xander and Dawn's visit. She needed to be surrounded by others to ward off all the thoughts she'd been fighting with for the last couple of days. She quickly downed the entire glass of wine, already feeling a little buzzed as she poured herself yet another full glass. If she was going to be alone for another night, she wanted to sleep alone without Buffy coming to her in her dreams. She couldn't deal with seeing Buffy now, as much as she wanted to. There was just too much going through her head.
"Drinking alone is never a good sign," Leah said softly from the kitchen doorway, startling Faith since she hadn't heard her come in. "I hope there's enough left in that bottle for me."
"I thought you..."
"Took the long way home, found a couple roads that were still open. I couldn't stay in the city any longer. You know how much it drives me insane to be apart from you too long."
Faith smiled over at her as she watched her slowly walk across the kitchen, dropping her bag by the fridge before she grabbed a glass and joined Faith at the table. Faith waited until she'd poured herself a glass of wine before pulling her onto her lap and kissing her deeply. Leah laughed, pulling back from the kiss as Faith ran her hands under her shirt and over the smooth skin of her lower back.
"As much as I missed you, I'm exhausted from the drive home. I just want to have a glass of wine and get to bed," Leah said softly, planting a light kiss on Faith's lips before sliding off of her lap and sitting on the chair next to her. "What'd you do for the last couple of days?"
"Not much," she shrugged as she reached for her glass, trying not to sound so pissed off. "Cleaned the place up, sat around and thought about things."
"What kind of things?"
"Nothing interesting," she said quickly. "How was work?"
Faith let out a dejected sigh as she leaned back in her chair and looked over at Leah. Sometimes she got the feeling that Leah wasn't always telling her everything. She knew it wasn't exactly fair to expect Leah to be openly honest with her when she couldn't even talk about her past. Although the lack of talking about anything had been normal between them, she felt like sometimes they did need to talk and Leah completely avoided it all together. She didn't even want to start to think of reasons why. There was no point in driving herself insane trying to figure it out and come up with things that probably weren't even true, or realistic.
She had to stop thinking too much. It wasn't healthy. Angel had told her that years ago. It's what got her woven in deep with her inner demons and her conscience, and she couldn't afford to slip away like she had nearly ten years before. She'd come a long way from who she used to be, and even in her dreams she knew that Buffy saw those changes too. It was impossible not to see the changes she'd been through since Sunnydale. Even Xander had been able to notice them just by talking with her over the phone every couple of months.
"When are your friends supposed to be arriving?"
"Friday night, I think," Faith shrugged, her conversation with Xander the day before having been cut off as the phones went down. "Why?"
"I have to work on Saturday. I was going to drive into the city on Friday afternoon and stay with my parents."
"I'll be here on Sunday, though. I'll get to meet your friends and we'll have lunch and swap stories. I'm sure they can tell me things I want to know about you that you've never told me," Leah said, winking as she reached for Faith's hand. "Don't worry, I won't ask for anything but those embarrassing stories."
"Great," Faith laughed as she rolled her eyes. "I really don't think there are any embarrassing stories to be told."
"I'm sure there is at least one."
"I did a lot of stupid things back then, never anything embarrassing."
"Yeah," she nodded as she let go of Leah's hand. "Speaking of your parents, when am I going to get to meet them?"
"You still haven't told them about us, have you?"
"Faith," Lean sighed as she turned to look at her. "I keep trying to tell them about us. They are very closed-minded people. I'm just waiting for the right time to tell them, that's all."
Faith shook her head as she ran her tongue over her suddenly dry lips. She knew the day she started seeing Leah that she was getting into a relationship that wasn't exactly out in the open. Their friends knew about them, but Leah's family didn't. Even though she wasn't the first woman Leah had been in a relationship with, she had a funny feeling she wouldn't be the last before Leah finally found the courage to come out to her parents and the rest of her family. Faith wasn't going to push her, but it was getting harder as the weeks went on. Hearing Leah lie to her parents whenever she talked to them over the phone about whether or not she was dating anyone stung the most.
She thought back to her early teens and to the first girl she'd been with back in Boston. She couldn't even remember her name now, she just remembered her face and the way she felt when they'd spend hours making out in her tiny bedroom while their mothers drank until they passed out. Her mother had known and hadn't made a big deal out of it since Faith still had boyfriends here and there. She wondered if that was what really messed her up for the longest time, the losers she'd dated and the girls she'd fool around with every once in awhile. Even in Sunnydale, she found a random girl to fuck every once in awhile, but there'd always been something missing.
After Sunnydale, for two months, she and Robin had dated. She gave the guy a chance, but it just didn't feel right. It wasn't the same way her relationship with Leah didn't feel right either. It wasn't until after she broke down one night, sobbing uncontrollably in Robin's arms, that she realized just who she really was. They parted on good terms, Robin wishing her the best before he moved to New York City. She hadn't heard from him since, and Xander said that Giles had a suspicion that he was possibly dead by now. Now that she thought about it, it wasn't until after she'd told Robin that she was gay that the dreams with Buffy had started.
"Always thinking," Leah chuckled as she ran her hand over Faith's thigh. "Are you coming to bed soon?"
"Nah, I'm not tired yet."
"You aren't going to go out on patrol tonight, are you?"
"What are you, crazy?" Faith laughed. "I'd probably drown in the rain by the time I got to the end of the driveway."
"We couldn't have that," Leah smiled as she leaned over to kiss her softly. "Try not to stay up too late."
"You know I hate sleeping alone for too long when there's a storm like this going on."
"I know. I'm gonna finish this glass and have one more and I'll be there in a bit, okay?"
Leah gave her one last kiss before picking up her empty wine glass and putting it in the sink. She grabbed her bag from where she'd left it and headed for the bedroom, looking back at Faith once to blow her a kiss before she walked out of the kitchen. Faith smiled to herself a little before topping up her glass and relaxing back in the chair.
She ignored the nagging of her subconscious that was trying to tell her something was going on with Leah. She ignored the sinking feeling that there was a high possibility that Leah was cheating on her. She ignored the dreaded feeling that she might just be right and sipped her wine and closed her eyes, shutting out the voices inside her head. But, when she really sat back and allowed herself to think about it, there was a good chance that she was right. Every weekend for the past couple of weeks Leah had been called in to work. Sometimes she'd be home late that night, sometimes she wouldn't come home until the next day. Of course she could just be trying to find something wrong with the relationship. Angel had warned her that there was a chance it'd get to that point since she was in love with someone she couldn't have.
She could feel the tears stinging at her eyes and she laughed to herself as she wiped them away. This was what thinking too much got her, a whole set of emotions that were pointless to even feel. She was letting her thoughts get out of control and the wine wasn't helping at all. It was only making it worse. She shrugged as she drank nearly the entire glass in one go before she blew out the candle and stumbled towards the bedroom, struggling to keep from falling over her own two feet.
Despite the rain and the cool air that had come with it, the bedroom was warm and damp. She stripped out of her clothes and fell face first onto the bed. She heard Leah groan softly as she rolled onto her side away from her. She struggled with the sheets until she managed to pull them partway over her and closed her eyes, feeling the alcohol running through her body and sending her into what she hoped wasn't another dreamless sleep.
Faith felt those ever-familiar warm hands trailing up and down her bare back. She felt the hum in her body intensify with every touch. She could feel the soft breath on the back of her neck before a pair of warm, wet lips laid a gentle kiss upon her skin.
"I missed you," Buffy whispered into her hair. "I waited for you and you never came."
"I'm sorry," she croaked out as she turned her head to look at Buffy. "I wanted to come, B. Don't know why I didn't, or couldn't."
"It doesn't matter now. You're here."
Faith smiled as she reached over and ran her fingers delicately over Buffy's jaw. She could see slight bruising and she opened her eyes a little wider in alarm. "You're hurt."
"Ran into a couple of demons today," Buffy shrugged. "I took care of it."
Faith gave her a gentle kiss over her bruised jaw, then rolled onto her back and looked around the room. It was different now and she could only faintly hear the roar of the waves nearby. If she'd been right before about the location of her dreams, it meant Buffy had gone to yet another place in yet another country.
"Where are we now?"
"Here," Buffy replied emotionlessly. "We're always here."
"No," Faith shook her head as she looked over at her. "We're somewhere else now."
"Does it matter where we are?"
"It does to me."
"I don't want to be found. Not yet."
"I know," Faith sighed as she ran the tips of her fingers down Buffy's bare arm, watching as goose bumps formed on her skin. "What if I want to find you?"
"You know why."
"We could never have this, not out there," Buffy whispered. "It's different out there."
"I just want to know you are somewhere safe."
"I'm always somewhere safe," she replied as she reached for Faith's hand and intertwined their fingers. "Why does it matter where I am? I come to you every night, and I wait for you every night even when you never come."
"It isn't the same," Faith whispered as she pulled Buffy in close to her. "It feels real here, but it's not real enough for me anymore, B. I need you out there. I need you in my life and not just in my dreams. Can I ever have that?"
"I told you we can't."
Faith watched her as she thought for a moment and saw the tears spring to her eyes. She watched her as she blinked them away and she kissed away the few tears that had fallen. She wanted to know and she was tired of waiting for the answers she feared she'd never hear.
"Why?" She repeated when minutes had passed without a single word. "Just tell me, B. You owe me that much."
"I owe you? I don't think I owe you a goddamn thing, Faith!"
"For five years I've been with you in our dreams. You've stolen my heart and you've invaded my head, Buffy. I think you do owe me some answers."
"You aren't in love with me."
"No? I'd like to say otherwise."
"No," Buffy shook her head slowly. "You are in love with the illusion of me. This would never be like this out there, Faith. You and I both know that."
"I don't know that, Buffy. What are you so fucking afraid of?"
"You," she replied, her voice trembling as more tears began to fall. I'm afraid that what we have here won't be the same. I don't want to lose this."
"And what is this?"
"Love? Comfort? An escape?" Buffy shrugged. "I really don't know sometimes. It always feels different, but there's one thing I always feel whenever I'm here with you."
Their lips crashed together as a wave of passion and need and desire flooded through them both. This was what felt right for Faith. It made her feel safe, feel loved, feel like she'd found `home' within Buffy. Of course, the added bonus was that most of their dreams had been spent naked in a bed together, but it didn't always end up with them making love for what felt like hours before she woke.
Despite how numb her body felt, she could still feel Buffy beneath her as she deepened the kiss and lightly ran her hand down Buffy's side, revelling in the feel of the soft skin under her fingertips. There'd been many nights she'd spent just worshipping Buffy's body, getting to know just how she liked to be touched and where those sweet spots of hers were that had her writhing and begging for more. There was only one place Faith had in mind and she was taking her sweet time, teasing every inch of skin she could along the way.
"Think about how good this could feel out there," she whispered against Buffy's lips. "We wouldn't have to wake up. We could spend the entire day in bed and fall asleep and do it all over again here in our dreams."
"I could make you come more times than you can count," she groaned softly as she moved her fingers over Buffy's hipbone, scratching her nails lightly over the skin. "Don't you ever wonder how much better it could be outside of here, B?"
She held her breath as she dipped her fingers lower, finding how wet Buffy was for her, because of her, at the first light touch. She ran her fingers teasingly over her clit, feeling her lover's body tense beneath her own, and listened as she heard both their hearts begin to race.
"It would feel just like this, B. Just like this," she whispered breathlessly as she slid a single finger inside of her hot, dripping core. "The only difference," she gasped, Buffy's fingers digging into her shoulders as she thrust a second finger inside of her, "is that it'll be real."
"Faith I...I'm coming."
"So soon?" She chuckled as she stared down at Buffy, those intense green eyes staring right back up at her. "You've never come so soon."
"No," she moaned as she raised her hips into Faith's hand. "I meant I'm coming...to see you."
"How do you even know where I am?"
"I've come there once before," she whispered as she pulled Faith down for a long, lazy kiss. "I saw you with her, the woman you live with. I couldn't...it felt wrong to walk up to the door after I saw you with her."
"She means nothing to me, Buffy."
"But she is there right now with you, lying next to you, dreaming of you while you're here with me. It's wrong, Faith. It's so wrong."
"It doesn't feel wrong."
"No," Buffy gasped as Faith thrust her fingers inside her deeper. "It doesn't feel wrong, but it is."
