It was an hour after sunset when Angel showed up. Faith let him catch up with Xander and Dawn privately and she cleaned up the kitchen from the mess they'd made cooking for their small, impromptu barbecue. The three of them were sitting out back, laughing and catching up on everything that they had gone through in the last five years. Angel did keep in contact with them in Cleveland, but the phone calls were mostly that of a business nature. She felt, for the first time in a long time, normal and surrounded by people that actually meant something to her. She couldn't help but smile to herself just a little as she brought a fresh bottle of wine and four glasses out back.
She said nothing as she poured them each a glass of wine and sat down in between Angel and Xander. The two of them were talking about the way things were being run in Cleveland and around the rest of the world, and she tensed up when Angel asked what they would do if Buffy ever decided to come back. Xander said they'd deal with it when and if the time ever came and he quickly changed the subject to talking about the new weapons Giles had on order.
Weapons were Faith's thing and she listened intently as Xander described the basics of what the new weapons were like. A lot of swords, long thick knives, and replicas of the scythe. A part of the reason why she never wanted to go to Cleveland was the fact there were more demons there than vampires. She didn't mind fighting vampires, less mess when she finished them off, but demons were a different story. She'd already ruined several pair of leather pants having had the misfortune of running into some a few months back.
"Where's Leah tonight?" Angel asked once Xander excused himself inside for a moment. "I thought she was going to be here?"
"She got called in to work."
"Oh," Angel said as he raised an eyebrow at that. "Again? Isn't she just freelance?"
"I have no idea anymore," Faith shrugged. "Uh, would you two mind staying back for about an hour or two? Xander and I have a couple things to do, an errand to run."
"An errand?" Dawn asked, her voice already slurring the words and she was only on her second glass of wine. "For what?"
"I wanted to show him around town, show him the sights."
"But it's night!"
"Yeah," Faith chuckled. "Was kind of hoping we'd do a quick patrol and stop and grab another bottle of wine on the way home."
"Would you like me to come along?" Angel asked, and she quickly shook her head no. "I'll stay behind with Dawn then."
Sometimes, even though she knew better, she wondered if Angel could read her mind. She just knew he was good at reading her body language and the way she spoke. It was just one of those downfalls of showing someone her true side with none of her walls built up around her. Leah hadn't been able to see right through her yet. She still had a lot of walls built up around her when it came to Leah, and Buffy…she really didn't know sometimes. Everything was always laid out in the open in their dreams, but not everything was really as it seemed there.
After Xander came back outside, the two of them finished off their wine and grabbed a couple of weapons. Faith didn't explain why until they had walked down the beach a little. Other than that, they said nothing for nearly the whole walk down to where the rock jetty was. Faith was nervous, she could already feel the butterflies in her stomach, and when she looked at Xander she could see he was just as nervous, and maybe even a little bit scared of seeing Buffy again.
She stopped about half a mile from the jetty and lit a cigarette. Xander bummed one off of her and they began walking slowly again, still not saying a word and neither of them even looking at one another. She kept looking up at the houses and small apartment buildings that they passed, none of them feeling like they were the right place. She knew Buffy would be able to sense her and that Buffy would probably feel her coming first long before Faith could feel her too. She had her fingers mentally crossed that Buffy wouldn't run.
"You still got the address on you?" Faith asked Xander as they came to a stop near the spot where she'd had the dream with Buffy that afternoon. "We can't be too far."
"Yeah, got it," he said as he pulled out the piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to her. "You don't think she's gonna run, do you?"
"High chance she will. Doesn't hurt to go up to the door and knock, does it?"
"What if she does run?"
"Then we have no choice but to wait for her to come back when she's ready to. Can't force someone to stop running when they don't want to, you know?" Faith said as she struggled to read the paper, barely making out the address. She looked up at the only apartment building ahead of them and took a deep breath. "I think that's the place."
"I'm starting to get this feeling that maybe this is a bad idea," Xander sighed as he stopped Faith from walking away from him. "I don't want her to keep running. None of us do."
"You tell me this now after we've walked all this way?" Faith groaned as she pulled her arm away from him and slugged him in the arm. "You couldn't have had that feeling back at the house?"
Xander shrugged as he rubbed the shoulder she'd hit. They stood there for awhile just staring up at the building, both of them debating whether or not to go up and knock on apartment 1C. Faith could feel Buffy, their connection making her body hum the strongest it ever had. She shivered, loving and hating the feeling at the same time. If she could feel Buffy then she knew Buffy surely could feel her now. She pulled out her pack of cigarettes and with a shaky hand she lit one and offered one to Xander. He held up his hand and shook his head no before sitting down in the sand and hanging his head low.
"All I've wanted for the last five years was to see her again," he said softly as she sat down next to him. "I just want to know that she's okay. I've spent five years worrying about her and I don't think I could handle worrying about her for another five years."
"We've all been worried about her," Faith replied quietly as she looked out over the water. "She always tells me she's okay in our dreams, but sometimes I think she's unhappy being so alone now. I think she's tired of running, tired of doing things her way. Then again, I could be wrong."
"She's gonna be pissed we just showed up like this, isn't she?"
"Probably. There's a very high possibility that one or both of us will get punched or slapped in the face," she replied with a soft, forced laugh. "We can't sit out here all night. I know she knows I'm here."
"I can feel her."
"Don't you always 'feel' her though?"
"I do," she nodded. "But it's different when I'm closer to her, stronger. Almost feels like when you get drunk and your body goes numb, minus the whole going numb part."
"If you can feel her, that means she can definitely feel you too, right?"
"Where did I lose you?" Faith laughed as she nudged him with her shoulder and shook her head.
"It's funny because all of the other slayers never once mentioned this connection thing before. Giles said once it was probably from the spell and that there were just too many of them now for them to feel that connection fully. Got to wonder though..."
"Wonder about what?"
"If the connection you two have is more than just a Slayer thing."
"I've been asking myself that since the day I first came into her life and yours."
"You've always felt it?"
"Even before I came to Sunnydale I felt it. Never really knew what it was, and it got stronger after the whole body swap. Angel has a few theories about it too, something about being soul mates, but you know I don't believe in that."
"I just don't," she shrugged. "Then again, I never believed I could fall in love either, and here I am, head over fucking heels in love with Buffy."
"Life is full of surprises sometimes, isn't it?"
"Apparently I am full of surprises too," she laughed and shook her head as she took a long drag of her cigarette.
They sat there for awhile, just watching the waves as they rolled in. She was thinking of what she'd say to Buffy once she saw her. There was too much and not enough that she wanted to say and the only thing she really wanted to do was wrap her arms around her and hold her close and never let go. She had to remember what Buffy had said to her before, about starting over, starting from the beginning. It meant literally starting at the beginning and doing it all over again, only this time for real. Faith still felt as if what she shared with Buffy in their dreams really was real. She felt it every day and with every sharp pang in her heart whenever she felt like she was cheating on Leah or Buffy, depending on who she was with at the time.
"Crap," Faith sighed softly. "Everything is so fucked up."
"Life," she replied softly. "This whole situation with Buffy, and I'm not just talking about right now, I'm talking about whatever the hell kind of relationship we've been having."
"How'd it start? You left out quite a bit when you told me before."
"We just talked a lot in the beginning, mostly about everything but ourselves and each other. I don't know how it progressed, but over time things started to change, I started to feel more for her and I know she felt the same. She kissed me first and I thought I really was dreaming and not really there with her, you know? Then things just...happened over the next year and it's been like that ever since."
"You two basically had a relationship in your shared dreams that progressed just like a normal relationship would?"
"Slower, but yeah, it went just like that."
"And you're worried everything is going to be different now?"
"It is going to be different now, Xand. We have to start all over, that is if she even wants to. Sometimes I get this feeling a big part of the dreams we share really aren't shared in the same way. She could be seeing something entirely different than what I do, you know?"
"Dreams are a mystery all on their own. Like the time I dreamt Dawnie was chasing me dressed up as a clown. Now that was some freaky shit," Xander chuckled. "You really think it'd be different between you two?"
"What if it's not? What about Leah?"
"That's one reason why everything is so fucked up."
Xander just nodded, not knowing what else to say. They sat there in silence again until Faith felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She looked down the beach a little ways and felt her heart nearly come to a stop. She nudged Xander, and they both looked on as Buffy came to a stop just down from them and looked out over the water, seemingly oblivious to their presence. They both stood up, both of them barely breathing as they stared over at where Buffy stood.
"That's not her, is it?" Xander asked softly as he nudged Faith with his shoulder. "It is, isn't it?"
"Yeah. It's her."
Faith shushed him as she flicked her cigarette to the ground and tentatively approached Buffy. She could feel her heart swell as Buffy turned her head a little to look over at her and even in the darkness of the night she could see the smile on Buffy's face. With every step she took that brought her closer, her heart was clenching in her chest, the words lost as Buffy completely took her breath away.
She watched as Buffy went to Xander first. The two of them were crying as they held on to one another. She couldn't hear the whispers they exchanged over the sound of the waves and her heart racing wildly in her chest. Minutes passed by that felt like hours before Buffy dropped her arms from around Xander and turned to look at her. Faith wanted to hug her, hold her close and never let go, but something felt wrong about it. She knew she had to wait for Buffy to make that first move. She always had to wait for Buffy to make the first move.
"Hey, B," she smiled as she jammed her hands into the pockets of her jeans.
