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A couple of hours and a drive with Xander to Starbucks later, Faith had had about enough of teenaged screaming girls and headed for the nearest Potential-free space. Which just happened to be the basement.

She plonked herself down on the bottom step and heaved a sigh of relief. The screaming was only a dull roar down here. She dug around in her pocket for a second before finally pulling out her packet of cigarettes. She lit up and pulled in a deep lungful of smoke. Yeah, this was the shit. Instant stress relief. For thirty seconds anyway, and then she heard a voice.

“You craving a moment alone in the dank, or can I bum one?”

She looked over towards the other wall to see Spike reclining on a foldaway cot. She grinned a little, glad for a little adult company. She headed for the cot.

“Well, I guess you can smoke all you want—the big C not really an issue.” She handed over her cigarette to Spike as she pulled out another.

“Teeth get yellow after an eternity. Gotta watch that.”

‘Well whaddya know?’ thought Faith before replying “Huh.”

She looked about a bit as she settled herself on a table off to the side. As her eyes wandered over the chains on the wall behind Spike, he caught her look.

He looked over his shoulder at them even though he was fully aware of their presence.

“Right. Not what it looks like.”

Faith shrugged.

“Hey, to each his own, man. This one guy I ran with, he liked me to dress up like a school girl and take this friggin' bull-whip,” The brunette gestured as if using a whip. “and I'd be like-”

The vamp cut her off. “I got dangerous...for a while.”

She had to ask. “This before the soul, or after?”

“After, but I got over it—in case you're feeling all dust-happy again after your long incarceration.”

Faith smiled, “Not if you're all repenty. Takes the fun out of it.”

Something crashed upstairs followed by more raised voices of the Potentials. Faith’s eyes traveled towards the stairs as she sighed again. “No more Starbucks for the wannabe's, man. They've been spazzing for, like, hours.”

Spike nodded. “Yeah, does get a bit much up there.”

“They're good girls. Just green is all.”

The blonde vamp had to agree with her, which led him to wonder why she wasn’t up there.

“So, why aren't you up there... imparting?”

The Slayer rolled her eyes a little before answering.

“That's Buffy's thing. Anyway, I just spent a good stretch of time locked away with a mess of female-types. Kinda had my fill.”

‘Unless it was the aforementioned blonde’ Faith thought to herself. ‘Then…’ She gave that thought up as Spike interrupted.

“Hmm. But you waited until Angel needed your help to bust out of jail.” Spike was curious.

Because having known several Slayers in his time, he knew no bars would keep a Slayer down unless she wanted to.

The brunette gestured at the air.

“Three squares, nice weight room, movie every third Sunday. Could've been worse.”

“What movie?”

Faith thought for a moment and she grinned sardonically to herself as she remembered.

“Last one was Glitter.” She saw Spike raise his eyebrow at her. “I guess it couldn't have been worse.”

“You had the power to walk away anytime. Nothing to stop you.”

“I stopped me. I got… dangerous for a while.” She wriggled out of her jacket dropping it to the table surface behind her.

“You over it?”

This Slayer fascinated him more than any other, he was starting to think. From what he knew of her, as a Slayer she should have been in the ground years ago, all alone as she was. Yet here she was still breathing. Had kicked and screamed her way back to the side of good to be here, doing what was right.

Faith stretched her arms over head. ‘Damn that shit’s still in my system’ she thought to herself. ‘Thank god it won’t be much longer. I’m almost back to 100%’.

“More or less. I pull for the good guys now.” She answered.

The blonde already knew that. “What's the less?”

Faith grinned coyly at him. “The usual stuff...”

This he just had to know now. “Such as?”

The brunette’s grin widened.

“I was thinking about looking up the guy with the bull-whip. Long incarceration.” Simple explanation.

Spike chuckled in response. “You could do better. School girl thing's old hat.”

“It's all old-hat, man.” She shrugged. “Every guy's got some whack fantasy. Scratch the surface of any granola-type dude—naughty nurses and horny cheerleaders.”

