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Chapter Fifteen

I can feel the sun slinking down behind the horizon even though I'm lying in bed in a room with no windows. I can feel it and I can smell it. I roll over and slide my hands up over Faith's too warm body. She grumbles a little in her sleep and cracks an eye at me. I can see the wolf in her peeking through her humanity and it takes my breath away.

Chocolate brown eyes widen when my hands go for the quick teasing grope. "Morning Wolfie."

God. A vampire could fall in love with a smile like that. Hell. A vampire did. And it wasn't me. Faith held Angel in her sway more than she ever realized. Maybe more influence than I had with him. It had to be what he could see beneath the surface of her bravado. I was too young to see it myself. Or maybe too human to understand what it could mean. That's not an issue now and I revel in the heat that comes from her wildness. Once I thought that the be all and end all of my love would wither and die when Angel did. I didn't know any better then.

A warm body slides up behind me, pressing my front to Faith's and leaving me in snuggled up in a warm cocoon of pliant flesh and strumming, singing blood. Faith's hand comes up to brush a lock of my hair from my face. "What'cha thinkin' on B? Our big fight?" No. Not in the least. I'm not even really worried about it. What will be will be but we all know what will be. I won't allow anyone to take what I've already claimed. That includes this place, the people in it, the women in my bed, and anything else I see that I want.

"Mostly thinking about you and Angel." Faith's face goes cold and Denna's thin arms curl tighter around me, locking us all together. Smart girl. Her dark eyes wary as she assess how serious I am about that comment.

"What about us?" Ooooh I think I might be about to dance on a nerve.

"Mmm defensive much? What? Are you afraid I'll find out you fucked him?" Her eyes go hard at that and I wait for it. She could deny it and I might believe her. Or she could just be honest and admit that she had a hold on him with her body if not her soul.

"That never fuckin' happened and you know it." Yeah yeah it never happened. I think the lady doth protest too much. And just as I'm about to push the subject Denna sidles closer, keeping me from making a very big mistake right now.

"Love doesn't have to be sex Buffy." The soft sound of it shocks me out of my thoughts and I turn my head to look over my shoulder at Denna. I raise a pale brow in question and she shrugs looking from me to Faith and back again. "You know better, even if you want to forget that you do." In the time that we've been sharing our bodies and time with her she's never once spoken to me like that. I think…I've just been scolded. By a HUMAN. Faith's snicker quells the rage I feel and I chuckle along with her.

"Maybe not, but this is Faith and Angel. Two peas in a pod almost."

Faith takes a hissing breath and nods once.

"Yeah B, two fuckin' peas in a goddamn pod." She huffs in irritation and tries to pull away but I've got her now and she's not going anywhere. "What the fuck is this all about anyway?"

Good question. What is this all about? Why am I trying so hard to fuck with her head? Oh. Right. Vampire. I like causing little twinges of pain and discord. It's in my nature after all. "This is about love. You loved him…and he…well…he loved you. He loved you so much he turned his back on me for you." There it is. That niggling little irritation that has plagued me all my breathing life.

The stillness of the room is suffocating while we wait for her answer to my aggressive statements. "Lemme tell ya a story B." This is new. And not what I was expecting. But hey why the hell not? We only have one thing to do tonight and fighting off a full force Slayer attack shouldn't take forever. Faith takes a deep breath and rolls on to her belly so she can focus on something other than me and Denna. It makes me wonder what secrets she's about to reveal. "Bet ya didn't know that I went to Catholic school." I didn't. I'm not surprised but I didn't know. "Man…that place was as vicious as Roman rule."

Tension sings through her body, making her shoulders tight with the effort to get this off her chest. "Got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black." She snorts in a mild amusement and I can just see her as a kid with an unrepentant look on her face as she took her licks.

Without my permission my hand traces the line of her dark brow, encouraging her to continue without speaking. I'm afraid that if I open my mouth it'll break the spell she's under and I'll never find out what she's held on to for so long. "Wasn't a big deal. Happened every damn day anyway."

But why? Why was she punished? What could she have done that was so bad? Without needing to ask the question, Faith answers but I don't think she even realizes we're still listening. "Everyone kept talkin' about how Jesus loved everyone, even the sinners. But I just couldn't get my head around it ya know? How could he love everyone? How could someone so good and so great love the bastards that beat my Ma? Or the junkies that broke in to our shithole apartment an' took the fridge ‘cause it was all we had to sell. How could anyone love that?"