"I'll come see you," she whispered as she closed her eyes. "Soon."
And just like that, Buffy was gone and Faith laid there on the bed, feeling so empty yet so full at the same time. The words echoed in her mind as she forced herself to leave there too, to wake up and try to make sense of what had just happened. It didn't work. Every time she closed and opened her eyes she was still there on the bed, her fingers sticky and warm and her body covered in a thin sheet of sweat. Her lips were still burning from the feel of Buffy's lips against them and she licked them slowly, tasting her only faintly and wishing she hadn't left so soon.
She blinked again, expecting to still be stuck in the dream, but this time she actually woke up to the sound of the birds chirping outside the window and the sunlight streaming in. The air smelled damp still from the storm, but it was over now and she could hear only the gentle crash of waves as they hit the shore along with the sounds of Leah moving around in the kitchen.
The only thought she had right then was what Buffy had said to her. She'd been there, there, and within the last seven months! How had she not known that Buffy was there, that she'd seen her and Leah? She'd always been able to feel Buffy, yet she hadn't noticed any difference in that low hum over the last seven months. And she knew that if she'd seen Buffy she wouldn't have known how to take it, likely would have just chalked it up to her imagination and wanting so badly to see her outside of her dreams.
"Babe?" Leah called out as she walked towards the bedroom door that was open just a couple of inches. "Are you up yet?"
"Are you hungry?"
"When am I not?" Faith chuckled as she slowly sat up in bed as Leah walked in. "Did you make breakfast?"
"Was about to go out and grab something to eat," she replied as she walked over to the closet and pulled out some clothes. "Do you want anything?"
"Jimmy is coming by later," she said as she pulled on a pair of faded jean shorts and turned to face Faith.
"How much later?"
"As in ten minutes from now," Leah chuckled as she walked over to the bed and leaned down to kiss Faith. "You might want to get dressed before he gets here."
"Right," Faith nodded as she pulled Leah down for one more kiss and watched as she found her bra and slipped it on before pulling on a faded black tank. "Haven't seen your brother for a while."
"He's in town for a couple of days and doesn't want to go see the rest of the family just yet. He called earlier and I told him he could come by just for the day. That's cool with you, right?"
"Sure," Faith shrugged as she rolled onto her side, her eyes never leaving Leah's as she stood at the foot of the bed. "So, I guess this means we'll have to play the roommate act for the day?"
"Can I at least get one last kiss, babe?"
"I should just run and get breakfast so I can make it back here before he gets here," Leah stammered as she fiddled with the edges of her frayed jean shorts. "Rain check?"
Faith nodded, hiding her disappointment from Leah as she flashed a forced smile. She buried her head into her pillow as soon as Leah walked out of the bedroom and she tried to fall back asleep. As always, she never felt fully rested after seeing Buffy in her dreams. After a minute she forced herself to get out of bed anyway and threw on a pair of basketball shorts and a loose fitted white t-shirt. The air was already becoming sticky and hot, and she threw her hair up into a loose, lazy ponytail as she walked out of the bedroom and headed straight for the front door to grab the morning paper from the garden, just as she did most mornings.
In the last seven months, Leah's brother had come to visit them three times. The last time was about two months back and he'd slept on the couch for a week. Faith gave up the bedroom to sleep in the cluttered spare room, always sneaking into the bedroom in the middle of the night to be with Leah for a few short hours. Twice Jimmy had almost caught them and both times Leah had made up an excuse that she'd been having nightmares and that Faith was only there to comfort her. Faith knew the kid, barely eighteen, wasn't stupid. A little vapid and naive, but not stupid.
She knew this visit would go just as the last ones had. She'd act like nothing more than Leah's roommate and sneak in those soft, gentle kisses here and there whenever he wasn't looking. It would be easier this time. Something had changed since Leah had come home. Any other time, if she was gone for just a couple hours, they'd spend a good portion of the night fucking until Leah passed out, completely spent and leaving Faith aching for more. Leah hadn't even wanted to kiss her when she'd come home this time and it made her brain accelerate into the over thinking mode she'd been stuck in for two days straight.
If she was perfectly honest, and she owed that much to herself, she had to admit that she was tired of this charade. Tired of the lies, tired of covering up the fact that they were very much in a relationship, living together, fucking each other to oblivion nearly every night. Then she had to stop and wonder if it'd be the same thing with Buffy. Would they hide their relationship from her friends, her family, and the rest of the goddamn world? It made her feel as if there was something about her that made others ashamed to be with her.
There was nothing to be ashamed of when it came to her. She was a good woman now who always put everyone else before herself. She treated Leah like she was a Goddess, most days anyway, and despite the fact that she wasn't in love with Leah, she still acted as if she was. She wasn't ugly or deformed and she knew it was one of those things that really didn't matter. There was just something about her and she wondered if it was the whole `gay' thing. If it was, it'd be okay. It'd make a lot of sense, but she knew it was more than that. It was always more than that.
She'd been standing there on the front porch for nearly ten minutes, completely lost in her own thoughts. She was glad that for once none of the neighbours were out and about. It must have been quite an odd sight to see her just standing there staring ahead blankly at nothing as her mind went into overdrive. She walked down the steps and around to where the paper lay in the garden. Always in the same spot, day after day. She shook her head as she bent over and picked it up just as a cab pulled up in the driveway.
She forced a smile as Jimmy climbed out of the backseat and thrust the driver a wad of crumpled money. He waved at her as he walked around to the trunk and pulled out his overstuffed duffle bag. He looked so much like Leah, just the male version of her. Tall, skinny, black shaggy hair and the same deep green eyes that always had stared at her with the same intensity that shone in Leah's eyes.
"Jimmy," she nodded as he walked up the front path and climbed the steps. "Leah just stepped out to get breakfast."
"Cool," he shrugged as he walked past her and into the house. She watched as he dropped his bag by the door and slipped off his well-worn shoes, the same pair of Chuck Taylors she'd been informed were practically attached to his feet at all times. "Have you seen the size of the waves out there?"
"Yeah," she nodded, not having bothered to check yet. "Always is pretty intense the day after a storm. Board is in the shed, right where you left it the last time you were here."
She followed him into the kitchen and watched him out of the corner of her eye as she poured herself a cup of coffee. He searched through the cupboards, looking for something to snack on. He was like a human garbage disposal. She'd figured that out the last time he'd been there. Ate everything he got his hands on in less than three days. She was almost thankful there was next to no food in the house. It wasn't like she and Leah couldn't afford it, she just didn't like him helping himself to their food.
"So, here's the sitch," Jimmy said as he grabbed a mug and poured himself a cup of coffee. "I don't want to throw down with the rents anytime soon. Getting kicked out of college three weeks in is gonna cost me big in their books, you know?"
"You got kicked out of college? Is that why you're here?"
"Partly," he shrugged. "Basically talking to a homeless man as of yesterday. Didn't know where else to go and I figured you and my sis wouldn't mind taking me in for a couple weeks till I figure my shit out."
"Oh hell no, Jimmy," Faith said firmly as she shook her head no. "You can stay for two days, max. I got friends coming to visit on the weekend, old friends, and it's not like there's any room here for all of you to stay."
"We'll see what Leah says."
"She'll say no. Besides," Faith said harshly as she paused to take a sip of her coffee, "this isn't Leah's house. It's mine. She's just...living here with me for awhile."
She wanted to smack the smart assed grin off of his face, but she held herself back and walked out onto the back porch with the paper and her coffee. The first time she met Jimmy she'd adored him, and all the good things she thought about him had been destroyed during that week he'd stayed there with them. He was rude, he smoked pot, he drank until he passed out wherever he landed, and he did as he pleased without a goddamn care in the world, a world which he truly believed revolved around him most of the time. She'd nearly forgotten how much she'd grown to hate him until his little display in the kitchen mere minutes before.
She didn't even move from the wet chair that soaked her shorts when she heard Leah come in the house. She didn't even care that she was sitting there in a wet chair to begin with. She was trying to let go of the anger that rose in her like bile, trying to keep her cool, but finding herself overheating once again when she heard Leah and Jimmy talking quietly inside. Leah was just as bad as her parents, at least from the stories Faith had heard from her. She couldn't tell Jimmy no. She didn't have the heart to say those words to him, or to tell him the things he needed to hear.
"You can't stay here, Jimmy. I told you, one day."
"Come on," he whined, sounding more like a five-year-old than his own age. "What do you want me to do, live out on the streets?"
"That bitch told me I couldn't stay. Isn't this your house too?"
"No, it's not."
Faith smirked at that. At least Leah knew her place, for once. It didn't stop her from wanting to storm in the house and smack some common sense into Jimmy. She wasn't like that anymore. The only violence she used was against the occasional vampire or demon she ran across while out on patrol.
"Whatever," Jimmy muttered just loud enough for Faith to hear him. "You know something? I know you think I'm fucking stupid and that I can't see what's really going on here."
"What are you talking about?"
Faith chuckled to herself as she picked up her mug and took a sip of her coffee, her ears straining to hear just what would come next. She knew she was right about Jimmy. He wasn't as stupid as Leah hoped he was and the confirmation was coming. She could just feel it.
"You and Faith."
"What about me and Faith?"
"I know you two are fucking," he said with so much hate and disgust in his voice it made Faith's skin crawl. "I've known since the last time I was here. So, what's the deal? You a fucking dyke now or something?"
His voice was like venom and Faith could feel just how upset Leah was. She wanted to get up and go in there and comfort her, hold her and tell Jimmy to back the fuck off and mind his own business. She felt like she was sucked into some alternate universe, watching her life from a different perspective, and it made her laugh because she knew just what that perspective was. The old Faith was trickling through, coming back little by little, and she was doing nothing to fight it off. She didn't care. How could she?
The sounds of the two of them arguing faded out as she stared out over the water, watching the waves rolling in one after the other.
The old Faith, the one who didn't give a flying fuck about those around her, was back, just a little.
"Faith?" Leah said softly as she stood at the back door. "I..."
"Don't," she snapped as she turned to look at her for a brief moment. "You deal with him?"
"I tried, but he..."
"Is he out of my goddamn house?"
"Then keep it that way," she finished as she turned to look back out over the water. "I'm done with this shit, Leah. I'm done."
"I can't be your little dirty secret anymore. Either you tell your parents about us or you find another fucking place to live."
Cold. Heartless. Cruel.
But she needed to do it. She had no other choice. Her thoughts were taking over, her dreams fading into reality and for once, just once, she was trying to listen to the softest whispers of her heart.
Leah stood there, her mouth hanging open as she stared over at Faith. With a roll of her eyes, she stood up from the chair and walked past her into the house, nearly slamming her empty mug on the counter. They had never actually had a fight before. Sure, they'd argued every once in awhile, usually over petty little things. This wasn't little, and while Faith wasn't sure where all her anger and attitude had come from, Jimmy had certainly pushed a button; several in fact. Add that to the amount of thinking she'd been doing, and she was pushed right to the brink of her sanity.
"I'm sorry about Jimmy. You know how he gets..."
"Don't," Faith snapped as she turned to look at her. "This is so much more than what happened with Jimmy."
"Is this about the fact I haven't told my parents about us?"
"One of the things."
"One?" Leah scoffed as she walked up to Faith, trying to keep her distance as if she was afraid Faith would hit her. "What are the other things?"
"Are you cheating on me?"
"What? No! Why would you think that?"
"Two days, Leah."
"Oh god, are you kidding me, Faith?" She sighed as she shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. "I couldn't leave the city with the storm. There were roads blocked and..."
Faith walked to the bedroom, stripped off her wet shorts and pulled on a clean, dry pair. She pulled out a suitcase from the back of the closet and began shoving some of Leah's clothes inside of it. She wasn't leaving, it was her house, but she didn't want Leah staying there for a couple days. She needed time to cool off and having her around wasn't going to help her find her center and find a way to let the anger and the accusations slide.
"Faith," Leah said shakily as she walked into the bedroom, "what are you doing?"
"Packing up your shit."
"Are you...kicking me out?"
"No," she said sharply as she zipped up the suitcase and looked over at her. "You are going to go somewhere else for a couple of days. I'm fucking losing it, Leah. Should have just told Jimmy that he isn't welcome here."
"So, this is all his fault?"
"I told you it isn't!"
"Faith, we never...we don't fight, not like this. What's wrong, babe?"
