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by MyOsage


Rating: NC-17
Summary: A mystical death threat forces Buffy to extradite Faith from prison to Sunnydale and to put her life in the reluctant felon's hands. But after all they've been through, can Buffy forgive her and can she trust Faith to protect her?
Where are we? We're in my world. There are never any men-type romantic relationships for anyone except that one night long ago between Buffy and Angel. Buffy and Faith are naturally and purely F/F.

WARNING! This story contains explicit, consensual sex between women, sometimes. And romantic involvement between women, always. Because that's the way I like it. If this kind of thing is not to your liking, then go away. It's an astronomical Internet out there.

The Slayer will die when she turns 25
Only a Slayer can keep her alive

The sing-song melody resounded in her head like a demented children's rhyme.

The Slayer will die when she turns 25 Only a Slayer can keep her alive
The Slayer will die when she turns 25 Only a Slayer can keep her alive
The Slayer will die when she turns 25 Only a Slayer can keep her alive......

Buffy awoke with a start, sitting straight up in bed. Her heart was threatening to beat its way out of her chest. She'd been sweating and was now chilled. The same recurring dream had been plaguing her for three months now. An old woman sitting in a cemetery, rocking herself, singing that phrase over and over. The feeling of dread was getting stronger every time she heard the old woman chant. She got up and went downstairs.


Willow came into the living room as Buffy sat on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate.

"You had the nightmare again." She stated.

"Yeah." Buffy confirmed. "I don't know why it scares me so, Wil." The slayer was still visibly shaken. "I've been staring death in the eye for years."

Willow sat with her friend. "But the thought of having an actual predestined date with death has got to be disturbing at best." The witch put her hand on Buffy's shoulder. "I have all my connections working on it. Is there anything else I can do?"

"I'm going to be 25 in three months, Wil. There's really only one thing I can do."



"What do you mean she won't come out?" Buffy practically shouted into the phone at Angel.

Through the line, she could hear him sigh. "Buffy, Faith was offered parole last year and she refused it. She's going to do the same thing when it's offered again in two weeks. She wants to serve out her sentence."

"But she can't! I need her here!" Buffy hated hearing the desperation in her own voice. "I know you can arrange it, Angel. Wolfram and Hart have the resources to force the issue."

"I can't do that to her, Buffy." Angel pleaded. "She's changed so much. And she's worked so hard to get to where she is now." There was reluctance in Angel's voice as he added. "She'll think I betrayed her."

"Oh, I see. So you care more about what she thinks of you than if I live or die, is that it?"

There was silence on the other end of the phone line. Angel wanted to believe that there was some other choice then to send Faith back to Sunnydale. He was well aware that it was the last place on earth she wanted to be. "You've had no contact at all with her for five years, Buffy. You have no idea who she is anymore."

"I know that she's a slayer." Buffy replied sharply. "And that she has a responsibility. If not to me, then to her calling." Her voice softened slightly. "Do it, Angel. You know I wouldn't ask if there was any other way."

Sitting in her cell, Faith finished the latest textbook Fred had sent her. She was constantly amazed at the wealth of knowledge that was out there. When she'd first arrived in prison, all she could do to pass the time was think. Sometimes that was a good thing. More often, it was not. So she'd asked Fred to send her some books to read. Always a comic book fan, Faith had not read much of anything else. But Fred sent her fascinating books full of adventure and mystery. She eventually sent over books on science and philosophy. She even included instructional books on things like computers and the Harleys that Faith loved so much. Soon Faith was addicted. For the first time in her life, she set aside her hands-on approach to life and began to enrich her mind.

After she'd been behind bars for a year, Faith had decided to try to make amends for her horrid behavior to people who had been initially kind. Using the supplies that Fred had sent, she wrote Tara a letter. She was hoping that since she had caused the gentle witch the least harm, that she might be the most willing to accept her apology. Tara had indeed responded favorably. And Faith continued down the line, writing to Willow, Xander, Giles, Wesley, and Cordelia. Heartfelt, if not eloquent, letters of remorse. Now after serving five years of her seven year sentence, she'd made peace on some level with all of them; though she only remained close to Tara, Willow, Fred and Angel.