"What, I don't get a hug from you?"
Faith shrugged, unable to wipe the huge grin off of her face as Buffy threw her arms around her and pulled her in close. Outside of their dreams, they'd never hugged, and they'd never been so close unless they'd been fighting. She waited a few seconds before she wrapped her arms around Buffy, sighing softly at how perfect it felt to finally be able to hold her for real. The moment felt almost bittersweet and didn't last nearly as long as the hug she'd had with Xander.
"I missed you guys," Buffy said softly as she pulled back from Faith and crossed her arms over her chest. "Where's Dawnie?"
"Back at the house with Angel," Faith replied as she stayed standing close to her. "You aren't mad that we came to see you, are you?"
"No," she smiled as she looked at her and then at Xander. "It's fine that you came. Makes me realize how much I really did miss you guys."
Xander still looked nervous, and like Faith he was at loss for words. Buffy said nothing as she motioned for them to follow her, the three of them then walking up to the apartment building and waiting as Buffy unlocked the door with some difficulty.
"Always sticks a little," she chuckled as she finally got the door open and stepped inside. "Would you two like something to drink? I could put on some coffee..."
"Coffee sounds great," Xander smiled as he walked in first.
Faith stood there outside, her heart still racing so quickly she thought it was going to burst. Buffy and Xander were already halfway down the hall and in front of the door to her apartment before Faith finally walked inside and caught up to them.
She pulled at the hem of her shirt nervously as they walked inside the apartment. It was spacious, open, and lacked furniture aside from a small couch, a TV she guessed didn't work, and a small kitchen table with two chairs that had seen better days. She felt out of place standing there watching Buffy as she walked into the kitchen, talking to Xander quietly about her plans to eventually go to Cleveland. She took that moment alone to glance around the empty looking apartment, seeing the bedroom door open and taking a few steps towards it. She glanced inside, gasping as her breath caught in her throat, seeing that it was the exact room that was in her dreams, their dreams.
"How do you take your coffee, Faith?" Buffy called out from the kitchen.
"You got any cream?"
"Just a splash," she replied, stepping back from the bedroom and turning to look at Buffy as she walked out of the kitchen with two cups of coffee in her hand. "Nice place."
"It's home for now."
"For how long?"
"Another week, maybe two."
"Then what?" Faith asked as the three of them sat around the table, Xander leaning against the wall and glancing around the apartment. She pulled a face as she took a sip of her coffee. It was instant. She hated instant, but drank it anyway.
"Cleveland," Buffy shrugged. "I was going to go back there soon anyway. I just...I wanted to come see you first."
Faith smiled at her, finding it too easy just to feel as comfortable as she felt around her in their dreams. She sat there and listened as Buffy and Xander started talking quietly, avoiding questions of just what she'd been doing for the last five years. Xander did most of the talking. He started by telling her about things in Cleveland, about the new Council Giles had set up. He told her about him and Dawn and Faith watched her face intensely, waiting for a reaction that never came. She just smiled at Xander and told him he better not break Dawn's heart. Every once in a while Buffy would look over at her and they'd just smile a little before Buffy quickly broke the gaze and looked back over at Xander as he continued to talk.
Things were definitely not going the way she thought they would. Buffy seemed happy they were there, relieved even. Her heart raced that little bit quicker with every small smile Buffy flashed her way. She felt her breath being taken away with every look, every smile, and it made her feel dizzy and weak in the knees. She wished she'd come there alone. She wanted to talk to Buffy privately, but it'd have to wait for another time. Xander continued talking, sounding a little less nervous than he had in the beginning. Faith laughed quietly to herself, knowing just how long he could ramble on for.
She could see that Xander was itching to ask Buffy for the reasons why she'd spent so long away from all of them and didn't keep in touch. She could tell he was trying hard not to take the conversation that way, afraid of the consequences that would follow. She could feel her hands start to shake a little as she drank the last of her coffee and placed the mug down on the worn table in front of her.
"This isn't as awkward as I thought it'd be," Xander laughed as Buffy stood up from the table to take their empty mugs into the kitchen. "We all missed you, Buff."
"I know. I missed you all too. Don't worry. I'm done running now. I want to come home, wherever home may be now."
Buffy looked at Faith when she said 'home' and it made Faith feel a little nervous when she tried not to think of just what Buffy was saying to her. She kept saying she'd go back to Cleveland, but Faith could tell she didn't want to. She wanted to stay there, with her, and yet she wasn't actually saying it. She didn't have to. The feelings she felt through their connection said it loud and clear. There was just one problem with the whole thing: Leah.
Faith had no idea what she was going to do about her relationship with Leah. She knew she wasn't entirely happy with her, yet she wasn't sure if anything would be any better if she ended it. She wasn't going to just end it because Buffy was now back in her life, especially since it might only be for the time being. She was going to end it for the sake of her own sanity. The bigger picture was becoming a lot clearer now than it had been in the last week or two. She had to do something or she'd be forever stuck in the vicious cycle of wondering from moment to moment what the right thing to do was.
"It's getting late," Xander said as he glanced at his watch. "Dawn and Angel are going to wonder where we've been all this time."
"Oh. Right," Buffy nodded, suddenly looking upset that they were planning to leave so soon. "Do you think maybe I could come back with you two? I think I need to talk to Dawn, explain a few things, and I really don't want to leave it for much longer."
"Sure can," Faith smiled at her, ignoring the nervousness as it hit her in waves. "It's a long walk, though, and it is kind of late."
"That's okay. I had a nice nap this afternoon," Buffy said with a wink as she grabbed her keys off the small table by the door where she'd dropped them. "Do you think she's going to be mad?"
"She'll be upset and throw a Dawnie sized freak out, but she won't be mad," Xander said, smiling as if trying to assure her it'd be okay. "You know she'll demand answers for you being gone for five years."
"I know. I'll tell her and once I do, I'll tell you two everything. I owe it to Dawn to tell her everything first," Buffy said quietly as she opened the door and waited for Faith and Xander to step out into the hallway. "Xander, can you meet us outside? I want to talk to Faith for a moment alone."
"Sure," he said, and without questioning why, he headed for the door that led outside while Faith stepped back inside the apartment.
"I wish you came alone," Buffy said quietly as she shut the door. "I wanted to talk to you before I saw anyone else."
"Our dreams," she said softly as she looked away from her, a slight blush creeping over her cheeks. "They really happened, didn't they? I mean, I know they felt real, but did they really happen, Faith?"
"I think they did."
"Then you remember what I said about starting at the beginning?"
"I remember everything, B."
"Can you maybe, forget that little part for a minute?" She asked shyly as she stepped closer to Faith.
"Because the moment I saw you all I wanted to do was kiss you," she whispered in reply as she took one last step until their bodies were close and barely a breath away from touching. "Can I kiss you?"
"Buffy..." Faith regretfully stopped her before their lips could touch and she shook her head as she took a few steps back. "Our dreams were different, but here, I can't. Not yet."
"Because of her?"
Faith nodded her head slowly. "Yeah."
"I get it," Buffy sighed as she reached for the door and opened it. "Maybe things would have been different if I came back sooner."
"We've come a long way and yet at the same time we haven't gone anywhere."
"I know what you mean."
"Have you always been so understanding?"
"Not always," Faith chuckled as she stepped out into the hallway and watched as Buffy closed and locked the door behind her. "Took a lot of work over the years. Spent a long time working on bettering myself."
"Did it work?"
"It did and it didn't," she shrugged as they made their way to the end of the hallway. "Every once in a while I find myself standing on the edge of the darkness, ready to take the plunge again."
"What stops you from falling over that edge?"
"Reminding myself that it wasn't worth it the last time I did," Faith replied as she opened the door and they stepped outside. "I think I'm gonna owe Angel for the rest of my life for being there for me."
"I'm going to owe him too," Buffy said softly. "Because if he hadn't been there for you, I don't think you'd be where you are right now. We wouldn't even be standing here talking right now if it wasn't for him, you know?"
"You're right. I wouldn't. I don't think I would have allowed myself to ever admit how I felt about you if Angel hadn't told me that it was okay to let my guard down and learn how to love with my whole heart, learn that love isn't a weakness, it's a strength."
"Do you two need some more time alone to talk?" Xander asked as they joined him at the edge of the path where it met with the soft sand on the beach. "I'll walk ahead far enough so you two can talk privately if you need to."
"It's okay," Buffy smiled up at him as she linked her arm through his. "There'll be plenty of time to talk. Right now I just want to walk with you and listen to more stories of the things I've missed."
Faith fell behind the two of them, barely listening as Xander went on and on about stories she'd heard plenty of times over the years. He stuck to the happier things that happened in their lives without her and the sound of Buffy's laughter ripped through her heart hard each and every time. It kind of tore her apart inside to see Buffy acting this way. She'd been gone for five years and she was acting as if she hadn't been gone more than a couple of days.
She chain-smoked the entire walk back to the house, losing count after the third one. Xander never stopped talking and Buffy never stopped laughing at the stories he was telling her. She picked up the pace and breezed past them as they reached the house. She grabbed the bottle of wine off the table, ignoring the looks both Angel and Dawn gave her as she poured the rest into her glass and nearly chugged it all back in one go.
"Look who we found," she muttered as Buffy and Xander walked up to the back porch.
"Buffy?" Dawn blinked as she stood up so quickly the chair she'd been sitting in toppled backwards.