Faith shrugged again, some of her cynicism and world-weariness coming through. “I figure, if you can't beat 'em-”

“Join 'em.” Spike finished for her.

Faith’s trademark grin appeared. “Just don't forget who's on top.”

“That, I suspect, would be you.”

The brunette grinned at him. “You got that right.”

She hopped off the table and headed over to the cot, sitting beside Spike. “I've met you before, you know.”

“Yeah, you made a great impression on my chin.” Spike filled in giving it a slight rub for emphasis.

“Not in the graveyard. Before that. I was kinda wearing a different body.”

His eyes traveled quickly over her full and sexy form before saying, “Pity.”

“You seemed OK with it.”

‘Now it’s my turn for the dirt’ Faith thought. ‘Time to find out if what I suspect could be true.’

The blonde vamp had to think for a minute before it came to him. “The body swap.” He nodded, knowing he remembered correctly. “With Buffy.”

“She fill you in on that whole deal?”

“She told me it went down. Failed to mention who was driving her skin around.”

“I may have said a few things...” She wondered if he remembered.

He looked over to her, letting their eyes connect.

“Like you could ride me at a gallop 'til my knees buckle, squeeze me 'til I pop like warm champagne. That's not the kind of thing a man forgets.” He felt a stirring in his blood as the words refreshed the memories, adding to it others of the previous year.

“Should've known it wasn't blondie behind the wheel. She'd never throw down like that.”

“Oh, you have been away.” He chuckled sardonically.

‘Bingo!’ Faith thought. ‘Now I know.’

“Don't even tell me little Miss Tightly-Wound's been getting her naughty on?” Playing dumb.

Spike sighed, barely audible, but Faith’s super sensitive hearing picked it up.

“Not of late.”

‘Good, cuz I’d hate to have to dust him, he’s actually kinda cool… for a vamp. But then again… not my place so why am I thinking shit like this. Get OVER it Faith. Forget what Red said.’

“Wow. Everybody's just full of surprises.”

Footfalls on the stairs caused the talking duo to turn their heads towards them in time to see Buffy step off the bottom step, where she stopped and stared at them for a long moment.

“Hey, B.” Faith greeted the blonde, trying to break the silence that had fallen in the room with the arrival of the latest occupant.

The blonde Slayer folded her arms over her chest, looking back and forth between them.

“Well, it's nice to see you two getting along so well.”

Faith began moving forwards off the wall as she answered,

“Yeah. Uh, you just know all the cool vampires.” ‘Damn… talk about cold. Anyone would think she was jealous.’


The two Slayers locked eyes and a silent battle was starting to progress when Spike spoke up, trying to dispel the tension he could feel in the room.

“Hey, aren't you usually at work 'bout now?”

The blonde didn’t fancy saying she’d been fired, especially with her one time enemy/sister Slayer sitting there. And though they weren’t on opposite sides of the fence anymore, she still felt a need to keep Faith out of her life. The brunette terrified her more than the biggest bad in the world. And she was about to go up against that big bad too.

“I kind of decided to cut back on my hours.”

Before either of the cot’s occupants had a chance to reply they head Dawn yell down the stairs.

“Buffy? Is that you?”

Buffy yelled back. “Down here.”

If Buffy’s behaviour was already confusing to Faith, the blonde’s next words directed at Spike confused her even more.

“Figured I'd be better off focusing on what's going on around here.”

Dawn yelled down again, “Willow just called from the hospital. The girl's awake.”

This caused all three of them to head back upstairs. Buffy left for the hospital feeling thankful the call had come through. Too much time in that house and she didn’t know what she’d do with Faith there.

Faith headed for the backyard to train some more. She figured if anyone needed her they’d let her know.

Faith, in the middle of her training exercises, had thoughts running at an extremely fast pace belying her outward calm. She now knew Buffy had been sleeping with Spike but wasn’t anymore. So to her that said that Willow was wrong. Willow was seeing things that weren’t there because if Buffy felt like that, why had she seemed so relieved to get away from her so quickly?

