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Chapter Twelve

I pull up to the curb and sigh heavily. Giles has lost his fuckin' mind. Buffy wants ta fight the good fight. Xander just helped us kill a bunch of guys without blinking. An' oh yeah. I let Buffy bite me. Not just bite. I fuckin' let her have me. All of me. Never thought I'd ever let it go that far but I should have expected it. I haven't been able to say no to Buffy since the moment I found her dead in the burnt out ruins of the safe house. Plus. If I really wanna be honest I'd remember that I wanted it. I wanted her to want it. So much is happenin' that I'm not sure what's up and what's down.

What I do know is that Ama an' Danni should have a heads up. This was their town long before me an' B laid claim to it. All my wolfy senses kick in to alert as I get closer. It's a warning, lettin' me know others are close by. Other wolves. A curl of wicked hot licks up my chest from my gut an' I rumble out a warning growl of my own. Shapes move in the shadows of the porch and the light of a flame catches my eye. Ama lights her long pipe with a match before shakin' it out an' takin' a long puff. "Thought you might be around soon, Faithless."

Yeah. The old bat knows everything. My head drops, takin' my eyes off her in a gesture of submissiveness. It happened without my control but I'm goin' with it 'cause I don't think these big guys are just sitting here for the iced tea. I think they're her enforcers. "Yah hadda know I'd be back to settle the debt."

Just 'cause they did me a favor doesn't mean I don't owe them. They did a lot for me an' Buffy even if they don't realize it. Or didn't really wanna. "Thought I told you there can be no debt between us. This is bigger than your pain. Or hers."

Yeah. I get that. I get that on the list of importance what we want falls pretty low. But I wanna make this right between us because it's gonna get bad before it gets good again. If it was ever good ta begin with. I nod my head an' tuck my hands in to the back pockets of my jeans. I wanna be as unthreatening here as possible. "A storm is coming."

She looks up at the sky with sightless eyes and nods right back at me. "So it begins." Yeah. It's startin'. "Tell me."

I guess that's the cue to show I'm okay because the werewolves to either side of her break stance and move inside the house. I take a spot to her left an' stare out at the street wonderin' if Xander and Buffy got those bodies taken care of. Xander. What the fuck am I gonna do about him? "The Watcher thinks this is a Hellmouth. He's going to send an army to close it." That's the short version. We don't have time for the long version. She nods her head a few times at my words as if she already knew it all.

"An army of enraged Slayers out for blood vengeance. For their leader. That's no good, girl. No good at all."

Yeah. I give a grunt and reach in my pocket for a cigarette. I light it, noting that the flame is a little unsteady in my grip. Must be the blood loss. "Might be good for the pack ta lay low. Let it happen between us." I know it's dangerous tellin' an Alpha what to do with her pack but she shouldn't be involved in any of this. None of them should have been. But I was too fuckin' selfish to see that before. I put everyone in danger.

Ama's throaty laugh makes me swing my head in a low arc to look at around my shoulder. Fuck. "And what do you think will happen to this city if we do?" Nothin' good that's for damn sure. Ash drops from my clove an' I watch it drift to the creaking wooden deck. "What does the demon think of this all?"

"She's not so happy with the turn of events." It means facing some things I'm not sure either of us is prepared for. Not really. What's gonna happen if she sees any of the Scoobs? What's gonna happen if any of them see her? Or Xander for that matter. Is he gonna pick our side for real or is he gonna go back to Team Giles? "B always was a lil bossy. She's gonna see this through to the end." We both are.

The old wolf nods her head once and puffs contentedly on her pipe. "She's fed on you." My breath hitches in my chest but I don't say anything about it. It's not a question. "That changes things you know." Kinda thought it might. Just wasn't sure about that. "There are things that vampires don't understand. No soul, no compromise." But Buffy's got a soul. At least a part of one. "It's true some of them take human lovers from time to time but it never lasts long. It never means much more than convenience."

"What's all that mean for me?"

She raises her shoulders in a mocking shrug that just pisses me off. "It means that you belong to her now. You took her as your responsibility and she took you as her own." Yeah. But I'm not the only one. "There's more, no?" I nod my head slowly at that.

"There's a girl…Denna…" Ama doesn't so much as skip a beat on that one.