Denna covers Faith's battled scarred knuckles in a gesture of comfort. One that I know I should be doing but I can't remember why I should do it. Long fingers twitch in surprise but she never turns her face to us. It's pain. I can smell it on the air. This hurts her. Talking about love…hurts. I don't understand.

"So I said fuck it. If they got love why couldn't I?" A tinkle of shattering glass is the only sound that marks my breaking heart. No one ever loved her. "But the more I fucked up the more I got told I was gonna go to hell. Why bother tryin' ta find love when it was never tryin' ta find me." The urge to tear and shred the nuns that broke her is nearly overwhelming but I keep still and remember that she's not done. "Finally I got the balls up ta ask why I wasn't gonna go to heaven if Jesus loved me so fucking much."

It's a good question and one that I would ask if I were in her shoes. "Know what they told me? Fear is the heart of love. I didn't fear God so how could I love him? An' if I didn't love him why should he love me?"

This is the first time I've ever heard dogmatic law so severe before. Okay it's not like I was ever Up With Religion if you know what I mean but I know a few things. And that's harsh. More harsh for a kid that never understood what love was supposed be like.

"So…what happened?" I feel like I have to ask because the quiet breathing is almost too much to bear.

"So nothin'. I left. Never came back." This time she does look up at us with a shrug of her shoulders and a wry smirk. "I wasn't afraid of anything. Not God, not his Son, not the cops, not the dark, not pain. Nothing." I can believe that. Faith has always seemed fearless even when we both knew it was a lie. "Stupid fuckin' kid."

Why is there a part of me that wants to tell her she wasn't stupid? That wants to soothe the ache that this whole thing brought up. Even though I wanted this, I wanted her to squirm and sting with the memories, I'm suddenly finding that the whole thing leaves the taste of bile in my mouth.

"I went on like that for a long time. Even after I became a Slayer. And then I met you." It's my turn to give a snort and a smirk. Met seems like such tame word for the cluster fuck that was our meeting and first relationship. "Still didn't get it. Still couldn't find the answer." Because I never let her find it in me. And now I can see all the things about her that I never could before. The veil of humanity that kept me from really seeing what she is has been ripped away from me like my life. "I fought so hard Buffy. So fucking hard."

There's a shine of tears in her eyes and I gasp at the shock of such naked rawness. "I fought until there was nothin' and no one left worth fighting. And still. No love." No. There was nothing for her in Sunnydale and when Angel left…he took the only warm spot I had left in me. I had nothing left to give her even if I could have brought myself to look at her with more than contempt. When she followed Angel to L.A. I knew it was because she was looking for something I wouldn't give her. And I wanted to keep her from that, I wanted her to be alone so she would know what it was like, never realizing that she had always known.

"Angel loved me B. Loved me more than anyone else ever had." I feel pain in my chest and I look down just to make sure there isn't a gaping bleeding wound there. There isn't. "And yeah. I was afraid of him."

Well. Angel was a vampire. Soul or not when he was bad he was fucking terrifying. "I was too." She shakes her head violently and takes a shaky breath.

"I wasn't afraid he'd kill me B. I was afraid…I was fucking afraid he loved me and I couldn't love him back." The part of me that remembers living life winces. I think…I understand some things now. "So I loved him the only way I could." By fucking him. My ire rises and is squashed by the comfort of Denna's chin on my shoulder and the slight trembling of Faith's hands. "I didn't fuck him. I couldn't. ‘Cause that wasn't love for me, that was just power."

She loved him. She loved him so deeply that she fought her own instincts to prove it. How can I ever compete with that kind of devotion? Faith finally pulls herself from my numb grip. "Anyway. That's my story. I didn't fuck him. Don't ask again." There's a icy coldness to the last part and I watch her shrug in to her leather pants and tank top without looking at me. I start to get up to follow her out of the room but Denna stops me.

"She needs time Buffy." Time. Time to what? To learn to hate the monster I've become? Fuck that I want to settle this. I want her to only want me. To only love me. I'm the one. Me me me me me me! I flop on to my back with a huff and stare at the ceiling. "What's wrong?"

What's wrong? Was she absent this entire conversation? "She loves him. More than she'll ever love me. It was never about me it was always him." Well I'll show her. She wants an unholy terror she'll get it. Everything he did to me I'll do to her and worse until she's begging me for forgiveness. For mercy. And she'll get it when I drain her as dry and empty as my heart. A shock of curly hair slides in to my eyes and I bat it away lightly so I can see the pale grey of Denna's eyes.