Faith shook her head, needing the torturous thoughts to just leave her alone.

She’d made her peace with her feelings for Buffy when she was Inside. Well, at least she thought she had. So why was she allowing it all to come to the surface again when she knew she had no chance?

Faith’s POV

“No eyes, but look at him go. He got SONAR or something?”

The blonde beside me answered, “Or something, I guess. Pretty good when they attack.”

I look around searching for more. “Do they just roam free around town?”

“Well, normally, they show up out of nowhere, and then either stab or get stabbed, and then they run off. Looks like this guy wants to be found.”

I have a bad feeling about all of this.

“Lends weight to the whole "it's a trap" theory.”

She snaps at me. “I'm through waiting around for people to attack us.”

My hands raise in a ‘hold up a sec’ motion.

“Hey, I'm with you. Drop me in the hornet's nest, what the hell? You got a rough sitch here, trying to turn a bunch of little girls into an army...” Why does she always think I’m trying to attack her?

“They're potential Slayers, just like we were.”

“Right. Maybe they'll do as good as us.”

And we’re gonna need more than that. I hope you got one of those miracle rescue plans you always seem to manage somewhere. Cuz somehow I don’t think little girls are gonna cut it this time. Potentials or not. But I didn’t say it to her. Would just make things worse.

“They're getting better.”

I sigh a little under my breath. Here goes nothing. Gotta at least offer.

“I'll work with 'em. Some of 'em seem real eager. Fashion disasters, yeah, but they're ready to fight.”

When she stops in front of me, I realize the subject has been changed. Somehow I just know the next thing out of that cute little mouth ain’t gonna be about any Potentials.

She turns to me and asks, “Why did you come back?”

I shrug.

“Willow said you needed me. Didn't give it a lot of thought. Do you…” I hesitate, kinda motioning back and forth between us. “Am I getting you want me to be not here?”

A soft sigh escapes her lips, and although she’s unaware of it I can almost feel the resignation and lost hope in that one little escape of breath.

Gonna have to do something about that.

“No, that's not what I meant. I'm... glad that you're here. It's good. Thank you.” She starts walking after the Bringer we’ve been following and I follow.

“No problem. You know me. All about the good deeds.” And hell, if I even make up a little for what I did…

The next question that came from her surprised me. But then again I think she was looking to fill the uncomfortable silence that sits between us whenever it’s not filled with words or in times past physical blows.

“Willow said you helped out Angel.”

“Yeah. He says hi.”

She looks disbelieving. “Really.”

I nod. “Sure.”

“How is he?”

I shrug a little. “Better. Had to do this whole magical mind-walk with him.”

“You were in Angel's mind?”

The question wasn’t surprising. I remember hearing ‘bout her little walk on the psychic side. She wanted to know then what went on in the big guy’s head. Not something that can be thrown into light conversation that’s for sure. Thankfully the Bringer seemed to have arrived at its destination and gave me a reason to dodge the question.

“Buffy...” I stop to get her attention, leaving my eyes on the building. “What is this place?”

She points. “Look, there's more of them.”

“I think we just found our hornet's nest.”

Buffy turns and is already on her way back to the way we came from.

“Let's get the cavalry.”

I turn and follow after her. I really don’t like this idea. And the more I think about it the less I like it. I’m starting to get a really strong, really really bad feeling about this.

As we approach her front door, I call softly to her. I have to know if there’s anyway to take her off this course. If not, well damn, I’d follow her to hell and back and fight the devil while I was there if it meant I could even make a little of what I’ve done up to her. But still, I have to try.

“Are you sure about this?” I ask quietly. No need for those inside to know we’re back just yet.

She stops and turns to look at me.

“Faith… I’ve sat back for the last few months and watched my town being taken over. And girls have had to die in the meantime. No more. I’m taking the fight to them. So… are you with me or not?”