One person she'd never attempted to communicate with was Buffy. She remembered quite clearly the slayer's threat to beat her to death should she ever apologize. She figured that Buffy was happier hating her for all eternity. And though it hurt, she let it be. Only at night, when the prison was dark and she was alone in her cell did she allow her passion for Buffy to run rampant. Then, like a vampire at dawn, Faith's emotions would be hidden away from the waking world. And of course, the ultimate punishment was that even though the slayer was miles away, Faith could still feel her. Just knowing that Buffy was in this world was the only real comfort Faith was sure Buffy would ever allow her.

But if one Summers woman wouldn't acknowledge her, another one did. The correspondence that had most surprised her were the letters Dawn had covertly written. Faith didn't really know the teenager well. She'd already been incarcerated when Dawn arrived. So her infused memories were sketchy at best. But the kid knew who she was. Dawn hung on every word that Willow and Tara uttered concerning Faith. She was intrigued by the mysterious woman whom her friends were clearly fond of, but her sister never mentioned. Curiosity had motivated her at first. But Faith's personality and irreverent humor made for a fast friendship between the repentant criminal and the impressionable teen.
Another surprise aspect of Faith was her financial portfolio. Two years into her sentence, she was stunned when a lawyer for the late Mayor's estate contacted her. Though Faith knew that the Mayor had millions invested in evil ventures and under the table dealings, he had apparently made an exception. He had one legitimate account in an honest and upstanding bank. Everything had been done down to the letter of the law, taxes paid and loophole free. It was a trust fund in Faith's name for one million dollars.

When the shock wore off, Faith had laughed at the irony of it all. The Mayor had gone to great length to take care of her. But through her own doing, she was in the one place where such a large inheritance was useless. Her needs were few, but the Mayor had always tried to make her happy. Odd sonofabitch.

So the money remained untouched. Faith read everything she could get her hands on. And she schooled herself as much as daylight hours would allow. The gradual change in her was evident to anyone who knew her.



"You wanted to see me, Warden?" Faith asked as she opened the door to the warden's office.

"Yes, Faith. Please come in."

As the brunette sat down, the warden marveled, as she often had, at the complete change in the inmate in front of her. Faith had arrived sullen, depressed and prone to sudden fits of violence. But during her five-year confinement, she'd totally transformed herself. She was a model prisoner with no trace of the anxiety that she'd arrived with. She had gotten her GED and was at work earning a college degree. Though she didn't fight anymore, there was less violence and abuse amongst the inmates whenever Faith was around. She had earned the respect of both the guards and the prisoners. Normally, what the prison official was about to say would be a good thing. But the warden knew that serving out her sentence for involuntary manslaughter was important to Faith. So she felt that her news was not going to be well received.

"Your parole hearing is Monday."

Yes, Ma'am, I know." Faith replied. "I'm going to turn it down again."

The warden sighed. "I'm afraid that won't be possible this time, Faith."


There was no easy way to say this. "A court order has been issued transferring you to Sunnydale for a six month probationary period. You're being remanded into the custody of one Buffy Summers."

"What?!" Faith stood up abruptly. "You can't do that!"

"It's over my head, Faith. And yes they can." The warden was distressed to see Faith almost as agitated as she'd been on the day she arrived. "I'm sorry."

Faith sat down again. She knew that the warden was not at fault here. The prison official had always been supportive and fair to her. She concentrated on the techniques she'd learned to control her temper.

"You'll be leaving Saturday."

Faith merely nodded and stood to go. "You can do this, Faith. You've come so far." The warden's last comment stopped her. "Don't let these next six months derail you for the rest of your life."

Faith had no response. Going back to the slayer who hated her and back to a place where she'd hated herself had to be a bad thing. It was not what she'd envisioned once she was free. She was different now. And she had a chance to make something of herself. But if Buffy became a part of her life again, she just knew she was bound to fail.