"You don't really believe that." Yes I do. I snarl at her but it doesn't get me much of a reaction just a jump in her pulse. "He's not the one she gave her soul to." No. She didn't. I pause and lick my lips not sure how I should feel now. Sometimes being a vampire with a soul is worse than going through puberty.

"But you heard her. She wouldn't sleep with him. That's all Faith ever had to give." And that's not what I got. Don't get me wrong. If she hadn't been giving it up I'd be pretty fucking pissed off. But knowing that she purposely wouldn't sleep with Angel because of how she felt is a slap in the face. She didn't even really try not to have sex with me.

"Buffy…" I know that chiding tone of voice and I hate it. I start to turn my head but Denna's small, fragile hands cup my chin to keep my attention on her. "She gave you everything she had. Her violence, her passion, her body, her blood…even her soul. How much more can she give you?"

How much more could she endure for me is the question she's really asking. "But she loved him…" I can't get over that.

"She loved you first." So she went away to one place where it would all stop. And she finally found out what love was. Goddamnit. It should have been me. I should have been the one to show her the way. So who am I really mad at here? Myself or her? Or am I angry with Angel for being what I couldn't? The better person.

"I don't understand why Denna." If she loved him so much why did she do everything she's done since I died? Denna just gives me a look that says I'm being intentionally obtuse. I am and I know it. I frown deeply and worry my lower lip between my fangs. "That's not love Denna. That's obsession. She couldn't let me die so she sold herself out."

"It's not love if it's not obsessed." And she gets up and leaves me alone in my cold bed. Is she right? Is love obsessive and cruel? Is it about fear and hate and jealousy? Or is that all I can understand now that I'm dead?

"Are you? Obsessed?" With me that is. A warm smile touches her lips and fades quicker than thought. For a second she crawls across the bed to me and lays a soft kiss on my lips. An electric tingle warms my gut with that one small act.

"I'm still here Buffy. I'm still yours." That doesn't answer my question and I open my mouth to push but I know it's not really necessary. She loves me. It's not the wild obsessive love that Faith has for me. But it's as strong as the ocean current, tugging my dirty scrap of a soul firmly in to place. I know what love is. It only took me dying to really fully understand it. And it took a human to point it out to me. Oh that's just pathetic.

But I don't have time to think too hard on it as her hands find all the places on my body that were left cold when the bed emptied. I pull back from the ever deepening kiss needing to hear it just one more time. Because the truth is fear is at the heart of love. And I'm afraid. "But…"

"Shhh. Endless Buffy. Endless love." Okay. If she says it, I believe it. I can feel the weight of truth in her words and I sigh giving in to the persistent clever hands and kisses. Endless as I'm timeless. And they're all mine.

They're out there. I can feel them out in the shadow's edgin' closer to the walls of the club. If I listen real hard I bet I can hear the faint scrape of fingers trailin' along the brick an' mortar. The fingers probably belong ta Kennedy. She always was a lil twitchy and impatient. I take another long drag off my clove and smirk. "Ten bucks says someone breaks rank before Sushi gives the call." Xander chitters at me, burrowin' out from under my hair. Wha? I kinda like him like this. Besides we don't want anyone to know he's with us. We might need his help later and I'd rather everyone just assume he's taken off for parts unknown.

A ten dollar bill slaps down in the table before me but I don't flinch. "How'd you know?"

I shrug and ash out the cigarette before taking the ten and sticking it in my bra. "Because I know ya, Ken. No bitch ass kid is gonna tell you to stay put when you know damn well I'm just sittin' my ass in here waitin' on you." Because lets face it. The Scoobs are gonna give us every fucking chance they can to redeem ourselves. But I've been down this road before with them. It always comes at a price I can never pay.

She gives a slight nod at that and takes the bottle of beer out of my hands for a long pull. "So. What's with the strip joint? You guys just walk in here and take out the owners or what?" Something like that but I'd like ta think we put a little finesse on it all. What with the workin' here to start with. I thought that was a pretty good plan.

"Kinda sorta. See I got a real problem with murderers." Like myself.

Kennedy snorts at me and shakes her head in mild disbelief. "Oh that's fucking rich coming from you." I guess this is one of those lesser of the two evils things. "I can't believe you let this happen." I let it happen. Well…I guess I did let it happen.