And somehow I know that question is far more loaded than it seems. I sigh softly before answering her.

“Right behind ya, B. I’m all yours.” And I add under my breath. “Like I should have always been.”

I follow her through the front door to walk in right in the middle of a ‘Xander Inspiration’ speech by the look of it.

“She's laid down her life… literally, to protect the people around her. This girl has died two times, and she's still standing. You're scared? That's smart. You got questions? You should. But you doubt her motives, you think Buffy's all about the kill, then you take the little bus to battle.”

I glace across to the blonde beside me to see her tearing up a little. Then I look back to Xander as he goes on.

“I've seen her heart, and this time… not literally. And I'm telling you, right now, she cares more about your lives than you will ever know. You gotta trust her. She's earned it.”

Well, would ya look at that! Even the brat’s got tears in her eyes.

I turn to Buffy and say, “Damn. I never knew you were that cool.” And all eyes turn to us as they realize we’re back.

I see small smile on her lips. It reminds me of times before the bad.

“Well, you always were a little slow.” She says, but for once there was no rancour or anything behind the comment.

“I get that now.” I sense the change in her even before the words are out. She’s in Slayer mode and almost unconsciously my body slips into tune with hers as the Slayer in me steps in.

We both look around the room. It’s time to fight.

“All right, let's saddle up.”

We’re standing around outside the vineyard as Buffy rattles of last minute instructions to me and my team. My team consisting of Xander, Amanda, and another Potential I hadn’t learnt the name of yet. I made a mental note to do so once this was over with tonight. Spike, Molly, Kennedy, and Rona were to follow B inside.

“OK. Set up a perimeter. Guard the door. I don't want anything getting in behind us. My team goes in first, we check the place out. You guys are our safety-net. If this place is a trap, we give the signal, you guys come in, guns a-blazing.”

X-man asks, “So, what's the signal?”

“I'm thinking lots and lots of yelling.”

I nod and Xander replies, “Got it!”

B looks at her team. “Shall we?”

And as B and her team head into the building the bad feeling in my stomach increases ten-fold.

Willow’s POV

I watch the Slayers lead the Potentials out of the house and Faith shoots me a worried look as she leaves. She’s got that bad feeling too by the look of it. And is that a silent plea for help?

It is. How does she think I can help?

The door closes behind them and I know what’s about to happen is gonna be bad. And Buffy’s asked me to stay here and protect the girls. Hmmm… maybe there is something I can do.

I grab Giles and drag him upstairs with me for a quick conference. I explain to him my idea and he nods his agreement. So it seems Faith and I weren’t the only ones with that bad feeling.

He tells me to he’ll watch the girls and he would send one of them if I was needed.

He closed the door behind him as he left and I set myself up on the floor after laying a rough salt crystal circle. I called on my protection to keep the circle safe before calming myself to begin the spell.

I close my eyes and watch as the scene unfolds before me. Although I have no sound I can clearly make out what was happening in that underground room across town.

I watch a preacher make himself visible to them and Buffy just stands there looking at him.

That’s gotta be evil-preacher boy Shannon told us about. He don’t look all that tough.

Then I see him toss Buffy like she was a rag-doll. She hits a wine barrel. Hard.

Ok… so maybe he’s not ‘not so tough’ after all. Crap! She’s down.

I see Spike rush him and Caleb just pushes him down before following with a head-butt. Caleb picks him and throws him, possibly even harder than Buffy, at a wine barrel. I see it shatter, and that little part of me kinda hopes he gets a ‘splinter’ in the chest region.

I chastise myself as I don’t see him go ‘poof’, knowing that we need him in this fight of seemingly impossible odds.

A gasp leaves me as I see my lover take a punch to the chest that sends her flying. I watch Rona go to help her only to have Caleb grab her. He says something and I see an evil smile on his face as I watch him twist her arm. A shudder runs through me as I swear I almost hear the crack as he breaks her arm before throwing her from him.