Buffy was leaning against her car when the prison gate opened. She righted herself as the brunette emerged from the secured grounds. She hadn't seen Faith in five years. The felon was dressed in jeans and a white tank top and carried a small duffel bag. She was just as striking as she'd always been. Lean and curvaceous, with only her paleness to indicate the years she'd spent incarcerated. She met Faith halfway across the parking lot.

Faith walked up to the slayer and stopped. She had always loved seeing the gorgeous blonde bathed in sunlight. It radiated off the highlights in her hair, made her skin glow and her eyes sparkle. But Faith had learned well how to hide her feelings for Buffy. On the surface, Faith was impassive.

Buffy searched the dark eyes for some clue as to what Faith was feeling. The slayer knew that at one time Faith had been fiercely devoted to her and then had hated her with equal intensity. Looking into the dark eyes, Buffy couldn't detect any emotion. It was as if Faith felt nothing at all. For all the scenarios Buffy had envisioned in her mind, Faith's apathy was not one she had anticipated or was prepared for. Her anxiety over the last few months, her extreme reluctance to be here at all, and Faith's unresponsiveness, made her angry. She reacted poorly.

Buffy hit her.

Anyone else would have been floored by the punch. Faith dropped her duffel bag, but didn't go down.

"Hey!" The guard at the gate shouted at Buffy as he started toward them.

"It's ok, John." Faith held out a hand to stop him and then turned back to Buffy. "I'll give you that one, B." She said calmly. "But it's the last free one you'll get."

Picking up her bag, Faith walked past the slayer toward Buffy's car.

They didn't speak at all on the way to Sunnydale. When they arrived ninety minutes later, the bruise under Faith's left eye was quite vivid. Tara and Willow came out of the house to meet them as Faith emerged from the car. Tara looked at Faith briefly before pulling her into a hug. Willow followed suit as soon as Tara released her. Neither witch questioned the black eye, nor did Faith offer any explanation. But they gave Buffy a furtive look as she slammed the car door shut. Looking up at the porch, Faith saw Dawn standing there tentatively. "Hey, Squirt." She called to her affectionately. "How're ya?" The young woman gave the infamous and stunning bad girl a big smile. "Hi, Faith."

Buffy avoided the accusation in the eyes of her friends as she got Faith's bag out of the car. She passed them and went into the house, down to the basement room and dropped the duffel onto the bed. When she turned, she was surprised to find Faith standing at the base of the stairs. When had she lost her ability to detect Faith's presence? She realized then that the woman standing in front of her was a complete stranger. Angel had been right about one thing. She didn't know Faith at all.

"Look, I'm sor…."


Buffy stared at Faith. "What?"

Faith sighed. "Don't lie, B. It doesn't suit you." She circled around Buffy and sat on the bed. "Now, you arranged for me to be here for six months. And you'd have to have a pretty desperate reason to do that." When Buffy didn't answer, she continued. "Wanna tell me why I'm here? Cuz I know it's not because you're dying to be my parole officer."

Buffy crossed the room in what would be the start of nervous pacing. "I've been having a premonition for the last four months." Buffy glanced at Faith to see if she was going to make fun of her. But Faith's face remained expressionless. "It's about an old woman in a cemetery telling me that I'm going to die when I turn 25." When Faith said nothing, Buffy continued. "She says that only a slayer can prevent my death."

"That's it?" Faith asked incredulously. "You have a bad dream about dying and my ass gets drug back to Sunnydale?"

"It's more than a bad dream, dammit!" Buffy argued. "This is different. Even the psychic in Willow and Tara's coven has seen it." Buffy struggled for a way to make Faith understand. "It makes it more real somehow." Still seeing skepticism in Faith's eyes, she added. "Believe me, if there was any other way to fight this thing…... Having you here doesn't exactly thrill me either, ya know."

Faith studied Buffy for a moment. "You don't think I'll protect you, do you?"

Buffy tried again to find a flicker of emotion in Faith's eyes. "If I didn't think you'd protect me, you wouldn't be here."