The tears the two shed made Faith's own tears threaten to fall. She grabbed the empty wine bottle and headed inside, not wanting to be caught in front of them tearing up at the sight of Dawn and Buffy having their reunion. Xander and Angel followed her inside to give the two of them a chance to talk privately. Angel grabbed a fresh bottle of wine off of the rack and stopped Faith as she rummaged through the drawer looking for the corkscrew.
"Twist cap," he said softly as he opened it and smiled at her. "You okay, Faith?"
"I'll grab the glasses and the three of us will go sit out front," Xander said as he quickly made his way out the back door.
"You sure you're okay?" Angel asked softly as he took a tentative step towards Faith. "You knew she was here?"
"Yeah, but it's not like I was keeping it a secret from you or anything," she shrugged as she quickly wiped away a few tears that fell. "Okay, maybe we were keeping it a secret. Xander knew before I did."
"And how do you suppose Xander knew about it in the first place?"
"You?" She asked coldly, shaking her head in disbelief when Angel just lowered his eyes to the floor. "God, I should have known."
"I was working with Giles and Willow. We were all trying to find her, Faith. He's the one who found the paper trail and I helped them put the pieces of the puzzle together in order to find the pattern. You have got to understand I only kept this from you because I wasn't sure she was still here. I didn't want to give you false hope."
"Didn't you tell me I had to give up hope?"
"I did, but I know you too well, Faith. You are stubborn and you aren't going to give up hope unless you have your own reasons to. I just hoped that saying that to you would make you open your eyes to see what's really there in front of you."
"Let me guess," she scoffed as she looked over at Xander and grabbed her glass from his hands and quickly poured the wine into it. "You knew Leah is an inactive Slayer, didn't you?"
"Charles came to speak with me last week," Angel replied softly. "So yes, I knew."
"You know, between the two of you I really thought I found people I could trust. Who the fuck was I kidding?" Faith said through clenched teeth as she headed for the front door and walked outside, not caring in the least that she spilt half the wine as she sat down on the front steps.
Xander came out and sat down next to her, placing the bottle of wine on the steps in between them. "Faith, look..."
"What? Are you gonna apologize to me for keeping fucking secrets?"
"No, well yes, but..."
"Don't even, okay?"
"We wanted to be sure we knew where she was, Faith. It's over now. She's here, safe and sound."
"For now," she replied harshly. "Who the fuck knows what is gonna happen when she leaves tonight? She could take off again."
"I don't think she will," Angel said quietly as he leaned against the doorframe. "Just overheard her telling Dawn she's going back to Cleveland tomorrow."
"Great," Faith said as she rolled her eyes and took a sip of her wine. "That's reassuring."
Xander put his arm over her shoulders and she tried to shrug it off. She gave up and let the tears fall. She didn't even know why she was crying now. Maybe the wine was getting to her, or maybe she was losing all hope. Whatever it was, she didn't care anymore as she let the tears flow freely. Xander pulled her closer and wrapped his arms around her tightly, not letting her go even when she tried to push him away.
"Come back with us, Faith."
"I can't," she sobbed as she wiped her nose on his shirt and laughed a little as she pulled away. "I have a life here, Xand. I can't just pack up and move across the country with you guys."
"Sure you can! People do it every day," he smiled at her as he glanced down at the wet spot on his shirt. "And I can be your human Kleenex any day of the week instead of once every couple of years, provided you need the human Kleenex often."
"You know we need you there."
"What about Leah?"
"Bring her or ditch her," Xander shrugged and Faith slugged him in the shoulder a little too hard. "Jeez, Faith. I was joking about the ditching her thing!"
She sighed as she reached for her glass and took another sip before wiping the last of the tears from her cheeks. "Despite how shit the relationship has turned out, I can't just get up and walk away, can I?"
"Sure you could."
"Wouldn't that make me a bad person for just giving up?"
Xander shrugged and put his arm back over her shoulders and let out a soft sigh. "Sometimes you got to let go of things when you feel they aren't working anymore. If you don't love her, then why are you still with her?"
"Cos the sex is good? At least when we have it, it is," she chuckled and she heard Angel chuckle right along with her. "Close your mouth, Xand, unless you don't mind the mosquitoes flying in there."
"Anyone ever tell you that you act like someone who has bi-polar or something?" Xander asked, quickly moving away before Faith had the chance to slug him in the shoulder again. "Just saying, you know?"
"I've always been like this for as long as I can remember. Have you forgotten what I was like back in Sunnydale?"
"No, but you definitely weren't like this."
"What'd you call it, Angel?" Faith asked as she turned to look at him. "Learning to let my emotions run their course instead of bottling them up?"
"And it works?" Xander asked, raising an eyebrow at her as if he didn't believe it.
"Kept me fairly sane these past few years," she laughed. "Gives me a lot of ups and downs and conflicted feelings, but at the end of the day I don't feel the need to go beat the living shit out of someone or something, you know?"
"So, what are you going to do now?" Angel asked as he stepped down and sat down next to her. "Are you going to stay here, work things out with Leah, or are you going to go to Cleveland?"
"I'm staying. My life is here and for once in my life I've found a place I can call home that really does feel like home."
"And what about Buffy?" Xander asked her softly as he reached for the bottle of wine and topped up her glass. "You aren't going to see if things will work out between you two?"
"Hello, if you haven't noticed I'm not exactly single. Besides," she shrugged as she leaned back on the steps and closed her eyes for a moment, "if it's meant to be, we'll find a way to be together. If not, always got our dreams, right?"
"Is it enough, though?"
"It'll never be enough, Xander. But you know it'll have to be enough until we figure out what we really want. Buffy needs to get back to her life and I need to go on with my own. We can't do that together. I think both Buffy and I know that."
Xander just nodded and clinked his glass to hers. Angel said nothing as he reached for the bottle and topped up his own glass. They sat out there drinking in silence, watching the stars as they shone in the sky. She was just trying to relax, trying to let go of all her thoughts instead of letting them consume her the way they usually did. She had the people she cared about the most in her life there with her now and she wanted to enjoy the time she could spend with them as much as she could. She had no idea when they would all be together again like this and even though she did see Angel every couple of weeks, it was nice just to have him there too.
She wasn't sure how long they were out there before Xander passed out leaning against her. With Angel's help they got him inside and into the spare room. He mumbled something under his breath before he pulled the pillow close to his chest. Faith and Angel only exchanged a look as they stumbled out of the room and headed for the back door. Buffy and Dawn were still talking quietly, but there were no tears, just laughter. Faith sat down in her chair and closed her eyes, feeling herself drifting off to the sound of Buffy's voice.
If this was all a dream, it was one of those dreams she never wanted to wake up from.
Faith blinked as she stretched out on the bed. Her head was pounding and her memories of the night before were rather fuzzy in the first few moments of waking. She rolled over to the middle of the bed and sighed softly as she tried to get her mind to focus. She could hear the voices in the kitchen, and she sat up on the bed slowly when she heard Buffy's laughter over Dawn and Xander's. Faintly, only very faintly, did she remember Angel, just before dawn, carrying her to bed before he left, whispering to her that he'd call later to check in after Xander, Dawn, and Buffy had left.
"Faith, are you awake yet?" Xander called out as he knocked on the door. She got off the bed, walking slowly to the door and opening it. "Good, you're alive."
"Dawn and I are going to go out and grab some breakfast. Do you mind if I borrow your truck?"
Faith shrugged as she found the keys on the dresser and handed them to him. She said nothing as she walked past him and into the kitchen, sighing in relief when she saw there was nearly a full pot of coffee already made. She didn't even look at Buffy as she poured herself a cup and headed out back, hoping the fresh morning air would help her clear the hangover. Buffy followed her outside and took a seat next to her, smiling at Faith when she turned to look at her.
"How are you feeling?"
"Like the dead," Faith chuckled wryly as she took a tentative sip of her hot coffee. "God, did I open that bottle of whiskey last night?"
"You did. You passed out about an hour after that."
"Great," she replied with a roll of her eyes. "Sorry for acting like an ass last night. Just with everything that's been going on in my life lately I guess I was looking for some kind of release by drinking like a fish last night."
"We all had quite a bit to drink. No need to apologize for anything, although I think watching Xander and Dawnie making out in the kitchen earlier has traumatized me forever."
"Yeah, that'll traumatize anyone," Faith smirked as she placed her mug on the table in front of her and ran her hands through her hair. "So, you're really going with them to Cleveland?"
"You feel okay about that?"
"It's time I went home," Buffy replied softly. "I did my own thing for five years. It's time for me to get back to my real life. It's been time for a while now. Dawn made me realize that last night, too."
"Guess so," she shrugged as she looked out over the water and sighed. "Guess we'll have to go back to just seeing each other in our dreams then, huh?"
"I like our dreams," Buffy smiled shyly. "Sometimes just knowing you'd be there nearly every night with me made me feel less alone."
Buffy reached for her hand and after hesitating for a moment, Faith allowed her to take it. She gave her a tight-lipped smile as she intertwined their fingers together. Just having Buffy's hand in her own sent a multitude of shockwaves through her entire body. It was nearly ten times as intense as it was in their dreams and she gasped softly as she closed her eyes and tried not to think of what it'd feel like to kiss her for real. Being with Buffy in her dreams was different than actually making the moves on her outside of them. It was cheating, through and through, and she didn't want to become much like her old self and give into the temptation easily.