My eyes are everywhere as I try to keep track of everybody, feeling helpless as I watch them being thrashed.

Caleb picks up a knife, tossing it to a Bringer to finish the job on Rona.

‘Oh no.’ I think, right before an arrow passes through the Bringer’s wrist bringing his downward thrust to a halt.

I see Faith and Xander in the doorway, Xander carrying his cross-bow. ‘Help them’ was all I could think as I watch them join in the battle. Xander makes his way over to Buffy, who was from what I could see still unconscious as Faith headed straight to Caleb, pulling out her knives as she ran.

She throws one at him, only just missing as she rushes him with the other. Caleb grabs her arm. She swings at him again and he somehow manages to catch the other one too. He twists on her arm until she drops the knife.

OK… this is NOT good. Two Slayers with ease. A shudder of fear runs through me as I watch Caleb take a knee in the balls from Faith, giving her a chance to back up.

She backhands him across the face and again he catches her arm with ease. I’d like to know what juice he’s on, cuz damn… he’s strong. I look on in horror as he twists her arm behind her back and starts dragging her along behind him. That has gotta hurt.

He slaps her before drop-kicking her across the room. I realize in the whole time I’ve been watching this, sans sound, his mouth hasn’t stopped moving. God… all we need.

An evil priest who can’t shut up.

Chao-Ahn goes to attack him and I watch him grab her by the throat. He snaps her head back, breaking her neck with apparent ease. He tosses her aside as well. A tear escapes, rolling down my face. I push my grief down. ‘I don’t have time to grieve.’ I think as the anger starts to flow through my veins.

I look over to Buffy and see Xander has her conscious, though she looks like she’s taken a beating and I watch her struggle to sit up.

I return my gaze to Caleb, feeling my anger rise even further at the sight of him. He has Molly around the neck and he drives a knife into her gut. I see Buffy rush him out of the corner of my eye, and this time ‘round the fight seems a little more evenly matched.

Seeing Caleb occupied for the moment I look about to see what’s happening with everyone else. Xander’s helping Kennedy and I see Spike trying to drag Buffy out after she sends Caleb flying.

Xander sends Kennedy on her way before looking around to get the rest of them out. He sees Spike helping Rona out the door.

I see Caleb coming up behind Xander and in my head I scream ‘NOOOOOOO.’

Instantly reacting, I’m in Faith’s head.

“FAITH. GET UP NOW!” I demand. I feel her jump to her feet at my command, not thinking, just reacting. Knowing she’s needed and the help she asked for as she left she was about to get.

My eyes are still on Caleb as I watch him pull his hand back in the air and his thumb points toward Xander and I know what Caleb’s going to do.

With a magical push I send Faith flying towards Caleb. She looked a vision as she arched through the air, her foot connecting solidly with the side of Caleb’s head as Spike pushed Xander out of the way.

A sigh of relief escapes me as I realize how close to disaster my best friend had been. From what I could see as Spike hurried Xander out of the door he copped the thumb but not badly… he was bleeding a little but by some fluke of nature he still had his eye. And he would have a killer shiner tomorrow.

I turned to Faith to see her beating on a now broken and bleeding Caleb. No matter how much power he had I couldn’t let her kill another human. Even if he was a super-powerful, working for The First, human.

“Faith!” I shout loudly in her head.

She stops and stands there looking down at Caleb. Then she looks at her own hands in horror and disgust. Ok, maybe I gave her a little too much juice.

“It’s ok Faith.” I sooth calmingly, as I feel the hysteria start to rise within her. “He’s still alive. And you need to get out of there before his flunkies return.”

For a moment I didn’t think she heard me. Then I realize by the shaking of her body that she was struggling not to cry.

And ever so softly I hear her whispering to herself in her head.

“No. Not again. I’m not that person…”

As it retreated slowly I realized it was a mantra that meant a lot to her and even though I wasn’t able to hear it anymore Faith was still repeating it to herself. Somewhere she’d learnt the ability to close people out of her head. Handy trick I guess, especially when you know people like me. I know she could still hear me though. She hadn’t closed the communication down completely.