"I don't know," she sighed as she sat down on the bed. "Spent too much time thinking and overreacting the last couple of days and last night when you...and this morning...god, it's so stupid, isn't it?"
Faith laughed dryly as Leah sat down on the bed next to her and reached for her hand. The old Faith was just lingering there now, itching to come out and `play'. Leah had never seen this side of her before, and she hadn't seen this side of her in a long time. It scared her a little to know how easily she'd snapped and fallen back into the old Faith attitude.
"I'm sorry," she whispered to Leah as she turned to look into her deep green eyes, eyes that she wished were someone else's. Buffy's. "I'm really sorry, babe."
"Is this the part where you tell me that it's getting close to that time of the month and blame it on that?" Leah asked, a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Because that's the only acceptable answer I'll listen to right about now."
Faith wasn't sure what to say, not sure if she wanted to say anything at all. No matter what she said now, she couldn't make it better. She couldn't make herself feel better about the whole thing either. Life wasn't fair that way. The dreams with Buffy were catching up to her, twisting her world upside down and pulling her heart apart. She still debated whether to tell Leah about the dreams, about Buffy, about how she really felt about her and why she couldn't say `I love you' when it was only Buffy she wanted to say those words to. Just telling Leah about Buffy, the truth about her, would destroy the relationship they'd built together over the last seven, nearly eight months.
She couldn't let that happen. The first solid relationship she ever had was crumbling apart because of her unrealistic dreams of being with Buffy outside of the little world they'd created together while they slept. It was crumbling because she was insecure still about a lot of little things in her life, especially when it came to herself as a woman, as a person in general, and as a lover, a fighter, and a friend.
"Faith, this is never going to be easy between us and I know the main thing is because I haven't told my family about us. I will when I'm ready."
"You've been saying that since the day I asked you to move in."
"I know," she sighed as she laid her head on Faith's shoulder. "It's hard, Faith. My parents aren't very open-minded and you heard the way Jimmy was talking to me. He was talking to me like I was a piece of trash."
"You really care what that asshole brother of yours thinks?"
"I do and I don't. He is my brother and despite what he thinks or says to me, I still love him."
"I could have smacked him for the way he was talking to you. I almost did when he was speaking to me with such disrespect."
"You should have," Leah chuckled softly. "Would have put him in his place, finally."
"Where'd he go?"
"I don't know. To LA, I suppose, to our parents' house. I should probably call them before he gets there, tell them everything. I'd rather them hear it from me first than him."
Faith nodded and let go of her hand as she stood up, glancing down at the suitcase she'd packed for her. She rubbed her furrowed brow and frowned as she looked down at Leah. "I'm sorry about all this. I just thought maybe if you took off for a couple days I could...find my center again and calm down. Maybe that's the wrong way to approach this."
"I think so, but," Leah said softly as she stood up from the bed and reached for both of Faith's hands, "if you think that's what would be better right now, I can go stay somewhere else until you've calmed down."
"I'm calm now," Faith pointed out, forcing out a dry, sarcastic laugh. "Okay, maybe I'm not exactly the perfect picture of calm, but I am trying."
"You've been acting..."
"Acting like what?"
"Different since Xander called," Leah finished softly as Faith yanked her hands away from hers. "I don't know anything about your past other than the little bits you've told me. I don't know what kind of friendship you had with those people. I don't know anything, Faith!"
"It's better that you don't. We all are leaving the past in the past and I'd fucking appreciate it if you'd respect that and leave it there too!"
"I hate it when we fight."
"We've never fought like this before."
"I know," Leah frowned as she wrapped her arms around Faith and held her close. "Guess all those months without a solid fight was too good to last, huh?"
She shrugged and finally wrapped her arms around Leah and they stood there, just holding onto one another and listening to each other breathe steadily. She did find some comfort in Leah's arms, she wouldn't have kept her around as long as she had if she didn't. She found warmth there too, loving gentle caresses and soft kisses that made the butterflies in her stomach take flight. It wasn't quite the same as what Buffy made her feel, but this was real and she knew she'd be stupid to let it go without a fight.
"I don't know why I get like this," she whispered into the soft confines of Leah's neck. "For years I worked on bettering myself, on fighting the darkness inside of me. I thought I...I thought I was stronger."
"You are strong, Faith. You're the strongest woman I've ever known and not just because of what you are, but because of who you are. I know you'll never tell me you love me, and I know you'll never tell me the reasons why. I won't let go of the hope, though, that one day you will be able to whisper those words to me when I least expect it."
Faith bit her tongue, literally, to keep from saying a word. She just concentrated on her breathing, pushing out all those thoughts that had littered her mind for days. She pushed out the sinking feeling that there was a high possibility that Leah was cheating on her and decided for now to believe her when she said she wasn't.
"I'm sorry about Jimmy," Leah whispered as she leaned back and cupped Faith's face, forcing her to look at her when she tried to look away. "He's my brother, you know? I feel partially responsible for him sometimes."
"I wouldn't know. Was an only child."
"I know," she sighed as she gave Faith a tender kiss just shy of her lips. "He's an asshole, he's rude, he's inconsiderate, and a homophobe. He'll come around. He adores you."
"I know," Faith said as she stepped back from Leah and let her arms fall to her sides slowly. "You gonna go call your parents or what?"
"Yeah. I left your breakfast on the counter. It's probably cold by now."
"That's what a microwave is for," Faith replied with a forced chuckle as she backed up towards the door.
She stood there for a moment as she watched Leah slowly unzip the suitcase and begin to take out her clothes and put them away. She could see the tears in her eyes, tears she was trying so hard to hold back. She swallowed her own tears as she turned and walked out to the kitchen. She stared at the Styrofoam containers blankly for a moment before grabbing a plate and dishing out the eggs, the sausages, the bacon and the bagel from inside.
It was still warm, but rather than eat she stood there looking blankly out the back window as she pushed the food around on the plate with her fork. She needed to talk to Angel and soon, but he wouldn't be awake yet and she wasn't about to disturb him since this wasn't exactly a matter of life and death. She needed him to talk her down from falling over the edge of insanity. She needed him to remind her to breathe, to take a step back and not overanalyze every little thing in her life. She needed him to tell her yet again that the dreams she had of Buffy were just that, dreams, and that they'd be nothing more than that.
She'd been so heartless before and it broke her own heart to know that she almost lost Leah because of her selfishness and insecurities, because of her inability to stay away from the edge that would bring her crashing down yet again. She let the tears fall as she glanced down at the plate, suddenly not feeling as hungry as she'd been before. She dropped the fork onto the plate as she closed her eyes and quickly wiped away the tears. She hated feeling so weak, so torn between reality and her dreams.
She listened, not intentionally, to Leah talking quietly into the phone in the bedroom. She could almost feel the tears she was shedding as her voice shook with uncontrolled sobs as she begged her mother to stop yelling and to listen to what she had to say. This was one thing she'd never had to go through herself, the whole coming out process. Her own mother was dead, her father, whoever he was, probably sat in a jail cell for life for whatever crimes he'd done, and she'd never known any other family, never cared to. The only people she ever had to come out to was Angel, Robin, and Xander. Nobody else mattered. Nobody else would.
She picked up the fork and stabbed one of the breakfast sausages, still listening to Leah as she cried in the bedroom. She took a bite, unable to taste the usually delicious sausage from the small cafe just two blocks away. Her mouth was tasteless, bitter, just as she'd been before. She dropped the fork and the uneaten sausage back on the plate and walked to the bedroom, hovering in the doorway as she watched Leah pace the floor.
"Mother please..." she sobbed as she turned to look at Faith, the tears streaming down her cheeks as she tried to blink them away. She was quiet for the longest time, just staring at Faith with such intensity she'd never seen before. Faith could only faintly hear the tinny voice of her mother. "I'm sorry, Mother."
Leah hung up the phone and dropped down to the bed, her shoulders hung heavy as Faith tentatively approached her. She said nothing as she sat down next to her and scooped her up in her arms. She let Leah cry for a good long while, holding her, rocking her back and forth and whispering promises that everything would be okay.
"You okay?" Faith asked softly for the third time in a row, still receiving nothing but a choked sob for an answer. "Babe? Come on, I know it's bad right now, but give her a couple of days and everything will be fine."
"That's not why I'm crying," she laughed softly as she lifted her head from the crook of Faith's neck. "She told me she knew and she was yelling at me for keeping this from her for so long."
Faith furrowed her brow, trying not to laugh since she'd once again made the wrong assumptions. She reached up and wiped away the tears and kissed away the ones that began to fall. She smoothed back her hair from her face, smiling at her as she kissed her softly. She'd never seen Leah look more beautiful than she did right there, even with her red eyes and tear stained cheeks.
"Then why are you crying?"
"Because it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I never realized how good it'd feel. These are tears of happiness and relief."
"Oh," Faith smiled as she moved her so she was straddling her legs. "Look, Leah. About before..."
"Don't keep apologizing to me. It's done and over with. You were a bitch, a cold, heartless bitch, and don't think I never thought you were capable of being one," Leah laughed as she ran her hands down Faith's arms and to the hem of her shirt. "I always knew that you'd snap sooner or later this way. I'm just glad you..."
"Didn't go psycho on you?"
"Something like that, yeah."
"You are right. I did snap. I've been thinking way too much lately."
She wanted to say everything, but instead she just shrugged. "It doesn't matter now, does it?"
"Only if it tears us apart."
"Sometimes I really don't know why you are with me," Faith whispered softly as she ran her fingers over Leah's smooth thighs, stopping when she reached the edge of her frayed shorts. "Why are you with me?"
"I love you. Isn't that enough?"
"We've only been together since..."
"Doesn't matter how long we've been together. After that first night, I knew how I felt about you. I knew what I felt was real. It's easy to be with you, Faith. You don't hold me back, not like the others did. Plus, hello," Leah chuckled as she began to slowly pull up Faith's shirt, "in case you haven't gotten the memo yet, the sex is amazing."
"Of course it is amazing," Faith grinned as she stood up and held onto Leah, wrapping her legs around her as she turned around and gently laid her on the bed. "Its amazing cos look at who you're with."
"So cocky and full of it, aren't you?"
"Who me?" Faith laughed as she rolled her hips hard into Leah's. "Always."
There were times she'd forgotten just how easy it was to be with Leah when she broke down her walls and found her center. She'd forgotten because her mind had been so full of her dreams with Buffy and her heart set on maybe one day having it for real. She wasn't settling with Leah. What she was doing was far from that. At least that is what she had continuously told herself since the day she started seeing her. She'd become someone else since she met her, someone she never thought she'd be, and she wasn't about to let it go to chase the unrealistic dreams of being with someone she just couldn't physically have.
The doorbell rang before Faith had a chance to kiss her. She pouted as Leah pushed her off, then leapt up and ran out of the bedroom before Faith had a chance to grab her and make her stay right where she was. For someone who wasn't a Slayer, she was quick. Faith laughed to herself as she laid there on the bed, the sheets sticking to her skin just as much as her clothes now were.
She closed her eyes, just for a moment, and in a flash she found herself face to face with Buffy. It was gone, she was gone, as soon as she heard Leah's voice calling for her from the front door. She slowly got up from the bed, groaning as she pulled her sticky shirt from her skin, cursing at the humidity that was making life unbearable. She fanned herself, which made no difference what so ever, as she walked to the front door.
"Who's this?" Faith asked as she stared at the man wearing an old brown suit. He was wiping at his brow furiously with a tattered handkerchief and he looked at her with wide eyes when she spoke.
"This is...I'm sorry, what did you say your name was again?"
"Charles Walker," he said in a thick English accent. "I am a friend of Rupert Giles."
"Babe, I'll deal with this. Why don't you go make a fresh pot of coffee?" Faith said softly to Leah, waiting until she'd disappeared into the kitchen before stepping out onto the front porch. "What do you want?"
"I'm here to uh, I'm sorry, dear. The heat is rather unbearable," he said softly as he loosened his tie. "Evaluations. Every Slayer, active and inactive needs to be evaluated."
"Right," Faith said as she crossed her arms and stared at him. "Evaluated for what exactly?"
"The new Council, run by Rupert Giles himself, of course."
"Right," she said again, eyeing the short, stocky man up and down. "I don't need to be evaluated. Giles and I discussed this years back. I'm to be left alone. That was part of the agreement."