She didn't just owe it to Leah to stay committed to their relationship. She owed it to herself. She dropped Buffy's hand rather quickly when she heard the sound of a car pulling up in the driveway. She knew just from the slightest squeak of the brakes that it was Leah. Trying not to panic, she got up and went inside just as Leah came in the front door.
"Hey," Faith said with a forced smile as Leah dropped her bag by the bedroom door and made her way into the kitchen. "Everything get sorted out at work?"
"Yeah," Leah nodded, yawning as she wrapped her arms around Faith and gave her a soft, chaste kiss. "I...we need to talk, Faith."
"Can it wait?" Faith asked her as she stepped back from her and motioned to the back door. "Kind of got company still. Xander and Dawn went out to get some breakfast."
"Who is outside?"
"Buffy?" Leah asked, her eyebrows rising in surprise. "What the hell is she doing here?"
"Long story," Faith muttered as she shrugged her shoulders as if it was no big deal. "I'll tell you later, okay?"
"I won't be here later."
Faith blinked a couple times as she studied Leah's face. Something was definitely going on. Her gut instinct told her it wasn't good. She stole a quick glance at the back door before pulling Leah into the bedroom. "What's going on, babe?"
"I...I don't even know where to start," she whispered as she looked at Faith with tears in her eyes.
"Start with what?"
"Please promise me you won't be mad?"
"Why? What's going on, Leah? Just tell me straight up what the fuck is going on."
"I'm leaving," she whispered as she walked over to the bed and sat down as the tears began to fall. "I never meant to hurt you, Faith. I was supposed to end it between him and I long before I ever met you."
"Wait, who the fuck are you talking about?"
"Adam," Leah replied as she kept her eyes trained on the floor. "He made all these promises to me before, years ago when it started, that he'd leave his fiancée and we'd have a life together. I..."
"Wait," Faith sighed heavily, feeling her anger bubbling deep inside of her as she started to fill in the blanks. "Are you telling me that you've been fucking your boss the whole time you've been with me?"
"I'm sorry," Leah sobbed as she buried her face in her hands for a moment to try to stop the tears. Faith just stood by the door, her fists clenched tight at her sides as she breathed evenly, trying to suppress the anger that was growing by the second. "I really did love you, Faith. I still do. I wanted to end things with Adam, but I'm in love with him too. I have been for nearly three years now."
"So, that's it then? You are just going to leave me cos of some affair you've been having?"
"I'm pregnant," she said so quietly Faith almost thought she'd imagined it. "I'm leaving you because I'm pregnant with his baby. I lied to you about work yesterday. That phone call was from my doctor wanting me to come in and discuss the results of the test I had on Monday."
Everything inside of Faith screamed 'I told you so' as it all began to sink in. She just stared blankly over at Leah, anger and upset warring within her, not sure which she was feeling most. Breathing steadily as she tried to control her raging emotions, she placed her hands on the door and slammed it shut once she'd stepped inside the room.
"Are you fucking kidding me? What was all that bullshit about your parents coming to meet me?"
"I...they really were going to come here. Faith," Leah sighed as she looked up at her, "you really think that this is easy for me? Do you really think I asked for my life to go this way? It was hard enough to know that I was a Slayer and to learn about that part of life that I thought only existed in my nightmares. I was just finding myself then, finding out who I really was. I still don't know who I am."
"Well, good luck trying to fucking figure it out then!"
"When I told my mother, it's something I should have told her years ago. But I didn't tell her straight out that I am gay, because I'm not. I just told her I've been dating another woman, living with another woman for most of the year. She was the one who asked me if it was you."
"Whatever. I don't even fucking care anymore."
"Faith, if I wasn't pregnant..."
"You would have never told me you were fucking your boss, right?" She spat as she walked over to the dresser and picked up her nearly crushed pack of cigarettes. "I knew something was going on. I fucking knew things weren't quite the way they seemed. You fucking used me, didn't you? Used me cos I have a place of my own and was so fucking willing to let you come and live here with me."
"I never used you, Faith. Are you listening to yourself?" Leah laughed incredulously as she watched Faith walk over to the window and open it as wide as it could go. "There's no easy way to explain myself, is there? This was all just a mistake! If I didn't end up pregnant, I would have told him it is over."
"And that's it then? You're gonna raise his bastard child while he does what, exactly? Cos you know, men like that just don't leave their wives or fiancées or girlfriends for the slut on the side."
Faith was already feeling too numb to feel the force of the slap across her face. She just turned and looked out the window, forcing back the tears as she listened to Leah begin to pack up her clothes. She sat on the edge of the windowsill and lit a cigarette, her hands shaking and her body feeling cold. No matter what she did feel for Leah, everything stung and tore at her heart. She'd been right. She thought she'd love the feeling of being right, but when it came to something like this it was heartbreaking.
"I'll come back during the week for the rest of my stuff," Leah said quietly as she zipped up the large suitcase laid out on the bed. "Faith, I'm sorry."
"I didn't want this."
"You think I did?" Faith asked coldly as she flicked her cigarette out the window.
"I didn't want to have to end this between us. We've had a rough couple of weeks, I know we have, but it's normal in any relationship. I thought we'd get past it all and I'd be able to end things with Adam and we'd be able to have a happy, relatively stable relationship together. I keep asking myself one thing, though."
"How could you ever love me the way you love her? You can't. I know you can't and you never will love anyone the way you love Buffy. It's one of those 'the one' things, you know?"
"You deserve to be happy, Faith. I know I never made you happy enough."
"You did," she said under her breath. "You did make me happy, Leah. You were the first one to ever break down my walls and show me for awhile there that being in a relationship is worth it."
"I was your test run," she chuckled as she walked over to Faith and gently grabbed onto both her hands. "I know what I was to you and I knew the whole time I could never be her no matter how much you wanted me to be. You talk in your sleep, you know that?"
"I do?" Faith looked puzzled and shocked, never having realized she did talk in her sleep. "What did I say?"
"You said her name. A lot. Cried it, moaned it. You always dreamt of her, didn't you?"
"You know who I dreamt of every night?"
"Who? Adam?" Faith asked, a sneer creeping over her lips when Leah quickly shook her head no.
"I dreamt of you while you laid there next to me dreaming of her."
Faith shrugged, not knowing what else to say. She didn't want to fight with her, argue and bitch and scream at her. It wasn't worth it. And for all the months they'd been together, the good times they had and good memories they made were worth keeping in her heart without being tainted by the most recent events that had unfolded. Despite how heartbroken she was, she wanted to end things on good terms with Leah. It was one of the things she and Angel had discussed months before; that no matter how bad things could get between two people, it wasn't worth leaving things on an angry, bitter note.
It was one of those things she'd tried with Buffy after the fall of Sunnydale. Whether it worked the way it should have or not, she wasn't so sure, but the dreams had started and they had started over, started fresh, in a way. She didn't want to lose any of the people she'd grown attached to, and Leah was one of those people despite the betrayal, the lies she'd spouted since the day they met.
"I don't expect you to want to stay friends after this...but I was kind of hoping we'd try," Leah said softly, breaking the heavy silence between them. "You are an amazing woman, Faith. I truly didn't deserve to be with you. I think I knew that from the start."
"What made you stick around?"
"Honestly?" Leah laughed softly as she shook her head. "The sex was amazing."
"That's a given," Faith chuckled. "I don't know about the friends thing right now, Leah. Still trying to absorb this whole fucked up situation, you know?"
"But it was more than that," Leah continued as she walked over to the bed and sat down while Faith lit another cigarette. "It was just the way you made me feel just by looking at me sometimes. It was like you didn't see anyone else but me. Shit, Faith. I'm really going to miss what we had together and it's my own goddamn fault for being so selfish and stupid!"
"Yeah, it is," Faith sighed softly as she turned to look out the window. "Where are you gonna stay?"
"With my parents for a while. I talked to them last night. My mother wanted to know why I would come out to her about you and turn around and drop this into her lap."
"What'd you tell her?"
"I didn't know what to say."
"That's a first," Faith joked, ducking out of the way as Leah chucked a pillow at her. "So, this is really it between us then?"
"I wish it wasn't, but I'm trying to do the right thing."
"I uh, stopped taking the injections this morning. I figured it'd be safer for the baby in the long run."
"Leah," Faith sighed as she tried to keep the bitterness down in her voice, "do me a favour and don't tell me anything about the baby, okay? I don't want to hear this shit."
"Sorry. I'll just go. I'll be around by Wednesday to get the rest of my things."
"Sounds good. I'll haul all your crap down from the attic."
"Thanks," Leah said with a forced smile as she picked up her suitcase and headed for the door. "Faith, I really am sorry things turned out this way for us. When you think about it, with the way you feel about Buffy, it never would have worked out for much longer with us. Not now that she's back in your life."
Faith said nothing more to her. She had nothing else to say to her. She watched as Leah opened the bedroom door and walked out, closing it softly behind her, yet to Faith it sounded like it was slammed, a good accompaniment to the way her heart was beating wildly in her chest. She waited for almost ten minutes before she walked out of the bedroom and found Dawn, Xander, and Buffy all sitting around in the kitchen.
She grabbed a cup of coffee and the Styrofoam container with the breakfast Xander had brought back for her and headed down towards the water. She needed to be alone for a little while and she always felt more relaxed out there on the beach watching the waves as they rolled in, one by one. It had become therapeutic for her ever since Angel had bought her the house and it was one thing she didn't want to have to ever leave behind. She couldn't even think about leaving, not now, not when her life was one big mess after another.