"Ah. The Lady." The oldest thing on two legs in this town. Probably this fuckin' state. "She's bonded to the girl?" I give a slight nod at that too. Not that I mind 'cause I've been friendly with Denna for awhile. Plus. The sex, the blood they share it's not the same. It means somethin'. 'Cause it'd never be that casual for Buffy. Vampire or not. But it doesn't mean what it means with me. At the end of the fuckin' night it's me that's B's number one. Everyone else is just for shits and giggles. "So."

Yeah. So. "Somehow I grew a fuckin' family. An' I dunno what ta do about that." He lined face creases in to a smile and she sips her tea. 'Cause the truth is, I'm less stressed about Giles ridin'in ta town with the Calvary on his heels than I am at the idea of having this many people depending on me. Go fuckin' figure.

"If you fight, you can never hide again. They can never hide again." Well ain't that the pisser? We fight we get found out. We hide, we hide forever. I guess that wouldn't be so bad but what about the next town? Is Buffy gonna suddenly want ta save humanity's ass from impending doom again? Are we gonna hafta duck and dodge Slayers, witches, an' Scoobs for the rest of our days? I'm not down with that.

"I know." I turn away from her to stare out at the street again. If we were different people I'd probably be payin' her for therapy. But we're not. I'm me an' she's a badass wolf. "It's one way or the other. No more middle of the road, Ama." Her silence encourages me to go on a lil more. "This is who I am yeah? This is me through an' through, an' I don't think that the wolf in me is makin' me do all this."

"So what do you think is making you do this?"

Me. Her. Love. Fear. Pain. Hate. It's everything we've ever been through together. Everything we've ever done to each other. Everything makes me do this. Everything makes me fuckin' feel. Feel her. Restin' inside of me even when she's on the other side of town. I flick my cigarette in to the bushes with determination. "She's mine too." Ama's head bobs slightly in understanding. Maybe she understood this a long time ago an' I'm just now getting' the memo. We own each other. We're responsible for each other. And Denna. And Xander. They're all mine. "I can't run away from who I am anymore, can I?"

"You were never running from who you were. You were running from who you could be." Hrm. But not any more right?

"So who am I now?" Am I a Slayer? A werewolf? Am I a traitor to my people? Who the fuck am I?

"Don't you know?" And as she says it I do. A slight smile tugs at my lips. I'm Buffy's. That's all I ever needed ta be. Nothin' more, nothin' less. Somehow that makes things easier for me. Puts it all in to perspective. Nothing else really matters now. All that matters is that I run home. Run to Buffy and Xander and Denna. Run to who I am. Run to my pack.

"I think I do." I stand and lean against the low railing. "They'll be here soon. Giles won't waste time once they hit the city. It'll be like lightening." An' I'm pretty sure it's gonna strike at the strip club. It's the place I'd hit first if I were in his shoes.

"Every storm has it's warning signs. Never you mind about this old dog." Yeah right. Because it's just that easy ta not care. I gave up tryin' to pretend that I didn't. That I wasn't born caring. But I do. I just don't know how to show it is all.

"When it's over…" Ama stops me with a slight huff.

"When it's over it will be over." An' we'll be gone. Our slate will be clean. She knows it an' I know it.

"Thanks, Ama. For everything even if it was for the world's survival an' not mine." Her head dips once in acknowledgement an' I turn back to the car. Somehow from the time I got here til now everything became clear. At least for me everything became clear.

One. We're not in this fight alone. Two. At the end of the day this is all about makin' a stand. So long as B is at my right hand, it doesn't matter who Giles rolls in ta town with. Because when it comes down to it we got somethin' he doesn't have on his side. We got each other.



I knew Faith was going to leave me with the clean up work. I just knew it. But how can I be angry? Xander grabs the feet of the body he just rolled up in think industrial plastic. I think it's one of those things that's a mob essential. Like cars with big trunks and brass knuckles. I reach down and lift the shoulders easily. I could just pick the thing up myself but then I'd get dirt on my shirt. And I just got clean. "So…"

My eyes roll up to look at him. I was hoping to avoid this conversation but I guess it's happening. I wonder if Faith would be angry if I bit him out of annoyance. She's sensitive about him. "Sew buttons." Heh. That's a personal favorite from Faith's collection of random snappy answers.