"Agreement?" Charles stammered as he wiped at his brow yet again. "I'm sorry, I was ill-informed then, I suppose. I was told you were still active."
"I keep an eye on things around these parts. That's about it. Now," Faith said as she took a step towards him, seeing how intimidated he was of her by the way he took a step back rather quickly, "I want to know why you are really here and cut the bullshit. I'm in no mood to deal with bullshit today."
"I told you, I'm here to evaluate you and a, uh," he sighed as he pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from the breast pocket of his jacket. "Ah yes, a Leah Owsley."
"An inactive Slayer," he said as he read from the piece of paper and looked up at her. "The woman who answered the door, is her name Leah Owsley?"
"Yeah it is and I hate to tell you buddy, but she's not a Slayer."
He straightened out his suit as he dabbed at his sweaty forehead near his receding hairline. "I can assure you, Ms. Lehane, that our records are exactingly kept. There are no mistakes when it comes to keeping track of all the Slayers spread out throughout the world. The inactive Slayers take a daily injection..."
"Wait," Faith said, cutting him off as she held up her hand and closed the door in case Leah was eavesdropping. "You're telling me that Leah is a Slayer? How the hell didn't I know about this?"
"Is she a, er, friend?"
"Something like that. Now answer my question!" Faith snapped, trying to keep her voice controlled to a harsh whisper.
"Inactive Slayers inject a compound of muscle relaxants and adrenal suppressors, much like those given to each..."
"Yeah I heard about the whole cruciamentum deal," Faith said with controlled anger. "You still haven't answered my goddamn question!"
"Inactive Slayers have chosen to keep their identity a secret even to others. It is a part of the agreement they made when they signed the contract. Now, if you will please cooperate with me, I need to get on with the evaluation before the heat brings me to my death."
Faith stood there, dumbstruck by what she'd just been told. She knew of Giles starting up the new Council and she knew of inactive Slayers, but she didn't know everything else. It made her feel nauseous to know that so much had been kept from her. She felt like she'd been stabbed in the gut finding out about Leah. It seemed like it should have been something she should have known, despite the fact that Leah barely knew her either.
She motioned to Charles to follow her inside, muttering an apology under her breath for the lack of air-conditioning in the house. It had broken nearly two months ago and she hadn't gotten around to replacing it. The heat didn't bother her, it was just the humidity and most days it wasn't as sticky hot as it was that day. She gestured hastily to Charles to take a seat in the living room before walking into the kitchen and grabbing Leah by the arms, shoving her up against the refrigerator.
"Faith, what are you..."
"You lied to me. You fucking lied to me!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Inactive Slayer, ring any bells?"
"I want some answers, Leah."
Leah shook her head no as Faith let go of her arms, painfully aware she'd hurt her. She rubbed her arms where Faith had grabbed her, fighting back the tears as she peered into the living room at Charles as he sat there uncomfortably, still furiously wiping his brow and neck with his handkerchief.
"I wasn't supposed to say a word," she whispered softly as she looked at Faith. "It's the way I wanted it. I didn't ask to be what I am."
"Like I did? Unlike you, I never had a goddamn choice!"
"Faith, you have to understand. I did this not just for myself, but for my family too."
"Could've at least told me."
"Why?" Leah asked, laughing dryly as she grabbed three mugs from the cupboard and placed them as gently as she could on the counter. Her hands were shaking as she turned to look at Faith again. "Why should I have told you when you have told me nothing about yourself?"
"This is different."
"It isn't," Leah pointed out as she pulled Faith out of view from Charles. "I signed a contract, Faith."
"Fuck the contract," she snapped harshly. "This is something that you don't keep from someone you're dating who just so happens to be a Slayer too."
"Faith, can we not get into this right now, please?" Leah asked softly. "After he leaves, I'll tell you everything, okay?"
Faith nodded her head slowly and let her give her a soft kiss before she poured the coffee into the mugs. They joined Charles in the living room, both of them sitting on the couch across from the chair he sat in. He pulled out a stack of papers from his tiny, worn briefcase and began a series of questions, giving both of them a chance to answer them separately.
Faith felt like she was stuck in a bad dream. Her head was pounding and the heat was getting to her. Charles asked basic questions, mostly directed to Faith regarding daily training and what `methods' she used during patrol. She answered everything as briefly as she could and by the time he was finished with her, she excused herself and went out back and walked down to the beach. She didn't want to hear the things he would ask Leah. She felt like she'd been betrayed having learned the truth about her. Now she wished she'd listened to Giles years back when he tried to explain to her how the new Council would work. She hadn't wanted to hear it, telling him she was out and on her own. Having Charles come for evaluations made her feel as if her words to Giles had fallen upon deaf ears.
She sat down on the sand and let out a soft sigh as she watched the waves roll in. Her life was always a constant up and down, always turning around in an instant. She'd hoped after Sunnydale and after learning to control her violent mood swings, she'd be able to fix that. Angel had told her time and again that it was just one thing in life she would never be able to control. She shook her head, forcing back the tears as she picked up the stick that lay in the sand next to her.
"Hey," Leah said softly as she sat down next to her. "He's gone."
"Don't," she sighed as she tossed the stick towards the water. "Just don't, okay. Today has been fucked up enough as it is and it's not even noon yet!"
"He asked about Buffy," Leah said as she stared out over the water. "He asked about your relationship with her. Since I know nothing about you and Buffy, I couldn't tell him anything. What would you relationship with Buffy have to do with anything?"
Faith shrugged, her eyes trained on the sand she dug her toes in. "Don't know. He should have just asked me."
"What is your relationship with Buffy?"
"We don't have any kind of relationship. Never have."
It felt so wrong to say it aloud when she knew it wasn't entirely the truth. She knew Leah didn't believe her. She felt like she'd just betrayed Buffy too by saying that. No matter what she did or said now, she couldn't make anything right.
"Our relationship has a lot of gaps, Faith."
"Yeah, it really does."
"We need to...close them," Leah said as she reached for Faith's hand. "We need to if this is going to work out."
"So, why don't you start by not lying to me about Buffy," she said coldly as Faith turned to look at her. "You're in love with her, aren't you?"
"How can I be in love with someone I haven't seen in five years?"
"But you do love her, don't you?"
"Yeah," Faith admitted easily as she took her hand away from Leah's and leaned back in the sand a little. "I guess I do."
"I take it this is the kind of understanding that I wouldn't get unless I knew her?"
"Something like that."
"Anyone else know how you feel about her? Does she know?"
Faith shrugged, not wanting to talk about this any further. It made her uncomfortable. It made her want to brace herself for the bitch attack she knew was coming any second now. When nearly ten minutes passed without a single word, she let out a sigh of relief. Maybe things weren't always going to end up the way she saw it play out in her mind. Leah was taking the whole thing way too well though, and it scared her, just a little.
"Don't, Leah. I don't want to talk about this and I don't want to talk about Buffy either. Can we just drop it already? Fuck."
"I was just going to ask you if you were hungry," Leah said softly, so softly Faith barely heard her over the roar of the waves. "Sorry I even said anything."
Faith shook her head as she lay back on the sand and stared up at the cloudless blue sky. Even as hot as it was, the cool breeze coming off the water made it bearable. She turned to look up at Leah, frowning when she saw the tears falling slowly down her cheeks. She hated seeing her cry and this time it was because of her. It was always because of her. Three days ago everything had been fine between them. It'd been normal. Her thoughts weren't on overdrive and her dreams of Buffy hadn't taken over.
A chain reaction of events, of too many thoughts and conflicted emotions, was sending her almost perfect life into turmoil. She reached for Leah's hand as she sat up slowly and smiled easily at her when she turned to look at her. She whispered a faint apology as she pulled Leah in for a kiss. Leah didn't kiss her back, she just let out a choked sob as she pulled away slowly, standing up as she let go of her hand.
"Today has been the most fucked up day I've had in a long time," Faith muttered under her breath as she watched Leah walk back to the house. "Just fucking great."
She stayed out there for most of the afternoon just watching the waves, trying to relax, trying to clear her mind. Every once in awhile she'd turn to look back up at the house and would let out a dejected sigh whenever she saw Leah just standing there at the back door watching her, not saying a word, not smiling. Nothing. She didn't know how to make it better, didn't know how to take them back to where they'd been two, three days ago. This was why she never used to do relationships. She didn't know how to do them right, or at least the way that was considered right. It was always complicated even when it wasn't.
She didn't turn to look back up at the house when she heard Leah come out and make her way down to where she still sat on the sand. Leah said nothing as she handed the phone to her and turned and walked away. Faith shook her head as she looked at the display before putting the phone to her ear.
"Hey," he replied quietly. "Day not going good?"
"Not at all," she said as her voice cracked and she fought back the tears. It felt so good just to hear his voice. "What do you know about a Charles Walker?"
"The man who works with Giles? Not much, why?"
"Showed up at the house today."
"Yeah," she sighed as she stood up and kicked at the sand. "Leah is an inactive Slayer."
"Really?" Angel asked, sounding shocked. "You just find this out today?"
"I did. We've been...fighting, even before I found that out. God, Angel. I feel like giving up."
"What have you two been fighting over?"
She took a deep, shaky breath and told him everything. He listened until she'd finished talking and she let out a heavy sigh of relief, feeling like a small weight had been lifted from her shoulders. It was always like that whenever she talked to Angel about anything that was bothering her. He had proven time and time again that he was there for her as a friend and as a mentor. He didn't give her any advice this time other than reminding her just to breathe, find her center, and try not to let it all get to her. He promised her if she let things play out on their own, that everything would work out in the end.
A handful of times in the past five years she'd seen many little reasons why Buffy had been so in love with Angel before. There was just something about him, tortured soul perhaps, but it was more than that. He'd changed, at least he'd changed in her eyes, and he was the best friend anyone could ever ask for. She loved him to death and he knew it too, always teasing her about being into women yet always having a deep, strong love for the oldest man in her life.
"Does she know about Buffy?"
"A little," Faith replied. "She asked me if I was in love with her."
"And you told her you are, didn't you?"
"What else was I supposed to say?"
"Nothing would have been the way to go," he replied with a soft chuckle. "Look, I know you can't control how you feel, but you can control the things that come out of your mouth when it comes to saving the only stable relationship you've ever had. Nobody ever said being in love was easy."
"But I'm not in love with Leah," Faith stated quietly, her eyes trained on the back door and hoping to hell that Leah wouldn't choose to come outside then. "I love her, but I can never be in love with her the way I am with Buffy."
"Buffy isn't there, is she?" Angel asked and he waited for Faith to answer him even though she knew that he knew she wouldn't. "Maybe it's time for you to let go of those dreams, Faith."
"How can I let go of them when she's always there, night after night?"
"Stop holding onto the hope and maybe, just maybe, those dreams will slowly begin to disappear."
"What if I don't want them to, Angel?"
"You might not have a choice. How can you ever be happy in life if you keep holding on to the hope that those dreams you have of Buffy, with Buffy, will one day become real? Because you and I both know that is not a possibility. You have to let go of her, Faith. You know you do."
Angel was right. He was always right. She hated how he was always right. It didn't feel right to want to let go of Buffy. It didn't feel right to want to let go of the one piece of happiness they ever had together. It didn't feel right to stay as she was either. She let the tears fall, yet again, and asked Angel to help her find a way to finally let go of the hope she had of ever finding something real with Buffy.
By Friday she hadn't slept at all, too afraid that if she did and she slipped into her dreams, she'd spiral further down the hole she'd dug for herself, and afraid she'd never be able to get out if she let it happen. Leah barely spoke to her, barely made eye contact with her since that day. While Leah slept at night, Faith lay there next to her staring blankly up at the ceiling and fighting off sleep. Angel's words kept repeating themselves over and over in her mind, minute after minute, hour after hour, until she felt like she was driving herself insane.
By Friday afternoon, she was barely able to keep her eyes open as she lounged on the couch in the living room with the TV on and the volume on low. She wasn't even paying attention to the baseball game. She didn't even care. She kept looking over at Leah as she sat at the desk and worked on the computer, sorting through the pictures she'd taken the week before. It wasn't long before she couldn't fight to keep her eyes open any more and she made a silent promise to herself that she'd just rest them for a moment. Only a moment...