Her best option was to stay right there, work things out in her life and move on from Leah and their relationship. As the tears rolled down her cheeks, she knew she was in love with Leah, just a little, and there wasn't any way to go back and fix wherever they'd gone wrong because it wasn't anything to do with them. It was all Leah and the poor decisions and choices she'd made.
When she heard the back door slide open she didn't even turn to look to see who had come out of the house. She already knew who it was.
"Hey," Xander said softly as he sat down next to her. "Everything okay?"
"I know, kind of overheard you two. Hard not to."
"Great," she sighed out softly as she stared down into her coffee mug. "I feel so..."
"Yeah," she said with a forced laugh. "Heartbroken, too."
"She didn't deserve you, Faith."
"And who does?"
"Blond haired Slayer, sitting in your kitchen right now debating whether or not to come down here and talk to you."
"Yeah, right," she scoffed as she took a small sip of her coffee before finally turning to look over at him. "As much as I would love to be with Buffy, it's just not ever gonna happen."
"Just isn't, Xand. Life isn't a dream, and what me and B have in our dreams is never gonna be that way in reality. I'd be a damn fool if I even thought for a second it could be that way."
"You'd be a damn fool trying to convince yourself of that," he said with a sly smile. "I'm not saying jump into something with Buffy right away, I'm just saying maybe you should try and give things a chance. Declare your love for her. Don't just let her walk away later today without trying."
"Trying to do what exactly?"
"To make her see that she belongs with you."
"Since when are you all for the Buffy and Faith thing?" She asked, trying to hide the smirk that threatened to creep across her lips.
"Since always," he shrugged and then bumped his shoulder into hers. "You two just...I don't know. In some ways you two seem like you're made for each other and that you're meant to be together. I'm not the only one who sees it, either."
"Who else does?"
"Angel, even though he goes out of his way to not admit that," Xander smirked as he casually put his arm around her shoulders. "Dawn said something while we were out getting breakfast, how she'd never thought she'd see Buffy look so carefree and happy after being apart from all of us for so long. She said Buffy had told her about the dreams and she knows that a part of why Buffy is the way she is now is because of you."
"You aren't saying all this to try and convince me to come to Cleveland with you guys, are you?"
"I told you I'm staying here, Xand. My life is here right now and I don't want to just get up and leave. Not even for the chance to be with Buffy. I'm not ready for that right now."
"Right," he nodded. "Because of what you just went through with Leah, right?"
"Part of the reason."
"What's the other reasons?"
"I'm scared shitless," she chuckled softly. "I mean shit, wouldn't you be too?"
"Of what? Having a chance to be with Buffy? Hell yeah," he smiled at her and dropped his arm from around her shoulders. "I mean it is Buffy after all. I do know why you'd be so scared. She's kind of scary."
"It's all kind of scary, though, isn't it?"
"The way we all turned out," she shrugged as she opened the container and picked up a piece of bacon. "Did you ever think we'd all change so much in five years?"
"No," Xander replied as he stole a piece of toast and smirked at her. "You've changed the most, Faith. It's not scary. I think it is what they call growing up and maturing."
"I don't even..." she laughed as she trailed off for a moment and shook her head as she turned to look at him, "I don't even recognize myself anymore. I feel all over the place and at the same time I feel so grounded, you know?"
"Is that a bad thing?"
"I ask myself that a lot and never can come up with one solid answer."
"You know what I ask myself a lot lately?" Xander asked and before she could answer, he continued, "I ask myself how I ended up head over heels in love with Dawnie."
Faith laughed and slugged him in the shoulder as she shook her head at him. "I think it's the Summers women thing. You did have a hardcore crush on Buffy for like forever, didn't you? Maybe it was the whole thing with you not being able to have Buffy that made you see Dawn in a different light. Besides, Dawnie is all woman sized now."
"Well," he laughed nervously, "with Buffy it was different."
"Isn't it always when it comes to her?"
"Maybe. Guess it's like one of those mysteries we'll never figure out, huh?" He shrugged and looked back up at the house for a split second. "Dawnie isn't a second choice, if that's what you're thinking."
"I never said anything!" Faith said as she held up her hands in surrender. "I was just making an observation, you know?"
"You sure you don't want to come to Cleveland with us? Maybe give it a shot for about a month and if it doesn't feel right, you could always come back here."
"Why do you want me to come to Cleveland so bad, Xand?"
"Told you," he sighed as he stole a piece of bacon from the container, "we need a leader there."
"Probably won't want to do it," he finished for her. "She said she'd come back to Cleveland. She never said anything about going back to slaying or leading the girls there."
"I'm no leader," she replied. "Besides, I don't want to go back to that life. I like it here cos I can do my own thing and not fucking worry about the things that go bump in the night every single night. Sure, I go out on patrol every night just to be safe, or at least almost every night. I like this pace of life, Xander. If I had a choice I'd stop completely. I feel like I'm getting too old for this shit."
"You'd want to become an inactive?"
"No. I just want to stay doing what I've been doing the last five years."
She knew Xander well enough now to know that he wouldn't drop it as easily as she wanted him to. He could be quite relentless at times and as much as it drove her crazy, she also needed it. The stubborn side of her was determined to stick with what she knew was right, what she thought was right, but the rational side of her was telling her that Cleveland was probably her best option right now. She didn't want to leave California, though. This was her home now and she wanted it to be for quite some time. She didn't want to leave for other reasons too, and now with Leah having left her she didn't want it to look like she was running from everything.
Xander left her sitting there alone with her warm cup of coffee and her cold breakfast. As much as she wanted to be alone, she didn't want to be at the same time. Things with Leah were starting to bother her. She didn't want to start thinking about what had just happened and what Leah had told her. She still felt numb. She felt like she was suffocating and trapped in a nightmare she couldn't wake up from. All those doubts, those fears she had about Leah being unfaithful had been real. She did feel used. She felt...dirty, chewed up, and spit out like a bad piece of meat.
This was why she never wanted to do the whole relationship thing in the past. She'd always seen how things turned out and they weren't always full of happy, sappy, romantic endings. It made her think way back to her childhood when her mother, as drunk as she always was, told her that a happy relationship was something that only lived in fairytales and those crappy romantic novels she used to buy at the grocery store. Maybe her mother had been right. Maybe those idealistic and unrealistic fantasies she had every once in a while of that 'perfect' relationship would never happen.
Memories of her mother, her childhood in general, made her uneasy. She hated thinking about it, hated how at the moments when she felt her weakest she linked those feelings back to the ones she had when she was just a kid. It also made her think of the one time she talked to Angel about the worst, darkest parts of her childhood and he asked her why she said her mother was dead. In her mind, her mother was dead to her, when in reality she was probably still very much alive, hitting the bottle as hard as she had fifteen years ago when she had last seen her.
"You feel like some quiet company?" Buffy asked, startling her from her thoughts.
"Sure, I guess."
Buffy sat down next to her and let out a soft sigh. "Okay, so it's not going to be such quiet company, but I think we really need to talk, Faith."
"About what, exactly? Cos I am not in the fucking mood to talk about anything right now."
"Okay," Buffy said wearily as Faith turned to look at her for a moment before turning back to look out over the water. "I'll talk and you listen, how about that?"
"Whatever works for you," Faith replied with a shrug of her shoulders.
"I..." Buffy let out a sharp laugh as she shook her head. "God, I had this whole speech in my head and now I don't even know where to even start."
Faith smiled at her and shrugged. She wasn't going to press Buffy to say anything. If she wanted to talk, she'd figure out where to start. It made her curious, though, just what Buffy wanted to talk to her about. They had a lot of things to talk about. Five years and then some. They had talked a lot in their dreams, but out here it was different. Almost. There were a lot of things she wanted to say to Buffy, a lot of things she wanted to do with Buffy, but now wasn't the time.
"I keep wondering, and believe me I can't stop, just how different it'd be out of our dreams. A part of me knows it will be better, a different kind of better, but I...I don't know, Faith. I feel so confused even though I do know what I want right now."
"And what do you want?"
"I want you, for one thing," Buffy replied, blushing when Faith looked at her and raised an eyebrow as she smirked. "I want everything to be easy, but I know it won't. It's going to be nothing but complicated for us. It's not like we'll be living in the same town after today."
"No, but we've been however far apart for five years, what makes this different?"
"I don't know. God, I've never felt more confused and knowing what I want and not knowing how to take it. I...I know one thing for sure, Faith. I know how much I love you, and I know that I'm in love with you. I just...I need you to tell me that you are too."
Faith took a deep breath as she reached for Buffy's hand and gently intertwined their fingers. "You know how I feel about you, B. You know how in love I am with you. I showed you and told you every night. I thought for the longest time that maybe this was all just my imagination, but still hoping that maybe, you know, you were feeling the same thing and that you really were there with me."
"I was really there with you," Buffy whispered. "I was afraid for the longest time I was just imagining things."
They both laughed softly at that. Faith couldn't believe that things were just...normal between them. They still had a long way to go, she had a long way to go, before they could find a way just to be together. Buffy had a life to get back to and she had her own life to go on with. She let go of Buffy's hand and ran both of her hands through her hair. It was a nervous habit when she didn't know what to do or say in the moment. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Buffy fidgeting as she almost reached out for her.