The first week passed with subtle animosity between the parolee and her guardian. Or on a different day, between the target and her protector.  Faith did try not to further antagonize the irritated slayer. In all the time she'd known Buffy, she had never seen her so stressed or freaked out. Since she was stuck here, Faith decided she would at least try to help out. Buffy was at the dining room table one evening trying to figure out a way to make ends meet. There were still outstanding bills from her mother's illness. And because of intermittent employment on her part, there was just never as much money coming in as was going out. Faith came in and laid three hundred-dollar bills on the table.

"What's this?" Buffy asked.

"Room and board." Faith shrugged. "I'd have to pay rent somewhere, no matter where I was."

Though Faith's words were not intended to sting Buffy, it upset her to think that Faith could indeed be anywhere else if not for her. Damn if Faith couldn't still piss her off without even meaning to.

"Give it to Willow." She answered coldly. "She takes care of the daily accounts."

Faith was about to make a retort, but thought better of it. As she picked up the cash and left, Buffy put her face in her hands. Somehow she had to find a way to let the past go. Faith was here to help her whether she wanted to be or not. She believed that Faith might actually have loved her once. But then Faith had hurt her terribly. And while Buffy had held on to her misery and pain, Faith had gone and put the past behind her. And she had changed into a better person. ‘I've just got to let it go.'

During week two, Faith surreptitiously took note of all the bills that were pending for the Summers' household. Two mortgages, three outstanding loans and numerous credit debts. She carefully copied account numbers and addresses for the financial institutions. Then one by one she contacted the businesses and settled all the accounts.

By the end of Faith's first month in Sunnydale, Buffy started to receive "paid in full" notices on the bills that had been worrying her so. Mortgages paid with the deeds released, loans forgiven and credit accounts completely cleared. Buffy had no idea what had happened and made inquiries to her creditors. But none of them were forthcoming as to how or why her debts had been dismissed.


Faith was lying on her bed reading when Willow came down the basement stairs.

"Are you going to tell her or shall I?" She asked, folding her arms over her chest.

Faith didn't look at her. "She doesn't need to know, Wil. Besides, what difference would it make?"

"Ok, then I'll tell her." The Wiccan turned and started back up the stairs.

Faith dropped her book and jumped off the bed. "No!" Then in a softer voice Faith implored her. "Please, Wil. B's got enough on her mind thinkin' she's gonna die in month. And even though I'm here to prevent it, I can't make her feel any better about that." Faith's eyes pleaded with her friend. "Just let me do this one thing for her. Please….."

"All right." Willow relented. "But you have to promise me that you'll tell her when this is all over."

"I will." Faith promised.



Gradually Buffy and Faith seem to arrive at some kind of understanding. Faith knew that she would be gone in five months. And Buffy began to believe that if Faith just stayed with her until she turned 25, then she would be free as well. They both started to try to not get on each other's nerves. Not an easy task as they spent a good portion of every day together. They trained, patrolled, and ate practically all their meals together. Most of their free time was spent with Willow, Tara and Dawn. If Buffy had been her usual observant self, she would have noticed that despite her death date being a month away, Faith was vigilant in her task to protect her. She was ever watchful and constantly alert for any danger that might befall Buffy. Willow and Tara were aware of Faith's acute attention to everything that happened around Buffy. Even Dawn noticed that Faith constantly watched out for her sister. She was slightly jealous, but more annoyed that Buffy wasn't friendlier toward the woman she had grown to admire so.

But Buffy did try to find out more about Faith. She learned from Willow everything Faith had accomplished while she was in prison. Now that she was a self taught high school graduate and college student, there was seemingly nothing Faith didn't know something about. Well read in a variety of subjects ranging from Shakespeare to auto mechanics, Buffy was amazed at how bright her bodyguard was. She was ashamed to admit that while she had not thought of Faith as stupid, she had at least thought her ignorant. She had conveniently forgotten that Faith had been afforded little opportunity to be anything else.