Faith blinked and found herself lying in the bed, completely nude with only a thin sheet pulled over her body. She cursed under her breath as she looked around the room, still unable to figure out just where Buffy had brought her this time. It was the same room as the last dream, the new room, a place they'd never been before. Yet the smell of the ocean, the sound of it, even the sticky heat felt oddly familiar.
Buffy wasn't there this time, and she wasn't sure whether she was relieved or disappointed. Possibly a mix of both. She pulled the thin cotton sheet with her as she slid off the bed and wrapped it around her body as she made her way to the closest window. It was too bright out there to see just where she was, but she could hear the waves as they rolled in and the gentle cry of seagulls as they circled overhead.
She felt a chill run through her body and down her spine, and she turned to find Buffy standing there behind her with a smile upon her face. Faith said nothing as she allowed Buffy to tug on the sheet until she let go and let it fall to the floor. Every soft touch of Buffy's fingertips along her skin sent shockwaves throughout her body and she shuddered as she leaned against the window, feeling the glass cool her skin despite the heat of the room.
"Have you been avoiding me?"
"You've been waiting for me, haven't you?" Faith asked breathlessly as Buffy stepped closer to her, her soft breath tickling over her lips. "B?"
"Not really waiting for you, more like hoping you'd be here every time I close my eyes."
"Don't ask me where here is, Faith. You know that I can't tell you."
"I'm not ready to," she whispered against Faith's lips, her body pressing closer, moulding together as one. "I'm trying to be though. You know that, right?"
She said nothing as she wrapped her arms around Buffy and kissed her deeply, hungrily, never wanting to stop. She'd missed her more than words could describe. She'd missed her touch, the way her lips felt against her own, and the softness of her strong, lithe body as it pressed against her in all the right places all at once. She forgot about wanting to give up on this, forgot about trying not to come back to this place, and got lost within Buffy as she picked her up and carried her over to the bed.
She saw nothing and thought of nothing but the woman in her arms. How she wanted so badly to know what it'd be like to hold her for real, to touch her, taste her, just feel her skin upon her own outside this little world they'd created and escaped to almost every chance they got. She chastised herself for ever thinking it was possible to forget this, to want to move on from this. She was her happiest when she was here with Buffy and she knew that it was the same for Buffy. Why else would they still be here together after five long, mostly lonely years?
"How much longer do you want me to wait for you, B?"
"I don't want to wait for you forever. I can't wait for you forever," she whispered as she laid her down on the bed and hovered over her, not an inch of skin touching hers as she waited for Buffy to answer. "How long, B?"
"Not long, I promise. But there's one thing I think you should know," she said as she ran her hands over Faith's back tenderly. "We can't have this out there. Wait," she sighed as she placed a finger over Faith's lips before she could interrupt her. "We have to start at the beginning, Faith."
"And I know that Xander and Dawn are coming soon," she said softly as she ran the tip of her tongue over Faith's bottom lip. "Tell them if you must. I know everyone is worried about me."
"If you know, then why haven't you called just to let them know you're okay?" Faith asked. When Buffy shrugged, she furrowed her brow and lay down on her side next to her. "Wait, how do you know that Xander and Dawn are coming soon?"
"I just do."
She blinked and could feel the edges of the dream world and reality begin to blur together. With one last kiss, she felt herself slipping away completely.
She woke up, feeling slightly refreshed, to a nearly dark and empty room. The only light came from the side window as the sun had already begun to set. She could hear Leah in the kitchen humming along to the radio as she cooked dinner. She wasn't hungry, or at least she didn't feel much like eating, but her stomach was in complete disagreement as it let out a growl that sounded completely inhuman. She blinked as she looked over at the clock. Xander and Dawn would be there any minute now and as tired as she was, she was still looking forward to seeing them both.
She got up from the couch and rummaged through the drawer of the china cabinet and pulled out the nearly forgotten pack of cigarettes she'd left there when she'd quit. She didn't care anymore; she really needed the nicotine to calm her nerves. She was nervous about seeing Xander and Dawn again, and she was nervous about having them meet Leah, especially since the past several days the two had barely spoken to one another. It'd be awkward, but she'd get through it somehow. One way or another.
"Smells good," Faith said quietly as she walked into the kitchen with the pack of cigarettes and a lighter in her hand.
"Thanks," Leah responded coldly as she kept her back turned to her. "Should be ready in half an hour. Will your friends be here by then?"
"Should be rolling up any minute now."
Faith sighed as she headed for the front door and stepped outside. It hadn't cooled off much, but it was cooler outside than it was in the house. She took out a cigarette, knowing damn well it'd be stale and lit it anyway. She tensed at every car she heard that came down the street and relaxed when the vehicle didn't stop in front of the house. She was really nervous now and she knew she had no reason to be. It was just Xander and Dawn. The two of them. Together as in together and not just there as two friends. It made her shiver in a not too pleasant way as a flood of rather disturbing and involuntary images flashed through her mind.
She leaned against the post and took a long drag of the cigarette as a cab pulled up in the driveway. She forced a smile, trying to relax as she watched Xander and Dawn climb out of the backseat and grab their bags from the trunk. Dawn was the first to reach her and she barely flicked the cigarette into the overgrown garden before Dawn had throw her arms around her in a tight hug.
"I've missed you so much, Faith!"
"Really? Couldn't tell," she chuckled as she hugged her back. She tried to step away and found herself being forced to remain there for a few seconds longer. "Looking good, Brat."
"You too," Dawn smiled as she finally released Faith before bending to pick up the bag she'd dropped at the foot of the stairs.
"Hey," Xander smiled as he dropped his own bag and scooped Faith up in his arms and twirled her around for a moment before stopping and raising an eyebrow when he realized how awkward it was. "Sorry, I guess I missed you too."
"Hope you guys are hungry," Faith said as she grabbed their bags for them and led the way inside. "Leah is making her awesome chicken pasta."
"That's your girlfriend, right?" Dawn asked quietly as they walked inside. "I find it really hard to believe you have an actual girlfriend."
"Why? Is it the gay thing?"
"No," Dawn chuckled as she stopped to look around the house. "It's more of the `stable relationship' thing."
"Right," Faith replied with a forced smile and motioned for them to follow her to the spare room. "It's not much, but there's a bed and it's comfortable, sort of. Bathroom is down the hall and everything else is pretty explanatory. Living room, kitchen, back porch, beach."
The three of them laughed as she led them down the hallway and into the kitchen. Leah had already gotten out a bottle of wine and had four glasses sitting on the counter. She turned away from the stove and smiled sweetly at Faith as she leaned over and gave her a soft, light kiss.
"Leah, this is Dawn and Xander," Faith said as she turned to the two of them standing next to each other.
"Nice to meet you two," Leah said with a sugar sweet voice that Faith could tell was dripping with sarcasm and fake enthusiasm. "Help yourself to the wine. Dinner won't be ready for a little while."
"Why don't you guys grab a glass and head out back and I'll join you in a minute?" Faith said as Xander picked up the bottle and poured himself and Dawn a glass.
They said nothing, just smiled and headed out the back together. Faith turned to look at Leah, studying her face for a moment before she found herself being pulled in for another kiss.
"What's that for?"
"I'm tired of this. Tired of fighting and acting like we hate each other," she whispered against her lips. "Were you just smoking?"
"Nerves," Faith shrugged as she slid her hands over Leah's hips and pulled her in closer. "I'm tired of it too, babe."
"They seem nice," she said as she motioned to the back door. "Nice and normal."
"Yeah, they do seem normal, don't they?" Faith chuckled as she gave her one last kiss before stepping back and reaching for the bottle of wine. "We'll eat out back tonight."
"That's the plan," Leah smiled as she reached out, grabbing Faith and pulling her close before she could even pour herself a glass of wine. "I called work earlier and made arrangements to work on the portfolio here instead of driving into the city tomorrow."
"Go out and join your friends and I'll keep an eye on dinner," she said as she playfully slapped Faith across the ass. "We can kiss and make up later."
"What changed?" Faith asked as she placed the bottle of wine down on the counter and picked up her glass. "Earlier you would barely even look at me, much less even say a fucking word to me. What changed between then and now?"
"Just tired of it, that's all."
"Tell me the truth," Faith said softly as she placed her glass down on the counter and wrapped her arms around Leah from behind. "You aren't putting on an act cos they're here, are you?"
"You sure about that?" Faith asked as she moved her hair to the side and planted a soft, wet kiss to the side of her neck. Leah nodded slowly as she turned and captured Faith's lips with her own.
Faith pulled back from the kiss first, smiling as she stepped away from her and grabbed her wine glass. She winked at her before heading out back and joining Dawn and Xander at the table. They were talking softly and they both smiled awkwardly at her as she sat down. It felt weird to be sitting there with the two of them, especially with Xander when she was so used to speaking with him over the phone. She suddenly had no idea what to talk about to the two of them and tense, awkward silence filled the air. Having nothing else to say, she knew the best topic of discussion would be asking them how they ended up getting together. In her mind she'd never even thought for a second that the two of them would ever hook up. And it wasn't just the age difference thing either, they were almost polar opposites. Much like she and Buffy were, once she thought about it.
"So," she said as she continued to stare at the two of them. "How'd this happen?"
"Dawnie asked me out one night, I said yes. Story, end of," Xander chuckled as he reached for Dawn's hand and intertwined their fingers as they shared a sweet, loving gaze for a moment. "Plus, we've known each other for what seems like forever, so there was no awkward getting to know each other stage."
"Always a plus," Faith smiled at the two of them. She wanted to ask them about Charles Walker and bring up the fact that Leah was an inactive Slayer, but now didn't feel like the time to bring that into the conversation, especially not with Leah just inside and within listening distance.
"How did you and Leah meet?" Dawn asked. "Did you two get set up by a mutual friend by any chance?"
"No," Faith chuckled as she paused to take a sip of her wine, "I met Leah out at a club in LA one night. We uh, saw each other a couple of times before it became a little more serious, you know?"
"So, the whole `get some, get gone' act went out the window when you met her?" Dawn asked, raising an eyebrow when Faith looked at her in surprise. "What, you think I didn't know about that?"
"Wow, does everyone think I'm just this huge slut or something?"
"No," Dawn laughed. "Nobody thinks that. Not anymore."
"Good to know."
Enter awkward silence, part two. Faith sipped her wine, staring out over the beach and the water as the moon, nearly full, shone down against the eerily calm water. She chewed on her bottom lip, trying to figure out how to make this whole thing less awkward and realizing there was really no way to do it. The things she wanted to talk to Xander about would have to wait until they got a moment alone. She only hoped it wasn't too long. She wanted to talk to him sooner rather than later.
"It's nice here," Xander said, breaking the silence between them. "Peaceful. Angel helped you get this place, didn't he?"
"He did," she nodded. "Told me I needed someplace solid to stay, somewhere that I'd be able to finally set some roots, even just for a little while."
"Is he coming around this weekend at all by any chance?"
"Tomorrow night," she replied. "Wanted to see you two since it's been forever and a day."
"Five years," Dawn cut in. "Seriously not forever and a day when you're a vampire."
"Maybe not," Faith shrugged. "Guess he just missed you guys."
"You ever think about coming to stay in Cleveland for awhile?" Xander asked her and she shrugged. "I mean, it's just a thought, you know? Kind of need a leader there and none of the girls seem to fit that leadership role."
"You know I'm out of the game, Xand."
"But you still slay and train, don't you?"
"Yeah, but I do it on my own terms. I usually don't patrol too long every night unless Angel has called with information about some lowlife vampires or outlaw demons who come here and decide to make my life a little more difficult."
"Does Leah know about you?" Dawn asked in a hushed whisper. "Xander didn't tell me much about her at all."
"That's because I haven't told him anything about her," Faith chuckled as she took the last sip of her wine and placed the glass on the table. "She knows. She's known for awhile."
"Oh," Dawn frowned as she looked back to the door for a moment. "She's...nice. So totally didn't expect her to be so..."
"So what?" Faith challenged, curious as to what Dawn would say to her.
"She is, isn't she?" She smiled smugly as Leah walked out with the bottle of wine and her glass in each hand. "Yes, we were just talking about you, babe."
"All good things I hope," Leah said with a smile as she topped up everyone's glasses before sitting down next to Faith. "I finished making the pasta and stuck it in the oven. Should be ready in about forty minutes."