"You know something, B? I keep wondering when the hell my life is gonna have one normal day. Shit, we aren't even on a Hellmouth and it's just as bad as it was back in Sunnydale."
"Some parts of it, yeah. I mean, look at how fucked up everything is with Leah. She's been fucking her boss since before we got together, she lied to me about being an inactive Slayer..."
"Long story, you'll be filled in once you get to Cleveland," Faith muttered under her breath. "But the point is, I keep getting thrown around every which way and life never fucking gets any easier. Like with you. All I want to do is be with you, but it's too soon. It's also too late."
"Too late? Faith, it's never too late."
"Five fucking years, B. Look," she sighed as she stared into Buffy's eyes for a moment, "I understand that you wanted to go off and do your own thing. That's all fine and fucking dandy. But you were selfish. You cut yourself off from the people that matter most in your life, or should anyway. Maybe it isn't too late, but it kind of feels like it is."
"I hate that you feel that way," Buffy frowned as she reached for Faith's hand, taking it quickly before she could pull away. "I really hate that you think that way. I know it's been five years. I kept thinking I'd be ready to come back, but then I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing. I had to figure out who I was. After Sunnydale, I felt like I didn't even know myself anymore."
Faith knew all too well about not knowing herself, or who she was, or what her actual purpose in life was besides being a Slayer. She was okay with not knowing that, Angel had made her see that it could take her years, hell, it could take the whole rest of her life to figure out just who she was. She was okay with not knowing herself completely; at least she was most of the time.
"There is too much to talk about between us to get into it today," Buffy said after a few minutes of silence between them. "We're leaving in a couple of hours."
"I wish you were coming back with us, but I know you can't just pack up and leave when you have a life here. Maybe one day?"
"You know I'll wait for you, right?"
"I don't expect you to," Faith said softly as she gently stroked her thumb over Buffy's.
"Faith," Buffy laughed softly as she moved a little cl0ser to her. "I haven't been with anyone in the last five years. I never wanted to be with anyone after those dreams started, either."
"I never expected you to hold out for me," she continued. "I still don't. I know that if you find someone else to be with, there's not a damn thing I can do about it."
"Buffy, listen," Faith sighed. "I'm not going to be with anyone else. After Leah, I just want to be alone for a little while."
"You can still invade my dreams," she said with a wink, fighting off that urge to lean in and kiss her. Wanting to do just that felt too natural, too right, but she couldn't. Not yet. "Definitely is the one thing I always look forward to."
"They are pretty nice dreams."
"They are fucking hot dreams."
Buffy blushed as she looked away from her for a moment. "They are pretty hot."
They sat there for nearly an hour, their fingers intertwined as they looked out over the water. There were the few glances and long gazes shared between them, soft smiles and the odd deep blush that crept over Buffy's cheeks that told Faith she was most likely thinking of their dreams they shared together. By the time Xander and Dawn were ready to leave for Buffy's apartment to get her things, Faith wasn't ready for her to go just yet. As alone as she knew she needed to be, she didn't want to be completely alone at the same time.
The goodbye was a little bittersweet. Buffy clung onto her for the longest time while Xander and Dawn waited for her in the cab. Faith just held onto her, trying to memorize the way Buffy's body felt moulded into her own in the tight embrace. When she felt Buffy's tears she pulled back and forced a smile at her as she reached up and gently brushed the tears away. She didn't stop herself when her lips met Buffy's in a tender kiss. Her heart was racing, her body aching for more, but she pulled away before it could go one step further.
"I'll see you," she whispered, giving Buffy one last hug as Dawn called out for her to hurry up.
"Yeah," Buffy nodded sadly as she wiped away the tears. "I don't even know why I'm crying."
"Me neither," Faith chuckled softly. "Better get going, meter is running and all."
"Tonight," Faith nodded, smiling at her as she slowly backed up to the stairs. Buffy flashed her a smile right back before turning to walk down the steps and head over to the cab. After one last look she got into the cab. "Tonight," Faith said to herself as she turned and went inside, unable to stand there and watch as they drove away. "Tonight and every night until I see you again."
Two months passed by slowly. Every minute that passed Faith felt. Every day that passed felt longer than the last. The more time that went on, the more she thought about her life, her relationship with Leah, her dreams with Buffy, and that tender kiss they'd shared before Buffy had left. It felt better than anything in their dreams, it felt real, and going back to their dreams after that had felt different. She saw her almost every night, their dreams becoming more passionate, more heated, with every one that came and went. And in those two months she'd sat and thought about what she was going to do when she wasn't dreaming and the answer always came up exactly the same.
She had no idea what she was going to do. A bigger part of her knew that staying there was the best thing she could do for herself. She'd just begun to move on from Leah, from the heartache she felt. She wanted to run to Buffy knowing Buffy's arms would be wide open and waiting for her, but it still felt too soon and too late.
Christmas was just around the corner and like every year, she'd spent her birthday, the day before, alone with a bottle of cheap whiskey. Angel had been the only one to call her to wish her a happy birthday. She felt a little down on herself, and then remembered that nobody else, not even Xander, knew when her birthday was. Nobody else knew she was just shy of a month older than Buffy either. It was one of those things she never felt comfortable telling anyone about, just like when it came to not talking about her childhood.
"Faith?" Angel called out as he let himself in the front door. The sun had set about two hours before and she lay sprawled out on the couch in the living room, a half empty bottle of whiskey gripped tightly in her hands as she fought off sleep.
"Hey," she mumbled as Angel walked into the living room. "What brings you here?"
"Came to see how you're doing. After yesterday's phone call I figured you could use some company tonight."
She shrugged as she managed to sit up on the couch and watched as Angel slipped off his coat and sat down next to her. "I'm not gonna off myself or anything if that's what you're thinking."
"Nah," he chuckled as he threw an arm around her shoulders. "You are too strong and you love life too much to get that far down the barrel again. Besides, you've got people in your life that would never let you harm yourself."
"Yeah, like who?"
"Myself, for one. Xander, Buffy, Dawn...shall I go on?"
Angel laughed as he took the bottle from her hands and placed it on the coffee table next to the ashtray that was overflowing with cigarette butts. "Anything on TV tonight?"
"Angel, I know you came to check up on me. You're here for another reason. Spit it out."
"I've gotten numerous of phone calls from Xander and Buffy, mostly Buffy. Have you purposely been ignoring them?"
"Took the phone off the hook a few days ago. Needed some peace and quiet."
"But you had it on yesterday."
"Only cos I knew you'd call," she smirked as she leaned forward and grabbed the bottle of whiskey. "Do you want a drink?"
"No," Angel replied with a shake of his head and look of disgust. "Anyway, the reason I'm actually here is to convince you to go to Cleveland..."
"Just for Christmas, Faith. Two weeks. You'll be back after New Years."
"And let me guess," she said and paused to take a swig from the bottle, "you are gonna pay for my flight out there and back?"
"Yeah. I am."
"And when do you expect me to leave?"
Angel looked over at the clock on the wall for a moment before looking back at her. "In about four hours, give or take. You might want to try and sober up and pack some clothes. Warm clothes."
"Dude, I know how cold Cleveland is in December," she scowled as she stood up quickly and nearly slammed the bottle down on the coffee table. "They sent you here, didn't they?"
"Buffy asked if I could get you on the plane tonight. After I spoke with her, Giles and I had a very long discussion about your...future placement."
"I'm not moving."
Faith stormed off to the bedroom and pulled out her duffel bag from the closet and began packing her warmest clothes. She was a little tipsy and despite her attitude, she was excited to go to Cleveland for Christmas. She didn't want to spend it alone, not like she liked to spend her birthdays alone.
"Faith, I should explain what Giles meant when he was talking about your future placement."
"Fine, whatever. Explain," Faith shrugged him off as she pulled out a couple of hoodies from the back of the closet and shoved them into the bag.
"Buffy wants to come back here. Giles wasn't sure whether she'd be on her own, if she'd come stay in LA for awhile, or if she'd come stay here with you."
"With me?" Faith asked as she turned to look at him. "You're kidding right?"
"We aren't even together, we're barely even friends. Why the hell would we want to live together?"
"Because you two are in love with each other and you are acting like you are scared shitless of even trying to take the first step," he replied as he walked over to the bed and sat down. "What are you so afraid of? You've moved on from Leah, haven't you?"
"I have. I think. Hurts less now than it did a couple weeks ago."
"But what are you afraid of, Faith?"
"I don't know! Everything!"
"It's rather funny, actually," Angel chuckled as he watched Faith begin to pace back and forth around the room. "I spent over two hours on the phone with Buffy last night and she was talking about how afraid she was of being with you. You know what she's afraid of the most?"
"That this is it. That this will be 'it'."
"It as in…what, exactly?"
"You know what I'm talking about," Angel said seriously. "It as in 'the one', soul mates, etcetera."
Faith stopped pacing and felt her whole body shaking slightly as she let those words sink in. She knew he was right. She'd been thinking that a lot over the past couple of months and as much as it scared her, she wanted it. She wanted Buffy. She wanted her to actually be there instead of just seeing her nearly every night in her dreams. She wanted to know what it really felt like to hold her, to fall asleep in her arms and wake up with her every morning. She wanted to spend the days with her, cook her breakfast and then a late dinner. She wanted to shower her with affection and love. She wanted everything she never had and she wanted it only to be with Buffy.