Three weeks before her birthday, Buffy tried in vain to start her car. It had been increasingly harder to start these past mornings. As the engine refused to catch, Buffy pounded her fists against the steering wheel in frustration.

"Sounds like you need a tune up." Buffy jumped at the sound of Faith's voice at her window. "I can fix that if ya want."

"You can?" The slayer asked in surprise.

Yeah, I can." Faith opened Buffy's door. "Why don't you catch a ride with Red and I'll have it running when you get back."



When Willow and Buffy returned a few hours later, Faith was on the couch watching cartoons with Dawn. Faith got up and tossed Buffy her car keys.

"Purrs like a new lover."

"Lovers don't purr." Buffy replied stubbornly.

"Mine do." Faith whispered to her as she walked out of the room.


That night while they were patrolling, Faith turned to Buffy and asked. "Why does this whole premonition thing have you so freaked, B?" Of all the emotions she'd seen Buffy experience over the years, fear had not been one of them. "I mean, you fight vampires and demons everyday. No offense, but any night might be your last."

Buffy thought for a moment. "There's something terrifying in knowing that there is a set time and place where you're going to cease to exist." She smiled at Faith. "I guess at least living on the Hellmouth, I'm usually surprised."

"Well, you got a point there, B." Faith confirmed with a smile of her own. "Life here is certainly full of surprises."



Almost two months after Faith had returned, Buffy was sitting at the dining room table as Dawn came in and got her jacket. Faith had acquired a used Harley and she had offered to take Dawn out on it. Suddenly Buffy got a tingling sensation in the back of her neck. A few moments later, Faith walked into the room. "Hey, Squirt. Ya ready for that ride?" Turning to Buffy, she added. "We'll be back in an hour."

As Dawn left and Faith turned to follow her, Buffy said. "I can feel you."


"Our connection," she clarified, "I can sense you again." She watched Faith for a reaction. "Can you feel me too?"

Faith smiled softly. "I never stopped feeling you, B."


That evening when dinner was almost ready, Buffy descended the basement stairs to get Faith. She knew that her bodyguard had a workout regimen that put hers to shame. When she got to the bottom of the stairs, she watched Faith going through the last part of her routine. The brunette was working over the heavy bag. Her punches were crisp and sharp, her kicks clean and precise. Each blow designed to be brutal and deadly. Buffy had noticed that Faith's fighting was much more disciplined now than it had ever been before. She also became acutely aware of how Faith's body moved in the tight shorts and the sweat dampened tank top that clung to her upper body. When Faith finished, she leaned down and braced her hands on her thighs. Still breathing hard, she looked up at Buffy.

"If you keep working this hard, I'm going to have to enter you in the Olympics." Buffy teased.

"I just wanna be ready, B." Faith answered seriously through labored breath. She straightened up as the slayer approached her.

"You are." Buffy reassured her. "I've never seen you more focused, or more powerful, or more beautiful…..."

Faith raised her eyebrows in mild surprise.

"Well now." Buffy knew she was blushing "That was a bit more than I meant to say." Unable to resist Faith's growing grin, she smiled in return, taking her verbal slip good-naturedly. "And by the way, dinner's ready."



A week before her birthday, Willow and Tara wanted to take Buffy to the Bronze. The witches decided that Buffy needed a break from the pressure she'd been under. And with one week to go, Faith went wherever Buffy went. The slayer had grown accustomed to Faith being by her side. It didn't seem much of a stretch for them to dance and have a few drinks together. The night was more relaxing for Buffy than she would have expected. The music was good, the company was great. When Buffy went to the bar to get a last round of drinks, Faith followed. She was standing behind Buffy when an inebriated man hit on her.

"Hey baby." He slurred, looking Faith up and down. "You look like you need something I got."

Faith barely glanced at the drunk. "No thanks, I got everything I need right here."

Buffy turned to Faith when she heard her comment. The man noticed the pretty blonde and jumped to a conclusion made of his own fantasy. "Oh, I get it… girl on girl…" He pressed on dangerously as another thought occurred to him. "Hey, can I watch you two fuck?"