"Already smells so good," Faith said as she leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. "You two are going to be amazed at Leah's cooking skills. Seriously, everything she cooks makes your taste buds dance in ecstasy from the first bite until the last."
"Are you going to make an honest woman out of Faith?" Xander asked with a wink. "Or have you already made her an honest woman and you two are keeping secrets from us?"
"Me, an honest woman?" Faith burst out laughing. "Hardly."
"Maybe one day," Leah said quietly as she looked over at Faith, smiling brightly at her. "Right, babe?"
"Maybe," Faith said as she felt a chill run down her spine. She turned to look at Xander and Dawn, who were both staring at her and Leah looking a little awestruck. "What?"
"Faith, an honest woman," Xander giggled as Dawn smacked him across the back of the head. "What? It is kind of funny, you know?"
"Why is it funny?" Leah asked, her curiosity now piqued as she leaned forward in her chair.
Faith rolled her eyes as she slouched in her chair and shook her head. "Definitely gonna be an interesting weekend," she muttered under her breath as she forced a smile and waited for Xander to stop giggling like a little girl and answer Leah's question.
Long after dinner had been eaten, Faith walked down the beach with Xander. Dawn offered straight up to help Leah with the dishes and Faith knew the only reason she wanted to was because Xander had whispered to her when Leah was out of earshot that he wanted to talk privately with her. They walked down the beach a little ways and stopped and sat down on the sand and looked out over the water.
"She's something else," Xander said as he picked up a rock and chucked it into the water. "You two seem...happy together."
"We are, for the most part."
"Trouble in paradise?"
"Eh," Faith shrugged as she turned to look at him. "We've been fighting this week over a bunch of stupid and not so stupid bullshit."
"You want to talk about it?"
"This guy came to the house a couple days ago, a Charles Walker. You know him?" She asked, and Xander nodded his head slowly. "Came to do evaluations or some shit, right, and get this, Leah is an inactive Slayer."
"I'm not joking. She never told me. I'm kind of pissed she never told me."
"Because the inactive Slayers sign a contract to receive the monthly injections," Xander said softly, shaking his head. "Seriously? Leah is an inactive?"
"Damn," he said as he let out a short, soft laugh. "So, what else has been going on with you these days? Anything interesting?"
Faith sighed as she looked back out over the water. She knew now would be the best time to tell him about the dreams she shared with Buffy. She just wasn't so sure how he'd react when she told him how long they'd been going on for.
"Whatever, I guess," he chuckled. "Come on, Faith. We talk on the phone every couple of months and I haven't seen you in two years. There has to be a lot going on with you that you've been keeping from me. Now, come on. I want the gossip."
"If I tell you, you've gotta promise me that this stays between you and I for now, okay?"
"That serious?" He asked with a cheeky grin that quickly faded when Faith nodded her head. "I won't tell another living soul, or a certain vampire with a soul, unless...Angel already knows, doesn't he?"
"He does," she said, and she took a deep breath, trying to figure out a way to just tell him straight up about the dreams. "It's kind of complicated, you know?"
"These dreams I've been having...with Buffy."
She told him almost everything, leaving out the sexual parts of the dreams for the sake of his own sanity. She told him when the dreams had started and some of the things Buffy had said to her over the years. He hung on her every word, not once saying anything even after she'd finished. They just sat there and stared out over the water, the only sound the soft waves rolling in and the odd dog barking off in the distance.
"So, she's alive?" Xander said softly after what felt like ages had passed. "How come you never told me this before?"
"I don't know, Xand. I'm sorry. I should have told you."
"I think so, yeah."
"And you think she'll show up soon?"
"She said she was going to, but you know how those dreams get sometimes. Always somewhat cryptic in a way, you know? The funny thing is that they never feel like dreams. They always feel real."
"You should tell Giles."
"He should know about this," he sighed as he leaned back in the sand a little and looked over at Faith. "You know how he worries, and Buffy is like a daughter to him. We've all been waiting for five years to hear from her, always waiting, day after day, and that phone call or letter never comes."
Faith said nothing as she pulled the pack of cigarettes out of her jeans pocket and casually lit one, inhaling deeply and forgetting for the time being that Leah would give her hell for smoking again. Xander nudged her before she could slip the pack back inside her pocket and she shrugged as she offered him one, watching out of the corner of her eye as he lit the cigarette and inhaled just as deeply as she had.
"Didn't know you smoked."
"Don't really," he sighed as he lay back on the sand and stared up at the sky. "Only every once in awhile when I get stressed out, nervous, or need to relax."
"I know the feeling."
"Dawnie is gonna kill me."
Faith laughed as she lay back in the sand next to him. "I was just thinking the same thing about Leah."
"So much has changed, you know?" Xander mused, his eyes not once leaving the sky and the stars overhead. "Willow hasn't been the same since she and Kennedy broke up. Giles is in over his head trying to run the Council, and the girls that stay with us in Cleveland, they need a leader."
"I'm not gonna do it, Xander."
"I know. Just thought before it wouldn't hurt to ask."
"You ever think that life was going to end up this way?" Faith asked, taking a long drag of her cigarette before she looked over at him. "I mean, when we disbanded in LA after defeating the first, did you really think we'd all end up where we are now?"
"No. I really didn't. Thought when Giles said we were going to Cleveland that we all were going. Didn't see Buffy taking off and you staying back here and working for Angel."
"Working with Angel, not for him. There is a difference."
"I just...sometimes I want everything to be the way it was back in Sunnydale, but I know it'll never be that way again. Keep telling myself every day that it's better this way. Somehow I can't convince myself of that no matter how hard I try."
"Life goes on, man. Best you just try to go on with it, you know?"
They lay there for awhile longer before heading back to the house. Dawn and Leah were sitting out back, drinking wine and laughing together like they were old friends. Faith and Xander joined them at the table, neither of them saying a word as they listened to the two of them talk about photography, LA, clothes, and many other random things Faith couldn't care less about. She felt a little relieved that Leah and Dawn were getting along as well as they were. It'd make the weekend a little less stressful and awkward.
She sat out there with Leah after Xander and Dawn headed off to bed. Leah seemed to be in a rather good mood compared to the way she'd been the last week, but Faith knew it was because she'd had one too many glasses of wine and with a little convincing, she managed to get her to go to bed. After locking up the house and debating whether or not to sleep on the couch or crawl into bed next to Leah, she ended up giving in and going to the bedroom. She stood there in the dark at the foot of the bed for a good couple of minutes just watching Leah sleep.
As soon as she fell asleep, she'd be with Buffy. She knew she would. She could already feel Buffy calling out for her, waiting for her. She shook her head as she walked to the bathroom to quickly brush her teeth and ended up spending a minute too long just staring at herself in the mirror, questioning whether or not she was doing the right thing. Whatever the right thing was, she couldn't find out the answer. At least not with a few glasses of wine in her and going on next to no sleep.
Xander had reacted to learning about her dreams with Buffy not quite the way she thought he would. She did expect him to tell her she needed to tell Giles about the dreams, but everything else, all the worst-case scenarios that had played through her mind, never happened. She chuckled softly as she flipped off the bathroom light and made her way back to the bedroom, silently thanking whatever gods or the Powers that Be for finding her a friend in Xander. In some weird, strange way he'd helped her keep her sanity, and keep her ties to the Scooby gang she'd never really been a part of.
She stripped out of her clothes and pulled on an old, tattered t-shirt before she climbed into bed next to Leah. She lay there for awhile, just staring up at the ceiling and listening to the sound of the waves rolling in one by one. She let out a soft sigh as Leah rolled over and curled up next to her. A part of her wanted to push her away and another part of her wanted to hold her closer and whisper those words of love even though she truly didn't feel them. Her heart was aching and breaking for reasons she wasn't so sure of. The only thing she was ever sure of anymore was the fact that whether she wanted it or not, she'd always be with Buffy in her dreams.
"Go to sleep, Faith," Leah mumbled as she laid a gentle kiss on her cheek. "It's been a long day."
Faith closed her eyes and tried to fall asleep. She tried not to think of anything else other than the sound of the waves, the soft sound of Leah breathing heavily as she drifted off into a deep sleep, and the sound of her heart as it began to race at the simple, lingering thoughts of Buffy being there in her arms instead of Leah. Maybe one day it'd happen. Maybe it wouldn't. Maybe it was time for her to take Angel's advice and just let go of the hope, the almost unrealistic dream of having all of this and more with Buffy.
She wasn't sure if she was dreaming or not. She could still hear the sounds of the waves and still feel the warmth of a soft body curled up next to her. She opened her eyes to a mass of tousled blond hair and her heart swelled, just a little, when she knew just who lay there in her arms and just where she was. She ran her hands over the smooth back, feeling the goose bumps form under her touch.
"Hey," Buffy smiled as she lifted her head from her shoulder. "I was wondering when you'd finally come here."
"Always waiting, aren't you?"
"Who can blame me?" Buffy laughed softly as she leaned in for a deep, lingering kiss. "I get to spend most nights here with you. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Faith said nothing, not like she normally would. She wanted to tell Buffy she'd rather have this outside of their own little world, but she didn't want to ruin what could be just another tender, loving moment between them. She pulled her in for yet another kiss, moaning softly as Buffy slipped an insistent thigh between her legs. She rolled them over, Buffy laughing softly against her lips as Faith settled between her legs.
"Always want to be on top, don't you?"
"Faith?" Buffy stopped her from continuing the kiss and stared deeply into her eyes. "Did you tell them?"
"I told Xander."
"He isn't upset, is he?"
"A little bit," Faith sighed as she kissed her forehead softly. "Can we talk about this another time, B? I just want to be with you right now and not think about anything else than you and me right here, right now."
Their lips met again, tentatively, as their bodies began to move in an ever-familiar rhythm. Faith had never had this with Leah, or with anyone else for that matter, and it was always refreshing and sensually erotic just to feel instead of fuck. To make love slowly, instead of doing it hard and fast. They rolled on the large bed, tangled within each other and in the softest sheets Faith had ever felt on her body. Every breath Buffy took, every nibble to her bottom lip, every sweep of those soft, strong hands over her back brought her closer and closer to the edge.
She never dreamt, nor did she ever think that something so simple, so passionate, would have her coming so hard it made her toes curl and her body weak. Always aching for more, for it to last forever. To never wake up until she'd been fully satisfied again and again. Buffy clung to her tightly as she broke apart from the kiss, gasping for air and staring down into those hazel eyes that haunted her every waking moment.
"After all this time with you, you never fail to amaze me," Buffy whispered as she tucked the loose strands of hair behind Faith's ears and smiled up at her. "You are something else, Faith. You've become someone I never imagined you could be."
"I know," Faith chuckled. "Shocking, isn't it?"
"Not shocking," Buffy smiled wider as she kissed her softly, her lips lingering only just for a moment. "Surprising. Totally different."
"If you say so."
"I know so," she laughed as she gave her a playful slap across her bare ass. "I never thought I'd say this, Faith, but I think, no...I know I've fallen in love with you."
"Yes," she nodded as a playful and rather lascivious smile curled over her lips. "I am so in love with you, Faith. I'm not afraid anymore. I'm ready now."
"Ready for what?"
"To make this real."
Faith woke up with a jolt, sweat covering her body as she shook from the words she'd heard Buffy say. Leah still lay curled up next to her, but her arms were no longer wrapped around her. She shook her head as she eased herself out of bed, careful not to wake her, and walked over to the window to open the blinds. The sun hadn't even risen yet, but she could feel it as she always could long before those first rays peeked over the horizon.
She had a lot to figure out now, too much, and it was beginning to make her head spin and the room wobble and almost fade out around her. She stared out the window, looking out over the darkened beach, and she smiled to herself when she felt a wave of sudden happiness flood through her body. Angel was wrong about letting go of the hope. It was all she had, and she was going to hold onto it and never let go.
Faith walked down the beach after having her morning run. The sun still hadn't come up yet, but she was wide-awake and the cool breeze coming off the water cooled her flushed skin with every step she took. She had run down the beach to where the rock jetty was, far from home and much further than she usually went, and the walk back would take her nearly an hour. She stopped walking to stretch out her sore muscles, groaning as her body protested. She was out of shape, she knew she was, and her body knew it too. Yet, day after day, she pushed herself just a little further, not because she had to, but because she knew she could.