"Ha that's funny. Very witty. You bit Faith." Well he never was one to beat around the bush. I'm debating answering that very pointed statement when he continues. "I mean I knew it had to happen eventually but…you could have killed her. Or does that not matter to you now?" Whoa whoa whoa. Where is all this male aggression coming from? My eyes narrow as we tramp up the stairs managing not to dump our burden on the ground as we go.

"But I didn't." Does he really think that it would be just like that? That I wouldn't hold her to me and cradle her until her waking moments. Does he really think that me making Faith in to a vampire would be so frivolous? There is nothing about that marriage that would be so shallow. And that's what it would be. Blood of my blood, flesh to flesh, souls burning in hellish matrimony, that's what turning her would mean to me. "I don't…want her dead." Not that I have to explain myself to him.

He gives me a slightly disbelieving snort as we chuck the body in to the large trash dumpster behind the club. I don't know what we're doing with them. But Xander says he has a plan. That's all good to me. I have bigger things to contemplate right now. "Right. You're a vampire, Buffy. You only think about feeding and well…Faith."

He's not wrong. I dust my hands off and shake my head. "I don't have to explain myself to you Xander. You're not my father, and you're not my Watcher, and you definitely aren't Faith." And out of all three of those the only one I feel even remotely responsible to is Faith. "But you were family once…" Once.

A haze of emotion washes over me and it sickens me. I hate that I can't get away from that niggling little feeling of guilt in the back of my brain. The little piece of me that breaks when I look at him. "And now? Am I just around until you get hungry?"

It's not about Faith. Well. Maybe a little bit is about Faith but this is about him mostly. About where he fits in to our new lives. If he even fits in at all. I don't even know how to answer that question. My head tips to the side to watch a few people crossing the street to stand in line at the front door. Looks like it's going to be a full house tonight. "I don't eat rodents." He gives me a mock offended look at that. Okay we can play this out in teasing tones and little jokes. "Look, Xander, I don't know. I don't know a lot of things. All I know is that I can't hurt you. Even if a part of me wants to, and would dance in a spray of your blood if it could."

He gulps and my eyes go to the bobbing adam's apple in his throat. It'd be so easy to bite out. I swallow just as hard as he did and glance away. "Okay way to not inspire me with trust. Kudos for the honesty by the way."

"You asked." He nods at that and rocks on his heels a little. A perverse part of me wants to shoot out my arm and knock him on his butt. But I'm afraid he'd get all weird on me and not be able to take a joke again.

"So why don't you want her dead?" I close my mouth with a click and shrug away. I don't actually want to go back in to the club at the moment but staying out here isn't going to be a good idea. There isn't a whole lot of cover and we're just sitting ducks for the snipers. Not that there are snipers out there. But there could be. You never know what Giles has up his sleeve. My steps don't make a sound as I step in to the store room shadows.

"Because if she dies so does my soul." No. Not literally. I don't think anyway. I'm pretty sure that if Faith croaks it any time soon I'll still retain part of her soul. But that's something that I'd rather not let everyone know. "Do you really want to find out what happens when I become a soulless killer?"

Xander goes a little pale at that. He's already seen me vicious and deadly. And now he's seen me dead, vicious and deadly. Add soul-lacking to that and you get the picture. "Buffy…" I'm getting a little tired of this conversation so I snarl at him and let my fangs show. Patience was never one of my virtues. "Yeek! Down girl."

"What exactly is the problem here Xander? Isn't this what you want to hear? Bad vampy Buffy has a leash." I would have thought that would make him thrilled beyond compare.

"You know what I think?" No. And I don't really care but he's going to tell me anyway. That's what he does. He talks. A lot. "I think you and Faith are going to be gone when the dust settles. I think you two are going to take off for parts unknown and I think you're going to leave me behind."

Well. Yeah. But he was never part of the plan. "Oh like you'd want to be on the lam with a vampire and a wereslayer…thing…" Not to mention Denna. I hate to be selfish. Wait. No I don't. I love it. I've never been able to without feeling guilt before.