She began pacing again, stopping every couple of steps to try to collect her thoughts. No matter what she did, the only thing she could think of was Buffy, Buffy, Buffy. If she wasn't in love with her, she'd call herself obsessed, infatuated. She stopped pacing to look over at a smug looking Angel and thanked the Powers that Be that he couldn't read her mind.
"What?" Faith snapped at him as she backed up and leaned against the dresser. "Come on. Tell me what you're thinking right now."
He shrugged listlessly as he fought back the smirk. "Nervous, are you?" He asked as she lifted herself onto the dresser and crossed her arms over her chest, unimpressed with the way he was acting. "I think you are downright nervous about seeing her again."
"Why would I be nervous? I see her nearly every night in our dreams."
"Because it's different out here in the real world for you," he pointed out and smiled a little at her when she sighed in agreement. "You both deserve your shot at happiness and if it's together, then you two should make it happen. So what if you're scared, you are scared because you know this will be it. That she is the one."
"You honestly don't feel weird that we're talking about this?" She asked him and he quickly shook his head no. "And what happened to you telling me to give up hope that it'd ever happen between me and B?"
"She came back and then the thing with Leah, well," he chuckled softly and shook his head. "If I tell you I saw it coming with Leah, you won't be pissed at me, will you?"
"You kinda just did."
"I wanted to tell you about her," he said as he stood up and walked over to her, staring at her wearily as she picked up her stake and fingered the sharp edge. "I kept thinking I was wrong, that I wanted to find something wrong with her as much as you did."
"So, all that crap you spouted while I was with her was just crap then?"
"No. Not all of it anyway."
"You know," Faith sighed as she ran the tip of the stake over the dresser before tossing it aside, "this so isn't helping me feel less fucking conflicted about everything."
"Then tell me something. What is it that you really want more than anything, Faith?"
"And would you be willing to do anything for her?"
"Of course I..."
"Then give up on trying to do what you think is right and actually do the right thing."
"Which would be? Help me out here, Angel. Throw me a fucking bone here!"
"You know what I'm going to say."
"Cleveland," she stated, closing her eyes as she brought her fingers to her temples and began to rub them slowly, trying to ward off the headache she could feel building. "What the fuck am I gonna do in Cleveland?"
"Help out there, do your own thing, do Buffy perhaps?" He smirked and winced in pain as Faith slugged him hard in the shoulder. "Just think about it, Faith. You've been wallowing in self-pity here for the last two months and I know it isn't just because of what happened with Leah."
"I know. Fuck, Angel. Why do you gotta always be right about everything?"
"Because I'm wiser and a hell of a lot older than you?"
"So, Cleveland?" Faith shrugged as she leaned back against the mirror and looked over at him. "What about the house?"
"Vacation home. Somewhere to come and get away from those harsh winters. Nice little place to escape to and everyone needs a place like that."
"You aren't going to give me a choice, are you?"
"Buffy isn't going to give you a choice. Believe me, if I could give you a choice I would, but I sort of promised her I'd talk you into it since you won't talk to her now. Just go there for two weeks, spend Christmas with everyone and think about it."
"What about you?"
"I can handle things around here just fine. It's been nice having you around for backup; I can count on you. But you know they need all the help they can get in Cleveland right now and they need more than one leader there, too."
"More than one? They have a leader now?"
"Buffy kind of stepped into the role once she arrived there. She didn't tell you?"
"We don't talk shop in our dreams or the few times she's called me," Faith replied with a wiggle of her eyebrows, knowing how much it'd bother Angel with the images that gave him. "You gonna just sit there or are you gonna give me a hand at packing?"
Angel shrugged and helped her pack up a few more things before she went around the house unplugging everything and making sure all the windows and doors were locked. After a quick trip to store the weapons she had lying around the house in the wardrobe, she and Angel walked out of the house and down to his car. He drove just outside of town and came to a stop at the side of the road. Faith, half asleep, looked at him in confusion with heavy lidded eyes.
"I thought we were gonna go to the airport?"
"Willow express," he chuckled as he got out of the car and grabbed her bag out of the backseat. "I forgot to tell you, but she's perfected the teleporting spell. Unfortunately she's only able to do it from one location around here."
"And let me guess," Faith groaned as she stood outside the car and looked over at Angel, "it's right here, isn't it?"
Angel nodded as he took out his cell and sent a text quickly. He handed her bag to her and gave her an impish smile as he stepped back a couple of feet. She closed her eyes, having heard that teleporting was a rather trippy experience, and waited.
She hadn't expected to fall into a dream, and yet, there she was in the last place she and Buffy had been. On the beach with the sun shining and not a single cloud in the sky. This was where she felt happiest, free. She was there alone this time, but it didn't bother. Much.
She stretched out on the blanket, feeling the sun warm her skin. She wondered how the hell she landed in a dream in the middle of being teleported halfway across the country. Maybe she blacked out, maybe she hit her head when she landed and was unconscious. Whatever happened, she wasn't about to complain. The feeling of serenity that surrounded her was enough to keep her from asking herself too many questions she knew she just couldn't answer.
And just as quickly as she'd fallen into the dream, she could feel her body and her mind begin to wake up ever so slowly.
"Hey," Buffy smiled down at her as she ran her fingers over the obvious bump on her forehead. "How are you feeling?"
"I was...what happened?"
"You fell face first on the driveway when Willow teleported you here. I don't think she's perfected it as well as she likes to believe she has," Buffy chuckled as Faith sat up slowly and looked around the dark room. "You're on the couch in the living room."
"Nice," she groaned as she slowly sat up and ran her own hand over the bump on her forehead. "Great, that's gonna take a couple days to go down."
She couldn't take her eyes off of Buffy. Even in the darkness of the room, with the streetlight barely streaming in the big window, she had never seen her look more beautiful that she did in that moment. She didn't want to wait any longer to kiss her and she leaned in slowly, already feeling Buffy blush a little before their lips met. It was soft and sweet at first until Faith needed more. She pulled Buffy onto her lap, groaning softly when she quickly moved to straddle her legs. Buffy took the next step, deepening the kiss as Faith trailed her hands down her back slowly.
"I'm not dreaming still, am I?" Faith asked softly, her lips still against Buffy's as her hands wandered to the edge of her shirt. "Tell me I'm not still dreaming."
"You aren't dreaming," she whispered as she pulled back a little and smiled. "I'm so glad you are here, Faith. I was driving myself insane just wanting you here with me. The dreams just aren't enough anymore."
"I figure Angel has talked to you already?"
"Yeah," she smiled a little as she ran the tips of her fingers under the hem of Buffy's shirt, feeling the goose bumps form along her skin. "I'm gonna think about it, okay?"
"I won't pressure you," Buffy whispered as she leaned back in and kissed her lightly. "But I can't promise you I won't try to persuade you. I have two weeks."
"Two weeks to do what exactly?"
"Show you just what it'd be like if you stayed."
"And how are you planning to do that?" Faith asked, eyebrow raised, as Buffy ran her fingers over her jaw slowly. "B?"
"I'm gonna tie you to my bed," she chuckled as she leaned in for yet another kiss. "Then I'm going to show you what it feels like to be completely worshipped, head to toe. Then I'm going to show you what it feels like to be loved, fully and completely. Are you okay with that?"
"And if it's okay with you, I'd like to start tonight."
"Great," Faith breathed out sharply as Buffy trailed her right hand down across her chest, her fingers straying dangerously close to her already aching nipples. "Can we start right now? Just for the record, B, you don't need to tie me to your bed, although I do like a little bit of kink every now and then."
"There's just one thing," Buffy said as she dropped her hand, much to Faith's dismay. "I don't want to jump into this despite what my body is trying to tell me right now."
"What's it telling you?"
"It wants you to touch me, kiss me," she whispered and leaned in to run her tongue along the underside of her ear before continuing, "it wants your lips and tongue all over me and in me."
Faith moaned softly, feeling her own body react to her words and the visuals that came with them. She couldn't jump into it, they both couldn't. Buffy was right despite how much their bodies craved each other. For now all she wanted to do was continue kissing Buffy as she was quickly realizing just how much more addictive it was outside of their dreams. It still felt surreal to be sitting there with Buffy astride her, her lips and tongue possessing her as hands began to wander over and then under her shirt.
She wasn't sure how alone they were there in the living room. Over the rapid beating of her heart and the heavy breathing between the two of them, she couldn't hear anything else in the house. They had to have been alone since Buffy took things just one step further and unbuttoned her jeans, fumbling unsurely at first, and becoming more daring as Faith moaned into her mouth and manoeuvred them so Buffy lay on her back on the couch with Faith hovering slightly over her.
"This is you taking things slow?" Faith groaned, pulling back from the kiss as Buffy's fingers lingered just above her panties. "B?"
"This is me giving in to what I want," she whispered, her eyes staring intensely into Faith's as she ran her fingers over the waistband of her panties slowly. "Is that okay with you?"
"You...shouldn't we...upstairs?" Faith was at loss for words as Buffy slid her hand inside her panties, her fingernails scraping the skin gently as she inched downwards. "Buffy?"
"We're alone," she whispered against her lips and bit her own as her fingers dipped lower, barely touching her, yet able to feel the pool of wetness that gathered there because of her. "I'd take this upstairs, but they'll all be back in an hour and what I want to do with you will take much longer than an hour."
"So, you're settling on...fucking me right here?" Faith breathed out as Buffy's fingers slid ever so slowly over her already aching clit. It'd been far too long since she'd been touched by hands other than her own.