The poor slob never saw the punch that set him down on the floor. Faith could have put a serious hurt on the guy. But she hit him only hard enough to get his undivided attention. She looked down at him with disdain.

"When we fuck, nobody gets to watch."

Dropping some bills on the bar, Faith gathered their drinks and turned back toward their table. Buffy just stared after her. When Faith noticed Buffy's stupor, she grinned and asked, "Comin', B?"

The slayer felt flushed as she stepped around the man and followed Faith to their table. The rest of the evening was uneventful. But that night in her bed, Buffy couldn't get Faith's comment out of her mind. She kept hearing Faith say "when we fuck" in her head. It almost sounded like another premonition. With that preferable thought soothing her, she fell asleep.

The Slayer will die…

Buffy tossed and turned, crying out softly in her sleep as she heard the wicked chant in her head for the first time since Faith had arrived. Before she could fully awaken, Faith burst through her door. As Buffy sat up, she was engulfed in strong arms. Faith held her tight and rocked her gently. "It's ok, B." She caressed the agitated slayer. "I'm here. Nothin's gonna happen, B. I promise." Buffy wrapped her arms around Faith, calming considerably. Faith continued comforting her. "There's no way I'll ever let anything hurt you again."


In the hours before Buffy was to turn 25, Willow debated with the slayer about leaving the house.

"Why would you want to be in a cemetery patrolling at midnight?" The worried Wiccan asked. "You could stay here where we can all look out for you. Or we can go with you."

"I can't explain it, Wil. I'd just feel better if whatever it is doesn't happen here." Buffy answered. "And I need for you and Tara to stay and watch out for Dawn."

"Willow." Tara put a gentle hand on her apprehensive lover. "Buffy will have the only protection she'll need tonight." Both witches looked at Faith. Buffy looked over at her as well. "She'll have Faith."

Buffy and Faith arrived at the town's main cemetery. They walked the quiet lanes that ran between the gravesites. The night was still warm and the sky looked flooded with stars. If not for the ominous premonition possibly coming true soon, it might have just as easily been a nice night for a date.

Buffy could feel Faith's tension increase as the minutes ticked ever closer to midnight. Yet she herself felt oddly calm. Anything was preferable to the anxious months of waiting she'd had to endure. Turning to look at her bodyguard, she sighed in relief. She trusted Faith.

In the distance, both women heard a church tower toll the bells signifying midnight. Buffy had just turned 25 years old. Faith scanned every direction, trying to see past the darkness for any sudden attack. She listened to every sound, used all her senses to detect anything unnatural or unusual.


They waited for several minutes after the bells stopped chiming.

Still nothing.

With Faith in full alert mode, they walked the warm night for over an hour. Buffy had called Willow to report the extreme non-activity. Another hour passed before they decided to return home. Faith was still in more-than-moderate alert mode. Buffy put her hand on Faith's arm. "I think you can relax now." She said. "Seems my big strong bodyguard must have scared off whatever it was." Faith visibly loosened up a little, but still kept a watchful eye on their surroundings.

When they got home, both witches and Dawn were thrilled that the premonition had either been false, or thwarted by Faith's presence. They didn't care either way as long as Buffy was safe. Now that the imminent danger had passed, Buffy suddenly found that she was very tired. Excusing herself, she headed up the stairs. When Faith followed right behind her, she asked. "What are you doing?"

"I'm not leaving you." Faith insisted. "Not until I'm sure that nothin's gonna happen."

"I just need a shower and some sleep."

"Go ahead." Faith gave her a mischievous smile. "I don't mind."

Faith did let Buffy shower alone. But she stayed right outside the bathroom door insisting that it be left partially open. Every now and then she'd glance at the steamed up mirror reflecting Buffy's enticing form behind the shaded shower door. As the water stopped, she forced herself to look away as Buffy stepped out to dry off. In her mind, Faith envisioned herself waiting with a towel to wrap around Buffy's body. Her imaginings let her sensuously pat Buffy dry and then use her tongue to catch any errant drops of water that remained on Buffy skin.