"How do you know? Did you ask??" Is he serious? I blink once and cross my arms over my chest. "Oh that's right you were too busy making Faith howl like an animal." Oh yeah. A smile curls my lips at that and a warm throb settles in my chest. Almost like a heartbeat. Almost like Faith's heartbeat. My own personal percussion system. Boom Ba Boom.

"What the hell is your deal?"

"My deal is that when you leave you'll be gone! How am I supposed to be okay with that?" Oh. Ooooh! Once again this is all about me more than anyone else. How could I have not seen that before? "I can't…you won't die anymore Buffy. I'll never have to go to your funerals again."

Is it sad that funeral is plural? Xander's outburst takes the wind out of my sails just a little. "You want to go with us." I don't know if we can do that. He's…alive. And okay so is our girl but it's different. She's a vampire freak. She likes it. Xander has always hated vampires, right down his guts. He never liked Angel or Spike, and he definitely was not okay with Jessie getting turned. When it comes right down to it, Xander hates everything about vampires because they kept stealing everything he cared about. So why is it okay now?

Why is he standing here practically pleading me to tag along? "Aren't you afraid Xander?" I lean in close to his body noting the rigid lines of muscle when it startles him. My fingers trail along his chest, nose pressed in to it to take a deep breath of his scent. "Don't you think that I'll slip up? Forget that I have a little bit of soul in me?" He tries to back up but I have a grip on his shirt that can't be broken.

Not without breaking my hand first. I give another deep sniff and mewl in to his chest. Parts of him are struggling not to freak out. The other parts of him are probably wondering why this is happening now that I'm dead. "Uh…" I look up at him knowing that my eyes are a frightening shade of gold in the dark. "Truthfully?" I nod at that. "I'm more scared Faith is going to walk in that door and beat my face in for this."

Good point. And I'd probably let her too. Hey. I am allowed to have a little fun aren't I? What's the point of being a demon if you can't enjoy yourself every now and again? I back off of him and pout just a little. "You're less fun when you aren't as scared of me."

"Well then I should be a barrel of monkey laughs because you scare the shit out of me." Yay. I think that's the second best thing I've heard all day. The first being Faith's little admission. Okay so it wasn't so much verbal as physical but it still got the point across.

"So now what?" Because every time I turn around there is just something else on my plate that we're going to have to deal with.

"I guess now you an' me have some talkin' ta do." I glance up at her voice and smile. It can't be helped. She's wearing my mark on her neck and damn it's sexy. Faith jerks her head at Xander and he leaves without complaint. I'm really going to have to learn that trick if he's going to be sticking around. "What's up B? Looks like it was gettin' a lil heavy in here."

I nod slightly and lean in to the warmth of her body with a deep sigh of satisfaction. "Xander wants to play tag along. He doesn't think we're going to kill each other off at the end of the game." I chuckle at her muttered curse. "He's slow not stupid Faith. He would have figured it out eventually."

"Yeah. Seems a lil cart before the horse if ya ask me. Nothin' says we're all gonna survive this fight." She has a point but when I think about it, how could we not win this fight? I pull back and give her a questioning frown. "C'mon B, the odds aren't in our favor here. Strictly numbers…we're fucked. Three against an army."

So? Two really kick ass former Slayers and Xander. Who does a good job of booty kicking himself. "Thanks Debbie Downer. I'm really looking forward to this blood bath now."

"Sorry B. Guess I just want ta be real about this. It's…"

"Serious shit. Yeah yeah yeah." I run a finger over the crease in her brow. "When this is all over Lover, you and I are going to be spending some quality time finding the fun again." Because she needs it. Faith's lips on mine are warm and sweet and if my lungs could work I'd probably stop breathing.

"Yeah? Sounds like the best fuckin' plan ever." And then she dazzles me with her dimples. Okay so we have to think about stuff. We have to decide if we're going to show our hand in this fight but that's not right now. Right now we can just bask in the afterglow.

"So where were you?" Faith shifts her arms around me and holds me tighter against her. Probably to keep me from striking out if I don't like her answer.

"Visiting a furry friend." Oh the little shit. She's sitting here making me think it's three of us against all of them when she was out romping with wolves. "It's gonna be an old fashioned rumble in the jungle baby."

Oh yes it is. And we're going to love every fucking second of it.  



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