"I...fuck," she sighed out contently as Buffy slid a single solitary finger slowly inside of her. Not one to just receive, she held herself over Buffy with one hand and with the other she fumbled with the button on Buffy's jeans, skilfully managing to get them undone in just a few seconds.
Their lips met in a bruising, passionate kiss as Faith wasted no time in thrusting a finger deep inside of Buffy's hot, wet hole. She almost came just feeling her, feeling the heat coming from her, but she held it back, not wanting to come so soon. When she woke up that morning she never once thought that this was how her day would end up, at least not there in reality. She ignored the throbbing pain from the bump on her forehead as she rolled her hips in time to Buffy's thrusting finger, wanting to beg her for more, but feeling satisfied enough with just one slender finger fucking her exactly the way she liked it.
"Who knew those dreams would come in so handy," she murmured against Buffy's lips, not fully aware she was speaking her thoughts out loud. They both shared a soft laugh before Faith captured Buffy's lips with her own once again.
They didn't stop until they came together and Faith struggled to hold herself up over Buffy as she slipped her hand out from inside her panties, bringing her fingers to her lips as she parted from the kiss. With a rather lascivious grin, she licked Buffy's secretions off of her fingers, moaning in pleasure at finally being able to taste her.
"You taste so good," Faith whispered as she moved her hand back down slowly, coming to rest on Buffy's hip. "You sure we can't take this upstairs? There's plenty we can do in less than an hour."
"I want you naked, writhing beneath me, B. I want to taste every inch of you and feel you come against my tongue. After this, right here and now, I need all of you."
"I don't care if we're jumping into this cos honestly, B? If you do the math, dreams or not, we've been together for five fucking years. In my head, that means we got a lot of fucking to catch up on in real time. The dreams were purely amazing and it makes me wonder just how much more it'd be to have you for real."
"I'm...nervous," she whispered and it made Faith laugh. "Don't laugh, Faith! I mean, we just...you know, but the whole rest of everything, especially the naked parts, make me really nervous right now."
"Because aside from being with you that way in our dreams, I've never..."
"Babe," Faith smiled softly as she ran the tips of her fingers over Buffy's lips. "It's just like our dreams, only better. You just do whatever feels right, just like you did a couple minutes ago. Fuck, B. I haven't come that hard outside of our dreams in...shit, I can't even remember. I don't even think I've come that hard before with anyone and definitely not that quick either."
Buffy blushed deeply as she turned her head and looked away from her. Faith couldn't help but let a small laugh escape as she moved off of her and quickly buttoned up her jeans just as the front door opened. Buffy sat up quickly, eyes wide in shock as she fumbled to button up her own jeans.
"Shit, they said they wouldn't be back until after eleven!"
"Oh god, I look like I've just...oh god," she groaned as she got up from the couch and ran upstairs.
Faith smirked as she sat back down on the couch and laid back. It was definitely going to be a very interesting two weeks and she already knew that by the time it came for her to go back home she wouldn't want to leave. She just closed her eyes, feeling a sense of home wash over her all of a sudden. It wasn't because of what she'd just done with Buffy, it was just the feel of where she was and the familiar voices of those she hadn't seen in far too long. Even just hearing Dawn and Xander made her feel like this was where she belonged.
Where she should have been all along.
For two weeks she spent almost all her time with Buffy at her side. She felt like she was floating on cloud nine with every touch, every kiss, even with every look they shared between them. She had easily opened her heart completely to Buffy, finding it easier to do than she could have ever imagined it to be. Buffy had opened herself up to Faith too, and she knew that from this point on that they would have something real between them, something so strong that it wasn't going to be broken. Not even in death.
Yeah, she had it bad and she was in so deep, yet she loved that feeling instead of loathing it. She embraced the love she felt from Buffy and gave it right back to her. The comments from those around them never bothered either of them. Nothing could break that little happy bubble they'd planted themselves into.
She refused Willow's offer to teleport her back to California, not wanting to experience another mild concussion any time soon. Buffy offered to come back with her to help her pack up her things, but with an impending and still rather unknown apocalypse, Buffy needed to stay behind. The morning before her flight they spent the entire day cooped up in Buffy's room, their room, just holding one another, kissing one another, and whispering sweet nothings as they made love like it was the last time they'd see each other for months. In reality Faith would only be gone for three days, but in both their minds three days would feel like months after the last two weeks they'd spent together completely inseparable.
She stood in the middle of her living room and looked around at the boxes spread out over the floor and already packed. She had wasted no time in getting her things into the boxes she'd picked up on the way home from the airport. She was just waiting for Angel to come by before she caught the red eye flight back to Cleveland in the morning.
"Knock, knock," Angel said as he let himself in the front door. "Damn, so I'm guessing you called me here to tell me in person that you're moving out?"
"And to say goodbye, for now."
"Goodbye sounds too final, don't you think?" Angel said with a smile as he gave her a quick yet tight hug. "What made you decide to move there?"
"How'd she manage to do that?"
"You really have to ask me that?" Faith chuckled as she walked to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. "You want a beer?"
"Anything interesting happen in the last couple of weeks without me?"
"Define interesting," Angel replied as he leaned against the counter. Faith shrugged as she twisted off the beer cap and waited for him to continue. "Okay, well...I know you won't want to hear this, but I heard a little rumbling that the guy Leah was sleeping with, her boss...his fiancée refuses to leave him. She comes from money, so they've been trying to pay Leah to have an abortion even though it's much too late."
"She came to see me yesterday," Angel said softly as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Turns out she'd come by here looking for you. My guess? She wanted you to take her back. I told her you were in Cleveland spending Christmas with Buffy and her family."
"What'd she say?"
"She wanted to know if you and Buffy were together."
"And you told her...what exactly?"
"That you are with Buffy now."
"Good," Faith chuckled. "I don't know what I would have done if I was here when Leah came by. Probably would have done something stupid like allow myself to forgive her and take her back. I probably would have if Buffy hadn't come back when she did."
"You loved her, didn't you?"
"A little bit more than I'd like to admit, yeah," she nodded and took a sip of her beer, "I did love her. Hell, I even was a little bit in love with her. Is that even possible?"
"To be just a little bit in love? Sure."
"It'd never come close to what I feel for Buffy. There's just something so...right about the way I feel about Buffy despite our past. And yes, we did work through it and decided to leave our past where it belonged and focus on the now."
"What about the future?"
"Taking it one day at a time, Angel. Isn't that what you've been telling me for the past five years? Just take my life one day at a time and never worry about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow?"
"So, you were listening to me all those times?"
"I'm not as stubborn as I may appear to be."
"Sure you are," Angel chuckled as he walked over to the fridge and took out a beer. "Guess I could stick around and have a few with you. Who knows when we'll see each other next?"
"Probably every other weekend, but it'll vary depending on whatever current apocalypse decides to come along."
"Pesky apocalypses," Angel smirked as they raised their bottles and clinked the necks together. "Let me ask you something," he said as they headed out to sit out back. "You knew shortly after you got there that you were going to stay, didn't you?"
"Yeah. Just, I don't know how to explain it, but everything about it there felt like home. It didn't feel like that when I went there before, but I think I know why."
"Buffy wasn't there," Angel finished for her. "She's an amazing woman, Faith."
"You are too," he smiled as they sat down on the back steps together. "I feel like I've watched one of my own grow, mature, and finally find herself. I almost know what it's like to feel like a proud father right now. You know, without actually being a father."
"I know. I'm gonna miss you," she said as she fought back the tears. "I know what you're gonna say. You are just a phone call away, just like you've always been. Only difference is now I'm gonna be in a completely different time zone. Driving for an hour doesn't quite compare to sitting on a plane for…what was it, five hours?"
"Something like that. Why didn't you get Willow to teleport you back?"
"Funny story," Faith laughed as she rubbed her forehead. "Landed in the driveway when she brought me there. Face first. Passed the fuck out and woke up to Buffy right there looking down at me. Felt like one of our dreams, you know? A part of me is wondering if I am still dreaming, if maybe I'm in a coma again."
"But you aren't."
"I know that. It just feels so surreal."
"You're happy, that's why it feels surreal. And don't you dare feed me a line of bullshit and tell me that you don't deserve to have happiness because you do. You always have deserved it and you always will despite any of the mistakes you've made and will continue to make in your life."
She put her beer down on the counter and threw her arms around him. "Thanks, Angel. I feel like for everything you've done for me that I owe you my life."
"You don't owe me anything, Faith. The only thing I want is for you to just live your life happy and know what it's like to live it being loved by a wonderful woman. Do you ever wonder what made you who you are today?"
"You and learning how to have faith in yourself," he smiled as he pulled away from Faith's tight embrace. "I think a lot of it has to do with the dreams you've been having. You learned how to love that way. It all makes sense now when I think about it."
He was right. He was always right. She cursed silently, smiling widely at him as she grabbed her beer and took a sip.
In her dreams she'd found love and she also found herself. She'd been through many ups and downs in her life and it all led her to where she was now. Everything always came back to Buffy, too; she could see that now, and she was no longer going to fight it, nor would she deny it. What was the point? She knew the truth and it'd only taken her five years of being with Buffy nearly every night in her dreams to realize just what real love actually was.
And if what she felt was really was real, she knew it couldn't get any more real than it already was.
And if she was dreaming, she never wanted to wake up.