Faith jumped as Buffy's voice broke her reverie. The slayer was standing there dressed in a tank top and thin sweatpants. "Are you sure you don't want to go to bed? I really think I'll be fine."

"No, it's ok, B." Faith smiled, hoping Buffy couldn't sense her wanton desires. "I'm good."

As Buffy settled into bed, Faith sat in a chair across the room. It took only moments for the exhausted and relieved slayer to fall into a deep sleep. She was more at peace than she'd been in months.

Faith stood up and walked over to the bed. She looked down at the beauty she would have given her life for tonight. ‘Hell,' she thought. ‘I'd give my life for her any night.'



When Buffy awoke the next morning, she found Faith asleep in a chair that she'd pulled up close to the bed. Her arms were folded over her chest and there were faint dark circles under her eyes. Buffy guessed that Faith had probably been awake until dawn watching over her. She leaned over and lightly kissed Faith's forehead. Despite the uneventful night, she was certain that somehow Faith had been the difference between the premonition coming true today or not. She was finally free to celebrate being twenty-five years old.


That night there was a party at the Summers' home for friends to celebrate Buffy being a twenty-five year old as well. The old Scoobie gang came, as did the group from Angel Inc. Some of Dawn's friends, and witches from Willow and Tara's Wicca group rounded out the guest list. It was a nice blend of new and old friends, good food and music. Buffy was relaxed and happy. Though a little more reserved, Faith seemed to enjoy the festivities that centered on the guest of honor. Faith wasn't obvious about watching Buffy, but the slayer could feel her close all night.

Close to midnight, when the last of the revelers had left, Buffy realized that she hadn't actually seen Faith for a while. Following her senses, Buffy found Faith out on the back porch sitting on the steps. "There you are."

 "Hey." Faith answered.

"What're you doing out here?"

"Just needed a little air." Faith smiled as Buffy sat down on the step above her. "Did you have a good birthday?"

"The best." Buffy said. Faith handed her a long wrapped package. "What's this?"

"Your birthday gift." Faith answered.

"But you're my birthday gift." Buffy eyes grew wide when she realized how the comment could be taken. "I mean, you being here protecting me is a gift…."

"I know what you meant." Faith said, laughing at Buffy's discomfort. "Open it."

Buffy tore off the wrapping and opened a long, slender gift box. Inside, nestled in red tissue paper, was a beautifully carved stake made of polished oak. It was intricately carved with moons, stars, good luck charms and blessed Wiccan symbols. Buffy picked it up. It was perfectly balanced and the carvings also served to increase the user's grip. The business end of it was sharply refined. The slayer looked down at Faith. "It's beautiful. Thank you."

Before Faith could explain anything about the ornate weapon she'd had made, Buffy leaned down and kissed her. It was meant as a gesture of appreciation. But as she pulled away, Faith reached up, put her hand behind Buffy's neck and brought her back down. She kissed Buffy with more than friendly intent, though it was still soft and sensual. All the nerves in Buffy's body came alive at the connection; with a special tingling between her legs. She couldn't help but moan as Faith increased the pressure and slipped the tip of her tongue up against Buffy's lips. With one hand bracing herself on the step, she opened her mouth and let Faith explore her. Without even realizing it, her other hand came up and cupped Faith's left breast. Buffy suddenly broke off the kiss and stared at Faith. She could hear Faith's increased breathing and see the hunger in her eyes. She looked down to where her hand was still fondling Faith's breast, seemingly of its own accord. She left her hand where it was and searched the dark eyes again. "Do you want to?"

"Only since the day I met you."

Buffy pulled Faith up and they went through the kitchen where Tara was cleaning up. The witch looked up in surprise as Buffy led Faith down the basement stairs without a word. After they had disappeared behind closed doors, Willow came into the kitchen. "Have you seen Buffy?"

"She just went downstairs with Faith." Tara answered. "And from the sexual energy they were emitting, I don't think they're going to play cards."

Willow laughed. "Well, after dancing around each other all these years, it's about time."



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