She sat down in the sand, breathing heavily as she stared out over the water. A few early risers were out walking their dogs and she smiled and nodded at each of them as they walked past her. Once she was able to catch her breath, she headed back down the beach, walking slowly and just absorbing the world around her as it woke. The last half mile she ran, feeling the urge to push herself just that little bit further.
Xander and Dawn were sitting on the back porch when she got back to the house. She muttered a good morning under her breath as she headed inside. Leah was standing at the stove flipping pancakes and humming along to the radio just as she did most days whenever she cooked. Faith just stood there, smiling at her, all thoughts of Buffy drifting completely from her mind as she let her eyes drift over Leah's body.
"Did you have a nice run, babe?" Leah asked as she turned to look at her.
"Oh yeah. Went out to the jetty."
"I hope you're hungry."
"Good," Leah smiled. "Go grab a quick shower and I'll make sure to save you some pancakes. I heard from Dawn that Xander could easily put down as much food as you do."
Faith raised an eyebrow and pulled her away from the stove to give her a long, deep kiss, smiling against her lips when she felt her try to squirm away. It felt like longer than the week that had actually passed since she'd last been with Leah. Her dreams with Buffy were satisfying, but nothing beat the real deal. She almost wished that Dawn and Xander weren't there. She had images floating through her mind of the many times she'd taken Leah there in the kitchen. Memories of burning food while she ate her out, fucked her to oblivion and beyond, made her shudder and crave it again right then and there.
"Babe, you're all sweaty and I don't want to burn breakfast," Leah groaned as Faith pulled back from the kiss. "If we didn't have guests right now..."
"Then you'd let me do this?" Faith whispered as she ran her hand up Leah's inner thigh slowly, feeling her shiver under her feather light touch. She stopped just as she reached the edges of her shorts, smirking as she watched Leah bite her lip and close her eyes.
"Just go and have a shower," Leah whispered as she gently nudged Faith away from her. "Tease."
Faith winked as she backed out of the kitchen, making sure Leah watched her as she slowly ran her tongue over her lips. She knew just how to push Leah's buttons and the last week had taken its toll on both of them. They weren't used to the bed death as it had never happened before. Faith had hopes of ending their short dry spell and soon. The dreams with Buffy were really starting to get to her and she needed real release.
She had to stop thinking about her dreams, about Buffy, and about what they could possibly have together. The more she thought about it, the more those thoughts sent her entire life into turmoil and chaos. She wasn't giving up hope that maybe Buffy would come around, but that in itself would create even more problems. How was she going to break things off with Leah? As much as she wanted to be with Buffy, was she really ready to let go of her only stable relationship for something she wasn't entirely sure would be everything she hoped for it to be? Too many unanswered questions and she had a sinking feeling she wouldn't find the answers to them any time soon.
After a quick cold shower, she got dressed and joined the others out back for breakfast. There weren't any big plans for the day other than lounging on the beach and having a barbecue later before Angel arrived. Dawn and Leah were already chattering away, laughing and joking around. Xander just looked at Faith every once in a while, looking as if he wanted to say something but was continuously biting his tongue. She knew he wanted to know more about the dreams she'd been having with Buffy, and she wanted to tell him more, but felt like he already knew more than he should.
She picked away at the stack of pancakes on her plate, not listening to the conversation between Dawn and Leah, but rather listening to her own thoughts that ran rampant through her mind. Even when she wasn't trying to, every thought went right back to Buffy and the last words she'd heard her say. Buffy had said many things over the years that made her wonder if she really meant them. Most of the time it made her wonder if they really were sharing dreams, or if this was in fact just a product of her imagination, fuelled by the hope that Buffy was out there, alive and well.
Halfway through breakfast Leah dropped her hand onto Faith's thigh, teasing the skin just above her knee. She kept trying to get Leah's attention, knowing she was doing it without realizing it. It was just the way they were together, always finding little ways to touch one another. As much as she'd craved the touch earlier, now it was making her skin crawl, and not in the good way. She placed her hand over Leah's, finally getting her attention for a split second. With just one look, Leah pulled her hand away and continued her conversation with Dawn.
It felt like one of those moments just before she woke from one of her dreams where she was stuck on the plane of darkness between that world and this one, between dreams and reality. Which one was more real? Even now, none of this felt real. It never did.
Faith cleared the table, offering to clean up while the three of them went to lounge out on the sand for a long day of doing nothing but soaking up the rays. Leah came inside when she was nearly finished washing the dishes and wrapped her arms around her from behind. Faith relaxed into the embrace as she pulled the plug out from the drain and dried her hands on the dishtowel.
"We got some time alone," Leah whispered as she moved her hands over Faith's stomach and fumbled with the drawstring holding up her ill-fitting basketball shorts.
"Yeah," she mumbled against her neck as she slid her hand down the front of her shorts. "They went for a walk."
"Leah, wait," Faith sighed as she grabbed onto her arm. "I want to ask you something."
"You want to take this to the bedroom in case they come back sooner rather than later?"
"Yeah, but that's not what I..."
"Okay," Leah said as she stepped back. "What's up?"
"Why did you choose to be inactive?"
"So I could live my life the way I wanted to live it. I couldn't handle the strength, the responsibilities, not to mention the fact that my life would always be in danger night after night if I chose to accept my `calling'. That's not the life I wanted."
"I never had a choice."
"You do now," Leah pointed out. "You can take the injections, become normal again. You can slip away and become just another normal, boring human being."
"I don't want that," Faith replied, shaking her head. "It's been so long, I'd feel...empty inside if I wasn't a Slayer. Did you ever give it a chance?"
"I did in the beginning. They nearly killed my family and Jimmy, he found out and..."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Why does it matter so much to you anyway, Faith?"
"I don't know. I just want to know, that's all."
Leah sighed as she wrapped her arms around Faith and held her close. "There are a lot of things I want to know about you too, but you never tell me. You never want to tell me. Why?"
"Cos all the things you want to know isn't who I am anymore. Those things, my past, don't define me. I'm not about to let them either."
"Sorry," Leah said softly as she pulled her in for a soft kiss. "Maybe you were right before when you said that there are things about both of us that are probably best left alone."
"Maybe. I just...feel like you being an inactive was something you would have told me, contract or not."
"Faith," Leah pouted as she reached up, gently cupping her face and forcing her to look into her eyes, "we just spent the whole week practically avoiding each other. I don't want to keep doing this. Something changed since last weekend and I've been driving myself insane trying to figure out why. I can't help but think that phone call from Xander is what started this whole thing, but then I see how different you are now that he and Dawn are here and I know that's not it."
Faith shrugged as she leaned back, pulling Leah with her. There were so many different things she wanted to say, things she knew she needed to say. She didn't want to go through what they'd been going through most of the week. She hated it. Even if she did know where everything truly did go wrong, it was too late to change it all and go back to where they'd been before. That thought of Leah possibly cheating on her while she was in the city still hovered first and foremost in her thoughts.
"I know you can't tell me you love me because you aren't in love with me," she said softly and she stopped Faith before she could speak. "Its okay, Faith. Love isn't easy for everyone. For some it takes time, years sometimes, and I can't promise you I'll stick around until you are ready to let go of her, but I can promise you that I'm here now."
"I know," Leah smiled as she stroked the tips of her fingers over Faith's dimples as Faith tried to smile back. "Oh, before I forget, my mother called while you were out on your run earlier. She wants to meet you. Soon."
"Well," Leah chuckled nervously as she dropped her hands to Faith's shoulders. "I invited her for brunch tomorrow. My father and Jimmy will be coming as well."
"I don't want Jimmy here."
"I know, I just...I couldn't say no. Please, Faith. Give him another chance. He'll apologize for what happened the other day."
Faith shook her head. She knew she couldn't win this argument with Leah. She'd just have to do what she'd been doing for the last seven, nearly eight months, and go along with whatever Leah wanted. She laughed to herself, wondering if this meant she was whipped. She certainly never imagined herself being the type to end up wrapped around someone's little finger. Things really had changed and she really, truly no longer recognized the woman she'd become and the woman she was slowly evolving into.
"What's so funny?" Leah asked, curiously staring into Faith's eyes as a small smile crept over her lips. "Babe? What's so funny?"
"You got me wrapped around your finger, you know that?"
Faith grinned as she picked Leah up and carried her into the bedroom. She was about to kick the door shut when the phone began to ring. "Why does the goddamn phone ring right when we're about to get naughty?"
"Because someone has horrible timing. Let me down," Leah laughed as Faith stood at the foot of the bed, still holding onto Leah and not letting her down. "It could be my boss."
"Fine," she groaned as she let Leah down and watched her dash out of the bedroom to answer the phone in the kitchen.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up despite the heat in the room, and she idly rubbed at the back of her neck, trying to ward off the shiver that now continuously ran up and down her spine. It was the middle of the morning, way too early for her senses to go into high alert. She lay down on the bed and closed her eyes, focusing on the shivers, the tingles, and the hum that ran through her body. There had been the odd time when she'd mistaken certain senses when her libido was racing out of control. She hoped that was the case this time, but the feeling intensified with every steady beat of her heart.
She felt trapped, almost as if she was suffocating. Instead of panicking, she got up from the bed slowly and made her way out to the kitchen. She saw Leah sitting at the desk, talking quietly into the phone as she typed away on the computer. Thinking it was probably the lack of decent sleep and the heat, Faith grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and headed out back and down to the water.
She could see Dawn and Xander a little ways down the long stretch of beach walking hand in hand, smiling and laughing together. They were really good for each other, and she could see that in just the way they'd look at one another. She wondered why she never thought they'd ever be good together before, but then again, the last time she'd seen them she didn't have her eyes wide open, not like she did now. She thought back to all those deep, heartfelt conversations she and Angel had over the years. He'd seen her mature before even she had been able to see the changes she'd gone through. Even Xander had noticed those changes just by talking to her over the phone.
It still scared her to look back five years ago and see herself at the beginning of trying to change her life, turn it around and do something good and worthwhile with it. All those changes had led to her being able to open her heart and let others in. She had Leah and their friends, most of whom they rarely saw anymore depending on the week. She had Angel, she had Xander, and she even had Dawn now. But the one person she really wanted just wasn't there. She just wanted Buffy to be there, to take Leah's place and make her happier than she ever thought was possible.
Could she really just end things with Leah when and if Buffy did decide to come and be a part of her life? As much as she wanted to be with Buffy, she wanted to be with Leah too. She shook her head, laughing at what she was putting herself through as she sat down in the sand and stared blankly out over the water. Sitting there watching the waves used to be so peaceful, so relaxing, and now all it did was make her mind wander to places that complicated her life.
"Faith, I have to go," Leah said as she walked up behind her and knelt down next to her. "Adam is having problems with the interns and they need me at the office. I'm going to call my mother and tell her we'll have to reschedule tomorrow for another day."
"If I had a choice, I would have told Adam I couldn't come and fix the problems that..."
"Just go. It's work, whatever, right? They need you, so go."
"Are you mad?"
"Why do you sound mad?"
"Cos I'm a little pissed, no big deal, Leah."
"I'm going to stay with Adam and his fiancé tonight. Their number is on my desk. Call me later?"
Faith let Leah give her a lingering kiss goodbye, but she didn't even turn to watch her walk back to the house. Her hands were shaking as she fought off the urge to go inside, grab her cigarettes and that bottle of whiskey she knew was on the top shelf above the refrigerator. That was something the old Faith would have done to deal with her anger. This Faith just let it swallow her up, chew her to bits, and spit her out when it damn well pleased.
Angel's visit later couldn't have had better timing. If there was one person in the entire world who could set her straight, it was him. She could talk to Xander, sure, but with Dawn there she felt slightly awkward talking to him about her suspicions of Leah possibly cheating on her. She had nothing to go on other than that wretched gut feeling. Maybe she was just trying to find reasons to push Leah aside, to cast her away, instead of dealing and sticking through it all. Or maybe those gut feelings were right and she was putting herself through hell for not listening to them and sticking by her first instinct.
She could feel the tears burning in her eyes, tears she quickly wiped away as soon as the sound of Xander and Dawn's voices drew nearer. She put on the fake smile she'd mastered over the years as they sat down next to her. Dawn prattled on about how she wanted to move back to California and Xander just went along with her, smiling and nodding, never saying a word. It wasn't like he could get a word in anyway. Faith chuckled when she realized how much Dawn was like Willow when it came to the endless babble that came out of her mouth.