“Thank you Willow.” I heard her say. “I don’t think I could have stopped myself.”

“Hey,” I smiled mentally at her, while trying to lighten the situation. We didn’t need Faith to fall into a self-pity party for one when we still had an apocalypse to deal with.

“That’s what friends are for. Now you need to get out of there. Before he comes to or the Bringers come back because I don’t have the strength at the moment to help you again.”

“Ok…” She said as she turned and headed out the door. I could feel her questions. Her wanting to know how she’d come to so fast? How she’d managed to beat so hard on Caleb when he’d taken both her and Buffy out so easily already. But for now she knew she needed to get out of there and answers were going to have to wait for the moment.

Chapter 4

General POV

The brunette Slayer arrived back at Buffy’s house battered, bruised and limping to discover Spike had brought the un-hurt potentials home while Buffy had taken Xander and Rhona to the hospital. She was glad Xander would have nothing more than a severe black eye and possibly hazy vision for a few days after his encounter with evil priest man. It could have been so much worse.

She headed straight upstairs after checking everything was still ok on the home front, wanting and needing nothing more at that moment than the relief of the hot water washing away the battle grime. Her body would feel the fight for a few hours to come.

As Faith lay back against the tiles letting the hot water rush over her, her mind returned to the fight replaying it in her head scene for scene. She knew she had been out of the game, knocked out so easily by what appeared to be a simple preacher. A preacher for the wrong side, but a human preacher none the less. Her gut had been feeling as thoroughly ripped apart as it had after her beating down by the Beast.

The next moment, Willow was in her head loud and clear. Telling her to get up, ordering her to move. Telling her she was needed now more than ever. She hadn’t had much choice with the moving either, she’d been picked up and hurtled across the room by unseen forces. Headlong into a fight that had nearly ended with her taking a life... again.

She’d saved Xander, though, and she knew that had to count for something. The brunette slayer knew her and Red were due for a talk. She had to let the witch know that she couldn’t just be popping into people’s heads like she had without asking first.

Faith closed her eyes at this point, giving up thinking. She was far too exhausted for it and finished her shower quickly, not wanting to use all the hot water. The last thing she needed tonight was a raging blonde waking her up from her sleep. Not tonight.

After she dried herself, Faith wrapped a towel around her and headed across the hall to her room. Correction, she said to herself, B’s room. It was a temporary situation, which was also why she preferred to use the main bath instead of the en-suite, she felt like enough of an intruder as it was.

She reached the bedroom door just as she heard Buffy’s return. She listened for a moment and heard that Rhona had a broken arm but was otherwise ok, as was Xander. Once she was certain everybody was ok, she continued into the bedroom and got dressed.

Faith was just pulling the covers back to crawl into bed when there was a knock on the door. Assuming it was her sister slayer she called out, “Knock yaself out, it’s your room.” She sat down on the bed and when she looked up was surprised to find Xander standing in the doorway.

“Uh... hi.” The carpenter was nervous, but he had to say something to the person that had saved his eye, and possibly his life.

Willow had pulled him aside as soon as he’d walked in the door with Buffy, hugging him close. She’d also whispered ‘See, she’s changed’ in his ear. He knew what the wiccan meant, and he knew it was time to get over his anger and forgive the woman in front of him for the deeds she’d committed as a lost child.

Faith looked at the man standing in the doorway, noting the padding over his eye. Indicating to the padding she asked, “Everything okay there?”

He nodded. “Thank you. I think I would have lost my eye completely if it weren’t for you stepping in when you did. Doc says I probably won’t be able to see for a few days but it should be back to normal once the swelling goes down. I might have some vision problems for a few days, brightness and stuff but that’s about it.” Xander looked down at his feet, he didn’t know what to say next, though he knew what needed to be said. His problem was how to say it without driving the brunette slayer back into the shell she’d spent so long hiding in.