"I let it happen?" Wow. I take a deep breath and let it out nice an' slow. Kennedy notices my teeth and stares hard at them while I talk.

"How is it that you can work with her, slay with her, hell practically fuckin' live with her, and not know she was a dead woman walkin'?" Didn't anyone care?

The almost painful grip Xander has on my ear releases a lil. I know he feels a little guilty for not noticing either. But he should have. Maybe he should have noticed before anyone else because he's always loved her. Maybe that's why he feels so guilty about it now. Kennedy feels pretty damn guilty herself, an' when she hunches her shoulders and looks down at the sticky table I sigh.

"You don't understand Faith. Buffy has always…" She stops and shakes her head. "Why am I trying to tell you all this? You knew her. Knew what she was like." Past tense now. She's actively tryin' ta distance herself emotionally from Buffy the person so she can try ta kill Buffy the vampire. Ain't gonna happen. The kid doesn't have the power or the heart for it.

"Yeah. I know she's a real pain in the ass ta get close to but you're fuckin' her bestie. You should have been better."

I'm kinda diggin' the way just a few disappointed sounds, and accusatory statements almost bring her to tears. Almost.

"You're right." I think about it before I grab another clove out of the pack. If she wanted ta fight we'd be fighting already. She takes another sip of my beer as I light up. "We should have tried harder to be there for her. Which is why I'm here now." My brow comes up as I let out a slow exhale. "With Xander gone and Giles off his loop I don't feel right about this."

With Xander gone. The implication hangs in the air between us but I don't even show a flicker of emotion at that. Kennedy nods her head like she just confirmed something to herself. "So you don't feel right. So what? Why the fuck are you in my club?"

She doesn't get all pissy face. That's good. I don't really feel like dealing with a bunch more drama than I already have. "I'm out Faith. Me, my team and Willow. We're out of here."

Xanderferret cheeps in my ear and sets on his hind legs so he can see her better around my hair. Yeah. He heard right. Ken an' Red are heading out. But why? I mean I know she thinks it feels off but loyalty is the number one rule in the Scooby Gang. "Why?"

Kennedy shrugs and lets out a deep breath, stress wrinkling her brow. "I'm not sure. This just isn't right. There's no hellmouth here. And while I think you and Buffy playing the dark line is really fucking scary but...I noticed there aren't any wild vamps around. No loose demons. Nothing. Not even the other turned Slayers." Yeah because I clean up my messes.

I nod once at it. Okay. So she knows we're keepin' the law around here. Big fuckin' deal. Giles would know it too if he looked at the big picture and not just the part that's Buffy. "An' Red is all fuckin' cool with this plan of yours?"

Silence. Then a slow shrug. "Willow is broken hearted but she's realistic. We let Spike run around saving the day why not Buffy? Why not you?" Because I'm the devil in leather pants apparently. Kennedy gathers herself and stands. "Look. There are two teams now that mine and Xander's have backed out. Giles will take one and give the other to Satsu."

Well there goes any luck we had. Satsu isn't about to walk out of here without a fight. Buffy was her fucking goddess, man. I just nod at it because there isn't much else to do. "We'll be waitin'."

Kennedy waits me out for a long second before she drops a hand on my free shoulder and gives it a squeeze. "If there were any other way I know you would have taken it. But this was it or nothing. I get that."

It means a lot coming from another Slayer. My gaze softens as I look up at her from my seat. "You know me Ken. I'll take the last gamble on a long shot so long as there's a chance for me in the end."

She nods and stalks out of the smoky strip club. We might have caught ourselves a break with this but there's still the fanatics. Giles and Satsu. Xander makes a soft sound as he snuggles up further in to my neck. "Yeah I know it. We'll still need the wolves no matter what." I had hoped to keep their involvement down but I don't think it's going to work out that way.

My fingers drum on the table for a second before I slide my chair out and head for the sticky old phone by the bathrooms. Buffy should know about this as soon as possible even if I'm not overly thrilled to be talking to her right now. But first things first ya know? First save our asses then fight about Angel. If there's anything left to fight about now. I'm not sure she understands what he meant to me. Or how those feelings go hand in hand with how I feel about her.

Fuck. I'm not even sure I understand how this all goes. I just know that he was the first person to love me. I'll never forget that, and maybe Buffy will never forgive it either. It's something we'll just have to deal with one day at a time. If we survive the dawn.



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