"You okay, Faith?" Xander asked softly once Dawn went to the house to get some drinks after complaining about the heat. "Faith?"
"Huh?" She looked at him blankly then shook her head. "Sorry, no. I'm not okay."
"Do you want to talk about it?" He asked as he put his arm around her shoulders. "Come on, Faith. You know you can talk to me about anything. You have before and nothing stopped you."
"You won't give up until I talk, huh?"
"Nope," he grinned and dropped his arm from around her when she held up a fist, threatening to punch him in the shoulder if he didn't. "Let me guess. This has something to do with Leah, doesn't it?"
"Yeah. It's probably stupid, but I get this feeling that she's been cheating on me."
"She never used to get called into work all the time and lately it's been every weekend. Last weekend with the storm, she stayed in the city longer than normal, used the `all the roads were closed' excuse. This is pathetic, isn't it?"
"No," Xander said as he shook his head and frowned. "What else?"
"We haven't...had sex in almost two weeks. Every time we get close to leading things that way, something stops us. We either start fighting, the phone will ring, or it's something else."
"And it's never been this way before?"
"No," Faith said with a soft laugh. "I mean, come on, Xand. You know me, I thrive on sex and when I don't get some, I get cranky."
"We all do," he smirked as he looked back up at the house quickly. "Aside from all that, have you talked to her about it?"
"I tried, but so much else was going on at the time that...she..."
"It's probably nothing."
"I know," she sighed as she looked back up at the house, wondering when Dawn would be coming back. "I'm overreacting over nothing. I think the dreams I've been having with Buffy have been getting to my head. Even Angel said so before when it started getting bad like this years ago."
"Faith, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, why not," she shrugged.
"Are you...in love with Buffy?"
"Why would you say that?"
Xander looked at her wearily as she avoided looking directly into his eyes. "Angel and I had a nice little chat not too long ago. He never told me about the dreams, but he told me he knows how you feel about Buffy, and he told me he's afraid it's been consuming your life."
"It has been consuming my life. I can't stop thinking about her," she whispered under her breath. "I'm going crazy, aren't I? In love with someone that I can never have, someone that isn't even here."
"You aren't crazy. You'd be crazy not to be in love with Buffy."
"Right, cos everyone has always been in love with Buffy," she laughed bitterly. "Oh yeah, I know how in love you once were with her. Angel told me all about it."
"Do you suddenly feel the need to start poking him with a pencil when he gets here?" Xander asked and they both burst into laughter that brought tears to their eyes. "It'd be fun, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"I should have told you before, but..." he sighed as the laughter between them died down completely. "Giles and Willow were trying to track Buffy down and all they found was a paper trail leading them in circles. A couple weeks ago they figured out that it wasn't leading them in circles, she was just continuously moving from place to place and over time she'd go back to where she'd been before."
"So, you know where she is?"
"Yeah, I think so. Which now brings me to the real reason why I wanted to come here and see you," he said softly, looking back up at the house to make sure that Dawn still wasn't coming back out. "She's here. Well, not here exactly, but she's in the area. I got a couple of addresses and, I don't know, maybe you and I can go check them out later?"
"What about Dawn?"
Xander shrugged. "We can find a way to get her to stay behind. Better yet, if Angel is here later, he can keep Dawnie company for a couple hours."
Faith nodded, feeling overwhelmed by a whole wave of different conflicted emotions. Buffy was nearby, which would explain how she'd been able to come by the house before and slip away without being seen. It made her wonder just how many times Buffy had been by the house without her even knowing about it. She was growing restless now thinking of all the best and worst scenarios that could happen if they did happen to find her. She knew that no matter what, Buffy wouldn't be at all happy to be found. But like everyone else, Faith just wanted to find her, and now that they had an idea where she possibly was they were going to finally see her after five years without a single word or letter or phone call from her.
Dreams were one thing. Seeing her in person would be something else entirely. She'd be lying to herself if she didn't say she was scared shitless at the thought of finally coming face to face with Buffy after all those nights they'd spent together in their dreams.
When Dawn finally came back outside she had changed into a light blue bikini, and her arms were full of towels with a couple bottles of water stacked on top. Xander rushed over to help her and Faith tried not to smirk at the utter cuteness that surrounded them. They were definitely head over heels in love with one another and it sent a pang through her heart, wanting that for herself. Not with either of them, of course, and not with Leah, but with Buffy.
She took one of the towels from Dawn and spread it out over the sand. She forced a smile and muttered a thank you under her breath as she took off her tank top and shorts, revealing her black bikini underneath. She lay on her stomach across the blanket and heard Dawn smack Xander. It made her chuckle and shake her head a little as she took in a few deep breaths and hoped to get in a short, sweet, and quite possibly a dreamless nap.
She knew better than to hope for anything but a dream. They always came no matter what.
She knew from the instant she felt those soft, warm hands roam over her body that she'd slipped into yet another dream. Instead of feeling annoyed, she relished the feel of Buffy's hands as they caressed the skin over her back, tracing random patterns and most likely watching as the goose bumps formed on her skin.
"Started without me?" Faith whispered, turning her head to look over at Buffy lying next to her.
"No," she replied with a shy smile. "I uh, I thought you were already here. I must have been..."
The blush on Buffy's face gave it away and Faith could only chuckle as she turned onto her side and pulled Buffy close to her. It took her a moment to look away from her and realize they were no longer in the same room, nor were they even inside or in the bed. They were out on the beach, the sun blazing down over their naked skin and the roar of the waves nearly drowning out the rapid beating of her heart. The rock jetty, the same one she'd seen just that morning, was just down the beach a little ways. She opened her eyes wide in shock as she looked down at Buffy, words becoming an issue as she struggled to make sense of it all.
Did she bring them there or did Buffy do it just as she always did? She'd known right from the start of these dreams that Buffy was always in control of where they were. Buffy always brought her there too, she knew, since she was always waiting.
"I saw you this morning," she whispered, moving to straddle Faith's hips as she pushed her back in the sand and smiled down at her. "I watched you from my window. I thought you would have sensed me somehow, but you didn't."
"I didn't think you'd come so far. You haven't since I've been here. I almost called out for you, but I wasn't ready for that. Not right then."
"I'm not sure I would have believed it was really you," she whispered against Buffy's lips as they lay there in the sand together. "Things have been so complicated in my life right now and...and you being here so close, I don't know what to say, what to think."
"You always think too much, even here," Buffy whispered as she shook her head when Faith tried to kiss her. "I never pegged you as a thinker before, but I know better now."
"I've said this so many times before, but you're always surprising me and showing me sides of yourself that I never thought I'd ever see in you. It almost hurts to know I've been gone for so long and missed so much, especially with you. I see the way you look at her, the way you...kiss her. I know you don't love her, but sometimes I wonder. If you don't love her, then why is she still there with you?"
"Sometimes I ask myself the same question, and you're wrong, B. I do love her, but the only difference is that it's you I'm in love with."
"That didn't answer my question."
Faith sighed as she lightly ran her hands down Buffy's back, trying to figure out the right way to explain it to her. She knew she wouldn't have too much time to play with, she could only faintly hear the sounds of Xander and Dawn talking quietly next to her.
"Don't. I hate it when you say her name."
"Sorry," she sighed again as she reached up and gently pulled back Buffy's hair from her face. "It's the only stable relationship I've been in and it's kind of falling apart right now because all I can think about is you. All I've ever been able to think about in the past five years, if not longer, has been you, Buffy. Maybe I'm just another fool in love with a beautiful girl, or maybe it's something else. I don't want to wait any longer to figure it out. I can't...hold onto this, if I don't know it'll ever be real."
"It will be."
"I told you. Soon."
"B, you keep telling me that. You told me that years ago and backed away. You know how I feel about you and you said yourself that you are no longer afraid. So tell me, Buffy, what the hell is making you so afraid?"
"You'll find out."
Faith groaned softly, knowing she would get nowhere with Buffy when she was acting like this. She didn't know what to think and she wasn't about to jump to any conclusions either. But she had to ask one thing, "B, are you..."
"Am I what?"
"No," Buffy laughed. "I'm very much alive."
"I meant..." Faith shook her head, realizing how ridiculous she was being. "I was going to say, are you dead as in a vampire."
"If I was, we wouldn't be here, would we?"
"I don't know. You shared dreams with Angel, didn't you?"
"How do you know about that?"
"He told me," she responded softly as she searched Buffy's eyes, seeing the hurt and the betrayal flicker across her eyes. "Just tell me you aren't, B."
"I'm not. I swear to you that I am not, Faith. Can't you still feel me? Can't you still feel our connection? It's stronger than it's ever been."
"I can feel it," she smiled up at Buffy as she rolled her hips sharply against hers. "Oh hell, I can so feel it."
"Faith!" Buffy laughed as she shook her head and leaned down to kiss her. "You are so bad, you know that?"
"Would you really have me any other way?"
Buffy thought for a moment, smiling as she rolled her hips down into Faith's and shook her head. "No, I really wouldn't."
They kissed long and hard, rolling in the sand together as hands grabbed and sought out one another. Faith pulled back from the kiss and stared deeply into Buffy's eyes, already feeling herself being pulled from the dream. With one last kiss and one last whisper of her love, she closed her eyes and felt herself slipping away completely.
She exhaled softly as she opened her eyes and rolled onto her back, feeling her skin just a little bit burnt from the harsh rays of the sun. Xander and Dawn were no longer beside her. She leaned up to find them out in the water cooling off before she laid back down again, closing her eyes. There were only a couple more hours until the sun would go down, until Angel would arrive. She knew that somehow she had to convince Xander that going to look for Buffy now wasn't a good idea.
If they went to Buffy and not the other way around, it could be five more years before Buffy would come back to any of them. Five more years of torture. Five more years of dreams that haunted her every waking moment, or at least every other waking moment. Then again, she could be wrong about the whole thing too. Maybe that's what Buffy wanted. Why else would she have let it be known where she was, finally, after five years of being on the run?
"Hey," Xander laughed as he sat down on the towel next to her, flicking some water droplets as she opened her eyes and looked over at him. "Have a nice nap, Faith?"
"You were out for almost two hours. Dawn said we should try to roll you over, but we decided against it. No need to piss the Slayer off when she's having naughty sexy dreams with the woman she's in..."
"So there were naughty sexy dreams?"
Faith raised an eyebrow at him, fighting back the smirk as she turned her head up towards the sky and closed her eyes yet again. "Wouldn't you just love to know, Xand?"
"Oh yeah," he laughed as he flicked more water at her. "We still gonna go check out those three addresses I got for Buffy later?"
"I know where she is," Faith said softly, turning her head and opening her eyes just enough to look over at him. "She finally showed me. She's not that far from here, about an hour walk down the beach."
"No shit," he said under his breath. "You didn't tell her we were coming, did you?"
"No, I didn't. I have a funny feeling she already knows, though, just like she knows about a lot of things she shouldn't know about."
He looked confused for a moment, then understood just what she was getting at. They kept quiet as Dawn walked over and sat down next to him, complaining about how dry the water made her skin. Faith kept her `typical Summers women' comment to herself as she closed her eyes yet again and hoped to enjoy what was left of the day without another worry, doubt, or even serious thought.
She fought off sleep, waking herself up whenever she felt herself start to slip into a light doze. She didn't want to have yet another dream. The next time she saw Buffy she wanted to see her for real and she was determined to let that happen.
All afternoon she listened to Xander and Dawn banter back and forth, holding back the smiles and the laughs as she laid there soaking up the sun. It made her realize how much she'd missed being around the two of them, even though in the past they'd never really been friends. It just proved how much everyone had changed. How even so far apart as they had been, they'd grown closer and had a bond that was stronger than anything she'd ever had with anyone before. She didn't have friends here that were like the two of them. Her friends were more Leah's friends and she knew they all just tolerated her, `liked' her because she was Leah's girl, and laughed at her jokes so she wouldn't feel so out of place.
But when it all came down to it, she did feel out of place among those people that Leah had known most of her life. The only people she ever felt herself around anymore were Angel, Xander, and now Dawn. She wasn't so sure about Buffy. Dream Buffy could be entirely different than whatever was waiting for her out there in reality. A part of her was afraid, but a bigger part of her couldn't wait to find out.