“You’re welcome,” The brunette shrugged as if it were no big deal, “It’s part of my job.”

Xander stepped into the room. “I have to disagree there,” He said, “You didn’t have to save me, yet you did. Even after the way I’ve treated you since your return. I see it now... I didn’t before. You have changed Faith, I know that now and I’m sorry for the way I acted. For what it’s worth, which I think, is very little, you’re forgiven for what happened years ago. Welcome home Faith.” He grinned at her, knowing the words of welcome would surprise her more than anything, before leaving the room without another word. He knew too, if he didn’t, the Slayer behind him would find some way of nullifying his statement.

Faith watched the young man leave the room, still in shock from his words of welcome before she turned towards the bed. The sight of the piece of furniture made the fact sink in that tonight, unlike yesterday, she would have to share the bed, and all thoughts of Xander left her head. Now she had a dilemma. There was no way she could sleep the way she normally did with Buffy in the bed beside her.

A smirk graced her features as visions of Buffy discovering the other slayer in her bed naked flashed through her mind. Tempting as the thought was and as fun as it could be, Faith didn’t think upsetting the Buffy would be a good thing at all, especially as they were only just on talking terms.

Deciding bike shorts and training top were the way to go, she threw them on and crawled into the side of the bed furthest from the door. Switching of the bedside lamp, the brunette faced away from the door and attempted to get comfortable, squirming about for a few minutes, settling herself on her side as best she could. If it weren’t for her body’s normal post fight urges she may have been able to sleep, but now her body was clean said urges were clamoring to make themselves known.

Food was a must, the brunette decided, as she threw back the covers with a sigh. She knew that trying to sleep while her body insisted on, at least, food was just a bad idea in itself. Later, she would work out what to do about the other. Food first though.

Finding her way to the door in the dark Faith made her way down stairs to the kitchen, trying to avoid the sleeping potentials. She passed the basement door and paused, noticing it was ajar. She could hear voices coming from below, and trained her hearing on them. One was Spike, she could tell by the tone. The other belonged to a person who’s voice she would know anywhere. It belonged to the woman who had haunted her dreams and fueled her fantasies for the past couple of years.

Not wanting to intrude, or even know what they were discussing, she kept going, making her way straight to the fridge to see what could be nibbled on while she made herself something larger to satiate her monstrous appetite.

Buffy POV

I leave Spike in the basement, heading up the stairs, ignoring the silent plea in his eyes, the one asking me to stay the night, even though he knows I never will. Still, every evening, when I leave him after our pow-wows, after discussing our plans for the next day, that look is always there. Even though I’m not looking at him I can feel his gaze on back and know without turning that look is there again.

My thoughts are all in a muddle in my head. Concerning Spike, though, they definitely aren’t. I know he was an escape, nothing more. An excuse to feel something, anything, even if it was only disgust in myself.

I care for him. I have since the day he vowed to take care of Dawn and always look out for her, but I don’t love him. I didn’t really love Angel either. I think I was more in love with the idea of loving a good vamp than anything else. I will never love either of them, not in the way they want me to.

My heart belongs to another, no matter how much I try to hide from the fact; it has for a long time. So now, I even refuse to give my body if I cannot give my heart as well. I will not follow where my heart tells me to go. So once again, my thoughts are focused on the very person I didn’t need them to be.

I shake myself from my reverie, only to find myself standing in the doorway to the kitchen, faced with the very person who has been occupying my mind. She’s padding about the kitchen, in her bare feet, looking very domestic.

That she’s here at all is still the biggest surprise of them all. She came, unasked, to my aid when I need it the most. Even when she knew offering her help may not have gone so well. This is the one thing that tells me she has changed. Changed more than any of us, I guess. Yet, still I hide from her even as I’m in plain view leaning against the door frame.

A rush runs through me from nowhere as I’m watching her. I have no intention of staying, but I still find the words coming out of my mouth, interrupting the little world of domesticity she’d lost herself in.

“Got enough there for two?” Even as they trip over my lips I realize I do want this, I don’t want to take them back. I want to get to know her again. Most of all, I want to find our friendship again.

She turns to me and my heart catches in my throat. She has the most radiant smile on her face and it’s directed solely at me. I stare at her for long moments as I try to force my breath out of my chest because it seems to have stopped.

“For you B,” she says, “always.”

I feel myself blush as my body reacts to her very presence, drawing me into the room. Wanting, needing to be near her. But still frantically trying to deny myself all at the same time. All logic is bashing at the window of this dream I know I shouldn’t be allowing myself. As I sit at the counter I find myself smiling back at her and I decide to push logic away for just this once and allow myself time to pretend, even if only for a little while.

Willow POV

I peep around the other doorway into the kitchen, watching Buffy cross the room to join Faith. I smile to myself, my fingers still tingling a little from the little magical push I’d just given my best friend. Oh, I know you can’t force someone to love somebody, but when the love is already there I figure just a little bit of best friendish help is called for. It’s so obvious these two belong together as I watch them through the doorway, but Buffy is so goddamn stubborn sometimes. Faith’s serving them up whatever she’s just cooked as I feel arms wrap around me from behind and I turn to greet my girlfriend with a smile on my face.

“Heya Ken.” I whisper so the two slayers with super hearing behind me don’t realize I’m here. I see her peering over my shoulder at the scene in the kitchen before looking back at me with an arched eyebrow.

“Whatcha do to ‘em, baby? They barely talk civilly, even though anyone with eyes in their head can see they belong together. Now they’re eating together, what gives?” Even as she says this to me, I can tell by the smile on her face that she sees this as a good thing.

I wave my fingers at her with a grin. “Nothing too bad, just a temporary intervention spell, to drop Buffy’s guard a little, maybe.”

Again, her eyebrow hits her hairline then she just shakes her head, smiling at me. “Maybe? I don’t wanna know then do I?” Burying her head in my neck to start nibbling and kissing, letting me know she REALLY didn’t wanna know and had other things on her mind anyway. My head drops back onto the wall behind me, giving Kennedy even more access to my neck and all thoughts of The Chosen Two slip from my mind.

That is, till about five minutes later when Faith starts moaning ecstatically and mumbling ‘oh gods’ and ‘Oh god B, this is soooo good’ from behind us, causing both Kennedy and I stop everything and just look at each other.

“That must have been some spell baby,” Kennedy grins at me. “Either that or I dunno...”

The next second all we hear isBuffy burst out laughing and we just have to look. We both turn and in our haste we manage to fall over each other into the kitchen to find two very surprised Slayers looking at us. I look at Faith then at Buffy and see nothing amiss apart from the lovely white milk moustache Faith seemed to be sporting above a huge grin.

Our entrance causes more laughter to come pouring out of Buffy. Gasping, she tries to talk. “What were you two doing?” She takes in another shaky breath. “Getting your naughty on in the hallway while Faith was getting off on a glass of milk?” Her statement only makes her laugh harder.

I look to Faith for an explanation. She only shrugs at me still carrying her huge grin. “What can I say, Red? I like my milk and Soul-boy’s place is a little short on human food.”

I have nothing to say to that. Bad girl Faith loving her milk? To the point of causing near ecstasy over it?? My brain just can’t figure that one and just like Buffy I have to start laughing. In a few seconds both Buffy and I are rolling around on the floor in fits of laughter.

A glance at Faith’s face at any point is enough to set us off again cause she still hasn’t removed the milk from her top lip. She’s grinning maniacally at us everytime we look, making matters worse, causing us to laugh even harder.

I think the joy is as new to her as it is to this house of late and I, for one, am going to enjoy it while I can. Because tomorrow when we get up, the big bad is still gonna be there and we are still probably gonna die trying to do what’s right. So right now, I am taking what I can get.


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